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'Democracy's Gold Standard'
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GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal 2012...
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I'm sorry to end the week on such a scary note, but I don't make the news, I just report it. It's NICOLE SANDLER again, guest hosting another edition of the The BradCast today. [Audio link to the full show is below.]
I read an article at Vox titled "Two Supreme Court cases could destroy what remains of the Voting Rights Act". It so thoroughly freaked me out that I immediately reached out to its author, IAN MILLHISER, and invited him to join me on The BradCast.
The fact is, Trump stacked the courts with right wingers who'll stop at nothing to get and retain power. And it's not only that. We're headed down a really ugly road, as is evidenced by watching the wingnut travesty that began today in Orlando known as CPAC. One look at the stage and you realize something's not quite right. Look closely and you'll figure it out. There's no question that it's in the shape of the Odal Rune, a decidedly fascist symbol that was worn as a badge by the SS during WWII.
I started the show with the latest news. And ended it with some lighter fare because after all of this depressing stuff, we needed something to laugh about. I hope it worked!...
Contrary to GOP gaslighting, the source of the Lone Star State's disastrous power outage cannot be found in the yet-to-be adopted Green New Deal or in a failure of wind turbines, which account for only a small percentage of the energy supply in Texas. As Naomi Klein observed, when she recently appeared on Democracy Now, "Texas is about as far from a Green New Deal as you can possibly get."
The true source of the Texas energy failure, per Klein, lies in the Enron-like deregulation of the Texas energy grid.
As has occurred in other privatized and profit-driven sectors of the economy, like healthcare, where profit-driven "efficiencies" resulted in an insufficient hospital bed capacity in the midst of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, Texas failed to deploy "built-in redundancies," she explained. While uniquely refusing to be a part of either of the two national energy grids, the state's 1999 deregulation scheme also failed to account for the impact of extreme weather on its own, isolated statewide power grid.
The failure of some wind turbines in TX, for example, was entirely avoidable. Wind turbines, according to a Canadian government study, can include "cold weather packages" that allow them to function in temperatures as low as -30C (-22F). In fact, the U.S. Research Station at McMurdo Sound in Antarctica operates on wind turbines that produce enough electricity to power 100 American homes.
Thermal energy production by natural gas, coal and nuclear, accounts for about 80% of energy production in the state. Those systems, which were also not winterized, brought the most disruption to the state's energy supply.
But the problem isn't limited to the profit-driven evasion of "built-in redundancies". Those Texans who didn't lose power became victims of what Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen's Energy Program described as "predatory utility pricing" in which the cost per megawatt hour (MWh) suddenly spiked from $20/MWh to $9,000/MWh. Roland Burns, CFO of Comstock Resources, Inc., a natural gas supply company owned by Dallas Cowboys' billionaire owner Jerry Jones, boasted that the Texas power disaster was "like hitting the jackpot."
Sound familiar? It should...
I'm back! It's Nicole Sandler, filling in for Brad and Desi for a couple of days so they can celebrate Desi's birthday. Any excuse for some downtime. Welcome to today's BradCast.
It was another busy news day, as confirmation hearings continue for Biden's cabinet picks.The Equality Act passed the House today, but not before Rand Paul went on a homophobic rant, aimed at the first transgender woman to be nominated for a Senate-confirmed federal position. In this case, it was a confirmation hearing for Dr. Rachel Levine, the nominee for Assistant Secretary for Health, and Dr. Vivek Murthy, the Surgeon General Nominee. And Rand Paul just couldn't help himself. He went off on her. And in the House, Marjorie Taylor Greene put up an ugly sign to counter her across-the-hall neighbor Marie Newman, who put out an equality flag to celebrate her transgender daughter and the Equality Act, which would be voted on later in the day. So much for unity.
This country has been through some trying times, and we've survived. Today, we went back to the beginning with historian ALEXIS COE, author of You Never Forget Your First: A History of George Washington.
And before she left to celebrate her birthday, Desi left us with a new edition of the Green News Report...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Historic Interior Department nominee Rep. Deb Haaland pledges balance amid GOP attacks; New U.S. Postal Service trucks won't be all-electric; Texas deregulation cost electricity customers $28 billion more than a regulated utility market; PLUS: Refineries legally released tons of toxic air pollution during Texas power crisis... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Bats, birds killed by Southern freeze; Winter storm could cost Texas more money than any disaster in state history; Frozen Pipes Are Warnings of Yet Another Climate Threat; Corporate Climate Disclosures to Get Aggressive Scrutiny by SEC; Minnesota Supreme Court Hands Victory To PolyMet Copper Mine; Hot Houses: The Race To Save Bats From Overheating As Temperatures Rise... PLUS: New Evidence Shows Fertile Soil Gone From Midwestern Farms
... and much, MUCH more! ...
On today's BradCast: Try as they did, Donald Trump and the Republican Party were unable to steal the 2020 Presidential election. But they've got their plans in place for how to try and do it next time. They just need their currently stolen and packed Republican U.S. Supreme Court majority to help them pull it off. This week, SCOTUS chose not to do so --- even if they may in the future. But, in a separate decision, the Court did radically help increase the odds that our disgraced former President could be headed to jail before he's even able to run for office again. [Audio link to show is posted below summary.]
But first up today, some good news out of Virginia, where more people have been put to death by the Commonwealth's government than in any other state in the nation. Since their founding as a colony in 1608, some 1,390 people have been executed by the government there. Since SCOTUS reinstated the death penalty in 1976, Virginia has executed 113 people. That is more than any other state but Texas. This week, however, following Democrats gaining majorities in both chambers of the legislature, Virginia will now become the first Southern state --- and the 23rd in the union --- to abolish the abhorrent practice. And not a moment too soon, particularly given the systemic racism of their death penalty practices. For example, as the Death Penalty Information Center pointed out to Washington Post this week, "From 1900 to 1969...Virginia did not execute a single White person for any offense that did not result in death, while 73 Black men were executed for rape, attempted rape or robbery." So, yeah. Very good news out of Virginia this week, as Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam prepares to sign the long-overdue measures finally adopted by the state legislature.
Speaking of state legislatures, on yesterday's BradCast, we reported on this week's decision by SCOTUS to purge a bunch of held over Trump/GOP challenges to the 2020 election. Cases from Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia and Arizona were all dismissed as moot. But dismissal of the Pennsylvania cases found three Justices --- Thomas, Alito and Gorsuch --- in dissent [PDF]. The two nearly identical cases in question had challenged the PA state Supreme Court's decision to extend the deadline [PDF] for the return of absentee ballots by three days after Election Day, due to the pandemic, slowdowns by the U.S. Postal Service and a provision in their state constitution mandating fair elections.
With all of their many other attempts to steal the 2020 election having failed, the GOP has now latched on to a radical interpretation of the U.S. Constitution's Elections Clause to argue that only state legislatures --- not Governors, not Secretaries of State, not State Elections Board or even state Supreme Courts --- may set any procedure for federal elections. Therefore, the Trumpers argued in their now-dismissed Pennsylvania challenges, the three day extension by the PA Supreme Court to enforce their state's Constitution by allowing for the arrival of late mail-in ballots cast by Election Day, was an unlawful violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Though no SCOTUS majority has ever affirmed this extreme reading of the federal Constitution, this is what many Republicans have now decided to believe to make themselves feel better after losing last November. In Pennsylvania, however, there were only 10,000 late arriving ballots and Joe Biden won the Keystone State by about 80,000. So SCOTUS decided the issue was moot and dismissed the cases. But Thomas, Alito and Gorsuch argued the case should have been heard anyway.
"A decision in these cases would not have any implications regarding the 2020 election," Alito wrote in dissent. "But a decision would provide invaluable guidance for future elections." On yesterday's program, I actually agreed with Alito and explained why.
Today, for a counter-point, we're joined by Slate's great legal journalist MARK JOSEPH STERN who offered a very different view from mine in his own coverage of Monday's decision by the high court. While justifiably destroying Justice Thomas' solo dissent in which he argued that mail-in ballots are bad even if there is no fraud, simply because people may think there is fraud, Stern also argued that SCOTUS was right to dismiss the case, rather than hear it. In part, he argues, that's because this Court has been packed so far to the extreme right. "We should be very afraid of what the Court would say," he tells me. "And that fear is enough for us to just hope that the Justices put off a decision on this matter for as long as humanly possible."
But I disagree with Stern and, in a very spirited debate, explain why. Who wins that one? Tune in and decide for yourself.
Stern also comments today on whether our failed former President should be concerned that his own packed and stolen U.S. Supreme Court, in an apparently unanimous decision on Monday, finally allowed Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance to obtain Trump's financial and tax records as part of Vance's grand jury criminal probe into alleged bank, tax and insurance fraud by Trump and his organization. In short, Stern asserts, "the answer is yes," Trump should be very concerned. "They're looking at felony offenses here, not just civil offenses, run-of-the-mill white collar stuff, but serious crimes. I do think there's a serious chance that we could see an indictment of Donald Trump coming down the pipeline in the near future." Though he does add a caveat or two.
Of even more immediate concern, Stern recently wrote, Trump's efforts to interfere with Georgia's election results --- for example, cajoling and threatening the state's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" enough votes to declare him the winner --- could spell trouble, and even jail time, even sooner.
"You'll see some people argue that Trump can't be convicted under this law --- the ban on criminal solicitation of election fraud --- because he didn't have the requisite state of mind, because he didn't actually want the Sec. of State to falsify records because he was deluded enough to believe that there were actually 12,000 secret votes for him out there that could be found. That's a question for the jury, that's not a question for the prosecutors or the grand jury. That is something Trump could argue at a criminal trial," says Stern, before adding: "I think that any reasonable reading of that transcript proves that Trump was, in fact, looking for the Secretary of State to falsify records, to commit election fraud. It is very difficult to read those sentences in any other way."
He explains why Trump could soon be looking at anywhere from 1 to 3 years in that criminal probe by the Fulton County (Atlanta) District Attorney and whether he thinks it is actually possible that a former President of the United States may actually receive prison time before all of this is said and done...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
By a number of happily surprising measures, the confirmation of Joe Biden's Attorney General nominee is going very well. Perhaps even better than expected, according to our guest on today's BradCast. And, best yet, it may even result in some serious consequences for our former President. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]
But, first up today...The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday finally dismissed a bunch of silly and/or meritless MAGA challenges to the 2020 Presidential elections results in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia and Arizona. But the case out of Pennsylvania, in which dissents [PDF] to its dismissal were offered by Justices Clarence Thomas, Sam Alito and Neil Gorsuch, warrants notice. The case argued that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in ordering [PDF] a three-day extension for the arrival of mail-in ballots, prior to the November 2020 election, violated the U.S. Constitution. The PA Supremes found that, given the pandemic and slow-downs in mail delivery by the U.S. Postal Service, the state's deadline for ballots to arrive by the close of polls at 8pm on Election Night violated their own state constitution's mandate for fair elections. The Republican challenge to their ruling charged that the state high court was in violation of a radical interpretation of the U.S. Constitution's Elections Clause allowing "The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections" for federal office "shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof".
That, their argument goes, means that only state legislatures may set any provision whatsoever pertaining to elections. Any such procedure set by a Secretary of State or Governor or even a state Supreme Court is therefore unconstitutional on the federal level. Or so the GOP is now claiming. It is, for several reasons, a ridiculous argument. But it is one that has been given new life in the Trump Era as desperate Republicans took their cue from the former President to come up with any reason whatsoever to nullify election results they didn't like. There are now at least three, arguably four, Justices on our stolen and packed U.S. Supreme Court who appear to buy into the radical argument. Nonetheless, the case was dismissed on Monday on the grounds that the matter was moot. (There were about 10,000 late arriving ballots in PA last November, and Biden won the state by about 80,000 votes.) But, without an election hanging in the balance, the dissenters noted that this case would have been an ideal moment to settle this matter. Oddly enough, I actually agree on that last point with Thomas, Alito and Gorsuch, and we discuss why on today's show.
That, as GOP-controlled legislatures around the country continue to move forward with new voter suppression schemes following their loss on the Presidential level in 2020. Today for example, Georgia's Republican-majority Senate approved a measure that would require a copy of a Photo ID to even request a mail-in ballot. And that's just the start of what the state's wingnut legislature is now up to, after having recently lost the Presidential race and two U.S. Senate seats in the Peach State.
All of which underscores again the critical need for Congress to pass HR-1, the "For the People Act," which would go a long way toward blocking the new GOP attacks on the right to vote. To do that, of course, Democrats in the Senate will need to end the filibuster. And to do that, Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema will have to come to understand how they are allowing these overt attacks on democracy itself to worsen at the state level, as they protect the undemocratic Jim Crow-era filibuster.
Then, we're joined by longtime national security and accountability blogger MARCY WHEELER of Emptywheel, who has now moved to Ireland for reasons that she explains on today's program. The real reason we wanted to catch up with her, however, is to discuss the ongoing confirmation process for Biden's AG-designate Merrick Garland --- who completed his GOP-stalled second day of testimony in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday and to discuss Monday's unanimous ruling by SCOTUS that Trump's financial documents must now be handed over to the Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, Jr., for his criminal probe into alleged tax, bank and insurance fraud by Trump and his organization, as well as the unlawful conspiracy he directed involving hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.
Is Trump soon to face very real accountability that could actually include jail time? Whether it's in the New York state case, another criminal investigation into his election interference in Georgia, or even under AG Garland's promised federal response to the conspiracy to take over the U.S. Capitol on January 6th?
Wheeler has lots of thoughts on all of the above on today's BradCast --- and you probably won't be angry about (most of) them. I'll share just one of them for now here, regarding those charged for conspiracy for the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol: "All of these defendants, one after another, saying 'I was just swept up by the inflammatory language of the then-President. That may be true, but it doesn't get them off for the crime. But if one after another are saying 'Trump made me do it,' then at some point you've got to respond to that."
Now may be a good time to brush up on the legal meaning of the phrase "seditious conspiracy."
Finally, we close with Desi Doyen and our latest Green News Report, on the continuing fall out from the Texas power and water failure over the past week, the fossil fuel-funded GOPers who lied about it, and the not-a-moment-too-soon official U.S. return to the Paris Climate Agreement...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Texas power crisis over, for now, as water crisis continues; Texas Republicans that falsely scapegoated wind energy are getting big bucks from the fossil fuel industry; U.S. rejoins U.N. Paris Climate Agreement; PLUS: The case for rebuilding U.S. infrastructure for climate resilience... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): El Paso Heeded the Warnings and Avoided a Winter Catastrophe; Partisan Fight Over Deb Haaland, First Native American Cabinet Pick; FERC gives preliminary permit to 2.2 GW storage project in NM; New Data Reveal Where Flood Damage Is An Existential Threat; As Cities Grapple With Climate, Gas Utilities Fight To Stay In Business; 20 percent Of Wisconsin Wolves To Be Killed After Court Sides With Hunters... PLUS: Texas electricity crisis and the energy transition... and much, MUCH more! ...
There was so much news over the weekend and into Monday that it began to feel a bit like the Trump Era again. Don't worry! It ain't. But it sure felt like it trying to get caught up on today's BradCast. (Or maybe it was barely making it on air in time after we learned the catalytic converter had been stolen from our Prius. Apparently, that's now a thing!) [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]
Among the stories covered at the top of today's show:
Then, as Texas finally begins to thaw out from a massive winter storm that knocked out power and water to millions in the state last week (thanks to the Lone Star State's deregulated system that left it up to private power utilities to decide if they wished to winterize their systems --- they held onto their profits instead, go figure!), it is, once again, the most poor and disenfranchised minority communities who are likely to have the most difficult time recovering. As is too often the case after such disasters, communities of color are likely to pay the biggest price for it.
We're joined today by DR. ROBERT BULLARD, Distinguished Professor at Texas Southern University, author of some 18 books, co-chair of the National Black Environmental Justice Network, and known as the "Father of Environmental Justice". Bullard himself was a victim of last week's power failures in Houston for several days.
"Texas prides itself on being the Lone Star State," he tells me. "But this severe weather event and the power outages and loss of water, has shown us that we are the ALONE Star State. Our energy policy of go it alone, keep the federal government out, doesn't make any sense. And it's never made any sense. We need to re-join the United States [and] rejoin the grid."
"They planned it on the cheap. These [Texas] officials had the nerve, they had the gall to say 'Oh, it's the windmills causing the problem.' In Texas, we have privatized the energy system to the point where people gambled --- they gambled and lost," he says.
Bullard explains the concept of "Environmental Justice" in layman's terms for us, as the need to overcome decades of redlining and poverty that has resulted in a disproportionate impact on minority communities when it comes to pollution, natural disasters and climate change itself. We discuss the "cascading threats that are pushed into certain communities. That's the double whammy, the triple whammy --- what the medical folks call 'co-morbidity', but we call it 'You get hit with everything damn thing!'" He adds: "How these things intersect, it means that these communities are limited when the lights go out, limited in terms of their ability to bounce back. This, for communities that are struggling with a challenge, with a disaster, and the disaster that will unfold when they get these big bills, when the shutoffs come."
On the positive side, however, on the same day that Joe Biden's Attorney General-designate Merrick Garland cited "communities of color and other minorities [who do not have equal justice and] bear the brunt caused by pandemic, pollution and climate change," during his Senate confirmation hearing, Bullard is optimistic. He says he is encouraged by the new Biden Administration's promises to tackle systemic racism and the need for environmental justice. "These issues were on the ballot in November and we won," Bullard asserts. "We won on policies and platforms that brings justice at the center. Not a footnote, but a headline. Environmental justice, climate justice, economic justice, racial justice, energy justice, health justice. JUSTICE is the headline"...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
We're off today, but we've got a BradCast 'RECOUNTED' for your listening pleasure, with two excellent recent interviews that you may have missed --- or just need to hear again. [Audio link to show is posted below.]
We'll be back LIVE soon!
Well, now things are just getting ridiculous. But at least we have a nice reminder on today's BradCast that, despite all of the idiocy of the past four years or so, the U.S. can still do great and wondrous things. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]
First up, with that other guy finally out of our White House, Fox "News" is quickly returning to form as the GOP's go-to corporate propaganda mouthpiece. It took no time at all for them this week to turn on the fossil fuel industry after-burners to pretend that "windmills" --- not the predictably disastrous Texas deregulation and privatization of the state's fossil fuel industry --- were the cause for widespread blackouts and water outages across the state amid a nearly week-long winter cold snap. The Lone Star State's deadly failure to ensure reliable power to millions of its residents amid a deep freeze as oil and gas wells, pipelines, power plants and refineries froze up for lack of winterization, led its Republican Governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday try and block contracted gas shipments out of state. That has angered Mexico, among others, as they're now also facing power outages thanks to Texas. But the shortage has spiked prices for the oil and gas industry after recent record lows. So..."free market" accomplished! Sorry about all the death and destruction.
In related news, after helping to incite the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and embarrassing himself with a tweet that attacked California last summer for rolling blackouts to keep the power on during a heat wave, Texas' buffoonish junior Senator Ted Cruz is now reaping a whirlwind after trying escape the crisis in his own home state with a trip to sunny Cancun! But after he got caught on the way out, things didn't go well for him today. That, just days after an interview with a San Antonio-based radio host in which he advised people to stay home through this week's series of dangerous storms. "Don’t risk it,” Cruz hypocritically advised. “Keep your family safe, and just stay home and hug your kids.” Or...take them to Cancun, suckers!
With idiocy like this at home (and there was much more we didn't have time for), is it any wonder that we welcomed a chance today to check out what was happening elsewhere in the universe?
As luck would have it, there is quite a bit going on elsewhere, especially on Mars today, where NASA's latest rover, Perseverance, stuck its landing on the Red Planet after years of development, more than six months of travel over 300,000 miles and "7 minutes of terror" during its complicated landing sequence. It was no easy feat for NASA's largest and heaviest rover to date, weighing in about a ton and the size of an SUV. But it brought a well-deserved sigh of relief and huge cheers to Mission Control and the folks at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) just before airtime today, for those who made it happen.
One of them joins us on today's show, and she may be familiar to long time listeners. Our former Super-Duper Associate Producer MARGOT PAEZ left us some years ago (shamefully!) to work at JPL in Pasadena, where she spent several years on the team who developed the SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals) instrument, one of several key tools central to "Percy's" mission of hunting for microbial life that may once have inhabited Mars. Its the first such mission to do so, and will help, among other things, to both send back rock core samples from the planet (though it may take about 10 years to get those samples back to Earth once they find what they're looking for) and to run a number of important tests to help determine if humans can safely survive the radiation in the planet's thin atmosphere.
"So, yeah, I was crying when I saw it made it safely," our old friend Paez explains on today's show, "because it meant that all this hard work paid off and now we can start doing the really fun stuff, which is the science." She describes that science, the decades long process it takes to make it all happen, and speaks to the other two missions --- one from China and another from the United Arab Emirates --- which have also now arrived at about the same time.
As a PhD candidate at George Tech, where she researches climate modeling and water resources with respect to climate change adaptation and mitigation, Paez also speaks today to the criticism from climate activists like Greta Thunberg, who would prefer we spend our limited resources on saving this planet from ruin before worrying about travel to others. As a years-long political activist, JPL worker and now climate change expert, Paez has some clarifying thoughts on all of the above in response to Thunberg and other critics of both private and public space travel.
For what it's worth, it's kinda nice to step off of this messed up planet for a short time today!
Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for a special coverage edition of our Green News Report on the deadly power crisis in Texas, and the GOP wingnuttery that both helped to cause it and is now being employed to avoid all accountability for it...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: GNR Special Coverage: Deep freeze devastates Texas power grid, as death toll climbs; Privatization and deregulation left Texas vulnerable; PLUS: Rightwingers launch Texas disinfo campaign to attack renewable energy... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Texas and California Blackouts: A Song of Ice and Fire; Narrative Starts to Shift: Texas’ Crisis is Clean Energy Opportunity; Sea turtle rescue center in Texas takes in over 2,500 turtles during winter storm... PLUS: Billionaires’ Favorite Climate Solution Is a Dangerous Distraction... and much, MUCH more! ...
On today's BradCast: Talk radio con-man Rush Limbaugh may now be dead, but his toxic legacy lives on in virtually every element of the nation's poisoned body politic. The consequences are all too apparent even today amid the deadly winter storm that has knocked out power across Texas and the avalanche of new voter suppression laws being pushed by Republicans following their loss of the White House in 2020. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]
First up today, after three decades of brainwashing a generation of Americans by dominating the nation's public airwaves with far-right, racist, misogynistic, extremist propaganda and lies, Limbaugh is dead from lung cancer at the age of 70. Using his considerable broadcasting skills to pump dishonest evil into the brains of gullible listeners, he endangered the nation and the planet itself by scamming an entire segment of the populace to the theoretical benefit of the Republican Party that he may have helped to ultimately destroy. I've got a few thoughts on that today.
Next, the influence of Limbaugh reverberates throughout the crisis facing millions of Texans who are, right now, continuing to face freezing conditions without power (and water in some cases) for days, thanks to the 1999 deregulation of the power grid in Texas by GOP lawmakers who put corporate profit above the general welfare of their own residents. Rather than accept personal responsibility for their failures, Texas Republicans and the propagandists who support them on outlets like Fox "News", have been going full throttle over the past two days to somehow (falsely) blame the state's nascent wind energy industry for the widespread outages. That, even though wind supplies, at most, about 20 percent of the Lone Star State's energy needs, while thermal sources, like natural gas, coal and nuclear --- which all failed due to lack of winterization (thanks to lack of state regulation) --- were, by far, the biggest source of failure.
But don't tell that to Ditto-Heads like the now-former Mayor of Colorado City, TX, Tim Boyd, who railed at his own constituents seeking help without heat or water for days. "No one owes you or your [sic] family anything; nor is it the local governments [sic] responsibility to support you during trying times like this! Sink or swim, it’s your choice!," he raged on Facebook in response to members of the community wondering if warming shelters would be opened or how firefighters could respond with the town's water system shut down. "This is sadly a product of a socialist government where they feed people to believe that the FEW work and others will become dependent for handouts," the Mayor said in words that would have been music to Limbaugh's deaf ears. "Bottom line, quit crying and looking for a handout! Get off your ass and take care of your own family!"
Of course, even the state's Republican Governor Greg Abbott appeared to admit on Twitter on Monday that the problem was "natural gas and coal generators" that had been "frozen", before somehow going on to blame the non-existent Green New Deal for Texas' woes by the time he appeared on the show of Limbaugh's fellow propagandist Sean Hannity on Fox "News" Tuesday night.
So, how and when can these corrupt, corporate-socialists finally be voted out of office? It may not be easy given that, as NYU's Brennan Center for Justice recently reported [emphasis iin original]: "In a backlash to historic voter turnout in the 2020 general election, and grounded in a rash of baseless and racist allegations of voter fraud and election irregularities, legislators have introduced well over four times the number of bills to restrict voting access as compared to roughly this time last year. Thirty-three states have introduced, prefiled, or carried over 165 restrictive bills this year (as compared to 35 such bills in fifteen states on February 3, 2020)."
We're joined today by Mother Jones' senior reporter and voting rights journalist ARI BERMAN, author of the landmark 2016 book, Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, to discuss what he characterizes as "an avalanche of new laws" amounting to "the most concerted attempts to roll back voting rights since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965."
Berman explains the new flood of bills by GOP lawmakers to make voting more difficult --- for certain voters --- in battleground states like Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona and many others, where measures are being pushed to end no-excuse absentee voting and automatic voter registration, among other previously established rights. In Arizona, more than 40 such schemes have been proposed by Republicans, including one that Berman says would "allow the legislature to just nullify the will of the voters and appoint their own Presidential electors anytime they want. It basically would make the Presidential election completely irrelevant, in terms of what the voters actually voted for."
These efforts all come in the wake of Donald Trump's evidence-free claims of "massive voter fraud" in the 2020 election. In many instances, says Berman, GOP state legislators are even attempting to reverse expansions to the franchise that they themselves had recently adopted and boasted about at the time. "The Republican Party is now trying to weaponize those bogus fraud claims, to lay the groundwork for getting rid of the system that they wrote, instituted and took advantage of, until it didn't benefit them anymore," he tells me.
We also discuss how a number of these new restrictions may be unstoppable at the state level and would require Democratic efforts at the federal level --- such as H.R.1 (the "For the People Act") and H.R.4 (the "John Lewis Voting Rights Act") --- in order to prevent them from suppressing the vote in both 2022 and 2024. Of course, to pass those federal laws, Democrats in the U.S. Senate will almost certainly have to do away with the undemocratic filibuster, since Berman suggests it's inconceivable that 10 Senate Republicans would join the effort to ensure equal and fair voting rights to all Americans.
So, yes, we also discuss what might be needed to overcome Democratic objections to ending the "Jim Crow relic" filibuster by Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both of whom have vowed to keep it in place. "This is a big fight brewing," Berman argues, along with a few suggestions as to how this could play out. "But right now we're seeing an existential threat to democracy and also a very real threat to the power of the Democratic Party. At some point, they're going to have to choose."
On today's BradCast: Impeachment may be broken, but accountability is still coming. [Audio link to full show is posted at end of summary.]
But, first up: Record low temperatures continued to batter dozens of states and knock out power to millions of customers in several of them. But it is residents of the great state of Texas who are paying the highest price for their government's utter failure to keep the lights...and the heat...and the water on...throughout this foreseeable and deadly cold snap. No, it's not the renewable energy sources like wind power that has failed --- as Fox "News" is frantically misinforming their viewers today --- it's the fossil fuel industry and the state's disastrously unregulated and privatized power infrastructure that has helped create the mess in Texas. Our own Desi Doyen explains.
Then, in a refreshing bit of encouraging news today, Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) has filed a civil federal lawsuit against Donald Trump in response to the deadly attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, incited by the disgraced former President. The suit, filed on Thompson's behalf by the NAACP on Tuesday, also names Rudy Giuliani and the rightwing extremist groups Proud Boys and Oath Keepers as defendants. It seeks both punitive and compensatory damages for the assault on Thompson's place of work that left the 72-year old Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee hiding on the floor of the U.S. House for hours and in dangerously close contact with colleagues, two of whom tested positive for COVID in the days that followed. The complaint is believed likely just the first of a potential wave of similar litigation in response to the unprecedented attack on the Capitol which killed at least five people, and which a bipartisan 57-43 majority of U.S. Senators over the weekend at his Impeachment Trial found Trump guilty of having incited.
But guilty or not, the Impeachment process, for a second time in the Trump Presidency, ultimately fell short of the high Constitutional bar of a two-thirds vote needed for conviction, begging the question as to whether the founders misjudged what might be needed by Congress to hold a scofflaw President to account.
We're joined today once again by Constitutional legal scholar JOHN BONIFAZ, Co-Founder and President of the non-partisan governmental accountability group Free Speech for People, and co-author of the 2018 book The Constitution Demands It: The Case for the Impeachment of Donald Trump.
Our wide-ranging conversation on various paths towards accountability for the 45th President includes discussion of Rep. Thompson's lawsuit; Section 3 of the 14th Amendment and how it might be invoked to prevent Trump from running for future office; and as well as criminal statutes which could be invoked against Trump under the leadership of Joe Biden's Attorney General-designate Merrick Garland. On the day after the January 6 insurrection, FSFP joined a coalition of groups calling for Garland to stand up a task force upon his confirmation to pull together all of the disparate investigations into the matter.
Central to any such accountability, however, Bonifaz argues today, is the need for an important reform in the U.S. Senate and accountability for members who serve both there and in the U.S. House. He argues that the failure to convict Trump at his second Impeachment Trial "demonstrates that those who are sworn to take the oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution in the U.S. Senate are not up to the task --- at least for the 43 members of the Sedition Caucus, who are every bit as guilty as Donald Trump for voting to acquit him despite the overwhelming evidence that Donald Trump incited this insurrection and was guilty as charged."
He faults "those in power who are not abiding by their oaths" who have allowed Presidents to "assume the powers of a king". To begin reform of Congress, Bonifaz explains, we must start with reform of our electoral system as Democrats have proposed in their critical H.R.1. and S1 bills called the "For the People Act". But to see that through Congress --- and so many other necessary reforms --- we will have to do away with the legislative filibuster, he says.
"The filibuster, as we know, requires a 60 percent majority in the U.S. Senate for anything to pass, and that's contrary to any basic principle of small-d democracy," Bonifaz tells me. "That's a first order of business for those in the U.S. Senate and, frankly, those in the White House who are pledging to protect and defend our democracy. We need to eliminate the filibuster, and we need get on to the business of responding to these voter suppression efforts throughout the country that we now see in state legislatures to try to roll us back and disenfranchise millions of voters."
Of course, Democrats could do that without Republicans at all, with their newly-won Senate majority, but for Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona who have each pledged to protect the filibuster. Even those obstacles however, as Bonifaz explains, are not insurmountable if pressure is applied by Democratic leadership in the Senate and the White House...and if pressure is applied by we, the people on them to do so.
With the "Jim Crow relic" filibuster out of the way, says Bonifaz, the Senate would also be able to invoke Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to prevent Trump from being allowed to hold federal office in the future. The post-Civil War Amendment blocks those who have engaged in rebellion or insurrection against the U.S. Government from becoming candidates for public office. "This is a critical next step needed to ensure that this lawless ex-President is disqualified from running for office again," Bonifaz asserts, detailing how the provision would work with a simple resolution adopted by both the Senate and House.
I hope you tune in for this important conversation today as the quest for accountability continues to continue on The BradCast!
Finally, we close somewhere near where we began, with Desi Doyen and our latest Green News Report focused on the winter storm now battering dozens of U.S. states and the utter failure of Texas lawmakers (and those in other states) to properly harden our critical infrastructure for a 21st century climate changed world...
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