DoomwatchTM vs. Timesizing®
Collapse trends - Dec. 16-31/1999
[Commentary] ©1999 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080
[NY Times business columnist predicts crash in 3 yrs -]
12/31/1999 Remembering wealth: Life in post-crash Silicon Valley, sci (non)fi by Floyd Norris, NYT, C1.
Dec. 30, 2009 - Only a decade ago, the Silicon Valley of California was viewed as technology's promised land, a place where bungalows cost $1m and even the youngest computer programmer had stock options that seemed likely to be worth millions soon.
But now, years after the Internet crash of 2003, it has become a region of jealousies and recriminations. Working relationships were poisoned when employees learned that top executives secretly hedged their positions, and thus did not suffer. Banks sued formerly wealthy entrepreneurs, saying they hid assets to avoid paying their debts.
All that has happened even though many of the Valley's technology companies remain very successful.... But few...have lived up to the high expectations that were factored into stock prices before they fell.... Among the survivors, employees scarred by the collapsing value of their stock options now prefer the certainty of higher salaries....
12/29/99 Population of US put at 274m, Reuters via Boston Globe, A25.a 0.9% increase from [last year's] 271,584,000,...
an increase of 25,233,000 or 10.1% over the population of 248,791,000 on Census Day 1990 [was that Jan.1 or Jul.1?]
[and an increase of] approximately 200m more [than] July 1, 1900 [when the US population was] 76,094,000.
WASHINGTON - The United States...Commerce Department's Census Bureau said yesterday [that] the US population as of Jan. 1, 2000, is projected to be 274,024,000,
[And still no target range or maximum, or political mechanism to discover these vital figures, let alone humane and flexible design-mechanisms to enforce them. It's still "close our eyes and pray"!]
12/23 5 minicollapsers - It's Xmas Eve before a new Millennium, and in sooo many diverse ways, we're bringing back slavery -
12/23/1999 3 clunkers -
- [The 126-hour workweek lives!]
For cruise ships' workers, much toil, little protection, by Douglas Frantz, NYT, front page.
MIAMI - The kitchen on a cruise ship starts bustling for breakfast before 6 am, and some days workers do not stop peeling, cooking and washing until after the midnight buffet. For laboring as long as 18 hours a day, seven days a week, most galley workers are paid $400 to $450 a month.... Most are from third-world countries, working for months without a day off, living in shared quarters with little or no access to the ship's public areas.
[Let's see. $450/mon for 30 days, 18 hours a day - that comes out to 84 cents an hour. Plus maybe room and board. That's it. We urge all readers to avoid vacations on these big slave-driven cruise ships. Thy're liable to have a bloody slave revolt at any moment, and - hey, you'd have to side with the slaves even as they stabbed your *ss. If you want a cruise, book with a little tramp cargo steamer that plies the coastal waterways of British Columbia or Norway and has a couple of tourist staterooms.]
Long hours and subsistence wages are part of their contracts, as is the threat of being fired without notice or cause. Yet people from some of the world's poorest nations are so eager [we'd make that "desperate"] for work that some pay middlemen the equivalent of a month's wages to get these jobs, a fee that violates international law.
[So much for the effectiveness of international law.]
These are boom times for the cruise industry. Record numbers of passengers are packing bigger and grander ships, providing record profits for the dominant lines.
[So what we're saying here is that the huge cruise ships are replicating the unstable economic split of the worst third-world Caribbean islands, Haiti being number one.]
The Carnival Corp., with 45 ships the world's largest cruise company, is averaging $2.8 million A DAY in profits this year, almost all TAX-FREE because the company, which is based in Miami, is registered in Panama. [Our emphasis.]
[Time for some serious revenue-recapture ideas, like - you're based here, you're taxed here. Enough loopholes for the financially mega-obese.]
But the benefits have been slow to trickle down to the 70,000 or so workers who keep the fleets running and the passengers dining and dancing....
[Big media for "trickle down," blackout on "pour up." We're feeling a little nauseous. Better move on to another tale.]
- [Who's stupider here, the bulldozing entrepreneurs or the geniuses who OKed their concert location?]
Mexico: archeological outrage, by Sam Dillon, NYT, A6.
Entrepreneurs who were to stage a New Year's Eve rock concert at Teotihuacan, the site of pre-Columbian pyramids north of Mexico City, used heavy earth-moving equipment to flatten some of the grounds in order to accommodate 200,000 people. Stunned archeological authorities ordered the bulldozers out, canceled the concert, and are now estimating the damage to the site, the newspaper La Jornada reported.
[There goes your long-term tourist industry, not to mention your knowledge of these ancient cultures.]
- Vodafone begins takeover bid, by Andrew Sorkin, NYT, C3.
Chris Gent, CEO of Vodafone AirTouch, officially started the largest hostile bid ever, tendering [a] $127.7B offer for Mannesmann of Germany.... Vodafone said it expected to squeeze savings of about $803m in 2003 and about $970m in 2004 by combining the two telephone concerns....
[Let's see if we've got this straight. This clown is going to pay over ONE HUNDRED BILLION bucks cuz he thinks he can maybe possibly perhaps squeeze a louzy 2 billion in savings out of the merger over 5 YEARS - and risk clobbering customer service and wrecking them both. Clearly a prime case of testosterone poisoning. And you think HE's out of touch. Check out the megamorons at Bank of America in the next story!]
- [As Dave Barry would say, "We are not making this up." Dilbert, grab it and RUN with it!]
Bank workers spared unpaid work on ATMs, Reuters via Boston Globe, A8.
SAN FRANCISCO - It sounded like a good idea to management.
Bank of America this week publicized a voluntary "adopt an ATM" program under which it encouraged bank employees to go out and find one special cash machine to care for.... Employees were expected to donate both the time and the necessary materials to keep the bank's 14,000 ATMs clean. The bank described the program as a morale booster for its 160,000 workers, who have been buffeted by layoffs and are under pressure to reduce expenses..\..
Among the tasks employees were encouraged to perform were picking up trash around "their" ATM, wiping it down using window cleaner and a soft cloth, and making sure lighting was adequate....
[As we've said before, why not cut to the chase and just repeal the Emancipation Proclamation?!! Remember when ATMs and other technology was supposed to save work and make our lives better? Now we're supposed to be ATM-serving SLAVES?!? And they keep trying to tell us there's a labor shortage??! Not when they're seriously suggesting this kind of charity for the rich, and you better believe there'd be a serious percentage of desperately job-insecure employees among that 160,000 who'd DO it, too. Except for that damn government interference! -]
...When California's state Labor Commissioner Marcy Saunders heard about it, she had a different reaction - it's against the law.... "Notwithstanding the purported 'voluntary' nature of employee participation, your employees must be compensated for all time spent in connection with - and any work connected with - the 'Adopt and ATM' program," Saunders wrote in a letter to Bank of America president Michael Murray, demanding that the program be abolished or changed. "This is not an issue that is up for negotation," Saunders said in her letter, according to the San Francisco Chronicle....
[Or, we can change the law and facilitate the slide of America into third-world status, seemingly the intent of our CEOs. Would they give up a penny of their astronomical pay and perks to "reduce expenses"? Only a tiny heroic minority.
[Let's get explicit about what we can do about this kind of completely out-of-touch management class - We urge Bank of America depositors to switch banks. Further, we urge depositors in any of the huge megabanks to switch to small neighborhood banks. We ourselves, for example, have been very satisfied customers of East Cambridge Savings Bank in the suburbs north of Boston, Mass. And speaking of slavery -]
- Retailers look back and see online shopping is gaining, by Saul Hansell, NYT, front page.
[Bad for our eyes, more vulnerable to electric storms, less accountable for customer service, and - worst of all for retailers -]
...stores find that their best customers are the quickest to move online....
[This could mean further consumerbase-starving concentration of economic activity and wealth. The only stuff we really need to buy online is stuff that takes a lot of search facilities, like used or rare books and records. As for sitting through music or movies online, that's really a crazy waste of phone lines!]
12/22 3 clunkers, all on mounting corruption & non-enforcement in America
- German jobs talks scrapped, by Edmund Andrews, NYT, C4.
...between the German government, business and labor unions, the centerpiece of Chancellor Gerhard Schöder's so-called "alliance for jobs".... Union and corporate negotiators said they were deeply divided over pension system reforms, and Mr. Schöder canceled talks set for yesterday.
- No shying away from God Talk in campaign, by Mary Leonard, Boston Globe, front page.
- in radio ad, 1971 cellmate will never forget McCain's Christian sermon in Vietnam POW camp
- Bush publicly attests that Jesus "changed my heart"
- Gore proudly declares he is a born-again Christian
- Forbes said on TV news show last Sunday that Jesus Christ is his savior
- Hatch, Bauer and Keyes profess that their faith in God is fundamental to who they are and how they would lead the nation
[And what nation is that? - the established-state-religion British nation of 1776 from which this nation revolted so it could get "no taxation without representation" and separation of Church and State? And they're into fundamentalism, the most lock-think lock-speak flavor that Christianity offers??! Bradley alone stood apart from all this hypocrisy, most of which is covered in the Bible in a thrice-repeated (because the first Christians were so struck with it) little saying to the effect that it's easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than for a rich man to enter God's kingdom (Matt.19:14, Mark 10:25, Luke 18:25).]
Even McCain and...Bradley, the two candidates who say the subject is too private to discuss in their campaigns, write in their memoirs of profound encounters with religion and spirituality....
[But McCain has that religious radio ad and his memoirs came out last year during the campaign. Bradley's Time Present, Time Past came out some years ago (1996)].
- Time Magazine goes shopping on the Web for its Person of the Year, by Ellen Goodman, Bos Globe, A17.
Doesn't it seem a bit odd that Jeff Bezos has been named Person of the Year?
[Sure does, considering that Amazon.com, the Web firm he heads, has never made a profit and has no plans to for another few years.]
Wasn't that title given to Mahatma Gandhi in 1930? To Dwight Eisenhower in 1944? To Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963? Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989?
Now Time Ragazine [sorry -] Magazine has just chosen the founder of Amazon.com, a guy whose contribution to world peace is...a better way to shop.
[Or is it? Who wants to stare at these screens any more than we have to?]
The most lauded entrepreneur of 1999 is running a company that could lose $350 million this year alone....
[Sock it to them, Ellen!]
- we only enforce against poor & powerless, e.g., 25 YEARS minimum sentencing for small fry in drug trade -
12/19 Cash that won't flow - As boom fattens up pension plans, retirees agitate for a bigger cut, by Diane Lewis, Boston Globe, F4.
- FTC lets nuclear ads continue, pointer (to C6) headline, NYT, C1.
The Federal Trade Commission has agreed that advertisements by the nuclear industry made unsubstantiated claims about the [environmental!!!] benefits of nuclear power, but the commission said the ads were a form of political speech that would be allowed to continue.
[Boy, the nuclear industry has a nerve. How stupid do they think we are. And as for the FTC - pretty soon every piece of crappy behavior in this country is going to be a "form of political speech." It started in 1976 with infinite political contributions being a form of "free speech." Soon it's going to be murders and assassinations should not be stopped because they're "a form of political speech." Hey, why don't we just declare the Oklahoma bombing and what the black trenchcoats did in Columbine "a form of political speech"? The chief coward at the FTC? Only name given is Joan Z. Bernstein, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, who signed the FTC's letter. The chief bullsh*t artist in the nuclear industry? Only name given is Scott Peterson, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute. Indiscriminate print media accepting the totally misleading ads? The New Republic (boy, have they come down in the world!], The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times, Roll Call and The Hill.]
- Nature's guardians still face disrespect - Where Clinton's environmental record falls short, by Jeff Rich, NYT op ed, A31.
[Don't read this article unless you're ready to get very very angry.]
Elko County, Nevada...is inside the largest national forest in the lower 48 states, the Humboldt-Toiyabe.... [In 1995] after fire bombs destroyed a...ranger's office near Carson City and a week later, the van in his home driveway, the Forest Service moved him out of Nevada, saying it could no longer protect him from the backlash against his attempts to enforce the law restricting cattle grazing on public lands. In 1996, [the county government of] Elko County turned its legal apparatus against federal officials trying to protect public lands, convening a grand jury to seek indictments of [national forest] employees.... The effort failed...but the battle merely moved to new fronts.
This year, a...state assemblyman [supported] by the lieutenant governor organized a mob to bulldoze open a federal road the Forest Service had closed [to protect] endangered bull trout. And in Oct., the supervisor of [the national forest] resigned, stating that "fed bashing" was "a state sanctioned sport" in Nevada.... In her resignation letter...Gloria Flora called attention not only to the threats, but also to more subtle forms of harassment and discrimination, like refusal [of service] at local restaurants and motels..\.. Reports...of threats or attacks against Forest Service employees and facilities nearly doubled from 1995 to 1998 [and] similar reports from the Bureau of Land Management increased more than fivefold from 1995 to 1999.
...[The problems are] compounded by the lack of cooperation from federal prosecutors, particularly the U.S. attorney in Nevada, in acting on complaints about many kinds of crimes.... There has also been a 26% rise in Justice Dept. "declinations," or refusals to prosecute environmental crimes [since the Bush administration]....
[Clearly we need to up the ante, get our big nose out of other nations' business, and move the Army into our own scofflaw states to enforce our own laws. Here's a similar article about corruption and non-enforcement that's prevalent in Massachusetts.]
- When citizens complain of corruption, little action follows, records indicate - The people who make the complaint get more harassed than the people who get complained about, according to Gerard Bolduc, a tax preparer - 'They don't even have eyes or ears, never mind teeth,' Prosecutor on [Massachusetts] ethics laws and their lax enforcement, by Alice Dembner with Gerard O'Neill, Walter Robinson & Matthew Carroll, Boston Globe, A26.
[Photo captions -]
[Section titles -]
- Gerard Bolduc...said [Dracut's] police chief instructed him to drop his complaint against the building inspector
- Selectman Jim Balzotti of Pembroke said he received threatening phone calls [and a bloody, mutilated cat on his lawn] after he accused town officials of favoritism
- Wolfgang Bauer...former town administrator in Franklin, paid a $10,000 fine for accepting discounted rent from a developer
- In North Attleborough, public works chief Raymond Payson, who shunned cameras in March, says he has nothing to hide [photo shows him covering face with windbreaker]
[Then in Somerville, Mass., there are the complaints about massive voting irregularities that Denise Provost lodged after losing the '93 and '95 alderman's race in our slimy Ward 5, complaints lodged with apparently sleeping Attorney General Thomas O'Reilly. Then in Medford, Mass., there are the 1995 complaints that Josh O'Brien lodged after a police cruiser took 3 hours to transport a ballot box half a mile after the polls closed in the primary, and guess what, although Josh won in Somerville, Vinnie Ciampa "won" enough in Medford to carry the state rep district. What this country needs is another Theodore Roosevelt at the helm with a sensitive crap detector and the intestinal fortitude to reverse our mounting crap levels. What a disgraceful entry we're making into the next millennium.]
- Many complaints, but few fines
- Pages of allegations, but no action
- Some lay blame on legislature
...One of the biggest issues among corporate America's retirees today is pension plan "stuffing," or over-funding.
[Huh? How can you possibly "over" fund a pension plan?!]
This occurs when pension funds, fueled by a booming stock market, are fattened by lucrative investments. A boost for retirees [in line with the prevailing nostrum that stock market appreciation can float the consumer markets indefinitely]? Not really, experts say.
"Although many of the funds are overfunded and there is plenty of money available to make regular adjustments to retirees, companies also have an institutional interest in not increasing benefits," said Karen Ferguson, director of the Pension Rights Center in Washington, DC.
The reason? The excess funds in bulging pension plans can be reported as a credit toward income, resulting in higher earnings....
[Pathetic. We knew our corporate accounting practices had "bugs" (in the computer programing sense), but this one is a multi-edged sword, hurting the companies themselves with hype, hurting their investors with hype, hurting their retired employees with withheld payouts of their own money, and by thus cramping personal income, worsening the growing imbalance between rising production and stagnant or sinking consumption, attested to daily by low inflation, desperate commercials, overwhelming junkmail, and high mergers and acquisitions (the last resort of more and more and more CEOs who can't gain market share any other way).]
12/17/99 6 clunkers -
For earlier collapse stories, click on the desired date -
- Fresh wound - Malden Mills owner stung by negligence claims - 'Our hearts have gone out to these victims. How could they do this? They're like members of my own family.' - Aaron Feuerstein, by Bruce Butterfield, Boston Globe, C1.
In the years since a huge fire destroyed Malden Mills [and] owner Aaron Feuerstein [drew] national attention for [paying] all 3,000 of his employees full salaries for months after the fire and [refusing] to rebuild in labor-cheap regions in the South..\..Feuerstein has faced 100s of crises in his drive to rebuild the famed New England textile company [that makes Polartek and that we mention even on our Working Models page even tho they're not a working model of timesizing, "just" reinvesting in employees & wages].
But few have been as unexpected or potentially ugly as the one he faces today: a charge in a claim filed last Friday by 13 of his workers that the injuries they suffered in the 1995 fire were at least partly caused by negligence at the mill. ...It has clearly stunned Feuerstein, who has made fairness to workers a cornerstone of his efforts at the mill. "I was shocked out of my wits," Feuerstein said during an interview this week. "I feel dreadful...."
Oddly, at least some of the 13 - four of whom have returned to the mill to help Feuerstein rebuild - appear equally conflicted. "I really like Aaron," one of them agreed yesterday, asking not to be identified.
[With friends like this lot, you don't need enemies. What a great argument they are for bringing back hanging, drawing and quartering. This is nothing short of labor-discrediting extortion against one of the best employers in the world. What does this teach CEOs? Nice guys get screwed. Labor isn't worth it. Labor isn't human. They have no human feelings or common decency. They'll repay kindness with hatred. They're worse than dogs that bite the hand that feeds. As for this scurvy crew, their fellow employees should send the four that still work for Malden Mills to Coventry and beyond. Make their lives hell like they're verging on doing to the rest of labor all over the world. No wonder they're too ashamed to be identified.]
"...I respect what he has done. He's done a noble thing. I feel very bad he's going through this."
[He's NOT going to go through this if you morons cancel the filing. Do it fast before the curse of labor all over the world descends on your miserable, grasping, self-righteously compulsively perfectionistic souls.]
- ["Frankenstein (bioengineered) foods" -]
How to make a scientific breakthrough seem horrifying, by Floyd Norris, NYT, C1.
Consider the possibilities of a scientific breakthrough that could allow farmers to grow more food while using less pesticides, or to add vitamins to vegetable oils to prevent malnutrition....
[We have, and they're scary. Bioengineering CEOs are trying to patent plants now, and trying to create sterile one-crop seeds to make farmers dependent on the bioengineeing corporations. And if these plants interact with insects and other plants and the barren seeds sterilize other crops, we could all be starving in a few years. The interactive possibilities are unpredictable and potentially irreversible. And you expect us to EAT this stuff? God knows what the interactions with our bodies are likely to be. We've already increased our cancer rate with a lot of the over-processed junk we call "food." You think we want even MORE?! Get a brain. It's with good reason that bioengineered foods are called -]
"Frankenstein foods" in the British tabloids....
[Thank God that -]
Wall Street is leary, and now class-action lawyers have leaped in with a double-barreled suit accusing Monsanto, the leading company in the field, of trying to monopolize a business lawyers say relies on foisting possibly dangerous foods. The way things are going, Monsanto executives who want to avoid being harassed at cocktail parties and on airplanes may take to lying about what they do....
[How about they just QUIT DOING IT. And this has very long-term repercussions that make these "foods" impossible to properly test. We've already been stupid enough to take the 35,000-year unanticipated consequences of radioactive wastes from nuclear power plants. NO MORE! If you think that technology is infallible and wonderful and responsible and should never be controlled, bear in mind that -]
- Year 2000 to cost U.S. $8.3 billion, pointer headline, NYT, C1. Pointing to -
Year 2000 preparations were costly, [General Accounting Office] officials say, by Matthew Wald, NYT, A25.
[And as for the wonders of the Internet, now getting its great Information Highway function overwhelmed with commercialism, retina-ruining entertainment and spam, check our last clunker today (#6, below). Meanwhile, let's not forget our wonderful economy -]
- Out in the cold - [Boston] hub's homeless population rising despite healthy economy, by David Weber, Boston Herald, front page.
Despite the booming economy, the number of homeless people in Boston rose 10% over last year, with many of the new homeless including families who could no longer afford their rents, city officials said yesterday. According to a count taken Monday night of men, women and children living on the streets or in shelters, hospitals and detox centers around the city, there are 5,820 homeless in Boston compared to 5,272 last year [up 10.4%].
Boston Emergency Shelter Commissioner Kelley Cronin was especially alarmed by the number of homeless families, which includes any combination of parents or siblings without homes. That number rose to 1,905 - an 18.7% increase over last year. "Many of those families had members who had jobs, but just couldn't afford their apartments any more," Cronin said.
[In other words, their wages were too low for even the cheapest housing. Don't know about you folks, but we here at Timesizing.com just before Christmas, recorders of suffering tho' we be, just can't take in 1,905 families right here in wealthy Boston (home of Kennedys, Cabots and Lodges) who have no home at the dawn of the Third Millennium. What an insult to human intelligence. What a blot on our self-respect. And we have the gall to constantly congratulate ourselves for a booming economy? What a bunch of blindered morons we are! Here's a description of our situation -
This opulent nation has found it more economic...to supersede workers by machines; she has laid off, then hired, then laid off again, factory hands in cities, and (rural) artisans giving place to automata are now sinking under homelessness; she has found it more economic to reduce all working people to the lowest possible wages on which they can subsist; and these working people being no longer anything but a rabble, have not feared plunging into still deeper misery by the addition of an increasing family. She has found it more economic to give charity to the poor overseas, and clothe them in rags; and now every craft brings legions of immigrants, who, working for less than the native-born, drive them from every employment. What is the fruit of this immense accumulation of wealth? Have they had any other effect than to make every income bracket partake of care, privation, and the risk of complete ruin? Has not the nation, by forgetting humans for things, sacrificed the end to the means?
[This passage, minimally modified to conceal its identity, was actually written, in French, one hundred and seventy-three years ago about the England of Dickens. It's from the foreword to a book on economics (Nouveaux Principes d'Économie Politique) by a European observer (a Swiss historian named Sismondi) that has still not been translated into English, despite his citation by the great Malthus, his contributions to journals and encyclopedias in English, his idolization of Adam Smith, and his correspondence with Ricardo, Macculloch, Say and other economic luminaries of the period. Our quotes are from his one publication in English - a collection only of his essays called "Political Economy...", which includes this preface (only) from the Nouveaux Principes, and which was published by a translator in 1847 just after the author's death and dedicated to his widow. What a disgrace to those of us who take pride in our English language and like to think that we can absorb any ideas and handle any criticism. This glaring gap in important works translated into English ranks with the conspiracy of silence in our history books and classes about the 30-hour workweek bill that passed the U.S. Senate on April 6, 1933, and the equal silence about the 1932 advocacy of a 20-hour workweek by sociologist Arthur Dahlberg, though we still hear plenty about his 1933 rebutter, FDR braintruster Rexford Tugwell, though he was tarred in the late 30s for his socialism. Truly the one thing that has given more anxiety (totally unfounded) to the power elite over the last two centuries than socialism is shorter hours, although no economy will progress beyond a masochistic split-society frenzy of high-tech buzzwords without passing through this key social technology.
The example of this country is so much the more striking, because she is a free, enlightened, well-governed nation, because all her sufferings proceed only from having followed a false economic system. No doubt foreigners are struck here with the arrogant pretensions of the aristocracy, and the accumulation of wealth in the same hands tends continually to increase it..\.. The wise men's...theories, wherever they were put in practice, served well enough to increase material wealth, but they diminished the mass of enjoyment laid up for each individual; if they tended to make the rich more rich, they also made the poor more poor, more dependent, and more destitute. Crises utterly unexpected have succeeded one another in the commercial world [cf. the stagflation of the 70s (simultaneously high inflation and unemployment), the UNstagflation of the 90s (simultaneously low inflation and unemployment), domino currency crashes...], the progress of industry and opulence has not saved the employees who created this opulence from unheard-of sufferings; facts have not answered either to common expectation, or to the predictions of philosophers; and in spite of the implicit faith which the disciples of Political Economy accord to the instruction of their professors, they are obliged to seek elsewhere new explanations for these phenomena, which diverge so widely from the rules they consider as established.
[À propos of homelessness, a backup article, on homelessness around the nation, appeared in today's NY Times -]
Photographs of the homeless, at the Corcoran Gallery [NYC], pointer headline, NYT, B41, pointing to -
When a museum displays its heart, by Vicki Goldberg, NYT, B45.
Once upon a time, as recently as the 1970's, people did not live on the street in cardboard boxes with their feet sticking out the end. Homelessness, always with us but nowhere near as rampant as it is today, was essentially invisible. Then a combination of circumstances, including the emptying of mental institutions and cutbacks in federal funds for housing, drove all sorts of people onto the streets. Photographers were on the case almost immediately.... [The] show [is] meant to demonstrate that there are solutions to homelessness - some put forward by organizations that provide not just shelter buy also crucial services like medical care, psychological support and job training.... "The Way Home: Ending Homelessness in America" is at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, 500 17th Street, NW, Washington, (202) 639-1700, thru Jan. 31.
["As recently as the 1970's" coincides with the period, almost a generation ago, when rampant stagflation signaled to those (like Jane Jacobs) who could read the signs, that the labor-employment balance ("thanks" to World War II) of the 50s and early 60s was over and America's middle class was beginning a serious decline led by gross labor surplus and stagnating wages. Families were starting to get second wage-earners entering the job market to try to compensate for this lack of wage progress (i.e., women entering the workforce in large numbers) but of course, this only worsened the labor-employment imbalance and more strongly confined wages. Then along came the party of the rich in fateful alliance with the self-righteous right, and sensing the weakening of the liberal middle class, the Republicans cut housing funds and empied mental institutions. Funny how often events conspire to make a problem clearer by worsening it, though the media, following the centuries of obfuscation by the nouveau (and angry) rich - "I did it myself and ANYBODY can do it all by themselves!!!" - continue to treat the problem like an unaccountable Act of God beside which we all, including the wealthy, are helpless bystanders.
[In fact, we are all, especially the wealthy, active daily generators of the problem because of our failure to move our society's definition of "fair share" from the political "one person one vote" and "one person one education" to the economic "one person one whatever." Chesterton highlighted this problem decades ago and it is no small challenge to the economic designer's art. For one thing, it involves the new concept of equalizing, not on a point, but on a range with an upper as well as a lower limit - and the nouveau riche, verging ever on the megalomaniacal with delusions of omnipotence and immortality, have always had great difficulty with the concept of upper limits, however demonstrably necessary. For another thing, it involves programming a self-adjusting dynamic equalization rather than a consciously (or never) resettable static equalization. Witness the French today - jumping down from a permanent rigid 39-hour workweek to a permanent rigid 35-hour one. And for another thing, it involves the seemingly cynical but very practical concept of programming a minimalist solution - indeed, a minimum necessary departure from status quo at each point. And for another thing, it involves identifying the dimension and units of the range-based equalization. The economic choice is per-person skills, employment, income, payments, wealth, or credit. Timesizing.com suggests that all will have to be range-equalized in time as our sensitivities and expectations rise, but identifies the first choice as per-person employment. After all, it's a lot easier to motivate people to equalize work per person than income or wealth per person. And trying to equalize income or wealth first just creates dependency.
[In our innocence, we have assumed that the politically based sharing technology of "one person one education" (i.e., free public education) would take care of the marketable skills disparity, but we're seeing the market daily outdistance our public education further and further. So it would be nice if we could balance that one, skills, in with our employment-balancing design. All this we have done in the five public-sector phases of the Timesizing.com program - bearing in mind that a private-sector ramp-up of at least as many phases and at least equal duration would be not only advisable but necessary.]
- Madonna painting is defaced in a disputed Brooklyn show, by Robert McFadden, NYT, front page.
A painting whose elephant dung and pornographic touches have incurred the wrath of Mayou Rudolph Giuliani and stirred a religious, cultural and political furor in the city was attacked at the Brooklyn Museum of "Art" [our quotes] yesterday by a man who smeared paint on it but did no permanent damage....
[When art involves a piece of sh*t (literally), vandalism can only improve what has been nothing but a practical joke from the start.]
- As sales boom online, some customers boo - Electronic traffic is up, but customer satisfaction is heading south, by Saul Hansell, NYT, C1.
...More and more this holiday season, Internet users are finding that the sophisticated online shopping machinery can malfunction under actual field conditions. When it does, some shoppers experience a particularly aggravating form of helplessness: Companies that have spent tens of millions of dollars on advertising to attract shoppers often become distressingly mute when customers complain....
Aug/98 and before.
Questions? Comments? email firstname.lastname@example.org).