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On the News With Thom Hartmann: Germany Moves to Outlaw High-Speed Trading Robots, and More

Striking NFL referees watch their position strengthen as replacement refs make bad calls, and more.

In today’s On the News segment: Over three-quarters of outside spending in this election was made possible by the Citizens United decision, Germany is set to approve a new law this week to limit high-frequency trading, striking NFL referees watch their position strengthen as replacement refs make bad calls, and more.

Benny Martinez in for Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. Our covert drone warfare program is “terrorizing” the Middle East. A new report by a team of law professors from Stanford and New York University has uncovered the “damaging and unproductive” effect of drone strikes in Pakistan. Despite claims from the Obama administration that very few civilians have been killed in drone strike, this new report – titled, “Living Under Drones” – argues that as many as 800 civilians have been killed in Pakistan alone since 2004 as a result of drone strikes. Data on the strikes and civilian deaths was compiled from more than 130 interviews with civilians living in northern Pakistan – a hot bed for drone strikes. These strikes also correspond with growing anti-Americans sentiments in the region. A recent Pew poll found that three-quarters of Pakistanis now consider the United States to be an “enemy.” One reason why – as the report explains – is because, “Drones hover 24 hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles and public spaces without warning…Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves.” The problem with the so-called War on Terror is our nation is committed to military solutions – and as Abraham Maslow famously said, “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” It’s time to put the hammer away – end the drone strikes – and begin building schools to fight extremism.

In screwed news…for those who still don’t think Citizens United is having a profound effect on our democracy – consider this: 78% of the $465 million in outside spending so far this election was only made possible by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. According to a new report by the Sunlight Foundation – SuperPACs have dished out $272 million so far on this year’s election – and another $93 million so far has been spent by trade organization and non-profits, which according to Citizens United don’t have to disclose their donors. The consequence of this surge in outside spending is an explosion of negative ads. More than 75% of the outside spending this election has been used for negative ads – with a lot more negative ads targeting President Obama than Mitt Romney. As Republicans know best, negative ads suppress voter turnout, this giving Republicans a better shot at winning. We’re a month-and-a-half away from the most expensive election in this nation’s history, which will be the ultimate test of whether organized people can defeat organized money.

In the best of the rest of the news…

It’s not just roads and bridges; our nation’s intellectual infrastructure is crumbling, too. After reviewing more than 1.6 million SAT scores from around the nation, reading scores on the test have now reached a four-decade low. Not only that – according to the College Board, 57% of test takers did not score high enough to suggest success in college. One reason for the low test scores could be the poor economy and the millions more Americans living in poverty, since there’s a direct correlation between SAT scores and family income. Another is the widespread slashing of education budgets across the nation in favor of private, for-profit schools, which studies have shown don’t offer any better education results. Most disturbing, it’s Democrats – who’s previously been the champions of public education – leading the charge for more school privatization. The corporate takeover of education is destroying our nation’s intellectual infrastructure.

Robots have taken over the United States stock market, and Germany is now taking measures to prevent the same thing from happening there. High-frequency-trading makes up as much as 70% of all activity on trading markets here in the United States. Those trades are made by machines, loaded with special algorithms that instruct the machine to buy and sell stocks at the speed of microseconds. This sort of trading has proved dangerous when machine fails – as happened in the May 2010 “flash crash,” when the stock market plunged 10% in a matter of seconds. Germany is set to approve a new law on Wednesday that would limit the activity of high-frequency-trading robots – and is encouraging the rest of the EU to do the same thing. One of the best ways for the United States to kick the robots out of the Stock Market is to pass a financial transaction tax – like the one proposed in Congress by Representative Keith Ellison.

Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren came out in favor of legalizing medicinal marijuana on Monday. During a radio interview, she told a story about her dying father whose pain might have been relieved by marijuana. Warren said, “if there’ something a physician can prescribe than can help someone who’s suffering, I’m in favor of that.” Warren joins the 56% of the nation that supports legalizing medical marijuana. It’s time for President Obama to take a stand for medicinal marijuana, too.

And finally…NFL fans around the nation – and especially in Green Bay, Wisconsin – are sick and tired of the scab replacement referees brought in to replace striking NFL referees. Week 3 of the NFL season proved to be a turning point in the referee labor struggle – as replacement refs blatantly blew a call at the end of Monday night’s Packers versus Seahawks game – which gave the Seahawks an undeserved victory. As play-by-play analyst Mike Tirico said after the blown call and the mayhem that followed on the field, “This is the most bizarre sequence you’ll ever see at the end of the game.” Packers coach Mike McCarthy – who was on the losing end of the bad call – said, “I’ve never seen anything like that in all my years in football.” But this isn’t just about football, it’s about a labor struggle – and it’s about referees getting the pay they deserve in a league that generates 9 billion bucks a year. Keep an eye on this labor story: with each passing week, and each botched call, the unionized NFL referees’ hand gets stronger and stronger.

And that’s the way it is today – Tuesday, September 25, 2012. I’m Benny Martinez in for Thom Hartmann – on the news.

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