Keeping Things In Perspective

  • How Biden is less unpopular than leaders of other major nations;
  • How 17% of voters blame Biden for the end of Roe (that is, many voters are not paying attention); and how I think many voters select a presidential candidate based on the effects of the previous president;
  • Review of a book that attacks the left with “mockery and sneers,” not argument or ideas;
  • Vice signalling on the right; Fox News on Michael Cohen; childish arguments from a MN creationist; more false Christian Nationalist history;
  • Beck’s “Wave”

NY Times, Paul Krugman, 13 May 2024: Biden’s Approval Is Low, Except Compared With Everyone Else’s [gift link]

Biden is less unpopular than all the other leaders in the Group of 7.

So who’s the winner of this unpopularity contest? Who has the least bad net approval? The answer is Joe Biden, with Giorgia Meloni of Italy a close second. The other Group of 7 leaders are even more unpopular. And this has political consequences. The U.S. election, worryingly, looks like a tossup, but in Britain, which must hold a general election by January, current projections say that Rishi Sunak’s extremely low approval is setting the stage for the virtual collapse of the Conservative Party.

Now, you could (and I would) say that Biden should be doing better in the polls given the economic and social fundamentals: very low unemployment, fairly low inflation and violent crime on the decline. And the United States does seem to stand out for the extent to which voters insist that the economy is bad even as they say they themselves are doing well.

It’s all about the effects of the pandemic, which were beyond the control of any leader. (Except that Trump made things worse, by denying it.)


Proof that many voters simply aren’t paying attention.

NY Times, 15 May 2024: 17% of Voters Blame Biden for the End of Roe, subtitled “The mistaken belief, in a new poll, shows how even as abortion is mobilizing Democrats, confusion over the issue is also a challenge.”

I’ve had this thought before but don’t think I ever mentioned it. Voters tend to blame presidents for the consequences of the *previous* president. Presidential policies can take a while to take effect. So, paradoxically, many voters select a presidential candidate based on what the *previous* president did. (Trump’s Supreme Court picks led to the overturning of Roe.) Which, paradoxically, might mean that many voters are voting the wrong way, all the time.


I keep looking for substantive arguments from the right, other than their ‘return to the golden age’ (MAGA) trope. Where are their arguments about evidence and consequences?

NY Times Book Review, Laura Kipnis, 14 May 2024: Skewering Leftist Excess With Mockery and Sneers, subtitled “In ‘Morning After the Revolution,’ an attack on progressive activism, the journalist Nellie Bowles relies more on sarcasm than argument or ideas.”

This is to be expected. The review ends:

What’s frustrating about Bowles’s book is that there are usually better arguments in support of her case than the ones she bothers to make. She seems to be trying to say that the left needs to adopt elements of liberalism — a more robust defense of free speech — and to ditch the moral authoritarians. (Many leftists would agree.)

But the book’s central fallacy is that idiocy on the left requires moving to the right. It doesn’t. It’s eminently possible for people with brains to make distinctions and stick to their principles, if they have any. And, by the way, you’re not going to find any fewer authoritarians and idiots by switching sides.


Moving further right with each item in this post. Here: Vice signalling, which apparently the MAGA folk eat up.

NY Times Opinion, Michelle Goldberg, 13 May 2024: Killing Dogs. Taunting the Homeless. Praising Al Capone. This Is Trump’s Party.

This summarizes recent stories about John McEntee defrauding homeless people to get them arrested, Kristi Noem killing her dog, and Donald Trump comparing himself to Al Capone.

Right wingers often rain contempt on what they call virtue signaling, a performative kind of sanctimony epitomized by the “In This House” yard signs that once dotted progressive neighborhoods. Partly in response, they’ve developed what’s sometimes called vice signaling, the defiant embrace of cruelty and disdain for social norms. Think of “rolling coal,” the practice of modifying diesel engines to make them belch dark exhaust in an effort to trigger environmentalists, or the way George Santos’s promiscuous falsehoods endeared him to hard-core MAGA acolytes.


Just the headlines will do here for the next couple:

Media Matters, 14 May 2024: Fox attacks Michael Cohen as a “convicted liar,” leaves out that his lies were to protect Trump


Hemant Mehta, Friendly Atheist, 15 May 2024: MN lawmaker: Public schools engage in “censorship” by not teaching Creationism, subtitled “State Sen. Glenn H. Gruenhagen demanded his religious mythology be taught in science classes”

He cites childish arguments that have been debunked for centuries. Does he want flat earth taught too?


And similarly,

Right Wing Watch, Kyle Mantyla, 14 May 2024: Rick Green Spreads False Christian Nationalist History

The willingness to misrepresent history is a common theme among Christian nationalists who time and again spread blatant falsehoods in defense of their right-wing ideology, inevitably leading one to wonder why, if their position is true, do they have to keep lying to try and “prove” it? Clearly, these activists simply do not care about the truth because perpetuating these myths is useful for convincing Americans that their Christian nationalist political agenda is rooted in our history.

Trust only history written by the disinterested. Not by those motivated to advance their agenda. (Ahem, David Barton.)


After my favorite Beck song, Turn Away, which I’ve posted about a couple times, my second-favorite track on that album, Morning Phase, is “Wave,” which I’m amazed to see was performed on Saturday Night Live way back when.

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