On the News With Thom Hartmann: Walmart Pleaded Guilty to Criminal Charges of Dumping Hazardous Fertilizers and Chemicals in Two States, and More

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In today’s On the News segment: Yesterday, Walmart pleaded guilty to criminal charges of dumping hazardous fertilizers and chemicals in California and Missouri; several Democratic state lawmakers are facing recall petitions because of their votes for stronger gun control; Facebook has pledged to remove anti-women hate speech; and more.


Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. Yesterday, Wal-Mart pleaded guilty to criminal charges of dumping hazardous fertilizers and chemicals in California and Missouri. The retail giant will pay $81.6 million in fines for violating the Clean Water Act and other E.P.A. regulations. That fine is less than one tenth of one percent of the profits Wal-Mart made in 2012 alone. So, after criminally dumping chemicals in 16 California counties for years, Wal-Mart can simply write off the fine as a cost of doing business. If you or I were caught illegally dumping these chemicals, we could face fines of $50,000 per day, and five years in jail. And, if we did so in a way that put other people at risk – the way Wal-Mart has done – our fine could be as much as $250,000 per day, along with 15 years behind bars. According to the Supreme Court, Wal-Mart is a person, but they aren’t subject to the same criminal justice system that natural people face. Wal-Mart can’t be put on probation, or thrown in jail, they just pay fines for breaking the law, and go right back to screwing over workers and killing mom-and-pop businesses around the world. They don’t care about fines… for them, it’s like getting a parking ticket. And, if the price is right, they will just keep breaking the law, and paying fines, because it’s cheaper or easier than doing what’s right. If a normal person would be thrown in jail for five years after illegally dumping toxic waste, Wal-Mart should be forced to shut its doors for an equal amount of time. If a corporation’s action lead to someone’s death, that corporation should be held to the same standard that a human being would be held – life in prison or the death penalty. That corporation should be forced to permanently shut down, or be broken up and never allowed to do business again. If Wal-Mart wants the privileges of being a person, they should face the same responsibilities that real people face. That includes being punished for their crimes.

In screwed news… What do you get for enacting legislation that the vast majority of voters in your state support? Recall. Well, at least in Colorado you do. Several Democratic state lawmakers are facing recall petitions because of their votes for stronger gun control. State Senate President John Morse and the three other Democratic lawmakers were not the main sponsors of gun control legislation, but all come from districts where Republicans believe they can gather plenty of support for their recall. The National Rifle Association has also gotten involved, by sending a political mailer saying it is working with local recall groups. In an interview with New England Cable News, State Senator Morse seemed to expect the recall vote to happen. He said gun-rights advocates are using his district to make a national statement about what happens who lawmakers to support gun control. “That’s what’s going on here,” he said, “They want to take out the Senate President.” These lawmakers are the people who enacted gun laws that voters wanted. Now it’s time to get out there, and ensure they aren’t recalled for doing the people’s business.

In the best of the rest of the news…

If you had to guess which state is leading our nation in solar energy development, you probably wouldn’t guess Minnesota. But, that state has enacted legislation to become the solar production standard bearer that other states should be following. Last week, Governor Mark Dayton signed a new economic development bill that includes major incentives for solar development. The new law mandates that 1.5 percent of Minnesota’s electricity must come from solar by 2020. This requirement paves the way for widespread solar development throughout the state, which will generate an enormous amount of green energy, and create countless middle class jobs in that state. Minnesota will also invest in community-owned solar gardens, and will begin paying consumers for the extra electricity their panels produce. This bill is a win-win for consumers, the environment, and Minnesota’s economy. Minnesota may not be our nation’s sunshine capital, but when it comes to solar energy, they’re showing every state how green energy development is done.

Only seven days after women called on Facebook to take domestic violence seriously, the company has responded and pledged to remove anti-women hate speech. Facebook issued a statement saying, “It has become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender based hate.” After an outcry over Facebook’s failure to remove pages and comments that support or make light of violence against women, the company promises to review standards, update training, and increase accountability to correct the problem. There are still plenty of areas that Facebook needs to improve – like privacy protections, limitations on political speech, and more – but their response to this outcry indicates that, at the very least, they are listening. Before Facebook issued the statement, at least 15 companies had announced they were pulling advertising from the social media site, and standing with the women protesting the online hate speech. It is likely that this alliance between companies and activists led to Facebook’s quick response, and it is a prime example of what we can change when we work together. Organized people can defeat organized money, so let’s keep fighting for more positive change.

And finally… Yesterday, televangelist – and one-time Republican presidential candidate – Pat Robertson accused an unnamed online publication of deliberately twisting his words to embarrass him. Robertson promised a “full-scale exposé” on the organization, because, he said, “it’s a nasty group.” Although he didn’t name the online entity, he said their sole purpose is, “to embarrass those who are conservative on television.” That means Pat Robertson is referring to either Media Matters, or Right Wing Watch – a project from People For the American Way. PFAW research director, Josh Glasstetter said, “Right Wing Watch faithfully reports Robertson’s comments and provides appropriate context. There’s no need to ‘twist and distort’ his words to make them sound crazy or offensive. They are inherently both.”

And that’s the way it is today – Wednesday, May 29, 2013. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.