Chris Uggen's Blog: September 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

new report: reducing racial disparity in the criminal justice system

from the sentencing project:

The Sentencing Project has just published a new edition of "Reducing Racial Disparity in the Criminal Justice System," a comprehensive manual for practitioners and policymakers. The publication provides insight into how racial disparities develop in the criminal justice system, and workable solutions to address and reduce disparities. The manual provides strategies for addressing disparities at each stage of the system, as well as 17 "best practices" illustrating practitioner approaches for enhancing fairness. "Reducing Racial Disparity in the Criminal Justice System" is a tool for criminal justice practitioners, policymakers, and community organizations seeking to develop constructive approaches to one of the most challenging problems facing the criminal justice system.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

a trip

whenever i go a few days between posts, folks start wondering whether all is well. well, aside from a mounting backlog of email, all is well. swell, really. i’ve just returned from a few busy days in beautiful oregon, where i enjoyed a productive trip as department chair, researcher, and public criminologist.

As chair, i had a lovely meal with a generous donor to the minnversity’s sociology department. i know that not every academic enjoys this sort of thing, but I love this aspect of being chair. i’ve met a lot of very smart, successful, and civic-minded people this way.

as researcher, i spent some time on an nsf grant with melissa thompson, a former advisee who is now professin' at portland state. melissa is the p.i. on this grant, so i’m mostly following her lead – not quite a full role reversal from her days as my research assistant, but we’ve both come a long way. she’s the first of my advisees to come up for tenure, so i'm feeling a bit senior these days.

as public criminologist, i spent yesterday afternoon at oregon state penitentiary, where my pubcrim colleague michelle inderbitzin has led several inside-out classes. several of the men on a-block had read my work on disenfranchisement with jeff manza, but we had a long and wide-ranging group discussion about mandatory minimums, family support, public opinion, the economics of crime, and the politics of criminal justice. i learned a lot -- and hope i struck the right balance between talking and listening.

i didn't have time to see all of portland, but i saw enough to know why melissa is so happy there. the pic above is from the japanese garden -- a last-minute stop on the way to the airport this morning. beautiful.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

u.s. politics panels during the republican national convention

looking for a little more election content for your political sociology class? via brian atwood, dean of the minnversity's humphrey institute of public affairs:

The Humphrey Institute hosted 16 panels on critical policy challenges and American political dynamics during the Republican National Convention in Minnesota from September 1st to September 4th. Here are four panels that illustrate the range and depth of the conversations that ranged from domestic and foreign policy challenges facing America to the political dynamics of the coming months:

Democracy and America's Role in the World
Special guest Henry Kissinger joins a distinguished panel to question the United States' capacity to effectively implement an ambitious policy of democratization as pursued in Iraq and Afghanistan: "As a nation we have to understand our reach, but also our limits." Watch full panel:

Tax Policy at a Crossroads
Senior McCain and Obama economic advisers are joined by non-partisan experts associated with the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center to discuss the substantive proposals offered by the candidates and to outline the coming debate on taxes.

Conservatism Today
Liberal commentator E.J. Dionne moderates a discussion among David Frum, Mickey Edwards, and Vin Weber of why contemporary conservatism has gotten off track during the eight years of the Bush administration and how "true" conservatism can be restored to prominence. Watch full panel:

Faith and Politics
Moderated by Krista Tippett, host of NPR's "Speaking of Faith," this panel of conservative envangelical Dr. Richard Land and liberal evangelical Jim Wallis separate faith from any one party and define a broad faith-oriented agenda.

Additional Panels
--Foreign Policy--
- Building a Better, Safer World: What Would a McCain Presidency Do?
- The Future of U.S. Foreign Assistance: Effective Development and National Security
- Foreign Policy Challenges for the Next Administration
- The Greater Middle East

--Politics and the 2008 Elections--
- What Are Americans Looking For?
- How Would They Govern?
- Convention Politics and the Fall Elections
- Truth Telling in the Media and the Fall Elections

--Economics, Energy and the Environment--
- Climate Change and Energy Security
- Moving Forward On Health Care Reform
- Transportation and Climate Change: Promoting Sustainable Growth and Prosperity

Monday, September 22, 2008

female heads of state

an intriguing map from soc images and jezebel: the nations in dark pink have had a woman serve as a full-term head of state and those in light pink (hey, don't blame me -- i didn't do the shading) have had a woman serve as the acting head of state. i'm tempted to run a little logit or event history model predicting female leadership based on factors like democratization, gdp, and incarceration rates, but i'm sure folks have already published good work on such questions.
i can offer a li'l shameless plug, though: look for debby carr's cool trends piece on women in politics, coming up in the next (fall 08) issue of contexts.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

torture and the american psychological association

last year, the american psychological association passed a broad anti-torture resolution. this year, they voted to forbid members' participation in interrogations where detainees are held outside of international law. psychologists are routinely involved in all manner of interrogations, so this resolution is more than a symbolic gesture -- it likely affects the daily professional lives of at least some apa members.

i'm not sure whether or how the policy will be enforced, but i'm guessing that sanctions will be a hot-button issue at the annual meetings. it may be the case that any formal sanctions could diminish the professional reputations or earnings of apa members. if so, there will be lawsuits and rumors of lawsuits.

from the press release:


WASHINGTON—The petition resolution stating that psychologists may not work in settings where “persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law (e.g., the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the US Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights” was approved by a vote of the APA membership. The final vote tally was 8,792 voting in favor of the resolution; 6,157 voting against the resolution. To become policy, a petition resolution needs to be approved by a majority of those members voting.

Per the Association's Rules and Bylaws, the resolution will become official APA policy as of the Association's next annual meeting, which will take place in August 2009. At that time, the APA Council of Representatives will also determine what further action may be necessary to implement the policy.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

declining influence of the supremes

adam liptak of the times offers further evidence that the american century is over, or at least in remission. for decades, jurists around the world have looked to united states supreme court opinions for legal guidance. today, not so much:

Australian state supreme courts cited American decisions 208 times in 1995, according to a recent study by Russell Smyth, an Australian economist. By 2005, the number had fallen to 72.

The story is similar around the globe, legal experts say, particularly in cases involving human rights. These days, foreign courts in developed democracies often cite the rulings of the
European Court of Human Rights in cases concerning equality, liberty and prohibitions against cruel treatment, said Harold Hongju Koh, the dean of the Yale Law School. In those areas, Dean Koh said, “they tend not to look to the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Friday, September 19, 2008

the pains of (short-term) imprisonment

corrections costs are bringing minnesota county commissioners to revolt. as both the strib and pioneer press report, counties are now shouldering an increasing share of the costs of incarcerating short-term inmates. it may seem like a wonky issue but any cost shift from the state to local counties is a potential budget-buster in these times. from the strib:

As more than 100 county commissioners from across Minnesota stood on the steps of the State Capitol, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and state legislators came under heavy criticism Thursday for forcing counties to pay the increasing cost of housing short-term offenders. The rally came as the Association of Minnesota Counties complained that requiring counties to take certain state prisoners -- the result of a 2003 deal to balance the state budget -- has led to rising numbers of inmates in county jails and dwindling reimbursements from the state to pay for housing them.

and the pi press:

"It's nothing more than an old-fashioned shell game, where the money is sliding back and forth," Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner said. "But nobody is fooled here, nobody at all." The daily reimbursement is expected to drop from $27.24 this year to $9 next year, while the actual daily cost of jailing a short-term state offender ranges from $55 to more than $100, depending on the facility and transportation costs. Those figures don't include medical costs.

House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, blamed the Republican governor for the cost shift. Democrats have long fingered Pawlenty's efforts to hold down state taxes as the culprit for rising local property taxes. County officials said jail costs are fixed and they might have to cut other services to keep up.

yeesh. the association's presser puts the issue more succinctly:

County Commissioners to Lawmakers, Governor:
"Reform the Way You Do Business or You Can Have Your Felons Back"
Local governments tired of using county jails as make-shift prisons; seek responsible reforms and flexibility in serving the public

dark and minimal, noisy and earnest

hey minnversity social scientists, ever see yourself in this picture?

via cowbell, i'm here to extend a deliciously warm west bank welcome to the handsome furs, the fine montreal duo who threw down a tough li'l live set at the radio k studios on campus. cool to see such big music from such a nice couple...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

of real and ersatz jack swaggers

dang. it ain't easy when folks just up and steal your name. i've written a couple times about captain jack swagger, the local wrestler and musician who crossed paths with my lad. his mother che tells me that jack is "3rd generation rock n roll" and she chose a name that might resonate in the entertainment industry.

sure enough, young mr. swagger is getting steady work fronting the soviet machines and doing rooftop acoustic homages to his minneapolis forebears. but now an imposter named jake hager (pictured above) has appropriated the storied jack swagger moniker. from che's email:

You know your point about names is so very true. And your interpretation of our hopes and dreams for Jack Swagger in entertainment were very accurate. Unfortunately our dreams were hit hard last week when the ECW/WWE introduced a FAKE "Jack Swagger" on National television!

This immoral wrestler and the development school he trained at ignored the real Jack Swagger's requests to not use his name for entertainment purposes. They use it as a gimmick, a character, not a living, breathing, human being ...
As you noticed years ago when he was announced "Captain Jack Swagger" over the wrestling loudspeaker. Jack Swagger's name is what makes unique and sets him apart from everyone else. Jack contacted this individual, who's real name is Jake Hager, a fellow amateur wrestler with memories and accomplishments just like Jack's, and he ignored Jack's requests to stop using his birth name for entertainment purposes. This is horribly UNENTERTAINING to our family.

dang. i suppose i'd be frustrated too if some rugby n' bass-playing piker named "tom unger" suddenly appropriated "tor uggen" as a stage name, or if some academic imposter stole my identity. karma will catch up with mr. hager eventually, i'm sure, perhaps in the form of a folding chair blow to the cranium.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

what better name for the cheap chic ballpark?

our twins have named their new ballpark target field, a solid and remunerative choice, but not one that inspires the locals.

many of us advocated for a more mellifluous moniker, such as the beautifully evocative land o' lakes park.* i'd also heard mention of post-it park, the spam center, best buy ballyard, mill city field, stassen stadium, wheaties field, old dutch center, grain belt grounds, puckett park, and macy's-formerly-dayton's-and-then-marshall-field's fields.

though target isn't the most exciting name, the firm seems like the right corporate citizen to represent our cheap chic ballclub. the name's only sour connotation comes from its association with the target center, home of the hapless wolves. and, who knows? good ideas tend to come back around every few years. in 2012, the minnesota vikings may be coming to you -- live! -- from land o' lakes stadium in beautiful shoreview, minnesota.

* whenever i say this name, i hear loons in the background.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

gabriel schwartz and blaming the victim

the phrase blaming the victim refers to situations in which the victims of crime or injustice are unfairly held responsible for their own predicament. i've heard the phrase used critically with respect to daniel patrick moynihan's (1965) report on the negro family, but also in a more literal sense regarding rape myths that blame the targets of sexual assault.

the not-so-strange case of mr. gabriel schwartz, drugged and robbed at the republican national convention, seems to offer an ideal-typical case of an unsympathetic victim. from david hanners' pioneer press account:

He met her in the bar of the swank hotel and invited her to his room. Once there, the woman fixed the drinks and told him to get undressed. And that, the delegate to the Republican National Convention told police, was the last thing he remembered. When he awoke, the woman was gone, as was more than $120,000 in money, jewelry and other belongings. ... The haul included a $30,000 watch, a $20,000 ring, a necklace valued at $5,000, earrings priced at $4,000 and a Prada belt valued at $1,000, police said. Schwartz is a single attorney and a fixture in Colorado Republican politics. ...

In an interview filmed the afternoon of Sept. 3 and posted on the Web site, Schwartz was candid about how he envisioned change under a McCain presidency. "Less taxes and more war," he said, smiling. He said the U.S. should "bomb the hell" out of Iran because the country threatens Israel.

Asked by the interviewer how America would pay for a military confrontation with Iran, he said the U.S. should take the country's resources. "We should plant a flag. Take the oil, take the money," he said. "We deserve reimbursement." ... He said an attack on Iran was needed to protect Israel, and he offered how it could be accomplished through "strategical airstrikes." "Hopefully, just bomb the hell out of them from the sky. No troops," he said.

yeesh -- he's not just talking strategical airstrikes, but strategical nukular airstrikes. even if we grant that mr. schwartz was joking and/or inebriated when he made those comments, they don't make him a very sympathetic victim, do they? moreover, young mr. schwartz further offends our sensibilities with his staggeringly annoying personal injury law commercials -- and a blazer that only elroy "crazylegs" hirsch could pull off.

nevertheless, this loud man in loud clothing remains the victim of a serious crime. and, if you scratch the surface of crime reports, you'll see that many victims are far more foolish, annoying, and/or repugnant than mr. schwartz. that's why there's a real danger in drawing lines between worthy and unworthy victims: if this victim's account is accurate, somebody is robbing and drugging peoople at a hotel a few blocks from my department.

so, while some may snigger that mr. schwartz "got what was coming to him," i get a real cold chill whenever i hear a criminologist, a cop, or a correctional officer express such sentiments. to an even greater extent than mr. schwartz's fashion choices and political statements, blaming the victim is ugly business.

Monday, September 15, 2008

fbi releases 2007 crime in the united states

the federal bureau of investigation just released the 2007 edition of their crime in the united states. by this measure, crime is down across all categories. the rate of rape fell about 2.5 percent between 2006 and 2007, with robbery, aggravated assault, and murder down by less than one percent. overall, property crime fell 1.4 percent, led by an 8 percent decline in the rate of motor vehicle theft.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

times piece on felon voting

today's times offers a good piece on felon disenfranchisement by solomon moore. in many ways, florida remains the epicenter of the disenfranchisement and reenfranchisement debates. although governor charlie crist has partially opened the voting rights restoration process in that state, hundreds of thousands remain disenfranchised. [photo by chris livingston for the times.]

infinite foster wallace

i saw this picture on the back of infinite jest and thought, "who is this guy?" i mean, the voluminous footnotes, the crazy-detailed observations about amateur tennis and i.v. drug use, and the very freakin' idea of selling time to ameliorate a budget deficit? now, the man who gave us the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment is dead, apparently by his own hand.

twelve years ago, i saw an absurdly accomplished young dude in that picture, one whose best work was surely ahead of him. i'm always impressed by great writers, but dfw was the last to really make me jealous. he'd shift gears in mid-explanation, whether he was writing playfully about state fairs or addictive entertainments or cruise ships, move from the frontiers of knowledge in one subject to another at the speed of light, then burn a laser right through the new area of focus. his senior undergrad thesis was a fine novel, his non-fiction pieces were gorgeously written and as telling as the best sociology, and he pushed and experimented with little regard for writing conventions.

david foster wallace succeeded on a grand scale and, when he failed, he failed spectacularly. frankly, even die-hards like me just had to bag it halfway through some of his work, but i suspect he was fine with that. he probably wouldn't have been fine with the times headline, though: "Postmodern Writer is Found Dead at Home." the man who gave us the howling fantods and supposedly fun things we'll never do again would probably bristle at that "postmodern" modifier and the prosaic description, though i'd like to believe he'd appreciate the irony.

update: here's a bit from mr. foster wallace's 2005 commencement address at kenyon college:

Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.

This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.

And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. Let's get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what "day in day out" really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine, and petty frustration. ...

And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving and [unintelligible -- sounds like "displayal"]. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

larry craig appeal

the appeal in the larry craig "wide-stance" case has gotten little attention locally, but minnpost offers a nice review of the legal issues and a link to a webcast of the proceedings. i was especially interested in the arguments offered in the ACLU's friend of the court brief:

In short, the ACLU brief claims that Craig's alleged attempt to solicit sex by nonverbal means was constitutionally protected. The ACLU cites both Minnesota and U.S. Supreme Court precedents that support treating certain types of physical conduct the same as language, thus making Craig's actions permissible, protected expression.

The ACLU brief then attempts to narrow the scope of the disorderly conduct law, stating that the statute has already been held to be unconstitutionally overbroad by Minnesota courts. For instance, a 1978 Minnesota Supreme Court decision held that the government "may not criminalize expression merely because it is offensive, alarming, angering, or disturbing."

Finally, the ACLU maintains that Craig allegedly invited Karsnia to engage in conduct which is not, in itself, a crime. The brief states that if Craig's invitation was to have sex in a restroom stall, then that conduct would be protected under State v. Bryant, a 1970 Minnesota Supreme Court decision which holds that "individuals who engage in sex in closed stalls in public restrooms have a reasonable expectation of privacy."

after today's proceedings at the minnesota court of appeals, the judges have 90 days to decide whether the hennepin county court erred in denying the withdrawal of senator craig's guilty plea. i can't imagine anyone wants a trial on the bathroom incident, but that remains a real possibility.

and i bet they don't ride the bus, either

though i view public education as a value choice, i was not at all surprised to learn that barack and michelle obama, joe and jill biden, and john and cindy mccain adopt a different view. regarding the obama family's choice of an elite private school for their children, today's times offers some strongly worded rantings of a "rabid public school Democrat" PTA mom:

So it is with huge grief-filled disappointment that I discovered that the Obamas send their children to the University of Chicago Laboratory School (by 5th grade, tuition equals $20,286 a year). The school’s Web site quotes all that ridiculous John Dewey nonsense about developing character while, of course, isolating your children from the poor. A pox on them and, while we’re at it, a pox on John Dewey! I’m sick to death of those inspirational Dewey quotes littering the Web sites of $20,000-plus-a-year private schools, all those gentle duo-tone-photographed murmurings about “building critical thinking and fostering democratic citizenship” in their cherished students, living large on their $20,000-a-year island.

ouch. the vast majority of american families send their kids to public schools. on that count, at least, they have something in common with sarah and todd palin. but is it fair to indict the obamas (or john dewey, for that matter) for choosing private schools for their kids? do such issues give traction to the critique of Democrats as cultural elitists, or are they a red herring? it isn't just private schools, of course, but a constellation of elite markers. how do you respond to family or friends who criticize left leaders as latte-swilling "limousine liberals" who look down their noses at the common rubes "clinging to guns and religion"?

in the end, we're all hypocrites about something. i can only think of one way out of the whole "gasp! he's not a common man" hypocrisy charges. i'd build something like the following into my stump speech:

The other candidates will tell you that they're just like you and that only they can feel your pain or advocate on your behalf. You can't possibly believe that crap, right? None of us have your problems. We went to fancy schools and we were either born rich or we're got lots of money now. But look at my positions and my record -- what I'm promising now and what I've actually delivered in the past. You're electing me to represent your interests, so you probably need to make two basic judgments: (1) can you trust me to follow through on the plans I've outlined or am I just BS-ing you? and, (2) do I have the skills to put a team together that will work these plans successfully? I think I have a decent sense of empathy and I'll try to do right by you, but I won't insult your intelligence by pretending that I'm staying up at night worried about making rent.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

piling on

via alternet: justice emily jane goodman writes about the rising fees assessed to criminal justice system clients:

there are arrest fees (Texas), booking fees (Colorado) and DNA bank fees (New York). Michigan bills for the services of court-appointed lawyers, creating an incentive to waive counsel or to plead guilty at an early stage before legal costs escalate. Eighteen percent of Rhode Island inmates are in custody in connection with court-imposed financial obligations. An open court debt in Florida leads to a suspended driver's license, which in turn can lead to loss of job or re-arrest for driving with a suspended license. Alabama judges can increase fees from $600 to $10,000. There are special fees for particular offenses such as sex crimes, abuse of children or the elderly and, especially, driving while intoxicated.

yeesh. fees are sometimes even assessed for the legal defense of indigent clients. justice goodman's piece raises research questions that one could approach on a fine-by-fine or jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis:

1. to what (if any) extent have such fees risen in the recent past?

2. how much revenue do they generate?

3. does the revenue exceed the costs of administering and enforcing them?

4. to what extent are folks punished for failure to pay?

5. are outstanding financial obligations (ceteris paribus) negatively associated with reintegration outcomes (e.g., employment and family stability).

6. are outstanding financial obligations (ceteris paribus) positively associated with recidivism?

Monday, September 08, 2008

question wording

historical demographer steve ruggles is the university's newest regent's professor -- the highest honor for faculty at the minnversity. a university news story by pauline oo offers a fine profile of professor ruggles and his amazing work as director of the minnesota population center. while some things never change in social science research, the following sidebar to the story suggests that we've made at least some progress in developing questionnaire items since the 1850 census:

Census trivia

One of the questions asked in the 1850 census, the first year in which the census bureau attempted to count every member of every household, including white women and children and slaves: "How many insane or idiotic whites and how many insane or idiotic colored people are there in the household?"

Sunday, September 07, 2008

game face

a friend passing in the hallway told me i looked way too serious for the first week of classes. why the game face? this is my third year as department chair and second year co-editing contexts and, despite all efforts to the contrary, i sometimes get wallopped by a confluence of administrative and editorial deadlines.

as i start the second week of the academic year, i owe my kids some serious time, my collaborators some serious work, and everybody else some serious correspondence. hence the game face.

with a bit more discipline, determination, and focus, however, i'll be back on top of my workload. after friday night, i can take a cue from my favorite football team. every mounds view player wore his best game face against stillwater, from the moment they lined up for the national anthem (above). more importantly, of course, the lads played with discipline, determination, and focus -- and they kept those game faces on until they'd built a four-touchdown lead.

convention arrests in context

to offer a little context on social control at the republican national convention, the minneapolis strib published data on the number of arrests in each party's national convention for 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008.

i'm skeptical of the data quality here, especially with respect to reporting differences in the number of arrests attributed to the convention. if the data can be trusted, however, arrests at republican conventions have outpaced those at democratic conventions for at least the last three conventions. the strib's randy furst and anthony lonetree offer a useful companion piece regarding changes in convention policing since the 1999 WTO protests. an excerpt:

St. Paul and Denver each received $50 million in federal funds for policing the conventions. Tony Bouza, former Minneapolis police chief, said he thinks St. Paul could have handled the security with a few hundred extra police officers. "The only reason they did it was an orgy of overtime, subsidized by the United States government under the National Security Act," he said.

hmm. ol' chief bouza was never one to mince words...

Friday, September 05, 2008

party platforms

it was certainly troubling to see all those images of riot police and masked anarchists in my hometown of good ol' st. paul.

knowing that i had friends and former students on both sides of the lines, i worried that the clash might explode, that blood would be shed, and that careers and lives would be disrupted if not ruined.

and, did anyone else worry -- just for a moment -- that such a clash might usher in a repressive "law and order" response by the two major parties? don't tell me that senator mccain isn't ready to capitalize on such a moment, or that joe biden hasn't already written the speech.

for better or worse, the conventions have ended, the out-of-towners have left, and the party platforms have been ratified. if you'd like a sneak preview of the role of crime in the coming debates, crimprofs points us to a helpful national criminal justice association guide to each party's crime platform. a few excerpts and links:

The Democratic platform, adopted during the convention in Denver last week, includes a four-paragraph section on criminal justice focusing principally on support for local law enforcement and ending violence against women. On support for law enforcement, the platform states, "We will reverse the policy of cutting resources for the brave men and women who protect our communities every day. At a time when our nation's officers are being asked both to provide traditional law enforcement services and to help protect the homeland, taking police off of the street is neither tough nor smart; we reject this disastrous approach. We support and will restore funding to our courageous police officers and will ensure that they are equipped with the best technology, equipment and innovative strategies to prevent and fight crimes." ...

"The Republican platform, adopted last week as delegates prepared to travel to Minnesota for this week's convention, includes an eight-part criminal justice section on the topics of ending child pornography, gangs, sentencing, reforming prisons, federal law enforcement, fighting illegal drugs and protecting the victims of crime."

we thought they didn't read our stuff

standing in line for my #5 with peppers, i overheard two snarky young men complaining about their clueless idiot fathers -- the old dudes who no doubt labored hard to subsidize their sons' snarktastic arts quarter education. i resisted the urge to box their li'l ears, of course, but almost subjected them to poetry, right there in jimmy john's sandwich shop on riverside. i'm sure the lads will come around at some point, but here's the bob hicok poem i might've shared:

O my pa-pa

Our fathers have formed a poetry workshop.
They sit in a circle of disappointment over our fastballs
and wives. We thought they didn't read our stuff,
whole anthologies of poems that begin, My father never,
or those that end, and he was silent as a carp,
or those with middles which, if you think
of the right side as a sketch, look like a paunch
of beer and worry, but secretly, with flashlights
in the woods, they've read every word and noticed
that our nine happy poems have balloons and sex
and giraffes inside, but not one dad waving hello
from the top of a hill at dusk. Theirs
is the revenge school of poetry, with titles like
"My Yellow Sheet Lad" and "Given Your Mother's Taste
for Vodka, I'm Pretty Sure You're Not Mine."
They're not trying to make the poems better
so much as sharper or louder, more like a fishhook
or electrocution, as a group
they overcome their individual senilities,
their complete distaste for language, how cloying
it is, how like tears it can be, and remember
every mention of their long hours at the office
or how tired they were when they came home,
when they were dragged through the door
by their shadows. I don't know why it's so hard
to write a simple and kind poem to my father, who worked,
not like a dog, dogs sleep most of the day in a ball
of wanting to chase something, but like a man, a man
with seven kids and a house to feed, whose absence
was his presence, his present, the Cheerios,
the PF Flyers, who taught me things about trees,
that they're the most intricate version of standing up,
who built a grandfather clock with me so I would know
that time is a constructed thing, a passing, ticking fancy.
A bomb. A bomb that'll go off soon for him, for me,
and I notice in our fathers' poems a reciprocal dwelling
on absence, that they wonder why we disappeared
as soon as we got our licenses, why we wanted
the rocket cars, as if running away from them
to kiss girls who looked like mirrors of our mothers
wasn't fast enough, and it turns out they did
start to say something, to form the words hey
or stay, but we'd turned into a door full of sun,
into the burning leave, and were gone
before it came to them that it was all right
to shout, that they should have knocked us down
with a hand on our shoulders, that they too are mystified
by the distance men need in their love.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

national poverty center opportunities

some educational, research, and funding opportunities from from the university of michigan's national poverty center:

Call for Papers: Understanding the Economic Concepts and Characteristics of Food Access
Deadline: September 12, 2008
In cooperation with the Economic Research Service (ERS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the NPC is commissioning research papers to better understand concepts of low access to affordable and nutritious foods and how access varies across different types of areas. An honorarium of $5,000 will be offered for each paper that is accepted, and requests for additional funding will be considered.
Learn more…

Request for Applications: Visiting Scholars Program
Deadline: October 31, 2008
Faculty, researchers, and policy analysts are encouraged to apply for residence at the NPC through our Visiting Scholars Program. Visiting scholars will be provided with office space and computer access, as well as the opportunity to interact with NPC affiliates and attend lectures and seminars on the University of Michigan campus.
Learn more…

Request for Applications: Postdoctoral Fellowships
Deadline: January 9, 2009
The Research and Training Program on Poverty and Public Policy provides underrepresented scholars in the social sciences the opportunity to spend one to two years conducting research and pursuing extensive training at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. During the fellowship period, scholars will receive stipends of $50,000 per calendar year.
Learn more…

Request for Applications: Immigration and Poverty Small Grants Competition
Deadline: February 2, 2009
Through this national competition, the NPC seeks to fund research that will broaden or deepen our understanding of the implications of the increasing foreign born population for American society, public policy, and low-income workers and families. The NPC will fund up to four proposals, up to a maximum of $17,500 per award.
Learn more…

Workshop: Analyzing Poverty and Socioeconomic Trends Using the American Community Survey (ACS)
Deadline: February 27, 2009
The NPC invites applications to attend a data training workshop on the use of the ACS micro-data to understand social and economic issues affecting low-income populations. This workshop will take place June 22-26, 2009 on the campus of the University of Michigan. The NPC will pay the costs of travel, lodging, and meals for participants.
Learn more......

The National Poverty Center (NPC) is a university-based, nonpartisan research center. The NPC conducts and promotes multidisciplinary, policy-relevant research on the causes and consequences of poverty; provides mentoring and training to young scholars; and disseminates findings to the broad policy community. Major funding for the NPC is provided by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

civil rights complaints in u.s. district courts, 1990 - 2006

i'm most interested in voting rights claims, but there's much more fresh data in a new bureau of justice statistics publication:
Examines civil rights claims based on race, age, sex, or national origin involving employment, welfare, housing, voting, or other civil rights discrimination issues. It covers civil rights claims litigated in federal district courts from 1990 to 2006. Information is presented on trends in types of civil rights cases filed in federal district courts, the basis of federal court jurisdiction, case processing time, disposition of civil rights cases, and the types of trials that occur in the federal courts. In addition, this report examines who wins in civil rights trials and the estimated median monetary amount awarded to litigants.

Highlights include the following:

* Civil rights filings doubled in U.S. district courts from 1990 (18,922 filings) to 1997 (43,278 filings) and subsequently stabilized until 2003. From 2003 through 2006, the number of civil rights cases filed in U.S. district courts declined by 20%.
* During the period from 1990 through 2006, the percentage of civil rights cases concluded by trial declined from 8% to 3%.
* From 2000 to 2006 plaintiffs won just under a third of civil rights trials on average, and the median damage awards for plaintiffs who won in civil rights trials ranged from $114,000 to $154,500.

Monday, September 01, 2008

out of contexts, into utne

well, the republican national convention is off to a muted start in st. paul, with politicians, delegates, and reporters looking south to hurricane gustav. undaunted, folks are convening in minnesota to share ideas, fellowship, and some truly outstanding concerts and cultural events. the convention will surely proceed in some form, as will the protests, the counter-protests, and the counter-counter-protests.

for me, an early rnc highlight has been last night's utne reader party at summit brewery. utne self-identifies as a digest "of independent ideas and alternative culture. Not right, not left, but forward thinking ... interested in creating a conversation about everything from the environment to the economy, politics to pop culture."

hmm. that last bit sounds something like our mission at contexts -- with the friendly amendment that we aim to bring sociology to conversations about the environment, the economy, politics, and pop culture. happily, a feature from our spring issue was reprinted in the current utne reader distributed to party guests -- robin simon's "the joys of parenthood, reconsidered."* while i'd like to see contexts build toward utne's six-figure circulation numbers, such reprints seem like positive steps for our magazine's public outreach mission.

i didn't do much schmoozing at the party, so i never met wonkette or matt yglesias. but i enjoyed good talk with some of my favorite local writers, as well as founding editor, eric utne, and current editor-in-chief, david schimke. i also met danielle maestretti, a quick-witted bibliophile with one of the coolest jobs in the world -- utne's librarian, cataloguer, and voracious reader of the 1,500 periodicals the magazine receives each month. here's hoping they find a few more contexts pieces to run in future issues.

*the handy canvas gift bag also included some fine organic chocolate, yoga dvds, natural soap, and free-trade coffee. mmm. i felt all clean and healthy just carrying it around.