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In Their Own Words

via In Their Own Words: Why Dem Senators Screwed Homeowners.

Jon Tester (D-Mont.): “I just think a deal's a deal. I have a lot of empathy for folks who tend to get led astray, but I just think it's going to create some problems — pretty obvious, actually. I don't have to list them. I'm generally opposed. I don't think it works well.”

For those of you playing along at home, that’s at least five different statements in one statement, most of them contradictory. If you have empathy for those who were led astray, then how can you say a deal’s a deal?

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Bipartisan Vote on Credit Card Reform… For Next Year

I’m pretty sure the recession is happening this year, but the Congress has seen fit to vote through a reform of credit card lending rules that doesn’t go into effect for a year after it’s enacted. Figure that one out.

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Massa Introduces Credit Reform Bill

I suspect this is one piece of legislation which will die a swift and horrible death in the House of Representatives, but who knows? The mood of the country is on the right side of the credit reform issue right now – and we’re all looking for a way to penalize banks anyway – so maybe this thing has a shot if it gets done quickly. I wonder, though, if it might not have been wiser to have introduced as an amendment to another bill than as it’s own thing. The question is: who besides Massa is willing to publicly endorse this same bill?

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This morning Rep. Eric Massa (NY-29) introduced his first piece of legislation in Congress. The American Credit Card Reform Act has five key objectives designed to prevent predatory lending practices by the credit card industry:

  • Cap maximum credit card interest rates at 14%
  • Prohibit transfer fees
  • Prohibit predatory advertising on college campuses
  • Prohibit the changing of credit card terms if the consumer is in full compliance with the terms
  • Require due dates to be set at a minimum of 30 days from the date bills are sent
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Fighting to Fill the Treasury

Not with money, of course. That will have to wait for later. Right now, one big challenge for the Obama Administration is getting seats filled in key Treasury positions without getting blocked by the Republicans.

Three more nominees have been announced. Here’s to hoping we can get Geithner some help up there. At least someone to answer the freakin’ phones.

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Blah, Blah, Blah, AIG

Yep. AIG executives got lots of bonuses, some as much as a million dollars, after they got bailed out by the government. You betcha, it’s wrong. But where has all this outrage been while everybody else has been getting bailed out and bonused at the same time? Why is a tenth of a percent of our money so important now?

Just think what the difference might have been by now if the national television media, flushed with indignation now, had shown half that concern four months ago? They’re driving the story now and we’re expected not to wonder if things might have been different.

It now appears as though the legal obstacle to forbidding the payout of bonuses was ferreted into the bill by an unknown party. Unknown for now, but you can bet their name will be known by the end of the day.

Because, of course, that’s important.

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Rep Massa Appoints a Recovery Director for His Office

This is kind of interesting: Eric Massa’s office just announced that he has appointed a member of his staff to be the point man for ensuring transparent spending of the stimulus package in the 26th (erm. That’s the 29th) district. I’m not entirely sure how much impact a junior representative can really have in how the money gets spent, but if he has people monitoring what does get spent in the district, that’s probably a helpful thing in terms of building trust in a district where trust of President Obama is likely relatively low.

“On Tuesday night, President Obama spoke extensively about accountability and transparency in government, and that is exactly why I have appointed Michael Heenan to serve as your District Recovery Director,” said Congressman Eric Massa. “The families of New York’s 29th District deserve transparency and accountability in their government, and by dedicating one of your Congressional staff members to work hand in hand with Governor Paterson’s office, we will achieve just that. Mr. Heenan has proven himself to me and he will prove himself to the families of Western New York.”

Now, the question is: will they be developing some method of reporting these stats online in some sort of database? It might seem redundant at first, but knowing the breakdown of monies spent in the district would be a boon to local reportage.

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Rep Massa Appoints a Recovery Director for His Office

This is kind of interesting: Eric Massa’s office just announced that he has appointed a member of his staff to be the point man for ensuring transparent spending of the stimulus package in the 26th district. I’m not entirely sure how much impact a junior representative can really have in how the money gets spent, but if he has people monitoring what does get spent in the district, that’s probably a helpful thing in terms of building trust in a district where trust of President Obama is likely relatively low.

“On Tuesday night, President Obama spoke extensively about accountability and transparency in government, and that is exactly why I have appointed Michael Heenan to serve as your District Recovery Director,” said Congressman Eric Massa. “The families of New York’s 29th District deserve transparency and accountability in their government, and by dedicating one of your Congressional staff members to work hand in hand with Governor Paterson’s office, we will achieve just that. Mr. Heenan has proven himself to me and he will prove himself to the families of Western New York.”

Now, the question is: will they be developing some method of reporting these stats to the rest of us? It might seem redundant at first, but knowing the breakdown of monies spent in the district would be a boon to local reportage.

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And the Whittling Begins in Earnest

I love Harry Reid. And by “love,” I mean, “want to punch in the face.”

We begin in a position of popular electoral strength and end in Gutless Gulch with Senator Harry Reid now proposing that we cut back the tax cut portion of the bill *as a compromise* to cutting the $100 billion dollars “centrist” Republicans want to cut out of the spending side.

Can we get back to reality, here? “Stimulus” is defined by government spending that replaces slacking spending by the American people for the sake of keeping jobs. We can’t keep cutting stuff out of an already inadequate spending package and hope to possibly stem the tide. We’ve lost a trillion dollars in spending on the consumer side alone, but we’ve got no more than half a trillion in new spending.

Let’s be crystal clear about this: there is no such thing as wasteful spending in a mega-recession!

Some spending that offends the sensibilities of Republicans is fine to remove. I think family counciling is good, but if you want to leave that to Jesus, so be it. But don’t make that an economic issue, because it isn’t.

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If You Touch it More Than Once, It’s a Stimulus Package

With all the bad news out there right now – Lebanese militants opening a second front in Israel, economic doom and gloom in New York, near-zero interest liquidity trap on the horizon – it’s always nice to know some asshole can find a way to have a good time. In this case, that asshole is the asshole for all seasons, Larry Flint. I love that dude.

I’m sure if I worked with Flint and had to see him every day, I’d hate him. But you’ve got to give some credit to a guy who has the balls to send a letter to the very same Congress that tried to shut him down a few decades ago, demanding that they financially support his entire industry. Yes, it seems that he and the Girls Gone Wild mogul, Joe Francis, have sent a letter to Washington to petition Congress for $5bn in bailout money.

Actually, I’d be curious to find out what the effect of the economic downturn actually is for the porn industry. The normal rule of thumb with all things entertainment is that when the economy sags, movie ticket, CD, video purchases and the like actually go up. The theory is that, since no one’s buying the big ticket items, they have more free cash to enjoy a movie. You would expect that the same would hold true for porn.

Except that porn sites like YouPorn.com and PornoTube.com (I sense a theme) have made a huge volume of amateur porn freely available on the web, which is cutting into their bottom line, so to speak. And those pay-to-play-with-yourself websites still left out there are monthly fee-based, so I suspect customers seeing climbing credit card bills are taking the opportunity to cancel such accounts.

Oh, no! Does this mean the end of Dee Del-Mar?

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The Marker in Congress Has Been Thrown Down

Congress has told the White House it must find the funds to bail out Detroit out of the TARP money – that $700bn package reserved for the financial industry – or there may be no money forthcoming. Thus far, Hank Paulson at Treasury and the White House have resisted such calls.

And a fine time it is to suddenly think you’ve grown a set: the president is leaving office in a matter of days and it won’t be his problem any longer. Why should he give a shit? It’s not like he’s shown any level of interest in the economy up till now. Not exactly a powerful position from which to throw down an ultimatum. We’ll see what happens, but if I were Harry Reid, I’d start twisting arms in the Senate to get something which provides real oversight in the bailout package that is inevitably going to need to pass through Congress.

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Bailout Bill Defeated?

People in a position to watch C-Span are telling me that the bailout bill may have been defeated in the House.  Stay tuned.

CNN Money is reporting that the bill is “stalled.” The Dow has dropped like a stone, 500 points.  They’re leaving the vote open indefinitely (not a parlimentary procedure I typically support, but in this case?. . . ) to try to twist people’s arms into supporting this bill.

Christ.  The Republicans are going to send the entire country off a cliff because they can’t admit to being wrong?  Nothing like principled leadership.

2:10 ~ Yahoo! Reuters is now saying that the bill is defeated.

2:20 ~ MSNBC does the post mortem.  Funny that Republicans pick this moment to suddenly decide they don’t support everything the president does.  It looks as though plenty of Democrats voted against the bill as well.  That’s about what I expected, anyway.  But the one time I might have hoped for Republican Party unity to do some good for the country, they let me down.

So, now what?  Well, with the Dow in the toilet by 500 points, I suspect a lot of those same constituents the House members are trying to please will demand that the government do something.  If not now, then certainly when they start losing their jobs.

2:28 ~ Felix Salmon at Conde Nast weighs in on the situation.  His headline?  “Oh, Shit.”  This is not the blog of a vulgar teenage heavy metal enthusiast.  This is a respected economist.

2:54 ~ MSNBC has updated video on their website.  And don’t miss this video from last week, where a Republican commentator Ed Rollins states baldly that Republicans are playing Party over Country:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sf4PQMs-CRk[/youtube]

Again, it needs to be said that a fair number of Democrats also rolled on this one.  But not nearly as many and the Republican leadership has really failed the American people at this point.  Moreover, by failing to pass a bill rather unsettling to their sensibilities, they’ve maybe just forced the next president’s hand in recreating the Roosavelt era Great Society reforms to undo the damage of Republican rule.

Jesus, can we just send these guys somewhere and get it over with?  They don’t just want to be part of the problem, they want to be all of it.

3:06 ~ A bit of perspective on the drop in the Dow today:

The markets turned highly volatile as it became clear the measure wouldn’t find the necessary support. The Dow regained ground then fell back again, trading down 524.88, or 4.71 percent, to 10,618.25. At its low, it was down 705.06, not far from its previous record for an intraday drop, 721.56, set during the first trading day after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Still, in percentage terms, the decline remained well below the more than 20 percent drops seen on Black Monday of October 1987 and the Depression.

For what it’s worth.

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Republican Shrill of the Week

Keep an eye on this story, because I garantee it will be come a talking point for Republicans across the House and maybe even Shawn Hannity: a House Representative named Michael Burgess decided to throw into another tirade about the bailout deal that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has declared martial law with this new deal.  Note that he doesn’t just say she’s acting like it is martial law, but that she declared it in a “secret meeting.”  I mention all this because it’s just this type of Republican hysteria that can drag what is already a precarious situation down the shitter in no time.  Other publications are also picking up on this meme.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7B4laX1E70[/youtube]

OK, for you Constitution enthusiasts, a quiz: who is it in the architecture of the United States government who has the power to unilaterally declare a state of martial law? ((If you answered “The Speaker of the House,” you’re a dipshit!  Congress can suspend the Writ of Habeas Corpus by a vote, but the Speaker can’t just declare martial law.  The correct answer is “The President of the United States.”))

So the bottom line is: a Republican House member with crazy ideas about bailing out the financial sector with equally unstable insurance industry money gets kicked out of – by his own words – more meetings than he can dream of decides that, since he’s not being paid attention to, it must be martial law that we’re living under.  Not a thought about his own ideas having been already proven stupid.

How typically shrill of Republicans that when noone listens to their half-assed ideas that got us into the mess we’re in, they insist that our very freedoms are at risk.

I’m not terribly happy about the bailout plan, either.  But damn, dude.  Just admit when you’re wrong.