The Internet’s destroying work — and turning the old middle class into the new proletariat

From Salon:

The new economy is turning human labor into just another computer process — and will keep wrecking jobs

An executive at an up-and-coming start-up settles into a cross-country flight. After the unthinkable torture of the ban on electronic devices ends, she pulls out her tablet, connects to Wi-Fi, and reviews her to-do list: Cancel cable TV service. Make dinner reservations at that annoying restaurant that doesn’t use Open Table. Research the entrance requirements for elite Brooklyn preschools. The prospect is disheartening, especially 35,000 feet high in the sky. A lot of hassle, a lot of time-wasting minutes spent on hold, a lot of unnecessary roadblocks preventing her from focusing her concentration on more important things, like getting her world-changing start-up up and running.

But no worries! She’s signed up for the $45-a-month plan at Fancy Hands, the online clearinghouse for virtual assistants, and that entitles her to outsource 15 discrete tasks every month — anything and everything that can be taken care of by someone with access to a computer and a phone. So she logs in and posts her tasks. By the time she lands, it’s all been taken care of by Fancy Hands’ always-on-call army of contractors. Another state-of-the-art lesson in getting things done via the Internet economy.

Fancy Hands — “Do What You Love — We’ll Do The Rest” — is just one entrant in a growing cohort of companies that are outsourcing all kinds of humdrum work to the “cloud.” The biggest names — Task Rabbit and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk — have offered similar services for years. The market niche seems sure to boom further, propelled by a generation completely comfortable with turning to the smartphone as the first place to look for work.

The best cloud labor start-ups have received plenty of laudatory press coverage and rave reviews from users. In the specific case of Fancy Hands, one can instinctively understand the appeal. Who wouldn’t want their own executive assistant on hand 24/7 to deal with the drudgery that clogs up daily life. You know you would love to “automate all the boring parts of your life.” Fancy Hands democratizes access to what previously was only available to the very well off.

That’s progress — for the consumer of the service. But one thing you discover when reading reviews of these services is that the vast majority of commentary focuses primarily on the users. Far less discussion is devoted to the producers, to the phenomenon of a new and growing class of drudges — the peons now making your phone calls and conducting your Google searches and washing your cars and toilets. These are not your father’s jobs. The typical Task Rabbit or Fancy Hands employee is invariably an independent contractor eligible for no benefits, quite often working for rates well below minimum wage, and able to exert zero leverage to resist employer abuse.

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The Stonewall Riots – comic book trailer

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PRESS STATEMENT from the Southern Poverty Law Center in Response to Verdict in State of Florida v. George Zimmerman

From The Southern Poverty Law Center:


The following statement was issued by Richard Cohen, President and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center, following the verdict in State of Florida v. George Zimmerman:

“‘They always get away.’ These were the words George Zimmerman uttered as he followed and later shot Trayvon Martin — words that reflected his belief that Trayvon was one of “them,” the kind of person about to get away with something.  How ironic these words sound now in light of the jury verdict acquitting Zimmerman.

Trayvon is dead, and Zimmerman is free.

Can we respect the jury verdict and still conclude that Zimmerman got away with killing Trayvon?  I think so, even if we buy Zimmerman’s story that Trayvon attacked him at some point.  After all, who was responsible for initiating the tragic chain of events?  Who was following whom?  Who was carrying a gun?  Who ignored the police urging that he stay in his car?  Who thought that the other was one of ‘them,’ someone about to get a away with something?

The jury has spoken, and we can respect its conclusion that the state did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.  But we cannot fail to speak out about the tragedy that occurred in Sanford, Florida, on the night of February 26, 2012.

Was race at the heart of it?  

Ask yourself this question:  If Zimmerman had seen a white youth walking in the rain that evening, would he have seen him as one of ‘them,’ someone about to get away with something?  
We’ll never really know.

Racial bias reverberates in our society like the primordial Big Bang.  Some years ago, Rev. Jesse Jackson made the point in a dramatic way when he acknowledged that he feels a sense of relief when the footsteps he hears behind him in the dead of night turn out to belong to white feet.  Social scientists who study our hidden biases make the same point in a more sober way with statistics that demonstrate that we are more likely to associate black people with negative words and imagery than we are white people. It’s an association that devalues the humanity of black people — particularly black youth like Trayvon Martin.

George Zimmerman probably saw race the night of February 26, 2012, like too many others would have. Had he not, Trayvon probably would be alive today.

The jury has spoken.  Now, we must speak out against the systemic racism that still infects our society and distorts our perception of the world.  And we must do something about it.”


The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, see

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White Supremacy Acquits George Zimmerman

From The Nation:

Aura Bogado
on July 14, 2013

A jury has found George Zimmerman not guilty of all charges in connection to death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. But while the verdict came as a surprise to some people, it makes perfect sense to others. This verdict is a crystal-clear illustration of the way white supremacy operates in America.

Throughout the trial, the media repeatedly referred to an “all-woman jury” in that Seminole County courtroom, adding that most of them were mothers. That is true—but so is that five of the six jurors were white, and that is profoundly significant for cases like this one. We also know that the lone juror of color was seen apparently wiping a tear during the prosecution’s rebuttal yesterday. But that tear didn’t ultimately convince her or the white people on that jury that Zimmerman was guilty of anything. Not guilty. Not after stalking, shooting and killing a black child, a child that the defense insultingly argued was “armed with concrete.”

In the last few days, Latinos in particular have spoken up again about Zimmerman’s race, and the “white Hispanic” label especially, largely responding to social media users and mass media pundits who employed the term. Watching Zimmerman in the defense seat, his sister in the courtroom, and his mother on the stand, one can’t deny the skin color that informs their experience. They are not white. Yet Zimmerman’s apparent ideology—one that is suspicious of black men in his neighborhood, the “assholes who always get away—” is one that adheres to white supremacy. It was replicated in the courtroom by his defense, whose team tore away at Rachel Jeantel, questioning the young woman as if she was taking a Jim Crow–era literacy test. A defense that, during closing, cited slave-owning rapist Thomas Jefferson, played an animation for the jury based on erroneous assumptions, made racially coded accusations about Trayvon Martin emerging “out of the darkness,” and had the audacity to compare the case of the killing of an unarmed black teenager to siblings arguing over which one stole a cookie.

When Zimmerman was acquitted today, it wasn’t because he’s a so-called white Hispanic. He’s not. It’s because he abides by the logic of white supremacy, and was supported by a defense team—and a swath of society—that supports the lingering idea that some black men must occasionally be killed with impunity in order to keep society-at-large safe.

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