Newt and the power of sounding smart vs being smart

Somehow, with Cain fading, Perry an absolute disaster, and Romney still simply unacceptable to many GOP voters, this appears to be News Gingrich’s moment in the sun.  Check out his rise in the latest polls.  You’ve heard me say before that Gingrich isn’t even half as smart as he fools most people into believing (that’s his greatest talent).  TNR’s Josh McWhorter has a nice piece looking at how Gingrich so ably uses the conventions of academic language into fooling people that he’s actually some crazed genius:

He has managed to leverage the televised debates to his benefit by acting like a professor before an unprepared lecture hall of students, condescending to the moderators by treating every question as a logic exercise. And so, however improbably, his Ph.D in history has earned the status of an important credential to the Republican Party.

But if Gingrich has amply proven his academic talents, he has also demonstrated their limitations. The Republican Party should not mistake his communication skills with evidence of real knowledge, or even of good reasoning. Gingrich may be a master of academic exercises—his ability to make bookish references and formulate long sentences demonstrate as much—but that does not mean he knows what he is talking about.

Gingrich’s patterns of speech are largely analytically acute, and sometimes aesthetically interesting, but substantively, they are very often lacking. Language is supposed to be a package that carries substance, but Gingrich is sometimes so pleased with his uninterrupted stream of words, that he mistakes it for an actual flow of ideas.

I think this is spot-on.  From personal experience I can definitely say it’s amazing how much you can fool people by having a PhD and “talking like a professor.”  Although, most of the time I’d like to think I actually know what I’m talking about.  Anyway, Newt definitely has the appearance mastered though he’s most definitely not the policy genius many think him to be.

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Chart of the day

What my Gender & Politics class is discussing today:

Check out those gender ratios!  That’s just not good, any way you look at it.  Especially since unattached young adult males are the most unstable feature of any primate society.   Anyway, this chart is from a really interesting Economist article from May 2010 about how new technology (ultrasound and selective abortion) is now combing with age-old stereotypes in very disturbing ways.  Here’s another interesting chart:

Apparently it’s okay to have a girl for one of the first two children, but by the time you get to the third, apparently it damn well better be a boy.  Of course, among many in this country, there’s a strong desire to have a girl if you haven’t had one yet.  If I had a dollar for every time somebody said to us, “good– you finally had a girl.”  Of course, in Asian cultures, we clearly have done quite well with our three boys.

When not to clean your plate

Friend sent me a link to this awesome advertisement.  Definitely worth a minute of your time:

Occupy Pardox

Yglesias had some interesting thoughts on the Occupy protesters finally getting kicked out of Zucotti park:

So OWS was either going to end with the cops clearing the park, or else it was going to end with the protestors losing interest. It would be totally human and understandable for the protestors to end up fading away as the weather gets colder, but that would be demoralizing to everyone who’s come to look at the various Occupations as a key signal of popular discontent with rampant inequality. Instead, by ordering the protestors to be removed the Bloomberg administration has ensured continued relevance for the issue. All over the internet today all eyes are on New York and on Occupy Wall Street. Temporary injunctions have already been issued and there are sure to be more lawsuits. The worst possible outcome is for the movement to just kind of fade away, and by trying to forcibly clear the park with the NYPD, Bloomberg has guaranteed that won’t happen.

I likewise thing this is a good thing, but as I’ve said, it’s because the protesters have already succeeded in accomplishing what they would actually be able to: they have fairly dramatically changed the media/elite narrative about our economy.  That’s realistically about all they could hope for.  Time to hang the “Mission Accomplished” sign.  So what’s the paradox?  Well, the type of people who are going to spend days and days occupying a park, a state capitol, etc., aren’t the type of people who are just going to end it saying, “hooray, we changed the media narrative!”  The very passion, and yes, radicalism, that led to the protests now seems to be spinning somewhat out of control in places.  That’s not good as it discredits the goals and aims of the movement– or at least the ones that I like :-).  But the nature of the movement was never one that would happily just go home without any concrete changes; even if they don’t have concrete demands.

Partisanship and SC Justices

Ohio State’s political science program has excellent faculty in judicial politics.  One of my great regrets is not even taking a single class in the matter while in graduate school.  My favorite OSU professor whom I never actually had a class with is definitely Larry Baum.  I was quite excited to see him popularizing his latest research by taking to the virtual pages of Slate.  In this case, he writes with a co-author about how the Supreme court is actually sorted by political party to a degree unprecedented in modern times.  The gist:

he days of liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats are behind us, and the days of judicial moderates from either party may soon seem a relic of the past. What does that mean for the future of the Affordable Care Act, and for the court itself?

This change has been brewing for some time, but with the August 2010 confirmation of Elena Kagan to succeed liberal Republican John Paul Stevens, the deal was sealed. In its 2010-11 term, the Court divided along partisan lines to a striking degree. An unusually high proportion of cases (18 out of 75) were decided by 5-4 votes on at least some portion of the outcome (or 5-3, with Justice Elena Kagan recused because of her work as solicitor general). In 12 of those cases, including many of last term’s most important rulings, the court’s Republicans were all arrayed on one side, its Democrats on the other. These cases involved regulation of campaign funding the right to sue for violations of rights by a prosecutor’s office, and state powers to enforce restrictions on immigration.

Far more telling, George W. Bush’s and Barack Obama’s appointees are particularly likely both to agree witheach other and disagree with the other pair…
The court has often featured close divisions between ideological factions, but those divisions have usually crossed party lines rather than following them. Going back at least as far as the late 19th century, there has never been another year on the court like the 2010 term, when there was a contingent of Republican conservatives on one side and a contingent of Democratic liberals on the other side…
The court’s strong polarization does not necessarily mean that the justices will divide strictly along partisan lines when they address the constitutional challenge to the healthcare law. Even on politically controversial issues, the court frequently departs from such partisan divisions. But because the court is now composed solely of Democratic liberals and Republican conservatives, decisions that follow partisan lines have become far more likely. If this situation continues, as we think it will, the most powerful effects may be on how Americans think about the Supreme Court as an institution.

Baum and law professor Neil Devins also nicely trace the changes in the confirmation process that has led to this.  There final point is indeed an interesting one.  The Supreme Court typically is much more respected than our other political institutions.  And that’s a good thing (especially considering the low respect for others).  If the Court becomes seen just another hopelessly partisan institution that is certainly not good for the authority and credibility of their decisions.

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