Category Archives: Politics

The dearth of electronics manufacturing in the US: More than met my eye

This article provoked quite a few thoughts, but I don’t think it’s worth the time to write an essay. I don’t really have any solutions to these problems, so an essay-style piece would just be pretty wrapping for fragments anyway.

But here’s my fragments:

– I thought manufacturing in Shenzhen was mostly a matter of costs for technology companies. It’s not.

In particular, companies say they need engineers with more than high school, but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree. Americans at that skill level are hard to find, executives contend.

Apple’s executives had estimated that about 8,700 industrial engineers were needed to oversee and guide the 200,000 assembly-line workers eventually involved in manufacturing iPhones. The company’s analysts had forecast it would take as long as nine months to find that many qualified engineers in the United States.”

I would have loved to buy a “fair-trade” iPhone that cost $600 or so. But it turns out not even that is possible.

– Why don’t we have these technical workers? Well, “many reasons” is always the right answer, but I think our fetishization (or maybe “fetishization” is an over-emphatic way of saying “over-emphasization”) of Making It to the Top is part of it. Our insistence that everyone strive to be important millionaires makes vocational jobs (I know – redundant, but I can’t think of how better to describe them) seem like loser business, so people go for bachelor’s degrees in something they can’t get work doing. We’re forcing too many variously-shaped pegs through round holes.

Have you made fun of DeVry? I know I have. Yet, it’s good work, and people could be happy doing it.

– Factories are in China, not just because of the labor cost and available skill, but because everything else is also there, which makes logistics easier and cheaper.

The entire supply chain is in China now,” said another former high-ranking Apple executive. “You need a thousand rubber gaskets? That’s the factory next door. You need a million screws? That factory is a block away. You need that screw made a little bit different? It will take three hours.

I’d actually heard about a pro-US effect of proximity last week: American stringed instruments factories are still competitive with Chinese ones because of the prohibitive cost of shipping cellos and double basses overseas. Yup, didn’t think of this one, either.

So, it’s not just, oh, we tweak this or we tweak that, and we get manufacturing work back. There has to be a manufacturing “community” in place. And to get that, we’d have to commit to developing for decades.

I have doubts about our ability as a nation to commit to anything for decades.

– I don’t think that we necessarily need to bring back electronics manufacturing in order to prosper. (We do, however, need to use our work force in better and more varied ways.) However, I’ve heard people, when discussing how well the American economy is doing, point to Apple and Google or some other fantastically successful company.

“If you scale up from selling one million phones to 30 million phones, you don’t really need more programmers,” said Jean-Louis Gassée, who oversaw product development and marketing for Apple until he left in 1990. “All these new companies — Facebook, Google, Twitter — benefit from this. They grow, but they don’t really need to hire much.”

So, what does that get the country as a whole? It gets us prestige, which not worth nothing. But the success of multinational corporations that started in US doesn’t really help you or me (yeah, some of you work for these companies, so it does help you, but you know what I’m saying) all that much.

Parade raining: When to do it?

I was listening to this podcast in which the hosts, Hannah and Edward, discuss how to approach people’s enthusiasm about the long-awaited killing of Osama bin Laden.

The death of Osama bin Laden means quite a bit symbolically, but I don’t think that is going to translate to that much real-world effect, and it sounds like Edward and Hannah don’t think it will, either. If you ascribe to this point of view, it means that a lot of people are confusing the way in which this event is significant.

The question they ponder is: Should people that don’t really think this is going to change much just go along with the people that think this defines the start of a new era? Maybe this is a case in which the enthusiasm and positivity is more important that the reality of the situation, Edward ponders.

I think it’s trouble when enthusiasm is built on a false premise, like I think Hannah was saying. Man, just writing that last sentence felt totally wet blanketesque and possibly sanctimonious! But you gotta be willing to risk sanctimony in order to make sure as many of us as possible are focused on the real deal.

I do agree with them in that there’s no gain in smacking people down for feeling good. You cannot deny the honesty of their reactions, even if you disagree with the conclusions that spring from them. So, it’s a pretty fine line to walk, what with the keeping people you know connected to reality while also not being a shit. I think I’ve settled on, “I am glad you have achieved closure at last! However, feeling closure doesn’t necessarily mean the world is significantly better.” Which, again sounds a bit sanctimonious! I’ll have to work on that.

But better to be sanctimonious than to tacitly help build a false reality from which bad decisions are made. Many of our biggest problems today grew this way. And I know that there’s a lot of people that are mostly interested in believing in whatever what makes them feel good. It is still worth trying, though. Even if it makes you look like a shit.

Mexican nightmares

Recently, Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed SB-1070 into law. It requires “law enforcement officers to demand immigration papers from anyone they have a ‘reasonable suspicion’ may be in the country illegally.” Basically, it’s a “if you don’t look white, we can knock you down a few pegs” law.
In response, Robert Rodriguez has made the trailer for his Mexsploitation film Machete into a very special message for Arizona.

(Make sure you watch that trailer. It is FREAKIN’ AWESOME.)

Rodriguez is blatantly (and excellently) provoking the racists that support SB-1070. However, this isn’t the first time this has been done.

A decade and half earlier, the Satanic, human-sacrificing, border crossing, drug dealing, headbangers Brujerìa responded to California governor Pete Wilson’s passage of Proposition 187 with a song titled Raza Odiada. En Español, of course!

Back then, I was looking for the heaviest music possible. With that territory comes a lot of lyrics that really try to make you say “holy shit.” Very little of it did.

Death metal bands espousing the downfall of Christianity was like ranch dressing at a buffet. I tuned it out and listened to just the music. (Which was not necessarily a bad thing.) Black metal bands’ flirtation with Nazism from the safety of their moms’ basements in Norway was just pathetic.

Brujerìa cut through all of that and made me go “Whoa!” (Like a machete!) Fake or not, Satanic Mexican drug dealers were a scary idea to which people weren’t yet numb. It got my attention.

They were novel and impressively crazy which could have been enough, but I liked that they stopped for a bit with Raza Odiada to make a good point in addition to their usual terrorizing. “Quien te va chingar mas no es Satanas,” de hecho.

Campaign advice

If John McCain really wants to avoid getting outflanked by his challenger on the right, JD Hayworth, advocating that US Citizens be denied their Miranda rights isn’t going to cut it. That’s like shooting the spot a target was at a second ago instead of shooting where it will be by the time your bullet travels far enough.

With his disapproval rating at 55%, there’s little room for limp-wristed bumbling like the Mirandizing condemnation or switching stances on immigration.

If you’re reading, John McCain, listen up:
You need to speak out against robot marriage and the ENTIRE robosexual agenda.

Good luck, my friend.