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Latest Featured Reports | Thursday, September 29, 2022
KS Abortion Referendum Data Suggest Women Being Under-Counted in Midterm Polling: 'BradCast' 9/28/22
Guest: Tom Bonier of TargetSmart; Also: Hurricane Ian storms ashore in FL...
Critical Elections, Catastrophic Storm Bear Down: 'BradCast' 9/27/22
Poll workers needed!; Ian closing in on FL; Scofflaw TX A.G. flees process server; Congress nears Electoral Count Act update; Listener mail...
'Green News Report' 9/27/22
  w/ Brad & Desi
Ian takes aim at Florida; Fiona broke records in Canada; Noru pummels Philippines; Winter fuel prices soar; PLUS: Pacific Island nations call for fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty at U.N.
Recent GNRs: 9/22/22 - 9/20/22 - Archives...
'Gold Standard' SCOTUS Poll Finds Majority of Americans Support Expansion of High Court: 'BradCast' 9/26/22
Also: Disinformationists; Fascism rising; Hurricane Ian threatens FL; Callers ring in...
Sunday 'Heavy Traffic' Toons
Be sure to check PDiddie's latest collection of the week's best toons before crossing state borders. You're welcome!...
Trump, Lindell, Ginni Thomas --- Geniuses All!:
'BradCast' 9/22/22
GOP election conspiracists have bad lawyers; Also: Garland's moving (and telling) remarks at swearing-in of new American citizens...
'Green News Report' 9/22/22
  w/ Brad & Desi
U.N. Sec-Gen wants fossil fuel industry to pay up; New plastics initiative; Puerto Rico still lacking power and clean water; PLUS: Senate approves first climate treaty in decades...
Recent GNRs: 9/20/22 - 9/15/22 - Archives...
It's National Voter Registration Day!
(Who Knew?): 'BradCast' 9/20/22
Also: Beer shortage?!; More on DeSantis' migrant scam; Electoral Count Act reform news; Good (and bad) news for disabled voters; Much more...
'Green News Report' 9/20/22
Simultaneous storms, in Puerto Rico, Alaska, Japan; Climate change juiced Pakistan floods; Aussie energy turnabout; PLUS: Plastics plant blocked in LA...
Kidnapping is a Crime. Will DeSantis Be Held Accountable for It?: 'BradCast' 9/19/22
Also: Media still pulling punches on GOP; Elizabeth finally buried, so will CNN finally cover weekend's THREE hurricane landfalls?!; Plus, callers!...
Sunday 'Pawn' Toons
Make your move to PDiddie's latest collection of the week's best political toons...
Reagan's Big Government Gift to Big Pharma is Still Giving, Killing: 'BradCast' 9/16/22
Guest: Ernest A. Canning; Also: Trump's failed GA election theft; NH GOP Sen. nom flip-flops on 2020 denial; Patagonia gives away company to save planet...
More Good News for Ds; More Fraud Accountability for Rs: 'BradCast' 9/15/22
Biden approval up, strike averted; Trump NY fraud; Feds probe Lindell CO fraud; Fraud probe of MI GOP A.G. nom; NY Election Commish charged w/ absentee vote fraud...
'Green News Report' 9/15/22
U.N. says world in 'uncharted climate territory'; Summer 2022 hottest ever; Clean energy will save world $12 trillion; PLUS: Biden touts IRA, national EV charging network...
'Groundbreaking' Victory for CA's Half-Million Fast-Food Workers: 'BradCast' 9/14/22
Guest: TAP's Harold Meyerson; Also: Rail worker strike looms; Noteworthy primary results from DE, RI, NH...
BARCODED BALLOTS AND BALLOT MARKING DEVICES
BMDs pose a new threat to democracy in all 50 states...
VIDEO: 'Rise of the Tea Bags'
Brad interviews American patriots...
'Democracy's Gold Standard'
Hand-marked, hand-counted ballots...
Brad's Upcoming Appearances
(All times listed as PACIFIC TIME unless noted)
Media Appearance Archives...
'Special Coverage' Archives
GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal 2012...
VA GOP VOTER REG FRAUDSTER OFF HOOK
Felony charges dropped against VA Republican caught trashing voter registrations before last year's election. Did GOP AG, Prosecutor conflicts of interest play role?...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Trump lawyers sanctioned, will face disbarment probes; Capitol officers sue Trump; Terror suspect sentenced in MI Guv kidnap plot; House files massive 1/6 records requests; TX AG Paxton clears TX AG Paxton; More...
By Brad Friedman on 8/26/2021 6:57pm PT  

Donald Trump tried to steal the 2020 election. We really must stop describing his efforts and those by his supporters as "questioning the results" or "claiming fraud" or "trying to overturn the election." The fact is, Trump tried to steal it. He used every means at his disposal to try and do so. Thankfully, he is largely a failure at pretty much everything, so it didn't work, though we now know it came exceedingly close. So, let's start calling it for what it is: An unprecedented attempted by a President of the United States to try and steal a Presidential election. To that end, accountability is now happening. Slowly but quite assuredly, along with a number of other related accountability stories on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

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

  • Some of the breaking news on today's terror attack at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan, which killed at least 13 U.S. service members and 60 Afghans and seriously injured many more. ISIS-K, an off-shoot of the Islamic State and an enemy of the Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the attack by two suicide bombers. If anything, Thursday's tragedy amidst the largest airlift in U.S. history --- following the swift takeover of the country by the Taliban --- simply serves to underscore even further why the U.S. pullout must continue, and why we certainly shouldn't have been there for 20 years (if at all);
  • In much less horrific news, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) released its 2020 post-election survey [PDF] of various voting and election-related data from all 50 states last year. While The Guardian's Sam Levine characterizes the report as proving the election was "a remarkable success", we explain why that may be a bit of an overstatement. That said, the data does reveal yet again that, while there were far too many rejections of absentee and mail-in ballots (as is always the case, but especially amid pandemic voting last year), there is still no evidence at all to even suggest that the Presidential election was stolen in any way, shape or form by Joe Biden, the Democrats or anyone else. Not that Donald Trump didn't try (and fail) to do exactly that, of course;
  • In much brighter related news, a federal judge in Michigan on Wednesday brought some serious accountability down on nine of the Trump attorneys, including Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, who both helped Trump try to steal the 2020 election by filing fraudulent lawsuits, in this case in Michigan, fraudulently claiming that the election was stolen, using fraudulent claims about fraud. All nine lawyers were excoriated by U.S. District Court Judge Linda V. Parker's scathing 110-page order [PDF], which should (hopefully) end each of the attorneys' careers as officers of the court. Parker mandated the Trump lawyers pay attorneys fees accrued by the city of Detroit and state of Michigan in defending against the "frivolous" so-called "Kraken" lawsuit; take 12 hours of legal classes each (including 6 on Election Law); and, most importantly, face investigations for possible suspension and/or disbarment by legal authorities in each of their home states;
  • More accountability for Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 election, specifically for the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol that he incited as part of that effort. Seven Capitol Police officers on Thursday filed a lawsuit [PDF] against Trump, several far-right extremist groups charged with aiding the deadly plot, and even against Trump associates like Roger Stone. It is, as the New York Times describes it, "the most expansive civil effort to date seeking to hold Mr. Trump and his allies legally accountable." Trump is already facing two other similar lawsuits filed by the NAACP and by Rep. Eric Swalwell. But, no doubt, the disgraced former President and his supporters will see this new complaint differently, because it is filed by police officers and, as you know, Republicans always "back the blue", right?;
  • That lawsuit follows just one day after the bi-partisan U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6th attack issued a massive series of records requests to at least 8 different federal agencies for documents related to Trump's movements, actions and meetings on January 6th, and in the weeks and months both before and after. The requests were sent to, among others, the FBI, Dept. of Homeland Security and National Archives, where Presidential White House records are stored. Trump is apparently livid about the effort, describing it as a "partisan exercise" being carried out by a "Leftist" House Committee. (That may come as a surprise to "Leftist" Committee members Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger);
  • In still more accountability news today, tangentially related to Trump's attempt to steal last year's election in Michigan: The sentence for the first domestic terrorist, among some 13 charged in the plot to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last year, was handed down on Wednesday. A 25-year old man who, according to Justice Department prosecutors, cooperated with the investigation after initially pleading not guilty, changed his plea and was sentenced to more than 6 years in prison on charges of providing material support for terrorist acts and felony firearms charges. The failed conspiracy, according to the FBI and Whitmer, sprang from Trump's attempt to vilify the Governor for her science-based handling of the COVID pandemic, in a year in which Trump was willing to say and do anything to win the important battleground state. (He lost it by 150,000 votes instead);
  • In accountability news only spiritually related to Trump, a federal appeals court declined to overturn the sentence of the man who killed nine Black parishioners at the Emanuel Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015. The now-27-year old avowed white supremacist is the first person charged with a death sentence for committing a federal hate crime. While accountability is great, a life sentence would have been sufficient. Killing people is bad, as some of us learned even before Kindergarten. Apparently, the U.S. Government has yet to do so;
  • Only politically related to Trump, the Republican state Attorney General in South Dakota, Jason Ravnsborg, who fatally struck a pedestrian last year and left him to die, decided to take a plea deal rather than begin his trial today. Nonetheless, as of airtime, despite the hit and run fatality, Ravnsborg was still in office as the state's top law enforcement official;
  • And, in related corrupt Republican state Attorney General news, definitely politically related to Trump, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is also still in office. That, despite being charged with multiple felonies for securities fraud some time ago (and, so far, evading trial on those years-old, but still-pending indictments); facing potential disbarment by the State Bar of Texas for his attempt to help Trump steal the election with a bogus, fraudulent, rejected lawsuit filed with the U.S. Supreme Court to try and overturn results in four non-Texas states; and under investigation by the FBI after 7 top staffers in his office quit and filed a legal complaint detailing how AG Paxton was involved in a serious bribery and abuse of power scheme involving protection for one of his top donors and a scheme that involved having the man give a job to his mistress. Well, on that federal investigation, AG Paxton had some good news this week! In an unsigned 374-page report [PDF] published by AG Paxton's office on AG Paxton's letterhead, AG Paxton's own internal investigation found that "AG Paxton’s actions were lawful" and that "AG Paxton committed no crime". Phew! That was close! I'm sure the FBI is calling off their probe, even as we speak.
  • Finally, as a late brewing potential major hurricane (Ida) spins toward the Gulf Coast for possible landfall over the weekend, Desi Doyen joins us today for our latest Green News Report, with a suspiciously inordinate amount of encouraging news. But don't worry, there are a few items of the usual catastrophic nature GNR is known for as well. We'd hate to leave anyone disappointed...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: FSFP's Courtney Hostetler on federal suit challenging two new vote suppression laws in AZ; Also: John Lewis Voting Rights Enhancement Act passed by House Dems; NC court restores voting rights to 50k...
By Brad Friedman on 8/25/2021 6:32pm PT  

On today's BradCast: It was bad enough in 2013 when Chief Justice John Roberts gutted Section 5, the key provision of the Voting Rights Act. That section prevented discriminatory voting laws before they could take effect. By the time Justice Samuel Alito, on behalf of the Republicans' stolen and packed 6 to 3 majority, legislated from the bench last month to create new tests for Section 2 of the VRA, pulled largely out of thin air, it felt like there was little left in the landmark 1965 federal legislation to protect voters. But voting rights champions are moving forward in courts, nonetheless, even as the battle for new federal voting rights legislation continues.

On Tuesday night, without a single Republican vote, Democrats in the House adopted the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The measure would fix much of the damage done to Section 5 of the VRA by the GOP Supremes in 2013, allowing laws with a discriminatory impact on minorities to be blocked in all fifty states before they can suppress voters. But that bill have to overcome a Senate filibuster by Republicans to become law. Still, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia says he support its passage, so perhaps he'll support the modification to the filibuster necessary to pass it. Given the federal lawsuit filed last week in Arizona against two new GOP voter suppression schemes in that state, perhaps AZ's Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, another opponent of filibuster reform --- even on behalf off democracy --- will rethink her position as well when the Senate returns from its August recess.

On Monday, however, there was some bona fide good news out of the very closely divided state of North Carolina, where a court overturned a century old law that prevented former felons from voting upon release from prison. The measure, originally enacted after the Civil War to stop access to the ballot box for black Americans, was finally overturned this week, allowing some 50,000 former felons to register to vote immediately. Of course, state Republicans are appealing the ruling.

And, despite good news last month from a Florida court, tossing a GOP cap on how much money can be donated to get initiatives onto the ballot in the Sunshine State, the effort to once again reenfranchise former felons in that state will now have to wait until the 2024 ballot. That, even after Florida voters already voted for exactly that in a landslide 65% to 35% victory in 2018. It seems Republicans will never run out of ways to prevent some 800,000 returning citizens in the state from being able to participate in their own democracy. It's what they do. It's also why it is so critical to adopt federal reforms, currently being blocked by Republicans and a couple of intransigent Democratic Senators.

In Arizona last week, several voting and civil rights group filed a federal lawsuit challenging two laws recently enacted by state Republicans aimed at suppressing the minority vote, according to our guest today, COURTNEY HOSTETLER, Senior Counsel at the non-partisan government watchdog Free Speech for People (FSFP). Her organization is litigating the case on behalf of Mi Familia Vota, Arizona Coalition for Change, Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA), and Chispa Arizona. One law ends the state's very popular permanent early voting list, which allowed voters to receive Vote-by-Mail ballots automatically for every election. The other restriction requires voters who forgot to sign their VBM ballot to do so by 7pm on Election Night. That, even though voters judged to have a "mismatched" signature on their absentee ballot are allowed to "cure" the problem for up to five days after Election Day.

On the first restriction, Hostetler explains today that the permanent early voting list "is supposed to permanent. It's right in the name." But under the new law, she says, "if you don't vote in two consecutive election cycles, you're out. Two election cycles is not that many. There are local elections, many elections that happen. If you decide to skip two elections, for whatever reason, you're off this list and you might not realize it" until its too late.

On the second restriction, she describes that many voters are unlikely to be able to sign their ballot in time, or even be notified that there is a problem, particularly if they only dropped it off the day before the election and especially in the many cases where there is a two-hour, one-way trip for voters forced to use public transportation.

All of this is supposedly to prevent "voter fraud", according to Republicans in a state which has been unable to show any evidence of substantive fraud in past elections, much less fraud that would be prevented by the new restrictions. On the other hand, as Hostetler details, these laws --- which appear neutral on their face --- are specifically designed to "impact minority voters" in several different nefarious ways.

"We can't divorce this from the history of voting suppression in Arizona," she argues, listing many of the ways in which minorities will see a disparate impact from these laws. "Arizona has an unfortunate and long history of voter suppression of Latino, Black and Native American voters."

As the federal complaint [PDF] filed last week reads: "It is no coincidence that the Arizona legislature enacted these changes only after an election in which (1) for the first time in recent memory, the presidential candidate preferred by Arizona voters of color won; and (2) voters of color increasingly used early voting --- the target of the new laws --- to help elect their candidate of choice."

But how can these restrictions be challenged in federal court, given Justice Alito's absurd, created-from-whole-cloth new "guideposts" for adjudicating Section 2 cases under the VRA, where, as we discussed on The BradCast last month, he literally conceded that discriminatory laws are okay, so long as they don't discriminated too much?

Hostetler explains the groups' strategy for challenging these laws under the VRA as well as Amendments 1, 14, and 15 of the U.S. Constitution which, she argues, these restrictions "clearly violate". She also speaks to the necessity of passage of new federal laws to give voting rights attorneys more tools to work with, since SCOTUS has twice gutted the VRA over the past decade. She similarly offers advice on and what we can all do --- as voters, as citizens --- to help reverse this cycle of insidious voter suppression now setting in across the country...especially in swing states like Kyrsten Sinema's Arizona...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Also: $1T bipartisan infrastructure bill clears Senate; Dominion sues more wingnuts; MyPillow Guy's CNN nightmare...
By Brad Friedman on 8/10/2021 6:24pm PT  

As Desi notes on today's BradCast, the underlying theme to our boatload of stories is that "elections matter". Then again, that seems to pretty much be our underlying theme every day on this program. Glad she's finally noticed! [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

Among the too-many stories covered on today's show...

  • Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo finally resigns amid his sexual harassment scandal. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will become New York's next Governor and the first woman to serve in that role;
  • $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill finally clears the U.S. Senate with a 69 to 30 vote (including 19 Repubs voting in favor with all of the Dems.) It's a big early victory for President Biden's "Build Back Better" agenda and a feather in his cap. But there's a long way to go still, including an eventual vote in the House and, most importantly since everything hinges on it, agreement among Dems on the much larger $3.5 trillion, Dems-only reconciliation package paired to go with it. But, for now, so far so good;
  • Pandemic horrors continue to worsen in the U.S., despite easy availability of free, safe and effective vaccines to prevent it. The most devastated states are run mostly or completely by Republicans. Arkansas had just 8 ICU beds available in the entire state as of Monday, according to Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, after throwing away 80,000 unused vaccine doses last week. Mississippi had 0 ICU beds open and more than 200 patients waiting in ERs for a room, with all numbers heading straight up. Louisiana hospitals have returned to the bad old pre-vaccine days, but Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is "praying and fasting", so that should help. Florida is smashing their pandemic records with hospitalizations at an all-time peak and young, healthy and unvaccinated residents now dying (many from the same church over the past two weeks.) At the same time, Texas is halting elective medical procedures and begging out-of-state health care workers to come to the state. But the Republican Governors in both TX and FL are banning school districts from requiring masks for staff and children (who, under 12, cannot be vaccinated!) in the new school year. Two of the largest districts in Texas are, thankfully, defying Gov. Greg Abbott's authoritarian order. Several districts in Florida are doing the same in response to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is now threatening to withhold salaries of Superintendents and School Board Members who ignore his tyrannical and deadly edicts;
  • In Wisconsin, where a Democratic Governor presides along side a gerrymandered GOP-controlled state legislature, Gov. Tony Evers vetoed several Republican absentee ballot voter suppression laws today, which would have affected disabled and elderly voters in particular, and challenged the state Assembly's schemes to carry out an Arizona-style post-election "audit";
  • Speaking of 2020 denialism, Dominion Voting Systems filed three more defamation lawsuits today, seeking $1.6 billion in damages each, against wingnut news outlets Newsmax and One America News Network (OANN), as well as Trump MAGA billionaire Patrick Byrne, the former Overstock CEO and a major financier of the AZ Audit and huckster of 2020 denialism and fetishist merchandise and media. Today's new legal complaints, filed in federal court, are in addition to previous similar ones filed against Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, as well as MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and Fox "News". (Ever wonder why these "news" organizations are being sued by voting machines companies, but we haven't been, despite our nearly-20 years of critical reporting on them? There's a reason for that, as we also discuss today.);
  • And, speaking of the MyPillow Guy, CNN's Drew Griffin took apart his "Absolute Proof" of election fraud in an investigative report late last week. Even as Griffin made a few errors himself, suffice to say it didn't go well for MyPillow Guy, who is also reportedly having a tough time today kicking off his three-day "Cyber Symposium" in South Dakota, after which he has promised his "absolute proof" will result in a 9 to 0 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate Donald Trump before the month is out! Sounds plausible;
  • Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, as the U.N. declares "code red for humanity" in its latest assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), while apocalyptic wildfires and drought play out around the world at the very same time from Northern California to Greece. What an elaborate "hoax"!

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Also: Chair of Trump Inaugural Committee, Tom Barrack, arrested, charged with acting as foreign agent, lying to FBI...
By Brad Friedman on 7/20/2021 6:44pm PT  

Among the many sad legacies of the awful Donald Trump years, is how angry everyone has become in its wake. For always-angry Trumpers, ticking off "the libs" is a feature, not a bug. For progressives, however, while there is much to be justifiably angry about, we are wise to hold our outrage for points that actually matter...and happen to be true. We've got plenty of both on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show is posted at end of this summary.]

First up, shortly before airtime today, the Dept. of Justice arrested and charged Trump's longtime friend, advisor and top fund-riser, Tom Barrack, who chaired the disgraced former President's corrupt Inaugural Committee in 2017. Barrack was charged on seven federal counts, including using his access to Trump to lobby for the United Arab Emirates and lying about it to federal agents. As an unregistered agent for the UAE, Barack allegedly lobbied both the Trump Campaign and Administration on their behalf, joining a growing list of Trump friends, officials and associates found to have unlawfully lobbied the so-called "America First" Administration on behalf of foreign nations like Turkey, Ukraine and the UAE, before lying about it to the FBI.

In other news out of Joe Biden's Dept. of Justice, Attorney General Merrick Garland, on Monday, issued a new policy prohibiting federal prosecutors from seizing phone, text and email records from journalists, with a few reasonable exceptions. While the Obama Administration did some of that, the Trump Administration took it to new heights, secretly spying on reporters at Washington Post, New York Times and CNN --- as well as Democratic members of Congress, their aides and even their family members --- all considered (by Trump) to be his political enemies. Freedom of Press advocates applauded Garland's "historic" Monday memo [PDF], as the A.G. also called for federal legislation to buttress the new DoJ policy.

That rather important story was somewhat overshadowed on Monday, however, by outrage from the progressive Left over a misreported story about the DoJ's failure to file charges against Trump's Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross who, the agency's Inspector General found, lied twice to Congress about his roll in unsuccessfully attempting to add a question on immigration status to the 2020 U.S. Census. After the IG's investigation, which began in 2019, the office referred the matter to the DoJ for criminal prosecution.

Progressives were up in arms yesterday after it was inaccurately reported by several legit outlets, including Government Executive and AP, that Biden's DoJ, under the direction of A.G. Garland, had declined to prosecute Ross. However, as both outlets later acknowledged with corrections to their stories, it was actually the Trump DoJ which refused to prosecute Ross. He was at least the fifth Trump Cabinet member to have been referred for criminal prosecution to Trump's corrupt DoJ. (The others include his Interior Dept. chief Ryan Zinke, his HHS Secretary Alex Azar, Trump's second Secretary of Veteran's Affairs Robert Wilkie and his Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who happens to be Mitch McConnell's wife. They all skated.) Whether Biden's A.G. can or will revive those recommendations to bring charges is a separate matter --- and there is plenty of other stuff to be disappointed and/or outraged about regarding some of Garland's seemingly inscrutable decisions since taking the helm at the Department --- but the outrage on Monday from progressives over the declination to charge Ross appears to have been both premature and misdirected.

Next, speaking of fact-checking and going off half-cocked (or, in Trump's case, fully-cocked), late last week, Doug Logan, CEO of Cyber Ninjas, the rightwing, conspiracy-promoting company contracted by the Arizona state Republican Senate to carry out a post-election "forensic audit" of Maricopa County (Phoenix)'s 2.1 million ballots cast last year, offered public testimony on the progress of his three-month (and continuing) efforts to date.

Logan's remarks vividly demonstrated the dangers of hiring someone who knows absolutely nothing about elections or voting systems (or audits, for that matter) to carry out, in secret, what should have been a fully public exercise. It has been referred to as a "fraudit" and clown show by critics, including both Republican and Democratic state and county officials.

The former President offered three statements on Logan's remarks over the ensuing two days, the most detailed of which charged, falsely, that Logan's testimony "showed 168,000 fraudulent ballots printed on illegal paper (unofficial ballots), 74,000 mail in ballots received that were never mailed (magically appearing ballots), 11,000 voters were added to the voter rolls AFTER the election and still voted, all the access logs to the machines were wiped, and the election server was hacked during the election."

You'll be shocked to learn that absolutely NONE of Trump's claims are actually true.

Over the weekend, AP, CNN and others published lengthy fact-checks responding to the false claims by Logan and the wildly inaccurate nonsense from Trump. Today, we walk through some of false claims, detailing how both Trump and Logan got pretty much everything completely wrong, in the state where Joe Biden was certified by the Republican Governor to have defeated Trump by more than 10,400 votes last November. To date, there has been zero legitimate evidence to suggest otherwise in AZ or any of the other several states that flipped in 2020 from Republican to Democratic after four hellish years of the failed Trump Presidency.

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, with news on last week's catastrophic flooding in Germany and Central Europe, wildfires continuing to explode in the parched U.S. West, and disturbing news regarding both the Amazon rainforest and the near future of high-tide flooding...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Guest: Legal analyst Ernest A. Canning on reforming CA's 110-year old Recall process; Also: TX DEMS FLEE STATE TO BLOCK GOP VOTE-SUPPRESSION BILL PASSAGE IN SPECIAL SESSION...
By Brad Friedman on 7/12/2021 6:05pm PT  

Well, today's BradCast, turned out to be a bit more exciting than planned. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

Just an hour or so before air time, Democratic Texas state lawmakers fled the state en masse to deprive state Republican lawmakers of a quorum during a special legislative session called to adopt a massive voter suppression bill. That, after last year's election was found to have been "smooth and secure", according to state officials. GOP-controlled committees in both the state House and Senate jammed through versions of the bill over the weekend, following overnight sessions in which hundreds of members of the public spoke against the measures.

Nonetheless, outnumbered in both chambers, more than 50 Democratic state Representatives left on chartered flights out of Austin on Monday to deprive Republicans of a legislative quorum. They reportedly headed for D.C. where they hope to press Senate Democrats to pass federal legislation to protect voting rights to help counter the Texas effort and other bills like it being adopted by Republican-controlled states across the country.

The rare move to leave the state --- where they can't be rounded up by Texas law enforcement and forced back to the Capitol --- comes after a Democratic walkout from the state Senate on the final day of the regular legislative session back in May. That walkout ran out the clock on the GOP voter-suppression bill at the time. Now, Dems would have to stay away for almost 30 days --- the length of the special session called by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott --- in order to block the legislative quorum needed to pass the measure in the Lone Star State's House of Representatives. The version of the bill Republicans now hope to pass would, among other things, ban the drive-thru and 24-hour voting sites that helped enfranchise tens of thousands of Houston voters last November, criminalize election officials mailing absentee ballot applications to voters and add new ID restrictions for mail-in voting, which is already incredibly difficult in Texas. All of the measures, according to voting rights experts, are both unnecessary would serve to disenfranchise marginalized voters, from minority groups to students to the elderly. We will, of course, be following this story closely in the days ahead.

Meanwhile, out West, blazing hot temperatures and extremely dry conditions amidst a years-long mega-draught have help sparked enormous fires in Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, Colorado and California. The record fires, heat and drought are part of the cumulative effect of man-made climate change now devastating the nation and the planet. A massive fire in Oregon over the weekend disrupted service on three power transmission lines providing up to 5,500 megawatts of electricity to neighboring California. The power cuts, amid record heat, threaten a state already facing dire water shortages. Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom called for voluntary cutbacks in water usage of 15% by residents, agricultural operations and other businesses. Over the weekend, state power officials asked customers to cut back power usage.

With those multiple, very real emergencies now under way (including the rising threat of the Delta variant of the coronavirus in a state that has otherwise managed the pandemic very well under Newsom's leadership), the popular Democratic Governor now faces a GOP-funded recall election in just over two months time.

If Newsom were to be removed from office on September 14th, it would be only the second time in the state's 110-year history of the Gubernatorial Recall process. The last time was in 2003, when Republicans similarly ran a well-funded, professional misinformation and outrage campaign in order to oust a Governor. Newsom, elected to his first term in 2018, would otherwise face reelection next year anyway.

Late last week at The BRAD BLOG, our longtime legal analyst ERNEST A. CANNING highlighted the long, fascinating, ">progressive history of the state's Recall process, before arguing that it has gone awry in recent decades due to state Republicans' abuse of the process. He has outlined three suggested reforms that make a lot of sense, to help prevent much of the abuse of the process by Republicans in recent years. He argues that GOP policies in the state --- what's left of them --- have become so unpopular that the party is no longer seemingly able to win any state wide elections...unless they can engineer a low-turnout one, as they hope to see against Newsom in September.

"It's critical that everyone who is disgusted by this recall show up and vote," Canning argues. "The fact is, if Californians show up and vote, this recall will go down. But if you don't show up --- that's what the Republicans are banking on."

Among the reforms Canning is calling for after the upcoming Recall effort (which could cost state tax-payers as much as $400 million): Replacing a recalled Governor with the Lt. Governor (usually of the same party as the Governor), instead of holding a separate election for his or her replacement; Eliminating paid signature gathering by professional companies; and limiting the allowable reasons for Recalls of state officials. Canning joins us on today's program to explain and defend all of those suggestions, which he'd like to see put to voters on a statewide ballot referendum as part of the 2022 General Elections.

Finally, we take a few calls at the end of today's surprisingly busy show...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Also: Powell and Flynn call for coup in U.S.; Big Oil's very (very) bad day...
By Brad Friedman on 6/1/2021 5:26pm PT  

Desi and I are back on today's BradCast, after a week of non-stop jackhammers outside of our studio. The construction is still ongoing, but the jackhammers, we are told, are mostly done. So, we're trying to work around the noise as best as possible this week. (Though if a rerun unexpectedly shows up, that will be why!) And, happily, we're back just in time to report on the fights both for and against democracy in the great state of Texas over this past Memorial Day weekend. [Audio link to show is posted below summary.]

To that end, the loudest noises heard across the nation over the weekend, weren't jackhammers, but the march of Democrats, fighting to save democracy in Texas by walking out of the state House of Representatives on Sunday night, leaving behind no quorum to pass the GOP's major anti-voting bill. In a state dominated by Republicans --- in the Governor's mansion and both chambers of the state legislature --- Democrats were successfully able to kill one of the most onerous pieces of voter suppression legislation introduced by any state following the 2020 elections, by running out the clock. At least for now.

In Texas last November, things went very well, with the Secretary of State's office declaring the 2020 elections had been both "smooth and secure". Donald Trump easily won the state by about 630,000 votes, and Republicans held on to their majorities in both houses of the state legislature.

Unfortunately for the GOP, however, voter turnout --- in one of the lowest turnout states in the nation --- actually increased last November, including in Democratic-leaning jurisdictions like Harris County (Houston). Well, Republicans can't have that! They see the writing on the wall! More people voting, means more Democrats winning and more Republicans losing. So, over the weekend, at the very end of this year's legislative session, Republicans in state House and Senate, deliberating in secret, produced a whopper of a voter suppression bill that would make it much more difficult to vote by mail (which is already extraordinarily restricted in the Lone Star State); shorten weekend voting hours, including those used by Souls to the Polls efforts by black churches; make it a jail felony for election officials to send absentee ballot request forms to voters; outlaw drive-thru and 24-hour voting sites (used by some 140,000 last year to vote in Houston, where turnout increased by 10%); outlaw driving more than two non-family members to the polls without permission from the government; and deeply lower the threshold for overturning an election based on fraudulent ballots, even if the ballots in question were not cast for the winner of the initial vote count. All of that, among other new restrictons to make it more difficult to vote in a state that a recent study found was already the most difficult state to vote in.

But, after the wee-hours party-line passage of the 67-page bill, made public just before the final vote in the Senate late on Saturday night of the holiday weekend, the plan for final passage in the House went awry, thanks to a Democratic walk-out that left the chamber without the required two-thirds of its members needed for a quorum to hold a vote. As it happened on the last day for passage in the legislative session, the measure, Senate Bill 7 (obnoxously named the "Election Integrity Protection Act"), died a welcome death --- "welcome" at least to supporters of voting rights and democracy. Governor Greg Abbott (decidedly not such a supporter) was furious, and has threatened to withhold pay to legislators after the bill was killed. He has also declared the measure to be a "must pass" bill in a special emergency session he has vowed to call...at some point in near future.

The heroic Texas Democratic legislators who fought to keep democracy alive for another day in the Lone Star state by using the "last tool in [their] toolbox" to block the measure, subsequently pleaded with Congressional legislators in D.C. to pass the For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Act at the federal level, to help stave off the worst elements of the Texas bills, and others like it, which have already passed by some 14 states, with more on the way.

Those federal measures to protect democracy, rather than undermine it, are unfortunately being blocked first by Republicans in the U.S. Senate, and secondly by West Virginia's Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, the only Dem of 50 in the upper chamber to not yet sign on as co-sponsor of the For the People Act --- a sweeping bill to reform and protect elections and campaigns in all 50 states. That, as both Manchin and Arizona's Sen. Kyrsten Sinema have been unwilling to reform the Senate filibuster in order to pass the critical election safeguards with a simple majority before 2022. Without filibusterer reform, Dems would somehow need to get 10 Senate Republicans on board to overcome a filibuster, an impossibility.

We explain all of this today in a fairly monster rant.

Next, in case it's still unclear what supporters of democracy are now being forced to contend with in these United States, we have a quick review of the weekend's three-day QAnon conspiracy conference in Dallas. Called "For God and Country: Patriot Roundup", the forum included an appearance by Trump attorney Sidney Powell, who called for the failed former President to be "reinstated" with a "new inauguration date" set, due to "abject fraud" and "obtaining a coup of the United States of America" last year. Of course, there is zero evidence of such fraud, despite her many failed lawsuits which falsely argued otherwise before being largely laughed out of court. As to a "coup", well, another featured guest at the Roundup called for exactly that. Literally.

When Trump's former National Security Advisor, Lt. General Michael Flynn (pardoned by Trump after he pleaded guilty to several criminal federal felonies last year), was asked by an audience member why we shouldn't have a military coup like the one under way in Myanmar. Flynn responded: "No reason," in stunning remarks captured on video tape. "I mean, it should happen here," he told the crowd. But, by Monday, after calls for Flynn to be held accountable for calling for the seditious overthrow of the United States, Flynn offered one hell of a walk back, claiming he didn't say at all what he very clearly said...as captured on video tape.

Finally, amidst the darkness of American democracy under assault as we've not seen since the Civil War itself, some good news. Ironically enough, it comes via our latest Green News Report, wherein Desi Doyen gets us caught up on a remarkably bad day for Big Oil last week, when the planet's three largest fossil fuel companies, Exxon, Chevron and Shell, all took big hits in either the boardroom or the courtroom. All of which is very helpful news indeed for our odds of mitigating the deadly climate emergency that all three companies spent so many years exacerbating and lying about. So, along with cheering on the heroic Dems in Texas, there's a bit more to be happy about as we walk out of today's BradCast!...

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Guest: Marilyn Marks of Coalition for Good Governance; Also: SCOTUS takes up abortion; Gaetz in trouble; Israel bombs AP's building in Gaza...
By Brad Friedman on 5/17/2021 6:54pm PT  

As AP reports today, a new lawsuit "against [Georgia's] secretary of state and the members of the State Election Board was filed in federal court in Atlanta by county election board members, individual voters, election volunteers, nonprofit organizations and a journalist." As broken on today's BradCast, that journalist is me. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

I am one of the several named plaintiffs in the 200-page suit [PDF] filed in U.S. District Court on Monday seeking to block a number of outrageous and dangerous provisions in the state GOP's new voter-suppression bill. While the measure, SB202 [PDF], adopted by GA Republicans, does a lot of terrible stuff, some of which is well known by now (making it harder to vote by mail, banning absentee drop boxes, blocking the distribution of food or water on long voting lines), much of which will disproportionately suppress minority voters, there are a number of other provisions which are simply jaw-dropping, but have not yet been challenged in the several suits previously filed against the law by a number of civil rights and voting rights groups.

My part in the suit, filed today by the non-partisan, non-profit, indispensable Coalition for Good Governance, revolves around press freedoms which are outrageously and unconstitutionally trampled by SB202. In fact, as discussed on the show today with the Coalition's Executive Director, MARILYN MARKS, no small amount of the detailed reporting we have done here over the years focused on Georgia has now been criminalized by the new statute!

As detailed in the complaint (see the section on "Plaintiff FRIEDMAN" beginning on p. 101), it is now unlawful to report on "mail balloting discrepancies or security concerns that he or The BRAD BLOG or BradCast journalists may personally observe as members of the press"; "Plaintiff FRIEDMAN will be injured because the party appointed observers he has relied on to supply first-hand accounts...are are prohibited under penalty of misdemeanor from reporting their observations" on Georgia elections to me; As Marks explains, photographs that I or others may have taken in a polling place and used on the blog would be illegal; Observers from the media watching the tallying of absentee ballots will be committing a crime just by reporting on how many ballots they are "estimating" or "attempting to estimate" have been counted or are left to be tallied, according to the language of the hastily written SB2020 ("It's a thought crime!," Marks charges. "Literally, it says you cannot 'estimate' or 'attempt to estimate' anything about votes in the ballot processing room for mail ballots!"); Video interviews or photographs taken inside of counting rooms or in polling places in front Georgia's giant, new, unverifiable touchscreen voting systems could be evidence of a felony(!) under the new law, which poll workers, poll watchers, media observers and even voters could now be charged with under state law!

"On BRAD BLOG," Marks observes, "you frequently post a picture, many a picture of election activity, including people in the mail ballot rooms looking at hand-marked voted ballots. To take a picture of a ballot now is a misdemeanor." Yes, those posted photos would now be evidence of a crime. "You would not be permitted to take a picture of anonymous ballots. We see thousands of pictures, every election, of voted ballots being counted. But for some reason --- I guess we know what reason --- they are criminalizing it."

Yes, the photo used above, as taken from the complaint's numerous examples, of voters voting at Atlanta's State Farm Arena last year in Fulton County, could be used as evidence of a felony by the Reuters photo-journalist, Chris Aluka Berry, who took it.

As the suit notes, "Plaintiff FRIEDMAN is already injured by SB202 because the criminalization of constitutionally protected activity has a chilling effect on his exercise of First Amendment rights" and because "Plaintiff FRIEDMAN is threatened with injuries arising from SB202’s prior restraints on his First Amendment right of free speech and right of freedom of the press."

We have "reported on Georgia election integrity and election security hundreds of times over the last almost twenty years," the lawsuit accurately explains. Much of that coverage could now constitute a state crime under this horrible, unconstitutional law. "I have a feeling they will find any little tripwire they can about the two of us," Marks tells me. "If you were complimentary toward Georgia, I don't think you'd have any problems."

This BradCast, for example, from June of last year, featuring a Democratic Party post-election adjudication observer (and now co-plaintiff in this suit) Jeanne DuFort --- breaking the news of her discovery that GA's new Dominion tabulation computers were failing to count votes on tens of thousands of ballots --- would have been a crime in several ways, according to the state's new law.

There are other provisions in SB202 of concern as well --- beyond those being challenged in several of the voting rights lawsuits --- as Marks explains in the Coalition's press release today, from the law's "Takeover Provision" that permits bi-partisan County Elections Boards to be removed entirely and replaced by a single partisan, for virtually any reason (even minor infractions by a low-level worker up to four years ago!) to a few items we didn't have time cover on today's show, like the impossible new deadlines for requesting absentee ballots (in cases before a run-off election, the deadline to request such a ballot for it will now end before the original election is even certified to include a run-off!) and more.

As AP highlights in its report today, the suit argues: "Liberty requires at least three essential things — an unfettered right to vote, freedom of speech, and the meaningful separation of powers. This lawsuit is necessary to preserve individual constitutional rights, and constitutional government, against the attacks that SB202 makes on these three pillars of liberty."

Marks elucidates today on "Those three pillars of liberty: the right to vote, the right to free speech, and the right to separation of powers. What's happening here is the first one that they are violating is that separation of powers. That is a key one. Once they grab all of the powers, they close the doors. Yeah, they still have to deal with the pesky press and pesky watchers, but not anymore --- not if they criminalize your reports."

So, yeah. Even as its strange to become a part of a story I've been covering for so long, I am very proud to be a plaintiff in this lawsuit against SB202, which Georgia's Republican Governor and Sec. of State falsely claim "makes it easier to vote and harder to cheat". In truth, Marks told me off air after the show, the opposite is true. "It makes it harder to vote and easier to cheat," she said.

Also today, the GOP's packed and stolen U.S. Supreme Court announced it's taking up Mississippi's restriction on abortion rights that was blocked by a lower court. This is not good news for freedom lovers and those who oppose Big Government coming between a woman and her doctor; A former elected Florida official who is a buddy of Rep. Matt Gaetz has agreed to a federal plea deal that requires he tells federal prosecutors all that he knows about Gaetz' alleged sex trafficking of a minor; And in Gaza City over the weekend, Israel outrageously targeted and destroyed a 12-story high-rise building housing AP's office for the past 15 years. It's top floor cameras have been the eyes for the world, witnessing, as the news agency reported this weekend, "24-hour live shots as militants’ rockets arched toward Israel and Israeli airstrikes hammered the city and its surrounding area this week."

Those cameras will no longer be there to bear witness to the world. As AP's President noted in a statement describing the attack as "shocking and horrifying" on Saturday, "The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today."

And, in Georgia, if SB202 is allowed to stay in place, the world will know less about what is happening in the Peach State's elections because of it. As in Gaza, I suspect that is the point...

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Guest: Cybersecurity journalist Kim Zetter; Also: Judge nixes NRA's 'bad faith' bankruptcy; New AZ law will purge voters from mail-in ballot list...
By Brad Friedman on 5/11/2021 6:24pm PT  

Today on The BradCast, we slide down the slippery, oil-soaked slope of increasingly dangerous ransomware attacks with, as our guest warns today, "nothing" to stop one from taking out an election in the not-too-distant future.

But, first up, some better news out of a federal courtroom in Texas this afternoon, where a judge has nixed the National Rifle Association's attempt to escape accountability for massive corruption and self-dealing in New York, where state Attorney General Letitia James is suing the 150-year old "charitable" group to dissolve it. The NRA had filed for bankruptcy protection in order to duck NY's lawsuit and re-charter itself in the Lone Star State, where apparently they welcome corrupt "charitable" organizations. As we discussed on the show last week, with NRA expert and author Igor Volsky, the group's leader Wayne LaPierre, remarkably, filed for Chapter 11 protection without the knowledge of its Board of Directors or General Counsel. The judge described that as "shocking" and found that the NRA was unlawfully hoping to use the bankruptcy proceedings to avoid the NY state litigation. Judge Harlin Hale didn't buy it, however, and dismissed the "bad faith" filing today after an 11-day trial. The NRA will now have to face the music in NY, where the state AG declared in response: "No one is above the law." (We'll hope that's also true in her ongoing probe of bank and tax fraud by Donald Trump and his Trump Organization as well. She already succeed in shutting down HIS phony "charity", calling itself the Trump Foundation.)

Also today, more breaking news out of Arizona. Despite claims from some state Republican Senators that they are embarrassed by the clown show currently playing out in Phoenix with the Cyber Ninjas' "audit" theater of 2.1 million ballots from the 2020 Presidential election in Maricopa County, (one such GOP Senator who voted for the exercise now laments, "It makes us look like idiots"), the same Senators passed legislation on Tuesday to make it harder for some 140,000 Arizonans to vote. Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed the new law today, less than an hour after passage, which would purge voters from the permanent mail-in ballot list if they fail to vote in two elections in a row and then fail to return a letter within 90 days of it being sent to them. Democrats and some businesses charge that the measure disproportionately targets voters of color. But, of course, that's a feature, not a bug for the state GOP, still smarting from having lost the Presidential election and both of its U.S. Senate seats to Democrats.

Then, we're joined by longtime cybersecurity and national security journalist KIM ZETTER to discuss the ransomware attack which has led to the shut down of the Colonial Pipeline. The company's network supplies nearly half of the gas, jet fuel and diesel used on the Eastern Seaboard, as is snakes some 5,500 miles from Texas to New Jersey.

Zetter explains how this attack, attributed to a Russia-based group calling themselves DarkSide, was apparently able to burrow its way into Colonial's corporate IT computer network, if not to the operational computer network that actually controls the pipeline system, as well as why the company quickly decided to shut down the pipeline itself anyway.

After sharing some details she has gleaned from sources, including pipeline customers and suppliers, we discuss the recent rise of ransomware attacks which are extraordinarily effective and difficult to prevent. Many companies and organizations --- businesses large and small, hospitals, banks, and both state and local governments --- are now forced to pay the ransom demanded by the cyber-terrorists. Even today, news broke that negotiations between ransomware attackers and the D.C. Metropolitan Police have broken down, with the attackers now threatening to publicly release a sensitive list of police informants if more money is not offered. (The group is demanding $4 million, but claims the Department has offered only $100,000.)

"Unfortunately, this is an industry now," Zetter explains, describing the firms that now specialize in serving as negotiators with the hackers, while helping the crippled companies restore their systems with decryption tools supplied by the hackers once ransom has been paid.

Zetter is also one of the few journalists in the nation that has been covering concerns and vulnerabilities in computerized voting and tabulation systems as long as me. I spent many a sleepless night last year concerned about the possibility of a ransomware attack on wildly vulnerable state and county elections systems. "Nothing" can prevent such an attack, warns Zetter, especially on systems that are often left exposed and vulnerable on the Internet all year around, even when there are no current elections under way (as we discussed in detail with Zetter in 2019.)

As you may imagine, we've got lots to talk about with Zetter today. She has written for years on these matters at outlets such as Wired, Politico, New York Times, Vice's Motherboard and is the author of the book Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon. She also now writes her own newsletter called Zero Day, covering all of these topics and more.

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us with the latest Green News Report, with more on how the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline, the largest such network in the nation, is crippling the fuel supply on the East Coast; how a new study finds air pollution from farms causes thousands of premature deaths each year in the U.S.; more ominous signs of the worsening drought in California; and some much better news regarding electric vehicles and action being taken by the Biden Administration to restore landmark federal protections for migratory birds after the Trump Administration had dismantled them...

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Guest: L.A. Times energy reporter Sammy Roth; Also: DeSantis signs new FL voter suppression bill on Fox 'News'...
By Brad Friedman on 5/6/2021 7:23pm PT  

We apologize in advance for any whiplash induced by today's BradCast. The continuing madness and unending idiotic fallout from Donald Trump's Big Lie about a "stolen" 2020 election forces us to keep an eye on the MAGA Mob in the rear view mirror, even as we continue to try to look forward to Joe Biden's long-overdue efforts to save humanity by ensuring a livable planet...even for insane people. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

Join us for today's sunbelt trip from Sunny Florida to Sunny Arizona to Sunny California. Do buckle up first.

First up, Florida's new voter suppression bill --- which we discussed in detail with longtime, legendary Leon County, FL Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho earlier this week --- was signed into law today by the man Sancho warned is "far sharper than our ex-President" though "more vile, because he understands what he is doing". That would be the state's Republican Governor and 2024 Presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis. And he signed the bill to make mail-in voting harder live on Fox "News"! Locking out his own local media from the ceremony in the bargain. That story should tell you just about everything you need to know about what the GOP has now come to. And what you can look forward to before 2024.

Next, the good news is that the rest of the media, and elected officials in Arizona, and even federal law enforcement officials at the U.S. Dept. of Justice are finally catching up with much of what we have been warning over the past week or two about what is going on in the "audit" theater circus show happening right now in Maricopa County (Phoenix). We told you on last Wednesday's BradCast --- via an exclusive, hour-long interview with two election integrity experts who had spent time inside the secret, tax-payer funded "audit" of the county's 2.1 million ballots by Cyber Ninjas, the private rightwing company with no experience in elections or voting systems --- about the lack of public or media oversight; lack of security of ballots (which, according to federal law, are supposed to remain in secure election official custody for 22 months after an election); lack of public tracking of tallies by the paid counters; ever-changing counting methods that couldn't possibly be completed by May 14th, when the Ninjas lose access to the rented Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum; and much more, including the news that ballots were being examined under microscopes and UV lights for evidence of things like missing folds in mail-in ballots and...yes, bamboo fibers in the ballot paper, which the QAnon folks carrying out this "audit" believe would be an indication that the ballots came fraudulently from China.

We then warned you on Monday's BradCast that the procedures document [PDF] turned over by the Ninjas in response to a court order after they argued their "audit" processes were "trade secrets", would allow them to change a minimum of 42,000 votes without setting off any mistally alarm bells inside the secret count. That, despite Biden having been certified as the winner of the state by just over 10,000 votes. I'm not sure that anybody else has noticed that part yet.

But the good news is that --- thanks to another court order --- some media and some officials (including a few from the AZ Sec. of State's office) are finally being allowed into the venue for limited observation of this GOP state Senate sponsored scam. AZ's Democratic Sec. of State Katie Hobbs has now sent a "sharply-worded" letter [PDF] with a litany of concerns --- many of which we've been trying to alert the world to --- to the defendants in the state lawsuit (the Ninjas, the state Senate President, and the Senate's liaison to the "audit", former Republican Sec. of State Ken Bennett), who must now reply, as per a settlement struck in court this week. The Dept. of Justice has also taken notice of what's going on, and has sent a letter [PDF] regarding some of the potential violations of federal law (such as the 22-month ballot retention issue.)

But it was some out-of-context remarks from John Brakey --- a longtime Democratic election integrity expert, founder of AUDIT USA, and my guest last week on The BradCast --- which seem to have set off the loudest alarms in the Twittersphere and Mediasphere. Dennis Welch, Political Editor for Arizona's CBS5 News and TV3, shamefully posted a truncated, minute and a half long clip of Brakey, who is observing the "audit" and assisting Bennett (for free, with no NDA!) describing what the wingut Ninjas are seeking in their search for bamboo fibers in the ballots.

It was only later that Welch posted the next sentence or two from Brakey (all 33 seconds of it) in which he explains: "I don't believe any of that" and that he hopes this "audit" will eventually "ungaslight" people who have been conned by the rightwingers. (Much as he had told us on the show last week.)

Unfortunately, more than a million viewers have seen the first clip on Twitter. That's more than ten times the number who saw the second one. So, Brakey --- who I had personally warned many times shouldn't be involved with these folks operating who are operating in bad faith, for exactly this reason --- was unfairly tarred by many as a QAnon conspirator. He isn't. At all. But that hasn't stopped some idiots --- some of whom should know better --- from attacking him as such and refusing to correct or remove their attacks even after learning they were wrong. John was explaining it, not supporting it!

In any event. At least BambooGate has got people noticing the Maricopa scam. We'll hope our friend and longtime colleague Brakey doesn't pay too high of a price for it.

Then, we finally get to look forward for a few blessed minutes today! President Biden recently doubled down on President Obama's pledge to cut deadly emissions that cause global warming, by vowing to cut greenhouse gas emissions by half (as compared to 2005 levels) by 2030. That ambitious goal is paired with an even more ambition pledge to reach net-zero emissions, economy wide in the U.S., by 2050!

While that seems difficult to imagine, perhaps it shouldn't be. As our guest today, SAMMY ROTH, energy reporter for Los Angeles Times details, the state of California's main grid actually reached 95% renewable energy usage for the first time one week ago Saturday! The milestone didn't happen long, and it was on a sunny, mild weekend day. Still, it's an encouraging sign for what is now quietly being done in the nation's most populous state.

The state grid, however, does not include the cities of Los Angles and Sacramento, which use their own power supplies. And Los Angeles is actually still using some energy created by coal. But Roth has good news there as well, after a landmark new report commissioned by L.A. from the federal National Renewable Energy Laboratory lays out a road map for how one of the nation's largest cities could be powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2035!

And, of course, if CA and Los Angeles can do it, so can the rest of the nation --- if they (and we) can overcome the political obstacles and dead-end fossil fuel industry money --- so that we can all safely survive to continue bickering about evidence-free claims of "massive voter fraud" for generations to come!...

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Guest: 30-year former Leon County, FL elections chief, Ion Sancho; Also: L.A. County records zero COVID deaths two days in row while California infection, hospitalization, death rates fall dramatically...
By Brad Friedman on 5/4/2021 6:21pm PT  

On today's BradCast, we're happy to begin with just about the best news we could expect to stumble across these days. Happily, not everything goes down hill from there. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

There has been a stunning drop in COVID infections, hospitalization and death numbers in California. Just 15 deaths were reported on Monday across the entire state of 40 million people. Perhaps even more incredibly, ZERO deaths were reported in all of Los Angeles County --- the most populous in the nation, with 10 million people --- on either Sunday or Monday. We have not had two straight days here without COVID deaths in this County since the pandemic began in mid-March of 2020. Officials caution, however, that some of the drop in numbers could be due to slow reporting over the weekend.

Still, the Golden State is certainly doing something right, as both the state and L.A. County also clock in with among the lowest test positivity rates in the nation. Moreover, Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Monday that COVID-related hospitalizations are at their lowest, by far, since the pandemic began. (And, keep in mind that state Republicans are citing his handling of the pandemic as reason he should be recalled from office.)

But while California also has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, like the rest of the nation, the number of shots being administered has fallen off sharply of late. Today, President Biden announced a plan to increase vaccine numbers, targeting adults who need more convincing; those who have struggled with availability; and, after expected FDA approval next week, adolescents aged 12 to 15. His new goal is deliver at least one dose to 70% of American adults by July 4th.

At the same time, the American Rescue Plan (adopted by Democrats in Congress without one single vote from any Republican) will now cover paid days off to get shots, as well as for the number of days needed to recover from them. The ARP has also dramatically lowered monthly health care premiums for those receiving federal subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). With, so far, wildly successful programs like the $1.9 trillion ARP, and hoped for passage of massive jobs and care bills like the proposed $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan and $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, which Repubs have vowed to obstruct as well, is it any wonder they hope to simply block grateful voters from being able to cast a vote at all in next year's elections?

Last week, on the heels of similar measures in states like Georgia and Iowa, GOP state lawmakers in Florida adopted yet another sweeping voter restriction bill, even after claiming a wildly successful and secure election in 2020, when Donald Trump won the state by 3 points. The new bill --- passed in the Senate last week on Florida's Confederate Memorial Day --- is expected to target new voters, younger voters and, specifically, African American voters. It restricts mail-in voting after GOP lawmakers had spent decades expanded it in Florida. To their chagrin, apparently, after years of no-excuse absentee voting being predominantly used by Republicans (including Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis last year), more Democrats than GOPers took advantage of the option during the 2020 election. Therefore, it must be cut back. With the Sunshine State's traditionally close statewide elections, GOP lawmakers went to work. Senate Bill 90 now requires long-time mail-in voters request such ballots every single election cycle. It mandates new ID requirements for even requesting such ballots, severely restricts the use of absentee drop-boxes, and adds many other restrictive measures, such as a provision to prevent the distribution of food or water to voters waiting in long lines in the hot Florida sun.

While some Republicans are now reportedly concerned that the measure may prevent many of their own voters from casting a vote, our guest today has an additional serious concern with SB90. We're joined again today by former 30-year Leon County (Tallahassee) elections chief, ION SANCHO, who cites the way this bill --- and others being adopted by GOPers around the country --- specifically targets elections officials with threats of job loss and fines. The Florida bill, in fact, authorizes a personal, $25,000 fine against County Supervisors of Elections (who are elected in the Sunshine State) for failing, in any way, to follow every provision of the state's ever-changing elections code, even in cases of emergencies that otherwise might prevent voters from being able to cast their ballots.

"The larger, unstated thing here that, quite frankly, bothers me the most --- not only about Florida, Georgia, Iowa or Arkansas, you name it, it's happening in Republican-dominated legislatures --- is the fact that this is an attack on non-partisan, professional elections administration, all across the country," Sancho tells me. "It didn't begin in 2020, but 2020 has clearly lit the fuse."

In addition to noting that SB 90 has "made it more difficult for ALL citizens to request a vote-by-mail ballot," Sancho observes that all of the new, unnecessary measures are "providing more hoops to jump through for citizens." But, in particular, he cites, "best practices for elections are being thrown out by Republican legislatures, who are now inserting themselves much more directly into the elections process --- a reversal of the trend that we saw in the latter half of the 20th century when citizens demanded fairer elections. The trend to try to professionalize and get a higher class of election officials that act on a fair and non-partisan basis, that's what's being attacked in all of this legislation. That's what's got me concerned."

All of it, he opines, is part of "The Big Lie" (Trump's unsubstantiated claims of massive fraud in the 2020 election he lost) now being used as cover to pass these new restrictions. "In fact, it is Gov. DeSantis, not the ex-President, who is pushing for these changes in Florida. He's on the ballot [in 2022], and the fact that a million and a half more citizens have registered to vote by mail as Democrats than Republicans has caused this attack on vote-by-mail balloting. Gov. DeSantis is, I will tell you, far sharper than our ex-President.  In my opinion, more vile, because he understands what he's doing. I'm not sure the ex-President did."

Sancho --- who was so well respected by his peers in Florida that he was selected by them to oversee Florida's eventually aborted statewide Presidential recount in 2000 --- also confirms that in that same year, Republicans sent absentee ballot applications to every single Republican in the state. Now, they are trying to shut down much of the entire process that made voting easier there, even for many of their own voters. "This continual erosion is, in my view, disgraceful, disgusting, and un-American. But it's happened, and we have to deal with this."

We have much to discuss on that front on today's program.

Finally, we're joined by Desi Doyen with our latest Green News Report, which, much as our program began, finishes things off with quite a bit of surprisingly very good news, this time for climate hawks...

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Guests: John Brakey of AUDIT USA and Ray Lutz of Citizens Oversight from inside the 'secret' rightwing tally and forensic probe of 2.1M ballots from 2020, why there's so little transparency, and why it all matters..
By Brad Friedman on 4/28/2021 4:44pm PT  

Okay. Buckle up for today's BradCast special coverage. Seriously. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

As you've almost certainly heard by now, the Republicans in the Arizona state Senate have contracted [PDF] a rightwing tech outfit with no experience in elections or voting systems --- calling themselves Cyber Ninjas --- to oversee an unusual, controversial hand-count audit of the 2.1 million hand-marked paper ballots cast in Maricopa County (Phoenix), Arizona's 2020 Presidential and Senatorial elections. Apparently, the only elections the Senate GOP believe may have been stolen by Dominion Voting Systems tabulation computers or by stuffing ballot boxes were the two statewide elections each won by Democrats for the first time in decades.

The Florida-based Cyber Ninjas are being paid $150,000 tax-payer dollars for this post-election investigation, while collecting an unknown amount of dark money from unknown sources. They have, to date, kept the entire process pretty much a secret, locking out the public and media alike from overseeing the (at least partially) tax-payer funded process inside the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. The only window into the process for the public, by and large, up until now, have been from 9 video cameras streaming wide shots from different angles of whatever is going on on the main floor of the arena.

The Cyber Ninjas' leader, a guy by the name of Doug Logan, had promoted false, often ludicrous and evidence-free claims of fraud following the 2020 election, asserting that the election must have been stolen from Donald Trump. So, of course, the Arizona GOP Senate hired him to run this effort. In this case, the results in question in Maricopa --- a state which Biden reportedly won by just over 10,000 computer-scanned votes (less than half of a percentage point) --- were certified by the five-person GOP-majority Maricopa County Board of Supervisors (4 Rs and 1 D), the state's Democratic Sec. of State and Arizona's Republican Governor. It's only the state's far-right GOP Senate --- and millions of Trump supporters --- who believe the election must have been stolen for Joe Biden.

Still, some GOPers have their doubts. And we're always in favor of the public being able to check the results of hand-counted paper ballots for themselves whenever there are any questions --- justified or not --- regarding the results of any election, so that all voters can have confidence in the reported results. That is critical to the survival of American democracy. That said, such processes, particularly when they are tax-payer funded, must be open, transparent, overseeable and completely public processes. This process being carried out in Maricopa has decidedly not been that. With the Cyber Ninjas firm even arguing in court that their forensic processes must be kept a trade secret, just like the computer voting machine companies they (and we, for many years!) have complained about.

With no media allowed in (until a court order seems to have finally loosened that up a bit as of last night), there has been little if any information available to the public as far as what the hell is going on. The only reporter who seems to have gained access had signed up as an observer to work a 6-hour shift on Day 1 and discovered the counters were using blue pens --- which can be used to mark or spoil ballots. Following her complaints, they have been swapped out for red and green pens which cannot be read by the optical scanners. Beyond that, we've received little or no information on the process or progress of the count from public observers or media.

But we've had an inside track since the start of the count. And on today's show, we've got two long-time election integrity advocates who have been inside the Coliseum to observe over the last several days, one of them has been there since Day 1.

JOHN BRAKEY, Director of AUDIT USA, is actually working along side AZ's former Republican Sec. of State Ken Bennett --- as of now anyway, as Bennett serves as the Senate GOP's liaison to the count. Brakey, a longtime election integrity champion and transparency activist, is largely the only one involved in the effort who has experience with post-election audits and recounts. He's a Tucson-based Democrat, but has long fought for public oversight in elections across the country and joins us on the show today.

We're also joined by RAY LUTZ, Founder and Exec. Director of San Diego-based Citizens' Oversight Projects, which has helped organize and oversee many post-election audits over the years --- particular of electronic digital ballot images created by scanners when ballots are initially tallied. He spent the last several days inside the Coliseum, observing the count, by invitation of Brakey, until he'd decided he'd "seen enough" and headed back home to California last night.

Both explain what they have seen, what the secret process actually is (as far as they have been able to understand it); some of the positive elements that may come out of this exercise; and a number of very serious concerns they each share about the process, particularly when it comes to the lack of transparency for how the operation works, the lock out of media and the public, the lack of publicly disclosed running totals of the count (as in actual recounts) or comparisons to the initial tallies, and more.

In Brakey's case, he's taking action to try and improve the process. He tells us he filed a Public Records Request today with the Maricopa Board of Supervisors (which has long opposed this exercise) for the original counted vote records of the batches of ballots now being examined in the 15,000 seat arena. His hope is that the Cyber Ninja group, for their part, will publish their own daily results at the same time, so that there can be at least some public oversight of the process. That remains a work in progress, he explains. But Brakey --- who is receiving no money for the work (unlike pretty much everyone else involved in it) and has refused to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (as the Ninjas had initially asked) --- asserts that he is happy to talk about everything that he has seen and is prepared to walk away from the project if transparency is not quickly improved.

"That's what I'm doing here. I'm criticizing. I'm on them," he explains, after pushing to allow media in for several days. "I want you to know they have media in there right now. They have two people, they have a pool camera. They were nervous and I said, 'Don't be. This is the media. Give them what they need.' I want them to have the same access that they would get in [a public Maricopa County recount], and I'm fighting for that, and I'm winning."

For his part, Lutz says he had already grown somewhat frustrated with the lack of transparency, and decided to leave after observing for about two days. He details the complicated, incredibly slow, table-by-table, ballot-by-ballot effort that is being carried out. After he initially estimated the process they were using would take about 15 months to complete, Lutz explains that changes made to simplify the process have brought the task down to one that could be carried out in about a month, unless additional counting shifts are added. That, even though the group is supposed to have completed the entire effort just over two weeks from now, on May 14th.

"This group came in with no experience at all," Lutz says today, "with a lot of new-fangled ideas about how it would work. Apparently no one did any basic math to work out how long it would take. Now they're sitting here with a real big problem on their hands."

"I have to say, it looked like more of a big show than anything else when I first saw it," he says, referring to the color-coded tables and t-shirts being worn by workers, before explaining some of the efficiencies that have been implemented since the counting began. "Now, I have to say that a lot of what I see there is appropriate and pretty good in terms of their fencing off the ballots and how they keep them under control." Still, he is worried about what happens to the tally sheets being created at each individual table, because those are not being shared publicly and are being handed to someone who enters the numbers into a computer --- correctly or otherwise. "What we normally want to have --- and Citizens Oversight has watched many, many of these audits --- we want those sheets to be scanned immediately and published so they can't be altered, because those tally sheets now become just like ballots, but even more so, because they're the accumulation of all the ballot tallying."

He's also critical of the particular hand-count process being used which, he believes, may have an error rate of 1 to 2%, in order to somehow confirm the accurate tabulation of an election that was decided by less than one half of one percent. And we all discuss the unusual efforts by workers to do things like examine ballots under microscopes and with a UV light (apparently to look for bamboo fibers, suggesting the paper came from China, or to find a lack of creases in mailed-in ballots, suggesting the ballot box was somehow stuffed). Lutz also details the effort to take meticulous measurements of the size and thickness, as well as high-def photos, of each ballot, as part of some unclear process to determine whether they are real or fraudulent.

Yes, it's somewhat as nuts as it sounds. But voters are allowed to be nuts, if they like. Locking out the public from the process, however, remains a very serious concern, and leads to some heated exchanges, to say the least, on today's special BradCast coverage...offering a unique and exclusive look inside the Maricopa County, AZ "audit/recount".

"Somebody's going to throw the gauntlet down, and I'm throwing the gauntlet down," Brakey asserts under my questioning about oversight concerns. "And I guess if they don't want to do that, then I guess there's going to be a separation, and all of a sudden I'm going to be on the outside. And maybe that's what has to happen. Because I know that transparency is the solution. We're going to keep improving this process, or I'm outta here," he vows.

As noted, buckle up for this one. You've been warned...

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Guest: Caren Short, Voting Rights Attny, Southern Poverty Law Center...
By Brad Friedman on 3/29/2021 6:48pm PT  

Attempted voter suppression must come at a very serious cost to the suppressors. Hopefully, we are beginning to see at least some of that beginning to build in Georgia on today's BradCast --- even as voting rights advocates are forced to take legal action to block this latest attack on democracy by the state's Republican Party. [Audio link to show follows below.]

Hopefully, the blowback is just beginning. Last Wednesday, we were joined on the show by Marilyn Marks of the Coalition for Good Governance, as she warned about the massive voter suppression bill that Republicans in the GA state legislature were trying to jam through before this week's final day of the legislative session. But, in less than 24 hours, by Thursday, voting rights advocates were stunned --- and, arguably, caught off guard --- when the GOP-dominated state House and Senate both adopted a newly-introduced, nearly 100-page bill to pare back voting rights in a single day, before the measure, known as SB 202, was then signed just an hour or so later by long-time champion GOP vote suppressor and former Sec. of State, Governor Brian Kemp. For good measure, he did so under a painting of a slave plantation as an elected African-American member of the state House of Representatives was arrested for trying to witness the signing behind closed doors.

The measure, among other things, will increase ID requirements for absentee voting; reduce early in-person voting in some places; restrict the use of drop-boxes for mail-in ballots; ban the distribution of food and beverages to voters waiting in Georgia's famously long (in some places) voting lines; threaten third-party advocacy groups with criminal prosecution if they dare send an absentee ballot request form to someone already signed up to vote by mail; and, perhaps most perniciously, according to Marks sounding the alarm last week, allow the state's majority-GOP legislature to essentially take over control of the State Board of Elections. In turn, the State Board can then replace entire County Boards of Elections with a single partisan person, pretty much for any reason they like, threatening to both undermine or even overturn election results at the county level in...ya know...certain counties --- just as Donald Trump tried to do after losing the 2020 election in The Peach State last year.

All of that, despite zero evidence of fraud or mistally in last year's Presidential election in Georgia, where three statewide counts --- twice by machines, once by hand --- all confirmed the results, which the state confirmed to be free of fraud.

Since passage and signing of SB 202 last week, not one, but two lawsuits have been filed to try and block the law, charging that it violates both the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act (VRA), as the multiple civil and voting rights group plaintiffs allege the new voting restrictions are specifically designed to target minority voters. The President of the United States has subsequently described the law as "un-American", an "atrocity" and "Jim Crow in the 21st Century". Despite all of that, it ultimately could be the Major League Baseball Player's Association which ends up making a real difference in regards this new anti-democracy scheme. The players are reportedly deciding whether to demand this year's MLB All-Star Game, currently set for Atlanta in July, be moved to a different state if the law is not struck down.

At the same time, federal laws --- such as the For the People Act (H.R.1) or John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R.4) --- which would help protect against a number of the worst GOP voter suppression tactics now adopted by the Peach State and moving ahead in others where Republicans are considering similar measures, will not pass unless the undemocratic Jim Crow-era U.S. Senate Filibuster is, in some fashion, killed or reformed.

We're joined today by CAREN SHORT, Senior Voting Rights Attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center to discuss all of this. While her group has not yet joined either of the two federal lawsuits filed against Georgia's law, she suggests they are considering as much. In the meantime, she explains what she finds so devious about GA's racist new law, and whether or not the current lawsuits --- or even the Dept. of Justice --- may be able to reverse the worst of SB 202's attack on voters and voting in the state.

Among the issues we discuss with Short: Her views on the worst aspects of SB 202; Whether its possible to demonstrate a disproportionate affect on minority voters before an election is run with this new law in place; How the portion of the Voting Rights Act struck down by SCOTUS in 2013 would likely have prevented this entire bill from even being introduced in the first place; Whether the DoJ has grounds for filing suit themselves under still-standing portions of the VRA to protect Georgia voters; And how courts will determine whether FEARS of voter fraud (in the absence of same) is enough to justify taking rights already granted to voters away from them, among much more!

"You're right, there's a lot to be troubled about," she tells me at the top of our discussion. "This bill is troubling. It would really disenfranchise a lot of people in Georgia. Although it would apply equally to everyone, it is specifically targeted to harm black voters, brown voters, young people, voters with disabilities --- and it will do so."

"You mentioned that democracy is everyone's job. I could not agree more with that," Short says, when I ask what needs to be done to see the filibuster reformed in the U.S. Senate so that H.R.1 and H.R.4 can passed and become law. "These are our representatives. These are our policy makers. They represent what we want. ... We need democracy reform. We need transparency. We need fairness. We need protections for folks in the Deep South who are facing bills like the one in Georgia. This cannot stand. It cannot happen in my name as an American. We need to get involved. This is our moment. Call your friends who live in those states who are going to be needed for filibuster reform, if necessary. Some Democratic folks have said, 'failure is not an option.' And it's absolutely true."

Finally, with both good and worrying news about COVID (good, in that President Biden has announced vaccine distribution is moving ahead even quicker than previously hoped; worrying, in that the new CDC Director is "scared" with a sense of "impending doom" about the recent 16% rise in infections as mask mandates have been lifted in some states), we open up the phones for a quick call or two on all of this at the end of another important and lively hour...

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