China’s Manufacturing Problem

China has a serious image problem in the recent recalls.  They are quite aware of this (Wall Street Journal):

While in China, senior Mattel executives also met with Chinese government officials to discuss the recall, according to a person in the industry who has been in contact with Mattel employees. Mattel employees said Chinese officials were upset that the American company’s toy recall had disgraced the name of China, according to the person.

Of course the recall was the most responsible way to handle the issue (bravo Mattel), so China’s complaints aren’t exactly sensible here (what else should they have done?).

The reason there had to be a recall in the first place suggests many more to follow failing productive action by Chinese authorities:

In the past, Mattel has had difficulty getting factory owners to fall in line, according to reports from the New York-based International Center for Corporate Accountability. An audit conducted by the center of Mattel factories in 2005, for example, reported that manufacturers had balked in responding to Mattel’s orders to reduce overtime and reimburse workers for job-related medical expenses.

One of the added costs of outsourcing, then, is this lack of control.  That can be a very significant cost indeed, as Mattel is finding out.

He said buyers may be able to thoroughly enforce outside standards in China only by having their own people working and living at facilities — not by simply conducting the periodic audits that many smaller toy makers have come to rely on.

One alternative would be for the Chinese government to begin adopting stronger labor laws.  If they bring their standards up to the rest of the worlds, the image problem, the recalls, and the logistical difficulties of keeping everything in line would go away.  Of course, this would drive up costs, but should a country founded on an idealogical support for “the workers” have better protections in place regarding working conditions?

China’s good name has indeed been disgraced, and it is up to China to take the necessary steps to clear it.

In the meantime, domestic companies should take a long hard look at the risk of doing business with Chinese manufacturers.  This recall could hit Mattel hard, but imagine a recall in October or November.  That would devastate holiday sales.

This should bring home to executives that sound labor policy translates directly to sound fiscal policy in the long run.

Rove Speculation

W. R. Marshall has a really well written piece up on Axcess News (ignore the obnoxious “News for the X generation”).  He’s got some of the best one liners in there, ever referring to the current Administration:

The biggest rat of all has deserted the sinking ship. No, it’s not the Vice President, pure evil usually takes the shape of a bat or a wolf

Karl Rove, the man who did the impossible and lowered the bar in political campaigns, the man who made running for office sleazier – and not just a little sleazier – has handed his resignation to his latest and greatest piece of clay

Regarding the timing of Rove’s departure:

The party line at the White House is Karl Rove wants to spend more time with his family. The beltway wags will say the smoking gun has been found in his desk. (I’m sure both parties will use the same excuse for Alberto Gonzales if he ever steps down – or the Democrats find the sack to chase him out of office…okay, if he ever steps down.) Guys like Rove don’t want to spend time with their families, rats don’t really like other rats, and there are volumes of Norwegian rat research to prove it.

So what is Rove’s deal then?   Marshall nails it:

Rove, like all rats, is an opportunist and the opportunities in the current administration are over.

Where he’ll find such opportunity will likely be the source of much speculation.  Marshall cites a possible book deal and of course, getting involved with the 2008 candidates as possibilities.  Personally I favor a more party-centric approach, working directly for the RNC.  I can see Rove advising the central committee for years to come.  Its hard to tell from his closing sentence, but I’d wager W.R. agrees:

No, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he hasn’t already made a deal to manage the west side of Hell, and after he swiftboats Cheney, the whole Underworld will be his.

If that’s the case, Rove won’t have that hard a path to travel:

Using his carpetbag of dirty tricks he did his best to put an end to the Democratic Party, so America, like the old Soviet Union and Germany in the 30’s, would be a one party nation. He failed, but not to worry Karl, the Democrats seem to be carrying on your work just fine.

Karl may just be leaving one sinking ship to scurry aboard another.  With turd blossom’s record, perhaps Karl will succeed in toppling the Democrats after all, by joining them as an adviser.  It’d be a brilliant move, and with the language Hillary Clinton’s using in her campaign, he might even have a willing host.

Minuteman Vigilante Murder?

Someone appears to shoot and kill a man crossing the border in a video by members of the Minutemen.

The Minutemen are a controversial group, and given their vigilante approach to the sensitive politics of immigration, something like this was bound to happen. David (Orcinus) wonders:

Wonder if Lou Dobbs and Michelle Malkin still want to claim that the Minutemen are just a big neighborhood watch. And I wonder if anyone will remember them when someone gets hurt.

Well, someone got hurt. And the Minutement are afraid someone will remember them (Casey, Hatewatch, emphasis mine):

On Aug. 11, the day after Hatewatch posted the first night-vision video, San Diego Minutemen founder Jeff Schwilk posted the following message to a Minuteman discussion group online:

“If the media goes to Patriot Point to confront Lil Dog (or Leland) on this, I’m afraid it could be 10 times worse than it already is. I asked Lil Dog for a statement of facts about this yesterday, but he has not given me one yet. He’s telling people there is nothing wrong with the video. He doesn’t feel he owes anyone an explanation of why he thinks its ok to post death threats on the internet…

I have a press release all ready to go if this hits the American media. We will isolate this incident and these people from the rest of us to minimize damage to the Minuteman movement. Lil Dog, my advice is go take a vacation and get away from the border for a while or longer. And make sure Leland stays away from the border too. Disappear for a while.”

Schwilk knows this could be very damaging. He is taking the kind of bold steps PR management firms advise handling corporate malfeasance. His advice to the pair who apparently made the video, “Disappear for a while”, is reminiscent of something Tony Soprano might say to a successful hitman.

The problem is that this kind of violence is a direct outgrowth of an organization like the Minutemen. They attract the worst sort, and not without reason. They provide an outlet for a nakedly racist, nativist worldview. They then send them on vigilante missions to intimidate and report “illegals”.

Perhaps this video is nothing more than a staged act of violence, a “death threat”, as Schwilk writes. The SPLC Intelligence Report is investigating. Let’s hope that’s all it is. In the meantime this video provides a starting point for a discussion we need to see played out in the presidential debates, the media, and the blogs. We need to directly address the hate and the fear behind the act shown in the video.

UPDATE: The video is a fake.