We continue the impossible balancing act on today's BradCast between coverage of the chilling news out of Ukraine and the somewhat less grim --- but still (mostly) grim --- news out of the federal judiciary in our own teetering democracy. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]
FIRST, in our quick round-up of the latest developments in Russia's horrific assault against Ukraine:
- Some good-ish news as the second round of peace talks results in a "possible temporary ceasefire" to establish humanitarian corridors in some areas of Ukraine to allow safe evacuation out of the country and for food and medical supplies to be brought in.
- The UN says 1 million refugees have already fled Ukraine over the past week, a record for number to leave any nation that quickly this century. But, they warn, the number of displaced residents could rise to more than 4 million, and potentially as high as 10 million as the unspeakable violence continues.
- More good-ish news in that the Pentagon has reportedly established a direct line of communication with the Russian defense ministry. The so-called "de-confliction line" has been established "for the purpose of preventing miscalculation, military incidents, and escalation," as AP is reporting.
- The International Criminal Court is said to have opened an investigation into Russian war crimes and atrocities.
- French President Emmanuel Macron, after a "not-so-friendly" call with Vladimir Putin, reports "the worst is yet to come" in the conflict.
- According to its Mayor, Russian troops have finally taken control of a major city in Ukraine, the city of Kherson on the Black Sea near Crimea. Russian troops are said to be "laying siege" to the key nearby Ukrainian city of Mariupol.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is pleading for more international assistance and calling on NATO to establish a no-fly zone over the country. That, however, would directly pull both U.S. and NATO into direct military conflict with Russia, sparking WWIII in the bargain.
- And, in the U.S. House on Wednesday, a bipartisan, non-binding resolution "Supporting the people of Ukraine" and its sovereign territory, condemning Russia, was approved by an overwhelming 426 to 3 vote. The three members voting against were all Republicans: Reps. Paul Gosar of Arizona, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Matt Rosendale of Montana. The explanations from all three are appalling.
NEXT, it's back to U.S. news focused on the federal judiciary, with the great MARK JOSEPH STERN, legal journalist at Slate, who, on the day that Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement from the U.S. Supreme Court back in January, told us that his "likely" successor would be Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Last week, she was nominated by President Biden to the High Court.
Among the many court-related matters discussed with Stern today (including several of them in a lightning round, as we tried to catch up with a boatload of news that has otherwise been overshadowed by the war in Eastern Europe)...
- His thoughts on Judge Jackson, why he predicted back in January that she'd be nominated, what difference she can make on the GOP's stolen and packed Court, and what, if any, roadblocks may stand in the way of her confirmation as the first black woman to sit as a Justice.
- This week's SCOTUS hearing on West Virginia v. EPA, a challenge by "red" states and the fossil fuel industry to President Obama's Clean Power Plan (which never went into effect) and Trump's subsequent program that replaced it (which was rolled back by the Court and also never went into effect). So why did the GOP's stolen and packed SCOTUS shock Court watchers by deciding to hear this case at all, since nobody has actually been harmed in any way? We discuss. But it's about not only gutting the EPA's statutory ability in the near future to regulate greenhouse gas emissions causing our deadly climate crisis, but also about undermining regulatory actions by all Executive Branch agencies (at least when a Democrat is in control of them.)
- While the role of dark money in campaigns and elections is fairly well understood, how dark money affects appointments to the federal judiciary and the cases they hear is much less appreciated. Stern explains some of the many ways this has poisoned the U.S. judicial system.
- Last week, SCOTUS turned away a challenge to Maine's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers, filed by plaintiffs seeking a religious exemption. Why has the Court been allowing some state and local mandates to proceed, even without religious exemptions, while blocking others imposed by the Biden Administration? Stern explains.
- Remember that 2018 decision by SCOTUS regarding a baker who didn't want to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple in Colorado? His bigotry was allowed, but for largely technical reasons. Now the Court has decided to hear yet another challenge to Colorado's anti-discrimination law from a woman who is considering expanding her web design business to create wedding sites. But, if she does, she doesn't want to create them for same sex weddings, in violation of CO's law. Stern explains that idiocy as well.
- And, finally, in perhaps the most insane court story we discuss today, this one out of the far-right 5th federal Circuit. The lede from Stern's coverage at Salon this week should give you a taste of just how insane it actually is: "On Monday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stunning decision transferring control over the Navy’s special operations forces from the commander in chief to a single federal judge in Texas. The 5th Circuit’s decision marks an astonishing infringement of President Joe Biden’s constitutional authority over the nation’s armed forces, directing him to follow the instructions of an unelected judge—rather than his own admirals—in deploying [Navy] SEALs. High-ranking military personnel have testified under oath that this power grab constitutes a direct threat to the Navy’s operational abilities. As Russia invades Ukraine and declares a nuclear alert, Donald Trump’s judges are actively threatening America’s national security."
FINALLY, Desi Doyen joins us for an only slightly less insane Green News Report: On Biden's SOTU, on Russia's oil and gas industry getting pummeled because of its attack on Ukraine; and some VERY encouraging news about wind energy...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)