Thom Hartmann here – on the news…
You need to know this. Sources on Capitol Hill say that lawmakers are close to striking a deal to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits for the rest of the year. The still tentative deal includes an unpaid-for extension of the payroll tax cut for the rest of the year – and a “fix” to ensure that Medicare providers aren’t hit with a pay cut. As for emergency unemployment benefits – they’ll be extended too – though Republicans did succeed in lowering the number of available weeks from 99 down to 73 – and it will be paid for by cuts in federal pensions. Meaning once again – Republicans have held true to millionaire lobbyist Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge protecting millionaires and billionaires from the smallest tax increase. Then again, this deal could be killed at any moment if Eric Cantor decides to once again stick the shiv in John Boehner on behalf of the Tea Party, which just doesn’t care about working Americans OR the unemployed.
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The environment is screwed. Big oil and coal want to brainwash your children. The Center for American Progress obtained a secret document produced by the Heartland Institute – a right wing, global warming-denying think tank funded by the Koch brothers – to teach children in K through 12th grade that global warming is a “major scientific controversy.” The document includes secret plans to re-write environmental curricula to downplay the effects of global warming. The man in charge of writing the new curricula is named Dr. David Wojick – who also works as a coal industry consultant. The Heartland Institute defended its reeducation effort by saying, “We hope that our efforts will restore sound science to climate change education and discourage the political propaganda that too often passes as ‘education.’” In other words – they think big oil should be teaching kinds – and not the scientific community. This is exactly the sort of stuff that former Supreme Court justice Lewis Powell called for in his infamous 1971 memo to the Chamber of Commerce when he suggested rewriting school textbooks to advance more business-friendly attitudes. The billionaires are continuing their campaign of good old-fashioned brainwashing.
In the best of the rest of the news…
Wall Street wants free reign to crash the economy again and make off with billions more in the process. The banks want to take down one of the most important parts of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law – something called the Volcker Rule – which prevents big banks from gambling with their customer’s money. Organizations and banks like the Chamber of Commerce and JP Morgan Chase submitted over 170,000 words in opposition to the rule on Monday – and an army of financial industry lobbyists are being dispatched to Capitol Hill to continue fighting it. The Volcker Rule is essentially what Franklin Roosevelt put in place after the Stock Market crash of 1929 – and it worked really well preventing another market crash for the longest period of time in American history. Then the law was repealed in 1999 by Enron insider Phil Gramm, leading to the market crash of 2008. Luckily for the banks – they have an inside man in the House – Republican Spencer Bachus – the Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who’s received more than half of his campaign contributions from Wall Street, and is currently being investigated for insider trading.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill received 800,000 reasons to ditch plans to bring back the Keystone XL pipeline on Tuesday. As the Republican-controlled House gets ready to vote on a sham of a transportation-funding bill that includes immediate approval of the Keystone XL pipeline – more than 800,000 messages were hand delivered to the U.S. Senate from people all around America calling on their Senators to oppose the House Republicans’ attempts to resurrect the Keystone pipeline. This was the result of 24 hours of online activism spearheaded by the website 350.org in an effort to get a half million to oppose the pipeline in a single day. That goal was shattered – proving the environmental movement is not only alive and well in America – but can claim a few victories against big oil, too.
It looks like running against Congress could be a winning strategy for the President this year. According to a new New York Times/CBS News poll – the President’s approval rating has ticked up to 50% – and for the first time more Americans polled think the economy is getting better, than think the economy is getting worse. Meanwhile Congress is stuck with an approval rating of just 10%. And in head to head matchups with every single Republicans still in the race – President Obama comes out on top. Then again – the SuperPACs haven’t had their say yet in the matter. Stay tuned for a billion dollar, corporate funded election.
The NYPD has been reading a little too much of Orwell’s book 1984. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the police department’s use of controversial “stop and frisk” tactics have increased dramatically in the last year. Over 684,000 people were randomly stopped, questioned, and even at times searched on the streets of New York by NYPD officers in 2011. That’s a new record since the tactic went into use in 2002 – and a 14% increase since 2010. Roughly 12% of those stopped were arrested. The NYPD argues that “stop and frisk” is an essential crime-fighting tool – but civil rights groups contend that it’s mostly innocent minorities’ who are being stopped without any probable cause.
And finally…the state of Arizona is arming up. Last year – alongside a slew of other controversial pieces of legislation – the Arizona state legislature passed a law to establish an armed, volunteer state militia separate from the National Guard. According to the legislation – the new militia could be called on for “any…reason the governor considers to be necessary.” Now – the state legislature is considering a $1.9 million funding bill for that militia. Just to recap – Governor Brewer screamed about a debt crisis in her state and slashed Medicaid funding leading to at least 2 people dying after they were denied life-saving medical treatments. Now – she’s diverting 2 million bucks to her own private army. Maybe Arizona is thinking about seceding alongside Texas?
And that’s the way it is today – Wednesday, February 15th, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.