Good News, Nov. 16-30, 1999
[Commentary] ©1998,1999 Phil Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080
11/30/99 Interns' right to unionize at hospitals is expanded, by Steven Greenhouse, NYT, A16.
The National Labor Relations Board ruled yesterday that interns and residents at privately owned hospitals had the right to form unions under federal law. Labor leaders immediately applauded the Board's decision, saying...they would seek to unionize many of the nation's nearly 100,000 interns and residents, who often complain about notoriously long workweeks. Union officials predicted that interns and residents at many of the nation's 400 teaching hospitals would now push for shorter hours and lighter workloads.
[Interns and residents are just being victimized by an archaic and brutish system - in the supposedly HEALING arts of all things! Let's hear it again - "Physician, heal thyself!" - and now they're finally starting to. Who wants a sleep-walking intern on your case if you go to the hospital?! But typically, braindead resistance immediately materialized -]
Hospital officials attacked the decision...saying that it would fuel tensions at hospitals...
[More likely it would relieve them because more people would be getting adequate rest!]
and that collective bargaining would interfere with the educational mission of teaching hospitals.
[So they like teaching sleep-walkers, do they? What morons!]
In its 3-to-2 decision, the Labor Board...reversed a 1976 ruling that interns and residents at private hospitals were students, rather than employees, and thus did not have a right to unionize and bargain collectively. Because the 1976 ruling does not cover public employees, the ruling did not apply to interns and residents at public hospitals [but] many of them already have the right to unionize, granted at the state level.
[As colleague Kate (Jurow) points out, they've all got their MDs already, which is a full professional credential, and -]
...The Labor Board noted that they worked long hours, made many medical decisions and received salaries and fringe benefits, including vacations and workers' compensation. That hospital staff members might "also be students does not thereby change the evidence of their 'employee' status," the Board's 3-member majority wrote.
[Ever notice how painstaking progress is, every goddam one-little thing at a time, and so much of it is just bloody COMMON SENSE?! Oy! Even so, there are still those who just don't get it -]
The two dissenters argued that the interns and residents were more students than employees.
[So it's all right to enslave students but not employees? Well, these two dissenters are more jackasses than humans. But look at the unlikely lineup of forces on either side of this issue -]
...The AFL-CIO [OK, expected], the American Medical Assoc. [what?! THAT backward bunch of idiots?!], and the American Medical Students Assoc. [OK, expected]...all filed briefs on behalf of the interns.... The Assoc. of American Medical Colleges [shame SHAME on them, betraying our trust!] and the American Council on Education [DISGRACEFUL - slavery is educational??? - throw the bums out!] filed a brief of behalf of the hospital [the hospital as torture chamber].
...The ruling comes at a time when the AMA and many unions are stepping up efforts to persuade 10s of 1000s of salaried physicians to join unions....
[Good God, what happened to the AMA? It's somehow changed itself into a positive force for good in the world!]
11/29 2 glimmers of hope -
11/27/99 Glimmers of hope -
- A carnival of derision to greet the princes of global trade, by Steven Greenhouse, NYT, A12.
...Thousands of people will tie up the downtown area during a giant demonstration, and protesters will chain themselves to buildings or scale walls to unfurl banners denouncing the target of their ire: the World Trade Organization [and its simplistic, near-sighted, no-rules, "free trade" fixation - with its "living standards, the environment, our own domestic markets be damned" attitute]. In what is shaping up as one of the biggest protest efforts in years, people from more than 500 organizations have poured into Seattle. They are here to accuse the WTO, the 135-nation Geneva-based trade group that is holding its ministerial meeting here this week, of favoring free trade at the expense of the environment, consumer safety and workers' rights.... Several, including the Sierra Club and United Steelworkers of America are planning a Seattle Tea Party [today] with the slogan, "No Globalization Without Representation"....
[Strange how prone to big simple ideas are otherwise intelligent CEOs. See also the protesters' full-page ad, Invisible Government, NYT, A15.]
- PACE Local 1202 will be holding a big support rally [today (11/29)! - from web press release]
4201 Lien Rd., Madison, WI
Contact: John Vellardita, 608-257-4272
Hot chocolate and food will be shared.
...At issue is whether or not the plant is forced to go on a continuous operation of 7 days a week on 12 hours shifts....
[Here's a company really looking for liability suits and high turnover. What's the matter with three 8-hour shifts, or even better, four 6-hour shifts to cover continuous operation of dangerous processes? How many times do we have to relearn the same hard lessons?]
11/26 Feeling tongue-tied in global economy - With rise of Net, Japanese fear English deficit leaves nation lagging, by Sharon Moshavi, Boston Globe, B17.
- Personal incomes in October had largest rise since 1994, Bloomberg via NYT, B2.
...1.3%...after no change in September.... More than $5.5b in emergency government payments to farmers after passage of an agriculture spending bill by Congress contributed to last month's increase, as did union contract-signing bonuses...at the Boeing Co. and for workers represented by the UAW....
[Well, there's 2 one-time boosts, not to mention the artificiality of the first one, coming, as it did, from government (i.e., taxpayers). What was it without this two distortions?]
Excluding the bonuses and subsidies, incomes rose [only] 0.5% last month, Commerce officials said. That [was] the largest gain since 0.8% in June.
["Big deal." And how much of that bitsy 0.5% was inflated by top executive pay?]
- Hong Kong bounces back but faces new challenges - Deflation and deal with US cloud future, by Mark Landler, NYT, B3.
...Hong Kong said [yesterday] that its economy grew 4.5% in the third quarter [but] the landmark trade deal between the US and China...could prove to be a distinctly mixed blessing.... This former British colony could lose its prized role as the middleman between China and the outside world. Not is that the only cloud looming....
The territory is caught in a deflationary spiral unique among the recovering economies of Asia. The CPI declined 3.9% in the first 10 months of 1999.... Prices of everything from office space and imported wine to designer clothes and cars are plunging here. Although people are spending more in stores - retail sales rose 2% in the third quarter - they are lured by deep discounts. The number of tourists visiting Hong Kong is up 11% so far this year, but they are spending much less per person, economists said.
Much of this deflation is viewed as necessary. Hong Kong's prices were among the highest in the world, and made the territory a forbidding place to do business.... Even though commercial rents have fallen by more than 40%, Hong Kong is still more expensive than New York or London..\.. But the falling prices are cutting profits at local companies.... "This is what I call a profitless recovery," said Dong Tao, an economist at Credit Suisse First Boston in Hong Kong..\..
[Compare the "jobless recovery" of the early 1990s in the US.]
The falling...profits [is] a trend that discourages [local companies] from resuming investment.... Ian K. Perkin, the chief economist of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce [must've been a Brit who stayed on?!], said the government had masked the effect of weak corporate investment by starting several costly projects, including the $3.6b Disneyland, which will be built largely with public money.
[Is that weird or what! Building a Disneyland with taxpayers' money. Talk about the "opiate of the peoples."]
"We have to persuade domestic companies to begin investing again - and real investments, not just the stock market," Mr. Perkin said. "I don't know how we do that."
[Note the nice distinction between real investments and "just the stock market." The only way to do that in an equitable automatic fashion is to gradually lower the workweek, and initiate mandatory reinvestment of overtime profits (corporate) and earnings (individual) in training and hiring. First you lower the workweek until you zero the unemployment rate, then until you zero the welfare and crime rates, then until you zero the low-income rate, then until you zero the poverty rate, and finally until you zero the deflation rate. This method does not require the superficial internal "rescue" of interest-rate jiggling, or the superficial external "rescue" of jiggling the trade rate, migrant rate or birth rate. It optimizes the balance of forces (centripetal and centrifugal) on the wealth of the city and therefore the balance of supply and demand, productivity and consumption. It is, of course, called Timesizing.]
- [1 UPsizing]
500 people to be added to sales work force in 2000, Bloomberg via NYT, B4.
IBM Corp. said yesterday that it would add...to its software sales force next year to step up pressure on rivals like the Oracle Corp.
[Wait a minute, didn't IBM just lay off a bunch of people on Oct. 10? Yeah, 1000 people from its PC marketing division! So it's laying off 1000 PC marketers and hiring 500 software salespeople? And it sent 1100 Calif. jobs to Mexico back on June 26. IBM used to be a good company but it's become just as nuts as all the rest of them.]
IBM's software sales group will reach 7,000 worldwide with the new hiring.... The company employs more than 22,000 in its software unit....
[Oh here we go -]
The hiring initiative comes after IBM said on Monday that it was cutting more than 100 software employees, the third round of job reductions at the company in 6 weeks. Most of the laid-off software employees worked in marketing and sales.
[Sounds like IBM has finally lost its way, like DEC in its final years, reorganizing once a month and achieving nothing but demoralizing everyone and losing their best employees. Look how they try to put a sane face on it -]
The company, based in Armonk, NY, is continually reshuffling its work force to focus on areas of sales growth, like databases..\..said Steve Mills, general manager of IBM's Software Solutions.
[Yeah? well better learn to reshuffle without firing and hiring, because all you're going to get is the "walking wounded." And the way you reshuffle without firing and hiring is by manipulating the workweek, not the workforce, and keeping everyone together through thick and thin. Remember "teamwork"? Well, nothing turns "teamwork" into empty rhetoric like downsizing. We'd definitely give IBM a big SELL rating - they're floundering.]
TOKYO - ...Yoichi Funabashi, a prominent columnist and fluent English-speaker...has proposed a radical idea: that English become Japan's second official language..\.. "This is a survival strategy for Japan, because English is emerging as a global language," said...Funabashi....
[Wonder how the folks in Hiroshima and Nagasaki feel about this. And is this idea really so radical?]
In 1987, when Susumu Tonegawa won a Nobel prize for medicine as a researcher at MIT, he urged his fellow Japanese to learn English, saying the ability to think in English had been a key to his work.
[Yes, but can he tell jokes in English (and dream in color)?]
Japan has long tried to improve its English. As long ago as the late 1800s, during Japan's Meiji Restoration, a time of modernization and reform, there were calls for English to become an official language. And just three months after...World War II the biggest-selling book was "How to Speak American." An interest in English has always come whenever Japan is either in a reformist mode or when it is in trouble, according to Funabashi. Now is such a time, he says. "People here are interested in English because they are unsure what they are about, their identity or place in the age of globalization," he said.
So why then have so few people mastered the language?..\.. The average Japanese spends six years in school studying English - and usually more in university - but that hasn't helped much, as evidenced by last year's TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) scores. The only Asian country with worse scores...was impoverished and isolated North Korea. In a recent survey of Japanese students, 60% said English was their most difficult subject.... It's as difficult for many Japanese to learn English as it is for English-speakers to learn Japanese. The structure and pronunciation of the two languages are very different..\.. The Ministry of Education...in recent weeks adapted new guidelines that will give students the option to start studying English in grammar school instead of waiting for junior high. And it promises that classes will start to focus more heavily on speaking, and not just emphasize rote memorization of grammar and vocabulary....
Trevor van Peppen, a Canadian who has taught English in Japan for four years, says a major problem is that there's no real motivation for his students to learn the language. "Japan's rich enough that they don't need English, like they do in other countries, where speaking English gets them a better job," van Peppen said. "It's cool to have written on your shirt things like 'love, love, love,' but they don't see the need for anything more than that..\..
[Well 'cool' can get you some distance, it seems -]
The health club [Club Boy Beau in Tokyo] doubles as an English school, with classes, bilingual fitness instructors, and a foreign ambiance, embodied by an American flag draped across a pool table. "You don't need a passport to be a member" is the club's motto. Owner Masanao Takahashi, a former nightclub impresario, thought teaching English would attract members [and he has] attracted 2,000 members to his gym. [However, he] admits most of them probably aren't there to really learn English..\.. "People like the atmosphere. They like to be around English," he said.... English is hip.... English's presence is everywhere - in Japanese pop-music lyrics, billboards, teenage slang, even wedding ceremonies.... [Takahashi] explains that [his gym] is like a baseball game, where nine people play and thousands watch. "A few people are here to really learn and the rest just like to be around it," he said.
[Well, all this should gratify the Society for the Spread of the English Language, if it still exists.]
[People ask Phil, how can you design jobs for EVERYbody? Says Phil, we can do a whole lot better than we're doing. Here's a sample.]
11/26 Jobs for the troubled and a second chance, by Sara Rimer, NYT, A18.
PHILADELPHIA - ...The Back Home Cafe anchors Gary Ackerman. He works alongside people who understand his struggles: Tracy Young, another sandwish maker, is also schizophrenic. Marge Kramer, at the cash register, fights paralyzing depression. Lanier Evans, who mkaes deliveries, is a recovering drug addict. Dennis Griffin, the cook, has been homeless and is a recovering alcoholic. Annette Mills, also a cook, is a...mother of six who has just gotten off public assistance, thanks to her job at the cafe.
"When I wasn't working, I started isolating, staying up in my room," Mr. Ackerman said during a break. "I have a tendency to go back in time: 'If only I'd done this differently, if I'd known about my mental illness sooner.' When I'm working, all the bad feelings go out the window. I feel like I'm a part of society."
Mr. Ackerman has been at the cafe since it started, three years ago, by a Roman Catholic nun, Sister Mary Scullion, and Joan Dawson-McConnon, who have been helping people who are homeless, mentally ill and overcoming addictions to build meaningful lives for two decades. The restaurant, at 1515 Fairmount Ave, north of city hall, is in an art deco building where Sister Mary and Ms. Dawson-McConnon have built 48 apartments for the homeless, and that is also the office for their organization, Project Home....
The prices are a bargain: $1.99 for two eggs with home fries or grits, toast and coffee; $1.79 for a 3-egg cheese omelet with toast. If the Back Home Cafe were more interested in profits - it barely breaks even - [the] portions [Mr. Griffin dishes up] would be a problem....
Sabbaticals are freely given at the restaurant, with Ms. Kramer watching out for those who need time off. "Marge will notice if someone is off their medication"..\..said Lynn Giordano, the former cafe manager, who now does job training at Project Home, and had stopped in for coffee.... "Every once in a while, someone will flip out." The new cafe manager, Michael O'Halloran [gave] up his job as a sous chef at the downtown restaurant Fork. The community atmosphere at the cafe appealed to him. Both the atmosphere and the food have been praised by Rick Nichols, the food essayist at The Philadelphia Inquirer....
With health care, counseling and decent housing, the 24 people who work at the cafe are all getting better. Mr. Ackerman says he no longer hears voices telling him to kill himself. Now, he says, he wants to help others. "Project Home is my family," he said. "Finally someone cares."
11/25 Glimmers of hope -
11/24 Glimmers of hope -
- [The good news - he'll be able to speak out more. The bad news - his voice won't carry as much weight.]
Outspoken chief economist leaving World Bank, by Richard Stevenson, NYT, C1.
...after using the position for nearly 3 years to raise pointed questions about the effectiveness of conventional approaches to helping poor countries...to return to his academic post at Stanford University.... Mr. Stiglitz had antagonized officials at the IMF and within the Clinton Administration by criticizing their response to the financial crisis in Asia and their strategy for encouraging the development of democratic capitalism [oxymoron?] in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
...Mr. Stiglitz made no secret [yesterday] of feeling constrained in his ability to speak out as freely as he wished. He said he was looking forward to the unfettered freedom of expression afforded by his return to the academic world.... A liberal with a strong belief that market forces cannot be counted on to deal with every problem, Mr. Stiglitz challenged the prevailing orthodoxy among policy makers in Washington.
"...He's been one of the best things in the World Bank in the last decade," said Seth Amgott, a spokesman for Oxfam, which promotes poverty-fighting policies.... His message was greeted enthusiastically in poor countries [for example,]
- He said that the [IMF] went overboard in Asia in demanding that the countries ensnared in the financial crisis cut their budgets, arguing that fiscal austerity sometimes extracted too high a price from poor people without generating a corresponding improvement in international economic confidence.
[And he was right. And moreover, we're pretty sick to be putting the "confidence" of the wealthiest on the same scales as the basic subsistence of the poorest in the first place.]
- He took issue with the view held by the [IMF] and the U.S. government that controls on the international flow of capital were counterproductive or impractical, saying that is some cases it was justified to restrict short-term flows of money in and out of a developing economy.
[And he was right.]
- He said industrialized countries sometimes pushed developing nations too fast to deregulate tehir financial systems.
[And he was right.]
- And he suggested that the U.S. and the [IMF] had failed to acknowledge that their prescription for Russia - quick privatization of state-owned industries, an end to state oversight of the economy, abolition of price controls and an opening up to the rest of the world [i.e., to takeover by the international financial community] - had not produced the intended results and indeed had left many people worse off.
[And he was and is right. We ruined Russia and turned it into a gangster economy. Thankyou Jeff Sachs.]
..\..The Bank's president, James D. Wolfensohn, praised Mr. Stiglitz for having helped to move the institution "away from the so-called Washington consensus" [i.e., dictatorship].... Mr. Stiglitz said his approach was built around two basic themes:
- policies in East Asia were excessively contractionary on the fiscal side
- capital market liberalization, in the absence of adequate regulatory structures, exposes countries to much higher risks
"We are rebalancing our thinking about the role of the state," Mr. Stiglitz said. "Some of the failures, like in East Asia, involve cases where government did too little, like in financial regulation, rather than too much"..\.. Mr Wolfensohn said Mr. Stiglitz would continue to act as an adviser to him and...would lead the search for a new chief economist. Ms. Anstey, the Bank's spokeswoman, said that [this] was a signal of the institution's "intention to select someone who will continue the Wolfensohn-Stiglitz agenda" of focusing more on the needs of poor countries and less on more orthodox policies developed in Washington [i.e., the "needs" of the rich countries]....
- giving more of a voice to poor nations in setting policy
- recognizing the crucial role that government must play in economic development
- [1 UNtakeover]
France again rejects Coke Orangina bid - Company giving up after Paris says dominance is still a concern - PepsiCo praises the move by the French as a defense of fair competition, by Constance Hays, NYT, C4.
...The French finance minister, Christian Sautter, said the terms of the revised $733m bid, in which Coca-Cola offered to [relinquish control of Orangina's distribution network] in restaurants and other public places, did not do enough to allay concerns about market dominance.... Shares of Coca-Cola rose $1.305 yesterday, to $68.
11/23 Glimmers of hope -
- Vibrant French economy, by John Tagliabue, NYT, C4.
[For more on France, see 11/23 below and on our 'hightest' page: 11/11, 10/05, 6/15.]
Consumer spending in France grew at an unexpectedly fast rate in October...2.3% higher than in September..\.. providing further evidence that Europe's second-largest economy [after Deutschland] is also its fastest growing.... The report excluded spending for services, which account for 40% of total consumer spending, suggesting that overall growth was even higher....
[Hey if you bring the workweek down - as France is in the process of doing, from 39 to 35 hours a week - and spread the work around, and the pay, and the spending money, and the extra time off to go shopping - it stands to reason that you're going to get more consumer spending and faster, solider, economic growth. Here in the late-great US of A, we intimidate employees so they work longer hours for the same money. So overall markets aren't growing a fraction as fast as they should be, so every CEO is going round trying to takeover someone else's market share. Bill Gates and his 324 "rich-alikes" are scooping up all the earnings they should be reinvesting in their own markets via their employees. And though Bill & buds have as much money as the entire bottom half of the planet's population, they don't have nearly as much time or need to spend it. Hence they strangle the markets for the productivity in which they wish to invest their prodigious investment capital. The usual way around this is to "have a nice war" to create a labor shortage and centrifuge wealth via market forces. However, the method of choice in the next millennium will be to simply ration the availability of labor to the job market (by workweek reduction) and thereby raise wages by market forces. Nous l'appellons Timesizing.]
- [CEOs getting "infected" with long-range thinking? - here's hopin'!]
Compaq Computer Corp., NYT, C4.
...Houston, will extend 200 stock options to each of its 68,000 employees next month. The company previously granted options only to management employees.
[We think they'll find that 68,000 employees and their families and friends can buy a lot more computers than only 2-3,000 management employees.]
11/21 In Denmark, there's little crime, less punishment, by Kurt Pitzer, Boston Globe, A24.
- For the French, food isn't everything, by David Holzman of Lexington MA, NYT letters, A30.
If the French are in fact healthier than Americans despite a fattier diet, there are better explanations for why this might be so than the notion that if you don't worry that your food might give you a coronary, it won't ("French diet secret: If it feels good, eat it," Week in Review, Nov.21)....
Most French workers take about six weeks of vacation a year. They have a shorter workweek than Americans. The general environment in most French towns and cities is far more attractive than that in the United States. Finally, France has national health insurance.... It all adds up to a much less stressful way of life than in the United States.
- [1 UNtakeover.]
Mannesmann employees oppose [Vodafone AirTouch's new $135B] hostile takeover bid, Globe Wire Services via Boston Globe, D3.
DÜSSELDORF... About 12,000 managerial workers "support the work of the management board to retain the independence of the company," they said in a statement. Mannesmann's strategy of combining traditional voice and mobile services is better than Vodafone's focus on wireless, they said.... Dieter Sembach represents the managers on Mannesmann's [20-member] supervisory board that includes outside directors and employee representatives [and] oversees the management board, which makes day-to-day decisions....
Meanwhile in New York, the AFL-CIO...said it asked investment managers of employee benefit funds, which control 13% of Mannesmann's shares, to oppose Vodafone's bid.... The labor group said value would be created at Mannesmann through cooperation among the company's employees, investors, customers and suppliers, rather than through a takeover.
...violent crime represents only 3% of all offenses (compared to more than 12% in the U.S., according to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service).... Less than 0.07% of the Danish population [of 5 million people] is incarcerated (roughly 1/10 of the US percentage), and more than 3/4 of inmates are in "open prisons," where they can attend work or school in public during the day, as long as they report for lockdown in the prison dormitories at night..\..
Punishment...is not among the judicial goals in a country that prides itself on its humanitarian ideals and a prevailing sense that no one - not even the toughest repeat offender - should fall through the social safety net.
[We agree with Buckminster Fuller that the goal should be, not to punish but to design out the possibility of recurrence.]
"The point is not for inmates to suffer," said Hendrik Pedersen, warden of the Vridsloselille prison, echoing the sentiments of the Danish government, led by the Social Democrats and Liberal parties. "The aim is for them to be able to integrate back into society, if they can, and to leave here without an anti-social attitude. Their punishment, if that is what you want to call it, is that they are not free." "We can lead a pretty normal and independent life here," ...said \Soren\ a Hells Angels associate convicted of murder four years ago.... "It's not like you see in America, where if you're in prison you're lucky if you survive."
[How much longer can America hold onto its title as "God's Gift"? Has it already lost it? And check out the story on the current prosperity and absence of downsizing in Sweden on 10/08.]
Softer conditions haven't...led to a better system of rehabilitation.... Though violent crime is [far] lower, recidivism - the likelihood that inmates will commit a new crime within two years [how about "ever"?] - remains at near 45% in Denmark, slightly higher than in the U.S.
[How "slightly"? If we're going to get essentially the same recidivism whether we're soft or tough, and if "soft" results in 1/10 of the prison population of "tough" and in 1/4 of the violent crime, the cost savings would be so huge in the US that it's a clear win for "soft."]
Like their US counterparts, Danish prisoners have certain responsibilities - to attend school and vocational training, and to work, mostly in wood and metal shops, within the prison. They are also expected to keep their cells and communal areas clean, to empty ashtrays, and take out the garbage. In return, they receive privileges. Even some violent offenders are eligible for day and weekend passes for good behavior, and inmates have the right to near-daily visits of 1½ hours. Vridsloselille prison provides 12 visiting rooms, each of which can be locked from the inside, with chairs, a coffee table, a stereo, and, most importantly, a bed. Nearby, a supervisor can look after visiting children in a playroom full of toys. Outside in the hallway, next to a coffee machine, is a bowl full of condoms. "We avoid a lot of trouble by letting them...remain intimate with their loved ones as often as possible," guard Michael Grego said. "It helps keep them calm."
The amount of crime committed within prison walls is practically nil, according to prison officials, despite greater opportunities to do so than in other countries. The kitchen drawers containing cooking utensils, including knives, for example, are unlocked and accessible to inmates at all times. "In a way, we're like a family in here," says Aksel Larsen, who is serving a 9½-year sentence for drug smuggling. "There are no fights, no real hassles. We kind of police ourselves, because nobody wants a problem. It's actually safer in here than out on the streets."...
11/20 5 glimmers of hope -
11/19/99 Glimmers of hope -
- Congressional agency faults a report on hedge-fund risk, Dow Jones via NYT, B3.
The General Accounting Office has criticized a White House panel's recommendations to minimize the risks posed by hedge funds to the U.S. financial system saying the proposals do not go far enough to ensure safety....
[How about we just phase hedge funds right out of business. Derivatives are bad enough without megalomaniac gamblers pooling to play. Come to think of it, how about we phase out derivatives while we're at it?!]
- ["Good, but...."]
Senate approves budget package, ending deadlock - Spending limits broken, by Tim Weiner, NYT, front page.
[Aren't these their own Republican spending limits?!]
- America's puzzling economy - Monetary policy isn't getting any easier, The Economist, 19.
[The real news here is that US productivity is up because the US decided to make their productivity measures a little more realistic and up-to-date, even though this would trash their treasured myth that wages automatically follow productivity upward and would possibly even force them to face The Technological Dilemma - what do you do when one guy can produce everything with robots but there's no one to buy all the stuff because everyone else has been laid off and starved to death? So The Economist bloviates that productivity, which it always said was a Good Thing, might now be a Bad Thing in some ways -]
...The problem, often missed by New Economy enthusiasts, is that accelerating productivity adds to rather than diminishes the uncertainty surrounding monetary policy....
[Sooner or later these geniuses are going to have to admit that wages do not automatically follow productivity upward but they should or we'll have excess productivity and depression. And the fact that they should, means we have to design a way to guarantee that they do. Timesizing is a first cut at such a design. It raises wages by creating a tight job market (initially by simply enforcing overtime laws). It dismisses the claim that we already have a tight job market now on the grounds that we're still not training or raising wages (except top executive pay), two vital hallmarks of a tight labor market. Higher wages hike spending activity and keep technology from totally outdistancing spending power with scads and scads of super-efficient productivity.
[But if we raise wages, how do we control inflation? We need wage rises to reverse the widening income gap, but we can restrain inflation (generally rising prices) by the design of our overtime enforcement. If we design a way to stop those with inflationary money motives from working beyond the limits of straight time, or a way to convert their money motives into deflationary incentives when working overtime by requiring them to automatically reinvest their overtime earnings in training or hiring, we've succeeded in designing an non-unemployment-fostering inflation control. And we've observed Deming's 8th Point for Management ("banish fear from the workplace"). The second and third phases of the Timesizing program accomplish these goals, first in relation to corporations and second in relation to individuals.]
- Hub manufacturing jobs up [slightly, but wages up a lot], by Jerry Ackerman, Boston Globe, C1.
[Translation: the "hub" of a wheel on the map of New England is Boston, Mass., USA]
Manufacturing employment in Boston grew [only] 2.1% 1994-98 but the average annual factory wage [in Boston] rose 25.3%, to $50,499, during that period, according to a report issued by the Greater Boston Manufacturing Partnership....
[Manufacturing jobs are generally higher-wage than jobs in general and service jobs in particular (service being the only kind that are really growing nowadays) -]
The average annual factory wage was about $5,300 more than the average of all private sector jobs.... One-third of all Boston manufacturing jobs were in printing and publishing..\..
[Nationally we have lost a huge number of American manufacturing jobs in the last 3 decades, due to 3rd-world competition, the twin stupidities of free trade and record trade imbalances, and of course, constantly incoming technological efficiency. So it's no accident that printing and publishing are such a high percentage of our total manufacturing - they're the hardest to move overseas. (And it's kind of strange to classify them as "manufacturing" in the first place - by now publishing should have its own separate category.) Our national percentage of manufacturing jobs is way down compared to what it used to be. For example, here in Boston -]
Jerry Rubin, president of the Partnership, said the city's 28,771 manufacturing jobs at the end of 1998 accounted for [only] 5% of all jobs in Boston....
[Alas, apparently this little increase in manufacturing jobs in 1994-98 Boston was just a fluke because even in Boston we'll be going back to the usual pattern -]
Job losses were projected over the next 5 years, however, with the largest declines expected at technical instrument and apparel manufacturers. The report was prepared [for the Partnership] by University of Massachusetts economist David Terkla....
- [1 UNtakeover]
Dropping pursuit of merger, Ocean Spray irks growers, by Constance Hays, NYT, B4.
[Hey, at least they've quit looking for Deus Ex Machina and the cavalry to come riding over the hill.]
11/18 Glimmers of hope -
- U.S. is reconsidering money for Russia, by David Sanger, NYT, A13.
The Clinton administration is quietly reassessing whether to slow two major loan programs to Moscow as the war in Chechnya accelerates and the two leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination call for a cutoff of aid to Russia....
[Good! Colleague Kate asks, "In poverty-stricken Russia, where's the money coming from to crush democracy in Chechnya? One way or another it must be coming from us, because they don't have any. We are funding the crushing of democracy, even if our money isn't going directly to the war, because we are freeing up money that would otherwise have to be used elsewhere."]
- $13m plan unveiled to make [Massachusetts] more family-friendly employer, by Peter Howe, Boston Globe, D3.
...encouraging telecommuting, job-sharing, and paid and unpaid time off to care for family members..\.. On of Massachusetts' most famous working mothers, Lt. Gov. Jane Swift...said the state not only hopes to set an example for private companies, but also sees the proposals as "a smart business decision."... Swift's proposals, some...subject to collective bargaining with the state's 50,000 executive branch employees, include:
- ...up to 12 weeks of..\..accumulated...sick time will be [available] each year for maternity or adoptive leave without needing a doctor's note....
- ...unpaid leaves [for family reasons will be increased] from 12 weeks \to\ up to 12 months...with a guarantee [employees] can get their jobs back after[ward]
- guidelines for allowing employees to work from home will be eased in hopes of doubling the [level of working at home]
- ...special rooms [will be provided] in state offices for [nursing mothers] and emergency child care....
- House bill protects firms from 'cybersquatters', Bloomberg via Bos Globe, D2.
The US House of Representatives approved legislation to protect businesses from...people who register company trademarks as Internet addresses and try to sell them for a profit.... Under the bill, [such] cybersquatters can be liable for penalties up to $100,000....
- [1 UNtakeover]
Global Industries drops [$265m] plan to buy offshore builder [unit of Groupe GTM], Bloomberg via NYT, C4.
11/17 Glimmers of hope -
- [Confessions of a conservative.]
Scandals and standard-bearers - Conservatives should not sacrifice their values for the sake of loyalty, by David Brooks, NYT, A27.
...Retelling of the Tale of [Conservative] Triumph...sounds a bit odd coming at a moment when American conservativism is so flamboyantly cracking up.
[Oh this is great. Now we're gonna hear a genuine conservative (& not just an admirer of Honest Abe & TR running as a Republican - like Phil Hyde) catalog the woes of American conservatism. Relish the moment!]
Presidential candidates Steve Forbes and Gary Bauer are fading. Pat Buchanan has left the party. The Republican majority in the House is in peril. [& our all-time fave -] And conservatives have been rocked by a series of revelations that make us seem like the biggest collection of hypocrites ever to tread the earth.
[Whoah, that felt good! And a threefold Amen to it, by the way. Brooks goes on to list 3 types of scandals that have afflicted conservatives lately: (1) "human sized," ie: sex, scandals à la Henry Hyde (no relation), Dan Burton and Bob Livingston; (2) "shaming" scandals à la Gingrich having an extramarital affair while he was speaker of the House; (3) "tragic & terrible" scandals à la conservative leader George Roche having a 19-year affair with his daughter-in-law, the mother of his grandchild, who recently committed suicide. He concludes - ]
Clearly, conservatives have invited a cynical response to the campaign for high moral standards.
And most conservatives I've spoken to in the last few days are too fed up to mount a rebuttal.
[Great, maybe we can now put the GOP into the grinder as we did the Tories, Federalists, Free Soilers and other forerunners and come out with a Nice new party. If not, well, we have the early methodology of the conservative resurgence listed here for others to try - ]
..\..When the conservative movement started in the mid-50's, conservatives were marginalized. They set up a parallel universe: alternative magazines and activist groups, new think tanks. These institutions nurtured a lot of good thinking and gave conservatives a place to work when it was difficult to get jobs in the mainstream....
[Plus, he reveals - ]
...a little note Newt Gingrich wrote about himself in 1992, which surfaced during a Congressional investigation: "Gingrich - primary mission/Advocate of civilization/Definer of civilization [God help us!] /Teacher of the rules of civilization [as in "do as I say & not as I do"?]...Leader (Possibly) of the civilizing forces."
[Suddenly we're hearing a distinctive jingle going through our head. Let's see if we can turn it up & catch the words -
George, George, George of the Jungle - friend to you and meeeee,
George, George, George of the Jungle - WATCH OUT FOR THAT TREE!!! (splat).
Hey, we can't get too uppity here. Our own megalomaniacal credo goes something like - "To identify and solve the biggest human problem of our lifetime." This website and our slim volume in print is the 'state of the art' so far.]
- [Timesizing in the executive suite - ]
EBay taps operating chief to free up CEO Whitman, Bloomberg via Boston Globe, C2.
[Hmm, sounds like a mini timesizing. CEO getting overloaded, hours mounting, so cuts hours and hires an additional employee. This is the way the Robien Law of France 1996-97 worked - by encouraging firms to cut hours and hire more staff - i.e., spread the work. But of course, all this is quite impossible to those on one hand who think that trimming hours always boosts productivity (no matter how far you trim them) and to those on the other hand who think the whole idea of work-spreading is nonsense because it's based on the double misnomer known as the Lump of Labor Fallacy - the silly idea, supposedly held by all who even think of work sharing, that work never expands. Curiously, the editors of The Economist are among the latter group of Aunt Sally proppers.]
- As new doctors enter a brave new world, letters to the editor, NYT, A26.
["Physician, heal thyself."]
- [The problem, A.]
By Mark Barnes, New York health care lawyer.
...Faced with threats of punishing fines for suspect Medicare billings, hospitals now routinely resolve difficult questions of complicated Medicare billings in favor of the government and against their own financial interests. Because many of these hospitals are hard pressed financially, their work forces have been severely pared, while doctors, nurses, orderlies, clerks, interns and residents see their daily duties, work hours and stress increase....
- [The problem, B.]
By Claude Frazier, MD, N.C.
...On the TV show "E.R." an intern nearly comatose from working all night miscalculated a dosage because her vision was blurry, sending a patient into cardiac arrest. Whe I worked at Children's Hospital in Washington, a fellow intern gave a blood transfusion to help another busy intern. But he administered the wrong type of blood. Fortunately, the patient lived [but] there must be more such cases of which we are unaware.
- [Solution A - Wrong.]
By Marshal Mandelkern, MD, New Haven.
...The conflict between the need to reduce the exhausting hours worked by doctors in training and the need to provide continuity of care is a false dichotomy.
[OK, he's registered the exhausting hours and the need to reduce them. Now what's the need to provide continuity of care have to do with trainees?]
The solution is to have the interns work long shifts but to reduce the number of patients each is responsible for to a more acceptable load.
[Huh? How does that meet the need to reduce the exhausting hours? Now, instead of having a sleep-deprived intern looking after us and 50 others, we get a sleep-deprived intern looking after us and 25 others? Marshal Mandelkern, you are brain damaged. Better we start with a well-rested intern and argue about hours afterwards. And speaking of hours, why are medicos such hopeless managers that they place any kind of responsibility for continuity of care upon mere trainees? Isn't this akin to child labor? - and in a very high-stakes profession. With management skills like these, doctors probably deserve all the malpractice suits we can give them.]
- [Solution B - Correct.]
By Art Walaszek, psychiatrist, Seattle.
...I recall \from\ my experiences as a medical intern two years ago...the ethic of laboring to the point of exhaustion espoused by residents and attending physicians alike. Interns make mistakes. This is the consequence of the least experienced physicians caring for the sickest patients. We should...limit such mistakes - e.g., by enforcing current regulations limiting the hours that interns can work and establishing stricter ones as needed to get medical interns some rest.
[At last, an MD who sees the obvious, and a psychiatrist to boot. How unusual!]
- [Another reason to "do unto others...."]
IRS workers face more investigations by Treasury agents, by David Johnston, NYT, front page.
...The number of cases expected to be opened against IRS employees will soon nearly equal the number of cases against Americans suspected of tax crimes....
[Does sound a trifle excessive, considering there are a lot more Americans than IRS employees.]
[Times reader sees through flat tax - ]
- The sage of value and service - At 90, Drucker still preaches customers over profits, by Fred Andrews, NYT, C1.
Corporate America and Peter Ferdinand Drucker have fallen out of favor with each other.... The Man Who Invented Corporate Society...disdains a corporate [system] that is in thrall to stock prices and rewards its chief executives as though they were power forwards. "Earnings per share" does not exist in Peter Drucker's vocabulary. The religion of shareholder supremacy has him shaking his head. "That's right, I am not very happy with the unbalanced emphasis on stock price and market cap and short-term earnings," Dr. Drucker said in an interview last week.
"The most critical management job is to balance short term and long term. In the long term, today's one-sided emphasis is deleterious and dangerous." To his thinking, two personages, the customer and the highly skilled employee, are at least as precious as the investor.
[Thank God somebody is still saying that.]
...[Re-]Learning to balance these divergent but ultimately shared interests is "the challenge of the next 10 years," he said.
[IF we can get it re-learned in that short a time.]
Some 45 years ago Dr. Drucker declared a celebrated premise. "There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer." Does that premise still pertain? "What else?" he asked.
[What else? Why, buying the existing customers of rivals via takeovers, friendly or hostile, of course. So what's wrong with that? Two things. #1. Nobody's creating new customers any more. #2. On the contrary, they're destroying customers by destroying jobs in the wake of these takeovers. See today's downsizings for instance. But you can't create customers by destroying employees.]
"Who else pays the bills [besides the customer]?" From that conviction has come [Drucker's] creed: Value and service first, profit later. Maximizing profit, perhaps never.
[Maximizing profit is like obsessive-compulsively harvesting every single grain of wheat in a field, even in the corners, and leaving nothing for the gleaners - for the stranger, the fatherless and the widow (Deut. 24: 19-22) - or for your own future. Unleashing aggressive "efficiency" against your own employees is like eating your seed grain, because they're your customers' customers. It's something the long-continuing tribes - and corporations - of our ancestors and parents did not do.]
Dr. Drucker will turn 90 on Friday....
- GE passes Microsoft in value - Lawsuit 'cloud' cited in fall of stock price..., Bloomberg via Boston Globe, D3.
REDMOND, Wash. - Microsoft Corp. lost its spot as the U.S.'s most valuable company to General Electric Co. days after a federal judge said the world's biggest software maker is a monopoly. Microsoft's shares have fallen 4.6% since the Nov. 5 ruling, cutting its market capitalization [if that means anything during a stock bubble] to $450.5B. GE's shares have climbed 4.4% in that time, giving the company a market value of $457.6B. In late January, MS's value exceeded GE's by almost $100B....
["How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle." (2Sam1:25) "Pride goeth before destruction." (Prov.16:18)]
Fairfield, Conn.-based GE, formed in 1892, is the only original member of the Dow Jones industrial average that is still a part of the index....
- [UPsizing #1]
Marriott to add 1,000 hotels, by Adam Steinhauer, Bloomberg via Bos Globe, D3.
...over 4 years, expanding the #1 US hotel operator by more than 50%.... The company [currently] operates more than 1,800 hotels....
- [UPsizing #2]
Sonus Networks to open 7 offices nationwide, by Peter Howe, Bos Globe, D9.
...The rapidly growing Westford [Mass.] developer of advanced telecommunications switches said it is opening 7 regional sales offices - in Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, New York, San Francisco, Tulsa, and...DC....
[And each of these 7-location new high-tech jobs will probably pay much better than each of Marriott's 1000-location service jobs.]
11/16/99 Not a real flat tax, by Daniel Simon of New York, NYT, A30.
...Although flat-tax supporters [claim greater] "fairness," it doesn't seem as if many of them actually believe in a truly flat system.... Even Steve Forbes, the most ardent advocate of the flat tax, has proposed personal tax exemptions of up to $36,000 a year for a family of four. But this exemption creates a two-tiered progressive system, with a rate of zero percent up to a certain income and then a specified rate thereafter. It it's unfair to ask low-wage earners to pay the full tax rate because they can't afford it, why would it be unfair to gradually work up to the full rate as income increases?
[GOOD question, Daniel, and an excellent new way of looking at the whole question!]
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