Switzerland May Give Every Citizen $2,600 a Month

[Note:  This item comes from reader Randall Head.  DLH]

Switzerland May Give Every Citizen $2,600 a Month
By Alec Liu
Nov 13 2014

Update: According to ​the folks behind the Basic Income campaign, Switzerland’s government will start discussing the proposal in spring 2015, with the public vote likely to take place by fall 2016.

Switzerland could soon be the world’s first national case study in basic income. Instead of providing a traditional social net—unemployment payments, food stamps, or housing credits—the government would pay every citizen a fixed stipend.

The idea of a living wage has been brewing in the country for over a year and last month, supporters of the movement dumped a truckload of eight million coins outside the Parliament building in Bern. The publicity stunt, which included a five-cent coin for every citizen, came attached with 125,000 signatures. Only 100,000 are necessary for any constitutional amendment to be put to a national vote, since Switzerland is a direct democracy.

The proposed plan would guarantee a monthly income of CHF 2,500, or about $2,600 as of November 2014. That means that every family (consisting of two adults) can expect an unconditional yearly income of $62,400 without having to work, with no strings attached. While Switzerland’s cost of living is significantly higher than the US—a Big Mac there costs $6.72—it’s certainly not chump change. It’s reasonable income that could provide, at the minimum, a comfortable bare bones existence.

The benefits are obvious. Such policy would, in one fell swoop, wipe out poverty. By replacing existing government programs, it would reduce government bureaucracy. Lower skilled workers would also have more bargaining power against employers, eliminating the need for a minimum wage. Creative types would then have a platform to focus on the arts, without worrying about the bare necessities. And those fallen on hard times have a constant safety net to find their feet again.

Detractors of the divisive plan also have a point. The effects on potential productivity are nebulous at best. Will people still choose to work if they don’t have to? What if they spend their government checks on sneakers and drugs instead of food and education? Scrappy abusers of the system could take their spoils to spend in foreign countries where their money has more purchasing power, thus providing little to no benefit to Switzerland’s own economy. There’s also worries about the program’s cost and long term sustainability. It helps that Switzerland happens to be one of the richest countries in the world by per capita income.

The problem, as with many issues economic, is that there is no historical precedent for such a plan, especially at this scale, although there have been isolated incidents. In the 1970s, the Canadian town of Dauphin provided 1,000 families in need with a guaranteed income for a short period of time. Not only did the social experiment end poverty, high school completion went up and hospitalizations went down.

“If you have a social program like this, community values themselves start to change,” Evelyn Forget, a health economist at the University of Manitoba, told The New York Times.

Similar plans have been proposed in the past. In 1968, American economist Milton Friedman discussed the idea of a negative income tax, where those earning below a certain predetermined threshold would receive supplementary income instead of paying taxes. Friedman suggested his plan could eliminate the 72 percent of the welfare budget spent on administration. But nothing ever came to fruition.


Why mobile and consumer ISPs shouldn’t censor encryption or the net

[Note:  Here's some sage words from John Gilmore recently posted to the Cryptography list.  DLH]

Date: Wed, 19 Nov 2014 17:31:04 -0800
From: John Gilmore <gnu@toad.com>
To: Tom Ritter <tom@ritter.vg>
Cc: John Levine <johnl@iecc.com>, cryptography <cryptography@metzdowd.com>,
Subject: [Cryptography] Why mobile and consumer ISPs shouldn’t censor encryption or the net

…this was port 25 on Cricket
Wireless, a prepaid mobile subsidiary of AT&T, i.e., a consumer
network without static IP addresses or mail servers.


Blocking port 25 on consumer networks to prevent outgoing spam, with
real mail submitted on port 587 with authentication, has been an ISP
best practice for over a decade.

I want to explore two of the assumptions in the above, that seem to be
decisive for some people in the debate:  “mobile” and “consumer”.

The theory seems to be that in a “mobile” Internet provider (that is,
one run by a cellphone company), more censorship is justifiable.  And
that in a “consumer” Internet provider, like one that sells
residential DSL or cable service, more censorship is justifiable.  In
this theory, an uncensored Internet should only be available to end
user nodes that are servers and backbone ISPs, because they can be
trusted to handle it, and they have the bandwidth to deal with the

Let’s talk about “consumer” first.  The Internet is a peer-to-peer
network.  That has always been its strength, and one of the big things
that distinguished it from the “master/slave” networks that preceded
it like IBM’s RJE, SNA, public networks like Telenet and Tymnet, and
early computer communication services like MCI Mail, CompuServe and
The Source.  The Internet started with every peer able to talk to
every other peer, with no nodes relegated to mere “clients” or
“consumers”.  TCP is designed to make a working connection even if
both nodes simultaneously and spontaneously reach out to each other,
as opposed to having a “server” side lying in wait and a “client” side
initiating connections.  New applications and protocols such as
multicast, instant messaging, VoIP, video conferencing, distributed
source code control systems like git, Mobile IP, BitTorrent, Kademlia,
federated social networking, and many others, including the Web which
was invented dozens of years after the Internet, depend on this
peer-to-peer behavior.  When address exhaustion and NAT threatened
peer-to-peer since the 1990s, the network evolved to continue offering
peer-to-peer support, including IPv6 as the big fix, plus UPNP, NAT
Traversal, dynamic DNS, supernodes, and other NAT circumvention

In a peer-to-peer network it doesn’t work to designate some portions of
the network as “consumers” or “clients” who don’t get full access, and
other portions of the network as “providers” or “servers” who do get
full access.  Servers can be placed anywhere in the network, and
frequently are placed on “consumer” networks.  For example, in the
homes of engineers or entrepreneurs, in consumer Network Attached
Storage boxes, in ethernet video cameras, and even in flying $500
quadcopters.  Consumers (e.g. people) should have all the same rights
on the network as providers (e.g. websites).  Consumer devices
(e.g. tablets) should have all the same rights on the network as
provider devices (e.g. data center servers).  A device’s location on
the network is not and should not be relevant.  Many of the most
transformative innovations have come from individual consumers like
Bram Cohen or Linus Torvalds who created new protocols that run at the
edge of the network (BitTorrent and git).

Now let’s talk about “mobile”.  The theory is that mobile networks
somehow should get more authority to censor or block traffic, because
they have less total bandwidth available, or because their endnodes
are “only” cellphones, or for reasons like those.  Those arguments are
largely specious, too.

First, cellphones have evolved into full blown pocket computers, and
there are more of them in the world than there are desktop computers.
If the broad social move from desktops to pocket computers means that
their billions of users get fewer rights and capabilities than they
had in the previous generation, there’s something rotten at the heart
of that theory.  EFF was founded more than 20 years ago to counter
exactly this kind of creeping removal of well accepted civil rights
via technological change.  Cellphone users should have all the same
rights against censorship and rights to encrypt their transmissions,
as desktop computer users and as server operators.  Software that runs
as a mobile “app” should have the same rights on the network as
software that runs as a Linux desktop “package”.  And by the time when
our cellphones shrink to run in our wristwatch, our eyeglasses, or in
our bloodstreams, our always-on network should not deprive us of
rights that we had back in the day when we had to unpack our computer
from a bulky suitcase.

Second, it is easy for “mobile” networks to provide connectivity to
full blown desktop computers or servers.  USB mobile dongles are
readily available and cheap.  Mobile-based WiFi hotspots are readily
available and cheap.  The endnodes that connect to such hotspots, or
use those dongles, should get no worse censorship and encryption
policies than when they connect to a hardwired WiFi hotspot or to an
Ethernet cable.

Third, telephone companies are now actively claiming that they cannot
affordably provide wired communications services, so they are asking
regulators to be able to withdraw wired services and offering ONLY
“mobile” networks to their customers in entire regions.  This got the
most press coverage after East Coast floods destroyed wired
infrastructure, but it is a covert nationwide strategy and every day a
telco petitions a government somewhere to eliminate the telco’s core
requirement to provide wired service to every customer who wants it.
So not only do “mobile” users in those regions become second-class
customers, but EVERY user in those regions becomes a second class
customer.  If every user gets a more-censored Internet in this
transition, we’re back to the dystopia of technological evolution and
telco manipulation destroying the valuable and important civil rights
that we all once had.

Fourth, let’s examine the “low bandwidth” theory.  In many places on
the earth, 3G and 4G and 5G mobile bandwidth exceeds the readily
available bandwidth from wired Internet providers.  DSL lines only
reach tens of thousands of feet from a central office, relegating
rural home users to dialup modems or satellite or other wireless
feeds.  Yet mobile cellular networks in rural areas often cover large
geographical areas that hold few subscribers.  This means that each
subscriber gets a correspondingly large share of the total available
bandwidth of the cell site, often making mobile cellular the highest
available end user bandwith network.

Fifth, even where wired networks offer higher bandwidth than mobile,
the absolute bandwidth offered on mobile networks today vastly exceeds
the bandwidth that was available just a short time ago.  The original
ARPAnet’s backbones were 56 kilobit/sec leased lines, as were the
original high speed ISDN Internet connections offered in the 1990s.
When the NSFnet took over from the ARPAnet, it ran on big 1500 kilobit
(1.5 Megabit, T1) backbones.  Almost every server in the mid-1990s had
no better connection to the Internet.  The NSFnet was later upgraded
to a T3 (45 megabits) backbone, roughly the downstream speed of
today’s consumer cable modem — but that was enough for the entire
North American continent.  Most initial Internet users were on 14.4
kilobit dialup modems, eventually rising to 56 kilobit dialup.  When
the telco monopolies were forced to allow entrepreneurs to change the
signalling on the last-mile wire to your telco central office, ADSL
lines that ran a whole megabit or more (in one direction) became
cheaply available to consumers and ordinary businesses.  So getting
back to the “mobile” theory, if your server is perfectly happy on a
1.5 megabit connection, why should you should get your access
censored, your encryption blocked, and your application choices
limited, depending whether your connection is a T1 line or a “mobile”

Sixth, after natural or man-made disasters, wired connectivity is
often destroyed, flakey or unavailable.  Mobile networks are much
quicker to repair after a flood, war, or earthquake, and may not go
down at all.  For the resilience of our infrastructure, which includes
Internet services and not just backbone connectivity, end users should
be able to switch both their “clients” and their “servers” onto
whatever networks are functioning, at any time.  A company that runs
its own mail server should not have mail delivery fail, or refuse
encryption, because it was wise enough to provision itself with backup
connectivity via a mobile network.  If after a tornado you put your
web server on port 80 on a mobile network while running the server on
battery backup, the cellphone company should not censor it.  In disasters
the network has to be flexible, not rigid and coercive.

All these theories about why it’s OK to censor Internet access, block
certain services based on the whim of the ISP, and prevent end users
from encrypting their traffic, come at their root from the monopoly
nature of the underlying access media.  In the heyday of the Internet,
before these monopolies learned how to manipulate the regulators to
prevent it, the monopolies were prohibited by law from telling you
what phone numbers you could call, what ISP you could dial into, what
protocols you could run over that modem, or who in the rest of the
world you could communicate with.  The telco couldn’t stop you from
calling the Internet — much as they dearly would have loved to –
because they were a common carrier.  And if your ISP developed crazy
ideas about censorship, you could just dial into another ISP who had
policies that suited you — or start your own ISP and attract
customers who like having full rights and freedoms.  I did exactly
that in the 1990s, when the available ISPs told me that I as a
“consumer” couldn’t split down and share my net connection with
anybody else.

The heart of today’s “network neutrality” issue is that by falsely
conflating the underlying broadband access media with “the Internet”,
and then deciding to leave both free of regulation, the regulators
have abandoned that prohibition on discrimination.  The FCC now allows
the regulated monopolists to decide who you can talk to and what you
can say to them.  The fix is not to regulate the Internet.  The fix is
to regulate the underlying broadband access media — the phone wiring,
cable wiring, fibers to your house or neighborhood, and wireless
infrastructure — while preventing the infrastructure companies from
forcing you to choose a particular “Internet” provider over that
access medium.  Thus over your cable modem you could buy Internet
access from any of a dozen providers; over your cellular phone you
could buy Internet access from the same dozen.  The signals would be
carried over a different medium, but neither the cable company nor the
cellphone company could dictate which ISP you must use or on what
terms you must access the Internet.

We see this problem again and again in different corners of different
issues, including this “anti-spammers versus consumer privacy” issue,
but it’s really the same issue.  The access providers don’t want to be
common carriers who are obliged to carry all traffic for everyone –
because there’s more money in getting a government granted monopoly
and then being able to selectively sell access to that region,
piecemeal, to the highest bidders.  Like Comcast deciding that it
won’t take Netflix’s traffic unless Netflix pays extra.  Like T-Mobile
deciding that you can’t access http://mpp.org from your phone (try it)
because it publishes about the politics of drugs, and “drugs are bad”.
And like spam-weary ISPs deciding that you can’t encrypt your email
transmissions because it would make their particular choice of
ineffective antispam measures even more ineffective.

John Gilmore

Growth: the destructive god that can never be appeased

Growth: the destructive god that can never be appeased
The blind pursuit of economic expansion stokes a cycle of financial crisis, and is wrecking our world. Time for an alternative
By George Monbiot
Nov 18 2014

Another crash is coming. We all know it, now even David Cameron acknowledges it. The only questions are what the immediate catalyst will be, and when it begins.

You can take your pick. The Financial Times reported yesterday that China now resembles the US in 2007. Domestic bank loans have risen 40% since 2008, while “the ability to repay that debt has deteriorated dramatically”. Property prices are falling and the companies that run China’s shadow banking system provide “virtually no disclosure” of their liabilities. Just two days ago the G20 leaders announced that growth in China “is robust and is becoming more sustainable”. You can judge the value of their assurances for yourself.

Housing bubbles in several countries, including Britain, could pop any time. A report in September revealed that total world debt (public and private) is 212% of GDP. In 2008, when it helped cause the last crash, it stood at 174%. The Telegraph notes that this threatens to cause “renewed financial crisis … and eventual mass default”. Shadow banking has gone beserk, stocks appear to be wildly overvalued, the eurozone is bust again. Which will blow first?

Or perhaps it’s inaccurate to describe this as another crash. Perhaps it’s a continuation of the last one, the latest phase in a permanent cycle of crisis exacerbated by the measures (credit bubbles, deregulation, the curtailment of state spending) that were supposed to deliver uninterrupted growth. The system the world’s governments have sought to stabilise is inherently unstable; built on debt, fuelled by speculation, run by sharks.

If it goes down soon, as Cameron fears, in a world of empty coffers and hobbled public services it will precipitate an ideological crisis graver than the blow to Keynesianism in the 1970s. The problem that then arises – and which explains the longevity of the discredited ideology that caused the last crash – is that there is no alternative policy, accepted by mainstream political parties, with which to replace it. They will keep making the same mistakes, while expecting a different outcome.

To try to stabilise this system, governments behave like soldiers billeted in an ancient manor, burning the furniture, the paintings and the stairs to keep themselves warm for a night. They are breaking up the postwar settlement, our public health services and social safety nets, above all the living world, to produce ephemeral spurts of growth. Magnificent habitats, the benign and fragile climate in which we have prospered, species that have lived on earth for millions of years – all are being stacked on to the fire, their protection characterised as an impediment to growth.

Cameron boasted on Monday that he will revive the economy by “scrapping red tape”. This “red tape” consists in many cases of the safeguards defending both people and places from predatory corporations. The small business, enterprise and employment bill is now passing through the House of Commons – spinelessly supported, as ever, by Labour. The bill seeks to pull down our protective rules to “reduce costs for business”, even if that means increasing costs for everyone else, while threatening our health and happiness. But why? As the government boasted last week, the UK already has “the least restrictive product market regulation and the most supportive regulatory and institutional environment for business across the G20.” And it still doesn’t work. So let’s burn what remains.

This bonfire of regulation is accompanied by a reckless abandonment of democratic principles. In the Commons on Monday, Cameron spoke for the first time about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). If this treaty between the EU and the US goes ahead, it will grant corporations a separate legal system to which no one else has access, through which they can sue governments passing laws that might affect their profits. Cameron insisted that “it does not in any way have to affect our national health service”. (Note those words “have to”.) Pressed to explain this, he cited the former EU trade commissioner, who claimed that “public services are always exempted”.


Has Artificial Intelligence Outsmarted Our Emotions?

Has Artificial Intelligence Outsmarted Our Emotions?
Nov 19 2014

The history of our relationship with technology is simple: we purchased machines and devices that we expected to fulfill a certain need. Be it a computer for sending emails, an e-reader for reading books on the go, or a smartwatch for helping us stay on top of notifications, we interact with technology with predictable reciprocity. This relationship, however, is starting to shift. As devices become artificially intelligent, it seems we’ve reached a critical new phase where we are striving to please our gadgets.

In today’s increasingly competitive technology world, it’s imperative that companies recognize the connections we’re forming with “smart” inanimate objects, and figure out ways to develop products accordingly – because the devices that will prevail are those that not only please us, but those that we also hope to please.

We Can, and Do, Become Emotionally Intertwined With Tech

Odds are, you’ve experienced leaving the house without your phone and felt some anxiety. And you likely thought to yourself — how crazy is it that I’ve become this reliant on my phone? Crazy though it may be, science shows that we crave interaction with technology — we check our phones 150 times a day. Why? Not just because we’re scared to miss an important email, but because endorphins are released when we check our social media. Typically triggered by positive human-to-human interactions, exercise, and eating a satisfying meal, endorphins are now being released after technology-based interactions.

Not all reactions to technological stimuli are subconscious, though. Some people seek out the distinctly pleasurable feelings they get from non-human sources.

A recent article in The New York Times describes a phenomenon called autonomous sensory meridian response, or A.S.M.R., designed to evoke a tingling sensation that travels over the scalp or other parts of the body in response to auditory, olfactory or visual forms of stimulation. Today, hundreds of self-described ‘ASMRtists’ cater to their tingle-seeking viewers on YouTube channels, cooing “I love you” and other human sentiments into the camera otherwise reserved for those we’ve actually met. Many viewers have reported being unable to fall asleep without watching these ASMR videos, exemplifying this emerging dependency on a machine for basic behavior.

As Tech Gets Smarter, We Evolve From Skepticism and Trust to Validation

As humans, we have an innate desire to satisfy people that we hold in high esteem. As for inanimate objects, we generally purchase products with the expectation of satisfaction. But not anymore. Let’s take a look at GPS technology — remember when we thought of it as an annoying series of disembodied directional dictates, famously spoofed in a 2009 episode of SNL? This aversion to GPS has undoubtedly evolved to trust, becoming a source of comfort when navigating unfamiliar territory. When’s the last time you ventured somewhere new without the help of mapping technology?


Rachel Maddow Show: Diversity not a priority in House GOP picks

Rachel Maddow Show: Diversity not a priority in House GOP picks
Nov 18 2014

Rachel Maddow notes that the newly announced House Republican committee chairs have a remarkable consistency about them, suggesting that maybe Republicans no longer feel that diversity is important to their electoral success.

Video: 9:07 min

Apple reportedly pushes back on government efforts to decrypt messages

Apple reportedly pushes back on government efforts to decrypt messages
By Phil Goldstein
Nov 19 2014

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) is continuing to push back against government protestations that its decision to encrypt messages from end to end via its newest software for iPhones will stifle law enforcement agencies’ ability to stop crimes and save lives, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The report comes as Facebook’s (NASDAQ: FB) WhatsApp unit said it will encrypt the messages of its users on Android phones so the messages can’t be decoded when stored or traveling between phones.

According to the Wall Street Journal, which cited unnamed sources, at a meeting last month Deputy Attorney General James Cole, the Justice Department’s No. 2 official, told Apple executives that Apple’s stance could lead to a tragedy like a kidnapped child dying because law enforcement could not access a suspect’s messages. Apple has said that even if it is served with a court order it does not have the key to unscramble messages encrypted on its iPhones.

The report said the meeting ended in a standoff, and Apple executives thought the scenario Cole described was overblown. Apple argued that law enforcement officials could obtain the same kind of information they want from Apple elsewhere, including from carriers, backup computers and other phones.

The news represents the latest back-and-forth between tech companies and law enforcement officials on the topic. Last month FBI Director James Comey said in a speech that contact lists, photos and other data stored on cell phones needs to be accessible to law enforcement and suggested that attempts by companies like Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Apple to encrypt all that data take things too far.

Comey said new Apple and Google encryption schemes would “allow people to place themselves beyond the law.” Apple has said its new iOS 8 software prevents anyone other than the user from accessing user data stored on the phone when it is locked. Google has adopted a similar encryption scheme for Android 5.0, its newest mobile software.

Robert Hannigan, the head of GCHQ, the UK’s version of the National Security Agency, wrote in the Financial Times earlier this month that U.S. technology companies “have become the command-and-control networks of choice for terrorists and criminals, who find their services as transformational as the rest of us.”

The tech companies have been pressing for more security and encryption in the wake of revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that the NSA scanned Internet traffic extensively. The NSA’s program collected Internet data and was authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has said that his company should not be in the business of handing over customer data to law enforcement agencies directly. “Look, if law enforcement wants something, they should go to the user and get it,” he said at a WSJ technology conference in October. “It’s not for me to do that.”


Re: Surveillance-limiting USA Freedom Act fails to clear Senate

[Note:  This comment comes from reader Armando Stettner.  DLH]

From: Armando Stettner <aps@ieee.org>
Subject: Re: [Dewayne-Net] Surveillance-limiting USA Freedom Act fails to clear Senate
Date: November 19, 2014 at 11:24:05 EST
To: Dewayne Hendricks <dewayne@warpspeed.com>

I’m sure we can do better but we won’t.  But, isn’t this a case of the “perfect is the enemy of the good?”  I suspect that, with a Republican majority in the Senate, we are unlikely to do better….

ALL Republican senators voted against this except for Ted Cruz (R-TX), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voted against this bill.

All Democrat and Independent senators voted for this bill except Bill Nelson (D-FL).

Voting record details:


Surveillance-limiting USA Freedom Act fails to clear Senate
By David Meyer
Nov 19 2014