Thom Hartmann here – on the news …
You need to know this. The Occupy Wall Street movement just had its most popular week in the media so far – and “likes” of the movement on Facebook are surging. But it may have had its biggest impact yesterday – getting the attention of the Commander-in-Chief. While speaking in New Hampshire – the President was “mic-checked” by demonstrators. He now joins the growing list of other political figures who've been mic-checked – from Karl Rove – to Eric Cantor – to Michele Bachmann. After the speech was over – the president was then handed a note by one of the 99 percent movement patriots in the crowd that read: “Mr. President, over 4,000 peaceful protesters have been arrested. While the banks continue to destroy the American economy with impunity. You must stop the assault on our First Amendment rights. Your silence sends a message that police brutality is acceptable. Banks got bailed out. We got sold out.” Stories of police brutality are increasing. News broke yesterday that a 19-year-old Seattle woman may have suffered a miscarriage as a result of police brutality. Also yesterday – several students were beaten by police batons outside of City University of New York where they were protesting tuition hikes. Plus – there's the pepper-spray incident at UC Davis – and the beating of an Iraq War veteran in Oakland. It's past time for the president to speak out against the police violence in the streets – and that America once again becomes an example for young activists around the world of an open society that embraces free speech – and not an example for how to crush democracy for rogue governments around the world.
Moving on to the economy – nearly half of all Americans are screwed. According to a new study by the organization Wider Opportunities for Women – 45 percent of ALL Americans live without economic security – meaning they can’t afford all the basics of life – like food, clothing, transportation, and medical care. Again – that's nearly half of the population in economic insecurity. And MORE than half – 55 percent of all children – live in economic insecurity. But two specific proposals to help address this problem – the payroll tax and extended unemployment benefits – are set to expire at the end of the year. And despite the disastrous economic effects of not extending these programs – Republicans are dragging their feet – and will likely turn this into another hostage scenario. Based on analysis by the group Macroeconomic Advisers – allowing the payroll tax cut to expire will cost our economy 400,000 jobs and shrink GDP by a half-percent. And expiring extended unemployment benefits will kill another 200,000 jobs. So, what will Republicans do? I’m guessing they'll threaten to crash the economy, unless Democrats agree to more tax cuts for the top 1 percent – or the privatization of Medicare and Social Security.
In the best of the rest of the news …
Republicans gathered for their 11th debate so far – this one was hosted by CNN and conservative think-tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute – and it focused on foreign policy. Most of the candidates on stage – aside from Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman – tried to one-up each other on who'd support Israel more – and who'd take a tougher stance toward Iran and Syria. The candidates also hyped up the threat of Hezbollah teaming up with Socialists in Latin America. But the biggest economic threat to America – China – received only the briefest of mentions – and the ongoing financial crisis in Europe wasn't mentioned once. It wasn't so much a foreign policy debate – as it was a war debate.
So much for the often-repeated conservative argument that the stimulus package didn't work. The Congressional Budget Office said yesterday that President Obama's stimulus package is continuing to help the economy. After crunching the numbers – the CBO said the package employed as many as 2.4 million jobs and lowered the unemployment rate by more than 1 percent in the third quarter of this year. Also – economic growth was up as much as 1.9 percent thanks to the stimulus package. Looking ahead to 2012 – the CBO estimates the stimulus package could still create an additional 1 million jobs. Remember back in 2009 – Republicans voted in near-unanimous opposition to the stimulus package – although many have been more than happy to attend photo-ops posing in front of stimulus construction projects in their home districts.
As the Protect IP Act moves closer and closer to passage in Congress – one Senator has a plan to stop the radical legislation in its tracks. Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon opposes the Protect IP Act which essentially gives media corporations and the federal government the power to shut down any web site that they allege is infringing on copyrights. Wyden said, “The 'at all costs' approach these bills take to protecting intellectual property sacrifices cyber security while restricting free speech and innovation.” Now the senator is planning an old-school, one-man, standing filibuster should the Protect IP Act come to the floor of the Senate – and he'll use the Internet to help. Currently – there's a petition online at “stop censorship.org” – with over 60,000 people already signed onto it – and Senator Wyden is pledging to read off the names of each person who signed it during his filibuster. So, not only is this a great opportunity to have your voice heard in opposition to internet censorship – but you may just end up in the Congressional Record too.
Crazy Alert! Don't drink the water. The mayor of the Peruvian city of Huarmey thinks he knows what causes homosexuality – and that is … drinking tap water. While standing outside a new water treatment plant – Mayor Jose Benitez made reference to the high levels of strontium in the local water supply and said, “strontium reduces male hormones and suddenly we'll be as Tabalosos, as other towns, where the percentages are increasing of homosexuality.” According to a Lima news station – the town of Tabalosos boasts a gay population of 14,000 men. Doctors at the college of Lima were quick to prove Mayor Benitez wrong – noting that strontium in the water may increase the risk of cancer – but has nothing to do with homosexuality. I guess the real question though, is – when was Rick Santorum in Peru – and what did he tell Mayor Benitez?
And that's the way it is today – Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.