In today's On the News segment: Chicago made history by closing 50 public schools in under two minutes; the Congressional Budget Office wants to put a price on air pollution; a week of trumped-up GOP scandals has claimed another IRS official; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. [Thursday], President Obama spoke to a crowd at the National Defense University, and laid out his vision for the future of counter-terrorism. In his speech, the President addressed the controversial use of drones, the on-going fight to close Gitmo, and the need to repeal the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. President Obama invoked the words of James Madison, saying, "No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual war." While at times he appeared to justify the on-going use of drone strikes, the overall tone of the speech indicated the President's desire to put an end to perpetual war. He said, "Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end." And, he called on Congress to stop blocking efforts to close the torture facility at Guantanamo Bay – a prison he said "should have never been opened" in the first place. The speech drew criticism from both the Left and the Right. Madea Benjamin, co-founder of the anti-war group, Code Pink, interrupted the President during his remarks, criticizing his failure to close Gitmo, and the civilian drone-strike casualties. Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss said the President Obama's remarks "will be viewed by terrorists as a victory." It will difficult, if not impossible, for our President to please both sides, and he will likely be met with resistance in his efforts to conclude this decade-long disaster. Most of that resistance will come from those on the Right, who refuse to acknowledge the damage that these policies have done to our nation, and the world. Those of us on the Left should continue to call for an end to the drone program, for the restoration of our right to privacy, and more. In the meantime, however, we must stand with President Obama as he attempts to close Gitmo, works to reduce executive power, and tries to restore the image of our nation throughout the world. If we don't fight for these changes now, they may never happen. Our President cannot do this alone.
In screwed news... On Wednesday, Chicago made history by closing 50 public schools in under two minutes. People watching the vote did not even realize what had happened. Instead of reading the name of each school, the Chicago Board of Education secretary read a list of numbers assigned to resolutions to close each facility. Then, the board president used a parliamentary procedure to call for one group vote to decide the outcome. The entire vote lasted only 90 seconds. The Chicago Sun Times described the proceeding, saying "CPS makes history, closing scores of schools in less time than it takes to boil an egg." Because of the closings, about 27,000 children will be forced to change schools, and numerous teachers and staff will be out of a job. The President of Chicago's Teachers Union, Karen Lewis, criticized the deceptive procedure, saying the board "should have had the courage to do this deed in the open and correctly." And she's right. It's bad enough that Chicago's public education system is being gutted, but the cowardly way it was done adds insult to injury.
In the best of the rest of the news...
The Congressional Budget Office wants to put a price on air pollution. In a recent report, the CBO suggested that lawmakers "view a carbon tax as a reflection of society's willingness to pay to reduce the risk of potentially very expensive damage in the future." In other words, while dirty, last-century fossil fuels may be cheap in the short term – the long term the cost to our health and environment will be monumental. The CBO projected that a carbon tax of twenty dollars per metric ton would bring in over a trillion dollars in new revenue and cut carbon dioxide emissions by about eight percent over the next decade. This policy would finally put a price on the damage that carbon pollution is doing to our environment. It would also level the playing field, and allow green energy technology to compete with over-subsidized oil giants. It's time that we start accounting for the true cost of burning fossil fuels. Call Congress and tell them to take the CBOs suggestion – implement a carbon tax and end this de facto subsidy for big oil.
A week of trumped-up GOP scandals has claimed another IRS official. Yesterday, Lois Lerner, the director of the tax-exempt division of the IRS, was placed on administrative leave. Just one day earlier, Miss Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and refused to answer questions from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Congressman Darrell Issa, chairman of that committee, contends that Lerner's refusal to testify is invalid, because she read an opening statement. Frederick Hill, the communications director for Chairman Issa, said that, "She remains under subpoena," and "the committee is looking at recalling her for further testimony." Lerner's refusal to answer also drew criticism from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who said, "The American people deserve answers." Lois Lerner is the same official who revealed the IRS scandal in a May 10th meeting of the American Bar Association, but now refuses to provide more information. According to Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, Lerner was asked to resign, but she refused. She contends that she has not broken any laws, nor violated any IRS rules or regulations. The investigation into her actions, and the IRS inquiry into conservative so-called "social welfare" groups will continue. Stay tuned.
And finally... If you're running for mayor, you may want to be sure that the city pictured in your campaign materials is the city you're looking to lead. On Wednesday, former congressman Anthony Weiner announced he's running to be the next mayor of New York. He made the announcement in a video that directed viewers to visit his campaign website. The only problem – the beautiful bridge pictured on the site wasn't in Brooklyn – it was in Pittsburgh. The site has since been corrected. We imagine this wasn't the campaign roll-out that Anthony Weiner envisioned, but considering his problems with pictures on the Internet, it certainly could have been a lot worse.
And that's the way it is today – Friday, May 24, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.