What that iPad really costs



Between a factory tour by ABC’s “Nightline” and an investigation by the Fair Labor Association (FLA), it might appear that something is actually being done to help the subsistence-wage Chinese workers at Foxconn who make products for Apple, Hewlett Packard, Dell, IBM and others.

Don’t buy it.

Chinese workers contend with a level of competition for jobs that is simply unimaginable in less populous countries. They accept dismal conditions because they must.

What most Westerners probably don’t know is that Foxconn’s factory complexes also house and feed their workers – barely. Living space is a cot in a room crammed with others. Meals are mostly rice and watery soup. Workdays of 12 hours or more, six or seven days a week, are typical. Permission to leave the grounds often is denied.

Even so, Chinese job-seekers mob Foxconn recruiters wherever they appear.

Two years ago, a Chinese reporter for an English-language newspaper in Beijing wrote a revealing article that described what it took to get one of those highly sought-after jobs at Foxconn. Here are a few excerpts, with a link below to the whole article:

“If your diploma is not genuine, you will be asked to pay for a fake one at a cost of 10 to 100 yuan, depending on how deep your wallet is perceived to be.”

“You will be taken to a minivan of 11 seats. About 18 people and all their luggage will be on board, so travel light and try to find a spot with breathing room.”

“The driver will escort you inside the training center, where harsh-looking men and women in uniforms await…You may be shouted at, intimidated, humiliated and bullied. …be obedient.”

“You will be taken across the street for body inspections. All you need to do is be obedient, stand straight and wait until you are ordered to go inside.”

“Note that you will be waiting with 1,000 others, so be patient and ignore the sweat. Don’t worry about the blood exams.”

“…you will be taken to a dormitory and assigned a bed in a room of 10. You should now be used to the smell of sweat, so bear with it.

“The orientation goes on for two days. Make no attempt to challenge the authority of anyone in uniform…”

“You will be given a badge and assigned a unit to work in at the end of the second day. Work starts the following morning with no prior training.”

Finger-shaking from the FLA might elicit promises of compliance with higher standards, but those won’t be honored by Chinese bosses.China is a lawless society, with no reliable way for complaints to be heard or rights to be protected. Demands, suggestions or recommendations from international groups and Western businesses will be rejected as improper meddling.

They just wait out sporadic spates of public attention, which don’t last long, then go back to business as usual.

Remember, Foxconn’s response after 10 workers jumped from their dormitories to kill themselves was to put up nets.


Top photo of Foxconn job seekers from China Daily

“Fees, humiliation part of getting wired to Foxconn,” by Hu Yinan, China Daily – http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/usa/2010-06/01/content_11019305.htm

Foxconn job seekers doing pushups- http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/photo/2010-03/25/content_9643599.htm

 “We mostly found people who face their days through soul-crushing boredom and deep fatigue,” wrote Nightline host Bill Weir in a story previewing the show. http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/02/20/apple-foxconn-offer-world-glimpse-into-chinese-manufacturing-plants/




American jihadist

Don’t let the dorky sweater vest fool you. Beneath that benign-looking garment beats the heart of an extremist, a radical more akin to the Islamic fundamentalists of the Taliban and the ultra-orthodox Jews of Israel than to mainstream Americans. If Rick Santorum and his fundamentalist fans ran this country, we’d have a Bible-based theocracy thrust upon us, a dictatorship of the most divisive, judgmental and intolerant among us.

If you believe that contraception is immoral and any sex except conjugal attempts to procreate is sinful, he’s your guy.

If you think “abortionists” (that inflammatory, demonizing term for doctors who perform a legal operation) ought to be punished, he’s your guy.

If you think our Constitutional rights ought to be limited to conform with Biblical precepts, he’s your guy.

Already, a state legislator in North Carolina (who said on taking office he’d pray for the Lord’s guidance) has suggested public hangings for doctors who do abortions, lumping them in with rapists and kidnappers.

Already, fundamentalists in state legislatures are trying to give legal personhood status to the unborn “from the moment of conception,” however that would be determined. This would enable birth control, abortion and even in vitro fertilization to be criminalized.

Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum wants single mothers and parents of adopted children punished with higher taxes as a way to promote “traditional” families, which she defines as married heterosexual couples raising their own children.

All this under Obama. Imagine the impetus of having a kindred spirit in the White House.

An exhaustive, five-volume study of fundamentalism worldwide edited by two Americans argues that it’s a political phenomenon and is inherently totalitarian. Its goal is to realign all aspects of a nation’s society and government according to rigidly defined and strictly enforced religious principles. There’s nothing democratic or broadly representative about it.

Rick Santorum has a right to his views and is entitled to run for President. Should he win, however, we’ll see a holy war against the right to live without religious interference.


Photo by Associated Press

Rick Santorum’s views: www.ricksantorum.com

“This is about a country that believes in God-given rights, and a Constitution that is limited to protect those rights.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/election-2012/post/rick-santorums-missouri-victory-speech-full-transcript/2012/02/07/gIQAGcUwxQ_blog.html

 “(Contraception is) not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, for purposes that are, yes, conjugal… but also procreative.” http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/02/rick-santorum-wants-your-sex-life-to-be-special/253104/

 Public hanging comment by Larry Pittman, Republican, North Carolina: http://www.wral.com/news/state/nccapitol/blogpost/10649801/

Rick Santorum’s signed Personhood pledge: http://www.personhoodusa.com/files/Keith%20Ashley/Santorum_Personhood.pdf

Phyllis Schlafly on marriage and taxes: http://www.eagleforum.org/column/2012/jan12/12-01-18.html

The Fundamentalism Project: http://www.illuminos.com/mem/selectPapers/fundamentalismProject.html

Is covering up pedophilia a matter of conscience?

There is no law requiring the Catholic Church to report pedophile-priests to the police. If there were, it’s likely the Catholic hierarchy and its supporters would denounce it as “a stunning assault on freedom of conscience and religion.”

With those words, a Chicago Tribune columnist lays out the case that requiring insurance coverage of birth control for workers in Church-run secular businesses also amounts to a “gross violation of a civil liberty” on Catholics.

Let’s get this straight: The law does not require practicing Catholics to use birth control. But that’s not good enough for the godly. They object when anyone uses birth control.

Catholic authorities are not alone in this stance; it’s shared by Protestant fundamentalists.  It’s not a view shared by most Americans, including the large majority of American Catholics who use birth control.

The important word here is “control.” This isn’t about freedom of religion or conscience, despite the Church’s attempts to frame its resistance in those high-minded terms. It’s about the Church’s furious efforts to maintain control over its members (especially its female members), even though in this case the horse has already left the barn.

If the Church wants more control over its members, it ought to start by exercising more control over the shepherds of its flocks. It sacrificed the moral authority to preach about matters of conscience when it chose to protect the pedophiles among its priests and to cover up their crimes.

Source: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/ct-oped-0207-byrne-20120207,0,3249104.column

Public policy: If you want to play, you must pay (taxes)

Once again, the Catholic Church is seriously out of step with its parishioners and with mainstream Americans – far enough so that it has crossed the line into conduct of dubious legality.

In sermons all over the country, priests and bishops are urging opposition to a rule requiring no-copay insurance coverage of contraception for employees of faith-based organizations. Part of the Affordable Care Act, it covers millions of people employed in church-affiliated hospitals, social service agenies, charities and universities.

According to the dire pronouncements thundering from pulpits, this narrowly crafted rule constitutes a massive assault on the separation of church and state, and that all church-run organizations ought to be exempt from the contraceptives rule. In fact, many critics say any exemption from the coverage rule is too broad. Here’s how the American Medical Association’s journal of ethics puts it:

“Expanding the exemption would affect millions of teachers and guidance counselors, doctors and nurses, clerks and janitors, by interfering with their access to preventive health care that they deem necessary and in line with their own religious and moral beliefs. For those employees who do adhere to their employer’s religious position on contraception, providing coverage of contraception would not in any way force them to use it in violation of their beliefs.”

This is another example of extremism on the part of those who insist that their religious rights include foisting their particular notions of right or wrong on all people, regardless of their beliefs. 

And using their pulpits to urge followers into opposing public policy decisions approved by publicly elected officials appears to violate the no-electioneering rule required of tax-exempt organizations.

If church officials want to lobby for or against acts of government, let them first agree to pay taxes. Tax exemptions ought to be swiftly yanked from churches trying to influence public policy. There is no good reason for American taxpayers to subsidize those who seek to impose their beliefs on everyone. 







Chicago Trib censors Trudeau – again

The Chicago Tribune has covered yet another act of censorship in a cloak of journalistic purity worn threadbare by its own double standards.

It refused to run today’s “Doonesbury” comic strip, which includes a pitch for the nonprofit Donors Choose, a charity that connects potential donors with cash-strapped public-school classrooms. In a note to readers on page 2, it explained that today’s strip included “a direct fundraising appeal for a specific charity that the author favors.  The Tribune’s editorial policies do not allow individuals to promote their self-interests.”

They do, however, allow Tribune editors to exercise hypocrisy.

There is no more evident self-interest in the “Doonesbury” pitch for this charity than there was in the numerous mentions of the same charity in articles, photos, editorials and letters to the editor published in the last several years by the Tribune and its sister publication, the Los Angeles Times. The Trib’s editors also saw no problem in letting one of its staffers launch and publicize a “Book on Every Bed” campaign to benefit the Family Reading Partnership, or in allowing another staffer to devote one of his columns to pitching his book.

So if the self-interest explanation isn’t the real one, what’s going on?

This isn’t the first time the Trib has censored the work of  Garry Trudeau. “Doonesbury” habitually (but not exclusively) skewers right-wing politicians and pundits. The Trib, always staunchly conservative,  has taken a very hard turn to the right lately, pounding away at union bosses enjoying unearned pensions and decrying illegal immigrants who flee home to avoid facing criminal charges here. This kind of selective demonizing would have warmed the heart of its long-ago publisher, Robert McCormick, who was known for his extreme right-wing views.

The Trib’s false claim of virtue and its petty insult to Trudeau, which sideswiped a worthy cause, will do nothing to enhance its reputation.