Thom Hartmann here – on the news…
You need to know this. The stage is set for Citizens United Round Two. Last December – the Montana State Supreme Court ignored the Citizens United ruling – and continued its ban on corporate election spending – upholding a 1912 law known as the Montana Corrupt Practices Act. According to the Act - "a corporation may not make ... an expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political party that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party." But those corporate interests – in this case the American Tradition Partnership – that were upset by this law are now petitioning the Supreme Court to have it reversed. The lead attorney for the American Tradition Partnership – James Bopp, Jr. – who assisted with the Citizens United legal argument – filed a stay with Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on Wednesday calling for the Montana’s law to be overturned. As Bopp said, "[i]mmediate relief is needed to prevent irreparable harm to the Corporations' First Amendment free-speech right." It’s likely the court will strike down the Montana ruling – thus for a second time ruling that corporations are people and money is speech, without looking at the real world consequences of such a ruling. As Montana Supreme Court Justice James Nelson – who even dissented in the case in January – wrote, "In the real world of politics, the 'quid pro quo' of both direct contributions to candidates and independent expenditures on their behalf is loyalty…And, in practical effect, experience teaches that money corrupts, and enough of it corrupts absolutely." He’s right – and as long as Citizens United stands – then our democracy is corrupted. Time to go to MoveToAmend.org to fight for a constitutional amendment to kick corporations out of our democracy.
With oil prices climbing – our economy is screwed. Oil is once again trading at over $100 a barrel – and there are projections that gas could hit four – or even five – dollars a gallon this summer. That’s not exactly helpful for an economy in a fragile recovery. But here’s the strange thing – demand for oil in America is lower than it’s ever been since 2007. So if demand isn’t driving the oil price spike – then what is? Wall Street. Just like the oil bubble in 2008 that many economists believe played a role in the eventual financial crash – Wall Street speculators behind the scenes are driving up the price of oil in derivatives markets and making massive amounts of money off it. Meanwhile – average Americans are getting killed at the pump. According to Tom Kloza – chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service – oil speculators on Wall Street have put $11 billion on oil futures – betting that the price will go up. And when enough people bet – then, sure enough, the price goes up. That’s the consequence of a financialized economy – where Wall Street has to pick up the slack of creating wealth since we don’t manufacture anything anymore. Unfortunately – Wall Street can’t – and has never – created any ACTUAL wealth.
In the best of the rest of the news…
Governor Rick Scott’s plan to imprison Floridians for profit was derailed by his own Party Wednesday. Nine Republicans joined with Democrats in the state Senate to vote down legislation that would have sold 26 state-run prisons to private corporations like the Corrections Corporation of American, which profits off each new American it incarcerates. CCA recently sent a letter to 48 states around the nation offering to buy up prisons. But studies out of Ohio show that a similar deal worked out last year with CCA will actually cost Ohio taxpayers more money over the long run that had the state kept ownership of the prison. In other words, it’s a bad deal for taxpayers – and it’s a bad thing for our economy when profiteers are throwing Americans in prison to make money. This is the latest example of for-profit corporations trying to eat up our commons – and we need to keep fighting back.
Wikileaks is dabbling in social networking. In March, the whistleblower website will launch its “Global Square” project – which Wikileaks calls the, “first massive decentralized social network in the history of the Internet." Using peer-to-peer technology like file sharing – and having no centralized server – it’s an online community that will be virtually impossible to censor or shutdown. Activists from around the world will be able to go to the “Global Square” to search for assemblies around the world, find working groups, and message like-minded activists. According to the website – the goal of Global Square is to, “perpetuate and spread the creative and cooperative spirit of the occupations and transform this into lasting forms of social organization, at the global as well as the local level.” Keep an eye on this – it could be the greatest challenge yet to emerge against the entrenched power of banksters, transnational CEOs, and corrupt governments.
The Middle East is on the verge of exploding. On Wednesday – Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister warned that Iran’s nuclear program in nearing a “point of no return” – a suggestion that military strikes may be just around the corner. Meanwhile – the Japanese Prime Minister is urging Israel to refrain from military action – arguing it could lead to an “extremely dangerous” situation. Keep a close eye on this.
And finally…with news that weekly jobless claims have fallen to their lowest level in four years – there’s even more bad news for Republicans who hope to take the White House. The enthusiasm gap that propelled Republicans to landslide victories in the 2010-midterm elections has disappeared. According to a new CNN poll – 51% of Republicans claim they are “enthusiastic” about voting for a Republican for President this year – that’s a 13-point drop since October. Meanwhile, Democratic enthusiasm has ticked up 6-points since October to 49%. It must be time for millionaire Dick Armey and the billionaire Koch brothers to fire-up the ol’ Tea Party busses and create some astorturf excitement again. I’m sure the Gubernatorial quitter Sarah Palin would be more than happy to go driving around the country while fundraising. In the meantime – for Democrats – excitement is good, but let’s have purpose too. Let’ s takeover the party from the ground up and make it more progressive.
And that’s the way it is today – Thursday, February 16th, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.