Making Data Shift Power: Bex Hong Hurwitz and Rashida Richardson

Self-driving cars, biased algorithms, and a social media quiz that scrapes your data -- it seems like the only tech headlines we have are about disasters. But what about the original promise of tech -- to innovate and empower? This week, Bex Hong Hurwitz, a Data & Society fellow and Rashida Richardson of the AI Now Institute, join me to discuss the subversive and democratic potential of technology, and how we harness it. Then, we talk to Kayleigh Walsh from the UK-based tech cooperative Outlandish - a model that centers on empowerment and sustainability. All that, plus a primer on how to secure your digital networks.

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EXCERPT: Spatial Justice and Socially Conscious Architecture

Liz Ogbu: I think now we're seeing in a lot of cities the process of gentrification, which has sort of been synonymous with the displacement of poor residence by wealthier new comers as the city which was abandoned as people moved out to the suburbs is now being seen as sexy again and people are moving back in and we're once again seeing a pattern where the poor end of people of color are being displaced. It's not that these areas don't need new services, new resources, new housing, but we should figure out a way to allow people to have the capacity to stay in their homes and in those communities rather than saying we're going to repeat the cycle of displacing people again.

Deanna Van B.: Gentrification and incarceration. You can't get section 8 housing if you've been formally incarcerated. And then in Oakland, there is no section 8 housing so people end up homeless. If you're incarcerated, you come back, people are already being displaced, you can't get section 8 housing so you just end up in the streets. In Oakland, our tent cities are blooming. This specific project is less restorative justice and more restorative economics.

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EXCERPT: "We believe housing is a right, and that communities are more important than commodities." - Gianpaolo Baiocchi

Laura Flanders: Housing affordability and power by design, this week on the show Monique George of Picture The Homeless and Gianpolo by Yorkie of the New York University Urban Democracy Lab, argue that a truly just housing policy requires a shift in power. Then from our Ted Women's Series, two architects who are combating the effects of gentrification and serving low income communities through innovative design. It's all coming up on the Laura Flanders Show, the place where the people who say it can't be done, take a back seat to the people who are doing it. Welcome.

Housing stress, it's a part of life for millions of people. If someone isn't experiencing it, they likely know someone who is. So states a new report by the Homes For All Campaign of The Right to City Alliance. Decades of leaving matters of housing to the market or to politicians or landlords just isn't securing housing for everyone who needs it. A new land ownership structure just might help. Models exist here and around the world. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has put some financing behind new community land trusts, the British labor parties housing plan includes a million new homes and affordability to find by prevailing incomes not rents.

In many places is an election year, so by why criteria should housing policies be judged? Our guests know this topic from the inside out. Gianpaolo Baiocchi is director of the Urban Democracy Lab at NYU and the lead author of Community over Commodities Report, I just quoted. Monique "Mo" George is the Executive Director of Picture The Homeless, which was very involved in this report. She also describes herself as a proud product of public housing herself. Welcome both of you to the program, glad to have you. When you say Communities Over Commodities, what do you mean? Gianpaolo.

Gianpaolo B.: So in this report we wanted to take stock of the discussion we've been having among social movements and advocates of housing, and think from a sort of big picture way, what do we stand for? And what kind of housing do we want? And it came down to a values question. We believe that housing is a right, and we believe that communities are more important than commodities, which is to say, we want to think about the right to housing first before talking about public policy discussions about what works and what doesn't, sort of ... The title says it. It's a values question. We believe housing is a right and we think that thinking outside of the market structure is really important.

Laura Flanders: Now, values have been mostly tied with buy and sell values, the commodity value. Where has that brought us? How do you describe the situation that we're in Mo?

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F-Word: What if Ida B. Wells Depended on Facebook?

If Ida B. Wells had depended on Facebook, would we ever have had a National Lynching Memorial? 

Two stories collided in my head this week. One of which was the opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama—this country’s first major effort to confront the vast scope of the racial-terror lynchings that ravaged the Black community under a pervasive, prevailing culture of white supremacy. It is the first because, until now, that same majority culture of white supremacy hasn’t wanted to look. 

At the memorial, a special place is set aside for Ida B. Wells, the crusading journalist who forced Americans to pay attention to these murders. Over a lifetime made shorter by repeated attacks, she documented and publicized the killings, collecting names, dates and descriptions.

She wrote editorials for various newspapers, but her longest running outlet was her own, the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight, which she edited and published until it was burned to the ground by her critics. And this is where the opening of the memorial intersects with another important story from this week.\

Would Wells’s Free Speech ever have made it into my news feed on Facebook? I doubt it, because Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced May 1st in a meeting with media executives that his company had started ranking news organizations by trust. 

News sources that score higher will be promoted, while those with lower scores will be suppressed. 

As he put it, “You’re not going to be able to bridge common ground in society if people don’t have a common set of facts.” 

To determine trustworthiness, the company plans to survey its two billion users about the sources with which they’re most familiar and best recognize. 


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Workers, Wildcats and Labor Organizing

Laura talks to SEIU International President, Mary Kay Henry (of Service Employees) and labor journalist Sarah Jaffe about worker wins, challenges, and some new models for organizing. Then, a conversation with Palak Shah and Michelle Miller on a new online platforms that's helping labor activists cooperate and win.

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After Maria: Self Determination in Puerto Rico

What's in store for Puerto Rico's future? More disaster capitalism, or solidarity economics?

While the lights have come back on for most, 8% of electrical customers are still waiting. The conversation in other media seems to be shifting to the social crises that are emerging -- but for many basic supplies, services and medical care are still nowhere in sight.

And let’s not forget that some people are pushing to privatize everything from education to the power grid.

In the massive gaps left by our official response, individuals, communities, and organizations are stepping in. A few people who are stepping up join us: Edna Benitez and Damaris Whittaker are from the Middle Collegiate and Fort Washington Collegiate Churches respectively. They’ve been organizing trips to help bring essential supplies to Puerto Rico since the hurricane it. Amy Tidd is with the National Nurses United and has been to Puerto Rico with 2 delegations since Maria. She’s joining us from Bangor, Maine. Plus, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz on what she calls the generous and reaffirming show of support from Americans that have shown support for Puerto Rico.

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Lana Abu Hijileh: U.S. Has A Double Standard on Human Rights in Palestine and Israel

Listen to the full F-Word with special guest Lana Abu Hijileh and more when you download our podcast.

Lana: What we saw in Gaza over the past two weeks [of April] -- I think people of Gaza after almost more than 11 years of a blockade that created a humanitarian crisis that's now chronic, coming out and saying enough is enough, and the world needs to see what's happening in Gaza and try to find solutions. It is, I would call, a freedom march. The food security has deteriorated, real poverty, and the highest unemployment levels are among youth.

Even the private sector that we thought at least could keep Gaza going is disintegrating, cannot handle this type of closure anymore. The water and sanitation situation is becoming really on the edge of what I would say, a catastrophe. And of course, the underlying reasons are historic, but also with the energy crisis, with the lack of electricity supply on continuous basis -- I think now it's down to almost four hours a day that people in Gaza get electricity. And almost 90% of the water is not up to the WHO standard. It's saline contaminated.

So even with the poverty, people now have to pay for drinking water and other kinds of household resources, which they cannot afford. I was there about two weeks ago assessing the water situation and I was really struck by how we are now on the brink of a total collapse of the system. I went into the communities that have been effected directly by the three, four wars over the last ten years and the blockade. And literally, they have nothing. Naïve me, I thought it broke them. And then, I left the Thursday before the march, watching the news and seeing those thousands and thousands of woman, youth, men, old, young, marching peacefully. I was like, Lana, you're mistaken. You really didn't get it. And that's why I say, wars do not break the soul. And I say that the people of Gaza strive for freedom, for real change, a positive change in their lives. So despite how we think that the forgotten people have been broken, the forgotten people are still there. And they need to be recognized.

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F-Word: We Need Local Media For Our Health (Not Sinclair!)

It’s easy to freak out about what’s on local news. But what about what’s left out?

The last spasm of scandal hit money media this week, when a brilliantly edited video of lots of local tv anchors speaking in unison hit social media.

As we’ve reported here before, local stations owned and operated by central monopolies are often required to air nationally-created content. As their budgets are small and their options are few, they do as they’re told. And so it was with the anchors on dozens of stations owned by the conservative Sinclair Broadcasting Group last month, when their corporate parent required them to read from a script apparently sent down from head office. Ironically, the script was all about news and trust.

So-called must-carry content is usually news or alerts or more worryingly, commentary. Sinclair’s owners are GOP donors ,close to the Trump administration. One of their commentators is a former Trump script writer. That’s bad enough. What anchors received last month was a must-read.


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F-Word: SESTA Doesn't Keep Us Safe

Women’s history month is over, but we didn’t emerge unscathed. As often happens lawmakers used the month to get a little news glow by doing something awful in the name of protecting women from something terrible.

This March 21, the Senate approved the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, or SESTA, a version of which has already passed in the House.

Sex trafficking is terrible. Everyone’s against it. (Actually I’m against all sorts of forced work, but that’s another story.) What’s awful is what SESTA does, which is encourage big-tech companies to robo-police the internet, with extreme filters that won’t know a survivor story from a sex ad.  

Spew hate, teach terror, harass, dox, pimp, meddle with elections? There’s no question ​bad ​people do bad things online. SESTA supporters say their bill will make those things easier to stop by making platform owners criminally liable for the acts of their platform’s users.  

The thing is, we already have laws on the books to prosecute those things. The biggest offenders have always had the most brilliant lawyers. It's the prosecution that's the problem.

​Under SESTA, tech giants like Google and Facebook ​will bring in more big-dollar lawyers to defend themselves, and send out more aggressive robocops to police everyone else.

The result, civil liberties groups predict, will be more online censorship that will result in less safety, ironically enough, for sex workers and people who try to help sex trafficking victims escape.  That’s why a large array of trafficking survivors and their advocates, as well as the National Organization for Women, LGBTQ groups and free speech advocates like the Electronic Freedom Frontier and the ACLU oppose it.

A tragedy of unintended consequences? Possibly, except the consequences are utterly predictable.  I think of our report on the anti-sex trafficking law in Alaska that led to the prosecution of women for trafficking themselves and each other, when they teamed up in mutual aid groups for greater control and safety. Criminalized for helping each other, they were put back out in the streets alone and terrified.

Equality, liberty, fellowship - these aren’t strange things to want —  but they’re awfully hard to get from the white capitalist patriarchy. As we should all know by now, old police with new powers have never worked out well for the most vulnerable.

Now we’re looking to a signing ceremony in which the world’s most dangerous predator, President Trump, signs an anti-predation law. Spare us from patriarchs promising protections.

Support organizations like Red Umbrella Hosting resisting SESTA and get involved with the International Day of Lobbying for Sex Workers on June 1. 

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EXCERPT: Monopoly Capitalism - At The Breaking Point?

Monopoly capitalism may be on its last legs! This week, economist Michael Hudson joins us to say his predictions on the Trump budget have come true and seem to suggest, more than ever, that capitalism is not only a disservice to the people, but it's also unsuccessful.

Then, Stacy Mitchell and Joe Maxwell join us at the Progressive Caucus Strategy Summit in Baltimore. Monopoly capitalism, they say, translates to monopolized power.

Read the excerpt below.

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