In today's On the News segment: Republicans in the Michigan State House passed a new law that will allow Gov. Snyder to break union contracts, slash budgets, and sell off parts of the commons to for-profit corporations; in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that it is not the time to talk about gun violence; the European High Court of Human Rights condemned the extraordinary rendition programs of George W. Bush; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. For the second time in a week - a mass shooting has rocked the nation. But this one is almost too horrific to imagine. A deranged man walked into a Connecticut Elementary School this morning armed with multiple guns - and convened a massacre - targeting mostly children. Earlier reports indicate that at least 26 people are dead - including 18 children. The shooter is dead, too. This is no longer an issue of gun rights - it's an issue of human rights. It's an issue of whether or not the rights of Americans who don't own deadly weapons will finally be respected in our nation. It's an issue of whether Americans can live in a country where we don't live in fear of being gunned down. Jay Carney at the White House told reporters that today is not the day to talk about gun violence. But is that REALLY because we should respect the victims by not engaging in a political debate? Or is it because our elected politicians - including our President - don't have the courage to stand up to the corporate gun lobby in America? And, perhaps more importantly, when will we have a conversation in America about how all this gun violence is tied into our lack of good mental health treatment? Additionally, multiple international and US studies have found that gun violence goes up as inequality goes up. So, when are we going to discuss the negative impacts on our nation of the post-Reagan explosion in inequality?
In screwed news... We all now know about Right-to-Work-for-less laws in Michigan, thanks to Republican Governor Rick Snyder and the corporate oligarchs. But, believe it or not, Right-to-Work-for-less may not even be the most radical, anti-democratic law that passed in Michigan this week. Late Wednesday, Republicans in the State House passed a new "emergency financial managers" law, which allows Rick Snyder to take over an entire city and appoint his cronies as mini-dictators who can fire all the local elected officials and take the reins of looting that city. The new law will allow Governor Snyder to break union contracts, slash budgets, and sell off parts of the commons to for-profit corporations. This is a radically anti-democratic law, and it's already been put in place in mostly-minority, cash-strapped cities like Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Pontiac, and Flint. But what's even more radical, is that just last month on Election Day, voters repealed Snyder's emergency financial managers law. Voters said, "no way!" and the law was kaput. So in response, and in a huge slap in the face to voters, Republicans just passed the law again this week. Governor Snyder claims the law is new-and-improved to address voter concerns. But the incoming Democratic House Minority Leader called the legislation a "mirror image" of the law that was repealed in November. Snyder thinks that by just changing the name of the law, he can send his mini-dictators back into the field, to take over more of Michigan's cities against the will of the voters. The Republican overreach in Michigan is unprecedented. A movement of working men and women must respond and make sure Republicans are never again given power in the Wolverine State.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Race baiting and lies help Republicans prevail once again. The take down of Susan Rice is complete, as she has formally withdrew her name from consideration for Secretary of State. In a letter to the President, Rice wrote, "The position of Secretary of State should never be politicized. I am saddened that we have reached this point even before you have decided whom to nominate." Republicans made a political calculation that they could exploit the Benghazi attacks to smear Susan Rice – another African American official in the Obama Administration who's been the target of a vicious attack campaign by Republicans. And they succeeded in getting their way. What Republicans really want is John Kerry nominated for Secretary of State, so that there will be an open Senate seat in Massachusetts and oligarchs like Sheldon Adelson can buy it for Scott Brown – Wall Street's favorite guy. This was strictly political, and once again it shows the depths Republicans are willing to go to, to protect their billionaire friends.
President Obama has finally weighed in on what he plans to do with Colorado and Washington, now that those two states have legalized marijuana. In an interview set to air tonight on ABC, the President said his administration has "bigger fish to fry" than to use his Justice Department to crack down in the states. President Obama said, "It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it's legal." The President also said he's willing to have a conversation about changing how strict federal law is in regard to marijuana, now that states are legalizing it. Echoing that sentiment, the top Senator on the Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy, floated the idea of softening federal laws prohibiting marijuana usage. President Obama was an aggressive drug warrior in his first term; let's hope he loosens up in his second term, and helps the states finally put a stake in the heart of Richard Nixon's failed so-called "War on Drugs."
And finally...this week – the European High Court of Human Rights condemned the secret extraordinary rendition programs of former President George W. Bush, calling them both torture and a violation of international law. The case involved Khaled El-Masri, who was abducted in Macedonia in 2003 and handed over to CIA agents, who tortured El-Masri and locked him up in a secret detention facility in Afghanistan for four months. He was never charged with any crime. The court found that while he was in the custody of the CIA, El-Masri was beaten, drugged, shackled, and even sodomized. Sending terror suspects to third world nations to be tortured in secret facilities was a common practice during the Bush/Cheney Administration. But this ruling by the Human Rights court could bring a lot more accountability to European nations that assisted the United States with extraordinary rendition after 9/11. It's still not too late to prosecute Bush and Cheney for war crimes...even if it's in an international court.
And that's the way it is today – Friday, December 14th, 2012. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.