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Yesterday JP Morgan became the second huge bank this week to announce a return to multibillion dollar profits, largely due to record trading profits that are probably "one-offs" related to AIG, but nevertheless use this triumphant return to the black as an opportunity to boast about its plans to pay back its TARP money and get back into the eight figure bonus business. And JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon wasn't exactly at a loss for mirth over that last part in the morning's conference call:

Dimon, calling money received through the Troubled Asset Relief Program "a scarlet letter" and "the TARP baby," said on a conference call with reporters today that the New York- based bank is awaiting guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department...The bank, which bought about $34 billion in mortgage-backed and asset-backed securities in the quarter, doesn't expect to participate as either a buyer or seller in the Treasury's Public-Private Investment Program, known as PPIP. "We learned our lesson" about borrowing from the government, said Dimon.
But if that's so true, what's Jennifer Zuccarrelli, a top aide to former TARP overseer Neel Kashkari, doing on loan to the JP Morgan media relations department?

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Losing his Senate seat may be the least of Norm Coleman's worries.

It's looking more and more like the former Minnesota senator has heard from federal investigators who are investigating the Nasser Kazeminy allegations.

Asked by the Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial board whether he had been contacted with the FBI in connection with the probe, Coleman refused to say, instead pivoting to attack the paper:

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The latest score in the NY-20 special election shows Democratic candidate Scott Murphy ahead of Republican Jim Tedisco by 264 votes, as more absentee ballots were tallied in the Murphy strongholds of Columbia and Warren Counties.

In the absentee ballots counted so far, Murphy's percentage of the vote has been better for most counties than his Election Night totals were on a county by county basis. The only exceptions have been Saratoga County, the single largest county and a Tedisco stronghold, and Otsego County, which only cast about two percent of the total absentees. But the overall trend elsewhere has more than outweighed those two.

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We've reported on the conservative anger over this Department of Homeland Security report (pdf). Note that the reaction hasn't just been unnecessarily partisan (the report wasn't commissioned by President Obama, and was written under the auspices of a Bush appointee), it has also been curiously sensitive. The report, after all, isn't about the conservative movement in any way, but rather about the potentially growing ranks of radical right wing groups.

In response, conservatives have largely ignored the true origins of the report, and, enabled by the mainstream media, continue to direct their outrage at the new administration. But on the second point--the curious sensitivity--they've countered that their real anger has more to do with the fact that the DHS assessment suggests that veterans are particularly susceptible to the allure (whatever it is) of such groups when they return from service.

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Here's some good news (kind of) for the cause of Constitutional Unionism: According to a new Rasmussen poll, only 31% of likely voters in Texas think the state has the right to secede.

When asked the question, "Do individual states have the right to leave the United States and form an independent country?" the numbers come out at 31% Yes to 55% No.

Rasmussen also asked this follow-up question: "If you could vote on the issue, would you vote for Texas to remain in the United States or to secede from the United States and form an independent country of Texas?" The numbers come out at 18% for secession, to 76% against it.

Via ThinkProgress, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) thinks Illinois residents want to shoot their elected officials.

"I think that the decision to raise taxes by 50 percent in Illinois is political suicide," Kirk said of [Illinois Governor Pat] Quinn's proposal to raise the tax rate to 4.5 percent from 3 percent, coupled with an increase in the personal deduction. "I think the people of Illinois are ready to shoot anyone who is going to raise taxes by that degree."


From 3 to 4.5 percent. In the wake of the Tea Party protests, we've been following mainstream conservatives' and elected Republicans' flirtations with the extreme right, and we'll continue to do so.

Yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates poured more cold water on the idea that Don't Ask, Don't Tell will be repealed anytime soon. "If we do it," Gates said, "it's very important that we do it right, and very carefully."

Lest you think Gates just misspoke, though, Elisabeth Bumiller of The New York Times said he resorted to conditional language more than once, adding that "if we do go down that road [it's important] we do it right and in a way that mitigates any downsides.''

Emphasis mine.

Back in January, of course, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said, in no uncertain terms, that the Don't Ask, Don't Tell would be repealed. But the administration's been slowly walking that back ever since.

The Michigan-based Council of Islamic Organizations said Thursday that it asked Attorney General Eric Holder to review complaints that the FBI planted Muslims in mosques to spy on Islamic leaders and community members. Congregation members said that the FBI probes extended beyond alleged spying on Islamic leaders who allegedly supported terrorist acts; some community members were told that the FBI could resolve citizenship cases if they spied on their Mosque. An official in another Michigan Muslim organization said that as Holder revamps the Justice Department "it's extremely necessary for him to take a serious look at this issue." (AP)

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WaPo: Banks Seek To Pay Back TARP -- But Are Taking Other Government Money The Washington Post reports that J.P. Morgan and other major banks are seeking to repay TARP money, which CEO Jamie Dimon called a "scarlet letter." On the other hand, the company is seeking to repay TARP money while still benefiting from other federal programs, which have in fact paid out even more money. Says the Post: "Other large banks are attempting the same combination of breakup and embrace."

Obama At The Summit Of The Americas President Obama is in Trinidad today, attending this weekend's Summit of the Americas. The gathering of Western Hemisphere leaders will address such issues as the drug war, global warming, and the economy. And as the Associated Press points out, the biggest job Obama will have will be to just improve relations with America's neighbors, after the tumult of the Bush years.

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