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Latest Featured Reports | Thursday, October 28, 2021
'Green News Report' 10/28/21
  w/ Brad & Desi
U.N. warns of 'Emissions Gap' between where we are and where we need to be; Plastic could be a bigger polluter than coal by 2030; PLUS: Rental car giant bets big on EVs...
Previous GNRs: 10/26/21 - 10/21/21 - Archives...
Election Reform on NY Ballot, Election Reformers Divided: 'BradCast' 10/27/21
Guests: Dr. Virginia Martin, former Columbia County, NY Election Comissioner; Allegra Dengler of Citizens for Voting Integrity NY; Also: Taxing billionaires...
A 'Lay Down Case' of Conspiracy to Defraud the U.S.: 'BradCast' 10/26/21
Guest: Attorney, blogger Keith Barber on where 1/6 probe is heading; Also: Americans now very worried about climate; Manchin nixing another climate provision...
'Green News Report' 10/26/21
  w/ Brad & Desi
Historic storm slams West, 90M face extreme weather across U.S.; Record high emissions in 2020; PLUS: New reports warn climate a growing threat to national, global security...
Previous GNRs: 10/21/21 - 10/19/21 - Archives...
'They Took on the Wrong Guy': CA Mayor Who Sued Big Oil Pushes Back After Exxon Attacks: 'BradCast' 10/25/21
Guest: Imperial Beach Mayor, surfer, conserva-tionist Serge Dedina; Also: Manchin; Callers...
Sunday Spooky Toons
Be very afraid. Just in time for the holiday...It's PDiddie's latest collection of the week's scariest editorial toons...
Anita Hill Still Changing the World, 30 Years Later: 'BradCast' 10/22/21
Guest host Nicole Sandler with author, lawyer, Brandeis University professor Anita Hill...
The Good with the Bad: 'BradCast' 10/21/21
House holds Bannon in contempt; TX Lt. Gov. pays out for GOP voter fraud; CA GOP's recall boondoggle; Vets dump Sinema; Manchin could dump Dems; TX steals minority House seats; IL boosts Dems (a little)...
'Green News Report' 10/21/21
  w/ Brad & Desi
We're making too much fossil fuel; Climate change imperils millions, study finds; CA expands drought emergency; PLUS: Cutting emissions is hard, but will lower energy bills...
Previous GNRs: 10/19/21 - 10/14/21 - Archives...
'A One-Way Ratchet': Biden's SCOTUS Comm. Does GOP's Bidding: 'BradCast' 10/20/21
Guest: Slate's Mark Joseph Stern; Also: 'Contempt' for Bannon; Manchin, Sanders in talks; GOP Senate blocks voting rights again...
'Despair is Not an Option' After Manchin Tanks Biden's Central Climate Plan: 'BradCast' 10/19/21
Guest: UCSB's Dr. Leah Stokes; Also: 'Mass homicide' allegations for Brazil's Bolsonaro...
'Green News Report' 10/19/21
Manchin blows up Biden's climate agenda; EPA to crack down on PFAS; Million of polluting, abandoned U.S. wells; PLUS: McDonald's finally going beyond meat...
Listeners on Whether Ds Should Gerry-mander 'Blue' States: 'BradCast' 10/18/21
Also: How the unvaxxed helped kill Colin Powell; How Manchin is killing Biden's climate change plan...
Sunday 'Democracy's Boundaries' Toons
PDiddie draws a few lines in his latest collection of the week's best toons...
Why Dems Should Gerrymander 'Blue' States (& Why They Shouldn't): 'BradCast' 10/15
Guest: FairVote's Dave Daley; Also: Freedom to Vote in the Senate; GOP physics in VA...
'Green News Report' 10/14/21
Supply chain disruptions spike energy prices; Russia says they didn't do it!; CA bans gas-powered leaf blowers; PLUS: Biden Admin goes big on offshore wind...
BARCODED BALLOTS AND BALLOT MARKING DEVICES
BMDs pose a new threat to democracy in all 50 states...
VIDEO: 'Rise of the Tea Bags'
Brad interviews American patriots...
'Democracy's Gold Standard'
Hand-marked, hand-counted ballots...
Brad's Upcoming Appearances
(All times listed as PACIFIC TIME unless noted)
Media Appearance Archives...
'Special Coverage' Archives
GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal 2012...
VA GOP VOTER REG FRAUDSTER OFF HOOK
Felony charges dropped against VA Republican caught trashing voter registrations before last year's election. Did GOP AG, Prosecutor conflicts of interest play role?...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Guest: Susan Greenhalgh, Senior Election Security Advisor at Free Speech for People; Also: Officer killed in new U.S. Capitol attack; MLB pulls All-Star game out of GA; Boehner's message for Cruz...
By Brad Friedman on 4/2/2021 7:37pm PT  

We've got another sorry tale on today's BradCast of yet another federal "watchdog" agency clearly captured by the industry corporations that it is supposed to be overseeing and/or regulating. This time, democracy itself is at stake. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

But first up today, we had quite a bit of breaking news just before airtime. For a start, the U.S. Capitol was locked down on Friday after two Capitol Police officers were rammed in a violent attack with a vehicle. One of the officers, an 18-year veteran, was killed. The other was said to be "fighting for his life" as of airtime. After ramming the officer, the assailant is said to have "lunged" at officers with a knife and was subsequently shot and killed. The assault was the most serious threat on the Capitol since the Donald Trump-incited insurrection on January 6th, which killed five, including one U.S. Capitol Police officer. Two more officers took their lives in the ensuing days after that attack by Trump supporters attempting to stop Congressional ratification of Joe Biden's 2020 Electoral College victory.

That attack --- and Trump's evidence-free Big Lie about his loss being the result of "fraud" --- continues to reverberate almost three months since the MAGA Mob's assault on U.S. democracy. Last week, Georgia's Republican-dominated state legislature adopted a massive voter suppression bill that will make it more difficult to vote by, among other things, requiring additional forms of ID for mail voting, limiting absentee ballot drop-boxes and early voting hours, and banning the distribution of food or beverages to voters forced to wait hours on line. It would also allow partisan GOP officials to undermine County Boards of Election and even overturn results. The state's Governor, Brian Kemp (R), signed the sweeping bill almost immediately after it passed both chambers of the state legislature in a matter of hours.

This week, after some 70 Black corporate executives spoke out against the transparent attempt to making voting more difficult for minorities in the state, a cascade of other corporate entities --- including Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola, both based in Atlanta --- finally decided to speak out in favor of democracy and against voter suppression. And then, on Friday, shortly before today's show, Major League Baseball announced they will be moving the All-Star Game and MLB Draft, previously set for July in Atlanta, to another state in response to the GOP attack on voting.

And, as Georgia Republicans pushed back on Delta Airlines this week for belatedly standing up for the right to vote, Gov. Kemp took his shot at the company by accusing its CEO of "false attacks" by claiming misleadingly in a statement: "The last time I flew Delta I had to show my ID."

But Kemp, the state's former Sec. of State, certainly knows that flying is a privilege, where voting is a right. He also likely knows that, no, an ID is not required to fly on Delta or any other airline. As clearly explained on the TSA.gov website...

In the event you arrive at the airport without valid identification...you may still be allowed to fly. The TSA officer may ask you to complete an identity verification process which includes collecting information such as your name, current address, and other personal information to confirm your identity. If your identity is confirmed, you will be allowed [to fly].

In the meantime, as to real --- versus imagined or opportunistic and partisan --- threats of fraud in our elections, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), the federal agency tasked with overseeing voting system security standards, is continuing the woeful job it has done since its creation by the Help America Vote Act of 2002. Since its inception, as we have documented at The BRAD BLOG for almost 20 years, the EAC has largely been captured by the private voting system vendors whose systems they are supposed to be testing, overseeing, regulating and certifying as meeting minimal standards.

For years, the EAC has consistently helped mislead the public regarding the dangers of modems inside of computer voting and tabulation systems. The EAC's original Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG), created about 15 years ago, allowed for use of the devices which cybersecurity experts have long warned can be used to introduce malware into systems that could disrupt elections or change results.

In August of 2019, as we detailed on the program at the time with cybsersecurity journalist Kim Zetter, a group of security and voting systems experts discovered "nearly three dozen backend election systems in 10 states connected to the internet over the last year, including some in critical swing states" such as Wisconsin, Michigan and Florida. In January of 2020, almost six months after Zetter's exclusive and disturbing report, Cynthia McFadden followed up with her own report at NBC News, in which, despite federal officials repeatedly and falsely declaring that "U.S. voting systems are never connected to the Internet," the President of the nation's largest vendor, Elections Systems and Software, Inc. (ES&S), conceded that at least 14,000 of the company's modems were being used in vulnerable voting and tabulation systems across the country, even as the 2020 election cycle was getting under way.

Nonetheless, over the last five years, the EAC has been working with stakeholders --- from elections officials to cybersecurity experts to vendors --- to develop new minimum security standards for the nation's voting systems, which they call VVSG 2.0. The good news is that the draft of those final standards for the VVSG 2.0, made available for public comment last Summer, included a ban on modems and other wireless communications devices in computerized voting and tabulation systems.

The bad news: After the public comment period and before the new standards were officially adopted by the EAC Commissioners, they apparently met in secret with several vendors and quietly changed the new standards to once again allow for modems and other wireless communications devices in new voting systems.

After the standards changed and weakened without public notice, the non-partisan government watchdog, Free Speech for People (FSFP), filed public records requests for documentation of the non-public meetings between EAC officials and the voting machine companies. Despite acknowledging hundreds of pages of existing documents responsive to the request, according to our guest today, the EAC failed to turn over any of it to the group. Now, FSFP is suing the EAC for those documents.

We're joined today by longtime election integrity advocate SUSAN GREENHALGH, Senior Advisor on Election Security at FSFP, to explain the organization's lawsuit [PDF], and the latest, extraordinary failure to protect our elections by the corporate-captured EAC.

"We have a real lack of leadership from the federal agency that's supposed to be helping assist election officials run election more efficiently, securely, accessibly and transparently at the EAC," Greenhalgh explains, charging "they're letting the vendors help weaken the standards directly."

"The EAC is way, way too deferential to the vendors," she says. "They need to either do the right thing and do their job, or they need get out of the lane and come up with some other way. Because there's an expectation by members of Congress that this is being taken care of, that the EAC is doing their job, they're developing the standards, they're testing voting systems. Unless you scratch the surface and find out what's really going on, you might think on the outside that they're doing their job, and they're not. They're taking up that space, and that makes us all less safe and secure in our elections."

There is, as you might guess, much more that Greenhalgh has to explain about this ongoing mess and FSFP's legal efforts to crack open the EAC blockade.

Finally, we close today with a rather hilarious audio message from former, George W. Bush-era Republican House Speaker John Boehner, to Texas' Trumpy, conspiracy-loving U.S. Senator Ted Cruz...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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With Brad Friedman & Desi Doyen...
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Biden's American Jobs Plan
By Desi Doyen on 4/1/2021 11:03am PT  

IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: GNR Special Coverage --- President Biden unveils sweeping, $2 trillion American Jobs Plan to rebuild the nation's infrastructure and take on the climate crisis... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

GNR's now celebrating 12 YEARS of independent green news, politics, analysis, snarky comment and connecting climate change dots over your public airwaves!
PLEASE CLICK HERE TO HELP US CELEBRATE WITH A DONATION!

Click here to listen or download MP3 (6 mins)...

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Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at GreenNews@BradBlog.com or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at GreenNews.BradBlog.com.

IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): On Tap In California: Another Drought Four Years After Last; Biden’s Climate Plan Means Tough Choices: Which Homes Get Saved?; A Moonshot Approach to Replacing Lead Water Pipes; The Battle To Protect One Of America’s Last Wild Landscapes; 'Seaspiracy': Netflix Doc Accused Of Misrepresentation By Participants; Hemp: The secret ingredient in Paris’ green public housing... PLUS: Lawyer Who Took On Chevron Marks His 600th Day Under House Arrest... and much, MUCH more! ...

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




GA's new Senator appeals to our better angels to save our democracy...
By Ernest A. Canning on 3/27/2021 11:14am PT  

"A republic," Ben Franklin famously said, "if you can keep it."

After more than 230 years, the great American experiment --- constitutional democracy --- has arrived at a moment of grave national peril, once again testing Franklin's warning. Like the Confederates who fired on Fort Sumter at the outset of a bloody Civil War, a major segment of our polity today is being led by racist and seditious reactionaries --- "domestic enemies" of the very Constitution they solemnly swore to uphold and defend.

This unscrupulous lot call themselves "Republicans". Yet, they have absolutely nothing in common with the Party once led by Abraham Lincoln, an intellectual giant, who extolled the need to see that "government of the People, by the People and for the People shall not perish..."

The right to vote is foundational to all other rights. By way of more than 253 restrictive bills, introduced in 43 States, these elected autocratic "American Fascists" seek to strip that foundational right from millions of their fellow Americans.

The For the People Act of 2021, recently passed by Democrats in the House as H.R.1, is a comprehensive election, campaign, ethics and voting rights reform measure that would, among other things, eliminate partisan gerrymandering of Congressional Districts, curb dark money campaign contributions, and preempt many state-based GOP voter suppression and intimidation laws, schemes and tactics. The Senate version of the bill, S1, is co-sponsored by 49 of the chamber's 50 Democrats.

If, at this critical moment, all 50 Senate Democrats do not agree to eliminate the filibuster, at least for Voting Rights-related legislation, in order to pass S1 before the end of the year, a clear path will have been paved for the GOP to retake majority control of both Houses of Congress in 2022 and recapture the Presidency in 2024 through a combination of extreme partisan gerrymandering and surgically precise voter suppression.

What better moment for Georgia's freshman Democratic Senator, Reverend Raphael Warnock, to call upon our better angels to save our democracy in a maiden address on the Senate floor (see video and link to transcript below) that amounted to what has been aptly described as a "Voting Rights Speech for the Ages"...

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




Heroes and heartbreak in Boulder; Filibuster reform inches forward; Response to Siegelman interview, Repub recall of CA's Dem Governor...
By Brad Friedman on 3/23/2021 6:42pm PT  

On today's BradCast: While U.S. flags were already at half-staff following last week's mass killings in Atlanta, another mass shooting erupted on Monday in Boulder, Colorado. On Tuesday, President Biden called for the flags to remain lowered, for the U.S. Senate to pass two bills already approved by the U.S. House to close loopholes in our federal background check system; and to restore the ban on assault weapons that helped keep down such mass casualty events before the George W. Bush Administration allowed it to expire. [Audio link to show follows summary below.]

"We can ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in this country once again. I got that done when I was a Senator. It passed. It was law for the longest time, and it brought down these mass killings. We should do it again," the President urged in his brief remarks at the White House. "This is not and should not be a partisan issue; this is an American issue. It will save lives --- American lives --- and we have to act."

Today, we cover some of the reaction following the latest mass shooting in the U.S., which took 10 lives at a supermarket in Boulder yesterday. We honor the heroes that include not only the police who responded --- one of whom, who had seven children, was killed during the shooting --- but also the grocery store workers who courageously helped to save customer lives in the store and, as their union has noted, have been risking their lives for all of us every day over the past year, as essential workers during the pandemic.

We also note the reactions from those who have spent years working to support the ability of terrorists to easily acquire weapons of mass destruction --- such as CO's Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert and the Colorado State Shooters Association --- who suddenly feel that this is no time to talk about guns. "Congressman" Boebert, who appears with guns in virtually appearance, says she "refuses" to use this shooting "to advance a political agenda." And the Shooters Association informs us that "Today is not a day to cloud our remembrance with ... emotional sensationalism."

All of that, after a state judge, just 10 days ago, struck down a law adopted unanimously by the Boulder City Council in 2018 to ban assault weapons in the city, after years of similar massacres in the Centennial State and elsewhere. The Colorado State Shooters Association was one of the plaintiffs in that case, which was "celebrated" just last week by the disgraced, terrorist-supporting NRA, because local laws supported by residents in the CO town were preempted by Big Government at the state and federal level.

But, despite urging from the President on Tuesday, if Republicans won't even agree to allow an up or down vote on background checks, the lowest hanging fruit when it comes to gun safety reforms, it seems impossible to imagine they would ever agree to restoring the federal assault weapons ban. That, no matter how many American lives it might save, no matter how many of their own constituents continue to be massacred in these tragic events.

In response to GOP intransigence, conservative, institutionalist Democrats in the U.S. Senate late last week and over the weekend, continued to inch toward support for filibuster reform --- the only way that gun safety reform and most of the rest of the Democrats' ambitious, progressive agenda will ever be adopted. So there's a small amount of encouraging news on another dark day.

Also today, some response from listeners to our interview with Alabama's former Democratic Governor, Don Siegelman on yesterday's BradCast and his response --- as someone who knows a thing or two about GOP hit jobs on popular Democratic Governors --- to the attempted recall of California's progressive Governor, Gavin Newsom.

Finally, we close with Desi Doyen and our latest Green News Report, as yet another natural disaster befalls Australia; our global climate crisis becomes the top cause for refugees worldwide; and the Biden White House begins to unveil its promised massive, long-overdue, nearly $4 trillion infrastructure (and climate) plan...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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D.C. Guard Commander's Senate testimony underscores need for probe...
By Ernest A. Canning on 3/17/2021 10:52am PT  

For more than two months, the FBI has been rounding up and charging hundreds of Trump-incited insurrectionists who, in hopes of preventing the Congressional certification of Joe Biden's Electoral College victory last November, stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6th.

But a number of key questions remain wholly unanswered following the unprecedented attack on our very system of representative democracy. Central to several of those questions is Donald Trump's own, personal, behind-the-scenes machinations to help instigate the uprising and, perhaps, prevent the deployment of the military to help quell the rebellion he encouraged.

The March 3rd Senate committee testimony of Major General William Walker, Commander of the D.C. National Guard, describing a seemingly inexplicable delay in authorization for his troops to provide relief to the U.S. Capitol under siege, underscores the need to determine whether there is a connection between Trump's post-election November 2020 purge of the top civilian leadership at the Department of Defense (DoD) and the January 6th assault.

The purge at the Pentagon began two days after media outlets called the Presidential Election for Joe Biden, when Trump fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. Within days, four senior DoD officials either resigned or were fired and replaced by what CNN characterized as "conspiracy theorists and Trump loyalists." Christopher Miller became the Acting Secretary of Defense. Kash Patel, who had previously worked for the disgraced Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) on the House Intelligence Committee, was appointed to serve as Miller's Chief-of-Staff.

While one Pentagon official described the November purge as "scary", "unsettling" and the moves one would expect from a "dictator", CNN noted in its contemporaneous account that "no one at the Pentagon has an understanding as to what the grand plan is."

Walker's testimony before the Senate Rules and Homeland Security Committees earlier this month, together with other publicly known evidence, points to a distinct likelihood that, once it became clear he couldn't rely upon the U.S. military to carry out a coup, Trump's "grand plan" entailed a stand-down of the D.C. National Guard while his "personal army", an incited mob of white supremacists, stormed the Capitol on January 6...

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




Guest: Migration Policy Institute's Sarah Pierce; Also: More 'Clean up on Aisle 45' news on the FBI, Kavanaugh and the Vindman family...
By Brad Friedman on 3/16/2021 6:28pm PT  

We've got quite a bit of 'Clean up on Aisle 45' news on today's BradCast, particularly at the U.S. southern border. [Audio link to today's full show is posted below this summary.]

But first, a few noteworthy 'Clean up" news items. Rhode Island's Democratic Sen. Sheldon has written a letter to Joe Biden's newly confirmed Attorney General Merrick Garland, requesting an investigation into what he describes as the "fake" investigation the FBI apparently made into sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh before his confirmation to a lifetime appointment as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. That confirmation, by the way, happened only thanks to Senate Republicans willingness to do away with the filibuster on Supreme Court Justices. Of course, it wasn't only sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh that deserved a real probe by the FBI. There is still the matter of what happened to the $60,000 to $200,000 worth of credit card debt that Kavanaugh carried the year before his nomination, which magically disappeared by the time he was tapped by Trump to help pack the stolen Republican majority on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Also today, Army Lt. Col Yevgeny Vindman --- twin brother of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified against Donald Trump during his first impeachment --- will now be promoted to Colonel under the Biden Administration. That, despite a revenge campaign leveled against the Vindman family by the former disgraced President, which resulted in some negative job reviews for Yevgeny during his time as deputy legal advisor on Trump's National Security Council. Shortly after the impeachment, Trump fired both men from their NSC posts and Yevgeny filed a whistleblower complaint over the retaliation with the Pentagon's Inspector General. The IG's report has not yet been released.

Then, for the biggest 'Clean up on Aisle 45 ' news of the day, we move down to the U.S. Southern Border, where Republicans have been taking a cue from the former disgraced President to claim a massive "Biden border crisis!" is current under way, not two months into the new President's tenure. Sadly, corporate media have taken that cue as well. As they do.

House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) traveled to the border this week and, among other apparent lies, claimed that terrorists from Yemen, Iran and Turkey were "rushing" the border "all at once." While that is almost certainly untrue, there has been an increase over the past two months in unaccompanied children, seeking asylum at the border, after making the arduous journey from beleaguered Central American "Northern Triangle" countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Thanks to the influx of unaccompanied kids, a hollowed out asylum system left behind by the previous administration, along with pandemic social distancing requirements, Custom and Border Patrol (CBP) facilities meant to house children before they are handed over to the Dept. of Health and Human Services to find sponsored shelters are running out of space. The influx is also leading to many being held in the CBP facilities beyond the 72-hour legal limit, even as the Biden Administration has, for the time being, left many of Trump's policies in place, expelling families and single adults fleeing from gang violence, climate change and poverty in their troubled nations.

So, what is actually going on at the border right now? Is it really a crisis? And how much is the Biden Administration, not even two full months on the job, to blame? We're joined today by SARAH PIERCE, immigration attorney and Policy Analyst for the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute to help us separate fact from breathless, GOP/media-inflated fiction.

"I think there is a significant challenge at the southern border," she explains. "I don't think we can call it a crisis yet. But we could certainly be moving in the direction of a crisis.  We had a really fast acceleration in the number of unaccompanied child migrants arriving at the southern border between January and February. But we still haven't reached record numbers of children arriving at the southern border. We saw records during 2019 and 2014 that we haven't yet broken."

"But our facilities are limited because of the pandemic," she continues, "and so that is making what would already be a challenge even more difficult as the administration scrambles to bring beds back online, and move children out of Border Patrol custody as quickly as they possibly can."

Pierce explains how bad the situation currently is; whether she believes the Biden Administration is taking the appropriate measures to handle it; whether GOP claims about terrorists rushing the border or becoming "super-spreader caravans" are in any way true; and whether the situation can be handled at all without Congressional action (which seems a long shot while the filibuster remains in place, with Republicans seeking distraction from their failure to vote for the COVID relief bill and relying on alarmist rhetoric about the border to try and hold on to their base).

The Biden Administration "inherited a really, really big challenge and a system that was just gutted by the prior administration. So, whether or not they'll be able to do this all, while also dealing with what could very well be a crisis in the near future at the southern border, is a really big question."

She also offers, among other direct answers, a response to my question about the oft-repeated spurious claim that Trump's infamous family separation policy that resulted in those horrific "kids in cages" photographs was was actually begun by the Obama Administration. The answer will probably not shock you.

Next, it's our latest Green News Report with Desi Doyen (and, yes, more 'Clean up on Aisle 45' news there as well). And, finally, I close with a plea for Congress to do the right thing, once and for all, when it comes to...daylight saving time...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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While we post The BradCast here every day, and you can hear it across all of our great affiliate stations and websites, to automagically get new episodes as soon as they're available sent right to your computer or personal device, subscribe for free at iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn or our native RSS feed!
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Guest: Labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein of UC-Santa Barbara; Also: Biden's hugely progressive $1.9T 'American Rescue Plan' receives final Congressional approval; And Randy Rainbow needs a vaccine...
By Brad Friedman on 3/10/2021 6:45pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Joe Biden has been winning quite a bit lately. Today was no exception. So, can he turn that winning streak into a win for labor unions and keep his campaign promise to be "the most pro-union President you've ever seen"?  As of now, he's on track for that as well, according to historians and labor leaders --- even if that's admittedly not a very high bar. [Audio link to show is posted below summary.]

On Wednesday, Biden saw three more of his cabinet picks nominated on a bipartisan basis in the U.S. Senate.  Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio will become the first African American woman to lead the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development in 40 years, after vowing to address systemic racial inequities at the federal agency. Michael Regan was confirmed as the first black man to head up the Environmental Protection Agency. And Merrick Garland received his long awaited confirmation as our new Attorney General, as the widely-respected, veteran federal judge takes on the tall task of fulfilling Biden's promise to restore independence to the Dept. of Justice.

None of those, however, were Biden's biggest wins of the day, as the U.S. House gave final approval for his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. The massive COVID relief and stimulus package now heads to the White House for his signature on what some describe as one of the most progressive bills to ever come out of Congress. $1,400 checks to individuals and a $300/week extension of unemployment benefits is just a small part of the bill, which also includes annual payments of up to $3,600 per child, in a provision which policy experts say will cut child poverty in half and adult poverty by a quarter. It will reduce the overall poverty rate in 2021 by more than a third, lower the rate for Black people by as much as 42%, 39% for Hispanics and 34% for white people. In addition, the measure will send $130 billion to reopen schools safely, $34 billion will expand Obamacare subsidies to many more people, $25 billion for emergency rental assistance, and $14 billion will help to speed vaccine distribution, among many other such initiatives. That, on a day that Biden also announced he was securing another 100 million vaccine doses from Johnson & Johnson.

No wonder Republicans have no clue how to oppose the plan (other than with obviously ridiculous and silly lies), after the package received zero votes from GOPers in either the House or Senate. Democrats own this one, and they should do so loudly and proudly. The additional good news here for now is that even Chuck Schumer finally seems to "get it". There is no upside to negotiating with Republicans if they are going to be doing so in bad faith, as they did on the stimulus bill under Obama in response to the Great Recession.

But the central focus of our show today is on a couple of moves by the President that labor leaders, experts, and academics are citing to describe Biden as, so far, the most pro-worker, pro-labor, pro-union President in decades, and maybe ever.

Last week, he surprised a lot of folks on the left by tweeting a direct, unambiguous video message of support for workers who are now voting on whether to unionize at an Amazon warehouse outside of Birmingham, Alabama. It would be the first such facility to do so in the nation. Biden's two and a half message lauded unions for creating the middle class and spoke to American workers' rights under the law to organize for collective bargaining without corporate interference.

And this week, he issued a direct, unambiguous statement of support for the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act before its passage in the House on Tuesday. Labor leaders describe the initiative as the most progressive, pro-union bill in 80 years. Of course, now all it has to do is overcome a filibuster in the Senate.

We're joined today by longtime labor historian and author NELSON LICHTENSTEIN, Distinguished Professor at UC-Santa Barbara, where he directs the Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy. Lichtenstein explains both the importance of the PRO Act and the ongoing vote to unionize Amazon down in Alabama. He also addresses the question as to whether Biden could become the most pro-union President in modern times, or even in history.

"The bar is very low," Lichtenstein concedes, in comparing Biden to recent Presidents who may have supported unions with words --- though none as directly as we've seen from Biden to date --- but not necessarily with their actions. "Biden is saying all the right things, but this will all fade unless there actually is legislation that is passed in some form" that turns "the reality on the ground" into a "revival of trade unionism."

"It's one thing to say terrific things --- and I'm not being cynical, all power to him  --  but history will judge him by whether or not there is in fact an increase in real wages, an increase in union membership, an increase in the power of organized labor."

The colorful professor has much more to say that I can possibly do justice to here, so please tune in. But, after we discuss how it just so happens that the most prosperous period in history for the American middle class also coincides with the era when trade unionism and collective bargaining were at their zenith, I ask if there is any actual historical economic data in support of the notion that unions are somehow either bad for business or workers, as folks on the right would have you believe, and as all too many in this country have fallen for after decades of corporate, anti-union propaganda.

"No," Lichtenstein answers emphatically. "There is no support for that. It is good both economically, in an immediate sense, and even more important, politically, because it helps sustain a social democratic ethos and policy block in the country." He goes on to add: "One of the reasons for the deterioration in America of everything --- from race relations to stagnating living standards --- is because of the weakness of unions in the last forty, fifty years."

As noted, do yourself a favor and tune in for our conversation. I learned a lot and suspect you may as well. And, as a gift, we close today with arguably the ONLY good thing to come out of the Trump years: national treasure Randy Rainbow returns with another new tune that may keep you humming all night...

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Guest: Sarah Repucci of Freedom House; Also: Senate passes Biden's very progressive $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill; SCOTUS rejects last of Trump's 2020 election challenges...
By Brad Friedman on 3/8/2021 6:44pm PT  

It's not only in the U.S. where democracy is now under attack. Unfortunately, as discussed with our guest on today's BradCast, when freedom and democracy begin to collapse here, it gets even worse everywhere else. [Audio link to show follows below this summary.]

But, first up today, a quick word or two on Harry and Meghan (because in case you thought a parliamentary monarchy was a better idea than our representative democracy....well, that's not working out so well either these days.)

Very good news out of Congress, however, where the U.S. Senate finally passed Joe Biden's massive $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan over the weekend. Sadly, it was adopted 50-49 without a single Republican vote. The wildly popular measure provides critical relief across a whole bunch of sectors, with, as the New York Times describes, it "the principle Democrats and liberal economists have espoused over the past decade: that the best way to stoke faster economic growth is from the bottom up."  We go through many of the details of this major relief and stimulus plan that both Democrats and progressives should be damned proud of. Hopefully they remember to sing its praises between now and November of 2022, at the very least.  While the bill was changed marginally in the Senate after House passage (in some ways, it was even made more progressive!), it remained pretty much the same bold plan as initially proposed. It is, as many have described it, the most progressive relief bill ever passed by both Houses of Congress.

Democrats, by and large, seem to have figured out that it's ridiculous to negotiate with themselves in order to win the fool's errand of receiving Republican votes, when they ain't coming on board for anything Democrats in power favor, no matter how popular the measure is with their own Republican constituents (very!) or how many of them it will actually help in myriad ways. The measure must be approved one more time in the House before it heads to the President's desk likely this week, followed by his signatures and then individual checks of $1,400 to most Americans, $3,600 for most children, new expansions to Obamacare to allow those with higher incomes to receive subsidies for health insurance premiums and much much more to get American and its economy and schools back open faster and safer.

Meanwhile, on Monday, Donald Trump lost Wisconsin yet again, as the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his appeal of a lower court ruling upholding the bipartisan Wisconsin Election Commission's handling of mail-in ballots in the 2020 election. And, with that, SCOTUS has now officially rejected every challenge to the 2020 election results brought by Trump and his MAGA Mob to the Republicans' stolen and packed high court.  Sadly, GOP state legislatures are now in the process of attempting to impose severe new restrictions on voting in multiple states, including by rolling back measures, for example, for no-excuse absentee voting in Georgia, that they themselves had previously enacted.

So the fight for democracy and voting rights continues. Sunday marked the 56th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday march in Selma, Alabama, when civil rights icon, the late Rep. John Lewis and hundreds of others were beaten to a pulp by state troopers during a protest walk for voting voting rights across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. That violence at that 1965 march, witnessed live on television, resulted in President Johnson signing the landmark Voting Rights Act that year. In commemoration over the weekend, President Biden issued an executive order "to promote voting access to all all eligible Americans to participate in our democracy." The order, as the White House describes it, "will leverage the resources of the federal government to increase access to voter registration services and information about voting."

The effort comes not a moment too soon, unfortunately, as underscored by a new report out last week from Freedom House titled Freedom in the World 2021: Democracy under Siege. It finds, among other troubling things: "As a lethal pandemic, economic and physical insecurity, and violent conflict ravaged the world, democracy’s defenders sustained heavy new losses in their struggle against authoritarian foes, shifting the international balance in favor of tyranny."

Three-quarters of people in the world now live in countries where freedom and democracy are on the decline, according to the group's latest annual report. As Washington Post's coverage notes, "This year’s survey, published Wednesday, marked the 15th consecutive year of global democratic backsliding --- 'a long democratic recession,' in the organization’s words, that is 'deepening.'' Moreover, the United States dropped three rankings in this year's survey which, its co-author explains on today's show, has been carried out by the 80-year old, non-partisan, non-profit group every year since 1972.

We're joined today by Freedom House Vice President of Research and Analysis SARAH REPUCCI, who notes that while the report cites the "unprecedented attacks on one of the world’s most visible and influential democracies," with the Trump-incited attack on the U.S. Capitol in January, and that his "actions went unchecked by most lawmakers from his own party, with a stunning silence that undermined basic democratic tenets," the 1/6 insurrection attempt wasn't even considered as part of this year's rankings of 195 countries, since it occurred in 2021.

Moreover, Freedom House found the largest "democracy gap" (the number of countries that improved minus the number of countries that declined) in the report's history last year, which marked 15 years of decline by the group's measure.

Repucci explains the report's methodology, which areas of the world are now seen as most at risk, and how the decline in freedoms and democracy in the U.S. over the past 15 years --- particularly over the past decade --- have helped to encourage the grim turn for democratic movements across the globe in recent years. She also offers some key recommendations for how to turn things around in this country, including reform in a number of areas --- such as ending partisan gerrymandering and instituting campaign finance reform. Both of those items are central tenets of the critical H.R.1, or "For the People Act", an omnibus and long-overdue elections and ethics reform package that has now been adopted by the U.S. House but faces a Republican filibuster in the U.S. Senate at this time.

"What many of us have been witnessing here in the United States is part of this larger global trend," Repucci tells me. "We've been tracking 15 years of decline globally, and the US has been declining the last ten years. So this is not totally not new in the US, and it's definitely not new globally.  What we are seeing are declines across the board in very repressive settings and also in democracies and everything in between." She warns: "The main takeaway is that no country is safe from this. It's affecting all types and all regions. It's something that we need to take really seriously."

Finally today, the CDC has issued its first guidelines for those who are now fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. The guidance, which we discuss, allows for, among other things, those who have been fully vaccinated to hang out indoors, in private settings, without masks or social distancing with others who have been fully vaccinated as well. So, there's just one more good reason to get a shot as soon as you can figure out how to get one (or two, as the case may be). So far, just under 10% of Americans have been fully vaccinated...

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Guest: Chuck Collins of Institute for Policy Studies' Inequality.org; Also: 2021 flu season proves masks work; Swalwell latest to sue Trump...
By Brad Friedman on 3/5/2021 7:00pm PT  

Prepare to be outraged by some gobsmacking and maddening numbers from today's guest on The BradCast. [Audio link to show is posted below summary.]

But first, speaking of startling numbers, statistics from this year's flu season prove that masks and social distancing do indeed help to prevent viral transmission and death. That, of course, is bad news for residents of Texas and Mississippi, where their idiot Governors this week lifted statewide mask mandates and all restrictions on businesses, even as COVID infection rates are on the rise in both states. Both are among the top 10 worst states in the nation in that regard in recent weeks. Mississippi leads the nation, with Texas not far behind. And that was before they ended statewide mandates this week in contradiction of strong advice from health experts.

In Washington, Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA), one of the House Impeachment Managers during Donald Trump's second Impeachment Trial, filed suit against the disgraced former President, his son Don Jr., Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) for their roles in inciting the January 6th U.S. Capitol insurrection. Swalwell's civil complaint follows on a similar one filed last month by Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson and the NAACP.

At the same time today, the U.S. Senate continued debate over the American Rescue Plan, President Biden's $1. 9 trillion emergency COVID relief and stimulus package after Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin forced an all-night reading of the 628-page measure that was passed by the House late last week. In addition to funds to speed distribution of vaccines, the bill includes $1,400 payments to Americans making less than $75,000, an extension of federal unemployment benefits, hundreds of millions to reopen schools safely, and to supplement lost revenue to hard-hit, cash-strapped states and cities.

As tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and are both struggling to keep a roof over their heads and put food on the table, the relief can't come soon enough, despite zero votes of support from Republicans in either the House or Senate, so far, for the otherwise wildly popular bill. Johnson described it as a "boondoggle" full of unnecessary spending that would blow out the national deficit, even as it will cost the same amount of money that he and all the other Republicans voted in favor of when they passed Donald Trump's 2017 tax cuts for mostly wealthy Americans and corporations.

But while Senators --- even on the Democratic side --- squabble over whether unemployment payments should be $400 a week and last through August, or $300 a week and last until September, America's 664 billionaires could cover almost the entire cost of the measure from only the money they've made during the last 11 months of the pandemic.

We spoke last Summer with CHUCK COLLINS, Director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies, where he co-edits Inequality.org, about his "Billionaire Bonanza 2020" report. Today, he joins us again with a maddening update to that report, finding that, as more than half a million Americans died, 73 million lost work, nearly 100,000 business permanently closed, 29 million adults reported their household did not have enough food over the past week and 11 million children didn't eat enough because their household couldn't afford to fully feed them, the 664 billionaires in the U.S. actually gained $1.3 trillion in added wealth since the beginning of the pandemic!

The profits of that handful of mostly white, male billionaires could cover more than two-thirds of the entire $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan and, "At $4.2 trillion," Collins' updated report reveals, "the total wealth of America's 664 billionaires is also more than two-thirds higher than the $2.4 trillion in total wealth held by the bottom half of the population, 165 million Americans."

Those are just some of the startling numbers from his latest report, highlighting the obscene inequality in the U.S., made even worse by the nearly year-long coronavirus pandemic. Shamefully, all of the numbers are still worse for women and people of color. "The inequalities of income and wealth and the racial wealth divide were the pre-existing conditions as we went into the pandemic," he explains. Collins tell me that "the number of people who have no financial reserves --- zero, or negative financial wealth" is "14% of white households...but double that, 28% of Black households, 26% of Latino households...[and] that was before the pandemic."

"That's why 660 billionaires can have almost twice as much as the bottom half of US households --- because the bottom half doesn't have much!," he reports. So, what to do about it? Will the American Rescue Plan help? How about Sen. Elizabeth Warren's recently refiled "Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act" that would tax two cents of every dollar of wealth above $50 million, generating at least $3 trillion in revenue over ten years in the bargain.

Warren cites Collins' new study in making the case for her new wealth tax proposal. Her proposal is wildly popular among voters of all political stripes, as she pitched a similar version during her Presidential run last year. The fact that it isn't already the law, Collins argues, "is simply a reflection of the power of wealthy interests to block change in our political system. It's not that they're changing the political system --- they're able to stop and thwart and block change. And that's unfortunately what we're up against."

"That's the debate we're watching right now in the Senate," he adds, "where half the members in the Senate, they don't have a program to help America get through these hard times. They just want to block the one that would actually make a difference. Unfortunately, the Republicans have been the 'Party of No' because they don't want government to succeed in making a difference in people's lives, because that would undermine their whole program."

Yes, we've got a lot to discuss today with Collins, whose newest book out this month, The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Spend Millions to Hide Trillions, details "the shadowy Wealth Defense Industry," which he explains today as well. Sen. Bernie Sanders writes that "Chuck's book reveals a blueprint for reversing this obscene inequality so we can take back our democracy and ensure that our government works for everybody --- not just the billionaire class and wealthy campaign contributors"...

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House passes H.R.1., so now what?; MI audits find 2020 results accurate, so now what?; AZ Senate finally gets ahold of Maricopa County's 2020 ballots, so now what?; GOP Congressman admits to three counts of felony voter fraud...so guess what?!...
By Brad Friedman on 3/4/2021 6:31pm PT  

We've got mostly democracy-related stories to report on today's BradCast. Some good news, and some bad. But there's a whole bunch of anti-democracy GOP fraud throughout, because what democracy story in the U.S. these days doesn't include Republican fraud and/or attempted voter suppression? [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

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

  • We start with one story that has little to do with democracy, though it should be enough to ensure these two idiot Governors are never elected to anything ever again. In case you are unclear just how idiotic the Governors of Texas and Mississippi are, after they lifted all COVID restrictions in each state this week in hopes that folks won't notice how horrifically they failed their own constituents following the winter storm there three weeks ago, Axios reports today that, while COVID infections rates are still falling in most states, the rate in Texas is up 27 percent over the past week and Mississippi's is up a nation-leading 62 percent! Luckily, both states are islands, so the idiocy of their Republican Governors won't effect everyone else's efforts to get beyond this pandemic once and for all, right?
  • House Democrats, as expected, passed H.R.1 --- the "For the People Act" --- on Wednesday night with zero Republican votes. The massive, landmark, once-in-a-generation voting rights, campaign finance reform and ethics reform bill now moves to the Senate. In that undemocratic body, however, where a simple majority is NOT enough to pass a democracy reform bill as of now, it will likely die, unless enough pressure is applied on Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona to do the right thing, reform the filibuster, and allow this critical (if imperfect) measure to pass while Democrats have a brief opportunity right now to do so. The measure is long overdue and, according to new polling, wildly popular with the American people of all parties. 68% of likely voters favor the bill, and even a majority of Republicans (57%), back it as well.
  • The sad (and dangerous) Trump/GOP effort to con Americans into believing last November's election was stolen from the disgraced former President --- despite all evidence to the contrary --- continues.  And the massive evidence to the contrary continues to mount. This week, Michigan's Secretary of State announced that the results of a second statewide post-election audit once again confirms the initially reported results. "All of Michigan’s more than 250 election audits are now complete, and each and every one of them affirmed the integrity of the November election and the accuracy of the results," Sec. of State Jocelyn Benson said on Thursday. The audits were carried out by "More than 1,300 Republican, Democratic, and non-partisan election clerks...working across the aisle to review one another's procedures, ballots and machines in coordination with the state Bureau of Elections." Full hand-counts were carried out in some places, such as Antrim County, where Republicans pretended that Dominion Voting Systems machines were used to try and steal the election from Trump.  And, in heavily populated cities like Detroit, election officials determined that, of 174,000 absentee ballots tallied in the city, only 17 votes were ultimately "out of balance" (where the number of ballots cast in a precinct differed from the number of envelopes or signatures accounted for.)
  • But the most embarrassing state GOP idiocy of the week may belong to the Republican-controlled state Senate in Arizona. After months of subpoenas to elections officials, ordering them to turn over all 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County (Phoenix) last year --- and even coming within one vote of throwing elections officials there in jail for following state law by securely retaining custody of the ballots cast in the County last November --- a state judge finally ordered Maricopa officials to obey the subpoena to deliver all ballots to the Senate, so they could count them themselves. They were all delivered, 73 pallets of them, this week. And guess what? Senate Republicans have no idea what to do with them now.  The story is even worse than it sounds, as we discuss today.
  • But at least officials in Kansas were finally able to find some voter fraud. Specifically, voter fraud by now-former Republican U.S. House Rep. Steve Watkins of Topeka. The one-term Congressman was defeated last year. But not before he lied about his residence, using the address of a UPS store on his voter registration, voted in an election he was not entitled to vote in, and then lied to state investigators about it all.  He was charged with three felonies related to voting. This week, however --- because, luckily, he is a white, male Republican from Kansas --- prosecutors are allowing him to enter a diversion agreement that delays his trial for six months, and drops the charges entirely if he's a good boy through September. We compare his treatment to that of Crystal Mason, an African-American mother of three in Texas, who, unlike the Kansas Congressman, had no idea she was violating the law when she cast a provisional ballot that was never counted in the 2016 election. She received a sentence of five years in prison for her "crime".
  • Finally, we're joined by Desi Doyen for our latest Green News Report, as climate change has resulted in the weakest Gulf Stream in about 1,000 years; carbon emissions are rising again as COVID restrictions are loosened; Joe Biden raises U.S. targets under the Paris Climate Agreement; and another major carmaker announces plans to stop selling all gas burning, internal combustion engine vehicles in their line in very very short order...

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Guest: Dr. Michael E. Mann of Penn State's Earth System Science Center; Also: Rightwing extremist threat on Capitol; Congressional subpoena renewed for Trump financial docs; Biden chides TX, MS Governors...
By Brad Friedman on 3/3/2021 6:58pm PT  

Unlike Microsoft Windows, says our guest on today's BradCast in response to Bill Gates' new book on climate change, "if the global climate system crashes, you can't reboot it." Of course, what does a billionaire software engineer know about how to save our climate anyway? Well, our guest --- an actual Nobel Prize-winning climate scientist --- has a few thoughts on that as well. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

First up, however, a few quick, breaking news items as usual...

  • The U.S. House has decided to adjourn for the week a day early after Capitol security officials warned of what they described as credible threats by rightwing extremists surrounding what QAnon dupes cite as the "true Inauguration Day" on March 4th (the day originally set by the Constitution). While the House may be scramming, the Senate will supposedly stay in session, as Capitol Police have "enhanced their security posture" and National Guard troops remain posted at the Capitol.
  • Before leaving, however, it appears that the House Oversight Committee has renewed its subpoena for tax and other financial records from Donald Trump's accounting firm, Mazars USA. The disgraced former President had successfully stalled the Committee's original effort, beginning in 2019, blocking the documents from being given to the panel for 22 months until the subpoena expired at the end of the legislative session last year. Committee Chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), however, is not giving up in her effort to obtain the documents. In a court filing, she described the subpoena and need for Trump's financial records as "just as compelling now as it was when the Committee first issued its subpoena" as "the committee's investigations into presidential conflicts of interest, presidential contracts with the federal government and self-dealing, and presidential emoluments” continue.
  • And President Biden offered some thoughts on what he described as a "big mistake" and "neanderthal thinking" by the Republicans Governors of Texas and Mississippi. On Tuesday, they both lifted statewide mask mandates and declared all businesses may now open to 100% capacity. That clever if wildly dangerous distraction comes while tens of thousands of residents in both states are still without running or clean water following a winter storm more than two weeks ago, and as both states rank in the top ten for COVID deaths per capita.

Then, with Trump out of the White House and Dems in control of both chambers of Congress, it seems a very good time to renew the previously forestalled federal efforts to take action on our critical climate crisis. Private industry has figured out the urgent need. This week, Volvo announced they would move to an all-electric car line by 2030 and, in just four years, by 2025, would produce only electric or hybrids. And the American people seems to have figured it out as well. By a whopping 79% to 20%, they now favor the development of renewable energy over the continued production of fossil fuels.

So, it's time to finally restart the debate about how best to move forward again to save our climate by decarbonizing our economy. We're joined today by award-winning climate scientist DR. MICHAEL E. MANN, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, author of nearly 200 peer-reviewed papers and loads of books, including his latest, The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet.

Last week, Mann penned an op-ed for Newsweek, detailing two very different potential paths forward. One, he describes as a "technocratic" path which "envisions climate action as a mere engineering problem" to be solved with massive --- if dangerous --- geoengineering schemes, as detailed in software mogul Bill Gates' new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need. The other, which Mann favors, is the "sociopolitical" path relying on safe, clean, already-existing technologies.

"It can be a bit frustrating," he tells us. "To the extent that Bill Gates might use his platform to create more public awareness for the climate crisis, that's great. The thing that troubles me is that his prescription is wrong-headed, in my view. It's overly technocratic. It's like if your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  If you built your reputation, if your role in society has been to promote computer technology, technological or technocratic solutions to problems, everything looks like a technocratic problem."

"The problem is climate change isn't a technocratic problem," Mann argues. "We have the solutions --- wind, solar, geothermal. [Gates] downplays those solutions, based on what I would say is an unbalanced assessment of the literature and what researchers have found. He downplays the potential for renewable energy to meet our needs and help us decarbonize our economy. By downplaying the obvious solution, it leads him to promote far riskier strategies --- like geoengineering, massively interfering with the Earth's system in some other way to try to offset global warming. What could possibly go wrong?"

"This problem at this point is a political problem, it's not a technological problem. We have the solution. The problem is that we don't yet have the representation in our government," asserts Mann, noting that Gates "actually said, 'Well, I don't know what the solution is to the politics here.' If you don't know the solution to the politics, then you don't know the solution to the problem, because that's what it is at this point. It's a political problem."

Our conversation is enlightening, encouraging, and, yes, maddening at times. We discuss, for example, one of Gates' "solutions" to the climate crisis: more nuclear energy. But even a number of esteemed climate scientists argue that we can't decarbonize without relying on nukes. Mann disagrees and explains why.

He cites peer-reviewed literature from energy experts who "all come to the conclusion that we can meet 80% of projected energy demand by 2035 from renewables, and 100% by 2050...based on existing technology," adding, "That's without nuclear."

As usual, there is much more in our in-depth conversation with Mann than I can cover here, but that is well worth tuning in for. Mann himself, in his Newsweek piece, notes that both he and Gates are optimistic about the future, and that he hopes to find places where their two different paths toward the same ultimate goal may converge. "Whether we have a crisis is no longer a matter of worthy debate. Precisely how we solve it is."

And, yes, we welcome a response from Gates. Happy to have him on the show, with or without Mann there to debate him as he sees fit. Though we do hope that our good-spirited snark today about Windows crashing won't keep Microsoft's former CEO from dropping by...

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With Brad Friedman & Desi Doyen...
By Desi Doyen on 3/2/2021 11:12am PT  

IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Water crisis persists in Texas and Jackson, Mississippi, two weeks after extreme winter storm; Latinos disproportionately exposed to worst water in US, new study finds; US House passes Biden's COVID relief bill boosting heating assistance for low-income families; PLUS: As cities move to electrify buildings, the natural gas industry is striking back... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

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IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Austin, Texas had a bold new climate plan – until a gas company got involved; Biden administration pauses transfer of holy Native American land to mining firm... PLUS: More States Follow California's Lead On Vehicle Emissions Standards... and much, MUCH more! ...

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Guest: Dr. Karl Krupp of U. of AZ's Zuckerman College of Public Health; Also: Former French Prez convicted, sentenced; Water out for two weeks in Jackson, MS; Biden's $1.9T COVID relief package heads to Senate...
By Brad Friedman on 3/1/2021 6:39pm PT  

Plummeting COVID rates and FDA approval of a brand new, one-shot vaccine seem like very good news! And it is...if it weren't for our propensity to screw it all up again, as our guest on today's BradCast explains. [Audio link to today's full show is posted below this summary.]

But first, in other good/bad news reports today, the former conservative President was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to a year in prison on Monday! The bad news is that it wasn't our former "conservative" President, but French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Still, it does suggest that modern, civilized democracies can hold even the most powerful to account. We'll see if the U.S. justice system learns anything from that example.

In the meantime, we clearly have yet to learn the lesson about the need to modernize our critical infrastructure --- or of the dangers of deregulating, privatizing, and profiteering from essential services such as power and water. The shameful, widespread outages in Texas from a winter storm two weeks ago offered a fresh reminder about that, even as hundreds of thousands in Houston remain under boil water orders today.  But, much less noticed and reported on than the mess in Texas is the fact that tens of thousands are still without clean water --- or even any water at all --- in much of Jackson, Mississippi, where decades of failure to invest in the city's antiquated water system has now left much of it without water at all for the past two weeks. As it turns out, however, the areas of Jackson without water just happen to be the predominately black areas of the state's 80% African-American capital city.

Long overdue improvements to critical infrastructure could finally begin in some states and cities with the passage of President Biden's wildly popular American Rescue Plan. The U.S. House passed the $1.9 trillion package --- which includes $1,400 individual checks and hundreds of billions in relief to families, businesses, schools, unemployed workers, as well as cash-strapped cities and states --- late last Friday night. The House version also a includes the very popular $15/hour minimum wage mandate, even though the Senate Parliamentarian declared last week that the provision could not be included for passage under Senate Budget Reconciliation rules. Those rules would allow the package to be adopted by a simple majority vote in the Senate this week, rather than the 60 votes currently needed for passage under the Senate's archaic, undemocratic, Jim Crow-era filibuster rules.

Despite the popularity of the package (76% approval over all, including 60% of Republican voters), there were zero votes for passage by GOPers in the gerrymandered House. Republicans in the Senate are believed likely to similarly ignore the preferences of a majority of their own voters. That, even though the measure enjoys bi-partisan approval by voters and the package also includes tens of billions of dollars to speed distribution of COVID vaccines.

Speaking of which, a third vaccine received FDA approval over the weekend, and millions of doses are now said to be on on their way to distribution points.  The first single-dose vaccine to be granted FDA emergency use authorization for COVID-19 is Johnson & Johnson's. It is said to be highly effective and requires only regular refrigeration for storage, as opposed to sub-freezers. So, in theory, it is much easier to get out and into people's arms quickly. But is it as effective as Pfizer and Moderna's vaccine? And does it matter one way or another? We discuss that with our guest today as well.

As COVID infection, hospitalization and death rates have been plummeting in recent weeks, epidemiologists have become worried. There are signs that the precipitous drop after the horrendously deadly autumn surge last year has begun to plateau at similarly high rates to those we saw just before that surge. But now, there are much more transmissible variants emerging. At the same time, states and cities are beginning to lift restrictions again --- just as they did before last year's surge that quickly propelled deaths to more than 500,000 in the U.S.

We're joined today for some very helpful insight on both the vaccines and concerns about the current rate of spread, by DR. KARL KRUPP of University of Arizona's Zuckerman College of Public Health. In short, Krupp warns, "we're screwing it up all over again."

"To be quite blunt about it" Krupp tells me, citing those who ignored warnings from public health authorities about reopening schools and businesses before Thanksgiving last year, "It's funny how short of a memory we have. We're just approaching where we were in the middle of October.  We're just coming back from where we went the first time we did everything wrong. And the question is, are we going to do everything wrong this time?"

His answer is not necessarily encouraging, as he predicts that we could very well see not only a fourth surge, but one that is even higher than what devastated the nation late last year.

As to the vaccines, we talk about the fact that Johnson & Johnson's, while only requiring a single dose, is said to be only 66% effective against the virus, as compared to the 94 and 95% rates of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Though the newest vaccine to obtain FDA approval also is said to be 85% effective against severe cases and, to date, 100% effective in preventing hospitalization and death.

But, if given a choice, wouldn't it be smarter to take the Pfizer or Moderna versions? Krupp is sympathetic to those concerns, but argues that Americans should take any vaccine they can get as quickly as possible right now. He explains why. He also answers a bunch of questions about whether those who have been vaccinated can still become infected or infect others and discusses concerns that minority communities are currently being vaccinated at far lower rates.

He also offers his predictions as to when life might actually return to normal, and when it will return to mostly normal --- or at least something that feels much more like the Before Times. Please tune in for today's very insightful --- and hopefully helpful! --- conversation...

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Guest host Nicole Sandler with historian/author Alexis Coe...
By Nicole Sandler on 2/25/2021 5:13pm PT  

I'm back! It's Nicole Sandler, filling in for Brad and Desi for a couple of days so they can celebrate Desi's birthday. Any excuse for some downtime. Welcome to today's BradCast.

It was another busy news day, as confirmation hearings continue for Biden's cabinet picks.The Equality Act passed the House today, but not before Rand Paul went on a homophobic rant, aimed at the first transgender woman to be nominated for a Senate-confirmed federal position. In this case, it was a confirmation hearing for Dr. Rachel Levine, the nominee for Assistant Secretary for Health, and Dr. Vivek Murthy, the Surgeon General Nominee. And Rand Paul just couldn't help himself. He went off on her. And in the House, Marjorie Taylor Greene put up an ugly sign to counter her across-the-hall neighbor Marie Newman, who put out an equality flag to celebrate her transgender daughter and the Equality Act, which would be voted on later in the day. So much for unity.

This country has been through some trying times, and we've survived. Today, we went back to the beginning with historian ALEXIS COE, author of You Never Forget Your First: A History of George Washington.

And before she left to celebrate her birthday, Desi left us with a new edition of the Green News Report...

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Guest: Slate's legal reporter Mark Joseph Stern; Also: Virginia is no longer for death penalty lovers...
By Brad Friedman on 2/24/2021 6:24pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Try as they did, Donald Trump and the Republican Party were unable to steal the 2020 Presidential election. But they've got their plans in place for how to try and do it next time. They just need their currently stolen and packed Republican U.S. Supreme Court majority to help them pull it off. This week, SCOTUS chose not to do so --- even if they may in the future. But, in a separate decision, the Court did radically help increase the odds that our disgraced former President could be headed to jail before he's even able to run for office again. [Audio link to show is posted below summary.]

But first up today, some good news out of Virginia, where more people have been put to death by the Commonwealth's government than in any other state in the nation. Since their founding as a colony in 1608, some 1,390 people have been executed by the government there. Since SCOTUS reinstated the death penalty in 1976, Virginia has executed 113 people. That is more than any other state but Texas. This week, however, following Democrats gaining majorities in both chambers of the legislature, Virginia will now become the first Southern state --- and the 23rd in the union --- to abolish the abhorrent practice. And not a moment too soon, particularly given the systemic racism of their death penalty practices. For example, as the Death Penalty Information Center pointed out to Washington Post this week, "From 1900 to 1969...Virginia did not execute a single White person for any offense that did not result in death, while 73 Black men were executed for rape, attempted rape or robbery." So, yeah. Very good news out of Virginia this week, as Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam prepares to sign the long-overdue measures finally adopted by the state legislature.

Speaking of state legislatures, on yesterday's BradCast, we reported on this week's decision by SCOTUS to purge a bunch of held over Trump/GOP challenges to the 2020 election. Cases from Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia and Arizona were all dismissed as moot. But dismissal of the Pennsylvania cases found three Justices --- Thomas, Alito and Gorsuch --- in dissent [PDF]. The two nearly identical cases in question had challenged the PA state Supreme Court's decision to extend the deadline [PDF] for the return of absentee ballots by three days after Election Day, due to the pandemic, slowdowns by the U.S. Postal Service and a provision in their state constitution mandating fair elections.

With all of their many other attempts to steal the 2020 election having failed, the GOP has now latched on to a radical interpretation of the U.S. Constitution's Elections Clause to argue that only state legislatures --- not Governors, not Secretaries of State, not State Elections Board or even state Supreme Courts --- may set any procedure for federal elections. Therefore, the Trumpers argued in their now-dismissed Pennsylvania challenges, the three day extension by the PA Supreme Court to enforce their state's Constitution by allowing for the arrival of late mail-in ballots cast by Election Day, was an unlawful violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Though no SCOTUS majority has ever affirmed this extreme reading of the federal Constitution, this is what many Republicans have now decided to believe to make themselves feel better after losing last November. In Pennsylvania, however, there were only 10,000 late arriving ballots and Joe Biden won the Keystone State by about 80,000. So SCOTUS decided the issue was moot and dismissed the cases. But Thomas, Alito and Gorsuch argued the case should have been heard anyway.

"A decision in these cases would not have any implications regarding the 2020 election," Alito wrote in dissent. "But a decision would provide invaluable guidance for future elections." On yesterday's program, I actually agreed with Alito and explained why.

Today, for a counter-point, we're joined by Slate's great legal journalist MARK JOSEPH STERN who offered a very different view from mine in his own coverage of Monday's decision by the high court. While justifiably destroying Justice Thomas' solo dissent in which he argued that mail-in ballots are bad even if there is no fraud, simply because people may think there is fraud, Stern also argued that SCOTUS was right to dismiss the case, rather than hear it. In part, he argues, that's because this Court has been packed so far to the extreme right. "We should be very afraid of what the Court would say," he tells me. "And that fear is enough for us to just hope that the Justices put off a decision on this matter for as long as humanly possible."

But I disagree with Stern and, in a very spirited debate, explain why. Who wins that one? Tune in and decide for yourself.

Stern also comments today on whether our failed former President should be concerned that his own packed and stolen U.S. Supreme Court, in an apparently unanimous decision on Monday, finally allowed Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance to obtain Trump's financial and tax records as part of Vance's grand jury criminal probe into alleged bank, tax and insurance fraud by Trump and his organization. In short, Stern asserts, "the answer is yes," Trump should be very concerned. "They're looking at felony offenses here, not just civil offenses, run-of-the-mill white collar stuff, but serious crimes. I do think there's a serious chance that we could see an indictment of Donald Trump coming down the pipeline in the near future." Though he does add a caveat or two.

Of even more immediate concern, Stern recently wrote, Trump's efforts to interfere with Georgia's election results --- for example, cajoling and threatening the state's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" enough votes to declare him the winner --- could spell trouble, and even jail time, even sooner.

"You'll see some people argue that Trump can't be convicted under this law --- the ban on criminal solicitation of election fraud --- because he didn't have the requisite state of mind, because he didn't actually want the Sec. of State to falsify records because he was deluded enough to believe that there were actually 12,000 secret votes for him out there that could be found. That's a question for the jury, that's not a question for the prosecutors or the grand jury. That is something Trump could argue at a criminal trial," says Stern, before adding: "I think that any reasonable reading of that transcript proves that Trump was, in fact, looking for the Secretary of State to falsify records, to commit election fraud. It is very difficult to read those sentences in any other way."

He explains why Trump could soon be looking at anywhere from 1 to 3 years in that criminal probe by the Fulton County (Atlanta) District Attorney and whether he thinks it is actually possible that a former President of the United States may actually receive prison time before all of this is said and done...

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