Adonis Diaries

Archive for October 17th, 2011

Occupy Apple protesters: Who is Daisey? How does iPhone sucks?

Note 1: Information were extracted from two sources: The French weekly Corrier International  and the piece by Jason Farbman titled “The baddest Apple in a rotten bunch”

In the last 15 months, US artist Daisey has been touring the world describing how Apple product are being manufactured in Shenzhen (China, where half world’s electronic gadgets are produced for multinationals such as Sony, Nokia, Dell, Hewlett-Packard… and Apple).  Daisey’s latest conference was in Sydney Opera House titled “Steve Jobs, martyr and ecstasy”  Within two hours of the talk, you start wondering how detached we are from the reality, using tech gadgets sold at exorbitant prices, as workers in sweatshop factories earn a single dollar per hour, working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, at the frenzied pace of assembling an expensive gadgets (iPhone, iPad, iPod…) in less than 7 seconds to keep up with the chain production quota.

The story began as Daisey visited the electronic production factory pretending to be an US business man. Workers were acting as robots. Consider the case of the 19-year-old Ma Xiangqian who committed suicide this January.  Ma Xiangqian had been working seven nights a week for 11 hours at a time “forging plastic and metal into electronic parts amid fumes and dust,” the Times reported.  After a run-in with a supervisor, Ma was demoted to cleaning toilets (read note 1). In the last month of his life, Ma worked 286 hours “including 112 hours of overtime, about three times the legal limit. Even with extra pay for overtime, he earned the equivalent of $1 an hour.”  At least 12 workers who make its products have committed suicide this year.

There are 400,000 other workers on two Foxconn campuses where Ma Xiangqian was driven to kill himself. They are unionized, but as Labor Notes reported, this is essentially meaningless. The head of the union is secretary to the Foxconn CEO.

Most of the workers had thrown themselves from the top of the tall dormitories where they are forced to live in during their few hours off. As of the end of May, Foxconn had begun to deal with the issue! Guess how?

Foxconn installed nets around the buildings to catch potential jumpers. And it began refusing to pay compensation to families of those who took their own lives, on the grounds that this might be encouraging suicides.

All of the workers who committed suicide were between 18 and 24 years old. As Labor Notes reported, the deaths were “the result of 12-hour shifts, alienation from not being allowed to speak to co-workers, and a rapid just-in-time production model that has workers putting in a phone motherboard every seven seconds to meet the global demand for high-priced gadgets.”

Daisey depicted the cult he vowed for Apple products: “I entered the House of Steve Jobs. I followed the stations of his Calvary.  I was amazed how Jobs started the revolution in graphic interfaces, and tactile technology…After visiting the sweatshop factories, I reflected a great deal. How does the gadget looks in the hand of a consumer, how it resembled once taken apart…But it never crossed my mind to investigate what happens in the manufacturing process…We are living in denial: We want to accept the situation as a normal way of doing business…For so long, Apple has been boasting to be at the edge of innovation, leader of digital sector, and reaping huge advantage in public relation…Well, to be a leader means to admit and start behaving like leaders…Steve Jobs has betrayed his ideals, as many of the baby-boom representatives…”

Apple CEO Steve JobsApple CEO Steve Jobs

“This don’t-be-evil mantra. It’s bullshit.” August 17, 2010
— Steve Jobs, on Google’s informal slogan

Jason Farbman wrote (I’ll abridge and edit slightly): “WALL STREET has called the end of an era and the beginning of the next one,” proclaimed the New York Times in late May. Apple Computer, widely perceived to be on its financial deathbed as recently as the late 1990s, had become the most valuable tech company in the world, with total outstanding stock worth $222.12 billion (outpacing Exxon).

So how was this possible when a decade ago the US economy was not expanding?

As one executive put it, summarizing the attitude of the rest: “Microsoft depends more on maintaining the status quo, while Apple is in a constant battle to one-up itself and create something new.”  The narrative was simple, and as old as the free market itself: Apple, down to its last dime, lived up to its slogan to “think different,” worked hard and pulled itself up by the bootstraps.

But did Apple really manage to leapfrog the mighty and ruthless Microsoft on the strength of good ideas and work ethic alone?

All of the workers who committed suicide in the sweatshop factories were between 18 and 24 years old. As Labor Notes reported, the deaths were “the result of 12-hour shifts, alienation from not being allowed to speak to co-workers, and a rapid just-in-time production model that has workers putting in a phone motherboard every seven seconds to meet the global demand for high-priced gadgets.”

Apple’s skyrocketing fortunes seem to have carried CEO Steve Jobs further away from reality. Steve has defended conditions at the Foxconn plant, saying: “You go in this place, and it’s a factory but, my gosh, they’ve got restaurants and movie theaters and hospitals and swimming pools. For a factory, it’s pretty nice.” (Steve Jobs forgot to mention who actually use the swimming pool and movie theaters after working 12 hours on a production chain…? Read note 3)

While desperate conditions of near-slavery are the most damning indictment of the company, and Microsoft may continue to be perceived as nasty, monopolistic and determined to “preserve the status-quo,” Apple’s reputation for being the opposite is increasingly undeserved.

Apple does make exciting products. I became a convert several years ago after receiving a hand-me-down MacBook from my sister. Today, there might as well be a glowing apple on my back–one of Apple’s products is rarely out of reach, whether it is the laptop I throw in my bag before my daily commute, or the iPhone that lives in my pocket.

But it’s become hard to tell why anyone should consider Apple’s business strategies any differently from those of Microsoft in the 1990s, when the software giant was investigated and penalized for its monopolistic practices by the U.S. and European Union.

Apple is currently a prime candidate for the same kind of investigation. The Justice Department is investigating threats by Apple against two major record companies: Apple was trying to keep the record labels from participating in a promotion for, whose music sales are a rival to Apple’s iTunes.

Considering the state of the corporate music industry today, it’s pretty astounding to think that anyone could intimidate a major label. But with iTunes currently sitting on 70 percent of all digital song sales, Apple is able to do pretty much whatever it wants.

For example: Have you ever tried to use a non-Apple mp3 player with iTunes? Actually, before you answer that, can you even name the top two or three mp3 players not produced by Apple?

This was, in fact, the driving idea behind the iTunes Music Store: to dominate digital music at 99 cents a pop in order to sell millions of music players at up to $499 a pop.

On the off-chance that you do have an mp3 player not made by Apple, you’re probably painfully aware that you simply can’t sync to your Mac’s music collection. Jason Calacanis, writing in The Case Against Apple, invites readers to imagine the outrage if Microsoft had made its Zune the only player compatible with Windows.

Then there’s Apple’s exclusive contract with AT&T for cellular service for the iPhone. As Calacanis says: “Apple’s iPhone is a revolutionary product that has devolved almost all of the progress made in cracking AT&T’s monopoly in the ’70s and ’80s. We broke up the Bell Phone only to have it put back together by the iPhone. Telecommunications choice is gone for Apple users.”

The ridiculous Apple approval process for iPhone applications is the very definition of a monopoly. In the company’s own words, applications aren’t allowed on its mobile operating system that “duplicate the functionality” of software that Apple also makes. So if you compete with Apple, you won’t have access to one of the biggest mobile platforms around today.

This monopoly led to a phenomenon known as “jail-breaking”:  Altering the iPhone to run unauthorized applications. There are countless things that the power of an iPhone should be able to do if the creative power of developers were allowed to run free. Instead of encouraging that creativity, Apple has done everything it can to make each software update render a jail-broken phone inoperable.

Many of the best innovations of independently developed iPhone apps have been co-opted, diluted and incorporated into later versions of Apple’s own software.

In July, during its review of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Library of Congress exempted jail-breaking from the laws restrictions, making it officially legal. It remains to be seen how nicely Apple will play in the wake of this ruling.

By all accounts, Jobs has reinvented not just a corporation but whole industries: animated film (Pixar), music sales (iTunes), audio equipment (iPod) and mobile telephones (iPhone).

The latest iPad device from Apple was widely predicted to revolutionize newspapers, and perhaps the entire publishing industry. I was confused as to why I should shell out for a big iPhone that can’t make phone calls.

For example, audiophiles have long decried the iPod, currently the de-facto standard in portable music players, for its role in promoting the mp3 file format, with its low audio quality, and its refusal to play higher-quality formats.

But you won’t hear any of these debates in the mainstream coverage of Apple. “More features?” How many times can Jobs convince people to wildly overpay for a phone that will be obsolete in a year when Apple adds “more features” that should have been included when the original device was released.

In a recent sales speech, Jobs announced that multitasking, or the ability to run multiple applications simultaneously, would be included with the release of the iPhone 4.0.  Why Apple remembered multitasking after it has sold over 34 million iPhones, 20 million iPod Touches and 2 million iPads before adding multitasking? Apple has sold more than 56 million of these devices worldwide, and they can barely do more than one thing at a time.(Read note 2)

Apple claims that its products are less prone to being infected by the viruses and other digital vandalism that has proliferated in the era of the Internet. In a interview, famed hacker-turned-digital-security-consultant Marc Maiffret was clear:

“Anytime there’s been a hacking contest, within a few hours, someone’s found a new Apple vulnerability. If they were taking it seriously, they wouldn’t claim to be more secure than Microsoft because they are very much not…The reason we don’t see more attacks out there compared to Microsoft is because their market share isn’t near what Microsoft’s is”.

The two factors in the targeting of Microsoft products were: One, they were the biggest player in town; and two, they were widely perceived to be monopolistic jerks whose drive for profit was far greater than their desire to encourage exciting software development.

On both counts, Apple should watch out.

Is there anything revolutionary about an overpriced computer crippled by an uncooperative, deliberately closed design, and manufactured under conditions so unbearable they drive people to suicide, just because people can carry it in their pockets?

A genuine revolution would make virtual slavery something associated with an old, out-of-date version of humanity.

Note 2: Steve Wozniak wrote in his autobiography iWoz: “The first question that Jobs asked me as he watched me design the first Apple was: “Can we include multitasking”? That story took place in 1975! Can we claim that Jobs has been willingly betraying his consumers all this time? Or did Jobs realized that consumers want “one gadget, one task” because they hate to be confused? What do you think?

Note 3: Steve Jobs forgot to mention who actually use the swimming pool and movie theaters after working 12 hours on this Chinese production chain.  How many of the workers can afford to patronize the restaurants at one dollars per hour? May be a small bowl of soup and a larger bowl of plain boiled rice? Steve dealt with the Human Factors concerns in the interfaces of his gadgets and reaped profits.  Steve Jobs could have as well demonstrated concerns of the Human Factors safety, health, and job satisfaction in these sweatshop factories…Couldn’t he do it?  Steve didn’t want to juggle with two apples at the same time?  He could have appointed a team of concerned Human Factors engineers?

Steve is no longer among us, and I suggest that Apple leaders establish a small assembly line in Cupertino in order to study interfaces in the workshop and communicate consequences with their Chinese and Taiwanese counterparts.  Time to care to the workers who are making life of the common people more exciting and the universe more open.  I wonder: “Have the workers been asked to test the pre-products for performance?  Or is it a very dangerous proposition to allow workers to taking breaks from the tedious chain work and let their spirit soars and wonder on the potentials of a better life, in a powerful gadget that fit in a pocket?

So you won’t say: “Adonis49 is acting cool, Not commenting on sectarian discussions”

I have not approached Lebanon conditions and upheavals for a month. It is not that I despaired from my engagement for drastic reforms, but it is becoming a vicious cycle of the same, and that a substantial break for positive reforms is not materializing on the ground.

Let us analyse the facts.

1. Lebanon is a tiny State of just 10, 425 with about 4 million, give and take one million (the latest census was done in 1935, during France mandate).

2. Lebanon is surrounded by two powerful regional powers (Syria and Israel), each one of these “powers” strongly believe that Lebanon is not a viable State: Syria claim Lebanon as an intrinsic province of Syria (historically and geographically), and Israel thinks that Lebanon, rich in water sources, is letting water go to sea…

Lebanon acquired a virtual independence from France in 1943, and the last French soldier vacated the land in 1946, the year Lebanon was recognized as State in the UN, three years earlier than Israel. Since then, Lebanon failed to institute a central government, a State that citizens feels they belong to, instead of the 18 officially recognized religious sects, which are in charge of every citizen civil status, and not the government!

A Lebanese “citizen” has been forced, through tailor-made election laws, to pay allegiance to his sect, and local warlord leader…

Two civil wars failed to produce a “winner”, and every surviving warlords, or his son, came back to power, being represented in government and the Parliament (actually, being appointed by the “Elite Club”)

In this social/political void, complete lack of sustainable central institutions, Hezbollah had no alternative but to fill the void. Hezbollah established a State. It could do it: Iran is an excellent State builder, and supported the constitution of this “State within a State” situation by all means available (financially, politically, militarily, ideologically, and organizationally…)

Hezbollah managed to defeat mighty Israel in July 2006, after barbaric bombardment that lasted 33 days. Hezbollah extended a new life to the “State of Lebanon”: Could the citizens rise and establish a real State to whom we can pay allegiance for representing every citizen longing for equity, fairness, and wide variety of opportunities…?

Why when the youth demand civil marriage laws, the “State” (government and Parliament) feels obligated to bow down to a single sentence from a religious cleric (regardless of the sect) when he claims “Civil marriage is blasphemy (Kufr)?”

Why when youth demand fair and equitable election laws, the State sidestep these demands by constituting “study council” with no power attached to it?  Several of these study groups were established, but the same biased election laws kept being applied, regardless of alternative proposals submitted to government and Parliament…

Why when women demand equal treatment in civil right laws, like their children being entitled to citizenship and not be tied to the husband exclusively, the State keeps dragging its feet?

People immigrate to safeguard a remnant of freedom and liberty in their life.

The urge for liberty encompass a wide range of necessary basic needs such as: Not dying of famine, finding relief of curable diseases, expressing opinions, right of gathering and communicating with free people, voting for representatives in equitable and fair election laws…

Christians in the Near-East have been immigrating for centuries, but in the last decade, waves are of the largest in scale.  You hear so many excuses and reasons for this mass immigration, but fundamentally, freedom lovers, regardless of religion, genders, or ethnic minorities are seeking breathable fresh air, a hope that they are able to transform their lives, if the proper conditions and environment are available to exercising their free-will…

People in the Near-East (regardless of religious affiliation) and who can afford it, are immigrating because they want to experience a life within the framework of a State.  We have been living without central States since independence from mandated powers: What we have are nominal States, simply because the UN has recognized us as a State.

The State is just a framework (a gathering of caste system) to facilitating and coordinating trade-off of interests among the caste system. Lebanon is the most cruel environment for “doing it yourself” to survive: We cannot count on any sustainable institution to providing health care, education, electricity, potable water, affordable food, job opening,…

Lebanon has signed on every imaginable convention that the UN promoted. Why should a non-State sign on anything it cannot deliver?

Why the UN should even humiliate us by stating: “We consider Lebanon liable for not delivering on its responsibilities…”  How a practically Non-State is to satisfy any international condition or resolution?

Can’t we ask for a recognized State with no voting right? Like the one extended as an option for the Palestinian State? Since all our votes are never yes or no?  Since we cannot afford to alienate regional powers and UN veto-power States?

Why should Lebanon feels cornered at every situation and end up voting neutral?  Why Lebanon should be constantly threatened of a civil war if we decide to have a stand and a position? Even a nominal position?

We are being heaped with all kinds of internal and external indignities; we have been humiliated as “citizens” for 70 years, and there is no light at the end of this obscure tunnel.

Lebanon was not meant to be a State. We should receive a UN passport and let us deal with our lives anywhere opportunities knock. Period.




October 2011

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