Archive for the ‘the man’ Category
When people discuss Obama’s contribution to racial inequality, people quickly sort into a few camps. In the middle, and among Democratic partisans, Obama has done well. He believes in affirmative action and avoids race baiting. On the hard left, he’s slammed for not taking a more direct approach. They suggest that Obama either openly discuss the legacy of slavery and consider more redistribution. On the right … well, let’s just say that they can’t quite accept the fact Obama isn’t an atheist Muslim who hates America. I think these views all miss something important about race and the US presidency. They all say: What do I wish the president could magically do? Instead, you have to start by asking: What are the biggest racial issues in America? Which of these can the president actually solve?
In my view, the biggest drivers of racial inequality are:
- The mass incarceration of Blacks for non-violent drug related offenses. This is hugely important because prison massively disrupts the economic and social lives of people in nearly irreversible ways.
- The de-facto criminalization of undocumented migration, which is designed to marginalize non-whites on a massive scale.
- The college completion gap between Whites and Asians, and everyone else. This hugely important because college completion is the crucial difference between having a middle class life style and not getting one.
Notice that I didn’t say white privilege or white distrust/hatred of other groups. I certainly believe they are important, but honestly, if one had to choose, most rational people probably end mass incarceration before eliminating white privilege.
Let’s talk about Obama specifically. What can he do about #1? No president can magically undo a maze of Federal and state drug law, or single handedly reform the nation’s prosecutors. However, he could do some fairly simple things like simply remain silent on drug issues or down play excessive drug enforcement. I’ve little evidence that the Obama is especially interested in reforming drug laws and the President has scoffed, in the past, at drug legalization. On #2, Obama’s record ranges from marginal improvement (like promoting the DREAM act) to atrocious (overseeing mass deportation). On #3, there is little that the President can do directly to affect education. The power to improve schools lies mainly in the hands of the states and local school boards. My summary judgment on Obama is that he has done little to directly affect mass incarceration of Blacks and what positive he is doing immigration is outweighed by doing nothing to prevent (or actively encourage?) deportation. On schooling, I’ll give a pass.
For the past year I’ve slowly been working my way through Stanley Aronowitz’s Taking it Big: C. Wright Mills and the Making of Political Intellectuals. My slowness in finishing the book isn’t an indicator of how enjoyable or interesting the book really is. This book is fascinating, especially if you’re interested in the intellectual history of sociology. Aronowitz makes the case that Mills’s sociological impact was a direct result of his engagement with the broader intellectual public in an effort to push social change and present ideas that challenged the capitalist status quo. Mills wasn’t a socialist or any of the things typically associated with the Old Left. Rather, Mills was the forerunner of the New Left – a group that believed in the power of ideas to shape equality and freedom in society. He saw himself as a producer of those ideas.
Not long before I began reading this book I had a conversation with a former student at Columbia University when Mills was still a professor there. (Mills died in 1962.) The former student, now an emeritus professor himself, described Mills as a recluse. He had no involvement with the graduate program and showed no interest in training future PhDs. His main involvement with the department was to teach the undergraduate political sociology class. He was rarely, if ever, in his office, and so running into him in the halls was unlikely. At the time of his death, Mills’s impact on the discipline was fairly minimal, largely because he didn’t have an ongoing research agenda that involved PhD training or publishing articles in the top journals (although he had published those types of articles in the past). Merton, Lazarsfeld, and Bell were the stars of the department in the eyes of the students.
But arguably, Mills’s reputation has outlasted those other scholars. Read the rest of this entry »
Federal grant agencies have asked people who receive grants to make the results of their work “public access.” In other words, if the public pays for it, the public should get to read it. Turns out that the ASA is against this policy. In a letter dated January 9, 2012 (about two years ago), Sally Hillsman, executive officer of the ASA makes a strong argument against public access. Here is the letter and some key clips. Please read the letter yourself (open_access_hillsman):
It remains unclear why the federal government should spend scarce taxpayer dollars appropriated for scientific research to add to existing dissemination avenues. This is what scientific societies such as the ASA and our private sector publishing partners have done for over a century, and continue to do extremely well today. The national and international marketplace demonstrates that non-‐profit and profit-‐making scientific publishers in collaboration with scholarly societies have responded vigorously and competitively to expand access to scientific knowledge as new demands for content and sophisticated communication technologies have emerged. This success suggests that federal science agencies should invest taxpayer dollars in the research itself, especially as federal dollars that support scientific innovation fail to keep up with the pace of research.
There are no empirical studies that I know of which support the notion that free access to the scientific research literature will increase research productivity or economic growth in the United States.
ASA spends nearly $600,000 annually on journal editorial office expenses alone (which does not include administrative costs, printing and mailing expenses, editor honoraria, legal or overhead costs). ASA does not pay peer reviewers, but in return we sacrifice some revenue by a long-‐standing policy of keeping our university library subscription prices low (averaging well under $300 in 2011) in explicit recognition of the contribution university faculty make as peer reviewers, editors, and editorial board members.
Comments: First, it seems that the main issue in Dr. Hillsman’s response is that they are concerned about the income stream. I think this is a legitimate concern. But it should lead to a few sensible questions. For example, in an age of electronic publishing, why does one need $600,000 for a journal office? At the AJS, of which I was an editor, we had (1) a full time manager (call it $50k), (2) some part time staff ($50k), (3) office space (say $5k month – $60k per year) and toss in $50k for postage, computers, etc. That totals about $210k per year. If we give Andy a nice fat bonus for running the joint ($50k), you get up to $260k. I am not sure why we need to wrack up hundreds of thousands more in administrative costs.
But there are deeper questions. What is preventing the ASR from going all electronic and printing paper versions on demand for a few readers? Or going free access, but having advertisements or the “freemium” model? In other words, this argument seems to be a rear guard defense of an older publishing model, not an attempt to creatively think about how the ASR can be read by the widest audience possible.
Second, I don’t think Dr. Hillsman’s letter gets at the main point – the Federal government, sensibly, doesn’t want the results of funded research to be hidden behind pay walls. The pay wall for ASR may not be a barrier to social scientists who have university accounts, but $300 is a barrier for many other readers. But the Federal government’s argument isn’t directed at the ASA. It’s directed at other publishers who charge thousands of dollars for a journal subscription. If you are a lay person, a poor person, or someone from another country, this is a real barrier.
We are now living in an exciting era of journal publishing. We have traditional models, the egalitarian PLoS One model, and the “up or out” Sociological Science model. I say let us experiment, not drift into rent seeking defenses of a 19th century approach to science.
Michael Corey is a PhD candidate in sociology at the University of Chicago. This guest post explains his experiences working for Facebook, the world’s leading social networking website (as if you didn’t know that!).
Another Dispatch from Industry
Last summer I moved from Chicago to the bay area to work as a quantitative researcher at Facebook. I’d done six years in the PhD program at Chicago and left with drafts of all my dissertation papers but without a cohesive dissertation to turn in (3 paper dissertations aren’t exactly allowed). Six months at Facebook has been eye opening and weird. Below I’ll try to give readers a feel for what it is like to go from an academic track to an industry job.
The FB Culture:
The culture at Facebook is really fun. I work at the main campus in Menlo Park, where a few thousand people work on the various FB platforms and the associated companies (Parse, Onavo, Instagram, etc). My mother-in-law describes it as an Oxford College designed by Willy Wonka, which is pretty fair. The campus houses everything you need to reduce any external friction that would take you off-campus during the day [http://cnettv.cnet.com/barber-candy-shop-bank-among-deluxe-perks-facebook/9742-1_53-50153870.html]. It is pretty easy to drink the Kool-Aid about how great FB is, and I would imagine that it is hard to work here if you don’t. I wasn’t the biggest FB user when I started here, but having been off the site for a long time I learned to recognize how much I missed by not being on it. For so many of my peers it is the only medium to communicate news, baby pictures, or cat memes to weak ties. Risk taking is encouraged and speed is considered a virtue.
university of chicago visit – everything you wanted to know about tweets and votes, but were afraid to ask
I will be a guest of the computational social science workshop at the University of Chicago this coming Friday. I will present a very detailed talk on the more tweets/more votes phenomena called “Everything You Wanted to Know About the Tweets-Votes Correlation, but Were Afraid to Ask.” If you want to chat or hang out, please email me.
Refreshments will be served.
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.