Friday, July 7, 2017

Trump's will to power

James Fallows has a perceptive take on Trump's speech yesterday in Poland.
Trump gave grace-note nods to goals of liberty and free expression. Mainly, though, he spoke not about an expanded us but instead about us and them. He spoke repeatedly about our “heritage,” our “blood,” our “civilization,” our “ancestors” and “families,” our “will” and “way of life.” Every one of these of course has perfectly noble connotations. But combined and in practice, they amount to the way the Japanese nationalists of the early 20th century onward spoke, about the purity of “we Japanese” and the need to stick together as a tribe. They were the way Mussolini spoke, glorifying the Roman heritage—but again in a tribal sense, to elevate 20th century Italians as a group, rather than in John F. Kennedy’s allusion to a system of rules that could include outsiders as civis romanus as well. They are the way French nationalists supporting Marine LePen speak now, and Nigel Farage’s pro-Brexit forces in the U.K., and “alt-right” activists in the United States, and of course the Breitbart empire under presidential counselor Steve Bannon. They rest on basic distinctions between us and them as peoples—that is, as tribes—rather than as the contending ideas and systems that presidents from our first to our 44th had emphasized.
Fallows gives particular attention to these passages:
We must work together to confront forces, whether they come from inside or out, from the South or the East, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are. (Applause.)
If left unchecked, these forces will undermine our courage, sap our spirit, and weaken our will to defend ourselves and our societies.
But just as our adversaries and enemies of the past learned here in Poland, we know that these forces, too, are doomed to fail if we want them to fail. And we do, indeed, want them to fail. (Applause.)
We have to remember that our defense is not just a commitment of money, it is a commitment of will. Because as the Polish experience reminds us, the defense of the West ultimately rests not only on means but also on the will of its people to prevail and be successful and get what you have to have.
The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?
And, the closing words of the speech:
Just as Poland could not be broken, I declare today for the world to hear that the West will never, ever be broken. Our values will prevail. Our people will thrive. And our civilization will triumph.
Fallows muses:
Has Donald Trump ever heard of Leni Riefenstahl? Would he recognize an allusion to Triumph of the Will? It’s possible—when Errol Morris interviewed him 15 years ago, Trump seemed familiar with details of Citizen Kane, even though he had an idiosyncratic view of the film’s meaning.
But there is no doubt that Steve Bannon has heard of Reifenstahl, and I’d imagine Steve Miller too. And they cannot fail to have foreseen how it would sound, in a Europe that also remembers connotations of national “will,” to have an American president say this, with emphasis as delivered:
Let's cut to the chase: the cult of the will to power has taken up residence in the White House, and we American taxpayers are paying the salaries of these fascists. Whether Bannon or Miller was channeling Riefenstahl, or Mein Kampf, or Nietzsche, or some alt-right reddit agglomeration of all three, Fallows' unease is on target. This is not the speech of an American president. This is the speech of a fuhrer wannabe.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Trump's Minions

 In the Washington Post, Greg Sargent writes:
 "Trump is trying to obliterate the very possibility of agreement on the free press’ legitimate institutional role in our democracy — indeed, he’s trying to obliterate the possibility of shared agreement on reality itself.  
In other words, the entire point is the assertion and demonstration of the power to say what reality is in contradiction of what is empirically, demonstrably true. And he’s granting his supporters a stake in that power. For Trump, everything and everyone can be broken down into winners and losers, in which the former prevail at the expense of the latter."
This is more than gaslighting---manipulating situations and language to convince people that they are mistaken about reality as they are experiencing it. In the gaslighting scenario, the audience becomes a powerless victim, no longer sure of its own grasp of reality. In Sargent's analysis, the audience, Trump's minions, granted a stake in the power to deny facts, are themselves empowered to deny or affirm any claims about reality they wish, using whatever standards of evidence they choose. This might point to Trump's political demise; for whatever reason, the mob that supports him and his fake reality today might opt for a different fake reality tomorrow: they might change the channel to a different 'reality' show, starring someone else. What the malignant narcissist Trump will do in that situation is hard, or rather, painful, to imagine.

Monday, June 26, 2017

More spam from scam journals: Isaac edition

Isaac Scientific Publishing is back with fresh spam, this time touting a fake academic journal of soil science (really? soil science? where do these outfits get their mailing lists from?) They seem to be hq'ed or at least have a mailing address in Hong Kong, where they also purport to be registered (and not Korea---my bad). But for bargain hunters, Isaac is offering a discount deal:
To attract more high quality papers, we will offer favorable discounts for multiple submissions of the same author:
For the second submission, you will enjoy 10% off.
For the third and more submissions, you will enjoy 20% off.

Besides, a valid recommended paper (whose author mentions your name after submission) will bring you an extra 10% off coupon, and this recommended paper will enjoy 10% off.
Sounds pretty high quality to me.

email from fake journals: medcrave spams again

I don't post most of the fake journal spam solicitations I find in my inbox, but I couldn't pass up sharing this one, the second from 'Medcrave' and its "Sociology International Journal"in recent months.
Hope this mail finds you well!
It is our immense pleasure to invite you as an Editorial Board member for Sociology International Journal.
MedCrave in its bag having 2000+ Open Access quality articles and more than 5000 EB has come about  in the short period by providing DOI to articles from Cross Ref and indexing in repositories like ICMJE & Pubs Hub, that adds value to the quality work published and helps in easy access throughout the globe.
Based upon your eminence and expertise, we would like to have your profile in our Journal Editorial board. In fact presence of renowned people like you will add visibility towards our Journal and certainly many researchers will cite your profile.
For editor roles and responsibilities, please click here
Kindly send us your CV, Biography, Research Interest & Recent portrait photograph.
Do not hesitate to contact us for any queries.
We await your positive response.
Best Regards,
Levi Martin
Editorial Office-MedCrave Group
Sociology International Journal
The language in this second spam solicitation is identical to the one from May, except this time the subject heading was "Encourage with your support". I kind of miss "Honorable editor".

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Beall speaks

Jeffrey Beall, he of the late and much missed Beall's list, explains himself:
In January 2012, I launched a new blog titled Scholarly Open Access that listed predatory publishers and journals and offered critical commentary on scholarly open-access publishing. In January 2017, facing intense pressure from my employer, the University of Colorado Denver, and fearing for my job, I shut down the blog and removed all its content from the blog platform. In the five years I authored and published the blog, I had an amazing learning experience. I met and corresponded with hundreds of brilliant scholars and scholarly publishing industry executives from all over the world. I learned more about scholarly publishing than I ever imagined I would, about the pressure for researchers to publish, about academic evaluation, and about peer review.
In the rest of this piece, he provides his own account of the cancer eating away at scholarly publishing, and in his view, it isn't profit driven oligopolist publishing houses, at least, not at first:
In the 1980s and 1990s, many academic libraries in North America carried out journal subscription cancellation projects. They were pressured to cancel journals because subscription prices had gone up and library budgets had decreased. The subscription prices increased in North America for several reasons. First, as the baby-boomer generation reached the age where many were finishing their PhDs and entering tenure track, journals began to publish more articles to accommodate the increase in the amount of research the boomers were carrying out. In some cases, bi-annual journals became quarterlies, and quarterlies became monthlies – all to accommodate the increase in the number of research articles being submitted for publication. Naturally, publishing more costs more, and this was especially true in the print environment of the early 1990s. A contemporary discussion of some of the causes of serial price increases is provided by Farrell (1).
There were two other factors that contributed to price increases in subscriptions in North American academic libraries. One was the weak American and Canadian dollars in the late 1990s, and the practice of many larger academic libraries to collect journals from Europe, where currencies were strong at the time. The other was the creation of new fields of study, a phenomenon that paralleled the arrival of the baby boomers into higher education faculty positions. New fields such as nanomaterials and genomics were born, and they spawned many new journals.
Unfortunately, few understood all these reasons for journal price increases. Most took the politically-correct, intellectual shortcut of blaming journal price increases directly – and only – on the publishers, ignoring the true causes.
Ignoring what he takes to be the true drivers of price increases led to the 'open access/author pays' movement:
Several prominent “open access statements” were drafted by elite, self-selected committees of hero-wannabes, people whose careers were safely built on the foundation of articles published in subscription journals. Open-access repositories were formed, costing academic libraries huge sums of money in expensive software licensing costs, professional and support staff positions to manage them, and other, additional costs, yet faculty largely ignored their library-managed repositories, despite the fact that they could enjoy the dual-advantage of publishing in a respected, subscription journal and also have their work made open-access in the repository – or at least a post-print counterpart of it. Or was green open access really the great advantage its backer claimed it was?
And this movement invited the predatory open access/author pays fake academic publishing industry into the academy:
And then predatory journals, those using the author-pays model just for their own profit, started to appear (2). I first noticed them in 2008 and 2009, when I received spam emails soliciting me to submit to broad-scoped, newly-launched library science journals I had never heard of before. I began to print out the solicitations as I received them, and as an academic librarian, it was natural for me to want to organize this new information and share it. I published my first list of predatory publishers on the Posterous blog platform (3). The list was informal and only had a few entries. For borderline cases, I had, for a time, a second list called the “Watchlist,” but it soon became clear to those using the list that a publisher’s inclusion on the Watchlist was essentially the same as being on the main list.
What I learned from predatory publishers is that they consider money far more important than business ethics, research ethics, and publishing ethics and that these three pillars of scholarly publishing are easily sacrificed for profit. Soon after they first appeared, predatory publishers and journals became a godsend both for authors needing easy publishing outlets and sketchy entrepreneurs wanting to make easy money with little upfront investment.
The whole piece is worth reading, even if you disagree with his take (as I do, without seeing more evidence in support of his view) on the price problem of genuine academic publishers. But Jeffrey, please explain why your essay appears in Biochemia Medica, the journal of the Croatian Society of Medical Biochemistry and Laboratory Medicine.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

DIY abortion in Glamour

Hard to believe that this article is from Glamour magazine, but so it is, and given the escalating fear of loss of abortion options its readership is experiencing, it makes sense for it to publish this piece on DIY abortions:

For years pro-choice advocates have worried about what might happen if Roe v. Wade were overturned—whether women wanting to end their pregnancies would resort to the back-alley doctors and coat hangers of past eras. What we’ve learned is that it didn’t take such a monumental legal flip-flop to make that a real possibility: In the past five years, highly restrictive Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) state laws have shut down at least 162 clinics or stopped them from terminating pregnancies, and made both surgical and medical abortions incredibly expensive and time-consuming in many areas. As a result, some women are taking matters into their own hands, a phenomenon that, experts say, will only become more common if the Supreme Court upholds Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt when the ruling is handed down this summer. It’s considered the most important reproductive-rights case in more than 20 years because it could decide how far states can go to control abortion care.
The first alarm bells of a self-induced-­abortion trend went off late last year, when a Texas survey suggested that up to 240,000 women in that state alone had, at some point in their reproductive years, tried to end their own pregnancies. The findings don’t surprise Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, who challenged the Texas law now before the court. (The law requires that abortion providers have hospital-admitting privileges and clinics be ambulatory surgical centers; she’ll have to close all but one of her clinics in that state if she loses the case.) “People call us and ask, ‘Can you tell me how to do my own abortion?’ ” she says. “When we tell them we can’t, they say, ‘How about if I tell you what’s in my medicine cabinet and under the sink?’ ”And it’s not just Texas. Glamour surveyed 15 providers in more than 10 states, most of whom said they knew of women trying to self-induce abortions; five had seen patients who had attempted it. “Our hotline staff regularly hears from women who have tried and failed to terminate their own pregnancies,” says Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, which helps thousands of women a year obtain legal abortions. And if Google reveals what we’re really up to, consider this: Last year Americans entered at least 700,000 searches for variations of the phrase “how to self-abort,” according to Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, Ph.D., an economist in New York City who saw a surge in such queries when TRAP laws started getting passed in 2011. “The search data shows an unambiguous and disturbing interest in DIY abortion in parts of the U.S. today,” he says, “and it’s highest in the places where it’s most difficult to get an abortion.”
Lots of people are resorting to black market misoprostol, a drug which induces contractions:

Many women use misoprostol, which they buy online or at flea markets and bodegas. “I saw American women purchasing it across the border in Mexico,” says filmmaker Dawn Porter, whose new abortion documentary, Trapped, will air on most PBS stations on June 20. “It’s incredibly easy to buy.” Women also get the pills through an underground network of midwives, doulas, and activists in this country. I spoke to 10 such activists, who told me that together they’ve helped at least 275 women perform abortions at home. “If I got caught for this stuff, I could be facing 25 years to life,” admitted one. “I have a seven-year-old. Going to jail is a scary thought. But I can’t just sit around and wait for things to change.”
Just to be clear, misoprostol is a 100 percent legal and approved drug when prescribed by a doctor; it’s used to prevent ulcers as well as to induce abortion. For the latter, it’s almost always given with a second drug, mifepristone, commonly known as RU-486. In this two-drug regimen, called a “medical abortion,” a woman receives a dose of RU-486 in an office or clinic; the drug helps cause the pregnancy to detach from the uterine lining. Miso, usually taken later at home, then triggers contractions that expel the tissue. Colleen McNicholas, D.O., a provider at Planned Parenthood in St. Louis, the only abortion clinic left in Missouri, and an assistant professor at Washington University, tells her patients they should expect to soak at most two maxipads an hour for a couple of hours. “The heavy bleeding doesn’t last very long,” she says, “but it can be something like a period for a couple of weeks.” The protocol is up to 97 percent effective when taken within 10 weeks after the beginning of a patient’s last period, and more than a third of women who get an abortion in the first nine weeks of a pregnancy now choose this method over a surgical procedure.When a woman attempts to end a pregnancy on her own, though, she typically uses only miso. The reason: RU-486 is so strictly regulated that a doctor must watch the patient take it—the drug never leaves the clinic—making it almost impossible to get on the black market. Miso, which experts agree is largely safe, is easier to obtain (and a lot cheaper, at as little as $2 a pill). But the drug on its own is only about 80 percent effective, meaning that in one out of five cases the pregnancy continues—and if carried to term, there’s an elevated risk of birth defects.
This is not without risk, including criminal liability:
Beyond any possible health risks of these at-home methods, there are legal ones: According to the Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice (CRRJ), at least 17 women have already been arrested for allegedly trying to perform their own abortion or helping someone do so. (In one well-known case, a Pennsylvania mother, Jennifer Whalen, was sent to jail after buying pills online for her daughter.) Some experts say that’s just wrong. CRRJ is working to decriminalize home abortions, and others argue that taking misoprostol at home is actually a practical solution for women with little access to care, a position shared by the World Health Organization.
If the source of miso is known, “I don’t actually think [women taking it on their own] is that risky,” says Dr. McNicholas. While using misoprostol alone is not optimal, “many treatments in medicine are far less than 80 percent effective,” including drugs for asthma, migraines, and Alzheimer’s, points out Arthur Caplan, Ph.D., a medical ethicist at the New York University School of Medicine. “With the politics of abortion, to me, this is the road you’re going to have to travel.” Some activists even view at-home abortions as a form of female empowerment: Francine Coeytaux, a principal investigator at the Public Health Institute in Los Angeles advocates for misoprostol to be available over the counter. Her new website is a clearinghouse on self-abortion “because women can feel very alone and scared,” she says.
Women on web is a valuable resource, so is plan c.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Notes from the Kakocracy: Ivanka whines

The whining of the privileged:
Ivanka Trump on Monday morning told the hosts of “Fox and Friends” that she wasn’t expecting the “level of viciousness” she has experienced since her father was elected president.
Darling, neither did we. We didn't expect the extent of the Trump kakocracy: the wanton plunder of public resources, the auction of foreign policy and degradation of public offices, the trashing of the US constitution. We had no idea just how pathologically corrupt and corrupting your family could be, and how destructive.

So deal with it, princess.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Stubblefield conviction overturned

Wow. Just wow.
Former Rutgers-Newark professor Anna Stubblefield, who was accused of sexually assaulting a disabled man who was unable to speak, has had her convictions overturned after an appellate court determined she did not get a fair trial.
The court ordered that Stubblefield get another trial overseen by a new judge.
The decision was handed down Friday, overturning Stubblefield's two 2015 convictions for first-degree aggravated sexual assault. During the trial, the jury concluded that Stubblefield, then a 39-years-old philosophy professor, had sexually assaulted a then-29-year-old man known only as D.J. in 2011. The man had cerebral palsy and was unable to speak apart from making noises. Psychologists determined that D.J. couldn't consent to sex because he was mentally impaired.
During the trial, Stubblefield's lawyers maintained that she and D.J. fell in love and that she was able to communicate with him through a typing method called "facilitated communication."
Following the conviction, Stubblefield was sentenced to two consecutive 12-year terms in prison and lifetime parole supervision.
I am all for overturning the cruel and pointless sentence Stubblefield was subjected to, but I fervently hope that the appellate decision does not resurrect claims of legitimacy of facilitated communication. It has been thoroughly discredited as a method that allows the non verbal to communicate in their own voice, and worse, it has done massive harm to some of those subjected to it and their families, both of which was vividly shown to a general audience by a Frontline episode from 1993(!). Here it is: