Saturday, September 1, 2012

Another 30 lies by Mitt Romney Documented

Steve Benen records another 30 lies by Mitt Romney in his 32nd installment of the weekly series, "Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity." Benen writes:

"Love Romney or hate him, it's an experiment of sorts -- we're seeing the first real-world test of a post-truth campaign. Team Romney lies, without shame, because it's certain the line between fact and fiction has been blurred out of existence, and if lies will give Romney vast power, the ends justify the means.

"But for those who still like to think reality has some meaning, I hope they'll take some time to consider the 32nd installment of my weekly series, chronicling Mitt's mendacity. (For the record, this week, I'm only including falsehoods from Romney himself. Including every lie told at the convention would have caused a mendacity overdose.)"

With this edition, Benen has documented 602 lies* by Romney this past year as Romney leads the Republican War on Facts.

See previous editions of Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity: Vol. I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII,XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIX, XX, XXI, XXII, XXIII, XXIV, XXV, XXVI, XXVII, XXVIII, XXIX, XXX, XXXI

* Note: This post was updated 9/7/12 with a new count of the lies through the 32nd week. As of 9/7/12, with Mitt's Mendacity XXXIII, the count of Mitt Romney's lies actually is up to 618.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Romney will do a good job at implementing whatever plan his masters give him

By Marc Jampole
Mitt Romney comes to the American people with business acumen as his best selling point.

No doubt about it: Mitt Romney has demonstrated that he is a highly successful business executive. He made hundreds of millions for his company when he headed Bain, and then did a competent job as the leader of the business called the Olympics. As governor of Massachusetts, he had no great ideas, but he competently administered and implemented the ideas of others—including the healthcare reform system that was the model for Obamacare (see Paul Starr’s Remedy and Reaction for details).

But while admiring Romney’s success in business, we should also remain aware of the drawbacks and baggage that expertise brings.

First and foremost, business executives are amoral and emotional—they’re taught to be that way in business school and business seminars.  As Michael Corleone, the fictional leader of the mythic American family business once put it, “It’s not personal. It’s strictly business.”   Business executives who don’t cultivate this attitude can’t lay off people, deny someone a raise, take a sneaky loophole out of a contract, shut down manufacturing facilities in one-plant towns, hotly pursue the business of despicable individuals, steal accounts from competitors, or play hardball with unions.

That’s why it’s so easy for a successful business executive such as Lou Gerstner to go from one industry to another and keep achieving business success.

What that means is that Mitt Romney will do a competent job implementing the program of whoever is pulling his strings.  Kind of like Albert Speer, Hitler’s talented Nazi architect and executive.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not conflating Romney with the Nazis. That would be like labeling as a Socialist a Democrat slightly to the right of Dwight Eisenhower—say, Barack Obama.

Although it is true that Romney’s current masters want to end a woman’s right to have an abortion, severely limit her access to birth control, turn back the clock on gay rights and end the teaching of science in the schools. The Nazis did believe in most if not all of these ideas.

Another thing to remember about the business executive is that the definition of success is nothing more nor less than return of maximum value to the investors. A company may pollute, create unsafe conditions for employees, pay its workers low wages and create social problems wherever it establishes operations, e.g. Walmart, and still be considered successful because the investors all get rich.

Romney is used to defining success as creating wealth for the few, and that’s exactly what you want in a business leader, even if you are enlightened enough to include the employees among the happy few. Mitt’s admitted economic program suggests that he will continue to follow that basic strategy as president.

But the objective of a country is to protect and provide opportunities for all its citizens.  This idea is inherent in our important early documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. And one can read the history of the United States as a great struggle to extend rights, protection and opportunities to more and more of our people.

Sometimes the issue in an election is competence. That was certainly the case in 1960 between Nixon and Kennedy, when both sides shared exactly the same foreign policy and were coalescing around the same set of ideas to address domestic challenges. The same can be said about the election of 1976 between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.

But in 2012 the issue is ideology, which is a bit ironic, since one of the candidates has demonstrated that he has none.  All he wants to do is do the best job he possibly can for whoever is paying the bill.  In the case of Romney, it’s the extreme social and economic right, which wants to send the country back to medieval times.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Six Worst Lies in Paul Ryan's Speech Only the Beginning...

Aviva Shen at lists the Six Worst Lies in Paul Ryan's speech at the Republican National Convention Wednesday night, noting that, "His speech was riddled with false claims, so much so that even Fox News wrote:
"To anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts, Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech."
But disregard for the truth seems to be standard operating procedure for the Romney-Ryan campaign whose pollster said Tuesday the campaign is not concerned with being labeled false by independent fact-checkers. “Fact checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs, and we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers,” Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said at a forum hosted by ABC News and Yahoo! News.

Indeed, Steve Benen of has documented 533 lies told by Mitt Romney in the past 30 weeks in his continuing series on "Mitt's Mendacity," Fred Clark noted at (See Benen's most recent update.) That gives Romney claim to the title of the most shameless liar in US politics — a considerable feat, given the competition. With secretive corporate-funded "super PACs" as well as campaigns able to repeat these lies with advertisements despite the fact-checkers' refutations, James Fallows of The Atlantic sees the media moving into the "Post-Truth Age."

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Talking Sense May Be Hazardous to Your Health Plan

By Charles Cullen

Dr. Alice Chen is a Yale graduate, received her medical degree from Cornell, and now splits her time between being an "internal medicine hospitalist," and working as an assistant professor at UCLA. She also happens to be the executive director of "Doctors for America," an activist website and group sporting the slogan "Patients Over Politics." So I think it's safe to say that she's a pretty smart cookie.

I had the pleasure of a brief interview with Dr. Chen, whose primary professional concern, when not working in internal medicine or manning her post at UCLA, is making sure that everyone is covered for medical care.

She seems genuinely perturbed by the number of people in the United States lacking real access to medical treatment. So she and many of her colleagues have rented a bus and embarked on a trip from the Republican National Convention to the Democratic National Convention. The trip is jokingly called "Docs Gone Wild." Though a quick perusal of her website leads me to believe that the official name of the trip is the "Patients Over Politics Bus Tour." I rather think the former name is catchier, but as long as they're out fighting the good fight, I couldn't care less what they're called.

I asked Dr. Chen about her thoughts regarding the current political climate. She responded by referring me to political commercials based on poor science that would make it more difficult for people to receive medical care.

"Honestly," she said, "what I think to myself is this ad is going to kill people if the person behind it gets their way." I couldn't help but agree. She spoke more about political and medical hot-button issues, eventually landing on contraception. "With the contraception debate everything seemed to be getting blown out of proportion," she told me, "We learned that many people were using contraception, like the pill, for a different reason." While she was reluctant to wade into the deep end of the political muck with me, I sensed that she was trying, in a roundabout way, to say that these contraceptive users were using contraception to maintain general health; whether through family planning or other health related concerns. In other words, no one was trying to anger god, folks were just trying to be healthier. She did mention the role of religion in the health care debate, saying "You see the Catholic Church and all these other people getting involved and it's just a mess."

At the end of our conversation I couldn't help myself and asked her to comment on the Rep. Todd Akin stir. "Mr. Akin," she said, laughing, "that's why it's important to have people who actually see patients and who [she searched for the right words] know science."

I was very impressed by Dr. Chen. And as impressed as I was, I couldn't help but notice that all of her positions were held by most Democrats and opposed by most of the Republicans. I realize that having "Patients Over Politics" as a motto is useful when running an organization that, by and large, seeks to include fairly wealthy people. I am in no way upset with, or dissappointed by Dr. Chen; she has a very specific, and very valid concern: healthcare in the United States. But when all of your positions seem in line with the Democrats and at great odds with the Republican platform, it seems unusual to take a non-political stand. Even if acknowledging that Democrats are much, much more in sync with the idea of affordable healthcare means angering some of the people who support you.

“We built it” doesn’t mean much when the “it” depends on so many things built by society

By Marc Jampole

The people carrying the “We built it” signs on the floor of the Republican Convention are not referring to the same “thing” to which President Obama referred when he rhetorically said “You didn’t build that” to business owners in a speech weeks ago.

The “We built it” standard bearers are talking about their businesses and wealth.

What Obama means are the roads and airports that transport goods and services to and from the businesses; the electrical grids delivering electrical power to run the lights; the public education system that trained most of the employees; the police force and army that protect the business from civil disturbances; the system of laws and business customs that ensure marketplace consistency and a stable economic environment. He also meant that some businesses depend on special grants of government property such as land and airwaves; others depend on advantageous tax codes and tariff laws.

As I have written before, building on philosopher Daniel N. Robinson’s Praise and Blame: Moral Realism and Its Application, the people who built their “its” don’t even deserve that much credit for their work, whether the “it” is Apple or a mom-and-pop provider of IT services.  A lot, and maybe most, of their success stems more from luck than anything else.

Here's some of what that luck comprises:
  • Mental or physical talent with which one is born. If you have it, you will be able to do something naturally that most others have to struggle to learn. Even if you work hard to hone that talent, remember that someone with less talent could work just as hard and not accomplish as much. Wouldn’t he or she be just as deserving of reward?
  • Social-economic standing of your family: Over the 200+ year history of the United States there has been very little social mobility—which means people moving up or down from the class in which they were born—and recent studies show that we have less mobility today than ever before. As a brief look at Mitt Romney and his family substantiates, rich families can pay for lessons, send kids to specialty camps, pay for private tutors and educational consultants, contribute sums to prestigious schools, call friends of friends of friends to introduce children to influential people in their chosen careers and finance business or artistic ventures. Middle class families can do some of these things and poor families very few, if any.
  • Family’s emotional situation: The individual has no say in whether she or he ends up in a loving, stable family or in a family of drug addicts.
  • Secular conditions, referring to the social and economic conditions of the era: My favorite example of the impact of social conditions on individual success is Willie Mays, on everyone’s short list of the greatest baseball player of all time, who would have been a field slave if born 100 years earlier.
  • The value society puts on your talent: Bankers, attorneys, neurosurgeons, professional athletes, business owners—all these people get paid more than high school teachers, players in classical symphony orchestras and plumbers, who may work as hard and be just as talented in their field. A plumber could work just as hard as an investment banker does and make far less money. Does that make the plumber less praiseworthy than the banker?
  • Just plain old “luck” luck, such as the luck to be in an intersection 10 seconds before or after an accident or for your professor to bring you onto his long-term research team.
The argument behind “You didn’t build that” answers the Republican claim that we shouldn’t tax so-called wealth creators because it shows how little their efforts really contributed to creating the wealth that they are enjoying.

Another way to look at the issue is to consider the value of protection and stability that government provides to each individual.  If your house is worth $150,000, you are getting protection and stability (and water, sewer service and other utilities) to support $150,000.  If your house is worth $500,000, the protection and security is worth more and so you should be paying higher taxes.

The “We built it” crowd likes to confuse the issue by falsely saying we have a high tax rate (we don’t—it’s historically low) and then blaming that rate and our deficit on programs for the undeserving.  This argument confuses two distinct issues:
  1. What constitutes the minimum standard of living, education and healthcare that every person deserves by virtue of being a human being in an advanced civilization?
  2. Who will pay for the goods and services that government provides?
No matter where one stands on the first issue, keep in mind that the major plank in the economic program of Mitt Romney and the Republicans is to make the poor and middle class pay even more for government than they already do, while the wealthy pay even less. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Notes from Tampa

By Charles Cullen

Nothing unusual is going on in Florida. Most speakers today seem content (so far) to stick to the script of dog-whistle politics and desperate attempts to blame the President for all the economic woes the Republicans should be taking responsibility for. But Sean Duffy, congressman from Wisconsin, just levelled one of the weirdest attacks on any politician I've ever heard. He accused Obama of orchestrating "one of the worst recoveries" ever. I'm not sure what to make of this ... is it a new talking point? Romney would have done better, say? Was it a slip of the tongue? Is he just off script? I was under the impression that Republicans were obligated to resist admitting that any kind of recovery had taken place anywhere, for anyone, unless absolutely cornered. Only then could they acknowledge that Obama pulled us from the brink of a second Great Depression. They were still expected to bend the truth and the job numbers, and at all costs avoid a comparison to Obama's tenure v. Bush's. But Duffy seemed to miss that memo.

Accusing someone of engineering a bad recovery insists that one ask why we needed to recover in the first place. Who made the mess we're recovering from? Who engineered the crash? Considering the brevity of Duffy's speech, I have to think that it's just one congressmen's bizzaro-world-view rather than a trial run for a new political meme.

Strike that. Something unusual is going on in Florida; the Ron Paul folks have made their move with boos and shouting. They actually had to be gavelled down so that Zoriada Fonalledas could speak. RNC chairman Reince Priebus continues to sneer and wink, in an apparent attempt to maintain good humor with the Ron Paul Contingent — some of whom have attached clothes pins to their noses as if to say "this stinks," and none of whom seem to have any problem yelling at the speakers — be they Fonalledas, John Boehner, Sununu, or McDonnell. The Republican speakers continue to announce "without objection the motion passes," and "the aye's have it." But there seems to be considerable and vocal objection along with quite a few "nays." This is by no means a true uprising (I don't think) but Republicans are generally much more averse to debate, especially when the cameras are rolling.

Most of the boos and booers have now been silenced, but this can't be a good sign for Romney. He needs to run a very precise, very organized campaign if he's going to upset a sitting President who just so happens to be ahead, is a fantastic orator, mops the floor with debate opponents, and, among other things, ordered the raid that killed Bin Laden.

Maybe I'm just not seeing it. Maybe the Democrats will run a terrible campaign (I've seen it happen before), maybe Romney has a real ace in the hole and he's just been pretending to be boring, distant, and out of touch. But somehow I don't think so. This is the Mitt we know. He'll hope for continuing economic difficulty, and pray that Obama's ethnicity is enough to frighten people into voting for Romney. Seems like a risky and nauseating political strategy.

In the spirit of journalistic honesty, I must say that I am too young or was too distracted to remember when Republican conventions were much more than candidate-coronation ceremonies heading into the general election. I know that Ron Paul has always had a devoted following, but I was surprised by the tenacity of his supporters this time around and by the number of states that allocated him a significant portion of the their delegates BEFORE Romney was "Over the Top." Quite a few states were giving a portion of delegates to Santorum, others had delegates abstaining from the vote. This tells me that even in the red states (Texas), the swing states, where it would have looked really good for Romney to get all the delegates (Iowa), he just couldn't pull it off.

Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself

By Charles Cullen

It had to be this way -- perfection in a Shakespearian-tragedy sense. Of course my first trip to a Republican National Convention would start out with mortal terror...not of Republicans, though they're plenty frightening, but of the weather itself. Rain lashed the car as I drove down to Tampa. Gusts of wind pushed my and other vehicles around a bit. When I managed to make my way into deep western Florida the rain stopped, but the wind picked up enough to throw a few palmetto plants my way. And now everything seems to have died down. It's just raining. Nothing torrential, just bad weather.

I'm beginning to think that my trip down is a fairly spot-on allegory for the Republican race itself: all sound and fury but no real substance. No lasting ideas. There does of course seem to be an up-tick in voter suppression schemes, hatred of women, the poor, and minorities in general, but nothing we haven't seen before...

Unless you count Ron Paul. We've seen him before, but never quite like this. It may be nothing but I've already resisted conversion attempts from several members of the Ron Paul Nation, and I've only been in Tampa for a few hours. Ron Paul's acolytes shuffle out of nowhere with their Ron Paul T-shirts, and instantly recognize that you have not yet accepted Ron Paul into your heart as your political lord and savior. And they are very eager to spread the good word.

What baffles me is how they know. I've already been mistaken as a Republican (easy mistake to make considering I'm a grumpy looking white guy in a collared shirt and slacks) and recognized as a liberal, but the Ron Paul folks are batting a thousand. They never miss. Their political pitch is always roughly the same with Democrats; they know I'm a liberal but want to explain to me just why and how government is the root of all evil. I'd shrug this off if they weren't pulling the same trick with Republicans. The pitch to Republicans has more to do with a mild scolding for saying one is in favor of small government (a favorite pastime for many on the right) only to massively increase the government's size, spending, and scope. I was even accosted by a Ron Paul supporter in the lobby of my hotel. Sandals, sweatpants, a Ron Paul T-shirt, and the instant knowledge that I was a liberal Democrat.

Please keep in mind that all of this has happened outside the convention. I'll keep an eye on this brand of weirdness and all the other stories as they arise when the convention kicks off in full. Though I must say, if I encounter anything as impressive/unsettling a Ron Paul mind-readers, I'll be surprised.

(Editor's Note: Charles is in Tampa covering the Republican National Convention for The Progressive Populist.)