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Latest Featured Reports | Friday, September 17, 2021
Whitehouse Presses Wray on FBI Whitewash of Kavanaugh Sexual Assault Probe: 'BradCast' 9/16/21
Also: Debunking CA Recall 'fraud' claim; Unvaxxed surging hospital death panels...
'Green News Report' 9/16/21
  w/ Brad & Desi
Nicholas adds insult to injury in LA; Biden continues urgent climate action pitch; States hold plastic producers accountable; PLUS: VT latest to sue fossil fuel giants for lies...
Previous GNRs: 9/14/21 - 9/9/21 - Archives...
NEWSOM WINS LANDSLIDE, GOP'S CA RECALL FAILS: 'BradCast' 9/15/21
Guest: The Prospect's Harold Meyerson; Also: Senate's 'Freedom to Vote Act' mandates hand-marked paper ballots for all!...
Repubs Threaten 'War' Over CA Recall and COVID, Dems Threaten Voting Rights for All: 'BradCast' 9/14/21
Elder's fraud lies; Dems' awesome new election bill; More anti-vax RWers 'bite the dust'...
'Green News Report' 9/14/21
  w/ Brad & Desi
Nicholas drowns the U.S. Gulf Coast; Biden urges Congress to move on climate change infrastructure; EPA protects drinking water; PLUS: Another nail in Pebble Mine's coffin...
Previous GNRs: 9/9/21 - 8/26/21 - Archives...
Last Call Before Perils, Security Dangers of CA Recall Election: 'BradCast' 9/13/21
Also: No, we weren't 'united' after 9/11. My 'Presidential Speech', written 20 years ago this week. Plus: Callers...
Sunday 'Not Forgetting' Toons
PDiddie's latest, memorable collection of the week's best toons...
CA SoS Asks Election Experts to be 'Cheerleaders' for Recall Election Security Procedures: 'BradCast' 9/10/21
Guests: Emily Levy, Jim Soper; Also: GOP freakout over Biden vaccine mandate...
Thanks for the Death Panels, Anti-Vaxxers!:
'BradCast' 9/9/21
Hospitals begin rationing healthcare as Delta variant skyrockets, even among children (while DeSantis tries to kill them); Better news in AK; Good jobs numbers; DoJ sues TX; More...
'Green News Report' 9/9/21
  w/ Brad & Desi
Biden presses infrastructure resilience after deadly Ida's devastation; Mindy forms and slams FL in mere hours; PLUS: The world has finally stopped using leaded gasoline...
Previous GNRs: 8/26/21 - 8/24/21 - Archives...
'Too Much Hubris': CA Recall Officials Dismiss Experts' Warning After Software Theft: 'BradCast' 9/8/21
Guest: Dr. Duncan Buell; Also: Trump probe in GA; Pillow Guy is really REALLY stupid...
What Evil Lurks in the Heart of SCOTUS? The Shadow Docket!: 'BradCast' 9/7/21
Guest: Legal journalist Mark Joseph Stern; Also: Cyber-experts alert CA SoS to stolen election software threat to Recall election...
Sunday 'Texas Hold 'em Down' Toons
Giddy up! It's more new signs of Lone Star State 'freedom' in PDiddie's latest weekly toon collection!...
'Emergency Action Warranted' to Protect CA Recall Election After Vote System Software Leak, Experts Warn SoS
Open letter calls for 'urgent mitigating action' with statewide Risk-Limiting Audits...
Everything You Wanted to Know About Socialism
But Were Afraid to Ask:
'BradCast' 9/1/21
Guest Host Nicole Sandler with filmmaker Yael Bridge, activist Lauren Windsor...
War Is Not Healthy For Children and Other Living Things: 'BradCast' 8/31/21
Guest hosted by Nicole Sandler with Win Without War's Stephen Miles...
Sunday 'FDA' Toons
We fully approve of PDiddie's latest collection of the week's best toons...
CA Recall 'Another Example of GOP Using Legal Means to Subvert Democracy': 'BradCast' 8/27/21
Guest: Heather Digby Parton on that, Afghanistan, Trump accountability, more...
Accountability Rising for Trump's Failed Attempt to Steal the 2020 Election: 'BradCast' 8/26/21
Lawyers sanctioned; USCP officers sue; 1/6 records requests; Paxton clears Paxton; More...
'Green News Report' 8/26/21
Crunch time for climate, Dems advance landmark budget blueprint; Man-made warming made Europe floods much worse; PLUS: Too much good news for GNR!...
BARCODED BALLOTS AND BALLOT MARKING DEVICES
BMDs pose a new threat to democracy in all 50 states...
VIDEO: 'Rise of the Tea Bags'
Brad interviews American patriots...
'Democracy's Gold Standard'
Hand-marked, hand-counted ballots...
Brad's Upcoming Appearances
(All times listed as PACIFIC TIME unless noted)
Media Appearance Archives...
'Special Coverage' Archives
GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal 2012...
VA GOP VOTER REG FRAUDSTER OFF HOOK
Felony charges dropped against VA Republican caught trashing voter registrations before last year's election. Did GOP AG, Prosecutor conflicts of interest play role?...

Criminal GOP Voter Registration Fraud Probe Expanding in VA
State investigators widening criminal probe of man arrested destroying registration forms, said now looking at violations of law by Nathan Sproul's RNC-hired firm...

DOJ PROBE SOUGHT AFTER VA ARREST
Arrest of RNC/Sproul man caught destroying registration forms brings official calls for wider criminal probe from compromised VA AG Cuccinelli and U.S. AG Holder...

Arrest in VA: GOP Voter Reg Scandal Widens
'RNC official' charged on 13 counts, for allegely trashing voter registration forms in a dumpster, worked for Romney consultant, 'fired' GOP operative Nathan Sproul...

ALL TOGETHER: ROVE, SPROUL, KOCHS, RNC
His Super-PAC, his voter registration (fraud) firm & their 'Americans for Prosperity' are all based out of same top RNC legal office in Virginia...

LATimes: RNC's 'Fired' Sproul Working for Repubs in 'as Many as 30 States'
So much for the RNC's 'zero tolerance' policy, as discredited Republican registration fraud operative still hiring for dozens of GOP 'Get Out The Vote' campaigns...

'Fired' Sproul Group 'Cloned', Still Working for Republicans in At Least 10 States
The other companies of Romney's GOP operative Nathan Sproul, at center of Voter Registration Fraud Scandal, still at it; Congressional Dems seek answers...

FINALLY: FOX ON GOP REG FRAUD SCANDAL
The belated and begrudging coverage by Fox' Eric Shawn includes two different video reports featuring an interview with The BRAD BLOG's Brad Friedman...

COLORADO FOLLOWS FLORIDA WITH GOP CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION
Repub Sec. of State Gessler ignores expanding GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal, rants about evidence-free 'Dem Voter Fraud' at Tea Party event...

CRIMINAL PROBE LAUNCHED INTO GOP VOTER REGISTRATION FRAUD SCANDAL IN FL
FL Dept. of Law Enforcement confirms 'enough evidence to warrant full-blown investigation'; Election officials told fraudulent forms 'may become evidence in court'...

Brad Breaks PA Photo ID & GOP Registration Fraud Scandal News on Hartmann TV
Another visit on Thom Hartmann's Big Picture with new news on several developing Election Integrity stories...

CAUGHT ON TAPE: COORDINATED NATIONWIDE GOP VOTER REG SCAM
The GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal reveals insidious nationwide registration scheme to keep Obama supporters from even registering to vote...

CRIMINAL ELECTION FRAUD COMPLAINT FILED AGAINST GOP 'FRAUD' FIRM
Scandal spreads to 11 FL counties, other states; RNC, Romney try to contain damage, split from GOP operative...

RICK SCOTT GETS ROLLED IN GOP REGISTRATION FRAUD SCANDAL
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) sends blistering letter to Gov. Rick Scott (R) demanding bi-partisan reg fraud probe in FL; Slams 'shocking and hypocritical' silence, lack of action...

VIDEO: Brad Breaks GOP Reg Fraud Scandal on Hartmann TV
Breaking coverage as the RNC fires their Romney-tied voter registration firm, Strategic Allied Consulting...

RNC FIRES NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION FIRM FOR FRAUD
After FL & NC GOP fire Romney-tied group, RNC does same; Dead people found reg'd as new voters; RNC paid firm over $3m over 2 months in 5 battleground states...

EXCLUSIVE: Intvw w/ FL Official Who First Discovered GOP Reg Fraud
After fraudulent registration forms from Romney-tied GOP firm found in Palm Beach, Election Supe says state's 'fraud'-obsessed top election official failed to return call...

GOP REGISTRATION FRAUD FOUND IN FL
State GOP fires Romney-tied registration firm after fraudulent forms found in Palm Beach; Firm hired 'at request of RNC' in FL, NC, VA, NV & CO...
The Secret Koch Brothers Tapes...

Guest: Robert Brandon of Fair Elections Center; Also: We're back! But with a week of news in one segment to get you (and us) all caught up!...
By Brad Friedman on 7/6/2021 6:48pm PT  

We're back on today's BradCast after a much-needed week off, which turned out to be a really big news week. But don't worry. We get all caught up somehow (mostly) on everything you need to know in just one segment today! Plus, an excellent guest to explain how the Republicans' packed U.S. Supreme Court has undermined both democracy and the Constitution yet again at the end of this year's term. [Audio link to full show is posted at end of this summary.]

Among the stories from last week (and this week) that we catch up on before moving to our guest...

  • The thought-to-be-extinguished Lava Fire in Northern California erupts with two others;
  • Last week's deadly, climate-change fueled heat wave in the Pacifica Northwest and British Columbia resulted in hundreds of deaths in the U.S. and Canada;
  • The confirmed death toll at the condo collapse in Surfside, Florida ticks up over 30 with more than 100 still unaccounted for, as recovery is hampered by the incoming, already record-breaking Hurricane Elsa;
  • An ExxonMobil lobbyist was caught on video admitting to the company's years of subterfuge about our climate emergency caused by the unmitigated burning of their products;
  • Attorney General Merrick Garland declared a moratorium on federal executions;
  • George W. Bush's "war criminal" Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, died;
  • The U.S. finally, permanently evacuated Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan as President Biden tries to finally end America's longest war before the 20th Anniversary of 9/11;
  • COVID infections spiked 10% over the previous week as the Delta Variant continues to pose a quickly growing danger, effecting mostly unvaccinated people (so far);
  • Despite its low infection rate, Los Angeles County urged residents to wear masks indoors again, thanks to the increasing spread of the much more infectious coronavirus variant;
  • More than 180 people were shot and killed over the July 4th holiday weekend in more than 540 shootings in the U.S. over a 72-hour period;
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi named her selections, including one Republican, to a House Select Committee to investigate the Trump-incited January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol after Republicans in the House and Senate recently reneged on a deal with Democrats for a bipartisan independent commission;
  • Sexual predator Bill Cosby was freed from jail thanks to a ridiculous deal made years ago by one of the lead defense attorneys in Donald Trump's second impeachment trial;
  • The Boy Scouts of America agreed to an $850 million settlement with victims over thousands of sexual abuse allegations;
  • The Trump Organization and its longtime Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg were indicted on multiple state criminal charges including Scheme to Defraud, Conspiracy, Grand Larceny, Criminal Tax Fraud and Falsifying of Business Records;
  • The NYC Mayor's election, already made ridiculously complicated by Ranked Choice Voting, went sideways last week after it was discovered that 135,000 sample ballots were accidentally included by NYC election officials in the weeks-long, impossible-to-oversee RCV tabulation procedure;
  • Arizona's months-long "audit" theater was extended yet again, as the rightwing, QAnon conspiracy company called Cyber Ninjas continued its secret examination of 2.1 million ballots cast during last year's Presidential election in Maricopa County (Phoenix). That's the partially taxpayer-funded clown show that, as I reported weeks ago now, according to the Ninjas' own documents [PDF], allows them to miscount a MINIMUM of 42,000 votes without setting off any internal alarm bells, in a race that was decided by a statewide margin of just 10,000 votes;
  • And, the Dept. of Justice called on Congress to adopt new laws to protect voters after the GOP's stolen and packed U.S. Supreme Court ended their term last week by undermining democracy and the U.S. Constitution yet again.

In Brnovich vs. DNC [PDF], the Court's 6 to 3 Republican majority overturned a lower appeals court decision that had blocked two new restrictions on voting in Arizona. One barred the counting of ballots cast by voters in the wrong precinct and the other banned the collection of ballots by third-parties (derisively known as "ballot harvesting" by Rightwingers implying it's used by minorities to defraud elections...despite the lack of any evidence in support of that assertion). Both laws were shown to have disproportionately impacted minority voters in the state. That is supposed to be barred by Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. But, writing for the Court's majority, activist Justice Samuel Alito made up new "guidelines" that ignore both Congress' intent in its passage of the VRA and the Constitution's own plain language that "Congress shall have the power to enforce" the 15th Amendment decree that "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

So, how will the Court's ruling in Brnovich, allowing for discrimination in voting laws, effect the spate of pending challenges to new voter suppression laws now being enacted by GOP-controlled states around the country? What, if anything, can Congress do about it? And, if they do, will this hard-right anti-democracy Court allow any such new laws to stand?

We're joined today to discuss all of that and more by longtime public interest attorney ROBERT BRANDON, President, CEO and co-founder of the Fair Elections Center. He describes the Republican Justices' opinion as "a real departure" from the claims of so-called originalism and Constitutional textualism --- a literal reading of the plain words of the Constitution --- which the rightwing Justices have long pretended to believe in. This decision, he explains, is "clearly is going to make it harder to challenge and defeat, in court, the laws that disenfranchise the most Americans, particularly black and brown voters, and other marginalized voters. In the case of Arizona, including disabled voters, who often need help delivering their ballots."

Alito's ruling, according to Brandon, essentially says "discrimination is okay as long as it's not a whole lot." But Brandon also explains why the Court's decision, as terrible as it is, doesn't necessarily mean that the multiple legal challenges to dozens of new GOP suppression laws adopted since last year, in the wake of Trump's evidence-free Big Lie that the election was stolen, will fail.

"It's a great irony, of course, that we just had the highest turnout election in history," he says, "yet now we're talking about adding all of these new barriers to voting around the country."

Finally, on this four-day work week following the Monday Independence Day holiday, a new analysis of a years-long study in Iceland finds that productivity either remained the same or improved in the majority of workplaces when the work week was cut to just four days. How can we get this progressive idea --- now also being studied in Spain and New Zealand, and found to benefit workers' health and lives without harming corporate bottom lines --- adopted here in the U.S.? Working on it...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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By Brad Friedman on 6/28/2021 11:28am PT  

We're standing down for a short, if much needed, respite --- at least from The BradCast and Green News Report --- until after the 4th of July holiday. Encore presentations will roll on our radio affiliate stations until our return. It may otherwise be quiet around The BRAD BLOG until then, save for Sunday Toons and, well, who knows if anything moves me enough to stop not paying attention for a few days to blog about it. I hope not. (Scroll down to find out what, if anything, is new.)

This is my first chance to see my Mom since before the lockdown began a year and a half or so ago. So, please excuse my absense for a bit of overdue family time.

If you've taken any joy or comfort or have learned anything of use from anything you've found on these pages over the past year or two or five or 17 --- or just want to help us keep the Prius tank filled for the duration --- your generous contributions are always welcome and, yes, still much needed! Our friendly DONATE PAGE IS HERE TO HELP.

I'll be back too soon. Until then, please have a happy, safe, and healthy holiday! --- Brad




Guest: Dr. Brian Hughes of American University's PERIL; Also: Criminal charges soon for Trump Org?; DoJ sues GA for vote suppression; More on climate change effects on collapsed FL high-rise...
By Brad Friedman on 6/25/2021 6:30pm PT  

As usual in this country, we're dealing with the crisis all wrong. Violent domestic extremism --- domestic terrorism --- has become a public-health issue in this country, according to our guest today on The BradCast. If we treat it as such, it may not become the security problem that we're currently treating it as. We're good at law enforcement and security issues in this country. Public-health issues? Not so much. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

But, first up today, a few breaking news stories of note...

  • Several news outlets this afternoon are confirming that Donald Trump's family business could face criminal charges as soon as next week. Not Trump himself --- yet --- or his family members or other employees, but the Trump Organization itself. New York Times was first to report that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance could file criminal indictments next week against the Trump Organization, based on fringe benefits given to employees, such as expensive apartments, cars and school tuition for employee family members on which taxes were not properly paid. The Trump Org's CFO Allen Weisselberg and possibly his son, who also work for the company, seem to be targeted here. Both Vance and New York Attorney General Letitia James have been investigating whether the disgraced former President committed bank and tax fraud and whether he committed campaign finance felonies with hush-money payments to two different women before the 2016 election. It's believed that prosecutors are hoping that the company's longtime financial chief, Weisselberg, will flip against his boss. These charges are likely part of that effort.
  • Also today, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the filing of a federal lawsuit against the state of Georgia over it's expansive new voter-suppression law, SB202. Seven non-profit voting and civil rights organizations have filed separate complaints (including one, filed by the Coalition for Good Governance, in which I am a named plaintiff). But the big guns of a federal lawsuit by the DOJ suggest that the Biden Administration is taking seriously the spate of new laws being adopted by GOP-controlled legislatures around the country aimed at making it harder for Americans --- specifically, minorities --- to vote. Comments from Garland and his deputies in the Voting Rights Division today, when announcing the legal action, suggest there may be more such suits against other states coming soon as well.
  • Finally, before we get to our guest today, some additional information on a question we posed yesterday, as to whether rising seas due to human-caused climate change may have played a part in the tragic, deadly collapse of a 12-story high-rise condominium in Surfside, Florida near Miami Beach on Thursday. A number of experts have hinted at the possibility over the past 24 hours since our last show. One is a professor at the Florida International University’s Institute of Environment, speaking to CNN, citing the building's subsidence rate (how much it is sinking into the ground) during a study in the 1990s. And NBC News spoke to a number of experts who cited the towns along the sandy, reclaimed wetlands barrier island on which Miami Beach and Surfside stand --- an island which, we now understand, actually migrates and moves along with rising sea levels. One geologist quoted suggests that the necessity of a coastal retreat from barrier islands --- where currently $3 trillion worth of property is now located in the U.S. --- may soon be upon us. "It’s a tough conversation to have, but the building shouldn’t have been there --- along with a lot of other buildings," he says. "We’re due for a real awakening."

Next, it's on to the rise in violent domestic extremism, particularly fostered by White Supremacy in the wake of Donald Trump's presidency and the deadly, Trump-incited attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. After Republicans reneged on a deal with House Democrats to form an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the 1/6 attack, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week announced plans to create a House Select Committee to get to the root cause of what happened and why. During a House hearing this week, the nation's highest ranking military leader, Gen. Mark Milley, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered an impassioned response to criticism of interest in Critical Race Theory among military leadership, and the causes of "white rage", in which he spoke to the importance of learning "what is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America."

Our guest today, DR. BRIAN HUGHES of American University's Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab (PERIL), suggests Pelosi and Milley and "the Biden Administration's proposal for how to tackle domestic terrorism and extremism points in the right direction." Hughes' colleague, Cynthia Miller-Idriss, also of PERIL, recently penned an op-ed at The Atlantic arguing that far-right domestic extremism has now spread into the mainstream, and must be dealt with as more than simply a security and law-enforcement issue. It is no longer a matter of tracking specific organizations, but now a matter of radicalization by individuals "who are influenced by ideas online rather than by plots hatched by group leaders in secret gatherings," Miller-Idriss posits. It is now a public-health issue, she argues, and must be dealt with by a whole-of-society approach.

"We, as a society, are incredibly militarized, we're incredibly securitized, and so the solutions that we reach to, when we have a problem, are almost inevitably securitized or militarized and  contain some element of that securitization," Hughes explains today. "Our approach to extremism and terrorism is no different.  Certainly law enforcement and intelligence have a very important role to play here.  But it can never be more than a band-aid solution. As we see now, there aren't enough band-aids in the world to deal with the violence that this country is facing.  We really have to go deeper to the root causes of these issues."

Hughes cites the Biden Administration's proposal to incorporate the Dept. of Health and Human Services and the Dept. of Education into their initiative to take on violent extremism as "really, really critical. But even more critical is allocating resources to local communities.  The more locally we can distribute the necessary training, the necessary education, and the necessary funding to address radicalization before it even starts, the fewer of those security, and law enforcement, and militarized solutions that we're going to have to come up with in the future."

As we delve into details, we discuss ways that state and local communities must take on the issue as well. (The "seven minutes of reading to improve understanding of how radical ideas spread online," which we discuss as having helped some 750 parents and caregivers in a recent study by PERIL and the Southern Poverty Law Center is posted here.) We also discuss the paradox of how coming to a collective understanding of the effects of systemic racism in the U.S., as well as actions taken by social media companies to help curb the effectiveness of propaganda and far-right radicalism, can also serve to increase the "white rage" that new policies and new ways of facing this as a public-health issue are meant to counteract.

Hughes also shares his experience in working with former extremists and the "deep, deep sense of shame" and "horror" they ultimately experience after they come to terms with having been radicalized. "It just tears families apart. It absolutely ruins relationships as surely as drugs and alcohol do. This isn't just a matter of a person becoming a jerk. This is a question of a person blowing up their own life and the lives of the people around them." All of which is just part of the reason why we must rethink our approach to the problem as one of public-health.

As Hughes concedes, none of this is "going to change overnight," but there are ways that we can start taking action right now, particularly at the local level, where he urges people to get involved with their local school systems on this matter in order to prevent the radicalization long before it begins. "Request this kind of education, request these kinds of materials. Education happens at the local level in the United States, so it's really on all of us to improve things in our local communities."

I hope you'll tune in for this fascinating and insightful conversation...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Condo collapse in FL; Dems hopeful, cautious on bipartisan infrastructure 'deal'; Pelosi's announces 1/6 committee; Giuliani's NY law license suspended; MI Repubs eviscerate 2020 'fraud' claims...
By Brad Friedman on 6/24/2021 5:42pm PT  

On today's BradCast: It was one of those days. Again. Everything all at once. Again. We do our best to help you make sense of it all. Again. [Audio link to today's full show is posted below this summary.]

Among the stories, many of them still breaking as we went to air, covered on today's program...

  • High-rise condominium building collapses in South Florida near Miami Beach. As of air-time, 1 person was announced as dead and 99 others currently unaccounted for, as rescuers continue to comb through the deadly rubble searching for survivors.
  • President Biden declared "we have a deal" on an infrastructure package. It's a $1.2 trillion bipartisan "compromise" deal in the U.S. Senate on his proposed $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan. That proposal is one part of his infrastructure plan for things like roads, bridges, the electrical grid, and broadband Internet. The other part of his two-part proposal is the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, which includes the "human infrastructure" part of the package, focused on childcare, education and healthcare. While Biden lauded the "compromise" struck among Republicans and conservative Democrats in the Senate, House Speaker Pelosi promised she would not bring up the compromise proposal for a vote in the House until the other part of the package --- the American Families Plan and, presumably, whatever is being left out of the "compromise" bill --- is passed with a simple majority vote in the Senate under Budget Reconciliation rules which allow lawmakers to avoid the anti-democratic Senate filibuster rule. "Make sure you understand this," the Speaker vowed during her presser today, "there ain't gonna be no bipartisan bill unless we are going to have the Reconciliation bill."
  • Pelosi, who has seen her fair share of Republicans reneging on deals at the last minute, also announced that she intends to create a House Committee to investigate the deadly, Trump-incited attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. That, after House Dems had struck a deal with Republicans earlier this year for a bi-partisan, evenly divided, independent Commission, only to see Republican leadership, after the deal was already struck, go on to vote against the bill in the House and kill it entirely with the filibuster in the Senate.
  • Speaking of the filibuster, which would need to be reformed if Democrats hope to pass their sweeping elections, voting rights and campaign finance reform bill known as the For the People Act through the Senate, three moderate Senate Democrats (Mark Kelley of Arizona, Michael Bennett of Colorado, and Catherine Cortez-Masto of NV) spoke to the need to do exactly that during a private conference call this week. The audio, obtained by the Colorado Newsline, reveals each moderate Dem discussing the need to reform the filibuster and suggesting that intra-caucus negotiations are well underway to try and figure out how to do exactly that.
  • In New York, an appeals court has accepted the recommendation of a state committee of attorneys to immediately suspend Rudy Giuliani's license to practice law, citing "uncontroverted evidence” that he “communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump’s failed effort at reelection in 2020." That conduct, the court agreed, "immediately threatens the public interest and warrants interim suspension from the practice of law." While the disgraced former U.S. Attorney and NYC Mayor will be allowed to argue against the suspension in an upcoming hearing, experts believe the action today, however, is likely to lead to permanent disbarment. "The seriousness of respondent's uncontroverted misconduct cannot be overstated," the court wrote [PDF]. "This country is being torn apart by continued attacks on the legitimacy of the 2020 election and of our current president, Joseph R. Biden." That, after Giuliani spent months on behalf of Trump, following the November election offering one false claim after another to one state legislative committee after another, pretending to cite evidence that the election was stolen from the disgraced former President.
  • Those unsubstantiated and false claims, at least in Michigan, were devastatingly rebutted and debunked on Wednesday, by a Republican state Senate committee on Wednesday. In their unsparing 35-page point-by-point report [PDF], the lawmakers absolutely eviscerate Giuliani's, Trump's, Sidney Powell's, Jovan Pulitizer's and all of the other GOP grifters and con-artist's evidence-free claims about "voter fraud" and theft by computer voting and tabulation systems. Every Republican on the state's Senate Oversight Committee signed on to the brutal report, compiled over the past eight months, and responding to each and every phony claim suggesting systematic fraud in the state. The Committee found no basis for any of the wild accusations and even calls for a legal investigation and potential prosecution by the state's Attorney General for "those who have been utilizing misleading and false information...to raise money or publicity for their own ends." Ouch.
  • Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report with, well, not much good news today. The worsening drought in the West is now threatening drinking water; The Siberian Arctic(!) is facing a record heatwave, with temperatures topping out above 110 (in the Arctic!); A new report finds climate change is making heat waves hotter; And a whole bunch of other news that I don't have the heart to share with you here...

Enjoy!

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: Legal reporter Mark Joseph Stern; Also: NYC mayoral primary will take weeks to tally by RCV system; Socialist wins upset in Buffalo mayoral primary; Dems 'not deterred' by GOP filibuster of voting rights bill...
By Brad Friedman on 6/23/2021 6:00pm PT  

On today's BradCast: The Republicans' stolen and packed U.S. Supreme Court handed down a bunch of new decisions today. New York's primaries elections were very interesting in both NYC and Buffalo on Tuesday. And Congressional Democrats vow to fight on for voting rights after Senate Republicans, as expected, used the filibuster to block debate on protecting voting rights. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

First, on yesterday's primaries in NY, the race for Mayor in New York City featured almost 15 candidates. But, under the city's new Ranked Choice Voting system, as we explained on yesterday's program, it could take weeks before we are told who the winner is. Whether voters will have confidence in those results --- after weeks of the virtually-impossible-to-oversee RCV counting (and recounting) system --- is anyone's guess. For the moment, a fairly conservative law-and-order candidate, Eric Adams, leads the pack in the ongoing first round of tallying, with about 32 points. He's followed by progressives Maya Wiley and Kathryn Garcia with 22 and 19.5% each, respectively. Andrew Yang is in fourth place with almost 12% of the vote. As none of the candidates received more than 50 percent, however, the Ranked Choice tallying will soon begin. When it ends, and who wins, is anybody's guess. Yes, even though Yang conceded after his 4th place finish, he could still end up winning under the confusing RCV process. And the winner of the Democratic primary is almost certain to be the next Mayor of NYC.

Meanwhile, up in Buffalo, New York's second largest city, India Walton, a 39 year-old African American socialist with no experience in political office, unseated the city's four-term Democratic Mayor Byron Brown in a huge upset. If she wins the general in November, Walton will be the first socialist mayor of a major city since 1960, after unseating an incumbent Buffalo Mayor for the first time since 1961. Brown, however, reportedly is considering a write-in campaign this fall against Walton, given that there will be no Republican for her to face on this year's ballot in the heavily Democratic city.

Down in D.C. on Tuesday, the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate "won" the vote to proceed with debate on their sweeping elections, voting rights and campaign reform bill known as For the People, when all 50 Democrats stuck together to vote in favor. But they lost anyway, because Republicans, for their part, all voted against debating voting rights, even as state level GOP legislatures are adopting bills all across the country to restrict such rights. 60 votes would have been needed to overcome the Republican filibuster in the Senate, where Senators representing a tiny majority of Americans (about 20 percent, according to Ari Berman), have the ability to block any and all legislation offered by Democrats, whose 50 Senators represent some 43 million more Americans than those represented by the 50 Republicans in the upper chamber. Nonetheless, Majority Leader Schumer, President Biden and House Speaker Pelosi all vowed to fight on, with Pelosi announcing that Dems would "not be deterred"; Biden declaring "this fight is far from over"; and Schumer promising that Tuesday's vote "was the starting gun, not the finish line."

For any of that to be true, however, West Virginia's Joe Manchin and Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema, at the very least, would have to agree to change the rules for the Senate filibuster. Dems hope that voters may help convince them to do so over the Independence Day recess, given that For the People is supported by some 68% of American voters.

Next, we're joined by the always-great MARK JOSEPH STERN, legal reporter at Slate, to discuss, among other things, the decisions handed down today at SCOTUS, as the Court wraps up this year's term at the end of the week. Despite the 6 to 3 advantage for rightwingers on the Republicans' stolen and packed Supreme Court (because Republicans were more than willing to kill the filibuster in order to accomplish it!), Chief Justice John Roberts, once again, managed to produce largely consensus decisions on all but one of the opinions released today.

Among those opinions, as explained and analyzed by Stern, was a very troubling ruling that kneecaps union organizing rights across the country. That one, which Stern notes "is very over the top" and makes up "a completely new rule that did not exist before," was the one decided by the rightwingers' 6 to 3 vote. It continues the Roberts Court's relentless erosion of labor rights. But there were also reasonable decisions handed down on police powers to enter your home without a warrant and on a high school's punishment of a cheerleader who used the F-word on Snapchat over a weekend while she was in 9th grade. One other decision was also released today, allowing President Biden to replace Donald Trump's terrible director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which oversees mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

"There's enough credit to go around here," says Stern, in response to my question about whether Roberts deserves credit for some of the narrow decisions that were able to overcome a bitterly divided Court without causing too much damage to longstanding rights and precedent. "I think Chief Justice John Roberts is in the driver's seat on some of these compromise decisions. But I think that, to some degree, Justices Kavanaugh and Barrett are willing to go along, and so are the liberal justices. I think a lot of these decisions involve compromise on both sides. Some of them include some bitter pills for the left or the right to swallow, but at the end of the day, six justices are trying their best to duck the big issues, and issue really small decisions that don't ruffle too many feathers."

The fallout so far this term, the first with the GOP's 6 to 3 advantage, was "not as terrible as it could be." Though, Stern cautions, "It's not over yet. There are still some major decisions coming down the pike. And no matter what happens, we've still got next term with guns and abortion, of course."

The biggest decision this term, however, may be whether or not 82-year old Justice Stephen Breyer is going to step down to allow President Biden to nominate someone younger to fill his seat while Democrats hold the majority in the Senate, or whether he's going to pull a Ruth Bader Ginsburg and wait to leave the Court, one way or another, after Republicans have regained a majority in the upper chamber. Given that the Senate's Republican leader Mitch McConnell has already indicated he is unlikely to ever allow a Democratic President to fill a Supreme Court vacancy while Republicans hold a majority, we both hope that Breyer will take McConnell at his word, and get out now while the getting is still good.

As usual, it's another jam-packed BradCast. Enjoy!

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Guest: 'Climate Guy' Guy Walton on new climate extremes, smashed records; Also: NYC tries Ranked Choice Voting; Senate Dems battle to save American democracy --- will Manchin and Sinema join them?...
By Brad Friedman on 6/22/2021 5:55pm PT  

On today's BradCast, the heat is on. Temperature records are being smashed in the West, and pressure continues to build on two Senate Democrats to take the action necessary to save democracy itself in the U.S. in light of the Trump-induced lurch toward autocracy and voter suppression by the Republican Party. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

First up, a few thoughts on the New York City primary elections being held today, specifically on the city's first-time use of Ranked Choice Voting. We explain how RCV works (or doesn't) and wish the voters of NYC much luck in making sense of whatever may happen next. Depending on how folks voted today, it could take weeks before winners are determined and perhaps even longer before voters have confidence in those results. But we hope it all goes well. (If it doesn't, might we recommend they try Approval Voting instead next time? It's much easier to understand and oversee, and doesn't even require trusting in computers to be tallied!)

Then, shortly after air today, a test vote was held in the U.S. Senate on moving the Democrats' critical election and campaign reform bill, the For the People Act (which has already passed in the House), forward for debate. The vote was not for passage of the bill, but simply on whether the Senate would be allowed to debate the new voting rights package at all. So today was the debate on whether to debate. And Democrats won that debate, sort of, with their 50 vote majority. Unfortunately, in the U.S. Senate, the minority rules, thanks to Senate rules that require 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. The good news, however, is that all 50 Democrats voted to advance the measure, in the face of the GOP's unified opposition to debate voting rights. The unified Democratic caucus was not a certainty until today's vote, with West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin opposing For the People until only recently, when he was assured his compromise proposal [PDF] for the voting rights bill would receive a vote.

Even with a 50 vote majority, however (which is actually 51 votes with Vice President Harris breaking the tie), the debate on For the People will not be allowed, nor a vote on the actual bill, until and unless the Senate filibuster rule is reformed in some way. It's been reformed many times before (for example, on budget bills, which require only a simple majority, or for jamming through U.S. Supreme Court nominees, as Republicans did unilaterally under Trump, when they enjoyed the majority.) But, for now, both Manchin and Arizona's Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema oppose changes to the Senate filibuster, a Jim Crow-era relic, which would be needed to pass the election and campaign reform they both suggest they now support. That very much needs to happen in order to pass For the People and, later, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, in order to have any hope of countering, at least in part, the partisan GOP restrictions on voting now moving through state legislators. With today's Senate vote, we can only hope that both Manchin and Sinema hear from their constituents over the upcoming holiday recess, encouraging them to reconsider their untenable stand blocking long-overdue safeguards to American democracy.

Next up: After a week of blistering heat records across much of the West, amid a worsening megadrought, burgeoning wildfires, and Claudette, one of the earliest named tropical storms which came ashore this weekend wreaking havoc and death in the South, we're joined by an expert in both climate records and extremes.

"Climate Guy" GUY WALTON, is a former 30-year Weather Channel veteran who has, for years, been tracking and documenting daily global records and extremes as our climate emergency worsens. He joins us today for both an update on this past week's early summer heat wave --- including several all-time records obliterated --- and broader context for what is actually happening and why.

Among the topics discussed: Reservoirs growing perilously dry in the West; the now, nearly year-round wildfire season; the quickening pace of broken heat records; the Saffir-Simpson scale used to categorize wind speed (but not rainfall amounts and storm surge, which can be even more deadly, or overall expected damage) of tropical storms and hurricanes, and whether it's time for a new gauge under this "new normal" climate; if the media are improving in their coverage of climate change; and much more.

We also discuss Walton's wickedly subversive illustrated book series on climate change for children, co-authored with Nick Walker, called "World of Thermo", about a flying thermometer who battles his arch enemy Carbo (a giant carbon molecule). The first book in the series is World of Thermo: Thermometer Rising. The second book, set for publication next month, is World of Thermo: Carbonated.

Finally, since we're gluttons, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, with more on our disturbing new climate extremes and what the Biden Administration --- and Bernie Sanders --- are doing and/or hope to do about it...

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Guest: Coalition for Good Governance's Marilyn Marks on that and separate challenge to state's 100% unverifiable touchscreen voting...
By Brad Friedman on 6/21/2021 7:14pm PT  

On today's BradCast: With virtually every new voter suppression law adopted by Republicans at the state level since last November's election (there have been about 24 such laws adopted so far, in some 14 states), Democrats and voting rights advocates have been quickly filing lawsuits in opposition. One of those suits --- filed in federal court [PDF] against Georgia's SB202, the one in which I am named as a Plaintiff --- is to have its first major hearing next week. That, as Democrats in the U.S. Senate frantically scramble to get the last Democratic holdout (Joe Manchin) to come on board for federal legislation to counter at least some of the most restrictive elements of the tidal wave of new GOP anti-voting laws at the state level. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

While the Jim Crow-style voter suppression of the new restrictions being adopted in Republican-controlled states of late have received a fair amount of attention, the provisions in those measures that would allow GOP state legislatures to take over elections --- and even overturn legitimate results --- have received less attention. Over the weekend, the New York Times highlighted, for example, how in "Georgia, members of at least 10 county election boards...At least five are people of color and most are Democrats" have been removed from their posts in recent weeks, "and they will most likely all be replaced by Republicans."

Georgia is not the only state where this is happening. Similar provisions, targeting election officials and even election results, have also been adopted or introduced in states like Kansas, Arkansas and the critical swing state of Florida. But in Georgia, they go even further to target and/or threaten the media itself for simply reporting on elections!

That's where I come in. I am the named plaintiff representing journalists in the Coalition for Good Governance (CGG) lawsuit challenging Georgia's SB202 in federal court. An emergency Motion for Preliminary Injunction [PDF] has now been filed in regard to the media-related aspects of CGG's complaint, in light of the state's impending local election runoffs scheduled for July 13th.

I'm joined once again today by longtime Election Integrity champion MARILYN MARKS, Executive Director of CGG, to discuss why the Press Freedom aspects of her group's broad challenge to the GA law --- far broader than some of the other challenges focused more on the voter suppression aspects only, as filed by the NAACP, the Democratic Party, and Stacey Abrams' Fair Fight, etc. --- have been bumped to a top priority with her filing of an expedited Motion for Preliminary Injunction.

Among the little-reported-on Press Freedoms at stake in SB202, the new law includes a Gag Rule which criminalizes the public, party-appointed monitors and the press’ reporting of absentee mail ballot processing or tabulation problems; A ban on the press Estimating (yes, estimating!) the number of absentee ballots that have been processed during an election tabulation or how many are still to be processed; SB202 even criminalizes photographing voted ballots or the 100% unverifiable touchscreen Ballot Marking Device (BMD) voting systems that voters are now forced to use at all Georgia polling places, despite the state's century-long history of routine press photography and videography of election activities inside of polling places on Election Day. (Yes, the photo used above for today's show logo, or even seeing those voters voting, can now result in felony charges in GA!)

All of these, as Marks and I discuss, are extraordinary restrictions on basic Press Freedoms, and our ability --- my ability in this case, as the named plaintiff, representing media --- to report what is going on during Georgia elections to the public. The law actually turns simply seeing one of the state's huge new touchscreen voting systems, while it's being used on Election Day, into a felony. That would apply not only to media inside a polling place, but also to poll workers, poll watchers and even voters simply waiting in line to vote.

"We are asking the court to address some of these issues before that runoff election [on July 13] happens. We are going to ask the judge to rule in favor of the press," says Marks, hoping that some other media outlets may even submit their own Amicus Briefs to the court in support of CGG's lawsuit. "Other members of the press are quite concerned about the fact that traditional photography, that they have been taking for decades, is not going to be permitted in the mail ballot processing locations," she tells me.

"It is mind-blowing," she continues. "I wouldn't be able to tell you [if I saw something wrong while serving as an observer]. All of a sudden, your reporting is going to be silenced. You would not even know that I had anything to tell you. You would just assume that, unlike in times past, that everything is going fine in Georgia."

Marks also breaks a bit of news by explaining that the Republican National Committee has now moved to intercede in this case to help defend GA Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger's position on the bill. Marks says Raffensperger "essentially insisted on these provisions. Although some of the media consider him to be some kind of a saint [because he declined to overturn the November 2020 election amid entreaties from Donald Trump to do so], this is his bill. His attorneys drafted it. He's the one that wants to crack down on any criticism coming from people like you and me, CNN, New York Times, or any other place."

"The RNC has asked to intervene in our case to protect the Secretary of State. However, interestingly, they have said they are not going to oppose us on the Observation Felony, the Gag Rule, the Estimating Ban, the Photography Ban --- so even the Republicans are not going to try to defend four of these five things that we're going after" in the Motion. A hearing is now set on that Motion for Thursday, July 1.

In addition to CGG's lawsuit challenging SB202, the group has another, separate, longstanding challenge to the state's use of 100% unverifiable touchscreen voting systems. That suit was successful in convincing the federal judge hearing it to ban GA's 20-year old Diebold touchscreen systems before last year's elections. Unfortunately, Raffensperger immediately replaced them with new touchscreen Ballot Marking Devices made by Dominion Voting Systems, which Marks describes as as bad or worse than the previous systems. That case has just now entered its discovery phase and Marks is confident that the same federal judge is quite concerned that the new systems are as insecure, unverifiable --- and, thus, as unconstitutional --- as the old ones she previously banned. A ruling in that case could affect the use of such machines in dozens of states and counties around the country, including states like Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Texas and even here in Los Angeles County, where voters are now forced to vote on unverifiable touchscreen systems at polling places.

Lastly, Marks describes the exciting forum scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday, June 22), co-sponsored by CGG and another one of our favorite non-partisan good-government watchdog groups, Free Speech for People (FSFP), on the dangers of Ballot Marking Device (BMDs) as used in Georgia and many of those other jurisdictions mentioned above. The forum, called "Today's Electronic Voting Machines: An Examination of the Use and Security of Ballot Marking Devices" is scheduled live and online from Noon to 5pm ET on Tuesday. It features a huge number of guests that have been featured over the years on 'The BradCast', including FSFP's Susan Greenhaulgh; Georgia Tech cybersecurity expert Rich DeMillo; notorious University of Michigan white-hat hacker, J. Alex Halderman; Research expert Kevin Skoglund; UC Berkley's Philip Stark, inventor of the post-election Risk Limiting Audit protocol; the legendary Finish cyberseucrity and voting systems expert Harri Hursti, and many others.

Much more info and the schedule is available here. You can RSVP to participate in the event right here.

Finally, Democrats are teeing up a test vote on Tuesday in the U.S. Senate for their sweeping election and campaign finance reform bill, the For the People Act, now that West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin has suggested he may be willing to support a compromise version with the 49 other Senate Democrats who have all already signed on to the original bill as co-sponsors. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked today about President Biden's expectations for that bill and its test vote today, and on the need to reform the filibuster even if Manchin deigns to come aboard. If he does, he would also have to be willing to make changes to the filibuster rule that mandates 60 Senators support such measures, in order to see passage, since no Republicans are expected to support it. But he is not the only Democrat who has opposed long-overdue changes to the filibuster. Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema has also vowed to protect the anti-democratic, Jim Crow-era Senate rule. And now she is being targeted with a huge ad buy for that position, to ratchet up the pressure, by a group of progressives who are running spots in her home state on cable news, as well as during local news and sports programming.

Yes, the fight to save American democracy continues on today's BradCast...because it seems kind of important...

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Also: Juneteenth now a federal holiday! And SCOTUS allows religious discrimination against same-sex couples, but it could have been worse...
By Brad Friedman on 6/17/2021 6:43pm PT  

The news just isn't slowing down in these "slow news days of summer". At least not on today's BradCast. But at least much of that news is actually good, including more progress today toward protecting democracy in the U.S., as per the shifting whims of Lord and Senator Joe Manchin. [Audio link to full program follows below this summary.]

Among the many stories covered on today's news-chocked program...

  • Who says Congress can't move something quickly when they want to? Juneteenth, commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S. in 1865 --- albeit at least two and a half years after it was supposed to have ended with the Emancipation Proclamation, is now an official federal holiday. President Biden signed the new law for our nation's 12th federal holiday on Thursday, after the U.S. House overwhelmingly adopted the measure on Wednesday (with all but 14 shameful, white, male Republicans voting in favor), after unanimous passage in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday. Since June 19thfalls on a Saturday this year, the new holiday will officially be observed tomorrow! That was fast! See? Congress CAN move quickly when they try! Unless you consider the hundreds of years of slavery in this country and the more than 150 years it took for a holiday to commemorate its final end. Never mind that comment earlier about Congress moving "quickly."
  • The latest attempt by shameful white, male Republicans to kill the popular Affordable Care Act (better known as ObamaCare) was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court today. The law has helped tens of millions of Americans obtain access to heath care, and hundreds of millions more Americans by, among other things, making it unlawful for insurance companies to reject customers due to pre-existing conditions. The stupid attempt by a bunch of GOP-Controlled states to find the entire bill unconstitutional was rejected by SCOTUS today with a 7 to 2 vote, after finding the states represented by white, male Republicans were not harmed by the law and, therefore, had no standing to challenge it. That, after a series of white, male Republican lower court judges had used a ridiculous claim made by the GOP states --- and countered by the actions of REPUBLICANS in Congress themselves(!) --- to strike down the entirely of the landmark 2010 law as unconstitutional. We explain how this third attempt to have SCOTUS do what Congress would not, has gone down, yet again, in flames.
  • Meanwhile, the fight to pass federal voting rights protections to counter new GOP voter-suppression laws at the state level moved one small step forward again today. Yesterday, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin --- the only Dem in the Senate who is not a co-sponsor of the sweeping election and campaign reform bill known as the For the People Act (even though he co-sponsored the same legislation in 2019) --- offered a compromise proposal [PDF] for the bill that he recently declared that he opposed. As we discussed on yesterday's show, his compromise proposal is not horrible and Dems should work quickly to get some version of it to a floor vote! UC-Irvine's election law expert Rick Hasen last night penned a column at Slate which sounded almost exactly like our coverage yesterday, urging Dems to leap at this opportunity, with his first paragraph arguing: "Democrats should grab the deal, even though it is not perfect, is still unlikely to pass, and doesn’t yet address the greatest threat in upcoming elections: the danger of election subversion."

    As we discuss today, the original For the People Act, already passed by the House, doesn't "address...the danger of election subversion" either, as that danger is being baked into GOP voter suppression bills around the country, allowing Republican state Legislatures to reverse election results for virtually any reason they like. We explain why Hasen's argument --- at least on that one narrow point --- is a bit misleading, while he is otherwise right on the money.

    At the same time, Georgia's voting rights champion Stacey Abrams has also come out in favor of Manchin's compromise proposal and speaks, as we did yesterday, to the concerns that some may have about Manchin's inclusion of a "Voter ID" provision. She explains, as we did, that his provision on Voter ID is not really a huge concern --- as some Dems and/or voting rights advocates may view it --- in that Manchin's proposal allows other means for voters to identify themselves beyond a strict, small, very limited list of acceptable Photo IDs. He cites, for example, "utility bill, etc." as acceptable means of identification to vote, in line with the already-existing rules in a majority of states. Such reasonable requirements that do not prevent voters from voting are a far cry from the strict Photo ID restrictions adopted by some GOP states meant not to prevent fraud, but to prevent voting (by certain people who may lack the specific type of ID that Republicans are purposely requiring in hopes of disenfranchising them.)

    Of course, even if all 50 Senate Dems come to an agreement on a version of For the People that they can accept, it would still require 10 Republicans coming on board in the Senate to defeat a GOP filibuster. As that remains a virtual impossibility, reform of the filibuster would still be needed for passage of this bill, and, unfortunately Manchin leads the opposition on that as well. However, as a recording of a Zoom teleconference with the so-called "centrist" group No Labels (actually a big money conservative Dem and moderate-ish Republican business group) reveals, Manchin is not quite as against filibuster reform as he has made out publicly, at least when he is not speaking to big money business donors. Lee Fang and Ryan Grim from The Intercept obtained audio from that Zoom session, wherein Manchin suggests his potential openness to lowering the filibuster threshold from 60 to 55, or to force a 41 person minority to stand up and make their case against a bill they oppose and explain what they object to, rather than require those in favor of the bill to come up with 60 votes.

    Again, more progress. Too slow, to be sure --- especially with the dangers of the 2022 mid-terms looming --- but progress nonetheless, which those claiming to be progressives should certainly be in favor of!

  • Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report which, like the rest of today's show, is simply chocked full of news, both good and bad, as the fight against our ongoing climate emergency continues...

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Also: NatSec journalist Marcy Wheeler with 'perspective' on Trump DoJ 'spying' on Dem lawmakers, lessons Adam Schiff may learn from it...
By Brad Friedman on 6/16/2021 5:56pm PT  

Our plans for covering the Biden/Putin summit in Geneva today were happily tossed aside late today, with the big news that West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin is apparently willing to compromise on a voting rights bill in the U.S. Senate! Frankly, it's more important right now than Biden/Putin, so they got bumped from today's BradCast. We didn't, however, bump our guest today, who offers some critical insight on the disturbing news that Donald Trump's Justice Department "spied" on House Democrats Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

First up, Sen. Manchin has been the only Democrat in the upper chamber unwilling to come on board as co-sponsor of the For the People Act (H.R.1 in the House, where it's already passed and S.1 in the Senate, where Manchin is holding it up.) In fact, he recently declared in a hometown paper op-ed that he opposes the measure (even though he co-sponsored it back in 2019), while also restating his opposition to reform of the filibuster. Such reform would be required to adopt the For the People Act with a simple majority of Democrats in the Senate.

Today, however, Manchin released a memo [PDF] detailing his "Compromise" points for support of the For the People Act! We discuss those points at the top of today's show. They include a whole bunch of stuff that's in the current measure already adopted by the House, along with a few "New" items that he is seeking. Most of them are acceptable (such as "Make election day a public holiday"), where some others (such as a measure for seemingly modest "voter ID" requirements) may be a bit more controversial among some Democrats and voting rights advocates.

All told, however, while the devil remains in the details --- and his simple bullet points offer few --- we see nothing particularly objectionable about Manchin's "Compromise" list. At least nothing that should prevent passage of such a measure ASAP to help counter some of the extreme voter suppression measures currently being adopted by Republicans at the state level around the country in advance of the 2022 mid-terms.

There is still the problem that, as Manchin's memo notes, "federal voting rights legislation must be the result of both Democrats and Republicans coming together to find a pathway forward." He's right, of course, in general. But the fact is that Republicans have zero interest in finding any such path. There is also the problem that, even if Dems can settle on a bill they (and Manchin) all like, there is little chance in hell that even one Republican will come on board to support it, much less the 10 that would be needed to overcome a GOP filibuster. If Manchin won't agree to compromise on the filibuster --- at least to pass democracy related legislation --- the measure would go nowhere.

Still, one step at a time. Today's news, that Manchin is finally willing, at least, to compromise on the For the People Act, is tremendously encouraging for those of us who care about the survival of democracy in the U.S.

Next, we're joined by long-time, independent national security journalist MARCY WHEELER of Emptywheel, with some critical insight on the news that broke late last week revealing the Trump Dept. of Justice secretly subpoenaed phone, email and text message records of House Democrats Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell in 2018. Both were, and are, members of the U.S. House Permanent Selection Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) and both were regarded by our disgraced former President as his political enemies.

In addition to Schiff and Swalwell, the Trump DoJ's shocking secret surveillance also included scores of Congressional aides and even their children, purportedly as part of a probe into leaks regarding a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant taken out during the Obama Administration on 2016 Trump Campaign advisor, Carter Page.

Following the news this week, the House Judiciary Committee announced a formal investigation into what they describe as "a pretext to spy on President Trump’s perceived political enemies". Also, Attorney General Merrick Garland has asked the DoJ Inspector General for a probe into the matter as well.

Wheeler, however, offered some very helpful "perspective on the politicized leak investigation" by Trump's DoJ at her website, which we discuss today. Among the points she notes: This isn't actually "spying"; It isn't actually unprecedented --- well, mostly; and the fact that the secret subpoenas reportedly only sought metadata (records of who and when someone was called, emailed or texted, rather than the actual content of those communications), shouldn't really bother Democratic lawmakers at all, given that they have long defended the collection of "just" metadata in probes by law enforcement officials.

Wheeler notes Schiff has been "championing" the "it's 'just' metadata" claims for years "when he talks about surveilling Americans." But, she explains, "when you get metadata [going back] ten years, that is enormously powerful." Putting limits "on the span on metadata that you can pull without a judicial order" might be "something, maybe that Adam Schiff will have learned his lesson" from here, she quips.

Moreover, the breadth of the secret subpoenas --- for example, obtaining Schiff's records from Apple going all the way back to 2009 for an investigation into a leak that occurred in 2017 --- was wildly broad. And, though the records apparently didn't reveal any of the Congressmembers or their staff (or their children) were guilty of leaking, the FBI and DoJ were legally allowed to hold onto to those records for years, potentially using them for other reasons as well, as it appears Trump's AG Bill Barr may have. As Marcy snarked in her piece on this at Emptywheel: "It’s a pity for Adam Schiff that no one in charge of surveillance in Congress imposed better trackability requirements on FBI’s access of its investigative collections."

Schiff is currently the Chair of HPSCI. At the time of the secret subpoenas, he was the Committee's ranking Democrat and has long been supportive of these types of virtually limitless subpoenas, according to Wheeler.

There are other outrages here, for example, the length of allowable gag orders, preventing companies like Apple from notifying customers, for years, that they are being surveilled, as in this case; the fact that there are no real requirements for narrowly tailoring such broad searches. Wheeler is hopeful that lawmakers may learn from this, now that they have become the targets. Naturally, they are bothered when it happens to them and to journalists, whereas the same invasive practices targeting ordinary Americans receives little attention or concern from lawmakers.

"The standard is there is no probable cause required," for these kinds of searches, she explains. "The FBI could have just said, 'We need all of the phone records for everybody on HPSCI because they are the people who got the document that was leaked,'  and that meets the relevant standard. And that is the standard that Adam Schiff has been telling us for years isn't all that intrusive"...

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Guest: Const'l Attorney John Bonifaz on reversing 'the road to tyranny' (and also on how to get foreign corporate money out of U.S. elections)...
By Brad Friedman on 6/15/2021 6:46pm PT  

Writing at Washington Monthly today, asking "Why Is Merrick Garland Defending Bill Barr's Policies?," law professor and Free Speech for People (FSFP) Board Member Jennifer Taub quips: "This is Merrick Garland's Tylenol moment, and by which I mean he has more than a headache but a poisoning on his hands." Yup. Today's BradCast won't cure his headache, but it may offer an antidote for the poisoning...if he pays attention. [Audio link to full show follows below.]

The new Attorney General spoke at the Dept. of Justice on Tuesday about his national strategy to focus on the rise of domestic terrorism, particularly carried out by white supremacists in the wake of the Trump-incited January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. Garland described such incidents as "attacks on all of us collectively, aimed at rending the fabric of our democratic society and driving us apart," adding: "We have an enormous task ahead, to move forward as a country, to punish the perpetrators, to do everything possible to prevent similar attacks and to do so in a manner that affirms the values on which our justice system is founded and upon which democracy depends."

Garland's remarks follow on his announcement Friday that he is doubling the number of DoJ attorneys focused on enforcing voting rights at the federal level in light of new vote suppression laws being adopted by Republicans in states around the country.

So, he seems to understand at least two major threats to the values "on which our justice system is founded and upon which democracy depends." But is he really prepared to punish all of the perpetrators?

Every day now it seems that stunning new information is revealed as to just how poisoned our Dept. of Justice had become under the Trump Administration, as the former President used the nation's once widely respected law enforcement agency for his own personal purposes, to protect himself from legal accountability (as in former AG Bill Barr's use of the department to block Trump from criminal accountability for obstruction following Special Counsel Robert Mueller's findings and from civil accountability in the defamation case filed by Trump's alleged rape victim, E. Jean Carroll, both of which Taub writes about today); to wield power against his perceived political enemies (as we learned last week, when it was revealed that the DoJ secretly obtained phone, email and text message records from Democratic lawmakers and several media outlets in 2018); and, in futile efforts to keep himself in power (as we learned today, based on emails obtained by the House Oversight Committee revealing Trump tried to order the DoJ to file briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of his evidence-free big lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him).

As more and more emerges, it's difficult to keep up with it all. But, sadly, what we know so far is likely only the tip of the iceberg. That's why, back in February, a group of non-partisan government watchdog groups penned a letter [PDF] to then Judge Merrick Garland, prior to his confirmation as AG, calling on him to form a task force at the DoJ immediately after being confirmed, "to investigate any potential federal criminal or civil violations that may have been committed by former President Trump, members of his administration, or his campaign, business, or other associates."

The letter, which has now been signed onto by more than 200,000 Americans, according to FSFP, asks Garland to convene the task force to probe Trump's "flurry of unethical, unconstitutional, and often criminal activity, culminating on January 6, 2021, with the seditious insurrection on the United States Capitol incited and encouraged by former President Trump and his allies."

"If we are to begin the process of restoring the integrity of the Department of Justice and the rule of law to our nation," the groups write --- before detailing at least five different categories of "potential offenses" by the previous administration --- "it is essential that the Department thoroughly investigate these actions and, where warranted and appropriate, hold accountable those who have violated the nation's laws."

That DoJ task force, however, has yet to be formed. And Garland, according to our guest today, Constitutional attorney and longtime voting rights champion JOHN BONIFAZ, co-founder and President of FSFP, has yet to reply to the February letter.

On today's show, Bonifaz explains why "it's critical" that this task force be stood up, and why such a group of prosecutors need to be convened in this matter, rather than an independent commission formed by Congress, a blue ribbon panel formed by the White House or even another Special Counsel investigation launched by DoJ.

While he supports Congressional oversight in general, he explains: "The reason why we believe a task force is the best way to go over a Special Counsel is we do think this should not be assigned outside of the Department to someone who then is seen, as Robert Mueller was, as the sole arbiter of this." While disagreeing, as many scholars do, with the notion that a sitting President cannot be criminally indicted, Bonifaz explains that Mueller's report "was very clear that once the President was out of office, he would be free to be prosecuted for those crimes."

"That's just one example of many as to why this task force needs to be created," he tells me. "There are multiple investigations that need to proceed, and potentially multiple prosecutions. It would be an outrage for this Administration to claim that it's going to turn the page, it's not going to conduct that kind of accountability for those that have engaged in such lawless behavior in the last Administration. That's what happens on the road to tyranny. If we're to protect our democracy and our Constitution, it's critical that we hold Donald Trump and his associates accountable for the violations of federal criminal law they may have committed."

We discuss a number of the already known issues currently crying out for real probes by federal prosecutors if the DoJ is ever to be restored; concerns about Trump associates still burrowed in at Justice; the many investigations known to have been shut down by Barr which should quickly be re-opened; and the question of "why is the Biden Justice Department continuing the work of the Barr Justice Department" when it comes to attacks on press freedoms via only-recently lifted gag orders on secret subpoenas of reporters' private records and "the intervention that the Barr Justice Department started in the E. Jean Carroll case --- both of these decisions were clearly made with Garland's knowledge."

I also ask Bonifaz for his opinion on whether he believes Garland is actually up to the gargantuan task of dealing with the ongoing and increasing problems that DoJ must now handle regarding all sorts of criminal and civil matters, even while bringing both accountability for the unprecedented corruption of the previous Administration and the necessary reforms at DoJ to avoid the same or worse abuse of the nation's top law enforcement agency in the future.

"I think this is a moment for the Department of Justice, but also for democracy and our Constitution. And they need to get it right," he explains.

In a separate matter, FSFP --- which was founded in the wake of the Supreme Court's 2010 'Citizens United' ruling that opened the floodgates to corporate money in American elections --- is now working at the state level to enact model legislation that would bar corporations with foreign investors (which is a whole lot of them!) from being allowed to spend money in state and municipal elections.

Finally, we're joined by Desi Doyen, as new temperature records are being smashed during the year's first major (and very early) heat wave, for our latest Green News Report. Beyond the bad news about climate change, we've got some very good news to close with today, particularly for folks up in Alaska...

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Also: Netanyahu finally out in Israel; 'Imminent radiological threat' at Chinese nuke plant?; 2016 whistleblower leaves prison; Callers ring in...
By Brad Friedman on 6/14/2021 6:07pm PT  

We try to hit a lot of news on today's BradCast after yet another very busy news weekend both at home and abroad. We don't get through our entire stack, but that's only thanks to some good calls from listeners along the way. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

Among the stories we cover on today's program...

  • 600,000 are now dead from COVID-19 in the U.S. as states --- including California on Tuesday --- begin opening up again for business at full capacity (and as infection rates start to tick up again nationally...we're hoping it's just some noise in the data for now...)
  • Israel's longtime, hard-right leader Benjamin Netanyu, recently indicted on corruption charges, is finally out as Prime Minister of Israel. On Sunday, the Israeli Knesset officially approved a new governing coalition with a former top Netanyahu aide, Naftali Bennett, as the Jewish state's new Prime Minister. He will lead a broad coalition of some eight left, right and center parties, including the first Arab party to sit in a governing coalition. The fragile new partnership aims to move beyond the exceedingly polarizing years of the former PM, even as Netanyahu --- in one of his Trumpiest tantrums to date --- demonized many of his former rightwing colleagues in the new coalition as an "evil and dangerous leftist government" and decried his personal legal troubles as the result of a witch hunt. (Sound familiar?)
  • A disturbing story broke over night by CNN, suggesting there may be an ongoing or "imminent radiological threat" at a new nuclear power plant in China. Details come largely via a French company that has partnered with the Chinese on the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong province. Independent experts are watching the situation closely to determine how dangerous --- or, not-that-unusual --- the situation now is, as cracks seem to have formed in the main encasement of fuel rods at the plant. We'll continue to watch this one as well.
  • U.S. allies appeared just shy of giddy over the weekend and into today, as Joe Biden made his first appearance as President at the G7 summit in Cornwall, England and the NATO meetings that followed it. Biden and longtime allies in Europe hope the new President will restore a sense of normalcy to the proceedings and the post-WWII order, even as old disputes continue and many in Europe remain concerned (for good reason!) about the continuing fragile and divisive political situation in the U.S. that allowed the rise of Donald Trump's autocratic regimes in the first place.
  • Former National Security Agency whistleblower Reality Winner was released early from prison on Monday for good behavior. Winner had sent documents to media revealing Russia's attempted hacks of a voter registration software company in the U.S. during the 2016 election. The extent of those hacks is still publicly unknown but, arguably, wouldn't be known at all had it not been for Winner revealing the information to the media and public. As thanks, she was slapped with one of the longest prison sentences ever for such a leak to the media.
  • Then, callers ring in on a number of the various stories covered above, as well as some additional ones, including the news that Trump's DoJ secretly subpoenaed phone, email and text message records from Democratic lawmakers; Republicans continue to undermine American democracy in states across the nation; Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin continues to obstruct democratic reforms; and concerns persist about whether Biden's Attorney General Merrick Garland is up to the task of bringing accountability for so much of the unprecedented damage wrought by the Department during the Trump years...

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Guest: 'Jackpot' author Michael Mechanic; Also: Trump's politicized DoJ spied on Dems in unprecedented violation of Separation of Powers...
By Brad Friedman on 6/11/2021 6:30pm PT  

The volume of incoming huge news stories these days is getting to be as overwhelming as it was during the Trump years. But it's also a reminder to anyone who has deluded themselves into thinking that the Trump Era is over, it is anything but. We were planning on covering ProPublica's blockbuster bombshell exclusive this week on today's BradCast --- and we still do --- though it has been somewhat eclipsed by last night's New York Times blockbuster bombshell exclusive. We do our best to cover both today. [Audio link to full show follows below this summary.]

First, the remarkable news broken by the Times late on Thursday is that Donald Trump's wildly corrupt Dept. of Justice was a whole lot more corrupt than we have all yet fully appreciated. As it turns out, in an unprecedented move, his DoJ secretly subpoenaed phone, email and text message data of Democratic members of Congress on the House Judiciary Committee. But it wasn't just members that Trump saw as political enemies, including top Judiciary Dem Adam Schiff and Rep. Eric Swalwell. It was also their staff and even their children, one of whom was a minor, according to the Times' blockbuster.

All of that, even as the Trump Administration spent years blocking Congress from lawful subpoenas for testimony and documents from the White House itself and virtually every Executive branch agency, under the false premise that it would violate the Constitution's Separation of Powers, granting co-equal powers to both the Legislative and Executive branches. All the while, the Trump Administration was actually --- literally --- spying on members of the Legislative branch, while claiming (disingenuously) that Congress was overstepping its bounds by issuing lawful, public subpoenas for testimony to members of the Executive branch.

The stunning news comes after a week in which we previously learned that the Trump DoJ also secretly obtained phone, email and text records of journalists at the Washington Post, New York Times and CNN. Democrats claim to be outraged by it all, and vow to investigate. But without real legal consequences, accompanied by sweeping reforms by both Congress and, most immediately, Merrick Garland's Dept. of Justice, the appalling and outrageous and unlawful acts carried out during four years of the Trump Administration will absolutely be carried out again --- and even worse next time --- in the very near future.

Speaking of much-needed, long-overdue action from Congress, the ProPublica bombshell this week revealed that --- based on a "vast cache of IRS information" somehow obtained by the non-profit media outlet on the nation's wealthiest men --- American billionaires have been allowed to avoid almost all federal income taxes for years on their accumulated and still-surging wealth. As the media outlet reports in their jaw-dropping, nearly 6,000 word exclusive this week, "billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Warren Buffett pay little in income tax compared to their massive wealth — sometimes, even nothing."

Their months-long analysis of the data "demolishes the cornerstone myth of the American tax system: that everyone pays their fair share and the richest Americans pay the most. The IRS records show that the wealthiest can --- perfectly legally --- pay income taxes that are only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions, if not billions, their fortunes grow each year."

The raw IRS data show that billionaires like Bezos (the world's wealthiest man), Musk, Buffett and the others often pay zero in federal income taxes. Overall, the nation's top 25 wealthiest --- whose fortunes increased collectively by $401 billion between 2014 and 2018 --- paid a tax rate on that accumulated wealth of just 3.4% on average. That, compared to a median tax rate of 14% paid by regular, middle-class Americans, as the U.S. tax code rewards wealth over labor.

The New York Times explains in its own coverage of ProPublica's scoop, that even as Congress and President Biden bicker over tweaks to marginal tax rates, the ultra-wealthy avoid such trivialities all together. "The ProPublica revelations got to a widely understood issue: that the superrich earn virtually all their wealth from the constantly rising value of their assets, particularly in the stock market, and that the sales of those assets are taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income from a paycheck...But the analysis also revealed a less recognized strategy employed by the superrich: taking huge loans, using their assets as collateral. It allows them to avoid selling their assets and facing taxation, and even to write off some lending costs. In that way, Mr. Bezos and Mr. Buffett were able to show yearly income losses even as their wealth grew by billions of dollars."

Mother Jones' Senior Editor MICHAEL MECHANIC joins us today with a great deal of context and perspective on this long running, if legal, scam, after spending a couple of years hanging out with the ultra rich while researching his newly published book, Jackpot: How the Super-Rich Really Live --- and How Their Wealth Harms Us All.

Mechanic underscores the scam revealed by ProPublica: "As we've seen from the way the tax code works, wealth begets wealth, and we reward capital over wages. If you make a fortune on a stock, you pay a maximum of 20% when you sell that stock. In the meantime, when you hold it, you don't pay any taxes at all --- it's called 'unrealized gains.' What these billionaires have done is they just borrow against that. They never have to sell, so they never even pay the capital gains tax.  Meanwhile, you and I are getting a paycheck. If we made as much as they did, we'd be charged 37%.  So it's 37% versus 20% for assets, but they're not even paying the 20% because they're not selling the assets. They're taking out low-interest loans, paying a few percent, living on that money." And, yes, even as the cost of the interest would be less than they'd have to pay in taxes if they sold assets to live on their own money instead, they actually get to deduct the cost of those loans from their income taxes!

We discuss, among other things, how all of this actually hurts average Americans; how, because of it, trillions of dollars are not available to the government to spend on healthcare, schools, climate change, infrastructure and other public services; what, if anything, can or will be done about it by Congress --- where Republicans (and too many Democrats) seems to be just fine with a system that rewards wealth over work; whether proposals like Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax of .02 cents on every dollar of wealth by those worth more than $50 million could ever be adopted in Congress or is even Constitutional; and how all of this wealth doesn't even get taxed upon death when it's passed from generation to generation, as Mechanic reports at MoJo today.

"There's always been this argument, from the very beginning, that if you tax investors and business people, those people then won't invest, won't create jobs," Mechanic observes. "It's a spurious argument. If you have $100 million and somebody raises the capital gains rate, does that mean you're not going to start a company? You're not going to put it into the stock market? No, of course not. What else are you going to do with your money, put it under your mattress?!"

And, yes, we also discuss his new book (highly lauded by the legendary Bill Moyers!), which Mechanic describes as "not a polemical book. It's a funny, entertaining, and enraging character-driven narrative, in which I basically hang out with super-wealthy people and their minions. I interview researchers, I talk to a woman who trains billionaires' nannies in physical combat, [and] a guy who builds luxury safe rooms. It's a journey of the American wealth fantasy and how it's gone off the rails."

So, hey, if you're not already enraged enough by today's program, please buy Mike's book! It's out just in time to enrage Dad for Father's Day!

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Huge, hard-fought win for the environment on KeystoneXL; Another fight builds in MN over another tar sands pipeline; Mr. Biden goes to Europe (not a moment too soon); TX's corrupt A.G. faces still more legal trouble...
By Brad Friedman on 6/10/2021 6:45pm PT  

Today's BradCast is dedicated to the protester Davids who defeated a fossil fuel Goliath after a 13-year fight to help save us all. Thank you, protesters! And please keep going! Humanity needs you! [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

Among the stories covered with appreciation on today's program...

  • It was a huge, hard-fought, well-deserved win for the unprecedented coalition of environmentalists, tribes, scientists, farmers, ranchers, and even a few journalists, behind the defeat of TC Energy's enormous, dangerous KeystoneXL Pipeline. For 13 years, the company, formerly known as TransCanada, had fought to build a 1,200 mile pipeline to send 830,000 barrels each day of toxic, sticky tar sands crude from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Texas for export overseas. For 13 years, protesters stood up against the project, which threatened rivers, streams, native lands, farms, drinking water aquifers and the climate itself. One of the nation's greatest climate scientists James Hansen warned in 2012 that if the Alberta tar sands are full developed, via projects like KXL, it would be "game over for the climate". After President Obama canceled the pipeline's permit due to the damage it would cause for the environment via climate change, it looked to be game over for KXL itself. But then Donald Trump got elected and reversed Obama. When Joe Biden took office, he cancelled the permit once again as one of his very first actions, and has refused to back off, despite pleas from both Canada and the company. On Wednesday, TC Energy finally gave up the game. The KeystoneXL Pipeline is now really, truly dead. We all owe the coalition of protesters and activists a huge thanks. But the fight now continues elsewhere...
  • In Minnesota this week, a similar coalition of activists stood up demonstrations against another Canadian company named Enbridge Energy, which is replacing a 1960's era pipeline called Line 3, said to be deteriorating and unable to operate at full capacity, with a steel reinforced pipe the same size as KXL's. Also like KXL, the upgraded Line 3 would also pump more than 800,000 barrels a day across thousands of rivers, streams and native lands from the Alberta tar sands to Wisconsin. So the protesters are back at it. Hundreds were arrested during protests this week, even as a helicopter from the federal Border Patrol (unlawfully?) buzzed over them from about 20 feet, kicking up dust and debris on more than 1,000 peaceful demonstrators. They are calling for President Biden to take similar action on Line 3 that both he and Obama took in lifting permits for KXL. The Administration has yet to take a position on Line 3, but protesters are back at it, with some blocking off the entrance to a construction site this week, by parking --- and spending the night chained to --- a boat named "Good Trouble" that they parked in front of one of the Enbridge construction sites. We cover that critical new battle today.
  • These actions to save the environment are for good reason, as we are currently seeing very clearly in the Southwest, which is facing another record "megadrought" right now. Lake Mead --- the nation's largest reservoir, which provides water for agriculture and human consumption to seven states --- is at its lowest level since it was built in the 1930s. Water cutbacks are already in place and likely to become much more severe by August if the lake's level, which sits on the border of Nevada and Arizona continues to drop. More than 86% of AZ is already under "extreme" or "exceptional" drought. Power supplies in the region are also likely to be affected, as Mead supplies water to Hoover Dam, which has already cut back electricity generation due to the low water levels. In California, reservoirs are now at 50% of normal capacity, with mountain snow-pack already gone two months earlier than normal, vegetation moisture at record lows, Summer just beginning and fire season set to begin as early as this month. All of this, thanks in no small part to man-made climate change due to the burning of fossil fuels like the ones that won't being flowing through the KeystoneXL and --- if environmentalists win more battles --- through massive pipelines like Line 3 or Dakota Access. This fight matters. Not only for the future, but for the immediate present, as those of us out West can attest right now.
  • Meanwhile, overseas, President Biden is kicking off his first trip as President, meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson today, after speaking to U.S. troops about the importance of reinforcing democracy over rising autocracy upon his arrival in Europe yesterday. Johnson warmly welcomed Biden as the two leaders today reaffirmed their nations' "special relationship" by renewing the World War II era Atlantic Charter signed by FDR and Winston Churchill.
  • BoJo wasn't the only one to welcome America's new President. A new survey out today from Pew Research Center underscores the support by the publics of 16 economically developed nations who couldn't be happier to see Biden in place rather than Trump, after trust in the U.S. overseas fell to historic lows under the previous President. We cover some of the striking numbers from Pew today, including, for example, the 75% of respondents who express confidence in Biden to "do the right thing regarding world affairs", versus the paltry 17% in the same countries who thought as much about Trump. Overall favorability for the U.S. skyrocketed 23 points since last year, but other numbers from the survey suggest the U.S. still has a long way to go to in restoring their leadership role after damage done to the nation and the world during Trump's failed tenure.
  • Texas' corrupt Attorney General Ken Paxton is facing still more trouble. Sad! The state's top law enforcement official is already facing multiple indictments on felony securities fraud in Texas, even as the FBI is now investigating him for abuse of power, following a complaint to the feds by eight of his own top staffers. Now, as AP reports in an exclusive today, Paxton is also in trouble with the Texas Bar Association, which is investigating a complaint brought after the frivolous lawsuit he filed at the U.S. Supreme Court last year to overturn the Presidential election results in four states won by Biden. That case --- which the state's own solicitor general refused to represent at SCOTUS --- was thrown out by the high court. Now Paxton faces potential disbarment in the Lone Star State, even as he faces a primary challenge from George P. Bush (Jeb's kid) before next year's election.
  • Finally, Desi Doyen has more on both the KeystoneXL victory and Line 3 protests in our latest Green News Report, with still more news on the G7's feeble efforts to support renewable energy last year and the collapse --- and restart --- of Biden's negotiations with Congressional Republicans on his massive and long-overdue infrastructure proposal...

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Guest: 9th generation West Virginian Robyn Kincaid; Also: Keystone XL is over!; COVID vaccines for the world; Biden to reportedly close Gitmo...
By Brad Friedman on 6/9/2021 6:15pm PT  

Yes. We're obsessed of late with Joe Manchin on The BradCast. But that's only because the fate of the entire progressive Biden and Democratic Party agenda is now being blocked by him...which also means the fate of American Democracy and even life on Planet Earth depends on the seemingly inexplicable whims of one obstructionist Democratic Senator from West Virginia. Other than that, no biggie. Why obsess? [Audio link to full show is posted at end of summary.]

Before diving back headlong into that frustration today with someone whose endured it first-hand far longer than many of us, some slightly more encouraging news today, beginning with the rather huge breaking news that broke, literally, as we began today's show.

The Keystone XL Pipeline is dead. Kaput. Over. Done. Yeah, we know you've heard that before, but this time it's the pipeline's owner themselves, TC Energy (formerly TransCanada), conceding that their 13-year dream of a massive 1,200 mile pipeline to ship 830,000 barrels of dirty tar sands oil each day from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Texas for shipment overseas amid catastrophically dangerous global warming due to the burning of fossil fuels is now, officially, cancelled. That, after Joe Biden cancelled the permit granted to the company by Donald Trump. And while we've got some other good-ish news items today, that one will likely prove to be the most expansive and enduring. Finally.

As far as news we'd actually planned to cover today, President Biden will reportedly commit at the G7 in Britain this week to buying some 500 million doses of COVID vaccine to donate to nations who desperately need them, as infection and death rates plummet in the U.S. while soaring in much of the world. The announcement will come as a new, highly transmissible and more dangerous viral variant is overtaking much of the UK and beginning to gain a foothold in the U.S.

The Administration also, according to NBC News today, has begun efforts to permanently close the extra-judicial, extra-constitutional detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in advance of the 20-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that led to then-President George W. Bush opening the shameful Gitmo chapter in the first place. While President Obama, upon taking office, had ordered the facility to be shut down in 2009, Congressional Democrats helped block that effort. Obama did, however, succeed in radically reducing Gitmo's prison population from about 250 to about 40 until Donald Trump stopped the U.S. relocation program. Biden's Administration reportedly hopes to close the facility permanently during his first term.

While Presidents can take certain Executive Actions regarding things like vaccines and Gitmo, acts of Congress are needed for the big stuff. Which bring us --- maddeningly enough --- back to Manchin today. On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's plan to bring up stuff for a vote this month that Manchin supports --- only to see all of it filibustered and blocked by Republicans --- got underway, with the GOP filibuster of the Paycheck Fairness Act on Tuesday. The measure, originally co-sponsored by Manchin and already passed by the House, is aimed at eliminating the appalling gender pay gap between women and men. Manchin announced he was "disappointed" by the floor vote that received support from ZERO Republicans, much less the ten votes that is currently required to overcome obstructionist GOP filibusters in the Senate.

But Manchin has long vowed to oppose the simple majority vote needed to eliminate or even reform the filibuster. He announced as much again last weekend when he also declared his opposition to the Democrats' For the People Act, a massive election and campaign reform bill that, among other things, mandates early voting and no-excuse absentee ballots in all 50 states, ends partisan gerrymandering, and curbs dark money in campaigns. 49 out of 50 Democratic Senators are co-sponsors. Every Republican and Joe Manchin oppose it (even though he co-sponsored the bill in 2019!) Manchin's reason for opposition is, apparently, because no Republicans support it (nor did they in 2019!), even as they are adopting voter suppression measures at the state level all over the country right now.

All of that, amid a massive rightwing effort by dark money groups led by the Koch Network to target Manchin to keep him opposed to both filibuster reform and the For the People Act, while a stunning 79% of West Virginians (including 76% of Republicans in the state!) support the Democrats' sweeping election reform package.

We've been trying of late to figure out Manchin's game and a way to move the country (and planet) forward through it. We've struck out so far. So today we turn to our old friend ROBYN KINCAID (formerly known as Bob Kincaid), a 9th generation West Virginian, host and creator of the progressive Head-On Radio Network, co-founder of the Appalachian Communities Health Emergency Campaign and President of the Coal River Mountain Watch.

As a longtime opponent of deadly mountain top removal coal mining, Kincaid has years of experience in dealing with Manchin beginning during his days as a state official, including as Governor. If anyone has insight and helpful advice on how to deal with Manchin, it's the always colorful Kincaid, who kicks things off by explaining what it is that the rest of the nation may not know, but needs to, in order to understand him, beginning with the contention that also includes Manchin's politico father, that "No Manchin has ever voted for a Democrat whose name wasn't Manchin."

"He is the Queen of the May right now," Kincaid tells me. "Everybody is paying attention to him. He is on the lips of every political observer in the country, and he is, I assure you, basking in it."

But why the intransigence when it comes to taking the action necessary to move litigation forward that he, himself (not to mention his own constituents, in big numbers), actually supports?

"He gets hold of an idea and he hangs onto it like a junkyard dog with a bone," explains Kincaid. "For years and years, when we would talk about mountaintop removal, he would answer by saying 'We have to have balance', for about ten years. Now the word is 'bipartisan.' I don't think he fully understands how 'bipartisan' works. Because if he wants bipartisanship, it's HIS job to lean in and use coercive power and say, 'Listen, y'all can come along, or I break the filibuster.' But I don't think he's as willing to play hardball with the Republicans as he is with somebody like Joe Biden and Democrats because he is more philosophically aligned with the Republicans."

Offering a very generous benefit of the doubt that some of Manchin's institutional concerns about doing away with the filibuster are sincere, Kincaid explains that "West Virginia relies profoundly on things like Medicaid and Medicare, and forms of federal government assistance for a workforce that has been beaten and bedraggled and tormented over the years. ... I think in the back of his mind, he can foresee a future where there's a Republican-controlled Senate with no filibuster where they they can do what they wish. He knows as well as anybody else what the Republican wish-list is in the modern Republican Party of Nitwit Nero [Trump]. That is a world without Social Security, a world without the Affordable Care Act, a world without Medicaid. And that means a West Virginia that is already as...as... [heavy sigh]...as beaten down as we are, that we'll be even more so, and left to perish."

Among the many other mysteries of Manchin on which Kincaid offers insight today:

  • Is he captured by the rightwing Koch Network's dark money?
  • Is there any hope in threatening to primary him (even though he's not up for reelection again until 2024)?
  • Why would he oppose a measure (the For the People Act) THAT HE HAD CO-SPONSORED IN 2019(!) and that is so wildly popular in WV?
  • What does he want and can he be bought off, given that Democrats are looking to spend hundreds of billions right now via Biden's American Jobs and Families Plans?

We also take a few minutes to discuss Kincaid's Appalachian Communities Health Emergency (ACHE) Act, "that has the power to stop mountaintop [coal] removal once and for all". The bill has been reintroduced as H.R. 2073 and Kincaid asks BradCast listeners to "please, pretty please, go to the phone, go to your keyboards, call, send an email to your members of the House of Representatives and say please co-sponsor H.R. 2073, the ACHE Act, because it means the world to West Virginia. It means the world to Appalachia. It literally means a future for us."

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: Windham, NH auditor, Prof. Philip B. Stark of UC Berkeley...
By Brad Friedman on 6/8/2021 7:04pm PT  

In support of his lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him, Donald Trump has been telling anyone who will listen that "thousands and thousands" of ballots have recently been discovered from the 2020 race, including in New Hampshire, where the state's Republican Governor certified his loss to Joe Biden by some 55,000 votes. But something troubling was discovered during a post-election hand-count last November in a small New Hampshire town, revealing that the state's decades-old Diebold optical-scan computer tabulators undercounted some Republican votes and overcounted some for a Democrat on the ballot. Thanks to a real (non-clown show) forensic audit in Windham, NH, which is finally wrapping up, we now know why, as explained in detail on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show is posted at the end of this article.]

On November 3rd, there were four seats up for grabs for State Representative in Windham, NH. There were eight candidates --- four Republicans and four Democrats --- running for those four seats. The top four vote-getters in the contest would win the seats. On Election Night, according to the computer tabulation, the four Republican candidates swept all four slots. One of the Democrats, Kristi St. Laurent, came in 5th by just 24 votes in the small town where some 10,000 votes were cast. So she asked for and received a hand recount about a week later.

The hand-marked paper ballots cast in Windham were tabulated on Election Night, as they are across most of the Granite State, by decades-old optical-scan devices originally manufactured by the now-defunct Diebold Election Systems, Inc., and long programmed and serviced by a company with a shady background named LHS Associates. The intellectual property of the systems themselves is now owned by the private vendor Dominion Voting Systems, which acquired many of Diebold's assets some years ago.

St. Laurent's requested hand-count, about a week after Election Day last November, discovered that the four Republicans in the State Rep's race each should have received another 300 votes or so, while St. Laurent actually was found to have received about 100 fewer votes than she was credited with in the Election Night computer tally.

So, what happened? How could the numbers have been so wrong? The NH state legislature subsequently adopted a measure to allow for a post-election forensic audit to answer those questions. It was a real audit. A professional one. Very much unlike, in almost every way, the long-running "audit" theater clown show still running in Maricopa County (Phoenix), Arizona. This one was run as a fully open and completely transparent public exercise over about three weeks in May, as organized and run by three voting system, cyber-security and post-election auditing experts tapped by the state.

We're joined on today's show by one of those three experts, PHILIP B. STARK, Professor of Statistics and Associate Dean of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also the inventor of the post-election Risk-Limiting Audit (RLA) protocol, regarded as the gold standard for post-election audits.

While the auditors are still wrapping up a few items before issuing their final report, the weeks of fully transparent recounting of ballots and physical audits of the scanners has yielded what Stark --- and the other auditors, including the legendary Finnish cybersecurity expert Harri Hursti and Mark Lindeman of the non-partisan Verified Voting --- regard as the answer to the mystery of what actually happened.

Via painstaking and extraordinarily well-document public experiments, they determined that folds in absentee ballot papers that went right through the oval next to St. Laurent's name resulted in the scanners incorrectly recording those folds as votes in many instances. That means, that if a voter had voted for all four Republicans on the ballot and the fold went through St. Laurent's "target", the systems may have seen that as an overvote in the State Rep's race and, therefore, wouldn't count any of the votes in that contest. Similarly, if the voter hadn't voted for four candidates and the fold went through the Democrats' oval, she might have picked up a vote that she didn't actually deserve.

"We're confident that we've identified the primary contributors to the mistabulation of the votes in the State Representative contest in Windham," Stark told me. "They are, namely, ballots that were folded through vote targets in contests, including in particular, Kristi St. Laurent's vote target in the State Representative contest."

"That, by itself, is not the only thing going on, because in the experiments that we subsequently did with the folded ballots, we found that there was a great deal of variability across machines and their ability to correctly interpret folds through vote targets, folds through ovals," he explains, noting that another problem discovered was dust on the optical eye of some of the very old scanners. "Maintenance does matter, because just using compressed gas to blow the dust out of the reader on the machine that was performing worst made it perform substantially better."

As Stark details, through experimentation, folding ballots in varying ways and by various means, the auditors were able to replicate the problem. "We have a pretty good understanding of how the ballots came to be folded the way they were folded, which was generally not along the score lines that the printer puts on them to guide where they should be folded. If they'd been folded in the right place, this wouldn't have been an issue."

Stark also explains why human eyes --- as in the hand recount last November --- are generally much better than computers at actually determining voter intent, even in normal cases, because scanners are simply not programmed to read certain types of marks made by voters as actual votes.
v
We also discuss the critiques and even threats from some Trump supporters that the auditors have endured from Trump supporters throughout the official audit, despite the auditors extraordinary, landmark efforts at transparency and public oversight, including answering hundreds of questions both at the audit site and via Twitter throughout the process.

"The complaints seem to be largely based either on a misunderstanding --- whether deliberately or not --- on the things we have said and a lack of understanding of the [Diebold] AccuVote OS [systems]; a lack of how New Hampshire runs its elections or understanding of New Hampshire election law; also, people somehow thinking Twitter is a definitive source of information about the audit, rather than the live [audio and video] feed and the New Hampshire Dept. of Justice's website, where we've been posting all of the evidence as we've accumulated it," Stark responds. "There are some people who are definitely accusing us of fraud, lying, of being on George Soros' payroll, of trying to cover something up."

"There are definitely people who think that Mark, Harri and I were hired to cover something up. I don't know what it is we are supposed to be covering up. The idea that we are not motivated to not find malware, if malware is there, is kind of laughable. It would be a career-making thing for us. We'd like nothing more than to find malware if malware is there! But we're not going to pretend it's there if it isn't."

Of course, Hursti himself has already made his career previously by hacking these very same AccuVote systems, back in 2005, as seen in the climactic finale of HBO's Emmy-nominated 2006 documentary Hacking Democracy and its chilling 2020 follow-up, Kill Chain: The Cyber War on America's Elections.

"There was no evidence of malware...And the effect that we've observed is just completely consistent --- every test that I've thought of to throw at it, every thing that we've done --- it really looks like it's the folds. Now, people are saying maybe somebody 'weaponized' the folds and knew exactly how to fold the ballots to take away votes from the Republicans, which is kind of the Wayne's World test: It could happen...and monkeys could fly out of my butt."

Stark also answers questions about how this audit compares to the very very different one ongoing in Maricopa. "The way that they're doing their hand-count is guaranteed to produce an inaccurate count," he charges. "You really need multiplicity and redundancy. You need to reconcile things as they go along. And putting ballots on a Lazy Susan and having them spin around in a hurry is not a way to get an accurate count."

Moreover --- and, of course, this is the only thing the disgraced former President actually cares about --- Stark speaks to whether or not this problem could have possibly affected other races on the ballot, including the Presidential contest.

Also on today's show: A few more thoughts, for now, on Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)'s obstruction of safeguarding democracy in the U.S. Senate, and Desi Doyen with our latest Green News Report with a whole lot of very disturbing news for the climate, and a longtime, genteel British environmentalist who is no longer pulling his punches on what he describes as the "crime" of climate change...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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