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Latest Featured Reports | Monday, November 28, 2022
Sunday 'Once More Unto the Breach' Toons
And here we go again...into PDiddie's latest post-Turkey toon collection...
Turkey Toons
Gobble gobble! Our thanks to the one and only Pdidddie for a special holiday collection of toons to help you burn off a few calories!...
Debating the Merits of Garland's New Special Counsel: 'BradCast' 11/21/22
Guests: Former DoJ prosecutor Randall D. Eliason of GWU, Const'l law expert John Bonifaz of FSFP; Also: Does the Constitution disqualify insurrectionist Trump from 2024?...
Sunday 'Ready or Not' Toons
PDiddie's latest collection of the past week's most gut-busting political toons...
Now Back to the Quest for Trump Accountability, Still in Progress: 'BradCast' 11/17/22
Guest: Allison Gill of 'Mueller, She Wrote'; Also: Pelosi leaves Dem leadership; GOP secures House majority; Bass wins L.A. Mayor...
'Green News Report' 11/17/22
  w/ Brad & Desi
Crunch time for COP27 climate agreement; NASA says sea levels to rise a foot by 2050; Trump's 2024 announcement climate lies; PLUS: Climate disinfo surging again...
Recent GNRs: 11/15/22 - 11/10/22 - Archives...
2022 GOP Political Fallout, Blame, Circus Begins: 'BradCast' 11/16/22
Guest: Heather Digby Parton; Trump's running again; House, Senate GOP leadership chaos; MS moves to hand-marked paper ballots...
'Green News Report' 11/15/22
Biden pledges leadership, funding at U.N. climate summit; U.S. and China resume climate talks; Costly Nicole; PLUS: Dems Sen. majority to hold line on climate policy...
Sunday 'Red Wave' Toons
Surf the wave! It's Pdiddie's first post-midterms collection of the week's best political toons!...
The Guy Whose Data Analysis Was Right on the Election on Why Media Got It So Wrong (Again): 'BradCast' 11/11/22
Guest: TargetSmart's Tom Bonier; 'Red wave' buffoonery; Latest results from AZ, NV...
It's the Gerrymandering (and Corrupted Courts), Stupid: 'BradCast' 11/10/22
Guest: Redistricting expert, author David Daley; Also: How Fox 'News' dupes followers via smartphone; Latest Sen, House, Guv results...
'Green News Report' 11/10/22
Failed 'red wave' is good news for the climate; New reports warn of skyrocketing methane levels; PLUS: Mixed results for state environmental ballot propositions...
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
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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
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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
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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...

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The Secret Koch Brothers Tapes...


Guest: John Nichols of The Nation; Also: State Dept. has no records of gifts to Trump; Don Jr. plotted to steal 2020 two days after the election...
By Brad Friedman on 4/11/2022 6:32pm PT  

On today's BradCast: The corruption never ends and will only get far worse until someone finally faces accountability. Whether it's Donald Trump for his unspeakable corruption and attempt to steal the 2020 Presidential election or Justice Clarence Thomas, whose corruption has been well-documented for decades now, as he appears to have joined the effort to help Trump steal that election --- or, at the very least, avoid accountability for trying. Thomas needs to be impeached, argues our guest today, or we might as well put our Constitution "through the shredder." [Audio link to full show follows below this summary.]

As to Trump's unspeakable corruption, yes, we are still learning about much more of it. As TPM reported over the weekend, apparently the State Department is now reporting they have no records of gifts given to Trump (or Vice President Mike Pence and other Administration members) by foreign leaders during Trump's final year in office. Worse, according to the State Dept.'s report, the Office of the Chief of Protocol's Gift Unit reports no records of any gifts at all from January 20, 2017 (the day Trump took office) until the end of his first failed term in January of 2020. No record of what the President of the United States received from Foreign Leaders?! Um, that's not good.

We've come to expect this kind of grotesque corruption from Trump and his family members. So, it shouldn't come as a surprise to learn over the weekend, as we did via CNN, that Don Jr. was texting then White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows just two days after Election Day in November of 2020 --- before the race had even been called or all of its votes tallied --- to detail one way after another that the election could and should be stolen for his father. "We control them all," Don Jr. told Meadows, while describing the way that state legislatures or Congress, or even the judiciary could help steal the election before Team Trump even knew for certain they had lost. "We have operational control Total leverage....POTUS must start 2nd term now," Trump Sr.'s corrupt son instructed the White House Chief of Staff on November 5th, 2020, according to messages obtained by the U.S. House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection.

It's troubling enough that the man and his party who are planning to steal the 2024 election, if necessary, have yet to be held to account. It is no less troubling that at least one member of the U.S. Supreme Court is corrupt enough to help them. Outrage over Ginni Thomas, the far-right activist wife of far-right activist Justice Clarence Thomas, having texted Meadows dozens of times after the election, encouraging the Administration to steal the election for Trump, faded quickly after it was initially reported just over two weeks ago by the Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. Sure, there is a war in Europe and Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars, but a corrupt sitting Supreme Court Justice --- willing to be the lone dissenting vote to potentially keep his own wife's text messages out of the hands of House J6 Committee is impeachment-worthy, according to my guest today, JOHN NICHOLS, National Affairs Correspondent for The Nation.

The news about corruption of Clarence and Ginni is just the latest apparent law-breaking by the couple. We've been reporting on it for more than a decade. So has Nichols, who tells me he reported on conflicts of interest regarding Ginni's far-right activism 22 years ago. "Ginni Thomas was already working with the Bush-Cheney Administration at the same time that Clarence Thomas joined in that closely divided decision to close down [the 2000 Presidential] recount," he notes today. "So this woman has a quarter century of engagement in politics in a way that should not only have led to recusals by her husband, but ultimately, when he didn't recuse, should have led to his removal from the Supreme Court."

But enough is enough. And it would nice if both the corporate media (which has largely ignored this matter) and elected Democrats (who have tepidly called for Thomas to recuse himself from 2020-related cases) starting doing something about it. "We have reached that point," Nichols argues, when asked if Justice Thomas needs to be held to account for "seri­ous ethical or crim­inal miscon­duct" after the House Select Committee gathered evidence of his wife's texts to the White House Chief of Staff. "Trump tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election in what can accurately be referred to only as a coup attempt. And he sought to hold office illegally. That is a coup. When you are investigating something of that consequence, if there is even the slightest possibility that a member of the U.S. Supreme Court used his position to try to undermine or limit that investigation --- because his wife was a co-conspirator, because his political allies were involved in the issue --- that has to be investigated. It is best investigated, in my opinion, in an impeachment inquiry."

"We're having a discussion about recusal at this point for Clarence Thomas? This is absurd!," Nichols insists. "This guy isn't going to recuse. He's made it absolutely clear. This is like saying, 'At the very least, Jesse James should recuse himself from robbing banks.' The crime has already been committed! The notion that we would now say 'Oh, he should recuse himself going forward' doesn't get to the heart of the matter, and it doesn't get to the reality. The only option we have in this case is impeachment."

But, of course, even if Democrats in the House stepped up to do the right thing, Mitch McConnell and the Republicans would never remove Thomas from the High Court, right? "For those who say, 'Oh, we can't do that because Mitch McConnell might not let us,' then you might as well take the Constitution out of the National Archives and put it through the shredder. What's the point of having an impeachment power if you don't use it in a moment like this?"

Good argument. And we've got much more along those lines with Nichols today, including some of his thoughts on the huge hole left behind in the progressive media following last week's tragic loss of longtime media critic Eric Boehlert, and on whether he believes Attorney Merrick Garland and the DoJ are taking the appropriate steps to hold Trump and the rest of his cabal to account for their part in the insurrection (as discussed last Thursday on this show with former federal prosecutor Randall Eliason) and the broader attempt to steal a Presidential election before our very eyes...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: GW University Law School's Randall D. Eliason; Also: KBJ's historic SCOTUS confirmation; Insurrectionist House members facing ballot eligibility challenges in AZ; Trump facing contempt in NY...
By Brad Friedman on 4/7/2022 5:34pm PT  

A bad day for Donald Trump is generally a good day for America. Today on The BradCast (after horrible and tragic news unexpectedly swept over our show yesterday), it's one of those days. And, if our guest, a former federal prosecutor is correct, there may well be many more such bad days ahead for our disgraced former President. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

FIRST, history was made toward "a more perfect union" on Thursday when the U.S. Senate voted 53 to 47 to confirm Joe Biden's nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson, as the nation's first black female Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. She will officially be sworn in and seated in July, at the end of the Court's current term, when Justice Stephen Breyer officially resigns.

SECOND, three more 2022 ballot eligibility challenges were filed today against three more Republican insurrectionists, courtesy of good government group Free Speech for People, this time on behalf of voters in Arizona against Congressmen Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, as well as AZ State Rep. Mark Finchem, the Trump-endorsed candidate for Secretary of State. The new Constitutional challenges follow on similar ones currently being litigated against Rep. Madison Cawthorn in North Carolina and Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia. All are based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment which bars those from holding office who have sworn an oath to support the Constitution, before subsequently, as per 14.3, having “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof."

THIRD, yet more good news today, as New York Attorney General Letitia James asked a state Court to hold Donald Trump in civil contempt for refusing to comply with a court order to turn over documents, as part of her investigation into bank, tax, and insurance fraud by the former President and his family members, Ivanka and Don Jr. Shortly after that court filing on Thursday, Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg told CNN that his criminal probe into many of the same matters is "very much ongoing," despite the two lead prosecutors in the years-long probe recently resigning after charging that Bragg was not willing to move forward with indictments against Trump.

THEN, we get to our guest today, who may --- depending on how you look at it --- have the best news of all for those hoping to see actual federal prison time for the disgraced former President. It could take a while, but he's here to tell us today that U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland's investigation of the January 6th insurrection is proceeding in precisely the way he would expect it to proceed if, in fact, the AG was investigating possible criminal indictments of Trump for his part in inciting the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Writing at Washington Post late last week, RANDALL D. ELIASON, a former Asst. U.S. Attorney in D.C., where he served as Chief of the Public Corruption/Government fraud section, argued that legal critics of Garland, mostly on the left, are wrong. He sees progress by the Department as moving "impressively fast" and "unfolding at an increasingly rapid clip" just over one year into the investigation. (Eliason penned a similar argument late last year at WaPo.)

To date, independent investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler of Emptywheel has made one of the loudest cases, in the face of skeptics, that Garland is, indeed, working his way up the legal food chain toward Trump in the DoJ's huge investigation of the J6 insurrection. (She's joined us on the show a number of times in recent months to argue as much.) Today, Eliason says he believes she's absolutely right.

"There's this huge debate on Twitter and elsewhere, whether Garland's doing nothing at all or whether this is just what we should expect [if working toward a potential Trump indictment]. I agree with Marcy Wheeler here that this is exactly what we should expect," he tells me. "The signs are this is in fact what's happening."

"The alternative is you rush, you put together a case without doing it properly just to bring some charges, and you lose. You don't want to bring a half-baked case in something that's this significant or this important. If you're going to bring a case at all, you've got to do it properly."

"Garland's role here is to not be swayed by political pressures, but to take the case wherever the facts and the law lead them, as he said. Which, to me, appears to be exactly what he's doing," argues Eliason, who now teaches white collar criminal law at George Washington University Law School in D.C. "And the suggestions, frankly, from some of the critics, that Biden should replace him, or fire him, or lean on him to do something --- that's exactly what everybody was outraged about when Trump and Barr were doing it. That kind of politicization of the Justice Department --- the idea that Biden should lean on Garland or fire him because he's not moving fast enough --- is the exact opposite of what we want. And the exact opposite of what Biden and Garland promised to do to get away from the Trump era, where Bill Barr was running around and doing favors for Trump cronies, interfering in the administration of justice, and politicizing the Justice Department. That is the last thing we want."

Eliason speaks to how and if DoJ and the House January 6 Committee may be coordinating their efforts, and why some members of that Committee have recently called on the Departments to do more, faster. He also offers insight on why it may be that Mark Meadows, Trump's last Chief of Staff, has yet to be indicted for Contempt after Congress, after being referred for the charge months ago by the House, even as Steve Bannon was indicted within weeks after a similar referral.

In our broad discussion on these matters, we also discuss the unique time elements involved here, in regard to the possibility that Trump could declare his candidacy to run in 2024; what DoJ guidelines mandate regarding investigations or indictments to close to an election; and whether a federal indictment by Biden's Justice Dept. in such a case would be seen by the former President and his cult-like followers as little more than a political vendetta

There's a lot to tune in for here, particularly if you are a Garland skeptic or frustrated with the pace of his investigation. As Eliason reminds us, the Enron indictments came a full four years after the collapse of the company and their scam was exposed. Even Watergate took at least two years before major charges were brought. We are now just over one year out from what has become the largest probe in DoJ history. By far.

In addition to discussion about Trump accountability for his attempts to try and steal the 2020 election, we also discuss Trump's NY legal threats, and what should be done about corrupt, far-right activist Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas following the recent news that his corrupt, far-right activist wife Ginni was relentlessly texting Meadows in the days following Trump's election loss to encourage the Administration to prevent the peaceful transfer of power to Joe Biden, the winner of the 2020 Presidential election.

FINALLY, Desi Doyen joins us for a bit more accountability talk, this time for Big Oil CEO war profiteers who testified this week in Congress, in our latest Green News Report. Also on the GNR rundown today, Europe's move to ban Russian coal, the EPA's plan to finally ban deadly asbestos and the increasing cost to tax-payers --- in dollars and lives --- of increasing power outages during increasingly powerful climate change-fueled storms...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: Legal journalist Mark Joseph Stern of Slate; Also: Major new study confirms Ivermectin ineffective as COVID treatment...
By Brad Friedman on 3/30/2022 7:13pm PT  

On today's BradCast, one of our favorite guests is back to explain why the wildly corrupt Thomases, as horrible as they are, may be one of the least of our concerns when it comes to what the rest of the GOP's wildly corrupt --- not to mention stolen and packed --- U.S. Supreme Court may now be moving toward.[Audio link to full, must-listen show is posted below.]

First up, however, a major new, peer-reviewed, double-blind study released in full today, finds what many have been trying to make clear for quite some time: There is no legitimate evidence that the anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin, most commonly used to de-worm horses, has any positive effect as a treatment for COVID.

In fact, as one part of the huge new Brazilian study found, placebo pills were actually more effective than Ivermectin! Dr. Andrew Hill, a virologist at the University of Liverpool in England, whose early analysis (since retracted) of several smaller studies (at least one of which appears to have been fraudulent) was frequently cited for evidence of the drug's effectiveness, appears now to concur that the new Brazilian study pretty much removes all doubt. Ivermectin is of no use in treating COVID. We now have a pretty large body of evidence demonstrating that is true no matter what clownish TV doctors and profiteers and misinformation specialists on Fox "News" or Joe Rogan's podcast have to say about it.

That said, there are safe and effective (and free) ways to avoid the worst effects of COVID, which peer-reviewed studies have confirmed. They include the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. Actual professional virologists, epidemiologists and both the CDC and FDA strongly recommend them, as do we. Earlier this week the FDA authorized a second booster shot for anyone over 50 who hasn't received a shot in the past four months. Please get one and let's end this goddamn pandemic once and for all. Thanks.

On to our main topic(s) today, as we're joined by the always great, always illuminating, and pretty much always-right-about-everything MARK JOSEPH STERN, legal journalist from Slate.com who smartly covers the law, the court system, the U.S. Supreme Court, election law, LGBTQ issues and much more.

We've got just a few things to discuss with Stern today, including the ridiculous Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings last week for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Joe Biden's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, where she would be its first black female Justice. On Wednesday, it was actually news for some reason that one Senate Republican has announced she will vote for Jackson's confirmation. But, beyond the childish stupidity of Republican Senators on the Judiciary Committee last week falsely suggesting that Jackson is somehow in favor of child porn and terrorists, there was something else far more disturbing that emerged from the GOP questioning of Biden's highly qualified nominee.

In short: Republicans aren't just targeting Roe v. Wade's well-established right to an abortion (which the Supreme Court is very likely to overturn within the next few months), but they actually appear to be gunning to reverse a whole bunch of landmark, privacy-related rights, including Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark 2015 ruling establishing a Constitutional right to same sex marriage equality. But that's not all. Also now in their sites for reversal are Griswold v. Connecticut (1965, establishing the right for married couples to buy and use contraceptives) and, yes, even Loving v. Virginia (1967's landmark civil rights decision establishing the right to interracial marriage)!

Think these concerns are exaggerated? That Republicans aren't actually gunning for those federal rights as well? Tune in and find out if you're wrong.

Also, as we discuss, Stern now believes it is unlikely that Republicans will ever vote to confirm another Supreme Court Justice nominated by a Democratic President if they regain majority control of the Senate. He further believes they will stop confirming the President's nominees for any judgeship on the federal bench.

"It is very clear now that Republicans begin from the position that Democratic Presidents have no authority and no right to appoint Supreme Court Justices, or to appoint lower court judges. This is following a longstanding pattern in the Senate of Republicans almost uniformly --- or all uniformly --- voting against nominees to the lower court, including many who are super-qualified and uncontroversial," Stern observes. "We have swung back and forth between close confirmation votes and big overwhelming lopsided confirmation votes, but I fear that this is how it will be forevermore."

While those issues would be more than enough to fill an entire interview, it's not even half of what we cover with Stern today, including his thoughts on the wildly corrupt longtime rightwing activist Ginni Thomas and her husband, the wildly corrupt longtime rightwing activist Justice Clarence Thomas. The conversation follows on last week's explosive revelations that Ginni was relentlessly texting Donald Trump's Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in November of 2020, urging him to fight to reverse the results of Joe Biden's election victory, in hopes of overturning American democracy itself.

Given that Clarence was the only vote on the High Court in favor of blocking subpoenaed documents from the Trump White House, which might have included emails and text from Ginni, from being turned over by the National Archives to the U.S. House January 6 Committee, Stern believes this matter is now like nothing we have ever seen at SCOTUS.

"This may feel like the latest in a long line of atrocious conflicts of interest and injustices that Clarence and Ginni Thomas have inflicted on the country, but it is materially different, because we have never before seen a case where Clarence Thomas' vote so directly implicates his wife's work," Stern argues. After I note another such case --- where Ginni received hundreds of thousands of dollars in dark money for her so-called non-partisan non-profits following Clarence's vote in the 2010 Citizens United case (after that very same group, Citizens United, had quietly spent hundreds of thousands to help push through Clarence's controversial confirmation in 1991!), Stern notes that it "looks to the world, quite reasonably, like a husband trying to shield his wife from legal scrutiny. I think that is a huge leap forward in this story. This is different in kind, not just degree." He adds: "I think it's helpful to draw this distinction between votes that benefit a spouse and votes that shield them from a criminal probe."

So what should be done about the Thomases? Tune in for Stern's thoughts (and mine!) for a very lively conversation on that.

But wait, there's more! You may have heard about last week's outrageous "shadow docket" decision by the Court that put on hold a ruling by Wisconsin's Supreme Court, including the opinion written by one of its leading conservative justices, finding that Democratic Governor Tony Evers' new map for state legislative seats in the Badger State should be used in this year's redistricting, following the 2020 Census. The GOP's corrupt SCOTUS, however, feels otherwise, even though Evers' map was closer to the state's previous (and wildly gerrymandered) one than the map pushed by the state's far-right gerrymandered state legislature. To make the matter even more absurd, the High Court completely ignored its own entirely made up and opportunistically used "Purcell Principle", which is supposedly meant to prevent last minutes changes to laws that might throw elections into chaos. In this case, since Wisconsin's Supreme Court and Democratic Governor both agreed that a new black majority district was needed in Milwaukee, the rightwingers on SCOTUS decided they'd never heard of Purcell or, apparently, the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

If you're flummoxed about all of this based on the above explanation, you're not alone. Tune in, as Stern tries, as usual, to help us make sense of the senselessness now coming out of a U.S. Supreme Court that is on the verge of losing whatever shred of legitimacy it may have had left at this point...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: Philly Inquirer's Will Bunch on the corrupt Thomases, criminal Trump, missing 1/6 phone logs, and our never-ending quest for account-ability; Also: Smith apologizes to Rock; FDA okays new booster shots...
By Brad Friedman on 3/29/2022 6:51pm PT  

As usual, on today's BradCast, there is more continuing Trump corruption news than we can possibly keep up with. But don't blame us for trying. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

First up, however, a bit of news on the Omicron sub-variant BA.2, which has now become the dominant variant in the U.S. The FDA announced today that it has approved second Pfizer and Moderna boosters for everyone 50 years of age and over who received their last shot at least four months ago. Also, Will Smith apologized on Instagram to Chris Rock for assaulting him at the Oscars. A day late, but there ya go.

Then, we try to catch up with some of the latest Trump corruption/accountability news and some that we've fallen behind on, with an assist from longtime Philadelphia Inquirer columnist WILL BUNCH, who has been in a bit of a funk over the mountain of evidence of corruption on the Right and the lack of accountability for it.

Among the stories he and I discuss today...

  • The news of the longtime prosecutors who recently resigned from the probe of Trump's years-long bank, tax and insurance fraud felonies after the new Manhattan D.A., Alvin Bragg, took over the investigation and tanked it. As revealed last week, one of the disappointed lead prosecutors told Bragg in his resignation letter last month that Trump was "guilty of numerous felony violations, that dropping the probe was "a grave failure of justice" and that "the team that has been investigating Mr. Trump harbors no doubt about whether he committed crimes - he did."
  • The insane, conspiracy-theory laden text messages sent in November 2020 by longtime rightwing activist Ginni Thomas --- wife of longtime rightwing Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas --- to Trump's then Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, encouraging him to fight to steal the 2020 election. And the difficulty (at least by Democrats) of bringing accountability for our corrupted Court and its "giant legitimacy crisis".
  • The seven and half hour gap in the Trump White House call logs from January 6th, 2021, as reported today by the Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, showing no record of Trump calls during the insurrection he incited at the U.S. Capitol from 11:17am that day until 6:54pm that night, even though the U.S. House Committee investigating the insurrection has confirmed a number of phone conversations that occurred with Trump that day.

"There seems to be no way or no will to hold our staggeringly corrupt leaders accountable --- whether it's Trump defrauding the banks or plotting an attempted coup from the Oval Office, or a Supreme Court justice ruling on his wife's bat-guano crazy political crusade," Bunch lamented in his column over the weekend. "I'm in a total funk over the state of the union."

Today he tells me, "We have this situation where there are a lot of people in the body politic saying look, the evidence is overwhelming that the 45th President of the United States was a criminal, and yet, the handful of people who are actually in the most key positions for possibly doing something about it won't go there, apparently." While he recognizes that some, such as our friend Marcy Wheeler of Emptywheel, believe Attorney Gernal Merrick Garland actually is working his way up the food chain toward Trump, he remains dubious.

"Common sense is telling me that, given what's at stake, this is taking too long," he argues. "While this hangs out there, you've got all of these state legislatures enacting laws to make it possible to pull off a coup in 2024. Maybe putting a few of these guys on trial and sending a few of them up the river, maybe that would change the dynamic a bit in the country."

Bunch does put stock in the House J6 Committee's work and looks forward to Watergate-like hearings in the coming months which might change the current trajectory. But, in the meantime, he remains concerned about the ability of key institutions, like our corrupted SCOTUS, to maintain any legitimacy.

"A healthy democracy would have a healthy Supreme Court. But it's a very reform-proof operation. Only one Supreme Court Justice has been impeached in U.S. history," he notes. "They don't have any particular code of ethics, even when it comes to recusing themselves on cases like this Clarence Thomas situation. They're supposed to use their best judgment, and we kind of have to hope for the best."

"For a long time there has been this simmering general sense that there are two systems. There's not one system of justice in this country. That certain privileged people at the top, it's not just politicians, it's wealthy people, it's high-profile people...Here's New York City with six cops ganging up on somebody who jumps a subway turnstile because they didn't pay the $2.50 fare because they probably couldn't afford it. There's a sense of anger about that, and I think it ties in to how people feel about Trump or Ginni Thomas, that it's all of one piece. And I think that is just causing a broader lack of trust in this country."

But, Bunch also insists that he remains "an optimist," is hopeful things can still change and that we may soon begin to see accountability. "That's the January 6 Committee. Once they get their case out there, the public demand for [accountability] might peak. And for that, we can only hope."

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, with news on Europe weaning itself from Russian fossil fuels and, speaking of a lack of accountability, new reporting on how corrupt Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has, for years now, used his public office for massive personal financial gain...

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Federal Judge finds Trump 'more likely than not' committed felonies in trying to steal 2020 election; Ginni Thomas to be called by House J6 Comm.; Callers ring in on Will Smith's Oscars assault of Chris Rock...
By Brad Friedman on 3/28/2022 6:43pm PT  

Given how many folks saw what happened at the Oscar's on Sunday night, today's BradCast summary needn't be very detailed on that point, I suspect. The second half of our program today is filled with our own thoughts and those of callers, on the many fascinating angles on why Will Smith's assault of Chris Rock on live TV was both so traumatizing to many and so very wrong. (Though not all of our callers agree!) [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

First, before we get there, a bit of somewhat satisfying news, for the moment, from a federal judge in California. It comes in the case of Rightwing Trump attorney John Eastman, who has filed a lawsuit to try and withhold documents he describes as attorney-client privileged from the House Select Committee investigating the January 6, 2021 insurrection. The ruling is the first by a federal judge to hold that "based on the evidence", both Donald Trump (and Eastman) "more likely than not" committed federal felonies in their attempt to steal the 2020 election.

Judge David Carter, a Bill Clinton appointee, declared [PDF] the evidence suggests both men "corruptly attempted" to obstruct the work of Congress on January 6, 2021, and conspired to defraud the United States in the bargain. "The illegality of the plan was obvious," writes Carter, ordering Eastman to turn over about 100 documents to the House Committee. "Our nation was founded on the peaceful transition of power, epitomized by George Washington laying down his sword to make way for democratic elections. Ignoring this history, President Trump vigorously campaigned for the vice president to single-handedly determine the results of the 2020 election.”

"Every American --- and certainly the President of the United States --- knows that in a democracy, leaders are elected, not installed" Carter continued. "If the country does not commit to investigating and pursuing accountability for those responsible, the Court fears January 6 will repeat itself."

Of particularly note, since some prosecutors have suggested that it would be difficult to win a conviction against the former President, since he might argue he didn't understand he was committing various crimes, Carter wrote: "President Trump and Dr. Eastman justified the plan with allegations of election fraud, but President Trump likely knew the justification was baseless, and therefore that the entire plan was unlawful." [Emphasis added.]

Eastman, of course, may try to appeal the ruling all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where one of the most corrupt jurists to ever sit on the formerly esteemed body, Justice Clarence Thomas, still sits. But the good(ish) news on that front, for now, is that the House J6 Committee reportedly intends to ask his equally corrupt wife Ginni, a longtime, far-right activist and, apparently, conspiracy theorist, to sit for an interview before the panel.

That invitation (not yet a subpoena, according to reporting suggesting the Committee's lead Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney opposes issuing one to her), follows the stunning news last week of more than two dozen text messages exchanged by Ginni with Trump's then Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in November of 2020, encouraging him to keep fighting to reverse the election (to steal it!) and overturn what Ginni cluelessly described in one of her insane notes as "the greatest heist in American history."

She also mentioned discussing the matter with an unnamed "best friend". The Thomases have been known to refer to each other as "best friends". Democrats are now calling on Thomas to recuse himself, due to the obvious conflicts of interest, from any cases having anything to do with the 2020 election. But we believe Dems need to go much farther than that (and I hope to discuss that in more detail soon.)

Finally then, it's on to the slap seen and heard around the world at Sunday's Academy Awards. The one that kept me up until 4am for reasons that I had difficulty understanding. We talk it through today with a bunch of callers, most of whom condemn Smith for what he did (as do we), though at least one caller does not. Then again, he also thinks the entire thing was "staged" and thought it appropriate to call me "Beta Boy"(?) for some reason. That quite amusing and, of course, very persuasive!

I suspect you'll enjoy today's BradCast, even if it's a bit more pop culture-oriented than usual! But there's a reason (perhaps several) that Smith's assault of Rock was so traumatizing for many, going beyond mere pop culture, as we discuss as well. Besides that, we can all use a bit of a break every now and again with a "scandal" that doesn't touch on corruption, war, nuclear terror, the rise of autocracy and the persistent undermining of the U.S. Constitution --- not to mention the destruction of Planet Earth...

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Guest: Amy Slipowitz of Freedom House; Also: Keeping up with the wildly corrupt Clarence and Ginni Thomas; Some good news for EVs in the U.S....
By Brad Friedman on 3/25/2022 7:08pm PT  

I don't think "freedom" means what many on the Right in this country seem to think it means. Our guest on The BradCast today, an expert in such things, seems to agree. [Audio link to full show follows below this summary.]

First up, Lord Manchin has spoken! We'll soon learn if Lady Sinema agrees. But, for now at least, West Virginia's Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is not taking the bait from Republicans this time around. He says he will be be voting in favor of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Joe Biden's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, after a week in which she was flogged by all sorts of stuff and nonsense from an increasingly ridiculous, pathetic and extreme Republican caucus in the U.S. Senate. We don't yet know if the other obstructionist Democratic Senator, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, agrees, but if so --- and presuming all 50 Democratic Senators stay healthy between now and the time they hold a vote to confirm Judge Jackson --- we should have our first black female Supreme Court Justice on the High Court very soon.

But, speaking of both corruption and the Supreme Court, its longest-serving and arguably most corrupt Justice (though there's much competition here), Clarence Thomas has reportedly been discharged from the hospital after a week of treatment for a still unspecified "infection". After waiting two days to report that he'd been admitted in the first place last Friday, the Court said on Sunday that the 73-year old Thomas would be out of the hospital after receiving intravenous antibiotics for his "flu-like symptoms" by Tuesday. But after Wednesday and Thursday happened without any updates on his condition or whereabouts, we are told he was finally released on Friday, though no more information was provided on either his condition or his ailment.

That news comes a day after his similarly corrupt, far-right activist wife Ginni Thomas made headlines again on Thursday, when news of a series of insane text messages she sent to then White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows was made public on Thursday afternoon. The messages Ginni sent to Meadows in November of 2020 included loony conspiracy theories claiming the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and instructed Meadows to fight to overturn the results finding that Joe Biden had won.

And all of that was going on even as Ginni's husband Clarence was voting (thankfully) in the minority on the Court in favor of Trump's various dumb challenges to the results of the election he lost, and for attempts to block things like lawful Congressional subpoenas, which would include Ginni's messages to Meadows, from being shared with the U.S. House Select Committee investigating the January 6th 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Of course, Clarence, who has been trying to hide both his and his wife's corruption for decades now, never recused himself from any of those cases, despite the outrageous conflicts of interest caused by his far-right activist wife. Luckily for them both, they are Republicans. So his corruption on the bench will likely be allowed to continue.

But, It is that sort of corruption and much more from the unapologetic Rightwing in this country --- as opposed to a lack of "freedom" to go maskless during the worst pandemic in a century --- that has helped precipitate the United States' fall in the annual Freedom House ranking on the condition of political rights and civil liberties in nations across the globe.

The non-partisan group's 2022 report is titled "The Global Expansion of Authoritarian Rule." It follows on last year's, titled "Democracy Under Siege," which we discussed at the time of its release on this show with one of its co-authors. In both, the U.S. no longer even cracks the top 50 most "Free" countries anymore, based on the 25 indicators measured by the group of international experts who work with Freedom House, which, founded in 1941, describes itself as "the oldest American organization devoted to the support and defense of democracy around the world."

After 16 consecutive years now of what Freedom House warns to be a "decline in global freedom," in which democracies are becoming less democratic and authoritarianism continues to rise across the globe, the U.S. now ranks at about 63rd on the list. It's tied with nations like South Korea, Romania and Panama, and and comes in just behind nations like Argentina, Mongolia, Croatia and Latvia on their Freedom House's index. We are now far behind Slovenia and the Czech Republic and, according to this year's report, have nowhere near the Freedoms available in nations such as Taiwan, Estonia or Chile, much less Australia, Switzerland, Japan, Uruguay, the Netherlands, Canada and New Zealand. For the record, the nations tied for the most "Free" in the world: Norway, Finland and Sweden.

Our guest today is AMY SLIPOWITZ, Freedom House Research Manager and co-author of their flagship annual report. Our conversation includes the methodologies used in compiling the group's findings and how they define what "freedom" actually is. "It's pretty simple," she explains. "To us, freedom means democracy, a governing system based on the will and consent of the governed. It has institutions that are accountable to all citizens. These include things like an independent judiciary, free media, and strong civil society. And ultimately, a democracy is the best system for ensuring that everyone's human rights are respected, no matter who they voted for."

What are the key differences between this year's reports and last year's? "The main driver that we found for the decline in 2021 was that autocrats are increasingly cooperating and supporting each other in their attacks on democratic norms and institutions," Slipowitz asserts. "And with this, authoritarians have made really enormous gains in the international system. So they've been able to use that influence to promote autocracy as a viable alternative to democracy. The cooperation isn't based on any unifying ideology, or even friendship or affinity among authoritarians, but on a single shared interest, which is to stay in power by any means necessary."

"A key part of this is trying to transform the international system, where the rules-based international order no longer applies," she adds. "So that's where you see authoritarian regimes causing conflict and other really egregious abuses. We've seen this manifest with things like more military coups, more elections with pre-determined outcomes, power grabs. To give just a couple of examples, military coups happened in five countries this year. This was more common in 2021 than in any year of the past decade."

Among the related issues discussed with Slipowitz: What are the greatest factors in the slow decline of freedom and democracy across the globe over the past 15 years and the sudden plunge in freedom seen in 2020? Why is the U.S. now ranked so low on the Freedom House index, near the bottom of its index of "Free" nations? How much of a factor was the January 6th insurrection last year and new restrictions on voting in the U.S. in their determination? Does the rest of the world still consider the U.S. to be a "beacon of freedom" worth following and emulating? How do mask and vaccine mandates amid the COVID pandemic, dramatically cited by many on the Right as the death of personal freedom, play into this year's ratings? How about the banning of books and the teaching of subjects such as systemic racism and sexuality? And, have we seen a similar years-long decline in global democracy and rise of authoritarianism at any other time in recent history?

"It's much easier to dismantle democratic systems than it is to build them back up," Slipowitz warns. "For the U.S. to recover from this 11-point decline over ten years, it's really important that the more structural issues be strengthened and fixed." All of that and much more during our enlightening --- and occasionally chilling --- conversation.

Finally today, some quick coverage of several good(ish) news stories we had hoped to cover yesterday, but had to dump at the last minute, thanks to the breaking news of the wildly corrupt Thomas clan. Among those stories: the rise in gas prices due to Big Oil profiteering and Russia's war in Ukraine is leading to a huge increase among American car buyers interest in battery-powered electric vehicles and hybrids; Emerging evidence that the Biden Administration may considering use of the Defense Production Act to build electric heat pumps here in the U.S. to help replace some 75 million oil and gas furnaces in Europe, currently dependent on Russian gas (as we discussed recently with climate journalist and activist Bill McKibben); And a doubling of the number of battery-powered electric delivery trucks being ordered by the U.S. Postal Service and its corrupt Postmaster, Louis DeJoy. (That still only amounts to a bare one-fifth of the new trucks being ordered at the moment to replace the aging, gas-guzzling USPS fleet...but we're still working on it!)

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Lowest jobless numbers since 1969; MTG faces ballot disqualification in GA; Trump dumps Brooks, Brooks turns on seditionist Trump; Ginni Thomas texted Meadows to steal 2020; And, again, where is Clarence?
By Brad Friedman on 3/24/2022 6:57pm PT  

There's plenty of bad news out there. But on today's BradCast, we've got plenty of good news amid the bad...some of which is interrupted by breaking, bizarre, though hardly surprising news (at least when it comes to the corrupt Clarence and Ginni Thomas!) [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

Almost all of these stories deserve more attention than they've been getting. But, because they tend to amount to good news and/or news that may help Dems and/or hurt Republicans, you haven't heard as much about them as you should from corporate media outlets where bad news leads or on social media, where rightwing outrage is monetized and weaponized. Among our many stories today...

  • According to the Commerce Dept., via Reuters, weekly jobless claims last week hit their lowest level since 1969! Seriously. But who knew? Do you think you might have heard more about that if Trump was President instead of Biden? While stories about inflation tend to dominate headlines, stories about Joe Biden's economy --- firing on all pistons, even amid both inflation and war in Europe --- quickly disappear off the front pages (if they showed up there in the first place.) Little wonder the President's approval ratings remain low, despite a booming economy and huge majorities of Americans (of all parties) supporting his response to Russia's war on Ukraine.
  • Far-right Congressional loon Marjorie Taylor Greene's eligibility to run for re-election is being officially contested today by Georgia voters and the Constitutional law experts at Free Speech for People (FSFP). The non-partisan group previously filed a separate challenge against the Constitutional eligibility of North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn to run in 2022 on the same basis. Greene, like Cawthorn, is accused of violating Section 3 of the 14th Amendment which bars those who have taken a federal oath to defend the Constitution from running again if they have subsequently "shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof." FSFP cites Greene's participation in the January 6, 2021 insurrection, including her pre-Jan 6 video-taped message urging supporters to block the peaceful transfer of power after Biden's 2020 Electoral College victory ("You can't allow it to just transfer power 'peacefully,'") and her charge that Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were "guilty of treason", which she described as "a crime punishable by death". That, before her supporters went on to attack the U.S. Capitol to block the peaceful transfer of power while calling for death of Pelosi. Under Georgia law, MTG will now have the burden of proving she isn't an insurrectionist, and FSFP will be able to depose her under oath in the process. Moreover, FSFP Co-Founder and President John Bonifaz tells The BRAD BLOG today: "There will be more such challenges to be filed this year."
  • Speaking of insurrectionists, one of Trump's favorite ones just got dumped by him. Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, running to win the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in the state, was unendorsed by Trump on Wednesday. Brooks, a top "Stop the Stealer", spoke at Trump's January 6th Insurrection Day rally near the White House. But, after urging the MAGA mob last year to turn their disappointment about 2020 into efforts to win in 2022 and 2024, Trump pretended he didn't like Brooks anymore and unendorsed him yesterday. The real reason he dumped him, of course, is because Brooks is currently running third in the GOP primary and Trump doesn't want to be seen as backing yet another loser. But in response to getting dumped, Brooks put out an extraordinary statement last night claiming Trump asked him to "rescind the 2020 elections, immediately remove Joe Biden from the White House, immediately put President Trump back in the White House, and hold a new special election for the presidency." Brooks stood by the claim during a local TV interview last night, saying that Trump asked him repeatedly to remove Biden and restore Trump, even recently. TPM's Josh Marshall describes it as "definitional sedition."
  • Then, as we did yesterday, we have to ask again: Where is Clarence Thomas? After being admitted to the hospital last Friday with an "infection" and "flu-like symptoms", the Supreme Court finally disclosed the hospitalization of the 73-year old Justice on Sunday, announcing "his symptoms are abating" after intravenous antibiotic treatment and that he'll be released "in a day or two". The Court has had no update since Sunday. Today, four days later, The Hill reports a friend says Thomas is "resting" and "going to be just fine", but won't disclose whether he's "resting" in the hospital or at home, for some reason. Why not? We discuss.
  • And, speaking of the apparently ailing and clearly corrupt Clarence Thomas, his far-right activist wife Ginni Thomas --- according to breaking news this afternoon from Bob Woodward and Robert Costa at Washington Post --- sent dozens of insane text messages to then White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, encouraging him to somehow steal the 2020 election in November of that year. The Thomases have long been corrupt, but this incident may take the cake. She was encouraging the Trump White House to find ways to overturn the results of a Presidential election while her husband was often the lone vote at SCOTUS in favor of absurd MAGA lawsuits challenging the election. He even voted in favor of challenges regarding the January 6 House Select Committee's subpoenas. Ya know, subpoenas that resulted in Meadows turning over text messages from his wife Ginni Thomas! This is a remarkable amount of corruption inside of corruption inside of corruption. Is it finally time to impeach Clarence Thomas? (If he is ever released from the hospital, in any event.)
  • Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, in which --- aside from more climate-fueled disasters in Texas and Louisiana, and nuclear concerns rising at Chernobyl --- she manages to find a whole bunch of surprising silver linings in the response to Putin's war on Ukraine, which is resulting in Europe speeding up their move away from fossil fuels...

If the news of late has ya down, today's show may offer a brief respite. You're welcome! (Yeah, we needed it too!)

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Guest: Prof. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of Yale School of Management; Also: More climate-fueled disasters in LA, TX; And, where is Clarence Thomas?...
By Brad Friedman on 3/23/2022 6:47pm PT  

Today on The BradCast: If you might otherwise expect a Senior Associate Dean at Yale University's School of Business Management to be a stodgy, rightwing, so-called pro-business conservative, think again. The one joining us today, naming and shaming major international corporations for continuing to do business with Russia even after their barbaric, nearly month-long destruction of Ukraine, is anything but. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

But first up today, very quickly, what you need to know about the deadly tornado swarm that slammed Louisiana and Texas overnight. It's just the latest in an increasingly long and violent string of climate change-fueled disasters slamming both states. Desi Doyen explains what climate scientists are learning about changes in tornadic weather as our climate crisis worsens in places like her old home state of Texas which, in recent years, has faced one such costly and deadly disaster after another (as the Republicans who control the state pretend fossil fuels have nothing to do with it.) From hurricanes to flooding to cold snaps that knock out power to the recent drought and wild fires which, at least last night's storms helped, in part, to have quelled a bit for now.

Next: Where is Clarence Thomas? The wildly corrupt U.S. Supreme Court Justice was admitted to the hospital last Friday, though the Court didn't announce it until Sunday, when their statement said he was being treated with intravenous antibiotics for an "infection" and "flu-like symptoms." The Court said on Sunday that the 73-year old Thomas would be out of the hospital by Monday or Tuesday. But, as of Wednesday, the Court had no comment on his whereabouts or his condition. Hmm...That, as Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson faced another ridiculous day of childish questioning from Republicans in her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings to replace Justice Stephen Breyer on the High Court.

Then, we're joined by Yale School of Management's Senior Associate Dean and Professor of Management Practice JEFFREY SONNENFELD for a very lively discussion of the more than 450 American and international corporations that have withdrawn partially or fully from Russia, and the smaller (but still substantive and extremely shameful) number of companies still doing business there during Putin's deadly siege on his sovereign neighbor.

Sonnenfeld and his team of colleagues and researchers at the school began by compiling a list of those companies who had pulled out of Russia shortly after Putin's invasion, and those that had yet to. That "Hall of Shame" list has since gained a great deal of public attention and, he tells us, has both helped to both encourage and shame CEOs into shutting their doors in Russia.

"We just had a session with 70 CEOs --- you're the first to know about this --- major CEOs across the face of American industry, with General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," Sonnenfeld tells us. "And he did emphasize that they are working off our list. We're humbled by that, but we know that people on Wall Street and the activist community are using it" as well.

Since its initial creation, the list is now broken down into more specific categories, including companies that have announced a full "Withdrawal"; others which merely declared a "Suspension" of operations for now; those that are "Scaling Back" by reducing operations; and the two most pernicious categories of companies that are either "Buying Time" by postponing new investments while continuing substantive business or, worst of all, "Digging In" by defying all demands to leave or even reduce operations there.

While Sonnenfeld notes that the list remains "a moving target", with several companies see their rating changed even as we went to air (the fossil fuel services giant Halliburton was moved from the worst, "Digging In," to the second worst, "Buying Time" today, for example), you'll be delighted to know our friends at the rightwing dark money conglomerate Koch Industries and its crappy paper subsidiaries like Georgia-Pacific, are staying put with Team Fascist Dictator for now.

On the other hand, Sonnenfeld says that he was pleasantly surprised that a number of Big Oil companies, "not usually on the leading edge of social change," pulled out early on. But, he has a thought or two for companies like Dunkin Donuts, Nestle, Mars candy and, yes, the rightwing Koch Industries, which, for its part, says they are staying in Russia for what they describe as the "health, safety and wellbeing of all employees. Leaving, they assert, "would only put our employees there at greater risk and do more harm than good."

Koch also justified their decision by claiming they refuse to "hand over these manufacturing facilities to the Russian government so it can operate and benefit from them." Sonnefeld identifies that as closer to the real reason Koch doesn't want to leave. "It's so ludicrous, on every level," he tells me. "There are now millions and million of employees that used to work for Western companies" now out of work in Russia. If all of those companies pulled out, "there wouldn't be a shred of legitimacy for the government. It would make the revolution happen instantly." He argues Russia couldn't "round up fifteen million people and then figure out what to do with them because they're not working for Western companies anymore. It's ridiculous."

Even companies like McDonald's, which has at least done the right thing by shuttering its 850 stores in Russia, only gets a "B" grade on the list's second, "Suspension" category, as they continue to pay their workers there in hopes of returning. "It allows Putin and Putin supporters to say, 'This was just ceremonial, it's temporary. You don't need to worry, they're not really leaving, they'll be back.'"

When asked if the company should receive plaudits for helping to keep their from going hungry, Sonnenfeld is unimpressed. "Those 60,000 people should be out of work and in the streets. That's what people don't understand on this," he insists. "They say, 'Oh, innocent Russians aren't responsible for what Putin is doing.' Yes, they are! It's their complacency. Putin is in power, not because he is popularly elected. He rules because of this iron fist of being a murderous tyrant. To take that on you've got to go in there with warfare. If we don't want to do that, one thing we can do to help those innocent Russians is to at least get them angry to be part of a civil disobedience, to be part of a shutdown of civil society."

He cites "bloodless revolutions" elsewhere, charging that "if you freeze up the economy, then you get people angry, out on the streets, and they bring down the government. But to keep them complacent and comfortable, that does no good whatsoever."

While recognizing the lack of a free press in Russia at this point, Sonnenfeld also has little sympathy. "It's because they willingly don't want to know. It isn't just because they don't get a free press. When all their favorite brands shut down and they're out of work --- if all of these non-Russian companies say 'You're a rogue nation!' --- maybe they'll start to realize that what Putin is telling them, that he's trying to 'liberate' Ukraine, they'll realize that's not true."

As you might guess, Sonnenfeld, the author of many books and academic papers on business management, leadership, and corporate governance, has much more to say on this subject and on the many companies who have done what he sees as the right thing, as well as those he feels should be penalized by the American people for failing to do so.

You can view the list or download a searchable Excel version here. But, first, you'll want to tune in for today's very lively and colorful conversation with Sonnenfeld...

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Senate confirmation hearings begin for Ketanji Brown Jackson; Russia's ground war on Ukraine nears 'stalemate' as deadly air bombardment continues; Callers ring in on Biden's response to Russia's aggression...
By Brad Friedman on 3/21/2022 6:01pm PT  

We're becoming too used to it by now, but it was another jarring start to an already busy week on The BradCast today, as we lurch once again between domestic politics and the hope for peace to somehow emerge in Ukraine. Callers ring in today on both topics. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

Among the stories covered on our program today...

  • 73-year old judicial activist and corrupt dark money champion Justice Clarence Thomas was hospitalized on Friday with an "infection" and "flu-like symptoms". The Supreme Court waited two days before announcing his hospitalization on Sunday night, claiming that his antibiotic treatment was working and that Thomas should be out of the hospital in a few days. They also report he plans to participate in this week's cases, even though he'll not be present for oral argument. But, since when did hearing the facts of a case ever have any sway on the opinions of the wildly corrupt Thomas? (Or his equally corrupt wife?)
  • After four hours of opening statements and opining by the 22 members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Biden's nominee to fill the seat on the U.S. Supreme Court being vacated by Justice Stephen Breyer this summer, offered her own brief opening remarks. Jackson, vowing to carry out her new role on SCOTUS with transparency and "without fear or favor", would be the first African-American woman on the Court, as well as the first one to have served as a public defender. Unlike Justice Thomas --- and the rest of the Republican appointees on the GOP's packed and stolen majority --- her nomination is, happily, not the culmination of years of dark money spent by activist political hustlers. We share Jackson's opening statement today, just in case you missed it.
  • Next, it's an update on the latest in Russia's horrific war on Ukraine, which is really devolving into two separate wars. One, a ground war which is grinding down to a stalemate for both sides, with Ukraine even winning back a bit of ground in recent days. The other, an aerial bombardment campaign which Russia is brutally winning with long-range missiles launched from within their own borders and an increasing number of criminal attacks by their air force on Ukraine's battered and besieged --- but still determined --- civilian population. There are also new concerns about radiation levels in the 1,000 square mile Exclusion Zone surrounding the cite of the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, some 60 miles from the Ukrainian capital. We discuss.
  • Then, new polling finds that Biden's actions in response to Ukraine --- rallying sanctions against Russia by the West, defensive armaments given to Ukraine, otherwise keeping U.S. military troops out of the fighting --- are wildly popular among huge majorities of Americans, both Democrats and Republicans alike. So, why are Biden's approval ratings still so low? So far, there is no indication of a rally-around-the-flag effect that would normally be expected during wars and disasters (and this is both). Why is that? We discuss and open up the phones to listeners on that topic and related matters today...

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Guest host Nicole Sandler with author, lawyer, Brandeis University professor Anita Hill...
By Nicole Sandler on 10/22/2021 3:58pm PT  

It's NICOLE SANDLER, back to guest host the BradCast today for Brad & Desi. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

Thirty years and 11 days ago, a woman named ANITA HILL swore an oath to tell the truth. She then testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about her experience working for Clarence Thomas. It was his confirmation hearing for a seat on the US Supreme Court. Her testimony was devastating. It was the first time anyone ever spoke of sexual harassment in such a public venue, especially from someone who was about to become an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

Those of us who were around and paying attention in 1991 remember it clearly, especially the reference to pubic hair on his coke can. Truly offensive. The only thing more offensive was the treatment of Hill by the panel of white male senators on the Judiciary Committee, including its chair, then-Senator Joe Biden.

A quick search of YouTube turns up a few video compilations of the most offensive questions they asked her. Here’s one from CNN, and another from Vice News.

After that, you really should listen to her opening statement too.

Well, it’s 30 years (and 11 days) later, and today, I'm talking with ANITA HILL. She's written a new book, Believing: Our Thirty Year Journey to End Gender Violence.

The topic is an important one that she now realized is her calling. Hill changed the world three decades ago. She's setting out to do it again. I hope you enjoy our conversation nearly as much as I did...

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Guest: Legal reporter Mark Joseph Stern on activist Alito's 'totally fabricated' new rules for Voting Rights Act enforcement and much more; Also: Corporations break vow on donations to insurrectionist GOPers...
By Brad Friedman on 7/9/2021 5:04pm PT  

On today's BradCast: A very lively conversation with one of our favorite guests...about a very dark moment in our nation's history. [Audio link to full show is posted at bottom of this summary.]

Last week, on the final day of its term this year, the 6 Republican Justices on the GOP's stolen and packed U.S. Supreme Court majority, "turned back the clock on voting rights," according to UC Irvine election law professor Rick Hasen. A week after Justice Samuel Alito opinion for the majority in Brnovich v. DNC was published, Hasen is "angry" that "so much of the public does not realize what a hit American democracy has taken," as the ruling "reopens the door to a United States in which states can put up roadblocks to minority voting and engage in voter suppression with few legal consequences once a state has raised tenuous and unsupported concerns about the risk of voter fraud. It's exactly the opposite of what Congress intended."

We share Hasen's fury today. Not only about the activist Rightwing SCOTUS jurists legislating from the bench to wholly rewrite the intent of Congress, but also about them ignoring the couldn't-be-clearer, simple meaning of the plain text of the 15th Amendment. The entire thing is only two sentences long. The first declares "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." The second states that "The CONGRESS shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation." [Emphasis added for our six deceitful, dishonest SCOTUS Justices.]

Once again, the Supreme Court has chosen to simply ignore that second sentence in --- yet again --- gutting the Voting Rights Act, the appropriate legislation Congress wrote, and has amended to strengthen several times, in order to enforce the 15th Amendment, as literally directed by the Constitution. And, once again, the Roberts Court has put the lie to the bogus claim by the Right that the Republican appointees are "originalists" or "Constitutional textualists" who believe only in the literal, plain text meaning of Constitution as it was written. That is clearly, and always has been, a bald-faced lie.

We're joined today by the great MARK JOSEPH STERN, legal reporter at Slate, to discuss, at term's end, the outrage of the "mangled" Brnovich opinion, which now allows Arizona and other Republican controlled states to simply ignore the expressed intent of Congress' specific legislation barring voting laws that result in disproportionate disenfranchisement of minority voters and pretends that the Judiciary, not Congress, has the "power to enforce" the Constitution's 15th Amendment.

"You're dead right about the Fifteenth Amendment," Stern tells me. "And I do think it's worth noting that all of the Reconstruction amendments expressly empower Congress to enforce them. Because the framers of these amendments after the Civil War recognized that it was crucial not to just rely on the federal courts to protect rights, that Congress itself needed to play a leading role in the protection of Constitutional rights. And, particularly, the protection of political equality for people of all races."

"The conservative Justices [they're not "conservative", which we discuss as well!] have adopted this position not just of judicial supremacy but judicial arrogance, that the framers of the Reconstruction amendments couldn't possibly have intended to give Congress power to go beyond the Supreme Court's own interpretation of the Constitution.," Stern fumes. "This is a theme that we see from conservative justices over and over again --- where they say 'We're the ones who decide what counts as a right. We're the ones who decide what counts as legal and illegal, and Congress has nothing to say. Congress can only enforce our own rulings. What five of us say on this Supreme Court overrules what everyone says in Congress and the elected democratic branches. That has led to this twisted position where we don't see a lot of litigators actually speaking about the text of the 15th Amendment because the court has said, 'We sit at the top of the hierarchy, we get to decide, and all Congress can do is enforce our positions.'"

Stern also joins Hasen's (and my) anger in seeing SCOTUS blatantly ignore Congress's express intent for Section 2 of the VRA to prevent voting laws that result in the disenfranchisement of minorities. "What Justice Alito has done," Stern tells us, amounts to simply "making up" a new rule that is "totally fabricated" and "nowhere in the text" of either the law or the Constitution, in setting new "guideposts" for the use of the VRA's Section 2. "The law says very explicitly that any voting restrictions that results in disproportionate impact on racial minorities is illegal."

At the same time that the Court allowed Arizona's new voter suppression laws, Stern notes the irony of Chief Justice John Roberts, on the very same day in another "bitterly divided" 6 to 3 opinion (Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta), blocking the state of California's law that allowed its Attorney General to learn the name of "dark money" donors to non-profit groups in order to enforce state laws and limits. All of which, Stern observes, bodes very darkly for both what is to come in the next term of SCOTUS (major cases on guns, abortion and affirmative action are on the docket) and beyond --- not to mention any laws Democrats in Congress may pass (if they can ever reform the filibuster) to protect voting rights.

"In fact, I have been saying for a long time, unfortunately, that this Supreme Court will strike down large portions, if not all, of the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act," Stern warns. "Next term is winding up to be one of the most catastrophic terms for progressives, for the left, in history --- in the entire history of the country."

With that bright news, we also discuss the disappointment of 82-year old, Democratic-appointed Justice Stephen Breyer failing to announce his retirement last week as many hoped, so he could be replaced by a Democratic White House and Senate, while both still exist. And, yes, there is much more in our conversation today regarding SCOTUS at the end of its first term with three far-right activist jurists packed onto it by Senate Republicans who happily blocked a Democratic appointee to the Court for year, before unilaterally killing the Senate filibuster to seat all three of Trump's appointees.

Also today, remember all of those major corporations who pretended to express outrage after the January 6th insurrection and the passage of voter suppression laws around the country, vowing to halt corporate donations to members of Congress who voted against the certification of Joe Biden's decisive victory over Trump? Yeah, as we warned you months ago, most of them didn't actually mean it. Now we have much more proof...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Guest: Dark money researcher Lisa Graves on Sen. Whitehouse's Judiciary Committee revelations on the GOP's decades-long, $250 million Supreme Court-packing coup; Also: Good news for voters in VA, TX, AK!...
By Brad Friedman on 10/14/2020 6:56pm PT  

We begin today's BradCast with some good news from the courts, for a change, regarding voting rights in several states today, as the GOP's trench warfare to suppress the vote wherever they can continues, now 20 days out from Election Day. Then, it's on to the $250 million dark-money scheme that a closely interconnected conspiracy of mostly low-profile rightwing groups have orchestrated with Republicans in the U.S. Senate to pack the federal courts --- specifically the U.S. Supreme Court --- and push specific cases to them that are similarly rigged by "orchestrated amicus flotillas" to help achieve very specific results that just happen to benefit all of the well-moneyed interests involved in the well-orchestrated and well-funded conspiracy that made it all happen. [Audio link to show follows below.]

First, we go light before we go "dark". In Virginia, where a severed fiber optic cable knocked out online voter registration for the entire state on Tuesday, the last day to do so this year, a federal judge has granted an extra 48 hours for residents in the Commonwealth to sign up. You've now got until 11:59pm Thursday, Virginians! Get busy!

In Texas, where desperate Republicans are challenging absolutely every new measure instituted to make voting easier and safer amid the pandemic --- even going so far as to sue their own Republican Governor for extending early voting by one week --- a state court of appeals has tossed a case filed Monday by the GOP to block Harris County's plan for "drive-thru" voting. The case was filed just one day before Early Voting began in the state yesterday. Some 11,000 votes were reportedly cast from vehicles via curbside voting centers in Harris County's Houston on Tuesday, as implemented by the County's new, 34-year old County Clerk, Chris Hollins. Dem-leaning Houston has a population of 4.7 million and a geographical area larger than the state of Rhode Island. It is the nation's third most populous voting jurisdiction. A total of 10 drive-thru sites are planned for use during Early Voting. The court win comes as another too-rare victory for voters in the Lone Star State, where the GOP is desperately trying to block the demographic writing on the wall against them.

And, in Alaska, the state Supreme Court has upheld a lower court ruling that nullifies the state's witness signature requirement for mail-in ballots during the pandemic. The suit was brought by Alaskan Native Americans and voting rights groups who successfully argued that the requirement "impermissibly burdens the right to vote" while many Alaskans are quarantining alone during the crisis. The state's top election official, Republican Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, had appealed the lower court ruling all the way to the state Supremes...and has now lost. But voters have won.

Then, we head into the "darkness" following Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)'s remarkable, must watch revelations (transcript here) on Tuesday during the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee's appalling and hypocritical push to ram through the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett before Election Day. In short, Whitehouse summarized the broad and insidious network of interconnected rightwing dark-money groups that select federal court judges for Republicans to nominate to the bench; quietly fund the PR campaigns to push for their confirmations; seek out specific cases to bring to those same judges for a desired outcome that enriches their well-moneyed interests; and then bury the Supreme Court with amicus briefs spelling out that desired outcome.

Whitehouse details the remarkable success that the groups have seen in recent years in not only packing the federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court, but in an 80 to 0 record of wins at the high court with partisan 5 to 4 victories in each and every case.

Teeing off the Senate Republicans' eagerness to push through Barrett's confirmation closer to any Presidential election in U.S. history --- despite vows from the party in 2016 that they would never support filling a Supreme Court seat during a Presidential election year until American voters have had a say in the matter --- Whitehouse observes near the beginning of his remarks that, in his "experience around politics, when you find hypocrisy in the daylight, look for power in the shadows."

Using charts and magic-markers to break down the sprawling case and evidence of the closely-allied, secretly-funded groups making up that "power in the shadows" --- from the Federalist Society (which promoted Barrett's nomination), to the so-called Judicial Crisis Network, to the Bradley Foundation to Donors Trust and the Koch Brothers --- the Rhode Island Senator neatly unfolds the very clear conspiracy that has successfully resulted in cases that benefit its dark-money funders to the tune of billions of dollars returned on their investments.

Much of Whitehouse's case cited evidence first revealed by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), a non-profit good government watchdog and research organization headed up for many years by LISA GRAVES, a former Deputy Asst. Attorney General at the U.S. Justice Department, a former Chief Counsel for nominations in the U.S. Senate, and a former Deputy Chief for the U.S. Court system. She still serves as President of the Board of Directors at CMD and is currently the Executive Director of True North Research.

With all of those qualifications, Graves is uniquely positioned to offer much more insight into Whitehouse's Tuesday revelations of the, yes, actual, decades-long GOP judicial conspiracy now in play; Barrett's qualifications for a lifetime appointment to highest court in the land; her performance during this week's confirmation hearings; and whether Democrats should expand not only the U.S. Supreme Court --- if they win both the Presidency and Senate majority in November --- but the lower federal courts as well.

Graves tells me that Whitehouse's remarks were "very, very important, because he was able to use this forum to shine a light on something that most Americans have no idea is going on, as part of this capture of our courts, which is really about changing our rights and doing it through judicial fiat." She explains that "that thirty minutes is really a class, a course, on understanding this puppet show that we're seeing with this nomination, of who is really calling the shots, and how this is happening."

She also offers a reaction to my own monologue from the top of yesterday's BradCast, in which I detailed the under-appreciated hypocrisy and judicial dishonesty of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, regarding his professed claims of "conservative" Constitutional "originalism" and "strict consructionism". Barrett worked hard during her opening statement on Monday to associate herself with Scalia's disingenuous judicial philosophy, citing the late rightwing extremist Justice, for whom she once clerked, as a model for own tenure as a federal jurist.

There is much ground to cover in all of the above with Graves, so I hope you'll tune in for this one!...

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Guest: Slate's legal and justice reporter Dahlia Lithwick; Also: Pence Press Sec., Stephen Miller's wife, tests positive for coronavirus...
By Brad Friedman on 5/8/2020 6:54pm PT  

Today on The BradCast: This week the Republican's stolen U.S Supreme Court took a huge step forward toward public transparency by live-streaming their oral arguments for the first time in history. No, it wasn't on video. It was via telephonic conference call. But one step at a time, I guess. There's something, anyway, to thank the coronavirus for. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

We're joined today by Slate's Supreme Court legal expert and justice reporter DAHLIA LITHWICK to discuss the first-ever oral arguments by phone for the Court and the first to be broadcast live to the nation. It was also the week when the nation's heart skipped a beat or two for a short time upon learning that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had been "hospitalized with an infection". Turns out the infection was thankfully not COVID-19, but a gallbladder matter which left the 87-year old Justice able to participate in the week's historic telephonic arguments from her hospital bed in Maryland.

"It reminds us," Lithwick says, "pinning all of our hopes on an octogenarian...is a pretty scary way to be doing justice. But in a really profound way, it kind of reminds us that the people who are getting shredded by this virus are that generation" and "It does make you realize how unbelievably susceptible the bulk of the Supreme Court is right now."

Beyond that, Lithwick, who hosts her own Slate podcast, AMICUS, sees this week's live broadcasted SCOTUS hearings as an encouraging step toward transparency for a Court that has been frustratingly camera shy. She also cautions, however, that the live broadcasts allowing Americans to hear how our laws are adjudicated at the nation's highest court in real time may not last after the pandemic subsides.

However, the week's historic hearings went well enough, she reports, even if the structure required to carry out oral argument by conference call necessarily changed the way in which cases have traditionally been argued in person, as Justices were not able to interrupt each other to press various arguments as they have always done --- and even as someone on the call forgot to mute their phone during a toilet flush heard during one of the first day's hearings.

Yes, we get to the straight poop on who may have been behind "the flush heard round the world" today, before turning to the substance of the actual cases heard before the Court. One was a fairly straightforward case on trademarks. Another was a much less simple one on whether religious groups and even private businesses have their religious rights infringed by being allowed to opt out of the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). Yes, plaintiffs in this case --- including the Little Sisters of the Poor, a small group of nuns in Pennsylvania --- argue that being allowed to opt out of having their insurance provider offer contraceptive care to their employees somehow violates their religious and "moral" freedoms (whatever "moral" freedoms may be.)

We also discuss how the Court has selectively decided which of the many previously postponed cases from March and April (cancelled until the Justices figured out how to dial a telephone) would be rescheduled for this session versus the next one, where opinions will not come out until well after the critical 2020 Presidential election.

We then move on to an important (if too brief) conversation about how rightwingers seem to misunderstand the actual meaning of their favorite words "freedom" and "liberty", as invoked by the slave-holding founders of our Constitution. That, as anti-lockdown protesters haul semi-automatic rifles into state legislatures to demand the lifting of stay-at-home restrictions, shoot people who ask them to follow the law by wearing face masks inside stores, cite "tyranny" and invoke Japanese internment camps (as a Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice recently did) and call for the "LIBERATION" of states with Democratic Governors (as the President of the United States recently did.)

In her most recent column on this point, Lithwick flagged an essay by Ibram X. Kendi at the Atlantic which speaks to the "long-standing difference between core notions of what he calls freedom to and freedom from". The latter is seemingly being pushed out of the public square in favor of the former.

We discuss what Lithwick describes as "the movement out there that says, 'I don't have to wear a mask,' 'I have a Constitutional right to carry a gun into the capitol,' those are 'freedom to' values, but they subordinate huge masses of people who actually want to be free from those very things. These are a lot of the same arguments that people make about the Second Amendment. That they want to be free to parade around a restaurant, open carrying, and they don't realize that freedom for a lot of Americans is freedom from the terror of that act."

"I think that is a really emblematic new trend, where we're seeing these religious claims that say my freedom to X somehow subordinates and dominates your freedom to, in the Little Sisters context, have access to a statutory entitlement to contraception. My freedom to X, discriminate against people that I don't want to bake a wedding cake for, somehow is more important than your freedom from discrimination based on any identifiable class," Lithwick tells me. "I think this is a tension that is permeating how the courts are looking at a lot of values."

"It probably goes without saying, but let's go ahead and say it --- that it does seem as though if you are a straight, white Christian male, you have a lot of 'freedom to'. Even now, if you are protesting in the capitol in Michigan, if you're a white guy with a gun, your freedom to XYZ is predominant. And if you are an African-American out for a jog, your freedom from being executed summarily doesn't seem to matter. So I think part of the problem with this thumb on the scale for "freedom to" claimants is that it's not distributed equally across race, class, gender, or economic well-being."

Please tune in for that conversation --- and/or read Lithwick and Xendi at the links above --- for more than I have space or time to break down here for the moment on that important discussion.

Finally today, some quick news, an update, and some listener mail. The news is about the coronavirus working its way into the White House via Donald Trump's personal valet who tested positive this week and via Mike Pence's press secretary, Katie Miller, who tested positive today. After being in close contact with Pence and members of the press, it should also be noticed that Miller is married to Trump's Senior Advisor Stephen Miller, who is in close regular contact with the President of the United States. Will we see a change in the Administration's rush to reopen the country long before health experts say it is safe to do so if COVID begins to find its way into the White House --- and, perhaps, even the Oval Office?

The update is on the decision by Arizona's Health Department to reverse its cancellation earlier this week of the work by state university scientists on COVID-19 modelling.

And the listener mail regards a local postmaster who says he's decided to retire earlier than planned after "hatred" directed at his staff "by the segment of our town who watch Fox News" who are now "yelling" at Postal Workers for wearing masks on the job. Yes, it's an insane way to end another insane week in these "United" States of America...

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Guest: Slate's Dahlia Lithwick on not returning to SCOTUS; Also: John Oliver touches on touchscreens; KY Gov. Matt Bevin's reelection contest...
By Brad Friedman on 11/4/2019 6:13pm PT  

On today's BradCast: John Oliver touches on America's voting machine crisis, America goes to the polls again (using those same, unverifiable touchscreen voting systems), and one year after accused sex assaulter Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, one 20-year veteran SCOTUS journalist is refusing to return to the Court...and for very good reason. [Audio link to show follows below.]

First up, as we are now officially --- finally --- less than one year away from the critical 2020 Presidential election, our electronic voting systems in many states are still just as bad and dangerous and vulnerable and unverifiable as they were 15 years ago. And, in a bunch of states and jurisdictions across the country, they are getting even worse and less verifiable than they were in the 2016 election. HBO's John Oliver dipped into the issue on his latest Last Week Tonight on Sunday night and got a lot of stuff right regarding our easily-hacked, oft-failed touchscreen voting systems that have been in use over the past several decades. Unfortunately, he also left out a whole bunch of stuff regarding the new and equally vulnerable and 100% unverifiable computer touchscreen Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs) which are now being installed and proliferating in states (many of them key battlegrounds) from coast to coast before 2020. In short, as we detail, Oliver's report was excellent....if this was 2009. As it is now 2019, however, his commentary was a bit wanting. But, we'll take what we can get and that, of course, is why you have The BradCast.

In related-ish news, a bunch of off-year state and local elections are happening in several states on Tuesday. Among the noteworthy contests is the gubernatorial race in Kentucky, where the unpopular and very Trumpy Republican Governor Matt Bevin is fighting for his life in a race with Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear (son of the Bluegrass State's former Governor Steve Beshear), in what pre-election polls suggest is currently a dead-heat contest. But, as we detail today, Bevin was down anywhere from 3 to 5 points in pre-election polling during his first run for Governor against then Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway in 2015. Nonetheless, as we detailed that year, he somehow ended up winning the race, reportedly, by nearly 9 points in a state which still forces many voters to use the same unverifiable touchscreen voting machines that helped Bevin win in 2015. Many of those systems are the same very old, vulnerable and unverifiable ones which Oliver railed against on his HBO piece on Sunday. Trump is in KY on Monday night to help "drag one of the nation’s most unpopular governors across the finish line," as the New York Times describes it today, in what many see as a potential bellwether race ahead of 2020.

Meanwhile, it has now been just over a year since Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in to his lifetime post as an Associate Justice on the Republicans' stolen U.S. Supreme Court. He was seated on the bench almost immediately after Republicans in the U.S. Senate rammed through his nomination --- with the help of a trumped up FBI "investigation" --- late last year despite multiple, credible allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh from the time he was in high school and college.

Longtime SCOTUS journalist DAHLIA LITHWICK wrote at Slate last week about why she has not returned to the Court since Kavanaugh was sworn in. She joins us today to discuss the reasons behind her decision, and why, as she described, she will "not accede to the routinization and normalization of the unprecedented seat stolen from President Back Obama in 2016" by Mitch McConnell and Republicans, nor from the "unprecedented seating of someone who managed to himself evade the very inquiries and truth-seeking functions that justice is supposed to demand" in Kavanaugh.

"One-quarter of the federal appeals courts, at this moment, three years into the Trump presidency, are Trump nominees. We're not just talking about nine justices on the Supreme Court. We're talking about the most strategic, systematic takeover of the federal bench that any president has ever effectuated," she tells me. "And that is happening day by day, right under our noses. And those judges are also going to sit for decades. So it's not just the Supreme Court."

It's a fascinating and important conversation, I think, about not only why none of us should simply "get over it" and "move on", when it comes to both Kavanaugh and the stolen seat filled by Neil Gorsuch, but also why our nation's seeming inability (or even interest) in assuring accountability for all manner of precedent --- and criminal law --- breaking in recent years has brought the country to the perilous position we now find ourselves in: Trump in the White House, the Supreme Court stolen and federal courts packed with unqualified rubes for life, and SCOTUS on the precipice of deciding a number of enormously momentous issues this session from union rights to reproductive justice.

"It's what happened when Barack Obama made the decision that we just are not going to re-litigate the CIA torture program, and this very aspirational notion that if we all forgive and forget, we all get to meet in the middle and work toward better outcomes. It's kind of Lucy with the football --- it never works out to meeting in the middle and working toward better outcomes. It just turns out that, yet again, ground has been ceded," she tells me.

"We're really bad at this. The heart wants what it wants, and the heart wants normal. I think that we keep believing that this erosion, this slow systemic erosion of norms, is somehow normal. I thought it was a law, it's not a law. I thought it was a rule, it's not a rule," says Lithwick. "We didn't didn't used to seat 37-year-old bloggers who've never set foot in a court room as a federal judges for life. And now we do. There's no law, there's just a norm. What I was trying to get at in the piece is that constantly acceding to this and saying, 'Well, this is what it is now' --- that there are costs. There are huge, huge costs to democracy."

"Our scrutiny, our unwavering, unflinching, I'm-not-over-it scrutiny does make a difference," she insists. "We need to hold the Court to the same unflinching, 'we're watching you,' 'we care'. That seems like soft power, I understand it's not optimal, but I think the Court responds. What they really want is for us to put this on page A27 and get over it. And that's our choice, not theirs."

Lots of important stuff here, as I said. Can't really summarize it well enough here, so please tune in.

Also, Lithwick rings in with some thoughts --- which tie into the broader conversation --- on what she expects from John Roberts' Supreme Court following today's ruling by a federal appeals court in Manhattan that Trump's accounting firm, Mazars USA, must turn over some 8 years of his and his company's tax and other financial documents to New York state prosecutors and a similar decision by a federal appeals court in D.C. last month that the same firm must also turn over similar records to Congressional investigators in response to yet another lawful subpoena...

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