Thom Hartmann here – on the news…
You need to know this. This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was outraged to learn that the U.S. was spying on her cell phone. But, she’s not the only one who should be alarmed. The NSA has been snooping into the private phone conversations of at least 35 world leaders. A new classified document released by whistleblower Edward Snowden shows that the security agency pushed senior officials in the White House, State Department, and Pentagon to hand over their “rolodexes” containing contact information for foreign leaders. The document shows that one unnamed official handed over 200 phone numbers, which included dozens of world leaders, so that the National Security Agency could spy on them. After the information became public, White House officials avoided discussing details of the program. Caitlin Hayden, the National Security Council spokeswoman, said, “The United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel. Beyond that, I’m not in a position to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity.” Ms. Hayden did not confirm or deny that the U.S. had been monitoring the Chancellor, or any other world leaders. Of course, these revelations will have serious impacts on diplomatic relations with Germany and other countries. Already, details of the US spying has angered several nations, including Brazil and Mexico. And, that list is going to grow quickly in the wake of this new information. At a press conference in Brussels, Chancellor Merkel said, “Spying among friends is not at all acceptable against anyone, and that goes for every citizen in Germany.” That goes for every citizen, and every leader, in other nations as well.
In screwed news… Only a week after being hit with the biggest typhoon in a decade, Japan is already being slammed with another storm. And, it’s heading right for the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant. Workers at that plant tried to prepare for the storm during the week, but they were faced with picking the “least worst” of several bad options. Rather than leaving outdoor pools of radioactive water exposed to the oncoming storm, they opted to move the water into underground tanks, which have previously been found to be leaking. They will have to keep the water there until Typhoon Francisco passes over. And, as if worrying about highly-radioactive water wasn’t enough, now TEPCO must worry about the plant being damaged further by the storm. Ever since the March 2011 tsunami, the Fukushima plant has been desperately trying to fend off a complete nuclear meltdown. Hopefully, mother nature doesn’t make that fight impossible.
In the best of the rest of the news…
Many Americans are frustrated by the ongoing fight to regulate Wall Street. Millions wonder why it’s so hard to enforce common-sense financial laws like Dodd-Frank. Well, it turns out that academic shills are gumming up the works. A new piece from The Nation Magazine explains how so-called experts who influence important regulatory agencies, like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, are actually Wall Street lobbyists with a vested interest in blocking regulation. For example, Professor Todd Zywicki has been called to testify numerous times about the supposed “parochial bureaucracy” of the CFPB – despite the fact that he lobbies for the very corporations that the agency is designed to regulate. And, thanks to a change in the ethics procedure by House Republicans in 2011, Mr. Zywicki doesn’t even have to disclose his conflicts of interest. Of course, consumer advocates try to weigh in and prevent people like Zywicki from influencing regulatory agencies, but they’re often drowned out by a sea of corporate shills. Regulations like Dodd-Frank mean little when Wall Street has influence over how they’re enforced. It’s time that Congress stops listening to phony experts who make millions by fighting the laws that protect Americans.
The super rich don’t give a damn about democracy. In fact, they’ve mounted an all-out war on campaign finance laws intended to keep billionaires from buying our politicians. In addition to Citizens United, and the McCutcheon case now before the Supreme Court, the uber-wealthy are challenging campaign contribution limits in states around our nation. On Thursday, a federal appeals court in New York ruled in favor of a right-wing super PAC called New York Progress and Protection PAC. That group challenged New York state’s campaign contribution law, which limited a donor from giving more than $150,000 per year to a particular political group. And, the three-judge panel agreed. In the Court’s written decision, Judge Dennis G. Jacobs wrote, “Every sum that a donor is forbidden to contribute to [the group] because of this [campaign finance] statute reduces constitutionally protected political speech.” Just like Citizens United, this ruling will allow billionaires to have a whole lot more speech than the rest of us. And, similar laws have been struck down all over the nation. As the one percent fights for their so-called right to buy off our politicians, we must fight back by declaring once-and-for-all that money is not speech. We can do that by joining MoveToAmend.org.
And finally… It’s not even Halloween yet, but it looks like the War on Christmas has already begun. At least, that’s what Fox so-called News will tell you. In Tampa, Florida, one child development center has decided not to celebrate the Christmas holiday. Now, kids in the Hillsborough County school will still be talking about Christmas, but they’ll be learning about Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and other traditions as well. The school is simply taking a “more-seasonal” approach, to be sure that they’re not leaving anyone’s religious beliefs out of the celebration. They’re inviting all parents to come in and teach the students about their individual holiday traditions. And, they’ll be extending this policy through other holiday seasons, and encouraging parents to celebrate other childhood milestones. They suggest hallmarking events like tying shoelaces, the first snowflake of the season, or the day a child lost their first tooth. Oh, I can see the Fox headline now – “Santa Claus has been taken out by the Tooth Fairy!”
And that’s the way it is today – Friday, October 25, 2013. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.