DoomwatchTM vs. Timesizing®

Collapse trends - Sept.1-15, 2003
[Commentary] ©2003 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080 - HOMEPAGE


9/12/2003  surfin' those headlines from hell -
  1. Trade deficit higher in July despite rise in U.S. exports, NYT, C5.
    [Note that this is not really post-mercantilism/protectionism. It is reverse-mercantilistm/protectionism dba self-impoverishment.]

  2. The big secret in health care: Rationing is [already] here - With little guidance, workers on front lines decide who gets what treatment, WSJ, front page.
    [Better we should have gone with, was it Washington State's?, kind of rational rationing.]

9/11/2003  surfin' those headlines from hell -
  1. Foreign views of U.S. darken after Sept. 11 - Respect for U.S. falls in a post-Iraq world, by Richard Bernstein, NYT, front page & A18.
    In the two years since 9/11/01, the view of the United States as a victim of terrorism that deserved the world's sympathy and support has given way to a widespread vision of America as an imperial power that has defied world opinion through unjustified and unilateral use of military force.... In interviews by Times correspondents from Africa to Europe to Southeast Asia, one point emerged clearly: The war in Iraq has had a major impact on public opinion, which has moved generally from post-9/11 sympathy to post-Iraq antipathy....
    To some degree, the resentment is centered on the person of pResident Bush, who is seen by many of those interviewed, at best, as an ineffective spokesman for American interests and, at worst, as a gunslinging cowboy knocking over international treaties and bent on controlling the world's oil, if not the entire world....
    [In short, seen very like the way we saw Kruschev 40 years ago. And just how ineffective is our prancing pResidential jackass? -]
    Bin Laden is seen with aide on tape - Arab TV channel says images were recorded last spring, NYT, front page.
    [Colleague Kate calls this tape, "A Walk with Osama." And why did they wait since last spring to release the tape now? Oh yeah, it's the second anniversary of their triumphal tweak on 9/11/01 that turned 'lucky.' But now Bush is billing us a BILLION BUCKS a week for his terrorism-irrelevant grab for Iraqi oil to bail out Cheney & Halliburton and unnecessarily avenge his father, Bush Sr. - who had a lot more restraint and common sense. His dad's nemesis, terrorist-unconnected Saddam, is still out there. The terrorist anthrax mailer is still out there. And terrorist-in-chief Osama is still out there. Result? -]
    Shares fall sharply after tape of bin Laden is broadcast, NYT, C7.
    [Bin Laden is laffin' so hard at dumbass Americans for buying Bush's load of bull. Not only did Osama have the unexpected 'luck' of having the twin towers collapse, but now, much better for him, America's looney neo-con junta has jacked our yearly deficit - never mind our total national debt! - up to half a TRILLION a year - indefinitely. Every single one of these monsters should be tried before an international warcrimes court - Bush, Cheney, Condy, Rummy, Wolfowitz, Blair, even once-honorable Colin Powell - the whole sickening ooze of slime. And if not international, then national. And if not war crimes, then impeachment. No one's giving "aid and succor" to anti-Americanism in general and terrorism in particular at anything like the levels and pace as the likes of them. And according to Bill Moyers' NOW this week, the four 9/11 widows from NJ have so many questions about the stifling of information about 9/11, about the energy taskforce that has released maps of Iraqi oilfields that it was looking at in early March/2001, the late scrambling of planes, the FBI scooping and suppressing of air traffic contol info about the the 4 flights, their failure to connect the glowing neon dots about the terrorists and the flight schools, and on and on and on - that it looks very very much like there was a general agreement to LET SOMETHING HAPPEN - and use it to ream Iraq's oilfields. And by the way, why didn't Saddam burn those oilfields as he did in 1992? Is there a connection between that fact and the fact he hasn't been caught yet? Were those really his two sons? Are we really supposed to take the administration's word for it, or for anything else? This country has not seen dark days like this since McCarthyism.]

  2. [Here's some of Maureen Dowd's take at this point in our descent -]
    We're not happy campers, op ed by Maureen Dowd, NYT, A27.
    [Colin Powell warned Congress yesterday that -]
    ...No allies want to help us pick up the tab for rebuilding a country full of people who revile us.
    [They'd be crazy to help us pick up that kind of thankless blank check.]
    ..\..Iraq never threatened U.S. security. Bush officials cynically attacked a villainous country because they knew it was easier than finding the real 9/11 villain, who had no country.... By pretending Iraq was crawling with Al Qaeda, they've created an Iraq crawling with Al Qaeda.
    ..\..I've actually gotten to the point where I hope Dick Cheney is embroiled in a Clancyesque [ref??] conspiracy to benefit Halliburton. Because if it's not a conspiracy, it's naivete and ideology. And that means our leaders have used goofball logic and lousy assumptions to trap the country in a cockeyed replay of the Crusades that could drain [never mind "could" - IS draining!] our treasury and strain our military for generations, without making us any safer from terrorists and maybe [no "maybe" about it!] putting us more at risk. \And\ the place so eager to protect itself from "Jewish" toys and "the perverted West" \that it has\ banned..."Jewish Barbie dolls"...in Saudi Arabia for a decade [as] a threat to Islam...has more lingerie stores in its malls than Victoria has secrets, [was] the breeding ground of the 9/11 hijackers [and] is still the Bush administration's close ally....
    [Followup, speaking of 'our descent' -]
    That sinking feeling - The view that America is on the skids is on the rise - ...The new declinism..., 9/14/2003 Boston Globe, D1, D5.
    [Gosh, where did they ever get the idea that America is in decline? Who would ever even say such a thing?! -]
    Addressing the nation last Suday night, pResident Bush offered the following explanation, not for the first time, of the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington: "The terrorists became convinced that free nations were decadent and weak. And they grew bolder, thinking that history was on their side."... Even during the...90s, doubts about America's future were widespread.... Whether it was multiculturalism, consumerism or economic inequality, some kind of centrifugal force was weakening American power and American values from within....
    [Ironically, it's the gradual, cumulative dismantling of the centrifuges on the national income (don't get too smug, you Democrats - you started the dismantling of the graduated income tax in 1963, and you doubled and redoubled the wage-flattening immigration rate in 1965 and the early 90s) that have produced the astronomical economic inequality, allowed the strengthening of plutocracy and the weakening of democracy. And given the uncapped concentration of income and wealth, and the consequent isolation and insulation of decision-makers, we are fast losing effective systemic feedback, without which no system survives. How can we harness market forces in restoring the centrifuge on income and wealth? Shift from running capitalism on a labor-surplus basis to a labor-shortage basis - market forces reward shortage with higher prices, in this case wages - and with more money to those who actually want to buy things instead of to those in the top brackets who are already buying everything they desire, the "rising tide lifts all boats." How do we shift to a labor-shortage basis? Gradually lower the workweek below 40 hrs/wk. We lowered it haphazardly from 84 (7x12) to 44 between 1776 and 1938 and stayed away from a gross Third-World labor glut. We lowered it 2 hours a year nationally from 1938 to 1940 and achieved a 1% drop in our unemployment rate for every hour's drop in the workweek. Why not hook the workweek to the unemployment rate? - as long as the latter is high or rising, we slowly (an hour a year?) cut the workweek. It would certainly make parenting easier. And art, and leisure, and spiritual life, and civic duty.... And it would finally allow worksaving technology to deliver the goods of freedom as more free time, instead of merely triggering more downsizing by our nearsighted CEOs, more downsizing and economic anxiety...and economic inequality.]
    American overstretch? photo montage, 9/14/2003 Boston Globe, D5.

  3. The well-paid regulator, Ahead of the Tape column by Jesse Eisinger, WSJ, C1.
    Investors have had two major revelations in the past several weeks that suggest the stock market continues to be a rigged game.
    [Whoah - what an admission from the Wall Street Journal!]
    1. Major mutual fund companies were taking fees to allow hedge funds to make trades that stripped profits directly out of the pockets of their own retail-investor customers.
    2. And then there is the flap over Dick Grasso's [$140m] pay.... When the NYSE last month sneezed out [mng?] the $140m compensation plan for its blessed chairman, we were told the controversy was put to rest. But then this week, Mr. Grasso and the NYSE were forced, only after pressure from the SEC, to reveal that indeed the blessings actually surpassed the original number. There was a heretofore undisclosed addition of $48 million. It's compensation enough to the The Simpson's C. Montgomery Burns ashamed....
    While the stock market has been strong this year, individual investors are only just getting back in. The scandals come at an inopportune time....

  4. [unintended consequences of frequently 'playing the race card' -]
    Fear of bias suits may be affecting hiring decisions, Capital column by David Wessel, WSJ, A2.
    More than a few readers responded to last week's column - on experiments that suggest that many employers still choose white job applicants over equally or more qualified blacks - with e-mails like this:
    "I have hired about 50 or so people during my career. I have watched co-managers hire many more. I have never noticed that racism per se was a factor in these decisions," Kenneth Corman wrote from Anaheim, Calif.
    Nonetheless, he suggests that race may play a role in a decision: "If the new hire does not work out, whether due to attendance, effort, reliability, ability, taking direction or whatever, managers want to be able to dismiss that employee easily. Whether right or wrong, there is a perception that non-whites may make a legal issue out of a dismissal more often than whites. Some hiring managers may consider this in their deliberations. This is not necessarily racism but a pre-emptive defense against being accused of racism...."

  5. California is close, pointer blurb (to A2), WSJ, front page.
    [that in itself would be a headline from hell, but the sentence continues -]
    ...to approving a requirement that firms with 50 or more employees provide for their workers' health insurance.
    [Another unfunded mandate. IF this one passes, watch how fast firms with 50-100 employees shed down to 49 and California's joblessness rockets! Instead of sharpshooting these problems at detailed levels, government should be simply releveling the power gradient between employees (surplus, powerless) and employers (scarce, all-powerful) by handicapping employers via rationing their access to employee hours. Meaning? Cut the workweek. Balance the economy in the middle with one powerful groundrule and you don't have to indulge in a blinding blizzard of costly government micromanagement everywhere else.]

9/10/2003  surfin' those headlines from hell -
  1. Paying the bills for Iraq, editorial, NYT, A22.
    ...Bush's request for...next year would bring American spending on Iraq to some $150B. The most costly element is military operations - roughly $1 billion a week.
    [A BILLION A WEEK!]
    Long-term military costs are unknowable....
    [= a blank check for an unnecessary and misrepresented war. Compare -]
    Democrats demanding answers from Bush on his plans for Iraq - 'Congress is not an ATM,' declares Sen. Byrd, 9/10/2003 NYT, A8.
    [and this, TWO MONTHS after the conservative magazine, the Economist, out of London, ran -]
    Red George - Meet America's most profligate president since the Vietnam War, Lexington column, 7/05/2003 The Economist, 30.

  2. [and while we're wasting a billion bucks a week on a gratuitous military adventures -]
    Employees paying ever-bigger share for health care - A 48% jump over 3 years - Study says two-thirds of big companies have increased costs for their workers, NYT, front page.
    ...study by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust....
    [The wealth-insulated and isolated CEOs of the land continue cannibalizing their own consumer base, with a little nibble here, a little readjustment there, and pretty soon a critical number of centrifuge mechanisms on the national income are changed to centripetal mechanisms that pour money upward into the top brackets where its astronomically tight compaction prevents it from being spent by a few mega-mega incomed people who are already spending all they desire. Result? They're suctioning the markets away from their own potential investment targets, so they have no option but to sock even more into stocks, inflating yet another stock bubble dba pyramid scheme, with price/earning ratios even higher than historic norms. The only potential benefit from this development is that health insurance for the full-time employed is gradually getting just as expensive as health insurance for the part-time employed, thus diminishing one huge obstacle to workweek reduction and timesizing. Journal version -]
    Health-coverage premiums rise 13.9% [this year], WSJ, A2.

  3. [and despite the apparition of another stock run-up -]
    Insider sales swamp purchases in face of stock market's advance, WSJ, C17.

  4. [and a problem similar to that caused by setting aside immigration laws -]
    No-child-left-behind law leaves no room for some - Allowing transfers from failing schools can crowd the good ones, NYT, A21.

  5. [and predictably -]
    Argentina defaults on $3B IMF debt, NYT, C5 (//WSJ, A22: "$2.9B").

9/9/2003  surfin' those headlines from hell -
  1. Consumer debt jumped $6 billion in latest month [July], Dow Jones via WSJ, A2.
    ...to $1.774 trillion. That followed a revised...rise \of only\ $100m...in June to $1.768T, originally reported as a decline of $400m.
    [Hey, what's a 'conservative'-administration-favoring error of 100+400= $500m= $halfabillion here and there when this administration is robbing us of a full $billion a week on just the military in just Iraq? Guess we should lower our forecast for when the self-cannibalizing USA will enter the Third World from 25 years to 20, max. Times version -]
    Borrowing increased 4.1% in July, pointer digest (to C11), NYT, C1.
    Borrowing through credit cards, auto loans and other personal debt not secured by real estate [ie: excludes all the current consumer-spending surge on life support from home-equity loans] increased 4.1% in July, or $6B, to $1.77T, the government said.

  2. [& what are a lot of consumers borrowing for? -]
    Rent and utility costs, news blurb, WSJ, front page.
    ...rose more than one-third to $791 [ie:$800] a month for a typical two-bedroom apartment since 1999, a housing advocacy group said.
    [That's it for the Journal's treatment. Times gives it nearly ¼ page -]
    Poor workers finding modest housing unaffordable, study says, by Lynette Clemetson, NYT, A15.
    WASHINGTON - With the rise in housing costs outpacing that of wages, there is no state where a low-income worker can reasonably afford a modest one- or two-bedroom rental unit, according to a study issued today by the National Low Income Housing Coalition [NLIHC], an advocacy group based in Washington.
    [It would be nice if an advocacy group took the next step and researched how much of this trend is due to essentially setting aside our immigration laws.]
    The study, "Out of Reach 2003," compared wages in each state, large metropolitan area and county in the nation against fair market rents as determined by the Dept. of Housing & Urban Development [HUD]. In 40 states...renters need to earn more than two times the prevailing minimum wage to afford basic housing. In the most expensive states - Mass., Calif., NJ, NY, Md., and Conn. - they must earn more than three times the minimum wage.
    The federal minimum wage, last increased in 1997, is $5.15 an hour, though some states put their minimums higher, topped by Alaska, at $7.15.
    [Maybe it's time we stopped trying to solve this problem at the bottom with minimums, and on a per-job basis with wages, and went back to solving it at the top with maximums, and on a per-person basis with incomes, but since we can't address income per person before work per person without creating dependency, it's time to solve this problem with a maximum on a per-person basis in the employment dimension; in other words, with a shorter workweek. And then, of course, we must ask ourselves, how sustainable are uncontrolled population variables like imports (= 'proxy immigrants'), immigrants and (longer-term) births (= 'delayed immigrants')?]
    The nation's median hourly wage last year was roughly $12 an hour, according to the Economic Policy Institute.... The national median housing wage necessary to afford a standard two-bedroom rental unit, the [NLIHC] indicated, is $15.21 an hour, up 37% from 1999, when the organization began collecting detailed statistics.
    In Massachusetts, the most expensive state for housing, \the\ "housing wage" - the income a full-time worker must earn to afford a modest rental unit [with] "affordable rent" [by HUD] defined as no more than 30% of the household income...- for a modest two-bedroom apartment is $22.40 an hour. In DC...$23.42 an hour. But even in W.Va., the most affordable state, a worker would need to earn $8.78 an hour to afford basic housing.
    ..\..Sheila Crowley, president of NLIHC...said more subsidized housing was needed for low-income families.
    Not all housing experts agree. "We're not, in this time of rising deficits, going to be able to subsidize our way out of any housing gap," said Howard Husock, director of case studies at the John F. Kennedy School of Gov't at Harvard. "We need to find ways to increase wages of low-income families
    [we're with him so far, but -]
    and to create more two-wage-earner households, through programs like those that encourage marriage."
    [Wha-a-at? At a time when our social unit is shifting from the reproductive couple to the productive person and beyond, from the procreative pair to the creative individual? This guy is a self-contradictory rightwinger. What's he doing at Harvard?! Rightwing because he's trying to shove his personal marriage morality down everyone's throat and self-contradictory because if he really believed in family values, he wouldn't be so hot on depriving children of both parents. The solution to all this is stemming the upward creep of the workweek and the inward flood of immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, that is drowning the already weakened job market and clobbering wages.]

  3. Presidential character, editorial, NYT, A30.
  4. U.S. [ie: Bush administration] opposes EU effort to test chemicals for health hazards, NYT, front page.
    [Next targets: motherhood and apple pie! So is it any wonder that -]
    Post-Iraq influence of U.S. faces test at new trade talks [in Cancun] - WTO's clout is on trial, too; Persistent rich/poor gap dims hopes raised in '01 - No more post-9/11 sympathy, WSJ, front page.

9/05/2003  surfin' those headlines from hell -
  1. Bush offers six-point plan for an economic recovery, by Elisabeth Bumiller, NYT, A17.
    1. ...affordable health care,
      [no details - just mouthing popular buzzwords]
    2. a national energy policy,
      [no connection to economic recovery - just mouthing popular buzzwords]
    3. opening overseas markets to American products,
      [not really something under his control like closing what's left of American markets to dumping from overseas]
    4. a limit on the awards paid to medical malpractice victims,
      [no connection to economic recovery - just one of his previous hobbyhorses pressed into the list]
    5. a simplification of regulations on small business
      [no particular connection to economic recovery - merely one of his previous hobbyhorses pressed into the list]
    6. and an appeal to Congress to make his tax cuts permanent.
      [taxcuts for the rich will further concentrate the national income, depress domestic demand and delay economic recovery - merely one of his previous hobbyhorses pressed into the list]

  2. Romney can do better, column by Brian McGrory, Boston Globe, B1.
    It was just a few months ago when the rest of the world was accusing America of trying to remade Iraq in its own image. Ends up they had it backward.
    Every day now, America is looking more and more like Iraq.  Since the pResident has declared his mission, ahem, accomplished,

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