Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #867 Because They Can, Part 3: Fireside Rant about Technocratic Fascism as “Cyber-Crowleyism”

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash dri­ve that can be obtained here. The new dri­ve is a 32-giga­byte dri­ve that is cur­rent as of the pro­grams and arti­cles post­ed by late spring of 2015. The new dri­ve (avail­able for a tax-deductible con­tri­bu­tion of $65.00 or more) con­tains FTR #850.  

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This pro­gram was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment. 

Is this Julian Assange?

Snow­den unplugged

Intro­duc­tion: Rein­forc­ing and clar­i­fy­ing a top­ic ana­lyzed in recent broad­casts, we rumi­nate about the sub­ject of what Mr. Emory calls “tech­no­crat­ic fas­cism.”

The under­ly­ing ethos of “tech­no­crat­ic fas­cism” might be called “Cyber-Crowleyism”–“Do as thou wilt.”

Once again, the world of tech­no­crat­ic fas­cism should be viewed against the back­ground of a vital­ly impor­tant arti­cle by David Golum­bia. ” . . . . Such tech­no­cratic beliefs are wide­spread in our world today, espe­cially in the enclaves of dig­i­tal enthu­si­asts, whether or not they are part of the giant cor­po­rate-dig­i­tal leviathanHack­ers (“civic,” “eth­i­cal,” “white” and “black” hat alike), hack­tivists, Wik­iLeaks fans [and Julian Assange et al–D. E.], Anony­mous “mem­bers,” even Edward Snow­den him­self walk hand-in-hand with Face­book and Google in telling us that coders don’t just have good things to con­tribute to the polit­i­cal world, but that the polit­i­cal world is theirs to do with what they want, and the rest of us should stay out of it: the polit­i­cal world is bro­ken, they appear to think (right­ly, at least in part), and the solu­tion to that, they think (wrong­ly, at least for the most part), is for pro­gram­mers to take polit­i­cal mat­ters into their own hands. . . First, [Tor co-cre­ator] Din­gle­dine claimed that Tor must be sup­ported because it fol­lows direct­ly from a fun­da­men­tal “right to pri­vacy.” Yet when pressed—and not that hard—he admits that what he means by “right to pri­vacy” is not what any human rights body or “par­tic­u­lar legal regime” has meant by it. Instead of talk­ing about how human rights are pro­tected, he asserts that human rights are nat­ural rights and that these nat­ural rights cre­ate nat­ural law that is prop­erly enforced by enti­ties above and out­side of demo­c­ra­tic poli­tiesWhere the UN’s Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion on Human Rights of 1948 is very clear that states and bod­ies like the UN to which states belong are the exclu­sive guar­an­tors of human rights, what­ever the ori­gin of those rights, Din­gle­dine asserts that a small group of soft­ware devel­op­ers can assign to them­selves that role, and that mem­bers of demo­c­ra­tic poli­ties have no choice but to accept them hav­ing that role. . . Fur­ther, it is hard not to notice that the appeal to nat­ural rights is today most often asso­ci­ated with the polit­i­cal right, for a vari­ety of rea­sons (ur-neo­con Leo Strauss was one of the most promi­nent 20th cen­tury pro­po­nents of these views). We aren’t sup­posed to endorse Tor because we endorse the right: it’s sup­posed to be above the left/right dis­tinc­tion. But it isn’t. . . .

Draw­ing togeth­er a num­ber of seem­ing­ly dis­parate ana­lyt­i­cal and ide­o­log­i­cal trends, we note the sim­i­lar­i­ty in the cor­po­ratist, free-mar­ket ide­ol­o­gy of Edward Snow­den with the Repub­li­can Par­ty and its Tea Par­ty fac­tion, the advo­cates of dig­i­tal cur­ren­cy and the finan­cial insti­tu­tions that helped engi­neer the 2008 finan­cial col­lapse.

Advo­cat­ing their right to pri­va­cy in the wake of the Snow­den “op,” the major play­ers in the 2008 col­lapse are col­lab­o­rat­ing in a new, end-to-end encryp­tion mes­sag­ing ser­vice.

” . . . . The company’s back­ers include a who’s who of Wall Street finan­cial com­pa­nies: Bank of Amer­ica Mer­rill Lynch, BNY Mel­lon, Black­Rock, Citadel, Citi, Cred­it Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Gold­man Sachs, HSBC, Jef­feries, JPMor­gan, Mav­er­ick, Mor­gan Stan­ley, Nomu­ra and Wells Far­go. . . . .”

The Sym­pho­ny ser­vice may well per­mit them to cir­cum­vent reg­u­la­tion.

“. . . . The New York Post has pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed that Sym­pho­ny delet­ed a video from its web­site that bragged its soft­ware could help banks avoid bil­lions in fines by mak­ing data dele­tion eas­i­er. . . . Our gov­ern­ment offi­cials are con­cerned that their inabil­i­ty to mon­i­tor end-to-end encrypt­ed devices inhibits their role in keep­ing Amer­i­ca safe. Con­verse­ly, Amer­i­cans are con­cerned about pre­serv­ing their right to Pri­va­cy, and encryp­tion helps indi­vid­u­als enforce that right,” read that post. . . .”

Much of the pro­gram details the polit­i­cal real­i­ty of Indi­an Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Mod­i’s gov­ern­ment.

 In FTR #795, we not­ed that Naren­dra Modi was polit­i­cal­ly evolved from the Hin­du nationalist/fascist milieu of the RSS. (An “alum­nus” of that polit­i­cal envi­ron­ment mur­dered Gand­hi.)

In addi­tion, we have seen that Mod­i’s elec­tion was heav­i­ly but­tressed by Ebay’s Pierre Omid­yar, who has under­writ­ten Glenn Green­wald’s recent jour­nal­is­tic ven­tures and par­tial­ly bankrolled the 2014 Ukraine coup that brought the heirs of the OUN/B to pow­er.

Modi is imple­ment­ing the lais­sez-faire agen­da favored by Omid­yar, a cyn­i­cal “cor­po­ratist” agen­da that is poised to restore child labor in India.

The lais­sez-faire/­cor­po­ratist agen­da cham­pi­oned by Omid­yar and Mor­si is at one with the “aus­ter­i­ty” doc­trine pro­mul­gat­ed by the GOP, Ger­many, Edward Snow­den, Julian Assange, the IMF and the Under­ground Reich.

“Get to work, kids! And be sure to bring your wages home to your [unem­ployed] mom and dad.”

In FTR #866, we exam­ined Sil­i­con Val­ley’s extrav­a­gant, almost erot­ic cel­e­bra­tion of Modi, whose polit­i­cal career and BJP Par­ty are inex­tri­ca­bly linked with the RSS, a Hin­du nationalist/fascist par­ty.

Under­scor­ing the hypocrisy of the “lib­er­tar­i­ans” who fawned over Modi and the moral, philo­soph­i­cal bank­rupt­cy of their ori­en­ta­tion, we note what Modi is actu­al­ly dong in India.

In Mod­i’s India, any­one tak­ing issue with the Hin­du nationalist/fascist dog­ma of the RSS, BJP and Modi him­self faces poten­tial­ly lethal cen­sor­ship.

We note that, just as polit­i­cal dis­si­dents and civ­il lib­er­tar­i­ans are being mur­dered in India by the polit­i­cal forces empow­ered in part by EBay’s Pierre Omid­yar, Ukraine is being beset by polit­i­cal mur­der as well. (Omid­yar helped finance the Maid­an coup in Ukraine, as well as the polit­i­cal ascent of Modi and his BJP.)

Pro­gram High­lights Include:

  • The mur­der and per­se­cu­tion of Indi­an Mus­lims over alleged slaugh­ter­ing of cows (which are sacred to Hin­dus.)
  • Dis­cus­sion of Snow­den’s espousal of, in effect, get­ting rid of what the Nazis called “use­ful bread gob­blers” and Assange’s espousal of the impor­tance of his pass­ing on his supe­ri­or genes as embody­ing two facets of the Nazi eugen­ics policy–the T‑4 euthana­sia pro­gram (Snow­den) and the Lebens­born breed­ing pro­gram (Assange.)
  • Review of the remark­able capa­bil­i­ties of the “smart con­tracts” being devel­oped by Ethereum.
  • Dis­cus­sion of the poten­tial appli­ca­tion of the Sym­pho­ny ser­vice’s soft­ware to oth­er indus­tries, poten­tial­ly shield­ing them from reg­u­la­to­ry scruti­ny.
 1. In assess­ing The Adven­tures of Eddie the Friend­ly Spook [Snow­den], Wik­iLeaks and the oper­a­tions of Big Tech, it is vital to remem­ber the eth­i­cal and civic con­sid­er­a­tions of what “coders” and their allies are doing.

For open­ers, these peo­ple are not “whis­tle blow­ers” by any stretch of the imag­i­na­tion. If some­one, in or out of the mil­i­tary, sees some­thing ille­gal being done and alerts the press and/or the “prop­er author­i­ties,” THAT is whis­tle blow­ing.

Bradley Man­ning was no “whis­tle blow­er.” He arro­gat­ed to him­self the right to pur­loin 700,000 secret intel­li­gence files, which he could not pos­si­bly have had the time to read. That is, in and of itself, reck­less. He gave those to Wik­iLeaks and Julian Assange (more about him lat­er.) THAT is not whis­tle blow­ing.

Assange and his close asso­ciate Holo­caust-denier Joran Jer­mas (aka “Israel Shamir”) arranged for Wik­iLeaks to be host­ed on the Pirate Bay site, financed by promi­nent Swedish fas­cist Carl Lund­strom, part of David Duke’s milieu. Does THAT seem respon­si­ble?

Edward Snow­den pur­loined 2.7 mil­lion secret files about the NSA, which he could not POSSIBLY have had the time to read. THAT is not whis­tle blow­ing. He then gave them to Nazi fel­low-trav­el­er Glenn Green­wald, as well as Wik­iLeaks. That is extreme­ly reck­less.

What is fun­da­men­tal­ly miss­ing here is responsibility–Assange, Snow­den et al embody what might be termed “cyber-Crow­ley­ism.” “Do As Thou Wilt”–that was Crow­ley’s eth­ic and it seems to have been adopt­ed by the coders, from Assange et al to Big Tech.

Who vet­ted Snow­den, Assange and Green­wald et al? What over­sight do they have?

2. Worth not­ing for our pur­pos­es is The Fam­i­ly’s empha­sis on a qua­si-Nazi, eugen­ics-like empha­sis on “breed­ing.” (As dis­cussed in FTR #724, Assange appears to have been a mem­ber of this cult.)

Unseen, Unheard,Unknown by Sarah Moore.

. . . . I sus­pect per­haps that there were more sin­is­ter motives than these alone. Some of us had mul­ti­ple birth cer­tifi­cates and pass­ports, and cit­i­zen­ship of more than one coun­try. Only she knows why this was and why we were also all dressed alike, why most of us even had our hair dyed iden­ti­cal­ly blond.

I can only con­jec­ture because I will nev­er know for sure. How­ev­er I sus­pect that she went to such great lengths in order to enable her to move chil­dren around, in and out of the coun­try. Per­haps even to be sold over­seas. I’m sure there is a mar­ket some­where in the world for small blond chil­dren with no trace­able iden­ti­ties. If she did it, it was a per­fect scam. Many ex-sect mem­bers have said that they were aware that Anne was cre­at­ing chil­dren by a “breed­ing pro­gram” in the late 1960s. These were ‘invis­i­ble’ kids, because they had no papers and there is no proof that they ever exist­ed. Yet we Hamil­ton-Byrne chil­dren had mul­ti­ple iden­ti­ties. These iden­ti­ties could per­haps have been loaned to oth­er chil­dren and the sim­i­lar­i­ty of our appear­ance used to cov­er up their absence. One lit­tle blond kid looks very like anoth­er in a pass­port pho­to. . .

. . . We were to be the ones who would car­ry on the work of the sect – we were a direct reflec­tion on her – so she was inti­mate­ly con­cerned about our appear­ances. She used to talk a lot about “breed­ing” and talk about us being from the “right stock”. . . .

3. Assange, him­self, seems to pos­sess a Dar­win­ian world-view  (and per­haps a repro­duc­tive instinct) that is con­sis­tent with what is taught to The Fam­i­ly. (This was dis­cussed in FTR #745.)

Inside Wik­iLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dan­ger­ous Web­site by Daniel Dom­scheit-Berg; Eng­lish trans­la­tion copy­right 2011 by Crown Pub­lish­ers [Ran­dom House imprint]; ISBN 978–0‑307–95191‑5; p. 211.

. . . We often dis­cussed the the­o­ry of evo­lu­tion. If he did have faith in any­thing, it was the the­o­ry of evo­lu­tion. Julian thought that the stronger mem­bers of the species not only pre­vailed, but pro­duced heirs who were bet­ter able to sur­vive. Nat­u­ral­ly, in his view, his genes par­tic­u­lar­ly deserved to be repro­duced.

Often, I sat in larg­er groups and lis­tened to Julian boast about how many chil­dren he had fathered in var­i­ous parts of the world. He seemed to enjoy the idea of lots and lots of lit­tle Julians, one on every con­ti­nent. Whether he took care of any of these alleged chil­dren, or whether they exist­ed at all, was anoth­er ques­tion. . . .

4. Excerpt­ing some of Snowden’s 2009 online musings–crafted dur­ing the same time peri­od in which he decid­ed to leak NSA documents–gives us insight into his true nature. We’ve men­tioned Snowden’s embrace of the gold stan­dard, belief that we should elim­i­nate Social Secu­rity and deep affin­ity for Ron Paul. Per­haps exam­in­ing his actu­al pro­nounce­ments will prove edu­ca­tion­al.

“Would You Feel Dif­fer­ently About Snow­den, Green­wald, and Assange If You Knew What They Real­ly Thought?” by Sean Wilentz; The New Repub­lic; 1/19/2014.

[Snow­den is post­ing under the moniker “The True­HOOHA”] At the time the stim­u­lus bill was being debat­ed, Snow­den also con­demned Obama’s eco­nomic poli­cies as part of a delib­er­ate scheme “to deval­ue the cur­rency absolute­ly as fast as the­o­ret­i­cally pos­si­ble.” (He favored Ron Paul’s call for the Unit­ed States to return to the gold stan­dard.) The social dis­lo­ca­tions of the finan­cial col­lapse both­ered him not at all. “Almost every­one was self-employed pri­or to 1900,” he assert­ed. “Why is 12% employ­ment [sic] so ter­ri­fy­ing?” In anoth­er chat-room exchange, Snow­den debat­ed the mer­its of Social Secu­ri­ty:

<TheTrue­HOOHA> save mon­ey? cut this social secu­rity bull­shit

<User 11> haha­hayes

<User 18> Yeah! Fuck old peo­ple!

<User 11> social secu­rity is bull­shit

<User 11> let’s just toss old peo­ple out in the street

<User 18> Old peo­ple could move in with [User11].

<User 11> NOOO

<User 11> they smell fun­ny

<TheTrue­HOOHA> Some­how, our soci­ety man­aged to make it hun­dreds of years with­out social secu­rity just fine . . . .

<TheTrue­HOOHA> Mag­i­cally the world changed after the New Deal, and old peo­ple became made of glass.

Lat­er in the same ses­sion, Snow­den wrote that the elder­ly “wouldn’t be fuck­ing help­less if you weren’t send­ing them fuck­ing checks to sit on their ass and lay in hos­pi­tals all day.”

5. Symphony’s tune might res­onate with a num­ber of indus­tries besides the finan­cial indus­try that would also like a super-encrypt­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion plat­form and expand­ing into oth­er sec­tors was always part of the plan. Note that the insti­tu­tions involved with Sym­pho­ny reads like a “Who’s Who” of the finan­cial insti­tu­tions that pre­cip­i­tat­ed the crash of 2008!
“Wall Street-Backed Sym­phony Wants To Rev­o­lu­tion­ize Finan­cial Ser­vices Com­mu­ni­ca­tion” by Ron Miller; Tech CrunchFeb 21, 2015

Sym­pho­ny, a com­pany backed by some of the world’s elite finan­cial insti­tu­tions, was cre­ated last fall with a mis­sion to trans­form the way Wall Street shares and col­lab­o­rates around con­tent — and it has set its sights set on some of the world’s most estab­lished con­tent and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tools.

The company’s back­ers include a who’s who of Wall Street finan­cial com­pa­nies: Bank of Amer­ica Mer­rill Lynch, BNY Mel­lon, Black­Rock, Citadel, Citi, Cred­it Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Gold­man Sachs, HSBC, Jef­feries, JPMor­gan, Mav­er­ick, Mor­gan Stan­ley, Nomu­ra and Wells Far­go.

Last fall, these com­pa­nies con­tributed $66M to finance Sym­phony, and using that mon­ey, pur­chased Per­zo, a com­pany that was build­ing a secure com­mu­ni­ca­tions plat­form. After the pur­chase, they named Per­zo founder David Gurle as Sym­phony CEO.

Gurle, whose back­ground comes right out of busi­ness soft­ware cen­tral cast­ing with stints at Microsoft Lync, Skype and Thom­son Reuters, would seem unique­ly qual­i­fied to build such a prod­uct. Symphony’s back­ers have been using a vari­ety of secure com­mu­ni­ca­tions appli­ca­tions and con­tent tools, but that frag­men­ta­tion was becom­ing a huge prob­lem.

They were look­ing to con­sol­i­date on a sin­gle, secure plat­form, and they cre­ated Sym­phony to replace many of the estab­lished play­ers — whether that’s Microsoft Lync or AOL (TechCrunch’s par­ent com­pany) or Yahoo! instant mes­sag­ing in com­mu­ni­ca­tions or Thom­son Reuters and Bloomberg in finan­cial con­tent. The goal from the start has been to become the de fac­to tool for com­mu­ni­cat­ing, col­lab­o­rat­ing and shar­ing con­tent in a finan­cial ser­vices set­ting.

“Those com­pa­nies that invest­ed in Sym­phony real­ize they can’t live in a frag­mented way for­ever. It’s not good for busi­ness,” Gurle explained. “They put their mon­ey in to make the busi­ness suc­cess­ful and to make Sym­phony suc­cess­ful. You don’t see this align very often,” he said.

...

Can They Pull It Off?

R Ray Wang, prin­ci­pal at Con­stel­la­tion Research describes Gurle as a vision­ary and believes that Sym­phony is cre­at­ing an entire­ly new cat­e­gory of soft­ware.

By tar­get­ing the finan­cial ser­vices indus­tries first, they show to every oth­er indus­try from gov­ern­ments to retail that here’s a way to bring these sys­tems of engage­ment to cre­ate dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion in the mar­ket,” Wang told TechCrunch.

“When the orig­i­nal design point is about secu­rity and com­pli­ance to some of the strictest stan­dards set by gov­ern­ments on finan­cial ser­vices, that’s no com­par­i­son to com­pa­nies adding secu­rity on as an after fact,” Wang said.

He added that the core prod­uct Per­zo was built for mas­sive shar­ing of mas­sive amounts of infor­ma­tion at finan­cial-ser­vices secu­rity scale. He believes Sym­phony has the poten­tial to cre­ate pri­vate col­lab­o­ra­tion net­works and even­tu­ally per­haps even pub­lic ones.

As for that con­tent com­po­nent, Wang says that could be the tough­est part to pull off. “The goal is to be able to burst con­tent with heavy con­text. They have the tech­nol­ogy, but I’m not sure if they have the con­text yet. That takes time,” he said.

Look­ing Ahead

While today the prod­uct focus­es pri­mar­ily on the needs of finan­cial ser­vices, Gurle says over time, the con­tent can adapt to the many dif­fer­ent con­tent-cen­tric indus­tries such as life sci­ences, med­i­cine, ship­ping, man­u­fac­tur­ing, account­ing, legal and ener­gy.

For now, Gurle wants to get the finan­cial ser­vices piece right, then he sees going after adja­cent mar­kets like legal and account­ing. After that, per­haps they can begin to go after oth­er indus­tries, but the roadmap is in place now.

The plan is even­tu­ally to cre­ate an open source ecosys­tem around Sym­phony, but Gurle says how that will work and which com­po­nents will go into open source is still very much being debat­ed inter­nal­ly.

The prod­uct has been in Alpha since Jan­u­ary with the 15 fun­ders and a thou­sand dai­ly active users, pre­s­e­lected from pub­lic alphas appli­cants. It plans to go into a wider Beta release with 10,000 users in April and to become gen­er­ally avail­able by the end of June or ear­ly July. By that point, the com­pany will have a bet­ter sense of which pieces they will put into open source and which they will con­trol. It could poten­tially oper­ate like Piv­otal, which open sourced pieces of its Big Data Suite last week, while hold­ing oth­er parts back for the com­mer­cial ver­sion, but how it will work with Sym­phony is still being decid­ed.

...

6a. No one famil­iar with the nature and behav­ior of the insti­tu­tions involved with Sym­pho­ny would trust them NOT to use the end-to-end encryp­tion to evade reg­u­la­to­ry scruti­ny and engage in the type of behav­ior that pro­duced the 2008 finan­cial crash. They now may be able to do that with per­fect impuni­ty.

“Wall Street’s New Chat Ser­vice Is Delet­ing Prob­lem­at­ic Mes­sag­ing” by Francine McKen­na; Mar­ket­Watch; 8/14/2015.

For start-up that says it’s focused on secure mes­sag­ing, Sym­pho­ny has been delet­ing a lot of its own mes­sag­ing to the pub­lic about what it pro­vides for its finan­cial ser­vices clients. The firm has been edit­ing out ref­er­ences on its web­site to data dele­tion and its abil­i­ty to help banks keep their data away from the gov­ern­ment.

The New York Post has pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed that Sym­pho­ny delet­ed a video from its web­site that bragged its soft­ware could help banks avoid bil­lions in fines by mak­ing data dele­tion eas­i­er. Con­tin­u­ing its efforts, Sym­pho­ny has recent­ly delet­ed a sec­tion about data secu­ri­ty from its web­site and addi­tion­al ref­er­ences that empha­size more pri­va­cy via data encryp­tion and per­ma­nent data dele­tion capa­bil­i­ties.

These were among the removed com­ments: “End-to-End Encryp­tion: Sym­pho­ny is com­plete­ly pri­vate. Your data is 100% pro­tect­ed by encryp­tion keys known only by you, nev­er by us.”

“Guar­an­teed Data Dele­tion: Sym­pho­ny has designed a spe­cif­ic set of pro­ce­dures to guar­an­tee that data dele­tion is per­ma­nent and ful­ly doc­u­ment­ed.”

A blog post from July enti­tled, “To Encrypt, or Not to Encrypt?” is also now gone. That post includ­ed a pas­sage tout­ing its encryp­tion capa­bil­i­ties as a way to pro­tect firms’ pri­va­cy. “Our gov­ern­ment offi­cials are con­cerned that their inabil­i­ty to mon­i­tor end-to-end encrypt­ed devices inhibits their role in keep­ing Amer­i­ca safe. Con­verse­ly, Amer­i­cans are con­cerned about pre­serv­ing their right to Pri­va­cy, and encryp­tion helps indi­vid­u­als enforce that right,” read that post. . . .

. . . . Sym­pho­ny is no longer pro­mot­ing mes­sag­ing secu­ri­ty fea­tures as a way to pre­vent the gov­ern­ment from get­ting banks data. Instead, text describes “an ‘end-to-end’ secu­ri­ty capa­bil­i­ty that pro­tects com­mu­ni­ca­tions from cyber-threats and the risk of a data breach—while safe­guard­ing our cus­tomers’ abil­i­ty to retain records of their mes­sages.” . . . .

. . . . The New York Post report raised some eye­brows. The New York Depart­ment of Finan­cial Ser­vices’ act­ing super­in­ten­dent, Antho­ny Albanese, sent a let­ter to Sym­pho­ny Chief Exec­u­tive David Gurle on July 22 ask­ing for more infor­ma­tion about the video. On Mon­day, Sen. Eliz­a­beth War­ren stepped up the pres­sure on the firm, as the Mass­a­chu­setts Demo­c­rat sent a let­ter to six finan­cial reg­u­la­tors rais­ing con­cerns about Symphony’s descrip­tion of its new sys­tem, “which appear(s) to put com­pa­nies on notice — with a wink and a nod — that they can use Sym­pho­ny to reduce com­pli­ance and enforce­ment con­cerns.” . . . .

6b. Poten­tial­ly real­iz­ing the eco­nom­ic wet dream of fascist/libertarian ele­ments, cryp­tocur­ren­cy may sub­vert the abil­i­ty of nation states to tax–a func­tion cen­tral to the very con­cept of civic exis­tence! (We dis­cussed Bit­coin, in FTR #‘s 760764770785.)

“Cryp­tocur­ren­cy Tax­a­tion May Sub­vert Nation­al Col­lec­tion” by Travis Patron; Dig­i­nomics; 9/06/2015.

As the age of cryp­tocur­ren­cy comes into full force, it will facil­i­tate a sub­ver­sive­ly viable tax­a­tion avoid­ance strat­e­gy for many of the tech­ni­cal­ly savvy users of peer-to-peer cryp­to­graph­ic pay­ment sys­tems. In doing so, cryp­tocur­ren­cy use will act to erode the tax rev­enue base of nation­al juris­dic­tions, and ulti­mate­ly, repo­si­tion tax­a­tion as a vol­un­tary, pay-for-per­for­mance func­tion. In this post, I’d like to cov­er some of the ben­e­fits such a strat­e­gy will have for cryp­tocur­ren­cy investors, why our notion of tax­a­tion is ripe for dis­rup­tion, and why cryp­tocur­ren­cy tax­a­tion is enabled by default.

Although investors have been lured by the siren song of tax havens for as long as gov­ern­ments have exist­ed, none have exist­ed with the legal and struc­tur­al char­ac­ter­is­tics such as those found in cryp­tocur­ren­cy. By oper­at­ing behind a veil of cyber­secre­cy, it is rea­son­able to fore­cast the imprac­ti­cal­i­ty of sys­temic tax­a­tion on these types of finan­cial assets from nation­al juris­dic­tions. Indi­vid­ual enforce­ment of tax­a­tion is like­wise imprac­ti­cal due to ide­o­log­i­cal back­lash gov­ern­ments would receive for tar­get­ing indi­vid­u­als who avoid nation­al tax­a­tion via infor­ma­tion tech­nolo­gies. Even so, many juris­dic­tions have already declared dig­i­tal cur­ren­cy trans­ac­tions (some­thing which occurs between con­sent­ing par­ties on a net­work which no one owns) to be tax­able under cur­rent legal frame­works.

How can the state lay claim to the right to tax that which they do not issue and can­not con­trol?

Run­ning The Num­bers on Cryp­tocur­ren­cy Tax­a­tion

It has been said that com­pound­ing inter­est is one of the most pow­er­ful forces in the uni­verse. When we apply the black mag­ic of com­pound­ing returns to the prof­it-max­i­miz­ing actions of con­sumers, we see quite clear­ly why every user aware of the ben­e­fits of using cryp­tocur­ren­cy, even if only for the tax-sav­ings, will opt to do so over tra­di­tion­al fiat mon­ey. The allure of avoid­ing the clutch­es of nation­al tax­a­tion is strong enough that any ratio­nal con­sumer will make cryp­tocur­ren­cy a por­tion of their finan­cial port­fo­lio giv­en they have the suf­fi­cient tech­ni­cal under­stand­ing.

James Dale David­son, co-edi­tor of Strate­gic Invest­ment

“Each $5,000 of annu­al tax pay­ments made over a 40-year peri­od reduces your net worth by $2.2 mil­lion assum­ing a 10% annu­al return on your invest­ments,” reports James Dale David­son in The Sov­er­eign Indi­vid­ual: Mas­ter­ing the Tran­si­tion to the Infor­ma­tion Age, “For high income earn­ers in preda­to­ry tax regimes (such as the Unit­ed States), you can expect to lose more of your mon­ey through cumu­la­tive tax­a­tion than you will ever earn.”

As we explained in the report Bit­coin May Become A Glob­al Reserve Instru­ment, nev­er before has there exist­ed a tool that can pre­serve eco­nom­ic and infor­ma­tion­al assets with such a high degree of secu­ri­ty com­bined with a near-zero mar­gin­al cost to the user. This rev­o­lu­tion­ary capa­bil­i­ty of the bit­coin net­work does, and will con­tin­ue to pro­vide, a sub­ver­sive­ly lucra­tive tax super haven in direct cor­re­la­tion with its accep­tance on a world­wide basis.

Gov­ern­ment Response to Cryp­tocur­ren­cy Tax­a­tion

Many gov­ern­ment agen­cies have already cued in to the tax avoid­ance poten­tial of bit­coin and cryp­tocur­ren­cies. How­ev­er, it would seem that they mis­judge this emerg­ing threat loom­ing over their pre­cious tax cof­fers. The Finan­cial Crimes Enforce­ment Net­work in the Unit­ed States (FINCEN) for exam­ple, has already issued guid­ance on cryp­tocur­ren­cy tax­a­tion, yet makes a false dis­tinc­tion between real cur­ren­cy and vir­tu­al cur­ren­cy. FINCEN states that “In con­trast to real cur­ren­cy, “vir­tu­al” cur­ren­cy is a medi­um of exchange that oper­ates like a cur­ren­cy in some envi­ron­ments, but does not have all the attrib­ut­es of real cur­ren­cy,” and lat­er “vir­tu­al cur­ren­cy does not have legal ten­der sta­tus in any juris­dic­tion.” What these agen­cies fail to real­ize, is that cryp­tocur­ren­cy is not vir­tu­al in any sense of the word. Indeed it is as real, and per­haps even more real, than tra­di­tion­al fleet­ing fiat cur­ren­cies.

Bit­coin and cryp­tocur­ren­cy offer a near per­fect alter­na­tive to tra­di­tion­al tax havens which are being tight­ly con­trolled by the new laws asso­ci­at­ed with the For­eign Account Tax Com­pli­ance Act (FATCA). In his report Are Cryp­tocur­ren­cies Super Tax Havens?, Omri Mar­i­an makes clear the pres­sure for finan­cial insti­tu­tions who inter­act with the US bank­ing sys­tem to hand over account hold­ers, and for a crack­down on off­shore tax havens with the enact­ment of FATCA in 2010.

Tax pol­i­cy­mak­ers seem to be oper­at­ing under the faulty assump­tion that cryp­tocur­ren­cy-based economies are lim­it­ed by the size of vir­tu­al economies. The only vir­tu­al aspect of cryp­tocur­ren­cies, how­ev­er, is their form. Their oper­a­tion hap­pens with­in real economies, and as such their growth poten­tial is, at least the­o­ret­i­cal­ly, infi­nite. Such poten­tial, togeth­er with recent devel­op­ments in cryp­tocur­ren­cies mar­kets, should alert pol­i­cy-mak­ers to the urgency of the emerg­ing prob­lem.

– Omri Mar­i­an, Are Cryp­tocur­ren­cies Super Tax Havens?

Cur­rent pay­ment proces­sors such as Bit­Pay have recent­ly revealed that gov­ern­ment agen­cies are watch­ing cryp­tocur­ren­cy trans­ac­tions through the bot­tle­necks and exchanges where it can be tracked and traced with a high degree of trans­paren­cy. It should not come to any­ones sur­prise that gov­ern­ments are watch­ing cryp­tocur­ren­cy nor that com­pa­nies are com­ply­ing with their laws, but under­stand­ing why nation­al gov­ern­ments require users of the bit­coin dig­i­tal econ­o­my to cut them a slice of the pie while they con­tribute noth­ing to the oper­a­tion, and in many cas­es, hin­der the adop­tion of this tech­nol­o­gy, remains a cal­lus mys­tery.

Gov­ern­ments ini­tial­ly attempt­ing to con­trol cryp­tocur­ren­cy tax­a­tion through the busi­ness­es and bot­tle­necks which it can be mon­i­tored through will meet with as much suc­cess as they have lim­it­ing file shar­ing, ille­gal down­loads, and Tor oper­a­tions. Cryp­tocur­ren­cies have an inher­ent reg­u­la­tion, that of the law from num­berTru­ly, bit­coin is code as law.

Old laws sel­dom resist the trends of tech­nol­o­gy. The attempt of gov­ern­ment agen­cies to levy tax­a­tion on cryp­tocur­ren­cy trans­ac­tions direct­ly is as futile as sweep­ing back waves of the ocean. No mat­ter the size of broom, state actors will be over­run by con­tin­u­ous­ly expand­ing waves of cryp­tocur­ren­cy adop­tion.

In the 1980s, it was ille­gal in the Unit­ed States to send a fax mes­sage. The US Post Office con­sid­ered fax­es to be first-class mail, over which the US Post Office claimed an ancient monop­oly … bil­lions of fax mes­sages lat­er, it is unclear whether any­one ever com­plied with that law.

– James Dale David­son, William Rees-Mogg, The Sov­er­eign Indi­vid­ual

Cryp­tocur­ren­cy Tax­a­tion By Default

What would you say if you were told cryp­tocur­ren­cy tax­a­tion occurs on every trans­ac­tion by default? In the realm of dig­i­tal cur­ren­cy, the trans­ac­tion fee which the user decides to (or decides not to) attach to each pay­ment rep­re­sents the tax­a­tion. This user can decide to attach a large fee or no fee at all. In doing so, the min­ers of the net­work will choose pref­er­ence for the trans­ac­tions with a larg­er fee attached, and will work to con­firm these pay­ments soon­er than those with small­er fees. This trans­ac­tions queue rep­re­sents a vol­un­tary, pay-for-per­for­mance tax­a­tion struc­ture where the per­for­mance derived from the sys­tem is depen­dent upon how much tax­a­tion they pay.

Algo­rith­mic Reg­u­la­tion

Cryp­tocur­ren­cies have reg­u­la­tion built into the very nature of their exis­tence, just not through our con­ven­tion­al ideas of human inter­ven­tion. Because of the tech­no­log­i­cal nature of cryp­tocur­ren­cy tax­a­tion, judi­cial reg­u­la­tions bestowed upon these types of sys­tems will always be, to a large degree, futile. Cryp­tocur­ren­cies have estab­lished their own set of rules and guide­lines through the source code they are built upon, forc­ing legal frame­works on this type of 21st cen­tu­ry inno­va­tion will only cause fric­tion dur­ing its adop­tion phase.

The only choice of reg­u­la­tion we have in terms of cryp­tocur­ren­cy tax­a­tion is not to try and fit it inside some exist­ing doc­trine, but to abide by their laws of finance and infor­ma­tion free­dom. We must be the one’s to con­form to the reg­u­la­tion, not have it con­form to our con­ven­tion­al beliefs. Bit­coin is a sys­tem which will only be gov­erned effec­tive­ly through dig­i­tal law, an approach which func­tions sole­ly through a medi­um of tech­nol­o­gy itself. It will not bend to the whim of those who still hold con­ven­tion­al forms of law-mak­ing as rel­e­vant today.

For a suc­cess­ful tech­nol­o­gy, real­i­ty must take prece­dence over pub­lic rela­tions, for nature can­not be fooled.

– Richard Feyn­man

Con­clu­sion

When we come to under­stand the sys­temic resilience to judi­cial inter­ven­tion, it becomes quite clear that cryp­tocur­ren­cy tax­a­tion will remain a vol­un­tary, pay-for-per­for­mance func­tion of the net­work itself. No longer will tax­a­tion be enforced through coer­cion, but become a vol­un­tary act towards increased sys­tem per­for­mance.

Make no mis­take, in a cryp­to-anar­chist juris­dic­tion where there is no means to con­fis­cate or con­trol prop­er­ty on behalf of anoth­er indi­vid­ual, the need for the state will cease to exist. Mass tax­a­tion on dig­i­tal cur­ren­cy is not fea­si­ble through judi­cial enforce­ment while indi­vid­ual enforce­ment is bound to prove inef­fec­tive. You, or any­one moti­vat­ed to retain their net worth, will find a sub­ver­sive­ly lucra­tive tax haven in the realm of cryp­tocur­ren­cy.

6c. The rise of “smart con­tracts” may not only enable the suc­cess­ful per­pe­tra­tion of numer­ous kinds of crim­i­nal under­tak­ings, includ­ing the assas­si­na­tion of pub­lic offi­cials, but may replace the use of attor­neys to draft con­tracts. It is not only low-wage work­ers who face unem­ploy­ment real­ized through tech­no­log­i­cal replace­ment! Actu­al­ly, Bit­coin’s Dark Side is pret­ty damn dark, as we saw in FTR #‘s 760764770785.

“Bitcoin’s Dark Side Could Get Dark­er” by Tom Simonite; MIT Tech­nol­ogy Review; 8/13/2015.

Investors see rich­es in a cryp­tog­ra­phy-enabled tech­nol­ogy called smart contracts–but it could also offer much to crim­i­nals.

Some of the ear­li­est adopters of the dig­i­tal cur­rency Bit­coin were crim­i­nals, who have found it invalu­able in online mar­ket­places for con­tra­band and as pay­ment extort­ed through lucra­tive “ran­somware” that holds per­sonal data hostage. A new Bit­coin-inspired tech­nol­ogy that some investors believe will be much more use­ful and pow­er­ful may be set to unlock a new wave of crim­i­nal inno­va­tion.

That tech­nol­ogy is known as smart contracts—small com­puter pro­grams that can do things like exe­cute finan­cial trades or nota­rize doc­u­ments in a legal agree­ment. Intend­ed to take the place of third-par­ty human admin­is­tra­tors such as lawyers, which are required in many deals and agree­ments, they can ver­ify infor­ma­tion and hold or use funds using sim­i­lar cryp­tog­ra­phy to that which under­pins Bit­coin.

Some com­pa­nies think smart con­tracts could make finan­cial mar­kets more effi­cient, or sim­plify com­plex trans­ac­tions such as prop­erty deals (see “The Start­up Meant to Rein­vent What Bit­coin Can Do”)Ari Juels, a cryp­tog­ra­pher and pro­fes­sor at the Jacobs Tech­nion-Cor­nell Insti­tute at Cor­nell Tech, believes they will also be use­ful for ille­gal activity–and, with two col­lab­o­ra­tors, he has demon­strated how.

“In some ways this is the per­fect vehi­cle for crim­i­nal acts, because it’s meant to cre­ate trust in sit­u­a­tions where oth­er­wise it’s dif­fi­cult to achieve,” says Juels.

In a paper to be released today, Juels, fel­low Cor­nell pro­fes­sor Elaine Shi, and Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land researcher Ahmed Kos­ba present sev­eral exam­ples of what they call “crim­i­nal con­tracts.” They wrote them to work on the recent­ly launched smart-con­tract plat­form Ethereum.

One exam­ple is a con­tract offer­ing a cryp­tocur­rency reward for hack­ing a par­tic­u­lar web­site. Ethereum’s pro­gram­ming lan­guage makes it pos­si­ble for the con­tract to con­trol the promised funds. It will release them only to some­one who pro­vides proof of hav­ing car­ried out the job, in the form of a cryp­to­graph­i­cally ver­i­fi­able string added to the defaced site.

Con­tracts with a sim­i­lar design could be used to com­mis­sion many kinds of crime, say the researchers. Most provoca­tively, they out­line a ver­sion designed to arrange the assas­si­na­tion of a pub­lic fig­ure. A per­son wish­ing to claim the boun­ty would have to send infor­ma­tion such as the time and place of the killing in advance. The con­tract would pay out after ver­i­fy­ing that those details had appeared in sev­eral trust­ed news sources, such as news wires. A sim­i­lar approach could be used for less­er phys­i­cal crimes, such as high-pro­file van­dal­ism.

“It was a bit of a sur­prise to me that these types of crimes in the phys­i­cal world could be enabled by a dig­i­tal sys­tem,” says Juels. He and his coau­thors say they are try­ing to pub­li­cize the poten­tial for such activ­ity to get tech­nol­o­gists and pol­icy mak­ers think­ing about how to make sure the pos­i­tives of smart con­tracts out­weigh the neg­a­tives.

“We are opti­mistic about their ben­e­fi­cial appli­ca­tions, but crime is some­thing that is going to have to be dealt with in an effec­tive way if those ben­e­fits are to bear fruit,” says Shi.

Nico­las Christin, an assis­tant pro­fes­sor at Carnegie Mel­lon Uni­ver­sity who has stud­ied crim­i­nal uses of Bit­coin, agrees there is poten­tial for smart con­tracts to be embraced by the under­ground. “It will not be sur­pris­ing,” he says. “Fringe busi­nesses tend to be the first adopters of new tech­nolo­gies, because they don’t have any­thing to lose.”

...

Gavin Wood, chief tech­nol­ogy offi­cer at Ethereum, notes that legit­i­mate busi­nesses are already plan­ning to make use of his technology—for exam­ple, to pro­vide a dig­i­tally trans­fer­able proof of own­er­ship of gold.

How­ever, Wood acknowl­edges it is like­ly that Ethereum will be used in ways that break the law—and even says that is part of what makes the tech­nol­ogy inter­est­ingJust as file shar­ing found wide­spread unau­tho­rized use and forced changes in the enter­tain­ment and tech indus­tries, illic­it activ­ity enabled by Ethereum could change the world, he says.

“The poten­tial for Ethereum to alter aspects of soci­ety is of sig­nif­i­cant mag­ni­tude,” says Wood. “This is some­thing that would pro­vide a tech­ni­cal basis for all sorts of social changes and I find that excit­ing.”

For exam­ple, Wood says that Ethereum’s soft­ware could be used to cre­ate a decen­tral­ized ver­sion of a ser­vice such as Uber, con­nect­ing peo­ple want­ing to go some­where with some­one will­ing to take them, and han­dling the pay­ments with­out the need for a com­pany in the mid­dle. Reg­u­la­tors like those har­ry­ing Uber in many places around the world would be left with noth­ing to tar­get. “You can imple­ment any Web ser­vice with­out there being a legal enti­ty behind it,” he says. “The idea of mak­ing cer­tain things impos­si­ble to leg­is­late against is real­ly inter­est­ing.”

 7. In FTR #795, we not­ed that Naren­dra Modi was polit­i­cal­ly evolved from the Hin­du nationalist/fascist milieu of the RSS. (An “alum­nus” of that polit­i­cal envi­ron­ment mur­dered Gand­hi.)

In addi­tion, we have seen that Mod­i’s elec­tion was heav­i­ly but­tressed by Ebay’s Pierre Omid­yar, who has under­writ­ten Glenn Green­wald’s recent jour­nal­is­tic ven­tures and par­tial­ly bankrolled the 2014 Ukraine coup that brought the heirs of the OUN/B to pow­er.

Modi is imple­ment­ing the lais­sez-faire agen­da favored by Omid­yar, a cyn­i­cal “cor­po­ratist” agen­da that is poised to restore child labor in India.

The lais­sez-faire/­cor­po­ratist agen­da cham­pi­oned by Omid­yar and Mor­si is at one with the “aus­ter­i­ty” doc­trine pro­mul­gat­ed by the GOP, Ger­many, the IMF and the Under­ground Reich.

“Get to work, kids! And be sure to bring your wages home to your [unem­ployed] mom and dad.”

“The Modi Gov­ern­ment Is Send­ing Mil­lions of Kids Back into Exploita­tive Labour” by Rashme Seh­gal; Quartz; 5/4/2015.

An amend­ment to the Child Labour Pro­hi­bi­tion Act pro­posed by the Naren­dra Modi-led gov­ern­ment is about to undo years of hard-won progress in the area of child labour—and con­demn mil­lions of kids to exploita­tive employ­ment.

The amend­ment will allow chil­dren below the age of 14 to work in “fam­ily enter­prises”—a euphemism for indus­tries such as car­pet-weav­ing, bee­di–rolling, gem-pol­ish­ing, lock-mak­ing and match­box-mak­ing. The new norms will also apply to the enter­tain­ment indus­try and sports.

The amend­ment flies in the face of the Right to Edu­ca­tion Act (RTE), 2009, which guar­an­tees edu­ca­tion to every child. After the RTE came in, child labour dropped from 12.6 mil­lion in 2001 to 4.3 mil­lion in 2014. The amend­ment will undo much of that progress. It will also be a seri­ous set­back to all the work done by activists, such as Swa­mi Agnivesh and Nobel lau­re­ate Kailash Sat­yarthi, to res­cue chil­dren from bond­ed labour and exploita­tion.

Mirza­pur-based Shamshad Khan, pres­i­dent of the Cen­tre for Rur­al Edu­ca­tion and Devel­op­ment Action, calls the move “ret­ro­gres­sive.”

“All our cam­paigns to end bond­ed child labour, start­ing from the eight­ies, will go up in smoke,” Khan said. “Schools will be emp­tied out, and poor chil­dren in states like Bihar, Jhark­hand and Uttar Pradesh will be back to work­ing in sheds and makeshift fac­to­ries that will all go by the nomen­cla­ture of ‘fam­ily enter­prises.’ The worst-hit will be the chil­dren of Dal­its, Mus­lims, trib­al fam­i­lies and those belong­ing to mar­gin­alised com­mu­ni­ties.”

The amend­ment can also be used to deny edu­ca­tion to the girl child, who will be sucked into all forms of house­work. Accord­ing to gov­ern­ment sta­tis­tics, male lit­er­acy lev­els in 2014 stood at about 82%, while female lit­er­acy lev­els were as low as 64%. The school drop-out rate for girls is almost dou­ble the rate for boys.

An uncon­sti­tu­tional change

Ban­daru Dat­ta­treya, India’s min­is­ter of labour and employ­ment, announced in ear­ly April that the gov­ern­ment planned to intro­duce amend­ments to the Child Labour Pro­hi­bi­tion Act in the cur­rent ses­sion of Par­lia­ment.

His min­istry, while seek­ing the amend­ments, said the Act will not apply to chil­dren help­ing fam­i­lies in home-based work, and espe­cially fam­i­lies work­ing in agri­cul­ture and ani­mal-rear­ing. The objec­tive of these amend­ments, accord­ing to min­istry offi­cials, is to help chil­dren nur­ture a spir­it of entre­pre­neur­ship. They will par­tic­u­larly help chil­dren of fam­i­lies cur­rently liv­ing at sub­sis­tence lev­els, the min­istry claims.

Child rights activists say the move will ben­e­fit fac­tory own­ers in India’s cow belt. Their prof­its will esca­late four­fold as chil­dren could be made to work longer hours and paid less than adults.

...

Enakshi Gan­guly Thukral of HAQ Cen­tre for Child Rights believes this is an attempt by the Modi gov­ern­ment to ensure a size­able chunk of the pop­u­la­tion remains in the infor­mal sec­tor, deprived of min­i­mum wages and social secu­ri­ty.

“The gov­ern­ment is not in a posi­tion to pro­vide jobs for mil­lions of young peo­ple,” said Thukral. “Such a ret­ro­grade step will help ensure mil­lions of kids remain illit­er­ate and, there­fore, unem­ploy­able.”

Bad old days again

Major cut­backs in the 2015 bud­get in the areas of health, women and chil­dren, and edu­ca­tion will fur­ther com­pound this prob­lem. Thukral said labour offi­cials are already guilty of under-report­ing child labour. “But once child labour is per­mit­ted under one guise or the oth­er, then even a min­i­mum [lev­el] of account­abil­ity will cease to exist,” she said.

Labour offi­cials at the dis­trict lev­el are empow­ered to file cas­es against employ­ers hir­ing chil­dren but few employ­ers are ever con­victed. Sta­tis­tics from the labour min­istry for 2004–2014 show that there have been 1,168 con­vic­tions for chil­dren employed in haz­ardous indus­tries with about Rs83 lakh col­lected in fines. This mon­ey has been des­ig­nated for the reha­bil­i­ta­tion and wel­fare of child labour. How­ever, in this peri­od, only Rs5 lakh was dis­bursed from this fund.

Khan recalls the peri­od before the RTE Act, when dalals (touts) open­ly knocked on the doors of rich seths (mer­chants or busi­ness­men) to sell traf­ficked chil­dren.

“In the eight­ies, kids were being paid a dai­ly wage of as lit­tle as Rs4 per day,” he said. “We kept up pres­sure on the gov­ern­ment, insist­ing that all out-of-school kids be cat­e­gorised as child labour. This open traf­fick­ing of kids declined sharply with the RTE Act. If the BJP (Bharatiya Jana­ta Par­ty) suc­ceeds in intro­duc­ing such a dan­ger­ous amend­ment, we will be back to those old days.” . . . .

8. In FTR #866, we exam­ined Sil­i­con Val­ley’s extrav­a­gant, almost erot­ic cel­e­bra­tion of Indi­an Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, whose polit­i­cal career and BJP Par­ty are inex­tri­ca­bly linked with the RSS, a Hin­du nationalist/fascist par­ty.

Under­scor­ing the hypocrisy of the “lib­er­tar­i­ans” who fawned over Modi and the moral, philo­soph­i­cal bank­rupt­cy of their ori­en­ta­tion, we note what Modi is actu­al­ly dong in India. In Mod­i’s India, any­one tak­ing issue with the Hin­du nationalist/fascist dog­ma of the RSS, BJP and Modi him­self faces poten­tial lethal cen­sor­ship.

We note that, just as polit­i­cal dis­si­dents and civ­il lib­er­tar­i­ans are being mur­dered in India by the polit­i­cal forces empow­ered in par­ty by EBay’s Pierre Omid­yar, Ukraine is being beset by polit­i­cal mur­der as well. (Omid­yar helped finance the Maid­an coup in Ukraine, as well as the polit­i­cal ascent of Modi and his BJP.)

“India’s Attack on Free Speech” by Sonia Faleiro; The New York Times; 10/02/2015.

In today’s India, sec­u­lar lib­er­als face a chal­lenge: how to stay alive.

In August, 77-year-old schol­ar M. M. Kalbur­gi, an out­spo­ken crit­ic of Hin­du idol wor­ship, was gunned down on his own doorstep. In Feb­ru­ary, the com­mu­nist leader Govind Pansare was killed near Mum­bai. And in 2013, the activist Naren­dra Dab­holkar was mur­dered for cam­paign­ing against reli­gious super­sti­tions.

These killings should be seen as the canary in the coal mine: Sec­u­lar voic­es are being cen­sored and oth­ers will fol­low.

While there have always been episod­ic attacks on free speech in India, this time feels dif­fer­ent. The harass­ment is front-page news, but the gov­ern­ment refus­es to acknowl­edge it. Indeed, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s silence is being inter­pret­ed by many peo­ple as tac­it approval, giv­en that the attacks have gained momen­tum since he took office in 2014 and are linked to Hin­dut­va groups whose far-right ide­ol­o­gy he shares.

Ear­li­er this month, a leader of the Sri Ram Sene, a Hin­du extrem­ist group with a his­to­ry of vio­lence includ­ing raid­ing pubs and beat­ing women they find inside, ratch­eted up the ten­sions. He warned that writ­ers who insult­ed Hin­du gods were in dan­ger of hav­ing their tongues sliced off. For those who don’t sup­port the ulti­mate goal of these extrem­ists — a Hin­du nation — Mr. Modi’s silence is omi­nous.

This is a turn­ing point for India, a coun­try that has tak­en pride in being a lib­er­al democ­ra­cy and that often adopts a high-mind­ed tone when neigh­bors fall short of the same stan­dards.

When the lib­er­al Pak­istani politi­cian Salman Taseer was assas­si­nat­ed in 2011, the Indi­an jour­nal­ist M. J. Akbar, now the nation­al spokesman for the Bharatiya Jana­ta Par­ty, or B.J.P., chid­ed, “If Salman Taseer had been an Indi­an Mus­lim, he would still have been alive.” In the run-up to the 2014 gen­er­al elec­tions in Bangladesh, India expressed con­cern over the future of the country’s demo­c­ra­t­ic insti­tu­tions.

We should be wor­ry­ing instead about what’s hap­pen­ing in India, and rec­og­nize that it could go the way of the very neigh­bors it crit­i­cizes. As Nikhil Wagle, a promi­nent lib­er­al jour­nal­ist based in Mum­bai, told me, “With­out sec­u­lar­ism, India is a Hin­du Pak­istan.”

The mur­ders in India share strik­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties with the killings of four Bangladeshi blog­gers this year. But while there was a glob­al out­cry over what hap­pened in Bangladesh, India is hid­ing behind its pati­na of legit­i­ma­cy grant­ed by being the world’s largest democ­ra­cy.

Like the mur­dered blog­gers, the Indi­an vic­tims held lib­er­al views but were not famous or pow­er­ful. Mr. Kalbur­gi had pub­licly expressed skep­ti­cism toward idol wor­ship in Hin­duism, but he didn’t pose a threat to any­one.

While the author­i­ties are pur­su­ing the cul­prits on a case-by-case basis, the over­ar­ch­ing attack on free speech has not been addressed. The threats and killings have cre­at­ed an atmos­phere of self-cen­sor­ship and fear.

Some of the killers are still on the loose, and while in one hand they wield a gun, in the oth­er they wave a list. On Sept. 20, Mr. Wagle, the jour­nal­ist, learned from a source that inter­cept­ed phone calls had revealed that mem­bers of yet anoth­er right-wing Hin­du group, Sanatan Sanstha, had marked him as their next vic­tim. The extrem­ists who cel­e­brat­ed the August mur­der of Mr. Kalbur­gi were more direct: They used Twit­ter to warn K. S. Bhag­wan, a retired uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor who is crit­i­cal of the Hin­du caste sys­tem, that he would be next.

The goal of trans­form­ing India from a sec­u­lar state to a Hin­du nation, which seems to be behind the mur­ders, is abet­ted not just by the silence of politi­cians, but also by the Hin­du nation­al­ist poli­cies of the rul­ing B.J.P.

Over the past few months, the gov­ern­ment has purged sec­u­lar voic­es from high-pro­file insti­tu­tions includ­ing the Nation­al Book Trust and the inde­pen­dent board of Nalan­da Uni­ver­si­ty. The gov­ern­ment is not replac­ing mediocre indi­vid­u­als: The chan­cel­lor of Nalan­da was the Nobel lau­re­ate Amartya Sen. It is replac­ing lumi­nar­ies with peo­ple whose great­est qual­i­fi­ca­tion is faith in Hin­dut­va ide­ol­o­gy. The new appointees are reject­ing sci­en­tif­ic thought in favor of reli­gious ideas that have no place in sec­u­lar insti­tu­tions.

One of the government’s chief tar­gets is the lega­cy of India’s first prime min­is­ter, Jawa­har­lal Nehru, who laid the foun­da­tion for a sec­u­lar nation. Last month, hav­ing nudged out the direc­tor of the Nehru Muse­um and Library in New Del­hi, the gov­ern­ment announced plans to rename the muse­um and change its focus to high­light the achieve­ments of Mr. Modi. This is akin to repur­pos­ing the Wash­ing­ton Mon­u­ment as an Oba­ma muse­um.

In addi­tion to eras­ing the con­tri­bu­tions of long-dead lib­er­als, B.J.P. lead­ers are busy pro­mot­ing vio­lent Hin­du nation­al­ists. Sak­shi Maharaj, a B.J.P. mem­ber of Par­lia­ment, described Nathu­ram Godse, the man who assas­si­nat­ed Mahat­ma Gand­hi, as a “patri­ot.” Although Mr. Maharaj lat­er retract­ed his state­ment, his opin­ion is shared by many of his par­ty col­leagues. Gandhi’s assas­sin was a for­mer mem­ber of the Rashtriya Swayam­se­vak Sangh, an armed Hin­du group, with which Mr. Modi has been asso­ci­at­ed since he was 8 years old.

THE B.J.P.’s efforts to reshape insti­tu­tions that embody sec­u­lar val­ues — val­ues they dis­miss as “West­ern” — was cer­tain­ly antic­i­pat­ed. It came as no sur­prise when the cul­ture and tourism min­is­ter, Mahesh Shar­ma, recent­ly promised to “cleanse every area of pub­lic dis­course that had been west­ern­ized.” Mr. Shar­ma is well aware of the con­no­ta­tions of the word he used.

It’s also not sur­pris­ing that Hin­du fun­da­men­tal­ists would feel empow­ered in the shad­ow of a Hin­du nation­al­ist gov­ern­ment. Still, few expect­ed that free­dom of speech would become a con­testable com­mod­i­ty and that some who exer­cised it would lose their lives.

The real­iza­tion has made for deci­sions that were once unthink­able.

Last Decem­ber, the acclaimed author Peru­mal Muru­gan informed the police that he’d received threats from Hin­du groups angered by a nov­el he wrote in 2010. Extrem­ists staged burn­ings of his book and demand­ed a pub­lic apol­o­gy from him. The police sug­gest­ed he go into exile. Real­iz­ing he was on his own, in Jan­u­ary Mr. Muru­gan announced the with­draw­al of his entire lit­er­ary canon. On Face­book, he swore to give up writ­ing, in essence apol­o­giz­ing for his life’s work out of fear for his family’s safe­ty.

It’s hard to accept what is hap­pen­ing in India. It is eas­i­er to ignore or dis­miss the attacks and the threats as a lib­er­al per­se­cu­tion com­plex or a phase that will last only as long as the B.J.P. is in pow­er. But the coun­try is under­go­ing a tec­ton­ic shift that will have long-term reper­cus­sions.

The attacks in India should not be seen as a prob­lem lim­it­ed to sec­u­lar writ­ers or lib­er­al thinkers. They should be rec­og­nized as an attack on the heart of what con­sti­tutes a democ­ra­cy — and that con­cerns every­one who val­ues the idea of India as it was con­ceived and as it is beloved, rather than an India imag­ined through the eyes of reli­gious zealots. Indi­ans must protest these attacks and demand account­abil­i­ty from peo­ple in pow­er. We must call for all voic­es to be pro­tect­ed, before we lose our own.

9. Fur­ther evi­dence of the nature of Mod­i’s gov­er­nance:

“India Pol­i­tics Are Back­drop In Mob Attack” by David Barstow and Suhasi­ni Raj; The New York Times; 10/05/2015; p. A4.

The vig­i­lantes from Save the Cow sprang into action the moment they heard a rumor that a cow’s slaugh­tered remains had been found near an elec­tri­cal trans­former loom­ing over the heart of this vil­lage. They quick­ly raised the alarm through text mes­sages and phone calls. A local Hin­du priest was asked to alert vil­lagers from his tem­ple loud­speak­er.

Soon, about 1,000 men had gath­ered by the trans­former. There was no sign that a cow, a holy sym­bol for Hin­dus, had been slaugh­tered. Nonethe­less, the men pro­ceed­ed through zigzag­ging alleys to the home of the sus­pect­ed cow killer, Mohammed Ikhlaq, one of the few Mus­lims liv­ing in this vil­lage about 30 miles east of New Del­hi.

Mr. Ikhlaq and his wife, Ikra­man, were on their sec­ond-floor patio, doz­ing after din­ner and prayers. Sud­den­ly their home was swarm­ing with men. Mrs. Ikhlaq heard some­one shout, “Kill them.” She, her hus­band and their son Dan­ish, 20, retreat­ed inside, behind a thick wood­en door. The mob shat­tered the door.

“What’s the mat­ter?” Mrs. Ikhlaq cried out. An incred­u­lous voice replied from the dark, “After slaugh­ter­ing a cow, you are ask­ing us what’s the mat­ter?”

Men began to paw at Mrs. Ikhlaq, so she bit hard into a sweaty hand, broke free and fled down­stairs, “too scared to even breathe,” she said in an inter­view. Upstairs, the mob blud­geoned her hus­band with her sewing machine and smashed her son’s head with a brick. Then they dragged Mr. Ikhlaq down 14 cement steps and out to the main road by the trans­former, where he was left for all to see.

Mr. Ikhlaq was declared dead ear­ly Tues­day morn­ing, hours after the attack; his son remains in crit­i­cal con­di­tion. But in inter­views last week, more than a half-dozen mem­bers of Save the Cow expressed lit­tle remorse for what hap­pened at the Ikhlaqs’ home. Instead, they blamed Mr. Ikhlaq for incit­ing the mob’s fury by slaugh­ter­ing and eat­ing a cow — an alle­ga­tion dis­missed by the Ikhlaq fam­i­ly and the police, who have filed mur­der charges against 10 men. . . . .

. . . . Many lead­ers of Save the Cow here are also promi­nent local orga­niz­ers in Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s Hin­du nation­al­ist Bharatiya Jana­ta Par­ty, or B.J.P., which is vying to oust the social­ist par­ty that leads Uttar Pradesh, a vast north­ern state with more than 200 mil­lion res­i­dents, includ­ing the 20,000 in this vil­lage. Mr. Tomar, 24, for exam­ple, is the gen­er­al sec­re­tary of the local B.J.P. youth wing. Mr. Nagar, 33, is the state sec­re­tary of the B.J.P. youth wing.

By week’s end, they and many oth­er B.J.P. lead­ers were blam­ing the gov­ern­ing par­ty in Uttar Pradesh for the attack in Bisa­da. . . .

. . . . Save the Cow and B.J.P. lead­ers here have also round­ly con­demned the deci­sion by the police to bring mur­der charges. In their view, the death of Mr. Ikhlaq was at most the unin­tend­ed byprod­uct of a chaot­ic, high­ly charged sit­u­a­tion of his own mak­ing. “He slipped and his head hit the road and he died,” Mr. Tomar said, adding: “These things hap­pen. It’s a mob.”

Mr. Modi’s cul­ture min­is­ter, Mahesh Shar­ma, who rep­re­sents this area in the Indi­an Par­lia­ment, went so far as to tell The Indi­an Express that Mr. Ikhlaq’s death “should be con­sid­ered as an acci­dent.”

 

 

 

 

 

Discussion

2 comments for “FTR #867 Because They Can, Part 3: Fireside Rant about Technocratic Fascism as “Cyber-Crowleyism””

  1. Here’s a reminder that the “Uber­iza­tion” of work is cur­rent­ly going glob­al. But unlike ser­vices like Uber, where the glob­al race to the bot­tom con­sists of a glob­al series of local races to the bot­tom by non-employ­ee con­trac­tors dri­ving down each oth­er’s wages, the next phase of the Uber­iza­tion of work won’t just include all those local races to the bot­tom. For tasks that can be done over the inter­net it’s going to be one big glob­al race to the bot­tom:

    Finan­cial Times
    The human cloud: A new world of work

    Sarah O’Connor, Employ­ment Cor­re­spon­dent
    Octo­ber 8, 2015 6:08 pm

    Nes­tled in his “man cave”, a room crammed with card­board box­es and fish­ing lures in his Rhode Island home, Set Sar is earn­ing mon­ey by let­ting a com­pa­ny track the tini­est move­ments of his eye­balls through his computer’s web­cam.

    About 10,000 miles away, Adi Nagara is hid­ing from the heat in his air-con­di­tioned bed­room in Jakar­ta, research­ing an Indone­sian indus­try for a con­sul­tan­cy firm. Though they are doing dif­fer­ent tasks for wild­ly dif­fer­ent sums on dif­fer­ent sides of the world, the two men are con­nect­ed. They are both mem­bers of the “human cloud”.

    Employ­ers are start­ing to see the human cloud as a new way to get work done. White-col­lar jobs are chopped into hun­dreds of dis­crete projects or tasks, then scat­tered into a vir­tu­al “cloud” of will­ing work­ers who could be any­where in the world, so long as they have an inter­net con­nec­tion.

    Some of these tasks are as sim­ple as look­ing up phone num­bers on the web, typ­ing data into a spread­sheet or watch­ing a video while a web­cam tracks your eye move­ments. Oth­ers are as com­plex as writ­ing a piece of code or com­plet­ing a short-term con­sul­tan­cy project.

    The unit­ing fac­tor is that these are not jobs but tasks or projects, per­formed remote­ly and on-demand by peo­ple who are not employ­ees but inde­pen­dent work­ers. Much of it is, in effect, white-col­lar piece­work. Employ­ers spent between $2.8bn and $3.7bn glob­al­ly last year on pay­ments to work­ers and the online plat­forms that act as inter­me­di­aries in the human cloud, accord­ing to a recent Staffing Indus­try Ana­lysts report.

    To its cham­pi­ons — the peo­ple who run plat­forms and oth­ers who believe we are on the thresh­old of a flex­i­ble work rev­o­lu­tion — the human cloud promis­es to elim­i­nate skill short­ages, ease unem­ploy­ment black spots and cre­ate a glob­al mer­i­toc­ra­cy where work­ers are reward­ed sole­ly for their out­put, regard­less of their loca­tion, edu­ca­tion, gen­der or race. Some even say it could return us to the age of the cot­tage indus­try, before we crammed into fac­to­ries or offices and lost con­trol over our work.

    “What we see today is peo­ple tak­ing own­er­ship again of the means of pro­duc­tion, because you just need a com­put­er, your brain and a wifi con­nec­tion to work,” says Denis Pen­nel, man­ag­ing direc­tor of Ciett, the inter­na­tion­al lob­by­ing organ­i­sa­tion for pri­vate employ­ment agen­cies. “So actu­al­ly, Marx should be very hap­py!”

    Crit­ics turn to his­to­ry for their analo­gies too, but they talk of dead-eyed oper­a­tives on pro­duc­tion lines, not hap­py arti­sans. In the human cloud they see a wild west of unreg­u­lat­ed vir­tu­al sweat­shops, break­ing down ser­vice sec­tor work into its con­stituent parts, mak­ing peo­ple com­pete in a world­wide race to the bot­tom. “It makes Adam Smith’s famous divi­sion of labour in pin-mak­ing look mod­est,” says Guy Stand­ing, an aca­d­e­m­ic and author of sev­er­al books about the “pre­cari­at” and the growth of inse­cure work.

    Turk­ers and nerds

    Whether the human cloud is more utopia or dystopia depends, at least in part, on where exact­ly in its hier­ar­chy you find your­self.

    Mr Sar is near the bot­tom, as he read­i­ly admits. “We’re just get­ting crumbs as far as what we’re get­ting paid for it,” says the 29-year-old from Prov­i­dence, cap­i­tal of America’s small­est state.

    He joined the human cloud through Amazon’s Mechan­i­cal Turk, a site run by the online retail­er where “requesters” pay “Turk­ers” to do sim­ple micro­tasks that humans are still mar­gin­al­ly bet­ter at than com­put­ers, such as tran­scrib­ing audio clips, fill­ing in sur­veys or tag­ging pho­tos with rel­e­vant key­words. The name Mechan­i­cal Turk refers to a fake chess-play­ing machine from the 18th cen­tu­ry that fooled onlook­ers into believ­ing it was an automa­ton when in fact there was a per­son hid­ing inside. Ama­zon — whose tagline for the plat­form is “arti­fi­cial arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence” — calls the jobs on offer “human intel­li­gence tasks”, or HITs. Many of them only pay a few cents apiece.

    On a good day, Mr Sar would earn about $5 to $7 an hour by doing batch­es of HITs in his free time (he also has a job in a ware­house). But after Ama­zon increased the fee it charged “requesters” to post HITs to 20 per cent of what they pay work­ers, he says HITs dried up and pay rates dropped. “Now we as work­ers have to be com­pet­ing against oth­er work­ers to grab these good HITs.” Late­ly he has dis­cov­ered a new­er site, Sticky Crowd, which shows him videos and web pages and uses his web­cam to track exact­ly what he looks at and what he ignores — use­ful infor­ma­tion for adver­tis­ers. The pay is bet­ter: a dol­lar for every 2–3 min­utes of eye-track­ing.

    Not all the work on offer is so futur­is­tic. Take the cloud call cen­tres that assem­ble armies of “inde­pen­dent agents” who work from home, pay for their own phone and inter­net, and only get paid when they are actu­al­ly on a call. The aver­age “talk-time rate” at one large cloud call-cen­tre is $0.25 per minute, though some clients also offer sales com­mis­sion.

    Fur­ther up the hier­ar­chy are plat­forms like Upwork, Free­lancer and Peo­ple per Hour, which fea­ture more skilled tasks such as copy­writ­ing, IT and design work. Upwork, formed last year by a merg­er of two large plat­forms, is now the behe­moth of the human cloud, pro­cess­ing about $1bn worth of pay­ments from employ­ers to work­ers last year (of which it takes a 10 per cent cut). The com­pa­ny took 10 years to reach $1bn, but reck­ons it will reach $10bn in anoth­er six. “It’s a thing that takes a long time at the begin­ning,” says Stephane Kas­riel, its chief exec­u­tive. “Then at some point it hits a tip­ping point, it becomes main­stream.”

    Some of these sites invite work­ers to “bid” for the tasks on offer — spec­i­fy­ing how quick­ly and for what fixed price they could do the work. Oth­ers offer pay­ment by the hour. In most cas­es, employ­ers and work­ers give each oth­er star rat­ings after they fin­ish a task, much like on eBay or Airbnb, allow­ing them to build a track record. Rep­u­ta­tions are impor­tant: human cloud plat­forms know they need to link employ­ers with good work­ers to encour­age return vis­its, so many are start­ing to use “big data” algo­rithms to rec­om­mend cer­tain work­ers for cer­tain gigs.

    Peo­ple per Hour has set up a sis­ter site, Super­Tasker, which uses a small­er group of pre-screened work­ers to do fixed tasks in a fixed peri­od of time for a fixed price: a 400-word blog post deliv­ered in three hours costs $45, for exam­ple. Xenios Thrasyvoulou, the company’s founder, calls this “SKUs for work”. SKUs are stock keep­ing units — retail­er short­hand for indis­tin­guish­able prod­ucts.

    Yet at the top of the human cloud’s hier­ar­chy, “stan­dard­i­s­a­tion” is a dirty word. “It’s not a com­mod­i­ty — clients don’t choose on price,” says Daniel Callaghan, chief exec­u­tive of UK-based MBA & Com­pa­ny. His plat­form, like US rival HourlyN­erd, links com­pa­nies with “con­sul­tants on demand”. Oth­er spe­cial­ist sites include Top­coder for com­put­er pro­gram­mers and Upcoun­sel for lawyers.

    Con­sul­tants on MBA’s plat­form charge between £250 and £4,800 a day (then MBA adds its fee of 20 per cent). Mr Nagara, who is 30, is one of the platform’s con­sul­tants; he used to work for Aus­tralian invest­ment bank Mac­quar­ie but moved back to Indone­sia for fam­i­ly rea­sons. He reck­ons he earns more from his dai­ly rate than he would as a full-time employ­ee — though he sac­ri­fices the secu­ri­ty and ben­e­fits, a trade-off his par­ents do not under­stand. “They stayed with one com­pa­ny for decades, so when they see me being unem­ployed every two months they think ‘Jesus!’ They prob­a­bly think I’m a dis­as­ter!”

    Oppor­tu­ni­ties and costs

    While many work­ers on these spe­cial­ist sites are young and flee­ing the cor­po­rate grind or top­ping up incomes, oth­ers are cap­i­tal­is­ing on a lifetime’s worth of knowl­edge. Nasa, the US space agency, once post­ed a chal­lenge to find an algo­rithm that could pre­dict solar flares: the win­ner (who Nasa paid $20,000) was a retired radio fre­quen­cy engi­neer.

    It is not hard to see the promise of the human cloud for employ­ers, who fre­quent­ly com­plain about skills short­ages and a lack of skilled migrant work­ers.

    Mr Callaghan says the human cloud will make such prob­lems dis­ap­pear. “You can now get who­ev­er you want, when­ev­er you want, exact­ly how you want it,” he says. “And because they’re not employ­ees you don’t have to deal with employ­ment has­sles and reg­u­la­tions.”

    That is par­tic­u­lar­ly use­ful for fast-grow­ing start-ups. Dom Bracher, a 22-year-old founder of UK-based mobile mar­ket­ing com­pa­ny Tap­daq, uses devel­op­ers and design­ers in Scan­di­navia and cen­tral Europe. “There’s no need for some­one to be in the same city as you,” he says.

    ...

    The oth­er con­se­quence of work mov­ing online is that more peo­ple should be able to do it: the house­bound or peo­ple in loca­tions where job oppor­tu­ni­ties are scarce.

    The flip­side is that work­ers in places where the cost of liv­ing is low­er can under­cut their peers in more expen­sive coun­tries. “You can have some­one in Gothen­burg com­pet­ing against some­one in Dakar,” Prof Stand­ing says.

    Plen­ty of IT and call-cen­tre work has been out­sourced to coun­tries like India but Prof Stand­ing believes the next wave of “silent off­shoring” will be more dev­as­tat­ing for wages and con­di­tions in the devel­oped world.

    It is hard to test this hypoth­e­sis, since most human cloud plat­forms are not list­ed and only dis­close their data selec­tive­ly. Still, a lot of work appears to grav­i­tate to low-cost coun­tries with skilled work­forces: Upwork’s biggest mar­kets after the US by work­er earn­ings are India, the Philip­pines, Ukraine and Pak­istan.

    But Mr Sar and Mr Nagara are evi­dence that the pic­ture is com­plex: low-paid work does not always drift east and high-paid work does not always drift west.

    Con­trac­tors or staff?

    Per­haps the thorni­est prob­lem of all for the human cloud is one that has also plagued Uber, the taxi app: when should an inde­pen­dent work­er actu­al­ly be classed as an employ­ee?

    Human cloud plat­forms usu­al­ly clas­si­fy work­ers as self-employed, which frees them from the require­ment to pay min­i­mum wages, employ­er tax­es and ben­e­fits like sick pay.

    But lawyers and work­ers are chal­leng­ing them: last year a cloud plat­form called Crowd­flower offered more than $500,000 to set­tle a US class action law­suit from work­ers who said they were real­ly “employ­ees” and were there­fore owed the min­i­mum wage.

    Most coun­tries’ legal sys­tems are strug­gling to keep up with these new forms of work. “In these arrange­ments, there’s real­ly more than one employ­er — the law can’t grap­ple with this,” says Jere­mias Prassl, a law pro­fes­sor at Oxford uni­ver­si­ty.

    Jonas Pris­ing, chief exec­u­tive of Man­pow­er­Group, an employ­ment agency, pre­dicts pol­i­cy­mak­ers will impose more reg­u­la­tions on the new plat­forms soon.

    “Who is tak­ing care of these indi­vid­u­als? Who is pro­vid­ing the secu­ri­ty in terms of tax­a­tion and social secu­ri­ty? Who is doing the work is not known, who is pay­ing the tax is not known, the age of the peo­ple doing the work is not known,” he says.

    For all that, it can be a false com­par­i­son to con­trast “inse­cure” human cloud work with “secure” tra­di­tion­al jobs — par­tic­u­lar­ly at the bot­tom of the eco­nom­ic lad­der.

    Mr Sar has a job in a ware­house, but like many low-paid employ­ees in devel­oped coun­tries, his rights and pro­tec­tions have been hol­lowed out. He is employed arm’s‑length by an agency, which means he can be fired on the spot and is inel­i­gi­ble for many ben­e­fits. In the ware­house he wears an ear­piece called “The Jen­nifer unit”, a robot in his ear that tells him what to do and tracks his per­for­mance and his down­time.

    The human cloud might not pay much, it might be monot­o­nous, but it gives him a sense of con­trol. “Grow­ing up through the years I’ve always worked for some­one else. You’re treat­ed as a num­ber and not a human,” he says.

    But his work in the cloud is dif­fer­ent. “I can stop when­ev­er I want. I can take a break, or eat some­thing,” he says. “The idea of being my own boss is what real­ly attract­ed me.”

    As we can see based on Mr. Sar’s expe­ri­ence, in the future that we’re all pathet­i­cal­ly cre­at­ing there will be no escape. You can be an under­paid, abused employ­ee or and under­paid, abused non-employ­ee con­trac­tor work­ing in the “human cloud”:

    ...
    Whether the human cloud is more utopia or dystopia depends, at least in part, on where exact­ly in its hier­ar­chy you find your­self.

    Mr Sar is near the bot­tom, as he read­i­ly admits. “We’re just get­ting crumbs as far as what we’re get­ting paid for it,” says the 29-year-old from Prov­i­dence, cap­i­tal of America’s small­est state.

    He joined the human cloud through Amazon’s Mechan­i­cal Turk, a site run by the online retail­er where “requesters” pay “Turk­ers” to do sim­ple micro­tasks that humans are still mar­gin­al­ly bet­ter at than com­put­ers, such as tran­scrib­ing audio clips, fill­ing in sur­veys or tag­ging pho­tos with rel­e­vant key­words. The name Mechan­i­cal Turk refers to a fake chess-play­ing machine from the 18th cen­tu­ry that fooled onlook­ers into believ­ing it was an automa­ton when in fact there was a per­son hid­ing inside. Ama­zon — whose tagline for the plat­form is “arti­fi­cial arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence” — calls the jobs on offer “human intel­li­gence tasks”, or HITs. Many of them only pay a few cents apiece.

    On a good day, Mr Sar would earn about $5 to $7 an hour by doing batch­es of HITs in his free time (he also has a job in a ware­house). But after Ama­zon increased the fee it charged “requesters” to post HITs to 20 per cent of what they pay work­ers, he says HITs dried up and pay rates dropped. “Now we as work­ers have to be com­pet­ing against oth­er work­ers to grab these good HITs.” Late­ly he has dis­cov­ered a new­er site, Sticky Crowd, which shows him videos and web pages and uses his web­cam to track exact­ly what he looks at and what he ignores — use­ful infor­ma­tion for adver­tis­ers. The pay is bet­ter: a dol­lar for every 2–3 min­utes of eye-track­ing.

    ...
    “Who is tak­ing care of these indi­vid­u­als? Who is pro­vid­ing the secu­ri­ty in terms of tax­a­tion and social secu­ri­ty? Who is doing the work is not known, who is pay­ing the tax is not known, the age of the peo­ple doing the work is not known,” he says.

    For all that, it can be a false com­par­i­son to con­trast “inse­cure” human cloud work with “secure” tra­di­tion­al jobs — par­tic­u­lar­ly at the bot­tom of the eco­nom­ic lad­der.

    Mr Sar has a job in a ware­house, but like many low-paid employ­ees in devel­oped coun­tries, his rights and pro­tec­tions have been hol­lowed out. He is employed arm’s‑length by an agency, which means he can be fired on the spot and is inel­i­gi­ble for many ben­e­fits. In the ware­house he wears an ear­piece called “The Jen­nifer unit”, a robot in his ear that tells him what to do and tracks his per­for­mance and his down­time.

    The human cloud might not pay much, it might be monot­o­nous, but it gives him a sense of con­trol. “Grow­ing up through the years I’ve always worked for some­one else. You’re treat­ed as a num­ber and not a human,” he says.

    But his work in the cloud is dif­fer­ent. “I can stop when­ev­er I want. I can take a break, or eat some­thing,” he says. “The idea of being my own boss is what real­ly attract­ed me.”

    Yes, com­pared to his work as an employ­ee in today’s glob­al employ­ment hellscape, being an under­paid “human cloud” work­er is sort of an improve­ment and gives him a sense of con­trol com­pared to the hol­lowed out rights and pro­tec­tions he now has as a low-wage employ­ee in the devel­oped world. This is the awe­some future we’re cre­at­ing for every­one in the glob­al mer­i­toc­ra­cy that the “human cloud” is help­ing to cre­ate: sure, your employ­ment prospects might be get­ting increas­ing­ly bleak, and if you are employed it’s prob­a­bly under far worse con­di­tions than are real­ly jus­ti­fi­able, but at least you’ll be able spend your off time earn­ing a lit­tle extra as an under­paid “Mechan­i­cal Turk” or some­thing which might increase the sense con­trol you have over your life. Of course, it’s not just increas­ing your con­trol over your life:

    ...
    It is not hard to see the promise of the human cloud for employ­ers, who fre­quent­ly com­plain about skills short­ages and a lack of skilled migrant work­ers.

    Mr Callaghan says the human cloud will make such prob­lems dis­ap­pear. “You can now get who­ev­er you want, when­ev­er you want, exact­ly how you want it,” he says. “And because they’re not employ­ees you don’t have to deal with employ­ment has­sles and reg­u­la­tions.”
    ...

    “You can now get who­ev­er you want, when­ev­er you want, exact­ly how you want it,...And because they’re not employ­ees you don’t have to deal with employ­ment has­sles and reg­u­la­tions.”
    Yes, the “Human cloud” will increase work­ers’ con­trol over when they work while employ­ers get more con­trol over things like pay and job secu­ri­ty and every­thing else as we all get ush­ered in to the great glob­al race to the bot­tom. The future we’re cre­at­ing isn’t exact­ly going to be cloud nine.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 10, 2015, 6:07 pm
  2. Imag­ine that: Mod­i’s sur­prise plan to ban high-denom­i­na­tion bills with­out the gov­ern­ment actu­al­ly warn­ing any­one that this mas­sive new change is com­ing turned out to be a social and eco­nom­ic dis­as­ter and no one id clear on why it hap­pened in the first place:

    The Los Ange­les Times

    Peo­ple are dying because of an auda­cious cash pol­i­cy that India says will mod­ern­ize its econ­o­my

    By Shashank Ben­gali and Parth M.N.
    Decem­ber 30, 2016, 3:00 AM, Report­ing from Mum­bai

    Usha Boinavad, a farm­work­er in west­ern India who under­went a heart oper­a­tion as a teenag­er, began suf­fer­ing from chest pains this month. A doc­tor advised the 26-year-old to seek heart valve surgery in the near­est major city, 200 miles away.

    She imme­di­ate­ly ran into anoth­er prob­lem: cash.

    The pro­ce­dure would cost at least $1,500, far more than what she and her hus­band had in their bank account. But with India in the grip of a severe cur­ren­cy short­age since the gov­ern­ment inval­i­dat­ed 86% of the cash in cir­cu­la­tion on Nov. 8, the cou­ple couldn’t scrape togeth­er even $100 for trans­porta­tion to the hos­pi­tal.

    Banks in their farm­ing region have been slow to receive new bills, dis­pens­ing at most $30 to a few cus­tomers before clos­ing their doors, leav­ing mass­es to walk away emp­ty-hand­ed. Like most rur­al Indi­ans, the cou­ple did not pos­sess a check­book or deb­it card.

    Boinavad’s father decid­ed to sell his two buf­faloes, but the buy­er asked him to wait a few days because he couldn’t find cash either.

    It didn’t come in time. Boinavad’s pain wors­ened for sev­er­al days until she died at her par­ents’ home Dec. 13 in Nand­ed, 300 miles east of Mum­bai.

    “If not for demon­e­ti­za­tion” — the name for the government’s pol­i­cy — “she would still be with us,” said Boinavad’s cousin, San­jeev Halde.

    Few peace­time episodes in India’s 70-year his­to­ry have proved as con­tentious or chaot­ic as the cur­ren­cy ban, which has unleashed trag­ic con­se­quences across this cash-depen­dent econ­o­my and stained Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s rep­u­ta­tion as a capa­ble admin­is­tra­tor.

    Near­ly two months after Modi can­celed the val­ue of the two biggest bills in cir­cu­la­tion — worth about $7.50 and $15 — cash remains scarce and scores of peo­ple have report­ed­ly died while wait­ing in line at banks and ATMs. Modi had said the “pain” would end by Fri­day, but few­er than half of the country’s 200,000 cash machines are work­ing and strict lim­its remain on how much cur­ren­cy can be with­drawn from bank accounts.

    The mis­ery has also tak­en sub­tler forms: migrant work­ers unable to send mon­ey home to their fam­i­lies, small busi­ness­es forced to close, a slow­down in sales of every­thing from SUVs to spinach. For­eign banks have slashed their 2017 growth fore­casts for India, which has been the world’s fastest-expand­ing major econ­o­my.

    Modi’s gov­ern­ment has strug­gled to explain why the pol­i­cy, craft­ed in near-total secre­cy, has been imple­ment­ed in such a dis­or­ga­nized way. The cen­tral bank — the Reserve Bank of India, whose well-regard­ed Gov. Raghu­ram Rajan resigned amid dis­agree­ments with Modi’s gov­ern­ment in June — has found itself becom­ing a nation­al punch­line as it issues rule upon rule on deposits and with­draw­al lim­its, some con­flict­ing with one anoth­er.

    Last 43 days have seri­ous­ly under­mined what­ev­er cred­i­bil­i­ty the RBI had built up over decades. Now laugh­ing stock — Reverse Bank of India.— Rahul Kan­w­al (@rahulkanwal) Decem­ber 21, 2016

    With­in two short months, the RBI has lost cred­i­bil­i­ty and legit­i­ma­cy built care­ful­ly over decades. Will take a long time to restore— Sid­harth Bha­tia (@bombaywallah) Decem­ber 21, 2016

    “It is unfath­omable why some of the smartest minds and most com­pe­tent offi­cials were unable to see that the cur­ren­cy trans­fu­sion will be a com­plex, dif­fi­cult, painful process full of unin­tend­ed con­se­quences,” said Nitin Pai, co-founder of the Tak­shashila Insti­tu­tion, an inde­pen­dent pol­i­cy research orga­ni­za­tion.

    Modi has offered alter­nat­ing expla­na­tions for why he took such dras­tic action. He ini­tial­ly said his tar­get was tax evaders who had sup­pos­ed­ly stashed away large hoards of unde­clared wealth — forc­ing them to deposit it in banks by Fri­day, where it could be audit­ed, or watch its val­ue evap­o­rate.

    But 80% of the can­celed bills were deposit­ed in the first three weeks. Some experts said that indi­cat­ed there was less so-called black mon­ey in the mar­ket than the gov­ern­ment expect­ed — or that much of it had effec­tive­ly been laun­dered into legit­i­mate accounts and would escape scruti­ny from India’s much-maligned tax author­i­ty.

    More recent­ly, Modi has empha­sized the need to reduce India’s reliance on cash, encour­age more peo­ple to use bank accounts and elec­tron­ic pay­ment meth­ods and mod­ern­ize the econ­o­my.

    In that case, ana­lysts said an overnight cur­ren­cy swap was too extreme.

    “The shift­ing goal posts are a sign that the author­i­ties are des­per­ate­ly clutch­ing at straws to jus­ti­fy their ter­ri­bly flawed deci­sion on demon­e­ti­za­tion,” said Meera Sanyal, an oppo­si­tion politi­cian and for­mer chief exec­u­tive of the Roy­al Bank of Scot­land in India.

    Mean­while, Indi­ans have been out­raged by sto­ries of law enforce­ment agen­cies uncov­er­ing huge quan­ti­ties of the oth­er­wise scarce new bills. Tax inspec­tors in the east­ern city of Chen­nai report­ed­ly seized more than $5 mil­lion in new notes in a series of raids on well-con­nect­ed busi­ness­men, includ­ing $45,000 found at prop­er­ties used by the state’s top-rank­ing civ­il ser­vant.

    Modi has expressed regret for the incon­ve­nience but cast the pol­i­cy as a nation-build­ing project. One of the government’s top eco­nom­ic advi­sors com­pared the dis­rup­tion to Hur­ri­cane Katrina’s effect on New Orleans, say­ing the econ­o­my would even­tu­al­ly rebuild.

    “I know that my peo­ple have suf­fered,” Modi said Dec. 19 in the north­ern state of Uttar Pradesh, where upcom­ing elec­tions could serve as a ref­er­en­dum on his pol­i­cy. “But this is for the coun­try, so you will not be dis­ap­point­ed.”

    With­in two short months, the RBI has lost cred­i­bil­i­ty and legit­i­ma­cy built care­ful­ly over decades. Will take a long time to restore— Sid­harth Bha­tia (@bombaywallah) Decem­ber 21, 2016

    Modi, elect­ed in 2014 on promis­es to boost eco­nom­ic growth, remains pop­u­lar, part­ly because of the sham­bol­ic per­for­mance of the polit­i­cal oppo­si­tion. His Bharatiya Jana­ta Par­ty, or BJP, per­formed well in a pair of local elec­tions in north­ern India this month, sug­gest­ing that many cit­i­zens are will­ing to tol­er­ate the tur­moil if it results in reforms.

    “I think [Modi] must have thought it through,” said Sayyad Jamal, a Mum­bai fur­ni­ture sell­er who pleads with cus­tomers to pay cash but ulti­mate­ly sup­ports the pol­i­cy “if black mon­ey is being erad­i­cat­ed.”

    Experts say there is a pow­er­ful feel­ing of schaden­freude among the gen­er­al pub­lic: a hope that India’s high­fly­ing, tax-dodg­ing one-per­centers will suf­fer more if the econ­o­my is cleaned up. But that could have lim­its.

    “If their incon­ve­nience does not dimin­ish faster than their schaden­freude, the mood will turn against Mr. Modi,” Pai said. “It all depends on how quick­ly the [cash] trans­fu­sion can be com­plet­ed.”

    An analy­sis by Indi­aSpend, a news site, sug­gest­ed that the ear­li­est that gov­ern­ment print­ing press­es could replace all $210 bil­lion that was with­drawn from cir­cu­la­tion is April 2017 — five months after the pol­i­cy was intro­duced.

    It could take even longer for suf­fi­cient quan­ti­ties of bills to reach the two-thirds of Indi­ans who live in rur­al areas and remain teth­ered to cash. Only 2.5 mil­lion rur­al Indi­ans had enrolled in cash­less sys­tems in the six weeks after the announce­ment, accord­ing to a gov­ern­ment task force assigned to increase the use of elec­tron­ic pay­ments.

    ...

    Modi’s gov­ern­ment has strug­gled to explain why the pol­i­cy, craft­ed in near-total secre­cy, has been imple­ment­ed in such a dis­or­ga­nized way. The cen­tral bank — the Reserve Bank of India, whose well-regard­ed Gov. Raghu­ram Rajan resigned amid dis­agree­ments with Modi’s gov­ern­ment in June — has found itself becom­ing a nation­al punch­line as it issues rule upon rule on deposits and with­draw­al lim­its, some con­flict­ing with one anoth­er”

    Yep, the ratio­nal for this mas­sive soci­ety-chang­ing sur­prise pol­i­cy was also

    ...

    More recent­ly, Modi has empha­sized the need to reduce India’s reliance on cash, encour­age more peo­ple to use bank accounts and elec­tron­ic pay­ment meth­ods and mod­ern­ize the econ­o­my.

    ...

    Well, if that expla­na­tion is an accu­rate and this real­ly was all about “mod­ern­iz­ing the econ­o­my” by reduc­ing Indi­a’s reliance on cash, it def­i­nite­ly gives us an idea of who may have been lob­by­ing for this move:

    The Finan­cial Times

    India’s high tech strat­e­gy for inclu­sive growth

    Roopa Kud­va, Omid­yar Net­work
    Sep 28 2015 16:18

    This week­end Naren­dra Modi, India’s prime min­is­ter, came to Sil­i­con Val­ley to pro­mote his Dig­i­tal India ini­tia­tive. His trip sig­nals that the Indi­an gov­ern­ment sees tech­nol­o­gy as crit­i­cal to deliv­er­ing on its devel­op­ment goals. One exam­ple is a pro­gramme called Prad­han Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), which Modi launched to ensure that all Indi­an cit­i­zens have access to finan­cial ser­vices.

    In the last year, the gov­ern­ment has opened 175m bank accounts under the scheme, with deposits totalling more than $3.4bn. This progress is already a tri­umph of tech­nol­o­gy.

    Most of the new accounts are linked to Aad­haar, the government’s equal­ly ambi­tious pro­gram to ensure all 1.25bn Indi­ans have a gov­ern­ment iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ment, includ­ing a large illit­er­ate pop­u­la­tion, using a unique bio­met­ric method of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. Rid­ing on Aadhaar’s infra­struc­ture, the gov­ern­ment is also facil­i­tat­ing the process for banks to open accounts with an e‑KYC (Know Your Cus­tomer) por­tal.

    Once their account is open, hold­ers can deposit and with­draw cash using their fin­ger­print as a sec­ond authen­ti­ca­tion fac­tor, on top of reg­u­lar PIN num­bers, at a grow­ing net­work of mer­chants and micro-ATMs. Many new account hold­ers also receive a RuPay deb­it card for elec­tron­ic pay­ments, and access to cred­it, insur­ance, social ben­e­fits, and pen­sions.

    This makes PMJDY the largest finan­cial inclu­sion pro­gramme in the world. By ensur­ing that all Indi­ans have prop­er iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and access to finan­cial ser­vices – includ­ing the abil­i­ty to save, send and receive mon­ey safe­ly, and have access to afford­able cred­it and insur­ance ser­vices – the gov­ern­ment is giv­ing its peo­ple the tools to pro­tect them­selves from eco­nom­ic shocks that can send them back to pover­ty, and build assets to invest in their future. By help­ing its cit­i­zens to take their right­ful place in the for­mal econ­o­my, these poli­cies are dri­ving inclu­sive growth on nation­al scale.

    The Modi gov­ern­ment is now look­ing to dou­ble down on its tech­nol­o­gy-dri­ven strat­e­gy. The gov­ern­ment recent­ly announced a com­mit­ment, through the UN-housed Bet­ter Than Cash Alliance, to accel­er­ate the avail­abil­i­ty of dig­i­tal finan­cial ser­vices through­out the econ­o­my.

    Dig­i­tal finan­cial ser­vices, par­tic­u­lar­ly dig­i­tal pay­ments, make it safer and more con­ve­nient for peo­ple to access and use their funds through these new accounts, sav­ing pre­cious time that would be spent on a jour­ney to the util­i­ties office to pay a bill and deliv­er­ing the need­ed peace of mind of not car­ry­ing large amounts of cash around.

    It also increas­es effi­cien­cy and saves the gov­ern­ment mon­ey. Gov­ern­ments are the biggest gen­er­a­tors of pay­ments glob­al­ly, and shift­ing these sums from cash to elec­tron­ic pay­ments builds a mar­ket for dig­i­tal mon­ey. India’s fuel sub­sidy, one of the main social ben­e­fits and the world’s largest cash trans­fer pro­gram, saved $2bn by pay­ing users of cook­ing gas direct­ly into their bank accounts. When Indi­an gov­ern­ment offi­cials made social secu­ri­ty pen­sion pay­ments through dig­i­tal smart­cards instead of man­u­al cash pay­outs at the vil­lage lev­el, there was a 47 per cent reduc­tion in bribe demands.

    On the pri­vate sec­tor end, dig­i­tal pay­ments sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduce the cost of deliv­er­ing vital ser­vices to the under­served pop­u­la­tion and spur inno­v­a­tive busi­ness mod­els that would not have been prof­itable before, such as pay-as-you-go water and solar pow­er or micro-sav­ings and insur­ance.

    Through this tech­nol­o­gy-dri­ven frame­work, the gov­ern­ment of India is kick­ing off a vir­tu­ous cycle: by ensur­ing cit­i­zens are armed with prop­er iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, it enables finan­cial ser­vices providers to open accounts for them; which in turn makes it cheap­er and more effi­cient for the gov­ern­ment to deliv­er ben­e­fits pay­outs and for com­pa­nies to pro­vide need­ed ser­vices to low­er-income cit­i­zens in an afford­able man­ner.

    By lever­ag­ing tech­nol­o­gy and the new, low-cost ser­vices it can deliv­er, India can bring mil­lions more peo­ple into the for­mal finan­cial sec­tor in a few years. As more peo­ple in the econ­o­my gain access to finan­cial ser­vices, they will expand the fron­tiers of growth in a coun­try that is already the fastest-grow­ing major econ­o­my in the world for a sec­ond straight quar­ter.

    ...

    Roopa Kud­va is a part­ner at Omid­yar Net­work and man­ag­ing direc­tor of Omid­yar Net­work India Advi­sors. She was among the first investors in the Bet­ter Than Cash Alliance, along with the Bill & Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion, The Ford Foun­da­tion and oth­ers.

    “The Modi gov­ern­ment is now look­ing to dou­ble down on its tech­nol­o­gy-dri­ven strat­e­gy. The gov­ern­ment recent­ly announced a com­mit­ment, through the UN-housed Bet­ter Than Cash Alliance, to accel­er­ate the avail­abil­i­ty of dig­i­tal finan­cial ser­vices through­out the econ­o­my.”

    As this piece from the Omid­yar Net­work rep­re­sent reminds us, the Modi gov­ern­ment announced a com­mit­ment to the “Bet­ter Than Cash Alliance” agen­da back in 2015. And who is behind that alliance in addi­tion to the UN? USAID, the Omid­yar Net­work, and a bunch of large cred­it card com­pa­nies. Of course:

    About The Bet­ter Than Cash Alliance

    The Bet­ter Than Cash Alliance is a part­ner­ship of gov­ern­ments, com­pa­nies, and inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions that accel­er­ates the tran­si­tion from cash to dig­i­tal pay­ments in order to reduce pover­ty and dri­ve inclu­sive growth.

    Based at the UN, the Alliance has over 50 mem­bers, works close­ly with oth­er glob­al orga­ni­za­tions, and is an imple­ment­ing part­ner for the G20 Glob­al Part­ner­ship for Finan­cial Inclu­sion.

    The Alliance is fund­ed by the Bill & Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion, Citi Foun­da­tion, Ford Foun­da­tion, Mas­ter­Card, Omid­yar Net­work, Unit­ed States Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment, and Visa Inc. The Unit­ed Nations Cap­i­tal Devel­op­ment Fund serves as the sec­re­tari­at.

    ...

    The Alliance is fund­ed by the Bill & Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion, Citi Foun­da­tion, Ford Foun­da­tion, Mas­ter­Card, Omid­yar Net­work, Unit­ed States Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment, and Visa Inc. The Unit­ed Nations Cap­i­tal Devel­op­ment Fund serves as the sec­re­tari­at.”

    Mys­tery solved?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 31, 2016, 4:01 pm

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