On the News With Thom Hartmann: A Movement in the US Senate Aims to Abolish Indefinite Detention, and More

Thursday, 29 November 2012 14:46 By Thom Hartmann, The Thom Hartmann Program | News Report
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In today's On the News segment: As the so-called fiscal cliff nears, Republicans will likely hold things like extended unemployment benefits hostage; a movement is underway in the United States Senate to get rid of the NDAA's highly controversial indefinite detention provision; a new report by the Government Accountability Office confirms that enough prison space has been cleared in the US to securely hold the 166 prisoners currently detained in Guantanamo Bay; and more. 

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. It’s not exactly the corporate death penalty, but it’s a start. On Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it is barring BP from receiving any new federal government contracts due to that foreign oil corporation’s “lack of business integrity” following the 2010 Gulf oil spill. BP recently agreed to pay $4.5 billion in fines for the environmental catastrophe, which will only put a slight dent in their corporate money chest. But this latest move by the EPA could be far more harmful to the company. BP can still benefit from existing federal contracts, but the Department of Interior has also banned BP from receiving any new leases to drill on federal lands. According to the EPA, the ban on BP will last until the company can prove it’s capable of meeting federal business standards. Our nation has a long history of putting corporations out of business when they’re operating against the best interest of their workers and the community. Only when corporations have the corporate death penalty “Sword of Damocles” hanging over their head can we make sure that workers and communities aren't being exploited to maximize short-term corporate profits.

In screwed news…as the so-called fiscal cliff nears, Republicans will likely hold things like extended unemployment benefits hostage to make sure their top-1% buddies can hold on to generous tax breaks and loopholes. But if they do so, then they’re standing in the way of hundreds of thousands of jobs being created. That’s the conclusion of a new report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. The CBO estimates that just the simple act of extending unemployment benefits beyond the end of the year will provide much need relief to 2.1 million jobless Americans, AND will also create 300,000 jobs. After all, that’s how economics works: when Americans have money in their pockets to spend, that spending creates jobs. Conversely, the CBO released a report earlier this year concluding that there is absolutely no evidence that low tax rates on the rich lead to job creation. That report was muzzled by Republicans in Congress. Expect Republicans to muzzle this new report as well, since it doesn't jive with their voodoo trickle-down economic theories.

In the best of the rest of the news…

A movement is underway in the United States Senate to get rid of the NDAA’s highly controversial indefinite detention provision. That provision was signed into law at the end of last year by President Obama, giving unprecedented legal authority to the US military to detain United States citizens indefinitely for associating with terrorists. Now, a bipartisan group of Senators including Rand Paul, Kristen Gillibrand, and Mark Udall have signed onto an amendment to strike that indefinite detention provision from this year’s NDAA bill. They're warning that if the law stands, then the United States could be on the road to repeating the same mistakes from World War 2 when thousands of Japanese-American citizens were detained in internment camps out of fear they may be assisting the enemy. Senator Rand Paul took to the floor of the Senate and said, “If we give up our rights, have not the terrorists won? If we relinquish our rights because of fear, what is it exactly that we are fighting for?” For once, Rand Paul is dead-on. It's time to stop behaving like Bush/Cheney wimps, and start being America again. Tell Congress to restore the rule of law and our constitutional rights!

Speaking of indefinite detention, it’s time to close Gitmo. A new report by the Government Accountability Office confirms that enough prison space has been cleared in the United States to securely hold the 166 prisoners currently detained in Guantanamo Bay. That report was commissioned by Senator Dianne Feinstein, who said, “This report demonstrates that if the political will exists, we could finally close Guantanamo without imperiling our national security.” Republicans have blocked Democratic efforts to close Gitmo in recent years, arguing that it’s unsafe for terrorists to be held on U.S. soil. But, as the Department of Justice has noted, there are already 377 inmates on U.S. soil who've been charged with or convicted of terrorism. It’s hard for the United States to be a beacon of freedom for the world as long as Gitmo stays open. Lawmakers need to come to their senses on this and do the right thing – shut down Gitmo!

Proponents of filibuster reform in the Senate secured a major endorsement from the White House. Led by Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrats are attempting to change the filibuster rules in the Senate, which have been abused by the Republican minority for the last four years, preventing up or down votes on legislation like the DREAM Act, equal pay for equal work for women, and the American Jobs Act. Under the proposed rule changes, Republicans can still filibuster, but they’ll have to actually stand on the Senate floor and talk the entire time if they want to block legislation. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement on Wednesday, “The President has said many times that the American people are demanding action. They want to see progress, not partisan delay games. That hasn't changed, and the President supports Majority Leader Reid's efforts to reform the filibuster process." Let’s hope Senator Reid can pull this off, and the days of Republican hostage-taking in the Senate are over. 

And finally…two rivals meet at the White House today as President Obama hosts Mitt Romney for lunch. According to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, there is no formal agenda for the lunch beyond just having a “useful discussion.” Romney’s been largely absent from the eyes of the public following his defeat…aside from those comments he made after the election blaming his loss on President Obama’s promise to give gifts to minorities, women, and young people. But rumor has it the President may be considering Romney for an ambassadorship to a place he’s very familiar with: The Grand Cayman Islands.    

And that’s the way it is today – Thursday, November 29, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.  

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission of the author.

Thom Hartmann

Thom Hartmann is a New York Times bestselling Project Censored Award winning author and host of a nationally syndicated progressive radio talk show. You can learn more about Thom Hartmann at his website and find out what stations broadcast his radio program. He also now has a daily independent television program, The Big Picture,  syndicated by FreeSpeech TV, RT TV, and 2oo community TV stations.  You can also listen or watch Thom over the Internet.

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