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Defaults on consumer loans have hit record levels, such that investment banks are bidding as low as 68 cents on the dollar for auto loan-backed securities. But if a lawsuit filed in Illinois Circuit Court can be believed, it's not for lack of trying to squeeze payments out of them. According to an Illinois resident and Mercedes driver named named James Ricobene, a collection agency hired by JP Morgan Chase went so far as to leave a threatening wall post on his daughter's MySpace page. (If this is her, she has since deleted it -- but she kept this appropriate photo of a car spray-painted with the words "HOPE SHE WAS WORTH IT.") According to the lawsuit, the message the collection agency allegedly posted on the daughter's MySpace page ("on or about March 20, 2009 at 3:25 p.m.") read as follows:

We have been retained by, JPMorgan Chase Bank, to locate and repossess their missing collateral a 2007 Mercedes GL 450. Please contact our office immediately so we can discuss the peaceful recovery of the collateral. Failure to contact me will result in further action against your father James Ricobene. Legal options range from having a replevin order served on you or even worse reporting the collateral as stolen to local authorities in Illinois under the A.R.S. act 18-5-504. Failure to comply with this notice of surrender is a class 5 felony and carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment for two years plus all applicable surcharges. You must contact the writer within 5 days to prevent this action from taking place. You can contact me directly at 800-667-7704 ext 222 or directly at 604-267-1581 ext. 222

Awaiting your immediate response.

Chris Flanagan Senior investigator
Did he get a response!

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Are the Ted Stevens prosecutors in line to get a taste of their medicine?

As we've reported, six federal prosecutors from the Stevens case -- members of DOJ's Public Integrity unit, including its head, William Welch -- are now being investigated for knowingly withholding evidence, a potential criminal act.

Prosecutions for this offense -- known as a Brady violation -- are exceedingly rare. But it turns out that in 2006, an Assistant US Attorney was tried on the charge -- and acquitted amid allegations that his prosecution was over-zealous. In fact, the prosecutors who argued the case against the AUSA were with -- you guessed it -- the Public Integrity unit. And for part of that time, they were supervised by Welch himself. (For more on the Stevens Six, go here.)

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On Monday afternoon Goldman Sachs posted a miserable first quarter for most of its typical investment banking divisions -- and a record $6.56 billion in revenue for its trading unit, giving the bank a net profit nearly double Wall Street expectations. Mere seconds into the question and answer session of yesterday's conference call with analysts, Guy Moszkowski of Merrill Lynch asked the question on everyone's lips: what did the $180 billion money vortex called AIG have to do with those numbers? Nothing, insisted chief financial officer David Viniar, who said the impact of the unwind for the quarter "rounded to zero" and later professing to Bloomberg he was "mystified" over the public fascination with the question.

Was Viniar lying? Yesterday we explained how Goldman appeared to have booked the cash flow from the bailout in its "orphan month" of December, making Viniar possibly technically truthful. But then Peter Fisher, who heads fixed income trading for the hedge fund BlackRock, all but accused Viniar of flat-out lying. With the seen-everything tone one might expect of the longtime central banker Fortune once described as "one of those behind-the-scenes guys who keep Wall Street from coming apart at the seams," Fisher told Bloomberg Surveillance host Tom Keane in an audio segment uploaded by the blog ZeroHedge that Goldman, as rumored, had reaped huge "one-off" profits on the AIG unwind.

"So," Keane asked sarcastically, "did [Goldman] make those trading gains by taking the hide out of BlackRock?" That got a laugh, so Keane pressed:

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If an April 7 memo by the Department of Homeland Security is to be believed, the ranks of right wing radical and white supremacist groups--and the dangers they pose--may be growing.

And, after years of turning a blind eye to (or outright supporting) Bush-era curtailments of civil liberties, conservatives have predictably ignored reacted with great hostility to the news...before stopping to take stock of the situation. The report on right wing groups, it turns out, was prepared by the Extremism and Radicalization Branch of DHS' Homeland Environment and Threat Analysis Division. That Division falls under the purview (PDF) of the Under Secretary For Intelligence & Analysis--or, in this case, the Acting Under Secretary For Intelligence & Analysis Roger Mackin, who was appointed on September 10, 2008 by noted left wing partisan George W. Bush.

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Another local paper in Minnesota that had endorsed Norm Coleman last year is now calling for him to concede: The Worthington Daily Globe, which ran their editorial yesterday, following in the footsteps of last week's editorial from the Albert Lea Tribune.

The Daily Globe quite openly accuses the Republicans of keeping up this fight just to delay the Democrats from getting the seat, to Minnesota's detriment:

It's becoming increasingly clearer that Coleman and fellow Republicans -- desperate to keep the Democrats from strengthening their power -- are pressing onward primarily for political reasons. Meanwhile, Minnesota continues to only have one U.S. senator, despite a prolonged process that has shown Franken to be the winner on two occasions.

We, like the Albert Lea Tribune, endorsed Norm Coleman over Franken. We also share the same opinion that Coleman, for the benefit of the state and its citizens, should concede. Norm Coleman and his attorneys claim they want to ensure no Minnesota voter gets left behind. Instead, they're trying their best to leave Minnesota behind.

She probably won't wake conservatives up to the men behind the curtain, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi understands a thing or two about the Tea Party Protests.

An interviewer at Fox TV in San Francisco said "thousands of Americans...are having a tax and tea party today saying that we're taxing and spending our way into oblivion."

Pelosi responded:

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As Norm Coleman goes through with appealing the decision of the election contest court, which declared that Al Franken won the election and Coleman failed to prove otherwise, he can now count on the help of a group of D.C. lobbyists to fund the costs, Greg Sargent reports.

"We will raise as much as is necessary," said Dirk Van Dongen, who is president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, and a leading member of the "Team Coleman" group. "We'll keep raising money as Norm needs it. We continue to be active in raising resources for Norm to carry out this fight to the end."

Van Dongen said that to date, this group of lobbyists already raised "well over a million dollars" for the Senate campaign and the post-election events, and will keep on going.

Van Dongen rejected the accusation that this whole fight is only being done to bottle up a 59th Senate seat for the Democrats -- sort of. "That's a side benefit," said Van Dongen. "But this is all about us doing everything we can to be sure that Norm has had a fair election and to get him back in his Senate seat. We'd be doing exactly the same thing if the Republicans were in the majority."

It's probably fair to assume that back in 1773, the word "teabagging" didn't make everyone--from immature bloggers to perfectly mature mainstream media types--giggle like school children. But even still the would-be founding fathers took the appropriate precautionary measures, and dumped tons of loose tea (not tons of tea bags) into the Boston Harbor.

Unfortunately, it took today's tea party protesters almost two months to get the memo. I mean, an actual memo:

The term "teabagging" has strong sexual connotations. Be wary of anyone with a camera asking you if you are a "teabagger" or if you enjoy "teabagging" or similar leading questions - they are trying to make a fool of you.

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A new survey of Minnesota by Public Policy Polling (D), finds a clear verdict on the part of the state's voters: They want the disputed Senate race to be over, for Norm Coleman to concede defeat, and Al Franken to be sworn in. The poll was conducted yesterday and today, in the aftermath of the election court's ruling that Franken won the race.

By a 63%-37% margin, voters say that Coleman should concede the race, rather than continue to appeal. After being reminded by the pollster that Minnesota currently has only one Senator, they say by a 59%-41% margin that Franken should be seated immediately, rather than allow the seat to stay vacant. And by a 59%-41% margin, they say that Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty should sign a certificate of election.

And this question here produces a close result: "Some people say that Republicans are funding the Coleman legal suit to keep the Minnesota seat vacant and slow down the Obama agenda. Do you agree or disagree with that statement?" The numbers are 48% agree, 52% disagree.

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The Hill reports that a lot of Republicans are realizing the same thing many of us did a while ago -- or perhaps they realized it, too, and are only now just saying it: That Norm Coleman's recount operation was a mess.

"The buzz in GOP circles is that if Sen. Coleman's team and party strategists were to have launched a full-blown PR campaign as the recount was unfolding, they would have had a better environment prior to the legal proceedings," a Republican operative said, adding that "They allowed the legal proceedings to define the media environment."

A GOP strategist said: "A lot of noise has to be made immediately, and it has to be sustained," adding, "Where the heck has [Pawlenty] been?"

For the record: Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) briefly did wade into the spin game, but quickly faded into the background. At this point, he's hedging on whether he'd grant an election certificate should the state Supreme Court rule for Franken.

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