In today's On the News segment:Vermont will soon become the first state to ban fracking, total Super PAC spending this election cycle is set to top $100 million, the Senate Judiciary Committee is taking a closer look at the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. The state of Vermont will soon ban hydraulic fracking – becoming the first state in the nation to do so. Last week – the Vermont House and Senate passed legislation outlawing the controversial practice that poisons ground water and leads to earthquakes. Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin is expected to sign the bill into law when it reaches his desk. The George W. Bush administration – chock-full of energy barons like Dick Cheney – exempted fracking from federal environmental regulations – meaning it's up to the states to take action to protect their people from fracking chemicals. So far – New York and Maryland both have moratoriums on fracking in place. And overseas – fracking has been outlawed in France, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Germany. Let's hope Vermont's bold actions trigger other states to "get the frack out."
The unemployed are screwed. On Saturday – more than 230,000 jobless Americans will see their unemployment benefits disappear, thanks to trickle-down austerity measures pushed by Republicans in Congress earlier this year. That's an estimate coming from the National Employment Law Project – which cites a new formula passed by Congress this year for calculating unemployment benefits that will lead to hundreds of thousands of Americans in states like California, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Texas getting kicked out of the program just when they need it most. This is the cost of compromising with Republicans, who, for more than a year now, have held unemployed Americans hostage to advance their 1% agenda.
In the best of the rest of the news...
We're getting some new details on the DOJ's legal complaint against Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. According to the DOJ – Arpaio and his staff engaged in rampant, violent and degrading mistreatment of Latinos. Some of the specific complaints include: assaulting pregnant Latina women, stalking Latina women, forcing incarcerated Latina women to sleep in the own menstrual blood, ignoring rape allegations, and routinely using racial slurs – and that's just a few of the complaints on the DOJ's laundry list. It's time for the Republican Party – that's been so cozy with Arpaio and his tactics for years – to disavow America's most racist Sheriff.
Today – total SuperPAC spending this election cycle is set to top $100 million dollars – more proof that the oligarchs are trying to buy this year's elections. The general election has just barely started, and already outside spending this time around has dwarfed previous election years. In 2008 – total outside spending at this point was just $31 million dollars – Romney's SuperPAC alone has beaten that number already. And this year's spending has passed all the outside spending in the 2004 election – even with all the swift boat ads against John Kerry that year. Of the $100 million spent - more than 90% of it has come from corporations, millionaires, and billionaires supporting the Republican Party. This year will be the ultimate test of people power versus money power. That's why it's so crucial to stay organized and active over the next several months.
Speaking of SuperPACs – the Senate Judiciary Committee is taking a closer look at the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision that made all these SuperPACs possible. In July – the Committee will hold hearings on the impact of Citizens United and the variety of constitutional amendments that have been introduced to overturn the radical ruling. As Judiciary Chairman – Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy – said: "The devastating effects of the Court's divisive decision in Citizens United are already being felt in states and communities across the country...This hearing will explore and evaluate a number of constitutional amendment proposals that have been introduced." Around the nation – more than 200 local governments have passed resolutions calling for an amendment to overturn Citizens United – and more than 100 Members of Congress support the effort. Go to Move To Amend.org to keep the pressure on.
In just six weeks – Wall Street giant JP Morgan Chase lost an estimated $2 Billion with bad bets. That was the announcement from CEO Jamie Dimon on a conference call Thursday. JP Morgan Chase has been one of the biggest banks to use their customer's money to place speculative bets – those same bets that are known to drive up the price of commodities like oil – and inflate dangerous bubbles like the Housing bubble that popped in 2008. This latest loss proves once again that Wall Street banks can't be trusted with your money – and regulation need to be put back in place to make banking a safe and boring business again in America. It'll also be interesting to see if Jamie Dimon gets a massive compensation package this year – even though he oversaw major losses at his company. But, for now, that's the culture on Wall Street – no accountability.
Egypt continues the push toward democracy, holding the first ever presidential debate in the Arab World Thursday night. The two front-runners squared off on a televised debate that lasted four-hours and featured fiery exchanges about what Egyptian democracy should look like, and the role of religion in the nation moving forward. According to reports – not once did any of the candidates brag about how many people they've executed – like Rick Perry did; or who should die without health insurance – like Ron Paul did; or why a war needs to be immediately started with Iran – like Rick Santorum did. There were also no ten thousand dollar bets.
And finally...the fictional "Dictator" – actor Sacha Baron Cohen - formally endorsed Mitt Romney in a mock press conference this week. In full dictator garb – Cohen lauded Romney saying, "I give my full support to Mitchell Romney. He has the makings of a great dictator. He is incredibly wealthy, but pays no taxes. And it's not much of a leap to go from firing people to firing squads, and from putting pets on the top of a car to putting political dissidents on top of them." Meanwhile – more allegations are coming out about Romney's days as a high-school bully – showing that dictators and wannabee dictators usually start at a young age.
And that's the way it is today – Friday, May 11, 2012. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.