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You Didn’t Hear That

I hoped that there would be a huge public outcry about what happened to Carmen Segarra, but so far it has been all but ignored by the mainstream media. Have you ever wondered how all our banks and financial institutions started failing, forcing us to bail them out, and nobody saw it coming? If yes, then read on.

In the aftermath of the “great recession” people wanted to know why the Federal Reserve, which was originally put in place to prevent meltdowns, had failed miserably. The problem was that the culture at the Fed was completely deferential to the banks. To solve this problem, the Fed hired a bunch of expert bank examiners who weren’t afraid to force banks to follow the law. One of them was Carmen Segarra. She was highly qualified for the job, and set out to do exactly what was asked of her to prevent another economic meltdown. Her task was to help regulate Goldman Sachs.

But after only seven months, she was fired. The Fed claimed it was for “performance problems“, but what they didn’t know is that Segarra had run smack into the deferential culture she was hired to change. Knowing this, she had purchased a small audio recorder and had recorded 46 hours of meetings.

Excerpts of those recordings were broadcast on National Public Radio.

The recordings document just how deferential the people whose job it is to regulate the banks can be to those banks. For example, in one meeting a Goldman employee says “once clients are wealthy enough certain consumer laws don’t apply to them.” In other words, laws don’t apply to the rich. After the meeting, Segarra says to a fellow Fed regulator how surprised she was by that statement, and the regulator replies “You didn’t hear that.

In other tapes, Segarra’s managers try to get her to water down her reports on Goldman, and even try to get her to be more deferential to Goldman, the very thing she was hired to get rid of.

As an article in Bloomberg puts it:

1. You sort of knew that the regulators were more or less controlled by the banks. Now you know.

2. The only reason you know is that one woman, Carmen Segarra, has been brave enough to fight the system. She has paid a great price to inform us all of the obvious. She has lost her job, undermined her career, and will no doubt also endure a lifetime of lawsuits and slander.

So what are you going to do about it? At this moment the Fed is probably telling itself that, like the financial crisis, this, too, will blow over.

In the aftermath of the broadcast of these tapes, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown both called for full congressional hearings.

With so many politicians in the pocket of the big banks, do you think we will get these hearings?

Only if we insist.

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Late Night Political Humor

“North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made his first public appearance yesterday in over 40 days. But since he saw his shadow, that now means 60 more years of nuclear winter.” – Jimmy Fallon

“For the last two months evil North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has been missing. Well, apparently he is back in public. It turns out he was buried in the end zone at Giants Stadium. He claims he was kidnapped by Neil Patrick Harris.” – David Letterman

“In North Korea, dictator Kim Jong Un made his first public appearance in over a month. He’s put on weight and he’s carrying a cane. Kim Jong Un is a top hat and a monocle away from being a Batman villain at this point.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un resurfaced yesterday after more than a month out of the public eye. U.S. officials think that the reason no one saw him for so long is that he was starring in an NBC sitcom.” – Seth Meyers

“Dictator Kim Jong Un is back. He’d been missing. No one knew where he was. No one had seen him for a long time. It was like he was hosting a talk show at 12:30 on CBS.” – Craig Ferguson

“Today the Obama administration announced the 140 people selected from across the country to participate in the fall White House internship program. Unlike the White House itself, the internship program is very hard to get into.” – Seth Meyers

“A new study has revealed that the reading level of presidential speeches has dropped significantly over the last 200 years. Or as Americans put it, ‘Why dat?'” – Jimmy Fallon

“On this day in 1912, President Teddy Roosevelt was shot, declined to go to the hospital, and gave a 90-minute speech with a bullet in his chest. Then on this day in 2012, I spent the whole day on WebMD because my eyelid wouldn’t stop twitching.” – Seth Meyers

“Here in New York City we are ranked as the fourth most rat-populated city in North America. We can do better than fourth, can’t we?” – David Letterman

“Because of health scares, they will be taking your temperature at airport security. Well, that should speed up lines.” – David Letterman

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Human Assets!

Republicans oppose raising the minimum wage because they claim that it will cost jobs. Despite the fact that there is plenty of evidence of the opposite. After all, if working-class people earn more money, they spend it. If rich people make more money, they send it to offshore tax havens!

But here’s something interesting. An article in The Atlantic points out that companies that pay higher wages actually survived the last recession far better than those that pay minimum wage. It sounds counter-intuitive, but if you think about it, it isn’t really.

For example, consider QuikTrip, a chain of combination convenience stores and gas stations. That’s a job that practically screams minimum wage. But while the average cashier in the US makes just over $20,000 a year, QuickTrip pays their entry-level employees $40,000 a year plus benefits! How did that work out? During the recession, while most low-cost retailers were shutting down stores and laying off employees, QuikTrip was was expanding to new locations and hiring more workers.

Or consider Trader Joes and Costco Wholesale, which are both companies known for their low low prices. But both of them pay wages far above average. Why? Because when a company pays workers a decent wage, they are rewarded with lower turnover. That in turn lowers training costs, increases efficiency, and increases sales. At QuikTrip, sales per square foot are 50% higher than the average convenience store chain. And when your employees are happier they do their jobs better, and that naturally translates into happier, more loyal customers.

When financial times are tough, too many companies make the mistake of trying to save money by cutting back on employees. That’s what happened to Borders and Circuit City. Both companies responded to the recession by cutting staff — and both ultimately went bankrupt.

What’s really ironic about this is that many of these same companies that are trying to save money by cutting workers salaries and benefits are simultaneously raising how much they pay their top executives. They think that they have to pay top dollar for a CEO in order to do better as a company.

The evidence shows that they have it completely backward.

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Late Night Political Humor

“President Obama played his 200th round of golf yesterday. Then Democrats said, ‘You know what? He can do whatever he wants as long as he’s not trying to campaign for us.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“Last week was the big fundraiser for President Obama hosted by Gwyneth Paltrow. It was hosted at her house. And people say Obama never reaches out to the inner city.” – Craig Ferguson

“A fundraiser at Gwyneth Paltrow’s house was a good idea for the president. He found the one person in America with lower approval ratings than his.” – Craig Ferguson

“Gwyneth Paltrow told the president he was so handsome that she couldn’t speak properly. I wish Obama would get a little bit more handsome so she would shut up forever.” – Craig Ferguson

“Gwyneth Paltrow’s neighbors were very upset because they didn’t know about the fundraiser beforehand. Wow, that’s the first time the Secret Service managed to keep a secret. Take that, people who can have me killed!” – Craig Ferguson

“President Obama was in California over the weekend to attend a fundraiser hosted by the creator of ‘Farmville’. Obama and the creator of ‘Farmville’ have a lot in common. They both really wish it was still 2009.” – Jimmy Fallon

“A lot of people have a three-day weekend because of Columbus Day. In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue and 522 years later a lot of people still get Monday off to celebrate. No one’s received more credit for getting lost than Christopher Columbus in the history of mankind.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“As the story goes, Columbus was aiming for India, wound up in the Caribbean, and Americans have been terrible at geography ever since.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Last week North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un missed a ceremony marking the 69th anniversary of the country. Experts say it’s especially strange because he knew cake would be there.” – Seth Meyers

“Nobody knows where he is but the U.S. national security adviser says there is no evidence that Kim Jong Un has been overthrown. If anything, he was probably just tipped over.” – Seth Meyers

“Vladimir Putin was nominated but did not win the Nobel Peace Prize. Earlier today he said, ‘Who do I have to kill to win a Nobel Peace Prize?'” – David Letterman

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Electoral Strategy

Steve Sack
copy; Steve Sack

To be honest, I don’t really fault the Republicans for doing these things. After all, we know how to get rid of things like gerrymandering. And our founding fathers didn’t even guarantee the vote to a majority of US citizens (women, slaves, non-landowners, and others), and for some reason set election day to be a weekday day (and didn’t make it a holiday).

If we really want to make good on the promise of “one person, one vote” we need to do something about it.

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Late Night Political Humor

“It’s reported that President Obama may take executive action to shut down the prison in Guantanamo Bay. It will backfire when the terrorists there say, ‘We’re not going out there. Those new terrorists are scary! I got four meals a day here and I get my nails done. I like it here.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“President Obama may close the Guantanamo prison. When asked how he plans on letting the prisoners out, Obama said, ‘I’ll replace all the guards with Secret Service agents.’ They’ll just wander out.” – Jimmy Fallon

“The administration now has a name for the war against ISIS. Every military operation has to have a name so people can get behind it, and they now have a name for the war against ISIS – Operation Hillary’s Problem.” – David Letterman

“You know who they haven’t seen in a while, Kim Jung Un, evil dictator of North Korea. They haven’t seen him in, like, six weeks. He’s probably spending more time executing his family.” – David Letterman

“This is kind of weird. This week Obama criticized the GOP for being the party of billionaires — while he was speaking at a fundraiser at a billionaire’s house!” – Jimmy Fallon

“I don’t see how that story could get any worse. But did you see the name of that billionaire? He was Rich Richman. Are you kidding me? Rich Richman is the guy’s name? That sounds like a Batman villain. Rich Richman? Come on. Obama would have stayed longer, but he was late for his lunch with Dollars McMoneybags.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Today is the birthday of White House dog Bo. He had a wonderful party at the White House — only three intruders … I believe Bo is actually now distancing himself from the president … It’s a bittersweet day for Bo because he was recently trashed in Leon Panetta’s book.” – David Letterman

“Right around the corner is the midterm elections. There’s an anti-incumbent mood in the country. People are sick and tired of people who have been in the job too long and are lazy and overpaid and out of ideas. Wait a minute. I’m sorry. That’s me.” – David Letterman

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Happy Hallowe’en!

Tom Toles
© Tom Toles

Are you scared yet?

I always expected that people would eventually get tired of all the fear tactics and start ignoring them, but Fox News is still popular, and the upcoming election seems to indicate that fear still works.

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Smokin’ Irony!

Reynolds American, the maker of Camel cigarettes and the second-largest producer of tobacco products in the US, has decided to ban smoking from its corporate offices. A corporate spokesman says “We’re well aware that there will be folks who see this as an irony, but we believe it’s the right thing to do and the right time to do it.”

Not only that, but the CEO of Reynolds is urging the FDA to take faster action in regulating e-cigarettes. Yes, the company who used cartoon characters in a despicable attempt to get more children addicted to smoking, knowingly lied for years about the dangers of smoking, and bitterly fought regulation of its products is now complaining about lack of regulation.

So what’s really going on? I think tobacco companies are trying to promote their e-cigarettes, which look and feel like traditional cigarettes, but instead heat up liquid nicotine to generate a vapor that is inhaled directly by the smoker. Because they don’t produce any smoke from burning tobacco, they avoid some of the problems of traditional cigarettes, like second-hand smoke.

So while Reynolds is banning traditional cigarettes, it will still allow e-cigarettes. Could they be using the apparent irony of banning traditional cigarettes to help promote their new product? Indeed, the tobacco industry has been touting the health benefits of converting smokers to the new technology of e-cigarettes.

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Profiles in Irony

Thom Tillis, Republican candidate for the US Senate in North Carolina.

Last year, as Speaker of the assembly in North Carolina, Tillis led the fight to pass a bill rejecting Medicaid expansion (a key part of Obamacare). According to Tillis “An expansion of Medicaid would cost North Carolina taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars through 2021.” He also said “If these liberal activists were truly serious about reducing the cost of health insurance, they would be in Washington protesting Obamacare, an abomination that has caused insurance premiums to skyrocket for working families.”

Tillis backed efforts in the Senate that led to the government shutdown, saying “I believe Obamacare is a mortal threat to our economy. It will decrease healthcare quality and raise healthcare premiums and Republicans should do everything in our power to undo it.” In his current campaign for the Senate, his website calls Obamacare “a cancer on our national economy.” During the primary, he boasted in TV ads that he “stopped Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion cold. It’s not happening in North Carolina, and it’s because of Thom Tillis.”

But now, his opponent in the Senate race has been winning supporters by blasting him for opposing Medicaid expansion, so what does Tillis do? He appears on TV and claims that the state should consider expanding Medicaid. He even said that he doesn’t have any ideological objection to expanding the coverage.

As recently as August, Tillis was still claiming that he absolutely wanted to repeal Obamacare, but was starting to hedge his bets, talking about a transition period and maybe keeping some components of the law.

At least on some issues, Tillis is being consistent. In the same interview this week, he said that there is no simple explanation for what causes climate change.

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The Big Lie

Tom Tomorrow
© Tom Tomorrow

The Big Lie is a propaganda technique that involves telling a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” It works mainly because it is almost impossible to dispute it, because almost anything you can say just lends credence to the lie itself. After all, in order to argue against a lie, you have to tacitly admit that it is something worth a rebuttal.

Lately, the Big Lie has been even more effective, as the media has somehow come to believe that in order to be “fair” and “balanced” you have to consider all opinions, including ones that are pure lies.

Incidentally, I first thought the young person in this comic was supposed to be a slightly older version of Jonathan Krohn, the wunderkind who took the political world by storm at the age of 13 when he wowed ‘em at the Conservative Political Action Conference. But it’s not, especially as Krohn gave up being a conservative a few years later.

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Late Night Political Humor

“They just announced that the budget deficit has shrunk to only $486 billion, which is the lowest it’s been since President Obama took office. Obama said, ‘Well, I guess we’ll just have to work harder … Wait, is that good news?'” – Jimmy Fallon

“They’re getting ready for Halloween at the White House. The pumpkins they’re carving came out of Michelle Obama’s garden. She raised the pumpkins, and the knife they’re using to carve came from a guy who hopped over the fence.” – David Letterman

“Today President Obama gave a speech in California to motivate young voters by discussing his commitment to new technology. Ironically, nobody heard him because they were all staring at their phones.” – Jimmy Fallon

“President Obama’s in Los Angeles tonight for a night of fundraising and traffic jamming.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Traffic is so bad here to start with, and when the president comes in it just gets so much worse. Here’s the thing: Obama has no understanding of commuting because he works from home. He has a home office.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Tickets for the fundraising event ranged from $1,000 to $32,000. For $32,000, you can meet President Obama. That seems very high, especially considering the fact that you can jump the fence at the White House and meet him for free.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Traffic aside, it’s kind of nice to see people in L.A. raising millions of dollars for something that doesn’t involve ‘Transformers’ for a change.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“This week a spokesman for Harry Reid said that even though Joe Biden makes a lot of mistakes, he is still able to connect and tell us what’s on his mind. That sounds less like a vice president and more like a chimpanzee that knows sign language.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Nobody had seen North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un for a week, then a month, and now six weeks have gone by and nobody’s seen him. They really started to get worried when he didn’t show up at the Clooney wedding.” – David Letterman

“Kim Jong Un has been out of the public eye and North Korean officials say that it’s because he needs a total of 100 days to recover from his foot ailments. When asked what kind of foot ailments, they said ‘liposuction.'” – Seth Meyers

“Over 200 airplane cabin cleaners at LaGuardia Airport in New York have gone on strike over fears about the spread of Ebola. But then they saw LaGuardia Airport and decided to take their chances with Ebola.” – Seth Meyers

“New York state is spending $750 million to open a solar plant in Buffalo, which will create thousands of jobs. Most of those jobs will be shoveling the snow off the solar equipment.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Bookmakers have listed Pope Francis as the odds-on favorite to win the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. So if you’re placing a bet on the results of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize … you have a gambling problem.” – Seth Meyers

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Conservative Utopia?

This blog reported in August about how Kansas senator Sam Brownback was creating a conservative utopia with no taxes for businesses, and massive cuts to schools and other social programs. He had plenty of help from the Koch brothers, who are headquartered in Wichita. And the state legislature, after getting rid of most of those pesky Democrats even purged all their moderate Republicans.

Even back in August, their “conservative experiment” was showing signs of not working out like they said it would.

Well, it has gotten even worse, as reported by the Daily Show:

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Late Night Political Humor

“A survey found that more than half of Americans see President Obama’s time in office as a failure. While the rest said, ‘You saw him in his office? When?'” – Jimmy Fallon

“Obama was actually in his office yesterday. He met with his Secret Service director to talk about the recent White House security breaches. First they had to address the elephant in the room. Not metaphorically — an actual elephant wandered into the room. Security’s just awful.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Today is the 10th anniversary of when Martha Stewart had to go to the penitentiary. Martha was in a minimum security facility, like the White House.” – David Letterman

“A new study estimates that only 3.4 percent of Americans will vote in the midterm elections next month. But on the bright side, 100 percent will still complain about the results.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Last night they had one of those special lunar eclipses called a blood moon. The moon was glowing red, which means that the Republicans have gained another seat in the Senate.” – David Letterman

“t’s rumored that a sequel is in the works to the 1996 movie ‘Independence Day’. I’m not sure how scary it will be. An alien invasion would be only like the fifth worst thing we’re dealing with right now.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Kim Jong Un is missing. Nobody’s seen evil North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un for about a month now. And his daughter, Kim Kardashi Un, is worried sick.” – David Letterman

“This weekend a man in Oregon who is an advocate for the open carry of firearms was robbed at gunpoint. The thief apparently made off with the man’s entire argument.” – Seth Meyers

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Dress for Success, Period!

OMG! Stephen Colbert is hilarious:

He even cracks himself up a few times.

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Late Night Political Humor

“Today is Vladimir Putin’s 62nd birthday. He celebrated the way he always does: having someone try his cake before him.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Today is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s birthday, as those of you who are friends with him on Facebook know.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Vladimir Putin turned 62 years old today. It must be tough buying him a gift. What do you get for the man who has everywhere?” – Jimmy Fallon

“Putin turned 62 today. To celebrate, he took a trip to Siberia — you know, the place they send other people in Russia as punishment? That’s where he had his birthday party.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Today is Vladimir Putin’s 62nd birthday. When he got his presents he said, ‘You didn’t have to get me anything. I could have just taken it.'” – Seth Meyers

“It’s interesting that in spite of all of Russia’s troubles, Putin has an 80 percent approval rating, which I guess is something that happens when your pollsters carry machine guns.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“A group in Russia has nominated Vladimir Putin for the Nobel Peace Prize. When Putin heard this he said, ‘I’m all about achieving piece — piece of Ukraine, piece of Poland. I hope to win many more pieces.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“Evil Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He will not be able to attend the ceremony. That week he will be invading Poland. ” – David Letterman

“Former CIA Director Leon Panetta said it seems like President Obama has lost his way. Apparently, it’s gotten so bad that this morning Obama was seen asking a White House intruder for directions.” – Seth Meyers

“The White House dismissed former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s criticisms of President Obama, saying he has faced some of the most difficult issues of our time. That would be a great defense if EVERY president didn’t face the most difficult issues of their time. That’s the job.” – Jimmy Fallon

“On Saturday the San Francisco Giants beat the Nationals in Washington in 18 innings. It was the longest postseason game in baseball history — proving that even in sports, it takes forever to get something done in Washington.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Archaeologists in Arizona have discovered the remains of a 1,300-year-old village. They found dwellings, stone tools, and hundreds of ballots cast for Senator John McCain.” – Seth Meyers

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