Labor Day, A Day To Celebrate The Demise Of American Labor

Labor Day, a federal holiday to celebrate American labor since 1894 when it was rushed through Congress in an attempt to head off further conflicts after the killing of numerous striking workers by the US authorities, seems to have lost some of its luster lately.

Currently as many as 16-20% of the US population is either unemployed or underemployed all while many US companies are seeing record profits often on the backs of cheap foreign labor. Since 1973, private sector union membership has declined from 34% down to approximately 8% while at the same time wage inequality in the private sector has increased by more than 40 percent. (no correlation there right?) Hardly numbers to to be celebrated.

While many are looking for work, Apple the US based darling of Wall Street and one of the biggest companies as far as revenue generated gives us a good example of the current labor/business relationship such as it is.

In 2009, the materials to make an iPhone cost Apple $172.46 and the Chinese labor to assemble it added another $6.50. Given those numbers, Apple had a profit margin of around 64% on each and every iPhone sold. Now look at what those numbers might be if Apple decided to manufacture that same iPhone in the US:

For the sake of discussion, they assumed that assembly line wages in the U.S. are ten times higher than in China. Given that Chinese production workers earn roughly $1 an hour, that is not an unreasonable assumption. The higher wages would mean that the total assembly cost per phone would rsie to $65 and the total manufacturing cost would approach $238. If Apple continued to sell the iPhone for $500, the company would still earn a very respectable 50% profit margin.

Yep, Apple would be forced to only make a 50% profit margin on each unit and 1000’s of new jobs would be created. Obviously the example above isn’t completely accurate as you can’t touch an unsubsidized iPhone for anywhere near $500 and it doesn’t take into account any benefits that Apple might chose to offer those imaginary workers but you get the picture.

Now despite how it sounds, I am not going to turn this into another “corporations are greedy” meme, well maybe I will a little bit, and I freely admit that Apple is free to run their business as they see fit and to make as much money as possible. Heck if Nike can employ a workforce of children in the 3rd world to make their $200 shoes why can’t Apple also take advantage of cheap labor to make their toys? I only point this out to show how the current climate is taking us down the road to a 3rd world wake up call in which we could eventually become the next former superpower. Our education system is already well on its way there, so how long before that $1 an hour assembly job starts looking good here as well?

So on this Labor Day when we find that being employed in the government sector is bad for your employment prospects and private business is not creating jobs despite banking trillions in profits, maybe we should consider changing the name of the Labor Day holiday. How does Boardroom Day sound? We can make it a day when all the CEO’s collect their multi-million dollar bonus checks and we can stand in line to collect our latest unemployment checks.

After all if you are unemployed, do you really need another day off?

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Personal Reflection

Just a little self serving personal reflection this morning. I was doing my usual morning routine before work, browsing through the 100 or so RSS feeds I regularly monitor when I came across something so ridiculous I clicked through all ready to tell the guy just how ignorant he was. Then it hit me.

Telling a guy who says

Jimmy Carter says John McCain is “milking” the five-and-a-half years spent in a POW camp with broken limbs and eating bugs.

I say Jimmy Carter is milking life.

…that he is an idiot has to be nothing more than an exercise in futility. Folks like that don’t listen to anyone else’s version of reason other than their own and trying to carry out a conversation with them will just end up with you more frustrated than when you started. That being said, I have realized that the frustration I experienced this morning has been building for years with it coming more into focus recently with the constant back and forth going on in our local hangouts.

Sibby vs PP, Madville Times vs Dakota Voice, Dakota Women vs Voices Carry, even Robinsdale Radical has gotten into the mix. It seems that lately that you can’t get through a day without another edition of the soap opera that has become our blogosphere.

By no means am I immune to this, I used to be a regular commentator on the War College, injecting my opinions to a group of people that had no desire to hear what a former Republican had to say. Do I somehow expect a bunch of Republican’s to agree with my opinion’s on the effect (none) of Tim Johnson not debating?

And please don’t get me started on Bob Ellis, if there is someone in our state that is a more polar opposite to me than him, I have yet to meet him. Why do I waste my time responding to what he writes? Am I somehow going to convince him that gays have rights? Will he ever convince me that a zygote is a living human being? Hell freezing over comes to mind.

So why the rant? Over 2 years of writing this blog in it’s several forms has had side effects, extreme cynicism being the most prevalent and from time to time it has to be vented to allow me to continue. This is my therapy, along with keeping my opinions contained to this and my other blog from now on.

I now return you to my normal blogging fare, enjoy your long weekend.

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Good Neighbor?

The city of Sioux Falls and the airport board certainly won’t qualify for State Farm’s good neighbor award with their latest easement requirement.

The new regulation, pushed by the board that runs the airport and approved by the City Council last spring, requires residents to sign a special easement to get a building permit. That’s causing headaches for homeowners planning even small tasks such as putting in a new fence. Worse than that, critics say, the agreement also takes away a person’s right to sue the airport over noise or pollution.

Airport managers say the easements are a “pre-emptive strike” meant to protect the site from the kind of lawsuits filed in other parts of the country. City officials note they are scaling back some of the more strict elements, including requiring easements for small improvements.

If you know the airport director you are probably not surprised over his warped idea of being neighborly but putting pre-emptive strike and good neighbor in the same paragraph is a bit much even for him. And if you think having to get special easements just to build a fence is a bit overboard, you’ll love this:

Jim Daniels, president of Daniels Construction, said the easement includes so-called “hold-harmless” language that absolves the airport from liability. That’s unusual for such agreements, he said.

When Daniels signs an easement allowing a gas line under one of his properties, he doesn’t give away his right to sue if it explodes. But the avigation easement precludes a property owner from suing, even if the airport or an airline is negligent.

First you have to shell out extra for the ridiculous easement for performing even the most minor of projects and then they make you sign away your right to sue? Nice…

Maybe the city and the airport board should spend more time working to improve one of the shabbiest airports in the area instead of working to cover their butts. The first place many visitors see when coming to the city is one of it’s biggest eyesores even after the current terminal renovations are completed. If you don’t believe me, just travel to Rapid City, Bismarck, or even Fargo to see just how bad our airport really is. But at least they won’t have to worry about lawsuits when they screw up.

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A Way To End The Abortion Debate Instantly?

In 2006 many, myself excluded, thought that the voters in South Dakota had put the idea of banning abortions to bed. At the time, many thought that the voters had spoken and we could now move on to working on other issues facing our residents like teacher pay etc. Fast forward to 2008 and we are again facing another attempt at banning abortions (funny that teacher pay thing still hasn’t been addressed) and this time even some pro-life groups aren’t happy with the rape/incest exceptions placed on the latest attempt.

Colorado on the other hand is shifting the focus of the debate. Instead of attacking abortion directly, they are looking to legislate when life begins with their Human Life Amendment. If you think about it, determining when human life begins would end the debate instantly. It moves the abortion question away from a woman’s choice argument, once the fetus reaches the legal definition, and gives it the same rights as a child that has been born. It would also re-affirm the woman’s choice argument for pregnancies that haven’t reached the legal determination giving them the opportunity to have the procedure if they choose to do so.

Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? On the surface it does until you look a bit deeper into the Colorado amendment. As with many issues of this type, unquestioned beliefs, not science is used when they define personhood as a fertilized egg. This not only effectively outlaws all abortions, it also makes almost all after the fact contraception illegal. Quite the end around isn’t it? (Why didn’t Leslie or Roger come up with this?)

Personally, I think we as a country could end the abortion debate with one determination. The Colorado amendment has the right idea but not the proper research. Why can’t the same science that can cure diseases that only a generation ago used to kill us, be used to scientifically determine when life begins using similar milestones that are used for removing life support?

Once science does that we can finally put the abortion debate to bed. Then we can instead shift the debate to the science used which will surely follow. And as we all know, debating the results of scientific research is something that many of these same groups have plenty of practice doing.

UPDATE: First off thanks to Jon Schaff over at South Dakota Politics for linking to and adding his thoughts and his solution to this question. In this case though, I think Mr Schaff missed the purpose of my post.

While I believe that scientifically determining when life begins could end the abortion debate, the science that would go into making that determination would never be accepted by many (unless of course it fits their beliefs). To these folks science never trumps their belief system no matter what the evidence to the contrary might be. In other words, the debate isn’t really a debate to those most passionate on both sides, compromise no matter what might be determined, isn’t possible.

Colorado’s Human Life Amendment is an example of that as is Rebecca Kissling’s Facebook group’s opposition to the latest South Dakota ballot issue that PP mentions in his post that I linked to above.

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Johnson Vote Basically Guts The 4th Amendment

I know I said posting would be light but I just had to comment on this before leaving

One Tim Johnson press release you probably won’t be reading on Badlands Blue is in regards to his vote yesterday to gut the Fourth Amendment and allow the government to invade our privacy. Johnson was one of 18 spineless Democrats who voted to give President Bush what he wanted, the authority to spy on Americans without warrants and almost limitless immunity for the Telco’s that will assist or have assisted in spying on us up until now as well as in the future.

From Firedoglake

Not one of the 49 Senate Republicans stood up for the Fourth Amendment. And there are nearly 20 weak Democrats who simply cannot be relied upon to stand against the Republicans when fundamental rights are at stake.

These Democratic Senators will forever be remembered as having failed their oaths to preserve and protect the Constitution. Bayh, Inouye, Johnson, Landrieu, McCaskill, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Stabenow, Feinstein, Kohl, Pryor, Rockefeller, Salazar, Carper, Mikulski, Conrad, Webb, and Lincoln. Whitehouse voted to mitigate the worst provisions, but ultimately voted for the Bill.

Some highlights of what Senator Johnson’s vote could allow.

— The President can direct US spy agencies to intercept every e-mail, telephone or internet communication of every American and anyone legally in the US with only the most minimal safeguards. Although the bill was supposed to deal with exclusively “foreign” communications, the techniques it sanctions will in fact sweep up domestic and foreign combined.

— Acting without individual or particularized warrants from any court, spy agencies can sweep up millions of communications without differentiating between those warranting surveillance and those not. Procedures for separating out totally innocent persons or communications that have nothing to do with foreign intelligence or any security threat to the US are minimal to non-existent. Procedures allowing a secret court to review such procedures have been weakened, along with measures to correct violations of even these limited procedures.

— Persons spied upon have no ability to determine what information the government has collected, or to affect what the government does with the information. Americans will never know which persons or government agencies were shown private information about them, and if restrictions are placed on their activities or travel because of this secret information, it will be impossible for victims to determine why or to challenge the information.

— Telecommunication companies who participated in government’s illegal spying activities, and those who ordered this, would be forever immune from any consequences for their actions and cannot be required to disclose what they did.

Thanks Tim! (And of course Senator Thune as well but we already know he is in Bush’s back pocket so this is not a surprise)

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Self Importance And Delusions Of Grandeur

I have often wondered how someone could write about the general lack of importance of most political blogs while running a blog that touches on politics themselves like one of our more popular bloggers

What really got me thinking about this subject was the recent release of a book by former blogger, John Thune henchman, and lawyer with a questionable history, Jon Lauck. When his book was released, several blogs began wondering out loud why South Dakota’s largest newspaper, the Argus Leader, was basically ignoring the book by not reviewing it. As other media outlets began printing reviews the calls of bias aimed at the Argus grew louder to the point that Patrick Lalley finally addressed these concerns on the Argus blog. He pointed out that they didn’t feel it would be journalistically prudent to review a book by someone that made a living ripping the paper. Fair enough…

Of course that explanation just made the calls louder and last month the paper relented and printed a review by a 3rd party. Game, set match as far as some in the blogosphere were concerned. The hated Argus had broken under the pressure from the blogs and printed a review, of course it was from someone not associated with the Argus but what the heck it was a review. As a side note on this book, even after the state’s largest newspaper reviewed this book which some are calling the best South Dakota political book ever written (exactly how many are there in the category?), it still hasn’t done much to increase it’s sales. It currently ranks as the 11th most popular book on Amazon for books about South Dakota, ranking behind ever popular books about the James River among others.

Now lets rewind to earlier this year when it was revealed that popular Liberal blogger and employee of South Dakota’s most well know political consulting firm, Hildebrand-Tewes was fired for embezzling money from the firm. Hildygate as it was dubbed by South Dakota’s most popular blog was earth shattering in the blogosphere and among the several thousand in our state that read the blogs but barely caused more than a whisper in the MSM, even with Hildebrand -Tewes’ association with Presidential candidate Barack Obama. Another blogging tempest in a teapot.

Now move forward to the latest news in our fine blogging community. South Dakota’s self proclaimed most popular blogger is in the midst of a feud with our most intolerate and far right blogger. “Blog wars” are nothing new and in fact Sibson seems to be at war with someone just about constantly, either spewing slurs at what he believes to be our religious shortcomings or at least our lack of any religious beliefs at all. Most of the time he is pretty much ignored as he should be but this time he must of hit a nerve and that is when the sparks flew along with a realization on my part as to just how self important and delusional some of us have gotten over our true importance.

South Dakota probably has under 500,000 registered voters of which only a fraction, probably several thousand, regularly read any of our political blogs but yet some are starting to believe that they speak for a large number of these voters or for the particular party they are a member of. We (South Dakota bloggers), as a group are very diverse, we have former political operatives that now work as lawyers and real estate agents, college professors, even accountants for toner manufacturers. But last time I checked, none of us are in a position to tell anyone else what their beliefs are or should be nor can we dictate what their importance is in their party of choice based on the amount of time they have been a member.

Most South Dakotan’s don’t know the difference between A South Dakota Moderate and South Dakota Watch and when we as a group start to think that we speak for more than the few that choose to read our political discourse, the sooner we become more irrelevant than we already are in the overall scheme of things. When one of our blogs gets the type of readership that a Daily Kos or Michelle Malkin receives, then we can get into a discussion as to the importance or influence of our blogs.

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Politically Correct Goes To College

Fighting Sioux MascotThe NCAA’s fight with the University of North Dakota over their mascot has been settled finally, in a court of law. The university has agreed to get tribal approval to use the “Fighting Sioux” nickname and mascot or be forced to change it if that approval isn’t given within the next 3 years. Why is this in court you might be asking? Did the local Sioux tribes ask the NCAA to get involved on their behalf? The answer to that question is no. It is actually the NCAA deciding that all Native American nicknames and imagery are offensive and have no place in college athletics. In fact the court decision and subsequent 3 year timetable seems to be more of an issue to the tribes involved than the mascot and nickname does.

North Dakota tribal officials have said the three-year period allowed in the settlement unfairly puts pressure on them.

Chief WahooNot being of Native American decent myself I might not have the same perspective as American Indians do but the UND mascot represents to me more of the long and proud Native American history unlike some of the other mascots and images that are prominent these days such as Chief Wahoo of Cleveland Indian fame. I look at this more as the NCAA doing what they do best, taking things to the extreme, sort of throwing the baby out with the bath water, and going after all 18 universities that used American Indian imagery instead of focusing on those that caused concerns with the local tribes.

Fighting IrishSo now the State of North Dakota is out around $2 million in legal fees and the Devils Lake and Standing Rock Sioux tribes are in the unenviable position of being forced to determine the fate of a popular mascot that they for the most part never had any serious issue with. Throw in the costs that would be associated with the university possibly having to change 10’s of thousands of logos throughout the campus and you have the NCAA doing more harm than good as usual.

What’s next on the NCAA’s PC crusade? The little green Irish guy with fists raised that is the mascot for the University of Notre Dame could possibly offend some American’s of Irish decent such as myself, will that be the next image on the NCAA’s hit list? Apparently they have nothing else to worry about…

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It's All Good With Gore

Al Gore has taken a lot of heat in his political career, you know that terrible campaign he ran in 2000 that resulted in him pretty much giving the election to George Bush (though the Supreme Court had a little to do with that as well) and that whole inventing the internet thing but he is making up for it in spades now. The announcement Friday that he won the Nobel Peace Prize is the culmination of his second career that also includes an Emmy, an Oscar, and now best of all, totally driving the right-wing batty!

Since Gore left the political arena after losing in 2000, he has dedicated his efforts towards something that many conservatives love to hate, global warming and mankind’s possible involvement in the phenomenon. No matter what the majority of scientists say, many right-wingers will find one study or one scientist that disagrees and will use that as a reason for debunking the whole theory. Someone comes out with another study showing an effect of global warming and soon thereafter they are under attack by the right as being a liberal shill or worse. Enter Al Gore and his latest mission.

Used to being the brunt of controversy and jokes for years, Gore persevered. His documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” was immediately panned by the right, almost as quickly as a Michael Moore film which in of itself is an accomplishment. First they attacked the science behind the movie then they just attacked Gore. Despite the constant criticism, the documentary won an Oscar and ended up earning millions at the box office. Fast forward 2 years and Gore can now put another feather in his cap, as a right-wing lightening rod, oh and that Nobel Peace Prize thing as well.

It is definitely debatable as to whether what Gore has been doing for these past few years should qualify him for consideration, let alone being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. That debate started 30 seconds after the announcement and right-wing talk shows and blogs have been panning the choice and pretty much taking away any of the prestige that they award ever held in their eyes ever since. But whether you believe that Gore’s crusade deserved being awarded a peace prize or not, the fact that many right-wingers are now blowing a gasket because someone gave credence to Gore’s mission makes the announcement just that much more sweet and keeps the problem of global warming front and center. Thanks Al and keep it up…

Crossposted on KELO Political Blogs

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The Argus Sucks?!

The Argus Leader has always been a lightening rod for criticism. Its editors have been slammed for just about everything from ignoring the Hildebrand-Tewes embezzlement scandal, after they broke it by the way, to the latest blog scandal which involves ignoring the book written by super secret Thune paid former blogger Jon Lauck. His book “Daschle V. Thune – Anatomy of a High-Plains Senate Race” has been discussed at great length by many bloggers as well as several South Dakota MSM outlets including the Rapid City Journal and KEVN TV.

Of course to date, the Argus hasn’t spent on inch of coverage on the book and many are giving them the business over that fact. So why has Kranz and company ignored the book while talking about several other books? Since they are eerily silent on the matter one can only speculate. The right will tell you it is their liberal bias showing while others will mention that it could just be a bit of revenge as Lauck spent countless posts back during the 2004 campaign ripping Kranz and the Argus on his blog along with his co-blogger Jason Van Beek for what they perceived as an obvious slant towards Daschle.

A 3rd school of though might also be floated. Some may believe that the Argus is ignoring the book because of the “questionable” history of the author. Lauck has taken a lot of criticism for his myopic onslaught aimed at Daschle during his 2004 campaign versus John Thune on his blog. While campaigns by bloggers aimed at candidates aren’t new, these types of campaigns perpetrated by those paid by the opposition without disclaimers to that effect are frowned upon. Admittedly, if you dug deep enough you would have discovered Lauck’s connection to the Thune campaign, though most readers would not have known this. Throw in Laucks’ connection to the voter fraud scandal in Ziebach County back in 2002 and you start seeing a pattern forming. What ever happened to Shelley Keohane by the way?

Where did Shelley Keohane get the documents which helped her put together the Eunice Taylor stunt? After questions about Keohane’s report were first raised, this post appeared on the KSFY website saying that she got them from “a personal friend who volunteers for John Thune’s campaign.”

It turns out, according to TPM’s sources, that the ‘personal friend’ was a Sioux Falls lawyer named Jon K. Lauck, who happens to be the Chairman of Lawyers for Thune Committee. Lauck’s bio at the Republican National Lawyers Association website says he is “currently chairman of the Lawyers for Thune Committee and deeply involved the nation’s most-watched Senate race.”

And, surprisingly, there’s even more.

It turns out that Jon Lauck and Shelley Keohane live at the same address in Sioux Falls.

No matter what the real reason behind the silence coming from the building at 200 S. Minnesota, the question is does anyone outside of the blogosphere care anymore about the Argus’ editorial opinions? Bias or not, their subscribers are down, their reputation is questionable at best and I try to use them for a source as little as possible because they remove online content shortly after posting it. After a few month’s they require you to pay in order to view the articles that at one time were available for free. Note to Argus, ask the NY Times how that pay model worked.

Lauck’s book may or may not be the best South Dakota themed political book ever written but worrying about whether or not the Argus mentions it is probably only a few steps higher on the “big deal scale” than would be a lack of review of the book on this blog. (I’m waiting for it to come out in paperback by the way…)

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The Campaign That Never Ends

Each day I keep hoping that the final vote on the abortion ban last fall would put that issue to rest, at least for a little while. Unfortunately a failed attempt to resurrect the ban during last winter’s legislative session, threats to bring it up again next January, and the state’s continued attempts to get Roger Hunt to disclose his super secret $750,000 donor have kept this issue in the news.

On the Roger Hunt anonymous donor front, the August court decision that Hunt’s funneling of money from a secret donor through a sham company was legal put some closure on at least that issue, or so we had hoped. Yesterday Secretary of State Chris Nelson and Attorney General Larry Long announced that they were appealing the case to the State Supreme Court because for one thing, they believe that Hunt broke campaign finance laws. Laws that aren’t for the most part even on the books anymore by the way.

Now putting aside the fact that the Circuit Court didn’t agree and that the legislature changed the laws in question because of this case pretty much admitting that Hunt found and exploited a loophole in a poorly written law, what is the state’s reasoning for continuing to spend tax payer dollars on what is now appearing as more of a personal crusade against Hunt? What Hunt did isn’t right by the thinking of most that believe our elections should be open and honest nor is it legal anymore. The donor while still anonymous spent $750K and lost, Hunt is loosing what little credibility he had among all but the most radical right-wingers as witnessed by his poorly attended so-called support rally in front of the Argus Leader (headlined by Queen Wingnut Leslie Unruh), and our laws will now hopefully prevent this from happening again in the future. Should the anonymous donor be named? Of course, but when will enough be enough?

Apparently for Long and Nelson, not just yet…

UPDATE 10/7: Todd Epp believes that Long and Nelson’s waste of tax dollars is a good thing and has awarded them his “Best Week Ever” recipients for this week. I wonder if Todd will be able to score one of his favorite blog post subjects Shawn Cable to host his awards ceremony, I hear his latest gig over at MySiouxFalls.com isn’t going so well.

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