Work Replaced by Universal Basic Income: Probably Not

Erik LoomisYou know, this is fine so far as it goes — maybe UBI could be some sort of solution. But it’s pretty ridiculous to me as well. What is far more likely to happen is what is already happening — massive income inequality, permanent poverty for many, a downwardly mobile middle class, and the rise of candidates like Donald Trump able to tap into the deep discontent and anger this all causes, channeling that anger away from capitalism and toward black and brown people. The only possible thing UBI as going for it as a realistic policy is that since it is truly universal in theory, even white people might use it. But since that’s not really the intent — it’s a baseline, to a topline, what it really means almost certainly is that it will be seen by the public as another welfare program disconnected from work where the taxpaying white people are subsidizing people of color. Never mind the reality of this where millions of whites would also benefit.

It also totally ignores the centrality of work to American political culture. I know that some disagree with me that work is a fundamental tenet of human existence and that it is something we need, but I maintain that position. While theoretically one could then have their UBI and then go into some hipster logging operation where they look really cool and disheveled in all the right ways while sustainably logging or something like this, a lot of people are going to be lost without some kind of work. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, this is a nation that flatly rejects any kind of economic program that does not include work. That’s a big part of the reason Social Security has always been popular, because you work and pay into it and then get paid back. And that’s a huge reason for the attacks on AFDC that culminated in the Clinton-signed welfare gutting bill, because the lack of work is unacceptable to American political life, especially when the recipients of that welfare are poor and therefore probably black.

—Eric Loomis
UBI and Automation

A Primer on Free Trade In Ten Rhyming Verses

Fairy Tale Castle: the Free Trade DreamThe economists came saying,
“Free trade it is good!”
The world will be rich
If only we would.
And oh did we would
And again and again
‘Til just as they said
We had caught a tailwind.

The economy grew
Look at GDP!
It was right in the numbers
For all seekers to see.
But for all of the gain —
The impressive growth rate,
The people just saw
Their wages stagnate.

The people were angry
They thought they’d be rich
The economist’s notions
Must have had a glitch
But it didn’t seem likely
That this could quite be
Do tent cities trump
Higher GDP?!

The problem was where
Economists live
A fairy tale place
Where no one gets the shiv.
So there was more money
In theory at least
Offsetting mass famine
Were much bigger feasts.

It seems when the money
Began rolling in
The rich didn’t share
Greed was not a sin.
In fact it was only
How we could be free
And if you don’t buy it
Look at GDP!

But when some poor souls
Looked at all the growth
It didn’t live up to
Economists’ boasts.
They stepped back and thought,
At the numbers they stared:
The growth it is higher
When wealth’s better shared!

Workers making coats
Competed worldwide
But doctors and lawyers
They got a free ride.
So as worker wages
Sat stuck in the dirt
The cost of a check-up
Continued to spurt.

Who makes the trade deals
Is it workers like you?
Or lawyers and bankers
And all that rich crew?
It’s free trade for you
But never for them
They may all be evil
But aren’t quite that dim.

Still maybe they aren’t
Quite as smart as they think
They’d likely be richer
If their moral’s didn’t stink
But they wouldn’t be richer
In a relative way
They wouldn’t be able
To point and to bray.

So think of this next time
Economists say,
“We’ll all become rich
One bright shining day!”
It might be in theory
But never for real
The rich spend their time
Finding new things to steal.

Update

I wrote this before I read Krugman’s post, A Protectionist Moment? It’s actually the strongest he’s ever come out against TPP. He actually says that free trade is now mostly a scam. Sadly, the single worst thing I can say about Hillary Clinton is that I feel certain that she will reverse herself on the TPP and decide that acceptable changes have been made and that she can support it. I hope not. But her careful statements about it don’t inspire confidence.

Hacked Hacked Hacked Went the Website

Hacked By Owner DzzLast night, if you came by Frankly Curious, you did not see our delightful “Legoland” Don Quixote graphic, but instead a white screen with the ominous words printed on it, “Hacked By Owner Dzz.” All things considered, it was a harmless hack. It didn’t destroy any data. But it did the same thing to all of my websites, which are stored on the same server. I assume it did the same thing to other people’s websites, but I’m not sure.

The hack was not inspired. Apparently what happened was that someone got access to my database and managed to change the character encoding from 8-bit UTF to 7-bit. This then allowed them to hack the widgets you see on the right (the calendar, the search box, and so on). So it put in a text widget that contained the following JavaScript:

document.documentElement.innerHTML =
unescape(‘%48%61%63%6b%65%64%20%42%79%20%4f%77%6e%65%72%20%44%7a%7a’);

All that does is replace the webpage with what’s inside the “unescape” function. And what’s inside there is a hexadecimal listing of, “Hacked By Owner Dzz.” But that wasn’t all. It also renamed the site, “+ADw-/title+AD4-Hacked By Owner Dzz+ADw-DIV style+AD0AIg-DISPLAY: none+ACIAPgA8-xmp+AD4-” But more annoying, instead of leaving all my widgets alone, it deactivated them all, making it a mess to put the site back to where it was. In the end, my hosting provider was nice enough to restore all my sites with the backup made earlier that day.

I wrote the other day that I just didn’t understand why people continued to vote for Republicans when everyone knows that Republicans don’t care about anything but helping out their rich buddies. But I also don’t understand hackers of this type. I do understand hackers of other types. Looking for vulnerabilities in software is incredibly interesting — and given the way the world is, a noble endeavor if done to detect and fix rather than destroy. I even understand hackers who are angry or simply trying to make a point. But that’s not what’s going on here.

Hacked or Just Pissed On?

This is just malicious mischief. There is nothing new about it. Whoever did it just read about it on some hacker website. They went around looking for a weak password, and found one. Given that Frankly Curious is hosted on a shared website with hundreds of other people, I assume it wasn’t one of my passwords. I’ve been thinking for a while that I need to upgrade my hosting to a virtual private server (VPS), and this incident really highlights this case. But I’m not sure how much help I would get with that.

Last night, Scott at Reliable Webs provided the usual exceptional service. Within two minutes of my alerting them to the problem, I got a personal response. And then they worked on the problem in tandem with me. And when it was all done, they restored my sites. They are also now trying to figure out when and how the hacker got in. But I’m not sure they even offer VPS, and I’m sure not in the market for a dedicated server.

I had hoped that I would be able to get all of yesterday’s comments back, but that did not work out. I did read and respond to them all. And I still have them! But I was unable to get my full XML export of the site to re-import, probably because the site is so large at this point.

Regardless, the whole thing makes me very frustrated. It’s kind of like finding out that a 13-year-old boy was pissing on your doorstep to mark his territory. You see that in the message, “Hacked By Owner Dzz.” Now the site is owned by Dzz? No. Just like the 13-year-old boy, Dzz just stunk up the place and moved on. There’s a lot of that in the world. There are 13-year-olds practicing the violin and then there are ones who are pissing on your porch. On the net, the vast majority of people are trying, in their way, to be constructive. But these kinds of hackers (and the related spammers) add nothing — they just create damage because they apparently have nothing else better to do.

Update

Here is a discussion of the same thing by a hacker named Yz_Byte. That was two years ago.

Update: 16 March 2016 8:00 pm

This is what I received from my hosting company:

On Wednesday, March 9th, some WordPress sites hosted on one of our servers were hacked. The hack changed some database fields, which included the field that is the default used for the site’s title and is displayed by some themes near the top of your pages. It also changed the character set value which caused some characters to appear incorrectly on the page. Additionally, it created a widget which may or may not have appeared in the sidebar of your site, depending on whether your theme was using widgets or not. The hack did not change any of the posts, images, or other content…

The cause of the hack was a vulnerability in shared hosting servers that use the cpanel control panel software. Reliable Webs has additional security software on our servers that prevent that vulnerability from being exploited, but unfortunately on your server it wasn’t configured correctly. A hacker gained access to one of the sites hosted on the server, either by guessing its password or exploiting an outdated WordPress installation, and then from there was able to guess the paths to the configuration files of other WordPress sites hosted on the same server. If they guessed the path correctly (which isn’t hard to do if the cpanel username is similar to the domain name) then they were able to read the configuration file (wp-config.php), which gave them the database password and the ability to change records in the database.

That’s the extent of it. What I know from my day job is that it is critical to keep software updated. I’ve written a lot about hacking, and attacks often occur long after patches have been released to address them. But even with a VPS, getting into one WordPress installation is probably enough to get into them all. I mean a server is a server. A VPS would only protect one VPS from another, not the accounts on any given VPS. It’s scary, because it means just one weak link is all it takes.