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Misc. Good News, Mar. 1-15, 2003
[Commentary] ©2003 Phil Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080


3/14/2003   headlines from heaven - alias glimmers of hope -

  1. Returned Peace Corps volunteeers oppose war in Iraq, half-page ad by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers for a Better World & *Education for Peace in Iraq Center, New York Times (NYT), A19.
    Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, more than 165,000 individuals have served in 136 countries around the world as Peace Corps Volunteers. The current administration is threatening a preemptive strike against Iraq.... It would, in fact, pose a grave danger to people around the world.... We, the undersigned Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, refuse to condone any U.S. policy of preemptive military action against Iraq [or hopefully anywhere else]....
    Over 1,850 former Peace Corps Volunteers from 37 states who served in 56 countries over the entire life of the Peace Corps from 1961 to the present have added their names to this statement. A full and growing list of names can be found on our *website....
    [Note also -]
    Markets rally as a U.N. vote is delayed, by Jonathan Fuerbringer, NYT, C1.
    ...as the United States expressed a willingness to delay a vote on using force to disarm Iraq next week, propelling the stock market to its best daily performance since October. ...Nasdaq...5%... Dow...and S&P500...3%.... Stocks also soared in Europe..\.. Treasury securities...suffered their biggest sell-off in 2 months. Gold, another safe harbor, fell 3%....
    The emotions swirling around the threat of a war with Iraq have been mostly negative for stocks recently, but investors appeared yesterday to have found some relief in suggestions that a war would not start Monday, the date set in a resolution sponsored by the Bush administration....
    [The Journal version -]
    Stocks record biggest rally in five months - [Dow] industrials rise 269.68 points [to 7821.75], as Nasdaq climbs into the black [to 1340.77]; Technology, insurers lead surge, by Gregory Zuckerman, Wall Street Journal (WSJ), C1.
    [more]
    Dollar gains sharply on rivals amid fresh optimism about Iraq, by Michael Deibert, Dow Jones via WSJ, C14.
    [more]
    Gold, oil prices drop on hope war with Iraq can be averted, by Gavin Maguire, OsterDowJones Commodity News via WSJ, C10.
    [more]
    Treasury prices post sharp decline - Move seen as a correction amid a surge in stocks, hopes on Iraq diplomacy, by Michael Mackenzie, Dow Jones via WSJ, C11.
    [Further -]
    The Pope's legions, WSJ, W13.
    If there were any doubts left about where Pope John Paul II stands on war with Iraq, they ought to have been answered by his characterization of any [first-strike] military effort against Saddam as a "crime against humanity."...
    [but, some once-respected commentators weaseled out -]
    Liberals for war - Some of intellectual Left's longtime doves taking on role of hawks - Antiwar protesters are now shunned by some traditional allies [& v.v.], by Kate Zernike, NYT, A13.
    Elie Wiesel said last month after a meeting with pResident Bush that while "not a man of war," he supported war to stop Saddam Hussein. [photo option]
    ["to stop Saddam Hussein" from what? Continuing his 10-year quiescence?]

  2. House backs limit on malpractice awards - Sets $250,000 cap on jury compensation for pain and suffering, by Sheryl Stolberg, NYT, A23.
    [Way too low, but nothing should be uncapped (especially working hours per person, whose lack of effective cap is directly and indirectly responsible for much of today's pain and suffering).]

  3. [1 UPsizing, totaling 650 new jobs -]
    Brazilian leader introduces program to end slave labor, by Larry Rohter, NYT, A8.
    BRASILIA - ...Between 1995 and 2002...more than 5,000 enslaved workers \were\ freed \by\ an enforcement squad..\..created \by the\ government \of former President] Fernando Cardoso.... But government inspectors complained that their efforts were hampered by weaknesses in Brazil's legal code. While they have the authority to force employers to pay back wages to enslaved workers, criminal charges have to be referred to the court system, where they are often ignored by apathetic prosecutors or shelved by judges sympathetic to business interests. In some cases, inspectors have raided the same ranch many times, freeing workers, only to return and find that others have been enslaved.
    The government intends to discourage that behavior by publishing a list of offenders, who will be denied access to any form of government loans, credits, subsidies or tax benefits, and by prohibiting those found guilty from appealing their convictions while out on bail.... The program also calls for a sharp increase in the number of inspectors. The Ministry of Labor says that this year it will hire and train more than 650 new inspectors, who will have good salaries and the untrammeled authority to enforce the law.... [See fuller excerpts from this article in today's timesizing news, 3/14/2003 #2.

3/13/2003   headlines from heaven - alias glimmers of hope -
  1. [first, heaven literally, as explored by some Frenchmen -]
    Scientists find an extrasolar planet with an atmosphere making it much like Jupiter, by John Wilford, NYT, A21.
    ...In an announcement...in today's issue of the journal Nature..\..by the ESA [European Space Agency] and NASA, a French-led research team [headed by] Dr. Alfred Vidal-Madjar...of Paris..\..said 3 separate observations by the Hubble telescope in 2001 revealed a hot and puffed-up hydrogen atmosphere surrounding a planet orbiting the star HD 209458 in the constellation Pegasus 150 light-years from Earth. ...The planet is so close to the searing heat of its parent star that the dense atmosphere reaches temperatures of about 18,000°F and is boiling off and evaporating at a rate of perhaps 10,000 a second...trailing the planet like a comet's tail...extending across 125,000 miles....
    [A beautiful picture in blue and gold, according to the NASA illustration via APP on tomorrow's (3/14's) Boston Globe front page ("Evaporating planet"), but with stuff that hot in the heavens, how can you tell it from hell?]

  2. [Wal, thet Frenchy planet must be awful purty with thet big long tail. And French food can sure be tasty. A little perspective on French food, maestro, s'il vous plait -]
    You want some savoir-faire with that? letters to editor, NYT, A26.
  3. [and free love - didn't the French invent that?]
    Total of unmarried couples surged in 2000 U.S. Census, by Christopher Marquis, NYT, A18.
    ...in the last decade to 5.5m from 3.2m in 1990....
    [how decade-nt]
    The new total, a 72% increase, reflects changes in mores and more fluid living arrangements, as well as more specific questioning by censustakers, experts said.... The findings distressed advocates of traditional marriage..\..
    [But with a biosphere under pressure from human overpopulation, it is natural for social sexuality to overtake reproductive sexuality, and for the basic societal unit to change from the reproductive pair to the productive person, from the procreative couple to the creative individual. And the increase of unmarried couples is part of that big trend. Besides -]
    Married couples still make up a majority of households. At 55.4m, they are 52% of households.
    [However -] That number continues to decline as unmarried opposite-sex and same-sex couples establish households....
    [Same-sex couples are another natural trend. Many species under population pressure, such as lots of lab mice in too small a cage, manifest a diversification in sexual activity.]

  4. Hybrid cars attract more buyers - Total sales of hybrid cars are closing in on 5,000 vehicles a month, by Sholnn Freeman, WSJ, D3.

  5. India: Economy expands, by Saritha Rai, NYT, W1.
    India's industrial output grew 6.4% in January from 3.8% a year ago, supported by growth in the manufacturing sector....
    [Great, now the challenge is not only to maintain it, but to learn from the impoverishing lesson of the 1920s and prevent population explosion from swamping economic growth and slamming the country back down into abject poverty. In the 20s, there arose a fine 5% annual economic growth rate. Overpopulation more than zeroed it. Ref: History of Economics (course vintage c.1980) by Keynes' Bloomsbury Sq. neighbor, Paul "Rosey" Rosenstein-Rodan.]

3/12/2003   headlines from heaven - alias glimmers of hope -
  1. British dissent over Iraq war imperils Blare's (oops) Blair's political future - Opposition in Labor Party and the public grows, by Alan Cowell, NYT, front page.
    [which tells us that one of His Idiocy's cabinet ministers has threatened to quit over it -]
    ...The clarest sign of the severity of Mr. Blair's predicament came late Sunday when Clare Short, the influential and often outspoken...international development secretary called his stewardship in the Iraq crisis "deeply reckless" \and\ threaten[ed] to resign if Britain joined the U.S. in a war in Iraq without a second U.N. Security Council resolution....
    [Heyall, another U.S. diplomat DID resign over it -]
    U.S. diplomat quits jobs over Iraq policy, Reuters via NYT, A13.
    WASHINGTON -...John H. Brown, who joined the Foreign Service in 1981 [and] has recently been attached to the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown U..\..said in a letter to Secy of State Colin Powell, made available on Monday [3/10], "I cannot in good conscience support pResident Bush's war plans against Iraq. Throughout the globe the United States is becoming associated with the unjustified use of force. The pResident's disregard for views in other nations, borne out by his neglect of public diplomacy, is giving birth to an anti-American century," the diplomat said.
    [Hear! Hear! Also -]
    [Then we have a very positive admission from the Journal -]
    Bush in Lilliput - The risks of delaying war are growing, editorial, WSJ, A18.
    [which can only be a Good Thing.   And across the page, there's the Journal's very first antiwar letter (that we've noticed anyway) -]
    Truman was right, letter to editor by Peter Dworkin of Walnut Creek CA, WSJ, A19.
    In his Mar.10 editorial-page commentary "My grandfather invented Iraq," Winston S. Churchill writes that his grandfather [Winston L. S.] advocated the U.S. require the Soviet Union abandon development of atomic weapons "if need be by threatening their use" and that the result of not heeding this advice was the Cold War. As it turned out, Pres. Truman's decision to ignore Churchill's advice was the correct one. We won the Cold War, avoided nuclear holocaust, and Russia is now an ally.
    Grandson Churchill's incorrect assertion based on Orwellian logic that Truman's decision was wrong implies a belief that the masses are not smart enough to understand history, draw logical conclusions, or recognize obvious nonsense. It is no wonder our leaders lack credibility with millions around the world who trust neither their motives nor decision making and have taken to the streets in protest of flawed and frightening policies.

  2. [and on the economic front -]
    Wholesale inventories decrease, Bloomberg via NYT, C9.
    [no mention of retail, but better than 'excess inventories.' However -]
    ...keeping the amount of goods on hand at a record low....
    [means not too many orders either.]

  3. More airlines to waive rebooking penalties, Dow Jones via WSJ, D4.
    [go-o-od, Confucius say, "Don't Punish Your Customers in a Recession."]

  4. AOL providing software to customers to block pop-ups - A service provider that swore off obtrusive ads offers users some self-help, by Saul Hansell, NYT< C8.
    [compare -]
    'Do not call' list becomes law, Associated Press (AP) via WSJ, D4 (= NYT, A13).
    ...intended to help consumers block unwanted telemarketing calls.

3/11/2003   headlines from heaven - alias glimmers of hope -
  1. [a small adjustment in the ridiculously unbalanced share per person in our society/economy -]
    Eli Lilly's chairman took salary of $1 in 2002, by Thomas Burton, WSJ, B12.
    ...Sidney Taurel took the unusual step of forgoing his 2002 salary as the drug maker's profit sagged from the loss of patent protection for its onetime blockbuster, the antidepressant Prozac...which took place in 2001..\.. Mr. Laurel voluntarily gave up his salary for the year, which would have totaled $1.39m....
    [At least he has lots of Prozac in case the endorfin levels from his admirable gesture sag. The boss doing it makes it easier to get the troops to do it -]
    In addition, senior executives of Lilly didn't get cash bonuses or performance awards.
    [But no reason to weep for the boss -]
    ...Mr. Taurel...had received a bonus of $474,000 in 2001 and long-term incentive pay of $2.1 million.
    [Seriously, how much "incentive" is an extra $100,000 to someone who already has $10,000,000-20,000,000? At what point does it just get boring? How motivating, really, is a boring "incentive"? And if it's still of interest to these guys, are they themselves still interesting as people, or have they too become boring, monolithic, monotonous humanoids?   Compare -]
    IBM chief earned much less than his predecessor, by William Bulkeley, WSJ, B9.
    ...Samuel Palmisano took home a lot less money last year [$5.9m] than his legendary predecessor, Louis Gerstner, did the year before [$10m], reflecting the continued high-tech downturn....
    [But again, why weep for these $multimillion 'waifs'?]

  2. [Here's a kind of courage that's a bit more meaningful from these boys -]
    Software pioneer quits board of Groove - Director is said to be upset that software is being used in a surveillance system, by John Markoff, NYT, C10.
    SAN FRANCISCO...- Mitchell Kapor, a PC industry S/W pioneer and a civil liberties activist, has resigned from the board of Groove Networks after learning that the company's software was being used by the Pentagon as part of its development of a domestic surveillance system....
    [Way ta go, Mitch!  George Soros, with his love of "open societies," is probably applauding too.]
    Mr. Kapor would say publicly only that it was a "delicate subject" and that he had resigned to pursue his interests in open source software....
    [A worthy alternative, and certainly more convincing than "to spend more time with his family," which has been getting a little hackneyed lately (see 3/07/2003 #2). Mitch was Phil Hyde's boss's boss at Lotus 1983-84 when Phil was their first First-St.-HQ internal writer. (Their first-internal-writer-period was stationed out in the garage in Littleton, euphemistically known as Lotus West, until Phil switched to MDS in Waltham and found a different target for the term.) Phil would sit in a small room twice a week, wedged between the superstars of software, Mitch Kapor and Jonathan Sachs, with sporadic appearances by Ray Ozzie, for design discussions on what was then called 1-2-3 Release 2, but became known as Symphony (IBM et al.) and Jazz (Apple). Phil and Mitch 'did lunch' 1-on-1 at the bar of The Front Page in Charlestown in the winter of '83-'84. The Front Page was Phil and Kate's favorite Sunday brunch spot, especially if they could get served by Brit musician-waiter Kevin (Simmons?). Always lotsa parking space, perched, as it was, in the middle of a parking lot. Upside: newspapers to read, clamped over *r*n*ls in mens room (made you realize what a great opportunity advertisers are wasting) . Downside: rule against wearing hats, bad news if your ears got cold. Hey, Mitch, what happened with the Om (or was it On) software concept? timesizing@aol.com]

  3. U.S. [ie: Bush] says U.N. could repeat errors of 90's - France vowing to veto Iraq war resolution, by David Sanger, NYT, front page.
    [the tide is turning toward France -]
    Friends don't let friends start wars, letter to editor by Michael Kellett of Westford MA, Boston Globe, A10.
    The obnoxious French-bashing by some Americans reminds me of the slogan: "Friends don't let friends drive drunk."
    To paraphrase: Friends don't let friends start an unnecessary war.... I say: Vive la France. And vive the rest of America's true friends around the world who may yet save us from the recklessness of our current political 'leaders' [our quotes - ed.].
    Oh, and I plan to keep enjoying French fries, truffles, and Bordeaux.
    [Hear, hear!   Further -]
    On the eve of battle [if you want to grant the lunatics that much - ed.], 14,000 U.S. writers, academics and other intellectuals say NO TO WAR, full-page ad by *Against the War of Cambridge MA, NYT, A19.
    Our government is proposing a war against Iraq in the name of American national security. But no compelling evidence has been offered of an imminent threat to our security that would justify the use of military force. A war with Iraq will be a war of choice, not necessity. We condemn the Iraqi regime for its gross and persistent violations of the human rights of the Iraqi and Kurdish peoples, and support efforts by the Iraqi opposition to create a democratic, multiethnic and multireligious Iraq.
    [Not to mention the efforts of the Israeli opposition to create a democratic, multiethnic and multireligious Israel.]
    But we believe that the decision to wage war at this time is morally unacceptable, and urge our government not to make it.
    [This only leaves the BJL (Bush junta of lunatics) only one choice - they've got to frame Saddam by staging a bogus destructive attack on their own forces. These self-righteous sociopaths will stop at nothing.]

  4. [Unless -]
    New scale for toting up lost freedom vs. security would measure in dollars - The ultimate in cost-benefit analysis would put a price on deeply rooted rights, by Edmund Andrews, NYT, A11.
    WASHINGTON...- Civil liberties and privacy may be priceless, but they may soon have a price tag. In an unusual twist on cost-benefit analysis, an economic tool that conservatives have often used to attack environmental regulation, top advisers to pResident Bush want to weigh the benefits of tighter domestic security against the "costs" of lost privacy and freedom.
    "People are willing to accept some burdens, some intrustion on their privacy and some inconvenience," said John Graham, director of the regulatory affairs at the White House Office of Mgmt & Budget [OMB]. "But I want to make sure that people can see these intangible burdens"...like lost time, lost privacy, and even lost liberty that might stem from tougher security regulations....
    [Great idea, John. And while you're at it, why not "cost out" picking a fight with Iraq compared to continuing the pre-existent containment.]

3/10/2003   headlines from heaven - alias glimmers of hope - 3/06/2003   headlines from heaven - alias glimmers of hope - 1 UPsizing
(not counting industrywide "Small brokerage firms go on hiring binge," by Sapsford & Craig, WSJ, C1) - 3/05/2003   headlines from heaven - alias glimmers of hope -
  1. [1 UPsizing]
    To investment bankers, China can be lucrative - Larger companies commit money to expand staff in order to win business, by Sara Webb, WSJ, B4B.
    [Business from millions of poor people? Good luck. Basically this has the hollow sound of a bare-faced Journal cheerleading piece -]
    ...The severe downturn is expected to force some smaller global investment banks to either merge with rivals or pull out of Asia. Yet at a time when the banks have reduced staff in Asia, some of the large firms are committing [or wasting?] money to expanding staff and poaching well-connected Chinese bankers in order to win business in that country.
    [One of the strange distortions of massive, officially denied, labor glut cum weak consumer demand is the fact that there's really no sustainable investment receptacles for the level to which money has concentrated, and so just to do something, anything, with it, CEOs flail around making some very contradictory moves.]
    China is providing a rare glimmer of hope -
    [Oh good, a glimmer of hope - just what we're looking for on these pages, but wait -]
    - if not yet a steady flow of fees - from work on mergers and acquisitions....
    [Oh great, these banking clowns from the West, who've already sucked dry the consolidation possibilities in their homelands, thus eroding economic diversity, consolidating workforces and profits, hiking layoffs, damaging consumer bases, are now, like Typhoid Mary the Nurse, going to take their "healing" powers to China.  Dzaijan (goodbye) to China's promising future.]

  2. Be sure to check out the good news of a blocked merger today, 3/05/2003.
3/04/2003   headlines from heaven - alias glimmers of hope -
  1. Harvard professor proposes alternative economics class, by David Leonhardt, NYT, C2.
    ...to the introductory economics class taught by an occasional adviser to pResident Bush, saying that students deserve a more balanced view of the subject. Steven Marglin, a tenured professor at the university since 1967, said he would present his plan to the economics department in coming weeks and that he hoped to begin teaching the course next fall.
    The current introductory course is the largest lecture class at Harvard and has been taught for almost 20 years by Martin Feldstein, a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Ronald Reagan [and] longtime advocate of tax cuts [as panacea?!] and a mentor to much of Mr. Bush's original economic team [who have now been replaced]..\.. Mr. Marglin said...that he mainly wanted to offer students a class with a diverse range of readings and discussions. The class would also question some of the assumptions of standard economics and introduce students to the increasingly popular field of behavioral economics.... "The point is not to substitute one set of biases for another," he said. "It's to provide a more balanced approach."... On Saturday, a student group called Students for a Humane and Responsible Economics posted an online petition to support Mr. Marglin's effort. About 300 undergraduates have added their names to it, said Daniel DiMaggio, a junior who took Mr. Feldstein's class last year and is a member of the group....

  2. Pimco's chief says his controversial peace, by Gregory Zuckerman, WSJ, C1.
    As the world's largest mutual-fund manager, Bill Gross carries a lot of weight in his musings on the economy and the markets. But...in a letter to investors last week, Mr. Gross, overseer of the nearly $70B-in-assets Pimco Total Return Fund, veers far afield of his usual expertise, the bond market, to an extent that has some investors and Wall Street traders agape.
    [Too bad it's not the Greek agapé, meaning divine love.]
    In particular, he goes further than any other Wall Street heavyweight in arguing against a US war, saying that.."by invading 'evil doer' nations we may lessen our vulnerability but lose a piece of our soul in the process.
    [Good for him, assuming "soul" stands for America's long-forged taboo on first-strike aggression.]
    I speak now, and risk client, public and press censure because I was silent 35 years ago."...
    [Better late than never. And on the political front there's -]
    Putin tests limits of U.S. partnership -
    [never mind Bush testing the limits of everyone else's partnership]
    - Refusal to back Bush on Iraq shows influence of advisers tired of accommodation, by Alan Cullison, WSJ, A13.
    [And on the arts front there's -]
    In the fray, by [playwright] Harold Pinter..., WSJ, D8.
    ...The USA and the UK are trying to make a moral case for this war.
    [Yeah, a moral case for a pre-emptive strike on a nation at peace. Ri-i-ight. With morals like that and weapons like ours, mankind is toast.]
    ...To say we will rescue the Iraqi people from their dictator by killing them and by destroying the threadbare infrastructure to their country is an insult to intelligence. We have no moral position in this matter whatsoever.
    The impending war is about testing new weapons of mass destruction, ours, and control of oil, [theirs]. The arms manufacturers and the oil companies will be the beneficiaries. The U.S. will be taking a giant stride towards controlling the world's resources. The whole thing is about "full-spectrum dominance" (US term)....
    [and -]
    Actors - From ancient Greece, a weapon for peace, by Tina Kelley, NYT, A10.
    From the Brooklyn Academy of Music to a stage in Karachi...the words of a Greek playwright, c.410 BC, were applied to current events yesterday, as Aristophanes' "Lysistrata"...in which Greek women refuse to have sex with their husbands until the men figure out a way to stop the Peloponnesian War..\..was read along on about 900 stages....
    [Aubrey Beardsley's 1890s illustrations for Lysistrata are a roar!]

  3. [and a couple of other good "anti's" - first,  financial derivatives -]
    Buffett warns about derivatives, by Richard Gibson, Dow Jones via WSJ, C3.
    OMAHA, Neb. - [Billionaire] investor Warren Buffett calls derivative contracts "financial weapons of mass destruction, carrying dangers that while now latent are potentially lethal," according to excerpts from his forthcoming annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway Inc. shareholders....
    [Vut haf vee bin telling you?! E.g., from 3/13/2002 #3 and 11/06/2002 #2 (where we mention the "similar proliferation of investment instruments, bucket shops of unregulated penny stocks in the 20s, derivatives and hedge funds in the 90s") way back to 9/25/1998, despite Greenspan's insane current ("Greenspan supports derivatives," pointer blurb (to B14), 3/08/2003 NYT, B1) and past promotion of them (2/11/2000 #1) even against the outgoing chair, Brooksley Born, of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, who argued that "more regulation is necessary to prevent a systemic collapse that could affect the US and world economies" (3/21/1999). The Times version, however, kinda hits Buffett's credibility -]
    Down on stocks, Buffett turns to junk bonds, by Floyd Norris, NYT, C2.
    [Oy, junk bonds! This just illustrates the dysfunctionality of the hyper-concentration of spending power. After a certain point of consolidation (which economists should be researching!), the concentration turns negative and begins to undermine itself in two senses -
    1. the holders are in a quandary because there's nothing stable they can invest in on those huge scales, because...
    2. the degree of unspendable concentration of spending power throughout the economy has started to actually suction the markets away from all the productivity (agriculture, manufacturing and services) available to invest in. This is simply the old neo-classical principle of marginalism - in this case, the "marginal efficiency of capital" aka concentrated spending power - thoroughly explored in the 1870s and 80s. Why aren't mainstream economists applying it to this vital area and not just to prices? If they were politicians instead of economists, we'd call them "hacks." Could it be they've turned the "discipline" (let alone "science") of economics into an undisciplined profession, a prop for the status quo, mere description and no meaningly prescription? John Kenneth Galbraith ("The Affluent Society") would certainly say so, but then, he's the successor of America's great economic maverick, Thorstein Veblen ("The Theory of the Leisure Class") - so naughty that he'll never get a Nobel if he lives to be a hundred (only 6 more years to go!) - see chapter "Why Galbraith won't receive the Nobel prize" in David Warsh's excellent Economic Principals - Masters and mavericks of modern economics ( Free Press: NY, 1993), 123.   Hey, Galbraith got the presidency of the American Economic Assn in '72 cuz they felt so guilty about never giving it to Veblen. Some deserving  future maverick will get the Nobel cuz they'll feel so stupid for not giving it to Galbraith.]

  4. [& second, coal-tar derivatives -]
    Antismoking measures gain in heart of tobacco country, by David Halbfinger, NYT, front page, A21.
    ...Some tobacco farmers are now aligning with antismoking forces. [photo caption]
    ...For their part, farmers say they see little point in putting up much of a fight anymore and are more interested in winning a federal buyout that will let growers leave the business with at least their dignity intact.... With farmers largely sitting out the debate, antismoking legislation is sweeping the Southeast....
    [Ya know, the war against nicotine has been sooo successful because we never criminalized it - you think we'd learn something from our success with nicotine for our "war on drugs" - other drugs, that is (excepting also alcohol, which we also tried to criminalize in the Prohibition, but that was a complete bust and we didn't learn from that either).]
    [Followup -]
    Quit-smoking proposal calls for $2-a-pack tax, AP via 2/04/2004 WSJ, D4.
    DC - Four former surgeons general unveiled a plan to reduce smoking that included a $2/pack tax they predicted would prompt at least 5m smokers to quit. They also called for a nationwide counseling and support line for smokers trying to quit, an idea that immediately was put into practice by Health & Human Services Secy. Tommy Thompson [who] dedicated.\.more than $25m...for the tollfree national "quitline" that will be established by year's end....

3/01-3/2003   headlines from heaven - alias glimmers of hope -
  1. 3/02 Pakistanis arrest Qaeda figure [Khalid Shaikh Mohammed] seen as planner of 9/11 - Suspect has also been linked to Cole and Embassy bombings, by Erik Eckholm, NYT, front page.
    [Further -]
    3/3 Qaeda suspect sound asleep at trail's end - US links him to rise in terror alert level, by Eckholm & Johnston, NYT, front page.
    [In that case, they'll have to let him escape so he can keep Americans spooked and willing to vote for another 4 yrs of the Dubya despite his effect on the country. We got a bad-headline good-content editorial too -]
    The rush to war, editorial, NYT, A22.
    ...After a weekend of fast-moving events, including the destruction by Iraq of some of its illegal Al Samoud 2 missiles, Mr. Bush needs to take a deep breath....
    [Amen to that - or just stop breathing altogether.]

  2. 3/3 Fashion diary - Rainbows over Milan, and Mother Teresa on the runway - Every which way, war protests took center stage, by Guy Trebay, NYT, A28.
    MILAN, Italy - ...Antiwar sentiment has been threaded through the events of Fashion Week....
    [And]
    3/3 Karachi - Tens of thousands stage Pakistan's biggest protest - An antiwar warning to Musharraf as a crucial UN vote approaches, by Erik Eckholm, NYT, A11.

  3. [looking back to a more prosperous time -]
    Charge it! - In the 1950s, buying everything in sight became the new patriotism, book review by David Oshinsky, NYT Bk Revu, 15.
    A Consumers' Republic - The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America, by Lizabeth Cohen, illustrated, 567 pp, NY: ...Knopf, $35. [intro blowout]
    Well before World War II had ended, American planners, confident of victory, could sense the trouble that lay ahead.... They feared America might be overwhelmed by the return of 15m veterans to civilian life.
    [Not to mention to the job market, which finally in balance for the first time since the 1920s, balanced between labor and employment, jobseekers and job openings, was efficiently centrifuging the income dba spending power of the nation out to the people who actually spent it (helped by the newly steeply graduated income tax and the absence of sales taxes & after the war by the college-subsidizing GI Bill, the housing-subsidizing mortgage deduction and the job creation of the federal highways program), thus increasing consumer demand and producer output and...the "rising tide lifted all ships" = the famed (but grisly) wartime boom.]
    But they worried most about the impact of peace on the nation's wartime boom. What would happen, they wondered, when [military] spending slowed and factory jobs disappeared? Would consumer demand be strong enough to offset the drop in military production? Was it possible, even likely, that America would slip back into the nightmare of the 1930s, when millions were hungry?
    [Yes it was possible and likely, but it's taken until now. This book and review looks at a much shorter timespan -]
    These domestic worries proved groundless. The years from 1945 to 1975 were the most prosperous in American history. The war created a full-employment economy [the hard way - killing off the extra people instead of just killing off the extra working hours per person], though workers found precious little to buy.
    [And here we head off onto The Great Consumption Distraction -]
    With consumer goods carefully rationed, they saved their money [ie: bought war bonds]. By the war's end, the public had a great pile of disposable income - and a powerful urge to spend it....
    [And so the Gospel of Consumption, ie, makework, was goosed again, as it was in the 20s, and again, gradually, it failed, because the wealthy just couldn't be satisfied with their huge but limited share, so bit by bit, they weakened the centrifugal forces on the nation's income (the Dems started gutting the graduated income tax in 1963 and eventually cooperated in slapping sales taxes everywhere), and strengthened the centripetal, concentrating forces (more mortgage and banking fees, more sales and excise taxes, less and less job benefits, a completely flat Social Security tax with a cutoff instead of running all the way up the income continuum, etc.), thus de-activating more and more of the consumer base (carefully stored in unemployment, welfare, disability, prison, homeless shelters, the heat grates on the streets, poverty-level early retirement and forced part-time, etc.) and recreating, for all to behold - tadaaa - the Great Depression II. And all because we missed the boat and took the wrong wrong path in 1933, straining for ever-late makework instead of simply kicking back, letting the waves of worksaving technology run the 24/7 gauntlet as we designed it to do, and simply going the sharework route, sharing and spreading the still-needed skills and the vanishing human employment on an automatic basis to everyone, spending more and more time with our families and friends and spiritual fellows and community cronies and political allies to root out cheating and corruption and get some real human progress around here instead of just so much more technological whizzbang.]


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