Puppet MastersS

Dollar

Obama financial forms show big JP Morgan account

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Maybe it's a case of putting your mouth where your money is.

President Barack Obama praised JP Morgan Chase in an interview recorded Monday as "one of the best managed banks there is" and its CEO, Jamie Dimon, as "one of the smartest bankers we got." On Tuesday, the White House made public financial disclosure forms showing the president and First Lady Michelle Obama had between $500,001 and $1,000,000 in a "JP Morgan Chase Private Client Asset Management Checking Account."

The annual peek into the Obamas' finances showed that the president held between $1,000,001 and $5,000,000 in U.S. Treasury Notes, generating between $5,001 and $15,000 in interest. They also held between $500,001-$1,000,000 in Treasury Bills.

Dollar

The JPMorgan debacle: Dictatorship of the financial aristocracy

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Snake in a suit? JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon
The economic and political fallout from JPMorgan Chase's sudden announcement last Thursday night that it lost more than $2 billion from speculative bets on credit derivatives continued to grow on Monday. The biggest US bank announced the forced retirement of Ina Drew, who headed up the bank's London-based Chief Investment Office, which placed huge bets on the creditworthiness of a collection of US corporations. Other top executives and traders are expected to be sacked or demoted.

The bank's shares fell another 3.2 percent, bringing its two-day market capitalization loss to nearly $19 billion. The Wall Street Journal reported that JPMorgan was prepared for a total loss of more than $4 billion over the next year from its soured stake in credit default swaps - the same investment vehicle that played a central role in the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the government bailout of insurance giant American International Group (AIG) in September of 2008.

In an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" program on Sunday, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon sought to present the loss as an innocent mistake, resulting from "errors, sloppiness and bad judgment." Only a month ago, Dimon, who has led the public campaign by Wall Street against even the mildest restrictions on speculative banking practices, dismissed warnings over the massive bets being made by his Chief Investment Office as "a complete tempest in a teapot."

Coffee

Why JP Morgan's $2 Billion Gambling Loss at Will NOT Speed Financial Reform

American Casino
Among the more laughable features of commentaries on Jamie Dimon's recently revealed $2 billion (at least) gambling losses are earnest pronouncements that the debacle will stymie the efforts by Dimon and Wall Street in general to further deregulate the financial industry.

A scheduled vote this coming Thursday in the House Agriculture Committee should reassure Wall Street that nothing has changed.

Bad Guys

Best of the Web: Perverted Justice: The Rise of Secret Trials in America

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One of the lasting challenges to America's federal judiciary will be addressing American complicity in the tortures and disappearances of the past ten years. Two recent appeals-court decisions show us how judicial panels are tackling these issues: by shielding federal officials and their contractors from liability, and even by glorifying the fruits of their dark arts. In the process, legal prohibitions on torture are being destroyed through secrecy and legal sleight of hand, and our justice system is being distorted and undermined.

War Whore

Best of the Web: Vote for Endless War: In 2012, whoever gets elected, its the Pentagon that wins

US troops
© Getty

Let's start with this: according to the Pentagon, the production and acquisition costs of Lockheed Martin's F-35 fighter jet, the military's most expensive weapons program, have risen yet again, this time by 4.3% since 2010 to $395.6 billion. If you're talking about the total cost of the system, including maintenance and support for the nearly 2,500 planes that will some (endlessly delayed) day be produced for the military, that has now reached an estimated $1.51 trillion, a 9% rise since 2010. All this for a plane that some experts doubt has any particular purpose in the future U.S. arsenal.

Bad Guys

The Corruption of Science: How Corporations Like Monsanto Have Hijacked Higher Education

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© Shutterstock/mostafa fawzy
Academic research is often dictated by corporations that endow professorships, give money to universities, and put their executives on education boards.

Here's what happens when corporations begin to control education.

"When I approached professors to discuss research projects addressing organic agriculture in farmer's markets, the first one told me that 'no one cares about people selling food in parking lots on the other side of the train tracks,'" said a PhD student at a large land-grant university who did not wish to be identified. "My academic adviser told me my best bet was to write a grant for Monsanto or the Department of Homeland Security to fund my research on why farmer's markets were stocked with 'black market vegetables' that 'are a bioterrorism threat waiting to happen.' It was communicated to me on more than one occasion throughout my education that I should just study something Monsanto would fund rather than ideas to which I was deeply committed. I ended up studying what I wanted, but received no financial support, and paid for my education out of pocket."

Unfortunately, she's not alone. Conducting research requires funding, and today's research follows the golden rule: The one with the gold makes the rules.

War Whore

Best of the Web: Meet the 'new normal': Fordham University to give Honorary 'Doctorate in Humane Letters' to Kidnap, Torture and Drone Killings Advocate John Brennan

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White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan
In this season of graduations - and the rush to bestow honorary degrees on the "great and powerful" - one ironic moment will play out at Fordham University, where Jesuits are giving top billing among its honorees to White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan, notes Fordham grad (and ex-CIA analyst) Ray McGovern.

Since even readers of the New York Times are aware of deputy national security adviser John Brennan's open identification with torture, secret prisons and other abuses of national and international law, Fordham University's invitation to him to give the commencement address on May 19 brought, well, shock and awe to many Fordham students, faculty and alumni.

It now turns out we didn't know the half of it. Piling outrage upon indignity, Fordham announced this week that Brennan will enjoy pride of place among the "eight notables" on whom it will confer honorary degrees at commencement. The others receiving a Doctorate in Humane Letters, honoris causa, include Timothy Cardinal Dolan (Archbishop of New York), and Brooklyn congressman Edolphus Towns.

Unlike his co-recipients, Brennan is widely known for his advocacy of kidnapping-for-torture (aka "extraordinary rendition") and killing "militants" (including U.S. citizens) with "Hellfire" missiles fired by "Predator" and "Reaper" drone aircraft.

USA

Henry Kissinger Receives Full TSA Pat-Down at Airport

Kissinger
© The Associated Press/Andy WongKissinger at a summit in Beijing, June 25, 2011.
Henry Kissinger was searched by the Transportation Security Administration at New York's LaGuardia Airport on Monday.

Matthew Cole, a freelance reporter for The Washington Post, recognized the former secretary of state, who was in a wheelchair, at a security checkpoint. The 88-year-old Kissinger, Cole said, got a "full pat-down."

"He stood with his suit jacket off, and he was wearing suspenders," Cole told the Post's "In the Loop" blog. "They gave him the full pat-down. None of the agents seemed to know who he was."

In March, the TSA said it would begin testing a program that would allow passengers 75 and older to keep their shoes and light jackets on as they pass through security. But the TSA said that older passengers may still be subject to normal screening procedures if the full-body scanners detect any anomalies.

Info

Conservatives End Four Years of Denial, Plead Guilty to Illegal Campaign Spending

Stephen Harper
As court orders maximum fine of $52,000, Liberals ask: Did Tories buy their victory?

It was a case that dragged on for years amid rumour, speculation and finally formal charges that accused Stephen Harper's Tory party of a financial sleight-of-hand that allowed it to illegally overspend on campaign advertising.

Now, after four years of denying that it broke the rules on election spending during the 2006 campaign, the federal Conservative Party has admitted that it overspent on ads in the vote that brought Harper to power.

On Thursday, the party and its fundraising arm pleaded guilty of spending more than the $18.3-million legal limit and of filing an election return that failed to report all the expenses it incurred.

The court levied the maximum fine possible: $52,000. Tory spokesmen dismissed the whole mess as an "administrative dispute." The NDP said the ruling party had undermined democracy and it demanded an apology; the Liberals called it an "administrative scam" and speculated that Harper's party may have bought him an election.

The Canadian Press has the latest details:

Ottawa -- The Conservatives are being accused of buying victory in the 2006 election that brought Stephen Harper to power, after pleading guilty Thursday to exceeding their campaign spending limit and failing to report all advertising expenses.

The Conservative party and its fundraising agency both pleaded guilty to two counts of violating the Elections Act and agreed to pay maximum fines totalling $52,000.

Die

Curtain Closes on 'Unpopular' Sarkozy Presidency

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France's outgoing President Nicolas Sarkozy came to power in May 2007 on a promise to change French politics, but his approval rating soon sank as the French grew to dislike his brash behaviour and extravagant style.


Outgoing President Nicolas Sarkozy is leaving office as one of the most unpopular presidents in France's history and with the unwelcome distinction of being only the second French head of state to fail to win re-election since World War Two.

Sarkozy, who has suggested he will quit politics when he steps down on May 15, has kept a low profile and avoided encounters with the media in the last days of his five-year mandate.

The subdued finale has contrasted sharply with the boisterous presence that people have grown to expect - and to dislike.

"Sarkozy's approval rating went through several different phases, but it was often under 30% and taken as a whole was the lowest we've recorded for any [French] president," said Eric Bonnet, head of opinion surveys for the French polling firm BVA.

Sarkozy's "bling-bling" style was not the only thing the French loved to loathe. Many disillusioned voters felt Sarkozy had failed to deliver on campaign promises and that several of the reforms he championed, such as pushing the retirement age from 60 to 62 years and offering tax breaks to France's wealthy, were unjust.