Who Are You?

A Pennsylvania woman recently made news by nearly rising to partner in a law firm before it it was discovered she never had a license to practice nor a degree. However, nobody says she wasn't a good lawyer and is only being charged with misdemeanors.

PITTSBURGH — A central Pennsylvania woman used forged documents to pretend to be a lawyer for a decade and was in line to be named partner when her fraud was discovered late last year, according to charges filed by the state Attorney General's Office. ...

State prosecutors contend Kitchen fooled BMZ Law by forging a law license, bar exam results, an email showing she attended Duquesne University law school and a check for a state attorney registration fee. ...

If Kitchen [the accused] improperly handled an estate, those whose estates she handled could file civil complaints against her and/or her Huntingdon County law firm, Avalli said. But if she properly administered their estates, they may not have claims against her, he said.

Avalli said Kitchen was probably working at a competent level, judging solely by her decade-long employment at the law firm.

“If there were no bells and whistles going off after the first year or two, nobody probably had any reason to believe she wasn't who she said she was,” he said.

If the allegations against her are true, Kitchen could have become proficient in her craft by repetition, but would not know the “subtle nuances” of the law or the theoretical foundations of why she'd be doing certain things, said Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney Blaine Jones.

“Law school teaches you the theory, and that's basically the foundation, but you have to get the practical experience, too,” Jones said.

Perhaps even more astonishing was a recent discovery in Britain that technically unqualified overseas doctors were being employed by the National Health Service, which was none the wiser. In this case the qualifications were being embellished without their knowledge by the recruitment company that placed them. The recruitment company collected inflated rates based on the faked qualifications but received  as suspended sentence. The judge said it was  "pure luck" no one was harmed.

Midas Medical Recruitment altered the CVs of locum medics, "embellishing" their experience and adding bogus references from consultants.

While charging the hospitals £120 an hour, the court heard Midas paid some clinical staff as little as £15 an hour.

As Judge Robin Johnson gave headhunter Ross Etherson a "wholly exceptional" suspended sentence, he also criticised NHS management by saying some bosses failed to carry out even the most basic checks on doctors they were employing. ...

"It is fortunate that there is no occasion were such lack of experience on behalf of one of these doctors impacted on the health of the patient, but that was purely down to luck."

The next time you board a plane, remember this: the Chinese press reports that literally hundreds of pilots are flying around its skies equipped with fake credentials. The consequences of the fraud were much more serious, as several passenger aircraft are believed to have crashed as a result.

The newspaper report also noted that Shenzhen Airlines reportedly had 103 of the pilots with faked work histories on the payroll.

A spokesperson with the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) confirmed the figure of more than 200 pilots who falsified their flying histories, adding that all those found with fake resumes have been punished accordingly. ...

The report comes as the administration investigates safety measures nationwide following an Aug 24 crash that killed 42 people at a small airport in the northeast, in China's worst commercial airline disaster in nearly six years. Another 54 people were injured in the crash of the Brazilian-made Embraer 190 plane belonging to Henan Airlines during a nighttime landing at Yichun in Heilongjiang province.

Shenzhen Airlines is the parent company of Henan Airlines.

Bogus degrees are big in China and not just in the airline industry.  The Wall Street Journal wrote, "accusations that a prominent former Microsoft Corp. executive in China distorted his academic credentials have triggered a heated public discussion in the country over what experts say is pervasive academic fraud."

The controversy began earlier this month after Fang Shimin, a science writer known for his vocal criticism of plagiarism and academic fraud, claimed that Jun Tang, who was president of Microsoft's China operation from 2002 to 2004, had falsely claimed to have earned a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology. Mr. Fang said he had tried to check the claim, which he said was made in one edition of Mr. Tang's popular book "My Success Can Be Copied," by calling the university but that he couldn't find records of Mr. Tang having graduated. A representative for Caltech, reached Thursday, said Mr. Tang didn't graduate from the school.

The economic reasons for credential fraud are obvious. Credentials are used to control access to everything. "Examples of credentials include academic diplomas, academic degrees, certifications, security clearances, identification documents, badges, passwords, user names, keys, powers of attorney, and so on." Especially in modern information systems, you are your credential. In any conflict of assertion between a natural person and his tokens of authority, the tokens win.

The power of credentials and their relationship to what we call rights is not always fully understood. Recently when Ed Schultz debated Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation on the question of the Indiana religious freedom restoration law during the debate Anderson indirectly raised the question of whether the special powers press organizations claimed -- like Schultz's own MSNBC -- inhered in Schultz or MSNBC.

Were Schultz's credibility his by right or merely loaned to him as a credential? Schultz cut Anderson off -- using his credential. Judging by their debate performance, Anderson would make a pretty good journalist. Too bad he doesn't have the liberal credentials, because one gets the feeling that sometimes, that's all he lacks to get the same platform as Schultz.

However the point should not be forgotten. In the modern age credentials modify our access to rights and much else because they control our ability to read, create, edit, or delete. Access gives onto to wealth, power and even property. The power to manipulate the record is the power to define what you can do and one is tempted to say, who you are.


Recently purchased by readers:

Not What They Had in Mind: A History of Policies that Produced the Financial Crisis of 2008

The Fall of Paris: The Siege and the Commune 1870-71

The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land

Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys Into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East

The King in Love: Edward VII's Mistresses

Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism [Kindle Edition]

Possibly worth buying:

The Map of Heaven [Kindle Edition]

Logitech M570 Wireless Trackball Mouse

External laptop battery


Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres

Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free

The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age

Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small

No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.

Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific

Tip Jar or Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the Belmont Club