President Obama on Tuesday hailed an ambitious new deficit-reduction plan that is gaining momentum in the Senate, saying it could provide the vehicle to break an impasse over raising the federal borrowing limit while cutting the nation’s debt.
Appearing at the regular White House news briefing, Obama said the bipartisan proposal is “broadly consistent” with the approach he has advocated in that it reduces discretionary spending and tackles health-care spending and entitlements while also raising additional revenue.
But in the event that an agreement capable of passing Congress is not reached before a looming deadline to raise the federal debt ceiling, Obama said, lawmakers should finishing hammering out a backup plan now being negotiated by the Senate’s Democratic and Republican leaders.
Former Demand Progress Executive Director Aaron Swartz was just indicted by the US government. As best as we can tell, he is being charged with allegedly downloading too many journal articles from the Web. The government contends that downloading so many journal articles constitutes felony computer hacking and should be punished with time in prison. We disagree.
The charges are made all the more senseless by the fact that the alleged victim has settled any claims against Aaron, explained they’ve suffered no loss or damage, and asked the government not to prosecute.
James Jacobs, the Government Documents Librarian at Stanford University — where Aaron did undergraduate work — denounced the arrest: “Aaron’s prosecution undermines academic inquiry and democratic principles,” Jacobs said. “It’s incredible that the government would try to lock someone up for allegedly looking up articles at a library.”
Aaron Swartz is the founder of Demand Progress. He previously co-founded the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, watchdog.net, Open Library, Jottit, and Reddit.com. He is co-author of the RSS 1.0 specification and helped launch Creative Commons.
I dropped my car off this morning to be inspected, and of course got into an argument with my mechanic over Fox News. He says it’s there to “balance all those other liberal channels.”
I told him he needed to stop getting all his information from the teevee. He told me what a great president Ronald Reagan was; I said, “Why?” He just looked at me.
“No, really. Tell me what was so great about him.”
“He balanced the budget.”
“No he didn’t, he ran it up. Why else? Got any other reasons?”
“He cut spending.”
“He didn’t do that, either. He ran up the deficit to record levels. You claim to want help for working people? Ronald Reagan was the guy who started taxing unemployment checks — to pay for a tax cut for the rich.”
“That can’t be right!”
“Look it up.”
So then he starts telling me how much he likes O’Reilly. “That guy really says what he thinks.”
“So do I, and I’m a lot smarter than him. Why aren’t you listening to me?”
In a conference call yesterday afternoon, Elizabeth Warren sidestepped the question of whether she’s running for the Senate seat from Massachusetts.
“I’ve been hard at work setting up this consumer agency, working 14-hour days,” she said. “I can’t remember the last time I had a day off. My plans include taking my grandchildren to Legoland. That’s as far as I can see right now. I have to get back home to Massachusetts.”
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee seems to take that as a maybe, since they’re already sending out a Draft Elizabeth Warren email.
Warren said she supported President Obama’s choice of Robert Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
“I don’t want to hurt this agency. That’s what matter most to me. If I’m drawing fire to the agency, that’s it. I want to do what works for the agency,” she said. “This is the White House strategy, and I’m 100 percent behind it.”
She said pointedly that “the people who are trying to prevent this agency are the Republicans. We wouldn’t have this agency if it wasn’t for this president. They like the old system, with seven different agencies for consumer protection, nobody responsible and accountable to the American people. I’m saving all the rocks in my pocket for Republicans.”
Warren said that having a nominee “frees us up to have a big political discussion, or, if you like, fight. We are now able to have a free and open discussion about this agency. The Republicans want that fight. We can now have that fight in a full and vigorous way, at high volume.”
She warned that Republicans are counting on the word about the new agency “not drifting back to their constituents at home” and asked bloggers to keep writing about it. “There are still very powerful Republican senators who think crippling this agency is important,” she said.
I asked if the new bureau would be addressing consumer arbitration, an area rife with abuse. “We have a responsibility to review the impact of arbitration. What I’ll say is, watch this space,” she said.
To a question about Sheila Bair’s recent statement about the size of the mortgage fraud problem, she responded, “I’ll stand with Sheila Bair on this one. She testified three weeks ago that we still don’t know the depth of the problem. I think that says it all. We don’t know. She said millions of mortgage could be affected by this? I have to agree with her.”
Saying “change comes from people pushing on many different pieces,” Warren was very positive about the potential for keep the CFPB accountable to the people.
“In the hiring, it’s been very important to me that two things happen simultaneously. We’re here to serve American families – not the banks, not Congress. We come to that position from a variety of backgrounds,” she said, citing the wide and varied expertise of the new agency employees.
“For instance, we’re not going to hire just one group of economists who all have the same view. That carries with it the risk of intellectual capture. We’ve increased the odds that we’ll stay on mission.
“I spent a lot of time thinking about this,” she said.
Uh oh! I guess somebody’s going to get a stern letter, and they’ll have to promise not to do it again:
HELENA, Mont. — A newly discovered oil spill in northwestern Montana went unreported for a month before a neighboring landowner complained to the Blackfeet Indian Tribe, federal regulators said Monday.
FX Drilling Co. never reported the spill, estimated to be between 420 and 840 gallons, to the tribe or to the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA spokesman Joe Vranka said.
The amount spilled at the FX Drilling Co. oil field in a remote corner of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation appears to be much less than the estimated 42,000 gallons that emptied into the Yellowstone River earlier this month. But the northwestern Montana spill comes at a time when all pipeline and oil operations in the state are under scrutiny as a result of the larger Exxon Mobil Corp. pipeline break.
The company discovered the break in the flow line between two oil wells on June 12 and shut down the line, Vranka said. Company officials may have believed the spill didn’t go beyond the oil field, he said, when oil had actually flowed down a ravine nearly a mile to the Cut Bank Creek, which connects with the Marias River.
A neighboring landowner notified the Blackfeet tribe last Tuesday, and the tribe in turn notified the EPA. Officials from the federal agency made the first contact with FX Drilling by calling the company, Vranka said.
The company had 24 hours to report a spill once it reached the waterway, Vranka said. The federal agency is looking into possible penalties against the independent oil and gas producer.