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BARCODED BALLOTS AND BALLOT MARKING DEVICES
BMDs pose a new threat to democracy in all 50 states...
VIDEO: 'Rise of the Tea Bags'
Brad interviews American patriots...
'Democracy's Gold Standard'
Hand-marked, hand-counted ballots...
GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal 2012...
The Secret Koch Brothers Tapes...
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Prepare to be outraged by some gobsmacking and maddening numbers from today's guest on The BradCast. [Audio link to show is posted below summary.]
But first, speaking of startling numbers, statistics from this year's flu season prove that masks and social distancing do indeed help to prevent viral transmission and death. That, of course, is bad news for residents of Texas and Mississippi, where their idiot Governors this week lifted statewide mask mandates and all restrictions on businesses, even as COVID infection rates are on the rise in both states. Both are among the top 10 worst states in the nation in that regard in recent weeks. Mississippi leads the nation, with Texas not far behind. And that was before they ended statewide mandates this week in contradiction of strong advice from health experts.
In Washington, Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA), one of the House Impeachment Managers during Donald Trump's second Impeachment Trial, filed suit against the disgraced former President, his son Don Jr., Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) for their roles in inciting the January 6th U.S. Capitol insurrection. Swalwell's civil complaint follows on a similar one filed last month by Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson and the NAACP.
At the same time today, the U.S. Senate continued debate over the American Rescue Plan, President Biden's $1. 9 trillion emergency COVID relief and stimulus package after Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin forced an all-night reading of the 628-page measure that was passed by the House late last week. In addition to funds to speed distribution of vaccines, the bill includes $1,400 payments to Americans making less than $75,000, an extension of federal unemployment benefits, hundreds of millions to reopen schools safely, and to supplement lost revenue to hard-hit, cash-strapped states and cities.
As tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and are both struggling to keep a roof over their heads and put food on the table, the relief can't come soon enough, despite zero votes of support from Republicans in either the House or Senate, so far, for the otherwise wildly popular bill. Johnson described it as a "boondoggle" full of unnecessary spending that would blow out the national deficit, even as it will cost the same amount of money that he and all the other Republicans voted in favor of when they passed Donald Trump's 2017 tax cuts for mostly wealthy Americans and corporations.
But while Senators --- even on the Democratic side --- squabble over whether unemployment payments should be $400 a week and last through August, or $300 a week and last until September, America's 664 billionaires could cover almost the entire cost of the measure from only the money they've made during the last 11 months of the pandemic.
We spoke last Summer with CHUCK COLLINS, Director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies, where he co-edits Inequality.org, about his "Billionaire Bonanza 2020" report. Today, he joins us again with a maddening update to that report, finding that, as more than half a million Americans died, 73 million lost work, nearly 100,000 business permanently closed, 29 million adults reported their household did not have enough food over the past week and 11 million children didn't eat enough because their household couldn't afford to fully feed them, the 664 billionaires in the U.S. actually gained $1.3 trillion in added wealth since the beginning of the pandemic!
The profits of that handful of mostly white, male billionaires could cover more than two-thirds of the entire $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan and, "At $4.2 trillion," Collins' updated report reveals, "the total wealth of America's 664 billionaires is also more than two-thirds higher than the $2.4 trillion in total wealth held by the bottom half of the population, 165 million Americans."
Those are just some of the startling numbers from his latest report, highlighting the obscene inequality in the U.S., made even worse by the nearly year-long coronavirus pandemic. Shamefully, all of the numbers are still worse for women and people of color. "The inequalities of income and wealth and the racial wealth divide were the pre-existing conditions as we went into the pandemic," he explains. Collins tell me that "the number of people who have no financial reserves --- zero, or negative financial wealth" is "14% of white households...but double that, 28% of Black households, 26% of Latino households...[and] that was before the pandemic."
"That's why 660 billionaires can have almost twice as much as the bottom half of US households --- because the bottom half doesn't have much!," he reports. So, what to do about it? Will the American Rescue Plan help? How about Sen. Elizabeth Warren's recently refiled "Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act" that would tax two cents of every dollar of wealth above $50 million, generating at least $3 trillion in revenue over ten years in the bargain.
Warren cites Collins' new study in making the case for her new wealth tax proposal. Her proposal is wildly popular among voters of all political stripes, as she pitched a similar version during her Presidential run last year. The fact that it isn't already the law, Collins argues, "is simply a reflection of the power of wealthy interests to block change in our political system. It's not that they're changing the political system --- they're able to stop and thwart and block change. And that's unfortunately what we're up against."
"That's the debate we're watching right now in the Senate," he adds, "where half the members in the Senate, they don't have a program to help America get through these hard times. They just want to block the one that would actually make a difference. Unfortunately, the Republicans have been the 'Party of No' because they don't want government to succeed in making a difference in people's lives, because that would undermine their whole program."
Yes, we've got a lot to discuss today with Collins, whose newest book out this month, The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Spend Millions to Hide Trillions, details "the shadowy Wealth Defense Industry," which he explains today as well. Sen. Bernie Sanders writes that "Chuck's book reveals a blueprint for reversing this obscene inequality so we can take back our democracy and ensure that our government works for everybody --- not just the billionaire class and wealthy campaign contributors"...
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We've got mostly democracy-related stories to report on today's BradCast. Some good news, and some bad. But there's a whole bunch of anti-democracy GOP fraud throughout, because what democracy story in the U.S. these days doesn't include Republican fraud and/or attempted voter suppression? [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]
Among the stories covered on today's show...
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IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: The Gulf Stream is the weakest its been in a thousand years, and climate change is likely to blame; The COVID carbon rebound begins as global emissions rise; Biden Administration to raise US climate target under Paris Agreement; PLUS: Volvo is latest carmaker to say goodbye to gasoline, go all-electric... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Barrett authors first U.S. Supreme Court ruling, a loss for environmentalists; 'Very risky business.' Oil CEOs on survival in Biden era; Germany agrees to pay operators 2.4 billion euros for nuclear exit; Blackjewel’s Bankruptcy Filing Is a Harbinger of Trouble Ahead for the Plummeting Coal Industry; Turning Trash to Natural Gas: Utilities Fight for Their Future Amid Climate Change... PLUS: The man who saves forgotten cats in Fukushima's nuclear zone... and much, MUCH more! ...
Unlike Microsoft Windows, says our guest on today's BradCast in response to Bill Gates' new book on climate change, "if the global climate system crashes, you can't reboot it." Of course, what does a billionaire software engineer know about how to save our climate anyway? Well, our guest --- an actual Nobel Prize-winning climate scientist --- has a few thoughts on that as well. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]
First up, however, a few quick, breaking news items as usual...
Then, with Trump out of the White House and Dems in control of both chambers of Congress, it seems a very good time to renew the previously forestalled federal efforts to take action on our critical climate crisis. Private industry has figured out the urgent need. This week, Volvo announced they would move to an all-electric car line by 2030 and, in just four years, by 2025, would produce only electric or hybrids. And the American people seems to have figured it out as well. By a whopping 79% to 20%, they now favor the development of renewable energy over the continued production of fossil fuels.
So, it's time to finally restart the debate about how best to move forward again to save our climate by decarbonizing our economy. We're joined today by award-winning climate scientist DR. MICHAEL E. MANN, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, author of nearly 200 peer-reviewed papers and loads of books, including his latest, The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet.
Last week, Mann penned an op-ed for Newsweek, detailing two very different potential paths forward. One, he describes as a "technocratic" path which "envisions climate action as a mere engineering problem" to be solved with massive --- if dangerous --- geoengineering schemes, as detailed in software mogul Bill Gates' new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need. The other, which Mann favors, is the "sociopolitical" path relying on safe, clean, already-existing technologies.
"It can be a bit frustrating," he tells us. "To the extent that Bill Gates might use his platform to create more public awareness for the climate crisis, that's great. The thing that troubles me is that his prescription is wrong-headed, in my view. It's overly technocratic. It's like if your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If you built your reputation, if your role in society has been to promote computer technology, technological or technocratic solutions to problems, everything looks like a technocratic problem."
"The problem is climate change isn't a technocratic problem," Mann argues. "We have the solutions --- wind, solar, geothermal. [Gates] downplays those solutions, based on what I would say is an unbalanced assessment of the literature and what researchers have found. He downplays the potential for renewable energy to meet our needs and help us decarbonize our economy. By downplaying the obvious solution, it leads him to promote far riskier strategies --- like geoengineering, massively interfering with the Earth's system in some other way to try to offset global warming. What could possibly go wrong?"
"This problem at this point is a political problem, it's not a technological problem. We have the solution. The problem is that we don't yet have the representation in our government," asserts Mann, noting that Gates "actually said, 'Well, I don't know what the solution is to the politics here.' If you don't know the solution to the politics, then you don't know the solution to the problem, because that's what it is at this point. It's a political problem."
Our conversation is enlightening, encouraging, and, yes, maddening at times. We discuss, for example, one of Gates' "solutions" to the climate crisis: more nuclear energy. But even a number of esteemed climate scientists argue that we can't decarbonize without relying on nukes. Mann disagrees and explains why.
He cites peer-reviewed literature from energy experts who "all come to the conclusion that we can meet 80% of projected energy demand by 2035 from renewables, and 100% by 2050...based on existing technology," adding, "That's without nuclear."
As usual, there is much more in our in-depth conversation with Mann than I can cover here, but that is well worth tuning in for. Mann himself, in his Newsweek piece, notes that both he and Gates are optimistic about the future, and that he hopes to find places where their two different paths toward the same ultimate goal may converge. "Whether we have a crisis is no longer a matter of worthy debate. Precisely how we solve it is."
And, yes, we welcome a response from Gates. Happy to have him on the show, with or without Mann there to debate him as he sees fit. Though we do hope that our good-spirited snark today about Windows crashing won't keep Microsoft's former CEO from dropping by...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
As Washington State's Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell suggested last week, the phony GOP uproar over Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM)'s nomination by Joe Biden to become the first Native American Secretary of the U.S. Interior Department is a 'proxy fight' over something else entirely. It might be over the dim future for fossil fuels. It might be over the fact that Haaland would be the first indigenous cabinet member for any Presidential Administration in U.S. history. Or it might be the fact that the GOP, without any real governing philosophy or values, is simply flailing to find relevance. We discuss all of the above with our guest on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]
But first up today, some late breaking news following on our conversation on yesterday's show with Dr. Karl Krupp of the University of Arizona's Zuckerman College of Public Health. He argued that, while COVID numbers have (thankfully) fallen precipitously in recent weeks from our horrifically deadly surge in the Fall, we may now be on the verge of "screwing it up all over again." Both he and top federal officials at the CDC see the previously-declining numbers beginning to plateau and/or tick back up in recent days, as states and cities are, once again, prematurely lifting restrictions.
Late news today both supports his worry on one hand, and somewhat mitigates it, a little bit anyway, on the other. This afternoon President Biden announced that he has helped to broker a deal between Johnson & Johnson and Merck, the two pharmaceutical giants, to speed manufacture of J&J's newly-approved one-dose vaccine. Aided by his implementation of the Defense Production Act, he declared on Tuesday, the two companies, along with Pfizer and Moderna, will create enough vaccine for every American adult by the end of May. That is two months earlier than the Administration previously projected.
While that is certainly encouraging news, it is somewhat blunted by the idiot Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott's announcement today that, in direct contravention of warnings from scientists and federal health officials, the Lone Star State is immediately ending its statewide ask mandate and allowing all businesses to reopen to 100% capacity again. That, even as TX is still seeing about 7,600 new cases each day and averaged 227 COVID-19 deaths a day over the past week.
As Dr. Krupp warned on this program yesterday, we could see new record highs in the near future if we begin "screwing it up all over again". Both he and I, hoped his fears would be wrong. We'll find out soon enough.
In the meantime, Republicans continue to slow-walk top appointments to the Biden Administration, including his new head of Health and Human Services, despite the historic (and once again worsening) pandemic we are still battling. Clearly, Republicans don't care. But what they do care about is fossil fuel production by the companies which fund their campaigns. To that end, last week's confirmation hearings for Rep. Haaland in the U.S. Senate's Energy and Natural Resource Committee were both revealing and maddening, especially for those in the Native American community.
Members of Indian Country have been watching her grilling in dismay and occasional fury as the first Native American nominated to head up any Cabinet level federal agency was falsely derided during her confirmation hearings last week as a "radical," largely by white, male GOP Senators who are, themselves, radically out of touch with even their own constituents' desire for more renewable energy and less fossil fuel development. Louisiana's Sen. John Kennedy went so far as to deride Haaland as a "neo-socialist, left-of-Lenin whack job" (before attacking Biden's now-abandoned nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, for posting mean tweets some years ago.)
But are the almost-certainly futile attacks on the New Mexico Congresswoman about more than her not-radical-in-the-slightest position on fossil fuels? We're joined today by journalist, activist, and artist JULIAN BRAVE NOISECAT, Vice President of Policy & Strategy at Data for Progress, as well as a member of the Canim Lake Band Tsq'escen and descendant of the Lil'Wat Nation of Mount Currie. We discuss what lies behind the pathetic pushback against Haaland's nomination and why it is such a monumental moment for so many Native Americans around the nation.
NoiseCat has recently written about the pointless and embarrassing attacks on Haaland in her confirmation hearings at both The Nation and Washington Post, where he charged that "Republicans’ depiction of the first Native American ever nominated to the Cabinet as a 'radical' threat to a Western 'way of life' revealed something about the conservative id: a deep-seated fear that when the dispossessed finally attain a small measure of power, we will turn around and do to them what their governments and ancestors did to us."
We discuss all of that and more today with NoiseCat, who explains the horrendous historic role that Interior has held in the genocidal treatment of American Indians, and the important mission that it now carries out for all Americans, but especially those in the West. (It is also home to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.) "Never before in the history of Interior have we had a Native person on the other side of the desk," he tells me. "And I think Native tribes are very hopeful we can make some further headway in correcting the nation-to-nation relationship between the United States and its first peoples."
He also explains, by the way, why "Republicans might actually be burning their own wagon" in attacking Haaland.
Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, as hundreds of thousands in Abbott's "free" Texas are still fighting to obtain water, two weeks after a winter storm knocked out power and water in the Lone Star State; the battle for water for thousands in Jackson, Mississippi after the same storm; and the natural gas industry's desperate attempt to keep their aging empire from collapse...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Water crisis persists in Texas and Jackson, Mississippi, two weeks after extreme winter storm; Latinos disproportionately exposed to worst water in US, new study finds; US House passes Biden's COVID relief bill boosting heating assistance for low-income families; PLUS: As cities move to electrify buildings, the natural gas industry is striking back... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Austin, Texas had a bold new climate plan – until a gas company got involved; Biden administration pauses transfer of holy Native American land to mining firm... PLUS: More States Follow California's Lead On Vehicle Emissions Standards... and much, MUCH more! ...
Plummeting COVID rates and FDA approval of a brand new, one-shot vaccine seem like very good news! And it is...if it weren't for our propensity to screw it all up again, as our guest on today's BradCast explains. [Audio link to today's full show is posted below this summary.]
But first, in other good/bad news reports today, the former conservative President was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to a year in prison on Monday! The bad news is that it wasn't our former "conservative" President, but French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Still, it does suggest that modern, civilized democracies can hold even the most powerful to account. We'll see if the U.S. justice system learns anything from that example.
In the meantime, we clearly have yet to learn the lesson about the need to modernize our critical infrastructure --- or of the dangers of deregulating, privatizing, and profiteering from essential services such as power and water. The shameful, widespread outages in Texas from a winter storm two weeks ago offered a fresh reminder about that, even as hundreds of thousands in Houston remain under boil water orders today. But, much less noticed and reported on than the mess in Texas is the fact that tens of thousands are still without clean water --- or even any water at all --- in much of Jackson, Mississippi, where decades of failure to invest in the city's antiquated water system has now left much of it without water at all for the past two weeks. As it turns out, however, the areas of Jackson without water just happen to be the predominately black areas of the state's 80% African-American capital city.
Long overdue improvements to critical infrastructure could finally begin in some states and cities with the passage of President Biden's wildly popular American Rescue Plan. The U.S. House passed the $1.9 trillion package --- which includes $1,400 individual checks and hundreds of billions in relief to families, businesses, schools, unemployed workers, as well as cash-strapped cities and states --- late last Friday night. The House version also a includes the very popular $15/hour minimum wage mandate, even though the Senate Parliamentarian declared last week that the provision could not be included for passage under Senate Budget Reconciliation rules. Those rules would allow the package to be adopted by a simple majority vote in the Senate this week, rather than the 60 votes currently needed for passage under the Senate's archaic, undemocratic, Jim Crow-era filibuster rules.
Despite the popularity of the package (76% approval over all, including 60% of Republican voters), there were zero votes for passage by GOPers in the gerrymandered House. Republicans in the Senate are believed likely to similarly ignore the preferences of a majority of their own voters. That, even though the measure enjoys bi-partisan approval by voters and the package also includes tens of billions of dollars to speed distribution of COVID vaccines.
Speaking of which, a third vaccine received FDA approval over the weekend, and millions of doses are now said to be on on their way to distribution points. The first single-dose vaccine to be granted FDA emergency use authorization for COVID-19 is Johnson & Johnson's. It is said to be highly effective and requires only regular refrigeration for storage, as opposed to sub-freezers. So, in theory, it is much easier to get out and into people's arms quickly. But is it as effective as Pfizer and Moderna's vaccine? And does it matter one way or another? We discuss that with our guest today as well.
As COVID infection, hospitalization and death rates have been plummeting in recent weeks, epidemiologists have become worried. There are signs that the precipitous drop after the horrendously deadly autumn surge last year has begun to plateau at similarly high rates to those we saw just before that surge. But now, there are much more transmissible variants emerging. At the same time, states and cities are beginning to lift restrictions again --- just as they did before last year's surge that quickly propelled deaths to more than 500,000 in the U.S.
We're joined today for some very helpful insight on both the vaccines and concerns about the current rate of spread, by DR. KARL KRUPP of University of Arizona's Zuckerman College of Public Health. In short, Krupp warns, "we're screwing it up all over again."
"To be quite blunt about it" Krupp tells me, citing those who ignored warnings from public health authorities about reopening schools and businesses before Thanksgiving last year, "It's funny how short of a memory we have. We're just approaching where we were in the middle of October. We're just coming back from where we went the first time we did everything wrong. And the question is, are we going to do everything wrong this time?"
His answer is not necessarily encouraging, as he predicts that we could very well see not only a fourth surge, but one that is even higher than what devastated the nation late last year.
As to the vaccines, we talk about the fact that Johnson & Johnson's, while only requiring a single dose, is said to be only 66% effective against the virus, as compared to the 94 and 95% rates of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Though the newest vaccine to obtain FDA approval also is said to be 85% effective against severe cases and, to date, 100% effective in preventing hospitalization and death.
But, if given a choice, wouldn't it be smarter to take the Pfizer or Moderna versions? Krupp is sympathetic to those concerns, but argues that Americans should take any vaccine they can get as quickly as possible right now. He explains why. He also answers a bunch of questions about whether those who have been vaccinated can still become infected or infect others and discusses concerns that minority communities are currently being vaccinated at far lower rates.
He also offers his predictions as to when life might actually return to normal, and when it will return to mostly normal --- or at least something that feels much more like the Before Times. Please tune in for today's very insightful --- and hopefully helpful! --- conversation...
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