Happy Hour Roundup

* This is potentially big — David Cay Johnston reports on how the Justice Department may have helped JPMorgan Chase avoid criminal charges for its role in helping Bernie Madoff obscure his fraud. A memo unearthed by Johnston shows that Justice appears to have sided with the bank over Treasury Department officials:

The Justice Department refused in September to back up Treasury inspector general staff who wanted a court order to enforce a subpoena, in effect shielding JPMorgan from law enforcement, the October 8 document shows […]

The memo revealing that Justice protected JPMorgan from an obstruction complaint raises anew questions about how much the Obama administration has done to protect the big banks, whose lies about mortgage securities and other investments they sold sank the economy in 2008. This has been one of the more pervasive progressive criticisms of the Obama administration, and this story may take it to another level.

This has been one of the more persistent progressive criticisms of the Obama administration, and this story clearly pushes it forward even further.

* The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is ready to launch a $50 million election-spending campaign. That’s nothing new, but the hitch is who they plan to target with the money:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce early next year plans to roll out an aggressive effort—expected to cost at least $50 million—to support establishment, business-friendly candidates in primaries and the general election, with an aim of trying to win a Republican Senate majority. “Our No. 1 focus is to make sure, when it comes to the Senate, that we have no loser candidates,” said the business group’s top political strategist, Scott Reed. “That will be our mantra: No fools on our ticket.”

Yes, you can read “no fools on our ticket” as a direct attack on the tea party.

* Quite deservedly, a large majority of Americans think this Congress is “the worst of their lifetimes,” according to a new poll. CNN/ORC found that two-thirds of Americans believe that, and an astonishing 70 percent thinks that Congress has done nothing to address his or her problems.

* On Monday, HealthCare.gov received a record amount of traffic — 2 million people visited the site and 250,000 people called. Tuesday was the extended deadline to be signed up in the exchanges for coverage beginning Jan. 1.

* The FCC has delayed reforms on prison phone calls by abnormally extending its review period, which The Hill notes it doesn’t often do. Phone companies hate the measure, which would bring the rates for prison calls in line with standard rates, but prison reformers believe the current arrangement is predatory and unfair to incarcerated Americans.

* Wonkblog has been asking notable people for their “chart of the year,” and climate activist Bill McKibben may have the most important one: The United States has extracted more fossil fuels in the past year than during any other.

* Yes, HealthCare.gov had a disastrous rollout. But many major retailers were unable to deliver Christmas gifts on time because of issues with United Parcel Service. Alec MacGillis wonders whether we’ll see the same outrage from “private-sector triumphalists.”

* BP has been trying hard to reduce what it owes for the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but a federal judge has dealt the latest blow to the company’s efforts by denying another legal challenge to the historic settlement with the Justice Department.

*If (or when) Hillary Clinton runs for president, sexist attacks are almost sure to follow. Digby reflects on how bad it might get:

I wish I believed that America was ready to elect a woman president. After all, the machismo culture of Chile just featured a race between two women and the socialist won! But I honestly just don’t know. And the weird thing is that I thought differently a decade ago. It’s the last ten years that woke me up to the deep, underlying psycho-structural uniqueness of American sexism.

* Should we tax meat to help cut down on global warming, which is exacerbated by methane emissions from farm animals? Some climate scientists say yes.

* Stupidity dominated American politics in 2013, but you knew that. Nick Wing has a breakdown, however, of the 29 moments most likely to invite a connection between your head and the wall.

Also on The Plum Line

Hey Dems: the only way out on health care is through