A backlash in November

It’s pretty hard to summarize the state of the U.S. in a single tweet, but damn, this has gotta be close:


Pandemic

Roche has won Food and Drug Administration approval for an antibody test with what it claims is a much lower false positive rate.[1]

Roche says its test has proven 100% accurate at detecting Covid-19 antibodies in the blood, and 99.8% accurate at ruling out the presence of those antibodies. In other words, only two in every 1,000 samples lacking the antibodies would produce a “false positive” result.[2]

It’s still not known how long any immunity such antibodies confer lasts.[3]

Gloria Jackson, as told to Eli Saslow, “‘I apologize to God for feeling this way,’” Washington Post, May 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/02/elderly-woman-coronavirus-lonely-expendable/

Denise Roland, “Roche Coronavirus Antibody Test Wins FDA Approval for Emergency Use,” Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/roche-coronavirus-antibody-test-wins-fda-approval-for-emergency-use-11588505019


The neoliberal party

I think this might be the ultimate reason for never again supporting Bernie Sanders:

Bad judgment.


Academia

It just keeps getting worse.

Let’s jump back a few years, in fact, to 2001, the last year I was gainfully employed. I was laid off in April that year.

It was also the year I learned my father had died the year before. He had cut off contact with me—this seems to be quite the thing in my family—and I learned about his death only because his wife, who had been profoundly dependent upon him (she suffered from addiction and depression issues), had killed herself with an opiate (I presume heroin) overdose, and I was still listed as a beneficiary on my father’s employee stock ownership plan. He had disowned me in every other way.

As the story reaches me, my father had come home and had a “discussion” (I very strongly suspect this was an argument) with his wife. She went upstairs to bed (excessive sleep is a symptom of depression). He went downstairs to his car, closed all the doors, and turned on the engine. He died of asphyxiation. Suicide. His wife didn’t handle it well, likely leading to her own demise later that year, leading to his company’s payout dilemma.

My father had never been happy. Not while married to my mother, not while married to his second wife (whose ending I recount above), probably not ever in life. But to me, his suicide left his profoundly dependent wife in a terrible state. In that act, he repudiated the values of accountability and responsibility he had instilled in me.

It was also a point when I had been laid off in the dot-com crash and was keenly aware that tech companies especially were seeking cheaper labor overseas. I realized that “hard” skills would only be valuable until employers found workers who possessed those skills in cheaper markets.

So when, a couple years later, my father’s company offered me a buyout, I took the money and, among other things, returned to school. I ultimately chose to pursue a program my father would have derided as “basketweaving.” But I figured, if I failed—I considered this highly unlikely—to find work in the meantime, at least I could teach.

I finished my master’s degree just in time for the financial crisis, which devastated academia. I couldn’t even find an adjunct position. And I continued on, ultimately finishing my Ph.D. at the end of 2015, graduating early in 2016.

I still can’t find even an adjunct position or a job of any kind. And academia keeps taking the hits. Musa al-Gharbi’s article[4] covers an important part of the latter saga, a part I was clueless about when I returned to school in 2003 and utterly underestimated when I continued toward my Ph.D.

The 2020 cohort of Ph.D.s is facing a nearly nonexistent job market. But of course, even before the coronavirus pandemic, most graduating Ph.D.s faced bleak prospects. National Science Foundation data suggest that 40 percent of recent Ph.D. graduates had no employment commitments of any kind (not in the private sector, nor as postdocs, nor as contingent or tenure-track faculty). Of those who did get commitments in academe, tenure-track appointments were relatively rare. According to the American Association of University Professors, nearly three-fourths of all teaching jobs today are not tenure-eligible. As a new report by the American Federation of Teachers highlights, these non-tenure-track jobs tend to provide low wages, few benefits, and little job security — with contracts extended or retracted capriciously from semester to semester. Many contingent faculty members, even those working full time, have to rely on government assistance just to make ends meet. Many are also saddled by immense debt, incurred in the hope that a terminal degree would provide a pathway to a stable and well-compensated academic job.[5]

I do not, even for a second, regret my education. But my experience with the job market has been inexcusable.[6]

Musa al-Gharbi, “Universities Run on Disposable Scholars,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 1, 2020, https://www.chronicle.com/article/Universities-Run-on-Disposable/248687


  1. [1]Denise Roland, “Roche Coronavirus Antibody Test Wins FDA Approval for Emergency Use,” Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/roche-coronavirus-antibody-test-wins-fda-approval-for-emergency-use-11588505019
  2. [2]Denise Roland, “Roche Coronavirus Antibody Test Wins FDA Approval for Emergency Use,” Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/roche-coronavirus-antibody-test-wins-fda-approval-for-emergency-use-11588505019
  3. [3]Denise Roland, “Roche Coronavirus Antibody Test Wins FDA Approval for Emergency Use,” Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/roche-coronavirus-antibody-test-wins-fda-approval-for-emergency-use-11588505019
  4. [4]Musa al-Gharbi, “Universities Run on Disposable Scholars,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 1, 2020, https://www.chronicle.com/article/Universities-Run-on-Disposable/248687
  5. [5]Musa al-Gharbi, “Universities Run on Disposable Scholars,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 1, 2020, https://www.chronicle.com/article/Universities-Run-on-Disposable/248687
  6. [6]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/