South Africa is a country that has deep-rooted history of inequality starting with the Dutch colonization of South Africa in 1652, through British control during the 19th and 20th Century, and ultimately lasting through apartheid in the late 20th Century. The lasting effects of the European colonization and apartheid are still seen today in present day South Africa. South Africa has one of the highest income inequalities in the world. While the root cause for this inequality is the policies of segregation and apartheid of the black Africans, the central present-day cause for the income inequality is inequality between wage earners and the high proportion of South Africans who do not have access to wage income. The South African has tried to implement policies to combat the inequality. However, the policies are merely short-fix. My recommendations to improve the employment rate will hopefully have lasting effects on the South African economy and close the income inequality gap in South Africa.
This is one of my biggest pet peeves. The fact that in 2013 we still have parking meters that use coins is completely ridiculous. For some reason this has always bothered me. Maybe its because I rarely have coins on me, so I end up searching for coins for 5 minutes in my car like an idiot. I just feel that by now someone has to have come up with a better solution. Here in Lewisburg, it actually is not too bad. For one, the meters accept all types of coins except pennies, and secondly they meters are pretty cheap. I think a quarter gives you 45 minutes. Around where I’m from it’s completely different. The meters only accept quarters and a quarter only gives you 15 minutes. If I’m going to be out for an hour and a half, I have to put six quarters in the meter. How often do you ever have six quarters on you? Me, I never do. This topic for the blog kind of came up in my head after parking downtown today and seeing all the meters covered for the holidays and how nice of a feeling that was.
In today’s world, especially in the United States, everyone relies so heavily on technology. The question “How difficult would it be, if at all, to give up the following things in your life? Your television, Your cell phone, The Internet” really threw me off a bit. The options “very hard”, “somewhat hard”, “not too hard”, “not at all hard” are almost comical. The only option I could think of was ‘impossible.” It would be impossible for me to live my life without these things. I think this would be true for pretty much everyone else in America.
The song I decided to write about for this week’s blog is “Don’t Drink the Water” by Dave Matthews Band. Although the song does not specifically state this, it is widely considered to be about the European-American settlers taking over Native Americans’ land and the mass killings that resulted from it. Dave Matthews tells the story from the perspective of the European-American settler who certainly believes in Manifest Destiny. I’ve posted the lyrics and a link to the song below…
The tobacco industry is one of the most prominent industries in the United States economy yet at the same time it is one of the most controversial. It is without question that tobacco is detrimental to a person’s health. Former United States General Antonia Novello is quoted saying, “it is safe to say that smoking represents the most extensively document cause of disease ever investigated in the history of biomedical research.”  The issue at hand, however, is not that it is harmful to person’s health, but rather the degree to which a known harmful substance can be advertised, more specifically, advertised to children and adolescents. In 1988 R.J. Reynolds, American’s second largest tobacco company behind Philip Morris, created a cartoon character mascot to help promote their Camel cigarette brand. Joe Camel, as he was commonly known as, was a cool and suave anthropomorphic camel that endorsed smoking Camel cigarettes. Though this marketing campaign came under scrutiny after a 1991 report by the Journal of the America Medical Association was published citing that the Joe Camel campaign was directly targeted at children and adolescents and that it increased the rates of youth smoking. Eventually, after years of controversy and outside pressure, R.J. Reynolds decided to pull the Joe Camel campaign in July of 1997. The question at hand, however, is: was R.J. Reynolds’ Joe Camel marketing campaign unethical? A closer look at ethical advertising principles as well as documents released from various lawsuits resulting from the Joe Camel campaign reveal that R.J. Reynolds did in fact run an unethical marketing campaign.
I tried to find a TED talk that related to Paper 2 topic, but I was not able to find anything. In my search though I found a headline that caught my attention. It was a talk by Paul Kemp-Robertson titled “Bitcoin. Sweat. Tide. Meet the Future of Branded Currency.” Bitcoins have been in the a lot recently and have continued to grow in popularity as well as in creditability. To me, Bitcoins are fascinating and the concept of them is pretty unbelievable.
Kemp-Robertson’s talk was actually less about Bitcoins themselves, but rather about alternate forms of currencies. He believes that the rise of Bitcoins is caused by a general lack of trust in governments. He mentions statistics that show people nowadays trust business executives more than their own government and that 45% of people between the ages of 25 and 35 trust independently issued currencies. With this amount of young people trusting currencies like this and with everything moving digitally nowadays, it hard not to imagine that the future of currencies will move from physical objects to everything being digital. He also goes to talk about the impact of other types of independently issued including Starbucks points and Nike’s sweat points. He even talks about how drug dealers are accepting the detergent Tide as a form of currency. They have been calling it “liquid gold.” It is just interesting to see how as long as people have a perceived value of something it can be used as currency and with the move to the digital age I believe all currency will move into it as well.
For my paper two topic, I decided that I would focus on tobacco companies advertising to children. Normally, I have no trouble finding a book on a certain topic in the library, but for some reason, maybe because it was Friday afternoon and my brain was shut off, I had a difficult time locating my book.
I started off, like I always do when looking for books on a certain topic, with typing key words into the library catalog. Since my topic is topic is tobacco companies advertising to children, I searched “tobacco advertising children” into the catalog. This produced few results, so I broadened my searched to just “tobacco advertising.” Luckily, this worked well and I was able to find a perfect book for my topic called Peddling Poison: The Tobacco Industry and Kids by Clete Snell. For some odd reason, I had the hardest time actually trying to find the book in the library. After a few minutes of searching, I asked a librarian for assistance. The call number for the book is HV 5745 and I was looking at the HV 57 section the whole time.
This book discusses a variety of topics relating to adolescent tobacco usage. The topics of the chapters are as follows. “Youth Tobacco Use: The Health Effects, Trends in Smoking Rates, and Reasons Why Kids Use Tobacco, Marketing Tobacco Products to Youth, The FDA Investigation and the Master Settlement, Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs, Youth Tobacco Prevention Organizations, and The Future of Tobacco Control. So while this discussed a various number of topics, I will mainly only be able to use it for the case part of my paper. I will have to find additional resources for the ethics part.
This past summer I worked for Cigna, which a major multinational health insurance provider. Obviously, the Affordable Care Act is major topic of discussion there and I had become pretty well versed with the Act over the course of the summer I spent there. So I was not surprised when I got a 10/10 on the quiz, which only covered the main points of Act. Though, I did not know about many of the more obscure points of it. One aspect that I did not know anything about was the reinsurance program that was established with the Act.
Reinsurance is typically insurance bought by insurance companies from other insurance companies as a way to hedge risk on some of the policies that they hold. The reinsurance program that is established by the Affordable Care Act is for employers already providing health benefits to its retirees over the age of 55 who are not eligible for Medicare. It is a temporary program that will provide employers reimbursement of 80% of claims between $15,000 and $90,000. The purpose of this program is to lower the costs of the employees registering in their employer’s health care plan. A total of $5 billion is to be put into the program and will be effective until January 1, 2014.
Regardless of my own political opinions on the Affordable Care Act as a whole, I think that this is a beneficial aspect of the bill. A fair amount of burden is put on employers to provide care to its employees and if they are already providing benefits to retirees, it seems reasonable to give them some assistance during the transition phase of the enactment of the bill. As far as a “Mandingo” or “Broomhilda” for the Affordable Care Act, I do not think that there is really either for the Act. Mainly because I think that the objective of the bill is straightforward and it would be almost impossible to try to put a “Broomhilda” into the Act because it is so widely scrutinized.
Like Jordi mentioned in the blog instructions, most people read or watch the news from media sources that express the same political stance that you already believe. I am guilty of this myself. I never watch the news on television, and I normally only read the Wall Street Journal. It’s only human nature to do so. It is comforting and reassuring to read articles written by people that share the same beliefs as you. Conversely, it is frustrating to read a politically article written by someone on the other side of the spectrum as you.
So regarding the government shutdown, I have read most of my news about it from articles with a conservative bias. The article “What Obama Has to Do to End the GOP Shutdown” in The Nation was the first really left-leaning article I’ve read on the topic. It was frustrating to read for two reasons. First, it is written in a way that makes it seem that Republicans are the cause of all the world’s problems and that Democrats are a model of perfection. Secondly and the main reason people do not like reading opposing view points, the article makes some very good arguments against my stance. It’s difficult to hear the flaws in your argument. It’s much easier to just have your stance validated by the news you read.
I certainly fall into the habit of only reading conservatively based news reports, and sometimes can make me narrow-minded about controversial issues between political parties. Doing this exercise was a reminder I needed to reach out more and read more articles from various news outlets to get a wider range of perspective.
First I wanted to say that I have wanted to watch the movie “Too Big to Fail” for a while now, so I was happy to see that it was the topic of our blog post. Back in 2008, major banks and insurance companies AIG were considered “too big to fail.” Since 2008, these firms have only become bigger with the Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan Chase-Bear Sterns, and Wells Fargo-Wachovia acquisitions. To me, obviously if they were considered too big to fail then, there are certainly still too big to fail now. In the film, Timothy Geithner explained to Hank Paulson that an option to save some of these banks is to work out an acquisition deal between two of them. Hank looked at him puzzled and said something along the lines of “you want to make the banks that we have considered too big to fail even bigger?” It is counterintuitive, but given the situation it was the best move. Although they are bigger, added regulation will help to oversee that the banks are working ethically. So even though the banks are getting bigger and bigger, they can be more easily monitored. With the added regulation, it would be almost impossible for a company to put itself into a position to fail.
Although the notion of too big to fail still exists today, it is definitely not as concerning to me presently because of the added regulation. The companies that are too big to fail are closely monitored and would be unable to fall into the same situation as 2008. The only thing that I worry about, that hopefully won’t happen in my lifetime, is that the same cycle of deregulation and corporate greed will occur.
I really enjoyed Bucknell’s adaption of Mike Daisey’s play they called “”un/real and un/true: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.” I thought that the combination of Daisey’s original story with the interludes throughout the play was particularly interesting in telling the story of Apple’s history. Although I enjoyed the play, the one thing that bothered me about Bucknell’s play was that I was not entirely sure what they were trying to accomplish with the play. In Daisey’s version it is clear that Daisey was trying to bring to light the working conditions in Foxconn’s factories in China. In Bucknell’s version, there were too many things going on throughout the hour and a half. Was Bucknell’s adaption to tell a more truthful version of Daisey’s story, to point out Daisey’s faults, or to tell the story of Steve Jobs? To me, the fact their play went in so many different directions, it took away from the overall product.
A friend of mine, Bo Yao, who is a senior at Bucknell, grew up in China and came to the United States for an education. I’ve known him for almost three years but I’ve never actually talked to him about life in China before. So it was interesting to hear what he had to say. One thing that he told me, which was a surprised about, was that the workers in China are starting to get more power. They are demanding higher wages and better working conditions. The problem with this though is that many manufacturers are leaving China and moving to Southeast Asia because labor costs are cheaper there. After hearing all the stories about the working conditions in China, it is hard to imagine that there are countries where they are even worse.
This past summer I interned at CIGNA, which is a multinational health insurance company, in their corporate accounting department. From my experience there, I believe that they very much operate under shareholder management as opposed to stakeholder management. This was probably accentuated because I was working in the accounting and finance department where the bottom-line is the most important thing to them, but nonetheless it seemed to be company wide attitude. During my time there, I was lucky enough to be invited by my boss to a series of meetings with high-level executives where they discussed what special items they needed to disclose in the second quarter earnings release. In the final meeting, the CEO was present and they presented to him what special items they decided to disclose and the only part that he cared about was how everything was worded to look the best for the shareholders.
Milton Friedman would believe that CIGNA is operating socially responsibly because they are using shareholder management, and everything they are doing is to increase their profits within the rules and regulations of their industry. Executives are not acting for themselves by using shareholders’ money to do what they believe is socially responsible.
After listening to Mike Daisey’s monologue on the Foxconn factories in China, there was one comment he made that stood out amongst the rest. It came within the first few minutes of his speech. Like he said, everyone knows that almost all of the technological products that we use in the United States are made in other countries around the world, mostly in China. But that’s about it. Everyone knows that the Eiffel Tower is in Paris or the Coliseum is in Rome, which has no effect on our daily lives, but no one knows where the devices we use constantly throughout every day of our lives originates. That there is a single city in China that is responsible for manufacturing all the electronics we use daily. In many ways, Shenzhen is one of the most important cities in the world to Americans. Yet the majority of us, including myself, have never heard of it. I am sitting here typing this on my Apple computer with my iPhone right next to me and I had no clue where they actually were made. China is a massive country and to say something is made in China is incredibly vague and almost ignorant. Imagine someone from outside the United States, who is a reasonably educated person, saying that the only thing they know about White House is that it is in America and not that it is in Washington D.C. or it is where the president lives. You would probably look at them a little funny. To me, it is baffling that there is this city that so few have heard that plays such a major part in our lives.
The reason that comment was the most interesting to me from Mike Daisey’s monologue was because I already knew about the working conditions in these sweatshops in China. I do not know for certain, but I feel that most Americans know this as well. I find it hard to believe that there are people in America that think that these workers in China are getting treating like workers in the United States. I mean that is the reason the factories are over there and not here in the United States. Although most people know about these poor working conditions, it is not something that people want to think about. You would go crazy if every time you opened your computer or looked at your phone you thought of all the workers in China that put them together with their bare hands.
Listening to Mike Daisey’s interview in the “Retraction” episode was one of the most frustrating academic experiences I have ever faced. I say “academic” because when I listened to the original podcast; I took everything I heard as truth and as educational rather than entertainment. I feel tricked and manipulated. I want to blame myself for trusting a self-proclaimed entertainer to deliver a journalistic message about a topic he is trying draw attention to, but for some reason I cannot. Like Ira from This American Life said, Daisey portrayed his monologue as truth.
For me, you cannot use entertainment as a forum to send a message to your audience. If I go watch a standup comedian, I am not expecting all the stories they tell for their jokes to have actually have happened. As long as I am entertained, I’m happy. There is no underlying serious message that they are trying to get across to the audience. They are simply trying to make them laugh. So for Daisey to use the excuse that his monologue is theatre, a form of entertainment, as an excuse for his lies is absurd. I understand that he wanted to evoke a lot of emotion to make people care about the working conditions in factories in China, but the lies discredit any truth that his monologue contains.
This whole experience will make me more wary of any opinion pieces I read or listen to in the future. It will also help me to pay attention to the details of an argument and identify clues to question the accuracy of pieces. When the producers of This American Life mentioned the parts of Daisey’s monologue that drew their attention to question the accuracy of it were parts that did not even register with me initially, but when looking back when the brought them up did seem a little odd.