We're back on today's BradCast after a much-needed week off, which turned out to be a really big news week. But don't worry. We get all caught up somehow (mostly) on everything you need to know in just one segment today! Plus, an excellent guest to explain how the Republicans' packed U.S. Supreme Court has undermined both democracy and the Constitution yet again at the end of this year's term. [Audio link to full show is posted at end of this summary.]
Among the stories from last week (and this week) that we catch up on before moving to our guest...
- The thought-to-be-extinguished Lava Fire in Northern California erupts with two others;
- Last week's deadly, climate-change fueled heat wave in the Pacifica Northwest and British Columbia resulted in hundreds of deaths in the U.S. and Canada;
- The confirmed death toll at the condo collapse in Surfside, Florida ticks up over 30 with more than 100 still unaccounted for, as recovery is hampered by the incoming, already record-breaking Hurricane Elsa;
- An ExxonMobil lobbyist was caught on video admitting to the company's years of subterfuge about our climate emergency caused by the unmitigated burning of their products;
- Attorney General Merrick Garland declared a moratorium on federal executions;
- George W. Bush's "war criminal" Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, died;
- The U.S. finally, permanently evacuated Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan as President Biden tries to finally end America's longest war before the 20th Anniversary of 9/11;
- COVID infections spiked 10% over the previous week as the Delta Variant continues to pose a quickly growing danger, effecting mostly unvaccinated people (so far);
- Despite its low infection rate, Los Angeles County urged residents to wear masks indoors again, thanks to the increasing spread of the much more infectious coronavirus variant;
- More than 180 people were shot and killed over the July 4th holiday weekend in more than 540 shootings in the U.S. over a 72-hour period;
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi named her selections, including one Republican, to a House Select Committee to investigate the Trump-incited January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol after Republicans in the House and Senate recently reneged on a deal with Democrats for a bipartisan independent commission;
- Sexual predator Bill Cosby was freed from jail thanks to a ridiculous deal made years ago by one of the lead defense attorneys in Donald Trump's second impeachment trial;
- The Boy Scouts of America agreed to an $850 million settlement with victims over thousands of sexual abuse allegations;
- The Trump Organization and its longtime Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg were indicted on multiple state criminal charges including Scheme to Defraud, Conspiracy, Grand Larceny, Criminal Tax Fraud and Falsifying of Business Records;
- The NYC Mayor's election, already made ridiculously complicated by Ranked Choice Voting, went sideways last week after it was discovered that 135,000 sample ballots were accidentally included by NYC election officials in the weeks-long, impossible-to-oversee RCV tabulation procedure;
- Arizona's months-long "audit" theater was extended yet again, as the rightwing, QAnon conspiracy company called Cyber Ninjas continued its secret examination of 2.1 million ballots cast during last year's Presidential election in Maricopa County (Phoenix). That's the partially taxpayer-funded clown show that, as I reported weeks ago now, according to the Ninjas' own documents [PDF], allows them to miscount a MINIMUM of 42,000 votes without setting off any internal alarm bells, in a race that was decided by a statewide margin of just 10,000 votes;
- And, the Dept. of Justice called on Congress to adopt new laws to protect voters after the GOP's stolen and packed U.S. Supreme Court ended their term last week by undermining democracy and the U.S. Constitution yet again.
In Brnovich vs. DNC [PDF], the Court's 6 to 3 Republican majority overturned a lower appeals court decision that had blocked two new restrictions on voting in Arizona. One barred the counting of ballots cast by voters in the wrong precinct and the other banned the collection of ballots by third-parties (derisively known as "ballot harvesting" by Rightwingers implying it's used by minorities to defraud elections...despite the lack of any evidence in support of that assertion). Both laws were shown to have disproportionately impacted minority voters in the state. That is supposed to be barred by Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. But, writing for the Court's majority, activist Justice Samuel Alito made up new "guidelines" that ignore both Congress' intent in its passage of the VRA and the Constitution's own plain language that "Congress shall have the power to enforce" the 15th Amendment decree that "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
So, how will the Court's ruling in Brnovich, allowing for discrimination in voting laws, effect the spate of pending challenges to new voter suppression laws now being enacted by GOP-controlled states around the country? What, if anything, can Congress do about it? And, if they do, will this hard-right anti-democracy Court allow any such new laws to stand?
We're joined today to discuss all of that and more by longtime public interest attorney ROBERT BRANDON, President, CEO and co-founder of the Fair Elections Center. He describes the Republican Justices' opinion as "a real departure" from the claims of so-called originalism and Constitutional textualism --- a literal reading of the plain words of the Constitution --- which the rightwing Justices have long pretended to believe in. This decision, he explains, is "clearly is going to make it harder to challenge and defeat, in court, the laws that disenfranchise the most Americans, particularly black and brown voters, and other marginalized voters. In the case of Arizona, including disabled voters, who often need help delivering their ballots."
Alito's ruling, according to Brandon, essentially says "discrimination is okay as long as it's not a whole lot." But Brandon also explains why the Court's decision, as terrible as it is, doesn't necessarily mean that the multiple legal challenges to dozens of new GOP suppression laws adopted since last year, in the wake of Trump's evidence-free Big Lie that the election was stolen, will fail.
"It's a great irony, of course, that we just had the highest turnout election in history," he says, "yet now we're talking about adding all of these new barriers to voting around the country."
Finally, on this four-day work week following the Monday Independence Day holiday, a new analysis of a years-long study in Iceland finds that productivity either remained the same or improved in the majority of workplaces when the work week was cut to just four days. How can we get this progressive idea --- now also being studied in Spain and New Zealand, and found to benefit workers' health and lives without harming corporate bottom lines --- adopted here in the U.S.? Working on it...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)