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9.5 Million Previously Uninsured Now Insured Thanks to 'Obamacare' (So Woe is Fox 'News')

Brad Blog - Mon, 03/31/2014 - 14:43

Well, this is fun. Today, a report out from the LA Times details a wide range of sources finding that "at least 9.5 million previously uninsured people have gotten health insurance since Obamacare started."

That's 9.5 million Americans who previously had no reliable access to health care now having such access thanks to the various provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or "Obamacare").

But don't tell, Fox "News". They are busy with their trademark misleading graphics today...

Yes, they do that sort of thing quite a bit. Always fun.

And, before we hear complaints from progressives, for those don't recall, while we've been very critical of the ACA over the years (we prefer a single-payer, "Medicare for All" time plan, versus the obsenity of private insurers profiteering off of sick people), as we noted late last year (when the ACA allowed me sign up for a new plan with my same insurer and save $300/month or $3,600/year in the bargain), more people now having access to health care --- the overall goal of the Republican-conceived "Obamacare" law --- is certainly a good thing, no matter how one slices it. That's true even if it's bad law (and it is.)

But, as noted, don't tell Fox. For that matter, don't tell the Democrats who, for some unknown reason (perhaps because they are delicate, quivering, easily-intimidated flowers?) still haven't figured out how to run for office on their positive accomplishments, such as the ACA.

* * *

UPDATE 8:59pm PT: Moments before midnight on the east coast, just before the March 31, 2014 deadline for signing up for health care insurance without a penalty under the ACA, AP is reporting that the "Obamacare" health care exchange is "on track to sign up more than 7 million Americans for health insurance." That number was the original target set by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) when the bill was first passed into law and has been seen as the administration's initial goal for signups. That target was scaled back to 6 million after the disastrous opening of the website late last year (despite the misleading Fox "News" graphic indicating otherwise above). But if the AP is right, ACA has now exceeded its initial target...

The 7 million target, thought to be out of reach by most experts, was in sight on a day that saw surging consumer interest as well as vexing computer glitches that slowed sign-ups on the HealthCare.gov website.

Two government officials confirmed the milestone, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter ahead of an official announcement.

Late last year and earlier this year, long after the goal had changed to 6 million, Obamacare opponents at rightwing websites like Fox "News" and Breitbart.com mercilessly mocked the administration for their initial target of 7 million sign-ups.

If the AP's reporting is accurate tonight, Republican opponents are unlikely to mention much of the milestone --- and the Obama administration's exceeded goal --- though, as TPM's Josh Marshall offers in a predictive tweet this evening: "Behold the birth of Obamacare Sign Up Number Trutherism." He wryly added the hashtag: "#wheresthesignupcertificate".

Sounds about right.

Safe from the memory hole...


Categories: Brad Blog

Court: NC Legislators Must Reveal Documents, Purpose Behind Challenged Voting 'Reform'

Brad Blog - Mon, 03/31/2014 - 08:35

A U.S. District judge has ruled that Republican legislators in North Carolina must provide documents revealing their work in passing and implementing a radical election reform bill which, when it was passed last year, was described by opponents as the "worse-than-anyone-would-have-ever-imagined voter suppression bill."

Late last week, U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake issued an Order [PDF] in which she rejected a blanket refusal by NC Republican state legislators to provide any documents that relate to the question of whether the sweeping legislation known as the Voter Information Reform Act ("VIVA" aka HB 589) amounted to nothing less than a racially-motivated attempt to deprive African-Americans of their constitutional right to vote.

As we observed when the law was hastily enacted last year, among the law's myriad ways of making registration and voting much more difficult, VIVA includes "draconian polling place Photo ID restrictions (despite the absence of any evidence of polling place impersonation in the state), shortens the early voting period and eliminates NC's very successful same-day voter registration program."

VIVA was quickly passed last year on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court's controversial, 5-4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder. The decision resulted in the gutting of a central provision of the federal Voting Rights Act. Before that, most of the measures in VIVA could not have taken effect unless they received advance approval from either the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) or a federal court. Such approval could have been obtained only if NC established that VIVA was neither intended to nor would have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color or being the member of a language minority.

The new ruling may help plaintiffs establish violations of both the still-standing elements of the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution. Moreover, the order to compel documentation concerning the law's genesis in NC, if upheld, could also have a broader national significance...

Hiding the evidence?

As the DoJ explained in its Opposition [PDF] to the NC state legislators' motion to quash, all three plaintiffs (the NAACP, League of Women Voters and the DoJ) in the consolidated federal legal challenge to VIVA, allege "that HB 589 was enacted with the purpose of, and will have the result of, denying or abridging the right of minority voters to vote on account of race or color."

In order to support those allegations, the DoJ added, the NAACP served subpoenas upon NC state legislators, seeking "a range of documents relating to the consideration and implementation of HB 585, including…documents reflecting legislative purpose, documents, received by State Legislators from individuals and groups outside the North Carolina General Assembly, such as constituents, lobbyists and public interest groups; and factual data and reports relating to, for example, rates of possession of photo identification among North Carolina voters, and the costs and other impacts of HB 589." Access to those records is vital, the DoJ argued, because those state "legislators...are likely to have first-hand knowledge relating to the development and passage of HB 589."

The NC state legislators, the DoJ added, "took the position that the doctrine of legislative immunity categorically bars Plaintiffs from seeking any discovery from State Legislators."

Judge Peake rejected the GOP legislators' "absolute immunity" claim. While state lawmakers are immune from personal liability for their legislative acts, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Corp. (1977) that a state legislator could be called to testify concerning the purpose of a law affecting voting rights. Subsequent case law establishes that, when it comes to civil discovery, state legislators possess only a "qualified" privilege and that documents must be produced so long as the request is not "unduly burdensome or invasive" of the legislative process.

Significantly, while she stopped short of compelling responses to all categories of documents sought by plaintiffs, Judge Peake ruled that requiring production of documents that "involve communications with outside parties" is neither "unduly burdensome" nor "invasive of the legislative process."

A long and ugly history of discrimination

As The BRAD BLOG explained last August, shortly after the first two lawsuits against VIVA had been filed by the NAACP and League of Women Voters, the complaints allege that the "blight" of racial discrimination has remained ever-present in the Tar Heel State over the better part of the past three decades.

The League's complaint detailed the state's long and well-documented history of racial discrimination:

Over the past 30 years in North Carolina, there have been 30 successful cases brought under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and 40 objections to discriminatory changes to voting laws lodged by the Department of Justice under Section 5...Based on concerns about intimidation at the polling place, the United States Department of Justice sent federal observers to North Carolina to help enforce federal voting rights laws that protect ballot access in the November 2012 general election.

That complaint went on to describe how the state's history of discriminatory behavior in elections continues through the present day:

Up through recent history, political campaigns in North Carolina have been characterized by overt or subtle racial appeals, including discriminatory tactics … in elections deliberately and demonstrably designed to keep African Americans from registering and turning out to vote.

Those allegations are based on information that is in the public record. In accordance with the judge's ruling last week, plaintiffs may now require documents maintained by the individual Republican state legislators, in order to establish a link to this sordid past. That ugly past itself, however, is already well established.

Nationally significant implications

While the parties will have to create "privilege logs," allowing the court to rule which documents must be produced and which documents remain privileged (and thus can be withheld), Judge Peake's determination that communications between the state's Republican legislators and "outside parties" are not privileged documents could have nationally significant implications.

VIVA is but one example of the recent coordinated, nationwide GOP voter suppression effort that was aptly described by civil rights litigator Judith Browne Dianis, in testimony before a U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee in 2011 as "the largest legislative effort to roll back voting rights since the post-Reconstruction era."

The effort is national in character because it has been concocted by Republicans along with the Koch brothers-funded, Paul Weyrich co-founded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization of rightwing legislators and corporations seeking to pass "model legislation" on issues from election reform to so-called "stand your ground" gun laws to other so-called "free-market" initiatives.

The speed with which the NC GOP was able to ram through what the NAACP described as an "armada of amendments" to VIVA would surprise only those who are unfamiliar with the ALEC scheme to privatize the legislative process; secretly drafting, delivering and, in those states where the GOP maintains a legislative majority, passing ALEC-model bills, such as polling place Photo ID restrictions, all without any meaningful public debate.

Similar bills have been introduced in various state legislatures by one or more of some 2,000 ALEC legislative members. It seemed little coincidence that NC's state Sen. Tom Apodaca (R), who, within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County announced, "Now we can go with the full bill," just happens to be a legislative member of ALEC.

"Before the bills are publicly introduced in state legislatures by ALEC politicians or alumni in the governor’s offices," according to Lisa Graves, whose Center for Media and Democracy obtained copies of more than 800 ALEC model bills, "they will be cleansed of any reference to the secret corporate voting or who really wrote them."

Judge Peake's ruling reveals that plaintiffs' discovery has been sought, in part, to support a contemplated motion for a preliminary injunction that would seek to prevent VIVA's controversial, voter suppression provisions from being implemented before the upcoming 2014 elections. If the plaintiffs obtain a preliminary injunction, it could potentially prevent many, largely minority voters in NC from being disenfranchised. In addition to providing access to information that may support a preliminary injunction, Judge Peake's ruling could potentially serve to expose the role that ALEC has played in aiding and abetting voter suppression in the Tar Heel State, and elsewhere.

* * *Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @Cann4ing

* * *Please help support The BRAD BLOG's fiercely independent, award-winning coverage of your electoral system --- now in our ELEVENTH YEAR! --- as available from no other media outlet in the nation...


Categories: Brad Blog

Gingrich: Elections 'Favor Billionaires over Middle Class' (So Wait Until You See His 'Solution'!)

Brad Blog - Fri, 03/28/2014 - 18:05

Oh, the irony of Newt Gingrich never ends...

Newt Gingrich says all the attention to be paid in Las Vegas by GOP officials and wannabe presidents this weekend to billionaire campaign donor Sheldon Adelson-a patron of Gingrich's 2012 White House bid-is something that won't go away until genuine campaign finance reform occurs.

"Whether it's the Koch brothers or [George] Soros on the left or Sheldon," said the former House speaker in an interview with National Journal on Friday, ticking off other campaign mega-donors, "if you're going to have an election process that radically favors billionaires and is discriminating against the middle class-which we now have-then billionaires are going to get a lot of attention."

Gingrich was asked about the gathering of some top Republicans in Las Vegas for what officially is the spring meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Some have even taken to dubbing the event the "Sheldon Primary," for the casino mogul who almost single-handedly bankrolled Gingrich's presidential candidacy in 2012 and is said to be looking for another horse to back for the White House in 2016.

That's from Billy House's piece at National Journal today.

But if you want to know what Gingrich proposes to help even the score in elections between the billionaires and the middle class, you have to read to the last line of House's article...

This weekend, prospective 2016 GOP Presidential candidates and Republican Governors current and former Jeb Bush (FL), Chris Christie (NJ), Scott Walker (WI) and John Kasich (OH) are all set to be in Vegas, where each will be meeting privately with Adelson.

As House points out, Adelson is said to have personally spent more money on elections in 2012 (in support of only Republicans --- millions of it to Ginrich's failed Presidential run) than anyone else in history. "ProPublica determined after combing through Federal Election Commission and IRS records that Adelson and his wife, Miriam, spent at least $98 million during that election cycle," reports House.

So what sort of "reform" is Gingrich calling for to change the system which he complains "radically favors billionaires and is discriminating against the middle class"?

He told House: "The truth is, we desperately need an election reform which allows candidates to receive the same amount of money as super PACs."

Ah, that's it. Take all contribution caps off and let billionaires buy their candidates directly instead of going through super PACs to do it. That'll totally even the score for the middle class!

Thanks, Newt!

* * *Please help support The BRAD BLOG's fiercely independent, award-winning coverage of your electoral system --- now in our ELEVENTH YEAR! --- as available from no other media outlet in the nation...


Categories: Brad Blog

Brad on Progressive Radio in Minnesota as State Democrats Join Deadly 'War on Vaping'

Brad Blog - Fri, 03/28/2014 - 17:09

Finally, I'm no longer the only progressive taking to the air waves to call bullshit on the Democrats' deadly and stupid War on People Trying to Quit Smoking with E-cigs.

On Thursday I was invited to discuss the issue with Ian Levitt of the Daily Report, the afternoon drive time show on KTNF, Minnesota's great Progressive AM950. Minnesota now joins the growing list of places where legislatures are considering a ban on vaping in public spaces because...well, I guess because they want more people to keep smoking rather than quitting via the non-smoking alternative of vaping. (I'm sure there must be some other reason --- and we discussed that a bit during the show --- but whatever that reason is, as is the case here in Los Angeles, it sure isn't based on science or public health benefits, as my interview with L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz, who sponsored and voted for the ban here, made very clear a few weeks ago!)

It's time that Progressives (not to mention Democrats, but I don't necessarily hold out much hope for them) get on the right side of this issue. Here's my conversation about e-cigs and ill-considered bans against them, with Levitt yesterday...

To his great credit, according to the Star Tribune, MN's Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has signalled the state's proposed ban goes "too far". So the bill has been sent back to committee in the state Senate.

"Dayton said he would sign a bill to restrict children's ability to buy e-cigarettes and to keep the product out of schools, but he would likely oppose making them subject to the indoor air law," the paper reports. "Dayton told the Star Tribune that he's not convinced there is definitive evidence that secondhand vapor poses a danger similar to secondhand smoke."

Here in Los Angeles, while the City Council voted to ban e-cig use like cigarettes, in public spaces such as parks, beaches, restaurants, bars, clubs, work spaces etc., Mayor Eric Garcetti has yet to approve the new ordinance. He can be contacted here, if you'd like to ring in with your thoughts on the new ban which is sure to make it harder for smokers to vape and, therefore, to quit smoking entirely.

If you have any questions about the effectiveness of e-cigs, feel free to ignore my own testimonial (vaping has allowed me to stop smoking immediately after decades of being a smoker) and take a look at some of the almost identical testimonials from former smokers in that Star Tribune article I linked to previously on the Minnesota ban now being considered.


Categories: Brad Blog

'It's the Biggest Problem Facing Humanity': VICE's Shane Smith on Climate Change

Brad Blog - Fri, 03/28/2014 - 08:35

On last week's episode of VICE on HBO, the documentary news magazine's founder Shane Smith went to Greenland to cover the startling melting of its massive ice sheets

Grist's Ted Alvarez interviewed Smith about the episode recently. Here are a few highlights from that interview...

Q. What made you guys want to tackle climate change?

A. I did a story last year - and I'm going to do this every season, every time we get a chance because I think it's the biggest problem facing humanity as a whole today. I don't know how you get bigger.
...
Q. And yet mainstream media often shies away from covering it, at least in proportion to the seriousness of the problem.

A. I find it incredibly strange that that's the case. When you talk to people in the scientific community and ask how much of this is our fault, they say, "Oh, 100 percent of it." And most people don't think it's true. But I guess there's people who deny gravity and evolution. ... It's not even that the gun is to our heads; the hammer has been cocked back. We have to do it now or we're screwed.
...
Q. What made the biggest impression on you while out there on the ice?

A. The scale of what's happening is amazing. I live in Tribeca, and during Sandy my whole street was underwater. It's personal: My house is going to sink. You realize the scope of the problem. Greenland is several miles thick, and it's sinking as fast as it can. We flew over this deglaciated land which has been covered for 50,000 years, and 10-15 miles of it is deglaciated. You realize what used to be miles wide and miles thick is just gone. If you understand the science, you understand it will happen at an exponential rate. And then it becomes wholly terrifying. You can see how a place that's three times the size of Texas is melting all at once. It's mind-bogglingly huge.
...
I don't think the scientific community understands the war they're in. [They say], "It's difficult to say anything is 100 percent this or that." They don't understand that if they leave any loophole, the far right, the Koch brothers, the well-funded lobbies will exploit it. Ninety percent of the comments on anything we do [on VICE] are positive, but when we cover climate change they're negative, and it's because they're funded.

That's what I really think is the most insidious. Look, we all know [climate change] is real - the science at this point is indisputable. But people who know the science is real are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for people to say it's not real. That's the definition of shitting where you eat: damning future generations so you can make short-term profit on fossil fuels.

Unfortunately, the episode doesn't appear to be available online for free, other than for HBO subscribers at HBO Go. If you have access to either, you should try and watch VICE's disturbing "Greenland is Melting" segment. Here's Shane Smith's "Debrief" on the episode...


Categories: Brad Blog

Toon of the Moment: 'Build That Ark'

Brad Blog - Thu, 03/27/2014 - 19:15

[Hat-tip too-infrequent BRAD BLOG guest blogger D.R. Tucker]


Categories: Brad Blog

'Green News Report' - March 27, 2014

Brad Blog - Thu, 03/27/2014 - 17:42


 

IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Was logging a factor in deadly Washington landslide?; New BP oil spill in Lake Michigan; Rooftop solar endangers the electric grid? 'Bullsh*t', says former Energy Secretary; Next UN climate report warns climate change will affect 'every aspect of human life' and 'cost trillions'; PLUS: Irreversible climate change could be locked in as early 2036... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

Please help us connect the climate change dots over your public airwaves!
PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE!
-->

Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

Link: Embed:

Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at GreenNews@BradBlog.com or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at GreenNews.BradBlog.com.

IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): House of Representatives votes for No More National Parks; U.S. Oil Boom Shifts Alliance as Obama Visits Saudi King; Ridiculously Resilient Ridge Hangs Tough; Fracking’s Earthquake Risks Push States to Collaborate; Fracking the USA: New Map Shows 1 Million Oil, Gas Wells; EPA moves to protect streams, wetlands; Drug companies agree to curb livestock antibiotic use ... PLUS: Millions of salmon begin migration --- by truck ... and much, MUCH more! ...

STORIES DISCUSSED ON TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...

'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...

FOR MORE on Climate Science and Climate Change, go to our Green News Report: Essential Background Page

  • Skeptical Science: Database with FULL DEBUNKING of ALL Climate Science Denier Myths
  • Warning: Even in the best-case scenario, climate change will kick our asses (Grist)
  • NASA Video: Warming over the last 130 years, and into the next 100 years:

  • Categories: Brad Blog

    Ukraine War Bait and E-Cigs and Dems, Oh My!: KPFK 'BradCast'

    Brad Blog - Wed, 03/26/2014 - 23:50

    I haven't gotten to go to the phones for weeks on the KPFK/Pacifica Radio BradCast, so that's what we did on this week's show. No guests. Just me, a few rants, lots of callers (and, of course, Desi Doyen and the latest Green News Report).

    The rants included more on the mad media misinformation/neo-con war-baiting over Ukraine (which, thankfully, it appears Obama no longer seems to be falling for or taking the bait on); the Democrats woeful 2014 campaign plans and --- the one that got ALL the phone lines ringing off the hook --- the rapidly increasing media disinformation about e-cigs.

    Lots of good calls, but my favorite on that last was from "David in Los Angeles". I think his opinion may be a nearly perfect distillation of the entire, insane backlash against the public health miracle that is vaping. David describes his concern: "We don't want to encourage the behavior of smoking, even if its not harmful." My question to him is, "Why?" He explains: "because it's the perceived behavior that is negative." You'll have to tune in to see how that call, and all the others, worked out.

    It was a very lively show this week. Hope you'll enjoy it...

    Download MP3 or listen online below...
    [See post to listen to audio]


    Categories: Brad Blog

    'Green News Report' - March 25, 2014

    Brad Blog - Tue, 03/25/2014 - 17:49


     

    IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Deadly --- and predicted --- landslide disaster in Washington State; Meet the nation's newest oil spill, now in Galveston Bay; Air pollution from fossil fuels kills 7 million people a year; PLUS: The never-ending legacy of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, 25 years later... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

    Please help us connect the climate change dots over your public airwaves!
    PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE!
    -->

    Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

    Link: Embed:

    Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at GreenNews@BradBlog.com or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at GreenNews.BradBlog.com.

    IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Plane search hampered by ocean garbage problem; BP oil causing fish deformities; Wind and Solar Harvest Enough Energy Now to Pay Back Manufacture Plus Add Storage; Global warming has not stopped, will go on for centuries; Kids living near big roads have higher cancer rates; Does US oil boom mean more oil spills?; WI towns fight to control local frac sand mining; Los Alamos nuclear storage accident diverts waste to Texas; Global energy demand vs. agriculture for water supplies ... PLUS: Warming Is Big Risk For People: 'the polar bear is us' ... and much, MUCH more! ...

    STORIES DISCUSSED ON TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...

    'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...

    FOR MORE on Climate Science and Climate Change, go to our Green News Report: Essential Background Page

  • Skeptical Science: Database with FULL DEBUNKING of ALL Climate Science Denier Myths
  • Warning: Even in the best-case scenario, climate change will kick our asses (Grist)
  • NASA Video: Warming over the last 130 years, and into the next 100 years:

  • Categories: Brad Blog

    'Math Not Fox 'News' Strong Point'

    Brad Blog - Tue, 03/25/2014 - 09:02

    But what is? Yes, in Fox Crazy World, 138% of registered voters disapprove of Obama's handling of Ukraine. (I suspect negative 85% of them even noticed or cared)...

    Math, not @FoxNews' strong point. pic.twitter.com/dTrT1wJvLl

    — Maggie Jordan (@MaggieJordanACN) March 25, 2014

    I asked Bret Baier of Special Report on Fox 'News' for comment on this graphic via Twitter, but he has, so far, declined to respond.

    But you'll be shocked to learn that this isn't the first time Fox has had this kind of trouble with basic math...


    Categories: Brad Blog

    Misguided War on Quitting Smoking Continues: NYTimes Runs Hit Piece on E-Cig Liquid Nicotine

    Brad Blog - Mon, 03/24/2014 - 17:44

    For all of the long-time smokers who are quitting or have now quit the deadly habit (myself included) thanks only to the miracle of e-cigs (which offer none of the thousands of known, harmful byproducts of smoking tobacco), it's remarkable to see anti-smoking zealots actually fighting against their use in myriad ways.

    Several weeks ago on my KPFK/Pacifica Radio show, I interviewed Paul Koretz, one of the L.A. City Councilmembers who, beyond all reason --- and without a single shred of scientific data to back up his reasoning --- recently voted to ban vaping in all the same places where smoking is banned (on beaches, public parks, inside work places, restaurants, bars, etc.) Those who vape, if L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti decides to approve the City Council's ridiculous and dangerous ordinance (as other mayors have done in other cities) would be consigned to having to go outside to a smoking area to use their safe, odor-free vaporizer.

    As one caller to the radio show pointed out, that ill-considered policy is akin to forcing recovering alcoholics to go sit in a bar. It's almost assured to keep more people smoking rather than quitting. That, even though, as Koretz admitted to me on air, there's a "99% possibility" that vaping is "much safer than smoking" and the former. (And he was low-balling that number, no doubt.) The former President of the American Lung Association describes the L.A. ban on vaping as "misguided" and "a public health disservice".

    Which brings us to Monday's New York Times, where the Idiotic War on Quitting Smoking continues with a misguided hit piece on e-liquid --- the "juices" used in e-cig vaporizers --- headlined "Selling a Poison by the Barrel: Liquid Nicotine for E-Cigarettes"...

    Most such e-juices contain various levels of nicotine (unlike with cigarettes, the amount is up to the users, usually from 0mg to 24mg or so) mixed with FDA-approved, food-grade propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin, some flavoring and water. The ingredients in e-liquids other than nicotine are regularly used in all sorts of things, from lip balm to asthma inhalers to the fog machines used in theaters and discos.

    While the ingestion of nicotine in the amounts used in e-cigs (and smoking, for that matter) is not known to be any more dangerous than, say, the caffeine in your coffee, as toxicologists will tell you, poison is determined by the amount, the dose, ingested. If you don't believe me, try drinking several gallons of clear clean water in about 30 minutes or so. (Actually, please don't. It will likely kill you.)

    The same, of course, is true for the nicotine concentrate used in e-juice. And so, as part of the absurd --- and deadly --- War on Vaping that is now emerging to stop millions of people moving from smoking to vaping, the Times today warns that "Evidence of the potential dangers is already emerging. Toxicologists warn that e-liquids pose a significant risk to public health, particularly to children, who may be drawn to their bright colors and fragrant flavorings like cherry, chocolate and bubble gum."

    Of course. It's the children they claim to be worried about.

    But are they worried about what happens if children get a hold of, say, this delicious looking Clorox Pine-Sol Household Cleaner concentrate, in deliciously kid-friendly colors for just $9.99 for 144 ounces, as found under the kitchen sinks of tens of millions of Americans?...

    What kid could resist a sip of that delicious looking grape or cherry or blueberry flavor?! And yet, I haven't noticed the NY Times running any feature articles warning about Pine-Sol's dangers, despite the fact that, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), "Every day, over 300 children in the United States ages 0 to 19 are treated in an emergency department, and two children die, as a result of being poisoned."

    "It's not just chemicals in your home marked with clear warning labels that can be dangerous to children," the CDC warns. "Everyday items in your home, such as household cleaners and medicines, can be poisonous to children as well."

    In the meantime, as the Times notes, there has been just one death from nicotine poisoning since 2011, "a suicide by an adult who injected nicotine."

    The paper, however, failed to warn of the case of the woman who "accidentally drank PineSol and was subsequently brought to the hospital where she was pronounced dead on arrival" or of the house cat who "died of Pinesol intoxication," to name just two examples I found at the National Insitute of Health (NIH) after about 3 minutes of Googling.

    I appreciate that most people do not smoke. And that many of those non-smokers who see something that appears to be smoke-like coming out of someone's mouth (it's not smoke, it's water vapor) may have a psychological inclination to feel that it is the very same thing as smoking. But it isn't. Not by a long shot. It's more like an orally administered nicotine patch and one that people actually prefer to either smoking or nicotine patches. And, at least for me, it actually led to my quitting smoking --- immediately --- unlike FDA-approved nicotine patches, gums and any number of prescription-based pharmaceuticals approved as smoking cessation aids.

    Vaping works. Like water, it is not known to be deadly to either the user or anyone else when it's used properly. It's not even annoying, since the mist released by vapers is virtually odor-free.

    And yet, those who claim they want to save lives by encouraging people to quit smoking are doing the exact opposite by demonizing vaping, and making it more difficult to do. That needs to stop --- unless the anti-smoking-turned-anti-vaping efforts aren't really about saving lives at all.


    Categories: Brad Blog

    Koch Is It! Dems' 2014 Campaign Plan Revealed!

    Brad Blog - Mon, 03/24/2014 - 13:55

    Well, it just makes sense. Republicans aren't actually running on anything in 2014 other than "Democrats are no good! Also, Obamacare!"

    As Jesse LaGreca points out, however, "50+ repeal votes, a SCOTUS decision and a Presidential election, still no GOP alternative to Obamacare, just trolling & BS."

    So, it's not much to run on. But that's okay. The Rs have an advantage this year thanks to the D's huge wins in 2008, leaving Dems with much more territory to defend this year in the U.S. Senate. More importantly, while Republicans have little or no policy initiatives to actually run on --- or, at least, few they'd like to mention out loud --- they don't really need to. The Koch Brothers are so desperate to see Republicans back in power, and all the swell goodies that come with it, they are unleashing everything they can to simply buy their way back into greater control of our nation's once-of-the-people, by-the-people, for-the-people government.

    At the same time, unfortunately, Democrats aren't running on much more themselves. "We're not crazy Republicans!" may be true, but it doesn't give American voters much to vote for, especially while the Kochs are outspending outside Democratic-leaning groups 10 to 1 so far this year. So it all makes sense that with the Kochs' money running this year in lieu of actual Republicans with policies, Democrats seem to be set on simply run against the Kochs. That appears to be the plan. Or, at least the one that's working for them so far, according to Dave Weigel at Slate today:

    I've seen some numbers from fundraising emails from one [Democratic] campaign that were sent from roughly mid-January to mid-March, pretty bad news cycles for the party. Nineteen emails didn't mention the Kochs. They raised, in total, $48,146.30, for an average of $2,534.02 per message.

    But five emails mentioned, in at least some way, the Koch brothers. Those asks raised $32,668.72, an average of $6,533.74 per email. The Democratic base, which has been hearing about and fearing the Kochs for nearly four years, responds to this stuff.

    So, running against The Koch Brothers brings in three times as much money as running on...whatever else the Dems have been trying to run on so far this year.

    It'd be nice if the Democrats gave voters something concrete to vote for. It might even solve their oft-cited problem of D voters not turning out for mid-terms. Why should they, after all? That's not a criticism, that's an actual question. Why should voters turn out? What are they supposed to be voting for?Democrats might want to start thinking about offering a concrete reason or three. But, in lieu of that, running against the two privileged sons of an oil baron who are willing to spend as much of their father's hard-earned money as they need to in hopes of buying the United States whole hog will have to suffice, apparently. In 2014, with few, if any, policy promises (so far) presented to voters, Koch is it.

    Unfortunately, for every dollar raised by the Dems, the Kochs can just cut a check for three or ten more. So, if you'd like to start questioning the Democrats' 2014 election strategy, now would be a good time.

    You also might want to ask them why they aren't doing much more to fight against the madness unleashed by the infamous Citizens United in 2010 and the way that Republicans (particularly the Kochs and Karl Rove) have gamed every last inch of whatever scraps are left of campaign finance law in this country. Come to think of it, a hard promise to pass laws to effectively overturn Citizens United and restore campaign finance enforcement at the FEC would be just one concrete policy that Americans might actually turn out to vote affirmatively for. And, Democrats could beat up on the Kochs all they like in the bargain. Win-win! So, of course, Democrats probably won't do it.


    Categories: Brad Blog

    How to Collapse the Nationwide Power Grid: BRAD BLOG's Desi Doyen on 'The Young Turks'

    Brad Blog - Mon, 03/24/2014 - 08:35

    Republicans enjoy pretending to be "tough on terrorism". But, as with most things they pretend to be, they are not. If they actually were, they'd have sprung into action long ago to deal with the massive infrastructure vulnerability of our antiquated nationwide power grid.

    As the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) warned some time ago, as per a secret memo recently revealed by Wall Street Journal's Rebecca Smith [subscription req'd], the entire nationwide grid could be brought down by an attack on as few as 9 of the nation's 55,000 electrical substations during a heat wave. Knock out a transformer manufacturer at the same time and the power --- nationwide --- would stay collapsed "for at least 18 months, probably longer".

    The former chairman of FERC has suggested a solution, which may (partially) explain Republican interest in ignoring the matter entirely: distributed solar power.

    Of course, after Smith's report, the U.S. government is not angry at the lack of action to protect against the vulnerability. They are mad at Smith for reporting it, even though she withheld key details.

    The entire issue became even more critical recently, after last April's "mysterious and sophisticated sniper attack" on a substation in San Jose, CA.

    Desi Doyen of The BRAD BLOG's Green News Report explained the entire mess while guest hosting last Friday's The Young Turks...


    Categories: Brad Blog

    Republican WI State Senator: GOP Polling Place Photo ID Restriction Law 'Just Plain Wrong'

    Brad Blog - Fri, 03/21/2014 - 15:20

    Last week we told you how Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker considers implementing a polling place Photo ID restriction in his state to be so "pressing" that he would call a special session of the state legislature to do it. He says it's the only such matter "pressing" enough to merit such extraordinary action this year, in advance of the November 2014 election --- when Walker himself, just coincidentally, faces a very tight re-election race.

    That, despite the fact that two state courts have already found the Republicans' existing polling place Photo ID voter restriction law to be a violation of the state constitution and that expert testimony during one of the two trials detailed how there is only one single known case of voter impersonation fraud in WI over the past 10 years that might have possibly been deterred by such a law. At the same time, tens of thousands of perfectly legal voters will likely be barred from voting under such a law.The state Supreme Court is currently deciding on the state's appeal to the lower courts' rulings.

    Republicans pretend that implementing such a law is not about voter suppression, but now at least one of them, to his great credit, strongly and loudly disagrees.

    This week, Republican state Sen. Dale Schultz accused his own party of "trying to suppress the vote" and said that he is "not willing to defend them anymore. I'm just not and I'm embarrassed by this."

    Schultz also decried the current WI GOP effort to suppress the vote --- one which would likely effect many elderly as well as minority and student voters --- as an insult to veterans, calling it "a slap in the face at the very least to some of the people who gave some of the most vital years of their life in the service of their country"...

    Speaking on a Madison, WI radio show this week, Schultz said: "I began this session thinking that there was some lack of faith in our voting process and we maybe needed to address it. But I have come to the conclusion that this is far less noble."

    Josh Israel at Think Progress offers more from the transcript of the show:

    SCHULTZ: It's just, I think, sad when a political party - my political party - has so lost faith in its ideas that it's pouring all of its energy into election mechanics. And again, I'm a guy who understands and appreciates what we should be doing in order to make sure every vote counts, every vote is legitimate.

    But that fact is, it ought to be abundantly clear to everybody in this state that there is no massive voter fraud.

    The only thing that we do have in this state is we have long lines of people who want to vote. And it seems to me that we should be doing everything we can to make it easier, to help these people get their votes counted. And that we should be pitching as political parties our ideas for improving things in the future, rather than mucking around in the mechanics and making it more confrontational at the voting sites and trying to suppress the vote.

    Israel notes Schultz went on to call the Republican effort "just plain wrong", adding: "It is all predicated on some belief there is a massive fraud or irregularities, something my colleagues have been hot on the trail for three years and have failed miserably at demonstrating."

    You are absolutely right, Senator. Thank you for saying as much out loud. We're as embarrassed for your party as you are.

    * * *Please help support The BRAD BLOG's fiercely independent, award-winning coverage of your electoral system --- now in our ELEVENTH YEAR! --- as available from no other media outlet in the nation...


    Categories: Brad Blog

    'Green News Report' - March 20, 2014

    Brad Blog - Thu, 03/20/2014 - 17:56


     

    IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Greenland is melting, and sea levels are rising; It's official - Winter 2014 was the 8th warmest on record; CO2 emissions breach 400ppm - again; ExxonMobil admits climate change will hurt business; PLUS: Rising ocean acidification already killing the shellfish industry ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

    Please help us connect the climate change dots over your public airwaves!
    PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE!
    -->

    Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

    Link: Embed:

    Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at GreenNews@BradBlog.com or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at GreenNews.BradBlog.com.

    IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Koch Brothers are the largest land holders in Canada’s tar sands; Energy industry chronically overestimates cost of pollution regulations; How NASA thinks society will collapse; World's oldest CO2 measurement threatened by budget cuts; White House launches climate science website; Pet coke company fined for "inexcusable conduct"; House to vote on 'No More National Parks'; Will Ferrel insults Robert Redford to save a river ... PLUS: Climate Scientists: We’re Alarmed. Here’s Why You Should Be, Too. ... and much, MUCH more! ...

    STORIES DISCUSSED ON TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...

    'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...

    FOR MORE on Climate Science and Climate Change, go to our Green News Report: Essential Background Page

  • Skeptical Science: Database with FULL DEBUNKING of ALL Climate Science Denier Myths
  • Warning: Even in the best-case scenario, climate change will kick our asses (Grist)
  • NASA Video: Warming over the last 130 years, and into the next 100 years:

  • Categories: Brad Blog

    U.S. Media's 'Lost' Ukraine Narrative: KPFK 'BradCast'

    Brad Blog - Thu, 03/20/2014 - 00:04

    Ever since the situation in Ukraine began to blow up (again), I've been trying to figure out what's really been going on. It hasn't been easy. And the U.S. corporate media has not been particularly helpful (again).

    My attempt to sort out fact from fiction after last weekend's '97.6%' referendum vote in Crimea is just one example of finding the facts running counter to the U.S. MSM narrative.

    We pick up that thread on this week's KPFK/Pacifica Radio BradCast, as I was joined by investigative reporter Robert Parry of ConsortiumNews.com to try and sort much of it out. His must-read article, "Mainstream US Media Is Lost in Ukraine", tying together blatant media failures on Iraq and Syria and now in Ukraine, begins to crack the nut of what the U.S. media is failing to tell us about the entire fine mess, including some startling audio evidence that we play on the show suggesting that certain narratives --- for example, the one about now former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych's police gunning down protesters --- may be much less (or, at least, much different) than has been generally reported in this country.

    Parry explains how "The U.S. mainstream news media is reaching a new professional low point as it covers the Ukraine crisis by brazenly touting Official Washington’s propaganda themes, blatantly ignoring contrary facts and leading the American public into another geopolitical blind alley."

    You'll want to hear this conversation.

    In the back half of the show...we cover The BRAD BLOG's exclusive this week on a great new gift for election hackers --- just in time for the 2014 mid-terms!; the one WI Republican state Senator willing to stand up against Gov. Scott Walker's voter suppression; Sen. Whitehouse's theory on Citizens United and climate change denial; and, of course, Desi Doyen joins us with the latest Green News Report, as usual.

    Buckle up!

    Download MP3 or listen online below...
    [See post to listen to audio]

    [Image: Mykhaylo Palinchak / Shutterstock.com]


    Categories: Brad Blog

    Exclusive: ES&S iVotronic Touch-Screen Voting Systems Now For Sale on eBay!

    Brad Blog - Wed, 03/19/2014 - 08:35

    Hey! Great news! Just in time to practice up your hacking skills before the 2014 mid-term elections, you can now buy your very own ES&S iVotronic touch-screen voting system from eBay!...

    Yes, the very same voting systems that are so incredibly sensitive and vulnerable to tampering (and which have failed so often in so many states and in so many elections) that both election officials and Elections Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S) have long attempted to keep them out of the hands of the public, can now be yours for just $499.99 or "Best Offer" via eBay! And that includes Free Shipping!

    And, oh, look! One of them is already sold!...

    The systems, according to the eBay ad, are used, but in "GREAT WORKING CONDITION". The Illinois-based seller, Gadgets Plus, tells The BRAD BLOG the systems were last used in Clay County, Florida which, according to VerifiedVoting.org's Verifier database, still uses the iVotronic for disabled-accessible voting --- or did in 2012, in any case.

    The ES&S iVotronic, in case you'd like to practice your hacking and election theft skills for any reason, is among the most widely used touch-screen voting systems in the country and its made by the largest e-voting system vendor in the world! According to Verified Voting, the 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting systems were used in 2012 in 403 voting jurisdictions across all or parts of 18 states, including Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

    In addition to being amongst the most --- if not the most --- ubiquitous unverifiable electronic touch-screen voting system in the nation, the iVotronic has played a starring role in such elections as the one which secured the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination in SC for the completely unknown and largely illiterate Alvin Greene in 2010. It was also the system on which 18,000 votes simply vanished in Sarasota, FL in 2006, handing the special FL-13 U.S. House election to Republican Vern Buchanan by just 369 votes. And, of course, there are still those unexplained impossible election results from Monroe County, AR in 2010 among many other memorable iVotronic moments we could worry you with.

    When asked about the possibility of an iVotronic being made available for anyone in the public to work with, Joe Lorenzo Hall, Chief Technologist at the Center for Democracy & Technology warned The BRAD BLOG "If a voting machine were to fall into the 'wrong' hands, there is probably quite a bit a bad guy could learn in order to plan and design future attacks on such a machine."

    Hall, who worked on two different state-sponsored landmark studies of e-voting systems in California and Ohio (both of which found myriad security vulnerabilities in every single system tested), cited two different cases in the past where computer scientist and security experts obtained voting systems made by different vendors (Diebold and Sequoia) and were then able to use them to discover serious security vulnerabilities which could have been exploited during live elections.

    "In both these cases," he explained, "despite very different designs, they were able to change votes and write a machine-specific virus that would allow fraudulent vote counts and spread silently from machine to machine over the course of a few elections."

    The instance Hall cited involving a Diebold Accuvote touch-screen system was a story we originally broke in 2006, after obtaining the system from an insider source and sharing it with computer scientists at Princeton.

    "While it may only be feasible for an external attacker to get a few minutes to a few hours alone with a machine," Hall told us, "having a machine that they can develop and pilot possible attacks would be a very necessary resource for this kind of work."

    He adds that, given the way electronic voting systems are currently designed and certified, even if it was discovered, before an election, that a hacker had developed a new way to exploit such systems, "no specific 'fix' or update could be developed and certified in time. We'd likely have to run the next election knowing a serious set of vulnerabilities were live in the system."

    The eBay sale of the ES&S touch-screens is not the first instance in which similar e-voting systems have become available for sale to the general public on eBay. Back in 2008, The BRAD BLOG also broke the news about the availability of Diebold Accuvote touch-screen systems for sale there as well. At the time, we wrote:

    Hey Election Officials and Voting Machines Companies: How's that whole "security by obscurity" thing going? Might we suggest security by transparency and full citizen oversight instead? Oh, that's right. We have. Many times. But please feel free to continue to ignore us.

    While covering the Diebold systems becoming available on eBay, we also described them as "the perfect gift for the careful, discriminating hacker". Well, great news! With the iVotronic now available to anyone and everyone, your shopping options just got even better!

    Happy hacking, hackers!

    * * *Please help support The BRAD BLOG's fiercely independent, award-winning coverage of your electoral system --- now in our ELEVENTH YEAR! --- as available from no other media outlet in the nation...


    Categories: Brad Blog

    When Activists in Taiwan 'Occupy', They OCCUPY...

    Brad Blog - Wed, 03/19/2014 - 01:21

    Activists use chairs to blockade doors as they take over Taiwan's parliament to protest a trade agreement with China pic.twitter.com/pCU9CpUmg6

    — Agence France-Presse (@AFP) March 19, 2014


    Categories: Brad Blog

    'Green News Report' - March 18, 2014

    Brad Blog - Tue, 03/18/2014 - 17:24


     

    IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Secret federal memo warns entire nationwide electric grid could be knocked out; More new evidence NC collaborated with Duke Energy to derail lawsuits; BP is back in the Gulf, baby!; PLUS: Surprise! Paris discovers stopping traffic really does stop pollution ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

    Please help us connect the climate change dots over your public airwaves!
    PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE!
    -->

    Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

    Link: Embed:

    Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at GreenNews@BradBlog.com or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at GreenNews.BradBlog.com.

    IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Pest develops resistance to GMO corn; Scientists sound alarm about climate change - again; Antarctic rubbish dump will cost millions to clean up; Unskilled and destitute are hiring targest for Fukushima cleanup; East Harlem explosion highlights risk of natural gas leaks; Floods cause oil spill in ND; Thames Barrier hits yearly operational limit in 2 months; Global warming melts 'stable' edge of Greenland ice sheet ... PLUS: GAO: Climate Change Threatens Energy Infrastructure ... and much, MUCH more! ...

    STORIES DISCUSSED ON TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...

    'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...

    FOR MORE on Climate Science and Climate Change, go to our Green News Report: Essential Background Page

  • Skeptical Science: Database with FULL DEBUNKING of ALL Climate Science Denier Myths
  • Warning: Even in the best-case scenario, climate change will kick our asses (Grist)
  • NASA Video: Warming over the last 130 years, and into the next 100 years:

  • Categories: Brad Blog

    How Legitimate is Crimea's '96.7%' Referendum Result?

    Brad Blog - Tue, 03/18/2014 - 08:05

    In a blog item on Monday, law professor Ilya Somin, of the Washington Post's right-leaning "Volokh Conspiracy" blog, declared the weekend's reported 96.7% vote in favor of Crimea joining Russia to be either fraudulent or the result of voter intimidation of some kind.

    In the article, Somin called the results "dubious" and "highly improbable," declaring at least three times in his very short, 6-paragraph item that the referendum's results were "achieved" (his quotes) and/or "likely tainted by fraud or intimidation" --- the likelihood of which Somin describes as a "fact."

    "It is highly improbable that 96.7% would have voted yes in a genuinely free vote, since the Crimean population includes large Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar minorities that are overwhelmingly opposed to a return to Russian rule," the George Mason University School of Law professor instructs. "Crimean officials are also reporting a high 83% turnout. If that figure is correct, it makes it unlikely that the 96.7% result is explicable by selective turnout. If, on the other hand, officials are lying about the turnout, they could be engaging deception about the vote margin as well."

    Mainstream corporate media in the U.S. have a very difficult time reporting on real evidence of fraud in American elections, much less reporting it as "fact." But when it comes to elections overseas, particularly those which involve perceived geopolitical foes of the U.S., papers like the Washington Post seem to have little, if any, reluctance in offering exceedingly speculative arguments that all but declare elections held by others to be "fraudulent." (See this head-spinning irony, also involving Ukraine, just days after the very same disparity in Exit Polling, carried out by the same firm, resulted in questions about the legitimacy of results from Ukraine's November 2004 Presidential election, but not the still-disputed results of the 2004 Presidential elections in the U.S. just a week or two earlier.)

    But 96.7% is, indeed, an outrageously high number for any election result. So how much legitimacy should be given to the results of the voting announced from the weekend referendum in Crimea, given what we know about the balloting and what we don't? And can the U.S. learn anything --- for better or worse --- about the way votes were cast and counted in Crimea?...

    What choice?

    For a start, no real choice was offered on the ballots, as many in the Western media took pains to note. At least, there was no choice to vote in favor of keeping the Crimean region as a semi-autonomous part of Ukraine, as it has been for many decades. Rather, the voters' choice was to either join Russia or allow the Russian-leaning Crimean legislature to decide for themselves who they would like to align with.

    "Residents of Crimea, up to 60% percent of whom are Russian, were given a choice of either joining Russia or opting for more autonomy from Ukraine under the 1992 constitution. The status quo, in which Crimea is a semi-autonomous region of Ukraine, was not an option," reported USA Today.

    Reuters offered more details, explaining that "there is no room on the ballot paper for voting 'Nyet' to control by Russia."

    So, for a start, while the ballot offered two different questions, only one of which voters were allowed to check (or their ballots were to be considered "spoiled"), a Yes/No paradigm seemed to be offered, but wasn't really. The ballot question(s) themselves were rigged in favor of Russia.

    Still, if the first option on the ballot, asking about reunification of Crimea with Russia as a part of the Russian Federation is considered "Da", and the second option, calling for "restoring the 1992 Constitution" was considered "Nyet", that still leaves a lot of voters who are said to have voted to join Russia, according to the officially reported results. The lack of an option to keep the status quo as is certainly tipped the entire affair towards Russia, but it doesn't tell us whether or not the "Da" option actually received 97.6% approval from voters.

    'Intimidation'?

    In his Washington Post item, Somin repeats again and again that the 97.6% number was "likely" the result of "fraud or intimidation". Either or both could be true, but he offers little actual evidence to prove either case.

    The intimidation factor, on first blush, would seem fairly obvious. Crimea, by many media accounts, has been crawling with Russian troops --- or, at least, troops believed to be Russian, even though they wear no insignia --- for several weeks now. Referendum Day, many in the Western media suggested, was no different.

    Here, for example, is a BBC report by Ben Brown from inside of a polling place in Simferopol. The same report includes footage of men in military fatigues standing in front of a Russian flag...

    Our initial takeaway, when viewing the clip, was that the men seen in that report were stationed outside the polling place where Brown was reporting. But, after watching the clip a few times now, its clear that the footage of men in military fatigues was actually taken in front of the Crimean parliament building at a separate time. The use of the footage in the middle of Brown's report from the polling place seems to suggest an intimidating military presence at the polling place, though Brown did not include any such allegation in his report.

    Claims of intimidation were offered side-by-side with the reportage from several different Western journalists and media outlets at polling places, which almost all seemed to indicate Crimean voters were turning out in landslide numbers to vote in favor of joining Russia. Such reports were based on interviews with voters as well as observations of unfolded, hand-marked paper ballots dropped into the clear ballot boxes featured at each polling place.

    "We've talked to quite a few people after they've cast their votes here, and every single one of them said that they had voted for option number one [joining Russia] on the ballot paper," the BBC's Brown reported. Most of the voters, he added, were ethnic Russians, who are in the majority in Crimea.

    "I've had a glimpse at these transparent ballot boxes," CNN's Diana Magnay reported from in front of a polling place in Perevalnoya. She explains that many voters are dropping their ballots in without folding them up first, allowing observers, if they wish, to see which option they have chosen. "I have not seen a ballot paper that does not have a cross at the top --- i.e. saying 'we are for Russia,'" she said.

    Even Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal conceded that "inside the dozens of transparent ballot boxes viewed by Wall Street Journal reporters across Crimea, not a single vote against joining Russia could be seen."

    The pro-Ukrainian Kyiv Post reported similarly, detailing a polling station inside a Simferopol music school where "the scene was quiet" and "All voters the Kyiv Post spoke with there said they had cast their ballots in favor of joining Russia."

    CNN's Magnay also noted in her report that Perevalnoya is actually a military base itself, but that the commander there explained that if any troops were to come out to vote, they "would be coming out in civilian clothing, apparently so as not to cause any provocation." She referred to troops guarding the gates of the base, pointing out that this particular base has not sworn allegiance to Russia, as has been the case at others. No members of the military (or even, simply men in fatigues) are seen in her report outside or inside the polling station.

    "It's been a steady stream of people going into that polling booth behind me," she reported. "They're very happy at the prospect of this vote. I've talked to the head of the Electoral Commission there who's looked over seven elections in her time and she says that the turnout now is much stronger and everyone is much happier than before."

    "The mood among Russians was festive after polling stations closed at 8 p.m., with a concert held in the city's center square," USA Today reported, underscoring the upbeat nature of those who came out to vote. "Thousands turned up brandishing flags and dancing to live pop music."

    In one breath, USA Today's report explains that "not a single armed guard was seen in the vicinity of Polling Station No. 08086, at a Crimean gymnasium on Simferopol's Kiev Street." In the next, they quote a Ukrainian professor in Simferopol asking, "How can you vote with Russian troops around?" (That same professor may not be too reliable. He is also quoted telling the paper that "Crimea will never join Russia, it will lead to war.")

    The Kyiv Post reported an incident in which they say "half a dozen paratroopers in uniform" were "watching over voters," at one polling station, though they did not include photographs of the incident.

    Even WSJ reported on "the festive air of the vote," and quoted an ebullient local election official. "People are coming here as if for a celebration," precinct deputy chairwoman Elena Kondratyukh is quoted as saying in Gvardeyskoye. "It's like how our parents took us to vote."

    So, there are reports of intimidating military presence --- Russia does have military bases in Crimea, after all --- but little evidence of direct intimidation by troops at the polls. Also, people were happy, streaming in to vote, and seemed to be doing so in huge numbers to join Russia, at least by the accounts of even the most Western-leaning media outlets.

    These reports hardly seem to bear out Somin's repeated charges of "intimidation" in his WaPo piece.

    Boycott

    Both the Ukrainian and Western governments had condemned the entire referendum vote as "illegitimate" since its inception almost two weeks ago. As far as not offering an option for voters to choose to keep the status quo, they certainly have a point. They also claim that the vote itself is "illegal," as it violates whichever version of the Ukrainian constitution they are currently recognizing as the 'legitimate' one. The Crimeans are not allowed to vote on leaving the Ukrainian federation and joining Russia, these folks argue.

    We're no experts in Ukrainian governance or constitutional law, so we'll take their word for it. But even in doing so, that does not speak to whether or not the reported results of the referendum itself actually reflect the will of the voters, as Somin argues strongly in the Washington Post that they do not.

    As in this country, a broad section of the population simply chose not to turn out to the polls at all. In doing so, their voices were not heard in the results.

    "Ethnic Tatars --- Sunni Muslims who make up 12 percent of Crimea's population --- said they would boycott the vote despite promises by the regional authorities to give them financial aid and proper land rights," Reuters reported.

    "This is my land. This is the land of my ancestors. Who asked me if I want it or not? Who asked me?," Shevkaye Assanova, "a Crimean Tatar in her 40s," is quoted as telling the news agency. "For the rest of my life I will be cursing those who brought these people here. I don't recognise this at all. I curse all of them," she says.

    Her curses and her "vote" --- the one she didn't cast --- were ignored. "Those who stay away will also not influence the outcome, since the result will simply be based on the option preferred by a majority of those voting," Reuters explained.

    They went on to report: "A local Tatar television channel broadcast the count at one small polling station. It took just a few minutes for officials to stack up the papers, virtually in a single pile. One gave the result as: '166 for, 2 against, 1 spoiled'. By 'for' she clearly meant the first option on the paper, for union with Russia."

    In addition to the Tatar population refusing to vote, "Many ethnic Russians and Ukrainians who don't want Crimea to leave Ukraine have stayed silent," the WSJ reports. "They cite pressure from friends and relatives as well as the tense atmosphere on the streets, where militias have been patrolling with Russian flags."

    The paper cites Denis Matsola, "a 26-year-old left-wing activist from Simferopol, who says he considers himself Russian but would rather Crimea remain part of Ukraine."

    "I didn't go. I boycotted," Matsola told the WSJ reporters, adding that "among those he knows who also want Crimea to stay within Ukraine, he knows only one person who actually went to vote."

    With ethnic Tatars comprising 12% of the local population, and an unknown number of Russians and Ukrainians who might have voted against joining Russia but refusing to turn out at all, the massive "Da" vote becomes still easier to envision, even without "intimidation and fraud".

    But democracy, such as it exists in either Crimea or the U.S., does not rely on whether elections results are believable. It relies on the ability of the governed --- winners and losers alike --- to be able to oversee the results, so that they may have confidence in knowing that the results are legitimate.

    'Fraud'?

    As in certain places in the U.S., Crimean authorities refused to allow certain international observers --- specifically, the ones from the U.N.'s Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) --- to oversee the referendum. (You may recall when Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott did the same before the 2012 Presidential election, and threatened to arrest OSCE representatives who entered polling places.) Instead, only international observers believed to be friendly to Crimean's Russian initiative were reportedly allowed to serve as official international observers.

    Barring peaceful observers from anywhere is never a good sign for any democracy. It wasn't when it was done in Texas or Iowa or Ohio in recent Presidential elections in the U.S., and it wasn't over the weekend in Crimea. If there's nothing to hide, there's no reason to bar any and all observers from any democratic election.

    "If respected international election observers had been allowed to watch the vote on whether Crimea should to join Russia or merely gain greater autonomy from Ukraine, they would have found plenty to criticize. Violations could be spotted everywhere," the pro-Ukrainian Kyiv Post reported on Monday, describing the referendum as "deeply flawed" and "held under the intimidating presence of at least 21,000 Russian soldiers, who invaded in late February."

    The two options on the ballot --- to join Russia now or to join it later (as those critical of the two options have described them) --- were each printed on the ballot in Ukrainian, Russian and Tatar.

    Those who were registered and chose to vote were given a paper ballot at their polling station. They then stepped behind a curtain to hand-mark the paper ballot with a pen, before emerging from the booth, and dropping the ballot into a transparent ballot box that was supposedly kept visible to all voters at all times. The BBC's James Reynolds did a decent job of walking folks through the voting process (see his short video report here) from inside a polling station in Simferopol on Saturday, as voting was ongoing.

    There were no computers involved in marking, recording or tabulating ballots at the polling stations --- that part of the process was at least, if not far more, transparent than most elections in the U.S. The transparent ballot boxes ensured that there were no ballots "pre-stuffed" into them before voting began, and their visibility to observers throughout the day meant that it would be very difficult to either add votes illegally or swap them out for different boxes --- at least without being noticed.

    One such moment occurred as a CNN videographer captured what appeared to be one man dropping two different ballots into a box. (See the moment just after the 2 minute mark in this CNN video.) But unlike previous fraudulent elections --- for example the one that ultimately led to the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine in 2004 and even Vladimir Putin's own recent election in Russia --- when blatant irregularities were caught on video tape and posted almost immediately on the Internet, no such video evidence of massive fraud in the Crimea referendum, so far, has been made available.

    That doesn't mean it didn't happen, however.

    The Kyiv Post says there were reports of a number of "alleged referendum violations." They say the violations "included Russian citizens being allowed to vote, ballots being printed on ordinary office paper, journalists being denied access to polling stations and the presence of armed or uniformed men outside stations." They also note that Mikhail Malyshev, the head of the Crimean election commission, disputed the reports, claiming that "not a single official complaint had been filed."

    He conceded a problem with "dead souls", as the Kyiv Post described names of deceased people who were listed on the voting rolls. "In the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election which started the Orange Revolution, the use of 'dead soul' votes was one of the key mass violations," the paper notes.

    "Malyshev said any 'dead souls' included in lists were the result of problems with the Kyiv authorities, who he said had made it very difficult for Crimea to draw up proper voter lists in time for the referendum. But he insisted the names were simply mistakes and had not been used to register false votes."

    As in the U.S., in the small number of instances where "dead people" have voted, it's usually quite simple to prove since death records can be compared with voting records. In the U.S., the claim of zombie voters is offered time and again, while time and again (see South Carolina and Colorado and Texas recently, as just three examples) such extraordinary claims are almost always easily debunked. Are they as easily debunked in Crimea? Only if officials make poll books, listing the signatures of those who voted, available to the public and the media so they can be cross-checked against databases to determine if the voters were actually alive. But, even if some "dead souls" somehow managed to vote over the weekend, there would have to have been a whole lot of those zombie voters to change the ultimate referendum results.

    But what of those results? Based on what we've been able to learn about the tabulation processes from media reports --- and, as you can tell, it's not always easy with something as controversial as this referendum to separate the reliable reports from the less so (particularly in a different language) --- while the transparency for much of the voting and tabulation process appears to have been excellent, there seems to be one huge gap in the Crimean process which could allow for wholesale theft of the referendum results.

    The Kyiv Post reports that while results were counted publicly at the polling place, those results were not posted at each individual polling station. Rather, they were "reported directly to the central electoral committee."

    As we've detailed for many years at The BRAD BLOG, in order for the citizenry (and the media) to be able to oversee their own elections, they must be able to oversee all aspects of the tabulation. To do that, ballots must be publicly counted at the precinct, with results posted there before ballots are moved anywhere. If it's impossible for the citizenry to independently track the decentralized (precinct-based) counts, the numbers can be changed to just about anything after they reach the central tabulation point and before the totaled results are publicly announced.

    Making matters more troubling in Crimea, the Kyiv Post reports that, after polls closed, some journalists from the paper and even some Russian journalists were "aggressively barred from watching the vote count in one polling station in central Simferopol."

    "The lone observer at the polling station said Crimean election officials had every right to ban everyone from the vote count except for those people actually conducting it, a violation of democratic election principles," the Kyiv Post declared. They added, "Other reports suggested this was not an isolated incident." They did not, however, link to or describe any other such reports.

    In the case of Crimea's referendum, there seem to be very few reports detailing actual evidence of wholesale fraud. Many claims are being made, but, so far, there seems scant hard evidence to buttress those claims. Still, as we frequently explain after American elections as well, sometimes it is days, weeks or even months before problems from any particular election come to light. Of course, American elections include computers, so it's far easier to hide malfeasance and/or fail to notice malfunction inside of the lost transparency that electronic voting and tabulation systems bring to elections.

    (Moreover, as always, we welcome any tips to blatant incidents that you feel we may not yet have seen.)

    It's nice that Washington Post offers many different voices on its pages and web pages these days, but it's somewhat remarkable that extraordinary allegations like those made by its "Volokh Conspiracy" blogger, George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin, are allowed to offer such extraordinary repeated allegations of "intimidation and fraud" in an election at the center of an international crisis, without being required to offer support for those startling assertions.

    At the same time, it serves as a stark reminder that concerns about election fraud elsewhere are perfectly welcome in the U.S. corporate mainstream media, while far more demonstrable evidence of fraud and malfeasance in U.S. elections is often never allowed the light of day from the very same publications.

    We suppose, as always, it comes down to whose ox is being gored.

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