Posts tagged: the new robber barons
“How do we have this amazing microtechnology? Because the factory where they’re making these, they jump off the fucking roof because it’s a nightmare in there. You really have a choice – you can have candles and horses and be a little kinder to each other, or let someone suffer immeasurably far away just so you can leave a mean comment on YouTube while you’re taking a shit.”— Louis C.K., Of Course, But Maybe
The iPhone 6 is coming out soon. But you don’t need one. Your lining up to buy Apple’s latest product is enabling their abuse of workers around the world, including in the United States. Of course, Apple isn’t the only one guilty of this. The HP laptop I’m using to write this article was made in the same way. As is the Samsung smartphone I used to tweet this article after it was published. But Apple is the most glaring example that our need for shiny new gadgets perpetuates atrocities.
Since 1998, seven million people have died in a civil war that continues to plague the Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The war began when Rwanda-backed rebels attempted an overthrow of the Congolese government. The government teamed up with local militias known as the “Mai Mai,” who are known to occupy local villages, steal resources, and rape women. The DRC has become known as the “rape capital of the world,” in which marauders use rape as a weapon of coercion. Today, Mai Mai fighters and corrupt members of the Congolese military both enslave children in the DRC to mine columbite and tantalum, which together can form coltan, a necessary ingredient in modern laptops and smartphones.
As this mini-documentary from the Pulitzer Center shows, children as young as 13 are forced to work in the mines for as little as 2 dollars a day. They wear no safety protection, carry a store-bought, battery-powered flashlight, and often die from brutal working conditions that result in suffocation, cave-ins, and death from sheer exhaustion. Multinational corporations like Apple, Samsung, Dell, and HP all depend on the Congolese mining operations for their raw materials, as 80% of the world’s coltan supply comes from the region. The children have no other option but to work in the mines, because school is beyond the financial means of ordinary Congolese families.
The raw materials mined in Congo are then sent to factories in China – most notably, the Foxconn plant in Shenzhen. The factory has been described by local media as a “labor camp,” in which teenage students are sought out for employment and are forced to work more than double or even triple the overtime limit (36 hours a month under China’s labor laws), and workers are routinely uncompensated for injuries suffered on the job. Seventeen workers attempted suicide, and 14 died jumping from the roof of the building in 2010. The company responded by putting anti-suicide nets around the building, and forced employees to sign agreements stating that their employer would be exempt from lawsuits brought by family members in the event of their suicide. Foxconn claims to have raised workers’ wages to $298 per month, but workers say those pay raises never came.
After the raw materials for phones and computers are mined by underpaid and overworked Congolese teenagers, and those materials are assembled by underpaid and overworked Chinese teenagers, American teenagers and adults making poverty wages are then put to work in Apple stores hawking the new phones and computers. This is not unlike the triangular slave trade of the 18th century, in which African slaves were traded to America, American sugar and tobacco was traded to Europe, and European textiles, rum, and manufactured goods were traded to Africa. This time, the slaves are in Africa and Asia, and Americans are forced into wage slavery by an economy that encourages corporations to distribute profits upward to executives, while paying workers less and less.
This Forbes article describes how little Apple’s 30,000 Apple store employees nationwide make compared to Apple CEO Tim Cook, who received stock options last year worth $570 million. The average Apple store employee makes $11 to $12 an hour. Sure, it’s higher than the federal minimum wage, but that only amounts to $23,400 to $24,960 in pre-tax income for a full-time employee working 52 weeks in a year. That means even though Apple is raking in massive, record profits by selling expensive technology, and even though Apple has twice more cash on hand than the U.S. Treasury, and even though Apple pays a far lower effective tax rate than the average American family, their workers make so little that theyqualify for food stamps and Medicaid.
However, it isn’t just low-paid Apple store workers who are getting shafted. Tech engineers and coding experts looking for work in Silicon Valley have recently found themselves on the end of a wage restriction conspiracy. A Pando.com investigation published leaked emails showing that leading tech companies like Google, Apple, Dreamworks, Comcast, eBay, Lucasfilm, and others have been conspiring together to keep wages for tech engineers at a set rate, violating workers’ rights to seek competitive compensation. The wage conspiracy encompasses over 1,000,000 employees at over a dozen companies.
Corporations like Apple and HP could do the right thing by simply entering into contracts with the Congolese and Chinese governments to ensure that raw materials are mined and products are manufactured by workers who are paid a living wage and given adequate benefits. They could pay American workers at least $15 an hour, and provide opportunities for high-performing employees to share in some of the skyrocketing profits that were normally only preserved for executives and wealthy shareholders. All of this would result in iPhones and iPads costing a few dollars more. But American consumers would still be more than willing to buy shiny new gadgets for a little more if they knew they were made sustainably.
The decision will ultimately be up to us, the buyers. We either have to collectively decide that we’ll hold onto our current products as long as we can until the promise of sustainable manufacturing is made, or to line up like cattle for the next level of expensive gadgets made possible by a tremendous amount of human suffering.
apple is walmart so
i really believe they’re trying to destroy net neutrality AT LEAST partially because of the way that people and powers are being exposed for their racism, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, etc. if Twitter hadn’t been the most reliable news source for what was happening on the ground in Ferguson, if videos and text records of peoples’ disgusting remarks weren’t posted online, if peoples’ jobs couldn’t be made aware of how their employees are spouting oppressive garbage, if powers and companies couldn’t be slammed with instant negative press, then i would blame it solely on money-hunger, but as sure as i live and breathe, it’s also to protect the bigotry and abuse that helps keep capitalism a well-oiled machine.
“News is something somebody doesn’t want printed; all else is advertising.”
- William Randolph Hearst
Povertyis forcing people to have dangerously poor diets and is leading to the return of rickets and gout – diseases of the Victorian age that affect bones and joints – according the UK Faculty of Public Health.
Fuck. You. David. Fucking. Cameron.
Oh fuck, we’re probably doing the same thing.
But when Jennifer Lawrence did it, it was “quirky” and “cute”. Fuck you White America.
Libertarianism is a philosophy of might makes right. The natural philosophy for the age of neoliberalism, as well demonstrated by the Koch brothers, but also, it would appear, a justification for the ugliest elements of United States history.
When libertarian leaders talk about “freedom,” what is really meant is freedom for the holders of capital to pursue profit maximization without limits. The cult of the market is a logical expression of the extreme individualism embodied in libertarianism.
One of the most influential articulators of that was Friedrich Hayek. The Austrian School economist asserted that solidarity, benevolence and a desire to work for the betterment of one’s community are “primitive instincts” and that human civilization consists of a long struggle against those ideals. “The discipline of the market” is the provider of civilization and progress, he wrote.
Thus, unregulated capitalism is “civilization” and anything else is a product of “primitive” group instincts that have survived from our prehistoric hunter/gatherer ancestors in the Hayekian worldview.
From these ideas, it is a small step to the concepts of “money equals speech” and “corporations are people” promulgated by the U.S. Supreme Court. This is an extension of “shareholder rights” to the political sphere — the more you own, the more say you have. A form of conquest and domination for the age of financialization.
If there is no community, no common interest, then why can’t someone, anyone, take whatever they want from the less strong? Give Ayn Rand credit for one thing: She stripped away all the accretions of individualist verbiage, all the rarefied theory of orthodox economics, and enunciated with unusual clarity what lies at the core of capitalist triumphalism. It hasn’t served the world very well.
"Tech site Pando Daily has been providing amazing coverage of the Department of Justice antitrust invesigation and subsequent class action lawsuits over wage-fixing amongst Silicon Valley tech companies and animation studios. Described as the largest wage-fixing cartel in American history, it’s the story of how some of the most powerful figures in tech and entertainment, including Apple’s Steve Jobs, Lucasfilm’s George Lucas, Pixar’s Ed Catmull, and Google’s Eric Schmidt, conspired to illegally manipulate and suppress the wages of their employees.
In Pando’s most recent piece by Mark Ames, the discussion turns to the animation studios, which have not been covered as heavily throughout the scandal as some of the tech companies like Google, Intel, and Apple.
The major point that Ames makes is that the illegal wage-fixing extended far beyond the primary players, Pixar and Lucasfilm. Through the deposition testimonies of George Lucas and Pixar president/co-founder Ed Catmull, there is evidence that other studios like Walt Disney Animation Studios and DreamWorks/PDI participated in the illegal activities to keep their employees’ wages unnaturally low. The Walt Disney Company has emerged as a central figure in the scandal, especially now that they own both Pixar and Lucasfilm, and it should come as no surprise that as they worked to pay their employees less, their stock prices and profits shot to all-time highs.”
Madagascar: ‘Slaves’ in the Gulf: Malagasy women lured to Middle East
Maurice Pierre Herynirina holds a photograph of his wife, Solange Razafindrasoa, in an Antananarivo cafe last December. He learned in February that she had died in Saudi Arabia, where she was working as a domestic servant. (More)
Malagasy mother Solange Razafindrasoa left the island in 2013 eager to work as a domestic servant in Saudi Arabia and earn a better living for her family. Less than a year later she was dead, her body flown home to a husband asking questions about her slave-like work conditions in the Middle East.
“During our last phone call she said ‘I don’t know where I am, nor the address. Soon I won’t be with you anymore, take care of our two children,’ ” Herynirina told AFP while waiting for his wife’s remains to arrive at the Antananarivo airport.
Her death was attributed to a heart attack and “the will of God”, according to Saudi authorities, said Herynirina, who did not want his family name published.
His 34-year-old wife was one of many women from Madagascar who face horrific working conditions while earning a pittance, having travelled to the Middle East through recruitment agencies.
Photo by Rijasolo
That is not a typo.
If you’re poor, the only way you’re likely to injure someone is the old traditional way: artisanal violence, we could call it – by hands, by knife, by club, or maybe modern hands-on violence, by gun or by car.
But if you’re tremendously wealthy, you can practice industrial-scale violence without any manual labor on your own part. You can, say, build a sweatshop factory that will collapse in Bangladesh and kill more people than any hands-on mass murderer ever did, or you can calculate risk and benefit about putting poisons or unsafe machines into the world, as manufacturers do every day. If you’re the leader of a country, you can declare war and kill by the hundreds of thousands or millions. And the nuclear superpowers – the US and Russia – still hold the option of destroying quite a lot of life on Earth.
So do the carbon barons. But when we talk about violence, we almost always talk about violence from below, not above.
flooding everywhere fires everywhere disease everywhere climate instability everywhere
let’s not do anything about it
then pretend nothing is our fault
TAMPA, FL—From coast to coast, town to town, and in nearly every public meeting place and private residence across America, millions have been captivated, inspired, and in some cases moved to tears by presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who now finds himself campaigning before a nation in the throes of full-scale Romneymania.
"The raw energy and enthusiasm Mitt Romney stirs inside people is like nothing I’ve ever seen," Youngstown, OH auto mechanic Chris Ritenour said Wednesday. "Everything he says resonates with Americans. His moving story of growing up privileged, his inspiring rise from moderate wealth to overwhelming riches, his thrilling work in the highest echelons of corporate finance—he really speaks to the heart and mind of the common man."
"I don’t think there’s been a presidential candidate this exciting and magnetic in generations, if ever." Ritenour continued. "I am a Romneymaniac."
As Romneymania has grown, the Republican candidate has crossed over from political figure to cultural phenomenon. Countless reverent portraits of Romney have appeared in storefront windows and on building facades throughout the country, often accompanied by one of the candidate’s signature inspirational phrases, like “Let Detroit go bankrupt” or “Corporations are people, my friend.”
I kind of want to cry
the use of less developed (in the economic/industrial sense) countries as cash crop exporters. they are forced to grow crops and export as much them as they can to even make the most meager of profits. this, combined with land distribution issues, prevents them from being able to subsist by farming for themselves. Cash crop countries have a very difficult time, because this is not sustainable, nor does it get them the profits they would need to develop more profitable industries. hence, perpetual struggle with poverty and inequality. and that is what we in the west desire, because we want to have our chocolate, and we don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for it. it is sadder to me, not that he has not tasted chocolate, but that we, like him, could be living without it. we could be living without so many things. but because consumerism is what drives the world, and our relations with each other, this man is harvesting cacao, an unessential food, instead of something essential to himself and his community. he most likely will have to rely on his income to obtain these things instead. income not equal to his labor.
Argentina blames US for debt default - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-28587653
Argentina has blamed the US for its debt default, calling the mediator in failed talks “incompetent”.
Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich said his country was considering opening proceedings at international tribunals in The Hague after it was declared to be in technical default.
The announcement came just hours after last-minute talks in New York with a group of bond-holders failed.
The bond-holders are demanding a full pay-out of $1.3bn (£766m).
Argentina says the bond-holders are “vultures” using the South American country’s debt problems to make a big profit.
The investors are US hedge funds that bought debt cheaply after Argentina’s economic crisis in 2001-2002.
They are also known as “hold-outs” because they did not sign up to a restructuring of debt which the majority of bond-holders agreed to in 2005 and 2010.
Under that deal, investors agreed to settle for about one-third of what they were originally owed.
However, hedge funds NML and Aurelius Capital Management bought up a large chunk of the remaining distressed debt at low prices.
They demand to be paid the full face value of their holding.
Mr Capitanich said Argentina would denounce the “vulture funds” before the International Court of Justice at The Hague and the United Nations General Assembly.