Thursday, March 22, 2018

Stubblefield pleads guilty

Emerging from my long winter's nap to see a major new development in the Stubblefield case:
Former Rutgers-Newark professor Anna Stubblefield admitted Monday that she had criminal sexual contact with a disabled man who was unable to speak.
Her guilty plea in state Superior Court in Newark comes after years of maintaining that she and D.J., a man with cerebral palsy, were able to communicate and had fallen in love.
Stubblefield, 48, pleaded guilty to third-degree aggravated criminal sexual contact as part of an agreement under which the Essex County Prosecutor's Office will recommend a four-year prison sentence.
In her plea allocution, Stubblefield -- dressed in a dark skirt and cardigan -- admitted she should have known D.J. was legally unable to consent.
"What's the highest level of education you've achieved," Judge John Zunic asked her, as he went through a checklist of questions to ensure Stubblefield was making a fully informed decision.
"Doctoral degree," she said.
Stubblefield and her attorney, James Patton, had no comment Monday after the plea hearing.
She was convicted of aggravated sexual assault in a 2015 trial and sentenced to 12 years in prison, but an appellate court reversed the conviction, ruling the trial judge should have allowed expert testimony about a controversial communication technique Stubblefield said D.J. used to express consent.
Records show Stubblefield served just under a year and six months of that sentence at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Hunterdon County before she was released from custody in July in advance of her second trial.
Preparations for that trial were underway when she accepted the plea deal that was finalized Monday.
Assistant Prosecutor Eric Plant, who handled the original case and again represented the state at Monday's plea hearing, indicated Stubblefield could receive credit for time already served under the previous sentence.

She'll be (re)sentenced May 7. 

This is the better outcome of this moral dumpster fire of a case of delusion, rationalization and exploitation of another human being, the exploitation being not simply sexual (which it was) but also acting on the fantasy of being DJ's voice. If I recall correctly, the trial record showed that DJ expressed his discomfort with the sexual encounters by 'scooting' away from Stubblefield, among other non-verbal cues. On the pretense that her voice was his, a pretense she should have known was false, Stubblefield overrode D.J.'s non-verbal methods of expressing himself, silencing him.


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Spam solicitation from another fake academic publisher: MedWin edition

Perhaps I should be miffed that I have not gotten the spam solicitation a philosopher friend found in his in box the other day, from a Beall listed outfit called MedWin publishing, inviting him to contribute, or indeed, be an editorial board member of its fake academic publication, Journal of Human Anatomy (which, oddly, MedWin abbreviates as JHUA). Perhaps my spam from Kelly Theresa, its Assistant Managing Editor is forthcoming. But I am already preparing my manuscript submission, entitled "Shin Bone Connected to the Knee Bone". Abstract below:

Toe bone connected to the foot bone (1)

Foot bone connected to the heel bone

Heel bone connected to the ankle bone
Ankle bone connected to the shin bone
Shin bone connected to the knee bone
Knee bone connected to the thigh bone
Thigh bone connected to the hip bone
Hip bone connected to the back bone
Back bone connected to the shoulder bone
Shoulder bone connected to the neck bone
Neck bone connected to the head bone


(1) Now hear the word of the lord

Friday, January 26, 2018

I love the smell of bullshit in the morning

Question: Is higher education in the US suffocating in bullshit? 
Response: Do bears shit in the woods?

In the Chronicle, Christian Smith lists the ways; here are some:

BS is the shifting of the "burden" of teaching undergraduate courses from traditional tenure-track faculty to miscellaneous, often-underpaid adjunct faculty and graduate students.
BS is states pounding their chests over their great public universities even while their legislatures cut higher-education budgets year after year after year.
BS is the fantasy that education worthy of the name can be accomplished online through "distance learning."
BS is the institutional reward system that coerces graduate students and faculty to "get published" as soon and as much as possible, rather than to take the time to mature intellectually and produce scholarship of real importance — leading to a raft of books and articles that contribute little to our knowledge about human concerns that matter.
BS is third-tier universities offering mediocre graduate programs to train second-rate Ph.D. students for jobs that do not exist, whose real function is to provide faculty with graduate RAs and to justify the title of "university."
BS is undergraduate "core" curricula that are actually not core course systems but loose sets of distribution requirements, representing uneasy truces between turf-protecting divisions and departments intent on keeping their classes full, which students typically then come to view as impositions to "get out of the way."
Certainly, the destruction of our educational institutions is not limited to these shores; the UK has been systematically dismantling its academies for years, and I suspect that we can find this death by bullshit at university systems around the world.

Is this a good thing? It depends on how much you enjoy the fragrance of ordure.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Darwin award nominee

Sometimes I wonder whether Freud was right about thanatos:
Last year, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Doug Evans brought us the Juicero machine, a $400 gadget designed solely to squeeze eight ounces of liquid from proprietary bags of fruits and vegetables, which went for $5 to $8 apiece. Though the cold-pressed juice company initially wrung millions from investors, its profits ran dry last fall after journalists at Bloomberg revealed that the pricy pouch-pressing machine was, in fact, unnecessary. The journalists simply squeezed juice out of the bags by hand.
But this didn’t crush Evans. He immediately plunged into a new—and yet somehow even more dubious—beverage trend: “raw” water.
The term refers to unfiltered, untreated, unsterilized water collected from natural springs. In the ten days following Juicero’s collapse, Evans underwent a cleanse, drinking only raw water from a company called Live Water, according to The New York Times. “I haven’t tasted tap water in a long time,” he told the Times. And Evans isn’t alone; he’s a prominent member of a growing movement to “get off the water grid,” the paper reports.
Members are taking up the unrefined drink due to both concern for the quality of tap water and the perceived benefits of drinking water in a natural state. Raw water enthusiasts are wary of the potential for contaminants in municipal water, such as traces of unfilterable pharmaceuticals and lead from plumbing. Some are concerned by harmless additives in tap water, such as disinfectants and fluoride, which effectively reduces tooth decay. Moreover, many believe that drinking “living” water that’s organically laden with minerals, bacteria, and other “natural” compounds has health benefits, such as boosting “energy” and “peacefulness.”
Other benefits: cholera, typhoid fever, E.coli.
Natural water sources are vulnerable to all manner of natural pathogens. These include any bacteria, viruses, and parasites normally found in water or shed from nearby flora and fauna, such as Legionella and Giardia lamblia. They also can easily pick up environmental contaminants and naturally occurring hazards such as radiation from certain mineral deposits. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA has set standards and regulations for 90 different contaminants in tap water, including microorganisms, disinfectants, and radionuclides. And for bottled water, the Food and Drug Administration has set standards and can inspect bottling facilities. But such assurances aren’t in place for scouted spring water.
For its part, Live Water posted on its website a water quality report from an analysis conducted in 2015. The analysis looked at many contaminants but doesn’t appear to cover everything that the EPA monitors. For instance, there’s no mention of testing for pathogens such as Legionella and Giardia.
Drink up, bros.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Last fake academic journal spam of the year---maybe?

After a silence of several years, what shows up in my inbox but  another spam email from the fake academic journal International Journal of Education and Social Science, published by the fake academic publisher Research Institute for Progression of Knowledge (RIPK), this one signed warmly, from Dr. George Branner Jr..DH Kaye, at Flaky Academic Journals has done some research on this operation, for which many thanks.

On the subjection of women

Is this a nothing or a something? I can't tell:
Police in Iran’s capital said Thursday they will no longer arrest women for failing to observe the Islamic dress code in place since the 1979 revolution.
The announcement signaled an easing of punishments for violating the country’s conservative dress code, as called for by the young and reform-minded Iranians who helped re-elect President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, earlier this year.
But hard-liners opposed to easing such rules still dominate Iran’s security forces and judiciary, so it was unclear whether the change would be fully implemented.
“Those who do not observe the Islamic dress code will no longer be taken to detention centers, nor will judicial cases be filed against them.” Tehran police chief Gen. Hossein Rahimi was quoted as saying by the reformist daily Sharq.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency said violators will instead be made to attend classes given by police. It said repeat offenders could still be subject to legal action, and the dress code remains in place outside the capital.
And this is happening in the context of (slight, very slight) easing up on the restrictions on women in Saudi Arabia. I don't know whether the New York Times is over-hyping this, though.
Now Iran and Saudi Arabia, the archrivals of the Middle East, are competing in a surprising new category: gender equality.
They appear to be vying over who can be quicker to overhaul their repressive rules for women.
In Saudi Arabia, one of the most restrictive countries for women, the authorities this week allowed female contestants at an international chess tournament to play without the full-body garb known as an abaya. That decision is the latest in a string of liberalizing moves by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the young Saudi ruler, which includes letting women drive.
(The cynic in me wants to say that he is allowing women to drive so they can drive to his palace to pay him the billion dollar bribes he demands to release the dozens? hunderds? he's been holding prisoner).
Roya Hakakian, an Iranian-American poet and journalist who co-founded the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center in New Haven, Conn., wrote in an opinion column published on Wednesday in The New York Times that women in Iran and Saudi Arabia had benefited from “competition between the two regimes to earn the mantle of the modern moderate Islamic alternative.”
She quoted Mariam Memarsadeghi, a co-founder of Tavaana, a civil education website about Iran, who now lives in the United States, as saying that she was not only happy for Saudi women, but “thrilled that the Iranian regime’s false moral superiority is punctured, that the Iranian regime’s laws and actions against women’s rights are made to look backward even by a country long seen as the region’s most backward.”
Others do not necessarily see a link, attributing the changes in Iran to other causes. They say Iran’s young population has proved far more resistant to the government’s societal restraints compared with their parents. The relaxed enforcement of a women’s dress code in Iran may be partly rooted in the impracticality of prosecuting, fining and imprisoning violators.
“Arresting the women and trials in court proved to be too time-consuming,” said Nader Karimi Joni, an Iranian journalist in Tehran. The law has not changed, he said, but now, “cash fines and lashes are at times substituted by ‘educational classes.’”
Others pointed out that Iran still requires women to wear head coverings in public. Shahrzad Razaghi, a 24-year-old Tehran artist arrested in 2012 for not wearing her hijab properly, said the new enforcement policy “doesn’t mean I can go on the streets without a hijab.”
And in Saudi Arabia, the granting of driving privileges to women, while seen as a quantum leap there, is a right long held by women in Iran, elsewhere in the Middle East and the rest of the world. What women are permitted to wear outside, another issue in Saudi Arabia, is hardly a question in many countries.
“I am sorry to say, we are in 2017 and we are still talking about wearing and not wearing,” said Suad Abu-Dayyeh, a Palestinian who is the Middle East and North Africa consultant for Equality Now, a global women’s advocacy group.
Still, she said, “we’re hoping that what is going on in Saudi Arabia will be continuing.”
I hope so too.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Notes from the Kakistocracy: Postville Pardon

Some things are impossible by definition: four sided  triangles, married bachelors; others, by laws of nature:faster than light speeds. In this last year, I see now that there is another category of impossibility---call it politically impossible, and in Trump's kakistocracy, it is impossible to be too cynical.

Case in point: Trump just commuted the prison sentence of an Iowa meatpacking executive whose business relied on i) exploiting undocumented workers from Central America, many of whom are languishing in prison right now for immigration related offenses, and ii) fraudulent financial dealings. Did I mention that a) his business was kosher meat packing, and b) he's orthodox jewish---Lubovitch in point of fact, and c) Alan Dershowitz has been his lawyer, the same Dershowitz who has been appearing on tv as if on an infinite loop arguing that presidents can't obstruct justice as a matter of legal impossibility (there's another category of impossibilities for you)?
President Trump on Wednesday commuted the prison sentence of Sholom Rubashkin, whose Iowa meatpacking plant was the target of a huge immigration raid in 2008, and whose 27-year prison sentence angered many Orthodox Jews.
Mr. Rubashkin made national headlines nine years ago after federal agents arrived by helicopter at the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa, and detained nearly 400 undocumented immigrants, including several children, who were working there. Mr. Rubashkin was the company’s chief executive, and the plant had been the largest kosher meatpacking operation in the country. He was later convicted of bank fraud in federal court.
Many Jewish leaders have rallied behind Mr. Rubashkin, whose treatment they said was unfair, perhaps even anti-Semitic, and whose sentence they considered unduly harsh and out of line with what other white-collar criminals received. Mr. Rubashkin had tried for years to get a reduced sentence, but was repeatedly turned down by the courts.
“The president’s review of Mr. Rubashkin’s case and commutation decision were based on expressions of support from members of Congress and a broad cross-section of the legal community,” the White House statement said.
Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, said on Twitter that the commutation was “a real Hanukkah miracle” and that he was “proud to be a part of a large, bipartisan group” that had pushed for that outcome.
Gag me with a fucking menorah.
Alan M. Dershowitz, an emeritus law professor at Harvard and a noted author, said he had been working on the case for about five years and had personally asked Mr. Trump to consider commutation. Mr. Dershowitz said he had made a similar request to Barack Obama during his presidency, but that he had declined.
“It was just compassion and justice,” Mr. Dershowitz said. “This was a bipartisan thing. It was a nonpartisan thing. And it was the right thing to do.”
But the commutation was not universally cheered. Robert Teig, a former federal prosecutor in Iowa, said that Mr. Rubashkin’s sentence “was what he earned because of his conduct” and that “it’s a sad state when politics are allowed to interfere with the justice system.”
“Really, this is 180 degrees contrary to a tough position on illegal immigration,” said Mr. Teig, who said Mr. Rubashkin had probably been Iowa’s largest employer of undocumented immigrants.
You get that wrinkle? Is it a surprise? Trump's war against immigration isn't targeting businesses that exploit undocumented immigrants (some of his businesses rely on that). It is against the immigrants themselves.

What happened to the plant employees? Do they get any presidential amnesty? Commutations? Pardons? No, that would be one Hanukkah miracle too far.
Around 300 employees of the plant, many of whom were Guatemalan, served prison sentences for identity theft, and several managers and supervisors were convicted of felony charges of harboring illegal immigrants. The immigration-related charges against Mr. Rubashkin were dropped after he was convicted of fraud. Prosecutors in his case said he had fabricated collateral for loans, causing the banks to lose more than $26 million.
Interested in this case? I recommend you start your research with Postville, by Stephen Bloom.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tales from academic publishing: pseudo-science edition

It looks as if reading putatively scholarly journals can make you stupid, given the high and increasing rate of junk being published, even by 'legit' publishers, as Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky (co-founders of the essential Retraction Watch) show. 
 [e]ven the big, top-tier houses fall victim. Springer and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, two leading publishers, in 2014 retracted more than 120 articles that had appeared in conference proceedings after learning that they had been written not by scientists but by a convincing computer text generator called SCIgen.13 The program—a sort of industrialized version of the Sokal hoax14—allows anyone to create a “scientific paper” by simply providing author names. The resulting text and graphics look like a proper scientific paper, but are gibberish. The fact that any were published means that no one peer reviewed the manuscripts.
What happens when, retrospectively, journals try to prune out the junk?
Although one might assume that journals would hold a strong hand when it comes to ridding themselves of bogus papers, that’s not always the case. In 2011, Elsevier’s Applied Mathematics Letters retracted a paper by Granville Sewell of the University of Texas, El Paso, that questioned the validity of the second law of thermodynamics—a curious position for an article in a mathematics journal, but not so curious for someone like Sewell, who apparently favors intelligent design theories over Darwinian natural selection.15 
The journal’s editor, Ervin Rodin, blamed the appearance of the paper on “hastiness” and acknowledged that the article had no place in the publication. “Please accept our apologies for our erroneous judgement in even considering this paper,” Rodin replied to a critic of the Sewell article, which was eventually retracted.16
The affair ought to have ended there. But Sewell sued and Elsevier, the world’s largest scholarly publisher, blinked. Not only did it pick up the tab for Sewell’s legal fees—a $10,000 hit—but it took the unusual step of apologizing to him (although it did not order the journal to reinstate the article).17 The article was retracted, according to the notice, “because the Editor-in-Chief subsequently concluded that the content was more philosophical than mathematical and, as such, not appropriate for a technical mathematics journal such as Applied Mathematics Letters.”18
Beyond the financial remuneration, the real value of the settlement for Sewell was the ability to say—with a straight face—that the paper was not retracted because it was wrong. Such stamps of approval are, in fact, why some of those who engage in pseudoscience want their work to appear in peer-reviewed journals.