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Nederlog

Jun 6, 2016

Crisis: Totalitarianism, Bill Clinton, US Spies, Sanders, Maher on Capitalism
Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1.
Shut Down the Democratic National Convention
2. Bill Clinton’s Legacy of Denial
3. The U.S. Is Building a Database to Identify Potential
     Whistleblowers

4. Ahead of California, Sanders Warns Media Against
     Preemptive Coronation of Clinton

5. Real Time with Bill Maher: New Rule – Capitalism Eats
     Everything - June 3, 2016 (HBO)

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Monday, June 6, 2016.


This is a crisis log. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article of Chris Hedges that (in my review) is mostly about inverted totalitarianism, with quite a few references by me to previous Nederlogs, where this was discussed by both Wolin, who originated the concept, and Hedges. This is a good item. Item 2 is about a repetition of a 2011 article by Robert Scheer about the very many lies of Bill Clinton (who worked for the rich, closed welfare for the rich, deregulated for the rich, got rewarded with circa $120 million by the rich, and still insists that he means well to the non-rich); item 3 is about how the USA is building a spying system that spies on its own spies (and their families and their friends and the friends of their friends); item 4 is about Bernie Sanders on the coronation of Hillary Clinton: It is too early (at least); and item 5 is about a video by Bill Maher that attacks capitalism rather head on.

1. Shut Down the Democratic National Convention

The first item i
s by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

From the beginning:

The convention is not our party. It is their party. It costs a lot of money to attend. Donate $ 100,000 and you become an “empire” donor, with perks such as “VIP credentials for all convention proceedings,” along with tickets to lavish corporate and Party receptions, photo ops with politicians at the convention podium, four rooms at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel and a suite at a Yankees game, where a “special guest” will be present. Short of $100,000? You can become a “gold” donor for $50,000, a “silver” donor for $25,000 or a “bronze” donor for $10,000.

We have the best democracy money can buy. The Wells Fargo Center and the fancy hotels in Philadelphia will be swarming with corporate representatives and lobbyists from Comcast, Xerox, Google and dozens of other companies that manage our political theater.

As far as I know, this is both partial and fair. It is partial, because the rich who run the Democratic Convention no doubt also thought of the non-rich they want to vote for them, and probably have something to please them (if well- behaved) as well. It is fair because the rich do run the "Democratic" convent- ion, and put up seats for twice the average yearly salary to attend the convention, while "lobbyists from Comcast, Xerox, Google and dozens of other companies" have far more power than ordinary people or trade unions.

Here are the "democratic" numbers:

The loss of faith in the political system and neoliberal ideology is widespread. The corporate elites are pouring $5 billion into the carnival of presidential electoral politics in a desperate bid to keep us mesmerized and controlled. Democracy is endlessly invoked on the airwaves to legitimize the corporate and political forces that have destroyed it. Congress has an approval rating of 11 percent. Half of qualified voters are not registered to vote, and half of registered voters do not go to the polls. A little more than half of 25 percent—no more than 15 percent—of the electorate determines who becomes president. And this is the way the elites want it.

I agree that "[d]emocracy is endlessly invoked on the airwaves to legitimize the corporate and political forces that have destroyed it" - but:

It is not democracy if the democratic candidate got $120 million (with her husband) for extensive services to the rich that made the rich a lot richer at the cost of the non-rich (through deregulating away almost everything that protected the non-rich from the depredations of the rich); it is not democracy if Congress is approved by 1 in 10 (!) of Americans; it is not democracy if about 15 percent of all voters vote in the winning presidential candidate (for Hedges' calculation is correct).

What is it then? It is propaganda and deceit by one of the two big American political parties that have been systematically and thoroughly corrupted by the rich since 1992 (or 1980).

This also rhymes well with the following analysis (which you can find in more detail in the pages of Nederlog, starting here [1]):

In our system of inverted totalitarianism, the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin pointed out, the object is to demobilize the citizenry, to render it apathetic, to convince the citizen that all political activity that does not take place within the narrow boundaries defined by the corporate state is futile. This is a message hammered into public consciousness by the corporate media, which serve as highly paid courtiers to the corporate elites. It is championed by the two parties that offer up fear of the other as their primary political platform.

It works by employing the following two premisses (it seems to me):

(1) ordinary voters have to accept the plans, proposals and choices their
    rich candidates (who are very well supported by the rich) give to them;

(2) ordinary voters who do not accept the plans, proposals and choices
    handed down to them from high are denounced by the press(!!) as
    "stupid", "deluded" or "traitors of the party and of democracy".

In other words, it is a consciously totalitarian approach ("Our Party Is Always Right! Our Leaders Always Know Best! We Are The Best And The Brightest! We Are The Real And Exceptional Americans!") that is executed by the party leaders with the help from the rich and with the help of the corporate media.

Then again, this presumes that the large majority of the corporate media ceased doing honest journalism, which started in the 90ies, and was mostly
realized (it seems to me) in the early 2000s, when the corporate printed media
made large losses due to lacking advertisements, and many of the printed media were bought by the few very rich (and seemed to have fundamentally changed into propaganda-sheets).

This is one major outcome in the eyes of Wolin:

“The crucial element that sets off inverted totalitarianism from Nazism is that while the latter imposed a regime of mobilization upon its citizenry, inverted totalitarianism works to depoliticize its citizens, thus paying a left-handed compliment to the prior experience of democratization,” Wolin wrote in “Politics and Vision.” “Where the Nazis strove to give the masses a sense of collective power and confidence, Kraft durch Freude (or ‘strength through joy’), the inverted regime promotes a sense of weakness, collective futility that culminates in the erosion of the democratic faith, in political apathy and the privatization of the self. Where the Nazis wanted a continuously mobilized society that would support its masters without complaint and enthusiastically vote ‘yes’ at the managed plebiscites, the elite of inverted totalitarianism wants a politically demobilized society that hardly votes at all.”

I think this is mostly correct for the present USA, but I have three critical remarks.

First, as I pointed out in my two premisses on which this fundamental anti- democratic movement is based, it is fundamentally totalitarian, and the political leaders and rich supporters of both parties would like it best if all
voters did as they were told to
.

Second (an aside): As far as I know "Kraft durch Freude" was the slogan the Nazis used to motivate the young folks to sport a lot. [2]

Third, while it may be true that at present "
the elite of inverted totalitarianism wants a politically demobilized society that hardly votes at all", I think they really would prefer it if ordinary voters acted obediently as they were told by their political bosses.

That is, I suspect "inverted totalitarianism" is more like a brief stage inbetween a more or less full democracy with papers and media that do inform
voters honestly about things the ordinary folks who read them should make up their own minds on, and a more or less full totalitarianism
with papers and media that inform voters what they should do, and think and want if they want not to be harassed (get publicly identified as terrorists, become butts of the secret police, loose their jobs, get into prison etc. etc.)

I don't know, but in any case, this is a good and recommended article. [3]

2. Bill Clinton’s Legacy of Denial

The second item is by Robert Scheer on Truthdig:

This starts as follows, and is in fact a column that is repeated from June 21, 2011 (!!), because "Hillary Clinton has promised to turn over the task of job creation to her husband if she is elected president":
Does Bill Clinton still not grasp that the current economic crisis is in large measure his legacy? Obviously that’s the case, or he wouldn’t have had the temerity to write a 14-point memo for Newsweek on how to fix the economy that never once refers to the home mortgage collapse and other manifestations of Wall Street greed that he enabled as president.

Endorsing the Republican agenda of financial industry deregulation, reversing New Deal safeguards, President Clinton pursued policies that in the long run created more damage to the American economy than any other president since Herbert Hoover, whose tenure is linked to the Great Depression. Now, in his Newsweek piece, Clinton has the effrontery to once again revive his 1992 campaign mantra, “It’s the economy, stupid,” as the article’s title without any sense of irony, let alone accountability. But that has always been the man’s special gift—to rise above, and indeed benefit from, the messes he created.
As it happens, I agree with the second paragraph but not with the first: I think Bill Clinton does "grasp that the current economic crisis is in large measure his legacy": He just doesn't care about the facts; he only cares about what impression he can make on the public. ("He who can define the situation, controls it.")

In case you disbelieve this, there is this:
Conceding that the bailed-out banks are sitting on $2 trillion that they won’t lend, Clinton offers not a word about mortgage relief for swindled homeowners. With an all-time high of 44 million Americans living below the poverty line, Clinton once again brags of his success in ending the federal welfare program.

There is only a one-sentence reference in the Clinton article to the era of financial greed: “The real thing that has killed us in the last 10 years is that too much of our dealmaking creativity has been devoted to expanding the financial sector in ways that don’t create new businesses and more jobs and to persuading people to take on excessive debt loads to make up for the fact that their incomes are stagnant.” Now that’s a clear description of the consequence of President Clinton’s policy of radical deregulation of the financial industry, but he writes as if that outcome has nothing to do with him.

For (to concentrate on the second quoted paragraph): Clinton and his mate Rubin did (very consciously) expand "the financial sector in ways that don’t create new businesses and more jobs"; Clinton did terminate welfare; and Clinton and Rubin did deregulate the banks, and they did so to give them all the leeway they needed to enrich the very rich, by exporting most American
industries to the Third World, were salaries are very much lower, and profits
by as much higher.

And Clinton is more than intelligent enough to fully understand what he did, whom he did it for (the very rich); and how he would be made a multi- millionaire by the very rich in reward for his many services to them as soon
as he stopped being their president.

Instead, he lies on, and on, and on:

As with so much in the Clinton record, the former president remains in deep denial over having any culpability for his misdeeds. In his thousand-page memoir there is no reference to the above-mentioned radical deregulation of the economy that he presided over. As evidenced by his Newsweek article, the man has long been convinced that there is no problem or contradiction of his that cannot be simply plastered over with blather. Sadly, he may be right.

So far (5 years after this article was originally published) he still is right that
his blather and his lies are believed by most. But he was a really anti-
democratic president; who worked for the very rich; deregulated for the very
rich; got rewarded by the very rich to more than $100 million dollars; and
still lies on, and on, and on.

3. The U.S. Is Building a Database to Identify Potential Whistleblowers

The third
item is by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:

This has the following bit quoted from Think Progress:

Following Manning’s 2013 conviction and the shooting attacks at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., the Defense Department took steps to prevent the next leak by creating a “centralized hub” for detecting potential internal threats, Defense One reported. DOD assembled experts in psychology, cybersecurity, and intelligence to lead an “insider threat” task force and oversee the security clearance database.

The database is continually updated with information on security-clearance holders’ criminal and mental health history, financial information, drug and alcohol use, citizenship status, fingerprints, and other available biometric data. The system also keeps track of the clearance holder’s past residences and personal identifying and contact information for current and former spouses, relatives, associates, and roommates. This information is typically revealed during the background check process.

I say. First I have to say that I do not much believe in the expertise of "experts" in (especially) psychology and intelligence, indeed in considerable part because I am a psychologist who doesn't believe most of psychology is
a science (although I got an excellent M.A. in it).

But second, this is clearly a very deliberate spying program that seeks to assure that the spies it hires are real creeps, whose loyalties are to their masters rather than to the public which pays them.

And while I can't much object to spies spying on their colleague spies, I do object to their gathering "information for current and former spouses, relatives, associates, and roommates", especially if these are not bought spies themselves.

But OK... the USA is also employing its spies to spy on the spies it rented, all to make it as certain as they can that these spies will remain loyal to their masters.

Here is a final bit from Snowden:

As Snowden put it, "I've already said from the very first moment that if the government was willing to provide a fair trial, if I had access to public interest defenses and other things like that, I would want to come home and make my case to the jury. But, as I think you're quite familiar, the Espionage Act does not permit a public interest defense. You're not allowed to speak the word 'whistleblower' at trial."

And this is in fact an anti-democratic piece of "law" that serves the same purpose as the spying on spies does: It prevents that whistleblowers get a
fair democratic trial.

4. Ahead of California, Sanders Warns Media Against Preemptive Coronation of Clinton

The fourth
item is by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Addressing concerns that the media may preemptively announce his rival Hillary Clinton as the "presumptive Democratic Party nominee" even before she has won the requisite numbers of pledge delegates, Bernie Sanders over the weekend indicated that such reporting would be both wrong and irresponsible and held to his commitment to take his campaign all the way to the national convention when so-called superdelegates will finally—and for the first time, in fact—be able to cast their vote for who they believe will make the best nominee.

Six states are holding Democratic primaries this Tuesday, including California, New Mexico, New Jersey, Montana, South Dakota, and North Dakota.

I agree with Sanders and it is indeed "the media" who have treated him wrongly and irresponsibly fron the start, simply because the main media are no longer purveyors of journalistic information, but simply spreaders of propaganda. (Also The Guardian For The Blairite Rich: What a big amount of sick rot did they publish over both Sanders and Corbyn!)

Here is Sanders once again:

"It is extremely unlikely that Secretary Clinton will have the requisite number of pledged delegates to claim victory on Tuesday night," Sanders said at a press conference in California on Saturday. "Now I have heard reports that Secretary Clinton has said it’s all going to be over on Tuesday night. I have reports that the media, after the New Jersey results come in, are going to declare that it is all over. That simply is not accurate."

What that means, he added, is that he will continue to campaign until the last votes are cast in Washington, D.C.'s primary on June 14 and will then bring his message to July's Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. "[It] will be a contested convention," he said.

Sanders is right (I think) about Clinton and the media. He is also right that he is far more likely to beat Trump than Clinton (indeed in part because he is widely trusted, while both Trump and Clinton are widely distrusted):

Citing the consistent trends of both national and state polls showing him performing better against the billionaire reality tv star than Clinton, Sanders declared: "I hope that the delegates going to the Democratic National Convention understand that in virtually every state poll we do much better against Donald Trump than Secretary Clinton. If the delegates at the Democratic National Convention want to make sure we defeat Trump and defeat him badly we are the candidate to do that."

I agree - but I also think that most leading Democrats will want to support the leading Democrat who is Clinton, in spite of her lesser chances to beat Trump. (Why? Because if she wins they may get preferments.)

5.
Real Time with Bill Maher: New Rule – Capitalism Eats Everything - June 3, 2016 (HBO)

The fifth and last item today is by Bill Maher and his team, and is a video:

Here is a quote from it (or two):
It's capitalism that we've lead spread out of control. It has eaten our democracy. It is eating our middle class. It has eaten our health care system, our prison system, our news media. It has even eaten our food system so thoroughly that a lot of our food is something that shouldn't be eaten. Because capitalism is a shark or a tidal wave or a Ponzi scum or whatever metaphor you use to describe an unthinking force that devours everything in its path.
(...)
I am not argueing against the free market: Just not for everything. It's funny: Older people think socialism is capitalism's enemy and younger people think it's capitalism's replacement. But they are both wrong. What socialism is, is
capitalism's lapband. Something to prevent it from eating everything.
I think that's pretty radical for American TV, and I agree with the first paragraph, though I would explain it in terms of my contrast between capitalism-with-a-human-face and capitalism-without-a-human-face, and
also would insist that the difference between the former and the latter
are the very many deregulations that (especially) Bill Clinton introduced:

"Deregulation" in fact meant: Giving all the powers to the few very rich
and their multi-national corporations
. And that is what has happened,
and indeed by now is almost finished: Except for the TTIP and the TISA the
filthy rich have succeeded - over the course of 36 years - in almost comple-
tely deregulating capitalism, and to return it to the exploitative schemes of
the 1890ies-1920ies.

Once the TTIP and the TISA are in place, and especially in view of the NSA and the FBI's now knowing everything about anyone as all privacy was destroyed by the Patriot Act, the few very rich may hope to have created a neofascism that will rule forever.

I think they are mistaken and the system will collapse both economically and because of the rapidly collapsing environment, but the ruins and the horrors will be enormous.
----------------------------------------------------------
Notes

[1] In fact, this is a link to November 11, 2015, with a decent discussion by me on "inverted totalitarianism" and this list of links to the articles and reviews in which Hedges abd Wolin discuss the concept:
I think these all bear (re-)reading: It is an interesting series of interviews with an interesting man. Also, all of the links are to files produced in 2014.

[2] Actually, I remembered this because precisely the same happened in 1964 in the GDR, indeed with - what seemed to be - postcards and slogans
carried over from the Nazis. And in the GDR it also was still called "Kraft durch Freude". (And I was in 1964 in the GDR, aged 14, and was only not cast out
of the country as an "undesirable alien" because I had to go to the hospital with blood poisoning.)

[3] And the following bit is quoted from my review of October 21, 2014 (and the points are mine):

So let me makea list of points. Here are eight of them:
  • Democratic rituals and institutions are these days largely a facade for unchecked global corporate power.
  • Academics, intellectuals and journalists these days function as echo chambers for elites, courtiers and corporate systems managers.
  • The corporations have succeeded in seizing nearly all forms of political and social power.
  • All the institutions that make democracy possible have been hollowed out and rendered impotent and ineffectual.
  • What is especially missing as regards ideas is a crucial, continuous opposition that has coherent ideas.
  • What is especially missing as regards facts is any effective organized opposition: The "left" has become "Third Way", i.e. right wing lite, and helped destroy the trade unions and helped installing austerity for the poor.
  • Capitalism, or at least its ideologists, wants an autonomous economy. It wants a political order subservient to the needs of the economy, and has reduced economy to the question "what is most profitable for the rich".
  • The vast majority of the academics have sold out, already in the 80-ies, and have destroyed the universities and remade them into colleges were almost anyone with an IQ higher than 100 can get some sort of diploma, if only in "multimedia studies", provided he or she has the money to pay for it.
I think that is mostly correct - and it means that I see little grounds for hope, apart from another major economic collapse. In fact, that is almost the only hope I have, for I think a major economic collapse is likely, though this also will lead to much harm, much repression and much poverty for very many.

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