Monday, June 26, 2017

What to do when the Dean cancels your courses

Jay Smith, history professor and thorn in the side of his employer, the University of North Carolina, explains what to do when your university decides to censor your courses.

Smith: First bit of advice: Get tenure. No, in all seriousness, I was blindsided by this experience, genuinely shocked to see the lengths to which administrators would go to silence a perceived gadfly. Perhaps it was naive of me, given UNC’s actions over the past six years, but I trusted the administrators’ basic commitment to free speech and critical discourse. I thought that by having my course considered for inclusion in the university’s listing of permanent courses, and by submitting it for review by all of the College committees that routinely carry out such reviews, I was gaining all the protection for the course that I would need. I was clearly wrong. So my serious advice is twofold. Do not underestimate administrators’ willingness to engage in unethical and offensive behavior in pursuit of their own short-term political goals. Expect the worst. Crucially, however, I would say that the proper response to this situation is not to acquiesce but rather to plan for battle. Anticipate the sorts of arguments your opponents will make. Find likely allies across the campus and beyond. Network with them. At the first sign of trouble, reach out to your discipline’s professional organization and to faculty coalitions like the AAUP. Then, take the fight to the public arena. What administrators dread more than anything is bad PR. So give them some. As much as you have the energy to give. You may not win. But you will have fought the fight that needs fighting. If faculty do not stand up for academic freedom, what will become of academic freedom? We represent the last line of defense. I think we have a moral obligation to resist unethical administrators and uninformed governing boards. So fight, but take care to form alliances first.

"A world of little men using large powers incompetently from a combination of suspicion and panic."

That's how Garry Wills described the Nixon White House in 1973 as it began to sink. Some might say things have not changed much.

But if you think that Nixon's exit from the White House was brought about by the defection of principled conservatives, think again.  As Frank Rich explains in New York magazine:

A few Republican senators did ask tough questions during the Watergate hearings — Howard Baker and Lowell Weicker, famously — but it took even them a year after the Watergate break-in to find their voices, and they were not in the leadership. Then, as now, so-called Establishment Republicans were more likely to gripe about Nixon in private or in not-for-attribution conversations with reporters. In public, they usually cowered, sparing the president their harshest criticism and cordoning him off from impeachable offenses out of fear of him and his base.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Trump administration opposes funding museum for victims of Tuskegee syphilis study

Is anyone surprised by this?

From The Guardian: 

The Trump administration is opposing an attempt to use unclaimed money from a legal settlement over the government’s infamous Tuskegee syphilis study to fund a museum honoring its victims.

The justice department argued in court documents recently that providing the money to the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center would violate an agreement reached in 1975 to settle a class-action lawsuit.

Days after the government made its argument, attorney general Jeff Sessions issued a memo barring third-party organizations from receiving money from settlements involving the government.

Friday, June 23, 2017

A double standard for the Second Amendment

From Jelani Cobb in The New Yorker:

The decision in the Castile case differed from other, similar cases of police violence in that it highlighted a kind of divided heart of Second Amendment conservatism, at least with regard to race. David French, in National Review, called the decision a miscarriage of justice. He wrote, “Castile was following Yanez’s commands, and it’s simply false that the mere presence of a gun makes the encounter more dangerous for the police. It all depends on who possesses the gun. If he’s a concealed-carry permit-holder, then he’s in one of the most law-abiding demographics in America.” Colion Noir, an African-American gun-rights activist who serves as the face of the N.R.A.’s black-outreach campaign, also criticized the decision, writing in an online post that Yanez’s mistakes cost Castile his life, and that “covert racism is a real thing and is very dangerous.” In the days after the shooting, the N.R.A. itself had offered only a tepid response, without mentioning Castile’s name: “The reports from Minnesota are troubling and must be thoroughly investigated. In the meantime, it is important for the NRA not to comment while the investigation is ongoing. Rest assured, the NRA will have more to say once all the facts are known.” After Yanez was acquitted, it said nothing at all. Noir, in his post, also questioned whether Yanez would have had the same reaction had a white motorist identified himself as armed. The same might be asked of the N.R.A.’s non-reaction to the verdict.

It's the 45th anniversary of Nixon's "smoking gun" conversation with Bob Haldeman

And you can listen to it, courtesy of the Richard Nixon Library.

(The audio is scratchy, but you can turn on subtitles.)

"I wouldn't like it if Dad were euthanized. I would miss him."

This 2015 Australian investigation of euthanasia in Belgium is even-handed, but disturbing nonetheless.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

"A few months after he published the results, demonstrating how much better people’s lives were with specialized geriatric care, the University of Minnesota closed the division of geriatrics."

From Being Mortal by Atul Gawande:

Several years ago, researchers at the University of Minnesota identified 568 men and women over the age of seventy who were living independently but were at high risk of becoming disabled because of chronic health problems, recent illness, or cognitive changes. With their permission, the researchers randomly assigned half of them to see a team of geriatric nurses and doctors—a team dedicated to the art and science of managing old age. The others were asked to see their usual physician, who was notified of their high-risk status. Within eighteen months, 10 percent of the patients in both groups had died. But the patients who had seen a geriatrics team were a quarter less likely to become disabled and half as likely to develop depression. They were 40 percent less likely to require home health services.

These were stunning results. If scientists came up with a device—call it an automatic defrailer—that wouldn’t extend your life but would slash the likelihood you’d end up in a nursing home or miserable with depression, we’d be clamoring for it. We wouldn’t care if doctors had to open up your chest and plug the thing into your heart. We’d have pink-ribbon campaigns to get one for every person over seventy-five. Congress would be holding hearings demanding to know why forty-year-olds couldn’t get them installed. Medical students would be jockeying to become defrailulation specialists, and Wall Street would be bidding up company stock prices.

Instead, it was just geriatrics. The geriatric teams weren’t doing lung biopsies or back surgery or insertion of automatic defrailers. What they did was to simplify medications. They saw that arthritis was controlled. They made sure toenails were trimmed and meals were square. They looked for worrisome signs of isolation and had a social worker check that the patient’s home was safe.

How do we reward this kind of work? Chad Boult, the geriatrician who was the lead investigator of the University of Minnesota study, can tell you. A few months after he published the results, demonstrating how much better people’s lives were with specialized geriatric care, the university closed the division of geriatrics.