The Monday Morning Rouser:
1) We haven't heard much from Rob Daves, since he left the Star Tribune where he ran the Minnesota Poll, a constant target of critics who never quite figured out that polls don't predict elections. In an MPR commentary, Daves takes on a recent Harris poll that purports to show that 40 percent of those surveyed think Barack Obama is a Socialist.
As a number of observers -- including the insightful Gary Langer at ABC News -- have commented recently, the wording of the Harris Interactive questions is not unemotional. "Anti-Christ" and "socialist," in our culture, are strong, value-laden words that carry a lot of negative, emotional social valence. Contrast them with more neutral question wording often used to measure positives and negatives: "Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Barack Obama," or "Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as president?"
Moreover, the question was introduced with, "...here are some things people have said about President Obama," followed by only negative descriptors. This is certainly an unbalanced measure, offering no non-pejorative choices. Citing others' opinions first also is a known way to interject what methodologists call "acquiescence bias" into the measures. Take a look at Langer's critique; it's worth reading.
A possible first step to the solution: News stories about polls should include exactly the question that was asked. Second step: Stop substituting poll stories for in-depth political coverage.
In other news, a new poll shows the demographics of the Tea Party are much broader than media accounts would suggest, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Gallup poll release, however, doesn't reveal any of the questions asked, except for one that asks whether people support or oppose the Tea Party. Based on that question, the headline easily could have read: Tea Party enjoys limited support.. If the poll is true, and only 28 of those surveyed say they support the movement, is media coverage of it a little out of whack?
2) "Disney has almost certainly already colonized your 3-year-old's brain. McDonald's has planted a flag in there, too, along with My Little Pony and Pepsi and even Toyota," Slate says in its story of just how easily the little critters' brains absorb brand marketing, based on research from UW Madison.
This is not necessarily a bad thing:
Kids who get branding at a young age tend to be what we think of as bright kids. McAlister and Cornwell found that the more sophisticated a child's "executive function" (which covers growing abilities to sort and reason rather than actual knowledge), the more likely that child was to have begun using brands as in the same ways an adult might. The savvier kids had gone even beyond the already sophisticated step of associating logos, objects and locations with a particular brand and were beginning to add values. "About 30 percent of the children could offer and support a judgment about how others would view a user of a product," McAlister told me. A child might say that another child who had a birthday party at McDonald's might have lots of friends (here, the questioned child could point to a box on a grid filled with lots of happy faces) because "McDonald's has a playground and you can play there and everyone likes you."
3) Can TV ads prevent suicide? Scotland is going to find out, the BBC reports. "Helping people to break the silence surrounding suicide is vital - not just for those of us living with that kind of pain but all of us." Interesting approach; recognizing that suicide is best dealt with by admitting it exists. Compare that with the Star Tribune's editor's note a week or so ago in which the paper acknowledged it doesn't do suicide stories for fear of prompting more. " We restrict ourselves to suicide stories that truly involve news, such as those of public figures or those that occur in highly public places or those that document significant trends," editor Nancy Barnes said.
4) Today is the first full day of the Major League Baseball season. As one gets older, one spends less time talking about the ballgame the day after, and more time talking about who sang what at the game. Here's Steven Tyler of Aerosmith at last night's Red Sox game.
In 1968, Jose Feliciano caused a stir -- to be kind -- when he sang the National Anthem at the World Series.
On the field, The Story's Dick Gordon talks to Perry Barber about the challenges she faces as a female umpire, and the satisfaction she gets from making the tough calls.
5) As a person in the news business, I think I'm required to type this word in all posts -- iPad. There. Here's, a classic ad, updated.
Conan O'Brien tweeted over the weekend, "Just got the new iPad. This amazing device has already revolutionized the way I use a calculator."
Bonus: A nice look at the myth-busting Web site, Snopes.com, by the New York Times. But stupidity and ignorance online may be spreading faster than it can be fixed.
Over the weekend, Apple released its iPad, a light, flat, touch-screen computer with fewer functions than a conventional laptop. What do you really need your computer to do?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Clergy sex abuse and the response from the Catholic church. The Vatican has responded to charges that bishops and Pope Benedict himself did not act to prevent priests from sexually abusing children, saying that outsiders are persecuting church. But critics of the Catholic church charge secrecy still shrouds action against suspected abuse perpetrators. Two who have worked to address the sex abuse problem within the Catholic church offer their perspectives. (This program responds to this one.)
Second hour: Colum McCann. His critically acclaimed book, "Let the Great World Spin," a vivid series of New Yorkers' perspectives, set against a high wire artist's astonishing walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Barbara Bodine, a former U.S. ambassador with 30 years of experience in the Middle East and Iraq, talks about the war in Iraq.
Second hour: Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, Douglas Shulman, speaks live at the National Press Club.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: NPR's Anne Garrels, who has covered conflicts and wars from Chechnya to Beirut, from Kabul to Baghdad, and with many stops in between. After 23 years she's decided it's time to leave the battlefields.
Second hour: TBA
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - It's becoming more common for people to buy shares in local farms to get boxes of produce. Minnesota artists are now using the farmshare concept in a new program to support local artists. MPR's Rupa Shenoy will have the story.
National Public Radio has the story of a medical mystery in a south Florida community, more cases of child brain tumors keep emerging. Residents and state health officials have noticed the trend -- and stopped dismissing coincidence.(2 Comments)
Posted at 10:43 AM on April 5, 2010
by Bob Collins
The deadline for sending in your Census form was last week. If you didn't send it in, chances are you'll receive another form, and then a visit from a Census worker.
On its Facebook page today, the Census Bureau posted pictures of workers delivering forms...
In its participation rate tally, Woodbury is now the top city in Minnesota for returning the census (70%) and 22nd in the country, followed by Bloomington, Maple Grove, and Minnetonka.
The counties with the worst rates are Lake of the Woods (27%), Cook (35%), Hubbard (45%), Aitkin (46%), and Cass (49%) . Brown County (the Sleepy Eye area) leads with 78%.
If you play in men's golf tournaments, the end of a gender-specific tournament may be coming to an end.
A federal judge in Boston has ruled that a woman suffered discrimination when a public golf course refused to let her play in a men's tournament. Says the New York Times:
Gorton's ruling sent a strong message to the overseers of public golf courses. In effect, it said that government-financed tournaments should allow women to play with men at men's tournaments and vice versa.
Gorton observed that the town of Dennis and the golf officials it employed made "a repeated plea for a 'separate but equal' analysis, that is, that the club had men's-only and women's-only tournaments on weekends."
That did not wash, the judge said, because "men and women were afforded unequal playing opportunities" at Dennis Pines, with 10 days of tournament play for men compared with two days for women.
The article quotes the judge saying his ruling does not require all public courses to conduct only coed tournaments, but it's hard to see how it doesn't.
The judge's ruling has not yet been posted online.(8 Comments)
A few years ago, I was one of several people who threw the "first pitch" at a Saints game. Then-Senate-candidate Al Franken was one of the others (as was then-congressional-candidate Erik Paulsen). He brought an aide and warmed up on the sideline while mere mortals approached the mound cold. There are, as far as I know, no pictures of the moment but as I recall, I threw a strike, Franken threw something that might have been a strike.
Warming up doesn't always help as President Obama showed today...
Obama claimed he warmed up with aides at the White House.
Some of Obama's detractors are calling it the worst opening day toss ever.
obamaq f(1 Comments)
MPR's Dan Olson reports the Metropolitan Airports Commission tonight will begin installing new signs for people heading to the airport. That, presumably, will kick off another round of "people should know which terminal they're supposed to go to" comments that have marked the discussion around the signs for the last year or so.
Here's a piece I wrote last year on the subject:
On a day when word came that a soldier from Rochester has been killed in Afghanistan, the head of the government for whom he and others have died reportedly has threatened to join the Taliban.
"He said that 'if I come under foreign pressure, I might join the Taliban'," Farooq Marenai, who represents the eastern province of Nangarharm, told the Associated Press about a weekend meeting. "He said rebelling would change to resistance," Marenai said.
The U.S. and other NATO countries are pressuring Hamid Karzai to clean up corruption in his government.
Over 1,000 American soldiers have died in Afghanistan so far.(2 Comments)
The Associated Press today tried to define the movement known as the "tea party," by canvassing many states to get a definition.
They couldn't. Why? Because, it seems clear, the tea party is whatever a particular member wants it to be:
"That's the beauty of it," says George Burton, a Minnesota electrician and history buff who dressed in period garb for a rally he organized in Brainerd, "We don't take any orders from anybody."
The tea party has no single issue around which people rally -taxes comes closest - and it has no clear leader who drives the organization's message, motivates followers and raises money. Indeed, the hundreds of tea party chapters and tens of thousands of
its activists cannot agree on the most basic strategic goal: whether to try to influence the current political system or dismantle it.
It raises significant questions about at least one poll, cited by the Powerline blog which purports to show the tea party has more followers than President Obama. "The key datum, as usual, is that independents prefer the Tea Party over Obama by 50-38 percent," Powerline said.
The blog cited a Rasmussen poll which said...
On major issues, 48% of voters say that the average Tea Party member is closer to their views than President Barack Obama. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 44% hold the opposite view and believe the president's views are closer to their own.
But what the Associated Press seems to have determined is there's no such thing as an average tea party member.(4 Comments)