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  By John Stossel

  Upset because Facebook and Google invade your privacy? Be glad you don't live in China.
    Facebook and other Western apps are banned there. The government views their openness as a threat. So the Chinese use platforms like WeChat and Alibaba.
    Now the Chinese government takes data from those platforms to assign all people who use them a "social credit score."
    In other words, the government monitors your web activity and gives you a grade. Your purchases, social interactions and political activity will determine what privileges you get.
    Having a low score -- because you smoke, are slow to pay bills or criticize a government official -- could get you barred from flying, using certain hotels or sending your kids to better schools.
    Li Schoolland grew up in China. As a teenager, she survived China's Great Leap Forward, Great Famine and Cultural Revolution. Her parents were doctors, which meant they, and she, were intellectual enough to be targeted for communist "re-education."
    "Mao said we shouldn't learn from books; we should learn from the military, from the farmers, from the workers," she recalls in my online video. "The poorer you were, the better you were. If you're illiterate, you're the best. ...
    "After I came to the United States I thought, oh, no more politics. I'm in the land of the free," she recounts. But after she saw surveillance states developing around the world, she thought, "No, no, no. I have to tell the American people, 'Don't let this happen.'"
    I like to think the era of communism is over, the danger past. But in China, "The repression is not over," says Schoolland. "The control of people's mind, people's mouth, people's pen, never stopped."
    Today in China, if you email friends about books like George Orwell's "Animal Farm" or Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World," your message will be blocked.
    Even pictures of Winnie the Pooh were banned because someone said president Xi Jinping resembled the stuffed bear.
    And now, another step, one subtler than just banning things: the social credit score.
    The government brags the system will "allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step."
    That's totalitarianism.
    Of course, the U.S. is much freer. People complain because Facebook is irresponsible about sharing our data. But to that I say, so what? I voluntarily give Facebook that information. I'd rather see targeted ads than random ones, and no one forces me to use Facebook.
    I worry more about what my government does. Facebook and Google cannot use force. Government can. Governments do.
    Already, there are new surveillance programs.
    Los Angeles police brag that they now practice "predictive" policing. They pay a company called Palantir to analyze social media, trace people's ties to gang members and predict the likelihood that someone may commit a crime.
    That makes some people feel safer.
    But "I think they are giving government too much power," says Schoolland. "They didn't realize this is going to lead to more and more."
    I might like to know people's "trust score" before interacting with them, I tell her.
    "Yes, we want to know who we can trust when we do business," she responds, "but those are market behaviors. We don't need the government to get involved."
    For now, the internet, and other new technology, enhances my freedom.
    My son complains that it distracts us so much that we can't focus on what matters. That's true also, but I say, on balance, it's wonderful. It helps me band together with others who think like I do. It makes it easier for me criticize the government and business practices I consider unfair. Heck, that's what I do every week in my videos.
    But we should be on guard against use of technology to curtail our freedom. Government was dangerous enough -- before it could spy on us so easily.
    John Stossel is author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails -- But Individuals Succeed." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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by John Stossel

    "Shame on you! Shame on you!" chanted protestors after psychology professor Jordan Peterson said he'd refuse to obey a law that would require everyone to call people by the pronoun they prefer -- pronouns like "ze" instead of "he" or "she."
    It wasn't just radical college kids protesting. Hundreds of Peterson's academic colleagues signed a petition demanding that the University of Toronto fire him.
    The totalitarian left doesn't just demand that their own point of view be heard. They want resisters like Peterson never to be heard. When he gives speeches, they bring bullhorns to drown him out.
    The pronoun controversy seems silly. "If somebody wants to be called ze or zir, why not?" I ask him for my next online video.
    "I don't care what people want to be called," he answered. "But that doesn't mean I should be compelled by law to call them that. The government has absolutely no business whatsoever ever governing the content of your voluntary speech."
    What if I politely asked him to call me ze?
    "We could have a conversation about that," says Peterson, "just like I would if you asked me to use a nickname. But there's a big difference between privately negotiated modes of address and legislatively demanded, compelled speech."
    That sounds like a reasonable, libertarian take on the issue, but for comments like that, Peterson is called "bigot," "Hitler," "transphobic piece of s---."
    "That it has to do with transgender people is virtually irrelevant," replies Peterson. "The issue is compelled speech."
    Somehow, he remains calm while people shout at him and interviewers twist his words. Peterson sensibly says differences in average temperament between males and females might explain why many choose or thrive at different professions. It's not all discrimination.
    That drove one anchorwoman into a frenzy of baseless accusations, including, "You're saying that women aren't intelligent enough to run these top companies?"
    "No, I didn't say that at all," Peterson replied, deadpan.
    As Father's Day approaches, his message resonates with young males, not because he insults women but because he tells men there is value in the old-fashioned ideal of being a responsible, tough individual, not just a sensitive, passive person.
    His book "12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos" lays down some advice for becoming a responsible person (of whatever sex). One example: "Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world."
    The problem is not that Peterson says shocking or outrageous things. It's that the left, especially on campuses, has become so extreme that just stating facts of life offends them.
    Peterson observes, correctly, that the world poverty rate has been cut in half in the 21st century, while the description of the world heard on campuses is that things are worse than ever, mostly because of inequality, oppression and patriarchy.
    Part of the problem, says Peterson, is that "social justice" courses on campuses change the meaning of the word "justice" from rightfulness or lawfulness into a demand for justice for groups, based on the assumption each group must be equal to every other. Men, women, blacks, whites -- all should have the same income, job preference, everything.
    In a free society, that's impossible to guarantee, even if everyone is equal under the law.
    But students are taught that every time there's a difference in outcome, it's an injustice, a new reason for outrage. The anger never ends.
    Peterson says the activists who are so angry about injustice should be happy they live in societies like America, places founded on individual liberty and free markets.
    "Everyone is doing better here than anybody has ever done on the face of the planet throughout recorded history, and the whole West is like that!" he told me. "To call that all a tyrannical patriarchy is indicative of a very deep resentment and ahistorical ignorance that's so profound that it's indistinguishable from willful blindness."
    That's opened some young people's eyes.
    But as Peterson has learned, these days some on campus get very angry if you try to open people's eyes.
    John Stossel is author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails -- But Individuals Succeed." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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by Walter E. Williams

   In conversations with most college officials, many CEOs, many politicians and race hustlers, it's not long before the magical words "diversity" and "inclusiveness" drop from their lips. Racial minorities are the intended targets of this sociological largesse, but women are included, as well. This obsession with diversity and inclusion is in the process of leading the nation to decline in a number of areas. We're told how it's doing so in science, in an article by Heather Mac Donald, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, titled "How Identity Politics Is Harming the Sciences" (http://tinyurl.com/y9g8k9ne).
    Mac Donald says that identity politics has already taken over the humanities and social sciences on American campuses. Waiting in the wings for a similar takeover are the STEM fields -- science, technology, engineering and math. In the eyes of the diversity and inclusiveness czars, the STEM fields don't have a pleasing mixture of blacks, Hispanics and women. The effort to get this "pleasing mix" is doing great damage to how science is taught and evaluated, threatening innovation and American competitiveness.
    Universities and other institutions have started watering down standards and requirements in order to attract more minorities and women. Some of the arguments for doing so border on insanity. A math education professor at the University of Illinois wrote that "mathematics itself operates as Whiteness." She says that the ability to solve algebra and geometry problems perpetuates "unearned privilege" among whites. A professor at Purdue University's School of Engineering Education published an article in a peer-reviewed journal positing that academic rigor is a "dirty deed" that upholds "white male heterosexual privilege," adding that "scientific knowledge itself is gendered, raced, and colonizing."
    The National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health are two federal agencies that fund university research and support postdoctoral education for physicians. Both agencies are consumed by diversity and inclusion ideology. The NSF and NIH can yank a grant when it comes up for renewal if the college has not supported a sufficient number of "underrepresented minorities." Mac Donald quotes a UCLA scientist who reports: "All across the country the big question now in STEM is: how can we promote more women and minorities by 'changing' (i.e., lowering) the requirements we had previously set for graduate level study?" Mac Donald observes, "Mathematical problem-solving is being deemphasized in favor of more qualitative group projects; the pace of undergraduate physics education is being slowed down so that no one gets left behind."
    Focusing on mathematical problem-solving and academic rigor, at least for black students at the college level, is a day late and a dollar short. The 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress, aka The Nation's Report Card, reported that only 17 percent of black students tested proficient or better in reading, and just 7 percent reached at least a proficient level in math. In some predominantly black high schools, not a single black student scored proficient in math. The academic and federal STEM busybodies ought to focus on the academic destruction of black youngsters between kindergarten and 12th grade and the conferring of fraudulent high school diplomas. Black people should not allow themselves to be used at the college level to help white liberals feel better about themselves and keep their federal grant money.
    Mac Donald answers the question of whether scientific progress depends on diversity. She says: "Somehow, NSF-backed scientists managed to rack up more than 200 Nobel Prizes before the agency realized that scientific progress depends on 'diversity.' Those 'un-diverse' scientists discovered the fundamental particles of matter and unlocked the genetics of viruses." She might have added that there wasn't even diversity among those white Nobel laureates. Jews constitute no more than 3 percent of the U.S. population but are 35 percent of American Nobel Prize winners. One wonders what diversity and inclusion czars might propose to promote ethnic diversity among Nobel Prize winners.
    Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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by Walter E. Williams

   Having enjoyed my 82nd birthday, I am part of a group of about 50 million Americans who are 65 years of age or older. Those who are 90 or older were in school during the 1930s. My age cohort was in school during the 1940s. Baby boomers approaching their 70s were in school during the 1950s and early '60s.
    Try this question to any one of those 50 million Americans who are 65 or older: Do you recall any discussions about the need to hire armed guards to protect students and teachers against school shootings? Do you remember school policemen patrolling the hallways? How many students were shot to death during the time you were in school? For me and those other Americans 65 or older, when we were in school, a conversation about hiring armed guards and having police patrol hallways would have been seen as lunacy. There was no reason.
    What's the difference between yesteryear and today? The logic of the argument for those calling for stricter gun control laws, in the wake of recent school shootings, is that something has happened to guns. Guns have behaved more poorly and become evil. Guns themselves are the problem. The job for those of us who are 65 or older is to relay the fact that guns were more available and less controlled in years past, when there was far less mayhem. Something else is the problem.
    Guns haven't changed. People have changed. Behavior that is accepted from today's young people was not accepted yesteryear. For those of us who are 65 or older, assaults on teachers were not routine as they are in some cities. For example, in Baltimore, an average of four teachers and staff members were assaulted each school day in 2010, and more than 300 school staff members filed workers' compensation claims in a year because of injuries received through assaults or altercations on the job. In Philadelphia, 690 teachers were assaulted in 2010, and in a five-year period, 4,000 were. In that city's schools, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, "on an average day 25 students, teachers, or other staff members were beaten, robbed, sexually assaulted, or victims of other violent crimes. That doesn't even include thousands more who are extorted, threatened, or bullied in a school year."
    Yale University legal scholar John Lott argues that gun accessibility in our country has never been as restricted as it is now. Lott reports that until the 1960s, New York City public high schools had shooting clubs. Students carried their rifles to school on the subway in the morning and then turned them over to their homeroom teacher or a gym teacher -- and that was mainly to keep them centrally stored and out of the way. Rifles were retrieved after school for target practice (http://tinyurl.com/yapuaehp). Virginia's rural areas had a long tradition of high school students going hunting in the morning before school, and they sometimes stored their guns in the trunks of their cars during the school day, parked on the school grounds.
    During earlier periods, people could simply walk into a hardware store and buy a rifle. Buying a rifle or pistol through a mail-order catalog -- such as Sears, Roebuck & Co.'s -- was easy. Often, a 12th or 14th birthday present was a shiny new .22-caliber rifle, given to a boy by his father.
    These facts of our history should confront us with a question: With greater accessibility to guns in the past, why wasn't there the kind of violence we see today, when there is much more restricted access to guns? There's another aspect of our response to mayhem. When a murderer uses a bomb, truck or car to kill people, we don't blame the bomb, truck or car. We don't call for control over the instrument of death. We seem to fully recognize that such objects are inanimate and incapable of acting on their own. We blame the perpetrator. However, when the murder is done using a gun, we do call for control over the inanimate instrument of death -- the gun. I smell a hidden anti-gun agenda.
    Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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by John Stossel

  "Are you on the take?"
    When I tried to get Edgewater, New Jersey, politicians to answer that question, the mayor wouldn't discuss it, ultimately telling me, "You may sit down."
    The town of Edgewater is right across the Hudson River from Manhattan. Anyone fortunate enough to live there gets a spectacular view of New York City's skyline.
    But the Edgewater city government wants to seize a choice piece of waterfront land for itself.
    The spot in question is owned by a developer, the Maxal Group. Maxal bought the property for about $26 million and then spent millions more to clean it up. They planned to build apartments and, to please the town, parks, a school and a ferry stop for commuters.
    "This whole pier would be open to the public," says Thomas O'Gara of the Maxal Group, showing off the spot in my latest YouTube video.
    In addition, Maxal's development would generate about $12 million a year in taxes for Edgewater.
    Sounds good to me, or at least good enough to see how the market responds. But Edgewater's politicians just said no. Now they're using eminent domain law to try to seize the property and spend taxpayer dollars to put Edgewater's Department of Public Works there -- a department of just thirteen people.
    Why would they do that?
    "The unsuccessful bidder is a fellow named Fred Daibes," says Maxal's lawyer. After Maxal bought the property, "Daibes told us, 'you will never be able to develop this property!'"
    Apparently, Fred Daibes knew something they didn't.
    Daibes is the biggest apartment developer in the area. He told a reporter, "You can't be in Edgewater and not be affiliated with me."
    I suspect that means that Daibes controls Edgewater's politicians.
    A lawsuit filed by Maxal Group says four city council members got loans from a Daibes-controlled bank, and Mayor Michael McPartland pays below-market rent to live in a Daibes apartment building. (The mayor told a reporter that he doesn't pay below-market rent.)
    Of course, the politicians give a different reason for seizing Maxal's land. They said Maxal's project was too big.
    But they approved an even larger project nearby! That one happens to be controlled by -- you guessed it -- Fred Daibes. Daibes' development will have 250 more apartments than Maxal's and buildings twice as tall.
    I tried to ask Daibes about all this, but he declined to be interviewed.
    Edgewater's mayor and the city council would not agree to talk either.
    So I went to the Edgewater city council meeting and asked, "Are you on the take ... rejecting one building in favor of the one owned by the guy where you live?"
    A town lawyer quickly spoke up, "Mr. Mayor, as your legal counsel, I'm going to suggest and recommend that you don't answer the question from this gentleman ... certainly not with that tone, that objectionable tone."
    I asked, "Is it true that four of you are getting loans from Mr. Daibes' bank, and is it true that you (Mayor McPartland) get a discounted apartment in Mr. Daibes' building?"
    The lawyer spoke up again, "Mr. Mayor, I don't think it's appropriate." Eventually the mayor, without answering my questions, closed the meeting. The lawyer said, "He's done."
    And that was that.
    Maybe we'll get more answers from Edgewater after my video about this circulates.
    People everywhere should ask questions of politicians who hand out favors to well-connected big shots.
    A great thing about capitalism is that the only legitimate way to get rich is to serve your customers well. Customers have choices. To make money, businesses must offer something better than competitors offer. Developers can't tell other developers "you can't build here" because they cannot use force.
    Unless they have cronies in government. Governments can use force. They have the power to ban some developments while approving others. They can use eminent domain law to seize property.
    That's what's happened in Edgewater.
    When politicians favor their friends, that's not capitalism, that's crony capitalism. Crapitalism. Corruption.
    Maxal's lawsuit alleges "corrupt transactions" by Edgewater's politicians.
    I think Maxal is right.
    John Stossel is author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails -- But Individuals Succeed." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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