When stomping Nazis, no room for neutral

When I was growing up I could have been considered a thug. The short of it, I was a teenage punk rocker, I was smart, and I hated authority. And the only thing I hated more than authority were Nazis.

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 11.12.34 AM

Pretty simple

It wasn’t just me, it was the scene. In the 90’s Nazi skinheads were growing in organizational power and form. There was a story that passed around my high school. Once, a New York City hardcore band was playing a show in town. A bunch of Nazi skinheads flooded into the venue with baseball bats, cue balls in socks, and rolls of quarters in their fists, some real medieval stuff. And what did the punk and hardcore kids do? They fought them.

For me, and a bunch of my punk friends, it was a simple politic: Nazis are racist, racists are bad, if we allow racists at our shows then our shows are racist, we all loose (historical supported fact). Therefore you couldn’t sit out, there was one choice: we stomped Nazis.

Then things get complicated
Sometimes I long for those days when it was easy to just point to a skinhead and say, “See that bonehead right there? Let’s stomp ‘em” and know that I was fighting the good fight.

Of course, those days were only easy because my understanding of racism was simple. For my teenage punk rock self, racism was racial prejudice expressed physically or verbally.

But, as Michelle Alexander writes in The New Jim Crow, there is a “…widespread and mistaken belief that racial animus is necessary for the creation and maintenance of racialized systems of social control. The unfortunate reality we must face is that racism manifests itself not only in individual attitudes and stereotypes, but also in the basic structure of society.”

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Las Cafeteras – A Culture Cast interview with Hector Flores

I occasionally produce a podcast called the Culture Cast with my buddy Tracy Van Slyke. This week Tracy was too busy being awesome (seriously) so I interviewed Hector Flores of one of my favorite bands, Las Cafeteras.  Check it out. 

What’s better than a bunch of young lefty Chicanos playing Son Jarocho on stage while a mixed young crowd sings along clapping and dancing like it’s a punk or hip hop show?

Not much.

Las Cafeteras

Las Cafeteras

That’s what you get when you see Las Cafeteras, a seven piece band who’s East LA members met through various social justice campaigns and organizing and who take their name from the East Side Cafe where they first learned to play, most of them not until they were in their 20s.

Las Cafeteras music is political party music that makes manifestos something you can’t help but shake your ass to. It is the kind of movement we need in our, well, movement. 

In this interview Hector Flores, one of the Cafeteras, for the Culture Cast we talk about how the band got started, what it means to be in a band that is also kind of a political calling, and what it is like to be in the middle of a 55 day tour with 6 other people.

To hear, see, follow, and nerd out about everything Las Cafeteras check them out on: twitter @lascafeteras, facebook, YouTube. And maybe they are coming to a hood near you.

In the mean time… you’re welcome.

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The human scaled #RoboApoc

This semi-weekly feature scours the internets for news of the Robot Apocalypse (#RoboApoc). I rate each item on a scale of 1 to Skynet

3po

Still stuck in the past.

When I think of robots (which is often) I think of humanoid robots, you know machines that look human. Maybe it is because of the pop culture robots that shaped my childhood, like C-3PO, the Terminator, or even Transformers.

After humanoid robots I think of robots that function in a human understanding of space and time, meaning robots that relate to the natural and human built world in the same scale we do.

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Warning: Click Bait – Racism in your Machine

kitty trap

Told you so.

OMG! We live in exciting times!

Technology is evolving and innovating all the time. We are integrating hardware and software into our lives more and more everyday. And opportunities for digital intervention, organizing, and activism are multiplying with each new iteration of tech.

Some of the technology will be born from the nexus of social justice organizing and technology development along the lines of the tools developed by the early pioneers of digital campaigning, MoveOn.

Yet, if new technology is not developed by those who are leading the charge for racial and gender justice, then we are missing the real chance to innovate our society.

The foundation
Today’s paradigm of digital campaigning, emerged in 1998, from an email group and petition started by Wes Boyd and Joan Blades, a married couple, who were interested in getting Congress to censure Clinton (over the Monica Lewinsky scandal) and “move on.” They succeeded in getting over half a million signatures, but not winning the censure.

The founders of MoveOn should be applauded for innovating and finding a new way to campaign, a way that has come to be the dominant form of digital campaigning (regardless of my earlier criticism).

moveon kitty

And yet…

MoveOn was started by rich white people (their software company Berkeley Systems was making $30 million in annual revenue until they sold it for $13 million a year before starting MoveOn – according to Wikipedia).

(@JTPspeaks #BFD –  masses of well meaning white technologists are tweeting)

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Friday Inspiration – Heinrich on Why We Run

JTP:

This is Occasional Everything and I have really been occasional about it, but not everything. Here is a report from my dear friend and fellow runner (like we run together a lot) Sean Sullivan about the humanness of running. I find it inspiring.

Originally posted on Milo and the Calf:

It is fair to say that I’m obsessed with Bernd Heinrich. I found his book Why We Run: A Natural History to be both rigorous and moving and his lifetime commitment to running to be inspiring.

Heinrich is going to be a presence on this blog for a while to come, so get used to it and check out this awesome video Salomon Running did about him. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep, but this video almost moved me to tears.

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Humans Need Not Apply

Earlier this year I attended a half day meeting entitled The End of Jobs as We Know Them? Technology, Society, and the Future of Work, which was hosted by the Open Society Foundation’s Future of Work Project.  While it was exciting to hear from innovative leaders in of  Alt-Labor movement (Saket Soni and Sarita Gupta are at the top of the list), I was really there to hear from Carl Frey the author of The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerizationan academic paper from Oxford University, speak.

First they come for the burgers, then.....

The paper predicts that 47% of U.S. jobs are at risk of being automated in the next 20 years. This figure has taken off in the media, Frey’s paper has been cited countless times by economics reporters and publications (here, here, here, etc). In my own informal monitoring of this type of news Frey’s research is the primary source that reporters reference when writing about automation.

Finally there is video that takes Frey’s paper (and even the new book The Second Machine Ageand makes it easily digestible (and terrifying). If you work for a living I recommend you check it out, and get ready for the Robot Apocalypse.

A choice quote -

“These jobs are over. The usual argument is that the unions will prevent it. But, history is filled with workers who fought technology that would replace them and the workers always lose. “

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Racism, Chairs, and the Silver Set – This week in the #RoboApoc

This semi-weekly feature scours the internets for news of the Robot Apocalypse (#RoboApoc). I rate each item on a scale of 1 to Skynet

These kids are using tech to create a better world.

These kids are using tech to create a better world.

1. There’s an app for that. A family of Georgia teens created Five-O, an app that allows people to rate their interactions with the police. The people who conceptualized and designed the app – Caleb, Ima, and Ahsa Christian – range in age from 14 to 18.

#RoboApoc Rating – 1. Given the recent killing of Mike Brown by Ferguson, MO. police officer Darren Wilson, this app is super timely. Any app that makes it easier to hold people in power accountable is great. And the fact that this app was designed by teenagers means we may have a new generation of tech savvy freedom fighters on our side, the robots haven’t won yet. 

2. Wearable chairs? A Zurich based start up called noonee has developed the chairless chair. Basically you strap a couple of exoskeleton legs on, and when you drop into sitting position it they will take you weight. This ridiculous CNN article, which actually dives into the health concerns of sitting all day, proclaims you can even run with the wearable chair strapped to your legs. 

#RoboApoc Rating – 1. The promotion video above explains how the wearable chair is good for employees (keeps them injury free) and employers (keeps workers injury free and efficient), the only problem is they show a factory worker on an assembly line. Ha. Humans don’t work on assembly lines (in the US), robots do.

 

friendly robots

4. Human friendly. The 7th International Workshop on Human Friendly Robotics is happening in Pisa, Italy in October.  I learned about the workshop when I was researching CYBERLegs (more about cybernetic legs in a forthcoming posts). Apparently the workshop will address, “The technological shift from classical industrial robots, which are safely kept away from humans in cages, to robots, which are used in close collaboration with humans.”

#RoboApoc Rating – SKYNET! If there is a workshop to intentionally talk about  Human Friendly Robotics there must a be a fairly large trend of Not Friendly Human Robotics, and by looking at the webpage for this workshop, the friendly side could use some help.

5. The Silver Set. In an article for Harpers Magazine this month, journalist Jessica Bruder writes about the growing trend of seniors who take to the highways in RV’s and campers in search of seasonal work. In an interview with Alternet Bruder mentions CamperForce, an Amazon.com program that specifically recruits “work campers” for seasonal work in the company. Beyond the insanity of making seniors give up their homes and roam the country in search of work, there is the added old news that Amazon.com (two years ago) bought Kiva Systems Inc., a integrated warehouse management system that includes robots that follow stickers on the floor bringing products to pickers and packers.

#RoboApoc Rating – 8. The semi-robotization of what was previously considered unrobotizable (because of the human spacial relations skill that robots can’t replicate) is frightening enough. Combine this technological advancement with pushing vulnerable seniors back into the workforce and you have what many are predicting is the future of work in this country – temporary, contingent, precarious, seasonal. What is most troubling about this is that as technology rapidly evolves and companies keep up; workers, the organizations that traditionally protect workers, policy, and culture are not moving quickly enough. The robots are already here, and they are making our jobs easier and less.

 

 

 

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