Archive for July, 2012

Defining Bullshit—and other last words on the SSR audit


Sorry Mark, I can’t resist!

So far, the best thing that has been said about the Chronicle article on the Social Science Research audit of the publication process of the Regnerus manuscript on how gays and lesbians are bad parents was made by my old buddy Dave Neis, who opined “why is it that every time I see Sherkat’s name  in the news the article looks like it was from the Onion?”

It was unfortunate that the primary take of the chatteratti news has been that I say bullshit a lot, and that’s only because they can’t print “fuck” or “jesus fuck” or “jesus fuck a bunny in the ass”.

I would have liked for them to have printed the sentences following the “bullshit” clause. Which could also have been garnered from my report, which does not contain the word bullshit, even though that is an apt descriptor of the Regnerus project.

The issue of the acceptability of his paper is not a political assault on Regnerus, though his publicizing and politicizing his research did call attention to it.  When you luck out and publish a crappy study, it’s best not to publicize that—particularly not to do so to help deny people the right to their children and to marry and such. People get pissed off about that, and rightly so.  The Regnerus paper is not Social Science Research material on any criteria for its data, measures, methods, and motivation. I cannot believe it was published in SSR. Seriously. Look at my last paper published in SSR. There is no comparison, and I had to do a full revise and resubmit (two reviewers voted reject) and Regnerus was a conditional accept! On revision, I had to change my comparisons of ordinal logistic regression coefficients over time—showing that the importance of political and religious factors both grew over time—to use some new technique developed less than a decade ago—and do formal variance tests! Then, of course, I estimated non-linear structural equation models! Regnerus has very weak data, absolutely unacceptable measures, inadequate sample size for his key comparative groups even if we accept his BS measure, and perfunctory analytic techniques—on top of having no motivation for the study—other than politics.

People who want to act like the activists are ridiculous and out on a witch hunt really don’t grasp the gravity of the Regnerus study–it really is being used right now to justify taking people’s children away from them, and it is being used to help prevent marriage rights for same sex couples. Frankly, the first is more of a concern–since the latter will be decided in the Supreme Court soon… think this might pop up?

Still, as much as I am sure that Regnerus did this for political purposes, and as much as I think this “study” is of no value from the ground up–I don’t even want to talk about the supposed estimates generated by a study like this—THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS SOCIOLOGICAL MALPRACTICE. And, retraction is extremely rare in sociology, almost none in the last three decades and all for plagiarism–as Erik Olin Wright noted, in sociology the best response is peer critique.  Regnerus did a shitty study, and there will forever be an asterisk next to that one signifying that he lucked out on the publication and then got slammed for publishing bad stuff, and the University of Texas will be more circumspect about how it values money from particular foundations. I’m not happy by all of this nonsense from activist types demanding some kind of “investigation” . Great. So, what is going to happen when Rush Limbaugh gets a hold of my name, again? Professors are free to pursue myriad projects in their “free” time. We are expected to contribute to our fields in a way that merits the designation as Professor. However, many people use their Summer and Winter breaks to pursue textbook writing, private consulting, expert testimony, and political activism. Regnerus’ latest “reasearch” forays fall squarely into this camp. You can’t get fired for that, and I’ll defend his right to do it! There doesn’t need to be any “inquiry” into Regnerus. Case closed.

Can I get back to my own fucking work now?

On Cue, Right Wing Public Opinion Manipulators Make False Claims about Gun Control Attitudes

Shitty data by Whore Pollsters Show Most Americans Want Crazies to Own AR-15s

Shitty data by Whore Pollsters Show Most Americans Want Crazies to Own AR-15s

Believe me, sometimes I hate always being right. Right on cue, right wing whore pollsters have begun doing the bidding of their masters at the NRA to claim that all REAL Americans increasingly believe that every god fearing white american should own an AR-15 and carry it to the movie theatre for the midnight show, you know, just in case. After all, if everyone in Aurora had been packing heat, none of this would have happened. And, it’s a nice exercise in SOCIAL SCIENCE to examine just how far away from the best estimates of the true population parameters the data from bullshit whore polls fall. Above is a figure I stole from some whore, showing the estimates from three whore polls, conducted using standards that would have caused me to be failed out of my undergraduate sociology program—but are now considered excellent by the American Association of Whore Pollsters (formerly the AAPOR). And looky looky—because we have been taken over by an illegal alien from Kendonesia who is hell bent on taking the guns from the cold dead fingers of real white Americans, fewer than half of Americans support gun control in  two of the three whore polls. Just look at that massive trend! Yes, as the whore polls’ response rates declined from 30% in the 1990s to 2% in 2010, low and behold the estimates reflected the fact that they only tap the opinion of angry old white people in rural areas with nothing better to do than answer questions from a whore on their landline phone!  Yet, our best estimates of reality, based on real social scientific data from an honest-to-fuck survey conducted by real scientists and administered by people whose interests are in science shows that support for gun control has not fallen below 70% since 1972:

Whores lie.

Whores lie.

Yeah, sure, since Columbine the media machine of the NRA—with help from whore pollsters and their allies in the paid-off “media” have whittled away at the resolve to regulate dangerous weapons. But, it is untrue that Columbine (that was 1999–420!) somehow spurred and upward shift in support for gun control. They just made that shit up. Instead, the downward trend was created by the NRA and their minions doubling down and distorting the facts—with the aid of the public opinion manipulators. If you lie about what “everyone believes”, eventually people will either change their beliefs or falsify their preferences (see Kuran, Timur—probably a Muslim terrorist, eh?). And, it is true that the election of a gay Moslem Kenyan did seem to lower support for gun control. But let’s get real, Most REAL AMERICANS have always supported gun control and they still do. It’s interesting that the whores don’t ask whether or not Americans should be able to own assault weapons–and I’d like to see the GSS add that. Given that the VAST MAJORITY of Real Americans think that you should have a background check and a permit for your squirrel rifle or shotgun, I’m fairly certain that only a small lunatic fringe supports allowing nutjob small-dick rednecks to purchase weapons of mass destruction.

The Present and Future of the Commodification of Public Opinion: A Spectator in an Audience of Whores

Even Better than the Real Thing

Even Better than the Real Thing

I’ve spent way too much of my time cleaning up the shit pooped out of the latest fake study by a right-wing Christianist, and it had direct bearing on things I’ve been saying for quite a few years. I was really glad to have put up that section of the article I wrote in 2005 talking about how religious conservatives have shitloads of money to do questionable studies to try to create public opinion! And, what happens? Notable in that little gem of social science research was the use of extremely low quality marketing data. Oh, sure, it’s better than the marketing data collected by those people who employ hipsters to troll the mall, but convenience panels plied with Cheetos to complete 4 surveys a month are hardly a basis for estimating population parameters. Now, we’re not talking about even 20% response rates. We’re probably looking at maybe a 2% recruitment rate with almost half of that falling out of the panel and no statistical control for within-household recruitment or household structure probability adjustments. And, I should note, that now days people think this is just fine and dandy.  And, if the internet savvy-yet-desperate-for-$20_for cheetos–recruits to the invasive marketing study aren’t representative of the population—adjust the data to force it to be so! Yeah Baby! We don’t need no stinking random samples, we have adjustment procedures! Great. We are so fucked. What is worse, it isn’t just dipshit marketing firms and their loser customers, or right wing ideologues and political hacks, but even academics buying into this shit—a few of them actually passed graduate statistics, even.

The disintegration of federal funding for social scientific research has left researchers desperate, and since bad marketing and media research has poisoned the pool and made it more expensive and time-consuming to get real random samples, many people have decided to simply ignore what they learned in introduction to statistical analysis—you know that section right after probability theory with all that talk about estimating population parameters from relatively small samples, Remember that? You know, the part about the necessity that samples be drawn randomly from the population you wish to make inferences about?  Bad data are seen to be better than no data…..but they aren’t! They’re Worse! Now, we’ll make erroneous inferences about the population parameters because our samples were not drawn randomly from the population! Great job! And, if we ALL agree that the Emperor’s new clothes are just titties, then we can all publish our results in ASR, right? Because, after all, for only $50,000 you can get a marketing firm to administer a questionaire to a bunch of people and you can be crunching data three months after your grant check clears! Just don’t worry if the data were collected by a bunch of minimum wage doofuses working for a marketing mid-level clerk who failed out of graduate school. Better yet, pay them piecemeal. They won’t make shit up, will they? Or collect it online! Even better! The internet was a huge boon for porn, why not for data?!

Sorry, I ain’t playing. No. Never. Not gonna dot it. Wouldn’t be prudent. Half-ass data like that from Pew may be novel enough on some questions to justify publication in a third tier journal, but you can forget sending shit like that to top 10 journals if I have anything to say about it. And, even “high quality” BS data like Pew are completely unacceptable when the question makes inferences about population characteristics—Using Pew or Gallup to say how many people identify with a religious group, for example, or what proportion of the population supports same sex marriage. Who fucking cares what the Pew data show? Not me. And the Pew data are now considered excellent! Back when I was an undergraduate, Doug Eckberg would have failed me in Survey Research Methods if I only garnered a 20% response rate for my interviews on the Tulsa Survey. Failed. No joke. I usually managed 55%-60%—Cynthia Chee always did better. But, these days failure is excellence! And we should all just sit back and watch, eh?

I’ll be a spectator in an audience of whores….

Administratively Adrift


Bad news is sometimes good in academe, since it often sheds light on the nasty shit -prattled assholes in desperate need of a wipe. The incident in Virginia gives me hope for the future for all public universities. One of the only truly excellent campus leaders, Terri Sullivan,  was almost shitcanned by a gaggle of sorority girls and frat boys, and the corporatist assholes got their asses handed to them.  Maybe, finally, we’ll see some administrators and faculty grow some spines and push back against the twin pillars of mediocrity—assessment and on-line education. After all, how can we possibly justify having a department of German? Or Physics? Or whichever department you wish based on whatever bullshit measure they concoct. The measures are uniformly produced by people who could not pass my first level statistics course, and have never been successful scholars or classroom teachers. We have to have “accountability”, we, of course, being those lazy faculty members who do nothing and contribute nothing to the true mission of the University (football, basketball, fraternities and sororities….). And, we’re going to demonstrate that we are accountable by spending an extra week of work concocting bullshit “no child left behind” assessment reports, while simultaneously transforming our courses and curricula into something we can sell on-line in exchange for student loan money. This is being shoved on us by careerist administrators who suck up to the “educational” consulting industry and its for-profit associates, so that they can make a killing off of public education.

And what does the public get?  Debt, and worthless degrees. We don’t accept on-line degrees for admission to the graduate program in my humble department. And, it is well known from our own experience that nobody gets anything out of on-line courses. Our completion rate for intro to sociology taught on-line is about 10%—that means 90% of the students (many of whom are military personnel who are wasting their veteran’s benefits trying to take on-line courses while dodging bullets in Iraqistan) never finish the course and are eventually given an F. And, of course, if they did finish the course, that is hardly equivalent to having actually taken a real college course from a real human. How does that on-line course compare to having proven that one can wake up in the morning, bathe, dress, get to class, take exams (in class), and turn in assignments? Can your online “instructor” write you a letter of recommendation? Can a prospective employer trust that someone who took all of their “courses” online will show up for work, bathe, or turn in assignments on time? Can that person interact with your clients? What kind of Cheetos-munching moron gets an online degree?

Public University Presidents should be unified in their opposition to for-profit “education” and the ill-conceived mechanisms they have developed to make money. These fake universities are a giant parasite draining a huge and growing portion of the resources available for public education. Instead, careerist administrators have teamed up with corrupt ideological boards of trustees to embrace the gutting of public education. The middle class doesn’t deserve a real education with professors and courses and a diverse curricula—you know, like what they have at elite private universities.  Nah, the middle classes can just take some on-line courses in exchange for $100k in student loans, and that way Muffy and Biff who went to an elite private university will always get a better job.