Under the Reading Lamp — 10/3/2011

Gerald E. Scorse, Truthout | The Ideal Capital Gains Tax Reform
“Advocates of tax breaks on capital gains claim that investments in the stock market grow jobs and grow the economy. For all but a trace amount of the billions of shares that change hands every day, that’s patently untrue. Almost none of the money that flows through Wall Street goes to companies or grows jobs; it simply grows portfolios. Except for the exceptions. Small companies with big dreams use initial public offerings (IPOs) to help make those dreams take root and flourish.”
Zaid Jilani, ThinkProgress | MT Gov. Schweitzer Wants to Design His Own Universal Health Care System
“Another governor is looking to take advantage of flexibility in Obama’s health care law in order to establish a single payer system. Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) announced yesterday that he will be seeking a waiver to set up his own universal health care system in his state modeled after the single payer Canadian health care system that began in the province of Saskatchewan.”
Julian Pecquet, The Hill | Dems want probe of Justice Thomas as health law ruling looms

Twenty House Democrats are demanding a judicial ethics investigation into Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas just as the high court is poised to issue a ruling on the healthcare law that could make or break President Obama’s reelection. The lawmakers on Thursday asked the U.S. Judicial Conference to formally request that the Department of Justice look into Thomas’s failure to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars his wife has received from groups that want the healthcare law repealed.

Washington Post | Is My Post Office Closing? (Interactive Map)

In an effort to reduce costs, the U.S. Postal Service is continuing to study 3,600 post offices and 250 processing centers for closure as part of a four-year plan to cut $6.5 billion in costs. With email confirmations and online services, post offices are less frequented and mail volume has dropped significantly, and these facility reviews aim to create a leaner, more efficient network. Other proposed changes include reducing its workforce by 120,000 and canceling Saturday mail delivery.

Kevin Drum, Mother Jones, | Coming Soon: The Tea Party Recession of 2011?

Back in 2008, during the worst of the financial crisis, I remember that many of us were shaking our heads a bit over Europe. American banks were clearly overleveraged, which led to the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman and Wachovia, and the near collapse of several others, but European banks mostly came through unscathed. Outside of Great Britain (and Iceland, of course), Europe suffered only a few bank failures, and they were pretty easily contained. And yet, European banks, on average, were more highly leveraged than ours. Shouldn’t they have collapsed even worse than ours? What gives?

Dallas Darling, Truthout | Eyewitness to Texas Wildfires Watches Austerity Burn Rural Community

Dallas Darling, Truthout: “When I arrived in Bastrop, I encountered a second set of wildfires: angry, bitter citizens. At one meeting, residents – who had spent nearly a week wondering if their homes had been destroyed by the fire or remained standing – shouted questions at county officials…. Most Bastrop residents did not make the connection between Gov. Rick Perry’s deep budget cuts to local police and fire departments and the chaos they were facing, or criticize the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) stripping of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of funding and staff to address national disasters (nor did they mention the ongoing wars around the globe sucking money from domestic programs).”

Nancy Murray & Kade Crockford, Truthout & ACLU MA | A Nation of “Suspects”

Nancy Murray and Kade Crockford, Truthout and ACLU Massachusetts: “The recent dramatic expansion of intelligence collection at the federal, state and local level raises profound civil liberties concerns regarding freedoms and protections we have long taken for granted. If people generally appear unaware of ‘change in the air,’ a large part of the reason is the unparalleled resort to secrecy used by the government to keep its actions from public scrutiny. According to the new American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report, ‘Drastic Measures Required,’ under President Obama (who had vowed to create ‘an unprecedented level of openness in Government’ when he first took office), there were no fewer than 76,795,945 decisions made to classify information in 2010 – eight times the number made in 2001.”

Jamie Raskin, Sr Fellow-PFAW | The Commerce Clause and American Progress

Report Cover

In the Tea Party, it’s all the rage these days to declare everything unconstitutional — Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, disaster relief, federal civil rights laws, health care reform, basically any law that enables the federal government to take on national-scale problems. One of the main strategies that the Tea Party has been using to push this extreme and regressive view of the Constitution is pushing aside the Commerce Clause, the clause in the Constitution that gives Congress the power “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes.” In a new report, “The True Spirit of the Union: How the Commerce Clause Helped Build America and Why the Corporate Right Wants to Shrink It Today,” People For the American Way Foundation Senior Fellow Jamie Raskin argues that “a powerful case can be made “that the Commerce Clause is “the most important constitutional instrument for social progress in our history.”

Robert Borosage, Notion of Change | Middle Class Fights Plutonomy to Save the Dream

“Thousands rally to defend worker rights in Wisconsin, then nearly a million force a referendum in Ohio to repeal a similar assault. Tens of thousands fill congressional town meetings to demand Jobs, not Cuts in August. Over 100,000 join in vetting provisions for a Contract for the American Dream. Nonviolent protestors occupy Wall Street, and stay restrained despite police provocation, and now demonstrations are spreading to financial districts in cities across the country.

Nathan Schneider, Notion of Change | On the Occupy Wall Street ‘Media Blackout’

“Online, there have been accusations of outright censorship. Yahoo has admitted to “not intentional” blocking of emails with links to occupywallst.org, blaming their spam filter. (This excuse is not widely believed, but plausible—I’ve seen the site trigger non-Yahoo spam filters as well.) Twitter has similarly blocked #occupywallstreet from being listed as a trending topic. (This may be because it keeps being throttled by Anonymous bots—or, more conspiratorially, because a considerable stake in the company is owned by JPMorgan Chase, which also just donated $4.5 million to the NYPD.)

Peter Van Buren, Notion of Change | Chickening Out in Iraq (Wasting Millions of US Taxpayer $$$)

“Like learning that Baghdad produced 8,000 tons of trash every day, who could have imagined when we invaded Iraq that such information would be important to the Global War on Terror? If I were to meet George W., I would tell him this by way of suggesting that he did not know what he was getting the country into. I would also invite the former president along to visit a chicken-processing plant built with your tax dollars and overseen by my ePRT (embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team).”

Pat Garofalo, News Report | Rick Perry Gave Millions Of Taxpayer Dollars To Subprime Lenders

“2012 GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry has already caught some well-deserved flak for his administering of the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF), which was meant to deliver incentives to companies that would create jobs in the Lone Star State. Instead, as Time’s Massimo Calabresi reported, the fund “channeled millions of dollars to companies whose officers or investors are major Perry campaign donors and Perry has allowed them to keep their subsidies in many cases even when they fail to deliver promised jobs.”

Andrew Mach, News Analysis | Antibiotics in Livestock Fuel Debate Over Hazardous Meat and Poultry

“Preventive health measures don’t guarantee safe food, according to environmental health scientist Ellen Silbergeld, who told News21 that thousands of ranchers like Vittetoe have “squandered the use of antibiotics” by feeding and injecting healthy cows, pigs, chickens and turkeys with the same drugs used to cure human infections. The result is bacteria that can no longer be killed by antibiotics and are still present in animals when they go to slaughter, said Silbergeld, a professor at the Johns Hopkins.”

David Lightman, New Analysis | As Obama Presses Passage of His Jobs Bill, Congress Shrugs

“Congress is highly unlikely to approve the massive jobs package that President Barack Obama has been pushing relentlessly from coast to coast, day after day, for almost a month. Republicans don’t like its proposed tax increases. Some Democrats are reluctant to endorse another cut in Social Security taxes; others are wary of oil and gas tax hikes. And Obama’s low approval ratings, the most dismal of his presidency, are making it hard for him to build any momentum.”

Kanya D’Almeida, News Analysis | Battle Escalates Against Genetically Modified Crops

Kanya D’Almeida, News Analysis: “Home to a fast-growing network of farmers’ markets, cooperatives and organic farms, but also the breeding ground for mammoth for-profit corporations that now hold patents to over 50 percent of the world’s seeds, the United States is weathering a battle between Big Agro and a ripening movement for food justice and security. Conflicting ideologies about agriculture have become ground zero for this war over the production, distribution and consumption of the world’s food.”

Tidbits in the News 07.29.2011

Reid to Start Debt Bill Process by Friday Night [Roll Call]
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid(D-Nev.) announced Friday that he will take action on approving a debt ceiling compromise Friday, beginning the procedural process on a bill that he hopes will avert government default by the Treasury Department’s Tuesday deadline.  By filing cloture Friday, Reid sets up a potential 1 a.m. vote Sunday on his bill, which he called “the last train leaving the station” and “our last chance to avert default.”  f the leaders cannot agree to shorten the time-consuming procedural maneuvers, or if any Member decides to filibuster, the full Senate process would then set up a second vote at 7:30 a.m. Monday, with final passage from that chamber on Tuesday, aides said.  Read the full article >

Heller says he won’t vote for debt plan that’s ‘not good enough’
Nevada Sen. Dean Heller hasn’t finished reading through the fine print of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s and House Speaker John Boehner’s competing proposals to raise the debt limit. But already, he seems to be trying to carve out a space for himself to vote “no.”  “I do believe it’s a critical date,” he said. “But that’s not to say that I’ll vote for any of these plans if they’re not good enough.”  Read the full article >

House panel approves bill forcing ISPs to log users’ web history
The House Judiciary Committee approved legislation on Thursday that would require Internet service providers (ISPs) to collect and retain records about Internet users’ activity.  “The bill is mislabeled,” Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), a senior member of the panel told CNET. “This is not protecting children from Internet pornography. It’s creating a database for everybody in this country for a lot of other purposes.”  Read the full article >

With House debt ceiling bill stalled, Harry Reid makes his move
Calling his plan “the last train out of the station,” Reid said there are only hours to act before Tuesday’s Treasury deadline, so he plans to file a procedural motion Friday to move towards a final vote in the next few days. Read the full article>

SPIN METER: Spouse standard shift s for Bachmann
Now that the shoe is on the other foot, Republican candidate Michele Bachmann says scrutiny of her husband is out of bounds.  That certainly wasn’t the case during the 2008 campaign when she trumpeted that “… it was Michelle Obama who said she’s only recently proud of her country. And so these are very anti-American views.”  Read the full article>


Your Chance to Comment on HIPAA Privacy Rule Changes

HHS announces proposed changes to HIPAA Privacy Rule

HITECH lets people know who has accessed their health information

A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concerning the accounting of disclosures requirement under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) Act Privacy Rule, is available for public comment. The proposed rule would give people the right to get a report on who has electronically accessed their protected health information.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is proposing changes to Privacy Rule, pursuant to the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. HITECH is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

“This proposed rule represents an important step in our continued efforts to promote accountability across the health care system, ensuring that providers properly safeguard private health information,” said OCR Director Georgina Verdugo. “We need to protect peoples’ rights so that they know how their health information has been used or disclosed.”

People would obtain this information by requesting an access report, which would document the particular persons who electronically accessed and viewed their protected health information. Although covered entities are currently required by the HIPAA Security Rule to track access to electronic protected health information, they are not required to share this information with people.

The proposed rule requires an accounting of more detailed information for certain disclosures that are most likely to affect a person’s rights or interests. The proposed changes to the accounting requirements provide information of value to individuals while placing a reasonable burden on covered entities and business associates.

People may now read the proposed rule at: http://www.federalregister.gov/ and submit comments to http://www.regulations.gov/ (search for Proposed Rule) through August 1, 2011.

People who believe a covered entity has violated their (or someone else’s) health information privacy rights or committed another violation of the HIPAA Privacy or Security Rule, may file a complaint with OCR at http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/complaints/index.html. Additional information about OCR’s enforcement activities can be found at http://www.hhs.gov/ocr.