DoomwatchTM vs. Timesizing®
Collapse trends - December, 2003
[Commentary] ©2003 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080 - HOMEPAGE
12/26/2003 surfin' those headlines from hell -
12/25/2003 surfin' those headlines from hell -
- Short interest climbs as rally in tech trails off, WSJ, B8.
[Or maybe this is good news - maybe we'll avoid a replay of the late-90s tech bubble.]
- Washington wire -...Hit the ceiling, by Jackie Calmes, WSJ, A4.
With Bush and Congress facing election-year embarrassment of having to raise the debt limit - borrowing could breach the current $7.384 trillion ceiling this summer....
12/22/2003 surfin' those headlines from hell -
- Factories post 3.1% decline in orders for durables, AP via NYT, C2.
- Unilateralism has its price, pointer (to C2), NYT, C1.
With global cooperation giving way to division and with military spending on the rise, there will be a high economic price to pay.
Economic scene - America is paying a signficant price for favoring unilateralism over international cooperation..., NYT, C2.
...America's defense budget has grown from $300B when pResident Bush took office to $400B in the new fiscal year, excluding $87B for the Iraq war. [photo caption]
[So that's the basic breakdown of the famed $487B. Gee, maybe we should put this under Makework.]
- Congress's missing mission oops vision, editorial, NYT, A20.
[ah, why is merely paying your bills a big "vision" thing?]
...Warned Douglas Holtz-Eakin, director of the Congressional Budget Office..\..Congress's main budget adviser..., unless the deficit-&-taxcut-happy Congress begins to put the brakes on now, future Americans will most likely be caught in an impossible crunch of historically higher taxes and plummeting healthcare and retirement benefits.
[ah, isn't this already happening?]
...World markets, in which the dollar is steadily declining against the euro, are already showing a deepening suspicion about pResident Bush's policy of budgeting by deficit and debt....
[And in the wisdom of Allah, OPEC will switch its base currency from the dollar to the euro - they'd be fools not to.]
12/19/2003 surfin' those headlines from hell -
- [If Bush & Cheney aren't forthcoming with public information, why should Dean be (re sealed Vermont governorship records). Why should anybody be? - for instance -]
Hollinger International Inc. - Conrad Black plans to refuse to testify before the SEC, WSJ, B9.
...as part of the agency's probe into financial wrongdoing at the company. The Justice Dept. also is investigating Hollinger and certain payments to Lord Black.... Lord Black's [own] attorneys also have had trouble getting all the documents needed to answer questions about the financial transactions at the center of the probe....
[The neo-con rot spreads and spreads. So much for Soros' dream of an "open society."]
- Design of world's tallest building for Trade Center site is unveiled, by Alex Frangos, WSJ, A2.
...at Ground Zero.... The "Freedom Tower," estimated to cost $1.5B, will aim to be the tallest building in the world at 1,776 feet....
[So, another invitingly high death trap. And all the more inviting because of the symbolic height - get it? 1,776 = 1776, an even better symbol of widely hated America than the old trade towers. When will they ever learn? Isn't this the equivalent of just putting up a big sign saying "ATTACK ME"? Will any companies or employees be stupid enough to want to work in this screaming target? (Sadly yes, when we're talking about today's dumbed-down Americans.)]
12/18/2003 surfin' those headlines from hell -
- [double jeopardy -]
9/11 inquiry - Chief of Sept. 11 panel assesses blame but holds off on higher-ups, by Philip Henson, NYT, A22.
[So (1) there were blameworthy Americans, but (2) we're going to protect the top brains behind the blameworthy Americans and just sacrifice some pawns -]
DC...- The chairman of a federal commission investigating 9/11 [Thomas Kean, former Republican governor of NJ - again the fox guarding the henhouse] said on Thursday that the attacks could have been prevented had a group of low- and mid-level government employees at the FBI, the immigration service and elsewhere done their jobs properly. [He said] his investigators were still studying whether senior Bush administration officials should also share the blame [but] it was too early to suggest that White House aides or other senior officials had been derelict....
[Well, it's "only" 2 YEARS, 3 months, 1 week and 1 day later - when does it cease being "too early"?]
- Financial firms battle over Bush savings plan, by McKinnon & Hitt, WSJ, A4.
[Bush is wasting his time on a savings plan when we're in an officially denied but ever-deepening depression = a crisis of too little spending rather than too little saving?! We are governed by morons who can't see the nose in front of their face.]
- [The neo-cons aren't the only idiots. There's also our CEOs, analysts and B-schools who think they can base a sustainable UPturn on DOWNsizing, and if you're wondering why network TV has been getting worse and worse, there's also our advertising 'geniuses' -]
The young and the pointless - All those ads, aimed at the wrong group, by Eric Felten, WSJ, W15, flagged by colleague Kate.
...Given the markups on big-ticket items sold to wealthy adults, you'd think that TV shows with affluent older demographics would command the priciest ad slots. You'd think wrong.... Advertisers are willing to pay a steep premium to show their wares to young men (and women) in the "all-important," "coveted," "highly desirable," - choose your adjective - 18-to-34 age group.
Imagine the consternation last month when the networks [found out] Nielsen couldn't really say wh[at] the boys were [watching], but...they weren't...watching network TV. NBC's youth flagship "Friends" lost nearly 30% of its young-adult viewers over the past year; Fox's "24" plunged 37% among the age group....
[Never mind our downwardly frozen 1940-era workweek has forced these kids to work megahours....]
You can't blame network execs for their distress. Advertisers regularly pay more than twice as much to [reach] the youth market. The question is: Why? You'd think they would follow Willie Sutton's motto and go where the money is. And when it comes to selling stuff - especially expensive stuff - the money is in the pockets of consumers over 45.
[So here we have another entry for our List of Market Failures, related to the blind Herd Mentality.]
Blindly chasing the young is a marketing mistake as costly as it is inexplicable. Take Mitsubishi Motors' recent efforts to woo young car buyers. ...To actually sell cars to the target market, Mitsubishi had to offer easy credit: nothing down, no interest and no payments until, well, whenever. It seems that Mitsubishi didn't ask if the rave crowd - once it had covered the monthly nut for Ecstasy and glow-sticks - would have much left over for car payments. In just 6 months this year, Mitsubishi lost nearly a half-million dollars in loans gone bad....
[Herd Mentality. Gotta be up with the latest Big New Thang - no matter how suicidal. Lemmings of the World, Unite! Throw off your inhibitions! Follow us over that cliff!]
12/17/2003 surfin' those headlines from hell -
- [and here's another goody to add to our List of Technological Max-Outs -]
Business software: Where did the buyers go? by Kevin Delaney, WSJ, 12/18, 2003.
[And it ain't just feature-overload à la Windows XYZ or cellphoneys -]
Business-S/W makers face a new obstacle to clinching deals these days: The people they want to [buy] their programs sometimes are outsourced away....
[Let's see. What else is on our list? Oh yeah.
Plus the occasional low-tech sendups like pet rocks.... There are always some "early adopters" with money enow to debug the prototypes, but as Colleague Kate points out, "They're not a mass market." And here's another, perhaps the most important, technological max-out, weapons -]
- Hifi that only dogs can hear.
- Digital TV.
- High-tech Japanese toilets with a control panel as big as a 747's.
- Electric toothbrushes (not to be confused with the valuable WaterPic)....
Sense of mortality gave push to India-Pakistan talks, by Amy Waldman, 1/08/2004 NYT, A6.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Jan. 7 - Pakistan's decision to end state support for Islamic militants in Kashmir was reached after 8 months of secret negotiations and essentially cemented with the attack on the Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, on Dec. 25, officials here say. On Tuesday, India and Pakistan agreed to resume a formal discussion in February on Kashmir, the Himalayan territory they both claim, and on other issues. By pledging to allow no terrorist activity from its territory, Pakistan met a main condition of India's....
[Not to mention the sense of mortality that kept either side from destroying the world during the Cold War.]
12/16/2003 surfin' those headlines from hell -
- Core consumer prices fell, pointer (to A2), WSJ, front page.
...last month for the first time since 1982, bringing the underlying inflation rate to a 40-year low .
[main headline -]
Core inflation is lowest in 40 years - Inflation is still falling, WSJ, A2.
[Sportsfans, that's called deflation, and it betokens a lack of consumers with spending money, and a key symptom of the Great Depression.]
- Farm belt is becoming a driver for overall economy - As prices rise, spending spreads to tractors, trucks..., WSJ, front page.
[If America's depopulated farm belt is truly becoming a driver for the overall economy, then we are REALLY in trouble - see 11/29-12/01/2003 #3 - especially when 19 pages further we read -]
China's new crop of exports - Sales of farm produce soar as farmers switch away from grain, WSJ, A20.
12/14/2003 surfin' those headlines from hell -
- Gun buyers find privacy perk - Bill would cut holding of records to 24 hours from 90 days, by Fields & Foley, WSJ, A4.
When it comes to privacy rights, gun buyers are a protected class.
The there are gun-purchase records. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is barred by law from using background check records related to approved gun sales in criminal investigations, and current rules require them to be destroyed within 90 days to protect purchasers' privacy - a time period that would be reduced to 24 hours under legislation pending in Congress....
- The government keeps tax returns for seven years.
- Federal regulations require doctors to retain patients' medical records for at least six years.
- And this month, pResident Bush signed a law allowing banks, insurance and credit-card companies to trade and sell personal information, including Social Security numbers, salaries, and debt and spending records.
[Colleague Kate wonders, Why would Bush and Ashcroft want this kind of protection for criminals unless they planned to use gangs for some of their dirtywork? Phil wonders if maybe it's really about the potential re-election usefulness of terrorism. First the Bush regime backed terrorism by not following up the many pre-9/11 pointers to 9/11. Then the Bush regime backed terrorism by going after irrelevant Iraq and Saddam, thus completely distracting from Homeland Security, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Al Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden. Now criminals and terrorists must be laughing, because the Bush regime is backing them both a third big time by destroying the paper trail of gun purchasers. Compare the neighboring article -]
Bush must show that U.S. is defined by more than might, WSJ, A4.
[Not much chance of that in the light of Bush's support for selling guns to just anybody - unless you count showing that Bush's U.S. "is defined by" softness on terrorism. Look at U.S. support for the ongoing land theft and terrorism of the Israeli squatters and the Sharon government. And note this little item -]
A commission warns, pointer (to A8), WSJ, front page.
...it sees a dangerous waning of attention to fighting terrorism and that civil liberties should be guarded better.
[Main article -]
Panel criticizes U.S. security efforts, by Robert Block, WSJ, A8.
DC - A special advisory commission...headed up by former Virginia Gov. James Gilmore \warned\ that momentum "appears to have waned" in efforts to protect the U.S. from terrorists [and] said the government must refocus its campaign to better defend the country as well as civil rights.
The commission's report [is] perhaps the strongest critique of the Bush administration's homeland-security program to date; [it] said that despite an encouraging start following 9/11, the government has failed to develop an adequate overall antiterrorism strategy....
[So what does the Bush regime do 6 days later? Issue "the most serious" post-9/11 terrorism warning yet to give the false impression that they have a clue. In short, if under fire, cry "WOLF!"]
The U.S. raised the terrorism alert, adding anxiety to the holidays, blurb, 12/22/2003 WSJ, front page.
Ridge said he ordered the elevation to orange, the second-highest level, because threat indicators [which no one can check] are greater than at any point since 9/11/01....
[America the Pathetic - in the grip of a gang of manipulative morons. There is, however, some indication that residual gullibility in the rest of the world has peaked -]
Global 'Saddam effect' peters out - U.S. Treasury yields finish only moderately higher as initial reaction fades, by Blackstone & Derby, Dow Jones via WSJ, C16.
Asset markets across the globe responded as one would have expected to the capture of former Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein, with government-bond yields rising, stocks gaining, the dollar strengthening and gold and crude-oil prices falling.
However, investors took baby steps rather than bold ones yesterday, and the rally soon petered out. By the end of the session, Treasury yields were just modestly higher from Friday, stocks were lower, and the dollar had hit a fresh record low against the euro....
[In short, the world gets back to the realization that the real problem is the doctrinaire extremists and energy thieves in the White House, not third-rate dictators halfway round the globe.]
- [And compare also the Bush regime's continuing incomprehensible (apart from fear of scandal) insistence on the privacy of the records of Cheney's public energy taskforce -]
Court to rule on energy task force - Cheney's claims of privilege in not disclosing contacts will be decided by [Supreme Court] justices, WSJ, A2.
[Compare tomorrow's lecturing of the White House even by usually Bush-duped William Safire -]
Behind closed doors - Freedom begins with information, op ed by William Safire, 12/17/2003 NYT, A35.
...The administration's eagerness to slam the door in the snoopy[?? - isn't that our civic duty in a democracy, Bill, or don't you care?] public's face will now be argued before the high court during political primaries and probably decided in July, right before the issue-hungry Democratic political convention.
Are Republicans out of their collective mind? [Do they still have one?] Why the hots to hide?... Remember how we raised the roof about all those phony executive privilege claims as Clinton lawyers tried to jam a cone of silence on top of Secret Service agents? Remember how we fought for the right of Paula Jones to subject the high and mighty to discovery? [and all that was just about Clinton's sex life - who cares! - and not about the nation's vital energy policy]. What is sauce for the Clintons is sauce for the Bushies....
If "freedom" is the word Bush and Cheney want as the hallmark of their administration, they should begin with freedom of information.
[Compare the NY Times version of the original article -]
Justices will hear appeal on Cheney's energy panel, by Linda Greenhouse, NYT, A28.
...More than two years after the National Energy Policy Development Group completed its work and shut down, the administration has continued to guard the secrecy of its operations, including the names of energy industry representatives who consulted with the cabinet members and other federal officials who made up the taskforce's official membership....
12/12/2003 surfin' those headlines from hell -
- One nation, divisible -
- Spurred by strife and a populist vision, the Democrats broadened the political fold - "Party of the people: A history of the Democrats" by John Witcover..., book review by Elaine Kamarck, Boston Globe, D8.
[Yeah, but only after they stopped supporting slave owners and narrowing out blacks, and now they're narrowing the political fold to the rich and fragging the economy like the GOP, though not nearly so rapidly and overtly. The Democrats once (1933) passed a 30-hour workweek bill through the US Senate, only to block it in the House. They once practiced timesizing on a national scale when they finally passed a 44-hour workweek and cut unemployment 4% by cutting the workweek 4 hours in a 2-year period (1938-40), only to permanently freeze it at the 1940 level as the U.S. entered World War II. The Democrats have been duds and now they're downsizing, not timesizing, like most of the corporate power elite.]
- From more liberal beginnings, the GOP gradually gave way to conservatism - "Grand Old Party" by Lewis Gould..., book review by David Gergen, Boston Globe, D8.
[Yeah, but since 1980 when they unseparated Church and State by getting in bed with the "Religious Right" and the "Moral Majority" and ceased being a real political party, they've been getting less conservative and more extreme and now, with much acceleration, they are pushing the economy down to the bottom by pushing money up to the top - where people were already spending all they cared to. The GOP once led the charge on freeing people from other people's agendas via repeated workweek reductions (1863-1932), but after Ike gagged Nixon's brag about bringing in a 32-hour workweek in 1956, the GOP never realized where the economic priority was. They lost their vision and now they too are downsizing, not timesizing, like most of the other plutocrats.]
12/11/2003 surfin' those headlines from hell -
- The shortage of flu vaccines, editorial, NYT, A34.
[The great American 'youre-on-your-own' healthcare 'system' limps on. Compare below 12/09/2003 #2.]
- Last-minute damage to the environment, editorial, NYT, A34.
The Senate's failure this week to complete work on its omnibus spending bill gives it a month to review some damaging last-minute legislative riders that should be killed when Congress returns to work in January.
Of particular concern are two amendments involving environmental issues.
These riders would
- One would weaken air pollution rules.
- The other would weaken protections for dwindling fish species.
- not only serve special interests in the familiar manner of the pork-barrel riders that lard the bill,
- but also undercut basic law [by] preserv[ing] California's authority \to\ set its own more stringent clean air laws...but deny the other 49 states the right to follow California's lead - a right enshrined in the Clean Air Act more than a quarter-century ago....
- Calling 'Candid Camera', editorial, NYT, A34.
Not all that long ago, the tools Americans owned were relatively simple, single-purpose tools.... Now, among the many unnecessary features cluttering the new mobile phones are small digital cameras. [So now,] to the long list of places where cellphone use is not appropriate, like restaurants and theaters, you can add the still longer list of places where cellphone cameras are not appropriate, like gyms and locker rooms....
[Arthur Dahlberg predicted this kind of development 71 years ago in his 1932 book, "Jobs, Machines and Capitalism" - he placed it seven years from now after a prosperous decade of shorter working hours starting in 2000 whose only actual American manifestation was the period 1938-40 when we established a standard maximum workweek at the 44-hour level and cut it two hours a year till it reached 40. France, however, did establish a seven-hour workday in 2000. Dahlberg, however, visualizes a 20-hour workweek from 2000 to 2010. But "...suddenly in the year 2010, for reasons attributable to religious roots [Protestant work ethic], a new outlook ["24/7"] analogous to that of Calvin's Puritanism grips our people. Work is again deemed to be itself a virtue. In righteous mood, the people condemn their short hours of labor and legislate an eight-hour day [back] into existence. They force twice as many labor-hours to pour themselves into the industrial machine. Let us pause and see what happens. The day after the legislative act took effect half of the available men sufficed to do the old work." Dahlberg visualized a 20-hour workweek between 2000 and 2010, so restoring the 40-hour week would double the hours per person and halve the number of market-demanded persons. "As soon as the old industries reorganized their payrolls, one-half of the workers were unemployed. Where formerly the employers had been bidding against one another for men, men were now bidding against one another for jobs. ...When unemployment gave employers the whip hand, they cut wages and salaries.... It was a new situation, a new crisis; an age of scarcity of opportunity had superceded an age of abundance, and people tried hard to adapt to it.... They resorted to several things among which were these: The richer people, who were the main recipients of the rent, interest and profit...did not know how to spend it. Their old wants did not suffice to eat it up. Enterprising men...saw a potential market...if they could but devise new wants which appealed, or wants which social coercion could impose.... Some of the new wants created and injected had tremendous appeal and social worth. One of these was the television radio-phone, which enabled one at any time to see and converse with one's friends wherever they might be.... Manufacturers discovered that the mass of people provided a very limited market, and could afford to buy only the simplest models. The potential purchasers were the Rich. To tap this source, the manufacturers one after another injected styles and elaborations. The cost of these recourse in designers and obsolescence was tremendous, but they were forced to resort to it in order to compete. The workers, of course, did not object, because it furnished new jobs to many million more of them." These quotes are from Dahlberg's 1932 book, Chapter VII: A. How the industrial system adjusts to the injection of additional labor-hours, pp.161-2,167. It's all come true. If Arthur Dahlberg was the economic Essene ("we can reject the present") John the Baptist, then Phil Hyde is the economic evangelist ("we can transform the present") Jesus of Nazareth. It's all about sharing.
But enforcing the sharing of market-demanded work - isn't that socialism? No, socialism is a burgeoning maximum of stifling detailed controls. This is a stable minimum of freeing generalized regulations, as traffic lights let us share intersections and anti-spam laws let us share the Internet. It deals with the Chesterton pan-utopian flaw, the problem of people who take way more than share and crash the whole game.]
- Language (anthropological age) enabled us to share our plans and coordinate our hunting.
- Calendar and weather myths enabled us to share our agricultural efforts and settle down in fixed societies (sociological age).
- Writing enabled us to share detailed knowledge through time: to share the knowledge of our ancestors and share our knowledge with our descendants (geographical/historical age).
- Dual literary traditions (such as monastic and cleric) enabled us to share experiences across discordant lifestyles within our own nation and language area (political-science age).
- Quantification enabled us to share experiments across discordant emotions within our own industry and region (economic age).
- And programming for whole-system and very long-term sustainability is beginning to allow us to share intelligence and progress across discordant species within our own continent and biosphere.
12/10/2003 surfin' those headlines from hell -
- Immigration changes urged [but in the wrong direction], pointer (to A29), NYT, front page.
A Cabinet official [Homeland Security Sec'y Tom Ridge] has called for millions of illegal [aliens] to be given some sort of legal status short of citizenship.
[Thus encouraging millions more to flout our immigration laws.]
- More Afghan children dead, pointer (to A3), NYT, front page.
For the second time in a week, the U.S. military has acknowledged that children [9 this time] were victims of airstrikes aimed at the Taliban.
- The surprise in your phone bill - Major carriers are raising rates, despite competition; 76% increase for 20 minutes, WSJ, D1.
[Tell us again why we deregulated and broke up the very efficient phone company back in the 80s.... And compare our story on 12/04/2003 #1 below.]
- Savings rate over past decade was lower than estimated, WSJ, A12.
[#1: Why do they have to estimate something that's in the past? #2: If ordinary people weren't saving that much, they were spending it, and if they were spending it, it's because they weren't getting paid enough to put some aside. Bottom line = things were shakier over the past decade than we thought, despite the late 90s "boom" ie: bubble, just as they were shakier in the 1920s than realized at the time, despite the pre-Crash "boom" ie: bubble.]
12/09/2003 surfin' those headlines from hell -
- States ask: What recovery? - For many, budget gaps likely to return next year, report says, by Jackie Calmes, WSJ, A4.
As the economy rebounds, state legislators convening here from all over the country have a message for the Bush administration and Congress: Just because things are better doesn't mean they're good. "The crisis in state and local finance in America is at a modern high," concluded a recent report of the Nelson Rockefeller Institute of Government, the public-policy arm of the State University of New York...after 3 straight years of negative budget growth for many states, and more than $200B cumulatively in budget cuts....
12/06-08/2003 surfin' those headlines from hell -
- The CEO blues, by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, WSJ, A20.
...How [has] the climate for top executives...changed in our post-Enron world? [Three ways -]
[All three ways in which the post-Enron world has changed reflect declining management skills as the tight job market sinks deeper into a loose and swelling labor surplus. Check out this pathetic pleading from a later Wall Street Journal -]
- ...CEO tenure is less certain than ever before. Research by Booz Allen Hamilton suggests that 39% of CEO turnover last year was involuntary, up from 25% the prior year....
[What goes around, comes around. CEOs have spread involuntary termination on a mass sub-company basis instead of whole-company schedule adjustment. Now they're seeing what's it's been like for employees. Too bad the feedback wasn't more immediate and we'd have switched from downsizing to timesizing long ago.]
- ...The new faces of leadership are actually old ones.
[because the new ones, spoiled by labor surplus, have no management skills - they think it's all about merger, acquisition and downsizing - that's all they can do.]
- We began the year with a new SEC chief, 72-year-old William Donaldson....
- In the last few days, FreddieMac turned [for a] new chairman and CEO \to\ former head of Amex Richard Syron...
- Boeing turned to retired HP CEO Lew Platt and retired McDonnell Douglas CEO Harry Stonecipher for its leadership,
- ...Delta turned to retired GM CEO Jack Smith and retired Burlington Northern CEO Gerald Grinstein....
- ...Leaders sadly lost..\..credibility...the legitimacy to lead because they lost their moral authority..\..
...These former CEOs...were performing comparably to their industry peers and [did not actually] defraud...their boards or swindle...their investors.... These men apologized for uncharacteristic missteps, but it was too late to regain their footing for credible governance [and possibly common sense. They have a conducive context -]
- FreddieMac's Gregory Parseghian...not enough involvement for legal complicity \in\ the scandals that brought down the prior chairman and CEO this year [5 months earlier] but enough mud on his doorstep to undermine his credibility..\..
- Boeing's Phil Condit...presided over a stream of government bid-rigging scandals that have shown no direct link to him but unfolded under his watch..\..
- Delta's Leo Mullin [and]
- AMR Corp's Don Carty...both...were revealed to have attempted covert sweetheart deals to protect the lush retirement benefits and retention pay of top executives while claiming sacrifice in attempting to extract major concessions from their workforces..\..
- NYSE's Richard Grasso...was fired by an NYSE board that concluded it had been talked into paying him excessively for a job they all felt at the time was well done..\..
- Sprint's Bill Esrey...left his office tarnished after the collapse of a legal but questionable tax-avoidance scheme reportedly devised by his firm's auditors to help gloss over his personal losses..\..
- Plenty of firms [on the lighter side of them on the turpitude continuum] - including Raytheon, Kmart, Spiegel, and Schering-Plough - lost their CEOs due to faltering market performance....
- There are also [on the darker side] the rogue CEOs, such as -
The alleged CEO crooks we've seen lately...proclaim their innocence [rather than apologizing]....
- HealthSouth's ousted leader Richard Scrushy, currently facing an 85-count indictment for allegedly masterminding a $2.7B fraud.
- Others include mutual-fund CEOs such as Richard Strong,
- Gary Pilgrim,
- and Harold Baxter - all forced out of the leadership of their eponymous enterprises while facing securities-fraud investigations....
- [and he doesn't list the chiefs of Enron, WorldCom, Global Crossing, Tyco, ... and previous beauties like Chainsaw Al Dunlap, Michael Milken/milkin'/bilkin'....]
Manager's journal - Wanted: Authentic leaders, by former Medtronic chair & CEO Bill George, 12/16/2003 WSJ, B2.
After being dragged through
There seems to be no end to the misdeeds being uncovered, as leaders continue to put their institutions at risk. One thing's clear: Tossing corporate leaders in the slammer and passing Sarbanes-Oxley isn't enough to eradicate corporate scandals. First we have to address their root cause: an exaggerated and unbalanced emphasis on serving the short-term interests of shareholders, quarter after quarter....
- Enron's fictitious deals,
- Dennis Koz-louse-ki's oops Kozlowski's toga party,
- outrageous termination payments to failed executives,
- and illicit trading within mutual funds,
- we now have an ethics scandal at Boeing
- and a boardroom brawl at Disney.
[Yep, an emphasis on the short-term interests of customers serves the longer-term interest of shareholders. But this has still not reached the root cause. The root of all this evil is the fact that management is undisciplined by the job market, since for decades now it's been an employers' market. And management power is unbalanced by labor power, now that the unionized sector is down below 14% of the workforce and the average workweek for those who still have full-time jobs has been rising. Meanwhile, the economists and analysts propping the gross and growing surplus of labor hours that are drowning the job market ignore the cumulative effects of the merger&downsizing (M&D) strategy they espouse, as if we already had some great aggregate safety net - like Timesizing - in place that would make it all alright. But we don't, so all they can do is strain to externalize or distract from or explain away or belittle or poohpooh the spreading weakness in our consumer base. What an incredibly bigger economy we would have if we stopped marginalizing so many million consumers by M&D or started recapturing them before they were seriously damaged. What many million potentially confident and sustainable consumers?!]
- [more on the vaunted U.S. health "system" -]
How not to pick a flu vaccine, editorial, NYT, A28.
The nation needs a faster and better way to design adn produce influenza vaccines. Experts knew back in March that a new, potentially formidable strain of the virus was circulating, yet practical[?] difficulties forced them to stick with an obsolescent vaccine rather than press for a better formulation. There was simply not enough time to prepare the new strain for manufacturing and then produce vaccine in vast quantities.
[And yet there was enough time for the morons in the Bush regime to declare unprovoked war on a third-rate dictator who posed no threat on the opposite side of the world and waste a fortune on it?]
Thus we are entering what looks like a severe flu season with less than optimal protection.
[And we don't even have enough of the obsolete vaccine -]
...There are fears that vaccine supplies may run out in some areas....
[Fears shmears - they have run out in Somerville, Mass., a suburb of Boston ....- America the Pathetic.]
- [and officials keep shouting tiny goodnews about the vaunted U.S. economic "system" - despite multidimensional deterioration -]
Where the workers are, by Labor Secy Elaine Chao, WSJ, A28.
Last Friday's upbeat news about the continued growth in the labor market [she can't even name it correctly - she means the job market - overgrowth in the labor market is the whole problem!] is another reminder that it is time to drop the word "jobless" when referring to the current economic 'recovery' [our quotes]. November's unemployment rate fell to 5.9% and the economy gained 57,000 jobs.
[Whoopeedoo, we need five times that just to break even with all our downsizing.]
This represents four straight months of job growth totaling 328,000 jobs - the most robust four-month record in three years [of the Bush administration]....
[(A) Doesn't say much for the Bush administration. (B) We need that number every single month, not just once every four months. (C) How can the rate fall for four straight months to 5.9% when the highest it's been is 6.1%? The world's most heavily armed nation is in the control of demented true-believers whose motto is, "Don't confuse me with facts - my mind's made up."]
12/05/2003 surfin' those headlines from hell -
- [Now tell us again how Canada's universal healthcare system makes you wait a long time and America's 44-million-people-excluding healthcare "system" doesn't....]
12/08 50 and ready for colonoscopy? Doctors say wait is often long, NYT, front page.
Quotation of the day, by Dr. John H. Bond of VA Medical Center in Minneapolis, NYT, A2.
"It's fine to say everyone [over 50] should have a colonoscopy. But we are talking about 70 million people. It is unclear whether that is even feasible in the United States."
[So not only does the U.S. healthcare chaos make you wait if you're covered (Phil Hyde waited 4 months for a c-scopy, colleague Kate waited 3 months apiece for c- and fibroid-scops), but with its current strength in paperwork and weakness in care delivery, it couldn't even handle all Americans who need standard checkups!]
- [and it's not just a shortage of facilities -]
12/08 The shortages of vaccines for flu, pointer summary (to col. 4 and A8 and B10), WSJ, front page.
...and other diseases are due in part to a steady decline in the number of vaccine producers.
The lack of vaccines goes beyond flu inoculations - Eight shortages since 2000; Fewer shots for everything from tetanus to chickenpox, WSJ, col.4, front page.
- [and you think Canada has healthcare rationing? -]
12/08 Health officials [at US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention] say flu shots should go to most vulnerable, WSJ, A8.
- [and while Canada's plan is free, Americans are paying more and more -]
12/08 Shifting burden [to employees] helps employers cut health costs, WSJ, B1.
[even though 43,000,000 Americans (15%) are still not covered, ready and waiting to incubate the next great plague for the 290-43= 247m Americans who supposedly are covered. Americans think they're God's gift to the world and they're not even God's gift to themselves.]
- 12/06 Europeans seek help in controlling migration, Reuters via NYT, A7.
European countries along the Mediterranean called on North African leaders to stem the flow of illegal migrants.... An estimated 500,000 illegal migrants enter the [EU] bloc each year..\..
North Africa [alone], with 80 million people, is [experiencing] an exodus...and is a transit point for thousands of sub-Saharan Africans seeking a better life....
12/04/2003 surfin' those headlines from hell -
- Looting the future - Governing like there's no tomorrow, op ed by Paul Krugman, NYT, A35.
[And like pResident, like CEOs -]
Indictment alleges Westar's former CEO [David Wittig] sought to loot firm, by Robert Frank, WSJ, C1.
[though Chainsaw Dunlap goes back a lot further than these events. Back to Krugman -]
...In the early months of the Bush administration, one often heard that "the grown-ups are back in charge." But if being a grown-up means planning for the future - in fact, if it means anything beyond marital fidelity - then this is the least grown-up administration in American history. It governs like there's no tomorrow.
Nothing in our national experience prepared us for the spectacle of a government
The federal government...is nowhere near solvent....
- launching a war,
- increasing farm subsidies,
- and establishing an expensive new Medicare entitlement -
- and not only failing to come up with a plan to pay for all this spending in the face of budget deficits,
- but cutting taxes at the same time....
[But what do today's Republicans care about fiscal conservativism? Under Gingrich, they were prepared to let the federal government go bankrupt in the 90s to make a political point.]
Then there's international trade policy [ie: steel tariffs on and off. In] Europe, the U.S. has squandered its credibility: it is now seen as a nation that honors promises only when it's politically convenient.
What really makes me wonder whether this republic can be saved, however is the downward spiral in governance, the hijacking of public policy by private interests.
And it's not just legislation: hardly a day goes by without an administrative decision that just happens to confer huge benefits on favored corporations, at the public's expense. For example, last month the IRS dropped its efforts to crack down on the synfuel tax break - a famously abused measure that was supposed to encourage the production of alternative fuels, but has ended up giving companies billions in tax credits for spraying coal with a bit of diesel oil....
- The new Medicare bill is a huge subsidy for drug and insurance companies, couple with a small benefit for retirees.
- In comparison, the energy bill - which stalled last month, but will come back - has a sort of purity: it barely even pretends to be anything other than corporate welfare. Did you hear about the subsidy that will help Shreveport get its first Hooters restaurant?
Awhile back, George Akerlof, the Nobel laureate in economics, described what's happening to public policy as "a form of looting." Some scoffed at the time, but now even publications like The Economist, which has consistently made excuses for the Bush administration, are sounding the alarm.
To be fair, the looting is a partly bipartisan affair. More than a few Democrats threw their support behind the Medicare bill, the energy bill or both. But the Bush administration and the Republican leadership in Congress are leading the looting party. What are they thinking?
The prevailing theory among grown-up Republicans - yes, they still exist - seems to be that Mr. Bush is simply doing whatever it takes to win the next election. After that, he'll put the political operatives in their place, bring in the policy experts and finally get down to the business of running the country.
But...everything we know suggest Mr. Bush's people have given as little thought to running America after the election as they gave to running Iraq after the fall of Baghdad. And they will have no idea what to do when things fall apart.
- [whispering bad news -]
New unemployment claims rise, but slightly, NYT, C10.
Jobless claims rose last week, but economists stay optimistic, by Joseph Rebello, WSJ, A2.
[while shouting anything good.]
- [and granting it unwarranted influence -]
Manufacturing leap: Good news for jobs..., by Floyd Norris, NYT, C1.
...A surge in American manufacturing...is good news for employment....
[Not in the age of automation and robotics.]
12/03/2003 surfin' those headlines from hell -
- Checking your bill for a new charge called 'oops', by David Pogue, NYT, E1.
...Meet the economic specter fo the new millennium: stealth inflation.
That's when phone companies and just about anybody else who sends you a bill [mortgage companies!] manages to extract more money from you without actually raising their rates.
Phase 1 of this [phenomenon] was the proliferation of miscellaneous fees - for "regulatory assessment," "handling," "restocking," and so on. According to Business Week, newly concocted fees will generate $100m for hotels this year, $2B for banks, $11B for credit-card companies - and an average of 20% extra on every phone bill.
[To put them in perspective, let's call them "private-sector taxes," because all taxes are are public-sector fees. Phase 2 is the bait&switch of "800 free minutes" where you start getting billed 25 cents for every minute over 700 because they've renamed the last 100 minutes, and it takes you multiple phone calls to get them to promise not to take it off your bill and then again to take it off your bill when it "mistakenly" appears again, etc. etc. - so we've moved from "abusing our employees to pass the savings to our customers" to "abusing our employees and our customers to pass the savings on to our stockholders and top executives" - and you better believe that the stockholders are already getting switched out of the benefit side of this equation.]
- [and speaking of the further evolution of Wal-Mart's unspoken motto, "We abuse our employees and pass the savings to our customers" -]
Wal-Mart's health plan, letter to editor by Prof. Carole Joffe of UCal/Davis-Sociology, NYT, A34.
Re "We Are Where We Shop" by Sharon Zukin (op-ed, Nov.28):
There is yet another element of the Faustian deal that Americans make when they shop at stores like Wal-Mart: the costs borne by the rest of us because Wal-Mart and...similar large chain stores do not make affordable healthcare available to their employees.
Wal-Mart has raised healthcare premiums 50% in the last two years, and only 60% of eligible workers can afford the plan.
...Such policies...mean that American taxpayers have to pick up the costs, in emergency room services and so on, that should rightly be paid by profitable companies.
[ie: grossly overpaid top executives.]
- [so while we're vacuuming families, employees, customers and stockholders to further enrich top executives a trivial (to each of them) $10-20 million or so, why not vacuum the forests too while we're at it -]
More timber clearing, NYT, A28.
pResident Bush signed a law that allows more timber and brush to be cut and cleared with less environmental scrutiny. ...Bush says it will help protect communities from wildfires. The law, the 'Healthy' Forests 'Restoration' Act, seeks to speed the harvesting of trees in 'overgrown' woodlands and 'insect-infested' trees on 20 million federal acres [our quotes].
- [meanwhile, we don't need them stupid forests to cool things off - much -]
This year is likely to be third hottest [after 1998 and 2002]; Warm fall is cited - Many scientists say trend to higher temperatures is due to gas emissions, WSJ, A3.
12/02/2003 surfin' those headlines from hell -
- ['birds of a feather' - Rev. Bush & his religious-right administration said "we're holier than thou; we won't sign till it's perfect," and now -]
Russia may reject pact on climate, Putin aide says - Kyoto Accord in trouble - Without Moscow, treaty to curb harmful gases cannot take effect, NYT, front page (//WSJ, A3).
[Furthermore, now anyone has a perfect right to be furious at AARP for backing Rev. Bush's Medicare bill when it wasn't perfect (see also 12/03/2003). "What goes around, comes around." The Politics of Perfection also kept Wilson and Lodge and US out of the League of Nations which was our idea.]
- Hack the vote - Who's counting on Election Day?, op ed by Paul Krugman, NYT, A31.
[This story relates to our progress toward electronic democracy and describes a hurdle that is vital for us to overcome. If it isn't, there's no point in voting.]
Inviting Bush supporters to a fundraiser, the host wrote, "I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."... But Walden O'Dell - who says he wasn't talking about his business operations - happens to be the CEO of Diebold Inc., whose touchscreen voting machines are in increasingly widespread use across the United States.
[O'Dell and his company sound like dumb parasites that kill their hosts.]
For example, Georgia - where Republicans scored spectacular upset victories in the 2002 midterm elections - relies exclusively on Diebold machines. ...Though there were many anomalies in that 2002 vote, there is no evidence that the machines miscounted [except that] early this year...Diebold software [was found] on an unprotected server...in a folder titled "rob-Georgia.zip." \And\ there is also no evidence that the machines counted correctly [because] Diebold machines leave no paper trail.
[i.e, there's no way to know.]
Rep. Rush Holt of N.J., who has introduced a bill requiring that digital voting machines leave a paper trail and that their software be available for public inspection, is occasionally told that systems lacking these standards haven't caused problems. "How do you know?" he asks.... The company refuses to make..\..Diebold solftware...available for public inspection on the grounds that it's proprietary..\..
[Then nobody should buy it.]
What we do know about Diebold does not inspire confidence. The details are technical, but they add up to a picture of a company that was, at the very least, extremely sloppy about security, adn may have been trying to cover up product defects.
[or hide software ports for manipulators like the CIA port in a version of Windows that some hackers found several years ago.]
Early this year, Bev Harris, who is writing a book on voting machines, found Diebold software...on an unprotected server, where anyone could download it. The server was used by employees of Diebold Election Systems to update software on its machines. This in itself was an incredible breach of security,
[...at least for a company that supposedly doesn't want to make its proprietary software available for public inspection!]
offering someone who wanted to hack into the machines both the information and the opportunity to do so.
An analysis of Diebold software by researchers at Johns Hopkins and Rice Universities found it both unreliable and subject to abuse. A later report commissioned by the State of Maryland apparently reached similar conclusions. (It's hard to be sure because the State released only a heavily redacted version.)
[Sounds like what little info the Bush regime has released.]
Meanwhile, leaked internal Diebold email suggests that corporate officials knew their system was flawed, and circumvented tests that would have revealed these problems. The company hasn't contested the authenticity of these [emails]; instead, it has engaged in legal actions to prevent their dissemination.
Why isn't this front-page news? In October, a British newspaper, The Independent, ran a hair-raising investigative report no U.S. touchscreen voting. But while the mainstream press has reported the basics, the Diebold affair has been treated as a technology or business story - not as a potential political scandal.
This diffidence recalls the treatment of other voting issues, like the Florida "felon purge" that inappropriately prevented many citizens from voting in the 2000 presidential election. The attitude seems to be that questions about the integrity of vote-counts are divisive at best, paranoid at worst....
But there's nothing paranoid about suggesting that political operatives, given the opportunity, might engage in dirty tricks. Indeed, given the intensity of partisanship these days, one suspects that small dirty tricks are common.... The point is that you don't have to believe in a central conspiracy to worry that partisans will take advantage of an insecure, unverifiable voting system to manipulate election results.
Why expose them to temptation?... The credibility of U.S. democracy [is] at stake.
[or at least, what pretense of democracy this plutocracy has left.]
Ohio study finds flaws in electronic voting, by John Schwartz, 12/03/2003 NYT, A27.
Electronic voting machines from the four biggest companies in the field have serious security flaws, but they can - and must - be fixed, says a new report for the State of Ohio....
In all, 57 security problems were identified..\.. Ohio's Secy of State, J. Kenneth Blackwell...commissioned the report....
- Diebold Election Systems...
- Election Systems & Software...
- Hart InterCivic Inc....
- Sequoia Voting Systems..\..
For earlier collapse stories, click on the desired date -
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.
Questions? Comments? email firstname.lastname@example.org).