Category Archives: Titus

SJR 34 and Your Internet Privacy

The purpose of SJR 34 (and HJR 86) was simple: To allow Internet Service Providers to collect and sell your Internet browsing history.  Not only did Senator Dean Heller support this, he signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill on March 7, 2017, one of 23 sponsors to do so.  Who’s impacted by this? Anyone who links through Comcast (17 million customers), AT&T (another 17 million customers), Time Warner Cable (add another 14 million customers), Century Link (additional 6.4 million customers), Charter (another 5 million customers), and a host of smaller providers. [Ecom] (See also PEcom)

Nevada customers of AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner, Charter, Cox and others, are also among those whose private browsing history can be tracked, collected, and sold off. [into link]

It seems bad enough to have the ISPs sell off information about browsing history to advertisers, who after browsing one day for sneakers, would want to be bombarded by advertising for the next year with sneaker ads?  Browsed for ‘best garden supplies?’ Expect ads for plant food, fertilizers, spades, and wheelbarrows for eternity? Then the scenarios become more pernicious.

Browse for information on asthma? Not only is the human browser now in line for a multitude of ads for medications, but there’s a hint here that some personal medical history may have been collected and sold.  The same issue might be raised about those looking up symptoms and treatments for everything from pediatric illnesses to Alzheimer’s Disease.  Thus far we’re only talking about the initial sales, and the use of the collections by commercial advertisers. However, there’s a question about what constitutes a buyer for the information?

The buyer might not have to be, for example, the Interpublic Group of New York City, one of the nation’s largest advertising firms. Could the buyer be the WPP Group of London, UK? Or, the Dentsu Group, of Tokyo. Could the buyer be RMAA, the largest advertising firm in Russia? Is there any protection in the bill to prevent the secondary sale of browser histories from an advertising agency to a data management and analysis company? What we have herein is a bill to allow the transfer of massive amounts of valuable data collected from individuals in the United States to the highest bidder, with little or no consideration of the after effects.

Gee, let’s hypothesize that I’m a foreign power with some experience dabbling in US state and national elections.  Let’s also assume that the foreign power is familiar with inserting ‘bots’ to drive traffic to particular websites, or insert fake news, confirmation bias ‘news,’ and other practices into the research patterns of American Internet users. What do I want? I want data on where those people ‘go’ on the Internet; the better I know my ‘target’ the better I can hone my message. Do those who go to Senator Bilgewater’s site also tend to go to sites concerning wildlife preservation?  If I can put these two bits of information together I can more effectively insert advertising either for or against the Senator. I can more effectively insert phony information into my messaging for the supporters or opponents of Bilgewater.  In short, I can ‘dabble’ more efficiently. Even more bluntly, have we handed our adversaries more ammunition for their advertising and propaganda guns?

The Senate twin in the House (HJR 86)/SJR 34 passed on March 28, 2017, only Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) voted in favor of the bill; Representatives Kihuen, Titus, and Rosen voted against it. [RC 202]

At the risk of facetiousness  on a serious topic, when Jill, of downtown East Antelope Ear, NV, goes online to search for a bargain on bed sheets, does she find herself viewing a plethora of ads for sex toys, a result of Jack’s periodic perusal of pornography sites? Would a simple search for high thread count sheets yield the splitting of those sheets in the Jack and Jill household? At least Jack and Jill will know whom to call about the issue — Senator Dean Heller and Representative Mark Amodei, who thought selling browser histories to be a grand idea at the time.

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Filed under Amodei, Heller, Internet, media, Nevada politics, Politics, privacy, Republicans, Titus

A Study In Contrasts: Responses to Orlando Shooting from Titus and Hardy

Orlando Shooting 

Titus Nevada’s First District Congressional Representative gets it:

“The nation is devastated by this horrific act of terror and hate at a nightclub that symbolizes the empowerment of the LGBT community. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their loved ones, but they are not enough. This senseless loss of life from gun violence must stop. As we mourn, we must  continue to reflect upon and fight for civil rights during LGBT Pride Month. Terror must not silence our collective voice.”  Dina Titus (D-NV1) [KTNV]

Hardy 2 For every act of terrorism there is a target. In the instance of the Pulse in Orlando the target was the LGBT community.  And, then there’s Representative Cresent Hardy’s response to the tragedy, one who obviously doesn’t get it:

“I want to lift up the victims of this horrible attack and their loved ones while giving thanks to the brave first responders who undoubtedly prevented further loss of life.
“Last night’s attack is a reminder that we must remain vigilant against the clear and present danger of radical Islamic terrorism. Whatever differences we may have here in the United States, we are all Americans and we all cherish our freedoms and way of life. Together, we will come together to defeat this extremism in defense of our fellow citizens and our liberty.” Cresent Hardy (R-NV4) [KTNV]

There’s nothing quite like using the generic “victims of this horrible attack” to avoid saying L G B T.  The victims were members of the LGBT community and their friends.  Representative Hardy focuses on the the Muslim community with the catch phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” as if saying the magic words will strike terror into terrorist hearts – not likely. It’s just more fodder for the Daesh-IS propaganda machine which would be delighted if the United States were to announce a “war on Islam;” it would make their narrative ever so much more effective when recruiting the disaffected, the marginalized, and the unstable.  Rally round the Flag (maybe not that Rainbow One) folks, to defeat “this extremism.” This dangerous but miniscule extremism. Let’s be clear: Islam is a religion; Daesh/IS is a death cult.

There are about 1.6 billion adherents to the Islamic faith, and the old count of 25,000 to 31,500 members of Daesh (IS) was revised recently to a range of 19,000 to 25,000.  Let’s be generous and allow Daesh some 31,000 members.  Get out the handy plastic brains and the calculation is 31,000 divided by 1,600,000,000; or, 0.00019375; or, 0.0194%.  What this number illustrates is what the Feds have been trying to tell us for some time now – the danger lies with the Lone Wolves.  Well armed Lone Wolves.

AR 15

If we read Rep. Hardy’s statement carefully we’d note that not once does he mention HOW the victims died.

Representative Titus did notice the method by which 49 people were killed, and 53 others injured — “senseless loss of life from gun violence…” in this case from the mass killers’ weapon of choice the AR-15.

“The AR-15’s popularity with killers has continued as well. This past October, Chris Harper-Mercer, 26, went on a rampage with an AR-15 at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore. He killed nine people before killing himself.

The AR-15 was among the weapons used by Islamic terrorists Syed Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, when they opened fire at a social services center in San Bernardino, Calif., in December. They killed 14.” [NYDN]

The ubiquitous AR-15 (there may be as many as 9 million of these weapons of mass killings in circulation in this country) also appeared at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, and the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting. [TP]

However, Representative Hardy, the recipient of some $3,000 so far in the 2016 election cycle from the National Rifle Association, is probably not going to mention HOW the LGBT victims in the Pulse died at the hands of a delusional lone wolf armed with an AR-15.

Perhaps, Representative Hardy doesn’t want to speak to delusional lone wolves who shoot up gay bars, but any rational discussion of these mass killings should incorporate HOW the LGBT victims died, and why so many.  So many? Because technically the AR-15 can fire 13.3 rounds per second, or 800 rounds per minute. Some claim that the AR-15 is capable of 45 rounds per minute, in the pre-modified state.  Somewhere in the middle is the relatively easily attained capacity of 120 rounds to 180 rounds per minute. [quora]  Add some high capacity magazines, and our lone wolf is prepared for carnage. 

“In his piece at Human Events, Keene (NRA) ridiculed the notion that AR-15-style rifles ought to be banned just because “a half dozen [AR-15s] out of more than three million have been misused after illegally falling into the hands of crazed killers.” But the AR-15 is very good at one thing: engaging the enemy at a rapid rate of fire. When someone like Adam Lanza uses it to take out 26 people in a matter of minutes, he’s committing a crime, but he isn’t misusing the rifle. That’s exactly what it was engineered to do.” [Slate]

Careful here, a half dozen AR-15’s were misused after “illegally falling into the hands of crazed killers?”  First, the guns themselves are no longer illegal in the hands of civilians. Secondly, the gun in Orlando was sold to a person legally capable of its purchase – so too in San Bernardino, – so too in Newtown.

Thanks to the National Rifle Association and its minions in Congress we have NOT renewed the assault weapons ban, we have not limited the sale of high capacity magazines, we have not enacted statutes for universal background checks, we have not statutorily denied the sale of assault weapons to those on terrorist watch lists.  Indeed, in the GOP controlled 114th Congress we have not even voted on these issues.

Perhaps now more than ever Representative Titus’s words ring true: “Terror must not silence our collective voice.” 

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Filed under gay issues, Gun Issues, Nevada politics, Titus

Amodei, Heck, Hardy, Sell Out Seniors

Amodei 3 There are three members of the House of Representatives from Nevada who, as of April 28, 2016 at 3:23 pm roll call vote #176, don’t get to talk about protecting retired persons, and their interests.  One of these members is Mark Amodei (R-NV2) who decided to vote “yes” on a House temper tantrum about Department of Labor rules on fiduciary duty.

Heck photo

Representative Joe Heck (R-NV3) is the second.  Congressman Heck decided that investment advisers should be allowed to put their own interests ahead of the interests of their retirement account clients.  Perhaps he’s touting the GOP line that making the investment advisers put clients’ interests ahead of their own profits would mean higher costs for investment advice.   The GOP says they want to “protect access to affordable retirement advice.”  If you are inclined to believe this I have some investment advice for you….free of charge.

Hardy 2

And, the third one who doesn’t get to talk about protecting retirees? Nevada 4th District Mr. Malaprop, Cresent Leo Hardy, Republican from Mesquite.   He seems to like the “old standard,” and this raises the question why?  Let’s take a look at the “old standard:”

“Before the new standard, advisers were only required to give “suitable” advice, which left the door open for them to steer clients into products that made the advisers more money but weren’t the best option. That practice was costing Americans an estimated $17 billion a year in conflicted advice, according to the White House. Some people say their finances, particularly their chances of retiring comfortably, have been destroyed by bad advice and that they would have simply been better off without it.” [TP]

Yes, we have it, Representative Hardy evidently believes that it is better for Americans to waste $17 billion per year on conflicted investment advice than to hold advisers to a higher standard of fiduciary responsibility.

Titus

One, that would be ONE member of the Nevada congressional delegation voted to hold financial advisers to a higher standard than “just what will best line the pockets of their firms.”  Representative Dina Titus (D-NV1) was the lone member among the delegation to vote against the GOP sell out to the financial and banking industry.

Thus, the next time one of the three Republicans blather on about how they want to protect senior citizens and retirees – We can smile and say “But what about HJ Res 88 on April 28, 2016 at 3:23 pm.”

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Filed under Amodei, financial regulation, Heck, Nevada Congressional Representatives, Nevada politics, profiteering, public employees, Titus

Death and Resurrection: Attacks on Financial Regulation Reform

Avarice Dante

Watch enough television and a person could get the impression that the greatest threats to mankind are bloody minded terrorists and crashing aircraft.  However, the “If It Bleeds, It Leads” brand of modern journalism tends to distract us from some much more realistic threats to our well being.

The odds of being killed in a terrorist attack are approximately 1 in 20,000,000.  The odds that our financial and economic well being are in jeopardy are being created right now in a Congress which has thus far in its short existence catered to the Financialists – those “weary souls” who will never have enough gold (wealth) to relax.   Witness the attempt at unraveling the Dodd-Frank Act financial regulation reforms during the first week in the 114th Congress.  [Business Day, NYT]

The bill was called the “Promoting Job Creation and Reducing Small Business Burdens Act.” [H.R. 37]  Nothing could have been much further from the truth of the matter. The opponents of bank regulation are depending on a public which doesn’t know a “counter-party” from a “counter-pane.”  This bill was an attack on the imposition of the Volcker Rule, and would have allowed some private equity funds from having to register with the S.E.C.   There is nothing in the bill about “creating jobs” except the old hoary delusion that making bankers more wealthy will “trickle down” eventually – sometime after the Second Coming?

Nor are any “small businesses” being “burdened,” unless of course we mean wealth management, hedge, and other financial services corporations with a small number of employees and massive amounts of money under management.  We are not, repeat NOT, speaking here of Joe’s Garage, Maria’s Dress Shop, or Anderson’s Bodega and News-stand.  In addition to the two big blasts at the Dodd Frank Act reforms, H.R. 37 contained provisions for lots of other goodies the financialists would like to find in their 4th Circle.

There were changes in margin requirements, changes in the accounting treatment of affiliate transactions, the registration of holding companies, a registration threshold for savings and loan holding companies, a ‘brokerage simplification act,’ a registration exemption for merger and acquisition brokers, a repeal of indemnification requirements for SWAP repositories and clearinghouses, changes to benefit “emerging growth companies,” – an EGC is any company with less than $1 Billion in gross revenue in a given year, extended deadlines for dealing with collateralized loan obligations, and various provisions to make fewer required reports from the financial sector EGC’s to the regulators.   In short, nothing in the bill had anything to do with the garage, the dress shop, or the neighborhood bodega.  This was a bill BY the financial services industry, FOR the financial services industry, or as Minority Leader Pelosi called it, “An eleven bill Wall Street Wish List.”

The good news is that this bill was defeated in the House on January 7, 2014 [rc 9] – the bad news is that the defeat came because the Republican leadership went for expedited passage and Democrats who had previously supported some provisions bailed out on them leaving the leadership without the 282 votes necessary for passage.  [Bloomberg] And, there’s more bad news – next time the Republican leadership won’t make the same error, and the bill will come up in another form, this time requiring only a simple majority.

As the bills come back in resurrected form, perhaps a short glossary of Republican rhetoric is desirable:

Small Business – any private equity or wealth management firm with less than a BILLION dollars in annual revenue.

Job Creation – any bill which allows financial sector (Wall Street) banks to make more money; see “Trickle Down Hoax.”

Burdensome Regulation – any requirement that a private equity or other investment entity doesn’t want to follow, even if it means leaving the public (and investors) in the dark about financial transactions.

Simplification Act – provisions in a bill to make it easier for private equity or any investment/wealth management firm to conceal what it is doing from financial regulators – and from anyone else.

Improving Financing – provisions in a bill to let the Wall Street bankers revert to the old Casino format of complicated, convoluted, and “creative,” financing of the variety best known for crashing and burning in 2007 and 2008.

Encouraging Employee Ownership – a provision in a bill to — “to increase from $5,000,000 to $10,000,000 the aggregate sales price or amount of securities sold during any consecutive 12-month period in excess of which the issuer is required under such section to deliver an additional disclosure to investors. The Commission shall index for inflation such aggregate sales price or amount every 5 years to reflect the change in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, rounding to the nearest $1,000,000.”  (This is NOT a joke.)

Since the people who want the enactment of these provisions are not satisfied with “all the gold under the moon, or ever has been,” the specifics of H.R. 37 will be resurrected, re-introduced, and the Republicans will seek passage of every item on the Wall Street Wish List.

Voting in favor of the H.R. 37 Wall Street Wish List were Representatives Heck (R-NV3), Amodei (R-NV2), and Hardy (R-Bundy Ranch). Representative Titus voted against the roll back of the Dodd Frank financial regulations reforms.

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Filed under Amodei, Economy, financial regulation, Heck, Titus

Bits and Pieces: Tesla, Titus, Heller, and Amodei

Jig Saw Puzzle ** It’s a done deal. TESLA’s coming to Nevada, brought to us by $1.2 billion worth of ‘incentives.’ [RGJ]  Meanwhile, watch that multiplier! The state is assuming a 2.5 multiplier for revenue generation, i.e. for every one direct job with TESLA there will be 2.5 ancillary jobs created – that’s a big multiplier. [RGJ] See also [LVRJ]

**  Representative Dina Titus (D-NV1) asked the VA to move its regional office from Reno to Las Vegas. [LVRJ]  Much as it might pain a northern Nevadan to say so, but the Las Vegas metropolitan area does have more of the 246,000 Nevada veterans than those living in the north, [VA] and the northern office hasn’t covered itself in glory. [LVRJ]  I’d not want to hang by my hair waiting for a definitive answer from the new VA leadership.

** From the Department of No Surprises:  Senator Dean Heller (R-American Bankers Association) voted against the cloture motion to consider S.J. Res. 19, a bill to propose a Constitutional amendment to allow the Congress to enact meaningful campaign finance reform.  Senator Heller was one of 42 (all Republican) votes to continue to filibuster any attempt to overturn the decision in Citizens United.  [roll call 261]

Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) voted in favor of H.R. 3522, a bill which would allow insurance corporations to offer small businesses group  insurance plans which DO NOT meet the standards for comprehensive health insurance coverage for their employees under the terms of the ACA.  [RC 495]  One organization summed up the problem with the bill:

“This legislation would allow health insurers to continue offering coverage outside of the insurance marketplaces established by the health law even if those plans do not comply with its coverage requirements. In addition, the inferior plans that would be allowed to continue under Representative Cassidy’s bill discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, force women to pay more than men for the same coverage and impose annual caps on the amount of care received by enrollees.” [NCPSSM]  (emphasis added)

Those three issues, pre-existing condition discrimination, gender discrimination, and junk policies with capped coverage are some of the main reasons the ACA was necessary in the first place.

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Filed under Amodei, Health Care, health insurance, Heller, Nevada economy, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, nevada taxation, Titus

Fire Away: H.R. 1565

TitusNevada Representative Dina Titus (D-NV1) has co-sponsored a bill introduced by Representative Peter King (R-NY) which ought to get a hearing in the 113th Congress, but given the subject matter,  and the disarray in House leadership, may not.  H.R. 1565 offers a compromise solution to the firearms gun show/internet sale loophole.

The Congressional Research Service summary notes the purpose of the measure: “Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act of 2013 – Amends the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act to reauthorize for FY2014-FY2017 the grant program for improvements to the criminal history record system.”  For those wishing for the return of the assault weapons ban — it’s not here.  Nor will we find any references to limiting the ammunition capacity of semi-automatic firearms.  However, the bill does address the laxity with which we are allowing the sale of firearms to dubious buyers.

Here’s what the bill does:

“Amends the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 to: (1) establish a four-year implementation plan to ensure maximum coordination and automation of reporting of records or making records available to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System; (2) direct the Attorney General to make grants to states, Indian tribal governments, and state court systems to improve the automation and transmittal of mental health records and criminal history dispositions; (3) provide for reductions in grant funding to states that have not implemented a relief from disabilities program; (4) make federal court information available for inclusion in the System; and (5) allow the submission to the System of mental health records that would otherwise be protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).” [CRS]

The bill is NOT about creating a national gun registry — it’s about improving the record keeping concerning individuals who under the provisions of most state laws (including Nevada’s) cannot legally possess firearms.

Repeat! This is NOT about creating a gun registry, in fact the bill expressly prohibits it.

“Provides that nothing in this Act shall be construed to: (1) expand the enforcement authority or jurisdiction of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); (2) allow the establishment, directly or indirectly, of a federal firearms registry; or (3) extend background check requirements to transfers of firearms other than those made at gun shows or over the Internet, or to temporary transfers for purposes including lawful hunting or sporting, or to temporary possession of a firearm for purposes of examination or evaluation by a prospective transferee.”  [CRS] (emphasis added)

The bill, introduced last April 30th, would not have saved the Reno Police Department the embarrassment of the L’Affaire Conklin.  However, it would have made funding available for the improvement of Nevada’s background check system.

Finally, the bill proposes some information gathering:

“Establishes the National Commission on Mass Violence to study the availability and nature of firearms, including the means of acquiring firearms, issues relating to mental health, and the impacts of the availability and nature of firearms on incidents of mass violence or in preventing mass violence. Requires the Commission to conduct a comprehensive factual study of incidents of mass violence, including incidents not involving firearms, to determine the root causes of such mass violence.” [CRS]

In terms of the “root causes” of mass violence, if the Commission completes its study, we’d find out what may already be reasonably obvious:  There are some mentally disturbed individuals who should not possess firearms, especially semi-automatic weapons with high capacity clips, etc.  It may also be reasonable to conclude that the findings might incorporate the problems associated with our mental health care delivery system, not the least of which is that support systems and monitoring available while a young person is enrolled in school are not as available for those who are on their own.

As well intentioned as this bill may be, it doesn’t address cumulative effects of gun violence.   We know that in 2010 there were 16,259 homicides in the U.S. of which 11,078 were by firearms, that’s a hefty 68%.  [CDC] If we add in all firearm deaths the numbers are even more depressing.   Counting all firearms deaths, but excluding those caused by “legal intervention,” there were a total of 31,328 in 2010.  [CDC pdf]  Since 1999 there have been 360,558 individuals killed by firearms.

Gun death chart

Nor does the bill address issues related to gun trafficking.  Information from Virginia tells us that most of the guns used in criminal activities come from a minority of licensed gun dealers:

“There have been thousands of firearms dealers licensed in the state since 1998, but 60 percent of the 6,800 guns sold in Virginia in that time and later seized by police can be traced to just 40 dealers. The merchants include mom-and-pop gun shops, inner-city pawn dealers and suburban sporting-goods outlets.” [WaPo]

And, Virginia exports its problems, to New York for example:

“In 2011, the leading sources for firearms recovered and traced in New York City were Virginia (322), North Carolina (255) and South Carolina (251).

The latest data shows that 2,186 of 2,433 traceable guns used in crimes in the five boroughs in 2011 were brought in from out-of-state.” [StatenIsland]

Those two major issues notwithstanding, H.R. 1565 is a step in the correct direction.

The dementia of extremist gun enthusiasts, and their leaders and cohorts in the gun manufacturing business, should not obscure the very real problems associated with gun violence in this state and in this country.   We accept reasonable limits on all other provisions of the Bill of Rights, yet the extremists among us decry any limits on gun possession.  There is nothing unreasonable about efforts to diminish the possibility that guns will end up in the hands of career criminals, fugitives from justice, unsupervised children, and those who are afflicted with severe mental illnesses that render them likely to harm themselves and others.

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Amodei, Heck Blow Off Sandy Victims

Amodei 2Nevada Representatives Mark Amodei (R-NV2) and Joe Heck (R-NV3) voted against the Supplemental Appropriations bill containing relief for victims of Super Storm Sandy.  [roll call 23]  There are a couple of boilerplate GOP talking points which underpin opposition to the supplemental funding bill.  There’s the “It’s full of pork,” argument.  Pork baloney.  It’s often handy to remember that one man’s pork can easily be another man’s economic development idea, and secondly — when haven’t supplemental spending bills contained several disparate funding authorizations?  That’s what supplemental bills are — bills to provide funding for items previously unbudgeted — like, say, the cost of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan during the Bush Administration?

There’s the “let’s take our time, some of the provisions don’t kick in for two years, so what’s the rush?” argument.  Containing therein an equal measure of pork baloney.  Unlike the ATM the right wing imagines the government to be — it takes TIME to get federal appropriations.  Applications must be filed, reviewed, approved, authorized, and then the money comes.  Why all that red tape?  Because there are those who cry “Waste, Fraud, and Abuse” every time federal money is spent unwisely, and the approval and accounting measures are there to restrain the temptations for Waste, Fraud, and Abuse.

There’s the “It’s a real tragedy, but we have a Debt Crisis” argument.  More pork baloney.  The current “Debt Crisis” is a GOP manufactured for cable news phenomena, a total reversal of Vice President Dick Cheney’s 2004 comment that “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”   Yes, we have too much debt, BUT it’s far from a “crisis” except in the fevered minds of those who think Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance benefits are “The Problem,” and not two off the books wars, one expansion of the Medicare prescription program with no funding formula, and one massive recession.

Then there’s a point of true irony.   There was an amendment to H.R. 152 from Congressman Fleming (R-LA) ” An amendment numbered 9 printed in Part C of House Report 113-1 to cut $9,800,000 from the Fish & Wildlife Service for rebuilding seawalls and buildings on uninhabited islands in the Steward McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in Connecticut.” This, after Congress authorized spending some $71 million for wildlife refuge restoration projects in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.   Representatives Amodei and Heck voted for this amendment too.  [roll call 19]  Representatives Titus and Horsford voted no.

Another moment of madness, offered by Representative Broun of Georgia “called for An amendment numbered 4 printed in Part C of House Report 113-1 to strike $13,000,000 in funding to “accelerate the National Weather Service ground readiness project“.  (Amendment 6) Really?  In what universe is it advisable to cut funding for “ground readiness projects” in the face of potentially devastating storms and other serious weather related situations?   Once more Representatives Amodei and Heck voted in favor of this amendment.  [roll call 17]  Representatives Titus and Horsford, who must have been listening to their elders who taught them “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” voted against this ill-conceived amendment.

Perhaps the Pork Baloney arguments can find favor in the Fever Swamp that is the controlling right wing of the Republican Party, but to enthusiastically vote for wildlife and coastal projects after Katrina in 2005 when the federal debt increased by approximately $553.7 billion — and then to scream “The Debt Is Coming, The Debt Is Coming,” in 2013 is a bit hypocritical.

National Debt 2005Hmm, 2002 to 2005 — that would be part of the Bush Administration’s contribution to the national debt?  Oh well, Representatives Amodei and Heck have offered us yet one more example of why their brand of government is the problem — a government that will not help its citizens in times of real crisis is problematic indeed.

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>Heck’s Selective Amnesia In NV District 3 Race

>Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV3) and her staff remind challenger Heck (R-Angle) that once upon a time not so very long ago there was a Republican President, and the policies adopted during that unfortunate administration had a little something to do with the current economic situation:

Henderson, NV – In his latest campaign attack ad Senator Joe Heck takes a page right out of the Sharron Angle playbook.  Senator Heck wants to have it both ways, claiming it’s not the role of Congress to create jobs then trying to blame Dina Titus for high unemployment.  But Senator Heck forgets that it was the policies of the Bush administration that created this recession. “Senator Heck believes it wouldn’t be his job to create jobs yet he wants to blame Dina Titus for unemployment in Nevada.  Senator Heck must have a selective memory because he forgot to mention that it was Dina Titus who saved more than 2,400 teachers’ jobs and kept 1,800 people on the job at McCarran airport,” Titus spokesman Andrew Stoddard said.  “Senator Heck clearly recognizes the difficult challenges that Nevadans are facing which leaves one to wonder just why he is so focused on tearing down the safety net on which people in District Three rely.” 

DB will go a good portion of the way down this track. However, it must be noted that one of the more egregious examples of the de-regulation measures that helped create the financial collapse of 2008 was signed by none other than the Big Dog himself. The Gramm-Leach Bliley Act, repealing the Glass Steagall Act, was enacted in 1999 during the 106th Congress. The measure, “Eliminates many Federal and State legal barriers to affiliations among banks and securities firms, insurance companies, and other financial service providers, including provisions of the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 and Section 20 of the Banking Act of 1933 (commonly referred to as the “Glass-Steagall Act”). Full affiliation can now occur between the entities.” And, so it did, to our ultimate distress.  S.900 “as amended” passed the Senate on a party line vote, 54 Republicans voting in favor of it, 44 Democrats voting “no.” [roll call 105]  Using 20/20 hindsight, the Congressional Republicans were all too enthusiastic about “reforming financial regulations” out of existence, and a Democratic President didn’t have the juice (or perhaps the interest) at the time to risk a veto over-ride vote. The 111th Congress spent a massive amount of time and energy trying to undo the damage done by the 106th.

There does seem to be an unexplainable argument popular among Nevada’s GOP challengers that (1) it’s not their job to enact programs and projects to help people in the state of Nevada and elsewhere get jobs, but (2) it’s the fault of Democratic incumbents for not enacting more such programs and projects to alleviate current levels of unemployment. One really doesn’t get to have it both ways.
Senator Heck wants to undermine  Social Security by taking money out of the system and jeopardize the guaranteed benefit seniors count on.” Senator Heck ignores the reality that the deepest recession in a generation  began under President Bush.  In fact, the month Dina Titus was sworn in as a new member of Congress and the final month of the Bush presidency, our country lost more than 700,000 jobs, the federal deficit was more than $1 trillion, and Nevada led the nation in foreclosures. “You can’t blame Senator Heck for wanting to forget it was the failed Republican economic policies that let Wall Street run wild and create this mess in the first place.” added Stoddard.  “While Senator Heck wants to go back to those failed policies, Dina has been working hard to pick up the pieces, helping families avoid foreclosure, supporting investments in renewable energy that can create 17,000 jobs in Nevada, and giving 98 percent of Nevadans a tax cut.”

State Senator Heck does need to explain with more precision than is currently evident why he is claiming that the Social Security program isn’t working. Other than offering the usual generalities about “saving it for future generations,” (it’s doing fine for future generations) and “allowing choice,” (translation: allowing Wall Street to bag another big wad of currency with which to play on its trading floors) he’s not demonstrated a thorough understanding of the nature of the four Social Security Trust Fund investments, or the revenue streams by which the program will use trust funds as a backstop when the last Boomers are octogenarians, and then revert to pay-go very shortly thereafter. There are many ways to say “privatize” and State Senator Heck’s tried most of them. This is, indeed, a hefty slash at the safety net. 

About that deficit? “President Bush’s budget chief blamed the faltering economy and the bipartisan stimulus package for the record $482 billion deficit the White House predicted for the 2009 budget year. Jim Nussle, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the deficit would be about 3.3 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, the measure of the nation’s total economy. The fiscal year begins October 1, 2008.” [CNN] The Bush Administration 2009 budget deficit was a hefty $482 billion, but the national debt is the figure that hit the $1 trillion dollar level, and kept going. Again, the Bush Administration set the record. When President George W. Bush took office the federal debt was $5.73 trillion, and President Clinton had left him a budget surplus. When President Bush left office in January 2009 the federal debt was $10.7 trillion — or $4.97 trillion more than when he took the oath of office the first time. [Politfact] We couldn’t have ask for a better rendition of the GOP Two Santa Claus Theory of Governance — the government, Santa #1, will keep spending and borrowing because Santa #2 cut tax revenues not once but twice, in 2001 and 2003.

The “Democrats will raise your taxes” is such a common motif among Republican candidates that the GOP must have trademarked it by now. Left unsaid, of course, is that under the Obama Administration taxes for 98% of the American public were reduced. It’s that 2% of the top tier income earners who are feeling “pressed” at the moment. Also left unreported by the GOP/Tea Party is that we now have the lowest personal taxation levels in the last 50 years. [USAT] The last time taxation levels were this low the Ames Brothers were singing “Rag Mop” and Nat King Cole was crooning “Mona Lisa” on the radio. In 1950 the average price for an automobile was about $1,500. The introduction of color television was still a year away, and Walt Disney wouldn’t start the construction of DisneyLand until July 21, 1954.

Jobs lost? Business Week called the period between 1999 and 2009 the Lost Decade. Manufacturing lost 5,372,000 jobs, information tech and services lost another 525,000, construction lost 238,000, wholesale trade lost another 166,000, and the hotel trade dropped 91,000.  Nevada, one of the Sand States in the midst of the housing bubble, lost jobs in the aftermath of the implosion on Wall Street. Picking up the pieces isn’t a pleasant task. Nor, is this a task that can be completed by a single representative in the U.S. Congress. However, give Representative Titus her due, she has tried.

On October 6, 2010 she added her voice to the chorus asking major bank holding companies to suspend foreclosure processes until they can verify the accuracy of their claims. As of September 29th: “Congresswoman Dina Titus of Nevada’s Third District announced today that Nevada is receiving an additional $57 million through the Hardest Hit Fund to help address the foreclosure crisis.  This brings Nevada’s total to $193 million received through this program.  Titus has relentlessly called on the Obama administration to do more to help homeowners at risk of foreclosure, and she has helped thousands of Southern Nevada homeowners through housing workshops and casework. “As ground zero of the foreclosure crisis, the Third District has been hit particularly hard during this recession,” Congresswoman Titus said.  “That is why I have made it a top priority to fight on behalf of my constituents by pushing for additional funds as well as standing up to the banks that too often have been part of the problem rather than part of the solution.  This assistance will help families that are struggling to get by due to the severity of this recession and stay in their home while we continue our efforts to turn Nevada’s economy around.”  The October 6th letter urging someone to ease the impact of the foreclosures on the southern Nevada economy wasn’t her first.

She’s also put some pressure on Treasury Secretary Geithner, “My Congressional office has worked with over 1,000 homeowners who have been trying to modify their loans.  While my staff is able to quickly escalate cases with loan modification officers, my concern remains with the thousands of homeowners in Southern Nevada and millions around the country who continue to be treated unfairly and inappropriately by Wall Street banks.” [Sept. 16, 2010 Titus]

There’s more to the economic picture at the moment than the housing issue. And while persuading a representative from the Treasury Department to actually travel to Nevada and LISTEN to real people who are having real issues with mortgage bankers helps, its even better to have someone in Congress who will vote to put people first and corporations second.

The ARRA (Stimulus Act) is a popular whipping boy for the Republicans, who rarely — if ever — remember to remind voters that $288 billion of it was in the form of tax cuts. The Making Work Pay provisions of the Act reduced payroll taxes as of April 2009. [DJU] The ARRA also provided for $1,500 in tax credits for those doing home renovations to make the house more energy efficient. There was another $2,500 tax credit for educational expenses. Generally speaking: “Citizens for Tax Justice, a self-described non-partisan organization, released a report on Tuesday that read: “The 2009 economic stimulus bill actually reduced federal income taxes for tax year 2009 for 98 percent of all working families and individuals.” This total includes the 95 percent of working families that will or have received tax credits in the range of $400 to $800.” [HP](emphasis added) Who wouldn’t vote for someone who voted in favor of tax cuts for 98% of all working families? The fact remains, Representative Titus voted in favor of giving 98% of all American working families a tax cut. [roll call 70]

H.R. 4173,  the financial reform bill, sought to put parts of the financial sector Humpty-Dumpty back together again. While it may not have gone as far as some would like — re-enacting Glass-Steagall for example — it did create a panel that can unwind financial firms facing “systemic failure” instead of waiting for the unhappy prospect of a crash, such as that narrowly averted with the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Consumers got a new watch-dog agency to monitor credit card companies and mortgage lenders. There is now stricter oversight of hedge funds and the private equities firms that were at the heart of the financial panic. Banks are now required to keep higher levels of capital reserves, and there are limits on proprietary trading. [AOL] The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act passed the House on June 30, 2010, with Congresswoman Titus voting in favor of the measure. [roll call 968] The bill became law on July 21, 2010.

One of the advantages a challenger possesses in any political race is the Magical Cloak Of Glib Generalizations, and hiding beneath it offers protection from having to provide any specifics to constituents.  State Senator Heck appears to have found this to be a truly useful garment. There’s “too much spending” but few ideas about exactly what would be cut except to say that the Department of Education should be eliminated, and student loans tossed back into the privatization pool in which fees and marketing expenses raised the interest rates for educational loans; or, to privatize Medicare and Social Security, to save them by ultimately eliminating them. There’s say, and there’s do. The better option is an incumbent who voted in favor of tax cuts for at least 95% of the American working public, voted in favor of reforming the trading practices on Wall Street, and is making an attempt on behalf of her constituency to make banks work with those facing foreclosure.

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>Nevada 3rd Congressional District Race: Heck Hooks Wagon To Angle’s YOYO

>Not that anyone from the Heck Campaign would be asking a liberal blogger for advice, but…I do believe that if I were campaigning in a congressional district in which almost 13% of the population was over 65 years of age [Census] I don’t think I’d be loudly calling for the privatization of Social Security and Medicare. However, that hasn’t stopped candidate Joe Heck from hitching his wagon to the already burdened Angle team.

His opponent, incumbent Dina Titus (D-NV3) who has a long legislative memory, reminds us all that
“Senator Heck has long been opposed to requiring insurance companies to provide a minimum level of coverage for tests and treatment.  He has a clear record in the state legislature of voting against efforts to require coverage of important preventive care measures.  In 2007, Senator Heck opposed legislation requiring health insurers to provide coverage of annual prostate cancer screenings.  That same year, he also voted against legislation mandating that insurance companies cover the HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. (SB 113 and SB 409, 2007) Senator Heck has made it clear that he opposes any requirements on health insurance companies, which in Nevada also includes coverage for autism, OB-GYN care, diabetes, cancer drugs, and mammograms.  Heck says he is concerned with the impact these requirements have on cost, but ignores how costs would skyrocket for some individuals if insurance companies were not  required to provide basic coverage. (Nevada Newsmakers, 9/27/10)  Furthermore, the cost of the HPV vaccine, for example, is approximately $300 compared to the tens of thousands of dollars it costs to treat patients with
cervical cancer.” (emphasis added)

Looking at this from another perspective, it doesn’t appear to matter to candidate Heck that a person (and his employer) may have been paying in premiums for “comprehensive” health care coverage thinking that such basic items such as diabetes treatment, cancer medication, and mammograms would be covered; if the insurance corporation doesn’t wish to allocate premium revenues towards these expenses. YOYO. You’re on Your Own!

Should this kind of thinking prevail, DB would be more than pleased to open an insurance corporation and happily sell health insurance policies exclusively to males over 30 and females over 25 who have no pre-existing medical conditions, and have no history of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or any other disease in their family backgrounds. The “comprehensive” policy from DB’s utterly hypothetical corporation  will cover a person for all medical expenses related to injuries incurred from alien abductions, coverage for all other conditions resulting from accident or illness may be purchased as separate riders on the basic policy. The maximum life time benefit of DB’s Incomprehensible Comprehensive Policy will total $29.95, and DB reserves the right to rescind the policy should any errors of any kind, typographical included, be observed.  DB would be really sorry if one your previous physicians noted a possible pre-existing condition and didn’t tell you about it — but that would still constitute a violation of our “Absolute Honesty” clause and the policy can be rescinded at any time.

DB’s Utterly Incomprehensible Comprehensive Insurance would not be possible should individuals like Representative Titus be re-elected. “There are far too many examples of insurance companies putting profits ahead of people, and if it were up to Senator Heck, insurance companies would be allowed to cherry pick and only cover the individuals, treatments, and preventive care that best pad their bottom line,” Titus spokesman Andrew Stoddard said.  “Nevadans have seen what happens when insurance companies are in the driver’s seat – discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, dropped coverage when people need it most, and denials of life-saving treatment.  Dina Titus has stood up to the insurance companies to put an end to these unfair practices, while Senator Heck will take Nevadans right back to the failed policies of the past.”

Ah, for the good old days when DB might have required individual riders on the Incomprehensible Comprehensive Really Affordable Health Care Insurance Policies for such things as fractures, sprains, strains, concussions, poison ivy and oak rashes, sunburn, pneumonia, measles, mumps, chicken pox, and flu. Oh, for those days of yore when DB’s Incomprehensible Comprehensive Really Affordable Health Care Insurance Policy could have demanded riders for cancer screening, for diabetes testing, for autism. And, O’ for the days when DB’s Incomprehensible Comprehensive Really Affordable Health Care Insurance Policy could be rescinded if a policyholder were to be so unfortunate as to contract one of these conditions, or Heaven Forfend — have a heart attack, stroke, or a really bad automobile accident with substantial injuries requiring hospitalization.

Candidate Heck would very much like to repeal the health care reforms recently enacted, which would, of course, make selling the Incomprehensible Comprehensive Really Affordable Health Care Insurance Policy possible. Now which of the following would candidate Heck like to repeal first?
#1. The provision prohibiting an insurance corporation from denying children, including infants, coverage because they have a pre-existing condition or birth defect.
#2. The provision prohibiting an insurance corporation from slapping on a life time limit on health benefits for those who face prolonged treatment regimens such as those for cancer treatment.
#3. The provision prohibiting an insurance corporation from canceling your policy without having to prove fraud.
#4. The provision that forbids an insurance corporation from denying a claim without any process for appeal.
#5. The requirement that comprehensive coverage gives a policy holder access to preventative medicine, screenings, vaccinations, and health counseling without out of pocket costs.
#6. The requirement that new policies allow families to keep dependents covered until age 26.
#7. The requirement that the policy holder be free to chose his or her primary care physician from the health care plan’s provider network, and allow consultation with an OB/GYN without a referral from another physician.
#8. The requirement that you can be taken to the nearest emergency room without penalty. [DHHS]

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Filed under Angle, health insurance, Heck, Titus

>H.R 5297: A Test – Who Really Supports Small Business?

>One could begin to tire quickly of the posturing of the Republican Party about its warm fuzzy feelings for the little engines of the U.S. economy, those darling and beloved small businesses. No regulation of Wall Street can be considered, nor any amendments to the Bush Tax Cuts for the wealthiest 2% among us, can be proffered without the GOP crying for the poor little small business owner. There are some real tears to be shed for the credit crunch in which American small business owners find themselves today. However, we can guess that the tears from the GOP are more like those of a crocodile than any sympathetic cohort or supporter. We can know this because on the following occasions the House Republicans have had tangible opportunities to support small businesses in this country, and in the state of Nevada, and they’ve taken a pass.

There was H.R. 4849, the Small Business and Infrastructure Jobs Act with a 100% exclusion of small business capital gains to spur investment in small businesses, and a provision concerning the Small Business penalty relief endorsed by Small Business Council. The increased tax deduction for start up expenses was to encourage the formation of new small businesses. There were provisions for Build America Bonds for infrastructure improvements and projects (construction jobs) and TANF emergency fund extended for state subsidized jobs programs

Cracks down on foreign tax haven corporations that are taking advantage of the U.S. tax treaty network in order to dodge American taxes. Prevents U.S. subsidiaries of foreign-owned companies based in countries without U.S. tax treaties from avoiding U.S. taxes they would otherwise owe by sending the money to an affiliate in a country with a tax treaty. The United States has entered into bilateral tax treaties with many foreign countries — reducing U.S. tax withholding for foreign persons from the treaty country — to prevent double taxation of income earned by residents of the treaty countries, and funneling funds through a subsidiary in a tax treaty country can enable the corporation to avoid U.S. taxes. Estimated to raise $7.7 billion over ten years.” [gavel] *(President George W. Bush identified this loophole as an “abuse” in 2002, and sought to close it in his 2008 budget proposal.)

Bill passed the House on March 24, 2010 on a 246-178 vote almost straight party line vote) Representative Titus (D-NV3) and Representative Berkley (D-NV1) voted yes to this measure. Congressman Heller voted no.

Then there was H.R. 2847, the Jobs for Main Street Act, which was chock full of funds for local and state infrastructure projects for contractors and subcontractors in the construction sector of our economy.
$27.5 B for highway infrastructure investments
$8.4 B for public transportation investment
$500 M for capital investment for fixed guide-way projects
$1.75 B in formula funds for maintaining existing subway, light rail, and commuter rail system
$800 M for capital grants for Amtrak for acquisition and rehabilitation of rolling stock and passenger equipment
$500 M for airport improvement projects
$100 M for Maritime Guaranteed Loan Title IX program to allow shipyards to obtain long term financing for growth and modernization projects
$2 B for community clean and safe water projects
$100 M for rural clean and safe water projects
$715 to ACE for environmental reconstruction, hydropower, and navigation infrastructure projects
$2 B for Department of Energy Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program for renewable energy and electric transmission projects
$4.1 B for school renovation projects for construction, rehabilitation, and repairs

This is the list that sent GOP opponents into spasms about how we’re spending our grandchildren’s inheritance, drowning ourselves in debt, and hypocritically enough — increasing the deficit. The Party cheering for increased spending to support construction contractors and subcontractors wasn’t the self proclaimed party of small business — it was the Democrats. Tucked into this bill was a very specific provision for SBA assistance to small businesses.

Small Business Loans: $354 million, fully offset, to allow the Small Business Administration (SBA) to continue two temporary loan guarantee authorities through the end of fiscal year 2010 to make loans more attractive to borrowers and lenders and to free up capital. Small businesses represent a major engine for the U.S. economy, but many small business owners have had a difficult time securing needed loans in these tight economic times.” [gavel]

The bill passed in the House on December 16, 2009 259-157; with most Republicans opposed; Representative Berkley (D-NV1) and Representative Titus (D-NV3) both voted YES, Congressman Heller voted NO. (217-212 12/6/09) The bill was incorporated into a Senate amendment, reported by Senator Mikulski (D-MD) passed the Senate 71-38 Reid Yes, Ensign NO [roll call 340]

A bill resolving differences in House and Senate versions passed the Senate 70-28
Feb 24, 2010; Reid Yes, Ensign No; House Vote 217-201 Berkley, Titus Yes, Heller No
Final version vote in the Senate 68-29; Reid Yes, Ensign NO
The Bill was signed into law, March 18, 2010

Are we noticing a pattern here? If a bill concerns closing tax loopholes for multi-national corporations which offshore American jobs — GOP opposition is assured. If a bill concerns paying for small business promotion and protection at the expense of closing tax loopholes for millionaires and billionaires who exploit technical crevasses to hide income — GOP opposition is assured. It is apparently perfectly acceptable to assume the burden of $680 billion added to the deficit over ten years to preserve tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. However, propose to pay construction companies, contractors and subcontractors, $27.5 billion to enhance, repair, or rehabilitate, our national highway system and the GOP will cry as if in pain that we are squandering our resources.

Now comes H.R. 5297

The bill would create a lending facility for the extension of credit to small businesses through community banks. The Secretary of the Treasury would administer a Small Business Lending Fund of $30 billion, and would receive funds from the program for the reduction of the public debt. No more than 1% of the value of purchases made on behalf of the fund can be used to make purchases from community development loan funds. Banks with less than $1 billion in assets can apply for a capital investment from the Fund not exceeding 5% of risk-weighted assets. Institutions with assets between $1 billion and $10 billion may apply for up to 3% of risk-weighted assets. A ten year limit is set for the repayment of the capital investments under the program. Translation: Small banks can submit a plan for assisting small businesses secure credit, and the Treasury will back-stop their lending for up to 5% of their risk-weighted assets. Larger banks can also participate but can only be secured for 3% of their risk-weighted assets.

Title 2 of the bill concerns the State Small Business Credit Initiative, with a seven year program to allocate FY09-10 funds to participating states with capital access programs. Title III speaks to a Small Business Early-Stage Investment Program in the Small Business Administration to provide equity investment financing to support start ups. Notice that the SBA would NOT provide the equity, it would only assist in the securing of financing in conjunction with corporations, LLCs, or limited partnerships. Title V amends the Internal Revenue Code to increase from 50% to 100% the exclusion from gross income of the gain from the sale or exchange of qualified small business stock acquired after March 15, 2010 and before January 1, 2012. Translation: No small business capital gains tax. The bill also increases the tax deductions for start up costs for a small business from $5,000 to $20,000 in 2010 and 2011.

H.R. 5297 passed the House of Representatives on June 17, 2010 on a 241-182 vote; Representatives Berkley (D-NV1) and Titus (D-NV3) voted in favor of the bill; Congressman Heller voted against it. [roll call 375] The bill is due for consideration in the Senate as of August 5, 2010.

Wouldn’t it be nice for truly small banks, and truly small businesses, in these United States if the Republicans could stop paying lip service to the interests of smaller banks and businesses and start paying real attention to them? Nothing would better illustrate a sincere wish to assist small businesses in this country than the passage of H.R. 5297 — when the Senate returns to its business on September 13th we’ll have an opportunity to see if the Republican minority will filibuster this bill, or put their votes where their mouths are and support the legislation.

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Filed under Berkley, Economy, Ensign, Heller, Reid, Republicans, Titus