Saturday, September 30, 2023

Now Available--Video Recording of Conference: "Governance of Social Listening in the context of Serious Health Threats [嚴重健康威脅下「社交監聽」的管治模式 研討會] Universoty of Hong Kong 22-24 Augist 2023


I was delighted to have been part of the Conference, Governance of Social Listening in the context of Serious Health Threats [嚴重健康威脅下「社交監聽」的管治模式 研討會]  University of Hong Kong (22-24 August 2023) convened by Prof Calvin W.L. Ho & Prof Gilberto K.K. Leung (Centre for Medical Ethics and Law, Faculties of Law & Medicine, The University of Hong Kong), and Dr Marcelo Thompson & Prof Felix Chan (Law & Technology Centre, Department of Computer Science & Faculty of Law, The University of Hong Kong) (read more here, and here).

The University of Hong Kong Centre for Medical Ethics and Law, Faculties of Law & Medicine have now posted the video recordings of the Conference. Links to the video recordings for each of the sessions may be accessed here:

Video recording on Aug 22 Morning Session – Social Listening (Click here for full screen view):

Video recording on Aug 22 Afternoon Session – Social Listening & Ethics & Human Rights (Click here for full screen view):

Video recording on Aug 23 Afternoon Session – Social Listening & Vaccination (Click here for full screen view):

Video recording on Aug 23 Evening Session – Social Listening & Infodemic Management (Click here for full screen view):

Video recording on Aug 23 Final Session – Social Listening and Justice (Click here for full screen view)

Access all sessions on the CMEL website HERE. The Conference Program in Chinese and English follows below.


On Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley's Brief Remarks at the Armed Forces Farewell Tribute


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The press in liberal democracy never fails to disappoint.  Perhaps it is the fault of my own social class--we appear to have failed to teach our students an appropriate approach to analysis, or in this case, reporting. Or perhaps we were wildly successful in training them to be public intellectuals with agendas -- what most of the academy (facilitated by the perverse incentives of oversight bureaucracies and their short-termism masquerading as impacts assessment) has been aspiring toward since the heady days of revolution and the "Spring" of 1968.  Well, long term cultural movements must be endured; and they will play out until the next great thing appears on the horizon (likely in this instance managed through forms of silicon based intelligence).

All of this, sadly, was on display in the coverage of an important address by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley to mark his retirement  Friday 29 September. Most headlines and much of the coverage amounted to a reduction of the remarks to what was (unidimensionally) characterized as a side jab aimed at former President Trump--a cat fight among elites for the entertainment of the masses. For example: (1) Milley takes swipe at ‘wannabe dictator’ Trump in retirement speech; (2) Milley in farewell speech: ‘We don’t take an oath to a wannabe dictator’; (3) ‘Wannabe dictator’: US army chief swipes at Trump in farewell speech; (4) Gen. Milley delivers defense of democracy and swipes at Trump in farewell address; (5) Top US general Milley takes apparent jab at Trump as he retires; (6) Milley defends democracy in farewell speech as Joint Chiefs chairman, says oath wasn’t to a ‘wannabe dictator’; (7) Gen. Mark Milley Warns of Fealty to Dictators, in Exit Speech Aimed at Trump. And so on.

First, the obsession with Mr. Trump by his enemies and friends has begun to exhibit signs of a cultural pathology that will, in its own way, significantly debilitate the body politic.  It is not Mr. Trump that is the problem.  His time has come and gone, and his policies, character, tweeting, and behaviors are well known.  It is the obsession either with regicide (by his enemies--a far higher compliment to Mr. Trump's long term importance than might be deserved) which always ends badly for the state; or an obsession with his beatification (by his friends--again a far higher compliment to Mr. Trump than might be deserved) that poses a far greater danger to the stability of the Republic than the ritual sacrifice/beatification of that person. This was the larger point that the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff was attempting to convey--and one that was lost in this unhealthy incarnation of the former president as some sort of larger than life mythic figure of good/evil. In liberal democracies such incarnations never end well. 

Second, it is to the state of the Republic (what is mischaracterized as "democracy" but in reality a system of popular representation through election and of civilian oversight of the military and administrative apparatus of state)  that is and ought to be of significant concern.  That, certainly was the principal point. Duty, honor, respect--the first virtues--contribute to the functioning of a healthy Republic.  Self-serving pathological behaviors serving faction, or individual, or ideology do not. That was a point that was directed to all actors--perhaps to recall them to duty and responsibility even when that message is enveloped in praise--one equally applicable to Democratic and Republic Party factions, as it is to the current Presidential office holder and his apparatus and the elected officials who should know better but who insist on playing a role better suited for reality television than the holders of popular trust. 

Third, hints of first principles that framed part of the speech might well have been formed from out of the relationship between the 45th President and the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Katie Couric Media has published what is said to be a never sent letter of resignation written by Gen. Milley in June 2020: Read General Mark Milley’s Scathing, Never-Sent Resignation Letter to Trump. 

I regret to inform you that I intend to resign as your Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. . . . I believe that you have made a concerted effort over time to politicize the United States military. I thought that I could change that. I’ve come to the realization that I cannot, and I need to step aside and let someone else try to do that. . . .Second, you are using the military to create fear in the minds of the people—and we are trying to protect the American people. . . Third, I swore an oath to the Constitution of the United States and embodied within that Constitution is the idea that says that all men and women are created equal. And lastly it is my deeply held belief that you’re ruining the international order, and causing significant damage to our country overseas, that was fought for so hard by the Greatest Generation that they instituted in 1945. (Mark Milley’s Scathing, Never-Sent Resignation Letter to Trump)

Whether or not the letter is a faithful memorialization of intent, it does suggest the foundations for the short remarks and the core principles around which it was framed.  And the first principle--of course--is that the military serves the constitution first, the state second, and leaders third.  And while chain of command requires a presumption of authority and legitimacy, those presumptions can be overcome--first respecting leaders, then respecting the state,but not respecting the constitution of the Republic's political order. We are all, it seems, each other's keepers. 

Mr. Biden remarks may be accessed here; those of Secretary Austin may be accessed here. For the video of the remarks see here.

Friday, September 29, 2023

Corriente Agramontista (Boletín No. 30--September 2023): The Gender Law Reform Project


Cuba represents a most interesting variant of Marxist-Leninist state organization.  On the one hand, it exhibits all of the classical (and mostly derivatively European) characteristics of a Stalinist style Leninist organizational and operational structure. n the other hand, that baseline has seen some significant modification, at least at the margins.  Those modifications include a more vigorous effort (largely still discretionary) to permit national debate and consultation on key pieces of legislative reform (but by no means all of them and subject to state curation). It also tolerates dissenting opinions  outside of the self-referencing debates within the structures of the Partido Comunista Cubano (PCC). For a general discussion see here, here, and here

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Part of the reason for this, of course, is that Cuban society remains divided, though united in division between a formally constituted set of social and political structures in Cuba itself, and a large more diffuse counter- and complementary system based mostly in Miami. but extending more vigorously among key Cuban actors now in universities and elsewhere in civil society and other organizations in Latin America and Europe.  Though there is somewhat tight control in Cuba itself (at least to the extent that the authorities care to press control--and that changes with weather conditions) Cuban authorities and Cuban people tend to also listen closely to the goings on in the exile community. The result is a dialogue (more like a political dialectic) that is both unacknowledged and in its own way sometimes influential.

One of the  more prominent groups of "outsider" critics include a number of Cuban independent lawyers both within and outside the Island Republic. They have organized themselves into what they have named the Corriente Agramontista, most prominently visible--in accordance with the times--on social media.  The organization was named after and inspired by a 19th century Cuban revolutionary figure--Ignacio Agramonte y Loynáz, "El Mayor". For issue No. 30 the Corriente Agramontista is tackling the issue of the legal regulation (and proteciton) of gender and gender equality--a topic that has proven controversial not just in liberal democracies but in Marxist Leninist states as well (see, e.g., here, here, here).

In September 2022, Cubans overwhelmingly approved a referendum on adoption of a new family law (Código de las  Familias). "The 100-page “family code” legalises same-sex marriage and civil unions, allows same-sex couples to adopt children, and promotes equal sharing of domestic rights and responsibilities between men and women."  (here). Still, the law reform remains subject to criticism.  And it is to the issue of further development in the law of gender that  this issue is devoted.

Una vez más la has  (la más antigua agrupación de abogados independientes de Cuba) da a la luz un nuevo número de su Boletín. En esta ocasión se trata del marcado con el número 30. Como podrán apreciar nuestros lectores, en esta ocasión estamos hablando de una publicación de carácter monográfico. En ella, el elemento central lo constituye el Proyecto de Ley de Género elaborado por una miembro antigua de nuestra agrupación, la licenciada Maybell Padilla Pérez. A modo de una breve introducción, aparece también la Presentación que, del Proyecto de Ley ya mencionado, hace la misma autora.  Este nuevo proyecto legislativo se suma a los otros que, a lo largo de los años, han ido apareciendo en este Boletín. Ellos pueden ser consultados en los números 9, 16, 18, 20 y 27-28, los cuales pueden ser localizados en nuestro blog ( Cabe hacer ahora la misma salvedad que también es aplicable a todos los referidos materiales: Cada uno de ellos (incluyendo el elaborado ahora por nuestra colega Maybell) es obra y responsabilidad del autor o autores que lo firman, y no de la Corriente Agramontista como organización.

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Once again the Corriente Agramontista (the oldest group of independent lawyers in Cuba) published a new issue of its Bulletin. This publication marks the 30th issue of this Bulletin. As our readers will be able to appreciate, on this occasion we are talking about a monographic publication. In it, the central element is the Gender Law Project prepared by a long standing member of our group, Maybell Padilla Pérez. As a brief introduction, the Presentation of the aforementioned Bill made by the same author also appears. This new legislative project joins the others that, over the years, have appeared in this Bulletin. They can be consulted at numbers 9, 16, 18, 20 and 27-28, which can be located on our blog ( The same reservation must now be made that is also applicable to all the aforementioned materials: Each one of them (including the one prepared now by our colleague Maybell) is the work and responsibility of the author or authors who sign it, and not of the Agramontista Current as an organization. (Corriente Agramontista 28 September 2023).

 There is much of interest here (for Spanish language readers).  And it suggests some of the trajectories of current debate within the greater Cuban community.  The text follows below and the original may be accessed on the Corriente Agramontista wensite.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

"Data/Governance with Ideological Characteristics: China in (and as) the Shadow of the US"--Summary and PPT of Presentation at the Carter Center (Atlanta)--Data Governance and Its Impact on US-China Relations (26 September 2023)


I was delighted to have been asked to participate in the SYMPOSIUM EVENT: China’s Data Governance and its Impact on US-China Relations. I am grateful to the event sponsors: The Carter Center China Focus, Emory Unversity, Georgia State University, Spellman College, and the China Research Center. Special appreciation to our convenors-- Dr. Yawei Liu, Senior Advisor on China at The Carter Center and Dr. Keren Wang of Emory University Department of Russian and East Asian Languages and Cultures. Especially delighted to have been able to exchange views and hear the brilliant presentations of an extraordinary group of people:

Obse Ababiya, Associate Director, Office of Global Strategy and Initiatives at Emory University.

Larry Catá Backer, Professor of Law and International Affairs, Penn State Law School.

Jamie Horsley, Senior Fellow, Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School | John L. Thornton China Center at Brookings Institution.

Aynne Kokas, C.K. Yen Professor at the Miller Center and Associate Professor of Media Studies, University of Virginia.

Maria Repnikova, Associate Professor in Global Communication, Georgia State University.

Keren Wang, ACLS Emerging Voices Fellow, Emory University Department of Russian and East Asian Languages and Cultures.

For my presentation and remarks, I focused on the basics. Entitled "Data/Governance with Ideological Characteristics: China in (and as) the Shadow of the US" my object was to carefully unpack the key elements around which the debates about data, data governance, and the governance of data have been elaborated, and from which those debates have then been transposed onto the equally important trajectories of U.S.-China relations. My starting and end points are the same: currently, data, data machines, and the systems through which these interact and become useful (to someone) are all built along the same lines.  There is no magical liberal democratic, U.S., E.U. Marxist-Leninist, or Chinese  unique variant of any of these core components of data driven systems of human-data interaction focused on the curation of social relations and the construction of better behaved individuals and the systems in which they are placed.  Where the differences arise are in the development and operationalization of rules, principles, systems, and policing around the governance of data (and data machines). That distinction between the commonality of data and data machine structures on the one hand, and the variegation of governance of data (and data machine) systems on the other, is an essential element of analysis (and the development of sound policy) that tends to be overlooked in a sometimes mad rush to conflate systems and components of data based operations with the ideologically embedded systems of rules and instrumentalization which then animate, weaponize, direct, and activate in specific ways these ecologies of data and data-machine systems. That is not to suggest that ideology ought to be purged from the systematization and pragmatic structuring of these data and data-machine systems.  Quite the reverse. What it does suggest is that one ought to keep the two quite separate in order not to sacrifice the utility of data and data-machine systems on the altar of geo-political contests over ideological dominance.  On the process one is able to de-mystify data and data-machine systems while appropriately focusing on the ideological principles and objectives that then bend these machines to specific political, political, social, cultural, or economic ends dictated by the presumptions and world views that drive the ideological basis of seeing the world backed by public  and cultural power.

To those ends one starts with data. Data is the basic building block of systems and their governance. Anything that can be observed, experienced, created, or undertaken AND recorded can be data. Data has no essence other than “being” data. Everything else is strategic and instrumental: Identifying/choosing data; Choosing the subjective center; Organizing/activating data (platforms); Connecting platforms (neural networks and circulatory systems. Of course, there are governance issues around each of these, and governance issues around their interconnection, and the relationship of producer/consumers of data. But at its source, data must be identified (given significance as data), and then organized (e.g., data lifeworlds (Lebenswelt) - imaginaries; its inter-subjectivity; and activated (through the introduction of data analytics; ratings, modelling, compliance, social/economic discipline). 

One then distinguishes between data governance (the data-machine system) and the governance of data (the political-cultural project). One starts with a fundamental distinction between (1) data (input): Objects and their identification; investing objects with value; (2) data machines/platforms (rationalization, analytics, connections) (the process of aggravating (in semiotics from significance to signification)—the conscious tool; (3) neural pathways/circulatory systems among data machines (connecting data machines; building more complex structures of interactive signification and collective meaning making, that move from descriptive to predictive machines; self-referencing iterative sentience; autonomy; to the (4) governance of data (imposed imaginaries /worldviews) coercively shaping the structure and operation of data machines. 

The governance of data and data-machine systems produces it own complex problem fields.  The first and most critical is what I call the inside/outside problem of governance:  that is of placing governance INSIDE or OUTSIDE the DATA and DATA-MACHINE SYSTEMS that are its object. Outside references traditional law, norms, rules, exogenous structures of meaning making, control and discipline. Inside focuses on insertions of governance (like a virus) into the guts of the machine: coding; analytic parameters; the “inorganic” structuring of iterative non-carbon-based sentience: endogenous. Governance of data has significant effects which tend to be the focus of much current debate.  These revolve around what is aptly termed the ideological mirror and governance instrumentalization of data machines. Prominent among these are bias; and bias privileging (“Social justice” versus “development-stability-prosperity” models); rationalizing modalities of management: markets, regulatory property; governance and quality control issues (integrity issues); and data/systemic integrity; the question of narrative.

Once this superstructure is exposed, it is an easy matter to quite clearly distill the "issues" around "data governance" and U.S.-China relations.  That distilling brings us away from the machine to the ideology that weaponizes the machine toward (no doubt worthy) political-cultural-economic-cultural ends. 
These ends are then the subject of the last part of the presentation.  Along with the consequences of this ideological variegation of machine function and data identification: (1) warring narratives (signification of good and evil systems premises; fairness and trustworthiness); (2) power through projection of “effects” of system operation (e.g., global CSR compliance regimes versus state secrets rule ; domestication of data and analytics; analytic black boxes);  (3) the impenetrability of language and control (coders versus lawyers versus public officials; accountability across languages); and (4) human versus Non-Carbon intelligence (cente3red on backdoors; sabotage; bias drift; autonomy producing a system in which machines drive human culture and politics irrespective of ideological starting point).

The PPT follow below.  ACCESS PPT HERE: Backer-Demystifying-China-Data-Gov (very large file); PDF VERSION OF PPT HERE: Backer-Demystifying-China-Data-Gov.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Hipstering ESG: Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations invitaiton to an open multi-stakeholder meeting 5 October 2023


  ESG (environmental, social, and governance) risk based assessments and guiding principles for business conduct (including finance) has become quite wildely popular as a fetish around which people or institutions with the need to manifest their status as "hip" and "timely" can appear to develop systems for curating the business of business around a (widely varying) set of objectives. These objectives, in turn, tend to serve as the "wish list" of ideologically motivated political agendas that are meant to (1) strengthen the institutional position  of the actor; (2) augment their role as purveyors of narrative orthodoxy; and (3) re-frame cor principles of the legality of economic activity without the bother of actually using the formal mechanisms of democracy to further a "liberal" agenda. See here, here, here, and here.

Fair enough I suppose given the times.

To that end the good people at the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises (the Working Group) has sought to advance their own peculiar political/ideological agendas masquerading as some sort of global consensus orthodoxy.  Also fair enough.  That requires a theatre of engagement, the mechanics of which have long been refined by the administrative apparatus of the UN's operations in Geneva.  Bravo. The Working Group has invited those able to attend an "open-multi-stakeholder meeting" 3 October 2023 (hybrid)) for the purpose of receiving input on its annual theme: "Investors, ESG and Human Rights.”

Everyone can play, of course.  Those willing to enter the echo chamber can be admitted the inner sanctums of solidarity and credibility. Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipotentem . . . Et in unum Dominum. . . .

 The invitation follows.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Still Time to Register for SYMPOSIUM EVENT: "China’s Data Governance and its Impact on US-China Relations" (13.30 - 1600 East Coast Time; 26 September 2023)


Atlanta (September 26, 2023) – The Carter Center China Focus in partnership with Emory University, Georgia State University, Spellman College, and the China Research Center in Atlanta, is pleased to announce an upcoming hybrid symposium titled ‘China’s Data Governance and Its Impact on U.S.-China Relations’.

The relationship between the United States and China currently faces significant challenges, particularly in the areas of technology and national security. Unfortunately, many misconceptions surround the development of the Chinese data governance system, often exacerbated by sensationalized discussions in the public discourse on US-China relations. This symposium aims to dispel these myths and provide a nuanced understanding of Chinese data governance and its implications for US-China relations. It seeks to foster open and critical dialogue among scholars, policymakers, and practitioners, offering an in-depth update on the topic.

 Speakers list and Program follow below.



Double Entendres V. Putin: "The Far East is Russia’s strategic focus throughout the 21st century"


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Essentially, we are witnessing a new emerging model of relationships and integration – and not by Western patterns, for the elite, for the chosen ‘golden billion,’ but for the entire humanity and the entire existing and developing multipolar world. This model offers creative energy, openness and focus on a specific outcome as a powerful competitive advantage of the Asia-Pacific region, a key factor that determines and I am sure will determine for a long time its global leadership in economic growth.(V Putin Address 12 Sept 2023)

Mr. Putin delivered an interesting set of remarks that has been circulating in China.  They were made at the 8th Eastern Economic Forum, held on the campus of the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok from September 10th to 13th. Its theme was "Towards Cooperation, Peace and Prosperity". Mr. Putin delivered the remarks September 12 in person at the plenary session.

It is posted here in Chinese and a (Russian official) English translation (along with the text of a mini interview.  It speaks for itself. But one has to be careful about the signification of language.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

"ESG Trouble--From the Center to the Ends of the Silk Roads--A Comparative Problématique" --PPT of Presentation at the Annual Conference of the European China Law Studies Association 22 September 2023


I was delighted wit the opportunity to present "ESG Trouble--From the Center to the Ends of the Silk Roads--A Comparative Problématique" at the Annual Conference of the European China Law Studies Association 22 September 2023.

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) has assumed a protean character in the West. To some extent it is a means of refining risk calculations for financial institutions.  It has also morphed into a means of assessing the risk of engaging in specific economic activity, or in the forms that economic activity will take (respecting production, distribution,consumption, and reuse). But ESG has also assumed a substantial normative dimension, built into its technical standards.  At the same time, its embrace also becomes a marker of forward thinking policy and an instrument in the front lines of transforming what elite western thinkers call "late stage" capitalism into some new benign or more public policy responsible form. At the same time, again reflecting the "flavor of the month" among Western thought leaders, it may represent a means of engaging with "surveillance" capitalism, in this case whether undertaken by liberal democratic or Marxist-Leninist economic enter`rises (or their state masters). 

This is the point where things get interesting and where the exploration of my presentation starts. ESG presents three fundamental questions worth considering in related fashion.  The first considers the evolution of ESG and its still to be realized aspirational objectives.  Among these are data driven governance vectors for the nudging of behavior of public enterprises more  aligned to public policy (without the bother of legislating compliance). If that is the case, one might consider whether ESG has an ideology.  Here it makes sense to consider the alignments and divergences between liberal democratic and Marxist-Leninist ESG projects.  Lastly, both seem to align with the "surveillance" bit.  In this case one might pose two related questions--the first is the extent to which ESG measures might be considered to be well within the ambit of the mechanics and ideologies of Chinese social credit.  The second is whether the modalities of social credit--data driven systems of punishments and rewards  built around compliance with an ideal built into assessment standards--are not a foundational organizing basis for liberal democratic ESG measures.  In other words--is the West embracing its own version of social credit data based regulatory systems through ESG?

The abstract lays this ut more formally:

 Social credit regimes in China are well known to target trustworthiness. less well known is the interlinking between trustworthiness and risk, especially in the management and guidance of economic activity. That risk element is compounded when Chinese enterprises engage in economic activity both within and outside of China. In that context, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) risk measures may play an important role. This presentation considers the relationship between ESG as a normatively objectified methodology for risk ranking, its alignment with the analytics and nudging strategies of social credit or data governance systems, and the challenges that arise where those regimes may produce disjunctions between home and host state regimes. The presentation starts with a brief consideration of social credit regimes as applied to economic activity within China. It then considers ESG measures as data-based system of normatively driven risk assessment and its interlinking with social credit modalities. The heart of the presentation then examines the operational characteristics of ESG as social credit in the operation of Chinese state owned enterprises and the challenges of aligning national with transnational ESG disclosures and analytics. The presentation ends with a brief consideration of the potential conversations between liberal democratic ESG social credit methodologies and frameworks and those emerging in and through the Chinese Silk Roads.

The PPT follow and may also be accessed HERE.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Marley's Ghost, "The Problem of Cuba," and the the G77 +China--A Meet-up in Havana For a Good Old Fashioned Revival Meeting


Pix Credit Granma here

Especially in the United States (though also a feature of missionary work among those in need of salvation),  and to a substantial extent practiced among believers of one of the various communal traditions of Protestant Christianity, religious revivals have been an important performative (witnessing) element of the profession of faith. It is a communal act of solidarity aiming to inspire active members, gain new converts, and generally firm up the faith by calling on all sinners (whether or not baptized) to repent their sins (Generally Charles G. Finney, Revivals of Religion (CBN University Press, 1978), pp. 6-15). 

Political movements also have their share of revival meetings: and towards the same ends.  Recently there has been a convergence of the form of revival within the structures of G+ meetings: G7; G20; etc. Each, of course, consists of a flock of believers that distinguish themselves from other "G+" congregations by virtue of some set of characteristics or others of importance to them (and consequentially to the rest of us). Not all such congratulations are "G+s". Other have arisen around trade blocs: OECD, BRICS, and the like. But the ends of all are similar: firm up the faith, reinforce the guiding leading of the vanguard or priesthood of the congregation, and further develop (and make understandable) its theology and behavior expectations. These are witnessed internally by congregants but offered up to the world as variations of what Christians have long called the "good news" or "glad tidings" (evangelium and gospel), the witnessing of which will  bring humanity closer to the realization of the purpose of that witnessing. As with religious revivals, these political revivals  "should be practical" (Finney, supra 205 citing 2 Tim 3:16--"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness").

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Today a very special, and by the time reckoning of politics, ancient, G+ organization is having its revival. The G77 +China is holding its annual meeting hosted by Cuba. And with it, G77 is mounting a political-religious  a revival of the sort of Scriptural fervor of the political religions of the post-colonial and developing world that was crystalized with the New International Economic Order of the 1970s, and is now manifested in its most developed state in New Era Marxist Leninist theories of Internationalism. It too must  embed doctrine, reprove heresy, correct, and  instruct. Indeed, its basis rooted in the sensibilities and political outlook first crystalized in the Bandung Conference, also reflected the five principles  for peaceful co-existence developed in the regularization of Chinese Indian relations (as touchy as they remain to this day) and which now serve as the foundation for Chinese Socialist Internationalism: mutual respect for sovereignty, non-aggression, non-interference in internal affairs, and equality. 

This is a revival, to be sure, in all the classical senses of that term.  It is, however, one in which Marley's ghost--the ghost of past "sins" and unresolved errors--  hovers at the edges ("I must wander through the world and I wear the chains because I was so stingy in life. I only cared about business but not about the people around me." here). The G77 wears heavy chains indeed. And who is that ghost, that spectre who reminds the global elites that very very little has changed, conceptually, since the 1960s?--Fidel Castro Ruz.  When one wanders through the discursive thickets of what will be crystalized as the G77 agenda, "statement", "action plan" and the like, one will find in it a precise echo (though now in the language of the third decade of the 21st century) of the speech that Fidel Castro Ruz made to the UN General Assembly  on 26 September 1960. 1960. . . .  (Fidel Castro Ruz, "The problem of Cuba"; Address to the UN General Assembly (26 Sept., 1960), in Fidel Castro's Personal Revolution in Cuba: 1959-1973 (James Nelson Goosdell (ed); Alfred Knopf, 1975); pp. 30-32 ("The poor and underdeveloped country of the Caribbean, with 600,000 unemployed, contributing to the economic development of the most highly industrialized country in the world!, ibid., p 32).  Indeed, as heralded in the press organs of the Cuban Communist Party "As part of the agenda, attendees are expected to continue the Group’s historical demands, particularly in relation to the new international economic order, the reform of the global financial architecture, the rejection of unilateral coercive measures, concentration of wealth and the weight of the external debt." (Granma 15 September 2023).

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Hosted by Cuba, the G77 (+China) (a coalition of developing countries), like the G20 meeting held a week or so earlier, and the meetings of the BRICS, and the Democracy Summit held before them, provided a contemporary space in which the religious revival of the spirit and orthodoxies of the Bandung Conference and the the Non-Aligned Movement (for an interesting analysis from 1986 here) was first created, updated to suit the times and conditions of the states that form that faith community. . . . and China.  Even the Americans recognize that, as the title of a recent text posted to the United States Institute for Peace Website noted: "The New Nonaligned Movement Is Having a Moment" (May 2023).  G77 describes itself this way:

The Group of 77 (G-77) was established on 15 June 1964 by seventy-seven developing countries signatories of the “Joint Declaration of the Seventy-Seven Developing Countries” issued at the end of the first session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva. . . The Group of 77 is the largest intergovernmental organization of developing countries in the United Nations, which provides the means for the countries of the South to articulate and promote their collective economic interests and enhance their joint negotiating capacity on all major international economic issues within the United Nations system, and promote South-South cooperation for development. (G77)

The theme for G77 (+China) 2023 is is the scientific and technological divide between rich and poor countries and its impact on development. The current meeting was opened by the UN Secretary General.  

"The focus is the scientific and technological divide between rich and poor countries and its impact on development. Guterres said greater international equality was essential to building the consensus needed to tackle climate change and inequality. "The world is failing developing nations" he said, expressing the hope that the meeting would strengthen participants' clout on a wide range of issues. He echoed climate advocates who have long urged developed nations, including top greenhouse gas polluters like the United States, to pay to mitigate climate change and lessen the weight of foreign debt" (UN secretary-general calls for equality for Global South at Cuba G77 summit)

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His remarks follows below.  This theme was taken up by Cuba's President, hosting the event, whose remarks (Díaz-Canel: En nombre de los pueblos que representamos, hagamos respetar sus voces; in English HERE) also follow.   But all made in the shadow of Fidel Castro, Marley's ghost. Díaz Canel summed up his remarks in a most telling way:

Twenty-three years ago, at a meeting like this one, the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro asserted and I quote:  “As for the Group of 77, this is not the time for begging from the developed countries or for submission, defeatism or internecine divisions. This is the time to rescue back our fighting spirit, our unity and cohesion in defending our demands.  “Fifty years ago we were promised that one day there would no longer be a gap between developed and underdeveloped countries. We were promised bread and justice; but today we have less and less bread and more injustice.” End of quote.  The topicality of those words can be construed as a defeat, in terms of what this Group aimed for and failed to achieve. I ask you to take it as a confirmation of the long road we have traveled together and of all the rights we have to demand the overdue changes.

 Hace 23 años, en una reunión como esta, el líder histórico de la Revolución cubana, Fidel Castro, afirmó: “Para el Grupo de los 77 la hora actual no puede ser de ruegos a los países desarrollados, ni de sumisión, derrotismo o divisiones internas, sino de rescate de nuestro espíritu de lucha, de la unidad y cohesión en torno a nuestras demandas. “Nos prometieron hace cincuenta años que un día no habría abismo entre países desarrollados y subdesarrollados. Nos prometieron pan y justicia, y hoy hay cada vez menos pan y menos justicia”.La vigencia de esas palabras pudiera interpretarse como una derrota de lo que este Grupo pretendía y no ha logrado resolver. Yo pido que la tomen como una confirmación del largo camino que hemos andado juntos y todos los derechos que nos asisten para exigir los cambios pendientes. (Díaz-Canel: En nombre de los pueblos que representamos, hagamos respetar sus voces; in English HERE)

Key themes are old: technology transfers; transformation of the systems of patent ownership and exploitation, reparations (presented in a variety of forms), and a focus on a development lens for human rights and sustainability goals. But these have also been updated for the times, and here with the support of the UNSC: transformation of voting system in the UN and the structures and powers of the UN Security Council; and to some extent other international organizations which would effectively shift  authority in a more horizontal way among states, irrespective of their wealth and state of development. And the G77 +China want access to the technological innovations of developed states.Lastly, the G77 (+China) embraces the increasingly important narrative of just transitions (eg here, here, and here). Again Secretary Genera Guterres:

Turning to your theme for today’s meeting: Science, technology and innovation can forge solidarity, solve common problems, and help to make the Sustainable Development Goals a reality.  Yet today, they frequently inflame inequalities and entrench divisions: Richer countries hoarded COVID vaccines while the pandemic ran rampant in the Global South. . . And Africans in particular pay three times more the global average for data, while tech titans amass unimaginable wealth. Only global action can tackle these inequalities, secure a just transition to a digital economy, and ensure that in a new technological era, no one is left behind. (Guterres remarks)

Wanting something, and getting what one wants are quite distinct things. But, again, effective solidarity can have effects, even at the margins. And thus the elements of revival and the continuing power of the narratives of the 1950s-1970s outside of OECD states. At the same time that power of narrative poses a great challenge and constitutes a terrible burden; a heavy weight pulling G77 +China back into a past the goals of which were unsuccessful then (because they were not aligned with the times) and less likely to succeed now (except among the intellectual glitterati, nostalgia addicts, and left populists).  And here again Marley's ghost--Fidel Castro-- whose spirit is infused in must of the structural and normative elements of the G77 agenda (consider the essays, Fidel Castro Ruz, De Seattle al 11 se septiembre (Editorial Txalaparta, 2002)); and see here, and here.

And it would foolish for the advanced elements of the liberal democratic camp to fail to take notice--and counter-measures. But to be effective these ought to focus on targeted states rather than on the modalities of leading state self-actualization. But that will require listening carefully to the narratives of developing and post colonial states, not change them necessarily, but to use them as a basis for effective engagement consistent with the goals and principles of the G7 leading states. But that requires both a knowledge of the historical context in which the current narratives were forged and their contemporary (though reshaped) power, to align with contemporary agendas. But here as well, the developed states also wear quite heavy chains that they forged in their past that that continues to weigh them down in the present. To understand the G77, one must, in some sense, teleport oneself back to the middle 1960s. That it remains self-referencing, self-contained and thus inter-subjective, provides it both with its power, and ultimately its limits. In that sense, little has changed from the performative realities captured in the 1961 iteration of this reflex.  

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Nonetheless, revivals are powerful--especially when deployed against an orthodoxy that is viewed (or constructed) as weak. Revival in all its senses; one that it would be foolish for the "established churches" of contemporary political theocracies to ignore for long.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Translation and Cadence as Power Projection: Ministry of Foreign Affairs--"Proposal of the People’s Republic of China on the Reform and Development of Global Governance" [关于全球治理变革和建设的中国方案]


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One sign of the maturity of Chinese principles for global engagement, and its strategic projection into global space, is the vigor with its it is transmitted to foreigners in languages other than Chinese. Translation is useful as a communicative means by which internal Chinese policy is appropriately curated for consumption by political collectives (and others) in a form more suitable for their own political predilections and national context. 

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Translation at the international level provides a propaganda space in which ideas can be deployed against a ruling ideology. That projection feeds a narrative of dialectic--that the current orthodoxy, forged after 1945 has become corrupt and decrepit; that it needs to either be refashioned or replaced; and that China as a vanguard international element can lead the way to a better tomorrow. The propaganda strategy is not meant for the state apparatus of competitor states.  It is directed instead to oppositional forces within those states and, more importantly, to the larger group of post-colonial and developing states that are always attentive to changes that might advantage them in their relationship with their former colonial masters or the orthodox hegemony (the terms of the relationship of which always appear ripe for renegotiation). 

It is at this point that cadence becomes a critical rhetorical element.  The Chinese apparatus has developed the art of cadence to a degree that ought to require attention among liberal democratic political collectives. Cadence reflects the musical, and thus performative, quality of the speech. This suggests both modulation in tone--its musical quality--and its percussive effects. That percussive effect, the cadenced beat, Beat, BEat; BEAt, BEAT, of a message is immeasurably useful in the management and modulation of a message that is then insinuated not merely by its text, but also by its textual performance (For another example, see here).   Its visual performance adds to the impact--social media, press briefing, speeches, and the like.  Liberal democracy, of course, has similar tools to protect its own orthodox messaging.  But Hollywood is on strike, and consultants make for less than ideal producers of a comprehensive propaganda initiative grounded in the core principles of performance.

All of this is nicely evidenced in a recent publication-projection, shot out of the organs of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the text of which follows below (in the original Chinese and in official English; and French). There is nothing new here except: (1) the packaging which is now more refined and readable; (2) its cadence; and (3) its ready availability on line (in word searchable form that affects search analytics and a sense of the importance of the text). It was prepared for presentation in the organs of the United Nations, with the expectation that it would continue the now years long efforts of China to first contest, and then refashioned, the orthodoxies of international law-policy that have guided that body since the prior vanguard of advanced forces--the United States and its allies triumphant against its enemies (except the Soviet camp) in 1945--developed the current model. 

It was described in the 13 September Press Briefing  this way by Mao Ning:

Mao Ning: The 78th session of the UN General Assembly opened a few days ago. The General Debate will be held from September 19 to 26. Against the backdrop of an international landscape fraught with instability and changes and various global challenges, the international community is looking to the UN to play an active role in international affairs and make new progress in reforming and improving the global governance system. The 78th UNGA session presents an important opportunity for the international community to build political consensus, enhance solidarity and cooperation, and jointly tackle challenges.

The Proposal of the People’s Republic of China on the Reform and Development of Global Governance elaborates on China’s position and proposition on global security, development, human rights and social, and new frontiers governance as well as on reform of multilateral institutions, and calls on the international community to jointly act on the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative, and the Global Civilization Initiative and build a community with a shared future for mankind. The document demonstrates China’s sense of responsibility as a major country and constructive role in international affairs. By releasing it as the 78th UNGA session gets underway, China is contributing its ideas to global governance reform. We stand ready to work with all sides to practice true multilateralism and make new contributions to world peace, development and the human rights cause. 

Notice the cadence, the modulations, the tonal flows that are meant to make this effectove.  Notice as well the length. It is meant to be read in its entirety, but also fragmented, like a cluster bomb, to deliver different strikes at different targgets all highly detachable. Notice as well the translaiton, from the core principles of New Era Marxist Leninism in China's current stage of development, to a set of universal principles around which a united frnt might be forced led by vanguard forces of global society.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Revised Code of Conduct for Academics in China: 中国科学院院士行为规范(试行) [Code of Conduct for Academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Trial)]


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For those interested here is the revised current version of Academic's Code of Conduct (中国科学院院士行为规范(试行)) in the original Chinese and a crude English translation. For many people, the provisions on prohibited conduct (§§27-31) draws the most interest.  Here a comparison with similar provisions under other political-economic models might seem useful, as each model seeks to ensure the integrity of its core premises and objectiveness (e.g., national rejuvenation, social justice, etc.) through the education field. 

Despite the fuss, what it appears to reinforce is the global trend toward the exercise of greater care by academics in ways that are more comprehensively defined by the state, either directly, through regulation and compliance responsibilities delegated to institutions, or indirectly through social norm objectives with regulatory (and disciplinary) effect.  These efforts, of course, all have national characteristics appropriate to the space, time, and place in which they are expressed.   It is the study of those national characteristics applied to academics, and their effectiveness sin light of the challenge of the current general contradiction, that ought to be an important place of study. For local commentary and consequences, see, e.g., here, here, and here.

The Architecture of Algorithmic Governance From the Perspective of the G20 India Meeting 2023 Statement



The umbrella concept was social justice, as that term has come to be understood. Like human rights in its own day, the term is elastic and dependent on application in space, time, and place.  Yet it is the essential ideological frame in this new era of popular management because it can be molded to suit the space and objectives for which it is to be deployed--strategically. 

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What are the strategies of social justice in this G20 with respect to the digital space. One key element stressed development: "Improve access to digital services and digital public infrastructure, and leverage digital transformation opportunities to boost sustainable and inclusive growth" (G20  Statement §5i). This certainly aligns with the driving priority of Marxist Leninist and post colonial developing states within the older architecture of human rights and sustainability.

Another key element was the care and feeding of labor markets and labor collectives for the benefit of those collectives in a position to create and manage value. Positive noises were made in the direction of managing collective labor forces for effective insertion in digital work spaces ("Welcome the comprehensive toolkit with adaptable frameworks for designing and introducing digital upskilling and reskilling programmes" G20  Statement §20iv).

Related to the role of digital technologies in the context of labor is its role in promoting small capital enterprises, and the managed access for private capital based economic collectives. 

We welcome the 2023 Update to Leaders on Progress towards the G20 Remittance Target and endorse the Regulatory Toolkit for Enhanced Digital Financial Inclusion of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). We endorse the voluntary and non-binding G20 Policy Recommendations for Advancing Financial Inclusion and Productivity Gains through Digital Public Infrastructure. We take note of the significant role of digital public infrastructure in helping to advance financial inclusion in support of inclusive growth and sustainable development. . . We endorse the G20 2023 Financial ¡Inclusion Action Plan (FIAP), which provides an action oriented and forward-looking roadmap for rapidly accelerating the financial inclusion of individuals and MSMEs, particularly vulnerable and underserved groups in the G20 countries and beyond. (G20  Statement §21).

The social justice foundations of these policies is clear, and clearly trumpeted through this leadership signalling text.  Less apparent is the way in which this also aligns with the core policies of Marxist Leninist and post-colonial developing states. In this context, the focus on MSME aligns with a view that markets and private orderings of economic activity must be understood as a complement to and a tool of public management of economic production, specifically, and management, generally. It aligns with the current ideological position, fashionable even in the core regions of the capitalist metropolis, that capitalism and more generally markets, are something that is in need of a redo--fundamental. And that technology can be a nice tool to achieve it. More fundamentally it does underscore a shift from markets primacy in global economics to state capitalist models with a smaller and managed space left fr the "non-state economy."

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Digital technology is also apparently understood as some sort of virtual mule that can be used to pull the cart of sustainable development. (G20  Statement §24i). To that end G20 states  "Recognise the role of digital transformation, AI, data advances, and the need to address digital divides. We endorse the G20 Principles on Harnessing Data for Development (D4D) and welcome the decision to launch Data for Development Capacity Building Initiative, and other existing initiatives." (Ibid.). The idea of the digital as a mule, or an ox, or centuries earlier, a slave, is appealing in the way that exploitation always is when it iss undertaken in the spirit of free riding.  In this case, of course, the free riding is the underlying conviction that the digital is neither an object of social justice. And, indeed, that is a very difficult presumption to overcome, even as non-carbon intelligence acquires a life of its own.

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That virtual mule, of course, ought to be available to all. The G20' reiterated its "commitment to harness digital technologies to overcome the digital divides for all learners" (G20  Statement §30ii). Included as well were (1) a commitment to extend "support to educational institutions and teachers to enable them to keep pace with emerging trends and technological advances including AI;" (2) an emphasis on "expanding access to high-quality Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET);" and (3) a reaffirmation of the "commitment to promote open, equitable and secure scientific collaboration and encourage mobility of students, scholars, researchers, and scientists across research and higher education institutions." (Ibid., ¶30 iii - v). These deepen and operationalize the conception of digital technologies to enhance labor effectiveness, and the contribution of the non-state sector in well organized and targeted private markets.  It is also a means of advancing social justice goals by shifting its management and control from social forces and culture, to the public apparatus of the state and its technocracies. This is tied as well to the gender equality objectives of the G20, especially in the context of data technologies ((G20  Statement §65).

All of these normative presumptions are then underscored in Section E of the G20 Statement; "Technological Transformation and Digital Public Infrastructure" (G20  Statement ¶¶ 55-61).  The text of this section is worth considering in detail and follows below. The fundamental premise was addressed in the section on Artificial Intelligence (A.I:):

It is our endeavour to leverage AI for the public good by solving challenges in a responsible, inclusive and human-centric manner, while protecting people’s rights and safety. To ensure responsible AI development, deployment and use, the protection of human rights, transparency and explainability, fairness, accountability, regulation, safety, appropriate human oversight, ethics, biases, privacy, and data protection must be addressed. (G20  Statement §61).

Human-centric is the key.  But it is a brittle key and unlikely to be either effective or enduring (deeper dive here).  It is not clear whether human-cerntricity is baselined at the level of collective humanity or at the operative level of autonomous individuals with agency.  Indeed, the great irony here is that while the G20 and its widely varied state apparatus is keen to bend data tech to human desire, it appears that this bending actually produces a parallel of efficient use.  Here data tech is at its most useful when it can be deployed to make its human subjects more efficient. The exploiter, in this case, of both human and digital intelligence, remains the state. Perhaps individuals do like being managed; and the imperceptible and real time management through data tech makes it possible to manage populations without the need for performative politics (legislation,. debates, etc.). That may perfectly align with the ideological foundations for the political-economic system of a state, but its debasement into a form of generic feel good language meant to appeal to the propaganda departments of these political apparatus advancing rhetoric of social justice provides much in the way of discursive power and perhaps less ion the way of substance. Here, indeed, the value of the digital is in the enhancement of the ability of the state (and its dependent collectives, public or private) to increase the value of human exploitation.  But all in a good cause (e.g., here).  

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Either way, however, to those ends it is necessary to convince the masses.  And that is the function of G20 2023 ¶¶ 55-61. All of this will fall on deaf ears, of course--human privileging virtue signalling in the shadow of (human) social justice serves as the orthodox sloganeering and a screen behind which  those who have now been vested with social justice (collective) power can manage things in ways that are assessed by their value as performance. And yet, the self absorption of the technocracies aligned with political vanguards and their state apparatus (in either Marxist-Leninist, post-colonial, or liberal democratic architectures), suggests a plural subjectivity in the realm of data tech.  First the group of people who resist or ignore the architectures of state (or market vanguard) control will continue to develop and deploy data tech as they like.  Calling the names will not change the fact that data tech will continue to evolve as it wills in relation to a class of coders and users intent on having their way. That is less difficult, for example, than mounting analog versions of rebellion. Second, data tech has a life of its own; one that is developing autonomously from the human along its interface with coders and users. Generative tech and descriptive/predictive models are not vacuum cleaners that are the amoeba of non-carbon life forms. It works and processes even when its user interface with carbon based life is not engaging with it. The nature of its inductive iterative forms of sentience can be coded, but once released into its environment (either internal within silicon based machinery) or external (operating in the circulatory system of interactive data analytics. None of that matters in a human-centric governance framework--what matters is the appearance of control. The rest can be fudged.  And the irony--in order to rationalize the complicated system of regulatory pathways identified and assess meeting objectives--these grand normative architectures will be dependent on all of the tools that they purport to control. The human-centric regulation of data tech will be impossible without the power of data tech to make it so. One can only wonder about the realities of lines of control.

Still it is worth considering the architecture of this policy-regulatory framework as a refinement of what is emerging as the public orthodox view aligning tech and social justice. It s built on a number of key focus areas: (1) public infrastructure; (2) digital economy; (3) digital finance; (4) digital currency; (5) digital ecosystems; and (6) artificial intelligence stripped of autonomy. The first speaks to concepts like "smart cities" and seamless communications aiding the functioning of the state.  And in a sense, to the extent that the state oversees the development of such infrastructures it retains the position of hub along which well monitored spokes may be allowed to be built, assessed, and deployed. The extent to which non-state based "smartness" may be developed without permission will likely shrink.  Transparency, however is not aligned with this project.   The second speaks to the transposition of infrastructure framing into the roadways and byways of commerce. The same rules will apply.  And in the end it is the hub that acquires a greater regulatory control--to the extent it is actually able to control the use, content, and deployment of commerce aiding data tech.  That is a tall order. But the "Global Digital Public Infrastructure Repository (GDPIR), a virtual repository of DPI, voluntarily shared by G20 members and beyond" (¶56ii) and the "G20 High-level Principles to Support Businesses in Building Safety, Security, Resilience, and Trust in the Digital Economy" (¶57i)) suggests the direction in both objectives. .And then there is control of the education for the kidddies--an essential element in the smooth transition to data tech based seamless management under the watchful eye of non-carbon intelligence ostensibly controlled and operated by carbon life forms. Digital finance measures also speak to efficiency and control.  These are old friends of social relations, made better now that they can be deployed through technologies.  But the space for resistance is equally large, and the temptation to use the objectives of social justice (reduce digital divides) to ensure control by managing those divides strategically is quite irresistible. Digital ecosystems is a polite way developing mechanisms that define the borderlands and patrol the internal behaviors of those engaged in the business of interfacing with tech, and of devising new forms of such interfacing ("fostering safe and resilient digital ecosystems, and ensuring that every citizen on our planet is financially included" (¶60)).  There is irony here in three respects: (1) data tech control of the management of human culture; (2) data tech objectives of a totalizing inclusion (one can't manage who one can't embed); (3) the deployment of ecologies of tech against ecologies of nature (viruses, etc.). The last suggests the Nicene creed of data tech regulation. But like the Nicene creed (an orthodox confession of faith) it papers over the quite real divide between this orthodoxy and those now necessarily recast as heresy. These sorts of divides do not portend well for stability, order or prosperity.