DoomwatchTM vs. Timesizing®

Collapse trends - February 16-28, 2002
[Commentary] ©2002 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080

2/27/2002  headlines from hell -
  1. Brazil: Jobless rate rises, by Jennifer Rich, NYT, W1. 6.8% in January compared with 5.6% in December. With retail and construction suffering the most losses, unemployment also rose from 5.7% in January of last year as the economy was hobbled by electricity rationing and financial troubles in Argentina.

  2. [US] Consumer confidence declines on concern about employment, Bloomberg via NYT, C12.
    ...The Conference Board reported that its gauge of sentiment dropped to 94.1 after rising to 97.8 in January. The decline was the first in 3 months.... More than 80% of those surveyed indicated they were concerned about jobs....
    ["It all comes back to jobs." You can't build a stable economy on unstable livelihoods.]

  3. Unlikely friends, enemies - Burton probe riles Bush, wins praise from Democrats, by Wayne Washington, BG, A3.
    ...Mark Corallo, spokesman for the [US House] Government Reform Committee, said fairness and jujstice are [chairman Dan] Burton's main interests. "Contrary to popular belief, the chairman has always believed you have to look at the issues objectively," Corallo said. Democrats "know he's still a conservative Republican, but there are instances where everybody can come together," he said.
    Well, not everybody.
    The Justice Dept. has refused to comply with a Committee subpoena for FBI records in the case \of\ how the false testimony of a murderous FBI informant sent four [innocent] men to prison in 1967 for slaying Edward "Teddy" Deagan in Chelsea MA.... pResident Bush has issued an order contending that executive privilege allows his administration to keep the documents secret....
    [Ah, the rampant abuse of "executive privilege." Constant corroder of the Grand Old Party. Those who have nothing to hide never mention it.]

2/24-25/2002  headlines from hell -
  1. 2/24  Laos - Polls open today for set piece vote, Reuters via Boston Globe, A7.
    [Hey, just like ours federally for president in Y2K or statewide in Massachusetts for clean elections - so far.]

  2. 2/24  Cloudy horizon - Analysts are predicting another flat year for telecom industry in '02, by Peter Howe, Boston Globe, C1, C6.
    The same hard lesson so many college students learn each year - the better the party, the longer the hangover - is getting relentlessly pounded home to the US telecommunications industry. After riding hand-in-hand with Internet and dot-com mania to stunning peaks in the late 1990s, the telecom sector has been plunged into a shakeout so hard, so long lasting, and with so little hope of a rebound anytime soon, that it is common to hear industry officials describe it as "nuclear winter."
    Last year, more than 300,000 American workers connected to telecom lost their jobs.... Meanwhile after a rash of failures in 2000, bankruptcies big and small have continued this year, from Global Crossing's $12B meltdown to this month's Chapter 11 filing by Randolph MA-based Network Plus....
    [In the above sentence, if it really means 2000, "continued" should be "resumed." If it really means "continued," 2000 should be 2001.]

  3. [lucidity on Enron from Flori-duh -]
    2/25  I am perplexed, letter to editor by Pamela Muller of St. Petersburg FL, Time Mag, 13.
    ...that the Enron situation is considered a scandal (The Enron Spillover, Feb. 4). It seems to me this is the epitome of Republican philosophy and policy: remove resources from the workers bees of America as quickly and efficiently as possible and concentrate them in the assets of the wealthy. The Enron collapse just continues what deficit spending and tax breaks for the wealthy have done to widen the income gap since the 1980s.
    [But we'd have less of a problem if it was just a Republican thing. But it isn't. Concentrating assets in the top brackets has become the philosophy and policy of government in general since the Democrats abandoned their "worker bee" base. And the more asset concentration, the less circulation and growth, and the more inefficiency and recession. Result? Constipated capitalism, with deeper recessions and shallower recoveries. But since media ownership has also become concentrated in the top brackets, each passing "recovery," though weaker and hollower, is trumpeted just as loudly as its predecessor. We start at 100 and go down 10% to 90. We "recover" 10% (of 90) only back up to 99. We drop 10% to 89.1. We "recover" 10% only to 98.01. And the "cycle" goes on and on, forming an unrecognized down-spiral that it touted by the "two-guy" media as progress. The stock market offers a less and less reliable warning system because so much money is concentrated at the top, there is literally nowhere else to put it. The only signals are coming from unsold goods and unused productive capacity, but the economy is moving from manufacturing to services where it is easier to hide excess capacity, as Enron did for years - too few actual customers so Enron just borrowed money and listed its borrowings as "income." And a lot of our unused productive capacity is locked up in human capital, literally, now behind bars in our bloated prison-industrial complex, which is today an important supplement to our military-industrial one. And an important entry on the plus side of our GDP. Just like Enron - which recorded debits as assets. And pushed the undeniable debits off their accounts, just as American economists push prisons and disability (real and imagined), homelessness and forced early-retirement and suicide out of their field of vision. Why such a huge prison population? Because we've made it so much easier for so many American's to make a dishonest living than an honest one by, after two-thirds of American history spent reducing it, freezing our workweek at the pre-computerization level of 40 hours a week. Enron's accounting, and the same thing being done by hundreds of American corporations today, are the flatulations, emitted by our current Constipated Capitalism, that inflated the technology bubble of the last 10 years, a bubble that is still being billed by our concentrated media ownership as "the longest bull market in recorded history" implying solid progress and prosperity. The bubble develops a self-propping capacity that allows it to get much much bigger before some conjunction of flaws explodes it. And then the stench and devastation is much worse than otherwise, but it gets minimally reported so who cares - off we go again.
    [Here's a Californian who understands the penetration of the Enron problem better than the Floridian above -]
    Enron is not an aberration, letter to editor by Craig Kaiser of Arroyo Grande CA, Time Mag, 13.
    ...but the tip of a special-interest iceberg endangering Americans' future economic [and every other kind of - ed.] security.
    [And let's just make the equation between "special interests" and "concentrated income and wealth" right now.]
    ...There is a growing corrupt...collaboration between government and business in Washington. It involves many Republicans and Democrats in the Legislative and Executive branches [and after the Supreme Court's election takeover in the fall of 2000, the Judicial branch too - ed.] who provide regulatory protection to U.S. corporations, unions and associations for campaign money. It's time to dissolve this corrupt...partnership.
    [But this reader offers no solution except to hint, through some of his language that we've omitted, at some kind of religious or socialist solution, neither of which have proven particularly helpful in the past. Or maybe we should say, they've both created at least as many problems as they solved, since they both operate at a surface (or symptomatic or superficial) level that falls right into Chesterton's pan-utopian trap. The deep-structure solution is wealth sharing or spreading but you can't do that before income spreading or lack of the latter will undermine and overwhelm it. But you can't do income spreading before work spreading or lack of the latter will generate vulnerable dependency and unsustainable parasitism. And you can't do work spreading apart from skill spreading (training) or lack of the latter will undermine and nullify the utility of work. Basically you need a tight 5-phase purgative like the Timesizing program to get real progress. Guess that would make Timesizing the "Exlax" of constipated capitalism and the "Beano" of econobubble flatulations.]

  4. 2/24  US cites crisis in Venezuela - Top officials see growing instability, by Peter Slevin, Washington Post via Boston Globe, A9.
    [Well, folks, the "war" on terrorism is sputtering a little, and may not have the staying and growing power needed to propel pResident Bushkins to that level of nobility and worship required for re-election, sooo -]
    As protests grow [whose? stay tuned] against Pres. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, the Bush administration is increasingly worried that Chavez is facing a poltiical crisis that could destabilize a major supplier of oil [ah, the key at last] to the United States and spill into neighboring countries [again the dread domino effect], most notably Colombia.
    [Hey the last Colombian flutterup didn't gain traction. Maybe they can fan this one into a world-class war without involving too much of continental US. Oil involve&inveiglement makes it possible to get at least to Gulf War level. What else is bugging them here? Well he's got the same last name as that pinko, Cesar Chavez, and Hugo has departed from their cosmetic-democracy formula into (oh horrors!) populism, and maybe even (armageddon!) leftism -]
    The White House long tolerated Chavez's maverick populism and his tendency to tweak the United States...
    [Seems we all believe in freedom of speech except the White House. Maybe this is what comes of (to paraphrase Wiley's Non Sequitur) our academics teaching freedom of speech for everywhere but academe.]
    For example, he embraced Cuban Pres. Fidel Castro and opposed US anti-narcotics aid to Colombia.
    [Yeah our clandestine operatives don't want anyone cuttin' in on their global drug concession - too lucrative. Ah, it all comes back to jobs.]
    ...CIA Director George Tenet told the Senate Select Intelligence Committee that he was particularly concerned about events in Venezuela and predicted that the "crisis atmosphere is likely to worsen."
    [And his boys are undoubtedly doin' all they can to made that prediction come true. They've even got slightly more sensible Colin Powell into the act -]
    ..."We've had our ambassador go in on a couple of occasions, and [Chavez] becomes quite defensive," Powell said.
    [Fellow Americans, this foreigner is DEFENSIVE with our ambassador! We've GOT to DO something! Jimmy Tingle (US political satirist) would love this.]
    He added that US diplomats have asked Latin American allies to press Chavez to aid the war on terrorism and take stronger economic steps.
    [Boy, they sure go to a lot of trouble to get everyone in lockstep behind the disintegrating American Way, now that the American Dream for most Americans has become suing the deep pocket or hitting Megabucks, and the American retirement plan, especially post Enron and Polaroid, has become dying in harness or dialling 800-KEVORKIAN. Maybe Venezuela has a few priorities of its own that come before "the richest country in the world's" current focus, not to mention that country's constipated-capitalism-defined "stronger economic steps."]
    ..\..But [Chavez's] criticism of the US war against terrorism [only Americans are allowed to do that and none too loudly] and his sharp-tongued response to political opponents [American pols are such models of mild response to opponents] has changed the dynamic....
    [Yeah hey, this changed dynamic has introed a whole New Paradigm! He's escalated to advanced tweaking tendencies. Maybe we should sneak in and assassinate the SOB right now, just like we did to Allende. Or include him in the drug take and later abandon and then prosecute him like we did to Noriega. Can't remember what we did to who in Grenada - below the radar. But we don't want to let this fizzle out too fast. Gotta fan it into a regular Vietnam. Maybe we could start by sprinkling it with French dressing à la IndoChina. The French seem able to make friction last longer. Hey, they do it even at home. They're out on the streets all the time, even if they're not unionized. And a Venezuela swarming with US citizens in uniform, happily out of the US job market, would make it so much easier to fly down and mess with Argentina, currently also offering the "crisis" opening but in economic terms.]
    Chavez...crafted an anti-American image while retaining the U.S. as Venezuela's biggest oil customer....
    [So why don't we just buy it elsewhere? To paraphrase Granny Hyde, "Let's not have a war but say we did." We could get the jobs and the recovery Bush needs for re-election the intelligent way for a change - by sharing the vanishing work instead of continued business downsizing and government upsizing via Pentagon and prison. Check out this reader's take -]
    2/25  Bush's back of the hand to the needy, letter to editor by Joseph Towle of East Walpole MA, BG, A14.
    James Carroll shines in his commentary "Bush's radical shift in military policy" (op ed, Feb. 19). But is anyone listening?
    The fact that the nearly $400 billion Bush is asking in his defense budget dwarfs anything the nation has seen before should be enough to cause citizens to be wary.
    [Hey, it worked for Reagan and FDR - and Bush Sr. and JFK - and Wilson and Lincoln....]
    Then to reflect that at the same is being given away in tax breaks, that is astounding.
    Where is the money coming from? Watch out, you homeless, foodless, jobless, old, young, mentally and physically weak, and those in school; it's time to listen up.
    [Naaa. With luck, Bush will just package you up in a nice uniform and ship you over to Afghanistan or Iraq or down to Venezuela to "help" the locals. In fact, George Bernard Shaw used to recommend drafting people starting with the oldest. He loved visualizing a battalion of octogenarians limping along waving their canes and crutches & singing "It's a long way to Tipperary." But then GBS was a naughty pinko so we shouldn't credit a word he said. And that goes for "My Fair Lady" née Pygmalion.]

2/23/2002  headlines from hell -
  1. Taiwan: Economy slumps, Bloomberg via NYT, B2.
    Taiwan's economy shrank in the 4th quarter, capping the steepest annual slump on record, as tumbling electronics exports slashed companies' profits and accelerated their flight to China, where costs are lower. GDP fell 1.9% in Q4 from a year earlier, the 3rd consecutive decline.... For all of 2001, Taiwan's economy [also] shrank 1.9%, the first full-year decline since records were first kept a half-century ago.

  2. France: Economy shrinks, Reuters via NYT, B2.
    The French economy contracted in Q4 for the first time in 5 years, succumbing to a global slowdown just months before a general election.
    [Is this the last economy to go down or what? France has been the most recession-proof economy in the world because they reduced the workweek (to 35 hours per person) and spread the shrinking employment across more potential consumers. Activate the spending power currently cooped up in the top brackets and get more markets. That's France's strategy and it's worked beautifully, even though they have the most arbitrary and rigid form of timesizing there is = jerking down to another permanent level, and no flexible continuing adjustment of the workweek against unemployment which would have made even this late downturn impossible, especially if coupled with overtime-targeted training and hiring instead of France's nationally earmarked 1.5% of payroll to training or else it's taxed. The flexible form of that it is a 100% tax on overtime advantage or profits, with a 100% exemption for OT-targeted training&hiring. But compared to Taiwan's 1.9% header above , look at what we're calling a downer for the frogs -]
    GDP shrank 0.1% in Q4 from Q3...with growth for the full year falling to 2% from 3.6% in 2000.
    [0.1%? That's still within the margin of error! And look how Germany's doing = 2½ times as bad -]
    The weak figures combined with a drop in German output of around 0.25% in Q4....

  3. The religious right - Islam is violent in nature, Pat Robertson says - Remarks that some call a parallel to anti-Semitism, AP via NYT, A8.
    [Oh like Christianity isn't violent in nature? What about the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Witch Hunts? For that matter, what about when Big J Himself put the Pharisees "over the top" by making that whip out of cords, freaking out, and driving the money changers and dove sellers etc. out of the Temple?]

  4. The allies - Europe seethes as the U.S. flies solo in world affairs, by Steven Erlanger, NYT, A8.
    [We'd call that a brand of isolationism, actually. Baby Bush is sooo ignorant of history and world affairs that he really has no choice. Witness his recent renunciation of the Geneva Conventions and his reversal after the boys in the backroom realized he needed a quick course in monosyllables - "Georgey, we do it to dem, dey do it to us!" See yesterday's "Captives - Behind-the-scenes clash led Bush to reverse himself on applying Geneva Conventions - The pResident was told that ignoring the treaties could put US troops at risk" right below.]

2/22/2002  headlines from hell -
  1. Captives - Behind-the-scenes clash led Bush to reverse himself on applying Geneva Conventions - The pResident was told that ignoring the treaties could put US troops at risk, by Shanker & Seelye, NYT, A12.
    [Nooo kidding! Gee, duh. Where did the GOP get this guy? Spelling of "president" thanks to/via Scott Thibodo, Calif.]

  2. For months, Australia has had an Enron of its own, by Becky Gaylord, NYT, W1.
    ...Australians may be forgiven for finding the Enron debacle painfully familiar, because the same story line unfolded here months earlier in the collapse of the country's 2nd-largest insurer, the HIH Group, with a negative net worth estimated at $ of the biggest failures in Australian history..\..
    [See, Aussie has everything. Move there and you needed feel left out at all. Help them investigate and you don't have to sit on a seamy congressional committee - you get to sit on a toff "royal commission"! And guess who HIH's accountant was -]
    Its books, blessed by an Arthur Andersen audit, turned out to be Swiss cheese....

  3. [and Andersen and their ilk are having a predictable effect -]
    Looking askance at U.S. auditors - The Big 5 firms are encountering credibility problems abroad, by Suzanne Kapner, NYT, W1.
    [So who are the Big Five besides slimeball Arthur Andersen?

  4. [maybe if the gnomes keep chanting, it'll come true?]
    Officials say recession has most likely ended, pointer digest (to A19), NYT, C1.
    ["Gnomes" here being...]
    Economists and government officials....
    [Or is it even more specific than that? -]
    White House officials...credited the tax cut pResident Bush signed into law last year for minimizing the depth and duration of the downturn.
    [But doubts creep into the actual article head and subhead -]
    End of recession is seen, but strength of recovery is unclear - The administration, urging more tax cuts, says the economy still has problems, by Richard Stevenson, NYT, A19.
    [Yeah, like the concentration of spending power in the hands of those already so loaded they've no need to spend it. Let's give them even more tax relief so things can get "worser faster" and we can wake up and maybe share the vanishing work with the kids -]
    Not wanted: '02 graduates seeking jobs, by Lynnley Browning, NYT, C1.
    [Krugman is with us -]
    The W  scenario - Reasons for economic skepticism, op ed by Paul Krugman, NYT, A27.
    First comes the victory parade. Later we'll find out if we won.
    Celebrating victory well in advance seems to be in style lately. And that includes the economic front.
    Both the administration and many business leaders have taken a modest improvement in economic indicators as proof that the economy is poised for full recovery. They could be right - but don't count on it....
    [The news of 1929-30 was chock full of backings&forthings, so much so that some of the wealthy never knew there was a Depression. Some "held that thought" right through to the War. Here's a likely candidate right on the opposite page -]
    Economic stimulus: A Republican view, letter to editor by House Speaker J. Dennis ["Has Dirt, Will Travel"] Hastert, NYT, A26.
    Re "Workers held hostage" (column, Feb. 19): [See our comments below on 2/19.]
    Paul Krugman trots out familiar class-war arguments about the bipartisan legislation that passed the House last week. This is hardly a giveaway to the rich, as he would have us believe....
    [As Tom Tomorrow puts it in a cartoon, say one little word of criticism of the wonderful infallible Republicans and it's labeled "class warfare."]

  5. ["let's make up our minds" dept. -]
    Worries about pensions show a rise - Hostility to business has not increased, by Adam Clymer, NYT, C6.
    [Well, has it or hasn't it? Maybe not about pensions, except at Enron & Polaroid &..., but how about -]
    Discrimination cases against employers up, AP via BG, C3.
    [And how come Tyco is getting so defensive? -]
    CEO defends Tyco plan, accounting - Tyco chief Dennis Kozlowski: "We have nothing to hide", by Healy & Krasner, BG, C1.
    [Yes, folks, the American Dream has become hitting the lottery or suing the Deep Pocket. And the American pension (ours anyway) has become dying in harness or dialling 800-KEVORKIAN. But here's an article with a glimmer of hope in the subhead (the main head is too bad for the goodnews page) -]
    Enron's board quickly ratified far-reaching management moves - An outside expert [Jeff Christian] suggests the need for 'curmudgeons', by Reed Abelson, NYT, C6.
    [That's us, boy. Curmudgeons!]

  6. [moving into witchhunt territory? -]
    Classics chairman at SUNY-Albany steps down amid plagiarism charges, by Karen Arenson, NYT, A24.
    ...Louis Roberts..\..plagiarized translations of Latin texts....
    [Ah, if we're talking simple accurate translations, isn't there going to be a LOT of overlap?! Taking the time to checksee if anybody else has used the same words as you, let alone going to the trouble of artificially paraphrasing everything so you don't have to use multiple distracting quotes does seem a bit much in the translation game. Of course, if it's artsy-fartsy freely translated poesy etc., all bets are off.]

2/21/2002  headlines from hell -
  1. [problems with executives' grab&run]
    Argentina: Travel ban for bankers, Reuters via NYT, W1.
    ...while the judge investigates accusations of illegal capital flight....
    $90m tussle has Europe abuzz - ABB tries to rescind payouts to executives, by Eliz. Olson, NYT, W1.
    ...Swiss-Swedish electrical giant [formerly Asea Brown Bovery?]...
    Shares of Computer Assocs. decline 17%, Bloomberg via NYT, C4.
    ...Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have opened a preliminary inquiry into whether Computer Assocs. deliberately overstated its profits to inflate its stock price and enrich its senior executives....
    [Compare Enron, Tyco, Global Crossing, etc. etc.]

  2. Those the bull market left behind, pointer digest (to C2), NYT, C1.
    ...But two-thirds of American households have not increased their retirement wealth since 1983 or have experienced a drop in the value of their pensions....

  3. Prices increase at 0.2% pace for consumers, AP via NYT, C12. January...after dipping 0.1% in December.... [In other words, due to the bias in our statistics, deflation - the hallmark of the Depression.]

  4. [more stupidity from our pResident -]
    Chewing up a fragile land - Bush's energy policy on the ground in Utah, op ed by Terry Williams, NYT, A27.
    CASTLE VALLEY, Utah - For many Americans, the Bush administration energy plan, developed by VP Dick Cheney with the help of a task force whose deliberations he will not reveal, is an abstraction at best, and at worst a secret. Here in the redrock desert of southern Utah, it is literally an earth-shaking reality. Oil and gas exploration is going on in the form of seismic tests - conducted with what are called thumper trucks - in sensitive wildlands adjacent to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks....
    [And Natural Bridges, Bryce, and Goblins are around there too, all wonders of subtle and beautiful rock and earth formations - which these idiots are threatening. If Utah wants to continue its tourist income, it better get on the stick and fight this unnecessary devastation. You tourists, if you haven't seen these wonders, it may already be too late -]
    ...At the designated stops, each truck in the convoy lowered a steel plate onto the desert...applied some 64,000 pounds of pressure against the sand and then sent a jolt of seismic waves below to record density. The ground went into a seizure. Sand flew and smoke obscured the horizon where Skyline Arch and Sand Dune Arch - the Windows section of Arches National Park - stand. [Or used to stand.] We were only four miles from Delicate Arch...where a few weeks ago a Ute elder uttered prayers and passed the Winter Olympics torch to his grand-daughter.... When the steel plate lifted, the once supple red sand had turned to concrete.
    The trucks moved scraping sandstone with the chains around their tires, heading straight for a spring where 100-year-old cottonwood trees provided a rare canopy of shade alongside a creek. We ran ahead, not believing the trucks would force a road into this fragile desert oasis, but they did, gunning the gas, breaking down stands of squawbush and willows and ripping right on through the cottonwood shoots.... This was our country's new [secretly formulated] energy plan, translated into action....
    A manager from the Bureau of Land Management suddenly appeared...but...he had come to monitor us - the public, walking on public lands. The Bureau had received a call, he told us, saying that we might be harassing the operation, putting the project [of privately owned Eclipse Exploration of Denver] at risk....
    [Unfortunately this Bush privatization and ruination of our national parks is not limited to mercenary Utah. A photo on the back page of a Chinese-American newspaper (front page for English-language readers) is headlined "Big Cypress National Preserve," 1/21/2002 *Merit Times, A(12) and the caption reads, "A great egret stands on top of a Big Cypress National Preserve. The National Park Service gave the initial approval to detonate dynamite in 14,700 holes and drilling a 11,800-foot exploratory well in the search for oil in the preserve."]

  5. [and yet more -]
    Hollywood going to Afghanistan, pointer summary (to A13), NYT, A2.
    The Pentagon is giving 2 Hollywood producers access to troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere for a 13-part TV reality series.
02/20/2002  headlines from hell -
  1. Snowmobilers gain against plan for park ban, by Katherine Seelye, NYT, A14.
    [Two former "national" parks, Yellowstone and Grand Teton, take another giant step toward becoming defoliated defaunaed trackways for special-interest motorized-speed hobbyists and the tiny industries that cater to them.]

  2. Appellate court eases limitations for media giants - Rejects longtime rules - A significant relaxation of TV ownership restrictions in cable and broadcast, by Stephen Labaton, NYT, front page.
    [The former "Land of the Free" takes another giant step toward Pravda and Izvestia.]

2/19/2002  headlines from hell -
  1. Rethinking rail travel, editorial, NYT, A22.
    The nation's highway system does not make a profit. Nor does the commercial aviation system. Nor does passenger rail.
    [None of these will make a profit and really be privatizable until we get more aggressive about defining appropriate "share per person" in a few fundamental dimensions starting with employment, income, wealth, and stop wasting so many million units of our consumer base to poverty, welfare, disability, prison, forced retirement, and suicide. When the center is kept unbalanced, an economy has to run around ineffectually trying to balance everywhere else.]
    However, only one of these three vital links in America's transportation network, the railroad, is being asked to break even.
    Congress must abandon its fantasy that Amtrak can be self-sufficient. Only then can it engage in a [relevant] debate about the kind of passenger rail system the country needs, and how to pay for it....
    [And right now, with the wealthy channelling the costs away from themselves, the whole economy is just slowly sinking along with the weakening of the consumer base.]

  2. Workers held hostage - The unemployed as political pawns, op ed by Paul Krugman, NYT, A23.
    ...Last week's major political event, though it went largely unnoticed by the public...
    [As Einstein said, the most important things are inconspicuous.]
    ...was also a hostage drama: House Republicans blocked vital aid to the nation's most vulnerable workers, and have refused to release it unless they secure passage of a dying stimulus plan. The plan, you won't be surprised to learn, consists almost entirely of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy....
    Here's how the blackmail scheme works. US unemployment insurance, unlike benefits in many other advanced countries, has a sharp cutoff: 26 weeks and you're out. This cutoff...has helped prevent the emergence of a European-style class of permanently unemployed. But it's a very harsh rule to impose during recessions, when new jobs are simply not available.
    And that's the current situation. Last week 80,000 workers reached the end of their benefits [and presumably stopped being counted in our rose-colored "unemployment rate" - ed.]; the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that 2,000,000 workers will have exhausted their insurance [benefits] by June.
    [Heavens, that's the same as the number of Americans we're paying $30,000 each to keep in prison.]
    ...The rule is relaxed in hard times. When recession strikes, Congress invariably acts to extend unemployment benefits. During last fall's [economic] stimulus debate, everyone favored a 13-week extension.... [Now] the House leadership refuse[s] to allow a clean vote.... Instead...they won't allow a vote on benefits extension except as part of a bill that mainly consists of tax cuts for corporations and families in upper tax brackets....
    [which is exactly why we're in a recession in the first place - too much concentration of spending power among those who have sooo much they can only spend a fraction of it. Then it's "the more concentration, the less circulation" and the economy has to go lie down. More for the wealthy? God Almighty, the top one percent already own as much as the "bottom" NINETY-FIVE percent! It's a miracle that we're not all starving yet.]
    ...pretty much identical to the failed stimulus bills of the fall. And they rammed that bill through last Thursday.
    [Thus sinking the economy even deeper into its straw mattress, and reminding us how Will Roger characterized Republican presidents as saying, "I'm lookin' the other way, boys - c'mon in an' grab all you can!"]
    ...But isn't the House leadership's behavior just politics as usual? No...politics as usual is trying to attach goodies for yourself to bills that provide goodies to other people. Everyone does that. But extending unemployment insurance in a recession is so standard - and refusing to do so is so cruel...
    [An economist like Krugman should lay off the bleeding heart stuff and get talking about how this is so recession deepening and prolonging, because it cuts consumer spending even further. So it's not just cruel, stupidly self-destructive, since it guarantees the recession will be deeper and longer than otherwise, and pull down the stock values of the Republican leadership and their wealthy financial supporters even further. Let's get with, Paul Krugman and you other so-called economists. We're sick of your stopping at the bleeding heart arguments that the right just loves to sneer and laugh at. They're into sadism. The usual Ramboid, rough-tough posturing by overweight Viagra-dependent rich old white men. But when what they're doing is revealed as masochism and slow suicide and laughable stupidity, they may just wake the hell up and quit dragging us all down. So - ]
    ...refusing to do so is so [kamekazi] - that the House action takes the tax cut crusade to a whole new level of fanaticism.
    [Much of the rest of the world views America as a nation of religious fanatics, now that one of our only two major national political parties has been co-opted by the religious right. Bush's refusal to join in so many global initiatives and his fanatical rhetoric about the "axis of evil" have put the seal on it. So maybe we shouldn't be surprised that the fanaticism we've allowed to grow like cancer in our politics has evoked answering fanaticism from other parts of the world, like the Middle East. We constantly pay lip service to The Family and Family Values, but we've doubled the family workweek in the last 30 years by sucking housewives and mothers into the job market to make up for the failure of real wages to keep up with inflation, and the result is, Columbine where the parents didn't even know there were pipebombs in their kids' bedrooms, Taliban-American John Lindt whose family lost track of him, and two kids in New Hampshire that spent at least 6 months planning and watching houses with the "goal" of committing a robbery-murder. Now true, our basic social unit will change in the future from the reproductive couple to the productive single, and from the procreative pair to the creative individual, but our society is not going to be here in the future if we keep raising the effective workweek, neglecting our kids, and herding into prison any who can't understand how "crime" is different from the way our politicians and CEOs carry on every day. Enron is just the tip of the iceberg. And with 40 million Americans (and rising) without health insurance and the landscape littered with bankrupt hospitals and old-age homes, petty crime is one of the few routes left to obtain health care, even if the prisons do tend to hire "deviant doctors."]
    Put it this way: At first, ordinary workers were told that they would benefit directly from lower taxes.... Great effort was devoted to obscuring the simple truth that last year's tax cut offered crumbs for ordinary families, but huge breaks for the wealthy.
    Then ordinary workers were told that they should support bills like the two House stimulus plans from the fall - bills that offered retroactive tax cuts to corporations, big tax breaks to families with high incomes, and nothing at all to two-thirds of the population - because those bills would create jobs.
    [The whole power of such bills, which are legion throughout the state and municipal legislatures of this land as well as at the federal level, is the desperation for jobs. And if we smartened up and turned our back on creating jobs, and quit straining and just divvied up the work on hand, all that would go away. Lump of labor shmaybor. We're concerned about the immediate term when people are getting laid off and when the "lump" of employment, far from being fixed, is actually shrinking. We need a more flexible system that accordions the workweek in and out instead of the workforce - because messing with the workforce always carries with an almost one-to-one correspondence with the consumer base. And once you cut your consumer base, you're into the death spiral cuz the next step is to cut production, and then cut workforce-consumerbase, and then cut production, and then cut workforce-consumerbase. Why aren't economists talking about this? Is anybody there?]
    ...Now tax-cut advocates have move from promises [of job creation] to threats.
    [Maybe they were forced to by the failure of tax cuts to create jobs?!]
    Support tax cuts for the elite, the House leadership says, or we'll cut off your unemployment benefits.
    So what's next? Support tax cuts or we'll break your legs?
    [Krugman here warns of a tide of gangsterization in American politics, a just nemesis perhaps for the way we (or at least Jeff Sachs et al.) gangsterized the Russian economy with the shock "therapy" of conversion to "free" markets in just two weeks. Gangster-like is apparently the way the oh-so-righteous Taliban behaved in many instances (recall our own American KuKluxKlan), and as our own leadership takes on more righteous fanatical aspects, we should not be surprised by their self-righteous cruelty and self-brutalization. Religious people often act very certain. How else did the scores of priests throughout Massachusetts (and other states???) continue abusing children for so many decades? And Jacob Bronowsky's second-last chapter in his "Ascent of Man" warns of such certainty (Hitler had it, Bush Jr. has it), as does the whole of John Kenneth Galbraith's book, "The Age of Uncertainty." Religious people often act very certain, and as our old Hebrew professor, Bill Staples (William Ewart Staples, RIP), used to say at the University of Toronto's Victoria College in the early 1960s, "Laddies, there have been more heinous crimes committed in the name of religion than any other social institution."
    Staples also used to regale us with tales of the Babylonian fertility cults - men would come to the temple prostitutes to make their offerings - and Staples would wind up with, "Laddies, religion was FUN in those days. It isn't any more."
    Then when he was going through the second chapter of Genesis where God put the tree of KNOWING good and evil right in the MIDDLE of the garden (b-MOAD ha-gan) and said to man, "DON'T TOUCH," there was, "What did he EXPECT man to do?! He expected him to TOUCH of course.... The purpose of creation is destruction.... They could make these cars to last forever, but they don't.... The greatest achievement of western civilization is built-in obsolescence.... Laddies, evil is interesting. Good is boring." Compare the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting (ie: evil/complicated) times." Compare also the makework aspect = the need to force people to buy a new car every year or two to maintain the jobs of autoworkers under a non-worksharing economic design where the workweek of a particular level of technology (1940's 40-hour level) is frozen indefinitely despite higher and higher levels of technology ever after. Compare the Ford-Reuther Paradox where Henry Ford says, "Let's see you unionize these robots," and Walter Reuther retorts, "Let's see you sell them cars."
    We used to collect Staples' sayings in the margins of our class notes in the Hebrew and Near Eastern History classes that he taught and we called them Staple-isms (Staplisms?). The main other student who enjoyed these things I remember was Rudy Heydeloff. Rudy was a little older, medium-short and stalky and had a big black moustache. Staples was convinced we all came from sheltered Christian homes (he was mostly right) and it was his mission to shake us up. Those of us with a little age (like Rudy) or wisdom (like moi, or so I fancied) came to appreciate and even enjoy Staples' efforts in our regard, his "tough love." And even applaud them in their shocking effects on our more sheltered brethren (there was only one girl in the class, the studious bespectacled sexless Helen). (When did Mary Jane Allen appear? only in theological college (Emmanuel)? She who became the love of Bill Hudgins' early life and so appreciated the stories of Emmanuel Tead the religious huckster. Bill Hudgins who was the precocious curmudgeon (Hudgin' the Curmudgeon) who wrote the archly amusing Shakesbeat Latweed column in the Victoria College student newspaper, and who commented, once he hooked up with Mary Jane, that he no longer had to drill holes in his mattress. This from an upper-year theological student was quite liberated - and liberating!)
    Staples himself went quite carefully through the part where God creates the animals one by one, presumably molding them out of dirt like Adam, and brings them to the man, the ADAM (or groun, compared to adamah, or ground), to try on, like a garment, but there was not one that was "according to the front of him" (k-negdoh) = none of them fit the contours of Adam's standing, front, whole-body profile - with erection. So God performed a special order - He surgically extracted one of Adam's ribs (did the Hebrews really mean "lungs" here? cuz I believe there actually is one less lunglobe on the left to make room for the heart) and molded it into Eve (Hiwwa = Serpentina?) and by golly, when God brought her to Adam and he tried her on, she fit! She was indeed "according to the front of him." ]

2/17/2002  weekend headlines from hell -
  1. Enron had more than one way to disguise rapid rise in debt - Billions were listed as trades instead of loans, by Daniel Altman, NYT, front page.
    [That's in addition to listing borrowed $$ as "assets."]

  2. Proposed work hours for resident [physician]s decried, by Diane Lewis, Boston Globe, E2.
    A Chicago organization responsible for accrediting medical residency programs across the country is recommending that student doctors work 35-hour "on-call" shifts every other night and put in a 125-hour work week once a month.
    [Unbelievable! And while we're at it, why don't we just give people the option of getting shot by the NRA before they go into the hospital to get treated by these zombies? And exempt med students from the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Emancipation Proclamation?!]
    The proposed hours were released last week by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education....
    ...Resident physicians now work, on average, 95 hours per week at US hospitals..\..
    [What a stinking sick profession. And we've put them in charge of our health? Maybe the people without health insurance are far better off in this land of slow suicide!]
    The Council described its recommendations as reasonable for resident doctors in a learning environment...
    [Its recommendations aren't even reasonable for field slaves.]
    ...noting that those who feel too fatigued to serve patients while on-call are probably working extra hours during their free time to boost their incomes..\..
    [Ha. What "free time"? This bunch of sickos has drifted way waaay out of line. This whole piece of crap is calculated to create an intense pay-inflating scarcity of physicians in America. Still think America has the leads the world in living standards (if you were ever that gullible)?]
    The proposed hours...spark[ed] a protest among members of the American Medical Student Assoc. in Washington, DC.... The medical students instead want on-call shifts limited to every 3rd night, with a minimum of 10 hours between shifts and at least one day off every week. The group, which has 30,000 members, is also demanding that on-call shifts not exceed 24 consecutive hours. They also want the total number of hours worked in any week not to exceed 80.
    [Phew. Welcome to the 1840 level of the workweek in America.]
    ...Legislation filed last spring by US Rep. John Conyers (D, Mich) would limit the number of weekly hours to...80. Under the bill, programs that violated the...cap could be fined up to $100,000. The bill has not yet reached the floor of the House...for a vote..\..
    "The [proposed] standards [take into consideration] the demands of safe and effective patient care," the Council said in a separate statement....
    Said Dr. Ruth Potee, national president of the 11,000k-member Committee of Interns & Residents and a 3rd-year family practice resident at Boston Medical Center, "The consequences of working excessive hours are serious, both to our patients and to ourselves. Auto accidents, complications of pregnancy, depression - all disproportionately impact resident physicians working long hours....
    Critics argue that a federal regulation...limiting the work hours of the nation's medical residents would mean much higher costs for US hospitals.
    [Did abolishing slavery mean much higher costs for cotton clothing? No.]
    They maintain that hospitals would have to hire more doctors to compensate for a significant drop in resident work hours -
    [That's exactly what they should be doing. We do have a huge need for well-paying jobs in this recession.]
    - a task that might be nearly impossible because older doctors are retiring and there are not enough medical school graduates to take their places.
    [Well, maybe it's time we blasted open the med-school bottleneck then, huh? Drop the "med school as torture" crap subtly designed to keep people out of the profession and streamline the whole training process. It ain't rocket science - and even rocket-science training can be hugely streamlined.]

2/16/2002  headlines from hell -
  1. Norway: Whalers allowed a bigger catch, by Walter Gibbs, NYT, A8.
    [Norway's nice in all other respects, but on this one it sucks.]

  2. In rural China, mental hospitals await some who rock the boat, by Elisabeth Rosenthal, NYT, front page.
    [In other words, if you speak out, you get treated like you're "mental" and tossed in the asylum. Well our next headline highlights people who are being treated as sane but are seeking asylum and starting to act "mental" as a way of speaking out -]

  3. Asylum seekers set fires at detention centers in Britain, by Alan Cowell, NYT, A8.
    [Put on the kid gloves and gently, but very very quickly, fly them back to their place of origin and drop the dumb "cruel kindness" of everlasting investigation and detention. If they were really interested in asylum because their lives (and not just their wallets) were at risk in their home lands, they'd be so grateful for the safe "detention centers" that they wouldn't jeopardize their welcome with acts of arson. No country has any obligation to harbor criminals and/or gold diggers.]

  4. Bush has much to finesse in trip to Japan and Korea, by Howard French, NYT, A4.
    [Who, Mr. "Evil Axis"? - No kidding!]

  5. Global economy taking toll on [US] small towns, by Peter Kilborn, NYT, front page.
    [Here's what's underneath the "signs of recovery" that our stock cheerleaders, oops, analysts, are always yapping about -]
    BRADY, Tex. - All along the nation's back roads, hundreds of towns like this one are teetering in the recession, and some worry that they may never recover - [Only One Way Out = share the vanishing work. Timesize, don't downsize.]

  6. Looking for help - Study finds big need for extended jobless benefits, by Diane Lewis, BG, E2.
    More laid-off Americans will exhaust their unemployment benefits in the first 6 months of 2002 than in any other year since the recession of the early 1990s unless Congress extends the benefits....according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, DC..\..
    [And meanwhile -]
    Passage of a 13-week extension has been Republican leaders in the House....
    [And as colleague Kate points out, Bush just says they can go on welfare. But they can't cuz they have too many assets to qualify. The impoverishment of America proceeds apace.]

For earlier collapse stories, click on the desired date -
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  • Dec.21-31/2000.
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  • Dec.1-10/2000.
        Earlier Y2000 months accessible via links at bottom of Dec.1-10/2000 page.
  • Dec.16-31/99.
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        Earlier 1999 months accessible via links at bottom of Dec.1-15/99 page.
  • Dec/98.
        Earlier months accessible via links at bottom of Dec/98 page.

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