We're still on the road, enjoying a rare bit of family time, but doing some housekeeping in the background.
As we told listeners of Green News Report before our holiday break, the GNR would be moving to a different server/feed after the first of the year. That feed is now up and good to go! Please adjust accordingly...
Finally, GNR listeners will likely very much appreciate our "Very Special BradCast Holiday Special" if you've yet to give it a listen. You'll hear both Desi and myself (in a number of different roles), and will most certainly appreciate some of the more subversive (and very GNR-related) messages in the last two segments of the special ("Buzz Edsel v. the Sun Stealers" and "Buzz Edsel and the Santa Surprise") in particular
Thanks! Happy holidays! And we'll be back with new GNRs and more next week!
Earlier this year, in "Please Don't Notice the Global Corporate Coup", we explained how, via the TPP, giant multinational corporations --- through a secret negotiation process that they, not we, the people, have access to --- were working with the U.S. State Department and it's trade partners to supplant the sovereignty of participating nation-states with a privately-controlled, all encompassing, corporate, global "investor state". That "investor-state" is embodied in the deal through the creation of arbitration tribunals, which are granted the power to negate the effectiveness of laws passed by individual nation-states that are parties to the treaty.
The Obama Administration has taken extraordinary measures to hide the content of the TPP negotiation texts from the public as negotiations have proceeded in secret, but for the access granted to hundreds of corporate lobbyists. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), one of the few members of Congress to acquire access to the secret draft texts described the deal to date as "NAFTA on steroids." Last month, however, WikiLeaks published TPP's 94-page, Intellectual Property (IP) chapter, a chapter that would, according to WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange, permit corporate IP rights to "trample over individual rights and free expression."
The content of that chapter, according to Public Citizen's Lori Wallach will, among other things, not only extend the length of pharmaceutical patents (thus delaying the availability of more reasonably priced generic versions of the same medicine), but also attempt to expand patents to surgical procedures, both of which will serve to expand corporate profits at the expense of individual patients.
TPP represents only one-half of this ongoing, attempted, global corporate coup d'état. The second half finds its embodiment in the equally secretive TAFTA, which may prove a greater threat to our nation's sovereignty than the TPP in light of the fact that, as Public Citizen notes, "European-based corporations own more than 24,000 subsidiaries in the United States."
Like the TPP, they explain, TAFTA is also being secretly negotiated by some 600 U.S. corporate trade advisers and contains many of the very same threats to nation-state sovereignty…
Download it and curl on up to the radio hearth for some good old-fashioned, old-time radio fun (with a very BradCast twist!)
Breaking with tradition here, since we will be offering a rare pre-recorded BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica Radio this week and next week (both Christmas Day and New Year's Day are on Wednesdays, when my show usually airs live), and since you may want to listen to it before going completely off grid over the holidays, I thought I'd release our Very Special BradCast Holiday Special here prior to its first KPFK airing at 3p PT/6p ET on Christmas Day this week.
For this very special special, we went back to some of our very oldest BradCasts, as originally aired in the 1930s and 1940s, and chose three different episodes of The BradCast Radio Theatre Players in performance of "Henry Ford's Science Fiction Theatre OF THE AIR!" In many cases, they are as timely today as when they first ran.
Some of you who are old enough, may remember when The BradCast was originally sponsored by the Ford Motor Company. For those who aren't, these episodes will hopefully be a delightful surprise, as they feature both Henry Ford himself, as well as myself, Desi Doyen and our old friend Paul Byrne who wrote all of the "Mighty Adventures of Buzz Edsel" episodes which you'll hear in this Very Special BradCast Holiday Special!
As the graphic above notes, the show includes Action! Adventure! And fun for the whole family! (Except Communists!) So curl on up to the old-time radio hearth and enjoy!...And a happy holidays to all...
• Or, if you prefer to listen to just one segment at a time:
PART 1: Intro & "Buzz Edsel versus the Giant Jupiterians!" MP3 Download or listen online below (appx. 24 mins)...
PART 2: "Buzz Edsel versus the Sun-Stealers!" MP3 Download or listen online below (appx. 16 mins)...
PART 3: "Buzz Edsel and the Santa Surprise!" MP3 Download or listen online below (appx. 16 mins)...
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Since we are no longer sponsored by the Ford Motor Company, thanks in no small part to radio like that featured above, please feel free to help us out, since it's only readers like you that allow us to even have a chance to keep doing all that we do here at The BRAD BLOG...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" also very welcome!)
Well, that was easy. On Sunday, December 22, the day before the deadline for January 2014 insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA or "Obamacare"), I signed up without problem.
I used the California exchange website, it took me less than an hour, I'll be able to keep the same provider I had previously (and therefore, the same doctors), and I'll be saving almost exactly $300/month or $3,600/year.
Sounds good to me. I had no "glitches" along the way, at least to date, and the process was quite clear and simple.
Since I'm in fairly good health, and haven't used much of the plan that I've had for years, I opted for a marginally higher deductible in this new plan than I had previously, and the copays for most things will cost me about $15 more a piece. However, I could have had an almost identical plan, from the same provider (and many others) with the same deductible that I currently have, and still would have saved about $150/month. For that matter, every plan offered to me that I was able to compare side-by-side on the exchange site (there were many to chose from), would have been less expensive for me than my current individual plan which I've had for about 15 years.
My apologies for a rather boring Obamacare story. No drama. No outrage. It just seems to have worked as planned --- and will save me a lot of money. (Even if I have to cover my entire deductible next year, I'll still be saving money over what I had been paying to the same healthcare provider.)
While I still find no reason for private insurance companies to profit off of our illnesses --- and hope for a far more moral system of healthcare in this country in the near future (as we've discussed in countless articles at The BRAD BLOG over the years) --- Obamacare, in this case, seems to have worked just as it seems it was designed to.
So, for those who helped make at least that much happen, thank you. I'm better off than I was before Obamacare. So that, at least, is a bit of progress in the right direction.
Over the years, whenever I chat with one of my neighbors (who happens to be gay) about various issues of marriage equality in the news, the state of Utah inevitably seems to come up as the conversational worst-case-scenario stand-in for the dying status quo.
"It'll be interesting to see what effect the new Supreme Court ruling in the Windsor case will have across the country," I might say. "Will a gay couple who were married in California, for example, suddenly stop receiving their federal recognition and marriage benefits if their job requires that they must move to, say, Utah, for their work? Will the courts stand for a couple receiving full federal recognition in one state, but allow that recognition to be removed simply because they moved to another? That doesn't seem either legally or Constitutionally sustainable...Even in a state like Utah."
Welp, guess we now have our answer to that speculation at least, and much more specifically than any of us might have thought over the past year or three, now that a federal judge yesterday found Utah's state constitutional ban against gay marriage to be in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Some 30 other states currently have similar laws or state constitutional bans on equality for all.
"The court holds that Utah's prohibition on same-sex marriage conflicts with the United States Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law," Judge Robert J. Shelby (an Obama appointee) wrote in his 53-page ruling at the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, Central Division. "These rights would be meaningless if the Constitution did not also prevent the government from interfering with the intensely personal choices an individual makes when that person decides to make a solemn commitment to another human being."
I guess I'll have to find another "Utah" for purposes of neighborly speculative conversation about equal marriage rights legal issues. The Deep South states like Mississippi or Alabama might have seemed like good candidates. But between the fairly clear, conservative --- and surprisingly early --- holiday message sent by Judge Shelby in the Utah case yesterday (which is, of course, being appealed by the state, but that will fail soon too), and the awesome message from this Daily Show video from last month, I suspect we'll be running completely out of status quo states all together pretty soon. Or, at least, we'll have 50status quo states...
Judge Ramos found that the interests of the organization --- which masquerades as an "election integrity" group in order to actually advocate for voter suppression --- were already adequately represented in the lawsuit by the state of Texas itself.
As they were filing their notice of appeal, the disgraced GOP "voter fraud" front man, Hans von Spakovsky --- who also just happens to serve on the "advisory board" for TTV --- challenged the court's rejection of the groups Motion to Intervene in an article published at the right-wing National Review. His work there, as usual, represents a masterful example of deception, dishonesty and well-remunerated cherry-picking. That is, apparently, what Hans von Spakovsky does for a living.
He is amongst good friends in the Republican Fraud community this time out...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Network news managed to notice extreme weather, but not climate change in 2013; Congrats, Fox 'News'! Someone finally found fraud at the EPA!; Amnesty for the Arctic 30; Good news for Ecuadoran villagers suing Chevron; The #1 Environmental Story of the Year; PLUS: RETHINK your holidays --- make 'em greener! ... All that and more in our last Green News Report of the year!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Yep, we feed cows chicken poop (thanks, FDA); Pres. Eisenhower was an environmentalist (video); November 2013 warmest on record; Chevron failed to maintain SF refinery; L.A. mandates 'cool roofs'; Japan's battle to prove Fukushima fish are safe; Obama & climate change: the real story; BP's oil still killing dolphins; 60 watt incandescents phased out Jan. 1 ... PLUS: In the Deep South, dirty energy and disenfranchisement go hand in hand ... and much, MUCH more! ...
At a press conference in Richmond moments ago, late on the third day of a three-day "recount" process in Virginia, state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R) conceded this razor-thin race against state Sen. Mark Herring (D) for state Attorney General.
Herring will replace VA's outgoing, far right Republican AG Ken Cuccinelli who lost his own battle for the Governor's office last month.
Obenshain's concession this afternoon comes after what had previously appeared to be the closest statewide race in history. Just 165 votes out of more than 2.2 million cast had separated the two when the November 5th race was certified by the State Board of Elections late last month. But, by yesterday, Herring's lead had widened to more than 800 votes after two days of what passes for a "recount" in VA (there is no "recount" on touch-screen electronic voting systems used by most voters in the state and most of the paper ballot localities simply re-run the bulk of paper ballots through optical-scan systems again, as per state election code.)
Obenshain's decision means that Democrats will take control of all three statewide offices --- Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General --- for the first time in the Old Dominion since 1969 and the first time in twenty years that a Democrat will control the AG's office there.
It also means that a potentially divisive election contest --- described by some as the "nuclear option" --- will not be invoked by the Republican candidate. Once the "recount" is fully complete on Friday, and all of the very few "challenged ballots" are adjudicated by a three-judge special recount panel in Richmond, Obenshain would have had until Monday to file a contest. Unlike similar post-recount contests elsewhere, in Virginia the matter is not decided by a court of a law, but rather by a majority vote of a joint session of the state legislature, which is currently dominated by Republicans.
With both candidates currently serving as state Senators, a special election to replace either winner of the AG race was going to happen no matter the outcome of the "recount". The only question was which state Senator would need to be replaced. Obenshain's district is believed to be solidly Republican and likely would have stayed that way had he won the AG election. Herring's district, however, is currently seen as a toss-up. While the VA House is predominantly Republican, a GOP victory in the special election to replace Herring in the state Senate would swing the balance of that chamber over to Republicans as well.
Given the way Virginia forces the majority of voters to vote on 100% unverifiable electronic voting systems, and that the majority of votes cast on paper ballots are first tallied and then "recounted" by electronic optical-scan computers (either correctly or incorrectly, who knows?), we'll never know who voters really wanted to win this year's AG race. But this, apparently, is, as they say, "close enough for government work". Voters in VA deserve, and should demand, a much more transparent and overseeable system for the most crucial element of their system of self-governance.
Barring any surprises, Herring will be sworn into office in January, along with Democratic Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe and Lt. Governor-elect Ralph Northam.
The "recount" is not going well so far for Virginia state Senator Mark Obenshain (R). What had been the closest statewide race in history, while still close, is beginning to open up for state Senator Mark Herring (D), who had been previously certified by the State Board of Elections as the "winner" of the November 5th state Attorney General's race.
After two days of what suffices for a "recount" in the Old Dominion's election to replace outgoing Republican AG Ken Cuccinelli, Herring's state-certified 165 vote lead prior to the "recount" expanded to more than 800 votes on Tuesday, out of more than 2.2 million cast. According to the Democrat's campaign, more than 70% of the votes have now been re-tallied across the commonwealth as of Tuesday night. The three-days of re-tallying will end Wednesday, with a three-judge panel in Richmond making the final determinations on any challenged ballots by Friday.
Herring may have hired MN Sen. Al Franken's election recount attorney to represent him in VA, but the three-day affair there, so far, is nothing like the epic six-month-plus post-election hand-count in the 2008 U.S. Senate race between Franken and his Republican opponent Sen. Norm Coleman.
There, every single paper ballot was examined publicly, by hand. The time it took was, in no small part, due to the transparent thoroughness of the counting, but perhaps much more to Coleman's attempts to challenge everything he possibly could, arguably as a way to forestall what would become a very short-lived filibuster-proof Democratic super-majority in the U.S. Senate once Franken was finally seated in July of 2009.
In Virginia, as we've described several times in detail, the "recount" process is barely a count at all, given that most votes in the state are still cast on 100% unverifiable (and unrecountable) Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) voting systems. The rest of the votes are cast on paper ballots, but those are tallied by often-inaccurate, easily-gamed optical-scan computer tabulators, either correctly or incorrectly --- without a hand-count, there's no way to know. By Virginia's "recount" statute, almost all of those paper ballots are simply being run through the same optical-scanners again, rather than examined by human beings. The exception is ballots that register no vote for either candidate during the re-scanning. Those are then set aside and examined by hand during the "recount".
But, in a race as close as this one, there are more than enough paper ballots to flip the results from one candidate to the other during such a post-election tally.
In this case, however --- at least as of Tuesday night --- it's not looking good for Obenshain, as Herring is racking up more newly tallied votes than the Republican in almost every locality where there have been any changes to the totals at all...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Sorry Tucker Carlson and Fox "News", November 2013 was the hottest November on record; Wacky winter weather strikes around the world; Ski the Italian Alps while you still can; Plastic pollution now confirmed in all of the Great Lakes; PLUS: An ingenious new solution to the plastic pollution problem ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): 45 fossil fuel disasters industry doesn't want you to know about; Hormone-disrupting chemicals found in water at CO fracking sites; Reddit Science bans climate science deniers; BP targets celebrity chef over oil spill payments; Warren Buffet buys $1B in wind energy; Even slight global warming endangers water supplies; PacNW coal terminals threatened by low coal prices; Only endangered species that provide 'economic benefit' will be saved ... PLUS: Funny: How the media will report the apocalypse! ... and much, MUCH more! ...
A federal judge has found the bulk collection of metadata of U.S. phone calls to be "indiscriminate" and "arbitrary" and, therefore, in violation of the Constitution's 4th Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure. His opinion was hailed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden who has been asserting that point as the central basis for his having leaked thousands of classified documents in regard to programs run by the federal agency.
A federal judge ruled Monday that the National Security Agency program which collects information on nearly all telephone calls made to, from or within the United States is likely unconstitutional.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon found that the program appears to violate the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. He also said the Justice Department had failed to demonstrate that collecting the information had helped to head off terrorist attacks.
Acting on a lawsuit brought by conservative legal activist Larry Klayman, Leon issued a preliminary injunction barring the NSA from collecting so-called metadata pertaining to the Verizon accounts of Klayman and one of his clients. However, the judge stayed the order to allow for an appeal.
Now, Klayman is, in fact, a Rightwing loon who is separately in the process of, literally, attempting to overthrow the U.S. government. But, as journalist Glenn Greenwald --- the man who has been most intensely reporting on Snowden's leaks --- notes today: "the ACLU has a virtually identical lawsuit against the NSA as the one where the judge today ruled against NSA".
Judge Leon went on to write in his scathing opinion...
A federal District court judge has nixed a rightwing "voter fraud" group's Motion to Intervene on behalf of the state of Texas in the U.S. Dept. of Justice's lawsuit to block the Lone Star state's polling place Photo ID restriction law.
Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos tersely dismissed TTV's motion, issuing a two-page order [PDF] finding that the organization's "interests are generalized and are adequately represented by the State Defendants."
"The Court finds that True the Vote's intended contribution to this case may be accomplished without the necessity of, or burden incident to, making it a party," Ramos said.
The Judge's ruling was in line with the DoJ's own response to TTV's motion. They had argued that the group had not established a right to intervene because their motion detailed little more than a generalized grievance and because its allegation "that illegal voting might be prevented by enforcement of SB 14 is, at best, speculative." Permissive intervention was inappropriate because, the DoJ argued at the time, since the group was adequately represented already by the State of Texas itself. Its participation in the case, the DoJ claimed, would be unduly burdensome in that the group seeks to divert the court's attention from the legal issues relating to polling place Photo ID restriction laws "to issues concerning True the Vote's numerous allegations of purported voter registration irregularities."
In our previous piece on the DoJ's response to True the Vote, we highlighted the group's extraordinary track record of deceptive voter suppression tactics and noted that it would be "absurd" that the hapless TTV should be ever be taken seriously by anybody, much less allowed to intervene in a critical federal lawsuit.
Although the court will still permit TTV to file amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs, last week's ruling should serve to help expedite the proceedings without unnecessary diversionary tactics from this unreliable, deceptive Republican voter suppression front group.
Judge Ramos has set a September 2014 trial date in the case, which will come just two months before Abbott, defending the state as AG, will likely face his own election contest for Governor as the Texas Republican Party's currently-presumptive nominee. This past September, we detailed how the TX law at issue had already been found in violation of both federal law and the Constitution in previous cases that had come before the courts prior to the U.S. Supreme Court carving out the heart of the federal Voting Rights Act in late June of this year.
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IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Scientists warn of abrupt climate change; Prominent scientists call for a carbon tax... while Big Oil is secretly planning for it; FDA moves to ban some antibiotics in factory farming; PLUS: After moving to claim the North Pole as their own, Canada promises to protect Santa from the Russians ... All those new fronts in the War on Christmas in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Can We Avert the End of Elephants?; Competitive hunting of wolves, coyotes in Idaho sparks outcry; We can get 100% of our aluminum from recycling using only 5% of the energy; US fracking boom destroying homes' real estate value; Extreme weather worries insurers, farmers; Arctic Warming Drives More Extreme Summer Heat Waves, Droughts And Deluges; Japan to store radioactive Fukushima soil; Chinese media touts the 'benefits' of extreme pollution, while government trains airline pilots to land in extreme smog; EPA to cut back on inspections ... PLUS: Iraq and Climate Change are both case studies in the failure of journalism ... and much, MUCH more! ...
We've discussed, many times over the years, the madness of Internet Voting schemes. Today we've got yet another piece of disturbing evidence that underscores why such a scheme for American democracy would be nothing short of insane.
The BRAD BLOG has highlighted how easily Internet elections can be hacked by all sorts of nefarious folks (perhaps most disturbingly, without the knowledge of election officials); how various experiments in Internet Voting have proved disastrous (Hello, Canada! Hello, Honolulu! Hello, Oscars!); and how it is simply impossible to do a true pilot test of any such Internet Voting schemes in advance, since the most dangerous tactics that bad guys might throw at an Internet-based election in order to game it are actually illegal. Because of that, good guy "white hat hackers" wouldn't be able to use those same techniques to test the security of any Internet Voting scheme before it was actually put into use in a live election.
Moreover --- and perhaps the deal-breaker when it comes to the viability of Internet Voting ever being workable in public elections --- even if the Internet Voting scheme remains secure, there is no way that the citizenry can know that was the case. Any such scheme would require faith and trust in others, which is decidedly not what our system of oversight and checks and balances in public elections is supposed to be built on. Thus, even a secured Internet Voting scheme would seriously undermine the basic tenets of, and overall confidence in, American democracy.
Now, Kim Zetter at Wired's "Threat Level" blog offers yet another reason why the Internet, as it currently exists, is simply unfit to serve as a means for secure online voting. Her recently published article, which doesn't focus on voting, is alarmingly headlined "Someone's Been Siphoning Data Through a Huge Security Hole in the Internet".
And no, in this case, it's not the NSA. At least as far as we know.
Zetter details a "huge security hole" indeed, one which, as she documents, was found to have been used earlier this year to re-route "vast amounts" of U.S. Internet data all the way out to Belarus and Iceland, where it was intercepted in a classic "man-in-the-middle" fashion, before being sent on to its intended receiver. During the hijack attack, the senders and receivers of the Internet data were none the wiser, just as would likely be the case if the same gaping security hole in the Internet's existing architecture was used to hijack votes cast over the Internet, change them, and then send them on to the server of the intended election official recipient...