In today's On the News segment: Results in yesterday's election in Italy show voters are fed up with austerity; BP trial begins; Republicans have yet another anti-worker tactic up their sleeve; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. BP put profits ahead of safety. That's what Justice Department Attorney Mike Underhill argued yesterday, in the first phase of the trial that could force the oil giant to pay tens of billions more in damages for the 2010 Gulf oil disaster. According to the Associated Press, BP has already racked up $24 billion in spill-related expenses and $4 billion in criminal penalties, but could face up to $18 billion more under the Clean Water Act, and additional fines if found grossly negligent in the high-stakes civil trial. The libility of the rig owner Transocean and cement contractor Haliburton are also at issue in the tiral's first phase. During opening arguments yesterday, the three companies pointed fingers at each other in a triangle of blame, but BP received the brunt of accusations, from its partners and other plaintiffs in the case. The Justice Department's Mike Underhill piled on, saying, "Despite BP's attempts to shift the blame to other parties, by far the primary fault for the disaster belongs to BP." This first phase of trial is designed to determine what caused the blowout and determine responsibility of each of the three companies. This phase could last as long as three months, as the case involves hundreds of attorneys, 90 million pages of documents, and more than 300 depositions from witnesses. Once this phase is complete, the second phase of trial will determine how much crude oil actually spilled into the Gulf. This trial is one of the most complex and costly civil cases our nation has ever seen, and it will be months before we see an outcome. Although no amount of money can ever fully repair the damage done to the Gulf, or bring back the 11 people who died on the rig, at least we'll finally see BP, Transocean, and Haliburton have to answer for the largest environmental disaster in our nation's history.
In screwed news... Republicans have yet another anti-worker tactic up their sleeve. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and it mandates that workers get "time and 1/2" for overtime, but Eric Cantor thinks it should be eliminated. In a speech earlier this month at the American Enterprise Institute, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, said he thinks overtime pay is bad for hourly workers. According to Cantor, "Federal laws dating back to the 1930s make it harder for parents who hold hourly jobs to balance the demands of work and home." His suggestion is that hourly workers should just bank overtime to use at a later date. The only problem...employers would get the final say as to when and how employees get to use this "accrued time," and it would eliminate protections for employees who work over 40 hours a week. Republicans have tried this anti-worker tactic before, with the 2003 "Family Time Flexibility Act," but were unsuccessful in repealing overtime laws. So Eric Cantor wants to give it another shot. Worker's rights in our nation are under attack, and we can't let these basic protections be undone by the big business puppets in Congress. Call Eric Cantor's office and tell him you won't give up your right to overtime pay.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Results in yesterday's election in Italy show voters are fed up with austerity, but the split results indicate they're divided on which candidate has the best solution to that nation's lingering economic woes. Results indicate that current Prime Minister Mario Monti, and his party, who have pushed for continuing austerity, won a majority in the lower house, The Chamber of Deputies, but no party gained the majority in that nation's Senate. Former Prime Minister Silvio "Bunga-Bunga" Berlusconi and comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo won enough votes to keep Monti from the 158 Senate Seats required to reach a governing majority. Several reports say that it's likely Italaly will hold another election to produce a majority capable of running the third-largest economy in the EU. The Italian voters will have another opportunity to say "No" to leaders demanding more destructive austerity. Let's hope Italians band together, and select representatives who will fight for them.
The Supreme Court says you can't sue the government for spying on you....unless you can prove the government is spying on you...which they'll never tell you. The Court issued a 5-4 decision in Clapper v. Amnesty International today, and said that a group suing to overturn the 2008 expansion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act lacks standing to fight the law's constitutionality. Essentially, because the group of attorneys, human rights groups, and media organizations couldn't show that the government actually monitored their conversations, there was no way to prove their rights were violated. Conservative Justice Samuel Alito delivered the majority opinion, saying "respondents merely speculate and make assumptions about whether their communications with foreign contacts will be acquired." Justice Steven Breyer wrote the dissenting opinion, saying, "the majority is wrong when it describes the harm threatened plantiffs as 'speculative'." And so, the legal catch 22 of FISA and all government surveillance continues. If you can't prove the government is listening, you'll never be able to say it's unconstitutional. And I wouldn't expect the Feds to admit their listening any time soon.
And finally... Be careful next time you buy a second-hand sweater from the thrift store. Televangelist Pat Robertson warns that demons may be hiding in the fabric. You heard that right. Yesterday on the 700 Club, Robertson responded to a viewer who asked if she should bless purchases from Goodwill before she brought them home. The TV Preacher responded with a scary story about a "witch who had prayed over a particular ring and asked for a spirit to come into it." According to Robertson, when a girl later purchased the ring, "all hell broke loose." Right. This may come as news to Pat Robinson, but The Devil Wears Prada was not a documentary.
And that's the way it is today – Tuesday, February 26, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.