December 5, 2005

Site Problems Remedied: What Does RSS Stand For?

Filed under: General — Tom @ 8:47 pm

….. Really Sad Syndication. I had Charles my web guy turn the feed off, and now the site is fine (thanks, Charles). I’m relatively lucky; it looks like Blogger is down at the moment. Carry on.

Selective Outrage

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,OH-02 US House,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:57 pm

House Rule XVII, 1(b) on Decorum: (b)
Remarks in debate (which may include references to the Senate or its Members) shall be confined to the question under debate, avoiding personality.

The day before Jean Schmidt’s House Floor speech (after which she was accused of calling John Murtha a coward, which she didn’t, and after which she apologized anyway in the interests of moving the debate over the immediate-pullout-from-Iraq resolution to a vote), Rep. Marion Berry (D-AR) released a barrage of personal and Decorum Rule-breaking criticisms on the House floor that went largely unnoticed (video link can be found here; HT Amy Ridenour; bolds are mine):

“I’m absolutely amazed at you boys over there,” he said to Republican congressmen Jack Kingston of Georgia, Adam Putnam of Florida and Jeb Hensarling of Texas. “For you to come to this floor and attack the Blue Dogs on fiscal responsibility demonstrates an unparalleled display of ignorance, stupidity or just down-hard foolishness, I don’t know which.”

Then it got personal.

“I wonder what you’re going to be when you grow up,” he said, staring at Putnam, 31. “You are going to have to suffer the consequences like everybody else in the next generation.”

It was on (then on to–sic) Hensarling.

“I cannot believe you have the audacity to come to the floor with this assault on women and children and try to portray it,” Berry paused and pointed a finger at Hensarling “Howdy Doody-looking nimrod said he wanted to talk about family values.”

I have found no evidence of a Berry apology or of any constituent or party criticism of his outburst. Search for yourself.

In fact, he went out of his way to defend his behavior:

Berry took the podium and called out Republicans. He later issued a statement defending what he said late Thursday.

“I was offended last night during the debate on the budget, because I find it incredibly difficult to take a lecture from the House Republicans about fiscal discipline,” Berry said.

Rep. Berry’s temper tantrum and refusal to apologize haven’t received national attention or a “Saturday Night Live” skit. But at least he can say he has a web site and wallpaper that memorialize his hissy fit (yet another Amy Ridenour HT).

Bankruptcy ‘Reform’ without Other Reform, Part 2: Predatory Lending and Other Creditor Reform Measures are MIA

In my attempts to find any kind of federal legislation designed to curb predatory lending or to regulate lending practices such as “universal default,” even I was surprised at how little progress has occurred.

It’s not even worth a link. I found nothing that would indicate that any kind of bill is near passage. Everything that would appear to be relevant was in the early stages of committee referral, which at this late date means they are languishing and will almost certainly see no action before the end of the year. If anyone has news that contradicts this, e-mail me.

Congress’s failure to act in this area while whipping through bankruptcy “reform” legislation earlier this year is a breach of faith by the many lawmakers who promised they would “get around to” these areas later this year.

Very predictable, but still very disappointing.

Bankruptcy “Reform” without Other Reform, Part 1: Data Protection and Credit-Freeze Bills Are Bogged Down

When Bankruptcy “Reform” was enacted in April, many of us believed that the financial services industry’s promises to get a handle on the personal data it holds and to allow legislation helping consumers protect that data were empty. We also doubted the Congressmen and Senators who told us they would get around to meaningful credit and lending reform.

The cynicism appears to have been justified. Nothing significant has happened on either front, and barring an unexpected breakthough, it looks like nothing will happen before the end of the year.

First, The Wall Street Journal (requires subscription) reported on November 26 that data protection and credit-freeze legislation is in suspended animation:

Identity-Theft Bills Stall in Congress

Despite a rash of highly publicized security lapses this year that had consumer advocates and business lobbyists clamoring for legislation, Congress is finding it difficult to agree on ways reduce identity theft and to protect the privacy of consumers.

Consumer groups are pushing for credit protections that financial institutions oppose. Small banks are arguing with larger ones about who picks up the “reissuing costs” when credit or debit cards must be replaced. And everyone with a stake in the issue is debating the “notification trigger,” specifying what breaches require alerting customers.

The discord has derailed the prospect of legislation this year, and without some consensus, the outlook remains dim for next year as well.

This new reality is far removed from how things looked in February, when data broker ChoicePoint Inc. disclosed it had mistakenly sold sensitive information on 145,000 people to criminals posing as legitimate businessmen.

….. A flurry of bills was introduced, and six different committees seized on proposed solutions. Among them were the Senate Banking and House Energy and Commerce committees, run by influential Republicans who co-founded the bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus.

Then, in June, word came that hackers had “infiltrated” payments processor CardSystems Solutions Inc., compromising the security of 40 million credit-card accounts. The enormity of the breach sent shock waves through the financial industry and seemed to ensure a quick federal response.

….. But while everyone agreed that consumers need to know when a security breach puts them at risk for identity theft, writing the new law has proven difficult.

Many privacy advocates, casting a suspicious eye on companies that fail to secure personal information, want legislative language in federal legislation similar to the seminal California law that requires disclosure of security lapses regardless of the potential for harm. Businesses say that poses too big a cost burden for them and say notification should be limited to breaches that threaten a “significant risk” of identity theft.

Companies say notification is expensive — and so is replacing debit and credit cards. America’s Community Bankers, a trade association representing community banks, told a House panel this month that legislation should require those responsible for a data breach to pick up the tab for notifying customers and reissuing cards. It figured that reissuing debit or credit cards can cost as much as $15 each.

The debate over notifying consumers has muddied the waters so much that the Senate Judiciary Committee has approved one bill with an industry-friendly notification standard and marked up another with a tougher notification requirement. It is uncertain which one — if either — will come up before the full Senate.

It is “curiouser and curiouser,” says Ed Mierzwinski, a consumer-program director for the Washington-based advocacy group U.S. PIRG who is leading a coalition of privacy advocates. “I’m still trying to figure it out.”

The conflict over consumer notification isn’t the only one stalling legislation. Three Senate committees are divided over a provision in a bill approved by the Commerce Committee during the summer that would let consumers “freeze” their credit reports, blocking access and preventing criminals from opening new accounts under their names.

Several states already allow consumers to do just that, and proponents view the freeze as a main weapon in the fight against identity theft. But credit bureaus, banks and other financial institutions argue that freezes slow down electronic commerce and hurt consumers when they really do need credit.

….. At the end of the day, congressional inaction may be a bigger problem for business groups than for consumers. Already, half of the states have passed security-breach notification laws, and credit-freeze laws will soon take effect in another seven states. Because many of the new state laws take a more aggressive, consumer-friendly line than business lobbyists prefer, businesses have been increasingly pushing for federal legislation that would pre-empt state measures and provide a single standard to follow.

So it looks like a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I don’t want to hear the financial-services and credit-reporting industries moan about having to deal with 50 different sets of rules and regulations and 50 types of credit freezes, which is where I think things are heading if meaningful federal legislation does not get through. It will be their own fault if we come to that point, and what they gained from the bankruptcy “reform” law will still far outweigh their extra compliance costs.

Bizzy’s AM Coffee Biz-Econ Links (120505): WORMs Still Waiting for the “Housing Bubble” to Burst

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 8:02 am

Home prices continue to go up. Last Thursday’s report from the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO, tells us that home prices increased 12.02% during the 12 months ended September 30 (2.86% in the latest quarter). Look at how home prices have increased during the past five years, obviously far outpacing general inflation of during that same period:


Most economists predict that home prices will, with some exceptions, continue to increase in the next few years, though more likely than not at a slower rate.

So why do the WORMs (Worn-Out Reactionary Media, known to most as The Mainstream Media) insist on talking about a housing “bubble,” and after four years of getting it dead-wrong, still act as if a “bubble” is either imminent or already happening? Noel Sheppard of The Free Market Project weighs in:

Media claims about a “housing bubble” are nothing new. Since before the 9/11 terror attacks, the media have been calling the housing market a “bubble” while predicting an imminent, devastating decline. Not only have they been wrong in forecasting such a top, they have thoroughly mischaracterized what an investment bubble is. Now that the market for homes has finally slowed a bit, the media are declaring the bubble has burst.

….. It’s been more than four years since the media began reporting bearish housing predictions in earnest. Yet real estate values have forged ahead. As a result, the net worth of the average citizen is now at an all-time high, well exceeding what Americans enjoyed during the stock bubble years of the late ’90s and early 2000s. In addition, and maybe most importantly, close to 70 percent of residential dwellings are now owned by one or more of the inhabitants, also an all-time high.

So who’s right about real estate – the media that have been predicting a crash for more than four years, or past and future Federal Reserve chairmen along with millions of Americans who have bought a piece of the American dream during this run-up?

So far, the answer is clear. However, given the seriousness of this issue, and just how much impact the housing market has on the rest of the economy, the media should learn from this and present even-keeled reports that deal with how people should invest their money.

Don’t hold your breath.

Also, check out the historical graph at the Free Market Project link. There’s no doubt that housing has been good long-term investment over the last 35-plus years. There’s little doubt that it will be an at-least acceptable investment in the coming years.

Positivity: Chicago Cop Honored for Rescue

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:13 am

Double positives–the woman involved was rescued, and the perps were eventually caught: