Today’s readings

March 3, 2017 • 9:00 am

Here are two items I call to your attention. The first is reader Heather Hastie’s new post, “Atheists are becoming more popular!“, reporting the heartening results of a new Pew Survey.

The other is a long and truly superb piece in The Atlantic by David Frum on what’s likely to happen under the Trump Administration, and how we can fight against it. Click on the screenshot to go to the piece:


One excerpt:

Trump has scant interest in congressional Republicans’ ideas, does not share their ideology, and cares little for their fate. He can—and would—break faith with them in an instant to further his own interests. Yet here they are, on the verge of achieving everything they have hoped to achieve for years, if not decades. They owe this chance solely to Trump’s ability to deliver a crucial margin of votes in a handful of states—Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania—which has provided a party that cannot win the national popular vote a fleeting opportunity to act as a decisive national majority. The greatest risk to all their projects and plans is the very same X factor that gave them their opportunity: Donald Trump, and his famously erratic personality. What excites Trump is his approval rating, his wealth, his power. The day could come when those ends would be better served by jettisoning the institutional Republican Party in favor of an ad hoc populist coalition, joining nationalism to generous social spending—a mix that’s worked well for authoritarians in places like Poland. Who doubts Trump would do it? Not Paul Ryan. Not Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader. For the first time since the administration of John Tyler in the 1840s, a majority in Congress must worry about their president defecting from them rather than the other way around.

40 thoughts on “Today’s readings

  1. The good news is that since the Republicans control both houses it should be easy for them to get together with the Democrats on this issue and impeach his ass to the wall.

    That’s the big stick that they have to keep him in line.

    1. For the moment, at least, there isn’t the slightest indication that Republicans have any desire to impeach Trump. Indeed, they seem to caving into him and abandoning some traditional Republican positions, such as on free trade.

      Of course, this can change in the future, but it is unlikely. For Republicans to attempt to impeach a president of their own party would be such an embarrassment to them as well as a threat to their electorability that I can’t see it happening.

        1. Embarrassment isn’t a concern, but their ability to win an election without Trump is. If they can fool enough people that Trump is doing a good job, they will have control for at least four years. Obama lost full control after two years, but because of which seats are up in 2018, the GOP is unlikely too barring a major screw up. Keep enough fooled and with Trump as president there’s currently a good possibility he’ll win again in 2020.

          The Dems currently think moving further left will win them the election. That’s like when the GOP thought moving further right would do it for them. There are also still too many using words like “inclusive”. Everyone knows the Dems are inclusive – it should be the secondary message. First, people need to know what you’re going to do to govern the country. Clinton had some good policies but utterly failed to articulate them.

          1. “That’s like when the GOP thought moving further right would do it for them.”

            Psst…. It did work for them!

      1. I think it would take a big-league disclosure regarding the Russian-influence scandal, one that would drop Trump’s approval rating virtually to nil.

        Short of that, the Republicans have demonstrated a near-bottomless well for the humiliation they’re willing to tolerate from Trump.

    2. Does he care about that.? he would in all probability appeal to his base and grow a movement leading to extreme nationalism, if he hasn’t already.Imagine the reaction from his moronic followers who hang on his every word ,to a move by Congress to impeach him.

  2. Sam Harris just had David Frum on his Waking Up podcast. It was excellent and I urge everyone to listen to it. Frum talks about his Atlantic article and how we can resist Cammander Marmalade that’s sitting in The Oval Office right now. Though Frum’s a staunch conservative, he voted for Clinton because, as he says in the interview, Trump is totally unfit to be in that position.

  3. You guys are doing it rong.

    David Frum hasn’t been right about anything for a decade. Furthermore, he is certainly not a staunch conservative.

  4. Pretty good article but I think Frum overlooks one important factor in guessing how things turn out. The economy is the whole deal it seems to me. If this guy can raise the pay of all the unhappy crowd who have either lost their good paying jobs or never had one, that will be where the success or failure of the guy lies. If we have a global recession that is serious it will take us with it and there is not a damn thing Trump can do. I agree that he will do much damage to nearly every other area he gets his hands on but apparently not enough people care.

    Congress is not going to fix anything and they have been dying for several years and will continue to die. All congress in this country amounts to is a gravy train to bigger money in Washington in the world of lobby and corruption. Hell, the lobby firms write the laws and then tell the congress how to vote, or else. Get out there and vote because it doesn’t mean a thing.

  5. It’s interesting that David Frum dislikes Trump so much yet he came out in strong support of GW Bush-lite Stephen Harper.

    Harper’s administration was downright racist and anti-immigrant.

    Harper silenced the press and scientists.

    Harper took no issue with mines dumping toxic waste in freshwater lakes and rivers if it meant profit.

    Harper was all about gutting social programs.

    But Harper is a neocon, like Frum. So I guess that explains it.


    I am going to hold my nose and listen to Trump’s hour long speech today. *Apparently* it went rather well and he said that he 1) only opposes illegal immigrants and loves those who are legal 2) said that he would not completely gut the ACA, and would in fact protect those with pre-existing conditions.

    Best that I hear it form the source vs interpretations from others.

    Wish me luck guyz!

    1. Trump says several good things in his speech that most liberal minded people would agree with. However, his (and his administrations’) actual actions, even right up until the day of the speech, do not jive at all with those good things that he says in the speech.

      As far as Trump speeches go it was the best, hands down, that I’ve ever seen. I’ve never heard such a wide range of vocabulary from him, nor such lucidity. It was definitely his best performance as president to date.

      The thing I don’t understand is why anyone would believe a fucking thing he said in that speech. Most of the press is exclaiming how he has turned around and that he has finally, in that moment, “become the president of the United States.” Makes me nauseous. And here I thought perhaps the press was waking up to their responsibilities for the first time in 20 or 30 years.

      1. “Performance” is exactly what it was. It was all an act. Especially the part where he extols the virtues of the dead Navy Seal and has the grieving widow there, beside his own daughter. And then quotes the bible. How can anyone seriously believe anything this guy says? All theatrics, all bullshit. I almost brought up my dinner. I had to turn it off. America – you are better than this!

          1. Unlike Trump, Obama could read at an adult level. Plus, he took an active hand in drafting his own speeches (and on occasion wrote them entirely on his own). He was also an articulate extemporaneous speaker, presenting his thoughts in full paragraphs.

            Trump has never written anything but inarticulate tweets. He’s in his element only when fulminating incoherently before a mob of supporters. He rarely utters a grammatical sentence. He couldn’t form a subordinate clause if you spotted him a mouthful of “inasmuch.”

            1. Confusing intelligence with proper grammar, spelling, or elocution is an error of conceit. The converse of this error is to confuse elocution, grammar, and spelling with intelligence. George W. Bush is nearly inarticulate at times, but quite intelligent. Obama’s elocution and skin color propelled him to the presidency, but I have yet to see evidence of his vaunted intellectual capacity. Bill Clinton is highly intelligent and articulate. Trump stumbles with his vocalizations and is careless with facts, but he is by no means stupid.

              I’m going to enjoy the Left’s underestimation of him for eight years.

              1. My comment was limited to relative articulateness; I never mentioned intelligence.

                What is the basis for your evaluation of the relative intelligence for these presidents — in particular, for your estimate of the high intelligence of GWB?

    2. Might be “interesting,” but it’s hardly surprising, given that Frum was a Bush II speechwriter, as well as a life-long conservative of Canadian provenance.

      1. Yeah, my point was just that Frum supported Harper who, in my opinion, isn’t all that better than Trump.

    1. Yep, especially by older people. I went on about that at length in the 2014 post, so I didn’t do the same thing this time.

      I want to know, because I don’t get, why young people have such a negative reaction to Mormons.

        1. What’s so upsetting about that though? I mean they believe stupid stuff, and I don’t hold with the proselytizing, but the Mormons are by far the least objectionable of the missionaries who knock on my door. And most Mormons I come across are genuinely nice people. What gives?

          1. They believe that Joe Smith used a stone and a hat to decode golden tablets. That Native Americans are lost Israelites. Well, you know all of that.

            Those are mock-worthy ideas.

            (I was trying to joke about the shirts and ties.)

            1. Sorry I missed the joke. It’s hard when you can’t see someone’s face or hear their tone of voice.

              I think the average person doesn’t really know about the weird stuff Mormons believe, and if they do, they don’t really think about it. I know when I look at a Mormon I’m not thinking about their underwear all the time, or wondering how they can believe such stupid stuff. And it’s not really that different from all the other stupid stuff like virgin births and flying horses. People just don’t really think about it in their everyday interactions. So that’s why I wonder about the antipathy towards Mormons.

              1. I’m not sure who the “average person” is here. “Christians tend to learn early from their instructors” that Mormons are a “cult” and not Christians at all.

                Young people, I suspect, do in fact tend to know about the goofiness and the magic underwear. In the Internet age it is hard to be unaware of it.

              2. Good point. My post does mention that evangelical Christians don’t see Mormons as proper Christians so I’d assume you’re right about them learning that early on.

                But their elders still really hate atheists and Muslims, but younger people are okay with everyone except Mormons. You’re doing better than I am at thinking of reasons I must admit!

                Isn’t it the Mormons who put out those anti-wank videos? Maybe that’s the problem?

              3. I guess my main point is that antipathy to Mormons goes way back in American culture. The Mormon War is an early example of conflict between Mormons and generic American Christians. Today’s young folk inherit a cultural antipathy. Add to that Mormon secrecy regarding their religious practices (now leaking onto Youtube) and publicity over silly underwear and you have a pretty good explanation to the “average person” view (IMO).

              4. Interesting. Thanks for the perspective. It’s culturally different here, so that is what makes the difference I guess. There is a different base perception of Mormons. We obviously didn’t have all the early history, and they’re not even recognized as being historically racist here because a majority of members have always been Maori. Also, we only have the main sect – we don’t have all the polygamous ones, for example.

                I remember being told about the underwear as a teenager and assuming it was a myth because it was so stupid!

              5. My parents lived in Hamilton from the late 60s to the mid-80s and, because Hamilton had the only temple in New Zealand (the first in the Southern Hemisphere), Mormon missionaries would start their duty tour there – which meant that they had a lot of pairs of earnest young men in suits, white shirts, and ties coming by. They apparently did good work (I’m not speaking of proselytizing) in Maori and Pacific Islander communities, which were historically poor. Back then, as I recall, Africans and African-Americans could not be ordained, but the church wisely decided that they would not go far with that sort of a policy in NZ, and Maoris could be ordained just as Caucasians could (I don’t know about the Pacific Islanders).

  6. Frum has been on Bill Maher a handful of times and has always come across as very rigid in his views and quite arrogant (On Maher he was quite adamant that marijuana should never be legalized—imagine how that was received by Bill). That said he’s been as vocal a critic of Trump as anyone on Twitter and so liberals and progressives have been cozying up to him. He’s saying things that need to be said and he is saying them well.

    My personal take on Trump & Congress is as simple as: it’s the Art of the Deal. It’s what Trump (supposedly) does best. He brokered the Deal of the Century with Republicans and promised to deliver everything they have ever dreamed of and then some in exchange for ultimately lining his and his family’s pockets. I don’t think he ever planned on staying in office—he’s going to deliver, step out and then cash in. I don’t think it is any more complicated than that.

  7. Read the Atlantic article a couple of days ago and it’s excellent! Frum was a Dubya speechwriter and the son of a well-known very liberal Canadian commentator, Barbara Frum.

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