Republican Trumpism versus Brezhnev’s Communist Party circa 1979

Leonid Brezhnev


“The Republican Party has become, in form if not in content, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union of the late 1970s,” the Never Trumper conservative Tom Nichols laments. “I can already hear the howls about invidious comparisons. I do not mean that modern American Republicans are communists. Rather, I mean that the Republicans have entered their own kind of end-stage Bolshevism, as members of a party that is now exhausted by its failures, cynical about its own ideology, authoritarian by reflex, controlled as a personality cult by a failing old man, and looking for new adventures to rejuvenate its fortunes.”

In the late 1970s, Nichols explains, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union — under the leadership of Leonid Brezhnev — was “a spent force” run by “party ideologues” who stubbornly clung to Marxist-Leninist dogma. Brezhnev’s cronies, Nichols recalls, considered him a “heroic genius.”

“Members of the Communist Party who questioned anything, or expressed any sign of unorthodoxy, could be denounced by name, or more likely, simply fired,” Nichols notes. “They would not be executed — this was not Stalinism, after all — but some were left to rot in obscurity in some make-work exile job, eventually retiring as a forgotten ‘comrade pensioner.’ The deal was clear: pump the party’s nonsense and enjoy the good life, or squawk and be sent to manage a library in Kazakhstan. This should all sound familiar.”

Just as the Marxist-Leninist ideologues of the late 1970s rallied around Brezhnev, Nichols argues, the Republican Party of 2021 is rallying around Trump.

“Falling in line, just as in the old Communist Party, is rewarded, and independence is punished,” Nichols observes. “The anger directed at Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger makes the stilted ideological criticisms of last century’s Soviet propagandists seem almost genteel by comparison. At least Soviet families under Brezhnev didn’t add three-page handwritten denouncements to official party reprimands.”

The Soviet Communist Party didn’t collapse in 1978 or 1979, but it did collapse in the early 1990s — even Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost reforms of the 1980s couldn’t save the Soviet Union, which no longer exists. Modern-day Russia is now ruled by a right-wing authoritarian, President Vladimir Putin, and embraces crony capitalism and corporate oligarchs rather than communism. And according to Nichols, the Republican Party of the United States is, like the old Soviet Communist Party, terminally ill.

But the more marginal the GOP becomes in the months ahead, Nichols predicts, the more dangerously authoritarian it will become.

“A dying party can still be a dangerous party,” Nichols warns. “The Communist leaders in those last years of political sclerosis arrayed a new generation of nuclear missiles against NATO, invaded Afghanistan, tightened the screws on Jews and other dissidents, lied about why they shot down a civilian 747 airliner, and, near the end, came close to starting World War III out of sheer paranoia. The Republican Party is, for now, more of a danger to the United States than to the world. But like the last Soviet-era holdouts in the Kremlin, its cadres are growing more aggressive and paranoid.”

In 2021, Nichols laments, the GOP has passed the point of no return and can only sink deeper and deeper into the abyss.

“Another lesson from all this history is that the Republicans have no path to reform,” Nichols writes. “Like their Soviet counterparts, their party is too far gone. Gorbachev tried to reform the Soviet Communist Party, and he remains reviled among the Soviet faithful to this day. Similar efforts by the remaining handful of reasonable Republicans are unlikely to fare any better. The Republican Party, to take a phrase from the early Soviet leader Leon Trotsky, should now be deposited where it belongs: in the ‘dustbin of history.'”

edited from The Atlantic by way of Alternet

Despicable fascist Republicans attack Deb Haaland at her confirmation hearing

Deb Haaland, seeking to make history as the first Native American to hold a cabinet secretary position in the US, has weathered a torrent of hostile questioning from Republicans during her confirmation hearing as secretary of the interior.

In a striking opening statement, Haaland, a member of Congress for New Mexico, said “the historic nature of my confirmation is not lost on me, but I will say that it is not about me”, adding that she hoped her elevation would “be an inspiration for Americans, moving forward together as one nation and creating opportunities for all of us”.

A Laguna Pueblo member, Haaland, 60, said she learned about her culture from her grandmother’s cooking, participating in traditional ceremonies, and learning about the importance of protecting the environment from her grandfather. Haaland said “our climate challenge must be addressed” but conceded that fossil fuels will play a role in the US for “years to come”.

Haaland is considered a progressive on the climate crisis and has previously spoken out on the impact of fossil fuel development upon the environment and Native American tribes, positions that Senate Republicans were keen to attack during a sometimes-contentious confirmation hearing.

John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, criticized Haaland for a tweet from October 2020 in which she stated that “Republicans don’t believe in science”. Barrasso, who has previously incorrectly said the role of human activity in climate change is “not known” and that ambitious climate action in the form of the Green New Deal would mean “cheeseburgers and milkshake would become a thing of the past”, said the tweet was “concerning to those of us who have gone through training, believe in science, and yet with a broad brush, we’re all disbelievers”.

Haaland responded to Barrasso, a surgeon, saying that “if you’re a doctor, I would assume that you believe in science”. Scientists have repeatedly said that the US, and the rest of the world, needs to rapidly reduce planet-heating emissions from fossil fuels in order to prevent disastrous heatwaves, flooding and societal unrest associated with runaway climate change.

The early exchange set the tone for more than two hours of questioning where Republicans repeatedly assailed Joe Biden’s decision to pause oil and gas drilling on federal lands as calamitous for jobs. As interior secretary, Haaland would oversee the management of lands that make up nearly a third of America’s landmass, including tribal lands.

At times the questions were extremely pointed, with Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, asking Haaland: “Will your administration be guided by a prejudice against fossil fuel, or will it be guided by science?” Importantly for the chances for Haaland’s nomination, Joe Manchin, a Democrat who represents the coal heartland of West Virginia, said that he wanted to see the “evolution not elimination” of coal mining.

Haaland said that “we want to move forward with clean energy, we want to get to net zero carbon” but also struck a conciliatory note with her questioners. The nominee said that changes to energy use “are not going to happen overnight” and that she looked forward to working with the senators. At one point when Steve Daines, a Montana Republican, asked why she supported a bill protecting grizzly bears – Haaland responded: “Senator, I believe I was caring about the bears.”

Haaland had to repeatedly correct Republicans who said Biden had scrapped, rather than paused, oil and gas leases but acknowledged her role as a progressive champion would have to change somewhat if she were confirmed. “If I’m confirmed as secretary, that is far different role than a congresswoman representing one small district in my state,” she said. “So I understand that role, it’s to serve all Americans not just my one district in New Mexico. I realize being cabinet is very different, I recognize there is a difference in those two roles.”

During later questioning, Haaland raised the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic upon native Americans and raised concerns over tribes such as the Navajo being subjected to polluted water. In a response to a question from the Vermont senator Bernie Sanders about the opening up of an area sacred to native Americans in Arizona to mining, Haaland said she would “make sure that the voice of the tribal nation is heard on the issue”.

Haaland’s nomination has been vigorously supported by environmental and Native American groups as a landmark moment to confront the climate crisis while addressing widespread inequities experienced by tribes.

Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the steering committee for the Gwich’in people in Alaska, said that Haaland is a “visionary leader who knows we must protect places sacred to the American people like the Arctic national wildlife refuge.

“Our way of life, our survival is interconnected to the land, water and animals. Today we honor the woman set to be the first Native American in history to fill a presidential cabinet position, and look forward to working with her to ensure that indigenous voices are heard and our human rights respected.”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/feb/23/deb-haaland-confirmation-hearing-interior-secretary

Insurrection and sedition Republican style

Trump and the Republican’s continuing efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and create an insurgency, so they can seriously milk it, roll on.

Trump is backing the last-ditch dead-ender lawsuit by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, which seeks to throw out the election results in four key swing states.

Trump’s dumb ass filing with the Supreme Court states, quote, “Our country is deeply divided in ways that it arguably has not been since the election of 1860,’. So, leave aside the circular logic of decrying division when he is the one stoking it. But that reference to the election of 1860: You know why the country was divided by that election? Because Abraham Lincoln won fairly and slave states were pissed about that and they seceded and there was a civil war.”

Observers marveled at the fact that Trump’s own legal team was seemingly equating President-elect Joe Biden with Abraham Lincoln and the Trump administration with slaveowners.

We think it’s probably sort of a good thing that the Republican fascism and racism is finally out in the open for everyone to see, like we always have

quotes from Raw Story and Washington Post

The Trump Fanboy Groveling Tour meets with his bff’s, Vladimir Putin, and Kim Jong-un.

The hard-hitting Joy Reid of MSNBC opened her show on Saturday morning by calling out Donald Trump for turning his overseas trip — which included attending the G-20 conference — into a fanboy “groveling” tour to meet with his new best friends, Vladimir Putin, and Kim Jong-un.

In a commentary dripping with sarcasm, the MSNBC host pointed out the extraordinary fact that former President Jimmy Carter recently slammed Trump and claimed that his presidency is illegitimate.

Former President and real Christian Jimmy “Carter’s absolute rebuke came on the same day Donald Trump had his first face-to-face meeting since the end of the Russia investigation with Vladimir Putin,” Joy explained. “A meeting at which Trump once again publicly defended him and even joked about needing to warn Putin not to attack our election again.”

Joy Reid translated: “Message please, sir: please help me by attacking the election again,” she mocked Trump. “Right now  President (“Kleptocrat”) Trump is in South Korea for meetings with President Moon, who is not a dictator, so Trump will probably not grovel.”

“What Trump wants is a photo-op with murderous dictator Kim Jong-un; tweeting a plea to please come hang out at the DMZ. Please come spend time and take selfies, and Trump bragging about the possibility of such a meeting this morning,” the MSNBC host added.

Noting that Trump told reporters that the murderous North Korean dictator appears to follow him on Twitter, Reid ridiculed the leader of the free world for his giddy excitement, smirking, “Oh my god! He follows me on Twitter. Will there be friendship bracelets?”

Trump and McConnell’s Shutdown: A bad time to fly anywhere

Air Traffic Controllers & Pilots: “we cannot even calculate the level of risk…nor predict the point at which the entire system will break”

Unions that represent U.S. air traffic controllers, pilots, and flight attendants sent out an alarming joint statement on Wednesday warning that the ongoing federal government shutdown—at 33 days, the longest in history—has caused a situation in which they “cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play” and is “unconscionable.”

“We have a growing concern for the safety and security of our members, our airlines and the traveling public due to the government shutdown,” the presidents of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), and Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) wrote. “This is already the longest government shutdown in the history of the United States and there is no end in sight. In our risk-averse industry, we cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break. It is unprecedented.”

The unions wrote that air traffic controllers, security and law enforcement personnel, safety inspectors, FBI agents, and “many other critical workers” have been working for over 30 days without pay at a time when air traffic control staffing is already at a 30-year low. They added that controllers can only “maintain the system’s efficiency and capacity” by working unpaid overtime, sometimes involving 10-hour days and six-day workweeks and that the shutdown of Federal Aviation Administration training facilities will create a backlog in new hires.

With 20 percent of fully certified controllers eligible to retire, they added, many may choose to leave their jobs and leave the National Airspace System “crippled.” But there is a short-term danger as well, they warned:

The situation is changing at a rapid pace. Major airports are already seeing security checkpoint closures, with many more potentially to follow… Last Saturday, TSA management announced that a growing number of officers cannot come to work due to the financial toll of the shutdown. In addition, we are not confident that system-wide analyses of safety reporting data, which is used to identify and implement corrective actions in order to reduce risks and prevent accidents is 100 percent operational due to reduced FAA resources.

The “air safety environment” is “deteriorating by the day,” the unions concluded, asking Congress and the White House to “take all necessary steps to end this shutdown immediately.”

According to the New York Times, as many as one out of ten transportation security officers have not shown up to work at times, and airlines “are losing more than $100 million a month in revenue” as travelers have become concerned about wait times and safety. Earlier this month, the Washington Post wrote that 24,000 FAA employees deemed vital for “life and safety” were working without pay, while another 17,000 had been furloughed.

New York Magazine wrote that the president of the AFA, Sara Nelson, called for a “general strike” by labor unions—though stopped short of calling for one specifically by aviation workers.

There’s some history there: In 1981, President Ronald Reagan fired 11,500 of nearly 13,000 striking air traffic controllers, citing a 1978 law prohibiting federal labor strikes. According to ABC News, for many personnel the incident is “seared into their memories,” and striking federal workers “could face prosecution and even jail time.”

However, NATCA-Fort Worth Center president Nick Daniels told ABC News that air traffic controllers “take great pride in that weight that they carry on their shoulders for that job” and would be reluctant to have the U.S. public “pay for this government shut down.”

Some reports on Wednesday suggested that Trump’s administration is prepared to let the shutdown—which, again, is about the president’s demand that Congress authorize $5.7 billion for his ridiculous border wall or some kind of face-saving wall-like object—extend into March or even April. That could result in catastrophic effects on everything from food stamp availability and federal courts to failure to pay government leases.

From – https://gizmodo.com

 

Off the rails; Right Wing Heresy

 

A panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. went off the rails on Saturday after one speaker blasted the Republican Party and organizers of the major annual gathering of conservatives.

Comments made by Mona Charen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, at Saturday’s CPAC panel titled “#UsToo: Left out by the Left” were relatively conservative—she criticized the modern feminist movement and argued for more traditional male and female gender roles.

Heresy….

But Charen quickly lost the Republican audience when she turned her attention to the Republican Party for enabling and excusing candidates accused by many women of harassment and assault.

“I’m disappointed in people on our side for being hypocrites about sexual harassers and abusers of women who are in our party, who are sitting in the White House,” Charen said, noting the accusations against President Donald Trump, “who brag about their extramarital affairs, who brag about mistreating women. And because he happens to have an ‘R’ after his name, we look the other way, we don’t complain.”

She also went after CPAC itself, saying the conference’s organizers should be ashamed for inviting far-right French leader Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the niece of anti-immigrant French leader Marie Le Pen and granddaughter of Nazi apologist Maréchal-Le Pen.

“The Le Pen name is a disgrace,” Charen said. “Her grandfather is a racist and a Nazi.”

She continued: “The fact that CPAC invited her is a disgrace.”

https://www.thedailybeast.com/rogue-cpac-panelist-blasts-republicans-over-trumps-alleged-sexual-misconduct

UPDATE: Charen had to be escorted out of CPAC by a security force after threats and fears for her safety were raised 

Trump Republicans believe colleges and universities have a negative effect on our country

Besides giving more of your money to the rich the Trumpanistas don’t want your kids educated either

I’m very certain Trump is concerned about minorities. We rich are are a minority you know

More than ever, higher education has become critical to snagging a stable job, moving up the income ladder and succeeding in the global economy.

Yet more than ever, higher education has also become a political football and object of derision.

In Arizona, Republican politicians clearly view beating up on colleges as a way to prove their conservative bona fides. Attorney General Mark Brnovich recently sued the board of regents of Arizona’s public universities, which under state law is technically his client. Brnovich complains that tuition is too high to meet the state’s constitutional requirement that colleges be “as nearly free as possible.”

The suit, unfortunately, leaves out the fact that Arizona has cut state funding per student by 41 percent since 2008, second only to Louisiana in higher-ed disinvestment. Which suggests that if anyone is violating the constitution, it’s state lawmakers, not schools.

“It’s a political distraction motivated by something other than an actual interest in tuition-paying students,” Arizona State University President Michael Crow said. “It’s motivated by the political aspirations of the person that filed the suit.”

Arizona colleges are hardly the only institutions in the culture-war crosshairs.

At a dinner in New York last month with about a dozen college presidents, other officials described similar showdowns with peacocking, publicity-stunting politicians.

A group of Louisiana legislators recently threatened to further slash public higher-ed appropriations — already down 43 percent per student since 2008 — if any student football players took a knee during the national anthem, according to Louisiana State University President F. King Alexander. (The threat was withdrawn after Alexander reminded lawmakers that LSU players traditionally remain in the locker room during the anthem.)

In Iowa, a state senator introduced a bill requiring ideological litmus tests for faculty hiring. In Nebraska, state senators waged a media campaign against the state’s flagship university after an ugly confrontation between a conservative undergrad and a liberal grad student went viral.

When asked whether they believed provisions of the Trump tax bill targeting colleges were punitive, nearly every president at the dinner answered yes.

Ambitious Republican politicians are not wrong to see college-bashing as politically useful. Several recent surveys find huge partisan divides in views of higher education.

A June Pew Research Center survey found that a majority of Republicans believe colleges and universities have a “negative effect on the way things are going in the country.” Democrats overwhelmingly said the opposite.

In an August Gallup survey, two-thirds of Republicans likewise said they have just some or very little confidence in colleges. The chief complaints: Schools are too liberal, they don’t allow students to think for themselves and students are learning the wrong things.

Or as Donald Trump Jr. put it in a campus speech last fall: “We’ll take $200,000 of your money; in exchange, we’ll train your children to hate our country.”

Most troubling — at least from an economic perspective — Americans are losing faith in the payoff of a college degree.

In an August Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey, most Republicans, rural residents and people who consider themselves poor or working class said college isn’t worth the cost. This is even though higher education averages a much bigger return than any other major investments; the occupations requiring at least some postsecondary education are projected to have the fastest job growth and highest earnings in the coming decade; and for those born at the bottom of the income distribution, a college diploma is key to achieving upward social mobility.

So how did college become a scapegoat for the nation’s ills?

To hear Crow tell it, the primary problem is the long-brewing perception that college is inaccessible, catering only to the self-dealing elite. As a result, he says, ASU has worked hard to lower costs and make its student body more representative of the state’s socioeconomic and ethnic makeup. In fact, contrary to Brnovich’s lawsuit, net tuition (i.e., not the sticker price, but what students actually pay after grants and other financial aid) for in-state students is lower today than it was 30 years ago, Crow says. That’s thanks to new funding sources (donations, grants, international students) and changes in how the school is organized.

What about that Republican perception that colleges are socialist brainwashing factories?

He smiles. Then he acknowledges that even his prized university has not always had “intellectual balance,” and notes that it has recently developed conservative-leaning programs.

Such initiatives have been partly funded by the otherwise-stingy state legislature, and partly by private donors, such as the Charles Koch Foundation.

Which may provide a worrisome preview into where public higher education is heading elsewhere, too: replacing dwindling public dollars with private ones, especially those that will appease suspicious conservatives.

 

Edited from: A column in the Washington Post By Catherine Rampell Opinion writer
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-do-so-many-republicans-hate-college/2017/12/28

New low after new low. If this is what “making America great” looks like, God help us.

So This Is What American Greatness Really Looks Like?

Russian nesting dolls Trump and Putin

This week, Garry Kasparov, former Russian chess champion and perennial critic of Vladimir Putin, tweeted about what autocrats do when caught:

1: Deny, lie, slander accusers.

2: Say it was a misunderstanding.

3. Say ‘What are you going to do about it?

The day after that tweet, Donald Trump stood on a dais in Paris beside the French president and said of his son’s now-confirmed willingness to receive campaign help for his father from Russia: “I think it’s a meeting that most people in politics probably would have taken.”

That would be jaw dropping and bizarre coming from a mob boss at his pretrial hearing, let alone from the president of the United States. But that line is now standard issue among much of Trump’s political party, which has come around to the notion that collusion with a foreign power—even an adversarial one like Russia—is no big deal.

Trump, his family, and his defenders in the once Grand Old Party have mounted various defenses for his campaign’s collusion with Russians and their cutouts to win the 2016 presidential election. They have tried to ignore Russiagate. They have said collusion with Russia never happened. They have blamed Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Loretta Lynch (Trump now says the Russian government lawyer who met with Donald Jr. was only in the country because Lynch let her in. It will surprise no one to discover that’s not true.) And they have landed on the notion that even if collusion did happen, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. Check off all three of the Kasparov boxes.

With Trump’s ascension, the Russification of the Republican Party, which once supported apartheid-era South Africa and continues to back a Cuba embargo, both on the basis of keeping countries out of Russia’s sphere of influence, is complete. Trump, who in the 1980s complained that Ronald Reagan was too tough on the Soviets, and who has used Russians, including reputed mobsters, as everything from bailouts to buyers to brokers for the expansion of his hotel and pageant franchises, has officially brought kakistocracy to Washington. None but the most unmoored to any recognizable morality need apply. He has made fools of his own spokespeople. He has exposed the religious right’s leaders as very much men of this world, with all its hatred and avarice. He has unleashed the forces of white nationalism and even neo-Nazism in our country. And he has revealed an America that is far less than we thought we were eight years ago when the United States became the first former slave republic to make a member of its once entrapped minority population its national leader.

One wonders whether this democracy, as fragile as it has been revealed to be, and whether the presidency as an institution is entirely salvageable, now that Trump has exploded the norms we thought constrained the office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Since becoming president, Trump has flouted the emoluments clause and openly profited from his office, taking payments from all comers, from the State Department to foreign governments at his golf courses, hotels and his private Florida club. He has encouraged his children to treat the White House as a marketing tool for the Trump businesses, and allowed them to commingle their business activities and ongoing involvement in his government. He has turned American foreign policy into a Santa’s workshop for Saudi and Russian interests and goals, from the needless fight with Qatar to pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accords to attempting to return the Kremlin’s spy facilities, which the Obama administration seized in retaliation for Russian interference in our election, to giving Russian oligarchs direct financial interest in the Keystone pipeline boondoggle to having his administration lean on House members to soften a Russia sanctions package. (He even briefly floated the outrageous and absurd notion of cybersecurity cooperation with the Kremlin.) He has invited the Russian foreign ministry into the Oval Office out of the eye and earshot of the American media, who now are reduced to audio-only press briefings where they take a back seat to Trump sycophant right-wing blogs, and he has now canoodled with Putin himself, taking the murderous Russian autocrat’s word for it that no election meddling occurred.

Trump has made political thuggery the new American political standard; throwing allies overboard and cuddling up to dictators and autocrats around the world. He has diminished American influence and credibility every day he has been in office.

Meanwhile, he has stripped the presidency of its basic dignity, tweeting his every thought at all hours of the day. He presents America in his world travels as a troglodyte nation, led by an ill-mannered, ill-tempered, praise-needy buffoon—a real life Joffrey Baratheon—who still thinks he’s a television performer, and whose attention to duty lasts only as long as his favorite Fox shows aren’t on.

Domestically, he has thrown the country into chaos, from his Muslim travel bans to his utter incoherence on health care, which he and his party are threatening to strip from up to 23 million people so they can fork over a trillion dollars to America’s own oligarchs. Putin must be positively gleeful at the damage his little ruse—tricking the arrogant ignoramuses of the Trump campaign into believing Russian hackers had the goods on Hillary, and then reeling them in—has wrought.

And so, a political party that long prided itself on a particular kind of patriotism now welcomes foreign interference, so long as it helps them win. A nation that dragged itself, painfully, from slavery to the Voting Rights Act now faces a federal government that is the single biggest threat to the right of all people to vote. A country that stuck out its chest in promoting a particular kind of greatness now wallows in defunding public education, gutting scientific research, and promoting basic ignorance about the planet in the service of bygone industries belching pollution into the air and water, as if American innovation that could create new industries and new jobs for those displaced workers is no longer possible.

Meanwhile, our children are learning that bullies do indeed prosper; that cruelty and narcissism can be a pathway to power, that one of our two major parties believes the poor and struggling do not deserve health care, and that according to the president of the United States, women essentially have no value beyond their looks and dress sizes.

One wonders whether the presidency can recover, or whether we’re doomed to live in an endless cycle of lowbrow celebrity autocracy—America remade in the image of Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi.

Already, other entertainers are bellying up to the bar, eager to follow Trump’s grubby example and take their turn at political powerball. We could soon have a national leadership that includes The Rock, Kid Rock, and who knows, maybe Ted Nugent, now that white nationalism and public vulgarity have gone mainstream.

What hope is there for a country that has reduced itself to this? What future? For now, it’s hard to see a particularly bright one. If this is what making America great looks like, God help us when greatness ensues.

JOY-ANN REID in the Daily Beast