DoomwatchTM vs. Timesizing®
Collapse trends - December 2001
[Commentary] ©2001 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080
12/31/2001 headlines from hell -
12/29/2001 headlines from hell -
this time more from the clash than the content -
- Cuts in parks bring home Tennessee budget woes - Several areas are cut but parks stir the most anger, AP via NYT, A9.
NORRIS, Tenn...- Connie Lawson spent the last week of November leafing through a thick stack of pink reservation forms at Norris Dam State Park so she could return $9,000 in deposits. Wedding receptions, family reunions and other gatherings - all were canceled because the state was closing 14 parks, including Norris Dam Park, and cutting the hours of the remaining 37 parts to save money.... Tennessee, which depends heavily on its 6% sales tax, is one of nine states without a personal income tax....
[Compare New Hampshire among New England's six states. Substituting a sales tax for a graduated personal income tax (e.g., Tenn., N.H.) simply means that you're allowing unspendable concentrations of income while encumbering ordinary business transactions, however small. Sales taxes are among the many ways in which our present system induces downturns and recessions. Sales taxes will be a more bizarre part of our history in 2 or 3 centuries.]
A 3-year stalemate in the [Tennessee] General Assembly over tax policy and the proposed creation of a state income tax has led to a tightening budget crisis.... "Somebody from Tennessee"..\..said Arturo Perez, a policy specialist with..\..the National Conference of State Legislatures, "described the situation to me as: 'We cut the fat in the first year. We cut to the bone last year. And what we are going to do this year is kind of unanswered.'"...
[Oh that's easy. You're going to pass an income tax, preferably graduated to get the money back in circulation, or you're going to shut down state government. And if you're really smart, you're going to perk up the state economy with statewide Timesizing.]
- Argentine leader quits; so does successor - Doubt over whether any government can end this crisis, by Larry Rohter, NYT, A6.
BUENOS AIRES...- With angry middle-class protesters threatening more demonstrations and the leadership of his own [Peronist] party in open rebellion against him, Argentina's interim president, Adolfo Rodriguez Saa, resigned late on Sunday after only a week in office, plunging the country into a new round of uncertainty and turmoil.... By law, his departure left the president of the Senate, Ramon Puerta, as acting president for the second time in 10 days, with the obligation to summon Congress to a special session by Wednesday to select yet another new president. Early today however, Mr. Puerta refused to accept that designation and also resigned, passing the job to the next in line under the Constitution, the majority leader of the lower house, Eduardo Caamano, also a Peronist..\..
Blaming what he called "an attitude of pettiness and haggling" within the ruling Peronist party, Mr. Rodriguez Saa complained in his announcement that he had been left unable to govern. "I made a great effort, and the people of Argentina made a great effort," he said, but [he and they] were overcome by "lobbies that do not understand the essence of these new times."...
[How can the top brackets understand anything outside their gated communities? They have concentrated sooo much spending power in their own few pockets that though they can buy all the decision-making power in the nation, they can also completely insulate themselves from any negative consequences of any of their decisions. And that ain't a feedback system. Time we all moved on to direct democracy based on electronic referendums and a flexible market-oriented system for spreading as evenly as possible the skills and employment that automation and robotization have yet to take over.]
12/26/2001 headlines from hell -
- Home sales fell 8% in November; realtors cite attacks, Boston Globe, E1.
Sales of single-family homes...compared to one year earlier...according to the Massachusetts Assoc. of Realtors.... The number of homes sold in November was 3,650 down from 3,968 in Nov. 2000....
- Positive reports hint at swift recovery - Sales of new homes surged 6.4% during November, by Daniel Altman, NY Times, C1.
...the Commerce Dept. reported....
[So which is it? Dramatically bad news or dramatically good? Apparently it's
[But you really gotto dig for these distinctions. From the headlines alone, you're wondering, "What planet is who on?" The moral, as expressed in the title of that old book, is "Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics"!]
- bad for
- single-family homes (new and old?)
- state-specific (Massachusetts)
- good for
- new homes (any number of families??)
- month-on-month - with no mention of year-on-year.
12/25/2001 Xmas headlines from hell -
- Small cable operators worry about life after big mergers, by Jennifer Lee, NYT, C1.
...Nervously watching on the sidelines of battle between big cable and big satellite [companies] are the 1,200 smaller independent cable operators that serve 12m homes, about 17% of cable subscribers.... Small cable companies [are often] mom-and-pop stores that come under seige when Wal-Mart rolls into town with lower prices and better distribution networks. ...The Wal-Marts are DirecTV and EchoStar, which distribute pizza-size satellite dishes that can receive hundreds of channels..\..
Subscription TV generates revenue of $60B a year.... The two big satellite TV companies, EchoStar Communications and DirecTV, are trying to consolidate to create a single company with nearly 17m subscribers. At the same time, the Comcast Corp. has agreed to buy the cable TV unit of AT&T, a move that would make it the largest cable company with more than $22m subscribers. The companies that would emerge, AT&T Comcast and EchoStar, would control 40% of the TV households in the United States....
- Jobs are scarce and the outlook becomes dismal - Fallout of U.S. recession drifts south into Mexico, by Ginger Thompson, NYT, C1.
[Ah, shouldn't that be "Giant sucking sound of US jobs sliding across border finally boomerangs against Mexico"?!]
- China's efforts against crime make no dent - Sparse policing belies periodic crackdowns, by Craig Smith, NYT, A1.
...China is one of the most sparsely policed countries in the world. Not only are there few police officers per capita...but also as a matter of policy few of them carry guns, making them vlunerable to the country's increasingly well-armed criminals....
To hold the line against crime, the government relies on draconian campaigns that periodically sweep up tens of thousands of suspects, rush them through abbreviated trials and send thousands of them to death regardless of the likelihood that some are innocent.
[Sounds like the "spectral evidence" in use at the Salem witch trials. Which sounds in turn like the Taliban.]
Though the official number of those executed is a closely guarded government secret, this year alone more than 5,000 people are believed to have been put to death....
[And how does that compare on a per capita basis with other countries?]
- Thailand cuts interest rates to spur growth, Bloomberg via BG, D5.
BANGKOK -...Economic growth ground to a halt in the third quarter as exports slumped and Thai consumers cut back. \So\ Thailand cut its key interest rate for the first time in 2½ years...and said it was considering further cuts, reversing a policy of keeping rates high to bolster the baht.... The Bank of Thailand's Monetary Policy Committee reduced its benchmark 14-day repurchase rate to 2.25% from 2.5%.... The last rate cut was in June 1999..\..
12/21/2001 today's headlines from hell -
- Desperation sales fail to lure shoppers, by Leslie Kaufman, NYT, C1.
The holiday season opened the day after Thanksgiving with nervours merchants cutting prices 40%.
It ended over the final weekend before Christmas with a frenzy of desperation sales with as much as 70% off that failed to save the season for most retailers....
- Argentina crisis is also blow to U.S., pointer digest (to A9), NYT, C1.
Argentina's declaration of a moratorium on repayment of its foreign debt marks the end of a failed economic experiment that has cost the country dearly.
But it is also a blow to the United States and the IMF, which had invested much of their credibility and prestige yet proved unwilling to help when things fell apart.
- Taiwan: Jobless rate rises, Bloomberg via NYT, W1.
Taiwan's jobless rate climbed to an 11th straight record in November as companies shed workers and moved production to China to cut costs amid falling sales.
[And why do they suppose sales have been falling if not from their previous moves of jobs to China?]
...Companies like Chunghwa Picture Tubes...and Ritek [are moving] production lines to China....
Unemployment rose to 5.3% from 5.2% in Oct., seasonally adjusted, the government said.
[Doesn't sound high? Think again -]
That was the highest since the government began compiling figures in 1978.
Taiwan's economy contracted 4.2% in the third quarter from a year earlier as exports tumbled, falling into its worst slump since the 1970's....
[What with recent news from Japan, that takes care of two of the economic "tigers" of the Pacific Rim. This "globally synchronized recession" is either going to take the mother of all militarizations to cure, or the intelligent solution at last = sharing the vanishing work, as we should have started doing nationwide 68 years ago.]
12/20/2001 today's headlines from hell -
- [We don't have a story on births, but we have headlines on the other two population variables, immigrants and imports. First, immigrants -]
Tyson case highlights [foreign] work force [dependence], pointer digest (to A14), NYT, C1.
The indictment of Tyson Foods on charges it conspired to smuggle illegal immigrants to work at its plants is a sign of how dependent the American food and agriculture system has become on foreign-born workers.
[I.e., on ridiculously low-wage labor that can't possibly support the markets it "needs" for the bloated profit levels and executive pay that it has addicted itself to.]
- [Then , imports -]
Protecting steel: An economic war that all could lose, by Floyd Norris, NYT, C1.
[We don't think so, Floyd, unless you define "losing" as not being export-dependent like Japan and not being absolutely first in technology (which we aren't anyway). The obsession with being first in technology has passed the point of diminishing returns and into the realm of private-sector makework, with our waves of trivial technological replacement - replacing albums with CDs, 533Mhz PCs with 1033Mhz PCs, flaky Windows 95 with flaky 98 with flaky NT etc etc, not to mention the highly suspicious cold war between viruses and virus checkers. As for anxiety about falling behind in weapons innovation, we happen to think it would be worse to become dependent on foreign steel. And maybe while we're at it, we could become independent of foreign oil and cheap foreign workers (headline above).]
- Past economic cures are now fuel for a crisis, by Clifford Krauss, NYT, A8.
[Ah, they're singing our song - the great fork in the road of 1933: no controls on one side (Hoover), micromanagement on the other (FDR) continued by the ongoing fiddling of Keynesianism. The fundamental solution is in the middle, a single central ground rule - just CUT THE WORK WEEK. The crisis? Blared forth in the front page headline -]
Argentine leader, his nation frayed, abruptly resigns - 21 have died in rioting - Opposition party to take over - Country trying to avoid defaulting on its debt, by Clifford Krauss, NYT, frontpage.
12/19/2001 today's headlines from hell -
- Congress gives up on deal this year to help economy, by Richard Stevenson, NYT, front page.
[but that just delays a rerun of the feel-good but impotent New Deal - since neither party has yet stumbled onto Timesizing.]
- US accuses Tyson Foods of seeking illegal workers, by David Barboza, NYT, front page.
[the truth will out - the captains of industry have been encouraging the illegal flow]
- Shaken by [food] riots, Argentina declares state of siege, by Clifford Krauss, NYT, front page.
[but can they get enough militarization out of fighting themselves to save their economy? easier would be, just cut the workweek and share the vanishing work.]
12/17/2001 this weekend's headline from hell -
- In the sensitive office, laying off is hard to do, by Melinda Ligos, NYT, C8.
[Then don't do it. Trim hours for everyone and keep everyone employed. It's the clear alternative and it's not rocket science. Timesize, don't downsize.]
- Talks in Congress break down over health benefit for jobless, by Richard Stevenson, NYT, A25.
[But who cares about the jobless, right? And there's more coming -]
- LTV seems on the verge of a shutdown - Without loan, steel giant could end its labor contract today - Creditors on one side; workers and retirees on the other, by Riva Atlas, NYT, C2.
- [And those environmental problems keep shortening the deadline by which we must have a more flexible sharing technology or invite exponentially increased casualties, none natural -]
This year was the 2nd hottest, confirming a trend, U.N. says, AP via NYT, A5.
[Toronto's Anders Hayden wrote the book on ecological pressures that are driving us to the next generation of economic design - *Sharing the Work, Sparing the Planet.]
12/13/2001 headlines from hell -
- As welfare comes to an end, so do the jobs, by Nina Bernstein, NYT, front page.
...In states from New Hampshire to Hawaii, the first welfare families are reaching the five-year federal limit just as the economy slumps.
[Guess that so-called "welfare reform" bill was just another irresponsible and unfunded mandate on the part of our macho-mon 'git tough' pols. They have no idea (or intention) how to create enough entry-level private-sector jobs for the vast numbers of people whom they are dumping onto the job market, so this segment is just going to join the postwar babyboomers, their wives, and hordes of immigrants, rattling around desperately trying to make a living wage in an economy that is chock full of work-saving technology - with all the robopathic economists parrotting, "But technology creates more jobs than it destroys. But technology creates more jobs than it destroys. But..." etc. etc. - except when it doesn't, like over the last 30 years in the American economy. If it did, wages would have doubled and tripled by market forces. Instead, they have sunk.]
But New York City has by far the largest number of people working for their benefits, and nowhere else are so many of them reaching the cutoff at the same time.... Critics contend that [workfare] has been a dead end for many poor people in need of education and training, a way to cut and divert people from public benefits and create a tide of cheap labor that has swept thousands of paying jobs from city payrolls....
[And depressed wage levels of the unpublicized majority while allowing vast fortunes to gravitate to the top income brackets beyond all spendability - thus creating the classic depression-inducing situation: huge investment money available for huge ventures in huge, technology-multiplied productivity for which there are...flaccid and ever-softening markets.]
...State welfare officials point to recent studies finding that over all, the economic circumstances of poor New Yorkers improved substantially in the late 1990's, while the welfare rolls shrank to about 387,000 cases, half the 1995 peak.... But on Nov. 26, when [James] Howard['s welfare cutoff was nearly upon him and he] went to the welfare labyrinth for help in keeping his family housed and fed, a different reality awaited. At the Manhattan address listed on the Safety Net letter, he was sent back to his local welfare office, the Bay Ridge Job Center. There, hand-lettered signs warned people not to call their caseworkers; everyone had to stand in line.
As toddlers cried and tugged at parents, the line inched forward near a poster that declared, "Winners Make the Grade; Whiners Make Excuses." One woman was in a wheelchair, another on crutches. Some clutched threats of eviction, medical bills, printouts of bureaucratic error.
When his turn came, Mr. Howard was sent upstairs, to wait for his caseworker - who could not help and sent him down to the line again.
His wife joined him there, sent from her Supplemental Security Income office, she said, when she asked for help keeping the household's food stamps.
"It's too late," another caseworker told them later, directing Mrs. Howard to an office in downtown Brooklyn, and giving Mr. Howard a number to call to appeal; it was constantly busy.
Later that week, on one of his last days working in the subway [on pre-cutoff "workfare"], Mr. Howard cleared 25 loads of trash from the station parking lot. When he paused to rest, a supervisor brusquely ordered him back to his mop. It was too much.
"I'm not a slave," Mr. Howard shouted. "I'm a human being."...
[Is it any wonder the small-town theater director freaked out last week and killed his whole family and himself in this economy? And Jim Howard is in New York City, supposedly the richest city in the world, where a billionaire named Bloomberg just ran for mayor and won by spending a record $93 million on his campaign. And we like to think of ourselves as an intelligent species? What a joke. In this kind of fearful, grasping culture, even the rich are impoverished and endangered. There's an example right below the inside-page wrapup of this article in Enid Nemy's "Metropolitan Diary" (page A20). The cartoon accompanying this squib is particularly relevant to Jim Howard's predicament. It shows an official saying to someone sprawled on the pavement in front of him, "Sir, you can't fall here." The actual story diverges from Mr. Howard's situation, because it appears that the fallen man was rich -]
...A friend of Robert L. Dilenschneider's recently slipped on the marble at the entrance to a prestigious club. He fell on his face, blood poured from his head, and it appeared that his arm or wrist was broken. This exchange took place:
Doorman, running over: "Sir, don't sue us."
Victim: "Would you help me up, I'm bleeding."
Doorman: "Sir, if you tripped outside the club, we are not liable and you can't sue us."
Victim, who had risen to one knee: "Could you give me a hand up and help me with some Band-Aids?"
Doorman: "We are not liable, and you can't sue us."
Victim: "I am not a litigant."
Doorman: "What's a litigant."...
12/11/2001 headlines from hell -
- [a new brand of isolationism? -]
Tearing up the ABM Treaty, editorial, NYT, A30.
[Death-wish dumb. Compare -]
Bush's move on ABM pact gives pause to Europeans, by Steven Erlanger, NYT, A13.
[Not "pause" - "conniptions". And subhead on previous page -]
Critics see threats to other accords in a U.S. pullout from the ABM Treaty, NYT, A12.
["Don't givva damn" Bush is now the biggest outlaw in the world. Bin Laden is small potatoes in comparison. And below that -]
Treaty's end would ruffle Russia's politics - For some, proof that, at best, America cares little for Russia's overtures, by Michael Wines, NYT, A12.
["Ruffles"?! What lengths the NYT goes to, to whitewash this supreme and suicidal hubris. In fact, Bush cares little for anybody or anything else, except fronting America's "credibility" (i.e, our way or the highway). And here's one from tomorrow -]
ABM decision may send ripples to China, India, Pakistan - Specialist fears net effect could reduce US security, by Fred Kaplan, 12/14/2001 BG, A29.
[Nooo kidding. Why should anybody else respect treaties if the USA doesn't? Why shouldn't everybody just unilaterally reneg on all treaties, trade agreements and everything else? Bush is a complete and utter moron.]
- Northwest [U.S.] goes from high-tech to high jobless - Long-held feelings of prosperity have given way to despair, by Sam VerHovek, NYT, A20.
...Oregon...at 6.5% is now the 2nd highest in the nation - surpassed only by its next-door neighbor, Washington State, at 6.6%....
- Age becomes an issue for some job seekers, by Davis Bushnell, Boston Globe, G1.
["Becomes" an issue? Where has this reporter been for the last 10 years? For "some" job seekers? Try "many."]
- Enron auditor raises specter of crime, by Kahn and Glater, NYT, C1.
[What a surprise!]
- Sentiment on Japan's economy worsens, by Ken Belson, NYT, W1.
[How could it go any lower? Yet all they have to do is share the vanishing work.]
12/07/2001 headlines from hell -
- Job market may be facing steep climb, by Syre & Stein, Boston Globe, C1.
...The U.S. had a technology bubble and a stock market bubble during the boom years of the late 1990s. Is it possible we had a job market bubble as well?...
[Of course, you morons! The job market underlies all other markets, and none of them can "bubble" without it. Oops, except the financial markets, especially the stock market, the giant sponge, of course. The financial markets are the chief embodiment of the useless and inefficient concentration of spending power and, though founded on the job market, have the ability to drain money away from their own foundation - ergo, chronic depression a la 1930s.]
...The employment report released Friday by the government...made for some grim reading. The economy shed 331,000 jobs in November on top of a loss of 468,000 jobs in October. The combined 800,000 job loss was the worst two-month performance in 20 years. American companies have cut 1.2 million jobs since March, bringing the jobless rate to 5.7%, up from 3.9% in the fall of 2000....
At the same time jobs are being slashed, hiring has dried up. The number of Americans who qualify as long-term unemployed, out of work for 27 weeks or more, has risen from 600,000 in March to 1.2 million in November.
[Wait a minute, that means that the statement above is wrong. It should read "American companies have cut (1.2 million minus 600,000 =) 600,000 jobs since March" because we already had 600,000 unemployed in March. Anyway -]
In October, the Conference Board's help-wanted index, a measure of help-wanted advertising in newspapers, dropped to its lowest level since 1964, the year the Beatles first came to America. Help!...
- Social Security panel predicts benefit cuts, by Sue Kirchhoff, BG, C2.
[The Times' version of this is -]
Social Security panel presents options but no unified plan, by Richard Stevenson, NYT, A19.
[Back to the Globe -]
WASHINGTON - Creating private investment accounts under Social Security would require Congress to cut benefits and pump large amounts of tax revenues into the system for decades, as much as $71B a year, according to a report...Bush's Social Security commission will debate today.
In an unexpected development, the commission's projections include changes that would reduce future benefits to Social Security disability recipients.... Recognizing the huge political problems ahead, the report calls for at least a year of discussion before Congress acts.... The report predicts a $5.1 trillion long-term funding shortfall rather than the $3.4 trillion figure that has been used....
- Agriculture Secretary vs. sacred cow - Battling subsidies, and then critics, by Elizabeth Becker, NYT, A14.
WASHINGTON...- As Secy. of Agriculture, Ann Veneman, a lawyer who spent who childhood on a Calif. peach farm and watched her father rise in state and national Republican politics, seemed well placed to help...Bush wean big farmers from decades of multibillion-dollar subsidies.... Her 120-page book presenting the administration's policy...helped bring about the doubling of money for environmental programs in the farm bill being considered by the Senate..\..
But...her attempt to redirect how the government gives out $20 billion each year in farm subsidies was met with enraged resistance from farm-state lawmakers..\..
Few cabinet members have been treated with as much disdain on Capitol Hill, by members of both parties, as Ms. Veneman...who is beginning to learn who really makes farm policy in Washington.... "Agriculture committees are very parochial but very powerful"..\..said Dan Glickman, who was agriculture secretary under Pres. Bill Clinton....
[And agriculture committees represent only and always agribusiness. Taxpayers' wallets are in the grip of some very rich parasites here, and it's the devil's own job to wean them. Good for Ann Veneman for trying. It's more than Dan Glickman did -]
"I worked on things like food safety, where I could make a difference, and stayed away from the farm subsidies, where I knew I couldn't make much difference."...
- Japan: Machinery orders fall, by Ken Belson, NYT, W1.
Orders for machinery, a crucial gauge of corporate capital spending, fell to a 14-year low in October [10.1% down from Sept.] to $6.3B, the lowest since Nov/87..\..a sign that Japan's recession is intensifying....
- Melting glaciers in Antarctica are raising oceans, experts say, by Kenneth Chang, NYT, A18.
...Using two sets of data from the European Remote Sensing Satellite, two scientists [have] found that about 36 cu. mi. of ice [have] melted from glaciers in West Antarctica over the past decade. That is enough water to raise sea levels worldwide by about one-sixtieth of an inch, they said. "These glaciers are thinning rapidly," said one of the scientists, Dr. Eric Rignot from NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, Calif. The conclusions were presented at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union [in San Francisco(?)].
The findings counter results of an earlier study, drawing on ground-based observations, that concluded that Antarctica was gaining in mass, with the snow falling at the interior. Dr. Rignot said a satellite instrument designed to detect deformations in the ground shape found no areas gaining in mass. But, he said, the Pine Is. and Thwaites Glaciers in West Antarctica are noticeably thinning. The rest of Antarctica appears to be stable, he said.
Ocean levels have been rising at a rate of about 8 in. a century.
Using a second instrument on the satellite, one that measures altitude, Dr. Andrew Shepherd, a research fellow at the Ctr for Polar Observation and Modeling at Univ. College London, came to similar conclusions. A smaller, neighboring glacier, the Smith Glacier, is losing mass even more quickly, he said....
- Half of that is attributable to the fact that water expands as temperatures rise;
- 20% appears to be water running down [non-Antarctic] mountain glaciers.
- The remaining 30% is a mystery, but the new data suggests it is coming from Antarctica.
12/06/2001 headlines from hell -
- Retailers post dismal sales for November, by Kaufman & Strom, NYT, C1.
The holiday season started with a whimper and then it got worse.... Sales at stores opened at least a year...grew 2% in Nov., according to the Goldman, Sachs retail index. Even that tepid number was inflated by a quirk in the calendar that moved a week of the selling season to Nov., from Dec. While many stores did adjust their numbers to compensate...a handful of large stores did not, including Federated Dept. Stores, May Dept. Stores, Kohl's and Target....
[Carlysle called economics the dismal science, but that's only because it's not yet a science, just a highly mathematized description (and rationalization) for the status quo, and because its practitioners have generally declined to tackle the problem of concentrated work-income-wealth-..., or even to view it as a problem. They keep their critical eyes averted from their employers and steadfastly focused on the problems at the bottom - unemployment, poverty, etc. - which of course cannot be solved at the bottom because they are problems of failure to enforce or even define share per person. Thus they, and we dragged along after these "experts" and "leaders," continuously and repeatedly fall into G.K. Chesterton's "trap." ]
- Argentina seizes pension funds - Government fights to remain afloat, Reuters via BG, E4.
BUENOS AIRES - Argentina's cash-starved government seized local pension fund money yesterday in a desperate effort to keep the country's economy afloat in the face of foreign loan cutoffs.
[There's nothing so pathetic as watching the rich trying desperately to get money from anyone and everyone but those who have it in so much profusion - themselves. As Wil Rogers said back in the 30s when asked where the government was going to get the money to solve the Depression, "Wal, I guess they're gonna git it from the rich, cuz they're the only ones that's got any." And that's still true today. But it usually takes a world war or intense militarization to get that "horrendous" concept through the hard, insulated and isolated craniums of the wealthy.]
Protesters threw eggs and stones at the Central Bank building, amid growing public anger at Pres. Fernando de la Rua's government, and there were signs that a de facto devaluation of the peso currency had already begun.
Economists warned that without international help, there was little hope of the South American nation of 37m people avoiding history's worst sovereign debt default....
[Always these employees of the wealthy, directly or indirectly, cast about widely for some deus ex machina, some rich people elsewhere dumb enough to throw good money after bad in huge amounts. And guess where the biggest, dumbest rich people are -]
Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo said he would fly to Washington overnight for urgent consultations today with the IMF, which held back a $1.3B loan on Wed. in frustration at the government's failure to rein in spending....
[Yep, our own Typhoid Mary, the IMF, whose prescription for disaster is...more disaster. We are locked in what Thomas Kuhn calls a "scientific" paradigm - that needs to change. But so difficult is it for people to critique their own socio-economy - it's like operating on your own retinas - that few have any ideas ready and waiting for this kind of emergency. But Argentina and Japan are both demonstrating different extremes, different types of bankruptcy, that every country in the world will be running into because we picked the wrong path in 1933, the path of government makework instead of private-sector sharework. Both Japan and Argentina have become very dependent on artificial government spending to create jobs at the fixed 40-hour-plus levels that eventually become ridiculously unsustainable as mechanization takes over agriculture and robotization takes over manufacturing and computerization takes over services, including teaching and programming. Computer programs to write computer programs? Yep. Which leads to the question, teaching for what? what secure livelihood is left? None. We must share the vanishing work and break the straitjacket of our frozen pre-technology workweek. And when work levels are too small to manage - if that is possible - we must be ready to move on and share the vanishing income - but that won't happen for another century at least - at the rate we supposedly "intelligent" beings apprehend the lessons of necessity. "Freedom is the ability to recognize necessity." Quite a gift.]
The IMF has [already] pumped more than $20B into Argentina this year for little reward....
[Never mind "reward" - there's no sustainability in sight. Argentina's wealthy have over the years perfected such a wonderful income funnel that no matter how much you throw at their economy, the wealthy will have it all in their pockets and out to Swiss bank accounts in two weeks. Nought is more pathetic than the cries of the poor rich.]
Economists say if Argentina goes into a financial tailspin, the contagion in other emerging markets should be limited, as investors have had plenty of time to position themselves.
[Heaven forfend that "investors" should ever realize that they are the problem - the levels of income concentration throughout the world have reached Black Hole proportions, and at those densities, nothing can escape the event horizon surrounding the concentrated masses of income and wealth - there are simply no sustainable markets left for money on that scale. The concentration has succeeded in suctioning the spending power away from the markets that anchor the value of its own huge investments in productivity. But there were economists all through the 1930s who denied this, and there will be such today. For them, the business "cycle" really is an automatic cycle and not a misnomer. But then they have to ignore so much. The photo accompanying this article shows a guy spraypainting graffiti on a bank in Buenos Aires yesterday - something about Cavallo and genocide.]
- Japan is in recession again, with U.S., as Germany slips, by James Brooke, NYT, C7.
TOKYO...- The economy of Japan, the world's second-largest, officially entered a recession today as figures showed the GDP contracting for a 2nd consecutive quarter.... With the figures released today, the world's two largest economies - the U.S. and Japan - are in recession. And Germany, the third largest, is expected to follow.
[They're calling this a globally synchronized downturn. Sorta like 1929. And the only ways out of that are militarization (as Germany 1933-36 or USA 1942-45) or work sharing (as FDR snubbed when he blocked the Black 30-hour workweek bill in the House after it passed the Senate, and proceeded to distract from and demotivate it with the many costly, feel-good but ultimately ineffectual programs of the New Deal, 1933-41, which was a pot pourri entirely thrown together to stop the shorter-hours forces and had no positive integrating concept of its own - except, of course, to save the nation somehow, ANYhow that wasn't pioneered by someone else such as Sen. Hugo Black - but at its best it brought the 25% unemployment of the Depression only down to 14% - the War took it down the rest of the way in 1942). The underlying problem that only militarization and worksharing address is the astronomical concentration of income and wealth that is occasioned by the introduction of waves of worksaving technology into a context of a rigid, or too-slowly declining, workshare per human per time unit, i.e., workweek, and the consequent use of downsizing instead of timesizing, i.e., cutting jobs instead of cutting working hours. The jobcuts mount up until there is insufficient consumer base to absorb the technologically amplified productivity. And the mounting unemployment and underemployment, and the ever-present threat of downsizing, act as disincentives to requests for pay raises, and since the enormous profits from technology have to go somewhere, they pour up to the top income brackets where they pool in enormous concentrations analogous to Black Holes of matter in astrophysics. The highly insulated and isolated top income brackets repeat over and over again the major credo of economies at early stages in the business "cycle" - that concentrated money works just as hard as centrifuged money because it immediately gets invested and gets back into circulation, i.e., jobs, etc., but as Keynes pointed out, there are a number of places where it gets slowed down and stopped on its way to jobs, chiefly, the enormously overpaid jobs of the financial industry, and the astronomical money sponge or wetlands+delta presented by ever-innovating&proliferating financial instruments - stocks, bonds, options, futures, REITs, derivatives - who knows what else or what next? In a word, the much-ignored doctrine of neoclassical economics holds true - the marginal efficiency of (concentrated) capital, and indeed, the more concentration, the less circulation past a certain point, and the world is far far past that point of diminishing returns to income-concentration. The intelligent way out of this money-funnel-trap starts, not by directly centrifuging income, which creates human parasitism like multigenerational welfare "families," but by directly centrifuging employment and skills - we can do income directly later when our expectations and standards rise to levels that require it. The most core-complete and gradual and market-oriented program for accomplishing this employment-and-skills centrifugation is Timesizing. Timesizing has five public-sector phases, and a less-defined preparatory private-sector stage that educates the public to this alternative to militarization - this website is the major effort so far in this stage, plus a campaign piece rushed into publication by the progressive Republican candidate in time for the huge 10-candidate Democratic primary for Joe Kennedy's vacated congressional seat in 1998. The campaign piece of 140 pages length was issued in a numbered edition of 500 and titled Timesizing, Not Downsizing. The preface and contents are excellent, but with minimal editing, there are some pretty rough spots elsewhere, "notes to myself" etc., and the plan is to locate an old-fashioned publisher with an in-house editor to take it the rest of the way to mass distribution.]
In Q3...the [Japanese] economy dropped 0.5%, or an annualized decline of 2.2% - worse than the most recent decline in the U.S. Darkening the nation's outlook, the [Japanese] government also sharply shifted downward the Q2 drop to 1.2%, from 0.7%, making for an annualized rate of 4.8. It also said personal consumption in Q3 fell 1.7%. ...In H1, the flow of direct investment into Japan contracted by 19% and corporate earnings slid by a third. And the trade surplus is forecast to drop 40% this fiscal year, whcih ends in March.... "They are set up to have their worst recession on record," Laksman Achuthan, managing director of..\..the Economic Cycle Research Institute, a private research group that studies 26 economic indicaors for Japan, many dating back to the 1950's...said....
If poor credit ratings cause interest rates to rise from their rock-bottom levels, Japan could start feeling the cost of a decade of heavy borrowing. "If ratings go on skidding, it might trigger plunges in government bond prices, thus inducing a state of the economy similar to a depression," Hiroshi Okuda, chairman of the Japan Federation of Employers Assocs., said on Wednesday.
[Perhaps in our lifetime we will see the bankruptcy of rigid-workweek, uncapped-concentration capitalism and move on to fluctuating adjustment of the workweek and reinvestment thresholds to centrifuge overtime work and income. Such a more flexible and market-responsive and -fostering capitalism would give us all much better, securer lives. There's really no insoluble problem here. It's all just a design challenge. We all have one another and the enormous heritage of wealth from our ancestors, near and far. But we must make ourselves more available to one another in channelled ways. We must periodically update our technology of sharing, and cut back our myths of rugged independence and "Bill Gates earned every penny!" - of his $50-60 billion dollars. Yeah sure he did. We've got to induce some of our economists to do a little more research on the point of diminishing returns in the concentration of income and wealth, and drop the naive assumption that there is no such thing. The essential function of money is circulation, currency, exchange, and the levels of concentration we're looking at today undermine that function. At some point in the concentration-intensification process, the usually quite static of that undermining process gets louder and louder and drowns out every other sound - until we fix it to the level of the next design generation. It won't stay fixed forever, because the one constant (albeit a pretty erratic one) in human evolution is rising expectations.]
12/05/2001 headlines from hell -
- Senate approves bill to invest rail funds, AP via NYT, A22.
[Can you believe these clowns are putting the $15B railroad retirement funds into the financial markets after what those markets have just done? At least the poor RR employees will become yet another demonstration case, willynilly, for the rest of the nation.]
- Japan: Manufacturing turns down, by Ken Belson, NYT, W1.
Sales and profit at the largeste mfrs in Japan collapsed in the Jul-Sep quarter along with the downturn in spending on technology globally. Pretax profit fell 32.5% in Q3, while sales fell 2.6%, a Finance Ministry report showed....
- Germany: Unemployment rises, by Petra Kappl, NYT, W1.
...for an 11th straight month in November, increasing by 17,000 to a seasonally adjusted 3.9m, the Federal Labor Office said [but the rise was so small that] the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.5%.
[Worse than worksharing France's 9.1-9.2%.]
12/04/2001 headlines from hell -
- [At last, some exposure of a gaping problem that no one wants to face -]
Watching the firms that watch the books - Can investors trust the numbers they read in the financial reports?, by Alex Berenson, NYT, C1.
Too many publicly traded companies are manipulating their financial results, and auditors, Wall Street and the SEC are not doing enough to stop them. That gloomy verdict comes from lawmakers, former regulators and some investors after the bankruptcy filing of Enron, the largest corporate failure in American history.
[We go on and on about corruption in Japan, but what do you call this?!]
For years, complaints about the declining quality of corporate earnings reports have gone largely unheeded. But the sudden failure of Enron, which reported more than $100B in sales and $1B in profit last year, has generated a new wave of criticism that corporate accounting is out of control. ...Said Rep. John Dingell (D, Mich.), "Are you going to tell me that Enron didn't get away with murder?"
Enron's fall...is the latest and largest in a string of accounting-related crises at public companies, including Waste Management, Cendant and Lucent Technologies. Scores of other companies, including giants like Cisco Systems and AT&T, have taken multibillion-dollar write-offs this year, putting their previously reported profits in doubt. Still others, like Computer Assocs., are offering investors pro forma financial statements that are not prepared according to standard accounting rules. Yesterday, the SEC warned...that pro forma earnings reports should be "viewed with...skepticism."...
Since 1998, there has been a surge in the incidents of large public companies stretching accounting rules..\..said Lynn Turner, the former chief accountant for the SEC [and current] director of the Center for Quality Financial Reporting at Colorado State University.... The amount of gimmickry and outright fraud dwarfs any period since the early 1970's, when major accounting scams like Equity Funding surfaced, and the 1920's, when rampant fraud helped cause the crash of 1929 and led to the creation of the SEC, he said.
[Then there's the blatant conflict of interest -]
Accounting firms have become too dependent on consulting fees from the companies they audit and are unwilling to risk those fees by challenging corporate managers who stretch accounting rules, Mr. Turner said. Enron paid Arthur Andersen, its auditor, $27m in fees unrelated to auditing and $52m in total fees last year, according to Enron's proxy statement. Last year, Arthur Levitt, then the chairman of the SEC, tried to restrict the consulting work that accounting firms could do but backed down in the face of strong opposition from the firms.... At the same time, the growth in the securities markets has overwhelmed the SEC, Mr. Turner said. "We only had about 20 staff in my whole office," he said.
Gregg W. Corso, a former senior lawyer at the SEC...who served as counsel to Mr. Levitt from 1996 to 2000..\..said the commission had lost its focus. In 1937, William O. Douglas, the third chairman of the SEC, said it was "the investor's advocate." Today, the SEC sees itself as answerable to many different constituencies, including companies that issue stocks and bonds, securities firms and accounting firms, Mr. Corso said.... "You need to listen to them, get their views, but then you have to decisively move ahead [as the investor's advocate]," said Mr. Corso. \However,\ to keep [all] those groups happy, [the SEC] has allowed accounting standards to slide. "Investors need to be extremely wary. There's some fundamental problems that need to be addressed, and I don't think there's the will to do it."...
Over the last five years, Enron used more than a dozen partnerships, some run by its top executives, to move debt off its balance sheet and overstate its earnings by at least $600m. As Enron's earnings soared, the company's management discouraged analysts and investors from questioning its financial reports, which even friendly stock analysts acknowledged were largely impenetrable.
But after a series of damaging disclosures about its finances this fall, Enron found itself unable to convince investors or its trading partners that its financial statements were accurate, even though they had been certified by Andersen. With its business and stock crashing, it was forced to file for bankruptcy on Sunday.
"It's pretty obvious you have two major choices," Mr. Dingell said. "Arthur Andersen was either corrupt or incompetent. It's possible they were both."...
So far, Wall Street has largely shrugged off Enron's collapse, viewing it as an isolated event. Since Oct. 17, when Enron's stock began its precipitous slide, the S&P 500 has risen about 3%....
[But that gets us into another problem = the fact that the concentration of income is sooo astronomically massive and crushingly tight in these pre-depression periods that there is literally no alternative to the stock market for most huge investors = the classic Black Hole economy. Note also the story below the inside wrapup of this article -]
Companies are warned about rosy numbers, by Floyd Norris, NYT, C8.
[The article refers to the SEC's warning to investors about pro forma earnings reports mentioned above.] And note the Boston Globe's version of this article -]
Right on the money, by Steve Bailey, BG, F1.
[wherein he tells the story of a fund manager, Richard Grubman of Highfields Capital Mgmt, who had the temerity to ask Enron's CEO, Jeffrey Skilling, for a look at Enron's balance sheet back in April -]
"You're the only financial institution that can't come up with a balance sheet or cash flow statement after earnings," Grubman complained to Skilling. "Well, thank you very much, we appreciate that," Skilling responded. Then Skilling called Grubman a name I can't repeat here.
It was a remarkable moment even for a company as famously arrogant as Enron. Don't you think all those fund managers [who were in on that conference call] wish now they had hung up the phone right then and there and sold their Enron shares? Theyh didn't, of course. Enron's management was arrogant, its business secretive and complex. But everyone owned Enron, and no one was heading for the exits because the CEO was a little prickly.
[Does that equate to "a bit of a pr*ck"?]
If more investors had been asking more tough questions like Grubman, though, we might have discovered a lot sooner that Enron was a house of cards. How could Enron's management have destroyed $80B in value in a few months? The answer is they didn't....
[It's just that we discovered it in a few months.]
...The company was never worth anything like $80B....
Bloomberg News lists more than 40 analysts who cover Enron, and many still had "buy" or "hold" recommendations on the stock this week.
...Only a handful - Grubman, NY hedgefund mgr James Chanos, and Cambridge market researcher Mark Roberts among them - were willing to go against the crowd, and they are some of the only winners in this whole sorry mess.
Roberts, who runs Off Wall Street Consulting Group, which specializes in identifying inflated stocks headed for trouble, got the story exactly right in a report in May, when Enron was selling for $60. "It probably should come as no surprise that Enron mgmt appears to have resorted to a variety of transactions that are of questionable quality and sustainability to manage and boost earnings," Off Wall Street wrote. "These transactions appear to be purposely obscured in Enron's public reporting."
The only thing Roberts got wrong was Enron's value: He said the stock was worth $27 a share while other analysts were valuing the company at $90 a share. Yesterday Enron closed at 87 cents.
Roberts, Chanos and Grubman had no inside information; all the data they used was available to anyone with a Bloomberg terminal....
- [now just to stiffen(?) your nerves, here's a chaser of Captions Without Comments -]
Economic confidence declines [in 12-nation Euro zone], by Paul Meller, NYT, W1.
- Moody's lowers debt rating on [Japan] government credit in yen, by Ken Belson, NYT, W1.
- Safety of [US] nuclear plants again raises concerns, by Matthew Wald, NYT, B5.
- Mail recipients warned of risks, AP via BG, A18.
...because tens of thousands of letters around the country may have picked up trace amounts of anthrax at a New Jersey postal facility.
- [Then there's the virus of the computer type. Instead of Caesar's "veni vidi vici" meaning "I came, I saw, I conquered," we have -]
They looked, they clicked, a new e-mail virus [called 'Goner'] conquered, by John Schwartz, NYT, C10.
[There's always another sucker who'll open an attachment from a stranger. Truly human beings are their own worst enemies, not just for repeatedly falling into traps after they've been warned but for wasting their own and others' lives constructing traps in the first place.]
12/03/2001 weekend headline from hell -
- Mortgage delinquency rate hits 10-year high, Bloomberg via NYT, C11.
...The percentage of [mtg] loans with payments overdue at least 30 days rose to 4.87% [in Q3], up more than 1% from a year earlier, the Mortgage Bankers Assoc. of America [MBAA] said. The rate rose from 4.63% in Q2 and is approaching the 5.20% it reached in 1991 during the last recession.
[We're looking for that to grow to a 70-year high.]
The weakening GDP and job losses in the technology and manufacturing sectors have affected homeowners' ability to keep their mortgage payments current, said Douglas Duncan, the MBAA's chief economist....
["It all comes down to jobs."]
The weakening economy and the rise in delinquencies have also contributed to a slip in the median home price in Oct. to $145,3000 from $147,400, the National Assoc. of Realtors said. The median home price has declined 5% since August.
[Ah, there it is again - deflation - a general decrease in prices for lack of buyers. One of the really big features of the Great Depression.]
"There are some red lights from this report," said Dale Westhoff, head of mortgage research at Bear Stearns & Co.
"The housing market is clearly in a period of contraction."... Home prices rose through August, helped by a series of rate cuts by the Fed \and\ the housing market had been one of the bright spots in the economy....
- Japan: Car sales decline, by Ken Belson, NYT, W1.
New-car sales in Japan fell 9.3% in November from the month a year ago, the third consecutive decline. With wages and jobs disappearing, consumers are spending less on big-ticket items, including new homes, electronics and autos.
["It all comes back to jobs." Japan is "down for the count" unless it shares the vanishing work, and the only complete core-system for doing that, including features such as electronic democracy, gradualism and market-orientation, is Timesizing.]
That spells trouble for Japan's economy, half of which is driven by personal spending.
[This is the first time we've seen an estimate of the amount the Japanese economy depends on consumer spending. Compared to Japan's one-half dependence (the rest presumably made up by exports), the U.S. economy is two-thirds dependent on consumer spending.]
- Enron causes 5 major Japanese money market funds to plunge, by Ken Belson, NYT, C9.
...because of their extensive Enron holdings....
[Hey, isn't it supposed to be impossible for money market funds to plunge?]
...In the United States, each share of a money market fund generally carries a face value of $1 and an implicit guarantee that the price will not fall below that amount, preserving the investors' principal;
[Ohoh, is an "implicit guarantee" just "worth the paper it's printed on"?]
there have been few exceptions.
[Like what? - we aren't told. We aren't even told the names of all 5 funds featured in the headline. Bad writing/editing.]
..\..The [Japanese] funds are managed by some of Japan's largest banks and brokerage firms. Shares of UFJ Holdings, a banking giant, plunged nearly 10%, and Nikko Securities, a leading brokerage firm, slid 3.4%.... The stampede [out of such funds] left investors with few places to turn for steady returns and low risk. In Japan, bank deposits pay almost no interest, so money market funds have been popular....
[The market's message is clear. However, narrow the gap between rich and poor in Japan, there is still too much concentrated income and wealth and yet more centrifugation is needed. And the cleanest freshest smoothest way to start that process is to centrifuge employment. The Timesizing program is "just the ticket."]
12/01/2001 headlines from hell -
- Index casts doubt on quick recovery, Reuters via NYT, C7.
The Chicago purchasing managers index fell in Nov. to its lowest level since July, pointing to more weakness in the manufacturing sector and casting doubt on an economic recovery any time soon. The index dropped to 41.1 from 46.2 in October, showing a contracting regional economy for the 14th consecutive month.... An index below 50 signals that the manufacturing economy is contracting....
For earlier collapse stories, click on the desired date -
- Report offers conflicting signals on recovery of the economy - Corporate profits show the steepest 12-month fall since records began, by David Leonhardt, NYT, C4.
The economy shrank significantly more this summer than the government initially estimated, the Commerce Dept. said yesterday.... In Q3, the economy contracted at an annual rate of 1.1% after being adjusted for inflation, its worst showing since 1991, during the country's last recession.... The Commerce Dept. also reported that corporate profits fell 8.3% during the quarter and decreased 22.2% compared with Q3 of last year. That is the largest 12-month fall since the government began keeping statistics in 1947, said Mark Vitner, an economist at Wachovia Securities in Charlotte, NC....
- Joblessness in Japan rises to a record - Rate is up to 5.4%; No relief in sight, by Ken Belson, NYT, C3.
TOKYO...- Japan's unemployment rate set another postwar record in October, rising to 5.4%, as homebuilding contracted and prices continued a two-year downward drift. In a country where layoffs were once rare even in hard times, companies large and small are slashing jobs as the economy slumps and sales and profits erode....
[You go to Japan with trepidation, thinking, omigod, this place has been in the tank ten years, it'll be a mess, but you see only one person lying in the street near a subway station and everything else is cleaner and more impressive than Boston. What gives? An artricle in the current issue of Harvard Magazine has the clue. First the downside -]
In the eye of the storm - For Japan, a "lost decade" - and after, by Susan Pharr, Harvard Magazine Nov-Dec, 37.
...The unemployment rate is officially 5% (twice that if U.S. counting methods were used, many experts say) -
[and they're leaky enough]
- the highest level in almost half a century....
[But then the enormous mitigating circumstances -]
Beyond all this fault finding, and despite dire Western press reports of pending economic collapse, daily life in Japan for the great majority of people is remarkably prosperous and comfortable. In 1999, among the world's nations only Switzerland exceeded Japan in economic output per capita (at $34,500, as compared to $33,900 for the United States)....
[Whoa, USA emphatically not the most productive economy, as so often claimed, by this most significant measure?! - but outdone (at least) by the Swiss and the Japanese? Catastrophe! And Susan Pharr goes on to describe how everyone has health insurance, how Japan leads the world in wireless Internet technology, how 58m of the 126m Japanese use cellphones, how the rich-poor gap is narrower than anywhere but northern Europe, how Japan's 8th-graders consistently lead all the major Western nations in math and science, how the crime rate is still the lowest among all the major nations, how the police response-to-emergency time is under 6 minutes, the arrest rate almost twice USA's, on and on.... They even cut the legal workweek in 1987, but we have not yet discovered from what to what. And they've let Americans take away from them the dead "laurels" for working the longest annual hours in the developed world. This article even says they're reducing air pollution, but after our recent experiences in Tokyo and Kyoto, we could not corroborate that (coughcoughcough).]
- Argentines, fearing a freeze, withdraw savings from banks, by Jennifer Rich, NYT, C1.
...fear[ing] that the government could freeze deposits to shore up the weakened financial system and prevent a devaluation..\.. [from graph -] Argentines have been pulling cash out of banks ever since worries started rising this summer that the government would be forced to stop holding its currency, the peso, at the fixed rate of one to a dollar. Yesterday, there were renewed fears over bank runs....
Earlier Y2000 months accessible via links at bottom of Dec.1-10/2000 page.
Earlier 1999 months accessible via links at bottom of Dec.1-15/99 page.
Earlier months accessible via links at bottom of Dec/98 page.
Questions? Comments? email email@example.com).