Joel Olson, 1967-2012

31 03 2012

Sad news from a friend and former colleague, about a friend and former colleague:

NAU prof Joel Olson dies suddenly

Hillary Davis, Arizona Daily Sun

Colleagues, students and friends are mourning Joel Olson, a popular political science professor at Northern Arizona University who died this week while working abroad.

Details on his death have not been released. Olson was said by friends to be about 45 years old.

Olson was spending the spring as a visiting faculty member at the University of Alicante in Spain. He gave a lecture at the University of Nottingham in Nottingham, England on Wednesday evening and died in Britain before returning to Spain.

On Thursday evening, the posts on his Facebook wall turned to shock, grief, support and admiration.

Word quickly came back to his NAU peers — in Flagstaff, or, like colleague Fred Solop, in Argentina.

Solop, also a political science professor, was a co-worker and for a time was Olson’s department chair. Solop said Olson encouraged critical thought and engagement in his students.

“He was very passionate about life,” Solop said by phone Friday from Buenos Aires, where he is spending part of his sabbatical. “He was passionate about his family, he was passionate about politics, he was passionate about teaching.”

FAMILY, POLITICS, TEACHING

Olson was an academic, activist and family man. He was an associate professor at NAU with scholarly interests in political theory, race and ethnicity, and social movements. His research focused on race and democracy, and fanaticism, or extremism. He had been at NAU since 2003.

He won the Outstanding Teaching Award for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences in 2004-2005. Last fall, he taught an undergraduate course in classical and medieval political thought and a graduate course in critical race theory. He was teaching courses on extremism and the West and contemporary Western political thought while in Spain through the University Studies Abroad Consortium.

Olson was active with grassroots groups like the Repeal Coalition — an organization that seeks the repeal of laws that target immigrants and uses the slogan “Fight for freedom to live, love and work anywhere you please.” He spoke out critically on subjects like SB1070, Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration law.

Last fall, he and other Repeal Coalition members accompanied workers who had been fired from Flagstaff’s Little America hotel for not being able to provide satisfactory documentation of legal residency in a request for severance packages.

“Joel was a colleague of great kindness and decency; a teacher of unquenchable passion and inspiration; a foremost scholar of critical race studies; and an eloquent spokesman for the oppressed. Above all, he was a loving husband and father, and a much-loved brother and son,” read a statement by NAU’s Department of Politics & International Affairs. “While his loss will be forever, the example of his life will live on. Whether one knew him as a friend or as a teacher, he will always be our role model for a life fully and nobly lived.”

Read the rest here.

Joel was a supremely decent man, someone with strong convictions whose politics was informed by an inherent generosity toward others. He was smart and funny and friendly and steadfast and yes, I’m making him sound like a saint and no, he wasn’t but, goddammit, he was one of those rare people who made others better.

The world was better for having him in it.

My deepest sympathies to his wife, Audrey, family, colleagues, and friends.

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Still looking. . .

27 03 2012

I tried hard to be a grownup and an employee, I really did. At one time I owned a house, a big car, I had a 401k, several neckties, the works. It just didn’t take. It took me a while, but one important thing I learned was if you’re a failure at something, that makes you a success at something else. It’s like the 8th law of thermodynamics or something. Something equal and opposite happens. You just have to find out what it is.

Wally Torta





All hail Leigh Turner!

22 03 2012

Well, goddamn.

Leigh Turner has been fighting the good fight regarding the dubious stem cell “treatments” offered by Celltex, recently sending a letter to the FDA requesting that they investigate the firm.

Celltex has responded by sending a letter to Eric Kaler, president of the University of Minnesota alleging misdeeds by Turner, and ending with the following:

Please inform us at your earliest convenience whether Associate Professor Turner’s February 21st letter, on the University’s letterhead, was authorized by the University. If it was not authorized, please inform us of what steps the University will take to disclaim any sponsorship of the Turner letter, retract the letter, remove the letter from the internet, prevent further distribution of the letter, and prevent recurrence of this type of action by Associate Professor Turner (or any other University professor). We wish to limit legal liability to those responsible for the wrongful acts and appreciate your cooperation in that regard.

Yeah, no.

Now, at this point I must admit that I know Leigh Turner—I worked with him at McGill—and like and greatly respect him. Leigh is a methodical thinker and researcher and, unlike your erratic and absurd host, not at all prone to popping off.

I also have to say that I found out about this SLAPP-suit at Carl Elliott’s blog, that I know, like, and greatly respect Carl, AND that I know, like, and greatly respect a number of the people who have also written to the FDA in support of Leigh.

(I also admit that I disclose these connections not just for reasons of honesty but because I think these people are terrific and am glad I know them.)

Anyway, read through the comments at Carl’s post and you’ll understand what I mean by “all hail Leigh Turner!” Note, for example, his patient and relentless responses to the evasive comments and personal attacks levelled by Laurence B. McCullough’s of the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine. Leigh responds to every single point, respectfully requests additional information, and does. not. let. up.

Did I mention Leigh is methodical?

Okay, he does let one snipe go: McCullough at one point accuses Leigh of  “American provincialism”;  Leigh is Canadian.

In any case, Leigh has set a standard on how to respond to evasion, misdirection, and intimidation: know your stuff and don’t back down.

It’s a good standard for a hothead like me to follow.

h/t for Turner letter to FDA: Carl Elliott; for Celltex letter to the U of M: Ed Silverman at Pharmalot





Winter, spring, summer, or fall

19 03 2012

K. has a bad boyfriend.

He may not be a bad guy (tho’ I don’t know if he’s a good guy. . . ), but he is a bad boyfriend.

K. knows this—she’s the one who gave C. and me the lowdown on him—but for a variety of reasons is not ready to end the relationship once and for all.

C. and I had our own variety of reasons of why she should end it, and we tag-teamed our explication of why the relationship needed to end now, yesterday, six months ago. He didn’t deserve her, C. and I agreed, and she should be with someone who really appreciated what a treasure she was.

Did I mention we had all been drinking?

Anyway, I don’t think anything C. or I said to here will matter one whit, and, honestly, that’s as it should be.

It was a kind of friendship ritual we went through: she got to pour out her uncertainties, we got to affirm that she was terrific, and the evening ended with orations on What Should Be and kisses. It was more about each and all of us than anything having to do with the boyfriend.

No, as the one who has to live with—or without—her boyfriend, it is left to K. to decide where and how and if he fits in her life. It’s her call, not ours.

But letting her know that we do think she’s terrific, well, yes, that we could do.





And then this shit: Does it really need to be said that female people are people?

14 03 2012

Unfuckingbelievable. Because: all-too-believable:

Arizona  House Bill 2625

. . .

Y.  Any contract between a corporation and its subscribers is subject to the following:

1.  If the contract provides coverage for prescription drugs, the contract shall provide coverage for any prescribed drug or device that is approved by the United States food and drug administration for use as a contraceptive.  A corporation may use a drug formulary, multitiered drug formulary or list but that formulary or list shall include oral, implant and injectable contraceptive drugs, intrauterine devices and prescription barrier methods if the corporation does not impose deductibles, coinsurance, copayments or other cost containment measures for contraceptive drugs that are greater than the deductibles, coinsurance, copayments or other cost containment measures for other drugs on the same level of the formulary or list.

2.  If the contract provides coverage for outpatient health care services, the contract shall provide coverage for outpatient contraceptive services.  For the purposes of this paragraph, “outpatient contraceptive services” means consultations, examinations, procedures and medical services provided on an outpatient basis and related to the use of approved United States food and drug administration prescription contraceptive methods to prevent unintended pregnancies.

3.  This subsection does not apply to contracts issued to individuals on a nongroup basis.

Z.  Notwithstanding subsection Y of this section, a religious employer whose religious tenets prohibit the use of prescribed contraceptive methods may require that the corporation provide a contract without coverage for all United States food and drug administration approved contraceptive methods.� A religious employer shall submit a written affidavit to the corporation stating that it is a religious employer.� On receipt of the affidavit, the corporation shall issue to the religious employer a contract that excludes coverage of prescription contraceptive methods.� The corporation shall retain the affidavit for the duration of the contract and any renewals of the contract.  Before enrollment in the plan, every religious employer that invokes this exemption shall provide prospective subscribers written notice that the religious employer refuses to cover all United States food and drug administration approved contraceptive methods for religious reasons.� This subsection shall not exclude coverage for prescription contraceptive methods ordered by a health care provider with prescriptive authority for medical indications other than to prevent an unintended pregnancy.� A corporation may require the subscriber to first pay for the prescription and then submit a claim to the corporation along with evidence that the prescription is for a noncontraceptive purpose.� A corporation may charge an administrative fee for handling these claims.� A religious employer shall not discriminate against an employee who independently chooses to obtain insurance coverage or prescriptions for contraceptives from another source. [strikeout in the original]

Z.  Notwithstanding subsection y of this section, a contract does not fail to meet the requirements of subsection Y of this section if the contract’s failure to provide coverage of specific items or services required under subsection Y of this section is because providing or paying for coverage of the specific items or services is contrary to the religious beliefs of the employer, sponsor, issuer, corporation or other entity offering the plan or is because the coverage is contrary to the religious beliefs of the purchaser or beneficiary of the coverage.� If an objection triggers this subsection, a written affidavit shall be filed with the corporation stating the objection.� The corporation shall retain the affidavit for the duration of the contract and any renewals of the contract.  This subsection shall not exclude coverage for prescription contraceptive methods ordered by a health care provider WITH prescriptive authority for medical indications other than for contraceptive, abortifacient, abortion or sterilization purposes.� A corporation, employer, sponsor, issuer or other entity offering the plan may state religious beliefs or moral convictions in its affidavit that require the subscriber to first pay for the prescription and then submit a claim to the corporation along with evidence that the prescription is not in whole or in part for a purpose covered by the objection.� A corporation may charge an administrative fee for handling these claims. [Italics indicate added language; emp added]

There are more strikeouts and additions along these same lines (which can be viewed at the link, above), including:

C.  Before enrollment in the health care plan, every religious employer that invokes this exemption shall provide prospective enrollees written notice that the religious employer refuses to cover all federal food and drug administration approved contraceptive methods for religious reasons.

and

D.  C.  Subsection B of this section does not exclude coverage for prescription contraceptive methods ordered by a health care provider with prescriptive authority for medical indications other than to prevent an unintended pregnancy.� A health care services organization may require for contraceptive, abortifacient, abortion or sterilization purposes.A health care services organization, employer, sponsor, issuer or other entity offering the plan may state religious beliefs in its affidavit that require the enrollee to first pay for the prescription and then submit a claim to the health care services organization along with evidence that the prescription is for a noncontraceptive purpose not in whole or in part for a purpose covered by the objection.� A health care services organization may charge an administrative fee for handling claims under this subsection.

and

E.  A religious employer shall not discriminate against an employee who independently chooses to obtain insurance coverage or prescriptions for contraceptives from another source.

That’s right: Not only does the worker not have the right to be informed of any restrictions on coverage prior to enrollment, and not only would she have to submit an affidavit stating that a scrip for birth control is for “medical” non-birth-control reasons, but SHE CAN BE FIRED FOR USING CONTRACEPTION!

Did you get that? Was I loud enough? !!!!!!!SHE CAN BE FIRED FOR USING CONTRACEPTION!!!!

This bill, by the way, passed the Arizona House and is now headed to the Senate.

And now a word from our sponsor:

“I believe we live in America,” said Majority Whip Debbie Lesko (R-Glendale), who sponsored the bill. “We don’t live in the Soviet Union. So, government should not be telling the organizations or mom-and-pop employers to do something against their moral beliefs.”

Hey Majority Whip Debbie Lesko, I gotta message for you: Go fuck yourself.

Good thing that won’t require contraception.

h/t Laura Bassett, Huffington Post

*Update: And oh yeah, this too.





No comment

13 03 2012

New Hanover Commissioners choose not to accept family planning funds

Following opinions on public funding of contraceptives, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to turn down a state family planning grant that would cover contraceptive supplies along with other medical services related to family planning.

. . . .

“The answers that I got were that there were patients that were not being responsible with existing family planning that was being offered and that this would provide a more reliable solution for those people,” Catlin said at Monday afternoon’s commissioners meeting.

He added that he had an issue with “using taxpayer dollars to fund someone’s irresponsibility.”

The county’s health department was awarded $8,899 in family planning funds that would “provide medical services related to family planning including physician’s consultation, examination, prescription, continuing supervision, laboratory examination and contraceptive supplies,” according to a budget amendment item included in documents for Monday’s commissioners meeting. The county was not required to match the state grant.

Chairman Ted Davis said he thought it was a sad day when “taxpayers are asked to pay money to buy for contraceptives” for women having sex without planning responsibly.

“If these young women were responsible people and didn’t have the sex to begin with, we wouldn’t be in this situation,” Davis said.

Commissioner Jonathan Barfield said he was “one of those abstinence guys” and agreed with Davis’ comment.

. . . .

h/t Dan Savage, The Stranger





All things weird and wonderful, 20

12 03 2012

Afar depression hot spring; photo by George Steinmetz/Nat Geo Photo of the Day

Fifteen or so years ago L. and her friend S. motored over from Wisconsin to pick up me and my friend J. on the way to Wyoming and the Tetons.

Our first day’s drive we made it to Devils Tower (bad name, cool feature) and celebrated by breaking out a six-pack on our way to the campsite. We toured the base the following morning, crabby on instant coffee, then broke camp and hied on over to Yellowstone.

Yellowstone is a massive park full of curious and foolish people. (An example: You are given brochures at the entrance to the park warning you to stay away from the bison. They are as large as a small Honda and can go as fast, one of them said. And probably something about them not being pets. So what do curious and foolish people do? Instead of using their telephoto lens, they crawl under or over the fence to approach the bison.)

(Another example: we decided to pass a  slow-moving RV on one of the few stretches of straight road. There were cars from the other direction heading for us. Our car was a small and old Honda without much pick-up. Nonetheless, we floored it, with all of us leaning forward screaming GoGoGoGoGoGoGoGoGoGoGoGoGooooooooooo! in an effort to give the little sedan a little oomph and scoot in front of the RV before we smashed into the oncoming cars.)

(No curiosity; just foolishness.)

Anyway, there’s a lot that’s cliched about Yellowstone and yeah, Old Faithful is cool and all but, y’know, the effect can be replicated by a machine.

What would be far harder to replicate, however, would be the sulfur pits (or, more accurately, the Artist Paint Pots). It looked like something out of a sci-fi flick or a recreation of what the earth might have looked like a million years ago. There was a crack in the planet and its history poured forth into the present.

Standing there, amidst the stench and steam and mud bubbles popping, I knew how small I was, how small this life was, and what a gift it was to witness the vastness of time stretched across the universe, catching us all up within it.

These hot springs, emerging out of the Afar depression gashed across east Africa, took me back to that moment, caught me back up in the yawn of time.

Make sure to read the story, by Virginia Morell, and click through the rest of Steinmetz’s photos.

Astonishing.