protest in madison

Scatterplotters may know that this is a week of protests in Madison over the new governor’s “budget repair” bill that includes repealing most collective bargaining rights for public employees. Someone posted a 30 second clip of the rally on Youtube from today’s midday rally, which seems even bigger than yesterday’s rally that was estimated at 10,000 – 12,000 and  included a lot of labor union contingents. (My impression was that the modal attendee yesterday was middle-aged, not college age.) Hundreds of people spent the night providing 2 minutes of testimony each at the legislative hearing on the bill. Today’s rally was augmented by the “sick in” of Madison’s public school teachers which led the district to cancel classes. With the schools closed, whole families are downtown at the rally, as well as substantial contingents from all the high schools. This is largely a “company town” in the sense that government employees predominate, so an attack on state employee benefits is an attack on the whole community. Outside of Madison, it seems to be the unions who are stepping up and see this as a continuation of the attack on organized labor. Beyond that, we’ve gotten to the position where government employees have become stigmatized and safe “others” to attack as part of political career-building.

la vie des idées

From Michele Lamont: a note that la vie des idées, a French website that seeks to provide a portrait of our current intellectual life through interviews, essays, and public debates, now has an English-language version: Books and Ideas. It’s wonderful. There are videos of lectures by Nancy Fraser on Feminism and Capitalism, reviews of the the works of scholars like Viviana Zelizer, and interviews with Howard Becker. There are also plenty of less American things on there.  Definitely worth checking out. A wealth of online material, and an interesting combination of blog, journal, popular reviews (like the NY Review of Books), and online community that might just be the future of how academic ideas are presented and disseminated.

a little trash talk

Good takes on Evil this evening at 9:00, on ESPN for those of you not living in the Triangle region (WRAL for those of us who do). We went four years without losing at Cameron before being humiliated last year in a 32-point drubbing. This year we visit on a major roll, having won 10 of the last 11 games and the last several by large margins. The Daily Tar Heel managed to write a narrative that has Good triumphing, 81-79, which strikes me as an unlikely result. Still, recent events have many of us asking “Larry Who?”, and with Kendall Marshall’s stellar play we should be competitive.

Good’s prowess is not just on the Hardwood. The ASR that arrived today contains two articles by Carolina faculty and two by Carolina alumni, out of a total 7 items. To quote our esteemed chancellor:

”At our university [UNC], we would be at the top of a ranking that measures Rhodes Scholarships won, women’s soccer championships, and the scholarly productivity of the Sociology Department and the School of Public Health. Needless to say, we haven’t found a ranking that is limited to these measures.”

— Holden Thorp and Buck Goldstein.  Engines of Innovation., UNC press, 2010.

Enjoy the evening, everyone.

civitas’s naivete on democracy

On North Carolina’s Civitas Institute’s blog, Cameron Harwick provides a clear and concise description of the libertarian approach to democracy: democracy is bad because it is collective:

we have a mechanism for giving people what they want – and that isn’t the political process: it’s the market…. The more things we subject to the political process, the more people lose. And that is unambiguously bad.

In other words: deciding by fiat that there is no social or common good leads very directly to the subsidiary claim that democracy itself is bad. But in many of the examples offered in the post, individual decisions have nonreducible social effects. Perhaps the most immediately relevant of these is the health care mandate, since uninsured individuals represent social costs both because they tend to show up for care when sick even if uninsured, and because of the moral hazard problem. But busing for desegregation, taxing for public goods, and so on are all examples where democratic decision making may well result in a better decision than aggregate individual decision making, even from the perspective of individuals. Harwick’s post lays out this position nicely, and thereby demonstrates the silliness of the libertarian approach. It’s a very similar argument to that in Pincione and Teson’s absurd book, Rational Choice and Democratic Deliberation, which pursues very much the same argument: that deliberation is bad because democracy is bad.

Note that this question goes directly to the other conversation going on here, since the tenability of the libertarian position rests on the question of whether collectivities are ever more than the sum of their individual parts. Generally, sociological theory and research suggest that, indeed, they are often more than the sum of their parts. It is therefore reasonable to expect sociologists to reject this libertarian position at greater rates than nonsociologists.

Network research and IRBs

And another question on behalf of someone else. My IRB thinks it is not possible* for them to approve to network research using a methodology in which subjects are handed a list of names and asked which people on the list they know. The reason for this, per IRB, is that people have to sign a consent form before their names can be put on any such list. Thus the researchers are being told that everyone has to sign two consent forms, first for the compilation of the list, and second for doing the survey. This IRB regularly says that organizations cannot turn over lists of their employees or members to researchers for the purpose of initiating a request to be in a research project.  Is this a common objection? Does anyone have examples of research with a similar methodology getting approval from other IRBs? Would it make a difference if the list in question is public or semi-public, i.e. a paper neighborhood or school directory that is delivered to everyone in a neighborhood or school, or a web site that lists all of a group’s members? Please cross-post elsewhere if you know of another pool of people who might know the answer. (I’m thinking of orgtheory here, but there may be other groups.)

* edit for correction

ASA paper stuff, yet again

This is a question from a student. It looks like there is at the moment no way for a person who has submitted a paper to ASA to monitor its progress. Does anybody know otherwise? Is anybody aware of when/how a person will be able to do this. Based on past years, I warned students that the system puts responsibility for routing papers to roundtables on the second choice organizer, who (for logistical reasons I explained to them) often fails to do this, and that they need to monitor a paper’s progress if they want to be sure they end up in a round table if nobody else wants the paper.

should sociology look like society? in which ways?

NYT article on the absence of ideological diversity in social psychology. Example quote:

“Anywhere in the world that social psychologists see women or minorities underrepresented by a factor of two or three, our minds jump to discrimination as the explanation,” said Dr. Haidt, who called himself a longtime liberal turned centrist. “But when we find out that conservatives are underrepresented among [social psychologists] by a factor of more than 100, suddenly everyone finds it quite easy to generate alternate explanations.”

dear author,

I spent a lot of time reviewing the manuscript you sent to Journal A. I don’t have a lot of free time, but I take my duty as an academic citizen seriously, and I read your manuscript carefully. I took special care to word my feedback in a way that was as constructive as possible. I know it can be tough to read comments about your paper’s quite serious shortcomings, so I made sure to also emphasize the good parts of the paper and to recommend a successful direction to take the next version. It’s hard to see that the other reviewers agreed that the paper wasn’t ready, and that it was rejected.

However, as tempting as it is to blow off the feedback from three reviewers and just send the same paper, with a slightly different title and a verbatim abstract, to another journal, please don’t. Chances are, at least one of the reviewers will be the same person as the last time, and even though we can pretend that I don’t know who you are right now (but you have heard of google, right?), it is just a matter of time before your work is presented at a conference or published in a journal, and your identity will be clear to that person, who works in your area, and whom you have just pissed off. And it’s a small, small world.

All the best,

racism on the bbc

One of the BBC’s most popular shows, “Top Gear,” recently decided to air these deeply racist comments about Mexicans:

It’s shocking to listen to. I wonder how producers decided that it was acceptable to air. And I’m also curious why the show has not been quick to issue an apology. I think the hosts should be fired. If you want to contact the show you can, at:

Continue reading “racism on the bbc”

for your consideration: the journal of universal rejection

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Editor-in-Chief: Caleb Emmons

About the Journal
The founding principle of the Journal of Universal Rejection (JofUR) is rejection. Universal rejection. That is to say, all submissions, regardless of quality, will be rejected. Despite that apparent drawback, here are a number of reasons you may choose to submit to the JofUR: Continue reading “for your consideration: the journal of universal rejection”