Clawing back the teeny tiny Wall St. reforms

Sen. Warren doesn’t seem real happy about this:

A week after a bipartisan group of lawmakers on the House Financial Services Committee overwhelmingly approved a rollback of certain financial reforms contained in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, one of the Senate’s biggest consumer advocates is pushing back.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) came out swinging against the repeal of new rules meant to regulate derivatives, the complex financial instruments that were at “the center of the storm” that caused the financial crisis. The rulesshouldn’t be weakened or repealed just because big banks want to see them eliminated, Warren argued Thursday, The Hill reports:

“The big banks won some battles and lost some battles during the financial regulatory debate in 2009 and 2010, but their tune never changed and their lobbying never let up,” she said. “It is dangerous for Congress to amend the derivatives provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act without at the same time taking accompanying steps to strengthen reform and maintain the law’s equilibrium.”

One rule the package of legislation advanced by the House committee would eliminate is a “push out” provision that would limit derivatives trading at banks that receive federal backing. Similar to the Volcker Rule, another provision Wall Street largely opposes, it is aimed at making taxpayer-backed banks safer to avoid crises similar to the one that thrust the United States into a recession and led to a bailout of major banks in 2008.

H/t DUI lawyer Kush Arora.

Takers, not makers?

Obviously a problem when you have an assembly line pushing people into the criminal “justice” (and of course I use the term ironically) system and they all need jobs:

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The City of Philadelphia shut down a career fair for ex-offenders today after an unexpected crowd of thousands showed up, résumés in hand.

There were lots of disppointed job seekers and potential employers this morning.

The city was expecting about 1,000 people to show up, but about three times that number were standing in a line that wrapped around the Municipal Services Building, across from City Hall.

And when someone jumped the line, order collapsed.

There was no yelling, no shoving — just 3,000 people all trying to get into the job fair at once.

Everett Gillison, the deputy mayor for public safety, says the space designated for the event could not handle the crowd, so they closed it down shortly after it began.

We have always been at war with Michael Kinsley’s smugness

spinach

Ah, poor Michael. His ability to blow smoke out his ass is nowhere near as amusing as it used to be, and people who used to tolerate him are no longer as patient as they used to be:

The best part of this sort of language about government spending — or, more accurately, about the government issuing bonds — is that it makes being working- and middle-class sound so much fun. Did you know it’s been a party, these last few decades? And Paul Krugman, irresponsibly, wants everyone to continue partying. What is wrong with that? It’s here that Kinsley reveals himself to be a member of the Scarborough school, the sorts of longtime Important Beltway Men who are simply pretty sure that austerity is superior to all alternatives because the government’s been making it too easy and comfortable for the rabble over the last generation or so. And as we all know after a party you have to starve yourself to death to atone.

This is the line everyone’s been quoting (and with good reason):

I don’t think suffering is good, but I do believe that we have to pay a price for past sins, and the longer we put it off, the higher the price will be.

I dunno, maybe an editor should’ve looked at that? It basically says “I don’t believe suffering is good but I do believe we deserve to suffer.” The editor should’ve also added a note explaining that Michael Kinsley turned into Joe Scarborough on his way back to his home planet.

The “we need our medicine” line always — literally always — actually means you need your medicine.

It is hugely embarrassing on a number of levels that this is the last line of Kinsley’s column: “They at least are talking about the spinach, while the Krugmanites are only talking about dessert.” First of all, spinach is actually pretty good if it’s prepared well. Maybe instead of “spinach” the metaphor for austerity should be “poison.” “We need to eat our poison to make up for how much cake we had before” is the austerian argument, more accurately put.
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U.S. transforms Catholic pacifists into terrorists

More progress from our constitutional law-loving administration!

In just ten months, the United States managed to transform an 82 year-old Catholic nun and two pacifists from non-violent anti-nuclear peace protestors accused of misdemeanor trespassing into federal felons convicted of violent crimes of terrorism. Now in jail awaiting sentencing for their acts at an Oak Ridge, TN nuclear weapons production facility, their story should chill every person concerned about dissent in the US.

Here is how it happened.

In the early morning hours of Saturday June 28, 2012, long-time peace activists Sr. Megan Rice, 82, Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, and Michael Walli, 63, cut through the chain link fence surrounding the Oak Ridge Y-12 nuclear weapons production facility and trespassed onto the property. Y-12, called the Fort Knox of the nuclear weapons industry, stores hundreds of metric tons of highly enriched uranium and works on every single one of the thousands of nuclear weapons maintained by the U.S.

“The truth will heal us and heal our planet, heal our diseases, which result from the disharmony of our planet caused by the worst weapons in the history of mankind, which should not exist. For this we give our lives — for the truth about the terrible existence of these weapons.” – Sr. Megan Rice

Describing themselves as the Transform Now Plowshares, the three came as non-violent protestors to symbolically disarm the weapons. They carried bibles, written statements, peace banners, spray paint, flower, candles, small baby bottles of blood, bread, hammers with biblical verses on them and wire cutters. Their intent was to follow the words of Isaiah 2:4: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

Sr. Megan Rice has been a Catholic sister of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus for over sixty years. Greg Boertje-Obed, a married carpenter who has a college age daughter, is an Army veteran and lives at a Catholic Worker house in Duluth Minnesota. Michael Walli, a two-term Vietnam veteran turned peacemaker, lives at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker house in Washington DC.

In the dark, the three activists cut through a boundary fence which had signs stating “No Trespassing.” The signs indicate that unauthorized entry, a misdemeanor, is punishable by up to 1 year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
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Question of the day

Why do political organizations get subsidized, anyway?

Jeffrey Tobin:

It’s important to review why the Tea Party groups were petitioning the I.R.S. anyway. They were seeking approval to operate under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. This would require them to be “social welfare,” not political, operations.

There are significant advantages to being a 501(c)(4). These groups don’t pay taxes; they don’t have to disclose their donors—unlike traditional political organizations, such as political-action committees. In return for the tax advantage and the secrecy, the 501(c)(4) organizations must refrain from traditional partisan political activity, like endorsing candidates.

[…] Particularly leading up to the 2012 elections, many conservative organizations, nominally 501(c)(4)s, were all but explicitly political in their work.

In every meaningful sense, groups like Americans for Prosperity were operating as units of the Republican Party. Democrats organized similar operations, but on a much smaller scale. (They undoubtedly would have done more, but they lacked the Republican base for funding such efforts.) So the scandal—the real scandal—is that 501(c)(4) groups have been engaged in political activity in such a sustained and open way.

Courtesy of medical malpractice attorney Thomas Soldan.

Just a little blood on that Gap shirt, no big deal

It’s disgusting, because their unwillingness to take even a small cut in profits means Americans have very few options when it comes to buying clothes that didn’t exploit people in other countries:

Nearly all U.S. clothing chains, citing the fear of litigation, declined to sign an international pact ahead of a Wednesday deadline, potentially weakening what had been hailed as the best hope for bringing about major reforms in low-wage factories in Bangladesh.

Companies including Wal-Mart, Gap, Target and J.C. Penney had been pressed by labor groups to sign the document in the wake of last month’s factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed at least 1,127 people. More than a dozen European retailers did so. But U.S. companies feared the agreement would give labor groups and others the basis to sue them in court.

[…] Supporters of the accord say that the U.S. companies are simply trying to dodge an extra cost.

“It’s a smokescreen,” Nova said. “The agreement doesn’t create any additional legal liability. Companies only have to meet the terms of the agreement.”

Other experts are similarly puzzled by the worries over arbitration.

“You have major British companies like Marks & Spencer and Tesco signing up, respected companies from a legal system that isn’t all that different from our own,” said Janice Bellace, a professor of legal studies and business ethics at theWharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “It’s not clear why the U.S. companies think it will be so different.”

U.S. retailers are facing pressure to improve their safety standards. Last week, the International Labor Rights Forum and United Students Against Sweatshops launched a “Gap Deathtraps” Web site with photos of the factory collapse, urging Gap to sign the retailing agreement.

‘Reform’ superintendent wants to abolish teacher seniority

What with Hite being a product of the Broad Foundation (which is where wealthy “reformers” train superintendents on how to strategically dismantle the school districts they’re groomed to take over), this does not surprise me. But it still infuriates me, and if I still had small children, I’d yank them out and home-school them rather than feed my kids to the for-profit school machine:

William R. Hite Jr. knows it’s a tough ask: $120 million from a state that historically views Philadelphia and its public schools “as a cesspool.”

So, the superintendent figures, the only way the nearly-broke Philadelphia School District is getting the cash it needs from state coffers is to end teacher seniority.

“If we stand any chance to get money from Harrisburg, it’s going to have to support something that is different from what we have now,” Hite told the Inquirer Editorial Board on Thursday, adding that legislators are unlikely to support a system where “individuals get another increase just because they’re remaining on the job another year.”

On the table is a budget so bleak that schools would not have counselors, books, or extracurriculars next year. To add even some of those basics back, Hite and the School Reform Commission have requested $304 million – the $120 million from Harrisburg plus $60 million from the city, with the rest in labor concessions.

Mayor Nutter this week proposed giving the district $95 million by taxing cigarettes at $2 per pack and raising the liquor-by-the-drink tax to 15 percent.

But that still leaves a big hole for Harrisburg to fill. And, Hite said, outside the city, “Philadelphia is thought of as a cesspool.”

People believe that the district operates inefficiently, wastes money, and “protects individuals that are not serving children,” Hite said.

Among legislators, “there’s no desire to support the status quo,” the superintendent said.

Status quo? The status quo is that almost half of Philadelphia public school students live in deep poverty — but we’re not supposed to talk about that anymore. We’re supposed to implement more standardized testing, and grade teachers on the results. Kind of like grading ER doctors on whether gunshot victims survive.

Hite has made no secret of his desire to end seniority in a new Philadelphia Federation of Teachers contract – saying the district ought to be valuing “the performance of individuals as it relates to outcomes for students vs. how long they’ve been in the position.” He also takes issue with the last in, first out provision that governs layoffs.

If successful, getting rid of seniority will accomplish exactly what Hite wants it to do. It will drive the most educated and experienced teachers into the suburban districts, or out of teaching entirely, so the schools can be left to the profit margins of Big Reform. God help us.

Scandal of the day

Now that the members of the corporate media are all playing the scandal game (Marco! Polo! Marco! Polo!), the New York Times has a “scandal” about Hillary Clinton’s adviser also working as a consultant.

Here’s the key fact:

Ms. Abedin reached her new working arrangement in June 2012, when she returned from maternity leave, quietly leaving her position as deputy chief of staff and becoming a special government employee, which is essentially a consultant. A State Department official said that change freed her from the requirement that she disclose her private earnings for the rest of the year on her financial disclosure forms. Still, during that period, she continued to be identified publicly in news reports as Mrs. Clinton’s deputy chief of staff.

Yes, she continued to be identified as such, most likely because the reporters didn’t know. Funnily enough, many, many federal workers are hired back as consultants because of deficit madness. Hmmm.

Benghazi

Just so we’re clear: The Benghazi “consulate” was actually a CIA black site, where they were holding people. That’s why the administration didn’t go into detail about it, the Republicans knew that and took advantage of that fact. Because they’re shameless, and they will do anything to smear Obama.

The real scandals don’t seem to bother anyone but us: Millions still unemployed or underemployed, kids burdened with school loans who can’t get jobs to pay them off, an enormous number of people on food stamps and no end in sight.

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