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Latest Featured Reports | Sunday, December 4, 2022
Sunday 'Abandon All Hope' Toons
Give it up for PDiddie's latest collection of the week's best political toons...
AZ Election Super-Geniuses: 'BradCast' 12/2/22
Cochise County ordered to certify results; Lake, Finchem attorneys sanctioned; Also: Warnock campaigner shot in GA; Boebert recount begins in CO; Dems avert rail strike, but about those paid sick days...
Seditious Conspiracy Verdicts and 'Mob Boss' Obstruction: 'BradCast' 12/1/22
Guest: Emptywheel's Marcy Wheeler; Also: Out of work loser, Dr. Oz; Hilarious sentence for GOP vote suppressors; Breaking: 11th Circuit nixes Special Master in Trump docs case...
'Green News Report' 12/1/22
  w/ Brad & Desi
DoJ sues to clean up water supply in Jackson, MS; Mauna Loa shuts global CO2 monitor; New methane rules for drilling; PLUS: Int. Dept to help tribal communities escape rising seas...
Recent GNRs: 11/29/22 - 11/17/22 - Archives...
Good News and Bad News in GA Early Runoff Voting: 'BradCast' 11/30/22
Guest: GA election expert, observer Jeanne Dufort; Also: Dems unite behind new House leadership; Bills passed to help avert rail strike; Meadows ordered to testify in GA...
Fun Times in MAGA Land!: Sedition! Collusion! Denial!: 'BradCast' 11/29/22
Oath Keepers chief 'guilty'; GOP money launderer 'guilty'; AZ Dem SoS/Guv-elect fights to keep Repubs from disenfranchising selves...
'Green News Report' 11/29/22
Breakthrough at U.N. climate conference; Americans at risk of power blackouts; Buffalo, NY buried by blizzard; PLUS: Houston, TX under boil water notice...
We're Back! But Election and Accountability Season Never Left: 'BradCast' 11/28/22
Pillow Guy is running!; Special Counsel wasting no time; Trumpers failed in AK too; Lake still pretending in AZ; Callers have a few thoughts...
Sunday 'Once More Unto the Breach' Toons
And here we go again...into PDiddie's latest post-Turkey toon collection...
Turkey Toons
Gobble gobble! Our thanks to the one and only Pdiddie for a special holiday collection of toons to help you burn off a few calories!...
Debating the Merits of Garland's New Special Counsel: 'BradCast' 11/21/22
Guests: Former DoJ prosecutor Randall D. Eliason of GWU, Const'l law expert John Bonifaz of FSFP; Also: Does the Const. disqualify Trump from 2024?...
Sunday 'Ready or Not' Toons
PDiddie's latest collection of the past week's most gut-busting political toons...
'Green News Report' 11/17/22
Crunch time for COP27 climate agreement; NASA says sea levels to rise a foot by 2050; Trump's 2024 announce-ment climate lies; PLUS: Climate disinfo surging again...
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...


On climate, natural gas, 'junk fees' and other substantive issues worth knowing about ahead of our critical midterm elections...
By Brad Friedman on 10/27/2022 6:18pm PT  

The element of surprise plays a central role in several of the stories covered on today's BradCast.

Among them...

  • SURPRISE! Natural gas prices actually went negative (companies paying to give it away) in parts of Europe this week, as the EU now has a glut of natural gas with Winter approaching and storage facilities reaching capacity. That's particularly surprising after earlier concerns earlier this year that folks could freeze to death after Russia's Vladimir Putin cut off much of its supply in retaliation for sanctions against his brutal invasion of Ukraine. So, why the glut? Several reasons: EU nations scrambled to make up for the gas cut off by Putin with sources from elsewhere while also working toward a quicker transition to renewable sources of energy. Also, mild, climate changed weather in the region has eased demand so far this Autumn.
  • SURPRISE! The price of natural gas in parts of west Texas also plummeted to nearly zero recently, thanks to over-production and a lack of storage there as well. All of which is "surprising", if only because Republicans have been telling (lying to) Americans that Joe Biden had crippled fossil fuel energy production in the U.S. (he hasn't), which has lead to increased prices...which is actually largely due to price gouging that every Republican in Congress recently voted against prohibiting.
  • SURPRISE! Russia's war in Ukraine is hastening, not slowing, a global shift away from fossil fuels and towards cleaner, renewable energy sources like wind, solar and EV's, according to a new International Energy Agency (IAE) report on Thursday. Global investment in renewable sources is quickly rising, as nations seek energy security in response to Putin's war and in hopes of improving their economies by grabbing a chunk of the trillions of dollars being spent on development and manufacturing in the burgeoning clean energy industry. Nonetheless, while the shift will reportedly result in peak fossil fuel usage by 2025, the current pace of the transition is still nowhere near what climate scientists say is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.
  • SURPRISE (FEES)! The Biden Administration's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced on Wednesday that it is cracking down on unlawful corporate junk fees --- for checks you deposit at your bank from someone which ends up bouncing; for changing plane tickets after an airline cancelled your flight, etc. --- amounting to billions of dollars in savings for American consumers. The President's announcement at the White House on Wednesday comes just days after three Trump-appointees on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with part of a lawsuit from the sleazy Payday Lending Industry lobby charging that the funding mechanism for the CFPB --- created during the Obama Administration in response to the Great Recession as the only federal agency created to protect consumers rather than corporations --- was somehow unconstitutional. And after Biden's announcement to end junk fees, Republicans in both the House and Senate released statements vowing to end the new consumer protections...which will be much easier for them to do if they win majorities in either chamber in the November midterms.
  • SURPRISE (NOT)! After Amazon indignantly pretended to cut off political donations to Republicans who voted against certifying Joe Biden's Electoral College victory after the January 6, 2021 U.S. Capitol insurrection, the monopolistic retailer apparently restarted them...just as soon as the nation's next major election got under way.
  • Finally, it's no surprise that Desi Doyen has both good news and bad in our latest Green News Report, as drought deepens across the U.S.., the U.N. warns about catastrophic consequences of climate change; Australia builds a really really big battery; and as the Biden Administration rolls out a national fleet electric school buses...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: 30-year Leon County, FL elections chief Ion Sancho; Also: 'Fun' with COVID shots; Enraged Putin unleashes new war crimes on Ukraine civilians; GOP election deniers on 2022 ballot from coast to coast...
By Brad Friedman on 10/10/2022 6:24pm PT  

On today's BradCast: It has been nearly two weeks since Hurricane Ian slammed the great state of Florida, leaving behind a swath of destruction across much of the state. Midterm elections, meanwhile, are now just 4 weeks away, but FL's chief elections official --- its Governor, Ron DeSantis --- has yet to approve a plan for how to carry them out amid the rubble. [Audio file to full program follows this summary.]

Last week, Tommy Doyle, Supervisor of Elections in Lee County, home to Fort Myers, the hardest hit part of the state, released a proposal to extend early voting at 12 sites, turning them into Voting Centers where anyone in the County can vote from October 24 through Election Day on November 8. That, in place of the County's normal 97 community precincts, many of which were blown entirely away by Hurricane Ian.

But, according to our guest today, DeSantis has yet to respond to Doyle's proposal, despite the fact that much of the country is already voting in the critical midterms, while many Florida residents do not even have a mailbox left to send vote-by-mail ballots to. Furthermore, as our guest today --- a legendary former Election Supervisor in FL's Leon County (which includes the state capital of Tallahassee) --- notes, allowing the expansion of early voting and use of Voting Centers is now illegal in the state, despite a similar plan to hold elections carried out just after Hurricane Michael in 2018.

The great ION SANCHO, who retired in 2016 after nearly 30 years as Leon County's elections chief, joins us today to detail the very serious --- I would say, critical --- mess the state is currently in when it comes to carrying out the upcoming midterms. DeSantis, a Republican, happens to be running for re-election this year against the Democratic nominee, former Governor Charlie Crist. There is also a very tight race between incumbent GOP Senator Marco Rubio and his Democratic challenger Rep. Val Demings.

Sancho notes that Hurricane Michael, which made landfall in a rural area of the state's panhandle, ended up decreasing turnout there by about 8% in 2018. But Ian hit one of the state's most densely populated areas. "It's a terrible situation," Sancho tells us, describing how "most of the precinct sites have been destroyed." Supervisor Doyle, he explains, has plans to run Voting Centers in Lee County "all the way through Election Day with expanded hours, which is illegal in Florida. You may not have early voting, for example, or a Vote Center open on Monday, or on Election Day."

Many of these problems come thanks to the state GOP's newly discovered hatred for absentee voting and other restrictions on voting passed after 2020 to make it more difficult to do so. Many of the suggestions for how to carry out the elections after Ian are the same as those carried out after an order signed by Gov. Rick Scott following Michael. But now, says Sancho, "we are all on pins and needles. Governor Scott issued his executive order giving the Supervisor of Elections expanded authority to deal with his voters eight days after the hurricane hit. We are now on Day 12 and Governor DeSantis has not told any Supervisor anything."

There are also political considerations likely in play for DeSantis. "He's in a pickle. He needs to provide expanded voting access, and that is made more critical by the fact that the areas that were hit were 2-to-1 Republican over Democrat," Sancho says. "The best that we can hope for is he gives the Supervisor of Elections the same kind of flexibility as Governor Scott gave the Supervisors in the Panhandle to deal with Michael. But [DeSantis] may be loathe to do that because it means he has to recant some of the things that he did this past legislative session."

It's not only Lee County where election plans have been rocked, Sancho explains. "I would count at least 9 counties. It caused a swath of destruction across the state. This is a huge number of voters." Nonetheless, early voting is supposedto begin in the Sunshine State in just two weeks. Whether that can happen remains anyone's guess at this hour. Tune in today for much more on this.

Also on today's show...

  • We got our latest COVID boosters on Friday (and Flu shots along with them, just to up the ante.) How did they go? Tune in to find out. Suffice to say, my experience was, once again, very different from Desi's. But, if you haven't gotten a COVID shot lately, now is not a moment too soon to protect yourself and everyone else from the likely autumn/winter surge.
  • An explosion on the only bridge between Russian-annexed Crimea and the Russian mainland collapsed a portion of it over the weekend, and Russia's main military supply line to its war of aggression against sovereign Ukraine in the south along with it. In response today, Russia's Vladimir Putin doubled down on his many war crimes to date by launching another massive missile strike against nearly a dozen densely populated civilian areas, include Kyiv, Ukraine's capital.
  • Finally, from the war between autocracy and democracy oversees, to the same (if, so far, less bloody) conflict here at home. If they are Republican and on the 2022 ballot, chances are they are a denier of Joe Biden's 2020 Presidential election victory and/or will vote against certification of the next Presidential election if a Democrat is established once again to be the legitimate winner. Many GOP candidates across the country have been shifting their public positions on Trump's evidence-free claims of a stolen 2020 election following the primaries, in hopes of trying to fool more mainstream general election voters. But, don't be fooled. Some, like Mark Finchem, Arizona's GOP nominee for Secretary of State nominee, even claims to be an opponent now of vote-by-mail. ("I don't care for mail-in voting. That's why I go to the polls," he lied at a recent debate, before a public records search revealed last week that he has voted by mail in every election since 2004, and only voted in person this year for the first time since then.)

    A Washington Post analysis last week found "A majority of Republican nominees on the ballot this November for the House, Senate and key statewide offices" are, in fact, election deniers and "running in every region of the country and in nearly every state. Republican voters in three states nominated election deniers in all federal and statewide races The Post examined." That includes critical roles --- such as Governors and Secretaries of State --- responsible for certifying the 2024 Presidential election. We share some of the evidence of those lying, dishonest candidates and their deceptively shifting position presented a threat to American democracy, on today's program...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Callers ring in on whatever the hell may or may not be going on...
By Brad Friedman on 9/12/2022 6:01pm PT  

We haven't been able to open the phones to listeners for a few weeks on The BradCast, so today we do. [Audio link to full show follows below this summary.]

First up, however, the latest news on the stunning turn of events over the weekend in Ukraine, where its forces retook scores of cities that Russia had previously captured in the Kharkiv region in the northeast. Russian troops were apparently sent scrambling to avoid being cut off from their supply lines. They left behind weaponry and ammo as they beat a hasty retreat back to the Donbas region in the south in the wake of the surprise counteroffensive.

Moscow continues to pretend nothing happened at all. But even pro-war Russians appear to be furious about it all and could reportedly be turning on Russian President Vladimir Putin. He spent the weekend presiding over the opening of a new Ferris wheel and sports arena, as Ukrainian troops recaptured about 1,160 square miles of territory and are now said to be within about 30 miles from the Russian border.

At the same time, power from the nation's electric grid has --- at least for now --- been restored at Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, one of the largest in Europe. It was taken over by Russia earlier in the war and power was recently cut off due to nearby shelling (both sides blame the other for it.) With grid power now returned, risk of catastrophic meltdown has been averted for the moment, though shelling in the region could once again put the plant at risk.

Back here in the U.S., there was a strange occurrence on Sunday when a small plane carrying Donald Trump --- dressed in golf attire, including golf shoes --- showed up at Dulles Airport near D.C. It was only Trump's second visit to the nation's capitol since he left office, and he gave no clue or statement on social media that he was going, nor why he was there, in what appears to be a hastily planned visit.

We share some irresponsible (if amusing) speculation from some top Trump Watchers about what the hell might be going on, before opening the phones today to listeners on all of the above and/or anything else they care to talk about.

So, yeah, that led to another lively --- and occasionally bizarre --- show today. Enjoy!...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest: George Beebe of the Quincy Inst. for Responsible Statecraft...
By Brad Friedman on 8/2/2022 5:58pm PT  

While voters were at the polls for primary elections in six states (Arizona, Kansas, Ohio, Michigan, Missouri and Washington) on Tuesday, we take the moment to turn to foreign affairs for a hot minute on today's BradCast.

Happily, few problems were reported for voters at the polls in those six states --- at least that we could find so far today --- beyond another predictable failure of electronic poll books, this time across Mohave County, AZ, for about six hours when polls opened. More issues may reveal themselves before tomorrow, or thereafter, of course. Meanwhile, there are a whole bunch of far-right, Trump-backed, 2020 election deniers on the ballot today, with several running for critical offices such as Governor, Sec. of State and the U.S. Senate. All of which, if those candidates win on Tuesday and again this November, could cause very serious problems for democracy itself in 2024. We'll pick all of that up on tomorrow's show, with whatever noteworthy reported results may be available by then.

But today, we had the opportunity circle back to Russia's ongoing war with it's sovereign neighbor Ukraine, now entering it's sixth horrific month following Russia's invasion on February 24. If you follow most Western media, Ukraine's military is making valiant if deadly headway in pushing back at over-extended and exhausted Russian troops in the South, while Russia presses its offensive in the East.

If you follow Kremlin-controlled media, this is a war special military operation that can never be won by Ukraine, and continues to threaten expansion into a global conflict, including the use of nuclear weapons, as Russia takes great pains to note --- on an alarmingly regular basis.

But, it's not only Russian-controlled media suggesting the war is ultimately unwinnable for Ukraine. A number of foreign policy-centered Western media outlets and think-tanks have long argued similarly in a push for peace talks and a ceasefire in the now war-torn nation of Ukraine.

There was some good news this week, in that an agreement brokered by Turkey and the U.N. between the two warring nations last month has resulted in ships carrying Ukrainian grain finally able to leave port to deliver food around the world. Russian ships will also be allowed to do so through safe corridors established amid mined waters in the Black Sea. If the agreement holds, millions of tons of grain and other agricultural products will finally be able to flow from "the breadbasket of Europe" to help ease rising global food prices and the threat of hunger and political instability in developing nations.

The first ship to leave port on Monday was "loaded with two commodities in short supply: corn and hope," as U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described it. Beyond that, there is not much to be hopeful about in the protracted conflict.

Writing at The National Interest over the weekend, veteran foreign policy experts and former U.S. National Security officials Steven Simon and Jonathon Stevenson made the case for diplomacy. They called on the U.S. to help encourage a negotiated settlement by making clear to Ukraine that "Neither side can fulfill its maximal war aims" and they must find opportunities for peace talks and, if possible, a cessation of hostilities, despite Vladimir Putin's apparent disinclination to negotiate.

"It is well and good for the United States and its NATO allies to keep arming Ukraine. But it is also time to encourage both sides to start exploring possibilities for a political solution before escalation puts diplomacy even farther from reach," the pair conclude. "And unless the United States and NATO condition military assistance on Ukraine’s constructive political engagement, they will lack the leverage to work effectively towards a stable objective."

But is such a demand appropriate or even possible under the current conditions in the war torn nation? Isn't it up to Ukraine --- which has lost so much in blood, treasure and sovereign territory --- not the U.S. or NATO, to decide when and if Ukraine is ready to negotiate an end to the war?

Those are just some of the difficult and nuanced questions we discuss with our guest today, GEORGE BEEBE, Director of Grand Strategy (yes, I know, an ominous sounding title!) at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, one of our go-to think-tanks for smart, no-nonsense foreign policy solutions.

Beebe's is the author of 2019's The Russia Trap: How Our Shadow War with Russia Could Spiral into Nuclear Catastrophe. He served over two decades in the U.S. government as an intelligence analyst, diplomat, and policy advisor, including as director of the CIA’s Russia analysis and as an advisor on Russia to Vice President Dick Cheney. (Yes, we discuss both of those ominous matters --- his work with the CIA and for Cheney --- as well!)

Among the questions and issues Beebe speaks to today: His concern that there is no real exit plan for our current strategy, not unlike the lack of a U.S. plan when we launched the Iraq War in 2003; Is it true that there is no way for Ukraine to "win" this war? That the only way is via diplomacy?; Should it be up to the U.S. and NATO, who are supplying much-needed armaments to help Ukraine defend itself, to decide when Ukraine should negotiate towards a settlement? Or should that remain Ukraine's sole decision?; Does Russia even have an interest in negotiations?; What should we learn from their repeated reminders that a continuation of the war could lead to a potentially nuclear expansion?; And, since it's actually a somewhat related matter, what does Beebe make of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's controversial visit on Tuesday to Taiwan, and what effect is that likely to have on the Russia/Ukraine conflict?

"This is a very complex issue," Beebe tells me on the matter of the United States' own culpability in the matter. "Most foreign policy issues don't have single factor origins. They're usually the result of a confluence of different forces. What's happened in Russia's invasion of Ukraine is that it is the culmination of a series of developments, missteps on the part of a lot of different players over time, that all contributed to the situation that we're facing today."

"That doesn't excuse the Russians and it doesn't excuse Putin from making the choice to invade Ukraine. I think he is fully responsible for that choice, regardless of what preceded it. It didn't have to happen," he argues. But "Russia certainly has what I regard as understandable security concerns...That doesn't mean that the invasion was justified [or] that the manner in which this operation was carried out was at all justifiable."

"But I also would not say that Putin simply woke up in February and said, 'Hey, I would like to invade Ukraine.' There was a lot that went into shaping that decision, and I think a lot of blame on both the Russian and the Western sides."

As you can tell, there is much to discuss and try to make sense of with the Director of Grand Strategy at the Quincy Institute today. I hope you'll tune in for it!

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us today for our latest Green News Report, with more on the potentially "game changing" compromise bill hashed out by Senator Joe Manchin with Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer last week, to invest an historic $370 billion in incentives to help us move from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy in hopes of mitigating our worsening climate emergency; And, on the latest deadly costs of that ongoing emergency across the U.S., as Big Oil --- whose product, and decades of lies about it, are at the heart of the crisis --- declare their most profitable quarter in history...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Callers respond on Kremlin talking points echoed by some on the Left, and on why Americans support Biden's Ukraine policies while disapproving of his policy on Ukraine. (You read that right.)
By Brad Friedman on 5/2/2022 5:51pm PT  

We had a very lively call-in show today on The BradCast, as we stacked the deck with folks who disagree with me, in response to my calling out those, particularly on the (supposed) Left, for forwarding Kremlin propaganda (including at on our own flagship station, KPFK, here in Los Angeles), over our public airwaves, amid Russia's deadly and grotesque war and war crimes against Ukraine. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

Before we get to that and to a bunch of callers on that topic...The midterm primary season gets under way in earnest this week --- with Ohio and Indiana voters holding Election Day tomorrow. So, we've got a few quick words on that, and on the gerrymandered U.S. House District map that Republicans have managed to keep in play this year, even though it was found --- four times to date! --- to be in violation of the Ohio state Constitution by its state Supreme Court. But, as we discussed in detail last week, the GOP's packed federal courts allowed the even more gerrymandered map drawn after 2010 to be used once again in this year's election, as Ohio's GOP-majority Redistricting Commission purposely ran out the clock on drawing new legal maps following the 2020 Census.

Then, it's on to our main topic: Namely, Russia's ongoing military invasion of its sovereign neighbor and the propaganda help Vladimir Putin is getting from some on the far-Left in this country who are lying and/or misinformed about it all. Hopefully, via at least some of the calls from listeners today, we straighten out at least some of what happens to be Kremlin propaganda and what is not.

It remains unclear some on the Left --- who claim to be anti-war (like us), who were critical of the U.S. when we were the empire invading a sovereign nation (as we were) --- are now having such a difficult time condemning Russia for doing the very same thing. Our anti-war position has been both accurate and consistent. As you'll hear on today's program, at least a few of our listeners seem to have a problem with that sort of consistency, choosing to blame the U.S. for Russia's war.

Today's lively conversation also comes as new polling from WaPo/ABC finds huge, bipartisan majorities of Americans support Joe Biden's actions in Ukraine, including his vow to keep American troops out of the conflict, sanctions against Russia; and sending defensive weaponry, humanitarian and economic aid to Ukraine. Despite that, in the very same poll, only a minority of Americans say they support Joe Biden's actions in Ukraine! Ya know, the same ones they previously said in the very same poll that they supported. Seriously. So, what's going on here? We open the phones to callers to try and help us understand that puzzle as well today.

Among the lively calls, several who try to forward more Russia propaganda on Ukraine (it didn't go well), and one who seemed disappointed, oddly enough, that the U.S. was trying to stay out of the direct conflict in hopes of avoiding a nuclear World War III.

As noted...a lively, but also kinda crazy program today with a lot of callers both fun and "fun". So we expect you may enjoy it!...Or you won't...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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While we post The BradCast here every day, and you can hear it across all of our great affiliate stations and websites, to automagically get new episodes as soon as they're available sent right to your computer or personal device, subscribe for free at iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn or our native RSS feed!
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Guest: Political scientist, international relations Prof. Nicholas Grossman of Univ. of IL; Also: EU to embargo Russian oil; USPS sued to block new gas-guzzling truck contract; More bad news for Trump in NY...
By Brad Friedman on 4/29/2022 5:48pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Putin's war in Ukraine continues, as do fears that it could expand into a nuclear World War III. That has led some on the anti-war Left to demand the U.S. and EU spend more energy pushing for a diplomatic solution rather than sending more deadly arms to Ukraine to help it defend itself. But that, according to our guest today, is a false choice. [Audio link to full show is posted after this summary below.]

First up, after recently cutting off the purchase of coal from Russia, the European Union is reportedly now prepared to embargo oil purchases as well. That's good news for Ukraine, very bad news for Russia, but also potentially bad news for American consumers as the global price of oil is likely to further spike as Big Oil CEOs in the U.S. continue to rake in record profits rather than increase production or lower gas prices at the pump. We discuss.

In not entirely unrelated news, as EarthJustice senior attorney Adrian Martinez vowed on this program back in February, his organization along with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the United Auto Workers (UAW), 16 states and the District of Columbia are now now suing the U.S. Postal Service to block its purchase of nearly 150,000 new gas-guzzling mail delivery trucks. The $11.3 billion contract, carried out by corrupt Donald Trump's corrupt Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, is unlawful on several bases, they argue. Most notably, the USPS failed to do an environmental impact study, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act, until after inking their deal with Wisconsin defense contractor, Oshkosh Defense, to build the trucks.

The new gas-powered vehicles are designed to get just 8.6 mpg, barely more than the 30-year old trucks they're replacing and, to make matters worse, will be built in a new non-union facility in South Carolina, rather than the company's union shop in Wisconsin. “Once this purchase goes through, we’ll be stuck with more than 100,000 new gas-guzzling vehicles on neighborhood streets for the next 30 years," California's Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement.

The states and the environmental groups --- with the support of the EPA and White House --- are hoping to move the USPS to deploy an all-electric fleet instead. Transportation is the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., and the postal fleet's 217,000 trucks is the largest share of the government's nonmilitary vehicles. Federal regulators estimate the new trucks will emit roughly the same amount of Earth-warming carbon dioxide each year as 4.3 million passenger vehicles.

Next, as Russia regroups in the east and south of Ukraine to prepare their next offensive, we're joined today by NICHOLAS GROSSMAN, international relations professor and political scientist at the University of Illinois. He's also Senior Editor at Arc Digital and author of Drones and Terrorism: Asymmetric Warfare and the Threat to Global Security.

This week, Grossman wrote a piece at The Daily Beast, responding to recent commentary from liberal academic icon and anti-war advocate Noam Chomsky, who is critical of the U.S. and NATO for continuing to supply Ukraine with weapons of war, rather than demand negotiations toward peace. As Chomsky argued, while sympathetic with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's position, increased arming of the beseiged nation fails to "pay attention to the reality of the world," which, without conceding to Russian demands via negotiations, will result in "the destruction of Ukraine and nuclear war."

But Grossman argues that's a false choice and that arming Ukraine is, in fact, at least right now, the best path to peace. "Even just framing it as diplomacy or war is a mistake," Grossman responds today, "in that war and diplomacy are not alternatives that go together. Just about every war ends with some sort of negotiated solution. Ukraine was willing to meet with Russia and did offer some concessions and those weren't enough. But, also, the actions on the ground are in effect a negotiation."

"The way that a lot of political science treats war is to think of it as a bargaining process. You have these two sides, Russia and Ukraine. Russia wants something and Ukraine really doesn't want to give it. And Russia's willing to kill to try to get it, and Ukraine is willing to kill to try to not give it. As long as that's the case, then the two of them don't actually know what they can force the other to accept. And so the war itself, the actual fighting, is to some extent a negotiating process. It is the fighting on the ground that is pushing both sides to figure out what exactly they can force the other one to accept."

"There will be peace," Grossman insists, "but the peace is going to look like many possible different things. One option is a peace where Ukraine is independent. Another option is where Ukraine is subjugated by Russia. Both of those are technically peace. But the Chomsky argument seems to be pushing more for the peace with Ukraine bowing down before Russia. And the problem with that is the Ukrainians don't want to, and there's nothing American can do to make them do it. So the action of 'Hey, we could have this option of getting them to sit down and then work it out and there would be peace, but instead we're not doing that, we're just causing war', just misunderstands that."

"As long as Russia and Ukraine want to fight, they're going to fight, and the United States can't stop that. So our choice is leave the Ukrainians on their own, or help them as they try to fight for independence."

There is, of course, much more to discuss with Grossman, including Chomsky's concerns (and many others'!) that this all leads to the use of nuclear weapons by Russia, as well as his thoughts on those who claim to be anti-war while blaming the U.S. for Russia's aggression. Please tune in for our very insightful and informative discussion today.

Finally, we close with some brighter news. A judge in New York has refused to end the $10,000/day fines levied against Donald Trump earlier this week, after the disgraced former President was found in contempt for failing to adequately respond to document subpoenas from New York state Attorney General Letitia James. Her civil probe into alleged "fraudulent" financial statements by Trump --- inflating or deflating his net worth as part of an alleged years-long bank, tax and insurance fraud scheme by Trump, his company and perhaps his children Ivanka, Don Jr. and Eric --- is continuing toward a potential lawsuit. The Manhattan District Attorney is supposedly reviewing similar matters in consideration of criminal charges. Today, Judge Arthur Engoron denied Trump's motion to purge the contempt ruling (and the daily fines that go with it) after Trump submitted a one-page affidavit claiming he did not have any of the documents sought by James. He failed to explain who did or what he did to search for them.

"Mr. Trump's two-paragraph affidavit adds no useful information to the mix," said James before Engoron's decision today. "Mr. Trump merely states off the top of his head, with no hint that he conducted any type of search, that he has no documents in response to the December 2021 subpoena in his 'personal possession.'"

"It is simply not plausible that Mr. Trump authored only three documents dealing with the value of his assets and his wealth," the state AG wrote. The fines will continue to mount for now, as James' office makes their final determination as to whether or not to formally charge the former President in the coming weeks...

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Guests: Susan Greenhalgh of Free Speech for People; Ian Patton of Long Beach Reform Coalition; Also: Atrocities in Ukraine, in the U.S. and why protecting democracy remains more important than ever...
By Brad Friedman on 4/4/2022 6:59pm PT  

We all woke up to atrocities on Sunday. In Ukraine and in Sacramento, California. Russian war crimes in Europe and another mass shooting in the U.S. On today's BradCast, we detail the atrocities in both places before turning to the fight for the only thing that still has a chance of stopping them: democracy. But we can't have democracy without voting systems the public can oversee, and that remains a huge problem, even in our own home county of Los Angeles. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

First up, some of the newly revealed, gruesome details and evidence of war crimes allegedly committed by fleeing Russian troops against Ukrainian civilians in newly liberated towns, villages and suburbs outside of Kyiv. Despite being witnessed by independent journalists and catalogued by outside watchdogs like Human Rights Watch, which describes some of the crimes as "unspeakable, deliberate cruelty and violence against Ukrainian citizens," including "rape, murder, and other violent acts," the Russian Government contends the charges are "fake" and little more than "stage-managed anti-Russian provocation." In response on Monday, President Biden reiterated his belief that Vladimir Putin is a "war criminal."

The gruesome body count in the U.S. also continued to mount over the weekend, as another mass shooting, this time in downtown Sacramento, left six dead and more than a dozen injured after "at least fifty rounds" were "fired right into the crowd" with high-powered weaponry during bustling Saturday night revelry, according to an eyewitness. That, just one day after Georgia's legislature passed a new law allowing concealed weapons to be carried pretty much anywhere without the need for a license. They are the 23rd state to do so. Our gun violence epidemic is getting worse, not better, as Republicans refuse to allow any action that might lessen America's shamefully continuing scourge.

But tyranny is not going to defeat itself. Not in Ukraine. Not in the U.S. To that end, we remain vigilant in our efforts to help the public try and oversee this year's critical mid-term elections. Unfortunately, problems with our un-overseeable and unverifiable voting systems continue into yet another election year in so-called "red" and "blue" states alike. While the GOP is actively undermining democracy with new voter suppression laws in "red" states, vulnerable electronic voting and tabulation systems remain a huge problem across the nation.

Back in 2020, Los Angeles County deployed a new, unverifiable touchscreen voting system called "Voting Solutions for All People" (or, VSAP) across the nation's most populous voting jurisdiction. Some ten years in development by the County's Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan, the new touchscreen Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs) failed spectacularly in that year's Super Tuesday Presidential Primary, leading to long lines and questions about the results. The VSAP system had been conditionally certified by the Secretary of State just weeks before their first county-wide use, after state testing discovered about 30 different violations of California Voting System Standards.

The County was required to correct the violations detailed in the Conditional Certification in the months following the election, though they failed to do so in many cases --- for years. Now, the County is seeking state certification of VSAP v3.0 but, according to our guests today, has still failed to correct a number of critical security issues that failed more than two years ago.

We're joined today to discuss these concerns in advance of California's June 7th mid-term primary elections by SUSAN GREENHALGH, Senior Advisor on Election Security at the non-profit Free Speech for People and by IAN PATTON of the Long Beach Reform Coalition (he is also now running for the Long Beach City Council). Both recently wrote a letter [PDF] to California Sec. of State Dr. Shirley Weber, detailing uncorrected security issues in the VSAP system and urging her to force L.A. County to fix them before issuing certification to the newly updated voting and counting system yet again.

We invited L.A. County's Registrar Dean Logan --- the VSAP system is his brainchild --- to join us as well, after his office recently described Greenhalgh's public testimony on her concerns about certification for VSAP 3.0 as "mis- and disinformation". In declining to join us today, Logan once again accused Greenhalgh and Patton of "mis-stating facts" and took a swipe at the election integrity advocates by smearing them as if they were part of Donald Trump's mob of conspiracists offering evidence-free claims of fraud since his loss in 2020. Logan charged the documented concerns detailed in Greenhalgh and Patton's memo to the Secretary "contributes to further the false narrative about elections integrity and transparency that is pervading the country."

For her part, Greenhalgh has been an expert in elections security, integrity and transparency for decades. Patton had represented the Long Beach Reform Coalition in a lawsuit against the VSAP systems long before Trump's 2020 sore loser act, when a ballot initiative in Long Beach failed by just 16 votes. After the Coalition raised tens of thousands of dollars to pay for a recount of that initiative, they were informed by Logan that the price would, in fact, be hundreds of thousands of dollars instead-- to count just a few thousand votes. The reason, as we reported at the time, is that the new VSAP system is deployed at Voting Centers across the County, which have replaced community precincts. That means that Long Beach voters may vote at any Voting Center in the County, where more than 4 million cast ballots in 2020. Logan attempted to charge the Coalition for the hours and hours it would have taken the county to cull through some 4 million ballots (computer-marked by VSAP and hand-marked by mail voters) in order to find the ones cast by Long Beach voters at any of the hundreds of Voting Centers in the County. Of course, this is just another problem with the Voting Center model, particularly in large counties like L.A. The ballot initiative that is said to have passed by 16 votes never did receive a hand recount to make sure the results were accurate.

Greenhalgh details the security vulnerabilities that remain in the VSAP system, despite state requirements that they be corrected by last year. She was also surprised to hear that Logan claimed in his email to us that "the VSAP 3.0 upgrade is over and it has been approved by the Secretary of State."

"I'm disappointed that the Secretary is not taking further action to enforce these requirements, to really require LA County to meet them," she tells us. "Also it hasn't been updated on the website, that it's already been approved. That's not public information yet." We'll just take Logan's word for it, I guess.

For his part, Patton explains the aborted recount effort in Long Beach ("I'm not a conspiracy theorist in any way," he notes. "We have never alleged a rigged election. We were just talking about the facts. The facts are this was an extremely close election, and we were just not allowed to have a hand count."); the fact that L.A.'s $300 million voting system was promised to be the nation's first open source system (but has yet to disclose any of its source code); and whether he feels confident that his election for City Council this year will be accurately tallied under the still-unverifiable and virtually unrecountable new systems.

"We can speak very factually and say that vulnerabilities don't equate to a stolen election," Greenhalgh asserts, before describing Logan's smears as "extremely disheartening." She described the comments as "a new low to hear somebody try to smear and tar real serious questions, real serious issues that need to be addressed. We still have serious security issues in our election systems that need to be fixed. We all need to pull together to fix them. And if we are having election officials refuse to address those problems by dismissing them improperly as mis- and dis-information, there's two problems with that: We're not going to actually fix the problems, but also we have a crisis of confidence in our election system right now. And when somebody in a position of power says something that is pretty easily proven to be false....they're not going to have a lot of confidence in his ability to run an election. And we can't afford that. He needs to be honest."

Logan never did cite any specific claims from Greenhalgh and Patton's concerns that he believed to be misinformation, despite my repeated query. He has a standing invitation to join us on the show any time to do so. Hiding behind false claims by rightwingers of "stolen elections" is unbecoming of a public official, particularly when the very specific concerns in question are legitimate and publicly well-documented.

There is much more discussed about all of this on today's show, and the concerns about similarly unverifiable touchscreen Ballot Marking Devices now in use across the country, along with the similarly problematic Voting Center model replacing community precincts in other counties and states.

California's primary this year is on June 7th. Cross your fingers that things work out. Good luck even being able to figure out afterward is they did or didn't...

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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!...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Also: GOP's KBJ confirmation idiocy; KY's anti-marriage equality clerk finally found guilty; 23,000 mail ballots rejected under new TX law...
By Brad Friedman on 3/22/2022 6:47pm PT  

There were a surprising number of callers into yesterday's program who seemed to believe that if the U.S. simply left Ukraine to its own devices, somehow there wouldn't be a massive genocide and destruction of the Ukrainian state by Russia, and that it wouldn't somehow lead to WWIII. Those callers are wrong, I'm sorry to say. And I'm even sorrier that many of them are on the left. On today's BradCast we spend some time explaining how many have come to misunderstand a lot of bad and (often purposely) misleading information out there, and how deeply-ingrained (and well-justified!) anti-war sentiments against the U.S. war machine are now ill-serving some on the supposed left now that Russia is the actual aggressor. We also cover several ongoing fights for our own struggling democracy here at home --- in the U.S. Senate, at SCOTUS, and in both Kentucky and Texas. [Audio link to today's show is posted below this summary.]

Among the many stories covered or referenced today...

  • A quick review of Day 2 of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's confirmation hearings in the U.S. Senate, where Republicans are spending their time questioning the first black female nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court as a way to improve their own electoral ambitions and/or nab an appearance on Fox "News". ("Do you believe babies are racist, Ms. Jackson?") Since we don't care to privilege the lies, we don't spend much time on that idiocy, though there were some important exchanges with some of the Democratic Senators, including Jackson's thoughts on the importance of respecting long-settled issues of law and civil rights. That, as the GOP's current stolen, packed and bought majority on the High Court begins dismantling decades of well-established and critical legal precedents.
  • Then, some thoughts on some of our callers and emailers on yesterday's program, when we opened the phone lines up to listeners on why they believe President Biden's approval ratings remain low, even as his actions in response to Russia's barbaric attack on Ukraine are so wildly popular among Americans of all parties. We discuss why we believe those callers who want the U.S. to stop supporting Ukraine are deadly wrong about that, and why an emailer who cites Putin's pretext about "de-Nazification" in Ukraine has been wildly misled.
  • That conversation also includes some audio from an interview with a Rabbi in Odesa by NPR's investigative correspondent in Ukraine, Tim Mak. He is told by Rabbi Avraham Wolf, during the interview in a synagogue built by his wife's great great grandfather in 1898, that he believes talk about Nazis in Ukraine is "stupid" and that he has "never in 30 years" experienced any anti-semitism in Odesa.
  • The conversation on all of this also includes this weekend's remarks on ABC News from the courageous Marina Ovsyannikova, a producer at Russia's state-run Channel One, describing her "spontaneous decision" to appear on air with a "NO WAR" protest sign during a news report recently. "I could see what in reality was happening in Ukraine, and what we showed on our programs was very different from what was going on in reality," she explained on Sunday following her arrest, as she still faces a potential 15 years in prison under Putin's new censorship law. While she claims that most Russians oppose Putin's "gruesome war," Ovsyannikova determined that her televised protest might "show to the Russian people that [the state-run media outlet's reports were] just propaganda, expose this propaganda for what it is and maybe stimulate some people to speak up against the war."
  • Then, it's back to our own faltering democracy in the U.S., but with a bit of long-awaited good news for a change. After seven years of delays in court --- thanks to a well-moneyed far-right legal outfit --- Kim Davis, the infamous and Fox-famous Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk who cited "religious beliefs" for her refusal to issue marriage licenses after SCOTUS established the right to marriage equality in 2015, was finally found to have violated the law. In a lawsuit filed by several couples who were refused licenses to marry, a George W. Bush-appointed federal judge held that Davis "cannot use her own constitutional rights as a shield to violate the constitutional rights of others while performing her duties as an elected official.” A jury will determine the financial penalty for Davis, who lost her re-election bid in 2018. Of course her wingnut attorneys will attempt to appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court (even though they already rejected one of Davis' previous arguments...at least before Republicans stole their 6 to 3 majority on the High Court.)
  • In far less encouraging news, an AP analysis has determined that some 23,000 absentee voters in Texas' first-in-the-nation 2022 mid-term primaries on March 1, had their ballots rejected and never counted. AP finds roughly 13% of mail ballots were discarded under the TX GOP's new voter restriction law, SB 1, that they claimed would make it "easier to vote and harder to cheat". That, compared to the 2% of mail ballots that were rejected during the state's previous mid-term primaries in 2018. Thousands of voters in both Republican- and Democratic-leaning counties alike were disenfranchised under the first election held under the new law, though rejection rates were slightly higher in larger, more Dem-leaning counties. Mail voters in Harris County (Houston), for example, saw a gobsmacking rejection rate of 19%! In the weeks and months ahead, primaries will be held in some 17 other states where Republicans have passed new laws making it harder to vote in response to Donald Trump's evidence-free claims of massive fraud in the 2020 election.
  • Finally, and also speaking of Texas, Desi Doyen has our latest Green News Report, with out-of-control climate change-fueled wildfires spreading across the Lone Star State; unbelievably warm and unprecedented simultaneous extreme heat waves at both the North and South poles, and how KBJ's Senate confirmation reminds us yet again that elections (and voting!) have critical consequences...

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

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

Among the stories covered on our program today...

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

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Guest: Journalist, author, activist, Bill McKibben of 350.org, ThirdAct.org; Also: Putin on dangerous edge; Ukraine now fully on the EU grid...
By Brad Friedman on 3/17/2022 6:41pm PT  

No biggie, but on today's BradCast we've got a great idea that can help defeat fascism, secure Europe and save the planet, while saving Americans money and adding a ton of new jobs in the U.S. But the best part of the plan may be that Joe Biden can make it all happen tomorrow without begging for the approval of any obstructionist, fossil fuel-loving Senators. Our guest today reports the Administration is now actively considering it --- and not a moment too soon! [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

On yesterday's BradCast, as the war in Europe grinds into its fourth deadly week, we cited evidence of progress in peace talks between Ukrainian and Russian negotiators. Those encouraging signs, however, are tempered today by Russian President Vladimir Putin's increasing isolation and darkening tone as displayed yet again during his latest, nationally televised address on Wednesday, boding ominously for the path ahead.

"The Russian people will always be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors," Putin sneered into the camera in his latest chilling screed, "and will simply spit them out like an insect in their mouth onto the pavement." He spoke of his nation's need for "self-detoxification" and derided the "servile mentality" of fleeing Russian oligarchs with "villas in Miami or the French Riviera, who cannot make do without foie gras, oysters or gender freedom, as they call it."

Kremlin experts argue the Russian leader is becoming ever more manic and unpredictable as his war against Ukraine has bogged down; the Russian economy disintegrates, battered by Western sanctions; and as billionaire oligarch escape routes via mega-yachts are being blocked from Spain to France to Norway. As one expert observed, it was as if Putin was warning the elites: "We're all in this together and if I go down, you go down."

Ukraine, on the other hand, even as the punishing, deadly assault by Russian bombardment grinds on, is moving ahead. Last night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced his nation has now fully disconnected from the Russian and Belarus power grids and is 100% hooked into Europe's after a remarkable three weeks time. In the middle of a war.

"The enemy expected that the Ukrainian power system would collapse, that we would not be able to cope," said Zelenskyy in a statement published by his office on Wednesday night. "As of today, Ukrainian electricity flows to Europe and European electricity flows to Ukraine...We now have a single energy circulatory system from Lisbon to Mariupol. Ukraine is in the 'energy eurozone'. We cannot be defeated."

Still, much of Europe's energy continues to derive from Russian fossil fuels. And much of Russia's economy --- its war engine --- relies on those fossil fuel exports to Europe. That, too, needs to end. Happily, our guest today has a great idea about how to do just that, in a way that helps fight fascism and climate change, while adding jobs, beefing up U.S. manufacturing and securing Europe. And the best part: President Joe Biden can make it all happen without needing corrupt coal-state Senator Joe Manchin's permission!

We're joined today by the great environmental author, journalist and activist BILL MCKIBBEN of 350.org and ThirdAct.org to discuss the plan he recently spelled out in one of his "The Crucial Years" newsletters. It's based on an effort being pushed hard by the non-profit Rewiring America and New Mexico's Sen. Martin Heinrich. The plan would replace tens of millions of Europe's fossil fuel burning furnaces and boilers with new, electrified heat pump technology.

The replacement of old furnaces with electrified heat pump systems could make a huge dent in Russia's fascist petrol-economy, remove Putin's ability to freeze out Europe by flipping a switch, cut deadly greenhouse gas emissions that have lurched our climate into crisis, and could begin right now, in advance of next winter, under Biden's wartime invocation of the Defense Production Act (DPA).

As McKibben details, new electric heat pump technology provides both heat in winter and air conditioning in summer. Much of freezing cold Norway already uses it. And Biden has the authority to use the DPA to kick-start production at major U.S. air condition manufacturers like Carrier and Trane. (Many of whom, on a political note, happen to have manufacturing hubs in swing-states like Florida, Wisconsin, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas.)

"This is obviously a hideous, hideous month. It's completely horrible, and it's completely tied to our dependence on fossil fuel. This is not a war for fossil fuel, the way that some of our wars in the Middle East may have been, but it's a war funded by and about the power that comes with fossil fuel," he tells me.

"The good news is that our scientists and engineers over the last decade have done incredible work," McKibben continues. "They've dropped the price of renewable energy 90 percent. The sun and wind are the cheapest way to generate power now. And they've produced this suite of technologies that allow us to do the things we need to do with that electricity. Everybody knows about the rise of electric vehicles, but it's the same for the gas or oil furnace that's blazing away in one's basement. The most efficient way now, and cheapest and smartest way to heat your home or cool your home, is with this technology that we're calling heat pumps."

Both Biden and Donald Trump invoked the DPA in response to the COVID pandemic. Biden has even "used it to get a factory in Oklahoma to produce hundreds of miles of fire hose at a moment's notice" after we ran out thanks to last year's huge (climate change-fueled) California wildfires.

McKibben explains that U.S. manufacturers have the spare capacity to begin a "Heat Pumps for Peace and Freedom" effort almost immediately. "Every President since" the Korean War-era DPA was adopted has used it and, he asserts, "this is the kind of thing we can use to get this work done now, and get this stuff over to Europe."

"They have to cut back a lot on their consumption of gas. That's basically what Russia is sending to Europe. And that gas is used above all for home heating. So anything that we can do to get even a few million homes off that gas before next October is a big blow to Putin," he argues.

Do heat pumps work as well as the old boiler and furnace systems? "Absolutely," answers McKibben, who uses one in his own home (with solar panels, natch, but that's not a necessity.) "This is good technology. In the same way that my EV works better than any other car I've ever had. This stuff is great. Quiet, clean, works."

"The Europeans can use them," he says. "The chokepoint may actually be trained people to install them. Which is one reason why the good people at RewiringAmerica.org ,who have taken this up in a big way, have in their proposal for the Biden Administration training and sending abroad a big crew of Americans to help with that installation. One of the benefits for us is they get good at it, come back here, and what helps enormously in Austria, Germany, Poland and Moldova this winter helps a lot in Minnesota and Montana the winter after that. So win-win all around."

McKibben says that he is being told the Administration is seriously considering the idea. And while sending defensive munitions and humanitarian aid are both, unfortunately, very necessary right now, sending this kind of assistance helps Europe, the U.S. and the planet for years to come. Indeed, "win-win all around."

Finally, we end an unusually green program, even for us, as Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, with more reminders of why Heat Pumps for Freedom --- and working around corrupt, coal state Senators like Joe Manchin --- is so vitally important for all of us right now...

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Also: Manchin and petty GOP Senators undermine the Fed; Daylight breaks for permanent DST; Randy Rainbow returns!...
By Brad Friedman on 3/16/2022 7:13pm PT  

It was a day of some light amid the darkness. As usual, these days, we'll take what we can get. Today's BradCast may lurch you back and forth through both, though we do end on several upbeat notes of lightness and light.

Among both the light and dark stories covered on today's program...

  • Russia continued to add to its many war crimes in Ukraine, further assuring Vladimir Putin's ignominious place in the history as one of humanity's most villainous war criminals. On Wednesday, Ukraine charged that Russian airstrikes flattened the historic Donetsk Regional Theatre of Drama in Mariupol, where "hundreds" of civilians were reportedly sheltering. As Ukraine's Foreign Minister tweeted, "the building is now fully ruined," adding "Russia could not have not known this was a civilian shelter." The untold number of victims is added to the thousands already reported as killed and buried in mass graves in the Southern coastal city which has been cut off by Russian forces for weeks now from food, water, electricity and medicine.
  • In brighter news, a glimmer of hope for peace over the past 24 hours or so, amid continuing negotiations between Ukraine and Russia. The framework reportedly echoes a similar roadmap put forth on this program by the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft's Anatole Lieven a couple of weeks ago. Both sides are citing progress toward what is emerging as a 15-point plan for ending the war. It includes Ukraine's acknowledgement that they will not become a member of NATO, but will become a defensively armed neutral country along the lines of Austria or Sweden, with security guarantees from allies such as the US, UK and Turkey. In return, Russia would fully withdraw its troops. There are still many questions surrounding what "security guarantees" might amount to, and exactly which regions Russia would fully withdraw from. But the news of both "hope" and "compromise" is both significant and encouraging.
  • Meanwhile, Ukraine's courageous President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the U.S. Congress on Wednesday morning via video-conference, eliciting bipartisan standing ovations both before and after his remarks. We share his presentation in full today, as he invoked Pearl Harbor and 9/11 and referenced both Martin Luther King and Mount Rushmore as he asked for additional support from U.S. lawmakers, called for still more sanctions against Russian lawmakers, and asked for President Biden's help in leading the world toward peace. "We need you right now," he said, adding: "I see no sense in life if it cannot stop the deaths."
  • Several hours later, President Biden offered his own remarks at the White House, announcing a new round of defensive munitions earmarked for Ukraine. Today's $800 million tranche brings the total, in both military and humanitarian support sent to Ukraine since Biden took office, to about $2 billion. Congress has appropriated another $14 billion or so. In his White House comments, Biden excoriated "Putin's depraved onslaught". Later in the day he described the disgraced Russian leader as a "war criminal".
  • Next, with those heavy lifts behind us, we return to domestic politics, as the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by a quarter of a percent on Wednesday, in hopes of easing inflation by forcing the economy into recession. The move follows yesterday's official withdraw of Biden's nomination of Sarah Bloom Raskin to a seat on the Fed's Board of Governors. Republicans in the Senate Banking Committee had denied a quorum to prevent her confirmation by refusing to show up at all. But her fate was finally sealed this week when Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said he would not support her. The phony complaints from the GOP had to do with Raskin's anodyne commentary in the past that the Fed should reconsider its support of the fossil fuel industry amid our worsening climate crisis. Manchin, of course, makes millions from the coal industry and his campaign has raked in huge bucks from Big Fossil Fuel. Republicans, on the other hand, who approved Raskin for other roles twice in the past, may have had an additional reason to block the confirmation of Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD)'s well-qualified wife to a seat on the Fed Board.
  • In the brightest news we can find today, the U.S. Senate, which usually only finds bipartisan agreement on matters that have to do with war, found something else to agree on Tuesday. It is unqualified great news and anyone who says otherwise is embarrassingly wrong. The Sunshine Protection Act, co-sponsored by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) was passed by the Senate with unanimous consent yesterday! The measure would make Daylight Saving Time permanent as of 2023. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) correctly lauded the long-overdue initiative by declaring: "No more dark afternoons in the winter! No more losing an hour of sleep every spring! We want more sunshine during our most productive waking hours!" Of course, she's right. And --- even though my remarks on this topic bring more email (both for and against) than just about anything else I ever cover --- I will note that anyone who opposes this, no matter how good their reasons by may be, are still shamefully wrong. If I can find time in the days ahead --- especially if it looks like this will move forward in the House and on to the President --- I'll try to find some time to share some of those amusing emails from listeners, especially those from some our nation's most determined Eeyores of Darkness.
  • Finally, after delivering the light that we earlier promised, we end with a rainbow of it! Specifically, it's the return of brilliant satirist and national treasure Randy Rainbow, after a too-long absence. His new tribute to "Karens" Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO) closes out today's program with a much needed laugh...

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More transmissible Omicron variant rising; Ukraine keeps sense of humor amid war; Russia's dark lies and celebration of Tucker Carlson; 'Censorship' on YouTube...
By Brad Friedman on 3/14/2022 6:22pm PT  

These are dark days indeed when the rise of a new Omicron variant turns out to be one of the lighter moments on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

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

  • Some real light amid the darkness. It's the one day of the year when we try to celebrate the one thing that Congress did when it was controlled by Republicans during the George W. Bush era that WASN'T terrible. It was actually good! (Though at least one caller today disagrees.) And, no, it wasn't the 25-year extension of the Voting Rights Act in 2006 (which was great! But they, obviously, didn't actually mean it as anything more than a failed election year ploy.)
  • Sorry! But don't throw those masks away yet! Yes, we're all tired of COVID. But, no, it doesn't not appear to be tired of us yet. A new variant of Omicron --- dubbed "BA.2" or "stealth Omicron" or "Deltacron" --- is potentially 30% more transmissible than the highly infectious original Omicron variant, and its rising right now, and quickly, in parts of Europe and Asia. Luckily, it could never get here, right? Oops. It already has. (HELPFUL REMINDER: Now is the perfect time to get boosted if you haven't bothered yet! Seriously.)
  • Snark amid the horror. The chief of Ukraine's anti-corruption agency writes a letter to the head of Russia's Ministry of Defense, "thanking" him for his embezzlement of the Russian military. The result, as alleged in his pretty hilarious letter (with photos): Russian tanks with armor filled with cardboard egg cartons; Bright light blue military transport vehicles that make for easy target practice for Ukrainian forces; "Bullet-proof" vests filled with cardboard.
  • Russian propaganda debunked by AP. A particularly dark episode, the bombing of a maternity hospital last week in Mariupol, was all a fake, according to Russian officials. AP journalist and photographers, who were first-hand witnesses, however, report otherwise. They also follow up to report that one of the pregnant women at the hospital, videotaped as she was carried away on a stretcher through the rubble after the attack, has now died along with her unborn child.
  • Russia media propaganda ministry makes Tucker Carlson a star! Yes, the Fox "News" anchor is repeatedly referenced in leaked memos sent to Putin's state-controlled media, urging them to play more clips of his various monologues from the Republican news channel repeating Kremlin propaganda. He's the only Western media star so cited in the several communiques obtained Mother Jones.
  • YouTube blocks Russian propaganda channels. But ends up blocking a whole bunch of stuff that isn't Russian propaganda, including a bunch of my own appearances on RT over the years, long before they became little more than a mouthpiece for Putin. Is the loss of access to those videos (many of them previously embedded at The BRAD BLOG) a price worth paying to fight autocracy during wartime? We discuss, and have a bit of time (though very little) for a few callers who ring in today...

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Guests: Kate Neiswender and Kim Andrew Elliott on a U.S. crowd-funded grassroots effort reviving Cold War tech to counter propaganda inside Putin's new Iron Curtain; And, yes, Russians love their children too...
By Brad Friedman on 3/11/2022 6:18pm PT  

In what would be a dream world for our previous President, who declared the media to be "the enemy of the people" just before his infamous 2018 meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Russia has now criminalized pretty much any and all independent media. But our guests on today's BradCast have a really cool and, yes, retro idea about how to help counter Russia's media blackout. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

Among other restrictions, Putin's new censorship law, adopted just after his invasion of Ukraine, mandates harsh penalties, including jail time, for the crime of reporting on the invasion as an "invasion" or "war". Independent outlets have been forced to shutter or have stopped covering the war at all. Western media outlets have pulled their reporters and Russia has closed Internet access to websites of foreign state-run media outlets such as Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, the BBC and Deutsche Welle.

Kremlin-approved propaganda is now all that many Russians have access to, where they are being told that Russia's barbaric military assault on its sovereign neighbor --- including its civilian population --- is little more than a minor, "special military operation" meant to "demilitarize and denazify" Ukraine. Civilians are not being harmed, and anyone who says otherwise is reporting "fake news," the Kremlin insists.

Of late, however, as Julia Davis reported yesterday at The Daily Beast, some cracks are beginning to appear, even on Kremlin-approved television, including one of Moscow's most popular evening news programs, whose Putin-friendly host has been sanctioned by the EU and where nightly broadcasts frequently end with clips of monologues by Fox 'News' star Tucker Carlson.

For most Russians, however, there is very little access to independent, outside reporting to counter the official state media narrative. Our guests today, attorney KATE NEISWENDER and former longtime Voice of America employee and shortwave radio enthusiast KIM ANDREW ELLIOTT are part of a small, grassroots effort aiming to revive a Cold War technology in hopes of helping counter the information desert inside of Putin's new Iron Curtain.

Dubbed #ShortwavesForFreedom on social media, the new project has begun raising money to fund re-broadcasts of Voice of America (VOA) programming into Ukraine and Russia via shortwave frequencies. While the BBC World Service announced this week they were reviving their old shortwave broadcasts into the former Soviet Union, the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty --- both managed by the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) --- have declined to do so, at least so far.

Neiswender, Elliott and a number of other VOA veterans and supporters aim to fill that gap with a crowd-funded effort. The group has already raised enough over just the past week or so to get up and running --- rebroadcasting some of VOA's programming (which is all public domain) --- into Europe via shortwave transmission from Florida station, WRMI Radio Miami International.

They both join us today to explain, among other things: How this effort came together in just over a week's time; how they hope to expand from English-language programming to broadcasts in both Ukrainian and Russian; why they believe VOA (actually, USAGM) has yet to take this step themselves; and how a very small amount of money can go a very long way in this project, as they seek additional broadcasters to help transmit shortwave programming from both the U.S. and Europe.

Does anyone in Russia still even have access to the equipment needed to listen to the broadcasts? "Well, nowadays for sure, fewer people will be listening to shortwave and fewer people have shortwave radios," Elliott explains. "But, when the Internet is cut, squeezed, blocked, and at some point maybe even with lines into the country cut off, radio will be the only way to get in to the country. And then, the people in those countries will have to try to find their old Soviet-era shortwave radios." He believes "that audience can pass the information on to the larger audience in those countries."

Will Russian audiences have any more confidence that what they are hearing from Western state-run outlets like VOA is any more reliable than what their own state-approved outlets are telling them? "VOA and RFE (Radio Free Europe) have a government-imposed, in-the-code-written-by-Congress, can't-get-around-it mandate to be fair," Neiswender argues. She's referring to USAGM's Charter, adopted during the Ford Administration, which one VOA journalist has explained to me, means that, "We're probably the only news organization in the world that is mandated to be fair, objective and unbiased."

Whether VOA and RFE's reports are perceived as such by listeners inside of Russia and Ukraine is another matter, but their broadcasts did serve as an information lifeline to many behind the old Iron Curtain for many decades of the Cold War.

For now, the effort is already working. Elliott, who spent more than 30 years as a broadcaster and audience analyst at VOA tells us that "the signal is getting through to a very large extent, and sometimes with really good reception quality. Direct feedback from the audience, that will take some days and weeks as the word gets around that these transmissions are available. Already, WRMI received a note from a diplomat in Egypt who heard the Russian transmission. It is getting through."

Neiswender says that the project's success is only a matter of raising funds to keep going and expand their reach. The effort is crowdsourced with a fund raiser at Fundrazr.com/RadioWaves. A very small amount of money goes a long way here, she insists. They are already up and broadcasting after raising just over $6,000.

All of the money, "goes directly to the stations. No one is getting a dime from this that is organizing it or running it. Every cent of the money that is coming in is going directly back out to fund these transmissions," she notes.

It's a fascinating conversation about a fascinating project that I believe is well worth your time today, even as these are very strange days indeed.

Finally, we close with one more fascinating story, and a song. The story comes, ironically enough, courtesy of Fox "News", regarding Marina Baronova, the now-former Managing Editor of Russia's state-owned media outlet Russia Today (RT). She resigned her post last week in protest of Putin's invasion of Ukraine. She now fears for her life, though not necessarily for the reasons you may assume. And her interview with Fox concludes with this message: "Russians love their children, too."

As it happens, Grammy-winner Sting, last weekend, posted an Instagram video singing his 1985 tune called "Russians" which, he says, he has rarely sung since the end of the Cold War. Now, as you'll hear, it has new relevance. Apparently even for Baronova...

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