Thom Hartmann here – on the news…
You need to know this. The oil barons may be held accountable after all. A year and a half after the BP oil spill murdered 11 men and spewed 5 million barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico – the Wall Street Journal is reporting that U.S. Prosecutors are readying the first criminal charges against BP. The Department of Justice is allegedly looking into charging engineers and at least one supervisor with providing false information to regulators – a felony charge that could carry with it one to five years in prison. While this is a good first step – it won't even effect the executives of an oil corporation that, from the top down, didn’t give a damn about the lives of its workers or the environment. Following an oil spill last month in Brazil – Brazilian prosecutors are going after the President of Chevron – charging him with crimes that could lead to jail time and banning Chevron from the country. We need to do the same things here with BP: throw some suits in jail for murder and ban BP from ever doing business again in the United States.
There’s a backlash underway against supporters of the Stop Online Privacy Act – known as SOPA. The legislation – which is currently stalled in Congress until next month – would give the federal government – working with major entertainment industries – the power to take down websites that may be displaying copyrighted material. Domain registrar GoDaddy.com publicly supported SOPA – and now has seen more than 120,000 domain names transferred from its services thanks to a groundswell of Internet activism calling for boycotts on GoDaddy. Meanwhile – two main proponents of the Internet censorship legislation – Republican Senator Bob Corker – and Republican Representative Paul Ryan are being target in an online campaign calling for people to dig up dirt on them and ruin their political careers. Sadly, the days of a free and open Internet will be numbered if SOPA becomes law.
In the best of the rest of the news…
Republicans have lost the Hispanic vote. According to a new poll released yesterday by the Pew Hispanic Center – Hispanics favor President Obama over Mitt Romney by nearly a 3-to-1 margin. Back in 2004 – George W. Bush got 40% of the Hispanic vote and in 2008 John McCain got 31% of the Hispanic vote. But then came the right-wing war on undocumented immigrants – beginning with Arizona’s “papers please” law and continuing through all the Republican debates as the candidates tried to one-up each other with who’s willing to break up more families and deport more undocumented immigrants. The Republican Party will need a few more billionaires to make up for the lost Hispanic vote, which they may not get back for generations.
Former New Mexico Governor and Republican candidate for President Gary Johnson officially dropped out of the Republican race yesterday – and announced he plans to run on the Libertarian ticket. Johnson spoke to a crowd in New Mexico yesterday, saying, “Never before has there been such an outcry over the two-party system in this country.” The Libertarian candidates' names will appear on the ballots in all 50 states – and barring Ron Paul winning the Republican nomination – the Libertarian will certainly be a fly in the ointment for Republicans as polls indicate that a third-party conservative could peel off a lot of the vote from the traditional Republican nominee. So Republican Party officials have less than a year to figure out what they’re going to do with a growing Libertarian problem within their Party.
GOP TV’s Fox so-called News is slipping. This year – Rupert Murdoch’s mouthpiece for the Republican Party lost 9% of its viewers, with shows like The O’Reilly Factor and Hannity seeing large declines in viewership. Fox took its biggest hit in the coveted 25-54 demographic – where they saw a 14% decline in viewers. To make matters worse for GOP TV – they’re getting killed in the late-night ratings by none other than Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, which is averaging 2.3 million viewers, compared to Fox’s 1.8 million. But despite all the bad news for Fox – it still has the 13 top cable news shows on TV and so still picks the Republican candidates and controls the Republican agenda.
Japan may soon unveil the “leisure society.” The Japanese firm Kawada industries just developed a new robotic-laborer – capable of working alongside people and carrying out menial tasks on assembly lines. The robot runs on just 1,500 watts of power – about the same as a hairdryer. Back in the 1960’s TIME magazine predicted that automation like this would lead to a leisure society in America, in which robots do most of the work for people and maximize efficiency – meaning people will be taking home more pay while working far fewer hours. Instead – things stayed the same because American CEOs just pocketed the extra profits made from automation and made their employees work the same number of hours. We’ll see what happens in Japan.
Crazy Alert! Time for Big Bird to get a job! While at a campaign stop in Iowa yesterday – Mitt Romney talked about some of his options to balance the budget. And one of them was attacking Sesame Street. Romney said, “I like PBS. We subsidize PBS. Look, I’m going to stop that. I’m going to say that PBS is going to have to have advertisements.” Romney then turned his sights directly on Big Bird saying, “We’re not going to kill Big Bird, but Big Bird is going to have to have advertisements, alright?” That’s right – under a Romney presidency – Big Bird will have to wear NASCAR patches showing all his sponsors. And if that doesn’t cut it – then Romney will move in to Sesame Street to “trim the fat” – leaving essential characters only. Big Bird stays – Bert and Ernie stays – and Elmo stays – but vowels are gone – and, sorry, Cookie Monster – you gotta go.
And that’s the way it is today – Thursday, December 29th, 2011. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.