Now is Greater Than the Whole of the Past

  • Three items about how conservatives resist solving problems if those solutions would benefit the Democrats;
  • A survey of readers, books they’ve read, books they own, and some of my own statistics;
  • And R.E.M.’s song “She Just Wants to Be” which includes this post’s title.

To begin, three items today that suggest an underlying theme.

Media Matters, 8 Jan 2024: Laura Ingraham demands Republicans reject deal for government funding to deny Joe Biden “a victory lap”

(Also here)

Joe.My.God, 9 Jan 2024: Trump Hopes Economy Crashes In “Next 12 Months”

Paul Krugman, NY Times subscriber-only-newsletter, 9 Jan 2024: Is Poor Economic Sentiment All About MAGA?

This theme of the improving economy that ordinary people don’t believe in just keeps growing. Krugman’s notion:

The economy is good, but Americans feel bad about it. Or do they?

The more I look into it, the more I’m convinced that much of what looks like poor public perception about the economy is actually just Republicans angry that Donald Trump isn’t still president.

Followed by Krugman’s typically wonkish details, even diagrams from the latest edition of his economics textbook, and analysis of various economics surveys. For example:

The difference is that the Michigan numbers, which are based on a small sample, are very noisy, while Civiqs uses a bigger sample plus statistical wizardry to produce “smoothly trending estimates.”

I’ll take his word for it. He concludes,

In any case, the general point is that you just can’t interpret surveys of economic sentiment, or for that matter anything else, without taking into account the fact that the modern G.O.P. bears no resemblance to the Republican Party of past years, or for that matter any political party in modern U.S. history.


So, three items. What do they have in common? The idea that Republicans don’t want to solve problems — to the point of denying that some problems exist — but are rather interested in power, especially to impose their conservative social agenda on the entire nation. As I’ve commented and linked about over the past weeks and months and years. They would deny steps to solve problems when they think it would benefit their political opponents.

Yes yes, Republicans aren’t unique in history. This regressive trend is part of human nature, and has always been, and will always be, with us. This is why I can’t quite believe in utopian visions anymore. They will always be subject to undermining by conservatives driven by Savannah morality.

On the other hand, “now is greater than the whole of the past,” as I’ve just been listening to R.E.M. sing (see below). The species has made progress. We are not, fortunately, living in the era the MAGA folks would like society to return to. They have no vision of survival into the future. They will lose.


I am a wonk for lists and statistics.

Washington Post, Andrew Van Dam, 5 Jan 2024: How many books did you read in 2023? Are you in the top 1 percent?

I presume I’m in the top 1 percent, since I’ve read … I have a database/spreadsheet and am checking it right now … an average of 66 books a year ever since I was in high school. This article is full of interesting statistics about peoples’ reading habits, including by age and genre, and I’m curious to see how they make a distinction here between science fiction and fantasy. On some of the charts, the stats are fairly close, with fantasy leading by a bit. I’m surprise that history is the most popular genre.

And I’m fascinated by the question about “how do you organize your books?”

This question would be more interesting if focused on people who own thousands of books, i.e., a library.

My answer: by genre/subject, then by author, then by publication date. So, I have all my science fiction books over here — yet within those, I’ve separated out ‘classic’ pre-1960s books, from the general 20th century library (the vast majority), and from the 21st century books. Though I’m current rearranging. Meanwhile, general fiction is over there; science nonfiction is over there, separated by major theme and author, then by author. And so on. Ideally, within any author group, I want to see the books chronologically. At the same time, I’m always in transition, rearranging the shelves to fit newer books in. And withdrawing books that I’m fairly sure, at this stage of my life, I will never read.


R.E.M., “She Just Wants to Be” from the album REVEAL (2001). The whole album is pretty great; one of the band’s best.

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