DoomwatchTM vs. Timesizing®
Collapse trends - August, 2002
[Commentary] ©2002 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080 - HOMEPAGE
8/30/2002 today's headlines from hell -
8/27/2002 today's headlines from hell -
- Profits decline, raising doubts about recovery, by Jon Hilsenrath, WSJ, A2.
[and more -]
Ahead of the tape - ...Down the shaft - The economy has a flock of canary indicators these days, and half seem to die when put in the mine, by Jesse Eisinger [viele deutsche Namen hier, nicht?], WSJ, C1.
[and more -]
Traders stay cautious as doubts over economic recovery persist, by Kopen Tan, Dow Jones via WSJ, C14.
[and more, with a hint of why -]
Treasurys surge on gloomy figures - Yields retreat near lows for year as stocks decline, unemployment claims rise, by Steven Vames, Dow Jones via WSJ, C8.
- [And here's another big reason -]
The curse of factory farms, editorial, NYT, A18.
...The federal government should at minimum serve as a neutral umpire in the fight between big and small farmers.... Unfortunately, the government has been putting its weight behind big business.... The new farm bill that pResident Bush signed in May [pays] farmers up to $450,000 apiece to help them comply with regulations that don't mean much to begin with. The regressive farm bill...continues the government's policy of throwing its weight behind the already hefty industrial farms and helping to drive smaller farmers out of business. In Iowa, for instance, the number of hog farms has dropped from 64,500 in 1980 to 10,500 in 2000, though the number of hogs, about 15m, remains the same. The public's money, in this fight, is going in the opposite direction of the public interest.\..
[And, ironically, endangering also the same few fatcats who are currently benefitting from it. As we've said before, it doesn't matter how much money there is in a country - if just a few people have it all, it's a poor, third-world country, no matter how big it is. Check out India and still, China, and now, Russia. As Will Rogers said, "Money's like manure - it's no good unless it's spread around." Give all the spending power to one person and s/he just won't have time - or need - to spend it. Then there are other scary concerns here -]
Factory farms have become the dominant method of raising meat in America. Agribusiness loves the apparent [ie: short-term] efficiency that comes with raising thousands of animals in a single large building where they are permanently confined in stalls or pens [and] most of the human labor can be automated [and] the inevitable byproduct is huge concentrations of manure [and consequent] airborne contamination of water from ammonia [and] industries depend on just a handful of [genetically] different types of [animals, thus] exposing them to the risk of catastrophic disease and requiring an inappropriate use of antibiotics..\..
The federal government...should never use taxpayer money to encourage a method of farming that works against the public's desire for...biodiversity and clean non-malodorous air.... The best way to guarantee [free-ranging animals and genetic diversity] is to guarantee a diversity of farmers.
[That's one thing our current short-term, downsizing design of capitalism seems to have limitations on - encouraging diversity. Our proposed long-term, timesizing design of capitalism expands these limitations considerably, and points the way to further stages of expanding variability and diversity, via income-sizing, wealth-sizing, credit-sizing, credibility-sizing, celebrity-sizing..., or whatever value dimension eventually becomes stiflingly over-concentrated. As biologist Ernst Mayr ("Populations, Species and Evolution," p. 398) said, "Variability is inherent in any natural population and is favored by natural selection on account of the frequent superiority of heterozygotes and the diversity of the environment." In other words, the critical variable of all time is - da dada daaa ... variability itself. And if we want us and ours to be around for the long haul, we better get in line with this and maximize it. Increasingly, all our morality will be supplied by ecology and environmentalism, simply because it is the comprehensive science of the very long term. The fuzziness, the "seeing through the glass darkly" of all the ancient religions will come into clear focus in ecological/environmental terms. And one behavior that they all teach will come into prominence - sharing. Our current crisis is essentially a crisis in sharing - an inability to come up with a new technology of sharing that would avoid disincentivizing entrepreneurs and innovation and encourage independence and self-support. The sharing of work is the next great design challenge here. Work is the only thing we can share at this point in our evolution that will not generate dependency and resistance (though any advance in sharing generates some resistance from those who want more than their share). If we try to share the money first, we generate resistance from those we're taking it away from because it's not clear what we're giving them in return, and we generate dependency, laziness and disincentives. If, however, we share the work first, we give valuable free time to those we're taking it away from, and we spread independence, activity and incentives. Work is definitely the next thing on the design-for-sharing list, contrary to those who would just "share the wealth" (Chuck Collins) or beef up welfare (the Democrats) or grant "life research scholarships" (Bucky Fuller), etc. And our best, simplest, gradualest, market-orientedest design candidate that meets all these criteria is the Timesizing program.]
- State Dept. is holding a seminar next week on anti-U.S. trends, by John Files, NYT, A7.
[Here's a nutsy item. Rile up as many other countries in the world as you can and then hold "seminars" on their fury with you. Maybe the State Dept. should hold seminars on the secretive and totalitarian "trends" of its masters in the White House - Dubya, Chainy, Conndi, Ashkroft..., under whom this country has become its own worst enemy.]
...a conference on the spread of anti-American attitudes around the world, officials say ... did not say where the conference would be held ... said it would be closed to the press ...
[Under this KGB-like atmosphere, guess it's a miracle we even found out the name of the State Dept. spokesman or when the "conference" would be held -]
..\..Richard Boucher, the State Dept. spokesman, said the conference would be held on Sept. 5 and Sept. 6.... "It involves approximately 20 leading scholars from the U.S. and abroad, and an audience of about 50 U.S. government attendees."...
[Given this administration's propensity for spraypainting itself with yes-men, is there any hope that any of the 20 "leading scholars" will tell them the true dope on their outrageous behavior in dissing international agreements, dissing the environment, dissing openness, dissing peace, dissing democracy, dissing Americanism, dissing true conservatism - which has no quarrel with conservationism, dissing Palestinians.... Numerous older Americans who lived through the 1930s in Germany and experienced first-hand the initial flickerings of Naziism are absolutely terrified by what they're hearing out of this White House, even though (at the moment) it is blindly pro-Israeli-gov't. The morons in this State Dept. could save travel allowances and just listen to the dissident voices right here in the U.S. but, guess "prophets are never accepted in their own land." And for even scarier stuff, try -]
What's News - ...Bush fund raising is toppling records..., pointer blowout (to col. 5 - how apt, "5th column"), WSJ, front page.
8/26/2002 today's headline from hell -
- Quotation of the day - "Democracies die behind closed doors", by Judge Damon Keith, NYT, A2.
...in a ruling declaring that the Bush administration acted unlawfully in holding deportation hearings in secret.
- Washington bends the rules - Ashcroft's Justice Dept. needs to be reined in, by James Bamford, NYT, A21.
...With increasing speed, the Justice Dept. of Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft is starting to resemble the "always vengeful bureaucracy' \of\ "The Trial," Franz Kafka's story of an ordinary man caught in a legal web where the more he struggles to find out what he did wrong, the more trapped he becomes....
This situation is beyond even Kafka, who in his parable of punishment and paranoia at least supplied [his "ordinary man"] with an attorney....
- Recently, in federal cases, the Justice Dept. arued that it is within the president's inherent power to indefinitely detain, without any charges, any person, including any U.S. citizen, whom the president (through the Justice Dept.) designates an "enemy combatant."
- Further, the person can be locked away, held incommunicado and denied counsel.
[Gee, just like Argentina under Pinochet! Just like USSR under Stalin!]
- Finally, Mr. Ashcroft argues that such a decision is not subject to review by federal or state courts.
- Business Ethics 101, letter to editor from Brendan Lally of Fort Myers FL, NYT, A20.
...As a recent executive MBA student, I saw that the behaviors exhibited in the current corporate scandals are being taught in business school.
are all boilerplate curriculum.
- Creating value where none exists,
- cheating customers and employees, and
- putting perception before reality
Ethics are addressed in the compulsory tone of a preflight safety and fasten-your-seatbelt lecture.
8/23/2002 today's headline from hell -
- 15,000 reserves to serve 2nd year - Longest call-ups since Vietnam, by Dave Moniz, USA Today, front page.
[And it's going to drag on and on like the killing fields of 'Nam. This is the American way? - "First strikes" on any nations we don't like, regardless of its quiescence the last 9 years? We are indeed making ourselves the biggest aggressor - and the biggest target - on the planet. This is not "homeland security." Looks like Dubya's determined on -
[W. ain't Annie's Daddy Warbucks but maybe we can dub him Dubya Warbush. Hey, he's not getting shot at, so what does he care, and if he can drag out the bloodbath till Nov/2004, maybe we'll be scared (and stupid) enough to let him steal the Presidency again and really make our homeland "secure."]
8/22/2002 today's headlines from hell - 2 qikis -
- Washington Wire -...Political capital, by John Harwood, WSJ, A4.
[In either case, this is an argument for turning over control of interest rates to regular public referendum. If they are going to affect all of us and they're largely a matter of throwing darts anyway, let's all of us get in on the fun.]
- The Financial Markets Center [FMC] criticizes Chicago Fed President Moskow for making $6,200 in political donations, mostly to Bush and the GOP.... A Moskow spokesman says the Fed's code of conduct permits donations..\..
[Maybe they should change the code &/or find staff for the nation's central bank who are not so politically slanted.]
- The FMC [also criticizes] the Dallas Fed for co-sponsoring events with a conservative think tank.... The Dallas Fed declines to comment....
[Maybe the nation's central bank should be deprivatized/renationalized and redesigned to guarantee staff of more comprehensive views.]
8/21/2002 today's headlines from hell -
- Weak demand slows Japanese recovery, Dow Jones via WSJ, A11.
...Analysts said the economy continued to lumber out of its slump but remains stymied by weakness in domestic demand....
[Contrast Brazil, which is having a momentary remission -]
Brazil: Jobless rate falls, by Tony Smith, NYT, W1.
[Contrast also the NYT on Japan, which is more specific and optimistic -]
Japan: Services spending dips, by Ken Belson, NYT, W1.
...0.3%..\..in June from May as the World Cup soccer tournament ate into demand for theme parks and other entertainment.... For the whole 2nd quarter, though, demand for services rose, suggesting an expansion in the country's GDP.... Consumer spending makes up nearly 60% of the economy, and has remained steady..\..during the period.., despite falling wages and high unemployment.
- Some [US] stock funds are cash heavy - Managers can't find buys or seek to avoid losses, but still collect their fees, by Ian McDonald, WSJ, C11.
[This is the first reference we've seen in print to difficulty finding investments, a common problem before and during depressions. It explains stock market bubbles to a degree because the concentration of income becomes so great that the wealthy literally have no alternative to the stock market that can absorb that volume of investment.]
8/20/2002 today's headlines from hell -
- [global joblessness proceeds apace -]
Mexico: Jobless level rises, Bloomberg via NYT, W1.
...rose [to 2.9%] in July to its highest level since January, signaling that the economy is slowing down as US demand for Mexican goods falters....
[Only 2.9%?! Phew, Mexico must have good number doctors or many people outside the workforce, or both.]
- Whistle while you work: New surveys show office unease, by Carlos Tejada, WSJ, B2.
The Conference Board's survey of about 5,000 households shows about half [50.5%] of all workers aren't satisfied with their jobs. [The] NY research firm found discontent high among workers between 35 and 44 years old.
Meanwhile, a survey of 750 workers by Cigna Corp.'s behavioral health unit shows 44% say their jobs grew more stressful over the year....
- Coup de Crawford, op ed by Maureen Dowd, NYT, A27.
The plotters are meeting down at the Ponderosa today. They waited to huddle in Crawford [Tex.] until the flowerchild Colin Powell had gone up to the Hamptons, ensconced with the white-wine-swilling toffs scorned by the pResident....
the hawks flew to Texas to strut their hawkishness. ..\..Cheney, Rummy, Condi, and W. can [now] get down to...scheming to smoke Saddam....
- Tired of the inhibitions of the retired generals - Mr. Powell, Brent Scowcroft, and Wesley Clark - and unretired generals in the Joint Chiefs;
- tired of the whisper campaigns in the hallways of the Pentagon and the State Dept. that a rush to war with Iraq will weaken America's war on terror;
- tired of Republican resistance on the Hill -
It's the reverse of the classic movie "Seven Days in May," about gungho generals trying to wrest power from an "appeasing" president. In [our] "Thirty-one Days in August," gungho pResidential advisers try to wrest power away from "appeasing" generals....
- We used to worry about a military coup against civilian authority.
- Now we worry about a civilian coup against military authority.
[Then there's the usual distraction/disinformation -]
The White House denied that the pResident was gathering his war council to talk about war, to figure out when and how to employ all the hardware that's been prepositioned in Saddam's neighborhood.... Ari Fleischer said the meeting was about military "transformation." Yeah. They're going to transform an Army that is not at battle to an Army that is at battle.
There were a few token uniforms at this morning's coup kaffeeklatsch.... The military types in the Pesky Questions tribe fret that it would be smarter to go after the low-hanging fruit in the war on terror first - Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, the Philippines, Indonesia, Colombia.
[And what about our "friends" in Saudi Arabia?]
They worry that the Whack-Iraq'ers are too sanguine ... They fear that Rummy's belief that America can go in light, fast and easy is futuristic nonsense.
[Wars are ALWAYS started by people who believe it's going to be over quickly. The US Civil War is an example. So is the Russians-in-Chechnya. And note even Thos. Friedman's rap today, "Bush's mideast sand trap" across the page.]
But the Cheney-Rummy-Condi Axis of Anti-Evil believes in unilateralism so fervently that it is prepared to proceed unilaterally without its own military. If the Pentagon is not prepared to get with the program, they can always parachute Wolfowitz [head of World Bank?] into Baghdad with a license to kill.
Cheney & Co. are clearly regrouping to catch the patriotic wave of the 9/11 anniversary.... But they're not being smart by being secret. They have the conspiratorial air of embattled sectarians, of a besieged cult, treating skeptics as appeasers and legitimate questions as failures of patriotism. They are in exclusive possession of the truth and the whole world is against them..... The problem with the Bush administration is that its bully pulpit is all bully and no pulpit.
[You know, if the roles were reversed and this was a Democrat pResident, the Republicans would have been moving to IMPEACH the S.O.B. months ago. Withholding of info on Harken or Halliburton, withholding of info on the Enron-linked public energy-policy discussions, refusal to grant detainees due process or release their names - this has a lot more serious implications than whether a guy did or did not have fellatio in the White House. Where is the loyal opposition? Where are you Democrats? Quit wimping around and IMPEACH the S.O.B.! He has leveraged a questionable Electoral College majority and a tiny or non-existent popular majority into a subversion of the nation's freedoms, openness, honesty, security, democracy and economy. Where is George Soros with his concern for an "open society"? Where are the Democrats? The "war" on terrorism isn't a war - it's a runaway metaphor, like the drug "war" and the "war" on poverty. It's a runaway metaphor that this pResident is straining to turn into a real war to stifle dissent and perpetuate his power. Where is the outrage over what this little dictator is doing to America? Everyone's as quiet and passive as the early days of McCarthyism in the 50s or the German churches in the 30s. "That can't happen to us." Oh yes, it can, and IS. He's rollng back environmentalism, international cooperation, and American freedoms on an almost daily basis. And his whole election was tantamount to a coup d'etat. "Cry the beloved country!"]
8/18/2002 today's headlines from hell - 4 qikis -
- Hong Kong: Jobless rate hits record, Bloomberg via NYT, W1.
...a seventh consecutive record in July...7.8%, from 7.7% in June, seasonally adjusted, leaving 275,000 of Hong Kong's 3.5m workers out of a job, the government said.... Consumers are spending less as they lose their jobs or expect to be laid off, cutting retail sales and prolonging a 44-month slide in consumer prices.
[The world depression spreads apace. And Hong Kong used to be a showplace of laissez faire capitalism. Here it is following Japan and preceding the U.S., where astronomical consumer borrowing along with sliding consumer prices is still postponing the inevitable drop in consumer spending. Could the fact that Hong Kong regards anyone working less than 35 hours a week as "under-employed" have anything to do with their distress? That means they regard 35 hours as the minimum full-time workweek at the dawn of the Third Millennium, when fully 62 years ago, the USA legislated the 40-hour workweek as the maximum full-time workweek to spread the vanishing human employment across more of its population which was then experiencing 14-25% unemployment. And the 40-hour workweek at that time was too high too late anyway - the US Senate had passed a 30-hour workweek in 1933, only to have it sandbagged in the House by a clueless FDR. And only one economy, France, has got around to legislating a 35-hour maximum workweek by the dawn of the Third Millennium - and here highly automated Hong Kong still thinks that should be the minimum! "Lord, what fools these mortals be!"]
- [Rabbie Burns - "The gift o' Gaw', the gift tae gae us - tae see airsels as ithers see us."
(Robert Burns - "The gift of God, the gift to give us (is) to see ourselves as others see us."]
Losing our best allies in the war on terror - Pro-democracy activists take up anti-Americanism, op ed by Jeffrey Goldfarb, NYT, A21.
An Asian human rights activist proudly introduced herself to my class as a threat to national security: her commitment to democratic values put her so at odds with two Southeast Asian governments that she had to travel clandestinely. Yet, as our seminar on democratic culture came to an end earlier this month in Cracow, Poland, she, of all people, declared: "I have doubted a simple assertion for years, but I am now convinced that American democracy requires the repression of democracy in the rest of the world."
[Could the reason possibly be that our "cosmetic democracy" (a phrase for it from a Central American activist) is actually mere plutocracy in disguise - in other words, rule by the rich - and not essentially democracy at all?]
Worse still, she was expressing the consensus of the students. These young people, moved by values and human rights and democracy, have become convinced that the existence of these rights in America is predicated on their repression elsewhere.... What I observed last January in Africa and just a few weeks ago in Central Europe among young opinion leaders from around the world has been alarming. Anti-Americanism is not just a hysterical judgment popular on the political fringe....
- The real thing - Why leave populism to the conservatives?, op ed by Paul Krugman, NYT, A21.
...The point here is that there is an inexorably growing gap between the image and the reality of the Bush administration's policies..\..
...The reality is that this administration loves 'em while the TV crews are around, then leaves 'em when it comes to actual policy. And the reality is becoming ever harder to conceal....
- Take George W. Bush's decision last week to demonstrate his resolve by blocking $5.1B in homeland security spending. ...The rejected bill allocated money both to improve veterans' healthcare and to provide firefighters with new equipment, including communication systems that could have saved lives on 9/11.... The president of the International Assoc. of Firefighters warned: "Don't lionize our fallen brothers in one breath, then stab us in the back."
- Or what about the trapped coal miners? Mr Bush made a point of congratulating them in person.... But...although the Bush administration's energy plans call for major increases in coal mining, its spending plans cut funds for mine safety..\..
- Citing "conservative OMB budget guidance" for spending on veterans' healthcare..\..a July memo from an official at the Dept. of Veterans Affairs...instructed subordinates to "ensure that no marketing activities to enroll new veterans occur within your networks." Veterans are entitled to medical care; but the administration hopes that some of them don't know that, and that it can save money by keeping them ignorant. It's not the sort of thing you'd expect from an administration that wraps itself so tightly in the flag...unless you've been paying attention [to] stories like this [that] are popping up more and more often....
Conservatives enthusiastically rely on populism - fake populism, based on staged shmoozing with ordinary Americans and attacks on the imagined cultural elitism of the liberal media. Why shouldn't liberals, who actually have the facts on their side, try engaging in the real thing?
8/17/2002 today's headlines from hell -
- Jobs scarce, many heed call to serve in Peace Corps, NYT, A12.
[Slavery returns in the different form of volunteerism. And we had a recent article on how volunteers want to avoid the trouble spots. If we really wanted to help the rest of the world, we'd model the future of socially integrated worksharing, not the past of the segregated 'happy slave' society.]
- Beyond original intent - The Supreme Court's majority has given up on strict construction, a judge asserts, review of San Francisco Fed. Appeals Court Judge John Noonan Jr's book, "Narrowing the Nation's Power - The Supreme Court Sides with the States" (UCal Berkeley Press) by Linda Greenhouse, NYT Book Review 8.
...A stinging and even startling critique of recent decisions that have shifted the balance of power in the country away from Congress toward the states and - most damning in Judge Noonan's view - toward the court itself....
[Ordinarily we would correct the NYT's usage and capitalize the word "court" here, but we have so much contempt for this "supreme court" that we refrain. In giving up strict construction of the Constitution, they have become radicals while hypocritically portraying themselves as conservatives.]
- America's friends are worried, letter to editor by Prof. Emer. Fritz Stern of Columbia U, NYT, 4-12.
"The Democrats and the war," by Ted Widmer (op-ed, Aug. 15), gave a laudable and balanced view of American foreign policy decisions in the past [except for Allende, Grenada, Panama... - ed.] and the [Democrat?] reticence that hobbles our discussions today.
The radical changes made by the Bush administration in policies and attitudes have troubled many of America's friends abroad.
Helmut Schmidt, the former German chancellor and a close friend of many former Republican officeholders, recently wrote an analysis of the historical premises of American foreign policy, which he finds in the competing strains of isolationism, internationalism and, most worrisome, unilateral imperialism.
[That's true. This insane administration careens from one extreme to the other, from isolationism to interventionism and go-it-alone damn-all-the-rest-of-you interference. "Power corrupts" and absolute power has corrupted Dubya, Chain-me, Conn-da-lazy Right, Ashcough, and Rummy absolutely.]
He noted that "under George W. Bush, unilateralism [ie: uncooperativeness] has achieved its breakthrough" supported by "the nationalistic-egocentric influence of imperialistically minded intellectuals."
[If only they had any intelligence!]
Mr. Schmidt said that Europe should attend to its own critical problems [instead of getting conned into Dubya's demonic morale crusades?] and that it is "no ward of America."
Mr. Schmidt's is a friendly and authoritative voice. His concern should make us realize how immeasurable our loss has been in the last 18 months.
[...the last 18 months covering peabrain Dubya's autocratic and backward-rushing reign. We became nervous about this during the interregnum when he was sooo certain he had won. Jacob Bronowski warns against the dangers of such certainty in a chapter near the end of his "Ascent of Man," pointing out that it was one of Hitler's traits. It's especially destructive when linked to religion and the whole "Gott mit uns" mentality. As our old Hebrew professor at Vic College in Toronto, Bill Staples, used to intone, "Laddies, there have been more heinous crimes committed in the name of Religion...."]
- The free-trade fix - So far, globalization has failed the world's poor - But it's not trade that has hurt them - It's a rigged system, by NYT editorialist Tina Rosenberg, NYT Magazine, 28.
[An excellent article with lots of data to back it up. Especially good at exposing the hypocrisy of this administration's "free" trade obsession, in terms of its "do as I say and not as I do." Compare the equally disturbing -]
Why isn't fast track...faster? - pResident had to pay top political dollar for free-trade deal, by Edmund Andrews, NYT, 3-1.
[and further exposing our unfree-trade agribusiness subsidies -]
8/19 Some economists say U.S. farm policy has got it all wrong, by Scott Kilman, WSJ, A2.
8/16/2002 today's headline from hell -
- The Waco [wack-o?!] road to Baghdad - The war on bad news, op ed by Frank Rich, NYT, A23.
George W. Bush tossed the nation's press a softball and they hit it out of the park. There was not a single good review, not even from his minions at The Wall Street Journal editorial page, for the White House's feel-good-about-your-401k jamboree at Waco. It was a "forum," critics suggested, in the sense that the Politburo was a "legislature."...
What makes the morning-after outrage of the nation's commentariat seem a bit over the top is that the preordained hollowness of the Waco show is not news. This is how this administration always governs. Mr Bush has two inviolate, one-size-fits-all policies (if obsessions can be called policies):
Everything else is a side show designed to provide the illusion of administration activity when it has no plan.
- the tax cut (for domestic affairs) and
- "regime change" in Iraq (for foreign affairs).
The show takes the form not only of the Orwellian slogans emblazoned on the backdrops ("Small investors/Retirement security" loomed above the pResident and Chuck [Schwab] in Waco) but also of bogus announcements of muscular action. At the "forum's" final curtain, the pRresident declared that he would teach Congress a tough lesson about fiscal responsibility by holding back $5.1 billion it had appropriated for such low-priority items as equipment for firefighters and health monitoring at Ground Zero. But what about the $190 billion in wasteful farm subsidies he has already thrown to the winds? Besides, he would have to cut spending by $5B five days a week for more than a year to compensate for the red ink of his $1.35 trillion tax cut.
Though the pResident's harshest critics think he's stupid, I've always maintained that the real problem is that he thinks we are stupid. He never doubts that his [side]show will distract us from bad news. Waco [for example] was supposed to make us forget the latest round of economic headlines:
All this on top of a falloff in the Dow that The Economist [magazine of London] measures as identical in percentage to that of Herbert Hoover's first 18 months, which included the Crash of '29....
- stagnant wages,
- slowed growth,
- new all-time records in
- personal bankruptcies and
- consumer borrowing.
[Hooboy, Frank is really hot today! Here are a few more gems from this master pièce de resistance cum coup de grâce -]
...It's when the same governance technique is applied to life-and-death matters like war and domestic security that the farce curdles.... The Wall St Journal discovered that when the federal government issued a terrorist warning to shopping centers four months ago, the Mall of America learned about it only by watching CNN. Not only are our airlines collapsing but, according to Thursday's USA Today, so is the undercover air marshal program that was supposed to be strengthened after 9/11. One marshal called it "a laughingstock."
...The administration loves the bait-and-switch. It hyped the cases of "the American Taliban," John Walker Lindh, and the "dirty bomber," Jose Padilla, to cover for its failure to snare the actual Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, and the actual bomber, Osama bin Laden, much as it has hyped the perp walks of second-rung executives from WorldCom to make us forget about Halliburton, Harken and Ken Lay [Enron].
...The White House keeps saying that no decision has been made about Iraq, but of course a decision has been made. Richard Perle, an administration Iraq hawk, gave away the game in yesterday's Times: "The failure to take on Saddam after what the pResident said" would lead to "a collapse of confidence." Translation: If Mr. Bush doesn't get rid of Saddam after all this saber rattling, he will look like the biggest wimp since - well, his father....
The loudest voices [in protest] are almost exclusively Republican.... "If you think you're going to drop the 82nd Airborne on Baghdad and finish the job," said Sen. Hagel, a Vietnam war hero two weeks ago, "I think you've been watching too many John Wayne movies."...
The only mystery is when D-Day will be. Given the administration's history, I'd guess that it will put on the big show as soon as its political self-preservation is at stake. Certainly the White House's prerogatives are clear enough [altho it is only Congress that has war-making power - ed.]. It has guarded the records of Dick Cheney's energy taskforce and the SEC investigation of Harken far more zealously than war plans that might endanger the lives of the so-called real Americans who will have to fight Saddam..\.. It strains credulity to assert that this is all an ingenious conspiracy to fake out Saddam. The leaks fake us out instead, inuring us to the new war to come....
[Ever so much smarter to lose the consumption-killing surplus of manhours in the job market by cutting the workweek than scything through our young men (and women) in another war. Less dangerous too, now that nuclear and biological weapons are rolling around loose.]
- More people looking for home businesses, Arizona Republic, D8.
[No kiddin'. Know why? Cuz they've been laid off and since there's no jobs, they've no alternatives. Again, let's quit sneering at the obvious and just spread the vanishing work. You can't build a recovery on downsizing. You can build a recovery on timesizing.]
8/14/2002 headlines from hell -
- [for those of you keeping a list of things on which America is out of step with the rest of the world -]
An execution in Texas strains ties with Mexico and others - The U.S. is out of step with many other industrialized democracies, by Ginger Thompson, NYT, A6.
The decision by Pres. Vicente Fox of Mexico to cancel a meeting with pResident Bush at his Texas ranch after the execution, in that state, of a Mexican citizen is the latest confrontation over the death penalty between the U.S. and some of its closest allies. Pres. Fox moved swiftly to protest the executive of Javier Suarez Medina...in Huntsville on Wed. night. Mexican officials say he was denied his right to help from his government when he was arrested in 1988. Some 16 other nations filed court briefs or wrote letters pleading for clemency for Mr. Suarez, including Poland, Switzerland, Brazil and Argentina. ...Mexico has the death penalty but does not apply it....
[The more unilateral the USA becomes, the less cooperation it's going to get from other countries on anything, from trade to pet peeves. It's going to become as isolated as the old USSR was, and as "laagered" as the old Apartheid regime in South Africa felt.]
Nor has the Bush administration given Mexico any break in resolving Mexico's water debt..\..
[So why is Fox so peeved?]
Soon after pResident Bush took office, he declared that the U.S. had no more important relationship than that with Mexico....
[Yeah sure. Fox is learning how far he can trust Bush.]
..\..White House officials also refused to portray [Fox's decision] as a crisis or even an embarrassment....
[As Frank Rich says tomorrow -]
The Waco road to Baghdad - The war on bad news, op ed by Frank Rich, 8/17/2002 NYT, A23.
...Though the pResident's harshest critics think he's stupid, I've always maintained that the real problem is that he thinks we are stupid....
[- "we" meaning "everyone else."
8/11-12/2002 headlines from hell -
- Global warmth for U.S. after 9/11 turns to frost - Military plans repulse even European allies, by Ellen Hale, USA Today, front page.
Anit-American sentiment: Protesters in London decry U.S. policy toward Iraq and elsewhere. [= photo caption - photo shows people holding poster proclaiming "#1 ROGUE NATION" in big print over map of USA. How many other international treaties and initiatives can Dubya diss to clinch our rogue leadership? This is "homeland security"???]
- Work week - Help Wanted? - New numbers show why many can't find jobs, by Carlos Tejada, WSJ, B10.
...A new government measure of the nation's labor market..suggests that, for...the millions of...Americans who can't find a job, they might not find jobs no matter how hard they look. The new Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, won't be fully reliable until it can be compared with several years' worth of data. Still, it suggests that the roughly 8 million Americans looking for work are competing for a mere 3.5 million jobs....
- Housing prices soar, fueling bubble fears - From Long Island to San Diego, values increase by more than 20%; Similarities to tech-stock boom, by Patrick Barta, WSJ, D1.
[This is contradicted by the WSJ's own 8/01 #2 story below saying that the high end of the housing market is deflating, but supported by Yahoo's 6/26 #1 story "Study: Home prices near 'bubble' in some cities." David Leonhardt seems to want a housing bubble to save the "recovery" - see 8/01 #1 below. Talk about short-sighted!]
8/10/2002 headlines from hell -
- 8/11 Stagnant wages pose added risks to weak economy - Consumers feel a pinch - Bigger deductions for medical coverage [bad] and less overtime [good] put dent in paychecks - If consumers tighten their purses, a second recession becomes more likely, by Louis Uchitelle, NYT, front page & A14.
Although the recession has ended [oh sure - ed.], the wages of more than 100 million workers are still stagnant, endangering the consumer spending that sustains the fragile recovery. The stagnation in total wages paid to the nation's employees outside of the government is now a year old, according to newly revised government data, which paints a bleak picture of the economy.
[Wage stagnation just "a year old"? Try 30 years old when the postwar babyboomers hit the job market and wiped out the last of the war-wrought but wage-boosting "scarcity" of manhours and induced millions of mothers to enter the workforce to augment the single breadwinners' flat earnings.]
...Also...rather than pay premium increases [for health insurance - see article below] themselves, companies are deducting much of the additional cost from employee paychecks....
[But then there's the usual attempt by the power elite to dismiss the warning signs -]
Not everyone accepts the new wage revisions published by the Commerce Dept. as proof of stagnation. A broader measure of personal income, one that includes items like Social Security benefits [pathetic!] and unemployment insurance [ominous!] as well as wages, has risen recently.
[They must be living on million-dollar trust funds, i.e., totally out of touch, if they think either of these factors are reasons for optimism! Compare the strained spin-doctoring in tomorrow's headline, "Slow recovery may still feel like a slump," by Leonhardt & Day, 8/12/2002, C1. Back to the 8/11 article -]
Some forecasters have seized on this improvement to argue that the economy is generating enough new income to strengthen the recovery by early next year.
[As we said before, what recovery? Note our headline from hell two weeks ago, "A quick second recession or just one long slump?" - 7/28-29/2002.]
But there is an obstacle to optimism.
The personal income numbers, while broader than wages, do not include capital gains from the sale of stock. This huge source of income in the late 1990s...
[but only for those whose stock holdings were not tied up in pensions and 401k's = those who already have more spending power than they can spend]
...has shrunk considerably since early last year, judging from the shortfall in expected tax payments last April 15, economists at the Congressional Budget Office say.
[The theory that stock gains give an appreciable boost to consumer spending is bogus anyway, as the Wall Street Journal finally admits today.]
The bottom line of the various conflicting numbers is that they seem to cancel each other out, leaving insufficient income growth, to convert a weak economy into a strong one.
[Well, "wake up and smell the coffee!" - we've been running on astronomical consumer credit for at least a decade, and that can't go on forever.]
"What we have is a grinding slowdown in the incomes that people have available to spend, from whatever the source," said Lee Price, chief economist for the Senate Budget Committee....
Wage stagnation [chart]
Employers have kept the growth of wages and salaries in check even as the economy has slowly emerged from its recession....
[Employers have kept that in check for the last 30, and especially the last 20, years, and that's why the rich have become so much richer in America and the economy is into its death paroxysms - employers' ability to keep wage growth in check was based on a mounting surplus of manhours in the job market, and the economy's deteriorating health is based on the fact that we've been concentrating spending power in the top brackets where they already have more than they could spend in a hundred lifetimes. It's classic 1928 revisited. And the root problem of manhour surplus can either be solved the stupid Great Depression way, by militarizing, or the intelligent way that we only haphazardly used from 1776-1940, work sharing via workweek reduction.]
- [Meanwhile, here's the relief the Bush administration has for us -]
8/12 A role unfilled - Authoritative voice on the economy still lacking in Bush administration - [Mere] words don't reassure the markets, by Elizabeth Bumiller, NYT, A10.
- [And then, thanks to the Clintons' failure to deliver on their promise of universal health insurance -]
8/11 Decade after health care crisis, soaring costs bring new strains - More workers expected to be forced to join uninsured ranks, by Robin Toner & Sheryl Stolberg, front page.
[Where now are all them smartass Americans who loved to deride the Canadian health insurance system? Both systems have problems, but while the Canadian system has problems, ALL CANADIANS ARE COVERED, and while the American system has problems, more and more Americans aren't covered. So all we Canucks can say to you Yanks after years of taking grief from you is, Nya-nya-nya-nya nyaaa nyaaa!]
[Here's a related 'ominosity' -
Heartfelt advice, hefty fees - Companies pay stars to mention prescription drugs, by Melody Petersen, NYT, 3-1.
In a rare interview, Lauren Bacall appeared on the NBC "Today" program in March, telling Matt Lauer about a good friend who had gone blind from an eye disease and...mention[ing] a drug called Visudyne, a new treatment for the disease known as macular degeneration. She never revealed that she was being paid to tell the story, and neither did the network, NBC....
[We didn't know Bogey's widow was in such dire financial straits!]
- 8/11 Younger black men face job crisis, by Larry Bivins, Gannett News via Arizona Republic, D1.
...As a group, Black males ages 16-24 who are out of school and have no more than a highschool education sank in the job market compared to Whites and Hispanics with like attributes.
The largest decline occurred in the past decade. ...Holzer said, "...How can families rise out of poverty and become self-sufficient? And among single-mother [familie]s, what are the odds of boys breaking out of this cycle if we don't do something to help the dads?"...
- In 1979, 62.5% of young Blacks with low education had jobs.
- By 1999-2000, that number had decreased almost 10 percentage points [to 53%?], according to research from Profs. Paul Offner and Harry Holzer at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute.
[Our solution? - Share the vanishing, not-yet-technology-assumed work with a gradual, market-oriented program like Timesizing.]
- [And ... just to top off your (psychological) depression, we have -]
8/12 California utilities fight solar-incentive plan, by Jim Carlton, WSJ, A4.
[Honest to God, what is the matter with them? California privatized them and they went all stupid. The good news is the incentives are working -]
California's utilities industry is leading an effort to turn back a state program that has led an increasing number of corporate consumers to switch to solar power for some of their electricity needs....
8/09/2002 headlines from hell -
- Productivity in U.S. slows, by Jeannine Aversa, AP via Arizona Republic, D1.
WASHINGTON - The productivity of U.S. companies grew at its most sluggish pace in a year during the 2nd quarter as the nation's economic recovery downshifted. The Labor Dept. reported that productivity - the amount of output per hour of work - rose at an annual rate of 1.1% in the April-June quarter, a sharp slowdown from the 8.6% growth rate posted in the first 3 months of this year....
[Not that productivity apart from marketability has any significance anyway. The NY Times puts a positive face on the productivity figures but has found another negative in the picture -]
Productivity rise is tied to agility of employers in rapid layoffs - Shedding workers [bad] and cutting overtime [good] are seen as enhancing output, by Louis Uchitelle, NYT, B1.
[though as we said, output is irrelevant without markets]
By cutting back the hours of workers [good] without reducing the workload [bad], employers pushed up the nation's annual growth rate of productivity by 1.1% in the 2nd quarter, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported yesterday.
[So who did this report, the Labor Dept. (AR) or the Bureau of Labor Statistics (NYT), or is the Bureau part of the Labor Dept.?]
Though the gain was not particularly strong, it...appeared to demonstrate how skilled the private sector has become in responding rapidly to a fall-off in demand and a flattening out of production. Rather than keep idle employees on the payroll [or trim hours for all and even out the workload with retraining and cross-training - ed.], companies now quickly lay them off [bad] and cut overtime [good] so quickly that output per hour in the 2nd quarter continued to rise despite almost no increase in production....
[There's the real bad news. Simple production has grown even though productivity has grown a little. This whole productivity discussion is a distraction from the real bleakness of the economic landscape.]
The production of goods and services rose by an almost imperceptible 0.3%, while the hours needed to produce such output fell by 1.1%, the Bureau said. Employees still on the job worked faster....
Demand briefly surged in the first quarter, and executives dealt with it by increasing production while cutting back on workers and hours.....
[If they had just cut back on hours, the effect on their own future would have been neutral, but since they also cut back on workers, they also cut back on their own markets and slit their own throats a little deeper.]
- a little burst of corporate bad news -
[3 bad vs. 1 good -]
- Conseco recovery efforts fail; A bankruptcy filing is possible, by Norris & Treaster, NYT, B1.
- Emulex says sales will fall short of estimates, Bloomberg via NYT, B4.
- Sun Microsystems executives borrowed money [$6.3m] from the company, Bloomberg via NYT, B4.
- Berkshire Hathaway profit to increase 35%, AP via NYT, B4.
- Bush finds more ways to lower our living standards, and make America's future worse than its past -
- Bush rolls back rules on privacy of medical data - Reverses Clinton limits - New [lax] standards are also set on using personal information in marketing drugs, by Robert Pear, NYT, front page.
WASHINGTON -...Administration officials made the change despite opposition from consumer advocates, patients' rights groups and psychiatrists....
- U.S. seeks to limit conservation law - Says that most coastal waters are beyond an act's reach, by Katharine Seelye, NYT, front page.
WASHINGTON -...In a federal court case in Los Angeles that involves the testing of a new type of sonar system by the Navy, the Justice Dept. said that the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 - landmark legislation that requires federal agencies to review the environmental implications of their projects - did not apply beyond the nation's territorial waters, which traditionally extend 3 miles from shore..\..a move that environmentalists say could allow military maneuvers, oil and gas pipelines, commercial fishing, ocean dumping and scores of other activities to escape public environmental review....
[Hey, America too can become as polluted as Russia!]
The view is being challenged by the Natural Resources Defense Council, which asserts that in addition to the territorial waters, the Act covers all activity within the nation's "exclusive economic zone," which extends 200 miles from shore....
- U.S. ties military aid to peacekeepers' immunity, by Elizabeth Becker, NYT, front page.
WASHINGTON...- The Bush administration, making use of a provision of the new antiterrorism law, warned foreign diplomats this week that their nations could lose all American military assistance if they became members of the International Criminal Court without pledging to protect Americans serving in their countries from its reach...[for fear] that it could subject Americans to politically motivated prosecutions abroad....
[Thus setting the whole world an example of lawlessness and mistrust, not to say paranoia - American "law unto ourselves" unilateralism incrementally motivates further terrorism and reduces our national security.]
- Companies use ex-lawmakers [to] lobby for offshore tax break, by Alison Mitchell, NYT, front page & A8.
WASHINGTON...- It can feel like old home week on Capitol Hill, what with the armada of former lawmakers who are suddenly lobbying against efforts in Congress to crack down on companies that shift their addresses offshore to lower their tax bills....
[The sleaze oozes on.]
8/03/2002 headlines from hell -
- Can workers rescue the market? [by putting money into stocks regardless of performance], ...letter to editor by C. L. Fincher of Little Rock AR, NYT, A16.
Re "To encourage recovery, encourage investors," by Muriel Siebert (Op-Ed, Aug. 6):
As a former employee in a mid-sized Fortune 500 company,
Now Ms. Siebert asks us to double our investments in these empty hulks. Dream on.
- I watched for years as executives cut capital spending to meet or exceed profit projections.
- I saw R&D cut, as well as training.
- I saw the "old guard" ousted through quiet, targeted layoffs and replaced with cheaper, inexperienced 20-somethings.
- [And here's a little sample of the bad management mentioned above -]
WorldCom revision might double - Telecom's improper bookings may now top $7 billion, following internal review, by Jared Sandberg & Susan Pulliam, WSJ, A3.
[This is interesting. The WSJ hides this story on page 3 with a pointer paragraph second-in-list on Page One - but has a more dramatic headline. The NYT splashes it right on Page One, but has a less dramatic, more complicated headline -]
WorldCom finds $3.3 billion more in irregularities - Errors date from 1999 - Concern says audits continue and new misstatements could be uncovered, by Barnaby Feder & Seth Schiesel, NYT, front page.
8/02/2002 headlines from hell - quickies -
- Jobless data exposes cracks in recovery, pointer blowout (to B1), NYT, front page.
The unemployment rate remained steady at 5.9% in July.... The latest data raised fresh questions about the faltering recovery....
[and the source articles -]
Stock gauges fall 2% or more on jobs report, by Jonathan Fuerbringer, NYT, B1.
Dow slides 193, but ends week up slightly, AP via Arizona Republic, D4.
["whoopeedoo" - and]
Semiconductor sales point to slow recovery - Analysts do not see a clear path to recovery for chip makers, by John Schwartz, NYT, B2.
Most bets lie on a decline in Fed rates, by Floyd Norris, NYT, B1.
[Lower rates to spread employment through business borrowing and expansion won't cut it this time. This is the Kondratieff. This time we need a lower surplus of manhours flooding the job market, and that means either lower workweeks (the easy way) or lower population (the hard way).]
- California considers power puzzle, pointer digest (to B2), NYT, B1.
Two years after electricity shortages sent prices sky high and blackouts rolling across the state, California, the standard-bearer for deregulation gone wrong, is just beginning to figure out how its power market will operate beyond the next few months.
[Here's the main articles, whose headlines dignify dopey Calif. rather too much -]
California examines ways to manage energy - After shortages, a look at the grid - A panel tries to prevent generating companies from inflating prices, by Daniel Altman, NYT, B2.
[How about just returning energy to state ownership the way it was before - before them idiots tried to "fix" something that worked?!]
8/01/2002 headlines from hell -
- Dubya's double dip - Um, about that recovery..., op ed by Paul Krugman, NYT, A23.
[and helping things down -]
What's news, WSJ, front page.
- Two former WorldCom officials were charged with fraud....
- AOL's dealings with a software firm [PurchasePro] are being investigated.
- Calpine and PG&E saw their profits plunge. A PG&E unit's debt was downgraded to junk.
- Exxon Mobil and Shell each saw profits plunge about 40% due to the slumping global economy and lower demand for energy.
- Disney said net slid 31%, hurt by lower theme-park attendance and soft ad sales....
- Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas, Credit Lyonnais and Barclays saw profits fall due to write-downs and corporate insolvencies.
- Paul O'Neill signaled that the US would back a financial rescue package for Brazil, retreating from an anti-bailout position.
[More "good money after bad."]
- Senate approves bill to give Bush trade authority - Last vote before recess - Under rules, Congress cannot change deal but can veto it if U.S. jobs are at risk, by David Firestone, NYT, front page.
- Senate easily passes $355 billion bill for military spending, by Carl Hulse, NYT, A14.
- Again, Florida race muddled, 'inside' pointer (to A12), NYT, front page.
Again, election confusion for the Florida secretary of state - Katharine Harris says she didn't know a law applied to her, by Dana Canedy, NYT, A12.
...Florida's "resign to run" law requires that elected officials seeking another office submit a letter on the day of qualifying for the upcoming race stating when they intend to resign.... So [Aug. 1, yester]day, Ms. Harris, the official who made so much of "following the letter of the law" during Florida's botched 2000 presidential election, resigned as secretary of state in a letter to [crony] Gov. Jeb Bush dated Aug. 1, but she said her resignation was effective July 15, the day she qualified for the Congressional race....
The letter seemed to contradict that point however, stating, "To this date I have vigorously engaged in my duties as secretary of state...despite the increasing demands of my Congressional campaign."
...Said Bob Poe, head of the Florida Democratic Party..\..who [tried to help] Al Gore...in the presidential race..., "She doesn't know election law.... She couldn't even resign properly."...
[Once a ninny, always a ninny. "Following the letter of the law," and giving her the same measure as she meted out, she should be barred from running. But maybe she'd do less damage in Congress than she has as Fla.'s secy of "state."]
For earlier collapse stories, click on the desired date -
- New report shows US economy slowed significantly for quarter - 2001 recession now seen longer and deeper -
In the most troubling sign of all, consumer spending finally slows, by David Leonhardt, NYT, C1, C7.
The Commerce Dept. estimted yesterday that economic growth slowed sharply in the recent quarter from April through June.... "The economy is on a much weaker foundation than thought," said Mark Zandt, the chief economist at Economy.com, a research firm in West Chester, Pa. Growth, he added, has come "to a virtual standstill."
[That's because if you use work-saving production technology to downsize your workforce instead of to downsize your workweek, surprise surprise, you also downsize your consumer base and then who the heck is going to buy all the technological production???]
...The most troubling sign in the Commerce Dept's report may have been a further spending slowdown by consumers. For much of the last two years, Americans increased their spending at a healthy clip [apparently on credit - ed.] as stocks were falling and businesses were sharply reducing their investments. In the second quarter, however, consumer spending grew at an annual rate of only 1.9%, adjusted for inflation and normal seasonal variations, down from 3.1% at the end of last year. In fact, the total value of American goods and services sold in the second quarter actually declined slightly. The economy [only] grew because companies increased production in order to keep their inventory levels essentially flat, after more than a year of cutting their stockpiles.... For the economy to improve, consumers will have to increase their spending in future months and buy more of those stockpiled goods....
[And that will mean we will have to hire a lot more people at a lot better pay - and centrifuge the incredible income concentration that has funneled into the top brackets over the last twenty years of downsizing. Hiring a lot more people will take a lot of huge makework programs, that failed in the USA in the 1930s - until the War - and that failed in Japan in the 1990s, or will take a lot of corporate, state, regional and national work sharing = shorter workweeks. But so great is the current denial on the critical importance of employment and worktime that the New York Times does not even mention increased employment in its estimate of how consumers might increase their spending, mentioning only incentives to taking on greater consumer debt, which like any bubble, will eventually reach its limit -]
The decline in the stock market may give them pause, but the return of zero-percent financing by automakers and still-low mortgage rates should help lift spending, economists said....
[In short, the party line is that already strapped automakers, forced to give up even more profit, are going to lead the recovery, or, housing will. But check the headline below on housing -]
- The housing bubble loses some air - Demand for high-end homes drops in markets that once sizzled; A 20-month supply in Atlanta, by Motoko Rich, WSJ, D1.
[And when even the high-end market goes, we're out of the foothills and into the mountains,]
- [And then there are the cheap millionaires in our Senate who are going to centrifuge as little spending power as they can -]
Senate kills plan for drug benefits through Medicare - No political consensus - Bill to widen access to generic drugs is approved but fate in House is uncertain, by Robert Pear, NYT, front page.
July 1-15/2002 + Jun 30.
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.
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