Tuesday Reads: The Corona Virus and Finally Vetting BerniePosted: February 25, 2020 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Bernie Sanders, cuba, Donald Trump, Fidel Castro, South Carolina primary 22 Comments
I had a flu shot in January, and since then I’ve had a week-long bout a stomach flu and now I have a full-blown case of the flu. I came down with it on Saturday morning and since then I’ve had a low grade fever that comes and goes along with a hacking cough, headaches, ear pain, and muscle aches. I felt better yesterday, and my temperature was normal until late last night. Now it’s already over 100 again.
I’m really not looking forward to catching the corona virus, but according to James Hamblin at The Atlantic, we are all likely to get it eventually: You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus. Most cases are not life-threatening, which is also what makes the virus a historic challenge to contain.
Coronaviruses are similar to influenza viruses in that they are both single strands of RNA. Four coronaviruses commonly infect humans, causing colds. These are believed to have evolved in humans to maximize their own spread—which means sickening, but not killing, people. By contrast, the two prior novel coronavirus outbreaks—SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome, named for where the first outbreak occurred)—were picked up from animals, as was H5N1. These diseases were highly fatal to humans. If there were mild or asymptomatic cases, they were extremely few. Had there been more of them, the disease would have spread widely. Ultimately, SARS and MERS each killed fewer than 1,000 people.
COVID-19 is already reported to have killed more than twice that number. With its potent mix of characteristics, this virus is unlike most that capture popular attention: It is deadly, but not too deadly. It makes people sick, but not in predictable, uniquely identifiable ways. Last week, 14 Americans tested positive on a cruise ship in Japan despite feeling fine—the new virus may be most dangerous because, it seems, it may sometimes cause no symptoms at all.
Hamblin explains that this COVID-19 is likely to spread and then keep coming back every year, because it is contagious even when people have no symptoms and it doesn’t kill off most of the people who get it.
The Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch is exacting in his diction, even for an epidemiologist. Twice in our conversation he started to say something, then paused and said, “Actually, let me start again.” So it’s striking when one of the points he wanted to get exactly right was this: “I think the likely outcome is that it will ultimately not be containable.”
Containment is the first step in responding to any outbreak. In the case of COVID-19, the possibility (however implausible) of preventing a pandemic seemed to play out in a matter of days. Starting in January, China began cordoning off progressively larger areas, radiating outward from Wuhan City and eventually encapsulating some 100 million people. People were barred from leaving home, and lectured by drones if they were caught outside. Nonetheless, the virus has now been found in 24 countries….
Lipsitch predicts that, within the coming year, some 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. But, he clarifies emphatically, this does not mean that all will have severe illnesses. “It’s likely that many will have mild disease, or may be asymptomatic,” he said. As with influenza, which is often life-threatening to people with chronic health conditions and of older age, most cases pass without medical care. (Overall, around 14 percent of people with influenza have no symptoms.)
Lipsitch is far from alone in his belief that this virus will continue to spread widely. The emerging consensus among epidemiologists is that the most likely outcome of this outbreak is a new seasonal disease—a fifth “endemic” coronavirus. With the other four, people are not known to develop long-lasting immunity. If this one follows suit, and if the disease continues to be as severe as it is now, “cold and flu season” could become “cold and flu and COVID-19 season.”
The New York Times: ‘Recipe for a Massive Viral Outbreak’: Iran Emerges as a Worldwide Threat.
Religious pilgrims, migrant workers, businessmen, soldiers and clerics all flow constantly across Iran’s frontiers, often crossing into countries with few border controls, weak and ineffective governments and fragile health systems.
Now, as it struggles to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Iran is also emerging as the second focal point after China for the spread of the disease. Cases in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates — even one in Canada — have all been traced to Iran, sending tremors of fear rippling out from Kabul to Beirut.
The Middle East is in many ways the perfect place to spawn a pandemic, experts say, with the constant circulation of both Muslim pilgrims and itinerant workers who might carry the virus. Iran’s economy has been strangled by sanctions, its people have lost trust in their government and its leaders are isolated from much of the world, providing little clarity about the extent of the epidemic.
Civil wars or years of unrest have shattered the health systems of several neighboring countries, like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen. And most of the region is governed largely by authoritarians with poor track records at providing public transparency, accountability and health services.
“It is a recipe for a massive viral outbreak,” said Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the former founding executive director of the Joint United Nations Program on H.I.V./AIDS.
An even more immediate threat is the rise of Bernie Sanders. Over the weekend Sanders used his 60 Minutes interview to defend his past support of Fidel Castro’s Cuba.
The reaction in Florida-home was swift and angry.
Marc Caputo at Politico: Florida Dems in uproar after Sanders’ Cuba comments.
Florida Democrats insist he‘s the worst-equipped [to defeat Donald Trump] after Sanders’ refusal Sunday night to thoroughly condemn the Cuban revolution. His comments on 60 Minutes sent shock waves through the nation’s biggest battleground state, where Democratic members of Congress, state legislators and party leaders warned that his nomination — and Sanders’ self-described “Democratic socialism” — will cost them the biggest battleground state of them all.
“Donald Trump wins Florida if Bernie is our nominee,” said state Rep. Javier Fernandez, a Democratic candidate in a majority-Hispanic state Senate district….
As a state with an influential cross-section of Latinos whose families fled leftist Latin American regimes and violence, Sanders embrace of far-left leaders and his past refusals to wholeheartedly condemn Latin American strongmen and the Soviet Union have long been seen as fatal flaws.
Sanders on Sunday did nothing to allay those concerns in a 60 Minutes interview in which he was asked about his 1985 comments stating that the Cuban people didn’t “rise up in rebellion against Fidel Castro” because “he educated their kids, gave their kids health care, totally transformed society.”
There was no mention of the firing squads, political purges and mass arrests that accompanied the 1959 revolution.
There’s much more at the link.
At least Sanders is finally getting vetted by the media. For example, Griffe Witte at The Washington Post: In Cold War travels, Bernie Sanders found much to admire behind enemy lines. Now that’s a problem for his campaign.
The mayor of tiny Burlington, Vt., was back from Nicaragua and eager to share the good news.
The country’s Soviet-backed government — forged via armed rebellion — was cutting infant mortality, reducing illiteracy and redistributing land to peasant farmers. Its Sandinista leaders, branded terrorists by the U.S. government, impressed him with “their intelligence and their sincerity.”
Three years later, Bernie Sanders was fresh off the plane from Moscow, reveling in the beauty of the land and the contentedness of the people.
And a year after that, he returned from Cuba having tapped into a revolutionary spirit “far deeper and more profound than I understood it to be.”
With Sanders now surging to the top of the Democratic presidential field, those three-decade-old impressions introduced a volatile new element in the race Monday as rivals reacted to Sanders’s decision to defend his remarks, not disclaim them….
The fact that Sanders’s long-ago travels in the communist world have become an issue in the 2020 campaign reflects how unorthodox a choice he would be to lead the Democratic Party….
Returning home from visits to some of the United States’ most avowed enemies, Sanders offered some criticism but also plenty of praise in Vermont community television recordings. Many of the videos were kept in storage for decades — including during his 2016 campaign — and, even after being posted online, have remained relatively unknown.
Now, Sanders’s comments are coming back to life as opponents say his warm feelings toward his hosts decades ago make him vulnerable to attack and reveal a soft spot for left-wing despots.
Read the rest at the WaPo. More Bernie critiques:
Jonathan Chait: If Democrats Aren’t Terrified of Bernie, They’re Not Paying Attention.
William Saletan at Slate: The Great Socialism Gap. Socialism doesn’t freak out Democratic voters the way it freaks out other Americans. That’s a problem.
Never Trumper Michael Gerson at The Washington Post: A Trump-Sanders election would destroy our politics.
The South Carolina primary is coming up on Saturday, followed three days later by Super Tuesday. There’s another debate tonight, and I hope Elizabeth Warren will finally get up the nerve to address Sanders’ many weaknesses instead continuing to focus on Mike Bloomberg. I’m pretty sure the other candidates won’t hesitate to attack Bernie.
Natasha Korecki at Politico: Sanders under fire in South Carolina from all directions.
Joe Biden’s campaign is airing a new digital ad in South Carolina accusing Bernie Sanders of trying to undermine Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection by threatening to primary him. Pete Buttigieg was on TV in South Carolina hitting Sanders over health care and Mike Bloomberg targeted Sanders’ past gun votes.
“When it comes to building on Barack Obama’s legacy, Bernie Sanders just can’t be trusted,” the Biden ad, first obtained by POLITICO, warns.
The fusillade targeting Sanders on the eve of a Democratic debate in the fourth early state of South Carolina marked the latest turn in a Democratic primary that now has a decisive frontrunner. Each of the candidates, competing for a fraction of the moderate vote, are attempting to blunt the Vermont senator’s momentum coming off a landslide win in Nevada.
“When we rallied together to defend our president and all the progress he made they had his back,” the narrator says. Panning to then-Vice President Biden, the voice-over continues, “He had his back,” and moving to images of African American supporters at an Obama rally, says: “And you had his back.”
“But back in Washington, there was one guy with another plan,” the narrator says before an audio clip is heard of Sanders saying, “I think it would be a good idea if President Obama faced some primary opposition.”
More at the WaPo.
Are you going to watch the debate? I might give it a try. The last one was pretty entertaining, and it would be fun to see Bernie get his ass kicked. As always, this is an open thread.
Monday Reads: What Hath Newt Wrought?Posted: January 23, 2012 Filed under: 2012 presidential campaign, just because, morning reads, Republican presidential politics, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: Barack Obama, Catholic cults, Florida primary, Legionaries of Christ, Marciel Maciel, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Regnum Christi, Republican debates, Republican establishment, Rick Santorum, South Carolina primary 46 Comments
How would you like to have to look at that poster until November? Well, quite a few of the pundits are now saying that it could happen. It’s still unlikely as of today, but it’s pretty clear the Republican base simply doesn’t like Mitt Romney, and the only other choices are a crazy old man, a guy who wants to ban birth control and divorce, and Newt Gingrich.
It’s not looking so good for Romney, unless he can start to connect better with Republican voters. He’s still the overall front runner, but if he can’t win big in Florida that could change. Unfortunately for Romney, there’s another debate tonight, and 88% of voters in SC said the debates were very influential in their voting decisions.
I’m fascinated by what is happening to the Republicans, and I spent quite a bit of time yesterday reading opinions on what Newt’s victory in South Carolina means and what might happen next. I thought this morning I’d share some of what I read with you.
Howard Fineman says the Republican race for the nomination will now last “forever, or at least until May.”
The GOP calendar this year is more spread out than it was four years ago, which means that the contest was going to last until at least late April even if Romney had buried Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul long ago. But now that South Carolina has given a boost to Gingrich — and a small but important cache of delegates — it’s clear how long the campaign will last….
Four years ago, nearly 60 percent of all delegates had been chosen by the end of February. Republican officials wanted to correct for that this time around, but they may have overdone it. This year a mere 15 percent of all delegates will have been chosen by the end of February — and even if there were a prohibitive frontrunner (which there is not), no one could mathematically wrap up the nomination before April 24.
Fineman explains that the states have different rules for apportioning delegates. South Carolina is winner take all in each Congressional district. New Hampshire is proportional, so right now Gingrich probably has more delegates than Romney. He suggests there could even be a floor fight at the Convention. And former RNC chairman Michael Steele agrees, saying there’s now a 50-50 chance of that happening.
At Real Clear Politics, Sean Trende writes:
There is no good news buried in here for Mitt Romney. None. As of this writing, Mitt Romney is leading in three counties in South Carolina: Charleston, Beaufort (Hilton Head) and Richland (Columbia). He lost fast-growing, coastal Horry County, home of Myrtle Beach, by 15 points. He lost Greenville and Spartanburg, in the upcountry, by similar margins. He lost Edgefield County by 40 points….
According to the exit polls, Romney lost among every major category of voter. The demographic groups he managed to win include those with postgraduate degrees (18 percent of the electorate), people earning $200,000 or more (5 percent), moderates (23 percent), non-evangelicals (35 percent), and pro-choicers (34 percent). None of the leads over Gingrich in these groups were particularly large.
He says Romney is no longer the inevitable nominee.
Simply put, there are very few states where he can perform among the major demographic groups the way he performed in South Carolina and still expect to win. And remember, this is still in many ways the electorate that selected Christine O’Donnell, Carl Paladino and Linda McMahon as its standard-bearers — in very blue states with relatively moderate GOP electorates, no less.
This vote was an utter repudiation of Romney, and it absolutely will be repeated in state after state if something doesn’t change the basic dynamic of the race. It is true that Gingrich doesn’t have funds or organization, but he gets a ton of free media from the debates, and he has an electorate that simply wants someone other than Romney.
Trende says there about a 35% chance that Romney could lose the nomination now. It turns out that Romney did get some delegates from SC–a total of 2 out of the total of 25. That’s pretty pathetic.
Live Blog: South Carolina Republican PrimaryPosted: January 21, 2012 Filed under: Republican presidential politics, U.S. Politics | Tags: Exit Polls, live blog, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, South Carolina primary 70 Comments
Here we go folks! It looks like Mitt Romney is about to get an a$$ whipping. Newt Gingrich’s ego is going to fill the whole room tonight. I don’t think I can face listening to his speech. I still say Romney is going to be the nominee, but I’m glad things are getting a little more interesting.
The South Carolina polls close at 7PM, so in just a short time, we’ll start getting exit poll results. Judging by the talking heads on MSNBC, I’d say Newt is going to win pretty big. But we’ll know soon.
Here are a few recent headlines to hold you till we start getting results.
Buzzfeed: BYU Students Bus In To South Carolina To Rally For Romney
Politico: South Carolina Republican primary: 5 things to watch
CBS News: South Carolina primary exit polls: 2/3rds say debates mattered
Fox News: Gingrich, Romney close South Carolina fight with taunts
Washington Post: How Newt Gingrich’s past marriages may be helping him in SC
What are you hearing? Let us know in the comments!
Saturday Reads: South Carolina Primary EditionPosted: January 21, 2012 Filed under: Mitt Romney, morning reads, Newt Gingrich, PLUB Pro-Life-Until-Birth, poverty, racism, Republican presidential politics, U.S. Politics | Tags: Daffy Duck, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, South Carolina primary 33 Comments
Good Morning! It’s Saturday, and tonight is the South Carolina primary and Sky Dancing will be following the results tonight. But I have cartoons on my mind. Last night I was watching Hardball, and there was a discussion of Newt Gingrich’s hissy fit at the beginning of the CNN South Carolina debate on Thursday night. Here’s the video:
Chris Matthews, Howard Fineman, and Eugene Robinson discussed Newt’s performance and decided that he hit all the right notes for South Carolina–anger at the media and the “elites,” a sense of being victimized by the power structure–and in fact may even beat Romney tonight. But the best part was when Eugene Robinson said when Newt said “despicable,” he (Robinson) couldn’t help thinking of Daffy Duck.
It’s such a perfect image for Newt’s self-righteous, overblown act. And it is an act, as far as I’m concerned. I loved the way he turned around the question about what he did to his ex-wife by talking about how *he* felt pain, not that he caused pain to his wife Marianne or anyone else. Here’s how I’ll forever think of Newt Gingrich from now on–as Daffy having a hissy fit.
And here’s what I’d like to say to Newt Gingrich:
Just one more …. What I’d like to do to Rick Santorum:
I know, I know, this is supposed to be a morning news post. So here are a few news and opinion links for you.
The latest polls suggest the South Carolina primary will be very close. The Clemson Palmetto poll has Gingrich in the lead.
“We expect a reaction by the electorate to the personal revelations about Gingrich to be registered on Saturday, however, we do not think it will be substantial enough to erase the lead Gingrich has over Romney,” said Clemson University political scientist Dave Woodard.
“Our head-to-head matchup of the candidates has consistently shown Mitt Romney competitive. The margin for Romney has evaporated this week, and we believe that Gingrich — who led our December poll with 38 percent to Romney’s 21 percent — will win the South Carolina primary,” he said.
Among poll respondents who had chosen or were leaning toward a candidate, this third Palmetto Poll showed Newt Gingrich (32 percent) leading the field over Mitt Romney (26 percent), up slightly from a month ago. Ron Paul came in third (11 percent), about even with his December poll rating. Rick Santorum remained in fourth place (9 percent), despite a significant jump over his ranking last month.
Wow! What an amazing turnaround for Daffy, I mean Newt. The NBC News Marist poll (PDF) showed the race tightening before the debate and even more so afterwards. And today’s Gallup tracking poll showed that Romney’s lead over Gingrich nationally has shrunk dramatically.
Mr. Romney’s position nationally as the front-runner appears to be weakening. In the latest release of Gallup’s tracking poll, conducted Sunday through Thursday, Mr. Romney leads Mr. Gingrich, 30 percent to 20 percent. Mr. Santorum and Mr. Paul are each supported by 13 percent.
At the start of the week, Mr. Romney had a 23-point advantage over Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Santorum. These results only partially reflect the events of the week, including the departure of Rick Perry on Thursday, the focus on Mr. Romney’s taxes, Mr. Gingrich’s two debate performances and the revelation that Mr. Santorum had apparently won the Iowa caucuses after all.
The NYT reports that Romney’s people are in shock over the sudden reversal of their fortunes.
With Mitt Romney facing the biggest challenge to his presidential aspirations since he announced his candidacy, his aides acknowledged Friday what seemed unthinkable just seven days ago: He could lose the South Carolina primary….
Having been stripped of his victory in Iowa on Thursday after a recount that gave the state to Rick Santorum, Mr. Romney now is in danger of being defeated in Saturday’s primary here by Newt Gingrich, who had been declared dead not once but twice in the past year, including less than two weeks ago when he finished fifth in New Hampshire. A new Clemson University poll of South Carolina voters released on Friday showed Mr. Gingrich with a six-point lead over Mr. Romney. It was within the survey’s margin of sampling error but captured a dynamic shifting in Mr. Gingrich’s favor.
At this stage of a primary election, campaigns work hard to manage expectations so they can put the best possible face on the actual voting results; Mr. Romney’s aides were no doubt being mindful of that as they spoke in relatively gloomy tones.
But, as Mr. Romney faced attacks from all sides, renewed questions about his own stumbles and whether he is conservative enough for the grass roots of his party, there was a real aura of apprehension coursing through his campaign. With his prospects of wrapping the race up quickly apparently diminished, Mr. Romney and his strategists began preparing his staff, his supporters and his financial bundlers for a longer and rougher march toward the nomination.
Boo hoo hoo. Poor Richie Rich! Karl Rove must be having a conniption fit. Honestly, I’d be worried if I thought the Republican insiders would ever give the nomination to Newt; but frankly, I’m still a lot more worried about Mitt winning it.
Charlie Pierce is down in SC right now. Let’s see what he has to say about all this.
It was always going to happen this way — Newt was going to go back into his wheelhouse, ripping the media and spouting in the general direction of the White House whatever pile of pejorative adjectives popped into his head at the moment. He tried, lamely, to be a statesman, and the party faithful ignored him. Once he became the vandal he was born to be, the political arsonist among the abandoned tenements of Republican thought, he was bound to take off again. The base doesn’t want someone whose ideas on job creation will triumph because they are superior to the president’s. They want somebody who can beat him bloody, vicariously, on their behalf, somebody who can “put him in his place.” They want someone who will kill the administration just for the sheer fun of watching it die. That’s why Newt’s fortunes took off after he slapped around Juan Williams on Monday night, and that’s why they went into hyper-drive on Thursday when he declared to be “despicable” any public mention of the chronic staff-banging that wrecked his second marriage and that helped wreck his speakership. Sooner or later, he was going to light the whole race on fire just to giggle over the flames, and that meant he had to come do it in South Carolina, and that meant he had to come do it in the upcountry around Greenville, where the base of the base always has been located, where people can be found who will gleefully join him around the bonfire, where is located the ancient home office of American treason.
“Look,” says Kellen Giuda, the young National Coalitions Director for the Gingrich campaign, waving his hand over a map of the state that hangs on the wall not far from The Cold War Room, “this area down here in the South, this was always more moderate. This is where McCain won last time. Up here, around Greenville, that’s always been the more conservative area. This time, people concentrated their effort down there near Charleston, because they wanted to get that whole military vote down there locked up. But, now, they’re starting to see that this is the place where the conservative vote really come from.” The endorsements are coming thick and fast now — Rick Perry! Michael Reagan! One-hundred Tea Party leaders from around the country! — and they are settling on Newt, and not on Rick Santorum, because Santorum, while admittedly a dick, is not an angry bully of a dick, and that’s what the base is looking for. In fact, the Gingrich campaign tore up its schedule on Friday, and will now have the candidate working the upcountry districts around Greenville hard all primary day.
“An angry bully of a dick.” Just what we need in the White House.
This is interesting: Catholic Leaders Challenge Gingrich and Santorum on Divisive Rhetoric Around Race and Poverty
More than 40 national Catholic leaders and prominent theologians at universities across the country released a strongly worded open letter today urging “our fellow Catholics Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum to stop perpetuating ugly racial stereotypes on the campaign trail.”
In the lead up to Saturday’s primary in South Carolina, Newt Gingrich has frequently blasted President Obama as a “food stamp president” and implied that some African Americans are more content to collect welfare benefits than work. Rick Santorum attracted scrutiny for telling Iowa voters he doesn’t want “to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.”
The open letter reminds the two presidential candidates, vying for Christian conservative voters, that U.S. Catholic bishops have called racism an “intrinsic evil” and consistently defend vital government programs such as food stamps and unemployment benefits that help struggling Americans.
The full text of the letter is at the above link. Let’s face it, both Santorum and Gingrich are just cafeteria Catholics. They go along with the Church on abortion, birth control, and other anti-woman positions; but when it comes to war, capital punishment, and caring for the poor and downtrodden, they go their own way.
Speaking of Santorum, Politico reported on his SC closing argument: “values.”
The former Pennsylvania senator retreated to comfortable territory, the conservative Upstate region of South Carolina, to speak to huge crowds about values and cement his base on the eve of the state’s primary.
“It’s decision time as to what South Carolina is going to communicate to the rest of the country,” he told the crowd at a packed town hall meeting in Boiling Springs.”What is the Upstate going to say? Who are they going to stand behind? What message are they going to send to country as to who the conservative standard-bearer will be?”
“It’ll be you, Rick!” audience members shouted, applauding.
Polls show that tomorrow’s race here is really between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich: Santorum is competing for third place with Ron Paul. But the former Pennsylvania senator has vowed to continue his campaign to Florida, which votes Jan. 31. A strong performance in the conservative bastions of South Carolina can propel his argument that he is the real conservative in the race.
I know Santorum has no shot to win the nomination this year, but my guess is he’ll be back in 2016. I think he’s very dangerous to democracy, and IMHO we need to keep an eye on him. As for Ron Paul, I’m boycotting him in this post.
That’s all I’ve got. What are you reading and blogging about today?
Thursday ReadsPosted: January 19, 2012 Filed under: First Amendment, morning reads, Republican presidential politics, SOPA, the internet, The Media SUCKS, U.S. Politics | Tags: Barack Obama, Cayman Islands, Chris Dodd, Chris Hedges, civil liberties, Dream Act, immigration, indefinite detention, Mitt Romney, NDAA, Newt Gingrich, PIPA, Republican Debate, SOPA, South Carolina primary, tax shelters, the Constitution, the filthy rich, undocumented workers, War on Women 39 Comments
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.
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?