In today's On the News segment: Today Minnesota's governor will sign marriage equality bill passed into law yesterday, and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. The Associated Press has accused the Justice Department of "massive and unprecedented intrusion," after learning that the government secretly acquired two months of the news agency's telephone records. In a letter to the AP last Friday, the Justice Department finally admitted that it obtained a large number of phone records, which included AP office lines and even personal lines used by reporters. While the DOJ letter offered no explanation for the intrusion, government officials have previously testified that the U.S. Attorney in Washington was conducting a criminal investigation into the leak of confidential CIA information that was cited in an AP story last year. AP President and CEO, Gary Pruitt, sent a letter of protest to Attorney General Eric Holder, writing, "the government has no conceivable right to know" about communications with confidential sources. Normally, news agencies are notified in advance when the government wants these type of records, and there's negotiation between the agency and the government over the requested information. But the Justice Department's letter cited an exemption to that requirement, which waives the notification requirement if it poses "a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation." It's not clear if the records request was signed off on by a judge or grand jury. So, the Justice Department has violated the AP's First Amendment right of freedom of press, without so much as a warning, and refuses to disclose their justification for doing so. This is something we should all be concerned about. Freedom of the press is one of our most important liberties. Many consider the press our forth estate – it provides the transparency necessary to hold our government accountable. It was Thomas Jefferson who said "our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost." We must protect this liberty, and start demanding some answers from our Justice Department.
In screwed news... Rick Snyder's little dictator, Detroit's so-called Emergency Financial Manger Kevyn Orr, wants to screw over that city's unions to pay investors. Under Michigan's so-called "financial manager law," Orr has the power to "reject, modify, or terminate" any of Detroit's 48 collective bargaining agreements. Detroit is already years behind in funding pensions and retiree health benefits, and would need to invest 339 million dollars just to catch up. But thanks to Governor Rick Snyder appointment of Detroit's dictator, obligations to pensioners will come second to investors, who hold $377 million dollars in derivatives. This is completely backwards. People who gambled with Detroit's economy shouldn't be getting bailed out, while unions are forced to take the hit. Retirees, who paid into pensions for years, should be paid before those who placed bets on Detroit's economy. This is yet another example of how the rich get protected, while the poor get screwed. The people of Michigan must stand up to Rick Snyder and his mini-dictator before the unions are completely destroyed.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Minnesota will soon become the 12th state to recognize marriage equality. Yesterday, that state's Senate voted 37-30 to pass a marriage equality bill, and Governor Mark Dayton will sign it into law today. The new law will take effect as of August 1st, and it will make Minnesota the sixth state in just over six months to stand up for LGBT families. Minnesota senators also successfully defeated a so-called "religious exemption" amendment to the bill, which would have allowed private businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples. In anticipation of yesterday's vote, Mayor Chris Coleman of St. Paul renamed the Wabasha Bridge the "Freedom to Marry Bridge," lining it with rainbow flags to celebrate this victory in LGBT equality. State after state is recognizing that everyone should have the right to marry who they love, and slowly, but surely, equality is becoming the law of the land. There's only weeks left before the Supreme Court will release its rulings in the landmark Prop 8 and DOMA cases, but states like Minnesota are showing that marriage equality doesn't to wait.
It's been three weeks since a garment factory collapsed in Bangledesh, killing more than 1,100 workers, and retail brands from around the world are pushing for safer working conditions. Sweden-based H&M, the largest buyer of garments from Bangledesh, and several of the world's biggest apparel companies, have agreed to help finance building improvements and fire safety. The retailers say they will sign a legally binding plan, that will also require safety inspections, mandatory repairs, and will require retailers stop doing business with factories that refuse to correct safety violations. The plan even gives workers' unions a voice in factory safety negotiations. H&M has also pledged to increase pressure on other Western retailers to join the fight against unsafe, and unfair working conditions. They said, "in order to make an impact and be sustainable," the plan "would need a broad coalition of brands." We can help too, by putting pressure on retailers to join H&M's effort. Let's work together to put an end to slave labor.
And finally... Sorry Minnesota, but Michelle Bachamnn isn't leaving your state anytime soon. Multiple online news sites lit up this week, over a report that Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann threatened to leave Minnesota because that state was about to legalize gay marriage. As it turns out, the story originated on the satire news site, The Daily Currant. The parody story included a made-up quote from the Congresswoman, which read, "Sodom and Gomorrah thought they could defy the will of God – and we all know what happened to them. If the governor signs this legislation into law the Minneapolis-St.Paul region will be next." Considering Michelle Bachmann has called homosexuality "part of Satan", "sexual dysfunction", and "child abuse", it's easy to see why people fell for this story.
And that's the way it is today – Tuesday, May 14, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.