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Latest Featured Reports | Tuesday, June 22, 2021
First Court Hearing Set for Challenge to GA's New Anti-Voting, Anti-Press Freedoms Law: 'BradCast' 6/21/2021
Guest: CGG's Marilyn Marks on that and suit against GA's unverifiable touchscreens...
Sunday 'Now Do Election Day' Toons
PDiddie's latest weekly collection of long-overdue political toons...
The Once (and Future?) Cleveland Mayor, Dennis Kucinich is Back:
'BradCast' 6/18/21
Guest host Nicole Sandler speaks with Ohio's former Congressman...
SCOTUS Saves O'Care (Again); More Manchin Progress on Voting, Filibuster Reform: 'BradCast' 6/17/21
Also: Juneteenth! And SCOTUS permits discrimination against same-sex couples...
'Green News Report' 6/17/21
  w/ Brad & Desi
Heat threatens TX power; Mega-drought stokes OR water war; Trump Judge blocks Biden's pause on oil and gas leasing; PLUS: CO approves slew of climate action legislation...
Previous GNRs: 6/15/21 - 6/10/21 - Archives...
Manchin Offers Voting Rights Bill Compromise!: 'BradCast' 6/16/21
Also: Emptywheel's Marcy Wheeler with 'perspective' on Trump DoJ 'spying' on Dem lawmakers, lessons Dems may learn from it...
'Garland's Tylenol Moment': Why Biden's AG Must Now Form a Trump Task Force at DoJ: 'BradCast' 6/15/21
Guest: Const'l Attorney John Bonifaz of FSFP on reversing 'the road to tyranny'...
'Green News Report' 6/15/21
G7 ends with pledges, few details; Early heat records; Chinese nuke plant mystery; AK's Pebble Mine really dead; PLUS: Biden restores Tongass 'roadless' rule...
Biden, G7 Seek to Restore Normalcy After Disastrous Trump Years: 'BradCast' 6/14
Also: Netanyahu out; China nuke plant leak?; 2016 whistleblower leaves prison; Callers...
Sunday 'Hee Haw on the Hill' Toons
Lessons in democracy from the esteemed gentlemen from Kentucky and West Virginia in PDiddie's latest weekly toon collection...
America's Billionaire Tax Code Welfare Queens: 'BradCast' 6/11/21
Guest: 'Jackpot' author Michael Mechanic; Also: Trump's politicized DoJ spied on Dem lawmakers in unprecedented violation of Separation of Powers...
'Good Trouble' (or, Call for President Biden on Line 3): 'BradCast' 6/10/21
Huge, hard-fought KeystoneXL win; New fight in MN over another tar sands pipeline; Biden goes to Europe; TX A.G. in still more legal trouble...
'Green News Report' 6/10/21
KeystoneXL cancelled for good!; Arrests at MN pipeline protest; G7 spent big on fossil fuels in 2020; PLUS: GOP Infrastructure talks collapse, begin 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...


Guest: Coalition for Good Governance's Marilyn Marks on that and separate challenge to state's 100% unverifiable touchscreen voting...
By Brad Friedman on 6/21/2021 7:14pm PT  

On today's BradCast: With virtually every new voter suppression law adopted by Republicans at the state level since last November's election (there have been about 24 such laws adopted so far, in some 14 states), Democrats and voting rights advocates have been quickly filing lawsuits in opposition. One of those suits --- filed in federal court [PDF] against Georgia's SB202, the one in which I am named as a Plaintiff --- is to have its first major hearing next week. That, as Democrats in the U.S. Senate frantically scramble to get the last Democratic holdout (Joe Manchin) to come on board for federal legislation to counter at least some of the most restrictive elements of the tidal wave of new GOP anti-voting laws at the state level. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

While the Jim Crow-style voter suppression of the new restrictions being adopted in Republican-controlled states of late have received a fair amount of attention, the provisions in those measures that would allow GOP state legislatures to take over elections --- and even overturn legitimate results --- have received less attention. Over the weekend, the New York Times highlighted, for example, how in "Georgia, members of at least 10 county election boards...At least five are people of color and most are Democrats" have been removed from their posts in recent weeks, "and they will most likely all be replaced by Republicans."

Georgia is not the only state where this is happening. Similar provisions, targeting election officials and even election results, have also been adopted or introduced in states like Kansas, Arkansas and the critical swing state of Florida. But in Georgia, they go even further to target and/or threaten the media itself for simply reporting on elections!

That's where I come in. I am the named plaintiff representing journalists in the Coalition for Good Governance (CGG) lawsuit challenging Georgia's SB202 in federal court. An emergency Motion for Preliminary Injunction [PDF] has now been filed in regard to the media-related aspects of CGG's complaint, in light of the state's impending local election runoffs scheduled for July 13th.

I'm joined once again today by longtime Election Integrity champion MARILYN MARKS, Executive Director of CGG, to discuss why the Press Freedom aspects of her group's broad challenge to the GA law --- far broader than some of the other challenges focused more on the voter suppression aspects only, as filed by the NAACP, the Democratic Party, and Stacey Abrams' Fair Fight, etc. --- have been bumped to a top priority with her filing of an expedited Motion for Preliminary Injunction.

Among the little-reported-on Press Freedoms at stake in SB202, the new law includes a Gag Rule which criminalizes the public, party-appointed monitors and the press’ reporting of absentee mail ballot processing or tabulation problems; A ban on the press Estimating (yes, estimating!) the number of absentee ballots that have been processed during an election tabulation or how many are still to be processed; SB202 even criminalizes photographing voted ballots or the 100% unverifiable touchscreen Ballot Marking Device (BMD) voting systems that voters are now forced to use at all Georgia polling places, despite the state's century-long history of routine press photography and videography of election activities inside of polling places on Election Day. (Yes, the photo used above for today's show logo, or even seeing those voters voting, can now result in felony charges in GA!)

All of these, as Marks and I discuss, are extraordinary restrictions on basic Press Freedoms, and our ability --- my ability in this case, as the named plaintiff, representing media --- to report what is going on during Georgia elections to the public. The law actually turns simply seeing one of the state's huge new touchscreen voting systems, while it's being used on Election Day, into a felony. That would apply not only to media inside a polling place, but also to poll workers, poll watchers and even voters simply waiting in line to vote.

"We are asking the court to address some of these issues before that runoff election [on July 13] happens. We are going to ask the judge to rule in favor of the press," says Marks, hoping that some other media outlets may even submit their own Amicus Briefs to the court in support of CGG's lawsuit. "Other members of the press are quite concerned about the fact that traditional photography, that they have been taking for decades, is not going to be permitted in the mail ballot processing locations," she tells me.

"It is mind-blowing," she continues. "I wouldn't be able to tell you [if I saw something wrong while serving as an observer]. All of a sudden, your reporting is going to be silenced. You would not even know that I had anything to tell you. You would just assume that, unlike in times past, that everything is going fine in Georgia."

Marks also breaks a bit of news by explaining that the Republican National Committee has now moved to intercede in this case to help defend GA Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger's position on the bill. Marks says Raffensperger "essentially insisted on these provisions. Although some of the media consider him to be some kind of a saint [because he declined to overturn the November 2020 election amid entreaties from Donald Trump to do so], this is his bill. His attorneys drafted it. He's the one that wants to crack down on any criticism coming from people like you and me, CNN, New York Times, or any other place."

"The RNC has asked to intervene in our case to protect the Secretary of State. However, interestingly, they have said they are not going to oppose us on the Observation Felony, the Gag Rule, the Estimating Ban, the Photography Ban --- so even the Republicans are not going to try to defend four of these five things that we're going after" in the Motion. A hearing is now set on that Motion for Thursday, July 1.

In addition to CGG's lawsuit challenging SB202, the group has another, separate, longstanding challenge to the state's use of 100% unverifiable touchscreen voting systems. That suit was successful in convincing the federal judge hearing it to ban GA's 20-year old Diebold touchscreen systems before last year's elections. Unfortunately, Raffensperger immediately replaced them with new touchscreen Ballot Marking Devices made by Dominion Voting Systems, which Marks describes as as bad or worse than the previous systems. That case has just now entered its discovery phase and Marks is confident that the same federal judge is quite concerned that the new systems are as insecure, unverifiable --- and, thus, as unconstitutional --- as the old ones she previously banned. A ruling in that case could affect the use of such machines in dozens of states and counties around the country, including states like Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Texas and even here in Los Angeles County, where voters are now forced to vote on unverifiable touchscreen systems at polling places.

Lastly, Marks describes the exciting forum scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday, June 22), co-sponsored by CGG and another one of our favorite non-partisan good-government watchdog groups, Free Speech for People (FSFP), on the dangers of Ballot Marking Device (BMDs) as used in Georgia and many of those other jurisdictions mentioned above. The forum, called "Today's Electronic Voting Machines: An Examination of the Use and Security of Ballot Marking Devices" is scheduled live and online from Noon to 5pm ET on Tuesday. It features a huge number of guests that have been featured over the years on 'The BradCast', including FSFP's Susan Greenhaulgh; Georgia Tech cybersecurity expert Rich DeMillo; notorious University of Michigan white-hat hacker, J. Alex Halderman; Research expert Kevin Skoglund; UC Berkley's Philip Stark, inventor of the post-election Risk Limiting Audit protocol; the legendary Finish cyberseucrity and voting systems expert Harri Hursti, and many others.

Much more info and the schedule is available here. You can RSVP to participate in the event right here.

Finally, Democrats are teeing up a test vote on Tuesday in the U.S. Senate for their sweeping election and campaign finance reform bill, the For the People Act, now that West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin has suggested he may be willing to support a compromise version with the 49 other Senate Democrats who have all already signed on to the original bill as co-sponsors. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked today about President Biden's expectations for that bill and its test vote today, and on the need to reform the filibuster even if Manchin deigns to come aboard. If he does, he would also have to be willing to make changes to the filibuster rule that mandates 60 Senators support such measures, in order to see passage, since no Republicans are expected to support it. But he is not the only Democrat who has opposed long-overdue changes to the filibuster. Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema has also vowed to protect the anti-democratic, Jim Crow-era Senate rule. And now she is being targeted with a huge ad buy for that position, to ratchet up the pressure, by a group of progressives who are running spots in her home state on cable news, as well as during local news and sports programming.

Yes, the fight to save American democracy continues on today's BradCast...because it seems kind of important...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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Guest host Nicole Sandler speaks with Ohio's former Congressman...
By Nicole Sandler on 6/18/2021 5:00pm PT  

It's NICOLE SANDLER again filling in for Brad and Desi on today's BradCast.

After an update on the latest news, I welcome a regular guest from the last decade, former Congressman DENNIS KUCINICH. He left Congress after 12 years in office back in January of 2013 after Ohio gerrymandered his district out of existence, and became a contributor to Fox (not) News. So I hadn't seen or heard from him in over a decade. Until last week.

That's when he published his book, The Division of Light and Power, which details his infamous fight against City Hall while he was Mayor of Cleveland and refused to sell the city's power company to private interests. It's a story that could easily be a movie and, according to Dennis, there's some interest. But he just wanted to get the book out, as it's been decades in the making.

Oh, and he's running to be Mayor of Cleveland again!...

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!




Also: Juneteenth now a federal holiday! And SCOTUS allows religious discrimination against same-sex couples, but it could have been worse...
By Brad Friedman on 6/17/2021 6:43pm PT  

The news just isn't slowing down in these "slow news days of summer". At least not on today's BradCast. But at least much of that news is actually good, including more progress today toward protecting democracy in the U.S., as per the shifting whims of Lord and Senator Joe Manchin. [Audio link to full program follows below this summary.]

Among the many stories covered on today's news-chocked program...

  • Who says Congress can't move something quickly when they want to? Juneteenth, commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S. in 1865 --- albeit at least two and a half years after it was supposed to have ended with the Emancipation Proclamation, is now an official federal holiday. President Biden signed the new law for our nation's 12th federal holiday on Thursday, after the U.S. House overwhelmingly adopted the measure on Wednesday (with all but 14 shameful, white, male Republicans voting in favor), after unanimous passage in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday. Since June 19thfalls on a Saturday this year, the new holiday will officially be observed tomorrow! That was fast! See? Congress CAN move quickly when they try! Unless you consider the hundreds of years of slavery in this country and the more than 150 years it took for a holiday to commemorate its final end. Never mind that comment earlier about Congress moving "quickly."
  • The latest attempt by shameful white, male Republicans to kill the popular Affordable Care Act (better known as ObamaCare) was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court today. The law has helped tens of millions of Americans obtain access to heath care, and hundreds of millions more Americans by, among other things, making it unlawful for insurance companies to reject customers due to pre-existing conditions. The stupid attempt by a bunch of GOP-Controlled states to find the entire bill unconstitutional was rejected by SCOTUS today with a 7 to 2 vote, after finding the states represented by white, male Republicans were not harmed by the law and, therefore, had no standing to challenge it. That, after a series of white, male Republican lower court judges had used a ridiculous claim made by the GOP states --- and countered by the actions of REPUBLICANS in Congress themselves(!) --- to strike down the entirely of the landmark 2010 law as unconstitutional. We explain how this third attempt to have SCOTUS do what Congress would not, has gone down, yet again, in flames.
  • Meanwhile, the fight to pass federal voting rights protections to counter new GOP voter-suppression laws at the state level moved one small step forward again today. Yesterday, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin --- the only Dem in the Senate who is not a co-sponsor of the sweeping election and campaign reform bill known as the For the People Act (even though he co-sponsored the same legislation in 2019) --- offered a compromise proposal [PDF] for the bill that he recently declared that he opposed. As we discussed on yesterday's show, his compromise proposal is not horrible and Dems should work quickly to get some version of it to a floor vote! UC-Irvine's election law expert Rick Hasen last night penned a column at Slate which sounded almost exactly like our coverage yesterday, urging Dems to leap at this opportunity, with his first paragraph arguing: "Democrats should grab the deal, even though it is not perfect, is still unlikely to pass, and doesn’t yet address the greatest threat in upcoming elections: the danger of election subversion."

    As we discuss today, the original For the People Act, already passed by the House, doesn't "address...the danger of election subversion" either, as that danger is being baked into GOP voter suppression bills around the country, allowing Republican state Legislatures to reverse election results for virtually any reason they like. We explain why Hasen's argument --- at least on that one narrow point --- is a bit misleading, while he is otherwise right on the money.

    At the same time, Georgia's voting rights champion Stacey Abrams has also come out in favor of Manchin's compromise proposal and speaks, as we did yesterday, to the concerns that some may have about Manchin's inclusion of a "Voter ID" provision. She explains, as we did, that his provision on Voter ID is not really a huge concern --- as some Dems and/or voting rights advocates may view it --- in that Manchin's proposal allows other means for voters to identify themselves beyond a strict, small, very limited list of acceptable Photo IDs. He cites, for example, "utility bill, etc." as acceptable means of identification to vote, in line with the already-existing rules in a majority of states. Such reasonable requirements that do not prevent voters from voting are a far cry from the strict Photo ID restrictions adopted by some GOP states meant not to prevent fraud, but to prevent voting (by certain people who may lack the specific type of ID that Republicans are purposely requiring in hopes of disenfranchising them.)

    Of course, even if all 50 Senate Dems come to an agreement on a version of For the People that they can accept, it would still require 10 Republicans coming on board in the Senate to defeat a GOP filibuster. As that remains a virtual impossibility, reform of the filibuster would still be needed for passage of this bill, and, unfortunately Manchin leads the opposition on that as well. However, as a recording of a Zoom teleconference with the so-called "centrist" group No Labels (actually a big money conservative Dem and moderate-ish Republican business group) reveals, Manchin is not quite as against filibuster reform as he has made out publicly, at least when he is not speaking to big money business donors. Lee Fang and Ryan Grim from The Intercept obtained audio from that Zoom session, wherein Manchin suggests his potential openness to lowering the filibuster threshold from 60 to 55, or to force a 41 person minority to stand up and make their case against a bill they oppose and explain what they object to, rather than require those in favor of the bill to come up with 60 votes.

    Again, more progress. Too slow, to be sure --- especially with the dangers of the 2022 mid-terms looming --- but progress nonetheless, which those claiming to be progressives should certainly be in favor of!

  • Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report which, like the rest of today's show, is simply chocked full of news, both good and bad, as the fight against our ongoing climate emergency continues...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)




Guest: Const'l Attorney John Bonifaz on reversing 'the road to tyranny' (and also on how to get foreign corporate money out of U.S. elections)...
By Brad Friedman on 6/15/2021 6:46pm PT  

Writing at Washington Monthly today, asking "Why Is Merrick Garland Defending Bill Barr's Policies?," law professor and Free Speech for People (FSFP) Board Member Jennifer Taub quips: "This is Merrick Garland's Tylenol moment, and by which I mean he has more than a headache but a poisoning on his hands." Yup. Today's BradCast won't cure his headache, but it may offer an antidote for the poisoning...if he pays attention. [Audio link to full show follows below.]

The new Attorney General spoke at the Dept. of Justice on Tuesday about his national strategy to focus on the rise of domestic terrorism, particularly carried out by white supremacists in the wake of the Trump-incited January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. Garland described such incidents as "attacks on all of us collectively, aimed at rending the fabric of our democratic society and driving us apart," adding: "We have an enormous task ahead, to move forward as a country, to punish the perpetrators, to do everything possible to prevent similar attacks and to do so in a manner that affirms the values on which our justice system is founded and upon which democracy depends."

Garland's remarks follow on his announcement Friday that he is doubling the number of DoJ attorneys focused on enforcing voting rights at the federal level in light of new vote suppression laws being adopted by Republicans in states around the country.

So, he seems to understand at least two major threats to the values "on which our justice system is founded and upon which democracy depends." But is he really prepared to punish all of the perpetrators?

Every day now it seems that stunning new information is revealed as to just how poisoned our Dept. of Justice had become under the Trump Administration, as the former President used the nation's once widely respected law enforcement agency for his own personal purposes, to protect himself from legal accountability (as in former AG Bill Barr's use of the department to block Trump from criminal accountability for obstruction following Special Counsel Robert Mueller's findings and from civil accountability in the defamation case filed by Trump's alleged rape victim, E. Jean Carroll, both of which Taub writes about today); to wield power against his perceived political enemies (as we learned last week, when it was revealed that the DoJ secretly obtained phone, email and text message records from Democratic lawmakers and several media outlets in 2018); and, in futile efforts to keep himself in power (as we learned today, based on emails obtained by the House Oversight Committee revealing Trump tried to order the DoJ to file briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of his evidence-free big lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him).

As more and more emerges, it's difficult to keep up with it all. But, sadly, what we know so far is likely only the tip of the iceberg. That's why, back in February, a group of non-partisan government watchdog groups penned a letter [PDF] to then Judge Merrick Garland, prior to his confirmation as AG, calling on him to form a task force at the DoJ immediately after being confirmed, "to investigate any potential federal criminal or civil violations that may have been committed by former President Trump, members of his administration, or his campaign, business, or other associates."

The letter, which has now been signed onto by more than 200,000 Americans, according to FSFP, asks Garland to convene the task force to probe Trump's "flurry of unethical, unconstitutional, and often criminal activity, culminating on January 6, 2021, with the seditious insurrection on the United States Capitol incited and encouraged by former President Trump and his allies."

"If we are to begin the process of restoring the integrity of the Department of Justice and the rule of law to our nation," the groups write --- before detailing at least five different categories of "potential offenses" by the previous administration --- "it is essential that the Department thoroughly investigate these actions and, where warranted and appropriate, hold accountable those who have violated the nation's laws."

That DoJ task force, however, has yet to be formed. And Garland, according to our guest today, Constitutional attorney and longtime voting rights champion JOHN BONIFAZ, co-founder and President of FSFP, has yet to reply to the February letter.

On today's show, Bonifaz explains why "it's critical" that this task force be stood up, and why such a group of prosecutors need to be convened in this matter, rather than an independent commission formed by Congress, a blue ribbon panel formed by the White House or even another Special Counsel investigation launched by DoJ.

While he supports Congressional oversight in general, he explains: "The reason why we believe a task force is the best way to go over a Special Counsel is we do think this should not be assigned outside of the Department to someone who then is seen, as Robert Mueller was, as the sole arbiter of this." While disagreeing, as many scholars do, with the notion that a sitting President cannot be criminally indicted, Bonifaz explains that Mueller's report "was very clear that once the President was out of office, he would be free to be prosecuted for those crimes."

"That's just one example of many as to why this task force needs to be created," he tells me. "There are multiple investigations that need to proceed, and potentially multiple prosecutions. It would be an outrage for this Administration to claim that it's going to turn the page, it's not going to conduct that kind of accountability for those that have engaged in such lawless behavior in the last Administration. That's what happens on the road to tyranny. If we're to protect our democracy and our Constitution, it's critical that we hold Donald Trump and his associates accountable for the violations of federal criminal law they may have committed."

We discuss a number of the already known issues currently crying out for real probes by federal prosecutors if the DoJ is ever to be restored; concerns about Trump associates still burrowed in at Justice; the many investigations known to have been shut down by Barr which should quickly be re-opened; and the question of "why is the Biden Justice Department continuing the work of the Barr Justice Department" when it comes to attacks on press freedoms via only-recently lifted gag orders on secret subpoenas of reporters' private records and "the intervention that the Barr Justice Department started in the E. Jean Carroll case --- both of these decisions were clearly made with Garland's knowledge."

I also ask Bonifaz for his opinion on whether he believes Garland is actually up to the gargantuan task of dealing with the ongoing and increasing problems that DoJ must now handle regarding all sorts of criminal and civil matters, even while bringing both accountability for the unprecedented corruption of the previous Administration and the necessary reforms at DoJ to avoid the same or worse abuse of the nation's top law enforcement agency in the future.

"I think this is a moment for the Department of Justice, but also for democracy and our Constitution. And they need to get it right," he explains.

In a separate matter, FSFP --- which was founded in the wake of the Supreme Court's 2010 'Citizens United' ruling that opened the floodgates to corporate money in American elections --- is now working at the state level to enact model legislation that would bar corporations with foreign investors (which is a whole lot of them!) from being allowed to spend money in state and municipal elections.

Finally, we're joined by Desi Doyen, as new temperature records are being smashed during the year's first major (and very early) heat wave, for our latest Green News Report. Beyond the bad news about climate change, we've got some very good news to close with today, particularly for folks up in Alaska...

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Also: Netanyahu finally out in Israel; 'Imminent radiological threat' at Chinese nuke plant?; 2016 whistleblower leaves prison; Callers ring in...
By Brad Friedman on 6/14/2021 6:07pm PT  

We try to hit a lot of news on today's BradCast after yet another very busy news weekend both at home and abroad. We don't get through our entire stack, but that's only thanks to some good calls from listeners along the way. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

Among the stories we cover on today's program...

  • 600,000 are now dead from COVID-19 in the U.S. as states --- including California on Tuesday --- begin opening up again for business at full capacity (and as infection rates start to tick up again nationally...we're hoping it's just some noise in the data for now...)
  • Israel's longtime, hard-right leader Benjamin Netanyu, recently indicted on corruption charges, is finally out as Prime Minister of Israel. On Sunday, the Israeli Knesset officially approved a new governing coalition with a former top Netanyahu aide, Naftali Bennett, as the Jewish state's new Prime Minister. He will lead a broad coalition of some eight left, right and center parties, including the first Arab party to sit in a governing coalition. The fragile new partnership aims to move beyond the exceedingly polarizing years of the former PM, even as Netanyahu --- in one of his Trumpiest tantrums to date --- demonized many of his former rightwing colleagues in the new coalition as an "evil and dangerous leftist government" and decried his personal legal troubles as the result of a witch hunt. (Sound familiar?)
  • A disturbing story broke over night by CNN, suggesting there may be an ongoing or "imminent radiological threat" at a new nuclear power plant in China. Details come largely via a French company that has partnered with the Chinese on the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong province. Independent experts are watching the situation closely to determine how dangerous --- or, not-that-unusual --- the situation now is, as cracks seem to have formed in the main encasement of fuel rods at the plant. We'll continue to watch this one as well.
  • U.S. allies appeared just shy of giddy over the weekend and into today, as Joe Biden made his first appearance as President at the G7 summit in Cornwall, England and the NATO meetings that followed it. Biden and longtime allies in Europe hope the new President will restore a sense of normalcy to the proceedings and the post-WWII order, even as old disputes continue and many in Europe remain concerned (for good reason!) about the continuing fragile and divisive political situation in the U.S. that allowed the rise of Donald Trump's autocratic regimes in the first place.
  • Former National Security Agency whistleblower Reality Winner was released early from prison on Monday for good behavior. Winner had sent documents to media revealing Russia's attempted hacks of a voter registration software company in the U.S. during the 2016 election. The extent of those hacks is still publicly unknown but, arguably, wouldn't be known at all had it not been for Winner revealing the information to the media and public. As thanks, she was slapped with one of the longest prison sentences ever for such a leak to the media.
  • Then, callers ring in on a number of the various stories covered above, as well as some additional ones, including the news that Trump's DoJ secretly subpoenaed phone, email and text message records from Democratic lawmakers; Republicans continue to undermine American democracy in states across the nation; Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin continues to obstruct democratic reforms; and concerns persist about whether Biden's Attorney General Merrick Garland is up to the task of bringing accountability for so much of the unprecedented damage wrought by the Department during the Trump years...

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Guest: 'Jackpot' author Michael Mechanic; Also: Trump's politicized DoJ spied on Dems in unprecedented violation of Separation of Powers...
By Brad Friedman on 6/11/2021 6:30pm PT  

The volume of incoming huge news stories these days is getting to be as overwhelming as it was during the Trump years. But it's also a reminder to anyone who has deluded themselves into thinking that the Trump Era is over, it is anything but. We were planning on covering ProPublica's blockbuster bombshell exclusive this week on today's BradCast --- and we still do --- though it has been somewhat eclipsed by last night's New York Times blockbuster bombshell exclusive. We do our best to cover both today. [Audio link to full show follows below this summary.]

First, the remarkable news broken by the Times late on Thursday is that Donald Trump's wildly corrupt Dept. of Justice was a whole lot more corrupt than we have all yet fully appreciated. As it turns out, in an unprecedented move, his DoJ secretly subpoenaed phone, email and text message data of Democratic members of Congress on the House Judiciary Committee. But it wasn't just members that Trump saw as political enemies, including top Judiciary Dem Adam Schiff and Rep. Eric Swalwell. It was also their staff and even their children, one of whom was a minor, according to the Times' blockbuster.

All of that, even as the Trump Administration spent years blocking Congress from lawful subpoenas for testimony and documents from the White House itself and virtually every Executive branch agency, under the false premise that it would violate the Constitution's Separation of Powers, granting co-equal powers to both the Legislative and Executive branches. All the while, the Trump Administration was actually --- literally --- spying on members of the Legislative branch, while claiming (disingenuously) that Congress was overstepping its bounds by issuing lawful, public subpoenas for testimony to members of the Executive branch.

The stunning news comes after a week in which we previously learned that the Trump DoJ also secretly obtained phone, email and text records of journalists at the Washington Post, New York Times and CNN. Democrats claim to be outraged by it all, and vow to investigate. But without real legal consequences, accompanied by sweeping reforms by both Congress and, most immediately, Merrick Garland's Dept. of Justice, the appalling and outrageous and unlawful acts carried out during four years of the Trump Administration will absolutely be carried out again --- and even worse next time --- in the very near future.

Speaking of much-needed, long-overdue action from Congress, the ProPublica bombshell this week revealed that --- based on a "vast cache of IRS information" somehow obtained by the non-profit media outlet on the nation's wealthiest men --- American billionaires have been allowed to avoid almost all federal income taxes for years on their accumulated and still-surging wealth. As the media outlet reports in their jaw-dropping, nearly 6,000 word exclusive this week, "billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Warren Buffett pay little in income tax compared to their massive wealth — sometimes, even nothing."

Their months-long analysis of the data "demolishes the cornerstone myth of the American tax system: that everyone pays their fair share and the richest Americans pay the most. The IRS records show that the wealthiest can --- perfectly legally --- pay income taxes that are only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions, if not billions, their fortunes grow each year."

The raw IRS data show that billionaires like Bezos (the world's wealthiest man), Musk, Buffett and the others often pay zero in federal income taxes. Overall, the nation's top 25 wealthiest --- whose fortunes increased collectively by $401 billion between 2014 and 2018 --- paid a tax rate on that accumulated wealth of just 3.4% on average. That, compared to a median tax rate of 14% paid by regular, middle-class Americans, as the U.S. tax code rewards wealth over labor.

The New York Times explains in its own coverage of ProPublica's scoop, that even as Congress and President Biden bicker over tweaks to marginal tax rates, the ultra-wealthy avoid such trivialities all together. "The ProPublica revelations got to a widely understood issue: that the superrich earn virtually all their wealth from the constantly rising value of their assets, particularly in the stock market, and that the sales of those assets are taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income from a paycheck...But the analysis also revealed a less recognized strategy employed by the superrich: taking huge loans, using their assets as collateral. It allows them to avoid selling their assets and facing taxation, and even to write off some lending costs. In that way, Mr. Bezos and Mr. Buffett were able to show yearly income losses even as their wealth grew by billions of dollars."

Mother Jones' Senior Editor MICHAEL MECHANIC joins us today with a great deal of context and perspective on this long running, if legal, scam, after spending a couple of years hanging out with the ultra rich while researching his newly published book, Jackpot: How the Super-Rich Really Live --- and How Their Wealth Harms Us All.

Mechanic underscores the scam revealed by ProPublica: "As we've seen from the way the tax code works, wealth begets wealth, and we reward capital over wages. If you make a fortune on a stock, you pay a maximum of 20% when you sell that stock. In the meantime, when you hold it, you don't pay any taxes at all --- it's called 'unrealized gains.' What these billionaires have done is they just borrow against that. They never have to sell, so they never even pay the capital gains tax.  Meanwhile, you and I are getting a paycheck. If we made as much as they did, we'd be charged 37%.  So it's 37% versus 20% for assets, but they're not even paying the 20% because they're not selling the assets. They're taking out low-interest loans, paying a few percent, living on that money." And, yes, even as the cost of the interest would be less than they'd have to pay in taxes if they sold assets to live on their own money instead, they actually get to deduct the cost of those loans from their income taxes!

We discuss, among other things, how all of this actually hurts average Americans; how, because of it, trillions of dollars are not available to the government to spend on healthcare, schools, climate change, infrastructure and other public services; what, if anything, can or will be done about it by Congress --- where Republicans (and too many Democrats) seems to be just fine with a system that rewards wealth over work; whether proposals like Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax of .02 cents on every dollar of wealth by those worth more than $50 million could ever be adopted in Congress or is even Constitutional; and how all of this wealth doesn't even get taxed upon death when it's passed from generation to generation, as Mechanic reports at MoJo today.

"There's always been this argument, from the very beginning, that if you tax investors and business people, those people then won't invest, won't create jobs," Mechanic observes. "It's a spurious argument. If you have $100 million and somebody raises the capital gains rate, does that mean you're not going to start a company? You're not going to put it into the stock market? No, of course not. What else are you going to do with your money, put it under your mattress?!"

And, yes, we also discuss his new book (highly lauded by the legendary Bill Moyers!), which Mechanic describes as "not a polemical book. It's a funny, entertaining, and enraging character-driven narrative, in which I basically hang out with super-wealthy people and their minions. I interview researchers, I talk to a woman who trains billionaires' nannies in physical combat, [and] a guy who builds luxury safe rooms. It's a journey of the American wealth fantasy and how it's gone off the rails."

So, hey, if you're not already enraged enough by today's program, please buy Mike's book! It's out just in time to enrage Dad for Father's Day!

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Huge, hard-fought win for the environment on KeystoneXL; Another fight builds in MN over another tar sands pipeline; Mr. Biden goes to Europe (not a moment too soon); TX's corrupt A.G. faces still more legal trouble...
By Brad Friedman on 6/10/2021 6:45pm PT  

Today's BradCast is dedicated to the protester Davids who defeated a fossil fuel Goliath after a 13-year fight to help save us all. Thank you, protesters! And please keep going! Humanity needs you! [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

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

  • It was a huge, hard-fought, well-deserved win for the unprecedented coalition of environmentalists, tribes, scientists, farmers, ranchers, and even a few journalists, behind the defeat of TC Energy's enormous, dangerous KeystoneXL Pipeline. For 13 years, the company, formerly known as TransCanada, had fought to build a 1,200 mile pipeline to send 830,000 barrels each day of toxic, sticky tar sands crude from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Texas for export overseas. For 13 years, protesters stood up against the project, which threatened rivers, streams, native lands, farms, drinking water aquifers and the climate itself. One of the nation's greatest climate scientists James Hansen warned in 2012 that if the Alberta tar sands are full developed, via projects like KXL, it would be "game over for the climate". After President Obama canceled the pipeline's permit due to the damage it would cause for the environment via climate change, it looked to be game over for KXL itself. But then Donald Trump got elected and reversed Obama. When Joe Biden took office, he cancelled the permit once again as one of his very first actions, and has refused to back off, despite pleas from both Canada and the company. On Wednesday, TC Energy finally gave up the game. The KeystoneXL Pipeline is now really, truly dead. We all owe the coalition of protesters and activists a huge thanks. But the fight now continues elsewhere...
  • In Minnesota this week, a similar coalition of activists stood up demonstrations against another Canadian company named Enbridge Energy, which is replacing a 1960's era pipeline called Line 3, said to be deteriorating and unable to operate at full capacity, with a steel reinforced pipe the same size as KXL's. Also like KXL, the upgraded Line 3 would also pump more than 800,000 barrels a day across thousands of rivers, streams and native lands from the Alberta tar sands to Wisconsin. So the protesters are back at it. Hundreds were arrested during protests this week, even as a helicopter from the federal Border Patrol (unlawfully?) buzzed over them from about 20 feet, kicking up dust and debris on more than 1,000 peaceful demonstrators. They are calling for President Biden to take similar action on Line 3 that both he and Obama took in lifting permits for KXL. The Administration has yet to take a position on Line 3, but protesters are back at it, with some blocking off the entrance to a construction site this week, by parking --- and spending the night chained to --- a boat named "Good Trouble" that they parked in front of one of the Enbridge construction sites. We cover that critical new battle today.
  • These actions to save the environment are for good reason, as we are currently seeing very clearly in the Southwest, which is facing another record "megadrought" right now. Lake Mead --- the nation's largest reservoir, which provides water for agriculture and human consumption to seven states --- is at its lowest level since it was built in the 1930s. Water cutbacks are already in place and likely to become much more severe by August if the lake's level, which sits on the border of Nevada and Arizona continues to drop. More than 86% of AZ is already under "extreme" or "exceptional" drought. Power supplies in the region are also likely to be affected, as Mead supplies water to Hoover Dam, which has already cut back electricity generation due to the low water levels. In California, reservoirs are now at 50% of normal capacity, with mountain snow-pack already gone two months earlier than normal, vegetation moisture at record lows, Summer just beginning and fire season set to begin as early as this month. All of this, thanks in no small part to man-made climate change due to the burning of fossil fuels like the ones that won't being flowing through the KeystoneXL and --- if environmentalists win more battles --- through massive pipelines like Line 3 or Dakota Access. This fight matters. Not only for the future, but for the immediate present, as those of us out West can attest right now.
  • Meanwhile, overseas, President Biden is kicking off his first trip as President, meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson today, after speaking to U.S. troops about the importance of reinforcing democracy over rising autocracy upon his arrival in Europe yesterday. Johnson warmly welcomed Biden as the two leaders today reaffirmed their nations' "special relationship" by renewing the World War II era Atlantic Charter signed by FDR and Winston Churchill.
  • BoJo wasn't the only one to welcome America's new President. A new survey out today from Pew Research Center underscores the support by the publics of 16 economically developed nations who couldn't be happier to see Biden in place rather than Trump, after trust in the U.S. overseas fell to historic lows under the previous President. We cover some of the striking numbers from Pew today, including, for example, the 75% of respondents who express confidence in Biden to "do the right thing regarding world affairs", versus the paltry 17% in the same countries who thought as much about Trump. Overall favorability for the U.S. skyrocketed 23 points since last year, but other numbers from the survey suggest the U.S. still has a long way to go to in restoring their leadership role after damage done to the nation and the world during Trump's failed tenure.
  • Texas' corrupt Attorney General Ken Paxton is facing still more trouble. Sad! The state's top law enforcement official is already facing multiple indictments on felony securities fraud in Texas, even as the FBI is now investigating him for abuse of power, following a complaint to the feds by eight of his own top staffers. Now, as AP reports in an exclusive today, Paxton is also in trouble with the Texas Bar Association, which is investigating a complaint brought after the frivolous lawsuit he filed at the U.S. Supreme Court last year to overturn the Presidential election results in four states won by Biden. That case --- which the state's own solicitor general refused to represent at SCOTUS --- was thrown out by the high court. Now Paxton faces potential disbarment in the Lone Star State, even as he faces a primary challenge from George P. Bush (Jeb's kid) before next year's election.
  • Finally, Desi Doyen has more on both the KeystoneXL victory and Line 3 protests in our latest Green News Report, with still more news on the G7's feeble efforts to support renewable energy last year and the collapse --- and restart --- of Biden's negotiations with Congressional Republicans on his massive and long-overdue infrastructure proposal...

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Guest: 9th generation West Virginian Robyn Kincaid; Also: Keystone XL is over!; COVID vaccines for the world; Biden to reportedly close Gitmo...
By Brad Friedman on 6/9/2021 6:15pm PT  

Yes. We're obsessed of late with Joe Manchin on The BradCast. But that's only because the fate of the entire progressive Biden and Democratic Party agenda is now being blocked by him...which also means the fate of American Democracy and even life on Planet Earth depends on the seemingly inexplicable whims of one obstructionist Democratic Senator from West Virginia. Other than that, no biggie. Why obsess? [Audio link to full show is posted at end of summary.]

Before diving back headlong into that frustration today with someone whose endured it first-hand far longer than many of us, some slightly more encouraging news today, beginning with the rather huge breaking news that broke, literally, as we began today's show.

The Keystone XL Pipeline is dead. Kaput. Over. Done. Yeah, we know you've heard that before, but this time it's the pipeline's owner themselves, TC Energy (formerly TransCanada), conceding that their 13-year dream of a massive 1,200 mile pipeline to ship 830,000 barrels of dirty tar sands oil each day from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Texas for shipment overseas amid catastrophically dangerous global warming due to the burning of fossil fuels is now, officially, cancelled. That, after Joe Biden cancelled the permit granted to the company by Donald Trump. And while we've got some other good-ish news items today, that one will likely prove to be the most expansive and enduring. Finally.

As far as news we'd actually planned to cover today, President Biden will reportedly commit at the G7 in Britain this week to buying some 500 million doses of COVID vaccine to donate to nations who desperately need them, as infection and death rates plummet in the U.S. while soaring in much of the world. The announcement will come as a new, highly transmissible and more dangerous viral variant is overtaking much of the UK and beginning to gain a foothold in the U.S.

The Administration also, according to NBC News today, has begun efforts to permanently close the extra-judicial, extra-constitutional detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in advance of the 20-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that led to then-President George W. Bush opening the shameful Gitmo chapter in the first place. While President Obama, upon taking office, had ordered the facility to be shut down in 2009, Congressional Democrats helped block that effort. Obama did, however, succeed in radically reducing Gitmo's prison population from about 250 to about 40 until Donald Trump stopped the U.S. relocation program. Biden's Administration reportedly hopes to close the facility permanently during his first term.

While Presidents can take certain Executive Actions regarding things like vaccines and Gitmo, acts of Congress are needed for the big stuff. Which bring us --- maddeningly enough --- back to Manchin today. On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's plan to bring up stuff for a vote this month that Manchin supports --- only to see all of it filibustered and blocked by Republicans --- got underway, with the GOP filibuster of the Paycheck Fairness Act on Tuesday. The measure, originally co-sponsored by Manchin and already passed by the House, is aimed at eliminating the appalling gender pay gap between women and men. Manchin announced he was "disappointed" by the floor vote that received support from ZERO Republicans, much less the ten votes that is currently required to overcome obstructionist GOP filibusters in the Senate.

But Manchin has long vowed to oppose the simple majority vote needed to eliminate or even reform the filibuster. He announced as much again last weekend when he also declared his opposition to the Democrats' For the People Act, a massive election and campaign reform bill that, among other things, mandates early voting and no-excuse absentee ballots in all 50 states, ends partisan gerrymandering, and curbs dark money in campaigns. 49 out of 50 Democratic Senators are co-sponsors. Every Republican and Joe Manchin oppose it (even though he co-sponsored the bill in 2019!) Manchin's reason for opposition is, apparently, because no Republicans support it (nor did they in 2019!), even as they are adopting voter suppression measures at the state level all over the country right now.

All of that, amid a massive rightwing effort by dark money groups led by the Koch Network to target Manchin to keep him opposed to both filibuster reform and the For the People Act, while a stunning 79% of West Virginians (including 76% of Republicans in the state!) support the Democrats' sweeping election reform package.

We've been trying of late to figure out Manchin's game and a way to move the country (and planet) forward through it. We've struck out so far. So today we turn to our old friend ROBYN KINCAID (formerly known as Bob Kincaid), a 9th generation West Virginian, host and creator of the progressive Head-On Radio Network, co-founder of the Appalachian Communities Health Emergency Campaign and President of the Coal River Mountain Watch.

As a longtime opponent of deadly mountain top removal coal mining, Kincaid has years of experience in dealing with Manchin beginning during his days as a state official, including as Governor. If anyone has insight and helpful advice on how to deal with Manchin, it's the always colorful Kincaid, who kicks things off by explaining what it is that the rest of the nation may not know, but needs to, in order to understand him, beginning with the contention that also includes Manchin's politico father, that "No Manchin has ever voted for a Democrat whose name wasn't Manchin."

"He is the Queen of the May right now," Kincaid tells me. "Everybody is paying attention to him. He is on the lips of every political observer in the country, and he is, I assure you, basking in it."

But why the intransigence when it comes to taking the action necessary to move litigation forward that he, himself (not to mention his own constituents, in big numbers), actually supports?

"He gets hold of an idea and he hangs onto it like a junkyard dog with a bone," explains Kincaid. "For years and years, when we would talk about mountaintop removal, he would answer by saying 'We have to have balance', for about ten years. Now the word is 'bipartisan.' I don't think he fully understands how 'bipartisan' works. Because if he wants bipartisanship, it's HIS job to lean in and use coercive power and say, 'Listen, y'all can come along, or I break the filibuster.' But I don't think he's as willing to play hardball with the Republicans as he is with somebody like Joe Biden and Democrats because he is more philosophically aligned with the Republicans."

Offering a very generous benefit of the doubt that some of Manchin's institutional concerns about doing away with the filibuster are sincere, Kincaid explains that "West Virginia relies profoundly on things like Medicaid and Medicare, and forms of federal government assistance for a workforce that has been beaten and bedraggled and tormented over the years. ... I think in the back of his mind, he can foresee a future where there's a Republican-controlled Senate with no filibuster where they they can do what they wish. He knows as well as anybody else what the Republican wish-list is in the modern Republican Party of Nitwit Nero [Trump]. That is a world without Social Security, a world without the Affordable Care Act, a world without Medicaid. And that means a West Virginia that is already as...as... [heavy sigh]...as beaten down as we are, that we'll be even more so, and left to perish."

Among the many other mysteries of Manchin on which Kincaid offers insight today:

  • Is he captured by the rightwing Koch Network's dark money?
  • Is there any hope in threatening to primary him (even though he's not up for reelection again until 2024)?
  • Why would he oppose a measure (the For the People Act) THAT HE HAD CO-SPONSORED IN 2019(!) and that is so wildly popular in WV?
  • What does he want and can he be bought off, given that Democrats are looking to spend hundreds of billions right now via Biden's American Jobs and Families Plans?

We also take a few minutes to discuss Kincaid's Appalachian Communities Health Emergency (ACHE) Act, "that has the power to stop mountaintop [coal] removal once and for all". The bill has been reintroduced as H.R. 2073 and Kincaid asks BradCast listeners to "please, pretty please, go to the phone, go to your keyboards, call, send an email to your members of the House of Representatives and say please co-sponsor H.R. 2073, the ACHE Act, because it means the world to West Virginia. It means the world to Appalachia. It literally means a future for us."

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Guest: Windham, NH auditor, Prof. Philip B. Stark of UC Berkeley...
By Brad Friedman on 6/8/2021 7:04pm PT  

In support of his lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him, Donald Trump has been telling anyone who will listen that "thousands and thousands" of ballots have recently been discovered from the 2020 race, including in New Hampshire, where the state's Republican Governor certified his loss to Joe Biden by some 55,000 votes. But something troubling was discovered during a post-election hand-count last November in a small New Hampshire town, revealing that the state's decades-old Diebold optical-scan computer tabulators undercounted some Republican votes and overcounted some for a Democrat on the ballot. Thanks to a real (non-clown show) forensic audit in Windham, NH, which is finally wrapping up, we now know why, as explained in detail on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show is posted at the end of this article.]

On November 3rd, there were four seats up for grabs for State Representative in Windham, NH. There were eight candidates --- four Republicans and four Democrats --- running for those four seats. The top four vote-getters in the contest would win the seats. On Election Night, according to the computer tabulation, the four Republican candidates swept all four slots. One of the Democrats, Kristi St. Laurent, came in 5th by just 24 votes in the small town where some 10,000 votes were cast. So she asked for and received a hand recount about a week later.

The hand-marked paper ballots cast in Windham were tabulated on Election Night, as they are across most of the Granite State, by decades-old optical-scan devices originally manufactured by the now-defunct Diebold Election Systems, Inc., and long programmed and serviced by a company with a shady background named LHS Associates. The intellectual property of the systems themselves is now owned by the private vendor Dominion Voting Systems, which acquired many of Diebold's assets some years ago.

St. Laurent's requested hand-count, about a week after Election Day last November, discovered that the four Republicans in the State Rep's race each should have received another 300 votes or so, while St. Laurent actually was found to have received about 100 fewer votes than she was credited with in the Election Night computer tally.

So, what happened? How could the numbers have been so wrong? The NH state legislature subsequently adopted a measure to allow for a post-election forensic audit to answer those questions. It was a real audit. A professional one. Very much unlike, in almost every way, the long-running "audit" theater clown show still running in Maricopa County (Phoenix), Arizona. This one was run as a fully open and completely transparent public exercise over about three weeks in May, as organized and run by three voting system, cyber-security and post-election auditing experts tapped by the state.

We're joined on today's show by one of those three experts, PHILIP B. STARK, Professor of Statistics and Associate Dean of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also the inventor of the post-election Risk-Limiting Audit (RLA) protocol, regarded as the gold standard for post-election audits.

While the auditors are still wrapping up a few items before issuing their final report, the weeks of fully transparent recounting of ballots and physical audits of the scanners has yielded what Stark --- and the other auditors, including the legendary Finnish cybersecurity expert Harri Hursti and Mark Lindeman of the non-partisan Verified Voting --- regard as the answer to the mystery of what actually happened.

Via painstaking and extraordinarily well-document public experiments, they determined that folds in absentee ballot papers that went right through the oval next to St. Laurent's name resulted in the scanners incorrectly recording those folds as votes in many instances. That means, that if a voter had voted for all four Republicans on the ballot and the fold went through St. Laurent's "target", the systems may have seen that as an overvote in the State Rep's race and, therefore, wouldn't count any of the votes in that contest. Similarly, if the voter hadn't voted for four candidates and the fold went through the Democrats' oval, she might have picked up a vote that she didn't actually deserve.

"We're confident that we've identified the primary contributors to the mistabulation of the votes in the State Representative contest in Windham," Stark told me. "They are, namely, ballots that were folded through vote targets in contests, including in particular, Kristi St. Laurent's vote target in the State Representative contest."

"That, by itself, is not the only thing going on, because in the experiments that we subsequently did with the folded ballots, we found that there was a great deal of variability across machines and their ability to correctly interpret folds through vote targets, folds through ovals," he explains, noting that another problem discovered was dust on the optical eye of some of the very old scanners. "Maintenance does matter, because just using compressed gas to blow the dust out of the reader on the machine that was performing worst made it perform substantially better."

As Stark details, through experimentation, folding ballots in varying ways and by various means, the auditors were able to replicate the problem. "We have a pretty good understanding of how the ballots came to be folded the way they were folded, which was generally not along the score lines that the printer puts on them to guide where they should be folded. If they'd been folded in the right place, this wouldn't have been an issue."

Stark also explains why human eyes --- as in the hand recount last November --- are generally much better than computers at actually determining voter intent, even in normal cases, because scanners are simply not programmed to read certain types of marks made by voters as actual votes.
v
We also discuss the critiques and even threats from some Trump supporters that the auditors have endured from Trump supporters throughout the official audit, despite the auditors extraordinary, landmark efforts at transparency and public oversight, including answering hundreds of questions both at the audit site and via Twitter throughout the process.

"The complaints seem to be largely based either on a misunderstanding --- whether deliberately or not --- on the things we have said and a lack of understanding of the [Diebold] AccuVote OS [systems]; a lack of how New Hampshire runs its elections or understanding of New Hampshire election law; also, people somehow thinking Twitter is a definitive source of information about the audit, rather than the live [audio and video] feed and the New Hampshire Dept. of Justice's website, where we've been posting all of the evidence as we've accumulated it," Stark responds. "There are some people who are definitely accusing us of fraud, lying, of being on George Soros' payroll, of trying to cover something up."

"There are definitely people who think that Mark, Harri and I were hired to cover something up. I don't know what it is we are supposed to be covering up. The idea that we are not motivated to not find malware, if malware is there, is kind of laughable. It would be a career-making thing for us. We'd like nothing more than to find malware if malware is there! But we're not going to pretend it's there if it isn't."

Of course, Hursti himself has already made his career previously by hacking these very same AccuVote systems, back in 2005, as seen in the climactic finale of HBO's Emmy-nominated 2006 documentary Hacking Democracy and its chilling 2020 follow-up, Kill Chain: The Cyber War on America's Elections.

"There was no evidence of malware...And the effect that we've observed is just completely consistent --- every test that I've thought of to throw at it, every thing that we've done --- it really looks like it's the folds. Now, people are saying maybe somebody 'weaponized' the folds and knew exactly how to fold the ballots to take away votes from the Republicans, which is kind of the Wayne's World test: It could happen...and monkeys could fly out of my butt."

Stark also answers questions about how this audit compares to the very very different one ongoing in Maricopa. "The way that they're doing their hand-count is guaranteed to produce an inaccurate count," he charges. "You really need multiplicity and redundancy. You need to reconcile things as they go along. And putting ballots on a Lazy Susan and having them spin around in a hurry is not a way to get an accurate count."

Moreover --- and, of course, this is the only thing the disgraced former President actually cares about --- Stark speaks to whether or not this problem could have possibly affected other races on the ballot, including the Presidential contest.

Also on today's show: A few more thoughts, for now, on Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)'s obstruction of safeguarding democracy in the U.S. Senate, and Desi Doyen with our latest Green News Report with a whole lot of very disturbing news for the climate, and a longtime, genteel British environmentalist who is no longer pulling his punches on what he describes as the "crime" of climate change...

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After WV's Dem Senator comes out against democracy and filibuster reforms, Democrats --- and democracy --- have a very real problem...
By Brad Friedman on 6/7/2021 5:56pm PT  

On today's BradCast, the bleak news about Democratic Senator Joe Manchin's willingness to participate in saving American democracy itself took its darkest turn to date over the weekend. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

Republicans have absolutely no interest in cooperating with Democrats in the U.S. Senate on pretty much anything supported by Joe Biden or the Democrats, as Missouri's GOP Senator Roy Blunt (4th highest ranking Republican in the Senate) accidentally revealed on Meet the Press over the weekend. Few noticed, as they were distracted by Blunt's comments about Donald Trump's continuing lies about the 2020 election being stolen.

Nonetheless, President Biden is still going through the motions of negotiating with Republicans on his $2.25 trillion infrastructure proposal (now negotiated down to $1 trillion in Biden's most recent offer/sacrifice to the GOP), and West Virginia's Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin is still pretending that Republicans will somehow magically decide to cooperate with Democrats on anything in a bipartisan manner --- if only Democrats would just wish hard enough for it.

On Sunday, Manchin published an op-ed in the West Virginia Gazette-Mail, singing his own praises for overseeing election reforms with the addition of early voting in his state "in order to provide expanded options for those whose work or family schedule made it difficult for them to vote on Election Day," when he served as WV's Sec. of State. Nonetheless, in the same op-ed, he declared his opposition to mandating early voting for all 50 states by declaring his opposition to the For the People Act, despite all 49 of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate signing on as co-sponsors. That bill --- also known as H.R.1 and S.1 --- would mandate, in addition to early voting, no excuse absentee voting for all, an end to gerrymandering and place curbs on dark money in campaigns, along with a mountain of other long-overdue reforms to help counter many of the voter suppression laws now being moved by Republicans through dozens of states they control.

In the op-ed, Manchin argues correctly that "The right to vote is fundamental to our American democracy and protecting that right should not be about party or politics" and "should never be done in a partisan manner." He even decries "state laws that seek to needlessly restrict voting [and] politicians who ignore the need to secure our elections."

That, before he counterintuitively goes on to declare that he "will vote against the For the People Act" and "will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster" needed for its passage by a simple majority. Doing so, he argues, "will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy" and somehow violate our founders' "specific checks and balances to force compromise that serves to preserve our fragile democracy."

But the founders said nothing about an undemocratic filibuster process in the Constitution. That Senate rule added and amended many times over the years, now mandates 60 votes for passage of any legislation, allowing the minority party to obstruct the will of the majority, even when that majority is attempting to protect voting rights being restricted on a partisan basis at the state level by Republicans.

If Manchin is unwilling to support the For the People Act or reform the filibuster to allow passage of measures like it with a simple majority, the hope for saving democracy at the federal level appear dead in the water for now, along with much, if not all, of the Biden Agenda from here on out through at least the 2022 elections.

Manchin does, however, support the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to restore the central provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, gutted by Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. He believes that bill can be passed on a bipartisan basis. His evidence? One single Republican --- Lisa Murkowski of Alaska --- has said she would be willing to support the measure. One Republican. That's great, Joe! Just 9 more such Republicans are needed to overcome the GOP's filibuster! We're not holding our breath. Manchin also told us he was confidence that 10 "patriots" from the Republican Party would come on board to support a commission to investigate the deadly January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol --- and democracy itself that day. Only 6 Republicans did. So the measure failed, even with a majority vote of 54 to 35 in favor.

So what can be done about this maddening, depressing, distressing --- and somewhat terrifying --- turn of events between now and next year's mid-term elections, which will otherwise be run under severe new state-level, partisan GOP voting restrictions, many of which will now allow Republicans to overturn results entirely on a whim? To be honest, I'm pretty much out of ideas at the moment, so we open up the phone lines to listeners to see if they might have any idea about how to move forward and save democracy in light of Manchin's obstruction on today's maddening BradCast...

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Guest: Center for Int'l Environmental Law's Carroll Muffett; Also: An insidious reason Trump wants MAGA to think he's about to be reinstated...
By Brad Friedman on 6/4/2021 6:40pm PT  

While the nation claws its way out of a pandemic and the Republican party continues to crack up --- or carry out its slow-motion attempted coup, take your pick --- a landmark moment occurred for the planet a week or so ago, which has left the fossil fuel industry reeling and describing as "Black Wednesday", even as it's received much less attention than it should have. On today's BradCast we aim to make up for that imbalance a bit. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

First up today, however, while Donald Trump has reportedly been telling anyone who will listen that he expects to be "reinstated" as President of the United States in August, the rightwing Charlie Cooke at the rightwing National Review confirms that reporting himself, while attempting to offer a dose of reality to his party at the same time. As he explains, even if it's true that Joe Biden and the Democrats and dead Hugo Chavez and Dominion Voting Systems and China actually did hack thousands of voting systems to steal the election from Trump (and, as he notes, they absolutely didn't), there is still no legal or Constitutional mechanism to simply "reinstate" Trump as President. It doesn't work that way in America, and the idea is, as he describes, both "otherworldly and obscene". Anyone who is deluded to the contrary, Cooke correctly explains, is "unmoored from the real world" and "living in a fantasy world" along with the disgraced former President.

But has Trump actually lost touch with reality while living in exile at Mar-A-Lago? Or is there another, more insidious reason entirely that he would want his MAGA Mob to believe he is about to be reinstated to the White House this summer? Yes, in fact, there is such a reason, as we discuss.

Then, it's on to "Black Wednesday". For context, however, we go back to an explosive report from 2018 [PDF] in which the non-profit Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) detailed a treasure trove of internal documents from Royal Dutch Shell, going back to the 1950s, revealing that the company's scientists were not only aware at the time, but very concerned about the threat of climate change due to the release of CO2 from the burning of their products. In 1962, one of their scientists warned, according to the memos unearthed by CIEL, that "greatly increasing use of the fossil fuels...is seriously contaminating the earth's atmosphere with CO2," leading their Chief Geology Consultant at the time to urge "serious consideration of the maximum utilization of solar energy."

By 1991, the company had even produced a documentary called Climate of Concern, warning of the threat of global warming thanks to the unfettered release of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Just a few years later, however, Shell took a u-turn and joined with Exxon and other major fossil fuel producers to fund the climate change denial industry, while lying to shareholders about the threat of our now-worsening climate emergency and the stranded assets all such companies are likely to face in the years ahead.

That denial, however, may have come to a screeching halt a week ago Wednesday for Royal Dutch Shell, following a court ruling by a Dutch court ordering them to cut emissions by 45 percent and, on the very same day, by shareholder "rebellions" at both Chevron and ExxonMobil. That landmark day, May 26th, which our guest today describes as "sending shockwaves" through the industry, has now come to be known as "Black Wednesday".

We're joined today by CARROLL MUFFET, President and CEO of CIEL, whose report on Shell from three years ago (which he joined us to discuss at the time), helped play a role in last week's court ruling against Shell. Today he explains those "shockwaves" throughout the industry and just how momentous "Black Wednesday" will likely prove to be for Shell, Chevron, Exxon and others, after their very bad day in both the courtroom and the boardroom.

"This last week has been nothing short of extraordinary," Muffett extolls. "It's been a watershed moment for the industry, and a watershed moment for those us who have been working for decades to hold the industry accountable --- not only for its past, but for what its business models mean for the future."

For Chevron that day, shareholders voted to impose long-overdue emissions targets on the company, and Exxon's shareholders elected at least three "activist" candidates to the company's 12-member Board of Directors, displacing the company's preferred directors with climate advocates from a newly formed investment firm. The vote at Exxon was backed by major investors like BlackRock and Vanguard.

Muffett describes the "remarkable convergence" of that day. "Liabilities that we've been warning about for a decade, responsibilities that we've been warning about for a decade, and financial risks that we've been warning about for a decade, are finally no longer fringe. They are mainstream. And now it's investors and courts saying to these companies what we've been saying for a very long time."

He explains how the Dutch court held Shell "responsible for all of the emissions that result from its operations. And that includes not only the emissions that come from Shell pulling the oil out of the ground, but the much greater emissions that come when the oil and gas are sold and burned." He also details how the shareholder votes at both Chevron and Exxon ("the biggest shakeup of them all") was even more stunning in a number of ways, as all three companies will now be forced to make "significant changes" to their business models and what they invest in. In Shell's case, for example, "the court is saying that it is not enough to reduce the emissions associated with producing the oil, you effectively have to produce less oil."

That ruling has sent an unmistakable message, he suggests, to all of the major oil companies, one which they should have heard --- and, arguably did, but ignored and/or lied about --- long ago. "It's important to recognize that, if you look at the major oil and gas companies, they've been under-performing the S&P 500 for a decade," Muffett tells me. "Even before the pandemic began, they were losing money, losing value, they had begun writing off billions of dollars in assets --- phenomena that were accelerated by the pandemic. What's become clear to a growing number of investors is that these business models are putting not only the planet, not only human rights, not only human lives on the line, but they're also putting investors' money on the line. Unfortunately, that's what it took to get investors engaged."

But with both investors and courts now engaged, "Black Wednesday" has become both a "remarkable shockwave" and "a wake-up call" to investors and, hopefully, the world. "I would say that the entire future of these companies will be defined by litigation of one kind or another. How long that future will last, I don't know.  It is unlikely to outlast the litigation," says Muffett...

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Also: Very good U.S. COVID news; More bad news for Exxon (but good news for the planet); Bad news for Postmaster General DeJoy...
By Brad Friedman on 6/3/2021 5:44pm PT  

We're old enough on The BradCast to remember the days when the news got really slow during the summer months after Memorial Day. These are no longer those days. [Audio link to full show follows summary below.]

Among the many and various stories covered on today's program...

  • Thanks to the Biden Administration's COVID vaccine efforts, infection rates in the U.S. are now as low as they have been since March of 2020 --- the very beginning of the pandemic --- and are still dropping. Death rates have plummeted as well. Infection and death rates elsewhere in the world, however, are still soaring. So, even while upping their efforts to get folks vaccinated in the U.S. in June, the Biden Administration is finally taking action to help the rest of the world as well, vowing to distribute 80 million doses to nations in need --- near and far --- over the next month.
  • On our Green News Report earlier this week, we reported on Big Oil's very bad day last week, which is now being referred to as "Black Wednesday" for the fossil fuel industry. It was the day that Shell, Chevron and Exxon each got very bad news in either the courtroom or the boardroom. While the news was bad for them, it was great for the planet and those of us concerned about global warming amidst our worsening climate emergency. For Exxon, the bad news was that two "activist" candidates for its Board of Directors were elected by shareholders to push the company toward a more sustainable business model. Two other climate advocate candidates, also backed by large, forward thinking hedge funds, were also on the ballot last week. But their contests, we were told, were too close to call. As of last night, Exxon announced a third activist candidate was indeed also elected to the company's 12-member board.
  • Bad news for Donald Trump's Postmaster General Louis DeJoy (who, unfortunately, is still somehow in charge of the U.S. Postal Service, despite his best efforts to dismantle it.) The FBI is now said to be investigating DeJoy for unlawful campaign fund raising for Trump and the GOP, after a report last year by the Washington Post revealed he had allegedly pressured employees at his company (before being appointed Postmaster) to give contributions to Republicans for which he would later paid them back. "Straw-donor" campaign finance schemes like that are unlawful. But while DeJoy has previously denied violating any campaign finance laws, his defense, since reportedly being subpoenaed recently by the FBI, has changed in a noteworthy way, which we explain.
  • That, of course, was just a preamble today for our coverage of the ongoing Texas Republican attempt to pass a massive new voter suppression law, known as Senate Bill 7 (or SB7). Yes, that's the measure that was blocked over the weekend, at least temporarily, when Democratic state lawmakers walked out at the end of the year's legislative session over the weekend, denying Republicans a quorum in the House and final passage of the bill for this session along with it. Nonetheless, Gov. Greg Abbot has vowed to call an "emergency" special session to get it passed in the near future.

    In the meantime, the GOP claims that the new law is needed to combat "voter fraud" in the state, even after their own Secretary of State in March declared the 2020 election to have been "smooth and secure". That, after the state's Lt. Governor Daniel Patrick offered a $1,000,000 reward for evidence of voter fraud (still no takers, apparently), and the state's Attorney General Ken Paxton (indicted on multiple felony counts of securities fraud, but still somehow in office), logged 22,000 staff hours to sniff out voter fraud, coming up with barely a handful of cases out of more than 11 million ballots cast in 2020.

    The TX GOP's "voter fraud" claims are --- as they always have been --- built on a house of blatant lies. We walk you through the real facts about their phony "voter fraud" claims today and explain why they're really hoping to get this bill passed, above and beyond hoping to disenfranchise voters of color. Also, we offer a big hat-tip to CNN's Brianna Keilar who shut down some serious bullshit lies this week by her guest, Republican state Sen. Bryan Hughes, the bill's lying lead sponsor.

  • Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest, very busy, Green News Report, including news of a major ecological disaster in Sri Lanka; bad news about global warming and heat deaths; bad news regarding water in the U.S. Southwest; tragic news about the REAL death toll from Texas' winter storm and completely avoidable power blackouts; but good news for Alaska (and the nation), as the Biden Administration is now blocking the Trump-era scheme to lease oil and gas wells in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Preserve...

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Guest: Political scientist David Faris; Also: FEC fines AMI for 2016 Trump hush-money conspiracy; Dem wins NM U.S. House special in 'landslide'...
By Brad Friedman on 6/2/2021 5:55pm PT  

We continue to do all that we can on The BradCast to sound the alarm about the perilous state of democracy in the U.S. right now, as Republicans around the country work to pass laws to make it harder for Democrats to vote and to allow Republicans to outright reverse election results if Plan A doesn't work. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

The heroic Democratic Texas state law makers who walked out of the state's House of Representatives at the end of the legislative session over the weekend to prevent a quorum from passing a sweeping new GOP voter suppression bill, as detailed on yesterday's show, are begging lawmakers in Congress for a "national response" to protect voting rights. They can only hold off the suppression for so long in the Lone Star State, as other GOP-controlled states do the same, as Democrats in Congress are crippled by archaic institutional processes like the filibuster.

The situation has become dangerous enough that 100 academic democracy scholars on Tuesday issued a "Statement of Concern" about Republican "initiatives" around the country which the group describe as "transforming...states into political systems that no longer meet the minimum conditions for free and fair elections," leaving "our entire democracy...now at risk." One of those scholars joins us today to discuss those concerns, what can be done about them, and whether or not the American public and Democrats in Congress truly appreciate the dire state that the usually staid academics are now trying to sounds their own alarm about.

But, first, in some other democracy-related news today, the Federal Elections Commission announced they are fining American Media Inc., parent company of the National Enquirer, $187,500 for its role in the hush-money payments made to Playboy model Karen McDougal before the 2016 election. The payments, like those made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, were meant to keep the women quiet about sexual affairs each say they had with Donald Trump.

The FEC fine is for the unlawful, unreported "in-kind contribution" to Trump's campaign, meant to "suppress" McDougal's story and "prevent" it from influencing the election, according to the settlement between the FEC and AMI. So, AMI has now been fined and Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to prison for his part in what both he and the Dept. of Justice described as a "conspiracy" that was "directed" by Trump. So far, however, the disgraced former President who orchestrated the entire scheme has yet to be held accountable for it. The DoJ has until August to do so, before the statute of limitations on Trump's crime runs out.

In other less-criminal democracy news today, New Mexico's Democratic state Rep. Melanie Stansbury won a special election for the U.S. House on Tuesday in a "landslide victory" against her oil and gas industry supporting Republican opponent. The election was to fill the seat vacated by Rep. Deb Haaland, Joe Biden's new Interior Department chief. Republicans were hoping that the margin, even if they lost in a very Democratic-leaning jurisdiction, would be an encouraging bellwether in advance of the 2022 mid-terms. It didn't work out that way. While Biden won NM's 1st Congressional District in 2020 by 23 points and Haaland won her seat that same year by 16 points, Stansbury reportedly trounced Republican Mark Moores on Tuesday by nearly 25 points! If the race was a bellwether, it will be seen as very good one indeed for Democrats today.

Then we're joined by author, columnist and Roosevelt University political scientist DAVID FARIS, a longtime friend of the show and one of the scholars who signed on to that previously mentioned "Statement of Concern" about American democracy, in which the group pleads for action at the federal level to save democracy, including passage of election reform and safeguards such as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the For the People Act.

Our conversation with Faris comes the day after President Biden, in Tulsa on Tuesday, called for "a month of action on Capitol Hill", calling out (if not by name), "two Senators" who are blocking critical election and campaign finance reform by refusing to reform the filibuster to allow passage of the sweeping Democratic bills that the scholars, the Texas lawmakers, and many others across the nation are begging for in advance of 2022. Those two Senators, of course, are West Virginia's Joe Manchin and Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema, Democrats who are still refusing to reform the filibuster to allow passage of the election protection bills.

"My fear is that Democrats are going to lose the House and the Senate next year," Faris tells me, "which in and of itself is not the end of the world. But there's another catastrophe galloping towards us, which is this Republican plot to steal the 2024 election, with a newer, better, more invigorated version of Trump's sloppy plot to do it in 2020. The worst-case scenario here is Democrats lose Congress next year, they lose a bunch of critical governorships in the battleground states, and Secretary of State races [and] we have a very similar result in 2024 --- that is, close outcomes in the tipping point states in the Electoral College. And then Republican legislatures and Governors in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, who knows where else, simply send Republican electors to Congress instead of whoever was chosen by the voters themselves."

That, he explains, is what Republicans in those states are currently angling for, including with the passage of state laws to make all of it easier. If GOP state lawmakers are elected with a minority of votes thanks to gerrymandering (which would be prevented by the For the People Act), who then select slates of Presidential Electors that a minority of voters voted for, and federal laws to prevent that are blocked by a House and Senate with GOP legislators also elected by a minority of voters to install a President who received a minority of the vote, under laws approved by a U.S. Supreme Court with a GOP majority stolen and packed by both a Senate and President who received a minority of votes, it would be "a world-historical catastrophe for American democracy." Nonetheless, Faris and the others now very much see that as a possibility.

"We've graduated from routine Republican voter suppression and election interference, sort of low-level election theft, to what I think of as a more integrated plot to install their preferred candidate in 2024." It's something that Faris --- and his fellow scholars --- are now "increasingly worried about."

"I do think there is a sense among a majority of the Democratic caucuses in both chambers of Congress that reforms are important," he concedes. "I think that that they know that Republicans are up to no good. What I don't think they understand is that it is an existential problem at this point --- that we may have only one or two elections left before Republicans do so much damage to the institutions of democracy, or they do something so outrageous that it could lead to some kind of violent, or maybe non-violent, crackup of the country, which is what I'm most concerned about."

What, if anything can be done about it? Do Manchin and Sinema really care? Are Joe Biden and the Democrats doing all that they can to change what now appears to be a grim outlook for the chances of real reform? And, if that reform miraculously somehow happens, will it be enough to actually prevent the worst-case scenarios that Faris and his scholarly colleagues are now so alarmed about?

We discuss all of that and more on today's...as usual...somewhat alarming BradCast...

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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