On the News With Thom Hartmann: SOPA Corporate Creep, and More

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. The largest online protest in the history of the Internet may have derailed SOPA and PIPA earlier this year – but major entertainment corporations like the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America are still coming after you. With the help of Internet Service Providers like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T – tabs are being kept right now on people who are sharing copyrighted material online. And on July 12th, Internet providers will begin putting in a place a new anti-piracy plan – warning internet users that they could face penalties of up to $150,000 if they continue to file-share. Providers will begin cutting down – or eliminating altogether – bandwidth for so-called offenders – until said offender agree to take an education course on piracy. Providers may also restrict access to only major websites like Google and Facebook. And most disturbingly – providers may share your information with other Internet providers to effectively create a blacklist of people who won’t be allowed to sign online. This is the corporate lock-down of the Internet that we’ve feared – and it’s the reason why Libertarians and Free Marketeers are wrong. Without the government protecting us from industry – be it Wall Street, dangers in the workplace, or the Internet – corporate power always creeps in to strangle consumers.

In screwed news…first it was Goldman Sachs – now it’s the Education Management Corporation. A former executive turned whistle-blower revealed widespread abuse at the Education Management Corporation – the nation’s second largest for-profit college corporation. According to the whistle-blower lawsuit – the company is “motivated by profit rather than student success or rankings,” and routinely engaged in predatory lending, pushing loans on students the company knew couldn't afford them. It’s basically the same sort of predatory lending that inflated the housing bubble. And with outstanding student loans nearing one trillion dollars – the student loan bubble may be the next to burst. Here’s the kicker – Education Management Corporation is partially owned by Goldman Sachs. Fool me once, shame on you – fool me twice, then it’s time to crack down on the Wall Street crooks.

In the best of the rest of the news…

If you knew how the PATRIOT Act was being used against you– you’d be “stunned.” So say two Senate Democrats who sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee. On Thursday, Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall called on the Justice Department to make public just how the government is interpreting section 215 of the PATRIOT Act – which authorizes secret surveillance operations on U.S. citizens – and allows law-enforcement to obtain “tangible things” like library records, business documents, or internet searches. As the Senators said, the government has a, “obligation to be transparent with the public.” The massive, fear-driven security state complex created by Bush and Cheney after 9/11 created the Patriot Act. And it’s time for us as Americans to stop being afraid – and start demanding protections of our First and Fourth Amendment rights.

At the same time Republican legislators in Pennsylvania consider a new ultra-sound bill requiring women to undergo the “shaming” procedure before having an abortion – prominent female voices within the Republican Party are speaking up about the “Republican War on Women.” Conservative columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan, wrote yesterday that there is indeed a “war against women” going on in America. She continued by writing, “In this war, leaders who are women are publicly demeaned and diminished based on the fact that they are women. They are the object of sexual slurs, and insulted in sexual terms.” It's unclear if Pennsylvania's Republican governor Tom Corbett will tell Noonan the same thing he told women who are worried about the ultrasound bill in his state – to just “close her eyes” while the state orders an ultrasound technician to rape her with his machine. When the election comes around in November – it’s Republicans who may want to close their eyes, as women voters now say, by a 15-point margin, that they want Democrats controlling Congress next year instead of Republicans.

The days of American tax-dodgers using Swiss bank accounts are numbered. After the Department of Justice indicted Switzerland’s oldest private bank – Wegelin and Co. – last month on charges that it helped wealthy Americans stash $1.2 billion away from the IRS – and then warned that other Swiss financial institutions could be next – the Swiss government is getting pro-active. Switzerland’s Parliament recently approved an amendment to the nation’s tax code – giving the United States unprecedented powers to investigate tax evasion with Swiss bank accounts held by Americans. Currently, Switzerland holds about $2.1 trillion in foreign cash, and some within that country are worried that this new law could cut into the profits of the Swiss banking sector. It's unclear if the crackdown on American tax-dodgers in Switzerland will affect SuperPAC contributions for Republican Presidential candidates. Then again – the Cayman Islands – already well used by Mitt Romney – are still open to tax evaders.

March Madness is here – and corporate America is freaking out. According to some estimates – employers around the nation lose about $175 million in lost productivity during just the first two days of the tournament as workers spend a lot of their time watching the tournament basketball games on their computers and televisions. But considering that automation has increased productivity drastically over the last 50 years in America, and yet workers wages have stagnated – while CEOs suck up all the extra profits – then consider March Madness a little payback.

And finally…actor George Clooney was arrested outside the Sudanese Embassy today while protesting against Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir – who is cutting off food aid to communities near South Sudan. Clooney warned that if something isn’t done – then the region could be on the verge of a “humanitarian disaster.” The actor was arrested alongside Democratic Representative Jim Moran and NAACP President Ben Jealous for crossing a police line outside the embassy. Rumor has it that busting Clooney out of prison is the subject of the upcoming “Oceans 14” movie.

And that’s the way it is today – Friday, March 16th, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.