“What”s Going On Here?” The Polls

Now there’s a poll that you won’t find highlighted in many mainstream media reports. From the Washington Examiner, part of the conservative media:

Despite a wave of critical news coverage and Democratic catcalls, President Trump sits at his “highest” approval in the latest Gallup survey, and above where four of the last six presidents, including Barack Obama and George W. Bush, were at this point of the first term.

…After two weeks of bad news on the coronavirus and economic front, Trump maintained his 49% approval rating, and his disapproval crept up just 1 point, to 48% in the Gallup survey of adults, a broad test.

Gallup said that Trump’s approval is “tied for the best of his presidency.”

…At 49%, Trump is a hair away from the generally accepted 50%-51% approval political experts consider a lock to win reelection. Both Obama and Bush were at 50% approval on their reelection days.

The paper adds that some pollsters attribute Trump’s positive number to “backlash against the media’s coverage of Trump and the coronavirus and the economy.”

Wow! That’s some theory. So they theorize that a lot of Americans not appreciating a cabal of Democrats, members of Congress, the news media and popular culture figures relentlessly attacking, insulting, impugning and accusing the President of the United States and the head and symbol of their nation on any pretext might cause them to rally to the support of their elected leader, whom they recognize is trying to perform a near impossible job when attempted under the best of conditions, never mind when power forces in society are determined to sabotage you. Huh. I never would have thought of that.

Observations: Continue reading

On The Disapproval Of President Trump

Talk about cognitive dissonance…

The recent barrage of  anti-Trump stories, self-inflicted Presidential wounds and media smears has the President’s approval ratings down again, back to his unshakable 37% or so core, presumable the American who, as he so memorably joked, would support him if he shot someone in Times Square. It has also been as high in some polls as 50% in the not so distant past, and substantively, not much has changed, except that the economic news keeps getting better. “There’s Never Been a President This Unpopular With an Economy This Good,”writes Bloomberg, and I’m sure that’s true. There was also never an individual as unpopular as Donald Trump elected President of the United States before he was.

The “disapproval rating” of his performance is incoherent, of course, because it is an undecipherable mess of apples, oranges, and wooden shoes.  Some disapprove of Trump because of his almost completely revolting character. Some disapprove of him because they disagree with his policies, since they are socialist, statist  One Worlders who believe, against all evidence, that Barack Obama was a great leader. Some are Republicans who are embarrassed to have such a man representing their party, no matter what policies he pursues. Some are conservatives who regard Trump as not sufficiently conservative, for indeed he’s not a conservative at all. Some are classist snobs. Some are morons who just believe what social media and the mainstream media tells them to believe. I’d love to know how this group breaks down, but we’ll never have that information.

Still, I find it encouraging that Trump remains unpopular despite his many positive achievements, some arguable, some not. It is good that the idea that there is more to being a respectable and admirable President than presiding over positive economic times, strong foreign policy, and military success. It is especially encouraging to see Democrats and progressives being driven to that position after stubbornly refusing to acknowledge that the character of a national leader is important during the Bill Clinton years, and after nominating Hillary. The President of the United States is not a CEO, and not a mere policy wonk (Yes, I recognize the absurdity of calling someone like Donald Trump a “wonk” of any kind). Leadership is as much a symbolic role as a pragmatic one. Leaders shift cultural values and norms; they define, or should, what a nation and its public regard as good, bad, right, wrong, admirable, and unacceptable. This was the basis of my initial, long-held, endlessly expressed, and unyielding opposition to his leadership style and personal demeanor, perhaps most forcefully explained here.

The importance of a President’s character goes far beyond being an automatic role model, however. A President, while he is in office, defines the Presidency itself. If he defines it in negative terms and values, everything connected to the Presidency suffers as well (See: the Cognitive Dissonance Scale): our system, democracy, the separation of powers, constitutional government and its institutions. A President has a duty to strengthen his office for future occupants, and to uphold the highest standards that his predecessors set. Donald Trump does not understand this aspect of his job, and never has. The reasons for this can be debated; he is obviously not a student of history, and as someone who has succeeded by breaking rules and defying conventional wisdom, he would be unlikely to understand why this role should be regarded as different from any other executive post. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/2/2018: The Unreliable Authorities Edition

Good morning!

1.  Another baseball ethics dispute! This is an exciting time of changes in the traditional wisdom of how to play Major League Baseball, all sparked by that new ethics bugaboo, Big Data. Now that so many aspects of the game can be measured and analyzed, tradition and assumptions rarely challenged are now under fire. One massive shift is, ironically, in the matter of shifts, radical defensive alignments in which players are not fielding their normal positions, but rather are places where computer spray charts for each batter suggest that the likelihood of fielding a ball is highest.  This can mean anything from one lonely fielder on the left side of the infield, or four outfielders.

Shifts are not new, but they used to be used on a handful of super-sluggers with dead-pull propensities, notably Ted Williams, who famously refused to bunt for easy hits to the unoccupied side of the field, and instead usually tried to hit through or over the shift. It has been estimated that the Williams Shift, combined with the player’s infamous stubbornness, cost him many points off of his lifetime batting average, especially since Williams defeating the shift by bunting might have discouraged its use.

But he was Ted Williams, the second greatest hitter of all time.  The question of whether lesser batters should bunt against shifts, for now many teams shift against everyone, has an easy answer: Of course they should.

In yesterday’s Twins-Orioles game, Twins starter Jose Berrios had  a one-hit shutout in the ninth inning. leading with one out and no runners on base. O’s rookie catcher Chance Sisco came to the plate—he has my favorite baseball name this season–and the Twins put on a shift like the one Ted Williams despised:

So, knowing he wasn’t Ted Williams and also knowing that in baseball even seven run leads aren’t a sure thing, Chance dropped down a bunt to the left side for a single. Berrios then walked two batter Davis and Manny Machado to load the bases, but finished his shutout by getting the next two outs without further disruptions.

After the game, the Twins players questioned the ethics of Sisco’s hit. Berrios said, “I just know it’s not good for baseball [to bunt] in that situation. That’s it.” Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario said, “Nobody liked that. No, no, no. That’s not a good play.” Second baseman Brian Dozier added, “Obviously, we’re not a fan of it. He’s a young kid. I could’ve said something at second base but they have tremendous veteran leadership over there. I’m sure they’ll address that. It’s all about learning. You learn up here.”

When do you “learn” not to try to win the game and get on base? For Sisco, a rookie, sending the message that shifting against him is a bad risk also is a wise career move. There is a long-standing, and stupid, unwritten rule in baseball that it is “bush league” to try to break up a no-hitter with a bunt, but extending that dubious logic to a mere shutout breaks the Stupid Meter.

2. Coffee is good for you, but be worried when you drink it. Continuing its rapid devolution into Bizarro World, just as increasing scientific evidence suggest that coffee is good for you, California is demanding that it carry a tobacco-like warning label. Last week a judge ruled that Starbucks and  other coffee companies in California must carry a cancer warning label because of a chemical produced while beans roast has been shown to cause cancer in high doses. California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act  requires companies with more than 10 employees to warn their customers about the presence of carcinogenic and toxic chemicals in their products, even in tiny amounts. Acrylamide, a chemical compound that is produced naturally during the roasting of coffee beans, is on the state’s list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. The judge ruled that the coffee company had the burden of proof  to show that acrylamide posed no significant health risk to coffee drinkers, even though there is no evidence that coffee does pose a risk. Continue reading