Bullyboy 4: No Habeus E-Waste Corpus, And curious retraction

Too bad Interpol and the UK authorities didn't consider how easy TV repair was.   Two years after Export-Hoax-gate (see BAN's Night of Breaking CRT glass, Environmental Malpractice, and Clubbed to Death Blogs), Intercon police are still seizing African's containers, presuming the electronics were waste.  Like a parent taking toys out of a crib, the paternalism of the "Project Eden" (putting Africa back the way it was?) stands opposing the African Revolution, the Arab Spring, the democratization which flows directly through used display devices like twitter to teenagers.

The two "root causes"?  BAN made up a fake number, and rich countries know so little about electronics repair that we make museums about it.  "Once upon a time, we replaced capacitors too, honey".  Fixing things is so "hunter gatherer", it seems to belong in a stoneage village.

Meet the other side of the table.  If you live in a place, like Lagos, that still does a lot of electronics repair, you wonder why people don't ask you how to repair the TV they seized.  That's what the UNEP study finally did - and discovered 91% repair and reuse in Lagos.  But it was too late for Joe Benson.

Here is a minute of Joseph Benson, describing Bullyboys in his own words.

This is about power.  It's about BAN and Greenpeace showing they are watchdogs.  They follow Saul Insky's model, enforcing their vision of segregation of trade, in a weird money-making way.  This is about paternalistic decisions about who Nigeria or Ghana, Africa is allowed to trade with.  Is Africa to be denied the path of development followed by South Korea, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia?   Or is Africa going to be relegated to mining raw materials for our new electronics, a resource-curse economy?  After Indonesia, Africa is the next battleground for Good Enough Markets, Tinkerer Blessing, and Resource Curse.

Puckett told me that - even if his math was wrong (It's 91% reuse, NOT 80-90% dumping)-  that the "law" was violated ("a technicality" he says justifies Benson's arrest).   What, exactly, is the crime the Africans are accused of?   Dumping?  Or like the Michigan case, is there some other technicality?  The facts of the case are like background music playing over a slide show of Pieter Hugo exotic photos.  The audio doesn't fit the video.

More cross examination:

Now, had Sky News or BBC or PBS or CBS etc asked Joseph Benson some questions, would they have still had a story?   Or would they have a lot more work?   Would Green and Thompson E-Waste Export Bill have been drafted?   It would have at least been Jim Puckett's word that the exports were 80% bad, vs. Joe Bensons.  Now they have the UNEP studies... but don't seem to be revisiting the story.

And they don't seem to have noticed the stealthy retraction two months ago, BAN back-stepping away from the initial accusation.
"Despite your reading diligence however, it is unfortunate that you did not start by questioning the baseless assertions made by Adam Minter in his reckless article.   Never has BAN ever stated that 80% of US e-waste is exported." 

If you have the time, here is how a chief of police (Montgomery, Alabama) apologizes, using the word "bully", for misdirected enforcement 50 years earlier, during the firehose years of civil rights marches.  It's also touching.  The African TV repair guys may not have the eloquence of Martin Luther King or Congressman John Lewis.  But like an Alabama citizen trying to ride a bus, they are practicing a trade - purchase, sale and repair of electronics - which HR 2791 cleverly allows "OEMS" like Green's home state manufacturers to practice.  OECD only, or OEM only, can participate in export for repair and refurbishment trade?  What does that really mean, given the roots and history of Terry Gou (Foxconn) and Simon Lin (Acer and Wistron) and Rowell Yang, even Samsung founder Lee Byung Chul began in pre-owned repair and refurbishment.  They are allowed, as contractors, to make/assemble/design the electronics products, and to take them back for warranty repair.  But if they try to buy the same product, jail time?

Chung Ju-yung is the founder of Hyundai, which owns a lot, lot more than car manufacturing.  I spent some hours with his VP, an original partner, YD Kim, in New York a few years ago.   There is interesting history about Japan's colonial "bully" period where Japan tried to restrict Korean business development.

From Wikipedia's entry on founder of Hyundai, Chung Ju-jung (2013.07,30)
Chung returned to his village once his business failed and stayed there until 1940, when he decided to try again in Seoul. After considering the reality of restrictions imposed on Koreans in certain industries by the Japanese colonial government, Chung decided to enter the automobile repair business. Using a service garage he purchased from a friend, Chung started the A-do Service Garage on a 3,000 won loan. Within three years, the employee number grew from 20 to 70 and Chung was able to bring in a good income. In 1943, the Japanese Occupational Government forced the garage to merge with a steel plant as part of the war effort.[1][2] Although his businesses were seeing their demise due to suppression by the Japanese, Chung returned to Asan with 50,000 won in savings to try to make the best of the situation.[1]
Japan didn't want to allow South Koreans to manufacture.  But they allowed car repair.  And through the back door of car repair, Chung Ju-jung began buying engine blocks from the USA and Japan, and repairing them to like new condition.  If he was found buying "non-working" engines from London, what would Sky News say?  The word "bully" has a strong role in the history of Asian electronics development.

No doubt there were thousands of other tinkerers who DIDN'T become famous industry leaders.  Many probably never rose past gray market and counterfeit product labelling.  But how confident are we that, if we went back in time, we could recognize which of these small brown-skinned refurbishers would go on to create millions of jobs in their nations?

Do we really want to put refurbishment off the table in Africa?   Really?

This is why Benson's choice of the word "bully-boy" resonates.  The reuse and repair trade is development in its infancy.  It is the most sustainable developmental path.  The tinkerer blessing is better than a resource curse, and if we don't recognize the opportunity because the entrepreneur is uneducated, the wrong color, or overwhelmed by red tape, we may kill Africa's development in the schoolyard.
Now, look at the specifics of what Benson was legally accused of, and who made the accusation.  Is this really the basis for a USA National Law?

Benson was accused in Seattle, arrested in London, for a crime supposedly committed in Nigeria.  But Nigeria doesn't arrest him.  Here is how Nigeria and Basel Convention staff conducted an inspection of containers in 2011.
Trip to the Port and experience at the port
- On our way to the port we spent over 3 hours in traffic. If the traffic situation was that bad in Lagos, why didn’t we start early enough?  We were fortunate to see the first row of three opened containers at the port. The seals demonstration. There was no personal protective equipment (PPE) for the participants. We were only given reflector vests. We didn’t have any tools with us to test functionality of the items. Furthermore, it rained heavily so we had to leave to find shelter.
See photos of the Nigerian E-waste inspection program embedded below.  TVs all one size - like you see in cities with "partaged" electric current.  No computers, printers, wood consoles, copy machines.  If you were really trying to avoid environmental costs, would you shrink wrap the TVs?  BAN would have us expect a container full of a hodge podge of "stack and pack" scrap.

Benson claims that no one in Nigeria is accusing him of anything.

If you don't have time to read watch the BBC "Track My Trash" Video on E-Waste, you can view the transcription here.   Two TVs sent in, only one exported.  Nothing found dumped in Africa resembling contents of the containers.  Containers found in UK have stretchwrapped TVs only, 70% working (same as UNEP) and no attempt to repair the other 30% (found to add up to 91% reuse by UNEP in Nigeria).   And a mysterious vanishing statistic which justified the seizure.  And the estimate by the UK police is that seven out of eight are working.  How bad is one out of 8 televisions needing professional repair?  (California retailers report 11.9% store returns, BTW).

Interestingly, that's what our CRT tests in Mexico find (and when I document the recycling of the 8th TV, I get an R2 Major Nonconformity, oy vey, but that's another blog).  Is it possible that UK and USA citizens are not disposing of their old TVs because they broke, or could be repaired?  Is it possible we're just replacing them with LCD flat screens, and that the kids at the Ghana and Nigerian dumps are NOT burning Joe Benson's stretchwrapped TVs?  Is it possible that among the 6,900,000 households in Nigeria that already had TVs, that some of them might be getting discarded or traded in?

That - all of that - is what the UNEP found in Nigeria.  No habeus corpus.  And most of the electronics at Agbogbloshie died of old age, after years of use in Accra.

In the he-said, she-said world of export crime, don't we need to know what happened to the TVs sent to Nigeria?  Burned or reused?  And is fair trade (incentive to properly recycle the 8th TV and multiple takebacks) really illegal?

So why doubt Joseph Benson's testimony in the video?  Who is accusing him, and of what?

Rod fo go Lagos i izi, bet fo kam bak na waya.  That's a pidgin proverb, which means Jim followed me in to Africa, but I'm not letting him out of this.

Nigeria doesn't have Egypt's "5-year old max" rule, so Benson wasn't changing dates.  Is he squeeky clean?  Who knows, t's a cash business, and who knows what the WEEE rules are.  But does anyone see an environmental crime here?   Watch the BBC Track My Trash episode.  SLOWLY.  There's nothing to impeach from Benson's testimony.   But the accuser no longer recalls claiming 80% dumping.  Hmmm.

  Falsus in uno is.

How to Impeach a Witness in Small Claims Court

You can impeach someone’s testimony in a couple ways:
  • Show that a previous statement or action is inconsistent with trial testimony.
    For example:
    • In a suit by a tenant to recover a security deposit from the landlord, the landlord claims that there never was any security deposit given so there’s nothing to return. If the tenant produces a receipt given by the landlord when the tenant first entered into occupancy of the apartment, the receipt can be used to impeach the landlord’s testimony.
    • In a car accident case, the defendant says that you ran the stop sign and hit him. You show him a picture of your car with the right side smashed in and his car with the front damaged. The photos impeach his testimony because they lead to the conclusion that he hit you.
  • Use a rule of law called falsus in uno. Falsus in uno is a Latin term for the idea that if a person lies or misstates one thing, the judge or the jury can disregard that person’s entire testimony. So if you can establish that the witness is misstating a material fact about the case, the judge doesn’t have to believe any of that person’s testimony.
    material fact is one that is important and if accepted by the judge as true would help prove the plaintiff’s case or the defendant’s defense.
  • Produce a statement the witness gave under oath — such as in an affidavit, a deposition, or even testimony at another trial — that contradicts his statement at your trial.
    If you’re lucky enough to produce such a previously sworn to statement, you get to have your own “Perry Mason” moment during the trial when you confront the witness and ask: “You were under oath when you made that prior statement and you’re under oath now. Please, tell this court were you lying then or are you lying now?”

Technicians at Quest repairing CRTs 2010 USA
We still have TV repairpeople in the USA.  The industry has shrunk, and a number of types of repair are being abandoned.  But in the USA today two companies (Quest and VideoDisplayCorp) which cut CRT tubes in order to replace the electron gun, and re-vacuum the tube.  No pays for a garden-variety CRT to be recut.  But the common, garden variety CRT televisions are relatively simple to fix if the tube isn't damaged in the first place.

I learned about overseas TV repair when I compared buyer requests with the repairs described in Silicon Sam Goldwasser's RepairFAQ.   I'd test something, and describe what didn't work, and the tech would send me a description of the repair - and I looked up the repair on Silicon Sams.  If there was something they said NOT to send, I'd look it up, and find that the repair was REALLY difficult - like CRT cutting.

By the way, why does Bloomberg World View (a great place otherwise) have no regular writer for Africa?  It's a terrific spot to get a peek into India, China, Brazil and Russia.  Someone needs to coin a new term, BRIC-A-BRAC, to expand beyond the watch of Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC countries).  -A-
is for Africa (dibs.. yeah I know it's a continent not a country).  And for BRIC etc. to be more useful, the letters should apply to cities, metropolises, etc., not just stupid national borders which divide Singapores from Jahor Bahru.

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