DoomwatchTM vs. Timesizing®

Collapse trends - Dec. 1-10, 2000
[Commentary] ©2000 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080

12/09/2000 omens -
12/08/2000 omens -
  1. Study: State must link employers, schools - A lack of skilled workers is a perennial problem in Massachusetts, by Kimberly Blanton, Boston Globe, D4.
    ...the Mass Insight report "Call to Action"....
    [We think the problem here is that there are so many colleges in the area, Mass. tends to attract whiny CEOs who think that perfect job candidates are going to be served up to them on a silver platter. In the rest of the country, there is, not much more, but some more training - offered by the private sector itself. In Massachusetts, the private sector expects the colleges to do it all for them and the taxpayers to pay for it. The danger, often realized, is that the colleges offer too little too late and too irrelevant to the fast-changing needs of the private sector.
    [The answer, of course, is to design a statewide or nationwide system to incentivate and guide the private sector to set up its own flexible training programs, targeted and triggered by overtime. Fortunately the outlines of such a design are already available.]

  2. [And you thought CEOs were overpaid -]
    Make a wish, it's bonus time on Wall Street - Bonus be good news for many - Good times abound, but there is an undertone of dread, by Patrick McGeehan, NYT, C1.
    ...As the 1990's boomed on, two-by-fours (two years at $4 million a year) became three-by-fives....
    [But now -]
    "We are hearing from people for the first time in years that they are happy just to have a job," said Cynthia Remec, president of her own recruiting firm. She added, "They know that things are going to get rocky, and they want to position themselves in the safest place possible to ride out the storm.
    [This is the end of the article. What are these people worrying about?]
    ...The softening market and the acquisition of two midsize investment banks...removed much of [the competitive] pressure [employers felt to coddle employees]. Chase Manhattan, which is buying [J.P.] Morgan, [will] lay off 5,000 workers; Credit Suisse First Boston said its acquisition of Donaldson [Lufkin & Jenrette] would lead to 2,600 layoffs. One reason for that sorting out is that firms have guaranteed so much pay to employees in the last few years. With the stock market bulling ahead and multibillion-dollar mergers occurring at a breakneck pace, firms waged a war for talent that sent wages spiraling. To compete, they locked in deal makers with multiyear, multimillion-dollar packages that defied the Wall Street tradition of minimizing fixed costs.... In the last two weeks...recruiters and some people inside Salomon said Deutsche [Bank] offered [Tony] Whittemore...a three-year contract that would pay him at least $18m....
    [...making it a "three-by-six"?! The problem, of course, is that Wall Street is the problem. It is the major locus of the humungus current consolidation of wealth that in the long term will be directly reinvested in the consumer base via much much higher general wage levels and much much shorter workweeks. What do these grossly overpaid guesstimators really contribute? Good question.
    [As colleague Kate says, Wall Sreet is like a Gilbert&Sullivan chorus. One of the leads sings, "Things are good, good, good" and all the analysts & 'experts' on Wall St. chime in, "Yes, things are good, good, good." Or v.v. It's nothing but herd mentality. And then there's their extremism. Every tiny event of normal ups&downs gets grotesquely exaggerated and melodramatized. That's nothing but backfence gossip stuff. For this they get "three-by-fives" - and we call this a healthy economy. "Jesu, Jesu, what mad days we've spent."]

12/07/2000 omens -
12/06/2000 omens -
  1. Delta sues pilots over overtime, AP via NYT, C10.
    [Some employers just don't get it, regardless of the elevated accident rates during overtime hours. Do a few of these pilots have to fly kamekazi missions to penetrate Delta CEO's brain?]
    Delta Air Lines sued its pilots' union and 49 individual pilots today and said it would trim 100 to 125 flights from its schedule in an effort to minimize cancellations that it says have been caused by pilots refusing to work overtime.
    [Well, the flip side of that is - these cancellations have been caused by Delta's failure to hire enough pilots.]
    The company's chairman and chief executive, Leo F. Mullin, said the airline was forced to seek a temporary restraining order against the pilots in federal court after having to cancel 386 flights last weekend.
    [Whenever CEOs start talking about being "forced" to do something, they are usually unintelligent, unimaginative and severely out of touch. Pilots - and employees in general - don't react quickly to abuse, but just look at the extent this has reached. "Nullin" Mullin had loaded 386 flights onto pilots' overtime??! What a dangerous retard! Just where is he going to draw the line for passenger safety? Clearly Delta is a good airline to avoid until Mullin sobers up - or becomes a casualty on one of his own flights that crashes due to pilot fatigue. This is all part of Americans' inability to set sensible limits for themselves. "Oh we're invulnerable, we're superhuman - we don't need sleep - we're 24/7." Yeah, right. Robots really are 24/7, and foolish humans can't even begin to compete with them in that race. Unfortunately, American physicians started this foolishness. American physician training, known euphemistically as 'med school' and 'internship,' gradually evolved into a kind of 8-10 year frat hazing fixated on sleep deprivation. Then it spread to the law schools and law offices of the land. Then it spread much further so that there are only a few islands of sanity left in this *qoyannosqatsi (Hopi: unbalanced) economy. Basically, it's people saying, "I have no time. Therefore I'm important," or "I'm busier than you. Therefore my bloated fees/wages are justified."]

  2. [And speaking of bloated - remember the other day when we spoke of how, "coincidentally," the Boston Globe only seems to find big-money political candidates newsworthy - and unfunded ones unnewsworthy - but then the Globe has the nerve to periodically complain that there are no uncontested political races in Massachusetts? Well, speak of the devil, here comes one of their complaints now - 'course they tuck it on the back of B section -]
    Report details fund-raising - Special interests' role highlighted,
    by Regina Montague, Boston Globe, B8.
    ...In the Nov. 7 election, more than two-thirds of the state's legislative seats went uncontested, ranking Massachusetts the second to last state in the nation for contested general elections..\..the Mass. Money and Politics Project reported yesterday.... "This raises serious concerns about the state of democracy if voters are only given one candidate to vote for in most races," said Ken White, the executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts.
    [Yeah, we might as well live behind the old Iron Curtain for all the choice we get in Massachusetts, or for all the media we get if we do 'raise periscope' and contest an election - and Phil Hyde speaks from experience, being the only rival to Joe Kennedy in 1996, when it was so breathtakingly incredible that any unknown would be fool enough to contest an election with Joe Kennedy that the Globe and Herald immediately started publishing rumors that Phil was a Kennedy "plant." And no media, or that kind of media, means no credibility and "no contest." And let's not forget how the two-party lockout kept Ralph Nader out of the presidential debates in this nation that we naively call a 'democracy.' And then, despite Florida's automatically triggered recount because of the closeness of the top two presidential candidates' results, the recount there seems to be getting cut off somehow, doesn't it. Here's a sobering squib from a Times op ed today -]
    Recounts are part of the game,
    op ed by Miklos Haraszti of Hungary, NYT, A31.
    ...Thanks to the cursed Communist past, Hungarian voters had decades of practice making a uniform motion of the pencil over an always uniform (that is, option-free) ballot list....
    [Can anybody tell us the difference between that situation in Hungary under Communism and most Massachusetts' ballots under the stifling sway of the Democratic machine and the Boston Globe's "only money is newsworthy" policy? Let's go back to the other article and pick up the sad tidings at the beginning -]
    One out of every three dollars raised by state legislature incumbents between 1997 and 1999 came from four donor groups - lobbyists, government employees, lawyers and PACs, a new study finds. Those special interest donors represented a small fraction - less than 1% - of the 4.7m eligible voters in the state, the Mass. Money and Politics Project reported yesterday.... The report...suggested that lawmakers' coziness with special interests and access to the money discourages potential challengers....
    [No kidding. The game in Mass. has changed. The only races worth running are the races with a big-name incumbent, like a Kennedy or a Barney Frank. And even then you're jumping for scraps, but at least there are scraps. All the rest of the 'races' are exercises in futility and wasted time, and the cynicism of the political desks of the Boston Globe, "public" television, and most of the other media are major contributors. Even the once-celebrated League of Women Voters makes it difficult for many independents to gain access to their "impartial" website facilities until 3-4 months after the major-party candidates. By then, why bother?]

12/05/2000 omens -
  1. Baseball's unfair economics, editorial, NYT, A30.
    The signing of Mike the Yankees to a six-year $88.5m great news for Yankee fans. But it reinforces a trend that plagues baseball. Teams in big cities generate lots of revenue, pay big salaries and attract the best players. Teams in small cities general little revenue, pay low salaries and watch their players exit for New York and Atlanta. The Yankees spend about six times what Minneapolis spends on players. One pitcher for the L.A.Dodgers made about as much money last season as the entire Minneapolis team.
    [Ahso, a microcosm of the American economy, where 1% of the population owns as much as the "bottom" 95%. And this is with a huge balancing/centrifuging mechanism in place that the economy does not have = every year every team in the sports league starts evenly in scores with zero games won. In the economy, NO WAY does every job market participant start evenly with zero savings and investments. So this current sports squawk is just about the disparity of skills and, regardless of seasons opening with 'zero games won,' gigantic disparities of wages.]
    The disparity matters. Between 1995 and 2000, 189 playoff and World Series games were played. Only three of those games were won by teams ranked in the bottom half of the league by payroll.
    [There it is - the ultimate result = what biologists call 'subspeciation' and then complete 'speciation.' In social-science terms, you don't just get different social 'classes,' you gradually get different 'races' and then different 'species,' like the Eloi and the Morlocks of scifi fame. The problem for the game? No more suspense. The result of each and every game is a foregone conclusion. Sound familiar? Yep, that's what has happened to American politics, especially here in Massachusetts, where the Boston Globe and Herald regularly complain about the lack of real contests - a lack they powerfully contribute-to by giving huge overbalanced column inches to incumbents etc., and huge underbalanced column inches to challengers and non-Democrats and the less funded.]
    Yet without balance, baseball cannot thrive. The satisfaction of watching the Yankees play ball has everything to do with the quality of teams they face.
    Two proposals have been issued to tackle the competitiveness problem, [an] independent panel..\..appointed by the commissioner of baseball [and] the other from Paul Weiler, a law professor at Harvard.... Both proposals include mechanisms to keep rich teams from spending too much. They also recognize the equally important need to keep weak teams from spending too little....
    [Funny how we always start at the most superficial, symptomatic level.]
    Both proposals would also redistribute locally generated revenue from rich teams to poor ones....
    [And as soon as we get below the surface, we in the peanut gallery can swing into the usual (in economics anyway) game of Stifle The Discussion. Here goes. "Redistribute"?! Altogether now, "Hey that's Communism!"]
    Some of these ideas are not new. For several years baseball imposed what amounted to a luxury tax on teams with the highest payrolls.
    ["Luxury tax" on the "highest payrolls"?! Altogether now, class - "Hey, that's Socialism!"]
    But the tax was suspended in 2000...
    [Altogether - "Phew!"]
    ...and besides, it only added a couple of million dollars to payroll costs that already exceeded $90m.
    [Bad writing. ¿Are they saying "and besides, it was ineffectual anyway" which they should have told us before telling us it was suspended, or are they saying it was suspended "even though it was so small" which would be appropriate in this position.]
    By contrast, the independent panel would impose a 50% tax on payrolls that exceed $84m.
    [How delightful to see a whole other field struggling with this highly educational problem. The kneejerk objections that we raise here are of course - "too arbitrary, too abrupt, too rigid" - implying that the 'fixes' would be logarithmizing both the tax rate and the taxable threshold, making them both fluctuate slowly, and tying both to fluctuate with two logical opposites in the problem structure - as Timesizing does in the overall socioeconomic area. Now the Times finally gets around to answering their unspoken fears that these two solutions will be criticized as communist or socialist -]
    ...Baseball has long had a system for distributing locally generated revenues.
    [There you are. "Distribution" isn't as bad as "redistribution" in terms of triggering kneejerk resistance from the right, but our Timesizing translation is even better - "reinvestment."]
    At present, it transfers about $160m from high- to low-earning teams.
    [The right presumably fumes in outrage at this disclosure of communist infiltration. Any transfers that they make are "doing whatever they want with their own money." Any transfers anybody else makes is dangerous Socialism.]
    The panel proposes to raise that by about 50%.
    [Quite a leap but probably still inadequate. Basically, at our primitive level of economic evolution, we have NO IDEA of the colossal levels of reinvestment in our own markets that are required for long-term stability. As the old joke goes - redistribute money everywhere equally and within two weeks it would all be back in the pockets of the rich anyway. Recall that today the top ONE percent of Americans have as much as the "bottom" NINETY-FIVE percent - and rising.]
    The proposed payroll guidelines...
    [Oh yeah, that's another thing you have to do. Don't call them "controls" or godforbid "regulations" or you're dead in the water. Ya gotta call them "guidelines" or "ground rules." This sounds funny but we're dead serious. (Ah, skip the 'dead' part.)]
    ...and increased revenue sharing...
    [We avoided the word "sharing" for years because it's so soft alias low prestige/underpowered/sneered-at/sissy etc. We've rehabbed it a little.]
    ...will trigger some opposition from owners and players.
    [No kidding. Here we have the classic struggle between those with short-term unextended self-interest and those with long-term, extended self-interest.]
    But neither proposal mirrors...
    [They probably mean "is as extreme as."]
    ...the one-sided assault on players' salaries backed by owners in the past, in that neither would do away with free agency or otherwise limit the ability of individual players to sell their talents to the highest bidder.
    [In other words, owners (presumably the rightist of the right) tried to 'solve' this 'problem' in the past at an even more superficial, more symptomatic level that only 'hurt' players, not them.]
    But both [proposals] seek to dampen...
    [Say it, say it - "seek to RESTRICT."]
    the ability of [owners] to bid as freely as they presently do.
    [And then the Times tries to distract angry objectors and dilute the issue with an appeal to charitable instincts -]
    And both focus on raising the payrolls of weak teams.
    [Ah, isn't that heart-warming. Then they slip in a couple of appeals to short-term unextended self-interest (alias greed) again -]
    The net result would be a better balanced, more profitable league. If the idea works, the league will attract more fans, and everyone - players, fans and, yes, [owners] - will win.
    [But not short-term (unsustainable). "Only" long-term (sustainable).]

  2. Parent group lists 'dirty dozen' toys - Accuses industry of using violence to entice children - 'The toy industry is sending the message to children that violence is fun and violence is child's play' - Daphne White, Lion & Lamb Project, by Mark Wilkinson, Reuters via Boston Globe, A5.
    [Then the article gives the Project's list of 12 worst toys. We'll hafta find that similar article on a clergyman who'd also put together a list of toys, one of which involved a male character with a knife that fit into a female character. Some "toy." These toy designers must be getting as sick as prison guards. "OK, boys, let's train em not only for violence, but for VAW, violence against women!"]

12/04/2000 omens -
12/02/2000 omens - 12/01/2000 omens - For earlier collapse stories, click on the desired date -
  • Nov/2000.
  • Oct/2000.
  • Sep.11-30/2000.
  • Sep.1-10/2000.
  • Aug/2000.
  • July/2000.
  • Jun 16-30/2000.
  • Jun 1-15/2000.
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  • Mar/2000.
  • Feb. 16-29/2000.
  • Feb. 1-15/2000.
  • Jan./2000.
  • Dec.16-31/99.
  • Dec.1-15/99.
  • Nov/99.
  • Oct/99.
  • Sep. 16-30/99.
  • Sep. 1-15/99.
  • Aug. 16-31/99.
  • Aug. 1-15/99.
  • July 15-31/99.
  • July 1-14/99.
  • June 16-30/99.
  • June 1-15/99.
  • May 16-31/99.
  • May 1-15/99.
  • Apr.16-30/99.
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  • Mar.16-31/99.
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  • Feb/99.
  • Jan 16-31/99.
  • Jan 1-15/99.
  • Dec/98.
  • Nov/98.
  • Oct/98.
  • Sep 16-30/98.
  • Sep 1-15/98.
  • Aug/98 and before.

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