Part of the reason pundits and journalists don't much like the analysis of political scientists about elections is that political science can be kind of boring. Political science tells us, for instance, that structural factors are much more important than the actual conduct of campaigns. If you want to know what's going to happen in an election, just use a few variables, particularly economic ones like real income growth or unemployment, and you can predict with a fair degree of accuracy what the outcome will be.
One of the interesting questions over the next couple of years will be how establishment Republicans and Tea Party Republicans will deal with each other, particularly since the latter are more concerned with ideological purity and ceaseless partisanship, even when it may not be strategically wise. Keep that question in mind as we ponder the present and future of Karl Rove.
My main objection to Meg Whitman's campaign for California governor has been the way she has been an exemplar of the "I'm not a politician, I'm a businessperson" argument, which is one of my pet peeves. I will say one thing about her -- the $150 million or so she's dropping on this race should give a boost to California's economy. But I've got to rise to her defense for what just happened to her.
Last week I asked why reporters don't more often ask candidates, "What exactly are you talking about?" when they make sweeping claims about things like our freedoms being taken away. And last night, Rachel Maddow's program featured her doing just that when talking to some Joe Miller supporters out waving signs on an Alaska street corner. It's a pretty telling exchange:
If robots are ever going to do all our housework and pick up all our garbage, they're going to need to improve their dexterity. The human hand is a marvel of coordination, strength, and subtlety. Figuring out how to produce robot hands that can do anything like what a human hand can do has been a famously difficult engineering challenge.
But the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been working on it, and now some scientists working with a DARPA grant have come up with a marvelously low-tech and creative solution, as Popular Science tells us: