Friday, October 14, 2016

Sam Harris takes on Trump

Read "Trump in Exile" over at Sam Harris's blog. If you're a Trumpista, you'll vehemently disagree, of course. One of the more amusing passages:

Hillary Clinton is a terribly flawed candidate for the presidency, and this has allowed millions of otherwise sane Americans to imagine that she is less fit for office than Donald Trump is. Much depends on a majority of the electorate seeing through this moral and political illusion in the weeks ahead.

To consider only one point of comparison: We have now witnessed Donald Trump bragging about his sexual predations in terms that not even Satan himself could spin to his advantage. He has admitted to repeatedly groping women, kissing them on the mouth without their consent, and invading the dressing rooms of teenage pageant contestants to see them naked. Every day, more women come forward confirming the truth of these confessions. Trump has even said that he would have sex with his own daughter, were she the offspring of another man. He talks about his libido as only a malignant narcissist can: as though it were a wonder of nature, a riddle no mortal can solve, and a blessing to humanity.

Such disclosures should have ended Trump’s presidential campaign. But as luck would have it, Hillary Clinton is married to a man who can probably match Trump indiscretion for indiscretion. Indeed, Donald Trump and Bill Clinton are both trailing serious accusations of rape. Whether or not the worst of these charges are true, these are not normal men. Each has lived for decades as a roving id flanked by a security detail. Each is the very avatar of entitlement. However, only one of these cads radiates contempt for nearly every other member of our species. Only one has made humiliating people—and women in particular—a central part of his brand. Only one has become a troubled adolescent’s fantasy of what a man should be, exposing a ruinous insecurity and moral emptiness every time he opens his mouth. Most important, only one of these men is running for president today. And, personal ethics aside, only one is dangerously unfit for the job.

While Trump’s attitude toward women should be disqualifying, it is among his least frightening traits when it comes to assuming the responsibilities of the presidency. His fondness for Vladimir Putin, the whimsy with which he has entertained the first use of nuclear weapons, his disregard for our NATO alliances, his promise to use federal regulators to harass his critics, his belief that climate change is a hoax, his recommendation that we kill the families of terrorists, his suggestion that America might want to default on its debt—any one of these sentiments should have ended Trump’s bid for public office at once. In fact, Donald Trump is so unfit for the presidency that he has done great harm to our society by merely campaigning for it. The harm he could do from the White House can scarcely be imagined.

I've seen the choice between candidates framed various ways, many of which revolve around the "devil you know" trope:

"Vote HRC! She's damaged goods, but who knows what horrors await us with Trump?"
"Vote Trump! We know what horrors HRC brings, but we don't know what Trump will do!"

In one case, the devil you know is a reassuring entity, far better than a weaponized wild card. In the other, the devil you know is the fiend you want to keep away from power. Sam Harris, however, seems to be arguing that, although we can't imagine the damage a Trump administration might do, we nevertheless already know everything we need to know about both candidates to make a judgment. We don't need to see Trump in office, according to Harris, to know how he's going to perform. Harris's view represents a very large school of thought: that of the already-decided pro-HRC voter.

At a guess, it's that all-is-known assumption that rankles Trump advocates. Naturally, they fire back. He's a raging egomaniac? Well, quite a few presidents have been that. He's a serial groper? This isn't news to people who understand that many—if not most—males in power tend to abuse that power, often in a sexual way. He's a crass, uncultured vulgarian? People think civility has only recently drained out of politics, but they forget that, centuries ago, politicians sometimes settled their differences by shooting at each other. Ask Alexander Hamilton. By that standard, today's mudslinging is an improvement over pistols at dawn. From the Trumpista's point of view, each of the major criticisms of Trump has a reply, and it's not obvious that Hillary Clinton is clearly the better choice. If anything, a Trumpista would say it's the reverse. Here's a sarcastic reply to an anti-Trumper comment on a Daily Caller thread:

Yes, because Trump:

- Has the entire media complex on his side
- Has a long, deep history of corruption
- Intentionally mishandled state secrets, thus placing them in danger
- Started a 'charity' so he could fund his political aspirations using foreign money
- Stole property from the White House when he vacated it
- Left the White House 'dead broke' only to be worth over a $100 million in less than a decade off of 'speaking fees' and foreign 'donations' to his foundation
- Created a homebrew server for the purpose of hiding corruption
- Destroyed evidence in a criminal investigation
- Destroyed public property after leaving office
- Lied under oath to Congress
- Lied to the FBI
- Abused his political power to avoid prosecution for charges that would have landed any of us in federal prison for 30+ years
- Lied to the American people repeatedly
- Gave his donors special treatment while he was in office
- Robbed from the Haitians after a massive earthquake devastated their country
- Publicly shamed and humiliated his spouse's sexual assault victims
- Enabled his spouse to be a serial sexual assaulter
- Has a documented history of being downright nasty to anyone he looks down upon
- Can't do anything in public unless it's 100 percent scripted to uphold the fake persona he tries to portray
- Made a fortune off of serving in government

And the list goes on, and on, and on, and on...

But it wasn't Trump that did any of those things, it was Hillary Clinton, and she did them while she was in our government. Regardless of what you think of Trump, nothing he's done as a private citizen has had any bearing whatsoever on our nation's government, laws, or policies, which means he bears no responsibility for the mess we're in. That's all on Hillary and her beloved Democrat Party.

Go ahead, vote for Hillary. All you'll be doing is voting for more of the exact same thing everyone wants to change now.

What a mess, eh? That said, I'm glad to have read Harris's article. It's a way of keeping myself balanced. I'm still not sure who might win the election, although my suspicion remains that Trump isn't pulling off any landslides anytime soon. I think that, if Trump wins, we're going to see massive riots in big cities, all fueled by leftist rage. If Hillary wins, I expect conservatives to sulk for a long while, then go about the business of trying to undermine her at every turn.

One of the more interesting pro-Trump arguments I've heard came from Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit. Several months ago, he said that, if Trump becomes president, the media will do its proper job and constantly take him to task, forcing his administration to be maximally* transparent. If Hillary Clinton were to become president, by contrast, the media would do nothing but cover for her, as they're doing now during the campaign. This humble argument, which Reynolds nonchalantly tossed out in one of his many short blog posts, strikes me as one of the most powerful arguments in favor of Trump. Granted, it's not powerful enough to persuade me that I should vote for the man (I'm very likely going to abstain this time around; I don't want to be blamed for helping to put either of these people into power), but it's certainly a factor to consider. When a Republican occupies the White House, the Fourth Estate can be counted on to hold him to high standards. Dissent becomes patriotic again.

Harris writes:

As many others have noted, there was a point in the second presidential debate when Trump’s campaign ceased to be a depressing farce and became the terrifying, national disgrace we now see before us. The crucial moment wasn’t when Trump threatened to imprison Clinton if he wins in November—it was the shriek of joy this threat produced in half the audience. That was the sound of our democracy unraveling. And there was Trump, the crazed man-child tearing at the threads.

I've mentioned before that the two contrasting worldviews at work in this election can see the very same evidence and interpret it in completely opposite ways. Was Trump's "Jail to the Chief" moment about the death of democracy or the triumph of justice? Whatever it was, I see both sides arguing that their candidate is going to win big. On November 8, one side is going to have a lot of explaining to do as it picks through the rubble of defeat.

*Note that I said maximally, not completely. No one is naive enough to believe the media can uncover every secret deal, plan, or operation of the US government. But the media will do their utmost to make a Trump administration as transparent as possible. They won't let him get away with a single stray remark, eyebrow waggle, or whiff of impropriety.


King Baeksu said...

If Dr. Sam Harris is so smart, why is he seemingly incapable of developing arguments that transcend the mindless "social-justice" pandering shat out daily by the Krooked Killary campaign? It's sheer stinky propaganda and nothing more.

Donald Trump is now seventy years old. I doubt his libido is even able to fire up past room temperature at this point, and it is certainly doubtful that he'll be molesting interns in the White House the way that JFK and Bubba Bill notoriously did (both Democrats who get a pass, of course). On the other hand, he is likely to appoint many women to important positions and high office, as he has been doing for years within his own companies (indeed, his own campaign manager and chief spokesperson are women).

The whole Alicia Machado "controversy" was a joke. She has a history of consorting with violent criminals, and violated her Miss Universe contract by ballooning up some sixty pounds in nine months, so Trump had every right to "fat shame" her or whatever the fuck you want to call it. The conversation with Billy Bush was completely private and literally harmed no women at the time. And if any women really were molested or sexually assaulted by Trump in the past, why didn't they file charges at the time, given the obvious financial incentive for them to do so? I find their sudden compulsion to denounce Trump at this particular moment, years or even decades after the alleged fact, highly suspicious to say the very least.

In any case, I reject Sam Harris' entire framing of this once-in-a-century election, which is absurdly superficial and embarrassingly sophomoric. If he thinks this race boils down to a referendum on whether or not enough women's feelings were hurt by things Trump has said, then he is an intellectual Lilliputian who does not deserve to be taken seriously. Fuck him and his pandering, divisive identity politics, is all that I can say.

Comment continued below

King Baeksu said...

Comment continued from above

Here is how I frame the race: If you believe that the US is a sovereign nation-state, and not just a soulless, giant shopping mall owned and operated by predatory global finance, then you vote for Trump. If you believe that a nearly trillion-dollar annual trade deficit is unsustainable and that the American working-class deserves more than simply being sold out by Wall $treet, then you vote for Trump. If you believe that the neoconservative agenda of endless war and nihilistic assault on the entire Middle East is a disaster, then you vote for Trump. If you believe that the open-borders "dream" of allowing untold millions of immigrants from the developing world to flood into the US and drive down wages for native-born American workers is pretty fucked up, then you vote for Trump. If you believe a bloated state apparatus that sucks up wealth from hard-working Americans needs to be tamed rather than radically expanded, then you vote for Trump. And if you believe that identity-politics is needlessly divisive and that the "social-justice movement" is a deranged cult of victimology that has completely jumped the shark, and that maybe we should all just be fellow Americans first and foremost, then you vote for Trump.

Then again, maybe you're gormless, emasculated chump like Sam Harris who needs to virtue-signal to get any pussy, and who resents real men who have the balls to just take what they want, and in that case you vote for Krooked Killary. And if people like Sam Harris had any actual brain power, they would recognize the great irony that voting for a such monumentally corrupt and treasonous woman like $hillary Clinton will inevitably damage the image of all women in America. For if this wicked witch becomes the ultimate feminist symbol and icon in America, then the feminist brand will be as toxic and deathly as Chernobyl. Of course, if she actually does manage to start WW3 with Russia and nuclear armageddon is the end result, I suppose it won't really matter any more, will it?

Cast your vote accordingly, folks. You're either a patriot who cares about the good of your country and your fellow citizens, or you're not. It's that simple. Everything else is just noise and bullshit.

Nathan B. said...

The quoted defense of Trump doesn't add up at all. For instance:

-the Clintons took some White House property with them when they left, whereas Trump owes massive amounts of money to people who were contracted to do work for his corporations, and he didn't pay them.

-the Clintons have a long deep history of corruption...but so does Trump. His charitable foundation did no charitable work, but instead raised money that was then used to pay Trump's business expenses. Furthermore, his foundation operated illegally without registering under NY laws, which allowed it to escape reporting requirements. Then, too, there is also the matter of Trump University.

-the Clintons "left the White House 'dead broke' only to be worth over a $100 million in less than a decade off of 'speaking fees' and foreign 'donations' to his foundation"--well, first of all, "dead broke" is certainly wrong. President Clinton presided over an economy that did much better than anything that took place under Bush's watch. Trump, on the other hand, has had multiple bankruptcies, took a loss some years ago of many hundreds of millions of dollars, and has never had to pay income tax since... and now he's extremely wealthy--far, far wealthier than both the Clintons combined

-other things, like "Destroying evidence in a criminal investigation; destroyed public property after leaving office; lying under oath to Congress" etc.--does anyone really believe that Trump, who is pretty much capable of speaking ONLY in lies, wouldn't lie to governmental and legal bodies? He hasn't had the scrutiny that Clinton has because he hasn't been in public life. That's all. He's not better than her; he's much worse.

-other items, such as "Has a documented history of being downright nasty to anyone he looks down upon" apply exactly to Trump.

Meanwhile, Trump is actively looking to disenfranchise Black and Hispanic voters, has a documented history of denying housing to non-White people, and has a documented history of assaulting women--which he actually has bragged about on the record. If Trump is elected, I believe that sexual assaults will rise dramatically over time because if such behavior is good enough for Trump, Trump-wannabes will think, it will be good enough for them.

Clinton is a badly flawed candidate, and I'm angry with the Democrat party for nominating her...but her flaws pale in comparison with Trump's.

Harris is absolutely right.

Kevin Kim said...


Pat Condell agrees with you on Twitter:
"How depressing. I thought Sam Harris was brighter than this. The most myopic and biased piece of writing I’ve read in a while."


I think the "dead broke" quote was from out of Hillary Clinton's own mouth—a claim that's been widely derided as an exaggeration. HRC was talking about her financial state upon leaving the White House after Bill Clinton's second term.

If you had your druthers, which candidates do you think should have run against each other this election cycle?

Nathan B. said...

Hi Kevin! of course you're right. I had forgotten that. The grammar of the sentence was ambiguous, but I should have realized what the poster was trying to say since it doesn't really make any sense to say that the White House is broke.

Anyway, I would have loved to see two people with integrity and intelligence be nominated. I actually believe each party could have had many choices. My perfect match-up would have been Powell vs. Warren. Regardless of who lost, the country would have won. If I restrict myself to the actual candidates for each party, then Jeb Bush or Kasich vs. Sanders.

King Baeksu said...

Trump owes massive amounts of money to people who were contracted to do work for his corporations, and he didn't pay them.

Have you ever worked in the construction industry? Do you concede that contractors who perform shoddy work may not deserve to be paid in full, or even at all, for the initially agreed-upon rate? If so, can you please provide a source proving that those contractors complaining about being stiffed by Trump performed their work to full satisfaction? Seriously, if Trump had a habit of routinely screwing contractors, word would soon get out and he'd never be able to get any building projects done.

His charitable foundation did no charitable work, but instead raised money that was then used to pay Trump's business expenses.

Without getting into the legitimacy of such charges, are you arguing that this is at all comparable with the outrageous criminal racket that is the Clinton Foundation? Hillary Clinton, along with her husband, used her public office to rake in billions from corporations and foreign governments, which in turn received favorable treatment from US authorities. The standard term for this is "pay to play," and often it comes at the expense of US taxpayers and ordinary citizens in the developing world. Surely such corruption at the highest level of our government is in a class of its own and can in no way be excused. Indeed, it is treason as it involves foreign entities and compromises US national security.

To be continued

King Baeksu said...

President Clinton presided over an economy that did much better than anything that took place under Bush's watch.

Clintonian neoliberalism was good for Wall $treet and the upper class, but not so much for the working and middle classes, who saw their wages stagnate during his two terms and millions of their jobs shipped abroad. His repeal of Glass-Steagall also unleashed the crazed "casino capitalism" that ultimately led to the great financial crisis of 2007-2008.

Trump, on the other hand, has had multiple bankruptcies, took a loss some years ago of many hundreds of millions of dollars, and has never had to pay income tax since...

Trump has created over 500 businesses throughout his career and has filed for half a dozen bankruptcies. That's a failure rate of around 1%, which is certainly better than the career of Steve Jobs, for instance. As for taxes, Trump has paid hundreds of millions in property taxes, state taxes, labor taxes and many others. You statement is therefore factually incorrect, as you are only referring to federal income tax, which was fully legal to my knowledge.

and now he's extremely wealthy--far, far wealthier than both the Clintons combined.

That's a good point, since it suggests that he is far less likely to engage in corruption or "pay-to-play" schemes than Krooked Killary, should he win the election. He already has far more filthy lucre than he'd ever be able to spend in a lifetime.

To be continued

King Baeksu said...

Trump... is pretty much capable of speaking ONLY in lies

Your single comment here contains numerous false statements and inaccuracies, ergo your ability to measure Trump's statements against some kind of "truth standard" to which you are magically privy, and thereby prove that Trump is invariably a liar, simply doesn't hold up to scrutiny. More to the point, Trump has been relatively consistent in his preferred policy positions over the years, unlike many other politicians including $hillary. For example, he has been a critic of our current trade-policy regime going back decades.

...[Trump] hasn't been in public life.

Surely you can't be serious. Trump has been a highly visible public figure for nearly his entire adult life. You can even find YouTube videos of him from the 1980s being asked by the likes of Oprah Winfrey about whether he might one day run for the presidency.

To be continued

King Baeksu said...

He's not better than her; he's much worse.

Public-opinion polls suggest that Krooked Killary is far less trusted than is Trump, and she is also perceived to be far more corrupt. You lose all credibility when making such exaggerated and easily falsifiable statements. Indeed, $hillary has flat-out admitted in private that she consciously lies to the public, as the recent Wikileaks revelations have shown us. The problem with Trump, on the other hand, is that he is often too blunt and straight-forward, which if anything indicates that he is clearly not a professional politician.

Trump is actively looking to disenfranchise Black and Hispanic voters

Source please. During the current election cycle, nearly all the revelations about voting fraud have been on the Democratic Party side. I wonder what you think about this video, in which a DP Election Commissioner admits that voters in New York are bused around to vote numerous times for their preferred candidates, which they are able to do as identification is not required there by law. Are you one of those individuals who believes than being require to have an ID to vote is "racist"? I would suggest that if an individual is too retarded to obtain personal identification for themselves, they automatically disqualify themselves from the franchise as they lack the intelligence and basic common sense that are a minimum requirement for involvement in civic affairs and the electoral process.

To be continued

King Baeksu said...

[Trump] has a documented history of assaulting women--which he actually has bragged about on the record.

I don't believe you listened to the Access Hollywood tape carefully. If a groupie "lets" you do something to her, which was the exact verb he used, that is not assault. It's very clearly consent. I would also note that he admitted to Billy Bush that he actually failed to score with the woman he mentioned in the tape, so clearly he did the very opposite of forcing himself on her: He actually respected the fact that she "just wasn't that into him."

My perfect match-up would have been Powell vs. Warren. Regardless of who lost, the country would have won. If I restrict myself to the actual candidates for each party, then Jeb Bush or Kasich vs. Sanders.

Powell, Kasich and Jeb Bush are all status-quo yes-men who are fully on board with the neoconservative and neoliberal program, meaning endless foreign wars and continued upwards wealth transfer from the 99% to the 1%. Warren and Sanders are pie-in-the-sky socialists who would expand the state dramatically and leave us with a national debt of $50 trillion by the time they left official. They would also radically empower the lunatics in the "social-justice movement" and unleash a veritable Cultural Revolution of the type that China suffered in the 1960s and 1970s. We all saw how quickly Sanders caved when those female BLM activists stormed his stage, for example, so I have no doubt that he would have done whatever they told him to do. No thanks!

Again, the whole damn system its rotten, and there is only one candidate running at the moment who is a complete outsider willing to take it on and at least attempt to reform it.

King Baeksu said...

Trump responds to the recent sexual-harassment allegations against him:

This race is the real WW3. I hope Trump has top-shelf security, because TPTB are likely to try to take him out if they feel he is getting too close to victory.