Sunday, October 04, 2015

The Great Depression & New Deal in U.S. History—A Basic Bibliography

My bibliography on the Great Depression and the New Deal is available here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Royal Chicano Air Force and the United Farm Workers

“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.

Monday, September 21, 2015

On Golden Rice

At one of our sister blogs, the Agricultural Law blog.

Friday, September 18, 2015

César Chávez & the United Farm Workers: A Basic Bibliography

My basic bibliography on César Chávez and the United Farm Workers is here.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Construction of Sexual Disorder by Sullied Science and Big Pharma

Pablo Picasso, Trois femmes, 1908

“The real problem with ‘pink Viagra’” 
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I am less troubled by the risk of low blood pressure and fainting than I am by the drug maker’s reinforcement of an outdated, scientifically invalid model of sexual desire.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.’” 

Further reading: Biological Psychiatry, Sullied Psychology, & Pharmaceutical Reason: A Basic Bibliography.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Toward making sense of the structural constraints of health & illness in the neoliberal variation of advanced (or late-) capitalist society … (3)

…[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).

Monday, August 17, 2015

Toward making sense of the structural constraints of health & illness in the neoliberal variation of advanced (or late-) capitalist society … (2)

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 

My bibliography for Health: Law, Ethics, & Social Justice 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Toward making sense of the structural constraints of health & illness in the neoliberal variation of advanced (or late-) capitalist society …

“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)
I have two bibliographies with titles germane to this post: Biological Psychiatry, Sullied Psychology, and Pharmaceutical Reason: A Basic Bibliography, and Sullied (Natural & Social) Sciences: A Basic Bibliography (this latter compilation includes works outside the scope of this post). 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Mapping the Dimensions of Prosecutorial Misconduct: A Short Reading Guide (updated)

 Charles White, The Trenton Six, 1949
“Prosecutors hold tremendous power, more than anyone other than jurors, and often much more than jurors because most cases don’t go to trial. Prosecutors and their investigators have unparalleled access to the evidence, both inculpatory and exculpatory, and while they are required to provide exculpatory evidence to the defense under Brady, Giglio, and Kyles v. Whitley, it is very difficult for the defense to find out whether the prosecution is complying with this obligation. 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 includes an episode of ‘The Rockford Files’!)

  • Alexander, Michelle (2010) The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: The New Press. 
  • Balko, Randy (August 5, 2013) “The Untouchables: America’s Misbehaving Prosecutors and the System that Protects Them,” Huffington Post: 
  • Burns, Sarah (2011) The Central Park Five. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 
  • Butler, Paul (2009) Let’s Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice. New York: The New Press. 
  • Christianson, Scott (2006) Innocent: Inside Wrongful Conviction Cases. New York: New York University Press. 
  • Cole, David (1999) No Equal Justice: Race and Class in the American Criminal Justice System. New York: The Free Press.
  • “Criminal Law 2.0 – Preface” [to the 44th Annual Review of Criminal Procedure], by Hon. Alex Kozinski, Georgetown Law Journal, Vol. 103 – 5: iii-xliv. PDF article available for download here: 
  • Davis, Angela J. (2007) Arbitrary Justice: The Power of the American Prosecutor. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Freedman, Monroe H. “The Use of Unethical and Unconstitutional Practices and Policies by Prosecutors’ Offices” (February 26, 2012). Washburn Law Journal, 2012; Hofstra University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-06. Available:
  • Freedman, Monroe and Abbe Smith (2010) Lawyers’ Ethics. Matthew Bender & Co./LexisNexis.  
  • Garrett, Brandon L. (2011) Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.  
  • Gershman, Bennett L. (2d, 2013-14 ed.) Prosecutorial Misconduct. New York: Clark Boardman Callaghan/West Group.
  • Green, Bruce A. “Prosecutors and Professional Regulation” (November 15, 2012). Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, Vol. 25, p. 873, 2012; Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2176252. Available: 
  • Green, Bruce A. and Yaroshefsky, Ellen. “Prosecutorial Discretion and Post-Conviction Evidence of Innocence,” Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, Vol. 6, No. 467 (2009); Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1393796; Cardozo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 264. Available:  
  • Henning, Peter J. “Prosecutorial Misconduct and Constitutional Remedies,” 77 Wash. U. L. Q. 713 (1999). Available at: 
  • The Justice Project. “Improving Prosecutorial Accountability: A Policy Review.” (2009) Available online as a PDF doc. via a Google search. This paper has an indispensable list of books and (especially) articles under “suggested reading.” 
  • Kennedy, Randall (1997) Race, Crime, and the Law. New York: Pantheon Books. 
  • Lawless, Joseph F. (3rd ed., 2003) Prosecutorial Misconduct. Charlottesville, VA: LexisNexis.
  • Lippke, Richard L. (2011) The Ethics of Plea Bargaining. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. 
  • Lithwick, Dahlia. “You’re All Out”: A defense attorney uncovers a brazen scheme to manipulate evidence, and prosecutors and police finally get caught. Slate, May 28, 2015. 
  • Medwed, Daniel S. (2012) Prosecution Complex: America’s Race to Convict and Its Impact on the Innocent. New York: New York University Press. 
  • The Open File: A website about prosecutorial misconduct and accountability 
  • Perlin, Michael L., Power and Greed and the Corruptible Seed: Mental Disability, Prosecutorial Misconduct, and the Death Penalty (November 10, 2014). NYLS Legal Studies Research Paper. Available:
  • Prosecutorial Misconduct: Wikipedia article. 
  • Rakoff, Jed S. “Why Innocent People Plead Guilty, The New York Review of Books, November 20, 2014 (Vol. 61, No. 18).
  • Ridolfi, Kathleen M. and Possley, Maurice Possley; Northern California Innocence Project, “Preventable Error: A Report on Prosecutorial Misconduct in California 1997–2009” (2010). Northern California Innocence Project Publications. Book 2, 
  • “The Rockford Files”: Season 3, Episode 7: So Help Me God (19 Nov. 1976) “Jim gets called before a grand jury where he promptly gets thrown into jail for contempt.” 
  • Scheck, Barry, Peter Neufeld, and Jim Dwyer (2001) Actual Innocence: When Justice Goes Wrong and How to Fix It. New York: Signet. 
  • Schehr, Robert, “The Emperor’s New Clothes: Intellectual Dishonesty and the Unconstitutionality of Plea-Bargaining” (June 1, 2015). Available: 
  • Stuntz, William J. (2011) The Collapse of American Criminal Justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.  
  • “When Innocent Clients Plead Guilty, a blog post by yours truly from several years ago here at Ratio Juris.
  • Yaroshefsky, Ellen. “New Orleans Prosecutorial Disclosure in Practice after Connick v. Thompson” (November 16, 2012). Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, Vol. 25, No. 913 (2012). Available:  

International Law Bibliography

My basic bibliography (books, in English) for international law is now posted here.

Friday, June 05, 2015

The Placebo Effect and Psychotherapy

What the power of positive thinking may have begun to lose by the late 1990s in terms of political stridency, it gained in terms of biomedical responsibility. More than anything else, this respectability was gained through the increasingly firm identification of positive thinking with the placebo effect. Between 1997 and 2000, there appeared no fewer than five academic books on the placebo effect (one of which I edited)…. The main argument offered by the new literature was that the placebo effect was important above all for what it taught us about self-healing. It was not just a trick; it produced real (physiologically discernible) effects….—Anne Harrington

The placebo effect depends on the art of deception (perhaps even ‘self-deception,’ as suggested in what follows). It’s certainly possible that psychotherapy, in part, relies on this, or at least an analogous process, as Jon Elster argues in Sour Grapes (1983):

“How are we to reconcile the facts—or rather impressions—that (i) there is a great deal of successful therapy, (ii) therapists believe that a good theory is essential for success and (iii) very little of the variance in therapeutic success is explained by the therapist’s choice of one theory rather than another? [I don’t think this necessarily means that ‘anything goes,’ but that’s an argument for another day.] Often the theory tells the therapist to bring about some intermediate state (analogous to the buried treasure [from La Fontaine’s fable of the laborer and his children]) as an indispensable stepping stone to the final goal of mental health (corresponding to wealth in the fable). In psychoanalysis, for instance, it is argued that the intermediate state of insight or ‘Bewusstwerden’ is required for the final goal of ‘Ichwerden’ to be realized. My suggestion is that in therapy the final goal is not realized instrumentally through the intermediate state, but as a by-product of the attempt to bring about that state. Moreover, there may be several, different intermediate states that, if pursued seriously, can lead to this outcome. Crudely put: the therapist must believe in some theory for the therapeutic activity to seem worth while, and it will not be successful unless he thinks it worth while. Therapist and patient are accomplices in a mutually beneficial folie à deux.”

So, should a psychotherapist be persuaded by the above account, can he or she remain a therapist? In other words, would this newly won knowledge undermine her attempt to practice therapy, given that she can no longer believe the “right theory” is indispensable to therapeutic success? (See chapter 8, ‘Psychotherapy—The Purest Placebo?,’ in Evans below for an extended discussion of some of the relevant issues.)

We might compare this to an earlier story told by Elster in which a therapist attempts to bring about sleep for an insomniac. Elster describes a technique in which the patient is given instructions for the following night to “note very carefully, every five minutes, all the symptoms of insomnia, such as dizziness, headaches, a dry throat. This, the therapist says, is essential if he is to be able to come up with suggestions for overcoming the insomnia. The patient, naively and obediently, does as instructed, and promptly falls asleep. Sleep has come, but as a by-product—and in this context is it essentially a by-product, since the effect would have been spoiled had the therapist told the patient about the point of the instructions.”

One thing Elster does not discuss, however, is that this “technique” does not seem repeatable: it’s a one-shot strategy, at least with a clever or even halfway intelligent patient, who will soon discover the “real” purpose of the therapist’s instructions.

References & Further Reading:
  • Benedetti, Fabrizio. Placebo Effects. New York: Oxford University Press, 2nd ed., 2014.  
  • Brown, Walter A. The Placebo Effect in Clinical Practice. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 
  • Elster, Jon. Sour Grapes: studies in the subversion of rationality. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1983: II. “States that are essentially by-products”: 43-108.   
  • Evans, Dylan. Placebo: Mind over Matter in Modern Medicine. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
  • Gillett, Grant R. Bioethics in the Clinic: Hippocratic Reflections. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.
  • Gillett, Grant R. The Mind and Its Discontents. New York: Oxford University Press, 2nd ed., 2009.
  • Harrington, Ann. The Cure Within: A History of Mind-Body Medicine. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2008. 
  • Harrington, Anne, ed. The Placebo Effect: An Interdisciplinary Exploration. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.
  • Kolber, Adam J. “A Limited Defense of Clinical Placebo Deception,” Yale Law & Policy Review, Vol. 26, 2007; San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 07-87.
  • Miller, Franklin G., et al., eds. The Placebo: A Reader. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013.  
  • Moerman, Daniel E. Meaning, Medicine and the ‘Placebo Effect.’ Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Monday, May 25, 2015

A poem in the spirit of Memorial Day

During the War

When my brother came home from war
he carried his left arm in a black sling
but assured us most of it was still there.
Spring was late, the trees forgot to leaf out.

I stood in a long line waiting for bread.
The woman behind me said it was shameless,
someone as strong as I still home, still intact
while her Michael was burning to death.

Yes, she could feel the fire, could smell
his pain all the way from Tarawa–
or was it Midway?–and he so young,
younger than I, who was only fourteen,

taller, more handsome in his white uniform
turning slowly gray the way unprimed wood
grays slowly in the grate when the flames
sputter and die. “I think I’m going mad,”

she said when I turned to face her. She placed
both hands on my shoulders, kissed each eyelid,
hugged me to her breasts and whispered wetly
in my bad ear words I’d never heard before.

When I got home my brother ate the bread
carefully one slice at a time until
nothing was left but a blank plate. “Did you see her,”
he asked, “the woman in hell, Michael’s wife?”

That afternoon I walked the crowded streets
looking for something I couldn’t name,
something familiar, a face or a voice or less,
but not these shards of ash that fell from heaven.

—Philip Levine (2007)