02 December 2020

China's Social Credit System: Why is it wrong?

Stephen Kershnar

China’s Social Credit System

Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer

November 29, 2020

 

            The Chinese government is implementing a nationwide social credit system. The system is troubling.

            The social credit system tracks a person and assigns him a score. The score is supposed to measure his trustworthiness. The Chinese government has already implemented this system regionally and will likely implement it nationally in the near future. The Chinese government’s and its companies’ use of mass surveillance technology allows them to collect a lot of information on the Chinese people. The technology includes artificial intelligence, big data, and facial recognition technology.

            The system gives those people who engage in anti-social behavior a low score. Examples include violating laws or rules of etiquette with regard to bills, dogs, garbage, identification cards, mass transportation, reservations, and traffic. Specific examples include eating on mass transit, failing to properly separate one’s garbage, failing to visit one’s elderly parents, jaywalking, making reservations at hotels or restaurants and not showing up, not cleaning up after one’s dog, and running red lights.

The government blacklists those with low scores. It then prevents blacklisted people from buying airline and train tickets and getting fast internet, jobs, loans, and visas. It also prevents children of blacklisted parents from attending various schools and universities. For example, the National Development and Reform Commission of China reports that blacklisting resulted in the denial of 27 million attempts to purchase plane tickets and 6 million attempts to buy train tickets. Buses and movie theaters display the names and faces of blacklisted individuals. This resembles the Two Minutes Hate in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. The government also uses low scores to tighten its repression of various minorities, such as the Muslims Uighurs.

The system gives out high scores for pro-social behavior. People with high scores are more likely to get some jobs. They also get reduced waiting time at hospitals and government agencies.

Russia plans to implement a similar system.

            Among the interesting issues is whether this system is wrong or bad. Peking University’s Kui Shen argues that the policy is wrong because it violates people’s rights, specifically, their rights to dignity, privacy, and reputation. A problem with the Chinese system is that the government assigns scores and determines rewards and punishments. This exceeds a government’s legitimate authority. Still, one can imagine corporations implementing a nearly identical system. On a side note, there was little, if any, pushback when Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders proposed that the government take over credit scores and adjust them for social-justice purposes.    

            The problem with Shen’s argument is that people do not have a right to dignity, privacy, or reputation. The notion that a person has dignity means, roughly, that he merits respect. The problem is that in terms of policy, we respect someone when, and only when, we do not infringe his rights. Hence, respecting someone’s dignity amounts to respecting his rights. As a result, there is no distinct right to dignity and the appeal to it is empty.

The purported right to privacy is no more than a claim that a person’s rights to his body and property be respected. It is disrespected in cases of burglary, trespass, warrantless searches, and so on. Again, it is not a distinct right so much as a label for a grab bag of other rights.

The purported right to a reputation is a right that others not talk or write about a person in an objectionable way. Leaving aside defamation,  there is no right that others talk or write about someone in a particular way. The gossips at church and temple do not trample on anyone’s rights.  

Writing in The Hill, Tyler Grant, argues that the social credit system is wrong because it is totalitarian. He notes that it resembles Orwell’s 1984 dystopian world. This certainly tracks our intuitions. Grant notes that the West has the machinery to implement such a system because corporations already collect a large amount of data on us. They also censor us. Consider that Big Tech recently censored those who sent out disapproved messages about COVID-19, election fraud, and Hunter Biden. 

The problem is that the system can be implemented through methods that individually do not infringe anyone’s right. For example, in the US, a person gets a financial credit score. A person’s debt level and payment history determine his score. A score gets lowered due to bankruptcy, foreclosures, and repossessions. This score affects a person’s access to insurance, jobs, and loans. While it does not currently affect things such as airplane tickets or university admissions, it is hard to see what is wrong with additional companies using these scores. The scoring companies would likely argue that the widespread use of such scores would discourage people from defaulting on their credit-card bills and college loans.

Even more disturbing is that a credit score could be widened to penalize someone for associating with the wrong people or expressing the wrong ideas. Consider bar associations. In 1998, the Illinois bar association prevented Mathew Hale from practicing law in Illinois because he was a member of the Klu Klux Klan. He had already graduated from law school, passed the bar, and agreed to follow the bar association’s rules. In 1961, the Supreme Court in Konigsberg v. State Bar of California (1961) held that state bar associations could refuse to admit a person to the bar because he has a bad moral character. If state bar associations may take a person’s views or character into account, it is unclear why credit-scoring companies may not do so.  

France, Germany, and the United Kingdom fine and imprison people for hate speech. It seems a small step for criminalized speech to also affect people’s credit scores.

While the Chinese social credit system is totalitarian and incredibly troubling, it is difficult to see exactly what is wrong with it. It is worrisome that much of what is going on in the West might serve as a precedent for a social credit system here.

19 November 2020

Election Fraud and Government Legitimacy

 

Stephen Kershnar

Election Fraud

Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer

November 15, 2020

 

There is a significant chance that Democrat Party operatives stole the election from Donald Trump. The implications of such a theft are interesting.

 

The Democratic Party hoped to gain control of the country for a generation by fundamentally changing the American people, Congress, and the Supreme Court. It hoped to change the American people by amnestying tens of millions of illegal aliens and reopening the immigrant spigot. The amnestied aliens would turn Republican strongholds such as Texas and Florida into Democratic states similar to what they did in California. When chain migration is added to the effect – the average immigrant sponsors 3.5 family members – the American people will be irrevocably changed. The Democrat Party hoped to add two states: Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, thereby ensuring their control of the Senate. It hoped to transform the Supreme Court by packing it with new justices. Depending on how the Georgia runoff elections turn out, the Party might still accomplish these goals.

 

On the night of November 3rd, the American citizens went to bed with Trump ahead in the vote count in the battleground states of Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, election analyst Robert Barnes noted, the vote was halted, and several thousand votes later conveniently found that put Biden ahead.

 

There were troubling vote irregularities in battleground states.

(1) In the major metro areas, Big Data Poll’s Richard Baris reports that Biden got fewer votes than Hillary Clinton did except for the biggest metro areas of the battleground states (Atlanta, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia).

(2) The Republican Party alleges that in Detroit, Las Vegas, and Philadelphia, Republican, poll watchers were prevented from watching the vote count. In Philadelphia, a Pennsylvania appellate court judge had to order that that watchers not be blocked. It is unclear if the order was too late because contestable ballots were no longer checkable.

(3) The Washington Times’ S. A. Miller and Alex Swoyer report that poll workers, post office employees and certified election observers filed affidavits that state that they observed suspicious-and-illegal conduct in the handling and tabulation of ballots in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

(4) The Wall Street Journal’s Kim Strassel reports that for Wisconsin not to have a suspiciously large voter turnout nearly 900,000 (30% of Wisconsin’s voters) would have had to registered to vote on election day. This, she claims, is very unlikely.

(5) The Nevada Republican Party sent a criminal referral to the Justice Department regarding 3,062 instances of voter fraud. It predicted the number of instances of fraud will grow.

(6) The Cook Political Report listed 27 House seats in the Toss Up column. So far, the Republicans have won every one in which a call has been made (18 seats). It is odd that Republicans are winning the contested seats but losing the presidency.

 

Adding to the suspicious pattern, some of these cities – for example, Detroit and Philadelphia - have a history of election difficulty and fraud. In 2019, for example, the Public Interest Legal Foundation sued Detroit because among other problems, it had more registered voters than eligible voters. A federal court convicted and sentenced an elections judge, Domenick Demuro, for accepting bribes to cast fraudulent ballots and certifying false voting results in Philadelphia during elections as recent as 2016.

 

All of this was aided and abetted by the rushed attempt to switch to a mail-in ballot system and weaken the deadline, voter-identification, and signature-checking requirements that prevent election fraud. At this point, it appears there was fraud. The issue is whether it was widespread enough to flip the election. As of now, we cannot answer this question.

 

If there were widespread election fraud, this would have been the third coup attempt. The first attempt was the Russia-Hoax criminal conspiracy. At present, not even the FBI leadership who were in the middle of the conspiracy are defending the FISA warrants central to it. The second attempt was the crassly political impeachment attempt that focused on Trump’s stated preference that Ukraine investigate Biden-family influence peddling. Hunter Biden’s computer and the evidence it unlocked make it abundantly clear that such influence peddling occurred. In addition, there was no evidence – zero – that Trump’s preference was anything more than that. Such a request would have been legally and morally permissible. Sadly, it was not made.

 

Stealing an election through widespread fraud is equivalent to a bloodless coup. One problem with such a theft is that it undermines government legitimacy. Government legitimacy concerns the right of the government to coerce the people. It is closely related to the people’s duty to obey the law. The problem is that if the government is legitimate, and not merely an organ of naked force, the people have to validly consent to it. The people have neither consented to a government that took power through fraud nor to a fraudulent electoral procedure.   

 

An illegitimate government is a problem. Similar to the apartheid practices in the American South, the destructive-and-illegal Vietnam War, and weaponization of the government during the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations, election theft does and should undermine faith in the American government. We cannot be proud of a county that has dirty elections.

 

A second problem is that the perceived election theft will intensify the politicization of American life. The election fraud, if it occurred, went hand in glove with Big Tech censorship, politicized corporations (especially Silicon Valley and Wall Street), suffocating ideological chokehold in academia, and thuggery (Black Lives Matter and Antifa). The politicization will increasingly force citizens to choose sides. Americans live, play, and work together and no one wants our lives increasingly politicized. Nor should they. No one enjoys yelling at Thanksgiving dinner.

 

A third problem is that the changes that went into this election will haunt the country for years to come. The American people do not want internet censorship, corrupt election practices, and politicized corporations. Americans will rue the day these things became part of American life.

 

In short, election fraud, if it were widespread enough, undermines the legitimacy of the American government. The fraud along with the forces that allowed it will further politicize American life and change the country for the worse. And for what?

05 November 2020

Society's Leaders Set Out to Crush Donald Trump

Stephen Kershnar

The Commanding Heights Team Up to Crush Trump

Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer

November 1, 2020

 

            I write this before the election has been decided. The commanding heights of American society coordinated to decide the election. Never before have academia, Big Tech, Deep State, Hollywood, legacy media, Silicon Valley, and Wall Street teamed up to choose the president.

            Consider Big Tech companies’ dangerous concentration of power. Big Tech includes Amazon, Facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. There is the conservative notion that a private media company may print what it wants, subject only to defamation-related restrictions. There is also the liberal notion that private media platforms should censor posts. The two positions are consistent. The first addresses whether the media should be free to print what it wants and the second addresses how the media should exercise this freedom. The problem is that Big Tech and financial companies – for example, PayPal - can and sometimes do shut down any effective outlet for conservative sites and, also, try to financially starve them out.

            The problem resulted because Big Tech got into bed with the Deep State and the Democratic Party. Big Tech censored stories on the strongly evidenced claim that the Biden family, including Joe Biden, illegally peddled influence. Consider Hunter Biden’s emails detailing the influence peddling. We have strong evidence that the emails are from Hunter Biden’s computer and real. The evidence includes (1) on-the-record witnesses, (2) Hunter Biden’s signature, (3) the computer-store owner’s statements, (4) other information on the computer, (5) an FBI investigation using the computer, and (6) in-effect concessions. The in-effect concessions are that Hunter Biden’s attorney asked for the computer back and the Bidens never denied that it was Hunter’s computer. The FBI is investigating Hunter Biden for money laundering and has had the computer files for a year. Yet, Big Tech shut down the New York Post’s Twitter site over the story and other people’s attempts to discuss it.

            Spearheading the effort to bury the influence-peddling scandal, more than 50 former senior intelligence officials signed a ridiculous letter that claimed that the story was likely a Russian disinformation campaign. This included intelligence officials such as John Brennan and James Clapper, both of whom should be in prison for lying to Congress and, perhaps also, Russian Hoax felonies. In their letter, they even conceded that, “[W]e do not have evidence of Russian involvement … .” Since then the DOJ, FBI, and Director of National Intelligence announced that this was not Russian disinformation. Despite these announcements, Big Tech and the legacy media companies, except FOX, used the ridiculous letter along with the notion that the emails were stolen to bury the story.

            The hypocrisy is breathtaking. The emails were legally obtained. In addition, no one would have wanted the media to refuse to print Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing, the Pentagon Papers, or leaked documents about the failed Afghanistan war, despite the fact that they were illegally obtained. In any case, the media trumpeted Russia Hoax stories, transcripts of Michael Flynn’s conversations, and Trump’s tax returns without caring a wit about whether the information was illegally obtained.

A similar pattern occurred with regard to discussion of Joe Biden’s more-likely-than-not sexual assault on Tara Reade. The #MeToo movement, like the pig Napoleon, now thinks that some animals are more equal than others. The pattern also occurred when Google shut down almost all traffic to Breitbart’s influential site.

The Deep State moved as slow as molasses in bringing charges against Russia Hoax criminals such as James Comey, Andrew McCabe, and Rob Rosenstein from the DOJ and FBI. This occurred despite the fact that the Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, referred some of them for prosecution and that they clearly committed fraud on a FISA court, a serious felony. At this point, it looks as if the vaunted Bob Barr and his sidekick, John Durham, ran out the clock on prosecuting them. The precedent is now set. The Deep State is above the law. The Republican establishment, especially Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, ran away from these issues. By doing so, they allowed the conspiracy, which likely involved Barack Obama and Joe Biden, to be shoved down the memory hole.

The corporate world and associated elites poured money into the Biden campaign. According to CNBC’s Brian Schwartz, Wall Street gave Joe Biden’s campaign roughly five times as much money as it gave to Donald Trump’s campaign. According to Vox’s Theodore Schliefer and Rani Molla, Silicon Valley gave Biden ten times as much money as it gave Trump. According to Inside Higher Education’s Kery Murakami, professors gave seven times as much money to Biden as Trump. For elite professors – such as those from the Ivy League – the number is likely far higher. Hollywood puts all them to shame. In the 2018 election, The Hollywood Reporter found that Hollywood (specifically,  its top executives and entertainers) gave 99.7 % of its donations to Democrats and Democrat-leaning political action committees. In addition, academia, corporate leaders, and Hollywood have been quiet as church mice on Big Tech censorship, Deep State crimes, and elite groupthink.  

            The elites’ support of Biden is mystifying. I doubt they support Joe Biden’s radical policies, such as adding two states (Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia), amnestying tens of millions of illegal aliens, eliminating the electoral college, moving toward open borders, packing the Supreme Court, raising taxes, and socializing medicine and higher education. I doubt they want more and deeper interventionist wars (for example, Syria). It is equally hard to believe that they support ever more race preferences and quotas. By now, they must surely know that the Russia Hoax was a criminal conspiracy, impeachment was a crass political move, and the Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and Defund-the-Police movements are built on lies and reintroduced political violence on a scale not seen in fifty years. Still, the commanding heights of our society teamed up to try to crush Donald Trump. This will not be the last time they take the field.