March 14, 2016

Crisis: Trump's Threats, Hillary's Finances, Libya, Fascism, Clinton's Presidency
Sections                                                                     crisis index

‘It’s Not a Threat!’: Donald Trump Says He May Order
     Supporters to Disrupt Bernie Sanders’ Rallies

2. Excerpt from 'My Turn, " a Critical Doug Henwood Book
     on Hillary

Exposing the Libyan Agenda: A Closer Look at Hillary’s

4. It Can’t Happen Here... Can It?
5. Bill Clinton’s odious presidency: Thomas Frank on the
     real history of the ’90s


This is a Nederlog of Monday, March 14, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about Trump's threats to Sanders, and includes a little psychological exercise by me on the type of person Trump is (or seems to be, from videos), which you may skip; item 2 is about an excerpt of what seems to be a good book on Hillary Clinton; item 3 is about Hillary's e-mails about Libya, that do not mention democracy or human rights, but are about big money, big power and oil; item 4 is about the question whether fascism is possible in the USA; and item 5 is about Bill Clinton's "odious presidency", which indeed it was when it is judged from what Clinton did to lessen inequality: Hardly anything; he much increased it.

Also, the present file was written very early in the morning, which is one reason that I postpone reviewing Chris Hedges' article till tomorrow.
1. ‘It’s Not a Threat!’: Donald Trump Says He May Order Supporters to Disrupt Bernie Sanders’ Rallies

The first item is by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Donald Trump on Sunday morning went after potential general election rival Bernie Sanders by calling him a liar and indicated he might soon instruct his own supporters to attend Sanders’ rallies in order to foment disruption and discord among his progressive (aka “super-liberal”) base.

In a tweet, Trump declared:

The social media salvo followed a chaotic cancellation of a Trump rally in Chicago that turned violent on Friday and images of protesters being pepper-sprayed by police outside a rally in Kansas City on Saturday night. With waves of criticisms against Trump reverberating over the weekend for the role he’s played in ginning up tensions, any expectations or hopes that the Republican presidential candidate would make efforts to tamp down the palpable tensions were dashed rather immediately.

I say. There are some four months to go, but - it seems - we have arrived already at the stage of violence in these pre-elections, that may soon get a lot worse as well.

So let me step back a little, and consider what I should call Trump. As I have said before, I mostly agree with Robert Reich, except that Trump seems to be more of a neo-fascist than a fascist.

Then again, these are - at least in Reich's and my cases - political judgements rather than personal ones, and it may very well be that personal judgements on a man like Trump are better than political judgements.

So here is a little psychological exercise that you may skip if you are not interested in these things:

My point is mainly that on a personal level - and now I am speaking as a psychologist - Trump also doesn't seem kosher, so to speak, because he is far too much concerned with and interested in insisting on his personal greatness, his personal excellence, his personal superiority, his personal riches, etc. etc. indeed ad nauseam.

And in fact there is a psychological term for it, and that is in the Wikipedia: Megalomania (<- Wikipedia). It gets defined there as follows:

Megalomania is a psychopathological condition characterized by fantasies of power, relevance, omnipotence, and by inflated self-esteem. Historically it was used as a name for narcissistic personality disorder prior to the latter's first use by Heinz Kohut in 1968, and is used today as a non-clinical equivalent.

Next, if you go to narcissistic personality disorder you find this definition in Wikipedia:

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder in which a person is excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity, mentally unable to see the destructive damage they are causing to themselves and often others.

Finally, when you check out the references given there, you'll find a link to this Wikipedia item:

Grandiosity refers to an unrealistic sense of superiority—a sustained view of oneself as better than others that causes the narcissist to view others with disdain or as inferior—as well as to a sense of uniqueness: the belief that few others have anything in common with oneself and that one can only be understood by a few or very special people.

I think this is the best description, and I refer you to a list of points in this item:

Pathological grandiosity has been associated with one of the two subtypes of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. (Gabbard, 1989) Characteristics of the narcissist-grandiose subtype (as opposed to the narcissist-vulnerable subtype) include:

  • Being labeled the “oblivious narcissists”
  • Observed lack of insight into the impact they have on others
  • More likely to regulate self-esteem through overt self-enhancement
  • Denial of weaknesses
  • Intimidating demands of entitlement
  • Consistent anger in unmet expectations
  • Devaluation of people that threaten self-esteem
  • Diminished awareness of the dissonance between their expectations and reality, along with the impact this has on relationships
  • Overt presentation of grandiose fantasies
  • Conflict within the environment is generally experienced as external to these individuals and not a measure of their own unrealistic expectations
I think each of these points - apart from the first - corresponds to sayings by Trump that I have seen.

Therefore, if I were to judge Trump as a psychologist - admittedly based on his political videos - I would say he seems quite clearly to be a grandiose narcissist - and for those who do not know psychology, I add that this is a personality disorder, which also is difficult to treat.

After this psychological exercise, back to the article:

Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper on Sunday morning, Trump said that he is quite serious about issuing orders so that his supporters would go and confront people at Sanders’ rallies.

“It’s not a threat, it’s not a threat. It’s not a threat at all!” Trump declared when asked by Tapper about the tweeted message. “My people have said we ought to go to his rallies, when liberals and super-liberals, I don’t even call ’em liberals. ... These people are bad people that are looking to do harm to our country. These people come into mine. … They’re being arrested and all sorts of things are happening to them. There’s a horrible thing going on in the media. We are treated so unfairly, and I’m treated so unfairly.”

Maybe Trump believes that if he repeats an obvious lie three times, it gets converted to a truth? In any case, he is making threats while saying he isn't;
he again at least implies Bernie Sanders is "unamerican" and "a communist"; and he is again very much concerned with himself.

It seems likely that more violence is to follow, but we shall see.

2. Excerpt from 'My Turn, " a Critical Doug Henwood Book on Hillary

The second item is by Doug Henwood on AlterNet:
This is what it says it is: an excerpt of a recent book on Hillary Clinton. It starts as follows:
The title of Daniel Halper’s book, Clinton, Inc., is key to understanding the family. Unlike the Bush family, neither Bill nor Hillary was born into anything near the ruling class. There was no Prescott Bush—the son of a steel company president who went to Yale, joined Skull and Bones (just like his son and grandson), and later became a banker and then a senator—in their separate pasts. Bill was born poor, in one of the poorest states in the country and into an unstable family, while Hillary was born into the provincial petty bourgeoisie. Entry into elite schools was their ticket to eventual membership in the ruling class; it took decades of striving for them to get there.
Yes, although the "decades of striving" seem a little exaggerated, e.g. in view of the fact that Bill Clinton was 30 when he got nominated as Attorney General of Arkansas.

But the rest is correct, as is the next paragraph:

Once established, however, politics became the family’s business, and it’s been very good to them. A 2014 Wall Street Journal analysis showed that the Clintons have raised between $2 billion and $3 billion since 1992—more than three-quarters of it from industry sources—for their campaigns, philanthropies, and themselves. At the top of the list of corporate donors were financial firms, and highest up among them was Goldman Sachs. Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase gave generously as well. Not far behind Wall Street were communications/electronics firms and then, that perennial bedrock of Democratic Party support, lawyers and lobbyists. Those three sectors alone contributed more than ten times as much as organized labor, which pitched in just $41 million of the total over the period of the Journal’s study.
Here all I need to say is "Follow The Money!" - and the Clintons are most beholden to (that is: got most money from) "Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase" and besides to the "communications/electronics firms", which - I take it - refers to Google etc.

They literally got billions from these sources, and in fact the division between their own riches and the riches they use for doing politics is hard to draw:

It’s hard to separate the Clintons’ personal fortune from the Foundation’s; the perks it provides are a form of imputed consumer services, to use the language of national income accounting—jetting all over, staying in fancy hotels, eating very well, and the rest. But they have been prodigious earners on their own account. Bill did most of the heavy financial lifting, earning $105 million from speeches in the dozen years after he left the White House; a good week could yield $1.4 million. According to work by the website 24/7 Wall St, Bill is the 10th-richest of our presidents, with a net worth of $55 million. (Five of the 10 richest presidents have been Democrats, compared to two Republicans, and on average, Democratic presidents are more than three times richer than Republicans.) But Hillary wasn’t just sitting around baking cookies: she’s worth $32 million, according to a Politico analysis. The property taxes on their two houses, one in D.C. and the other, for which they paid $4.5 million, in Westchester, are $104,000, twice the average household’s income. It’s a good life they’ve made for themselves.
In fact, this was the third paragraph, and I admit that the personal riches of $87 million are lower than earlier estimates I quoted, that amounted to $120 million dollars.

In any case, they made tremendous amounts of money, and that money seems to have been handed to Bill - at least - for services he had rendered to the givers during his presidency.

This is an interesting article that is recommended, and you can read more about Bill Clinton's presidency in item 5, that is also recommended.
3. Exposing the Libyan Agenda: A Closer Look at Hillary’s Emails

The third item is by Ellen Brown (<- Wikipedia) on Common Dreams:
This article has an adequate summary, as follows:
Critics have long questioned why violent intervention was necessary in Libya. Hillary Clinton’s recently published emails confirm that it was less about protecting the people from a dictator than about money, banking, and preventing African economic sovereignty.
This is about Libya until 2011, under Gaddafi:

Before 2011, Libya had achieved economic independence, with its own water, its own food, its own oil, its own money, and its own state-owned bank. It had arisen under Qaddafi from one of the poorest of countries to the richest in Africa. Education and medical treatment were free; having a home was considered a human right; and Libyans participated in an original system of local democracy. The country boasted the world’s largest irrigation system, the Great Man-made River project, which brought water from the desert to the cities and coastal areas; and Qaddafi was embarking on a program to spread this model throughout Africa.

But that was before US-NATO forces bombed the irrigation system and wreaked havoc on the country. Today the situation is so dire that President Obama has asked his advisors to draw up options including a new military front in Libya, and the Defense Department is reportedly standing ready with “the full spectrum of military operations required.”

I add that Gaddafi was not a pleasant person and was a dictator, but he also did the things ascribed to him.

The rest of the article is adequate and it ends as follows, which seems correct:

Conspicuously absent is any mention of humanitarian concerns. The objectives are money, power and oil.

4. It Can’t Happen Here... Can It?

The fourth item is b
y Bob Dreyfuss on TomDispatch:

This starts as follows:

Can it happen here?

That’s the question circulating now that Donald Trump, the nativist, rabble-rousing xenophobe, and billionaire, is threatening to capture the Republican nomination for president of the United States -- and it’s a question that isn’t being asked only on the left.  It’s been raised by a New York Times editorial, which claimed that Trump has brought the GOP “to the brink of fascism,” and by Republicans, ranging from neoconservative pundit Max Boot to Virginia's centrist former Governor Jim Gilmore. Conservative Times columnist Ross Douthat was reasonably typical in a piece headlined “Is Donald Trump a Fascist?” While he allowed that The Donald may not be Adolf Hitler or Benito Mussolini, he added, “It seems fair to say that he’s closer to the ‘proto-fascist’ zone on the political spectrum than either the average American conservative or his recent predecessors in right-wing populism.”

As far as I know, Robert Reich was one of the first to call Trump "a fascist", and it is interesting that quite a few neoconservatives seem to agree with him, at least on a verbal level.

As far as Bob Dreyfuss is concerned, he partially agrees:

I must admit, however, that “proto-fascist” sounds about right to me.  Certainly, the rise of Trump has caused many voters to take notice -- the question being whether the real estate mogul (who further stirred the pot recently by retweeting a quote from Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini) could cobble together enough of a coalition of nationalists, Angry White Men, “poorly educated” working-class backers, the disaffected religious right, Islamophobes, immigrant-bashers, and others to wield the figurative pitchforks in a march to victory in November.

This gives "proto-fascist" next to "fascist" and "neo-fascist".

I will let you make your own judgement, and I merely repeat that I consider it still more unlikely than likely that Trump wins the presidency, though I must admit that (1) my faith in the average intelligence and informedness of the American public is not high, and never was high, and (2) I do not know how many of his billions Trump will use in advertisements to elect him, and also that (3) I do not have adequate ideas about how much a wide and persistent and professionally made advertising campaign would influence the average American voters.

The article ends as follows:

Though Trump has managed to bring together disparate elements of what an American fascist movement might roughly look like, he may not, in the end, be quite the right messenger for its development, nor may this be quite the right moment for it to fully develop. Among other things, for such a movement and the armed militias that would go with it to coalesce, you might need another 2007/2008-style economic meltdown, a crisis long and profound enough for such a movement to seize the moment. In that case, of course, it’s also possible that a Bernie Sanders-like leftist or socialist -- or maybe Sanders himself -- would emerge to capture the ensuing political and economic unrest in a very different manner. But in The Donald’s America, don’t rule out the possible emergence of an even more formidable and threatening Trump-like figure, one unburdened by his clownish persona, Trump University, and the rest of his billionaire’s baggage.

Whether or not Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination or is elected president, for the gathering members of his grassroots coalition, he’s certainly shown what can, indeed, happen here.

This is mostly speculation, and I do not know who would be the next Sanders.

I agree with the conclusion - that I restate as: Yes, Donald Trump's rise shows
that fascism is possible in the USA, and indeed may be elected democra- tically, as was Hitler - and this is a recommended article.

5. Bill Clinton’s odious presidency: Thomas Frank on the real history of the ’90s

The fifth and last item today is by Thomas Frank on Salon:
This has a summary that is adequate:

Welfare reform. NAFTA. The crime bill. Prisons. Aides wondered if Bill knew who he was. His legacy is sadly clear

And this starts as follows:

Everyone remembers the years of the Bill Clinton presidency as good times. The economy was booming, the stock market was ascending, and the mood was infectious. You felt good about it even if you didn’t own a single share.

And yet: What did Clinton actually do in his eight years on Pennsylvania Avenue? While writing this book, I would periodically ask my liberal friends if they could recall the progressive laws he got passed, the high-minded policies he fought for—you know, the good things Bill Clinton got done while he was president. Why was it, I wondered, that we were supposed to think so highly of him—apart from his obvious personal charm, I mean?

In fact, I do not recall "the years of the Bill Clinton presidency as good times" but then I am not American but Dutch, and this is due to my personal history.

And apart from that, I never was a fan of Bill Clinton, and I was not because he seemed to be very much the political type that I much dislike ever since my teens: The charming grand liar, though I also admit that I was too occupied with my personal problems due to my personal history in the 1990ies to care much about American politics.

I do think I was quite correct in the 1990ies: Bill Clinton was clever; he was charming - and he was a clever fraud who mostly worked for himself.

As to the last fact, there is this - which gets here formulated a lot more clearly than I could have done it in the 90ies:

Now we remember that it was Bill Clinton’s administration that deregulated derivatives, that deregulated telecom, and that put our country’s only strong banking laws in the grave. He’s the one who rammed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) through Congress and who taught the world that the way you respond to a recession is by paying off the federal deficit. Mass incarceration and the repeal of welfare, two of Clinton’s other major achievements, are the pillars of the disciplinary state that has made life so miserable for Americans in the lower reaches of society. He would have put a huge dent in Social Security, too, had the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal not stopped him. If we take inequality as our measure, the Clinton administration looks not heroic but odious.

Since I do tend to "take" economic "inequality" as my main standard to judge political ideas and actions, I agree with the judgement that in actual fact "the Clinton administration looks not heroic but odious".

There is a considerable amount more in the article, which I will leave to your interests, except for remarking that the article is recommended, and that it ends as follows:

Someday we will understand that the punitive hysteria of the mid-1990s was not an accident; it was essential to Clintonism. Taken as a whole with NAFTA, with welfare reform, with his plan for privatizing Social Security and, of course, with Clinton’s celebrated lifting of the rules governing banks and telecoms, it all fits perfectly within the new, class-based framework of liberalism.
When you take Clintonism all together, it makes sense, and the sense it makes has to do with social class. What the poor get is discipline; what the professionals get is endless indulgence.

Yes, I think that is fair.


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