Friday, August 18, 2017

Trump agonistes

Is 'dweeb' still a word? If not, it should be, because it perfectly characterizes this Martin Shkreli soul mate. At TNR, Eric Armstrong deftly skewers this putz, Julius Krein, and it is worth reading:

Krein arrived on the national political scene earlier this year when he founded American Affairs, a quarterly journal designed to give bigots intellectual cover for supporting Trump. The young Harvard grad was an irresistible figure, depicted as the rare millennial enfant terrible who, with a precocious smirk, was willing to kick against the pricks. He embarked on a lengthy media blitz, promoting the virtues of Trumpian politics on television, radio, and in print.
But that’s all over now. After Trump defended neo-Nazis in the wake of deadly clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, Krein calculated that the time for penance had finally come. He wrote a sober reversal of his position in The New York Times on Thursday, saying that the president has “betrayed the foundations of our common citizenship” and that his actions are “jeopardizing any prospect of enacting an agenda that might restore the promise of American life.”
Fair enough. But then Krein launches into a labored justification for why he ever supported Trump in the first place:
He talked about the issue of widening income inequality—almost unheard of for a Republican candidate—and didn’t pretend that simply cutting taxes or shrinking government would solve the problem.
At no point did Trump, a billionaire with a persistent reputation for shortchanging less powerful business partners, ever offer a single detail about how he planned to tackle inequality. And even a cursory knowledge of Trump the real estate magnate would have put this hope to rest.
He criticized corporations for offshoring jobs...
While openly doing it himself.

Mendacious, fact-challenged, logic impaired, pretentious, and arrogant to the nth degree---I've had students like this, and the main reason they end up graduating is because no one on the faculty wants to have them in class any more.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Invitation to another fake academic conference in Hawaii

Why, yes, a vacation in Hawaii this coming January sounds lovely. And all I have to do to arrange it is to pretend to write a paper to pretend to present at a pretend conference in Honolulu, and to pretend to my college that this is a legitimate international meeting of scholars and an appropriate venue for my work, so that my trip to Hawaii is paid for by the tuition dollars of my students.

No, despite the lure of tropical beaches in the dead of a northeastern winter, I think I will delete the most recent HUIC invitation to "The 2018 January Hawaii University International Conferences (HUIC) Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences & Education 7th Annual Conference welcomes and invites papers (in English only) from all areas of Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences & Education." When I finally get to Hawaii, I'll go honestly.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Cabell's new "blacklist"

There's a new predatory journal blacklist from Cabell. Unlike Beall's list, which was maintained and updated in his spare time,  Cabell's has staff dedicated to the research and review process such a list reequires. The downside is that Cabell's is a proprietary product---you have to pay for it. Presumably, its chief consumers will be university libraries.Read the review of the product by Rick Anderson.

Notes from the kakocracy: fascist edition

Every woman adores a Fascist,   
The boot in the face, the brute   
Brute heart of a brute like you.
(Sylvia Plath, "Daddy") 

Plath was taking liberties with the truth for poetic effect---it is not true that every woman adores a Fascist, but it is also true that not just women adore Fascists. Certainly too many people currently are fans of fascists around the world---in the Phillipines, Duterte; in Russia, Putin; and at home in the US, Trump. A few weeks ago, I found myself rereading Arendt, but while her observations are acute, it seems to me that they are too wedded to the Stalin/Hitler phenomena to explain what we currently see. Add 90 years of history, sub-nationalist movements, nuclear proliferation, contemporary technology, social media, and an author with Arendt's theoretical sophistication and social/political perception and we might get a new account of contemporary fascist movements and the people who flock to them. I hope we, and intellectual freedom and integrity, survive long enough for such a book to be written, and that we get to read it. But I am not taking any bets.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The farce awakens: another fake academic publishing sting

Stung again: at least four fake science journals (including one published by our recent friend MedCrave) accepted a spoof paper, based on Star Wars. Neuroskeptic, the 'author' writes:
A number of so-called scientific journals have accepted a Star Wars-themed spoof paper. The manuscript is an absurd mess of factual errors, plagiarism and movie quotes. I know because I wrote it.
Inspired by previous publishing “stings”, I wanted to test whether ‘predatory‘ journals would publish an obviously absurd paper. So I created a spoof manuscript about “midi-chlorians” – the fictional entities which live inside cells and give Jedi their powers in Star Wars. I filled it with other references to the galaxy far, far away, and submitted it to nine journals under the names of Dr Lucas McGeorge and Dr Annette Kin.

Four, three of which must be desperate for content, bit:
 The American Journal of Medical and Biological Research (SciEP) accepted the paper, but asked for a $360 fee, which I didn’t pay. Amazingly, three other journals not only accepted but actually published the spoof. Here’s the paper from the International Journal of Molecular Biology: Open Access (MedCrave), Austin Journal of Pharmacology and Therapeutics (Austin) and American Research Journal of Biosciences (ARJ) I hadn’t expected this, as all those journals charge publication fees, but I never paid them a penny.
The 'author' ripped material from Wikipedia and replaced 'mitochondria' with 'midi-chlorians' in the text, and added other star wars themed touches.
  • “Beyond supplying cellular energy, midichloria perform functions such as Force sensitivity…”
  • “Involved in ATP production is the citric acid cycle, also referred to as the Kyloren cycle after its discoverer”
  • “Midi-chlorians are microscopic life-forms that reside in all living cells – without the midi-chlorians, life couldn’t exist, and we’d have no knowledge of the force. Midichlorial disorders often erupt as brain diseases, such as autism.”
And the results?
Credit where credit’s due, a number of journals rejected the paper: Journal of Translational Science (OAText); Advances in Medicine (Hindawi); Biochemistry & Physiology: Open Access (OMICS).
Two journals requested me to revise and resubmit the manuscript. At JSM Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (JSciMedCentral) both of the two peer reviewers spotted and seemingly enjoyed the Star Wars spoof, with one commenting that “The authors have neglected to add the following references: Lucas et al., 1977, Palpatine et al., 1980, and Calrissian et al., 1983”. Despite this, the journal asked me to revise and resubmit.
At the Journal of Molecular Biology and Techniques (Elyns Group), the two peer reviewers didn’t seem to get the joke, but recommended some changes such as reverting “midichlorians” back to “mitochondria.”
Finally, I should note that as a bonus, “Dr Lucas McGeorge” was sent an unsolicited invitation to serve on the editorial board of this journal. (bolding mine)

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.