DoomwatchTM vs. Timesizing®
Collapse trends - March, 2000
[Commentary] ©2000 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080
3/31/2000 omens -
3/30/2000 omens -
- The end of the game - Tiger Mgmt, old-economy advocate, is closing,...victim of new economy - Technology stocks' surge humbles an investing giant, by Gretchen Morgenson, NYT, C1.
[This should read "Tiger Mgmt, solid-economy advocate, is closing...victim of bubble economy."]
...After 20 years of generating superlative investment returns by buying stocks that were undervalued and selling short those that carried excessive valuations..\..Julian H. Robertson Jr., head of Tiger Management...confirmed yesterday that he was shutting Tiger's operations.... Things got worse...when technology stocks roared and value shares tumbled.... Since August 1998...investors have withdrawn $7.65B....
["Bad money drives out good" - bad money in overvalued Internet bubble stocks and good money in non-Internet, traditionally valued stocks.]
3/29/2000 omens -
- [Quality of life in America continues to unwind as stress winds up.]
Workplace amenities, letter to editor by Sue Matorin of NYC, NYT, A30.
Lisa Belkin (Life's Work column, March 29) predicts that employer commitment to workplace amenities will evaporate when the current economic boom stalls. We health care professionals, already adapted to the priority of volume and productivity, experience 10-hour-plus days, gulp coffee or grab lunch while working, and "donate" private weekend time in the futile effort to catch up on swamping paperwork demands. While the notion of concierge service to help us balance career and family obligations is enviable, we would first welcome an actual coffee break.
[Hey, at least healthcare professionals are getting overtime pay. What about all the megahours in high tech on a 40-hour salary (which is all that is legal by the Federal Labor Standards Act of 1938). All part of the still unfolding disaster when we took the wrong fork in the road in 1933 - we went for a burgeoning grocery list of peripheral fixes instead of simply a shorter workweek at the economy's core - to keep the work spread across everyone, and wages and benefits high by market forces of supply and demand instead of incessantly repeated "too little too late" government intervention.]
3/28/2000 omens -
- Japan cuts pensions to boost economy, Washington Post via Boston Globe, D2.
[Isn't this like cutting spending power to boost spending?]
...The government's pension retrenchment, which follows the wave of equally austere pension cuts announced by Japan's largest employers, seems certain to depress the already gloomy sentiment of consumers, whose reluctance to open their wallets remains the largest impediment to recovery of the world's second-largest economy....
[Commentators just don't get it. When income and wealth are as highly concentrated as they are in the world today, the question for most "consumers" is, "What wallets???" As income and wealth concentrate ever further, an ever larger part of the consumer base de-activates because those with the money don't have time or need (to shop) and those with time and need don't have the money. "The more concentration, the less circulation."]
- [This is training??]
Paintball lessons lost on the job, blowout pointing to article on C12, NYT, C1.
Companies spend $55B/yr on training often using elaborate and eccentric methods like paintball wars and fighter-pilot simulations to make their point [which is??]. The trouble is, many of these programs have no practical value, so employees return to their daily chores and forget the training....
Training programs often miss the point on the job - What's the point in splashing paint on the chairman? - [photo caption:] To learn team building, Elise Tienken of Eurest Dining Services drives blindfolded, while a co-worker...guides her through an obstacle course at the BMW Performance Center in Spartanburg, SC, by Abby Ellin, NYT, C12.
[Indeed, what is the point of training? These weird "training" fads miss the glaringly obvious. And what would that be? Let's go through the chain of "dumb" questions that a child would ask. Where do companies need training? In skills that are under pressure. How can they tell what skills are under pressure? By the incidence of overtime. Timesizing.com's overtime conversion program lets the incidence of overtime target, trigger, pace, size and fund training, all of which is OJT (on -the-job training) but some of which is training of new employees, some retraining of old employees, some cross-training of employees in different areas.]
3/24/2000 omens -
- Youths leaving foster care with few skills or resources, by Somini Sengupta, NYT, front page.
Thousands of young adults in New York City's foster care system, many of them neglected or abandoned during the height of the city's crack epidemic a decade ago, have been moved out of the system in recent years, forced to fend for themselves at 18 and often with little education or financial resources.
[Criminal Creation Div., New York City Hall -]
The city's child welfare system, whose legal obligation to foster children ends when they are not much beyond adolescence, does not, by its own admission, give the departing youngsters much to work with: a handful of classes in things like cooking and resume writing, a check for $750 and up to 3 years of modest stipends for rent.
Thus, while the growing exodus of children from foster care - roughly 1,200 in 1998, up from 980 in 1994 - has helped relieve the strain of a system that had in the early 1990's been forced to deal with a near-doubling of its population, it has created abouth kind of crisis, according to child welfare experts and the foster children themselves, as a wave of poorly prepared teenagers, many with children of their own, venture out on their own....
[Isn't it getting a little old to keep hearing about the "problems" of the richest city in the world? Let them fix it the old way with a steeply graduated income tax on their own thousands of millionaires and make them take care of the problems that they themselves create with their insulated and isolated self-absorption. They have more money than they can spend in a dozen lifetimes. Or let them fix it the new way by enforcing the nation's 60-year-old 40-hour maximum workweek on a municipal basis, not by the double-message of 'time and a half' but with a confiscatory tax on overtime profits (corporate) and earnings (individual), with complete exemptions for reinvestment in overtime-targeted training and hiring. And if that isn't enough, adjst the workweek downward to create more overtime reinvesment. In a word, Timesizing.]
- United Nations: narrow escape, by Barbara Crossette, NYT, A6.
...The U.N. had managed to step back from the brink of financial disaster at the end of last year, in large part because of American payments totaling $452m.... The United States still owes about $1.6B in back dues.
[Isn't it getting a little old to keep hearing about the richest nation in the world, the nation that dreamed up the idea of the League of Nations and the U.N. in the first place, forgetting the lessons of history and meanly starving its own international 'baby' of the dues it itself worked out that it should pay? Is there any greater argument for doing an end run around these corrupt Congressional "representatives" and taking issues like this directly to the people in binding referendums voted on secret ballots?!]
3/24/2000 omens -
- Closed agenda stifles debate - Biotechnology meeting ignores a host of crucial topics, by Daemmrich, Sagar and Ashiya, Boston Globe, E1.
The Biotechnology Industry Assn. is holding its annual meeting, BIO 2000, in the Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Ctr in Boston today through Thursday.... Looking at the program, one would think that organizers had failed to read the newspapers during the past year. Topics that have recently kept biotechnology in the spotlight in the U.S. and much of the rest of the world are almost completely absent from the conference sessions and symposiums..\.. Prominent among the scheduled events are displays of new technologies and discussions of scientific and technical issues facing the industry.... No mention is made of controversies over genetically modified organisms [such as "Frankenfoods" - ed.], patenting of compounds derived from local resources, use of indigenous knowledge without appropriate benefit sharing, cloning and cross-species transplantation, or experimental gene therapies halted by the FDA in recent months. These are not trivial issues....
Public acceptance of biotech requires the participation of a wide range of stakeholders in government and industry [and the community?! - ed.] Yet the impressive array of speakers at this meeting comes almost exclusively from biotech companies, venture capital firms, law firms, [and] to a lesser degree, academia....
[Guess they aren't going to get public acceptance then. Let's hope the NGOs, such as People's Earth Network (PEN) and Northeast Resistance against Genetic Engineering (NRAGE), who are demonstrating outside in a parade and teach-in called Biodevastation, get as much PR as the protesters at the fancy WTO shindig in Seattle last fall.]
3/20/2000 omens -
- [Another nail in our economic coffin? -]
Buying on margin becomes a habit - Investors turn to credit in a bull market, by Gretchen Morgenson, NYT, C1.
...It is investors...trading through online brokers who are most responsible for the jump in margin debt. Steven Galbraith, an analyst at the investment firm of Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., estimates that margin debt as a percent of market value has soared 459% at online brokers since 1995.... At firms that are members of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) by comparison [it only] has gone up 190% during the same period.... The S&P 500 has risen [only] 139% during that time.... [Some firms are requiring] a greater down payment than the 50% minimum set by the Federal Reserve on 270 securities its executives feel are too volatile or illiquid....
[There's something Greenspan could do if he wants to make himself useful, now that the markets are ignoring his rate raises - restore the old higher margin requirements. How many times do we have to repeat the same mistakes?]
Margin debt on the NYSE has surged in the last 12 months and now exceeds $265B, a record. Debt ballooned almost 9% in February alone and now accounts for more than 1.5% of the Big Board's total market value, also a peak.
Even more troubling is how fast margin debt is growing as a share of overall consumer credit. According to Mr. Galbraith's research, margin loans now account for 16% of total consumer borrowings, up from 7% in 1995. [These figures suggest] that the explosion in margin borrowing is coming from individual investors, not institutions....
The Federal Reserve Board, which has set the margin requirement at 50% since 1974, recently expressed concern over the outsized growth in margin debt. Yet in January, when the explosive growth in margin debt became evident, Alan Greenspan rejected calls to increase the initial amount required of investors when they buy stocks on margin. He argued that an increase in the margin requirement would be unfair to small investors because they would be unable to secure credit even as institutional investors could tap other sources of funds....
[Well, the previous paragraph blows away that excuse, and the lowered risk to small investors balances the lowered opportunity. It's futile to try to balance the playing field between individual and institutional investors anyway.]
Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) said, "It's the little guys who are going to get unduly hurt when the market goes down, so I think there's nothing wrong with [the Fed raising the margin requirement]."
[Why did Congress sluff off responsibility for this type of regulation onto the Fed in the first place? And another observer rightly regards Greenspan's inertia as contradictory -]
Richard Sylla, a professor of financial history at the Stern School of Business at New York University, called Mr. Greenspan's small-investor argument inconsistent. "He's worried about the market being too high, but his argument that a margin requirement increase would make it harder for small investors to participate is in some sense saying, 'I don't want to spoil the party for them,'" Prof. Sylla said....
[Let's wake up and smell the coffee of the Roaring 20s. Those who don't learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.]
- Chile enters recession, by Simon Romero, NYT, C4.
Chile's economy contracted 1.1% in 1999 despite the country's reputation as South America's leading beneficiary of market-oriented economic changes. Sluggish prices for copper, Chile's main export, combined with contagion from financial crises in Brazil and Southeast Asia, contributed to the decline in GDP. It was Chile's first recession since the early 1980s.
3/18/2000 omens -
- $1 more for middle class,
letter to editor by Thomas Dilworth of DC's Employment Policies Institute, NYT, A24.
[If the minimum wage is for the middle class, we're really in trouble! This reader seems seriously out of touch (not that the middle class isn't sliding downward...).]
A March 13 editorial calls for a "much-needed minimum-wage increase." You should define "needed." In New York, those who will benefit have an average family income of $42,231 per year.
[Well yeah, #1- New York City has the highest cost of living in the nation and #2- this objection uses the totally sloppy and unquantified concept of "family" or "household" and has no scientific credibility - a "family" may comprise a dozen slave-wage garment workers, for all we know.]
The minimum wage is now a middle-class entitlement.
[And this is a "boom"? God help us.]
Minimum-wage workers almost always live in homes with other wage earners.
[What else can they afford? So his point would be???]
If the national $1 increase becomes law, the national minimum wage will have risen 45% over five years.
[How much did CEO pay rise over five years? - 400%? 500%? - none of it spendable because who can spend that much in numerous lifetimes?]
Worse, Congress is mandating this national labor-cost increase without respect to local economic conditions.
[Ah, his first valid criticism of the whole federal wage-control concept. That's why Timesizing advocates the more general area of a worktime control before tinkering with money controls (and we advocate eventual money per person, or income, balancing - never money per job, or wage, balancing).]
Research shows that after a [minimum] wage increase, and given price-sensitive consumers, employers seek applicants who have better skills and make fewer mistakes. On study found that teenagers and students, who are perceived as having better skills, crowd out low-skilled adults after such an increase.
[There are many problems with jumping to money controls first (e.g., you create hidden dependency) and messing with per-job controls instead of per-person controls (e.g., you create a gap in the pay ladder for people struggling to claw their way back into the job market). Unfamiliar as it sounds to 2000 A.D. ears, there is simply no substitute to engineering a genuine shortage of labor (instead of just our current spot skills shortages due to lack of training) by cutting the workweek, rationing the availability of overall labor to the overall employment market, and harnessing market forces to flexibly, locality by locality, raise wages and benefits. How long are we going to prop up the ineffectual minimum-wage approach, which needs adjustment every few years, is always too little too late, and creates an ever-widening wage gap at the bottom - or worse, a black market in sub-minimum-wage labor in America? As the robots, computers, ATMs, servo systems, automation, cybernetics, etc. etc. etc. continues to pour into the economy "to make life easier" but winds up making life tougher by triggering downsizing, not timesizing, sooner or later we are going to have to share the nation's most precious vanishing natural resource - urgently demand, free-market-demand (not gov't makework!) employment, and Timesizing is the most market-oriented, flexible system yet designed for doing that. The pressure is the same as it was in the late 1930s when Henry Ford said to Walter Reuther, "Let's see you unionize these robots," and Reuther retorted, "Let's see you sell them cars." Our minimum-wage people and below are wasted markets that we increasingly need to mobilize, and as long as we are concentrating the spending power of the nation astronomically in the top income brackets, who have neither the time nor the need to spend it, we will be heading for a depression the scale of which will make the 30s look like a Sunday School picnic. The more concentration, the less circulation and the hollower the Internet stock bubble, where wealth is concentrated, for lack of alternatives, so tightly, that it is already suctioning the consumer markets away from its own productivity targets. The more centrifugation, the more circulation and dynamism, and the solider the stock bubble. Pick one.]
3/17/2000 omens -
- [No American solution - just whining CEOs who want others to foot the training bill -]
High-tech visa demand high, AP via Boston Globe, C1.
It took less than half a year to exhaust the annual allotment of visas for skilled [but low-wage - ed.] foreign professionals, the government said. The announcement likely boosts the prospects for congressional action temporarily raising the ceiling on the visa program, which is being sought by US high-tech companies.
[- despite record under-employment, homelessness, incarceration among Americans and record low training opportunities - and 17% unemployment among high-tech workers over age 50. High tech CEOs have their brains in the 19th century when it comes to employment and training policy. They just want to pass the bill to somebody else. They will succeed only in strangling their own markets, and wind up like Iridium today (3/18/2000).]
The INS has the authority to dole out 115,000 H1B visas before the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30. The INS said it has handed out 74,300 visas and has more than 45,000 petitions pending. Last year, the cap was hit in June.
[We need to get our approach to training into the 21st century with a system where we automatically and continuously upgrade skills, retrain and cross-train - and we need it built right into the worksite. The obvious solution is a system that uses the incidence of overtime to target and trigger (and size and pace and fund) on-the-job training and hiring. It smoothly converts or reinvests overtime into training and hiring. It doesn't get any more efficient than this, and "this" would be Phase Two of the Timesizing public-sector program.]
3/15/2000 omens -
- News and democracy, letter to editor by Lawrence Foster of San Ramon CA, NYT, A22.
Your March 15 editorial "The selling of the Los Angeles Times" did not mention perhaps the most significant fallout from the current trend toward consolidation of media outlets: the sharp decrease in the number of independent editorial viewpoints available to the general public.
With the Tribune Co. now controlling 11 daily newspapers, 22 television stations and a major share of a leading Internet company, the potential of 34 independent opinions on a specific topic of public interest has a rather high probability of being reduced to one. Our democracy may become somewhat weaker because of this trend.
[And as the quote on the Amazon.com booksearch has it today, from the Hopis no less, "The one who tells the stories rules the world." (No wonder the Hopis are always modelling "the storyteller" in clay for sale to tourists - a bounteous female figure surrounded by children. Shades of our Euro saying, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.") And lest we miss the urgency, let's not stop at "democracy" - diversity is a vital ingredient in survivability, because it's the raw material of versatility and adaptiblity. You've heard of folie a deux - the ability of two people to delude themselves into some self-destructive pattern? - Media consolidation gives us a higher probability of folie en masse1]
3/14/2000 omens -
- Danger of overvalued stocks - The Nasdaq increasingly values losses more highly than profits - Ignoring profitability ultimately threatens the whole economy, by Robert Samuelson, Boston Globe, D4.
...Some Internet stocks have already slipped. One is TheStreet.com, an online financial news service.... Its stock went public last May at $19 a share. It leapt as high as $71; recently, it's traded between $11 and $13. This suggests that some Internet stocks could fall 80-90%. What happens to the economy if many do?
3/12-13/2000 weekend omens -
- Japan is back in recession, statistics show - Economy shrank 1.4% in last quarter of '99, by Stephanie Strom, NYT, C1.
TOKYO - Defying official optimism, trillions of yen in government spending and other financial stimulants, Japan's economy showed its underlying weakness [yester]day in statistics that indicated a retreat back into recession during the final three months of 1999.
["Underlying weakness" is mumbo jumbo. They simply don't have the money in the hands of the people who want and need to spend it.]
...The most vexing obstacle seems to be in persuading Japanese consumers to spend money....
[Same problem as in the USA during the 1930s. The rich are so insulated and dumb that they think money-laden consumers are willfully withholding spending. It never occurs to their isolated Stupidships that they have suctioned up too much of the spending power and THEY are the ones who couldn't possibly spend it in hundreds of lifetimes because they have far far too much. "The more concentration, the less circulation." The Japanese were doing fine as long as they did what Deming told them to do and went their own way, banishing fear from the workplace, providing lifetime employment, fostering a huge domestic consumer base. But then they got stupid and started copying the Big Dumb US of A - which never listened to Deming - and they started downsizing their workforce and their consumer base, and sure enough, pretty soon they had themselves winking in and out of recession/depression. America has been too, but the rich-owned media are so rigidly focused off agriculture and manufacturing and onto the Internet stock bubble that there's no way the news is going to permiate until the bubble fragments (it never simply "pops") - which is what it took in '29.]
Consumption, which accounts for 60% of economic activity here [it's more like 66% in America], fell 1.6% last quarter, and housing investment plummeted 5.8%. Winter bonuses that many Japanese households regard as a critical part of their income shrank, and a government-sponsored program to encourage home purchases expired....
[Time to centrifuge income and wealth. Best way is to set a workweek maximum. (Right now Japan has the 2nd longest effective workweek in the world - next to US.) Convert overtime directly into on-the-job training and hiring. Automate the reinvestment of corporate overtime profits and individual overtime-from-all-sources earnings into training and jobs. Cut the karoshi (death due to overwork). Not enough? Adjust the workweek downward, an hour a quarter. Engineer a shortage of labor such as usually occurs only in economy-boosting wars, by rationing the availability of employees to the job market, by trimming the workweek. Real labor scarcity raises wages (that's why America's "labor scarcity" is bogus - wages are flat, - it's really a set of localized but highly publicized skills shortages). Let the positive, controlled, wage-push "inflation" perform its dynamizing income&wealth centrifuging function as during World Wars I and II in America. Pretty soon Japan Inc. will be back abooming - but solidly booming this time, based on a strong decentralized consumer base. We call this prescription Timesizing.]
3/11/2000 omens -
- 3/13 Technologists get a warning and a plea from one of their own, by John Markoff, NYT, C1.
...Breaking ranks with the customarily optimistic and self-congratulatory high-technology industry, Bill Joy, the chief scientist of Sun Microsystems, has issued an impassioned critique of uncontrolled "progress" [ed: our quotes] in digital, biological and material sciences.
[Yeah, and y'know what most of those cheerleaders are going to call him? - "Killjoy"...]
He has challenged scientists and engineers to rethink their ethical standards and step back from "advances" [our quotes] that might ultimately threaten the human species.
In a 20,000-word essay in the April issue of Wired magazine, which goes on sale today, Mr. Joy...writes that although the world has survived any number of potentially devastating technologies developed in the 20th century, several new branches of research pose threats of technological devastation at the hands of a small group or even an individual.... He writes, "They will not require large facilities or rare raw materials. Knowledge alone will enable the use of them"..\..
[So true - if we keep trying, we can succeed in exterminating ourselves. This makes all the more urgent the exploration and implementation of comprehensive self-interest harmonizing systems such as Timesizing, which replaces the now outworn integrating principles of "one person, one vote" and "seniority" with "one person, one range of market-demanded employment per week" and "versatility," i.e., the skills to go with it.]
"The 21st century technologies - genetics, nanotechnology and robotics - are so powerful they can spawn whole new classes of accidents and abuses," he writes in the article, titled, "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us"....
[And remember, is it "Jones Law"? - "Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong."]
Such warnings about [unguided] progress are not new, but until now they have typically come from social critics or scientists outside the mainstream. In contrast, Mr. Joy is a leading computer researcher who developed an early version of the Unix operating system while a grad student at UCal/Berkeley,... helped found Sun Microsystems and more recently has been involved in the development of powerful software technologies like Java...and Jini, a system for linking 100,000s of appliances and other devices by way of the Internet. He also served as co-chairman of a presidential commission on the future of information technology. Indeed, Mr. Joy also wrote a more generally optimistic cover article titled, "Digital Wonders" for the March 6...Fortune Magazine. ...He said the Fortune piece was focused on short-term issues in the computer industry, while the Wired article addresses long-term forces that will be more difficult to control.... because
Mr. Joy insists he is not a Luddite [technology-hater], and yet he also argues that the issues raised by the [Unabomber] Theodore Kaczynski have not been adequately addressed by the nation's technologists....
- most are being driven by the commercial sector, not by the military, which in the past has controlled many potentially dangerous technologies....
- In the field of robotics, he warns of a generation of superintelligent machines that could compete with their human creators for resources [as explored by] Ray Kurzweil ("The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence"), Hans Moravec ("Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind") and George Dyson ("Darwin Among the Machines: The Evolution of of Global Intelligence").
- In genetics, Mr. Joy worries that the widening availability of knowledge about powerful genetic engineering will lead to a "white plague" - a human-designed disease that can kill selectively [ed: sort of like many people considered AIDS before it hit the hetero world].
- In nanotechnology, he describes the increasing possibility of an accidental or intentional release of a submicroscopic self-replicating mechanism that could cause widespread destruction [as explored by] Kurt Vonnegut. In his novel "Cat's Cradle" a substance called ice-nine setes off a thermal chain reaction that leads to the freezing of the oceans.... The heart of his warning...is an attribute that has not been true of destructive technologies until now but is part of all of the most [interesting] 21st-century [nano]technologies: the ability to self-replicate.
[Our greatest danger comes from the relentless and totally faith-based "optimism and self-congratulation." Our stupid and reckless self-sedation with happytalk. "Everything will be all right, darling." Not unless we design it so.]
Mr. Joy suggests parallels between the ethical dilemma faced by nuclear physicists in the invention and use of the atomic and hydrogen bombs [and power plants, still churning out 25,000-year radioactive waste - ed.], and similar [but more diverse and numerous - ed.] challenges facing technologists today. "We should have learned a lesson from the making of the first atomic bomb and the resulting arms race," he writes. "We didn't do well then, and the parallels to our current situation are troubling." He argues that today's scientists must find a path that was not taken by physicists during World War II....
[Yeah, Leo Lizard, sorry, Szilard persuaded Einstein to write the fateful letter to FDR urging atomic bomb development, and it was something that Einstein regretted the rest of his life.]
"I feel, too, a deepened sense of personal responsibility - not for the work I have already done, but for the work that I might yet do.... The only realistic alternative I see...is relinquishment: to limit development of the technologies that are too dangerous, by limiting our pursuit of certain kinds of knowledge." He cited the precedent [represented by] the decision of the U.S. Government to abandon the development of biological weapons.
[Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu wanted to stop much earlier. He wrote, "Though the people lived close enough to the next country to hear the cocks crow and the dogs bark, I would not have them visit or explore. I would have them content with their own plain food and dress."]
Verification in the [areas] of genetics, robotics and nanotechnology, however, will require that scientists adopt strict codes of ethics, he writes.
[And, we would argue, a much more rational economic system, that doesn't have an unlimited disparity of work, income and wealth where one doofus like Bill Gates can bag 100 BILLION dollars - more than most entire countries. All it will take is for one "Bill Gates" to court The Dark Side and - if we survive - we'll be scrambling for the next generation economic designs à la Timesizing.]
In the interview last week, Mr. Joy said he doubted that the development of advances in the commercial world could be reined in...
[The private sector can't even maintain its own markets on a stable, sustainable basis - they're downsizing today just as much, proportionately, as they did throughout the 1920s. It's still just too short-term oriented and with the whole of stock-trading going speculative, getting more and more so. 1928 revisited. The only solution to the conundrum of how to get efficiency from waves of work-saving technology without cutting the workforce and the vast consumer markets it represents, is to trim workhours from the workweek per person, not jobs/livelihoods/persons out of the workforce/consumer markets - "timesizing," not downsizing. This is not rocket science. And it ain't new. It was all foreseen by Jean-Paul Simonde de Sismondi in his 1819 masterpiece "New Principles of Political Economy," by Stephen Leacock in his 1920 dart "The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice," by Arthur Dahlberg in his 1932 economc sci fi "Jobs, Machines and Capitalism," and by a lot of other folks in between.]
and he criticized scientists as being largely silent on the inherently destructive potential of rapidly evolving technologies.
[They're cowards, and not to impugn the Coyotes, but - they're whores. They're too chicken to challenge the sources of their income. And this too will continue until we cut the self-congratulation about our bogus low unemployment and engineer the kind of pervasive on-the-job training that we had during and after World War II. So Joy has just said he doubted that the "development of advances in the commercial world could be reined in," but -]
...asked if he thought a technological species could expect to survive the ever-accelerating evolution of its market-driven technologies, Mr. Joy [changed his tune to get a happy ending and] said: "The answer is 'yes, but not without additional care.' I think it's possible - but it's not a given...."
- [Nerds or dopes?]
3/12 The new nerdocracy - A wired economy catapults a generation of techies to the top of the job market, by David Arnold, Boston Globe Magazine, 14.
It is just after 8 a.m., the winter sun shining faintly into the 2nd floor of a Woburn office building but failing to cheer up Johnny Scarborough within. "Warning: I'm on a tear," the computer jock growls to just about everyone attempting a morning pleasantry. He had less than 2 hours' sleep last night, after staying late to scrutinize the work of others. The prognosis for rest - or good humor - any time today is dim.
[And this is how we're using our existing miraculous technology, - to inflate our egos and sleep-deprive ourselves because we're SOOO important - for WHAT? - to build more time-saving technology so we can feel even more important and have even less balance in our lives?!]
Scarborough heads the department that checks new software for bugs at iCAST, a start-up Internet company growing so fast that there appears to be neither the time nor the incentive to bury the computer cables at the Woburn office.
[Ooo ooo, how totally awesomely impressive, like, ohgosh ohgolly. Seroiusly, there's something really sick about all this and it's so glaringly obvious that none of these buzzed-up jocks "get it." They're working on time-saving technology but they have no time. "Physician, heal thyself!" And what's so all-fired important about their product? They're sacrificing the best years of they're lives, and foreshortening their lives with sleep deprivation - for somebody else's dream. And what is that brilliant glowing dream, you ask? -]
Just a few months old, iCAST hopes to have a Web site up and running this spring that will resemble a kind of multimedia entertainment chat room.
[A louzy chat room! And if everybody has as little free time as them, who the hey do they think is going to use this "multimedia entertainment chat room"??? Who do they conceive is going to have time to waste on "entertainment," pray tell?]
Aspiring musicians, filmmakers, poets, photographers, and writers will be able to share samples of their work at no cost....
[So basically the "market" for this is (A) not going to pay, (B) not going to be any of them, unless they're puttin' in a lot of 'face time' and doin' a LOT of websurfin' when nobody's looking, and (C) mutually accommodating, frustrated artistes. We call this pathetic. And it gets worse -]
His technicians are "devoted," Scarborough says. "I might work an 80-hour week. They work 120-hour weeks....
[Let's see, we were averaging a 62-hour workweek at the turn of the last century, an 80-hour week back around 1840-1850. The only people who had anything like 120-hour weeks last century were plantation slaves. Our high-tech "futurists" have actually turned back the calendar back 150 years of freedom and many are replicating the unlimited workweek of slavery which was supposedly abolished in 1863 in America, 1824 in Britain. And we're supposed to envy them? Get real!]
Nerd, and proud to be one, boasts Annalisa Oswald. She even sports thick-framed glasses to reinforce the look. Oswald is also brutally honest about the challenges facing her in this 24/7, warp-drive world.
[Or just warped.]
...She's the art director at Frictionless Commerce Inc., a Cambridge-based company started two years ago to help consumers comparison shop on the Internet. She voices the frustrations on her personal Web site, a kind of cyberdiary popular among computer jocks who enjoy walking the line between exhibitionism and voyeurism.
[Oh yeah? - and how much time are we spending on that, m'dear?]
Web-site chatter: "I'm having panic attacks and suffering from insomnia. I don't want to turn this into a bitch session about work because I like my job, honest....
[Sure you do.]
...Work is just consuming, that's all."
[And who's fault is that? At 20-something, you're a big girl now. Well actually, you could probably shift some of the blame to America's St. George (& the dragon), - we're referring to Saint Franklin D. Roosevelt, conqueror (rhetorically anyway) of the Great Depression, who took one look at the 30-hour workweek bill (S. 5267) that passed the U.S. Senate on April 6, 1933, and yelled (A) "It's not mine!" and (B) "It's socialism!" - and proceeded to legislate more socialism into this country than ever in its history, none of which stopped the Depression until 1942 when, by total coincidence of course, World War II finally reached American industry. So America passed up an incredible experiment in work-sharing and work-leisure balance that would have solved the Depression in less than a year, and instead finally got dragged into solving it the usual gory way - withdrawing labor hours from the job market, rarifying labor, raising wages, centrifuging hyper-concentrated wealth, dynamizing spending and markets (all of which can be done simply by cutting hours) - by shipping people overseas and killing&maiming them. Brilliant, Saint FDR! Thanks so much.]
- 3/13 Despite economic "good times," [-ed: our quotes] jobs still elude some, by Diane Lewis, Boston Globe, G3.
[What a surprise - not. Columnists and economists continue to spew doubletalk about the employment situation. Here are some examples.]
...Readers are hardly the first to question whether an ongoing labor shortage is benefiting all members of the nation's work force.
[The major indication of "an ongoing labor shortage" is that all members of the workforce are benefiting. No general benefit, no general labor shortage. What's left? Spot skill shortages, that's what, and Diane Lewis should know better than to continue to write this gobbledygook.]
Such cynicism, though based solely on personal experience, is justified.
[If it's justified, it's not cynicism - it's realistic rejection of all the self-congratulatory cheerleading and happytalk.]
"Yes, the economy is operating at full employment levels and, among college graduates, the rate of unemployment is extremely low," noted Paul Harrington, an economist at Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies.
[If there are a lot of people unsuccessfully looking for work, and there are, then the economy is not "operating at full employment levels." Full employment levels are when a lot of employers - with high job pay, low job qualifications and lots of on-the-job training to offer - are unsuccessfully looking for employees. We have not seen this situation since during World War II, when any unemployment rate as high as 2% was viewed with alarm. Employers today, spoiled by floods of resumes, offer little or no training, and if they're offering high pay are insisting on high job qualifications (often including a lot of unspoken agism - no 50- or 60-somethings need apply!). Harrington should broaden his historical perspective, cut the cheerleading, and quit contradicting himself, which he goes on to do -]
But that is not true for all graduates, he added. The highest rate of demand continues to be for graduates with business degrees or science and technical backgrounds.
[Not "highest rate of demand." The only demand worth mentioning.]
So what does this mean for all the other college graduates? Often, it means underemployment.
[Not "often, it means underemployment." Usually it means underemployment. Who or what are we protecting here? Who are we trying to kid? The "boom" is bogus, just as it was throughout the Roaring '20s. A reader writes in and mentions Massachusetts' "pink-slipped legions."
[Basically, the article wanders on admitting the only high-wage demand in services will be in sciences and high tech, there'll be lots of low-wage retail jobs, and by 2008, 75% of US jobs will be in the service sector - meaning generally lower-pay than manufacturing. Unemployment is "low" for college grads (below 2%) because so many of them are working outside their fields and 10-15% are in jobs that don't even require a college degree. The burden of training is on the jobseeker. A 25-week hitech program costs $10K at Northeastern U. You come out and you get a riproaring $25-50K job, probably closer to $25K. Whoopeedoo. Why? Because the job market is generally flooded. Those who still have full-time jobs are so insecure they're working 60-80 hour weeks with no overtime (see article below), and despite the fact that more and more people are working on work-saving technology, and the fact that for 150 years we cut the workweek in half (80 to 40 hrs), we have not touched it for the last 60 years. The alternative? Timesizing.]
3/08/2000 omens -
- [This is "democracy"???]
With contests decided, late primaries lose steam, by Lynda Gorov, Boston Globe, front page.
Denver -...Even the election workers look bored. As lunch time neared, barely two dozen of the 1,200 or so Denver residents eligible to cast ballots at [Fire Station No. 4] had bothered to stop by.... Super Tuesday ended it, and the withdrawals of John McCain and Bill Bradley sealed it. That means the people living in only 24 of the 50 states got to help choose the two major presidential candidates. Everyone else was shut out of the process....
- FleetBoston paid executives millions in merger, by Ross Kerber, Boston Globe, front page.
...The disclosure came a day after FleetBoston said it would lay off 4,000 workers, or about 7% of its workforce, to cut operating costs in the merger..\.. FleetBoston Financial Corp. paid chief executive Terrence Murray about $20.2 million last year in salary, bonus and stock awards tied to cost-cutting and efficiency efforts in the wake of the bank's acquisition of its biggest rival, BankBoston Corp.
[And where was antitrust???]
FleetBoston president..."Chad" Gifford, BankBoston's former CEO, received $15.6 million, including similar stock awards, the bank disclosed yesterday in its proxy statement filed with the US SEC....
A FleetBoston spokeswoman cited language in the filing that the stock awards to top executives were made to "align the interests of executives with the long-term interests of stockholders."
[Wake up and smell the coffee. "Long-term interests of stockholders" is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. As the whole of our current Titanic economics dumbs down, stockholders become speculators. Any long-term investors are driven out, and customers and employees are repeatedly sacrificed to the "interests" (i.e., money, money, money) of the speculators. It's a classic setup for depression. Money concentrates and compacts and condenses. And the more concentration, the less circulation. A "black hole" economy. Meanwhile, we urge all customers of FleetBoston to change banks. Fleet obviously puts you last.]
...Gifford has directed that 75,000 shares of his award [$1.9m] be directed to a charity he has not yet identified....
[Any economic design that relies for systemic functions, such as the solidarity of the population or the ongoing rebalancing of share per person, on charity, is to that extent lethally flawed - because charity is discretionary, i.e., capricious, unreliable, and let's face it, UNsystemic.]
- Poor in Silicon Valley, letter to editor by Joe Shapiro of Stanford, Boston Globe, A28.
Re "Teaching Johnny values where money is king" (front page, March 10):
Your portrait of [wealthy] children in Silicon Valley is vivid but leaves a large part of the frame empty.... Underprivileged children in East Palo Alto study in underfinanced schools and live amid gang violence and a failing economy. I have tutored children [there]. They worry about being safe at night and living in a family that can get by, not about how to deal with family wealth. Affluence may cause social awkwardness, but the problems [wealth] causes for children pale in comparison with the effects of...poverty.
[Like to see a complete first-generation core design for a fair economy, maximally market-driven but self-adjusting for technological level so technology really makes life easier for everyone instead splitting society and making everyone more insecure? Check out Timesizing's five phases.]
3/07/2000 omens - Exec. Pay Dept: the gap widens -
- Cubicles may not square with workers' needs, by Patricia Wen, Boston Globe, front page.
[Oh what a surprise.]
If American bosses want more employees to think outside the box, they may have to give them a different box - or maybe no box at all. The drab cubicle, according to new research, is stifling the creativity and memory of today's employees. In what perhaps is a no-brainer to the Dilberts of today, psychologists and designers say the solution is new work spaces that will spark people's mental wiring....
[No, not "spark" - they still aren't listening to employees -]
Employees often complain their workplaces are too noisy..\..
In this new field called "cognitive ergonomics," researchers are talking about everything from transparent cubicle walls [ed: what a disaster!] to bendable desk accessories [ed: irrelevant]. They're questioning the value of office plants [ed: plants are good] and reassessing the corporate contempt for the messy desk.
[Huh? Sounds pretty far off the mark. And it gets worse -]
And they are debating the bias among modern-day designers for open spaces and neutral colors in the wake of studies that employees often complain their workplaces are too noisy [ed: so huge cubicle-filled rooms are bad] or too bland [so sensory-depriving neutral colors - and regular, totally symmetrical rooms and hallways - are bad].
While cognitive ergonomics may sound suspiciously like corporate mind-control [ed: yeah, as in "We're concerned about you, so we've hired these irrelevant 'experts'."] the field has attracted enthusiasts who say it comes at a crucial time when employees are being asked to work harder and take on more challenging work....
[Ah, wasn't technology supposed to make our lives easier, not harder??!]
Some local companies are trying to change with the times. Terry Kleiman [of] Boston Consulting Group said...the people in her unit...often log more than 55 hours a week....
[Well there's the problem. But America Inc. will screw around doing anything but addressing it. The answer is simple. CUT THE WORKWEEK!!!]
Scott Adams, creator of the comic-strip cubicle-dweller Dilbert, said that almost anything that alters workplace sterility is a good thing.... Cubicles are about cheapness, he said, not worker happiness.
[And so, we suggest, are all these "cognitive ergonomic" bandaids.]
3/3/2000 omens -
- [Former Treasury Secy Robert] Rubin's pay is $15 million, says Citigroup proxy filing - Amount does not include stock options, by Barnaby Feder, NYT, C2.
- Citigroup chairman [Sanford] Weill got $59.9m in pay [in 1999], Reuters via Boston Globe, C2.
3/02/2000 omens -
- Nothing left to buy? - Pondering the indiscreet charm of the superrich, by Laura Holson, NYT, C1.
...Nelson Peltz made much of his $890m in the 80's. "You see these young guys worth $3-4 billion, and you think to yourself, 'What have I done wrong?'"....
[Humans do not yet have the level of self-respect to put an end to this childish abuse of their medium of exchange.]
- ["Bad news, but..."]
Sales of new homes fall 4.2%, to lowest level in four months, Bloomberg via NYT, C2.
Sales of new homes fell [4.2%] to the lowest level in four months [annual rate of 882,000] in January...signaling that higher borrowing costs are starting to discourage buyers....
For earlier collapse stories, click on the desired date -
- Europe plans to collect tax on some Internet transactions - Music, software an d other downloadable products are at issue, by Edmund Andrews, NYT, C4.
[Of all the stupidity! When we should be getting rid of all sales taxes as regressive and business-burdening! Funny how our "big men" yap and yap till they're blue in the face about the benefits of free international trade, but never raise a voice against the burdens of taxes on the dynamism of sales within each nation.]
- House backs end to earnings limit on Social Security - A rare unanimous vote - Recipients ages 65 to 69 could earn all the money they want without penalty, by Richard Stevenson, NYT, front page.
WASHINGTON - The House voted 422 to 0 [yester]day to allow most Social Security recipients for the first time to earn as much money as they want without sacrificing any of their retirement benefits, repealing a Depression-era policy intended to discourage older people from holding jobs so younger workers would have a chance.... Under current law, people 65 through 69 years old lose $1 of their Social Security benefits for every $3 they earn above $17,000.... The earnings limit, which does not apply to people 70 and older, is already scheduled to rise to $30,000 in 2002, but...the House would eliminate the limit altogether....
[From one extreme to the other. Certainly the maximum amount of earnings before penalty needed to be raised above $17,000, and $30,000 is as good an arbitrary level as any, but to remove the cap altogether means that the government has added yet another giant area of charity for the rich - at a time when we're predicting bankruptcy for the Social Security fund by 2034 (and using it today to babble nonsense about a "budget surplus"!). And they've removed another wealth-centrifuging safeguard against depression. Let's see - in terms of weakened or dismantled centrifuges,
We might as well be trying to bring this economy down on purpose! We should be removing the limit on the amount of earnings that are taxable by the flat-rated Social Security tax. Steve Forbes wants a flat tax? Well, he's got it in the S/S tax in a regressive, rich-excusing form - and you don't hear him trying to make it fair by running it all the way up the income brackets, do you? Oh no. He's too near-sighted and short-sighted. It's like our stupid wealthy class is asking, "How much of the wealth of the nation can we compact how tightly before the whole economic scaffolding comes down?" and we, like mesmerized morons, sit quietly letting them do this to us - again - as if we didn't have the sufferings of 1929-1941 to smarten us up.]
- we started attacking the graduated income tax in 1963 under JFK and it's gone much further since then,
- we repealed the Glass-Steagall banking definition law late last year (7/02/1999 #2), that prevented the conflicts of interest that were happening in the Roaring '20s when banking, brokerage, and insurance were all mixed together (as we're now remixing them today)
- we've allowed the rich to encumber the dynamism of business transactions with manifold sales taxes and VATs which are notoriously inefficient and regressive (i.e., they have a concentrating effect on income and wealth)
Aug/98 and before.
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