To write is to endeavor. To write is to endeavor to say something of value, to encapsulate in words and phrases chosen by the deliberate evaluation of intellect and the kinetic drive of one’s metaphysical self, something that carries truth within it. The idea may be the vehicle; the words may be the terrain across which the idea lays out its demand that we travel with it; the text may be a filter, a mask, an approximation. One hopes to create something more than that, something precise, but one is limited, always, by the fact that every choice, every action, every assertion, every utterance, changes the landscape irreversibly. That is the responsibility of writing.
A Syrian plane was forced to land, by Turkish authorities, in Ankara yesterday. The plane was boarded, and reports suggest security officials confiscated military communications and possibly weapons guidance equipment, thought to have originated from Russia. The Syrian regime is accusing Turkey of “piracy”, and the government of Vladimir Putin is demanding answers.
Syria recently fired rockets into Turkish territory, killing 5 civilians in a village near the border. The Turkish parliament authorized the government to respond with military force to any Syrian military intervention on Turkish soil or against Turkish civilians, interests or military positions. Turkey has responded, and there have been reports of skirmishes. Turkey is a NATO signatory, meaning that under the NATO treaty, Syria’s actions may warrant a full-scale military response from NATO.
Enter Vladimir Putin. Putin’s government is notoriously paranoid about the NATO treaty’s mutual self-defense provisions, and until the rocket attacks on the Turkish village had blocked all attempts to admonish, sanction or threaten the regime of Bashar al-Assad, despite his relentless killing of thousands of Syrian civilians.
Has anyone else noticed that Mitt Romney seems pathologically incapable of formulating even one sentence that does not include a lie, a dodge, an absurdity or dog-whistle innuendo? His speeches are being fact-checked and found to be vapid, vague, full of distortions, smears and ancient partisan talking points from the bad old days of Abramoff and the bought Congress—empty rhetoric that has no connection to the present reality, and yet the same media doing the fact-checking seem content to report that Romney is now “in much better shape” or “picking up steam”.
Yesterday, Romney gave a speech on foreign policy, in which he laid out literally zero foreign policy goals, except to toughen sanctions against Iran—the suggestion being they are not yet tough enough or that Obama has not done so, when in fact Pres. Obama has instituted the toughest sanctions in history against Iran, and they are having a major impact, putting Ahmedinejad’s popularity at an all-time low, bringing dissenting Iranians into the streets in protest.
The speech revealed the same flippant, reckless, schoolyard-bully randomizing on world affairs that we have become accustomed to hearing from Romney. In similar fashion to his shame-inducing London and Israel trips and his libelous unpatriotic smears in the wake of the Benghazi attack, he managed to defame the president, the nation and the military, all while dismissing the Arab Spring’s wave of democratization as little more than a worrying increase in “risk of conflict”.
He also decided to falsify the record by alleging that Pres. Obama has been on the sidelines for the major international security events of the last four years. Independent observers, presidential historians and even Obama’s Republican rivals admit he has been one of the most hands-on, engaged-in-details presidents, personally directing operations—from the liberation of hostages taken by Somali pirates to the killing of Osama bin Laden to the NATO air campaign that helped Libya’s democracy movement to dismantle the Qadhafi regime.
Far from being disengaged, Pres. Obama personally urged Hosni Mubarak to relinquish power, urged the leaders of the Yemeni and Libyan regimes to lay down their arms and turn over power to interim democratic authorities. He has successfully brought the Iraq war to a close and has personally overseen operations targeting militants, terrorists and war criminals in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Egypt, Libya, Uganda and—though it has not been disclosed to date, most likely, informed observers suggest—Syria.
What is most astonishing about the President’s weak performance in the first debate is not that it happened; incumbent presidents are often at a disadvantage for various reasons, the most important being they sleep little, have the weight of the world on their shoulders, and do not have the luxury of being able to dedicate an entire month of their lives to debate prep. Also, they are not accustomed to having to explain the self-evident in such a fashion; they have become project oriented, and are more on mission than on message—at least when they are honestly doing the job.
What is most astonishing about the President’s weak performance in the first debate is that the media have been so unwilling to do the very thing they accuse the President of not doing enough—call Mitt Romney out on the rampant lying and innuendo of which nearly 100% of his rhetoric is made. This is a grave disservice to the American people and to democracy itself. That a candidate could be so far from contact with lived reality, so far from any specificity whatsoever on his policy proposals, so far from honest disclosure of whatever accounting tricks have been used to avoid paying taxes to the people he now asks to hand him the world’s most powerful job, and be treated as just another candidate doing the job of campaigning, is a moral disgrace.
Don’t you believe you and your family have a right to the truth, in every instant, about every issue of public significance?
The First Amendment conceives not of a morally bankrupt, absent-minded press, obsessed with he-said/she-said stenography and rumor-mill analysis. The First Amendment conceives of a free and independent press, empowered by genuine liberty and force of purpose to act as the people’s fourth arm of representative government, keeping a watchful eye on all that is not right in the halls of power.
Mitt Romney is not yet there in those halls. He is not yet an elected “leader of the Free World”. But he is responsible for his actions, and he needs to be held to account for every last untruth he mutters in public. A few of Romney’s most obscene distortions:
- He claims the President of the United States “sympathizes” with terrorists;
- he suggests that saving the auto industry was a pointless exercise in “big government”, even though the auto industry remains fully private and independent, and is now thriving;
- he claims Pres. Obama has “destroyed jobs”, even as a report from the Financial Times and the Brookings Institution finds that the US economy, under Barack Obama’s leadership, is “the brightest spot in the world economy” and that the US recovery “defies [the] threat of global recession”;
- he attacked fully 47% of the people of the United States for being “victims” who are lazy by character and feel they are “entitled” to live off the government;
- he says he will cut taxes “across the board” by 20%—an action that will cost $5 trillion—but says it will cost nothing;
- he says he will “strengthen” Medicare by eliminating it and replacing it with a system of government-backed coupons (“vouchers” or “premium support” tickets) allowing for discounted unregulated hugely expensive private insurance—at a projected additional cost of $6,000 PER YEAR to the average senior citizen;
- he tells one audience that no pre-existing conditions will be covered, unless the patient has never spent a single hour without insurance coverage, then tells 60 million viewers that his plan will cover all pre-existing conditions—a flagrant lie;
- he says he devotes himself “to the hundred percent”, but vows to ban same-sex marriage, eliminate rights for same-sex couples, strip women of their reproductive and health rights, shut down community clinics, after school programs and clean energy funding;
- he has pledged to spend whatever it takes to back any ally of the United States anywhere on Earth, no matter the situation, yet he plans to give away $6 trillion in tax reductions, mostly to the already affluent;
- he has pledged to support “small business job growth”, but plans a tax overhaul that will hurt Main Street mom and pop shops and help Walmart and Staples expand their market dominance;
- he says he will “balance the budget” by cutting spending, but includes $8 trillion of military and tax expenditures in his notoriously vague budget blueprint;
- he says he will defend and support the Constitution, yet he constantly resorts to dog-whistle racist innuendo, designed to elicit the support of bigots and hardliners who oppose universal civil liberties;
- he says his energy policy is the best way to create jobs, though it depends primarily on the least job-creation-intensive forms of energy: coal, oil and frack-extracted gas;
- he says he wants “North American energy independence”, but relies entirely on finite mineral resources that enrich billionaires and foreign autocrats—including Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Russia’s Vladimir Putin—while sabotaging investments in the decentralized, clean-energy economy that is our best chance to rebuild a vibrant, expanding middle class.
There is a lot more. The list is epic, because Romney rarely makes an entirely true statement about anything. The more he has gotten away with spouting untruths, the more he has been emboldened to continue to do so.
As a matter of justice, and out of a deep commitment to genuine participatory democracy, independents of principle, and those moderates in the Republican party, have to take stock and recognize what is going on. Whether you like or dislike Barack Obama, whether you believe he has done everything possible to steer us toward a better future, you have to be honest enough with yourself, for the sake of posterity, to recognize that Mitt Romney is waging a pathologically dishonest campaign, which offers almost no detail of any kind that the American people can trust, regarding what he would do as president.
(It is not even clear whether or not he has paid all of his taxes for the last ten years, how much wealth is stashed in Cayman Island and Swiss bank accounts, how long he worked at Bain Capital, or how closely he worked on that company’s offshoring of American jobs.)
It is not acceptable for these lies to go unchallenged. It is not acceptable for the media to report partisan polling sources, statistics stated as questions that were never asked (as when physicians’ dissatisfaction with private insurers was widely reported as “disapproval of Obamacare”), and split-second debate reactions, as if they somehow mean that a man this dishonest and disloyal is looking like a better and better bet for the most powerful office on the planet. It is irresponsible, and we the people need to reject that kind of media mind-bleed. We can do better; we need to do better; we need to vote the truth.
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Originally published October 9, 2012, at IndependentsOfPrinciple.com
Tonight, Mitt Romney gave us absolute confirmation of his view of the American electorate: he believes the truth does not matter and that most voters will not care enough or be diligent enough to even notice bald faced lies. Romney’s campaign has spent 18 months and over $228 million to promote a raft of vague policies built around a tax plan that costs $5 trillion; he now claims he has no such tax plan.
Romney was aggressive, even rude, flippant with some of his remarks, and throughout the debate, willing to lie outright to misrepresent his positions and distort the truth about what he will do if elected president. While he and his campaign have consistently said he would repeal the Affordable Care Act and protect care for pre-existing conditions only for people who have never been a day without coverage, tonight he claimed all pre-existing conditions will be covered, despite no plan to do this.
With the revelation that Mitt Romney and his campaign have been “preparing” for the first presidential debate, tomorrow night, by rehearsing “zingers” and “one-liners”, we the people of the United States have still more confirmation of the degree to which Romney holds the American people in either unabashed disregard or unrepentant disdain.
For those who think this is a severe critique, bear with me: it warrants explanation.
Mitt Romney has said is “not concerned about the very poor”; he has said it is not his job to think about the “47 percent” of Americans he accuses of being “victims” who only want to live off the state; he has said that income inequality—possibly the single most intractable driver of the prolonged economic slowdown following the Great Recession, indeed of the recession itself—should only be discussed in quiet rooms, behind closed doors. Yes, he really said that.
The incredible detail about this infographic is that the $10 million is just ONE way in which Romney has received assistance from the federal government. His rejection of any and all forms of government assistance to individuals and businesses would be more credible if he volunteered to repay every penny of every tax credit he or any of his immediate family, his staff, his companies or their vendors.
Mitt Romney is right now busy trying to explain the most amazing blunder a candidate for president could make: alienating nearly half of all Americans, possibly more—if we consider that people often take offense at such rudeness whether directed at them or not. But what the 47% remark tells us, most strikingly, about Mitt Romney is that he really has no idea how the real economy works, what it is like to live in the real economy, or what the impact of public policies really is.
For Mitt Romney, every single person who receives any form of funding from the government is “dependent”, and “thinks they are victims”. This includes everyone who receives Social Security—an earned benefit people funded from their own paychecks, but which does not pay enough to qualify the recipient to pay income taxes. It also includes everyone on Medicare—another earned benefit people funded from their own paychecks.
More stunningly still, Mitt Romney, by using the 47% figure, is including everyone who served in the armed forces and receives benefits or a pension from Veterans Affairs. To Romney, they are parasites addicted to the public dole; to everyone else, they are courageous souls who earned their benefits by putting their lives on the line to protect and to serve everyone else in society, including Romney himself.
Let’s be honest. There are only three possible reasons Mitt Romney refuses to clearly explain his views on health insurance, Medicare, and Social Security, or specify how he would close tax loopholes to fund his mega tax cut for millionaires and billionaires:
- He has no idea how he would do it;
- he is leaving room for future etch-a-sketch moments;
- he knows most people would be outraged by his plans (perhaps because they will make him look like he is looting the pockets of ordinary families for his own gain)…
It has to be one of the three. Which one is acceptable to you?
Yesterday, Mitt Romney gave the most recent in a long series of unhelpful, slippery interviews relating to his policy plans. He said there is a lot in Pres. Obama’s healthcare reform law that he would like to re-enact after repealing the law. Remember, Romney was the Massachusetts governor who passed healthcare reform with an individual mandate, when no one else had done it.
Then, as a presidential candidate, he declared war on the very same policy priorities, embodied in Pres. Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He vowed to repeal the law, despite the fact that doing so would lead to widespread suffering, prolonged illness and even death, for people already benefitting from expanded insurance coverage and a prohibition against denying coverage for so-called “pre-existing conditions”.
More etch-a-sketch than ever, Romney even fibbed about his semi-reversal on his determination to strip over 30 million Americans of their health insurance. He said he would support a ban on denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, but a staffer later clarified that he had misspoken; in fact, Romney should have said that he would favor such a ban ONLY for people already 100% continuously covered, who never missed a single day of private, for-profit health insurance.
In the words of one reporter, today, those who had been unable to get coverage, for whatever the reason, including for insurers having denied coverage or mandated under treatment due to a pre-existing condition, would be “out of luck”.
So, Mitt Romney is now for AND against healthcare reform, but he is unclear about even what aspects he would favor or whether he would like to harm or help ordinary people victimized by a rapacious industry uninterested in health outcomes. Every voter needs to be clear: Mitt Romney wants to strip you of health insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, Veterans Benefits, and your social safety net, and he wants Wall Street to control your health decisions.
If you are over 65, he plans to issue you a coupon for a government-funded “discount” on unregulated, high-cost private, for-profit health insurance, where providers may deny you treatment at any time and deny you coverage if you have ever been ill or without insurance.
Mike Bloomberg says his New York City administration has conducted a study and found that natural gas from hydro-fracking will be a cost-effective way to transition away from coal as a source of electrical power. He is wrong. Fracking carries with it massive environmental risks, including the contamination of groundwater, surface watersheds and drinking water supplies. Contrary to what Bloomberg has declared, there is no known technology in existence to prevent such contamination, and geology in the loose rock of the Marcellus Shale is not adequate to the task.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is also wrong about fracking. He recently approved the lifting of a moratorium on all hydro-fracking across the state of New York. The moratorium was in place, because there was no scientific evidence the industry was capable of containing the hundreds of toxic pollutants, or the spill gas itself, that are part of the hydraulic rock-fracturing process. Cuomo lifted the moratorium without any evidence that any technologies have been developed that would prevent groundwater contamination or geological seepage of spill gas.
Both the city and the state of New York have more power generation and economic development potential from solar and wind power than they have from the natural gas trendlines currently overrunning states across the US. Natural gas and fracking carry massive negative externalities, so they appear to be cost-effective, but they are not. The long-term environmental degradation and ill health effects are far more costly than the limited and temporary surge in local economic output.
Wind and solar power, on the other hand, have none of those hidden costs. AND, they will spark growth in marketing, manufacture, investment, information technology and research and development as well, all of which are strong in New York City and New York state. Bloomberg and Cuomo are betting on the wrong horse, because they put too much faith in the ability of the marketplace to hide the real costs of dirty energy, and too little faith in the virtues of a genuinely clean-energy-based decentralized 21st-century economy.
The US government is imposing the strictest fuel-economy and carbon-emissions standards to date. This is a major step toward greening the transport sector, and achieving a fuel free future.
According to USA Today:
Strict new federal fuel-economy and carbon-emission standards made final Tuesday are the biggest technological challenge to the auto industry since the government began regulating emissions in 1970 and mileage in 1975.
The rule sets the equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon as the average the auto industry must achieve by 2025, up from 29.7 mpg now and 35.5 mpg in 2016.
The tough “CAFE” standard (for corporate average fuel economy), which was to be announced earlier this month, was announced Tuesday by the Obama administration on the day that Republicans’ national convention got underway in Tampa.
It is “a monumental day for the American people,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in announcing the final rules.