What is JacketFlap

  • JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans.
    Join now (it's free).

Sort Blog Posts

Sort Posts by:

  • in

Suggest a Blog

Enter a Blog's Feed URL below and click Submit:

Most Commented Posts

In the past 7 days

Recent Posts

(tagged with 'Current Affairs')

Recent Comments

JacketFlap Sponsors

Spread the word about books.
Put this Widget on your blog!
  • Powered by JacketFlap.com

Are you a book Publisher?
Learn about Widgets now!

Advertise on JacketFlap

MyJacketFlap Blogs

  • Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.

Blog Posts by Date

Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
new posts in all blogs
Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Current Affairs, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 417
1. Monster Needs Your Vote, by Paul Czajak | Book Review

The fifth book in the award winning Monster & Me series finds Monster eager to do his civic duty and vote.

Add a Comment
2. I Can’t Believe I Banned A Book: Banned Books Week Booklist

Banned Books Week

Yes it’s true, there was once a book series that I banned from my then 12 year old. What’s that you say? The Magic Book Lady banning books from her literate prone household? Happy Banned Books Week everyone.

Banned Books Week

I’ve never been one who agrees with banning books. I believe in providing age appropriate reading materials for my children but not banning books. That worked until a little book called Hunger Games was discovered by my 12-year old. At this point the Hunger Games had been out a long time and had read it and it completely chilled me to the bone. The idea of putting up 12 children who all must die except 1 to save humanity just hit a little too close to home for some reason. The Hunger Game series is a well written and well conceived book series which still chills me to the bone whether in book or movie form.

I didn’t think another thing about it until we were at the library many months later and wonder son comes up with a stack of books in his arms, the top one being The Hunger Games. “Oh no, not that book,” I thought. And then I heard that very phrase coming out of my mouth. I said something very parental like, “It’s not age-appropriate for you and it deals with very difficult ideas that I don’t think you’re ready for.”  End of story I thought.

Hunger Games


It had developed a cult following since I had read it plus two more books had come out in the series and well there you have it , a must read book.

One day I walked into the attic room known as the cubby at our house and there was Wonder Son sitting on the bed reading a book hidden by a folder and that’s when I discovered he was secretly reading The Hunger Games.

So what to do? I could punish him, but really. Punish him for reading a book? I don’t think so. The road I took was that of opportunity. Instead of trying to protect him I decided to use The Hunger Games as a dialog tool. I told him he could read the book but that I wanted to have a conversation about it when he was finished. He came out of the cubby, could read freely and we had the greatest conversations over the entire book series. My opinion remains the same, but I also learned why he was attracted to the book and why it didn’t seem as scary to him as it did to me.

We read the other two books in the series at the same time talking all the way through them.  It allowed my voice and concerns to be heard. It allowed his points of views and concerns to be heard and at times we even agreed to disagree. I think that skill in itself is a very powerful and capable tool for both of us to have in our tool belts.

Since the Hunger Games, controversial and intense book discussions have continued with my wonder son as he is now a junior in high school. Just this year we had a very deep and meaningful conversation over The Scarlet Letter.

OK, so where do I stand with the Hunger Games? Go read it. Suzanne Collins is a brilliant writer to be able to elicit such strong responses. For us, her book series was a game changer and has opened the door to many incredible conversations.

Though Hunger Games is the only book I’ve ever banned, there have been many in the past. This week is Banned Books Week and this year’s theme is having to do specifically with YA (Young Adult) Titles. Here is a list of the most commonly banned YA books in the US. Have you read any of these ? What do you think?

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Banned Books
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon Books/Knopf Doubleday)

Banned Books
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston)

banned books
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (Bloomsbury Publishing)

banned books
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (MTV Books/Simon & Schuster)

banned books
Drama by Raina Telgemeier (Graphix/Scholastic)

banned books
Chinese Handcuffs by Chris Crutcher (Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins)

banned books
The Giver by Lois Lowry (HMH Books for Young Readers)

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (Vintage/Knopf Doubleday)

banned books
Looking for Alaska by John Green (Dutton Books/Penguin Random House)

banned books

For more information about Banned Books Week have a look here and be sure and join the Virtual Read-Out.

***Some of these links are affiliate links.

The post I Can’t Believe I Banned A Book: Banned Books Week Booklist appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

Add a Comment
3. Writing Diversity: More Alike Than We Are Different

Artists working across boundaries must demonstrate profound respect for and deep knowledge of the Other. This means a thoroughly open-minded attitude—and much labor in terms of research and questioning one’s own assumptions.

Add a Comment
4. The Oak Tree, by J. Steven Spires | Dedicated Review

In The Oak Tree, written by J. Steven Spires and illustrated by Jonathan Caron, the reader is given the opportunity to revisit the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the Gulf Coast 10 years ago.

Add a Comment
5. Jonah Winter, Author of Lillian’s Right to Vote | Speed Interview

Which five words best describe Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965? America’s racist history surrounds us.

Add a Comment
6. New Shoes, by Susan Lynn Meyer | Book Review

Set in the 1950s during the infamous days of Jim Crow, New Shoes is a story of an African American girl who comes up with a brilliant idea to remedy the far-too-often degrading experience of buying shoes, especially for back-to-school.

Add a Comment
7. July - Threshold of Wonder, books, kids, movies, and dogs


Long ago, when folk tales were told by people in homes, in fields, in the marketplace and taverns, there were many stories of the forests.

Two out of three of the original 1812 Grimm Folk Tales are set in or involve the forest. 

The forests held beauty and danger, the known and the unknown, light and darkness. 

The forests were places of lost and abandoned children; homes of witches, elves, and dwarfs. They were the place where wondrous events occurred. 

The forests were a threshold of wonder.

The illustration is of Harry Potter seeing the Silver Stag.



The Forest - steeped in ancient myth and legend and infused with
spiritual meaning...

Justine Gaunt, in Woodlands.co.uk, writes of the underlying significance and symbolism of the forest found in the minds of ancient peoples and in their folk and fairy tales.

TomThumb2GustavDore"Anyone embarking upon the journey of exploring forest symbolism finds themselves, perhaps like Little Red Riding Hood waving goodbye to her mother at the garden gate, on a vast voyage punctuated with the joys and dangers of the psyche, steeped in ancient myth and legend and infused with spiritual meaning.

It is no accident that so many fairytale characters find themselves having to traverse danger-laden tracts of woodland. In a most practical sense, as the ancients dreamed up those stories and even when the oral traditions were finally written down in the middle ages and later, the lands of northern and western Europe were thick with woodland. The dangers were palpable: from rogues and bandits lying in wait for unsuspecting travellers to opportunistic wolves hungry for the kill...

As for Little Red Riding Hood, straying from the path and into the woods is similarly dangerous and filled with treachery. Symbolically, those who lose their way in the uncharted forest are losing their way in life, losing touch with their conscious selves and voyaging into the realms of the subconscious..."

 Here is a link to read all of this article about fairy tales and the forest

The illustrations of fairies and for the story of Tom Thumb are by Gustav Dore.


Fairy Tales Speak to the Secret Self


Tim Lott, who writes a Family Column for the Guardian wrote about the resonance and connection that the dark side of fairy tales have -- especially for kids - after taking his family to an interactive total immersion theater event based on Phillip Pullman's Grimm Tales...

"But why do these particular plots have such resonance for the audience? Bruno Bettelheim in
GrimmstheRobberBridegroomJohnBGruellehis study, The Uses of Enchantment, suggested that folk and fairytales that endure from generation to generation, speak to something deep in the reader’s unconscious – for instance, that these older tales legitimized the murderous and violent instincts that all children experience, freeing them from the guilt that such feelings generate...

Whether or not you believe in Bettelheim’s Freudian take on storytelling, it is unquestionable that the best stories have a profound resonance of the Grimm tales transparently address our darkest fears, but in a sense, all mythic storytelling is about addressing uncertainties and anxieties...

Archetypal stories, then, for adults and children – even the “simplest”, not usually thought of as “art” – are more than merely entertainment. The more they involve us imaginatively, the more they speak to the secret self. Without access to those ancient portals that lie within us all, and certainly lie within Grimm Tales, we may applaud the style, and the elegance and the sophistication of the storyteller. And in children’s stories... "

Here is a link that will connect you to the full article, Fairy Tales Are Not Just For FunGuardian

Both illustrations are for the Grimm's story, the Robber Bridegroom. The top one is by John Cruikshank; the lower on is by John Gruelle.



VetdogsLogoThe Planet Dog Foundation (PDF), Planet Dog's non-profit grant-making organization, is awarding $60,000 in new grants to twelve canine service organizations throughout the country.

"A PDF grant of $5,000 to America's VetDogs will support the training and placement of dogs for veterans being trained through their
VetDogOlderVetMassachusetts Prison Puppy Program.
Collectively, inmates from local facilities along with local volunteer weekend puppy raisers will train 40 future service dogs per program cycle to assist our nation's veterans with disabilities. The program not only raises the quality of life for wounded veterans and keeps them active in their communities, but also has a positive impact on the inmate population involved in the training."

America's VetDogs serves veterans from all eras, and first responders who have honorably served our country and community, by providing Guide Dogs, Service Dogs for Disabilities,, Service Dogs for PTSD, Hearing Dogs, and more...Click this link and
Learn more about America's VetDogs here. 


Save The Children

The devastating effect of war on children is seen in a brief video, Second A Day, produced by Save The Children.  Here is an excerpt from a report by Dion Dassannayake in the Express: 

"The moving clip starts with a child celebrating her birthday and follows her moment by Save-the-children1moment as war and conflict develops in the UK. 
The hard hitting clip shows London being turned into a war zone where rockets are fired at buildings in broad daylight and children wear gas masks. The powerful video ends with a moving shot of the young girl celebrating her birthday once again."

In just one minute and thirty three seconds, we are reminded of what is happening to multitudes of children today. Here is a link to YouTube- Second A Day


The Wonder of a New Fairy Tale

Pixar's Inside Out...Inside the Mind of an 11 Year Old Girl...

InsideOutGirl2After a rather disappointing hiatus of wonder, the folks at Pixar -- who produced Up, Toy Story and Finding Nemo --have produced another winner, both critically and with audiences.

Rotten Tomatoes reports that 98% of 217 reviewers were enthusiastic and positive in their reviews of Inside Out. Opening weekend crowds for “Inside Out” were 56% female and 38% under the age of 12. Families comprised 71% of the audience. The film opened June 19 and has already grossed over $300 million in ticket sales.

Here's the reaction of Craig Mathieson in the Sydney Morning Herald:

"The most pleasurably complete Pixar film since 2004's The Incredibles, Inside Out delivers a witty and empathetic answer to the eternal lament of, "What is going on inside your head?"

And, here's an excerpt from an insightful review by Andrew O'hehir in Salon.com

 "... there’s an enormous conceptual gulf between Disney films of the “classic” mode, from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “Dumbo” right through “Pocahontas” and “The Little Mermaid,” and the consistently elegiac and nostalgic childhood’s-end fables of the Pixar era. If
INTRO-2-INSIDE-OUTyou’ve ever wondered why Pixar’s animators have never gotten around to adapting “The Velveteen Rabbit,” Margery Williams’ 1922 classic about the boundary between childhood imagination and adult reality, it’s because they don’t have to. Almost every Pixar film is “The Velveteen Rabbit,” transmuted into some new fictional universe but built upon the same question, perhaps the most profound and tragic ever framed in the English language: 'Of what use was it to be loved and lose one’s beauty and become Real if it all ended like this?' ..."

Here's is a link to the trailer: Inside Out


Wendy TalkingDogA Dog that Meows and Sings..WENDY

This is amazing...a video for all.



Finding Fido:A Book That Can Save Your Dog's Life

FindingFido"Like Wulff's "How to Change the World in 30 Seconds", this book is another practical handbook for helping pets. Easy to follow steps, important data, and insider info. Displaced pets make up most of the animals that find themselves in pounds, and with 3-4 million animals euthanized in U.S. shelters every year, it's no place for your beloved pet! Many times the pet's people have no idea where, or how, to start looking for them. This guide spells it out with lots of helpful tips and advice. And all the sales go to charity - how great is that?...
An Amazon 5 star review by Kristina Kane 

Here's a link to read excerpts, reviews, and to purchase Finding Fido.


I was quite taken by an excellent and evocative Dog Poem on C.A. Wulff's website, Up On The Woof 


Sight Unseen...the Threshold of Invisibility


Here are excerpts from "The Hows and Whys of Invisibility" by Kathryn Schulz in the New Yorker.

...."These questions are not so much answered as provoked by “Invisible: The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen”(Chicago), by the British science writer Philip Ball...

His book takes seriously a subject that, perhaps aptly, has heretofore been mostly
SpiritedAwayGirlTrainIntdisregarded. Invisibility looms large in the kingdom of childhood—in pretend play and imaginary friends, in fairy tales and comic books and other fictions for kids—but it seldom receives sustained adult scrutiny. And yet, once you get past the cloaks and the spells, invisibility is a consummately grownup matter. As a condition, a metaphor, a fantasy, and a technology, it helps us think about the composition of nature, the structure of society, and the deep weirdness of our human situation—about what it is like to be partly visible entities in a largely inscrutable universe. As such, the story of invisibility is not really about how to vanish at all. Curiously enough, it is a story about how we see ourselves..."

The illustrations are from the Miyazaki film Spirited Away.



Alice: 150 Years of Wonderland

The Morgan Library Museum in New York is presenting an extraordinary exhibit, both at the Museum and Online...

Alice_in_wonderland_very_tall"This exhibition will bring to light the curious history of Wonderland, presenting an engaging account of the genesis, publication, and enduring appeal of Lewis Carroll's classic tale, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

For the first time in three decades, the original manuscript will travel from the British Library in London to New York, where it will be joined by original drawings and letters, rare editions, vintage photographs, and fascinating objects—many never before exhibited..."

The array of artwork by Lewis Carrol and John Tenniel is dazzling. The scope of the online exhibit is quite comprehensive and includes information and links to early Alice films.


 Another Reality

“You know very well you’re not real.”

“I am real!” said Alice, and began to cry.

AliceTweedlesTenniel“You won’t make yourself a bit realler by crying,” Tweedledee remarked: “there’s nothing to cry about.”

“If I wasn’t real,” Alice said—half laughing through her tears, it all seemed so ridiculous—“I shouldn’t be able to cry.”

“I hope you don’t suppose those are real tears?” Tweedledum interrupted in a tone of great contempt.

Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There -Lewis Carrol

Illustration by John Tenniel


 Castle In The Mist is the second book in the Planet Of The Dogs Series  -

"...Castle in the Mist is full of the same elements I enjoyed in CITM-blog size-382KBPlanet of the Dogs and Snow Valley Heroes: beautiful, detailed, soft, mood setting drawings; the fun and antics of the dogs, and the people who are discovering them for the first time; encroaching danger and suspense; the lovely fantasy of a planet of dogs who are so concerned with the people of earth; and the forgiveness, unconditional love and loyalty that the dogs are able to subtly impart."- Taken from a 5 star Amazon review by Lisa Harvey, Book Thoughts by Lisa...


For sample chapters visit our website: Planet Of The Dogs

CITM-frontcover-jpg-654x945We have free reader copies of the Planet of The Dogs book series for therapy dog organizations, individual therapy dog owners, librarians and teachers...simply send us an email at planetofthedogs@gmail.com and we will send you the books. 

 Our books are available through your favorite independent bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell's and many more...Librarians, teachers, bookstores...You can also order Planet Of The Dogs, Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, through Ingram with a full professional discount.

 The illustration by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty is from Castle In The Mist



Rescuing Wonderful Shivery Tales

Marina Warner, in the New York Review of Books, writes an extremely informative overview  encompassing the books and lives of the brothers Grimm, the work of Franz Xaver von Schönwerth (The Turnip Princess, translated by Maria Tatar), as well as related work by Philip Pullman and the translation of Selected Tales of the Brothers Grimm by Peter Wortman. The article also contains information and insights regarding the contributions through the years by Jack Zipes, including his translation of the Original Grimm Tales and his latest book, Grimm Legacies, The Magic Spell of the Grimms' Folk and Fairy Tales.

Here is brief excerpt regarding a turning point:

The brotherCruikshankElvesandShoemakers had been strongly encouraged to make their scholarship a bit more family-friendly by including Ludwig’s illustrations after they learned of the huge success in England of the first English translation by Edgar Taylor (1823 and 1826), with its quirky, joyous drawings by George Cruikshank. In Grimm Legacies, Zipes relates how the tone of the English illustrations changed the tales’ reception, inspiring Dickens to write sentimentally about their innocence, and Ruskin to claim that Cruikshank’s “original etchings…[are] unrivalled in masterfulness of touch since Rembrandt.

The illustration of the Elves and the Shoemaker is by George Cruikshank.




"The simpler question to answer is why these tales are called "fairy tales." It is from the influence of the women writers in the French Salons who dubbed their tales "contes de fees." The term was translated into English as "fairy tales." The name became so widely used due to the popularity of the French tales, that it began to be used to describe similar tales such as those by the Grimms and Hans Christian Andersen."  Heidi Anne Heiner -- SurLaLune

The illustration of Beauty and the Beast is by Walter Crane. 



Sunbear Squad is Anna Nirva's practical site for a wide range of information focused on the well being of dogs ( as well as cats). Here are a few excerpts from a very comprehensive article on Traveling by Car or Truck with Pets. 

...On the Road...

Once you are on the road with your pet, you will need to adhere to some basic guidelines to keep your animals and your family happy and safe. Here are some recommendations for the trip itself:

Keep the Animal Inside...Anyone who owns a dog knows how much these animals like to put their heads out the window while they are riding in a car. This is dangerous for the animal, as debris can injure it. It is best to keep the animal’s head and every other part inside the car or truck, and never let your pet ride in the bed of a pickup truck, which exposes it to many dangers.

Stop Frequently...Particularly if you are traveling with a dog, you will need to stop regularly to give your animal bathroom, exercise, and water breaks. Fortunately, most rest areas have ample space for you to give your pet a chance to stretch its legs. Keep your pet leashed when you stop and have a bag ready to clean up after it.

Food and Water...You will want to limit excessive feeding while you are traveling to avoid giving your pet an upset stomach. Keep feeding to a minimum and stick to the pet food. Avoid the temptation to let the animal snack on what you are eating, as that can cause some unpleasant digestive issues.

On the other hand, you want to make sure that your pet gets as much water as possible. Give it water every time you stop. You may also want to bring along some ice cubes, which are a treat for most pets and easier for them to handle than water if they get upset stomachs while you are traveling...


 There is much more to this article...here is the link: TRAVEL


"When a man's best friend is his dog, that dog has a problem." - Edward Abbey



Add a Comment
8. The pros and cons of research preregistration

Research transparency is a hot topic these days in academia, especially with respect to the replication or reproduction of published results.

There are many initiatives that have recently sprung into operation to help improve transparency, and in this regard political scientists are taking the lead. Research transparency has long been a focus of effort of The Society for Political Methodology, and of the journal that I co-edit for the Society, Political Analysis. More recently the American Political Science Association (APSA) has launched an important initiative in Data Access and Research Transparency. It’s likely that other social sciences will be following closely what APSA produces in terms of guidelines and standards.

One way to increase transparency is for scholars to “preregister” their research. That is, they can write up their research plan and publish that prior to the actual implementation of their research plan. A number of social scientists have advocated research preregistration, and Political Analysis will soon release new author guidelines that will encourage scholars who are interested in preregistering their research plans to do so.

However, concerns have been raised about research preregistration. In the Winter 2013 issue of Political Analysis, we published a Symposium on Research Registration. This symposium included two longer papers outlining the rationale for registration: one by Macartan Humphreys, Raul Sanchez de la Sierra, and Peter van der Windt; the other by Jamie Monogan. The symposium included comments from Richard Anderson, Andrew Gelman, and David Laitin.

In order to facilitate further discussion of the pros and cons of research preregistration, I recently asked Jaime Monogan to write a brief essay that outlines the case for preregistration, and I also asked Joshua Tucker to write about some of the concerns that have been raised about how journals may deal with research preregistration.

*   *   *   *   *

The pros of preregistration for political science

By Jamie Monogan, Department of Political Science, University of Georgia


Howard Tilton Library Computers, Tulane University by Tulane Public Relations. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Study registration is the idea that a researcher can publicly release a data analysis plan prior to observing a project’s outcome variable. In a Political Analysis symposium on this topic, two articles make the case that this practice can raise research transparency and the overall quality of research in the discipline (“Humphreys, de la Sierra, and van der Windt 2013; Monogan 2013).

Together, these two articles describe seven reasons that study registration benefits our discipline. To start, preregistration can curb four causes of publication bias, or the disproportionate publishing of positive, rather than null, findings:

  1. Preregistration would make evaluating the research design more central to the review process, reducing the importance of significance tests in publication decisions. Whether the decision is made before or after observing results, releasing a design early would highlight study quality for reviewers and editors.
  2. Preregistration would help the problem of null findings that stay in the author’s file drawer because the discipline would at least have a record of the registered study, even if no publication emerged. This will convey where past research was conducted that may not have been fruitful.
  3. Preregistration would reduce the ability to add observations to achieve significance because the registered design would signal in advance the appropriate sample size. It is possible to monitor the analysis until a positive result emerges before stopping data collection, and this would prevent that.
  4. Preregistration can prevent fishing, or manipulating the model to achieve a desired result, because the researcher must describe the model specification ahead of time. By sorting out the best specification of a model using theory and past work ahead of time, a researcher can commit to the results of a well-reasoned model.

Additionally, there are three advantages of study registration beyond the issue of publication bias:

  1. Preregistration prevents inductive studies from being written-up as deductive studies. Inductive research is valuable, but the discipline is being misled if findings that are observed inductively are reported as if they were hypothesis tests of a theory.
  2. Preregistration allows researchers to signal that they did not fish for results, thereby showing that their research design was not driven by an ideological or funding-based desire to produce a result.
  3. Preregistration provides leverage for scholars who face result-oriented pressure from financial benefactors or policy makers. If the scholar has committed to a design beforehand, the lack of flexibility at the final stage can prevent others from influencing the results.

Overall, there is an array of reasons why the added transparency of study registration can serve the discipline, chiefly the opportunity to reduce publication bias. Whatever you think of this case, though, the best way to form an opinion about study registration is to try it by preregistering one of your own studies. Online study registries are available, so you are encouraged to try the process yourself and then weigh in on the preregistration debate with your own firsthand experience.

*   *   *   *   *

Experiments, preregistration, and journals

By Joshua Tucker, Professor of Politics (NYU) and Co-Editor, Journal of Experimental Political Science

I want to make one simple point in this blog post: I think it would be a mistake for journals to come up with any set of standards that involves publically recognizing some publications as having “successfully” followed their pre-registration design while identifying others publications as not having done so. This could include a special section for articles that matched their pre-registration design, an A, B, C type rating system for how faithfully articles had stuck with the pre-registration design, or even an asterisk for articles that passed a pre-registration faithfulness bar.

Let me be equally clear that I have no problem with the use of registries for recording experimental designs before those experiments are implemented. Nor do I believe that these registries should not be referenced in published works featuring the results of those experiments. On the contrary, I think authors who have pre-registered designs ought to be free to reference what they registered, as well as to discuss in their publications how much the eventual implementation of the experiment might have differed from what was originally proposed in the registry and why.

My concern is much more narrow: I want to prevent some arbitrary third party from being given the authority to “grade” researchers on how well they stuck to their original design and then to be able to report that grade publically, as opposed to simply allowing readers to make up their own mind in this regard. My concerns are three-fold.

First, I have absolutely no idea how such a standard would actually be applied. Would it count as violating a pre-design registry if you changed the number of subjects enrolled in a study? What if the original subject pool was unwilling to participate for the planned monetary incentive, and the incentive had to be increased, or the subject pool had to be changed? What if the pre-registry called for using one statistical model to analyze the data, but the author eventually realized that another model was more appropriate? What if survey questions that was registered on a 1-4 scale was changed to a 1-5 scale? Which, if any of these, would invalidate the faithful application of the registry? Would all of them together? It seems to the only truly objective way to rate compliance is to have an all or nothing approach: either you do exactly what you say you do, or you didn’t follow the registry. Of course, then we are lumping “p-value fishing” in the same category as applying a better a statistical model or changing the wording of a survey question.

This bring me to my second point, which is a concern that giving people a grade for faithfully sticking to a registry could lead to people conducting sub-optimal research — and stifle creativity — out of fear that it will cost them their “A” registry-faithfulness grade. To take but one example, those of us who use survey experiments have long been taught to pre-test questions precisely because sometime some of the ideas we have when sitting at our desks don’t work in practice. So if someone registers a particular technique for inducing an emotional response and then runs a pre-test and figures out their technique is not working, do we really want the researcher to use the sub-optimal design in order to preserve their faithfulness to the registered design? Or consider a student who plans to run a field experiment in a foreign country that is based on the idea that certain last names convey ethnic identity. What happens if the student arrives in the field and learns that this assumption was incorrect? Should the student stick with the bad research design to preserve the ability to publish in the “registry faithful” section of JEPS? Moreover, research sometimes proceeds in fits and spurts. If as a graduate student I am able to secure funds to conduct experiments in country A but later as a faculty member can secure funds to replicate these experiments in countries B and C as well, should I fear including the results from country A in a comparative analysis because my original registry was for a single country study? Overall, I think we have to be careful about assuming that we can have everything about a study figured out at the time we submit a registry design, and that there will be nothing left for us to learn about how to improve the research — or that there won’t be new questions that can be explored with previously collected data — once we start implementing an experiment.

At this point a fair critique to raise is that the points in preceding paragraph could be taken as an indictment of registries generally. Here we venture more into simply a point of view, but I believe that there is a difference between asking people to document what their original plans were and giving them a chance in their own words — if they choose to do so — to explain how their research project evolved as opposed to having to deal with a public “grade” of whatever form that might take. In my mind, the former is part of producing transparent research, while the latter — however well intentioned — could prove paralyzing in terms of making adjustments during the research process or following new lines of interesting research.

This brings me to my final concern, which is that untenured faculty would end up feeling the most pressure in this regard. For tenured faculty, a publication without the requisite asterisks noting registry compliance might not end up being too big a concern — although I’m not even sure of that — but I could easily imagine junior faculty being especially worried that publications without registry asterisks could be held against them during tenure considerations.

The bottom line is that registries bring with them a host of benefits — as Jamie has nicely laid out above — but we should think carefully about how to best maximize those benefits in order to minimize new costs. Even if we could agree on how to rate a proposal in terms of faithfulness to registry design, I would suggest caution in trying to integrate ratings into the publication process.

The views expressed here are mine alone and do not represent either the Journal of Experimental Political Science or the APSA Organized Section on Experimental Research Methods.

Heading image: Interior of Rijksmuseum research library. Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed. CC-BY-SA-3.0-nl via Wikimedia Commons.

The post The pros and cons of research preregistration appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on The pros and cons of research preregistration as of 9/28/2014 7:15:00 AM
Add a Comment
9. Why Britain should leave the European Union

With the next General Election on the horizon, the Conservative’s proposed European Union ‘In/Out’ referendum, slated for 2017, has become a central issue. Scotland chose to stay part of a larger union – would the same decision be taken by the United Kingdom?

In the first of a pair of posts, some key legal figures share their views on why Britain should leave the European Union.

* * * * *

“[The] EU as I see it is an anti-democratic system of governance that steadily drains decision-making power from the people and their elected national and sub-national representatives and re-allocates it to a virtually non-accountable Euro-elite. In many ways, this is its purpose. … Important policy decisions in sensitive areas of civil liberties … [are] taken by government officials and ministers with minimal input from parliaments and virtually unremarked by the media and general public.

“The European Commission started life as a regulatory agency attached to a trade bloc, which rapidly turned its regulatory powers on the Member States that had put it in place. Much the same can be said of the centralising Court of Justice, a significant policy-maker in the EU system.

Democracy, in Robert Dahl’s sense of popular control over governmental policies and decisions or as a broad array of the rights, freedoms and – most important – the opportunities that tend to develop among people who govern themselves democratically, is out of the reach of the EU system of regulatory governance.”

Carol Harlow, Emeritus Professor of Law, London School of Economics, and author of Accountability in the European Union and State Liability: Tort Law and Beyond

European Bills. Photo by Images_of_Money. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Images_of_Money Flickr.
European Bills. Photo by Images_of_Money, TaxRebate.org.uk. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Images_of_Money Flickr.

* * * * *

“There is little if any direct trade advantage for remaining a member of the EU on the present terms. The direct financial burden of EU membership is some £17bn gross (£11bn net) and rising. … 170 countries in the world now operate in a global market based on trade according to “rules of origin”, and the UK now trades mostly with them, not with the EU.

“Advocates of the EU always present the “single market” as indispensable to the UK. Is this really so? The EU Single Market is the never ending pretext for the EU’s harmonisation of standards and laws across the EU. EU Single Market rules now extend well beyond what was the Single European Act 1986, and far beyond what is necessary to enable borderless trading within the EU.

“As the sixth largest trading nation in the world, were the UK to leave the EU Single Market, we would be joining the 170 other nations who trade freely in the global single market. We would regain control of our own markets and over our trade with the rest of the globe.”

Bernard Jenkin, MP for Harwich and North Essex and Chair of the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee

* * * * *


“The single currency is the crux. We did opt out of the Euro, but we can’t escape the Euro. The deflationary bias in the Eurozone, the catastrophic effects of a single monetary policy across such disparate economies and societies, culminating in banking and government debt crises, all continue to bear down on our exports and our overall economic performance.

“As the eighteen Eurozone countries meet apart from the non-Euro members of the EU to determine major issues of financial and fiscal policy, so we are increasingly marginalized within the EU, while having to live with the consequences of decisions in which we’ve had no part. … The EU will continue to be dominated by the Eurozone countries. They will do their best to salvage the single currency and will probably succeed, at least for some years to come. If British policy is to be characterized by more than passivity and fatalism, we will either have to establish new terms of membership of the EU (well-nigh impossible to achieve on a meaningful basis when the unanimous agreement of the EU is required), or find a way to split the existing EU into two unions of different kinds, or leave altogether.”

Alan Howarth, Baron Howarth of Newport, former Member of Parliament

* * * * *

“Whatever the merits of the European Union from an economic or political perspective, its legal system is unfit for purpose. In the United Kingdom we expect our statutory laws to be clear and the means by which these laws are made to be transparent. We equally expect our court processes to be efficient and to deliver unambiguous judgments delineating clear legal principles. We expect there to be a clear demarcation between those who make the laws and those who interpret them. … All [matters] are quite absent within the legal institutions of the EU.

“It is perhaps understandable that an institution which is seeking to unite 28 divergent legal traditions, with multiple different languages, struggles to produce an effective legal system. However, the EU legal system sits above and is constitutionally superior to the domestic UK one. … The failures of the EU legal system are so fundamental that they constitute a flagrant violation of the rule of law. Regardless of the position of the UK within the EU, these institutions should be radically and urgently reformed.”

Dan Tench, Partner, Olswang LLP and co-founder of UKSCblog – the Supreme Court blog

* * * * *

“The Euro has faced serious difficulties for the last five years. The economic crisis exposed flaws in the basic design, while the effort to save the currency union has led to recession and high unemployment, especially youth unemployment, in the weaker nations. This has moved the focus of the EU from the single market to the economically more important project of saving the Euro.

“The effect of this on the UK is that the direction of the EU has become more integrationist and has subordinated the interests of the non-Euro states. Currently this covers ten countries but only the UK and Denmark have a permanent opt out. The protocol being developed to ensure that the eighteen do not force their will on the ten will need revising when it becomes twenty-six versus two. The EU will not be willing to give the UK and Denmark a veto over all financial regulation. Inevitably, this will need some form of renegotiation as the UK has a disproportionately valuable banking sector which cannot be expected to accept rules designed entirely for the advancement of the Euro.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP, North East Somerset

* * * * *

“The reluctance of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to find violations of human rights in sensitive matters affecting States’ interests raises the question whether subscribing to the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’) should be a pre-requisite of European Union membership, as is now expected under the Treaty of Lisbon. … [T]he decisions of the ECtHR are accorded a special significance in the EU by the European Court of Justice because the ECHR is part of the EU’s legal system.

“This was recently demonstrated in S.A.S. v France, concerning an unnamed 24-year-old French woman of Pakistani origin who wore both the burqa and the niqab. In 2011, France introduced a ‘burqa ban’, arguin that facial coverings interfere with identification, communication, and women’s freedoms. … A British Judge has said, “I reject the view … that the niqab is somehow incompatible with participation in public life.” The ECtHR held [that] France’s burqa ban encouraged citizens to “live together” this being a “legitimate aim” of the French authorities. … Britain could leave the ECHR and make its own decisions  but then, insofar as the EU continues to accord special significance to ECtHR decisions, still effectively be bound by them.”

Satvinder Juss, Professor of Law, King’s College London and Barrister-at-Law, Gray’s Inn

The post Why Britain should leave the European Union appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on Why Britain should leave the European Union as of 9/30/2014 3:57:00 PM
Add a Comment
10. On the importance of independent, objective policy analysis

I have written about the dangers of making economic policy on the basis of ideology rather than cold, hard economic analysis. Ideologically-based economic policy has laid the groundwork for many of the worst economic disasters of the last 200 years.

  • The decision to abandon the first and second central banks in the United States in the early 19th century led to chronic financial instability for much of the next three quarters of a century.
  • Britain’s re-establishment of the gold standard in 1925, which encouraged other countries to do likewise, contributed to the spread and intensification of the Great Depression.
  • Europe’s decision to adopt the euro, despite the fact that economic theory and history suggested that it was a mistake, contributed to the European sovereign debt crisis.
  • President George W. Bush’s decision to cut taxes three times during his first term while embarking on substantial spending connected to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, was an important driver of the macroeconomic boom-bust cycle that led to the subprime crisis.

In each of these four cases, a policy was adopted for primarily ideological, rather than economic reasons. In each case, prominent thinkers and policy makers argued forcefully against adoption, but were ignored. In each case, the consequences of the policy were severe.

So how do we avoid excessively ideological economic policy?

One way is by making sure that policy-makers are exposed to a wide range of opinions during their deliberations. This method has been taken on board by a number central banks, where many important officials are either foreign-born or have considerable policy experience outside of their home institution and/or country. Mark Carney, a Canadian who formerly ran that that country’s central bank, is not the first non-British governor of the Bank of England in its 320-year history. Stanley Fischer, who was born in southern Africa and has been governor of the Bank of Israel, is now the vice chairman of the US Federal Reserve. The widely respected governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, Patrick Honohan, spent nearly a decade at the World Bank in Washington, DC. One of Honohan’s deputies is a Swede with experience at the Hong Kong Monetary Authority; the other is a Frenchman.

Money cut in pieces, by Tax Credits. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.
Money cut in pieces, by Tax Credits (TaxCredits.net). CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.

But isn’t it unreasonable to expect politicians to come to the policy making process without any ideological bent whatsoever? After all, don’t citizens deserve to see a grand contest of ideas between those who propose higher taxes and greater public spending with those who argue for less of both?

In fact, we do expect—and want–our politicians to come to the table with differing views. Nonetheless, politicians often support their arguments with unfounded assertions that their policies will lead to widespread prosperity, while those of their adversaries will lead to doom. The public needs to be able to subject those competing claims to cold, hard economic analysis.

Fortunately, the United States and a growing number of other countries have established institutions that are mandated to provide high quality, professional, non-partisan economic analysis. Typically, these institutions are tasked with forecasting the budgetary effects of legislation, making it difficult for one side or the other to tout the economic benefits of their favorite policies without subjecting them to a reality check by a disinterested party.

In the United States, this job is undertaken by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) which offers well-regarded forecasts of the budgetary effects of legislation under consideration by Congress. [Disclaimer: The current director of the CBO is a graduate school classmate of mine.]

The CBO is not always the most popular agency in Washington. When the CBO calculates that that the cost of a congressman’s pet project is excessive, that congressman can be counted on to take the agency to task in the most public manner possible.

According to the New York Times, the CBO’s “…analyses of the Clinton-era legislation were so unpopular among Democrats that [then-CBO Director Robert Reischauer] was referred to as the ‘skunk at the garden party.’ It has since become a budget office tradition for the new director to be presented with a stuffed toy skunk.”

For the most part, however, congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle hold the CBO and its work in high regard, as do observers of the economic scene from the government, academia, journalism, and the private sector.

The CBO, founded in 1974, is one of the oldest of such agencies, predated only by the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (1945) and the Danish Economic Council (1962). More recent additions to the growing ranks of these agencies include Australia’s Parliamentary Budget Office (2012), Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer (2006), South Korea’s National Assembly Budget Office (2003), and the UK’s Office for Budget Responsibility (2010).

These organizations each have their own institutional history and slightly different responsibilities. For the most part, however, they are constituted to be non-partisan, independent agencies of the legislative branch of government. We should be grateful for their existence.

The post On the importance of independent, objective policy analysis appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on On the importance of independent, objective policy analysis as of 10/1/2014 6:21:00 AM
Add a Comment
11. The chimera of anti-politics

Anti-politics is in the air. There is a prevalent feeling in many societies that politicians are up to no good, that establishment politics are at best irrelevant and at worst corrupt and power-hungry, and that the centralization of power in national parliaments and governments denies the public a voice. Larger organizations fare even worse, with the European Union’s ostensible detachment from and imperviousness to the real concerns of its citizens now its most-trumpeted feature. Discontent and anxiety build up pressure that erupts in the streets from time to time, whether in Takhrir Square or Tottenham. The Scots rail against a mysterious entity called Westminster; UKIP rides on the crest of what it terms patriotism (and others term typical European populism) intimating, as Matthew Goodwin has pointed out in the Guardian, that Nigel Farage “will lead his followers through a chain of events that will determine the destiny of his modern revolt against Westminster.”

At the height of the media interest in Wootton Bassett, when the frequent corteges of British soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan wended their way through the high street while the townspeople stood in silence, its organizers claimed that it was a spontaneous and apolitical display of respect. “There are no politics here,” stated the local MP. Those involved held that the national stratum of politicians was superfluous to the authentic feeling of solidarity that could solely be generated at the grass roots. A clear resistance emerged to national politics trying to monopolize the mourning that only a town at England’s heart could convey.

Academics have been drawn in to the same phenomenon. A new Anti-politics and Depoliticization Specialist Group has been set up by the Political Studies Association in the UK dedicated, as it describes itself, to “providing a forum for researchers examining those processes throughout society that seem to have marginalized normative political debates, taken power away from elected politicians and fostered an air of disengagement, disaffection and disinterest in politics.” The term “politics” and what it apparently stands for is undoubtedly suffering from a serious reputational problem.

Tottenham Riots, by Beacon Radio. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Flickr.
Tottenham Riots, by Beacon Radio. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Flickr.

But all that is based on a misunderstanding of politics. Political activity and thinking isn’t something that happens in remote places and institutions outside the experience of everyday life. It is ubiquitous, rooted in human intercourse at every level. It is not merely an elite activity but one that every one of us engages in consciously or unconsciously in our relations with others: commanding, pleading, negotiating, arguing, agreeing, refusing, or resisting. There is a tendency to insist on politics being mainly about one thing: power, dissent, consensus, oppression, rupture, conciliation, decision-making, the public domain, are some of the competing contenders. But politics is about them all, albeit in different combinations.

It concerns ranking group priorities in terms of urgency or importance—whether the group is a family, a sports club or a municipality. It concerns attempts to achieve finality in human affairs, attempts always doomed to fail yet epitomised in language that refers to victory, authority, sovereignty, rights, order, persuasion—whether on winning or losing sides of political struggle. That ranges from a constitutional ruling to the exasperated parent trying to end an argument with a “because I say so.” It concerns order and disorder in human gatherings, whether parliaments, trade union meetings, classrooms, bus queues, or terrorist attacks—all have a political dimension alongside their other aspects. That gives the lie to a demonstration being anti-political, when its ends are reform, revolution or the expression of disillusionment. It concerns devising plans and weaving visions for collectivities. It concerns the multiple languages of support and withholding support that we engage in with reference to others, from loyalty and allegiance through obligation to commitment and trust. And it is manifested through conservative, progressive or reactionary tendencies that the human personality exhibits.

When those involved in the Wootton Bassett corteges claimed to be non-political, they overlooked their organizational role in making certain that every detail of the ceremony was in place. They elided the expression of national loyalty that those homages clearly entailed. They glossed over the tension between political centre and periphery that marked an asymmetry of power and voice. They assumed, without recognizing, the prioritizing of a particular group of the dead – those that fell in battle.

People everywhere engage in political practices, but they do so in different intensities. It makes no more sense to suggest that we are non-political than to suggest that we are non-psychological. Nor does anti-politics ring true, because political disengagement is still a political act: sometimes vociferously so, sometimes seeking shelter in smaller circles of political conduct. Alongside political philosophy and the history of political thought, social scientists need to explore the features of thinking politically as typical and normal features of human life. Those patterns are always with us, though their cultural forms will vary considerably across and within societies. Being anti-establishment, anti-government, anti-sleaze, even anti-state are themselves powerful political statements, never anti-politics.

Headline image credit: Westminster, by “Stròlic Furlàn” – Davide Gabino. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Flickr.

The post The chimera of anti-politics appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on The chimera of anti-politics as of 10/18/2014 6:06:00 AM
Add a Comment
12. Corporate short-termism, the media, and the self-fulfilling prophecy

The business press and general media often lament that firm executives are exhibiting “short-termism”, succumbing to the pressure by stock market investors to maximize quarterly earnings while sacrificing long-term investments and innovation. In our new article in the Socio-Economic Review, we suggest that this complaint is partly accurate, but partly not.

What seems accurate is that the maximization of short-term earnings by firms and their executives has become somewhat more prevalent in recent years, and that some of the roots of this phenomenon lead to stock market investors. What is inaccurate, though, is the assumption that investors – even if they were “short-term traders” – would inherently attend to short-term quarterly earnings when making trading decisions. Namely, even “short-term trading” (i.e. buying stocks with the aim to sell them after few minutes, days, or months) does not equal or necessitate “short-term earnings focus”, i.e., making trading decisions based on short-term earnings (let alone based on short-term earnings only). This means that in case the media observes – or executives perceive – that firms are pressured by stock market investors to focus on short-term earnings, such a pressure is illusionary, in part.

The illusion, in turn, is based on the phenomenon of “vociferous minority”: a minority of stock investors may be focusing on short-term earnings, causing some weak correlation between short-term earnings and stock price jumps / drops. But the illusion is born when this gets interpreted as if most or all investors (i.e., the majority) would be focusing on short-term earnings only. Alas, such an interpretation may, in the dynamic markets, lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy – whereby an increasing number of investors join the vociferous minority and focus increasingly on short-term earnings (even if still not the majority of investors would focus on short-term earnings only). And more importantly – or more unfortunately – firm executives may start to increasingly maximize short-term earnings, too, due to the (inaccurate) illusion that the majority of investors would prefer that.

rolls royce
Rolls Royce, by Christophe Verdier. CC-BY-2.0 vis Flickr.

A final paradox is the role of the media. Of course, the media have good intentions in lamenting about short-termism in the markets, trying to draw attention to an unsatisfactory state of affairs. However, such lamenting stories may actually contribute to the emergence of the self-fulfilling prophecy. Namely, despite the lamenting tone of the media articles, they are in any case emphasizing that the market participants are focusing just on short-term earnings. This contributes to the illusion that all investors are focusing on short-term earnings only – which in turn may lead a bigger majority of investors and firms to actually join the minority’s bandwagon, in the illusion that everyone else is doing that too.

Should the media do something different, then? Well, we suggest that in this case, the media should report more on “positive stories”, or cases whereby firms have managed to create great innovations with a patient, longer-term focus. The media could also report on an increasing number of investors looking at alternative, long-term measures (such as patents or innovation rates) instead of short-term earnings.

So, more stories like this one about Rolls-Royce – however, without claiming or lamenting that most investors are just wanting “quick results” (i.e., without portraying cases like Rolls-Royce just as rare exceptions). Such positive stories could, in the best scenario, contribute to a reverse, self-fulfilling prophecy – whereby more and more investors, and thereafter firm executives, would replace some of the excessive focus on short-term earnings that they might currently have.

The post Corporate short-termism, the media, and the self-fulfilling prophecy appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on Corporate short-termism, the media, and the self-fulfilling prophecy as of 10/21/2014 5:05:00 AM
Add a Comment
13. Jay Asher Discusses Thirteen Reasons Why | 50 States Against Bullying

A conversation between Jay Asher and Trudy Ludwig the 50 States Against Bullying tour, bullying, teen suicide and how to create kinder and more caring communities.

Add a Comment
14. Learning to love democracy: A note to William Hague

British politics is currently located in the eye of a constitutional storm. The Scottish independence referendum shook the political system and William Hague has been tasked with somehow re-connecting the pieces of a constitutional jigsaw that – if we are honest – have not fitted together for some time. I have written an open letter, encouraging the Leader of the House to think the unthinkable and to put ‘the demos’ back into democracy when thinking about how to breath new life into politics.

Dear William (if I may),

I do hope the Prime Minister gave you at least a few minutes warning before announcing that you would be chairing a committee on the future constitutional settlement of the UK. Could you have ever hoped for a more exciting little project to sort out before you leave Parliament next May? Complex problems rarely have simple answers and this is why so many previous politicians have failed to deal with a whole set of questions concerning the distribution of powers and the respective roles of various sub-sets of both politicians and ‘publics’. The timetable you have been set is – how can I put it – demanding and those naughty people in the Labour Party have taken their bat and ball home and are refusing to play the constitutional game.

I’m sure you know how to sort all of this out but I just thought you might like to know that amongst all the critics and naysayers who claim the British constitution is in crisis I actually think that a crisis might be just what we need. Not a crisis in terms of burning cars and riots in the streets but a crisis in terms of ‘creative destruction’ and the chance for a new way of looking at perennial problems. What’s more – as the Scottish referendum revealed – there is a huge amount of latent democratic energy amongst the public. From Penzance to Perth and from Cardigan to Cromer the public is not apathetic or disinterested about politics but they feel disconnected from a London-based system that is remote in a number of ways.

The reasons for this sense of disconnection are numerous and complex but as a constitutional historian you will know better than most people that British democracy has evolved throughout the centuries with a deep animosity to public engagement. The (in)famous ‘Westminster Model’ that we imposed on countries around the world was explicitly elitist, centralized and to a great extent insulated from public pressure. These features and values – as Scotland revealed – are now crumbling under the weight of popular pressure that will not accept their legitimacy in the twenty first century. But as I said, this should be interpreted as a positive opportunity for re-imagining, for re-connecting and for breathing new life into the system.

The question is how to deliver on this potential for positive change in a way that takes the people with you?

William Hague, 2010, by . Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
William Hague, 2010, by U.S. Department of State. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Now I’m no Vernon Bogdanor or Peter Hennessy and so writing notes to members of the Cabinet is not a common task but could I just offer three little ideas that might help smooth the path you have been asked to map out?

First and foremost, please ignore Russell Brand.

Secondly, make sure all your officials are also ignoring Russell Brand.

Finally, the trick to moving forward is thinking about constitutional reform not as being like moving pieces on a chessboard or as a zero-sum game in which a ‘win’ for one side means a ‘loss’ for the other. This traditional way of thinking about constitutional politics has served us badly and the aim has to be to turn the problem upside-down and inside-out in a way that creates new opportunities. This means starting with the people – with the demos – and viewing the constitutional puzzle not like a board game but as a multi-level game that suddenly focuses attention on the existence of connections or bonds.

The real challenge is not a lack of political interest amongst the public (indeed the appetite for meaningful engagement is huge) but a lack of ways of drawing upon the upsurges of bottom-up civic energy that keep exploding in various forms – from the off-line Occupy Movement to the on-line growth of ‘clicktivism’ – but to which the ‘traditional’ political institutions seem to offer no answers. Put slightly differently, the public no longer believes that traditional forms of political engagement are actually meaningful. In this context the promises of populist movements suddenly become attractive and Mr Farage gorges on a feast of anti-politics. The focus of your committee on a new constitutional settlement might therefore adopt a quite different approach to all those committees, commissions and inquiries that have gone before you by focusing on what I term ‘nexus politics’. That is, on the institutions and processes that can re-connect the spontaneous and the local and the single issue with the pre-existing institutional framework in a way that positively channels, absorbs and welcomes civic energy and activism. In short, British politics must learn to love democracy in a manner that is quite different to the one-night stand of five-yearly elections.

The problem is that despite the Prime Minister’s pledge on the 19 September to ensure “wider civic engagement… we will say more about this in the coming days”, the days have ticked by but the plans for public engagement remain unclear. What we are experiencing is best characterized as a (classically British top-down) ‘constitutional moment’ in which the existing elite decide what they think is best for the public. However, it has not yet evolved into a truly ‘democratic moment’ in which the public decide for themselves. My note – to bring things to a close – is therefore a simple plea for the Creation of a Citizens Assembly on Constitutional Reform that takes party politics out of discussions about the future and puts power in the power of the people. What a radical thought…

Yours truly,


P.S. Did I mention avoiding Russell Brand at all costs?

Feature image credit: Union Jack and Scotland, by Julien Carnot. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Flickr.

The post Learning to love democracy: A note to William Hague appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on Learning to love democracy: A note to William Hague as of 11/5/2014 4:57:00 AM
Add a Comment
15. The Berlin Wall: A Day that Changed the World

Back when Quercus books was starting out (even before they were called Quercus) I wrote a piece for them as proof of concept for a planned volume called Days that changed the World (to follow on from the successful Speeches that changed the World). In the end it became a book by Hywel Williams. I really liked my sample piece, mocked up for the Frankfurt bookfair, and now, on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I’d like other people to be able to read it.

Every wall will fall some day

“Every wall will fall some day”

It was 6.57 pm on Thursday 9 November 1989. In a press conference Günter Schabowski, head of the Berlin section of East Germany’s ruling party the SED (Socialist Unity Party of Germany), was trying to answer a question put by an Italian journalist.

Earlier that day at the Politburo (Cabinet) meeting, the continued hemorrhaging of East German citizens to the West, through the increasingly open borders of its communist allies, had been discussed. It was decided that a system of permits would be introduced to allow travel into West Berlin. It was Günter Schabowski’s role to answer questions at the subsequent press conference, but he had only returned from holiday towards the end of the meeting and so missed much of the discussion. The question the journalist had asked was about this very issue of travel into West Berlin, so Schabowski was handed a piece of paper to help him give an answer. It was a press release intended for publication the following day. No one meant for him to read it out loud but that’s what he did. He was then asked when this would actually happen. Unaware of the proposed timetable he mistakenly announced to the surprised group of journalists before him that ‘this is immediate, without delay’.

 ‘As far as I know, this is immediate, without delay’ Günther Schabowski, Head of Berlin SED, 6:57pm

Within minutes the news wire services AP (Associated Press) and DPA (the German Press Agency) were reporting that East Germany had opened its borders to the West. The citizens of East Berlin flocked to the crossing points in the Wall hoping to gain access. Outnumbered and unprepared the border guards didn’t know what action to take. Telephone calls to their superiors apparently said ‘we’re flooding’ as they held back the ever-increasing crowds. Finally, around 10.30 pm at Bornholmer Strasse they bowed to the inevitable and opened the crossing. After 10,315 days stretching across 28 years the antifaschistischer Schutzwall (Anti-Fascist Protection Wall), the physical symbol of the Iron Curtain across Europe, had finally fallen.

‘I won’t believe it until I’m on the other side’ unknown East Berlin woman

‘We’re flooding’ East German border police

The 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall was the pivotal moment in a dramatic year across Europe. This followed in the wake of the new philosophies of Glasnost (openness) and Perestroika (restructuring) coming from Mikhail Gorbachev in The Kremlin. The Poles with their powerful Solidarity trades union were impatient for reform and on 5 April the communist government there agreed to hold free elections. In May, Gorbachev came to West Germany to meet with Chancellor Kohl. He informed Kohl that the Brezhnev doctrine was over – that Russia was no longer prepared to use force to control the satellite states that comprised the Soviet Union. At once the government in Hungary announced its intention to begin the dismantling of the Iron Curtain along the border with Austria. The floodgates were open.

East Germans began pouring into Hungary en route to what they hoped was a new life in the West. The scale of the exodus was unprecedented. Some were allowed through into Austria while others who were turned back ended up camping in the grounds of the West German Embassy in Prague in Czechoslovakia.

A weekly peace vigil had begun on Mondays in the East German city of Leipzig. At first the numbers were small, but despite sometimes violent police action they grew. On 4 September there were a thousand demonstrators – by 16 October there were 120,000. Loudspeakers proclaimed their words of opposition throughout the city:

We, the people, demand:

  • the right to free access of information
  • the right to open political discussions
  • the freedom of thought and creativity
  • the right to maintain a plural ideology
  • the right to dissent
  • the right to travel freely
  • the right to exert influence over government authority
  • the right to re-examine our beliefs
  • the right to voice an opinion in the affairs of state

The Leipzig protests

Gorbachev had returned to Berlin as guest of honour for the 40th anniversary of the East German state on 7 October. In front of the Palace of the Republic the celebrations turned to protest as the crown cried out for Gorbachev to help them. The demonstration was broken up by the police with a thousand arrests. In a warning to the SED Gorbachev announced ‘Wer zu spät kommt, den bestraft das Leben’ (whoever comes too late is punished by life). In East Germany this was seen as a tacit acknowledgement that the old order was over. Following Gorbachev’s comments and the ever-increasing demonstrations against him, East German President Eric Honecker, who as late as June had claimed the Wall would last for another ‘50 or 100 years’, resigned on 18 October.

Honecker was the original builder of the Wall. More than two and a half million East Germans had escaped to West Germany between 1949 and 1961, an unsustainable drain on the communist state’s resources. Because of this the first East German President, Walter Ulbricht, had secretly decided a wall must be built. He sought the then Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s permission to make his plan a reality. At midnight on the morning of Sunday 13 August 1961, Honecker, responsible for security on the SED Central Committee and so the overseer of the construction of the Wall, sealed the border with West Berlin while the citizens in the east slept. In preparation for the day he had stored 25 miles (40 km) of barbed wire and thousands of fence posts in barracks around the city. This was brought out and the Wall was erected behind a line of 25,000 armed police, posted every six feet along the border.

The resignation of Honecker saw him replaced by another hardliner, Egon Krenz, but the exodus from East Germany continued apace. On Tuesday 7 November the government of East Germany resigned en masse appealing to the public that ‘in this serious situation, all energies be concentrated on keeping up all functions indispensable to the people, society and the economy.’ The plan was that the ministers would remain in office until a new government could be formed. The next day the entire Politburo also resigned. However, the Central Committee of the SED unanimously re-elected Egon Krenz as leader. That afternoon party members elected a new Politburo who would meet for the first time the following day under Krenz’s leadership. The rapid changes in the administration and personnel were perhaps the reason for Günter Schabowski’s confused announcement on the fateful evening.


As night fell on 9 November a street party spread all across West Berlin that lasted several days. As each East German Trabi drove across Checkpoint Charlie its driver honked its horn and was cheered by the masses. East German border guards joined the celebrations and were presented with flowers by delighted West Berliners. East Germans were pouring into West Berlin with no money, so it was quickly announced that possession of an East German passport would entitle the bearer to free public transport and museum admission across the city.

‘Berlin was out of control. There was no more government, neither in East nor in West. The police and the army were helpless. The soldiers themselves were overwhelmed by the event. They were part of the crowd. Their uniforms meant nothing. The Wall was down.’ From a personal account by Andreas Ramos, a Dane in Berlin

‘Soon after the announcement was made, my family and I went to the wall with hammers and chisels in order to help knock it down. There were hundreds of people there already. I was surprised at just how difficult it was to break a piece of wall off: it was made of such hard material. Looking at gaps which others before me had managed to create, I could see the thick iron wires which were between the concrete layers making up the wall. One thing I did notice about the wall was that the West side was covered in graffiti and the East was perfectly clean: the East Berliners were not allowed near the wall. I had fun knocking away at the wall, and did manage to break of small chunks, which I still have today.’ From a personal account by Louise Hopper, then a 14 year old English girl living in West Berlin

Tear down the wall

The next day, Friday, saw the announcement of free elections in East Germany to take place the following year. Then, on Sunday 12 November, the Wall was opened at the historic Potsdamer Platz (Potsdam Square) by the mayors from each half of the previously divided city. Walter Momper, Mayor of West Berlin proclaimed ‘Potsdam Square is the old heart of Berlin and it will beat again as it used to.’ Six weeks later the historic Brandenburg Gate, was also reopened in front of enormous crowds.

Systematic demolition of the Wall began on 13 June the following year and Germany was finally reunited on 3 October 1990. However, a watching world that had been caught in the grip of the Cold War for so long remembers 9 November 1989 as the day it ended – the day the Berlin Wall fell.

Add a Comment
16. The legitimate fear that months of civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri will end in rioting

On 9 August 2014, Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson, Missouri (a suburb of St. Louis) Police Department, shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old. Officer Wilson is white and Michael Brown was black, sparking allegations from wide swaths of the local and national black community that Wilson’s shooting of Brown, and the Ferguson Police Department’s reluctance to arrest the officer, are both racially motivated events that smack of an historic trend of black inequality within the US criminal justice system.

The fact that the Ferguson Police Department and city government are predominantly white, while the town is predominantly black, has underscored this distrust. So too have recent events in Los Angeles, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, St. Louis, and other places that suggest a disturbing pattern of white police personnel’s use of excessive force in the beatings or deaths of blacks across the nation. So disturbing, in fact, that this case and the others linked to it not only have inspired an organic, and diverse, crop of youth activists, but also have captured the close attention of President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, national civil rights organizations and the national black leadership. Indeed, not one or two, but three concurrent investigations of Officer Wilson’s shooting of Michael Brown are ongoing—one by the St. Louis Police Department and the other two by the FBI and the Justice Department, who are concerned with possible civil rights violations. The case also has a significant international following. The parents of Michael Brown raised this profile recently when they testified in Geneva, Switzerland before the United Nations Committee against Torture. There, they joined a US delegation to plead for support to end police brutality aimed at profiled black youth.

The details of the shooting investigations, each bit eagerly seized by opposing sides (those who support Brown and those who defend Wilson) as they become publicly available, still don’t give a comprehensive view of what actually happened between the officer and the teen, leaving too much speculation as to whether or not the Ferguson Grand Jury, who have been considering the case since 20 August, will return an indictment(s) against Officer Wilson.

Protest at Ferguson Police Dept, by
Protest at Ferguson Police Dept, by Jamelle Bouie. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

What is known of the incident is that about noon on that Saturday, Michael Brown and a friend, Dorian Johnson, were walking down Canefield Drive in Ferguson when Darren Wilson approached the two in his squad car, telling them to get out of the street and onto the sidewalk. A scuffle ensued between Brown and Wilson within the police car. In his defense, Officer Wilson has stated that Brown attacked him and tried to grab his weapon. Dorian Johnson has countered that Wilson pulled Michael Brown into his car, suggesting that Brown was trying to defend himself from an overly aggressive Wilson. Shots were fired in Wilson’s police car and Brown ran down the street, pursued by Wilson. Autopsy reports indicate that Brown was shot at least six times, four times in his left arm, once through his left eye and once in the top of his head. The latter caused the youth’s death. Michael Brown’s body lay in the street, uncovered, for several hours while the police conducted a preliminary investigation, prompting even more outrage by black onlookers.

Since Michael Brown’s death, protestors from the area and across the nation have occupied the streets of Ferguson, demanding justice for the slain teen and his family. Nights of initial confrontations between police forces (the Ferguson Police, the St. Louis Police, the Missouri State Troopers and the National Guard have all been deployed in Ferguson at some time, and in some capacity, since the shooting) and though there has been some arson, looting, protestor and police violence, and arrests—even of news reporters—the protests generally have been peaceful. Not only police action during these protests, but their equipment as well, have sparked criticism and the growing demand that law enforcement agencies demilitarize. The daily protests have persisted, at times growing in great number, as during a series of “Hands up, Don’t Shoot” events that were held not just in Ferguson, but in many cities nationwide, including Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Omaha, Nebraska in August and September. The “hands up” stance is to protest Brown’s shooting which some, but not all, witnesses have stated came even with Brown’s hands up in a gesture of surrender to Wilson.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, and other state and local officials, along with many of the residents of Ferguson, fear that if the Grand Jury does not indict Darren Wilson for Michael Brown’s murder, civil unrest will erupt into violence, producing an event similar to the Los Angeles Riots of 1992. In Los Angeles, large numbers of persons rioted when it seemed that the legal outcomes of two back-to-back criminal cases smacked of black injustice—the acquittal of four white police officers indicted in the assault of black motorist Rodney King, and the no jail-time sentence of a Korean shopkeeper found guilty for the murder of Latasha Harlins, a black teen. The result was the worst race riot in US history, with more than 50 people killed, the burning of a substantial portion of the ethnic business enclave of Koreatown, and at least a billion dollars in property damage.

Certainly the fear is a legitimate one. The vast majority of US race riots that have centered on black participation have occurred with like conditions as a spark—the community’s belief that a youth or vulnerable person among them has been brutalized with state sanction. The nation has witnessed these events not only in Los Angeles in 1965 and 1992; but also in Harlem in 1935 and 1964; Richmond, California in 1968; San Francisco in 1986; Tampa, Florida in 1967 and 1986; Miami in 1980; Newark, New Jersey in 1967; York, Pennsylvania in 1969; Crown Heights (Brooklyn), New York in 1991; St. Petersburg, Florida in 1996; Cincinnati, Ohio in 2001; Benton Harbor, Michigan in 2003; Oakland, California in 2009 and 2010, and the list goes on. These events all have served as cautionary tales that, unfortunately, have not resulted in either the perception or reality of black equality before the law. It is this legacy that frustrates and frightens Ferguson residents.

The post The legitimate fear that months of civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri will end in rioting appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on The legitimate fear that months of civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri will end in rioting as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
17. 10 Non-Fiction Books About Presidents: Facts, Guides, and Trivia, Oh My!

These books, guides, and cards offer interesting trivia and facts, engaging formats, and lively illustrations; a perfect combination to pique interest for hours of casual reading, followed by days of reciting trivia, and hopefully, years of knowledge about these important people in American history.

Add a Comment
18. WEEKEND LINKS: What Would YOU do with 100K Books?

Last week Facebook was all a’buzz over a story of a Alameda County library who threw over 100,000 children’s books into a dumpster. Residents were enraged when they found out many of the books were only a few years old and he thought of such wastefulness did not sit well with the community. The library defended it’s decision, but the result was a pretty interesting dialogue nationwide.

discarded books

Read the full story HERE.

So what would YOU have done with those 100,000 books? We asked that question to our moms/authors/bloggers in our Multicultural Children’s Book Day Group and the ideas and discussion did not disappoint. Here are some of the highlights:



There were other perspectives as well…and good ones too:


What would you have done with those 100K books? Here are some ideas on book swapping and donating that Jump Into a Book has enjoyed in the past:

1. Save for Book or Treat!

Grab our free Book or Treat Community Kit here.

2. Utilize Events like International Book Giving Day and others to get books into the hands of kids.

3. Donate to important organizations like women’s shelters,schools or  Books for Africa.

4. Create a “Friends of the Library” chapter in your community. These chapters work to sell the unwanted books through community book sales and the money goes back into buying new books. Friends of the LibraryWhat ideas do you have?


The post WEEKEND LINKS: What Would YOU do with 100K Books? appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

Add a Comment
19. Powell’s Q&A: Jon Ronson

Describe your latest book. So You've Been Publicly Shamed is a book about the savage renaissance of public shaming that we've decided for some insane reason to inflict upon ourselves in this social media age. All my books are about crazy cruelty. But usually — as with my book Them — the crazy cruel people [...]

0 Comments on Powell’s Q&A: Jon Ronson as of 3/30/2015 2:33:00 PM
Add a Comment
20. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

Now more than ever, one moment of bad judgment — say, a poorly conceived tweet — can lead to an online feeding frenzy with life-changing ramifications. In this entertaining yet eye-opening book, Ronson details how we've entered a new age of public shaming and the effects on both the condemned and the condemners (us). Books [...]

0 Comments on So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
21. June -- Wonder Has No Opposite, kids, books, dogs and movies


 "Wonder has no opposite; it springs up already doubled on itself, compounded of dread and desire at once, attraction and recall, producing a thrill, the shudder of pleasure and of fear...It's a useful term, it frees this kind of story from the miniaturized whimsy of fairyland to free the wilder air of the marvelous"... Maria Warner in the Introduction to her book Wonder Tales: Six Stories of Enchantment.


The essential strangeness of fairy tales

by Alec Nevala-Lee 

BettelheimUses of Enchantment"Over the last few months, I’ve been telling my daughter a lot of fairy tales. My approach has been largely shaped, for better or worse, by Bruno Bettelheim’s book The Uses of Enchantment: I happened to read it last year as part of an unrelated writing project, but it also contained insights that I felt compelled to put to use almost at once in my own life. Bettelheim is a controversial figure for good reason, and he’s not a writer whose ideas we need to accept at face value, but he makes several points that feel intuitively correct. When it comes to fairy tales, it seems best to tell the oldest versions of each story we have, as refined through countless retellings, rather than a more modern interpretation that hasn’t been as thoroughly tested; and, when possible, it’s preferable to tell them without a book or pictures, which gets closer to the way in which they were originally transmitted. And the results have been really striking. Stories like “Little Red Riding Hood” Maerchen-rotkaeppchen-DW-and “Jack and the Beanstalk” have seized my daughter’s imagination, to the point where we’ll discuss them as if they happened to her personally, and she isn’t fazed by some of their darker aspects. (In “Hansel and Gretel,” when I tell her that the parents wanted to take their children into the woods and leave them there, she’ll cheerfully add: “And kill dem dere!”)...

The above is an excerpt from Alec Nevala-Lee's blog --  Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life. Nevala-Lee is also an author. His books include Icon Thief, City of Exiles and Eternal Empire.




 3AM: Magazine

Crossing the Avalanche of Time...Excerpts from Richard Marshall's in-depth article and review of Jack Zipes' current books

"...The Grimms have been appropriated by U.S. America because defying the inhuman is as urgent there as anywhere else and its unhinged power leaves behind the innocent and the beaten. What Zipes has done in these two books is remind us that there’s a need for the naked struggle of Kafka, where speech goes to extremes without strategy, without masks, without calculation. The tales of this first edition are as much a part of an old weird Americana as bluesman Howling Wolf singing ‘Going Down Slow’... 

The Grimms have become as ancient a part of this old weird America as the other folk songs and tales that ship around, and though Zipes is right to decry their banalisation and Disneyfication they still remain underneath or behind, ready to be reeled in by alert souls..." 

 Marshall was inspired by Jack Zipes' recent translation of The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm   (1812 & 1815) and by Zipes' provocative ideas regarding the impact of the Grimms' tales, Grimm Legacies:The Magic Spell of the Grimms' Folk and Fairy Tales.   

 Here is another excerpt from this very heady article:

"From 'The Frog King' to 'The Golden Key,' wondrous worlds unfold—heroes and heroines are SnowWhiteVogelrewarded, weaker animals triumph over the strong, and simple bumpkins prove themselves not so simple after all. Esteemed fairy tale scholar Jack Zipes offers accessible translations that retain the spare description and engaging storytelling style of the originals. Indeed, this is what makes the tales from the 1812 and 1815 editions unique—they reflect diverse voices, rooted in oral traditions, that are absent from the Grimms’ later, more embellished collections of tales. Zipes’s introduction gives important historical context, and the book includes the Grimms’ prefaces and notes.

The original edition of Grimms’ tales read like once-familiar weirds, crossing the avalanche of time like hallucinatory figures, abrupt as thorns, troubling as a black hawthorn that won’t stop bleeding. They move in and out between long disconnected synapses, stirring up logics and memories that fill us up with dread and unease. Readers are Macbeth listening to the stories of the three weird women. Everything is laid out for us but we are dazzled by their dark intensity. What is needed to read them? Courage and an imminent doomsday."

Here is a link to all of Marshall's article, Curious Legacies of the Brothers Grimm: 3:AM Magazine 

The illustration of Snow White is by Hermann Vogel. The photo is by Gregg McCarty.


Wonder has no opposite...


Cinderella has strayed from Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm, but she has never left us.

In the Western World today, romantic fantasy appears to be the foundation for the popularity of this abandoned child story and sustains its huge popularity in the hearts of little girls, young girls, and many mommies.

The current worldwide box office results (as of May 31) of over $531,750,700 attest to way the story continues to resonate around the world.





Cinderella Has Been Everywhere -- Forever. And Heidi Anne Heiner has written a book to prove it: Cinderella Tales From Around the World Here is an excerpt from her introduction on the often overlooked dimensions of this timeless story:

" The quandary is that one version of Cinderella dominates all the others, so we assume we
CinderellaTalesAroundtheWorldCoverknow her, this fairy tale celebrity, and many of us have grown bored with her to the point of relegating her to cliche and nothing else. But when we consider the hundreds of Cinderella variants from around the world, Cinderella becomes once again mysterious and lovely, active and vibrant, for she defies definition and understanding...

Book Overview by Barnes and Noble:
"Yeh-hsien. Cenerentola. Cendrillon. Ashenputtle. Chernuska. Cinderella. These are just a few of the names of one of the best known and most beloved fairy tale characters in the world. The tale is known in countless variations 
throughout Europe and Asia as well as Africa and the Americas. The tales share the familiar story of a persecuted heroine who finally triumphs over oppressed circumstances through her virtue and the assistance of a magical helper. "  

Here is a sample from Heidi Anne Heiner's collection...

Cinderella in Ireland: The Story of Ashey Pelt 

"WELL, my grandmother she told me that in them auld days a ewe might be your mother. It is a very lucky thing to have a black ewe. A man married again, and his daughter, Ashey Pelt, was Cliffsof Claireunhappy. She cried alone, and the black ewe came to her from under the greystone in the field and said, “Don’t cry, go and find a rod behind the stone and strike it three times, and whatever you want will come.”

So she did as she was bid. She wanted to go to a party. Dress and horses and all came to her, but she was bound to be back before twelve o’clock or all the enchantment would go, all she had would vanish. The sisters they did na’ like her; she was so pretty, and the stepmother she kept her in wretchedness just.

She was most lovely. At the party the Prince fell in love with her, and she forgot to get back in time. In her speed a-running she dropped her silk slipper, and he sent and he went over all the country to find the lady it wad fit..."  The story, Ashey Pelt, continues with a fine Irish ending. 


"Have Courage and Be Kind"

Jack Zipes has written often of the hype that distorts the meaning of folk and fairy tales. I found a disturbing example in Kenneth Branagh's comments about the film quoted in Kate Connolly's Cinderella article in the Guardian . The comments were made at a press conference following the successful launch of the film at the Berlin Film Festival. Here is an excerpt:

"Branagh said though more used to directing Shakespeare, he had been struck by many of the
BrannaghCinderella3similarities between those plays and the Brothers Grimm fairytale. “We have the line Cinderella is told by her mother: ‘Have courage and be kind’; some people thought it seemed trite, but I was reminding them of King Lear when Edgar says ‘Have patience and endure’ 
at the point he’s being put in the stocks and mocked. Patience to me equates to compassion, and endurance is a form of courage – it reminded me that these basic, human and fundamental situations get seized on by great storytellers and there are obvious resonances between all these stories.”

I find it difficult to see the "obvious resonance" that exists in Mr Branagh's sugar-coated Cinderella and the tortured story of King Lear. I do see hype. Disney is not Shakespeare.


Never mind Branagh – my mother wrote a Cinderella story you can believe in...


Here is an excerpt from a saucy article by Ed Vulliamy in the Guardian about a retold version of the Cinderella story with a very different setting, and a totally different ending.

"It is hardly surprising that Kenneth Branagh’s saccharine Barbie-Cinderella, with her tiny waist and crinoline dress, has caused a storm in Hollywood and irked cinema-going women, let alone those wanting to see changed female role models on screen.

The actor-cum-fairy-storyteller – and his critics, to cheer them – would have done well to
EllasBigChanceShirleyGreenwayCoverheed an acclaimed retelling of Cinderella in a book of more than a decade ago, which won the Kate Greenaway medal, the highest honour in illustrated children’s books, for 2003.

It was entitled Ella’s Big Chance: A Fairy Tale Retold, by the author and illustrator Shirley Hughes, serial award-winning doyenne of children’s books, described by Philip Pullman as “a national treasure” (I should declare an interest here: Shirley Hughes is my mother). She retells the famous and primal story of the persecuted seamstress: the ball, prince (a duke in this version) and shoe – set in the roaring 1920s on what seems to be the Mediterranean coast – with two big differences..."

Read more about this award winning book where Cinderella chooses not to marry the prince -- in the Guardian.


  Reading Paws Logo

Reading programs with therapy dogs that support kids and open the doors to the world of reading, have been spreading throughout the US and the Western world.

MunchkinNancy KeenPalmerREADing Paws is opening the doors to reading for kids in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Nevada and Tennessee. READing Paws is a recipient of a Planet Dog Foundation grant.

"The mission of READing Paws is to improve the literacy skills of children...READing Paws utilizes nationally registered animal-owner/handler Therapy Teams who volunteer to go to schools, libraries and many other settings as reading companions for children. The utilization of registered therapy teams is the foundation of READing Paws, in order to ensure that the animals have been trained and tested for health and safety, appropriate skills and temperament, and have been insured for liability."

R.E.A.D.READing Paws is proud to be an Affiliate of R.E.A.D.® (Reading Education Assistance Dogs®), a program of Intermountain Therapy Animals ® (ITA) of Salt Lake City, Utah" R.E.A.D. has affiliates throughout the USA and in fourteen foreign countries, from Spain to Finland, and Canada to Australia.


The Last Echoes of Pagan Myths 

TheElvesGrimmsGOlms "These were the 'last echoes of pagan myths...A world of magic is opened up before us, one which still exists among us in secret forests, in underground caves, and in the deepest sea, and it is still visible to children...(Fairy tales) have existed among the people for several centuries.' And what we find inside those secret forests, caves and seas...(are) fairy tales full of families, full of parents who bequeath a sense of self to children, full of ancestors and heirs whose lives play out, in little, the life of a nation from its childhood to maturity."

Wilheim Grimm as quoted by Seth Lerer in his bookChildren's Literature, A Reader's History from Aesop to Harry Potter. 


Entering a World of Long Ago...

Castle in the Mist

When the dogs first came down to planet Earth, great forests were found in many lands.

CITM-frontcover-jpg-308x445ISBN_9780978692810The Castle In The Mist was located on lake Ladok in the land of the Forest People. It is here that the Black Hawk Warriors, under Prince Ukko's command, brought the kidnapped children. And it is this act that brought the threat of war.

Forests play a major role in all of the books in the Planet of the Dogs Series. The forests frustrate invaders. What does conquest mean when people can disappear by going to places in the forest unknown to the invaders --  or beyond the forest and into the mountains.

Stories and fairy tales about the forests and the deep woods have always stimulated children's imagination. In the Castle In The Mist, the dogs love the forests and use them to frustrate the Black Hawk Warriors. The dogs follow a non-violent path until their courage, loyalty and cleverness cause Prince Ukko to free the children and bring peace to the land of the Forest People.


CITM-Dogs at night-blog sizeCastle In The Mist Is the second book in the Planet Of The Dogs Series 

"...the McCarty's again succeeded in bringing archetypal themes such as good vs evil, man vs nature, love, faith and faithfulness into the story without being overly teachy or preachy. We were riveted by the story and its main characters (both human and canine); we shared in their challenges and celebrated their victories. Melinda Gates, Reading Mother

Visit our website for sample chapters: http://www.planetofthedogs.net

The illustration from Castle In The Mist is by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty


For sample chapters from all the books in the series,visit our Planet Of The Dogs website.

We have free reader copies of the Planet of The Dogs book series for therapy dog
2 Doghead 1.457 by 1.573 inchesorganizations, individual therapy dog owners, librarians and teachers...simply send us an email at planetofthedogs@gmail.com and we will send you the books. 

Our books are available through your favorite independent bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell's and many more...Librarians, teachers, bookstores...You can also order Planet Of The Dogs, Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, through Ingram with a full professional discount.

The illustration by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty is from Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale


Here's another look at Cinderella from BerkeleyMews.com




KidLitoSphere is a very special website that connects kid lit bloggers to the world of readers. Librarian MotherReader (Pam Coughlin), who describes herself in this way -- "The heart of a mother. The soul of a reader. The mouth of a smartass" --  is president. Among her achievements as a passionate advocate of children's books is the founding of Bloggers Against Celebrity Authors. Here's a sample...

"As Bloggers Against Celebrity Authors founder and let’s say president, I see it as the
BacaLogokid lit equivalent of the four horsemen of the apocalypse when the Children's Choice Book Awards Author of the Year is Rush Limbaugh. I'm sure that there are and will be many thoughtful articles about what happened to make the winner of a prestigious children's literature award for Rush Revere and The Brave Pilgrims: Time-Travel Adventures With Exceptional Americans. But all I can say is,
"Dear God, what have we done?"

The power of the bestseller was a slippery slope for children's literature awards. Certainly the power of the celebrity author - with their top budget promotions and guaranteed WalMart shelf space - was enough for a snarky online cause like Bloggers Against Celebrity Authors. But now, we've added to this mixture the nebulous and sometimes nefarious power of the Internet, which allows anyone to vote for this now-less-prestigious award. There is no way - NO WAY! - that children voted for Rush Limbaugh over Rick Riordan or Veronica Roth... 

Read more from MotherReader-cast your vote at BACA


Circling the Waggins

Aaron Fowler wrote a profile of C.A. Wulff for Akron Life....Here are excerpts...

ArielWaldo..."For the last 26 years, Wulff has volunteered in animal rescue. In 2007, she released her first book, “Born Without a Tail,” which chronicles the true-life adventures of two animal rescuers living with an ever-changing house full of pets.

This past year she unveiled the sequel, “Circling the Waggins: How 5 Misfit Dogs Saved Me from Bewilderness,” which follows Wulff and her companion,  
Dalene, as they maneuver through one unexpected pet incident after another while living in 
a cabin in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. 

CtWAlthough both books are memoirs, she explains that they are very
different. “Born Without a Tail” tells the stories of 20 animals who have shared her life. While it’s chronological, each chapter stands alone and is devoted to a single animal.

 ‘Circling the Waggins’ is more of a story with a beginning and an ending. It tells the story of some 27 animals over the course of two years, who lived in our home and took root in our hearts,” she says...' 

Like her first book, “Circling the Waggins” is an incredibly personal story. Its depiction of the ups and downs of sharing your life with animals has reached out to those who have experienced the same heartache and joy... "

Nancy Segovia, Amazon reviewer and author of Dragon Tears, wrote this:

 I am not really sure what it is about these books by Wulff, but I simply love them. The story telling and commentaries are engaging, honest and sincere. And, her love of animals shouts out from every page." 



A Fairy Tale excerpt from the Turnip Princess by 

In lieu of actually reviewing the newly translated (by Maria Tatar) Turnip Princess, Slate published one on the stories,Tricking the Witch. It has magic, transformations, twists and turns and a princess heroine -- not a prince -- who saves the day. 

Here is an excerpt...

VonSchonwerthCover..."It looked as if the two were about to be caught, when the princess said: “I’m going to change into a rosebush, and I’ll turn you into a rose. My sister is chasing us, and she won’t be able to do a thing because she can’t stand the smell of roses.” Just when the girl was closing in on them, a fragrant rosebush sprang up right in her path with a magnificent rose in bloom. The girl had been tricked, and she had to turn back. The witch scolded her to no end. “You stupid girl,” she grumbled angrily. “If you had just plucked the rose, the bush would have followed.” And then she sent the eldest of the three to find the two fugitives.

In the meantime the couple returned to their human shapes, and they continued on their way. Reinhilda turned around at one point, and she saw that they were still being pursued. She decided to take advantage of her magic powers again, and she said to the prince: “I’m going to turn myself into a church, and you are going to climb up into the pulpit and hold a stern sermon about witches and their sinister magic...”

Read it all on SLATE



Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Nancy Houser has written an informed article, based on research and experience, about the effects of age on dogs and parallels with the aging experience of humans. Here are excerpts:

"The more we are around the old dogs on our rescue farm, the more we see similar characteristics between human dementia and Canine Cognitive Dysfunction.  To tell the truth, there is not a whole lot of difference. The health care field is one I have been involved with throughout most of my life – dementia and Alzheimer’s were my specialties. The very first job I had was at a care-home in Lexington, Nebraska, when I was 16-years old.''"

Read all of this insightful article at:  Way Cool Dogs



My Apollo, A Story of Companionship and Healing

by Kaitlin Jenkins

We rarely post book reviews. However, our respect for Kaitlin Jenkins -- She Speaks Bark -and Pet Parent -- is such that we were drawn to her review of My Apollo and wanted to share excepts here:

ApolloBook"Nina Huang wrote ‘My Apollo‘ after being inspired by her own experiences in rescuing companion dogs. ‘My Apollo‘ is a gorgeous book, full of beautiful hand-illustrated drawings that are absolutely lovely. The watercolor images are done by the author herself, and the book is hardbound on durable, heavyweight paper. ‘My Apollo’ features the story of a young boy who is struggling at school. His family adopts a rescue greyhound, Apollo, and the book follows along as the two of them begin a healing journey together. The great thing is, Apollo the dog actually exists- Nina and her family adopted him and have helped him overcome his shy nature and fear of new things."

You can learn more about author/illustrator Nina Huang on her website.

The photo of Scooter, the dog, and the book, my Apollo, is by Kaitlin Jenkins.


Littleprince"Grownups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them."

"And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” 

Antoine de Saint-Exuprey, The Little Prince


Sunbearsquad-logoThe weather is bad. You're tired. You want to get home -- at that moment, you see an injured dog, a dog in distress. What can you do? What should you do?  For answers, examples, true stories and more, visit Sunbear Squad...Let the experience of compassionate dog lovers guide you...free Wallet Cards & Pocket  Posters,  Informative and practical guidance...

Visit SunBear Squad -  - 


"No philosophers so thoroughly comprehend us as dogs and horses." - Herman Melville 


Add a Comment
22. The impact of law on families

Strong, stable relationships are essential for both individuals and societies to flourish, but, from transportation policy to the criminal justice system, and from divorce rules to the child welfare system, the legal system makes it harder for parents to provide children with these kinds of relationships.

In her book Failure to Flourish: How Law Undermines Family Relationships, Clare Huntington argues that the legal regulation of families stands fundamentally at odds with the needs of families. We interviewed Professor Huntington about the connection between families and inequality. In the clips below, she explains policies and misconceptions that prevent us from helping families during the crucial first years of a child’s life, provides examples of supportive family law and good neighborhood development, and describes how helping families plays a role in fighting poverty.

Family law and how it affects families

Politics and policy in family law

The role of families in fighting poverty

How do you get into family law?

Headline image credit: family traffic sign. Public domain via Pixabay.

The post The impact of law on families appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on The impact of law on families as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
23. The Responsibility to Protect in the Ebola outbreak

When the UN General Assembly endorsed the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in 2005, the members of the United Nations recognized the responsibility of states to protect the basic human and humanitarian rights of the world’s citizens. In fact, R2P articulates concentric circles of responsibility, starting with the individual state’s obligation to ensure the well-being of its own people; nested within the collective responsibility of the community of nations to assist individual states in meeting those obligations; in turn encircled by the responsibility of the United Nations to respond if necessary to ensure the basic rights of civilians, with military means only contemplated as a last resort, and only with the consent of the Security Council.

The Responsibility to Protect is a response to war crimes, genocide, and other crimes against humanity. But R2P is also a response to pattern and practice human rights abuses that include entrenched poverty, widespread hunger and malnutrition, and endemic disease and denials of basic health care — all socio-economic conditions which themselves feed and exacerbate armed conflict. In fact, socio-economic development is a powerful mechanism for guaranteeing the full panoply of human rights, just as the Millennium Development Goals are a means of fulfilling the Responsibility to Protect.

While Responsibility to Protect is often misconstrued as a mandate for military action, it is more intrinsically a call to social action, and the embodiment of the joint and several responsibilities of the community of nations to seek a coordinated global response to life-threatening conditions of armed conflict, repression, and socio-economic misery. While diplomats and public servants debate the legality and prudence of military responses to criminal uses of military force against civilians, we must not neglect the legality, prudence, and urgency of non-military responses to public health and poverty emergencies throughout the world.

The United States has put out a call to like-minded nations to join forces, literally and figuratively, in the degradation and destruction of the criminal militancy of the so-called Islamic State [ISIL or ISIL]. Despite concerns that the 2003-2011 US war in Iraq itself may have led to the inception and flourishing of ISIS, and despite warnings that the training, arming, and assisting of Iraqi forces, Shia militias in Iraq and non-ISIS Sunni militants in Syria may inflame sectarian violence and threaten civilians in both countries, the United States is contemplating another open-ended military intervention in the Levant.

A military intervention against ISIS is not justified by the principles of Responsibility to Protect. Without the authorization of the Security Council or the consent of the Syrian government, military intervention is unlawful in Syria, offending both the UN Charter and the tenets of R2P. In either Syria or Iraq a military intervention, even with the permission of the responsible governments, is unlawful if it is likely to lead to further outrages against civilians. Military action that predictably causes the suffering of civilians disproportionate to any legitimate military objectives violates the principles of humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions, as well as the UN Charter and R2P.

UNICEF and partners visit the crowded Marché Niger to continue explaining to families how to they can protect themselves from Ebola. We have visited many markets, churches, mosques, schools, and community centers throughout Conakry and in the Forest region where the outbreak began. CC BY-NC 2.0 via UNICEF Guinea Flickr.
UNICEF and partners visit the crowded Marché Niger to continue explaining to families how to they can protect themselves from Ebola. UNICEF have visited many markets, churches, mosques, schools, and community centers throughout Conakry and in the Forest region where the outbreak began. CC BY-NC 2.0 via UNICEF Guinea Flickr.

Alongside the criminal militancy of ISIS we face the existential threat of the Ebola virus in West Africa, endangering the people of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and their neighbors. Over the past two months, approximately 5000 people have been infected by this hemorrhagic disease, and around 2500 have died, over 150 of them health care workers. At current rates of infection, with new cases doubling every three weeks, the virus could sicken 10,000 by the end of September, 40,000 by mid-November, and 120,000 by the New Year.

Ebola can be contained through basic public health responses: quarantining of the sick, tracing of exposure in families and communities, safe recovery of the bodies of the deceased, regular hand-washing and sanitation, and the all-important rebuilding of trust between effected community members, health care workers, and government officials. But the very countries impacted have fragile health care systems, insufficient hospital beds, and dedicated Red Cross workers, doctors, and nurses nearly besieged by the number of sick people needing care. By funding and supporting more health care and humanitarian relief workers at the international and local levels, more Ebola field hospitals and clinics, and more food, rehydration fluids, and safe blood supplies for transfusions, less new people will fall sick, and more of the infected will be treated and cured. At the same time, the fragile economies and political systems of the effected countries will be strengthened and the threat of regional insecurity will be addressed. Ebola in West Africa is calling out for a coordinated global public health intervention, which will serve our Responsibility to Protect at the local level, while furthering our collective security at the global level.

As the US Congress debates the funding of so-called moderate rebels in Syria in the pursuit of containing the criminal militancy of ISIS, we should turn our national attention to funding Ebola emergency relief in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Such action is consistent with our enlightened self-interest, and required by our humanitarian principles and obligations.

The post The Responsibility to Protect in the Ebola outbreak appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on The Responsibility to Protect in the Ebola outbreak as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
24. The Hunger Games and a dystopian Eurozone economy

The following is an extract from ‘Europe’s Hunger Games: Income Distribution, Cost Competitiveness and Crisis‘, published in the Cambridge Journal of Economics. In this section, Servaas Storm and C.W.M. Naastepad are comparing The Hunger Games to Eurozone economies:

Dystopias are trending in contemporary popular culture. Novels and movies abound that deal with fictional societies within which humans, individually and collectively, have to cope with repressive, technologically powerful states that do not usually care for the well-being or safety of their citizens, but instead focus on their control and extortion. The latest resounding dystopian success is The Hunger Games—a box-office hit located in a nation known as Panem, which consists of 12 poor districts, starved for resources, under the absolute control of a wealthy centre called the Capitol. In the story, competitive struggle is carried to its brutal extreme, as poor young adults in a reality TV show must fight to death in an outdoor arena controlled by an authoritarian Gamemaker, until only one individual remains. The poverty and starvation, combined with terror, create an atmosphere of fear and helplessness that pre-empts any resistance based on hope for a better world.

We fear that part of the popularity of this science fiction action-drama, in Europe at least, lies in the fact that it has a real-life analogue: the Spectacle—in Debord’s (1967) meaning of the term—of the current ‘competitiveness game’ in which the Eurozone economies are fighting for their survival. Its Gamemaker is the European Central Bank (ECB), which—completely stuck to Berlin’s hard line that fiscal profligacy in combination with rigid, over-regulated labour markets has created a deep crisis of labour cost competitiveness—has been keeping the pressure on Eurozone countries so as to let them pay for their alleged fiscal sins. The ECB insists that there will be ‘no gain without pain’ and that the more one is prepared to suffer, the more one is expected to prosper later on.

The contestants in the game are the Eurozone members—each one trying to bootstrap its economy out of the throes of the most severe crisis in living memory. The audience judging each country’s performance is not made up of reality TV watchers but of financial (bond) markets and credit rating agencies, whose supposedly rational views can make or break any economy. The name of the game is boosting cost-competitiveness and exports—and its rules are carved into stone in March 2011 in a Euro Plus ‘Competitiveness Pact’ (Gros, 2011).

The Hunger Games, by Kendra Miller. CC-BY-2.0 via flickr.
The Hunger Games, by Kendra Miller. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.

Raising competitiveness here means reducing costs, and more specifically cutting labour costs, which means lowering the wage share by means of reducing employment protection, lowering minimum wages, raising retirement ages, lowering pensions and, last but not least, cutting real wages. Economic inequality, poverty and social exclusion will all initially increase, but don’t worry: structural reforms hurt in the beginning, but their negative effects will be offset over time by changes in ‘confidence,’ boosting spending and exports. But it will not work, and the damage done by austerity and structural reforms is enormous; sadly, most of it was and is avoidable. The wrong policies follow from ‘design faults’ built into the Euro project right from the start—the creation of an ‘independent’ European Central Bank being the biggest ‘fault’, as it precluded the necessary co-ordination of fiscal and monetary policy and disabled the central banking system from providing support to national governments (Arestis and Sawyer, 2011). But as Palma (2009) reminds us, it is wrong to think about these ‘faults’ as being caused by perpetual incompetence—the monetarist Euro project should instead be read as a purposeful ‘technology of power’ to transform capitalism into a rentiers’ paradise. This way, one can understand why policy makers persist in abandoning the unemployed.

The post The Hunger Games and a dystopian Eurozone economy appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on The Hunger Games and a dystopian Eurozone economy as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
25. Q&A with Jake Bowers, co-author of 2014 Miller Prize Paper

Despite what many of my colleagues think, being a journal editor is usually a pretty interesting job. The best part about being a journal editor is working with authors to help frame, shape, and improve their research. We also have many chances to honor specific authors and their work for being of particular importance. One of those honors is the Miller Prize, awarded annually by the Society for Political Methodology for the best paper published in Political Analysis the proceeding year.

The 2013 Miller Prize was awarded to Jake Bowers, Mark M. Fredrickson, and Costas Panagopoulos, for their paper, “Reasoning about Interference Between Units: A General Framework.” To recognize the significance of this paper, it is available for free online access for the next year. The award committee summarized the contribution of the paper:

“..the article tackles an difficult and pervasive problem—interference among units—in a novel and compelling way. Rather than treating spillover effects as a nuisance to be marginalized over or, worse, ignored, Bowers et al. use them as an opportunity to test substantive questions regarding interference … Their work also brings together causal inference and network analysis in an innovative and compelling way, pointing the way to future convergence between these domains.”

In other words, this is an important contribution to political methodology.

I recently posed a number of question to one of the authors of the Miller Prize paper, Jake Bowers, asking him to talk more about this paper and its origins.

R. Michael Alvarez: Your paper, “Reasoning about Interference Between Units: A General Framework” recently won the Miller Prize for the best paper published in Political Analysis in the past year. What motivated you to write this paper?

Jake Bowers: Let me provide a little background for readers not already familiar with randomization-based statistical inference.

Randomized designs provide clear answers to two of the most common questions that we ask about empirical research: The Interpretation Question: “What does it mean that people in group A act differently from people in group B?” and The Information Question: “How precise is our summary of A-vs-B?” (Or, more defensively, “Do we really have enough information to distinguish A from B?”).

If we have randomly assigned some A-vs-B intervention, then we can answer the interpretation question very simply: “If group A differs from group B, it is only because of the A-vs-B intervention. Randomization ought to erase any other pre-existing differences between groups A and B.”

In answering the information question, randomization alone also allows us to characterize other ways that the experiment might have turned out: “Here are all of the possible ways that groups A and B could differ if we re-randomized the A-vs-B intervention to the experimental pool while entertaining the idea that A and B do not differ. If few (or none) of these differences is as large as the one we observe, we have a lot of information against the idea that A and B do not differ. If many of these differences are as large as the one we see, we don’t have much information to counter the argument that A and B do not differ.”

Of course, these are not the only questions one should ask about research, and interpretation should not end with knowing that an input created an output. Yet, these concerns about meaning and information are fundamental and the answers allowed by randomization offer a particularly clear starting place for learning from observation. In fact, many randomization-based methods for summarizing answers to the information question tend to have validity guarantees even with small samples. If we really did repeat the experiment all the possible ways that it could have been done, and repeated a common hypothesis test many times, we would reject a true null hypothesis no more than α% of the time even if we had observed only eight people (Rosenbaum 2002, Chap 2).

In fact a project with only eight cities impelled this paper. Costa Panagopoulos had administered a field experiment of newspaper advertising and turnout to eight US cities, and he and I began to discuss how to produce substantively meaningful, easy to interpret, and statistically valid, answers to the question about the effect of advertising on turnout. Could we hypothesize that, for example, the effect was zero for three of the treated cites, and more than zero for one of the treated cites? The answer was yes.

I realized that hypotheses about causal effects do not need to be simple, and, furthermore, they could represent substantive, theoretical models very directly. Soon, Mark Fredrickson and I started thinking about substantive models in which treatment given to one city might have an effect on another city. It seemed straightforward to write down these models. We had read Peter Aronow’s and Paul Rosenbaum’s papers on the sharp null model of no effects and interference, and so we didn’t think we were completely off base to imagine that, if we side-stepped estimation of average treatment effects and focused on testing hypotheses, we could learn something about what we called “models of interference”. But, we had not seen this done before. So, in part because we worried about whether we were right about how simple it was to write down and test hypotheses generated from models of spillover or interference between units, we wrote the “Reasoning about Interference” paper to see if what we were doing with Panagopoulos’ eight cities would scale, and whether it would perform as randomization-based tests should. The paper shows that we were right.

R. Michael Alvarez: In your paper, you focus on the “no interference” assumption that is widely discussed in the contemporary literature on causal models. What is this assumption and why is it important?

Jake Bowers: When we say that some intervention, (Zi), caused some outcome for some person, (i), we often mean that the outcome we would have seen for person (i) when the intervention is not-active, (Zi=0) — written as (y{i,Zi=0}) — would have been different from the outcome we would have seen if the intervention were active for that same person (at that same moment in time), (Zi=1), — written as (y{i,Z_i=1}). Most people would say that the treatment had an effect on person (i) when (i) would have acted differently under the intervention than under the control condition such that y{i,Zi=1} does not equal y{i,Zi=0}. David Cox (1958) noticed that this definition of causal effects involves an assumption that an intervention assigned to one person does not influence the potential outcomes for another person. (Henry Brady’s piece, “Causation and Explanation in Social Science” in the Oxford Handbook of Political Methodology provides an excellent discussion of the no-interference assumption and Don Rubin’s formalization and generalization of Cox’s no-interference assumption.)

As an illustration of the confusion that interference can cause, imagine we had four people in our study such that (i in {1,2,3,4}). When we write that the intervention had an effect for person (i=1),(y{i=1,Z1=1} does not equal y{i=1,Z1=0}), we are saying that person 1 would act the same when (Z{i=1}=1) regardless of how intervention was assigned to any other person such that


If we do not make this assumption then we cannot write down a treatment effect in terms of a simple comparison of two groups. Even if we randomly assigned the intervention to two of the four people in this little study, we would have six potential outcomes per person rather than only two potential outcomes (you can see two of the six potential outcomes for person 1 in above). Randomization does not help us decide what a “treatment effect” means and six counterfactuals per person poses a challenge for the conceptualization of causal effects.

So, interference is a problem with the definition of causal effects. It is also a problem with estimation. Many folks know about what Paul Holland (1986) calls the “Fundamental Problem of Causal Inference” that the potential outcomes heuristic for thinking about causality reveals: we cannot ever know the causal effect for person (i) directly because we can never observe both potential outcomes. I know of three main solutions for this problem, each of which have to deal with problems of interference:

  • Jerzy Neyman (1923) showed that if we change our substantive focus from individual level to group level comparisons, and to averages in particular, then randomization would allow us to learn about the true, underlying, average treatment effect using the difference of means observed in the actual study (where we only see responses to intervention for some but not all of the experimental subjects).
  • Don Rubin (1978) showed a Bayesian predictive approach — a probability model of the outcomes of your study and a probability model for the treatment effect itself allows you can predict the unobserved potential outcomes for each person in your study and then take averages of those predictions to produce an estimate of the average treatment effect.
  • Ronald Fisher (1935) suggested another approach which maintained attention on the individual level potential outcomes, but did not use models to predict them. He showed that randomization alone allows you to test the hypothesis of “no effects” at the individual level. Interference makes it difficult to interpret Neyman’s comparisons of observed averages and Rubin’s comparison of predicted averages as telling us about causal effects because we have too many possible averages.

It turns out that Fisher’s sharp null hypothesis test of no effects is simple to interpret even when we have unknown interference between units. Our paper starts from that idea and shows that, in fact, one can test sharp hypotheses about effects rather than only no effects.

Note that there has been a lot of great recent work trying to define and estimate average treatment effects recently by folks like Cyrus Samii and Peter Aronow, Neelan Sircar and Alex Coppock, Panos Toulis and Edward Kao, Tyler Vanderweele, Eric Tchetgen Tchetgen and Betsy Ogburn, Michael Sobel, and Michael Hudgens, among others. I also think that interference poses a smaller problem for Rubin’s approach in principle — one would add a model of interference to the list of models (of outcomes, of intervention, of effects) used to predict the unobserved outcomes. (This approach has been used without formalization in terms of counterfactuals in both the spatial and networks models worlds.) One might then focus on posterior distributions of quantities other than simple differences of averages or interpret such differences reflecting the kinds of weightings used in the work that I gestured to at the start of this paragraph.

R. Michael Alvarez: How do you relax the “no interference” assumption in your paper?

Jake Bowers: I would say that we did not really relax an assumption, but rather side-stepped the need to think of interference as an assumption. Since we did not use the average causal effect, we were not facing the same problems of requiring that all potential outcomes collapse down to two averages. However, what we had to do instead was use what Paul Rosenbaum might call Fisher’s solution to the fundamental problem of causal inference. Fisher noticed that, even if you couldn’t say that a treatment had an effect on person (i), you could ask whether we had enough information (in our design and data) to shed light on a question about whether or not the treatment had an effect on person (i). In our paper, Fisher’s approach meant that we did not need to define our scientifically interesting quantity in terms of averages. Instead, we had to write down hypotheses about no interference. That is, we did not really relax an assumption, but instead we directly modelled a process.

Rosenbaum (2007) and Aronow (2011), among others, had noticed that the hypothesis that Fisher is most famous for, the sharp null hypothesis of no effects, in fact does not assume no interference, but rather implies no interference (i.e., if the treatment has no effect for any person, then it does not matter how treatment has been assigned). So, in fact, the assumption of no interference is not really a fundamental piece of how we talk about counterfactual causality, but a by-product of a commitment to the use of a particular technology (simple comparisons of averages). We took a next step in our paper and realized that Fisher’s sharp null hypothesis implied a particular, and very simple, model of interference (a model of no interference). We then set out to see if we could write other, more substantively interesting models of interference. So, that is what we show in the paper: one can write down a substantive theoretical model of interference (and of the mechanism for an experimental effect to come to matter for the units in the study) and then this model can be understood as a generator of sharp null hypotheses, each of which could be tested using the same randomization inference tools that we have been studying for their clarity and validity previously.

R. Michael Alvarez: What are the applications for the approach you develop in your paper?

Jake Bowers: We are working on a couple of applications. In general, our approach is useful as a way to learn about substantive models of the mechanisms for the effects of experimental treatments.

For example, Bruce Desmarais, Mark Fredrickson, and I are working with Nahomi Ichino, Wayne Lee, and Simi Wang on how to design randomized experiments to learn about models of the propagation of treatments across a social network. If we think that an experimental intervention on some subset of Facebook users should spread in some certain manner, then we are hoping to have a general way to think about how to design that experiment (using our approach to learn about that propagation model, but also using some of the new developments in network-weighted average treatment effects that I referenced above). Our very early work suggests that, if treatment does propagate across a social network following a common infectious disease model, that you might prefer to assign relatively few units to direct intervention.

In another application, Nahomi Ichino, Mark Fredrickson, and I are using this approach to learn about agent-based models of the interaction of ethnicity and party strategies of voter registration fraud using a field experiment in Ghana. To improve our formal models, another collaborator, Chris Grady, is going to Ghana to do in-depth interviews with local party activists this fall.

R. Michael Alvarez: Political methodologists have made many contributions to the area of causal inference. If you had to recommend to a graduate student two or three things in this area that they might consider working on in the next year, what would they be?

Jake Bowers: About advice for graduate students: Here are some of the questions I would love to learn about.

  • How should we move from formal, equilibrium-oriented, theories of behavior to models of mechanisms of treatment effects that would allow us to test hypotheses and learn about theory from data?
  • How can we take advantage of estimation-based procedures or procedures developed without specific focus on counterfactual causal inference if we want to make counterfactual causal inferences about models of interference? How should we reinterpret or use tools from spatial analysis like those developed by Rob Franzese and Jude Hayes or tools from network analysis like those developed by Mark Handcock to answer causal inference questions?
  • How can we provide general advice about how to choose test-statistics to summarize the observable implications of these theoretical models? We know that the KS-test used in our article is pretty low-powered. And we know from Rosenbaum (Chap 2, 2002) that certain classes of test statistics have excellent properties in one-dimension, but I wonder about general properties of multi-parameter models and test statistics that can be sensitive to multi-way differences in distribution between experimental groups.
  • How should we apply ideas from randomized studies to the observational world? What does adjustment for confounding/omitted variable bias (by matching or “controlling for” or weighting) mean in the context of social networks or spatial relations? How should we do and judge such adjustment? Would might what Rosenbaum-inspired sensitivity analysis or Manski-inspired bounds analysis might mean when we move away from testing one parameter or estimating one quantity?

R. Michael Alvarez: You do a lot of work with software tool development and statistical computing. What are you working on now that you are most excited about?

Jake Bowers: I am working on two computationally oriented projects that I find very exciting. The first involves using machine learning/statistical learning for optimal covariance adjustment in experiments (with Mark Fredrickson and Ben Hansen). The second involves collecting thousands of hand-drawn maps on Google maps as GIS objects to learn about how people define and understand the places where they live in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States (with Cara Wong, Daniel Rubenson, Mark Fredrickson, Ashlea Rundlett, Jane Green, and Edward Fieldhouse).

When an experimental intervention has produced a difference in outcomes, comparisons of treated to control outcomes can sometimes fail to detect this effect, in part, because the outcomes themselves are naturally noisy in comparison to the strength of the treatment effect. We would like to reduce the noise that is unrelated to treatment (say, remove the noise related to background covariates, like education) without ever estimating a treatment effect (or testing a hypothesis about a treatment effect). So far, people shy away from using covariates for precision enhancement of this type because of every model in which they soak up noise with covariates is also a model in which they look at the p-value for their treatment effect. This project learns from the growing literature in machine learning (aka statistical learning) to turn specification of the covariance adjustment part of a statistical model over to an automated system focused on the control group only which thus bypasses concerns about data snooping and multiple p-values.

The second project involves using Google maps embedded in online surveys to capture hand-drawn maps representing how people respond when asked to draw the boundaries of their “local communities.” So far we have over 7000 such maps from a large survey of Canadians, and we plan to have data from this module carried on the British Election Study and the US Cooperative Congressional Election Study within the next year. We are using these maps and associated data to add to the “context/neighborhood effects” literature to learn how psychological understandings of place by individuals relates to Census measurements and also to individual level attitudes about inter-group relations and public goods provision.

Headline image credit: Abstract city and statistics. CC0 via Pixabay.

The post Q&A with Jake Bowers, co-author of 2014 Miller Prize Paper appeared first on OUPblog.

0 Comments on Q&A with Jake Bowers, co-author of 2014 Miller Prize Paper as of 9/25/2014 9:28:00 AM
Add a Comment

View Next 25 Posts