My bibliography on “The Great Depression and The New Deal” is available here.
My bibliography on “The Great Depression and The New Deal” is available here.
The news that Pope Francis met with Kim Davis raises a series of questions that must be answered urgently. Let's begin with trying to understand what happened. And so we should ask: Did Pope Francis know who Kim Davis is? Was he aware of the consequences that were sure to follow his meeting with her?
On his return flight from Rome at the conclusion of his visit, Pope Francis was asked by reporter Terry Moran of ABC to comment on the facts of the Kim Davis case. While Moran did not mention her by name, he described a situation in which a government official refused to issue "marriage licenses to same-sex couples." The Pope declined to speak to the details of Moran's description of the case but answered in general terms that "conscientious objection" is a "human right."
He elaborated on what he meant by rights of conscience with a reference to the medieval Song of Roland. In that poem, one finds an account of Charlemagne commanding a massed, forced baptism of thousands of non-Christians. "The baptismal font or the sword," was how Pope Francis described Charlemagne's command, and he made clear that compulsion was not for him.
It seems like a good answer. The Pope's response drew from an historical example of Christian extremism -- Charlemagne's policy of forced conversions -- to say that no one should be coerced into professing a belief against her or his conscience.
On its terms, furthermore, it refutes Kim Davis's position. Indeed, if we follow the logic of the papal analogy, it is Kim Davis who is playing the part of Charlemagne. After all, she is an elected office-holder who exercises the power of the state and has used that power to impose her religious views on subordinates and the prospective same-sex partners of Rowan County, Kentucky. Personally, I find it difficult to believe that the Pope was aware of the facts of the Kim Davis case or knew what she stood for when he gave his interview to Terry Moran.
Word, however, swiftly broke that the Pope had met briefly with Kim Davis at the papal nunciature -- essentially, the papal embassy, situated in Washington, D.C. The meeting was fifteen or so minutes long, without interpreters. Reportedly, Francis told Davis to remain strong, advised her to pray the rosary, and handed her a pair of rosaries. Pictures of those rosaries have now gone viral on the internet.
How do we interpret the news of this meeting, which seems so much at odds with the public message of inclusion Pope Francis sought to convey on every step of his journey? It may be that the Pope quite innocently saw no inconsistency in his actions. After all, he met with all sorts of people on his trip without endorsing their viewpoints. But the reality is that the Pope was likely played by others who were aware of the controversy that would attend a papal meeting with Kim Davis and sought to use that controversy for their own ends.
I should state that I am convinced of the Pope's sincerity. He took enormous pains, at every step of his journey to the United States, to bury the culture war. He made no mention of same-sex marriage on his trip, not even at the World Congress of Families. While his stance on abortion is firm, he has also made clear that the old strategy of confrontation has failed. He knows that most women who have abortions do so out of desperation, and he wants to build social structures that relieve that desperation.
In other words, what the Pope plainly wanted from his trip was a re-invigoration of a progressive Catholicism that looked confidently towards the world and the future. His message was compelling: Don't dwell in the past as if it was some golden age and don't demonize the present. Meet people where they are, take risks for the faith, and love one another. This was the Pope's message to individual believers. And to the political order, he advised Catholics to work with all persons of good will, whatever their perspective or way of life, towards the achievement of shared objectives -- the climate change treaty, economic justice, a fairer, more humane penal system.
So I am persuaded that the Pope was played. Who was responsible? Most immediately, Kim Davis and her attorney must be held to account. They are obviously exploitative in the way they are spinning a brief, private meeting.
But one might also surmise that some highly-placed Vatican figures sought to sabotage this papacy in a way that may prove as damaging the Vatileaks scandal was to Pope Benedict XVI. And I have little doubt that the damage will prove serious. The Pope's ambition to build an alliance that spans the political spectrum to work for the common good will now face larger obstacles. The larger secular world, with which he sought to open lines of communication, will view with varying degrees of mistrust. Furthermore, a right wing that seeks to undo most of what Pope Francis stands for -- from the environment to economic equality -- gains greater empowerment. There will doubtless be members of Congress, as the December deadline approaches, who will invoke Pope Francis as supporting the shutting down of the government.
The Pope must therefore take action. Internally, he must make his wrath felt. And then he needs to respond, visibly and unambiguously, because his very public stature has been put at risk.
What steps should Pope Francis take? I can offer two suggestions. The first comes from Francis DeBernardo, the Executive Director of New Ways Ministry. It is about time, DeBernardo writes, for Pope Francis to meet with LGBT Catholics and their families. He was called upon to do so during his visit to the United States and did not take up the invitation. I concur with DeBernardo. Such meetings must take place. In the face of great official hostility, LGBT Catholics have remained faithful to the Church, and that loyalty must be swiftly recognized and acknowledged.
Second, the Vatican is about to host a second meeting of the synod on the family. The first meeting was held in October, 2014, and divided badly over questions such as the reception of Communion by divorced and remarried Catholics and the status of gays within the Catholic Church. Now would be an excellent time to push for greater inclusiveness, beginning with a revision of the Catechism to remove that most offensive provision that describes "homosexual tendencies" as "objectively disordered" (para. 2358).
These are not extravagant requests. They are eminently doable, and should be undertaken, the sooner the better.
Matt Bai has written a wonderful book about political reporting entitled All the Truth is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid. The central claim of the book is that the reporting about Presidential candidate Gary Hart marked a fundamental change in political reporting. According to the Boston Globe, Bai shows that the reporting was bad for Hart and bad for democratic life.
I think Bai is torn on the question (he does an excellent job of reporting both sides). In the end, however, he regrets the tabloid turn, and though he has great admiration for Hart, he pulls no punches in reporting about his weaknesses.
Gary Hart you may remember was the front runner for the Democratic nomination and a strong favorite to win the Presidency in 1988. He led George H.W. Bush by 13 points and only 11% of the electorate was undecided. Moreover, he was a brilliant candidate, able “to connect politics and culture and theology and history and technology seamlessly and all at once – to draw from all available date points (extemporaneously it seemed) a larger picture of where everything was headed.” Bai, p. 11. Anyone who was politically conscious in the late 1980’s knows that Gary Hart had challenged reporters to follow him if they thought he was fooling around on his wife and was caught in an affair with a model named Donna Rice, a former Miss South Carolina. At the time, it was widely believed that Hart must have had a self-destructive impulse to dare reporters to prove he was involved in an extramarital affair.
It turns out this rendition conceals the decision of reporters to introduce tabloid processes and tabloid substance into Presidential reporting. First, Gary Hart did not dare reporters to follow him. Hart thought his promiscuity was a private matter – something for he and his wife to discuss (their relationship was often rocky), but it was not and should not be a public matter. This had been the understanding of the press for many years. The affairs, for example, of FDR, JFK, and LBJ were well known, but the press did not regard them to be relevant. Hart thought that any attention to such matters would cheapen and trivialize public discourse. So when E.J. Dionne asked him about his reputation for promiscuity, Hart sarcastically asked why reporters did not follow him around to find out. His question was intended and understood by Dionne to be a reductio ad absurdum. Hart never invited and never expected reporters to stake out his town house in Washington. Reporters simply did not do such a thing.
But, reporters for the Miami Herald did stake out his town house and saw Donna Rice enter and did not see her leave. The mythology is that the Herald reporters felt entitled to do this because Hart dared them to do so. But E.J. Dionne’s report of his interview had not been published at the time of the stakeout, so the notion that Hart’s dare (which wasn’t a dare anyway) justified the stakeout was fictitious. In addition, the stakeout was bungled. The reporters did not watch the back door (!) and Hart contended that Rice had not spent the night and had left by the back door. Indeed, there is some doubt whether Hart and Rice ever slept together (they both deny it). This is not to say that Gary Hart never committed an act of infidelity. There is every reason to believe he was no better on this score than FDR, JFK, and LBJ.
But reports of his infidelity knocked him out of the Presidential race and, as Bai reports, we are now treated to political tabloid reporting, a phenomenon compunded by the reluctance of candidates to having any serious unscripted conversation with a reporter like E.J. Dionne, and the 24 hour pictorial news cycle.
Are the sexual proclivities of a Presidential candidate fair game? Certainly, many voters would not want to vote for a person who cheats on his wife. And the feminist recognition that the personal is the political may have influenced reporters to report on these matters in a way that they had not in earlier times.
Nonetheless, as Hart has maintained when reporters hide out in bushes, photographers peek in windows, and helicopters swarm over roofs – all to determine who is sleeping with whom and to confront the spouse with a demand for comment, our political discourse and reportorial environment has become harassing and sordid.
Los Angeles Review of Books, September 23, 2015
By Rigoberto González
“When the Library of Congress made the official announcement on June 10 that Juan Felipe Herrera had been selected the next Poet Laureate of the United States, the first Latino to hold the honorary post of ‘consultant in poetry’ since the first appointment in 1937, the news went viral on social media and was met with universal praise. Though the prolific and popular Herrera is by no means an obscure candidate — he is also currently a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and his new and selected volume Half of the World in Light received the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award — there was something unexpectedly refreshing about his selection. The next Poet Laureate of the United States comes from an ethnic community that’s quickly changing the demographic of the nation. His voice speaks to the Chicano identity, the immigrant experience, and the struggle of the Latino artist. Though the current national climate is fraught with social anxieties and racial tensions that will undoubtedly become part of any presidential candidate’s platform, Herrera’s body of work amplifies a perspective that has been deliberately muted by mainstream media, or rather, clumped into a single talking point: immigration reform. Writing as an insider, as an activist who has journeyed through the second half of the 20th century and into the present, he has remained clear-eyed and committed to his vision: chronicling the historical, cultural and political landscape of his Chicano consciousness. In the following critical review, I highlight five of Herrera’s 16 books of poetry published by two of his loyal publishers, who also published the two selected volumes I have chosen not to include here, but which I highly recommend, particularly for those who want an introduction to the scope of Herrera’s oeuvre. Those books are the aforementioned Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems (University of Arizona Press, 2008) and 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971-2007 (City Lights Books, 2007). I have written about these titles for other venues.” [….]
An excerpt from a brief biographical sketch of Juan Felipe Herrera, courtesy of the Academy of American Poets:
“Juan Felipe Herrera was born in Fowler, California, on December 27, 1948. The son of migrant farmers, Herrera moved often, living in trailers or tents along the roads of the San Joaquin Valley in Southern California. As a child, he attended school in a variety of small towns from San Francisco to San Diego. He began drawing cartoons while in middle school, and by high school was playing folk music by Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie.
Herrera graduated from San Diego High in 1967, and was one of the first wave of Chicanos to receive an Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) scholarship to attend UCLA. There, he became immersed in the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, and began performing in experimental theater, influenced by Allen Ginsberg and Luis Valdez.
In 1972, Herrera received a BA in Social Anthropology from UCLA. He received a masters in Social Anthropology from Stanford in 1980, and went on to earn an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1990.
His interests in indigenous cultures inspired him to lead a formal Chicano trek to Mexican Indian villages, from the rain forest of Chiapas to the mountains of Nayarit. The experience greatly changed him as an artist. His work, which includes video, photography, theater, poetry, prose, and performance, has made Herrera a leading voice on the Mexican American and indigenous experience.”
longtime hermano Bob tells me
one of the monks in brown directs us to the deep sink
made of two sinks the hose & the silver table where all
the spoons & metal tongs are clean
wait at the entrance for directions the monk gave me
but he is in there & points me to another sink
made of two sinks & a silver table where all
the spoons & metal tongs are clean
scrub off the rice burned at the bottom
there it is clinging to the sides of the steel
outside working the hole in the earth
three monks in brown stir the blackish pots boiling
four mouths of mud cakes for the new lunar year
the dragon the people the monastery the mountains
one monk stands staring into the nothing
no thoughts around him
the other monk descends through the scaly fog two
children angle an exploded tree limb back & forth
so the sparks play with them to the left
the meditation hall is curved & faces Escondido
down below where my father drove his army truck
& pulled our trailer to a stop on Lincoln Road in ‘54
I watered spidered corn & noticed the deportations
little friends gone the land left to ice alone
lunch is served we go to the line the spoons
and the speckled tongs await by the brown rice
white rice eggplant kim chee & a grey shade pot
pour the seaweed soup we go with our tray & sit
the mud cakes are ribboned in red & gold & green
there is a way to do this
it requires listening & seeing &
silence silence the bell rings
longtime hermano Bob & I at the parking lot
we leave brown cloth brown cloth
naked spoons naked pots
steam rises from the sink & the view
the view with no one in front or in back
—Juan Felipe Herrera (2012)
Herbert Lee & Louis Allen
“Herbert Lee was a 42 year old a dairy farmer and father of nine children in Amite County. He had been a member of the NAACP since the early 1950s. When SNCC voting rights activists started working in Amite and Pike counties in the fall of 1961, Lee, a close friend of the Amite County NAACP branch chairman E.W. Steptoe, became involved, helping to transport the workers and orient them to the locale. In mid-September, Assistant United States Attorney John Doar and others from the Justice Department interviewed several persons in Amite County about infringements of the voting laws. They learned that one E.H. Hurst, a member of the Mississippi state legislature, had been threatening to harm activists in Amite, including Herbert Lee.
On the morning of September 25, E.H. Hurst ran into Herbert Lee at a cotton gin. Lee, who grew up with Hurst, was arriving while Hurst was departing. Hurst cornered Lee on the side of Lee’s pickup truck and shot him dead in front of about a dozen witnesses. Lee’s body remained next to his truck while the sheriff quickly organized a coroner’s jury. Several black witnesses, including Louis Allen, fearing for their own lives, lied to the coroner’s jury and testified that Lee, a small man, threatened Hurst, who stood 6 feet 3 and weighed about 200 pounds, with a tire iron. On the day Lee was slain, the coroner’s jury concluded Hurst shot in self-defense.
After the coroner’s jury ruled the homicide justifiable, there were no further legal proceedings in the Lee murder. However, one witness, Louis Allen, later told FBI investigators that he had been forced to lie to the coroner’s jury. Allen endured beatings and harassment immediately after he came forward to the FBI and, on January 31, 1964, he too was killed in Amite County. There have been no arrests in the Allen murder.”—From the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project (CRRJ) at Northeastern University School of Law
* * *
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organizer Robert Moses “explains that there is more to the murder of Herbert Lee than what was reported in the paper:
‘On September 25, 1961 Herbert Lee was killed in Amite County…. The Sunday before Lee was killed, I was down at E. W. Steptoe’s with John Doar from the Justice Department and he asked Steptoe was there any danger in that area, who was causing the trouble and who were the people in danger. Steptoe had told him that E. H. Hurst who lived across from him had been threatening people and that specifically he, Steptoe, Herbert Lee, and George Reese were in danger of losing their lives.
We went out, but didn’t see Lee that afternoon. At night, John Doar and the other lawyers from the Justice Department left. The following morning about 12 noon, Doc Anderson came by the Voter Registration office and said a man had been shot in Amite County. I went down to take a look at the body and it was Herbert Lee; there was a bullet hole in the left side of his head just above the ear.
I remember reading very bitterly in the papers the next morning, a little short article on the front page of the McComb Enterprise Journal, said that: “the Negro had been shot in self-defense as he was trying to attack E. H. Hurst.”
That was it. You might have thought he had been a bum. There was no mention that Lee was a farmer, that he had a family, that he had nine kids, beautiful kids, that he had been a farmer all his life in Amite County and that he had been a very substantial citizen. It was as if he had been drunk or something and had gotten into a fight and gotten shot.
Our first job was to try to track down those people who had been at the shooting, who had seen the whole incident. (From Liberation Magazine, 1970)’”—From a page at the Civil Rights Teaching project, a website “provides lessons, handouts, news, and resources for teaching about the role of everyday people in the Civil Rights Movement.” The story of Lee’s murder and the events surrounding it are told in Charles M. Payne’s I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle (University of California Press, 1995): 121-124.
(click on image for larger view)
“Humor and kinship among veterans led members of the Rebel Chicano Air Front to adopt the ironic name of the Royal Chicano Air Force after their acronym—RCAF—was misidentified with the Canadian military. Operating out of their Sacramento, California headquarters (the Centro de Artistas Chicanos), they organized community programs, designed murals, and printed posters in support of the United Farm Workers Union. This collaborative spirit shines in Hasta La Victoria Siempre, c/s, a print by Luis (or Louie ‘the Foot’ González), based on his brother Héctor’s photograph of a United Farm Workers pro-labor rally. Interested in concrete poetry, Luis González wove the typed words long live, strike, and tomorrow into a fluid pattern.”
(My bibliography for César Chávez & the United Farm Workers is here.)
Around the world, between a quarter and half a million children go blind each year as a result of a deficiency in vitamin A and within twelve months, half of them die. Golden Rice was created to tackle this problem, by genetically engineering Vitamin A into the rice grain. It is golden because its vitamin A comes from beta carotene, which also puts the orange in carrots. One of the areas of the world where Golden Rice is designed to be consumed is Asia, where a high proportion of calories are derived from rice consumption, and where vitamin A deficiency is endemic. [….] The technology presents itself as a feel-good solution for politicians who’d rather not face the more profound, persistent and difficult questions of politics and distribution. There’s more than enough vitamin A to go around. Half a carrot contains the recommended dose of vitamin A. The plain fact is that the majority of children in the Global South suffer and die not because there is insufficient food, or because beta-carotene rice is nationally lacking. They are malnourished and undernourished because all their parents can afford to feed them is rice.
The best that crops such as Golden Rice can do is to provide supplement in diets where nutrients are unavailable. And when a balanced diet is unavailable, the cause has more to do with poverty than with anything that can be engineered into the crop. It is absurd to ask a crop to solve the problems of income and food distribution, of course. But since this is precisely the root cause of vitamin A deficiency, the danger of crops such as Golden Rice is not merely that they are ineffective publicity stunts. They actively prevent serious discussions of ways to tackle systemic poverty.—Raj Patel, in Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System (Brooklyn, NY: Melville House Publishing, 2008): 136-37.
By Glenn Davis Stone (Professor of Anthropology and Environmental Studies at Washington University in St. Louis)
August 28, 2015
“Golden Rice is modified to produce beta carotene in the endosperm, rather than only in the bran as in most rice. Beta carotene is a vitamin A precursor, and the hope was that this invention would mitigate Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD), which in extreme cases can cause blindness or death in malnourished children. After appearing on the cover as Time in 2000 as a rice that ‘could save a million kids a year,’ Golden Rice has been a nearly ubiquitous talking point in GMO arguments. As a high-flying GM superfood, it is without peer.
But the battles over Golden Rice have been particularly heated even by the usual standards of GMO bombast. Critics see it as an unproven, expensive, and misguided band aid—a Trojan Horse to open the floodgates of GM crops into the global south (Brooks 2010:76-83; RAFI 2000). Industry spokesmen, impassioned molecular biologists, and partisan journalists charge that children are being left blind by GMO critics having slowed the rice; hired activist Patrick Moore tirelessly (and cartoonishly) blames Greenpeace — which he claims to have founded — for ‘murdering’ children (AllowGoldenRiceNow.org 2015).
Confusingly, other biotechnologists claim that Golden Rice is already in use and that it has ‘helped save many, many lives and improved the quality of life of those who eat it’ (Krock 2009; also see Thomson 2002:1). These claims cause considerable discomfort to the scientists who are actually doing the Golden Rice breeding (Dubock 2014:73).
All the shouting tends to cover up a crucial issue with Golden Rice: who is it for, exactly? Proponents usually discuss it as a vitamin tablet headed for generic underfed children in ‘poor countries’ (Beachy 2003), or ‘developing countries’ (Enserink 2008), or occasionally ‘Asia’ (Dawe and Unnevehr 2007).
But here’s the problem. Golden Rice is not just a vitamin tablet headed for malnourished kids wherever they may be. It’s not a tablet at all; it’s rice, the most widely consumed and arguably the most culturally freighted crop in the world (e.g., Ohnuki-Tierney 1993). And it is headed specifically for the Philippines. Golden Rice got its start in the Philippines (Enserink 2008), and it’s being bred and tested in a research institution in the Philippines, to be approved by the Philippine Bureau of Plant Industry, to be sold in Philippine markets to Philippine growers and potentially fed to Filipino children. (Breeders and researchers in Vietnam, India, and Bangladesh are also working with Golden Rice, but release is not on the horizon in any of these countries.) Most discussions of Golden Rice ignore this Philippine context. Even economic analyses purporting to calculate ‘The Cost of Delaying Approval of Golden Rice’ (Wesseler, et al. 2014) make no mention of the Philippines.” [….]
The remainder of Professor Stone’s blog post (including the sources cited) is here.
See too these blog posts by Marion Nestle: “Proponents of food biotechnology are still talking about Golden Rice? Sigh,” and “Retraction of the Golden Rice paper: an issue of ethics.”
I have some titles germane to the discussion in two compilations: The Sullied Science & Political Economy of Hyper-Industrial Agriculture (Or: Toward Agroecology& Food Justice)—A Basic Bibliography, and The Ethics, Economics, and Politics of Global Distributive Justice: A Select Bibliography.
Henrietta Shore, “Artichoke Pickers,” 1936, oil on masonite panel. Described as “one of the most beautiful of all WPA [Works Progress Administration, later renamed the Work Projects Administration] murals in California,” “[i]t depicts people working in a field near the Santa Cruz coastline, where the mural was installed.”
My bibliography on César Chávez and the United Farm Workers (UFW) is here. Two related compilations: The Sullied Science & Political Economy of Hyper-Industrial Agriculture (Or: ‘Toward Agroecology & Food Justice’): A Basic Bibliography, and Workers, the World of Work & Labor Law: A Basic Bibliography.
Yolanda López, “Homenaje a Dolores Huerta,” from Women’s Work Is Never Done series, silkscreen, 1995. Here we find “juxtapose[d] an image of Dolores Huerta as an activist in 1965 with an image take from the 1995 broccoli harvest. To protect their lungs from dust and pesticides, the women in this print wear bandanas, which actually provide little if any protection.”
Approximately 25% of the U.S. News evaluation of American law schools is based on the quality of the student body, and the lion’s share of that criterion is based on the grade point averages and LSAT scores of the student population. Ten per cent of that assessment is related to the acceptance rate. This grade point and LSAT part of the evaluation system has quite pernicious effects. It used to be that the vast majority of law school financial aid was distributed on the basis of need. No more. Now schools throw money at those students that can help the collective GPA or LSAT at the particular levels of the class that U.S. News employs. Morever, the money is doled out in a highly strategic way. There is little point in offering money to a student accepted at a higher ranked school. Indeed, serious gamers of the system might deny admission to a student who clearly will get into such a high ranked school, so as not to inflate the acceptance rate.
The tragedy of this financial competition is that it involves an enormous waste of money by the law schools who are in competition with each other. Most of the time the competing law schools only hold even, but they have spent millions of dollars on students who need the money far less than others. Alternatively, portions of that money could be spent on enhancing the law school in other respects. Understand, I appreciate why the law schools engage in these financial aid policies. If they did not, they would not hold even; the quality of their student body would decline (at least on conventional criteria); and they would fall in the rankings. The problem is that U.S. News rankings system places pressure on law schools to give less money to those in financial need by employing a redistributive system aiding those who are more likely to come from privileged financial backgrounds.
Suppose, however, that U.S. News says this is an unfortunate byproduct of our survey – certainly not its intent – but we surely need to determine the quality of a student body if we our rankings of law schools is to be remotely accurate. It is not at all clear to me that U.S. News needs to use GPA, LSAT to evaluate law school student bodies. The relative attraction of law schools is dominated by the U.S. law school rankings. In the absence of some unusual reason, students tend to go to the highest ranked law school they can get into. And since law schools primarily, but not exclusively, admit the top three quarters of the class on the numbers (numbers count in the bottom quarter, but more discretion than that employed in the rest of the class is often operative).
What does this mean? U.S. News can reliably assume that the quality of student body (from a numbers perspective) is strongly correlated with the rankings based on other factors. If U.S. News were to drop the LSAT and GPA criteria from the survey, law schools would be free to spend money on programs that would make their schools fairer and better. The U.S. News survey purported is designed to help consumers. By actively harming the law schools, however unintentionally, U.S. News disserves the students they serve as well.
Ten Troubling Numbers Labor Day 2015
by Bill Quigley. Bill teaches at Loyola University New Orleans and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
5.1. The official unemployment rate is 5.1 percent, or 8 million people, according to the US Department of Labor. However, this widely reported “official” number overlooks the millions of people unemployed for more than a year nor does it count those who are working part-time and looking for full-time work. The Department of Labor monthly report which includes people working part-time and looking for full-time work shows the real rate of unemployment is 10.3 percent.
6. It has been 6 years since the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour was raised.
8.9. Millions of adults, 8.9 million in fact, work full-time, year round and earn too little to lift their families out of poverty.
9.5. Unemployment among African Americans is officially reported by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics at 9.5 percent while unemployment among whites is 4.4 percent. This report does not count the millions of people who have been unemployed for more than one year or who are working part-time and want to work full-time.
11. Union membership in the US is 11 percent according to the Department of Labor. Public sector unions have a membership rate of 36 percent compared to 6 percent of private sector workers. Union workers earn about $200 more per week than non-union workers. Union membership is at its lowest rate in 70 years, according to the New York Times. The International Monetary Fund found declines in unionization results in higher income for those in the top 10 percent.
21. Worker productivity went up 21 percent between 2000 and 2014 while wages rose only 2 percent according to the Economic Policy Institute.
68. More than two-thirds of the poor in the US work, 68 percent.
82. Full-time women workers earn 82 percent as much as men reports the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
204. The average Chief Executive Officer earns 204 times what average workers earn, according to a 2015 report by research firm Glassdoor.
40,000,000. More than 40 million workers, mostly low-wage workers, do not have paid sick days; so they are much more likely to go to work while sick, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families.
Last week 130 religious, education, civil rights, labor, LGBT, women's, and health organizations wrote a letter to the President to complain about a 2007 Office of Legal Counsel opinion (see here) that a religious organization (World Vision, Inc.) providing secular services to guests on a non-discriminatory basis with the assistance of Federal funds had the right under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to restrict its hiring to those who share the religion of the religious organization. See here. The 130 complained that the "broad" ruling constituted a "blanket override of a statutory non-discrimination provision," and argued that the government's interest in preventing religious discrimination is compelling. They worry that the ruling might support discrimination against LGBT workers or could be used to deny health services to undocumented children.
To be sure, preventing discrimination on the basis of religion should ordinarily be considered a compelling government interest. If the Sierra Club discriminates on the basis of religion in its employment policies, the discrimination is indefensible. On the other hand, just as the Sierra Club can restrict its staff hiring to those who agree with its ideology, so a religious organization can reasonably restrict its hiring to those who agree with its ideology. The prohibition against religious discrimination is directed against the use of irrelevant and harmful criteria in hiring. The interest in preventing religious organizations from hiring in a way that promotes a religious community is not compelling.
The claim that the Counsel opinion was a blanket override and unreasonably broad is simply mistaken. The opinion carefully analyzed the individual context in which an exemption was sought. Counsel recognized that religion-based hiring could be a factor in determining that federal funds were inadmissibly being used for evangelization or religious training, but it found that the aid being dispensed to the poor was non-religious and not accompanied by any efforts to evangelize. Counsel also observed that the hiring policy was of long-standing and not newly developed in reaction to a form of religious prejudice. Moreover, Counsel found it significant that the hiring policy focused on employing people of the same faith rather than selectively excluding people of different faiths.
Of course, church-state concerns are implicated when government uses religious organizations to dispense aid. But if government tells a religious organization that it will give it aid money to help the poor, if, but only if, it becomes less wedded to its faith in its hiring practices, it is using a carrot to interfere with religious autonomy. And restricting aid in support of the poor to non-religious organizations would be foolish. The federal government has helped the poor for decades by providing quite substantial funds to Catholic Charities and other religious organizations, and the political obstacles to helping the poor are less formidable when religious organizations are involved in the endeavor.
I am not claiming that the autonomy or religious organizations should be absolute. The federal government need not provide funds to religious organizations that even for religious reasons discriminate on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, or disability with respect to employees or that refuse to make their services open to the public served by the federal program. And the federal government should have no role in promoting evangelizing. That said, I see nothing in Counsel's ruling supporting the view that preventing discrimination against LGBT employees is anything other than compelling. Nor can it be taken to support the morally twisted view that health services could be denied to undocumented children on religious grounds.
In the end, I think the letter of the 130 organizations mischaracterizes the ruling and reasoning of the memorandum issued by the Office of Legal Counsel. At the same time, I cannot subscribe to Notre Dame Law Professor Rick Garnett's observation about the letter of the 130 organizations, "What's really going on here, of course, is troubling . . . . In the long tradition of groups like Americans United, the signatories to this letter oppose Catholic schools and other institutions -- they object to the content of what those schools and other institutions teach and do -- and so they are hoping to roll back the principle underlying the Supreme Court's acceptance of school-voucher programs." See here.
But the letter in question at no point refers to religious instruction, worship, or proselytizing. The Opinion does refer to all three, but only to stress that World Vision, Inc. was not using federal funds for any of these purposes. The complaint of the letter was discrimination in an organization using federal funds, without any complaint about what the funds were used for. If this letter was calculated to unearth school vouchers, it was utterly inept. Moreover, given the current composition of the Court, the majority is unlikely to engage in the kind of rich analysis that ought to be triggered by the issue of governmental funds to support religious schools. Professor Garnett might be right that most of the organizations that signed the letter oppose school vouchers. But that is not what is "really going on here," and, for better or worse, he need not be troubled.
So this is a case in my view in which 103 organizations criticize an Office of Legal Counsel opinion for positions it does not take and a supporter of the opinion criticizes the organizations for a strategy that is not to be found in their letter and was not at issue in the case.
It may be raining on some parades. But word to the wise: the sky is not falling.
Cross-posted on the Huffington Post
There is a rising tide of nativism washing over the United States at this particular moment. We have seen such waves recurrently in our history. In the 1840s, it was the Know-Nothings, who hated Catholics and opposed Irish immigration and were even responsible for riots and other acts of violence.
In the 1920's, it was the turn of the Ku Klux Klan. Even while these hooded terrorists attacked African-Americans in the south, they also campaigned against immigration on racial and religious grounds. The eastern and southern Europeans then entering the country, they maintained, were impossible to assimilate. They were Catholic, they were Jewish, and most of all they were "un-American." These campaigns succeeded in largely shutting down immigration to the United States for forty years, from the 1920's to the middle 1960's.
Today, we are witnessing what is shaping up to be a sorry rerun of this awful history. Anti-immigrant sentiment has been on the rise in political circles for some time. It was on vivid display in Virginia in last year's Republican congressional primary, when the upstart David Brat unseated Eric Cantor, one of the most powerful men in Congress, on the strength of a thinly-disguised nativist appeal.
The nativism on display today can no longer even be described as "thinly disguised." It is open, it is blatant, and it is foul. Donald Trump, of course, remains the biggest offender. He has spoken in the kind of blunt, racist language that even the defenders of segregation avoided in the 1960's. When talking about Mexican migrants, he has used language like "rapists," and "criminals," to brand and stereotype and demean an entire group of people. He routinely uses the kind of vulgarities that would have made even George Wallace blush.
Trump's gutter vulgarity has drawn the Republican field with him. Ben Carson, who was once a world-class neurosurgeon, has more recently called upon the Department of Defense to use drone aircraft to attack "caves" that immigrants use in their passage across the border. And Carson is supported by the so-called Christian right?
And then there is Jeb Bush. Has there ever been a more inept pretender to a throne since Aethelred the Unready? When criticized for his continued use of the term "anchor babies, he explained that he really meant to apply it to "Asian people," not Hispanics. Good God, what a consummate disaster!
Pope Francis is coming to the United States in just a few weeks. And I devoutly believe that the most urgent task confronting the Pope on his visit is to call the American people away from the poisonous swamp of nativism.
Pope Francis is ideally suited for this task. He has pledged his pontificate to the defense of the marginalized and has made a special concern of his the plight of immigrant peoples. In July, 2013, early in his pontificate, he traveled to the island of Lampedusa, in the Mediterranean, the scene of so many preventable human tragedies. "Immigrants dying at sea, in boats which were vehicles of hope and became vehicles of death." The Pope fairly wept at the dimensions of the horror he confronted.
Pope Francis' trip to Lampedusa was meant to remind Christians of the common origin and destiny of all of humankind. "Cain, where is your brother?" God asked. Cain replied, disingenuously, that he was not his brother's keeper. But, Pope Francis insisted, we are one another's keepers, in the best sense of that term. We have obligations, transcendent obligations, to one another that are not contained or confined by the mere accidents of political boundaries.
In his speech to the European Parliament, in November, 2014, Pope Francis clothed this scriptural appeal in more philosophical dress. Human dignity is not an individualistic but a communal value. We are not isolated beings, without connections or duties to others. Pope Francis relied on this premise to develop a strong argument on behalf of the common good. And an aspect of the common good, he asserted, is a humane response to immigration.
"The men and women" who arrive "daily on the shores of Europe" require "acceptance and assistance." Christianity, of course, has a long and deep commitment to a welcoming hospitality, and Pope Francis appealed to this tradition to summon his audience to action. But he also urged them to solve the root causes of the immigration crisis -- the poverty and the war that has displaced so many people from their homes and driven them to risk their very beings in a dangerous passage.
I encourage Pope Francis to address the language of coarse hatred that is increasingly becoming de rigeur in American politics. No doubt he is far too sophisticated to call out Donald Trump by name. But Trumpism is an ominous trend that must be denounced. More than anything else, Pope Francis must condemn the rising hatred that he represents and espouses.
“We are creatures of history, for every historical epoch has its roots in a preceding epoch. The black militants of today are standing upon the shoulders of the New Negro radicals of my day, the twenties, thirties, and forties. We stood upon the shoulders of the civil rights fighters of the Reconstruction era, and they stood upon the shoulders of the black abolitionists. These are the interconnections of history, and they play their role in the course of development.”—A. Philip Randolph
On this day in August in 1925, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) came into existence when 500 porters met in Harlem, renewing their union organizing efforts. “During this meeting, they secretly launched their campaign, choosing [A. Philip] Randolph, not employed by Pullman and thus beyond retaliation, to lead the effort. The union chose a motto to sum up their resentment over the working conditions: ‘Fight or Be Slaves.’”
The following is from the entry, “Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (1925–1978),” written by Daren Salter for BlackPast.org (‘The Online Reference Guide to African American History’):
“The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) was a labor union organized by African American employees of the Pullman Company in August 1925 and led by A. Philip Randolph and Milton P. Webster. Over the next twelve years, the BSCP fought a three-front battle against the Pullman Company, the American Federation of Labor, and the anti-union, pro-Pullman sentiments of the majority of the black community. Largely successful on each front, the BCSP is a significant institution in both the labor and civil rights history of the twentieth century United States.
The BSCP faced long odds in 1925. Despite its charismatic leadership, the union attracted only a small number of rank and file workers and at no point before 1937 did it enroll a majority of porters. Most black leaders outside the organization distrusted labor unions and, moreover, viewed George Pullman, whose company provided jobs, relatively high incomes, and a modicum of services to black employees, as an important ally of the black community, a reputation Pullman assiduously exploited in his effort to undermine the nascent union. Meanwhile, while the AFL granted federal-local status to individual BSCP locals, it refused to charter the all-black union as a full-fledged international. [….]
Transforming his newspaper, the Messenger, into a propaganda vehicle for the BSCP and tirelessly campaigning on behalf of the union, over time Randolph convinced black leaders, clergymen, and newspaper editors that Pullman’s paternalism masked what was in fact a servile position for blacks within the company and a subtle recapitulation of the master-slave relationship. In the process, the BSCP became both a vehicle and a symbol of black advancement and, according to one historian, helped facilitate the ‘rise of protest politics in black America.’
On the labor front, the BSCP survived an aborted strike in 1928 and a precipitous drop in membership due to company opposition and the hardship of the Great Depression. A favorable turn in the political climate brought about by the New Deal, combined with the persistence of union leaders and members finally forced the company to recognize the BSCP in 1935. The AFL granted the BSCP an international charter that same year and, after protracted negotiations, the union won its first contract in 1937. Randolph used the BSCP and his own position in the AFL-CIO leadership as a wedge for breaking down racial segregation in the American labor movement. The BSCP also remained a source of inspiration and activism in African American communities, providing a training ground for future civil rights leaders like C.L. Dellums, E.D. Nixon, and of course Randolph himself.” [….]
By Emily Nagoski, Los Angeles Times (August 23, 2015)
“The drug has many names: flibanserin, Addyi, Ectris, Girosa or, colloquially, ‘pink Viagra.’ Whatever you want to call the long-in-the-making libido pill for women, it recently gained FDA approval despite ‘serious, serious safety concerns’ and benefits that are ‘modest, maybe less than modest.’ But as a science-driven sex educator, I am less troubled by the risk of low blood pressure and fainting than I am by the drug maker’s reinforcement of an outdated, scientifically invalid model of sexual desire. [….]
The FDA’s analysis of the data showed that only about 10% of the research participants taking flibanserin experienced ‘at least minimal improvement,’ while the remaining 90% experienced nothing at all. This is a drug with such potentially serious side effects that the FDA is requiring special training and certification before providers can prescribe it.
And the ‘disorder’ it treats (or, 90% of the time, fails to treat) isn’t a disorder at all but a normal, healthy variation in human sexual response. The pharmaceutical industry has millions — billions? — of dollars riding on all of us, including our doctors, ignoring 21st century science and reverting to a model of sexual desire that made really good sense in 1977. I think women deserve better.”
The entire article in the Los Angeles Times is here.
See too this earlier editorial by Ellen Laan and Leonore Tiefer, also from the Times (no, not that one): “The sham drug idea of the year: ‘pink Viagra’”
“…[E]very human being experiences different types and durations of physical and mental impairments, or different periods of health and illness , and lives for varying lengths of time due to the combined interactions of her internal biological endowments and needs, behaviours, external physical environment and social conditions. [….]
The centrality of human health and longevity to social justice is so patently obvious to some people that they simply take it as a starting point. This is particularly apparent in the remarkable history of physicians becoming social and political reformers, and even armed revolutionaries because of their understanding of manifest injustice in such aspects as the causes, consequences, persistence through generations, or distribution patterns of preventable ill-health and premature mortality in a population. But such an understanding is not limited only to physicians or those who work in the front lines of healthcare and public health. For example, Amartya Sen, the economist and philosopher, begins a lecture by stating, ‘In any discussion of social equity and justice, illness and health must figure as a major concern. I take that as my point of departure.’ He then continues, ‘…and begin by noting that health equity cannot but be a central feature of the justice of social arrangement in general.’ [….]
... John Rawls, perhaps the most renowned modern philosopher of social justice, has seemingly put forward the opposite position. Rawls believed that human health is a ‘natural good’ and subject to random luck over the life course; he sees health not as something significantly or directly socially produced, so it does not even come within the scope of social justice, let alone is central to it.”—Sridhar Venkatapuram, in the Introduction to his impressive and urgent book, Health Justice: An Argument from the Capabilities Approach (Polity Press, 2011)
Venkatapuram goes on to note that, in his later writings, Rawls at least “came to agree with Norman Daniels that justice produces entitlements to healthcare [emphasis added] in order to keep people above a minimum health threshold.” Of course Daniels himself progressively extends the Rawlsian conception of “justice as fairness” in two books: Just Health Care (Cambridge University Press, 1985), and Just Health: Meeting Health Needs Fairly (Cambridge University Press, 2008).
We will continue to look at Venkatapuram’s book in forthcoming posts in this series.
Scott Walker is well known for his bulldog-like attacks on constituencies not devoted to Republicans. So he has attacked public and private unions. And his most recent budget would slash “$250 million from the University of Wisconsin, one of the country’s great public institutions of higher education, and [would ensure] that most K-12 school districts will get less funding than they did last year.” See Washington Post. Most important for my purposes Mr. Walker sought to remove tenure protection for professors at the University of Wisconsin. As the Post reports, this move would seriously harm the school’s ability to attract and retain talented faculty.
Of course, this has attracted criticism, but coming to his rescue in the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal (where else) come John O. McGinnis and Max Schanzenbach (see Wall Street Journal (subscription may be required)) to defend the proposal as a wonderful cost savings device (those Republicans they just can’t get enough savings unless they are running up deficits fighting wars). They argue that dispensing with the older professors and hiring the younger will save costs and increase productivity. I resist the notion that saving costs is desirable when the ability to attract talented faculty is compromised. Moreover, the focus on “productivity” strikes me as narrow minded. That focus encourages faculty to publish a high quantity of articles many of them repetitious in character. Cicero, however, was on the right track when he remarked that we should weigh evidence, not count it. If the claim is that the work of younger faculty is of higher quality than more experienced faculty, I would expect an evidentiary showing. Instead, McGinnis and Schanzenbach rely on casual uninformed ageism to support their assertion. No evidence is brought to bear. Of course, memory declines as faculty get older, but a study of the faculty at Berkeley shows that older faculty preserve their higher order abilities to plan, organize, and problem solve. See Berkeley study.
McGinnis and Schanzenbach claim that firing the older professors will permit the universities to reallocate resources to needed areas like computer science. Once again, they offer no evidence to support the view that universities have been unable to hire computer scientists. This argument appears to be a make weight.
After wasting almost three columns of words, McGinnis and Schanzenbach come to the real issue. University tenure was provided to guarantee academic freedom. It has been a fixture of university education for more than a century. But McGinnis and Schanzenbach praise Walker for making the recent discovery that the need to protect academic freedom through tenure is without merit. Really? They claim that strong Supreme Court precedents protect professors from political discrimination. Actually, the status of constitutional protection for academic freedom has been cast in doubt by the Supreme Court at least since the case of Garcetti v. Cebellos (2006), and the cases prior to Garcetti were not nearly as strong as McGinnis and Schanzenbach suggest. Moreover, whatever protections the Constitution might provide apply only to state universities. But McGinnis and Schanzenbach contend that “Even with tenure systems in place, faculties at private universities can engage in viewpoint discrimination at the hiring and promotion stages with impunity. Given the monolithic political composition of many fields and departments, viewpoint discrimination is already a substantial danger.”
The latter contention implicitly concedes that the tenure system by guaranteeing academic freedom protects professors from termination at private schools. The claim that private universities engage with impunity by discriminating at the hiring stage or at the promotion stage (it is not clear that academic freedom is inapplicable at the promotion stage) is undefended. But it is part of a prevailing conservative deeply seated belief system. The overriding belief is that the academy discriminates against conservatives. I do not doubt the existence of such discrimination in some quarters, but the concern is overinclusive and undeinclusive. It is overinclusive because it borders on paranoia to suppose that discrimination against conservatives pervades the multitude of disciplines on campus. It is underinclusive in that it accents one form of political discrimination to the exclusion of others, and it emphasizes political discrimination to the exclusion of other forms of discrimination.
Equally important, the concern with discrimination against conservatives apparently blinds McGinnis and Schanzenbach to the reality that the protections of tenure are not exclusively or even primarily political. Tenure affords established scholars the freedom to challenge disciplinary customs, habits, and traditions. It gives them the freedom to transgress disciplinary boundaries and engage in interdisciplinary work. It gives them the time to pursue long term projects without worrying that a committee or department chair is using a whip to demand “productivity.”
In fairness, McGinnis and Schanzenbach do not want to dispense with protections for professors altogether. They propose long term contracts. But their proposal is fuzzy: “We are not sure what the optimal contract length is, and the correct period may well vary according to field.” They also suggest that “Contracts should spell out dismissal standards for academic and sexual misconduct, and they can also require minimum teaching and productivity standards. Contracts could require periodic review wherein performance would be investigated and such standards enforced.” Before signing on, I would like to know what those productivity standards might be and I would also like to know what protections faculty members might have before these performance reviews imperil the very academic freedom McGinnis and Schanzenbach maintain would not be compromised. In short, I am unwilling to accept the authors’ unsupported assurance that the need to protect tenure through academic freedom is without merit.
Come to think of it, if Walker thinks with McGinnis and Schanzenbach that academics are for the most part worn out by presumably age 65, I am left to wonder what he thinks about aging judges on the Supreme Court (McGinnis, for one, favors judicial term limits). Specifically, what does Walker think of Justices Scalia (79), Kennedy (79), Thomas (67), and Alito (65)? I am guessing that many of their long term contracts would already have expired (long ago in the case of Scalia and Kennedy). I would also guess the ‘performance reviews’ of Justices Ginsburg (83) and Breyer (78) would not go so well in his hands or the hands of other conservatives, but I doubt those reviews would be free of point-of-view-discrimination. And what is one to make of the fact that Justices are being appointed in their on-the-way-to-wearing-out 50’s rather than their more productive and energetic 30’s?
McGinnis and Schanzenbach maintain that Scott Walker is doing the educational establishment a favor by fighting for the elimination of tenure. I wonder if they think he was doing unions a favor when he attacked them. It seems to me that when a candidate for President attacks a vital part of university education; it would be better to admit he has declared war instead of suggesting that we do not know Santa Claus when we see him.
“We have known for over 150 years than an individual’s chances of life and death are patterned according to social class: the more affluent and better educated people are, the longer and healthier their lives. These patterns persist even when there is universal access to health care—a finding quite surprising to those who think financial access to medical services is the primary determinant of health status. In fact, recent cross-national evidence suggests that the greater the degree of socio-economic inequality that exists within a society, the steeper the gradient of health inequality. As a result, middle-income groups in a more unequal society will have worse health than comparable or even poorer groups in a society with greater equality. Of course, we cannot infer causation from correlation, but there are plausible hypotheses about pathways which link social inequalities to health, and, even if more work remains to be done to clarify the exact mechanisms, it is not unreasonable to talk here [after Michael Marmot] about the social ‘determinants’ of health.”—Norman Daniels, Bruce Kennedy, and Ichiro Kawachi in their book, Is Inequality Bad for Our Health? (Beacon Press, 2000)
Further Reading: Sreenivasan, Gopal, “Justice, Inequality, and Health,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
A bibliography on Health: Law, Ethics & Social Justice
“Because of diagnostic inflation, an excessive portion of people have come to rely on antidepressants, antipsychotics, antianxiety agents, sleeping pills, and pain meds. We are becoming a society of pill poppers. [….] Loose diagnosis is causing a national drug overdose of medication. Six percent of [us] are addicted to prescription drugs, and there are now more emergency room visits and deaths due to legal prescription drugs than to illegal street drugs. [….] Since 2005 there has been a remarkable eightfold increase in psychiatric prescriptions among our active duty troops. An incredible 110,000 soldiers are now taking at least one psychotropic drug, many are on more than one, and hundreds die every year from accidental overdoses.
Psychiatric meds are now the star revenue producers for the drug companies—in 2011, over $18 billion for antipsychotics (an amazing 6 percent of all drug sales); $11 billion for ADHD drugs. Expenditure on antipsychotics has tripled, and antidepressant use nearly quadrupled from 1988 to 2008. And the wrong doctors are giving out the pills. Eighty percent of prescriptions are written by primary-care physicians with little training in their proper use, under intense pressure from drug salespeople and misled patients, after rushed seven-minute appointments, with no systemic auditing.
There is also a topsy-turvy misallocation of resources: way too much treatment is given to the normal ‘worried well’ who are harmed by it; far too little help is available for those who are really ill and desperately need it. Two thirds of people with severe depression don’t get treated it, and many suffering with schizophrenia wind up in prisons. The writing is on the wall. ‘Normal’ badly needs saving; sick people desperately require treatment. But DSM-5 seemed to be moving in just the wrong direction, adding new diagnoses that would turn everyday anxiety, eccentricity, forgetting, and bad eating habits into mental disorders. Meanwhile the truly ill would be even more ignored as psychiatry expanded its boundaries to include many who are better considered normal.” —Allen Frances, M.D. in the Preface to his book, Saving Normal: An Insider’s Revolt against Out-of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life (William Morrow, 2013).
* * *
“We like to imagine that medicine is based on evidence and the results of fair tests. In reality, those tests are often profoundly flawed. We like to imagine that doctors are familiar with the research literature, when in reality much of it is hidden from them by drug companies. We like to imagine that doctors are well-educated when in reality much of the education is funded by industry. We like to imagine that regulators let only effective drugs onto to the market, when in reality they approve hopeless drugs, with data on side effects casually withheld from doctors and patients. [….]
Drugs are tested by the people who manufacture them, in poorly designed trials, on hopelessly small numbers of weird, unrepresentative patients, and analysed using techniques which are flawed by design, in such a way that they exaggerate the benefits of treatments. Unsurprisingly, these trials tend to produce that favour the manufacturer. When trials throw up results that companies don’t like, they are perfectly entitled to hide them from doctors and patients, so we only ever see a distorted picture of any drug’s true effects. Regulators see most of the trial data, but only from early on in a drug’s life, and even then they don’t give this data to doctors or patients, or even to other parts of the government. This distorted evidence is then communicated and applied in a distorted fashion. In their forty years of practice after leaving medical school, doctors hear about what works through ad hoc oral traditions, from sales reps, colleagues or journals. But those colleagues can be in the pay of drug companies—often undisclosed—and the journals are too. And so are the patient groups. And finally, academic papers, which everyone thinks of as objective, are often covertly planned and written by people who work directly for the companies, without disclosure. Sometimes whole academic journals are even owned outright by one drug company. Aside from all this, for several of the most important and enduring problems in medicine, we have no idea what the best treatment is, because it’s not in anyone’s financial interest to conduct any trials at all. These are ongoing problems, and although people have claimed to fix many of them, for the most part they have failed; so all these problems persist, but worse than ever, because now people can pretend that everything is fine after all.”—Ben Goldacre, from the Introduction to his book, Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients (Faber and Faber, 2013)
Please Note: I have two bibliographies with titles germane to this post: Biological Psychiatry, Sullied Psychology, & Pharmaceutical Reason: A Basic Bibliography and Sullied (Natural & Social) Sciences: A Basic Reading Guide (this latter compilation also covers material outside the scope of this post).
“Prosecutors also have tremendous control over witnesses: They can offer incentives—often highly compelling incentives—for suspects to testify. This includes providing sweetheart plea deals to alleged co-conspirators and engineering jail-house encounters between the defendant and known informants. Sometimes they feed snitches non-public information about the crime so that the statements they attribute to the defendant will sound authentic. And, of course, prosecutors can pile on charges so as to make it exceedingly risky for a defendant to go to trial. There are countless ways in which prosecutors can prejudice the fact-finding process and undermine a defendant’s right to a fair trial. [….] [T]here are disturbing indications that a non-trivial number of prosecutors—and sometimes entire prosecutorial offices—engage in misconduct that seriously undermines the fairness of criminal trials. The misconduct ranges from misleading the jury, to outright lying in court and tacitly acquiescing or actively participating in the presentation of false evidence by police.
Prosecutorial misconduct is a particularly difficult problem to deal with because so much of what prosecutors do is secret. If a prosecutor fails to disclose exculpatory evidence to the defense, who is to know? Or if a prosecutor delays disclosure of evidence helpful to the defense until the defendant has accepted an unfavorable plea bargain, no one will be the wiser. Or if prosecutors rely on the testimony of cops they know to be liars, or if they acquiesce in a police scheme to create inculpatory evidence, it will take an extraordinary degree of luck and persistence to discover it—and in most cases it will never be discovered.”—Alex Kozinski (a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit)
This is an updated and enhanced compilation from a couple of years ago (now with an episode of ‘The Rockford Files’!)