Monday, January 29, 2007

Network Perspectives on Communities

Abstract: The application of network perspectives to communities requires some appreciation of the variety of ways people are now writing about communities. Some scholars and practitioners have drifted toward the view that a community is composed very largely of the personal networks of the individuals who are members of the community. But the whole community is more than the sum of those related parts, and the structure of a community must include not only those direct interpersonal relations but also the relations among the clusters and groups and corporate entities that interact in and about this whole. If scientific knowledge about these matters is to accumulate, we must be able to compare findings among various studies. From the 1940s well into the 1960s the local community was the recognized social unit that sociologists and anthropologists studied. Linton wrote of the necessity of the local group. Many sociologists and anthropologists gave their full attention to this local level of social integration through a field called “community studies.” The work of Conrad Arensberg, Sol Kimball, Carl Taylor, Robert Redfield, and others had views of communities that had a network cast to them. The category “community” includes a wide range of social formations, generally local systems of fairly densely connected persons in households and organizations, systems on a scale somewhere between those domestic households and the wider society -- state or nation. Recently scholarlyfocus has shifted to individuals and their personal networks, with less attention to the social structures in which they are embedded. The concept “community” really needs to be defined because it is used in many situations where what it means has real consequences. A network perspective suggests a whole complex social system organized in levels, from a household/family level, upward through a hierarchy of levels, to the national (nation-state) and even beyond that to a supranational (above-state) level. Within that complete social system are embedded several levels of networks that could be called community. The networks that form such a community must be sorted out from the entire complex system. A network perspective on communities – or on structures relating to communities – includes seeing groups both as networks of the individuals composing them and as nodes related to each other through their common members. Such “affiliation networks” are more complex than just the sum of the personal networks. Improved techniques of data collection and data analysis are bringing us closer to sorting subsystems in ways that permit their proper comparison. Gaps or seams between segments or clusters, structural equivalence, structural holes, regular equivalence, role analysis, and block modeling are improving our understanding of systems at all levels. We are approaching an understanding of the concept of community in network perspective. Source: Institute for Mathematical Behavioral Sciences. Social Dynamics and Complexity Structure and Dynamics: eJournal of Anthropological and Related Sciences: Vol. 1: No. 4, Article 2.

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With or Against the People? The Impact of a Bottom-Up Approach on Tax Morale and the Shadow Economy

Policymakers often propose strict enforcement strategies to fight the shadow economy and to increase tax morale. However, there is also a bottom-up approach: decentralizing the political power to those who are close to the problems and give them a direct political say. This paper analyses the impact of direct democracy and local autonomy on tax morale and the size of the shadow economy. We use two different data sets on tax morale at the individual level (World Values Survey and International Social Survey Programme), and macro data of the size of the shadow economy to systematically analyse the effects of institutions in Switzerland, a country where participation rights and the degree of federalism vary across different cantons. The findings suggest that direct democratic rights and local autonomy, have a significantly positive effect on tax morale and the size of the shadow economy. Source: Berkeley Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series. Paper 214

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Top 100 Speeches of the 20th Century

From Press Release: "Compiled by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Texas A&M University, the list reflects the opinions of 137 leading scholars of American public address. The experts were asked to recommend speeches on the basis of social and political impact, and rhetorical artistry.

Stephen Lucas, UW-Madison professor of communication arts, and Martin Medhurst, professor of speech communication at Texas A&M, say the new list confirms that excellence in American public oratory has thrived during the last 100 years."

Following "I Have a Dream" on the list are John F. Kennedy's 1961 inaugural address, best known for the famous challenge, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." Franklin D. Roosevelt's first inaugural address, March 4, 1933 and his declaration of war, Dec. 8, 1941, make FDR the only person with two speeches in the top five.

Barbara Jordon's keynote address to the Democratic National Convention, July 12, 1976, completes the top five. Surveyed scholars cited her eloquence, power and masterful delivery, as well as the historical importance of the first keynote by an African-American woman.

The rest of the top 10 are:

-- Richard Nixon's "Checkers" speech of 1952.

-- Malcom X's 1964 "The Ballot or the Bullet."

-- Ronald Reagan's 1986 eulogy of the Challenger astronauts.

-- JFK's address to the Houston Ministerial Association during the 1960 presidential campaign.

-- Lyndon Johnson's "We Shall Overcome" speech that helped secure passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

Link to list (full text and some audio available)

Top Academic Workplaces (2005-06)

While the majority of junior faculty at America's colleges and universities are satisfied at work, some institutions are doing extraordinarily well in this area. The survey, administered by the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) in 2005, determined that some colleges and universities are "exemplary" on certain key dimensions of faculty work/life. Source: Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE)

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Global Employment Trends

"The number of people unemployed worldwide remained at an historical high in 2006 despite strong global economic growth. Even though more people are working globally than ever before, the number of unemployed remained at an all time high of 195.2 million in 2006 or at a global rate of 6.3 per cent. This rate of unemployment rate was almost unchanged from the previous year. This confirmed the trend of the past several years in which robust economic growth has failed to translate into significant reductions in unemployment or poverty among those in work." Source: International Labour Organization

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Toppling a Taboo: Businesses Go 'Faith-Friendly'

"Evidence of faith percolating through the workforce abounds. Prayer breakfasts, once confined to Capitol Hill, are now popular among executives in unexpected sectors such as technology and real estate. Companies are hiring corporate chaplains to do everything from performing marriage ceremonies to visiting sick employees and offering drug and alcohol counseling. The Academy of Management's five-year-old interest group on spirituality and religion has attracted nearly 700 members, and a quick trawl through Amazon or your local bookstore reveals enough spirituality-at-work titles to fill a small chapel." Source: Knowledge@Wharton (upenn)

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

And Justice for Some

"The overrepresentation of people of color in the nation’s prisons, particularly African American men and women, has received much attention in recent years. The disproportionate representation of racial or ethnic minorities is also found in all stages of the juvenile justice system.

While public attention has tended to focus on the disproportionate number of youth of color in confinement, this overrepresentation is often a product of actions that occur at earlier points in the juvenile justice system, such as the decision to make the initial arrest, the decision to hold a youth in detention pending investigation, the decision to refer a case to juvenile court, the decision to waive a case to adult court, the prosecutor’s decision to petition a case, and the judicial decision and subsequent sanction." Source: National Center for Crime and Delinquency

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Academic Freedom and Professional Responsibility after 9/11

Attempts to undermine professors’ abilities to teach and do research are increasingly directed at scholars who seek to provide a contextualized and critical view of recent international developments and their interaction with US foreign policies and practices.

This handbook provides an overview of the range and nature of recent challenges to academic freedom. It provides concrete suggestions for how to respond to such attacks and to avoid them in the first place. Utilizing research on institutions and interviews with academics, it considers the potentials and limitations of internal university structures, professional organizations, legal recourse, and media outlets. Finally, it contains useful pedagogical tools for dealing with difficulties in the classroom, and an informative bibliography of recent writings on academic freedom. Source: Taskforce on Middle East Anthropology

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Digital Evidence in the Courtroom: A Guide for Law Enforcement and Prosecutors

Now essential to modern life, computers have also become increasingly important to criminals, who steal information, commit fraud, and stalk victims online. Even if a crime was not committed online, law enforcement may discover critical evidence from an offenders' digital media. For this evidence to be admissible, however, police must demonstrate proper collection and handling. In the courtroom, prosecutors must overcome the twin barriers of skepticism and lack of technical understanding. To help navigate this complex process, NIJ's technical working group of national experts prepared this special report. Chapters 1 and 2 inform crime scene investigators and other handlers about legal requirements for the handling of digital evidence. Chapters 3 and 4 provide guidelines for successful prosecution. The last chapter is a working application—using digital evidence to convict in a child pornography case. Appendixes provide useful resources and forms. Source: National Institute of Justice

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Global Warming: A Divide on Causes and Solutions

Public Views Unchanged by Unusual Weather

"President Bush's mention in his State of the Union Message of the "serious challenge of global climate change" was directed at an American public many of whom remain lukewarm about the importance of the issue. The unusual weather affecting the nation this winter may have reinforced the widely held view that the phenomenon of rising temperatures is real (77% of Americans believe that), but the public continues to be deeply divided over both its cause and what to do about it. But there is considerably less agreement over its cause, with about half (47%) saying that human activity, such as the burning of fossil fuels, is mostly to blame for the earth getting warmer." Source: Pew Research Center for People and the Press

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Monday, January 22, 2007

State of the State Address Archive has archived the full text of the governors' state of the state addresses since 2000. To access this information, simply choose the state then the year.

Link to Database (Part of special section on State Governor's Speeches)

Military commissions manual [US DOD]

New military commissions manual allows convictions on hearsay, coerced evidence

from press release: "The manual includes some major departures from past military commissions proceedings, such as affording detainees the right to self representation and directing that no classified information be presented in court without the detainees’ presence.

“The overriding considerations reflected in the Manual for Military Commissions are fairness and fidelity to the Military Commissions Act of 2006,” Daniel J. Dell'Orto, principal deputy general counsel for DoD, said at a Pentagon news conference today. “The act and the procedures contained in this manual will ensure that alien unlawful enemy combatants who are suspected of war crimes and certain other offenses are prosecuted before regularly constituted courts affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized people.” Source: Department of Defense [via the Jurist]

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Broad Support for Political Compromise in Washington

But Many Are Hesitant to Yield on Contentious Issues

"A large majority of the American public thinks the country is more politically polarized than in the past, and an even greater number expresses a strong desire for political compromise. Fully three-quarters say they like political leaders who are willing to compromise, compared with 21% who see this as a negative trait. Moreover, a solid majority favors compromise when it comes to the most important issues of the day, even by the political party that they think most capable of handling these issues." Source: Pew Research Center for People and the Press

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Iran: Profile and Statements of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

"On June 24, 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the presidency of Iran, in a run-off against the former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, where he also became the first non-cleric president in 24 years. This report covers his background; his victory over a well-known former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani; and his confrontational remarks about the West including Israel." Source: Congresstional Research Service

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Public School Principals Report on Their School Facilities: Fall 2005

"This publication presents data about public school principals’ reports on their school facilities in Fall 2005. It provides information about principals’ satisfaction with various environmental factors in their schools, and the extent to which they perceive those factors as interfering with the ability of the school to deliver instruction. The report also describes the extent of the match between the enrollment and the capacity of the school buildings, approaches for coping with overcrowding, the ways in which schools use portable (temporary) buildings and reasons for using them, and the availability of dedicated rooms or facilities for particular subjects (such as science labs or music rooms) and the extent to which these facilities are perceived to support instruction." Source: National Center for Education Statistics

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Friday, January 19, 2007

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the 110th Congress: Conflicting Values and Difficult Choices

"The 110th Congress is likely to oversee implementation and funding of the Endangered Species Act (ESA; P.L. 93-205, 16 U.S.C. ??1531-1543) and to consider proposals to amend the act. Major issues in recent years have included the role of science in decision-making, critical habitat (CH) designation and procedures, protection by and incentives for property owners, and appropriate protection of listed species, among others. In addition, many have advocated enacting as law some ESA regulations promulgated during the Clinton Administration. ESA has been one of the more contentious environmental laws. " Source: Congressional Research Service

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Iraq: Regional Perspectives and U.S. Policy

"Iraq's neighbors have influenced events in Iraq since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003, and developments in Iraq have had political, economic, and security implications for Iraq's neighbors and the broader Middle East. Ongoing insurgency and sectarian violence in Iraq and discussion of options for modifying U.S. policy toward Iraq are fueling intense consideration of Iraq's future and the current and potential policies of Iraq's neighbors. Policymakers and observers are considering a number of different "Iraq scenarios," ranging from the resolution of outstanding Iraqi political disputes and the successful consolidation of Iraq's government and security forces, to greater escalation of sectarian violence into nationwide civil war and the potential for greater intervention by Iraq's neighbors. Understanding regional perspectives on Iraq and the potential nature and likelihood of regional responses to various scenarios will be essential for Members of the 110th Congress as they consider proposed changes to U.S. policy, including the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group (ISG), new Administration initiatives, and annual appropriations and authorization legislation." Source: Congressional Research Service

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The Influence of Early-Life Events on Human Capital, Health Status, and Labor Market Outcomes Over the Life Course

Abstract: Using nationally representative data from the US, this study provides evidence on the relationship between early life conditions and cognition, human capital accumulation, labor market outcomes, and health status in adulthood. We find that poor health at birth and limited parental resources (including low income, lack of health insurance, and unwanted pregnancy) interfere with cognitive development and health capital in childhood, reduce educational attainment, and lead to worse labor market and health outcomes in adulthood. These effects are substantial, and they are robust to the inclusion of sibling fixed effects and an extensive set of controls. The results reveal that low birth weight ages you by 12 years, increases the odds of dropping out of high school by one-third, lowers labor force participation by 5 percentage points, and reduces labor market earnings by roughly 15 percent. Not only are socioeconomic factors determinants of poor birth outcomes, but they also influence the lasting impacts of poor infant health when it occurs. In particular, the negative long-run consequences of low birth weight are larger among children whose parents did not have health insurance. While poor birth outcomes reduce human capital accumulation, this consequence explains only 10% of the total effect of low birth weight on labor market earnings. The study also finds that racial differences in adult health can be explained by a few early life factors: birth weight, parental income, and parental health insurance coverage. Finally, the paper sheds light on the well known strong relationship between education and health outcomes; we find that sibling models that account for time-invariant family factors reduce the effects of education on health substantially, but the remaining effects are large. Taken together, the evidence is consistent with a negative reinforcing intergenerational transmission of disadvantage within the family; parental economic status influences birth outcomes, birth outcomes have long reaching effects on health and economic status in adulthood, which in turn leads to poor birth outcomes for one’s own children. Source: Institute of Industrial Relations. University of California, Berkeley. Institute of Industrial Relations Working Paper Series. Paper iirwps-140-07.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Pew Findings: Broad Opposition to Bush's Iraq Plan

But More Republicans Now Say Troop Increase Is Needed

"President Bush's plan to send roughly 21,000 additional troops to Iraq has drawn broad opposition from the American public. If anything, the plan has triggered increased partisan polarization on the debate over what to do in Iraq. While most Republicans support Bush's initiative, Democrats overwhelmingly oppose it, and a solid majority of Democrats (62%) say that Congress should try to block it by withholding funding for the additional troops." Source: Pew Research Center for People and the Press

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Death penalty: Lethal injection on trial

"Since capital punishment was reinstated three decades ago, nearly 900 of more than 1,055 U.S. executions have been carried out by lethal injection. But what was seen as a more humane alternative to the gas chamber, electric chair, firing squad or gallows now faces serious challenges." Source: [via Pew Research]

Link to online Report

Monday, January 15, 2007

College Learning for the New Global Century

From Press Release: "To succeed in today’s global economy, college graduates will need much more cross-disciplinary knowledge—in science, global cultures, technology, and society; an expanded set of advanced skills, including in communication, teamwork, and analytic reasoning; and much more practice in applying what they learn to real-world problems.

Those are among the conclusions of College Learning for the New Global Century, a new report released today by the National Leadership Council for Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP), a ten-year initiative convened by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) to bring together high-level business, education, labor, philanthropy, and policy leaders to chart a way forward for higher education in the 21st century. The new LEAP report identifies essential aims, learning outcomes, and guiding principles for a 21st century college education, and calls on colleges and universities to re-map the curricula so that all fields of study help students acquire a set of “essential learning outcomes.” Source: AAC&U

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Is There a Business Case for Diversity? Yes -- But It's Not in the Numbers

"Try applying traditional metrics like cost and return on investment to find the value of diversity, and you're likely to come up empty handed, according to a panel of African-American executives at Wharton's 33rd Annual Whitney M. Young Memorial Conference. Still, the panelists noted, diversity has a growing importance in the workplace, and minority workers need to focus on their own development in critical areas to see the real value of diversity come to fruition. These areas include finding a mentor, showing confidence, balancing corporate identity with activism, and participating in and moving forward the conversation about diversity." Source: Knowledge@Wharton, U. of Penn.

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Five Leaders on What It Takes to Get to (and Stay at) the Top

"Whether you are scaling the world's fourth-highest summit, running the world's second-largest company, or trying to restore the tarnished reputation of a government-backed mortgage securities company, some leadership traits seem to be universal. These include, for example, a belief in teamwork and the ability to look beyond the moment to map a course for the future. In this section, Knowledge@Wharton reports on recent conversations with, or presentations by, a diverse group of leaders, including Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer; Thia Breen, president of Estee Lauder Americas; Richard Syron, CEO of Freddie Mac; Richard Fuld, CEO of Lehman Brothers, and Rodrigo Jordan, chairman of Chile's National Poverty Foundation and a world-class mountaineer." Source: Knowledge@Wharton, U. of Penn

Link to online article

Governors lose in power struggle over National Guard

"A little-noticed change in federal law packs an important change in who is in charge the next time a state is devastated by a disaster such as Hurricane Katrina.

To the dismay of the nation’s governors, the White House now will be empowered to go over a governor’s head and call up National Guard troops to aid a state in time of natural disasters or other public emergencies. Up to now, governors were the sole commanders in chief of citizen soldiers in local Guard units during emergencies within the state." Source:

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Inequality in Political Participation: Contemporary Patterns in European Countries

Abstract: The fact that social stratification factors are closely related to different levels of political participation is a classical issue that has relevant normative as well as explanatory implications for the study of participation. However, in the shift from the industrial to the information or knowledge society some patterns in that respect may be changing. This paper explores the effect of various possible sources of inequality on political participation (gender, age, social class, education, income, ethnicity, and working status) on four political activities, using data from the European Social Survey for 22 European countries. The frequency, consistency, and the mode specific patterns of the observed differences are taken into account to discuss which of these factors can be considered genuine sources of inequality. Overall, age and education emerge as the most widespread causes of distortion, while gender, membership in minorities, and occupational variables are less clearly related to participation. In conventional activity the differences are more predictable in the direction of the disadvantage, while demonstrators can be in some respects both under- and overrepresented among disadvantaged citizens. Finally, the fact that socio-economic inequalities in turnout are unambiguously visible in most European countries stands in sharp contrast with past research and deserves further attention. Source: Center for the Study of Democracy. U.C. Irvine.

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Is the Voting Rights Act No Longer Needed? In a Word, ‘No”

Abstract: Since race-conscious redistricting and the creation of effective minority districts remains the basis upon which most African-American and Latino officials gain election, the Voting Rights Act, including both Sections 2 and 5, remains a valuable tool to protect the ability of minorities to elect their preferred candidates. The evidence presented demonstrates that the fundamental argument in favor of the creation of majority-minority districts remains valid today: The vast majority of minority legislators still win election from majority minority districts. The share of non-black-majority districts with African-American state legislators and congressional representatives remains extremely low – 5 percent or less in 2005. Majority-Hispanic districts play a similarly crucial role in the election of Latino officials. The share of non-Hispanic-majority districts electing Latinos to legislative office is minuscule – less than 4 percent of these districts elected Latinos in 2005 in the ten states studied here. Latino-majority districts continue to elect the overwhelming majority of Latino officials. Source: Center for the Study of Democracy. U.C. Irvine

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Comparative methods for studying cultural trait evolution: A simulation study

"Anthropologists and archaeologists increasingly use phylogenetic methods to test hypotheses involving cross-cultural traits, but the appropriateness of applying tree-based methods to analyze cultural traits is unclear. The authors developed a spatially explicit computer simulation model to investigate trait evolution in relation to phylogeny and geography and used the simulation to assess the sensitivity of two comparative methods (independent contrasts and partial Mantel tests) to different degrees of horizontal transmission. Simulation results show that (a) the method of independent contrasts is sensitive to even small amounts of horizontal transmission in cultural data sets, (b) Mantel tests fail to cleanly discriminate between datasets characterized by different levels of horizontal and vertical trait transmission, and (c) partial Mantel tests do not produce markedly improved statistical performance when testing for associations among traits (as compared to independent contrasts). The results highlight the need for empirical estimates of horizontal transmission and extinction rates in cross-cultural datasets."

Source: Cross-Cultural Research. 40 (2), pp. 177-209. Postprint available free at:

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United Nations Report on Darfur

Deailed report on the situation in Darfur regarding security, human rights, humanitarian relief, the implemenation of the peace agreement, UN support to the African Union mission, and concluding observations. Source: United Nations

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report on the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child

"The present report has been prepared in accordance with the programme of work of the Commission on the Status of Women for 2007-2009 which identified “The elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child” as the priority theme for the Commission’s fifty-first session. The report analyses the current situation of the girl child and proposes recommendations for consideration by the Commission." Source: United Nations.

Available in 6 Languages from download site.

Link to download full PDF report in English

Friday, January 12, 2007

A Portrait of "Generation Next"

How Young People View Their Lives, Futures and Politics

"A new generation has come of age, shaped by an unprecedented revolution in technology and dramatic events both at home and abroad. They are Generation Next, the cohort of young adults who have grown up with personal computers, cell phones and the internet and are now taking their place in a world where the only constant is rapid change.

In reassuring ways, the generation that came of age in the shadow of Sept. 11 shares the characteristics of other generations of young adults. They are generally happy with their lives and optimistic about their futures. Moreover, Gen Nexters feel that educational and job opportunities are better for them today than for the previous generation. At the same time, many of their attitudes and priorities reflect a limited set of life experiences. Marriage, children and an established career remain in the future for most of those in Generation Next." Source: Pew Research Center

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Law and the Humanities: An Uneasy Relationship

Abstract: In 1930 legal professionals like Judge Learned Hand assumed that law was either part of the humanities or deeply connected to them. By the early twenty-first century, this view no longer seems accurate, despite the fact that legal scholarship has become increasingly interdisciplinary. Instead law has moved closer to the social sciences. This essay discusses why this is so, and why the humanities exist in an uneasy relationship with law and contemporary legal scholarship.

No matter how often the legal academy embraces skills and knowledges external to law, law's professional orientation - and the fact that law is taught in professional schools where most students will not become academics - continually pulls legal scholarship back toward an internal attitude toward law and recourse to traditional legal materials. As a result, law remains far more like a divinity school - devoted to the preservation of the faith - than a department of religion - which studies various religions from multiple perspectives. To the extent that the contemporary disciplines of the humanities view law externally or in ways inconsistent with its professional orientation, they are merely tolerated in law schools rather than central to legal study. More generally, because law is a professional field, it resists colonization by other disciplines that view law externally. Instead, law co-opts the insights of other disciplines and turns them to its own uses.

Ironically, law's thoroughly rhetorical nature, which strongly connects it to the traditions of the humanities, places the contemporary disciplines of the humanities at a relative disadvantage. Law uses rhetoric to establish its authority and to legitimate particular acts of political and legal power. Law's professional orientation pushes legal scholars toward prescriptivism - the demand that scholars cash out their arguments in terms of specific legal interpretations and policy proposals. These tasks push legal scholars toward technocratic forms of discourse that use the social and natural sciences more than the humanities. Whether justly or unjustly, the humanities tend to rise or fall in comparison to other disciplines to the extent that the humanities are able to help lawyers and legal scholars perform these familiar rhetorical tasks of legitimation and prescription. Source: Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities, Vol. 18, p. 155, 2006 [via SSRN]

Link to online abstract and download site

Social Networking Websites and Teens: An Overview

"A social networking site is an online place where a user can create a profile and build a personal network that connects him or her to other users. In the past five years, such sites have rocketed from a niche activity into a phenomenon that engages tens of millions of internet users. More than half (55%) of all online American youths ages 12-17 use online social networking sites, according to a new national survey of teenagers conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

The survey also finds that older teens, particularly girls, are more likely to use these sites. For girls, social networking sites are primarily places to reinforce pre-existing friendships; for boys, the networks also provide opportunities for flirting and making new friends." Source: Pew Internet and American Life Project

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Adjudicating Appearance: From Identity to Personhood

"Cases involving attires, hairstyles, names, or manners of speaking have been increasingly attracting the attention of constitutional and socio-legal scholars. No longer viewed as marginal or esoteric, claims about the significance of a person's-self presentation are now recognized as testing the limits of basic constitutional principles. Employing an overarching perspective that analyzes appearance cases outside of their doctrinal context, I argue that the legal inquiry, which focuses on whether a plaintiff's appearance reflects his or her identity accurately and stably, is flawed, since it relies on unattainable conceptions of the nature of identity and the meaning created by appearance. Diverging from current legal scholarship, which treats appearance cases only in the context of minority rights, I suggest that appearance adjudication should shift its focus from inquiring about the extent to which the appearance is connected to its bearer's identity to inquiring about the significance of appearance to his or her personhood. This shift reflects the notion that the vulnerability and complexity of appearance are part of the universal human experience, and not just the plight of minorities. Such a normative shift will produce a more adequate legal treatment of claims regarding the personal and social significance of appearance. Developing an alternative theoretical framework, I propose understanding appearance as the poetics of personhood. Both in appearance and in poetry the medium is inherent to the meaning it creates, and thus both appearance and poetry are hard to rearticulate in categorical or non-figurative language. My approach can transform the legal discourse from considering identity in the abstract to accommodating the experiences, voices, and interactions of concrete, embodied individuals, who may not always be able to articulate a rational justification for their appearance, but are still certain of its central role in their personhood."Source: Yale Journal of Law & Feminism, Spring 2007 [via SSRN]

Link to abstract and download site

Crime in the United States : Semiannual Report from the FBI

"Preliminary figures indicate that, as a whole, law enforcement agencies throughout the Nation reported an increase of 3.7 percent in the number of violent crimes brought to their attention in the first half of 2006 when compared to figures reported for the first six months of 2005. The violent crime category includes murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. The number of property crimes in the United States from January to June of 2006 decreased 2.6 percent when compared to data from the same time period in 2005. Property crimes include burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft. Arson is also a property crime, but data for arson are not included in property crime totals. Figures for 2006 indicate that arson increased 6.8 percent in the first half of the year when compared to 2005 figures for the same time period." Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Link to FBI Download Site

Few Latinos Now Support the War in Iraq

"Two out of every three Latinos now believe that U.S. troops should be brought home from Iraq as soon as possible and only one in four thinks the U.S. made the right decision in using military force, according to a new survey by the Pew Hispanic Center.

Hispanics have generally expressed more negative views toward the war compared with the rest of the population. The latest survey, however, shows even stronger opposition on the part of Latinos, especially when it comes to keeping troops in Iraq." Source: Pew Research Center

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Most Americans Moderately Upbeat About Family Finances in 2007

"Most Americans are moderately upbeat about their family's financial prospects in the coming year, with 57% expecting some improvement in their financial situation and another 10% expecting a lot of improvement, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

These findings are in line with Pew surveys taken throughout this decade that have shown that most members of the public expect to see at least some improvements in their financial situation in the coming year. At the same time, however, the survey also finds wide variances in the way Americans assess their financial situation right now." Source: Pew Research Center

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Friday, January 05, 2007

The Pricing of Academic Journals

Abstract: In this paper we investigate the claim that academic journals are too expensive. We estimate library demand for academic journals and ask if short run profit maximization by publishers can explain observed prices. Libraries purchase a portfolio of journals so to estimate demand we extend the standard discrete choice model, and estimation methods, to allow for a choice consisting of a subset of a larger set of journals. Unlike the discrete choice model, the model allows for both positive and negative cross-price effects. We estimate the model using library holdings data and find that on average prices in the industry are lower than what static pricing models predict. Furthermore, we simulate the effects of mergers and find that the likely unilateral effect of a merger is to lower prices. Source: Berkeley Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series.

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Sharing and Anti-Sharing in Teams

Abstract: Compared to budget-balanced Sharing contracts, Anti-Sharing may improve the efficiency of teams. The Anti-Sharer collects a fixed payment from all team members; he receives the actual output and pays out its value to them. If a team members becomes Anti-Sharer, he will be unproductive in equilibrium. Hence, internal Anti-Sharing fails to yield the first-best outcome. Anti-Sharing is more likely to yield a higher team profit than Sharing, the larger the team, the curvature of the production function, or the marginal effort cost. Sharing is more likely to be better, the greater the marginal product, the cross-partials of the production function, or the curvature of the effort cost. Source: Berkeley Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series. Paper 205.

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The Misperception of Norms: The Psychology of Bias and the Economics of Equilibrium

Abstract: Our perceptions of what other people do often affect what we do. In these situations, perceptual biases can affect what everyone does. By combing the psychology of bias and the economics of equilibrium, we construct a model to predict how individual biases affect aggregate behavior. Psychologists have found at least two systematic biases in the perception of social and legal norms. Empirical studies often find a general tendency to over-estimate how much other people violate social norms – a bias toward moral pessimism. We show that persistence of this bias causes more people to violate the norm than if the bias were corrected. In addition, this bias increases the probability that behavior will settle into a "bad" equilibrium with many wrongdoers, instead of settling into a “good” one with few wrongdoers. Empirical studies also find that a person often over-estimates how many other people act the same as he does – a bias towards social projection. We show that persistence of this bias does not change the number of people who violate the norm. Pessimism thus undermines conformity to social norms, whereas social projection leaves aggregate conformity unchanged. We apply these predictions, and some others, to empirical studies in psychology. We conclude that researchers who found false pessimism with respect to protection of trade secrets, tax compliance, alcohol abuse, and water conservation are right to predict that this bias will cause more people to do wrong, whereas researchers who found social projection bias with respect to water conservation, smoking, and drugs were wrong to predict that this bias will cause more people to do wrong. Source: Berkeley Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series.

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The No Child Left Behind Act: An Overview of Reauthorization Issues for the 110th Congress

Most programs of federal aid to K-12 education are authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The ESEA was most recently amended and reauthorized by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLBA). ESEA programs are authorized through FY2008, and it is generally assumed that the 110th Congress will actively consider legislation to amend and extend the ESEA. Source: Congressional Research Service

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