data request

It is happening again. Lawyers who don’t know anything about data analysis make a request (often an official open records request) for information from agencies. Because I have gotten a reputation for analyzing public data and making it reveal previously-unseen patterns and I’m part of the commission  or board or task force, they ask me to  analyze it. This time the open records request vaguely asked for information on the racial breakouts of arrests and traffic stops and was sent to the two dozen law enforcement agencies in the county.  Continue reading “data request”

it’s nine o’clock: do you know what your citations say?

Folks with an interest in the sociology of science and knowledge may have noticed this little gem that appeared in BMJ. It’s an article by Steven Greenberg titled, “How citation distortions create unfounded authority: analysis of a citation network.” The abstract, in somewhat abridged form, is nothing if not intriguing:
Continue reading “it’s nine o’clock: do you know what your citations say?”

looking for a roommate at asa?

One of my grad students is looking for a roommate at ASA. I know it’s not the most exciting use of scatterplot, but hey, why not?

ASA Roommate wanted, $55

I booked a room through priceline at the Hyatt Fisherman’s Wharf hotel for
Saturday and Sunday nights of ASA.  It’s right by the waterfront and a 20
minute cable car trip (cable car, how cool is that … or a 30 minute walk)
to the conference hotel.  The room has 2 double beds and the hotel is a 3
1/2 star hotel. I’m looking for somebody to split the room.  Cost to you:
$55 per night for everything (taxes included).   I am a male grad student.
Email me if interested:

Google directions/map between the hotel and the conference:

police report

Lots of folks are already on this, but I wanted to post about  the police report for the arrest of Henry “Skip” Gates in Cambridge the other day. Here’s a copy of the police report on the arrest of Gates for disorderly conduct which was posted by BigSole whom I got to from Field Negro. Today a Facebook link pointed me to this careful analysis of the report at The officer is clearly trying to justify the disorderly conduct arrest, which has to involve other people and a public place and cannot be made inside a person’s own house. Even the officer’s own version of events involve him persuading Gates to walk outside so that he could have an excuse to arrest him. Gates had already provided his identification and the officer makes it clear in his report that while he was still inside Gates’s house he knew he was no longer investigating any kind of crime. Gates’s “crime” in the officer’s own report consists solely of loudly accusing the officer of being a racist and asking for his name and badge number. The report makes it clear that the arrest was meant as a retaliation for being yelled at and called a racist, and he really didn’t care that the charge wasn’t going to stick. Continue reading “police report”

factual question about going to trial

There are some criminologists among the scatterplotters. Can you help? In my county, my analysis of court records showed that in a recent year only 31 of 2663 (1.2%) criminal cases involving at least one felony charge went to trial, and only 11 of 5306 misdemeanor cases (0.2%) went to trial. For the cases involving a felony charge, 80% involved a guilty plea on at least one charge (which may not have been the felony) while 19.3% had neither a guilty plea nor a trial, i.e. charges were dismissed one way or another; for the misdemeanor-only cases, 85% involved a guilty plea and 14.8% had neither a guilty plea nor trial. Are these numbers comparable to other places? Everybody in the system knows that most cases are pled out, but even the lawyers here think the percent going to trial is extremely low. There are suggestions that the overworked prosecutor’s office does everything it can to avoid trials. I know I could research this question in the literature, but I’m hoping that someone who lectures on this can tell me what the “usual” percentages are.

stata 11: the early review

I was gone this weekend, and Stata 11 was waiting for me upon my return.

Early impression: in defiance of the law of diminishing returns to higher version numbers, this is a major upgrade, perhaps comparable to if Stata had skipped version 9 and gone straight from 8 to 10.

1. For people interested in what their regression results actually mean, the margins command is a sweeping and elegant improvement.

2. The multiple imputations module makes their use much easier. While multiple imputations are not All That, social science would benefit from an increased mundaneity of their use.

3. The do-file editor looks great so far. If you are doing any kind of complicated data analysis and still aren’t using something with syntax highlighting, well, YOU ARE MAKING YOUR LIFE MORE DIFFICULT AND ERROR PRONE THAN IT NEEDS TO BE.

cal state

The trustees of Cal State just approved a 20% tuition increase, fast on the heels of a 10% increase in May. The tuition not stands at $4,026 a year – not including books, room, board, etc. This is a modest sum compared to what folks at Universities like my own pay. But then again, the students at Cal State could only dream of being as rich as most of my students – and their being at Cal State is an attempt to make that dream a reality. Faculty were told that they would have to take 2-day furloughs each month. If they don’t, they were threatened with massive layoffs. Those threats included  eliminating 15% of courses (some 22,000 of them!). Even with the furloughs firings are expected, and many adjuncts have lost their positions. Similar furloughs are expected across the UC system, along with tuition increases above the 9.3% passed in May.

campaign finance reform never looked so good.

So while cruising the old interwebs recently I ran across an exciting new political website. I refer, of course, to SarahPAC, the political action committee of Sarah Palin. Yes, that Sarah Palin. Feel free to flinch. In any case, it more or less looks like the typical PAC page except for one little thing. Now, in order to see what I mean, first look at this screenshot from SarahPAC:
Continue reading “campaign finance reform never looked so good.”

the book crisis

The acquisitions editor for my upcoming books at one of the premier university presses, with a major and prestigious sociology list, reports that he’s not coming to ASA, for the first time in who knows how long:

I am afraid we will not be attending the ASA this August. This will be the first time in at least 30 years. The financial crisis has damaged the book market severely. We had to let 7 good people go, and we are cutting costs across the board. I hope of course that we will attend next year in Atlanta.

My co-author on the books writes:

That [the press in question] will not be attending ASA is just astounding, and astoundingly bad.  We may get these books published just under the wire, before the final death of books.  I must be the only one who still buys books (literally thousands of dollars a year on Amazon).

While I don’t spend thousands a year, and I try to patronize local bookstores when I can, the sentiment holds here too: I buy tons of books a year too. Is this cyclical? Transformative? Realignment? Comments?

enforcing immigration policy

As I mentioned in a previous post, there is a concern in my area about ICE (immigration) raids and about the sheriff’s policy of telling ICE about possible illegal immigrants. Stated policy is to send ICE the name and birth date of any non-citizen who has been arrested and is processed into the jail, regardless of reason, even for unpaid parking tickets. People are also being grabbed by ICE when they come to court as witnesses or to collect child support. Our task force had a pretty intense discussion of this the other day. The task force combines “system” people (sheriff, police, district attorney, judges) with community activists and social service providers. Several system people have objected to a draft recommendation to change the policy and to some of the assertions the draft makes about what is happening based on one task force member’s conversations with some bailiffs. We know we don’t agree about what should be done – there are deep social conflicts about the immigration issue itself, and about the proper role of law enforcement. So we have to figure out what the report will say. Continue reading “enforcing immigration policy”

i can see we need to discuss the meaning of the term ‘gene pool’ again.

This one is so weird I’m not sure I quite believe it, but there’s a source for it and everything:

A woman is suing an Egyptian hotel claiming her daughter got pregnant – from using the swimming pool.

Magdalena Kwiatkowska’s 13-year-old returned to Poland from their holiday expecting a baby. Magdalena believes the teenager conceived from stray sperm after taking a dip in the hotel’s mixed pool. She is now seeking compensation from the hotel. A travel industry source said: “The mother is adamant that her daughter didn’t meet any boys while she was there.

Continue reading “i can see we need to discuss the meaning of the term ‘gene pool’ again.”

one scoop of my book, with tina topping, please!

The ASA conference will be an extravaganza of awesome, what with the blog party, the blog baseball game, and the fabulous sociology people everywhere. But wait! There is even more still. For those particularly hard-core conference-goers, who will stretch their visit to San Francisco well beyond the bounds of the conference dates, please consider attending the following event:

religiousrightcoverHow the Religious Right Shaped Lesbian and Gay Activism

by Tina Fetner
A Different Light bookstore
489 Castro St., San Francisco (near Market)
Wednesday, August 12 at 7:30pm

I hope to see you there!