Author Archives: rfording

The Politics of Punishment: Doing Time in Hard Times

This is the title of a new APSA Working Group that will meet during this year’s meeting in DC. If you are not familiar with what a working group is, see the APSA description.

Here is the description of the agenda for this group. For a link to the page and instructions for registering (you must register to participate) look here.

“For quite some time, the number of political scientists working in the area of punishment/ incarceration has been small – both in absolute terms and relative to our cognate discipline of sociology. In the last 5-10 years, however, the number of political science graduate students and young faculty interested in the politics of punishment has grown markedly. The annual meeting panels, regrettably, have not yet reflected this growing interest and energy—given the limited numbers of proposals that can be accommodated within each of the relevant annual meeting sections. So over the last several years, a number of us have broached with each other the possibility of trying to initiate a working group to bring visibility to this burgeoning area of scholarship and to forge intellectual connections among the diverse individuals and groups of scholars writing on incarceration and punishment. This interest has crystallized this year and we are excited to propose a working group on the politics of punishment for the 2010 annual conference. Continue reading

Say It Ain’t So…Dio!

July 10, 1942 – May 16, 2010

Back in 1980, I forgot to return my Columbia House Record Club notice and ended up receiving Black Sabbath’s “The Mob Rules” in the mail as the monthly featured selection. It ended up being a great decision. This was my first introduction to Black Sabbath and the experience changed my musical taste forever. While the appeal of Black Sabbath has always been Tony Iommi’s riveting guitar riff’s, the vocals were unlike anything I had listened to prior to that time. Of course, many of you must assume I am talking about Ozzy Osbourne. Nope. In 1980 Ozzy was a solo act, having been fired by Iommi a year before. The lead singer of my Black Sabbath was Ronnie James Dio. Continue reading

Why American Idol Producers Should Take a Political Science Course

Even if you don’t watch American Idol (I admit I do), you can’t help but be aware that it is the most popular show on television. For contestants, winning the contest can transform an otherwise unknown amateur into an international celebrity. The rules are simple. Contestants perform and viewers vote for their favorite performer by texting their vote after the show. Each week the contestant with the lowest vote total is booted off the show. The process continues until there is winner – the new American Idol. 

The legitimacy of the new “American Idol” seems justified. After all, the winner is America’s choice, right? Perhaps not, according to some research on this question. Continue reading

Gaining the Upper (White) Hand on Craigslist

In 1978, one of my favorite social scientists – William J. Wilson – published “The Declining Significance of Race” in which he argued that class barriers had become a more important obstacle to black progress than intentional racial discrimination. Perhaps this is true, but thirty years later, well-designed social science studies continue to report evidence of racial discrimination in various dimensions of social and economic life.

The latest evidence comes from a clever study by Jennifer Doleac and Luke Stein of Stanford, who investigated whether including photos of white, black or tattooed hands holding new iPod Nanos in online classified ads on Craigslist has an effect on the offers that prospective buyers make. The short answer: yes.

Read this very interesting story on AOL News (with a link to the original study)

Mass Imprisonment as a Public Health Concern?

At least that is the claim made by Christopher Wildeman, a sociologist at Yale University who has been conducting research on this topic for the last two years as a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar at the University of Michigan. While political scientists are generally more interested in the politics of imprisonment, a much larger literature now exists on the “spillover” or “collateral” effects of the imprisonment boom in the United States. Many studies have documented the effects of imprisonment on those who have been imprisoned. But Wildeman’s research suggests that these effects may go far beyond the lives of the prisoners, and may also include their families and children. The general argument is not new – many studies have documented the significant economic and psychological consequences of having a spouse and/or parent incarcerated. Indeed, it is not difficult to believe that having the father of your children imprisoned can cause significant financial and emotional stress for a young mother. But Wildeman’s research is the first to show that mass imprisonment can kill – literally. Continue reading

Don’t Forget Taxes When Weighing Job Options

When Jeff asked me to guest blog for Voir Dire, I decided that my first post would be the recent article by Jalbert, et al, which ranks university salary packages after adjusting for the local cost of living. Of course, Andy beat me to the punch on that, but after reading the article more closely I realized that perhaps there is more to think about here. The article provides a great service to those of us who occasionally consider relocating to another university. I was particularly interested in the cost of living adjustment, having dealt with this issue in my own research over the years. And as with most COL measures, the details are important. The authors report that their local COL measue is taken from the real estate site, and Yahoo reports that their data come from Sperling’s Best Places website.  While the measure seems reasonable, like nearly every other local COL index it does not consider state and local taxes. Continue reading