Monthly Archives: May 2011

blind no more!

Not that anyone in sociology has ever used google to identify the author(s) of a paper they’re reviewing, but: The American Economic Association has decided to end double-blind reviewing. Going forward, you will know the authors of the paper you are reviewing. The rationale:

Upon a joint recommendation of the editors of the American Economic Review and the four American Economic Journals, the Executive Committee has voted to drop the “double-blind” refereeing process for all journals of the American Economic Association. The change to “single-blind” refereeing will become effective on July 1, 2011. Easy access to search engines increasingly limits the effectiveness of the double-blind process in maintaining anonymity. Further, it increases the administrative cost of the journals and makes it harder for referees to identify an author’s potential conflicts of interest arising, for example, from consulting.

Should we?

as it happens, we do have a line, and it has been crossed

Wow. That discussion thread is not what we want scatterplot to be. We have closed comments on it and are turning the proverbial page on the whole matter. We have never had to close comments or have a discussion about blog civility before, but here we are.

You will not hear us make any appeals that we should always play nice and be kind. After all, crafting sassy, irreverent responses to jerky behavior or other things we disagree with is our specialty here at scatterplot.

Sassy and irreverent does not describe that discussion thread, however. We are not sure what happened to push our discussion so far off course, and we have absolutely no interest in rehashing the details or singling anyone out. What we are saying is that even though we didn’t know we had a line of what we are willing to accept in terms of civility in our comments, we now recognize that we do, and it’s one we more-or-less agree on. And that past discussion thread ends up well beyond that line.

This blog is not a democracy. We love debate, and we appreciate folks who have strong views, but we retain the right to start deleting any comments from anybody when things get inconsistent with what we feel is appropriate for blog discussions among practicing academics. Going forward, we will move to put out fires more quickly.

- Tina and Jeremy

hearing voices: can a corporation speak?

The Wall Street Journal carried an op-ed last week by Simpson and Sherman about Stephen Colbert’s difficulties in setting up a PAC post-Citizens United. I wrote a letter to the Journal but (no big surprise) they don’t seem eager to print it, so I am posting it here. It has sociological as well as political content, since the essential question is whether an administrative collectivity can be said to “speak”.

To the Editors-

The op-ed in Thursday’s paper appropriately demonstrated that there remain hurdles to forming PACs, even in the post-Citizens United environment. But the authors have missed a more fundamental point: corporations cannot “speak.” People speak. Corporations can pay–or inspire–people to speak on their behalf, and they can even organize groups of people to speak (or, for that matter, to write op-eds). In the case of media companies, they can provide spaces in which real people
can speak.

The “real people who want to speak out during elections” do not in fact run into the barriers Stephen Colbert encountered, because real people have a battery of opportunities to speak: conversations, town meetings, telephone calls, petitions, campaign work, street demonstrations, individual contributions, even letters to the editor! All of these and more are available to “real people,” including Mr. Colbert and the shareholders, CEOs, employees, customers, and critics of corporations
across the nation.

Sincerely,
Andrew J. Perrin

Chapel Hill, NC

fulbright-hays cancelled

The government has eliminated the Fulbright-hays award for next year. This provides money for grad students to study abroad. Almost $6million was expected. Now it’s $0, because of congressional cuts. Sad. Announcement here.

discrimination, briefly

Chris Winship has written a post on orgtheory regarding the amicus brief submitted by ASA in the Walmart case. It should be noted that my colleague and friend Laura Beth Nielsen, who was centrally involved in drafting the brief, has written a response (in collaboration with our department’s graduate students Amy Myrick and Jill Weinberg) to the article by Mitchell et al. that Chris cites.

I haven’t read the exchange carefully and given the thicket of personal and professional relationships I have with people with different views of the matter–not to mention my own complete lack of interest in ever being an expert witness or otherwise ever setting foot in a courtroom–I am staying out of this one.

Incidentally, a background conversation led me to consider: I think quarrels various people have with ASA actions can be usefully divided into two types. One type is rooted in asserted misalignments between ASA staff interests and ASA member interests. Whatever their merits, I would count concerns people have expressed about the dues increase and the job bank as examples of this type. The other type involves frustrations one portion of ASA members has with the preferences/will/convictions of a seemingly larger portion of ASA members. The Iraq War resolution is one example, and the Walmart brief is probably another.

kanazawa and racism

A reader kindly pointed me in the direction of an incident in Psychology Today where Satoshi Kanazawa wrote a post asking, “Why Are African American Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?” The post has been taken down, in part because it is staggeringly racist. But it’s not just racist. It represents some of the sloppiest research imaginable. That seems to be a theme of Kanazawa’s work (I’m not sure how common his racism is, but reviewing his work and responses to it online over the last hour, I am sure that his work is terribly done. Good thing he has tenure at LSE). Anyway, if you were wondering Kanazawa’s answer is about as intelligent as his question,

The only thing I can think of that might potentially explain the lower average level of physical attractiveness among black women is testosterone. Africans on average have higher levels of testosterone than other races, and testosterone, being an androgen (male hormone), affects the physical attractiveness of men and women differently. Men with higher levels of testosterone have more masculine features and are therefore more physically attractive. In contrast, women with higher levels of testosterone also have more masculine features and are therefore less physically attractive. The race differences in the level of testosterone can therefore potentially explain why black women are less physically attractive than women of other races, while (net of intelligence) black men are more physically attractive than men of other races.

Wow. I won’t bother to comment on this, as lots of bloggers have taken it on. But I thought I’d guide you in their direction (see below). I will note that such racism and pseudo-science is nothing new for Kanazawa. This is a man who wrote,  Continue reading

ask a scatterbrain: geography of hate

A reader writes in, “I’m interested in what the scatterplot quants have to say about this article (and related scatterplots) in the Atlantic:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/05/the-geography-of-hate/238708/

So, what say you to the claim that “America’s racist groups concentrate in certain regions — and their presence correlates with religion, McCain votes, and poverty”? 

ballot presentation of the dues increase

The dues increase is presented on the ASA ballot as being to “restore a modest portion of ASA’s income decline from the continuing economic downturn.” Let’s look:

Total ASA revenue in 2009, as listed on that year’s audit report (most recent available): $8.37M*
Total ASA revenue in 2007 (audit report): $7.04M (Or $7.43M in 2006)

And, how much revenue will it “restore”?

Ballot: “Council hopes the current proposal will increase revenues by $100,000 to $200,000, depending on the membership distribution by income level. This increase would represent between 1.7 and 2.4 percent of total revenue”
Council’s own statement to members (here): “The projection is that the proposed dues structure would result in about $200,000 additional revenue in 2011 (a net increase of just under 11%, equal to 3.3% of a total budget of $6 million).” Continue reading

asa election resources

The ASA election begins today, and you have your opportunity to vote for or against the dues increase as well as to elect our next set of leaders. Here are some resources:

perverse incentives in grading – exhibit a

A student forwarded me this email last week, which s/he received unsolicited from MyEdu, a company that specializes in helping students exploit grade inequality between departments and instructors:

res ipsa loquitur.

what is to become of canada?

I’m sure you were all glued to your pirated CBC News broadcast Monday night, watching the election tallies (they come in so fast, Wolf Blitzer wouldn’t have even warmed up his vocal chords before it was all over). And of course, by now you know that the Conservative Party won a majority of seats in Parliament, cementing their rule for the next four years.

Quick quiz: Name the Prime Minister!

Continue reading

religion and institutions

NPR carried two stories on Sunday that go to an interesting juxtaposition between the separate magisteria of religious belief and institutional workings. Each was interesting in its own right; in combination they make for a fascinating comparison because they are so very different. Continue reading

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