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Watch Hong Kong

I no longer visit Hong Kong regularly, as I once did, so it has fallen off my blog. But the coincidence of the 30-year anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre and the massive protests over the prospect of a law allowing extradition to mainland China are too important to let pass without a mention--especially in the current US political climate.

China is attempting to rewrite the history of June 4, 1989, at an unprecedented scale and with unprecedented success. One of the strangest days of my traveling life was June 4, 2009, the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre. I awoke in Shantou on the mainland, where I had given a talk at a university the day before. A normal day, both at the university and at the airport. When I arrived in Hong Kong the air was alive with protest and remembrance. I attended the events in Victoria Park that night, and blogged about how far US universities would go toward self-censorship to avoid offending their Chinese benefactors. Here is my photo of that evening.

It is reported that the protests were muted this year, as the countermeasures were stronger than ever--vigorous Internet censorship, and rounding up dissidents before the date of the event, rather than responding to actual protests. And of course no one under the age of 35 remembers those events first hand. I attended a panel about June 4 at Harvard recently, at which a Chinese student asked why the panelists should be believed, since the government insisted that the events they described never occurred--no one was killed, and a small number of counterrevolutionaries were responsible for the myth that this was an organic, large scale student movement in pursuit of basic rights. 

America, watch Hong Kong. We don't want a state-run TV network, as the US president has proposed, rewriting history to the liking of the powers that be.

The courageous Rowena He, who was present for the massacre and has devoted her life to preserving its memory, has written two op-eds to mark the occasion. Surviving Tiananmen: The price of dissent in China, in the Nation, and False Identity? Forced Identity? Taiwan in China's post-Tiananmen nationalism, in the online magazine of the Taiwan Studies program and the University of Nottingham. It is not easy to write on such subjects.

America should stand with the million people of Hong Kong who turned out to protest the extradition law. The separate legal system of Hong Kong notwithstanding, it would surely be used to imprison or execute, under Chinese law, those in Hong Kong that the mainland labels as guilty of vaguely defined crimes against public order or societal harmony.

Including American college professors attending June 4 memorials, as I did a decade ago. Of course, were such a thing to happen to Americans, the US government would probably come to their aid with the same vigor it has shown in holding Saudi Arabia accountable for the murder in Istanbul of US permanent resident Jamal Khashoggi.

America, watch Hong Kong. The struggle between free and authoritarian government is playing out there in front of our eyes, and there is little reason to think that the US government, infatuated as it is with authoritarian regimes, cares much who wins.

The end of the Bureau

The Bureau of Study Counsel was Harvard's counseling service. It served as both a study-skills advisory resource, and as a personal counseling service for troubled Harvard students. Most of the staff had backgrounds in education, counseling, and psychology, but were not physicians. Harvard also has a mental health service as part of the University Health Services, staffed with trained and licensed clinical psychologists and psychiatrists. The Bureau was located in a welcoming and slightly decrepit Victorian house with overstuffed, sometimes tattered sofas and comfy chairs; the mental health service is in what is now known as the Smith Campus Center, and used to be Holyoke Center---a modern concrete-and-glass structure of ten stories, with lots of clean white walls and scrubbable tile floors.

Following the standard protocol for announcements that need to be made but are hoped will go unnoticed, Harvard disclosed after Commencement that the Bureau would be closing. Or rather, the announcement says that a new "Academic Resource Center" would be opening and mentions the closing of the Bureau in paragraph 9. The ARC will have modern, untattered furniture which seems tio have been selected, like the color scheme of Dunkin Donuts, to make people not want to linger there too long. (Harvard Magazine has a good account of the plan.)

The Bureau was an act of genius, and was run by a series of wise leaders---Bill Perry, Kiyo Morimoto, Charlie Ducey, and most recently Abigail Lipson. These people were superb diagnosticians and interpreters of adolescent development. The basic idea of conflating academic and personal counseling always was, it seems to me, that Harvard students are much more comfortable seeking help for their academic problems than for their personal problems, even though the problems they have with studying may be due to their relationship issues. And many of their relationship problems are subclinical; they are ill, if anything, with the condition called growing up and breaking away from parents and other aspects of their origin.

Counselors at the Bureau have seen it all. I directed a student to the Bureau because his girlfriend was pregnant and he was in severe distress but had no one to talk to. I directed a student to the Bureau because her mother was tracking her electronically and she thought that was normal. The Bureau took all comers, and also had a diverse staff that proved especially helpful to students who were having trouble making the adjustment from socially conservative cultures in which they had been raised. Created in 1947, the strange name ("bureau" was of a piece with wartime vocabulary; "counsel" was often misspelled as "council," even by recent deans) was helpfully confusing; students could seek and get counseling without telling their families what kind.

The relation of the Bureau to the mental health service was never simple, and grew more complex as worries increased about the risks and liabilities of having seriously emotionally or mentally disturbed individuals in treatment while in the residential college. I don't want to suggest that the division of labor was ever right, or will be wrong in the future. But I do worry about those students who simply would never see someone labeled as a mental health professional; even if they can be reassured that there is no stigma in doing so, their parents may not be.

And in the short run, some students will return in the fall to find that the Bureau counselors with whom they developed relationships are no longer available to them. And it is not clear where faculty will be urged to send students who need caring guidance with the conflicts in their lives before their inner turmoil turns pathological.

As has also become standard in these matters, there is no suggestion that faculty were consulted in the decision, except for the relevant deans. That faculty are left out of such decisions is not surprising given recent trends in the administration of student affairs. Still, it seems to me to mark a new low that there was not even a whisper about this decision at the last faculty meeting of the year, when the Bureau was created by vote of the faculty.  In the old days, you needed a faculty vote to undo a decision the faculty had taken, even decades earlier in allegedly simpler times.




How can I make Windows 10 look more like Windows 7?

Elizabeth’s new laptop has Windows 10 but she prefers Windows 7. What are her options?

I now have a Lenovo laptop which has Windows 10 installed, but to be honest with you, I preferred Windows 7, which was on my last two computers. What would you suggest?Elizabeth

As most Windows 7 users know – and if they don’t yet, Microsoft will nag them about it soon – Windows 7’s support stops in January 2020. After that, there will be no more security updates, except for companies that pay an annual fee that doubles every year. This is a powerful incentive to migrate from Windows 7 to Windows 10.

Continue reading...

Which devices play Audible audiobooks but can't surf the web?

Amber wants her son to be able play Audible stories but does not want him to have internet access

As a child I had a cassette tape player. I could choose the music and stories I wanted to listen to alone in my room without my parents worrying about me accessing the internet.

My son loves listening to Audible stories on an old iPhone. I have blocked certain features but he keeps finding things to do that I haven’t blocked. I want a device that can download a lot of Audible stories so he can choose what to listen to, but without all the other temptations of an old phone or the risk of him going online. Amber

This is the age of the internet, and the trend is for every device to be online all the time. This started with PCs and then smartphones, followed by TV sets, games consoles and digital video recorders. Now we’re getting connected cameras, fridges, doorbells and smart speakers, and the choice of products that can’t connect to the internet is rapidly diminishing.

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EPIC Events on June 5

I have the honor to serve on the board of directors of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, aka EPIC. Based in Washington, DC, EPIC is the nation's leading privacy organization. It is a nonprofit and does lots of good work with a very small staff. I am most familiar with their litigation efforts. For example, it was EPIC that prevented the "Voter Fraud Commission" from inducing states to upload their voter lists; that court victory pretty much was the end of the Commission. EPIC is active right now on the Census citizenship question issue (the Census Bureau did not do the legally required privacy impact assessment). EPIC has just published a version of the Mueller Report it obtained under FOIA, with all the redactions marked with their justifications. Not only that, this version of the report is in a large format, so the type is readable!

June 5 is EPIC day in DC. Two important events are open to the public. From 1-3pm at the National Press Club, I will be moderating a panel discussion on "AI and Human Rights" with a distinguished group of panelists (free, but register at that link). And that evening at the same location will be the EPIC Champions of Freedom Awards dinner (there are several sponsorship levels for this event).

Hope to see you in DC. Or you can just donate to EPIC--it is a very worthy cause, and heaven knows privacy needs defending!


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