What do they say about karma? JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon has been an outspoken critic of Wall Street reform, often leading the torch-carrying mob in broadside attacks against Obama. It's amusing since Dimon was widely reported to have been in the final running to be Obama's Secretary of Treasury. (Not that he would have differed much from Geithner.) Even more so since Obama has been so easy on...
As Joe reported here, the Vatican has opened a new front on the war against women with a crackdown of the largest and most influential organization of nuns in the U.S., the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). From Joe's story, quoting the NY Times (please click to get the full picture): The Vatican has appointed an American bishop to rein in the largest and most...
Compared to a four-month period running from January to April last year, civilian deaths in Afghanistan are down 20 percent, according to the United Nations’ special envoy to Afghanistan Jan Kubis. After rising for five straight years, the drop in deaths will be welcome news for the U.S.-led coalition there and Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government, who are frequently at odds over civilian deaths. More than 3,000 civilians died in 2011, and May of that year was the deadliest month on record. Kubis speculated that the drop in deaths could be because of Western measures to limit them, but rights groups say the harsh winter may have played a part by stymying fighting.
Rep. Allen West (R-FL), no stranger to controversy, declared on Thursday that gay people are never fired because of their sexual orientation in the United States.
“That don’t happen out here in the United States of America,” West told ThinkProgress during an interview on Capitol Hill.
When we pressed the Florida congressman for clarification, he dismissed the importance of protecting LGBT people from discrimination. “I don’t see that as being a big issue with small businesses,” West said.
KEYES: What about something like a law that say that it’s illegal to hire or fire people because they’re gay?
WEST: That don’t happen out here in the United States of America.
KEYES: You don’t think people get fired because they’re gay?
WEST: Well, I don’t see that as being a big issue with small businesses. I sit on the Small Business Committee. You know what they’re concerned about? They’re concerned about onerous tax policy, regulatory policy, and lack of access to capital because Dodd-Frank is absolutely decimating small community banks.
Though West may not like to acknowledge it, workplace discrimination against LGBT people is very real. In 29 states, it is perfectly legal to fire you for being gay. This is not a mere prospect. Between eight and 17 percent of gay and transgender workers have been fired or not hired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; that rate more than doubles for gay and transgender people who have experienced workplace discrimination.
This is not the first time he has made offensive statements regarding the LGBT community. He called talk of equality and fairness “divisive” and “contrary” to American principles, opposed repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell because he reasoned that gay soldiers “can change behavior“, and called LGBT opposition to a speech of his “intolerable.”
io9′s Charlie Jane Anders has a typically intriguing interview with Jon Spaihts, the screenwriter who did the first drafts of Prometheus, and part of the discussion came down to the difference between rendering worlds and telling stories in video games and movies:
Storytelling in games has matured tremendously in the past decade. Some really great work has been done. But the design requirements are totally different, almost the opposite of filmic storytelling. The central character of a game is most often a cipher ? an avatar into which the player projects himself or herself. The story has to have a looseness to accommodate the player’s choices. This choose-your-own adventure quality is a challenge for storytellers and, I fear, militates against art.
A filmmaker is trying to make you look at something a certain way ? almost to force an experience on you. Think of the legendary directors, whose perspective is the soul of their art. It’s the opposite of a sandbox world. It’s a mind-meld with a particular visionary.
I’m actually curious if this, as well as production costs, are part of why it’s been so hard to adapt major video games into major motion pictures. There’s always uproar in fan communities about how true an adaptation is or isn’t to source material, and if the main character’s mostly a vehicle for a player, to project themselves into the game, it will be awfully hard to reconcile all of those private universes into a coherent whole that’s mostly satisfying to a majority of people. I know we all agree what Chell looks like, but I don’t know if anyone shares my idea of who Chell is.
Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoed a bill yesterday that would have created New Jersey’s insurance exchange program and extended health insurance to 1.3 million New Jersey residents. The governor insisted that his veto was because of the uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act, which requires states to set up the programs, despite the preliminary steps Christie has already taken to set up the program. But Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) accused Christie of using the veto as a pitch for why he should be Mitt Romney’s vice president candidate. “This was very clearly a message to Mitt Romney, saying, ‘Pick me, pick me,’” Hold said on a conference call this morning.
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon announced on a conference call yesterday that the bank suffered $2 billion in losses from a risky trade that turned sour. The trade dents Dimon’s case that Wall Street can responsibly manage itself and proves the need yet again for a strong Volcker Rule, which could largely ban such risky trades at federally-insured institutions.
?There were many errors, sloppiness and bad judgment,? Dimon said as the company?s stock fell in extended trading. ?These were egregious mistakes, they were self-inflicted.? Those errors, however, could have been prevented were it not for extensive lobbying efforts from banks like JPMorgan, which has spent nearly $10 million on lobbying since the beginning of 2011 (including nearly $2 million already this year). Dimon, in fact, was in Washington just last week to personally lobby the Federal Reserve to weaken the Volcker Rule.
Those lobbying efforts have worked. Dimon insists that the trade-gone-wrong was a hedge, not a proprietary bet, and as such would not be banned under Volcker. The only reason that’s true, however, is because Dimon is referring to the trade as a “hedge” to exploit a loophole Wall Street banks and their Republican allies helped insert into the watered-down version of the Volcker Rule that was included in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. That’s a loophole Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) have been trying, unsuccessfully, to close, as Bloomberg notes:
Levin and Merkley, in their February comment letter, pushed regulators to tighten the exemption for hedging, calling some of what may be allowed a ?major weakness? in the rule.
Dimon acknowledged that the losses would lead to scrutiny and calls for a tougher Volcker Rule yesterday, saying the blunder “plays right into the hands of a bunch of pundits out there.” What Dimon ignores, though, is that yesterday’s massive loss — big even by JPMorgan’s lofty standards — does in fact exemplify the need for such a rule. Banks for years have made billions in profits from risky bets like this one, but when too many of the deals went bad in 2008, they turned to taxpayers for a bailout.
Thursday’s events prove that Wall Street hasn’t learned its lesson from the last crisis, and that America’s too big to fail institutions are too irresponsible to avoid failure. The Volcker Rule, watered down as it may be, is aimed at preventing that. Unfortunately, Dimon and is Wall Street colleagues remain committed to making sure it won’t.
by Jeffrey Cavanagh
Even in the midst of an economic crisis, most European countries are staying committed to deploying renewable energy. But with demand starting to lag due to fiscal constraints, the region’s leaders are looking to large developing countries as growth markets for European companies.
A leaked version of the European Commission’s latest energy strategy shows how much importance leaders are putting on emerging markets: “All in all, renewable energy export opportunities will strongly depend on the elimination of trade barriers in and free access to key emerging renewable energy markets such as in China, India and Brazil.”
China is a growth market with the most potential for Europe.
Last week, energy ministers from all 27 EU member countries met with Chinese ministers and energy policy counterparts in Brussels to discuss energy security, sustainable urban development, and electricity market reform. The two sides agreed to set up an energy partnership and work toward more open market access and transparency.
During EU Commission President José Manuel Durão Barroso?s speech to Chinese leaders, Barroso expressed his strong support for a cooperative energy partnership between Europe and China:
The European Union and China are two of the global economy’s main actors, indeed the EU as the largest single market with a value of 12.6 trillion euros and China as the second largest economy in the world with national income of 5.2 trillion euros, respectively?We are both global stakeholders. Although we have had very different pasts, one thing is clear: We share to a large extent a common future, a future which will be determined by the manner in which we use the resources of our planet.
Leaders from both sides stressed the importance of Sino-EU relations, a partnership that recorded a record high trade volume of $567 billion in 2011. This represented more than $1.5 billion in daily trade.
China has accelerated its renewable energy investments, investing over $45 billion in the sector in 2011. This represented a 95 percent increase over the previous five years. China?s 12th Five Year Plan similarly calls for aggressive renewable energy spending and development, opening up the largest market for renewable energy in the world.
Barroso pressed China to give European companies more competitive access to Chinese markets. An effective energy relationship, he noted, requires ?guaranteeing a ?level playing field,? including open and non-discriminatory access to our respective markets.? The Obama Administration has expressed similar needs to leaders in Beijing in order to give American companies easier access to Chinese consumers.
In an op-ed penned by Li prior to his trip, the Vice-Premier offered unequivocal support for European integration, and presented an optimistic outlook for future Sino-EU relations. Europe, Li writes, is a ?strategic partner,? and China is ready ?to work with Europe to ensure ? China and Europe can progress and develop together.?
Developing together also means working through some sticky disagreements — most notably over Europe’s emissions trading scheme that would penalize Chinese airlines flying into the region. China is a vocal opponent of the EU ETS and has even threatened retaliatory measures.
Another issue is how to finance the Green Climate Fund. The planned global relief fund was launched during last year?s climate change summit in Durban, and would provide $100 billion per year in adaptation and mitigation funding by 2020. It was a key bargaining chip for China to consider future negotiations over binding carbon-reduction targets. But financial problems have left European countries unsure how they’re going to fulfill commitments to the fund after 2013.
There are a lot of moving parts to a clean energy relationship between Europe and China. But ultimately, the economic potential for both parties is too great to avoid pursuing.
Jeffrey Cavanagh is an intern on the energy team at the Center for American Progress.
Can anyone, with a straight face and in all seriousness, still insist that financial markets should be free from regulation and the Volcker Rule is a bad idea and represents an undue burden on the poor, put-upon financial class after this?
JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said the firm suffered a $2 billion trading loss after an "egregious" failure in a unit managing risks, jeopardizing Wall Street banks' efforts to loosen a federal ban on bets with their own money.
The firm's chief investment office, run by Ina Drew, 55, took flawed positions on synthetic credit securities that remain volatile and may cost an additional $1 billion this quarter or next, Dimon told analysts yesterday. Losses mounted as JPMorgan tried to mitigate transactions designed to hedge credit exposure.
"There were many errors, sloppiness and bad judgment," Dimon said as the company's stock fell in extended trading. "These were grievous mistakes, they were self-inflicted."
The chief investment office was thrust into the debate over U.S. efforts to ban proprietary trading when Bloomberg News reported last month that the unit had taken bets so big that JPMorgan, the largest and most profitable U.S. bank, probably couldn't unwind them without losing money or roiling financial markets. Dimon, 56, had transformed the unit in recent years to make bigger and riskier speculative trades with the bank's money, five former employees said.
Dimon had defended the unit as a "sophisticated" guardian of the bank's funds on an April 13 conference call, calling news coverage "a complete tempest in a teapot." On May 2, he led fellow Wall Street CEOs in a closed-door meeting to lobby the Federal Reserve about softening proposed U.S. reforms that might crimp their profits.
As far as I am concerned - and I make no secret of the fact that I favor a 70% top marginal tax rate and severe regulation of financial and insurance markets that would put executives in jail for a long, long time for infractions - hell, I am anti-death penalty, but I would seriously think about using it for sociopaths like these pinstripe-wearing thugs.
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A solar power company called SunRun has unveiled these brilliant new ads. The company will put solar panels on your home for little or no up-front payment, take care of all the maintenance, and sell you the energy at a rate that's not just competitive with or lower than energy produced by huge, expensive, centralized power plants, but locked in no matter how high non-renewable resource prices spike.
The service is available in 10 states, but not Virginia, because if anyone tries to help Virginians lower their energy rates, cut their carbon footprints and gain independence from giant polluting power corporations, they can expect to get dragged into court by Dominion Virginia Power with the tacit approval of Virginia's elected officials.
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