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BARCODED BALLOTS AND BALLOT MARKING DEVICES
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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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We're standing down for a short, if much needed, respite --- at least from The BradCast and Green News Report --- until after the 4th of July holiday. Encore presentations will roll on our radio affiliate stations until our return. It may otherwise be quiet around The BRAD BLOG until then, save for Sunday Toons and, well, who knows if anything moves me enough to stop not paying attention for a few days to blog about it. I hope not. (Scroll down to find out what, if anything, is new.)
This is my first chance to see my Mom since before the lockdown began a year and a half or so ago. So, please excuse my absense for a bit of overdue family time.
If you've taken any joy or comfort or have learned anything of use from anything you've found on these pages over the past year or two or five or 17 --- or just want to help us keep the Prius tank filled for the duration --- your generous contributions are always welcome and, yes, still much needed! Our friendly DONATE PAGE IS HERE TO HELP.
I'll be back too soon. Until then, please have a happy, safe, and healthy holiday! --- Brad
As usual in this country, we're dealing with the crisis all wrong. Violent domestic extremism --- domestic terrorism --- has become a public-health issue in this country, according to our guest today on The BradCast. If we treat it as such, it may not become the security problem that we're currently treating it as. We're good at law enforcement and security issues in this country. Public-health issues? Not so much. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]
But, first up today, a few breaking news stories of note...
Next, it's on to the rise in violent domestic extremism, particularly fostered by White Supremacy in the wake of Donald Trump's presidency and the deadly, Trump-incited attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. After Republicans reneged on a deal with House Democrats to form an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the 1/6 attack, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week announced plans to create a House Select Committee to get to the root cause of what happened and why. During a House hearing this week, the nation's highest ranking military leader, Gen. Mark Milley, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered an impassioned response to criticism of interest in Critical Race Theory among military leadership, and the causes of "white rage", in which he spoke to the importance of learning "what is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America."
Our guest today, DR. BRIAN HUGHES of American University's Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab (PERIL), suggests Pelosi and Milley and "the Biden Administration's proposal for how to tackle domestic terrorism and extremism points in the right direction." Hughes' colleague, Cynthia Miller-Idriss, also of PERIL, recently penned an op-ed at The Atlantic arguing that far-right domestic extremism has now spread into the mainstream, and must be dealt with as more than simply a security and law-enforcement issue. It is no longer a matter of tracking specific organizations, but now a matter of radicalization by individuals "who are influenced by ideas online rather than by plots hatched by group leaders in secret gatherings," Miller-Idriss posits. It is now a public-health issue, she argues, and must be dealt with by a whole-of-society approach.
"We, as a society, are incredibly militarized, we're incredibly securitized, and so the solutions that we reach to, when we have a problem, are almost inevitably securitized or militarized and contain some element of that securitization," Hughes explains today. "Our approach to extremism and terrorism is no different. Certainly law enforcement and intelligence have a very important role to play here. But it can never be more than a band-aid solution. As we see now, there aren't enough band-aids in the world to deal with the violence that this country is facing. We really have to go deeper to the root causes of these issues."
Hughes cites the Biden Administration's proposal to incorporate the Dept. of Health and Human Services and the Dept. of Education into their initiative to take on violent extremism as "really, really critical. But even more critical is allocating resources to local communities. The more locally we can distribute the necessary training, the necessary education, and the necessary funding to address radicalization before it even starts, the fewer of those security, and law enforcement, and militarized solutions that we're going to have to come up with in the future."
As we delve into details, we discuss ways that state and local communities must take on the issue as well. (The "seven minutes of reading to improve understanding of how radical ideas spread online," which we discuss as having helped some 750 parents and caregivers in a recent study by PERIL and the Southern Poverty Law Center is posted here.) We also discuss the paradox of how coming to a collective understanding of the effects of systemic racism in the U.S., as well as actions taken by social media companies to help curb the effectiveness of propaganda and far-right radicalism, can also serve to increase the "white rage" that new policies and new ways of facing this as a public-health issue are meant to counteract.
Hughes also shares his experience in working with former extremists and the "deep, deep sense of shame" and "horror" they ultimately experience after they come to terms with having been radicalized. "It just tears families apart. It absolutely ruins relationships as surely as drugs and alcohol do. This isn't just a matter of a person becoming a jerk. This is a question of a person blowing up their own life and the lives of the people around them." All of which is just part of the reason why we must rethink our approach to the problem as one of public-health.
As Hughes concedes, none of this is "going to change overnight," but there are ways that we can start taking action right now, particularly at the local level, where he urges people to get involved with their local school systems on this matter in order to prevent the radicalization long before it begins. "Request this kind of education, request these kinds of materials. Education happens at the local level in the United States, so it's really on all of us to improve things in our local communities."
I hope you'll tune in for this fascinating and insightful conversation...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
On today's BradCast: It was one of those days. Again. Everything all at once. Again. We do our best to help you make sense of it all. Again. [Audio link to today's full show is posted below this summary.]
Among the stories, many of them still breaking as we went to air, covered on today's program...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Worsening drought conditions threaten drinking water supplies in California; Alarming heat wave hits Siberian Arctic; Climate change making extreme heat waves 3-5 degrees hotter in U.S.; PLUS: Grim U.N. draft reports warns climate change tipping points are underway, and 'the worst is yet to come'... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Biden: 'We have a deal' on infrastructure with bipartisan group of senators; Here we go again: Texas, climate change and the power grid; U.S. nuclear regulators scrutinize Vogtle problems in Georgia; Can America do high-speed rail?; Interior peels Trump-era hunting images off duck stamps; New research raises ozone depletion alarm over Arctic, too; Madagascar in grip of 'catastrophic' hunger crisis... PLUS: Trees are missing in low income neighborhoods... and much, MUCH more! ...
On today's BradCast: The Republicans' stolen and packed U.S. Supreme Court handed down a bunch of new decisions today. New York's primaries elections were very interesting in both NYC and Buffalo on Tuesday. And Congressional Democrats vow to fight on for voting rights after Senate Republicans, as expected, used the filibuster to block debate on protecting voting rights. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]
First, on yesterday's primaries in NY, the race for Mayor in New York City featured almost 15 candidates. But, under the city's new Ranked Choice Voting system, as we explained on yesterday's program, it could take weeks before we are told who the winner is. Whether voters will have confidence in those results --- after weeks of the virtually-impossible-to-oversee RCV counting (and recounting) system --- is anyone's guess. For the moment, a fairly conservative law-and-order candidate, Eric Adams, leads the pack in the ongoing first round of tallying, with about 32 points. He's followed by progressives Maya Wiley and Kathryn Garcia with 22 and 19.5% each, respectively. Andrew Yang is in fourth place with almost 12% of the vote. As none of the candidates received more than 50 percent, however, the Ranked Choice tallying will soon begin. When it ends, and who wins, is anybody's guess. Yes, even though Yang conceded after his 4th place finish, he could still end up winning under the confusing RCV process. And the winner of the Democratic primary is almost certain to be the next Mayor of NYC.
Meanwhile, up in Buffalo, New York's second largest city, India Walton, a 39 year-old African American socialist with no experience in political office, unseated the city's four-term Democratic Mayor Byron Brown in a huge upset. If she wins the general in November, Walton will be the first socialist mayor of a major city since 1960, after unseating an incumbent Buffalo Mayor for the first time since 1961. Brown, however, reportedly is considering a write-in campaign this fall against Walton, given that there will be no Republican for her to face on this year's ballot in the heavily Democratic city.
Down in D.C. on Tuesday, the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate "won" the vote to proceed with debate on their sweeping elections, voting rights and campaign reform bill known as For the People, when all 50 Democrats stuck together to vote in favor. But they lost anyway, because Republicans, for their part, all voted against debating voting rights, even as state level GOP legislatures are adopting bills all across the country to restrict such rights. 60 votes would have been needed to overcome the Republican filibuster in the Senate, where Senators representing a tiny majority of Americans (about 20 percent, according to Ari Berman), have the ability to block any and all legislation offered by Democrats, whose 50 Senators represent some 43 million more Americans than those represented by the 50 Republicans in the upper chamber. Nonetheless, Majority Leader Schumer, President Biden and House Speaker Pelosi all vowed to fight on, with Pelosi announcing that Dems would "not be deterred"; Biden declaring "this fight is far from over"; and Schumer promising that Tuesday's vote "was the starting gun, not the finish line."
For any of that to be true, however, West Virginia's Joe Manchin and Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema, at the very least, would have to agree to change the rules for the Senate filibuster. Dems hope that voters may help convince them to do so over the Independence Day recess, given that For the People is supported by some 68% of American voters.
Next, we're joined by the always-great MARK JOSEPH STERN, legal reporter at Slate, to discuss, among other things, the decisions handed down today at SCOTUS, as the Court wraps up this year's term at the end of the week. Despite the 6 to 3 advantage for rightwingers on the Republicans' stolen and packed Supreme Court (because Republicans were more than willing to kill the filibuster in order to accomplish it!), Chief Justice John Roberts, once again, managed to produce largely consensus decisions on all but one of the opinions released today.
Among those opinions, as explained and analyzed by Stern, was a very troubling ruling that kneecaps union organizing rights across the country. That one, which Stern notes "is very over the top" and makes up "a completely new rule that did not exist before," was the one decided by the rightwingers' 6 to 3 vote. It continues the Roberts Court's relentless erosion of labor rights. But there were also reasonable decisions handed down on police powers to enter your home without a warrant and on a high school's punishment of a cheerleader who used the F-word on Snapchat over a weekend while she was in 9th grade. One other decision was also released today, allowing President Biden to replace Donald Trump's terrible director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which oversees mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
"There's enough credit to go around here," says Stern, in response to my question about whether Roberts deserves credit for some of the narrow decisions that were able to overcome a bitterly divided Court without causing too much damage to longstanding rights and precedent. "I think Chief Justice John Roberts is in the driver's seat on some of these compromise decisions. But I think that, to some degree, Justices Kavanaugh and Barrett are willing to go along, and so are the liberal justices. I think a lot of these decisions involve compromise on both sides. Some of them include some bitter pills for the left or the right to swallow, but at the end of the day, six justices are trying their best to duck the big issues, and issue really small decisions that don't ruffle too many feathers."
The fallout so far this term, the first with the GOP's 6 to 3 advantage, was "not as terrible as it could be." Though, Stern cautions, "It's not over yet. There are still some major decisions coming down the pike. And no matter what happens, we've still got next term with guns and abortion, of course."
The biggest decision this term, however, may be whether or not 82-year old Justice Stephen Breyer is going to step down to allow President Biden to nominate someone younger to fill his seat while Democrats hold the majority in the Senate, or whether he's going to pull a Ruth Bader Ginsburg and wait to leave the Court, one way or another, after Republicans have regained a majority in the upper chamber. Given that the Senate's Republican leader Mitch McConnell has already indicated he is unlikely to ever allow a Democratic President to fill a Supreme Court vacancy while Republicans hold a majority, we both hope that Breyer will take McConnell at his word, and get out now while the getting is still good.
As usual, it's another jam-packed BradCast. Enjoy!
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
On today's BradCast, the heat is on. Temperature records are being smashed in the West, and pressure continues to build on two Senate Democrats to take the action necessary to save democracy itself in the U.S. in light of the Trump-induced lurch toward autocracy and voter suppression by the Republican Party. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]
First up, a few thoughts on the New York City primary elections being held today, specifically on the city's first-time use of Ranked Choice Voting. We explain how RCV works (or doesn't) and wish the voters of NYC much luck in making sense of whatever may happen next. Depending on how folks voted today, it could take weeks before winners are determined and perhaps even longer before voters have confidence in those results. But we hope it all goes well. (If it doesn't, might we recommend they try Approval Voting instead next time? It's much easier to understand and oversee, and doesn't even require trusting in computers to be tallied!)
Then, shortly after air today, a test vote was held in the U.S. Senate on moving the Democrats' critical election and campaign reform bill, the For the People Act (which has already passed in the House), forward for debate. The vote was not for passage of the bill, but simply on whether the Senate would be allowed to debate the new voting rights package at all. So today was the debate on whether to debate. And Democrats won that debate, sort of, with their 50 vote majority. Unfortunately, in the U.S. Senate, the minority rules, thanks to Senate rules that require 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. The good news, however, is that all 50 Democrats voted to advance the measure, in the face of the GOP's unified opposition to debate voting rights. The unified Democratic caucus was not a certainty until today's vote, with West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin opposing For the People until only recently, when he was assured his compromise proposal [PDF] for the voting rights bill would receive a vote.
Even with a 50 vote majority, however (which is actually 51 votes with Vice President Harris breaking the tie), the debate on For the People will not be allowed, nor a vote on the actual bill, until and unless the Senate filibuster rule is reformed in some way. It's been reformed many times before (for example, on budget bills, which require only a simple majority, or for jamming through U.S. Supreme Court nominees, as Republicans did unilaterally under Trump, when they enjoyed the majority.) But, for now, both Manchin and Arizona's Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema oppose changes to the Senate filibuster, a Jim Crow-era relic, which would be needed to pass the election and campaign reform they both suggest they now support. That very much needs to happen in order to pass For the People and, later, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, in order to have any hope of countering, at least in part, the partisan GOP restrictions on voting now moving through state legislators. With today's Senate vote, we can only hope that both Manchin and Sinema hear from their constituents over the upcoming holiday recess, encouraging them to reconsider their untenable stand blocking long-overdue safeguards to American democracy.
Next up: After a week of blistering heat records across much of the West, amid a worsening megadrought, burgeoning wildfires, and Claudette, one of the earliest named tropical storms which came ashore this weekend wreaking havoc and death in the South, we're joined by an expert in both climate records and extremes.
"Climate Guy" GUY WALTON, is a former 30-year Weather Channel veteran who has, for years, been tracking and documenting daily global records and extremes as our climate emergency worsens. He joins us today for both an update on this past week's early summer heat wave --- including several all-time records obliterated --- and broader context for what is actually happening and why.
Among the topics discussed: Reservoirs growing perilously dry in the West; the now, nearly year-round wildfire season; the quickening pace of broken heat records; the Saffir-Simpson scale used to categorize wind speed (but not rainfall amounts and storm surge, which can be even more deadly, or overall expected damage) of tropical storms and hurricanes, and whether it's time for a new gauge under this "new normal" climate; if the media are improving in their coverage of climate change; and much more.
We also discuss Walton's wickedly subversive illustrated book series on climate change for children, co-authored with Nick Walker, called "World of Thermo", about a flying thermometer who battles his arch enemy Carbo (a giant carbon molecule). The first book in the series is World of Thermo: Thermometer Rising. The second book, set for publication next month, is World of Thermo: Carbonated.
Finally, since we're gluttons, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, with more on our disturbing new climate extremes and what the Biden Administration --- and Bernie Sanders --- are doing and/or hope to do about it...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: First named storm of the 2021 hurricane season makes deadly landfall in the U.S.; New study confirms the U.S. Southwest is much drier than just decades ago; The amount of heat trapped by the planet has roughly doubled since 2005; PLUS: Sen. Bernie Sanders draws bright red line against regressive taxes in endless infrastructure talks... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Drought and Record Heat in the West: The Climate Change Connection; Plan to raze 4 dams on California-Oregon line clears hurdle; Companies bet carbon labels can help the climate. Will consumers catch on?; 'Historic': Belgium Court Says Inadequate Climate Policy a Human Rights Violation; UN Irks Australia By Urging That Great Barrier Reef Be Listed 'In Danger'; New Oilfield In African Wilderness Threatens Lives Of 130,000 Elephants... PLUS: City Sinking Into Sea Welcomes Bitcoin Miners... and much, MUCH more! ...
On today's BradCast: With virtually every new voter suppression law adopted by Republicans at the state level since last November's election (there have been about 24 such laws adopted so far, in some 14 states), Democrats and voting rights advocates have been quickly filing lawsuits in opposition. One of those suits --- filed in federal court [PDF] against Georgia's SB202, the one in which I am named as a Plaintiff --- is to have its first major hearing next week. That, as Democrats in the U.S. Senate frantically scramble to get the last Democratic holdout (Joe Manchin) to come on board for federal legislation to counter at least some of the most restrictive elements of the tidal wave of new GOP anti-voting laws at the state level. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]
While the Jim Crow-style voter suppression of the new restrictions being adopted in Republican-controlled states of late have received a fair amount of attention, the provisions in those measures that would allow GOP state legislatures to take over elections --- and even overturn legitimate results --- have received less attention. Over the weekend, the New York Times highlighted, for example, how in "Georgia, members of at least 10 county election boards...At least five are people of color and most are Democrats" have been removed from their posts in recent weeks, "and they will most likely all be replaced by Republicans."
Georgia is not the only state where this is happening. Similar provisions, targeting election officials and even election results, have also been adopted or introduced in states like Kansas, Arkansas and the critical swing state of Florida. But in Georgia, they go even further to target and/or threaten the media itself for simply reporting on elections!
That's where I come in. I am the named plaintiff representing journalists in the Coalition for Good Governance (CGG) lawsuit challenging Georgia's SB202 in federal court. An emergency Motion for Preliminary Injunction [PDF] has now been filed in regard to the media-related aspects of CGG's complaint, in light of the state's impending local election runoffs scheduled for July 13th.
I'm joined once again today by longtime Election Integrity champion MARILYN MARKS, Executive Director of CGG, to discuss why the Press Freedom aspects of her group's broad challenge to the GA law --- far broader than some of the other challenges focused more on the voter suppression aspects only, as filed by the NAACP, the Democratic Party, and Stacey Abrams' Fair Fight, etc. --- have been bumped to a top priority with her filing of an expedited Motion for Preliminary Injunction.
Among the little-reported-on Press Freedoms at stake in SB202, the new law includes a Gag Rule which criminalizes the public, party-appointed monitors and the press’ reporting of absentee mail ballot processing or tabulation problems; A ban on the press Estimating (yes, estimating!) the number of absentee ballots that have been processed during an election tabulation or how many are still to be processed; SB202 even criminalizes photographing voted ballots or the 100% unverifiable touchscreen Ballot Marking Device (BMD) voting systems that voters are now forced to use at all Georgia polling places, despite the state's century-long history of routine press photography and videography of election activities inside of polling places on Election Day. (Yes, the photo used above for today's show logo, or even seeing those voters voting, can now result in felony charges in GA!)
All of these, as Marks and I discuss, are extraordinary restrictions on basic Press Freedoms, and our ability --- my ability in this case, as the named plaintiff, representing media --- to report what is going on during Georgia elections to the public. The law actually turns simply seeing one of the state's huge new touchscreen voting systems, while it's being used on Election Day, into a felony. That would apply not only to media inside a polling place, but also to poll workers, poll watchers and even voters simply waiting in line to vote.
"We are asking the court to address some of these issues before that runoff election [on July 13] happens. We are going to ask the judge to rule in favor of the press," says Marks, hoping that some other media outlets may even submit their own Amicus Briefs to the court in support of CGG's lawsuit. "Other members of the press are quite concerned about the fact that traditional photography, that they have been taking for decades, is not going to be permitted in the mail ballot processing locations," she tells me.
"It is mind-blowing," she continues. "I wouldn't be able to tell you [if I saw something wrong while serving as an observer]. All of a sudden, your reporting is going to be silenced. You would not even know that I had anything to tell you. You would just assume that, unlike in times past, that everything is going fine in Georgia."
Marks also breaks a bit of news by explaining that the Republican National Committee has now moved to intercede in this case to help defend GA Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger's position on the bill. Marks says Raffensperger "essentially insisted on these provisions. Although some of the media consider him to be some kind of a saint [because he declined to overturn the November 2020 election amid entreaties from Donald Trump to do so], this is his bill. His attorneys drafted it. He's the one that wants to crack down on any criticism coming from people like you and me, CNN, New York Times, or any other place."
"The RNC has asked to intervene in our case to protect the Secretary of State. However, interestingly, they have said they are not going to oppose us on the Observation Felony, the Gag Rule, the Estimating Ban, the Photography Ban --- so even the Republicans are not going to try to defend four of these five things that we're going after" in the Motion. A hearing is now set on that Motion for Thursday, July 1.
In addition to CGG's lawsuit challenging SB202, the group has another, separate, longstanding challenge to the state's use of 100% unverifiable touchscreen voting systems. That suit was successful in convincing the federal judge hearing it to ban GA's 20-year old Diebold touchscreen systems before last year's elections. Unfortunately, Raffensperger immediately replaced them with new touchscreen Ballot Marking Devices made by Dominion Voting Systems, which Marks describes as as bad or worse than the previous systems. That case has just now entered its discovery phase and Marks is confident that the same federal judge is quite concerned that the new systems are as insecure, unverifiable --- and, thus, as unconstitutional --- as the old ones she previously banned. A ruling in that case could affect the use of such machines in dozens of states and counties around the country, including states like Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Texas and even here in Los Angeles County, where voters are now forced to vote on unverifiable touchscreen systems at polling places.
Lastly, Marks describes the exciting forum scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday, June 22), co-sponsored by CGG and another one of our favorite non-partisan good-government watchdog groups, Free Speech for People (FSFP), on the dangers of Ballot Marking Device (BMDs) as used in Georgia and many of those other jurisdictions mentioned above. The forum, called "Today's Electronic Voting Machines: An Examination of the Use and Security of Ballot Marking Devices" is scheduled live and online from Noon to 5pm ET on Tuesday. It features a huge number of guests that have been featured over the years on 'The BradCast', including FSFP's Susan Greenhaulgh; Georgia Tech cybersecurity expert Rich DeMillo; notorious University of Michigan white-hat hacker, J. Alex Halderman; Research expert Kevin Skoglund; UC Berkley's Philip Stark, inventor of the post-election Risk Limiting Audit protocol; the legendary Finish cyberseucrity and voting systems expert Harri Hursti, and many others.
Finally, Democrats are teeing up a test vote on Tuesday in the U.S. Senate for their sweeping election and campaign finance reform bill, the For the People Act, now that West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin has suggested he may be willing to support a compromise version with the 49 other Senate Democrats who have all already signed on to the original bill as co-sponsors. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked today about President Biden's expectations for that bill and its test vote today, and on the need to reform the filibuster even if Manchin deigns to come aboard. If he does, he would also have to be willing to make changes to the filibuster rule that mandates 60 Senators support such measures, in order to see passage, since no Republicans are expected to support it. But he is not the only Democrat who has opposed long-overdue changes to the filibuster. Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema has also vowed to protect the anti-democratic, Jim Crow-era Senate rule. And now she is being targeted with a huge ad buy for that position, to ratchet up the pressure, by a group of progressives who are running spots in her home state on cable news, as well as during local news and sports programming.
Yes, the fight to save American democracy continues on today's BradCast...because it seems kind of important...
After an update on the latest news, I welcome a regular guest from the last decade, former Congressman DENNIS KUCINICH. He left Congress after 12 years in office back in January of 2013 after Ohio gerrymandered his district out of existence, and became a contributor to Fox (not) News. So I hadn't seen or heard from him in over a decade. Until last week.
That's when he published his book, The Division of Light and Power, which details his infamous fight against City Hall while he was Mayor of Cleveland and refused to sell the city's power company to private interests. It's a story that could easily be a movie and, according to Dennis, there's some interest. But he just wanted to get the book out, as it's been decades in the making.
Oh, and he's running to be Mayor of Cleveland again!...
The news just isn't slowing down in these "slow news days of summer". At least not on today's BradCast. But at least much of that news is actually good, including more progress today toward protecting democracy in the U.S., as per the shifting whims of Lord and Senator Joe Manchin. [Audio link to full program follows below this summary.]
Among the many stories covered on today's news-chocked program...
As we discuss today, the original For the People Act, already passed by the House, doesn't "address...the danger of election subversion" either, as that danger is being baked into GOP voter suppression bills around the country, allowing Republican state Legislatures to reverse election results for virtually any reason they like. We explain why Hasen's argument --- at least on that one narrow point --- is a bit misleading, while he is otherwise right on the money.
At the same time, Georgia's voting rights champion Stacey Abrams has also come out in favor of Manchin's compromise proposal and speaks, as we did yesterday, to the concerns that some may have about Manchin's inclusion of a "Voter ID" provision. She explains, as we did, that his provision on Voter ID is not really a huge concern --- as some Dems and/or voting rights advocates may view it --- in that Manchin's proposal allows other means for voters to identify themselves beyond a strict, small, very limited list of acceptable Photo IDs. He cites, for example, "utility bill, etc." as acceptable means of identification to vote, in line with the already-existing rules in a majority of states. Such reasonable requirements that do not prevent voters from voting are a far cry from the strict Photo ID restrictions adopted by some GOP states meant not to prevent fraud, but to prevent voting (by certain people who may lack the specific type of ID that Republicans are purposely requiring in hopes of disenfranchising them.)
Of course, even if all 50 Senate Dems come to an agreement on a version of For the People that they can accept, it would still require 10 Republicans coming on board in the Senate to defeat a GOP filibuster. As that remains a virtual impossibility, reform of the filibuster would still be needed for passage of this bill, and, unfortunately Manchin leads the opposition on that as well. However, as a recording of a Zoom teleconference with the so-called "centrist" group No Labels (actually a big money conservative Dem and moderate-ish Republican business group) reveals, Manchin is not quite as against filibuster reform as he has made out publicly, at least when he is not speaking to big money business donors. Lee Fang and Ryan Grim from The Intercept obtained audio from that Zoom session, wherein Manchin suggests his potential openness to lowering the filibuster threshold from 60 to 55, or to force a 41 person minority to stand up and make their case against a bill they oppose and explain what they object to, rather than require those in favor of the bill to come up with 60 votes.
Again, more progress. Too slow, to be sure --- especially with the dangers of the 2022 mid-terms looming --- but progress nonetheless, which those claiming to be progressives should certainly be in favor of!
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Cold weather knocked out Texas power in February, and heat threatens to do so now; Intensifying mega-drought stokes water conflict in Oregon; Judge blocks Biden's temporary suspension of oil and gas leasing on public lands; PLUS: Colorado state legislature approves slew of climate action and plastic pollution legislation... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Earth Is Now Trapping An ‘Unprecedented’ Amount Of Heat, NASA Says; How Long Can the West Survive Republican Obstruction on Climate?; U.S. nuclear regulator approves fuel for next-generation reactors; Florida Power Leaving Coal for Solar, Hydrogen; Climate crisis is suffocating the world’s lakes, study finds; Louisiana Gas Industry’s Answer To Lax Safety Enforcement? Loosen It More... PLUS: Tabasco: Making Hot Sauce And Working To Save Wetlands... and much, MUCH more! ...
Our plans for covering the Biden/Putin summit in Geneva today were happily tossed aside late today, with the big news that West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin is apparently willing to compromise on a voting rights bill in the U.S. Senate! Frankly, it's more important right now than Biden/Putin, so they got bumped from today's BradCast. We didn't, however, bump our guest today, who offers some critical insight on the disturbing news that Donald Trump's Justice Department "spied" on House Democrats Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]
First up, Sen. Manchin has been the only Democrat in the upper chamber unwilling to come on board as co-sponsor of the For the People Act (H.R.1 in the House, where it's already passed and S.1 in the Senate, where Manchin is holding it up.) In fact, he recently declared in a hometown paper op-ed that he opposes the measure (even though he co-sponsored it back in 2019), while also restating his opposition to reform of the filibuster. Such reform would be required to adopt the For the People Act with a simple majority of Democrats in the Senate.
Today, however, Manchin released a memo [PDF] detailing his "Compromise" points for support of the For the People Act! We discuss those points at the top of today's show. They include a whole bunch of stuff that's in the current measure already adopted by the House, along with a few "New" items that he is seeking. Most of them are acceptable (such as "Make election day a public holiday"), where some others (such as a measure for seemingly modest "voter ID" requirements) may be a bit more controversial among some Democrats and voting rights advocates.
All told, however, while the devil remains in the details --- and his simple bullet points offer few --- we see nothing particularly objectionable about Manchin's "Compromise" list. At least nothing that should prevent passage of such a measure ASAP to help counter some of the extreme voter suppression measures currently being adopted by Republicans at the state level around the country in advance of the 2022 mid-terms.
There is still the problem that, as Manchin's memo notes, "federal voting rights legislation must be the result of both Democrats and Republicans coming together to find a pathway forward." He's right, of course, in general. But the fact is that Republicans have zero interest in finding any such path. There is also the problem that, even if Dems can settle on a bill they (and Manchin) all like, there is little chance in hell that even one Republican will come on board to support it, much less the 10 that would be needed to overcome a GOP filibuster. If Manchin won't agree to compromise on the filibuster --- at least to pass democracy related legislation --- the measure would go nowhere.
Still, one step at a time. Today's news, that Manchin is finally willing, at least, to compromise on the For the People Act, is tremendously encouraging for those of us who care about the survival of democracy in the U.S.
Next, we're joined by long-time, independent national security journalist MARCY WHEELER of Emptywheel, with some critical insight on the news that broke late last week revealing the Trump Dept. of Justice secretly subpoenaed phone, email and text message records of House Democrats Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell in 2018. Both were, and are, members of the U.S. House Permanent Selection Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) and both were regarded by our disgraced former President as his political enemies.
In addition to Schiff and Swalwell, the Trump DoJ's shocking secret surveillance also included scores of Congressional aides and even their children, purportedly as part of a probe into leaks regarding a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant taken out during the Obama Administration on 2016 Trump Campaign advisor, Carter Page.
Following the news this week, the House Judiciary Committee announced a formal investigation into what they describe as "a pretext to spy on President Trump’s perceived political enemies". Also, Attorney General Merrick Garland has asked the DoJ Inspector General for a probe into the matter as well.
Wheeler, however, offered some very helpful "perspective on the politicized leak investigation" by Trump's DoJ at her website, which we discuss today. Among the points she notes: This isn't actually "spying"; It isn't actually unprecedented --- well, mostly; and the fact that the secret subpoenas reportedly only sought metadata (records of who and when someone was called, emailed or texted, rather than the actual content of those communications), shouldn't really bother Democratic lawmakers at all, given that they have long defended the collection of "just" metadata in probes by law enforcement officials.
Wheeler notes Schiff has been "championing" the "it's 'just' metadata" claims for years "when he talks about surveilling Americans." But, she explains, "when you get metadata [going back] ten years, that is enormously powerful." Putting limits "on the span on metadata that you can pull without a judicial order" might be "something, maybe that Adam Schiff will have learned his lesson" from here, she quips.
Moreover, the breadth of the secret subpoenas --- for example, obtaining Schiff's records from Apple going all the way back to 2009 for an investigation into a leak that occurred in 2017 --- was wildly broad. And, though the records apparently didn't reveal any of the Congressmembers or their staff (or their children) were guilty of leaking, the FBI and DoJ were legally allowed to hold onto to those records for years, potentially using them for other reasons as well, as it appears Trump's AG Bill Barr may have. As Marcy snarked in her piece on this at Emptywheel: "It’s a pity for Adam Schiff that no one in charge of surveillance in Congress imposed better trackability requirements on FBI’s access of its investigative collections."
Schiff is currently the Chair of HPSCI. At the time of the secret subpoenas, he was the Committee's ranking Democrat and has long been supportive of these types of virtually limitless subpoenas, according to Wheeler.
There are other outrages here, for example, the length of allowable gag orders, preventing companies like Apple from notifying customers, for years, that they are being surveilled, as in this case; the fact that there are no real requirements for narrowly tailoring such broad searches. Wheeler is hopeful that lawmakers may learn from this, now that they have become the targets. Naturally, they are bothered when it happens to them and to journalists, whereas the same invasive practices targeting ordinary Americans receives little attention or concern from lawmakers.
"The standard is there is no probable cause required," for these kinds of searches, she explains. "The FBI could have just said, 'We need all of the phone records for everybody on HPSCI because they are the people who got the document that was leaked,' and that meets the relevant standard. And that is the standard that Adam Schiff has been telling us for years isn't all that intrusive"...
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