Politics and Social Movements

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Philly Activist Tech - First Meeting is a Success!

The first meeting of the Philadelphia Activist Tech Group was a success. We had 13 people! Instead of having long meetings, it looks like we're going to focus on projects. So people will propose and join projects, and we'll skip the meetings for the sake of meetings.

We'll probably organize workshops ranging from "this is how to use email to do activism" or "how to be virus/spy-ware free", to more advanced topics like "Intro to Google Maps API".

Also we might organize the occasional social event, and connect people who have questions with people who have answers.

If you want to find out about our activities, then Subscribe to our low-traffic email list.

Philadelphia - Activists and Technology Meetup

I am starting a Philadelphia group for liberals, progressives and radicals who are using Internet technology, particularly the web, to promote social change. We can share ideas, share code, help each other test and debug, get our projects to share data, explore emerging technologies, and perhaps collaborate on new projects.

We could meet once or month or however often people want.

Personally, I

The Cost of the Iraqi War and Occupation

The cost of the Iraq War is approximately $200 billion according to
the National Priorities Project

That is only the direct financial cost.

The US consumes approximately 20 million barrels of oil/day (19.65 million in 2001 according to the CIA world fact book , or 7 billion barrels each year.

If the war/occupation causes oil to cost $10 more per barrel (which I think is a realistic estimate), then this adds $70 billion/year to the cost of the war and occupation.

This doesn't include the increase in the price of natural gas, used for heating and power plants, which tends to follow the price of oil (though it is subject to much wilder fluctuations).

Building Progressive Infrastructure

For longterm social change you need a long term strategy. Sure you need to fight the short-term battles (otherwise people suffer and die), but hopefully the left can scrape together some support for longterm institutions.

One example of such a program would be a database of skills and trainers. We need to convince all of the existing social change training organizations (Training for Change, Midwest Academy, AFL-CIO's trainers, ACORN, various socialist groups, etc) to publish their materials under the Creative Commons License. These materials should be available in large chunks (as books) and broken down into smaller chunks (chapters or exercises), and available online for free (PDF an HTML) - or in printed form for a charge.

Pushing Power to the Edges Or to a New Elite?

Evolve Foundation recently came out with a paper on online activism called Pushing Power to the Edges with only barely mentioning Race, Class, or Gender.

Online activism might manage to mobilize millions of middle class white people, led by upper-middle class men who push the Mobilize Button. But is that pushing power to the edges?

I'm reminded of the Zapatistas who are common example of how the Internet can be used by a grassroots group that otherwise wouldn't have much power to acquire international fame and support. But wait a minute! Pratically every communique I read (and
I read many of them out load on a college radio show) was written by Subcomandante Marcos. Because he had more privilege that other people in the movement he became a media idol. We ended up reading poetic stories about rainbows, bridges, sea shells, Don Quixote, Alice in Wonderland, and parrots instead of about the conditions of people in the villages who were the most oppressed.

Social Responsible Investing - A Couple Theories

Theory #1 - Short Term - The Impact
Thesis: Either socially responsible investors receive a lower rate of return than other investors, or their investment has little to no social impact.

The US economy has a standard rate of return on investment. This is the average rate that an investor can expect to get. Of course this rate fluctuates all over the place due to economic cycles, and it is difficult to predict what it will be in the future. However, there is still an average rate of return.

Regular investors will invest in companies which they believe will give them this rate of return or better. These investors do not care if the company is socially responsible or not, and will thus provide enough investment to both responsible and irresponsible companies up until the point where any additional investment would be less productive, and provide a below-market rate of return.

Mapping US Military Casualties

Someone made a map that shows US Military Casualties from the Iraq war.

Hopefully someone will be inspired to create a map of Iraqi civilian casualties. You could use data from Iraq Body Count, and the Geonames database to convert Iraqi cities into longitudes and latitudes.

Maybe the Left Hasn't Done Anything Wrong

There is a recent trend in the US discussion about politics that argues that the Left needs a big rethink, because it has failed to get its message across and we're seeing a New Era of rightwing dominance.

There are numerous problems with this assertion. First of all, you can find evidence for it, but finding conclusive evidence is very difficult as this is a very hard thing to demonstrate.

The "Left"
Unfortunately this is narrowly defined as the Democrats. Thus what people are really concerned about the fact is that Democrat canidates, who are moving closer and closer to Republican/rightwing values, keep losing elections. Instead we should be focussing on the fact that society is making very little progress on issues of racism and class inequality.

Advocacy Developers Conference II - July 11-13, San Francisco

I hope to attend and meet people. Yay networking!

Aspiration is pleased to host AdvocacyDev II. The second in a series of events that began with the first Advocacy Dev gathering in June 2004, Advocacy Dev II will convene organizers and activists using free and open
source (F/OSS) online advocacy tools, and developers and designers
building those tools.

Staff Pay and Workload in Radical Social Change Organizations

There is an interesting conflict in progressive non-profits which is heightened in the more radical organizations which have the least money.

The conflict is between wanting to treat their workers well, and wanting to get as much work done as possible for the greater good of society.

I'm fine arguing that well-funded moderate non-profits and for-profit corporations should be paying very high wages, but it's harder when then money comes out of organizations that are doing good work.

Should staff members in radical social change organizations be paid just enough to survive, a "living wage", or somewhere in between?

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