Friday / January 30, 2015

“We all carry within us places of exile; our crimes, our ravages. Our task is not to unleash them on the world; it is to transform them in ourselves and others.”

– Albert Camus

(See “A Fool’s Argument”, below.)

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Giving American Families The Finger…

Scan 17

(Daily Call Cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2015. Open source. Free to reprint with link to
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While Wisconsin Guts Schools & UW, MN Gov. Dayton To Propose Half Of $1 Billion Surplus Go To Education, Children

By Ricardo Lopez
Star Tribune (1/23/15)

Gov. Mark Dayton on Friday told a group of education and child advocacy groups gathered for a conference that he plans to spend half of the state’s $1-billion surplus on education and policies benefiting children.


The DFL governor is set to release his full budget proposal Tuesday, and in recent days has released partial details on proposals that include expanding a child-care tax credit and investing $30 million in the University of Minnesota Medical School.

Dayton on Friday said he would allocate $516 million for children. Of that, $372 million would go toward education, $44 million for human services and $100 million for the child-care tax credits.

The money would pay for programs such as early childhood education and support for families in need.


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Education Is Not An Expense. It’s An Investment: Walker’s $300-Million UW Budget Cut Is “A Fools Argument — One Advanced By Fools”

“The return on investing in education is higher than almost anything else. It’s not just an expense, it’s an investment. To the extent leaders are telling us that it is just too expensive, it’s a fool’s argument.”

— Former UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley

By Pauly Fanlund
The Capital Times (1/29/15)

So, you’re part of Gov. Scott Walker’s inner circle, crafting a state budget you want to play well outside Wisconsin and extend the boss’s presidential credibility, painting him as a guy capable of big, bold conservative successes, at least as defined by GOP ideologues everywhere.

Yes, our administration cut taxes last term, mostly to benefit the higher-income GOP base. That overreach helped us manufacture another $2-billion budget shortfall for the two-year period that begins July 1. But that’s how we roll: Create a crisis and solve it with still more spending cuts.

To help us this time, let’s stick it to a favorite target: the University of Wisconsin System. After chopping UW System support in our first four years, let’s go for another draconian reduction of $300 million, or 13 percent, over two years, the largest cut in UW history.

So how do we camouflage what it really is: part of a fundamental and ideological assault on the availability and affordability of public education in Wisconsin, from kindergarten through graduate school?

Let’s trot out, under the always handy guise of “reform,” a proposal to permit UW leaders greater autonomy, and argue that the new freedom will allow them to get out from “under the thumb” of state government.

As a tactic, we first leak to the media that the governor intends to propose a “bold plan” to grant more autonomy to UW. That sounds good, and presents Walker as someone who thinks big and does not, say, need the more deliberative advice of a bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission to study the future of higher education in Wisconsin. That would be better for the state, but does not fit the presidential campaign timetable.

Well played, governor.

Give him and his operatives their due; the rollout has been masterful. In announcing the plan, Walker compared the UW action to Act 10, of which he is so proud, the law that famously ended almost all collective bargaining rights for most public workers.

“Reforming the partnership between the state and the UW System will save money and allow the UW System the flexibility to better serve those seeking higher education,” Walker said in a statement.

Headlines have compliantly linked the irresponsible funding reduction with the “autonomy” theme, creating an impression that these freedoms might somehow produce savings that offset cuts. A Wisconsin State Journal headline said as much — “Governor confirms $300M autonomy plan” — implying the current level of legislative intrusion is costing hundreds of millions in inefficiencies.

Walker suggested as much in the first sentence of his prepared statement, saying he was giving the UW System “full flexibility of its use of state resources. … In exchange for the added flexibility, state taxpayers will realize $150 million in savings annually.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a fellow Republican, played along. “I have concerns about a cut of this magnitude without granting flexibilities to the UW System,” Vos said. “It appears that a significant amount of flexibility would be necessary in order to manage such a large decrease off the base budget.”

Unless it is the “flexibility” to rob banks, I don’t see how changes such as allowing UW to contract for services and construct buildings without following state rules will save more than a fraction of $300 million.

As to the UW being freed from politics, remember that Walker appointees control the governing UW Board of Regents, which has not scheduled a meeting to have a public airing of potential impacts. Moreover, Ray Cross, the UW System president who replaced the more independent — and thus “controversial” — Kevin Reilly, has seemed reticent to speak forcefully against the cuts.

As an aside, don’t you find it disingenuous to hear Walker-era Republicans talk of being less “intrusive,” especially after four years of their dictating how local governments raise revenue, threatening local school control, depriving women of reproductive rights, public workers of union rights, and Democratic-leaning citizens of their right to vote?

This “flexibility” episode is the latest example of Walker making political hay at the UW’s expense. Walker claims sole credit for freezing undergraduate tuition rates even though UW leaders were not trying to raise them. But faceless UW officials always provide a good straw man.

That, you might recall, followed an absurd 2013 controversy about the size of UW budget reserves, a cumulative financial cushion that was fiscally prudent but was made to appear scandalous by outraged Republicans, as if someone had embezzled funds. Nothing like that happened, but furious Republicans managed to create a public impression that UW leaders had screwed up big time.

From here, this latest Walker gambit — fraudulently bolstering his image as a bold reformer — looks like a political winner. By the time the effects of the cuts are fully felt, Walker will likely have moved on in his lifelong quest to be the next Ronald Reagan.

In the meantime, the Board of Regents members, at least those who are not Walker appointees, should point out publicly how the cuts will cause major program reductions and reduced enrollments, perhaps even threaten campus closings at some point. Even Walker’s Republican base might squawk when they cannot get their children into a preferred program or admitted at all.

Then there is academic talent, especially research talent, which will quietly slip away or, more likely, never come at all. Why would you move to a state in which the populace has been encouraged to resent your high salary even as you attract millions in research grants, but somehow does not object to the huge incomes of CEOs who belong to the bullying business lobby, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce?

No thanks, the researchers might well say, I’ll take my work to the University of Michigan or the University of California-Berkeley, public institutions where cutting-edge research is less a target of populist resentment and interference by politicians like Walker.

Speaking of WMC, it was former UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley who lambasted the business lobby on his way out in 2008. He said the GOP-aligned WMC hurt the university, bringing furious denials from Republicans and a series of “tsk-tsk” admonitions from UW’s defenders. Better to play nice, they suggested. Right, and how has that worked out?

In retrospect, Wiley was visionary in foreseeing what has become a full-fledged education defunding movement. I called him this week after the news broke: “The return on investing in education is higher than almost anything else,” Wiley told me. “It’s not just an expense, it’s an investment. To the extent leaders are telling us that it is just too expensive, it’s a fool’s argument.”

One advanced, in my view, by fools.

Link to Story:–million-uw-budget-cut-to/article_3a4cf640-bb8e-520f-be7c-1f032ccbda94.html#ixzz3QFKxKnoF

Weekly Democratic Radio Address: “The Wisconsin Idea is under threat”

MADISON – Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) offered the Democratic weekly radio address today. In his radio message, Sen. Larson talks about the proposed cuts to our UW schools that would limit access for students and lead to layoffs across Wisconsin.

“Rather than allowing the personal political ambitions of one governor trump the needs of thousands of students we should instead renew the pledge of the Wisconsin Idea. By investing in our people can grow our economy, strengthen the middle class, and move Wisconsin Forward once again.” – Sen. Chris Larson

The audio file of this week’s address can be found here:

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Best In Show: Walker Outshines The GOP Competition In Far Right Iowa Gathering

Pat Scanlon, another Tea Party member, from Oskaloosa, Iowa said: “I wish he were our governor.”

By John Dickerson
Slate (1/25/15)

Before the Iowa Freedom Summit on Saturday, one Republican activist summed up Gov. Scott Walker’s challenge this way: “He doesn’t make the flashbulbs go off.” But at the end of the marathon day of speeches before conservatives, the Wisconsin governor emerged as the leading light.

John Dickerson is Slate‘s chief political correspondent and author of On Her Trail. Read his series on the presidency and on risk.

There were plenty of well-received speeches during the day from Sen. Ted Cruz and Ben Carson, but it was their home turf. The Freedom Summit, put on by Rep. Steve King and Citizens United, was a gathering of the base of the Republican base. But it was a bit of a SkyMall event—while there were lots of offerings it wasn’t clear if there was a place for the most exotic ones. Donald Trump, for example, may say he’s considering running for president, but it’s as hard to believe that he will be president as it is to understand the need for an Eye of the Dragon Mystical Safe Box.

Walker helped himself

Walker did the most to help himself politically, elevating his stature as a candidate who might achieve the elusive synthesis of pleasing the party base while also attracting a general election audience.

“Wow he’s good,” said Jane Hodoly, as Walker spoke. Later, in an interview, the Tea Party member from Ottumwa, Iowa said, “We need a warrior in the presidential office.” Walker, who retold the story of his battle with the unions (along with the death threats he faced) and what it took to win three elections in four years (including becoming the first governor to survive a recall) appealed to this desire. “If you are not afraid to go big and bold, you can actually get results,” Walker told the audience. Pat Scanlon, another Tea Party member, from Oskaloosa, Iowa said: “I wish he were our governor.”

Walker took the stage with a handheld microphone and walked across it as he spoke—making sure the audience got the point by saying he was causing trouble for the photographers trying to keep up with him. Stagecraft matters because while conservative hero Ronald Reagan perfected the use of the teleprompter, that speech aid is now seen as villainous because Obama relies on it so heavily. (The theory is that his trickery is laid bare when he has to speak extemporaneously.) Trump, whose role is to represent the id of a certain kind of anti-Obama voter, received big applause when he suggested that the teleprompter be banned.

Stagecraft also matters for Walker because in conversation with Iowa voters and organizers they mention again and again how they want to be excited by a candidate. When some have talked about Walker, they unfavorably compare him to Gov. Tim Pawlenty, another nice, neighborly Republican who was considered too tepid.

But as Walker spoke you could almost hear the political boxes being checked off. He thanked the conservative voters of Iowa, and the country, for supporting him in his fight against unions with money and prayers. This wasn’t only good form—it highlighted that he has a national fundraising base (i.e. he can go the distance) and that he is a man of faith (i.e. he’s just like you). Perhaps the best moment was when Walker made an analogy about taxes by talking about buying a sweater at a discount at Kohl’s department store. He talked at length about cobbling together so many coupons and store rewards until ”the next thing you know they are paying me to buy that shirt!”

As an analogy it was confusing, but that wasn’t the point. The message was: I’m one of you. For a party competing over how to talk to middle-class voters while fashioning a response to President Obama’s appeal to them, this wasn’t a bad way to connect with voters who often care most about whether a candidate understands their lives.

The best any candidate can hope for at an event that appeals to such a narrow but influential audience is if the activists leave the hall talking about you. Still, the candidates don’t want to say anything to the faithful that turns off the broader class of voters. Essentially, they are aiming to do the opposite of what Sarah Palin does.

The competition

If Walker offered a strong showing, Christie helped himself by just showing up. Several in the audience said the New Jersey governor was too moderate to be worthy even of their consideration, but for Christie the goal isn’t winning over the hall; he is just trying not to stir up enmity the way Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney do. Throughout the day Romney and Bush were poked and lampooned by various speakers. There were many specific critiques, but former Speaker of the New Hampshire House Bill O’Brien captured the overriding political feeling when he said: “We lose when we nominate RINOs.”

Winning the approval of conservatives—or at least avoiding overt hostility—is just one of the many tests a candidate must pass. They’ve also got to raise money, develop a general election message, and hire staff. Jeb Bush wasn’t in Iowa, but in San Francisco, where he gave his first major speech since declaring in mid-December that he’s seriously considering a presidential run. He talked about the “academic and political hacks” in Washington with “hard-core ideology,” saying, “they’re basically Maytag repairmen … Nothing gets done. It is time to challenge every aspect of how government works—how it taxes, how it regulates, how it spends—to open up economic opportunity for all.”

His words were an implicit critique of the audience that had gathered in Iowa, which wants more ideological fealty from its Washington representatives. As the Republican Party searches for a synthesis candidate, we saw three different examples from GOP governors last week: Walker in sync, Christie in cooperative tension, and Bush in confrontation.

Link to Story

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Crash Course: Why The “Debate Over The TPP And Fast-Tracking Is Such A Big Deal”

Posted By Dennis Brault
The Daily Call (1/29/15) 

If you want a short two an a half minute course on the TPP and fast-Track then watch this Robert Reich video.

Robert Reich takes on the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Published on Jan 29, 2015

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the largest–and worst–trade deal you’ve never heard of and Republicans in Congress want to work with the Obama administration to “fast track” its passage.

Video (2:26)


We need to stand together, left and right and middle, and say NO to the TPP. In a unified voice we must say, this is the people’s government and we do not consent to rule of the corporate state. We the people say no. Otherwise as this truthout article points out the TPP will cause “the middle class will wither and die.”

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Will Sink the Middle Class

The Daily Take Team
Truthout (1/26/15)


“Without a strong manufacturing base, no great power can survive as a great power. It will instead become dependent on foreign goods and the financial world to create wealth out of thin air – a recipe for economic disaster after economic disaster.

And without strong manufacturing jobs that actually create things, the middle class will wither and die, just as it has started to do here in the US over the past few decades.

This is why the current debate over the TPP and fast-tracking is such a big deal.

Two decades of free-trade deals have eviscerated the middle class and bloodied the “American dream.”

If President Obama goes ahead and signs us onto another free-trade deal, especially one as destructive as the TPP, that will be like tying a cement block to the feet of a drowning man.

It will spell the end of the US middle class, and, for that matter, the vision of the United States that Alexander Hamilton first put forward more than 200 years ago.

So call your members of Congress today and tell them to “just say no” to the SHAFTA/TPP and President Obama’s request for fast-tracking powers.”

Link to Story


In Ralph Nader’s book “Unstoppable…,” Ralph talks about how when the left and right listen to each other long enough, they discover they agree on some very important issues. This understanding becomes an unstoppable political force.

One of 25 such unstoppable convergences, Nader lists, is the disdain both the left-right have for the recent so called trade agreements, such as NAFTA or the TPP. I witnessed such a left-right convergence first hand when the Vernon County Board unanimously passed a resolution signaling our opposition to fast-track of the TPP. If we work together we can stop this threat to America.

“Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance To Dismantle The Corporate State.”

By Ralph Nader, Published 2014: Page 93-95

Revise NAFTO, WTO, and similar trade agreements in favor of greater justice


“These pacts are nor your free trade treaties of  modern history that involved smaller tariffs or ending quotas…

They subordinate consumer, worker, and environmental protections to … the bureaucrats in Geneva…

…think of this loss of sovereignty, this overriding of our democratic practices, this undermining of our workers’ jobs and well being, this unfair competition from countries brutalized by their rulers…

…Talk to conservatives and liberals about our country being defenseless, unable to block countries with lower safety standards that want to export food and medicine here. Thousands of Americans have died or gotten sick or defrauded just by using contaminated products from China, which has not allowed full FDA inspections.

Global Trade Watch, a durable coalition of Left-Right allies from civic, labor and corporate groups…has the details of how these negotiations should be conducted to be fair to Americans and other peoples in the world.”


The Trade Act is one way to make trade fairer for Americans.

Global Trade Watch: The TRADE Act

The Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act outlined a way forward to a new trade and globalization agenda that could benefit more Americans. The bill was re-introduced for the 2009 Congressional session on June 24 by Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) with 106 original cosponsors, including nine committee chairs and representation from the entire range of Democratic caucuses and classes. The fact that nearly half of the House Democrats supported this legislation from the start sent a clear signal to the Obama administration that only the strong, specific trade reform agenda of the TRADE Act will gain support in Congress…


Investor-state Attacks  is an excellent description of the “New World Order” global corporate tribunals that rule over the nations of the world.

Global Trade Watch: Investor-State Attacks: Empowering Foreign Corporations to Bypass our Courts, Challenge Basic Protections

Among the most dangerous but least known parts of today’s “trade” agreements are extraordinary new rights and privileges granted to foreign corporations and investors that formally prioritize corporate rights over the right of governments to regulate and the sovereign right of nations to govern their own affairs. These terms empower individual foreign corporations to skirt domestic courts and directly challenge any policy or action of a sovereign government before World Bank and UN tribunals.

Comprised of three private attorneys, the extrajudicial tribunals are authorized to order unlimited sums of taxpayer compensation for health, environmental, financial and other public interest policies seen as undermining the corporations’ “expected future profits.” There is no outside appeal. Many of these attorneys rotate between acting as tribunal “judges” and as the lawyers launching cases against the government on behalf of the corporations. Under this system, foreign corporations are provided greater rights than domestic firms.

This extreme “investor-state” system already has been included in a series of U.S. “trade” deals, forcing taxpayers to hand more than $400 million to corporations for toxics bans, land-use rules, regulatory permits, water and timber policies and more. Under a similar pact, a tribunal recently ordered payment of more than $2 billion to a multinational oil firm. Just under U.S. “trade” deals, more than $14 billion remains pending in corporate claims against medicine patent policies, pollution cleanup requirements, climate and energy laws, and other public interest policies…

Call your members of Congress today

It is our duty to lead our representatives, not have them lead us. This lesson is taught to us by both FDR and Obama when they both said “make me do it.” Third Congressional Rep. Ron Kind has been Obama’s point man on the fast-track  of the TPP among House democrats.

If you’re interested in voicing your opinion about the fast track of the TPP to Congressman Kind give him a call at (888) 442-9040 or email him

Don’t let your silence be your consent. Light your match and others will follow

So call your members of Congress today and tell them to “just say no” to the SHAFTA/TPP and President Obama’s request for fast-tracking powers.”


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State Capitol Protest Permits Ruled Unconstitutional

By Associated Press
Green Bay Press Gazette (1/29/15)

A state requirement that singers in the Wisconsin state Capitol obtain a permit was unconstitutional, a state appeals court has ruled.

The case involves Michael Crute, who was cited for joining in a daily sing-along protest in the Capitol rotunda in July 2013. State rules then prohibited anyone from participating in or watching an unpermitted event in state buildings.

Crute argued the regulations violated his free speech rights. A Madison judge tossed out his ticket in February. The 4th District Court of Appeals upheld that decision on Thursday, ruling the regulations weren’t narrowly written to further a significant state interest.

The state and the American Civil Liberties Union reached a settlement in October 2013 allowing unpermitted events at the Capitol.

A state Justice Department spokeswoman had no immediate comment.

Link to Story

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What A Novel Idea! Congressman Changes Position On Abortion (After Talking To Women)

By Laura Bassett
The Huffingon Post (1/28/15)

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), a longtime opponent of abortion, announced in an op-ed on Tuesday that he now supports abortion rights after having talked to women in difficult circumstances throughout his home state.

“I have sat with women from Ohio and across the nation and heard them talk about their varying experiences: abusive relationships, financial hardship, health scares, rape and incest,” wrote Ryan. “These women gave me a better understanding of how complex and difficult certain situations can become. And while there are people of good conscience on both sides of this argument, one thing has become abundantly clear to me: the heavy hand of government must not make this decision for women and families.”

Ryan, who was raised Catholic, has long considered himself “pro-life” and has voted for numerous abortion restrictions since he was elected to Congress in 2003, including parental notification laws; restrictions on abortion funding in health care reform; and a ban on abortions in federally funded military hospitals. In 2009, hewrote an op-ed for U.S. News and World Report underscoring the need for fellow anti-abortion lawmakers to work with abortion rights supporters on solutions to prevent unplanned pregnancies.

Now Ryan, who recently has been discussed as a potential candidate for Senate, wants to make it clear to his constituents that his views have evolved.

“Today, I am a 41-year-old father and husband whose feelings on this issue have changed,” he wrote. “I have come a long way since being a single, 26-year-old state senator, and I am not afraid to say that my position has evolved as my experiences have broadened, deepened and become more personal. And while I have deep respect for people on both sides of this conversation, I would be abandoning my own conscience and judgment if I held a position that I no longer believed appropriate. I have come to believe that we must trust women and families—not politicians—to make the best decision for their lives.”

Ryan in 2013 voted against a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and he wrote in his op-ed Tuesday that he hopes to push Congress to look for ways to prevent the need for abortion instead of cutting off women’s access to the procedure.

“No federal or state law banning abortion can honestly and fairly take into account the various circumstances that make each decision unique,” Ryan wrote. “Where government does have the ability to play a significant role is in giving women and families the tools they need to prevent unintended pregnancies by expanding education and access to contraception.”

Ohio’s Planned Parenthood affiliate celebrated Ryan’s change of heart.

“We are humbled by Congressman Ryan’s heartfelt commentary about a topic that is too often politicized and stigmatized,” Stephanie Kight, CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, said in a statement Wednesday. “We look forward to working with Congressman Ryan to ensure that all women — no matter where they live or how much money they have — can access the care they need without political interference.”

Link to Story


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Crude Oil Train Spills Hit Record Level In 2014

By Tony Dokoupil 
NBC News (1/26/15)

American oil trains spilled crude oil more often in 2014 than in any year since the federal government began collecting data on such incidents in 1975, an NBC News analysis shows.

The record number of spills sparked a fireball in Virginia, polluted groundwater in Colorado, and destroyed a building in Pennsylvania, causing at least $5 million in damages and the loss of 57,000 gallons of crude oil.

By volume, that’s dramatically less crude than trains spilled in 2013, when major derailments in Alabama and North Dakota leached a record 1.4 million gallons — more than was lost in the prior 40 years combined. But by frequency of spills, 2014 set a new high with 141 “unintentional releases,” according to data from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). By comparison, between 1975 and 2012, U.S. railroads averaged just 25 spills a year.

The vast majority of the incidents occurred while the trains were “in transit,” in the language of regulators, rumbling along a network of tracks that pass by homes and through downtowns. They included three major derailments and seven incidents classified as “serious” because they involved a fire, evacuation or spill of more than 120 gallons. That’s up from five serious incidents in 2013, the data shows.

“They’ve got accidents waiting to happen,” said Larry Mann, the principal author of the landmark Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970. “Back in 1991 I said, ‘One day a community is going to get wiped out by a freight train. Well, in 2013 that happened and unless something changes it’s going to happen again.”

Mann was referring to the Lac-Mégantic disaster, a deadly derailment in Quebec just miles from the Maine border. A 72-car oil train rolled downhill and exploded on July 6, 2013, killing 47 people and destroying most of the town.

In the months that followed American regulators convened a series of emergency sessions. They promised sweeping new safeguards related to tank car design, train speed, route and crew size. To date none of those rules have been finalized.

On January 15 the Department of Transportation missed a deadline set by Congress for final rules related to tank cars, which have a decades-long history of leaks, punctures, and catastrophic failure. The rules are being worked on by PHMSA and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

In response to questions from NBC News, PHMSA declined to explain the delay in new rules but it defended the relative safety of oil-by-rail. “More crude is being transported across the country than in any time in our history, and we are aggressively developing new safety standards to keep communities safe,” PHMSA spokesperson Susan Lagana said in a statement.

“Last year, over 87,000 tank cars were in use transporting crude oil, and 141 rail crude oil releases were reported,” she continued. “The amount of crude oil released in these spills was less than the capacity of two tank cars.”

The FRA declined a request for comment. It did, however, provide data that suggests the railroads are getting better overall at transporting hazardous material. Between 2004 and 2014, for example, the number of collisions and derailments involving trains carrying hazardous material fell by more than half, from 31 to 13, according to the data.

Need for better tank cars

Ed Greenberg, a spokesperson for the Association of American Railroads (AAR), the industry’s principal trade group, said the railroads themselves support stronger tank cars. The oil industry actually owns most of the cars used to transport its product, he said. That has complicated the rule-making process and set off a debate over which industry should cover the cost of an upgrade.

Greenberg also sharply disagreed with the idea that oil-by-rail was getting more dangerous. With 40 times more oil being hauled along U.S. rail lines in 2015 than in 2005, he acknowledges that the raw number of incidents has increased. But he argues that the railroads have never been safer overall.

“Railroads have dramatically improved their safety over the last three decades, with the 2014 train accident rate trending at being the lowest ever,” he told NBC News, citing multi-billion-dollar investments in new cars, tracks, and workers.

Last year, he added, 99.97 percent of all hazardous material on the rails reached its destination without incident. Of the 141 oil spills included in the federal data, meanwhile, the AAR calculates that fewer than 10 involved the loss of more than a barrel of oil.

But critics say that’s little comfort to the estimated 25 million Americans who within the one-mile evacuation zone that the US Department of Transportation recommends in the event of an oil train-derailment.

“Moving oil from one place to another is always risky, and even a single spill has the potential to harm land and marine ecosystems for good,” said Karthik Ganapathy, communications manager for, an environmental group that has helped organize protests against oil by rail. “These new data confirm what we’ve known to be true all along—oil-by-rail is incredibly dangerous.”

Link to Story


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‘Call’ Readers Write — A Labor Movie For A Labor Guy

“No God, No Master” (2012). Written and produced by Terry Green

Can’t remember where or when I heard of this movie, but it sounded good. So I bought it on Amazon (for $13.99). A good movie, but overly ambitious. 1920, William J. Flynn is a G-man and bomb diffuser. A young boy is killed when he steals a package containing a bomb. Other package bombs are being sent to rich and prominent citizens all over the country. Packages have been sent to John D. Rockefeller and even Flynn’s boss, Mitchell Palmer.

That alone could have been enough for a movie, but much more content is attempted. Sacco and Vanzetti, Emma Goldman and the Palmer raids. J. Edgar Hoover is an up and comer. The Ludlow Massacre is mentioned. Anarchists are behind the bombings, but the situation is not so black and white. There are communists, anarchists and the IWW involved. Also, a lot of regular people in the mix. Our nation is being attacked, but by who exactly? Palmer and Hoover opt for deportation on suspicion. Flynn (David Strathairn, a fine actor) is the hero here, portrayed as a much cooler head. As if all that weren’t enough, there’s a subplot about Irish vs. Italians. The noble Flynn is sleeping with his ex-partner’s widow. Her son is unhappy about this.

The situation echoes our present time. Torture, suspension of civil liberties. It’s not our way. We need extraordinary means in these trying times. In real life, Flynn bowed out as FBI director and was replaced by J. Edgar Hoover. One wonders how our history would have worked out had Flynn stayed as FBI director and Hoover had had to answer for the Palmer Raids.

I enjoyed it, but I’m a Labor guy. I recommend this movie. But they could have made three movies with the same subject material.

James Hoban

LaCrosse, WI

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The Dept. Of Much Needed Humor — Bobby Jindal Not Sure He’s Willing To Put Family Through 2-Month Presidential Campaign

The Onion (1/28/15)

BATON ROUGE, LA—Citing the intense pressures and scrutiny placed on political candidates and the people in their lives, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal announced Tuesday that he’s not sure he wants to put his family through the rigors of a two-month presidential campaign.

The 43-year-old former congressman told reporters that while his wife and three young children are tremendously supportive of his political ambitions, he recognizes that a relentless six-to-eight-week run for the White House would be hard on them nonetheless.

“If I were to declare my candidacy this June, I’d immediately have to head out on the campaign trail and would likely be apart from my family for as much as half the summer—that’s a sacrifice I really have to think about,” Jindal said of a potential bid for the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nomination. “We’re talking four, maybe five big town hall events in the early primary states, a handful of public rallies, and a few Sundays spent at meet-and-greets with local voters. That’s multiple weekends on the road, and I’m not sure it would be fair to my kids.”

“I could wind up missing a half dozen of [son] Slade’s Little League games, which is a lot to ask,” he continued. “That’s a third of the season right there.”

The second-term governor went on to state that if he seeks the GOP nomination, the Jindal family “might as well forget about” planning a summer vacation any sooner than mid-August.

Though Jindal stressed that while he personally had no qualms about enduring the extreme media attention, he admitted that he hated the thought of subjecting his wife and kids to the harsh glare of the public spotlight for a couple of news cycles. According to Jindal, they would have to steel themselves in preparation for a demanding campaign that would take their husband and father all the way through Iowa, a fair amount of South Carolina, and maybe a couple counties in New Hampshire.

The prospective candidate confirmed he would not throw his hat in the ring without first sitting down with his family for a long, soul-searching discussion of any concerns they might have about watching him run for upwards of 50 or even 55 days, and likely missing such major milestones as his children’s first day of school this year, their second day of school, and possibly even the remainder of their first week of school.

“Imagine what it’s like being 10 or 13 years old and having your dad spend dozens of days running for president—what would that do to your life?” said Jindal, who admitted that during the roughly five-day-long peak of his campaign he might be too busy to stay in touch with his loved ones. “And we could be in the thick of it right up until a few days after the 2015 Iowa Straw Poll. If I hold, say, six fundraising dinners, that’s six meals I’m skipping with the kids. Not to mention I’ll miss my daughter’s big dance recital, which is really important to her.”

“Oh, wait, no I won’t,” he added. “That’s in September.”

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Posted in 2015-01-30, Newsletter | Comments Off

Walker’s Right Wing Luster Fading: We Knew It Was Inevitable

Walker’s grip on the hearts and minds of his base is slipping and slipping fast. 

By  Matthew Schauenburg
Wisconsin Victorious (1/26/15)

Politics is a pendulum.  It naturally wants to rest in the center.  That is what politics and democracy are all about.  Dialogue and debate from opposing sides which is supposed to lead to the voices of experience and reason achieving compromise for the good of the majority.  When extremist forces cause the pendulum to swing far to one side there is an inevitable result.  The pendulum will seek the center again but not before it swings far to the other side.

In Wisconsin the extremist forces that pushed things far, far to the right are starting to see their cause and their support base collapse.  Those that supported Scott Walker back when he was a “promising up and comer”and a “Republican rock star” are now experiencing disillusionment with their hero and savior.

Walker who is now in his second term as governor, was able to use deceitful and emotional rhetoric to fire up a support base for himself and the political agenda he was given to follow by the Koch brothers.  But now after the effects of his first term are becoming widely known throughout Wisconsin his support base is crumbling.

Walker has based the entirety of his governorship solely on the concept that he is not (former governor) Jim Doyle.  Such a platform was not designed for long term viability and it is now collapsing.  Over and again Scott Walker pointed his finger at the debt Wisconsin was carrying at the end of Doyle’s term as governor.  That figured was 2.2 billion dollars.  A rather large number indeed which was largely, but not completely, created by the Doyle administration.  He inherited a good amount of that debt when he became governor.

State financial crisis

Wisconsin’s nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau which provides oversight into the state’s budget and finances is now reporting that Wisconsin is going to end this year nearly $400,000,000.00 in the red.  Significant money but nothing compared to the state’s unavoidable debt for the upcoming year which will be at least $2,3000,000,000.00.  That number is likely to rise as Wisconsin under Walker’s leadership has officially announced it is unable to properly collect the taxes which the state needs to operate and support its infrastructure.

Also not figured into the debt amount are the millions of dollars that Walker’s pet project, the Wisconsin Economic & Development Corporation is handing out in the forms of loans, mostly to large corporations.  The majority of these loans are not being repaid yet the WEDC continues to writes checks which give the taxpayers money to businesses which have been using a portion of the money they get to file bankruptcy and pocket the rest.  Many others have used their money to move factories and jobs out of Wisconsin.  Several beneficiaries of the largest loans have used the money to move their business’s overseas and out of the United States altogether.

As this information is becoming more commonly known across the state, even to those who normally don’t “sweat the details” and traditionally have supported Walker no matter what, Walker’s grip on the hearts and minds of his base is slipping and slipping fast.  Add to this the utter failure of Walker to keep his central campaign promise from his first election of adding 250,000 jobs in Wisconsin and it his easy to see why the governor is in trouble.

Tipping point

The tipping point though came last week when Scott Walker turned on his campaign donors who wanted him to approve a new, huge casino be built.  Years in the planning, the casino would have added thousands of jobs to a state that has been bleeding jobs under Walker’s watch.  Right wing business and lobbying groups were outraged that Walker would turn on those who funded his campaign believing that they would be rewarded for that support.

Walker kept talking the same talk as always and blamed his decision on former Governor Jim Doyle. This time though nobody was buying that excuse.  The builders and planners of the casino had signed contracts years ago securing the money they wanted from the state to help build the casino.  They needed money from the state for the project but the loan they wanted from the taxpayers was guaranteed and set in stone.

So why did Scott Walker rip up the deal at the last minute?  Why did Walker risk angering the very forces of corporate interest that paid for him to become governor?  It was because Walker’s new presidential campaign manager and the Koch/ALEC people behind the Iowas Freedom Summit which occurred over this last weekend told him to.

The ultra-powerful, far right wing lobbying group, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce has voiced opposition to the Governors actions recently.  This coming at a critical time when Walker is desperately trying to shut down the criminal investigations into his campaigns, a time when he needs the money from WMC and his other biggest financial supporters, like The Club For Growth the most.

It was the straw that seems to have broken the camel’s back for Walker in Wisconsin.  His oldest supporters from longtime insiders to the lowest ranks of the remaining Tea Party faithful immediately made their resentment for the failing governor known.

Kristi LaCroix who allowed herself to be in commercials supporting Scott Walker by attempting to shame and degrade all of Wisconsin’s teachers and educators (the “sour grapes” woman) unleashed an online tirade against Walker and accused him of using her and turning her into a traitor against all those teachers and educators and never recompensating her for her involvement.  What was she expecting from the Walker regime?  Scott Walker has a long history of throwing people under the bus without a second thought.  She was convenient to him, not someone of proven long term worth like Tim Russell who was just released from jail and will surely be given a very cushy state job by the man he fell on his sword for.

Even the members of the ragtag Tea Party group called Knot My Wisconsin, a rogue and sometimes felonious group of rabid Walker supporters, have turned on their former wunderkind.  Well known Knot My Wisconsin member Matt Lepperd went on the record saying:

“I am one of those supporters he lost.  and YES, if and when he runs for re-election here, I will vote for him.  I will NOT support his POTUS dream.  He is no more ready for that position than Obama was, and we all see how that turned out,  I am FURIOUS that he put himself first.  He lied in the debates when asked if he was going to run in 2016….and he then kicked off his 2016 campaign the night of the election.  He shoots down jobs in Wisconsin to please supporters in IOWA to meet with the people who demanded he deny the casino…he takes pictures with them.  Then flies to meet with the Koch brothers the next morning????  I was there at his victory party,  Every word he spoke was spoken as a presidential candidate and not as a grateful man who just won a hard fought election.  He is now governing to defend his POTUS chances and is not interested in doing his job.  I have never been more disappointed in someone I had so much respect for.”

And that was coming from someone who belongs to a group that said they would use firearms and kill citizens at polling locations and children at schools to affect the outcome of Walker’s elections. Those comments came from a right wing online publication that also has gone from supporting to condemning Walker.  You can read the full story here:

Planned Parenthood flip-flop

Another item coming from the extremist Iowa Freedom Summit concerning Scott Walker was a bold statement he told the crowd that “he had cut funding for Planned Parenthood” in Wisconsin making  mammograms and abortions not easily available in the badger state.  Walker had long denied that he had planned to go after Planned Parenthood, but had in fact, done just that.  The timing of this is interesting because women within the Republican Party have started questioning the party’s doctrine on women’s health issues.  Last week the GOP in Congress had to remove a bill they were about to vote on because even the female Republican members of Congress were about to walk out of the chambers as the bill came up.

To make matters worse for Walker when it comes to his support and/or increasingly growing lack thereof in Wisconsin, a memo from within his administration revealing that he was cancelling his gubernatorial responsibilities to pursue his dark horse POTUS dream was made public this week. You can read that here:

Bridge burner

Scott Walker has been burning bridges for years and it took awhile for some of the people to catch onto that fact.  They are also starting to notice that he has begun to burn some of the bridges in front of him as his sociopathic ego starts to run away from his ability to control it.

When the political pendulum swings, it will take you along with it.  It doesn’t matter who you are or who you think you are, the process is bigger than any individual.  That is something which Scott Walker has never been capable of realizing before and doesn’t seem to be capable of recognizing even now.

It will be interesting to see where the inevitable left swing brought about by right wing extremism takes us before the pendulum returns to center.  Maybe it will be enough to undo what Walker has done?

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Posted in 2015-01-29, Newsletter | Tagged | Comments Off

N.Y. Bribery Case Reveals The Extent Of Legalized Bribery

“Think of campaign contributions as the gateway drug to bribes. “

By Zephyr Teachout
The New York Times (1/26/15)

LAST Thursday, Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the New York Assembly for the past 20 years, was arrested and charged with mail and wire fraud, extortion and receiving bribes. According to Preet Bharara, the federal prosecutor who brought the charges, the once seemingly untouchable Mr. Silver took millions of dollars for legal work he did not do. In exchange, he used his official power to steer business to a law firm that specialized in getting tax breaks for real estate developers, and he directed state funds to a doctor who referred cases to another law firm that paid Mr. Silver fees.

Albany is reeling, but fighting the kind of corruption that plagues not only New York State but the whole nation isn’t just about getting cuffs on the right guy. As with the recent conviction of the former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell for receiving improper gifts and loans, a fixation on plain graft misses the more pernicious poison that has entered our system.

Corruption exists when institutions and officials charged with serving the public serve their own ends. Under current law, campaign contributions are illegal if there is an explicit quid pro quo, and legal if there isn’t. But legal campaign contributions can be as bad as bribes in creating obligations. The corruption that hides in plain sight is the real threat to our democracy.

Think of campaign contributions as the gateway drug to bribes. In our private financing system, candidates are trained to respond to campaign cash and serve donors’ interests. Politicians are expected to spend half their time talking to funders and to keep them happy. Given this context, it’s not hard to see how a bribery charge can feel like a technical argument instead of a moral one.

The former governor of New York David A. Paterson, for example, said that he had trouble understanding where the criminality lay in the allegation that Mr. Silver accepted payments from law firms for referrals, including referrals by a doctor to whom Mr. Silver funneled state health research funds. Mr. Paterson said, “in the legal profession, people refer business all the time. And theoretically, as a speaker, you could do that as well.”

The legal shades into the illegal. The real estate developers represented by the law firm that allegedly shuttled payments to Mr. Silver for fake legal services were also major campaign contributors. One developer mentioned in the charges gave more than $10 million to political campaigns in the past decade, including $200,000 to Mr. Silver and his political action committees.


The structure of private campaign finance has essentially pre-corrupted our politicians, so that they can’t even recognize explicit bribery because it feels the same as what they do every day. When you spend a lifetime serving campaign donors, it may seem easy to serve them when they come with an outright bribe, because it doesn’t seem that different.

Mr. Silver retained such tight control over budgets and lawmaking in Albany that his staffers were regarded as more powerful than most elected representatives. As a Democrat who cares about education, I can’t say that I loved seeing Mr. Silver, a great public school advocate, in handcuffs. For others, there’s glee in seeing the perp walk. But one high-profile indictment does not represent the dawn of a new democracy.

We should take this moment to pursue fundamental reform. We must reconstitute what it means to run for office and to serve in office. We need to ban outside income for elected officials. Transparency alone is not enough; it doesn’t solve the problem of creating outside dependencies. New York lawmakers can’t carry water for two masters when in office.

We should reject the private financing of campaigns as the only model. We need to provide enough public funding for campaigns so that anyone with a broad base of support can run for office, and respond effectively to attacks, without becoming dependent on private patrons. Running for office shouldn’t be a job defined by permanent begging at the feet of the wealthiest donors in the country.

Those two reforms would be transformational. We will never eradicate every shady deal, but we can make politics more about serving the public and less like legalized bribery.

There’s one last thing we should do: ban corporate spending and limit total campaign spending. Last week not only saw Mr. Silver in handcuffs, it also marked the fifth anniversary of the Citizens United ruling, in which the Supreme Court decided that outside corporate spending was in no way corrupting. We will have to revisit that decision, but we don’t need to wait for the court to act.

Corruption is about greed and private interests put ahead of the public good. Whether influence is bought through a bribe, outside spending, outside income or campaign contributions, the public suffers in the same way. Until we move past scandals toward structural change, our democracy will suffer, too.

Zephyr Teachout, an associate professor of law at Fordham, is the author of “Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United.”

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Posted in 2015-01-29, Newsletter | Comments Off

Even A Few Worried Plutocrats Can See Profound Inequality Isn’t In Their Interests

As the smartest of the super-rich now understand, income inequality must be addressed before it rips societies apart.

By Chrystia Freeland
The Guardian (1/24/15)

Not so long ago, inequality was a dirty word. The experience of my friend Branko Milanovic, the world’s foremost expert on global income inequality, was typical. “I was once told by the head of a prestigious thinktank in Washington DC that the thinktank’s board was unlikely to fund any work that had income or wealth inequality in its title,” Milanovic recalled in his 2011 book on the subject.

These were the days when Mitt Romney said discussions of income inequality should be conducted only in quiet rooms and when an American private equity tycoon compared an effort to raise taxes on his industry to Hitler’s invasion of Poland. To mention the increasing concentration of wealth at the very top was to court accusations of class envy – indeed, in his 2011 book, even Bill Clinton admonished Barack Obama for his tone in talking to and about America’s super-rich. After my book, Plutocrats, was published in 2012, I was even – and I know this will shock you – disinvited to a Davos dinner party!

Just three years later, inequality hasn’t merely become a subject fit for polite company, it has become de rigueur. It was a central preoccupation at a conference on inclusive capitalism at the Mansion House and Guildhall last May. The event was organised by Lady Lynn de Rothschild and the opening speaker was Prince Charles. And at Davos, income inequality has gone from taboo to top of the agenda.

Plutocrats getting worried

There’s a good reason for this pivot. Rising inequality is becoming so pronounced it is impossible to ignore. The latest jaw-dropping statistic is Oxfam’s calculation that by next year, the top 1% will own more of the world’s wealth than the bottom 99%. What is less apparent is how those of us who have been worried about income inequality for a long time should respond to the embrace of this issue by the plutocrats themselves.

It is easy to be sceptical. But we should welcome the plutocratic critique of plutocracy. Here’s why. Surging income inequality is a symptom of a broader transformation in how capitalism is working in the 21st century. This change has brought tremendous benefits – it has helped to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in the emerging markets and provided cheaper goods and services, and many brand new ones, for us in the industrialised world. But it is also hollowing out the incomes and wealth of the western middle class, even as it enriches those at the very top.

This distributional shift is the great economic and political challenge of our time. It will tear some societies apart. The successful ones will be those that figure out how to solve it together.

The technology revolution, which has been turbo-charged by globalisation, is an economic upheaval comparable in its scale and scope to the Industrial Revolution. Just as the Industrial Revolution did not bring the end of farming, the technology revolution won’t bring the end of manufacturing. But just as the agricultural sector shrank as a share of the overall economy, particularly in terms of employment, the relative size of the industrial sector will decline, too.

Mike Moffatt, an economist at the Ivey School of  Business in London, Ontario, likes to use the example of Gary Works, in Indiana, to illustrate what is going on. It was once the world’s largest steel mill and remains the largest integrated steel mill in North America. At its postwar peak, Gary Works employed 30,000 people and could produce 6m tons of steel a year. Today, Gary can produce more than 7m tons of steel working at full capacity, but it takes just 5,000 workers to do that.

The same forces that have transformed Gary Works are changing every sphere of human activity. This isn’t just about the assembly line any more – 99% of us are, metaphorically, Gary steel workers.

The lucky 0.1% own a Gary Works or have invented the technologies that transformed them, and the rest of the top 1% work for them. Until now, these winners in our winner-take-all economy have backed a set of political measures – weaker unions, deregulation, lower taxes – which have exacerbated the distributional impact of the new economy.

It simply can’t hold

As even Davos Man has realised, that is not sustainable. The weak economic growth that much of the western industrialised world is currently experiencing suggests that an economic system that hollows out the middle class will struggle to grow. And the vicious political polarisation should make us worry that an economy that produces cheap goods but even cheaper jobs will ultimately erode mass democracy.

Some think a violent confrontation between the new economy’s winners and losers is inevitable. As Nick Hanauer, an American technology billionaire, warned last year: “If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us.” He’s right. After all, the last time we negotiated a comparable political and economic transition – the Industrial Revolution – it took economic depression, two world wars and communist revolutions in Russia and China before we were able to establish a new, economically and politically sustainable status quo.

That is a very high cost indeed. Which is why the smartest plutocrats understand it is in their best interest to work to build a 21st-century version of inclusive capitalism. For our own sakes, we should give them a chance to join the rest of us in figuring that out.

Chrystia Freeland, ex-deputy editor of the FT, is a Liberal MP in the Canadian parliament and author of Plutocrats (2012)

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Posted in 2015-01-29, Newsletter | Tagged , | Comments Off

A Whining Wall Street Crooked JPMorgan Banker Pleads For Pity


From his earliest days in high finance, Morgan was a hustler who often traded on the shady side. In the Civil War, for example, his family bought his way out of military duty, but he saw another way to serve. Himself, that is. Morgan bought defective rifles for $3.50 each and sold them to a Union general for $22 each. The rifles blew off soldiers’ thumbs, but Morgan pleaded ignorance, and government investigators graciously absolved the young, wealthy, well-connected financier of any fault.

With this long history of crime-does-pay for America’s largest Wall Street empire, you have to wonder why Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s CEO, is so P.O.’d.

By Jim Hightower
Nation Of Change (1/28/15)

J.P. Morgan was recently socked in the wallet by financial regulators who levied yet another multi-billion dollar fine against the Wall Street baron for massive illegalities.

Well, not a fine against John Pierpont Morgan, the man. This 19th-century robber baron was born to a great banking fortune and, by hook and crook, leveraged it to become the “King of American Finance.” During the Gilded Age, Morgan cornered the U.S. financial markets, gained monopoly ownership of railroads, amassed a vast supply of the nation’s gold and used his investment power to create U.S. Steel and take control of that market.

From his earliest days in high finance, Morgan was a hustler who often traded on the shady side. In the Civil War, for example, his family bought his way out of military duty, but he saw another way to serve. Himself, that is. Morgan bought defective rifles for $3.50 each and sold them to a Union general for $22 each. The rifles blew off soldiers’ thumbs, but Morgan pleaded ignorance, and government investigators graciously absolved the young, wealthy, well-connected financier of any fault.

That seems to have set a pattern for his lifetime of antitrust violations, union busting and other over-the-edge profiteering practices. He drew numerous official charges — but, of course, he never did any jail time.

Moving the clock forward, we come to JPMorgan Chase, today’s financial powerhouse bearing J.P.’s name. The bank also inherited his pattern of committing multiple illegalities — and walking away scot-free.

Oh, sure, the bank was hit with big fines, but not a single one of the top bankers who committed gross wrongdoings were charged or even fired — much less sent to jail.

With this long history of crime-does-pay for America’s largest Wall Street empire, you have to wonder why Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s CEO, is so P.O.’d.

He’s fed up to the tippy-top of his $100 haircut with all of this populistic attitude that’s sweeping the country, and he’s not going to take it anymore!

Dimon recently bleated to reporters that, “Banks are under assault.” Well, he really doesn’t mean or care about most banks — just his bank. Government regulators, snarls Jamie, are pandering to grassroots populist anger at Wall Street excesses by squeezing the life out of the JP Morgan casino.

But wait — didn’t JPMorgan score a $22 billion profit last year, a 20 percent increase over 2013 and the highest in its history? And didn’t those Big Bad Oppressive Government Regulators provide a $25 billion taxpayer bailout in 2008 to save Jamie’s conglomerate from its own reckless excess? And isn’t his Wall Street Highness raking in some $20 million in personal pay to suffer the indignity of this “assault” on his bank. Yes, yes and yes.

Still, Jamie says that regulators and bank industry analysts are piling on JPMorgan Chase: “In the old days,” he whined, “you dealt with one regulator when you had an issue. Now it’s five or six. You should all ask the question about how American that is,” the $20-million-a-year man lectured reporters, “how fair that is.”

Well, golly, one reason Chase has half a dozen regulators on its case is because it doesn’t have “an issue” of illegality, but beaucoup illegalities, including deceiving its own investors, cheating more than two million of its credit card customers, gaming the rules to overcharge electricity users in California and the Midwest, overcharging active-duty military families on their mortgages, illegally foreclosing on troubled homeowners and … well, so much more.

So Jamie, you should ask yourself the question about “how fair” is all of the above. Then you should shut up, count your millions and be grateful you’re not in jail.

From John Pierpont Morgan to Jamie Dimon, the legacy continues. Banks don’t commit crimes. Bankers do. And they won’t ever stop if they don’t have to pay for their crimes.

Posted in 2015-01-29, Newsletter | Comments Off