Chris Uggen's Blog: August 2006

Thursday, August 31, 2006

soc 4111 w/ special guests the hives and outkast

do you think students might enjoy our lectures more if they had to camp outside for tickets? as you can see, i had a little fun with a ticket generator found via stereogum.

stereogum also taught me that the hives' live show inspired outkast's hey ya. this makes so much sense that i'm thinkin' maybe andre 3000 and howlin' pelle almqvist were twins raised separately in atlanta, georgia and fagersta, sweden. here's the li'l stop-action bit that mr. benjamin found so inspiring.

see you in class.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

ol' doc wheelock

on august 18, darren wheelock successfully defended his diss: Jury of One's 'Peers:' Felon Jury Exclusion, Racial Threat, and Racial Inequality in United States Criminal Courts. that's darren in the afterglow of his defense, flanked by me and co-advisor doug "stephanopoulos" hartmann.

it is a cool project, with a careful legal analysis and event history models of the passage of felon jury exclusions, as well as an elegant county-level analysis of their impact on the expected number of african americans per jury. darren just started his new job as an assistant professor at marquette university, so he'll be spinning the diss into publication gold for the next few years.

in this business, it doesn't get much better than seeing one's advisees pop up on the faculty roster of fine institutions. congrats, darren.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

sunday section gave us a mention

roger clegg name-checked my research with jeff manza in sunday's pro-disenfranchisement wall street journal editorial. countless writers oppose the practice, but mr. clegg is perhaps the most articulate among the few proponents of felon voting bans. the full piece is subscription-only, but here's the relevant passage:

...So why is there an effort to give criminals the right to vote? Partly there's a sincere if mistaken belief that can be summed up as: "When a person has paid his debt to society, it is unfair and counterproductive to treat him as a second-class citizen." But much of the momentum comes from a feeling that, because a disproportionate number of felons are black, the laws are racist.

Finally, this issue has a partisan tinge. Most politicians' instincts tell them that these potential voters are likely Democrats, and they're probably right. Profs. Christopher Uggen of Northwestern and Jeff Manza of the University of Minnesota have concluded that, had felons been enfranchised, Al Gore would have been elected in 2000, and the Democrats would have controlled the Senate from the mid-1980s down to the present decade.

In any event, the arguments favoring voting rights for felons don't wash. Serving time may pay a debt to society in some sense, but it's not the end of the story: Felons can't possess firearms or serve on juries, and we don't let them hold certain jobs. The "debt to society" argument is something of a red herring, moreover, as leaders of the movement to enfranchise felons believe that they should have the vote while they're still paying the debt. Marc Mauer of the ACLU's Sentencing Project, for example, has acknowledged that "people in prison should have the right to vote."

The racial issue is also a red herring. Certainly the disenfranchisement laws do have a disproportionate impact on some racial groups, because there are always going to be more individuals in some groups that commit crimes than in others. That doesn't make the laws racist -- just as they are not sexist simply because more men than women commit crimes.

Today's laws restricting or prohibiting felons from voting have their roots in ancient Greece and Rome , came to the American colonies from Britain , were adopted without any racist intent, and are not applied discriminatorily.

you can probably guess that i took issue with a few of the statements. i was surprised to learn i'd been traded to northwestern (presumably for professor manza), but i'd heard most of mr. clegg's other arguments before. after some discussion with neema trivedi of the brennan center, i decided to send a brief letter to the editor. it seems kind of pathetic to blog a letter that may never be printed, but i felt that someone should at least take issue with the "adopted without any racist intent" statement. in some states, at least, i think there is good evidence of racist intent. here's the letter:

To the Editor:

Roger Clegg’s editorial (“Franchise Protection,” Aug. 26) asserts that U.S. felony disenfranchisement laws “were adopted without any racist intent.” This is a misleading account of the origins of America’s unusually restrictive felon voting laws.

Mr. Clegg correctly cites the ancient roots of disenfranchisement, but fails to note that many American laws were purposely enacted to dilute the voting strength of newly freed slaves.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, between 1865 and 1900, 19 states adopted or amended felony disenfranchisement laws. Alabama, for instance, added new disqualifying crimes that legislators thought African-Americans were more likely to commit. Along with poll taxes and literacy tests, such laws became mechanisms to “establish white supremacy” and avert the “menace of negro domination.”

This legacy of racial discrimination continues to sap the political strength of African American communities. Nationwide, nearly 40 percent of those disenfranchised due to a felony conviction are African American. In 14 states, more than one in ten African Americans has lost the right to vote.

There are thus good reasons for the emergence of felon disenfranchisement as a national civil rights issue. For felons as for other U.S. citizens, race is no “red herring” when it comes to the right to vote.

UPDATE: the wall street journal published this letter on september 2, ("The Disenfranchised of History ... and Now, p. A9).

ich bin ein burbanker

can people tell from whence you hail? i'm betting that i'm not the only academic who confounds new friends who try to place them geographically.

today, for the third time this month, i've been told that i looked/sounded/acted californian. admittedly, as a minnesota kid who has never lived west of the mississippi, i kind of like this. today it was a friendly santa barbarian grad student; at ASA it was an old buddy who said i'd gone californian; a few weeks ago it was a baseball dad who assumed california was the place i oughta be; in june, it was some brooklyn musicians at my sister's coffee shop. it must be time for a haircut. or maybe i should just stop using vibe as a verb.

someday i'd like to be mistaken for a new yorker, but i can't see that happening without cns stimulants more powerful than sis' coffee. new yorkers tend to assume i'm from sweden or norway -- not that i'm of swedish or norwegian descent, mind you, but that i actually come from scandinavia. i've never had that reaction in minnesota, where lots of folks look a lot like me, but occasionally i'd hear it in wisconsin. when i first met gordie rom, a fine old madison electrician, he exclaimed "why, he's got the map o' norway written on his face!" my kids get that a lot too, especially the one named after the norse thunder god.

sometimes non-minnesotans will note approvingly that i don't have a minnesota accent, though these folks generally expect us to sound like marge gunderson in fargo (btw, how could you do that to us, joel and ethan? meryl streep got way closer in a prairie home companion). my kids' friends and coaches sometimes assume i'm "from england" or "european," probably due to the stilted academicspeak we pick up in the business and my non-normative fashion choices (e.g., a black turtleneck, blazer, and boots look very european at a wrestling match). i'm generally amused, though i've been known to go off when relative newcomers call me out by suggesting i'm "not from around here." i was born in st. paul, dude! i'm talkin' old-time boca chica-schmidt brewery-shakey walton-wabasha caves-red's savoy old-time freakin' st. paul, dude!

despite all that, i sort of like being californian, though i'm not sure what that means in this schwarzeneggerian era. if you ask me, californians sound a lot like minnesotans.

where do they place you when they say, you're not from around here, are you?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

welcoming new grad students

i'm welcoming a new cohort of grad students tomorrow morning, bringing to mind hazy memories of my first year of graduate study.

i didn't start grad school until january, so that i could find a responsible stopping point with my employer. i had been working full-time in social services for a few years, so i was dealing with some reentry shock that first semester. over the summer, i determined to give it a better effort. before my second semester, i therefore sat down and wrote the memo at left: motivational bull.*

i came across it in a file with some other old paper from grad school. i've shared the memo with at least two undergrads, as they left the minnversity for graduate school. re-reading today, i wanted to edit a few cringe-inducing passages (and you can probably see that i did white out a few words before passing it along to my undergrads), but kept it as written.

here were my nine "be..." aspirations for the year: be cool, good to your partner, positive, sociable, healthy, strong, creative, righteous, and goal-oriented. as you can see, i didn't mention grades or publications or prelim exams, but i was pretty concerned about the kind of person that i was becoming. i think that just putting these simple aspirations on paper told me who i was and where i'd like to be going. i'm not sure whether such an exercise would be useful to others, but it might be worth a try -- even if, like me, you are skeptical of such motivational bull.

*here's a word version that might be a little easier to read.

Friday, August 25, 2006

an overscheduled night at the fair

slow blogging ahead -- i've been overscheduled this week, with an all-day retreat and two most-day chair orientation seminars. tomorrow doesn't get much better, but i'm hoping to catch up on the weekend -- 4 reviews, numerous emails, and some major service work await.

the good news is that i found time tonight for the lad's football meeting (with pictures) and a night at the fair with sonic youth, the magic numbers, and the flaming lips. if you haven't seen the lips lately, this year's show is spectacular. let's see... dancing santas, dancing aliens, dancing nekkid people, dancing state fair mascots, full-body bass, falsetto background vocals, strummed guitars, shredded guitars, a surprisingly faithful black sabbath cover, smoke, confetti, beach balls, bullhorns, and spotlights on the crowd. and, of course, wayne, a ringleader who learned a great deal about life and death in the midst of this circus.

f. scott fitzgerald, who also learned a thing or two about life and death, trod the same minnesota state fairgrounds back in the twenties. here's his introduction to a night at the fair:

The two cities were separated only by a thin well-bridged river; their tails curling over the banks met and mingled, and at the juncture, under the jealous eye of each, lay, every fall, the State Fair. Because of this advantageous position, and because of the agricultural eminence of the state, the fair was one of the most magnificent in America. There were immense exhibits of grain, livestock and farming machinery; there were horse races and automobile races and, lately, aeroplanes that really left the ground; there was a tumultuous Midway with Coney Island thrillers to whirl you through space, and a whining, tinkling hoochie-coochie show.

not so much has changed, i guess. couples still canoodle in the wooden boats of mr. fitzgerald's old mill. and, on some nights at least, fairgoers still gaze wide-eyed at the whining, tinkling hoochie-coochie shows on the grandstand.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

why doesn't this ever happen in my classes?

isn't it wonderful when higher education meets high theatre?

here's three minutes of fun by way of google video and i'm lovin' the look on professor valentini's face. he seems like such a nice guy.

i'd share some yarns about pranks from my undergrad days, but bascom hill croquet n' martinis pale in comparison to this one.

rumor has it that the irrepressible woz will be my deviance teaching assistant this fall. i'll look forward to (or, more precisely, be braced for) something similar during one of my windier lectures this semester.

role complication, but not really role conflict

the department retreat went well enough to declare victory, i think, at least until the notes are typed up. i now commence two days of new chair school at the minnversity, starting wednesday at 8am. this will put me in an ever-deeper deficit for returning emails and phone calls, but provide information about budgets and curricula matters that suddenly loom very large on my personal radar.

after the chair's orientation wraps up thursday, i've been asked to attend an orientation for new faculty at 4. after that, i'd scheduled some unadulterated fun: a state fair spectacular featuring the flaming lips, sonic youth, and the magic numbers. i learned recently, however, that the concert conflicts with an important football event for the lad thursday night that i really must attend. this is the big fall "chemical" meeting in which the lads get anti-drug instruction and warnings and, most importantly, take pictures with their parents.

pictures with teenagers are extremely hard to come by, so i'm definitely cool with missing the numbers. plus, i've seen sonic youth a few times already, so i could be late for the inspired noodling of mr. moore, mr. ranaldo, and their bandmates. but i'd hate to miss the lips' magnificent show -- especially not in a venue that also features fried cheese curds.

i'll need to run around a bit, but should make make it to every event. i'm just not sure how to dress. if i dress as the responsible new chair, i'll look like a dork for the football parents. yet the mounds view football jersey would be inappropriate for the minnversity meetings and could only be worn ironically for the evening. as for the lips' show, a giant bunny or gorilla costume seems to be the only answer. i'll just make sure to pop the head off before we snap the football pictures.

Monday, August 21, 2006

the vision thing

there's no ropes course scheduled, but our sociology department retreat is tomorrow. calling faculty and staff together for open-ended discussion can be a risky endeavor for a new chair, but i'm completely excited, stoked, and fired up for it. maybe i'm naively optimistic, but the department is in a really good place and some big opportunities are opening up this year.

here's the plan:

10:00-10:15 check-in
10:15-10:45 agenda setting
10:45-11:45 open discussion and elaboration
11:45-12:00 break
12:00-1:00 lunch
1:00-2:15 visibility in the discipline
2:15-2:30 break
2:30-3:45 excellence in the department
3:45-4:30 synthesis and reflection
4:30-5:30 cocktails/music
5:30-6:30 dinner
6:30-8:00 open music/drinks

most of tomorrow's discussions will be non-bloggable (what with our secret plot to remake the discipline and all), but i'll pass along any lessons learned about conducting retreats at some point. i know that i'll have to check the ego at the door, of course. if and when my brothers and sisters want to take things in a new or different direction, i'll just have to roll with it. i'll only get really defensive if somebody complains about the band. my research and leadership skills are fair game, of course, but i take my music personally.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

the indefensible position: koren robinson is a rational actor

as i was walkin' in memphis last week, minnesota vikings wide receiver koren robinson was apparently careening up highway 169 to the team's mankato training camp. his speed was estimated as 120 miles per hour and he blew a .09 on the breathalyzer when the law finally caught up with him. the police report suggests that mr. robinson outran the locals in his bmw 7-series. since they knew he just had to be a viking, though, they phoned ahead for friendly officers from three other jurisdictions to greet the fleet receiver upon his arrival in mankato. on this night, he was running fast, drunk, and out of control into at least triple coverage.

mr. robinson's criminal complaint charges him with one count of felony fleeing police, two counts of fourth-degree driving while impaired, and one count each of reckless driving, careless driving, and driving with a suspended license. all this has led to much hand-wringing and speculation about why a tipsy pro football player with a $12.7 million contract on the table would put so much at risk. i don't see any big mystery here that a simple beccarian choice model couldn't explain.

i'm usually quick to wag a finger at the pampered athlete's sense of entitlement, but this one actually makes sense to me as a criminologist. relapse is all too common for those with real substance use issues, so it is pretty easy to understand why he took a drink or three. this is a man with such a serious recent habit that he showed up with booze on his breath to serve a one-day gift sentence last year in seattle.

why did mr. robinson speed through st. peter? he was racing to make an 11 pm curfew implemented by his major dad-like new coach, brad childress. why did mr. robinson run? once he saw those red lights a-flashing, he knew he'd get at least a year's suspension as a repeat violator of the league's substance abuse policy, leaving some large money on the table. he was also at serious risk of becoming owner zygi wilf's sacrificial scapegoat, as the latter waged a public relations battle to obtain a new stadium at taxpayer expense. plus, if he's anything like me, he worried a lot about screwing up in public after all the feel-good stories had been written, letting down those friends who had gone out on a limb for him.

to be sure, mr. robinson is responsible for making all five of his terrible decisions on tuesday night:

1. drink
2. bust curfew
3. drive
4. speed
5. flee

that said, i'll make the indefensible assertion that the punishments are partly responsible for the crimes. mr. robinson's choice set was socially determined by increasingly strict rules and laws governing drinking and driving, as well as his own prior choices and behavior. i'd therefore argue that at least the last four decisions were partially influenced by the severity of the sanctions attached to the preceding bad decision. that is, the severity of a curfew violation likely had something to do with his speed that night; the severity of being sanctioned for drunk driving likely had something to do with his decision to flee.

more indefensibly (less defensibly?), i might even argue that a zero tolerance, get-tough set of rules increased the threat to public safety on tuesday (recognizing, of course, that such rules might also have successfully deterred dozens of other wild-eyed vikings from taking to the road that night). to take a far more serious example, there is some evidence that twenty-five year mandatories for drug crimes may have had something to do with the death of innocent witnesses in several cases in recent years. perhaps surprisingly, big-time dealers can be quite risk-averse.

drunk driving is pretty serious too, of course. nevertheless, as "recovering drunk" uberwriter patrick reusse suggests, mr. robinson's "official .09 blood alcohol reading made him easily the least drunk among the dozens of vikings arrested on similar charges." any longstanding vikes fan would concede mr. reusse's point that a .09 would have qualified mr. robinson for designated driver status back in the franchise's tommy kramer/keith millard dui era. and those dudes rarely got tickets, much less felony charges.

yes, mr. robinson screwed up in a major way by putting other citizens and officers at risk on tuesday. before we ramp up any other formal and informal sanctions, however, we'd do well to remember that harsh punishments can sometimes make things worse. put another way, would you consider fleeing the police if you knew that a citation would effectively end your career?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

bassically just proper citation

after hearing a fine bassist in memphis, i came home to teach my bass-poppin' lad proper citation. as far as i know, it all starts with larry graham, playing with sly stone and graham central station 35 years ago. here's a short clip of the original bass percussionist, in which mr, graham shows how it's done. the full-on, full-regalia seventies version, is up at youtube too, as are clips from modern innovators such as victor wooten.

the lad will no doubt argue that flea is better, but at least he'll be able to cite to the source. i'm just glad that he's popping like mr. graham and mr. flea -- and that he's successfully resisted the pick.

Friday, August 18, 2006

longevity and risk

between sociology meetings last week, i commiserated with my friend charis about the complications of modern-day baseball fandom. she's younger than me, but was a dodgers fan back in the steve garvey-ron cey-manny mota-davey lopes* era. i loved that team and their series rival oakland athletics, in part because their lineups were so stable from year to year.

those days are gone, of course, and few kids today could name the local nine. here's the opening day lineup of another of my favorite teams from the mid-1970s, listed by position and years of service with that team on opening day. can you guess the team and year? a couple hints are listed below.

second base: 14 years
right field: 21 years
designated hitter: 11 years
first base: 14 years
catcher: 2 years (hint: regular catcher had 12 years with team)
left field: 10 years
center field: 10 years
third base: 3 years
shortstop: 3 years
starting pitcher: 11 years

total: 99 years, for average of 9.9 years of service with the same team per player.

this year's lineup for the same team?

centerfield: 3 years
second base: 2 years
catcher: 3 years
right field: 2 years
designated hitter: 5 years
first base: 3 years
shortstop: 3 years
left field: 5 years
third base: 5 years
pitcher: 1 year

total: 32 years, for average of 3.2 years per player.

ok, i'll dork out and offer a real hint: you can see one player's name from the first box score on most of the small batteries (e.g., AA or AAA cell) you have around the house. it wouldn't be much fun to list opening day lineups of sociology or criminology departments in the 1970s. in contrast to baseball, free agency seems to have had little effect on the professoriate.

the first non-anonymous commenter to correctly guess the team might get a worthless but old baseball card from said team. since that would require dealing with some scary spiders in the basement, i can offer no guarantees.

* as a little league second baseman/pitcher, davey lopes was one of my favorite (non-twin) players. i still cite him as an example of being too conservative or not taking enough chances in one's career. i thought he was the best base-stealer ever, perhaps better than rickey henderson or lou brock. but he didn't run enough. in fact, his career ratio of stolen bases to caught-stealings was five to one, whereas mr. henderson's was approximately four to one and mr. brock's was about three to one. during his prime, mr. lopes almost never got caught and it was over ten to one. this induced me to yell run, davey, run! at the tv whenever he got on base. of course, my own gutsy-but-excruciatingly slow baserunning success/failure ratio was closer to one to four, so i really shouldn't have been offering mr. lopes any advice on this matter.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

newsweek top 100 global universities

educators love to grade and rank others, but we get a little cranky when we're ranked ourselves. sometimes this is because we don't like the ranking criteria and sometimes it is because we don't like the results.

newsweek just released their list of the top 100 global universities this week, based on the following criteria:

fifty percent of the score came from equal parts of three measures:
1. the number of highly-cited researchers in various academic fields
2. the number of articles published in nature and science
3. the number of articles listed in the isi social sciences and arts & humanities indices

another 40 percent of the score came from equal parts of four measures:
4. the percentage of international faculty
5. the percentage of international students
6. citations per faculty member
7. the ratio of faculty to students

the final 10 percent came from ...
8. the number of volumes in the library

the minnversity placed thirtieth on the world list, situated somewhere between kyoto and geneva. the public/private split is blurring these days, but i believe that places us about eleventh among the american publics. we're looking up at berkeley, san francisco (whose ranking was sort of a surprise to me), michigan, ucla, washington, san diego, wisconsin, and texas. since we're minnesotans, of course, we'd never look down on anybody.

1. Harvard University
2. Stanford University
3. Yale University
4. California Institute of Technology
5. University of California at Berkeley
6. University of Cambridge
7. Massachusetts Institute Technology
8. Oxford University
9. University of California at San Francisco
10. Columbia University
11. University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
12. University of California at Los Angeles
13. University of Pennsylvania
14. Duke University
15. Princeton Universitty
16. Tokyo University
17. Imperial College London
18. University of Toronto
19. Cornell University
20. University of Chicago
21. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich
22. University of Washington at Seattle
23. University of California at San Diego
24. Johns Hopkins University
25. University College London
26. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne
27. University Texas at Austin
28. University of Wisconsin at Madison
29. Kyoto University
30. University of Minnesota Twin Cities
31. University of British Columbia
32. University of Geneva
33. Washington University in St. Louis
34. London School of Economics
35. Northwestern University
36. National University of Singapore
37. University of Pittsburgh
38. Australian National University
39. New York University
40. Pennsylvania State University
41. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
42. McGill University
43. Ecole Polytechnique
44. University of Basel
45. University of Maryland
46. University of Zurich
47. University of Edinburgh
48. University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
49. University of Bristol
50. University of Sydney
51. University of Colorado at Boulder
52. Utrecht University
53. University of Melbourne
54. University of Southern California
55. University of Alberta
56. Brown University
57. Osaka University
58. University of Manchester
59. University of California at Santa Barbara
60. Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
61. Wageningen University
62. Michigan State University
63. University of Munich
64. University of New South Wales
65. Boston University
66. Vanderbilt University
67. University of Rochester
68. Tohoku University
69. University of Hong Kong
70. University of Sheffield
71. Nanyang Technological University
72. University of Vienna
73. Monash University
74. University of Nottingham
75. Carnegie Mellon University
76. Lund University
77. Texas A&M University
78. University of Western Australia
79. Ecole Normale Super Paris
80. University of Virginia
81. Technical University of Munich
82. Hebrew University of Jerusalem
83. Leiden University
84. University of Waterloo
85. King's College London
86. Purdue University
87. University of Birmingham
88. Uppsala University
89. University of Amsterdam
90. University of Heidelberg
91. University of Queensland
92. University of Leuven
93. Emory University
94. Nagoya University
95. Case Western Reserve University
96. Chinese University of Hong Kong
97. University of Newcastle
98. Innsbruck University
99. University of Massachusetts at Amherst
100. Sussex University

i'm glad the minnversity registers on such lists, especially since our stated aim is to become one of the top three public research universities in the world. still, i'm not sure whether these particular rankings give us a reasonable picture of either "top" or "global." what do you make of the list?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

asaclu: two ways to the top of the oak tree

i'm safely back from montreal-via-memphis. i wasn't going to post on the asa meetings, but the contrast between my professional meetings and my pubcrim meeting stirred about 10 almost-completely-unrelated thoughts.

1. i learned something from every asa session i attended, and came away especially impressed with a few new friends. sometimes i forget that we have some really brilliant people in the profession. we do.

2. montreal was lovely, though too expensive for students. on the whole, asa seems a little less student-friendly than my other professional associations (asc and law & society). there was plenty of food at the receptions, which helps a little, though the drink prices were absurd in the conference hotels.

3. i hung with some community college folks who had a way different take on the meetings and asa status hierarchies. monte bute of metro state sez "there is no profession so hypocritically insensitive to the social inequality within its own ranks, or so intellectually inept at recognizing how its own taken-for-granted practices create and perpetuate this academic caste system." ouch.

4. gloria steinem's talk was a lovefest, and it was great to hear someone so accomplished at the meetings. i'd quibble with her rosy characterization of "95 percent of human history," but it really ain't my area. i just liked the way she took her talk seriously by crafting something special for the sociologists, and the way she applauded the audience at the end. she was warm and gracious as well as sharp and incisive.

5. though my asa talks were well attended and i got some useful feedback, i was really excited and pushed in my memphis presentation on felon voting rights. there were 75-100 people who truly engaged the issue, a great many of whom could offer first-hand accounts of what it was like to try to vote with a felony conviction in tennessee. i signed about a dozen books for former felons and activists, which was kind of an ego trip.

6. i wish i could do more talks such as the one in memphis, but pubcrim ain't cheap. groups like the aclu can't offer honoraria or pay travel expenses for such meetings, so i can't afford too many trips.

7. i loved my stay at the holiday inn in memphis, which was sort of a shrine to kemmons wilson (inspirational quote: there are two ways to get to the top of the oak tree. one way is to sit on a acorn and wait; the other is to climb it). after my talk i visited beale street with some of the other speakers and saw sun studios and stax records, which hold great personal religious significance. in contrast, i was really, really happy to put the marriott chateau champlain in the rearview mirror.

8. at the meetings i claimed i could give the same talk to community groups that i'd give to professional sociologists. i did just that the next day and it worked pretty well. i had to tone down some of the jargon and explain what the methods did rather than how they did them, but otherwise the talks were very similar. judging from the fine questions i got at the end, the non-ph.d. audience seemed to apprehend the arguments just fine.

9. i was glad to hear my name a few times, but amazed at the new pronunciations: lots of uggumms, of course, but i heard novel stuff like oogens and ergen as well. maybe folks were trying to francify it in montreal. i'm now completely convinced that i've been mispronouncing my own name as you-gun all these years.

10. some fun-but-awkward conversations can happen when friends, students, and colleagues start swapping stories about working with you. while you're sitting right there. though it is all in good fun, such triangulation hardly seems fair.

Monday, August 14, 2006

simple, huh? memphis 8/15

i'm loving old montreal and the sociology meetings, but nearing saturation. on my way home (sort of), i'll be giving a talk in memphis at a felon voting panel hosted by the american civil liberties union. barring travel delays, i'll be at the cecil humphreys school of law, university of memphis, 3715 central avenue (Rooms 248, 250 and 252) at 6:30.

tennessee has had one of the twistiest felon voting laws for former felons, with one's rights dependent on the date of conviction, the type of conviction, the financial obligations owed to the state or victims, and other criteria. fortunately, attorney erika wood of the brennan center for justice and several local experts will handle the tough legal questions. my job will be to give the big picture overview.

the flyer notes that tennessee has dramatically simplified its procedures:

Public Chapter 860, a new law, simplifies the process for restoring voting rights to persons with past felony convictions who have completed their sentences. What was the country’s most confusing system, with six different procedures for restoration, has been streamlined into a single restoration process.

it still seems pretty complicated relative to other states, though. in minnesota, a former felon simply has to show up at the polls with some identification. here's another flyer that breaks down the new simplified procedure:

Just follow these easy steps:
1) Complete your sentence, including probation and parole
2) Pay court-ordered restitution, if any
3) Be current on all court-ordered child support obligations
4) Complete a Voter Registration form and submit it to the local Election Commission office
5) Obtain a Certificate of Restoration form from the local County Election office and have it completed by:
• An agent of the pardoning authority (probation or parole officer), or
• An agent or officer of the supervising or incarcerating authority (prison or jail), or
• An agent of the circuit/criminal court (clerk).
6) Submit the completed Certificate of Restoration to the local Election Commission office. If your application is approved, you will receive a Voters Registration card. If it is denied, you will receive a letter explaining why and explaining the steps you need to take to restore your right to vote. (Contact your local Election Commission Office if you have not received your registration card or a letter within a week.)
NOTE: The Voters Registration and the Certificate of Restoration forms can be found at your local Election Commission Office or at the Tennessee Election Commission website (

Your right to vote can be restored when:
• Your sentence is complete, including probation and parole, or when you are no longer under the authority of the penal institution
• You have paid any applicable court-ordered restitution
• You are current on applicable child support payments
Most persons with felony convictions can have their right to vote restored. In some cases, convictions for certain crimes will prevent you from having your right to vote restored. These include:
• First-degree murder, aggravated rape, treason, and voter fraud (If convicted between July 1, 1986 and June 30, 1996)
• Murder, rape, treason, and voter fraud (If convicted between July 1, 1996, and June 30, 2006)
• Murder, rape, treason, voter fraud, any violent sexual offense designated as a felony where the victim of the offense was a minor, and offenses against the administration of government (official misconduct) by elected or appointed officials (If convicted on or after July 1, 2006)

this procedure surely makes it easier for tennessee ex-felons to regain the vote. that said, i'm guessing that many will be deterred by the financial hurdles and administrative requirements. in most states, one's rights are automatically restored after completion of sentence.

Friday, August 11, 2006

dayjams -- guy in a hole!

kid activities present complications for summer professional travel. as my kids have gotten older, they've needed rides to more distant places at stranger times (e.g., 10 to 11:35 am on monday, tuesday, thursday, and friday). this will get easier/scarier when the lad obtains a license next year, but this particular summer has been a challenge.

the good news is the spine-crushingly cool range of experiences around for kids -- at least for kids from middle-class backgrounds. mine have done drama, voice, humane society volunteering, football/wrestling/baseball camps, crime investigation, and myriad others. to my chagrin, they tend to avoid anything involving reading or writing in summer, but i can't say i blame them.

this year's favorite i-can't-believe-kids-get-to-do-this camp is called dayjams. kids aged nine to fifteen meet to form bands on monday, write songs, practice the snot out of them, and do a show on friday night, complete with stage-lighting. yup, that's right: school of rock without the lame uniforms. and most of the bands look and sound like actual bands, complete with creative tensions and on-stage volume wars. i was even a little insecure that daughter's kidband sounded better after five days than my high school band sounded after five months. but that's probably just me...

she signed up for lead vocals in one session and guitar the following week; both were fun and intense. the lad, a seasoned bassist and veteran of several short-lived bands already, wasn't interested in playing with nine-year-olds. [when told dayjams met at mounds park academy, he said "academy, hmm. don't like the sound of that." a public school kid, to be sure.] still, i bet he would have enjoyed it. bands usually contained two drummers, two or three guitarists, a bass, and a vocal, plus the occasional keys, horn, or whatever. they seem to match the beginners with more experienced or talented players, and tor would have had fun big-timin' the little ones. plus, most of the instructors seemed reasonably cool as well as accomplished.

if i can secure the necessary institutional and (more importantly) personal permissions, i'll post a live song by more than faces. i thought it rocked, but parental perceptions are completely unreliable in such matters. because the kids wrote the songs and created band names and stage personae, the lyrics were fresh, literal, and non-cliched. my favorite non-uggen song was called guy in a hole. some little punks tore through a three-chord monster about, well, an actual guy in a hole. very stooges-like. i'd wager it would have fit nicely at lollapalooza, somewhere between the raconteurs and gnarls barkley. here's hoping that the experience gets a few of these kids to start bands the old-fashioned way this fall -- arguing about their "influences" in school hallways and searching desperately for a drummer who can keep a beat.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

DAN -- mugs for alums

i'm hearing terrible travel tales this morning, suggesting that many sociologists will be delayed for the montreal meetings. my flight is scheduled to arrive about 7:10 friday night, which under normal conditions would have left enough time to make my 9:30 reception.

i volunteered to hand out minnesota coffee mugs (featuring eric hedberg's handsome department logo at left) to our alums at departmental alumni night from 9:30 to 11:30 at the palais des congrès de Montréal. presuming that i can get to montreal on friday, i'm hoping that alums and webfriends will stop by to say hey.

meetings are still stressful for me, partly because i'm inevitably leaving urgent unfinished business back home. this year is no exception. plus, there's the whole goffmanesque presentation of self thing, which leads many conferencegoers to develop a meeting-specific persona. aside from DAN, section receptions, and blogtogethers, i'll be appearing as meeting chris at these sessions. hope to see you there...

The Social Boundaries of Crime and Punishment: Sat, Aug 12 - 12:30pm - 2:10pm,Palais des congrès de Montréal
Recent research on crime and punishment examines how the public and law enforcement authorities use race and class distinctions as imperfect markers of criminality. These distinctions affect public opinions about crime, policing practices and the administration of criminal justice. The panelists will explore this theme, discussing how crime and crime control are intimately linked to the contours of racial and class inequality in contemporary America.
Session Organizer: Bruce Western (Princeton University)
Presider: Bruce Western (Princeton University)
Panelist: Lawrence D. Bobo (Stanford University)
Panelist: Katherine Beckett (University of Washington)
Panelist: Christopher Uggen (University of Minnesota)

Public Sociology: Sun, Aug 13 - 10:30am - 12:10pm, Palais des congrès de Montréal
Session Organizer: Eric Klinenberg (New York University)
Presider: Kieran Healy (University of Arizona)
Accessibility through Accountability: Moving Beyond the Traditional Literature Review in Public Sociology
Laurel E. Westbrook (Univ of California-Berkeley), Damon W. Mayrl (University of California-Berkeley)
Challenging Institutional Barriers to Community-Based Research
Randy Stoecker (University of Wisconsin)
Public Criminologies
Christopher Uggen (University of Minnesota), Michelle Inderbitzin (Oregon State University)
Publicly Financed Sports Stadiums, the Media, and Public Policy
Kevin J. Delaney (Temple University), Rick Eckstein (Villanova University)

Social Consequences of Prisoner Re-entry: Sun, Aug 13 - 4:30pm - 6:10pm, Palais des congrès de Montréal
Session Organizer: Danielle S. Rudes (University of California-Irvine)
Presider: Richard Rosenfeld (University of Missouri-St. Louis)
People, Places, and Things: The Neighborhood Context of Female Offender Reentry
Andrea M. Leverentz (University of Chicago)
Voting and the Civic Reintegration of Former Prisoners
Shelly S. Schaefer (University of Minnesota), Christopher Uggen (University of Minnesota)
Regionalization of Massachusetts’ Forensic Transition Team
Stephanie W. Hartwell (University of Massachusetts-Boston)
Framing Parolees: Discretionary Decision Making Processes Within the Relational Contexts of Social Control
Danielle S. Rudes (University of California-Irvine)

Access to Health Care: Mon, Aug 14 - 2:30pm - 4:10pm, Palais des congrès de Montréal
Session Organizer: Mary K. Zimmerman (University of Kansas)
Presider: Lori Wiebold-Lippisch (University of Kansas)
The Differential Effect of Community-Level Socioeconomic Disadvantage on Access to Health Care
James B. Kirby (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality)
The Impact of Gender, Family Status, and Employer Contributions on Take-ups of Health Insurance Benefits
Anastasia H. Prokos (University of Nevada-Las Vegas), Jennifer Keene (University of Nevada, Las Vegas)
Sources of Variation in State Mental Health Parity Laws
Elaine Marie Hernandez (University of Minnesota)
Differentials in Access to Cervical Cancer Screening for Women with Disabilities in the U.S.: Results from the National Health Interview Surveys
Julia Ana Drew (Brown University)
Chronic Illness and Health Seeking-Information on the Internet
Stephanie Ayers (Arizona State University), Jennie Jacobs Kronenfeld (Arizona State University)
Discussant: Lori Wiebold-Lippisch (University of Kansas)

Sex and Gender Roundtables: Mon, Aug 14 - 2:30pm - 4:10pm, Palais des congrès de Montréal
Session Organizer: Teresa Toguchi Swartz (University of Minnesota)
Organizational Hegemony and the Face of the Firm: The Construction of Executive Women and Men as Different Workers in the British Advertising and Computing Industries
Michele Rene Gregory (York College/CUNY)
Session Organizer: Evren Savci (University of Southern California)
The Differential Effects of Gender Composition of the Workplace on Men and Women
Catherine J. Taylor (Cornell University)
The Impact of Labeling Events as Sexual Harassment in the U.S. Military: A Logistic “Path” Model
Juanita M. Firestone (University of Texas, San Antonio), Richard J. Harris (University of Texas-San Antonio)
At the time, I thought it was great: The Importance of Age in Labeling Sexual Harassment
Amy M. Blackstone (University of Maine), Jason Houle (The Pennsylvania State University)
Presider: Marjukka Ollilainen (Weber State University)

the costs of incarcerating those who needn't be incarcerated

criminologists often write about the costs of incarceration --generating crude estimates by multiplying the number of inmates by the per diem paid by the taxpayers. larger costs, of course, are borne by the inmates who don't really need to be there.

though i've written about the relative safety of prisons and jails, they clearly remain dangerous places to spend the night -- especially for younger arrestees and those brought in on minor charges.

carl edward moyle was booked into the sherburne county jail yesterday and was beaten to death within twelve hours. his crime was a simple traffic offense: driving without proof of insurance, which is a gross misdemeanor in minnesota for repeat offenders. his assailant was a state prison inmate awaiting trial for assaulting yet another inmate in a st. cloud penitentiary.

sherburne county sheriff bruce anderson, jail administrators, and minnesota corrections officials will surely be asked why they failed to segregate an inmate with a history of assaulting other inmates. but my question is more basic: do we really need to be locking up folks because they don't have insurance? given state variation in insurance requirements, can you think of a better example of a mala prohibita offense?

doing prison interviews, i've asked inmates "how many of these guys need to be here?" most respond with an estimate between 25 and 75 percent of their fellow residents, easily pointing out examples in each category. i suspect that the incarcerated could have distinguished between mr. moyle and his assailant. i know that few would identify traffic violators as deserving of incarceration, much less a fatal beating.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

are books harmful?

eszter points to a list of the 10 most harmful books of the 19th and 20th centuries, as identified by a panel of 15 conservative scholars and public policy leaders.

unsurprisingly, the panel identified works by marx, mao, kinsey, freud, skinner, darwin, friedan, and nietzsche, but they also found foucault, the webbs, de beauvoir, fanon, and gramsci worthy of mention. auguste comte's the course of positive philosophy ranked eighth:

Comte, the product of a royalist Catholic family that survived the French Revolution, turned his back on his political and cultural heritage, announcing as a teenager, “I have naturally ceased to believe in God.” Later, in the six volumes of The Course of Positive Philosophy, he coined the term “sociology.” He did so while theorizing that the human mind had developed beyond “theology” (a belief that there is a God who governs the universe), through “metaphysics” (in this case defined as the French revolutionaries’ reliance on abstract assertions of “rights” without a God), to “positivism,” in which man alone, through scientific observation, could determine the way things ought to be.

i'm a little surprised that conservatives would find positivism more harmful than, say, keynesian economics (which ranked tenth). have phyllis schlafly and some of the other panelists really had much exposure to comte, or is he a stand-in for atheism? or sociology? other head-scratchers on the list included john dewey's democracy and education at #5 and john stuart mill's on liberty, which merited an honorable mention. i'm pushing this too far, i know, but i can't help thinking that indentifying such a broad set of ideas as harmful hints ever so slightly at cultural revolution-style anti-intellectualism.

such lists might also provide a little insight into the underrepresentation of conservatives in academia. the conception of "harmful" on this list seems so general -- and so at odds with the big new ideas prized by academics -- that it surely narrows the field of inquiry. i'd imagine that the same group might place adam smith, alexander hamilton, james q. wilson, george kelling, and charles murray on the "most important" books list, but even a close reading of these authors would give some of the panelists pause.

this panel put together a fascinating list and their efforts will stir some great conversations. nevertheless, the products of such efforts remind me that there are those who find that books -- or ideas, or disciplines such as sociology -- are harmful in themselves.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

got out of the office today...

i'm working with good friends and minnversity colleagues on a project at the public/policy/professional sociology nexus. today, we made our first pitch to the professionals we'll need to greenlight access to the data.

it was good.

as academics, we were well outside our comfort zone but energized. we learned much that we'd never find in the journals and we met some good people who needed answers. all agreed that we were onto something cool and unknown and almost-but-not-quite impossible. so, i'm encouraged.

if you want me to believe you, you believe me. The society of man is cemented with mutual credit. Your neighbor's vision is as true for him as your own vision is true for you.
-- miguel de unamuno, our lord don quixote

Sunday, August 06, 2006

sunday in miesville

it is tough to get out of the office just before the annual sociology meetings next week. but with the summer slipping away quickly and no vacation in sight, i snuck off to red wing this weekend for dinner at the nortons, hiking at barn bluff, and amateur baseball in miesville.

whenever i visit the youth correctional facility at red wing, i pass a ballpark wedged between a cemetary to the right, highway 61 to the left, and cornfields everywhere between. this is jack ruhr field, home of the miesville (pop. 135) mudhens and host of the 2006 minnesota baseball association class "B" state tournament.

i've been threatening to take in a game there for years, and finally pulled the trigger today. i'm not sure whether other states have strong amateur leagues full of skilled players, but "town ball" remains big in minnesota. many teams have kids fresh off the local high school or college team playing with forty- or fifty-something veterans. one also finds ex-minor leaguers in town ball, along with the occasional big-hearted big-leaguer such as terry steinbach, who reportedly still suits up with friends and family for new ulm kaiserhoff.

since there's no money involved, these games are nothing like gimmicky minor league events. the brats are fresh and the beer is cold, but there's no music after the national anthem, no giveaways, and no wacky announcer. the local nine just take the field for a little country hardball against the lads from down the road or around the bend.

today i witnessed a crisp contest between the dundas dukes and the hastings hawks. adam barta, the hard-throwing hawks pitcher, looked strong throughout, while pat wadzinski is a classic hustle-down-the-line catcher. i was partial to the dukes, though, given their stylish glovework. both corner outfielders cut down runners with perfect throws to second and javier guevara made some nice picks at first.

in the end, the hawks prevailed 2-1. the dukes rallied in the eighth, however, when their big third baseman got just under one of barta's few mistakes of the day. neither pitcher walked an opponent, though, and the contest was decided in less than two hours. as a point of reference, the twins-royals game was in the second inning when i parked the car and the seventh when i returned. from the looks of it, i saw the better game on this day.

if you think you might agree, miesville is about 45 minutes south of minneapolis and playoffs continue at "the jack" through early september.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

solzhenitsyn didn't see this coming

i'm sure that plenty of americans would holiday on alcatraz, but something tells me this gulag won't be a huge money maker. according to the independent,

Igor Shpektor, the Mayor of Vorkuta, 100 miles above the Arctic Circle and 1,200 miles north-east of Moscow, says he is looking for an investor to turn an abandoned prison complex into a "reality" holiday camp for novelty-seeking tourists keen to understand what life was like for Soviet political prisoners at first hand.

His idea, which has upset survivors of the prison camp, envisages recreating a tiny part of the Gulag complete with watchtowers, guards armed with paintball guns, snarling dogs, rolls of barbed wire, spartan living conditions - and forced labour.

yeesh. they probably aren't taking volunteers at guantanamo, but "extreme tourists" who want a prison experience might be better served volunteering or mentoring at actual prisons and juvenile training schools.

Friday, August 04, 2006

the elk ribeye is good, but the irony is delicious

i've got reservations at the norton's in bay city tomorrow night, just across the 'sconny border from red wing, minnesota. as i wrote last summer, owner and chef greg norton (the bouncier-than-tigger bassist at left) is one of the restaurant's great attractions. mr. norton is a gracious host as well as a fine cook and sommelier, so i can't wait to make the trek.

happily, i read today that mr. norton is returning to the stage this weekend after a 15-year hiatus. somewhat less happily, he'll be doing so at the entry in minneapolis while i'm eating his food in wisconsin. so it goes. he characterizes the new band, the gang font, featuring interloper, as punkprogfreefunkmathmetal. in addition to mr. norton, the principals include erik fratzke on guitar (a shredder, to be sure), drummer dave king (of the bad plus), and craig taborn on keyboards. the ideal solution would be to hit the entry tonight and the norton's tomorrow, but time is a bit tight for that.

husker du videos suggest that minneapolis has gotten much prettier since the eighties. via youtube, here's a li'l makes no sense at all/love is all around for mary tyler moore nostalgists and new day rising, which still seems timeless to me. for those who can't make either show at the entry, here's some prehistoric teen du, live from the dark n' distortin' entry.*

*yes, of course i considered adding a little dig about 1980 being the "last time they mopped the floor" or cleaned the fixtures but that would be a cheap and undeserved (well, mostly undeserved) shot at a storied venue.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

freedom and stability assumptions

as i reluctantly trundled a decade of sociology journals to the free shelf, my mind raced and ricocheted to all manner of worst-case scenarios. what if everybody dumped their paper journals but electronic access was sharply restricted? just because we have cheap or free electronic access today doesn't mean that we'll always have it, does it?

i quickly spun an(other) orwellian movie treatment in which all sociological knowledge was lost, save for the brave efforts of a rag-tag crew of grad students uploading pirate scans of ajs and asr, just one step ahead of the information police. in a cave. with a generator. more seriously, we all act as if services such as jstor or google will be around throughout our careers, and that we will be able to access such information -- as well as the great libraries of books being scanned -- for free or for cheap. maybe this is the case, maybe not.

i started a blog last year, in part, because i sensed that freedom this good is too good to last. i don't keep pace with efforts to regulate blogs or net content, but reports like this sometimes give me pause. unfortunately, i don't know what netcasting is either, just that my president is calling to regulate it.

in the end, i made the same stability assumptions as everyone else and gave away my old journals. that said, i suspect there's a non-zero probability that what's free is gonna cost, and it probably won't be long before the doors start closing.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

three passions

late last night, the blog muse dropped a li'l bertrand russell on me. in the prologue to his autobiography, mr. russell called out three passions: love, knowledge and compassion for the suffering:

What I Have Lived For

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy - ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness--that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what--at last--I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

the last couple sentences are the kicker, of course. the ride must have been pretty good if he's ready to get back in line to take another turn. three observations on the rest of the passage: (1) i'm heartened mr. russell found love at last; (2) i'm concerned that such an erudite nobel-winning scholar only claimed "a little" knowledge in the end (my goodness, what hope is there for us?); and, (3) though i'd prefer "compassion" to "pity," i'm inspired that he'd nurture a personally painful human connection to suffering rather than to turn away from the pains of the world at the first opportunity.


the punk sends word that a west bank institution is closing its doors after 5 decades.

the old viking bar -- the name predates the football team's arrival -- is only a couple blocks from the minnversity's social science tower. nevertheless, one is pretty unlikely to run into faculty or students there. on entering, you'll have to squeeze by the stage, walking past r&b vet willie murphy (who i remember from his willie and the bees days), spider john koerner (koerner, ray, & glover), or the front porch swinging liquor pigs. as i understand local history, mr. dylan played a block or two away at the new riverside, though one could easily imagine him sidling up to the viking's tiny stage to sit in with any of the aforementioned bands today. i was certainly no regular at the viking, but i'm sure sad to see it go.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

stone happy in '72 and at mile 25

do you ever come across old pictures in which you appear to be much happier than you ever remember feeling? as an empiricist confronted with such evidence, i'll admit that the bleep-eatin' grin attests to the fact that i indeed seemed pretty happy at the time the shot was taken, but only in retrospect. this happens a lot with running pictures. i'll recall a race as hot or miserable, but then find myself beaming inexplicably or clowning with new buds, as in this one at mile 25 of the memorial day tribute-to-global-warming 2006 mad city marathon (dammit jim, they're dropping like superheated flies!"). it doesn't appear to be an aberration: of 10 pictures, the only one where i look even arguably unhappy or uncomfortable comes from the first few steps of the race (when i still thought i was gonna win it).

all this is by way of admitting that i'm probably happier now than i let on, even when i'm not feeling cooked. i don't know whether my experiences hold more generally or what would happen if attitudinal reports of subjective well-being were cross-checked against the photographic record, but i suspect that others are happier than they let on as well. since keith richards has understood this since before exile on main street, here's an ancient video of my favorite keef riff and vocal.