Archive for the ‘the man’ Category
A few weeks ago, we all laughed when MIT was praised for its well known (but nonexistent) sociology department. But a serious question went unasked: why doesn’t MIT have a degree granting sociology unit? At first, you think the answer is obvious. MIT is an engineering and science school. We shouldn’t expect it to offer any sociology aside from a few courses for general education of engineering students.
But hold on! MIT offers lots of non-STEM degrees. For example, it has a highly regarded business school and an architecture school. Ok, you say, maybe it’ll offer nuts and bolts professional programs that are closely allied with STEM fields. Yet, that argument doesn’t hold water. MIT also allows students to major and/or concentrate in music. It’s also got well known PhD programs in humanities fields like philosophy, social sciences like political science and economics, and a sort of catch-all program that combines history, anthropology, and science studies. Heck, you can even get the ultimate fluffy major – creative writing.
It’s even more baffling when you realize that it is amazingly easy to create a BS or PhD degree focusing on the quantitative side of sociology (e.g., applied regression, networks, demography, stochastic process models, soc psych/experimental, survey analysis, simulation/agent based models, rational choice/game theory, etc.)
My hypothesis is that the typical MIT faculty or alumni relies on the reputation of sociology, not what the field is actually about. Like a lot of folks, the field is written off as a hopeless quagmire of post-modernism, even though, ironically, most sociologists are not post-modernists. The reality is that the field is a fairly traditional positivist scholarly area with normal, cumulative research. Even qualitative research is often presented in ways that most normal science types would recognize. It’s really too bad. Sociology could use a healthy dose of ideas from the hard sciences, and MIT could be the place where that could happen.
Apparently, a lot of it has to do with working in that cycle of fourths into your lines. This is a very nice video of the post-bop piano master, with a performance of his tune “To Those Who Chant.” I also strongly recommend his composition Coral Keys, ideal for those who want easy listening with a hip edge.
Hypothesis: The House GOP likes sequestration because it allows them to cut defense but blame the other side. The GOP base loves guns and defense so you just can’t cut defense. But you have to cut defense if you are actually believe in deficit reduction and cutting overall spending.
So you sell the base this deal where you say you’ll cut defense only if the other side cuts some welfare state programs. The base buys it because they think that the other side just loves welfare so much that they’ll never let sequestration happen. Thus, defense is never in real jeopardy. But the Struassian leadership knows the historical record – presidents usually win budget fights. Well, maybe not all the time, but they rarely just surrender. Presidents usually just dig in their heels while the public gets mad at Congress. This time, the House GOP is motivated by the base, not the average voter. So they won’t roll over like earlier Congresses. Neither move, and sequestration, and budget cuts (however small), actuall kick in for defense.
A few weeks ago, I argued that the era of overt racism is over. One commenter felt that I needed to operationalize the idea. There is no simple way to measure such a complex idea, but we can offer measurements of very specific processes. For example, I could hypothesize that it is no longer to legitimate to use in public words that have a clearly derogatory meaning, such as n—— or sp–.*
We can test that idea with word frequency data. Google has scanned over 4 million books from 1500 to the present and you can search that database. Above, I plotted the appearance of n—– and sp—, two words which are unambiguously slurs for two large American ethnic groups. I did not plot slurs like “bean,” which are homophones for other neutral non-racial words. Then, I plotted the appearance of the more neutral or positive words for those groups. The first graph shows the relative frequencies for African American and Latino slurs vs. other ethnic terms. Since the frequency for Asian American slurs and other words is much lower, they get a separate graph. Thus, we can now test hypotheses about printed text in the post-racial society:
- The elimination thesis: Slurs drop drastically in use.
- The eclipse thesis: Non-slur words now overwhelm racist slurs, but racist slurs remain.
- Co-evolution: The frequency of neutral and slur words move together. People talk about group X and the haters just use the slur.
- Escalation: Slurs are increasing.
This rough data indicates that #2 is correct. The dominant racial terms are neutral or positive. Most slurs that I looked up seem to maintain some base level of usage, even in the post-civil rights era. The slur use level is non-zero, but it is small in comparison to other words so it looks as if it is zero. Some slure use may be derogatory, while some of it may be artistic or “reclaiming the term.” I can’t prove it, but I think Quentin Tarantino accounts for for 50% or more of post-civil rights use of the n-word.
Bottom line: Society has changed and we can measure the change. This doesn’t mean that racial status is no longer important, but it does mean that one very important aspect of pre-Civil Rights racist culture has receded in relative importance. Some people just love racial slurs, but that its likely not the modal way of talking about people. Is that progress? I think so.
* Geez, Fabio, must you censor? Well, it isn’t censoring if it’s voluntary. I just don’t want this blog to be picked up for slurs. Even my book on 1970s Black Power, when people used the n-word a bit, only uses it once, in a footnote when referring to the title of H. Rap Brown’s first book.
- ASA: Your legal name
- GenCon: Your character name
Figuring out your registration fee:
- ASA: Use your income
- GenCon: Roll on table F2
- ASA: A world where power and justice don’t depend on income inequalities
- GenCon: A world where LARPers and table top gamers are treated as equals
When someone walks by you in the convention hall:
- ASA: You check out their name tag
- GenCon: You check out their name tag and then get an attack of opportunity
The book sale area:
- ASA: A bunch of dorks trying to get their fantasies published
- GenCon: A bunch of dorks trying to get their fantasies published
- ASA: A place to match schools with recent PhD graduates
- GenCon: Um… jobs?
There’s nothing Brendan Nyhan loves more than documenting illogical political reporting. Over Twitter, I bugged him. Does he ever tire of cataloging all the lame media pronouncements? No, he’s just loves it. He’s a true media hound.
But still, is there any evidence that the media becomes more accurate over time? Sure, I can believe that they are accurate in the sense of correctly reporting a quote, but there isn’t much evidence that they can do more than that. Heck, there’s evidence that the more famous a pundit is on TV, the less accurate they become (see Phil Tetlock’s research).
But why is the media so dumb? A few theories:
- They aren’t capable of it. Journalists are good at presentation and narrative, not analysis. They are selected for story writing, not understanding sampling or experimental design.
- Incentives. Outrageous predictions are fun and get you more attention.
- Desire. Maybe journalists simply don’t care about what a well substantiated economic or political analysis looks like.
Tetlock’s research focuses on #2 (e.g., having an academic degree doesn’t increase pundit accuracy). Other evidence?
Economist Thomas Sargent made recent news after accepting a two year position at Seoul National University for $1.25m a year. We must ask – is SNU getting a good deal? As they say in economics, you gotta start with the utility function:
- University prestige: Perhaps SNU is trying to boost its global research ranking. According to wiki, it’s already a highly ranked school – and they already have a Nobel prize winner and a Fields medalist. Sargent’s hire may help a little. Is one economist enough to boost a school’s rank from 4th in Asia to, say, 2nd or 3rd? Unclear.
- Department prestige: I know the econ hierarchy enough to know that SNU isn’t considered a cutting edge place for economics, even though it may do well in comparison to other Asian schools. Sargent’s hire will definitely boost the department’s visibility. If he co-authors with some faculty or graduate students, he’ll help their careers. But long term, it’s harder to see how a 69 year old academic will build a program into an international powerhouse. But it might happen.
- Scholarly production: According to Google scholar, Sargent has produced one book and eleven articles in the last five years. The book (Robustness) has about 300 citations. The articles range from about 40 to 80 citations. Let’s say that the average article has about 60 citations over five years. The average article gets about 12 citations per year. During his two year appointment, Sargent may publish, say, four articles (about two per year) which will get 12 citations yearly. Once those four articles are published, they will get about 48 citations per year. SNU is paying about $26,000 per citation per year. This is surely an underestimate. The typical article will become less cited over time.
- University budgets: An SNU info page lists the total budget of SNU as 3,934,583 million KRW, which, I think, comes to about $3.1 billion. That’s a little bit bigger than the big state campuses in the US. If a star like Sargent can boost donations, grants, or simply prevent a budget cut of about 1% (about $3 million), then he’s a bargain.
Please feel free to comment on star faculty, or how to get Fabio’s salary in that range.
A few days ago, the New Yorker asked people to summarize Star Wars in 1 tweet. The best tweet gets bragging rights. Given my obsession, I gave it a shot. I didn’t win, but I did get mentioned in the New Yorker:
We tried to notice trends in the mass of entries. Many participants knocked Luke Skywalker as whiny (@fabiorojas: “Whiny, but gifted, teenager trashes spiffy new military base”). Many expressed their belief that the film’s success came from its essential simplicity (@SnapShotPoet’s “How to throw an Emperor into a Deathstar for Dummies”). Many focussed not on Luke or Leia, but on the droids (@samanthaglavin’s “In a galaxy far far away, witty robots save stupid humans from trouble over and over again, set to a dramatic musical score”). Few, strangely, mentioned Chewbacca.
But now, to the runners-up…. the first, @mattyshaz, let the movie’s title do the work for him: “‘Star Wars’ pretty much sums it up.” We were also attracted to the clumsy poetry of @JosaYoung’s summary (“When arm edited in bizarre light fitting accident, tall man attempts to conquer universe while breathing through coal scuttle”) and the stichomythia of @Matt_Kinson’s (“PLACE? Space WHEN? Then BOTS? Lots WHO? Leia Luke 3PO & R2. &? Han & Obiwan. WARS? Star. VS? Vader. END? Nada. WHY? SAGA”).The winner this week was selected in a special process, by a jury composed of two adults and two children. (“Star Wars” is, after all, a movie that appeals to us all.) After much consideration and some candy, the prize went to @MikeRudy’s summary, which had as much comic accuracy as a proton torpedo heading for an exhaust port: “‘He killed your dad!’ ‘But he is my dad!’ ‘And you’re my sister!’ Beep beep bloop.”
May the Schwartz be with you.
Bryan Caplan asks: What is the difference between restrictive immigration policies and Jim Crow?
1. Under Jim Crow, there were many places in America where blacks were not legally allowed to live. Under current immigration laws, there is nowhere in America where illegal immigrants are legally allowed to live.
2. Under Jim Crow, there were many jobs in America that blacks were not legally allowed to perform. Under current immigration laws, there are no jobs in America that illegal immigrants are legally allowed to perform.
The goal isn’t to cheapen Jim Crow. Merely, Caplan points asks: why is it ethical to ban people from working and getting housing based on immigration status while it is unethical to prevent people from working and getting housing because of their race?
Some may say that immigrants did something illegal. The proper response is that current immigration law is immoral. The law requires potential immigrants to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees and wait years, possibly a decade or more, in line. That’s a de facto ban on activities, like getting a job, that are legal and legitimate for natives. Why should a man born south of the border be banned from mowing my lawn or going to school in America? If you come without papers, the punishment is expulsion. Expulsion from friends and family is cruel and unusual punishment for not getting some paperwork done.
Here are some more Anonymous links:
- The group has big plans for 2012, here’s the announcement (watch the video).
- You can follow Anonymous on twitter, @Anon_Central.
- There’s a new documentary, We are legion: the story of hacktivists (it’s now playing at Slamdance Film Festival, the alternative to Sundance).
Also, Anonymous has recently retaliated against the shutdown of the filesharing site Megaupload (wiki site here) and the arrest of its Finnish-German hacker-founder Kim DotCom. Here’s the NYT story about the arrest. This fella is a piece of work: he was arrested at his $30 million dollar mansion in New Zealand (yes, with Finnish flag flying), and apparently about $6 million worth of vehicles were also confiscated. Yes, he made his money via illegal filesharing (of music, movies etc) – about 50 million people visited the site daily. Anonymous retaliated by hacking various sites, including the DOJ, MPAA, Universal. Interesting issue: free filesharing, important to the Anonymous ethos, has now created the type of concentration of wealth that the movement is fighting against. Robin Hood got rich.
Kim Dotcom managed, just last month, to get some music celebs (Will.i.am, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, etc) to endorse Megaupload:
Needless to say, Universal did not like the song or video.
Dear orgtheory readers:
As Teppo noted today, there is now a proposal in Congress that attempts to curb online privacy (“Stop Online Piracy Act”). The goal of fighting piracy is admirable. As a self-publisher of e-content, I enjoy being paid for my work. However, as written, SOPA requires providers to actively monitor all links and be responsible for user behavior. Furthermore, SOPA and a related bill, PIPA, gives various private and public groups the power to essentially censor the internet on the pretext of fighting pirated content. Read the summaries at Wikipedia here and here.
If you agree that the current bills create dangerous opportunities for censorship, please call your representative. The Elecrtonic Freedom Foundation has a website that tells you how to do it. All you need to do is make a quick phone call and tell the staff member that you oppose these bills. It takes less than a minute. I have already called Rep. Todd Young and Senator Dick Lugar and I have urged them to vote against these bills. Elected representatives do respond to public pressure.
Fighting online piracy is important and we all benefit from an Internet where businesses can make a profit, but this shouldn’t come at the expense of giving various groups the power to censor the Internet through litigation and state fiat.
Despite its many problems, I use wikipedia, a lot. Too much. Sure enough, just now I tried to dig something up – and got the wikipedia blackout page. Given the blackout- where will we quickly read up on SOPA (or whatever else)?
The SOPA thing is a complicated matter – a fascinating tension between protecting intellectual property and free speech. At the extreme – should online sites like Pirate Bay (free movies, music and books) be allowed to operate freely? Few people say “yes” to that one (including Jimmy Wales), so the questions emerge in the gray areas. But SOPA itself is a mess, no question.
There’s lots of scholarly interest in the commons these days. The free software movement has led many to call for the broadening of the commons from software to all information and culture-based production: music, movies, books, journals, and so forth. Many argue that intellectual property can’t meaningfully be treated as “property” – it should be free. I disagree (with lots of qualifications: e.g., it’s up to authors and outlets) – though I think this is a fascinating topic (and I’ll follow up with a future post).
So, one of my pet peeves is when an author strongly advocates for the information commons (e.g., that the peer-to-peer sharing of all music is perfectly reasonable) but then their own book itself is not in the commons. Here’s one example (there are many others): Hyde, Lewis, 2010. Common as Air: Revolution, Art and Ownership. Farrar, Straus, Giroux. Here’s an interview with the author a few years ago (where the commons are discussed). A review of the book. A Creative Commons interview. Here’s the book talk at the Berkman Center (watch the first five-six minutes and you’ll get a sense).
(I may well be wrong, perhaps the above book indeed is out there in the commons somewhere. If so, I need to pull this post.)
Here’s also Lewis Hyde’s 1979 book The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property. This book inspired the organizers of Burning Man.
Thankfully some of the commons advocates, like James Boyle, also walk the talk and post their books into the commons. Here’s his The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind. Yale University Press.
Bottom line: if your book advocates the commons (for others), then it should be in the commons. Seems reasonable. (Sorry for the rant.)
Christopher Hitchens died yesterday. From NPR, a summary of his career:
In his student days, he was a leftist, opposed to the Vietnam War; he later wrote for the New Statesman before coming to the U.S. in the early 1980s to write for The Nation magazine. His anti-American writings, informed by his socialism, yielded over time to a muscular defense of Western and particularly American values. During another of his frequent NPR appearances, Hitchens said he sought to counteract people he considered apologists for Islamo-fascism
More than any particular position, I always admired Hitchins for a strong, blunt writing style. He embodies the best in polemical essay writing. A great writer who will be sorely missed.
JC Spender (former orgtheory guest blogger) has just published a book, Confronting Managerialism: How the Business Elite and Their Schools Threw Our Lives Out of Balance. I haven’t read it but it certainly sounds and looks provocative (a bit pricey though, at $91.40!).
I really thought Perry would stampede over Romney. The Tea Party just had to love a conservative Christian Texas governor. However, the evidence goes against my intuition. Social science says that early polls have little value. Endorsements matter a lot more. By this logic, Romney’s weak poll numbers aren’t important. He leads in endorsements and will likely be the GOP nominee. Recently, Perry has been sinking, fast. Social science: 1, Fabio: 0.
Dave Carney (Rick Perry’s chief strategist), is the Billy Beane of politics. During Perry’s 2006 campaign he brought in academic experts to run various tests on what campaign practices actually worked, and which ones didn’t. They found out intriguing things that run against conventional wisdom:
1) Media coverage is highly overrated. In the 2010 campaign, Perry didn’t debate Houston Mayor Bill White once or visit any editorial boards. Perry also makes very few television appearances – even Sean Hannity complained that it was hard to book Perry.
2) People make voting decisions based on neighbors organizing and convincing each other, not through the media coverage. So while the media attempts to declare his campaign dead, Perry and Carney don’t really care.
3) Unearned media is only valuable late in the game. The professors’ research found that the benefits of television advertisements dissipated after one week, and that direct mail was ineffective all together. So the Perry campaign believes in saving all their resources until a last minute, huge television ad buy rather than trying to combat the media narrative by wasting money on ads before they drive any votes. This strategy lends itself to a last minute rise in the polls, rather than peaking too early.
If candidates are playing a new game, then the old findings might not hold. Perry, in this view, is doing a run around Romney. He avoids the media and focuses on grassroots mobilization. Aside from Romney, Perry’s the only candidate who has the money to actually pull this off (grassroots can be expensive) and the only one who has extensively tested this tactic.
The remaining questions are: (a) Will the immigrant/college tuition issue tank Perry among activists and nullify the strategy? The one thing Tea Party activists hate more than government bailouts, it’s assistance to undocumented immigrants. (b) The reason that endorsements help candidates is that political leaders share resources that assist with grassroots mobilization – donor lists, telephone lists, voter registration lists, etc. Romney likely already knows about this – that’s why he continues despite weak poll numbers and a dislike from the base – and Perry is already late to the game.
A little while ago, we asked: what’s the deal with Joel Podolny and Apple University? A few press releases and then … nothing. Well, Steve Jobs’ passing has yielded some revealing press coverage. An LA Times article discusses Apple and Podolny:
Reporting from San Francisco— Apple Inc. now has to get down to the business of surviving its founder… It’s something that Apple — and Steve Jobs himself — had been painstakingly planning for years.
Deep inside its sprawling Cupertino, Calif., campus, one of the world’s most successful and secretive companies has had a team of experts hard at work on a closely guarded project.
But it isn’t a cool new gadget. It’s an executive training program called Apple University that Jobs considered vital to the company’s future: Teaching Apple executives to think like him.
Apple University, as suspected, is in house management training. The article is personality profile – Podolny has had a stellar academic career – and I wish there were more about education. How would this differ from previous forms of management education? Unclear. How do they plan to transplant Jobs’ highly unique style and vision to the next generation? Also, unclear. But it does shed light on how Apple plans to continue the record of excellence created by its founder.