Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

There’s another Republican Debate in South Carolina tonight. Can you believe it? This one is hosted by CNN. How much more of this torture can American stand? These debates just keep on coming! We’ll live blog this one later on, perhaps with some interesting variations on the theme.

Speaking of horrible things that never end, can you believe Obama is considering appointing Larry Summers to head the World Bank? Here I thought we were finally free of Summers, but the guy just won’t go away. He keeps coming back, no matter how ghastly of job he does. From Bloomberg:

President Barack Obama is considering nominating Lawrence Summers, his former National Economic Council director, to lead the World Bank when Robert Zoellick’s term expires later this year, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Summers has expressed interest in the job to White House officials and has backers inside the administration, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and current NEC Director Gene Sperling, said one of the people. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also being considered, along with other candidates, said the other person. Both spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations….

A nomination of Summers would bring scrutiny of his previous stints in government, both as former President Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary and Obama’s NEC director, as well as his tenure as president of Harvard University.

“Larry is controversial,” said Erskine Bowles, who served as Clinton’s chief of staff. “Anything you appoint Larry to, you know there are going to be some people who are going to take shots at him. But you know he’s a brilliant economist, which I think everybody recognizes.”

Oh really? If he’s so brilliant, then why is teaching college freshman? Why doesn’t he publish in academic journals? Why did he get fired by Harvard and the Obama administration? Enough with the retreads, Mr. President.

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Mitt Romney has admitted he pays somewhere close to 15% of his income in Federal taxes. NPR’s Here and Now had an interesting discussion yesterday about how he and other richie-rich folks get away with this. I recommend listening to the show if you have time. Here’s a bit from the write-up:

“Carried interest is the way that hedge fund managers and private equity firm managers get paid when they do a deal,” Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Institute told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

Gleckman says private equity firms bring in outside investors. To get in on the deals, investors pay the firms in two ways– an initial fee, and a 20 percent cut of future profits.

When the owners of private equity firms pay taxes on that compensation from the investors, they pay as if it were capital gains– so that means they are paying a top rate of no more than 15 percent.

“Ordinarily if they were paid like the rest of us in wages and salaries, they’d be paying a top rate of up to 35 percent,” he said.

Gleckman said the carried interest tax arrangement is completely legal and not uncommon.

Bob McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice said that this kind of income comes from work and should be taxed as such. And Gleckman agreed, saying that capital gains taxes are lower because the goal is to encourage people to risk their own money. Romney isn’t doing that.

Here’s another explanation at Bloomberg:

Romney, one of the richest men to seek the presidency, probably benefits from a controversial tax break that allows him to pay a lower overall rate than do millions of American wage-earners whose votes he’ll need to capture the White House.

That’s because private equity executives, as Romney was for 15 years when he ran Boston-based Bain Capital LLC, receive much of their compensation as “carried interest.” That enables them to treat what would be ordinary income for other service providers, taxed at rates as high as 35 percent, as capital gains taxed at 15 percent….

Yet those investments were largely made by Romney’s former partners with other investors’ money, not his personal funds. The vast majority of the resulting gains represent compensation for Bain’s work acquiring, sprucing up and selling individual companies, critics say.

“This is labor income for them, not a return on capital invested,” said Victor Fleischer, an associate law professor at the University of Colorado whose 2007 paper on the topic helped spark a move in Congress to try to change the law. “It’s a method of converting one’s labor into capital gains in a way that’s unusual outside the investment management industry. Ordinary people wouldn’t be able to do this.”

If Romney just paid his taxes like the rest of us, he’d probably be doing a much greater service to the country than if he becomes president. BTW, the articles says that Obama has paid 31% of his income in taxes for the last three years.

But that’s not all. Romney keeps millions of dollars of his vast wealth in the Cayman Islands, a well-know tax shelter.

Official documents reviewed by ABC News show that Bain Capital, the private equity partnership Romney once ran, has set up some 138 secretive offshore funds in the Caymans.

Romney campaign officials and those at Bain Capital tell ABC News that the purpose of setting up those accounts in the Cayman Islands is to help attract money from foreign investors, and that the accounts provide no tax advantage to American investors like Romney. Romney, the campaign said, has paid all U.S. taxes on income derived from those investments.

“The tax consequences to the Romneys are the very same whether the fund is domiciled here or another country,” a campaign official said in response to questions. “Gov. and Mrs. Romney have money invested in funds that the trustee has determined to be attractive investment opportunities, and those funds are domiciled wherever the fund sponsors happen to organize the funds.”

Bain officials called the decision to locate some funds offshore routine, and a benefit only to foreign investors who do not want to be subjected to U.S. taxes.

Whatever. The guy is filthy rich, pays very little of his income in taxes, and has no clue how most Americans live. His attitude is that capitalism is sacred and if millions of “little people” are hurt by the machinations of people like him, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. And we shouldn’t have any safety nets for when things go wrong either. This man should never be POTUS.

A few more Romney items …

While he was at Bain Mitt used large donations of stock to the Mormon church to avoid paying taxes.

The New York Daily News got ahold of John McCain’s oppo research on Romney from 2008. “Talk about awkward,” the first line reads.

And here’s another awkward moment for the Mittster: Mitt Romney Allegedly Pulls Back Handshake Upon Learning That DREAM Act Advocate Is Undocumented.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney suddenly pulled back his hand after hearing that a young college student who greeted him at a New York fundraiser Tuesday night was undocumented, according to DREAM Act activists.

“He extended his hand to shake mine,” the young woman told The Huffington Post. “But once I said I was undocumented, he pulled his hand away from me.”

The 19-year-old college student, who asked to be identified only as Lucy because of her undocumented status, said she was also booed by Romney supporters as she was escorted out of a New York City fundraiser. One of the supporters told her to “go back to Mexico,” and she responded that she was “actually from Peru,” according to her account of the event.

Oops! There goes the Latino vote….

But we can’t forget that Romney still has at least one viable competitor for South Carolina’s delegates–food stamp obsessive and child labor advocate Newt Gingrich. Guess what Newt’s been up to? He’s using a fund-raising letter to threaten to punch out Barack Obama

Newt Gingrich’s campaign sent out a fundraising request to supporters this afternoon touting that the former speaker said he wants to knock Obama out, because, as the subject line of the email suggests, “A Bloody Nose Just Won’t Cut It.” The comment comes from a recent town hall where a questioner asked Gingrich how he would “bloody Obama’s nose.” “I don’t want to bloody his nose, I want to knock him out!” Gingrich responded. “This is exactly why Newt Gingrich is the candidate who must face Obama,” campaign spokesman RC Hammond says in the email, above a bright red “Donate” button.

You just can’t make this stuff up!

Conor Friedersdorf has an excellent response to Andrew Sullivan’s silly Newsweek article defending Obama’s accomplishments as President. I think Friedersdorf is a liberatarian, but his assessment on Obama is still on point. Check it out. I’ll just reproduce his list of Obama’s “accomplishments” here:

(1) Codify indefinite detention into law; (2) draw up a secret kill list of people, including American citizens, to assassinate without due process; (3) proceed with warrantless spying on American citizens; (4) prosecute Bush-era whistleblowers for violating state secrets; (5) reinterpret the War Powers Resolution such that entering a war of choice without a Congressional declaration is permissible; (6) enter and prosecute such a war; (7) institutionalize naked scanners and intrusive full body pat-downs in major American airports; (8) oversee a planned expansion of TSA so that its agents are already beginning to patrol American highways, train stations, and bus depots; (9) wage an undeclared drone war on numerous Muslim countries that delegates to the CIA the final call about some strikes that put civilians in jeopardy; (10) invoke the state-secrets privilege to dismiss lawsuits brought by civil-liberties organizations on dubious technicalities rather than litigating them on the merits; (11) preside over federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries; (12) attempt to negotiate an extension of American troops in Iraq beyond 2011 (an effort that thankfully failed); (14) reauthorize the Patriot Act; (13) and select an economic team mostly made up of former and future financial executives from Wall Street firms that played major roles in the financial crisis.

Unfortunately, he didn’t include Obama’s many contributions to the war on women.

Speaking of Obama’s war on the Constitution, Chris Hedges is going to court to sue Obama over the indefinite detention portion of the NDAA.

Attorneys Carl J. Mayer and Bruce I. Afran filed a complaint Friday in the Southern U.S. District Court in New York City on my behalf as a plaintiff against Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to challenge the legality of the Authorization for Use of Military Force as embedded in the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act, signed by the president Dec. 31.

The act authorizes the military in Title X, Subtitle D, entitled “Counter-Terrorism,” for the first time in more than 200 years, to carry out domestic policing. With this bill, which will take effect March 3, the military can indefinitely detain without trial any U.S. citizen deemed to be a terrorist or an accessory to terrorism. And suspects can be shipped by the military to our offshore penal colony in Guantanamo Bay and kept there until “the end of hostilities.” It is a catastrophic blow to civil liberties.

I spent many years in countries where the military had the power to arrest and detain citizens without charge. I have been in some of these jails. I have friends and colleagues who have “disappeared” into military gulags. I know the consequences of granting sweeping and unrestricted policing power to the armed forces of any nation. And while my battle may be quixotic, it is one that has to be fought if we are to have any hope of pulling this country back from corporate fascism.

Thanks to Hedges for putting his money where his mouth is.

I’ll end with this piece from Reuters: Sunk! How Hollywood Lost the PR Battle Over SOPA.

In the space of a couple of days, Hollywood and its content creators lost the public relations war over Internet piracy SOPA legislation — which now appears poised to crumble into a million bits of dust.

Wow.

The messaging industry never had control of the message.

The tech guys found a simple, shareable idea — the Stop Online Piracy Act is Censorship — made it viral, and made it stick.

Hollywood had Chris Dodd and a press release. Silicon Valley had Facebook.

It shouldacoulda been a fair fight. But it wasn’t.

It seems that Hollywood still does not realize that it is in the information age. Knowledge moves in real time, and events move accordingly. The medium is the message in a fight like this.

I disagree that the fight is over, but it’s nice to see the battle for free speech and privacy getting some corporate media ink.

So … what are you reading and blogging about today?


39 Comments on “Thursday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Newt in striking distance–Politico

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0112/71645.html

    • janicen says:

      The Republican primary is starting to get interesting. Finally. Much as I hate Newt, he is a much more skilled politician than Romney. He doesn’t hesitate to take a cheap shot and knows how to speak in sound bites. My hope is, if Obama feels he might be challenged in the general election, he’ll be forced to toss a few bones to his base. If he doesn’t, and Newt manages to snatch the nomination and energize the Republican base, we could have a real problem in the upcoming election.

    • foxyladi14 says:

      scary!!! 🙄

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Did Newt Gingrich break the law by having his 13-yr-old daughter work as a church janitor, as he claimed in last SC debate?

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2088720/Did-Newt-Gingrich-break-child-labour-laws-allowing-daughter-work-church-janitor-13.html

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Excerpts from Marianne Gingrich interview will air during the day today–CBS

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57361567/abc-to-air-unflattering-talk-with-gingrichs-ex/

    Marianne Gingrich has said Gingrich proposed to her before the divorce from his first wife was final in 1981; they were married six months later. Her marriage to Gingrich ended in divorce in 2000, and Gingrich has admitted he’d already taken up with Callista Bisek, a former congressional aide who would become his third wife. The speaker who pilloried President Bill Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky was himself having an affair at the time.

    As plans to air the interview were disclosed, Gingrich’s campaign released a statement from his two daughters from his first marriage — Kathy Lubbers and Jackie Cushman — suggesting that Marianne Gingrich’s comments may be suspect given emotional toll divorce takes on everyone involved.

    “Anyone who has had that experience understands it is a personal tragedy filled with regrets, and sometimes differing memories of events. We will not say anything negative about our father’s ex-wife,” they said. “He has said before, privately and publicly, that he regrets any pain he may have caused in the past to people he loves.”

    • Fannie says:

      I want to shout out to her: Think of Led Zepplin………….the song, I am gonna leave you babe.

      Babe, it’s over.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Hollywood moguls stopping donations to Obama over SOPA:

    http://www.deadline.com/2012/01/exclusive-hollywood-moguls-stopping-obama-donations-because-of-administrations-piracy-stand/

    “We just feel very let down by the administration and Obama for not supporting us,” one studio chief explained to me. “At least let him remain neutral and not go against it until we can get the legislation right. But Obama went against it. I’m personally not going to support him anymore and not give a dime anymore,” another movie mogul who’s also a well-known Obama supporter told me this week.

    So far the most outspoken mogul against the Obama administration on this issue has been Rupert Murdoch who on Saturday told his new Twitter audience: “So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery.” But I’ve learned that other moguls privately are having “direct and personal conversations” with Obama and his administration and the Democratic Party. Several moguls have informed Obama’s newly anointed Hollywood re-election liason to the entertainment community Nicole Avant and her husband who is helping her, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, that they are pulling out of major fundraisers planned over the next few days and won’t participate in any more headed by Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (whom they see as in the pocket of the Internet giants like Google).

  5. Pat Johnson says:

    It is more than likely that after Sat’s primary vote we may be contemplating only three possible candidates who will become POTUS in November: President Obama, President Romney, President Gingrich. Ouch!

    A short, fat, pompous ethically challenged liar, or a robotic, self righteous flip flopper going up against President Indifferent who should have been primaried by his own party. This is where it stands in 2012.

    I think we will be bidding “adieu” to Rick Perry but Rick Santorum may just hang in there under the impossible assumption that a “miracle” is afoot that will propel him into the WH. Not going to happen.

    Since I detest Newt, loathe Mitt, and distrust Obama, the outlook is bleak. But going forward, with just stammering Mitt and sleazy Newt remaining on stage, the circus is about to fold up and disappear.

    With Ron Paul hovering around the edges it just won’t have the same comical appeal it once was as the best “performers” are long gone.

  6. Pat Johnson says:

    Justice may yet be served after all.

    There is a “rumor” that has been floating out there for awhile concerning the son of pundit Brit Hume. Apparently some years back the young man took his own life because he feared being “outed” as a gay man by none other then the Speaker of the House, Newtie Patootie.

    The Hume son was “allegedly involved” with another young congressman from NY by the name of Bill Paxon who was married to another congresswoman, Susan Molinari. Paxon was leading a GOP delegation to unseat Newt as speaker and Newt reacted by threatening to “out” both men.

    As a result, the younger Hume took his own life and Mr. Paxon resigned from congress coincidentally at the same time. However, he remained married to Ms Molinari who today supports Mittens and does so from the studio of Fox News. The same network that employs Mr. Brit Hume.

    Now the former Mrs. Gingrich has come forward with an interview with ABC News and the Gingrich family is urging ABC to not run this feature which may hurt Newtie’s chances of obtaining the nomination.

    Boo freaken hoo! Some of Newt’s earlier tactics – like calling for the head of Bill Clinton while himself having an affair with a congressional assistant at exactly the same time – is going to bite him in his fat ass.

    Newt deserves to be run out of town on a rail instead of being “handicapped” as a possible “Anybody but Mitt” alternative. So if the former Mrs. Gingrich, herself a willing party to breaking up Marriage Number 1, is willing to lay it all out there then so be it.

    Sometimes the “past is prologue” is bittersweet when revenge is the the overriding motive.

    Newt Gingrich is slime.

  7. bostonboomer says:

    The results are in. Romney lost to Santorum in Iowa by 34 points.

    • Fannie says:

      Yea, and they said 8 polling stations got an incomplete for not turning in forms, and that it doesn’t matter anyway, they declared Rick the winner. I hope the tea party is aware of all the waste of money that went down the drain by the beloved republicans in Iowa.

      • ralphb says:

        The tea party doesn’t really care. At this point, they’re only the extreme right wing of the party and some useful idiots.

  8. ralphb says:

    Good morning roundup BB! Now if we can somehow get Romney, Gingrich, and Santorum to blow each other up the only candidate left will be the old new-confederate Ron Paul.

    It would be so entertaining to see those former Obots who are “considering his positions” on the wars try and sell him to the so-called Progressives. I would anticipate a laugh riot breaking out.

  9. peggysue22 says:

    Great roundup, BB. This is certainly proving to be an interesting primary season–the fur is flying everywhere. The ex-wife scoop on Eye of the Newt vs Romney’s Cayman Island problem is heating things up in all sorts of ways.

    If the GOP goes with Uncle Newt, Obama skates to another term [short of a miracle]. The Newtster is vile in so many ways but the Republicans seem to want a fist-fight more than an election win. I still read over at No Quarter though I rarely comment anymore. But Larry Johnson has a piece up this morning that made me laugh [and I think it’s true]. If the GOP goes with Gingrich, it means they’re thinking with their dicks rather than their heads. Because Gingrich is an utter disaster in the making. He might be able to call the red meat up but he will be disintegrated in a GE. Just this morning he proclaimed he would ignore SCOTUS decisions he didn’t agree with.

    Emperor Newt! Just what the country is looking for.

    Crazy season is in full tilt.

    BTW, there’s a great interview with Bill Clinton at Esquire. There’s a link over at Memeorandum. Just for those of us who like to recall how a former, intelligent president actually sounded/sounds. A little deja vu is a good antidote to what we’re listening to right now.

  10. ralphb says:

    Bill’s interview is just wonderful. Charlie Pierce asked some great questions and got better answers!

    Brian Ross on The View with Marianne Gingrich interview clip…

    http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/exclusive-gingrich-lacks-moral-character-president-wife/story?id=15392899#.TxhV6oEk2Vo

  11. ralphb says:

    Craig Crawford’s Trail Mix has a clip of Romney which is pretty good commercial bait for the DNC in the Fall.

    Romney to 99 Percent: ‘You’re Wrong”

  12. foxyladi14 says:

    just like always. Great roundup, BB. 🙂