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On today's BradCast, some facts --- real ones, not Mitch McConnell's --- about our nation's healthy history of changing the number of seats on the U.S. Supreme Court, which we have done seven different times over the past 238 years since our founding. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]
But, first up quickly today, Donald Trump has taken yet another hit from the courts on his attempt to undermine the Affordable Care Act and the U.S. healthcare system. It's the second such court loss he's faced over the past week, with the first court nixing his attempt to allow work requirements under Medicaid in Kentucky and Arkansas, and the second on Thursday night finding his allowance of cheap health insurance policies that don't meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") to be unlawful. That second ruling comes courtesy of a well-respected George W. Bush-appointed federal judge who is rarely reversed by appellate courts.
Next, a preview of a very important election on Tuesday in Wisconsin for its state Supreme Court. Its the first of two elections to the high court in the Badger State (one on Tuesday and the other next year on the same day as the Democratic Presidential primary election in WI) that could result in a progressive-leaning majority, at long last, being restored to WI's high court. Control of that court is wildly important for both the state and the nation on a number of fronts, which we discuss today, including voting rights before the 2020 election, redistricting for the next decade after the 2020 Census, and the rollback of a host of anti-union and other hard-right policies enacted during the gerrymandered Scott Walker years.
Tuesday's match-up is between progressive-backed Judge Lisa Neubauer and Koch Industries/Chamber of Commerce-backed Judge Brian Hagedorn, a protege of former Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Hagedorn has called Planned Parenthood a "wicked organization" devoted to "killing babies", described the NAACP as "a disgrace to America", and argued "The idea that homosexual behavior is different than bestiality as a constitutional matter is unjustifiable."
But while voters in WI directly select their Supreme Court at the ballot box (which I am no fan of), the U.S. Supreme Court is a different matter. After Senate Republicans stole what should have been a Democratic majority on the court in 2016 by refusing to even hold a vote on Judge Merrick Garland, Barack Obama's nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell held the seat vacant for a year before unilaterally changing Senate rules to do away with the filibuster to allow Neil Gorsuch to be seated on the high court. Later, under those same changed rules, the far-rightwing, accused sexual-predator Brett Kavanaugh was similarly added to the Court, likely cementing a generation of GOP-control.
In response, many progressives --- even Presidential candidates --- are now calling for the expansion of SCOTUS if Democrats can regain control of the U.S. House, Senate and White House next year, in order to restore a liberal-leaning majority that arguably should have been theirs in 2016. Naturally, McConnell is already decrying the idea, describing it on Thursday, ironically enough, as "an unprincipled power grab...that would threaten the rule of law and our American Judicial system." He cites the attempted court packing by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s to support his notion that changing the size of the Court is "a thoroughly discredited idea".
We're joined today by Wisconsin attorney and former state Supreme Court nominee TIM BURNS for both thoughts on Tuesday's crucial election in the state ("The stakes are huge," he explains) and the little-known history of "court packing" in the U.S. More specifically, Burns, who wrote about the issue recently at The New Republic, discusses the seven different times since the founding of our republic when the number of seats on the U.S. Supreme Court has been changed by Congress, including under one of our founders Thomas Jefferson and even under Republican Party icon Abraham Lincoln.
Burns, who serves on the board of the progressive Wisconsin Justice Initiative and the national board of the American Constitution Society, argues that contrary to misleading claims by McConnell and fellow Republicans, changes made to the size of SCOTUS by the Legislative and Executive Branches, as called for by the U.S. Constitution, have been healthy for the nation, often coming "hand in hand with some of the most vibrant periods of our democracy," and in response to the out-sized growth of corporate power.
"There have always been these predictions of the utter ruin of our democracy if the size of the Court is changed," Burns tells me. "The truth is, the Court's been viewed favorably even after its size has changed." And while he says that it's "entirely possible" that Republicans could then do the same thing once they regain power, "that doesn't spell the doom of our democracy. It says that our democracy is working. The political power rests with the voter instead of nine lawyers, judges on a Supreme Court."
Perhaps that's why Senate GOPers this week have introduced a measure calling for a Constitutional Amendment to keep the number of seats on the Court at nine. Good luck with that, boys.
Most interesting, however, may be Burns' fascinating recounting of what happened when FDR attempted unsuccessfully to expand the Court in what McConnell falsely described as an historic event that resulted in the idea of "Court Packing" becoming "synonymous in American history with the idea of an unprincipled power grab". What actually happened in the 1930s, and why the Court was ultimately not expanded under FDR is a fascinating bit of lost history and quite different from the way it has been described in lore. The truth places new calls to expand the Court today, during this period of unprecedented partisanship and class-divide under a hard-Right SCOTUS, into a very different light and perspective as this debate kicks off both in the nation and among Democrats vying for the 2020 Presidential nomination....
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
It may not be our most hilarious show of all time, but I think it's a very important one and includes more than a few righteous rants. [Audio link to full show is at end of article.]...
Among the stories covered on today's BradCast...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Senate Republicans ridicule climate solutions, as Democrats fight back during Green New Deal stunt vote in the Senate; New Mexico and Puerto Rico set targets for 100% renewable electricity; Replacing US coal with renewables today would save customers millions; PLUS: Big Oil has spent a billion on climate lobbying and ads since the Paris Climate Agreement... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Video: Ocasio-Cortez’s righteous — and accurate — anger about poverty and the environment; Interior Nominee Intervened to Block Report on Endangered Species; Republicans grasp for a climate change message; Jury Awards $80 Million In Damages In Roundup Weed Killer Cancer Trial; New Jersey Sues Chemical Companies To Pay for Pollution Damages; A Climate Migration Crisis Is Escalating In Bangladesh... PLUS: The Doomsday Vault’s home is already altered by climate change. A report says it could get worse.... and much, MUCH more! ...
On today's BradCast: Something seemingly very interesting may have occurred at Tuesday's oral arguments on two separate, if related, partisan redistricting cases at the U.S. Supreme Court. The results, believe it or not, could change the outcome from what many voting rights advocates had previously predicted following the resignation of Justice Anthony Kennedy and the subsequent seating of his far-right replacement Justice Brett Kavanaugh. [Audio link to complete show is posted at end of article.]
The scourge of state legislative and Congressional maps drawn for partisan advantage by the party in power after a decennial Census has crippled democracy and the voting power of citizens for decades in the U.S. But the GOP dramatically upped the stakes following the 2010 Census when they employed highly sophisticated computer mapping techniques to ensure themselves huge electoral advantages over the ensuing ten years by drawing extremely partisan maps that "packed" Democrats into a small number of districts or "cracked" them among several in order to dilute the voting power of non-Republicans.
It's a practice that Democrats have carried out as well, if not to the same extreme as Republicans who took over many statehouses in the 2010 "red wave" election. A new analysis from AP finds that 2018's "blue tsunami" election, for example, would have been much larger for Congressional Democrats, were it not for many extremely partisan GOP-drawn maps in a number of key states, including North Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Alabama and Texas. The AP study finds "Republicans won about 16 more U.S. House seats" than they would have under fair maps. Similarly, "Republicans' structural advantage might have helped them hold on to as many as seven [state legislative] chambers that otherwise could have flipped to Democrats."
While the U.S. Supreme Court has long found gerrymanders on a racial basis to be unconstitutional, they've yet to affirm the many lower court rulings finding partisan gerrymanders to be similarly unconstitutional. Last term, when many believed SCOTUS was prepared to do so, the Court punted instead on several cases of extreme partisan maps in Wisconsin, North Carolina and elsewhere, before Justice Kennedy --- thought to have been the likely swing-vote in favor of ending the odious practice --- announced his retirement.
On Tuesday, one of those cases, Common Cause v. Rucho --- where a federal appeals court determined (twice!) that North Carolina's Congressional maps were unlawfully skewed for Republicans (they've held a 10 to 3 advantage in their Congressional delegation for the past decade, despite the state being almost evenly divided between Republican and Democratic voters) --- was heard again at SCOTUS. Another case, Benesik v. Lamone, in which a single Congressional district in Maryland was drawn by Democrats specifically to remove an incumbent Republican, was heard as well.
And while many voting rights advocates have not had high hopes for either case, given the even farther-right leaning majority on the court following Kennedy's retirement, there were some surprises during oral argument, particularly from Justice Kavanaugh whose decision in one or both of the cases could change history by delivering a major win for voting rights.
We're joined today to discuss these potentially encouraging developments with SUZANNE ALMEIDA, Redistricting and Representation Counsel for Common Cause, the lead plaintiff in the NC case. She was in the Court on Tuesday for both hearings and explains what seems to have happened, offers insight on what could now occur, decries why these cases are so important, and what may happen when SCOTUS finally delivers it's crucial opinion in June in advance of both the crucial 2020 elections and the subsequent redistricting of all 50 states that will follow the 2020 Census.
"The North Carolina case is a particularly egregious case, for a couple of reasons," Almeida tells me. "One is that we have an admission. On the floor of the General Assembly, Representative Lewis leaned into a microphone and said, 'This is a partisan gerrymander. I wanted to this map to be 10-3 because it couldn't be 11-2.' That's not the way that map-drawing should work, and that's not the way representation should work in America." She also discusses, for example, how one district line drawn by the GOP in North Carolina actually splits an historically African-American college in two, so that its voters are diluted into two separate Republican-leaning districts.
As to the matter concerning Kavanaugh, who was reportedly disturbed by his own district in Maryland, where he lives, being gerrymandered by Democrats to prevent Republican representation, Almeida confirms that he seemed to want to find a standard that could be used by courts to determine if districts were unlawfully gerrymandered on a partisan basis. She says she shares "the characterization that Justice Kavanaugh has a personal interest in the Maryland case ... And he was pushing back quite strongly against the advocate for the state."
Almeida also pushed back at the notion from Justices on the right that Courts should simply stay out of these matters, and leave them to voters and the legislators who drew the maps to keep themselves in power in the first place, she tells me: "This idea that the Court has that somehow this is self-correcting, or will fix itself through the magic of the political process, just doesn't work. And that's because gerrymandering is about power, and people in power staying in power. And when the people in power have that power to make the rules and draw the lines, that's what they're going to keep doing."
She adds that comments from Kavanaugh and even Chief Justice Roberts during the proceedings on Tuesday are "reason to be optimistic". But I'll wait until the opinions come out in June before popping any champagne bottles on what could be, according to Mark Joseph Stern at Slate the "most important voting rights victory of the century so far."
Also on today's program: Speaking of 2020, some curious questions about why nobody from Team Trump --- particularly Donald Trump Jr. or campaign chair Paul Manafort --- has yet been charged with campaign finance violations regarding "soliciting" and/or "accepting" a "thing of value" from a foreign government, as clearly occurred in relation to the now-infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a number of Russian nationals. Election law expert Rick Hasen argues that the lack of indictments brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in this matter does not bode well for the Dept. of Justice's plans to enforce election laws that bar "foreign governments from sharing information --- even information obtained from illegal hacking --- with campaigns, for the purposes of influencing the 2020 election...and beyond"...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
On today's BradCast: The coverage by the corporate media --- and response by many Democrats --- to Attorney General William Barr's terse, misleading 4-page summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report after two years has, by and large, been atrocious in innumerable ways. [Audio link to show follows below.]
We're joined today by HEATHER DIGBY PARTON, who has been covering the corrupt Trump Presidency for years now, including its various Russia-related storylines and other criminal probes at Salon and Digby's Hullabaloo. Among our several related topics of discussion today: Shameful failures by the media and others to demand independently verifiable evidence of speculative allegations both before the confidential Mueller Report was finally delivered to Barr and the subsequent failure by many of the same organizations and individuals in their credulous reporting of Barr's bare-bones, "very, very clever political document" summarizing the sprawling, two-year probe.
Rather than learning from mistakes, many in the media seem to be repeating them all over again in the wake of Barr's memo, which some justifiably regard as a "whitewash" or "cover-up" by a man who was selected by Trump, in no small part, for his previously stated opposition to the probe and to the very notion that any President can legally be charged with Obstruction of Justice. There's much more related conversation here today --- including on the substance of Barr's letter, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein's curious complicity, and the GOP's premature victory laps --- but you'll have to tune in to listen.
Also on today's program: Though Democrats led a decisive 248 to 181 vote today (with 14 Republicans) in hopes of overriding Trump's veto of the resolution blocking his phony "national emergency" declaration, the effort fell 38 votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed. In the Senate, where 12 Republicans previously voted with Democrats, 59 to 41, to block the President previously, no override vote will now be held since a two-thirds majority vote is required in both chambers. AP described Trump's overwhelming loss in both chambers as a "victory" for the President today, and it will now be left to challenges in court to block Trump's order diverting billions appropriated by Congress to the military to instead build his border wall. Mexico is still not paying for it.
Then, in a major reversal of their previous legal position, Trump's Dept. of Justice filed documents in an appeals court Monday to support striking down the entire Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") as unconstitutional. While Jeff Sessions served as Attorney General, DoJ had "only" supported gutting provisions that limited premium prices insurers could charge for the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions. Under Barr, however, the Administration now seeks to kill the entire landmark healthcare law. If successful, as many as 30 million Americans would lose their access to affordable healthcare coverage;
Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest very busy Green News Report, as fossil fuel-related climate related disasters continue in the U.S. and around the world, while the Trump Administration plows billions of tax-payer dollars into troubled nuclear plants and the Senate GOP carries out a "sham" vote on the Green New Deal, in hopes of mocking the initiative...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: As record floods move south from the Midwest, NOAA warns of much more to come; Big new problems after major petrochemical fire in Houston; Humanitarian crisis in Mozambique amid Cyclone Idai's widespread devastation; PLUS: Trump Administration gives troubled Georgia 'nook-yu-ler' plant billions more in taxpayer loan guarantees... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): In blow to climate, coal plants emitted more than ever in 2018; Shutting down almost every coal plant and swapping for renewables would save money: report; Recording reveals oil industry execs laughing at Trump access; Puerto Rico passes 100% renewable energy bill as it aims for storm resilience; Tearing down McMansion-sized housing myths; Navajo Nation votes to end efforts to purchase coal-fired power plant; Battery power’s latest plunge in costs threatens coal, gas; Fed researcher warns climate change could spur financial crisis; Louisiana’s Disappearing Coast... PLUS: Polluted by Money: How corporate cash corrupted one of the greenest states in America... and much, MUCH more! ...
So what did you think we'd be talking about on today's BradCast? [Audio link to full program is posted below.]
On Sunday, Donald Trump's new Attorney General William Barr issued a four-page letter [PDF] summarizing the long-awaited, nearly two-year Special Counsel investigation by Robert Mueller into Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 Presidential election, Team Trump's cooperation in that effort, and Donald Trump's attempts to obstruct the probe. Mueller's effort resulted in some 35 indictments, including more than 20 Russian individuals and entities, as well as indictments, convictions or guilty pleas from six top Trump associates and staffers. It has also spawned a number of other probes and indictments, including what Barr describes as "several matters" referred "to other offices for further action."
Nonetheless, based on Barr's summary report, issued less than 48 hours after receiving what is likely to have been tens of thousands of pages from the Special Counsel, the White House, the President and his fellow GOPers are falsely characterizing the terse summary as reflecting Mueller's "complete and total vindication" of Trump. That, despite Mueller's express and specific finding (according to one of the very few passages directly quoted by Barr) that the Special Counsel's report "does not exonerate" Trump of obstruction of justice crimes. That did not prevent the White House from falsely describing Mueller's findings as "a total and complete exoneration of the President of the United States." That is the opposite of what little we know the report to have found.
If fact, while Barr claims Mueller's "investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities" (the matter which media, Democrats and Trump alike have long described as "collusion"), Mueller left the decision on whether to prosecute Trump on obstruction up to the Attorney General, according to Barr, for reasons that still remain unknown and will likely stay unknown until and if Mueller's report is actually publicly released. Congressional Democrats are justifiably demanding as much.
While we've shared no small measure of healthy skepticism over the years about what Russia did or didn't do during the 2016 election, along with what Team Trump's involvement with it may or may not have been, there is no legitimate question about Trump's attempt to obstruct Mueller's investigation of it, beyond whether or not the obstruction rose to something that was prosecutable or impeachable and whether a sitting President can be indicted under the DoJ's dubious guidelines which say he or she may not.
Of course, just about everyone seems to have an opinion about Barr's report on Mueller's report. But it should be made clear that everything we currently know is based only on Barr's own summary, compiled in less than 48 hours. It should also be made clear that Barr is wildly conflicted in this matter, as he "auditioned" for the job as Trump's new AG by sending an unsolicited 19-page memo [PDF] to DoJ last year explaining why he believed Mueller's probe was "fatally misconceived" and that, essentially, a President cannot be held criminally accountable for any "exercise of core discretionary powers within the executive branch." (That would include, for example, Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey due to "the Russia thing," as he admitted out loud.)
That Barr and similarly-conflicted Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein were left to determine Trump's fate on this point --- and did so in less than 48 hours after a two year investigation --- is anything but what any American should consider to be "justice". But, as Mark Joseph Stern argues today at Slate, "William Barr Did What Donald Trump Hired Him to Do".
Today, we focus on the very few FACTS revealed by Barr's memo and open up our phone lines for listeners to offer a bunch of interesting takes on the events of the past 24 hours...and, as you might have guessed...even of the past three years...
Today's BradCast kicks of with the breaking news of the announcement, just minutes before air, that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finally wrapped up his two year investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election, cooperation in the effort by Team Trump and any obstruction of that probe by the President of the United States. Though that may be the least troubling news on today's show. [Audio link to complete shows is posted below article.]
Mueller's confidential report has now been delivered to Attorney General William Barr, as per statute, and Trump's new AG promptly notified Congress [PDF] to say he plans to release a summary of the report as soon as possible, potentially as early as this weekend. We share what we know (and don't) from that freshly breaking news at the top of today's program. Then it's back to, at least some of, our previously scheduled program...
On the day that Jimmy Carter officially becomes the longest living President in U.S. history, we're reminded of a warning he issued while serving as co-Chair, with Bush Family consigliere James Baker, of the so-called "Commission on National Election Reform" formed by a group of Republican operatives after the highly disputed 2004 Presidential election in Ohio. The Blue Ribbon panel was, ostensibly, formed to make recommendations on how to improve elections after the second disastrous Presidential election in a row, following the 2000 debacle in Florida. But while the Republicans who created the private commission had hoped for a recommendation for photo ID voting restrictions at the polling place, the one we've cited most often over the years is the Commission's unambiguous finding that the greatest threat posed to elections comes from insiders, such as election officials and private voting system vendors. "There is no reason to trust insiders in the election industry any more than in other industries," the Carter/Baker panel warned in their final report.
That warning is particularly trenchant today, with, as we recently reported, the Democratic National Committee now calling for some form of remote or online voting during their 2020 Presidential nominating caucuses next year and what has just happened with the online voting system that Switzerland has used for some time in parts of the country.
The Swiss had planned to roll out their system nationally this year, but as longtime cybersecurity and voting system journalist KIM ZETTER of MotherBoard and the New York Times reports, things did not go as well as planned.
Zetter joins us to discuss the alarming story of what happened when Switzerland, last month, opened up a month-long public hack challenge for the system which, they previously boasted, had easily passed many regular internal security checks and even several they had contracted from KPMG, an international auditing giant.
But, as Zetter recently detailed at MotherBoard, the Swiss system, designed by Barcelona-based Scytl --- "a leader in developing various internet and other voting solutions for national or regional elections in 42 countries, including at least 1,400 counties in the US" --- was almost immediately found by independent researchers to feature "a critical flaw in the code that would allow someone to alter votes without detection ... in a part of the system that is supposed to verify that all of the ballots and votes counted in an election are the same ones that voters cast." That flaw, Zetter details, "could allow someone to swap out all of the legitimate ballots and replace them with fraudulent ones, all without detection."
As she tells me today, the failure is even more troubling than that, as it allows for a single insider to exploit a "back door in the cryptography scheme, that would allow someone to alter votes but make it look like the votes haven't been altered at all." In other words, "the system is supposed to have a check in it that's designed to ensure that the ballots that go into that encryption process and come out of that de-cryption process are the exact same ballots. But there's a flaw in that proof that verifies that those ballots are the same. Therefore, that would allow someone to swap out the votes and ballots while the proof still seemed to show that the ballots were the same."
Swiss Post, which runs the system, and Scytl who sells it, claim the exploit could "only" be carried out by an insider, so why worry?
So how are those plans coming for remote voting in the DNC's 2020 Presidential caucuses next year? And how can it be that we keep attempting these same unworkable electronic and online voting schemes from private vendors and election officials who swear by the "certified" security of their systems, only to find they are anything but secure once independent experts are allowed to test them in any way?
"We should have a voting system where we're not required to trust anyone --- we're not required to trust election officials, we're not required to trust the vendors, we're not required to trust the voting machine itself," Zetter, who has been covering electronic voting and tabulation systems on her national cybersecurity beat for more than a decade, tells me. "We should have a system that can be audited independently of all of those parties in order to verify the election results. That's really in the best interests of everyone." What such a system should be, of course, is another matter, which we also discuss, and even debate a bit, on today's important program...
All of the news you need to know today, and nothing you don't. Among the many important stories covered on today's BradCast [Audio link to complete show is posted below]...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Staggering economic losses from extreme weather and historic floods in the Upper Midwest; 'Shelter in place' order issued after massive, toxic chemical fire extinguished in Houston; Trump EPA chief Wheeler pushes more dangerous delay on climate change, while 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates push climate change solutions; PLUS: Federal judge blocks oil and gas drilling in Wyoming in 'Holy Grail' ruling... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): 'We don't have anything': the fight for survival after Cyclone Idai; Congress’ inaction endangers black lung fund; Trump's [bogus] $100 trillion price tag for the Green New Deal came from a tweet; Solar and wind firms call the 'Green New Deal’ too extreme; Spinach, Strawberries, Kale Top List Of Most Pesticide-Tainted Produce; Mining Company Quashed Dam Safety Audit Efforts Before Brazil Disaster; Jury Finds Monsanto’s Roundup Likely Cause Of Cancer In 2nd Bay Area Man; Western States Finalize Landmark Drought Plan For Colorado River Water... PLUS: Banks Put $1.9 Trillion Into Fossil Fuels Since The Paris Climate Deal... and much, MUCH more! ...
On today's BradCast, the fight to vote, particularly in Florida, never seems to end --- even after a huge bi-partisan majority of voters in the state voted to change their Constitution last November to re-enfranchise more than a million of their fellow citizens. [Audio link to show is posted below.]
Following decades of post-Civil War Reconstruction/Jim Crow-era lifetime prohibitions on former felons voting in the Sunshine State, voters last fall overwhelmingly adopted Amendment 4 to their state Constitution. The statewide ballot referendum, adopted with nearly 65 percent of the vote, restores full voting rights to former felons who have completed their sentence, including probation and parole. The only exception to the long-overdue landmark measure is for those convicted of murder or felony sexual offenses.
Moreover, the measure --- placed on the ballot after 800,000 signatures were collected across the state by the non-partisan Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, as part of a years-long effort --- was to be self-executing. In other words, as of January 1, 2019, the amendment went into effect, without any supporting legislation necessary. That means as many as 1.5 million former felons, at long last, have begun registering to vote to take part in their own representative democracy, finally ending the state's shameful, decades-long prohibition. This week, however, after introducing a bill on Friday, Republicans in the state legislature have begun speeding a new measure through the GOP-controlled state House of Representatives to add new restrictions on the Constitutional Amendment, limiting which former felons it would apply to and, as critics charge, adding what amounts to an unconstitutional "poll tax" that many former felons would have to pay before being allowed back on the rolls.
The ACLU of Florida derides the new legislation, which was approved in a House sub-committee along party lines on Tuesday, as "an affront to Florida voters", raising "serious constitutional concerns" which "thwart the will of the people and extend far beyond what any reasonable person would conclude the voters intended when they passed Amendment 4".
We're joined today by DR. MICAH W. KUBIC, Executive Director of ACLU Florida, to explain how state Republicans are attempting "to create new barriers and burdens" to the "crystal clear" language of the referendum, which, he notes, the Supreme Court of the State of Florida already approved before it was placed onto the ballot last year. Lawmakers "are changing the process completely, and changing it in a way that had never been used in the state of Florida before," Kubic tells me. "They're rewriting the amendment, they're rewriting the process that has been used throughout Florida, and they're creating a special set of conditions that only apply to ex-offenders that don't apply to anyone else."
"What is important here is to remember the experiences of the 1.4 million people who have been disenfranchised for decades, for generations, in Florida. Who have been told that they are not part of our community, essentially. Because remember, that's what the right to vote is really about --- going in to the ballot box and voting for a Democrat or a Republican or a Libertarian or anyone," Kubic argues. "The right to vote is really a marker of citizenship. It's a marker of who counts and who doesn't, who matters, who doesn't, who is part of the community and who is not."
We discuss with Kubic the way GOP lawmakers are attempting to expand the definition of "sexual offenses", and adding new requirements --- above and beyond fines imposed by judges during sentencing --- that many ex-offenders will simply be unable to pay. Given the national importance of Florida in next year's crucial Presidential election, it may come as little surprise, sadly, that GOP lawmakers are now hoping to undermine even their own voters' approval of last year's landmark ballot measure.
Also on today's program, speaking of next year's elections, a bit of 2020 Democratic primary news. Beto O'Rourke rails against discriminatory Photo ID voting restrictions and other types of voter suppression during a New Hampshire campaign swing. And we discuss the veracity of possible 2020 Presidential candidate and Georgia's former Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams' recently reported assertion that she "did win" her election last November after all, against former vote-suppressing Sec. of State turned Governor Brian Kemp, but "just didn't get to have the job."
Given the widespread voter suppression under Kemp's supervision last year, some 125,000 votes said to be missing entirely (and in disproportionately black neighborhoods) from the Lieutenant Governor's race, and that the state still forces voters to use easily-manipulated, oft-failed 100% unverifiable touchscreen voting systems at the polling place, Abrams' assertion is far more supportable than some elections experts seem to fully appreciate.
Of course, the ongoing controversy --- and Kemp's questionable legitimacy as the state's new Governor --- underscores our many years of warnings about the use of voting systems that do not allow candidates or the public to ever know who actually won or lost any given election. It's also another teachable moment regarding the alarming fact that even more jurisdictions around the nation --- from California to Texas to Georgia to Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Kansas, Delaware and beyond --- are now, astonishingly enough, moving to adopt similarly unverifiable computer touchscreen voting systems in advance of the 2020 election!
Finally, we end with what appears to be a bit of very good news, as a federal judge issued a ruling Tuesday night that blocks for now, oil and gas drilling on almost 500 square miles of public lands in Wyoming, after finding the U.S. government unlawfully failed to consider the cumulative effect of climate change causing greenhouse gas emissions in their environmental impact studies when approving oil, gas and coal projects on federal lands. One of the plaintiffs in the case hailed the judge's finding, which may affect other fossil fuel leases on federal lands far beyond Wyoming, as "the Holy Grail ruling we've been after"...
On today's BradCast, climate change slams Trump Country (again), several 2020 Democratic candidates call for structural change to our electoral system, some elected jerk in Missouri wants government to mandate everyone purchase an AR-15, and we continue to help you make sense of it all --- or, at least, try to make sense of it for ourselves. [Audio link to full show is posted at bottom of summary.]
Donald Trump responded to catastrophic record flooding in Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa and several other states by sending his Vice President Mike Pence to check it out today. In just Nebraska, damage to the agriculture industry alone is expected to near $1 billion. Had the President himself gone, he might have seen, first hand, yet again, how climate disruption has begun to wreak devastating and costly havoc on virtually every area of the U.S. at this point.
He might also have seen how two military bases --- one of them the headquarters for Strategic Command, which oversees our nation's nuclear arsenal --- have been devastated by floodwaters, despite recent upgrades after a "one thousand year flood" back in 2015 and devastating tornadoes in 2017. The flood walls built after 2015 have failed, as have dozens of levees in state after state as the waters of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers continue to rise several feet above record flood levels.
Those fossil fueled disasters are of a piece with multiple recent reports by Trump's own scientific, military and intelligence agencies warning of the catastrophic effects of climate change, including last November's National Climate Assessment, a Pentagon report on the national security threat posed by climate change in January and, just weeks later, the U.S. Intelligence Community's annual consensus World Threat Assessment. Trump responded to the November report last year by saying: "I don't believe it". In response, the White House is reportedly preparing a commission to rebut to those reports, headed up by a climate science-denying retired physics professor named William Happer, who believes more CO2 in the atmosphere is beneficial, not a menace. He also compares the "demonization" of C02 by climate scientists to Hitler's demonization of the Jews. Seriously.
In other, slightly less insane news related to moving beyond our ongoing national Presidential nightmare, two 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates this week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren at a CNN townhall in Mississippi and Mayor Pete Buttigieg in an interview with Washington Post, have called for the Electoral College to be abolished. We discuss and explain why that may or may not be such a smart idea --- whether done via a Constitutional Amendment or statutorily via the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact --- or, at least something for which Dems may want to be careful what they wish for.
Next, a Missouri state lawmaker has introduced two bills that would force every Missourian over 21 in the state to own either an AR-15 or a handgun or both. Don't worry, there will be tax credits available to help you meet the mandate. The legislators name is Rep. Andrew McDaniel (R-Deering) in case anybody feels like taking this idiot on at the polls in 2020.
And then we share a few emails from listeners who strongly disagree with our conversation on yesterday's program with Slate's Mark Joseph Stern about the benefits of Daylight Saving Time, the cold, dark, endless nights of Standard Time and how wrong everybody is that feels otherwise. Those listeners who disagree with us --- despite their very interesting emails --- are, of course, entirely wrong.
Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for the latest Green News Report, filled with one deadly fossil fuel-related climate and environmental disaster after another from just the past several days, while finishing with some much more hopeful news for the future as millions of kids around the world skipped school last Friday to march in Climate Strikes around the globe, calling for action on global warming while vowing to keep the pressure on elected officials who, so far, have failed us all...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Devastating floods in the Upper Midwest, as Missouri River blows through levees; Powerful Cyclone Idai plows across Mozambique, kills as many as 1,000; Two refinery fires spread toxic smoke in Houston; PLUS: The kids' Climate Strike that was heard around the world... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Stomach Of Dead Whale Contained 'Nothing But Nonstop Plastic'; U.S. Wants to Keep the UN in the Dark About Geoengineering Efforts; Poll: America Cares About Climate Change Again; A utility regulatory process for the 21st century gets a test run in Hawaii; Warning to Investors: Fossil Fuels Nearing Peak; D.C. girds for Exxon climate battle; Pentagon Pushes for Weaker Standards On PFAS Chemicals In Drinking Water; The US Is Responsible For 26% Of Global Warming Emissions & Is Morally Responsible To Help Solve It... PLUS: Why Won’t These 2020 Democrats Reject Fossil Fuel Money?... and much, MUCH more! ...
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