Or reelection Kabuki?

The Justice Department has initiated a criminal probe into the $2 billion trading loss at JPMorgan Chase, a law enforcement representative familiar with the situation said Tuesday.

The inquiry is at a very early stage, said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter is private.

Many details about the loss at JPMorgan are murky, so it is unclear what laws, if any, may have been violated. But the attention from federal officials indicates that regulatory pressure is rising on JPMorgan, and its chief executive Jamie Dimon, to explain what exactly led to the bank’s multi-billion dollar misstep. That, in turn, has rekindled questions about whether government regulators are equipped to monitor banks making risky, complex trades.

VA Republicans block judicial nominee because he’s gay

While the Republican Congressional caucus seems to have figured out that being perceived as anti-gay is a loser for them, the extremists with which the Republicans have filled the ranks of their state houses continue to act like the anti-gay bigots they are. Consider this vote against an openly-gay prosecutor in the wacky state of Virginia:

Virginia’s Republican-controlled House rejected the judicial nomination of a gay Richmond prosecutor early Tuesday morning, plunging the critical swing state into the middle of the national debate about the civil rights of gay Americans.

The prosecutor, Tracy Thorne-Begland, a former fighter pilot and Navy officer, failed to garner the majority of the 100-member House of Delegates that was required to secure the judgeship. Lawmakers in the House of Delegates voted 33 to 31 to support him, with 10 abstentions.

The vote, which took place after 1 a.m., after a number of delegates had already gone home, took lawmakers by surprise. Mr. Thorne-Begland’s candidacy had broad bipartisan support from the Courts of Justice Committee, which is charged with vetting judicial appointments, and many lawmakers assumed his appointment would be approved. Indeed, seven Republicans voted in favor of his candidacy.

But Mr. Thorne-Begland, 45, ultimately failed to draw the votes after lobbying from both the Family Foundation, a powerful conservative group that opposed his candidacy, and conservative lawmakers, who argued that his past indicated that he would press an activist agenda from the bench.

The rejection comes as the country is in the midst of a roiling debate over same-sex marriage that has placed the civil rights of gays and lesbians in the national spotlight. Last week, President Obama said he supported same-sex couples’ right to marry, a position that set off a frenzy of political soul-searching as Republicans and Democrats staked out their own positions. States, meanwhile, have been passing legislation banning same-sex marriage, most recently North Carolina last week. Others, including New York and Maryland, have passed laws legalizing it.

Mr. Thorne-Begland disclosed his sexual orientation as a naval officer nearly 20 years ago during an appearance on ABC’s “Nightline,” in a challenge to the military’s ban on service by homosexuals. He was discharged honorably from the Navy after the disclosure, reinstated by a federal court, and then discharged again under the subsequent “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. He also served on the board of Equality Virginia, a gay rights nonprofit group.

“The only conclusions I can come to is that he was not supported because he was gay,” said Delegate Charniele Herring, a Democrat who voted for him.

But conservatives, including Delegate Bob Marshall, a Republican from Prince William County, argued that those aspects of his biography meant that he would not be able to be impartial, and might even engage in activism, if he became a judge. Mr. Marshall, together with several fellow Republicans from his county, a number of them former military men, led the charge against Mr. Thorne-Begland on Tuesday morning.

Would not be able to be “impartial,” and might even engage in “activism.” If only he were active in the Federalist Society, or his partner was a lobbyist for the Tea Party, no one would say a peep. (You know, like Tony Scalia, Clarence Thomas or Sam Alito?) I just can’t remember any prominent Republicans expressing any concern about impartiality, or judicial activism from this gang but since we’re now in Bizarro World, it’s very possible that I blinked, and missed it.

Tom Morello

My hero Tom Morello will be on Moyers this weekend:

Songs of social protest — music and the quest for justice — have long been intertwined, and the troubadours of troubling times — Guthrie, Seeger, Baez, Dylan, and Springsteen among them — have become famous for their dedication to both. Now we can add a name to the ranks of those who lift their voices for social and economic justice: Tom Morello.

Morello, who will be Bill’s guest on Moyers & Company this weekend (check local listings), is the Harvard-educated guitarist who dabbled in politics, then chose rock music to make a difference. He played guitar for the popular band he co-founded — Rage Against the Machine — and then for Audioslave. Rolling Stone chose his album “World Wide Rebel Songs” as one of the best of 2011, and named him one of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.

As likely to be spotted at a grass-roots rally as he would at a concert hall, Morello was in Madison, Wisconsin last year, braving bitter winter weather to sing on the steps on the state capitol in support of public service workers. Morello defended their collective bargaining rights against Republican Governor Scott Walker.

He was in New York City at the May Day demonstrations, an honorary commander of a battalion of musicians they called the “Occupy Guitarmy.” That same night, Harry Belafonte presented Morello with the Officers’ Award from the Sidney Hillman Foundation, honoring his “advocacy for and support of working people across the world.”

Aimee Copeland…..

This is such a tragic story. It is hard for me to write about it.

I lived in Carroll County in West Georgia, not only during my college years, but in my young adult life up to middle age. It is a beautiful place and I studied Geology and Earth Science at “West College.” I walked the area with my professors as well as with my archeology friends to learn all the ancient stuff. I also took a six pack to relax in its nature, too.  The vegetation is lush and thick, a fairy land. From the time I moved there from Atlanta in 1978 until I left in 1997, playing in the many creeks, rivers and reservoirs was just warm weather fun. Jumping rocks and rope swings to hit the cool water was a natural pastime. Sitting in rapid pools on Snake Creek was my jacuzzi when I had a hard week at the restaurant. But, even in the fall and winter, walking the woods was such a treat and there are plenty places to walk.

Aimee Copeland, obviously, loves the area as much as I do. She did the same fun playing as (I hope) many students at UWG have enjoyed for years. She is a graduate student at UWG Humanistic Psychology Department.  But, an accident on a home made zipline on the Little Tallapoosa River changed all that. She fell and hit something and her wound, at some point, was infected with Aeromonas hydrophila, a flesh eating bacteria.

Her bio from the the College:

Aimee is a masters student here at University of West Georgia Psychology. It is a program that attracts students who are seeking a psychology with heart. With Maslow’s Humanistic Psychology as our foundation, we explore existential-phenomenological and transpersonal, amongst other, approaches to understanding the human experience.  Aimee was attracted to this program because she sees psyche and spirit as inseparable.  She feels that psychology divorced from spirituality is “reductionistic,” and is missing the greater Unity of Existence; that humans are not things or objects, yet rather are an inseparable part of the Web of Life.  We are no different that the leaf which has no separate existence from the tree, from the ecosystem, and from the totality of Existence itself- whatever you may call it (i.e. God, Gaia, All, Cosmos.)

She has lost a leg. She is fighting. Aimee has also lost her fingers.

I don’t know if this is a water quality issue or not. I lived next to and swam in the Little Tallapoosa River for years.But, I bet it is a water issue.

I love her idea about nature and the humans. I have felt that way for a long time, but, I bet she could articulate it better than I could.

Good speed, Aimee….

Debtors prison

I could be wrong, but I think this law may be unconstitutional. I think it’s pretty settled case law that they have to prove you owe the money – but then again, the world’s turning upside down, so who knows?

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has approved legislation making it easier for debt collectors to go after defaulting consumers and small businesses.
Brewer signed House Bill 2664 into law today. The measure allows collection agencies to use final billing statements as a basis to show amounts owed and interest rates as they seek court judgments and wage garnishments.

The bill was favored by debt collectors, which buy delinquent accounts from banks and credit card companies for pennies on the dollar, but receive only minimal information from those sources. It can be difficult and expensive for the collection companies to get additional information on the defaulting consumers and business owners.

Debt collectors’ business model depends on them collecting money from the account holders whose information they buy. The new state law makes it easier on them if they can obtain final billing statements from the banks and credit card issuers.

Basically, they make shit up. But so much for law and order in Arizona!

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