On the News With Thom Hartmann: SuperPACS to Blame for Increase in Dirty Campaigning, and More

In today's On the News segment: Euro zone finance ministers signed off on another bailout for Greece today, more than a 1,000 people took to the streets outside the Virginia state capital on Monday against anti-abortion legislation, another political consequence in the post-Citizens United era: dirty campaigning, the New York Police Department is spying on Muslim students, and more.


You need to know this. With less than a month to go until default – Euro zone finance ministers signed off on another bailout for Greece today. But no one is cheering – as this latest injection of money into the austerity-ravaged nation isn’t likely to go very far either. The bailout will keep a Greek default at bay for at least a few more months while Europe struggles to find a solution to the ongoing debt crisis. In the meantime – Greece is giving up its sovereignty handing banksters unprecedented control over budgetary decisions – and putting the Greek people through immense pain with lay-offs, spending cuts, and the winding down of public services. And with elections coming up in Greece in April – and far-right and far-left political parties showing substantial gains at the polls – this crisis could get a lot worse. Not to mention – other European nations like Italy, Spain, France, and the U.K. – are pursuing their own anti-growth austerity agendas, which will only worsen the economic situation on the continent. The bankster plan to bulldoze the European economy and snatch up chucks of the commons at a fire sale price is working flawlessly.

Women in Virginia are screwed. More than a 1,000 people – most of whom were women – took to the streets outside the Virginia state capital on Monday – locked arm in arm and silently protested against anti-abortion legislation working it’s way through the state legislature. The bill that the women are protesting against would define a fertilized egg as a person, thus criminalizing most birth control and IVF for infertile couples – slash state aid to poor women – and require all women to have a state agent insert a probe into them before they can get a legal abortion. That’s right – the same Republicans that rail against big government favor a government having the power to probe women. Despite the protests – the law is expected to pass the legislature this week and be signed into law by Republican Governor Bob McDonnell. Let’s hope this blatant Republican war on women comes with consequences at the polls in November.

In the best of the rest of the news…

We’re learning of another political consequence in the post-Citizens United era – dirty campaigning. According to an analysis by the Washington Post – negative advertising in the Republican primary has skyrocketed this year compared to four years ago. In 2008 – just 6% of campaign ads were negative – but this year it’s above 50%. The reason why….SuperPACs. Now that candidates don’t have to take responsibility for their ads – corporate-funded SuperPACs with treasure chests and unknown donors can carpet bomb TV stations with negative ads and no consequences. It’s how Mitt Romney won Florida – running 13,000 mostly negative TV ads against Newt Gingrich's 200. 72% of the money spent this year by SuperPACs has gone straight to negative advertising – and research has shown that negative ads disgust people and therefore reduce voter turnout. So expect the Republican candidate to launch endless negative ads, because if there’s one thing Republican political strategists hate – it’s high voter turnout.

The New York Police Department is spying on Muslim students. The Associated Press is out with a new investigation exposing the NYPD for keeping tabs on Muslim students and professors across the Northeast – at universities as far away as UPenn and Yale. Detectives tracked websites belonging to the Muslim students – spoke with local authorities about professors – and even sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip to document how many times Muslim students prayed. No one under NYPD surveillance was accused of any wrong doing – indicating that the police’s spying was a blatant breach of civil rights. It was also recently discovered that the NYPD is monitoring innocent Muslims where they eat, shop, and pray, as part of a program designed by the CIA. We can thank George Bush and Dick Cheney for this irrational and unconstitutional police behavior. Through fear mongering – they turned America from the Home of the Brave into the Home of the Terrified and Paranoid.

The right wing, coal-funded, climate change-denying think tank known as the Heartland Institute is desperately trying to cover up leaked documents containing budget and fundraising numbers and a plan to re-educate children in school with anti-climate-change pseudo-science. After the documents were published on several online blogs – the Heartland Institute argued they were forged. But on Monday – climate researcher Peter Gleick admitted he was the source of the leak and that the documents are indeed authentic – and that the Heartland Institute was seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from people like the Koch brothers to re-write school curriculums. I guess if 99.9% scientists disagree – then you just have to re-write science to advance the agenda of America’s oil barons.

So much for our hearts and minds campaign in Afghanistan. Hundreds of Afghan demonstrators gathered outside a U.S. airbase in Kabul – angry over the mishandling of Korans by U.S. troops, who had removed religious material from a detention facility and set it on fire. Considering that the Koran is the word of God in the Muslim faith – burning it is considered desecration. The U.S. military is now launching an investigation into what exactly happened – and why the Pastor Terry Jones method of Koran disposal was employed.

And finally…turns out humans aren’t so evil at their core. New biological research unveiled at a recent science conference suggests that humans and other higher animals like primates, elephants, and mice have a biological basis for cooperation and even morality. Running counter to the idea that animals – and humans – are naturally aggressive, competitive, and nasty – biologist Frans De Waal said animals actually show tendencies for “reciprocity, fairness, empathy and consolation.” Whether most Republicans realize it or not – the belief that humans are inherently evil underlies most of their ideology – hence why they think a human creation like government can never succeed. But as this research shows – cooperation is in our nature. In other words – democracy is in our genes.

And that’s the way it is today – Tuesday, February 21st, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.