08 October 2012

Why Are So Many Top Politicians Left Handed?

Top politicians are much more likely to be left handed than the general population.
In the general population about 10% of us are left handed. So what causes left handers to rise to the top in politics?

Here are some suggestions, for which there is little or no evidence:
  • Lefthanders are just smarter, more ambitious, better networkers, harder working, more popular, or something
  • Lefthanders have experience overcoming adversity, dealing with a difficult and sometimes hostile world
  • Or maybe this is just a random happenstance, and over the long term only an average number of top politicians will be left handed.
The success of left-handed politicians may be a new phenomenon, reflecting the greater acceptance of lefthandedness in recent generations. In earlier times many people who might have been naturally left handed were forced to use their right hands due to prejudice. Ronald Reagan may be an example. This is reflected in the record of British Prime Ministers: of the 52 who have held that office there are only two left-handed Prime Ministers on record: Churchill and Cameron (source: BBC story).

Is this true in other fields? Are there a disproportionate fraction of left handers among business CEOs, flag and general officers, Nobel prize winners or other highly successful groups, where lefthanders might rise to the top? If you have information or opinions, add your comment below.

22 September 2012

Looper: Time Travel Meets Left Handedness

[Spoilers--but nothing you wouldn't learn from the trailer]

When you mix time travel, assassins, and Bruce Willis (a great leftie), you get a tangled tale of murderous switch hitting--You get Looper. I have no evidence that writer/director Rian Johnson is left handed, but he has to manage both time travel and hand preference, two potentially confusing threads, in this new film.

The plot involves both younger (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and older (played by Bruce Willis) versions of hitperson Joseph Simmons. Since Gordon-Levitt is right handed, some acting and perhaps camera tricks were involved.

Willis as leftie older Joe
Gordon-Levitt as "leftie"(?) younger Joe
In the trailer 1 (here) younger Joe sometimes appears to be left handed, sometimes right handed.

Hand preference issues can lead to continuity problems, as in the shot where Joe reaches into his lap for his pistol, which might have been shot by a second unit. The shot had to be reversed to make it appear he is reaching with his left hand. (See IMFDb.) In the rest of the shots from this diner scene in trailer 2 (here), young Joe handles his weapon right handed. (He also seems to switch from an automatic to a revolver in this clip.) We'll have to wait for the finished film to see if they have gotten all this straightened out.

[Update 2 May 2013--I guess writer/director Rian Johnson didn't try to make anything out of Joe's hand preference. In the film Bruce Willis is mostly left handed, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is mostly right handed. There is no explanation of the apparent change in handedness that happens over the intervening 30 years from Young Joe to Old Joe. And no clever plot elements depend on hand preference. Opportunity wasted? Did Mr. Johnson think we just wouldn't notice? What do you think?]

Older Joe and younger Joe images are from Internet Movie Firearms Database, extracted from trailers for the film.

Bruce Willis's hand preference is revealed in previous posts here and here.

10 September 2012

Left Handers in the U.S. Cabinet

You don't have to be left handed to be a member of the Cabinet of the United States, and in fact it doesn't seem to help you get appointed to a Cabinet-level position.

That well-known lefthander Barak Obama appointed experienced southpaw Lisa P. Jackson to be Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in December 2008.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and
EPA Administrator Jackson sign an agreement
Ms. Jackson also shares with President Obama her African-American heritage.

The other left-handed member of President Obama's cabinet is his Secretary of Education. A good sign?

Secretary of Educaton Arne Duncan

The hand preference of some Cabinet-level officers was hard to determine. Maybe the following could get in touch and let us know:

  • White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew?
  • Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget Jeffrey Zients?
  • Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Alan Krueger?
But in any event out of the 23 Cabinet members and Cabinet-level officers only two are clearly left handed. Not more than expected from the general population.

Photo credits: 
Lisa Jackson: Public domain NASA photo from Wikimedia Commons
Arne Duncan: Public domain Department of Education photo

18 August 2012

The Bourne Lefthandedly

The new film "The Bourne Legacy" features a left-handed character named Aaron Cross, played by southpaw Jeremy Renner. It is good to see so many left-handed heroes. (See previous post on the high proportion of left handers among The Avengers.)

Our lone hero Mr. Cross seems to have everyone against him. That includes the designers of some of his tools, as illustrated below. He is taking aim with a sniping rifle with its bolt handle nestled awkwardly under his chin, a common problem for left-handed snipers. I hope he can do it in one shot, since it might take him longer than a right hander to cycle his weapon for a second try.

Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) takes aim,
with his chin over the bolt handle?

Appearing in a smaller role in "The Bourne Legacy" is leftie Scott Glenn, as CIA Director Ezra Kramer.

Scott Glenn in "Silverado"

Joan Allen, who plays CIA Deputy Director Pamela Landy in the Bourne films, is left handed too. What is it about these left-handed CIA executives? Does being left-handed give you an advantage in this fictional CIA bureaucracy?

Joan Allen (from this site)
Directory/Co-writer Tony Gilroy, who also wrote the first three Bourne films, is not, as far as I know, left handed.

The images of Jeremy Renner and Scott Glenn are from the Internet Movie Firearms Database here and here.

13 August 2012

International Left Handers Day 2012

August 13 is International Left Handers Day! Celebrate your special day if you are left handed. If you are not, maybe this is a good time to honor the left handers among you.

The past year has seen several developments in the world of lefthandedness:
  • The left-handed President of Mexico (Felipe Calderón) will be replaced by right hander Enrique Peña Nieto.
  • About 13 million new left handers were born (assuming about 10% of those born are left handed).
  • James Cameron has been writing Avatar 2, Avatar 3 (and maybe Avatar 4?). Filming could start later in 1012. More left-handed Navi on the screen in 2014?
  • I discovered "left-handed toons (by right-handed people)". I don't know if they really draw these left handed. Are they just making fun of us? 

  • The Left-Handers Club issued a press release for Left Handers Day. The club is using the 2012 event to push for better teacher training on how to help left-handed children.
  • The film "The Avengers", written (left handed) and directed by southpaw Joss Whedon, featured left-handed Avengers Black Widow and Hawkeye, from a comic book by lefty Stan Lee. (One-third of Avengers are left handed at this stage.) 
So let's look leftward to a peaceful, prosperous and interesting year to come for all left-handers, and their right-handed friends and relations.

Image by RRZEicons used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, from Wikimedia Commons.

The Avengers: Made By and With Lefties

The 2012 film "The Avengers" features at least two left-handed Avengers. Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff is played left handed by leftie Scarlett Johansson. Hawkeye/Clint Barton is played left handed by southpaw Jeremy Renner.

And of course the film was written and directed by well-known left-handed genius Joss Whedon.

Even more sinister, The Avengers were co-created in 1963 by left-handed Stan Lee (and right-handed Jack Kirby).

Black Widow and Hawkeye handle their Weapons leftie

Scarlett Johansen and fans

Jeremy Renner and fans

Southpaw Joss Whedon

Stan Lee. 'Nuff said!

Photo credits:

Black Widow and Hawkeye in "The Avengers" from Internet Movie Firearms Database.

Scarlett Johansen signing: Matt Sayles / Associated Press, from this site.

Jeremy Renner signing: Associated Press, from this site.

Joss Whedon signing Avengers poster from Huffington Post 

Stan Lee signing from this site.

18 March 2012

Latin American Leaders

Many of today's national leaders in Latin America are left handed. (This is no surprise, as many leaders world wide are left handed--see previous posts.)

Hugo Chávez, President of Venezuela, and Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia, are both left handed.
photo of Presidents Chavez and Santos signing
Santos, left, and Chávez, right 

President Felipe Calderón of Mexico is left handed.
photo President Calderon signs as President Obama looks on
Two North American lefties

Laura Chinchilla, President of Costa Rica, is also left handed.
photo President Chinchilla
Presidenta zurda

And the President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, is left handed too.
photo President Piñera
President Piñera

A Chilean site on left-handedness: http://www.zurdos.cl/index.php

Photo credits:

Santos and Chávez: http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/03/world/americas/venezuela-colombia/index.html

Calderón and Obama: http://www.acclaimimages.com/_gallery/_image_pages/0519-1010-0717-0102.html

Chinchilla: http://www.amcostarica.com/071610.htm

Piñera: http://www.minsegpres.gob.cl/2011/04/presidente-pinera-firma-proyecto-de-ley-sobre-probidad-publica/

04 January 2012

A Clear Choice

Although in 2008 the candidates of both of the major parties (John McCain and Barak Obama) were both left handed, this year will be different. Although we do not yet know the Republican Party's nominee, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and even Michelle Bachman are all right handed. U.S. voters will have a clear choice in 2012 between left-handed and right-handed nominees.

The Republicans, although seen as the party of the right, have more often than not put forth left-handed nominees for the office of President of the United States in recent decades. (See previous post.) Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, George H. W. Bush and John McCain were left handed. Bob Dole, although raised right handed, was rendered left handed by his war wounds. Only George W. Bush, of the recent Republican nominees, was right handed. He won, but only against other right-handed nominees. (See Wikipedia article.)

The Democratic Party has not leaned to the left in its recent nominees, but it has been more successful when it has. Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, and Michael Dukakis are right handed. Carter beat left-handed Gerald Ford, but lost to left-handed (or at least ambidextrous--he was forced to learn to use his right in childhood) Ronald Reagan. Mondale and Dukakis lost, both to left handers. The Democrats learned their lesson, and Bill Clinton won. But then they tried right handers Al Gore and John Kerry. They returned to winning form with left-handed Barak Obama.

Why do left-handers seem to have the edge in winning the U.S. presidency? If you think you know please comment.