Monday October 26th 2009

death penalty 2 imagesHour One: "Why is it so hard to start over in America?" Thom debates conservative economist Dr. John Lott

Hour Two: "Is everything you learned in school a lie?" Thom talks with James Loewen author of "Teaching What Really Happened"

Hour Three: "Did an innocent man die in the Texas death chamber?" Is capital punishment being used for political purposes...isn't it time we throw out the death penalty? Thom  mixes it up with death penalty supporter Dudley Sharp

Plus...Mike Farrell will be joining Thom - Time to throw out the death penalty and reform our crminal justice system.


Mark (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago

It is a truism that if your team has its fundament handed to them by an opponent, it is much easier to take than if your team loses a game—rather than the other team winning it—out of sheer bum luck, bad breaks and apparently partisan officiating. Thus the denouement of Vikings-Steelers game has left me in a excessively, depressingly sour mood.

Anyways, there is a television program called “Lie to Me” in which some guy with superhuman intuitive skills (Tim Roth) can allegedly “tell” by barely discernable tics that someone is lying, and using this alleged skill to aid law enforcement. But like all cop shows these days, it says less of reality but of the habit of stereotyping, prejudice, paranoia and fear prevalent in certain demographics in this country. Cops on television are more remarkable not for their “expertise,” but for the way their prejudices rule their judgment; they always be “right,” but it helps to remember that these shows are fiction, and by design play fast and loose with credibility in order to manipulate viewers’ emotions, for ratings.

Not surprisingly, many people in this country think they have special “intuitive” skills in regard to judging others. A person can be behaving in a perfectly normal way that a perfectly rationale explanation, and if an observer isn’t inspired by personal prejudice against that person, then no further thought is given to it. But if that observer is told that that this other person or persons must be watched, because they are “suspected” of being up to no good, then even the most perfectly normal, rational behavior becomes suspect, and subject to interpretation, with imaginary motivation and intentions. Take, for instance, someone who is running on a sidewalk; if this happens to be one of “those people,” the observer (or the police) may suspect he is running away from the scene of crime, when in fact he is trying to catch a bus. Perhaps one of “those people” is in a grocery store, and this person is taking time comparing prices on items; this is perfectly normal, rational, even intelligent behavior. But if store employees have been “trained” to recognize “suspicious” behavior, then this person’s actions are definitely suspect, because only white people do “smart” things. "Those people" are only out to steal something when you're not looking.

A few years after 9-11, Seattle police received a call from a woman who said that a black man was taking pictures of the Ballard Locks; this was very suspicious behavior, perhaps evidence of terrorism. The police arrived, put him in temporary custody, and eventually ascertained that he was a local resident just trying out his new camera. The Ballard Locks are a popular tourist site, but not exactly something a terrorist looking to make a big score would consider bothering with; but in the paranoid racist’s mind, anything is possible. I recall watching a documentary on Nazi Germany, where in one city the records of the Gestapo had not been destroyed; there were only a handful of agents to monitor a district of a million people, yet the Gestapo archives were filled tens of thousands of reports. Save for the official reports, all were letters written by citizens who wrote to the Gestapo to report “suspicious” behavior. An examination of these letters reveal them to be more often than not petty, vindictive, prejudicial or subject to rather broad interpretation. Interestingly, when the Seattle media got a hold of this story, the nearly-all white neighborhood residents were somewhat embarrassed to be exposed as so provincial. Shortly thereafter some of them got together at the locks and began taking pictures; however, they just didn’t get it: no one cares if one white person or a hundred are taking pictures. No one thinks anything a white person does is suspicious—unless it is after the fact (or on a TV cop show). Just ask Timothy McVeigh (through your local medium).

Which brings me to the Los Angeles Police Department’s new “iWATCH” program, allegedly seeking the assistance of the public to report to the police “suspicious” behavior that might suggest that terrorism is afoot. Ron Reagan talked about this last Friday; the responses he received from white callers who favored this program revealed that even if it is the intention of this program to combat terrorism, whites tend to confuse the issues according to prejudices, stereotypes, paranoia and fear; almost invariably they move quickly from terrorism to crime, to “suspicious” behavior that may not be, and then when you finally force them to come out in the open, it’s really all about race. If an 89-year-old James von Brunn was seen scoping out the Holocaust Museum, who would have thought that suspicious, even if he had a hard, mean look? Or Timothy McVeigh examining the structural intricacies of the OKC federal building?

Life is a judgment call. The problem is who is making the judgments, and who has to pay the bill for it our society.

Dave (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago

How the U.S. Blew Trillion-Dollar Trade of Century: Mark Fisher

If the link didn't work I apologize. I thought you might like this article Thom and would love to know your reaction. You are such an inspiration.


Gerald Socha (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago

The Bildenberg Group

One of our sons was listening to the Alex Jones’ Show and Alex Jones was talking about the Bildenberg Group. He said that this group was working to make more Americans poor. Their target is the low middle class and the middle class. This group will do what it can to create a short-term boom, followed by a bubble, and than a bust. Their efforts will be to wipe out most of the retirement funds and savings of Americans in these two groups.

Gerald Socha (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago

I Have No Power

I have tried to post and to comment in hope that I might make a difference in helping our country and our world. The truth is that I have no power to make a difference.

What I have come to realize is the fact that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Nothing will ever change in fascist-Nazi America. The American psyche is filled with hatred, corruption, and lies. That is the true American way.

I have also tried to cutback on my posts and comments but, I have kept on believing that I might still make a difference. Yet, I must cutback because in trying to make a difference I hane become emotionally drained.

I have come to believe that I must follow Job’s words from the Old Testament. Job and his neighbor were talking about the various problems in their area and they were also talking about Job’s misfortunes. Job has said to his neighbor, “It is God’s will and God knows best.” I must imprint his words on my brain and live my life without concern for America’s problems and the world’s problems. I must remind myself that it is God’s will and He knows best.

Jesus’ Eleventh Commandment, LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU, is no longer applicable today in fascist-Nazi American and in our world.

Gerald Socha (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago
DRichards (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago

Citigroup's "Hail Mary Pass": How To Know Citigroup Is In Serious Trouble

Citigroup is in serious trouble. It's easy to tell by what they are doing.
Inquiring minds note that Citi Abruptly Shutting Down Gas-Linked Credit Cards.

The bank is offering few details:
The bank said in a statement it "decided to close a limited number of oil partner co-branded MasterCard accounts." That includes not only Shell, but Citgo, ExxonMobil and Phillips 66-Conoco cards.

The close date was Wednesday, and letters were sent out Monday to customers informing them of the change, a Citi spokesman said. The bank would not say how many cards were shut down or how much available credit they represented.
In a followup article the Business Insider notes ....

Citi Jacks Credit Card Rates To 29.99% On Unsuspecting Customers.

DRichards (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago

Capitalism, Socialism or Fascism?

...So what do we really have: socialism-for-the-giants, fascism or an economy which calls itself "capitalism" but which allows looting?

Ultimately, it doesn't matter. They are just different brand names for the same basic type of economy. All three systems allow giant businesses which are friendly to the government to keep enormous private profits but to pass the losses on to the government and ultimately the citizens.

Whether we use the terminology regarding socialism-for-the-giants ("socialized losses"), of fascism ("public and social losses"), or of looting ("left the government holding the bag for their eventual and predictable losses"), it amounts to the exact same thing.

Whatever we have, it isn't free market capitalism.

DDay (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago

Last evening on CBS, "Sixty Minutes", Steve Kroft had a story revealing that the extent of Medicare fraud has grown over the past several years to be larger than even the illicit drug trade in Florida. It was estimated that Medicare fraud accounted for upwards of 60 billion dollars a year. It was also reported that there are only three Medicare Fraud investigators assigned to Florida.
True to form, it appears that one of the best ways to discredit a program is to run it into the ground through lax oversight and then declare it to be yet another case of governmental incompetence. Apparently our banks and financial markets weren't the only examples of lax oversight. What is so maddening is that the real victims were the American people and the remedy seems to be to further punish them for being chumps.
The methods employed to defraud Medicare are ridiculously simple. Open a storefront business like a pharmacy, get your hands on a list of Medicare recipients with a few basic pieces of identifying information like Social Security numbers and then bill the hell out of Medicare for anything and everything. Medicare pays claims in 15 to 30 days, guaranteed. (They don't attempt to verify claims until sometime after they are paid.) Collect the checks and then close up shop and move on to a new scam next month under a new false front.
While I have no problem laying much of the blame for this at the Bush Administration's feet, that in no way explains the lack of diligence by Congress or this new Obama Administration. This is not rocket science and tens of thousands will die each year because of this massive fraud. How many uninsured people could we insure for 60 Billion?
It was indicated on last night's broadcast that Attorney General Eric Holder is aware and on the case. That is not enough. As we debate a complete revamp of our health delivery system in the U.S., why can't we at the same time take the obvious steps to stem the bleeding? We know that Medicare reimbursement rates are deeply flawed. Now we know we are being robbed blind through sheer stupidity and maleficence. We are like a ship at sea, sinking rapidly because of all the holes in the hull, and we are busy in the stateroom pouring over competing plans for the new ship we hope to build. Meanwhile water is coming over the side. Can't anyone walk and chew gum at the same time? I'm tired of the incremental-ism and caution of this new regime. Rome is burning! Peoples lives depend on whether this group can adopt a little more resolute urgency to bring that change so often promised by them during their campaign period. Now is the time to lead.

B Roll (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago

Has Thom Hartmann said what his next book is going to be about?

louise (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago

Thom is doing an update and a re-release of his book Unequal Protection - about Corporate Personhood.

B Roll (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago

Thanks Louise.

mstaggerlee (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago

The subject of CBS's Sunday Morning Magazine show yesterday was the "growing" problem of obeisity in America. I generally enjoy this program, but I was amazed and disappointed that they could spend 90 minutes on an allegedly in-depth discussion of this subject, and NEVER ONCE mention the phrase "High Fructose Corn Syrup". Too sore a topic for their corporate masters, I reckon.

B Roll (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago


I read and enjoyed your remembrance of your father from Friday. I find family stories very interesting. I wonder if future generations (assuming we don't destroy the world) will find our stories as interesting and hopefully inspirational.

I wonder if your father was the exception to the rule or if the majority of business adhered to similar ethical codes.

Unfortunately, I was only able to get as far as the first sentence of that post before my head exploded.

B Roll (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago

It baffles me that Thom can fit these two ideas together within a few seconds. 1) Bill Handel is calling for the reestablishment of debtors prisons. 2) Bill Handel is a good guy.

Thom also described Handel as a right wing talk show host, which by definition means that he has many other heinous ideas for how the world should be.

Can we say, "Cognitive Dissonance"?

B Roll (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago

I recently heard James Loewen make another interesting point about disparities in testing scores.

He says that although black and Latino students have lower scores on tests on all subjects; but the gap is bigger on history than it is on math, English and science.

His explanation is that math, English and science are ethnically neutral, but they feel left out by the American telling of history. They're less interested in and motivated to learn a subject that obviously leaves them out of the story.

That has been part of my criticism of the white middle class orientation of the Thom Hartmann Program. Why would people of color be interested in a program that rarely talks about them and even more rarely talks with them?

DDay (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago

B Roll

When I write about issues, I often look to incorporate life's experiences and lessons learned to ground arguments into history . I'm glad you found the story of my father's experience as a businessman interesting. He had a remarkable life and is an inspiration to me. I left out a lot of events for the sake of brevity and to resist impulses of familial piety. His experiences in Tom Mix's Circus and his encounters with the Chicago Mafia didn't seem necessary to explain how his values were shaped.

You wondered if my father was an exception to the rule. The answer I believe is less so then... than he would be now. Part of what I tried to demonstrate was that there apparently was more universally shared experience and subsequently more cohesive tendencies to work cooperatively back then. The Depression and following deprivations and sacrifices of the war united many disparate groups of Americans for common cause...survival! My father was a life long Republican from a long line of Republicans, ( although his politics were in a period of retooling at his death.) Some questioned his decisions at times, (I was a leader amongst these critics during my teens), but no one who knew him questioned his honesty or integrity. Personal honesty and integrity don't seem to be as in vogue today as they were then. The point that I wanted to make was that the notion, common today, that a company's SOLE responsibility is to serve the stock holder was not always the case in the past. Enlightened leaders recognized this as being short-sighted and ultimately destructive and unpatriotic. Dad would have called it "bad business". The long view must include the welfare of the people, the employees, and the community for a business to thrive, grow and continue into the future. Short term gain and personal greed have been around forever and probably will be around in the foreseeable future. What is different now is that they ,( short term gain & personal greed), have been refined, re-branded, and embedded into an ideology of "free market" capitalism, libertarianism and neo-conservative Republicanism. Not so long ago, most people would have recognized them as what they were: just plain selfish and wrong..... Bad business.

rewinn (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago

I was a little puzzled by the logic that the death penalty is a good thing because it is just and appropriate. Surely this is tautological; emotionally satisifying but it doesn't really answer the question.

rewinn (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago

Amnesty Internation reports that the Saudi government crucified a man earlier this year.

In 2008 it executed about 100 people.

Nonetheless, people still commit crimes.

Scott (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago

So much for tariffs?

The Chinese continue to push back against "protectionism":

NO2WAR (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago

Death Penalty to be privatized in Arizona.

B Roll (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago


In your conversation with Dudley Do M. In, you mentioned that this country has legalized murder in the form of war. There's another for of sanctioned killing in this country; it's by law enforcement officers on the streets. The victims are usually people of color and the number of victims probably exceeds the number of executions carried out in prison death chambers.

Police are rarely found to have committed murder even though the victim is often found to have been innocent of any wrong doing. Others were framed by police lies and planted weapons.

Police who are extensively trained in using weapons and certainly know what a gun looks like, yet they get off after claiming that they mistook a wallet or cell phone for a gun.

Scott (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago

DDay, the '60 Minutes' piece on Medicare fraud adds fuel to the "See! Government can't do anything right!" argument. One of the points made by those opposing 'Obamacare' is that the current system is being abused. Why those same folks have never done anything to fix it before this is never explained. Of course MSM nevers seems to ask about that.

I quite agree that the problems need to be addressed. Why we can't do that AND make other improvements at the same time baffles me.

Progressive Mews (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago

Scott, while I agree completely that the 60 Minutes piece on Medicare was indeed fuel for the "government is incompetent" fire, they did actually say a few times why it hasn't been properly addressed up until now. At least two of the people interviewed had said the resources for investigating fraud are underfunded, therefore, understaffed too. I'd say it's a case of setting up government to fail.

B Roll (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago


My instinct was that businesspeople like your father were more common then. The change may have to do (in part) with the continued business mergers and business takeovers. Locally based management might feel more of a commitment to local workers than to workers in a different region of the country. Then the legal requirement that a corporation’s first priority is to maximize profits changes the cultural psychology of the corporations. Being rewarded for maximizing profits at all costs becomes a selective mechanism for a particular type of person and bends others to fit the corporate culture.

Human beings, can’t live with them; can’t live without them.

Progressive Mews (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago


Privatizing prison system is precisely what has created such a poisonous problem with our criminal justice system, because it is self-perpetuating. Private prisons is one of the fastest growing and most lucrative industries today (along with insurance), one of the very few to do quite well while in a recession. They are sort of like the WalMart of justice, they also cme into impoverished rural areas, promises of jobs, revenues, etc...

B Roll (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago

Progressive Mews

Long time no see!

Another aspect of the privatization of prisons is related to your point that the new prisons are often located in rural areas. This results in a primarily rural white workforce of guards and administrators controlling the lives of primarily urban black and brown prisoners who they have little understanding of and empathy for.

It also puts an additional burden on the families of the prisoners who tend to be poor and live a considerable distance from the prison. It’s hard for the families to keep contact with their imprisoned members. Wives and husbands can’t see each other for long periods and children grow up without seeing one of their parents. Even an imprisoned parent can have a beneficial impact on a child. Many prisoners are intelligent thoughtful individuals who may have made a mistake out of desperation or may have been wrongly convicted.

The privatization of prisons makes an already bad system worse.

Scott (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago

Progressive Mews you're correct but I suspect most people walked away from that story thinking 'Medicare is messed up'. Sadly.

To me, it's a call to take action to improve a system that, in the main, works very well indeed.

Then again, we tend to hear and remember those elements of a story that support our predjudices. Well, maybe that's just me. ;o)

DDay (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago

Re: DeathPenalty Trying to be a logically consistent progressive is not always easy. I am anti death penalty and pro-choice. This is, I believe, a logically "challenged" or fragile position to take if consistency is to be observed as an absolute. The only distinction one seems to be able to gain cover from is that the fetus is not yet a person until born. It is more legalistic than I would like. While I believe this distinction is valid, it isn't entirely satisfying or adequate for me philosophically . What am I missing?

@Scott & Progressive Mews
You both are exactly right. The question still remains why the Democrats are so complacent and silent? I think they are frightened, confused and perhaps lazy. After eight years of mismanagement and neglect by the opposition, there is plenty to do. Underfunding a program is tantamount to fraud by those who do so. Not addressing these frauds when given the reins of responsibility is tantamount to maleficence . Progressives need to start kicking butts and taking names. Where is Alan Grayson when we need him?

@ B. Roll
What is missing today is a healthy and robust sense of public shame. While I was in college, one of the divisions my father had under his leadership was Hamilton Beach. I figured that should be good for a blender for my dorm room, at least. Wrong. During that same time, my father would leave early every day and park his big ol' Cadillac in the first spot at the front of the vast parking lot. His car was there before anyone else on the day shift. He waited until long after the last worker went home at shifts end before coming home each night. I told him "you are the boss now, why not take it a little easier now?" He told me he would be ashamed if the men and women didn't see him there first and last thing every single day. He would have been disgraced if the employees saw him taking advantage by snagging a blender for his kid. The kind of executive excess and blatant dishonesty on display every day now would have made him ill. The fact that the people watch idly by without outrage and condemnation would probably surprise him. It does me.

I think your hypothesis about locally based management is valid but not entirely comprehensive. Sound and moral values can't be limited to only local connections. Otherwise, by that constriction, traveling business people on the road would all be cheating on their wives. You are absolutely right about the ramifications of mergers and take overs. There once used to be a positive connotation to longevity and concern for legacy that is less esteemed today. It is a sad thing that GM ran Pontiac and Oldsmobile into the ground. The ethos of so many executives today venerates very little but self promotion and short term gain. It has grown resistant to the medicine of shame. In the coming days I'll try to relate a story about Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad that will illustrate some of what I'm saying. Its a good story about truly bad behavior. It will make most liberals favor the Death Penalty.......for corporations at least.

Randy Henderson (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago

I'm trying to get through but am listening...but I have to ask....if you don't fight against abortion on demand (exceptions for extreme cases), your plea to be a just and fair society is moot.

Abortion is a civil rights issue.

Progressive Mews (not verified) 14 years 34 weeks ago

Hi B Roll! Yes it has been a while, and I was glad to see a familiar name today =) I think the rural locations for private prisons is an "easy sell" for these more impoverished populations, the lure of revenues & jobs. Somewhat like the lure the military has for people in these areas.

DDay, Schumer isn't my favorite, but he did call out the Republicans on Meet the Press yesterday. He pointed out that the R's $400 billion Medicare "plan" was instituted without the slightest thought given to how it would be paid for. However, it doesn't address the fraud problem, nor the negligence in appropriating the necessary funds/resources towards this need. I think that piece will get traction though, and I expect to hear more stand up about it as a result.

One of the things that has annoyed the hell out of me is how the vast majority of Dems have allowed the R's to keep referring to Advantage as traditional Medicare, trying to scare Americans by saying reform will "cut Medicare" - when it is really cutting Advantage most of all, as well as other WASTE in the system. Dems need to step up and clarify, call R's out on the bull crap by saying often in public that the cuts are EXACTLY what the R's are calling for, cuts in government WASTE!

Thom's Blog Is On the Move

Hello All

Thom's blog in this space and moving to a new home.

Please follow us across to - this will be the only place going forward to read Thom's blog posts and articles.

From The Thom Hartmann Reader:
"Through compelling personal stories, Hartmann presents a dramatic and deeply disturbing picture of humans as a profoundly troubled species. Hope lies in his inspiring vision of our enormous unrealized potential and his description of the path to its realization."
David Korten, author of Agenda for a New Economy, The Great Turning, and When Corporations Rule the World
From The Thom Hartmann Reader:
"Right through the worst of the Bush years and into the present, Thom Hartmann has been one of the very few voices constantly willing to tell the truth. Rank him up there with Jon Stewart, Bill Moyers, and Paul Krugman for having the sheer persistent courage of his convictions."
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From Cracking the Code:
"No one communicates more thoughtfully or effectively on the radio airwaves than Thom Hartmann. He gets inside the arguments and helps people to think them through—to understand how to respond when they’re talking about public issues with coworkers, neighbors, and friends. This book explores some of the key perspectives behind his approach, teaching us not just how to find the facts, but to talk about what they mean in a way that people will hear."
to understand how to respond when they’re talking about public issues with coworkers, neighbors, and friends. This book explores some of the key perspectives behind his approach, teaching us not just how to find the facts, but to talk about what they mean in a way that people will hear."