Letters for the Week of March 21

Readers sound off on Apple and Occupy Oakland.


“Will Occupy Oakland Embrace Strategic Nonviolence?,” News, 3/7

The Media and the Message

Whether or not a given protest tactic works depends largely on two things: The police response and how the story is told to the world beyond. Recently, police in London and Moscow managed to end protests in both capitals without any of the hardware routinely used to brutalize Americans. Perhaps this went unremarked-upon in US media because they’re just too embarrassed to report that it’s actually safer to protest in Moscow than in many American cities. It’s certainly the case that, beginning with the earliest protests in New York, what has been lacking in US media is global and historical context.

All across the country, police have vandalized Occupy libraries. All across the country, banks have stolen homes from their owners. But in Oakland, it’s the vandalism of broken glass that upsets people. At least the police have been thoughtful enough to do their vandalism off-camera. And nobody actually saw a bank steal anybody’s house. An act can only be violent if it’s on TV and the media says some protester did it.

Another aspect of the local Occupation guaranteed to send people to their keyboards is that many Occupiers “are not even from Oakland.” The equivalent Sixties phrase was “outside agitator.” The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King answered this in “Letter from Birmingham Jail” when he wrote, “Never again can we afford to live within the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider within its bounds.”

Too often, when citing the successes of Gandhi and King, important factors are overlooked. Crucially, both leaders had faith that viewers outside India and the Deep South, respectively, would be appalled by the authorities’ vicious abuse of human beings. But in Oakland, shields are called weapons, and the police chief told the Tribune that “police are under assault.” In New York, Mayor Mike Bloomberg called the NYPD his “own army.” In Berkeley, Cal Police Captain Margo Bennett defended her counterparts at Davis, saying “The individuals who linked arms and actively resisted, that in itself is an act of violence.” Clearly, in this country, at this time, violence is in the eye of the beholder.

Of course, police violence against protesters has always comes to an end eventually. In the Deep South of King’s day, it ended with the FBI protecting civil rights. In Oakland, a decade later, it ended with the FBI killing protesters.
How will it end this time?

Richard Fitzer, Oakland

“Apple’s Dirty Money,” Raising the Bar, 3/7

Rotten Apple

Good article. Since 1970, it’s been US policy to move industry “offshore” to take advantage of cheap labor, and you can’t get much more “offshore” than China. Our nation spent $6 trillion in the Cold War to “defeat Communism,” while sending billions to China to build up its infrastructure and industry. This buildup never would have happened without US capital. China is now self-sustaining after years of our investment, so it looks like our — meaning the US — policy was successful.

Life in “dormitories” from which workers can only escape by jumping is an integral component of the Apple miracle. China’s is an industrial scheme enforced by a repressive Communist government that doesn’t allow labor or political organizing. That government is supported by the United States and enabled by it. You don’t get something for nothing.

Apple products require a repressive industrial policy. For years, Apple has been offering for sale the next juicy high-tech trinket for its eager, addicted fans. Instead of making a top-of-the-line product with all the memory it needs that will last twenty years, each year Apple carefully doles out one cheap inferior geegaw after another for a couple of hundred bucks. A twenty year i-whatever would sell for $3,000 and would only have to be manufactured once. But since the whole business model is based on sales instead of utility, the cheapo iPads/iPhones have to be produced again and again by cheap slave labor, ad infinitum. That’s where the profit is. If Apple were willing to produce a superior product that would last twenty years, it wouldn’t matter how cheap the labor was.

As for the loyal Apple-oids, they couldn’t care less where the product comes from or how long it will last, as long as they get their yearly jag. Not the kind of people you would want to base industrial policy on, but there it is. Rumor has it that the iPad 10 is due in 2018 and is already on the drawing board. True? Don’t matter — the rumor is worth almost as much as the product.

Steve Tabor, Oakland


Our March 14 Eco Watch, “Nearly 5,000 Chickens Rescued from Factory Farm,” misstated Christine Morrissey’s job title. She’s the sanctuary manager of Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary.

Our February 29 feature, “Emergency Call,” erroneously stated that police transported nearly all of the Alameda County 5150 patients to John George Psychiatric Pavilion. They were transported by ambulance.

In our March 14 CD review, “Stick Figa,” we erroneously stated that Stik Figa’s album was produced by Oddisee. It was in fact produced by Michael “Seven” Summers.