DoomwatchTM vs. Timesizing®
Collapse trends - January 1-9, 2004
[Commentary] ©2004 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080 - HOMEPAGE
1/09/2004 surfin' those headlines from hell - now all on same page unless lengthy -
1/08/2004 surfin' those headlines from hell - now all on same page unless lengthy -
- 3 silver clouds with dark linings -
- Consumer debt in November grew at half [2.4%] the October pace [5%], NYT, C6.
[big deal, it's still huge]
- [But hey, this sounds good...]
Retailers get boost from late shoppers - December sales gain is highest since '99, Reuters via Boston Globe, C2.
CHICAGO - A last-minute holiday shopping rush helped major US retailers record their biggest December sales gain since 1999 yesterday, but Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and others said that deep discounts eroded profits. Luxury stores [led by Tiffany & Co.] once again out-performed discounters, supporting ideas that a strengthening economy was a bigger boon for [relatively few] wealthier consumers than for [relatively many] lower-income families....
At the luxury end, holiday sales were hopping, by Tracie Rozhon, NYT, C1.
- [Why is Enron still going, the top culprits unprosecuted?]
Enron and the system - Two years later, it's still broken, op ed by Paul Krugman, NYT, A21.
[Could Bush possibly still be shielding buddy Ken Lay? No-o-ooo.]
- 1 takeover overview -
- It's business, after a fashion, pointer (to A7), WSJ, front page.
As the apparel industry grows more consolidated and cutthroat, many couture houses demand that their creative geniuses show some business savvy as well....
[First, we consolidated and cut-throat-ized agriculture. We turned a pleasant scene into a nightmare. Then we went on to everything else. Manufacturing. Services.]
- 3 downsizings, totaling 685 lost jobs and (3) uncounted economywide downsizing story/ies, in WSJ &/or NYT -
- Toshiba Corp., WSJ, A12.
...will start shifting...to overseas plants...in China and the Philippines.\.its remaining Japanese laptop-computer production [- namely, its] monthly output of 50,000 laptops at its Oume plant in Tokyo.\.next fiscal year, which starts in April, as part of a shake-up of its PC operations. As a result, Toshiba's only PC plant in Japan will focus on development and prototype production.... Part of Oume's staff of about 1,000 [let's estimate 50%= 500] will be transferred within the company....
[So we take simplest 'part' estimate of 50% layoffs = 500 jobcuts.]
- Instinet says it will lay off 185 workers in a revamping, Bloomberg via NYT, C3.
...The electronic stock broker [will] lay off...15% of its workforce, and reduce office space...by July..\..because of its decision to split the company's operations [and] eliminate $30m in expenses in 2004....
[Here's how you can tell when our current downsizing form of capitalism has really entered its death throes:
So either way, CEOs are downsizing headcount and with it, their own customer base, and then stupidly asking, "Is this really a recovery?"]
- consolidating operations is followed by downsizing
- splitting up operations is followed by downsizing
- Asian restructuring effort seeks to streamline, cut costs, WSJ, A12.
Matsushita Electric Industrial Co...plans to extend its restructuring efforts to Asian subsidiaries in an effort to streamline operations, cut costs and meet Asian competition.
[So, downsizing only in the Philippines and Japan. Unspecified jobcuts. Note how a lot of downsizing reporting has 'gone underground' with coded references (restructure, streamline, cut costs, concentrate production), and lotsa conditions.]
- The Japanese electronics conglomerate, best known for its Panasonic brand, will concentrate production of value-added production, such as large-screen TVs destined for the US and Euro markets, in S.E. Asia and Japan.
- China will be the company's main production center for lower-end products [where] Matsushita may consolidate its 58 production and sales subsidiaries. However, with China viewed as a strategic business region, the move wouldn't mean a downsizing there....
- Ahead of the tape - Breaking a sweat, by Jesse Eisinger, WSJ, C1.
The markets are wondering just when the blowout employment report is coming.
[Dream on, ye downsizing capitalists.]
If the economy is as strong as most of the [doctored?!] indicators suggest, then a very strong labor-market report should be in the offing over the next several months....
[This poor sap can't even call it by its right name. It's a very strong job-market report that we're waiting for. We know the labor market is strong, too damn strong! That's the whole problem. Labor is overwhelming employment - the job-seekers are overwhelming the jobs.]
Indeed, in the last 20 years, in the six instances that the Institute of Supply Management's [ISM's] employment index was above 55, that month's payroll gain was 326,000 on average, according to Deutsche Bank's Joe LaVorgna. In December, the ISM employment index hit 55.5....
[It'll never come near 326,000 again until we either replace downsizing with a little timesizing or add to downsizing a lot of timesizing.]
While economists' consensus was that today's employment for December would show a 150,000 gain in payrolls and a flat unemployment rate at 5.9%, investors were guessing the jobs numbers would be higher than that. In recent days, they've been whispering that the figure could hit 175,000-200,000 or so. Economists estimate that a consistent level of anything above about 150,000 a month is needed to lead to a decrease in the unemployment rate.
[Guess the cheerleading economic "scientists" (ha!) have lowered that bar too. Awhile ago it was twice that high.]
But in November, people thought the figure would be about 150,000 and the number was a disappointing 57,000....
[Clearly they have attached their forecasts to the wrong determinants. Or they need a lot more weighting on the disemploying effects of worksaving technology when followed by downsizing instead of timesizing.]
- A new greeting[?] at America's door, letters to editor, NYT, A20.
- ...by Prof. Jonathan R. Siegel of DC's George Washington University Law School.
With the economy still failing to produce enough jobs to lower unemployment to pre-recession levels, it hardly seems like a good time to open our borders to foreign guest-workers (news analysis, front page, Jan.8). The pResident's proposal would undermine wages and keep citizen unemployment high, as rational employers would reduce wages and count on an unlimited supply of immigrant labor to fill any job that citizens leave.
- .\.by John Glasel of Hoboken NY.
...Mr. Bush wants to allow immigrants to take jobs "that American citizens are not willing to take." Some might wonder why none of the nearly 9m unemployed Americans don't want the jobs involved until we remember that the $5.15 minimum wage isn't enough to bring an average family out of poverty....
[Glasel recommends a hefty increase in the minimum wage, but that would just distort the job market further, removing more rungs on the wage ladder for low-skilled people entering or leaving the market. Far better is to repeal all wage controls and reduce the workweek till market forces are engaged in flexibly raising wages, as employers compete against one another for a perceived shortage of labor. Once we have that worktime-based full-employment program in place, our expectations will gradually rise till we eventually do want a similar money-based full-employment program, but that must take the form of income controls, not wage controls - in other words, decontrol per-job variables like wages and control only per-person variables like incomes and worktime per person.]
- ...by B J Sullivan of San Francisco.
...Unable to get its own economic act together, Mexico exports its poorest people to America.
It's a great deal for Mexico, and contrary to all those who say it helps our economy, it's a very bad deal for America....
- They sneak across the border [hiking tax pressure for our under-funded immigration-law enforcement];
- they work for low wages [and drive down ours];
- they send money back to Mexico [instead of spending it to spur hiring here];
- and they use our social services, our hospitals and our schools [adding to already overburdened and underfunded resources].
[Hear! Hear! See also yesterday's fourth general omen = 1/08/2004 #4 below.]
- American jobs but not the American dream - Lessons from Europe about guest worker programs, op ed by Prof. David Abraham of Univ. of Miami immigration law, NYT, A21.
pResident Bush's immigration reform proposal, unveiled on Wednesday [1/07], is a classic guest worker program on the European model. As cuh, it may be doomed from the start: Europe's guest worker programs created as many problems as they solved, and to this day they remain unpopular....
- 1 bankruptcy, mentioned in (WSJ) Wall Street Journal &/or (NYT) NY Times -
- Piccadilly Cafeterias Inc...Chapter 11, legal notice, WSJ, C11.
- 1 case on eroding retirement, as documented in Wall Street Journal & NY Times -
- In Germany, shifting the cost of the pension to the worker, NYT, W1.
Germany: Jobless rate falls, NYT, W1.
...to 10.4%, the lowest in almost a year, from 10.5%.
[So this month, they're lucky.]
- 1 item of disability news -
- Disability rates are up sharply, pointer (to A7), WSJ, front page.
...for working-age Americans over the past two decades, and obesity appears the prime suspect, Rand says.
[More details after the long intro on our disability page under 1/09/2004.]
- 1 homelessness story -
- An optimistic state of the city, editorial, NYT, A20.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg...noted that 20,000 homeless people were put into permanent shelters last year....
- 2 cases of makework, totaling unspecified 'jobs,' -
- [the fruits of job desperation -]
Putting the sex trade on notice, editorial, NYT, A20.
Around the world, about 1m women and children are seduced into leaving their homelands every year and forced into prostitution or menial work in other countries....
[There will be no end to the sex trade without global worktime sizing. First, you provide the easy and good short-hours livelihoods, as easy and good as it should be at our levels of worksaving technology. Then, people follow the easiest course.]
- The shape of a future Iraq: U.S. entangled in disputes - Washington finds itself torn between Kurds and Turks, by Steven Weisman, NYT, A8.
[and compare the neighboring, should-be-unnecessary repetition -]
Powell admits no hard proof in linking Iraq to Al Qaeda, by Christopher Marquis, NYT, A8.
[So the war really was pure bloody makework. But why is this repetition necessary? Answered by the subtitle -]
The administration insists links to terror group were possible
[In short, the Bush regime has continued to juxtapose Iraq and Al Qaeda, Iraq and Al Qaeda, Iraq and Al Qaeda.]
1/07/2004 surfin' those headlines from hell - now all on same page unless lengthy -
- 10 general omens -
- Funds shine despite legal woes - Strength in economy, corporate profits help industry post double digit-gains; Some fear a repeat of the 1990s bubble, by Ian McDonald, wsj.com via WSJ, R1.
- [Wall Street itself bashes Microsoft and monopoly -]
For tabbed browsing and other new tricks, try Explorer's rivals, by W. Mossberg, WSJ, A15.
The web browser is probably the most frequently used category of software in the world. But in recent years, the browser most people rely on - Microsoft's Internet Explorer - has been stagnant, offering very few new features. This is a common pattern with Microsoft. The company is aggressive about improving its software when it first enters a market. But once it crushes its competitors and establishes an effective monopoly, as it has in web browsers, Microsoft seems to switch off significant innovation....
[Mark well - here, despite its frequent support for big monopolies and lip service to innovation, the Journal admits that monopoly stifles innovation.]
- As U.S. pleads [its own] mad-cow case, [its own] past practices are a handicap - Quick to close its borders [to ban suspect beef], nation is in odd position to ask others to lift bans, WSJ, A2.
['Odd' is putting it mildly. America's hypocrisy and double-standards roll on, eroding its presumption of world leadership.]
- Bush plan for immigrant workers offers social-security benefits, by Greg Hitt, WSJ, A4.
DC - Immigrant workers, including some who entered the country illegally, would gain access to social security benefits under pResident Bush's proposed immigration overhaul....
[Thus rewarding lawbreakers, and simultaneously weakening Social Security, our immigration laws, and our unskilled-workers' wages/our consumer base/our chance for a sustainable economic recovery.]
A new greeting[?] at America's door, letter to editor by...Amed Khan of Suffern NY, 1/09/2004 NYT, A20.
...As a child of immigrants who subscribed to that old-fashioned notion of playing by the rules, I am disgusted at the idea of giving legal status to millions of illegal workers.
[So is Phil Hyde, a legal immigrant [tautologous?] from 'remotest' Toronto.]
When did we start thinking that it was a good idea to reward bad behavior?
[That would be, what, 1986? - when we had the first general "amnesty" for illegal aliens - under a Republican president!]
In a society made great by adherence to the rule of law, I can only think that this is yet another profit-driven step on the slippery slope to our ruin.
[Amen to that, but the dangerous thing this time is that many well-meaning, non-profit-driven people have been co-opted into thinking this would be a good, compassionate idea.]
My heart goes out to the millions of unemployed Americans and those who are underpaid thanks to the availability of cheap foreign labor.
...The pResident is feeling compassionate for our illegal population, but compassion for working Americans who are being shoved out of plants and factories [and fields and now also offices] is more in order....
[Well said. "A cardinal rule of strategy is to keep your enemies to a manageable number," says Visiting Prof. Jeffrey Record of the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama (1/12/2004 Boston Globe, A2) and that goes for your compassion targets as well. Our potential illegal population is in the billions if we don't get girdle on the overflowing bowels of our compassion. That is an unmanageable number. Our legal population, 290 million, is a manageable number. Prof. Record again, "The Germans were defeated in two world wars...because their strategic ends outran their available means." And no one continental landmass, however large or wealthy, can sustainably bear the economic and population carelessness of all the rest of the world.]
- [recent history of American poverty - ]
Economic scene - After 40 years, what are some results and lessons of America's war on poverty? by Alan Krueger, NYT, C2.
...Progress has been uneven, with some clear early successes followed by backsliding and then another period of progress, which has so far stalled under the Bush administration. The official poverty rate -
The trend is not the same for all groups.
- fell from 19.5% in 1963
- to 11.1% in 1973.
- Since 1973 it has remained stubbornly stable, rising in the 1970s and 80s and
- falling in the 1990s.
- By 2000, the poverty rate returned to 11.3%;
- last year, it inched up to 12.1%.
The official definition of poverty is inadequate....
- For the aged, the poverty rate fell from close to 30% in 1963 to 16.3% in 1973, then to 10.4% in 2002.
- The share of children in poverty fell from 23.1 to 14.4% in the first decade of the war on poverty, but increased to 16.7% over the next three decades.
- For blacks, the rate fell from more than 40% before the war on poverty to 31% in 1973, and was 24% in 2002, still disturbingly high but much lower than it had been.
[Gee, just like the official definition of unemployment.]
- [more rewarding of lawbreakers -]
Ban is lifted on MCI's bidding for U.S. government contracts, by Shawn Young, WSJ, A20.
[Compare the current rehab of Enron.]
- [even more rewarding of lawbreakers -]
U.S. [ie: Bush administration] plans to ease rule on method of coal-mining - The 20-year-old rule prevents the dumping of mining spoils in mountain streams, WSJ, A16.
- [more dismissing of law -]
U.S. [ie: Bush administration] reasserts right to declare [its own] citizens to be enemy combatants, NYT, A18.
- [We've started dragging back retired CEOs cuz we can't find competent & honest young ones, & now -]
In NFL's search for winners, no old coach is left unturned, by Bill Pennington, NYT, A1.
[Compare in the financial industry itself -]
Scandal reaches far and high - It took many bad apples to taint fund industry's reputation amid continuing probes of share-trading abuses, WSJ, R1.
- [global labor surplus is eroding the environment as well as management skills -]
Scientists predict widespread extinction by global warming, NYT, A4.
[Fewer species, less diversity, less variability and less whole-system adaptibility and survivability.]
- 4 downsizings, totaling 4500 lost jobs + unspecified, and (1) uncounted economywide downsizing story, in WSJ &/or NYT -
- IRS to bolster enforcement staff, pointer (to C11), NYT, C1.
The IRS [will] eliminate 6,700 mostly clerical jobs over the next two years and close its Memphis tax return processing center and use the savings to hire about 2,200 more auditors, criminal investigators and tax collectors. The move is intended to bolster its enforcement staff.
[6700-2200= 4,500 net job eliminations.]
- Boise Cascade plans to close about 40 stores, Dow Jones via NYT, C4.
...this year and open 12 stores, including OfficeMax Express stores....
[A net of 40-12= 28 closings, unspecified job losses.]
- Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., NYT, C4.
...Montvale NJ, which operates grocery stores, will close 13 Farmer Jack outlets in southeast Michigan by mid-February.
[Unspecified job losses.]
- Monsanto Co. - Loss widens amid write-off and charges for restructuring, WSJ, A8.
...In October, it announced a restructuring plan that included layoffs, cutting costs in the Roundup herbicide business....
[Unspecified job losses.]
- For jobs, some Germans look to Poland, by Kevin O'Brien, NYT, W1.
...As Poland prepares to join the EU in May, persistent unemployment in eastern Germany is beginning to lead some German job seekers east, creating a trickle of cross-border labor that is raising eyebrows in Germany....
- 3 eroding retirement stories, as documented in Wall Street Journal & NY Times -
- A study of Medicare HMOs, pointer (to D4), WSJ, front page.
...made some surprise findings. They aren't as parsimonious as many assume, but also aren't as efficient.
- Agency head Steven Kandarian will return to private sector, WSJ, A8.
The...Pension Benefits Guarantee Corp. [PBGC] insures private-sector retirement plans.... The federal agency protects the retirement incomes of about 44m Americans in about 32,500 private defined-benefit pension plans....
- Some firms with many retirees, pointer (to A3), WSJ, front page.
...could post big earnings gains for 2003 and 2004, thanks to accounting guidelines for drug subsidies.
[More accounting tricks instead of honoring contracts with retirees.]
- 1 massive case of makework confirmed, totaling mega unspecified 'jobs,' -
- U.S. withdraws a team of weapons hunters from Iraq, saying that its work is done, NYT, A10.
[Thus confirming again that there was no reason for the devastatingly costly-to-taxpayers pre-emptive war against Iraq except 'neo-conservative' compulsive perfectionistic obsession about Saddam Hussein since the Gulf War and ... makework (with power-elite enrichment and megalomania closely linked). Unspecified new and dangerous and taxpayer-costing and insecurity-raising 'jobs'.]
1/06/2004 surfin' those headlines from hell - now all on same page unless lengthy -
- 3 downsizings, totaling 1,314 lost jobs + unspecified, and (2) uncounted economywide downsizing stories, in WSJ &/or NYT -
- EarthLink cutting 1,300 jobs, NYT, C5.
...in Atlanta \and\ close call centers in Calif. and Penn...to lower expenses....
- Baltimore Sun editor is abruptly ousted, by Jacques Steinberg, NYT, C3.
...Last month, The Sun laid off several employees - a Sun VP, Mireille Grangenois, said the figure was "roughly 14"....
- The Pentagon began a process, blurb, WSJ, front page.
...to prepare for a round of base closings, ordering commanders to provide data to a...selection commission.
[Unspecified job losses.]
- Study sees record industrial space vacancies - The 2003 results indicate that the market still has a lot of space to absorb, WSJ, B6.
[Compare regional -]
Office space goes begging - Boston-area vacancy rate up to 15%, 1/10/2004 Boston Globe, E7.
[Less industrial and office space? More robots and cubiclization and ... less employment and less consumer spending, and less employment and less consumer spending, and less employment and....]
- Small firms outsource abroad by tapping offshore producers, WSJ, A2.
[America is doin' everythang it kann to destroy its economy. Homeland security? National security? How 'secure' we gonna be when we down in de 3rd world?]
- 1 case of eroding retirement, as documented in Wall Street Journal & NY Times -
- Germany: [Commerzbank] to end pension contributions, Dow Jones via NYT, W1.
...for [all] employees as of Jan.1, 2005.... As of Sept.30, 2003, the bank had about 24,000 employees.... Savings to the bank [c]ould be in the double-digit millions of euros a year.
[Ach, zat should take down the Germans' consumer base ein Bisschen - chuuust vut zay neet - not.]
- 3 cases of makework, totaling unspecified new & saved 'jobs' -
- Contracts are going to, pointer (to A6), WSJ, front page.
...Northrop, United Air and BAE to develop a system to protect commercial jets from shoulder-launched missiles.
[Unspecified new 'jobs'.]
- Bechtel subsidiary wins additional job in Iraq - Contract for $1.82B nearly doubles the work company is already doing, WSJ, A4.
[Unspecified new 'jobs'. And so many new people INCOMING to need them -]
Bush set to ease immigration, WSJ, A4.
- China injected $45B, pointer (to A3), WSJ, front page.
...into two of its biggest state-run banks as it seeks to prepare them for foreign rivalry and market listings.
[Times version -]
China announces new bailout of big banks, NYT, C1.
...Bank of China and the China Construction Bank....
[Unspecified saved 'jobs'.]
1/03-05/2004 surfin' those headlines from hell - now all on same page unless lengthy -
- 1 general false-positive -
- [So is this recovery "raising all ships"? Maybe we can answer that by asking "what's selling?" in this heavily talked-up 'recovery' -]
It's comeback time for luxury watches, by Tracie Rozhon, NYT, C1.
...especially if they are encrusted with diamonds or endorsed by celebrities, living or dead.
This holiday season, some of the richest Americans parted with more than $10,000 for a timepiece, joined by plenty of the only slightly more downtrodden, for whom a $1,000 watch was suddenly the gift to give....
[Gee, the only stuff that's moving is stuff for the rich, just like during the Great Depression! But what about the much-repeated and -repeated retail 'boost'? -]
Retailers get boost from late shoppers - December sales gain is highest since '99, Reuters via 1/09/2004 Boston Globe, C2.
[ - but...]
...but Wal-Mart [yuk] and others said that deep discounts eroded profits....
[and discounts mean deflation, and deflation symptomizes depression. But geez mabeez, aren't cars selling? -]
Detroit's challenge: Weaning buyers from years of deals - Big incentives boosted sales, but they cut profits; Betting on new models - Mr. Sarrat's $3,000 rebate, by Lundegaard & Freeman, WSJ, front page.
...In 2003, rebates for some models rose to their highest levels in years. The average cash rebate from Chevrolet was $3,231 in 2003, nearly double 2001's $1,654 average giveaway, according to Power Information Network....
[Ditto Ford, Buick, Dodge, Lincoln and Mercury. But...who cares? If there were profits, they wouldn't be dynamizing the economy with new spending anyway, because they'd be converging and de-activated in the top income brackets, where American CEOs now average an historically unprecedented 450 times more than ordinary employees and where they were already spending as much as they cared-to back when they were only vacuuming up half present-day multiples. Look no further for the root cause of depression. When labor surplus gets so high it allows wages to fall way behind productivity, there is a temporary period of years when the money defaults to the top brackets - and then finally depression sets in when the top brackets begin to realize that they've suctioned the spending power away from the markets for the productivity that they themselves are heavily invested in. They've hollowed out the markets underpinning their own now-necessarily gigantic investments, no matter how excitingly high-tech and innovative the productivity behind them. From here on in, it's one investment bubble after another - depending on how impatient/gullible/bored/desperate the wealthy's moodswings, until the huge imbalance between production and consumption is corrected. And that can happen on a market-basis in only one way. The overwhelming national (and global) surplus of working hours flooding the job market must swing to a perceived shortage. Such a shortage, usually occurring only during disasters such as world wars (ergo "wartime prosperity") and virulent plagues, harnesses market forces, gets employers bidding against one another for good help (or any help!) thus raising wages and benefits, and the resulting centrifugation of the national income and wealth to those who actually spend it results in a sustainable recovery that does indeed "raise all ships."]
- 1 downsizing, totaling 311 lost jobs and (3) uncounted economywide downsizing stories, in WSJ &/or NYT -
- Elder-Beerman jobcuts seen as part of retailer's acquisition, WSJ, A8.
Bon-Ton Stores Inc...plans to cut 311 of the 450 jobs at Elder-Beerman Stores Corp.'s corporate HQ as part of its acquisition of the retailer. Bon Ton, York PA, said 132 hourly and 179 management jobs at Elder-Beerman's Dayton OH headquarters will be cut.... Bon-Ton employs about 8,700 workers, and Elder-Beerman employs about 6,750 workers.
[Whole workforce = 8700+6750= 15,450. Percent cut of whole workforce = 311/15450= 2%. Again the lethal takeover-downsizing correlation.]
For more on these 2 uncounted stories, see our downsizings page for today's date, 1/06/2004.
- The broken promise of NAFTA - Does the U.S. really want to finish what it started 10 years ago?, op ed by Joseph Stiglitz, NYT, A27.
- Second thoughts on free trade - Ricardo's dictums have lost relevance in a digital age, op ed by Sen. Charles Schumer & Reagan's Asst. Secy. of Treasury Paul Craig Roberts, NYT, A27.
- 1 update on eroding retirement, as documented in Wall Street Journal & NY Times -
- Despite new law, the fight over Medicare continues, by Robert Pear, NYT, A18.
DC -...Democrats, denouncing the arm-twisting tactics used to pass the bill in the House [last month], vowed Monday [1/05] to rewrite the law to reduce the role of private health plans, to increase drug benefits and to authorize the government to negotiate drug prices....
- 1 prison story -
- California: Ban on inmate blood samples, AP via NYT, A19.
A federal appeals court set aside a ruling it issued in October that overturned a requirement forcing federal inmates and parolees to give blood samples for the FBI's forensic database [as] an illegal invasion of privacy....
[So let's see you parse that triple negative!]
1/02/2004 surfin' those headlines from hell - now all on same page unless long-winded -
- 1 general teethgrinder -
- 1/04 Congress helps itself to another pay raise, op ed by Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe, C11.
A Happy New Year? For US senators and representatives, it certainly is. As of Jan.1, their salary is $158,100 - an increase of $3,400 over the amount they collected last year.
Congress is notorious for procrastination, and the tally of unfinished business on Capitol Hill is a long one.... Appropriations bills may gather dust, judicial nominations may languish, but members of Congress are johny-on-the-spot when it comes to their own salaries..\.. No one can accuse the legislative branch of dragging its heels when it comes to congressional pay....
The most recent raise is only the latest in an ongoing series:
That comes to six raises totaling $24,500 since January 1998. And why does Congress feel it deserves them? That's hard to answer. Congress isn't talking.
- On Jan.1, 2003, they took a raise of $4,700.
- On Jan.1, 2002, they took a raise of $4,900.
- On Jan.1, 2001, they took a raise of $3,800.
- On Jan.1, 2000, they took a raise of $4,600.
- On Jan.1, 1998, they took a raise of $3,100.
...Once upon a time, senators and representatives knew that before they could raise their [own] salary, they had to hold hearings and take a vote...and the public's reaction had to be taken into account. Not surprisingly, Congress tended to go long stretches between pay raises, and lawmakers knew better than to hike their pay during a recession. (On a few occasions, they even reduced their pay.)
But Congress has changed...the system. [Now, they] automatically get a pay raise every year. The only way not to get the raise is to pass an amendment blocking it, and parliamentary hurdles make that difficult to accomplish....
Sen. Russell Feingold, a liberal Wisconsin Democrat..\..with more integrity than avarice...for several years has introduced an amendment to stop the pay raise, and each time has seen that amendment tabled - i.e., killed without being brought up for debate and a vote - by a lopsided Senate majority.... "This stealth pay-raise system is absolutely wrong, especially now when we're running the biggest deficits in US history, when so many people are out of work...". Feingold puts his money where his mouth is.... Though he is perhaps the least affluent member of the Senate, he has returned more than $50,000 to the Treasury over the past 11 years.
Meanwhile, multimillionaire senators like Ted Kennedy, Jon Corzine, and Majority Leader Bill Frist vote to table Feingold's amendment and preserve the annual stealth payraise....
In addition to their salary, members of Congress get large staffs, free office space in their district and in Washington, numerous round trips home each year, free foreign travel, largely unlimited free postage, use of the lavish congressional gyms at a low price, and a pension far more lucrative than almost any private-sector plan....
[And Jeff's forgotten their healthcare plan, which is the most generous in the land. Maybe we should put this whole story under 'makework'?]
- 1 bank takeover -
- 1/05 First Community Bankshares Inc. of Va. to buy PCB Bancorp of Tenn. for $36m, WSJ, C11.
- 1 downsizing, totaling unspecified lost jobs, in WSJ &/or NYT -
- 1/05 BCE Emergis Inc. - MultiPlan to pay $214.3m for most assets of U.S. Health, WSJ, C11.
...Emergis, a provider of electronic-business services, said its U.S. Health operations will be reported as discontinued operations.... The company also...will take a...fourth-quarter restructuring charge of Can.$31m for severance and write-downs of some assets.
[Unspecified lost jobs.]
- 1 bankruptcy mentioned in (WSJ) Wall Street Journal &/or (NYT) NY Times -
- 1/05 Black Sea & Baltic General Insurance Co. Ltd...debtor in a foreign proceeding...Sec.304, legal notice, WSJ, C5.
- 1 prison story -
- 1/03 Oklahoma: Economics of women in prison, by Steve Barnes, NYT, A9.
Three of four women in prison in Oklahoma could be released with no danger to the public and at considerable savings to the state, a report to the Legislature by its research bureau said. Oklahoma has long led other states in the percentage of female offenders sentenced to prison, and, at $20,000 per year, each woman costs an average 10% more to incarcerate than a man, the study said.
[Only $18-20k/year? What are they feeding them, mac&cheese every night?]
It suggested drug courts and community-based sentencing programs to reduce the number of women in prison.
[But that wouldn't be sexism now, would it.]
- 1 case of makework totaling unspecified government 'jobs' -
- 1/03 Canada investigating complaint, pointer (to B2), NYT, B1.
Canada [gov't] is investigating a complaint by McCain Foods that companies in the U.S. are selling frozen pizzas with self-rising crust at illegally low prices.
[This is "free trade"? Clearly free trade ain't what it's cracked up to be if it results in price controls and the kind of micromanagement that forces the government of a nation of over 30m people to spend taxpayers' money investigating a complaint by a company owned by one of the richest men in the nation (Harrison McCain) about the prices of "frozen pizzas with self-rising crust"! How many people do the economies with "free" trade have to keep on their payroll to do these kinds of myopic investigations, which are potentially infinite in number and bankrupting in cost - all for the riffled ruffles of a richboy.]
1/01/2004 surfin' those headlines from hell - now all on the same page
- 2 takeover overviews -
- Mergers and acquisitions are moving again [and so will be downsizings] - Pace picked up in 2nd half after deal-making drought, but market is still fragile, WSJ, R15.
- U.S. firms in 2003 stepped up pace of trans-Atlantic mergers - Weak dollar was ignored; Soon, European acquirers may be on prowl in America, WSJ, C3.
- 3-in-1 homelessness story/ies -
Homeless in America, yes, today, letters to editor, NYT, A18.
- ...By Deborah Baxter of Albany NY.
...On Christman Eve, I awoke in my warm, cozy apartment overlooking the park, pleasantly anticipating a family gathering to celebrate the day. Looking out at the park, I saw an old, homeless man. Stooped, he shuffled slowly down the street in the rain, pulling a bag-filled cart behind him.
That image is burned in my brain. How can this be? Today? In America?
- ..\..By Robin Roush of New Haven CT.
...The Bush administration favors financing special interests...but overlooks a more chilling reality: some people are...homeless for the sole reason that they are poor [and not because they aren't working, because they are working]....
[And they are poor because in an economy with a 2004-level of work-saving technology and a 1940-level of workweek, the jobs for everyone just aren't there.]
- ...By Pres. Arnold Cohen of Partnership for Homeless of NYC.
...Our political leaders should walk into any homeless shelter today and they'll see their neighbors - and constituents. They'll meet low-wage workers from their [own] town whose incomes have been eclipsed by escalating rents....
[And the way Bush is pushing money to the top and America to the bottom, the homeless constituents will just keep multiplying until they can vote him out.]
- 1 prison story -
- A community of ex-cons shows how to bring prisoners back into society, by Adam Cohen, NYT, A18.
...Nationwide, nearly 2/3 of released inmates are re-arrested within three years and such recidivism has helped drive the US prison population past two million....
[Click on "prison" in section title for more details.]
- 1 case of makework -
- [private-sector makework aka built-in obsolescence - or trying to build it in anyway...]
Large software customers refuse to get with the program - Some corporate buyers start to resist forced upgrades, higher maintenance fees - We 'don't buy it anymore', WSJ, front page.
[Note also this squib -]
Washington wire -...Ring in the New Year with a little-noticed anniversary, by Phil Kuntz, WSJ, A4.
It's been 20 years since US District Judge Harold Greene, now deceased, broke up Ma Bell, as of Jan.1, 1984. Back then, the US had 92,000 cellphones. Now: 153m. AT&T Corp. opted to stay in the once-lucrative long-distance market, now valued at $100B a year, but today more than half of such calls are wireless. In 1984, the Internet was just a twinkle in Pentagon researchers' eyes. Now consumers can make calls over it.
A new government report says long-distance costs dropped to about 10 cents a minute, down from 55 cents in 1984. But monthly charges just for having a phone skyrocketed to $5.62, up from $1.
There used to be seven Baby Bells that sold local services. Now there are four selling everything.
[So what was the point of breaking up Ma Bell? Things are the same or worse. Now we have to pay regardless of whether we make calls or not. It's private-sector socialism with considerable makework thrown in, since we went from 7 Baby Bells giving high-quality local service in 7 non-overlapping regions and charging us only for the calls we make, to 4 Babbling Bells giving low-quality overlapping local service and mediocre-quality all other services that completely overlap across the whole nation - and charging us even when we don't make calls. This is not progress. This is ideology. Let's get back to common sense: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."]
(we're converting to a faster? system today where even the specially targeted bad stuff (downsizings, bankruptcies, workplace suicides, prisons, homelessness - all that 'good' stuff) goes on this general page and only gets a place on its specific targeted-bad page if we get carried away with our coverage or comments - we'll keep a link to each specific bad page at each topic) -
- 2 downsizings, totaling 672 lost jobs, in WSJ &/or NYT -
- US Airways to lay off  flight attendants, AP via NYT, C3.
...most of them in Philadelphia...on Jan.15 based on seniority..\..after hundreds of others return from voluntary leave, which was intended to help the airline weather its spiraling finances and bankruptcy....
- Rayovac Corp. to close Remington razor service stores, Bloomberg via NYT, C3.
...The battery maker...based in Madison, Wisc.\..will close the last 65 service stores belonging to its recently acquired Remington Products Co. razor business and cut as many as 120 jobs...by the end of February....
[Again, the lethal takeover-downsizing connection.]
Rayovac agreed in August to buy Remington for about $322m to enter the more-profitable razor business amid slowing battery sales.
[Lordy, if the battery biz is in tougher shape than razors, it's trash indeed. The razor biz is so desperate, it's straining to a 3-blade and even a 4-blade shave. Quadruple jumps in figure-skating, quadruple blades in shaving. Must be something in the letters SHA_ING.]
- 1 case of makework, totaling 3 'jobs,' + unspecified -
- Hartford jobs went to kin of partner of governor, by Stacey Stowe, NYT, C11.
HARTFORD, Conn...- Gov. John Rowland personnally sponsored for state jobs two children of a partner in a private development project, according to a log of jobseekers that the governor's office kept in the months after his 1998 re-election. The daughter of another partner was also hired by the state.
[Sooo hard to ree-call Saynt Pall, "Avoid the appearance of evil."]
A spokesman for the governor said the jobs, reported on Wednesday [12/31] in The Hartford Courant, were awarded strictly on merit.
[As the immortal Bill Cosby would say, "Ri-i-ight, (m')Lord." Patronage jobs hamstring our societal feedback system and burden our collective response to problems. They are are another costly practice besides porkbarrel projects that would be demotivated and dried up by timesizing - because timesizing ensures that the job market responds to the un(der)employed and prevents both long-term unemployment-welfare-disability-homelessness-crime-suicide and skill bottlenecks (with its overtime-to-training feature).]
State officials also indicated Wed. that federal investigators, who are looking into the circumstances of renovation work done at Mr. Rowland's vacation cottage in Litchfield, had widened their inquiry to include renovations at the governor's official residence in Hartford....
Mr. Rowland has been under intense scrutiny since his admission Dec.12 that he was not truthful when he first denied having accepted free work on his Litchfield cottage from contractors and state aides, some of whom are the subjects of a federal investigation into possible corruption in the awarding of state contracts. On Tuesday, legislators on both sides of the aisle said they were educating themselves on the process for impeaching a sitting governor....
[Fade in Dragnet theme - daa dada, daa dada dadaaa.]
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.
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