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Our Special Coverage of this week's first 2020 Democratic Presidential Debate in Miami continues on today's BradCast, with post-debate analysis, insight and occasional snarky comment regarding Night Two of the festivities! [Audio link to show follows below.]
The second night featured ten more Presidential hopefuls, including: VT Sen. Bernie Sanders; former Vice President Joe Biden; CA Sen. Kamala Harris; South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg; NY Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand; CO Sen. Michael Bennett; CA Rep. Eric Swalwell; former CO Gov. John Hickenlooper; former tech executive Andrew Yang; and author and spiritual advisor Marianne Williamson. It was a very lively affair, to say the least, and our coverage today, I'm fairlly certain, rises to a similar level.
Joining us once again today for the hour is Salon's and Hulaballo's award-winning HEATHER DIGBY PARTON as our through-line from yesterday's coverage. She's paired today with our old friend RICHARD "RJ" ESKOW, longtime political columnist, host of the weekly The Zero Hour radio and TV program and, most helpfully today, a former insurance industry executive!
Among the many issues discussed after Thursday's debate:
All of that and much more on today's very lively and hopefully both entertaining and informative BradCast Special Coverage!...
[And if you missed our Night ONE coverage, it's right here!]
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
Our special coverage of Wednesday's night's first 2020 Democratic Presidential Debate from Miami is momentarily waylaid at the top of today's BradCast, for quick coverage of two major, long-awaited opinions released by the Republican's stolen U.S. Supreme Court this morning, the final day of its term before Justices leave for summer recess. [Audio link to show follows below.]
The first opinion, featuring a 5 to 4 Republican- versus Democratic-appointee split, is very bad news for voting rights and democracy advocates on partisan gerrymandering cases out of Maryland and North Carolina. Writing for the GOP majority, Chief Justice John Roberts declared federal courts have no place entering disputes over extreme partisan gerrymandering of state legislative and U.S. House districts, giving a green light to majority-party state lawmakers to use sophisticated computer programs to slice up maps in a way that guarantees majorities for the party in power during the redistricting process following a decennial U.S. Census. Despite lower court rulings finding Republicans in Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin violated the Constitution by drawing statewide U.S. House maps meant to assure Republicans remained in power, even when receiving fewer votes over all, the partisan divided SCOTUS decision now overturns all of those previous rulings, and one out of Maryland where a U.S. House district was drawn Democrats to keep it out of the hands of Republicans.
Critics, including Justice Elana Kagan who penned a blistering minority dissent, note that the SCOTUS majority now leaves it to the very same gerrymandered legislatures who created the undemocratic problem to somehow work it out, even though it may be impossible for opposition lawmakers to gain enough of a foothold to actually change the process under the bastardized maps. In her dissent, Kagan notes partisan gerrymanders "debased and dishonored our democracy, turning upside-down the core American idea that all governmental power derives from the people." Her opinion, representing the High Court's four liberal justices, concludes: "Of all times to abandon the Court's duty to declare the law, this was not the one. The practices challenged in these cases imperil our system of government. Part of the Court's role in that system is to defend its foundations. None is more important than free and fair elections."
All of which makes the Court's other major opinion today, on whether the Trump Administration will be allowed to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census, all the more crucial, but slightly better news, for the moment, anyway. In that case, Roberts joined with the court's progressives for a 5 to 4 ruling that bars the Administration, at least for now, from adding the question to next year's Census. In this case, the Chief Justice notes that the Administration's pretextual reasoning for doing so "appears to have been contrived". Indeed, despite warnings by experts at the Census Bureau itself that the question would decrease the response rate by millions, officials at Trump's Dept. of Commerce (which runs the Census Bureau) and the Dept. of Justice lied to both Congress and the Courts about their reason for adding the question.
Evidence has revealed that, in fact, the Administration hoped to include the question specifically in order to under-count immigrant communities in hopes of shifting billions of dollars in federal funding --- and still more voting power --- to "Republicans and non-Hispanic whites" over the next decade. That fact was made clear by, among other things, evidence revealed from the hard drive of the GOP's recently deceased gerrymandering expert. The good news in the Census ruling today is somewhat tempered by the fact that the case has now been sent back to the lower court for further consideration, allowing the Trump Administration another bite at the apple to come up with a more plausible justification --- or at least one that the stolen SCOTUS can more easily accept --- for why they insist on adding the new question before the deadline for printing the 2020 Census. The Administration had previously said that deadline was at the end of this month, though Trump has now asked his attorneys to see if the Census may be postponed.
Then it's on to our Special Coverage of Night One of the first Democratic Debate of the 2020 Presidential cycle, which featured ten candidates in all, including MA Sen. Elizabeth Warren; former TX Rep. Beto O'Rourke; MN Sen. Amy Klobuchar; NJ Sen. Cory Booker; former HUD Secretary and San Antonio, TX mayor Julian Castro; NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio; WA Gov. Jay Inslee; OH Rep. Tim Ryan; former MD Rep. John Delaney; and HI Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.
We're joined for today's special coverage by Salon's and Hulaballo's award-winning columnist HEATHER DIGBY PARTON and Seeing the Forest's DAVE JOHNSON, formerly a Senior Fellow at the progressive Campaign for America's Future.
Parton and Johnson offer post-debate analysis and smart insight on as many of those candidates as we can possibly fit in to the hour, along with thoughts on which of them exceeded, met or under-performed expectations; why it is that Democrats appear (foolishly) to be shying away from taking on Donald Trump directly, despite the extraordinary threat he and his Presidency pose to the nation and the world; how Democrats, as a party, now appear to be approaching issues such as taking on corporate monopolies, the need for universal access to healthcare as a human right (and the strange question about abolishing private health care insurance), foreign wars and more. We also discuss, as raised --- but largely unanswered --- during Wednesday's debate, how a Democratic President might counter obstructionist Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should the GOP maintain control of the U.S. Senate after 2020.
All of that, of course, is just a sampling of the sweeping ground we cover on today's very busy and very lively BradCast, as we await Night Two, with another ten candidates, to be covered on our next program!...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
Before our guest joins us on today's BradCast --- and in advance of the Democrats' first two-night 2020 Presidential Candidate Debate in Miami (which we'll be covering over the next two BradCasts), some very quick news headlines today. [Audio link to complete show is posted below]
Then, we're joined once again today by the great MARK JOSEPH STERN, Slate's ace legal reporter and, as the end of SCOTUS' term wraps up before summer, our ever-insightful Supreme Court correspondent! There were a bevy of opinions issued by the Court over the past week, even as most received little fanfare or attention by the media. Trump's war-mongering with Iran and worsening child detention problems on the border are just some of the reasons for that. But also, the biggest expected rulings --- on whether a citizenship question may be added to the 2020 Census, despite Trump Administrations lies about it, and on whether states may employ partisan gerrymandering for electoral advantage --- are still to come at any moment now. In the meantime, while the many opinions issued over the past week, in and of themselves, may not have been marquee rulings, many, as Stern explains, have serious consequences.
More importantly, however, as we discuss today, the new rulings offer some pretty HUGE SCREAMING RED SIRENS about the direction that the Republicans' stolen U.S. Supreme Court now intends to go, with their far-right majority now firmly ensconced. A number of opinions in several of the cases offered some pretty clear projections that this Court intends to overturn decades, if not centuries, of legal court precedent, case law, and even thousands of federal laws in the bargain.
Among the many decisions we discuss in some detail today:
In all, we cover quite a bit of ground today, with some important details --- far more than I can cover here --- that you should definitely tune in for, if only so that you can't later say nobody warned you!
"This is the term when the Justices pretty much rip up stare decisis," explains Stern, citing the legal term for the custom of respecting court precedent, "or at least get out their lighters and lay the kindling. In a number of cases the conservative Justices have just decided that they've had enough with precedent, they're ready to make the Constitution say what they want it to say. Doesn't matter what previous courts have ruled."
Stern warns: "For the most part, the Justices have been swinging for the rafters. They do not feel hemmed in by many limitations. You're seeing unbridled exercise of judicial power --- the kind of thing that [Chief Justice] Roberts said during his confirmation hearings he would never resort to."
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
On today's BradCast: Are Democrats finally beginning to reconsider their incredibly ill-considered mandate to require remote voting for their 2020 Presidential caucuses via phone or Internet voting schemes? Our guest today says they may just be doing so! If so, that would be very good news and not a moment too soon! [Audio link to show follows below.]
But, first up today, speaking of "ill-considered", in an echo of his earlier posturing against North Korea, Donald Trump issued new militaristic threats and slapped new sanctions on Iran, including against its Supreme Leader, President, Foreign Minister and even the Islamic Nation's lead nuclear negotiator. The result is what Iranian officials describe as the "permanent closure" of diplomacy between the two countries. The new sanctions also resulted in the Iranian President mocking the measures as "outrageous and idiotic", "hilarious", "stupid and ugly", while charging the White House is suffering from a "mental illness".
Trump's new punitive measures come in response to Iran shooting down a U.S. drone, which they say entered its air space last week. The U.S. denies the charge, insisting that its spy plane was in international airspace over the Straight of Hormuz. And all of it comes in the wake of Trump pulling the U.S. unilaterally out of the 2015 treaty between seven world powers that prevented Iran from enriching enough uranium to create a nuclear weapon.
But now, as the Administration penalizes Iranian leaders --- who, by all accounts, have fully complied with the strict terms of the landmark accord struck under Barack Obama's Administration --- Trump and his team can't seem to understand why Iran is not interested in negotiating with them. They have, however, threatened Iran if they renege on the terms of the deal that Trump pulled out of, as Iran has now announced they intend to do. Of course, the possibility of, once again, touching off WWIII comes with Trump's threat today of "great and overwhelming force" and "obliteration" of Iran, just days after he reportedly cancelled a planned attack against them at the last minute last week.
All of which underscores the necessity of removing this dangerous menace from the White House, whether by impeachment or at the ballot box next year. Not that viewers of Fox "News", of course, have any idea of the facts behind these latest incidents, which all stem from Trump pulling out of the very good landmark agreement with Iran. In fact, even one of Fox' most beloved former reporters, "Campaign Carl" Cameron has now come out against the fake news channel's "partisan misinformation" in a video promoting his new news venture, Front Page Live, launched with progressives such as Joe Romm of Climate Progress.
As to removing the buffoonish, inept, unfit, dishonest Trump at the ballot box, that may not be as simple as it should be for Democrats, given both the proliferation of rightwing misinformation at Fox and other rightwing fake news outlets (such as the NY Post which removed its story on well-known magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll's new allegations that Trump raped her in a department store dressing some years ago) and the extraordinary vulnerability of our nation's voting, registration, and tabulation systems. To that end, 2020 Democratic hopeful Elizabeth Warren introduced a plan for election reform today which calls for, among other things, a mandate to replace the nation's easily-manipulated, oft-failed computerized voting systems with ones that allow every American to cast their vote by the safest, most verifiable method possible: HAND-MARKED paper ballots. Her measure is not unlike some of the provisions in HR-1 as passed by Democrats in the House and the PAVE Act, introduced in upper chamber by Sen. Ron Wyden, where it remains, along with all such election security bills, blocked by Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.
But, where Democrats --- some of them anyway --- are coming around to the understanding that every voter in America must be allowed to cast their vote on a hand-marked paper ballot, the Democratic National Committee seems less than clear on the need for verifiable, publicly-overseeable election results. To that end, as we warned on the program some months ago, the DNC, following the 2016 election disaster, issued a mandate for all state Dem parties which choose to hold Presidential caucuses in 2020, rather than statewide primaries, to include some form of "remote voting" for party members who cannot attend in person.
That Democratic Party mandate, as our guest today Voting Booth's STEVEN ROSENFELD reported when we spoke with him back in March, has resulted in party officials in early caucus states such as Iowa and Nevada, scrambling to find private vendors willing to provide "remote voting" services that employee phone or Internet voting schemes. Today, Rosenfeld reports on what we'll call a moderately encouraging follow-up, finding that DNC officials may now be reconsidering that, frankly, insane mandate for unverifiable off-site voting systems.
"The thing about caucuses --- these are not government-run elections," Rosenfeld explains. "So this is really, really critical, because this means that all of the cybersecurity efforts --- of which there have been tremendous efforts made since 2016 to deal with trying to tighten systems --- those have all been in government election systems. These [caucuses] are private elections. So what the state parties will do in the caucus states is they have to rent a voting system. These do not have to be certified voting systems." That, of course, is an invitation to even less secure systems than those which already plague American elections, not to mention that cybersecurity experts consider Internet Voting schemes to be the most vulnerable of all such systems.
"So they're talking to different vendors who run these different systems. It's either going to be like using a telephone, to punch a button in to choose a candidate, or using an app, or using some kind of webpage." Rosenfeld, whose recent reporting on this includes discussion with the co-chair of the DNC's Rules & Bylaws Committee, says DNC officials plan to review state party plans this week, but may, in fact, not approve those plans after all.
Rosenfeld envisions a situation where, "in the first [Iowa] and third [Nevada] contests, the Democrats have a complete mess and Trump runs with it and yells and screams about 'stolen elections' all the way into the fall. The whole thing is just madness on top of madness."
Let's hope wiser heads prevail at the DNC, though I'm not holding my breath.
Finally today, Desi Doyen joins us for the latest Green News Report, with Vice President Mike Pence's embarrassing weekend appearance on CNN, in which he was unwilling to acknowledge his own administration's scientific warnings about the national security threat posed by our worsening climate emergency. Also on today's GNR, the Trump USDA is burying scientific reports on climate change, a deadly heat wave and acute water shortages are ravaging India, and --- with some good news --- G.E. has announced plans to shut down a natural gas power plant in California twenty years earlier than planned because renewable energy options are now both cheaper and cleaner!...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Vice President Mike Pence refuses to acknowledge his own administration scientists say climate change is a threat to national security; Millions suffering from acute water shortages and deadly heat wave in India; Trump USDA burying studies on impacts of climate change on U.S. agriculture; PLUS: General Electric scraps natural gas power plant 20 years early...Now, why would they do that?... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): This is how 2020 candidates plan to hold Big Oil accountable for climate change; 'Climate apartheid' between rich and poor looms, UN expert warns; The truth comes out about the longest-lasting oil spill in Gulf of Mexico; Americans' plastic recycling is dumped in landfills, investigation shows; A 100% renewable grid isn't just feasible, it's in the works in Europe; U.S. spy satellite photos show Himalayan glacier melt accelerating; Maine, Vermont pass plastic bag bans on same day... PLUS: Militia groups become the armed wing for climate deniers... and much, MUCH more! ...
We've largely stayed away from the "horse race" on the Democratic side of the 2020 Presidential race to date, preferring, as we're wont, to focus on more immediate issues, as well as the "track conditions" on which the horses are set to run next year. But on today's BradCast, we finally open the phones to turn to the horse race a bit, in advance of this week's first 2020 Presidential debates.
But first, a few news items of note. Among the stories covered today before we turn to the phones....
Please enjoy today's very lively show!...
On today's BradCast: Iran and the world can breathe a bit easier for the moment, though children held in deplorable, overcrowded unsanitary conditions in U.S. detention centers near the border still may not. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]
At the last minute, reportedly, Donald Trump pulled his punch, thankfully, and called off an attack on Iran in retaliation for the U.S. drone shot down by the Islamic Republic on Thursday. That drone, Iran says, was a surveillance plane flying above its territorial waters. The U.S. contends the $100 million remote-controlled plane with a wingspan the size of a 737, was flying in international air space. But, no matter who has it right, none of this would have happened at all, had Trump not recklessly and stupidly pulled the U.S. out of the landmark anti-nuclear pact with Iran, struck during the Obama Administration along with France, Germany, the UK, Russia and China.
Trump, despite his wildly inaccurate claims about the Iran deal posted to Twitter this morning, was not the only one to show restraint in the matter. Reuters reports that Iran declined to similarly target a 35-man U.S. military aircraft said to have been accompanying the unmanned Global Hawk spy drone near the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. Iran also says they sent "repeated warnings" to the drone operator before shooting it down.
Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress are calling for a "step back from the brink of war" by calling for Congressional debate over the issue, even as they've allowed Trump (and other Presidents) to wage war without Constitutionally-required Congressional approval previously. Over at Fox "News", of course, talking heads such as Brian Kilmeade were calling on Trump to bomb the hell out of Iran, as if the host of Trump's favorite morning show wouldn't be affected in the least from his couch in his NY studio by the potential of WWIII breaking out in the Middle East;
While we can breathe a bit easier on that score --- at least for the moment --- migrant children at detention camps being run by the U.S. Government, suffering under deplorable conditions, are not nearly as lucky. While a silly "debate" was waged this past week by Rightwingers pretending to be outraged by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez' accurate reference to U.S. holding facilities for migrants as "concentration camps", the Trump Administration's Dept. of Justice was in court stunning judges by arguing that a long-standing legal settlement requiring migrant children be held in "safe and sanitary" conditions, doesn't mean they have to have either soap or toothbrushes, and that sleeping on concrete floors in freezing, overcrowded cells with only a piece of aluminum foil to keep them warm, is just fine.
The Texas Tribune takes advantage of the moment surrounding the disingenuous "concentration camp" debate to round up just a few of the horrific stories reported over the past month that would seem to prove that, yes, these are, in fact, concentration camps. And, if there was any remaining question, the Associated Press filed an horrific account Thursday night of what attorneys found at one such facility near El Paso, where frightened children are being forced to look after terrified toddlers, while going for "weeks without bathing or a clean change clothes." One attorney who represents detained children said: "In my 22 years of doing visits with children in detention, I have never heard of this level of inhumanity".
In Oregon, as we noted yesterday, Republican state Senate lawmakers have left the state to avoid the quorum needed to vote on an important climate change bill supported by Democrats that, if adopted, would help both Oregonians and the planet. Those lawmakers are now being fined $500/day for missing work, as state police have been ordered to try and round them up. It's the second time in weeks that the GOPers have fled the state. Last time it was in hopes of preventing a vote on a $2 billion funding package for schools. The state's Democratic Governor, Kate Brown, foolishly negotiated with the Republicans the first time to bring them back for that vote after four days, by promising to table planned votes on gun safety and vaccines. But, negotiating with terrorists only results in more terror. So, the Republicans have now pulled the same stunt all over again.
Finally, we can't help but notice throughout today's program how much of the chaos and suffering the nation (and world) is undergoing right now might be eased if Donald Trump was simply removed from office for some of his many high crimes. On that note --- and to lighten things up a bit at the end of another grim week --- we close out with COVFEFE - Grounds for Impeachment, a catchy new tune courtesy of Roy Zimmerman and Melanie Harby, as shared with us by Victoria Parks from our Columbus, OH affiliate WGRN! Enjoy!...
On today's BradCast: Already increasing tensions in the Middle East got much higher today after Iran shot down an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone last night, which the Islamic Republic claims had crossed their border into their airspace. The U.S. contends the spy plane, a U.S. Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk that can fly as high as 10 miles in altitude with a wingspan as wide as a Boeing 737, was in international airspace at the time it was downed by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. Both nations suggest they have evidence to support their claims about the location of the craft when it was shot down. [Audio link to show is posted below.]
Tensions in the region have been rapidly rising in recent weeks as the U.S. has blamed Iran, without presenting evidence, for several attacks on shipping tankers near the narrow Straight of Hormuz, which borders Iran in the Persian Gulf and through which 20% of global oil supplies travel. Iran has denied any involvement in those incidents, other than helping to rescue the crew of one of the tankers and extinguishing its fire. But war-hawks in the U.S. have been banging the drums against Iran for some time. They applauded Donald Trump's unilateral withdrawal last year from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, the landmark deal struck between Iran and seven other nations during the Obama Administration. The hard-fought treaty ended any possibility of Iran enriching uranium for use in weaponry, at least until Trump broke the deal that had lifted crippling, years-long sanctions against Iran. Trump reinstated the sanctions after becoming President and pulling out of the pact that even his own Administration admits Iran has been in full compliance with.
On Thursday, Trump described Iran's action as "a very bad mistake" and "a foolish move", while repeatedly telling reporters "you're going to find out", when asked how and if the U.S. plans to respond. He did suggest, however, during Oval Office remarks, that he believed the incident must have been unintentional or taken by "someone who was loose and stupid" --- as if to suggest he was reluctant to retaliate and/or make the situation worse.
Nonetheless, at the very same time, GOP hawks in the Senate like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) seemed eager to inflame the situation by warning that Iran "needs to get ready for severe pain," vowing that "if [Iran] is itching for a fight, they're gonna get one."
We're joined today to discuss all of this by DR. ASSAL RAD, Research Fellow and policy analyst at the nonpartisan, nonprofit National Iranian American Council. In a statement today, the group's President, Jamal Abdi, counseled for both nations to "firmly step away from the path to war" by seeking out "third party mediators who can help de-escalate and bring the U.S. and Iran back to the negotiating table."
Rad explains what is known and unknown about the current situation, how dangerous the situation has now become, and how Trump's restoration of sanctions has crippled Iran's economy, at least for the working class, leading to severe shortages of food and medicine. In addition to increasing military tensions, she tells me, Trump's violation of the anti-nuclear pact has led to both increased uranium enrichment --- bringing Iran closer to the ability to build nuclear weapons if they desire --- as well as strengthening the political hand of anti-U.S. hardliners in the Islamic Republic.
"What Trump has done," she tells me, "is played into the hands of the hard-line elements in the country, tarnishing the image of the U.S., which was very positive. But, of course now, as they suffer, it's much easier for that government to point to the United States as the blame."
"On the U.S. side, of course, the argument can be made that there's a credibility issue, given that President Trump has gone back and forth in the tone he takes with Iran. He'll tweet something like 'we're going to end Iran' and 'that was a big mistake on Iran's part', and then walks it back. 'No, we don't want regime change' or 'we don't want a war'. But then he has advisers, like the National Security Advisor John Bolton, who argues exactly for those goals."
"And that's not, by the way, to give credibility to the Iranian side," Rad made clear. "The Iranian side also lacks credibility in their own right. And that's why without a full investigation and having evidence, I would avoid drawing conclusions. And certainly taking action based on conclusions that aren't based on full evidence."
She notes that "sometimes the way that our media frames it, it makes it seem like the Iranian side is an irrational party --- and yet that is the party that agreed to the deal and has abided by that deal, despite the fact that the U.S. abrogated that deal a year ago."
"One of the things that we know about war is that it's unpredictable. We don't know what will be the consequence. And to prevent this sort of unforeseen concern that something terrible could happen, we have the opportunity right now to prevent it," she concludes with optimism, advising fellow Americans to speak out to our representatives in Congress to urge them to find a peaceful solution to the quickly escalating crisis.
Then, just to lighten things up, we turn to our worsening climate crisis! With Republican state Senators in Oregon fleeing the state on Thursday to avoid a quorum needed for final approval of a sweeping bill meant to help curb climate change by reducing carbon and capping greenhouse gas emissions through a cap-and-trade system. Democratic Gov. Kate Brown has now authorized state police to try and find the rogue lawmakers and bring them back to the capital. Meanwhile, back in D.C., Florida Congressmen Ted Deutch (D) and Francis Rooney (R) announced the re-launch of a bipartisan 'Climate Solutions Caucus' with about 60 members, including more than 20 Republicans.
We get some thoughts on both of those stories from a skeptical (cynical?) Desi Doyen, who also joins us for the latest Green News Report, with troubling news on the Trump Administration's official roll back of Obama's landmark Clean Power Plan in favor of scheme to aid the coal industry which, according to Trump's own EPA, will result in the premature deaths of thousands of Americans. But, she's also got some good news for us today --- and not a moment too soon --- out of the state of New York, where lawmakers did not skip the state, but instead adopted one of the world's most ambition climate change action plans...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Trump EPA replaces Obama's Clean Power Plan with deadly scheme to prop up polluting coal industry; Sorry, Mr. President, but US air pollution is measurably worse since you took office; May 2019 was the fourth warmest May on record; PLUS: New York State to approve one of the world's most ambitious climate change action plans... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): With more storms and rising seas, which cities should be saved first?; $400 billion for U.S. sea walls may not be enough against rising seas; India's 6th largest city runs out of water; Scorching temperature records in Kuwait and Pakistan confirmed as third and fourth hottest; Americans think fossil fuel companies are responsible for the damages caused by global warming; Wind, solar to hit 48% of global generation by 2050, but coal use to rise until 2026; Weather woes cause American corn farmers to throw in the towel... PLUS: Trump's weak replacement for Clean Power Plan can't stop coal's decline... and much, MUCH more! ...
On today's BradCast, after what seems like a too-long absence, we're joined again today by Slate legal reporter MARK JOSEPH STERN for insight on the first batch of U.S. Supreme Court opinions issued at term's end this week. [Audio link to show follows below.]
But first today, mercifully brief coverage of Donald Trump's re-election campaign launch in Orlando, Florida on Tuesday night. While the rally followed the same tired pattern of pretty much all of the campaign rallies he's held non-stop since becoming President --- (Remember when the GOP and Fox 'News' used to complain that Obama was holding campaign rallies as President, rather than governing? That was darling.) --- the usual recitation of Trump lies and nonsense also included a fascinating reference to Republican opposition to "socialism" just one mere breath before Trump (falsely) touted GOP support for protecting much-beloved socialist programs such as Social Security and Medicare. The irony, no doubt, was lost on most of his brain-poisoned followers on hand or watching via the Fox "News" disinformation channel.
On Capitol Hill today, Democrats in the House Judiciary Committee finally heard testimony from a former Trump official in the aftermath of the damning Robert Mueller Special Counsel report. Longtime Trump aid Hope Hicks --- who worked with him before his campaign, during it, during the transition and in the White House --- cooperated with the Mueller probe and is cited within it as a witness about 180 times. She agreed to testify today, though only behind closed doors, with a transcript to be released later. However, White House and DoJ Attorneys were also on hand to continue what Committee member Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) described as "obstruction of justice in action". The lawyers issued objections to any and all questions related to Hicks' service with Trump as President, asserting "absolute immunity" from such questions. That is a newly invented "privilege" from the White House and DoJ which Lieu described as "not a thing. It doesn't exist." Lawmakers suggest the result will be court action to force Hicks' testimony on her time at the White House, now that she is a private citizen (who works for Fox "News"). Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is still opposed to opening an official impeachment inquiry, reportedly described the new White House offensive as "obstruction of justice", which --- in case she needs a reminder --- is one of the offenses included in the Articles of Impeachment for both Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.
Also in D.C. today, the Trump Environmental Protection Agency, now headed by "former" coal industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, officially replaced President Obama's Clean Power Plan, meant to curb global warming greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants, with a new rule that makes the reduction of emissions optional for states. Even while coal plants have been shutting down across the country over the past two years in favor of cheaper, cleaner natural gas and renewable energy production, the Administration is implementing the new rule which, according to the EPA's own analysis, will result in thousands of unnecessary deaths per year. The new rule parallels a similar effort by the Trump Administration to roll back new mileage standards implemented by Obama with the cooperation of the auto industry, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says will save thousands of lives as well. So, yes, Trump is now purposely killing Americans and lying about it by claiming U.S. air and water has never been cleaner. That, according to actual findings from the Government, is also untrue, as pollution has increased over the past two years since Trump became President.
We're then joined by Slate's Stern for a review of this week's SCOTUS rulings and an explanation for some of the "strange bedfellow" partnerships found in several of them. Among the opinions discussed today...
But the majority opinion, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was joined, unsurprisingly, by Justices Elana Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, and much more surprisingly by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch! Moreover, the minority dissent, penned by rightwing Justice Samuel Alito was also joined by the normally progressive Stephen Breyer. Stern offers an explanation for what appears to be very strange bedfellows on this opinion, and whether the ultimate outcome --- while very good news for Democrats who hope to take control of one or both chambers in the VA legislature this November --- will be good news or bad news for Democrats and Republicans in the future;
I've had a lot of legal questions swirling through my head in recent weeks as Trump and his minions have expanded their attempts at blocking all Congressional investigations of his many crimes. On today's BradCast, despite the unprecedented and ever-changing nature of what Trump is attempting, I get a bit of clarity from a guest with a long background in legal, legislative and executive matters regarding all three branches of the federal government. [Audio link to show follows below.]
First up, however, some quick news of the day. Donald Trump's Acting Sec. of Defense Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, has withdrawn his formal nomination after reported difficulties obtaining a standard FBI background clearance due to a history of domestic violence with his former wife. Former Raytheon lobbyist and Trump's Sec. of the Army Mark Esper has been tapped, for now, as the new Acting SecDef.
The widespread --- and still-unexplained --- failure of the electrical grid in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay over the weekend that affected tens of millions in South America, did not, at least, prevent gubernatorial elections from continuing on Sunday in Argentina, where they wisely use HAND-MARKED paper ballots. The election was uninterrupted despite the outage, as voting was able to continue as usual, even if voters needed to rely on mobile phone flashlights in order to see their ballots while filling them out by hand. That, by way of contrast with the utter havoc and chaos that would result from a similar outage or cyber-attack on the U.S. power grid during an election next year, with dozens of states relying on computer voting systems and electronic poll books, including a number of jurisdictions such as Los Angeles County (the nation's largest), which are set to move from hand-marked paper ballots to 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting systems in advance of the 2020 Presidential primary elections. What could possibly go wrong?
Freshman Democratic U.S. House Rep. Katie Porter announced on Monday night that, after weeks of careful consideration, she has decided to call for an official impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump. Her announcement is significant in that Porter narrowly won election last year in Republican-leaning Orange County, California, defeating her incumbent GOP opponent by just over three points. With more than 65 Democratic members in the House (and one Republican) now calling for impeachment proceedings, Porter is one of only two Democrats from closely divided swing districts where GOP incumbents were ousted last November to call publicly for beginning the Constitutional process of impeachment of our criminal President.
At the same time, the Trump Administration has spent months following the release of the damning, redacted Special Counsel's report from Robert Mueller [PDF], exercising all manner of legal schemes and Presidential tricks to try and obstruct the Congressional investigation of the many criminal obstruction offenses by Trump detailed in Mueller's report. The Administration, with the aid of his new Attorney General and fixer William Barr, has invoked so-called Executive Privilege over the entire report (even the already released material) in an attempt to prevent the unredacted report and its underlying evidence from being disclosed to Congress and the American public. They've also used Executive Privilege to try and block lawful Congressional subpoenas of current and former White House officials, many of whom cooperated as witnesses with the Mueller probe, in hopes of preventing them from testifying in the House or turning over subpoenaed documents. Barr's DoJ has gone so far this week as to offer a legal claim that the IRS need not turn over Trump's tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee in defiance of a decades-old statute requiring the IRS to do so. Trump's private attorneys have attempted to block Congressional subpoenas for the President's financial documents at his accounting firm Mazars and at Deutsche Bank, and, during a recent interview with ABC News, Trump said his own FBI Director was "wrong" for insisting that candidates contact the FBI if they are approached by foreign nationals with opposition research on their political opponents.
Those, of course, are just some of the ways that Trump continues to obstruct justice and defy the rule of law. But what are the chances that he will ultimately succeed in his attempts to obstruct Congress? We're joined today by LISA GRAVES, who has worked as a senior advisor in all three branches of the federal Government, to help us better understand some of the key elements of Trump's crimes and his attempts to invoke measures to block accountability for them.
Graves, the co-founder of the non-profit Documented, formerly served as Deputy Asst. Attorney General at the Dept. of Justice, General Counsel in the US Senate, and former Deputy Chief for the US Court system. On today's program, she explains the seriousness of obstruction crimes; how "Executive Privilege" has been invoked by Presidents (successfully or otherwise) in the past, and what the privilege really is and isn't (hint: it's not actually a statutorily or Constitutionally defined thing); whether it's actually possible or justifiable to prevent the disclosure of Trump's tax returns under the DoJ's new pretext; and whether she believes Trump should be impeached.
On criminal obstruction, says Graves: "The fact is that obstruction is a very serious crime. I suppose that if they really wanted to know how serious obstruction is, they could call Nixon back from the grave to ask him how serious this is."
On Barr's collusion with Trump: "It's truly a shame, quite frankly, that under the broken Senate led by Mitch McConnell, that Barr was confirmed to this role that he was most undeserving to hold. And that he now holds basically as a lapdog to this President, willing to his bidding, and to really subvert the true mission of this Justice Department."
On Trump's broad attempted use of Executive Privilege: "The idea that any President could somehow assert privilege over revealing evidence of his own potential obstruction of justice, the crime of obstruction, is simply astounding...There's simply no way that any reasonable interpretation of whatever that privilege might or might not be, would allow a President to hide from Congress --- which expressly has powers under our Constitution to impeach a President and to try a President --- to hide evidence from that Congress that has those express powers to hold a President accountable."
But, on that last point, she offers some "hesitation" thanks to "this Supreme Court which has been stacked by McConnell and the dark money which backs him." I'm also happy to hear her correctly note that "this court is not truly conservative, they are radically reactionary."
Graves also responds to my question about the recent statement from the chair of Federal Elections Commission, Ellen Weintraub, issued in response to Trump's assertion that he needn't contact the FBI if approached by a foreign national with dirt on a political opponent. Weintraub's statement clarified that "It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a US election." But, isn't that precisely what the Hillary Clinton Campaign (and a Republican primary campaign before it) did during the 2016 election by soliciting oppo-research on Donald Trump from former British spy Christopher Steele? I discuss that and much more with Graves today.
Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for the latest Green News Report, with more details on Sunday's South American power grid failure, news of a reported U.S. cyber-offensive against the Russian power grid, bad climate change-related news for the Gulf of Mexico's "dead zone", and some very good news from outgoing conservative British Prime Minister Theresa May who is vowing to commit the UK to the world's most aggressive targets to combat our climate crisis by eliminating greenhouse gas emissions while boosting the nation's economy at the very same time...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Lights out for the power grid in South America; U.S. military reportedly escalates cyber-intrusions into Russia's power grid; Gulf of Mexico dead zone set to be record size this year, thanks in part to climate change; PLUS: U.K. commits to the most aggressive climate target in the world... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Here's what to know about the Trump replacement for Obama's Clean Power Plan, due out this week; EU Commission finds national climate plans insufficient; Germany joins push for EU-wide 2050 net zero emissions goal; NY State reaches landmark deal on Green New Deal-style climate bill; Where does your plastic go? Global probe reveals America's dirty little secret; Valley Fever is hitting farmworkers hard, and climate change is making it worse; Nestlé is still taking national forest water for its Arrowhead label, with feds' help... PLUS: Democratic voters overwhelmingly support a climate debate, poll finds... and much, MUCH more! ...
Catching up with a weekend's worth of news in the Trump era plus the new Supreme Court decisions dropped on Monday is no easy feat. But we do our best, on today's BradCast, to get you up to speed after all of that and the madness yet to come (no doubt) this week. [Audio link to show is posted below.]
Among the stories covered today...
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