Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mike Daisey: The Man Who Outed Apple’s Abysmal Labor Practices in China - The Daily Beast:

For one, he said, there was an internal email by Apple CEO Tim Cook, shortly after the Times’ first article, in which Cook said that “Any suggestion that we don’t care is patently false and offensive.”

“I was amazed that he chose to make the dominant tone of that email fury,” Daisey said. “I think that was the honest moment of that email and it speaks to something very sad about Apple. At the heart, Apple’s been infected with a very serious arrogance and has been for a very long. They’re really a great company when they’re fighting the odds. When they’re not, it’s bad. I have a good friend who’s a vice president at Microsoft, and years ago he told me, ‘The only people you would not want to see with a monopoly more than us is Apple. You think we’re assholes. You have no idea.’ And I think we’re seeing that come true.”
The Playgoer: MTC's Big Buy:

So I'm up early today and I decide to tune into "Morning Joe" on MSNBC, and what do I see a commercial for? Manhattan Theatre Club! No, not one of those 15-second blips at the end of the commercial-reel that stations reserve for cheap local ads. A proper 30-second glossy spot that I assume is going out nationally--or at least on the East Coast (6-6:30am time slot), or just the greater metro area if that's possible.

I can't find any video online yet to post, but basically it's Cynthia Nixon telling us all how wonderful MTC is. Yes, also a plug for her star turn in Wit, but that's just mentioned along the way. (And, no, she's not bald in this one.)

Why do I find this at all interesting? Well, it seems pretty unprecedented--a nonprofit theatre company spending BIG bucks on a nationally broadcast cable news show to basically advertise its brand. (Using Nixon and Wit as a hook, their latest "product.")

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

East River Snub: Macy's 2012 July 4th Fireworks Will Be Over Hudson River AGAIN: Gothamist:

For the fourth year in a row, all Macy's is giving to most of New York City on July 4th is a giant middle finger. The company has quietly announced that they've chosen to bring their fireworks spectacular back to the Hudson River this year, meaning residents of Brooklyn, Queens, and the east side of Manhattan will be screwed on the holiday, while the west side and NEW JERSEY get to gaze up at the beautiful fireworks show.

Monday, February 27, 2012

I Went to the Pre-Oscar Celebrity Gifting Suites and All I Got Was This Sense of Disgust:

Beverly Hills is not a real place in the real world. Beverly Hills is what happens when you take the "Beverly Hills" pavilion at Epcot Center, expand it a thousandfold, and populate it with actors playing real people.

I had never been to L.A. before, avoid watching the Oscars at all costs, and am incapable of identifying celebrities on sight, and yet I went to Beverly Hills this week to write about "gifting suites," those peculiar little pre-Oscar-week institutions that exist in order to shower America's neediest celebrities with free luxury items. Companies that want to promote themselves pay PR firms for the privilege of setting up a table at the gifting suite; the PR firm wrangles celebrities to show up and collect a ton of free crap; the media covers it as an event, making the whole thing worthwhile.

I was there in search of free stuff. Foolish. In Beverly Hills, nothing is free unless you absolutely, positively don't need it.
At home: Ai Weiwei -

The conditions of his release from arbitrary detention are extremely restrictive and are the same as those often used to persecute dissidents and political activists in China. He cannot leave Beijing and is required to call the secret police to let them know every time he wants to leave his house so they can follow him everywhere he goes.

“They follow me in cars and take photos of me from bushes and when I go eat in a restaurant they book the table next to me and try to record everything I’m saying,” Ai says.

He is also not supposed to do any interviews, especially with foreign reporters, who are not under the control of the oppressive, pervasive Chinese censorship regime. But Ai wants to speak up for the many supporters, far less famous than he is, who have also been subjected to persecution because of his refusal to back down or stop questioning one-party rule and abuses of power in his country.

He talks about Liu Zhengang, his former business manager, who almost died while in detention at the same time as Ai. And he speaks with great respect for human rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan, who he says lost his licence to practise law five months ago for nothing more than saying Ai’s detention was illegal.

“Police made fun of him because other lawyers have mistresses and luxury cars and make so much money but here he is doing human rights,” Ai says. “They told him they could break him and his family and make them all die.”


Foxconn has hired Burson-Marsteller—a global public relations company which specializes in dealing with enormous PR disasters.

They handled the Tylenol poisonings, the Bhopal disaster, Three Mile Island, the private military group Blackwater when it was accused of murdering and torturing in Baghdad, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu, and the Argentinian military junta led by General Jorge Videla who helped 35,000 people to disappear.

Read the details
here. "The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs"- A Powerful Mixture of Humor and Truth:

However The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs is not meant to be a searing indictment against big business through a burst of idealism, but rather an offering of information in an attempt to remove blinders the audience never realized they had on in the first place. Daisey also avoids the trap of so many message theatre pieces; that of hitting the audience over the head with the same point time and again. Instead he also fills his story with numerous moments combining humor and familiarity, pointing out issues all computer users can relate to. Such as the problem of forced upgrades, "just when you have everything on your computer synched the way you like it," or Jobs' habit of discontinuing one popular product and replacing it with another, leaving the faithful no choice but to follow him to the next big thing. It's Daisey's amiability and quiet manner that gives him a sort of everyman quality, making him the prefect guide on this sometimes sobering journey. Daisey also talks directly to the audience at points, discussing theatre and its cultural impact while charting Jobs' rise, fall and rise again in the world of Apple. One of the funniest moments in the play occurs when Daisey imagines what it was like when Apple executives asked Jobs to return to the fold and save the company, after his being previously forced out.

Direction by Jean-Michele Gregory is quite good, letting the story unfold under Daisey's cadence, with moments shifting from the hysterically funny to the quite serious and back again. The lighting by Seth Reiser is nicely appropriate - though there's an interesting reason for the techniques used, as the show explains.

Funny, shocking, and at times painful to hear, The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs is a story that all computer lovers, human rights advocates and everyone else should make a point of seeing.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


LeRoy Bowen, my father-in-law, will have a memorial today in the house he loved, overlooking Puget Sound in West Seattle, where he knew the neighborhoods and businesses like the back of his hand. He'll be remembered there by his family and friends, but I will be missing—because I am of the theater, I am here instead of there, so I wanted to set down a few words on this day.

My favorite times with LeRoy were always when Jean-Michele and I had just flown back from New York—we'd be jetlagged a little, it would be evening, and when we got to the West Seattle house it would be dinner time. LeRoy would cook, because Virginia, my mother-in-law, had abdicated that job a long time ago, and he would make his LeRoy Dinner—basically, exactly the same meal over and over again, with minor variations. It looked like this usually:

—Chicken or pork, which was often very tender, cut off the bone in pieces, made with "LeRoy's Recipe"—which, now that he has passed, I am allowed to finally reveal is Tony Roma's Spice Rub, which he would often reveal with a flourish and laugh, which made him look like a crazy elven cook.

—Root vegetables, including potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, and a few more, broiled in a dish in the oven, often made with "LeRoy's Recipe".

—A salad, made with simple lettuce, slices of tomato and cucumber, with dressing on the side to taste.

—A side dish of some sort, often a few artichoke hearts or asparagus roasted on a pan in the oven with a little olive oil.

—Wine, and plenty of it, if Virginia had her say, which she usually did.

This is a pretty humble meal, and if it doesn't sound humble it becomes so because in an OCD-like manner this was what dinner was, night after night. I really can't possibly express how often they make this exact meal. I've had this meal almost a hundred times, if not more. Now, there are other recipes—for instance, for special occasions LeRoy could cook an amazing salmon, because he bought the best in Seattle and he had a trick to it...the trick being that he used "LeRoy's Recipe".

But on that first night it was never salmon—it was always the standard dinner, which I have learned to see as being very special in its own right. We would sit around the dining table, and it was like a debriefing—and that's often what it would feel like. At that table we told some of our first stories of India, I talked about Shenzhen, I filled them in on what it was like to barter on Tanna—we would trade the stories back and forth, and exotic locales were weighed equally with family news and the latest from the yarn shop.

When I look back now at those dinners, I see a chain that illuminates my evolution—checking in this way, relaxed after a long trip, on a night spent for travel so there is nowhere else to be, there was always this magical breath that hung there. Ruth, Jean-Michele's sister, would often drop by and be part of this ritual as we made sense of our lives to each other each time on that first night. And as we would talk we would often find ourselves discovering the real paths we were making in the world—what we expected and wanted, what we were looking for, a whole universe over that meal had again and again and again.

LeRoy was not an easy man—he was difficult, impetuous, and prone to outbursts. But he could also be extraordinarily generous, with the kind of generosity that demands nothing in return—he supported an enormous family unstintingly, and in the leanest, darkest years he helped us enormously when the work was very new, and we were finding our way.

This was less about the money, which helped when it got the hardest, and even more about the way he treated the work Jean-Michele and I were making. He would always come and see the monologues, and the same thing that made him difficult made him sometimes wonderful—he was passionate. He would feel things bubble up in him and you could see the sparks fly out of him. I think of how angry he would get at the injustices in the world, how he laid his heart open even when he knew it would cut him, and how his rage at the shape of things, even when inarticulate, was a beacon like a fire in the night because it was better to feel than to not feel.

He often said he was a simple man, and he would judge himself for this. I think he had a kind of greatness in him—he was small, but we are all small when we stand in front of the world. He understood tenacity, had made an art of perseverance, had the salesman's art of persistence down not because he was naturally charismatic but because he worked. He was a fighter, and we fighters are not always easy to deal with.

I wanted to do something for him, so I did what I could from here in the theater—on the day that he passed away I dedicated a performance to him.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Politics, Art, Representation (For the Umpteenth) - Parabasis:

I happened to be talking to a student about this yesterday, and brought up the example I always bring up in these instances: Dune. Dune is a novel that comes out the same year that the pill is introduced into the marketplace and that positions as the its true villains not the fascistic, cruel Harkonnen, but rather the Bene Gesseret, a society of psyhcic women who control the Universe through deciding when they will have children.

I think that's worth interrogating for a bit. Part of having a rich and complex understanding of Dune is thinking about the implications of that world-building choice and talking about how there's a kind of panic at women gaining more control over their bodies that runs throughout the book.


TATESJ Update:

Over 60,000 downloads of the transcript. Over a dozen productions going up, including Germany, Spain, Warsaw, Kurdistan, Chicago, Winnipeg, Buffalo, and many more. Some people already adapting as a transmedia piece with texts to find a secret theater, versions with video—it's all already happening. This is only people who have reached out, and I'm too buried to even see all of that. It's intense, and humbling, and I'm already very glad I did it.

Download the transcript here.
Underground ghost station explorers spook the security services | UK news | The Guardian:

From Holborn they noticed the rails turn rusty and saw piles of flyers collecting at the tunnel's edges. And then, like hikers who'd reached the best view from the mountain, they saw the forest-green tiles of the platform edge.

For the next four hours they photographed the ticket halls, deserted walkways and antique lift system. Like their other trips – to the roof of St Paul's cathedral, the London Olympic Stadium, Battersea power station – they were careful to leave things as they found them; graffiti is taboo for urban explorers. When the battery on their camera went flat, they got ready to leave. They were interrupted by a shout: "Get on the ground!"

CCTV operators had alerted British transport police, who had issued a terror alert. After infiltrating 200 sites across the city over 10 years and getting away with it, they were busted.

Monologue about Steve Jobs gets one-night performance in Chicago - Chicago Sun-Times:

Chicago actor Lance Baker has taken up performance artist Mike Daisey’s challenge.

Daisey is the author-actor whose monologue, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” is now a major hit at New York’s Public Theatre. But the monologist recently announced his script would be made available to the public as an “open-source, royalty-free” work, downloadable from his website, and available to be adapted and performed by “anyone, anytime, anywhere.”

Baker, a member of the ensemble of A Red Orchid Theatre (who has performed monologues by Will Eno and David Sedaris, and is currently at work on his own meta-monologue about death called “Spalding Gray’s Big Fish”), decided to bite. He will perform the Chicago premiere of this piece — which delves into the more troubling issues of how all our Apple devices are manufactured in Chinese factories — in a one-night-only benefit for the company.

The performance is set for March 5 at 8 p.m. at A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells. Tickets: $20. Call (312) 943-8722 or visit

Friday, February 24, 2012

Is Prosperity Strengthening Beijing's Iron Grip? -

This is the historic price and promise of industrialization: It is no fun, but it is better than subsistence living back on the farm. And, modernization theorists like Seymour Martin Lipset have argued, as people get richer thanks to dismal jobs like those at Foxconn, they are able to demand more rights.

That is a powerful argument, and it has been true not only in the Western developed world, which industrialized first, but also in 20th-century stars like Japan and South Korea. But Daron Acemoglu, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, warns that we should not assume that the happy connection between prosperity and democracy will automatically hold true for China. That is because China is industrializing in the age of Apple — in an era of globalization and the technology revolution.

But globalization and the technology revolution mean that China’s authoritarian rulers have been able to deliver strong economic growth without surrendering political and social control: “Instead of having to develop an entire industry, an emerging market economy can house just some of the tasks such as assembly and operation. This not only enabled China to grow very rapidly by relying on world technology and leveraging its cheap and abundant labor force, but has also mollified demands for structural, social and institutional changes that previous societies undergoing catch-up growth had experienced,” he writes.

Mr. Acemoglu sees a powerful, and worrying, paradox at work. It is the triumph of the open society in the West, with its focus on individual rights, independence and iconoclasm that created the technology revolution. But the impact of those discoveries on the world’s mightiest dictatorship may be to prolong its reign.

John Fairfax, Who Rowed Across Oceans, Dies at 74 -

At 9, he settled a dispute with a pistol. At 13, he lit out for the Amazon jungle.

At 20, he attempted suicide-by-jaguar. Afterward he was apprenticed to a pirate. To please his mother, who did not take kindly to his being a pirate, he briefly managed a mink farm, one of the few truly dull entries on his otherwise crackling résumé, which lately included a career as a professional gambler.

Mr. Fairfax was among the last avatars of a centuries-old figure: the lone-wolf explorer, whose exploits are conceived to satisfy few but himself. His was a solitary, contemplative art that has been all but lost amid the contrived derring-do of adventure-based reality television.



David Pogue weighed in yesterday about the Nightline piece.

I have been trying to engage with Mr. Pogue, but it hasn't gone well.

I hate to take the gloves off, but I feel like there's little choice after this latest column. Pogue has the platform of the NYT to use as he wishes, and after a certain point you have to take him behind the woodshed. Mr. Pogue has developed a habit of repeating Apple talking points with such fervor that he is often leaving out crucial details and context.

And at a certain point good will dissipates, and all that is left are two choices: Mr. Pogue is ignorant, or Mr. Pogue is manipulative.

That's quite a charge, so let me walk you through the piece.

First Pogue summarizes the situation, which I would take some issue with the details of, though it isn't the heart of what I object to. He writes:

Apple responded by vowing to take Chinese worker safety and welfare even more seriously, and it hired the Fair Labor Association to survey 35,000 Foxconn employees about their working conditions. The results of the audit will be made public next month.

To be clear—having yet another audit, particularly from a group Apple has hired to do the job, isn't taking anything more seriously. Apple's own internal auditing, with no oversight, has already found serious problems in its supply chain for years and years.

Apple doesn't contest its own findings, does it? No, they don't. They know there have been severe problems for years and years, and have done nothing to attack the problem at its roots. There's no universe where hiring a group to give people iPad photo op tests in classrooms 30 at a time is a substitute for actual labor remediation.

This is PR.

For its part, Foxconn responded by raising factory workers' salaries as much as 25 percent.

Not so fast. This has become a talking point in favor of Foxconn that has been repeated again and again.
As SACOM has been reporting, "The new basic wage only applies to the workers in Shenzhen. In inland provinces, where two-thirds of production workers are based, basic salary remains meager. Given that inflation in China is high. Foxconn is just following the trend of wage increases in the electronics industry in China."

So it is more accurate to say that Foxconn is raising workers salaries in the specific location where the inspections are happening, at the time of the inspections...and at a time when due to inflation, they would probably be forced to raise them relatively soon.

This is PR. This is not substantive change, from Apple or Foxconn.

Then Mr. Pogue addresses what he feels he learned from the Nightline piece:

It didn't look like a sweatshop, frankly. The assembly-line work was certainly mind-numbingly repetitive — one woman files the burrs off the iPad's Apple-logo hole 6,000 times a day — but that's the nature of assembly-line work. Meanwhile, this factory was clean and modern.

This is where it starts.

Look, can I be frank?

I don't mind it when I hear this talking point from people who wandered into this conversation midway—it's broken into the mainstream, and not everyone has spent two years working exclusively in the realm of Chinese labor practices, and so you need to educate people.

But why do I have to educate David Pogue?

Why is David Pogue unaware of the nature of assembly lines for the creation of the devices he reviews every day? Doesn't he know that they are of course "clean and modern"—they are assembling electronics, and people are in clean suits!

What are my choices here?

A) David Pogue has done so little reading and thinking about these issues that he is genuinely surprised. He had thought it might "look like a sweatshop"—which, I gather from context, is some dank Dickensian room filled with 19th century misery. But this is globalism in the 21st century, and the tech columnist for the NYT should be well-versed in these issues and know the contradictions.


B) Pogue does know this, but he is condescending to his readers to further his argument.

More tellingly, the broadcast showed 3,000 young Chinese workers lining up at the gates for Foxconn's Monday morning recruiting session.


Pogue, this isn't telling. Anyone who has been working on this, or following it even a little, knows that there is enormous pressure for these jobs in China. EVERYONE KNOWS THAT.

The fact that there is such pressure is actually part of the constellation of reasons why abuses flourish—the demand for that work from the rural regions creates a steady supply of new workers who can then be abused. The monthly turnover rate at Foxconn is 20%—20%! That is absolutely extraordinarily high, and says something about how their model works.

But nothing about that demand excuses breaking local Chinese labor law daily, which is what Foxconn does. Because a job is in demand from rural workers in an authoritarian country with tight controls doesn't magically mean that human rights abuses are ok.

This doesn't stop Pogue—he doubles down:

Now, these workers know about the 2010 Foxconn suicides. They know that the starting salary is $2 an hour (plus benefits, and no payroll taxes). They know they'll have 12-hour shifts, with two hourlong breaks. They know that workers sleep in a tiny dorm (six or eight to a room) for $17 a month.

And yet here they are, lining up to work! Apparently, even those conditions, so abhorrent to us, are actually better than these workers' alternatives: backbreaking rural farm work that doesn't prepare them to move up the work force food chain.

Pogue: workers choices in a broken system with very little personal freedom, and very restrictive economic choices, are not excuses for corporate malfeasance.

The violations are documented, even by Apple, and are violations of Chinese labor law. THAT ALONE is enough to merit remediation. And your own paper made clear, the situation is actually a lot worse than the Apple auditing had shown.

You can't get "informed consent" in a country without real personal freedom. These arguments are pathetic—they're structurally nearly identical to the ones made in the 19th century justifying slavery. The fact that workers take these jobs because they feel they have no economic, social, or political choice, and this is the only path, is not an endorsement of the current system—it's actually a condemnation.

It is cute how he makes a point of noting that there are no payroll taxes on your $2 an hour.

Do you think Mr. Pogue verified that, or that he's spent any time digging through Foxconn's history of deceptive paying practices—like how it pretended that it raised employee salaries 30% in 2010 by simply moving money around?

No, I don't think he did, either.

Then Pogue writes:

That's also what a former Apple executive told me this week: that Foxconn is not a career. You don't see 30- and 40-year-old heads of households on the assembly lines. The young Chinese see it as "something like a first summer job," he told me — a way to make some bucks for a few months before heading home, or to get some work experience before moving up.

"First summer job"? "Heading home"? "Moving up"?

What the hell, Pogue?

First, it is sad that a former Apple executive is this out to lunch...but typical, based on the hundreds of Apple employees who have contacted me over the years. People create all kinds of delusions to justify their decisions and frameworks.

But, Pogue—you?

This isn't a "summer job"—it's people who never left their villages uprooting their whole lives. It's not a summer—it's often at least a few years, often longer, at first at Foxconn and across the SEZ.

And the stakes are ENORMOUS for these people—the money they make can save their families back home.

My "first summer job" didn't have 20 people in a village in a rural area praying I would send money back home on my one day off a month, once I managed to walk down to the Western Union after working 12 and 14 hour shifts every single day. My "first summer job" never got me poisoned, nor did anyone gather a group of my coworkers around me to scream at me to humiliate me, nor did I have to do military exercises to break down my will. My "first summer job" never started with me as an "intern" who gets worked to the bone for starvation wages because it is an "educational experience".

There is just about NOTHING in this situation that is like "a first summer job".

The fact that Mr. Pogue would publish this morsel, without comment, as explanation or context raises the same questions.

Does Mr. Pogue simply know very little about this situation?

Or does it further the portrait he is painting to ignore these things?

The second enlightening twist, for me, was a note sent to me from a young man, born in China and now attending an American university.

You can read the entire note at the article, but the short version is that the student's aunt was a prostitute before she got a job in a factory, where work was hard but better than being in the rural area. He asks that we think before calling to shut down sweatshops, because they enable people to escape harsh circumstances. It ends on a nice note—the aunt is now in America, and the job at the sweatshop made that possible.

It's a nice letter—and substantially, I agree with it.

Factory work can lift people out of wretched situations. No one, NO ONE, who is on the side of equitable labor standards disagrees with that. NO ONE.

That's why this is so disingenuous for Mr. Pogue to print it this way. It's one thing for the writer of the letter, who probably isn't following this situation closely, to be worried that what people are agitating for is the shutting down of factories.

But the fact is that no one has ever been talking about that in this entire debate. In fact, the only time it comes up is as a fear-based talking point, built around the delusion that the very people who want humane working conditions are actually trying to take away jobs.

Pogue must know this. He must. Yet...he publishes the whole letter, paragraphs and paragraphs, and refers to it as an "enlightening twist".

Is Pogue so ignorant of the ongoing discussion that he doesn't know that no one has been advocating for shutting down factories?

Or is publishing this letter a great way for Pogue to insinuate that argument, without having to actually make it?

Plenty of Westerners remain unconvinced, too, even by ABC’s report and Apple’s investigation. “Nightline,” for example, is a production of ABC News, which is owned by the Walt Disney Company; its chief executive serves on the Apple board, and the Steve Jobs Trust is Disney’s largest shareholder. (To its credit, ABC mentioned that potential conflict of interest in the broadcast.)

I haven't talked about this very much, but yes—inviting Nightline, of all people, to evaluate Apple is an incredible conflict of interest. I really wonder why Apple invited Nightline? They could have invited anyone. Isn't it strange that they would invite the group that raises the most questions with regards to objectivity?

I love that we now say "to its credit" ABC mentioned it. "Credit"? Have we fallen that low?

You don't get credit for mentioning the MASSIVE CONFLICT OF INTEREST your corporate masters have. That's a requirement.

Or maybe it feels that way to Mr. Pogue. After all, it's not as though he talks about his bestselling books, all about the Mac, the iPhone, the iPad, and all the Apple products he has been writing manuals about for years. Since he never feels any need to talk about
his conflicts of interest, perhaps he's impressed when others do.

Mr. Pogue wraps it up with:

In other words, the lessons of this controversy have more to do with China than with Apple. This is only marginally a technology story.

Is this Mr. Pogue's tacit admission as to why he's so ignorant of its facts? Because even though it is about the circumstances under which his technology is made, it is not a technology story?

Presumably that is because technology stories involve blinking lights, whirring sounds, and someone foursquaring from Silicon Valley while they update their Tumblr. It doesn't involve, in Mr. Pogue's view, such unsightly things as labor, work, and the real cost of an actual device.

We don't have time for this anymore.

Whether it comes from ignorance or deception, the stakes in labor, for working people's lives every day, are too important to be left to the likes of Mr. Pogue.

He had an opportunity to study this story. He's had the time to read and get up to speed. He could have been in the forefront, telling it, and instead he's in the rearguard, behind the mainstream press who is doing technology journalists' job for them, picking at the leftovers, making faces, and wondering when he can get back to slagging off the new Samsung tablet and embracing the next Apple device.

I'm not asking that Mr. Pogue agree with me. I'm saying he has shown he isn't competent to have this conversation from the platform of the New York Times.

If Mr. Pogue won't do his work and know enough about the situation to write articles that live up to what's really at stake here, he can stop. Now there are journalists doing the yeoman's work of holding this industry accountable who do not have as many conflicts of interest as Mr. Pogue has.
He can go back to reviewing gadgets. I will read him where I always have—after
Mossberg and Ars Technica.


People have been asking where they can find the transcript of the show. It's at the top of the sidebar, or you can download it
here to read the story.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Frequent readers will know that I have been trying to get Mr. David Pogue to contact me, in any form, since he commented on my work. You can read the details of the original post

Since that time I have pinged Mr. Pogue on Twitter, emailed him three times, and spoken with his colleagues to seek their advice. Nothing but silence.

In the time since he posted a
rather weakly constructed piece on labor, he has found time to post about candy packaging:


And today, the miracle of apps that let you deposit your checks by taking a picture of them, AKA "2010 is calling with breaking news":



If anyone sees Mr. Pogue, recently spotted investigating breaking stories on Snickers bite sizes (ARE THEY...REALLY?) and felt they could direct him to a response from someone whom he found the time to talk shit about, it would be appreciated.


Let's recall that this is an ardent Mac fan and Apple journalist who lives near NYC, where this show has been playing nightly since October. The invitation stands to the show, and I'd still welcome that drink.

You can tweet him at the above handle—@pogue.

He likes Skittles, and depositing checks. Dialogue? Not so much.

I would be happy to finally be proven wrong.
Macintouch: Apple Reports:

With all due respect to Mr. Seward -- and coming from someone who's worked at ABC, NBC, FOX as well as the print media -- the issue isn't "Entertainment vs. News".

The issue is "News vs. $/Advertising Revenue". And you'd better believe that if ABC's findings had a chance of hurting the company financially (in terms of lost ad revenue or disparaging the parent company), they'd sit on the story.

Here's an example of this. ABC killed a story on 20/20 exposing Disney's lax attitude toward employing pedophiles at its theme parks -- at Disney's request.

There is no ethical smartphone -

“It seems odd to me that the devices that empower us so much,” Wood says, “should themselves be the products of alienation. But it’s even more interesting to think that they could be one of the first cases that can actually help overcome the gulf between the different worlds of producers and consumers. A demonstrator in Taiwan can film an action at HTC on their smartphone, and upload it to Facebook, where six degrees of separation can see it viewed by half the people on the planet. And if you can’t forget it and do want to find out more, a couple of clicks can make direct contact and link your device with that of people on the other side of the planet, whose existence you’d never given a second thought about before.”

Welcome to the fundamental contradiction of the age of the smartphone. The same gizmos that enable the ultra-efficient globalized exploitation of labor — computers, broadband networks, digital communication devices — are the tools that we must use to address and overcome those inequities. Sounds crazy, but it’s true: If you want an “ethical iPhone,” you’re going to have to use your unethical iPhone to get it.

Apple Investigator Has His Doubts About Nightline's Foxconn Report [INTERVIEW]:

As Daisey made clear on his personal blog, he believes the Nightline story itself was an “inherently positive” development because it is bringing greater attention to a very important subject. Still, Daisey does have a few issues with the report.

The first issue is one of bias. As Nightline acknowledged in the segment, ABC News is owned by the Disney Corporation and its CEO, Bob Iger, is a member of Apple’s Board of Directors. Moreover, the Steve Jobs Trust is Disney’s largest shareholder. (In the interests of full disclosure, Mashable has a syndication partnership with ABC News.)

While Daisey wasn’t implying that ABC News or Nightline breached journalistic ethics in creating the report — and he specifically reiterated that — he does question why the news organization was granted access to the story in the first place.

The Book of Jobs | The Great Debate:

Working at Foxconn is nothing like that. Surveillance cameras are ubiquitous; “military” protocols the sneaker factories abolished in the early nineties govern every little process; countless rules seem intended purely to subjugate; and security guards are friends with no one, as Sun Danyong learned when an iPhone prototype in his car went missing in the summer of 2009. Foxconn security searched, interrogated, and tortured Sun in episodes he described bitterly to friends. The more he thought about it, the angrier he became.

So he jumped out of his 12th-story window to protest the perverse pathology that values inanimate objects over the humans that make them. Nowhere in his final text messages or chat transcripts did he mention long hours or low wages. The first news reports focused on Foxconn’s draconian confidentiality and non-compete agreements; in ensuing interviews with the Hong Kong labor rights organization Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM), workers focused mostly on military training, standing, and other practices they described as “nonsense.”

But the nonsense works better closer to home. Excerpts of Adam Lashinsky’s new exploration of Apple’s vaunted “culture of collaboration,” Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired–And Secretive–Company Really Works, detail a policy prohibiting employees from talking to one another about any topic about which both parties have not yet been officially “disclosed” — Distortionspeak for “cleared to discuss” — by a higher authority.

To be clear: Enforcing such a policy at a company that prides itself on collaboration is pretty much the textbook definition of “Orwellian.” It is also good for shareholder value and a practice that has stood the test of time: Forbidding workers from talking to one another keeps wages down, especially when senior management has struck deals with its rivals (as Apple allegedly did) agreeing to refrain from poaching one another’s talent.

The Lorax and Intellectual Property - Parabasis:

I can't help but feel that this is yet another great example of why copyright over a work should perish with its author. The stewards of Dr. Seuss's work-- the people respnsible for licensing this crap-- are not moving forward with the work's best intentions at heart. Dr. Seuss's work would be better served by being in the public domain, where many adaptations could bloom, none of them "official," allowing the source text to continue to be the one real version of the story.
From here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012



In 24 hours the transcript has been downloaded 27,000 times.

It means that in one day more copies of this work have gone out to people than the print runs of any new American play over the last five years.

Some rehearsals have begun, people are planning readings, performances—you can follow it all on Twitter at #agonyecstasy or @mdaisey.

I'm exhausted but elated.

Download it here.
Google News results this morning on Foxconn:


Fascinating to see our id out in the open, buried in the Google results—85 news articles clustered around factory conditions, 616 clustered around how much our devices will cost.

Of course, as we've talked about many times on this site, it's a shell game—there's no third cluster for people questioning corporate profit margins, and the means by which they are realized in an age of globalism.
Factory workers claim Foxconn hid underage employees before FLA inspection:

Workers at Apple partner Foxconn have alleged that their employer transferred underage employees to other departments or did not schedule them to work overtime in order to avoid discovery during recent inspections by the Fair Labor Association, according to one non-governmental organization.

Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) project officer Debby Sze Wan Chan relayed the claims in a recent interview with AppleInsider. SACOM is a Hong Kong-based NGO that was formed in 2005 and has been researching labor rights violations in the electronics industry since 2007.

Chan said she had heard from two Foxconn workers in Zhenghou last week that the manufacturer was "prepared for the inspection" by the Fair Labor Association that had been commissioned by Apple and began last week.

"All underage workers, between 16-17 years old, were not assigned any overtime work and some of them were even sent to other departments," Chan reported the workers as having said.

Another Foxconn worker in Chengdu said she had been allowed three breaks a day recently because of the audit, whereas she is accustomed to only receiving one break a day.

The 2011 Trading 8s “Journalist of the Year” Award – Trading 8s:

Trading 8s tends to bestow the honor of “Journalist of the Year” on unorthodox journalists. Some might say they aren’t even journalists. At least, not in the Woodward-and-Bernstein kind of way. The 2009 award went to Ezra Klein, who’s known more for his blogging, and the 2010 award went to Paul Krugman, an economist who snuck in the back door of The New York Times with an op-ed column and a blog. This year, we push the boundaries even further.

Mike Daisey doesn’t work for a newspaper or a TV station or any kind of news outlet. He maintains a blog, but that’s just to keep his fans up-to-date. Mike Daisey’s real work is on the stage because Mike Daisey is a monologist.

I had to look up what that word means. A monologist performs monologues–or, you might call them, one-man shows.

Apparently, Mike Daisey has been King of the Monologists for several years, but let’s face it, that’s a pretty small kingdom. So I didn’t know what to expect when I went to see his show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” in downtown Manhattan in early December.

12 hours in. Someone has already been rehearsing, and recorded an early version of the first scene of the monologue.

The kicker—it's coming from Kurdistan.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Just a heads up for the media and others who are looking—I addressed the Nightline piece that airs tonight across America in something I wrote yesterday, when the transcript and Reporter's Notebook dropped.

Takeaway: I'm glad NIGHTLINE went, I'm delighted that they are helping to humanize the issues, and I think their investigations were hampered by their methods and the circumstances they are working in.

You can read the full entry


There was a piece in the NYT over the weekend about the wage increases at Foxconn:
Pressures Drive Change at China’s Electronics Giant Foxconn.

In it, there's this section just four paragraphs in, states the following as obvious fact:

For that system to genuinely change, Foxconn, its competitors and their clients — which include Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and the world’s other large electronics firms — must convince consumers in America and elsewhere that improving factories to benefit workers is worth the higher prices of goods.

“This is the way capitalism is supposed to work,” said David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “As nations develop, wages rise and life theoretically gets better for everyone.

“But in China, for that change to be permanent, consumers have to be willing to bear the consequences. When people read about bad Chinese factories in the paper, they might have a moment of outrage. But then they go to Amazon and are as ruthless as ever about paying the lowest prices.”

There is, of course, another alternative—that the consumer is not alone, and that corporations could realize thinner margins on their devices. Apple makes a 60% gross margin on each device, and as I posted over the weekend from the Bloomberg report, there's a direct correlation between Apple's increasing profit margin and Foxconn's shrinking one, which now has been halved since they started working with Apple and hovers at around 1.5%.

I love that Mr. Autor speaks with such clean authority: This is the way capitalism is supposed to work. The corporations do their part, and then if consumers make the strategic mistake of caring about anything or anyone, the responsibility is entirely and totally theirs.

It also does a really disgusting thing—it transfers the direct responsibility for these conditions from the corporations, whom we naturally have expected to follow the rule of law and have not, and instead blames the users. It equates the public looking for the cheapest electronic at Amazon as being totally morally equivalent with the ethical decisions Apple made when it systematically ignored its own evidence for years and continued to work people to death.

This is presented toward the top of the article in a blase manner, as though it is so obvious it does not require discussion.

I see this again and again, where even organizations like the NYT will give these views a broad foundation, without any dissent presented, despite the fact that the largest pressure that has led to this situation is not a rapacious customer base but the unending hunger of the corporations to increase their profit margins at all costs.

Mr. Duhigg and Mr. Barboza's work in documenting the stories at Foxconn have been admirable. I hope they will apply the same kind of rigor to their analysis—just as responsibility for the creation of this situation did not derive directly and wholly from the public, and even though it is the people who often have the role of cleaning up these messes, it doesn't mean they are culpable in a direct way for the crimes.

The transcript of THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY OF STEVE JOBS, available under a royalty-free license to be performed anywhere in the world without restriction, is now available.

I would ask that people link to the landing page, and not the file itself—and if people would link to the page instead of hosting the file, this will help when revisions are made in the future.

The page where the download may be found is
lead me home
Playwright’s Retreat at Ucross | Sundance Institute:

When I woke up, I looked out the window at a herd of white-tailed deer and then I opened the guestbook on my desk and found an entry from the poet Jean Valentine, whom I love, and then another from Young Jean Lee. Young Jean, in addition to being a person I like, represents something I admire. When I think of her the words freedom, naked (I know), defiance, and light come to mind. In my experience with her work, she faces the unknown with both ferocity and humility. Reading her entry, in which she described also napping on this very couch, made me feel calm, and I opened my MacBook (refurbished and donated to me by Mike Daisey, before his trip to Shenzhen) and pulled up my play.

Monday, February 20, 2012


Gruber has seen fit to respond to a couple of different pieces—
tearing Henry Blodgett a new one for getting his facts wrong, and today does a similar job with ZDNet UK.

He hasn't responded to
my piece, despite being tagged on Twitter, perhaps because he doesn't have as easy a bone to pick.

But I am hoping that he'll actually talk about what he thinks of Apple's relationship with the press corps, and whether he thinks these kind of private briefings pose potential problems. If Apple is going to be making announcements this way, it could be argued they are getting more closed rather than more open—I'd be interested in his response.

Similarly, I am still awaiting word from Mr. Pogue to
my response to his post a week ago. His only response so far has been this:


I refuted this in my post, strongly, and I've since emailed David twice, but he's choosing not to respond. He did have time to post this:

I'm hoping that when Mr. Pogue's investigation of candy packaging pauses, even for a moment, perhaps he will address me.


Nightline just announced that they'll be doing an exclusive from inside Foxconn about Apple's supply chain. You can watch the rather breathless promo trailer
here, and the text is already online at the same link.

First, let me be clear—it's good that due to public pressure Apple caved and felt they had to let someone in. They are doing everything they can to spin this, but it is very good for connecting us to the manufacturing process of our devices, and most importantly the lives of the people who make them.

The story does a lot for actually helping to give a human face to people who have been ignored forever.

But context is everything. Here are some selected quotes from the article that illuminate Foxconn's control and Nightline's methodology:

When Apple first called, I assumed this audit would include a surprise inspection. But Foxconn has known for days that we were coming...there were always five to six people with us as we toured the factories and dorms.

So Nightline had unrestricted access and could talk to whomever they chose, but there were always a group of Foxconn people with them at all times. So workers have a news crew, with cameras and lights, and a number of Foxconn executives shadowing them, and in that environment they were expected to tell their stories.

Frankly, the fact that workers talked as much as they did is remarkable, and congruent with my experiences.

Over three days in two cities, "Nightline" spoke with dozens of Foxconn workers

Let's assume this means 36 hours or so on the ground in each city, and 8 or 9 hours for sleep each night—it's basically a work day (an American one—remember, 12 hour shifts are standard at Foxconn) to do all the interviewing of workers, see the facilities, speak with the FLA, speak with Foxconn executives, do assessments, build trust, and search out labor violations—all while you have the cameras, the lights, and the aforementioned Foxconn executives in tow.

I was alone, and my investigations were more targeted and more through than this. In fact, if Nightline only spoke with dozens of workers, then that means in raw terms I actually spoke with more workers—and I spoke with them in circumstances where trust could be created, and took the time needed to have those conversations.

So when Nightline says:

But while we looked hard for the kind of underage and maimed workers we've read so much about, but we mostly found people who face their days through soul-crushing boredom and deep fatigue.

you have to take it with a grain of salt, in the context of what they were doing.

The whole reason I talked about the underage workers I met in the monologue was because of how they said the monitoring was completely ineffective. Even Apple's own audits have discovered child labor in their supply lines—but you need real labor investigators, with independence, to root things out.

And maimed workers? Why on earth would maimed workers still be on the production lines? I talk about how they get thrown away when they don't perform—why would they be waiting in the dormitories to give interviews?

News organizations like Nightline are fantastic at catching executives saying the wrong thing—which is often when they say exactly what they mean.

Louis Woo is quoted a couple of times in the piece running interference for Foxconn—at one point he conflates China's Communist-run state unions with real unions, in an attempt to make it sound like it isn't illegal to organize a union. (It is.)

But the best part is when this former Apple executive, who has moved over to Foxconn in their very cozy relationship, says:

"Of course you can argue that we should have opened up five years ago. Well five years ago, we are under the radar screen, nobody really knows us, we are doing well. Why should I open it up?"

This is the real voice of both Apple and Foxconn. They knew what the labor situation was years ago—they knew their workers were being driven into the ground, they knew exactly what they were doing as they squeezed margins and ran their workers harder...

...and their only real regret is that the world started paying attention.

And had no one spoken up, they would not have changed a single thing.

That may not be the PR spin Apple is hoping for, but it's the truth.

This is exactly why we can not take our eye off the ball. Apple is reacting here to public pressure, and we can not afford the luxury of believing that anything happening now would happen without that pressure. We must not relent.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Quality helps theater drive social change - Colin Dabkowski - The Buffalo News:

With the help of other articles written about Apple during the past month and a half, Daisey’s stunning performance on “This American Life” set off a firestorm of complaints that has yet to relent. Last week, activists presented a petition with 250,000 signatures to one of the company’s New York City stores demanding Apple improve the labor practices of its suppliers.

This week, in its latest agitated response to mounting public concern, Apple announced a new investigation into its largest supplier, Foxconn, at least suggesting it is taking serious action.

“The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” should give pause to anyone who claims that live theater is no longer powerful or relevant enough to create direct and measurable social or political change. Granted, theater directed at social change does not always create the buzz Daisey’s play has — mostly because a great deal of such theater tends toward bland polemics and lacks the chops of Daisey’s delivery and the crackle of his writing.

Daisey’s powerful piece gives a lesson about the importance of quality for those who would dare to employ theater as a tool for social change.
Mike Daisey to Offer Free Download and Open License to Perform The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs - Theater News - Feb 17, 2012:

Mike Daisey, whose run of The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs at the Public Theater has just been extended through March 18, will make the script of the monologue available to download for free on the artist's website, beginning Tuesday, February 21.

Furthermore, he is granting an open license -- free of charge and without royalty -- to anyone who wishes to perform or adapt the work in any way around the world.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Wicked Stage: The Full McNulty:

But it's the best, most forceful articulation of a theme McNulty's touched before (and his predecessor tackled from a slightly different angle), and more importantly, it eloquently and urgently organizes a lament I've been hearing almost since I started covering theater in the early 1990s: that nonprofit resident theaters have lost their way, that their work doesn't reflect their communities/the zeitgeist/anything other than commercial motives, that they're too focused on New York, both as a validating destination and as a programming guide, etc. A related argument, about the increasing commercialization of nonprofits, particularly in New York, has surfaced on blogs, most notably Parabasis. But as far as I've read, McNulty is virtually alone in the American press in sounding this alarm this way, and for that he deserves huge props.
Apple Profit Margins Rise at Foxconn’s Expense: Chart of the Day - Bloomberg:

Apple’s margin has more than doubled the past five years, spurred by its smartphones and tablets, which now generate more than half of the Cupertino, California-based company’s revenue. Hon Hai has boosted its workforce, raised wages and expanded factories to keep up with demand during the same period, though not fully passing along its additional costs, the data show.
Regional theater's art moving off center stage -

The problem in a nutshell is this: Established theaters have by and large grown larger, public funding has become a monumental challenge and artistic directors have moved in an increasingly commercial direction, adopting a bottom-line mentality that has put publicity and profitability over bold and substantive choices.
The Week in Pop: My pop-culture picks:

8. Mike Daisey -- The writer/intrepid reporter is the man behind The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, which chronicles his trip to the Apple factory in China. He plans to post the script online next week.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tim Worstall has returned, briefly, to speak about labor conditions at Foxconn.

Frequent readers of the site may remember Mr. Worstall from when I called him on the carpet for
this, which he then decided to defend here, whereupon I utterly demolished all of his arguments here.

There was no further response from Mr. Worstall. Presumably he has been licking his wounds and skulking awkwardly—he's had weeks to respond to the thrashing I gave them, but it a fit of wisdom he has let it go.

Today Mr. Worstall links to
this Reuters story, about Foxconn's announcement that they will be raising wages in his piece.

He repeats an error in the Reuters story and in much of the coverage—this is not the third wage increase the workers have received. The wage increase in 2010 was really just a reallocation of how workers were paid—by breaking out their housing and food allowances they made it look as though pay was rising, but it did not appreciably change.
SACOM's reports from the fall of 2010 cover this.

He writes:

I’m not quite a Marxist, in the sense that I don’t believe that everything is about economics. But I would certainly plump for an economic rather than political reason for these pay rises.

I'm inclined to agree with him on the broad strokes—but really, the timing? They just happen to announce the raises now? That timing really seems completely disconnected from what's happening with Apple and Foxconn at this moment?

To think, it's Mr. Worstall who has been so fond of calling
me naive.


Yesterday Apple announced
Mountain Lion, a new iteration of OS X.

Or, more accurately, Daring Fireball and Apple's personal press corp announced Mountain Lion.

John Gruber is a Apple commentator and tech blogger. I've been reading
his site for years and years—I have a couple of Daring Fireball t-shirts which I'm quite fond of from back in the day, and his site is unquestionably one of the best designed.

Yesterday he published
an extraordinary story—basically he broke the news about Mountain Lion.

Of course, he's not alone and didn't
really break the story—a lot of journalists all voluntarily embargoed news about Mountain Lion, and published simultaneously.

But what is exceptional is that he writes about the experience in the first person, which gives us insight into Apple PR methodologies:

We were sitting in a comfortable hotel suite in Manhattan just over a week ago. I’d been summoned a few days earlier by Apple PR with the offer of a private “product briefing”. I had no idea heading into the meeting what it was about. I had no idea how it would be conducted. This was new territory for me, and I think, for Apple.

When Mr. Gruber was "summoned", he says it was a few days earlier. Does Apple put him up in a midtown Manhattan hotel room while he awaits his audience? Why has he been there for a few days—does Apple summon tech journalists and bloggers and stash them in hotel rooms until they are ready for them?

Perhaps he means he was contacted a few days previously. I'm not entirely being snarky—I'm trying to illustrate the power relationship. The point is that Apple snaps its fingers, and people respond.

The meeting was structured and conducted very much like an Apple product announcement event. But instead of an auditorium with a stage and theater seating, it was simply with a couch, a chair, an iMac, and an Apple TV hooked up to a Sony HDTV. And instead of a room full of writers, journalists, and analysts, it was just me, Schiller, and two others from Apple — Brian Croll from product marketing and Bill Evans from PR.

So tech journalists and bloggers are led into a room, and a team of people who run arguably the most powerful tech company in the world do a full presentation entirely just for them. But they don't come as a group—they are divided off, one at a time.

Is there any other rationale for the extreme effort of doing this, over and over, than the obvious?

By dividing them, you can control your audience. By letting only one person in at a time, you can keep tight hold of your messaging—the chances of someone asking an uncomfortable question about anything is significantly lessened.

Many companies would like to run their announcements this way. Not many do, because a free press doesn't stand for it, as it is incredibly restrictive. But Apple can and does get treatment other companies wouldn't, and they exploit that.

(From the outside, at least in my own experience, Apple’s product marketing and PR people are so well-coordinated that it’s hard to discern the difference between the two.)

Submitted without comment.

There many new features, I’m told, but today they’re going to focus on telling me about ten of them. This is just like an Apple event, I keep thinking.

It must be incredibly flattering to receive this kind of personal attention. So personal that they make a point of doing it separately to every influential tech journalist and blogger whom they are talking to—enough of them that it took days, perhaps even a week, and certainly involved bringing a number of people from different places to this suite in Midtown and others like it.

This is an awful lot of effort and attention in order to brief what I’m guessing is a list of a dozen or two writers and journalists. It’s Phil Schiller, spending an entire week on the East Coast, repeating this presentation over and over to a series of audiences of one. There was no less effort put into the preparation of this presentation than there would have been if it had been the WWDC keynote address.

It could also be that rehearsed because Apple knows how important it is to control messaging at this moment. They have been giving this same message, again and again, to each tech journalist and blogger in these private sessions. Apple can't afford unsightly and embarrassing questions about labor, or life after Steve Jobs—hence the incredible control.

Apple is not exactly known for sharing details of as-yet-unannounced products, even if only just one week in advance. Why not hold an event to announce Mountain Lion — or make the announcement on before talking to us?

That’s when Schiller tells me they’re doing some things differently now.

I wonder immediately about that “now”. I don’t press, because I find the question that immediately sprang to mind uncomfortable.

Good for you, Mr. Gruber. It should make you uncomfortable.

And I think it is great that he describes what it feels like in the room—how hard it is to press, how hard it is to ask direct questions that there is even a feeling might be unwelcome.

How much of this positioning found its way into the Mountain Lion coverage that landed on the web yesterday in a carefully coordinated simultaneous drop? How could Apple have been so confident no one would possibly go rogue and scoop anyone else?

Simple—a trusted relationship. The people being given these briefings need access to Apple. They need to make certain Apple remains happy.

And some things remain unchanged: Apple executives explain what they want to explain, and they explain nothing more.

Ain't that the truth?

It is remarkable that Apple could let its top executives spend a week briefing a small number of influential tech journalists and bloggers...but it can not find the time to do a press conference about labor conditions that have been making headlines around the world.

Look, I get that being a tech journalist is hard—a lot of the job is reviewing devices, and you need access for that to happen more effectively than the next person. I've been around the block, and I've talked to many of you off the record. I'm well aware that Apple doesn't have to invite anyone to their special briefings.

But that cuts both ways. Journalists don't have to agree to attend these briefings, either. And I'm questioning the intimacy of the relationship Apple forges with a selected group of the most powerful voices in tech journalism.

I wouldn't be making a point of this if tech reviewers only reviewed devices and nothing else. But we all know that's not how the world works—tech journalists and prominent bloggers set the tone for technology. They decide in large part if what the tenor is of our discourse—what is and is not a story.

Tech journalists whose pageviews and popularity depend on access to Apple have been active in discussions of Foxconn and Apple's labor practices—of course they have. It's a very valid question to examine how Apple's role as kingmaker affects our coverage.

Apple is masterful at manipulating the media cycle—everyone knows that. But now it's not just about who has the best device. It's about labor, and lives, and the stakes have never been higher.

All I'm asking is that we start really talking about it. Now.

For starters—can we get some public disclosures? Who participated in these Mountain Lion briefings? Who received devices? We can make a list based on what reviews dropped yesterday, but I'd much rather see people be forthright about it.

And once we've all admitted that this happens—how does it affect coverage? Of the industry? Of Apple? Is tech journalism capable of looking at itself in the mirror and talking about how their sausage gets made?

I'm not asking that people agree with me—I'm asking that the debate happen more fully in the open.

I believe it can happen. I believe there are people writing about tech every day who understand that this needs to happen. Journalists know that Apple has long practiced a level of PR spin, often with the unspoken threat of the loss of access, unparalleled in this industry.

Everyone knows that—it's one of the things everyone admired about Steve Jobs.

You know, I keep getting asked by reporters, again and again, how a story of this size and scale escaped reporting for years at a time.

When I began my investigations over three years ago there was already a large number of reports from NGOs and human rights groups on abuses at Foxconn and across the SEZ—how could technology, a field so important that it has its own brand of journalists, have failed to see it? It's clearly their story, but an entire field filled with smart people didn't tell an enormously important story. What happened?

I'll be talking about this more in upcoming weeks, but yesterday's announcement is a piece of that puzzle.
Cento per farne una [EXPLORE]
Early Praise in Foxconn Inspection Brings Doubt -

Officials from several labor groups said on Thursday that they were surprised and dismayed by Mr. van Heerden’s comments.

“Generally, in a labor rights investigation, the findings come after the evidence is gathered, not the other way around,” said Scott Nova, executive director of the Workers Rights Consortium, a university-backed group that monitors apparel factories worldwide.

“I’m amazed that the F.L.A. would give one of the most notoriously abusive factories in the world a clean bill of health — based, it appears, on nothing more than a guided tour provided by the owner,” he added. “If the F.L.A. wants to convince people that it can somehow conduct an impartial investigation of Apple, despite being funded by Apple, this is not a good way to start.”

Heather White, the founder of Verite, another monitoring group, said Mr. van Heerden’s remarks appeared hasty. “That he would make any comments prior to workers being interviewed off-site in a confidential environment is somewhat premature, to say the least,” she said. “He doesn’t speak Chinese and he is not a trained auditor qualified to make quick assessments.”

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wednesday, February 15, 2012




Sure, Apple Could Build the iPhone Here | The Nation:

In loyalties, Apple is spiritually offshore. “We sell iPhones in over a hundred countries,” an Apple executive told the Times. “We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible.”

It was the phrase about having no obligation that riled up Clyde Prestowitz, one of the US government’s top trade negotiators in the Reagan years. In an acrid posting on the Foreign Policy website and in a chat over the phone with me from his winter quarters in Maui, Prestowitz efficiently dismembered Apple’s “no obligation” pretensions and its rationale for why it and kindred companies had no alternative to offshoring.

In the 1981–86 period, Prestowitz says, Jobs and his executives “had the funny notion that the US government had an obligation to help them…. We did all we could, and in doing so came to learn that virtually everything Apple had for sale, from the memory chips to the cute pointer mouse, had had its origins in some program wholly or partially supported by US government money…. The heart of the computer is the microprocessor, and Apple’s derived from Motorola’s 680X0, which was developed with much assistance, direct and indirect, from the Defense Department, as were the DRAM memory chips. The pointer mouse came from Xerox’s PARC center near Stanford (which also enjoyed government funding). In addition, most computer software at that time derived from work with government backing.”

Prestowitz points out that Apple also assumes the US government is obligated to stop foreign pirating of Apple’s intellectual property and, should supply chains in the Far East be disrupted, to offer the comforting support of the Seventh Fleet. “And those supply chains. Are they the natural product of good old free market capitalism, or does that scalability and flexibility and capacity to mobilize large numbers of workers on a moment’s notice have something to do with government subsidies and the interventionist industrial policies of most Asian economies?”

What about those jobs that “aren’t coming back”? We’re not talking about simple assembly that costs a bundle per unit in America and mere cents in China. In the mid-’90s, at the Apple plant in Elk Grove, California, the cost of building a computer was $22 a machine, compared with as little as $5 at a factory in Taiwan. This is not a dominant factor when the machine sells for $1,500 and you have costs like transport to figure in. Furthermore, stricken America is actually becoming a low-wage magnet.
On Theatre and Politics - Matthew Freeman: Broadway Bound?:

They sort of buried the lead here on the New York Times Artsbeat blog. Steve Jobs Monologue Downloadable, Free.

Readers are informed that Mike Daisey will release the full text of his incredibly famous and massively influential monologue for free, and not ask for royalties when it is performed.

The real story is in the final quote from Daisey:

"He also hopes that the free transcript will bring the monologue to another destination: “I have not managed to get this show to Broadway, but if someone else wants to try, more power to them.”

How is it possible that The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs is not Broadway bound? Among its list of accomplishments are inspiring the most downloaded episode in the history of This American Life; changing the consciousness of the press about how beloved Apple does business; forcing Apple to actually change its corporate policies; making all of us take a good long look at what we're prepared to accept in order to get comfort and fun. This piece is at the heart of the cultural dialogue. It speaks to uniquely American issues like sending jobs overseas, our love of technology, our blinders when it comes to costs and capitalism, and our deification of those we admire. It's all we hope theater can be: stripped down, personal, immediate, essential, truthful.

How is it that Spider Man has more of a place on Broadway than Mike Daisey? What relationship does Broadway actually have to the finest work of American theater artists anymore?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012



I'm in the midst of doing an incredible amount of media, but this is worth commenting on because it's so amazingly boneheaded, and it is the flavor of boneheaded that you only get with the THEA-TAH...a vaguely 18th century regressive way of viewing a dynamic, live, utterly relevant art form I and many other practice now.

So the Guardian, which I normally love, published

This is so jaw-droppingly stupid, it could only come from the bowels of the THEA-TAH—a universe that prides itself on not ever interacting with, or touching, the popular culture in any way, shape, or form.

The errors start factually in the first sentence: I'm not a playwright. I have written plays in the past, so I know what I'm talking about—this is not a play. Plays have characters, in relationship to one another.

Even more importantly, plays are written.

And I don't script my monologues—I tell them extemporaneously, night after night, and refine them for the stage. But they never lock, they are never finished, and there is no script.

So I can't actually endanger the "European premiere" of my work, because I have to be there for the work to happen, because the act of the work is me telling the story of what I have witnessed. That's the act of the monologist.

The Guardian doesn't seem to understand this, which isn't surprising—
last week the Guardian printed that I had only done this monologue in tiny obscure clubs before this moment, instead of performing it for over 70,000 people in 18 cities. Some people will understand what they want to understand to make a story work—as a professional storyteller, I'm familiar with the pitfalls of that kind of fallacy.

Mr. Trueman goes on to say:

"Daisey's announcement yesterday that he will post a full script online, and allow anyone to perform it royalty-free, raises the possibility of the performance being gazumped."

Gazumped? WTF? Is this vocabulary used only by people in the THEA-TAH? Do they have monocles and top hats whilst they perambulate to luncheon time?

It's true that the transcript (it's not a script for me) will be published. And it is true that I'm releasing it completely royalty-free, for anyone to do with whatever they wish. And I will allow theater scholars to decide if when this work is being performed by an actor if it would then be considered a play—I'll let others weigh in on that.

Finally, with regards to the possibility of the "European Premiere" being pre-empted...

...does anyone actually care about this shit?

I mean, seriously. Other than the forces of the THEA-TAH? This is exactly why for the last few years we don't let anyone have the WORLD PREMIERE of our work, because it's a ridiculous exercise in theatrical egotism. Audiences care about the work that is happening in front of them, the ideas and emotions in conflict, and the way in which that catharsis can lead to change within themselves and in the world.

The fact that the Guardian can't understand what is groundbreaking about releasing this work under a completely open license is part and parcel of exactly what is wrong with the traditional theater world.

Until we transform from THEA-TAH to theater, we will never be the art form we could be.

But change is coming.