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Latest Featured Reports | Wednesday, August 10, 2022
What We Know (& Mostly Don't) About the FBI Search at Mar-a-Lago: 'BradCast' 8/9/22
Also: Late AZ, WA primary results; MI's GOP A.G. nominee facing criminal probe; Federal judges approve release of Trump taxes...
'Green News Report' 8/9/22
  w/ Brad & Desi
GNR Special Coverage: U.S. Senate Democrats pass landmark climate legislation, the first in U.S. history...
Recent GNRs: 8/4/22 - 8/2/22 - Archives...
Pennsylvania's Supreme Court Rejects Yet Another GOP Challenge to Absentee Voting
Ruling is good news for democracy and, perhaps, state Democrats...
Sunday 'Woke' Toons!
Wake up and smell PDiddie's latest collection of the week's best toons!...
GA Dem Seeks to 'Unpack' SCOTUS, Hold 'Ethically Bankrupt' Justices to Account: 'BradCast' 8/4/22
Guest: Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-4) on Court expansion, term limits, more; Also: TN votes...
'Green News Report' 8/4/22
  w/ Brad & Desi
Back-to-back storms reveal U.S. not ready for climate impacts; Climate change increasing humidity; Big biz targets Dem climate bill; PLUS: Nat'l EV charging network almost here...
Recent GNRs: 8/2/22 - 7/28/22 - Archives...
UNconventional Times: The Power of Abortion Rights (and Danger of Election Deniers) on the Ballot: 'BradCast' 8/3/22
Critical lessons (and warnings) from primary results in AZ, KS, MI, MO, WA, OH...
'Green News Report' 8/2/22
Death toll rises in catastrophic KY flooding; Extreme heat, fires sear U.S. West; Big Oil's big profits; PLUS: Manchin-Schumer compromise a game changer for climate?...
Too Little Too Late? Or Not a Moment Too Soon?: 'BradCast' 8/1/22
Can Dems finally pass Schumer-Manchin bill to save the climate (and themselves)?; Also: Biden's 'rebound'; KY's death toll; Tuesday primaries; Callers ring in...
Sunday 'Party of Personal Freedom' Toons
Bringing new meaning to "freedom isn't free" in PDiddie's latest collection of the best toons of this past week...
Leaked: FL Power Co. Secretly Took Over 'News' Site, Ran Fake Candidates, Targeted Critics: 'BradCast' 7/29/22
Guest: Energy and Policy's Alissa Jean Schafer; OAN cooked?; Stewart v. GOP Sens...
Establishment Pressure Haunted Manchin Into Major Deal on Taxes, Healthcare and Climate: 'BradCast' 7/28/22
And Schumer outfoxed McConnell to do it! Also: More signs of UNconventional midterms...
'Green News Report' 7/28/22
Manchin and Schumer reach deal on climate and energy bill; Russia slashes gas to Europe; PLUS: Public pressure leads USPS to quadruple plan for electric delivery trucks...
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: Eric Kramer of Arizonans for Fair Elections; Also: Good news on the economy, unions, COVID and cannabis!; Plus: Annoy a Nazi!...
By Brad Friedman on 4/1/2022 6:54pm PT  

Yes, on today's BradCast, we discuss a new, maddening --- and likely unconstitutional --- voter suppression law signed this week by Arizona's Republican Governor. But, as our guest notes, "Don't worry, we've got this!" We'll see. He's got a plan in response that voters in other swing-states may wish to look at as well. Other than that though, today's show ends your week with nothin' but good news! (Mostly.) [Audio link to full toe-tappin' show is posted below this summary.]

First up, good news on COVID! According to the Dept. of Health and Human Services, hospitalizations are now at their lowest rate since the U.S. began keeping records at the beginning of the pandemic two years ago. Of course, last time hospitalizations where near this low we got slammed by Delta and then Omicron shortly thereafter. So, hey, now's a great time to get a vaccine shot or a booster if you haven't in the past 4 months or so!

Then, more good news on the economy! 431,000 new jobs were added in March, as Americans continue to shake off the pandemic, even amid war in Europe and inflation. Since Joe Biden took office, the economy has added a record 7.9 million jobs. Unemployment is the lowest it's been since before the pandemic and barely higher than the nation has seen in a half-century, as the President did some justifiable crowing about those numbers today. Things would be even better had Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin allowed his Build Back Better bill to pass, given that many more women are needed to fill millions of open jobs, but can't afford the child care (that BBB would have paid for) in order to take them.

But there's still more good news today, for workers and labor unions! Amazon employees in deep red Republican Staten Island, New York voted "yes" to unionize in an historic labor win at the only fulfillment center in New York City! It's the first Amazon facility in the U.S. to do so, but it likely means many others will join them. Another unionization vote at Amazon's fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama remains too close to call for the moment. It's the second such vote held at that plant after the National Labor Relations Board found that Amazon had cheated in the first vote and ordered a re-do.

Speaking of cheating in elections: Republicans. Though it may make your head (and mine) explode, mid-term primaries are beginning to kick off all over the country. The first one, last month in Texas, resulted in tens of thousands of disenfranchised absentee voters whose ballots were rejected thanks to the state GOP's new voter suppression law there.

We had slightly better news this week in Florida. There, a federal judge struck down several provisions of the new voter suppression law adopted last year by the GOP-dominated state legislature and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis (who barely won his initial election back in 2018). U.S. District Judge Mark Walker found that the law unlawfully targeted black voters in violation of both the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act. Most notably, he ordered the state back under the VRA's preclearance regime for the next decade, mandating approval in advance from the federal government for any new election-related laws that may effect minority voters.

Republicans in Arizona, however, have been running a bit behind in their voter suppression. But, on Wednesday this week, the state's Governor Doug Ducey, also facing re-election this year, signed HB 2492 [PDF], even though legislative attorneys in both the state House and Senate found the measure to be likely unconstitutional. In short, it requires state voters to prove they are citizens before they may vote for candidates in state and local elections. But it goes farther than previous such laws in the state. This one could disenfranchise anywhere from 31,000 to nearly 200,000 voters in a state where Democrats won the Presidential election in 2020 by just over 10,000 votes. It would prevent voters who fail to prove their citizenship (or can afford to do so) from voting for either state officials or President. They may still be able to vote for members of Congress, but not during either early voting or via absentee ballot.

We're joined today by ERIC KRAMER, former Chair of the Navajo County Democrats, now Director of the Arizona Deserves Better non-profit coalition to discuss HB 2492 and, more importantly, what he and other voting rights advocates in the state are currently doing to both overturn such measures and prevent even worse ones from being adopted at any time in the future with their new Arizonans for Fair Elections ballot initiative.

We first learned of the effort via DailyKos, where Kramer writes as "EricAZ". Two articles of his there caught our eye in particular. The first, in early March, was headlined "Arizona Right-Wing Goes Batshit Crazy in Attack on Voters (Don’t Worry, We’ve Got This)". The second, a few weeks later, is titled, "The Joy of Soon Beating the U.S. Supreme Court on Several Voting Rights Issues".

Kramer explains how the AZ Fair Elections initiative, targeted for inclusion on the ballot this November, would work to prevent the kind of voter suppression we have been seeing from the increasingly extremist Republican radicals who now control the AZ state legislature. It would roll back laws like HB 2492 and prevent similarly disenfranchising laws from being adopted in an election year. It would also repeal a number of other laws recently adopted by state Republicans which target minority voters (Native Americans in particular), while instituting proactive measures to increase voter turnout, rather than block it, as the GOP is now working so hard to do there and elsewhere.

"In addition to these places where we're kind of playing defense against what they've done to voters in the past, there are some where we are playing offense," Kramer explains in detailing the voter referendum. "We have automatic voter registration. We have Election Day registration. We expand the periods for early voting. And we do quite a lot to help Native American voters and especially disabled voters --- we give more opportunities to vote. So it is a very good initiative."

Can his group, which is currently in the signature gathering process, get the measure onto the ballot in November? And, if so, can they get it passed? "We are going to get it done," he tells me confidently. "We need 243,000 signatures [by July 7] to get on the ballot. We're currently collecting at more than twice the rate we need. Fundraising has gone well. People from all over the country are supporting this. We will get it done."

You can get more information on the initiative --- in case you'd like to support it or consider something similar in your own state --- at the website for the Arizonans for Fair Elections initiative (azfe.org).

Finally, we close with even more good news and a song!

Our final good news for the day is about cannabis. U.S. House Democrats, with almost zero help from Republicans, adopted a measure today to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, though it will still have to overcome a likely GOP filibuster in the Senate. That, despite the American public's overwhelming support not just for decriminalizing cannabis, but for fully legalizing it once and for all. Not sure why the GOP would be dumb enough to take a pass on shooting the measure down again, as they did back in 2020 when they held the majority in the upper chamber, but explaining Republican stupidity is not my strong suit.

But to keep you happy and singing well into the weekend, we close with a new ditty from Canadian comedian and "The Internet's Favourite Dad* (*unproven)", according to his Twitter profile, Stewart Reynolds, who sings that "it's nice to be disliked!"...So "annoy a Nazi" today!...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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The President takes on Big Oil, 'Putin's price hike' at the pump; DeSantis' new voting law struck down, found unconstitutional, racially motivated...
By Brad Friedman on 3/31/2022 6:53pm PT  

We cover two big stories in depth on today's BradCast. One out of the White House which effects the world. The other out of Florida, which effects the rest of the nation...or, at least, it should. [Audio link to full show follows below this summary.]

President Biden, on Thursday, announced that he is releasing one million barrels of oil, per day, for the next 180 days, from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve in hopes of lowering gas prices for Americans in response to what he described as the "Putin Price Hike".

In addition to the unprecedented release from the Reserve, Biden called out Big Oil companies for keeping prices high (previously known as war profiteering) as they see record profits and pad the pockets of investors and executives, even as Putin's war inflates prices on global energy markets. He also called on Congress to pass a "Use it or Lose it" law that would charge a fee to oil and gas producers who are sitting on as many as 9,000 unused drilling permits on more than a million acres of land, as prices rise for Americans at the pump.

At the same time, Biden announced his plan to invoke the Defense Production Act to encourage American production of minerals that are needed for electric vehicle battery production.

We share the President's remarks today at the White House and Desi Doyen helps us unpack what it all means --- for gas prices and for our climate crisis.

Next, the big news out of Florida. A federal judge on Thursday struck down parts of a new state law that makes voting much harder for many in the Sunshine State, finding it unconstitutional and racially motivated. Moreover, he invoked a key provision of the Voting Rights Act to prevent more such measures for the next ten years.

FL's Senate Bill 90 was adopted by the state's Republican legislature last year in the wake of Donald Trump's evidence free claims about fraud in the 2020 election. That, despite Florida's claims that the election was well run and free of fraud or other problems. The new law limits the use of drop boxes; adds more ID requirements for those requesting absentee ballots; restricts who may collect and drop off ballots; further restricts third-party voter registration; and makes it a crime to give voters food or water to voters as they wait in line to cast their ballot, among other restrictions challenged by the League of Women Voters of Florida and other voting rights advocates.

In his 288-page order [PDF], U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker slammed parts of the measure as racially motivated and little more than a law enacted "to improve the Republican Party's electoral prospects." His ruling quotes Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. throughout, while asserting that plaintiffs "allege that SB 90 runs roughshod over the right to vote, unnecessarily making voting harder for all eligible Floridians, unduly burdening disabled voters, and intentionally targeting minority voters --- all to improve the electoral prospects of the party in power...Having reviewed all the evidence, this Court finds that, for the most part, Plaintiffs are right."

But the most noteworthy element of this story is that Judge Walker also invoked a little used provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act to "bail-in" the state of Florida to the VRA's preclearance requirement for the next 10 years. That provision, used against repeat violators of the VRA, will force the state to obtain approval from the U.S. Dept. of Justice or a three-judge federal panel before new voting laws that may have a racially disparate effect on voters can be implemented.

As UC-Irvine election law expert Rick Hasen described the ruling as "quite a blockbuster" and a "a huge deal." He told the New York Times, "This is an opinion that full throatedly reads the Voting Rights Act in the expansive way that Congress intended it to be read, and essentially dares the higher courts to overrule it." He also believes that "conservative 11th Circuit or the Supreme Court" is likely to do so, even though "the district court's analysis is probably right."

Florida Republicans are furious. Gov. Ron DeSantis calls the ruling "performative partisanship". The State's Republican Senate President calls it "highly unprofessional, inaccurate, and unbecoming of an officer of the court." That, as the League of Women Voters celebrated the ruling against "an anti-voter measure that raised barriers to voting with specific impacts on elderly voters, voters with disabilities, students, and communities of color."

"State legislatures everywhere should recognize that anti-voter laws like SB 90 violate the fundamental rights of their constituents," said the LWV's Chief Counsel, adding: "We call on legislatures around the country to stop making laws that impede the rights of the people they are elected to protect and serve."

Naturally, Florida Republicans say they intend to appeal, and many think that our right-leaning federal appeals courts and/or our corrupt U.S. Supreme Court will overturn Judge Walker's landmark ruling. For now, however, it's a critical one that should be echoed against many of the intentionally discriminatory laws that have been adopted by GOP-controlled states over the past year.

We explain what it all means and why it matters on today's program.

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us again for our latest Green News Report, recorded today before Biden's big White House announcement (though we anticipated it). We also detail Europe prepares for energy shortages, Poland's decision to ban Russian energy imports and much more, including a major milestone for solar power!...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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While we post The BradCast here every day, and you can hear it across all of our great affiliate stations and websites, to automagically get new episodes as soon as they're available sent right to your computer or personal device, subscribe for free at iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn or our native RSS feed!
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Guest: Legal journalist Mark Joseph Stern of Slate; Also: Major new study confirms Ivermectin ineffective as COVID treatment...
By Brad Friedman on 3/30/2022 7:13pm PT  

On today's BradCast, one of our favorite guests is back to explain why the wildly corrupt Thomases, as horrible as they are, may be one of the least of our concerns when it comes to what the rest of the GOP's wildly corrupt --- not to mention stolen and packed --- U.S. Supreme Court may now be moving toward.[Audio link to full, must-listen show is posted below.]

First up, however, a major new, peer-reviewed, double-blind study released in full today, finds what many have been trying to make clear for quite some time: There is no legitimate evidence that the anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin, most commonly used to de-worm horses, has any positive effect as a treatment for COVID.

In fact, as one part of the huge new Brazilian study found, placebo pills were actually more effective than Ivermectin! Dr. Andrew Hill, a virologist at the University of Liverpool in England, whose early analysis (since retracted) of several smaller studies (at least one of which appears to have been fraudulent) was frequently cited for evidence of the drug's effectiveness, appears now to concur that the new Brazilian study pretty much removes all doubt. Ivermectin is of no use in treating COVID. We now have a pretty large body of evidence demonstrating that is true no matter what clownish TV doctors and profiteers and misinformation specialists on Fox "News" or Joe Rogan's podcast have to say about it.

That said, there are safe and effective (and free) ways to avoid the worst effects of COVID, which peer-reviewed studies have confirmed. They include the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. Actual professional virologists, epidemiologists and both the CDC and FDA strongly recommend them, as do we. Earlier this week the FDA authorized a second booster shot for anyone over 50 who hasn't received a shot in the past four months. Please get one and let's end this goddamn pandemic once and for all. Thanks.

On to our main topic(s) today, as we're joined by the always great, always illuminating, and pretty much always-right-about-everything MARK JOSEPH STERN, legal journalist from Slate.com who smartly covers the law, the court system, the U.S. Supreme Court, election law, LGBTQ issues and much more.

We've got just a few things to discuss with Stern today, including the ridiculous Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings last week for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Joe Biden's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, where she would be its first black female Justice. On Wednesday, it was actually news for some reason that one Senate Republican has announced she will vote for Jackson's confirmation. But, beyond the childish stupidity of Republican Senators on the Judiciary Committee last week falsely suggesting that Jackson is somehow in favor of child porn and terrorists, there was something else far more disturbing that emerged from the GOP questioning of Biden's highly qualified nominee.

In short: Republicans aren't just targeting Roe v. Wade's well-established right to an abortion (which the Supreme Court is very likely to overturn within the next few months), but they actually appear to be gunning to reverse a whole bunch of landmark, privacy-related rights, including Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark 2015 ruling establishing a Constitutional right to same sex marriage equality. But that's not all. Also now in their sites for reversal are Griswold v. Connecticut (1965, establishing the right for married couples to buy and use contraceptives) and, yes, even Loving v. Virginia (1967's landmark civil rights decision establishing the right to interracial marriage)!

Think these concerns are exaggerated? That Republicans aren't actually gunning for those federal rights as well? Tune in and find out if you're wrong.

Also, as we discuss, Stern now believes it is unlikely that Republicans will ever vote to confirm another Supreme Court Justice nominated by a Democratic President if they regain majority control of the Senate. He further believes they will stop confirming the President's nominees for any judgeship on the federal bench.

"It is very clear now that Republicans begin from the position that Democratic Presidents have no authority and no right to appoint Supreme Court Justices, or to appoint lower court judges. This is following a longstanding pattern in the Senate of Republicans almost uniformly --- or all uniformly --- voting against nominees to the lower court, including many who are super-qualified and uncontroversial," Stern observes. "We have swung back and forth between close confirmation votes and big overwhelming lopsided confirmation votes, but I fear that this is how it will be forevermore."

While those issues would be more than enough to fill an entire interview, it's not even half of what we cover with Stern today, including his thoughts on the wildly corrupt longtime rightwing activist Ginni Thomas and her husband, the wildly corrupt longtime rightwing activist Justice Clarence Thomas. The conversation follows on last week's explosive revelations that Ginni was relentlessly texting Donald Trump's Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in November of 2020, urging him to fight to reverse the results of Joe Biden's election victory, in hopes of overturning American democracy itself.

Given that Clarence was the only vote on the High Court in favor of blocking subpoenaed documents from the Trump White House, which might have included emails and text from Ginni, from being turned over by the National Archives to the U.S. House January 6 Committee, Stern believes this matter is now like nothing we have ever seen at SCOTUS.

"This may feel like the latest in a long line of atrocious conflicts of interest and injustices that Clarence and Ginni Thomas have inflicted on the country, but it is materially different, because we have never before seen a case where Clarence Thomas' vote so directly implicates his wife's work," Stern argues. After I note another such case --- where Ginni received hundreds of thousands of dollars in dark money for her so-called non-partisan non-profits following Clarence's vote in the 2010 Citizens United case (after that very same group, Citizens United, had quietly spent hundreds of thousands to help push through Clarence's controversial confirmation in 1991!), Stern notes that it "looks to the world, quite reasonably, like a husband trying to shield his wife from legal scrutiny. I think that is a huge leap forward in this story. This is different in kind, not just degree." He adds: "I think it's helpful to draw this distinction between votes that benefit a spouse and votes that shield them from a criminal probe."

So what should be done about the Thomases? Tune in for Stern's thoughts (and mine!) for a very lively conversation on that.

But wait, there's more! You may have heard about last week's outrageous "shadow docket" decision by the Court that put on hold a ruling by Wisconsin's Supreme Court, including the opinion written by one of its leading conservative justices, finding that Democratic Governor Tony Evers' new map for state legislative seats in the Badger State should be used in this year's redistricting, following the 2020 Census. The GOP's corrupt SCOTUS, however, feels otherwise, even though Evers' map was closer to the state's previous (and wildly gerrymandered) one than the map pushed by the state's far-right gerrymandered state legislature. To make the matter even more absurd, the High Court completely ignored its own entirely made up and opportunistically used "Purcell Principle", which is supposedly meant to prevent last minutes changes to laws that might throw elections into chaos. In this case, since Wisconsin's Supreme Court and Democratic Governor both agreed that a new black majority district was needed in Milwaukee, the rightwingers on SCOTUS decided they'd never heard of Purcell or, apparently, the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

If you're flummoxed about all of this based on the above explanation, you're not alone. Tune in, as Stern tries, as usual, to help us make sense of the senselessness now coming out of a U.S. Supreme Court that is on the verge of losing whatever shred of legitimacy it may have had left at this point...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: Philly Inquirer's Will Bunch on the corrupt Thomases, criminal Trump, missing 1/6 phone logs, and our never-ending quest for account-ability; Also: Smith apologizes to Rock; FDA okays new booster shots...
By Brad Friedman on 3/29/2022 6:51pm PT  

As usual, on today's BradCast, there is more continuing Trump corruption news than we can possibly keep up with. But don't blame us for trying. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

First up, however, a bit of news on the Omicron sub-variant BA.2, which has now become the dominant variant in the U.S. The FDA announced today that it has approved second Pfizer and Moderna boosters for everyone 50 years of age and over who received their last shot at least four months ago. Also, Will Smith apologized on Instagram to Chris Rock for assaulting him at the Oscars. A day late, but there ya go.

Then, we try to catch up with some of the latest Trump corruption/accountability news and some that we've fallen behind on, with an assist from longtime Philadelphia Inquirer columnist WILL BUNCH, who has been in a bit of a funk over the mountain of evidence of corruption on the Right and the lack of accountability for it.

Among the stories he and I discuss today...

  • The news of the longtime prosecutors who recently resigned from the probe of Trump's years-long bank, tax and insurance fraud felonies after the new Manhattan D.A., Alvin Bragg, took over the investigation and tanked it. As revealed last week, one of the disappointed lead prosecutors told Bragg in his resignation letter last month that Trump was "guilty of numerous felony violations, that dropping the probe was "a grave failure of justice" and that "the team that has been investigating Mr. Trump harbors no doubt about whether he committed crimes - he did."
  • The insane, conspiracy-theory laden text messages sent in November 2020 by longtime rightwing activist Ginni Thomas --- wife of longtime rightwing Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas --- to Trump's then Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, encouraging him to fight to steal the 2020 election. And the difficulty (at least by Democrats) of bringing accountability for our corrupted Court and its "giant legitimacy crisis".
  • The seven and half hour gap in the Trump White House call logs from January 6th, 2021, as reported today by the Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, showing no record of Trump calls during the insurrection he incited at the U.S. Capitol from 11:17am that day until 6:54pm that night, even though the U.S. House Committee investigating the insurrection has confirmed a number of phone conversations that occurred with Trump that day.

"There seems to be no way or no will to hold our staggeringly corrupt leaders accountable --- whether it's Trump defrauding the banks or plotting an attempted coup from the Oval Office, or a Supreme Court justice ruling on his wife's bat-guano crazy political crusade," Bunch lamented in his column over the weekend. "I'm in a total funk over the state of the union."

Today he tells me, "We have this situation where there are a lot of people in the body politic saying look, the evidence is overwhelming that the 45th President of the United States was a criminal, and yet, the handful of people who are actually in the most key positions for possibly doing something about it won't go there, apparently." While he recognizes that some, such as our friend Marcy Wheeler of Emptywheel, believe Attorney Gernal Merrick Garland actually is working his way up the food chain toward Trump, he remains dubious.

"Common sense is telling me that, given what's at stake, this is taking too long," he argues. "While this hangs out there, you've got all of these state legislatures enacting laws to make it possible to pull off a coup in 2024. Maybe putting a few of these guys on trial and sending a few of them up the river, maybe that would change the dynamic a bit in the country."

Bunch does put stock in the House J6 Committee's work and looks forward to Watergate-like hearings in the coming months which might change the current trajectory. But, in the meantime, he remains concerned about the ability of key institutions, like our corrupted SCOTUS, to maintain any legitimacy.

"A healthy democracy would have a healthy Supreme Court. But it's a very reform-proof operation. Only one Supreme Court Justice has been impeached in U.S. history," he notes. "They don't have any particular code of ethics, even when it comes to recusing themselves on cases like this Clarence Thomas situation. They're supposed to use their best judgment, and we kind of have to hope for the best."

"For a long time there has been this simmering general sense that there are two systems. There's not one system of justice in this country. That certain privileged people at the top, it's not just politicians, it's wealthy people, it's high-profile people...Here's New York City with six cops ganging up on somebody who jumps a subway turnstile because they didn't pay the $2.50 fare because they probably couldn't afford it. There's a sense of anger about that, and I think it ties in to how people feel about Trump or Ginni Thomas, that it's all of one piece. And I think that is just causing a broader lack of trust in this country."

But, Bunch also insists that he remains "an optimist," is hopeful things can still change and that we may soon begin to see accountability. "That's the January 6 Committee. Once they get their case out there, the public demand for [accountability] might peak. And for that, we can only hope."

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, with news on Europe weaning itself from Russian fossil fuels and, speaking of a lack of accountability, new reporting on how corrupt Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has, for years now, used his public office for massive personal financial gain...

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Federal Judge finds Trump 'more likely than not' committed felonies in trying to steal 2020 election; Ginni Thomas to be called by House J6 Comm.; Callers ring in on Will Smith's Oscars assault of Chris Rock...
By Brad Friedman on 3/28/2022 6:43pm PT  

Given how many folks saw what happened at the Oscar's on Sunday night, today's BradCast summary needn't be very detailed on that point, I suspect. The second half of our program today is filled with our own thoughts and those of callers, on the many fascinating angles on why Will Smith's assault of Chris Rock on live TV was both so traumatizing to many and so very wrong. (Though not all of our callers agree!) [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

First, before we get there, a bit of somewhat satisfying news, for the moment, from a federal judge in California. It comes in the case of Rightwing Trump attorney John Eastman, who has filed a lawsuit to try and withhold documents he describes as attorney-client privileged from the House Select Committee investigating the January 6, 2021 insurrection. The ruling is the first by a federal judge to hold that "based on the evidence", both Donald Trump (and Eastman) "more likely than not" committed federal felonies in their attempt to steal the 2020 election.

Judge David Carter, a Bill Clinton appointee, declared [PDF] the evidence suggests both men "corruptly attempted" to obstruct the work of Congress on January 6, 2021, and conspired to defraud the United States in the bargain. "The illegality of the plan was obvious," writes Carter, ordering Eastman to turn over about 100 documents to the House Committee. "Our nation was founded on the peaceful transition of power, epitomized by George Washington laying down his sword to make way for democratic elections. Ignoring this history, President Trump vigorously campaigned for the vice president to single-handedly determine the results of the 2020 election.”

"Every American --- and certainly the President of the United States --- knows that in a democracy, leaders are elected, not installed" Carter continued. "If the country does not commit to investigating and pursuing accountability for those responsible, the Court fears January 6 will repeat itself."

Of particularly note, since some prosecutors have suggested that it would be difficult to win a conviction against the former President, since he might argue he didn't understand he was committing various crimes, Carter wrote: "President Trump and Dr. Eastman justified the plan with allegations of election fraud, but President Trump likely knew the justification was baseless, and therefore that the entire plan was unlawful." [Emphasis added.]

Eastman, of course, may try to appeal the ruling all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where one of the most corrupt jurists to ever sit on the formerly esteemed body, Justice Clarence Thomas, still sits. But the good(ish) news on that front, for now, is that the House J6 Committee reportedly intends to ask his equally corrupt wife Ginni, a longtime, far-right activist and, apparently, conspiracy theorist, to sit for an interview before the panel.

That invitation (not yet a subpoena, according to reporting suggesting the Committee's lead Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney opposes issuing one to her), follows the stunning news last week of more than two dozen text messages exchanged by Ginni with Trump's then Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in November of 2020, encouraging him to keep fighting to reverse the election (to steal it!) and overturn what Ginni cluelessly described in one of her insane notes as "the greatest heist in American history."

She also mentioned discussing the matter with an unnamed "best friend". The Thomases have been known to refer to each other as "best friends". Democrats are now calling on Thomas to recuse himself, due to the obvious conflicts of interest, from any cases having anything to do with the 2020 election. But we believe Dems need to go much farther than that (and I hope to discuss that in more detail soon.)

Finally then, it's on to the slap seen and heard around the world at Sunday's Academy Awards. The one that kept me up until 4am for reasons that I had difficulty understanding. We talk it through today with a bunch of callers, most of whom condemn Smith for what he did (as do we), though at least one caller does not. Then again, he also thinks the entire thing was "staged" and thought it appropriate to call me "Beta Boy"(?) for some reason. That quite amusing and, of course, very persuasive!

I suspect you'll enjoy today's BradCast, even if it's a bit more pop culture-oriented than usual! But there's a reason (perhaps several) that Smith's assault of Rock was so traumatizing for many, going beyond mere pop culture, as we discuss as well. Besides that, we can all use a bit of a break every now and again with a "scandal" that doesn't touch on corruption, war, nuclear terror, the rise of autocracy and the persistent undermining of the U.S. Constitution --- not to mention the destruction of Planet Earth...

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Guest: Amy Slipowitz of Freedom House; Also: Keeping up with the wildly corrupt Clarence and Ginni Thomas; Some good news for EVs in the U.S....
By Brad Friedman on 3/25/2022 7:08pm PT  

I don't think "freedom" means what many on the Right in this country seem to think it means. Our guest on The BradCast today, an expert in such things, seems to agree. [Audio link to full show follows below this summary.]

First up, Lord Manchin has spoken! We'll soon learn if Lady Sinema agrees. But, for now at least, West Virginia's Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is not taking the bait from Republicans this time around. He says he will be be voting in favor of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Joe Biden's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, after a week in which she was flogged by all sorts of stuff and nonsense from an increasingly ridiculous, pathetic and extreme Republican caucus in the U.S. Senate. We don't yet know if the other obstructionist Democratic Senator, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, agrees, but if so --- and presuming all 50 Democratic Senators stay healthy between now and the time they hold a vote to confirm Judge Jackson --- we should have our first black female Supreme Court Justice on the High Court very soon.

But, speaking of both corruption and the Supreme Court, its longest-serving and arguably most corrupt Justice (though there's much competition here), Clarence Thomas has reportedly been discharged from the hospital after a week of treatment for a still unspecified "infection". After waiting two days to report that he'd been admitted in the first place last Friday, the Court said on Sunday that the 73-year old Thomas would be out of the hospital after receiving intravenous antibiotics for his "flu-like symptoms" by Tuesday. But after Wednesday and Thursday happened without any updates on his condition or whereabouts, we are told he was finally released on Friday, though no more information was provided on either his condition or his ailment.

That news comes a day after his similarly corrupt, far-right activist wife Ginni Thomas made headlines again on Thursday, when news of a series of insane text messages she sent to then White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows was made public on Thursday afternoon. The messages Ginni sent to Meadows in November of 2020 included loony conspiracy theories claiming the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and instructed Meadows to fight to overturn the results finding that Joe Biden had won.

And all of that was going on even as Ginni's husband Clarence was voting (thankfully) in the minority on the Court in favor of Trump's various dumb challenges to the results of the election he lost, and for attempts to block things like lawful Congressional subpoenas, which would include Ginni's messages to Meadows, from being shared with the U.S. House Select Committee investigating the January 6th 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Of course, Clarence, who has been trying to hide both his and his wife's corruption for decades now, never recused himself from any of those cases, despite the outrageous conflicts of interest caused by his far-right activist wife. Luckily for them both, they are Republicans. So his corruption on the bench will likely be allowed to continue.

But, It is that sort of corruption and much more from the unapologetic Rightwing in this country --- as opposed to a lack of "freedom" to go maskless during the worst pandemic in a century --- that has helped precipitate the United States' fall in the annual Freedom House ranking on the condition of political rights and civil liberties in nations across the globe.

The non-partisan group's 2022 report is titled "The Global Expansion of Authoritarian Rule." It follows on last year's, titled "Democracy Under Siege," which we discussed at the time of its release on this show with one of its co-authors. In both, the U.S. no longer even cracks the top 50 most "Free" countries anymore, based on the 25 indicators measured by the group of international experts who work with Freedom House, which, founded in 1941, describes itself as "the oldest American organization devoted to the support and defense of democracy around the world."

After 16 consecutive years now of what Freedom House warns to be a "decline in global freedom," in which democracies are becoming less democratic and authoritarianism continues to rise across the globe, the U.S. now ranks at about 63rd on the list. It's tied with nations like South Korea, Romania and Panama, and and comes in just behind nations like Argentina, Mongolia, Croatia and Latvia on their Freedom House's index. We are now far behind Slovenia and the Czech Republic and, according to this year's report, have nowhere near the Freedoms available in nations such as Taiwan, Estonia or Chile, much less Australia, Switzerland, Japan, Uruguay, the Netherlands, Canada and New Zealand. For the record, the nations tied for the most "Free" in the world: Norway, Finland and Sweden.

Our guest today is AMY SLIPOWITZ, Freedom House Research Manager and co-author of their flagship annual report. Our conversation includes the methodologies used in compiling the group's findings and how they define what "freedom" actually is. "It's pretty simple," she explains. "To us, freedom means democracy, a governing system based on the will and consent of the governed. It has institutions that are accountable to all citizens. These include things like an independent judiciary, free media, and strong civil society. And ultimately, a democracy is the best system for ensuring that everyone's human rights are respected, no matter who they voted for."

What are the key differences between this year's reports and last year's? "The main driver that we found for the decline in 2021 was that autocrats are increasingly cooperating and supporting each other in their attacks on democratic norms and institutions," Slipowitz asserts. "And with this, authoritarians have made really enormous gains in the international system. So they've been able to use that influence to promote autocracy as a viable alternative to democracy. The cooperation isn't based on any unifying ideology, or even friendship or affinity among authoritarians, but on a single shared interest, which is to stay in power by any means necessary."

"A key part of this is trying to transform the international system, where the rules-based international order no longer applies," she adds. "So that's where you see authoritarian regimes causing conflict and other really egregious abuses. We've seen this manifest with things like more military coups, more elections with pre-determined outcomes, power grabs. To give just a couple of examples, military coups happened in five countries this year. This was more common in 2021 than in any year of the past decade."

Among the related issues discussed with Slipowitz: What are the greatest factors in the slow decline of freedom and democracy across the globe over the past 15 years and the sudden plunge in freedom seen in 2020? Why is the U.S. now ranked so low on the Freedom House index, near the bottom of its index of "Free" nations? How much of a factor was the January 6th insurrection last year and new restrictions on voting in the U.S. in their determination? Does the rest of the world still consider the U.S. to be a "beacon of freedom" worth following and emulating? How do mask and vaccine mandates amid the COVID pandemic, dramatically cited by many on the Right as the death of personal freedom, play into this year's ratings? How about the banning of books and the teaching of subjects such as systemic racism and sexuality? And, have we seen a similar years-long decline in global democracy and rise of authoritarianism at any other time in recent history?

"It's much easier to dismantle democratic systems than it is to build them back up," Slipowitz warns. "For the U.S. to recover from this 11-point decline over ten years, it's really important that the more structural issues be strengthened and fixed." All of that and much more during our enlightening --- and occasionally chilling --- conversation.

Finally today, some quick coverage of several good(ish) news stories we had hoped to cover yesterday, but had to dump at the last minute, thanks to the breaking news of the wildly corrupt Thomas clan. Among those stories: the rise in gas prices due to Big Oil profiteering and Russia's war in Ukraine is leading to a huge increase among American car buyers interest in battery-powered electric vehicles and hybrids; Emerging evidence that the Biden Administration may considering use of the Defense Production Act to build electric heat pumps here in the U.S. to help replace some 75 million oil and gas furnaces in Europe, currently dependent on Russian gas (as we discussed recently with climate journalist and activist Bill McKibben); And a doubling of the number of battery-powered electric delivery trucks being ordered by the U.S. Postal Service and its corrupt Postmaster, Louis DeJoy. (That still only amounts to a bare one-fifth of the new trucks being ordered at the moment to replace the aging, gas-guzzling USPS fleet...but we're still working on it!)

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Lowest jobless numbers since 1969; MTG faces ballot disqualification in GA; Trump dumps Brooks, Brooks turns on seditionist Trump; Ginni Thomas texted Meadows to steal 2020; And, again, where is Clarence?
By Brad Friedman on 3/24/2022 6:57pm PT  

There's plenty of bad news out there. But on today's BradCast, we've got plenty of good news amid the bad...some of which is interrupted by breaking, bizarre, though hardly surprising news (at least when it comes to the corrupt Clarence and Ginni Thomas!) [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

Almost all of these stories deserve more attention than they've been getting. But, because they tend to amount to good news and/or news that may help Dems and/or hurt Republicans, you haven't heard as much about them as you should from corporate media outlets where bad news leads or on social media, where rightwing outrage is monetized and weaponized. Among our many stories today...

  • According to the Commerce Dept., via Reuters, weekly jobless claims last week hit their lowest level since 1969! Seriously. But who knew? Do you think you might have heard more about that if Trump was President instead of Biden? While stories about inflation tend to dominate headlines, stories about Joe Biden's economy --- firing on all pistons, even amid both inflation and war in Europe --- quickly disappear off the front pages (if they showed up there in the first place.) Little wonder the President's approval ratings remain low, despite a booming economy and huge majorities of Americans (of all parties) supporting his response to Russia's war on Ukraine.
  • Far-right Congressional loon Marjorie Taylor Greene's eligibility to run for re-election is being officially contested today by Georgia voters and the Constitutional law experts at Free Speech for People (FSFP). The non-partisan group previously filed a separate challenge against the Constitutional eligibility of North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn to run in 2022 on the same basis. Greene, like Cawthorn, is accused of violating Section 3 of the 14th Amendment which bars those who have taken a federal oath to defend the Constitution from running again if they have subsequently "shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof." FSFP cites Greene's participation in the January 6, 2021 insurrection, including her pre-Jan 6 video-taped message urging supporters to block the peaceful transfer of power after Biden's 2020 Electoral College victory ("You can't allow it to just transfer power 'peacefully,'") and her charge that Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were "guilty of treason", which she described as "a crime punishable by death". That, before her supporters went on to attack the U.S. Capitol to block the peaceful transfer of power while calling for death of Pelosi. Under Georgia law, MTG will now have the burden of proving she isn't an insurrectionist, and FSFP will be able to depose her under oath in the process. Moreover, FSFP Co-Founder and President John Bonifaz tells The BRAD BLOG today: "There will be more such challenges to be filed this year."
  • Speaking of insurrectionists, one of Trump's favorite ones just got dumped by him. Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, running to win the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in the state, was unendorsed by Trump on Wednesday. Brooks, a top "Stop the Stealer", spoke at Trump's January 6th Insurrection Day rally near the White House. But, after urging the MAGA mob last year to turn their disappointment about 2020 into efforts to win in 2022 and 2024, Trump pretended he didn't like Brooks anymore and unendorsed him yesterday. The real reason he dumped him, of course, is because Brooks is currently running third in the GOP primary and Trump doesn't want to be seen as backing yet another loser. But in response to getting dumped, Brooks put out an extraordinary statement last night claiming Trump asked him to "rescind the 2020 elections, immediately remove Joe Biden from the White House, immediately put President Trump back in the White House, and hold a new special election for the presidency." Brooks stood by the claim during a local TV interview last night, saying that Trump asked him repeatedly to remove Biden and restore Trump, even recently. TPM's Josh Marshall describes it as "definitional sedition."
  • Then, as we did yesterday, we have to ask again: Where is Clarence Thomas? After being admitted to the hospital last Friday with an "infection" and "flu-like symptoms", the Supreme Court finally disclosed the hospitalization of the 73-year old Justice on Sunday, announcing "his symptoms are abating" after intravenous antibiotic treatment and that he'll be released "in a day or two". The Court has had no update since Sunday. Today, four days later, The Hill reports a friend says Thomas is "resting" and "going to be just fine", but won't disclose whether he's "resting" in the hospital or at home, for some reason. Why not? We discuss.
  • And, speaking of the apparently ailing and clearly corrupt Clarence Thomas, his far-right activist wife Ginni Thomas --- according to breaking news this afternoon from Bob Woodward and Robert Costa at Washington Post --- sent dozens of insane text messages to then White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, encouraging him to somehow steal the 2020 election in November of that year. The Thomases have long been corrupt, but this incident may take the cake. She was encouraging the Trump White House to find ways to overturn the results of a Presidential election while her husband was often the lone vote at SCOTUS in favor of absurd MAGA lawsuits challenging the election. He even voted in favor of challenges regarding the January 6 House Select Committee's subpoenas. Ya know, subpoenas that resulted in Meadows turning over text messages from his wife Ginni Thomas! This is a remarkable amount of corruption inside of corruption inside of corruption. Is it finally time to impeach Clarence Thomas? (If he is ever released from the hospital, in any event.)
  • Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, in which --- aside from more climate-fueled disasters in Texas and Louisiana, and nuclear concerns rising at Chernobyl --- she manages to find a whole bunch of surprising silver linings in the response to Putin's war on Ukraine, which is resulting in Europe speeding up their move away from fossil fuels...

If the news of late has ya down, today's show may offer a brief respite. You're welcome! (Yeah, we needed it too!)

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Guest: Prof. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of Yale School of Management; Also: More climate-fueled disasters in LA, TX; And, where is Clarence Thomas?...
By Brad Friedman on 3/23/2022 6:47pm PT  

Today on The BradCast: If you might otherwise expect a Senior Associate Dean at Yale University's School of Business Management to be a stodgy, rightwing, so-called pro-business conservative, think again. The one joining us today, naming and shaming major international corporations for continuing to do business with Russia even after their barbaric, nearly month-long destruction of Ukraine, is anything but. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

But first up today, very quickly, what you need to know about the deadly tornado swarm that slammed Louisiana and Texas overnight. It's just the latest in an increasingly long and violent string of climate change-fueled disasters slamming both states. Desi Doyen explains what climate scientists are learning about changes in tornadic weather as our climate crisis worsens in places like her old home state of Texas which, in recent years, has faced one such costly and deadly disaster after another (as the Republicans who control the state pretend fossil fuels have nothing to do with it.) From hurricanes to flooding to cold snaps that knock out power to the recent drought and wild fires which, at least last night's storms helped, in part, to have quelled a bit for now.

Next: Where is Clarence Thomas? The wildly corrupt U.S. Supreme Court Justice was admitted to the hospital last Friday, though the Court didn't announce it until Sunday, when their statement said he was being treated with intravenous antibiotics for an "infection" and "flu-like symptoms." The Court said on Sunday that the 73-year old Thomas would be out of the hospital by Monday or Tuesday. But, as of Wednesday, the Court had no comment on his whereabouts or his condition. Hmm...That, as Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson faced another ridiculous day of childish questioning from Republicans in her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings to replace Justice Stephen Breyer on the High Court.

Then, we're joined by Yale School of Management's Senior Associate Dean and Professor of Management Practice JEFFREY SONNENFELD for a very lively discussion of the more than 450 American and international corporations that have withdrawn partially or fully from Russia, and the smaller (but still substantive and extremely shameful) number of companies still doing business there during Putin's deadly siege on his sovereign neighbor.

Sonnenfeld and his team of colleagues and researchers at the school began by compiling a list of those companies who had pulled out of Russia shortly after Putin's invasion, and those that had yet to. That "Hall of Shame" list has since gained a great deal of public attention and, he tells us, has both helped to both encourage and shame CEOs into shutting their doors in Russia.

"We just had a session with 70 CEOs --- you're the first to know about this --- major CEOs across the face of American industry, with General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," Sonnenfeld tells us. "And he did emphasize that they are working off our list. We're humbled by that, but we know that people on Wall Street and the activist community are using it" as well.

Since its initial creation, the list is now broken down into more specific categories, including companies that have announced a full "Withdrawal"; others which merely declared a "Suspension" of operations for now; those that are "Scaling Back" by reducing operations; and the two most pernicious categories of companies that are either "Buying Time" by postponing new investments while continuing substantive business or, worst of all, "Digging In" by defying all demands to leave or even reduce operations there.

While Sonnenfeld notes that the list remains "a moving target", with several companies see their rating changed even as we went to air (the fossil fuel services giant Halliburton was moved from the worst, "Digging In," to the second worst, "Buying Time" today, for example), you'll be delighted to know our friends at the rightwing dark money conglomerate Koch Industries and its crappy paper subsidiaries like Georgia-Pacific, are staying put with Team Fascist Dictator for now.

On the other hand, Sonnenfeld says that he was pleasantly surprised that a number of Big Oil companies, "not usually on the leading edge of social change," pulled out early on. But, he has a thought or two for companies like Dunkin Donuts, Nestle, Mars candy and, yes, the rightwing Koch Industries, which, for its part, says they are staying in Russia for what they describe as the "health, safety and wellbeing of all employees. Leaving, they assert, "would only put our employees there at greater risk and do more harm than good."

Koch also justified their decision by claiming they refuse to "hand over these manufacturing facilities to the Russian government so it can operate and benefit from them." Sonnefeld identifies that as closer to the real reason Koch doesn't want to leave. "It's so ludicrous, on every level," he tells me. "There are now millions and million of employees that used to work for Western companies" now out of work in Russia. If all of those companies pulled out, "there wouldn't be a shred of legitimacy for the government. It would make the revolution happen instantly." He argues Russia couldn't "round up fifteen million people and then figure out what to do with them because they're not working for Western companies anymore. It's ridiculous."

Even companies like McDonald's, which has at least done the right thing by shuttering its 850 stores in Russia, only gets a "B" grade on the list's second, "Suspension" category, as they continue to pay their workers there in hopes of returning. "It allows Putin and Putin supporters to say, 'This was just ceremonial, it's temporary. You don't need to worry, they're not really leaving, they'll be back.'"

When asked if the company should receive plaudits for helping to keep their from going hungry, Sonnenfeld is unimpressed. "Those 60,000 people should be out of work and in the streets. That's what people don't understand on this," he insists. "They say, 'Oh, innocent Russians aren't responsible for what Putin is doing.' Yes, they are! It's their complacency. Putin is in power, not because he is popularly elected. He rules because of this iron fist of being a murderous tyrant. To take that on you've got to go in there with warfare. If we don't want to do that, one thing we can do to help those innocent Russians is to at least get them angry to be part of a civil disobedience, to be part of a shutdown of civil society."

He cites "bloodless revolutions" elsewhere, charging that "if you freeze up the economy, then you get people angry, out on the streets, and they bring down the government. But to keep them complacent and comfortable, that does no good whatsoever."

While recognizing the lack of a free press in Russia at this point, Sonnenfeld also has little sympathy. "It's because they willingly don't want to know. It isn't just because they don't get a free press. When all their favorite brands shut down and they're out of work --- if all of these non-Russian companies say 'You're a rogue nation!' --- maybe they'll start to realize that what Putin is telling them, that he's trying to 'liberate' Ukraine, they'll realize that's not true."

As you might guess, Sonnenfeld, the author of many books and academic papers on business management, leadership, and corporate governance, has much more to say on this subject and on the many companies who have done what he sees as the right thing, as well as those he feels should be penalized by the American people for failing to do so.

You can view the list or download a searchable Excel version here. But, first, you'll want to tune in for today's very lively and colorful conversation with Sonnenfeld...

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Also: GOP's KBJ confirmation idiocy; KY's anti-marriage equality clerk finally found guilty; 23,000 mail ballots rejected under new TX law...
By Brad Friedman on 3/22/2022 6:47pm PT  

There were a surprising number of callers into yesterday's program who seemed to believe that if the U.S. simply left Ukraine to its own devices, somehow there wouldn't be a massive genocide and destruction of the Ukrainian state by Russia, and that it wouldn't somehow lead to WWIII. Those callers are wrong, I'm sorry to say. And I'm even sorrier that many of them are on the left. On today's BradCast we spend some time explaining how many have come to misunderstand a lot of bad and (often purposely) misleading information out there, and how deeply-ingrained (and well-justified!) anti-war sentiments against the U.S. war machine are now ill-serving some on the supposed left now that Russia is the actual aggressor. We also cover several ongoing fights for our own struggling democracy here at home --- in the U.S. Senate, at SCOTUS, and in both Kentucky and Texas. [Audio link to today's show is posted below this summary.]

Among the many stories covered or referenced today...

  • A quick review of Day 2 of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's confirmation hearings in the U.S. Senate, where Republicans are spending their time questioning the first black female nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court as a way to improve their own electoral ambitions and/or nab an appearance on Fox "News". ("Do you believe babies are racist, Ms. Jackson?") Since we don't care to privilege the lies, we don't spend much time on that idiocy, though there were some important exchanges with some of the Democratic Senators, including Jackson's thoughts on the importance of respecting long-settled issues of law and civil rights. That, as the GOP's current stolen, packed and bought majority on the High Court begins dismantling decades of well-established and critical legal precedents.
  • Then, some thoughts on some of our callers and emailers on yesterday's program, when we opened the phone lines up to listeners on why they believe President Biden's approval ratings remain low, even as his actions in response to Russia's barbaric attack on Ukraine are so wildly popular among Americans of all parties. We discuss why we believe those callers who want the U.S. to stop supporting Ukraine are deadly wrong about that, and why an emailer who cites Putin's pretext about "de-Nazification" in Ukraine has been wildly misled.
  • That conversation also includes some audio from an interview with a Rabbi in Odesa by NPR's investigative correspondent in Ukraine, Tim Mak. He is told by Rabbi Avraham Wolf, during the interview in a synagogue built by his wife's great great grandfather in 1898, that he believes talk about Nazis in Ukraine is "stupid" and that he has "never in 30 years" experienced any anti-semitism in Odesa.
  • The conversation on all of this also includes this weekend's remarks on ABC News from the courageous Marina Ovsyannikova, a producer at Russia's state-run Channel One, describing her "spontaneous decision" to appear on air with a "NO WAR" protest sign during a news report recently. "I could see what in reality was happening in Ukraine, and what we showed on our programs was very different from what was going on in reality," she explained on Sunday following her arrest, as she still faces a potential 15 years in prison under Putin's new censorship law. While she claims that most Russians oppose Putin's "gruesome war," Ovsyannikova determined that her televised protest might "show to the Russian people that [the state-run media outlet's reports were] just propaganda, expose this propaganda for what it is and maybe stimulate some people to speak up against the war."
  • Then, it's back to our own faltering democracy in the U.S., but with a bit of long-awaited good news for a change. After seven years of delays in court --- thanks to a well-moneyed far-right legal outfit --- Kim Davis, the infamous and Fox-famous Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk who cited "religious beliefs" for her refusal to issue marriage licenses after SCOTUS established the right to marriage equality in 2015, was finally found to have violated the law. In a lawsuit filed by several couples who were refused licenses to marry, a George W. Bush-appointed federal judge held that Davis "cannot use her own constitutional rights as a shield to violate the constitutional rights of others while performing her duties as an elected official.” A jury will determine the financial penalty for Davis, who lost her re-election bid in 2018. Of course her wingnut attorneys will attempt to appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court (even though they already rejected one of Davis' previous arguments...at least before Republicans stole their 6 to 3 majority on the High Court.)
  • In far less encouraging news, an AP analysis has determined that some 23,000 absentee voters in Texas' first-in-the-nation 2022 mid-term primaries on March 1, had their ballots rejected and never counted. AP finds roughly 13% of mail ballots were discarded under the TX GOP's new voter restriction law, SB 1, that they claimed would make it "easier to vote and harder to cheat". That, compared to the 2% of mail ballots that were rejected during the state's previous mid-term primaries in 2018. Thousands of voters in both Republican- and Democratic-leaning counties alike were disenfranchised under the first election held under the new law, though rejection rates were slightly higher in larger, more Dem-leaning counties. Mail voters in Harris County (Houston), for example, saw a gobsmacking rejection rate of 19%! In the weeks and months ahead, primaries will be held in some 17 other states where Republicans have passed new laws making it harder to vote in response to Donald Trump's evidence-free claims of massive fraud in the 2020 election.
  • Finally, and also speaking of Texas, Desi Doyen has our latest Green News Report, with out-of-control climate change-fueled wildfires spreading across the Lone Star State; unbelievably warm and unprecedented simultaneous extreme heat waves at both the North and South poles, and how KBJ's Senate confirmation reminds us yet again that elections (and voting!) have critical consequences...

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Senate confirmation hearings begin for Ketanji Brown Jackson; Russia's ground war on Ukraine nears 'stalemate' as deadly air bombardment continues; Callers ring in on Biden's response to Russia's aggression...
By Brad Friedman on 3/21/2022 6:01pm PT  

We're becoming too used to it by now, but it was another jarring start to an already busy week on The BradCast today, as we lurch once again between domestic politics and the hope for peace to somehow emerge in Ukraine. Callers ring in today on both topics. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

Among the stories covered on our program today...

  • 73-year old judicial activist and corrupt dark money champion Justice Clarence Thomas was hospitalized on Friday with an "infection" and "flu-like symptoms". The Supreme Court waited two days before announcing his hospitalization on Sunday night, claiming that his antibiotic treatment was working and that Thomas should be out of the hospital in a few days. They also report he plans to participate in this week's cases, even though he'll not be present for oral argument. But, since when did hearing the facts of a case ever have any sway on the opinions of the wildly corrupt Thomas? (Or his equally corrupt wife?)
  • After four hours of opening statements and opining by the 22 members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Biden's nominee to fill the seat on the U.S. Supreme Court being vacated by Justice Stephen Breyer this summer, offered her own brief opening remarks. Jackson, vowing to carry out her new role on SCOTUS with transparency and "without fear or favor", would be the first African-American woman on the Court, as well as the first one to have served as a public defender. Unlike Justice Thomas --- and the rest of the Republican appointees on the GOP's packed and stolen majority --- her nomination is, happily, not the culmination of years of dark money spent by activist political hustlers. We share Jackson's opening statement today, just in case you missed it.
  • Next, it's an update on the latest in Russia's horrific war on Ukraine, which is really devolving into two separate wars. One, a ground war which is grinding down to a stalemate for both sides, with Ukraine even winning back a bit of ground in recent days. The other, an aerial bombardment campaign which Russia is brutally winning with long-range missiles launched from within their own borders and an increasing number of criminal attacks by their air force on Ukraine's battered and besieged --- but still determined --- civilian population. There are also new concerns about radiation levels in the 1,000 square mile Exclusion Zone surrounding the cite of the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, some 60 miles from the Ukrainian capital. We discuss.
  • Then, new polling finds that Biden's actions in response to Ukraine --- rallying sanctions against Russia by the West, defensive armaments given to Ukraine, otherwise keeping U.S. military troops out of the fighting --- are wildly popular among huge majorities of Americans, both Democrats and Republicans alike. So, why are Biden's approval ratings still so low? So far, there is no indication of a rally-around-the-flag effect that would normally be expected during wars and disasters (and this is both). Why is that? We discuss and open up the phones to listeners on that topic and related matters today...

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Guest: Journalist, author, activist, Bill McKibben of 350.org, ThirdAct.org; Also: Putin on dangerous edge; Ukraine now fully on the EU grid...
By Brad Friedman on 3/17/2022 6:41pm PT  

No biggie, but on today's BradCast we've got a great idea that can help defeat fascism, secure Europe and save the planet, while saving Americans money and adding a ton of new jobs in the U.S. But the best part of the plan may be that Joe Biden can make it all happen tomorrow without begging for the approval of any obstructionist, fossil fuel-loving Senators. Our guest today reports the Administration is now actively considering it --- and not a moment too soon! [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

On yesterday's BradCast, as the war in Europe grinds into its fourth deadly week, we cited evidence of progress in peace talks between Ukrainian and Russian negotiators. Those encouraging signs, however, are tempered today by Russian President Vladimir Putin's increasing isolation and darkening tone as displayed yet again during his latest, nationally televised address on Wednesday, boding ominously for the path ahead.

"The Russian people will always be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors," Putin sneered into the camera in his latest chilling screed, "and will simply spit them out like an insect in their mouth onto the pavement." He spoke of his nation's need for "self-detoxification" and derided the "servile mentality" of fleeing Russian oligarchs with "villas in Miami or the French Riviera, who cannot make do without foie gras, oysters or gender freedom, as they call it."

Kremlin experts argue the Russian leader is becoming ever more manic and unpredictable as his war against Ukraine has bogged down; the Russian economy disintegrates, battered by Western sanctions; and as billionaire oligarch escape routes via mega-yachts are being blocked from Spain to France to Norway. As one expert observed, it was as if Putin was warning the elites: "We're all in this together and if I go down, you go down."

Ukraine, on the other hand, even as the punishing, deadly assault by Russian bombardment grinds on, is moving ahead. Last night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced his nation has now fully disconnected from the Russian and Belarus power grids and is 100% hooked into Europe's after a remarkable three weeks time. In the middle of a war.

"The enemy expected that the Ukrainian power system would collapse, that we would not be able to cope," said Zelenskyy in a statement published by his office on Wednesday night. "As of today, Ukrainian electricity flows to Europe and European electricity flows to Ukraine...We now have a single energy circulatory system from Lisbon to Mariupol. Ukraine is in the 'energy eurozone'. We cannot be defeated."

Still, much of Europe's energy continues to derive from Russian fossil fuels. And much of Russia's economy --- its war engine --- relies on those fossil fuel exports to Europe. That, too, needs to end. Happily, our guest today has a great idea about how to do just that, in a way that helps fight fascism and climate change, while adding jobs, beefing up U.S. manufacturing and securing Europe. And the best part: President Joe Biden can make it all happen without needing corrupt coal-state Senator Joe Manchin's permission!

We're joined today by the great environmental author, journalist and activist BILL MCKIBBEN of 350.org and ThirdAct.org to discuss the plan he recently spelled out in one of his "The Crucial Years" newsletters. It's based on an effort being pushed hard by the non-profit Rewiring America and New Mexico's Sen. Martin Heinrich. The plan would replace tens of millions of Europe's fossil fuel burning furnaces and boilers with new, electrified heat pump technology.

The replacement of old furnaces with electrified heat pump systems could make a huge dent in Russia's fascist petrol-economy, remove Putin's ability to freeze out Europe by flipping a switch, cut deadly greenhouse gas emissions that have lurched our climate into crisis, and could begin right now, in advance of next winter, under Biden's wartime invocation of the Defense Production Act (DPA).

As McKibben details, new electric heat pump technology provides both heat in winter and air conditioning in summer. Much of freezing cold Norway already uses it. And Biden has the authority to use the DPA to kick-start production at major U.S. air condition manufacturers like Carrier and Trane. (Many of whom, on a political note, happen to have manufacturing hubs in swing-states like Florida, Wisconsin, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas.)

"This is obviously a hideous, hideous month. It's completely horrible, and it's completely tied to our dependence on fossil fuel. This is not a war for fossil fuel, the way that some of our wars in the Middle East may have been, but it's a war funded by and about the power that comes with fossil fuel," he tells me.

"The good news is that our scientists and engineers over the last decade have done incredible work," McKibben continues. "They've dropped the price of renewable energy 90 percent. The sun and wind are the cheapest way to generate power now. And they've produced this suite of technologies that allow us to do the things we need to do with that electricity. Everybody knows about the rise of electric vehicles, but it's the same for the gas or oil furnace that's blazing away in one's basement. The most efficient way now, and cheapest and smartest way to heat your home or cool your home, is with this technology that we're calling heat pumps."

Both Biden and Donald Trump invoked the DPA in response to the COVID pandemic. Biden has even "used it to get a factory in Oklahoma to produce hundreds of miles of fire hose at a moment's notice" after we ran out thanks to last year's huge (climate change-fueled) California wildfires.

McKibben explains that U.S. manufacturers have the spare capacity to begin a "Heat Pumps for Peace and Freedom" effort almost immediately. "Every President since" the Korean War-era DPA was adopted has used it and, he asserts, "this is the kind of thing we can use to get this work done now, and get this stuff over to Europe."

"They have to cut back a lot on their consumption of gas. That's basically what Russia is sending to Europe. And that gas is used above all for home heating. So anything that we can do to get even a few million homes off that gas before next October is a big blow to Putin," he argues.

Do heat pumps work as well as the old boiler and furnace systems? "Absolutely," answers McKibben, who uses one in his own home (with solar panels, natch, but that's not a necessity.) "This is good technology. In the same way that my EV works better than any other car I've ever had. This stuff is great. Quiet, clean, works."

"The Europeans can use them," he says. "The chokepoint may actually be trained people to install them. Which is one reason why the good people at RewiringAmerica.org ,who have taken this up in a big way, have in their proposal for the Biden Administration training and sending abroad a big crew of Americans to help with that installation. One of the benefits for us is they get good at it, come back here, and what helps enormously in Austria, Germany, Poland and Moldova this winter helps a lot in Minnesota and Montana the winter after that. So win-win all around."

McKibben says that he is being told the Administration is seriously considering the idea. And while sending defensive munitions and humanitarian aid are both, unfortunately, very necessary right now, sending this kind of assistance helps Europe, the U.S. and the planet for years to come. Indeed, "win-win all around."

Finally, we end an unusually green program, even for us, as Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, with more reminders of why Heat Pumps for Freedom --- and working around corrupt, coal state Senators like Joe Manchin --- is so vitally important for all of us right now...

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Also: Manchin and petty GOP Senators undermine the Fed; Daylight breaks for permanent DST; Randy Rainbow returns!...
By Brad Friedman on 3/16/2022 7:13pm PT  

It was a day of some light amid the darkness. As usual, these days, we'll take what we can get. Today's BradCast may lurch you back and forth through both, though we do end on several upbeat notes of lightness and light.

Among both the light and dark stories covered on today's program...

  • Russia continued to add to its many war crimes in Ukraine, further assuring Vladimir Putin's ignominious place in the history as one of humanity's most villainous war criminals. On Wednesday, Ukraine charged that Russian airstrikes flattened the historic Donetsk Regional Theatre of Drama in Mariupol, where "hundreds" of civilians were reportedly sheltering. As Ukraine's Foreign Minister tweeted, "the building is now fully ruined," adding "Russia could not have not known this was a civilian shelter." The untold number of victims is added to the thousands already reported as killed and buried in mass graves in the Southern coastal city which has been cut off by Russian forces for weeks now from food, water, electricity and medicine.
  • In brighter news, a glimmer of hope for peace over the past 24 hours or so, amid continuing negotiations between Ukraine and Russia. The framework reportedly echoes a similar roadmap put forth on this program by the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft's Anatole Lieven a couple of weeks ago. Both sides are citing progress toward what is emerging as a 15-point plan for ending the war. It includes Ukraine's acknowledgement that they will not become a member of NATO, but will become a defensively armed neutral country along the lines of Austria or Sweden, with security guarantees from allies such as the US, UK and Turkey. In return, Russia would fully withdraw its troops. There are still many questions surrounding what "security guarantees" might amount to, and exactly which regions Russia would fully withdraw from. But the news of both "hope" and "compromise" is both significant and encouraging.
  • Meanwhile, Ukraine's courageous President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the U.S. Congress on Wednesday morning via video-conference, eliciting bipartisan standing ovations both before and after his remarks. We share his presentation in full today, as he invoked Pearl Harbor and 9/11 and referenced both Martin Luther King and Mount Rushmore as he asked for additional support from U.S. lawmakers, called for still more sanctions against Russian lawmakers, and asked for President Biden's help in leading the world toward peace. "We need you right now," he said, adding: "I see no sense in life if it cannot stop the deaths."
  • Several hours later, President Biden offered his own remarks at the White House, announcing a new round of defensive munitions earmarked for Ukraine. Today's $800 million tranche brings the total, in both military and humanitarian support sent to Ukraine since Biden took office, to about $2 billion. Congress has appropriated another $14 billion or so. In his White House comments, Biden excoriated "Putin's depraved onslaught". Later in the day he described the disgraced Russian leader as a "war criminal".
  • Next, with those heavy lifts behind us, we return to domestic politics, as the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by a quarter of a percent on Wednesday, in hopes of easing inflation by forcing the economy into recession. The move follows yesterday's official withdraw of Biden's nomination of Sarah Bloom Raskin to a seat on the Fed's Board of Governors. Republicans in the Senate Banking Committee had denied a quorum to prevent her confirmation by refusing to show up at all. But her fate was finally sealed this week when Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said he would not support her. The phony complaints from the GOP had to do with Raskin's anodyne commentary in the past that the Fed should reconsider its support of the fossil fuel industry amid our worsening climate crisis. Manchin, of course, makes millions from the coal industry and his campaign has raked in huge bucks from Big Fossil Fuel. Republicans, on the other hand, who approved Raskin for other roles twice in the past, may have had an additional reason to block the confirmation of Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD)'s well-qualified wife to a seat on the Fed Board.
  • In the brightest news we can find today, the U.S. Senate, which usually only finds bipartisan agreement on matters that have to do with war, found something else to agree on Tuesday. It is unqualified great news and anyone who says otherwise is embarrassingly wrong. The Sunshine Protection Act, co-sponsored by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) was passed by the Senate with unanimous consent yesterday! The measure would make Daylight Saving Time permanent as of 2023. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) correctly lauded the long-overdue initiative by declaring: "No more dark afternoons in the winter! No more losing an hour of sleep every spring! We want more sunshine during our most productive waking hours!" Of course, she's right. And --- even though my remarks on this topic bring more email (both for and against) than just about anything else I ever cover --- I will note that anyone who opposes this, no matter how good their reasons by may be, are still shamefully wrong. If I can find time in the days ahead --- especially if it looks like this will move forward in the House and on to the President --- I'll try to find some time to share some of those amusing emails from listeners, especially those from some our nation's most determined Eeyores of Darkness.
  • Finally, after delivering the light that we earlier promised, we end with a rainbow of it! Specifically, it's the return of brilliant satirist and national treasure Randy Rainbow, after a too-long absence. His new tribute to "Karens" Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO) closes out today's program with a much needed laugh...

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Guest: 30-year Florida elections Supervisor Ion Sancho; Also: More signs of new COVID variant rising; Russia's war crimes against Ukraine continue; Fox 'News' journalists killed while reporting on war...
By Brad Friedman on 3/15/2022 7:11pm PT  

As difficult as it has historically been to recruit competent, non-partisan election officials and pollworkers, a new survey suggests its about to become much worse. As we discuss in detail on today's BradCast, that is thanks, in no small part, to persistent threats by Trump's MAGA Mob against local election officials in the wake of his Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him. It's made even worse by state GOP officials translating that lie into new laws that further undermine America's democratic experiment. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

But FIRST UP today, a quick follow up underscoring our reporting on yesterday's program, warning about the rise of a new COVID variant (known as BA2, or "stealth Omicron" or "Deltacron") that many seem to be wanting to imagine away. Also several quick updates on the latest news from Russia's relentless bombing and war crimes against Ukraine, as peace talks inch forward, and as at least two Fox "News" journalist are confirmed to have been killed outside of Kyiv.

THEN, on to our main story today. In recent months, Reuters has been unfolding a series of excellent investigative reports on the various, horrific threats issued against election officials by those who bought into Trump's evidence-free claims that the 2020 election was stolen. But GOP state lawmakers have been ignoring those menacing threats and using the Big Lie to create actual legislation allowing them to purge dedicated, non-partisan election officials --- including Republicans seen as not Republican enough --- from their roles and replacing them with partisan operatives.

Brennan Center's recent survey of local election administrators finds that, more than a year after the Trump-incited attack on the U.S. Capitol, one in six officials say they "have experienced threats because of their job." More than half of respondents are "concerned about the safety of their colleagues"; 30 percent "know of one or more election workers who have left at least in part because of fear for their safety, increased threats, or intimidation"; and, perhaps most troubling, 20 percent of them now plan to leave their jobs before the 2024 election, with many "citing political leaders’ attacks on a system they know is fair and honest as one of their top reasons for leaving."

Meanwhile, many officials who would like to continue in their jobs are being pushed out thanks to new laws allowing partisan County Commissions in Georgia, for example, to replace longtime Board of Elections officials like Georgia's civil rights icon Helen Butler (who we interviewed about this late last year) in Morgan County, and 27-year Floyd County Board of Elections veteran Vanessa Waddell, who, with the entire Board in the deeply Republican County, was removed from her post, as documented by WaPo yesterday. That, even after she successfully oversaw last year's U.S. Senate runoff elections in the state amid persistent death threats that resulted in some officials in her office deciding they needed to come to work with pepper spray and stun guns to stay safe.

Leon County, Florida's now-retired 30-year veteran Supervisor of Elections, ION SANCHO, is furious about all of this. He joins us today to discuss these growing threats to our teetering American democracy. Sancho, who retired in 2016, is one of our nation's great election officials. He was so well-regarded by his peers, of all political persuasions, that he was tapped to oversee the wildly contentious and eventually-aborted 2000 Presidential recount in Florida. He was also a central figure in HBO's landmark, 2006 Emmy-nominated documentary, Hacking Democracy, detailing the first public hack of a computerized voting tabulator.

What is going on today, he explains, makes him both angry and deeply concerned about American democracy. "Election officials all over the country, irrespective of partisan affiliation, have been tragically attacked because of our ex-President's lie. The most horrible lie about our elections, frankly, in my lifetime," he tells me, adding that it makes his "head explode".

"It's not being dealt with at all. That's why election officials are subject to the most vile attacks, because the supporters --- the cultists, if you want to call them that --- believe that election was stolen, and this is such a bald-faced lie. It's a tragic lie. It's a stupid lie. And it demonstrates the ignorance of the American citizenry about our elections."

Sancho argues that "we are in the process of destroying a model of non-partisan election administration that has taken decades to build."

"Most election officials are administrators, not activists, not individuals who are used to dealing with the political process, except as standing away from it and facilitating elections. We take oaths to be non-partisan," he continues. "One of the proudest moments of my life was the creation of helping write the standards of codes and conduct for the Elections Center, to apply to all national election officials, putting loyalty to the principles of fair and honest elections over anything else."

Of course, over The BRAD BLOG's nearly 20 years of reporting on elections and voting processes and vulnerable computerized voting and tabulation systems --- much of which Sancho has followed closely over those years --- we've had our own fair share of criticism for some election officials (not to mention almost every voting system vendor). Some of that has resulted in occasional criticism that we are "attacking" election officials or pollworkers ourselves. So, how is our attempt to hold feet to the fire any different from what Sancho sees coming from the American MAGA Right?

"The difference is that you are focusing on specific issues of provable fact," Sancho responds. "That's different than the kind of criticism that we have right now. Your criticism doesn't threaten the democratic experiment. And where we find ourselves now is that the great American experiment, our democracy, is being threatened. It's being destroyed by individuals who would rather believe a narcissistic liar than understand the truth."

Sancho has MUCH more to say on all of this, including thoughts on new legislation heading to Florida's Republican Governor and Presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis that would give him what Sancho describes as "the Governor's private police force on elections."

"That's part of the intimidation," he argues. "Now we're seeing a secret police in the state of Florida for elections. Florida is, unfortunately, one of the leaders of this effort nationally to change non-partisan fair elections into something else."

Sancho concedes "it's hard for me to see how we get around this," though he does offer at least some ideas for solutions to find our way out of this nightmare, including laws to specifically prevent threats against election administrators. "It should be illegal to threaten an election official for the purposes of intimidating them from doing their job and counting the votes. That should be illegal, and it is not."

"We've got to turn this around," Sancho insists. "ALL legal citizens should have the right to vote accessibly, and have that vote counted as they intended, and then we should audit the elections to confirm the validity of that election. That's as simple as it can be, and yet we're very far away from that, as you know."

"What were supposed to be laboratories of democracy," he charges, are now "50 citadels of repression." As suggested, we think Sancho is an American hero. He's on fire today and, as ever, worth tuning in to hear in full.

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report today, with bad news for climate changed Australia and our global fossil fuel dependence, highlighted yet again by Russia's war on Ukraine. She also has a bit of good news for breathers, however, as President Biden's EPA announces critical new regulations on smog and vehicle emissions that will save thousands of American lives...

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More transmissible Omicron variant rising; Ukraine keeps sense of humor amid war; Russia's dark lies and celebration of Tucker Carlson; 'Censorship' on YouTube...
By Brad Friedman on 3/14/2022 6:22pm PT  

These are dark days indeed when the rise of a new Omicron variant turns out to be one of the lighter moments on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

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

  • Some real light amid the darkness. It's the one day of the year when we try to celebrate the one thing that Congress did when it was controlled by Republicans during the George W. Bush era that WASN'T terrible. It was actually good! (Though at least one caller today disagrees.) And, no, it wasn't the 25-year extension of the Voting Rights Act in 2006 (which was great! But they, obviously, didn't actually mean it as anything more than a failed election year ploy.)
  • Sorry! But don't throw those masks away yet! Yes, we're all tired of COVID. But, no, it doesn't not appear to be tired of us yet. A new variant of Omicron --- dubbed "BA.2" or "stealth Omicron" or "Deltacron" --- is potentially 30% more transmissible than the highly infectious original Omicron variant, and its rising right now, and quickly, in parts of Europe and Asia. Luckily, it could never get here, right? Oops. It already has. (HELPFUL REMINDER: Now is the perfect time to get boosted if you haven't bothered yet! Seriously.)
  • Snark amid the horror. The chief of Ukraine's anti-corruption agency writes a letter to the head of Russia's Ministry of Defense, "thanking" him for his embezzlement of the Russian military. The result, as alleged in his pretty hilarious letter (with photos): Russian tanks with armor filled with cardboard egg cartons; Bright light blue military transport vehicles that make for easy target practice for Ukrainian forces; "Bullet-proof" vests filled with cardboard.
  • Russian propaganda debunked by AP. A particularly dark episode, the bombing of a maternity hospital last week in Mariupol, was all a fake, according to Russian officials. AP journalist and photographers, who were first-hand witnesses, however, report otherwise. They also follow up to report that one of the pregnant women at the hospital, videotaped as she was carried away on a stretcher through the rubble after the attack, has now died along with her unborn child.
  • Russia media propaganda ministry makes Tucker Carlson a star! Yes, the Fox "News" anchor is repeatedly referenced in leaked memos sent to Putin's state-controlled media, urging them to play more clips of his various monologues from the Republican news channel repeating Kremlin propaganda. He's the only Western media star so cited in the several communiques obtained Mother Jones.
  • YouTube blocks Russian propaganda channels. But ends up blocking a whole bunch of stuff that isn't Russian propaganda, including a bunch of my own appearances on RT over the years, long before they became little more than a mouthpiece for Putin. Is the loss of access to those videos (many of them previously embedded at The BRAD BLOG) a price worth paying to fight autocracy during wartime? We discuss, and have a bit of time (though very little) for a few callers who ring in today...

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Guests: Kate Neiswender and Kim Andrew Elliott on a U.S. crowd-funded grassroots effort reviving Cold War tech to counter propaganda inside Putin's new Iron Curtain; And, yes, Russians love their children too...
By Brad Friedman on 3/11/2022 6:18pm PT  

In what would be a dream world for our previous President, who declared the media to be "the enemy of the people" just before his infamous 2018 meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Russia has now criminalized pretty much any and all independent media. But our guests on today's BradCast have a really cool and, yes, retro idea about how to help counter Russia's media blackout. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

Among other restrictions, Putin's new censorship law, adopted just after his invasion of Ukraine, mandates harsh penalties, including jail time, for the crime of reporting on the invasion as an "invasion" or "war". Independent outlets have been forced to shutter or have stopped covering the war at all. Western media outlets have pulled their reporters and Russia has closed Internet access to websites of foreign state-run media outlets such as Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, the BBC and Deutsche Welle.

Kremlin-approved propaganda is now all that many Russians have access to, where they are being told that Russia's barbaric military assault on its sovereign neighbor --- including its civilian population --- is little more than a minor, "special military operation" meant to "demilitarize and denazify" Ukraine. Civilians are not being harmed, and anyone who says otherwise is reporting "fake news," the Kremlin insists.

Of late, however, as Julia Davis reported yesterday at The Daily Beast, some cracks are beginning to appear, even on Kremlin-approved television, including one of Moscow's most popular evening news programs, whose Putin-friendly host has been sanctioned by the EU and where nightly broadcasts frequently end with clips of monologues by Fox 'News' star Tucker Carlson.

For most Russians, however, there is very little access to independent, outside reporting to counter the official state media narrative. Our guests today, attorney KATE NEISWENDER and former longtime Voice of America employee and shortwave radio enthusiast KIM ANDREW ELLIOTT are part of a small, grassroots effort aiming to revive a Cold War technology in hopes of helping counter the information desert inside of Putin's new Iron Curtain.

Dubbed #ShortwavesForFreedom on social media, the new project has begun raising money to fund re-broadcasts of Voice of America (VOA) programming into Ukraine and Russia via shortwave frequencies. While the BBC World Service announced this week they were reviving their old shortwave broadcasts into the former Soviet Union, the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty --- both managed by the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) --- have declined to do so, at least so far.

Neiswender, Elliott and a number of other VOA veterans and supporters aim to fill that gap with a crowd-funded effort. The group has already raised enough over just the past week or so to get up and running --- rebroadcasting some of VOA's programming (which is all public domain) --- into Europe via shortwave transmission from Florida station, WRMI Radio Miami International.

They both join us today to explain, among other things: How this effort came together in just over a week's time; how they hope to expand from English-language programming to broadcasts in both Ukrainian and Russian; why they believe VOA (actually, USAGM) has yet to take this step themselves; and how a very small amount of money can go a very long way in this project, as they seek additional broadcasters to help transmit shortwave programming from both the U.S. and Europe.

Does anyone in Russia still even have access to the equipment needed to listen to the broadcasts? "Well, nowadays for sure, fewer people will be listening to shortwave and fewer people have shortwave radios," Elliott explains. "But, when the Internet is cut, squeezed, blocked, and at some point maybe even with lines into the country cut off, radio will be the only way to get in to the country. And then, the people in those countries will have to try to find their old Soviet-era shortwave radios." He believes "that audience can pass the information on to the larger audience in those countries."

Will Russian audiences have any more confidence that what they are hearing from Western state-run outlets like VOA is any more reliable than what their own state-approved outlets are telling them? "VOA and RFE (Radio Free Europe) have a government-imposed, in-the-code-written-by-Congress, can't-get-around-it mandate to be fair," Neiswender argues. She's referring to USAGM's Charter, adopted during the Ford Administration, which one VOA journalist has explained to me, means that, "We're probably the only news organization in the world that is mandated to be fair, objective and unbiased."

Whether VOA and RFE's reports are perceived as such by listeners inside of Russia and Ukraine is another matter, but their broadcasts did serve as an information lifeline to many behind the old Iron Curtain for many decades of the Cold War.

For now, the effort is already working. Elliott, who spent more than 30 years as a broadcaster and audience analyst at VOA tells us that "the signal is getting through to a very large extent, and sometimes with really good reception quality. Direct feedback from the audience, that will take some days and weeks as the word gets around that these transmissions are available. Already, WRMI received a note from a diplomat in Egypt who heard the Russian transmission. It is getting through."

Neiswender says that the project's success is only a matter of raising funds to keep going and expand their reach. The effort is crowdsourced with a fund raiser at Fundrazr.com/RadioWaves. A very small amount of money goes a long way here, she insists. They are already up and broadcasting after raising just over $6,000.

All of the money, "goes directly to the stations. No one is getting a dime from this that is organizing it or running it. Every cent of the money that is coming in is going directly back out to fund these transmissions," she notes.

It's a fascinating conversation about a fascinating project that I believe is well worth your time today, even as these are very strange days indeed.

Finally, we close with one more fascinating story, and a song. The story comes, ironically enough, courtesy of Fox "News", regarding Marina Baronova, the now-former Managing Editor of Russia's state-owned media outlet Russia Today (RT). She resigned her post last week in protest of Putin's invasion of Ukraine. She now fears for her life, though not necessarily for the reasons you may assume. And her interview with Fox concludes with this message: "Russians love their children, too."

As it happens, Grammy-winner Sting, last weekend, posted an Instagram video singing his 1985 tune called "Russians" which, he says, he has rarely sung since the end of the Cold War. Now, as you'll hear, it has new relevance. Apparently even for Baronova...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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