March 17, 2016

Crisis: Trump, Fascism, GOP Establishment, Mussolini, Average Moral Qualities
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Donald Trump Warns of Riots at Convention if He Is
     Denied Nomination

2. Fascism: Can It Happen Here?
The Crazy GOP Establishment
4. An American Mussolini
Study 329: Republic to Empire


This is a Nederlog of Thursday, March 17, 2016.

This is a crisis blog.

It so happens this crisis blog is mostly about fascism, of the American variety. I did not choose it, but it is in the news. Therefore it also makes sense to refer to yesterday's crisis blog, which has a brief consideration of both fascism and twenty - sometimes quite different - definitions of it. This will not settle disputes, but is relevant to know.

There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about Trump's incitements to riot if he doesn't get the GOP's nomination served on a platter; item 2 poses the question whether fascism is possible in the USA (yes); item 3 is about how crazy the GOP establishment is (quite); item 4 is about Trump as Mussolini; and item 5 is basically about a medical theme, but also about fascism and general human weaknesses (and is limited by me to those issues, in fact).
1. Donald Trump Warns of Riots at Convention if He Is Denied Nomination

The first item is by Robert Mackey on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Donald Trump warned on Wednesday that his supporters could riot at the Republican convention in Cleveland if he is notThere are 5 “automatically” made the party’s nominee if he arrives with the most votes but fails to secure a majority of convention delegates.

Speaking to Chris Cuomo on CNN, Trump said that he hoped to win the nomination outright before the convention in July, but warned that if he goes to Cleveland with more delegates than any of his rivals and the nomination goes to anyone else, “I think you’d have riots.”

I say. I suppose this is Trump's reaction to the news that the leadership of the Republicans are (or might be) considering to get rid of him at their convention.
Clearly, it is a threat, and not a democratic one.

Here are some of the myths Trump develops:

He went on to argue that since many of his voters were new to the process, they might simply refuse to accept the Republican Party rules that make it possible to deny the nomination to a candidate who won the most votes but did not secure a majority of delegates.

“I’m representing a tremendous — many, many millions of people — in many cases, first-time voters. These are people that haven’t voted because they never believed in the system,” he said.

“Now, if you disenfranchise those people and you say, ‘Well, I’m sorry, but you’re 100 votes short, even though the next one is 500 votes short,’ I think you would have problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen, I really do. I believe that. I wouldn’t lead it but I think bad things would happen.”

Translated: "I, Donald Trump, head many millions of supporters who are too stupid to know the law and too degenerate to be moral or decent: Therefore,
if you don't hand me the presidential candidacy, given that I have the majority, these many millions will raise hell for you. (And I wouldn't lead it. O no! I merely applaud them.)"

This is what I think he means. And he may succeed, for I do not think there are many moral heroes in the GOP.

Then again, some are really frightened of what a Trump presidency may bring, and they are right, and quite possibly less because Trump is a fascist, as because he looks and talks like a madman, as illustrated above - for it is clearly mad to threaten the leadership of your party with physical violence on a possibly very large scale if your desires are not followed.

2. Fascism: Can It Happen Here?

The second item is by Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

“When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross,” goes a saying that is widely attributed to the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, Sinclair Lewis. In 1935, Lewis wrote a novel called “It Can’t Happen Here,” positing fascism’s rise in the United States. We were taught that fascism was defeated in 1945, with the surrender of Germany and Japan in World War II. Yet the long shadows of that dark era are falling on the presidential campaign trail this year, with eruptions of violence, oaths of loyalty complete with Nazi salutes and, presiding over it all, Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

In fact, this definitely does not hold for me: I was not taught by my parents "that fascism was defeated in 1945".

On the contrary, especially my father, but also my mother, both of whom had been in the communist resistance against the Nazis (which was rare in Holland: six times more Dutchmen volunteered for the SS between 1940 and 1945 than went into the resistance, to quote one number [1]), which also cost my father more than 3 years and 9 months of concentration camp imprisonment (as a "political terrorist", according to his collaborating Dutch judges in 1941, who simply judged on as judges without any punishment after May 1945) insisted that while fascism was beaten, there was a very serious chance it might return, and they spent much of their lives in the 50ies, 60ies and 70ies of warning against it, with which they also had some success.

For one thing, my father was knighted as a communist, which happened to only one other communist in all of Dutch history; for another thing, there were hundreds of thousands of Dutchmen who saw the exhibition my father and his comrades made about fascism, the resistance, and the dangers of the recurrence of fascism.

Then again, I must be one of the very, very few who comes from a family like mine [2], and I suppose that Goodman and Moynihan tell the truth about the vast majorities of both the Americans and the Dutch: These believed fascism was over and done with in 1945, and that it would never return.

Here is some about Mussolini's fascism (that lasted 21 years):

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” the 20th-century philosopher George Santayana wrote. He lived in Europe through both world wars, and witnessed Italian fascism firsthand. Fascism was the violent political movement founded by Benito Mussolini, who took control of Italy in 1922. Mussolini had his political opponents beaten, jailed, tortured and killed, and ruled with an iron fist until he was deposed as Italy surrendered to the Allies in 1943. He was known as “Il Duce,” or “The Leader,” and provided early support to the nascent Nazi movement in Germany as Adolf Hitler rose to power in the 1930s.

I note that there may be in fact more who might remember the past but who rather do not, at least when judged by the Dutch experiences of 1940-1945. [3]

For one thing, the Dutch managed to have more than 1% of their total population - more than 100,000 "Jews", which term is between quotes because many did not have the religion anymore, and I disbelieve in racism [4] - to get murdered by the Nazis, albeit the Nazis got a lot of help from two rich "Jews" (both of whom survived the war, with their riches, and none of whom had ever even to face a judge) [5]; for another it seems - judging from reports about the 1950ies - that the Dutch were more anti-semitic in the 1950ies, after hearing about Auschwitz etc. than they had ever been before (and this fashion changed again in the late 60ies, when it became, quite suddenly also, fashionable for a "Jew" - written thus because most had lost the religion - to be a prominent Dutch politician, because he was a "Jew") [6].

Back to the article:
If only the fascist comparisons were limited to his tweets. His rallies have become hotbeds of violent confrontations, consistently fanned by Trump’s heated rhetoric from the podium. After a Black Lives Matter protester was kicked and punched at one of his rallies, Trump said, approvingly, “Maybe he should have been roughed up.” At a rally in Las Vegas in February, after an anti-Trump protester disrupted the event and was escorted out, Trump bellowed: “You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.” He went on, “I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you that.”
This is sickening, but it is Trump. And to answer the question the title of the article asks:

Of course fascism (or what looks a lot like it) can happen in the USA, and indeed it is not just Trump: He may be a fascist (or more like it than like an other kind of politician), but much of the present GOP leadership isn't much better.

See the next item in case you doubt this:

3. The Crazy GOP Establishment

The third item is by Bill Moyers (<- Wikipedia) and Michael Winship on Consortiumnews:
This starts as follows:

From their “Dark Money” bagman Karl Rove to their philosophical guru David Brooks, the GOP elites are in a tizzy over saving the Republican Party from Donald Trump and the other intruders, extremists and crackpots who have fallen in behind Trump as if he were the Pied Piper of Hamelin. But who will save the party from the elites?

Look around at just some of the other sheer lunacy their party perpetrates when it’s not trying to shut government down, redistribute wealth upward, and prevent the president of the United States (who, the last time we looked, has the constitutional right and mandate) from filling a vacancy on the Supreme Court.

Actually, David Brooks is not a philosopher at all: I checked it and he graduated in history. But apart from that, Moyers and Winship are right (and they may be right in assuming Brooks would like to be "the philosopher" of the right, but this I don't know).

Also, the question they ask is a good one:

With a GOP elite that seems firmly dedicated to greed, egoism and bullshit, it is difficult to see who, in the GOP, will stop Trump.

Then again, I am also sure that (1) electing Trump to be president of the USA would be a disaster (and indeed not because he is a fascist (or not), but because he is evidently not quite sane), and that (2) many Republicans - though not all - think similarly: Trump is "too much" for them, and in this they are right, in my opinion, at least.

But here is some more on the recent GOP leadership:

The Republicans in southern California just got a 7-6 majority on the region’s air quality board and have set out to reverse all of its safeguards, “reaffirming new smog rules backed by oil refineries and other major polluters,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

Mary Lou Bruner, a Republican crank in Texas who claimed that a young Barack Obama had worked as a black male prostitute, is on track to become a key vote on the state’s board of education, the group that, as Matt Levin at the Houston Chronicle writes, is, “already drawing intense criticism for textbooks that, among other issues, downplayed slavery and racial segregation.”

Ms Bruner looks quite insane (from my European psychologist's perspective, to be sure), and there is more in the article on her, but - alas - she is far from the only one in the GOP.

Here are some others, unnamed in Louisiana:

At The Washington Post, Chico Harlan reported, “Louisiana stands at the brink of economic disaster. Without sharp and painful tax increases in the coming weeks, the government will cease to offer many of its vital services, including education opportunities. … A few universities will shut down and declare bankruptcy. Graduations will be canceled. Students will lose scholarships. … Since the 2007-08 school year, Louisiana has cut funding for higher education by 44 percent, the sharpest pullback in the nation.”

And named (to a small extent) in Kansas:

And while we’re at it, ponder, too, the once-great state of Kansas, where, under the right-wing ideology and bumbling  leadership of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, the clowns are running the circus. The state legislature there is moving toward passage of a bill that would allow the impeachment of Kansas Supreme Court justices for, among other newly-thought of high crimes and misdemeanors, “attempting to usurp the power” of said same legislature or the executive branch.

I agree that the developments in both states sound awful. Then again, I must suppose that in both states the rules of democracy held, in the sense that a majority of the ignorant and the stupid prejudiced elected a candidate whose lies they believed (if you disagree, reread the last two quotes).

And there is this:

Finally, this is the party whose elites deceived America into war after cutting taxes on the wealthy so they wouldn’t have to pay for it. And so it goes. All of which leads us to the conclusion that what’s wrong with the GOP ain’t just about Donald Trump, apoplectic, mendacious malcreant though he is.

Over decades, the Republicans have built castles of corruption and citadels of crony capitalism across the country and now the angry villagers are climbing over the ramparts. Not one step backwards? Too late.

I agree that there is a lot more wrong in the GOP than Donald Trump, and I also am willing to agree that the GOP has effectively been in power since 1980, that is, if you consider that "New Democrats" like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were not real democrats (or Democrats) but were in fact New Republicans pretending to be democrats. (See the Third Way for support for this.)

That may not be accepted by many (I don't know), but it is true that both Clinton and Obama were - quite a lot also - to the right of the Republican president Eisenhower, and mostly supported the few rich rather than the many poor.

Indeed, that is a major problem in the USA:

It is less that there are a few fascist demagogues, than that there are so many corrupt millionaires who are not fascists, but who are corrupt, incompetent (outside there own narrow specialisms), and lying most of the time , and who also quite often are members of the Senate or of the House.

4. An American Mussolini

The fourth item is by John Kiriakou (<- Wikipedia) on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

As you probably heard, Donald Trump canceled a rally in Chicago after scuffles broke out between Trump supporters and opponents around the arena where the candidate was supposed to speak.

True to form, Trump blamed everybody but himself for this debacle. He eventually decided that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was somehow at fault — and even threatened to send protesters of his own to disrupt rallies for Sanders.

Yes, and Trump's form - it appears to this psychologist - is that of a grandiose narcissist (see March 14, 2016) and indeed grandiose narcissists never blame themselves for anything they did, simply because they believe they are superior to anyone and they never make mistakes.

The following also seems to be correct:

These confrontations have become routine, with the real estate mogul usually egging on his supporters to “rough up” interlopers. He’s cheered on supporters who’ve shoved, kicked, and punched protesters — even people who’ve simply stood silently at Trump’s rallies.

Throughout it, he’s had the gall to claim that he deserves credit for keeping the events as calm as possible.

Despite the incendiary tone of his rhetoric — that all Muslims are our enemies, that Mexicans are rapists and drug dealers, and that practically anybody who disagrees with him is an ISIS supporter or a “socialist” — Trump refuses to take responsibility for the violence he incites among his followers.

Or indeed - as he said Sanders is, who isn't one at all - "a communist".

As to political violence, there is this:

But violence at American political rallies has never been acceptable, especially violence encouraged by the candidate. That’s why comparisons of Trump with other American demagogues aren’t an easy fit.

Trump’s events are more akin to the old fascist rallies of figures like Benito Mussolini. The Italian leader and his “brown shirt” goons routinely beat protesters at rallies around Italy in the 1920s and 1930s. They targeted communists and anarchists at first, but graduated to socialists and then to all small-d democrats as they solidified their iron grip on power.

There was a considerable amount of violence in 1968 in Chicago, but that was not due to American politicians, and is in fact mostly blamed on "a police riot".

Whether Trump's doing at present is "
more akin to the old fascist rallies of figures like Benito Mussolini" I find difficult to judge, but the rest of the paragraph, that sketches what happened when Mussolini had taken power, is quite correct.

In any case, here are Trump's own comments, that end this article:

Anyone who challenges them, they claim, just wants to tear the country down. “These people are so bad for our country, you have no idea,” Trump has complained to his supporters. “There used to be consequences” for protesting.

But Americans shouldn’t be fooled. Trump isn’t at all unique or special. He doesn’t have a gift for connecting with the common man. He’s just a bully and a demagogue.

Whether "the American people" are capable of not being fooled, in majority, remains to be seen.

5. Study 329: Republic to Empire

The fifth and last item today is not about fascism and is in fact about medicine and its radically having grown a lot worse and lot less moral since 1980 or so.

It is here because I am ill since 1.1.1979, and because it does ask a question that is important in the context of fascism and widespread moral degeneracy:

This has the following close to the beginning:

How do good people become corrupted?

Unless you buy into the idea that every one of the million or more people who have ever worked for a drug company is inherently lacking any moral compass, then it is imperative to wonder what happens such that one giant corporation can ruthlessly and without any expression of regret kill people in the interests of profit. Corporations aren’t some weird, otherworldly entity, a life form that has developed somewhere in the outer reaches of the galaxy, like the Daleks that terrified me at the age of 8. Corporations are people. From the chief executive down to the people who make the products on a factory line – they are all human.

To start with, here are two corrections. First, corporations are not people. This is as clear and as plain as saying that a team made of people is not a person, and as clear and as plain as saying that a group made of people is not a person.

Second, the initial question is ill posed: There are no reasons whatsoever to believe that just anyone is a good person. For one thing, to be a good person, just like being a bad person, is not normal, for precisely the same reason as being tall or small is not normal (for most are neither).

However, when rephrased as a question about ordinary people - e.g. as: how do ordinary people get corrupted - the question is good, and I will try to answer it after considering the next and last quotation for this article:

One might attribute hubris, overweening greed and psychopathy to those at the very top but not, I think, to all the tens of thousands of employees. Thoughts of Nazi Germany spring to mind – the millions of ‘ordinary’ Germans who kept quiet, or turned a blind eye to the persecution of the Jewish people and the Holocaust. Maybe there is something similar at work, but it doesn’t quite fit the whole picture for me.

I am sorry, but the question is not about distinguishing between the "hubris, overweening greed and psychopathy" of "those at the very top" and that of
all the tens of thousands of employees" they employ.

Put like that, the answer is very simple: It is simply not true that
"all the tens of thousands of employees" are as bad (or worse) than those who command them.

But then that is a silly question. Then again, if the question is recast in a form
that is reasonable and might be answered, e.g. as "what is the proportion of employees in a firm that have values that are more like
than unlike those of the top who command them" I am afraid this may very well be 1/2 or higher.

I do not know, but my personal experiences and personal background suggest that it is very probable that most men with ordinary intelligences (say, with IQs between 70 and 130, that covers 98%) are not very definite in their opinions about science and are just as indefinite, or indeed more so, about questions of morals or ethics, and they are so mostly out of self-interest: They know that their own opinions don't matter much to the vast majority, and that uttering it may lead to problems with their employers, so generally they do not say what they - really - think or feel.

And I think that is the normal situation, which also says a lot about the rise of
fascism: Most of those who tolerated it were not fascists, but they also were not honest nor forthright, and this fact itself shows much is wrong, for in a democratic society one should be able to say honestly and forthrightly what one thinks and feels, and without this - at least: if it is not legally offensive - leading to any legal consequences.

But either the many are not honest and forthright, or else the many believe it is not safe for them to be honest and forthright, and therefore they are not, either.

I think that is the case in corporations and in society: Most men lie; most men deceive; most men are dishonest to most about most things that touch on their own interests.

And I believe that is the same for those with corporate power, and for most who lack corporate power. As Hazlitt put it:

Man is a toad-eating animal. The admiration of power in others is as common to man as the love of it in himself: the one makes him a tyrant, the other a slave.

If mankind had wished for what is right, they might have had it long ago. The theory is plain enough; but they are
prone to mischief, "to every good work reprobate."

I know this is not optimistic, but it seems realistic to me.

P.S. Mar 18, 2016: I repaired the initial links to the sections, which linked wrongly.
[1] I quote, I don't make these numbers up. (Also, the great majority of the Dutch volunteers for the SS were killed in Russia.)

I do not know whether the number I quoted is correct, but I suspect it is, and one reason it probably is, is that about 1 in 500 Dutchmen went into the real resistance, and the rest, voluntarily or not, collaborated with the Nazis.

And it seems also true, as former Dutch president Piet de Jong told, who lived in England during WW II, commanded a submarine, and who returned to Holland briefly after the war, that he was told very briefly after returning to Holland:
"Everybody had been in The Resistance".
Except that about 499 out of 500 Dutchmen lied.

Look at the numbers in the previous quote; realize that my father, my mother and my grandfather were communists, since before or in WW II also; that there were some 10,000 communists in Holland at the start of WW II; and that only the communists and some small Christian groups really went, as a group, into the resistance.

In fact, I never heard of any Dutchman with an equally strong anti-fascist past. That is: They may exist, but in the 66 years I lived I never heard of them, and if they do exist, they are extremely rare, in Holland.

[3] First, consider the previous two notes. Second, as to "the history of 
Holland in WW II": This has been written by a man who spent the years of the war safely in England. I take it that was the main reason to nominate him for the job, but it also means - for me, and I have tried to read a few of his books (there are 20 or more), but could not: Too horribly boring - that "the history of Holland in WW II" has been lost, for it was written by someone who did not live through it, and for that reason should not have written it.

I also think there were some Dutch historians who probably would have done it considerably better (e.g. Jacques Presser), but they were not nominated for the job by the Dutch government.

[4] This is simply historically and factually correct: There were more than
100,000 Jews in Holland; most of them no longer had the Jewish faith; and most of them were poor.

Also, more than 100,000 of them were murdered by the Nazis, which indeed is more than 1% of the Dutch population of 1940.

As to the Jewish race: There are only three groups - to my knowledge - who have faith in it: Some of the religious Jews; the Nazis, including Goebbels and Heydrich; and those who cannot think rationally.

I say: Genetically, there is no Jewish race; I don't have the religion; I am not a Nazi; therefore to speak of a "Jewish race" just is nonsense for me.

[5] These rich Jews were called David Cohen and Abraham Asscher. Both survived WW II with their riches and their healths in tact. More than 100,000 other Jews were murdered, with their help.

Their direct descendants are - still - very rich and very powerful in Holland, and some of them also insist that Cohen and Asscher did not do anything wrong. What is true is that they were not even prosecuted in Holland, nor anywhere else.

[6] These again are simply facts. Ed van Thijn was made mayor of Amsterdam as an atheist social democrat, while the members of the Amsterdam City council proudly cried out "A Jew! A Jew! We Want A Jew!" (And then he was a very bad mayor...)

O, and incidentally: I am not an anti-semite and never was one. As to Jewish- ness: It is a religion, like Catholicism or Protestantism, and therefore one may both loose it and acquire it. To me it seems as nonsensical to call an ex-Catholic a Catholic as is it to call an ex-Jew a Jew. (I side with my father here, who had quite a few friends who were ex-Jews and communists while my father - who was an ex-Protestant - knew them. Indeed, one of these survived years of German concentration camps because he was in the resistance, but he never told the Nazis he was a Jew indeed in part because he was a communist.)
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