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From: Dale Baker2/29/2012 8:42:23 AM
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Ezra Klein's Wonkbook


On Tuesday, after outspending his opponent by 2-1, Mitt Romney managed to win his home state by four points. That's a win. But it's a win that makes Romney look weak, not strong. The question with Romney, at this point, is whether he's a strong general-election candidate who is ill-suited for the peculiar dynamics of modern-Republican primaries, or whether he's a weak general-election candidate whose vulnerabilities are being exposed in the Republican primaries.

One way to answer that is through polls. The latest Politico/George Washington University poll, for instance, finds, "Romney is bloodied after nine contests, five of which he has lost. Only 33 percent of independents view him favorably, compared with 51 percent who see him in an unfavorable light. In a head-to-head match-up against Obama among independents, Romney now trails 49 percent to 37 percent." Losing ground among independents suggests a real weakness in the general election. But it might be meaningless. Those independents might simply be reacting to the primary, and they'll come around when Romney transitions to his general-election campaign.

But that might not happen anytime soon. Another way of presenting the outcome in Michigan is that Santorum challenged Romney in his home state, got outspent by 2-1, and still only lost by four points. If Romney won in a way that made him look weak, Santorum lost in a way that made him look strong. It's not the sort of a result that leads an overperforming longshot to drop out of the race.

At the same time, Romney was right in his victory speech. “We didn’t win by a lot, but we won by enough and that’s all that counts,” he said. His advisers might have preferred if he'd omitted that unusually honest look into the dynamics of the campaign. But Romney did win by enough. He remains the frontrunner. He remains strong enough to dissuade any new entrants. Which means the status quo continues. Romney vs. Santorum. The Republican Party will continue to have nowhere else to turn and independent voters will continue to see a side of Romney they don't much like. You can argue that Michigan produced three kinds of winners last night. Romney, who didn't lose. Santorum, who almost won. And the Obama campaign, which gets to sit back and watch this primary go on for that much longer.

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To: puborectalis who wrote (183968)2/29/2012 9:00:22 AM
From: epicure
of 249367
 
Because the republicans are mental

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To: koan who wrote (183972)2/29/2012 9:01:43 AM
From: epicure
of 249367
 
I am willing to take her at her word. She was tired of the polarization- and it was clear her own party was attacking her constantly. I hope she has a great retirement, and that we now get a democrat in Maine :-)

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To: puborectalis who wrote (183974)2/29/2012 9:04:06 AM
From: epicure
of 249367
 
I happen to agree with Lindy that there is nothing to be gained by putting together left and right- at this point the two sides have no substrate for discussion. The political disagreements are so fundamental there really is no point in talking. That's why Snowe is retiring, and that's why Lindy, and I, keep the trolls that infest our various threads to a minimum. Familiarity breeds only contempt on these political threads, when left and right mix. I don't understand the desire of the trolls to confront the "opposition". The confrontations are ugly, pointless, and waste thread space.

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To: Robert C. Jonson who wrote (183978)2/29/2012 9:05:24 AM
From: epicure
of 249367
 
Because despite the very clear language, we get a lot of asshole right wingers who think they can troll here. Any other questions?

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From: epicure2/29/2012 9:11:53 AM
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Buy your kids and grandkids books:

Books in Home as Important as Parents' Education in Determining Children's Education Level ScienceDaily (May 20, 2010) — Whether rich or poor, residents of the United States or China, illiterate or college graduates, parents who have books in the home increase the level of education their children will attain, according to a 20-year study led by Mariah Evans, University of Nevada, Reno associate professor of sociology and resource economics.



For years, educators have thought the strongest predictor of attaining high levels of education was having parents who were highly educated. But, strikingly, this massive study showed that the difference between being raised in a bookless home compared to being raised in a home with a 500-book library has as great an effect on the level of education a child will attain as having parents who are barely literate (3 years of education) compared to having parents who have a university education (15 or 16 years of education). Both factors, having a 500-book library or having university-educated parents, propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average.

Being a sociologist, Evans was particularly interested to find that children of lesser-educated parents benefit the most from having books in the home. She has been looking for ways to help Nevada's rural communities, in terms of economic development and education.

"What kinds of investments should we be making to help these kids get ahead?" she asked. "The results of this study indicate that getting some books into their homes is an inexpensive way that we can help these children succeed."

Evans said, "Even a little bit goes a long way," in terms of the number of books in a home. Having as few as 20 books in the home still has a significant impact on propelling a child to a higher level of education, and the more books you add, the greater the benefit.

"You get a lot of 'bang for your book'," she said. "It's quite a good return-on-investment in a time of scarce resources."

In some countries, such as China, having 500 or more books in the home propels children 6.6 years further in their education. In the United States, the effect is less, 2.4 years, than the 3.2-year average advantage experienced across all 27 countries in the study. But, Evans points out that 2.4 years is still a significant advantage in terms of educational attainment.

For example, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, Americans who have some college or an associate's degree, but not a bachelor's degree, earn an average of $7,213 more annually than those with just a high school education. Those who attain a bachelor's degree earn $21,185 more each year, on average, than those with just high school diplomas.

The study by Evans and her colleagues at Nevada, UCLA and Australian National University is one of the largest and most comprehensive studies ever conducted on what influences the level of education a child will attain.

The researchers were struck by the strong effect having books in the home had on children's educational attainment even above and beyond such factors as education level of the parents, the country's GDP, the father's occupation or the political system of the country.

Having books in the home is twice as important as the father's education level, and more important than whether a child was reared in China or the United States. Surprisingly, the difference in educational attainment for children born in the United States and children born in China was just 2 years, less than two-thirds the effect that having 500 or more books in the home had on children (3.2 years).

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To: epicure who wrote (183982)2/29/2012 10:01:38 AM
From: T L Comiskey
of 249367
 
"Who..Knew...????.."


People Aren't Smart Enough for Democracy to Flourish, Scientists Say

By Natalie Wolchover |









The democratic process relies on the assumption that citizens (the majority of them, at least) can recognize the best political candidate, or best policy idea, when they see it. But a growing body of research has revealed an unfortunate aspect of the human psyche that would seem to disprove this notion, and imply instead that democratic elections produce mediocre leadership and policies.

The research, led by David Dunning, a psychologist at Cornell University, shows that incompetent people are inherently unable to judge the competence of other people, or the quality of those people's ideas. For example, if people lack expertise on tax reform, it is very difficult for them to identify thecandidates who are actual experts. They simply lack the mental tools needed to make meaningful judgments.

As a result, no amount of information or facts about political candidates can override the inherent inability of many voters to accurately evaluate them. On top of that, "very smart ideas are going to be hard for people to adopt, because most people don’t have the sophistication to recognize how good an idea is," Dunning told Life's Little Mysteries.

He and colleague Justin Kruger, formerly of Cornell and now of New York University, have demonstrated again and again that people are self-delusional when it comes to their own intellectual skills. Whether the researchers are testing people's ability to rate the funniness of jokes, the correctness of grammar, or even their own performance in a game of chess, the duo has found that people always assess their own performance as "above average" — even people who, when tested, actually perform at the very bottom of the pile. [ Incompetent People Too Ignorant to Know It]

We're just as undiscerning about the skills of others as about ourselves. "To the extent that you are incompetent, you are a worse judge of incompetence in other people," Dunning said. In one study, the researchers asked students to grade quizzes that tested for grammar skill. "We found that students who had done worse on the test itself gave more inaccurate grades to other students." Essentially, they didn't recognize the correct answer even when they saw it.

The reason for this disconnect is simple: "If you have gaps in your knowledge in a given area, then you’re not in a position to assess your own gaps or the gaps of others," Dunning said. Strangely though, in these experiments, people tend to readily and accurately agree on who the worst performers are, while failing to recognize the best performers.

The most incompetent among us serve as canaries in the coal mine signifying a larger quandary in the concept of democracy; truly ignorant people may be the worst judges of candidates and ideas, Dunning said, but we all suffer from a degree of blindness stemming from our own personal lack of expertise.

Mato Nagel, a sociologist in Germany, recently implemented Dunning and Kruger's theories by computer-simulating a democratic election. In his mathematical model of the election, he assumed that voters' own leadership skills were distributed on a bell curve — some were really good leaders, some, really bad, but most were mediocre — and that each voter was incapable of recognizing the leadership skills of a political candidate as being better than his or her own. When such an election was simulated, candidates whose leadership skills were only slightly better than average always won.

Nagel concluded that democracies rarely or never elect the best leaders. Their advantage over dictatorships or other forms of governmentis merely that they "effectively prevent lower-than-average candidates from becoming leaders."

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To: T L Comiskey who wrote (183985)2/29/2012 10:10:57 AM
From: epicure
of 249367
 
:-)
You, me, everyone we know?

I'd say that one was obvious. After our first few presidents, mediocrity reigned.

We got the occasional superstar, but mostly dreck. Of the plus side, countries with monarchies seem to get about the same level of mediocrity.

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From: JohnM2/29/2012 10:16:58 AM
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Steve Benen has some interesting thoughts on Snowe's retirement plus its inexplicable timing, which he tries to explicate.
-----------------------------------------------
Snowe's stunning surprise
By Steve Benen
Wed Feb 29, 2012 8:53 AM EST

When prominent members of Congress are considering retirement, there's nearly always some kind of hint in advance of the announcement. Maybe they stop raising money; perhaps they're slow to put a campaign organization together; maybe key staffers are seen moving to new jobs elsewhere; something.

But with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) of Maine, all of the evidence pointed in the other direction. Not only were there no hints about a pending departure, the Republican senator gave every indication of seeking another term, even moving considerably to the right.

It's what made Snowe's retirement announcement late yesterday such a stunning surprise.

"As I enter a new chapter, I see a vital need for the political center in order for our democracy to flourish and to find solutions that unite rather than divide us. It is time for change in the way we govern, and I believe there are unique opportunities to build support for that change from outside the United States Senate. I intend to help give voice to my fellow citizens who believe, as I do, that we must return to an era of civility in government driven by a common purpose to fulfill the promise that is unique to America."

There are a few angles to a story like this. First, in terms of the electoral consequences, Snowe's announcement is a brutal setback for Republican plans to retake the Senate majority next year. As Steve Kornacki explained, "With Snowe in it, Democrats had virtually no chance of winning the Maine Senate race this year. Now they are likely to do so, given the state's partisan bent."

Second, I can't help but wonder how much Snowe regrets her shift to the right, taking positions she never would have adopted earlier in her career.

Consider just the last few months. In October, she partnered with a right-wing Alabama senator to push a plan to make the legislative process even more difficult. A week earlier, she demanded the administration act with “urgency” to address the jobs crisis, only to filibuster a popular jobs bill a day later. The week before that, Snowe prioritized tax cuts for millionaires over job creation. Shortly before that, Snowe tried to argue that government spending is “clearly … the problem” when it comes to the nation’s finances, which is a popular line among conservatives, despite being completely wrong.

There can be little doubt that Snowe has been Congress' most moderate Republican for the last several years, but that doesn't change the fact that as her party moved sharply to the right, she moved with it. Indeed, no matter how extreme the GOP became in recent years, Snowe simply kept her head down, going along with the crowd. When David Brooks complains about " Opossum Republicans," he might as well have been referring to the senior senator from Maine.

And third, there's the mystery surrounding what, exactly, led to yesterday's announcement.

Snowe's retirement wasn't just a surprise; it's practically bizarre. After three terms in the Senate, and giving every indication of seeking re-election, Olympia Snowe waited until two weeks before Maine's filing deadline to bow out, and didn't even tell her staff until yesterday afternoon. It all happened so quickly, the senator's office hasn't even posted her announcement online yet.

The news doesn't appear to have been planned at all.

What's more, Snowe's statement is a little cryptic. Instead of the obligatory "spend more time with my family" rhetoric, the senator references "unique opportunities ... outside the United States Senate." What opportunities? She didn't say.

Jon Chait's theory may sound silly, but it's a strange year and ideas that may seem foolish at first blush probably shouldn't be dismissed out of hand.

This sounds exactly like the kind of rhetoric emanating from Americans Elect, the third-party group that believes that both parties should put aside partisanship and come together to enact an ever-so-slightly more conservative version of Barack Obama's agenda. Moderate retiring senators often deliver lofty, vacuous paeans to bipartisanship on their way to a lucrative lobbying career. But Snowe's statement seems unusually specific ("unique opportunities to build support for that change from outside the United States Senate") about her intent to do something.

This strikes me as unlikely, but I guess it's something to keep an eye on.

maddowblog.msnbc.msn.com 

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To: epicure who wrote (183980)2/29/2012 10:35:27 AM
From: puborectalis
of 249367
 
Yep,George W Bush was at the head of his class in college.

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