Apologies for my sudden (and continuing) absence here. Late on Wednesday night (9/11!), I received a phone call from my mother regarding my otherwise-ridiculously healthy 80-year old father...
w/ Brad & Desi
w/ Brad & Desi
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...
GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal 2012...
The Secret Koch Brothers Tapes...
|MORE BRAD BLOG 'SPECIAL COVERAGE' PAGES...|
Apologies for my sudden (and continuing) absence here. Late on Wednesday night (9/11!), I received a phone call from my mother regarding my otherwise-ridiculously healthy 80-year old father...
Well, today's BradCast features an epic righteous rant or two for your listening pleasure, as we begin with some grim news of the day but finish with a much brighter outlook for the near future. [Audio link to show is posted below.]
Trump, like many Republicans and Fox "News" zombies have spent years in denial (or supportive) of the threat of domestic terror by rightwing extremists such as white supremacists. In 2009, after an outcry by Republicans, the Obama Administration shamefully withdrew a DHS draft report [PDF] on the growing threat of rightwing extremism that had been largely prepared during the George W. Bush Administration. There was no such outcry over a similar report, released without incident, on leftwing extremism. Nonetheless, Obama's DHS chief buckled, apologized(!), withdrew the draft report, and the DHS group which created it was largely dismantled. With increasing evidence of the white supremacist threat --- even cited by Trump's own FBI Director --- the Trump Administration has continued to insist on focusing on jihadist terror and illicit drug importation instead. That, as they exercise their own white supremacist terror on immigrant communities such as those across the state of Mississippi on Wednesday, a state with one of the lowest populations of undocumented immigrants in the nation;
The argument might sound absurd, until you connect a few dots to include, among many, Montana's Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte who, on the eve of his special election to the U.S. House in 2017, actually grabbed a reporter by the throat and slammed him to the ground. In 2018, during a campaign rally for Gianforte --- who won in deep red Montana in 2017, despite the incident --- Trump made light of the Congressman's violent 2017 assault of a journalist, noting to the delight of the assembled MAGA crowd that "any guy who can do a body slam is my kind of guy." Message delivered and, apparently, received;
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
It's my birthday today. I'm working anyway. No matter how much older I feel this year than last. Not happy about it any of it, of course. But, as Desi always tells me....(See headline.)
On the other hand, ya'll have been very generous in previous years come birthday time. So I hope you don't mind if I ask again this year. Please feel free to cheer me up this weekend with some birthday love support for your friendly neighborhood BRAD BLOG, BradCast and Green News Report. We very much need (and appreciate!) your help. And it's my birthday after all. So....
My birthday wish? For just 5 of you to sign up for a monthly sustaining subscription of any amount you can afford. Thank you much in advance for anything you can spare to help us keep fighting forward during these dark days.-- Brad
Hey Guys! We'll be down for a few days to take advantage of a long weekend for a much needed break.
Don't let Trump take over your 4th of July celebration! (He'll probably get rained out anyway if the gods are with us. But he'll likely be able to see himself in the mirror nonetheless. So there's that. Tanks, but no tanks, Mr. President!)
We're back at the top of the week. But, until then, if you haven't tossed a few dollars in the tip jar of late, please consider doing so to help us get some early speed as we barrel towards the impossible 2020 election season, when we'll need all the help we can get!
It's tough out here for everyone in the media "biz", as I'm sure you've noticed, but damned near impossible for independent progressive journalists, trouble-makers and muckrakers like us. So anything and everything you can do to help us keep going is very much appreciated!
One time donations are great. Monthly sustaining subscriptions of any amount you like are even greater...At least until we too can figure out how to scam the National Park Service out of their entrance fee funds!
Stay safe. Be cool. And try to love one another --- right now! Or at least at some point over this holiday weekend... --- Brad
On today's BradCast: One reason after another why Democrats needs to step up and offer a bold and fearless vision for a more progressive, safer, healthier, more equal and prosperous America as we look beyond the dark, corrupt era of Donald Trump. [Audio link to show is posted below after summary.]
But we start today with what Trump tweeted out as "Great News!" on Thursday, a new poll he saw on Fox "News" labeled on screen as "TRUMP'S SOARING APPROVAL" finding him with an overall 55% approval rating! Only trouble, the poll from Georgetown University found him with a 55% DISapproval rating (and just 41% approval.) Don't hold your breath for Trump to delete the Tweet.
Why should he? He's gotten away with just about everything he and Fox could ever hope for, including the complete regulatory capture of the federal government which --- following Thursday's Senate confirmation of a longtime oil and gas industry lobbyist to lead the Interior Department --- now includes corporate executives and lobbyists heading virtually every Executive Agency meant to oversee and regulate the very industries they previously worked for. Do Fox viewers not mind that Trump has filled the D.C. "swamp" like it's never been filled before? Or do they not know? Or do they just not care? Given Trump's latest, impeachable behavior regarding the southern border, and the cheers he receives from supporters for it, it's a good guess that his Republican base couldn't care less. They vote as they are told (by Fox).
Next, on the same day that New Zealand's new ban on military-style assault weapons officially goes into effect --- after being approved by a 119 to 1 vote in Parliament this week, less than one month after a massacre by a white supremacist at two mosques in Christchurch killed 50 and wounded 50 others --- many in the U.S. are left wondering why any action to improve gun safety here remains seemingly impossible.
We're joined today by IGOR VOLKSY, founder of Guns Down America and author of the brand new book Guns Down: How to Defeat the NRA and Build a Safer Future with Fewer Guns. Volsky explains what lessons we might learn from New Zealand and why changing gun laws in the U.S., where more than 30,000 Americans are killed by guns each year, is so difficult.
He is calling for bold new platforms from 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates who, he says, have offered grand visions for the environment, health care and even taking on major corporations, but not when it comes to guns, where they beg for table scraps and barely incremental improvements --- if they even raise the issue. Volsky argues that, despite broad majority support for a host of common sense gun measures across all parties --- including for the banning of military-style assault weapons --- a new political framing is needed which isn't "designed to talk to some kind of mythical moderate voter".
"I am calling on the 2020 Presidential candidates to fundamentally reframe the conversation around guns, to establish a long term goal to establish a future with fewer guns, and to talk about the ways we need to raise the standard for gun ownership, for gun production," he tells me. "And by the way, when I say gun production, I mean actually regulating the firearm industry --- that it stops producing militarized weapons for the civilian market, both in terms of the assault weapons and the much more militarized handguns that use larger rounds." How to do that without flinching against the politically powerful NRA and its even more powerful rightwing propaganda outlets will not be easy, nor quick. He argues that it will require a bold, long term vision that is still absent from Democratic politics and messaging.
Finally today, two must-listen clips from Congressional hearings this week. The first features freshman Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA)'s absolutely shaming Jamie Dimon, CEO of the nation's largest bank, JPMorgan Chase, for the paltry salary he pays his own employees, even after the bank reported a more than $9 billion PROFIT in just the first quarter of 2019 alone. Many of his employees, she details, are actually losing money each month, even while working full time for Chase, while Dimon enjoyed a $31 million salary last year.
As Paul Waldman observed at WaPo after watching the instructive colloquy between Porter and Dimon, "JPMorgan Chase could give every one of its 250,000 employees a $25,000 raise, and it would cost the bank only about two-thirds of the profit it made just in the first quarter of this year." He too is hoping that Porter's point becomes a central theme for Democrats running for office. Other Democrats in Congress --- including those running for President in 2020 --- have a lot to learn from the new crop of first-term progressives in the House.
And lastly, an absolutely remarkable exchange in the House Oversight Committee between climate-science denying clown, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), and former Sec. of State John Kerry at a hearing on "The Need for Leadership to Combat Climate Change and Protect National Security." Suffice to say, if you're bested by John Kerry in a debate, you must be REALLY bad at this. And the laughable Massie certainly was...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
Today's BradCast kicks of with the breaking news of the announcement, just minutes before air, that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finally wrapped up his two year investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election, cooperation in the effort by Team Trump and any obstruction of that probe by the President of the United States. Though that may be the least troubling news on today's show. [Audio link to complete shows is posted below article.]
Mueller's confidential report has now been delivered to Attorney General William Barr, as per statute, and Trump's new AG promptly notified Congress [PDF] to say he plans to release a summary of the report as soon as possible, potentially as early as this weekend. We share what we know (and don't) from that freshly breaking news at the top of today's program. Then it's back to, at least some of, our previously scheduled program...
On the day that Jimmy Carter officially becomes the longest living President in U.S. history, we're reminded of a warning he issued while serving as co-Chair, with Bush Family consigliere James Baker, of the so-called "Commission on National Election Reform" formed by a group of Republican operatives after the highly disputed 2004 Presidential election in Ohio. The Blue Ribbon panel was, ostensibly, formed to make recommendations on how to improve elections after the second disastrous Presidential election in a row, following the 2000 debacle in Florida. But while the Republicans who created the private commission had hoped for a recommendation for photo ID voting restrictions at the polling place, the one we've cited most often over the years is the Commission's unambiguous finding that the greatest threat posed to elections comes from insiders, such as election officials and private voting system vendors. "There is no reason to trust insiders in the election industry any more than in other industries," the Carter/Baker panel warned in their final report.
That warning is particularly trenchant today, with, as we recently reported, the Democratic National Committee now calling for some form of remote or online voting during their 2020 Presidential nominating caucuses next year and what has just happened with the online voting system that Switzerland has used for some time in parts of the country.
The Swiss had planned to roll out their system nationally this year, but as longtime cybersecurity and voting system journalist KIM ZETTER of MotherBoard and the New York Times reports, things did not go as well as planned.
Zetter joins us to discuss the alarming story of what happened when Switzerland, last month, opened up a month-long public hack challenge for the system which, they previously boasted, had easily passed many regular internal security checks and even several they had contracted from KPMG, an international auditing giant.
But, as Zetter recently detailed at MotherBoard, the Swiss system, designed by Barcelona-based Scytl --- "a leader in developing various internet and other voting solutions for national or regional elections in 42 countries, including at least 1,400 counties in the US" --- was almost immediately found by independent researchers to feature "a critical flaw in the code that would allow someone to alter votes without detection ... in a part of the system that is supposed to verify that all of the ballots and votes counted in an election are the same ones that voters cast." That flaw, Zetter details, "could allow someone to swap out all of the legitimate ballots and replace them with fraudulent ones, all without detection."
As she tells me today, the failure is even more troubling than that, as it allows for a single insider to exploit a "back door in the cryptography scheme, that would allow someone to alter votes but make it look like the votes haven't been altered at all." In other words, "the system is supposed to have a check in it that's designed to ensure that the ballots that go into that encryption process and come out of that de-cryption process are the exact same ballots. But there's a flaw in that proof that verifies that those ballots are the same. Therefore, that would allow someone to swap out the votes and ballots while the proof still seemed to show that the ballots were the same."
Swiss Post, which runs the system, and Scytl who sells it, claim the exploit could "only" be carried out by an insider, so why worry?
So how are those plans coming for remote voting in the DNC's 2020 Presidential caucuses next year? And how can it be that we keep attempting these same unworkable electronic and online voting schemes from private vendors and election officials who swear by the "certified" security of their systems, only to find they are anything but secure once independent experts are allowed to test them in any way?
"We should have a voting system where we're not required to trust anyone --- we're not required to trust election officials, we're not required to trust the vendors, we're not required to trust the voting machine itself," Zetter, who has been covering electronic voting and tabulation systems on her national cybersecurity beat for more than a decade, tells me. "We should have a system that can be audited independently of all of those parties in order to verify the election results. That's really in the best interests of everyone." What such a system should be, of course, is another matter, which we also discuss, and even debate a bit, on today's important program...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
On today's BradCast, we're sending up a warning flare, a red flag, hoping to raise your attention to the very troubling plans by Democrats to begin the use of online voting, in some form, along with their 2020 Presidential caucuses next year! [Audio link to show is posted at end of article.]
But first, It was a very dark day in New Zealand on Friday, as a white supremacist unleashed a terror attack on two Muslim mosques in Christchurch, killing at least 49 in the massacre, with dozens still in the hospital, many in critical condition. But it was a much brighter day elsewhere around the globe as inspiring "school strikes" took place in more than 100 cities, with children walking out of class to march in protest for action on climate change from the South Pacific to the edge of the arctic circle, from San Francisco to D.C., from Spain to Berlin, from Africa to Poland and beyond.
Hundreds of thousands of young protesters inspired by 16-year old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg --- who began her own solitary school strike last year and is now nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize --- took to the streets, demanding immediate action from politicians to help save all of our futures by curbing man-made fossil fuel emissions which, as scientists have warned for decades, are dangerously warming the global climate and speeding the planet toward catastrophic danger.
Then --- in hopes of replacing ineffective politicians and climate science deniers --- we move to U.S. elections, where even Rightwingers (at least some of them) in Georgia now understand the perils of touchscreen computer Ballot Marking Devices. The rightwing group FreedomWorks has joined the fight against BMDs in the Peach State, where vote-suppressing Republican Governor and former Sec. of State Brian Kemp has lobbied state legislators hard to replace the state's 17-year old, easily-hacked, oft-failed 100 percent unverifiable touchscreen voting system with all new unverifiable touchscreen BMD systems at a cost of at least $150 million.
The bill to enact this boondoggle, HR316, will see one more vote for approval in Georgia's House before it's sent to the Governor's desk. Today, we share some of the lobbying efforts against the measure by Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer who is, believe it or not, a cybersecurity expert and National Security Advisor for Trump 2020. He is calling for hand-marked paper ballots in Georgia and in other states --- such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Delaware, Texas, Kansas and California --- where county election officials are handing millions to private voting system vendors for unverifiable, unnecessary systems that cybersecurity and voting system experts strongly warn against.
Finally --- speaking of unheeded warnings --- we are joined today by STEVEN ROSENFELD of the Independent Media Foundation's Voting Booth project, to sound the alarm about the Democratic National Committee's new requirement for caucus states to implement some form of remote voting during their 2020 nomination contests.
The new mandate is part of DNC reforms adopted last year, following the disastrous 2016 Presidential election when cyberattacks and the release of stolen emails undermined both Party leadership and Hillary Clinton's campaign. While last year's Party reforms urge states to move from caucus systems run by private state parties to primary elections managed instead by state and county election officials, the new requirement to allow access to caucuses for those who cannot attend in person has left state Democratic Parties looking toward various forms of online, telephonic and smartphone voting options to enact in conjunction with in-person caucusing.
Rosenfeld is currently one of the very few journalist reporting on the disturbing potential plans by Democrats in Iowa, Nevada and elsewhere to contract with private companies for some form of online caucus voting. "It's part of having the party be more inclusive and participatory," he tells me, cautioning "It's not clear how it's going to be done. This is all being developed right now." And, he warns, "vendors themselves will do this stuff for next to nothing to try to show proof of concept."
Of course, that proof of concept will be in a live, Presidential caucus election! He details just some of the many disastrous and chaotic past efforts at such schemes that "didn't go so well" --- colossal online voting failures by the Utah GOP in 2016 and 2018, stolen or corrupted online party elections in Canada, for example --- in hopes of warning about what could very well be a looming disaster waiting for Democrats in caucus states next year.
Rosenfeld says he's been speaking with Democratic officials "trying to let people know what they're headed into," and says, "I don't think they were aware --- the Democrats that I talked to on the DNC --- of these other examples" of failed elections using this new, largely untested technology.
But with already-complicated caucus systems, 20 or so candidates who could be on the ballot, and the most important election of our lives hanging in the balance, what could possibly go wrong with the addition of new, untested remote voting schemes added to the mix? Now might be a very good time to start paying attention to some of the disturbing answers to that troubling question...
The New York Times described Trump's SOTU on Tuesday as "veer[ing] between two moods --- combative and conciliatory." Democratic minority leader Chuck Schumer described it as "sort of like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the excitement and the enthusiasm was all in the Mr. Hyde parts."
A majority of Americans who watched it, however, approved of the Trump's remarks, at least according to early polling weighted towards self-identified Republicans and right-leaning independents.
Our two excellent guests today, award-winning opinion journalist HEATHER DIGBY PARTON of Salon and Hullabaloo, and author and political media critic ERIC BOEHLERT formerly of ShareBlue and Media Matters, now a contributor for Daily Kos, join us to make sense of both parts (all parts?) of Trump's at-times disjointed, at-times collegial, and at-times aggressive remarks as they veered conversely between out-and-out lies to something more closely resembling facts but shamefully lacking in context.
Did Trump meet the bar set for him by his own White House aides who'd promised new calls for "unity" and "bi-partisan cooperation" in his speech? Is Trump capable or even interested in that?
"These State of the Unions are typically the least awful thing Trump does in any given week," Boehlert observes, "because it's a prepared speech, it's poorly written, he delivers it poorly. But there are moments where he does appeal to independents. And then he goes back to the crazies."
Says Parton: "If the idea was to unify the Republicans, then yes, it obviously worked. By their measure, I think they probably did what they wanted to do. ... [But] there is no President in American history who is less authentic-sounding than Donald Trump when he's calling for unity and bipartisanship. And they know it."
Beyond those optics, we also dig into, among many other things in today's lively, very fast-paced hour: Trump's ridiculous threats against "ridiculous partisan investigations"; The striking image of a sea of new and veteran female Democratic Representatives dressed in suffragette white; Nancy Pelosi's triumphant new-again role as House Speaker; Trump's obsessive (not to mention graphic and largely false or misleading) continuing advocacy for a southern border just days away from another potential federal government shutdown; The stunning number of important issues (from the climate crisis to gun violence to the recent record-long shutdown and much more) that Trump didn't bother to even mention, for some reason; The misleading use of Venezuela's ongoing political crisis as an attempt to smear "socialism" in the U.S. in advance of 2020; and Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams' very smart, spirited and inspiring response to Trump's dark, long, and largely fact and substance-free SOTU...
On today's BradCast: Why Donald Trump finally buckled in his demand for border wall funding and how the unprecedented government shutdown helped distract all of us from the Administration's new policy that endangers children by officially allowing blatant religious discrimination --- at least against religions other than Protestant. [Audio link to show follows below.]
On Friday, Trump caved. He finally agreed to reopen the federal government --- at least temporarily --- after five weeks and the longest shutdown in U.S. history. He pretended he'd made a "deal" with Democrats. In fact, he simply agreed to continue funding the government at its previous levels until February 15. He received zero dollars for his border wall in the bargain, while suggesting during bizarre, inaccurate and, at times, graphic remarks at the White House that, without some sort of "deal" for a wall, he would either shut the government down again in three weeks or declare a "national emergency" to take the money to build it from elsewhere.
There were many reasons Trump finally buckled today, including increasing anger from lawmakers in his own party, plummeting poll numbers, news that the IRS was in "panic mode" without enough workers as tax season begins, and flight delays up and down the Eastern Seaboard thanks to a shortage of Air Traffic Controllers, according to the FAA. But there were at least two stories that the Administration, no doubt, was eager to get off the front pages today and over the weekend.
One, a stunning report from NBC News Thursday night that Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner had been rejected for top secret clearance in 2017, for a host of reasons, by two career security professionals at the White House, only to have that security recommendation overruled (along with similar rejections for "at least 30" others!) and granted to him by a Trump appointee. Also, Trump's longtime supporter and dirty trickster Roger Stone --- who helped lead the "lock her up!" charge against Hillary Clinton with the release of hacked emails by WikiLeaks --- was arrested in Florida on Friday morning by FBI officials and charged with seven counts of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction of justice by a grand jury convened as part of Robert Mueller's Special Counsel probe. Following the GOP's fake "outrage" about national security concerns related to Clinton's private email server, which Stone helped amplify, there's no small amount of irony here with his arrest on the heels of news that the Trump Administration appears to have forgone top level security concerns altogether in order to allow Kushner and others access to the nation's most closely guarded intelligence materials.
Trump's "deal" to temporarily reopen the government may have served to change the news cycle for a few hours, but it didn't endear him to Republican extremists like Ann Coulter, whose critiques late last year led Trump to break his agreement with lawmakers and demand $5.7 billion for a southern border wall resulting in the five week shutdown. Today she deried him as "the biggest wimp ever to serve as President."
While all of these nightmares have been unfolding in recent weeks, few noticed that the Trump Administration's Health and Human Services Department quietly approved a very controversial waiver to allow a Protestant South Carolina group called Miracle Hill Ministries to discriminate against Muslims, Jews, Catholics and atheists in the placement of foster care children. We're joined by criminal justice reporter AKELA LACY of The Intercept today to explain this very real and disturbing outrage which very few have noticed, and how the Administration's partnership with "Religious Right" Republicans under the guise of "religious freedom" is now officially sanctioning religious discrimination in the U.S.
"South Carolina is saying that the foster care statute in HHS rules and regulations does not specify religion as a characteristic on which they are not allowed to discriminate. They say that the foster care program statute says that agencies that receive federal funding can't deny parents based on race, color or national origin, but that because that statute does not specify religion, the request that Miracle Hill accept these families is outside of the law," Lacy tells me, noting that state law in South Carolina bars this sort of discrimination, as do federal non-discrimination laws that the Administration appears to be ignoring.
"The other really scary part of this," she notes, "is that, aside from these individual waivers, eighty Republican lawmakers signed a letter to the President in May asking for even further repeal of these federal protections against discrimination. So this is not just something that is being advocated for on a state-by-state basis. This is a quiet effort from the right to change these rules in the interests of mostly Christian organizations."
Describing a similar waiver request from Texas --- which also seeks to allow discrimination against LGBTQ families as well --- she says (real) advocates of religious freedoms and civil liberties fear the South Carolina precedent is likely now to spread to other states, other federal agencies, and other matters that reach well beyond foster care while much of the media continue to be distracted with the ongoing Trump chaos...
On today's BradCast, it's the 15th Anniversary of The BRAD BLOG! So --- in addition to the news of the day --- we take a precious few minutes on today's program to reminisce a bit with longtime BradBlog.com legal contributor ERNEST A. CANNING and Green News Report co-host and BradCast producer DESI DOYEN! [Audio link to full show is posted below.]
After a few words on Canning's latest article at the blog on the "Political Revolution" embodied by the new freshman class of progressive U.S. House members and the many challenges they are now facing down in D.C., we discuss some of the lessons learned and important stories covered at our little, independent, reader- and listener-supported website over the past decade and a half.
Many of the stories we broke years ago --- too numerous to link here, on everything from electronic voting concerns and voting rights to climate change and much more --- have since become part of the national consensus as well as many popular calls for reform. That, even as much (but not all) of our independently verifiable, evidence-based news coverage was marginalized or dismissed by many in the corporate media years earlier. We discuss just a few of those stories today --- too numerous to detail here --- as we look both back and forward on this latest milestone. We also offer thanks to the many who have made all of it possible over the years, from our blogging contributors, to radio affiliate partners, to various whistleblowers (publicly known and unknown) over the years.
Of course, none of it could be done without those of you support our work via BradBlog.com/Donate. So, if you haven't hit that page in a while, please consider doing so, as we operate solely on the support of folks like you. Seriously. Please consider a one-time donation or, even better, an automated monthly donation of any amount you can afford. I hate haranguing folks for this, but it really is necessary in order for us to continue our work, which we now share on a daily basis with dozens of radio affiliates around the country and world for free! Your support alone allows that and so much more that we do at The BRAD BLOG, The BradCast and the Green News Report to continue. And if I can't ask on our 15th birthday, when can I? So click here please! And thank you!
And, yes, there was also a bit of news today for a change in Washington D.C., so we also cover that on today's program. Among those stories...
It has been an exhausting year. Both Desi and I are desperate for a much-needed mental and physical health break (and to say hello to our families, if we can remember their names) before whatever fresh/continuing hell awaits in the new year. So, I just wanted to post a quick note of thanks to those of you who have helped support our efforts over this past difficult year (and the 15 or so before them!) here at The BRAD BLOG!...
After another long (though important) fund drive at KPFK, our Pacifica Radio Network flagship station here in Los Angeles, we're finally able to open the phones to hear from listeners on today's BradCast. [Audio link follows below.]
It's been a harrowing and deadly week --- and weekend --- filled with Rightwing hate and hate mongering (coincidentally, one week before Election Day for the most important election most of us have ever lived through). So, today we kick open the phones to callers on all of the above to get a sense of where things stand at this point and to help answer a bunch of questions about the crucial midterms.
Listeners ring in with questions about reported voting problems and voter suppression around the country and failing voting machines. Also, we discuss what voters can do beyond voting to participate in democracy over the next week or so.
And then there's the caller who rang in to explain why he says he has never voted, and doesn't plan to this year either. As you might imagine, both I, and a whole bunch of callers, have a few thoughts for that guy on today's program. Enjoy!...
After a quick report on Saturday's primary elections in Hawaii (moderate Democrats did well, more progressive candidates less so), we head straight out to Las Vegas for today's BradCast, where the 26th annual hackers convention, DEF CON, held its 2nd annual Vote Hacking Village. [Audio link to show follows below.]
After every voting system on display at last year's event was hacked within minutes by conference attendees, organizers tried to make it a bit more difficult this year. They made unverifiable electronic voting systems, optical-scan paper ballot tabulators and electronic pollbooks from a number of companies --- almost all of which will be in wide use across the country once again for this November's crucial midterms --- available for investigation and penetration. Once again, the hackers in attendance made short order of pretty much all of them.
Stunning vulnerabilities [PDF] were discovered, including some that officials have known about (and ignored or tried to keep secret for years) while others were revealed for the first time. Things like Chinese pop song files were found on one system used in actual elections recently, along with a host of other disturbing findings, which we summarize today.
Other disturbing findings regard the ES&S m650, an optical scanner used to tabulate paper absentee ballots in more than half of the country. Hackers discovered several severe vulnerabilities (some of which have been known for more than a decade, and others which election officials hoped to withhold from the public), including the ease with which the machine's entire operating system can be overwritten by inserting a zipdrive with a file named "update" before powering it on. Also, electronic pollbooks were found to be corruptible in seconds and found to store unencrypted administrative passwords --- in plain text format! --- on their removable memory cards (one of which was simply "password".)
There was also a mock election run on the systems still used in states like Georgia. In that election, a candidate not even on the ballot ending up winning. In another case which officials should take note of, a ballot cast via email was intercepted and changed. "The selection of the candidate was changed so that when it was received it was different from what was sent," the organizers note. "This is a big deal for the real world because we already allow for email balloting, in special cases for Americans living overseas [such as active military]. This is allowed in 30 states plus DC."
Moreover, the Voting Village organizers also offered replicas of swing-state Sec. of State website available to some 50 children from ages 6 to 17. You'll be shocked to learn that most were able to hack the mock SoS websites in some fashion, including changing candidates names and parties, and tampering with reported elections results to show, for example, 12 billion votes cast. The fastest exploit of a Sec. of State replica site (Florida's) was by an 11-year old who did it in 10 minutes!
We're joined today to discuss all of this by Emmy-award winning journalist and documentarian LULU FRIESDAT whose video from last year's DEF CON Voting Village went viral (several times) since then, and who was on hand to document this past weekend's conference once again. She details the extraordinary "sea change" since last year's event, as many elections officials and U.S. Intelligence Community representatives were on hand for this year's festivities.
"What's really great about this year's Def Con is that we are starting to see a collaboration and communication between three groups that really have been working more as silos previously, and that is election officials, security experts, and hackers," Friesdat reports. "It was very deliberate on the part of the organizers, Jake Braun, Harri Hursti and Matt Blaze, to really try to bring those three groups together... Because we're not going to make progress on this issue unless these three groups start communicating with each other."
"We don't have a one-size-fits-all solution for this. Every county is going to have to have some different solutions. What we have are principles. And I think the principles remain the same. The principles are yes, every voter who can mark a ballot by hand, needs to mark a ballot by hand. And security experts across the board are really starting to say that, openly publicly."
"There is a sea change happening. You really could feel it. This year, there was an entire panel of election officials, whereas last year almost none of them actually came," Friesdat tells me, adding cautiously: "There are thousands of election officials all over the country who are still dragging their feet. You look at states like Georgia, and they are doing everything they can to stay in basically an unauthenticated election protocol. So it is a wide spectrum."
Among the noteworthy accounts from Friesdat, we discuss California Sec. of State Alex Padilla's call for more federal funding for election systems (meaning, more money for more computers) and Colorado Elections Manager Dwight Shellman who, though a fan of electronic tabulation, calls for routine post-election audits everywhere (which almost no states do at all.)
We also discuss the remarks at the conference by DHS Asst. Secretary for Cybersecurity and Communications Jeanette Manfra, who admitted last summer during U.S. Senate Hearings that the agency never found evidence that votes were changed in the 2016 Presidential election, in no small part, because nobody ever bothered to look! DHS never carried out any forensic investigations of voting systems, nor even bothered to count ballots to make sure they were accurately tabulated by counting computers in the election, despite the ongoing warnings by the Intelligence Community of Russian cyberattacks and interference. "Could it be done?," Friesdat asks rhetorically, "The answer, over and over and over again, is yes, it could be done. Election results could be manipulated. And is it difficult? No. It is a piece of cake."
While this year's DEF CON Voting Village was another huge leap forward in bringing concerns about all of these systems to the public, it appears we have a long way to go until American figures out the solution. I'd suggest that solution is public oversight of tabulation of hand-marked paper ballots (Not computers, but people! I call it "Democracy's Gold Standard".) But, hey, computers --- all of which are obviously wildly hackable --- could work too, right?
Speaking of which, we close today with an email from a listener who turned one of my recent rants on this issue into a poem...
On today's BradCast: It's kind of amazing that Trump's wildly corrupt Interior Dept. Secretary Ryan Zinke is still in office. Now that the EPA's Scott Pruitt is gone, and Interior just accidentally released a whole bunch of revealing information, maybe Zinke is a bit closer to the exit door. [Audio link to show follows below.]
But first up today, results from Tennessee's primary elections on Thursday, and the outlook for November in the key U.S. Senate race to replace the state's outgoing Republican Sen. Bob Corker. Popular former Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen is now set to face off against the very Trumpy GOP nominee Rep. Marsha Blackburn in a race is central to Democrats' chances of winning back a majority in the upper chamber of Congress in this year's midterms.
Following up our preview yesterday of next week's important U.S. House Special Election in Ohio's 12th Congressional District --- where Democratic candidate Danny O'Connor could very well flip that seat from "red" to "blue" on Tuesday --- our stable genius President tweeted out an endorsement yesterday for a Republican who is not even running in the race.
Also today, some encouraging news out of Texas, where the corporate owners and manager of the Arkema Chemical plant near Houston were indicted on Friday, following the "reckless" release of toxins into the air during an explosion at the plant amid Hurricane Harvey flooding last year.
Then, we're joined by AARON WEISS, Media Director of the Center for Western Priorities (and host of its Go West, Young Podcast), to explain the "monumental" screw-up last month when the U.S. Department of Interior accidentally released unredacted documents regarding the agency's deliberations over the unprecedented lifting of federal protections for a huge portion of the Grand Staircase-Escalante monument in Utah.
"We'd always suspected that the outcome was preordained. But this really makes it crystal clear that the fix was in from the beginning," Weiss tells me, detailing the Department's subsequent redactions in the documents, revealing what Zinke's agency hoped the public wouldn't find out. Namely, that priceless archaeological treasures, native American relics, and a huge tourist and recreational industry benefiting the local economies, are now endangered by the unprecedented closure of nearly half of the Grand Staircase and some 85% of Bears Ears monument (also in Utah). The two monuments are the first to be scaled back in response to Donald Trump's executive order calling for the review of some 27 national monuments established by previous Presidents.
Weiss explains the how the screw-up came about in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests: "Under the Freedom of Information Act, you're allowed to redact certain things. But then you also have this very broad exception, it's called the 'B-5 deliberative process exemption.' And it's supposed to be so that officials can discuss policy options candidly. But oftentimes we see that B5 redaction being used as what's called the 'because I want to' redaction. And that's exactly what happened here, because they wanted to redact stuff that didn't look good for them, they called that stuff 'deliberative'. even though many of these sections were not discussing policy options, they were just basic facts."
"If you look at what got mistakenly unredacted in just this one document, and think about the tens of thousands of other pages already released and yet to be released, it does raise huge questions about the way they're abusing that B5 deliberative exemption."
He goes on to offer an update on the several legal challenges facing the unprecedented closures by the Trump Administration, and how the unredacted revelations underscore Team Trump's pretty clear aim of aiding their friends in the fossil fuel extraction industry at the expense of all others. Weiss also highlights a newly emerging scandal regarding what appears to be a wildly corrupt development deal in Zinke's hometown of Whitefish, Montana, involving the Secretary, his wife, and the CEO of oil services giant Halliburton.
Finally today, we share a portion of a short video rant unleashed yesterday by Ring of Fire co-host Farron Cousins, regarding concerns about election system security and hacking in the upcoming election. In the clip, he argues that these worries might have been avoided entirely had both Democrats and Republicans listened "to people like Brad Friedman at The BRAD BLOG" who have been warning about these concerns "for more than 14 years". "If we would have listened to them years ago," Cousins argues, "we wouldn't even be having this conversation today." [Fact-check: Mostly true!]
If you're inclined to help cheer me up, a donation to our work here at The BRAD BLOG and The BradCast would go some ways toward that end. It's also very much needed these days, as you guys are the only ones who will keep us going through this year's election, if possible, and beyond!
Please take a minute or so to send some support if you can. Both Desi and I would be mighty grateful. Thanks in advance for whatever birthday gift you can afford! - Brad
A Few Great Blogs
· Baghdad Burning
· Brilliant at Breakfast
· Crooks and Liars
· Dan Froomkin
· Fired Up! Missouri
· Freedom's Phoenix
· Freeway Blogger
· Glenn Greenwald
· Huffington Post
· Jesus' General
· Juan Cole
· Washington Monthly
· Media Matters
· Nashua Advocate
· Oliver Willis
· RAW STORY
· Sanoma State's
Project Censored Sites:
· Daily Censored
· Media Freedom
· Project Censored
· Scholars & Rogues
· Skippy the Bush Kangaroo
· Talking Points Memo
· Think Progress
· Tom Tomorrow
· TV Newser
· Ben Sargent
· Bill Deore
· Bob Gorrell
· Cagle's Index
· Chan Lowe
· Don Wright
· Doug Marlette
· Glenn McCoy
· Jeff Danziger
· Joel Pett
· Mike Luckovich
· Non Sequitur
· Not Banned Yet
· Pat Oliphant
· Paul Conrad
· Ted Rall
· This Modern World
· Thomas Burns
· Tom Toles
· Tony Auth
· Stuart Carlson
Or by Snail Mail
Make check out to...
7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594
Los Angeles, CA 90028