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Software Freedom After Trump

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 30/12/2016 - 3:32am in

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I’ll say it: it’s been rough since the election. Like so many other people, I was thrown into a state of reflection about my country, the world and my role in it. I’ve struggled with understanding how I can live in a world where it seems facts don’t matter. It’s been reassuring to see so many of my friends, family and colleagues (many of them lawyers!) become invigorated to work in the public good. This has all left me with some real self-reflection. I’ve been passionate about software freedom for a long time, and while I think it has really baffled many of my loved ones, I’ve been advocating for the public good in that context somewhat doggedly. But is this issue worth so much of my time? Is it the most impactful way I can spend my time?

I think I was on some level anticipating something like this. I started down this road in my OSCON EU keynote entitled “Is Software Freedom A Social Justice Issue,” in which I talked about software freedom ideology and its place relative to social justice issues.

This time, like when I was doing the soul searching that led to the OSCON EU talk, I kept coming back to thinking about my heart and the proprietary software I rely on for my life. But what’s so powerful about it is that my heart is truly a metaphor for all of the software we rely on. The pulse of our society is intertwined with our software and much of it is opaque from scrutiny and wholly under the control of single companies. We do not have ultimate control of the software that that we need the most.

After all of this deep reflection, the values and the mission of software freedom has never seemed more important. Specifically, there are a few core pieces of Conservancy’s mission and activities that I think are particularly relevant in this era of Trump.

Defending the integrity of our core infrastructure

One the things I’ve focused on in my advocacy generally is how vulnerable our core infrastructure is. This is where we need software freedom the most. We need to make sure that we are doing our best to balance corporate and public interests, and we need to be able to fix problems when they arise unexpectedly in our key systems. If we’ve learned anything from Volkswagen last year, it’s that companies may be knowingly doing the wrong thing, covering it up while also promoting corporate culture that makes it extremely unlikely that employees may come forward. We need to have confidence in our software, be able to audit it and be able to repair it when we detect vulnerabilities or unwanted functionality like surveillance.

Software freedom, and copyleft in particular, helps us keep the balance. Conservancy is dedicated to promoting software freedom, defending our licenses and supporting many of our member projects that are essential pieces of our infrastructure.

Transparency

It may feel like we’ve entered into a world where facts don’t matter but we at Conservancy disagree. Conservancy is committed to transparency, both in the development of software that can be trusted, but also in our own operations. We’re committed to helping others understand complex topics that other people gloss over, as well as shedding light on our own financial situation and activities. (This end-of-year giving season I recommend you carefully read the Form 990s of all of the organizations you consider donating to, including ours – check out how money much the top people make and think about what the organizations accomplish with the amount of resources they have available to them.)

Diversity

While hate and exclusion are on the rise, it’s more important than ever to make sure that our own communities do the right thing. I’m proud to have Conservancy host and to also personally help run Outreachy, making sure that many of the groups that are now feeling so marginalized have opportunities to succeed. Additionally, software freedom democratizes access to technology, which can (in time) empower disenfranchised communities and close digital divides.

Because together, we get it

Perhaps most importantly, unethical software is something that everyone is vulnerable to, but most don’t understand it at all. You need a certain level of expertise just to understand what software freedom is let alone why it’s so important. There are many things we can and should work on, but if we don’t keep our focus on software freedom the long term consequences will be dire. Software freedom is a long-term cause. We must work towards sound infrastructure and look after the ethical underpinnings of the technology we rely on, because if we don’t, who will?

We can’t just be reactive. We have to build the better world.

Please join me in doubling your efforts to promote software freedom. If you can, help Conservancy continue its important mission and become a Supporter now.

Only certain morals for world records

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 04/11/2016 - 3:23am in

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To: Peter Sunde
From: noreply@guinnessworldrecords.com
Subject: Guinness World Records – Application Update

Dear Peter Sunde

Thank you for sending us the details of your proposed record attempt for ‘Most copied song in the world‘.

Unfortunately, after thoroughly reviewing your application with members of our research team, we are afraid to say that we cannot accept your proposal as a Guinness World Records title.

This is not a record category we find appropriate for our brand.

For information on what makes a record, we would advise before submitting an application to visit http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/FAQ/what-makes-a-world-record. This page will provide you with helpful information if you are thinking about breaking or setting a record.

Once again thank you for contacting Guinness World Records.

Kind regards,
Records Management Team

Please be aware that as your record application has not been accepted, Guinness World Records is not associated with the activity relating to your record proposal and does not endorse this activity in any way. If you choose to proceed, then this is will be of your own volition and at your own risk. Guinness World Records will not monitor, measure or verify this activity.

ContractPatch, Step 2: Understanding the power balance

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/09/2016 - 12:57am in

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Employment agreements are one of the things that I’m asked the most regularly about in the free and open source software world, almost rivaling questions about licenses. My responses have always been the usual lawyerly responses of This Is Not Legal Advice and while I Am A Lawyer, I Am Not Your Lawyer (I’m generally not acting as a lawyer on behalf of Conservancy as its Executive Director either). But even from my early days of being involved with free software, I have seen that there’s a lack of understanding about employment agreements and the ability of employees to get their agreements modified. Last month, Fred announced a new initiative that we are working on together, called ContractPatch. With ContractPatch, our goal is to help provide knowledge to employees, along with sample language for better contract terms. The first step in this process is understanding the dynamics at work in employment arrangements. Step 1 is knowing that everything is negotiable and step 2 is knowing where you stand in the negotiation. Quite simply, you likely will never have as much power as you do the moment just before you sign your employment agreement.

At the point you are presented with a job offer, your prospective employer really wants to hire you. Chances are, they’ve screened and interviewed a number of candidates and put a lot of work into the process. Your manager has thought deeply about who they want in the position and has probably imagined how it will all work out with you in the role. Both you and the hiring decision-maker(s) are probably very optimistic about what you’ll accomplish in the role and how well you’ll get along working together. At this point, no one wants to go back to the drawing board and start the process over again. You will be excited to start the new job but it’s worth taking a step back to appreciate the unusual position you are in with your new employer.

As part of the hiring process, you’ll be expected to negotiate your salary (this can be complicated) and finalize all of the terms of your employment. Terms of employment can also be looked at through the lens of compensation, and asking for more favorable terms in your employment contract can be another kind of perk an employer can give you if they have a tight budget. A classic contract negotiation tactic (I even learned this in law school) is to make an agreement stronger in the first draft than you really need it to be, just so that you can give something away when pushed. This is certainly true of many company’s standard agreement templates. The only way to find out is to ask.

Once you take the job, it’s harder to change your terms of employment (though it’s possible, as we’ll cover later). Think hard about the long term impact of signing the agreement and whether things could happen down the road that would make you feel less comfortable with working under those terms. We’ll be giving you some examples of situations you want to be prepared for when we talk about specific contract provisions.

Asking for more favorable terms doesn’t have to be an adversarial process. You can ask for an agreement to be amended in a friendly way. Employers often respect workers more when they advocate for themselves.

So, we’ll help you think about how to engage with your employer while anticipating things that could go wrong down the road and how to ask for more favorable terms. You can sign up for our mailing list to be part of the conversation. While it may be easier to avoid negotiating your agreement, don’t trade short term comfort for your long term benefit.

Snowden filmtal

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/09/2016 - 7:23am in

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Jag blev inbjuden till Panora i Malmö för att tala lite innan premiären på filmen Snowden. Här är ungefär vad jag sa.

Min koppling till dagens film är i grunden min bakgrund som tekniker – och att jag arbetat med wikileaks och hel del andra mer eller mindre kända projekt som jobbat för yttrandefrihet och transparens. Jag var med tidigt om digital kommunikation, långt innan internet var tillgängligt så använde vi modem och det som hette BBS:er. När internet väl slog igenom hade vi tekniker och datorintresserade ett enormt försprång: vi visste hur allt fungerade, vi hade redan fått de bästa mejladresserna och domänerna, vi hade redan tagit alla IP-adresser. Personligen har jag kontroll över fler IP-adresser än vissa afrikanska länder. Precis som i pyramidspel så handlar ofta teknisk utveckling om att vara först på plats för att ha kontrollen.

När samhället sedan bestämde sig för att flytta de flesta funktioner till internet, som tv, radio, tidningar, telefonsamtal, bankärenden och allt annat, så har man gått till oss tekniker och frågat om vi kunnat hjälpa till. Det är vi som byggt samhällets nya infrastruktur. Precis som generationerna före oss byggt vägar och järnvägsstationer, så byggde vi internetoperatörer och egna virtuella telefonoperatörer som exempelvis Skype.

Skillnaden har varit kostnaden för investeringar. En motorväg kostar en miljon per meter. För samma pris som en meter motorväg kunde skype skaffa sig miljoner av kunder och börja göra en grotesk vinst. Med en så liten investering kunde man senare bli världens största telefonbolag. Utan att staten la sig i, utan att man diskuterade samhällsansvar. Att bygga en motorväg innebär att man måste skaffa sig tillstånd från myndigheter, undersöka hur det påverkar samhället med tanke på allt från buller, miljö och hållbarhet till att inte konkurrera med andra trafikslag. Att bygga upp internet gjordes oreglerat. Och otroligt naivt, med ett tänkande om att allt digital är bra och att tekniken ska bli samhällsbärande. Och att teknik av någon märklig anledning skulle vara neutral. Och att, av någon ännu märkligare anledning, samhället hade ett ansvar för att anpassa sig efter den nya tekniken, inte tvärtom eller i samförstånd.

Jag tror personligen inte det finns en direkt motsats mellan internet och samhället, det är i förlängningen samma sak. Jag tror däremot att det vore lämpligt om teknikutvecklare och samhällsutvecklare samarbetade.
Som det ser ut idag så är tekniker och riskkapitalister de som bygger det digitala samhället, mycket sällan utan ett vinstintresse. Vi slår bakut i samhället när någon nämner privatisering av motorvägar eller sjukhus, men internet är i dag stort sett privatägt. Viss minimal reglering sker, där experterna som styr oftast kommer från internetbaserade företag. Lite som att låta bankmän reglera bankväsendet. Eller riskkapitalister sköta sjukvården.

Ett aktuellt exempel på problem detta leder till är att norges statsminister nyss skrev ett vädjande brev till Mark Zuckerberg om att tillåta vissa yttranden på facebook, istället för att lagstiftning kunde användas för att inte låta facebook censurera dem. Eller för att citera en av sveriges mest kända kapitalister Jan Stenbeck: idéer är bra, pengar slår idéer, politik slår pengar, men teknik slår politik.

Gamla lagar blir ofta inaktuella när ny teknik kommer. Det innebär dock inte att de moraliska ställningstaganden bakom dem försvinner, eller för den delen bör försvinna. Istället för att tycka att teknik ska få styra, så kanske vi borde komma fram till hur vi ska styra och reglera teknikens inverkan. Teknik är absolut inte neutral. Teknik byggs av någon som i sig har en tanke med den. Och vi har en ny maktelit: tekniker och riskkapitalister. När vi pratar om klassklyftor borde vi lägga till en ny aspekt: de som kan teknik, och de som inte kan. De som bygger teknik, och de som inte gör.

Detta leder mig in på frågan om vad dagens digitaliserade samhälle behöver: en större diskussion om moral och ansvar. Det finns många tekniker världen över, men ändå väldigt få exempel på någon som ställer sig upp mot makten på det viset som Edward Snowden gjort. Varför har inte fler reagerat, varför har inte fler gjort något åt detta? Samhället behöver backa upp och uppmuntra visselblåsare. Skolor kanske borde ta upp moral och samhällsansvar i sina tekniska utbildningar, istället för att blint tro på vad Kjell Höglund sjöng: “Maskinerna är våra vänner, utan dom inget paradis”.

När det gäller det som Edward Snowden har avslöjat så är det för övrigt inget som vi tekniskt insatta aktivister inte hade varnat för. När man förstår hur oskyddat internet i grund och botten är rent tekniskt, så förstår man också hur enkelt det går att ta över vissa bitar av det. När man ser på hur internets rörelse mot centraliserade tjänster, som drivs av företag som facebook, google, amazon och apple, så förstår man vilken guldgruva det är för såväl hackers som övervakande stater. Men det finns ett antal problem med att redovisa detta för allmänheten: ägandet av tjänsterna är privat, tekniken hemlig och inte speciellt transparent. Trots detta hyllar vi internet för de fantastiska möjligheterna vi får för yttrandefrihet och demokratisk transparens.

I Sverige hade vi för några år sedan en stor diskussion om FRA, Sveriges motsvarighet till NSA. Den nya lagen de ville få igenom handlade om just mer spaning på vad som sker i fiberkablarna. Det var högljudda diskussioner, och många av oss tog upp exempel om vad som kunde hända. Exempel som var baserade på ganska rimliga gissningar ut efter hur samhället samt tekniken fungerar. När FRA-lagen till slut gick igenom, trots gråtande politikers tal i plenisalen, så var det åtminstone med några begränsningar på vad informationen fick användas till. Media granskade allt de kunde då. Men bara några år senare så uppdaterades FRA-lagen utan större protester, och media täckte inte detta speciellt mycket. Inte ens det faktum att FRA blivit prickat för brott mot FRA-lagen ett otal gånger har fått speciellt mycket uppmärksamhet.

Eller för den delen reaktionen som kom efter Snowdens läckor: FRA blev avundsjuka på USA:s möjligheter och krävde än mer tillgång till vår personliga information. Allt för att stoppa terrorister; men en enkel fråga: om FRA stoppat de terrorister de påstår, var är då åtalen för de planerade terrorattackerna? Vi kanske borde granska granskarna lite hårdare. FRA är för övrigt den myndighet som har fått mest ökning av tillslag av någon myndighet i Sverige. Om det pratas det inte så mycket.

Sverige har en annan roll i dramat kring Snowden och datan. Vi är ett av de länderna som samarbetar närmast med NSA och vi är också ett av få länder där det pågår en aktiv lobbykampanj för att ge Snowden en fristad att bo, istället för Ryssland där han nu befinner sig. Trots Sveriges historia om att stå upp för de som står upp för oss, så ignorerar vi att hjälpa en man som vi borde vara stolta och lyckliga över att få hit. Istället för att hjälpa USA spionera på våra egna medborgare så borde man sätta ner foten och kräva lite respekt för den personliga integriteten.

Det Snowden avslöjade var ju just hur enormt lite privatliv vi har idag. Men till trots för hans avslöjanden så har saker egentligen inte förändrats. Snarare går utvecklingen åt andra hållet, där länder nu försöker komma ikapp USA i frågan om datainsamling. Till trots för att Snowden avslöjade att EU:s topp-politiker, därtill Angela Merkel, blivit telefonavlyssnade världen över, så har EU gått med på ännu mer datautbyte med USA. Idag måste du intyga för din bank om du är skatteskyldig i USA, även om du är 13 år gammal och ska öppna ditt första sparkonto på din lokala sparbank i Eslöv. Och när dina föräldrar överför din första veckopeng till dig så skickas information om detta till USA. De lokala kriterier som finns i EU och Sverige för att myndigheter ska få lov att granska dina bankärenden behöver USA inte uppfylla. De får rå tillgång till all information utan några särskilda begränsningar. Och för bara några veckor sedan så gick vi med på att ge USA all information om resor. Såväl inrikes som internationellt kommer nu NSA veta vilket tåg, buss eller flyg du befinner dig på. Faktum är att många länder ofta får information från USA om inhemska angelägenheter, eftersom USA har större tillgång till länders medborgares data än vad dessa länder har själva.

Men till trots för alla avslöjanden om hur datan samlas in är intresset från media och allmänhet ganska svalt. Vi medborgare har “rent mjöl i påsen” säger vi. Fast mjöl har för övrigt ett rätt kort bäst före datum, och tiderna förändras. Helt plötsligt används informationen för något helt annat än det var tänkt. Kanske sitter Sverigedemokraterna i regeringsställning nästa år och vill ha tillgång till den där biobanken med DNA som vi i Sverige började samla in på 70-talet. Där nästan alla som fötts i Sverige sedan dess finns registrerade. Ändamålsglidning med datainsamling är en internationell sport och Sverige verkar intresserade att komma på god andra plats efter USA.

För till trots för alla avslöjanden verkar vårt intresse snarare ligger på personerna som avslöjat sakerna än vad de avslöjat. Vi är mer intresserade av Edward Snowdens privatliv och hur förhållandet mellan honom och hans snygga flickvän ska utvecklas. Lite som än dokusåpa på steroider. Den som vinner i Big Brother får en jävla massa pengar, den som förlorar i Snowden-såpan hamnar på livstid i fängelse, eller värre. Och hans möjliga vinst? Spelar ingen roll vad han vinner, för han får ändå inte åka och hämta de priser han fått. Precis samma är det i historien kring Chelsea Manning. Fram tills för några dagar sedan så hungerstrejkade hon för att få tillgång till hormoner för sin könskorrigering. Hon är utsatt för tortyr i USA, för att ha avslöjat USA:s hemligheter om bland annat hur de torterar människor. Men vårt fokus är på dramat Julian Assange. Det är lättare att ta till sig, eftersom dramaturgin är större. Sällan eller aldrig pratar vi om vad som faktiskt finns i pappren som kommit ut: hur många som mördats i Afghanistan och irak, hur många lagar som länder bryter. Varje gång någon visselblåsare träder fram så blir fokus på just dem eller de runt dem, aldrig på materialet. Kommer ni ens ihåg vad Erin Brokovich avslöjade, eller minns ni mest filmen där Julia Roberts hävde ur sig svordomar och var lättklädd? Snowden själv förstod detta och försökte därför hålla sig från rampljuset så länge det gick. Nu ska vi se en hollywoodlångfilm om honom. Inte om PRISM eller de andra programmen han avslöjat.

Varje gång fel i samhället avslöjas så verkar det som att vi tror de kommer lösas automatiskt nu när vi vet vad som hänt, istället för att direkt börja ta tag i problemen. Boken 1984 av George Orwell handlade om ett scenario ganska likt det vi står med idag. Jag tänkte börja runda av med ett citat från honom:

“Något likt 1984 skulle kunna hända, det är åt det här hållet världen är på väg just nu. I vår värld kommer det inte vara några känslor förutom rädsla, ilska, triumf och självförnedring. Sexlusten kommer utrotas och vi kommer överge orgasmen. Det kommer inte finnas någon lojalitet förutom lojalitet till partiet, men det kommer alltid finnas maktberusning, alltid, och det kommer alltid finnas glädjen i seger, lyckan i att trampa på en hjälplös motståndare.
Om du vill ha en bild av hur framtiden ser ut, föreställ dig en stövel, som trampar på en människas ansikte, för alltid. Slutsatsen av denna farliga mardrömssituationen är enkel: låt det inte ske. Det är upp till dig.”

Orwell hade nog fel om framtidens orgasmer, jag tror att internet och tindr har gjort mer för orgasmerna än någon annan historisk uppfinning. Det mesta andra han sa kanske vi däremot borde fokusera mer på: det är tyvärr vårt kollektiva ansvar att lösa situationen som vi har idag, men frågan är nog hur vi ska få människor att engagera sig i förändringsarbetet som krävs. Filmen vi nu ska se är kanske en film som kan få oss att bli mer engagerade. Jag hoppas på det, men med rädsla för att vi kanske än en gång fokuserar på personerna bakom istället för vad de avslöjat.

Jag hoppas verkligen filmen är spännande. Men om ni liksom jag jobbat hårt hela veckan och råkar somna så finns den säkert tillgänglig på pirate bay när ni kommit hem. Tack för mig!

Windows 10 to Linux

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 04/07/2016 - 4:51pm in

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There is a lot of noise at the moment about Microsoft’s new operating system called Windows 10. Without repeating all the details you can have a look, say here or here or here. The essence of the story is that Microsoft is making it very difficult to avoid the new operating system. The advice being given is to not install the upgrade – which is anything but easy, since Windows 7 is supported until 2020.

The reality is that staying with Windows 7 is only delaying the inevitable. There is no reason to believe that Mircosoft’s offering in 2020 will be any better at respecting your ownership and every reason to think it will be worse. If you are one of these people considering sticking with Windows 7 then you have only two choices:

  • swallow your pride and update (either today or sometime in the next 4 years); or
  • migrate off the platform. If you migrate then, in practice, that means Linux (since Apple has similar beliefs about who really owns your computer).

In my opinion, if you actually want to own your own computer, you have to install Linux.

Airbnb in Lisbon: a few corrections

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/07/2016 - 12:08pm in

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Airbnb just posted one of its charming city reports providing an Overview of The Airbnb Community in Lisbon and Portugal. The summary is here and the full report is here. At the prompting of some Lisbon urban geographers and activists concerned about the damage Airbnb is doing to the historic centre of their city, I’ve done some surveys of Lisbon.

The Airbnb report, as usual, presents some concrete figures, leaves out some other figures, and also presents a lot of figures that are not very interesting at all. It does so with the company’s traditional absence of supporting data or methods. Let’s look at a few of the most important.

Airbnb: “More than 4,500 hosts shared their space on Airbnb last year”

My results: Between May 2015 and May 2016,  I identify 4633 separate hosts who have properties with reviews. There are over 6000 separate hosts with listings on the site. The Airbnb statement confirms the data I have collected.

Airbnb: 72 percent of hosts in Lisbon have only one listing and hosts have lived in the city for an average of 25 years

My results: In my most recent survey, 71% of hosts have only one listing, confirming Airbnb’s … Continue reading

This is democracy folks, I’m sorry you don’t like it

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 26/06/2016 - 5:09pm in

Thursday was a great day for Britain and a great day for democracy. Over 17 million people (a clear majority of those who voted) defied the warnings of the entire British establishment, foreign governments and international institutions like the IMF, to vote out of the failing EU. The response to this fantastic exercise in democracy … Continue reading This is democracy folks, I’m sorry you don’t like it

SHANE MACGOWAN, CRONIN BROTHERS AND JOE ROONEY CREATE EURO 2016 ANTHEM FOR IRELAND

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/06/2016 - 1:48am in

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Shane MacGowan has teamed up with Les Cronins (brothers Johnny and Michael Cronin) and comedian Joe Rooney (Father Damo from Father Ted) to record the ultimate anthem for Ireland for this summer’s Euro 2016 tournament.

The song is a cover of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin’s ‘Je t’aime moi non plus’ given an Irish twist and renamed ‘Je t’aime Irland’.

Contributions from Rackhouse Pilfer, Biblecode Sundays, Brave Giant, Sean & Eabha Gavaghan, Shane Wearen, Eddie Reynolds, Flash Kennedy, Sugar Ray, Daire O Reilly, David Keenan and a 50 piece choir can also be heard on the track.

Listen to the song below:

The post SHANE MACGOWAN, CRONIN BROTHERS AND JOE ROONEY CREATE EURO 2016 ANTHEM FOR IRELAND appeared first on Shane MacGowan.

Labor moves on negative gearing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/06/2016 - 5:08pm in

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Negative gearing is a rort that saves the rich billions in tax each year. It allows those who can afford investment property to reduce the tax they pay on their earnings. It’s good Labor has announced that in government it will end negative gearing for existing property after 2017. With a reduction in the tax-gift for profiting on housing sales (Capital Gains Tax) $32 billion of tax owed by the rich will be bought into government coffers over the next decade.

In 2013-2014 60 per cent of investment properties made a loss for their owners. This means the rent was less than the interest on the mortgage, costs for rates and utilities and other similar expenses. The average loss was roughly $10,000.

Under negative gearing that loss is 100% covered by Australian taxpayers and taken off the person’s income tax bill. So someone earning $170,000 would only pay tax on $160,000. $11 billion in losses were claimed through negative gearing in 2013-14.

The Australian housing market shoots away from income growth

The Australian housing market shoots away from income growth

Turnbull has tried to paint negative gearing as something essential to average people by noting that the majority of those who access it have taxable earnings below $80,000. This is pure trickery. Firstly, while average full-time earnings are approaching this amount, in reality most Australians live on less than $50,000. Second, when Turnbull stresses “taxable” income, this already factors in the effect of negative gearing. You could earn $110,000, take $30,000 off it through negative gearing losses (on average surgeons reduced their tax bill by this much) and have a taxable income below $80,000. The Grattan Institute have found that half of the tax saved goes to the richest 10%.

Labor will keep negative gearing for newly-built properties, arguing that this will create an incentive to boost construction of new houses. But lowering the tax bill of the rich is no way to ensure housing supply. Much better to tax the rich and fund public housing.

In 1999 Howard’s Treasurer, Peter Costello changed the tax paid on the profits made from selling an investment property (Capital Gains Tax) so that half the profit is tax-free. This costs taxpayers $6 billion every year. Labor has pledged to reduce the tax-free portion rental properties (purchased after July 1st 2017) from 50 per cent to 25 per cent. They should go further and tax capital gains just like our wages and other income is taxed – in full.

Impacts

After themselves considering changes to negative gearing, the Liberals now claim that Labor’s policy will crash the housing market. Two-thirds of Australians either own their home outright or have a mortgage. This means many people are susceptible to fears that their house might devalue. With the government also claiming rents will increase under Labor’s plan, the third of the population that rents are also being told they will lose out.

Both claims are overblown. When Hawke and Keating suspended negative gearing from 1985-1987 rents rose in Perth and Sydney, but they either fell or remained constant in all other cities.

The ratio of Australian house prices to incomes in Australian cities are now some of the world’s highest, and prices in Sydney and Melbourne have grown by nearly 13% in the last year. Negative gearing has helped push prices up by encouraging more investors to buy a second, third or fourth home, competing with people trying to buy a home to live in.

Housing costs for renters and owners are increasingly unaffordable.

To cope with the mortgage on a median house in Sydney you need to earn $106,000 a year. That is unless you have children, or interest-rates go above 5% in which case you will need a higher salary! While interest-rates remain at historic lows it is the growing size of deposits needed for a mortgage that is locking younger people out of homeownership, even if they have reasonable earning capacity. If your family has wealth to lend you the deposit you can get into the market. Steadily homeownership in the major cities is becoming the domain of those with family wealth.

Debt is also a major problem, even if disguised by low interest-rates. If Australia’s mortgage debt is divided between everyone equally it comes to $80,000 per person. Interest-rates only have to increase a couple of points from their current historic lows for much of this debt to become unmanageable.

Negative gearing is not the key driver of housing investment. Globally over the last 20 years huge amounts of capital have flowed into housing because of the lack of profitability in productive sectors. Low interest-rates, even more so since the GFC, make credit virtually free. With demand in some capital cities outstripping supply, the rise and rise of Australia’s housing market is taken by investors as an article of faith.

For these reasons Labor’s negative gearing changes are unlikely to impact much on house prices. Some modelling shows price growth would slow from a 3.09% to 2.09%. Labor cites these figures against the Liberal’s scare campaign. But Labor also wants to promote its changes as promoting affordability. You can’t have it both ways. A 1% reduction in the growth of prices, while wages remain flat, will not help teachers and nurses afford houses in Sydney.

In fact the environment for housing investment is so good that most economic commentators and the Reserve Bank are worried. Last year for the first time in Australia’s history there were more people buying housing as an investment than to live in themselves. This makes the housing market less stable because unlike owner-occupiers, investors are more likely to cut and run if house prices fall. This would add weight to a downward spiral of houses on the market that would send shockwaves through the banks, the construction industry, and inevitably the economy as a whole.

Housing is too important to be left to the market. Public and social housing has been decimated since the 1980s. This must be reversed. Rather than attempting to induce investors to provide affordable housing through negative gearing for new builds, Commonwealth Rent Assistance payments, and attempts to slowly deflate the housing boom, Labor should pledge build new public housing stock and invest in maintaining the existing supply. This would not only provide downward pressure on property prices, it would also ensure that good quality housing is provided to those that need it.

Community 2.0

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/06/2016 - 7:58pm in

The past week has been very turbulent in the infosec scene, where a very prominent person has been accused of sexual abuse. The accused, Jacob Appelbaum, is a friend of mine, and I was quite surprised of the accusations.

I first want to say that I have no clue about any of the events that has happened. I also want to say that it doesn’t really matter if I know it or not. I want to write about something which is not about this case per se, but generally that we have an issue in the tech scenes regarding abuse and misconduct.

The tech scene was for the longest time inhabited by quite a homogenous group of young men who went from doing nerdy stuff in the shadows to becoming one of the most powerful groups in todays society. The more society moved its communication and business’ away from the analog world to the digital one, the more dependent it became on the tech scene. The shift has been quite dramatic and very quick. A lot of things has not been as quick to update, especially the internal culture.

I’ve grown up in the tech scene. As a kid I started out with blackboxing, greyboxing, calling illegally all over the world to hang out on cool bulletin board systems and meet people with the same interests as me. No adults understood much, and most of the other people I met were young people that in general was somewhat outside the normal society. Not saying it was all abnormal people – it was just people that for some reason, being extremely nerdy and really into technical stuff or maybe had few friends, or sometimes the obvious combination. I’ve been into other subcultures as well and most of them have a similar background. Young people will always try and fit in somewhere and find themselves. The difference with the tech scene has been that most of the stuff that went on was done in the dark. It was never really light put on it from the outside which meant that the scene never really had to fix it’s own faults. If there are faults around but noone acknowledges them, most people would stop looking at them as an issue. It’s very human. In fact, if you fix something in your home, and it’s not perfect, you’ll get really annoyed. If you don’t fix it within a few weeks, your mind forgets about it. There’s been lots of studies about this and I think it’s applicable to all things in life. Beggars on the street, faults in your own community. Ignorance is sometimes a way of coping with things, but other times it’s just being ignorant.

The culture of the tech scene has always felt quite inclusive. The premises for being included has been based on your skills, and that’s it. But it was always very similar people around so it was never really a difference of culture with the new people. I remember when I went to a copy party (those things you young kids call LAN-parties now) in Denmark in 1994, there were about 4 girls there. And 4000 guys. Most guys thought it was fun to finally see girls around. I’m pretty sure that most of these guys were nice guys and was just eager to get some attention from the opposite sex – but it’s also quite easy to calculate that 1000 guys per girl means that you’ll get a lot of attention. More than you’d probably want. The inclusive feeling is of course still there, but without the understanding that you can kill people with kindness too. In 2006 I went on a boat with 44 geeks. 40 were men, 4 were women. Even though it improved in numbers over 12 years, it was still 10 to 1. And it was a lot of attention for the women here too.

A lot of us who grew up in the tech scene has gone from being nerdy to being important. Back in the day, when someone in the media wrote about us it was always for something illegal (and according to our community cool) someone had done – some impressive hack while standing up to the man. A lot of the kids did this because they could, few did because they wanted to change things. But sometimes change come from the outside too, and I think the older we all got, the more we understood that we had the power to change and fix a lot of issues in society. If you watch the TV-series Mr.Robot, the feeling of the group F-society is very much the feeling I have gotten from a lot of the groups I’ve been involved in during my life. It’s exciting, it’s to do good, using civil disobedience and mad skillz. You can show off and feel proud and cool. When some guys are out with a moped burning rubber to impress girls, our scene hacked some organised neo-nazi group. Not understanding the politics behind nazism more than “nazi = bad”. But the gut feeling of right and wrong was there for most. Few in the hacking scene would target a group who did something good for the community. The culture was inclusive, do good, showing off is ok (but not doing so was even more impressive).

The shift when media starting writing about us as something else than illegal and nerdy came very sudden though. The various tech communities showed up with a lot of intelligent and impressive people, with an understanding of how the digital era will look. I often think about what would have happened if the woodstock people actually got into power – how would the world look? In the tech scene, this is kind of what happened. Very few people came prepared to deal with that.

As in most subcultures, ours are obsessed with internal status. We have lots of heroes and with that comes hero worship. Most newcomers look up to their heroes way to much, and most heroes feel like nerds that all of a sudden get their 15 minutes of fame. Everyone copes with that differently, many abuse it. The hero culture has always felt very dangerous to me, and it’s been very binary for most people. When Julian Assange got accused of sexual abuse, it was hard for most people in our scene to separate the private actions of Julian and the actions of Wikileaks. I’ve always been a firm believer that things are nuanced. I wanted (and still want) that Julian should be tried for what he’s accused of, but I also believe Wikileaks has been tremendously important to our society and would not discredit Julians work for that happening. The same goes with Jake; if he has done anything wrong he should be tried for that, but it says nothing about his own work nor the Tor project for that matter. Guilt by association is not something we should approve of.

In any case there are multiple sides to an argument. In a fair community we would listen to all, and find a way to deal with it, and take care of all parties. The people that accuse someone of abuse must be listened to whomever they accuse, without judgement, and with support for their experiences. The people accused of abuse must also be listened to whomever they are, without judgement and with an understanding of how people deal with being accused (no matter guilty or not). And we need to understand that these things should be settled by professionals, not be biased friends in a heated situation.

But most importantly, we must create a safe environment for everyone, including the people that have a different background to ourselves. The non-male, non-white, non-hetero are the people we’ve always wanted to include but could never find until we got enough interest. If we want to have them, which we all do and should celebrate that we finally have a chance to include, we need to understand integration; it goes both ways. We can’t expect people to integrate into our way of life without integrating with their ways of lives as well. The diversity is what a community thrives from and what we need to strive for. We were once the outsiders, now we need to welcome the new as well.

The past week people have been saying that they’ve seen the abuse from Jake for a long time. No-one really knew what to do with it. This is our fault as a community. We need to make sure we have some sort of way to talk about these issues if they arise and not just ignore them. If we want to include people we must care about them too. And it’s also educating everyone in what is not ok behaviour. I’ve met quite a few guys in the scene during my life that has been weird to women, not because they’re evil, but because they have no clue on how to behave or what the boundaries are. I’ve seen quite famous people grab other famous peoples butts and none of them knowing how to deal with the situation. Just because people are respected for one thing doesn’t mean they are experienced in all parts of life. Quite a few times I’ve put my foot down, but I’m pretty sure I’ve also made someone uncomfortable sometimes and that I could have done better with some stuff I felt I should have stood up against. We’ve all been young and insecure, so than it’s also important for the older and more secure people to put their feet down and educate. Otherwise we’ll end up in situations like the one we’re in. As a community we need to acknowledge the issues we have and the responsibilities that all lay upon us – all of us.

As for the people being accused, we also need to understand that they could end up being innocent. We need to understand that they could also end up being guilty – but that they still have rights even if so. To a fair trial for instance. It’s important that we keep our heads cool and don’t fuel fires just because we want revenge. We should use that energy to support victims and to do what the tech community does best in other circumstances: rip up the old code and reimplement new code with the new experience you have. Let’s make a community version 2.0 – now for everyone and with exception handlers for the things we miss.

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