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Nederlog

 March 16, 2016

Crisis: Fascism, Greenwald, Clintons' Earnings, Trump's Lies, The U.S. Military
Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1.
Father of Fascism Studies: Donald Trump Shows
     Alarming Willingness to Use Fascist Terms & Styles

2. Glenn Greenwald Blames Corporate Media’s ‘Faux
     Objectivity’ for Trump’s Ascent

3.
The Clintons' $93 Million Romance With Wall Street 
4. Trump Tells a Lie About Every Five Minutes, Literally
5. Civilian Control of the Military is Over, Welcome to
     Civilian Subjugation

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, March 16, 2016.


This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article in which "the father of fascism studies" is asked whether Trump is a fascist: the answer is ambiguous and not clear; item 2 is about whether Greenwald complained about "faux objectivity" or its totalitarian explanation, and I conclude the latter; item 3 is about the enormous amounts of money that the Clintons got from the big banks, and is quite good; item 4 is about the lies Trump indulges in, but has a mistaken conclusion; and item 5 is an excellent and long article about the strong grip the American military has now acquired (since Clinton, also) on the civil population of the USA.
 
1. Father of Fascism Studies: Donald Trump Shows Alarming Willingness to Use Fascist Terms & Styles
The first item is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:

This starts as follows:

"Fascism: Could it happen here?" That’s a question increasingly being raised as Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump continues his bid for the White House. People as varied as actor George Clooney, comedian Louis C.K. and Anne Frank’s stepsister Eva Schloss have suggested Trump is a fascist. Earlier this month, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto criticized Trump by invoking the fascist dictators Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Trump has retweeted quotes by Mussolini. Is Donald Trump really a fascist? We put the question to the father of fascism studies, Robert Paxton, professor emeritus of social science at Columbia University and author of several books, including "The Anatomy of Fascism."

It so happens that I know a fair amount about fascism, but I never read a book by Robert Paxton (<- Wikipedia) - who is said to be the "father of fascism studies".

I suppose this must be - at least - qualified by the addition of "in the United States" and I should add that the definition of "fascism" that he uses is certainly not mine.

Here is that definition, quoted from Wikipedia. It comes from Paxton's 2004 book "The anatomy of fascism":

Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victim-hood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.

I am a psychologist, but this is far too much of a psychological definition, and besides, it mostly avoids references to sociology and wholly avoids a reference to the economy. (And where are authoritarianism, totalitarianism, and corporatism, for example?)

Next, it turns out that there is a Wikipedia lemma entitled "Definitions of fascism" that starts as follows:

What constitutes a definition of fascism and fascist governments is a highly disputed subject that has proved complicated and contentious. Historians, political scientists, and other scholars have engaged in long and furious debates concerning the exact nature of fascism and its core tenets.

Most scholars agree that a "fascist regime" is foremost an authoritarian form of government, although not all authoritarian regimes are fascist. Authoritarianism is thus a defining characteristic, but most scholars will say that more distinguishing traits are needed to make an authoritarian regime fascist.

Similarly, fascism as an ideology is also hard to define. Originally, "fascism" referred to a political movement that was linked with corporatism and existed in Italy from 1922 to 1943 under the leadership of Benito Mussolini.
This in turn is followed by no less than twenty attempted definitions, that include Paxton's, and that vary wildly.

In case you are interested in fascism and in a plausible definition, I refer you to this Wikipedia lemma. It certainly is interesting.

I will not discuss this lemma further here and now, except by saying that I liked Dimitrov's definition, though mostly because this inspired my father, and not because I think it is intellectually very good [1]; I liked Emilio Gentile's definition; and I liked the Marxist definitions; and there was more that was good in the lemma. [2]

Back to the article, which - after an introduction - starts as follows:

AMY GOODMAN: So, what do you think of Donald Trump? Is he a fascist?

ROBERT PAXTON: Well, I think that Donald Trump shows a rather alarming willingness to use fascist themes and fascist styles, which—and the response this gets, the positive response, is alarming.

AMY GOODMAN: What is fascism?

ROBERT PAXTON: Well, fascism is a mass nationalist movement intended to restore a country that’s been damaged or is in decline, by expansion, by violent attacks on enemies, internal as well as external enemies, and measures of authority, the replacement of democracy by an authoritarian dictatorship.

Having arrived at this point, I realized that Paxton may be a big name in fascism studies, and that he is right about fascism as an authoritarian dictatorship (which is missing in his above quoted definition) - but that his definition of "fascism" certainly is not mine, and so I started looking around, and arrived at the above findings.

As to the direct question whether Paxton thinks that Trump is a fascist (or not), the answer is more academic than heroic:

PAXTON: (...) But in general, I’m very leery of the use of the term too casually. And I do see great differences between Trump and fascism.

I do not say that academics should be heroic, but also I do not have a lot of respect for this claimed "father of fascism" studies (in the United States) who is "very leery of the use of the term too casually", while he certainly knows there have been wide-ranging debates about the term, and also that almost anything may be rapidly connected to "fascism" or "nazism" in (especially) popular discussions - see Godwin's Law.

Also, I do not see much heroism in referring to "
great differences between Trump and fascism" without articulating a single one.

Here is the last attempt of Amy Goodman to make Paxton say something interesting:

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think Donald Trump is a danger to America or represents a danger that’s already here?

ROBERT PAXTON: I think that his violent and aggressive temperament installed in the powers of the president of the United States is unpredictable and frightening.

But no: He again has nothing to offer but his psychological judgement that an aggressive man like Trump is frightening as a president of the USA. Well... I say: You don't need to be "the father of fascism studies" (in the USA) to conclude that.

What do I think of it? I suppose Paxton is an academic as I have learned to know academics:

They certainly would - in very large majority - not have resisted the Nazis as my father, my mother, and my grandfather did, and they often did nothing because they were - so they claimed - much too preoccupied with "finding the correct definition" of the dangerous evils they saw happening around them to do anything risky against the dangerous evils they saw.

And while this might be a little unfair about Paxton - whom I don't know at all - it certainly holds for nearly all the Dutch academics I have known quite well.

2. Glenn Greenwald Blames Corporate Media’s ‘Faux Objectivity’ for Trump’s Ascent
The second item is by Donald Kaufman on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald—widely recognized for his reporting on the government surveillance programs that National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed in 2013—says the corporate media is largely to blame for the rise of Donald Trump.

Why? “Because the rules of large media outlets—venerating faux objectivity over truth along with every other civic value—prohibit the sounding of any alarms” about Trump or other dangers, he writes.

I treated Glenn Greenwald's article yesterday - except that I did not consider that "faux objectivity" is the main problem with much of present day journalists: For me that was a flag of unreason, so to speak, that both masks and expresses their fundamentally totalitarian attitudes. (In the form of: "Listen mate, we are not totalitarian - are you crazy? We merely agreed to say all the
same things, don't you see?")

Would I be that mistaken? Here are some (not all) of the quotes from Greenwald that Kaufman gives:

Contrary to what U.S. media corporations have succeeded in convincing people, these journalistic neutrality rules are not remotely traditional. They are newly invented concepts that coincided with the acquisition of the nation’s most important media outlets by large, controversy-averse corporations for which “media” was just one of many businesses.

And I said or implied that these "newly invented concepts" are not what they are represented as ("objectivity") but are a sort of stage make-up that hides totalitarianism for the simple reason that this is what is implied: if every journalist says essentially the same, this is not journalism anymore but propaganda, and if it is all the same it cannot but be totalitarian.

But I agree Glenn Greenwald also wrote things that suggests he blames the
the forced objectivity:

Large corporations hate controversy (it alienates consumers) and really hate offending those who wield political power (bad for business). Imposing objectivity rules on the journalists who work for their media divisions was a means to avoid offending anyone by forcing journalists to conceal their perspectives, assumptions, and viewpoints, and, worse, forcing them to dishonestly pretend that they had none, that they float above all that.

Glenn Greenwald is probably correct that "large corporations hate controversy" - but in this case it isn't just about "large corporations" but about such corpo- rations as engage in journalism - and since a free press is essential to real democracy, to attempt to prescribe to journalists what they should say and to force "them to dishonestly pretend that they had" no "perspectives, assum- ptions, and viewpoints" is to force a totalitarian attitude on them, and to make it impossible that they write as real journalists (or indeed as real persons), which again makes it impossible for anyone who reads their stuff to know what
really may be happening.

Greenwald is also quoted on the consequences:

This framework neutered journalism and drained it of all its vitality and passion, reducing journalists to stenography drones permitted to do little more than summarize what each equally valid side asserts. Worse, it ensures that people who wield great influence and power—such as Donald Trump—can engage in all sorts of toxic, dishonest, and destructive behavior without having to worry about any check from journalists, who are literally barred by their employers from speaking out (even as their employers profit greatly through endless coverage).
But again I say: If that is the case, then the "journalists" who let themselves be made into "stenographic drones" allowed themselves to be changed from journalists into - well: "persons" who all express the same viewpoints, because they like their payments, and they don't want to give problems or be a nuisance to their bosses or the state.

Which again makes them into totalitarian "journalists", by my criterions. And therefore: No, I don't think I was mistaken.
3. The Clintons' $93 Million Romance With Wall Street

The third item is b
y Richard Behan on AlterNet:

This starts as follows, and this is also an excellent article:

For 24 years Bill and Hillary Clinton have courted Wall Street money with notable success. During that time the New York banks contributed:

  • $11.17 million to Bill Clinton's presidential campaign in 1992.
  • $28.37 million for his re-election in 1996.
  • $2.13 million to Hillary Clinton's senatorial campaign in 2002.
  • $6.02 million for her re-election in 2006.
  • $14.61 million to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in 2008.
  • $21.42 million to her 2016 campaign. 
The total here is $83.72 million for the six campaigns, disbursed from 11 banks: Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, UBS, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo, Barclay's, JP Morgan Chase, CIBC, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, and Morgan Stanley.
I note that a middle class worker must work something like 20 years to make one million dollars, for which reason collecting $83.72 millions from 11 banks is quite a feat - and no: these many millions are not paid to Bill and Hillary because they look nice, are witty, make fine jokes, have interesting personalities etc. but simply as rewards for the things they did or would do for those large sums when president.

But the above list by no means comprises all:
Then there were the speeches. Sixteen days after leaving the White House in 2001, Mr. Clinton delivered a speech to Morgan Stanley, for which he was paid $125,000. That was the first of many speeches to the New York banks. Over the next 14 years, Mr. Clinton's Wall Street speaking engagements earned him a total of $5,910,000:
  • $1,550,000 from Goldman Sachs.
  • $1,690,000 from UBS. 
  • $1,075,000 from Bank of America/Merrill Lynch.
  • $770,000 from Deutsche Bank.
  • $700,000 from Citigroup
I take it these were all in reward for the things Clinton did for these banks while president, for that is the only plausible explanation why big banks would be willing to pay him $ 125,000 for a talk of an hour: Not to hear his voice or his jokes.

As Behan says:
No other political couple in modern history has enjoyed so much money flowing to them from Wall Street for such a long time—$92.57 million over a quarter century.
Then there is this on the private wealth of the Clintons:
Over that period of time, while one or the other held public office almost continuously, the couple accumulated a net worth of $125 million. Measured by family wealth, this inserted the couple into the top 1% of American families by a factor of 16 ($7.88 million is the threshold).
I say. I have to admit that it is not clear to me how they got these $125 million, but the Clintons surely are rich (whether they are worth 85 million or 125 million) and they got much of their money from "talks given to banks".

Here is what they did for all the money they got (bolding added):

Over the 24 years of the romance, the Clintons first reoriented their political party, gave it a new name, the New Democratic Party, and put it at Wall Street's service. Then they engineered financial opportunities for the New York banks of immense value, running into the hundreds of billions. And through the years as president, senator and secretary of state, the Clintons supported Wall Street's interests at every necessary turn.
That seems quite correct, and in case you wonder about "the New Democratic Party": This refers to Clinton's (and Blair's and Kok's) "Third Way" bullshit that made rightist "liberal" parties out of what had been (in England and Holland) social democratic parties. (Blair and Kok loved it: It made them rich.)

And here is what the Clintons did for Wall Street (i.e. the big banks):

Wall Street's grip on the New Democratic Party, however, and its influence in the Obama administration, appeared in the Department of Justice as well. Eric Holder joined the administration from the law firm of Covington Burling, which represents in Washington most of the Wall Street banks. Charged with prosecuting their criminal behavior, Holder found the banks “too big to fail.” Instead of criminal indictments and lawsuits, Holder negotiated with each of the banks a financial penalty to be paid from corporate funds. No corporate executives were jailed, no personal fines levied, no records of criminal conduct filed, no salaries reduced, no bonuses denied.
And that is called: enormous corruption. There is a lot more in the article, which is strongly recommended.

4. Trump Tells a Lie About Every Five Minutes, Literally

The fourth item is by Janet Allon on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:
GOP frontrunner Donald Trump accelerated just about everything last week. He amped up his violent rhetoric and his denials that his rhetoric has anything to do with the violence at his rallies (or violence against people of color in his name in general). You could say he put his pedal to the metal in terms of his rate of telling lies, half-truths and distortions. Notably, he also lied about being a "truthful" man, "maybe truthful to a fault," he whined at a North Carolina rally.
This is correct (and see the next quotation), but I should say that there is no evidence presented in the article for the claim in the title: I did not find the phrase "five minutes" in the article.

Then again, Trump does lie a lot:

Don't worry, Donald. You're not too truthful. You're not at all truthful, actually. Politico decided to do a little fact-check on the Trumpster's statements over the course of the week, the kind of vetting magazines at least try to do with their articles, and found this startling number: "More than five dozen statements deemed mischaracterizations, exaggerations, or simply false." Politico politely called these "misstatements." We're not sure why, since that connotes that they were somehow accidental. Trump "misstates" things on purpose, consistent with his true identity as a salesman, to put it charitably, or con artist as people like Marco Rubio have pointed out.
Yes, I agree: To call intentional lies - in the attempt to become the most powerful man on earth - "misstatements" is bullshit. It's quite possibly a misstatement to say that the temperature will be 25 degrees today if the news said that it will be 15 degrees today; it turns into a lie if you insist that because it will be 25 degrees today it follows that everyone has to eat your ice cream. Donald Trump engages in lies, and indeed also in "mischaracterizations" and "exaggerations", and he does so because he thinks this may make him the
most powerful person on earth
.

The article ends as follows:

Sadly, the fact that Trump is a compulsive liar is far from the most dangerous or scary thing about him anymore as he continues to revel in the violent atmosphere he is perfectly happy to perpetuate to his own benefit
No, definitely not: The violence is ugly, but Trump is not yet president. The lies are more dangerous, for it is by means of the lies (and the mischaracter- izations  and exaggerations) that Trump tries to become the most powerful man on earth (and not by means of the violence).

5. Civilian Control of the Military is Over, Welcome to Civilian Subjugation

The fifth and last item today is by Gregory D. Foster on Naked Capitalism:

This starts as follows and is part of a long and interesting article:

Item: The Pentagon elects not to reduce General David Petraeus in rank, thereby ensuring that he receives full, four-star retirement pay, after previously being sentenced on misdemeanor charges to two years’ probation and a $100,000 fine for illegally passing highly classified material (a criminal offense) to his mistress (adultery, ordinarily punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice) and lying to FBI officials (a criminal offense). Meanwhile, Private Chelsea (née Bradley) Manning continues to serve a 35-year prison sentence, having been reduced to the Army’s lowest rank and given a dishonorable discharge for providing classified documents to WikiLeaks that included incriminating on-board videos of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed up to 18 civilians, including two Reuters journalists, and wounded two children, and of a 2009 massacre in Afghanistan in which a B-1 bomber killed as many as 147 civilians, reportedly including some 93 children.

What do these episodes have in common? In their own way, they’re all symptomatic of an enduring crisis in civil-military relations that afflicts the United States.

This is one of several items, and it shows a quite shocking injustice, or so would I say.

The above quotation is immediately followed by this:

What do these episodes have in common? In their own way, they’re all symptomatic of an enduring crisis in civil-military relations that afflicts the United States.

Hyperbolic though it may sound, it is a crisis, though not like the Flint water crisis, or the international refugee crisis, or the ISIS crisis, or the Zika crisis. It’s more like the climate crisis, or a lymphoma or termite infestation that destroys from within, unrecognized and unattended. And yes, it’s an enduring crisis, a state of affairs that has been with us, unbeknownst to the public and barely acknowledged by purported experts on the subject of civil-military relations, for the past two decades or more.

I agree, and it is "an enduring crisis", and it already lasts a long time. Here are some of the financial reasons why this constitutes a crisis:

Rapacious defense spending: The U.S. military budget exceeds that of the next 10 countries combined, as well as of the gross domestic products of all but 20 countries. At 54% of federal discretionary spending, it surpasses all other discretionary accounts combined, including government, education, Medicare, veterans’ benefits, housing, international affairs, energy and the environment, transportation, and agriculture. Thanks to the calculations of the National Priorities Project, we know that the total cost of American war since 2001 — $1.6 trillion — would have gotten us 19.5 million Head Start slots for 10 years or paid for 2.2 million elementary school teachers for a decade. A mere 1% of the defense budget for one year — just over $5 billion — would pay for 152,000 four-year university scholarships or 6,342 police officers for 10 years. What we spend on nuclear weapons alone each year — $19.3 billion — would cover a decade of low-income healthcare for 825,000 children or 549,000 adults.

Incidentally, another way of saying the above is that Eisenhower's "military- industrial complex" (<- Wikipedia) won in the USA since Reagan; and that therefore it gets more than half of the taxes, which again makes the USA the biggest warring state in the world, and does so by far.

To end this review, here is a quotation that is (like the others) still from the beginning:

The essence of the situation begins, but doesn’t end, with civilian control of the military, where direction, oversight, and final decision-making authority reside with duly elected and appointed civil officials. That’s a minimalist precondition for democracy. A more ideal version of the relationship would be civilian supremacy, where there is civically engaged public oversight of strategically competent legislative oversight of strategically competent executive oversight of a willingly accountable, self-policing military.

What we have today, instead, is the polar opposite: not civilian supremacy over, nor even civilian control of the military, but what could be characterized as civilian subjugation to the military, where civilian officials are largely militarily illiterate, more militaristic than the military itself, advocates for — rather"mischaracterizations" and "exaggerations" than overseers of — the institution, and running scared politically (lest they be labeled weak on defense and security).

That, then, is our lot today. Civilian authorities are almost unequivocally deferential to established military preferences, practices, and ways of thinking. The military itself, as the three “items” above suggest, sets its own standards, makes and produces its own news, and appropriates policy and policymaking for its own ends, whatever civilian leadership may think or want. It is a demonstrably massive, self-propelled institution increasingly central to American life, and what it says and wants and does matters in striking ways.
As I said, there is a whole lot more in the article, that is recommended. I leave it here simply because there is too much to comment on in a Nederlog that is dedicated to several subjects, like all the crisis files.

--------------------------
Notes
[1] More precisely: My father was a son of a middle class owner of a small painting firm, that went broke 5 times between 1929 and 1931 "because" as my father said "the people simply could not pay the bills". And it was this fact; the arisal of Nazism in Germany; the persecution of the Jews; and especially Dimitrov's courage and wit in the trial about the fire of the Reichstag that made my father into a communist in 1935 (and later his father as well).

[2]
I may return to it, but I do not have the time nor the space to consider the definitions of "fascism" today. But as I said: this is an interesting lemma.
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