Recommended reads #91


The post-election college paper grading rubric.

(I’ll save the other election stuff for the tail end.)

Counterproductive gripes about “these students today.”

Scientific curiosity promotes resistance to processing information with a political bias. So says this paper now in pressSo when teaching non-majors courses, emphasizing curiosity and discovery might help change the world for the better.

The museum of rocks that look like faces.

A 3-year-old story by Ta-Nehisi Coates: “The Good, Racist People

How the National Museum of Natural History can regain trust after mishandling a sexual assault case. This set of recommendations seems good for any organization that wants to handle these situations effectively.

Are folks in smaller non-doctoral institutions less likely to be invited to participate in the peer review process?

The Ecological Society of America is becoming aware of the prevalence of sexual harassment.

What’s your preferred manuscript cascade? Mike Kaspari tells us his.

Here’s a wonderful profile of Leonard Cohen, from a few weeks before he died.

A short but equally wonderful profile, of Katharine Hayhoe.

An interview with Michael Stipe about the history of REM.

Cornell University did a thing to trim back the amount of time that faculty need to spend doing administrative “shadow work” that used to be done by admin assistants and other staff. I say BRAVO. I think I spend a 5-10 hours per week doing various forms of paperwork (on paper and online) for travel, academic advising, grant management, and such that really cuts into both my academic productivity and ability to engage with students. I mean, if the university wants me to do this much admin work, then shouldn’t it formally be built into our workload?

The Florida Department of Health told mayors to keep secret the locations of mosquitos that tested positive for Zika.

Mu-Ming Poo of UC Berkeley and the Chinese Academy of Sciences just won the Gruber Neuroscience Prize, which includes an honorarium of a half million bucks. How’d he rise to the top? Apparently, on the backs of exploited lab members.

Materials for a full length course for Data Carpentry for Biologists.

And now, the consequences of the election in the United States. I’ve tried to be selective and only include the best of the bunch. First, in case you haven’t had enough of everybody’s opinions yet, I’d like to provide my own context.

I’m going to broadly classify the reactions of my fellow US residents into four categories:

  1. “Whooooo! Fuck yeah! Suck on it you [expletive] [ethnic group] losers and go back to where you came from!”
  2. “Oh my, I do hope that all the nice things that I voted for outweigh the all of the bad stuff he promised.”
  3. “This is going to be worse than Bush. We’re entirely screwed.”
  4. “This resembles Germany in the 1930s, Serbia in the 1990s, and Venezuela of the 2000s. The first time that an authoritarian bully with no respect for the law or any of our citizens has taken the reins. Andrew Jackson did horrible things, but at this moment, it looks like it can get a lot worse. We fear for the safety of many people in our country, and within months we might not even recognize the liberties we once had. Our nation is at a critical juncture, and what transpires over the coming weeks is going to decide whether Trump will be removed from power, merely be horrible, or the authoritarian ruler of a kleptocracy. And it looks like the latter is quite likely, given the complicity of the media and how rapidly the Republicans are ceding power to him.”

It’s hard to think objectively, but here’s how I’m trying. First, I think it makes sense to take the plans of Trump and his people at face value, because I’ve seen no reason to think otherwise, other than facile wishful thinking. I’m listening to the people who very clearly predicted how the election would happen a year ago, back when folks weren’t even taking the idea of Trump’s nomination that seriously. I’m also listening to scholars who study this kind of thing.

Reality is looking a lot like #4.

It is old news that marginalized people in the US can’t count on their fellow Americans to protect their safety and freedom, but this election results crystallizes this reality into a more dangerous executive branch.

If you’re looking for an expert interpretation of recent events, see Sarah Kendzior, who predicted these events a year ago. She was right not just about everything he’d say in the campaign, but also what he’d do in the week after he got elected. She’s a scholar who studies authoritarian regimes for a living, and clearly knows what she’s talking about. There’s no reason to think she isn’t right, and good reason to think she is right. Unless we change things very quickly, over the next two months, things are just going to get worse and worse, beyond the realm of of what anybody is talking about in the media.

You might think this is an overreaction. But really, this situation is not normal. The warning signs are all there. If you were to ask, “What would it look like in the months before an authoritarian kleptocrat performs a hostile takeover of the US government with the complicity of the people, their elected officials, and the media?” then this is exactly what it would look like.

What can we do to successfully resist this course towards authoritarian rule? We need to pressure the ruling party — the Republicans — to not acquiesce basic liberties to Trump for the sake of their own marginal gains. If you have a senator or a representative in the Republican party, please do call them to let them know how you feel. You can pick up the phone and it will take less than 10 minutes. If you’re not used to these phone calls, a quick google can get you some sample scripts for the conversation. This matters so much.

We need the press to resist normalizing the extraordinarily outrageous actions from the Trump camp. To some extent, every outfit is guilty of normalizing Trump’s flaunting the standards of basic human decency. Nevertheless, we still need mainstream organizations like the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Pro Publica to be able to have the financial means to do the reporting and defend themselves when challenged for reporting responsibly. (By the way, did you know you get a free subscription to the Washington Post if you have a .edu email address? But more than ever, they need our funds.)

Okay, in the midst of all of the junk that people are sharing, here’s the stuff that I’ve read and recommend:

Sixteen people wrote about the election outcome for The New Yorker. I recommend the ones by Toni Morrison, Junot Diaz, and Larry Wilmore. And if you’ve read work from Gary Shteyngart related to his experience with eastern Europe, then maybe his too.

This is not normal. <– if you read one of these links, read this one.

A time for refusal. <– no wait, if you read one thing, make it this one.

Autocracy: Rules for survival. <–This one is the most utilitarian.

What normalization means.

Who goes Nazi? This was written for Harper’s in 1941, but, my gosh, it’s so apt for this moment.

From May 2016: America has never been so ripe for tyranny, by Andrew Sullivan.

From July 2016: 5 reasons why Trump will win, by Michael Moore.

This is just a little curiosity: The strange history of Steve Bannon and the Biosphere 2 experiment.

Now, more than ever, we must stand up for science.

Why I won’t tell anyone to calm down about Trump.

Here’s a short history of faithless electors in the US.

Prospects for the climate, and environmentalism, under President Trump.

What so many people don’t get about the US working class. Yeah, I know, there are like thousands of pieces that have a title like this. I dare suggest that you might find this one illuminating. As one of the “class migrants” described in the story, I find a lot of truth here.

The “white working class” and Trump support. This is a data-rich interpretation of what happened that I also think you’ll find illuminating. The take-home message is that YES, it is about racism and sexism.

Anti-semitic propaganda was mailed to me at my home.

We need to talk about the online radicalization of young white men.

Is your campus a sanctuary for minorities targeted by the Trump administration? Whether or not that holds depends on how reliant the campus (and its leaders) are on federal dollars. It looks like the CSU system is taking a very robust stance, as is the Los Angeles Unified School District. And the LAPD. Other places might have a harder time holding on, I imagine. What is your campus president willing to sacrifice for the safety of the marginalized members of the community? Now is the time to have that conversation and to get commitments in writing, before the ultimatums come from the federal government.

I think it’s very hard to find a constructive message and tone at this moment. I think I’ve fallen short in this present piece of writing despite spending too much time trying to finesse these ideas. I think some blog posts that are hitting that sweet spot are Tenure She Wrote, Jacquelyn Gill, and Josh Drew. This moment requires the formation of an intentional community, cohering and adhering as we experience great pressures from the outside.

Now, to attempt to clear your mind if you wish, here is a beautiful short film: