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Latest Featured Reports | Wednesday, July 17, 2024
Cannon's Corruption: 'BradCast' 7/16/24
Guest: Attorney Keith Barber; Also: Menendez 'guilty' on all counts...
'Green News Report' 7/16/24
  w/ Brad & Desi
Texas grid buckles under multiple disasters; Hurricane Beryl damages now estimated at $3 billion; PLUS: Climate crisis flip-flopper J.D. Vance gets GOP Veep nod...
Previous GNRs: 7/11/24 - 7/9/24 - Archives...
Amid the Assassination Attempt Aftermath:
'BradCast' 7/15/24
Also: Trump Stolen Docs Case Dismissed; OH's J.D. Vance named as GOP Veep nom; Callers ring in on all of the nightmares...
Sunday Monday 'Google Project 2025' Toons
After a brief pause following Saturday's assassination attempt of Donald Trump, we are back with our latest collection of last week's best political toons...
Meanwhile... :
'BradCast' 7/11/24
Biden's tenuous candidacy; Trump and Orban; Inflation, prices falling; Climate liar Inhofe dies; California's stunning solar revolution...
'Green News Report' 7/11/24
  w/ Brad & Desi
Flooding, power outages, sweltering heat as deadly Beryl fallout continues; New FEMA flood risk standards; PLUS: House Republicans bravely seek Freedom for Refrigerators!...
Previous GNRs: 7/9/24 - 6/25/24 - Archives...
Paging 'Johnny Unbeatable'! Dems (Actually!) in Disarray!: 'BradCast' 7/10/24
Guests: Heather Digby Parton of Salon, 'Driftglass' of 'Pro Left Podcast'...
SCOTUS Immunity Ruling 'As Bad as it Sounds', And Worse: 'BradCast' 7/9/24
Guest: LawDork's Chris Geidner on that and the Court's massive 'power grab'; Also: Record-breaking Beryl; U.S. heat records smashed...
'Green News Report' 7/9/24
Beryl breaks records, slams TX; 140m in U.S. under heat advisories; Big SCOTUS gifts for polluters; PLUS: Biden unveils first-ever extreme heat protections for workers...
So, What Now?: 'BradCast' 7/8/24
Listeners have strong opinions about where we are and how to move forward to save democracy after corrupt SCOTUS rulings and disastrous Presidential Debate...
Debunking MAGA Cult Xenophobia
CANNING: Throughout U.S. history, decent, hard-working immigrants (like me) have contributed to the economy and our nation's security: CANNING
Sunday 'Courting Disaster' Toons
THIS WEEK: Kings and Things! In our special SCOTUS-sized edition of the last impossible week's best political toons!...
Sunday 'Bad Medicine' Toons
THIS WEEK: Trump's hot pants ... Biden's cool reception ... SCOTUS gone wild ... and more in our latest collection of the week's best toons...
'Green News Report' 6/27/24
China flooding; Heatwave, crop failure in India; Disaster upon disaster in NM; On edge for SCOTUS decision; PLUS: Biden climate law creates 300,000 jobs!...
BARCODED BALLOTS AND BALLOT MARKING DEVICES
BMDs pose a new threat to democracy in all 50 states...
VIDEO: 'Rise of the Tea Bags'
Brad interviews American patriots...
'Democracy's Gold Standard'
Hand-marked, hand-counted ballots...
Brad's Upcoming Appearances
(All times listed as PACIFIC TIME unless noted)
Media Appearance Archives...
'Special Coverage' Archives
GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal 2012...
VA GOP VOTER REG FRAUDSTER OFF HOOK
Felony charges dropped against VA Republican caught trashing voter registrations before last year's election. Did GOP AG, Prosecutor conflicts of interest play role?...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The President takes on Big Oil, 'Putin's price hike' at the pump; DeSantis' new voting law struck down, found unconstitutional, racially motivated...
By Brad Friedman on 3/31/2022 6:53pm PT  

We cover two big stories in depth on today's BradCast. One out of the White House which effects the world. The other out of Florida, which effects the rest of the nation...or, at least, it should. [Audio link to full show follows below this summary.]

President Biden, on Thursday, announced that he is releasing one million barrels of oil, per day, for the next 180 days, from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve in hopes of lowering gas prices for Americans in response to what he described as the "Putin Price Hike".

In addition to the unprecedented release from the Reserve, Biden called out Big Oil companies for keeping prices high (previously known as war profiteering) as they see record profits and pad the pockets of investors and executives, even as Putin's war inflates prices on global energy markets. He also called on Congress to pass a "Use it or Lose it" law that would charge a fee to oil and gas producers who are sitting on as many as 9,000 unused drilling permits on more than a million acres of land, as prices rise for Americans at the pump.

At the same time, Biden announced his plan to invoke the Defense Production Act to encourage American production of minerals that are needed for electric vehicle battery production.

We share the President's remarks today at the White House and Desi Doyen helps us unpack what it all means --- for gas prices and for our climate crisis.

Next, the big news out of Florida. A federal judge on Thursday struck down parts of a new state law that makes voting much harder for many in the Sunshine State, finding it unconstitutional and racially motivated. Moreover, he invoked a key provision of the Voting Rights Act to prevent more such measures for the next ten years.

FL's Senate Bill 90 was adopted by the state's Republican legislature last year in the wake of Donald Trump's evidence free claims about fraud in the 2020 election. That, despite Florida's claims that the election was well run and free of fraud or other problems. The new law limits the use of drop boxes; adds more ID requirements for those requesting absentee ballots; restricts who may collect and drop off ballots; further restricts third-party voter registration; and makes it a crime to give voters food or water to voters as they wait in line to cast their ballot, among other restrictions challenged by the League of Women Voters of Florida and other voting rights advocates.

In his 288-page order [PDF], U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker slammed parts of the measure as racially motivated and little more than a law enacted "to improve the Republican Party's electoral prospects." His ruling quotes Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. throughout, while asserting that plaintiffs "allege that SB 90 runs roughshod over the right to vote, unnecessarily making voting harder for all eligible Floridians, unduly burdening disabled voters, and intentionally targeting minority voters --- all to improve the electoral prospects of the party in power...Having reviewed all the evidence, this Court finds that, for the most part, Plaintiffs are right."

But the most noteworthy element of this story is that Judge Walker also invoked a little used provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act to "bail-in" the state of Florida to the VRA's preclearance requirement for the next 10 years. That provision, used against repeat violators of the VRA, will force the state to obtain approval from the U.S. Dept. of Justice or a three-judge federal panel before new voting laws that may have a racially disparate effect on voters can be implemented.

As UC-Irvine election law expert Rick Hasen described the ruling as "quite a blockbuster" and a "a huge deal." He told the New York Times, "This is an opinion that full throatedly reads the Voting Rights Act in the expansive way that Congress intended it to be read, and essentially dares the higher courts to overrule it." He also believes that "conservative 11th Circuit or the Supreme Court" is likely to do so, even though "the district court's analysis is probably right."

Florida Republicans are furious. Gov. Ron DeSantis calls the ruling "performative partisanship". The State's Republican Senate President calls it "highly unprofessional, inaccurate, and unbecoming of an officer of the court." That, as the League of Women Voters celebrated the ruling against "an anti-voter measure that raised barriers to voting with specific impacts on elderly voters, voters with disabilities, students, and communities of color."

"State legislatures everywhere should recognize that anti-voter laws like SB 90 violate the fundamental rights of their constituents," said the LWV's Chief Counsel, adding: "We call on legislatures around the country to stop making laws that impede the rights of the people they are elected to protect and serve."

Naturally, Florida Republicans say they intend to appeal, and many think that our right-leaning federal appeals courts and/or our corrupt U.S. Supreme Court will overturn Judge Walker's landmark ruling. For now, however, it's a critical one that should be echoed against many of the intentionally discriminatory laws that have been adopted by GOP-controlled states over the past year.

We explain what it all means and why it matters on today's program.

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us again for our latest Green News Report, recorded today before Biden's big White House announcement (though we anticipated it). We also detail Europe prepares for energy shortages, Poland's decision to ban Russian energy imports and much more, including a major milestone for solar power!...

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: 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!)

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: Dan Vicuña of Common Cause; Also: More lousy reporting from corporate media on Biden's booming economy...
By Brad Friedman on 2/8/2022 6:40pm PT  

Today on The BradCast: As of this past weekend, the news was much better than expected regarded this decade's round of redistricting around the country. That may have changed in a heartbeat on Monday evening with another horrible "Shadow Docket" ruling from the Republicans' stolen and packed U.S. Supreme Court. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

But, before we get there today, one additional point on a topic discussed in detail on yesterday's show. We noted that the GOP appears to be eating itself alive, with Trump attacking Pence for not helping him steal the 2020 election, Pence (gently, but finally) pushing back at Trump, and the RNC, at its Winter Meeting last week in Utah, voting to censure its own Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kingzinger (R-IL) for daring to join in the probe of the deadly, January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, which the RNC's resolution described as nothing more than "legitimate political discourse".

At the same time, the economy is booming at record numbers under President Biden and Democratic control of Congress. So, given all of that, we asked yesterday why Democrats are thought to be in so much trouble this November? We placed a lot of blame on the corporate media for their often ridiculous, lazy, sometimes out-and-out inaccurate, double-standard coverage of Biden and the Dems. Most notably, as we've been shouting here for months, on the economy, with last year's 6.6 million new jobs simply blowing away all previous Presidents in U.S. history, not to mention the lowest unemployment and highest growth in GDP since the 1980s.

Among the many failures of the corporate media is their reporting on monthly jobs numbers from by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as "disappointing" (including numbers that, when they were even lower under Trump, were described as "robust" or even better). That, as the BLS has, almost every single month for the past year, revised previous monthly new job numbers upward by more than 100,000 and sometimes much much more. Well, the media did it again at the end of last year, when describing "disappointing" new jobs numbers in November and December. Both months, as expected, were revised upward last Friday by BLS, but were largely overlooked by the media. And yet these were no small adjustments!

November's new jobs numbers were adjusted from 199,000 initially to 510,000! And the jobs gain revisions in December went from a "disappointing" 249,000 new jobs to 647,000 — painting a much stronger picture of the labor market than reported over those months last year. If we knew the numbers would be revised upwards last year, with our huge BRAD BLOG World News Headquarters resources, why didn't the corporate media report that appropriately at the time? Of course, they did know, but, for some reason, buried that information along with the record low unemployment numbers and record high GDP growth. Why? Decide as you see fit.

Next, the new decennial round of Congressional redistricting has been looking much better for Democrats (and American Democracy along with them), than previously predicted by experts in the run-up to drawing new maps following the 2020 Census. Last week, Cook Political Report's Dave Wasserman even declared "Dems have taken the lead on" his group's "2022 redistricting scorecard," citing favorable state court rulings and other developments putting Democrats "on track to net 2-3 seats from new maps vs. old ones."

Among the recent new developments, late last week North Carolina's state Supreme Court found that the state's GOP-created Congressional and state legislative maps were partisan gerrymanders in violation of their state Constitution. That ruling followed on a similar one from Ohio's Supreme Court which found the same in the Buckeye State, leading them to order new maps as well. At the same time in New York, one of the few states where Democrats control the process for drawing new maps, three districts were drawn that are likely to flip "red" House seats to "blue" (which has outraged state Republicans, leading them to file a lawsuit against what they see as a "partisan gerrymander" in violation of the state Constitution, despite their party doing the same and much worse in a bunch of states where they control the redistricting process.)

And, all of that followed a recent ruling from a three-judge panel in federal court finding that Alabama Republicans violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act with their new House map that drew six White-majority districts and just one Black-majority district, even though Black voters in Alabama represent 27% of the electorate. The three federal judges --- two of them Trump appointees --- ordered a second Black-majority district to be drawn after a days-long trial, including more than a dozen expert witnesses. The three judges unanimously declared in their "meticulous" 225-page ruling [PDF] that "we do not regard the question ... as a close one.”

Nonetheless, on Monday, in a stunning 5 to 4 ruling on the U.S. Supreme Court's "Shadow Docket", without any oral argument, etc., the rightwingers on the High Court stayed [PDF] the lower court's ruling to allow the unlawful racial gerrymander to remain in place for the 2022 mid-terms and perhaps longer. Even Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the 2013 opinion that gutted the VRA's critical Section 5 preclearance provision, voted with the Court's liberals. But, Roberts' vote was not enough. All of which tees up the Court, as expert fear, to gut Section 2 of the Act as well.

Since the Court's 2013 decision all but killing Section 5 preclearance of new election laws in jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination at the polling place, Republicans have claimed that there was always Section 2 that protected against laws with a discriminatory effect in all 50 states, though only after such laws went into effect. Now, experts worry that a full SCOTUS opinion after a hearing later this year on Alabama's racial gerrymander may result in the Court further chopping away at Section 2.

We're joined by one of those experts today. Common Cause's National Redistricting Manager DAN VICUÑA is here to explain both the good news and, as of Monday, very troubling news on the latest round of redistricting, including what the new SCOTUS ruling is likely to mean moving forward, for Alabama, for other states, for the future of the VRA, and for American Democracy itself.

"I think there is within the conservative majority on the Supreme Court a sort of deep skepticism about the Voting Rights Act, which is one of the most effective pieces of legislation to turn back, fight back against our sordid history of racism," Vicuña explains today. "It's been incredibly effective in giving people of color the opportunity to make their voices heard in elections. I think the conservative majority --- at least some of them --- just don't like it very much." And that could be very bad news for American Democracy indeed.

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, with a boatload of both good and bad (mostly bad, as usual) news on our ever-worsening climate crisis emergency...

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Pence finally calls out Trump, Trump pushes back, RNC censures two of its own...while economy sizzles, corporate media fail to notice and blame Biden for nation's woes. Callers ring in to explain...
By Brad Friedman on 2/7/2022 6:35pm PT  

The title and sub-title above pretty much say it all about today's BradCast, but for a few specifics. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary]

Before opening up the phone lines to callers today for their thoughts on what the hell is going on that leaves Democrats, not Republicans, in trouble this November, a few of the specific stories we touched on first...

  • BREAKING moments before airtime: SCOTUS blocks recent lower federal court ruling that found Alabama Republicans' new U.S. House maps are an unlawful racial gerrymander under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (the part of the VRA that SCOTUS didn't kill entirely previously.) In a 5 to 4 decision today, with Chief Justice Roberts joining the Dem appointees on the bench, the Court blocked the lower court's order which would have mandated another Black-majority House district in Alabama. Moreover, in deciding to hear the case later this year, the Supremes, many justifiably fear, are now set to kill Section 2 of the landmark Voting Rights Act entirely. More (hopefully) on this on tomorrow's BradCast.
  • Last Friday, former Vice President Mike Pence finally stood up for himself (a little) by declaring during a speech for the rightwing Federalist Society in Florida that "President Trump was wrong" when he claimed that Pence had the Constitutional or statutory power to unilaterally overturned Joe Biden's victory during the final certification of the Electoral College results on January 6th, 2021. (That, after a week of Trump haranguing Pence in a number of statements, with Trump essentially admitting in the bargain that he was trying to steal the 2020 Presidential election.)
  • At the very same time on Friday, at the RNC's Winter Meeting in Utah, Trump's party voted to censure longtime, very conservative Congressmembers Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), for daring to work on the bipartisan Committee investigating the worst, most deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol --- and, arguably, on American Democracy itself --- in the nation's history. The RNC's censure resolution of Cheney and Kinzinger appears to declare that the attack on the Capitol --- which ended up with 9 deaths and injuries to more than 140 law enforcement officials --- was little more than "legitimate political discourse".
  • The censure resolution adopted nearly unanimously by voice vote in Utah was shepherded by RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel. Her uncle, Utah's Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, decried the GOP's attack on Cheney and Kingzinger, tweeting: "Shame falls on a party that would censure persons of conscience, who seek truth in the face of vitriol. Honor attaches to Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for seeking truth even when doing so comes at great personal cost.”
  • And, as if that's not enough madness and dysfunction and disarray inside the once great "Party of Lincoln" on behalf of their scofflaw, twice-impeached, disgraced former President, Washington Post reported on Monday that Donald Trump absconded with boxes and boxes of Presidential Records when he left the White House. That, in strict violation of the Presidential Records Act of 1975, created in the wake of Watergate. The National Archives had to go to Mar-a-Lago in December to try and get the stolen documents --- many of which had been torn up by Trump during his time in office (also in violation of the PRA) --- but did they get them all? And will Trump ever be held accountable for breaking any of the seemingly hundreds of laws he's broken before, during and after his Presidency? Jury is still out. (Actually, no jury has been created nor charges filed at all yet, incredibly enough.)
  • And, all the while, throughout all of that GOP disarray, Joe Biden's economy is booming at record levels. The corporate media, which have been downplaying monthly jobs reports and record low unemployment and record high growth in the GDP over the past year, was forced to begrudgingly concede at least a few of those points on Friday. The new jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found a remarkable 467,000 new jobs were created in December and that previous monthly job reports needed to be revised upward by several hundreds of thousands of new jobs. Not by a little, but by a lot. Last December was revised from 199,000 new jobs to 510,000. And November was adjusted from a 249,000 gain in jobs to an astounding 647,000. Both months saw media report the initial numbers as a "disappointment", despite a year's worth of monthly numbers being revised upward each and every month. In all, as Biden was left to explain himself, a record 6.6 million jobs were added last year. It's never happened before in American history. Also, 2021 saw the largest drop of unemployment ever in a single year; the largest drop in childhood poverty ever in a single year; and the largest drop in unemployment in 40 years. Sounds terrible!
  • So, with all of that, why are Joe Biden's approval numbers tanking? And why are Democrats --- not Republicans --- thought by the corporate media to be in big trouble this November? We open the phones to callers with a few thoughts on that, including one caller who thinks it's my fault! Mmmmkay...

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Drop Box voting restored in WI (for now); Excellent redistricting news in AL (unless appealed); 'Calming down' in Ukraine; Bad news for key Jan. 6th instigators Alex Jones and John Eastman; And more!...
By Brad Friedman on 1/25/2022 6:20pm PT  

We'd love to tout all of the encouraging news we have for you on today's BradCast. We have quite a bit of it. Problem is, while we have a lot of it, each story is largely just marginally encouraging in and of itself. Still, these days, we'll take what we can get! [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

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

  • An appeals court in Wisconsin unanimously blocks a wingnut lower court judge's ruling from a few weeks ago that had declared the use of absentee ballot drop boxes to be in violation of state law, despite the many years that they've been in use. Who knew? So, good news that the judge was overturned for now. Bad news that the appellate court order only applies for now to the state's upcoming February primary elections.
  • Seemingly encouraging news out of Alabama today --- perhaps the only unqualified good news we've got to share with you all day, in fact! A three-judge federal court panel --- including two Trump appointees --- have rejected the state GOP's newly redistricted U.S. House map, declaring it to be an unlawful racial gerrymander in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act. The court's ruling, if it withstands appeal, would require the Republican-majority state legislature to draw two Black majority districts instead of one. That, in a state with a 27% Black electorate, represented for years by 6 Republican White men and 1 African-American Representative.
  • While the U.S. (and EU and NATO) continue their warnings of an "IMMINENT INVASION!" of Ukraine by Russia, Ukrainian officials have a message for the world: Please calm the fuck down! (Though please keep sending those weapons in the mean time.)
  • Oh, look! Wingnut radio conspiracy theorist, professional grifter, Donald Trump buddy, and key instigator of the deadly January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, Alex Jones, quietly sat down this week for questioning with the U.S. House Select Committee investigating Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 election. That, even though Jones had previous filed a lawsuit to quash his subpoena from the Committee. Apparently, he pleaded the Fifth "almost 100 times" for some reason in the bargain, he says.
  • And, speaking of pleading the Fifth, (former?) law professor John Eastman, who wrote the memos detailing a plot for how then Vice President Mike Pence could "legally" steal the election for Trump by refusing to accept lawfully certified 2020 Electoral College votes on January 6th, also chose to avoid self-incrimination in criminal matters by invoking the privilege when he testified recently to the Committee. As of a court hearing on Monday, we now know he did so 146 times! That, according to details proffered during the hearing for a suit in which Eastman is suing his former employer, Chapman University. He is hoping to prevent them from releasing 19,000 of his emails subpoenaed by the House Select Committee and written from his university email address while working for free for Trump (unbeknownst to the non-partisan university, which eventually fired him for doing so.) The judge in the case is reportedly not happy with Eastman, and has ordered him to make a list of which of the 19,000 subpoenaed emails he believes should be withheld from the Committee due to attorney-client privilege.
  • Meanwhile, it continues to be a lousy time to be associated with our disgraced, twice-impeached loser of a former President. Even for a coal lobbyist. Democrats in the Virginia state Senate say they are now united in their hopes of blocking the new GOP Governor Glenn Youngkin's nomination of former Trump EPA Administrator (and coal lobbyist!) Andrew Wheeler for the commonwealth's top environmental official. SAD! That, after 150 former EPA employees signed a letter to the state Senators accusing Wheeler of having "pursued an extremist approach, methodically weakening EPA’s ability to protect public health and the environment, instead favoring polluters." (Though because the state Senate Dems haven't yet taken the very rare step of blocking the new Guv's nominee, the news is still to be considered marginally good for the moment.)
  • Finally, while it should be very good news that we are sharing our 1,200th Green News Report today --- coincidentally in the same week that The BRAD BLOG is celebrating our 18th birthday --- the fact that we've had to do 1,200 GNRs (instead of saving humanity and the entire planet about 800 episodes ago) makes the good news only marginal as well. As usual, the content of today's report doesn't help much either...though even there, we've got a bit of marginally encouraging news for ya.

You're welcome!...

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Also: In vote of historic shame, Manchin and Sinema join Senate Republicans to undermine voting rights and American democracy...
By Brad Friedman on 1/20/2022 5:50pm PT  

Today on The BradCast: While this week will be seen by history as a shameful one for American democracy --- or, more specifically, for 50 Republican Senators and 2 Democratic ones --- it may also eventually become a celebrated week for all of the encouraging criminal accountability news that is now coming in on what seems like an hourly basis for our disgraced and failed former President. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

Among the many stories covered today...

  • After a year-long kabuki drama, played out only for the benefit of obstructionist Democratic Senators Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), both have decided to include themselves in American history's hall of shame by siding with segregationists, anti-democracy activists and Republican authoritarians in the U.S. Senate to block much-needed protection for voting rights and American democracy. While claiming to support the critical, combined Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act --- which would have helped to standardize voting rights for all, combat the GOP subversion of election results, ended dark money in campaigns, blocked partisan gerrymandering in all 50 states and restored what SCOTUS broke in the Voting Rights Act in 2013 --- the two both voted to ensure none of it could happen. They chose to embrace the Senate's undemocratic filibuster rule instead, just as opponents of civil and voting rights have done over decades of American history. We put a bow on the year-long saga today, share parts of Wednesday night's maddening debate, and join Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) in his vow from the Senate floor to keep coming back "again and again and again" until the job of protecting and saving American democracy is won.
  • In far less grim news today, the very very bad week for the Trump Crime Family continues to worsen. After Wednesday's devastating loss at his own packed and stolen U.S. Supreme Court, documents from the Trump White House regarding January 6, 2021 have reportedly begun flowing from the National Archives to the bi-partisan U.S. House Select Committee investigating the 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol and Donald Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 election. We review a few interesting points of note from the High Court's crushing 8 to 1 ruling [PDF] rejecting Trump's claim of Executive Privilege in his failed effort to block the release of thousands of documents to the Committee, including what could be some very incriminating video tape.
  • With hopes of hiding behind Executive Privilege all but dashed by SCOTUS, the ability of Trump's henchmen to avoid subpoenas for documents and testimony by the Jan 6 Committee is quickly fading as well. On Thursday, Ivanka Trump became the first family member to receive an invitation --- not yet a subpoena --- from the House Committee to answer a number of key questions about her role in January 6th, and her various reported contacts with her father that day and in the days prior. The letter from Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) makes clear that the Committee already has a great deal of information. It will be tricky for Trump's daughter, who served as a White House advisor, to avoid speaking with them. It will be a crime if she lies to them.
  • But that's not all. After New York State Attorney General Letitia James detailed evidence of years of bank, insurance and tax fraud by the Trump family this week, on Thursday, Trump's bad week became still worse. Fulton County (Atlanta) District Attorney Fani Willis asked a state Superior Court Chief Judge today to impanel a special grand jury in her nearly year-long probe of the apparent criminal conspiracy by Trump and many others (including WH Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Rudy Giuliani and more) to harangue, harass and threaten state election officials into reversing results of the Peach State's 2020 Presidential election, won by Joe Biden, in favor of Trump. Willis has said she will decide in the first part of this year whether or not criminal indictments are warranted for "potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local government bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election’s administration.” Uh, oh.
  • Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, covering the likelihood that Biden's Build Back Better bill, also blocked by Joe Manchin, will now have to be broken up into smaller chunks; the devastating volcano and tsunami disasters in Tonga; smashed heat records in the Southern Hemisphere; and Exxon's new ploy to pretend they give a damn about climate change...

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Guest: Eric Boehlert of Press Run; Also: SCOTUS allows Nat'l Archives to release Trump Jan. 6 records to House; NY A.G. details 'fraud' by Trump family; Fox Nation gets a historian's hilarious 'hard no'...
By Brad Friedman on 1/19/2022 6:21pm PT  

Joe Biden is now one year in. Donald Trump is now one year out. Have the media figured out how to properly cover either or both of them? We discuss on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

But first, Trump's troubles are getting worse by the day hour. It's been a bad 24 hours for the disgraced, twice-impeached, one-term former President. But that's usually good news for America!

As we literally begin today's program, news breaks that the U.S. Supreme Court is allowing the National Archive to turn over hundreds of pages of Trump White House documents to the bipartisan U.S. House Committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol and Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 Presidential election.

That bad news for Trump (and good news for everyone else) follows last night's bad news for him (and good news for us) out of a New York state courtroom. NY Attorney General Letitia James has been investigating years of apparent bank, insurance and tax fraud by Trump, the Trump Organization, and Trump's children for years. She recently subpoenaed Trump and his kids Ivanka and Don Jr. to sit for depositions in her civil probe. (She is also working with the Manhattan D.A.'s long-running criminal probe into related matters.) Trump and the kids sued to quash the subpoena and, late on Tuesday night, James' office filed documents in response, detailing what she describes in the court papers as "significant additional evidence indicating that the Trump Organization used fraudulent or misleading asset valuations to obtain a host of economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage, and tax deductions.”

We discuss some of that "significant additional evidence" today, along with the additional news that when Eric Trump, back in 2020, failed to quash his own subpoena, he subsequently "then invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in response to more than 500 questions over six hours.” That's his right, of course. But back in 2016, while running for President, Trump described pleading the Fifth as "disgraceful". "The mob takes the Fifth," he said at the time. "If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?" We'll see if he, Ivanka and Don Jr., soon join his "disgraceful" son Eric in doing the same, along with the Trump Organization's "disgraceful" Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, who's already been criminally charged with fraud in Manhattan after also pleading the Fifth more than 500 times as well during his own deposition with James.

And then there's the new guy in the White House, who doesn't seem to be criminal or a liar or a fraudster at all. Today marked the end of Joe Biden's first year in office. It's been a rocky one at times, but also extraordinary successful on a number of legislative and economic issues.

We're joined today by ERIC BOEHLERT, longtime media analyst and publisher of the Press Run newsletter, to discuss media coverage of Biden at the one year mark, and how it compares to coverage of Trump's first --- and subsequent --- years in office.

While Biden's approval numbers have been flagging in recent months --- Gallup pegs his one year average at just under 49% --- they are still above Trump's during his entire Presidency. Nonetheless, we saw little from the media declaring Trump's Presidency was over or a failure at the end of his first year, by way of contrast with what we see from the media now, despite several remarkable successes for Biden over the last 365 days.

"It's very similar to Obama," Boehlert asserts. "If you go back and looked at his first year, first term, 'Oh his coalitions are falling apart!' Lots of doomsday coverage for Obama that turned out to be nonsense." He later adds, "Good luck going back and finding stories about whether the Trump Presidency was failed, 'How does he reset?,'" after his first year. "There was an acceptance that Trump was going to poll in the thirties, and the press just went on from there. In terms of how the coverage differs from Biden and Trump, I think that's the key one there."

Suffice to say, the difference in coverage of each President, as Boehlert details, is stark. And not in a good way. Among the other related issues discussed, above and beyond media coverage of the two Presidents: Has the media come to fully understand, much less appreciate, the unprecedented nature of this tenuous moment for American democracy itself?

"We have two sides," Boehlert explains. "A center-left Democrat doing his best, and we have a Republican Party that wants to destroy free and fair elections in America. So if you're the press, don't play that down the middle. Don't pretend those are similar choices."

"When Trump was inaugurated, the press didn't change how it covered Trump," he observes. "You would read the coverage and think Jeb Bush was President, you would think John McCain was President. You would think this is center-right, normal, traditional....not this madman narcissist. I think with the Biden era, they just want to play this game --- 'His polling is down! We've found some Democrats who are critical of him!' These aren't the times for the norm. The Trump years weren't the time for the norm. And we're not seeing drastic change." And that failure by our corporate media is not a good sign for the nation. Or the planet.

Finally today, it appears that Fox "News" is not satisfied by simply rewriting reality in the present. They are now attempting to rewrite history itself, it seems, as far as who actually killed Abraham Lincoln. Seriously. In the bargain, a Lincoln assassination expert's response to an invitation to appear on Fox Nation (the propaganda streaming service companion to the propaganda cable news channel) to discuss it, is one for the ages!...

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Guest: Brennan Center's Michael Li; Also: AZ County finds no 2020 voter fraud; TX counties rejecting absentee applications under new law; Giuliani, other Trump fraudsters subpoenaed by House Jan. 6 Committee...
By Brad Friedman on 1/18/2022 6:53pm PT  

On today's BradCast: The ongoing GOP effort to undermine American democracy by making it harder to vote and easier to cheat in elections continues amid the fallout from Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 election. While you might think Republicans would pay a price for joining him in that effort, its Democrats --- and voters in general and American democracy itself --- paying the price, even as the Big Lie continues to fall further apart with each passing day. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

As you know, Republicans have been using false claims of massive (and, apparently, evidence-free) "voter fraud" in the 2020 election as a pretext to adopt new voter suppression and election subversion laws in GOP controlled states. The fruits of those corrupt efforts are already paying off. In Texas, for example, County Clerks across the state are reporting that the state's new anti-voting law, S.B.1, is forcing them to reject hundreds of legitimate absent ballot applications in one of the most difficult states in the nation to vote by mail already.

New I.D. requirements for ballot applications have resulted in rejections of nearly half of the absentee applications in Travis County, home to the state's capital of Austin. Worse, the state's Secretary of State has yet to issue rules for how County Clerks may legally notify or help the rejected voters to cure their applications in advance of the state's March mid-term primaries. (The application deadline is Feb. 18.)

Many of the rejected applications are from voters that have been voting by mail for years. But the new state law now requires applicants to include either a drivers license number or state I.D. number or the last four digits of their Social Security number on the application. While some don't notice the new requirement and are rejected on that basis, others do include one of those numbers, but are still being rejected! Why? As Democrats had warned when trying to block the bill, the TX law now requires that whichever number a voter uses on their application must match the number on their voter registration form, many of them completed years ago. If the voter includes a drivers license number on their application, for example, but their registration includes a State I.D. number instead --- or no number at all (as is the case with millions of voter registrations in the Lone Star State) --- their applications must now be rejected. Mission accomplished?

Meanwhile, the GOP's Big "voter fraud" Lie continues to fall apart in Arizona, where Joe Biden has been confirmed many times over to have lawfully defeated Trump in 2020. On Friday, in the second largest county in the state, Pima (home to Tucson), the Pima County Attorney's Office determined that, of the 151 cases referred to them as possible cases of voter fraud after 2020, ZERO actually merited criminal charges. There remain a handful of possible fraud cases elsewhere in a the state (less than 50). But, of course, if all known cases of possible fraud in Arizona turned out to be actual fraud and all of those votes were somehow in favor of Biden, there still wouldn't be nearly enough fraudulent ballots to reverse his 10,000+ vote victory out of about 3.2 million ballots cast in the state. Nonetheless, in AZ as well, Republicans are using their lies about "voter fraud" to make it harder to vote and easier for them to cheat in elections.

But the biggest story on today's BradCast involves gerrymandering, perhaps the most critical reason our federal government and our democracy has become so seemingly irreparably broken. Democrats in the U.S. Senate this week have combined the combined Freedom to Vote Act (which, among many other critical election reforms, makes partisan gerrymandering unlawful in all 50 states) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (which restores the requirement for federal pre-clearance of new election laws in states with a history of racial discrimination in elections after SCOTUS gutted the landmark provision) into one single bill called the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act. All 50 Democrats in the majority claim to support the newly combined bill. Zero Republicans do. But unless two Democratic Senators (Sinema and Manchin) agree to modify the Senate filibuster rule to allow democracy-saving legislation to be adopted with a simple majority vote, none of it will become law and the GOP efforts to game elections will be largely free and clear through 2022.

For several years, experts have been warning that, following the 2020 Census, the new round of redistricting was going to be very bad for Democrats in GOP-controlled states. That, after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013 and later declared that federal courts may have no say at all on the issue of partisan gerrymandering, But, with about half of the new maps now redrawn by states in advance of the 2022 mid-terms (with several being challenged in state courts), are they as bad as many pundits had foretold?

A number of redistricting experts of late have suggested that the new maps aren't nearly as bad for Dems as they might have been. But is that true? We're joined today by Brennan Center's Senior Counsel for its Democracy Program, MICHAEL LI, who serves as the non-partisan organization's redistricting expert.

Last week, in an op-ed for Washington Post, Li describes the notion that gerrymandering hasn't been too bad for Democrats this year as a "misleading narrative" for a host of reasons. Experts, he notes, had predicted a bunch of safe Democratic seats would be remapped into Republican districts. "They expected Democratic seats to fall," Li explains. "But instead, what Republicans are doing is shoring up the disproportionate advantages they already hold" following the extreme partisan gerrymanders from 2011.

"In Texas, under the old maps, Democrats have 36% of the seats. Under the new maps they have 37% of the seats, so very little change," he tells me by way of just one example. "But the competition is gone. So whereas under the old maps there were competitive districts, under the new maps, even if Democrats got 58% of the vote [across the state], they would still have the same 37% of the seats, which hardly seems fair. Even if Texas turned deep blue, Republicans would have almost a 2-to-1 advantage. That's the perniciousness of the state's gerrymander."

There are other examples, in North Carolina for instance, where the maps are currently being challenged in state courts. We also discuss how the Supreme Court's unwillingness to hear partisan gerrymandering cases has affected all of this and whether or not the Court will similarly begin to turn away racial gerrymander cases as well in the not too distant future.

Li goes on to explain why the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act --- if Republicans or Manchinema were to allow it to be passed into law --- "would be a game-changer" on this issue. It "would transform redistricting. There would be a ban against partisan gerrymandering in Congressional redistricting. It would be easy to calculate and figure out whether a map violates that and, if a map does, then it's blocked from use pretty automatically, perhaps even in time for 2022 if Congress were to pass it soon."

But, alas, unless there are some surprises in the Senate this week, the bill is unlikely to pass anytime soon. So, what's left? Should Democratic-controlled states, in order to save democracy itself before the 2024 elections, gerrymander their own maps as aggressively as Republicans have? As much as it pains me to do so, I have previously argued that they should. Does Li agree? Tune in to find out!

Finally, before we go, the mid-show breaking news that Rudy Giuliani and a number of others who were very close to the disgraced former President as he was attempting to steal the 2020 election have now been subpoenaed by the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol...

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Also: A history lesson for Manchin; And Biden finally calls for Senate filibuster reform to pass voting rights and election protection legislation...
By Brad Friedman on 1/11/2022 6:47pm PT  

As it turns out, it wasn't an attack from highly skilled opposition mercenary warriors trained in the art of espionage, deception and surprise attacks that took down the Cyber Ninjas. It was their own incompetence, dishonesty and hopes of escaping huge court fines for failing to follow the rule of law that appears to have done them in. Or, perhaps they're just in hiding, ready to pounce again when they are least expected! [Audio link to full show is posted at bottom of this summary.]

First up on today's BradCast, however, before we get to the "death" of the Ninjas and their ongoing clown show, President Biden and Vice President Harris traveled to Atlanta on Tuesday to call for U.S. Senate filibuster reform in order to pass voting rights and election protection legislation with a simple majority. That, in hopes of countering voter suppression and election subversion measures being adopted by GOP controlled states across the nation.

All 50 Senators who caucus with the Democrats (plus Vice President Harris) are on record in support of the critical Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. But in the U.S. Senate, while that simple majority vote may be enough to cut taxes or allow drilling and mining on previously protected federal lands or seat Supreme Court Justices for life, it's currently not enough votes to protect American democracy. Not with the Republican Party now fully in opposition to both voting rights and democracy while Senate rules require a 60-vote super-majority to pass both pieces of legislation.

As Biden pointed out in his remarks today --- for the first time, offering a full-throated call to reform the Senate rules --- the united GOP opposition to voting rights is fairly new. Until recently, even Republicans voted in support of expanding and protecting voting rights at the federal level --- at least enough of them to overcome a Senate filibuster. But not anymore. At the same time, obstructionist Democrats Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) have refused to allow the majority to create a carve-out to the filibuster --- akin to hundreds of others in the Senate --- to adopt the legislation that both of them claim to support.

This week, Manchin even went so far as to describe the filibuster to reporters as a critical Senate tradition that has been in place "for 232 years." In fact, the filibuster as we now know it has been in place since 1975, as historian Max Kennerly explained on a Twitter thread in response to Manchin. "232 years ago, in 1790, a simple majority could end any debate," he notes. And Adam Jentleson, Harry Reid's former Chief of Staff who wrote a book on the filibuster, went so far as to alert Manchin to how much the Constitution's framers virulently opposed a super-majority requirement for anything at all, quoting both "father of the Constitution" James Madison and Alexander Hamilton from The Federalist Papers. (Which is why there is no such requirement in the Constitution.)

"Sadly, the United States Senate — designed to be the world's greatest deliberative body — has been rendered a shell of its former self," Biden, a former six-term Senator, declared in his impassioned remarks on Tuesday, describing the filibuster as having been "weaponized and abused."

Whether the Biden/Harris calls in Atlanta for reform will have any effect on the clueless Manchin and the similarly disinformed or dishonest Sinema remains to be seen. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer continues to insist that "failure is not an option", vowing a series of votes on the matter between now and Monday's Martin Luther King Day holiday.

Meanwhile, the GOP fight against election integrity may have hit a few embarrassing snags after their infamously failed "post-election forensic audit" in Maricopa County (Phoenix), Arizona last year. As you already know, the state GOP Senate's taxpayer funded audit theater found no Chinese bamboo in the County's 2.1 million hand-marked paper ballots, but it did declare that Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump by even more votes than originally certified. And if you follow The BradCast, you also may know that real election audit experts discovered that even those numbers were apparently "made up out of whole cloth" by the Ninjas, whose actual count of the ballots (never mind the results on them) was off by tens of thousands.

The final report that the Ninjas and its CEO Doug Logan produced last year on behalf of the GOP State Senate, also included 77 claims of "possible" fraud in the County's reported tallies and other questions to raise alarms about the legitimacy of tens of thousands of "maybe" illegal votes.

As it turns out, however, according to a 93-page, point-by-point rebuttal [PDF] of each of those claims, released last week by the Republican-majority Maricopa County Board of Supervisors after months of investigation, 76 of the Ninjas' 77 claims were completely wrong.

For example, according to the Ninjas' final audit report, 5,295 voters "potentially voted in multiple counties" in Arizona. The county found, however, that, in reality, just 5 voters may have done so. (They've forwarded their findings to the state AG). The Arizona Republic's Jen Fifield offers a helpful, detailed summary of most of the key rebuttals from the County, explaining how the Ninjas got it so embarrassingly wrong on virtually every "misleading, inaccurate and false" score.

The County's response to the Ninjas' pathetic report was mostly lost, however, amid the news the next day that the Cyber Ninjas were claiming to be no more. A spokesperson announced that they had shut their doors and all employees, including founder and CEO Logan, had been let go, following a contempt ruling from an Arizona Superior Court Judge. He found that failure by the Ninjas to turn over thousands of pages of public records documenting their "audit", its financing, and their communications with officials about it in two separate lawsuits violated the law. The plaintiffs sought a $1,000/day penalty until the documents were turned over. The judge informed the Ninjas they would be fined $50,000/day instead! They then declared they no longer existed, like a ninja disappearing into the night! Except they are really shitty ninjas.

The judge has stated that their claims at insolvency in an attempt to shut down to avoid the court fines was not going to work, threatening to apply the $50,000 daily fine to individuals with the company, like "former" CEO Logan. As it turns out, Logan formed a second company last year named Akolytos, using the same business and mailing addresses as the Cyber Ninjas. But his hopes of escaping the court fines through that second company may not work either, as journalist Kim Zetter details in her latest, excellent Zero Day newsletter. SAD!

Finally, as the Northeast grapples with a brutal cold snap today, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, detailing the record warmth of 2021, and the disturbing increase in emissions causing our climate emergency over the past year...

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Guest: Philly Inquirer's Will Bunch; Also: Garland vows accountability for 'all Jan. 6 perpetrators, at any level'; Coward Trump cancels anniversary presser; Hannity's insider testimony sought by House 1/6 Committee...
By Brad Friedman on 1/5/2022 6:24pm PT  

One year after the former President's attempt to steal the 2020 election by hurling the bodies of his supporters at the U.S. Capitol, we're more convinced than ever on The BradCast that, as the New York Times Editorial Board declared on New Years Day, "Every Day is Jan. 6 Now". [Audio link to full show is posted at end of this summary.]

We will soon be entering our 19th year at The BRAD BLOG of trying to warn about the ongoing and worsening threats facing American democracy. But the rising tide of authoritarianism in this nation is now more of a threat than at any time in modern decades. If American democracy falls, so does virtually every other pressing demand, like the need to save humanity from the ravages of climate change. So, yeah. It's kind of important, and we will continue to stay on this beat as long as necessary, as long as we can.

Toward that end today, the despicable, disgraced, twice-impeached, failed, loser of a former President, Donald Trump, who lied about voter and election fraud in order to try and steal a Presidential election, cancelled his planned press conference at Mar-a-Lago on the first anniversary of his pathetic, desperate and deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol. As it turns out, he's both a coward and didn't actually have anything to say that hasn't already been heard and/or debunked as bullshit.

His ridiculously (but not surprisingly) childish statement announcing he was calling off the presser came just hours after his pal, Sean Hannity of Fox 'News', was politely invited to answer questions from the U.S. House Select Committee investigating the Capitol assault and Trump's attempt to steal the election which lead up to it. The Committee makes clear in its letter [PDF] that they have already obtained many documents from others regarding Hannity's insider status and direct conversations with Trump in the days before, during and after the attack. While the Committee explained their efforts to go out of their way to avoid any First Amendment press freedom issues with Hannity, and even tried to appeal to his (pretend) patriotism, its unclear whether the Fox propagandist will cooperate.

Next, buttressing the persuasive argument made by Marcy Wheeler with Nicole Sandler on The BradCast last week, Attorney General Merrick Garland, facing pressure from the left to bring accountability to Trump and his cronies, addressed DoJ officials on Wednesday on the occasion of the first anniversary of last year's Capitol attack. After detailing the more than 700 arrests made to date, and at least 250 perpetrators who are still being sought for assaulting law enforcement officials that day, Garland promised the probe was far from complete and was following the facts of the case from the bottom up.

"The Justice Department remains committed to holding all Jan. 6 perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law --- whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy," the AG vowed, adding: "We will follow the facts wherever they lead."

He also highlighted how the U.S. Supreme Court has radically gutted the Voting Rights Act twice over the past decade, and called again for new federal legislation to give the DoJ tools they need to assure the right to vote and to combat state legislatures institutionalizing the ability to subvert election results on a partisan whim.

Finally, we're joined again today by WILL BUNCH, longtime national correspondent and columnist at Philadelphia Inquirer. Bunch was with us on January 6th last year for a wild ride of a broadcast that day as the Capitol was still under assault during the official confirmation of Joe Biden's Electoral College victory as we went to air. At the time, it was particularly unclear what exactly the MAGA Mob was doing and how they might be stopped.

Among the topics of our conversation one year later with Bunch (who just tested positive for COVID!): Lessons learned since Jan. 6 and the many questions still unknown; The many, still confusing reasons and explanations as to why it took so long for law enforcement to respond to the worse attack on the Capitol in two centuries (he suggests part of that was due to "a dog that didn't bark"); Whether or not there should have been more accountability brought by the Justice Department by now (he notes that the Watergate probe took much longer); And his thoughts on Garland's comments at the DoJ today...among much more!

"Honestly, it's taken a full year and it's taken really diligent, praise-worthy work from the January 6th Committee in the House to bring into focus some of what we saw happening that day, that we didn't fully understand in real time," Bunch observes. "What the goals were, who was behind what and why. We've learned so much in the last twelve months."

We've got a lot to discuss on today's program...

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Guest: Marilyn Marks of Coalition for Good Governance on that and MUCH more; Also: Stone takes the 5th; Judge allows Dominion's $1.6 billion defamation case to proceed against Fox 'News' ...
By Brad Friedman on 12/17/2021 7:25pm PT  

It's been a rough close of the year for those of us fighting to preserve democracy in these United States against the rising authoritarian tide from the Right. But while it's has been a tough slog for passage of federal voting rights and election protection legislation in the U.S. Senate, there have been several critical victories for fans of democracy in federal court over this past week, as covered on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

First up, some quick news on the continuing probe by the U.S. House Select Committee investigating Donald Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 election by inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. GOP dirty tricksters and longtime Trump pal Roger Stone invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination before the Committee today. While Stone is the first to admit to doing so publicly, he is the third Trump henchman to reportedly have done so to date. In 2019, Stone was convicted of seven criminal felonies, including lying to Congress and obstructing the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, before eventually being pardoned for all charges by Trump on his way out of office.

The House Committee appears to now be homing in on the question of, in Vice Chair Liz Cheney's words: "Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress's official proceedings to count Electoral Votes." If so, and if charged with and found guilty of said action or inaction, the former President could face as many as 20 years in prison under federal law.

Fox "News", on the other hand, is already in federal court, facing a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit by the Dominion Voting Systems company. On Thursday, a federal judge denied the Republican propaganda outlet's Motion to Dismiss the case. That is a major hurdle for the private voting system vendor to have cleared, allowing their case to move on to the discovery and trial phase. Both Dominion and another private election vendor, Smartmatic, have filed several defamation suits against Fox and other rightwing media outlets, as well as Trump lawyers and allies such as Rudy Giuliani [PDF], Sidney Powell [PDF] and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell [PDF], for their false claims that Dominion and Smartmatic stole the election for Joe Biden. Giuliani, Powell and Lindell's Motions to Dismiss in their similar defamation suits, in which the voting companies are seeking more than a billion dollars in each, were all rejected over the summer.

Next, more good court news came in late last week in the eight different lawsuits now filed challenging the state of Georgia's voter-suppression and election subversion law known as SB202. The measure was adopted by state Republicans earlier in the year on the heels of Trump's evidence-free claim that the 2020 election he lost to Biden in the Peach State was rigged, and after the elections of the state's Democratic U.S. Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in the January runoff.

Late last week the Trump-appointed judge overseeing all eight challenges to SB202, allowed all of them to proceed in full, rejecting the Motions to Dismiss filed by the State and Republican groups that have joined the defendants. Seven of those suits, including those filed by the NAACP, ACLU, Stacey Abrams' Fair Fight organization and the U.S. Dept. of Justice, focus largely on race-based violations of the Voting Rights Act.

The eighth case, filed by the Coalition for Good Governance [PDF], in which I am a named plaintiff representing media, challenges SB202's election subversion clause and several others which, the suit contends, violate the First Amendment of the Constitution. SB202's election subversion clause allows the State Board of Elections to replace county elections officials with partisans, for virtually any reason they like, who can then overturn elections, also for virtually any reason they like. Other provisions of the law challenged by CGG prevent the public and media outlets like our own, from basic election oversight and reporting functions that have been in place for decades if not centuries, such as the right to photograph inside of polling places or during the tallying of absentee ballots.

Earlier this year, in August, U.S. District Judge J.P. Boulee granted an injunction [PDF] on SB202's photography ban in advance of Georgia's November municipal elections. But his ruling last week [PDF] was much broader in allowing all eight challenges to the law to proceed in full toward the discovery and trial phases. It was, as my guest explains today, a major victory for all of the plaintiffs.

We're joined today by MARILYN MARKS, Executive Director of the non-partisan Coalition for Good Governance, to discuss the good news in that case, new developments in her separate, longstanding case challenging the use of Georgia's new, 100% unverifiable touchscreen voting machines made by Dominion Voting Systems and much MUCH more. We haven't spoken on air with Marks, usually a frequent guest, in about six months! So we've got a LOT to catch up with today!

Among the many points in our wide-ranging conversation...

  • Marks offers her reaction to Fox "News" losing its Motion to Dismiss in Dominion's defamation case against them; the conflicting emotions in supporting Dominion in their defamation cases, given that likely nobody in the nation has been tougher on Dominion's terrible voting systems than she has been; and why it is that, as unrelenting as she's been against Dominion for so many years (The Coalition's lawsuit seeks to ban their touchscreen systems across the entire state), the company has never sued her or her organization for defamation.
  • Speaking of the Coalition's case against GA's use of the Dominion touchscreens (which is separate from their SB202 challenge), Marks updates us on a report created for the court by plaintiff's expert Dr. Alex Halderman, finding vulnerabilities in Dominion's voting systems that are so disturbing the federal judge has sealed his report as for "Attorneys Eyes Only," meaning that even Marks has not been allowed to see it But, she notes, Dominion now has access to that report. If so, as we discuss, that means that, under California law (where several counties also use these same terrible systems), the company must now share the vulnerabilities in that sealed report with California's Sec. of State. In turn, CA must then report the vulnerabilities to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. (The report by Halderman and the vulnerabilities he allegedly found became an issue here in the Golden State earlier this year, just prior to the California Gubernatorial Recall election in September, after Dominon's central Election Management System software was apparently stolen and duplicated under the auspices of a rightwing Mesa County, Colorado election official and released to the Internet during Mike Lindell's failed "Cybersecurity Symposium" in South Dakota.) It is unknown if Dominion has yet to share Halderman's report with the CA Sec. of State, as per state law. Marks notes that Halderman has said the vulnerabilities are "even more serious" than those found in the older Diebold touchscreens GA used to use, before they were banned by this same lawsuit and replaced with the vulnerable Dominion systems. "Dominion has to inform the California Sec. of State within 30 days of getting reports of defects, failures, etc.," she explains, "So yes, it should be happening soon."
  • Marks details why "it was a big victory" that Judge Boulee allowed all of the SB202 cases to proceed, including the one filed by the Coalition. She details how her group's challenge to SBS202 is very different from the other seven that the judge allowed to proceed as well, while he suggested that some of the overlapping cases may be combined in the days ahead. She notes that, despite being a Trump appointee, he appears to be doing a very thorough job of overseeing all of the cases, including points made by both plaintiffs and defendants alike.
  • She clarifies how even if SB202 is struck down in full, state law in Georgia would still allow much of the recent purging of Black Democratic elections officials from county boards of elections, as we discussed with one of those purged, longtime county election officials and voting rights leaders Helen Butler of The People's Agenda on the show earlier in the week. "Unfortunately, you and Helen are right about that," Marks confirms.
  • We discuss --- and have a minor difference of opinion --- regarding a recently dismissed lawsuit in Georgia that challenged the state's 2020 election results. That case, filed by a group named VoterGA, alleged thousands of fraudulent ballots were included in the 2020 results. It was dismissed in recent weeks for reasons of standing that both Marks and I find questionable. Our small disagreement is related to my argument that the case should have been allowed to proceed because, even if VoterGA's complaint was based on false claims of fraud, those who question election results (even those conned by a lying, disgraced former President) ought to be able to examine election results and ballots for themselves, as long as they pay the costs for the exercise and ballots are taken out of the secure custody of elections officials. (That, in contrast to the what we saw earlier this year in the Cyber Ninjas' clown show "audit" in Maricopa County, Arizona.) Marks, a longtime, huge advocate for transparency and public oversight of elections supports that idea, but notes that VoterGA failed to seek such oversight during the period when they could have done so under state law. Further, she explains, the group failed to join earlier efforts to the election to change state law in order to declare paper ballots and digital ballot images to be official public records, fully reviewable by citizens and groups like VoterGA and the Coalition for Good Governance.
  • Finally, Marks also offers her reaction to the recently discovered news that Trump attorney and longtime GOP "voter fraud" fraudster Cleta Mitchell, had been quietly named to an Advisory Board for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) earlier this year. Her appointment in April was not publicly reported until November. Mitchell participated from the White House on Trump's infamous January 2nd phone call with GA Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger when the desperate, outgoing President attempted to bully Raffensperger, urging him to "find" enough votes to steal the election for him in the Peach State. The EAC, meanwhile, which Mitchell is now advising, is responsible for certifying voting systems used in the U.S. and helps states and counties on regulations and best practices for federal elections.

There is a lot of important information about elections and election integrity in today's conversation with Marks. Though we better not wait another six months to do it again or we'll have to have a three hour show!...

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Guest: Helen Butler of The People's Agenda, purged from the Morgan County, GA Board of Elections; Also: Listener mail!...
By Brad Friedman on 12/15/2021 6:28pm PT  

If you're wondering how to stay positive as America appears on the brink of a very dark authoritarian takeover by Republicans, we may have just the answer for you in the form of today's guest on The BradCast. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

Reuters has been doing an incredibly well-reported series of special reports of late on the Republicans' ongoing assault on democracy itself in America. They've covered, among other aspects, the attacks on elections officials stemming from Donald Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 election by blatantly lying about it, and even citing certain election officials by name who were subsequently targeted and terrorized --- sometimes, along with their family members --- with threats of violence and death by his supporters. They have also been very smartly covering the effects of new voter suppression laws being adopted in GOP controlled states around the nation, as part of the opportunistic fall-out from the lies that Trump told in his effort to steal last year's Presidential election.

Recently, Reuters' James Oliphant and Nathan Layne took a detailed look at the effect all of this is having on local elections officials in a state we have covered in great detail on this program: Georgia, where longtime, local election board officials --- specifically, Democratic election officials ... specifically black Democratic election officials (and frequently black Democratic women) --- are now being purged from County election boards across the state at an alarming rate.

The purge is thanks to two different state laws. One is GA's terrible new anti-voting law, SB 202, passed earlier this year, which allows for --- among other anti-democratic things --- officials on the State Board of Elections, which is controlled by the GOP state legislature and Republican Sec. of State, to replace county election officials with partisan operatives (for virtually any reason) who can then overturn election results (also, for virtually any reason.) [FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a named plaintiff, representing media, challenging several provisions of SB 202 in a federal lawsuit filed by the Coalition for Good Governance.] The other law being used even more, referred to as "local legislation", has been in place for a while, but was rarely invoked until this year in the wake of Trump's "Big Lie" after Democrats won the Presidential election in the state for the first time in years, along with both of the Peach State's U.S. Senate seats. The state law allows County Commissions to restructure their County Boards of Elections pretty much anyway they like after receiving approval for the restructuring from the state legislature.

In at least half a dozen Georgia counties that have restructured their election boards so far this year, Oliphant and Layne report, "the legislature shifted the power to appoint some or all election board members to local county commissions, all of which are currently controlled by Republicans. Previously, the appointments had been split evenly between the local Democratic and Republican parties." They detail how black Democrats --- often long-serving champions of voting rights --- have been systematically purged from those county boards and replaced with White Republican majorities in advance of next year's critical mid-terms, where popular black Democratic voting rights advocates Stacey Abrams and Sen. Raphael Warnock will both be on the ballot, for Governor and U.S. Senator respectively.

"In Morgan County, the majority-Republican county commission reconstituted its election board, ousting two outspoken Black Democrats," Reuters reports, "Helen Butler and Avery Jackson were removed after the new law eliminated political-party appointments and handed appointment power to the Republican-dominated commission. Butler and Jackson sought reappointments but were denied."

We're thrilled to be joined once again today by one of those two ousted officials, HELEN BUTLER, who served honorably on the Morgan County Board of Elections and Registration for a decade until she was pushed out this year. Butler, who we first spoke with over the summer, after she offered testimony in the U.S. Senate, is the Executive Director of the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda, a civil rights organization founded by the late, great civil rights icon, Reverend Dr. Joseph Lowery (who founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr.).

She is also the winner of the Voter Empowerment Collaborative's 2021 Love Award, named after the 40-year old civil rights group's legendary founder, Reverend Albert E. Love, known as "Mr. Vote," after dedicating his life to registering, educating and mobilizing voters. And Butler is also a 2021 "Defender of the Dream" awardee by the AFL-CIO Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Civil and Human Rights Conference. We leave it to you to decide if those awards are as prestigious as Butler being named last month as a "Goddess of Democracy" in Glamour magazine's "Women of the Year" issue.

Butler describes today what is going on right now in Georgia, largely under the national media radar, as being part of the GOP's "insurrection plan nationally, that 'We are going to take over every aspect of controlling the outcome of elections, so if I don't like the results, I can put in the results that I want to have.'" She also notes that it is happening not only with boards of elections in her state, but at school boards as well.

"They're not stopping with just elections. They're trying to take over control of all aspects of government. Education departments are the largest generators of revenue in counties, so if they get to control that, they get to control all money, they get to control what our children learn, what they get, where schools are located," she warns. "So again, it's a total takeover process that they're going after...They are stacking control of all levels of government."

When I ask how much control local county boards of elections have over elections and voting processes, and even outcomes, as compared to the state itself, Butler pulls no punches: "The county levels are the ones where the rubber meets the road. They do all of the voter registration, making sure people are registered to vote. They get to determine with their redistricting process, how the maps are drawn, how people are put into those maps for purposes of voting. They also control who gets an absentee ballot, whether it gets counted or is rejected. If there are provisional ballots, they get to determine which ones are counted, which ones are rejected. They get to certify the results --- they get to count all of the votes that are cast. And they get to certify who gets to win each race. So they are very critical... and if you stack it so those people can conform to a lie versus the truth, then you don't get true democracy... you get an autocratic form of government, because someone wants it to go a certain way, and not necessarily to the will of the voters."

With that, Butler explains, "they can control the outcome of all elections." And while all of this sounds --- and is --- quite chilling, Butler's optimism, as you'll hear, is absolutely infectious. As dark as the topic of discussion is, you'll be astounded to walk away from this conversation actually feeling somewhat better about everything...including the possibility of federal legislation in the form of the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act actually being adopted by the U.S. Senate, and maybe even saving democracy in Georgia and everywhere else before all is said and done. She explains how those bills will go a long way toward reversing the worst of the GOP's now-ongoing assault on American democracy and, if passed, could be "our saving grace."

"I always try to be optimistic, to look for the good things rather than dwell on the bad," she tells me, as she also explains how Americans across the country can help right now. "It's very important we get those bills passed...As my leader, the late Dr. Joseph Lowery said, 'Voting is a sacred right, but it's also a moral obligation.'"

Tune in for much more in today's conversation. You can thank me later.

Finally, we close today with a listener mail segment, including some great letters from listeners in response to several recent shows that may help you keep Butler's infectious optimism going through the holidays...or at least for the next few hours...

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Guest: Election law scholar and democracy activist, Paul Lehto; Also: Biden v. Putin; U.S. v. China; Meadows v. 1/6 Committee; DoJ v. Texas...
By Brad Friedman on 12/7/2021 5:34pm PT  

On today's BradCast, we've got trouble both at home and abroad. But what else is new? [Audio link to full program is posted at the end of this summary.]

As if our domestic problems aren't disturbing enough, a couple of roiling foreign policy issues are landing on Joe Biden's desk this week. The President met via video-conference on Tuesday with Russia President Vladimir Putin to discuss the troubling build-up of Russian forces near the border of eastern Ukraine, suggesting a full-scale invasion of the former Soviet bloc country could be imminent in coming weeks and months. Biden reportedly threatened serious economic consequences for Russia if that happens. For his part, Putin seeks a commitment from NATO that Ukraine will never be allowed to join the joint defense organization. That condition is said to be a non-starter for both Biden and our NATO allies.

Elsewhere, China is none too happy with Biden's decision to implement a "diplomatic boycott" of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing. Though U.S. athletes will be allowed to attend, Administration officials will not, leading China to describe the move as an "outright political provocation" and vowing "firm countermeasures," whatever that might mean.

Meanwhile, here at home, we're still trying to clean up after Donald Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 election, while trying to prevent him and the Republicans from more successfully stealing future elections. It won't be easy.

Last week, following the two federal indictments of Steve Bannon for failing to answer lawful subpoenas issued by the U.S. House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol, Trump's former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows agreed --- sort of --- to cooperate with the Committee in regards his own subpoenas. Today, he reportedly changed his mind and, in turn, may also now be looking at indictments in the days ahead, along with two years in prison. Apparently his boss, the disgraced, twice-impeached former President, doesn't want him talking to the Committee for some reason. Happily, Mike Pence's former Chief of Staff, reportedly --- along with hundreds of others --- are already doing so.

With at least some accountability now likely in the offing for Meadows --- even as Merrick Garland's Dept. of Justice has, to date, brought no accountability on its own to the former President and his criminal clan for an endless list of crimes that includes the attempt to steal 2020 --- the Department filed a new lawsuit against Texas on Monday. The litigation seeks to block the Lone Star State's new Congressional and legislative maps as violations of the Voting Rights Act. While Texas gained two new House seats following the 2020 Census, they have now added two new White-majority Congressional Districts and eliminated a Latino-controlled seat. That, despite the fact that 95% of the population growth in the state is thanks to Latinos and Blacks. The DoJ, in their press conference announcing the suit yesterday, noted this isn't the first time TX has attempted to racially gerrymander its maps for partisan advantage. Though it may be much more difficult to challenge them this time around with the gutting of the VRA by the U.S. Supreme Court in recent years and, of course, the Republicans having packed the Court's 6 to 3 majority.

But as the GOP prepares to win a majority of the House in 2022 with a minority of votes from Americans, the vagaries of both the U.S. Constitution and the Electoral Count Act (ECA) of 1887 may make it easier to steal the Presidential election in 2024 as well. Longtime Republican election attorney Ben Ginsberg --- who helped steal the 2000 election for George W. Bush but rejected Trump's attempts to steal 2020 --- is now pressing his own party to reform the ECA before it comes back to bite them in the future.

It was, in fact, confusion surrounding the incredibly poorly written ECA that Team Trump hoped to exploit to their advantage when they tried to coerce then Vice President Mike Pence to declare electoral votes in a number of swing-states to be invalid during the joint session of Congress to certify the electoral votes on January 6. He refused, but the usually pro forma Congressional certification of the Electoral College, as you know, was then interrupted by Trump's MAGA Mob insurrection, in his last desperate attempt to steal the election that he lost.

We were joined on this program, on January 4th, by election law scholar and democracy activist PAUL LEHTO who joined us to warn, at the time, of the dangers that awaited on January 6th, thanks in no small part to the confusing ECA and Team Trump's attempts to take advantage of that confusion. Lehto joins us again today to discuss Ginsberg's recommendations to reform the Act and whether such reforms --- even if they could ever be adopted by the current dysfunctionally divided Congress --- would help to avoid another attempted theft of the Electoral College by Trump...or anyone else.

"If Congress understood that all they are doing is tabulating votes --- their scope is very limited --- they wouldn't have these disagreements about whether the Vice President has a sweeping authority to do this," Lehto explains. "They would realize they're clerks. But because that's not an understanding that's out there like it ought to be, yet another major norm of democracy, you could say, is being completely violated. And that's why there are so many holes that can be manipulated in the ECA. Because people are looking for 'How can we game the system?'"

Lehto, whose warnings were prescient in November, December and January, warns today that while the ECA "ought to be amended...whenever you close a loophole, the action just moves to the loopholes that still exist. Amending the ECA all by itself isn't going to solve the problem. Because you have constitutional issues, you have issues of people being partisan when they really should be patriots and act like clerks counting ballots."

He also has a few thoughts on what would help make Presidential elections less fraught and easily exploited, which involves both transparency and some key changes to the Constitution. "I think maybe what Democrats don't fully give enough weight to is the fact that we have an ancient Constitution that did not provide a democratic means of selecting the President," he tells me. "So that feels anti-democratic and fraudulent to Democrats, but that's what the system was set up. So we need to amend the Constitution in order to have it line up with what our reasonable expectations are for living in a modern democracy."

Finally, we're joined by Desi Doyen for our latest Green News Report, with troubling news for the Western U.S. and for Christmas tree fans, but with a bit of good news out of Scotland...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Also: DoJ sues Texas for racial gerrymandering; Omicron more/less dangerous than you may know; Callers ring in...
By Brad Friedman on 12/6/2021 6:35pm PT  

Lots to get caught up with on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

Among the stories covered...

  • We hope to cover this more on an upcoming show, but on Monday, not long before air, the Dept. of Justice filed a federal lawsuit against Texas, hoping to block the Lone Star state's newly drawn and racially gerrymandered Congressional and state legislative districts under what is left of the Voting Rights Act. The state is adding two new Congressional districts following the 2020 Census, after gaining some 4 million new residents over the past decade. But, despite growth in the Latino and Black populations comprising 95% of the increase in voters, the state Republicans added two new majority White districts on their new maps, and removed yet another Latino-majority district.
  • Health officials over the past 24 to 48 hours, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have been suggesting that early data on the coronavirus Omicron variant indicates that, while it appears to be much more transmissible than previous variants, it may be less lethal. Though that is the headline you may have seen from the media since the weekend, that doesn't actually tell the full story about what that could mean. We try to fill in at least some of the blanks for the moment before folks get too prematurely excited. In short, if you haven't received a booster yet, now is a great time to do so. And, if you haven't had your initial shots, 6 months ago would have been a great time to do so (but now will suffice.) AND, if you think that already having had COVID --- and, thus, now have antibodies that you believe will protect you --- now is a great time to think again about that. We explain in full on today's show.
  • Finally, we've been reporting --- somewhat anecdotally in recent weeks --- on the bizarre way that the corporate media have been misreporting on the largely robust, and at times record, growth in the economy under President Biden over the past year as the nation attempts to crawl out from under the pandemic. Millions of jobs have been created (more than during the entire Trump Presidency); unemployment has plummeted to 4.2% (falling a remarkable four tenths of a percent in November compared to October and a full two points since the beginning of the year, when experts said it would be 2025 before unemployment fell to 4.2% again); New weekly jobless claims the week before last were the lowest they have been since 1969; etc. Yet, oddly enough, Biden's approval ratings have been driven down in recent months, thanks, in no small part, to often wildly misleading media coverage that continues to lead with areas of perceived weakness in the economy. That, despite the fact that those perceived weaknesses are misleading and/or not weakness in the economy at all.

    Late last week, Washington Post's Dana Milbank wrote that he's noticed the same thing from his colleagues. He commissioned a study to find out if he was right and, as it turns out, he is. "After a honeymoon of slightly positive coverage in the first three months of the year, Biden’s press for the past four months has been as bad as --- and for a time worse than --- the coverage Trump received for the same four months of 2020."

    "Think about that," wrote Milbank. "In 2020, Trump presided over a worst-in-world pandemic response that caused hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths; held a superspreader event at the White House and got covid-19 himself; praised QAnon adherents; embraced violent white supremacists; waged a racist campaign against Black Lives Matter demonstrators; attempted to discredit mail-in voting; and refused to accept his defeat in a free and fair election, leading eventually to the violence of Jan. 6 and causing tens of millions to accept the 'big lie,' the worst of more than 30,000 he told in office....And yet Trump got press coverage as favorable as, or better than, Biden is getting today."

    Now, why would that be? We discuss and open up the phone lines today to listeners who call in with their own thoughts on why the so-called "liberal media" has been doing such a lousy, misleading job in covering Biden's Presidency to date...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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