Archive for December, 2012

How bad off are Foxconn’s Chinese workers?

December 3, 2012

I’ve written several posts about Foxconn, the big subcontractor for Apple, Microsoft, Sony and other major electronics companies, which asks new hires to pledge that they won’t attempt suicide, allegedly because the work is so stressful.  If you have a cell phone, laptop computer, or electronic notepad, there’s a good chance you’re using a Foxconn-assembled product.

foxconn-mag-article-largeFollowing reports of labor unrest at Foxconn, James Fallows, who reports on China for the Atlantic Monthly, was allowed to visit.  What he saw was different from how I imagined the company.  Click on the links below to see photos of what he saw.

Inside Foxconn

Inside Foxconn 2 – Strolling

Inside Foxconn 3 – Some Dormitories

Inside Foxconn 4 – New Recruits, ‘Flying Tiger,’ CEO

Inside Foxconn 5 – Food

Back to Foxconn: Cameras, Clinic, Hoops

FoxConn1-thumb-102216I’m not sure what to think.  I recall how Americans such as Vice President Henry Wallace visited Siberia during World War Two, saw fake versions of Soviet labor camps and came back saying that life in the Gulag wasn’t so bad.   James Fallows is an experienced reporter, but his knowledge was limited to what he was told and what he was allowed to see on his visit.  He did not interview any Foxconn workers.

The workers were not starving and not in rags.   But their outward appearance says nothing about the stress of being waked up in the middle of the night, given a biscuit and a cup of tea and starting a 12-hour shift to fill an emergency order.  Nor about what it is like to be under video surveillance 24 hours a day, including in your own room.

I’m willing to accept Fallows’ verdict that Foxconn is not bad by Chinese standards and that the Chinese material standard of living has improved a lot during the past 10 or 20 years.  You should judge a nation not by where it is, but whether it is moving forward or backward, and, in terms of industrial development, China is moving forward.   China’s progress is a good thing for the United States, not a bad thing.  The better off the Chinese are, the better potential customers they are for American products.

Evidently there is a lot of labor unrest in China, but that does not prove there is no progress.  People don’t necessarily revolt just because they are poor and miserable.  If they did, humanity would have been in revolt for most of history.  People revolt when something to which they think they have a right is being taken away from them, or when hopes are aroused and then are not fulfilled.

foxconn_12332I think that what we have a right to expect of China and other low-wage nations is that they make a good-faith effort to obey their own laws and live up to their own standards.  I think that what we have a right to expect of American and other Western countries that operate in China is that they refrain from efforts to hold down wages and lobby the government against labor rights.

Click on Foxconn manufacturing workers complain of long hours, militant culture for a CNN report on the negative side of Foxconn.

Click on 3,000 to 4,000 Foxconn workers take part in protest for a report from China Business News.   Note that this would be fewer than 2 percent of the estimated 220,000 Foxconn employees at its Longhua campus in Shenzen province.

Click on Mr. China Comes to America for James Fallows’ optimistic view of the revival of manufacturing in the United States.

Click on Chinese workers asked for no-suicide pledge and  The debate over Asian sweatshops for earlier posts of mine.

Click on Sacon for the web log of Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, a Chinese pro-labor organization based in Hong Kong.

My opinions about the how employers treat Chinese workers are based on these and other articles.  I’d be interested in hearing from anyone with first-hand knowledge of China or Foxconn.

If the world is going to end Dec. 21, 2012… …

December 3, 2012

mayan-apocalypse-prophecy-holiday-gifts-christmas-season-ecards-someecardsa

Hat tips for this to Bill Elwell and Joy Leccese.

(more…)

The self-actuating tape recorder of my mind

December 2, 2012
memory

Double click to enlarge.

I’m prone to what I call playing “tapes” in my mind—going over conversations in the past in which I failed to respond to someone who insulted me or insulted someone else or said something vicious or stupid that ought to be contradicted, and editing the “tape” so that I responded the way I would like to have.  Unlike the person described above, I am able (or think I am able) to keep separate what happened and what I would have liked to happen.  But at the same time, it is important to me to turn these tapes off.

  • Going over these conversations does me no good, and it does neither good nor harm to the other party in the conversation.
  • My anger is not really directed at the other person.  It is directed at myself for failing to respond adequately.
  • My failure to respond adequately is at least partly and maybe mainly due to my being preoccupied with myself and not fully engaged with what is going on around me.

I can’t help feeling whatever negative emotion I happen to feel — anger, regret, self-recrimination — but I have a choice as to whether I rationalize, justify and cultivate these feelings, or let them go.  The same is true of positive emotions — love, aesthetic pleasure, mastery.

Since these feelings and thoughts come into my mind seemingly by themselves and not by my decision, then “I” am something different from my feelings and thoughts.  What is that something?

I found the graphic above on Ido Lanuel’s To Be Aware web log.

December 1, 2012

LBO News from Doug Henwood

Neoliberal über-dweeb Ezra Klein just unleashed one of those “balanced” efforts on the controversies of the day that are so characteristic of his species: “Has Wal-Mart been good or bad?” The conclusion, it might not surprise you to learn: it’s “a complicated question to frame and a devilishly tough one to answer.”

Drawing on—I’m not kidding—Reason editor “Peter Suderman’s 17-part Twitter defense of Wal-Mart,” Klein asserts that Walmart’s low prices are a gift to low-income consumers. (They’ve dropped the hyphen/star, folks; here’s the official timeline.) The Bentonville behemoth’s wages may be low, but not “when compared with the prevailing wages in the retail sector.” Walmart’s influence in setting wages is not a topic that they consider. Nor does either our neoliberal or our libertarian actually look at the history of retail wages, because it would be rather inconvenient for their argument.

Over the last 40 years…

View original post 422 more words

The Senate votes to outlaw indefinite detention

December 1, 2012

On Friday, the Senate voted 67 to 29 for an amendment introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein to the defense authorization bill that read as follows.

Dianne Feinstein

Dianne Feinstein

An authorization to use military force, a declaration of war, or any similar authority shall not authorize the detention without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States apprehended in the United States unless an Act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention

I’m encouraged that the Senate is pushing back against unchecked Presidential power, although this is a basic Constitutional principle that ought to be taken for granted.   I’m glad to see Democrats willing to stand up to a Democratic President on a question of basic principle.

I’m not sure what the House of Representatives will do.   Most of the opponents of the amendment in the Senate were Republicans, and the House has a Republican majority

Click on The Senate Voted to Outlaw Indefinite Detention…Or Did It? for a report on the vote by Adam Serwer of Mother Jones.@

[Added 12/3/12]  The problem with the amendment is that it makes a Constitutional right subject to an act of Congress.  Still, it is a step in the right direction.

[Added 12/22/12]  I was too hopeful. The bill died in the House.

[Added 1/9/13]  Congress added a rider to the defense appropriations bill restricting the authority of the President to release prisoners or put them on trial.

Julian Assange on the surveillance state

December 1, 2012

Julian Assange gave an an interview yesterday to Democracy Now! about Wikileaks, Bradley Manning and his new book Cypherpunks.  Here’s part of what he said.

There’s not a barrier anymore between corporate surveillance, on the one hand, and government surveillance, on the other.  You know, Facebook is based—has its servers based in the United States.  Gmail, as General Petraeus found out, has its servers based in the United States.  And the interplay between U.S. intelligence agencies and other Western intelligence agencies and any intelligence agencies that can hack this is fluid.

So, we’re in a—if we look back to what’s a earlier example of the worst penetration by an intelligence apparatus of a society, which is perhaps East Germany, where up to 10 percent of people over their lifetime had been an informer at one stage or another, in Iceland we have 88 percent penetration of Iceland by Facebook.  Eighty-eight percent of people are there on Facebook informing on their friends andtheir movements and the nature of their relationships—and for free.  They’re not even being paid money.  They’re not even being directly coerced to do it.  They’re doing it for social credits to avoid the feeling of exclusion.

But people should understand what is really going on.  I don’t believe people are doing this or would do it if they truly understood what was going on, that they are doing hundreds of billions of hours of free work for the Central Intelligence Agency, for the FBI, and for all allied agencies and all countries that can ask for favors to get hold of that information.

William Binney, the former chief of research, the National Security Agency’s signals intelligence division, describes this situation that we are in now as “turnkey totalitarianism,” that the whole system of totalitarianism has been built—the car, the engine has been built—and it’s just a matter of turning the key. And actually, when we look to see some of the crackdowns on WikiLeaks and the grand jury process and targeted assassinations and so on, actually it’s arguable that key has already been partly turned. The assassinations that occur extra-judicially, the renditions that occur, they don’t occur in isolation. They occur as a result of the information that has been sucked in through this giant signals interception machinery.

That’s a strong statement, but I don’t think it is an exaggeration.   Watch the interview and decide for yourself.  The key parts are between the 10th and 20th minute and after the 32nd minute.   Or click on Julian Assange on Wikileaks, Bradley Manning and the Emerging Surveillance State and read the transcript.

Can you outsmart your right foot?

December 1, 2012

My friend Bill Elwell sent me this.

right_foot_printYou have to try this, it takes just 2 seconds. Made me laugh out loud.

It is from an orthopedic surgeon . . This will boggle your mind and  it will keep you trying over and over again to see if you can outsmart your foot, but, you can’t.

It’s pre-programmed in your brain!

1). Without anyone watching you (they will think you’re goofy) and while sitting at your desk in front of your computer, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles.

2). Now, while doing this, draw the number ‘6’ in the air with your right hand.
Your foot will change direction.

And there’s nothing you can do about it, no matter how many times you try it.