In this week's On the News Segment: Civil liberties were defeated in the Senate on Thursday, as three amendments to bring more transparency and accountability to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) were voted down in the upper chamber; the first casualties of going over the so-called "fiscal cliff" will be more than two million unemployed Americans; Michigan Gov. Snyder signed a new financial managers law; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's little dictators are back. In another blow to democracy in the Wolverine State, Governor Snyder signed into law a brand spankin' new financial managers law. It allows him to appoint little dictators to take over cash-strapped cities, fire local elected officials, break union contracts, and sell off parts of the commons to corporate interests. The old financial managers law was so appalling to voters in Michigan, that they organized a massive campaign to have the law repealed – and succeeded in repealing it last month on Election Day. But less than two months later, Republicans in the state crafted a new law, which is a virtual mirror image of the first law, proving that they really don't give a damn about what the voters had to say. Already, financial managers have their grips on cities like Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Pontiac, and Allen Park – as well as the Detroit school district. This is a sad state of affairs in Michigan, which also screwed over working people by becoming a right-to-work-for-less state a few weeks ago. But at least working people know the drill – they got organized and repealed the law once already. Who says they can't do the same thing twice.
The unemployed are screwed. The first casualties of going over the so-called "fiscal cliff" will be more than two million unemployed Americans who depend on extended emergency unemployment benefits. While most of the negative effects of going off the cliff, like the tax hikes and spending cuts, won't be felt until further out into the future, the expiration of unemployment benefits will be an immediate shock to millions of Americans and the economy. And they are set to expire on Saturday, meaning Republicans in the House will already miss the deadline to extend them, since Speaker of the House Jon Boehner is waiting until Sunday to reconvene the House. The unemployed in America have no lobbyists like the defense contractors, and have no interest groups like the billionaire banksters – so it's no wonder why they will be the first casualties in the fiscal cliff showdown. The tragic irony here is these unemployed Americans, when they are receiving unemployment benefits and spending money in our economy, are the real job creators – and not rich guys like Mitt Romney who stash their money in offshore bank accounts and refuse to reinvest in the American economy.
In the best of the rest of the news...
The Senate is about to get a lot more serious about climate change. In brief remarks on Wednesday, the newly appointed Senator from Hawaii, Brain Schatz, told reporters that he believes, "global climate change is real and it is the most urgent challenge of our generation." Such words of urgency are rarely spoken in the upper chamber of Congress, which is awash in Big Oil's cash. And perhaps joining Shatz, will be an even more outspoken fighter of global climate change – Representative Ed Markey. On Thursday, Markey, a Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts, announced he will be running in the special election to fill the seat vacated by John Kerry, who will likely be the nation's next Secretary of State. Republicans banking on Scott Brown making a comeback to the Senate know their task just got a lot harder with Markey throwing his hat in the ring. Markey was one of the authors of comprehensive climate change legislation that passed the House in 2009, only to be filibustered in the Senate. It's past time to get serious about climate change in America, and luckily we may have some climate warriors moving into the Senate to take on Big Oil.
Civil liberties were defeated in the Senate on Thursday – as three amendments to bring more transparency and accountability to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act were voted down in the upper chamber. The Act – better known as FISA – was passed after 9/11, and allows for warrantless wiretapping of Americans who are sending communications abroad to individuals designated as "Targets" by the CIA and NSA. The Act also gives immunity to telecom companies that, at the behest of the government, broke the law, spied on their customers, and turned over sensitive information to authorities. Critics of FISA say that innocent Americans are being trapped in this web of surveillance, and the people have a right to know who is being spied on. But a majority of Senators disagreed. A vote to reauthorize FISA will be held today in the Senate – which means you should call your Senator and urge him to stop the insanity, to stand up for the Constitution, and to vote no on FISA reauthorization.
For the second time in a month, a man was shoved off a New York City subway platform and killed by an oncoming train. According to witnesses, a mentally disturbed woman shoved the man just as the train was coming down the tracks. While there's still a lot to learn about what exactly happened, one thing is certain – there's no reason why we shouldn't have safer subway platform like most other developed nations that shield subway riders from the tracks. That's why infrastructure investments are so important – to prevent future tragedies like this.
And finally ... Libertarians in America should keep close watch on new planetary discoveries in 2013. According to the director of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico, earthlings will likely discover a twin-planet of Earth for the first time next year. While many planets similar to Earth have already been discovered, a planet that matches Earth's size, and proximity to a star, has eluded astronomers. But researchers are hoping that 2013 will be the year that a big discovery is made when it comes to the future colonization of space. Sounds to me like a newly discovered Earth-clone is the perfect place for Libertarians to try to start up their Ayn Rand paradise far, far away from the rest of us who actually care for one another. When do the first space ships leave??
And that's the way it is today – Friday, December 28th, 2012. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.