$11 Minimum Wage? Hmmm… YES, but…

English: Exterior of a Wal-Mart Supercenter in...

English: Exterior of a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Madison Heights, Virginia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the labor-rights movements right now is calling for an $11/hour minimum wage in the United States — bringing the per-hour cost of labor much closer to a living wage figure.  While I completely agree that a double digit minimum or a living-wage should be a goal, I see several problems with this.

The first I see is the small business.  Small business owners often don’t make a lot of money, particularly when they first start out — often taking what’s left after all the bills are paid, and that’s NOT assuming the company has some sort of “rainy day fund.”  Small business owners may find such a surge in output to employees that they may find little money left in the till after the bills and payroll are made.  This would be unfortunate.

The second, I see being much more sinister and calculated.  We already know “Big Box” companies like Wal-Mart and Meijer have a reputation for dolling out hours “just below” full-time to avoid having to pay their employees’ health care, or other benefits, but get almost the same benefits of having a full-time labor force.  Often very underpaid, they wind up having to go on forms of assistance to get medical care.  While it’s arguable and readily easy to assume that a company like Wal-Mart could fairly easily absorb such a rise in wages, my fear is that they will cut hours.  All of a sudden, the 38-hour employee finds himself at 27 hours.  Or worse, the full-time 40+ hour a week person finds himself at 30 hours, and now, his or her benefits cut as a result.

However, COSTCO, the Big-Box retailer that’s known for paying it’s employees very handsomely, enjoys a successful and relatively happy workforce, with a CEO who, while underpaid compared to his CEO-brethren, still lives a very comfortable life.  I feel he deserves recognition as such in any such a debate.

Is this pure conjecture — surely.  But is it out of the realm of possibility?  I don’t think so.  Big-Box retailers in general are known for looking for ways to cut costs while keeping productivity high.  My fear is a wage increase could make an already lame situation much worse.

SCOTUS’ Summer 2012 “Flood Week” Decisions…

English: The inscription Equal Justice Under L...

English: The inscription Equal Justice Under Law as seen on the frieze of the United States Supreme Court building (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With the Supreme Court’s final week of the season upon us, several high profile decisions will likely be rendered — many of which will no doubt have major ramifications in the future.  I think I have an idea of what they’ll do; and I believe the following is going to be announced in short order:

Affirmative ActionWhile I don’t agree with it, it’s true that people of color are NOT on equal footing.  Despite having a Black Commander-in-Chief, people of color still earn, on average, 64 cents on the dollar compared to their white, similarly credentialed counterparts.  I agree that race can never be a BFOQ, so until this problem is solved, I believe minorities deserve special protection.  I expect this to be upheld.

Voting Rights:  Drawing from above, it’s obvious that discrimination still exists — even in the 21st Century.  I expect Federal Oversight in areas that discrimination is historical will continue.  I expect this to be upheld.

Same-Sex Marriage:  Probably the hottest item for the news this season for the Supreme Court, and one I care about too, is Same-Sex Marriage.  Generally, the Court has ruled in favor of civil rights historically — but one with such a broad re-definition of the legal rights involved in marriage and benefits I think is unprecedented.  I see the following happening relating to Same-sex Marriage:

– DOMA will be ruled unconstitutional.  It’s a discriminatory law, and I believe a violation of the Equal Protection Clause — so I expect it to be dissolvedwhich brings us to the next item in the ruling:

– California’s Proposition 8 I expect this to be upheld.  I expect the Supreme Court’s majority opinion to be that that Same-sex marriage should be a States’ Rights issue, and allow States to determine the law when it comes to redefining marriage — allowing States to keep laws on the books that allow for it, and those who have laws against it to do so as well.  That said, I also believe that, in accordance with DOMA being wiped out, that those who are married, Same-sex or otherwise in States that allow it, will now be entitled to receive Federal benefits.

These are just conjecture — based off my experience and personal expectations.  Take them as you will.

What I learned… Dr. David Victor

ImageDr. Victor is one of the four favorite teachers I’ve ever had — and one of the 3 I’ve had in college so far.  His candor, honesty and frankness are very refreshing.

When I was accepted into the Honors College at EMU, the head of the Honors College kept telling me “Take Victor,” “Victor is the one you want,” “Everyone likes Victor,” “You should REALLY take Victor.”   So, looking at the available classes and instructors, I said “Hmm, something is telling me to take this guy.  So… Victor?

Summer went by, and I talked to a couple of people in my department who had taken him.  “Victor’s awesome, dude.  Bit of a hardass, but awesome,” said one person.   Another echoed his sentiments.  “You’re not going to get through his class without reading the book — he sets it up that way on purpose, but if you do, and show up to class, you shouldn’t have much of a problem.”

So came the first day of school.  I met the other teachers I had that semester, which all seemed pretty okay.  The last teacher I met was Dr. Victor.

I figured out right away that I would learn more than explicit knowledge from him — one of Dr. Victor’s strong suits is he’s able to communicate a lot of tacit knowledge over the long term, that is – stuff that you can’t specifically “explain” – but you put together over the whole course.

465667_10151140665271817_1912544928_oWe did a semester-long project to satisfy the Honors portion of the class, that was worked on over the term, and then due and presented during the last meetings of the class before the Final Exam — which I think was the most enjoyable part.  Having time to actually look at the customs and culture of another nation, without the pressure of “getting it done” that comes with having an assignment due a month later is a lot more informative.

His feedback, while not only humorous sometimes, provided value and was well-received by everyone.

For instance, after we gave our presentation, we took our seats.  Dr. Victor happened to be sitting at a student desk that was next to mine — and helped answer questions that we weren’t able to — or that he felt he wanted to contribute to as well.  Being an Honors Class, people were actually interested in what other people were presenting.  Just as I had crossed my legs, someone asked “What do they mean by ‘Don’t point your feet at someone?  Do they mean like, when standing?”   Dr. Victor took this question and made a point of it:

quote-openThey mean more along the lines of sitting.  Pointing the soles of your feet at someone in the U.A.E., such as what Samuel is doing to me right now, is a sign of disrespect.  Were I an Emerati, I would be highly offended.”

Feeling foolish for a split-second, I immediately put both my feet on the ground, while everyone, including myself, laughed — but it was a point that was not only well made with practicality AND humor, but it was something that I remembered, and will continue to do so.

Another example was a little more discrete, but just as effective.  Having asked a question, I put my had up to answer it, stating something along the lines of “Well, businessmen generally prefer an atmosphere of formality and composure.”

He cocked his eyebrow, and at first, I thought he disapproved of my answer.

quote-open“By ‘Businessmen” — I assume you mean both men AND women?”


Again — a split-moment where I felt kind of stupid.  A faux-pas of epic proportion, but it’s something I’d never considered before.  I’d used the term throughout my entire professional life, and nobody had given it a second thought.  I certainly hadn’t.

While I didn’t get the best grade in his class (a “B” — his tests were tough!) — I took a lot more away from the Honors Global Business class than just being able to regurgitate print from a book.  I left with a new advisor and someone who, while mindful of your feelings — will make a point; even if it’s not what you want to hear.  He genuinely cares about what his students take away from your time together.

If you go to Eastern… take Victor.

Recommended Reading:

– International Business Communication – David A. Victor.  1997.
– Class 3 – LESCANT (kelmglobal.wordpress.com)

Trans-Pacific Partnership — what’s the deal?

Seal of the Office of the United States Trade ...I’m deeply disturbed by something Senator Elizabeth Warren has brought to the floor of Congress just recently.

The US Trade Representative is currently conducting negotiations on renewing a trade agreement with several allied nations, called the “Trans-Pacific Partnership.”  Historically, and even under the Bush Administration, this had Congressional oversight.  Apparently, under the Obama Administration — the Administration who’s buzzword is ‘Transparency,” that’s no longer the case.

The US Trade Representative is REFUSING Congressional requests for review — in any capacity, including “scrubbed” versions, with individual country names redacted, but the policy proposals visible.

Why would a treaty involving commerce, and indeed, including representatives from companies like Bank of America, Comcast, TimeWarner, be so secretive?

Indeed, the only Representative in Congress who’s SEEN the agreement, has said the following:

Florida congressman Alan Grayson.

“There is no national security purpose in keeping this text secret.”
 — Represenative Alan Grayson (D-FL)

Repeatedly asked for the text that Senator Warren refers to, she, and Congress, have been categorically DENIED.  Why is the US Trade Representative not allowing for either a) Public transparency or b) Congressional transparency when the only member of Congress YET to review it, says there is no concern for National Security?

“…’transparency would undermine the Trade Representative’s policy to complete the trade agreement, because Public Opposition would be significant.’   In other words, if the Public knew what was going on, they would STOP it.”
 — Senator Elizabeth Warren, quoting the US Trade Representative

“If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States.”
— Senator Elizabeth Warren

See her speech to Congress here.

“Are you out there?” Maybe — but not so fast…


An Asgard, from Stargate SG-1

We’ve transmitted friendship messages, we’ve sent satellites, we’ve scanned the heavens… but we’ve found no clues as to ET or Supreme Commander Thor’s wearabouts yet.  Or have we?

Think of the Internet.  When we send an email, we click “Send” and the email is broken apart into bits and bytes, going through several [if not dozens of] separate servers and paths all over the internet, until it finally arrives at the server address you designated, where it’s reassembled, and readable to the receiver.

Now, to you and me, that’s no news.  No news at all whatsoever.  But imagine intercepting just one piece of this email.  It’s broken apart from the other parts of it; and because it is, it makes no sense to anyone.  You know something is here — but what?

That could be how an advanced alien culture is communicating — but instead of using different wires and communications steams, they could be using different frequencies and technologies all at one time; just as we use several different data pipes to move our information around the world at the same time, even just in email.  We haven’t quite figured out how to map frequency spread communication past hydrogen-based frequencies, which is what we scan for the most often (programs like SETI, etc.)

Michio Kaku, my favorite theoretical physicist, likens this to an Ant, versus a superhighway.  “Imagine you’re an ant,” he says.  “You’re going about your business, doing what ants do…” and meanwhile, you have NO idea that other more complex creatures are building an eight-lane superhighway a few feet away from you.  Now, a few feet in ant-size is the equivalent of several MILES away from you.  However, one of these creatures, a human, approaches you.  He looks down at you and says “I bring you this superhighway.  I bring you the internet.  I bring you nuclear medicine.  Take me to your leader.”

Unfortunately, we have a problem here.  One, not only are you able to understand this human, but two, you have no CONCEPT of what any of this is.  Let’s assume this language barrier doesn’t exist — and that you are now the human, looking down at the ant, saying “I bring you all of this.”  How do you explain to an ANT the basics of a superhighway?  Much less, how do you explain the benefits of nuclear medicine, or the internet?  It’s mind isn’t able to understand these things.

Dr. Kaku states, which I believe, that at this point, we haven’t evolved to an understanding of how things at that level work yet.  Sure, the ants can see us, and may be aware of us… but if you were to walk up to an Ant, and say “Hello…” how could you two break that barrier — not only the language barrier, but communicate so that you both understand each other.