response from tomaskovic-devey

I’m at PAA, where the dues are cheaper and conference registration comes with a free drink ticket.

Don Tomaskovic-Devey, former secretary/treasurer of ASA, wrote a response to my post complaining about the Footnotes article on the dues increase. It was a long, thoughtful response and so deserves to be linked from a post. I thought it also deserved a serious response, even though I want to get back to the conference and will do so now. (I ignored his “ploy to soak the rich” comment at the end since I presume he actually understands that was never my contention.) My response below: Continue reading “response from tomaskovic-devey”

ask a scatterbrain: mentoring

A question about mentoring, sent to me:

I’m a new assistant professor at the end of my 2nd year at a R1 university. Research is fine. Teaching is fine. But I’m having a really hard time figuring out how to manage research assistants. I suspect that the first thing you will tell me is this: “It’s really important to communicate your expectations clearly.” And I know that, on some level, this is true. But (and tell me if I’m wrong about this) the main quality of a good RA is that a good RA exceeds your expectations. Great RAs do the grunt work without complaining, they don’t need to be monitored constantly, they turn tasks into opportunities, and you clearly see them transitioning from student to colleague. Can I legitimately set this as my low bar? Continue reading “ask a scatterbrain: mentoring”

going after email

Wisconsin Historian Bill Cronon’s NYT piece criticizing Wisconsin Republicans for their “radical break” got a lot of play earlier this week. Behind that piece was a March 15 scholarly blog post sketching the recent history of the Republican Party and the key role of the American Legislative Exchange Council in planning strategy. (The blog post is “required reading” on US politics if you have not seen it already.)

Yesterday, March 17 [edited to correct time order of events], the Republican party filed an Open Records request with University legal counsel asking for “Copies of all emails into and out of Prof. William Cronon’s state email account from January 1, 2011 to present which reference any of the following terms: Republican, Scott Walker, recall, collective bargaining, AFSCME, WEAC, rally, union, Alberta Darling, Randy Hopper, Dan Kapanke, Rob Cowles, Scott Fitzgerald, Sheila Harsdorf, Luther Olsen, Glenn Grothman, Mary Lazich, Jeff Fitzgerald, Marty Beil, or Mary Bell.”  Read his extensive blog post for details about the problem with this.

The Republicans have suffered a number of hits lately from the content of Scott Walker’s email, so it is at one level not surprising that they are trying to turn tables. But the target is an academic analysis of recent US political history by a political moderate that led to a well-regarded editorial, not a “to the barricades” political call.  Academics who work at public institutions take note. This fight is escalating.

proposed asa dues increase

Anybody else notice that ASA Council’s proposal for updating the income brackets for ASA membership implies a hefty dues increase?

Keep in mind that Council cannot approve a dues increase larger than cost-of-living without membership approval. Note that the main increase in progressivity is differentiating the $70K+ category. The ASA footnotes article provides this long, essentially irrelevant paean to progressive taxation, because, we’re all for that, right? But even someone at the bottom of the previous highest category ($70K) is now being asked to pay 11% more.

Seriously: the major economic function of this dues change is not to shift the cost of running ASA from its lower-income members to higher-income members. It’s to increase the overall dues revenue to ASA. This is a significant dues increase that is trying to sell itself by using the left politics of the ASA membership to treat us as an easy mark.

Remember: You can vote no. And, if it passes, you are under not obliged to report your income to ASA.

UPDATE: It’s actually worse than I thought. I thought at least student dues were going to be decreased, but no. The only decrease is for sociologists in the new “Unemployed” category and non-students who make less than $20K. Student memberships stay the same. Everybody else goes up; most by a percentage in the double digits. The write-up about this proposal in Footnotes is, in my view, misleading. The main purpose of this change, not mentioned at all in the Footnotes article, is to attain what looks like a 10-20% increase in total ASA revenue from dues.

libya, the deficit, and morality in politics

I know I am defecting from my usual comrades here, but I find myself pretty sympathetic to American involvement in Libya in this situation. It’s hard to argue that a dictator may threaten and carry out mass murder without consequences, and it’s hard to argue that the major military power in the world need not sully its hands with such things. Add to this the fact that past American policy has helped develop regimes like this (and the others falling in the region), and I think the United States bears a moral responsibility/obligation to shield protestors from overwhelming force. I do think, though that Obama should take this as an opportunity to make a couple of moves, none of which seems to be happening:

1.) Establish the use of moral obligation as a standard of political decision making. The division of labor has become: foreign policy (particularly military) and “social issues” (e.g., abortion and same-sex marriage) are defended on moral grounds while social policy has to bear a very different standard having to do with efficiency and budgetary wisdom. I would like to see Obama say: “we were morally obligated to help the Libyan people, and we did. We are similarly morally obligated to provide access to health care at home, and we will do so. When faced with a moral crisis in Libya we did not stop to check on the cost, nor did we let our budget deficit stand in the way of moral action. Let’s have the discussion on moral grounds: is it OK to deny health care to people who can’t pay? Is the deficit more important than food on families’ tables? The truth is that the United States cannot meet its moral obligations with the unreasonably low tax rate we currently have. We need to raise taxes to a sensible level in order to fulfill our obligations at home and abroad and avoid leaving greater fiscal problems to our children.”

2.) Establish a foreign policy standard based on principles of real democracy and human rights. The last time this was even tried was under Carter, and it quickly collapsed. But the Libyan action will be particularly effective if Obama can articulate to the world that the United States will pay any price, bear any burden, in the service of true democratic autonomy and respect for human rights around the world. And then perhaps we won’t leave around messes (Qaddafi, Saddam Hussein, the Taliban) from prior adventures that come back to bite Americans and the rest of the world.