So Jamie Dimon goes to the Hill to explain how his company managed to blow 2 billion on bad bets, and rather than tough questioning, our paid in full Senate bowed to kiss the ring:
The long-shot big hope for Wall Street reformers Wednesday was that JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon would trip up before the Senate Banking Committee and expose the need for tighter rules governing big banks. His firm, after all, recently lost billions making risky bets with depositor funds on the line.
Instead, with some notable exceptions, the senators themselves turned the cross-examination into a coronation, and exposed the extent to which elected officials still feel compelled to genuflect to powerful financial interests.
"You're obviously renowned, rightfully so I think, as being one of the most, you know, one of the best CEOs in the country for financial institutions," crooned Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN). "You missed this, it's a blip on the radar screen."
Banksters run our world.
American liberals are the new face of anti-Mormonism, according to a new study by American National Election Studies (ANES). According to ANES, 35 percent of Americans in February said they weren't inclined to vote for a Mormon, an upswing of 9 percent from 2007. But while the press has suggested that anti-Mormon sentiment springs largely from the Evangelical Christian community, the study shows something different: while 36 percent of Evangelicals don't like Mormonism, 41 percent of liberals don't like it, up 20 percent form 2007. Moderates also swung up 10 percent in terms of dislike for Mormons. According to the study, these statistics will be important come November – feelings about Mormonism are the best predictor of whether someone will vote for Mitt Romney. The study does suggest that anti-Mormon Republicans will stay home in November. Liberal tolerance is a popular catchphrase among the press opinion-makers. Increasingly, it's also a myth when it comes to Mormons.
As the Supreme Court readies to announce their decision on the individual mandate portion of the health reform, it has emerged that the largest health care lobbying group in the country spent a total of $102.4 million in just 15 months to prevent Obamacare from becoming law in the first place.
In 2009 alone, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) pumped $86.2 million into a conservative lobbying group, the US Chamber of Commerce, to combat President Obama's health care reform plan. But with the added months of 2010 prior to the ACA's March passage, AHIP piled on an additional $16 million to be used against the bill.
That staggering total, which the National Journal's Influence Alley uncovered today, was not out in the open — rather, the funds were transferred through a secretive process and listed only by the organization as 'advocacy' spending:
The backchannel spending allowed insurers to publicly stake out a pro-reform position while privately funding the leading anti-reform lobbying group in Washington. The chamber spent tens of millions of dollars bankrolling efforts to kill health care reform.
The behind-the-scenes transfers were particularly hard to track because the law does not require groups to publicly disclose where they are sending the money or who they are receiving it from. [...]
The next year followed a similar pattern. In 2010, AHIP reported giving $16.5 million to unnamed advocacy organizations working on health care reform and the chamber reported receiving about $16.2 million from an undisclosed source, which the Alley has learned was AHIP. The $16.2 million accounted for about 8.6 percent of the total contributions and grants the chamber received that year.
This funneling scheme allowed health groups like AHIP to save face no matter whether the bill passed or not — if the bill failed, the groups figured, they would be able to point to their lobbying efforts against it. When it succeeded, AHIP and others remained quiet about any efforts against the legislation.
With the ruling coming down in the coming weeks from the Supreme Court, and with all the money spent to defeat the law, AHIP may be all to happy if it's overturned.
Update: According to US Chamber Watch, athough AHIP only made contributions to the Chamber of Commerce during the first three months of 2010, it was still the single largest funder of the group for all of that year.
In a rare "scoop" for an editorial cartoonist today, Matt Bors skewered a little-known National Rifle Association (NRA) program that offers insurance to cover policy holders' costs should they become embroiled in a legal battle after shooting someone in self-defense.
The insurance — technically endorsed by the NRA and administered by Lockton Affinity exclusively for NRA members — is available as a rider to the "excess personal liability" plan. Here's how the website advertises the added coverage for self-defense (emphasis in the original):
• Provides coverage up to the limit selected for criminal and civil defense costs.
• Cost of civil suit defense is provided in addition to the limit of liability for bodily injury and property damage.
• Criminal Defense Reimbursement is provided for alleged criminal actions involving self-defense when you are acquitted of such criminal charges or the charges are dropped.
The basic liability plan costs either $47 or $67 annually, for coverage up to $100,000 or $250,000, respectively. Though the coverage amounts stay the same, a policy holder can add the self-defense insurance by paying $118 or $165 for the lesser coverage, or between $187 and $254 for the larger plan. (The discrepancies are due to the different prices for coverage on two different webpages from the insurer.)
The NRA pushed its members in 2005 to support Florida's controversial "stand your ground" law — an exemption from arrest or prosecution in shootings where the police think the act was in self defense. When the law got bad press after police let the man who shot and killed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin go free, the NRA refused to back down, continuing to support the law's passage in other states (amid other acts of insensitivity around Martin's shooting death).
Here's Matt Bors' cartoon skewering the insurance program:
We told you last week about Louisiana's new plan for educating its youth, which is to stop having a plan for educating its youth and just dump everybody into classrooms owned by private companies that replace teachers with Moses Explains Algebra on VHS.
They're set to steer tens of millions of dollars into the new privatization program, which pays for vouchers that parents can use to send their children to religious schools. Gov. Bobby Jindal said the state was "changing the way we deliver education," which is a lot like Domino's saying it's changing the way it delivers pizza by locking up the store and telling everyone to buy a Hot Pocket from the Vatican. In any case, Louisiana Republicans loved the plan. Until a group of folks showed up to ruin the whole thing: Muslims. READ MORE »
Hello, Shell Oil! Have you
fired your social media guru yet, or the ad agency that came up with the idea of crowdsourcing Shell's Let's Go! Arctic campaign? Did it at least occur to you to borrow an RNC intern to scoop out all the "cunts" and "fucks" and whatnot before posting them on your Let's Go! Arctic site? What about all the ads about the polar bears you are murdering? Do you think Coca-Cola might have something to say about that? thanked the YesMen for their beautiful tribute to you? Let us look, together, at what these terrible Internet hooligans have wrought on poor Shell Oil. Here are some images from just the first page of Shell's the YesMen's Let's Go! Arctic campaign site, where terrible hippies have taken to their keyboards to mock poor Shell (MOCK THEM!) for their great environmentalism. UPDATE! Yes, it's the YesMen. READ MORE »
Republicans are banding together to put a stop to the latest encroachment of big government — minimum wage for home healthcare providers.
A group of Republican senators on Thursday introduced legislation aimed at blocking the Obama administration's controversial efforts to extend minimum wage and overtime protections to 2 million in-home care providers through Department of Labor regulations.
Sens. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., along with 11 other lawmakers, introduced a bill known as the Companionship Exemption Protection Act, to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to preserve the current state of the law's so-called companionship services exemption.
It's minimum fuckin' wage! Did Fox News do a segment on spoiled home health workers living in largesse that we all missed?
The only reason the Obama Administration's regulations are described as "controversial" is because the Republicans seemingly have a problem with people being paid a minimum amount of money for services rendered. Home healthcare providers are currently excluded from minimum wage requirements, which is known as companionship exemption. And while the "Companionship Exemption Protection Act" sounds harmless, it's nothing more than an attempt to enshrine below-minimum wages for millions of workers.
I happen to personally know several home healthcare providers, and they work harder than anyone else I know and they're usually on-call day and night.
They take care of your parents and grandparents. Do the Republicans not have parents, or were they long ago replaced by Skrulls? The latter would explain a lot.
My question is, what took so long?
I'm a life-long Republican. My political affiliation has been woven intrinsically into the very fabric of my being.
Today, however, I am a registered Republican no longer.
I came to the decision to leave the GOP not with a heavy heart, but with a broken one.
I reached this point through a long series of awakenings and realizations- a path marked by literally years of wrestling with, and finally accepting, the political implications of a number of difficult truths. It involved ever-increasing levels of cognitive dissonance, as I tried to square my experiences, concerns, and knowledge, with my continued loyalty to the GOP.
As a local GOP official after President Obama's election, I had a front-row seat as it became infected by a dangerous and virulent form of political rabies.
In the grip of this contagion, the Republican Party has come unhinged. Its fevered hallucinations involve threats from imaginary communists and socialists who, seemingly, lurk around every corner. Climate change- a reality recognized by every single significant scientific body and academy in the world- is a liberal conspiracy conjured up by Al Gore and other leftists who want to destroy America. Large numbers of Republicans- the notorious birthers- believe that the President was not born in the United States. Even worse, few figures in the GOP have the courage to confront them.
Republican economic policies are also indefensible. The GOP constantly claims that its opponents are engaged in "class warfare," but this is an exercise in projection. In Republican proposals, the wealthy win, and the rest of us lose- one only has to look at Rep. Paul Ryan's budget to see that.
Ultimately, leaving the GOP was necessary in order to maintain my own integrity. Leaving is also a public act of personal protest. I am under no illusions about its broader significance- it will have no impact on the trajectory of the political narrative in this nation. But that does not make it futile. On the contrary, as the shadows lengthen, such minor individual acts of defiance and dissent are more critical now than ever before.
Perhaps, one day, a reformed and responsible Republican Party will reemerge.
But until then, the GOP and I have reached a parting of the ways. In the poignant words of "Kathleen Mavourneen," an old Irish ballad: "It may be for years, and it may be forever"
The move by the Republican Party to the dark side is not a recent one. It has been a steady march to the hard right since Reagan's time in office, although it must be said that it has sped up exponentially with the election of Barack Obama. That said, my thinking is that while skin color plays some part in the right's politics of lunacy during the last four years (e.g. birtherism), I'm not sure it would be all that different if Hillary had won in 2008. A look at the last thirty years of Republican
evolution devolution indicates that no matter which Democrat won in the last election, the GOP and their media minions were primed and ready to forgo their last shred of integrity and go for an all out assault on anything and everything that blocked their way to power. And it goes without saying that the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United made that job much easier.
It is not likely that the Republican Party will come to their senses at any time soon, if ever. The right's indoctrination process has been a successful one which is why any attempt at reasonable, fact-based debate with most conservatives is, for the most part, an exercise in futility. They can't hear you.
They really can't hear you.
Romney continues to lie his way out of his "teachers/firefighters" gaffe. Yesterday:
"Of course, teachers and firemen and policemen are hired at the local level and also by states. The federal government doesn't pay for teachers, firefighters or policemen. So obviously that's completely absurd."
WRONG! Someone really needs to grill Mitt Romney about why he doesn't seem to understand basic civics and the relationship between state, local and federal budgets.
In additional to the spending on teachers, firefighters and police officers in the president's stimulus legislation, here are more examples from ThinkProgress:
- Improving Teacher Quality State Grants: about $2.5 billion given in 2012 to increasing the number of highly qualified teachers and administrators in schools
- Transition to Teaching: about $26 million in 2012 to recruit and retain highly qualified midcareer professionals for high-need schools
- TEACH Grants: an estimated $118 million in 2012 to fund college students who agree to become highly-qualified teachers in schools serving students from low-income families for at least four years
- Stafford Loan Forgiveness for Teachers: an estimated $130 million in 2012 to forgive federal student loan debt for those who agree to become highly-qualified teachers in schools serving students from low-income families for at least four years
- Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program: grants for fire departments to enhance their abilities with respect to fire and fire-related hazards
- Reimbursement for Firefighting on Federal Property: payments to local fire departments to reimburse their costs for fighting fires on federal property
- Community Policing Development: funds to advance the practice of community policing in law enforcement agencies through training and technical assistance
- COPS Hiring Program: funds to hire an estimated 500-plus police officers in 2012, by paying up to 75 percent of the new recruits' salaries for three years
- Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation: funds to hire and train police officers for federally recognized Tribal jurisdictions