Thom Hartmann on the News: July 15, 2013
You need to know this. Sixteen months after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman was found not guilty on all charges. Late Saturday evening, a jury of six women gave their verdict in the case, which sparked national conversations about race relations in our nation. The shooting of the seventeen-year old prompted rallies and protests about racial profiling, and set off a wave of citizens, celebrities, lawmakers, and civil leaders who wore hoodies and repeated the now-famous words, “I am Trayvon.” After the verdict, some activists blamed a weak prosecution for failing to convince the jury of Zimmerman's guilt, some pointed to a racially biased justice system, and others cited Florida's pro-gun laws for the trial outcome. When the news broke Saturday night, many people gathered in neighborhoods around our country, to express frustration over the verdict. While the vast majority of demonstrations were peaceful, there were a few acts of vandalism in Oakland, California – a city that has witnessed many killers of young, African-American men walking free. On Sunday, marches and rallies took place in major cities throughout our nation, including New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago, and no further violence was reported. Activists marched wearing hoodies, and carrying signs that read, “Justice for Trayvon Martin,” and called on the Justice Department to file criminal civil rights charges against George Zimmerman. The DOJ released a statement saying they are looking into the shooting death of Trayvon, and said, “experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation.” Despite the not guilty verdict, Trayvon Martin's family asked supporters not to resort to violence. The Martin family attorney, Ben Crump, spoke on behalf of the family, and said, “For Trayvon to rest in peace, we must all be peaceful. All of America has to dig deep in their hearts to learn from this tragedy, and make sure it's not repeated."
In screwed news... The Republican sequester is kicking people out on to the streets. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 140,000 people won't receive housing assistance because of $2 billion dollars in budget cuts. In Washington state, low-income residents are being forced to wait longer for section 8 housing vouchers, and people who recently qualified for aid are having their assistance rescinded. In New York City, Republican austerity will force the Housing Authority to take away rental vouchers from 1,200 people who already depend on them. Massive spending cuts have squeezed the budgets of similar programs all around our country, leading to longer waiting lists, revoked assistance, and reduced vouchers. All of which leave low-income Americans struggling to keep a roof over their heads. Federal officials have directed authorities to do what they can to avoid taking away housing assistance from those who rely on it, but they say it's only a matter of time before Republican austerity measures will leave people out on the streets.
In the best of the rest of the news...
The SEC is actually putting a bankster on trial. The Securities and Exchange Commission says that while Fabrice Tourre worked at Goldman Sachs, he defrauded investors in a mortgage security scandal that ended up costing them billions. According to the SEC, Mr. Tourre tricked investors to buying into a portfolio that was hand picked by hedge fund billionaire John Paulson. Allegedly, while Paulson was selecting the securities to include in the portfolio, he simultaneously was making huge personal bets against them. Although charges have not been filed against John Paulson, Goldman Sachs agreed to a $550 million dollar settlement for its role in the scandal. The SEC is suing Tourre for fraud, negligence, and aiding and abetting Goldman Sachs in violating securities laws. This case represents the highest-profile trial of anyone responsible for the events leading up to the 2008 financial meltdown, and it could mean that a bankster will finally be found guilty for their crimes.
Three months ago, state lawmakers in Alaska approved a huge tax cut for the oil industry, and now state residents are demanding it be overturned. On Saturday, opponents of the tax cut turned in a petition with 50,000 signatures calling for a state-wide referendum vote on the new oil tax law. To qualify for the ballot initiative, organizers only needed about 30,000 signatures, which represents 10 percent of the total turnout in the last statewide election. Republican Governor Sean Parnell, and supporters of the oil-industry tax break, say it's needed to lure oil development to Alaska. But, opponents say that the tax cuts are a huge giveaway, which will cost that state more than $4 billion dollars over the next five years. Former state senator, Vic Fischer, helped organize the petition, and said, “This bill that they passed is against the interests of Alaska.” Thanks to the hard work of Mr. Fischer and his fellow citizens, Alaskan residents will get their chance to vote on whether or not the oil industry deserves another tax break.
And finally… Congressman Mark Takano of California spent more than 20 years as a literature teacher before getting elected, and it turns out he doesn't mind letting Republicans know that. Representative Takano recently “graded” a letter from GOP Representative Bill Cassidy, which was written to oppose the Senate's recent vote on immigration reform. Rep. Rakano then posted a picture of the marked up letter online – with a big red “F” at the top. Although he gave Congressman Cassidy praise for a strong thesis statement, Representative Takano then repeatedly cited a lack of evidence for points made throughout the letter. Like any good teacher, Representative Mark Takano suggested ways to improve the letter, like addressing the pathway issue, including evidence, and removing tawdry allegations. Congressman Takano even offered his time, writing, “If you don't understand the bill – come by my office and I'll explain it.”