On the News With Thom Hartmann: Japan Shuts Down Its Last Nuclear Reactor to Widespread Public Celebration, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Japan shut down its last nuclear reactor Saturday to widespread public celebration, GOP war on women renders widest gender gap in US voters’ preference for presidential candidates since the 2000 election, the nation’s four largest oil companies are all ALEC members, and more.

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. In votes across France and Greece over the weekend – Europeans sent a very clear message to the technocrats and banksters choking them with trickle-down austerity. That message was, “No more!” In France – Socialist candidate Francois Hollande – who campaigned against austerity – defeated Conservative President Nicholas Sarkozy in elections on Sunday. In his victory speech, Hollande told the French people that “austerity can no longer be the only option” and that his mission is to now, “give the European project a dimension of growth, employment, prosperity…and a future.” Already – Hollande’s pro-growth agenda has received support from other European leaders and could signal the beginning of the end of German-backed austerity in Europe. The same is the case in Greece, where the two ruling parties supporting austerity only won 32% of Sunday’s vote – as the Greek people instead opted for far-left and far-right parties that are both opposed to more trickle-down austerity and bailouts. Now – the future of Greece and the Eurozone is once again uncertain – as the Greek Parliament is unlikely to sign off on another round of bailouts next year to prevent Greece from defaulting and leaving the Eurozone. Financial analysts in Europe are now putting the odds of a Greek exit from the euro at 75%. Stay tuned – the battle between democracy and and “Shock Doctrine” banksters is just beginning.

Working people in America are screwed, as long as Republicans continue to serve the war profiteers instead of the people. In last year’s debt-limit deal, Republicans agreed to cut the bloated Defense Department’s budget by $78 billion next year – meaning fewer lucrative contracts for defense corporations to build weapons systems we don’t need. But this week – Republicans in the House will vote on legislation to reverse the scheduled cuts to the Pentagon they, themselves, had agreed to – and instead take the money out of programs to assist struggling working people. The Republicans’ trickle-down austerity proposal slashes $379 billion from unemployment benefits, food stamp programs, and health insurance programs – all to keep feeding the war machine. Heading into the 2012 election season – Republicans have made their choice – they’d rather give defense contractors a second mansion in the suburbs of Virginia – than give hungry families enough food to eat.

In the best of the rest of the news…

It pays to be a member of the corporatocracy. The group Common Cause is out with a full list of corporate members belonging to the Koch-brothers-funded American Legislative Exchange Council – known as ALEC. It turns out, the nation’s four largest oil companies – Shell, BP, Chevron, and ExxonMobil – are all members of ALEC – and sit on ALEC taskforces to write legislation to benefit their own interests – like eliminating EPA regulations and giving away public lands for drilling and fracking. These four oil corporations raked in a combined $30 billion in profits in just the first three months of this year. When corporations like ExxonMobile are writing our laws – the damage to our democracy becomes quickly obvious.

The nation is being split apart along gender lines. A new presidential poll in swing states by USA Today and Gallup – show a 20-point gap in Presidential choices between men and women. While men support Mitt Romney by 8-points according to the poll – women support President Obama by 12-points. This is the widest disparity between male and female voters since 2000 – and a reflection that the Republican war on women’s rights – from contraceptive use, to equal pay for equal work – is taking a toll on the female base of the Republican Party. It also shows that – as usual – the Republicans Party is well established as the Party of rich white men.

On Saturday – Japan turned off its last nuclear reactor, as thousands of people took to the streets to celebrate their nation being nuclear-free for the first time since 1970. All 54 nuclear reactors in Japan are now shut-down in response to safety concerns and a public outcry following the Fukushima disaster more than a year ago. And that disaster continues to threaten not just Japan but the rest of the world too. Senator Ron Wyden wrote letters to top nuclear regulators in the United States over his concerns about highly radioactive nuclear waste stored in the crippled Fukushima reactors – and questioned whether similarly-designed reactors in the United States are a threat as well. Unfortunately – unlike Japan and some European nations that are dismantling and banning nuclear power – since the Fukushima crisis, the United States has done virtually nothing to wind down or replace nuclear power here.

Two top officials within the Obama Administration threw their support behind same-sex marriage over the weekend. First, on Sunday – Vice President Joe Biden said he is “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex couples receiving the same rights and benefits as traditional married couples. That makes Vice President Biden the highest ranking American official to ever back same-sex marriage. And then this morning – Education Secretary Arne Duncan also endorsed same-sex marriage. In Congress – Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has called for marriage equality to be added to the Democratic Party’s platform, but President Obama says his views on the issue are “still evolving.” Whether the President jumps on board or not – it’s pretty clear that the momentum for equal rights for all Americans – regardless of their sexual orientation – has hit the tipping point.

And finally…Crazy Alert! No bathroom breaks necessary. Australia is now home to a new land speed record. But it wasn’t a car equipped with a rocket-engine claiming fame – instead…it’s a toilet! Sitting atop a toilet with four wheels and an engine – Canadian stuntwoman Jolene Van Vugt broke the land speed record of a motorized toilet by accelerating her “John” to over 46 miles an hour on a 100 meter track. That shattered by 4 mph the previous record, held by Italian toilet-driver, Edd China. Rumor has it future bathroom drivers will opt for the less-heralded, but much-faster motorized bidet – given its more aerodynamic design.

And that’s the way it is today – Monday, May 07, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news…