Good News in April, 1999
[Commentary] ©1998,1999 Phil Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080
4/30/99 Rival pays $827m for Parexel - Combination will form top drug-testing firm; plans to add [3,000] workers, by Alex Pham, Bos Globe, E1.
...The nation's third-largest drug-testing and development company said yesterday it had agreed to be acquired by...Covance Inc. of...Princeton, N.J. \to become\ Covance Parexel Inc..\..the number-one [in the] burgeoning business of developing and testing experimental drugs for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries....
[So far, so normal.]
Rather than trim staff, as is the case with many corporate mergers, Covance and Parexel said they will hire an additional 3,000 workers in the first 12 months after the deal is completed.
[Well, if that happens, they indeed be unusual - maybe we should wait and 'believe it when we see it'.]
Parexel employs about 4,300 full- and part-time workers, about 900 of whom are in the Boston area. Covance, which has 7,300 full-time employees, has minimal presence in Massachusetts.
[OK, there's the hitch. What happens to the Boston employees when Parexel packs for NJ?]
...Josef von Rickenbach, Parexel's chief executive...said he will remain in the Boston area as the merged company's president and cochairman with Christopher Kuebler, chief executive of Covance and CEO-designate of the merged company. "Boston is very important to us."
[Well, maybe they will keep a branch in Boston too - with Josef in control of the sidecar. But many marriages have foundered after the honeymoon.... Meanwhile, let's hope they reverse the trend.]
4/29 White House panel urges hedge-fund oversight plan, Washington Post via Bos Globe, D2.
A White House task force plans to recommend today that Congress require the vast investment pools known as hedge funds to disclose previously private financial information on a regular basis, giving regulators and investors advance knowledge of the funds' borrowings and risk-taking in securities markets.... Last fall, global financial markets plunged and major banks and securities firms lost huge sums when one of the biggest hedge funds [Long-Term Capital LP] nearly collapsed after a series of complex market bets made with about $125 billion in loans went sour....
[Has anybody commented on what a sick joke it was that they called their hedge fund "long term" anything? These boys know about as much about the long term as the proverbial grasshopper.]
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York took the unprecedented step of orchestrating a rescue...because officials feared its failure would lead to a market meltdown....
[As it is, they only postponed a market meltdown, but at least now we'll have some time to say our prayers....]
4/28 Housing sales, consumer confidence rise, by N. Neusner and V. Golle, Bloomberg News via Bos Globe, D2.
...Home resales increased 0.6% last month to an annual rate of 5.05 million, topping the previous record of 5.04 million set in January, the [Washington-based] National Association of Realtors said..\..
Consumer confidence... increased in April for the sixth straight month...to 134.9 from 134 in March, according to the New York-based Conference Board, a research group. That's the highest level for its confidence index since last July....
[Don't they mean borrowing? - see our 4/28 bankruptcy story.]
...has been the driving force behind the nation's longest peacetime economic expansion....
[Hey if we continue to skip actually declaring war - in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Kuwait... Panama, Grenada, Iran... Chile... (what have we forgotten - did we bother in Vietnam or Korea?), we can go on with this "peacetime" expansion forever!]
Unemployment fell to a 29-year low of 4.2% last month....
[Of course, it's no longer counting anything anyway - scan down to Lester Thurow's article "Jobless figures deceptive" on 4/20 below.]
...Inflation was running at a 1.5% annual rate - the lowest in 13 years....
[But inflation in the stock market was running the highest in 70 years - gotta find us them P/E ratios from September 1929!]
The NASDAQ 100, an index of mostly high-tech companies, has more than doubled...since Oct. 8. The Dow Jones industrial average [of 30? stocks] closed above 10,000 for the first time on March 29 [the Great Crash was on 29 October '29], and has climbed more than 8% since....
The index gauging whether consumers think jobs are plentiful rose for the second month in a row....
[Of course, we've forgotten the job bonanza of 1940s and '50s.]
Retailers posted their biggest gains in more than 12 years....
[But then, there are so many fewer of them (Woolworths? Montgomery Ward? Jordan Marsh? Lechmere Sales?...). All in all in this great con game however, it does look like we have a little more time to work on our solutions, and God knows we can use all the time we can get.]
4/27 Staples plans to open 20 [office super]stores in Europe, Dow Jones via Bos Globe, C13.
[If store closings are bad news, store openings are good news - just as long as they don't plop down near some small family-run shops and clobber them. The only problem in this story is that Dow Jones apparently can't decide whether Staples is based in Framingham or Westborough, Mass.]
[Associate Kate Jurow's solution to gun ownership is put them all together in one place and let'em wipe 'emselves out. Judge for yourself whether this development doesn't bring that development closer - ]
4/26 Home, home on the firing range - Nevada development welcomes gun users, by Angie Wagner, Bos Globe, A3.
Accompanying newsphoto - Students take target practice near the proposed 550-acre gated community [with 177 one-acre home lots and 350 town houses] in Front Sight, Nev., that will offer residents 13 shooting ranges.
4/25 Plan for parents' rights opens a domestic divide, by Mary Leonard, Bos Globe, frontpage.
Joanna Upton got fired from her job...because she refused to attend a business meeting when her boy was sick or to work a 60-hour week. A single mother who sued her employer for parent discrimination and lost, Upton is just the woman the White House is looking for [because of] a new Clinton administration initiative aimed at making it illegal for employers to discriminate against parents in hiring, firing, and promotions....
[Well, the good news is that the White House is getting interested in this issue. The bad news is that we are still taking the brushfire approach to it instead of looking at the comprehensive long-term solution. Which is.
4/24 Lifespan ends talks to acquire Qunicy Hospital, by Alex Pham, Bos Globe, F1.
...Lifespan Inc. of Rhode Island announced it would drop out of discussions to acquire the financially ailing municipal hospital. "At the end of the day, we just can't seem to find a way to make the deal work for us," said John Gillespie, senior vice president of planning for Lifespan....
[Another merger averted - for the moment.]
4/23 7 Mass. companies make Inc.'s growth list, by Alex Pham, Bos Globe, E5.
...of the [100?] fastest growing companies in core urban areas in the United States...compiled by Inc. magazine and the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City -
4/22 High tech an engine for Mass. jobs, by Kimberly Blanton, Bos Globe, D7.
Software, telecommunications, and other high-tech industries have been the source of one fourth of Massachusetts' job gains since 1995.... Craig Moore, a UMass professor of political economy...prepared the report.... Between June 1995 and June 1998, the state had a net job gain of 116,817, Moore's study found. Of these jobs, 28,783 - or 24.6% of the total - were added by the "information technology sector," which employed about 148,000 in the summer of 1998....
[Not to throw too much of a damper on this or anything, but how many jobs did our prison-building sector contribute and how many people did our prisons and our homelessness remove from the job market? - Just curious.]
4/21 California to test fleet of nonpolluting vehicles, AP via Bos Globe, D2.
DaimlerChrysler AG, Ford Motor Co., and California are teaming up to road test up to 50 cars and 20 buses powered by...fuel cells. "Our long-term goal is very simple: zero emissions in the air," Gov. Gray Davis said at a news conference....Ten percent of new cars sold in California must be zero-emission vehicles starting in 2003, under State Air Resources Board rules....
[Another merger nipped in the bud - ]
4/21 Carver Bancorp [S&L] rebuffs Boston Bank [of Commerce's] 2d bid, by Steven Wilmsen, Bos Globe, D11.
...to merge the two minority-owned institutions, saying a deal doesn't serve [troubled Harlem-based] Carver's "strategic interest at this time."...
[Les Thurow pulverizes the "low unemployment" myth - ]
4/20 Jobless figures deceptive - [Low] numbers no longer mean [inflation due to full employment and/or general labor shortages], by Lester C. Thurow, MIT Sloan School of Mgmt via Bos Globe, C4.
...In the past four years 2 million people have [been deducted from] the unemployment rolls [and so only those 2 million people should have been added to the employment rolls [during that period. In fact, however, an extra 8 million people were added, for a total of 10 million people added to those rolls during that period.]
[That bizarre inflation in the numbers employed naturally exaggerated the proportion of employed vs. unemployed relative to all previous figures and grossly undercounted the proportion of unemployed, thus rendering today's "unemployment rate" totally incommensurate with, and irrelevant to, all unemployment figures prior to 1994.]
In 1994 there were essentially 8 million people who weren't counted as officially unemployed but who were, in fact, willing to work when jobs became available. Eight million people who were not measured as unemployed went to work [during the past four years].
[Gotcha. Now, where did that mysterious 8 million people come from?]
They came from a number of sources...[all colored by the fact that] in the rest of the world, reporting oneself as unemployed leads to unemployment benefits, but in the United States only one-third of those who are officially unemployed [are covered by] unemployment insurance. Reporting oneself as unemployed to a census taker [is more likely to hurt you than help you - the incentives are against it]..\.. Nothing good happens by telling anyone official that you are unemployed..\..
[A clue to the real solution - legislating community reinvestment by banks -]
4/20 Let Fidelity do it, by David Warsh, Bos Globe, C1.
The most successful policy innovation since the Clean Air and Water Acts of 1971...has been the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977. It puts banks in the business of neighborhood-building, after half a century of neglect....
[We argue that this Act attempts to legislate detailed-level quality, which is seldom the best way to get it, and that it wasn't half a century of neglect - it was a quarter century of unforced quality after the War when employees were still scarce and valuable and well-paid so THEY could take care of their own neighborhoods and we didn't need government to force the banks to.
[But this Act provides a big clue to the real solution = incentivating reinvestment in the most diverse and decentralized way by minimal government action (but doing it via wages, not neighborhoods - which are strictly none of the Federal Government's business). The design and implemention of a level playing field for a freer market in labor and jobs is, however, very much the Federal Government's business, and when that playing field is level, we will reverse the increasingly unstable situation of today, namely more wealth concentration and less circulation. With more circulation of wealth, neighborhoods will once again be able to take care of themselves without Federal fussing.]
[Glad this one's being attacked from more angles - Congress will never move on it!]
4/20 Court to weigh money's role in politics - Georgia incumbent [Mark Taylor] spent 17 times as much as challenger [John White], by Curtis Wilkie, Bos Globe, A3.
[That's nothing. When Phil Hyde ran against Joe Kennedy's $2,000,000 in 1996, the incumbent spent over 300,000 times as much as the challenger.]
...The election became the genesis for a lawsuit designed to force public funding on Georgia, and after nearly two years of setbacks and delays, White's allies [the National Voting Rights Institute and the Georgia NAACP] will get a hearing next month before a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit of the US Court of Appeals....
[Hey, maybe the "me" decade-plus is finally over!]
4/18 The battle cry against sweatshops resounds across college campuses - Activists score in campaign targetting athletic retailers, by Greg Krupa, Bos Globe, F1.
...In an echo of activism by preceding generations who fought for civil rights and divestment from South Africa, students now are taking aim at companies like Nike, Reebok, Pro Player, and Champion. Their goal: improving conditions at the overseas factories used by makers of athletic shoes and licensed clothing. With help from unions and human rights groups, the students are employing familiar tactics like sit-ins, teach-ins, and demonstrations.... The students are redoubling their efforts this spring - including a series of conferences at Harvard, Kent, and Stanford universities this weekend....
[See also 2/15/99 story.]
[More people seeing through "objective" statistics quicker - ]
4/17 Ex-state welfare recipients living better, survey finds, by Jordana Hart, Bos Globe, A1.
..."The study has rose-tinted glasses on," said Mac D'Alessandro, coordinator of the Family Economic Initiative..\..
[Now why on earth would he say a nasty thing like that about our home state's lovely tax-saving welfare-to-work programme? Well, the first thing you gotta ask about any survey is, who did it?]
The state's first long-term study of life after welfare, released yesterday, indicates former recipients have higher incomes now, and feel better about themselves.
[So the people who conducted the survey had a huge investment in getting positive results out of it = major problem #1. Now let's ask, what do they mean by "long-term"?]
A year after leaving welfare in early 1997...
[One year = "long term"? - you gotta be kidding! Now let's ask, how big and representative a sample we're talking about here.]
...about 71% of those families who responded to the survey had full-time workers earning an average gross monthly wage of $1,400, more than double the typical $579 cash grant on welfare.
[Wouldn't positive cases self select to respond? Buried on the inside pages of the article, someone definitely thinks so...] ...Critics of welfare overhaul assailed the study yesterday, saying the [statistics] were skewed by small interview samples of people who left welfare voluntarily instead of those who were forced off by time limits. [The voluntary leavers] were better prepared to work and do not represent the hard-core welfare cases.... Deborah Harris, a lawyer with the Mass. Law Reform Institute, said the survey response was inadequate.... Harris contended that many of those who answered all three rounds [note "all three rounds"] of the surveys were those families who were still doing well. "People are more likely to respond if they're feeling good," she said. "People feeling hostile are less likely to respond."
[Nailed that point. Now, how big are the total welfare rolls and how small and inadequate were the interview samples?]
...Since the state's welfare overhaul...was signed into law in Feb/95, the rolls have dropped to 53,818 families from 102,993, according to state figures [for what date??]..\..Of the 647 randomly selected cases, only about half of them responded to the first round of surveys. By the fourth round [note "fourth round" vs. "all three rounds" above!??] of surveys, participation had dropped to about a third....
[So let's see. If we originally send 647 surveys out to 53,000-102,000 families, we're only sending surveys to a whopping 1% of families to begin with. Then if only half respond (that's 0.5%) and they're the self-selected happy half, we're really just masturbating. By the last round (our intrepid reporter, Jordana Hart, can't seem to figure out if there were three or four rounds - later she says there were "two sets of interviews" - we got a problem here), we've dropped to a third (that's 0.3%), presumably, again, the happiest third. Any way of straightening out how many rounds there were?]
The results of the survey were gleaned from two sets of tinterviews [Freudian slip, we mean 'interviews'] of families who left welfare in the first half of 1997. Welfare workers interviewed 341 families three months after the families left welfare, and the other was done a year after, with 210 of the families interviewed both times.
[Answer to how many rounds were there really? Can't tell from this because it's not clear whether there was one or two interviews in the first "set" in 1997. But another vital factoid has emerged - we were assuming these were written secret-ballot-type surveys. It seems they were actually face-to-face, personal, non-secret surveys, so hardly ANY disappointed or angry people are going to respond - for fear of reprisals. And was there any control sample or study?]
Ultimately, [Randy Albeida, a labor economist at UMass/Boston who studies poverty] questioned how welfare officials can determine any measure of success from their survey given that no one had previously studied life after welfare prior to the state's overhaul efforts in 1995 or soon thereafter.
[So this whole survey is gratuitous self-congratulation on the part of the state welfare department, a total waste of state taxpayers' money, and everyone except our intrepid reporter Jordana Hart or her corporate masters, knows it. She's put a happytalkin' headline on the front page and buried the depressing truth on page 6.]
'This is the best of the bunch," said [Albeida]. "These aren't folks forced off [welfare]. This is the best face of the impact of welfare 'reform' [our quotes]." Albeida...said that even by the survey's own data, families of four with income of $1,399 a month earn just slightly more than...the current federal poverty level [$16,450/yr]..\..
[And what about health insurance and other formerly state-paid benefits?]
Three months after leaving welfare in 1997, nearly [i.e., less than] half of those who had jobs also reported having health insurance through their employer. And after a year, half of those who responded to the survey reported that the state was still subsidizing their child care....
[And failure rate?]
The study showed about 18% of the of the households interviewed had returned to welfare within three months after leaving, and about 21% had gone back on the rolls within a year....
[So if this is what the state is willing to admit to, how much higher are the real figures?]
Even state officials had concerns about statistics showing that only one in five eligible families was receiving federal food stamps three months after leaving the rolls, even though more families reported going hungry right after they left.
[More depressing background? - ]
By Dec. 1, 1998, 5,100 families - each typically consisting of a mother with two children over age 2 - began to see their cash benefits run out. Of those families, 2,800 applied for last-minute extensions because they could not find a job or child care. Last month (March), of the 2,220 extension requests reviewed so far [79%], state officials had approved only about 12%, making Massachusetts one of the strictest [states] in the nation in adhering to time-limited cash aid.
[We venture to say that Massachusetts' welfare-to-work plan is not working, and it can't work until there are plentiful, bountiful, overflowing, and very well-paying entry-level jobs with reduced hours and great benefits easily available. "Unrealistic!" cry the braindead. But this should be child's play for an economy that is truly 'robust' as all the headlines claim - an economy, bear in mind, that has more labor-saving technology in place than anywhere else on Earth and than any previous time in history. But of course, the whole picture of the 'robust economy' is a total sham - nothing but quaaludes for the rich. The solution will require gradual deep-level economic restructuring, of the sort envisioned and designed in our Timesizing program.]
[And while we're at it, let's include the following bit of encouraging bubble-bursting also buried on p. 6 above the bad parts of the welfare-to-work article - ]
4/17 Hunger in a land of plenty lamented at food bank ceremony, by Dolores Kong, Bos Globe, A6.
[They got 'im - or one of the four anyway.]
4/16 PairGain employee arrested in stock-manipulation scheme, AP via Bos Globe, D2.
...on securities fraud charges alleging he posted a fabricated financial news service report [a la Bloomberg] on the Internet that drove up the company's stock...Gary Dale Hoke [of Raleigh, NC].... It was believed to be the first stock-manipulation scheme employing a fraudulent Internet site....
[So the rest of you clowns don't bother - it's been done. On the other hand, the whole Internet seems to be a fraudulent stock-goosing tool.... Check the 4/13/99 story on our Collapse page "Taking measure of the great divide - Chasm between stock values of [Internet &] traditional firms could not be wider", by Syre & Stein, Boston Globe, p. C1.]
4/15 US rejects General Dynamics [$2b bid for Newport News] - Says savings to be gained in shipyard deal don't outweigh anticompetititve concerns, AP via Bos Globe, D2.
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon yesterday [vetoed] a deal between defense giants General Dynamics Corp. and Newport News Shipbuilding that would have created a single shipbuilder for the navy's largest ships [such as] aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines....
[Never thought we'd be cheering the Pentagon!]
4/15 [Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co.] decides against going public, Bloomberg via Bos Globe, D9.
...the 6th-largest policyholder-owned US life insurer plans to keep its current form rather than follow rivals converting to ownership by investors [i.e., in today's 'reality', speculators]. Mass. Mutual president and CEO Robert J. O'Connor told policyholders at an annual meeting that the 148-year-old insurer sees no need to change its structure.... Other large mutual life insurers [including] Prudential, Metropolitan Life and John Hancock] say they need publicly traded shares to pay executives [far more than they can spend in multiple lifetimes] and buy rivals [- in short, to run closer to the cliffedge of economic armageddon]....
[Three cheers for Robert O'Connor. At least there's one sage CEO among the lemmings.]
4/14 As Net investing heats up, Schwab looks to hire 1,000, Reuters via Bos Globe, E2.
...currently employs about 13,000 people in 300 offices....
4/13 Bloomberg suit targets Net hoax, AP via Bos Globe, C2.
...filed a lawsuit against the unidentified peoele who posted and promoted a bogus report last week on the Internet that boosted the value of a California company's stock [PairGain Technologies] 31% before the hoax was exposed. The lawsuit...will help [reveal] the real identities behind the screen names of those who joined the scheme, which was carried out using a Web page [that] copied the Bloomberg page design....
[Go get'em, tiger! High tech should mean more accountability, not less.]
4/11 Needs of workers, firms need not conflict, by Juliet Brudney, Bos Globe, F4.
Too much time on the job, too little time for family...continue to plague millions of working people, recent surveys report.... One approach tackling this problem invovles designing and assessing innovations that achieve company goals while enabling employees to better integrate their work and off-the-job lives.... Process and field work [9/96-11/97 at two Fleet Financial Group sites emboded in a report "Creating Work and Life Integration Solutions" coauthored with the Radcliffe Public Policy Institute] stem from a 1991-95 research project at Xerox Corp. funded by the Ford Foundation.... The report...offers no panacea for eliminating time-binds, but it does present promising ways for employees and managers to collaboratively develop and assess remedies that can benefit both groups (617-496-3478; $15)....
About two-thirds [of the (how many?!) employees responding to the survey] were not satisfied with their work and family balance.... Disruptive company happenings before and after the project...bear on the outcomes of such programs. "Fleet had acquired or merged with 75 banks within one decade, eliminated 6,000 jobs between 1993 and 1996...," states the report....
Experiments developed by Radcliffe and Fleet at sites were based on analyzing existing work procedures, exploring ways to operate faster and better. These interventions included: shifting some tasks performed by professionals to the administrative assistant [problem - in most offices the administrative assistant is long gone] and hiring a temp for some of her [sexism?] work; creating flex-time arrangements; and permitting limited telecommuting.
[Too bad Radcliffe and Fleet didn't connect with the most obvious solution - cutting the workweek. Indiana management consultant *Ron Healey has has a number of companies actually doing his 30/40® program (30 hours work for 40 hours pay) to access an untapped reservoir of quality employees, mainly people with families who can afford a reduced workweek but not a 40-hour one, and who appreciate the full-time pay and benefits.]
4/11 Unions take fight over CEO's pay to shareholders, by Diane Lewis, Bos Globe, F1.
..."We must challenge the...widening gap between the pay of a handful of top executives and everyone else in American Society," [said John Sweeney, AFL-CIO president two years ago to the Council of Institutional Investors].... One success so far...UAL Corp., which is employee-owned, agreed in January to a union proposal that will tie a portion of top executives' compensation to worker satisfaction, starting next year.
4/11 Globe business section is named one of best in US, Bos Globe, F5.
...by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.... In the category of large newspapers [over 350,001 circulation] three others tied for the top spot...Dallas Morning News, LA Times, and USA Today. The Hartford Courant was among those cited as Best in Business for...smaller [newspapers..\.. The Society] sorted through more than 230 entries from daily newspapers, business weeklies, and wire services....
["Free trade", alias "Opening up the skimming field for the top 1%" - R.I.P.]
4/10 US places 100% tariffs on some EU products after WTO ruling, Bloomberg via Bos Globe, F1.
...handbags, batteries, and other products [in] nine categories.... The [banana] dispute [is] only one of a number of arguments brewing. Others concern beef, airplane engine mufflers, and genetically modified food, as well as a swelling trade surplus the EU has run up in recent years.
[Hey, we're with the EU all the way on keeping out US genetically modified food, YUK. Give us thet ol' time natcheral food instead of gunk from these greedy geeks. Next they'll be force-feeding us Gregory Bentham's TurkeyLurkey® from big petrie dishes. Yum-WHOOPS.]
4/09 Europe's central bank cuts key interest rate - Larger-than-expected reduction seen as warning to nations' political leaders, by Anne Swardson, Washington Post via Bos Globe, C2.
PARIS - The European Central Bank yesterday lowered its basic interest rate from 3% to 2.5% in its first move as a monetary manager since the debut of Europe's single currency Jan. 1. US stocks rose on optimism that the rate cut [and that of the Bank of England] would spur faster economic growth in Europe, to the benefit of US companies.... Analysts...interpreted it as a warning to European politicians that the central bank would provide no more cuts any time soon to revive Western Europe's flagging economies....
[If they're willing to flex impotent interest rates which just sends concentrated wealth scurrying from bonds to stocks without centrifuging and activating it, maybe they'll eventually cut to the chase, annihilate interest rates and realize they've got to do something non-cosmetic for a change - something like cutting the workweek to reduce the labor glut, centrifuge and dynamize wealth, and regain a sustainable balance.]
4/08 15 Staples stores to be open 24 hours; three will be in Mass., by Robin Estrin, AP via Bos Globe, D5.
...Most stores in the chain now open at 7 am and close at 9 pm or 11 pm....
[Leaving at least 8 hours (1/3 of a day) uncovered at each store. And 15 stores expanding into that 8 hour zone = 1/3 of a day more. That's equivalent to Staples opening up 7.5 additional current-schedule stores.
[And assuming they aren't going to be staffed with robots or people working 24-hour 7-day weeks, this will mean a few more jobs and a little more earning and spending and domestic markets and demand. And maybe some of these CEOs will realize that if they can increase purchases by increasing store workdays, they can increase purchasers by decreasing employee workdays and avoiding loss of pay by investing some of their own astronomical and inactive remuneration. Dat's what we mean by Timesizing, folks!]
[The indicators are still conflicted so maybe we still have a little time - ]
4/07 Signs point to a continued strong economy - Auto sales and key indicator post gains, by Michael McKee, Bos Globe, E3.
Auto and retail sales surged in March, and a 5th consecutive increase in the index of leading economic indicators suggests the US economy will stay strong for months to come. Ford...reported that its March sales of cars and trucks rose 13%, setting a record. Last week Daimler-Chrysler AG and Toyota...also reported record first-quarter sales.
[But Daimler-Chrysler has only just come into existence....]
Benefiting from rising incomes...
[Where are they getting that data - or is it inflated by executive compensation?]
...a 29-year low in unemployment...
[Not commensurable - 29 years ago we did not count part time as fully employed.]
...and low inflation and interest rates...
[Employees are so insecure, they're scared to ask for raises, and the Fed is so scared of recession, they did three rate cuts last fall.]
"US consumers are in the driver's seat," said Bob Rewey, Ford's vice president of marketing....
[Yeah, but the steering wheel and pedals are dummies, just like US consumers, who are into record consumer debt. This is just the kind of cheerleading you'd expect from a VP of marketing.]
Tandy Corp. said sales at its RadioShak division rose 15% in March compared with...a year ago. Circuit City...reported sales rose 9% for the month....
[How hard did we search to find these figures?]
Declining jobless claims...
[Or declining unemployment insurance eligibility?]
and rising consumer confidence...
[God knows who they poll.]
contributed to the March increase in the LEI [leading economic indicators]....
[Our indicators are picking up less and less problem and more and more "conspiracy of optimism" - 1929 revisited. For example, right below this story is the headline "Dow falls on earnings fears for blue-chip companies" and the blue chips and some of the high techs are single-handedly inflating the Dow, while the rest of the market fizzles. Note the "performance gap" in which the "30 blue-chip stocks of giant corporations in the Dow...had risen in the past year by 8.99%, while the Russell 2000 index of small stocks had fallen 5.26%" cited in Derrick Jackson's "Raging bulls on Wall Street" article - scan down to 4./02/99 on our Collapse page.]
[Executive Pay dept. - maybe this will smarten people up...]
4/07 Point, click, and groan - Site allows workers to compare pay with CEOs, by Diane Lewis, Bos Globe, E6.
How much would you make if your salary grew at the same rate as [the average] CEO's? Now you can log on [to an AFL-CIO website] and find out....
The average chief executive of a major corporation made 326 times more than the typical American factory worker in 1997," said Bill Patterson, director of the union's investment office. "That's up from 42 times more in 1980 and 85 times more than in 1990. At this rate, CEO's pay will be 150,000 times more than the average American factory worker's pay in the year 2050."... www.paywatch.org
[What's the answer? As far as we know, the only published (or even invented) developed alternative to this obscenity is our series of long-term economic design programs, starting with Timesizing and presented in our layman's manual *Timesizing, Not Downsizing. Don't get mad. Get educated and get (your pay) even. Create an artificial shortage of overall labor, just as CEOs have of top management labor, and let market forces give you the pay you should be getting for the technology-fed productivity you're putting out. It'll save our economy from depression due to general markets starved by wealth compaction, and it'll save us all from our usual solution to gross, officially denied (always!) labor surplus...war.]
[Executive Pay dept. - slightly strengthening centrifuge - ]
4/07 Intel executive compensation falls, Bloomberg via Bos Globe, E2.
Intel Corp.'s top five executives, including chairman Andrew Grove (-22%) and chief executive Craig Barrett (-9.7%), saw their pay fall last year as the number one chip maker's earnings per share declined 14%....
[American freeze-dried free-trade brains lose another round in their battle to extend their skimming fields regardless of turning their homeland into the world's biggest trade-deficit patsy - ]
4/07 WTO ruling goes against EU - Judgment allows US to impose [$191.4m/yr] tariffs in retaliation for banana-import policy, Globe Wire Services via Bos Globe, E2.
...the largest trade sanctions ever authorized by the [World Trade Organization]....
[MicroSoft starting to get some competition - ]
4/07 Dell to offer Linux on some computers, by Laura Raun, Bloomberg via Bos Globe, E6.
...Red Hat Software Inc.'s version of the Linux operating system on some of its computers and take a minority stake in the closely held company, a show of support for the alternative to Microsoft Corp.'s Windows....
[Now we'll see if those two custard pies-in-the-face taught Bill Gates any tolerance for alternatives.]
More than 10 million users now run the Linux system, and it was the fastest-growing server operating system last year.... Linux had 17% of the server market last year, compared to Microsoft's 36%....
4/07 N.H. town to close dump by mining it, AP via Bos Globe, E15.
MOULTONBORO [New Hampshire] - ...Instead of paying to cap the landfdill with a plastic-like material to prevent rain from pushing pollutants into surrounding soils and groundwater, Moultonboro plans to mine its aging dump.... Technically known as reclamation or "landfill mining," the process will involve diggin up nearly five acres of rotting trash and screening it. The trash will be recycled, if possible, or disposed of.
Moultonboro is the first municipality in New Hampshire to undertake such a project.... The landfill is surrounded by wetlands and abuts the Red Hill River, which feeds into Lake Winnipesaukee.
[Hey, it's a start. Now if we can move "upstream" and cash the trash at an earlier point in its life/death cycle....]
[Executive Pay dept. - maybe there is a God - ]
4/06 Polaroid CEO [Gary DiCamillo] loses bonus as stock falls, Bloomberg News via Bos Globe, C5.
...for the second straight year....
[And maybe not - ]
The company raised DiCamillo's salary by 10% last year, to $715,008 from $650,004, and more than quadrupled his stock-option award - in part by granting the CEO his 1999 options one year early....
[Or maybe so - ]
Options that DiCamillo and other top executives had received were worth nothing at year's end, however, because the price of Polaroid shares had fallen and any exercise of the options would not have been profitable.... As retailers have cut inventory of its older products, Polaroid is trying to generate interest in new cameras and film so it can end a skid of five money-losing years out of the last six.
["New cameras and film"? That's funny. There was an article Sunday (4/4) that Polaroid was sacrificing innovation to marketing - "Snapping back - Its glory days faded away, Polaroid turns away from a rich heritage in innovation and emphasizes marketing in its battle for survival." See our Collapse page.
[At any rate, we can no longer confuse Polaroid with PolarTek, and certainly not confuse DiCamillo with Aaron Feuerstein of Malden Mills.]
4/4 No time for a getaway?... - Regardless of how hectic your schedule is, you can attain some benefits of a vacation, even if you can't go out of town, by Alice Bredin, Bos Globe, F7.
[Sounds good, yes? Here are five of her ideas to...]
...retain or gain a sense of balance [and] for "getting away" when you can't get away.
Three mixed blessings -
4/02 FCC questions SBC, Ameritech about merger, Bloomberg via Bos Globe, E2.
...has "serious concerns" about their proposed $79 billion merger...whether...in the public interest....
4/01/99 Phone merger loses ground in Virginia - State seeks more details from Bell Atlantic, GTE, AP via Boston Globe, p. D2.
...saying they lack enough information to conclude the deal won't hurt consumers.
[No Kidding! Not to mention "hurting" the short-sighted investors involved by "hurting" the basic function of money by introducing layoffs and concentrating money further beyond its capacity for absorbing non-circulation without deflation.]
The decision to "disapprove" the deal is short of a rejection, said State Corporation Commission spokesman Ken Schrad....
[Go for it, Ken. We're right behind you!]