We Lurch Resolutely into the Future…

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We are depending on the success of our winter fund drive to pay for our long-awaited redesign, which we hope will be a more general reboot of World War 4 Report. Our total now stands at $1,225, which is not bad for a start. But we really need to raise $5,000 to meet the costs of the redesign and to get us through the winter. That means we currently have $3,775 to go. Can we depend on you, readers?

So far, we have received a few but very generous donations. We would rather receive just asmall donation—from each of our thousands of readers. So, if you are reading this: If not you, who? And if not now, when?

We also asked in last month's Exit Poll if World War 4 Report is still relevant ten years after its launch in the immediate wake of the 9-11 disaster. We've heard from around 15 readers. We think we have more than 15 readers. Do you appreciate out work? Please let us know. Do you not appreciate out work? Please let us know too.

We are now grappling with another question. We explain in our Mission Statement what we mean by "World War 4." But we are considering changing our name when we do our make-over, to something that reflects the post-GWOT era that we are hopefully entering. The "Global War on Terrorism" obviously still continues, even if Obama has dropped that particular nomenclature. But perhaps it will no longer be the paradigmatic conflict on the planet, as popular revolutionary movements gain ground from Tahrir Square to Wall Street. Let us know if you support a name-change, and if you have any suggestions for the new one.

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Continue ReadingWe Lurch Resolutely into the Future… 

Issue #177, December 2011

Electronic Journal & Daily Report WILL THE WORLD BETRAY BURMA’S PRO-DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT? Cosmetic Reforms, as State Terror Continues by Nava Thakuria, World War 4 Report OCCUPY JUAREZ DEFIES REPRESSION by Dawn Paley, Upside Down World “THIS LAND IS OURS!” Land… Read moreIssue #177, December 2011


by Michael I. Niman, ArtVoice

i know I’m skating on thin ice with this column. Writing about the FBI, CIA, NSA, or any of the other spook agencies? No problem. But mention the deceased Steve Jobs as anything other than saintly or god-like and you’ve crossed over the line. Spinning his departure as anything other than a tragic loss for humanity is treason against our species.

But we’ve got to stop drinking this Kool-Aid. It was a true testimony to the omnipotence of corporate culture when a critical mass of Occupy Wall Street protestors zombied up in a moment of silence to mourn the one-percenter who planted his own revenue stream in so many of their pockets.

It’s now been a month since Jobs was finally humbled by burial: Can we clear the tears from our glazed eyes and talk about this?

Life in iPod City
Steve Jobs made his fortune by transitioning Apple from a computer manufacturer into an electronics design and marketing company that “outsourced” the actual production of its products to Asian sweatshops. This is the Nike model. Get rid of the clunky, capital-intensive accoutrements of 20th-century industrialism, like factories that need maintenance and workers who demand a living wage. Instead of building products, Jobs concentrated on building a brand—a super brand with a cult-like following. With this brand in hand, Apple was able to contract out to faceless suppliers who squeezed their slim profit margin from an over-worked and underpaid workforce.

Under Jobs’ watch, city-sized factories sprung up in China, pumping out iPods, iPhones, iPads, iMacs, and Macbooks by the dozens of millions. The largest producer of iBling is a Taiwanese company by the name of Foxconn that fulfills most of its Apple orders at two massive factories in China. Its Longhua, Shenzhen complex employs as many as 450,000 workers and covers a footprint of more than one square mile. Its Chengdu factory was built in just 70 days, opening in October 2010 in order to meet the demand for second-generation iPads, and is able to pump out 40 million units per year. Chengdu workers, according to a Hong Kong human rights group, stand on their feet for up to 14 hours a day working at repetitive, mind-and body-numbing tasks.

These Foxconn plants are walled compounds where employees eat, sleep, and work, with restaurants, grocery stores, banks, clinics, gymnasiums, and even a company-run TV station located onsite. Workers mostly live, eight to 10 to a room, in company-owned dormitories, suffering a quasi-military management regimen. When iPhone sales took off in 2009, the company, according to one human rights agency investigation, forced the workforce to labor as many as 120 hours per month overtime in order to keep Apple stores in the US and Europe stocked. As a result, Apple’s profits defied Wall Street’s bear market, with a seemingly endless supply of its popular products.

At the same time, Foxconn’s production line workers started jumping to their deaths. In response, the company festooned some of its most depressing dormitories with anti-suicide netting, and, according to the Huffington Post, made new hires sign an anti-suicide pledge.

Mourn the iVictims
So yeah, I’m dumbfounded by all the mourning. Sure, Jobs was a visionary, but his vision was a dark one. To face up to that, however, means having to come to terms with the nasty realities of our own fetishistic consumerism. All of this iShit has to come from somewhere. And that somewhere is Chengdu and Shenzhen.

Dig deeper and you’ll find raw materials sourced from deadly, low-bidding mines across Africa. You’ll find mine tailings poisoning communities just as you’ll find iWorkers on assembly lines poisoned by solvents and crippled by hyper-paced repetitive movements.

To hold Jobs accountable for what he represents means having to think about our own complicity in fueling the iDeath industries. So we’ll mourn Jobs and ignore the victims of the suicide clusters in the Apple supply line.

Sure, Apple has a code of ethics. So do the public relations and advertising industries. It works like this: Apple contracts out to have products produced at impossible prices. Journalists and human rights activists catch Apple suppliers violating said code. Apple condemns the supplier’s practice, even going as far as cutting contracts with some smaller, nonessential vendors. In high-profile cases, Jobs himself made cameo media appearances to righteously condemn his own contractors.

But the problem was never rogue suppliers violating Apple’s ethics. The problem was Jobs’ business model, which guaranteed that suppliers would engage in a cost-cutting race to the bottom. And this model, no matter how many workers jumped from dormitory roofs in Shenzhen, was never up for debate. Apple, with its distinctively unique, popular, high-profit product line and devoted customer base, was well situated to make a break from the sweatshop model—but under Jobs’ leadership, it instead chose to expand morally repugnant outsourcing practices.

Living in an iWorld
Even if Apple’s iGoods were somehow produced sustainably in safe factories where workers earned living wages, I still wouldn’t have mourned his passing. The inventions he shepherded to market have certainly changed the world. But has that really been a good thing? The Apple model is the antithesis of the open-source movement celebrated by the anarcho-techie set. Apple hardware is usually mated to proprietary software and peripherals. In some cases, running non-proprietary software, as in breaking free of Steve Jobs’ vision of how you as a consumer should behave, violates your Apple hardware warranty.

Apple gizmos traffic your desires to Apple-owned stores. Its iTunes store now dominates the global music industry, dictating terms to musicians and music labels who want access to Apple’s near-monopoly platform. It’s iPhone App Store can festoon your iPhone screen with a plethora of corporate brands, but also acts as a gatekeeper, locking other applications out of the booming iMarket. Details on Apple’s predatory market practices fill books and court documents. It’s not technological innovation alone that explains Apple’s market dominance in tablets, phones, and music players. As with their predatory production model, Apple, under Jobs’ leadership, has been ruthless in its quest to dominate markets, and in turn, consumers. From where I sit, I can only see unbridled greed.

Question iDependence
While technology users quickly develop dependence on their new gadgets, Apple users often develop an additional dependence on the brand, whose product logic and software often make transitioning to a competing platform cumbersome and even intimidating. Under Jobs’ leadership, Apple developed partnerships with other mega-brands. Magazines, for example, now tout special features such as videos that are exclusively available online for their subscribers—but more and more, the catch is you can only view your bonus on your Apple iPad, much like products in stores want to “talk” to your iPhone. What this all adds up to is one corporation with an increasing presence in every aspect of your life—and a diminishing number of options to circumvent that inevitable relationship.

Apple, under Jobs’ tutelage, has used this presence very effectively to separate consumers from their money. Buying an Apple product is not a onetime purchase. Rather, it’s a sort of conversion to a consumer sect, the beginning of a relationship that will maintain an enduring flow of money from you to Apple.

This is Steve Jobs’ legacy. It is truly brilliant. And yes, your iPhone is very impressive. I still don’t get the mourning.

This story first ran Nov. 10 in ArtVoice, Buffalo, NY.

Dr. Michael I. Niman is a professor of journalism and media studies at Buffalo State College. His previous columns are at artvoice.com, archived at www.mediastudy.com, and available globally through syndication.

From our Daily Report:

China: industrial strikes, peasant protests rock Guangdong
World War 4 Report, Nov. 25, 2011

See also:

Towards an Independent Labor Movement?
by Lance Carter, Insurgent Notes
World War 4 Report, July 2010

Reprinted by World War 4 Report, Dec. 1, 2011
Reprinting permissible with attribution



by Bill Weinberg, Indian Country Today

A hit squad of some 40 masked gunmen on Nov. 18 executed a cacique or traditional leader of Brazil’s Kaiowa-Guarani people. Nísio Gomes, 59, was shot down in front of his community, on disputed lands near the Paraguayan border in Mato Grosso do Sul state.

The gunmen arrived in trucks, surrounded Gomes, and ordered community members to lie on the ground. Community members say he was shot in the head, chest, arms and legs—his body then thrown into the back of a truck and driven away. The remains have not been recovered.

Another four Guarani were wounded when they attempted to resist. Federal Police have been dispatched to the region, but say they have no leads.

Gomes was the leader of a group of some 60 Guarani who had established the new community at Fazenda Ouro Verde (Green Gold Farm) in Amambaí municipality three weeks earlier. They claim the land as part of their traditional territory, from which they were evicted by cattle ranchers. For the past week, the community reported that gunmen in trucks had repeatedly circled their camp.

Gomes’ son Valmir told the UK-based Survival International that his father had been threatened repeatedly by unknown men who visited their camp. One had reportedly told Gomes, “You’ll be dead soon.”

Survival International reports that Gomes spoke his last words to Valmir as the gunmen arrived: “Don’t leave this place. Take care of this land with courage. This is our land. Nobody will drag you from it. Look after my grand-daughters and all the children well. I leave this land in your hands.”

As they fled, the assailants drove over Gomes’ vara—a wooden staff used in rituals and prayers. It did not break. Valmir now has the vara, which is believed to be about 200 years old.

Brazil’s indigenous affairs department, FUNAI, has also opened an investigation into the slaying. Brazil’s Human Rights Secretariat condemned the murder as “part of the systematic violence against indigenous people in the region.” Human Rights Minister Maria do Rosario Nunes said the region is “one of the worst scenes of conflict between indigenous people and ranchers in the country.”

Survival International director Stephen Corry said, “It seems like the ranchers won’t be happy until they’ve eradicated the Guarani. This level of sustained violence was commonplace in the past and it resulted in the extinction of thousands of tribes. It is utterly shameful that the Brazilian government allows it to continue today.”

Some 70 more Guarani are reported to have strengthened the encampment at Fazenda Ouro Verde, and pledge to defend it with their lives. One of the defenders told the Indigenous Missionary Council news agency, CIMI: “The people will stay in the camp, we will all die here together. We are not going to leave our ancestral land.”

This is the third attempt by the Kaiowa-Guarani to reclaim the land, from which they were evicted by ranchers 30 years ago. Before their return, the community had been living by the side of a road.

The disputed lands are now producing cattle, soy and sugar cane. Several Guarani leaders have been killed since they launched their campaign to recover lands in the region in 2003. FUNAI in 2008 began to consider the disputed lands for demarcation as Guarani communities, but the process is not yet concluded. Mato Grosso do Sul is one of Brazil’s biggest sources of beef, soy and other cash crops for the export market.


This story first ran Nov. 21 in Indian Country Today, Oneida Nation, New York state.


Correio do Estado, Correio do Estado, Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul, Nov. 20; Survival International, Nov. 19; Survival International, BBC News, AFP, CIMI, Nov. 18

From our Daily Report:

Brazil: Guarani leaders murdered, tortured
World War 4 Report, Dec. 31, 2009

From our Archive:

Brazil: Guarani and Kaiowa take back the land
World War 4 Report, February 2004

Reprinted by World War 4 Report, Dec. 1, 2011
Reprinting permissible with attribution