Monthly Archives: September 2009

Priestly House to Re-Open (hoo-ray!)

The Friends of Joseph Priestley House Museum will reopen the site for weekend

tours beginning Saturday, Oct. 3.  Heritage Day, a grand reopening event will be held

Sunday, Nov. 1 from 1-4 p.m., it was announced at the group’s annual meeting Thursday

in Northumberland, PA.

The site has been closed since mid-August due to the state’s budget emergency, which

forced the furlough of its paid staff and nearly caused permanent closing of the museum.

In the future, Friends’ members, serving as volunteers, will lead weekend tours for the

public. School and community group tours can be scheduled at other times. For

information, contact the Friends’ website (

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Filed under activism, lewisburg

SOCNET discussion on miltary and ethics (2 polls)


Filed under ethics, higher education, Military, Research, Scholars, Social Networks

Some Common Sense at Last about Banks- Volcker

This strikes me as the right approach.

Volcker Calls for Restricting Banks’ Risk, Trading Activity –
The comments reflect Mr. Volcker’s long-held view that banks should act more in line with their traditional role and not take extremely risky gambles, which could threaten the viability of commercial banks and expose the Federal Reserve and taxpayers to large risks.

People keep yapping on about how the financial systems is the “circulatory” system of the economy.  Fine.  Then by extension, the amount of risk we have been allowing into the commercial banking systems is akin to eating four hamburgers every day for every meal, and then doing amphetamines, adn then running a marathon while smoking and hoping it won’t give us a heart attack.

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Filed under Banking, economics

Ethics and Information on Listservs (SOCNET)

Over at Socnet, the listserv (what is a listserv, anyway?  A-ha.) that has been so valuable for me over the years as I found networks and worked through how to do something productive with them, a debate has been unfolding over the posting of a research position with a military agency that would involve using social network tools and insights to do intelligence type work in counter-insurgency.

Some objected to the very position, some to the use of the listserv to distribute information, some to the initial objectors, and some to the politicization of the listserv.

I pondered whether or not to add anything.  Part of me , like may others, felt like I could not add anything that would advance the discussion, and I would be simply adding chatter and emails to our already clogged information pathways and in boxes.  Part of me also felt like there are real ethical conundrums around the issue and also the scope and use of the listserv itself which still anchors much of the network research network (or community if you prefer.  So, maybe against my better judgment, I tried to be constructive.

According to the INSNA website, the purpose of the listserv is:

“The purpose of SOCNET is to allow network researchers worldwide to discuss research and professional issues, make announcements, and request help from each other.”

What exactly constitutes “professional issues” may be up for debate, but the ethics of the tools and theories we develop and use seems to me entirely consistent with a discussion of the professional issues.  I write this without implying that there is one correct answer to the recent debate over the posting of a position at CORE for a post-doc to which several people have made comments.

I think two issues have been raised which may be conflated and can usefully be separated.

1)      Is it ethical to accept the position at CORE?

2)      Is it ethical to post the information on this list serv?

I am not sure what I think of the first question (accepting the position).

I do think it is acceptable to post the position(#2) and also to have others raise concerns and discuss the implications of the professional ethics of our specialized tools and knowledge.  How can we discuss professional issues unless we know about them?  Plus, I favor information transparency whenever possible, as opposed to banning or moderating heavily.  I am not sure how we could even formally execute such an intention.  We rely on more informal norms.

I suggest that this listserv is a kind of commons, as discussed by David Weinberger in this Berkman Center podcast.  Thus, participating includes a certain tolerance for internal dissent and working through the common expectations of how to use the commonly held and valued resource.

Hopefully, I have been succinct and constructive, if not conclusive.

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Filed under activism, Social Networks

Labor Day Thoughts

This post is mostly for my students (and myself)  since the unyieldingess of the academic calendar means we are in class on labor day.

I know as a kid growing up with two professional, salaried parents, I had no concept of labor day aside from that three day weekend.  I wonder how many of my students have a similarly hazy and immaterial understanding of the “labor” part of labor day.

So, how is the state of our workforce?  Not good. 

Official unemployment is at 9.7%.

This number of course, due to how it is measured (those actively looking for work in last four weeks).  That doe snot include discouraged workers, those who are marginally attached (would work more), or who have dropped out of the labor force.  This NY Times article nicely adds a human face to those categories.

They were left out of the latest unemployment rate, as they are every month: millions of hidden casualties of the Great Recession who are not counted in the rate because they have stopped looking for work.

And it has pictures!

This discouraged worker carpenter fills his time by cutting grass with clippers.

This discouraged worker carpenter fills his time by cutting grass with clippers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has a very broad category to capture these various situations people find themselves in.  In August, the u6 measure, as it is known, came in at 16. 8 million. That was a 6 million increase over the year prior.  At 155 million in the labor force, that is an unemployment rate of 10.8%.  Throw in the number of people dropping out of the labor force all together, and you can  add another % point to get to an unemployment rate of around 12%.

Over at CalculatedRisk, the following chart captures the way that unemployment is steeper (big drop) and longer (more time to recover) than most recent recessions.  In short, this is a whole new world and historical analogies are rough at best.

Click to enlarge.

Well, there are bound to be bumps when you unleash the creative, destructive forces of capitalism, some might say.  Overall, we do better if we take the long view.

This is not a jobless recovery, it is a  jobless economy.  The amount of job growth since 200o is essentially zero. This graph shows that the ten year change in private employment is almost zero.


UPDATE: Here is a small glimmer of good news.  While labor-managemment, or labor unions in general, are usually seen in pretty negative terms, I am happy to share this little list of organizations acorss sectors that are successful and rely on collaborative organizaed labor partnerships.

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Filed under Business, economic sociology, economics, Political Economy