Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Algorithmic Law and Society Symposium: 1-3 December 2021HEC Paris--Zoom Pre-Program, Registration and Program



I am happy to pass along information about the Algorithmic Law and Society Symposium scheduled for 1-3 December 2021 and held at HEC Paris--HEC Amphi Bellon S101, 1 Rue de la Libération78350 Jouy-en-Josas, France

The purpose of this symposium is to foster reflection among the academic and professional communities on the emergence of algorithmic law and its effects in contemporary societies.


Why this symposium ?

Our daily lives are currently impacted by ubiquitous decisions made by algorithms, as mathematical formulas and computer code establish instructions that shape the outcomes of markets, state, and society. Because orders embedded in computer programs command how reality ought to be, algorithms are normative and constitute algorithmic law. In this context, the idea of SMART – acronym for Scientific, Mathematical, Algorithmic, Risk, and Technology driven – Law becomes a perspective for analysis of new regulatory techniques already applied for taxation, fin tech, and banking, among other fields.

Importantly, critical analysis of select algorithms reveals that they may also be opaque, discriminatory, fraudulent, and unfair. Artificial intelligence and machine learning brings another layer of complexity to this brave new world of algorithmic law, especially because of demands for more transparency, the right for an explanation, and for algorithmic auditing.

Likewise, courts are already experimenting with digital justice, by moving from Alternative Dispute Resolution to Online Dispute Resolution. Algorithms are already trained to substitute repetitive work from lawyers and robots may identify similar claims, repetitive appeals, and analogous cases for purposes of unifying these files and providing a single coherent decision applicable for all of them. Exploring the borderlands of law, technology, and society, this symposium provides opportunity for interdisciplinary conversations on theoretical and practical issues, possibilities and contemporary challenges related to algorithmic law in our contemporary societies.


For those who can make it, the online pre-program is available via Zoom:ç


WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2021; 3.30.pm – 5.00pm

Chair: Pedro Rubim Borges Fortes, UFRJ

Paper: “Regulation and Human Rights in ASEAN’s Smart Cities Network: Promise and the Perils”, Alice de Jonge (Monash University)

Paper: “Toward A Practical Legal Rule Revision in Legal Debugging” – Ken Satoh

(National Institute of Informatics, Japan) and Wachara Fungwacharakorn (National Institute of Informatics, Japan)

Paper: “The Femtech Paradox: How Workplace Monitoring Threatens Women’s Equity” – Elizabeth Brown (Bentley University)

Discussants: Janine Hiller (Virginia Tech) and Winston Maxwell (Telecom Paris)

The conference is accessible via Zoom. The link for the meeting room is: https://hec-fr.zoom.us/j/97765828364

The Program follows below.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Frank S. Ravitch and Larry Catá Backer Discuss Ceremonial Deism, the Role of Custom and Tradition, Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783 (1983), and Town of Greece v. Galloway, 572 U.S. 565 (2014)

Pix Credit HERE

Frank S. Ravitch and I have just published the 4th Edition to our casebook, Law and Religion: Cases and Materials (West Academic, 2021; ISBN 978-1-64708-764-7). The Preface nicely describes our aims for the book:

This book focuses on Law and Religion. The book covers three general topics: 1) Church/State Law (issues arising under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and statutes such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act); 2) Religious Law (the role and substance of law in various religious traditions); and 3) Comparative Law and Religion (the law relating to religious freedom in other countries). Most books in this field have little or no material on the latter two topics. The bulk of this book is devoted to First Amendment Law, but the book also provides an overview of Jewish Law (Halakha), Islamic Law (Shari’ah), Buddhist conceptions of law, Catholic Canon Law, Protestant conceptions of law, and Hindu law as well as significant background on comparative Law and Religion. The discussion of First Amendment law integrates cases, questions and narrative to provide an in-depth understanding of the Religion Clauses of the United States Constitution.

Each topic in this book begins with a brief narrative discussion of the topic, followed by relevant cases and articles, and finally notes and questions. The goal of the narrative is to provide students with context (the forest) so that they can grapple with the many complex issues that are raised in the cases and articles (the trees). The sections on religious law and comparative law will follow a similar format.

We have tried to add a comparative law element to the study of the jurisprudence of religious liberties in the United States by tying that study to the broader global conversations and currents in the development of legal frameworks for the protection of religious liberty. We hope all of this can be accomplished in ways that are useful for law students not just in the US (though US students are our principal audience) but elsewhere as well. 

To enrich the casebook materials Frank and I have started producing a series of video discussions of key cases from the jurisprudence. We hope students and faculty may find the discussions of some use as they consider the casebook materials or as a springboard to deeper discussion of themes and complications raised in the cases.   These may be used by faculty and students to enrich their consideration of the casebook materials or as a springboard to deeper discussion of themes and complications raised in the cases.  

We discuss the pedagogy of the casebook here: Frank S. Ravitch and Larry Catá Backer Talk Pedagogy and Approach as they Introduce the 4th Edition to their Casebook, Law and Religion: Cases and Materials (West Academic, 2021)

 To date we have videos discussing the following cases: 

1.  Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, 593 U.S. -- (2021)

2. Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing Tp., 330 U.S. 1 (1947)

3. Engle v. Vitale, 370 US 421 (1962), and Sch Dist Abington Twnshp v. Schempp, 374 US 203 (1963).

4.  Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992).

5.  Student Initiated Prayer and Moment of Silence Cases (Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe, 530 US 290 (2000); Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 US 38 (1985)

6.  Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Evolution; Reading Edwards v. Aguillard 482 US 578 (1987) and Kitzmiller v. Dover Area Sch. Dist, 400 F.Supp.2d 707 (2005)

For this conversation we focus on ceremonials deism, its challenges and the rise of the principle of "custom and tradition" as a means of rationalizing the protection of references to and invocations of religious symbols and practices in public life. Here one encounters the drive toward the erection of the wall of separation--at the limits of which might be the notion of the state as a religion free zone, with the realities that religion and religious practices have been enmeshed in the everyday practices of public life from the time of the establishment of the Republic. These include every from from the invocation of "In God We Trust", to references to God in the Pledge of Allegiance, to the invocation of God at the commencement of judicial proceedings and the start of legislative sessions. The term ceremonial denim came late and from efforts by academics to rationalize the role of religious "relics" in the life of a republic moving, it appeared at the time, toward a vigorous separation of public from religious life. The entanglement that results is considered.
The effort to provide a small space for these expression began with what appeared to be an exception the the rule of separation, articulated in Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783 (1983), to its transformation into an important standard for applying the Establishment Clause in Town of Greece v. Galloway, 572 U.S. 565 (2014). We discuss these cases, the notion of ceremonial denim and its relation to religion clause jurisprudence, and the importance of the role of intention in the application of this principle. To that end, the generalization of the methodological and inferential problemmatique nicely evidenced in Wynne v. Town of Great Falls, 376 F3d 292 (4th Cir 2004) and Wallace v. Jaffree 472 US 38 (1985). Among the interesting wrinkles are the role of narrative and the art of drawing inferences from facts.  The Galloway case is particularly useful in that regard offering the plausible reading of the actions of the town board as either suggesting the intention to discriminate in favor of some religions or suggesting a willingness to comply with constitutional standards once apprised of deficiencies in local practice. We encounter this often in Establishment Clause cases, though it is quite usefully apparent here.   Of significant interest, as well is the viability of the Galloway court's history and tradition standard--("accepted by the Framers and has withstood the critical scrutiny of time and political change").
The Video recording of  this conversation may be accessed HERE.

 It is also available on the Coalition for Peace & Ethics YouTube Channel HERE.


Saturday, November 27, 2021

The Discursive Edifice of the Chinese Belt & Road Initiative in Africa: State Council of China White Paper-- "China and Africa in the New Era: A Partnership of Equals" [《新时代的中非合作》白皮书(全文)]

Pix Credit South China Morning Post

Recently, it was announced that the China-Africa Conference will be geld in Senegal 29-30 November (see here).

In Dakar, Foreign Minister Aïssata Tall Sall and Chinese ambassador Xiao Han肖晗 (top right photo) jointly convened a briefing for all local African ambassadors where they provided an outline of the four documents that will be adopted at the conference and serve as the key pillars of the upcoming forum:
--The Dakar Action Plan 2022-2024 (This is the most important of the four documents)
--The 2035 vision of China-Africa cooperation
--The Sino-African declaration on cooperation on climate change
--The Dakar declaration (most likely a sort of final communiqué) (Chinese, Senegalese Governments Formally Announce FOCAC Dates and Themes)

In the run up to the event, the Chinese State Council Information Office has released its position (white) paper: China and Africa in the New Era: A Partnership of Equals [original:《新时代的中非合作》白皮书(全文)]  It provides a discursive and thematic foundation for the further elaboration of the framing of the China-Africa relationship through the lens of the Belt & Road Initiative.

Pix Credit HERE
The eighth edition of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) is due to be held in Dakar, Senegal, from 29-30 November 2021, Senegal’s foreign minister, Aïssata Tall Sall, and the Chinese ambassador to Dakar, Xiao Han, have announced.  The theme of the conference will be “Deepen China-Africa Partnership and Promote Sustainable Development to Build a China-Africa Community with a Shared Future in the New Era”, according to Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin. (What can Africa expect from FOCAC 2021?)

The Chinese discursive position builds on now common themes: "The two sides will focus on boosting quality development and further align the goals of the Belt and Road Initiative with those of the AU’s Agenda 2063, the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the development strategies of individual African countries. They will build the Belt and Road into a road to peace, prosperity, openness, green development, innovation and cultural exchanges, and create a China-Africa community of shared future in the new era." (China and Africa in the New Era supra, Part IV(2)). 

Yet African leaders, still quite eager for deepening economic relations (South China Morning Post), are also increasingly sensitive to the terms of those arrangements, especially after the usually confidential arrangements have been revealed in part. (Database reveals secrets of China's loans to developing nations, says study) The terms of the loans suggest the nature of the  relationships between Chinese entities and African states--and are worth considering in parallel with the discursive efforts to suggest equality in the official public documents.  "These include confidentiality clauses that prevent borrowers from revealing the terms of the loans, informal collateral arrangements that benefit Chinese lenders over other creditors and promises to keep the debt out of collective restructurings - dubbed by the authors as “no Paris Club” clauses, the report said. The contracts also give substantial leeway for China to cancel loans or accelerate repayment, it added." (Ibid.). Recent reporting of the precarious condition of the ownership and control of Uganda's Entebbe Airport suggest the complexities of the relationship (How Uganda coughed up Entebbe airport to China) (Exim Bank of China). There appears to be a push as well for reform in the structures through which these cooperation arrangements are structured and operationalized (for thoughtful commentary: The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation at 21: Where to Next?).

Chinese efforts, though, focus elsewhere: "In an interview with the Seychelles News Agency on 17 November, China’s ambassador to the Seychelles, Guo Wei, said that the forum would “adopt measures in such key areas as health, investment and trade, food security, climate change, human resources and digital innovation, with a focus on transforming and upgrading China-Africa cooperation to improve its quality and efficiency.”" (What can Africa expect from FOCAC 2021?). The issue is not whether any of this is good or bad--African states have been undertaking quite risky financial relationships with outsiders since the current era of post colonial independence.   The more interesting question is the way that the variation in these risky relationships now focused on new Chinese partners may or may not align with the discourse of socialist internationalism and its ideals as expressed in the discourse of Belt & Road and the structuring of the ideologies versus the realities of socialist internationalism. Badly done, of course, these discursive disjunctions will eventually reduce the long term effectiveness  of projections of Chinese power in Africa as it had those who had stood in a similar place a generation or so before. 

Pix Credit HERE

But for the moment, this document provides a solid glimpse, at least discursively, as the way in which China now projects the Communist International with itself at the center.  No more dreary Soviet-Russified ideological catechisms. In contrast to this offering up of a darker Dostoevsky built into the Comintern and its successors, China builds an ideological foundation on the notion of a  full belly and a prosperous state (prosperous at least for the interlinked networks of elite groups who dominate politics and economics). That enterprise, in turn, is to be guided by a national-Chinese partnership that aligns African national and regional aspirations to the engine of the Chinese core. Instead what is offered is arability and prosperity--with China at the center.  This approach, already long in the making, was refined in the development of a powerful discursive counter-thrust to the Hong Kong protests (Hong Kong Between 'One Country' and 'Two Systems'). Stability and prosperity are then built on a Maoist-Leninist foundation of binaries: core-collective; patriot-traitor; vanguard-masses; order-chaos; planning-markets; interference-cooperation; mutual benefit-neocolonial exploitation and so on.  It is a powerful set of discursive tropes, ones which remain unmatched by a liberal democratic camp that has become mired in its own ideological civil wars and can offer up little more  than the sort of dreary catechisms once reserved for the Soviets.  The irony of this inversion from the 1960s ought not to be lost on anyone.

The English language version of the per-Conference paper, China and Africa in the New Era: A Partnership of Equals, appears below, along with the original Chinese. Note the sometimes subtle differences, starting with the title which in the original leaves off the "Partnership of Equals" part.


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

24. Conversations About the Book "Hong Kong Between 'One Country' and 'Two Systems': Chapter 23 (Sunday 19 April 2020) The COVID-19 Accelerator Effect: The Situation in Hong Kong and the Virtual Conflict Between the United States and China.


Pix Credit Hong Kong Free Press HERE

 “言有尽而意无穷” [Words and meanings are endless]. 

In the run up to the book launch scheduled for 13 July 2021 (registration required but free HERE), the folks at Little Sir Press have organized a series of short conversations about my new book, "Hong Kong Between 'One Country' and 'Two Systems'." 

About the Book: Hong Kong Between “One Country” and “Two Systems” examines the battle of ideas that started with the June 2019 anti-extradition law protests and ended with the enactment of the National Security and National Anthem Laws a year later. At the center of these battles was the “One Country, Two Systems” principle. By June 2020, the meaning of that principle was highly contested, with Chinese authorities taking decisive steps to implement their own understanding of the principle and its normative foundations , and the international community taking countermeasures. All of this occurred well before the 2047 end of the 1985 Sino-British Joint Declaration (中英联合声明) that had been the blueprint for the return of Hong Kong to China. Between these events, global actors battled for control of the narrative and of the meaning of the governing principles that were meant to frame the scope and character of Hong Kong’s autonomy within China. The book critically examines the conflict of words between Hong Kong protesters, the Chinese central and local authorities, and important elements of the international community. This decisive discursive contest paralleled the fighting for control of the streets and that pitted protesters and the international community that supported them against the central authorities of China and Hong Kong local authorities. In the end the Chinese central authorities largely prevailed in the discursive realm as well as on the streets. Their victory was aided, in part by the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. But their triumph also produced the seeds of a new and potentially stronger international constitutional discourse that may reduce the magnitude and scope of that success. These essays were written as the events unfolded. Together the essays analytically chronicle the discursive battles that were fought, won and lost, between June 2019 and June 2020. Without an underlying political or polemical agenda, the essays retain the freshness of the moment, reflecting the uncertainties of the time as events unfolded. What was won on the streets of Hong Kong from June to December 2019, the public and physical manifestation of a principled internationalist and liberal democratic narrative of self-determination, and of civil and political rights, was lost by June 2020 within a cage of authoritative legality legitimated through the resurgence of the normative authority of the state and the application of a strong and coherent expression of the principled narrative of its Marxist-Leninist constitutional order. Ironically enough, both political ideologies emerged stronger and more coherent from the conflict, each now better prepared for the next.

The book may be purchased through AMAZON (kindle and paperback),  book information including free chapters  and the access to all video conversations HERE.

I am delighted, then, to make available the next in the series of video recordings of conversations about the book with my former research assistant Matthew McQuilla (Penn State International Affairs MIA 2021). Today we discuss Chapter 23 (Sunday 19 April 2020) The COVID-19 Accelerator Effect: The Situation in Hong Kong and the Virtual Conflict Between the United States and China.

In this Chapter one begins to see how COVID-19 has not merely changed the playing field, but how each of the parties has sometimes more and sometimes less successfully have sought to use the challenges and opportunities afforded by the pandemic to advance their positions.The trigger here is the April arrests of key figures in the protests by the authorities for actions taken in 2019. The response of both the central authorities and the international community then draw in shape focus the transformation in Hong Kong brought about through the realities of pandemic. 
Pix Credit: Hong Kong Free Press HERE
For those without the necessary imagination to connect the dots and draw the intended picture, the West provides a substantial set of sources of appropriate explanation to drive home the point, one which is then underlined by the US line adopted in the wake of the Hong Kong arrests. One cannot understand the international position on Hong Kong without understanding the contradictions between internationalization for Hong Kong, and the re-nationalization of home state communities by the very liberal democratic states advancing internationalist policies. The arrests of high profile protest leaders or influencers, the controversy over the projection of central authority opinions within the policy bailiwick of local officials and their characterization as “foreign” interference within the Two Systems principle, and the liberal democratic simultaneous policies of decoupling with China and engaging (within international parameters) in Hong Kong suggest a set of criss-crossing vectors of actions and policies that inevitably weaken the approach of the internationalist camp. Here, then, is the advantage to the Chinese approach to One Country that is now likely to be pressed and intensified. Against this, the internationalists appear to offer little effective resistance--only concepts. 
It is in this context that one can usefully consider recent actions undertaken in Hong Kong, as well as the power of the international reactions it might produce. Those together will then be even more purposefully fitted together within the larger framework of the construction of the meaning of the global order from the narrative spinning of its Chinese and American makers. None of this is spectacular or new--what makes it interesting is the way that it might be used to understand and define the characteristics and modalities of the COVID-19 Accelerator Effect on inter-imperial systemic relations.


 The video of the conversation about Chapter 21 may be accessed HERE.

All conversations are posted to the Coalition for Peace & Ethics YouTube page and may be found on its Playlist: Talking About the Book: "Hong Kong Between 'One Country' and 'Two Systems'." All conversation videos are hosted by Little Sir Press. I hope you find the conversation of some use. 
A pre-publication version of some of the book chapters may be accessed (free) on the Book's webpage (here). All videos may also be accessed through the Little Sir Press Book Website HERE.


Sunday, November 21, 2021

"Resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the Party over the Past Century" [中共中央关于党的百年奋斗重大成就和历史经验的决议(全文)] Text and Thoughts


Pix Credit HERE

The overlords of American historical culture periodically come to embrace the value of the quite strategic narration of history. That embrace is enthusiastically undertaken as an indispensable tool in the arsenal of their vanguard project to bring the people, over whom they believe they have an obligation to lead, to internalize a specific set of principles that rationalize the realities around them and that bends these realities, now appropriately understood, to a specific set of objectives. Strategic narrations of history confirm the "rightness" of the internalization and naturalization of states of mind and meaning that legitimates their overlordship (with respect to meaning making). So legitimated, the vanguard can then amplify and project their authority to lead in other sectors of American life (e.g., societal and political ordering).
In the United States, that project of official history in the service of the state (or at least in the service of factions--usually tied together by bonds of race, religion, ethnicity, and sometimes politics, then and now) tends to expose the political-cultural projects of those factions now projected onto the state  Thus projected, it is served up as some sort of inevitable rationalization of amalgamations of carefully selected and valued facts. These then are sculpted to produce meaning which then suggest the only (approved) way in which the past can be made sense of in the present and projected onto the future.  The political work of history of this sort is thus exposed for what is is--the normative political project of inculcating specific values and judgments by a group given or taking the power to manage (and control) public perceptions of good and bad, right and wrong, threat and aid. The object is not the correctness of such norms and judgments but the power to control their production  and to turn it into political and social power. When projected out of the collective, this becomes a powerful weapon that can turn or destabilize the collective ordering of rival states.
Official history is the way that normative values in political can travel through time from out of the past and into the future. Power over history (again understood as the project of rationalizing the past through the application of normative assumptions also tends to rationalize or "prove" those normative assumptions by reference to the rationalization proffered as official history. The fighting for a supreme cultural authority over the meaning of history--that is its rationalization in the service of some overarching normative meaning, and in the embedding of some quite strategic baseline self-awareness as a social and political necessity for the members of the political collectives--is in this sense not merely an important political project, but one that exposes factional rifts in political communities as they develop. If the etymological roots of the term "history" is a compound of "seeing" and "knowing" then this approach to historical narrative is one that emphasizes the "knowing" as the predicate for "seeing." 
For the Americans, the great fighting over the 1619 Project--championed  by and through a mouthpiece media organ of certain American factions and their useful allies--against the 1776 Project, championed by their political enemies, provides a very nice  example of this type of contest for the soul of official history as a dominant form of not merely political expression, as a a means of capturing the normative foundations for such political projects and of reimagining the structures of dominance and hierarchy in American society.  It is for that reason that they are each extraordinarily controversial as history--neither is really history in the academic sense; neither follow the conventions of academic historians because that is not their purpose. The each deliberately choose their facts and center their analysis driven by normative politics and in furtherance of its project to reshape the future by reconcieving the past (see, e.g., academic criticism of the 1776 Project HERE; the 1619 Project HERE).   Each s a vessel of normative and political projects into which convenient facts are poured and the rest carted off to the trash heap of irrelevance or into the societal punishment of normative apostasy (see, e.g., here). 

Yet in some ways, this is a very Leninist project. These historical projects are meant to signal.  They signal the ordering norms and principles on which societal-political perspectives must be grounded.  They establish the baselines for evaluation, accounting, and judgment-  They serve as the lens through which even the most banal object is invested with meaning, with value, and with place, within an organized discourse that shapes the outer boundaries of meaning and that, in the process produces the sort of discursive taboos that are an ironic statement on the limits of the freedom of discourse within liberal democratic states.  It is the American version of a rough democratic dictatorship--democracy for those who signal acceptance of a project (at least within its collective) and dictatorship for everyone else. Americans, then, should hardly be bothered when a Leninist party attempts far more transparently, to undertake the same sort of exercise as an act of political will

Pix credit HERE
It is in this context that one might better appreciate the great project of official history that is meant to serve as one of the culminating achievements of a century of Chinese Marxist Leninism. Unlike liberal democratic states where official histories are embedded within the privatized factionalism of political and social movements whose representatives people our elective state institutions, and fuel the engines of academic and administrative apparatus for the management of correct thinking, Marxist Leninist states view the crafting of official history as both a necessity, and as an inherently public political project that is of the utmost importance for the chronicling of the work of the vanguard elements of society responsible for moving the nation toward the goals the progress toward the attainment of which is the principal measure of their legitimacy. That official history, then, (1) marks the progress of the vanguard, (2) is meant to serve as the official catechism of the rationalization of history with the vanguard forces at the center, (3) is object affirmation of which is meant to serve as a social signalling of fidelity to the political economic model, (4) organizes the progress (because history here is a progress from the start of legitimacy of the lens that brings order to facts) to its current state, (5) points to the future from a very specific discursive perspective that suggests the scope of the possible, (6) identifies internal taboos and enemies, (7) provides a concrete basis for judging historical activity (and future planning) as falling within the appropriate historical path or deviating from it, and (8) provides a temporal structure for the articulation and evidence of the application, challenges and success of the vanguard's ideology, its working style, its great triumphs and the lessons from the past that will propel the vanguard to renewed success in the future. 
Pix Credit HERE
Like the 1619 Project and the 1776 Report, this Chinese vanguard official history is meant to serve not merely as a self reflexive exercise in meaning making, but also as the discursive foundation projected internally and abroad.  It is meant to serve as the mechanism by which the state and its vanguard can be known, and its system made accessible to those whom it is the duty of the vanguard to lead through to the next stage of Chinese historical development. It becomes more interesting official history when it is compared to those that came before--and ultimately most interesting when it, in turn  is discarded in favor of another when China leaves the current phase of its development behind, as the current core succumbs to the inevitable dynamic of time and biology and a new core arises. Indeed, the official history adopted   at the Sixth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on November 11, 2021 reveals more about the path forward than about the path taken to get there.  But that is its purpose; to bend history in the service of politics not by changing facts but by their exquisite curation and interpretation; precisely what the American official history writers attempt in the service of their own politics.  A Leninist project par excellence.   

It is worth emphasizing though these projects (both the Chinese and American versions, or any other for that matter) may resemble disinformation or misinformation projects they are neither meant to mis- or dis-inform; they are meant to induce a belief in the power and validity of the way of looking at the world that these histories manifest. History, then, provides a very specific meaning (or rationalization) of the past through a very specific lens, one that chooses what counts as important and how what is counted (or recognized) us to be valued as a function of the fundamental premises that this history is meant to affirm by its retelling. Any leading cultural force can do this--many have. Historical retelling, then is a means to an ends--and the ends is the inculcation of a belief system through which the world can be ordered an given meaning (e.g., race, Marxist-Leninism, volk, religion, liberal democracy etc., and their manifest destinies). If one rejects the lens then whatever the approach produces in its own service will necessarily appear to be an amalgam of mis- and dis-information or a distortion of history.  It is not the information that is necessarily wrong,or history that is distorted, it is the meaning that the ordering premise imposes that is rejected. Understood in this way, one can see how history here is a critical weapon in contests among rival collectives--but history is merely the weapon and the disciplinary technique; the real prize is the inculcation of belief in the naturalness or "rightness" of a particular way of imposing meaning on the world.  And that is a very important contest indeed!

Pix Credit HERE
The full text  in the official English translation (Resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the Party over the Past Century) as well as in the original [中共中央关于党的百年奋斗重大成就和历史经验的决议(全文)].



Friday, November 19, 2021

Shameless Self-Promotion--Talking Law and Religion With Ravi Prakash and the Folks at MNT News Network (India) Broadcast Sunday 21 November 2021


The folks at the MNT News Network (India) were kind enough to invite me to spend some time speaking with Ravi Prakash (Advocate on Record at Supreme Court of India) on a broad ranging set of topics related to religious liberties and their connection with political and economic governance.Great thanks as well to Abhishek Chauhan and Ashish Jiwane for making this possible.

The interview will be aired on the MNT Network. The conversation ranged across a broad range of topics.  These included the construction of the idea of religion by or outside of the state and lawmaking or recognition authority; the tensions between neutrality and  religious accommodation, religion and nationalism; democratic principles and capture by instrumentalities of institutionalized orthodox religions; the tensions between individual religious liberty including the liberty to embrace and leave a faith community and collective religious authority within a state law system; religions and perceptions of decay in liberal constitutionalism, religions and the shaping of economic policies and practices; global production and the normative overlay of religious systems; the universalization of standards for regulation religious and economic systems especially as they may overlap.

I written synopsis of the interview follows below--but the conversation was considerably richer. Please watch this Live Program on any of the links that follow (YouTube; Facebook; Twitter). The interview goes live 8.30 PM Delhi time (10.00 AM New York time).

📱 https://youtu.be/YYmvFckmbPY

📱 www.youtube.com/MNTNewsNetwork

📱 www.facebook.com/MNTNewsNetwork

📱 www.twitter.com/MNTNewsNetwork

🙏📱 Subscribe and Follow MNT News Network 


Thursday, November 18, 2021

Luis Luis on "The Aftermath of Monetary Reform in Cuba" in the Shadow of Social Movements


Pix Credit HERE


Cuba is facing multiple shocks to a system, and a political order, notoriously inflexible in its approach to the challenges that it faces and even more rigid in the defense of its political-economic ideology that appears to provide little space for development in accordance with the times.  One has seen that in the social eruptions of 11 July 2021 and in the tentative and frankly timid approaches to responses in the shadow of the very very small cage the Party-State apparatus has chosen to place itself and the future of the nation.  

It is not enough that the Party-State apparatus has been able to apply the lessons of Hong Kong 2020 (considered in my book Hong Kong Between 'One Country' and 'Two Systems') ) to the management of its own restive population. Those lessons touching on isolating the population, developing a powerful counter discourse, and targeted suppression that proved effective in suppressing the planned 15 November manifestations (see With Cuban Dissidents Wary or in Jail, Call for Fresh Protests Falls Flat) but which has done little to tackle the underlying problems and thus to effectively deepen the legitimacy of both inter generational transition and the resiliency and utility of the political economic model to meet the needs of its people. 

Our friends over at the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy blog have posted a quite interesting essay by Luis Luis that indeed focuses on the limited success of the Cuban state apparatus to overcome the challenges produced in part by an unwillingness to face the times, even from a Marxist Leninist orientation.  His essay,  The Aftermath of Monetary Reform in Cuba (ASCE BLOG 16 November 2021), tackles one of the most important  issues in the cluster of issues around a now critically necessary economic reform on the ground. The essay follows. The original may be accessed here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The Chinese State System as a Global Techno-Virus: Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) Hearings--Techno-Authoritarianism: Platform for Repression in China and Abroad


Pix Credit HERE

 In an age of pandemic, the most appealing metaphors are viral. This is certainly what the Congressional-Executive Commission on China appears to believe, at at least what may be driving its upcoming hearings: Techno-Authoritarianism: Platform for Repression in China and Abroad. The announcement of the hearing says it all.

Techno-Authoritarianism: Platform for Repression in China and Abroad
106 Dirksen & Virtually via Cisco Webex | Wednesday, November 17, 2021 - 10:30am

Techno-authoritarianism poses a serious threat to traditional notions of privacy, democratic governance models globally, and the future of an open and free internet. The Chinese government’s embrace of mass biometric collection technologies underpins the most pervasive surveillance state the world has ever seen. The Chinese model of extensive censorship and surveillance continues to spread to governments with poor human rights records that repress and control populations through technology made in China.

This hearing will look at the human rights and strategic impact of the technology of mass surveillance and censorship as employed and exported by the People’s Republic of China, including its use in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and efforts to influence and shape digital and telecommunications rulemaking and standard setting in international bodies. The hearing will be livestreamed on the CECC’s YouTube Channel.

--Geoffrey Cain, author of The Perfect Police State: An Undercover Odyssey into China's Terrifying Surveillance Dystopia of the Future
--Samantha Hoffman, Senior Analyst, Australian Strategic Policy Institute
--Yaqiu Wang, Senior Researcher on China, Human Rights Watch
--Jonathan Hillman, Senior Fellow, Center for Strategic & International Studies

Pix Credit: Regional Genomic Surveillance Network
 The thrust of the program is quite clear.  First, Chinese approaches to state coordinated or directly undertaken surveillance  are incompatible with at least the principles of liberal democratic constitutionalism.  Second, the Chinese approach, like COVID, cannot be contained within China (note this undertone which is unmistakable and quite brilliantly used here); this COVID type virus creating a political pandemic is labelled "techno-authoritarianism." Third Techno-authoritarianism is string enough and alluring enough to threaten the (delicate) health of global  (and within liberal democracy more or less traditional) notions of privacy, democratic governance and an open and free internet.  Successful attacks on these three elements of liberal democracy will either weaken or kill its spirit, leaving its body to be re-animated by the demon possessor of techno-authoritarianism. Fourth,  this powerful virus has a well known DNA: (mass bio metric collection technologies underpinning a comprehensive system of surveillance and censorship). Fifth, the virus is particularly potent in governmental bodies with weakened immune systems--governments in conflict zones and governments in weak governance zones. Sixth, in the absence of a vaccine against techno-authoritarianism the COVID protocols of containment, safe distancing, mask wearing and constant hand washing would be necessary, now applied to the virus corrupting the normative basis of healthy government. Seventh, it is to that task that our front line workers--the great liberal democratic vanguard must both better understand the disease, and better protect the community of nations from its ravages.  

From a discursive perspective, this is an excellent approach to putting forward the political project of the United States and its internationalist project. In a way that parallels the ambitions and perhaps the operationalization of  the Chinese Marxist Leninist International project delivered through the bacillus of the Belt & Road Initiative, the United States has not been shy about announcing  its now more global friendly America First policy vaccine:

"Since day one, the Biden-Harris Administration has made clear that revitalizing democracy in the United States and around the world is essential to delivering for the American people and meeting the unprecedented challenges of our time. As President Biden has said, defending America’s democratic values is inseparable from advancing our national interest. "(US Dept of State Summit for Democracy ("Democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, renew it." Ibid., Quoting President Biden Feb 2021))  

In its form as  Liberal Democratic internationalism, with the United States as its core of leadership, the U.S. would again its assume its global leadership role, even if, as is becoming clear, it is over a quite distinct imperial jurisdiction that exists beyond the reach of the emerging Marxist Leninist imperial project of the Chinese state organs and its vanguard (The Problem of Data Infrastructure in an Age of Post-Global Empire--The Criminal Litigation Against Huawei for Racketeering and Other Crimes). That project requires sharpening difference (liberal democratic normative values versus Chinese techno-authoritarianism) as much as it suggests the need for a theory of difference (supplied certainly by academics on both sides of the border) in the form of (liberal democratic) theories of "authoritarian constitutionalism" (e.g., here, here, here, here, and here) and its judgment of illegitimacy at least from the perspective of liberal democratic constitutionalism). It is no surprise, then, that in the run up to the December 2021 Democracy Summit hosted by the United States, its apparatus, including CECC would focus on distinguishing the higher order values of liberal democracy from what it sees as the threatening characteristics of a coherent competing system.  In this case that centers on notions of authoritarianism (for which the CECC hearing add a useful element) to corruption, to to the respect for human rights understood from a liberal democratic orientation (see The December 2021 Summit). 

Pix Credi HERE
And yet these differences are much more blurred, and it is not clear that the liberal democratic system itself has not already developing a means of living with very similar viruses of a liberal democratic sort. And the liberal democratic virus is as much a threat to techno-authoritarianism as the other way around.  Western biometric surveillance is not unknown (Automated Law-- Microsoft 's "Insight Computing System,' the Power to Manage Labor, and the Intimacy of Emerging Regulatory Forms). Nor is privatized surveillance foreign to the management of populations in public-private alignments ( Automated Law--Questions and Answers on Data Driven AI Enhanced Governance and the Emerging Instruments of Social Control). Techno-control based on data appears to know no ideology (Automated Law: The Problem of Data Integrity Moves (if only for a Moment) to Center Stage). And crisis appears to make authoritarians of us all ( Automated Law and COVID-19: Data Driven Measures With National Characteristics In China and Israel and the Future of the Law-Governance Complex). To the grand hierarchies of public sector driven techno-authoritarianism, liberal democracy offers the banality of techno-control (Automated Law: The Banalities of Constructing a Social Credit Style Rating System with Western Characteristics, One Well Meaning Intervention at a Time) with an overlay of management by the state (Automated Law--The Empire of European Human Rights Law (May) Strike Back). AT at bottom--however our master and whatever the elegance of the normative systems put in place to make us feel better about it) lies the fundamental issue of control, and of its power (Automated Law: Who Ought to Have the Right to Authoritatively Misread Emotion?). The real fear, then, may be of convergence--one that would neither serve the interests of liberal democracy or Marxist Leninist internationalists in their drive for empire (Automated Law and Social Media Platforms as Private Administrative Agencies: On Amnesty International's New Report--"''Let us Breathe!': Censorship and criminalization of online expression in Viet Nam"). Or perhaps better put--the contests to which CECC (and its Chinese analogues) expend so much energy may in the end be irrelevant to the trajectories of power and its mechanisms ()Data Driven Pandemic and the Ascendancy of Simulated Reality as the New Political Space: The Administration of Disease and the Disease of Administration in the Light of COVID-19). 

This is not to suggest the absence of normative difference.  The gulf between systems is now large and growing again.  But method is another thing altogether.  And the judgement of the character of the toolkits used may be more complicated even as they reflect and are reflected in the normative values of the systems whose interests they serve.  And that may be the most valuable function of these events; not to suggest the obvious, that the Chinese system furthers its norms comprehensively through the application of its political economic model enhanced by the possibilities (sometimes transformative) of tech.  Rather its value lies in its ability to distill and highlight what the U.S: sees in itself in the mirror that is China. And then the hard task begins--the task of aligning the ideal extracted from the insights of difference to its practice within the political economic model of this Republic and those others in its camp (Maya Wang, "China’s Techno-Authoritarianism Has Gone Global: Washington Needs to Offer an Alternative," Foreign Affairs (8 April 2021)).   

 * * * 

  The Congressional-Executive Commission on China was created by the U.S. Congress in 2000 "with the legislative mandate to monitor human rights and the development of the rule of law in China, and to submit an annual report to the President and the Congress. The Commission consists of nine Senators, nine Members of the House of Representatives, and five senior Administration officials appointed by the President." (CECC About). The CECC FAQs provide useful information about the CECC. See CECC Frequently Asked Questions. They have developed positions on a number of issues.

CECC tends to serve as an excellent barometer of the thinking of political and academic elites in the United States about issues touching on China and the official American line developed in connection with those issues. As such it is an important source of information about the way official and academic sectors think about China. As one can imagine many of the positions of the CECC are critical of current Chinese policies and institutions (for some analysis see CECC).


Sunday, November 14, 2021

The Semiotic Mummy of US-Cuba Relations in the Shadow of Popular Unrest in Both States--Thoughts on Domingo Amuchastegui, "Colisión Inminente" [Imminent Collision] and the Protests in Cuba

Pix Credit: MRT

It is always interesting to see how in the U.S. one of the representative great sounding boards of the people and institutions with power and influence congruent with their wealth and position but not hardly congruent with their numbers (that is after all the essential characteristic of elite minus the hierarchical implications) or necessarily with the power of their thought, have thrust themselves onto the great conversation among Cuban people with each other and with the apparatus of the state and its political vanguard in the run up to the planned protests of 15 November 2021. Karen DeYoung, "Planned islandwide march could influence U.S. policy on Cuba," The Washington Post (14 November 2021) at p. A12. 

As is appropriate for the leading elements of the United States as they seek to report and in so doing influence policy, the focus was not centered on Cuba but rather on its intrusion (felicitously or not--no need to let someone else's crisis go to waste domestically) into the battlegrounds of the civil and political wars with which the United States has saddled itself for the greater part of the 21st century.  The reporting, of course, starts with the actions of Cuban state security as it now brags (again) about the ways in which it serves as a ruthless instrument of the political order.  It then suggests that the Biden Administration, having observed that cocktail made from a heady mix of that old tenancy and the inevitable social explosions that arose at the moment of generational change after decades of policy failure "as the tip of a turning point in Cuba." ( DeYoung, supra). Certainly it may be a tipping point for the Americans, and most certainly for the strategic calculations of the Biden Administration--the point of virtually the rest of the article and its analytic perspective. That was underlined by Jake Sullivan's  deliciously ambiguous comment the "'circumstances had changed' on the island" (Ibid.) prompting the Biden Administration to hold off on any change (assuming any was significantly in the offing) in its commitment to Trump Administration policy (without the tweeting). None of this, of course, was driven by politics--the assurance of which was belied by the insistence otherwise of the National Security advisor Sullivan. But to some extent the statement was correct, politics is not the driver but cvontests over the way the United States sees itself reflected in Cuba that is very much at the center of what passes for the now monotonously bathethic dialogue that is Cuba policy.

Cuba, in this sense, has become the way in which Americans can talk about themselves when they appear to be talking about Cuba.  This is an old semiotic trick that Americans have used since the antebellum period. And the Cubans oblige by an equal semiotics trick--to talk about themselves through the mirror that is the United States.  And thus the great oddity of the relationship between the Cuban and the Americans--each looking at themselves through their construction of the other. This semiotic entanglement, in which both states serve as the means of their own signification through their construction of the other, has been a hallmark of the discourse (and politics) of both states since before the start of the last century.  The perverse results have been written in the history of both peoples, but especially in the folly of their vanguards, now so mummified on both sides of the Florida Straits by more than a century of such oblique meaning making (and its incarnation as internal and external policy) that one hardly needs facts to be able, with some certainty, to predict precisely what every one of the players will say (what they think is almost irrelevant in this semiotic mummy) and what they will do.  What is missing is only the great eruption that will permit them both to reset the pieces of the mutually reflecting mirrors that is the state of their relations and to start once again collectively engaging in self reflection within the image produced by our reflection of ourselves in the effort to respond to the other.The Americans certainly hope that they might ascribe such a meaning to the 11 July eruption now solidified in the planned 15 November manifestations. The Cuban state also sees it as a transformative moment--when the "black hand " (黑手) of foreign interference  and liberal democratic internationalism can be both exposed and suppressed, and with it any real hope for (even Leninist) change for the better. (see, Los Difuntos, la disonancia y el desafío a los órdenes establecidos: pensamientos en vísperas de las protestas planificadas en Cuba el 15 de noviembre de 2021). To that end the arrests, detentions and diffusion of popular manifestations will serve the interests of both Cuba and the United SDtates reflected in each other's actions and their respective projections of themselves through the other.

These are the thoughts, aided by the thew discourse of American grandees, that one might se echoed in analysis from the periphery of these aristocratic exercises of mummification.  Domingo Amuchastegui  in a recent essay, has provided a more granular view of this odd state of the articulation of relations.  He views this to the prism of that great meeting point of Cuban-U.S.- relations--the Cuban community resident in the United States--a mediating point that has served both actors well for as long as this perverse exercise in externalized self reflection has been going on. Cuba policy reflects our view of Cuba's reality which is itself understood as a function of the reflection of our idealized selves  in our reaction to the other.  We assess ourselves by assessing Cuba.  And the Cubans do the same--it is just that the ideal against which this measure is taken is quite the opposite. Thus, the Americans (quite rightly) purchase an opposition to the current government through intermediary exile groups as they have done since they sought to remove the (then evil) apparatus of Spanish colonial oppression.  Oppression remains the same, its character and the identity of its source changes from historical period to historical period.  Likewise the Cuban state works its own intellectual and elite friend network to destabilize a coherent construction of a singular  construction of Cuba as a reflection of the American ideal and thus contributes to the political fighting around what that ideal ought to look like. The Americans return the favor.  And all is as it should be.And in the middle--as they have always been--are the people--and in Cuba many of whom would likely be as happy with food, work, a safe environment, and some measure of accountability to ensure these objectives--whatever the ideological system within which this is embedded.

The essay in the original Spanish is republished here with permission, along with my translation. Domingo Amuchastegui has had a long and distinguished career. He has served as Cuba's Chargé d'Affaires in Guatemala, was Department Head of Socialist Countries at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department Head of the Organization Department at the Tricontinental Organization (1960s-70s), Chief Analyst in the Intelligence Directorate and "Liberación", and a Professor of Contemporary History and Regional Conflicts at the Universidad Pedagógica and the Instituto Superior de Relaciones Internacionales (Cuba). He is the author of Historia Contemporánea de Asia y Africa (4 volumes), Palestina: Dimensiones de un Conflicto, Angola in the XX Century (1988)and the co-author of Intelligence and the Cuban Missile Crisis. In addition he has written hundred of articles and essays for Cuba News, Cuba Standard, and various Cuban publications. He participated in fact-finding missions throughout Africa, Asia and Chile, served as Chief analyst during Fidel Castro's visit to Chile and adviser to the Angolan Government (1986-1988). He has resided in the United States since 1994.