RESISTance Calendar

aturday, March 9, 2019

     Feminist Border Arts Film Festival continues at NMSU.  Complete details and schedule may be found at https://newscenter.nmsu.edu/Articles/view/13561/nmsu-to-host-fourth-annual-feminist-border-arts-film-festival.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

     “Energy at Cross-Roads: How do we Actualize Breakthrough Potential” is the topic of the monthly Indivisible LAS CRUCES program.  Mariel Nanasi, Executive Director of New Energy Economy, will present and engage in a lively dialogue about bold solutions to address climate disruption.  The program, starting at 5:00pm, will be held in the Roadrunner Room of Branigan Library.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

     Sunshine Week panel discussion on border issues, “Shedding Light on a Dark Journey,” will be held at 5:30pm at Zuhl Library, third floor.  The event is free and open to the public.  Parking on campus after 4:30 is free.  The panel will include Lauren Villagran, Searchlight New Mexico, Robert Moore, independent journalist, and Diana Alba Soular, Las Cruces Sun-News.  Walt Rubel will serve as moderator.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

     International Festival will be held at the Plaza de Las Cruces, 100 Main St, from 9:00am to 1:00pm.  It is free and open to the public.  Experience different cultures from across the globe: Africa, Saudi Arabia, China, Bangladesh, India and Nepal.  The festival will feature displays with native art, textiles, artifacts, photographs, music, dancing and games.  Co-sponsored by the City of Las Cruces and the NMSU Office of International and Border Programs.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

     World Down Syndrome Day

     International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination   On this day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against apartheid in Sharpeville, South Africa.

Saturday, March 24, 2019

     Advocacy for the Long Haul workshop will be held from 2:00-5:00pm at the Friends Meeting House, 622 N. Mesquite.  Learn what we can do to stop endless wars by urging Congress to reassert its constitutional authority and repeal the AUMF (Authorizations for Use of Military Force) that allowed US Presidents to engage in military action the last 18 years without Congressional debate or approval.  Register at http://act.fcnl.org/event/advocacy-team-attend/731.  Workshop leaders will be national staff members from FCNL (Friends Committee on National Legislation)


Artificial morality


By Robert C. Koehler

Artificial Intelligence is one thing. Artificial morality is another. It may sound something like this:

“First, we believe in the strong defense of the United States and we want the people who defend it to have access to the nation’s best technology, including from Microsoft.”

The words are those of Microsoft president Brad Smith, writing on a corporate blogsite last fall in defense of the company’s new contract with the U.S. Army, worth $479 million, to make augmented reality headsets for use in combat. The headsets, known as the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS, are a way to “increase lethality” when the military engages the enemy, according to a Defense Department official. Microsoft’s involvement in this program set off a wave of outrage among the company’s employees, with more than a hundred of them signing a letter to the company’s top executives demanding that the contract be canceled.

“We are a global coalition of Microsoft workers, and we refuse to create technology for warfare and oppression. We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to provide weapons technology to the U.S. Military, helping one country’s government ‘increase lethality’ using tools we built. We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used.”

Wow, words of conscience and hope. The deeper story in all this is ordinary people exercising their power to shape the future and refusing to increase its lethality.

With this contract, the letter goes on, Microsoft has “crossed the line into weapons development. . . . The application of HoloLens within the IVAS system is designed to help people kill. It will be deployed on the battlefield, and works by turning warfare into a simulated ‘video game,’ further distancing soldiers from the grim stakes of war and the reality of bloodshed.”

This revolt was what Smith was responding to when he said he believed in a “strong defense,” implying that moral clichés rather than money are what drive the decisions of large corporations, or at least this particular large corporation. Somehow his words, which he attempted to convey as reflective and deeply considered, are not convincing — not when juxtaposed with a defense contract worth nearly half a billion dollars.

Smith goes on, acknowledging that no institution, including the military, is perfect, but pointing out that “one thing is clear. Millions of Americans have served and fought in important and just wars,” cherry-picking such lauded oldies as the Civil War and World War II, where America’s enhanced lethality freed slaves and liberated Europe.

Fascinatingly, the tone of his blog post is not arrogant toward the employees — do what you’re told or you’re fired — but, rather, softly placating, seeming to indicate that the power here isn’t concentrated at the upper levels of management. Microsoft is flexible: “As is always the case, if our employees want to work on a different project or team — for whatever reason — we want them to know we support talent mobility.”

The employees who signed the letter demanded cancellation of the Defense contract. Smith offered their personal consciences an out: Come on, join another team if you don’t want to cross the line and work on weapons development. Microsoft honors employees of multiple moral persuasions!

Artificial Intelligence is a high-tech phenomenon that requires highly complex thinking. Artificial morality hides behind the nearest cliché in servitude to money.

What I see here is moral awakening scrambling for sociopolitical traction: Employees are standing for something larger than sheer personal interests, in the process pushing the Big Tech brass to think beyond their need for an endless flow of capital, consequences be damned.

This is happening across the country. A movement is percolating: Tech won’t build it!

“Across the technology industry,” the New York Times reported in October, “rank-and-file employees are demanding greater insight into how their companies are deploying the technology that they built. At Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Salesforce, as well as at tech start-ups, engineers and technologists are increasingly asking whether the products they are working on are being used for surveillance in places like China or for military projects in the United States or elsewhere.

“That’s a change from the past, when Silicon Valley workers typically developed products with little questioning about the social costs.”

What if moral thinking — not in books and philosophical tracts, but in the real world, both corporate and political — were as large and complex as technical thinking? It could no longer hide behind the cliché of the just war (and surely the next one we’re preparing for will be just), but would have to evaluate war itself — all wars, including the ones of the past 70 years or so, in the fullness of their costs and consequences — as well as look ahead to the kind of future we could create, depending on what decisions we make today. Complex moral thinking doesn’t ignore the need to survive, financially and otherwise, in the present moment, but it stays calm in the face of that need and sees survival as a collective, not a competitive, enterprise.

Moral complexity is called peace. There is no such thing as simplistic peace.

Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is available. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.


PVA meeting recap

Here is a link to the recap of the February PVA meeting:


Also, please check out our calendar of events – find something you’re interested in and import it directly into your calendar!

Mark your calendars, the next PVA meeting will be:
Thursday, March 28, 7:00pm
          Munson Senior Center, Las Cruces



Extreme conservation next in NMSU climate change series

The plight of animals living on the extreme edges of the world will be the focus of the latest installment in New Mexico State University’s Climate Change Education Seminar Series.

Joel Berger climate talk

For the latest installment in the seminar series hosted by New Mexico State University, famed ecologist and Colorado State University professor Joel Berger will lead a talk about the impact of climate change on animals living in extreme environments. The talk will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20 at the Rio Grande Theater. (Courtesy photo)

Joel Berger, an ecologist at Colorado State University’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, will give a presentation titled “Extreme Conservation on a Glacier-less Planet,” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20 at the Rio Grande Theatre. The event is free and open to the public.

Berger will discuss the challenges that animals living in the Arctic and other extreme regions of the planet face due to their rapidly changing environment. The seminar will touch on the critical role that periglacial environments play in these animal’s survival, and what results from decreased freezing patterns in their natural habitat.

“Throughout my career I have admired and worked with many amazing ecologists, but Joel is a scientist belonging in an elite league of his own,” said NMSU professor and NMSUCCESS co-organizer Gary Roemer. “He explores the frontiers of ecology while passionately advocating for and saving the very species that enable these explorations – he loves science and he loves nature, and he and his work are truly inspirational.”

Berger is known for his up-close and unorthodox methods of studying animals in their natural habitats, and has gone as far as dressing up in costume as these animals to test their response to predators and kin.

Berger employed these tactics while gathering material for his latest book, 2018’s “Extreme Conservation: Life at the Edges of the World,” in which he broke down the living habits of a little understood animal species living in the arctic region called musk oxen.

These oxen are particularly vulnerable to climate change, in particular, freezing rains that can entrap them or prevent them from reaching key forage resources. Berger’s research has managed to yield significant scientific insight on the ecology and conservation of this ancient and poorly understood species.

In addition to his work at CSU, Berger also serves as a senior scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, a global non-profit organization based in New York City dedicated to the conservation of wildlife and wild-lands.

NMSUCCESS began in spring 2018, when New Mexico State University faculty and Las Cruces community members planned a series of seminars on climate change, including the physical processes, and effects on humanity and biological systems. The series’ goal is to shine a light on research and issues related to climate change for a local audience.

Two more programs are scheduled in the series. The next presentation on Mar. 6 by Jonathan Overpeck will be about “Drought, Water Security, and Ecosystem Disruption – the Southwest Climate Challenge” followed by Park Williams who will discuss “Climate Change, Wildfire and Megadrought in the Western United States” on Apr. 3. The remaining talks will also be held at the Rio Grande Theater in downtown Las Cruces.

Additional information about the climate change series is available at https://nmsuccess1.wordpress.com and https://twitter.com/nmsuccess1.


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