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Latest Featured Reports | Thursday, October 29, 2020
Cold Civil War Over Democracy Grinds On as Voting Deadline Looms: 'BradCast' 10/29/20
Pro-democracy wins in MN, TX; FL Guv's voter reg hacked; VT demands SCOTUS correction...
'Green News Report' 10/29/20
  w/ Brad & Desi
Zeta slams into LA, its 5th storm this season; Logging begins in Tongass National Forest; China vaults ahead of U.S. on climate pledge; PLUS: Expand the Court to save the climate...
Previous GNRs: 10/27/20 - 10/22/20 - Archives...
Preparing to Play the
SCOTUS Trump Cards:
'BradCast' 10/28/20
Guest: Mark Joseph Stern on Kavanaugh's terrifying, error-riddled opinion in the case that blocks WI from counting thousands of ballots; Also: Trump's very VERY bad day...
Dear Dems: Unrig the Court (If They Don't Rig the Election First): 'BradCast' 10/27/20
Guest: Aaron Belkin of Take Back the Court; Also: Barrett joins stolen SCOTUS; Supremes order WI to reject timely mail-in votes...
'Green News Report' 10/27/20
  w/ Brad & Desi
Yet another hurricane - Zeta - aims for Gulf Coast; More hurricane-force winds and fires in CA and CO; PLUS: Biden's truth, Trump's nonsense at 2020's final Presidential Debate...
Previous GNRs: 10/22/20 - 10/20/20 - Archives...
Election Official Who Oversaw FL 2000 'Recount' Warns of 'Hacked' 2020 Results: 'BradCast' 10/26/20
Guest: Ion Sancho, former Leon Cnty election chief; Also: 3rd COVID peak; GA ransomware...
Sunday 'Losing It' Toons
We're just trying to keep it all together in PDiddie's penultimate pre-election weekly toon collection....
Special Coverage: The Final 2020 Presidential Debate: 'BradCast' 10/23/20
Guests: Heather Digby Parton and Richard 'R.J.' Eskow decode Thursday's face-off in Nashville and our nightmares before (and after?) Halloween...
Trump, Barr, Wolf Sued for Unlawful Voter Intimidation: 'BradCast' 10/22/20
Guest: Attorney Ron Fein; Also: Biden's Court expansion plan; Graham breaks rules to approve Barrett; Bad news for AL voters; Admin says Iran behind Dem email threats?!...
'Green News Report' 10/22/20
  w/ Brad & Desi
Another new record storm in a record-breaking hurricane season; Great Barrier Reef half dead; First all-climate campaign ad; PLUS: The Hummer is back, and now it's all-electric...
Previous GNRs: 10/20/20 - 10/15/20 - Archives...
Are Americans Ready (or Even Able) to Roll Back the GOP's 'Permanent Minority Rule'?: 'BradCast' 10/21/20
Guest: David Daley; Also: Lawyers hate Trump; Fed court allows TX to reject mail-in ballots...
Good News, Bad News! It's 'The Caveat Show!': 'BradCast' 10/20/20
All sorts of reasons for Dems to feel good about Biden and re-taking the Senate...And plenty of reasons to remain concerned about both...
'Green News Report' 10/20/20
Massive CO wildfires; Trump flip-flops on disaster aid to CA; Wind, solar energy now the cheapest energy in the world; PLUS: Biden talks clean energy at ABC Town Hall...
Voting is Not Enough: How YOU Can Help Oversee and Protect Our Elections!: 'BradCast' 10/19/20
Guest: Emily Levy of Scrutineers.org; Also: Bad news for MI voters; FL voting website fails...
Sunday 'A Bigger Boat' Toons
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the voting booth...PDiddie offers his latest collection of the week's best toons...
2020's Federal Court Voting Rights Roller Coaster: 'BradCast' 10/16/20
Guest: Election law Prof. Joshua A. Douglas; Also: Trump's CA wildfire disaster relief roller coaster...
'Deranged Power Grab': Barrett SCOTUS Hearings Conclude: 'BradCast' 10/15/20
Guest: Slate's Mark Joseph Stern; Also: E-Pollbook systems fail in GA; FBI reports 'unauthorized access to elections systems'...
'Green News Report' 10/15/20
Barrett sounds like climate denier at Senate hearings; Sen. Whitehouse on dark-money polluter capture of judiciary; PLUS: Sept. 2020 hottest ever...
'Hypocrisy in Daylight? Look for Power in the Shadows': 'BradCast' 10/14/20
Guest: Lisa Graves on Sen. Whitehouse's revelations of GOP's $250M SCOTUS-packing coup; Also: Good voting news in VA, TX, AK!...
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...


Several victories for pro-democracy forces in MN, TX; FL Guv's registration hacked in voter database; VT Sec. of State demands correction from SCOTUS following Kavanaugh's error-filled WI opinion...
By Brad Friedman on 10/29/2020 7:05pm PT  

As I discuss near the top of today's BradCast, we are now in what amounts to a Cold Civil War on Democracy in this nation. The greatest direct threat we have ever faced to our Constitutional Republic since the Civil War is now playing out in our ongoing election. [Audio link to show is posted below this summary.]

As it turns out, that threat to what Joe Biden describes as "the soul of our nation", does not come from a foreign power, but from the President of the United States himself and his party of henchmen and supporters who are now attacking the very core of our Republic: the right to vote and to have that vote counted as cast. That right is now under direct assault in a way not seen since the Jim Crow era. And while the GOP has been using the guise of preventing "voter fraud" to wage similar battles in recent years, they aren't even trying to hide their direct assault on democracy anymore. They are simply using every (so far, peaceful) means possible --- legal and extra-legal --- to try and prevent legal voters from voting and lawfully cast ballots from being counted.

Unfortunately, they have packed enough stooges onto their stolen U.S. Supreme Court at this point, that they may pull it off...unless the pro-democracy forces simply overwhelm them between now and the close of polls next Tuesday night. Get busy, people. Only the fate of the Republic and...yes, human civilization, as Desi Doyen highlights yet again in our Green News Report today, are at stake.

Among the stories reported on today's show, as our trench warfare coverage continues...

  • Good news for democracy in Minnesota! A federal judge has ordered a mercenary contractor hiring armed para-militia to stalk polling places to stand down after violating federal voter intimidation laws. The company, Atlas Aegis, must also reveal who has been funding their program. The case is a victory for plaintiffs including the Minnesota chapters of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and League of Women Voters, as well as the group Free Speech for People (FSFP) whose lawyers brought the case. We spoke with FSFP attorney Ron Fein last week on the show, the day after the voter intimidation suit was filed in federal court;
  • Good news for voters in Texas! A Trump-appointed federal judge has found Gov. Greg Abbott's exemption for voters and pollworkers to his statewide mask mandate to be in violation of the Voting Rights Act. Masks must be worn inside of all polling places across the Lone Star state of today's ruling. The victory comes not a moment too soon, after several polling officials have already become sickened, poll sites were closed due to sick workers, and maskless poll watchers were said to have been using their presence to intimidate minority voters. That, in a state where the Republicans who have long controlled it went all the way to the Supreme Court to deny almost all voters under the age of 65 the right to request an absentee ballot due to fear of the spiking coronavirus pandemic. It's also another victory --- and a reversal of fortunes --- for the good folks at FSFP, including Senior Counsel Courtney Hostetler, who spoke with us on the show about their case in September, when its outlook then appeared grim;
  • More good news for democracy in Texas! A $31 million effort to improve access to the polls in the nation's third-largest voting jurisdiction, Harris County, which includes Houston, appears to have paid off big time. NBC News reports that more voters have now cast ballots there during early voting than were cast in the entire 2016 election. The increased turnout is thanks to expanded and innovative voting options, such as Early Voting sites that stay open later, some that stay open for 24 hours, and drive-thru polling places. The County's stunning turnaround in a state with notoriously low voter turnout comes after Dems won every countywide office in 2018, increased the elections budget from $4 million under GOP control to $31 million now, and with the hiring of innovative, 33-year old County Clerk Chris Hollins in late summer. Naturally, state Republicans have been challenging virtually every innovation to make it easier for voters to vote in the state's largest county. And while Gov. Greg Abbott has succeeded in limiting ballot drop-off locations to just one per county (from a dozen previously planned for sprawling Harris County, which is larger than Rhode Island), GOP attempts to block drive-thru voting have been denied by the state's all-Republican Supreme Court. Another new case was filed by Republicans this week, however, seeking to actually invalidate the votes of more than 100,000 voters who lawfully cast drive-thru votes during Early Voting.
  • On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court's issued an appalling ruling that blocks tens of thousands of lawfully cast mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day from being counted in Wisconsin if they arrive after Election Day due to, for example, slowdowns in U.S. Postal Service delivery by Trump's new Postmaster General. Criticism from legal experts and voting rights advocates of the embarrassingly error-riddled concurring opinion filed by GOP operative turned GOP activist Justice Brett Kavanaugh was swift. We discussed that factually deficient and laughable concurrence with Slate legal journalist Mark Joseph Stern in detail on yesterday's show. Among the egregious errors in the opinion was Kavanaugh's citing of Vermont's election laws. The Sec. of State of Vermont has now written a letter to the Court in response, demanding that the opinion be corrected to include actual facts about the state's voting laws, instead of the phony claims Kavanaugh made as he works toward using his lifetime appointment on the Court to steal this year's election on behalf of the man who appointed him to it;
  • Finally, as mentioned, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, as a record fifth hurricane in a single season slams storm-weary Louisiana today; Trump opens the nation's last protected tropical rain forest to commercial logging; China and Japan vault ahead of the U.S. in their pledges to reach net-zero carbon emissions; and the case is made for Joe Biden to expand the Supreme Court if we are to have any chance of combating our swiftly worsening climate crisis.
  • P.S. The charming animated video of the Lincoln Project "Fairy Tale" we played at the top of today's show is here.

Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...

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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: Slate's Mark Joseph Stern on Kavanaugh's terrifying, error-riddled opinion in the case that blocks WI from counting thousands of timely cast mail-in ballots; Also: Trump's very VERY bad day...
By Brad Friedman on 10/28/2020 7:16pm PT  

On today's BradCast: It was a very very bad day for Donald J. Trump and for his odds of winning re-election. At least on paper. Don't get too excited just yet. (But please do vote, ASAP, if you have not done so already! And if you're voting by mail-in ballot, do not mail it in! Deliver it in person, at this point!) [Audio link to full show is posted beneath summary.]

Among the very bad news for our failed President on Wednesday...

  • 'Anonymous' was revealed to have been the Chief of Staff of his own Dept. of Homeland Security, who has now endorsed Joe Biden;
  • The stock market --- the only thing that Trump has left to crow about --- plummeted on concerns about the startling third-peak surge in the U.S. COVID pandemic, thanks to Trump's bungled response, with the Dow falling more than 950 points;
  • Hackers defaced the Trump Campaign website;
  • The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy released an embarrassing document detailing the Trump Administration's "accomplishments", leading off with "Ending the COVID-19 pandemic"! If you have any doubts about that, they quote noticed science and technologist Ivanka Trump as supporting evidence;
  • 20 former Republican U.S. Attorneys, serving in Presidential administrations from Eisenhower to George W. Bush came out with their "strongest endorsement" for...Joe Biden. (So much for Trump as the self-proclaimed "law and order President");
  • Hundreds of Trump supporters were left stranded by the Trump Campaign in frigid temps on an airstrip in Omaha, Nebraska on Tuesday night, after Trump's latest super-spreader rally. Seven supporters were hospitalized "with a variety of medical conditions" as they waited in the dark until after midnight for buses to arrive to drive them back three miles to their cars;
  • And, all the while, the polling both nationally and in battleground states continues to appear bleak for Trump, including one (frankly, hard-to-believe) new poll from ABC News/Washington Post finding Biden up by 17 points in Wisconsin.

As noted, it was a very bad day for Donald Trump's reelection effort. At least in theory. But he still has a few Trump Cards that he believes --- with good reason --- he may be able to play at his stolen and corrupt U.S. Supreme Court. That effort will involve preventing timely cast ballots from being tabulated at all following Election Day.

If the concurrence filed in a Wisconsin case on Monday night by former GOP operative turned GOP activist Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, however, is any indication of how this scheme will work, you should plan to either laugh or cry yourself to death in the coming days.

We're joined today once again by Slate's brilliant legal reporter MARK JOSEPH STERN to explain which of those two options is more likely at this point. Or, as he says today, "be the 'Angel of Doom' on your show, here to deliver some bad news from the heavens and generally terrify you about what's coming from our Supreme Court in the coming weeks and months."

On Monday night, the Supremes issued an order that blocked a lower federal court's ruling allowing the counting of mail-in ballots postmarked in the Badger State by Election Day that arrive up to six days after November 3rd. The opinion was a party-line 5 to 3 vote, with Kavanaugh issuing an extraordinary 18-page concurrence [PDF] with his majority vote to nullify potentially hundreds of thousands of legitimate ballots. The concurrence, however, was full of demonstrable, laughable, egregious errors of fact, including the claim that states like to declare winners on Election Night (zero of them actually do, as Stern correctly notes) and that counting ballots after Election Day might "potentially flip the results of an election."

Since elections are never certified by states on Election Night --- only the media declare "winners", in that sense --- official state results cannot be "flipped" with the counting of ballots after Election Day. It takes anywhere from days to weeks to tally ballots and certify winners even when we're not in the middle of an horrific pandemic that has resulted in an all-time record use of vote-by-mail options across the country.

That said, as insane as Kavanaugh's opinion was, both he and Trump's first stolen Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, offered a "totally deranged attempt", as Stern described it, to hew to a rejected opinion from the Bush v. Gore case in 2000 that handed the Presidency to George W. Bush. Though it came from a minority of Justices at the time --- in an opinion that specifically said it could never be used as a precedent in any other case --- it does now seem to be one of the Trump Cards that could be played to try and steal this year's election.

As Stern explains today, the portion of Bush v. Gore cited by Kavanaugh (inaccurately claiming it was from a unanimous majority opinion when it was neither unanimous nor in the majority!) was so radical at the time that even Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy refused to concur with it. Nonetheless, incredibly enough, there are now three Republican Party attorneys who worked on that Florida case in 2000 on behalf of Bush --- John Roberts, Kavanaugh and now Amy Coney Barrett --- actually sitting on the Court as Justices. That means anything could now happen, depending on how things work out as of next Tuesday night. So buckle up, as Stern details why all of this could come into play week and in the future, "because if this comes down to a few thousand or a few hundred ballots --- hoo boy --- it's going to make Bush v. Gore look like a warmup act for what's coming next."

We also get some reaction from Stern on Biden's recently stated position to call for a bi-partisan panel of Constitutional scholars to make recommendations for Court reform and/or expansion (presuming Biden wins and Dems take back the Senate), and a federal court's rejection this week of the DoJ's absurd attempt to dismiss a defamation lawsuit against Trump, filed in NY state court by columnist E. Jean Carroll who alleges he raped her in the 1990's.

Finally, we use a few minutes to name the "winner" of our recent bumper music trivia "contest" from Monday, when our guest was Ion Sancho (the legendary former Florida election official who oversaw the aborted 2000 "recount") and then, just in case you needed any more inspiration today to help ensure a landslide next week, we close with a parody song performed by Lauren Myers with lyrics written by our friend and regular guest-host Nicole Sandler!

Oh, and P.S., if you want to share that absolutely bone chilling Lincoln Project ad we opened today's show with, it's right here.

Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...

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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: Aaron Belkin of Take Back the Court; Also: Barrett sworn onto GOP's Stolen SCOTUS; Supremes order WI to reject mail-in ballots cast by Election Day that arrive afterward...
By Brad Friedman on 10/27/2020 6:43pm PT  

Not long after we got off air from yesterday's BradCast, Senate Republicans kept their promise of breaking their previous promise that they would never ever ever --- because it would just be plain wrong and an insult to the voters! --- seat a new Supreme Court Justice during a Presidential election year. Their original promise held for exactly one Presidential election in a row, when it was Obama's nominee to the high court that they blocked for more than a year in 2016. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

Donald Trump's third appointment to the high court, Amy Coney Barrett, now has the dubious distinction of being the first Justice in U.S. history to have been confirmed without a single vote from the minority party in the U.S. Senate. (Even rightwingers like Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy were both unanimously confirmed.) She will also be notorious for having been seated closer to an Election Day (just one week before it) than any other Justice in history, leading Democrats to correctly describe the entire affair as an "illegitimate" "power grab".

But, even before Barrett was officially sworn in as the newest Justice on the GOP's already-stolen Court on Tuesday morning, the five Republican Justices on Monday night --- (with five of six of them now seated by GOP U.S. Senate majorities elected by a vast minority of American voters) --- had already ordered the state of Wisconsin to reject what is likely to be well over 100,000 timely cast and postmarked mail-in ballots simply because they are delivered by the USPS after polls close on Election Day in the Badger State. The anti-democratic order overturns a lower court judge who allowed the counting of ballots postmarked by Election Day, even if they arrive up to six days afterward --- just as Republicans agreed to during the state's primaries earlier this year. But now that they're competing with Democrats, apparently vote suppression is necessary. More on that particular outrage hopefully tomorrow, because the ruling was even worse than it sounds.

But, for today, the outrageous hypocrisy, perfidy and appalling dishonesty of the Senate Republicans' latest court-packing stunt with the illegitimate now-Justice Barrett --- after well over 60 million American have already voted in an election that may very well cost the Republican Party control of both the Senate and White House --- needs to be highlighted today. For that, we're joined by AARON BELKIN, Director of Take Back the Court, the nation's oldest organization formed specifically to call for expansion and reform of both SCOTUS and lower federal courts following the GOP's original theft of the high court in 2016.

While the need to save democracy itself by unrigging the Republicans' packed federal courts is quite clear, the question remains as to whether Senate Democrats understand that, and whether they will have the courage to do so --- presuming they are able to win back control of the chamber amid years of new voter suppression laws enacted by states and activist GOP jurists.

Belkin details the existential stakes and necessity of doing so, and offers his thoughts on whether Democrats will muster the strength to end the Senate filibuster as required to accomplish it next year.

"It's not just about the theft of the court from Barack Obama, but it's also that we are facing planetary emergencies like climate change, with effectively no time left on the clock," Belkin argues. "And we're also facing what you could call 'democracy emergencies,' where the Court itself has worked hard to keep black and brown voters from the polls. This Court, even the Court as it was configured in 2017, was highly unlikely to allow the next President to deal with those emergencies."

"To have robust judicial reform, you need to expand lower federal courts commensurate with the number of seats that Mitch McConnell prevented President Obama from filling during the last two years of his presidency," he tells me. "Then you need to expand the Supreme Court just by enough Justices to get the job done, to deliver a Court that will allow the next administration to address the emergencies we face." His group also calls for term limits "to try to minimize some of these problems moving forward" and "a code of ethical conduct" for Justices who, unlike lower federal court judges, have no such requirements for recusing from cases in which they have conflicts of interest, or even "situations where, for example, Justice Thomas' wife is lobbying President Trump and the White House the same week that President Trump is a party to a lawsuit in front of Justice Thomas."

Belkin also offers his reaction to Joe Biden's recent vow to create a bi-partisan panel of legal scholars to make recommendations for such reforms after six months of study, and what Americans must do to help make sure any of this happens, in the event that Democrats win both the Senate and White House. He also responds with a very compelling argument to those who charge that these reforms would simply be escalated the next time Republicans take control of both houses of Congress and the White House.

Finally, speaking of just some of the stakes, we're joined by Desi Doyen with our latest Green News Report on yet another record hurricane now barreling toward the Gulf Coast, yet more hurricane-winds and record wildfires in Colorado and California, and then Trump's lies and Biden's truth about action on our climate crisis at last week's final Presidential Debate of 2020...

Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...

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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: Plaintiff Marilyn Marks on election havoc in the Peach State, and lack of national media coverage; Also: Trump loses, voters win in court absentee ballot rulings in WI, IN, MT, AL, and maybe NC...
By Brad Friedman on 10/1/2020 6:33pm PT  

On today's BradCast: We've got good news for voters from a bunch of courts today --- including in both battleground and "red" states --- when it comes to the absentee mail-in voting that Donald Trump and the Republican Party are working so hard to block. But we've also got some very disturbing news out of the state of Georgia in a story that nobody other than us seems to be covering for reasons we can't quite explain. Especially since it now involves installing all brand-new, untested, and uncertified software --- at the very last minute, just days before Early Voting is to start --- on every touchscreen voting system used across the state. [Audio link to full show follows below summary]

But first, the good court rulings coming out of several states so far this week...

  • A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court judge's six-day extension beyond Election Day for the receipt of incoming absentee ballots postmarked by November 3rd in the critical battleground state of WISCONSIN. The unanimous ruling comes from a panel of three Republican-appointed judges, including one nominated by Trump, in a state which he is said to have barely flipped to "red" in 2016, for the first time in decades, by just over 20,000 votes out of millions cast. Republicans could appeal to the GOP's stolen U.S. Supreme Court. That's just one of the reasons they are trying to pack the Court with Trump's nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, in record time before the election;
  • Similarly good news out of Mike Pence's home state of INDIANA, where a federal judge rejected a deadline of noon of Election Day for absentee ballots to be received. The ruling will allow ballots postmarked by November 3rd to be counted if they arrive by November 13. The judge says the extra days do not benefit any particular party or candidate and "should in fact help assuage" concerns about the legitimacy of election results in the Hoosier State;
  • In the state of MONTANA, a federal judge blocked an effort by the Trump Campaign and other GOP groups to prevent counties from automatically sending absentee ballots to all active registered voters as they did during this year's June primary elections. That, after the plaintiffs were unable to "point to a single instance of voter fraud in Montana in any election during the last 20 years," according to the judge who described concerns about widespread fraud as "a fiction". While the state went to Trump by some 20 points in 2016, its Democratic Governor Steve Bullock won re-election on the same statewide ballot that year, and is now running for the U.S. Senate to unseat incumbent Republican Steve Daines;
  • In ALABAMA, a federal judge ruled that the state may not block counties from offering curbside voting and that witness signature requirements and Photo ID requirements for absentee voters during the COVID-19 pandemic are unconstitutional for certain voters. Their Republican wingnut Sec. of State John Merrill says he will appeal all the way to the stolen Supreme Court if necessary;
  • And in the closely divided battleground of NORTH CAROLINA, a proposed settlement between the state and plaintiffs will allow for absentee ballots to be "cured" by voters if they lack proper signatures; voters will be able to use secured drop-boxes for mail-in votes; and for ballots postmarked by Election Day may be received until November 12. But this week, a letter has been sent by the Trump Campaign to Republican officials on County Boards of Elections instructing them to ignore guidance from the State Board of Elections! The NC SBE has had to send a letter in response to those same officials, warning them that they are required to follow state guidance and that guidance from "a political party or other source should not be considered or followed." The extraordinary situation has led one international expert on election security from Duke University to (accurately) opine: "It comes down to the fact that this President is not actually trying to win this election – this President is trying to not have to concede this election. That’s what going on." That expert is right on the money.

Then, to the extraordinarily disturbing story out of GEORGIA, which our guest today, MARILYN MARKS of the Coalition of Good Governance, describes as "scandalous". As we reported during Monday's show, last Friday, the Secretary of State's office quietly sent a notice to elections officials in all 159 counties telling them to immediately stop their pre-election "Logic and Accuracy" testing of the new, unverifiable touchscreen voting systems that all voters are currently forced to use at the polling place. The reason, as the office explained, was due to "an error in the November database which will require every county to get a new database for the November 3, 2020 election."

That startling news late on Friday night resulted in an emergency filing by the Coalition with U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg, who has been overseeing their long-running lawsuit to block the use of unverifiable touchscreen voting systems in favor of verifiable hand-marked paper ballots at the polls. On Monday, Totenberg called an emergency hearing for all parties to the suit, during which the Secretary of State's office and the state's new private vote system vendor and ballot programmer, Dominion Voting, claimed that new databases (which contain the programming for all contests in each county) were not actually needed to correct an error that prevented some U.S. Senate candidates from appearing on the touchscreen in certain cases. In fact, what they planned to do instead was to change the code used on the voting machine software itself, and install new software onto all 34,000 touchscreens in the state. All of this, just days before Early Voting is to begin, and now just over one month before Election Day.

As Marks notes, the new software to be installed on every voting machine in Georgia has not been certified for use --- or even tested --- by the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) as required by state law. But this story is even more scandalous in several ways that we discuss on today's program, after another emergency hearing was called by the judge today, following another emergency filing from the Coalition on Wednesday night regarding an apparent change of plans by the Secretary of State.

"It's outrageous. They're wiping all of the software," Marks tells me, and installing "new software that's just been written, has not been tested, and has not been certified by the Elections Assistance Commission. As far as we know, it has not even been submitted for approval. This is federal certification, and Georgia, like most states, is not supposed to be using systems not certified by the federal government."

"They've written this over a weekend, and have not thoroughly tested it. There's been no user testing. The number of things that can go wrong will take up more time than your show permits," she says. "They might as well have gone out and said, 'we're going to buy the Lucy and Ethel software, and put it in.'"

While that is troubling enough, Marks also notes that the programming is not even being done by public state officials, but by private contractors at the Canadian-based firm from whom GA purchased the systems for more than $100 million for first time use this year. "This election has been completely outsourced to Dominion Voting Systems. They are a third party profit-making corporation and, essentially, Georgia has just said, 'Take it and do with it as you will, Dominion!'"

Marks says it is all "outrageous and preposterous," telling me, "Like you, I am shocked that the national media has not picked up on this more, because we're talking about the votes of 7 million voters here."

"I thought that I was beyond having anything that could shock me anymore," she continues. "But I have to say, my jaw is still on the floor from this week. And the fact that the media is not covering it, I don't understand. I can only surmise that they are still in disbelief. Maybe the facts just aren't fully out yet. That's the only thing I can come up with. This is scandalous. "

Please tune in for the full story --- there is much more to it. But, suffice to say for now, it IS a scandal that WE have been covering this story and this lawsuit for at least three years, while the mainstream corporate media seems to be ignoring it almost entirely, even with the possibility that the Peach State could flip from red to blue this year in the Presidential race for the first time in decades, and that there is not one, but two U.S. Senate seats on the ballot there this November, both of which are currently held by Republicans and believed to be endangered by Democratic challengers.

Finally, we close today with our latest Green News Report, with special coverage of the surprise --- and surprisingly substantive --- discussion of climate change in this week's otherwise off-the-rails Presidential Debate in Cleveland, OH...

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Judge blasts new Postal Service mandates as 'intentional effort to disrupt' and delegitimize the 2020 elections and to disenfranchise voters...
UPDATE 9/22/20: 2nd federal court enjoins USPS; separate preliminary injunction motion pending in D.C. federal court...
By Ernest A. Canning on 9/18/2020 3:30pm PT  

On Thursday, by way of a 13-page Order [PDF] issued in State of Washington v. Trump, U.S. District Court Judge Stanley A. Bastian not only enjoined the United States Postal Service (USPS) from continuing to implement the "transformative" nationwide changes to its mail delivery capacities effectuated since July under the direction of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, but also ordered USPS to "replace, reassemble or reconnect" all of the high-speed sorting and labeling machines that had previously been decommissioned.

In his decision, Judge Bastian found that the 14 State Plaintiffs --- Attorneys General in WA, CO, CT, IL, MD, MI, MN, NV, NM, OR, RI, VT, VA, WI --- "established a likelihood that they will prevail on their claims that the [USPS] and Postmaster General violated 39 U.S.C. §3661". He characterized DeJoy's mandates as an "attack on the Postal Service [that] is likely to irreparably harm the states’ ability to administer the 2020 general election."

As we explained last month when covering the States' complaint, under Section 3661(b), DeJoy had a "non-discretionary duty" to request and obtain an advisory opinion from the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) before instituting "a change in the nature of postal services which will generally affect service on a nationwide or a substantially nationwide basis." Under that statute, the PRC cannot issue that advisory opinion "until an opportunity for a hearing on the record...has been afforded to...users of the mail." At that hearing, "an officer of the [PRC]...shall be required to represent the public interest."

DeJoy's failure to comply with those statutory requirements, Judge Bastion noted, "suggests" the USPS "acted ultra vires" --- beyond its power --- when it effectuated DeJoy's "transformative" changes.

The court also found that the Plaintiffs established a likelihood that the USPS "actions have infringed" upon the "States' constitutional right to appoint presidential electors and set the time, place, and manner of elections; that the current changes are the result of an effort by the current Administration to use the [USPS] as a tool in partisan politics, which violates the spirit and purpose of the Postal Reorganization Act and the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act."

In his written ruling, Judge Bastian blasted the USPS actions, charging they would result in "voter disenfranchisement"...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---




Also: 175-year old science mag issues first-ever Presidential endorsement; Corporate broadcast news outlets failing disastrously to inform electorate about our worsening climate crisis...
By Brad Friedman on 9/15/2020 6:33pm PT  

On today's BradCast: The endless court battles continue as Donald Trump and the Republican Party continue their fight to make voting harder and more dangerous during the worst pandemic in a century. But we've got mostly good news today on those fronts. The news on the climate front today, however, is not nearly as encouraging. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

Among the many election and/or climate-related stories covered on today's show...

  • For the first time in its 175-year history, Scientific American magazine has made a Presidential endorsement. In this case, for Joe Biden. We explain why;
  • That endorsement comes on the heels of another recent endorsement for Biden by the BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of major labor and environmental groups. It was the first endorsement of any public candidate in the coalition's 14-year history. The group includes the United Steelworkers, the Utility Workers Union of America, the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, and four other unions with the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters and the National Wildlife Federation;
  • Despite record wildfires up and down the West Coast, two hurricanes that slammed the Gulf Coast just over two weeks ago and another one set to do the same over the next 24 hours in a record storm season, network and cable TV outlets have been woeful in their coverage of climate change, which has made all of these emergencies far worse and much more damaging. Several recent Media Matters analyses finds plenty of coverage of the fires across the networks and cable stations, but barely any mention, in the hours of coverage, of why all of this is now happening. That, just weeks out from the most critical election in our nation's history, pitting a climate change denying Republican against a Democrat who is proposing $2 trillion dollars to combat the existential crisis while putting millions back to work creating clean, renewable energy;
  • Good news for election officials and voters alike in the battleground state of Wisconsin on Monday night, as one Justice on the state's rightwing-majority Supreme Court decided to join the court's liberals to put an end to absentee ballot chaos the court created last Friday. Then, a 4 to 3 decision by the court's rightwingers ordered elections officials in the state's nearly 2,000 voting jurisdictions to immediately stop sending out absentee ballots to allow the court more time to decide if the GOP-backed Green Party Presidential ticket should be added to the ballot after the Wisconsin State Election Commission declined to do so weeks earlier. On Monday, one "conservative" joined the liberals in another 4 to 3 ruling that finds the Greens ineligible this year in the Badger State after all. State election officials are greatly relieved, as some 380,000 ballots had already gone out, and there would have been no time to re-design, re-print, re-test and re-mail as many as one million absentee ballots before both state and federal statutory deadlines this week for doing so. Both the Green Party and a separate attempt to qualify for the ballot in WI by rapper Kanye West were aided by Republican lawyers and activists in a state which Trump is said to have won in 2016 by less than one percentage point;
  • Meanwhile, both bad and good news for voters in battleground Ohio. Republicans in the state legislature on Monday voted down a proposal from a bipartisan group of election officials to cover the postage for absentee ballots. One state lawmaker who voted against the proposal (and, thus, in favor of a poll tax) from the comfort of his home during the Controlling Board's virtual online meeting, did so just one hour after reportedly learning he'd tested positive for the coronavirus;
  • In (mostly) better news for voters from the Buckeye State, a Franklin County Court of Common Pleas judge has determined that the use of absentee ballot drop-boxes does not violate state election laws. Last month, OH's Republican Sec. of State Frank LaRose issued a directive that only one secure drop-box could be used, per county, outside of County Boards of Elections. LaRose claimed state law was unclear on the matter and that the state's GOP Attorney General hadn't responded to his request for a legal opinion. So LaRose, citing the Trump Campaign's ongoing suit to block drop-boxes in battleground Pennsylvania, decided the matter on his own. State Dems sued, the state GOP intervened to oppose, and now a judge has decreed that as many drop-boxes as counties which to use is just fine according to state law.

    However, LaRose, who in a parallel case in federal court claims he is not against the use of drop-boxes, so long as the law allows it, has said he will not allow it unless he is actually ordered by the court to do so, and his office suggests they plan to appeal the state judge's ruling. LaRose, sadly, is just another hypocritical, dishonest Republican Sec. of State in Ohio, and another reminder that nobody should simply be "trusted" in an election system from any party. American elections are supposed to be built on public oversight for checks and balances, not on "trust". That public oversight is made more difficult every day by election officials who continue to use computer voting and tabulation systems that are difficult, if not impossible, for the public to oversee;

  • And in the battleground state of Nevada, where Donald Trump held another COVID super-spreader campaign event to help make more of his supporters sick --- and possibly kill them --- on Sunday, the President took to Fox and Friends today to offer a completely farcical claim about how the state's Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak is "in charge of the ballots" and using that power to rig this year's election. Among the several problems with Trump's pathetic, whiny, evidence-free charge: the state's chief election official is Republican Sec. of State Barbara Cegavske, who oversees and certifies all election results in the state.
  • Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report as climate change-fueled Hurricane Sally approaches the Gulf Coast (with several more behind her); record climate change-intensified wildfires rage out of control in the West; Biden blasts Trump as a "climate arsonist"; and Trump tells California officials that, like COVID, climate change will just go away...

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Guest: Jenny Cohn, attorney, election security advocate; Also: Climate-fueled West Coast fires keep breaking records; More new hurricanes on the way; Trump claims climate change, like COVID, will just go away...
By Brad Friedman on 9/14/2020 6:21pm PT  

Today's BradCast in a nutshell: Elected officials lie, corporate media misinforms, people die. We try again to combat all of the above today. Wish us luck. [Audio link to today's show follow below.]

First up today, Desi Doyen joins us for the latest on the deadly, devastating, climate changed-fueled wildfire infernos wreaking havoc up and down the West Coast and on the new record hurricanes that are heading our way at the same time. With more than 3 million acres now burned, hundreds of structures destroyed in California alone, and at least 35 dead from the record blazes so far, Donald Trump went to the state on Monday and told fire officials not to worry. "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch," the President told California state Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot, who was urging him to not ignore science and "recognize the changing climate and what it means to our forests." Trump's response: "Well, I don't think science knows, actually."

So, don't worry! Just as Trump repeatedly promised COVID would "just go away," (more than 190,000 Americans have been killed by it since he pulled that phony promise out of his ass), apparently the same is true for our climate crisis! Of course, our corporate media have made it much easier for Trump to misinform the nation with his lies because the corporate media have done --- and are still doing --- an horrendous job of educating the electorate about the real reasons the western fires have become so horrific and why we are now up to "V" in the named storms so far this year, with a month and half still to go in the storm season and two and a half months remaining in the wildfire season.

The media have been similarly disastrous in their education of the electorate when it comes to our woeful election system. Sadly, too many top government officials --- Democratic and Republican ones alike --- share in that blame, as we're reminded in our guest today, JENNY COHN's new short #RemoveTheModems video, warning voters about the modems that are present in voting and tabulation systems in key states --- including battlegrounds Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin --- making our entire electoral system vulnerable to hackers.

Citing the comments from officials back in 2016 falsely telling America that our voting and tabulation systems are "never connected to the Internet" (they are), so can't be hacked (they can), Cohn tells me: "I'm very worried that we're going to be gaslit again in 2020. If the electronic totals somehow favor Trump, we're going to be told to pack up and go home there's nothing to see here, he just won, 'he's a legitimate president', period."

That year, even after Democrats promised "hundreds of attorneys" on the ground to assure a legitimate election (exactly as Joe Biden's campaign did again today), the DNC and Clinton Campaign refused to demand the hand-count of ballots in the three key states (MI, WI and PA) which barely flipped to the Republican candidate for the first time in decades. That, despite the fact that had an average of just two votes been recorded for Clinton instead of Trump in each precinct in those states that year, she, not he, would have won.

"What really concerns me is the blind spot that the Democratic Party seems to have for the electronic component of potential for cheating," says Cohn. She believes, however, that at least Clinton has learned her lesson. Based on a conversation she says she had with the 2016 Democratic candidate recently, Cohen tells me: "I do believe that Hillary Clinton understands it now, and I think she understands the importance of the Democrats not boxing themselves into a corner, where they will look like hypocrites if they need to file an election challenge based on the electronic totals, or any other aspect of the election."

Whether Clinton has enough power to convince the Biden Campaign and the rest of the Party of that, Cohn suggests, is a separate question.

Cohn, an attorney, election security advocate and Twitter activist, is calling for the modems cited in her video to be removed from the systems in states which use them before the November election. As journalist Kim Zetter reported last year, many of the election officials in those states don't even realize when their private election vendor has hooked their systems up to the Internet --- some of them she reports researchers discovered, are on the net all year around!

"I have no doubt that what the Trump team wants to do is win the electronic vote on Election Day, and then try to run out the clock or do something else with the [absentee ballot] signature match, so that we don't get all of them counted," she tells Cohn argues. "Or, if it goes to a recount, it gets shut down prematurely," she says, noting correctly that Vote-by-Mail ballots are also "sent to that electronic management system too."

Cohn also discusses some of her worst fears about this year's elections (and I share some of mine, several of which are similar, especially regarding electronic pollbooks which often have no paper backup) before we take a few phone calls from listeners on the topic, with Election Day now just 50 days away. "It's going to be ugly, no matter what the official result is," she says, noting: "My biggest concern --- the overarching concern that I think we both share --- is that there won't be any transparency about the results, and therefore we'll never really know."

Cohn has posted a bunch of helpful "Tips to Mitigate Threats to Our Votes and Voter Registrations Before November" that I'd urge you to check out and share as well, even though we didn't get time to discuss them. Just a good reason to have Jenny back. Please follow her on Twitter until then!...

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Guest: Courtney Hostetler, Senior Counsel at Free Speech for People...
By Brad Friedman on 9/11/2020 7:16pm PT  

On today's BradCast, it was not a good day for those who believe in free, fair, honest, overseeable and safe democracy. On the other hand, it was a great day for Republicans! [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

We've got a boatload of court rulings from almost half a dozen states to try and make sense of today. A few of them are good. Most of them are not. But we've got some expert help in making sense of several of them, and she tells us the fight is nowhere near over.

We begin today with the breaking news out of Florida, where the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a lower court ruling that had found the state's new "pay-to-vote" law constitutional. Apparently, the five new federal jurists that Donald Trump has added to the court all agreed, in a 6-4 ruling, that poll taxes are just fine by them. They approved the law enacted by the state's GOP legislature and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis last year that undermines Amendment 4 of the state constitution. That Amendment was adopted in a bipartisan, 65-35 percent landslide in 2018 to restore voting rights to as many as 1.5 million former felons in the state, including about one quarter of the state's voting age black men.

The law specifically passed to undermine Amendment 4 requires all court-imposed fines and fees to be payed before a former felon may register to vote. So, if you have enough money, you can vote. If you don't, too bad. Also, good luck to former felons even figuring out if they owe any money at all. Florida doesn't keep track. That means many newly eligible voters won't bother to register, rather than risk being sent back to jail for violating this new law. It was passed along partisan lines last year by Florida and is virtually identical to the 150-year old statute struck down just last week by a North Carolina state court. As revealed during the course of the NC suit, the law, according to its legislative champion following post-Civil War Reconstruction, was specifically adopted to "secure White Supremacy" by preventing "the honest vote of a white man" from being "off-set by the vote of some negro." Slate's legal reporter Mark Joseph Stern derides today's Florida ruling as "one of the most dishonest, misleading, and despicable voting rights opinions I have ever read" and "an affront of the very notion that Americans have a right to vote". The ACLU Voting Rights Project's attorney Julie Ebenstein argues "the gravity of this decision cannot be overstated," describing it as "counter to the foundational principle that Americans do not have to pay to vote" and "an affront to the spirit of democracy".

In another afront to democracy, Wisconsin's rightwing state Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the state's 1850 separate municipalities to immediately stop sending out absentee ballots to the, so far, about 1 million voters who have requested them. The court's 4 to 3 partisan ruling is meant to allow it's rightwing majority time to decide if the Green Party's Presidential ticket should be added to the ballot, despite the state Election Commission, in a deadlocked 3 to 3 vote, determining that the party's Presidential nominee Howie Hawkins and Vice Presidential Nominee Angela Walker did not receive enough signatures to qualify.

At issue is hundreds of petitions that listed the Milwaukee native Walker's address as a motel in South Carolina. Why the Party used two different addresses for Walker is unclear, but the result was the WI State Election Commission --- which the GOP state legislature recently created to replace the previous non-partisan commission with a partisan one built to create such deadlocks --- followed state law. That prevented the Greens from making the ballot. After a two week delay and 378,000 absentee ballots already mailed out, the Green Party decided to sue, even though election officials from across the state say their will be no time to design, print up, test and mail out out new ballots before both state and federal statutory deadlines require them to do so next week. They also have no idea how to avoid people voting twice with two separate ballots they may receive for the same election. So, chaos reigns yet again in the election in the key battleground state where Donald Trump is said to have won in 2016 by less than one single percentage point, when the Green candidate that year received more votes than Trump's margin over Hillary Clinton.

The voting news out of Texas this week is only slightly better. First, the good news: A federal judge there has ordered state election officials to notify voters within one day after a "perceived signature mismatch" is determined on absentee ballots, and to allow voters a "meaningful opportunity" to correct the issue. Previously, after officials, who are not handwriting experts, decided a signature was not a match to the voter's registration application (often years old), the ballot was simply rejected without notifying voters until 10 days after the election. In other good voting news from the Lone Star state, a state judge has determined that the Clerk in Harris County (Houston) is, in fact, allowed to send out absentee ballot applications to all registered voters in the nation's 4th largest city. The state's Republican Attorney General had sued to block the effort. I suspect he'll appeal, but we'll see.

But the war on voting in the Lone Star State doesn't stop with those two victories for democracy, unfortunately. The Mayor of Houston wants to know why more than a dozen local U.S. Post Offices have refused to allow volunteers from the non-partisan League of Women Voters to make multilingual voter registration materials available at those facilities.

And our guest today, COURTNEY HOSTETLER, Senior Counsel at the non-partisan Free Speech For People, joins us to explain the disappointing decision from a federal judge this week in response to a recent lawsuit filed by FSFP on behalf of Mi Familia Vota and the Texas NAACP seeking to address what the groups describe as "unsafe and unequal voting conditions" in the state during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The suit seeks a Preliminary Injunction in challenging the state's "insufficient number of polling places"; "its limited and inaccessible early voting locations"; a lack of social distancing requirements; Gov. Greg Abbot's statewide mask mandate which allows an exception for voters and pollworkers; and the dangerous "reliance on repeat-touch voting machines" amid the deadly pandemic, among other concerns. All of which, the complaint argues, "will result in unsafe voting conditions and increased risk of coronavirus transmission, which in turn will result in voter suppression." Moreover, as Hostetler explains today, "the health risks and adverse impact of these policies will place an undue burden on the right to vote and be borne disproportionately by voters of color, in violation of the U.S. Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law, and the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment."

Texas has some of the most restrictive absentee voting requirements in the nation, so the dangers at polling places --- in this case, unequal ones --- are no small matter. "The real crux of the Constitutional issues at stake here," Hostetler tells me, "is that people won't show up to vote because they can't risk getting COVID-19 and dying. They can't risk not being able to work for 3 weeks if they get it...This is what's at stake, and the burden is not shared equally in Texas. It's both unconstitutional and it violates the Voting Rights Act." She says the federal judge, rather than deciding the case on its merits, determined that the matter is a political one, rather than an issue to be decided by the courts. While the case is still live, the judge has denied the group's motion for a Preliminary Injunction, which likely pushes the matter back until after the election. But the groups today decided that they will file an appeal.

In Pennsylvania this week, a state court judge also ruled against a Motion for Preliminary Injunction in a similar suit filed by FSFP and the Pennsylvania NAACP "to establish safe and equal voting procedures for the upcoming general election." There too, the groups plan to appeal.

And in North Carolina, where FSFP filed a suit last April to block the use of new "insecure, unreliable, unverifiable, and unsafe" touchscreen voting machines with the NC NAACP, the groups late last week filed an appeal to the state Supreme Court after a lower court denied their original complaint.

The appeal is "alleging imminent risk to voters' right to free elections and equal protection under the laws if they are required to vote on the [ES&S] ExpressVote touch screen ballot marking device this November". The complaint, as we discussed with Hostletler last spring when it was initially filed, "alleges the new [touchscreeen] system is vulnerable to security threats and its results are unverifiable, in violation of the North Carolina Constitution’s guarantees of free and fair elections and equal protection of the law." She says that though this matter will no longer be decided before this year's election, "the case is still live, and we are ready and preparing to litigate this fully and pursue this case through trial, because it does have long term implications for the state of North Carolina, because these machines are utterly unreliable and unverifiable";

So, yeah, a rough week for those who favor voting, voting rights and free, fair and safe democracy. But, as Hostetler argues today: "Every time there's an effort to push back against free and fair elections, there are people who are saying 'No, I'm going to fight you on that." She urges voters to fight like hell to make sure that they cast their ballot this year and vote as safely as they can, while letting her group or others know when and if they run into barriers.

"Know that there are people across the country who are fighting to change these policies," she says. "Nobody is alone in this. There are a lot of people fighting, and we can always use more"...

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Guests: Lulu Friesdat and Robin Gibson on activist efforts to urge CA Sec. of State to mitigate most dangerous elements of $300M computer voting machines before certification and critical 2020 general election...
By Brad Friedman on 8/31/2020 6:32pm PT  

On today's BradCast: We make short work (for now) of several breaking news stories from over the weekend and into today. Then its straight on to our main story today, which you will hear nowhere else in the media. [Audio link to today's full show is posted below summary.]

In January, we broke the news here on The BRAD BLOG and The BradCast that Los Angeles County's brand-new, unverifiable, $300 million, 10-years-in-development touchscreen polling place voting system had failed to meet more than 40 different California Voting System Standards, according to independent certification testers hired by CA's Secretary of State Alex Padilla. Despite critical security issues that alarmed voting system and cybersecurity experts, the machines were nonetheless "conditionally certified" by Padilla just prior to the March 3rd Super Tuesday primary in the state. The new machines (known as Ballot Marking Devices or BMDs) and the electronic pollbooks that are required to work with them, both failed spectacularly. Voters were disenfranchised by the "Voting Solutions for All People" or VSAP system, as many across the nation's most populous voting jurisdiction were either turned away or forced to wait for hours in line to vote.

It was well after midnight before all of those still in line finally cast their votes on Super Tuesday. It was, of course, impossible to know if any of those votes were tallied as per any voter's intent, because BMD systems print out a computer-marked paper ballot which may or may not reflect the actual intent of any voter. It's impossible to know if results are accurate in any election that uses BMDs for the majority of voters. Recent studies [PDF] find that more than 90% of voters do not notice when a BMD has misprinted one or more of their votes on the paper printout.

After the March 3rd disaster in L.A. (which we had warned about long in advance, to little interest from media or public officials, even from the L.A. County Supervisors, much less Sec. Padilla) the system's brainchild, Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan, was allowed a mulligan. He promised to fix what didn't work before the November election and told us all to simply trust him. Next time would be better. Many in the media then lost whatever interest they had as it was just weeks after Super Tuesday that COVID pandemic struck hard.

Well, now Padilla has recently posted the new certification testing results from Logan's mulligan, VSAP 2.1. The results do not inspire confidence, as many of the same problems with the system originally --- such as paper jams and misprinted QR Codes {PDF] --- still exist, according to testers. Now Padilla must decide in the next two weeks whether or not to certify them again. In truth, he has little choice as Early Voting is now just weeks away. While the state's decision to send every active voter a Vote-by-Mail ballot may help to ease many of the potential log jams at the county's new Voting Centers, ballots cast on the new systems --- as opposed to verifiable hand-marked paper absentee ballots --- are still vulnerable to manipulation and can never been known to reflect voter intent after the polls close.

However, there are some things that Padilla could require to be done to mitigate some of the worst dangers of the system if it is to be used for this year's critical November election. Several dozen election integrity and activist groups, along with a number of esteemed cybersecurity and voting systems experts, recently signed on to an excellent public letter led by the California Clean Money Campaign, demanding Padilla implement a number of the mitigations before certifying the updated voting systems.

We're joined today by LULU FRIESDAT, co-founder of SmartElections.us and ROBIN GIBSON, longtime Los Angeles Election Integrity advocate, to discuss those potential mitigations and the one-and-only public comments hearing held today online before Padilla's pending decision to certify. They report that Padilla did not bother to attend, though Logan, apparently, came by near the end of the session to claim that everything is now working fine. "Our registrar got on the call and dismissed two hours of worried voters, and said he had tests that said it was fine," Gibson explained. "It was like 'I win, nah, nah, nah.'"

As Friesdat and Gibson explain, the citizen advocates and experts are asking in their letter for the ballot boxes attached to each touchscreen tablet system to be removed, so that the computer-printed ballots don't have to pass back through the same printer heads after they've been (theoretically) verified by each voter. Experts warn [PDF] that sending the ballot back through the same printer path after verification is a major security risk, allowing the system to change voters votes, without their knowledge, after they have supposedly already approved their printed ballot. Instead, the group is urging that the attached ballot boxes be removed, and that ballots be deposited manually by voters into a separate ballot box at the polling place, for tabulation later.

The group is also asking Padilla to do away with the unverifiable QR Codes that are printed on each ballot. It is that code --- which can't be verified as accurate by any voter --- that is actually read by the optical-scan computer tabulators to tallly each ballot, rather than the human-readable text print out that voters may or may not have verified! "It is not secure to have the vote encoded in a QR code," Friesdat joins cybsersecurity experts in warning.

Moreover, the groups are calling for real, hand-marked paper ballots to be made available to any and all voters at Voting Centers for voters smart enough to want to cast a verifiable vote. "This is basic," Friesdat insists. "Hand-marked paper ballots are the gold standard that security experts recommend. It's not hard to provide them, and voters should be encouraged to use hand-marked paper ballots if they're able to mark by hand."

They also uge Padilla and Logan to finally release the source code to this supposedly County-owned and developed system. The money appropriated by tax-payers was done on the basis, advanced by both Padilla and Logan, that it would be a fully "open source" system, 100% publicly owned. All of that is also important because elections officials in other states and counties across the country have expressed interest in adopting this exact system if it ever actually works in L.A.

Friesdat and Gibson detail many of their own concerns, as well as others who offered public comment today before we open up the phone lines to listener questions about this terrible new system, just 64 days before Election Day and mere weeks before early voting is set to begin in Los Angeles County...

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Guest: Aklima Khondoker of All Voting is Local; Also: Hurricane Laura to slam Gulf Coast; White vigilante arrested for killing Kenosha protesters; Trump's violations of law at RNC Day 2 reveal 'The Audacity of the Grift'...
By Brad Friedman on 8/26/2020 7:16pm PT  

On today's BradCast we head back to Georgia --- yes, again! --- for yet more new evidence highlighting the state as offering arguably the worst --- and most racist --- voting system in the nation. But we begin with breaking news today. Too much of it. [Audio link to full show is posted at bottom of summary.]

First up, Hurricane Laura is now a monster storm, currently a Category 4, and headed for landfall near the Texas/Louisiana border. The National Hurricane Center warns it will be "unsurvivable" and could submerge entire towns near the coast, with a storm surge as high as 20 feet and a menace to cities as far as 200 miles inland. A massive evacuation is now under way in both states, though avoiding the COVID pandemic in evacuation shelters may be very tricky, even as some areas in the storm's target zone have recently seen high positive test rates.

In Kenosha, Wisconsin, where protests continued for a third straight night following the outrageous police shooting, caught on tape, of African-American father Jacob Blake, two protesters were killed by a gunman on Tuesday. The alleged shooter, according to police, is a white 17-year old police fan boy from across the border in Illinois. Tuesday's shootings were also caught by cell phone video, not long after the suspected gunman was seen on video with a group of armed vigilantes being thanked by local police for their presence. After he had shot at least three protesters and was identified to police by others, the cops reportedly allowed him to walk right past them, assault rifle in hand, as they focused on the victims instead. The man was arrested today in Illinois.

Then --- after still more breaking news that the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks were boycotting their playoff game today to protest the shooting of Blake, leading the NBA to cancel all of tonight's playoff games --- we get to what necessarily became our truncated coverage of Day 2 of the Republican National Convention.

It was a stunning evening, in which one law after another was proudly broken or flaunted as the White House, U.S. Marines, the Acting Sec. of Homeland Security, a tax-payer funded trip by the Sec. of State to Israel, and the Presidential Seal were all used for political purposes, during the convention itself, so that Donald Trump could ironically be declared "the Law and Order President" by one hypocritical speaker after another.

Among the speakers were Trump's daughter Tiffany, his wife Melania and his son Eric who followed former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi making the case --- with a straight face --- that Joe Biden's family members were involved in some sort of criminal nepotism. Trump's son Eric, who serves as Executive Vice President for his father's company, was sued this week by the New York State Attorney General for failing to respond with documents and testimony to a lawful subpoena amid an investigation into bank and tax fraud by his father and the Trump Organization where Eric works. All of that as Trump's senior economic adviser Larry Kudlow pretended that the COVID pandemic --- which has so far killed at least 178,000 Americans, including more than 1,100 on Tuesday alone --- was over, thanks to Donald Trump's quick response.

As usual, all of these nightmares underscore the need to prevent Trump from winning a second term. But it won't be easy, as we learn again today with yet another story of targeted voter suppression out of Georgia. We have spent a disproportionate amount of time in recent years on this program reporting on the disastrous state of voting in Georgia. It is thought possible that the battleground state could finally flip to "blue" for this year's Presidential election and its TWO U.S. Senate races, but it continues to feature arguably offer the worst voting system in the nation.

By way of very quick summary of just a few data points to back up that allegation:

  • In 2016, after a huge purge of voters from the roles, we would learn after the Presidential election that Georgia's then Republican Sec. of State, now Governor, Brian Kemp, left the entire voter database and passwords to its voting systems unprotected online for download by anyone. When caught, he lied about it and wiped the entire server despite an ongoing lawsuit.
  • In 2018, a federal judge found the state's nearly 20-year old, unverifiable, easily-hacked touchscreen voting systems, mandated for use at the polling place in every county, to be outdated, insecure and unverifiable.
  • In that year's election, overseen by Kemp himself, he was narrowly found (by those same failed systems) to have "won" the Governor's race in a contest that his Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams, regards as illegitimate due to, among other things, the purges and disproportionate rejection of absentee ballots cast by African-Americans.
  • Also in 2018, some 250,000 votes in the Lt. Governor's race inexplicably disappeared in black precincts.
  • In 2019, the federal judge ruled the state's voting system so insecure and unverifiable that they were, in fact, unconstitutional. She banned them from further use and ordered the system to be replaced by a new one.
  • In 2019, the new Republican Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger ordered new, similarly unverifiable, easily-hacked touchscreen voting systems to replace the old systems found to be unconstitutional, rather than move to a cheaper, VERIFIABLE, hand-marked paper ballot system recommended by voting and computer experts. The new $130 million systems failed in their first outing late last year and again during primaries this year, leading to hours-long voting lines in the Peach State, once again, largely in minority areas.
  • And we would also later learn that the new digital optical-scan computers used to tally hand-marked absentee ballots in the Peach State had skipped counting unknown thousands of votes during the June primaries, due to a software setting that allows election officials or the private voting system vendor or even hackers to dial up or down the sensitivity setting to determine which votes are counted or not.

All of which brings us to this week, as the Georgia chapter of All Voting Is Local unveiled a new analysis of rejected vote-by-mail ballots from the June primary elections in the state. You'll be shocked to learn that in the three counties they examined, the mail-in ballots from black voters were rejected at disproportionately higher rates than others. For example, in the Atlanta suburb of Cobb County, Black voters submitted 24 percent of the absentee ballots requested but accounted for 38 percent of mail-in ballots rejected by the County.

We're joined today by AKLIMA KHONDOKER, former ACLU attorney, now Georgia State Director for All Voting is Local, to explain her group's analysis and why the rates of absentee ballot rejection are so high for black voters in Georgia and, to a lesser extent, Hispanic and Asian voters as well. Khondoker warns that while the group only looked at three counties in Georgia --- finding similarly alarming statistics in each --- the problem likely extends not only to the rest of the state, but likely to many others around the nation.

"I don't think this is unique to Georgia. This is likely something we would see nationwide," she argues, citing the "institutional and structural racism that has led to the wealth of problems that we see in our elections. There is no way to cleave the two. Because we have a clear system that has always worked for one and not the other." She goes on to explain how this new analysis is just one more data point underscoring evidence that institutional racism "undercuts everything in our election systems."

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Guests: Heather Digby Parton on Kamala as VEEP; Jeanne Dufort on why the Peach State's new, $100 million digital-scanners failed to count thousands of valid votes and how to fix it before November...
By Brad Friedman on 8/11/2020 7:09pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Two mysteries solved in one single, if hectic, show! [Audio link to full show is posted at end of article.]

The first is the mystery of who presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden would select as his Vice-Presidential partner. Now we know. Less than an hour before showtime today, it was announced that California's first-term U.S. Senator Kamala Harris will become the first black woman (and first South Asian American woman) to be part of a major party's Presidential ticket. On short notice, we were able to scrounge up the great HEATHER DIGBY PARTON of Salon and Digby's Hullabaloo blog to join us for her "top-line, knee-jerk, hot-take" response to the big news and how she thinks it will play both among the electorate at large and the far, FAR more picky progressive electorate.

Parton, a progressive herself, who says she was rooting for Elizabeth Warren to be named for the slot, describes Harris as a "a very skilled politician"; argues that her selection "says something nice about Biden"; discusses the "legitimate concerns that progressives have had about Harris"; and whether she believes "the Left" will be able to "put aside their differences" to get behind the ticket, before "going to fight tooth and nail about the things that we care about" in the event that Biden actually becomes President next January.

Today's other solved mystery is much trickier. And it has to do with Georgia, which is holding primary runoff elections today, along with state primary elections on Tuesday in Vermont, Connecticut, Minnesota and Wisconsin. (We'll have noteworthy results from all of those states, as available, on tomorrow's BradCast, of course). Naturally, because it's Election Day in Georgia --- a key battleground state which some believe could finally flip from "red" to "blue" this year for the first time in decades --- there are problems at the polls. While hopefully not as terrible as the meltdown caused by the state's new unverifiable touchscreen voting systems and electronic pollbooks that resulted in hours-long lines in largely Democratic-leaning precincts during the state's June primary, we have early indications that the same, new, overly-complex, computerized voting systems failed voters again today in at least some of the 94 (of 159) counties participating in today's runoffs.

Despite that distressing (if unsurprising) news today in Georgia, there was some good-ish news from the State Elections Board (SEB) there. They met on Monday to adopt new procedures in advance of the November 3rd Presidential election. The SEB unanimously agreed to allow voters to request absentee ballots for November via a new online webpage to go live by the end of the month. That's good news for those who have easy online access. But, shamefully, it comes along with the news that Republican Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger, after successfully sending out Vote-by-Mail applications to all of the state's active registered voters before the June primary, will NOT be doing so before this year's Presidential election. Apparently, that plan worked too well and allowed too many to easily vote from home, when they might otherwise have had to struggle with long lines and Raffensperger's failed electronic voting systems at the polling place in the middle of an ongoing global pandemic.

Also at Georgia's SEB meeting on Monday, the Board agreed to make a change to the state's new computer-tabulation systems that scan and count those hand-marked paper absentee ballots. (Voters at the polls are forced to use unverifiable touchscreen systems.) The SEB's change to a software setting on the systems came about, thanks in no small part, to our guest today, JEANNE DUFORT of the Coalition for Good Governance.

Following the June primaries, Dufort was on a bi-partisan citizens' panel reviewing digital images of hand-marked paper absentee ballots on which the computerized digital-scanners believed there were over-votes with, for example, more than one oval in a single race seen by the computer as being filled in. State law requires manual examination of such ballots to determine if the voter's intent is discernible or not. While reviewing those ballots, Dufort and the other panelists in Morgan County noticed that the tabulation system had marked some clearly discernible votes on many of those same ballots as containing "no vote". Why were those votes not counted by the new, $100 million tabulation system made by the Canadian firm Dominion Voting? And would elections officials manually examine ALL of the hand-marked ballots to count those "lost" votes? As Dufort told us on this program at the time she discovered the problem after the June primary, there were potentially tens of thousands of perfectly legitimate votes that had gone uncounted.

Well, today we finally have the answer to the mystery of why the system had failed to count some of those votes. It has to do with a sensitivity setting on the digital optical-scan tabulators that the Secretary of State's office claims they did not originally know about when they initially dismissed Dufort's concerns back in June. That setting, apparently, directs the computer to ignore votes in which less than 12% of the bubble was filled in. (Often, instead of inking in the entire bubble, voters will use a check-mark or an X. While the voter's intent is easily discernible to the human eye, the new computers that tabulate votes were set to record such marks --- that filled less than 12% of the bubble --- as a "no vote".)

"It assigns it a 'percentage of fill'," Dufort tells me. "In our case in Georgia, what we later found out was that these Dominion factory settings said if a vote was deemed to cover more than 35% of that area...if the threshold percentage hit 35% or above, the system said, 'Yep, that's a vote! It counts!' If the threshold was between 12-35%, it said, 'that's ambiguous, I'm not sure something is there, better get a human to look at it.' If it fell below 12%, it said, 'I see that, but it's not a vote, so I'm going to label it unvoted, and I'm not even going to call it to the attention of the humans.'"

While Dufort says that it is good news that the SEB has now agreed to lower the bottom of the software sensitivity range setting to 10%, the longtime Election Integrity advocate says that she and others in the state believe it should be set lower still, to avoid more lost votes, in advance of the Presidential Election. "We think 10% is still too high," she says. "So we're going to be out talking to them. This rule is out for 30 days of public comment. We'll be saying thank you, but you really need to take it down to 5, which we have learned is what Colorado uses. And they've been doing hand-marked paper ballots statewide for a very long time. We think that's a good benchmark for Georgia."

She also observes that the the old settings, less sensitive settings, are still being used to tally today's runoff elections, which could be a problem in the event of close races. Moreover, she explains, "the color of the ink [and] the brand of the ink in your pen can change how the computer measures it." We discuss all of that, how the changes may affect results this November, and whether we should be worried that such a software setting could be abused by ill-intentioned election insiders (or hackers) in the critical battleground state (or others that use similar systems) during the Presidential election.

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, with more deadly fossil fuel disasters, a warning about this year's already-record Atlantic Hurricane season, and some very disturbing climate change news out of Canada, where the last intact ice shelf has finally collapsed and broken away...

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Guest: Mark Joseph Stern on new Court opinions on 'faithless electors', Obamacare and the GOP's ongoing (and now deadly) war on voting...
By Brad Friedman on 7/7/2020 6:52pm PT  

We've got a bit of a roller coaster today between good news and terrible news on today's BradCast. But that's life in the times of Trump and the coronavirus, I guess. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

First up today, the COVID-19 crisis continues to gravely worsen in the U.S., with new record infections and hospitalizations now pretty much every day for the past month. Despite the increasingly desperate concerns expressed by health experts, especially for hotspots where Governors reopened states far too early, some Republicans from the President of the United States on down are calling for measures that will only increase infection rates, hospitalizations and, yes, death.

Florida's Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran on Monday, for example, declared that all public schools must reopen next month to all students for in-person classes five days a week. His emergency order notes that reopening schools is critical to "a return to Florida hitting its full economic stride". That, despite more than 200,000 confirmed cases and new record daily infection rates each day for weeks now in the Sunshine State.

At the same time, in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, Donald Trump held a White House event to demand the reopening of schools and to praise Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis for a "terrific job" in ordering them to open. Trump claimed that schools have been closed elsewhere for "political reasons" and added that "we are very much going to put pressure on Governors and everybody else to open the schools." This is now a death march being led by the President of the United States.

But if Republican politicians are fine sending children and their teachers and their families to their potential deaths, how do you think federal judges appointed by Trump or sympathetic to his political cause are going to react to measures being taken to try and make voting safer for Americans on November 3rd? We're joined again today by Slate's ace legal reporter MARK JOSEPH STERN to discuss Monday's opinions released by the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as a disturbing pattern of rulings at both SCOTUS and on the appellate level over the past two weeks that bodes darkly for this year's crucial Presidential election.

First, Monday's new opinions: The Court decided unanimously that states may prevent so-called "faithless electors" from casting their vote in the Electoral College for someone other than the Presidential candidate chosen by the state's popular vote. The issue stemmed from two combined cases of "faithless electors" in 2016, one of which was brought by plaintiff Michael Baca against Colorado. Baca appeared on The BradCast in December of 2016 to explain the reasons for his planned "faithless" vote in the Electoral College that year, before he was later prevented by the state from casting it.

While that opinion, written by Justice Elana Kagan received most of the media attention on Monday, another opinion handed down by the Court that day is likely of far greater import. The Court's 6 to 3 decision, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh writing for the majority in a case concerning robocalls made to cell phones, actually reveals some very encouraging news regarding a challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) that will be heard next session by the Court. Kavanaugh's opinion, striking down one element of a robocall law as unconstitutional while upholding the rest of the law, suggests the challenge to Obamacare by GOP-controlled states and the White House --- seeking to strike down the entire health care law as unconstitutional based on the constitutionality of one single, now meaningless, provision --- is likely to fail.

As Kavanaugh crucially noted in his opinion, in words that will be remembered next year during the ACA case: "Constitutional litigation is not a game of gotcha against Congress, where litigants can ride a discrete constitutional flaw in a statute to take down the whole, otherwise constitutional statute."

"It's important to note that seven justices agreed with [Kavanaugh] on that particular point," Stern tells me. "Only Thomas and Gorsuch disagreed."

And with that seemingly very good news out of the way, we turn to a flurry of recent decisions by both SCOTUS and a number of federal appeals courts that are extremely concerning and revealing as to how right-wing controlled federal courts will be dealing with voter suppression cases and measures intended to make voting easier during the pandemic this November. Recent court rulings in cases out of Florida, Wisconsin, Alabama and Texas, as Stern explains, are very troubling indeed and suggest we could be in for no small amount of chaos, disenfranchisement and, yes, deadly disease, in this year's critical general elections.

There are more opinions to come from the Court before they are finished for the summer. Quips Stern darkly today: "We've got a handful left, and we will see if the Supreme Court breaks our democracy before the end of the term."

Finally, we close with Desi Doyen and our latest Green News Report, with a bit more news out of SCOTUS and lower federal courts, including some surprisingly very good news on several controversial oil and gas pipelines!...

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Guest: The Prospect's David Dayen; Also: PA Repubs kept COVID infection a secret from Dems; Absentee ballot applications for all in WI...
By Brad Friedman on 5/28/2020 6:32pm PT  

On today's BradCast, it's concierge service from the Fed for Wall Street during the crisis, as American workers are left fighting for table scraps to stay alive. Again. [Audio link to full show is posted at end of summary.]

New weekly unemployment numbers out on Thursday from the U.S. Dept. of Labor suggest that while new jobless claims are beginning to slow, they are still coming in each week at all-time record numbers. Another 2.1 million Americans filed new claims last week, bringing the number of unemployed to Great Depression era levels of nearly 41 million Americans out of work. Another way to look at it is that a staggering one in four working Americans has filed for unemployment over the past 10 weeks since the COVID-19 crisis began in earnest in the U.S. Those official government numbers [PDF], however, are still lower than the real unemployment numbers, as millions are believed still stuck in line or having trouble getting through to still-overburdened state unemployment offices.

"A closer depiction of reality in the crisis," our guest DAVID DAYEN of The American Prospect, reports today, is a recent Census Bureau survey finding "that nearly half of all households have lost income" since the crisis struck in mid-March. At the very same time, however, as jobs are still disappearing and S&P 500 companies report an average 13% loss in profits during the first quarter of the year, the stock market has been soaring of late. Even with today's record jobless numbers, the market continued to rise (though it dropped a bit just before today's close) with the Dow up over 1,000 points in the past three days and the S&P 500 reporting record gains over the past month.

Another study cited by Dayen today comes from the Institute for Policy Studies, finding that "since March 18, as 100,000 died from COVID-19 and 40 million lost their jobs, billionaires in America have added $485 billion in wealth." Must be nice. So why is this happening? Why does the economy appear to be tanking everywhere except for on Wall Street?

Dayen, who, in his daily "Unsanitized" columns at The Prospect has been reporting for weeks on the "$4.5 trillion money cannon" unleashed by the Federal Reserve, with the approval of Congress in the CARES Act. He explains how that relief bill gave the go-ahead for the Fed to signal in late March, for the first time in history, that they will backstop corporate debt for huge companies. Without spending a dime, the signal the Fed gave on March 23rd is that investors didn't have to worry about about any risk associated with buying bonds from those companies. The Fed would back them up in the event the companies failed. So, as Dayen detailed this week, troubled firms like Carnival Cruise Lines, which is unable to make a penny now in the cruise line business, and Boeing, which was already in trouble before the coronavirus crisis began, are still raking in tens of millions (even billions) of dollars in the bargain. And, since the funding is coming from private equity firms and hedge funds (as guaranteed by the federal government), that "mothers milk", as Dayen describes it, is coming with no strings attached, unlike direct loans from the Government's CARES Act might have. That means, he says, that at least 49 major companies have brought in enormous sums of money during the crisis this way, even as they've laid off tens of thousands of workers at the very same time while using their windfall of cheap money to pay executive bonuses and purchase stock buybacks as working class American suffer in a way they haven't since the Great Depression.

"What idiot would send money to Carnival Cruise lines right now?," Dayen quips, before explaining how the Fed's announcement gave the go ahead to private equity firms to invest in the company anyway. "What they're saying is 'We're going to support the entire market'. ... They're essentially saying to investors, we will take care of you, we will do whatever it takes. The markets take that as a signal that they're going to be coddled, they're going to be protected, and that's all it takes."

This was all done with the approval of both parties in Congress, even as some Dems are now beginning to regret giving no-string attached approval to Donald Trump's Treasury Dept./Federal Reserve money cannon. "When you defer to the Fed as your main policy-making engine in the country, you're going to get disproportionate responses, because the Fed deals with banks and they deal with large corporations. And that's who is going to get the relief. Not the average person on the street."

"When ordinary people, 40 million strong, have to go on to the unemployment lines, they get limited, temporary relief that will probably go away very soon, and they struggle to obtain food and figure out how to maintain their shelter," Dayen explains. "The problem is not that large companies got a bailout from something that wasn't of their own making --- the coronavirus crisis --- the problem is that there's one system for elite investors and large corporations and one system for everybody else."

How long can this last? Dayen discusses that as well, as states and municipalities around the country are themselves facing massive revenue shortages and fiscal year budget deadlines by July 1 in many cases. Without Congress enacting another relief bill for those states and municipalities, critical local services will soon be slashed. Cops, firefighters, teachers, and even medical workers will be laid off amid the continuing global pandemic, gutting revenue to those states even further. Democrats in the House have already passed a $3 trillion bill to help out state and local governments. Republicans in the Senate, however, have said they are in no rush to take any further action for now.

We also discuss the unimaginable politicization of this pandemic, where even the idea that measures to keep Americans alive has now become a political hot potato just five months before the crucial November elections.

That unimaginable politicization is now on full display in Pennsylvania, where a Republican state lawmaker disclosed on Wednesday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus. While he had known for at least ten days, he told only his Republican colleagues in the House. Democrats were left in the dark, even as GOPers in the gerrymandered House demanded in-person committee hearings where Dems were unknowingly put in contact with colleagues who had been in contact with the infected Rep and didn't even bother to wear masks during hearings demanding the reopening of businesses in the state. One Democratic Representative from Philadelphia unleashed a tirade during a Facebook Live video Wednesday night (which we share on today's show), calling on the GOP Speaker of the House to resign and for the state Attorney General to consider prosecution of those members who endangered the others along with their families. All of which underscores, yet again, the importance of the upcoming election and the reckoning that should come with it.

To that end, we've got some good news out of the state of Wisconsin (for a change), where the bi-partisan state Election Commission voted unanimously on Wednesday to send absentee ballot applications to all of the Badger State's 2.7 million registered voters before the November election. That, in hopes of avoiding the nightmarish consequences of the state's April 7th primary when GOP state lawmakers refused to agree to the Democratic Governor's attempt to postpone the election or extend absentee balloting to keep residents safe during the crisis. So, will Donald Trump threaten to cut off funding to WI as he did last week when Michigan announced their intention to also sent absentee ballot applications to all registered voters? Stay tuned.

Finally, we're joined by Desi Doyen for our latest Green News Report with troubling predictions from NOAA for hurricane season; the plague of locusts spreading from Africa to India; New York and New Jersey reject a proposal for a new fracked-gas pipeline; and a new $14 million ad campaign ties Trump's deadly coronavirus denial to his long-standing deadly denial of our climate crisis...

Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...

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* If 'Greatness' means record unemployment and tens of thousands of unnecessarily dead Americans..
By Brad Friedman on 5/21/2020 6:59pm PT  

Remember waaay back on Monday when we warned you to take the news from biotech company Moderna about their self-proclaimed early success in tests of a coronavirus vaccine with a huge grain of salt? The announcement that spiked their stock price some 50% in one single day and resulted in a 900 point rally for the Dow? Well, the market is still enjoying its irrational exuberance, but Moderna's stock price is largely back to where it was before Monday's "science by press release". Not to be a party pooper before the Memorial Day weekend, but that seems an apt analog, somehow, for much of what we cover/warn about on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show is at bottom of summary.]

Donald Trump and his Republican henchmen in Congress are running into a problem. Pretending the coronavirus crisis away only goes so far. Sure, you can announce that you have "reopened" for business, but that doesn't mean anybody will show up. Even with all 50 states now relaxing various restrictions, demand remains low and, therefore, unemployment remains high and is still getting higher each week.

New numbers from the U.S. Dept. of Labor report that 2.4 million Americans filed new unemployment claims last week. It is the ninth week in a row of new claims higher than 2 million --- some weeks were larger than 6 million --- even though the all-time weekly record, prior to COVID-19, was less than one million. Even during the 2008 Great Recession, initial claims for unemployment insurance never topped one million. The good news is the number of new filers has been decreasing in recent weeks. The bad news is that almost all of those people, nearly 40 million of them, remain out of work. For now, however, they have been able to rely on expanded benefits enacted by Congress that offer an additional $600 a week through the end of July. The program was designed to, yes, keep people at home in order to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Those payments have, by and large, prevented the U.S. economy from tanking entirely. And now, Republicans in Congress are insisting that they will not extend those benefits, as they join Trump in trying to convince themselves and the nation that the crisis is over. It isn't. Not by a long shot. Ending that expansion of unemployment right now in hopes of forcing workers back to their jobs --- where they may well get sick and die, just as had been happening before the shutdowns --- in hopes of restarting the economy, is likely to kill the economy entirely, according to economists, anyway. But what do they know? We discuss.

In lieu of an actual plan --- versus a Jedi Mind Trick --- to prevent a new rise in infections and deaths, Trump and his GOP pals seem prepared to hide the statistics and otherwise distract us with things like a new, wholly (and statutorily) unqualified Director of National Intelligence! Gutting a long-standing arms control deal with Russia! And trying to blame Obama for all sorts of imaginary scandals in hopes of harming presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden.

It shouldn't work. But, given our gullible corporate media, who knows? Satirist Randy Rainbow, however, has a new musical take on it all for us today.

While Republicans on Fox "News" are instructing their "patriotic" American cult members to get out there and get back to work, their star anchors continue to do so from the safety of their own home studios, where Fox Corp has directed them to remain for at least another month. YOU are supposed to die for the economy and the President's reelection! Not THEM!

And the irrational exuberant premature reopenings could well make a huge difference in the ultimate COVID-19 death toll, if a new study about the timing of the initial lockdowns from Columbia University disease modelers tells us anything. They find that a heart-breaking 36,000 fewer Americans would have died if the country had implemented stay-at-home restrictions just one week earlier in March. Moreover, the researchers found, had shutdowns occurred on March 1 the vast majority (83%) of deaths would have been avoided. Each single day that Trump and Governors around the country ignored or refused too take the crisis seriously resulted in the unnecessary loss of thousands of American lives.Depending on how quickly and/or irresponsibly states now lift restrictions, many more thousands of lives could be lost. Given the way a number of GOP-run states are now attempting to hide or censor infection and death rates, the cost could ultimately become unspeakable.

Another new study from the University of Wisconsin and Ball State University offers a real life example of all of this. The analysis found that last month's primary election in Wisconsin --- when the state's rightwing Supreme Court blocked attempts by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to postpone the election or switch it to an all Vote-by-Mail election --- resulted in a "statistically and economically significant association between in-person voting and the spread of COVID-19 two to three weeks after the election." They found that WI counties "with higher levels of in-person voting per polling location led to increases in the weekly positive rate of COVID-19 tests. Furthermore, counties with higher absentee voting participation had lower rates of detecting COVID-19 two to three weeks after the election."

Yes, these decisions matter. Lives hang in the balance. No matter the Jedi Mind Trick Trump was hoping to pull off when he recently declared: "We're opening up; the states are opening up. It's a transition to greatness!" Perhaps "greatness" is now just another word for mass murder.

Finally today, a bit of email from a listener in the Badger State who now regards it as "Wississippi," and Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, with ongoing climate disasters --- yes, our climate crisis continues even as the coronavirus has temporarily cleared the air a bit --- from the state of Michigan to the Bay of Bengal...

Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...

P.S. By the way, we are ducking out early for some much needed Memorial Day weekend down time. Yes, my brain actually hurts each day these days. Hopefully a few days off will help. See ya on the other side! Stay safe and healthy until then!

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Government whistleblower slams Trump's disastrous response; Dems ditch proposed give-away to 'dark money' groups; WI Supremes endanger state again; Trump voters now more at risk of virus...
By Brad Friedman on 5/15/2020 6:22pm PT  

As ever (but especially on Fridays!), we try to find some good news where we can on The BradCast. It's been slim pickings of late, but we work with what we've got. We don't create the news. We just report it. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

We start off with what progressive journalist and former Bernie Sanders staffer David Sirota describes as "Some actual good news". It picks up on an issue we discussed with The American Prospect's David Dayen, who has also been reporting on the same issue, on yesterday's show. House Democrats have been putting together their proposal for the next round of coronavirus emergency funding. Their so-called Heroes Act bill amounts to about $3 trillion of spending in response to the crisis, including a curious expansion of the Paycheck Protection Act for small businesses. The expansion would allow for certain non-profit organizations who were not previously eligible to take advantage of the program.

Among the expanded groups are industry trade groups (lobbyists!) and dark money campaign organizations, which both Davids --- Dayen and Sirota --- strongly objected to. (As noted with Dayen yesterday, and again today, I'm not quite as vehemently against it, for reasons which I explain in a bit more detail on today's program.) In any event, as Sirota reported late on Thursday, it appears that House Democrats heard the complaints, thanks to the handful of independent progressive media outlets reporting on it, and quietly amended the measure to ensure that PPP recipients do "not make a contribution, expenditure, independent expenditure, or electioneering communication."

After that "good news" section of the program, we move on to the lesser good news. Though anytime whistleblowers are able to shine sunlight on corruption and failure that's actually pretty good news as well. On Thursday, longtime federal government career official Dr. Rick Bright --- formerly Deputy Asst. Secretary of Health and Human Services for Preparedness and Response, and Director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) --- testified to a U.S. House Committee on the unspeakable failures of the Trump Administration in their early response to the virus, when it could have saved tens of thousands of lives, and even now, after more than 86,000 Americans have been killed.

Bright, who, until last month, had been leading the Government's effort to produce a coronavirus vaccine, was demoted after the Trump Administration became unhappy about him questioning the use of an unproven anti-viral drug (hydroxychloroquine) that Trump was pushing to treat COVID-19. Bright has now filed a whistleblower complaint to get his old job back, alleging he was moved out of his post for opposing "efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections."

Today, we share some key parts of his more than three-hour long testimony on Thursday, in which he warned that the U.S. lacks any plan at all to battle the virus or even a strategy to produce or distribute a vaccine once one is eventually developed. He blames the Administration for months of failure to obtain and distributing adequate personal protective equipment for medical workers and testing kits for all. He told lawmakers that a shortage of simple but critical supplies like syringes could become catastrophic and cautions that we could be looking at "the darkest winter in modern history" in 2020 if action is not taken very quickly by a dreadfully inept federal Administration.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump told Fox "News" on Thursday that a vaccine will be available by "the end of the year"! And that "we will give it to a lot of people very, very rapidly." So, who ya gonna believe?

Well, apparently, there are a lot of folks in Wisconsin who believe the President, because they were out in droves at bars this week --- crowded together without masks in tiny spaces --- in some parts of the Badger State within minutes after the state's rightwing Supreme Court struck down Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' "Safer at Home" order.

The timing was perfect, as a new study from a researcher at Brookings Institution this week finds that COVID-19 is now spreading at an alarming rate in less populated rural areas (including across Wisconsin) as the rate of infections is declining in the nation's urban centers which were initially hit hard. The study finds that earlier in the crisis, at the end of March, counties won by Hillary Clinton in 2016 amounted to the majority of "high prevalence" COVID-19 counties. As of mid-May, however, that has flipped. It is now people in suburban and rural counties that supported Trump who are more likely to be become infected at an alarming rate. That said, as of May 10, according to the study, some 72% of the nation's population was living in a "high prevalence" county, though only 23% of them were in urban areas.

So, good luck, Trump voters! Donald Trump has a special song for you today!

Finally today, we close with Desi Doyen and the latest Green News Report which we ran out of time for yesterday, in which we find another "bright" side to the crisis, along with the usual amount of otherwise disastrously troubling environmental news...

Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...

* * *
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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