On the News With Thom Hartmann: No Government Shutdown, at Least for Now, and More

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. No government shut down…at least for now. House and Senate negotiators yesterday approved a $1 trillion spending bill to keep the government funded beyond this week. In order to get the deal done – Republicans dropped many of their demands including travel restrictions to Cuba and stripping out critical Wall Street reforms. Republicans did, however, succeed in blocking new light bulb efficiency standards – that would have required light bulbs to be 30% more efficient by 2012 – arguing such standards would restrict “consumer choice.” Meanwhile, Republicans would agree to nothing to help the middle class. With the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits set to expire in just two weeks – lawmakers are scrambling to come up with a deal. Reports from Capitol Hill indicate that a short-term extension of the payroll tax cut is being considered that would just kick the can down the road into February – setting up another battle closer to the election. These days in Congress – legislation to exclusively help the middle class won't even be considered by the Republican-controlled House – and Republicans promise to filibuster it in the Senate. This is what a Party wholly owned by billionaires and big corporations looks like.

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The planet is screwed. The Republican House of Representatives has earned the dubious distinction of, “amassing the worst environmental record of any Congress in history.” That's according to a new report by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce that details all the ways Republicans have attacked the environment. On 191 different occasions – House Republicans voted to do considerable damage to the planet – including 114 votes against the Environmental Protection Agency. There were 27 votes to block any sort of action on climate change – 77 votes to block clean air protection – 28 votes to block clean water protections – and 47 votes to block public lands protections. All of these votes are during the second costliest year on record for climate change-induced natural disasters that have killed over 600 Americans. So you have to wonder – does John Boehner have some vacation resort on Mars that the rest of us don't know about? I knew a tan like that couldn’t possible be produced on Earth.

In the best of the rest of the news…

President Obama is expected to sign into law today the highly controversial defense spending bill. The bill grants dangerous new powers to the President – allowing indefinite detention of terrorist suspects without trial – favoring military tribunals over civilian trials – and blocking for at least a year any attempts to close down Gitmo. Ironically – Congress passed the indefinite detention bill yesterday – the 220th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights. Thomas Jefferson is rolling in his grave.

One day after Oregon's Democratic Senator Ron Wyden teamed up with Republican Congressman Paul Ryan to end Medicare as we know it – the Democratic backlash is underway. Several Democratic Members of Congress – and the President – have rejected the Wyden-Ryan plan, which turns Medicare into a public option – giving senior citizens a voucher to buy private health insurance instead of Medicare. The President's Press Secretary Jay Carney called the plan “radical,” although Republican Presidential candidates are praising the plan. That's when you know it is a really bad idea. Time to call Senator Wyden's office – and ask him to quit drinking the $300 bottles of wine with Paul Ryan and his billionaire buddies. We can't afford it.
Huge majorities of Americans agree with the Occupy Wall Street, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center. More than half of all Americans believe the super rich and large corporations have far too much power – that Wall Street does more harm than good – and that our economy is slanted to favor the wealthy. On top of that – more than three-quarters of Americans say political power is too concentrated in the hands of the very, very wealthy. The mask on the 1%ers – and their bought-off politicans – is starting to slip. Americans know what’s going on – and that’s why they’re in the streets.

The Japanese Prime Minister announced today that the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant is now stable and that the plant is in a cold shutdown. This announcement contradicts reports from last week that reactor 4 at the plant is falling apart with the south-side wall crumbling. Experts warn that the plant is in such a fragile state that should another earthquake rock it – then the highly radioactive spent fuel pools could collapse into the reactors, creating an even more catastrophic event.

Meanwhile in the United States – nuclear regulators are taking a closer look at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant in Nebraska after several new problems were found there. Fort Calhoun came within inches of being flooded over the summer – that could have caused a Fukushima-like disaster in Omaha – and is currently undergoing repairs. How many more times are we going to roll the dice with nuclear power before we realize it's not worth the costs or the risks? It's time to ditch the world's most expensive and dangerous form of energy for good.

Crazy Alert! Toys ‘R’ US Jedi! An Oregon man was arrested Wednesday night after he went on an assault spree in a Toys ‘R’ Us – wielding a toy light sabre. The Jedi wannabe chased customers around the store swinging his light sabre at them until the cops arrived. Police attempted subdue “Loco Skywalker” using tasers – but he cut the taser wires with his light sabre. The force is definitely with this one. Finally cops subdued the man and charged him with assault, disorderly conduct, theft, resisting arrest, and interfering with a police officer. Unclear if the man will be charged with crimes against the Galactic Empire as well.

And that’s the way it is today – Friday, December 16th, 2011. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.