Sunday, September 30, 2012

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mayor Bloomberg Unfazed By Growing Income Gap In New York City:

Manhattan’s income gap now rivals many third-world nations — but Mayor Michael Bloomberg doesn’t mind.

“That’s not a measure of something we should be ashamed of,” Bloomberg told reporters at a press conference on Staten Island Thursday, when asked about new census data out last week.

The latest numbers show the gap between the city’s rich and poor is on the rise, with the median income for the bottom fifth of New Yorkers down to less than $9,000 in 2011, while the top fifth of households made a median $200,000.

The disparity was even starker in Manhattan, where the top-fifth earners took in nearly $400,000, versus less than $10,000 for those in the bottom fifth — meaning the wealthiest residents now make more than 40 times as much as those on the bottom rung. That's on par with many Sub-Saharan African nations, the New York Times noted.

Bloomberg, however, dismissed the criticism and said there's nothing wrong with the city's uber-rich.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Poetic Justice of Romney’s Self-Immolation -- Daily Intel:

It will be fair because Romney has spent the last five years refashioning himself in the image of his party, discarding his most decent elements along the way, only to be caught in the end speaking bluntly. I’ve argued that the comments reflect his true beliefs now, but it scarcely matters. America has now seen Mitt Romney talking about us (or 47 percent of us, which offends many more of us) behind our backs.

And then, finally, there is a poetic justice in the substance of Romney’s self-immolation. This is not a random gaffe, a joke gone bad, or even a terrible brain freeze. It is Romney exposed for espousing a worldview that is at the heart of his party’s mania. The idea he summed up at that fund-raiser was a combination of right-wing fever dreams I’ve been analyzing since Obama took office — the Ayn Randism, the fact-free class warfare, the frantic rage at a changing America. The Republican Party is going down because its candidate was seen advocating exactly the beliefs that make the party so dangerous and repellant.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Where Am I Now When I Need Me:

Somewhere around the fifth or six smug elegy, the shadenfreude started to annoy me. The shrill note of vindicated jealousy sounded a little too loud and dissonant. What no one mentions is that Lehrer’s book was fascinating and engrossing, keenly well-written, bristling with insight and anecdote. It reminded me of a Malcolm Gladwell book, and I can imagine Gladwell breathing a small quiet private sigh of relief this evening, something like what Honda executives must have felt when the Toyota scandals broke two years ago: one less competitor to worry about. In a sane world the author and publisher would apologize and future editions of the book would excise the errant quotes.

Cheers Oral History - GQ October 2012: Movies + TV: GQ:

David Lee (writer-executive producer): On some shows, [the producers] say, "Oh, you gotta have 10 jokes per page." Glen and Les would go, "You know, it's better to get rid of the 'Fifty percenters,'—the jokes that are just chuckles—and be satisfied with the hundred percenters." If you have enough lesser jokes in the way, you actually start diminishing the value of the really good ones.

Tim Berry (producer-director): They threw out more great material than you'll ever know, because every day, they'd be rewriting and honing and polishing. Some things that would get a huge laugh at the table were gone by day three or four.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mike Daisey versus This American Life |


The phrase “the fiction we have on the show functions like journalism” seems like a perfect description of what Mike Dasiey did. His crime was in lying to the producers of the show when asked direct questions about the veracity of his story. He did not betray his theater audiences and he didn’t impugn the journalistic integrity of ‘This American Life’ because these are both contexts that accept and allow for “the tools of theater” in the service of telling compelling stories.


I get the impression that ‘This American Life’ will now rebrand itself as a fact-based journalism program, because isn’t that what’s missing on public radio, and as a former obnoxious acolyte of the program that’s disappointing. But I hope people will remember that when they originally ran Mike Daisey’s story they were happy to use fiction throughout their program and they didn’t spend a lot of time pointing out when that was or wasn’t happening.


Hello All,

I'm writing to let you know that THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY OF STEVE JOBS has been released in version 2.0 under a royalty-free, open source license.

The New York Times called this new version "more powerful, funny, and engaging" than ever. It removes all the contested material and sticks with just the facts, ma'am, and we road tested it by performing it around the country for six months. 

You can download it here.

AGONY/ECSTASY has been downloaded more than 100,000 times, and over the last seven months there have been more than 35 productions around the world, translated into six (!) languages. The show has been staged in Toronto, Madrid, Germany, Kurdistan, Edinburgh, Costa Rica, Phoenix, Zimbabwe, Chicago, Johannesburg, islands off the coast of Maine, and many, many more. There's even a translation happening in Beijing, and they are hoping to stage it in China in the near future.

This fall our new monologue, AMERICAN UTOPIAS, premieres across the country. It will capture the utopian impulse in American society by looking at two modern, unorthodox utopias: the fairytale mecca of Disney World, and the anarchic festival of Burning Man. The way these charged gathering places function and what they mean to us is then used as a way to talk about Zuccotti Park and the birth of the Occupy movement. This show has been years in the making, and we're tremendously excited to bring it to our audiences. It will be touring to major engagements in Chicago, Washington DC, Princeton, Duke, the University of Iowa, and points beyond.

Finally, if you are in New York City, hold the date October 22nd in your calendars. I'm not allowed to say more now, but we have a big announcement coming that we're excited about.

Be seeing you,




Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Yesterday’s riots at Foxconn dominated the the news cycle.

And thankfully, I am not here to condemn tech coverage. I am here to praise it.

And the coverage was a revelation—labor news standing up and being counted in tech news! Particularly Engadget’s coverage, who did live translations of posts from Weibo which did much to flesh out the story as it unfolded. I’ve been very critical of tech journalism because I want it to see it do so much more—I have to say, Sunday night it was heartening to watch tech really engage with these issues, and give it the coverage it has always deserved.

It’s been amazing over the last nine months to see how much coverage has transformed in technology. I can see the line moving, and as editors begin to believe that these stories matter to readers, they are pushing back on writers to see more.

Then today, Jay Greene writing for CNET has a
fantastic series with a worker headed to Foxconn and her life alongside a wonderful profile of Debby Chan of SACOM. He wrote these pieces because he was a tech journalist and writer who went to China and did the work on the ground that has been so long missing. Check them out.

So much has happened in just nine months—and the biggest changes can only come from waking ourselves up and seeing the world in a new way. Jay Greene and Engadget are helping to do that work in these pieces, and it feels wonderful to be able to laud them for it.

When we begin to see labor as a subject as worthy of discussion as market futures and politics, we more clearly see how important working standards are for so many people.

It can feel hopeless to many, the scale of these things. But from the little I personally know, from where I stand, I have already seen so much change. And when tech journalists begin to address these issues fully, it gives me so much hope.
Habit | Essex Street Market | Plays & Shows | Time Out New York:

If the play had been presented straight at Rattlestick, 59E59 or Atlantic Stage 2, it would be merely derivative and pointless, maybe irritating to jaded critics. But trapped inside director David Levine’s rigorously playful panopticon, it becomes the subject of aesthetic inquiry, a sort of Schrödinger’s box for representational theatrics. (Only in this case, we can see inside the box and note that the cat is both dead and alive.) The fourth wall is religiously observed by the three actors, but is rendered moot by spectators scuttling around from window to window, giggling or whispering, or just getting bored and leaving. You can marvel at Marsha Ginsberg’s scrupulous design, the actors’ stamina, or Jason Grote’s parodic flair. Levine pulls it off, creating a spectacle that works variously as sculpture, (second-rate) drama and a metatheatrical conversation piece.

Although this conceptual stunt is prime directors’ theater, it also belongs in large part to the actors. They must hew to the script and the general story arc of the piece, but they are free to change blocking, emotional temperature, intensity and the violent ending of the piece. Part of the pleasure of watching Habit is seeing the actors make big and little changes in their line readings and physical placement. There’s a great deal of improvisation that happens within a rigid structure.

Monday, September 24, 2012

China in Revolt | Jacobin:

Today, the Chinese working class is fighting. More than thirty years into the Communist Party’s project of market reform, China is undeniably the epicenter of global labor unrest. While there are no official statistics, it is certain that thousands, if not tens of thousands, of strikes take place each year. All of them are wildcat strikesthere is no such thing as a legal strike in China. So on a typical day anywhere from half a dozen to several dozen strikes are likely taking place.

More importantly, workers are winning, with many strikers capturing large wage increases above and beyond any legal requirements. Worker resistance has been a serious problem for the Chinese state and capital and, as in the United States in the 1930s, the central government has found itself forced to pass a raft of labor legislation. Minimum wages are going up by double digits in cities around the country and many workers are receiving social insurance payments for the first time.

Labor unrest has been growing for two decades, and the past two years a-lone have brought a qualitative advance in the character of worker struggles.

But if there are lessons for the Northern left in the experience of Chinese workers, finding them requires an examination of the unique conditions those workers face
conditions which, today, are cause for both great optimism and great pessimism.
Banned reviewer: iPhone 5 just works:

The folks at Apple really do believe in the Apple mantra, “It just works.”

They believe in it so fiercely, they’ll punish journalists who suggest that Apple products don’t always just work, as I did in several reviews of the previous iPhone. When the iPhone 4S came out last year, I tested its voice response system Siri, and published some of Siri’s more absurd misinterpretations of my Australian accent. Apple officials accused me of fabricating the reviews because there was just no way that Siri, which just works, would make absurd responses like that.

For that and for other blasphemies against the Apple mantra – I once wrote about jailbreaking an iPad, which no one in their right mind would do, given the way iPads just work – I’m now on Apple’s unofficial but very real blacklist: I don’t get devices to review, and I don’t get invited to Apple briefings. If you were wondering why there were no reviews of the latest MacBook Air and MacBook Pro in The Australian Financial Review, that’s why. Apple officials told me I didn’t subscribe to the Apple mantra sufficiently to participate in the review program.

With the iPhone 5, I now see that Apple was right to punish me like that. Apple’s products do just work, and I was out of line to question it. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

New evidence of disturbing working conditions in iPhone production | Economic Policy Institute:

It bears emphasizing that the portrait painted by this SACOM report differs significantly from the Fair Labor Association’s interim progress report at Foxconn released in August. For instance, the FLA reports that no Foxconn employees now work more than 60 hours a week, but the SACOM results indicate otherwise. Similarly, the FLA reports that Foxconn employees receive regular ergonomic breaks at Foxconn’s Guanlan factory; SACOM found otherwise at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou’s factories.

The differences could be explained by Foxconn only making reforms where the FLA is investigating, or by the possibility that reforms put in place during non-peak periods (which is when the FLA investigation occurred) are not remaining in place during peak periods, when production demands rise. The possible backsliding during the peak period is also consistent with other reports that Foxconn is using coerced student labor to meet production demands (see this New York Times story). More generally, the SACOM report is consistent with this previous EPI and Worker Rights Consortium blog post, which finds that notwithstanding some of the rosy language in the FLA interim report, significant labor rights violations continue at Foxconn, Apple’s main supplier in China.
The Truth About Apple's iPhone 5 | Slog:

Facility that reportedly makes parts for Apple's iPhone 5 closed after 5,000 police put down a riot [nvolving as many as 2,000 employees and] injured 40...

The fight, the cause of which was under investigation, erupted on Sunday night at a privately managed dormitory near a Foxconn Technology Group factory in the northern city of Taiyuan, the company and Chinese police said.

The company and police said the violence was not work-related and grew out of a personal dispute, but comments posted on Chinese Internet bulletin boards said it might have erupted after a security guard hit an employee.

At the end of the day, what Mike Daisey said about the Apple corporation is brutally true. The universe works that way sometimes. With indirection, direction is found.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Tatesj Wall Mailing

AGONY/ECSTASY 2.0 is live—ethically made, and called by the New York Times, "more powerful, funny, and engaging" than ever. We're incredibly proud to be able to release this new version today after months of work. It is still under a royalty-free, open-source license so that it can be performed anywhere—to date there have been well over 100,000 downloads, more than 35 productions, and it has been translated into six languages. Thank you to everyone who sent their support to help make this day possible.

You can find the download page

Thursday, September 20, 2012

the understatement: Quantifying the Impending iOS 6 Maps Backlash:

On the plus side, at least people are getting turn-by-turn directions and Apple’s Flyover feature in exchange, right? Not so fast: 20 countries (population: 3.2 billion) are losing transit, traffic, or street view and getting neither turn-by-turn nor Flyover. The biggest losers are Brazil, India, Taiwan, and Thailand (population: 1.5 billion) which overnight will go from being countries with every maps feature (transit, traffic, and street view) to countries with none of those features, nor any of the new features either.

It gets worse. Even in countries where turn-by-turn and/or Flyover are available, the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and the 4th generation iPod touch won’t support them. These devices are owned by tens of millions of users who may update over-the-air when prompted, only to find they’ve lost features and haven’t even gained any of the marquee Maps features in return.

Based on past data2, it’s likely that at least 200 million users will upgrade to iOS 6 in the next two weeks. Even if only 1 in 10 people are upset by these changes, Apple will have 20 million unhappy customers on their hands, roughly equivalent to the entire population of Australia.

MacNN | Apple's map woes continue as media, users pile on:

Apple's decision to go with its own mapping solution for iOS 6 has turned into something of an embarrassment, even as the company's iPhone 5 racks up phenomenal sales. What began with some scattered reports of shortcomings in iOS 6's maps has turned into a veritable deluge of criticism and complaints, with major media outlets, some vocal users, and others calling the Cupertino company to task for its flawed and at times incomplete maps. Meanwhile sources tell Electronista that Google's iOS 6 Maps app has already been submitted, and that its approval is entirely in Apple's hands.
"Get A (Steve) Jobs!" Occupy Wall Street Crashes Apple's iPhone 5 Line: Gothamist:

It's difficult to see the distinction between protesters sleeping across from Wall Street being arrested, while those who sleep in the line for a smartphone that could boost the GDP by 0.05% are shrugged off as devoted, if geeky Apple fans. "We're afraid to go downtown and do this because we'll be arbitrary arrested or beaten," protester Milo Gonzalez said. "But if we lay here, we're just being good consumers."
201209 Iosmaps1

I feel dumb. Yesterday review after review came out for the iPhone 5, all glowing. This morning iOS 6 comes out, and the Maps app is broken—totally broken.
It can't find Coney Island.

I really thought tech journalists would at least review the devices. I expected them to actually use the new Map app, and actually test it—you know, put in a variety of searches, kick the tires thoroughly. It's a big change for them to ditch Google.

No one did. Not one review came out about the iPhone 5 or iOS 6 ahead of today that noticed that the Maps app was utterly broken.

I feel dumb because I keep trying to believe that tech can grow up and actually be what it needs to be—the vitally important field about the tools that help define our lives. And they can't even show rigor in simple reviewing—the thing that is supposed to be at the heart of what they do.

And it's industry-wide—EVERYONE missed this. Except for a Mac repairman at a Mac shop in Colorado, who
totally nailed it and wrote it up ahead of time. It didn't look hard for him to figure out.

I don't enjoy watching Apple fail. And I enjoy even less watching tech journalists fail, and alongside them everybody who I am hearing from who blindly updated to iOS 6 and is now discovering that the maps app is currently a failure.

If we can't even test the equipment, if we can't use any kind of rigor in reviewing, how can we begin to actually pay attention to the circumstances under which it's made?
Apple's New Maps Put Brooklyn In Manhattan: Gothamist:

Yesterday millions of happy iPhone and iPad users were told by their devices that a new version of the phone's iOS was ready. Yay, right? Well, sure—unless you want to use your phone for directions. Because one of the big features Apple is touting about this release—the all-new, not-at-all-Google Maps app—is an undeniable mess. But at least it has turn-by-turn directions?

There are lots of reasons why Apple dropped Google's map app (and YouTube!) from its lineup, but the main one appears to be fear of giving Google more user data to work with. "The importance of the map in the new mobile ecosystem is really what drove this decision [that] 'we have to own this component'," an executive at one of the companies providing mapping data to Apple told Business Insider.
But the data that Apple has bought from companies like TomTom simply isn't as good as Google's (for the moment)—and just as irritating, right now Apple's software isn't as good as Google's was at parsing what you mean.

GOP to Jobless Vets: Drop Dead | Mother Jones:

In saying that, Coburn seemed to argue that government spending is more of a "real problem" than the plight of US vets. Young ex-service members—many of whom were among in the now-famous 47 percent of non-income-tax-paying Americans while they were deployed or held junior ranks—face unemployment levels up to 35 percent higher than their civilian counterparts. It's a plight that Romney and other Republicans pay lip-service to in their attacks on the White House. "President Obama's policies threaten to break faith with our veterans and our military," Romney's campaign literature (PDF) states. "We can do better."

Yet conservatives' plan this week was to block a pro-veteran bill that had the support of the GOP-led Congress, all the Senate Democrats, and five Republicans in the upper body. "These men and women have worn our uniform, shouldered the burden and faced unthinkable dangers in forward areas during a very dangerous time," Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told the New York Times. For his part, Sessions says he'd vote for a budget-neutral GOP-drafted version of the bill—a version that saves money by doing away with the Veterans Job Corps, which was ostensibly the whole point of the proposal in the first place. Sometimes you have to destroy a jobs bill in order to save it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Jay Rosen explains the concept of ‘reverse verification’ | Poynter.:

Verification is taking something that might be true, and trying to nail it down with facts. In reverse verification you take something that’s been nailed down and try to introduce doubt about it. “Was Obama born in the United States?” is the clearest example. The phenomenon of “verification in reverse” poses a special problem for journalists. On the one hand, they are supposed to report what people are saying. They are supposed to bring us the news of controversies, protests, disagreements. “Conflict makes news,” and all that. On the other hand, verification is their business. If they cannot support that, they cannot support themselves or their users. They are socially useless, in fact, if they cannot stand up for verification.

Waiting (Explored)

There are two Voodoo Doughnuts: Voodoo Doughnut the Place that Sells Doughnuts and Voodoo Doughnut the Scene. (Don't worry, I ALSO want me to die for writing that sentence.) Voodoo Doughnut, the place that sells actual doughnuts, feels like it was pulled out of the LSD-fueled dream of a fat, old hippie named Scrumptious. It's great. I'm glad it's here. It always feels a little bit like I'm walking into San Francisco when I go there—more so now, after the renovation of the downtown space, but even back in the old hole-in-the-wall days.

Now, Voodoo Doughnut the "scene"? The Voodoo Doughnut with a line full of drunk girls holding shoes and civil engineers on terrible dates and people who are probably Bon Iver and high-school kids all lit up on being awake and probably Japanese tourists and somebody's mom—and they're all standing together in a line that has to zig around some dude on heroin? That's fucking Portland.


But the logic of Romney’s fundraising has seemed, for some time, slightly crazy. He’s raising money so he can pile it in at the end, with ads. But at the end will they make much difference? Obama is said to have used a lot of his money early on, to paint a portrait of Romney as Thurston Howell III, as David Brooks put it. That was a gamble on Obama’s part: spend it now, pull ahead in the battlegrounds, once we pull ahead more money will come in because money follows winners, not losers.

If I’m seeing things right, that strategy is paying off.

Romney’s staff used to brag they had a lower burn rate, they were saving it up. For what? For the moment when Americans would rather poke out their eyeballs and stomp on the goo than listen to another ad?

They couldn't even be convinced to take care of themselves, as long as they can get government handouts. Romney thinks that applies to almost one in two Americans. Or to put it bluntly: the real crime of 47 percent of Americans is their laziness - and then they have the gall to whine about the One Percent. He is using the key argument of racists against African-Americans through the ages against 47 percent of the country. That's the equivalent of calling a lot of old white people the n-word.

Romney's Randian callousness also goes against the core American grain. Americans do not see themselves as victims, but as potential winners, even in rough times. Romney's contempt for the 47 percent violates a central tenet of the American dream: anyone can make it. Romney is saying that half the country can't make it, don't even want to make it, and are parasites on the rest. Asking for their vote would be like asking children to give up their toys. Why would they?

More to the point: this was a cynical man with a cynical tone different - and more convincing - than his usual stilted public speech. The best defense of it - morally - is that it was designed for an audience of super-rich donors who say these things all the time in private, listen to Rush Limbaugh, and needed to be ginned up. He is whatever he needs to be for each separate audience. He aims to please.

So there are two possibilities: this is the real Romney, a callous cynic with contempt for half the country, the weaker part; or that Romney is a man so empty of human qualities he even has to fake cynicism.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

And Matt Bissonnette gave them exactly what they wanted. And the story was different from the official, heroic version. Like so: "The White House initially said that bin Laden had 'engaged in a firefight' and used a woman as a shield. Later, officials said that he was unarmed and that one of his wives rushed the SEALs and was shot. Bissonnette says bin Laden was shot in the head as he peeked out of his bedroom. Then, as he lay bleeding on his bedroom floor, Bissonnette and another SEAL 'fired several rounds' into his chest 'until he was motionless.'"

If you're one of the very few people who initially objected to the fact that the US government assassinated bin Laden in cold blood and dumped his body into the ocean, rather than, say, bringing him to trial, congratulations. The farce of this situation should be even more amusing to you. Matt Bissonnette told the truth. The truth was a secret. Therefore, Matt Bissonnette must be punished and branded a traitor, a prospect that would have seemed unthinkable just a year ago, and would have drawn outraged accusations of "hating heroes" and "not supporting our troops." It's fair to say that in the days after bin Laden's death, America would have happily brushed off any revelations that a SEAL who shot him was a drunk driver, a wife beater, an animal torturer, a statutory rapist. "Yeah, a statutory rapist HERO. God bless America."

But Matt Bissonnette did something far worse: he ruined the narrative. And for that, he must pay.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Los Alamos, NM --Barbara Grothus, President of Los Alamos Sales Company, a unique salvage store affectionately dubbed “The Black Hole,” has announced that the business will close. The business, established in 1953, has operated at 4015 Arkansas Avenue in Los Alamos since the 1970s. Edward Grothus, the company’s founder and internationally known anti-nuclear activist, died in 2009. His wife Margaret Grothus died in March of this year. 
A public liquidation sale of the contents of the buildings, parking lot, and adjoining property will be held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, September 21-23, from 10 AM to 5 PM each day. Items for sale include Cold War relics, equipment and supplies from the Manhattan Project and the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, now known as the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The company web site at has an extensive list of items for sale. The family intends to sell the property in the near future and hopes to see it redeveloped for local needs. 
  “The end of the Black Hole is noteworthy, not just for the family, but for the community. It has been a popular attraction for tourists, tinkerers, artists, film crews and scavengers for all these years, but it is time for us to focus on our own lives and families,” said Barbara Grothus, who has been the company president since her father’s death. “We are sad of course, but we look forward to the change this will bring.” 
 Before his death, Ed Grothus conceived and orchestrated the production of two 40-ton granite obelisks to memorialize the world-changing development of the atomic bomb at Los Alamos. The family will continue to work towards their installation at some future time. “My father recognized that the use of the bomb changed  the course of human history, and we are dedicated to finding a proper site for their display,” Barbara Grothus said.

Those rules of engagement drew new scrutiny last week when Michael Lewis, the author of a forthcoming profile of President Obama in Vanity Fair, acknowledged that he had to get approval for the quotations he used from eight months of extensive access.

Good thing those of us who cover business don’t have to deal with the same self-preserving press policies. Except we do. In an anecdotal survey of 20 reporters, it was clear that on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley and at some of the big media companies I cover, subjects of coverage are asking for, and sometimes receiving, the kind of consideration that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago.

Friday, September 14, 2012


As I write this in a hotel room in Austin the sun is coming up, and with it the room is slowly changing as it is lit by more than my laptop. I can now see my phone, tethered next to me, my old friend.

It’s a jailbroken iPhone 3GS. I’ve had this phone since its launch day in 2009, where I stood in line at the Soho Apple Store in New York. In those days I never thought about where my devices came from with any kind of rigor—if I had seen people protesting in front of the Apple Store that day, I wonder what I would have thought? Perhaps I would have shrugged. I might have said something offhand about the nature of globalization, and since no one I was with would challenge my assertions, they would have settled in my mind and cemented there. If they had a flier I would have read it…as I marched into the store to upgrade.

Today it is over three years later, and much has changed. I’ve been to China to research how our devices are made—this is the phone that went with me. I've handed it to workers who assemble iPhones who had never held a completed working one. I’ve read countless SACOM and China Labor Watch documents on this phone. I’ve responded to thousands of emails on it about Foxconn and labor conditions. I first met Steve Wozniak through it, I heard about the passing of Steve Jobs on it, and it was the lens through which I watched my work become both celebrated and despised. 

Things have changed for all of us. When I started, no one in my audiences had heard the word Foxconn, even though they make almost half of all the electronics in the world. People were routinely totally ignorant of the circumstances under which all our devices are made on the other side of the world. Now we’ve heard—and Apple heard. After years of silence, they made changes in response to fear—the fear that we would keep waking up.

In AGONY/ECSTASY, I talked about the idea that the future never arrives the way we expect it to—that we are cyborgs already—these devices are the metaphor, the frame, through which we see the world. One of the reasons I created this piece was that I identified that in the transition to the smartphone we had a device that we would have unprecedented intimacy with, there would be an opportunity to crack open the labor relationships that make that device possible.

My iPhone 3GS is in decent shape for all the wear. The battery needed replacing, but the screen is scuffed but not very scratched, the chrome is duller but still shiny, and the rounded back is marred by a few small cracks, but nothing severe. It runs everything I need it to, though I can tell it isn’t as fast as I would wish, and I feel the envy for a better camera every time I take a picture.

And it’s an AT&T iPhone, which I have said for years is almost like not having an iPhone at all. Sometimes, when I have an important text to send, I’ll type in the text and then just throw the phone at the person who needs to receive it—it’s the only way to be sure it’s delivered.

So believe me—I am very sympathetic to the desire to upgrade.

But I’m not here today to tell you not to upgrade. 

I’m here to ask you to wait.

We now know that Apple’s launches create enormous strain on their supply chain. The NYT’s fantastic reporting in January detailed multiple iPad factory explosions caused directly to the incredible rushing needed to meet launch day demand for iPads, and the recent stories of students conscripted into being forced labor at Foxconn is specifically to make iPhone 5s for their launch.

I believe that after weighing the evidence the ethical choice is to wait. After all, there’s no cost to the users—Apple stores now cover the country, and so one can simply not participate in the mania of preorder and launch day, and then in the weeks and months ahead pick up the phone you need. The only reason to get an iPhone 5 on launch day is tech mania and hunger—and in light of what we all know about the conditions and the supply chain, it can no longer be defended. 

There are other benefits, too. Waiting cools the blood—you may realize you don’t need the upgrade. It gives you the time needed to read all the stories, from the longer reviews of those using the new phone to doing more research into the labor reports on its creation. You may discover that you don’t crave upgrading as much as you thought you did. Everyone preordering clearly has a phone now—if it were truly mission-critical, you’d get a phone right this second. 

You’re waiting for the iPhone 5—it’s not lifechanging. Wait just a little bit longer. This is a real gesture that relieves pressure, does some good, and introduces a note of sanity. 

My iPhone 3GS may be on its last legs…and I’m a pragmatist in my tools. When it can no longer do the job, I will retire it. But it has worked far longer than I ever would have believed when I was deep in the Apple trance over three years ago, and I’ve grown fond of it. I have nicks and scars as well that I didn’t have when I got this phone, and we’ve gotten them together. For over a thousand days I have been utterly intimate with the small device…I think it can hold out a little longer.

They say that age and wear show our character. I would submit by showing a small degree of forbearance we can do a small, but measurable, degree of good. 

If we truly can’t wait, then we are no longer the users of these tools—they are using us instead.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The iPhone 5 is also the first iPhone to carry a 4-inch screen, taller than the 3.5-inch display on previous iPhones. What does a taller iPhone allow you to do? You’re not going to believe this: When you open an app designed for the iPhone 5’s bigger screen, it shows you more stuff than you would have seen on the old iPhone’s smaller screen. Now you can see five days in your calendar rather than three. When you open a news app, like CNN’s, you see more stories without having to scroll. When you look up restaurants in OpenTable’s app, you see more places to eat than you did before. It’s this kind of relentless innovation that reminds you that Apple didn’t become the world’s most valuable company by sitting on its hands.

But this isn't news, anymore. An incremental increase in thinness or lightness or computing power is not a breaking news event that should turn everyone's attentions away from what's happening in Libya. Those first few days of the iPhone were a big damned deal. Touchscreens had existed for decades, but their mass-market acceptance was something that changed society in a small but profound way. Our graphic design, our feelings toward our computers, and even our shared language changed very quickly to incorporate these devices into our lives. That's news. But this kind of breathless reporting on annual PowerPoint presentations from wealthy CEOs is kind of driving me crazy. It's not news.

People will learn about these new devices. That's what advertising is for. But Apple didn't change anything major today. They added to their bottom line. And good for them! I'm not resentful of successful businesses. But a thinner, faster, larger rectangle with a beautiful screen and a slightly improved battery device? It's just not news.

Short Leslie Chang TED reaction: agree vital to humanize Chinese voices, but she's startlingly naive about labor and corporatism.

Many of her arguments are straw men—who thinks Chinese workers just want iPods? We’re talking about human rights. Her response to Chris Anderson on Apple—that the workers will move on to “higher jobs in Apple” is totally ridiculous. She doesn't seem to understand that the current system at ANY electronics manufacturer will never allow that kind of mobility—why she doesn't understand this, I am shocked by, given her background and research.

She changes forced labor, maimings, chemical poisonings + worker deaths into “nothing you or I would want to do, but…” equivalency. And the framing totally omits the question of what multinational corporations owe to workers. There’s just consumers and workers in her view.

Worst part: she says she’s depoliticizing, interested only in humanizing the Chinese workers, which is a great calling. But by doing TED, framing it the way she has, and then broadcasting it on iPhone 5 launch day, she’s tech propaganda. Framed at TED, the message is “these people are fine…keep ignoring them. Enjoy your devices, proles!”

Deeply sad.

Our five best bets for fall books | Lit & Lectures: Lit Feature | Chicago Reader:

Events continue 11/1-11/11 at various venues around the city. Among the plethora of programs: If you didn't get your fill of American utopia from the Republican and Democratic national conventions, monologuist (and This American Life fabulist) Mike Daisey premieres his latest work, American Utopias (Thu 11/1 and 11/8, Sat 11/3 and 11/10, Sun 11/4, 7:30 PM, Sun 11/11, 3 PM, $28). If you did get your fill (and feel they were full of it), maybe take in a talk about Kafka's Amerika (Sun 11/4, 2:30 PM). Stats guru Nate Silver holds forth on America's two favorite pastimes, baseball and politics (Fri 11/9, 8 PM). And novelist Richard Ford receives the Heartland Prize for fiction for his latest work, titled . . . Canada (Sun 11/11, 6 PM). —Jerome Ludwig 10/14 and 10/21, then 11/1-1/11,, 312-494-9509, $5-$28 per program in advance (a $5 surcharge applies to ticket sales at the door).

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Apple's New Foxconn Embarrassment - Forbes:

The undercover story by the Shanghai Evening Post reporter paints a grim picture. About workers’ living quarters, he writes, “The whole dormitory smells like garbage when I walk in.” He adds that when he opened his closet, “lots of cockroaches crawl out from inside and the bed sheets that are being distributed to every new workers are full of dirt and ashes.” His job at the factory: marking four spots on the back plate of an iPhone 5 with an oil-based paint pen. The marks had to be within 5 millimeters of the designated points and he was expected to complete five plates every minute. Supervisors repeatedly reprimanded the journalist for failing to place the marks accurately.

The journalist’s all-night shift lasted 10 hours with only one break for dinner at 11pm. When the shift ended at 6 AM, supervisors exhorted the workers to put in two hours of overtime, for a wage of just $4. The journalist describes a worker who couldn’t take the pressure: “A new worker who sat opposite me became exhausted and laid down for a short while,” he writes. “The supervisor has noticed him and punished him by asking him to stand at one corner for 10 minutes like the old school days.”

Humiliating punishments for working too slow, bars on the windows and squalid dorms': Inside Foxconn
For Apple's American workers, today is a big day, with the release of the iPhone 5.

But behind the scenes at the Foxconn factory in China, tasked with churning out 57 million iPhones each year, there are not so many smiling faces - in fact, the production lines appear to one of gruelling shifts carried out throughout the night as supervisors exhort their workers for more.

Chinese news agency Shanghai Evening Post sent a journalist into the Tai Yuan district's Foxconn factory undercover, during which the reporter trained for seven days, before spending three days working on on the factory floor, assembling 'back-plates' for the iPhone 5.

The journalist, who is keeping his identity secret, kept a diary of his ten day and website micgadget translated it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Foxconn Said to Use Forced Student Labor to Make iPhones -

Foxconn has acknowledged using student “interns” on manufacturing lines, but says they are free to leave at any time. But two worker advocacy groups said Monday that they had spoken with students who said they had been forced by their teachers to assemble iPhones at a Foxconn factory in Zhengzhou, in north-central China.

Additionally, last week Chinese state-run news media reported that several vocational schools in the city of Huai’an, in eastern China, required hundreds of students to work on assembly lines at a Foxconn plant to help ease worker shortages. According to one of the articles, Huai’an students were ordered to manufacture cables for Apple’s new iPhone 5, which is expected to be introduced on Wednesday.

“They said they are forced to work by the teachers,” Li Qiang, founder of China Labor Watch, one of the advocacy organizations and a frequent critic of Foxconn’s labor policies, said in an interview on Monday. Mr. Li said his staff had spoken with multiple workers and students who, as recently as Sunday, said that 10 of 87 workers on an iPhone assembly line were students.

“They don’t want to work there — they want to learn,” said Mr. Li. “But if they don’t work, they are told they will not graduate, because it is a very busy time with the new iPhone coming, and Foxconn does not have enough workers without the students.”

Monday, September 10, 2012

Year One: Occupy Wall Street Plans Anniversary Protest of Wall Street | The Nation:

“By having a clear demand for money out of politics, it just lays it down very clearly that this system is broken, that no matter whether Obama or Romney gets more or less funding is not the point. It’s that Wall Street has massive control over the election itself. It doesn’t matter which way Wall Street picks,” says Andrew Smith, an organizer.

“The action on September 17 is deeply tied to the election in a lot of ways because the complete nature of our democracy is bought and sold,” says Smith.

“I’m not particularly motivated by anniversaries,” says Mehta, “but I think it’s important to gather, and bring people together on this weekend, and on dates to come, to do what we’ve been doing for the year…expressing our discontent, learning, teaching and caring for each other.

“Sure, I want tens of thousands of people to gather for the assemblies, for performance, to circulate around and sit in intersections in the financial district, blocking business as usual, but I’ll be happy if this is done, and keeps being done by people, as many or few as are willing and wanting, as we build a movement over time.”

Saturday, September 08, 2012

The Vanishing - Parabasis:

But beyond that, don't we also want Bush to disappear? Don't we all need, psychologically, to blame it all on him and having him vanish? After all, Democrats voted to approve much of his agenda. Tom Daschle okayed the War in Iraq and then snapped to the reporters that "we would like to move on," as if the decision about going to war was a simple annoyance to him. Virtually no one voted against the PATRIOT Act. Obama continues many of Bush's most troubling policies where it comes to civil liberties and habeus issues. We still extrajudicially murder people. Killing Bin Laden hasn't ended the failing war in Afghanistan. Bush has disappeared in the same way our own reckoning with what we did during his eight years disappeared. Were he to come back, we'd have to confront those secret shameful parts of ourselves.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

n+1: Leave Your Cellphone at Home:

Resnick: What should we know about cell phones? It’s hard to imagine going to a protest without one. But like all networked technologies, surely they are double-edged?

Appelbaum: Cell phones are tracking devices that make phone calls. It’s sad, but it’s true. Which means software solutions don’t always matter. You can have a secure set of tools on your phone, but it doesn’t change the fact that your phone tracks everywhere you go. And the police can potentially push updates onto your phone that backdoor it and allow it to be turned into a microphone remotely, and do other stuff like that. The police can identify everybody at a protest by bringing in a device called an IMSI catcher. It’s a fake cell phone tower that can be built for 1500 bucks. And once nearby, everybody’s cell phones will automatically jump onto the tower, and if the phone’s unique identifier is exposed, all the police have to do is go to the phone company and ask for their information.

Chinese students 'forced' to work on iPhone 5 sent back to school | The Verge:

A second report just issued from The Shanghai Daily now says that those students who were forcibly pulled from school to work at the factory (which is reportedly in dire need of workers), are now beginning to return to their studies. Those who applied for the internships voluntarily will be allowed to stay. This piece essentially confirms that students were in fact being pulled out of school to fill empty factory worker slots, and cites a city government official's statement that schools have been ordered to follow internship policies and "correct the violations." While the statement from the government did not clarify, confirm, or deny the allegations made by students, its reiteration of the guidelines has been interpreted as confirmation of the violations.
Bob Cesca: Republicans Cry About Lack of "Civility" at Dem Convention:

You know who shouldn't be lecturing the Democrats about civility? The people who gave us swift-boating, the Southern Strategy, the outing of Valerie Plame, Birthers, Reverend Wright videos around the clock, "Obama pals around with domestic terrorists," the exploitation of 9/11, comparing a triple amputee Vietnam veteran to Saddam Hussein, the booing of a gay soldier, and the party that sported Purple Heart band-aids at the 2004 convention to mock another decorated Vietnam veteran, John Kerry, who was wounded in combat. And no one on the floor of the Democratic convention hurled peanuts at an African American camerawomen, shouting, "This is how we feed the animals."
Speech, Lies and Apathy in Political Campaigns -

How would the Romney campaign deliver this message by making only true statements? The strategy of the campaign is evidence for the claims I have made in previous columns about the erosion of trust, because the strategy of this ad campaign takes these points for granted. The Romney campaign knows that there is no cost at all to making obviously false statements in order to convey an alternative message. Claims in the public domain are now routinely treated as intentional distortions of facts to promote ideologies; distortions or misrepresentations justified by the need to “counterbalance” false claims from the other side. The Romney campaign is not at fault for making false statements. They are just astutely taking advantage of the political environment in which all campaigning now takes place.
NEW SOUTH JOURNALISM: Fact-Checking Feature :: Oxford American - The Southern Magazine of Good Writing:

It became, in so much as any show on NPR can create one, an event, which I just cannot find a way to interpret generously. Newspapers and the various entertainment media loved the story. The whole editorial failure became an excuse for Ira Glass to talk up just how tough his show’s journalistic standards really are—the usual response from any burned publication—and TAL turned a fuck-up into a brilliant advertisement for itself.
Golden glow
Who Wants the Truth When the Bullshit is Such Great TV? | AWG:Chicago:

Following the film, Glass took the stage and took questions from the audience.

One young woman asked [paraphrased] "With the exposure of the falsehoods in Mike Daisey's account of his trip to China on TAL as a model, why isn't there the same concerted effort to expose the blatant untruths and outright lies of Paul Ryan and the recent RNC Convention?"

Ira offered no solution but agreed it was a problem. That there is a weird desire to take no sides in the media and present an equally unchallenging perspective on the spin of all comers.


Despite Apple's constant promises that they have changed everything at Foxconn, an in-depth story from the Shanghai Daily reports that Foxconn is taking students away from their classes by forcible recruitment—the classes are cancelled, and the students find themselves working twelve hour days at Foxconn, all to meet production targets for Apple's iPhone 5.

This is exactly the kind of story that needs to be told—after months of PR spin, this is the real face of Foxconn, doing what it has always done with Apple's blessing.

You can read the full story