Good News, Oct. 1-15, 1999
[Commentary] ©1998,1999 Phil Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080
10/15/99 3 UPsizings (unspecified number of jobs)-
10/15 3 UNmergers -
- Chain hopes to expand or open 400 stores in 5 years, Reuters via NYT, C4.
The Kmart Corp...which ranks behind...Wal-Mart...and Sears...said half of the 400 stores would be supercenters that offer a full line of groceries as well as general merchandise.
[Sort of the horror-film modern answer to the beloved general store of old, perhaps?]
The company, based in Troy, Mich., said it would open more than 70 new Kmart stores in key metropolitan markets next year and would renovate 166 smaller stores to a new small store prototype. Kmart has 2,153 Kmart, Big Kmart and Super Kmart stores.
[Compare Kroger story below on 10/13. So - a future of tons of huge stores with fewer customers with less time and money to spend. What a country.]
- FPL Group Inc., NYT, C4.
...Juno Beach, Fla., said its FPL Energy unit had agreed to build, own and operate a 725-megawatt gas-fired cogeneration power plant at the Sunoco Inc. refinery in Marcus Hook, Pa.
- E. I. Du Pont de Nemours & Co., NYT, C4.
...Wilmington, Del., the largest U.S. chemical company, will start building a $100m Lycra spandex plant in Paulinia, Brazil, next month.
10/14 Religious leaders prevail as Alabama shuns lottery, by David Firestone, NYT, front page.
- Navigant rejects mergers and will remain independent, Bloomberg via NYT, C4.
Navigant Consulting Inc., the largest U.S. adviser to electric and natural gas utilities, said yesterday that it had decided to remain independent after completing a review of alternatives that included a sale to another company. Last month, Navigant hired Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Inc. to explore its options after other companies had expressed interest in combining operations. Navigant did not identify the other companies. Navigant, based in Chicago...changed its name from Metzler Group Inc....
- Hyundai Electronics spinoff, by Samuel Len, NYT, C5.
...The [nonsemiconductor] businesses, which include the thin film transistor liquid crystal display operations, will be spun off from Hyundai Electronics by early next year....
- Left Field to split into two companies, Stuart Elliott, NYT, C6.
Left Field in San Francisco, a 3-year-old agency that specializes in advertising for dot-com companies, is being divided in two as a result of what were described as "differences in management styles" among the three managing partners.... Neither will operate under the Left Field name; [the 90] employees are being offered a choice of which agency they want to work for....
...For years, gambling's once-improbably march through the Bible belt had seemed inexorable. There were casinos in Louisiana and Mississippi, lotteries in Georgia and Florida, and video poker machines in almost every gas station in South Carolina.... That all changed on Tuesday, when the driving force behind the success of government-sponsored gambling - the region's hostility to taxes - ran directly into a rock that may be even stronger here: the power of the pulpit.... There was barely a pastor in the state, of any denomination, who did not issue fiery instructions to defeat gambling as a moral corruption and an injustice to the poor. ...54% of the voters did just that....
[You can't build the future on "money for nothing," and the way to cut taxes is to get the state OUT of unnecessary businesses, not get it into more of them.]
[One more company "takeover-proofs" itself - ]
10/14 Trojan Technologies Inc., NYT, C4.
...London, Ont., which makes water-disinfecting systems, adopted a "poison pill" plan to discourage takeover attempts because its stock price, which has fallen 58% this year, makes it an attractive target.
10/13 Kroger Co., NYT, C4.
...Cincinnati, the nation's largest supermarket operator, plans to add 130 jobs at its Cincinnati headquarters in the next three years.
[And we all know what high wages supermarkets pay. Ooookay, let's check today's figures: 3280 jobs lost, 130 jobs gained - that would pretty much support our contention that we're losing jobs by the 1000s while we create them by the 100s.]
10/13 2 cancelled takeovers -
[1 call for shorter workweek - in today's email newsletter from Mike Moore - ]
- American Securities cancels plan to purchase CPI [for $367m], Bloomberg via NYT, C4.
...[citing] a development which could adversely affect the merger [namely, CPI's] U.S. portrait-studio sales were lower in the early half of its third quarter in part because of the effects of Hurricane Floyd....
- Autocam shares fall after takeover talks end, Bloomberg via NYT, C4.
...without an agreement..\..with an undisclosed bidder that had offered $21 a share....
10/12 6 billion earthlings, 12 million Indians, 3 Kings, and 1 Art Critic, by Michael Moore (Roger & Me, TV Nation...), email newsletter from firstname.lastname@example.org, para.7 (p.2).
...And for that matter, whatever happened to the four-day work week we were promised by the end of the century?...
[Good question, Michael!]
10/11 2 glimmers:
10/09 2 glimmers:
- The Senate confronts soft money, NYT editorial, A22.
...The Republican leadership's barricade against change is crumbling. Under pressure from a growing number of business leaders, and rising outrage over a projected $3 billion to be spent in the current campaign, some important Republicans are thinking about supporting the McCain-Feingold "soft money" ban. Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is planning to offer amendments, a welcome sign that he and others might be showing up to help pass the bill, not block it....
[Any sign of hope is welcome, when Liberty is drowning in money - the concentrated money of the biggest economic bubble in history.]
- Colt's to curtail sale of handguns - Company hopes to limit liability in lawsuits, by Mike Allen, NYT, front page.
[Here's an example of a very positive long-term trend - "accountibilization". The executives and employees of Colt's Manufacturing Co. have long been making a living, in some cases a very good living, by making implements of destruction. And some of that destruction has finally worked its way back upstream to them so they're curtailing the availability of their destruction-tool products. You see it also in what's happening to the tobacco "industry" and the nuclear "industry". It's called "improving the feedback loop".]
10/08 A new Swedish prosperity, even with a welfare state - An emphasis on technology suits a people with a well-honed work ethic, by Edmund Andrews, NYT, front page.
- [Good news for Canada's "welfare state" (relative to U.S.) - compare to prosperous welfare-state Sweden - story yesterday).]
Canada joblessness declines, by Timothy Pritchard, NYT, B2.
Canada's unemployment rate fell three-tenths of a percentage point to 7.5% in September, the lowest level in more than nine years. The number of new jobs created - 63,800 - was more than had been added over the previous six months and twice what economists had expected. Manufacturing accounted for more than a third of the new jobs....
- 1 anti-takeover move -
- American Home adopts measure against takeovers, Bloomberg via NYT, B3.
...Maker of the most prescribed U.S. drug, Premarin [for what? - we've never heard of it], has adapted a plan to ward off hostile takeovers.... The plan, a so-called poison pill, would "provide protection against coercive or unfair takeover tactics," the company said [e.g.,] if an effort is made to acquire American Home at a price that does not reflect its true value....
[Here's a little item for those who think America is God's gift (and check out our later story on "crime" in Denmark on 11/21 too) - ]
STOCKHOLM - At a time when world leaders are fascinated by the United States' economic success [or so we would like to think] and its credo of less government and low taxes, Sweden seems to be defying gravity.
[That's because we're defying gravity too. We're top heavy with astronomically concentrated wealth. They're top heavy with big government - but at least their big government seems to be centrifuging the wealth, optimizing the P/F ratio (centriPetal vs centriFugal forces on money) for increased domestic markets and dynamism, and getting a quality of life for every citizen far beyond the dreams of millions of Americans.]
This is still, after all, a country where government consumes nearly 60% of the national economy [does that mean GDP, Edmund?], far above the 32% share in the United States. Taxes and wages are among the highest in the world. Dismissing a sluggish worker is, in nearly all cases, legally impossible....
[That's one difference with Timesizing. Timesizing replaces downsizing (mass layoffs), but does not replace firing for just cause on an individual basis. Of course, to prove just cause, you actually have to articulate productivity standards, and most of our employers have become far too spoiled by our huge covered-up labor surplus to bother with chores like that.]
Yet this largely unreconstructed welfare state is one of Europe's most vibrant economies..\.. And Swedes are proud of it. When Prime Minister Goran Persson introduced his budget plans in mid-September, he promised that "Sweden will consolidate its position as a leading welfare nation." He even pledged to create another entitlement: the right of every person who turns 65 to retain a personal assistant....
While the Government continues to finance health care, education and many social services, Sweden has deregulated industries from telecommunications to airlines and banking. As a result, new companies and high technology have flourished..\.. And after nearly three decades of sluggishness in which the output per person slumped from the third-highest in the world to 18th, just behind Italy [oh nooo], the Swedish economy is in the midst of a powerful transformation....
[Americans envy Europeans their long vacations and universal health insurance. Sweden has both of those plus nearly half the unemployment and twice the GDP of the European Union (EU). Recent figures from the charts in this article put the EU's unemployment at 9.4%, Sweden's at 5.3; the EU's annual GDP change at +2.1%, Sweden's at +3.8. And if you are unemployed, the benefits are a lot better.
[The lesson here is, that for all our strutting and puffing, America is far behind in quality of life. And it's not a problem at the bottom. It's a problem at the top. If people with the smarts or luck or connections or luck to hit the market and accumulate far more than they need or can possibly even use or even spend, have no particular incentive or model of sharing and spreading their mostly luck (because there are plenty of people with smarts and connections who aren't millionaires), then it doesn't matter how much money there is in the economy, conditions are bad. Think about it. If 1% of the population can acquire 99% of the wealth (and there's nothing stopping that in the U.S.), then you've got a lot of misery - and (incidentally?) a record prison population.
[Bottom line. Socialist Sweden is outperforming capitalist us/U.S. and the mixed-market rest of Europe. We believe that a variation on socialism, the vast Mondragon cooperative, is outperforming the rest of Spain from its perch in the Basque region in the northeast corner. But there is an even better approach, along the lines of regulating the bare minimum. It involves, not trying to regulate anything and everything at the bottom like the too-little, too-late crisis management of American capitalism or the stifling overprotectionism of socialist Sweden (Sweden has high suicide and emigration rates), but regulating the maximum at the top - drawing a line on dimensions of dysfunctional accumulation, one at a time, and automatically reinvesting the excess, and gently but firmly nudging the aggressive competitiveness of the Type A, testosterone-rife personalities on into the next, still-safe realms of accumulation. The first dimension on which we draw a line at the top is employment, which is economese for time. And the first program we design for this purpose is called Timesizing.]
10/08 Voice of a man who cannot speak - From wheelchair, Hawking gives disabled children reason to hope, by Richard Saltus, Boston Globe, front page.
...Stephen Hawking...a professor of physics and mathematics at Cambridge University in England..\..lies twisted and nearly immobile in an electric wheelchair while his towering intellect probes the universe. With his barely controllable hands, writing [is out of the question].... A half-dozen...children with impaired communications...met with Hawking, in their wheelchairs and using a variety of devices, high-tech and low-tech, to converse.... While at Children's [Hospital in Boston yesterday,] he toured the hospital's Communication Enhancement Center. \He\ has gained immense celebrity, written a best-selling book, fathered three children, and done a huge amount for the public image of disability [despite his advanced case of Lou Gehrig's Disease]....
Computer technology has made it possible for even severely disabled people to use some small movement - a twitch of the finger, a nod, even the blink of an eye - to select words or letters on a screen. This in turn can activate a speech synthesizer or log a handicapped individual onto the Internet..\..
[In the future, the category of "permanently disabled" will be virtually non-existent because of this kind of technology, and the employment category of "job designers" - an extension of the role of the Communication Enhancement Center at Boston's Children's Hospital - will be greatly magnified.]
The center...evaluates assistive technologies and helps children and adults find the most useful devices to compensate for speech or writing limited by autism, cerebral palsy, language disorders, spinal cord injuries, or neuromuscular diseases.... "If we can find some movement a person can control to use the computer, then we're on our way," said [Howard] Shane..\..the director of the center....
[We understand there's even a way to let people program computers just by tiny movements of their eyes. Time to move this technology into our "disability" system, reduce people's dependency and restore their self-support.]
[Railfan special! plus goodnews for sagging Canuck economy - ]
10/07 Union Pacific gives big lift to [Canadian] G.M. unit - Locomotive order valued at $2B, by Timothy Pritchard, NYT, C4.
TORONTO, Oct. 6 - The Union Pacific Corp. said today that it had ordered 1,000 locomotives worth more than $2 billion from a Canadian division of the General Motors Corp. It was the Union Pacific's biggest step yet to improve a railroad network that was so slow and snarled two years ago that some customers rebelled and began sending freight by truck....
[And let's not forget that all this happened because the Santa Fe RR bit off way more than it could chew by buying Burlington Northern RR. And mergers are supposed to increase efficiency? Ha! This has got to be the biggest counter-example.]
10/07 2 anti-takeover moves -
[One UPsizing - ]
- NatWest plans to drop bid, by Andrew Sorkin, NYT, C4.
One of Britain's four main clearing banks National Westminster Bank PLC, said it would probably drop its $17.7b bid for the British insurance company Legal and General Group PLC as the bank tries to fend off its own suitor, Bank of Scotland PLC, which made a $34b hostile bid a few weeks ago....
[So how does it feel now the tables are turned, eh, NatWest?]
- Conso accepts $66m buyout from management, Dow Jones via NYT, C4.
The Conso International Corp. agreed yesterday to be taken private in a buyout worth about $66m led by senior management.... Conso, based in Union, SC, makes decorative cord and narrow trimmings, hand-assembled tasseled accessories and sewing supplies.... The company had been disappointed in the valuation of its stock....
[So just make it Conso.com and stock will soar! Sounds like a nice little company that makes real stuff instead of just vaporware, and management got (check one) bored/greedy and went public. Timing was wrong (Wall St. wants dot-com's, not real companies), stock sagged, and management (maybe) learned its lesson.]
10/06 Wal-Mart has plans for up to 340 stores, AP via NYT, C8.
...will open, remodel or relocate as many as 340 stores next year, as well as greatly expand the number of distribution centers it operates.... The bulk of Wal-Mart's new stores, 160 to 165, will be Supercenters....
10/04 Environmental-labor alliance - Longtime foes join to promote jobs and Earth, lead-in, NYT, A2 + article by Steven Greenhouse, NYT, A12.
After battling each other for years, environmental groups and labor unions have recently formed an alliance that will push to protect jobs and the environment at world trade talks scheduled for early December.... The environmentalists and unionists plan a protest rally for Nov. 30 to coincide with the World Trade Organization [WTO] meeting in Seattle..\.. In one of its first acts, the coalition, the Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment, is running a full-page advertisement today in The New York Times [page number please??], stating that union members and environmentalists are committed to holding corporations accountable for their treatment of workers and the earth....
The alliance is a departure from years of fighting between environmentalists and labor unions over logging rights, endangered species, steel mill pollution, and highway and building construction.
The coalition includes leading environmental groups like Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club and the Earth Island Institute. Among the labor groups that have joined are several dozen locals in the steelworkers' union, the teamsters' unions, the food and commercial workers' union and the service employees' union [ah, why isn't the NYT giving the exact names of the labor groups, and if they are, why aren't the names capitalized? Hello-o, editing dept??]....
Coalition members said they were concerned that WTO rules had...allowed international bureaucrats to overrule laws and [standards] on the environment and labor that have been [enacted] by elected officials [boy, the language in this article sure does water it down - we're trying to restore]. Last year, for example, the WTO overturned a Federal [U.S.] law barring imports of shrimp from countries whose fishing fleets used nets that were unable to release endangered sea turtles.... The coalition is also seeking to step up pressure on Maxxam Inc. of Houston to settle a protracted labor dispute at its five Kaiser Aluminum plants [and] fighting Maxxam's plans to cut redwood forests in Northern California.
[Unionists and environmentalists have a natural common interest because, on the one hand, there is a huge potential for job creation in the area of environmental protection and restoration, and on the other hand, we will never tap that potential until we vastly upgrade our technology of sharing and get it moving through the critical dimensions of marketable personal skills, employment per person, personal income, personal wealth.... The reason we will never be able to tap that potential is that in a situation of intensifying concentration of all these dimensions, we destroy the "no man is an island" warning and get thousands more acres of environmental beauty, housing the tiny wealthy minority - and millions more acres of urban and rural devastation, housing everyone else.
[However, if we deconcentrate or "centrifuge" the good stuff, starting with skills and employment, we reduce the pervasive job insecurity and enable millions more people to sensitize to the environment and provide the market for all those jobs in environmental protection and restoration. The technology of centrifuging or sharing skills and employment has recently taken a leap forward with last year's release of Timesizing, Not Downsizing. More jobs through worksharing inherently means shorter hours and higher pay, because it engineers, not just spot skill shortages as we have today (which merely motivate CEOs to import more cheap skills from overseas), but a general labor shortage, which harnesses market forces to raise pay and benefits across the board by centrifuging wealth.]
10/02 1 UPsizing:
10/01/99 2 demergers -
- 1,000 jobs to be added at factory in Scotland, Reuters via NYT, B3.
The semiconductor and telecommunications equipment maker Motorola Inc. said yesterday that it would add 1,000 jobs at its cellular telephone manufacturing plant in Bathgate, Scotland. The company currently employs 6,500 peoplel in its three Scottish plants. The jobs inlcude engineering, materials, quality, product introduction, information technology, finance, manufacturing, distribution and human resources positions. Motorola's shares were up....
- Ford planning to spin off parts division [& give wage & job guarantees to division's workers], by Robyn Meredith, NYT, C1.
- AutoNation to spin off its rental business [including Alamo Rent-A-Car], Bloomberg via Boston Globe, C2.
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