Thursday Reads: Closed and Quiet Rooms

Good Morning!!

Suddenly it’s hot here in New England. Just last week I actually had to turn my furnace on to warm up the house! It’s been a pretty cold June here, but yesterday the temperature reached 96 in Boston. Today is supposed to be a repeat performance. As I’m writing this late on Wednesday night, it’s still 84 degrees! It has been quite a shock to the system, let me tell you.

There is apparently a heat wave stretching from Chicago to the Northeast. And how appropriate, since the Summer Solstice took place yesterday at 7:09PM Eastern time. The Summer Solstice is usually on June 21, but since 2012 is a leap year, it fell on June 20.

So last week, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon appeared before the Senate Banking Committee and got his ass kissed by the committee members–many of whom have received generous campaign donations from Dimon and/or his bank. If you haven’t read Matt Taibbi’s takedown of the committee’s embarrassing performance, please check it out. Here’s a sample:

I wasn’t prepared for just how bad it was. If not for Oregon’s Jeff Merkley, who was the only senator who understood the importance of taking the right tone with Dimon, the hearing would have been a total fiasco. Most of the rest of the senators not only supplicated before the blowdried banker like love-struck schoolgirls or hotel bellhops, they also almost all revealed themselves to be total ignoramuses with no grasp of the material they were supposed to be investigating.

That most of them had absolutely no conception of even the basics of the derivatives market was obvious. But what was even more amazing was that several of them had serious trouble even reading aloud the questions their more learned staffers prepared for them. Many seemed to be reading their own questions for the first time.

It would be one thing if this had been a bunch of hick congressmen from the plains asking a panel of MIT professors about, say, ozone depletion, or the potential dangers of nuclear fallout. But these were members of the Senate Banking Committee, asking Dimon questions as though he were an alien from another world: “Tell us, Mr. CEO, what is this ‘derivative trading’ to which you refer? How long has it been in use on your planet?” The whole tenor of the proceeding was incredibly embarrassing, and showed just how unlikely it is that you’ll ever get anything like real questioning in a Senate hearing when a) the level of general expertise among the members is so shamefully low, and b) the witness is a man who controls millions of dollars of campaign contributions.

This week it was the House Banking Committee’s turn to hear from Dimon, and they apparently did slightly better than their Senate counterparts. I was particularly struck by this quote reported by George Zornick of The Nation:

As the House Financial Services Committee hearing into recent failures at JPMorgan waned, bank CEO Jamie Dimon finally said what had already been obvious to everyone — he didn’t want to be there. “These are complex things that should be done the right way, in my opinion in closed rooms,” Dimon said. “I don’t think you make a lot of progress in an open hearing like this.” In the closed room, Dimon said, everyone would be “talking about what works, what doesn’t work, and collaborating with the business that has to conduct it.”

I was immediately reminded of a remark that Mitt Romney made in January about how inappropriate it was for President Obama to be talking about income inequality in public–that such things should only be discussed in “quiet rooms.” Watch it:

Romney tells Matt Lauer that we peasants “envy” his wealth, and then expresses shock that Obama had talked about income inequality in campaign speeches:

Romney: I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms and discussions about tax policy and the like. But the president has made it part of his campaign rally. Everywhere he goes we hear him talking about millionaires and billionaires and executives and Wall Street. It’s a very envy-oriented, attack-oriented approach and I think it will fail.

Here is what I wrote about this at the time:

Never in my life have I heard a more naked expression of the conservative philosophy that the rich are better than the rest of us and that they alone should make important decisions. Romney clearly believes that we proles must be protected from the knowledge of how lowly we really are. Romney actually believes that discussions of government tax policies that make the rich richer and the poor poorer should not be discussed in public–such poor taste! These topics must only be talked about in “quiet rooms,” presumably in grand mansions where only the very rich and powerful can hear.

No doubt Romney is expressing a common opinion among those of his class. The good news is that Romney has so little self-awareness that he can’t seem to avoid expressing his elitist opinions in public. Does he think that the proles don’t watch TV? Or does he think we’re too stupid to understand what he’s saying?

I guess I was right. These richie-rich guys don’t want us to know what they’re really up to. Zornick notes that Dimon

is indeed quite effective in closed rooms. He’s received personal audiences with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to push back against a strong Volcker rule, and his staff has enjoyed several more. The closed rooms at JPMorgan are populated by throngs of former Congressional staffers and even former members. The bank has plied current members with millions in donations, including over $522,000 to the Senate Banking Committee, where Dimon testified last week, and $168,000 to members of the House Financial Services Committee just this year.

This works well for Dimon and his allies. The financial services industry was unable to defeat the Dodd-Frank legislation in public view because overwhelming numbers of Americans supported the bill—it was arguably the only popular piece of regulatory legislation in the Obama era—but Wall Street has operated in closed rooms over the past two years to delay and weaken the rules.

Back in January, Charles Pierce also wrote about Romney’s “quiet rooms” remark. His post is well worth reading again.

Those words, and the entitled attitude with which they are so luxuriously chandeliered, should kill any campaign being conducted in 2012. The country is still staggering, blinking, out of the rubble of an economy that was shattered by an industry full to its gunwales with Willard Romneys. He is campaigning in South Carolina, where unemployment is pushing up at 10 percent. Do those people want to leave their fates up to a bunch of fancy haircuts in “quiet rooms” where they discuss how much more flesh they can pick off the carcass of what is laughingly called the “middle class” of this country?

Quiet rooms?

You mean like the one where these wonderful conversations took place among our lords of the universe, and aren’t they so very cute as they sit there making their funnies and giggle like the Pep Club while the tectonic plates of the national economy crack under their feet?

“Quiet rooms” should be enough. Willard Romney, stripper of companies, looter of pension, career gombeen man for the most unproductive “industry” in the history of man, thinks that a discussion of the nation’s staggering gap in inequality, and of the steady decline of a functioning middle-class, should be conducted in private, and not in the streets, where those hippies and their drum circles might disturb the plush japery of their betters. This is because, for Willard Romney, the world is divided into two kinds of people: Willard Romney and The Help.

I hope you don’t mind the trip down memory lane. But really, Mitt Romney and Jamie Dimon are very much alike: selfish, entitled, accustomed to being catered to, and oblivious to the needs of 99 percent of Americans. Romney sees no need to tell the peasants how much he pays in taxes, who contributes to his campaign, or even what policies he favors. We really really should bring back the guillotine.

In other news, Mitt Romney is giving a speech today in which he may have to get more specific about what he would do about Obama’s popular executive order on immigration.

Wall Street Journal: Romney’s Fine Line on Immigration

Mitt Romney’s address Thursday to Latino politicians will test whether he is willing to stake out immigration policy more in line with a growing bloc of Hispanic voters. But his bigger challenge may be striking a tone acceptable to his Republican Party, which remains deeply divided on the issue.

GOP congressional leaders are hoping Mr. Romney, with the Florida speech, will find a way to bridge divisions and define the party’s response to President Barack Obama’s announcement last week that he would allow many young people who came to the U.S. illegally as children to stay and apply for work permits.

That announcement was cheered by Hispanic leaders and likely boosted the president’s standing with Hispanics. It also reignited longstanding tensions within the GOP between those who consider aid for people who came to the U.S. illegally to be an unacceptable form of amnesty, and those looking for a softer approach—in part to appeal to Hispanic constituents.

Will he continue to equivocate on the issue, or will he finally embrace a specific policy? My money is on more beating around the bush. I’ll bet Romney would prefer to discuss the issue in “quiet rooms.”

This coming weekend, Romney will host a “retreat” in Utah for campaign donors who have raised at least $100,000 for him. It will all be very hush-hush–no press allowed. More of those discussions in “quiet rooms.”

The presumptive Republican nominee and his senior advisers and aides are hosting two days of policy sessions and campaign strategy discussions at the Deer Valley resort for more than 100 top fundraisers and their spouses. Those who raised more than $100,000 are expected to attend.

More than a dozen Republican heavy-hitters are scheduled to join the private retreat as special guests. According to a fundraiser who is attending, they include some GOP stars thought to be in contention to be Romney’s vice presidential running mate: Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sen. John Thune (S.D.).

George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove, who helps run American Crossroads, the well-funded GOP super PAC, is planning to speak at the retreat, said the fundraiser, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the event and spoke on the condition of anonymity. Rove’s appearance could raise questions because of laws barring any coordination between super PACs and campaigns.

Hey, rules are for the proles, not patricians like Willard Mitt Romney or Jamie Dimon for that matter.

So what else is going on? What’s on your reading and blogging list for today?


26 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Closed and Quiet Rooms”

  1. ecocatwoman says:

    The “quiet room” theme made me think of the good old Catholic Church. The “quiet room”, at least for me, is the modern day equivalent of the days when the majority of people couldn’t read the “sacred document”, the Bible. It had to be interpreted for them by the Holy Fathers. Mass was conducted in Latin only – a language the followers didn’t speak – to further solidify the priests’ place so much higher above the little people. Both remind me of that classic line from the 50s said to women, “don’t worry your pretty little head over it.” There are the Rulers & the Ruled. Ahhh, the warm, comforting embrace of The Patriarchy. The sooner we realize our place, the better off we’ll all be, right? We don’t need no learning, dontcha know.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I grew up Catholic. There was never a rule that we couldn’t read the bible. The point was not to take the bible literally. And many Catholics learned Latin in school. I took a couple of years of it myself. The meaning of the Latin used in the Mass was no secret anyway. Personally, I like the Latin mass. I have plenty of problems with the church, but some of your criticisms are really baseless and frankly I’m starting to feel a bit offended.

      Yes the church as an institution is sexist and the pedophile priest scandal is horrifying and disgusting. The institution also stands up for helping the poor and downtrodden. For example, a busload of nuns in now following the Romney campaign around talking about the Ryan budget. Not every priest or nun is a part of the scandal. In my mind there’s no reason to twist everything about the Catholic experience as somehow evil and shameful.

      • Joanelle says:

        Here, here- I’m in total agreement with you, BB.

      • ecocatwoman says:

        Sorry to offend you and anyone else. That wasn’t my intention. I was referring to the time in world history when only a small percentage of people could read. The aristocracy, priests and scribes could read & had access to books, the rest of the populace didn’t. They didn’t go to school, they didn’t know other languages.

        I’m well aware of the bus tour. In fact, Colbert did a great interview with Simone Campbell: http://billmoyers.com/2012/06/19/radical-feminist-nun-simone-campbell-on-the-colbert-report/ I applaud the nuns who are not lying down in the face of the criticisms they’ve received from the Vatican on down the ranks. I also remember the Berrigan brothers, as priests, who helped lead the movement against the Viet Nam war.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I do feel offended. It’s a cumulative reaction. I guess there’s nothing more I can say about it. The theme of my post was two present day entitled rich people: Mitt Romney and Jamie Dimon.

      • Seriously says:

        Yeah, and not to defend the Church, but I think that Latin Mass acted as a unifier here in the US at least at some stage. If you drive down the Main Street of many larger towns in NE, you’ll see Catholic Church after Catholic Church after Catholic Church, frequently organized around ethnic lines. French church, Italian church, Spainish church, Lithuanian Church, whatever. Everybody wanted Mass in their own language, but that wasn’t always feasible. You couldn’t always find priests to conduct mass in this vast panopaly of languages, and not all of the parishioners spoke English. With Latin Mass, even if everyone wasn’t fluent in Latin, everyone could follow to a large extent.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I grew up in a place where there was intense and active anti-Catholic prejudice and discrimination. I learned what it’s like to be perceived as one of an out-group. Although I am no longer involved with the church, being Catholic is an unavoidable part of who I am as a person. I just don’t think every discussion needs to lead to attacks on Catholicism.

    • Woman Voter says:

      The ‘quiet room’ is for people with young babies that cry, with a glass partition with audio feed so they can hear mass, but tend to their children. There is no ‘quiet room’, the only ‘quiet’ I saw was when my aunt was under a vow of silence with other nuns prior to going to Rome for service. She would come out to the balcony on the second floor and throw candy to me in a little bag.

      I dare say, today, those in attendance have little knowledge of what is in the bible and don’t have discussions about the meaning after dinner (I did…for a looooong time) which was what happened when I was young.

      Most people don’t know, it was the nuns that started the hospitals in the US and out West it was the nuns who were the first to provide baccalaureate degree education to women. So, for all the ills the church has, it also had the women doing good not only for Catholics but for all women. Go nuns GO!

  2. ecocatwoman says:

    And in other news, the flooding in Duluth killed at least 11 animals at the zoo – just one more reason I don’t like zoos: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47889559/ns/weather/#.T-MOzVKXyJo

  3. Pat Johnson says:

    I am the first to admit that I am not the brightest bulb in the circuit, but I am monumentally confused about this hearing in congress calling for the resignation of Eric Holder. WTF?

    I may be wrong, but wasn’t this “Fast and Furious” policy put in place originally by Atty Genl. Mukasey during the Bush Administration and put out of business when Holder pulled the plug?

    And isn’t Issa supposedly one of the sleaziest politicians out of California for his own questionable practices of having some involvement in burning down his own businesses out there? Somebody please correct me if I am wrong and this is not just another Right Wing effort to undermine the authority of the current occupant of the WH?

    This is where Obama himself went off track. Had he given Holder the “go ahead” in 2009 to bring the real criminal element of the former administration into account, it would have left the GOP with little time on their hands to “cook up” false charges and been held accountable for some of their miserable deeds rather than “turning the page” on miserable efforts in the first place.

    You don’t “play ball” with these people, you whack them right upside their heads from the outset.

    Time and money has been spent on a whole lot of nothing and meanwhile the “people’s business” lies fallow at the hands of these loons who are destroying the nation.

    It is the fault of Obama that he failed to seek justice when he had the opportunity and this is the result.

    Shame on the entire lot of them who put party before country. The whole thing is disgusting.

    • joanelle says:

      …and deplorable, Pat. Millions are being spent on the games these goons play. The recent “trials” from Edwards to this latest waste is shamefull – I didn’t agree with the way the occupy group went about things but the thugs in D.C. Have pushed us to the wall – Ds or Rs – they’re all to blame for the mess we’re in

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Video of 68-year-old school bus monitor being mercilessly bullied by middle-schoolers goes viral. Supporters around the world have so far contributed 124,000 to send her on a vacation. School officials say the kids will be disciplined and contacted police after learning of the harassment.

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/21/us/new-york-bullied-bus-monitor/index.html

    • Woman Voter says:

      Cruel kids, as her son committed suicide and they were taunting her with that fact to humiliate her, at which point she started to cry. Sensitivity training is a must for these kids as they don’t seem to have an once of empathy…they even threatened sexual assault and stabbing her. I am glad the police are looking into the matter as they can’t be doing that to a volunteer, a retiree of the school district and and elder.

      • northwestrain says:

        What the hell is wrong with those kids? Where are they learning to act like that. What are their leaders — generally a mob like that has a leader — even someone in the back who is egging them on.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I doubt they knew her son committed suicide. They couldn’t have cared less why she cried. These kids had shut off their empathy. I hope it was temporary.

        She is not a volunteer either. She has worked for the school district for 23 years and only earns about $10,000 a year. She probably needs the money.

        I’m really concerned at the amount of hatred in our society against people who are fat and/or elderly. There are very few prejudices that are still rewarded in our culture. Those are two of them. I couldn’t watch the whole video. I started crying.

        No adult should be at the mercy of bullying children like this. Why didn’t the bus driver back her up? Why didn’t she have a cell phone to call authorities? There are many questions.

        These kids touched her, threatened to stab her, joked about rape, said they wanted to torture her!

      • Eric says:

        No way the kids knew about her son’s suicide. It is a common taunt among middle schoolers to say you (or your family) should kill yourself. They think it is clever, and don’t have any real appreciation for the reality of death at that age.

        But she’s a bus monitor, right? Her job is to monitor the behavior of the kids, right? Yet they walked all over her, and the only reason we are talking about it is that some kid genius thought it would make a cool youtube video. Hate to say, but she probably wasn’t a very good fit for this job.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Eric,

        You’re a asshole. I can’t believe what you wrote in this comment. This is not the blog for you. Do not ever comment on one of my posts again. You’re dead to me.

        And if that is a common taunt, this generation is hopeless.

      • Seriously says:

        Oh, lord. You might want to learn to prioritize, because as fun as it is to defend elder abuse, the stereotypical rubes whom you imagine are prostrating themselves in front of the holy truck of downtown scottie or worked up into a lather about Romney’s wawa oppression have a slightly different position on it than you, what with being human beings and all.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    Romney campaign asked FL Gov. Rick Scott to downplay job growth in the state.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-06-21/romney-campaign-said-to-ask-scott-to-downplay-job-gains.html

    • bostonboomer says:

      New poll shows Obama leading Romney by four points in Florida, after trailing by six points in May.

  6. dakinikat says:

    I can’t say I’m surprised that their all going to hold up in a compound in Utah for discussions and fundraising. Who on earth would want their pictures taken with these nuts? People like Willard and Jamie are today’s divas. They think they’re a gift to humanity and that they actually work for all that money. They have no idea what is like to actually struggle. They start out the Game of Life at least 6 moves of every one else just by accident of birth. They refuse to see that what gets them ahead is mostly connections that inherited. It’s like a modern day aristocracy.

    • HT says:

      Hate to disagree even mildly, but it’s not “like” a modern day aristocracy – in their minds they are the aristocracy. We are the plebes, the helots, the esnes the serfs, the slaves and they are only bending to let us know what is happening, because they own all the highways of information and can control their message. Funny how a country that was built by repelling the aristocracy and all that meant, has become such a classist society emulating that which their ancestors rebelled against.

  7. bostonboomer says:

    Mitt Romney is giving his speech to the Latino group right now. He’s telling lie after lie, of course.

  8. Woman Voter says:

    BREAKING : Syrian Pilot Defects to Jordan

  9. northwestrain says:

    Then there is Easter Island and the huge statues. How did the islanders get the statues to the platforms overlooking the ocean.

    New theory — they walked the statues to the location. Meaning that the islanders needed to work together and perhaps the old theory of battles and warfare might be wrong.

    Something else the think about — because Easter Island has long been used as an example of what can go wrong if all the natural resources are used to produce “useless” objects.

    The video of the walking statue makes me think that this new theory is worth considering.