Good News, Nov. 11-20, 2000
[Commentary] ©2000 Phil Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080
11/19-20/2000 weekend glimmers of intelligence -
11/18/2000 glimmers of intelligence -
- [We've long wanted artists and writers to pour into the area we've identified as the central issue that could unlock the most progress. Maybe they've started -]
11/20 New Economy - A novelist dissects the information age and finds a Socratic tragedy, by Tim Race, NYT, C4.
...Alan Lightman...who holds a PhD in theoretical physics and is a professor of writing and humanistic studies at MIT..\..has produced a...foreboding, sometimes darkly comical book, "The Diagnosis".... "The story that I'm telling," Mr. Lightman said last week in an interview, "is a modern American tragedy - the tragedy of how we're living our lives at the turn of the century [and millennium!] in the United States...."
In the novel's back story, Socrates' primary persecutor, Anytus, a wealthy, powerful tanner, gives the philosopher a final choice - exile or death - as punishment for spreading ideas deemed dangerous to the established order. The ultimatum is presented in a hellish scene around putrid vats of rendered animal hides, which give off such a stench that the Egyptian slaves who...tend them have long ago lost their sense of smell.
Many of the parallels between the ancient and contemporary in Mr. Lightman's novel are indirect. It is only implicit, for example, that the Egyptian slaves are forebears to the slaves to success like...Bill Chalmers [in the foreground story, who] is on the fast track at a professional firm...where success is measured by how many gigabytes of data each worker can process on behalf of clients. ...Any minute not spent talking on a cell phone, sending e-mail or checking voice mail is a minute wasted. Chalmer's life is Internet time, 24/7/365.... The accumulated weight of information overload eventually causes Chalmers's physical senses to depart him one by one \just like\ the Egyptian slaves who...long ago lost their sense of smell.
...[Success is equated with wealth.] "The pursuit of wealth for its own sake [rather than for what it can do for you or others] - that is a major thread of our [contemporary] consciousness," Mr. Lightman said. "Studies have been done on this. If you give people the option of cutting down on their workweek and having more time for their families and personal lives, or keeping their workweek and having a pay raise, very few people will give up salary for more leisure time.
[In fact, there's no consensus. One study last year found that 2/3 of employees would give up some pay to get more time for themselves, but people felt locked in and without any option.]
"In the 1950's, when a lot of labor-saving devices were being developed and personal productivity went up, there were predictions that by the year 2000 the workweek would be cut back to 20 hours. The cruel joke is that none of this happened. Instead of creating more time for ourselves and exploring other areas of our lives, we just put more and more time into our jobs and just produced more and made more money."
At the end...as he lies in bed...Bill Chalmers conjures up a dreamy notion of his son's future and muses, "Alex might [have] a life." It is a hopeful note in a story that otherwise offers little in the way of optimism....
Mr. Lightman...said he harbored hope that the next generation might be able to transcend what he sees as the current culture's empty pursuit of money and bandwidth. "Maybe our children have to get saturated with this stuff before they can get beyond it," he said.
[No, it's set up to avoid saturation. They just have to start mechanically taking the steps to change it and get out of the vicious circle/death spiral - convert overtime into training&hiring and gradually CUT THE WORKWEEK. And if they don't, they will never get out of the deepening trap and "get beyond it," any more than we have the past 60-67 years of blocking shorter hours and setting the 40-hour week in concrete. We either share the vanishing work or continue our death spiral toward a giant self-willed sweatshop and beyond that, slavery.]
When Mr. Lightman observes the undergraduates at MIT, "I worry about them," he said. "I have enormous respect for their minds and their originality and their creativity. On the other hand, I see them making the same assumptions about the world that our generation has made -
[Well what do you expect, Alan? Where are they supposed to get an alternative (unless they stumble across Timesizing.com) - out of thin air. Of course they make the same stupid assumptions as our generation because that's the only thing we've been teaching them.]
- that more technology is better. I think something's going to have to shake them up".... And what bigger event \than\ the bursting of the dot-com stock bubble...might "shake up" the next generation?
[Certainly nothing that would not also shake up our generation.]
Mr. Lightman does not pretend to know....
[In fact, this is something that has been recently discussed on the shorter work-time listserve (see near bottom of homepage for how to subscribe). There are two leading possibilities -
Which one will go critical first? Phil Hyde believes the economy will go critical first and has a book out about what to do about it, Timesizing, Not Downsizing. Anders Hayden (meaning "other Hyde"?) believes the ecology will go critical first and has a book out about it, Sharing the Work, Sparing the Planet. Both books are available on Amazon.com.]
- either our economy will 'go critical' or
- our ecology will 'go critical'
"I'm not highly optimistic," he said. "I wrote 'Alex might [have] a life.'"
[This all means that more spending on technology will be meaningless in terms of net human progress. So next Wed's story, "Only one direction for technology outlays [upwards]," 11/22/00 NYT, W1, don't matter a damn. We have technological improvements safely spun into a web of irrelevance - none of them will ever reverse or even cap the income gap and humanity will keep marking time while pressing ever harder on the ecological limits. ...Unless we take step 1 and cap&reverse the employment&skills gap by implementing timesizing....]
- 11/19 Sony's high-tech center offers strange case of deja vu - The Metreon is a vivid reminder that the implied promise of nearly all...technologies - that they generally make life easier - is often a fantasy, by Charles Piller, LA Times via Boston Globe, F8.
A recent experience at the Metreon, Sony's high-tech center in San Francisco, brought to mind that aphorism, "the more things change, the more they stay the same".... The Metreon's pulsating electronics at every turn [promise] immediacy but deliver long lines..\..
The experience was eye-popping and futuristic, yet vaguely reminiscent of Disneyland and every other popular entertainment venue build in the last few decades: All waiting, all the time.
- First, there was the 20-minute line to buy tickets for an Imax show
- (the line for the self-service machines was equally long),
- then the 20-minute line for popcorn.
- ...When my 3-D goggles went on the blink, the only way I could find an attendant to swap them for fresh ones was to intentionally set off the goggle-theft siren. .
- ..We waited patiently in line \for\ the latest PlayStation 2 football game.... Each player was supposed to quit after a five-minute turn, but the two dozen or so flat-panel monitors were policed by a single harassed attendant who vainly tried to keep track of cheaters..\..
[In short, less and less respect for people's time, and more and more imposition upon it.]
...The experience was not unlike a typical department store or supermarket - with the latest technology that rarely seems to ease the shopping process and can even be counterproductive. Product scanners instantly record how many cans of kidney beans...have been sold, and although such inventory control can be more "efficient," ultimately the process encourages stores to hire fewer cashiers.
...[Similarly,] online retail shopping becomes laughably bad if anything goes wrong that requires human intervention. Fewer than 30% of e-mail queries to Web retailers are answered promptly and correctly, according to the research firm Gomez Advisors. This is one reason Web shoppers abandon their virtual carts in midtransaction three times out of four, market researcher Datamonitor says....
"People have been talking about a 'distribution problem' at least since the 1930s, maybe before," said Edward Tanner, author of "Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences" (Vintage Books, 1997). "One thing that was very clear a century ago was that factories were much better at turning things out in large numbers than people were at moving things around and selling them," he said. "In a way, this is a bottleneck that has always come with improvements in doing anything".... The "flexibility" of cell phones and pagers might deliver messaging overload.... Tenner cites the automobile, which was promoted as a solution to the congestion of horses and carts in inner cities, a way to reduce traffic and permit geographic dispersion. We know how that idea turned out. ...The "convenience" of cars leads to gridlock....
[Especially in L.A. But isn't this all LUDDISM?! It would be if it was slamming technology itself, but...]
The problem is not so much technology itself but follies in implementation that seem to subvert many of technology's logical improvements, recreating problems of the past or generating new headaches.
[Timesizing.com's point is that when we freeze the workweek at a pre-technology level, as we've done since 1940, we have dumped a huge problem on our own laps - we have blocked ourselves from sharing the vanishing work, but we HAVE to make a living (still at the 1940 40-hour level), so we HAVE to block the work savings of all new technology. We can NEVER get the real benefit of any of it in terms of more free time - except in the form of underemployment and insecurity. We don't have active luddism, but we have passive luddism, because we are blocking the real purpose of technology at every turn. We justified our embrace of this stupid contradiction with elaborate rationalizations and diversions -]
"The way to build excitement for a product is to limit supply," he said, "and to present the products as part of a theatrical experience."
[Some would say a "religious" experience, as in "buying this will change your life!" = the "Gospel of Consumption."]
The latter practice dates to the 1930s, when department stores first began to create elaborate window displays to boost customer traffic....
[What a "coincidence" - just above, Tanner is quoted as saying "People have been talking about a 'distribution problem' at least since the 1930s" - and 1933 was the year of the Great Fork in the Road, the year "St. FDR" balked at the 30-hour workweek bill and began to spin the shorter-hours movement as defeatist and pessimistic, instead of liberating and progressive as they'd always been viewed before. Even though FDR regretted two years later that he hadn't got behind the 30-hours bill and pushed it through, he'd unleashed burgeoning makework in terms of government codes and programs and agencies and administrations and bureaucracies, and he could not then get the evil genie back in the bottle.]
Silicon Valley's biggest problem - hyperactive growth - has overwhelmed the capacity of local highways and housing markets, turning the lives of all but the super-rich into a daily struggle with a regional planning nightmare. It may be the logical result of a technology culture so [narrowly] focused on producing the next products that it forgets to consider the experience of the people who will use them.
[In fact, since an outdated workweek makes labor hours common, and by extension, the lives of all but the super-rich common and abundant and...cheap, the functional priorities of business reverse, from employees first, then customers, then stockholders/speculators, then stock analysts last, to analysts first, then stockholders/speculators, then customers, then employees last.]
11/17/2000 glimmers of intelligence -
- Dimpled chads cost me an election - No state's ballots should be open to judgment calls, op ed by Philip W. Johnston, NYT, A31.
[Amen to that. Phil was a candidate in the Democratic primary for the 10th Massachusetts Congressional District who lost by a hair in 1996, and is now chairman of the Mass. Democratic Party.]
...Some of the painful lessons I learned in Massachusetts apply to today's conflict in Florida.
The silver lining in all this erecent turmoil is that the flaws in our electoral process -
- First, ballots that are subject to judgment calls by election officials taint the electoral process.... In Massachusetts, the courts have not been consistent on punch-tab ballots.... This kind of ballot should simply be banned in all states.
- ...The suggestion that the entire state should be recounted by hand and that the candidates should abide by the outcome strikes me as eminently reasonable.
- As for settling disputes about individual ballots, either local election officials who are trained in the field or 3-judge panels should be responsible, [not] any individual judge....
- are all now exposed. Let us hope that Americans will demand quick reforms.... Whatever happens, the loser in this "election" [our quotes -ed.] will never feel that he was dealt with fairly.
- the inconsistent standards,
- the confusing ballots,
- the lack of accountability and
- the potential for conflicts of interest
- Nader sees Greens building status as a major party - No plans for 2004, but talk of fielding Congressional candidates in 2002, by Adam Clymer, NYT, A16.
Ralph Nader, who drew 2.8m votes - 3% of the total - as the Green Party's presidential candidate, contended today that the Green Party was the fastest growing in the nation and [already the third largest party in America in terms of Nov. 7 votes] would achieve major-party status within 12 years....
[Here's hopin'. As Mel King of Boston said in answer to the question, "Will Nader win?" - "He won when he started." And that's frankly how Phil Hyde feels about his race "against" Ted Kennedy - Phil was the only candidate in the nation at the dawn of the 3rd Millennium who championed the one issue that would unlock the most progress - reverse the lengthening workweek, share the yet-unrobotized employment and spread the spending power.]
- Sunbeam likely to face U.S. charges, Bloomberg via NYT, B2.
...SEC investigators [have] completed a 2-year investigation into whether the company improperly reported sales under its former chairman, Albert J. Dunlap, and [they will] recommend that charges be brought against the company.... Investigators will also probably recommend that charges be brought against Mr. Dunlap and the former vice chairman of Sunbeam....
[Nothing would be healthier for this economy than to have "Chainsaw Dunlap" - or as we would call him, Dungflap - brought to trial and made an example of. Ruin him, as he ruined so many companies and employees, and see if that larns 'im and warns-off imitators.]
- Chief of American Express to leave four months early, Bloomberg via NYT, B2.
...Kenneth I. Chenault, his successor, will become the first black chief executive of one of the 30 blue-chip companies whose stocks make up the Dow Jones industrial average....
11/16/2000 glimmers of intelligence -
- [FINALLY, America gets a bullet train.]
High-speed Amtrak train makes flashy debut, by Matthew Wald, NYT, A15.
Part airliner and part living room, Amtrak's new Acela Express made its debut yesterday morning on a run from Washington to Boston. The high-speed [150 mph] train has overhead bins like a Boeing, but much deeper and easier to reach, and windows and curtains like those in a country house. It is...smooth[-riding] and cruises past cars and trucks as though they were standing still. The seats recline, even the ones at the bulkhead; the reading lights have two brightness settings and there are headphone jacks at each seat, and handy electric outlets.... Laptops and cell phones are still welcome, in contrast to airplanes. And [it] was quiet enough for a 6-man a capella group, Vocal Tonic of Atlanta, to perform clearly in the aisles.
...[It is] Amtrak's first new train in nearly 30 years...the harbinger of an $800m wage of 20 such new trains, with special locomotives and maintenance shops.... "This really represents this country investing in something and doing it right," said George Warrington, president of the railroad. "This is what everyone is clamoring for every time they get off a plane from Europe." ...The Acela Express is scheduled to start carrying passengers on Dec. 11, with one round trip daily between Washington and Boston.... A fife-and-drum corps at Washington's Union Station played as Gov. Tommy G. Thompson of Wisconsin, the chairman of Amtrak's board, smashed a bottle of California champagne over the train's snout..\..
The Acela Express has achieved 165 mph but is for now being held to a top speed of 135 mph between Washington and New York, because of limits in the signal system. It reaches 150 mph in parts of RI and Mass. The cab looks positively supersonic, with electronic screens like those in jetliners. The engineers, William V. Dotterer Jr., with 28 years' experience, and Edward J. Quinn Jr., with 32, both wore neatly knotted ties for the occasion....
The equipment of the old Metroliners is now being put into service on slower trains, called Acela Regional, making more stops....
[Big marketing mistake to confuse the new name with slower trains! From chart -]
...When fully operational next summer, [the Acela Express] will make
[And where did the name Acela come from? For GM & Chrysler story, click 11/17/2000.]
- 19 weekday round trips between Washington and New York [in 2 hrs, 43 mins - 15 mins faster than the old train, for $217 first class and $143 biz class, $21 more than the old train but $60 less than airshuttle fares of $202.50 - not as brief in transit but all your baggage stays with you and you arrive & depart right in the center of town - and with today's bad news from the airlines - "Holiday fliers face the usual crowds, plus riled workers - Travel advisory: Angry staff ahead" by Laurence Zuckerman, NYT, front page (& pointer, C1)...]
- 10 between New York and Boston [in 3 hrs 18 mins - an hour or more faster than the old train, for $248 for first class and $162 for biz class]
11/15/2000 glimmers of intelligence -
- 2 UNtakeovers -
- AT&T plans spinoff to cut cable holdings, by Geraldine Fabrikant, NYT, C1.
AT&T, under pressure to reduce its holdings in the cable industry, said yesterday that it planned to spin off Liberty Media, the company that owns stakes in programming companies and is controlled by the entrepreneur John C. Malone....
- Willamette board turns down takeover bid by Weyerhaeuser, by Kenneth Gilpin, NYT, C2.
...Weyerhaeuser made its [$5.3B] offer, which also included the assumption of $1.7B in debt, in a Nov. 6 letter....
- Hang-up call - Brookline [Ma.] bans use of cell phones while driving, by Bombardieri & Roeber, Boston Globe, front page.
...the first in Massachusetts.... Brookline follows a growing list of communities across the country - and nations all over the world - that have enacted cell phone bans in the belief that driving and making phone calls at the same time is a grave roadway danger....
- Abortion pills headed to US health clinics, pointer summary (to A14), Boston Globe, A2.
The controversial pill RU-486 will be shipped to hundreds of health clinics within days, making it widely available to American women for the first time after more than a decade of conflict and delay.
11/14/2000 glimmers of intelligence -
- 4 UNtakeovers - big day for "ah forget it!" = breath of intelligence breaking thru? -
- TV Azteca SA, NYT, C4.
...Mexico City, the No. 2 broadcaster in Mexico, said its Azteca America Inc. unit ended its agreement to purchase a television station in Bridgeport, Conn., from Shop at Home Inc., Nashville, the third-largest home-shopping retailer in the United States, for $37.5m in cash.
- De Beers gives up on Ashton, Dow Jones via NYT, W1.
The South African diamond giant...said it was formally withdrawing its takeover bid for Ashton Mining, leaving Ashton to be acquired by a rival bidder, Rio Tinto....
[So the takeover is still gonna happen, but De Beers' higher bid got fragged by regulatory delays - yaaaay!]
- ThyssenKrupp to stay in steel, Bloomberg via NYT, W1.
...[A maker of] autoparts and elevators...based in Dusseldorf..\..backtracked on plans to sell its steel business after failing to get the [$1.4B] price it wanted [and is] no longer in talks to sell the steel business, Germany's largest, to any other company....
- Paper deal called off, Reuters via NYT, W1.
The Asia Pulp and Paper Co. of Singapore said it had canceled a proposed $378m purchase of a Canadian pulp mill because it was unable to arrange financing on "acceptable" terms. The deal concerned the Northern Bleached Softwood mill in Castlegar, BC....
- [If] U.S. missile defense, Russia wants less offense - A proposal from Putin to Occupant, White House, by Patrick Tyler, NYT, A10.
Unwilling to wait for a declared winner in the American presidential race [in case it turns out to be Bush -ed.], the Kremlin has mounted a diplomatic offensive to advertise its desire to make deep cuts in the nuclear arsenals of Russia and the United States as soon as possible after a new president takes office....
[Hey, why even wait for that?!]
11/13/2000 weekend glimmers -
- Ecological worldview offers vision of cosmic harmony, by Chet Raymo, Boston Globe, B11.
Two weeks ago I attended a meeting of nature writers who had gathered to consider the relationship between ecology and spirituality, convened by the Forum on Religion and Ecology....
[We don't know about 'spirituality,' but we do know that all our morality is going to be coming from ecology by the end of this new millennium - if we're still around.]
Out of the scientific world view is emerging something that might be called the ecological world view.
[And it is replacing the economic world view, which in turn replaced the political world view....]
..\..The ecological world view...is not human-centered, but it does embed humankind in an unfolding tapestry of more-than-human meaning.
[Very lovely, but let's not get ourselves back into that B.S. myth of scientific objectivity. Let's keep from kidding ourselves that we're unbiassed and simply remember that "there's no such thing as objectivity - only specifiably extended subjectivity." So, yes, the ecological worldview IS human-centered, but that center of self-interest is extended much further backward and forward in time, to embrace geological timespans, and extended much farther inward, outward and around from the thin planetary skin we live on, to embrace the entire biosphere. Economics, in contrast, is just about the next quarterly report or presidential term, from the viewpoint of this one company or industry or economy.]
...We willingly embrace the fruits of Western science and technology, even as we hanker for a simpler, more coherent life.
[How 'willing' is it when we get unlabeled 'frankenfoods' shoved down our throats? How 'willing' is it when we get a pack of short-sighted nuclear 'scientists' building a nuke a few miles down the coast and making us depend on it for electricity? How 'willing' is it when near-sighted CEOs use worksaving technology, not to make life easier by cutting hours for all, but to cut jobs for just a few, and a few more, and a few more....? We urgently need some better referendum technology to change all this into something we can willingly embrace.]
Can we have it both ways?..\..science and technology [and] a simpler, more coherent life...?
[Sure, as Bucky Fuller said, it's a design challenge.]
...Scientific knowledge of ecological and planetary [and physiological -ed.] systems, along with the universal Golden Rule, will be our best guide for shaping a harmonious future.
[Agreed, and one of the big principles at work in the "inner" ecology of physiology is homeostasis. We need to build that into our economic design as a working principle to flatten out the sine wave of the business cycle. We're not sure what a "universal" anything is, but if the Golden Rule starts off by extending our self-interest to our whole species now, and then into the future across at least the next millennium, that's a start. And then we can extend it to our neighboring species, starting with the closest by DNA and intelligence, our fellow great apes, and by intelligence alone, the cetaceans (whales-dolphins) and proboscideans (elephants). Many ecological principles, including homeostasis, have gone into the design of an employment-balancing economy that we call timesizing. Note this similar article today -]
For green patriarch, environmentalism grows out of faith - A spiritual leader calls pollution a sin and a sacrilege, by Robert Worth, NYT, A28.
With his long white beard, flowing black robes, miter and staff, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of 200m Orthodox Christians worldwide...in Europe, where he is sometimes called the Green Patriarch...is well-known for his passionate speeches about pollution in the Danube River and the Black Sea.... Yesterday, he brought his message to the U.S. in a speech at the Metropolitan Club in Manhattan.... Environmental activism, the patriarch said...is a natural outgrowth of his role as a religious leader....
- Wider logging ban sought, pointer summary (to A12), NYT, A2.
The Forest Service recommended that Pres. Clinton expand the scope of a planned initiative by banning virtually all commercial logging from remaining roadless areas of the national forests.
[And one more environmental item -]
- Britain: s-h-h-h-h, Reuters via NYT, A6.
Queen Elizabeth II has ordered her staff not to carry mobile phones, Buckingham Palace announced. "No one wants phones going off during a banquet," a spokesman said....
- Women make gains on corporate ladder, by Kimberly Blanton, Boston Globe, C2.
..."In the race for talent, some companies are starting to get it," said Sheila Wellington, president of Catalyst in New York, which released its annual survey of female executives in corporate America. Catalyst found that women make up 12.5% of all Fortune 500 corporate officers, up from 8.7% five years ago; they are 11.7% of all board members, up from 9.5% in 1995.
Still, only two women are Fortune 500 chief executives: Carleton Fiorina of Hewlett-Packard Co. and Andrea Jung at Avon Products. [And] as women gain status, pay gaps persist: Catalyst said women are [only] 4.1% of top earners in Fortune 500 corporations....
11/11/2000 glimmers of intelligence -
- Given today's technology to speed and simplify the election process, does it still make sense to use a paper ballot...when we could be using this? [picture of palmtop:] Candidates' names on the eSlate voting device are clearly marked to avoid confusion, by Hiawatha Bray, Boston Globe, D1.
Given the imbroglio in Florida, it's safe to say that voting in America is fraught with problems.... Perhaps this ongoing mess could be averted with the help of modern technology....
...[The Texas system gets] rid of the paper ballot altogether.... Several counties in Texas and Colorado used...eSlate voting device in recent elections \from\ Hart InterCivic Inc., in Austin, Texas.... In the eSlate system, voters are assigned a personal identification number similar to those used with ATMs. This is to ensure that each person can only vote once.
- Voters in some parts of Texas used an electronic notepad that instantly relays results to a central computer.
- And in Arizona earlier this year, the Democratic primary was conducted via the Internet.
- ...The disputed ballot in Palm Beach County, Fla. [was] a punch-card ballot, which is used in about a third of the United States. Voters are supposed to punch holes in paper ballots, which can then be read by a machine for quick tabulation.
[Punchcards is now very old computer technology, but the technology wasn't the problem in Palm Beach County. The problem was an illegal ballot design, putting the punch areas illegally on the left of half the names instead of on the right of all the names.]
The the voter goes to a booth and picks up an eSlate, which resembles an oversized palmtop computer. By rotating a dial on the device, the voter can highlight and enter the PIN. Then the ballot appears on the screen. Again, rotating the dial highlights a name on the electronic ballot. When the desired candidate appears, the voter presses an "enter" button. The chosen candidate's name is clearly marked on the screen to avoid confusion.
The voter can even scroll back to review choices or change his mind. Once the red "cast ballot" button is pushed, the vote is recorded.
[The article goes on to discuss various security problems and solutions, and ends with -]
...Jonathan Zittrain, asst. prof. at Harvard Law School...admits no voting security system is...completely unbeatable. "You don't have to shoot for perfection.... We just want to shoot for something better than what we have."
[Besides, "life's too short for perfection." Bucky Fuller called for 24-hr telephone referendums based on issues, not personalities. Perot called for electronic democracy briefly in '92. We've called for a faster shift to issue-oriented referendums for years. Let's get movin!]
- New Yorkers flock to join state registry to block sales calls - An unexpected number of people are asking to be placed on a 'do not call' list, by Joseph Fried, NYT, A27.
From Brooklyn to Buffalo, New York State residents are flocking to get their names on a newly created registry of people who do not want to receive unsolicited phone calls from telemarketing companies, which starting next spring could face stiff fines if they call a registered home or business. State officials say that although the law authorizing the registry was enacted just a month ago [Oct.], and is not to take effect until April 1 [April Fool's Day is a bad day for any innovation], more than 180,000 New Yorkers have already [signed up]. Officials...say they might have to raise their estimate that 500,000 people and companies will be on the list by April. ...The state's Consumer Protection Board calls [the statute] one of the strongest state laws in the country intended to help people reduce unwanted calls from telephone marketers..\.. Under the statute...a telemarketing company can be fined up to $2,000 for each call that it makes to a number on the registry.
[Grrrreat! Maybe this will exterminate the telemarketing industry and clear the telephone lines. Then we can do the same to exterminate spam from the Internet.]
There are thousands of telemarketing companies across the country. Any that place calls to anyu numbers in New York State will be required to buy the latest copy of the registry, which officials expect to update four times a year. The [price] has not yet been determined....
- Thinkers...get a hearing everywhere but at home - Europeans, wary of globalization, embrace American economists who heed social needs, by Alexander Stille, NYT, A17.
[We are cutting references in this article to the obsolete left-right dichotomy, which this columnist is trying to force on this story.]
...Three men are examples of a curious trend: the popularity in Europe of...American...thinkers who are largely ignored at home..\..
[Our view is that it ain't just optional social needs that are at stake here. With unlimited concentration of wealth, we reach a point of diminishing returns, of the marginal efficiency of capital, beyond which the concentration has a black hole effect - it begins to suction the markets away from its own necessarily huge investments. We see this in the inflated P/E ratios of the stock market - because wealth is so concentrated the rich have nowhere else to put it. We see it in the almost desperate grasp for huge mega-projects like the Three Gorges project in China, regardless of long-term damage. We see it in the blind grasp for new technology to invest in, like the Web, or fiber optics, or biotech - anything but invest in your own market sustainability via your own employee wages and benefits. In the 1920s, it was the new radio technology and the new auto assembly lines. Insightful economists have been calling for some sort of massive automatic reinvestment for nearly 200 years now, from Sismondi to Keynes (who unfortunately never got past the bandaid stage), to keep the naive and short-sighted private sector from subverting and destabilizing itself, but only with the design of Timesizing have we really come to a flexible and appropriate enough system to actually proceed with implementation on a market-oriented homeostatic basis.]
- ...Thousands of French demonstrators are likely to invoke..\..James Tobin...as their intellectual champion next month during protests at the coming summit meeting of the European Union. They are members of a new organization formed expressly to promote the so-called "Tobin tax," a tax on foreign currency and international financial transactions that came w ithin six votes of being adopted by the European Parliament this year.
[Reminiscent of the fact that the abolition of slavery came within two votes of being passed by the US Congress in the 1790s, and only FDR's later-regretted opposition blocked the 30-hour workweek in the House and prevented it from becoming the law of the land after its passage in the US Senate on April 6, 1933.]
- In Britain, the Labor Party is contemplating a proposal to give $14,000 to every 18-year-old to invest either in his education or in a house - a modified version of an idea proposed by Bruce Ackerman, a law professor at Yale University in his book "The Stakeholder Society."
[These ideas are all variations on a theme of taxing concentration and untaxing circulation. The stupid segment of the wealthy have forever assumed that they can indefinitely damage the consumer base that supports them, just as industry in general has assumed it can indefinitely pollute the ground water or the oceans - with no negative consequences whatsoever in terms of impaired sustainability.]
- Meanwhile, "The Access Society," the latest book of Jeremy Rifkin, an outspoken American critic of...what he calls the new "hypercapitalism" [and what we call "win-lose capitalism" as distinct from our own design for "win-win capitalism"] is the No. 1 seller in Italy and No. 3 in Germany, even though it failed to make national best-seller lists in the United States.
[American faddism and naive self-snowjobbing rolls on.]
- [And speaking of the horrible possibility that the prevailing wisdom in America may not be Ultimate Truth, here's a story that suggests America is currently kicking its own obese "Democracy Is Us" ass -]
Lessons in U.S. democracy: the unending 2000 election, by Diane Cardwell, NYT, A16.
[Photo caption -] Russian and Georgian officials got an unusual lesson in American elections yesterday at a seminar at Hunter College in Manhattan. "If America believes that this is a viable system, so be it," one Russian observer said. "I did not expect that so many stupid mistakes were possible."
[Many are starting to argue for the end of the Electoral System, but those arguing for it say it's "How to make the president talk to the local pol - Why we need to keep the Electoral College," by Charles Fried, law prof at Harvard and former solicitor general, today's NYT, A27. But aside from the question of why we're just talking about local pols (politicians) here instead of local voters, when are we going to face the fact that no one can begin to represent a population this big and this diverse? It's time we moved toward direct democracy, and Buckminster Fuller's vision of 24-hour telephone referendums on the issues - to which we can add email. As our first Roman Catholic presidential candidate (Al Smith, 1928) said, "The only cure for the evils of democracy is more democracy."]
- [And some indication of the turmoil -]
- It's Gore's fault that he lost, letter to editor by Susan Mone of Somerville MA, Boston Globe, A18.
How hypocritical of the Globe to ask Americans to get out and vote and then intimate that their vote for Nader was "wrong." The Globe's argument that I should not vote for the candidate who best reflects my views is ludicrous. Tell me who's to blame for Gore losing his home state?
- I'm now a former Democrat, letter to editor by Jean Palmer, former cochair of Lincoln MA Democratic Town Committee, Boston Globe, A18.
Gore has no one to blame but himself for the mess we're in because he ran an incredibly undemocratic campaign.
Instead of blaming Nader, a man who has dedicated his life to the unglamorous job of citizen advocacy, why don't you blame the Democrats for failing their base by ignoring issues and demonizing Bush, a man Nader graciously called "his father's son."
I don't agree with most of what the Republicans stand for, but I do know Bush isn't a demon.
[Meanwhile the pathetic editors of the Globe try to get their own back by printing in the midst of all these two letters an insulting cartoon of Nader that makes him look like a demon - when actually he's the most Lincolnesque looking (and thinking) candidate in the field by a long shot. But then, editorial morons slammed Lincoln as a baboon - maybe the Globe at the time, if it existed, was among them.]
I cannot believe the extent to which corporate-controlled, corporate-funded, and scared Democrats lost their head in this election by attacking and distorting what I believe in, by limiting the dissemination fo information by restricting access to the debates, and by terrifying labor (whom Gore ignored on NAFTA and WTO [both parts of the prevailing American wisdom-fad - ed.]) into getting out the vote.
I don't think I'll ever return to a party that has behaved in this way - and if the Democrats think they can get active Greens back with a few more scare tactics, I think they are dead wrong.
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