Thom Hartmann here – on the news…
You need to know this. The Department of Homeland Security wants to keep a record of where you drive your car. According to the Washington Post, that agency wants a nationwide database of license-plate readers, and they've already asked private traffic-camera companies for access to their data. Of course, a DHS spokesperson said that license plate data “could only be accessed in conjunction with ongoing criminal investigations,” but that sounds a lot like the same old line we've been fed about other surveillance programs. As of 2011, about three-quarters of police departments used these license-plate readers, and 85 percent planned to install even more cameras. These systems are snapping photos of our cars, and keeping track of almost every place we travel. Even before the recent announcement from DHS, the American Civil Liberties Union said that constantly monitoring our movement can “chill the exercise of our cherished rights to free speech and association.” Giving DHS the power to mine this data and track our movement only solidifies the ACLU's warning. We have seen our civil rights whittled away under the guise of national security, and now we're being tracked online, on the phone, and even on our public roadways. The national security state has become intrusive, and the constant monitoring poses a serious risk to our privacy, our free speech, and our fundamental right to speak out against our government. We should not be giving these agencies more power to track us, we should be reigning them in and demanding that our civil rights be protected.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Get ready for the Republican talking points. According to the Congressional Budget Office, raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour could decrease jobs for low-wage workers. BUT – while Republicans will insist that 500,000 workers will lose their jobs because of higher wages, the CBO report actually stately that there may only be a “very slight decrease” in total employment. The report also found that higher pay would lift more than 1 million people out of poverty, and a wage hike would have a positive effect for 95% of the people it affected. Although the CBO says that there could be job losses, many economists argue that higher wages would actually result in job growth. The Economic Policy Institute says higher wages can provide a boost to our economy. The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago said a wage increase can actually lead to more jobs. And, economists David Madland and Keith Miller found “no clear evidence” that higher wages led to job losses after studying two decades of economic data. There is no debate that higher pay will benefit the vast majority of low-wage workers, and stimulate our economy. Don't believe the Republican hype.
Last week, workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee voted against joining the United Automobile workers union. Although that vote was likely tainted by intimidation and lies from Republican politicians, workers at that plant may still get a chance to have their voices heard by management. Volkswagen has announced that the company plans to create a European-style “works council” that would allow workers to participate in management's discussions on finances and business plans. Their goal will be challenging, because employment law in the US forbids an employer from dominating or supporting a labor organization, but giving workers a voice is not impossible. Thomas Kochan of the MIT Sloan School of Management says that the company can pursue “informal employee involvement groups like quality circles or team-based workplace systems.” Volkswagen is determined to give workers more power at the Tennessee plant, and other corporations could learn a thing or two from this successful company.
And finally... Chevron says... Let them eat pizza. According to the website NoFrackingWay.us, the oil giant had a unique way of apologizing to residents effected by a massive natural gas drilling explosion that happened last week. Chevron representatives allegedly went door-to-door handing out apology letters and coupons for free large pizza and a 2-liter soda. Philly.com says that they contacted the pizza shop and verified that Chevron gave out about 100 pizza coupons. Multiple outlets are mocking the oil company for their actions, but Philly.com says it could be the beginning of a new marketing campaign for Chevron. They suggest the new slogan, “We guarantee your fracking rig won't explode, or pizza is free!” I guess the pollution, earthquakes, and flammable tap water are just thrown in as a bonus.
And that’s the way it is today – Wednesday, February 19, 2014. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.