In today's On the News segment: CIA whistleblower, John Kiriakou, was sentenced to 30 months in jail for releasing classified information that exposed the agency's use of waterboarding; Democrats dropped the ball on filibuster reform; austerity continues to cripple the British economy; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Fili-busted! On Thursday, Senate leaders, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, came to a deal on a very modest, watered-down filibuster reform package – which virtually guarantees that all legislation in the Senate, will again have to meet the 60-vote threshold over the next two years. The filibuster reform does little to put more pressure on the minority party that is filibustering – and only works to speed up the process in the Senate, and cut down on redundant filibusters. Senator Jeff Merkley, who was leading the charge for strong filibuster reform, including forcing filibustering Senators to actually talk on the floor the entire time they wish to block a bill, expressed "disappointment" that the Senate did not, "take a bolder step to fix" the filibuster. But he did vow, "If the modest steps taken today do not end the paralysis the Senate currently suffers, many Senators are determined to revisit this debate, and explore stronger remedies." Unfortunately, they won't have the opportunity to revisit this issue for another two years – when the new Senate session begins. And that's only IF Democrats keep the majority. Yesterday, Democrats had a golden opportunity to change the rules of the Senate, and pass legislation on behalf of working people – and also put pressure on House Republicans to moderate their agenda. But, ultimately, they dropped the ball. After the failure to enact real meaningful reform yesterday, Democratic Senator Tom Harkin said, with Republicans free to continue to obstruct at will, then President Obama, "might as well take a four-year vacation."
In screwed news...no big surprise here, Charles Koch is secretly funneling millions of dollars into a covert campaign to cast doubt on global climate change. The Independent is reporting that a shadowy organization, known as the Donors Trust has been funding climate change denialism. And the Donors Trust is receiving much of its funding through another shadow group, known as The Knowledge and Progress Fund, which is headed up by Charles Koch and his wife. According to The Independent, the Kochs have given nearly $4 million to the Donors Trust since 2007. Each day, we receive new reports that climate change is happening faster than previously thought, and carrying with it even more disastrous consequences. And yet, there are billionaires working in the shadows, who want to ensure that the planet continues to warm, the oceans continue to rise, and the storms get deadlier. If they truly believe that climate change isn't a threat – and that they are doing noble work preventing governments from transitioning to a new energy source, then the question has to be: why so secretive? What are the Kochs hiding?
In the best of the rest of the news...
In America, if you commit a war crime and torture someone – nothing happens to you. But if you blow the whistle on this war crime – then get ready to go to jail. On Friday, CIA whistleblower, John Kiriakou, was sentenced to 30 months in jail, for releasing classified information that exposed the CIA's use of waterboarding. Kiriakou is one of six current, or former, government officials, who've been slapped with criminal charges from the Obama administration for leaking classified information. That's more crackdowns on government whistleblowers than all other Presidential administrations combined. We should not be jailing brave individuals who exposed war crimes in an effort to stop them. But, we should be locking up George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the rest of their ilk, who knowingly allowed the United States to become a nation that tortures. It will take a long time to heal the deep moral wounds these men inflicted on our nation.
The Republican efforts to rig the Electoral College in states like Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are in full swing. But they likely won't come to Florida. On Thursday, Florida's Republican House Speaker, Will Weatherford, told the Miami Herald he will not be pursuing changes to the Electoral College in his state. Weatherford argued, "To me, that's like saying in a football game, 'We should have only three quarters, because we were winning after three quarters and they beat us in the fourth...I don't think we need to change the rules of the game, I think we need to get better." Unfortunately, other Republicans have made the calculation that, instead of "getting better" to attract more voters, they should just steal elections in the future. That's why it's up to progressives and even Republicans who care about democracy – to scrap the Electoral College altogether, and move to a national popular vote. Get involved in this movement – go to nationalpopularevote.com.
Austerity continues to cripple the British economy. According to new economic numbers, the UK's economy shrank .3% in the last quarter of 2012 – meaning that if the economy shrinks again in the first quarter of this year – then the UK will officially be in a unprecedented triple-dip recession. It will be the third time in four years that the British economy sank into a recession. The Conservatives in the UK embarked on this austerity agenda in 2010 – promising that the spending cuts would lower the UK's debt to GDP ratio from 4.8% to 1.9%. Three years later, and after two recessions – the debt to GDP ratio is nowhere near 1.9% - it's 4.3%. That's because austerity, which sucks money out of the hands of working people, to give to the Billionaire Class, kills economies, and makes deficits worse. And unfortunately, thanks to Republicans in our Congress – in 2013 the United States is facing the same sort of Conservative austerity spending cuts, that have crashed the British economy. No nation, in the history of the world, has ever cut its way to prosperity – so let's not bother trying to be the first. Let's grow the economy by putting Americans to work rebuilding our roads, bridges, and schools.
And that's the way it is today – Friday, January 25, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.