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On today's BradCast: It's no surprise that Fox 'News' deluded itself for months and even years about a "red wave" or "tsunami" coming for the 2022 midterm elections. It shouldn't be a surprise that the theoretically legitimate media got it wrong as well, given that they seem to make the same errors election after election. And yet, it's both surprising and disappointing, given that the data to counter their erroneous narrative was right there in front of their face the whole time...if they simply bothered to, or had the courage to, listen to it. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]
"There was nothing magical about what I did," our guest today, TOM BONIER of the Democratic data research firm, TargetSmart, explains. "It was, as you say, seeing the numbers and reporting the numbers and, in the end, trying to stay away from predictions or projections, but to say, 'Look, this is what we're seeing'."
Bonier's well-documented Twitter threads on the data over the past many months spelled out what shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone. In the face of extremism from the right and, in particular, the Supreme Court, there was a backlash against Republicans which served to boost Democrats across the board.
Prior to today, Bonier joined us twice in recent months to discuss his analysis of data and what he was seeing and tweeting about to anyone who might have wanted to listen. In late August, after voters in deep red Kansas decisively rejected a ballot initiative that would have rewritten the state constitution to allow abortion to be banned, he joined us to explain what he saw as a "jaw-dropping" spike in new voter registrations for young, Democratic women following the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision in late June, overturning Roe v. Wade. Bonier saw similar spikes in new registrations all over the map, in "red" and "blue" states alike, but particularly where reproductive rights were most threatened.
In late September he joined us again after analyzing specific voter data from that failed Kansas referendum. Hard evidence of an incredible spike in women voters that, he told us at the time, "just doesn't happen in elections." He posited that any suggestion that Democrats would be swamped in November, as the so-called Conventional Wisdom offered by pundits would have it, was simply ignoring the available data. He argued the election would be very close and almost certainly not a "wave" for the GOP.
He was right. Even though, over the past month in the run-up to Election Day, the corporate media were, largely in lock step, warning that Dems were done for, soon to be swamped by a red wave or even tsunami! How much of that erroneous punditry "blunted" the final results, Bonier laments, citing races like Mandela Barnes' in Wisconsin, where the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate fell just shy of unseating incumbent Republican Ron Johnson by a single point.
"I like to think of myself as an optimist, but it was difficult over the last few weeks and months," he tells me. "In reality, what we do at TargetSmart is we listen to the data. That's all we were doing. Along the way I was looking at the voter registration data, looking at the early vote data, looking at it in the context of the polls and trying to draw some conclusions. But mostly providing context and questioning the hard-set assumptions that were really leading everyone."
We discuss, among other things, the "flood of Republican polling" in the last few weeks of the campaign and how it warped forecasts from poll aggregation sites like FiveThirtyEight, and how his fellow traveler, Simon Rosenberg, who also had it right, was "mocked" when he highlighted how forecasts were being swamped by those bad GOP polls.
By itself, the media failure "doesn't happen. It took some level of complicit behavior from those who should be guards against it," Bonier insists. "People are mocking Fox News at this point. We know it is a very biased Republican media platform. But the bottom line is most of cable and these other outlets had a level of certainty about this outcome in a very similar way. I have to say, as I spoke with reporters in the closing weeks, I would be telling them 'Look, this is going to be a close election. I don't see a Republican wave. I don't see that in the numbers.' And I was just short of mocked by reporters."
But, why? Is it a lack of courage to stray from the pack journalism and group think? Or, as media critic Dan Froomkin argued today, a symptom of systemic "rot" in the political media? Bonier offers his frank thoughts on that and much more as we dig deep in today's discussion. I strongly urge you to tune in for it in full.
Also today, in addition to our own mocking of Fox "News", we've got plenty left over to mock folks like HBO's Bill Maher and Spotify's Joe Rogan and CNN's Fareed Zakaria and NYTimes' Maggie Haberman who all got it wrong as well --- and misled the American electorate in the bargain --- for many of the reasons discussed on today's program. And, we've also got the latest reported results out of still uncalled critical races for U.S. Senate, Governor, Sec. of State and Attorney General in Arizona and Nevada...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
On today's BradCast: If the Republican Party wins a narrow majority in the U.S. House following this week's nowhere-near-a-red-wave midterm elections, will it have been because of gerrymandering? Our guest today explains why the answer to that question is unequivocal. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]
First up, however, a few observations on how Fox "News" uses its smartphone app to insidiously further brain-poison followers with rightwing propaganda and disinformation. Today's example: How very encouraging news from the federal government on the economy, with signs that inflation may be easing, sent the stock market soaring. But for duped users of the Fox "News" app, it became just more terrible news about the economy injected straight into their brains.
Next, we get caught up on the latest reported results from the ongoing tabulation of very tight Senate (and Gubernatorial) races in Arizona and Nevada, which, along with the critical December 6th U.S. Senate runoff election in Georgia will determine control of the upper chamber of Congress for the next two years.
Also, an update on the vote counting in Colorado's 3rd Congressional District where far-right Rep. Lauren Boebert --- listed in the New York Times' "Republicans expected to win easily" column this year --- has regained a razor-thin 0.38% lead over Democratic challenger Adam Frisch. That, after she was losing by just 64 votes overnight out of more than 300,000 counted.
In all of those states --- Arizona, Nevada and Colorado --- Democratic advocates are suggesting confidence that remaining untallied votes will secure victories for their candidates in most of those races, including those in which tallies show them trailing at the moment or just barely ahead. I'm dubious about some of those claims, but we'll see if they're right and which of the races end up in recounts as the grueling battles for narrow control of both chambers of Congress continues.
When it comes to the House, however, given the limp performance by Republicans on Tuesday, it's become clear that if they regain a majority there, it will only be due to gaming the electorate through both extreme partisan and racial gerrymandering...with the help of corrupt courts at both the state and federal level.
We're joined once again today by redistricting expert and author DAVID DALEY, a Senior Fellow at FairVote. In an article on this today at The Nation he describes how aggressive --- and frequently unlawful and unconstitutional --- gerrymandering by GOP legislatures in several "red" states following the 2020 Census, in concert with corrupt rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court and several state high courts, is to be credited for what most currently see as a likely, if very narrow, GOP takeover of the U.S. House. He calls it a "rigged House majority.'
"Republicans really won the redistricting wars," Daley tells me today. "Their partisan and racial gerrymanders won them more than enough seats to make up the difference between the two parties in what was essentially a jump ball election. By having gerrymandered maps in Florida, Ohio, Texas, Georgia; by having courts put a thumb on the scales for them in Alabama, Wisconsin, Louisiana and elsewhere; and by having blue state courts not allow Democrats to engage in the same kind of anti-democratic behavior, Republicans were able to take enough seats to take the House."
He explains: "Once you start adding up all of the states that Republicans claimed either through extreme partisan gerrymandering, and what the federal courts and the state courts gifted them; when you take the four seats in Florida, a couple seats in Ohio, a couple in Texas, in Tennessee, and Wisconsin; when you take the seats that Republicans bulldozed or hijacked from independent commissions in Arizona and Iowa, you're looking at somewhere between 12 and 14 seats --- which, I think, will probably end up being something close to twice what the ultimate majority in the House ends up being."
Finally today, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, with news on the rare, late-season Hurricane Nicole, which slammed into Florida's eastern seaboard overnight and a round-up of climate related victories and losses in Tuesday's midterm elections...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Missing 'red wave' in 2022 midterm elections is good news for the climate; New reports warn of skyrocketing methane levels; PLUS: Mixed results for state environmental ballot propositions... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Former Interior Secretary Zinke wins Montana US House seat; A NASA satellite launched to detect dust has discovered huge methane leaks; COP27: John Kerry makes his move on private climate finance; Heat pumps mandated in Washington state; No Surprise: Climate Denier John Stossel Spreads Disinformation about EVs; US To Climate Summit: American climate policy won't be repealed; How Mitsubishi vacuumed up tuna from a rogue Chinese fishing fleet; Who's driving climate change? New data catalogs 72,000 polluters and counting... PLUS: How to Live in a Catastrophe: In search of a way to think clearly about the planetary crisis... and much, MUCH more! ...
Republicans and corporate media appeared to be shocked on Tuesday night. But it looks like we had it right all along on BradCast regarding this year's midterm elections. And, once again, the corporate media didn't. But, good news for them! As usual, they'll pay no price for being wrong, no matter how many times they ill-serve the nation with their failures. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]
There was no "red" wave. Conventional wisdom, as we've been advising since early Spring, was to be ignored before this year's midterms in these decidedly UNconventional times. If we could see that data --- sometimes via polling from some of the very same media outlets --- why couldn't the corporate media? Maybe its group think. Maybe its because whatever Republicans tell them they believe to be the truth, or simply report it as such.
In any event, while there was no "red" wave, it is still quite possible that Republicans win majorities in both the U.S. House and the Senate --- if just barely in each case. And while Dems, as we go to air today, have an apparent edge to hold on to their Senate majority, it'll almost certainly require another win in another U.S. Senate runoff in Georgia next month to nail it down. There even remains a long-shot chance that Dems can keep a majority in the House as well, and that, as we explained yesterday, it all may come down to the effect of unusually large downpours on Tuesday's Election Day in both Northern and Southern California.
Either way, for the moment, American democracy, while still on life support, has lived to see another day. For now. In similarly encouraging news, our previous President may even finally face some accountability from his own infuriated party. They were deprived of what should have been a huge and easy win on Tuesday, but for the rightwing loons that Donald Trump helped push into the Party and onto ballots across the nation. Many of them, if not all, lost bigly.
On today's program, we discuss all of the above and, based on what we know as of airtime, run through a ton of critical victories and losses --- including both inspiring surprise wins and several disappointments --- in dozens of states, at both the state and federal level.
As of yesterday's election, anyway, American voters (including many young ones, thankfully!) appear to have held the line for democracy. It is not dead yet. For that, I hope you'll take a minute or two to breathe a small sigh of relief. But not too many minutes. The good fight ain't over yet. Not by a long shot...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
On today's Midterm Elections Day 2022 BradCast: Unspooling the media's midterm mess and the high price of failed computerized voting and tabulation systems in several states.
Among the many stories covered today as voters across the nation headed to the polls...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: It's a big week for the planet, as U.N. climate conference kicks off in Egypt; Major glaciers to disappear by 2050; PLUS: Rare late-season storm Nicole takes aim at Florida's east coast... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): World faces 'terminal' loss of Arctic sea ice during summers; Why scientists are using the word scary over the climate crisis; Experts Fear Musk’s Twitter Scandals Signal More Climate Disinformation; Arizona Water Sucked Dry by Saudis; Bitcoin mining is drowning out the sound of Niagara Falls; Colorado River conditions are worsening quicker than expected; White House Releases Net-Zero Road Map... PLUS: Michael Bloomberg Announces New Initiative To Phase Out Coal In 25 Countries.... and much, MUCH more! ...
We try (though don't always necessarily succeed) to lighten things up a bit on today's BradCast, on the final day before our critical midterm Election Day on Tuesday and the rare Blood Moon eclipse that heralds its arrival after midnight tonight. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]
After a weekend full of "experts" and TV pundits telling us that Democrats are going to face a bloodbath in both the House and Senate on Tuesday --- they might, though the TV pundits have no actual idea one way or another --- we open the phones to second opinions from listeners.
First, however, some quick items of note...
After a few quick words about the "Goldilocks" final jobs report to be released by the federal government before Tuesday's critical midterms on today's BradCast, we get right to what might be regarded as a closing argument for progressives. Of course, we're unlikely to change the minds of many brain-poisoned MAGA rightwingers at this late date, but there may still be some on the left who are reachable and could use some encouragement. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]
Last week, The BRAD BLOG's legal contributor, Ernie Canning, who served as a Senior Advisor to Vets for Bernie during his 2016 campaign, published his latest article. It's titled "To Save American Democracy: A long time Bernie Sanders supporter on why we must vote 'blue' in '22". Please give it a read if you haven't.
Ernie updated his post the next day to note that former Green Party Presidential candidate Ralph Nader had also endorsed voting for Democrats this year on Democracy Now!, describing the GOP as a "dictatorship party" and "the most dangerous political movement since the Civil War."
As readers and listeners know, I too have broken from my nearly 20 years of remaining non-partisan when covering major elections, to specifically call on folks to vote this year for Democrats. As I have explained, that is not because I believe the Democratic Party is wonderful, but because I am really really concerned right now about the survival of American democracy itself. For reasons that I've detailed on both The BRAD BLOG and The BradCast for months (if not longer), the issue of its survival is quite literally on the line in the 2022 elections ahead of the 2024 Presidential election.
All of that, even as I've heard from too many folks on the so-called progressive left who still don't seem to fully appreciate what is at stake and believe that we still enjoy the luxury this year of voting for a third party or sitting out entirely. We don't.
Over the weekend, my guest today, ALAN MINSKY, a lifelong activist and Bernie Sanders supporter himself who now serves as the Executive Director of Progressive Democrats of America, published an article headlined "No Person of Conscience Can Sit Out this Midterm Election", wherein he makes the progressive case for voting for the Democratic Party this year. "Democracy and the very principle of a Society of Equals are on the ballot," the sub-title of his piece reads, adding, "and, yes, it's about the Economy too."
From the need to codify the rights and freedoms of Roe v. Wade, stolen by our corrupt Supreme Court, into federal law, to passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act and much more, Minsky makes the case that "The 2022 midterm election represents a unique and historic opportunity to protect our democracy and our right to equality before the law against an unrelenting offensive being waged by the reactionary right." That, amid a rising authoritarian movement here and around the world and "widespread Republican support for Trump's Big Lie and the embrace of Authoritarian despots like Hungary's Victor Orban by Republican elites."
Though we haven't spoken on air (or at all actually!) for a number of years, Alan is an old friend after his years of formerly serving as Program Director at Pacifica Radio's KPFK, our flagship station here in Los Angeles. Alan has always been passionately progressive and likely even farther to the left than me, so I took careful notice when I came across his new piece at the liberal Common Dreams website.
We discuss all of the above and the concerns we both share about those on the progressive left who have either been misled or simply have yet to grasp the historic nature of this moment and the need to push back against rising authoritarianism, even if it means voting for a decidedly imperfect Democratic Party right now.
"If American democracy is toppled, this whole era we've lived through, understanding that we are citizens of a democratic society, the notion of a society of equals will be in such peril," he tells me today. "The reactionary right, coming off of January 6, coming off of Donald Trump's refusal to accept the election, they are emboldened to take down American democracy in their efforts to create a permanent ruling party."
"Bernie Sanders himself is barnstorming around the country to lift up Democratic candidates," Minsky observes, "to make the economic justice components of American society real for the average person." He urges that "we can't just cede this territory. Not just to a very dangerous rightwing, but even to the neo-liberal centrist Democrats."
"What I would encourage people to do is to recognize by voting and preserving the democratic process and improving it, you are maintaining capacity for a real progressive movement to be vibrant in the United States," Minsky argues. "This midterm election opens a space --- that I really want to encourage everyone listening who is a progressive --- we can win this in the Democratic Party."
"We can change this country for the better. But we have to preserve our democracy to leave that opportunity open. And that's why this election cycle is so important."
"If young people get out and vote at the level they did in 2018, let alone 2020, Democrats will win this election," he notes. "But that doesn't look to be where it is. I think that does have a lot to do with the perception that the Democratic Party is not a welcoming institution. But again, for those folks, you have allies on the inside of the party. We will fight this fight together, we will win this together. But right now it is essential that people DO vote in this election to preserve the democratic process that will be the instrument to allow us to win those victories in the near future. So, if we can preserve democracy, there's a bright future ahead."
"We have to preserve democracy now and strengthen it," Minsky concludes near the end of our broad conversation on a whole bunch of related topics. "We can do that with a victory in this election. So I encourage everybody, yes, to vote Democratic on Tuesday, or before Tuesday if you're in a state you can do that, and let's win this thing."
Today on The BradCast, we continue our focus on next Tuesday's critical midterm elections by picking things up, somewhat, from our conversation on yesterday's program. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]
We were joined yesterday by longtime election and voting system expert Eddie Perez to discuss, among other things, what he has been writing about as the "manufactured chaos" that Republicans are creating to wreak havoc in the 2022 elections.
Today, we dive into broader details of that organized, manufactured chaos program that is emerging as a national strategy by the GOP to create enough havoc around the country to allow them a patina of "evidence" with which to challenge results of election outcomes they don't like.
A number of seemingly disparate efforts are actually now emerging as of a piece with a national strategy that you (and the Democrats and the media) need to know about before it all comes crashing down at once amid chaotic smoke and mirrors on Election Day and thereafter.
This is clearly an effort that echoes the less coordinated post-election chaos of 2020. Many of the same players are involved, including corrupt Trump attorneys John Eastman and Cleta Mitchell, as well as his convicted former aide Steve Bannon, the laughable billionaire pillow guy Mike Lindell, not to mention those in the far-right political media set to help execute the strategy as if it is legitimate, from Tucker Carlson on down.
The hope, as Josh Kovensky outlines at TPM today, is to sow the seeds of enough chaos to be able to create court cases and "thousands of sworn affidavits" (sound familiar?) to "credibly" point to (false) claims of "fraud" in virtually any election around the country next week, if and when they don't win it. "The chaos is the point," he writes.
We pull many of these threads together on today's program. One example is the seemingly isolated case of the campaign manager for Maryland's white nationalist Republican candidate for Attorney General who directed supporters at a rally last weekend to vote next Tuesday "as late in the day as possible," explaining that, "If everyone could stand in long, long lines at 6 o’clock, that would actually help us."
Then there are the door-to-door canvassers --- organized in part by folks like Eastman, Bannon, Lindell, Mitchell and others --- who, according to a Reuters report today, have been active in at least 23 states. They are dressing as if they are government officials --- sometimes armed and with badges --- intimidating voters with questions about who lives in their house, what their voting record is, etc. They appear to be collecting information to use to challenge voters on Election Day at the polls and/or in the post-election period, as required to create enough chaos to offer the appearance of fraud and/or uncertainty in the legitimacy of election results. And, yes, Fox "News" and the rest will be standing by to report all of these false accusations as if they are real.
Forewarned is forearmed, as they say. It's important that you --- not to mention the Democratic Party and everyone at legitimate media outlets --- understand what is going on before the fog of chaotic election war overwhelms all of us beginning next Tuesday.
In a not unrelated story today, we noted yesterday that AP has found more than 100 election lawsuits have already been brought this year related to the 2022 elections. Most have been filed by Republicans in efforts to make voting more difficult. We detailed several of those cases yesterday (in Pennsylvania, Arizona and Nevada). Today we discuss one filed in Illinois that seeks to invalidate lawful absentee ballots that are cast on or before Election Day but do not arrive until afterward, in the two week period allowed by state law. A Republican Congressman is suing to block the counting of those votes, even though they are lawfully cast ballots that could include tens of thousands cast by members of the U.S. military stationed overseas. The complaint was originally filed in May of this year. But the Trump-appointed federal judge overseeing the case has yet to rule on it, for some reason, with Election Day less than a week away. Chaos in waiting.
Also, since we quickly waved at these Trump accountability stories at the top of today's show, some links for more deets for ya:
Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report with a whole bunch of climate related stories both good and bad as winter is coming...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Humanitarian crisis worsens in Central Africa amid massive flooding; Toxic metal air pollution ten times worse in communities of color; No, the US is not running out of diesel fuel; PLUS: Biden Administration invests billions to help lower home energy costs before winter... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Magical Hope vs. Actual Hope: Left or right, physics doesn't much care about your wishful thinking; How a GOP governor could derail New York's climate law; Worldwide cholera outbreaks are 'unprecedented,' WHO says; Why these climate talks are different than other COPs; Lung Cancer in Nonsmokers? Study Identifies Air Pollution as a Trigger; Why the feared wave of solar panel waste may be smaller and arrive later than expected... PLUS: Scientists just discovered a new whale. Now they fear it may go extinct.... and much, MUCH more! ...
On today's BradCast, we continue to focus on the critical November 8 midterms as we will most likely be doing between now and then and --- given how important and close many key races are expected to be --- probably well beyond Election Day. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]
We're joined today by EDDIE PEREZ, who has spent more than 20 years focused on elections in various capacities. He spent some 15 years at the Austin, Texas-based Hart-Intercivic, one of the big three private voting system vendors in the U.S. He moved on to become Global Director of Technology and Standards at the nonpartisan, nonprofit Open Source Election Technology (OSET) Institute before, last year, becoming Twitter's Director of Product Management for Societal Health, where he played a role in fighting against mis- and disinformation at the beleaguered social media site. He left the company recently (before Elon Musk's takeover) and remains a Board Member at OSET.
Perez has been writing, blogging and tweeting of late on what he sees as "manufactured chaos" by Republicans in advance of the 2022 midterms, calling the threat they pose a "a knife at democracy's throat" and charging that the chaos is now "on a collision course" with next week's elections.
He worries and warns, both in his writing and on today's program, of "coordinated attempts to interfere with or potentially overwhelm what can broadly be regarded as normal election administration processes."
As usual, when Perez is kind enough to join us, he (a former voting system vendor) and I (a long time Election Integrity journalist and critic of vulnerable, difficult-to-oversee voting systems) both tussle and find common ground on many of these topics. We also discuss concerns about "manufactured chaos" on Twitter as well, now that Musk has reportedly withdrawn access to content moderation tools previously used by staffers to help curb toxic disinformation.
"It's genuinely not really clear whether Elon Musk fully appreciates the harm that can come from a social media platform, particularly in the realm of elections," Perez frets, adding that "we have seen this spin off in to political violence." He notes "the concerns are very real," but believes the "wheels haven't fallen off Twitter", at least not yet, assuring that there are "still good people there."
He warns, however, "it's a fragile time" and says it's good to have "conversations like this so that we can talk to your listeners about what they should be paying attention to and what they can maybe do to cut through some of the noise."
We discuss examples of chaos that most worry him and how no small part of the lack of confidence Americans now have in our election system may actually be due to the way voting system vendors and election officials have spent years preventing oversight by the public. Of course, much of it is due to Donald Trump's lies about the 2020 election. But Perez concedes that insiders, in fact, now pose a unique threat to democracy, as demonstrated by GOP officials facilitating the breach of voting system hardware and software in several different states and releasing its proprietary software to potentially nefarious individuals. Can that previously secret code now be used to undermine those systems next week? If so, how so?
"It has certainly not helped public trust in the machinery of democracy that voting technology is limited to as few companies as it is," Perez concedes, citing the proprietary software now used to run elections and tally votes in almost every jurisdiction in the country. "There is no doubt that having that whole ecosystem --- that can fairly be called a 'black box' --- is not helping. It is a kind of tinder box and has turned into a vacuum of information that a lot of conspiracy theorists have been happy to fill."
"On something as essential as the legitimacy of the outcomes in our public elections --- which, again, involves process and involves voting technology --- we can never ever discount the importance of transparency and accountability," he tells me, citing some of my own advocacy and criticism of voting systems and vendors over the years. "In that sense, I don't think it's unreasonable for some people to say that was a collective failure and, yes, that has contributed to us having a lot of the challenges that we're in today."
Of course, we also discuss what Americans can do now --- from voters to election officials to journalists --- to gird for the chaos that is almost certain to come and how best to defend against it.
Also today, several recent legal rulings in response to an explosion of election law challenges manufacturing more chaos around the 2022 elections...
We've been discussing for weeks (months, actually) on The BradCast how critical the November 8 midterm elections are to American democracy itself. I've even referred to it as the most critical midterms since the Civil War. Until recently, however, I had no idea how on the money that comparison actually is. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]
In five states this year --- from so-called "red" states like Alabama, Louisiana and Tennessee to the theoretically liberal bastions of Oregon and Vermont --- slavery itself will be on the ballot. Seriously. Or, at least "involuntary servitude". What's the difference between that and slavery? Even our guest today, an expert on such issues, has trouble discerning that.
The U.S. Constitution's 13th Amendment, adopted in 1865 to end slavery, reads [emphasis added]: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."
In other words, slavery was abolished --- except for prisoners, who may be forced into involuntary servitude as part of their punishment. It's a not-accidental loophole, you'll be shocked to learn, that has been disproportionately exercised historically against Black Americans.
In 2020, however, several Democratic members of Congress introduced a resolution to begin amending that part of the 13th Amendment. But changing the U.S. Constitution is a heavy lift that requires passage by two-thirds of each chamber of Congress and approval by three-fourths of the states. In the meantime, there are the exact same or very similar references to involuntary servitude --- or even slavery itself --- still present in a number of state Constitutions and/or statutes. And, this year, there are ballot initiatives in the five states mentioned above to finally change or remove those references entirely.
So, yeah. Ending slavery, at least in some state constitutions, at least for prisoners, is actually on this year's ballot as well.
We're joined today for insight by THEEDA MURPHY, Co-Director of the No Exceptions Prison Collective, a non-profit, grassroots initiative based in Nashville, TN, dedicated to, among other things, aboloshing slavery!
"Any type of forced labor is slavery. Period. And should not exist in the United States in 2022," Murphy explains, stating what one would think should be obvious. Surprisingly, it isn't. There are elected officials --- both Democratic and Republican --- who have offered various reasons to oppose such initiatives to rewrite the 13th Amendment and the state-based provisions which echo it. Most of their reasons have to do with assuring that cheap prison labor can continue, a $500 billion industry where the average pay is $1/hour. (Though that is, somehow, not considered slavery!)
Over the past two elections, in 2018 and 2020, three states, Colorado, Nebraska and Utah, adopted measures to ban involuntary servitude. A recent effort here in California failed to make it onto the ballot this year. But the hope of advocates like Murphy is that, with reform at the state level, interest may grow in a federal Constitutional amendment that finally ends what is known as the "Punishment Clause" or the "Exception Clause'. But there are other reasons to adopt such measures as well.
States where similar changes have been made, explains Murphy, "are beginning to have these discussions about what does it mean to now have people that cannot be treated like property, that the state no longer owns, and what that means for every aspect of a person who is incarcerated. Can you deny them healthcare? What kind of food do you feed them? Do you charge them for their clothes? Those are the kinds of questions that begin to be answered, or to be asked, because people are no longer property."
Murphy says that in her home-state of Tennessee, internal polling shows both Democrats and Republicans are "united" on the ballot measure this year. "Nobody is FOR slavery," she quips. "Nobody at least will come out and SAY they're for it."
Hey! Maybe we found at least one issue that doesn't divide Americans? We'll find out after next Tuesday.
In other noteworthy news today...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Brazil's Presidential election a major turning point for climate; Russia's war on Ukraine has accelerated the energy transition, new report finds, as it unleashes a major attack on Ukraine's civilian energy infrastructure; Biden chastises oil industry's 'war profiteering'; PLUS: Corporate media virtually ignored climate in U.S. Senate debates... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Beyond Catastrophe: A New Climate Reality Is Coming Into View; EU to Ban New Combustion Engine Cars Starting 2035; Texas' plan to provide water for a growing population virtually ignores climate change; A New Shell Plant in Pennsylvania Will Soon Become the State’s Second Largest Emitter of Volatile Organic Chemicals; Whales ingest millions of microplastic particles a day, study finds; PV modules with longer lifetimes could slash demand for materials, says NREL; Will electric vehicles kill the gas station?... PLUS: Panicking about the UN’s scary Emissions Gap Report is a waste of time – here’s what to do instead.... and much, MUCH more! ...
A Few Great Blogs
· Baghdad Burning
· Brilliant at Breakfast
· Crooks and Liars
· Dan Froomkin
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