Stanford Ph

Another Chait classic is this 1999 gem, written just about a year before the public--er, the Supreme Court--delivered us President George W. Bush. Turns out Sarah Palin wasn't the first one to epically fail a journalist's "pop-quiz." After Bush was unable to name various heads of state in an interview, Jon argues why in the 2000 election, it was smart to be dumb: It would seem, on the face of it, that the only thing standing between George W. Bush and the presidency is a persistent reservation about his intellect.

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The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil By Philip Zimbardo (Random House, 551 pp., $27.95) WHY DO human beings commit despicable acts? One answer points to individual dispositions; another answer emphasizes situational pressures. In 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stressed the importance of individual dispositions in describing terrorists as “simply evil people who want to kill.” Situationists reject this view. They believe that horrible acts can be committed by perfectly normal people.

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Race to the Bottom

It would seem, on the face of it, that the only thing standing between George W. Bush and the presidency is a persistent reservation about his intellect. The doubts have crystallized around a reporter's now-famous pop quiz, in which the Texas governor could not identify various difficult-to-pronounce heads of state. Bush, according to many in the press, needs to wonk himself up, and fast. He needs to cocoon himself with all those Stanford Ph.D.s and reemerge with a deep, studied interest in the stability of Central Asia and the efficacy of scattered-site housing.

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