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Latest Featured Reports | Tuesday, July 16, 2024
'Green News Report' 7/16/24
  w/ Brad & Desi
Texas grid buckles under multiple disasters; Hurricane Beryl damages now estimated at $3 billion; PLUS: Climate crisis flip-flopper J.D. Vance gets GOP Veep nod...
Previous GNRs: 7/11/24 - 7/9/24 - Archives...
Amid the Assassination Attempt Aftermath:
'BradCast' 7/15/24
Also: Trump Stolen Docs Case Dismissed; OH's J.D. Vance named as GOP Veep nom; Callers ring in on all of the nightmares...
Sunday Monday 'Google Project 2025' Toons
After a brief pause following Saturday's assassination attempt of Donald Trump, we are back with our latest collection of last week's best political toons...
Meanwhile... :
'BradCast' 7/11/24
Biden's tenuous candidacy; Trump and Orban; Inflation, prices falling; Climate liar Inhofe dies; California's stunning solar revolution...
'Green News Report' 7/11/24
  w/ Brad & Desi
Flooding, power outages, sweltering heat as deadly Beryl fallout continues; New FEMA flood risk standards; PLUS: House Republicans bravely seek Freedom for Refrigerators!...
Previous GNRs: 7/9/24 - 6/25/24 - Archives...
Paging 'Johnny Unbeatable'! Dems (Actually!) in Disarray!: 'BradCast' 7/10/24
Guests: Heather Digby Parton of Salon, 'Driftglass' of 'Pro Left Podcast'...
SCOTUS Immunity Ruling 'As Bad as it Sounds', And Worse: 'BradCast' 7/9/24
Guest: LawDork's Chris Geidner on that and the Court's massive 'power grab'; Also: Record-breaking Beryl; U.S. heat records smashed...
'Green News Report' 7/9/24
Beryl breaks records, slams TX; 140m in U.S. under heat advisories; Big SCOTUS gifts for polluters; PLUS: Biden unveils first-ever extreme heat protections for workers...
So, What Now?: 'BradCast' 7/8/24
Listeners have strong opinions about where we are and how to move forward to save democracy after corrupt SCOTUS rulings and disastrous Presidential Debate...
Debunking MAGA Cult Xenophobia
CANNING: Throughout U.S. history, decent, hard-working immigrants (like me) have contributed to the economy and our nation's security: CANNING
Sunday 'Courting Disaster' Toons
THIS WEEK: Kings and Things! In our special SCOTUS-sized edition of the last impossible week's best political toons!...
Sunday 'Bad Medicine' Toons
THIS WEEK: Trump's hot pants ... Biden's cool reception ... SCOTUS gone wild ... and more in our latest collection of the week's best toons...
'Green News Report' 6/27/24
China flooding; Heatwave, crop failure in India; Disaster upon disaster in NM; On edge for SCOTUS decision; PLUS: Biden climate law creates 300,000 jobs!...
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...


Trump NY criminal trial update; Also: SCOTUS nixes Lake's 2022 fraud claims; WI U.S. Senate candidate 'doesn't oppose' elderly voters; Trump/RNC's 'election integrity' plan; AZ GOP Rep's apparent 'petition fraud'...
By Brad Friedman on 4/23/2024 7:13pm PT  

During opening statements in the disgraced former President's ongoing criminal trial, prosecutors argued the scheme surrounding his hush-money payments to a porn star just before the 2016 election amounted to "election fraud, pure and simple." Similar fraud since then, by Trump and now much of his Republican party, pervades many of our stories on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show follows below this summary.]

Among our stories today...

  • It's Primary Day in Pennsylvania. We'll have noteworthy results and/or problem reports on tomorrow's program. (Recent elections in PA have revealed serious problems with the touchscreen voting systems still shamefully used in a number of jurisdictions.) But the election in the Keystone State today --- as some voters are reportedly struggling with newly implemented Photo ID requirements --- also provides a reminder as to why it's a good idea to vote in primaries, even when races at the top of the ticket may already be foregone conclusions.
  • Donald Trump's election-fraud-via-hush-money criminal trial in New York continued on Tuesday. We offer a a few quick updates. One point we missed Monday's opening statements, included the fact that prosecutors say they have hand-written documentation from longtime Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg as to why Michael Cohen was paid $420k as reimbursement for his $130k payment to porn star Stormy Daniels. Today, the day began with a contempt hearing over at least ten instances in which prosecutors allege that Trump has violated the court's gag order on attacking jurors and witnesses. The judge has yet to issue his ruling, but the hearing culminated with Trump's attorney Todd Blanche being upbraided by a frustrated Justice Juan Merchan, who told him, "You are losing all credibility with the court." For that, it appears, Trump's campaign and associated groups have been paying about $145,000 in donor money for legal fees each day since early 2023, according to newly released numbers. After the jury arrived, the trial's first witness continued his testimony. That would be former National Enquirer publisher, longtime Trump pal, and alleged "catch and kill"/hush-money co-conspirator David Pecker.
  • Arizona's 2022 Republican election losers, Kari Lake and Mark Finchem, both falsely claim their elections, for Governor and Sec. of State respectively, were stolen from them somehow, by the Republican officials who run elections in the state's largest County. They sued in 2022 and have lost in court after court ever since. On Monday, the corrupted rightwing U.S. Supreme Court also rejected their case. They are both running again in 2024, for U.S. Senate and state Senate respectively. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Speaking of 2024 Republican U.S. Senate candidates in battleground states, Wisconsin's Eric Hovde really, really wants you to know that he totally thinks "elderly should absolutely vote". Even after his previous comments about elderly voters in nursing homes that really kinda makes it seem otherwise.
  • The Trump Campaign and the RNC (now effectively one and the same) have announced their plans for an "Historic, 100,000 person strong Election Integrity operation"! We've got a few thoughts about what that really means. Though it probably doesn't help that a statement from Trump himself included in the announcement echoes almost precisely a statement long attributed to Josef Stalin that "it's not who votes that matters, but who counts the votes".
  • As to actual election fraud, as usual, the call is coming from inside the Republican house. This time, it's a guy named Austin Smith, an Arizona's Republican state Rep. and top leader of Turning Point Action --- a group which has long echoed Trump's false 2020 election fraud claims. Smith has apparently been caught submitting dozens of signatures, in his own hand-writing, for his own reelection campaign. While denying the charges, now being investigated by the AZ Attorney General, Rep. Smith has since resigned from Turning Point and called off his reelection campaign. But really, he insists, he didn't do it!
  • Finally, Desi Doyen is here for our latest Green News Report, including today: news on Europe's stunning rate of warming; new details on the plastic manufacturing industries contribution to man-made climate change; and another series of sweeping actions from the Biden Administration on Solar for All, the American Climate Corps and a whole bunch of brand new conservation initiatives that I can almost bet you haven't heard about until now...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Becoming a single-issue voter is getting pretty easy; Also: Holding election officials accountable; Biden delivering on renewable energy projects in all 50 states; Madness in 'Darth Valley'...
By Brad Friedman on 7/20/2023 6:37pm PT  

Today on The BradCast: Why I'm quickly becoming a single-issue voter and you should too. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

It's getting easier and easier by the day --- as Trump's Republican Party completes its transition to full-on autocracy --- to make my choices for next year's general election before I even know who will be running. If a candidate is pro-democracy and running against a pro-autocracy candidate, I'll choose the one who supports democracy every time. It's simple.

It's not a partisan issue either. If there is anyone left within the Republican Party willing to support democracy and oppose authoritarianism, I'm happy to examine the rest of their record and consider voting for them. The way things are shaking out, however, I'm not sure where I would find such a Republican candidate, all of which is discussed in varying degrees of detail on today's program.

Among the many stories today that help illustrate what I believe will be the single most defining issue in American elections for the foreseeable future...

  • A Township Clerk in Michigan is stripped of his election administration duties after being one of 16 people indicted this week for defrauding the state by pretending to be a "duly elected" elector after the 2020 Presidential election. Each of the 16 Republicans are charged with 8 criminal counts related to conspiracy to commit election forgery. Each charge carries a penalty of anywhere from 4 to 14 years in prison. While they all deserve punishment, I especially hope they throw the book at the longtime, elected Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot, who violated the trust of the people he serves, who definitely understood what he was doing wrong, and that Donald Trump did not win Michigan's 2020 election.
  • While GOP election officials are violating election laws (Grot is not the only one), the Republican lawmakers are otherwise working hard to prevent (certain) people from voting at all. Happily, a U.S. District Judge in Florida recently blocked a new state law that prevented certain former felons and non-citizens from participating in voter registration drives. The judge found the measure, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, to "reduce individual rights to ashes" in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
  • Meanwhile, Republicans in the U.S. House are attempting to force similar measures on all 50 states, reducing states rights to ashes (despite long pretending to care about them, but only in certain, very specific circumstances). Their newly introduced measure is called The American Confidence in Elections Act. It makes it more difficult for many to vote, easier to cheat, and easier for millionaires and billionaires to further purchase American elections. Contrast that with two Democratic voting and election reform measures being reintroduced --- the Freedom to Vote Act and John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act --- which would, among other things, make it easier for legal voters to cast their votes, provide support for election workers, regulate dark money in elections, ban partisan gerrymandering, revive portions of the Voting Rights Act gutted by SCOTUS, and allow every voter a hand-marked paper ballot. Again, another clear illustration of a pro-democracy party versus an anti-democracy party. Next year's choices should be simple.
  • And, if there are any remaining questions about Democracy v. Autocracy as the stark new stakes our country now faces, there is likely no clearer illustration of it than Monday's explosive New York Times story detailing the Republican's $22 million "Project 2025". The plan, being prepared by former Trump White House officials for Trump or whichever Republican next wins the White House, involves what NYU Historian and fascism expert Ruth Ben-Ghiat described as "autocratic capture". The scheme, which they are not trying to hide, calls for the consolidation of all Executive Branch power into the White House, allowing the President to purge tens of thousands of career public officials deemed as insufficiently loyal, and to allow him or her to take over complete control of all independent Executive Branch agencies, such as the Dept. of Justice, FCC, FTC, Federal Reserve and many others. The President would also grant himself the power to block the allocation of monies appropriated by Congress. As one of the Republicans behind the project explains: "There is no way to make the existing structure function in a conservative manner. ... What’s necessary is a complete system overhaul." Another tells the Times: "What we’re trying to do is identify the pockets of independence and seize them." Are the extraordinary 2024 stakes making sense out there yet?
  • All of that as the planet's climate continues to degenerate thanks to the continuing burning of fossil fuels and those in the industry --- and politicians they've purchased --- who continue to lie to the public about it. In California's "Darth Valley Run" one guy is making the best (or worst?) of it...even as he seems to concede he is certifiably insane. (See the photo above for a hint.)
  • And, in Philadelphia on Thursday, President Biden, speaking at a shipyard, detailed an extraordinary array of remarkable new renewable energy projects now underway --- mostly off-shore wind in this case --- and the thousands of good-paying, union jobs that come with them, created by Biden and Congressional Democrats in all 50 states as part of last year's Inflation Reduction Act.
  • Finally, Desi Doyen further breaks down the stakes for the planet --- as all-time, mind-blowing heat records continue to be shattered across the Northern Hemisphere --- in our latest Green News Report...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: Dan Vicuña, Nat'l Redistricting Manager at Common Cause...
By Brad Friedman on 5/1/2023 6:22pm PT  

It's another red alert day on The BradCast today, regarding the precedent crushing plans of our stolen, corrupted and packed Rightwing U.S. Supreme Court majority. They've got two different plans, in fact, for two different ways to overturn decades, if not centuries of critical precedent on federal elections and the power of federal agencies. [Audio link to full show follows below this summary.]

FIRST UP, we begin in the state of North Carolina where, last year, a 4 to 3 Democratic majority on the state's Supreme Court found the GOP-majority state legislature had drawn up new legislative and Congressional district maps that constituted unlawful partisan gerrymanders under the state Constitution. The state court ordered fair maps to be drawn up, resulting in the election of a Congressional delegation in 2022 that had 7 Democrats and 7 Republicans in the very closely divided state.

State Republicans, however, challenged the high court's ruling by filing a case named Moore v. Harper with the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that an obscure clause in the U.S. Constitution allows state legislatures and only state legislatures to create rules and laws for federal elections. Neither state courts nor constitutions can tell them otherwise, they are arguing.

It's a fringe concept known as the Independent State Legislature theory, which has never been blessed by a majority at SCOTUS. But Republicans are hoping the current, corrupted Republican Court will approve the theory, blocking Governors or Secretaries of State or state Supreme Courts or state constitutions or even voters from setting election laws. We have long warned of the dangers of this case for American elections as we know them. Under this theory, if SCOTUS grants its blessing as many fear [raises hand!], state legislatures could even choose Presidential electors no matter how the state's voters may vote. The U.S. Supreme Court heard Moore v. Harper last December, after we'd spent months setting off sirens to try and let you know about what could happen in that case in advance of next year's 2024 Presidential election.

Last November, however, NC voters elected two new Republicans for their state's high court, giving Republicans a 5 to 2 majority. And, last Friday, after rehearing the exact same gerrymandering case in which they had previously ordered new maps, the new Republican court majority reversed the same court's previous ruling, allowing partisan gerrymanders to return in advance of 2024. The likely result will be a House delegation with 10 Republicans and 4 Democrats. That, even though there had been no changes to the law, and no new facts were presented to the newly GOP-led state Supreme Court. (They also reversed a previous ruling that had restored voting rights to some 55,000 former felons, and a ruling that had blocked a photo ID voting restriction that violated the state's Constitution.)

What does this unprecedented reversal at the NC Supreme Court of a month's old ruling mean for the U.S. Supreme Court's pending ruling in Moore v. Harper? We're joined today to discuss exactly that by DAN VICUÑA, national redistricting manager at Common Cause, plaintiffs in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case challenging an earlier gerrymandered map in North Carolina following the 2010 U.S. Census.

"I think just the blatant hypocrisy, the clear partisanship, is laid so bare it's hard to see how a decision like this stands" in North Carolina, at least over time, argues Vicuña. But, as to what may happen in Moore v. Harper at SCOTUS, and whether the case will be found moot or the Court will go ahead and issue an opinion anyway, Vicuña would rather get a ruling now than in the next term, when a ruling would come in the middle of the 2024 Presidential election.

"We didn't want this case to be heard in the first place, because the Independent State Legislature theory is, quite frankly, ridiculous," he tells me. "It defies logic, defies legal precedent, defies the intent of the framers of the Constitution. But it was heard. We made our case. We think we won very clearly on the law and the facts, and the history. So getting clarity on the facts well in advance of the 2024 election makes a lot of sense. So we're okay with that, and hope it goes our way."

NEXT UP, more disturbing news today out of SCOTUS. The Court announced on Monday they will take up a case next term that challenges the so-called "Chevron Deference", a landmark ruling from a 1984 case (Chevron v. National Resources Defense Council) which established that experts at federal agencies should be given deference when creating rules and regulations meant to enforce federal laws in which Congress may have been ambiguous regarding certain details.

For example, as Desi Doyen joins us to explain today, the Clean Air Act may grant the EPA a mandate to regulate pollution, but it may not specifically mention which pollutants must be regulated, or how many parts per million constitute unlawful pollution. That's left to experts at the EPA to determine through the rule-making procedures. But Republicans wish to dismantle the ability of federal agencies to make any such rules, granting that authority instead to courts (without expertise) and the industry lobbyists who influence them.

Our corrupted, packed and stolen rightwing SCOTUS now appears ready to "dismantle the administrative state" (as Steve Bannon has long been promising) in a ruling next term that could affect the ability of agencies to create federal regulations regarding everything from the climate crisis to health care to immigration and beyond.

Finally, we finish up with some listener email and phone calls to round out another disturbing hour of The BradCast. Enjoy!...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: Univ. of KY election law prof Joshua A. Douglas; Also: Listeners respond after yesterday's call-in show on Russia's war on Ukraine...
By Brad Friedman on 2/28/2023 6:48pm PT  

It's always darling when Republicans pretend to oppose "activist judges" who "legislate from the bench." As discussed on today's BradCast, the new Republican majority on North Carolina's Supreme Court is now showing how it's done! [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

We have been warning for some months about the Moore v. Harper case recently heard at the U.S. Supreme Court. The corrupt, stolen and packed far-right Court majority's opinion could finally establish the legitimacy a once-fringe, still-ridiculous Constitutional concept called the Independent State Legislature theory. According to the theory suddenly being pushed hard by Republicans, State Legislatures --- and only State Legislatures (not Governors, Secretaries of State, State Courts, State Constitutions nor even ballot initiatives adopted by voters) --- may create election rules and laws in each state. If a SCOTUS majority agrees with this radical, previously-obscure reading of the Constitution, decades, even centuries, of American election law could be tossed out the window. The theory even holds, according to critics, that state legislatures would simply be able to choose whichever slate of Presidential electors they like, no matter who the state's voters may have chosen.

Moore v. Harper is actually a partisan gerrymandering case out of North Carolina, where its State Supreme Court last year found the new Congressional and legislative maps drawn by the NC Republican legislature to be in violation of the state's Constitution which, they determined, prohibits partisan gerrymandering. In last November's elections, however, two Republicans won their elections for the state's high court, flipping it from a 4 to 3 Dem-leaning majority to a 5 to 2 Republican court.

After the new, rightwing majority was seated last month, they decided to rehear the Moore v. Harper case despite, as the two dissenting Democratic Justices decried, the fact that doing so would be a "radical break with 205 years of history" and that "Nothing has changed since we rendered our opinion in this case" last year.

"The only thing that has changed is the political composition of the Court," wrote Justice Anita Earls. "Now, approximately one month since this shift, the Court has taken an extraordinary action: It is allowing rehearing without justification." Earls called the decision "an affront to the jurisprudence of this State and to the citizens it has sworn an oath to serve ‘impartially,’ ‘without favoritism to anyone or to the State.’"

In addition, the new rightwing state Justices in NC also decided to rehear the challenge to the GOP legislature's Photo ID voting restrictions which the 4 to 3 Democratic majority, just two months ago, struck down, after finding it to have been adopted with a discriminatory purpose to make it harder for minorities to vote, a violation of the state Constitution.

"This is essentially a brazen power grab by the new majority," our guest today, JOSHUA A. DOUGLAS, author and election law professor at the University of Kentucky explains. "To put this power grab in context," he recently wrote at Washington Monthly, "in the past 30 years, the North Carolina Supreme Court had agreed to rehear only two cases out of the 214 requests it had received. ... The court has now doubled the number of rehearing grants in just one reckless day."

"It's unusual for any court to act this quickly and this brazenly," Douglas tells me. "This really is unprecedented for the North Carolina court, but, as far as I'm aware of, courts in general." He goes on to describe the court's behavior as "dangerous", "blatantly partisan", and "politics all the way down."

"This is why it's dangerous to have elected judges with a party label," he argues. "Everyone knows what's going on here. Everyone knows that the court was 4-3 in favor of Democrats, its 5-2 in favor of Republicans now, because Republicans won two of those seats."

"This idea of precedent, that the law builds upon, is being thrown out when we just think of judges as politicians in robes, explicitly. Even if people had thought this was going on before, I think judges themselves felt a little bit cabined by this idea that they're not just politicians in robes and political activists. But that idea is now thrown out the window."

So, what does this now mean for the version of Moore v. Harper currently at the Supreme Court, where it has already been heard? Will it be mooted out by a new decision in NC or will an opinion be issued on the Independent State Legislature theory anyway? If not, Republicans will almost certainly find another case to place the wacko ISL theory before the court. But a new case, Douglas warns, would likely result in a SCOTUS opinion issued smack dab in the middle of the 2024 election cycle, potentially unleashing complete chaos in the bargain.

NEXT UP TODAY, we heard from a lot of listeners following yesterday's call-in program in which I opened up the phone lines primarily to those who disagreed with my position that the U.S. should continue to support sovereign Ukraine's self-defense against Russia, its imperialist aggressor neighbor whose brutal, unlawful invasion began just over one year ago. Democracy v. autocracy is at stake, as I argued yesterday, despite Vladimir Putin's repeated threats to unleash nuclear weapons. We had a number of callers --- sadly, presumably from the Left --- who have been wildly misinformed and disinformed by a number of media outlets that have, for years, been pushing Kremlin propaganda (sometimes knowingly, sometimes not.)

That said, after yesterday's show, I received a ton of comments --- probably 8, 9, or 10 to 1 --- in favor of my position against the bulk of our callers. To be fair, I had invited and prioritized those who disagreed with my position, in hopes of an enlightening discussion/debate on the issues. But, so as to not give the entirely wrong impression of our overall listeners, I thought it helpful to share some of the comments in response to yesterday's show --- the majority of which were supportive of my position on Ukraine --- on air today.

FINALLY, we're joined by Desi Doyen for our latest Green News Report, as "bizarro" weather continues across much of the nation now that we've broken the climate; and as Republicans amusingly begin to discover --- in light of the toxic chemical train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio which Fox "News" has instructed them to be furious about --- that hey, regulations actually protect the public against this sort of thing! Who knew?...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Dark money fossil fuel bribery and disenfranchising military voters in the Buckeye State; Also: GOP House continues dangerous debt limit game...
By Brad Friedman on 1/19/2023 6:13pm PT  

Is there any amount of blatant corruption that would result in Ohio voters finally turning against Republicans? As we discuss in detail on today's BradCast, state GOP lawmakers seem to really be testing that question at this point. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

But, first up, speaking of testing voters, the Treasury Department made it official today. The U.S. Government has now hit its current, statutory borrowing limit. We are now officially using "extraordinary measures" to continue paying our bills to avoid defaulting on our debts. But that can only go on for so long. At this point, according to Treasury's best guess, the U.S. will see its first-ever default "before early June" unless House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his Republicans in Congress cast a simple vote to raise the amount we are allowed to borrow so that we can pay for all the stuff that Congress and Presidents of both parties long ago agreed to pay for.

It's not hard. It's been done about 80 times since the 1960s, mostly without a problem. But now, with a Democrat in the White House and radicalized Republicans in control of the U.S. House, GOP hard-liners seem determined to play a dangerous game that could result in a national or even world-wide recession or depression. They are pretending to care about the national debt, after years of voting to increase spending while reducing revenue with huge tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. Their performative actions now --- as they hold the nation hostage, demanding cuts to Social Security and Medicare --- will only make the national debt worse. Will voters remember, the next time they go to the voting booth, the damage the GOP seems hell-bent on causing?

We can only hope there will be some not totally insane, "moderate" Republicans left in Congress to join with Democrats to end this madness before its too late, because nobody knows how bad the damage will soon be if they don't. They are likely to run this up to the wire. Again. So, buckle up.

Meanwhile, there's Republican-controlled Ohio, with its totally not insane, supposedly "moderate" Republican Governor, Mike DeWine. He just signed legislation, passed by the GOP state legislature, redefining natural gas --- one of the worst causes of global warming --- as "green energy" under state law. Not insane or corrupt at all, right?

As it turns out, DeWine and state Republicans, once again, seem to be participants in another dark money corruption scandal courtesy of the fossil fuel industry. That, as the state's Republican former House Speaker, Larry Householder, begins his $60 million federal bribery trial next week. That, after Householder, former Ohio Republican Party chair Matt Borges, three others and a dark money political group controlled by Householder participated in "an elaborate scheme, secretly funded by FirstEnergy, to secure Householder's power, elect his allies, pass legislation containing a $1 billion bailout for two aging nuclear power plants, and then vex a ballot effort to overturn the bill with a dirty tricks campaign," according to prosecutors.

Householder shepherded the 2019 passage of the bill to bailout the nuke plants (and a coal-fired power plant) owned by FirstEnergy, a huge energy and fossil fuel conglomerate based in Akron. The bailout was to have been paid for with an additional fee on the utility bills of Buckeye State rate payers, according to the legislation that was signed be DeWine just hours after passage.

And now, it seems, DeWine has done it again. This time on behalf of the natural gas industry. But, why not? Last November, Ohio voters said they didn't mind all the corruption. DeWine easily won a second term in office and state GOP lawmakers increased their super-majorities in both chambers of the legislature.

But, just in case the voters get wise, DeWine recently signed a major overhaul of state election laws, implementing a series of new restrictions on voters. One of those restrictions, however, will make it more difficult for active-duty military members overseas to cast their votes without being disenfranchised. Oops. Military families are said to be furious. But do Republicans actually care about that either? Why would they?

Finally, Desi Doyen joins for our latest Green News Report with more details on DeWine's friendly payback to the natural gas industry; the European Union's new plan to try and compete with renewable energy incentives in the U.S. adopted last year by Democrats; and Germany's recent crack down on anti-coal protesters...

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Guest: ACLU attorney Jonathan Topaz; Also: IA, NY GOPers charged with mass vote fraud; OH Guv signs bill restricting voting rights...
By Brad Friedman on 1/13/2023 6:17pm PT  

What a way to "celebrate" Martin Luther King Day this year on The BradCast. Fifty-eight years since the passage of the Voting Rights Act and 10 years since the rightwingers on the U.S. Supreme Court gutted one of its central provisions, our even farther rightwing courts now appear to be gunning for much of the rest of the landmark civil rights voting law. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

First up today, while GOP-appointed federal judges are finding new ways to allow racial discrimination at the voting booth, Republicans --- including a top election official in upstate New York, and the wife of a U.S. House candidate in Iowa --- are nabbed by the Justice Department for committing mass vote fraud with absentee ballots.

The DoJ announcements in those cases come after a year in which Republicans filed a record number of anti-voting lawsuits --- in hopes of preventing (certain) voters from voting and/or having their votes counted as cast --- under the pretend guise of fighting fraud. They also come just days after Ohio's supposedly "moderate" GOP Governor signed new legislation to make it more difficult for (certain) voters to vote at all in upcoming elections.

Voting rights advocates in the Buckeye State charge the new measure will create barriers to the ballot for the elderly, rural voters and members of the military. But if it makes it more difficult for minority voters to vote, it may soon be impossible for groups like the League of Women Voters or the NAACP or the ACLU to file lawsuits charging violations of anti-discrimination laws under the Voting Rights Act.

When SCOTUS gutted Section 5 of the VRA in 2013 --- the part that required new election laws in jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination at the polling place to be precleared by federal authorities before they could go into effect --- the rightwing majority on the High Court claimed the provision was antiquated and no longer necessary. Besides, even though thousands of discriminatory laws had been blocked by Section 5 since 1965, there was always Section 2, which blocks racially discriminatory voting laws in all 50 states.

After all, as an ACLU attorney was forced to point out during a federal appeals court hearing this week: “For over 40 years, dozens of federal courts have heard hundreds of Section 2 claims brought by federal plaintiffs.”

Unfortunately, that lawyer was defending the use of Section 2 before a three-judge panel, where she had to add that, “In that time, not one court denied the plaintiffs their day in court because of a lack of private action.”

The hearing in question came this week after a lower, federal district Court judge in Arkansas tossed out a challenge to a new state House district map implemented by state Republicans. The map includes 11 black majority districts, when the population of the state suggests there should be 16 such districts.

But Judge Lee Rudofsky, a Donald Trump appointee, dismissed the challenge to the new map, declaring that Section 2 of the VRA does not allow private individuals and groups, like the ACLU or NAACP, to file suit against such laws. Only the U.S. Attorney General may do so, he held.

As our guest explains today, Rudofsky's court "the first court in the history of the country to find that there is no private right of action" in Section 2. For a host of reasons, it's an absurd argument. And yet, this week at the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, according to CNN, two of the three judges on the appeals panel (all of them are Republican appointees) appeared open to the idea that there is no right to private action under Section 2, because the federal statute doesn't specifically say as much. Never mind that private parties have been suing for decades under Section 2, including at the U.S. Supreme Court, where the Justices never said a word against it.

We're joined to explain this newly-attempted GOP voter suppression nightmare by JONATHAN TOPAZ, the ACLU Voting Rights Project staff attorney who served as the trial attorney on the initial case that was tossed by Judge Rudofsky last year.

"I think it's hard for most people to fathom that this is a question that needs to be litigated in 2023," Topaz tells me. "There have been hundreds of cases over the course of Section 2's history litigated by private plaintiffs, and many of those cases --- at least 10 at the Supreme Court, and at least 18 in the 8th Circuit where we were arguing earlier this week --- were brought by private plaintiffs."

"Congress had opportunities --- in 1982 when they amended the Voting Rights Act, as recently as 2006 when they reauthorized the Voting Rights Act --- to correct any mistakes it saw out there as private plaintiffs brought cases across the country, which would have been purportedly in open defiance of what Congress had intended, and Congress never saw fit to correct anyone," he explains.

Topaz goes on to cite a case as recently as 1996 when "five justices of the Supreme Court --- so, a majority --- held that there was a private right of action under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act." Of course, our newly corrupted, stolen, and extremist rightwing majority on the High Court has had no trouble of late reversing its own precedents whenever they feel like it. So this case, which will almost certainly end up at SCOTUS no matter what happens at the 8th Circuit, could tee up a potentially near-fatal blow to the already teetering VRA.

"Section 2 is one of the crown jewels of American legislative history," Topaz argues today. "It's one of the finest statutes ever passed. Section 2 is absolutely essential in terms of ensuring equal voting access around the country. And we will do everything we can do defend it."

In the meantime, as he observes, this particular fight has prevented the courts from deciding on the merits of the original case, which means that --- even if it's ultimately settled at SCOTUS in favor of the ACLU --- "there will have been several elections taking place with discriminatory maps in Arkansas."

In 1957, in his "Give us the Ballot" speech eight years before passage of the VRA, MLK reportedly said: "So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind --- it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact --- I can only submit to the edict of others."

Happy Martin Luther King Day. It's on Monday.

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Also: Beer shortage?!; More on DeSantis' migrant scam; Electoral Count Act reform news; Good (and bad) news for disabled voters...
By Brad Friedman on 9/20/2022 6:38pm PT  

Today's BradCast starts off with a show-stopper! Everything else thereafter, well, you'll decide for yourself. [Audio link to full show follows below this summary.]

On today's program...

  • Since it's, apparently, National Voter Registration Day today (yes, that's a thing), we thought we'd celebrate by starting off with a fantastic new lyric rewrite video from the cast of Broadway's Hamilton. They've updated a song from the show called "The Election of 1800" to a new version called "The Election of 2022" to raise awareness of the importance of voting this year. Their effort is in partnership with Michelle Obama's When We All Vote and Vote Riders. But for help in registering to vote, checking to make sure your registration still exists (and is at the address where you actually live), and for information on the type of ID required to vote where you live, I recommend either the DNC's IWillVote.com app or the federal government's Vote.gov. Both sites allow you to check your registration or register to vote without having to give information to a third party. And, since merely voting is no longer enough, we are officially enlisting you to spread the word to others on all of this! Ask your friends, co-workers, neighbors etc., if they are registered to vote; help them do so, if not; make sure they get to the polls to vote by November 8 this year, etc. etc. Yes, it's that important this year!
  • There is a weird beer shortage looming! Why? Lack of carbon dioxide due to contamination at an extinct volcano in Mississippi. Yes, I realize that sounds bizarre --- especially given the deadly over-abundance of CO2 in our atmosphere, causing our deadly climate crisis --- but, well...tune in for the full bizarre explanation.
  • On yesterday's program, we detailed some of the apparent federal criminal statutes, such as kidnapping, that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis seems to have violated when he shipped 48 Venezuelan migrants from San Antonio, Texas to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts on behalf of the state of Florida. We noted that requests had been made to the MA Attorney General U.S. Attorney's office in the state to investigate whether laws were violated. But shortly after airtime yesterday, news broke that Bexar County (San Antonio), Texas Sheriff's office has opened a criminal investigation into the matter. Good news!
  • As to what actually happened --- versus what DeSantis is claiming --- TPM's Josh Marshall has been trying to do some digging, after first noting that the initial story "Doesn't Add Up". Why did DeSantis hunt down migrants in Texas seeking asylum to entice (with false promises) to go to Massachusetts? Are there no migrants in Florida that could have been similarly abused, since the Florida state legislature has set allocated some $12 million to use to transport migrants out of the state (as opposed to out of the state of Texas)?! Who is this mysterious "Perla" character who has been identified as having recruited the migrants and organized luxury corporate jets to fly theme to MA? And, though the Florida Governor and Presidential hopeful is refusing to offer specifics, what clues can be gleaned about all of this from some of the statements that he has made, referencing a "contractor" or "vendor" who seems to have been hired for all of this, rather than government workers. In other words, what the hell is really going on here?
  • Then, in some election law related news today, the House January 6 Select Committee Vice-Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) and committee member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) detailed proposed reforms to the Electoral Count Act, over the weekend. The Committee, they explain, hopes to make it more difficult in the future to steal elections via the Electoral College, as Donald Trump attempted to do on January 6, 2021. The new measure, officially introduced by the Committee in the House on Monday, is called the Presidential Election Reform Act. It would clarify the role of the Vice President on January 6 as purely ministerial; increase the number of Representative and Senators required to challenge any state's Electoral College votes; offer legal options to Presidential candidates in the event that a state fails to certify its Electoral Votes (as a number of GOP candidates for Governor and Sec. of State this year have said they would have done in 2020, had they been in office at the time); and prevents state legislatures from changing the rules for determining election results after the election has already started. The House measure is similar to one recently introduced by a bipartisan group in the Senate, and would need to be reconciled with that version if both versions are successfully brought to a vote in each chamber.
  • Some good news --- and some troubling news --- for disabled voters. New voting restrictions adopted by Republicans in several different states have made it literally impossible for some disabled voters to vote at all without breaking the law. For example, a Wisconsin law had mandated that nobody other than the voter him or herself could place an absentee ballot in a mailbox. That means that those without use of their arms --- such as voters suffering from advanced multiple sclerosis or who may have been injured --- might not be able to vote absentee at all. A recent federal court victory in WI will at least allow disabled voters in that state to receive assistance when casting their ballot. But several other states, such as Kansas, Iowa, Kentucky and Missouri, still have measures in place that could make it impossible --- and/or illegal --- for some disabled voters to vote at all in 2022 and beyond.
  • Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, as three major storms made simultaneous, catastrophic landfall in Puerto Rico, Alaska and Japan over the weekend; a new report finds climate change made Pakistan's recent catastrophic flooding much much worse; better news in Australia where the nation, until recently controlled by climate change deniers, is finally moving to reduce carbon emissions; and, in Louisiana, a court has blocked the construction of a massive, toxic plastics plant in area of the state known as "Cancer Alley"...

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Also: The corruption of Zinke in MT; The ridiculousness of Walker in GA; Much more...
By Brad Friedman on 8/25/2022 6:44pm PT  

Until (and unless) Democrats can pick up at least two seats in the U.S. Senate this November in order to reform the filibuster --- while retaining their majority in the U.S. House and control of the White House --- the fight for personal freedoms, such as reproductive rights and voting rights, is going to remain a grueling, state-by-state slog. That's where we are right now. But we can change that this November if we ALL turn out and fight like hell to cast our vote. In the meantime, on today's BradCast, we've got some good news in at least some of those state-by-state battles.

Among the many stories covered today...

  • New evidence of the unapologetic corruption of Donald Trump's disgraced former Interior Dept. Secretary Ryan Zinke, who, incredibly enough, is currently the front-runner to win a new U.S. House seat in Montana. Voters in Montana would be wise to reconsider that idea.
  • New evidence of the unspeakable ignorance of former NFL great Herschel Walker, who is now the embarrassing Trump-backed nominee for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, where he is running against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. Despite lying about his past, and offering inane, barely comprehensible comments on the campaign trail, not to mention his latest ridiculous response to the Democrats' landmark new climate bill, investing $370 billion to take on our climate crisis, Walker remains very much in the running to unseat Warnock. Voters in Georgia would be wise to reconsider that idea.
  • Newly triggered abortion bans went into effect in three more states on Thursday, in Idaho, Tennessee and Texas. That brings the number of states where reproductive rights and personal freedoms are now completely banned or severely restricted to 14. Many of those states do not allow exceptions for rape, incest or even the life or health of the mother. As the President of the Center for Reproductive Rights told HuffPost, "Vast swaths of the nation, especially in the South and Midwest, are now abortion deserts that, for many, will be impossible to escape." There was a small bit of good news on this front on Wednesday in federal court, however, regarding Idaho's draconian restrictions, as challenged by the Biden Administration's Dept. of Justice. Voters in all of these states are going to need to show up in unprecedented numbers to make their voices heard in November.
  • There was also some good news on this front following this week's elections in New York and Florida, even beyond the political earthquake of Democratic candidate Pat Ryan's win in a special election for the U.S. House in a NY swing-district that would almost certainly have been won by the Republican candidate prior to the U.S. Supreme Court's corrupt GOP majority overturning Roe v. Wade earlier this summer. In FL, the sole Democrat in the state House to vote in favor of new restrictions on abortion and in favor of the Republicans' "Don't Say Gay" law was booted from his job on Tuesday. Also, a judge in FL's Hillsborough County, who made himself infamous earlier this year by denying an abortion to a 17-year old girl because he didn't think her grades were high enough, was also tossed out of his job. Good work, Florida voters! More like that on November 8, please!
  • And then there's the state-by-state fight for voting rights. Here, we've got several encouraging pieces of news from the court in recent days. Earlier this month, a federal court in Texas rejected a state voter suppression law that would leave those who do not live permanently in the state (for example, those who may attend school there) from being able to register to vote in either that state or their own home state! "The part-time and off-campus college students are undeniably disenfranchised because they are unable to register to vote both where they have moved and where they have moved from," the U.S. District Court Judge wrote when issuing his summary judgment [PDF] in favor of plaintiffs. "The court is likewise unable to discern where college students should register as the Temporary-Relocation Provision [of Senate Bill 1111] is written. And the possible repercussions are not just complete disenfranchisement, but also criminal liability. The Temporary-Relocation Provision does not overcome any degree of constitutional scrutiny," he found in tossing out the provision. Naturally, the state's criminally-indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton is appealing the matter to the rightwing 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Late last week, there was good news for voters in North Carolina, as the state's Supreme Court determined that two state Constitutional Amendments --- one to impose Photo ID restrictions on voters, the other to lower taxes --- were unlawfully adopted by a racially gerrymandered state legislature. Some 28 seats in the GOP-majority General Assembly were found by a federal court to have been unlawful racial gerrymanders. But, after that finding and before a new election to correct the gerrymanders, the state Assembly rushed a vote to put the Amendments onto the state ballot. Without the illegal gerrymanders, they likely wouldn't have had enough votes to do so. NC's high court last week ruled, as WRAL summarized, "lawmakers who won their seats through unconstitutional racial gerrymandering cannot then submit constitutional amendments that would permanently disadvantage the same groups discriminated against in the racial gerrymandering process." The state's Republican House Speaker vows to appeal to SCOTUS.
  • And, also late last week, a federal judge determined that Arkansas violated the Voting Rights Act by restricting the number of people who could receive assistance in voting --- such as help in translating an English language ballot --- by any one person. The state law said no single person could help more than six voters. The court found that to be arbitrary and in violation of federal law. "Arkansas has determined that voters should only get the assistor of their choice up to a point," the Judge wrote in his ruling, "but there is no evidence Congress contemplated this numerical restriction on the right.” A similar suit has been filed in Missouri, where state Republicans have limited the number of voters who may be helped by any one person to...one!
  • Finally, before we get to today's Green News Report with Desi Doyen --- in which compelling reason is offered to Virginia voters to vote out their GOP climate change denying Congressman Bob Good --- some breaking news out of California, where regulators have finalized a requirement that will allow only new, zero-emissions vehicles (for example, all-electric vehicles) to be sold in the Golden State as of 2035. Desi explains why that's very good news for both the state and the world. Then, she closes out today's program with our latest GNR, including disturbing news on the worst draught in Europe in at least 500 years; the surprising popularity of climate action among Americans; troubling news about fracking and children's health; and oil giant Saudi Arabia's plan to break into the emerging EV market...

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CISA issues advisory based on sealed expert report in GA voting system lawsuit; Also: We try to open the phones re: upcoming J6 hearings, get waylaid by callers with other matters on their mind...
By Brad Friedman on 6/6/2022 6:05pm PT  

Like it or not, we're back on today's BradCast! But we've got plenty of trouble-making and muckraking for you today, and even some contentious listener calls for your listening pleasure! [Audio link to full show follows below this summary.]

First up, some long overdue good news. Though we've been warning, in great detail, over the years (nearly 20 of them, at this point) about the risks of voting on 100% unverifiable touchscreen voting systems, we now have some good(ish) company. Last Friday, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) issued a public security advisory regarding nine serious vulnerabilities discovered in touchscreen Ballot Marking Devices (BMD) made by Dominion.

The alert comes after the federal agency's review of a sealed report, which a federal court in Georgia allowed CISA to access, created by the University of Michigan's J. Alex Halderman, a longtime cybersecurity and voting systems expert who is serving as an expert witness in the Coalition for Good Governance's long-running lawsuit to block the use of those systems in the state. The Coalition, founded and headed up by frequent BradCast guest Marilyn Marks, filed suit in 2017 against Georgia's use of touchscreen systems made by Diebold. After the court found those systems to be unverifiable, insecure and, therefore, unconstitutional, the state defied expert advice to move to a hand-marked paper ballot system. Instead, GA's Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger forced all counties in the state to switch to a newer touchscreen BMD system made by Dominion, which has many if not all of the same vulnerabilities as the older systems that were banned by the court.

As part of the Coalition's lawsuit, Halderman was granted access to the Dominion systems and found vulnerabilities so alarming that his report was sealed by the federal judge and even blocked from review by the plaintiffs. Only their attorneys could view the report, until CISA asked to see it in February. U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg allowed them access and, after studying the report and notifying the 16 states where Dominion BMDs are used, CISA issued their public alert last week.

"One of the most serious vulnerabilities could allow malicious code to be spread from the election management system to machines throughout a jurisdiction," according to Kate Brumback's excellent coverage at AP. "The vulnerability could be exploited by someone with physical access or by someone who is able to remotely infect other systems that are connected to the internet if election workers then use USB sticks to bring data from an infected system into the election management system."

In the wake of Donald Trump's lies about the 2020 Presidential election being stolen (when, in fact, it was he who was attempting to do so), has led to a rash of election insiders --- the County Clerk in Mesa County, CO, the Board of Elections in Coffee County, GA, to name just two cases --- making secret copies of proprietary voting system software and releasing it to members of the public in an extraordinary security risk for future elections.

The vulnerabilities, according to CISA, could allow manipulation of results in a way that would not necessarily be discovered by most security provisions employed by most jurisdictions which use these terrible types of voting systems. Halderman told AP that he believes it is not only the systems made by Dominion that are vulnerable. Similar touchscreen systems made by ES&S, the nation's largest vendor, are used in many more states across the country, or by Smartmatic, whose touchscreen BMDs are now forced on voters at the polling place here in Los Angeles County, the nation's largest single voting jurisdiction. They all have many of the same design flaws, such as the use of barcodes/QRCodes to tally ballots printed out by the systems, ignoring the human-readable selections printed on the same ballot paper that may or may not have been correctly verified by the voter.

"There are systemic problems with the way election equipment is developed, tested and certified," Halderman told AP, "and I think it’s more likely than not that serious problems would be found in equipment from other vendors if they were subjected to the same kind of testing."

We dive into the details of this long overdue story today, along with recommendations for how voters can maximize the odds are their votes being tallied as per their intent in this year's critical midterm elections. (One key suggestion: Vote on a hand-marked paper ballot if possible! Even if it means using an absentee ballot. Deliver it in person to a dropbox or polling place, if you can!)

Next up, we try to open the phones to callers regarding their hopes for the the upcoming U.S. House select Committee's public hearings, beginning this Thursday, on Donald Trump's January 6, 2021 insurrection and his attempt to steal the 2020 Presidential election. As it turns out, however, some callers want to discuss election concerns. And, among them, at least one of whom is a terribly disinformed rightwinger who actually believes the 2020 election was stolen. Much fun ensues thereafter! Enjoy!...

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Elder pretends to care about 'election integrity', lies about fraud before Election Day; Senate Dems reach fantastic election reform 'compromise'; More anti-vax RWers 'bite the dust' while inflaming the pandemic for all...
By Brad Friedman on 9/14/2021 6:57pm PT  

Get ready for another roller-coaster ride on today's BradCast, which also happens to be Recall Election Day in California. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

As of airtime on Tuesday, we heard of no major reports of voting problems at the polls across the Golden State, though that may be thanks to so many already having voted by mail or during early voting. But, while pretending to support "election integrity" during an interview on MSNBC, Larry Elder, rightwing talk show host and GOP front-runner to become Governor if popular Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom loses on the ballot's first question, was busy lying about "fraud" and the "twisted results of this 2021 Recall Election" on his "Stop CA Fraud" website, before any results are known whatsoever. Oh, and he's also threatening the use of the "ammo box" if the results don't go his way.

(And, in related comment, we discuss why these "Will you accept the results of the election tomorrow?" questions are really unfair and unhelpful gotcha questions, that it would be really nice if media stopped asking.)

In far brighter news, a group of eight U.S. Senators --- representing the broad political spectrum across the Democratic caucus in the upper chamber and including Joe Manchin --- announced a "compromise" election reform package with a ton of really really good stuff in it. Among the huge number of long overdue reforms in what they have dubbed the "Freedom to Vote Act": Automatic and same-day voter registration for all; restoration of voting rights for former felons; federal minimum standards for absentee voting, drop boxes and early voting; an end to partisan gerrymandering; curbs on dark money in elections; the prevention of the ability of partisan state legislatures to overturn results derived by non-partisan election officials; new cybersecurity standards for computerized voting systems; and much much more.

The devil is often in the details, and I've yet to review the actual legislative text as of airtime, but from the summary description made available by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, chair of the Senate committee that oversees federal elections and campaign law, almost any one of the items included in this proposed bill would be hugely good news. I'll need to review the specific language on the measure's requirements for hand-marked paper ballots to sign off on that part of the bill, but even the proposed requirements for Voter ID are very good ones. They will serve to force states with purposely restrictive Photo ID voting restrictions (enacted to suppress the vote, not to protect against fraud) to be much less onerous, while avoiding new restrictive mandates in the majority of states which already have reasonable ID rules or few at all.

The legislation is based on Manchin's personal "compromise" version of the For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, both of which have already been passed by the House. Manchin is one of the eight Senators who worked out this proposal, and is said to be reaching out to bring Republicans on board. Of course, even if all 50 Senators who caucus with the Dems vote in favor, as appears likely (Schumer says he is scheduling a vote for next week), it seems unimaginable that any Republicans will join them, much less the 10 that would be required to overcome a Senate filibuster. But with Manchin as a co-sponsor, it will now be on him to get the GOP votes needed for passage or face the prospect of no long-overdue election protection at all...UNLESS he is willing to support a "democracy reconciliation" carve-out to the Senate filibuster. It should be a very interesting, maddening and/or fantastic week or two. We'll be following it all very closely, of course.

And, as Dems are trying to improve representative Democracy in the U.S., Republicans are still, apparently, in the business of simply trying to kill as many Americans as they can to make some sort of twisted political point.

Yet another fervent, anti-vaxxer rightwing radio and TV host died from COVID over the weekend, the fifth in the past month and a half. And while we've had a modicum of sympathy for some of the others who have recently passed, as we explain, this one, 62-year old Bob Enyart, is very difficult to feel anything but contempt for.

We have slightly more sympathy, however, for the wildly misinformed and brainwashed 64-year old anti-vax QAnon supporter and highway overpass activist and YouTuber, Veronica Wolski who bragged last month on her final video about never having worn a mask in her life, and about the need to "NEVER COMPLY" with any COVID public health measures in order to "never give up your freedoms" so "you never have to fight to get them back."

She won't be fighting for anything anymore. Wolski died over the weekend from COVID-related illness in the ICU, but not before the QAnon dupes, led by disgraced Georgia attorney Lin Wood, sicced supporters on the hospital trying to save her life and threatened its workers with "murder" charges unless they agreed to treat her with Ivermectin, the horse deworming medicine not approved for treatment of COVID. That, before Wood declared on his Telegram channel to his more than 800,000 followers: "Now, we go to war."

Unfortunately, deadly climate change (not to mention COVID) is what wingnuts should be going to war against. As Desi Doyen explains in our latest Green News Report today, yet another massive tropical storm, Hurricane Nicholas, is now knocking out power (again) and drenching the U.S. Gulf Coast with some 20 inches of rain in parts of Texas flooded out in 2017 by Hurricane Harvey and sections of Louisiana that were already still under water following last week's Hurricane Ida. President Biden, meanwhile, is pushing for action on climate in his $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, and his EPA is taking several long-overdue actions on behalf of clean, non-toxic drinking water across the U.S., and an age-old salmon fishery in Alaska...

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Guest: Voting rights champion Helen Butler of The People's Agenda, after her GOP removal from Morgan County, GA's Board of Elections; Also: More tragic ends for COVID vaccine refusers; More evidence that AZ's election 'auditers' are clueless...
By Brad Friedman on 7/21/2021 6:49pm PT  

We've been reporting for months on the voter suppression laws being adopted by Republican-controlled states around the nation. But, in addition to disproportionately blocking minority groups from access to the ballot, we've also warned that many of these GOP state laws allow for the removal of qualified election officials, for virtually any reason, and replacement with partisans who may now undermine election laws and overturn election results. One of those longtime election officials who has just been removed in Georgia following the passage of the state's SB202 suppression law --- a woman who also happens to be a fierce, longtime voting and civil rights champ --- joins us on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show is posted at end of this summary.]

First up, however, it's like the early days of the pandemic all over again in a number of very sad ways. Today, we have more sad news of misinformed, Trump-loving Republican COVID deniers and vaccine refusers who believed the pandemic was a hoax, and who are now tragically --- an unnecessarily --- being felled by the virus, despite the widespread availability of life-saving vaccines in the U.S. One doctor in Alabama wrote this week about sick patients begging for the vaccine, just before being intubated and told "it's too late."

Next, we add one important point to our detailed fact-check on yesterday's program in response to Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan's ridiculous (and uninformed) suggestions that tens, if not hundreds of thousands of fraudulent votes may have been cast last year in Maricopa County (Phoenix), Arizona. His remarks were offered to a state GOP Senate panel last week, after the three month-long (and counting) "audit" theater his company was contracted to carry out of last year's election results, despite their lack of experience in elections or knowledge of voting systems. Those comments were then misinterpreted and amplified by the former President of the United States to falsely suggest the election in Arizona was stolen from him last November.

But there was one point from last week's forum that we didn't have time for yesterday. It included testimony claiming that Maricopa's computer voting and tabulation systems were wildly unsecure because their operating systems and anti-virus software hadn't been updated since the day Dominion Voting System's software was installed on the machines. It's true that those computers had not had security updates and patches applied since their first use in 2019. It's true that that is a "tremendous vulnerability" for those systems, as claimed at the forum. And it's also true that there is a very good reason why the software has not been updated since then --- which, had the AZ GOP Senate hired people who actually knew anything about voting systems, they would already have understood. We explain.

The story underscores the value of election officials --- and election auditors --- who are actually experienced and qualified for the job. Unfortunately, since Donald Trump launched his evidence-free Big Lie that the election was stolen from him, Republicans have been adopting laws in several states making it easier to remove experienced election officials and replace them with partisan patsies.

Nowhere is that more clear than in the great state of Georgia, where the GOP-controlled state legislature recently adopted SB202 in order to prevent certain voters from easy access to the ballot. That law, and others being adopted locally around the state, have resulted, according to the New York Times last month, in "members of at least 10 county election boards [who] have been removed, had their position eliminated or are likely to be kicked off...they will most likely all be replaced by Republicans."

HELEN BUTLER was one of them. She is one of the state's most prominent advocates for voting rights and the award-winning Executive Director of The Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda, founded by the late civil rights icon Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery (who founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King, Jr.) She is also a ten-year veteran of the bipartisan Morgan County, Georgia Board of Elections in the Republican-leaning rural enclave east of Atlanta. Or, at least, she used to be. After approval by the state's Republican Governor Brian Kemp, Butler and the rest of the Board Members were replaced at the end of last month. The Board Members will all now be selected by the partisan County Commission, instead of built from members selected by local political parties.

On today's show, Butler, who testified on voting rights at a U.S. Senate Rules Committee field hearing this week in the state, explains the reason the Commission voted to remove the Board, claiming that it was "dysfunctional", but never explaining what that meant. "We were never brought up for any Secretary of State's violations as long as I was a member of the Board," she explains. In short, Butler suggests, she was removed because the Board hired a diverse group of pollworkers and worked hard to make sure everyone, of all parties in the County, could vote and that their votes were counted as cast.

SB202, among other things, now makes it harder to vote by mail, bans absentee drop boxes, and blocks the distribution of food or water on long voting lines. Eight different lawsuits, including those filed by The People's Agenda and the U.S. Dept. of Justice (as well as the Coalition for Good Governance, for which, FULL DISCLOSURE, I am serving as a named plaintiff representing media) have now been filed in hopes of blocking the law for a host of reasons, including the disproportionate difficulties that will now be faced by minority voters. Butler describes SB202 as a "voter suppression takeover".

But the ability to remove and replace long-serving, qualified election officials with partisan appointees who can refuse to certify elections is certainly among the most chilling aspects of the law, Butler warns. She argues that, had these new laws been in place last year, Trump's attempt to "find" enough votes to overturn his loss to Biden in the Peach State --- as we all heard in his recorded (possibly illegal) telephone call with Republican Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger --- would have been easy.

Our broad conversation, on a lot of these issues, also includes her thoughts on the ongoing investigation by the Fulton County (Atlanta) District Attorney into Trump's attempt to overturn the election. Butler also offers her plea for federal legislation, such as the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, to help overcome the state-based attacks on voting.

The delightfully optimistic Butler then ends our discussion with an ominous warning: "This is our darkest hour," she tells me. "This is our Selma moment, and we must act.  This is not just for black people or people of color. It's for all of us, for all Americans to have equal access to the ballot. Democracy is at stake here.  So people have to understand it's not about black people voting, this is about democracy. This is the moment. We really need to be paying attention and act to get the right people elected that will preserve democracy for America."

Please tune in for today's important show...

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Also: The 2020 Election Night genesis of Trump's 'Big Lie'; And heroic Texas state Dems land in D.C. to press Senate for federal reform...
By Brad Friedman on 7/13/2021 6:22pm PT  

As noted during today's BradCast, we've been fighting to protect, expand and shore up democracy for nearly 20 years on this program and at The BRAD BLOG. For the first time in all of those years, however, it now really feels as if we are in a battle to save democracy itself in America. So it was very good to hear the President of the United States today stand up and clearly spell out what is now at stake in that fight. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

First up today, Washington Post published a BradCast">fascinating excerpt on Tuesday from a new book by the Post's D.C. correspondents Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, named I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year. The lengthy excerpt details the tumultuous, chaotic and dysfunctional 2020 Election Day and Night inside the White House, as Trump discovered he was likely to lose his reelection race. We focus specifically on Leonnig and Rucker's reporting on what seems to have been the genesis of Trump's Big Lie, as it developed that night, reportedly as the brain child of his tipsy personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. His idea, rejected at first by Trump's advisors, was to simply say "we won" in every battleground state, despite mounting --- and, eventually, solid --- evidence to the contrary.

The Big Lie, adopted by Trump that night during his false "victory" speech in the wee hours, claiming the election was stolen and that "frankly, we did win this election," has poisoned the nation's soul ever since. At least the Republican part of the nation --- if they have a soul --- as GOP state lawmakers have opportunistically exploited that Big Lie in recent months to adopt severe new restrictions on voting and to institute provisions that allow partisan officials to overturn election results for virtually any reason.

Just before airtime on Monday's show, Democratic state lawmakers from the Texas House of Representatives left the state on two chartered planes to break the House quorum during a special session in the state legislature. The session was called by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to force through a voter suppression bill that failed to pass when Democrats walked out on the last day of the regular session last May, also denying the GOP of a quorum to conduct business at the time. Now, the state Democrats have gone to D.C. for what they describe as "the fight of our lives." They hope to stop all business in the Republican-dominated state House during the 30-day emergency session and to press Senate Democrats to adopt the For the People Act at the federal level to help counter at least some of the restrictions Republicans are attempting to impose on Lone Star State voters, as well as those elsewhere in the country.

The heroic Dem state lawmakers, who face likely arrest upon returning home, deserve our support for their extraordinary attempted effort to save democracy in Texas. They say they plan to stay in D.C. throughout the 30-day session and lobby Senate Democrats like WV's Joe Manchin and AZ's Kyrsten Sinema to reform the filibuster to allow passage of For the People with a simple majority, as their only hope. Abbott, however, is able to call as many special sessions as he likes upon their eventual return. So, time is now very much of the essence.

At the same time today, President Biden was also using his bully pulpit to press for the protection of voting rights and American democracy itself. In a stirring speech at Philadelphia's National Constitution Center, he outlined what is now at stake, declaring that "we are facing the most significant test of democracy since the Civil War." In remarks that would have sounded right at home during one of my rants on this he program, he noted bluntly, "the Big Lie is just that: a big lie." Biden described passage of federal voting rights legislation as "a national imperative," warning of the measures that are being enacted to not only suppress the vote at the state level, but overturn results.

"If you vote, they want to be able to tell you your vote doesn't count for any reason they make up," Biden charged, adding ominously (if correctly), "They want the ability to reject the final count and ignore the will of the people if their preferred candidate loses."

We share the President's speech in full today (transcript here, video here), as his important remarks are worth paying close attention to.

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, with a dozen states in the West are now facing unprecedented heat, fire, drought and a serious stress test of the electrical grid, as our climate emergency becomes ever more apparent in very real, and very stark terms...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Guest: Jordan Blair Woods of Univ. of Arkansas School of Law; Also: CHAUVIN 'GUILTY' ON ALL COUNTS; MT's new vote suppression laws...
By Brad Friedman on 4/20/2021 7:13pm PT  

On today's BradCast: A day in which a cop was finally found guilty of the murder of a hand-cuffed black man is probably a good day to discuss an important idea for long-overdue police reforms that could help keep people alive and allow police to do more of what they should be doing and less of what they are not needed to do. [Audio link to full show is posted at end of summary.]

Just before airtime today, the verdict was announced in the trial of white, 45-year old former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was notoriously seen on video last year with his knee on the neck of George Floyd, a 46-year old handcuffed black man. After more than 9 minutes, Chauvin choked the life out of Floyd and was found guilty today on all three counts of 2nd and 3rd degree murder and 2nd degree manslaughter by a unanimous jury in Minneapolis. In a state already on edge from the killing of a 20-year old motorist by a 26-year veteran white cop just over a week ago in neighboring Brooklyn Center, MN, the state and the nation exhaled a collective sigh of relief as the judge announced the jury found Chauvin guilty on all counts before he was handcuffed and marched off to prison.

Before speaking to our guest on a related note today...Republicans at the state level in Montana are the latest to pass new laws to restrict access to the voting booth (for certain voters) on the heels of Donald Trump's evidence-free claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Two new provisions were adopted in MT on Monday under the guise of preventing fraud, despite Republicans in the state being unable to cite any examples at all of voter fraud there in modern history. One bill would end same-day voter registration, which has been a problem-free success in the state since its broad bipartisan passage in 2005. The other measure enacts new Photo ID restrictions at the polling place by, among other things, disallowing student IDs as an acceptable form of ID for voting, despite 20 years of zero problems or fraud with such IDs. The bills were signed by the Governor yesterday, and the state was sued by Democrats in response today. Montana becomes the third state to adopt newly restrictive voting laws following the 2020 election, after Iowa and Georgia did so previously. All three are now be forced to defend their new suppression laws in court.

On the federal level, Democrats in the House have passed several laws which would counter many of the new restrictions being pushed forward by Republicans at the state level. But filibustering Republicans and the refusal by Democrats like West Virginia's Joe Manchin to reform or kill the undemocratic Senate rule are preventing passage of those landmark measures that would protect voters and elections nationally. Today, during a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on "Jim Crow 2021: The Latest Assault on the Right to Vote," ranking Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley made clear how out to lunch he is and how disingenuous his party is in supporting these new restrictions on the franchise. Among Grassley's embarrassing comments at today's hearing: His contention that Major League Baseball pulling their All-Star game out of Atlanta is "likely to cost the city's economy 100 million jobs" (there are fewer than 11 million people in the entire state) and that corporations and voters exercising their free speech rights to decry vote suppression amounts to "economic terrorism".

Then, it's back to policing with our guest today, JORDAN BLAIR WOODS, criminology expert and Associate Professor of Law at University of Arkansas' School of Law. Amid outrage over a seemingly never ending series of incidents revealing cops assaulting and/or killing motorists --- usually black ones --- following otherwise routine traffic stops, the demands for policing reforms grow seemingly louder each day.

Woods has been writing at a number of law journals for several years now about one seemingly simple reform that could save lives and prevent so many traffic stops from turning deadly: replace traffic stops by armed police with unarmed traffic monitors. According to the Dept. of Justice [PDF], more Americans, 24 million, come into contact with police via traffic stops than by any other means each year. Routine stops for a missing tail light, an expired tag or even an air freshener hanging from a rear view mirror too often turns unnecessarily deadly. As Woods detailed in a 2019 Michigan Law Review article [PDF], this can be attributed to cops being trained to believe that every traffic stop could turn deadly in seconds (even though that is decidedly not the case.)

As he tells me today, "One of the key reasons why we see officers having so much authority to do what they're able to do during traffic stops really rests on this myth that traffic stops are especially dangerous settings for police officers.  But what we're seeing play out, and what empirical research has really documented, is that when we're thinking about who is harmed during traffic stops, it's those who are from communities of color that are disproportionately stopped, frisked, cited, arrested and ultimately subjected to force. And, unfortunately, too many times it results in their death during traffic stops."

Reporting on this same topic earlier this year at The Appeal, Meg O'Connor notes: "Black drivers are 20 percent more likely to be stopped than white drivers, and as much as twice as likely to be searched, according to a study of 100 million traffic stops conducted by the Stanford Open Policing Project. And 11 percent of all fatal shootings by police in 2015 occurred during traffic stops, according to a Washington Post database of police killings."

So, what if cops were taken out of that equation entirely? In his recent Stanford Law Review article, Woods offers a framework for doing just that. "The basic idea behind the framework," he explains, "is that we know that tens of millions of traffic stops occur every year. Many of these are for run-of-the-mill traffic violations. I argue in my framework that we don't really need police to be involved in this type of enforcement. So it creates new public agencies that are completely separate from the police, work independently from the police.  Their basic role is to enforce traffic and not to conduct criminal investigations, which is really where we see a lot of problems during traffic stops today come from."

He calls for traffic agencies to be created and manned by "unarmed traffic monitors to essentially do routine traffic enforcement. They wouldn't be armed, they wouldn't have the typical police powers to search or arrest. It really bring the traffic stop to being just about traffic."

"One of the advantages I see to having non-police agencies and non-police traffic monitors conducting these types of stops, is that we could really use discretion to only be enforcing traffic laws in situations where we think there's a notable safety threat, and eliminating these situations that we are seeing now over air fresheners. We know that these minor infractions are being used for pre-textual reasons by police to pull people over. We avoid that by at least moving to a regime where police are not handling this type of work," Woods argues.

But would such a system place unarmed traffic monitors in harms way during stops? Would it cut off a necessary crime fighting tool for police? Can much of this work simply be automated to remove many of the face-to-face confrontations in the first place? And, given that Wood's proposition seems like such a no-brainer reform, frankly, what legitimate objections might police or lawmakers have to such a new framework?

We discuss all of that and much more with Woods today, who also comments on similar reforms recently enacted in places like Berkley, California and elsewhere, as many cities and towns across the nation seek reforms to help stem the tide of our excruciating epidemic of unnecessarily violent and systemically racist policing.

Finally, we're joined by Desi Doyen with the latest Green News Report. As usual, she rings the alarm bell on new studies warning of our worsening climate emergency, even while sharing some exceptionally encouraging news today, including word that the nation's largest coal mining union now appears to be on board with Joe Biden's plan to find new work in renewable energy for those whose jobs in dying fossil fuel industries will necessarily be displaced in the critical effort to mitigate the most deadly effects of our ever-warming climate.

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