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Congress: We Will Heroically Give Up Insider Trading: Seven And A Half Things To Know

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(L to R) U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) participate in a during a news conference on Congressional insider trading on January 31, 2012 in Washington, DC.
(L to R) U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) participate in a during a news conference on Congressional insider trading on January 31, 2012 in Washington, DC.

We're like an Etch-a-Sketch, too, you know: Every day we shake it up and show you seven and a half new things you need to know. Here they are:

Thing One: The Just-Us League Of America: In the space of just 24 hours we've had three examples of why our nation's proud Congress is as popular as it is.

The Senate on Thursday passed something you've probably never heard of before called the JOBS Act, which purports to make it easier for start-up companies to raise money, but also strips away investor protections like a warm acid bath. Because the problem with America over the past decade or so, the reason financial markets keep setting your money on fire and new jobs are so hard to come by, has not been a result of too little regulation of financial markets, but of way, way too much regulation. Apparently.

Meanwhile, we got proof that Congress is doing everything it can to boost the economy, in a Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington report of how much money lawmakers are diverting to their own family members, girlfriends and various other hangers-on. The biggest job creator in this respect is Ron Paul (R-Tex.), who has managed to funnel cash to "his daughter, daughter’s mother-in-law, brother, grandson, granddaughter [*PAUSES FOR BREATH*] another granddaughter and a grandson-in-law," writes Wonkette.

Finally, Congress swallowed hard and passed a law prohibiting itself from buying and selling stocks based on inside information. It was a brave act of self-restraint, a loud declaration that lawmakers will have no special advantages over the rest of humanity, at least not once those special advantages are found out by the national media.

"Congress should do even more to help fight the destructive influence of money in politics and rebuild the trust between Washington and the American people," Obama said after passage of the insider-trading bill. He paused a beat. He tried to keep a straight face. And then he just broke down laughing, and everybody in Congress started laughing, too, and before you knew it, they were all just laughing and laughing, until their bellies hurt and tears welled in the corners of their eyes, letting the tension of a hard week's lawmaking roll away from them. Slowly the laughter died down, and then everybody turned to each other and said, "Well, back to work," and they all got on their phones to call Wall Street for more campaign money.

Thing Two: Fighting The Rise Of The Machines: The stock market is increasingly not a place where human beings buy and sell stocks any more, but a place where a handful of supercomputers do battle with your retirement money. And apparently these high-frequency trade-bots can also give their human owners a special advantage over other investors, something the Securities and Exchange Commission is going to get right on, as soon as it can figure out how to power up its PC, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Thing Three: Bank Of America, Your New Landlord: The hot new thing among banks these days is not to try to sell you houses, but to take your deeply underwater house away from you and then rent it back to you. That way, they make money on the front and back ends of your financial ruin, and you don't have to sleep in your car. Everybody wins. Bank of America is offering this plan in a trial run to a few lucky customers in a few smoldering housing markets.

Thing Four: The Pain In Spain: Remember how the debt crisis in Europe was all solved recently? Well, it has climbed back from the bottom of the lake to start stalking the horny campers again. Spanish 10-year bond yields have climbed back above 5.5 percent, the Financial Times warns on the front page today. European stocks are down yet again this morning, partly on such worries.

Thing Five: Don't Blame The Fed: Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, continuing his lecture series at George Washington University, told students that the Fed's easy-money policy in the 2000s was not to blame for the housing bubble. The students were not quite as gullible and ill-informed as he'd hoped, but luckily Bernanke's pants caught on fire at that precise moment, prematurely ending the lecture.

Thing Six: Kids Versus Kars: These kids today, with their tweeting and sexting and twexting and what not, they just don't have the same time and love for gas-guzzling death machines that they did back in the 1950s. General Motors hopes to change that, by bringing in a youth consultant from MTV, who will totally give them the secret of improving their image with the youngs, reports The New York Times.

Thing Seven: More iPad Problems: Apple's new incrementally improved gadget is not turning out to be the life-changing awesomeness machine that Apple fanatics had hoped. It gets a little too warm for comfort, it has wifi connectivity problems, and it is hoovering up users' data plans at an alarming rate, writes the Washington Post.

Thing Seven And One Half: The Greg Smith Of Recapping: Only in America could "TV-show recapper" become not just an actual job description but something of an art form (at least as practiced by masters like Richard Lawson of the Atlantic and formerly Gawker). But at least one recapper has had enough. Gawker's Rich Juzwiak becomes the Greg Smith of TV recapping with his post, "Why I'll Never Recap A TV Show Again."

Around the Web

Insider Trading Ban for Lawmakers Clears Congress - NYTimes.com

Senate Passes Congress Insider Trading Ban - ABC News

Congress members face new curbs on insider trading - Yahoo! News

Congress Cracks Down On Insider Trading