Good News in July 16-31, 1999
[Commentary] ©1998,1999 Phil Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080
7/31/99 Teamsters group presses UPS on 10,000 full-time jobs, by Diane Lewis, Bos Globe, C1.
Two years after the International Brotherhood of Teamsters struck United Parcel Service of America Inc., angry members of a dissident union group are demanding that the company adhere to a contract requiring the creation of 10,000 full-time jobs over five years. "The need for full-time jobs was a major issue in the strike," noted Bob Machado, an organizer at Teamsters for a Democratic Union in Detroit, a 10,000-member faction within the union that sent out press releases yesterday announcing that the contract provision has stalled. "We were concerned then that too many people were working part time with no chance of ever becoming full time. We wanted to create full-time jobs with full-time pay, but that it not happening."
[Ten thousand new 40-hour/week jobs doing what? says the company.]
...The company maintains package volume has dropped to 11.5 million packages per day worldwide, down from about 12 million prior to the strike.... Said [UPS spokesman Robert] Godlewski, "The contract clearly states that we have to be at pre-strike package levels before we can create those full-time jobs. We are not there. During the strike, people went to other shippers."
[The Teamsters should wake up to the fact that the only way to get new full-time jobs under the circumstances is to redefine "full time" downwards, to 35, 32, or even 30 hours a week, in other words, by sharing the work along Timesizing lines.]
7/30 Ford sets goal of selling six times more tires by 2001, Bloomberg via NYT, C4.
[Well, God knows who they think they're going to sell them to, but in the meantime...]
...Ford said that it would start a national advertising campaign next week...
[We see it now - "Buy Ford tires - to decorate your bathroom and garden!"]
...and that it planned to add training programs for dealership staff and centralized tire purchasing to drive down costs.
[Here's a switch - usually training is the first budget line to be cut to "drive down costs"! At any rate, unlike most employers who want to cry croc tears about "labor shortage" without doing any training, Ford is actually going to add some training, and "training is Good." But it should by now be continuous and built right into the web and woof of the economy, targeted by overtime.]
[At Bell Atlantic, new jobs & 15-wk training program - but it's still just a drop in the bucket.]
7/30 Pressed for overtime, by Diane Lewis, Bos Globe, E1.
...Bell Atlantic acknowledged its mostly female service staff in Andover is required to work extra hours, but spokesman Jack Hoey maintained that the company's workers logged, on average, 3½ hours of overtime per week in July.... Hoey said Bell Atlantic has hired 400 new employees, but half are still in a 15-week training program....
[We're glad there are 400 new jobs here, but to be honest, it sounds like too little, too late. Future management will stop fooling around with this and automatically initiate part-time cross-training when any skills get anywhere close to overtime demand.
[Again, notice the language shift here. When you're new and they still have a modicum of respect for you, you're an "employee." But as soon as the honeymoon is over, you're a "worker" and you're liable to be laid off in the bat of an eye.]
[The good news - 6,000 new jobs. The bad news - in casinos.
7/30 Detroit sees hope of jobs in casinos - 'Casino gaming...will allow us to reduce our unemployment, have new sources of revenue, be a destination city' (Dennis Archer, mayor of Detroit), by Jon Hall, Bos Globe, A3.
...Since the 1950s, Detroit has lost nearly half its population in a suburban flight accelerated by riots in 1967, and the city has been trying for decades to attract new businesses..\.. Yesterday, Detroit, one of the original cities of industry, turned to gambling to help scrub off decades of rust and resentment.... Officials see the temporary casinos generating 6,000 new jobs and approximately $100 million in taxes. ...Archer threw a ceremonial pair of oversize dice at the craps table at the $225 million MGM Grand Detroit Casino....
[Great, we see it now. Our future is one big, crappy, craps economy. Talk about trying to base predictability on unpredictability.]
Two more temporary gaming houses - the Greektown and Motor City casinos - are expected to open by this October.... The gaming companies are expected within the next five years to build expensive, permanent casino-hotels - creating what Archer predicts will be another 11,000 jobs in construction and several thousand more service jobs....
[IF the temporary experiments prove lucrative....]
Critics say new casinos will bring new crimes and new addictions. A 1997 state study estimated that as many as 45,000 residents, or 5% of the city's population, could become problem gamblers, pushed into poverty and crime.... The state already has 17 casinos operated by Indian tribes....
[Honest to God, humans will do ANYTHING to solve unemployment, however stupid, but the simplest and most obvious and healthy thing, namely, CUT THE WORKWEEK and SHARE the healthy, natural, market-demanded work - without the contorted backbends of artificial government jobs programs in all their overwhelming diversity and taxpayer expense, and now including jobs in government-fostered gambling.]
[Continuing our political theme...]
7/29 Breaking the stranglehold on democracy - Restoring trust in democracy requires curbing the power of money and strengthening the role of citizens, by Bill Bradley, Boston Globe, A17.
[Well said, Bill, but we think Goal B (empowering citizens) is going to be needed to accomplish Goal A (getting money out of the process). We think it will take direct democracy aka electronic democracy aka initiatives and referendums to do an end run around the whole corrupt morass in Washington and make money as irrelevant to the process as current "representatives" have become to the fast-developing needs of the nation.]
[Interesting quote in neighboring op ed, noted in passing - ]
7/29 Thank you for reading, by John Ellis, Bos Globe, A17.
...The only demographic that matters in modern life is the fact that no one has any time....
[Then maybe it's the right moment to give ourselves more time and cut the workweek.]
[US Senate takes small step to stop piggybacking irrelevancies on urgent bills.]
7/28/99 Sweet XVI, editorial, Boston Globe, A12.
The U.S. Senate took a little-noticed step toward good government and good politics this week when it reinstated an obscure rule discouraging the attachment of unrelated policy riders to federal spending bills.
Rule XVI, a century-old restriction on these piggyback amendments, had been eliminated in 1995 by Senate Republicans trying to ditch the Endangered Species Act. Without the rule, members of both parties rushed in to attach riders to popular spending bills and caused all manner of mischief: promoting timber cutting annd intrusive roads in national forests; prohibiting abortion counseling overseas; lifting commercial fishing restrictions in Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park; allowing toxic waste dumping on federal lands. Often these were measures their proponents couldn't have won in a fair fight.
President Clinton has been loath to veto such riders because their are inextricably linked to important funding bills - not just standard appropriations but emergency measures like the Kosovo military action or hurricane relief.... This year Democrats have gotten into the act, trying to attach a patients bill of rights to the agriculture budget..\.. The riders are an abuse of the appropriations process, create gridlock and delay, and are not the way to run a government in the public interest....
On Monday the Republican Senate majority, mostly along party lines, voted to reinstate Rule XVI. Democrats squawked, but they and the nation will be better served by debating these issues separately on their own merits.
[Washington takes one small step toward one bill, one issue common sense. It goes without saying that Buckminster Fuller's dream of 24-hour telephone referendums are all on an issue-by-issue basis without irrelevant bundling, and so is the gradual extension of municipal and state referendums leading there that we recommend.]
[The "quiet wealthy" moving to staunch the hemorrhaging?]
7/27 Three wealthy donors drop Boston's Museum of Fine Arts for firing 18 employees, heard on the WCRB, 102.5 FM in Boston, News at 8 am.
One donor even plans to take the Museum out of her will.
[Scan down to our background story (third 7/08/99 item) on our downsizing page. Hey, if they keep this up, they might even be able to avert a revolution again.]
7/26 Elf Aquitaine won't cut jobs, Bloomberg via NYT, C14.
PARIS, July 25 - ...Europe's 5th-largest oil producer has abandoned its plans to eliminate 1,300 jobs in France, the first sign that the company may be prepared to enlist union support in its attempt to ward off a $51 billion hostile takeover offer from a French rival, Total Fina SA. Employees of the exploration and production unit involved in the cutbacks, Elf-EP, agreed to call off a 3½-month-old strike and return to work by Wednesday. They had strongly opposed the so-called performance plan, culminating in a protest on May 28 that disrupted Elf Aquitaine's shaoreholder meeting, forcing its postponement for a day.... [Watch and learn, US unions. And note that French unions are strongly involved in the movement to shorten the workweek there. Possibly the only thing that will wake up employees (and employers!) in our so-called "Land of the Free," is the embarrassment of having other countries in the world enjoying a lot more of the most basic freedom than we do, free time.]
[GOP's big taxcut restores looser business deductions & other Great Benefits to the Whole of Society.]
7/24 Tax-cut bill could well revive a thing of the past: the 'three martini lunch', by Alison Mitchell, NYT, A9.
...The far-reaching $792 billion tax cut passed by the House on Thursday has at its core a 10% reduction in individual income tax rates as well as repeal of the inheritance tax and cuts in the capital gains tax. But like most tax legislation that moves throught Congress, it is also chock-full of fiercely sought but little noticed special provisions that would give tens of billions of dollars in tax breaks over the next decade to corporate giants and small businesses alike. For instance [there's:]
a provision that retailers get favorable tax treatment on the benefits they receive from developers as incentives to put stores in shopping malls.
Then there is the provision that would increase the business meal deduction.... Two decades ago...Jimmy Carter campaigned against...taxpayers [having] to subsidize executives' lavish fare...but...did not prevail.... It took until 1986 for Congress to reduce the deduction, and even then only to 80%.... [In 1993, Clinton reduced it] to 50%. [But] the National Restaurant Assn. has been pushing for a renewed higher deduction...and buried in...the tax-cut bill is...legislation that would phase the deduction back up to 80%....
[That's welfare for the restaurant industry. And ANY welfare for any industry is suicidal for that industry, as pointed out in Paul Weaver's *The Suicidal Corporation: How Big Business Fails America (1988).]
The provision's effect of the Federal Treasury?...$8.4 billion over a decade.
[Here's another reason for extending our current municipal and state initiatives and referendums slowly but surely to the federal level. A lot of Americans have got into the bad habit of thinking of the federal government as a big bag of presents and with enough lobbyists, you can get "your share." Which, of course, means "all you can get." The widest possible spread of decision-making power on these outrageous special-interest questions would educate many Americans to the meaning of "the national benefit," and shame a lot of the special interests into getting more business the honest way - without special favors and subsidies from taxpayers. Not to mention breaking up the logjam of legislation in our "do nothing" Congress. And possibly even heading off nonsense about tax cuts and talk of surpluses when our national debt is over $5 trillion and Social Security is supposedly going bankrupt in 35 years (see comment below).]
7/23 Republicans pass big tax cut to set stage for debate, by Richard Stevenson, NYT, front page.
[Whoopee! But what about the $5T national debt & SocSec bankruptcy in 2034 or whenever? And what about the royal funeral featured below - on taxpayers' tab?]
[At last they're laid to rest. But us immigrants (especially us Great Lake wetbacks) would like to ask, are we a Republic or a Monarchy here?]
7/23 A private ceremony at sea for the 3 on Kennedy plane, by Mike Allen, NYT, front page.
[Buried at sea? Then why such heroic efforts to recover them from the sea this past week?]
...Three wreaths of red, yellow and white blooms trailed a Navy destroyer, the Briscoe, after the committal....
[A U.S. Navy destroyer? Was John F. Kennedy Jr. in the Navy like his father? Can all children of Presidential veterans expect full military/naval involvement (i.e., taxpayer-paid services) when they die? Or would John F. Jr. have received this costly courtesy (what would you say, $80K/day for a destroyer?) even if John F. Sr. hadn't been in the Navy - because - dare we say it - America is really a Monarchy, and the ruling dynasty is still ... the Kennedy clan?
[As Canadian Americans and heirs of the United Empire Loyalists who fought the American "rebels" between 1775 and 1783, we wonder what those rebels aka American Revolutionaries would have to say about this kind of fawning - and costly - royalty worship. Isn't this "taxation without representation," pain without input - the very thing over which the Revolution was fought? Or are 2¼ centuries enough time for a nation to lose its soul?
[It's not like the Kennedys are poor or anything and couldn't afford their own yacht. We're just curious. Who made the decision to put this on the American taxpayer's tab, and where were those tax-phobic Republicans featured in the headline above when the decision was made? But this isn't charity for the rich. It's the surfacing of subliminal monarchism.
[We'll never live to see it, but this kind of costly and totalitarian "royalty" worship will subside in future only as we move closer to Buckminster Fuller's dream of 24-hour telephone referendums. God knows, we already have the technology for real democracy - we just aren't using it - yet. But we clearly have the potential for all the excesses necessary to motivate the shift.
[But the Kennedy party is finally at rest and that's that. Last New Year's, Michael "caught a tree" while playing touch football and carrying a videocam on a late-in-the-day downhill ski run. John Jr., with a cast recently removed from his leg, "lost the horizon" while piloting a recently purchased and enhanced plane on which he was licensed only for visual operation, having departed late in the day when he could not possibly arrive in daylight, three hours after planned departure.
[Hopefully the surviving Kennedys will broaden the margin of safety in their lives before "things happen in three's." It would be interesting to do a survey and see how many people consciously make a decision to do just that in some form or other. We certainly have, during our "Black Spring" of 1969, and we have renewed that decision repeatedly since then.]
7/22 Silicon Valley's own work threatens its domination - Internet economy becomes decentralized, by John Markoff, NYT, C2.
...As a loosely defined geographic region, Silicon Valley...spilled over the Valley's borders into areas that quickly donned imitative names like Silicon Mountains, Silicon Desert and Silicon Alley \and\ now describes an area bordered by San Mateo on the north to far past San Jose on the south..\.. [A recent survey by A.T. Kearney for Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network] showed that Internet companies - and the economic growth they reap - are expanding rapidly in seven regions outside of the Valley: Seattle, Los Angeles, Austin, Boston, New York, D.C., and San Francisco's "Multimedia Gulch".... The report can be obtained online at jointventure.org ..\.. The paradox is that the Internet - which has largely been the offspring of networking and software technologies that were commercialized and invented in Silicon Valley - is making it possible for new economic activity to spread rapidly beyond the Valley....
[Centrifugation is good.]
The challenge for Silicon Valley [said Reuben Barrales, CEO of Joint Venture] was "how to remain the geographic center of an inherently locationless medium."
[That's silly. We think a trivial question is "why try to remain," not "how to remain" the geographic center, but more importantly, "Is this creating jobs and economic dynamism in any sense that would support the assertion that 'technology creates more jobs than it destroys'"? The centrifugation is good. Any deconcentration reverses the marginal utility of skills, work and wealth concentration. But unless we experiment with much better technologies of sharing those values (skills, employment, and wealth), we are still going to be faced with flat overall markets and a growing underclass. The Internet so far has not yielded a lot of profit, except for ISP's and porn sites. Amazon.com continues to increase sales without profit. The quicksilver information provision of the Internet is an excellent way to do comparison shopping - and drive profits down to the LCD (lowest common denominator). For example, how long can high-markup booklovers' sites like Alibris.com continue to compete with informational sites like Bookfinder.com? The former's profits depend on keeping people in ignorance of the latter.
[And as in our commentary today on Mail-Well's acquisition of Direct Graphics (scan down in the 7/22 takeovers to #7), we get into a situation where overall markets aren't growing - aggressive CEOs are merely concentrating market share within them - and we're back to "the more concentration, the less circulation."
[This all raises the question, for "astrophysical economics," of how you offset the uncontrolled centripetal force on value within an economy? How do you design a good, gradual, flexible, market-oriented centrifuge mechanism of sufficient pervasiveness and overall volume to offset the prevailing phenomenon of "trickle down, POUR up"? We at Timesizing Assocs. believe we have a complete 'first cut' in our Timesizing program (and we have second cuts and follow-on centrifuge programs readying for publication). And as far as we know, Timesizing is still the only adequate answer to these questions and indeed, the only answer at all. Hopefully, availability on the Internet will rapidly change that and get real human progress moving again.]
7/22 Portugal thwarts deal, Bloomberg via NYT, C3.
Portugal is standing by its veto of an alliance between a Portuguese financial company [Champalimaud Group] and a Spanish bank [Banco Santander Central Hispano] despite the threat of legal action by the European Union.... The Government has been accused of trying to shield Portugal's second-largest financial company from a foreign takeover.
[Ah, the clash of globalization and national security. Whatever. At least it's blocking some concentration and consolidation - and resultant loss of diversity and economic dynamism.]
[Guns going the way of tobacco? Here's hopin'!]
7/21 2 gun companies in New York talks - Concessions are sought from Colt's to avoid state suit, by Hernandez & Butterfield, NYT, front page.
ALBANY, July 20 - In a move that would represent a major break in the solidarity of the gun industry, two major gun makers [Colt's Mftg of Hartford & a second, unidentified company] are negotiating with the New York State Attorney General, Eliot L. Spitzer, over a lawsuit he plans to file against gun manufacturers.... Spitzer has repeatedly accused the gun industry of irresponsible marketing that has allowed firearms to fall into the hands of criminals.... New York would be the first state to sue gun manufacturers, but 23 cities and counties around the nation have already done so.... If either gun company agrees to the demands, it would be the first time a gun maker had made a concession to gun-control proposals in response to the lawsuits.... Colt's executives have said they are prepared to get out of the consumer handgun business if it cannot be kept profitable....
[Oh God, "consumer handguns"??!
[As with all these destructive industries, from guns and tobacco to drag-netting fisheries and clear-cutting megalumber, we need to get moving on a modern work-sharing program such as timesizing to provide a super-abundance of alternative, well-paying, market-determined jobs in the most pervasive and flexible manner, without the usual costly and massive (but impotent) blizzard of artificial, market-distorting government programs to create jobs on the unhistorical assumption that "full time" is and always must be at least 40 hours a week.]
[Sexism takes another whack - ]
7/20 In landmark choice, HP taps Lucent's Fiorina for top post - She is highest-ranking woman in US, first CEO from outside firm, by Diane Lewis, Bos Globe, p. D1.
[The Globe trumped the Times' hohum headline - ]
Hewlett-Packard picks rising star at Lucent as its chief executive, by John Markoff, NYT, C1.
[Globe:] ...Yesterday's appointment...made [Carleton "Carly" Fiorina] the highest-ranking woman at a publicly held company, and one of only three to preside over a Fortune 500 company. The other women are Jill Barad, CEO of Mattel, and Marion Sandler, chief executive of Golden West Financial in San Francisco....
Fiorina noted during a conference call with reporters that the search for a new president and CEO included both men and women. "I hope we are now at the point that the accomplishments of women demonstrate that there [should be] no glass ceiling," she said....
7/20 Elf Aquitaine in $50 billion counterbid for rival [Total Fina], by Edmund Andrews, NYT, C1.
FRANKFURT, July 19 ...reviving the "Pac-Man" defense against hostile takeovers - gobble up the company that wants to gobble up you....
7/20 California enacts the toughest ban on assault guns - Stricter than U.S. law - Passage after years of debate reflects a shift in politics and in public opinion, by Todd Purdum, NYT, front page.
7/18 Chemistry cleans up a factory - Dow [Chemical] and environmentalists in rare accord, by Barnaby Feder, NYT, §3 p.1.
...over three years [to cut toxic wastes and emissions at a 3-sq-mi plant in Midland, Mich. after repeated spills of toxic dust.... An experiment developed] to discover whether environmentalists armed with detailed information about a company's business needs and processes could help it find and carry out profitable ways to cut waste....
[And the answer was, basically, affirmatory. In one corner were Dow production manager Dave Midkiff and liaison Mike Bator, and in the other corner, local environmentalists like Terry Miller (Mr.), Tracey Easthorpe (Ms.) and the chairperson of a local group called Environmental Health Watch, Diane Hebert. Good goin', folks, - though the rest of us bear in mind that this is the polite and gentle Midwest we're talkin' about here, the land of Garrison Keillor's Lake Woebegone Days. But if you folks can establish some patterns of cooperation, maybe us savages elsewhere in the economy can learn from your example.]
7/17 One UPsizing -