Mitt Romney’s position on FEMA

Mitt Romney‘s position as stated during the June 13, 2011 GOP Presidential Primary Debate:

KING: What else, Governor Romney? You’ve been a chief executive of a state. I was just in Joplin, Missouri. I’ve been in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee and other communities dealing with whether it’s the tornadoes, the flooding, and worse. FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role. How do you deal with something like that?

ROMNEY: Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.

Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut —we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do? And those things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in. We cannot…

KING: Including disaster relief, though?

ROMNEY: We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.

His position as stated by his aides after Hurricane Sandy demolished the East Coast of the United States:

“Gov. Romney believes in a very efficient and effective disaster relief response, and he believes one of the ways to do that is put a premium on states and their efforts to respond to these disasters,” senior adviser Kevin Madden told reporters on the flights from Tampa to Miami. “That’s why they call them first responders — they’re first to respond, the states. Traditionally, they’ve been best at responding to these disasters. But he does believe FEMA has a really important role there and that being a partner for these states is the best approach.”

According to reports, including the Politico article quoted above, Romney refused to respond to questions asked about FEMA by Ohio residents.

This was a great photo. If only it were authentic!

Quote of the day

The state of the world today is in such a condition that a Nobel Peace Prize winner affirms permanent war and political murder. As Glenn Greenwald reports:

The Washington Post has a crucial and disturbing story this morning by Greg Miller about the concerted efforts by the Obama administration to fully institutionalize – to
Seal of the Office of the Director of National...make officially permanent – the most extremist powers it has exercised in the name of the war on terror.

Based on interviews with “current and former officials from the White House and the Pentagon, as well as intelligence and counterterrorism agencies”, Miller reports that as “the United States‘ conventional wars are winding down”, the Obama administration “expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years” (the “capture” part of that list is little more than symbolic, as the US focus is overwhelmingly on the “kill” part). Specifically, “among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade.” As Miller puts it: “That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.”

In pursuit of this goal, “White House counterterrorism adviser John O Brennan is seeking to codify the administration’s approach to generating capture/kill lists, part of a broader effort to guide future administrations through the counterterrorism processes that Obama has embraced.” All of this, writes Miller, demonstrates “the extent to which Obama has institutionalized the highly classified practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war.”

Greenwald continues by noting that the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which reports to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and which generates the “kill lists” for the President, has access to the extensive and diverse information collected at home and abroad, information nominally meant to provide a resource for deterring terrorists but information which also includes every American who has left a digital record from his or her life. Thus the federal institution charged with generating (unconstitutional) “kill lists” also surveys the behavior of and accumulates data on every American. Americans watch other Americans. They collect data on them — themselves! — and generate profiles which allegedly encapsulate the lives of those they study.
Greenwald summarizes his argument:

What has been created here — permanently institutionalized —is a highly secretive executive branch agency that simultaneously engages in two functions: (1) it collects and analyzes massive amounts of surveillance data about all Americans without any judicial review let alone search warrants, and (2) creates and implements a “matrix” that determines the “disposition” of suspects, up to and including execution, without a whiff of due process or oversight. It is simultaneously a surveillance state and a secretive, unaccountable judicial body that analyzes who you are and then decrees what should be done with you, how you should be “disposed” of, beyond the reach of any minimal accountability or transparency.

The upshot: What Greenwald depicts is the institutionalization and exercise of prerogative powers by the de facto sovereign of the United States. These powers are, by definition, extra-legal. The President with access to these powers governs unencumbered by the rule of law.

Yet, as Miller reports, “For an administration that is the first to embrace targeted killing on a wide scale, officials seem confident that they have devised an approach that is so bureaucratically, legally and morally sound that future administrations will follow suit.”

These administration officials and permanent government apparatchiks they work with are, in a word, deluded.

Update

Chris Floyd has this (among other things) to say about Barack Obama’s newly instituted system of murder:

Like last year’s NY Times piece that first detailed the murder racket being run directly out of the White House, the new Washington Post story is replete with quotes from “senior Administration officials” who have obviously been authorized to speak. Once again, this is a story that Obama and his team WANT to tell. They want you to know about the murder program and their strenuous exertions to make it permanent; they are proud of this, they think it makes them look good. They want it to be part of their legacy, something they can pass on to future generations: arbitrary, lawless, systematic murder.

Perhaps this fact should be borne in mind by all those anguished progressives out there who keep telling themselves that Obama will “be different, that he will “turn to the left,” if we can only get him a second term. No; the legacy of arbitrary, lawless, systematic murder is the legacy he wants. It is the legacy he has been building, with remarkable energy and meticulous attention to detail, day after day, week after week, for the past four years. This is what he cares about. And it is this — not jobs, not peace, not the environment, not equal rights for women and ethnic and sexual minorities, not the poor, not the middle class, not education, not infrastructure, not science, not diplomacy — that he will apply himself to in a second term. (Along with his only other political passion: forging a “grand bargain” with Big Money to gut the remaining shreds of the New Deal.)

Floyd had previously addressed this topic:

It is, I confess, beyond all my imagining that a national leader so deeply immersed in murdering people would trumpet his atrocity so openly, so gleefully — and so deliberately, sending his top aides out to collude in a major story in the nation’s leading newspaper, to ensure maximum exposure of his killing spree. Although many leaders have wielded such powers, they almost always seek to hide or obscure the reality of the operation. Even the Nazis took enormous pains to hide the true nature of their murder programs from the public. And one can scarcely conceive of Stalin inviting reporters from Pravda into the Politburo meetings where he and Molotov and Beria debated the lists of counterrevolutionary “terrorists” given to them by the KGB and ticked off those who would live and those who would die. Of course, those lists too were based on “intelligence reports,” often gathered through “strenuous interrogation techniques” or the reports of informers. No doubt these reports were every bit as credible as the PowerPoint presentations reviewed each week by Obama and his team.

And no doubt Stalin and his team were just as sincerely concerned about “national security” as the Aquinas acolyte in the White House today — and just as determined to do “whatever it takes” to preserve that security. As Stalin liked to say of the innocent people caught up in his national security efforts: “When wood is chopped, chips fly.”

Barack Obama has been a “system politician.” He will remain a system politician as long as he is President. Mitt Romney is a system politician. He will remain a system politician if he is elected President. The reforms Americans need to implement will not be the product of system politicians, especially those politicians who embrace death squads, murder by drone strikes and, to be sure, empire.

I got a letter from Bill Clinton!

The text:

I hope you’ll pay attention, Stephen.

We’re facing a big FEC fundraising deadline — after this, there’s only one more before Election Day.

Here’s why that matters: Your donation will go further now than it will next week. That’s because it will immediately be put to use — if your $5 (for example) goes toward hiring an organizer in Akron, Ohio, she’ll have more time to do her job and reach more voters. And that’s how elections are won.

I hope you’ll donate $5 or more before the September fundraising deadline:

https://my.democrats.org/Deadline-September

Thanks for everything you do.

Bill Clinton

P.S. — If you donate $5 or whatever you can today, you and a guest will be automatically entered to fly out to meet President Obama and me on the campaign trail.

Well, Bill, I gave your letter— Thank you so much! — my undivided attention. The first thing I noticed while I read it is a slight of hand trick which suggests that money donated after the September deadline passes will not be put to immediate use. Are we to believe that funds received after the deadline will not be spent until a post-election period? That would be silly, and I do not believe it to be true. Or, are we to believe that money spent next week is not money spent immediately? That too is sill.

So, I believe you lied to me.

I must say I am also surprised that you thanked me for everything I do since a part of what I do is to call for your arrest, trial and conviction for committing crimes of war and crimes against humanity. Why would you want to thank me for that?

Quote of the day

In what I could have labeled as today’s splendid yet understated observation, Peter Baker of the New York Times pointed out that:

In foreign policy, the relationship between what presidential candidates say on the campaign trail and what they do once elected can be tenuous.

We also should include what the candidates say about their domestic, fiscal, budgetary and other policies. Generally considered, political candidates are untrustworthy individuals. They are neither truthful nor honorable. They present themselves to the demos but typically act as agents of special and powerful interests. Supporting them requires a strong capacity for managing cognitive dissonance and a stubborn insensitivity to the presence and consequences of the Dunning-Kruger Effect and Status Quo Bias. Americans believe themselves to be more competent than they actually are when making political judgments. If they actually were competent political beings and if they were as free as they believe themselves to be, would they United States have the political system it has? Would it be an instance of an inverted totalitarian regime?

Ecuador granted Asylum to Julian Assange

The New York Times reported that

The move leaves Mr. Assange with protection from arrest only on Ecuadorian territory, meaning he could only leave the embassy for Ecuador with British cooperation.

The decision also adds to sharp strains between Ecuador and Britain. Just before the announcement by Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño at a news conference in Quito, President Rafael Correa said: “No one is going to terrorize us!” The night before, Mr. Patiño said that the British authorities had threatened to force their way into the embassy, to which he responded: “We are not a British colony.”

Reading from a government communiqué, Mr. Patiño said: “The government of Ecuador, faithful to its tradition of protecting those who seek refuge in its territory or in its diplomatic missions, has decided to grant diplomatic asylum to Julian Assange.”

What makes this move especially significant is Patiño’s claim that “…his government had made its decision after the authorities in Britain, Sweden and the United States refused to give guarantees that, if Mr. Assange were extradited to Sweden, he would not then be sent on to the United States to face other charges.” What does this mean? I would say that by its actions and statements it is now clear that Ecuador doubts the capacity and willingness of the United States to act with legal integrity with respect to Assange. Ecuador’s actions ought to cause sensible Americans to hang their heads in shame. Naturally, the blockheads in the United States will find Ecuador’s actions an affront to Superpower.

Of course, Sweden and Great Brittan, Superpower’s attack poodles, judged Ecuador’s decision unacceptable.

Sweden and Britain prepare for their contest with Ecuador

Heroic Americans — citizens of the land of the free, home of the brave

Journalist Eyal Press, during his report on dissent, whistleblowing and elite opposition to both in Obama’s America, makes this remarkable but unsurprising claim:

Despite the lore of the whistleblower that pervades popular culture, Americans turn out to be less sympathetic to such dissenters than Europeans. Drawing on data from the World Value Surveys and other sources over multiple years, the sociologist Claude Fischer has found that U.S. citizens are “much more likely than Europeans to say that employees should follow a boss’s orders even if the boss is wrong.” They are also more likely “to defer to church leaders and to insist on abiding by the law,” and more prone “to believe that individuals should go along and get along.”whistleblower

Whistleblowers may often be praised in the abstract and from a distance, but Americans have a tendency to ignore or even vilify them when they dare to stir up trouble in their own workplaces or communities.

Stirring up trouble. Right here in River City. We can’t have that. Nosiree. We can’t have any of that.

Whistleblowers have walked hard road during Obama’s tenure (see, for instance, this, this and this), the ever-hopeful, sunshine President. They often lack a sympathetic ear in government, a lack which enables grifters on Wall Street and security apparatchiks in Washington to work their black magic on the weak. Crimes undetected are not really crimes! They’re smart business deals or realistic acts of sober G-men. And the powerful are always innocent until proven guilty.

Since Americans do not like to listen to discouraging words about important things, things on which they depend, it so happens that the fate of these whistleblowers obliquely mirrors the fate of the Occupy Movement: Like the Occupiers, whistleblowers are ignored when they are not harassed and denigrated. They, like their Occupy cousins, sometimes face prison terms for their efforts. They lose their jobs and their homes for exposing the powerful to critical scrutiny. It is fortunate that America’s whistleblowers in an out of government are not beaten or assaulted with caustic chemicals, although I would be negligent if I were to fail to point out that whistleblower Bradley Manning has had to endure mental and physical torture inflicted on him by the Pentagon. He stands before the world as an object lesson for anyone tempted to blow the whistle on America’s empire. The Occupiers have felt the baton and the pepper spray. The whistleblowers have been spared those methods. Yet, the powerful seek the same goal when confronting a whistleblower or an Occupation. They want to quash dissent.

It is sad that Americans typically advocate following the path of the witless and craven servant. For one thing, it is sad because the powerful are to remain unmolested even when they deserve close judicial scrutiny. It seems as though Americans prefer their authority figures to remain inscrutable and free. This condition creates a moral hazard problem for the country. For another, the beliefs which inform this advocacy comprise the social cement which binds together the elements that compose America’s security-surveillance government and its financial plutocracy. These institutional complexes could not operate as they have and want to without the passive and active consent of most Americans. Common Americans collude in the domination exercised by the elite. We might have a functioning democracy if it were not for these beliefs and the collusion they sponsor. We have instead what Sheldon Wolin called an inverted totalitarian system (see this and this). America’s politics are as vacuous as its plutocrats are rich and its war-makers are violent.

The antidote for minimal democracy remains strong democracy.

Bradley Manning: Before, After

Cynicism in politics?

Paul Krugman noticed the cynic at work in a recent Romney gaffe and its aftermath:

Speaking in Michigan, Mr. Romney was asked about deficit reduction, and he absent-mindedly said something completely reasonable: “If you just cut, if all you’re thinking about doing is cutting spending, as you cut spending you’ll slow down the economy.” A-ha. So he believes that cutting government spending hurts growth, other things equal.

Romney, it seems, is a closeted Keynesian, which is a sin against modern Republicanism far worse than being a closeted gay man!

Romney aide Ryan Williams quickly attempted to control the damage Romney’s lapse caused:

“The governor’s point was that simply slashing the budget, with no affirmative pro-growth policies, is insufficient to get the economy turned around. However, he believes that budget cuts — especially in the context of President Obama’s unprecedented spending explosion — are a step in the right direction. As he made clear in his economic plan, he believes that spending cuts that reduce the size of government and balance the budget are crucial to economic growth and job creation.”

How might we reconcile Romney’s claim about government spending cuts and Ryan William’s ‘explanation’? It so happens that the two cannot be reconciled. Market fundamentalism demands that one makes a choice. One is either a fundamentalist or not. Krugman cheerfully concludes from this episode that Romney “…is running a campaign of almost pathological dishonesty.” Krugman continues to mine this political gold:

Every one of the Romney campaign’s major themes, from the attacks on President Obama for going around the world apologizing for America (he didn’t), to the insistence that Romneycare and Obamacare are very different (they’re virtually identical), to the claim that Mr. Obama has lost millions of jobs (which is only true if you count the first few months of his administration, before any of his policies had taken effect), is either an outright falsehood or deeply deceptive. Why the nonstop mendacity?

As I see it, it comes down to the cynicism underlying the whole enterprise. Once you’ve decided to hide your beliefs and say whatever you think will get you the nomination, to pretend to agree with people you privately believe are fools, why worry at all about truth?

Of course, I want to mention here that Barack Obama openly played to his party’s base in 2008. They believed him to be a left-of-center reformer and a defender of the rule of law while President Obama has been anything but such. That difference, namely, the gap between candidate Obama’s rhetoric and President Obama’s actions, reflects the cynicism which inheres in his political project. That project culminated with his winning the election, taking power and then serving the interests of the moneyed elite that paid for much of his campaign.

Cynics act as their wishes demand. Principles, truth, honesty, good faith, humanity — these are just tools the politician-cynic uses in her quest for power, as Machiavelli explained centuries back:

Therefore it is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good qualities I have enumerated [see this chapter], but it is very necessary to appear to have them. And I shall dare to say this also, that to have them and always to observe them is injurious, and that to appear to have them is useful; to appear merciful, faithful, humane, religious, upright, and to be so, but with a mind so framed that should you require not to be so, you may be able and know how to change to the opposite.

And you have to understand this, that a prince, especially a new one, cannot observe all those things for which men are esteemed, being often forced, in order to maintain the state, to act contrary to faith, friendship, humanity, and religion. Therefore it is necessary for him to have a mind ready to turn itself accordingly as the winds and variations of fortune force it, yet, as I have said above, not to diverge from the good if he can avoid doing so, but, if compelled, then to know how to set about it.

For this reason a prince ought to take care that he never lets anything slip from his lips that is not replete with the above-named five qualities, that he may appear to him who sees and hears him altogether merciful, faithful, humane, upright, and religious. There is nothing more necessary to appear to have than this last quality, inasmuch as men judge generally more by the eye than by the hand, because it belongs to everybody to see you, to few to come in touch with you. Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them; and in the actions of all men, and especially of princes, which it is not prudent to challenge, one judges by the result.

For that reason, let a prince have the credit of conquering and holding his state, the means will always be considered honest, and he will be praised by everybody because the vulgar are always taken by what a thing seems to be and by what comes of it; and in the world there are only the vulgar, for the few find a place there only when the many have no ground to rest on.