Sore With the Eagles

October 6, 2012
Posted by Jay Livingston

A 17-year old boy had completed his final project to qualify as an Eagle Scout, but the scoutmaster blocked his application.  Why?  The kid’s gay.  His mother got up a petition and also apparently went to the media.  (The USA Today story is here.)

The statement from the troop’s high commander says that the plucky lad “does not meet Scouting's membership standard on sexual orientation.”

Fair enough.  Me, I dropped out after Cub Scouts, so I wouldn’t know, but it does make me wonder: What activities or projects do the Scouts require for a demonstration or proof of heterosexuality?  And are there merit badges for that sort of thing?

I also refer back to the founder Baden-Powell’s writing that was the basis for the organization - the 1908 book with the delightfully ambiguous title.

Do entendres get any more double?

Communication Craft

October 6, 2012
Posted by Jay Livingston

I couldn’t understand why Mitt Romney would make a point of telling people he was going to off Big Bird.  What was the political wisdom in promising to get rid of something everyone likes?  But his statement seemed so deliberate, I figure his people must have tested it or at least thought it through, and maybe they have evidence that contradicts common sense.

Here’s another political ad where the strategy seems all wrong.  Don’t the communications experts say that everything should to work together? Consultants coach candidates on how to make the body language consistent with what they’re saying.  In ads, images should amplify the message stated in words. If the candidate is talking about farm policy, show him in front of a field of cows.

Maybe the ad does work.  When I was watching it, I realized, just as the researchers say about cell phones and driving, I couldn’t attend simultaneously to two different things– the written Kerrey-ad video and the Steve Martin home-crafts instructional video.  When I read the writing on the pages, I lost Martin, though if I tried, I could shift my attention quickly from one to the other. 
I wondered if the end of the ad would have a voiceover: “I’m Clair Parlance, Professor of Communications studies, and boy, did I not approve this message.”

(For another example of audio not matching video, take a look at this version of “The Shining” with Seinfeld music and laugh-track)

Yellow Peril

October 4, 2012
Posted by Jay Livingston

I could have understood it if Romney had gone after Welfare, which is still not a very popular concept, at least in the abstract.  Or if he’d said he was going to get rid of unnecessary Bureaucracy (and maybe Bureaucrats).  And of course I understood his promise to eliminate Obamacare, which a majority oppose, at least in opinion polls..

But Big Bird? 

The much-loved muppet was the second thing Romney mentioned, right after Obamacare, when he went into cut mode during last night’s debate.  Romney must also know that PBS is a minuscule fraction of the budget.  So surely this was not some spontaneous off-the-cuff remark.  It had to be a rehearsed zinger, to be inserted at the earliest opportunity.

Romney also phrased it so that everyone would get a clear picture in their minds – not the abstract PBS, but Big Bird. But why?

Does Big Bird really poll so badly?  Is the large yellow creature this election’s Willie Horton? 

The Romney people must know something about this that I don’t.  But what?

(Almost as soon as Romney had spoken, the pictures of Big Bird – mash-ups or with text added – started showing up all over the Internet.  Check Google Images.)

Political Donations - Check the Name on the Check

October 1, 2012 
Posted by Jay Livingston 
Cross-posted at Sociological Images

Are people’s first names a clue as to which party they support? Chris Wilson at Yahoo  created this nifty interactive graphic from information on contributors of $200 or more. Mouse over a name-circle to see the proportion of Democratic and Republican donors. Or enter a name in the search box. For example, 60% of the 3000 Scotts gave to Republicans.


The most obvious difference is that women (or at least people with women’s names) are all to the Democratic side of the of midpoint. Men are mostly Republican, though several fall to the left of the midpoint. Bob is the farthest left – 61-39 Democrat – though Robert breaks Republican (55-45). Jim and James follow the same pattern, with the 57-43 split going from Democrat to Republican as you go from informal to formal. 
Among the women, Ellen is the most partisan Democrat (81-19), Ashley the least (52-48). If you change the view from numbers of people to amounts donated, the whole chart shifts to the right. Republicans pony up more money. Or to put it another way, the political big spenders break Republican (despite what Foxies like Tucker Carlson claim).


Among the women, Ashley, Heather, Tiffany, and Betty all lean to the right on the money scale. The Democratic Heathers may outnumber their Republican sisters, but the Republican Heathers have more money to donate to politicians. And similarly for just about every name, male or female.

Among the men, the Jonathan is now the most liberal, giving 55% of his money to the Democrats. In fact, Jonathan is the only man to the left of the midpoint. But while Jonathan is a Democrat, John gives 63% to the Republicans. The difference here is probably ethnic/religious. Jonathan (Old Testament, son of Saul) is Jewish. John (the Baptist, New Testament) is Christian. Age may also be a factor.

Younger, thirtysomething names like Heather and Ashley, Tyler and Clayton, lean to the right. So perhaps the youth vote, or at least the youth money, is not as firmly in the Democratic party as we might have thought.