Yesterday I realized that even if you count his daughters (the @jon2012girls) three times (as they are three girls), fewer than 10% of the 114 people Jon Huntsman follows on Twitter are women. I thought that was mildly startling.

Before going any further, I should say that this isn't meant to be a cryptocritique of Huntsman. The reason I was thinking about him in particular is that yesterday he tweeted the following, and this triggered a chain of thought that led me to look at the people he follows to get a sense of how he (or his campaign) uses the medium:
Another way to describe Huntsman's lopsided list is to say that he has a tendency to follow journalists, with a special interest in those who lean right or are based in New Hampshire, which makes sense, given that his presidential campaign is going for a big finish in the first-in-the-nation primary. So the fact that Huntsman mostly follows men probably says more about the gender distribution in American media than about Huntsman himself. I also tend to follow journalists and policy wonks, and my list isn't that much more equitable; about 20% of the people I follow are women.

But maybe the explanation isn't so anodyne (if the fact that the majority of journalists and analysts are men can be considered anodyne in the first place, which I don't think it can). Eric Hellweg of the Harvard Business Review online pointed me to some research about Twitter use from 2009:

Even more interesting is who follows whom. We found that an average man is almost twice more likely to follow another man than a woman. Similarly, an average woman is 25% more likely to follow a man than a woman. Finally, an average man is 40% more likely to be followed by another man than by a woman. These results cannot be explained by different tweeting activity - both men and women tweet at the same rate.

2009 is ancient in social media terms, but it's an interesting finding, particularly given that women outnumber men on Twitter. I'm not sure how to interpret it. One explanation would be that people (men and women) are more interested in what men have to say than women. If so, that might merely ("merely") be a reflection of pre-existing imbalance in the world: if I follow a random sample of ten Congressional representatives, eight will be male. Another explanation would be that even if men and women tweet at the same rate, men tweet differently, in a way that makes them more interesting to follow--maybe they're more argumentative?

Whatever the explanation, I'm going to make a conscious effort to follow more women on Twitter. Among those I already follow, several come immediately to mind as having informative feeds: my friend Kate Galbraith (@kategalbraith) does a great job circulating news about energy and the environment, especially but not exclusively in Texas. Garance Franke-Ruta (@thegarance) of The Atlantic and Karen Tumulty (@ktumulty) for American politics. Catherine Rampell (@crampell), who writes about economics for the New York Times. And Anne-Marie Slaughter (@SlaughterAM), the foreign policy-focused public intellectual.
 
 
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"Don't Worry, He's a Vegetarian." Image via Austin Art Garage.
A few new posts to start the week...

At Free Exchange, I interrogate the premise of "Small Business Saturday": should customers prefer small businesses to big one? The image above, incidentally, is the Graham Franciose print I bought at the Renegade Craft Fair in Austin this weekend.

At Gulliver, a post on crying babies on airplanes. I wouldn't say that I'm for crying babies, per se, but I'm definitely with the parents on this one. Babies cry sometimes, okay. Don't we all? Thirty years ago, my mother flew to France with me (an infant), my older brother (a toddler) and, oddly, no cash, no phone number or address for my father, and limited language skills. Realizing the implications of this series of errors, she burst into tears and was surrounded by a gaggle of French women pushing francs at her so she could take Danny to the washroom. For this spontaneous display of basic kindness the people of France are frequently and fondly remembered in our home.

And at Johnson, a post on the uses of "likely," which occasionally appears as an adverb in North American English but is BANNED as such by The Economist. 
 
 
1) What's the big deal with British people and "mini-breaks"? It seems like such a fraught subject for dating couples. Working hypothesis: British people tend not to date, preferring instead to collide like amino acids. Therefore the decision to voluntarily travel to a second location some 30-40 miles outside London represents a major psychological barrier, beyond which point the romantic interest cannot be plausibly denied by either party, even to themselves. 

2) Why don't independent or locally owned businesses lease space in malls? Central planning issue?

3) Is everyone else okay with the fact that our sun is just one of some 200bn similar stars in the Milky Way, and our galaxy itself is just an insignificant speck in the cosmological scheme of things? Every time I think of this, it causes at least half an hour of metaphysical anxiety.

Below is a picture of my brother Mark's awesome dog Tank. About 80 pounds of pit bull, depicted here lying on a stack of pillows, wearing a holiday sweater, and snuggling. Such a sweetheart.
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Tanksgiving nap
 
 
My brother John is in graduate school for pharmacy down in Kingsville. We had a catch-up over Thanksgiving. He asked me what I think of Ron Paul, who is once again winning hearts and some minds with his quixotic presidential campaign.
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Thinking about health policy
I asked him what HE thinks of Ron Paul. He said that he thinks Paul makes a lot of sense on some issues, but not on others. He was intrigued by Paul's argument that professional licensing requirements have gotten somewhat out of hand, although there are some tasks that clearly need licensing--dispensing medication was an example that came up, as was plastic surgery. With regard to health insurance, however, he thinks Paul is way out of line to suggest that if you don't have insurance you shouldn't get treatment. That's the attitude of someone who's never been sick, said John, or had an accident or an emergency. In other words, from a vaguely libertarian business view to an apparent interest in nationalised health care, within the span of two sentences.

In my experience, people who don't blur party lines this way are rarer than those who do. This creates a perverse incentive for both parties to foment suspicion and mutual antipathy. If your supporters part ways over certain issues, one way to rein them in is to make partisan identification itself an issue. This helps lock them in for future election cycles. It also may help win support for your policies: come for the abortion rights, stay for the quantitative easing, or what have you.

The Manichean tendency that results may be good strategy, but it's certainly bad governance. There are some people who benefit from partisan polarization--politicians, advocates, opinion journalists, people who need a scapegoat--but they are the minority. The best way to break up this game, I think, is to refuse to play: don't identify yourself as partisan unless you have a very pertinent reason (such as, you're running for office.) Really, why should you?
 
 
I'm going to be writing a column about sustainable business for GOOD for the next few weeks. My first entry, up now, looks at how businesses and consumers try to balance some competing concerns--birds vs wind power edition.


 
 
A quick post on a German businessman who ran afoul of Alabama's new immigration law--probably not what the state was hoping for when it passed the law, which has been widely criticized as the nation's most draconian.

Also, I'll be joining the rest of the DiA team to live-blog tonight's Republican presidential debate, which will be streaming at CNN's site, if any of you want to chime in.
 
 
At Democracy in America, a post arguing (contra Jonathan Chait) that if liberals are disappointed in Barack Obama, it's partly because their expectations for his presidency were indeed unusually high.
 
 
In this week's print edition, I explain that Oklahomans are high on a natural gas boom. And at Democracy in America, I take a look at next year's Senate race in Texas, which I think is not quite reducible to tea party vs old guard.
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On the rig
 
 
I recorded a Bloggingheads yesterday with Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon. Under discussion: Occupy Wall Street, the increasingly farcical Republican primary, and whether social conservatives want to jump on women's heads.
 
 
The pictures below (sorry for the glare) are screen shots from Oklahoma Gas & Electric, which has deployed tens of thousands of smart meters over the past few years and is planning to have smart meters in all of its customers' homes by, I think, the end of 2012.
I had a quick chat with Peter B Delaney, the CEO of OGE, after the Governor's Energy Conference in Oklahoma City last week. He explained that in 2007, the utility decided not to build any more power plants until 2020. To that end, he said, OG&E believes in behavior modification rather than load control. By giving consumers nearly-instant access to their consumption data, people can understand what's driving up their bills and modify accordingly. The traditional approach to electric bills makes that difficult. "It's like going to fill up your car and getting the bill a month later," he said. Even if most customers can't be bothered--Delaney reckoned that about 20% of their customers keep an eye on their account, due to pocketbook or environmental concerns--the utilities are getting this information and can readily make it available. There's no reason that everyone with a smart meter shouldn't have access to this kind of information.