Thom Hartmann here – on the news…
You need to know this. The Tea Party Clown Show on Capitol Hill continues. On Saturday, thinking the Tea Partiers in the House would support them, Senate Republicans passed a temporary, 2-month extension of the payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans. The extension even included a House Republican demand related to the Keystone XL pipeline – forcing the President to make a decision on it before next year’s election. But despite that pipeline provision – and the fact that millionaires and billionaires are protected from any sort of tax increase – Tea Partiers in the House still don’t like the bill. When Speaker of the House John Boehner brought the bill up on a Saturday conference call, the Tea Party went into revolt, upset they aren’t getting even more right-wing goodies stuffed into the law. They’re expected to vote on the bill later tonight – and it’s expected to fail. If so – it would be the third time that Tea Party Republicans in Congress have voted against tax cuts for working-class Americans. And with less than two weeks to go until the tax cut expires – there’s a very real possibility that Republicans will let taxes go up by 1,000 bucks for 160 million average working Americans. Of course, the owners of Tea Party Republicans – billionaires like the Koch Brothers and multimillionaires like Dick Armey – don't much care about working Americans. And they're loving their control over the American political processes.
The very last convoy of U.S. troops crossed the border out of Iraq and into Kuwait – officially ending the nearly nine-year-long U.S. war effort in Iraq. Sadly – our returning veterans from Iraq will now have to fight for a job since the Bush Depression began. The unemployment rate now for young veterans is now averaging around 30%. That’s more than double the unemployment rate for non-veterans of the same age. This situation is similar to the one that faced the Bonus Army back in 1931 – when thousands of U.S. soldiers “occupyied” the National Mall in Washington, DC. Their occupation was broken up by Hoover's military – but FDR made sure that would never happen to war veterans again when he passed the G.I. Bill in 1944 – giving returning soldiers free college education, job placement, and loans. Today – we need a new G.I. Bill.
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According to the latest poll out of Iowa – Ron Paul is the new front-runner in the Iowa Caucus. However – Republican Party officials in Iowa are scrambling to defend the upcoming caucuses against a possible cyber attack by the hack-activist group known as Anonymous. A video message – believed to be from Anonymous – called for a “peaceful shut down” of the January 3rd Iowa Caucuses. Party officials are calling on individual precincts to use paper ballots as a backup to Internet databases and web sites that would normally calculate and display the voting results. We learned a few months ago that Diebold voting machines that are used all around the country to vote can be hacked into with just ten bucks worth of materials and a basic knowledge of technology. We have one of the most insecure voting systems in the developed world. Time to kick corporate profits out of voting – stop buying unsecure e-voting machines – and go back to using good ol’ fashioned paper ballots.
Meanwhile – Newt Gingrich is plummeting in the polls – he’s now in third place in Iowa. Gingrich has been catching flak over some of his controversial comments related to federal judges – going so far as to suggest he’d send in U.S. Marshalls to arrest judges that he disagreed with. The ironic thing is – Newt’s right – short of the whole arresting judges thing. We do have a problem with a too powerful and out of control judiciary. The Supreme Court – judges who serve for life and are unaccountable to the electorate – created the notion that corporations are people and money is speech, despite the fact that no Congress and no President has ever signed on to it. It’s time for Congress to take a larger role in holding the courts accountable just as the Constitution prescribes.
Over the weekend – the Occupy Wall Street movement recognized its three-month anniversary. Demonstrators attempted to “re-occupy” another park in New York City – but were prevented from doing so by a Church that owned the land. As expected – the NYPD arrested 50 patriots during the day of action. But the movement lives on in other ways after three months – from people moving their money from big banks on Wall Street to local credit unions – to helping families facing foreclosure – to fighting against student loan debt – the 99% of us are still being represented all across America. Let’s keep it up.
North Korean President Kim Jong-il died of a heart attack. The government kept his death a secret for the last two days – likely withholding an announcement until transition plans could be worked out. Kim Jong-il’s son – Kim Jong-un – has been named the new leader of North Korea. However – given his inexperience, his lack of control over the military, and the dire economic situation in North Korea – there’s a real concern that regime may be on the brink of collapse. Stay tuned.
Crazy Alert! Now for a light…bulb…meal. Brooklyn resident R.J. Williams has his name in the record books now – scarfing down a light bulb in a record- setting time. Recordsetter.com was on hand to adjudicate the glass chow-down last week. The rules were simple – Williams had to eat the entire bulb – except for the metal parts – he could only use his teeth to break the bulb – and he could only use water to wash it down. Williams accomplished the feat – in just under 34 seconds for a new world record. Also in attendance – Speaker of the House John Boehner…just to make sure the light bulb used did not comply with the new EPA standards on energy efficiency.
And that’s the way it is today – Monday, December 19, 2011. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.