Wednesday, April 26, 2017

More thoughts on the Stubblefield case

I've been delaying writing about the Stubblefield appeal, in part because I am still processing my enraged incredulity at the Singer-McMahan op-ed, (something I would have dealt with in the past by smoking half a pack of cigarettes, but alas, I gave them up). Others have already expressed their own outrage, as well as detailing-- shall we say 'flaws'?-- in their account of the case.

My habit is to keep an open mind about matters, and to consider new information as it is available. But as Dewey once said (I think it was Dewey): keeping an open mind is having a welcome mat at your front door; it is not leaving the door open with the sign, "come on in". Reading the Singer- McMahan op ed, and the legal claims it put forward, has not changed the substance of my view, though since I am not a lawyer, I can't evaluate the legal basis for the appeal, or whether the court committed a legal error in disallowing the video or other matters. However, the science is clear: facilitated communication is neither reliable or effective in giving voice to the mute.

But as I wrote some time ago, suppose facilitated communication in fact did allow DJ to express himself.

But suppose counterfactually that DJ really was communicating and did in fact express his desire and willingness to become sexually intimate with Stubblefield. This supposition would not erase significant moral concerns, which I turn to next.

On our counterfactual scenario, DJ, while an adult in years, has been socially isolated through his inability to speak or interact with others in a variety of venues. He has lived with his family his whole life, and  has had limited contact with life outside his very limited circle of household, school, day program, church. He has never been able to choose where to go, whether to go, what to read or watch on tv, with whom to interact. He has things to say but no one to say them to. Now, on our counterfactual scenario, suddenly he can communicate, with the facilitation of Stubblefield. Of course, he would fall madly in love with her. She is his liberator. This would be a predictable form of transference. Stubblefield, but not DJ, would be in a position to recognize this. She, not DJ, would be in the position to see that there is a gross power imbalance between them, that she has the power conferred by her experience, knowledge of the world, and her role in DJ's life; DJ, however, is like a person newly liberated from a locked room, only now beginning to navigate the world, and just as vulnerable. To commence a sexual relationship at this time, even if DJ expressed his desire to, is to exploit his vulnerability, his lack of perspective and patience gained from experience to assess his own desires and choose which to act on. Stubblefield, a philosopher and disability rights activist, should have been hyper-acutely aware of how their relative positions would make an equal sexual relationship between them impossible.

Worse, as his primary facilitator, Stubblefield should have been aware of the responsibilities of that position. The relationship between facilitator and communicator is of necessity quite intimate, and for that reason, it is even more important to avoid sexualizing it, especially when the voice of the communicator is just emerging. Eroticizing the relationship makes it more emotionally labile and unstable, endangering this hard-won voice.

 Stubblefield also should have recognized that valid consent requires the possibility of its withdrawal. With his sexual partner as his 'voice', it is less likely that DJ would have been able to 'voice' an end to the relationship.

So, in my view, Stubblefield crossed moral boundaries as well as legal ones. I believe that she didn't think through the former, but she should have. About the latter, she probably honestly believed that she and DJ had a mutual, loving relationship, and so was stunned when accused and convicted of sex assault. But her belief was delusive, and she, as well as DJ, was its victim.
All that said, I continue to believe that the lengthy prison sentence imposed on Stubblefield is not in the interest of justice, but I maintain that not because of special pleading for Stubblefield, but because there are strong and persuasive reasons to oppose lengthy prison sentences on the grounds of justice  and individual and social well-being.

In a somewhat related matter, an article published under the authorship of DJ in Disability Studies Quarterly has been retracted by that journal, but not because of suspicions about the genuine author, but because it substantially overlapped with another article published elsewhere under his name.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Free access to academic papers

It's not just fake academic journals which prey on academia. Too many of the legitimate ones are published by profit seeking publishers, increasingly few in number and facing little competition, allowing these publishing outfits to routinely jack up prices skyward.

But now there is a new lemonade stand in town, serving customers for free.
(L)ibrarians attending the Association of College and Research Libraries conference in March were glad to hear that the Open Access Button, a tool that helps researchers gain free access to copies of articles, will be integrated into existing interlibrary-loan arrangements.
Another initiative, called Unpaywall, is a simple browser extension, but its creators, Jason Priem and Heather Piwowar, say it could help alter the status quo of scholarly publishing.
"We’re setting up a lemonade stand right next to the publishers’ lemonade stand," says Mr. Priem. "They’re charging $30 for a glass of lemonade, and we’re showing up right next to them and saying, ‘Lemonade for free’. It’s such a disruptive, exciting, and interesting idea, I think."
Like the Open Access Button, Unpaywall is open-source, nonprofit, and dedicated to improving access to scholarly research. The button, devised in 2013, has a searchable database that comes into play when a user hits a paywall.
Unpaywall, by contrast, has focused on creating a browser extension. "We want to do just one thing really well: instantly deliver legal, open-access, full text as you browse," says Mr. Priem, who also started the altmetrics site Impactstory with Ms. Piwowar.

“We're setting up a lemonade stand right next to the publishers' lemonade stand.”
When an Unpaywall user lands on the page of a research article, the software scours thousands of institutional repositories, preprint servers, and websites like PubMed Central to see if an open-access copy of the article is available. If it is, users can click a small green tab on the side of the screen to view a PDF. "We’re able to deliver an OA copy to users more than half the time," says Mr. Priem.

Predatory student loans: Sallie Mae edition

Sallie Mae is being sued by Illinois and Washington for predatory lending practices. Essentially, the charge is, they lured people who were poor loan risks into schools which were themselves essentially fraudulent in order to shore up its bottom line and to keep the loan revenue flowing to those schools.
In recent months, the student loan giant Navient, which was spun off from Sallie Mae in 2014 and retained nearly all of the company’s loan portfolio, has come under fire for aggressive and sloppy loan collection practices, which led to a set of government lawsuits filed in January. But those accusations have overshadowed broader claims, detailed in two state lawsuits filed by the attorneys general in Illinois and Washington, that Sallie Mae engaged in predatory lending, extending billions of dollars in private loans to students like Ms. Hardin that never should have been made in the first place.

“These loans were designed to fail,” said Shannon Smith, chief of the consumer protection division at the Washington State attorney general’s office.
New details unsealed last month in the state lawsuits against Navient shed light on how Sallie Mae used private subprime loans — some of which it expected to default at rates as high as 92 percent — as a tool to build its business relationships with colleges and universities across the country. From the outset, the lender knew that many borrowers would be unable to repay, government lawyers say, but it still made the loans, ensnaring students in debt traps that have dogged them for more than a decade.
While these risky loans were a bad deal for students, they were a boon for Sallie Mae. The private loans were — as Sallie Mae itself put it — a “baited hook” that the lender used to reel in more federally guaranteed loans, according to an internal strategy memo cited in the Illinois lawsuit.
The attorneys general in Illinois and Washington — backed by a coalition of those in 27 other states, who participated in a three-year investigation of student lending abuses — want those private loans forgiven.
In a pair of cases that could affect hundreds of thousands of borrowers, they have sued Navient. The lawsuits cover private subprime loans made from 2000 to 2009.
 How did a government student loan agency turn into a predatory loan vampire?
It got its start more than 30 years ago as a government-sponsored enterprise, collecting payments on loans that were backed by a federal guarantee. By the mid-2000s, Sallie Mae had become a for-profit, publicly traded company no longer tied to the government, although it still made most of its money by originating federally guaranteed student loans. [my bolding]
So now it has to make money, lots of it, for its investors. How? 
But the company also had a sideline in private loans. Those came with higher interest rates and fewer protections for borrowers than the federal loans. And if the borrowers stopped paying, Sallie Mae was stuck with the loss.
Private loans were often profitable for the company, but a portion of them — the riskiest part of Sallie Mae’s portfolio — were not. The company made subprime loans to students who would not otherwise qualify, including borrowers with poor credit who took out loans to attend schools with high dropout rates.
Those subprime loans were a bargaining chip, the government lawyers said, a tool Sallie Mae used to build relationships with schools so that the company could make more federal loans to their students. The federal loans were the real prize, because they came with a built-in safety net: If a borrower defaulted, the government would step in and reimburse the lender for most of its losses.
Sallie Mae could afford to absorb the losses from its private loan business as, essentially, a marketing cost of snagging more lucrative loans. In a 2007 internal note, quoted in Illinois’s lawsuit, Sallie Mae described its strategy of using subprime loans to “win school deals and secure F.F.E.L.P. and standard private volume,” a reference to the Federal Family Education Loan program that generated most of the company’s profits. [my bolding]
Defaults on one set of subprime loan products were between 50 and 92 percent every year from 2000 to 2007, according to Illinois’s lawsuit. Students did not know about the risk, the state said in its lawsuit, but “this fact was no secret to Sallie Mae.”
Those defaults did not discourage Sallie Mae, the lawsuits show. From 2000 to 2006, Sallie Mae increased the number of borrowers with one kind of troubled loan to 43,000 from 165, an increase of some 26,000 percent.[my bolding]
Read the whole piece in the New York Times.Trigger warning: this might elevate your blood pressure to dangerous levels.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Solicitation from another fake academic press: Sciedu edition

This is a new one---I am being solicited by Beall listed   (archived, for which we can be thankful) Sciedu Press on behalf of either (both?) its World Journal of Social Science and Studies in Asian Social Science, either to submit a manuscript, or to join its editorial board, or whatever. It is a first twice over, i) because I haven't been solicited to contribute to an Asian focused journal before (social science or otherwise) and ii) the email, from editorial assistant "Monica Anderson" starts off with a compliment about a two year old article of mine in a philosophy journal, which means that Sciedu bots are now scanning tables of contents to personalize their scam solicitations.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Another email from a fake academic journal: IJHSSR edition

Dr. Willard Nicholas, is at it again, soliciting papers for the fake academic publication, International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Review, published by the outfit RIPK )Research Institute for the progression of knowledge), soliciting papers in such areas as:
Humanities and Social Science: Humanities, History, Journalism and Mass Communication, Corporate Governance, Cross-Cultural Studies, Peace and Conflict, Library and Information Science, Psychology, Philosophy, Sociology, Women Studies, Religious Studies, Social Welfare, Anthropology, Linguistics, International Relations, Law, Development Studies, and so on.
Business and Economics: General Business Research, International Business and Economics, Business and Marketing, Economics, Financial Development, Accounting, Banking, Human Resources and so on.
Education and Management: Education, Gender Studies, Entrepreneurship Development, Library Science, Media Studies, Management, Tourism and Hospitality Management, Production/Operations Management, Organizational Behavior and Theory, Strategic Management Policy, Social Issues and Public Policy, Management Organization, Statistics and Econometrics, Personnel and Industrial Relations, Methodology, Political Science, Population Studies, Public Administration, Management Information Systems, Information Technology and so on.
How do you know this is a fake journal, you might be thinking? First, see the areas quoted above. Second, the email promises "acceptance notification' 5-7 days after manuscript submission. Third, while the putative journal has its own email address now, it also continues to use a hot mail address. Fourth, "Dr. Willard Nicholas" continues to be invisible to google.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Notes from the Trump Kakocracy: Ivanka edition

Even as the white working class languishes and dies, white trash kleptocrats prosper:
There’s one less mystery surrounding the Trump family: the identity of the landlord who rents to first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, top White House adviser Jared Kusher, has finally been revealed.
And the rent check goes to … a Chilean billionaire. And not just your run-of-the-mill Latin American magnate, but one who is mired in a legal battle with the U.S. government, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The identity of the owner of the Kalorama mansion that the Trump-Kushner family moved into this year had been obscured through a company, “Tracy D.C. Real Estate Inc.,” listed on the deed for the sale in December, according to Washington property records. But the Journal was able to locate the man behind the company: AndrĂ³nico Luksic belongs to one of Chile’s wealthiest families, the newspaper reports, and the U.S. branch of his company is suing the government for blocking its plan to run a copper-and-nickel mining operation adjacent to a Minnesota wilderness area.
A Luksic rep tells the Journal that the couple is paying “absolute market value” for the mansion,
Does this count as a foreign emolument, or just good old fashioned bribery to obtain a favorable outcome in the ongoing litigation?
Meanwhile, the invasion of the Trump/Kushner crew is driving neighbors nuts:
Residents of a posh Washington neighborhood say the Trump clan doesn't make for very good neighbors, hogging parking on an already crowded street and leaving trash bags rotting on the curb. A big part of the complaint: a huge security presence, with even a trip to the playground requiring three vans.
Neighbors of Trump, her husband Jared Kushner and their three children have groused that sidewalks have been closed, public parking overrun and that the family and their staff can't even be bothered to learn the trash pickup schedule outside their $5.5-million home.
"It has been a three-ring circus from the day that they've moved in," said Marietta Robinson, who lives across the street, speaking with The Associated Press. "They've completely ruined the neighborhood."
The house in the Kalorama neighborhood was bought in December by a company with ties to a Chilean billionaire. The company is renting it to Kushner and Trump, who moved in just after the inauguration of her father, President Donald Trump. Both work in the White House as advisers to the president.
And the Chilean billionaire who is undoubtedly* collecting a fair market rate from his tenants didn't manage to file the necessary paperwork:
Some in the neighborhood have also complained about the family's rental arrangement. The company that owns the house didn't obtain a rental license for two months, securing one just this week after it was warned by city regulators.
*insert sarcasm indicator 

The dying of the white working class

 “Ultimately, we see our story as about the collapse of the white, high school educated, working class after its heyday in the 1970s, and the pathologies that accompany that decline,” they write.
This is from a new study  by Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton which reaffirms the findings of their 2015 research: the working class white people are dying younger. This time, the researchers see a connection between these deaths and the disappearance of a socio-economic role of a working class.
The alarming fact isn't just that middle-aged whites are dying faster, but also that mortality rates have been dramatically declining in nearly every other rich country. The United States is getting left behind.
In the last 15 years, a chasm opened up between middle aged whites in America and citizens of European countries like France, Germany and the United Kingdom. While white death rates in America rose slightly, death rates in those other countries continued to plummet. In comparison to what happened in Europe, the situation for American whites starts looks much more dire — and it's a bigger problem than opioids or suicides can explain. It's not just about what went wrong in America, but what stopped going right.
Fifteen years ago, middle-aged whites in the United States were neck and neck with their German counterparts. Now, middle-aged white Americans are 45 percent more likely to die than middle-aged Germans.
As Case and Deaton show, the gap in mortality between white middle-aged Americans and middle-aged Germans is about 125 deaths per 100,000 people now. Every year, of 100,000 Germans between the ages of 45 and 54, about 285 die. In the United States, it's more than 410.
Out of those 125 additional American deaths, only about 40 might be explained by the spike in deadly drug use, drinking and suicides. And the rest? It’s hard to say. In their latest paper, Case and Deaton say that heart disease is part of the problem. While other countries have cut down heart disease deaths by over 40 percent in the past 15 years, heart disease remains a significant killer for white middle-aged Americans.
There’s still much left unexplained, but the latest data tell a larger — and more troubling — story. Most of the increase in white deaths is concentrated among those who never finished college. These are the same people who have been pummeled by the economy in recent decades. It’s gotten more difficult for them to find jobs, and what jobs they do come across nowadays don’t pay as well.
Yet, it's not entirely a matter of income either. Some of these same economic trends — driven by globalization and automation — afflicted countries like the U.K. and Germany, where the death rate has been dropping. Besides, according to a Washington Post analysis of recent Census Bureau data, white American men without a college degree still earn 36 percent more than their black counterparts. But the death rate among less-educated black Americans has actually been decreasing. In recent years, the two groups have converged — they are dying at about the same rate — even though white Americans still earn more

Friday, March 24, 2017

wtf philosophy: Searle edition

Another major figure in philosophy shames himself, and the discipline (from IHE)
a former research assistant is suing the University of California for failing to properly address her report of misconduct against a star philosopher on the Berkeley campus.
The lawsuit, filed this week in a county court, alleges that John R. Searle, Willis S. and Marion Slusser Professor Emeritus of the Philosophy of Mind and Language, forced himself on and groped the assistant, then continued to harass her until she was summarily terminated. The assistant allegedly reported the initial incident and other behaviors to the director of the John Searle Center for Social Ontology, where she was working, but says that employees sought to protect Searle instead.
Searle and an employee named in the complaint and have not responded to the allegations, either to Inside Higher Ed or local reporters covering the story. The university said in a statement late Thursday that while it can't comment on individual ongoing cases, "we want to be certain that the campus community is aware of the care we take in handling such cases."
Inside Higher Ed does not typically name alleged victims of sexual misconduct, but the plaintiff, Joanna Ong, has been public about her case. Ong, a 2014 graduate of Berkeley, began working at the center after taking a class with Searle during her undergraduate studies and establishing a mentor-style relationship with Searle’s graduate student instructor at the time. More precisely, Ong wanted experience working in academe before entering graduate school, and her mentor, who had since been named director of Searle’s center, allegedly offered her a $1,000-per-month position as a research associate. Searle himself offered Ong an additional $3,000 per month to cover her living expenses, according to the complaint.
Ong says the job -- mostly clerical work but always in close quarters with Searle -- went well for a week. Searle in that time talked with her about her interest in philosophy and reassured her that her living costs and other needs during graduate school (which she plans to begin this fall) would be taken care of, urging that they have a relationship based on -- in his words -- "total trust," according to the complaint.
After a week, in July 2016, Searle allegedly assaulted Ong in his office, locking his door and groping her. He slid his hands down her back to her buttocks and told Ong that they would be “lovers,” that he had an “emotional commitment to making her a public intellectual,” and that he was “going to love her for a long time,” the lawsuit says.
Ong says she was shocked and immediately rejected his advances by saying that her interest in him was intellectual and that she would not be his lover. Searle allegedly apologized and told her to “forget it.”
The professor paid Ong $3,000 for her first month of work, as agreed, according to the complaint, and allegedly told her to keep working while he went on vacation. After he left, Ong says she reported the assault to the Searle Center director, Jennifer Hudin; Hudin allegedly told her that she’d protect her from Searle’s advances, and that he was known to have sexual relationships with students and others “in exchange for academic, financial or other benefits.” She didn’t tell Ong to report her concerns to university officials, however, according to the complaint.
Ong’s work environment became increasingly “hostile and awkward” when Searle returned from vacation, she says, as Searle allegedly acted like nothing had happened between them and cut her pay essentially in half by beginning to pay her an hourly rate of $15 with no notice or stated reason.
Searle also behaved inappropriately around Ong, she says, asking her to log on to a website called Sugar Baby, Sugar Daddy, watching internet pornography in front of her, and responding to a comment about American imperialism like this: “Oh boy, that sounds great, honey! Let’s go to bed and do that right now.” (Ong, who is a Asian-American, believes that was a reference to her race.)
In early September, Ong reported to Hudin what was happening, and complained about her pay cut. Hudin allegedly said she’d talk to Searle, but later said she couldn’t address the issues with “upper management” out of respect and loyalty for Searle, and a need to "protect" him.
Later that month, Hudin alleged told Ong her services were no longer needed at the center, even though she’d allegedly left a higher-paying job in San Francisco to work at Berkeley.
Ong’s accusing the university system’s Board of Regents and Searle of quid pro quo sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation and wrongful termination. She’s suing Searle individually for assault, seeking a trial by jury and unspecified damages.
BuzzFeed originally reported Ong’s story, writing that Searle abruptly stopped teaching undergraduates earlier this month with the university citing “personal reasons.” A university spokesperson declined to provide any additional information Thursday, including whether he is still in contact with graduate students.
This case may remind you, as it does me, of the Pogge  allegations, and the McGinn  mess. Now please excuse me while I take a shower. Maybe two.

(Update): More distressing details here.