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Latest Featured Reports | Monday, January 30, 2023
Sunday 'Bullet Points' Toons
PDiddie takes aim at the problem in this week's collection of targeted toons...
NJ 2022 Computer Mistally Means Loser Actually Won: 'BradCast' 1/26/2023
Also: 'Doomsday Clock' ticked forward; Opposing war and supporting Ukraine; And, 'Russia, please!'...
'Green News Report' 1/26/23
  w/ Brad & Desi
Spate of new studies find climate impacts escalating; Logging banned (again) in Alaskan rainforest; PLUS: 'Doomsday Clock' moved closer than ever to 'midnight'...
Recent GNRs: 1/24/23 - 1/19/23 - Archives...
Republican Dark Money Group's Multi-Million Dollar 'Grassroots' Vote Suppression Scheme: 'BradCast' 1/25/23
Guest: Brendan Fischer of Documented; Also: My ridiculous, couldn't-be-true Santos theory...
'Decisions are Imminent' in Trump Probe, Says Willis in GA: 'BradCast' 1/24/23
Also: Mass shooting spate; Pence found classified docs at home, returned them; Media still failing on Trump document theft story...
'Green News Report' 1/24/23
  w/ Brad & Desi
CA storm damage tops $1B; Offshore wind doesn't kill whales; Disasters displaced 3.3M in U.S. last year; PLUS: Hand-feeding manatees in FL appears to be saving them...
Recent GNRs: 1/19/23 - 1/17/23 - Archives...
Listeners Ring in on Just About Everything. (Everywhere. All at Once.): 'BradCast' 1/23/23
From the debit limit to Biden/Trump docs to mass shootings to Ukraine and much more...
Million Dollar Sanctions Ruling Underscores Trump's Seemingly Never-Ending Litigation Grift
Ernest A. Canning on why nothing less than a criminal prosecution will end it. (Maybe.)
Sunday 'Selective Focus' Toons
Keeping priorities straight in PDiddie's latest collection of the week's best toons...
GOP Targets Ballot Initiatives After 2022 Progressive Wins: 'BradCast' 1/20/23
Guest: Chris Melody Fields Figueredo of Ballot Initiative Strategy Center; Also: Judge orders Trump to pay Hillary, others nearly $1M...
OH's Completely Moderate, Not-Corrupt-At-All Republican Governor: 'BradCast' 1/19/23
Dark money fossil fuel bribery and disen-franchising military voters in the Buckeye State; Also: GOP's dangerous limit debt game...
'Green News Report' 1/19/23
  w/ Brad & Desi
EU's plan to compete with U.S. on renewables; Banks spend billions on fossil fuel despite net zero pledges; PLUS: Dark money led Ohio Repubs to redefine NatGas as 'green energy'...
Recent GNRs: 1/17/23 - 1/12/23 - Archives...
GOP's 'One-Two Punch to Shut Down' House Ethics Watchdog: 'BradCast' 1/18/23
Guest: Public Citizen's Craig Holman; Also: VA Guv kills new EV battery plant, 2,500 new jobs; Kobach fined by FEC as he becomes KS A.G...
GOP Election Denialist Candidate Arrested in NM Shooting Spree: 'BradCast' 1/17/23
What did you THINK would happen?; Also: House GOP to crash economy over debt limit...
'Green News Report' 1/17/23
As CA recovers from epic storms, water wars in U.S. West just beginning; Massive boost to U.S. solar thanks to new Biden/Dem law; PLUS: 1970s Exxon scientists nailed it...
Sunday 'Documenting the Atrocities' Toons
PDiddie curates another first draft of history in his latest weekly toon collection...
Republican Federal Courts Take Aim at VRA Section 2: 'BradCast' 1/14/23
Guest: ACLU attorney Jonathan Topaz; Also: IA, NY GOPers charged with mass vote fraud; OH Guv signs bill restricting voting rights...
Transparency and Public Oversight to the Rescue: 'BradCast' 1/12/23
Hand-count of 2020 Prez race in PA county confirms tally; Also: Garland taps Special Counsel in Biden docs case; Trump still obstructing justice in stolen docs case...
'Green News Report' 1/12/23
Extreme weather damage cost $1T in U.S. over past 7 years; Last 8 years hottest ever recorded; PLUS: Kitchen stove warning results in latest dumb Fox 'News' freak out...
BARCODED BALLOTS AND BALLOT MARKING DEVICES
BMDs pose a new threat to democracy in all 50 states...
VIDEO: 'Rise of the Tea Bags'
Brad interviews American patriots...
'Democracy's Gold Standard'
Hand-marked, hand-counted ballots...
Brad's Upcoming Appearances
(All times listed as PACIFIC TIME unless noted)
Media Appearance Archives...
'Special Coverage' Archives
GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal 2012...
VA GOP VOTER REG FRAUDSTER OFF HOOK
Felony charges dropped against VA Republican caught trashing voter registrations before last year's election. Did GOP AG, Prosecutor conflicts of interest play role?...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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

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

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

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

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Special coverage with guests Heather Digby Parton of Salon and Richard 'RJ' Eskow of 'The Zero Hour'; Also: TX primary results, election probs...
By Brad Friedman on 3/2/2022 5:37pm PT  

"Democracies are rising to the moment," President Biden forcefully asserted during his first official State of the Union address on Tuesday night. "And the world is clearly choosing the side of peace and security." Is he right? We discuss that and much more on Biden's impossible address last night on today's BradCast.

Before we jump in, however, it was also Election Day in Texas on Tuesday, the nation's first primaries of the 2022 mid-term cycle. We briefly cover the reported results of the top-line races for Governor and Attorney General, as well as some interesting House races with progressive challengers on the Democratic side. There were also several curious anomalies we are looking into out Houston's Harris County, regarding the reported shutdown of some polling places to Democrats (and others, purportedly, shut down to Republican voters); some post-election squabbles on delayed results from the County, reportedly due to problems tallying long ballots on their new, 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting systems; and continuing concerns about thousands of rejected vote-by-mail ballots thanks to new restrictions on absentee voting enacted by the Republican lawmakers last year in the state's newly adopted SB1 law.

Our main focus today, of course, is on Biden's first SOTU. This one, amid a newly raging war on Ukraine, as the autocratic Russia continues its appalling attack on its democratic sovereign neighbor, and as the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday condemned Russia's aggression and atrocities by a lopsided 141 to 5 vote. There were 35 abstentions (including China) and support for Russia offered from Belarus, Cuba, North Korea and Syria.

As if Biden didn't already have enough to worry about with the continuing, if waning (for now), pandemic; an insurrectionist and obstructionist Republican Party; two obstructionist Democrats blocking the bulk of his domestic agenda; and both an opposition party and corporate media hell-bent on weaponizing predictable post-pandemic inflation, even amid a booming economy with growing wages, record corporate profits, record low unemployment, and the highest growth in GDP since the 1980s. All of which has resulted, reasonably or not, resulted in Biden's approval ratings plummeting in advance of this year's critical mid-terms.

Any one of those issues (and, yes, there are more!) would be enough for one State of the Union address. Biden, somehow, had to deal with them all on Tuesday night.

We're joined today for our special coverage by fellow longtime progressive troublemakers and muckrakers HEATHER DIGBY PARTON of Salon and Hullabaloo and RICHARD 'RJ' ESKOW of The Zero Hour.

There is a lot to discuss today, as we break down key moments from Biden's remarks. But, just for a taste, while they both Parton and Eskow laud the President for rising to the moment and bringing the world together regarding Russia, on the domestic front, political trouble may loom.

"Democrats always have this problem," Parton notes. "The historical pattern here is clear. The Republicans come in and they wreck the place, and Democrats come in and have to clean up the mess. And in the first two years, it's really hard."

"He's not getting a break from the media," Eskow argues. "I think people are also terribly sick of COVID, and he's had to bow to that fatigue. On the grand scheme of things, the big lesson here is the limits of Presidential power, and the fact that he would love to be doing a lot more. Here's a man who spent 50 years running for President, now he's got it, and I feel sorry for him."

Did last night serve to help Biden and the Democrats change their trajectory as we head toward a mid-term election which the media continues to remind voters is (almost always) a historically difficult one for the party in power? Tune in for our special coverage and conversation on that and much, much more...

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Guest: The American Prospect's David Dayen on the magazine's ambitious Special Issue: Also: Gun-maker settles with Sandy Hook families; Prince Andrew settles sex-abuse case; Palin loses (again); Putin blinks?...
By Brad Friedman on 2/15/2022 6:05pm PT  

Today on The BradCast, we tackle another small, totally easy to solve issue: Untangling the worldwide supply chain debacle. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

But, before that, at least a few stories seem to be resolving themselves today...

  • Nine families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre settled their lawsuit with Remington, the manufacturer and marketer of the semi-automatic rifle used to kill their family members, for $73 million. The deal is noteworthy because federal law bans such suits against the gun industry, but Connecticut law does not. In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Remington's attempt to block the suit based on the protections in federal law.
  • Prince Andrew settled a lawsuit filed against him by a woman who says she was 17-years old when she was sexually abused by Andrew, as coerced by the late financier and child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. The settlement includes an undisclosed donation to the charity of the victim, Virginia Giuffre, and an acknowledgement by Andrew that she has suffered abuse as a victim It is unknown if Giuffre will personally receive any money as part of the agreement.
  • Both a jury and a judge helped settle former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's defamation lawsuit against the New York Times by rejecting it in no uncertain terms. On Tuesday, the jury in the civil trial brought by Palin found the Times' editorial board not guilty of libeling the former GOP Vice Presidential nominee. The paper had erroneously cited a "clear link" between a map published by a Palin campaign websites featuring a gun site on certain Congressional districts --- including then Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords' --- and the 2013 mass shooting in Tuscon that killed six people and critically injured the Congresswoman. The jury's rejection of Palin's suit came the day after the judge, as the jury was still deliberating, declared that he planned to dismiss the case anyway after finding that Palin failed to prove the paper acted maliciously against her. For its part, the Times described the verdict as "reaffirmation of a fundamental tenet of American law: public figures should not be permitted to use libel suits to punish or intimidate news organizations that make, acknowledge and swiftly correct unintentional errors."
  • And, in the weeks-long Russian/Ukraine military stand-off, there was a long-awaited easing of tensions as President Putin announced that Russia was ready for talks with the U.S. and NATO on a number of issues and that some Russian forces on the border with Ukraine would be withdrawing. President Biden, however, in remarks this afternoon at the White House, said the U.S. had "not yet verified" any troop withdraws and that a Russian invasion of Ukraine remained a possibility. The White House noted, however, that the U.S. remains opens to high-level diplomacy in hopes of avoiding military conflict in Europe.

On that news, Wall Street rallied after weeks of saber-rattling had weighed down the market and helped send oil and gas prices through the roof, serving as another reminder today of just one more way that our vulnerable supply chain can wreak havoc on an otherwise booming economy.

As it turns out, The American Prospect recently devoted an entire Special Issue for February to a very related topic: "The Supply Chain Debacle: How bad policy—outsourcing, financialization, monopolization, deregulation, and just-in-time logistics—broke our supply chains, raised costs and caused shortages."

We're joined today by The Prospect's Executive Editor and author David Dayen to help us untangle the mess that has been made over the past 40 or 50 years, under both political parties in this rare case, of a supply chain that has exposed its vulnerabilities with the onset of the COVID pandemic two years ago. But since then, it has continued to reveal its ill-designed brittleness and the very serious threat it poses to America's economic security.

Dayen walks us through how his Special Issue delves into the broad failures of the supply chain, largely put in place over the years by the Wall Street "free market" to maximize corporate profit at the expense of American jobs and national security...in exchange for cheap prices on goods! As Dayen details, the problems here are not one single failure across the chain, but as he breaks down, "multiple 'single points of failure'" across industry after industry all along the broken chain.

"We designed a system over the course of decades --- both parties --- that had lean inventories, that relied on offshore production, that relied on this concept of globalization," he explains. "That allowed the production facilities to become very concentrated. That allowed the spokes within the system to become concentrated. That deregulated everything to try to lower prices on shipping and transportation. And that allowed Wall Street to take the primary role in governing these efforts --- in other words, telling corporations 'Yes, you have to move your production offshore for cheap labor', and 'We have to deregulate these industries so that costs stay low,' and 'You have to have just-in-time production so that you don't have any inventory sitting around just wasting money, and we're spending too much money on warehouses.'"

With this precarious, profit-driven system in place, Dayen steps through The Prospect's full team coverage of how a virus breaking out in a manufacturing hub in China can shut down the entire system. Any sudden increase in a demand for goods --- say, during a pandemic --- ends up tying the giant, oligopolized over-seas container shipping system into knots and stranding massive cargo ships at sea while there is no room left for off-loading at U.S. ports. Once finally off-loaded, sometimes after months waiting in line off-shore, a U.S. rail system run by just a couple of companies and a trucking system that doesn't pay workers nearly enough for their efforts further bottlenecks the process. Then there's the vast lack of warehouse space for all those goods if they can ever get to where they need to be. All the while, these disruptions and failures work to the benefit of the largest distributors --- like Amazon and Walmart --- while cutting the knees out from under independent retailers and raising prices for everyone. So much for those low prices that consumers, at least, were supposed to get out of the deal.

But, as Dayen also explains, it doesn't take a pandemic. A cross-border bridge protest in Canada, saber-rattling in Eastern Europe or the Middle East and, perhaps even more crippling to the supply chain over the past year than anything else, climate change related disasters which promise to only get much more frequent and severe in the years ahead.

"The problem is the supply chain is run on these knife-edge principles that make it impossible for it to adjust to a shift up in demand. That is the entire problem," he argues. "So people who go on and say, 'No, this isn't a problem, it's just this shift. Everything will be fine.' They're missing the point. The point is that this lack of adjustment reflects problems with how the system is engineered."

And, yes, Dayen has advice on how to re-engineer the entire system. The good news, he also explains, is that both corporations and members of Congress --- from BOTH parties --- seem to finally be getting it. They are looking at and passing bills that encourage (and spend money on) the regionalization and onshoring of manufacturing back here in the U.S., and the Biden administration is investing heavily --- when Congress allows them --- into a number of long-overdue fixes.

It may all sound dry on paper, but it's actually a fascinating and very lively conversation on today's program that I hope you'll tune in for.

Finally --- and including a few related points --- Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, on the crippling Western U.S. megadrought; the Biden Administration's roll-out of a national EV charging network; the spike in oil prices amid tensions in Russia-Ukraine; and the Super Bowl blitz by U.S. carmakers launching long overdue electric vehicle production lines...

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Since nobody seems to know much about either, we open the phone lines to listeners to see what we can learn...
By Brad Friedman on 2/14/2022 6:05pm PT  

There are two stories, one major, the other one only "major" thanks to rightwing media fueling it, that I've wanted to cover more on The BradCast of late, but haven't. Why? Because, in both cases, both stories make little sense to me and the so-called "experts" or pundits out there seem to be ideological, for or against, in one way or another that fails to offer much clarity or insight to either story. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

So, I figure, if the so-called pundits and experts don't know much and are doing little more than offering their opinions and best-guesses, our callers couldn't do much worse, right? Fact-check: True! Callers came through today with shining colors!

The first story is the dumb Canadian trucker protests over vaccine mandates. As you know, they are attempting to shut down U.S.-Canadian trade across transcontinental bridges in hopes of forcing the government to meet their demands. They have been succeeding at harming the economy in both countries, at least until this weekend when Canadian police finally cleared the crossing at the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit. That closure threatened some $360 million a day in two-way cargo across the bridge or about 25% of the U.S.-Canada goods trade, according to Reuters.

The otherwise unpopular demonstrations in Canada are being fueled with money from the U.S. and round-the-clock coverage on wingnut cable TV. And, in addition to shutting off trade (leading some automakers to have to shut down some production), the demonstrations have included Trump, Nazi and Confederate flags, as well as protesters urinating on a Canadian war memorial. At a crossing into Montana from Coutts, Alberta, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police say they arrested 11 people blockading the border after learning of a cache of guns and ammunition, including long guns, handguns, body armor, and a lot of ammo and high-capacity magazines.

Can you imagine Fox "News" supporting an actual civil rights protests in this country that included weapons, Nazi flags and urinating on war memorials? But, of course, the dumb protests in Canada have little to do with actual civil rights --- even as I strongly support the right for anybody to protest whatever they want, even dumb stuff like opposition to life-saving vaccine mandates.

The far more dangerous story, obviously, continues in Russia and Ukraine, where the former has now reportedly deployed as many as 130,000 troops on three sides of the latter and where, according to the weeks long insistence from the U.S., an invasion is now as "imminent" as this Wednesday. The U.S. --- and NATO and the EU --- have been warning of an "imminent" attack for weeks now, and one may be. But Russia continues to deny any plans for an attack on the former Soviet state and nobody seems to have any more than best guesses about what the truth is and what will actually happen next.

Perhaps a better question is why is the U.S. so loudly broadcasting what they see as Russia's "imminent" plans to invade --- now said to be as early as this Wednesday. Is it because Russia really is going to invade? Or is there another reason?

We discuss all of that and much more with some terrific callers today --- including one who says he used to work for in Russ for a vodka millionaire, and another who explains that she had been working recently on a construction project at the border crossing into British Columbia from Washington State.

Then, as usual, there are the always-fun callers who completely disagree with me on everything (particularly on life-saving COVID vaccines), and I always enjoy those calls the most! I'll hope you do too!...

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US v. ISIS; Omicron falling, deaths rising; Good swing-state redistricting news; Biden EPA applying brakes on DeJoy's insane, corrupt USPS gas-powered delivery truck boondoggle...
By Brad Friedman on 2/3/2022 6:30pm PT  

Like the Energizer Bunny, the stories on today's BradCast are still going and going and going... [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

Among them...

The Never-Ending "Global War on Terror": An overnight, on-the-ground U.S. special forces led raid on a house in northwestern Syria is said to have taken out the latest leader of ISIS, along with more than a dozen others, including six children. We share what we know via sources from Al Jazeera to New York Times to President Biden.

The Never-Ending Coronavirus: As quickly as it spiked, Omicron is now falling in almost every state in the nation. But COVID deaths are still on the rise (averaging about 2,600 per day) and hospitals are still up against it. Almost all entirely thanks to the unvaccinated who are now 60 times more likely to die from the disease than those who have received their shots.

The Never-Ending Assault on Democracy: Following the good redistricting news yesterday out of New York state, more good news today from the critical swing-state of Pennsylvania, where the state Supreme Court has jumped into the redistricting fight between the Keystone State's Democratic Governor and its (gerrymandered) Republican state legislature. The 5-2 Dem majority state Supremes have determined they will have the last word on new maps soon and that's likely good news for American democracy.

The Never-Ending Madness of DeJoy's USPS: It's insanity really. It's also wildly corrupt. Donald Trump's still-in-his-position-for-some-reason Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is overseeing a massive Postal Service contract to purchase 165,000 new mail delivery trucks to replace its aging, 30-year old fleet, which averaged 10 miles per gallon. Instead of moving to all-electric vehicles, the $11.3 billion purchase with a Wisconsin-based defense contractor (for some reason) will consist of 90% gasoline-powered trucks for use over the next several decades, despite boasts from DeJoy's PR team that the trucks are more fuel-efficient than the old fleet, with an increase of 0.4 MPG! The Biden EPA is hoping to put the brakes on the independent federal agency. They've found the service's environmental analysis to be wildly flawed and is directing them to start over before replacing a full one-third of the federal fleet with more climate destroying vehicles that will emit the equivalent of 4.3 million gas-powered passenger vehicles over their expected lifespan. The details in WaPo's exclusive on this catastrophic boondoggle illustrate nothing less than mind-bending madness amid our worsening climate emergency.

The Never-Ending Climate Crisis: Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, with bad news on gas stoves and on a massive chemical fire in NC; but good news on the U.S. Interior Department distributing billions of job-creating dollars to states to clean up millions of leaking, toxic, abandoned oil and gas wells across the country, as part of Biden's recently signed infrastructure law...

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Also: Trump vows pardons for insurrectionists; Bi-partisan Senators working to reform law Trump tried to use to steal election; 'Maus' tops best-seller lists after TN school board ban; Callers ring in on all...
By Brad Friedman on 1/31/2022 6:42pm PT  

A few technical demons at the KPFK studio today kept us on our toes during today's BradCast. The chaos was only multiplied by a ton of very lively callers. You may (or may not) be the beneficiary of all of the madness that subsequently ensued. Enjoy! [Audio link to show is posted below this summary.]

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

  • Over the weekend at a rally in Texas, our disgraced, criminal, twice-impeached former President suggested that, if he was elected President again, he would pardon his insurrectionist supporters who attacked the U.S. Capitol and hundreds of law enforcement officials to try and steal the 2020 election on his behalf on January 6, 2021. Never mind the nine people who died during or after the worst assault on our Capitol since the War of 1812. Since Donald Trump actually opposes law and order, he would almost certainly pardon hundreds of the violent attackers. And, at the same rally, he also instructed his brainwashed supporters to launch mass protests if (when?) he's indicted in D.C., New York and/or Georgia.
  • On Sunday, Trump also admitted in a statement that he had wanted Vice President Pence to "change the outcome" of the 2020 election by "overturn[ing]" the certified results on January 6th. No, it was never about giving Congress time to investigate "fraud", for which there has never been evidence, either then or now. The "legal" mechanism that Trump and his duplicitous campaign aids and attorneys were hoping to exploit is the vague and poorly written Electoral Count Act of 1887. A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators are now reportedly working on reforming that century old statute to prevent a similar occurrence in 2024 or beyond.
  • Last week, rocker Neil Young announced that he would pull his music from the Spotify if conspiracy theorist podcast host Joe Rogan was allowed to stay on their streaming service and continue to broadcast misinformation related to the coronavirus, COVID and its vaccines. Spotify is sticking with Rogan after recently signing him to a $100 million contract giving them exclusive rights to stream his show. So, Young and others, including Joni Mitchell, have since pulled their catalog from the service. In response, Rogan has now vowed to add "balance" to his program, and Spotify has said they would slap a "content advisory" on anypodcast episode on which the coronavirus was discussed. Of course, "balance" only serves to level an unlevel playing field for Rogan's deadly false claims about COVID and its vaccines. And Spotify's vow to label all shows with "content advisories" that talk about coronavirus only leaves viewers/listeners confused about what is truth and what is COVID fiction. How many thousands of people have been unnecessarily killed thanks to Rogan (and Spotify)'s irresponsible misinformation is, of course, unknown.

On the second half of today's show, we open up the phone lines to a ton of listener calls on all of the above...though most wanted to talk about Rogan's lies. And, yes, we take calls both for and against those lies...

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Also: Oath Keepers founder charged with 'seditious conspiracy' for Capitol attack; Bernstein says Jan 6. 'cover-up in excess of Watergate'...
By Brad Friedman on 1/13/2022 6:59pm PT  

Our guest on yesterday's BradCast nailed it. The stolen and packed U.S. Supreme Court did, in fact, strike down one of the Biden Administration's vaccine mandates today (the one that allows employees to not get vaccinated if they choose), while narrowly approving the vaccine mandate for all health care workers at facilities that receive federal funding. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

The Omicron surge continues to rack up both record infections and hospitalizations. Death counts are now on the rise as well. Though there are hopeful signs that some parts of the U.S. may be peaking or plateauing, and that, in a few weeks, the surge may plunge as quickly as it initially spiked over the past few weeks. The advice this week from the Los Angeles County Health Director to hang on for just a few more weeks and avoid any non-essential public gatherings, particularly indoors with the unvaccinated or those at high risk of severe illness during that period, is likely good advice for everyone in the nation at this time.

That is especially true now that the non-medical experts at the U.S. Supreme Court seem dead set on preventing actual experts charged with protecting workers from helping to protect millions of them.

As Slate's ace legal journalist Mark Joseph Stern predicted on yesterday's BradCast, the packed Republican Supreme Court did, in fact, put a stay on President Biden's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandate for workers at large companies with more than 100 employees to either get vaccinated or get tested weekly. The other case heard during emergency oral arguments last week, the Administration's Health and Human Services mandate for vaccination of all workers at health care facilities that accept Medicare or Medicaid funding, was narrowly allowed to remain. Chief Justice John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh joined the Court's three liberals in a 5 to 4 opinion [PDF] on that one.

Today, we step through the absurdities of the Majority opinion from the Court's rightwingers on the stayed employer mandate [PDF], as well as the even more absurd --- but dangerously so --- Concurring opinion authored by Justice Gorsuch with Thomas and Alito, as well as the furious Dissent, jointly penned by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan.

"Underlying everything else in this dispute is a single, simple question," the Dissenters wrote, 'Who decides how much protection, and of what kind, American workers need from COVID–19? An agency with expertise in workplace health and safety, acting as Congress and the President authorized? Or a court, lacking any knowledge of how to safeguard workplaces, and insulated from responsibility for any damage it causes?"

The stinging Minority dissent derides the non-expert Court Majority for being the ones to decide that the non-experts in Congress, as opposed to the experts at the Executive Branch agency charged by Congress via specific statue to protect workers, must make specific medical decisions through legislation for those workers. It is, of course, madness. Especially, as the Dissenters note, the Court's "Members are elected by, and accountable to, no one," whereas those at OSHA are not only experts, but "responsible to the President, and the President is responsible to—and can be held to account by—the American public."

Tune in for all the details. But the good-ish news for the moment is that only three of the Court's rightwingers were willing to sign on to the idea that statutes granting Executive Agencies the power to regulate things should be ignored when there is a "major question" at stake, as we discussed in some detail with Stern on Wednesday. But that good-ish news may not stand for long, as the Court will hear a case next month with even broader implications, as to whether the EPA, despite its statutory charge by Congress, is allowed to regulate pollution that is causing our climate emergency and much more. As we detailed yesterday, we are, in fact, watching the far-right "deconstruction of the Administrative state" before our very eyes.

Then, in what would, during normal times, be our lead story today, we quickly cover the arrest of Stewart Rhodes, the founder and leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia outfit, who, along with ten others in his group, were charged today "seditious conspiracy" for their part in the Trump-incited attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, as part of Donald Trump's plot to steal the 2020 election.

The federal charges are the most serious to date in relation to the January 6 attack and are precisely what our guest from several weeks ago, Marcy Wheeler of Emptywheel, told guest host Nicole Sandler was likely to soon happen, as the Dept. of Justice and Attorney General Merrick Garland continued a painstaking bottom-up probe. And yes, we did interview the Oath Keepers' Rhodes on this program back in 2016. Here is a link to that lively, if occasionally testy, interview.

And, in one more related matter on an absurdly busy show (restructured about five times before air today as news kept breaking!), GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy, who recently told a reporter he "wouldn't hide from anything" when he asked if he was willing to speak to the bipartisan House Select Committee investigating January 6th, refused to cooperate with a voluntary invitation on Wednesday to speak with the Committee. In response to the news, Carl Bernstein (of Watergate's Woodward and Bernstein) told CNN on Wednesday night that the Committee already "has the goods" on McCarthy and what he said to Trump on Jan. 6 "and McCarthy has lied about it since."

"So, we have a real conspiracy, a real cover-up, real stonewalling in excess of anything we saw in Watergate," said Bernstein...who should know.

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, which is packed with even more news during the final few minutes of today's program...

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Guest: Slate legal reporter Mark Joseph Stern; Also: Jan 6. Comm seeks McCarthy interview; Fulton County, GA D.A. closing in on Trump...
By Brad Friedman on 1/12/2022 6:39pm PT  

Well, we start today's BradCast with some encouraging news. At least until our guest arrives. [Audio link to full, must-listen show follows this summary.]

First up, the investigators are closing in. In Congress, the House Select Committee investigating Trump's January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol are now "requesting" an interview and documents from House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, centered on his communications with Donald Trump "before, during and after" the insurrection.

Meanwhile, down in Georgia, Fulton County (Atlanta) District Attorney Fanni Willis also appears to be closing in on Trump and his fellow conspirators regarding their attempt to steal the 2020 election in the Peach State. In an interview with AP published on Monday, Willis said her team is making "making solid progress, and she’s leaning toward asking for a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid the investigation." She also believes a decision will soon be made on whether to indict Trump and several others. (Meadows? Giuliani? Lindsey Graham?) “I believe in 2022 a decision will be made in that case,” she told AP. “I certainly think that in the first half of the year that decisions will be made.”

And on Tuesday, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow reported "that attorneys for former President Donald Trump have now met in person with the Fulton County District Attorney's office in Georgia." The meeting reportedly took place last month, around the same time that Trump issued an unhinged, seemingly out-of-the-blue statement that few knew what to make of: "All the Democrats want to do is put people in jail. They are vicious, violent, and Radical Left thugs. They are destroying people's lives, which is the only thing they are good at...their DA's, AG's, and Dem Law Enforcement are out of control." Suddenly, his remarks makes a lot more sense.

Welp...That's about it for today's encouraging news, before we are then joined by the great MARK JOSEPH STERN, legal journalist for Slate on what appears to be Steve Bannon's dream of the "deconstruction of the Administrative State" about to come true.

Last Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on challenges to two separate COVID-related Biden Administration mandates. One applies to businesses with more than 100 employees, requiring them all to either get vaccinated or take weekly tests for the virus. The other requires vaccination for all workers at health care facilities that accept money from either Medicaid or Medicare. Both rules were set to take effect as the Omicron surge has led to record pandemic hospitalization numbers. The first was issued by way of regulations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the second via the Health and Human Services Administration (HHS). Both are based on authorities granted to the Executive Branch agencies via statutes adopted by Congress. Though none of those statutes, passed years ago, include the word "COVID" in them. So now they are both being challenged by Republican state Attorneys General as unconstitutional over-reaches by the Administration.

Based on tea leaves read during Friday's oral arguments --- with two of the challenging attorneys infected with COVID and arguing remotely --- Stern believes it's possible the employer mandate could survive, but that the health care mandate is likely to be struck down.

But buckle up for today's conversation with Stern about all of this, because these cases are a much much larger than simply about the COVID mandates, even though they are likely to save hundreds of thousands of American lives unless struck down by the Court. These challenges squarely target the so-called "Administrative State" which, as you'll recall, Trump's disgraced Senior Political Adviser Bannon vowed in 2017 that they planned to "deconstruct". That may finally be about to happen, thanks to Trump's stolen and packed Supreme Court.

We dive too far into the legal and Constitutional and political weeds to adequately summarize here, but the argument comes down to who has the Constitutional right to "protect the general welfare" of the citizenry on matters of public health (and much more). Is it Congress, which has no expertise in these matters? Or the Executive Branch agencies created by Congress and filled with such experts? Ironically, the ultimate body who will make this decision is going to be the Judicial Branch, which, like the Legislative Branch also has no expertise in these issues.

All of the COVID mandate challenges are based on legal doctrines such as the "major question doctrine" and the "nondelegation doctrine" (both explained by Stern) which, unlike the General Welfare clause, do not actually appear anywhere in the Constitution at all.

"There is nothing (in the Constitution) that requires these principles, and certainly nothing that gives the federal judiciary the power to decide what the Executive Branch gets to do and not do under Congressional delegations," Stern explains. "All of this stuff has been made up. It was made up a long time ago, and used to block New Deal programs under FDR, then immediately abandoned and discarded for nearly a century. Only in the last few years has it been revived by so-called 'originalists' who are seeking to box in Democratic Presidents and prevent them from issuing any kind of policy."

"We are talking about a really recent revival," he continues. "Because as recently as the early 2000s, the Supreme Court unanimously disclaimed any real version of the non-delegation doctrine, and a majority opinion written by Antonin Scalia [of all people!] basically said 'We don't have any expertise, it's not our job to tell Congress what it can and cannot entrust the Executive to do'. We are only about two decades out from that, and the entire conservative legal movement has turned on a dime and decided that, in fact, the courts have this intense obligation to police the boundaries between these branches, even though there's nothing in the Constitution that permits it, much less requires it."

The Scalia majority opinion in question, which Stern "encourage[s] everyone to read" is 2001's Whitman vs. American Trucking. "It is a very clear explanation of why the federal courts have absolutely no business mucking around in this kind of cooperation and negotiation between Congress and the Executive Branch. Twenty-one years later, everyone has decided to ignore that opinion on the Right and pretend like it never happened."

So, what will it mean if the Court now decides that experts at Executive agencies mandated by Congress to exercise their expertise may not do so? The fallout could be enormous and terrifying and go well beyond COVID and these two cases. By way of one example, Stern notes, next month the Court is about to hear a case where "the Biden EPA wants to restrict carbon emissions at power plants. While federal law gives the EPA vast authority to regulate and restrict all kinds of toxic and harmful emissions from power plants, it doesn't explicitly say 'carbon'. It says the EPA needs to decide what counts, and we will defer to their expertise."

But, Stern notes later in our conversation, "this does not start or stop with carbon. This goes to every toxic chemical on the planet, which Congress simply does not have the time or expertise to list. So, anytime you're thinking about the amount of benzene, or methane, or whatever horrific chemical you want to talk about in the water supply, the air supply, that stuff is regulated by the EPA, not directly by Congress. And if this Supreme Court goes as far as I fear it will, we are going to have a lot more unnecessary deaths because of a horrific amount of pollution that the President is going to be told that he simply cannot curb."

And, yes, even that is only the tip of the melting iceberg. It also goes farther than the EPA, to dozens, if not hundreds of other federal agencies and regulations on labor rights and much more, as Stern details. "But that is what these Justices seem to want, and that is the road that we are already following down," he warns. "We live in a juristocracy, my friend, and we are only just beginning to see the downstream consequences of it."

As noted, buckle up for this one...

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Omicron rising; Emissions rising; Calls for Trump accountability rising...
By Brad Friedman on 1/10/2022 6:33pm PT  

As usual, there is nothing but fantastic news on today's BradCast! (Okay, maybe that's not entirely true. But the caller segment was lively!) [Audio link to full show is at the end of this summary.]

Among the stories covered and/or referenced today...

  • Don't be fooled by those claims that Omicron may be "less severe" than previous variants of the coronavirus, or that it only causes "mild" symptoms in most people. As of Monday, according to Reuters, the U.S. broke its all-time COVID hospitalization record, as hospitals are once again forced to cancel elective procedures while Omicron surges. Cases, hospitalizations and, yes, deaths are all rising, with deaths now averaging about 1,700/day (up from 1,400/day just a few days ago --- and nearing the height of the Delta surge just weeks ago.) The vaccinated are still FAR less likely to be infected, hospitalized or killed.
  • A new study released Monday from Europe's Copernicus Climate Change Service finds the last seven years have been the hottest on record globally, with 2021 coming in as the fifth warmest year ever recorded.
  • And the U.S. isn't helping. We're going the wrong way. Another new study published on Monday, from the Rhodium Group, finds that American greenhouse gas emissions from energy and industry rose 6.2% in 2021. In order to meet our commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement (and President Biden's goal of lowering U.S. emissions 50% below 2005 levels by 2030, and reach net-zero by 2050 --- not to mention, to try and save humanity), we need to decrease emissions by at least 5% each year. That said, 2021 could have been worse. One reason for the increase in 2021 was the unprecedented 10% decrease in emissions fueling man-made climate change in 2020, during the pandemic lockdowns. We're still below 2019 levels, for what it's worth. But we need to do much better. And quickly.
  • The Build Back Better Act would help that! It would, among many other transformative things, make an unprecedented historic investment in speeding the transition in the U.S. from dangerous, dirty fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy. But with that bill stalled in the Senate for now, thanks almost entirely to obstructionist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-coal industry), Dems are pivoting back to voting rights and election protection legislation this week in advance of next week's Martin Luther King Day holiday. But, of course, to pass the critical Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, they will still need to reform the filibuster, since the Republican Party is now radically opposed to voting rights and democracy. And to reform the filibuster to protect democracy, Manchin and obstructionist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Kyrsten Sinema) will have to agree to play along. Good luck with that, Dems! (Seriously. Good luck!)
  • But whether Dems successfully reform elections or not, unless those who tried to steal the 2020 Presidential election in broad daylight are held criminally accountable, they will almost certainly try to do it again in the near future. And this time they'll be better prepared. Last week at The Guardian, Sidney Blumenthal offered a fascinating, detailed report on both the January 6th insurrection and the year-long attempted coup that got us there. The dunderheads and dupes that were hoaxed into storming the U.S. Capitol were, as Blumenthal reports, merely "the tip of the iceberg". The insurrection was, he explains, merely the end result of a year-long attempt to carry out a coup to steal the election, as organized by Koch Network-funded activist and legal groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), and the secretive rightwing Council on National Policy (CNP). Those groups plotted hand-in-glove with state and federal public officials in Congress, at Trump's DoJ, at the Pentagon and, of course, at the White House itself. And yet, nobody other than the dupes and dunderheads have yet been charged by the Dept. of Justice for one of the greatest attempted crimes in U.S. history.

    During the holidays, our guest host Nicole Sandler interviewed longtime independent investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler of Emptywheel, who has been tracking the DoJ's probe and indictments of insurrectionists --- as well as the higher-ups who plotted the year-long coup attempt --- as close as anyone. Wheeler argued that those who have been critical of Attorney General Merrick Garland for not doing enough to date (including us!) haven't been paying close enough attention. She explained how the House Select Committee on the January 6 attack is working from the top-down and how DoJ (who, don't forget, raided Giuliani's home, office, computers and telephones soon after Biden took office and is still working through those documents) is working from the bottom-up. Wheeler details that both probes may almost be at the same place now, just a step or two away from Donald Trump himself.

    Moreover, during remarks last week at the DoJ to commemorate the first anniversary of the 1/6 attack and the subsequent largest investigation in the Department's history, Garland explained: "The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law --- whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy. We will follow the facts wherever they lead."

    So, with all of that in mind, should we feel better about what Garland and the DoJ are now up to? We open the phones to listeners to get a sense of exactly that...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: UC-Berkeley's Philip B. Stark, post-election audit expert; Also: Another young GOP anti-vaxxer dies in SoCal; 2021 ends and 2022 begins with another round of deadly, climate change-fueled extreme weather...
By Brad Friedman on 1/4/2022 6:16pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Last September, Donald Trump demanded an "audit" of the 2020 Presidential election in Texas, where he was certified to have won by about 550,000 votes, the narrowest victory for a Republican nominee in the Lone Star State in decades. Hours after he demanded it, his lapdog, Republican Governor Greg Abbott, made it happen. Despite the state's top election administrator previously describing the 2020 election as "safe and secure", state taxpayers are now quietly paying for another review of results in the so-called "conservative" state. Four of its largest counties are being reviewed. Three of them went to Joe Biden in 2020. A report from the first phase of the so-called 'forensic audit' was released last week, when as few people as possible might notice: At the end of the day on Friday...New Years Eve. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

But before we get there today, a quick update on the quickly intensifying Omicron surge of the coronavirus, as more than 100,000 Americans were hospitalized as of Monday, the highest number since the late summer Delta surge. President Biden once again urged Americans to get their shots. In White House remarks he said the public should "be concerned about Omicron, but don't be alarmed," before adding, "but if you're unvaccinated, you have some reason to be alarmed."

It's unknown if the Republican anti-vaxxer community in Orange County, CA will be moved by the President's comments. Perhaps the death this week of their well known 46-year old Deputy District Attorney, Kelly Ernby, a longtime GOP anti-vaccine activist and failed political candidate, will get their attention. We share her tragic, if predictable, story today, just weeks after the prosecutor's last Southern California rally in December in favor of "freedom" in opposition to vaccine mandates.

Then we're joined by PHILIP B. STARK, longtime Professor of Statistics at UC-Berkeley and the inventor of the post-election Risk Limiting Audit (RLA) protocol, to discuss the very quietly released "Phase 1 Progress Report" [PDF] of what Texas is describing as a "Full Forensic Audit of November 2020 General Election". The phrase "forensic audit", as Stark notes, doesn't actually have any accepted definition or specific meaning. But, we also discuss much more about the newly found "forensic audit" fever among Republicans who have spent years blocking Democratic measures in Congress to institute legitimate post-election audits in all 50 states after every election.

You'll not be surprised to learn that the Lone Star State's review, at least so far, appears to have turned up pretty much nothing unusual at all. Their hand-count of ballots (not of results, apparently, but simply of the number of ballots) in a number of precincts in each of four different large counties (Dallas, Harris, Tarrant and Collin) appears to have largely confirmed the original certified totals in those precincts. We discuss the not-much-to-see-here details that add to the continuing pattern of Republicans finding no evidence at all that the 2020 election was stolen, as Trump continues to falsely complain to this day.

But there is a much larger picture to discuss. The implementation of secret, computerized tallying of ballots over the past two decades has made election results virtually impossible for the public to oversee. That has helped open the door to crackpot claims like those from the loser former President that our elections are littered with fraud and false tallies. Stark explains how the lack of legitimate post-election audits, safeguards, transparency and "evidence-based elections" has led the nation to this moment when American democracy itself is now under very serious threat.

"The end goal is to conduct elections in such a way that we have strong evidence that the reported winners actually won," Stark explains. "In order to do that, you need to start by running your election well. You will have the documents, processes, the security protocols, etc., in place that allow you to do a meaningful audit that can tie a bow around the election, and say, yes, whatever might have gone wrong with the election didn't change the reported outcome."

"The problem," he continues, "is if you go into an election that wasn't run especially well, and then afterwards try to do something based on the records that you do have. You're never going to be able to present affirmative records that the reported winners really did win. They won't give you evidence for or against the outcome being right."

And then, the conversation turns much darker.

"I don't want to be alarmist, but I think we have a very short period of time in which to make our election processes far more publicly transparent and visible, and have much more public participation," Stark warns. "If we haven't implemented evidence-based elections by the 2024 Presidential election we are very likely to see serious civil unrest in the aftermath. We have to make it a top priority to conduct our elections in a way that they produce real evidence of who won, not just 'trust me, I did it right,' or 'trust the vendor who sold me the [voting and tabulation] equipment' or 'trust the people who configured it for me,' or 'trust this or trust that,' but actually 'show me!' We really need to have 'show me,' not 'trust me' elections."

As much as we strive to avoid false "both sidesism" on this program --- and even though some Dems in Congress have tried for years to adopt federal legislation mandating real post-election audits, only to be stymied by Republicans every time --- this really is a bipartisan problem. "After the 2016 election, the Republicans didn't want to look. After the 2020 election, the Democrats don't want to look. If you like the answer, you don't want to look too hard. I think that's a terrible mistake. It allows uncertainty to be weaponized, which is what we've seen in the aftermath of the 2020 election," Stark cautions.

He continues: "The fact that a system is vulnerable does not mean that it was exploited. But we ought to build our systems or run our systems in a way that if a vulnerability was exploited, we can catch it and correct the outcome before it becomes final. And we know how to do that. It is a solved problem. It is not rocket science. It does involve a lot of shoe leather. And it involves not trusting computers on the whole. It requires public transparency."

But if that is not going to happen at the federal level (thanks in no small part to Democratic Senators Manchin and Sinema, who are joining Republicans to block passage of audit mandates in the Freedom to Vote Act), it can certainly happen at the state level, where very few, if any, states currently carry out audits that are robust and transparent enough to earn full voter confidence. "I hope that some state legislatures rise to the occasion and decide to do evidence-based elections in time for at least 2024, if not the midterms," Stark tells me.

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our first Green News Report of the new year, with deadly climate change-fueled extreme weather already wreaking havoc across both the nation and the world as 2022 begins...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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New Trump subpoenas; Climate change devastation in CO; Twitter ban for MTG; Hope for accountability as 'Every Day is Jan. 6 Now'; Plus: Callers!...
By Brad Friedman on 1/3/2022 6:33pm PT  

Well, we're back! That may or may not be good news depending on who you are and how you choose to look at it. Either way, we're getting our sea legs back on today's BradCast after a week off between the holidays (thanks, Nicole Sandler for covering for us for much of that time!), but it looks like the new year may not be much different than the old one. At least not necessarily better. At least not immediately. Nonetheless, we remain hopeful since it beats the alternative. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

Among the stories and news both good and bad on today's program...

  • A document unsealed by the New York Supreme Court on Monday confirms that not only was Donald Trump subpoenaed for testimony and documents last month by state Attorney General Letitia James, so were his son and daughter Don Jr. and Ivanka. (Eric had already been subpoenaed and forced to give testimony in late 2020.) James is running a civil investigation into years of alleged bank and tax fraud by Trump and his Trump Organization. The District Attorney's office in Manhattan is also probing similar matters in a criminal investigation that James is partnering with, so there's a lot on the line and all of the Trumps, naturally, will try to quash and/or evade their lawful subpoenas. Like Eric, they will likely fail. The Manhattan DA is now Alvin Bragg as of this past weekend. He replaced the previous DA over the weekend, after Cyrus Vance, Jr. decided not to run for reelection last year. Vance's --- now Bragg's --- office has already brought criminal fraud charges against the Trump Organization and its Chief Financial Officer, Allen Weisselberg, for running a tax-avoidance scheme that paid executives benefits that remained off the books and untaxed.
  • In less bright news to start the year (and end the last one), Colorado officials now say that nearly 1,000 homes and other structures were destroyed and hundreds more damaged during a massive December wildfire among hurricane-force wind gusts last Thursday in the now well-populated suburbs between Denver and Boulder. Desi Doyen joins us to explain the climate change-related conditions --- unusual warmth, extreme drought, historic lack of snow and rain --- that made the fire so damaging.
  • The news got a bit brighter --- again, depending on how you look at it --- after Twitter permanently suspended Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA)'s personal account over the weekend. The far rightwinger has long used the social media service to spread lies, fraud and nonsense and, in this case, violated the company's COVID-19 misinformation policy for a fifth time. Her fifth and final strike was a tweet falsely citing "extremely high amounts of Covid vaccine deaths", citing the CDC's self-reported VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting Systems) database frequently and misleading cited by anti-vaxxers. Anyone is able to (and frequently does) add records to the public-facing database falsely claiming injuries or deaths related to COVID vaccines. Greene's Congressional Twitter account has not (yet) been banned, and we discuss the pros and cons of giant social media companies being able to permanently suspend users like the Congresswoman or even the former President, as they did last year. (And, yes, I have some experience in facing down Twitter, even when they inaccurately block the posting of accurate and independently verifiable reporting.)
  • But with all that is going on, none is more important than saving our faltering democracy from those on the Right in the MAGA Mob who are scheming to completely undermine it. On New Year's Day, the New York Times' Editorial Board published a must-read editorial headlined "Every Day is Jan. 6 Now". They are absolutely right. "In short," they argue, "the Republic faces an existential threat from a movement that is openly contemptuous of democracy and has shown that it is willing to use violence to achieve its ends." They conclude...

    Whatever happens in Washington, in the months and years to come, Americans of all stripes who value their self-government must mobilize at every level — not simply once every four years but today and tomorrow and the next day — to win elections and help protect the basic functions of democracy. If people who believe in conspiracy theories can win, so can those who live in the reality-based world.

    Above all, we should stop underestimating the threat facing the country. Countless times over the past six years, up to and including the events of Jan. 6, Mr. Trump and his allies openly projected their intent to do something outrageous or illegal or destructive. Every time, the common response was that they weren’t serious or that they would never succeed. How many times will we have to be proved wrong before we take it seriously? The sooner we do, the sooner we might hope to salvage a democracy that is in grave danger.

  • The Times' warning is on the money. New polling from ABC-Ipsos finds that not nearly enough Americans understand the very real threat posed to American democracy by Donald Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 election through violence at the U.S. Capitol last year on January 6, nor the GOP efforts to make such an attempted theft all but impossible to prevent in 2024. On a related note, a new Morning Consult survey finds the Republican Party has paid no price among GOP voters --- and even all voters --- for either the Jan. 6 attack or the party's subsequent efforts to pass new voter suppression laws that also allow partisan officials to overturn legitimate election results for purely partisan reasons.
  • But on that matter too, there is hope as the new year begins. Members of the bipartisan U.S. House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack are united in their efforts to expose what happened, who is responsible for it, and any laws they feel may have been broken in the bargain. Over the weekend, Committee Vice-Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) detailed the panel's ongoing plans to hold public hearings in the new year to help detail all of the above, as based on more than 300 witness interviews and some 35,000 pages of documents, texts, emails, etc. Cheney explained on ABC's This Week program on Sunday that then President Trump watched the entire attack unfold on television from the dining room just off the Oval Office while ignoring threats from GOP House minority leader Kevin McCarthy and from his own daughter Ivanka to take action to take action to quell the insurrection that he incited. She even went as far as to say that Trump is "clearly unfit for future office" and "clearly can never be anywhere near the Oval Office ever again." She even went as far as to say she agrees with Hilary Clinton that if Trump runs and wins next time, "that could be the end of our democracy."
  • There was much more today, of course, but that gives you an idea of where we are as the new year begins. And callers also rang in throughout today's program with their own thoughts on all of the above and here is that must-listen interview I mentioned from Nicole Sandler last week with investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler of Emptywheel, offering her very well-documented argument that no one should yet give up hope for accountability for Trump from the DoJ and Attorney General Merrick Garland (which we hope to discuss in more detail in the days ahead)...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest host Nicole Sandler with author John M. Barry and Times columnist turned gubernatorial candidate Nicholas Kristof…
By Nicole Sandler on 12/28/2021 3:47pm PT  

It's the excruciatingly long final week of the year. Brad and Desi are on vacation. I'm NICOLE SANDLER, holding down the fort and guest hosting The BradCast for a few days. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

I have a busy show for you today. But I start today's companion post with a bit of a retraction from the CDC which just arrived in my inbox. I honestly don’t know whether to laugh or cry, as it showed up just as I put the finishing touches on today's show.

Our first guest today is JOHN M BARRY, a professor at Tulane and author of a number of books. The one we're concerned with today is The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History. Barry literally wrote the book on the closest approximation of what we're living through right now. So I wanted to check in with him to ask how the 1918 Spanish Flu finally ended, and to ask if we might be on the same track with the arrival and potential predominance of the Omicron variant. And, frankly, it appeared that I may have hit on something.

At least until five minutes ago, when I received this alert. "CDC significantly cuts estimate of omicron's prevalence in US," reads the headline at The Hill. So I kept reading...

According to agency data, omicron accounted for about 59% of all US infections as of Dec 15. Previously, the CDC said the omicron variant comprised 73% of all cases for the week ending Dec 18. But that number has now been revised to 22.5% of all cases. And the Delta variant still accounts for about 41%...and to make matters even worse, the US is now averaging more than 206,000 cases a day and climbing, according to the CDC.

I guess that just means the situation is even more dire than we thought.

Also today, I reached back into late 2020 for our second interview, but there’s a method to my madness. In October of 2020, NY Times columnist NICHOLAS KRISTOF and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, produced a film to go along with the book they released the previous year with the same title, Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope.

In it, Kristof takes a hard look into poverty in America, the wealthiest nation on the planet. He takes us back to his hometown of Yamhill, Oregon, where people are really struggling.

Perhaps it was the journey of making the film and writing the book that convinced Kristof to make a major life change. This year, he quit the NY Times, moved back to Oregon and launched his campaign to run for Governor. It appears to me that he's doing it for all the correct reasons. Listen to our conversation, and you’ll understand what I mean…

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: The Nation's John Nichols on that and other progressive wins and losses this year; Also: In the spirit of the season, lauding not one, but TWO Republicans (and one of them is Trump!)...
By Brad Friedman on 12/23/2021 5:41pm PT  

On today's BradCast, we continue to catch up with a few of our favorite progressive journalists as the year grinds down. And, yes, there are still a few things to celebrate before Christmas. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

This week, unionized Kellogg's workers in four states --- Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Tennessee --- approved a new five-year contract after a long, 11-week strike. The corporate cereal behemoth had recently threatened to replace the strikers with new, permanent (scab) workers. But, according to members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) International Union, the loud support of lawmakers, including the President of the United States and members of his Administration, Sen. Bernie Sanders, as well as state and local officials in Michigan and elsewhere, buoyed their resolve to keep going. And it worked! The BCTGM President noted this week that the new contract includes wage increases, cost-of-living adjustments, expanded health and retirement benefits and "does not include any concessions."

The victory for 1,400 workers, at a company which touted its workers just last year, during the darkest days of the pandemic, as "essential workers helping to feed the nation," was one of several for unionized labor this year. Our guest today, author and longtime progressive journalist JOHN NICHOLS of The Nation and Madison, Wisconsin's Capitol Times, joins us to help explain why.

"What's happened again and again" this year at companies like Kellogg's, John Deere and elsewhere, Nichols explains, "is that initially, the company bargains in the old-fashioned way. 'We're going to be tough with you...We'll permanently replace you.' All the old tricks." But, in a labor market with very low unemployment, where it is now difficult to find skilled workers or those willing to work in difficult, often dangerous conditions for low pay and benefits, "it's not going to work in this situation. The end result is the companies blinked."

But we've got much more than just the rise of labor in 2021 to catch up on with Nichols today in a lively, wide-ranging conversation on that...

  • on how the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act would help a broad swath of workers across the country;
  • on Joe Manchin and the (theoretical) death of Biden's Build Back Better Act and what the West Virginia Democratic Senator's betrayal to his own party and his own constituents may mean for the future of the filibuster and federal voting rights legislation;
  • on Nichols' fascinating new article for The Nation on the FBI's weird scrutiny of It's a Wonderful Life as a Communist tool back in the 1950s (they thought it made Mr. Potter --- and capitalism --- look bad);
  • and on his upcoming new book calling for accountability --- akin to that which came out of FDR's Pecora Commission following the Great Depression --- for Coronavirus Criminals and Pandemic Profiteers. "In every chapter in the book," Nichols explains, "I find individuals who died, and I track through the cabinet members, the judges, the CEOs, whoever, who could have taken actions that would have let that person live."

That's just a taste. Tune in for much more today with the great Mr. Nichols!

Then, yes, in the spirit of the holidays (and, perhaps, in hopes that it may save even one life), we laud two Republicans today for (barely) doing the right thing this week. One is Congressman Tom Rice of South Carolina, who now says he regrets voting against Joe Biden's certification in two states following the Trump-incited attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. ("There was a coward in that equation," Rice told Politico. "But it wasn’t Mike Pence.") And, perhaps most begrudgingly of all, we laud Trump himself for saying out loud during a wingnut interview this week: "The vaccine worked. But some people aren't taking it. The ones that get very sick and go to the hospital are the ones that don't take the vaccine. ... If you take the vaccine, you're protected. Look, the results of the vaccine are very good...People aren't dying when they take the vaccine."

Yes, the bar is admittedly very low at this point, but we've gotta start somewhere if we want to figure out how to repair this broken nation (and planet.)

Speaking of...the fine folks at ExxonMobil were apparently able to fit in one last disaster before year's end, with an explosion in the middle of the night at one of their refineries near Houston that injured four workers, three of whom were airlifted from the scene. The company downplayed the incident, as usual, describing it as "a fire occurred at our facility". The Houston County Sheriff's office described a "major industrial accident". We hope to learn more soon.

No room for that story today, however, in our final Green News Report of the year (we're standing down next week, Nicole Sandler will be filling in for us for most of it), as Desi Doyen joins us for a round-up of the disasters and successes in the environmental world in 2021, and much more...including one more victory for labor and union workers, as the Biden Administration mobilizes to rid the nation of millions of lead pipes...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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