In today's On the News segment: As many as 10,000 US troops and several thousand NATO troops may stay in Afghanistan after 2014 to "assist" with Afghan security forces and police; a number of Republicans have come forward in recent days to disavow Grover Norquists's pledge to never raise taxes; Republicans in Florida confess the whole plan on Election Day was to suppress voters; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Multimillionaire K-Street lobbyist, billionaire toady, and Republican anti-tax master Grover Norquist is losing his grip on power. Realizing their backs are against the wall with the so-called "fiscal cliff" looming, a number of Republicans have come forward in recent days to disavow Grover Norquists's pledge to never raise taxes. Republican Senator Bob Corker appeared on CBS Sunday morning to say he is "not obligated" to obey Grover Norquist's pledge. That echoes comments made by Senators Lindsey Graham and Saxby Chambliss over the weekend who both distanced themselves from the pledge saying they would break their pledge to Norquist for the good of the country. This morning – Norquist himself went on TV in a desperate attempt to hold his Republican lackeys in line saying, "We've got some people discussing impure thoughts on national television." Last time I checked – there's only one pledge that our elected Representatives should be taking – and that's the pledge to defend the Constitution against all its enemies, foreign and domestic. Norquist's pledge - or any other pledge to deep-pocketed lobbyist that sacrifices the economic health of our nation to grow the bank accounts of the global elite - is nothing short of supporting enemies of the Constitution. But, since the Republican Party has been the Party of the 1% ever since the 1880s, don't expect too much change anytime soon.
In screwed news...It could get a lot easier for authorities to snoop through your e-mail. The Senate is about to vote on legislation to update old 1980s surveillance laws to account for the new digital world. In earlier versions of the bill, the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Vermont's Patrick Leahy, said the law should protect internet users by requiring law enforcement agencies to obtain a search warrant before looking at any email. But a new version of the bill – heavily influenced by law enforcement agencies – makes it even easier for the government to read our emails. As CNET reports, the new bill would give 22 different agencies the legal authority to read emails, private Google Docs, person-to-person Twitter messages, and private Facebook posts – all without a search warrant. The law also doesn't even require the FBI and Homeland Security to notify the user or even a judge. This is the latest unconstitutional assault on our individual privacy in post-9/11 America. Call your Members of Congress and tell them to stop this attempt to further shred the Constitution.
In the best of the rest of the news...
While frenzied shoppers shoved and bit each in Walmarts across America this Black Friday – workers and activists staged protests against the retail giant's treatment of employees. In more than 100 cities in 46 states, hundreds of Walmart employees walked off the job and were joined by thousands of supporters to raise awareness of Walmart's low-wage, low-benefit work environment. At one store in Paramount, California – as many as 600 protesters showed up. And at another store in Hanover, Maryland – 400 store employees, union workers, and activists joined together to speak out against Walmart. Black Friday is the perfect day for labor actions against low-wage, high-profit corporations like Walmart. If employee wages had kept up with employee productivity over the last three decades, American would be collecting bigger paychecks, and wouldn't be so desperate to fight each other in this day-after-Thanksgiving gladiator sport our media and low-wage employers promote.
So much for that 2014 withdraw date from Afghanistan. The New York Times is reporting that senior officials within the Obama Administration are working on plans to keep thousands of American military troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014. One scenario leaves up to 10,000 US and several thousand NATO troops in Afghanistan after 2014 to "assist" with Afghan security forces and police. This is, by far, the longest war in our nation's history – and keeping more troops there beyond the withdraw date is dangerously misguided. It's time for the President to stand up for the peace he talks about – and also end the covert drone war that he doesn't talk about.
The UN's climate chief had tough words for President Obama and the United States this weekend – urging the world's superpower to take the lead on global climate change. The top UN diplomat for international climate negotiations, Christina Figueres said in an interview that Hurricane Sandy is "yet another wake-up call" for the United States to curb carbon pollution. Figueres said referring to actions on climate change, "It is quite a unique position that the United States is in and one that frankly they have not responded to in a commensurate manner...If the United States does not strengthen its participation in the global climate regime under the newly re-elected president I think there will be increased frustration with the United States." She's right – but as long as oil barons control Washington, DC – then there will be no serious action on climate change. The best way to end corporate America's outsized influence on our government is to go to MoveToAmend.org.
And finally...Republicans in Florida are fessing up to it: the whole plan on Election Day was to suppress voters. The Palm Beach Post is reporting that a number of former and current Republican officials in the state have admitted that laws that cut down on early voting had one main purpose – to cut down on voting. As Former Florida Republican Party Chairman, Jim Greer, said, "The Republican Party, the strategists, the consultants, they firmly believe that early voting is bad for Republican Party candidates...It's done for one reason and one reason only. ... 'We've got to cut down on early voting because early voting is not good for us.'" Former Republican Governor Charlie Crist said that while he was in office between 2007 and 2011 – he was approached by Republican officials to cut down on early voting, too. Expect these efforts continue heading into the next election.
And that's the way it is today – Monday, November 26, 2012. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.