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KPFK 'BradCast': Lawsuit to Be Filed Against FEC After Republican Commissioners Ignore Findings of Illegal Electioneering by Rove's Crossroads GPS

Brad Blog - Thu, 01/23/2014 - 09:05

[A version of this article has now been cross-published by Salon...]

A number of unhappy "good government" groups will file a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission next month, in hopes that the courts will force the FEC to enforce the federal campaign finance laws that the FEC is, supposedly, there to enforce.

The organizations are particularly unhappy about Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS "behemoth" outfit, which has raised hundreds of millions over the last several years to elect Republican candidates to office, recently receiving a pass from the FEC, even after the agency's Office of General Counsel found reason to believe Rove's group clearly violated campaign finance laws.

The news about the groups' intention to file suit was offered on the KPFK/Pacifica Radio BradCast this week by my guest, Craig Holman, the Government Affairs Lobbyist for Public Citizen's Congress Watch. Public Citizen, along with the Campaign Legal Center, Center for Media and Democracy, and Protect Our Elections filed the initial complaint over campaign spending in 2010 by Rove's then new non-profit 501(c)(4) organization. They now plan to sue the FEC for failing to do their job, Holman explained on the show on Wednesday. [Disclosure: Protect Our Elections is a campaign created by VelvetRevolution.us, an organization co-founded by The BRAD BLOG, though we weren't personally involved with either the complaint or the upcoming suit.]

"What's happened with the Federal Election Commission is," Holman explained during my interview [posted in full at the end of this article], Senator "Mitch McConnell [R-KY], back in about 2008, realized that even though he can't get Congress to rescind campaign finance laws --- and he certainly can't sell the public on rescinding campaign finance laws --- he realized that if he were to appoint three Republican Commissioners to the FEC, he could ensure that the campaign finance laws don't get enforced. And that's exactly what has happened." Holman detailed how three-to-three deadlock votes on whether to pursue further action in most of the campaign finance rulings by the three Democratic and three Republican Commissioners on the FEC has increased "nine-fold" since 2008. A deadlock vote effectively ends the matter, even if wrong-doing had been found by the investigative staff, as is the case here.

In the original complaint against Rove's Crossroads GPS, the FEC's Office of General Counsel (OGC) found that the group had spent a majority of its funding on campaigning in 2010. If so, that's a violation of the law, since Rove's group should have filed with the FEC as a political committee, rather than as a 501(c)(4) which is supposed to be a non-electioneering "social welfare" organization. As a political committee, funders would have to be immediately disclosed, but as a (c)(4), the identity of those funding Rove's organization can remain a secret....

This is the "dark money" in elections that exploded after the Supreme Court's infamous 2010 Citizens United ruling, and this duplicity is precisely what the majority on the Court said could not happen, thanks to enforcement of existing campaign finance law by the FEC. That would be the same FEC which no longer seems able to enforce any law.

"Crossroads is the behemoth of electioneering non-profits groups, and the general counsel and the staff completely agreed with us," Holman told me. "It's a hand-down call. This is a political committee. Their major purpose is electing Republicans to Congress...or trying to defeat the election of Obama at the time as well."

The tortured reasoning that the Republican Commissioners offered for voting against pursuing further investigation of Rove's group, despite the findings of the OGC, was at the heart of my discussion with Holman. (For the record, here are the statements issued by the Democratic Commissioners [PDF] and by the Republican Commissioners [PDF] after the tie vote succeeded in quashing the entire matter.) And, of course, this abuse of the tax-payer funded 501(c)(4) system is precisely what was at the heart of the phony IRS "scandal" last year.

In short, citing the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law, Holman explained: "We have a clear definition of federal election activity and the Republican Commissioners just decided not to use that definition. Instead, they created their own definition."

The FEC "is broken," he said. "So we need the courts to step in and start evaluating the merits of some of these cases, particularly the Crossroads GPS case." That's what Holman and the other groups now intend to do.

IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE SHOW...We covered the extraordinary "red-baiting" that happened over the weekend, as Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX) were all shamefully given airtime by NBC's Meet the Press, ABC's This Week and CBS' Face the Nation to slime former NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden as "a Russian agent"! Their evidence for these extraordinary claims? Absolutely none given, as David Gregory, George Stephanopoulos and Bob Schieffer allowed these top elected officials to simply smear Snowden with unsupported innuendo on all three network "news" outlets. Snowden, for his part, has since been forced to refute the charges in no uncertain terms to The New Yorker's Jane Mayer. He calls the evidence-free charges "absurd". We have the audio from the disgraceful Sunday "news" show performances, as well as the nearly identical smears offered by senior officials against Pentagon Papers whistleblower Dan Ellsberg back in the 1970s.

PLUS: Details on the PA GOP's polling place Photo ID restriction law being struck down as unconstitutional, breaking news on the new report by the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration and much more! Enjoy!

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

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Categories: Brad Blog

Bipartisan Presidential Commission Releases Election Reform Report, Key Point on 'Fraud'

Brad Blog - Wed, 01/22/2014 - 16:27

Following the national shame of 2012 when long lines at the polls on Election Day and during Early Voting (which was restricted by Republicans in a number of states) once again suppressed the vote and endangered American democracy, President Obama called for electoral reform as he declared victory on Election Night.

"I want to thank every American who participated in this election...Whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time," he said, adding: "By the way, we have to fix that."

During his second Inauguration speech, he repeated the message: "Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote."

At his State of the Union Address in 2013, he again re-iterated the call for reform --- citing the story of 102-year old Desiline Victor, an African-American Florida woman who was forced to wait in line for hours on end to cast her vote in 2012 --- before announcing his creation, by Executive Order, of a bi-partisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration. It would be headed up by both his own top election attorney, Robert Bauer, as well as Mitt Romney's lead election attorney and long-time GOP operative, Benjamin Ginsberg.

After six months of hearings and conferences around the country, that commission has now released its unanimous recommendations [PDF] for improving access to the voting booth and for other much-needed improvements for electoral administration.

While coming to bi-partisan consensus with a report on such a contentious topic is no small achievement in and of itself in this extraordinarily divisive environment, the Commission highlighted one fairly obvious point which will almost certainly disappoint the most partisan Republicans, but also, perhaps less obviously, some Democrats...

On Page 56 of the 112-page report, the Commission writes about fraud by voters, explaining that "Fraud is rare, but when it does occur, absentee ballots are often the method of choice."

The reason that partisan Republicans will be upset about that point should be fairly obvious to long time readers of The BRAD BLOG. As we have been highlighting over the past decade, polling place voter impersonation is virtually non-existent, despite the on-going and still-increasing efforts by Republicans to suppress the vote with polling place Photo ID restrictions. We've spent years calling out the GOP for their despicable attempts to undermine representative democracy by trying to keep Democratic-leaning voters from casting their legal vote through unnecessary restrictions at the ballot box on Election Day. (While both recent victories in courts of law as well as the court of public opinion, suggest at least some good news on that front.)

While the Commission's point about fraud being "rare" will, no doubt, make many Democrats and champions of the right to vote happy, the second part of the Commission's sentence should be noticed as well --- particular by Democrats.

"Absentee ballots are often the method of choice" for actual fraud in American elections, the Commission warns, even as Democrats, of late, have begun to go to extraordinary efforts to dangerously expand ill-considered Vote-by-Mail and Absentee Voting, increasing the possibility of the only type of voter fraud which really does threaten the integrity of elections. (Election fraud by insiders, manipulations of voting machines, etc. is a different matter. For the moment, we're focusing on potential fraud by voters, as per the point being made by the Commission.)

The most recent example of this expansion of dangerous Vote-by-Mail elections was in Colorado, where the Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper signed a sweeping election reform bill, supported by Democrats and opposed by Republicans in the state legislature, that would send an absentee ballot to every voter in the state whether they wanted one or not.

While Democrats may happily highlight the Commission's finding on the lack of polling place fraud, they are less likely to take notice of the second part of that sentence.

Most of the Commission's report, however, is not about fraud, but about recommendations to improve voting for Americans.

As UC Irvine election law professor Rick Hasen describes it: "The release comes with a unanimous set of recommendations and best practices. Along with the release come 26 Appendices comprising documents with data and best practices totalling over 1,000 pages, an extensive survey of local election officials, and an Election Toolkit (hosted by the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project) with tools for state and local election officials to calculate poll worker placement and minimize long lines, as well as to set up or integrate existing tools for online voter registration systems."

While we will, no doubt, have more to say about the Commission's report in the future, after a full read and analysis, here is how the ten Commissioners summed up their key recommendations in the report's opening letter to the President:

  • modernization of the registration process through continued expansion of online voter registration and expanded state collaboration in improving the accuracy of voter lists;
  • measures to improve access to the polls through expansion of the period for voting before the traditional Election Day, and through the selection of suitable, well-equipped polling place facilities, such as schools;
  • state-of-the-art techniques to assure efficient management of polling places, including tools the Commission is publicizing and recommending for the efficient allocation of polling place resources; and
  • reforms of the standard-setting and certification process for new voting technology to address soon-to-be antiquated voting machines and to encourage innovation and the adoption of widely available off-the-shelf technologies.

In his early analysis, Hasen notes that "Achieving bipartisan consensus is a big deal, and ending with unanimous, rational recommendations in this contentious area rife with partisan skirmishes (some involving Bauer and Ginsberg) is no small feat."

"That said," he continues, "the scope here is modest. The initial charge to the Commission contemplated no federal legislation and the Commission recommends none. This is really the fault of the Order’s charge and not the Commission (and I would guess the limited charge was necessary to get buy in from some of the Commissioners.) The Commission takes the law and politics as given: there is nothing about reviving the moribund Election Assistance Commission (more about that later), about fixing the Voting Rights Act, or about strengthening voting protections in the face of partisan manipulations of voting rules in states and localities. There are pleas for collecting data and adopting best practices, but no calls for money to fix problems or federal legislation to mandate fixing the problems. The report and Commission’s lasting impact will be limited by the absence of enforcement mechanisms, unless Commission members can use the attention from the Report to push for change."

As noted, we'll likely have much more on all of this in the days ahead.

The Presidential Commission's complete report, as well as additional supportive material such as their Election Toolkit and other administrative aids, is posted here: SupportTheVoter.gov

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


Categories: Brad Blog

Are People FINALLY Catching on to the GOP Polling Place Photo ID Restriction Scam?

Brad Blog - Tue, 01/21/2014 - 21:16

Can't tell you how nice it is to see that people finally seem to be getting it. At least people on Reddit, where someone linked to our recent story on last week's court ruling finding that the Pennsylvania GOP's polling place Photo ID restriction law was in violation of the state Constitution's fundamental right to vote.

For years, I've found myself showing up at similar Internet nether-regions and being forced to respond in comments to idiotic questions about Photo ID laws and claims of pretend "voter fraud", since so few seemed to understand the scam.

If this Reddit comment thread is any indication, folks are finally beginning to understand it and, all by themselves, are able to bury the Fox "News"-infested stooges who have either been conned or just hate democratic values like the right to vote and equal protection for all.

Check out all of the great responses below (happily, none by me!) to the one simple question posted in comments there: "What's to stop someone from walking into the polling station, saying your somebody else and casting a vote?" With each reply from a different person, the Redditors buried the dude...

[Click to englarge]

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Categories: Brad Blog

'Green News Report' - January 21, 2014

Brad Blog - Tue, 01/21/2014 - 17:31


 

IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: It's official: 2013 was 4th warmest year on record globally; West Virginia's water polluter Freedom Industries declares bankruptcy; Coal responsible for 50% of toxic water pollution; Halliburton exec gets probation for destroying evidence on 2010 BP Gulf spill; PLUS: California drought emergency - Arizona and New Mexico, you're next ... 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!
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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): Utilities Would "Strangle Solar" if They Could; Unchecked CO2 emissions will double extreme El Niño weather events; Climate scientist to US Senate: 'Climate change is a clear and present danger'; China pollution wafting across Pacific; Kenya to generate over half of its electricity through solar power by 2016 ... PLUS: Despite international outcry, dolphin slaughter at Japan's Taiji Cove ... 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

    In My Own Words, Part II: Black Republicans and 'Stockholm Syndrome'

    Brad Blog - Tue, 01/21/2014 - 09:05

    "I wonder why other black Republicans delude themselves?"

    That tweet, in response to my January 12 piece for The BRAD BLOG about my bizarre ride to the dark side of American right-wing politics, was the shortest reaction to my article, yet perhaps the most profound.

    It was every bit as profound as a 2011 remark from one of the many progressive voices I was once taught to hate...

    That year, actress and activist Janeane Garofalo was assailed in the right-wing press for asserting that lunatic GOP presidential contender Herman Cain suffered from a political version of "Stockholm Syndrome." During an interview on Current TV, she observed:

    "There may be a touch of Stockholm syndrome in there, because anytime I see a person of color or a female in the Republican party or the conservative movement or the Tea Party, I wonder how they could be trying to curry favor with the oppressors. Is it Stockholm syndrome, or does somebody pay them?"

    I wouldn't be surprised if someone did pay Cain, the self-professed "Koch Brother from Another Mother," to make his ill-fated run for the Presidency as a show of faux-diversity in the GOP, as Garofalo theorized.

    However, I can't help wondering if there is indeed merit to Garofalo's suggestion that Cain simply wanted to curry favor with people in political, socioeconomic and media power (an argument she once made about former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele).

    As I mentioned in the January 12 piece at BRAD BLOG, I used to resent the suggestion that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was obsessed with appeasing wealthy white people; I still remember being upset by the now-defunct Emerge Magazine's depiction of Thomas as a lawn jockey in 1996. However, thirteen years later, I found myself equally upset by what could only be described as minstrelsy on a certain cable network --- minstrelsy that seemed to justify progressive skepticism of black Republicans.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I was not invited by Fox "News" Channel producers to appear on a "very special episode" of Glenn Beck's program featuring a coterie of black Republicans and his trip to Harlem in November 2009. However, I would have turned the invitation down had I received one. I had already soured on Beck by that point, disgusted by his July 2009 assertion that President Obama hated white people. As I argued with now-former friends, Beck's argument was nonsensical on its face, and did nothing to convince non-ideological Americans that Obama's political vision was flawed. Beck, I argued, should have suggested that Obama had a chip on his shoulder regarding "conservatives", since that assertion could be supported by pointing to Obama's campaign rhetoric about the wrong-headedness of the right. However, Beck asserted that Obama had a chip on his shoulder regarding "white people", something Beck could not possibly back up.

    Seeing the various black Republican think-tank operatives kissing up to Beck on that November 2009 program made me itch. It was as though they were actually honored to be in his presence. It horrified me. Beck wasn't an intellectual. He wasn't a scholar. He was a shock jock. And what was the point of this "very special episode," anyway? If Fox wanted to make the point that not all African-Americans agree with Obama, why not give a black Republican a regular prime-time show? Armstrong Williams was surely available,provided, of course, you paid him enough money.

    I couldn't escape the sense that this show was about Beck trying to visually prove he didn't dislike African-Americans (especially in the wake of his ugly attacks on White House advisor Van Jones), and that the black Republican think-tank types had prostituted themselves to help Beck make his point. I also couldn't help thinking that if I were an African-American progressive, I'd look upon these guys with complete contempt for not having the guts to condemn Beck for his vicious rhetorical assaults on Obama and Jones.

    * * *

    In a December 1997 piece about the black Republican economist Glenn Loury --- who had been chased out of the conservative movement for questioning right-wing orthodoxy about affirmative action and the "War on Drugs" --- New York Times writer Brent Staples observed:

    The conservative revolution started with the premise that a liberal orthodoxy had hijacked the culture and muzzled public debate. In truth, the architects of the right --- Irving Kristol, Paul Weyrich, Pat Robertson, William Buckley --- were advancing an orthodoxy of their own, one that cast liberalism as an evil to be wiped out at any cost. With conservatives controlling the national agenda --- and the word liberal reduced to a slur --- the goal is clearly within reach.

    The movement succeeded largely because it was focused --- and very well financed. Over the last 15 years, foundations and think tanks like Olin, Heritage, Hoover and Scaife have spent tens of millions of dollars boosting their positions through books, papers and intellectuals-for-hire. The rush of new money created a class of professionals who live very well cranking out ideology masked as disinterested scholarship.

    Recruits were offered money, power and celebrity in exchange for ideological allegiance. But defectors who want out of the far right and into the respectable middle are peddling a more sentimental story. One after another, they have portrayed themselves as principled dupes who found out only too late that they had fallen in with zealots. The political writer Michael Lind said this in last year's manifesto, ''Up From Conservatism.'' David Brock, the former hit man for The American Spectator, said it again at his departure from the right last summer. But no one has gotten quite the mileage of the economist Glenn Loury, whose black skin and formidable intellect were weapons for the Reagan White House and the 80's think-tank set...

    He turned right, he claims, after being excluded by black liberals for writing that the underclass was less a product of racism than of moral decay. After a decade on the right, he fled left again when he suddenly discovered that his chums had a dictatorial ''party line'' on race and would brook no dissent.
    This is too pat to be true, especially for a man of Mr. Loury's considerable intelligence. Race-baiting, Willie Hortonizing and homophobia were part of the package from the start and actually in fuller use in the 80's than now. That Mr. Loury failed to detect a ''conservative party line'' on race while cozying up to the Reagan Administration --- and as a star on the conservative lecture circuit --- is simply implausible. It seems likely that he ignored the evidence of his senses to embrace the celebrity he considered his due as one of the first black stars on the right.

    Along with Clarence Thomas and the economist Thomas Sowell, Mr. Loury had both the good and bad fortune to be in the first wave. Desperate to immunize itself against the charge of racism, the conservative establishment provided enormous professional rewards to these three. These men suffered grueling and unfair abuse from black liberals who cast them as ''race traitors.'' But judging from Mr. Loury's experience, the most tortuous part of all was playing the role of the token --- the lone black person in the room who is scripted to smile and nod his assent at the appropriate moment.

    I re-read that piece after watching Beck's bit of minstrelsy, and couldn't help noting that twelve years later, Beck had an entire room full of black people who were scripted to smile and nod their assent at the appropriate moments --- an entire room of people who had issues, perhaps the issues Garofalo would describe the next year.

    Did the Stockholm Syndrome that was so clearly on display in that ghastly Beck program play a role in my own journey to the right? I may never truly know the answer, though I'd love to get Garofalo's take.

    What I do know is this: for all the things I regret about my involvement with the conservative movement and the Republican Party, I'll never have to regret kissing Glenn Beck's ass --- because, at the very least, I had enough sense not to do that to begin with.

    * * *

    D.R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer and a former contributor to the conservative website Human Events Online. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Boston Herald, the Boston Globe, ClimateCrocks.com, FrumForum.com, the Ripon Forum, Truth-Out.org, TheNextRight.com, and BookerRising.com. In addition, he hosted a Blog Talk Radio program, The Notes, from August 2009 to June, 2010. You can follow him on Twitter here: @DRTucker.


    Categories: Brad Blog

    MLK Day Irony Accomplished

    Brad Blog - Mon, 01/20/2014 - 15:27

    Ernie Canning dropped me an email this morning linking to this article in today's LA Times...

    The 85 richest people on Earth have the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the population, according to a new report that highlights growing income inequality as political and business leaders gather for the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

    Those wealthy individuals are a small part of the richest 1% of the population, which combined owns about 46% of global wealth, according to the report from British humanitarian group Oxfam International.

    The study found the richest 1% had $110 trillion in wealth --- 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the population.

    That bottom half of the population owned about $1.7 trillion, or about 0.7% of the world's wealth. That's the same amount as owned by the 85 richest people, the report said.

    The findings undermine democracy and make it more difficult to fight poverty, the report said.

    "It is staggering that in the 21st century, half of the world's population own no more than a tiny elite whose numbers could all sit comfortably in a single train carriage," said Winnie Byanyima, the group's executive director.

    Oh, and happy Martin Luther King Day.


    Categories: Brad Blog

    $1.6 Million Settlement for Outrageously Intrusive Drug Search by Deming, NM Police

    Brad Blog - Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:35

    The small City of Deming, New Mexico (2010 pop. 14,855) has agreed to pay $1.6 million to a man who had been the victim of what reporters at KOB Eyewitness News 4 in Albuquerque described as "a humiliating violation of [his] body by police and doctors."

    Last November, we covered how, what, at most, was a routine traffic stop for an alleged failure to yield upon exiting a Wal-Mart parking lot, turned into an indescribably invasive, fourteen-hour ordeal for the man who was pulled over...

    Based upon nothing more than what proved to be an unfounded suspicion that 63-year old Dennis Eckert was concealing narcotics --- a suspicion that allegedly arose because, according to police, Eckert appeared to clench his buttocks while obeying a command to exit his car --- Deming police officers obtained a warrant for an anal cavity search, transported Eckert to the Gila County Regional Medical Center, and compelled him to undergo multiple medical procedures without his consent.

    After an x-ray failed to reveal any narcotics, Eckert, on two occasions, was subjected to rectal probes by a doctor’s finger. This was followed by three enemas in which Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police and to watch while doctors searched his stools. Following a second x-ray, Eckert was compelled to undergo surgery, to wit, a colonoscopy in which a scope with a camera was inserted into Eckert's anus, rectum, colon, and large intestines. No narcotics were ever found.

    The hospital later billed Eckert $4,539 for the procedures he had never authorized it to perform.

    Eckert then filed a civil rights complaint in a U.S. District Court. That suit has now been resolved by way of a settlement in which the City of Deming will pay Eckert $1.6 million --- ending this extraordinary chapter in the farce that is known as the "War on Drugs."

    * * *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


    Categories: Brad Blog

    PA Photo ID Law Found Unconstitutional; State Court Issues Permanent Injunction

    Brad Blog - Sun, 01/19/2014 - 12:30

    A Pennsylvania Photo ID law that one Republican lawmaker once boasted would deliver the Keystone State to Mitt Romney in the 2012 Presidential Election was struck down by a Pennsylvania trial court.

    Judge Bernard L. McGinley of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled that several sections of Act 18, the Republican-sponsored polling place Photo ID statute that was signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett (R) in March of 2012, violated the Pennsylvania Constitution. The court, which previously prevented the law from taking effect by the issuance of a preliminary injunction, ordered that Act 18's in-person Photo ID requirement be permanently enjoined.

    That ruling does not come as a surprise.

    In May of 2012, The BRAD BLOG predicted that the plaintiffs in Applewhite vs Commonwealth of Pennsylvania would likely establish that Act 18's polling place Photo ID restrictions violate of that state's constitution. The lawsuit --- named after its 93-year old lead plaintiff Vivian Applewhite, who had voted for 50 years without a problem until 2012 --- alleged that the Act's Photo ID restrictions would deny or significantly impair the right to vote. That right, according to the Keystone State's constitution, is considered "fundamental."

    Under judicially recognized Equal Protection standards, a law that impairs or abridges a "fundamental right" cannot survive a constitutional challenge unless the law is narrowly tailored to serve a "compelling state interest." That interest, we observed in our original article, cannot be found in what amounts to the "phantom menace" of in-person voter impersonation --- a point PA Republicans later conceded via a formal, in-court stipulation, entered near the outset of the case, in which they acknowledged they were "not aware of any incidents of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania and do not have direct personal knowledge of in-person voter fraud elsewhere."

    While he included additional reasons for issuing the permanent injunction, Judge McGinley's lengthy decision [PDF] reveals that our original assessment of the case, and our prediction about its likely outcome, were spot on...

    Unconstitutional

    The court ruled that the polling place Photo ID provisions of Act 18 impose "burdens on the fundamental right to vote, which are unreasonable and are not narrowly tailored to serve a state interest." The law "does not provide a non-burdensome means for accessing compliant photo ID." Instead, the judge found, "its requirements effectively deny, delay and inconvenience exercise of the franchise [to hundreds of thousands of otherwise eligible voters]."

    The court expressly ruled that the Commonwealth had failed to "substantiate either voter fraud or integrity in elections...as a compelling or legitimate state interest for the Voter ID Law."

    In its decision, the court cited the expert testimony offered by Rutgers University Prof. Lorraine Minnite, Ph.D.: "The only type of voter fraud that the Voter ID Law could detect, deter, or otherwise address is [the exceptionally rare instances of] in-person impersonation fraud, whereby a person appears at a polling place and attempts to vote for another person," the court stated in referring to Minnite's testimony.

    The court found that the Commonwealth's stipulation that they were "not aware of any incidents of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania" served only to "undermine" its claim that the statute was intended to prevent voter fraud.

    Act 18's polling place Photo ID restrictions did not, in fact, serve to bolster the integrity of elections, as the state had argued. To the contrary, the court expressly found that the Commonwealth's "implementation of the Voter ID law in a manner that disenfranchises qualified electors will undermine the integrity of elections."

    The court summed up its findings in the conclusions of law section of its decision:

    Respondents have not identified a sufficient state interest to justify the Voter ID Law's incursion into the fundamental right to vote, since a speculative harm, (voter fraud) for which there is no evidence, does not suffice…

    Respondent's stipulation shows voter fraud is not a state interest for the Voter ID Law; the sole interest Respondents put forth is electoral integrity, which was undermined by the credited testimony…

    While the record established that the Act had a disproportionate adverse impact upon senior citizens and minorities and that "hundreds of thousands of registered voters in Pennsylvania" lacked the requisite Photo ID, "denying eligible voters the franchise is unconstitutional, regardless of the number of voters who are so deprived," Judge McGinley opined, citing Pennsylvania case law establishing that the "disenfranchisement of even one person validly exercising his right to vote is an extremely serious matter."

    'Voter ID' still required, but not strict state-issued Photo ID

    Judge McGinley's injunction only applies to "the enforcement of the in-person photo ID requirement, [to the] related implementation provisions [of the Act] and application of the proof of identification definition as to in-person voting."

    As the court recited at the outset, prior to the enactment of these disputed Photo ID provisions, the Commonwealth's election law statute already "permitted electors to present one of several specified forms of non-photo ID that contained the elector's name and address, including a utility bill, paycheck, or government check…These forms of identification mirror those listed in the Help America Vote Act (HAVA)."

    The majority of states in this country already require similar identification for in-person voting. It is only within the last few years that Republicans began restricting those forms to a narrow number of state-issued, Photo IDs.

    The PA ruling does not eliminate the state's existing non-Photo ID requirements. It also does not affect any changes to absentee ballot law that were made by other sections of Act 18. Those other sections were not challenged by the Applewhite plaintiffs.

    Potential Impact in Other States

    Judge McGinley's application of strict scrutiny to a Photo ID law by reason of a state constitution that treats voting as a "fundamental right" is by no means novel. In Weinschenk v. State (2006), the Missouri Supreme Court struck down the Show Me State's polling place Photo ID law on identical grounds. A similar rationale was applied by Wisconsin courts in temporarily enjoining the Badger State's Photo ID law. Two of those Wisconsin cases are now pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

    As we anticipated some time ago, Judge McGinley ruled that the controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision in Crawford vs. Marion County Elections Board (2008) was not controlling in this matter because Crawford did not involve a legal challenge to a Photo ID law pursuant to a state constitution that treated voting as a fundamental right. Instead, the petitioners in Crawford unsuccessfully argued that Indiana's Photo ID law, "on its face," violated the U.S. Constitution. Because voting is not treated as a "fundamental right" under the federal constitution, Judge McGinley observed, "the U.S. Supreme Court applied a rational basis test" --- as opposed to the near insurmountable hurdle of "strict scrutiny" that applied in this instance.

    However, Judge McGinley also observed that the Indiana Photo ID statute withstood the federal legal challenge because "there was insufficient evidence to indicate de facto disenfranchisement of qualified voters whereas the record [in Applewhite] shows hundreds of thousands lack compliant photo ID." Where the Supreme Court's decision, in Crawford, "revealed 'nothing about the number of free photo identification cards issued since' Indiana's Voter ID law was enacted...the developed record here shows the gap in access to photo identification is not being filled." While "hundreds of thousands...lack compliant photo ID," in Pennsylvania, only "17,000 photo IDs for voting purposes have been issued" since the law was passed in March 2012. The Nation's Ari Berman notes that "Since the 2012 election, fewer than 150 new voting IDs had been issued by the state per month."

    This fact-driven decision in Applewhite is especially relevant with respect to the currently pending challenges to polling place Photo ID restrictions in jurisdictions like Texas, where a unanimous, three-judge U.S. District Court panel in 2012 found far greater impediments to the exercise of the franchise than exist in Pennsylvania. The Texas polling place Photo ID law would, in some cases, as the federal three-judge panel found, require the working poor, who lacked either a driver's license or sufficient means of transportation, to make a 200 to 250 mile round trip journey to the nearest Department of Public Safety [DPS] office, and face up to three hours wait time to secure a Photo ID --- this assuming the otherwise qualified voter has the requisite documentation, such as a birth certificate or marriage license required to navigate the restrictive provisions of the Lone Star State's regressive Photo ID requirements.

    In addition to the pending federal court challenge against the Texas Photo ID law, which argues that their statute is in violation of the U.S. Constitution, federal challenges are also now pending against similar polling place restrictions enacted by Republicans in both North Carolina and Wisconsin.

    Republican options

    Even if an appeal is taken and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court were to uphold Judge McGinley's decision, this does not necessarily spell an end to Republican efforts to enact polling place Photo ID in the Keystone State.

    In Missouri, the Republican-controlled legislature attempted to bypass a state Supreme Court ruling that struck down its Photo ID statute by way of a ballot measure that would have mandated otherwise disenfranchising Photo ID restrictions by way of an amendment to the Missouri constitution. The measure, the "Voter Protection Act," was removed from the ballot after a Circuit Judge essentially agreed with a senior attorney for the Advancement Project that the ballot measure amounted to a "cynical and shameful [effort to use] the voting process itself to trick voters into giving up their right [to vote]."

    As we reported in "MN Voters See Through ‘Voter Fraud’ Lie, Defeat Polling Place Photo ID Amendment", a Republican effort to adopt Photo ID restrictions via a deceptive ballot measure fell short when Minnesota voters rejected the proposed amendment to that state's constitution by a decisive margin of 54% to 46%.

    In Pennsylvania, amendments to the state's constitution can be placed on the ballot if approved by a simple majority of the legislature in two successive sessions.

    * * *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


    Categories: Brad Blog

    Romney Admits He 'Didn't Build That'

    Brad Blog - Sat, 01/18/2014 - 22:11

    From the new documentary MITT, via Byron York...

    "That's what I start with: 'Dad,'" [Mitt] Romney explained. "I always think about dad and about I am standing on his shoulders. I would not be there, there's no way I would be able to be running for president if dad hadn't done what dad did. He's the real deal..."

    "You're the real deal," said one of Romney's sons.

    Romney didn't pause. "The guy was born in Mexico. He didn't have a college degree. He became head of a car company and became a governor. It would have never entered my mind to be in politics, how can you go from his beginning to think, I can be head of a car company, I can run for governor, I can run for president?"

    Romney wasn't finished. "The gap --- for me, I started where he ended up. I started off with money and education, Harvard Business School, Harvard Law School. For me it's moving that far" --- Romney held two fingers close together --- "For him, it's like that," Romney said, holding his arms wide apart.

    So, like the Koch Brothers before him, who inherited their father's success only to work hard to limit the possibilities of others gaining the same, Mitt Romney recognizes, at least privately (and now in a documentary film which had unprecedented access to private moments during his last two Presidential campaigns), that he started off more advantaged than, say, 99% of Americans.

    Jim Hightower once said that George H.W. Bush was "born on third base and thought he had hit a triple." Romney was also born on third base, but at least he has the decency to admit it. At least in private. While otherwise publicly describing his fellow citizens who who weren't born on third, like him, as 'takers'.

    * * *

    The official trailer for MITT, premiering on Netflix beginning on January 24, follows below...


    Categories: Brad Blog

    Obama Splits the NSA 'Reform' Baby

    Brad Blog - Fri, 01/17/2014 - 20:36

    Proving once again that he is neither the radical reformer the Right pretends that he is, and that the non-Right had hoped he would be, President Obama attempted to conservatively thread an impossible needle in his speech today [full transcript] calling for a number of reforms to the government's current, sweeping collection of the private telephone data of Americans who are in no way related to terrorism investigations.

    Once again, while ignoring many of the recommendations offered by his own special commission convened to make such recommendations for reform of NSA surveillance and other intelligence gather techniques, Obama is trying to split the baby and, in doing so, appears to be gaining the great admiration of...largely no one.

    During a speech at the Dept. of Justice on Friday, he announced what he described as "a series of concrete and substantial reforms that my administration intends to adopt administratively or will seek to codify with Congress." Those reforms are, in fact, a series of limited changes that, almost all honest brokers agree, would never have happened were it not for the historically-important leaks by former NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden. The President side-stepped what should have been "thanks" offered to the now federally-charged fugitive forced into political asylum in Russia.

    "Given the fact of an open investigation, I'm not going to dwell on Mr. Snowden's actions or his motivations," the President said, before taking a shot at him by referencing the importance of "the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation's secrets" and "the sensational way in which these disclosures have come out." Those disclosures, of course, led to this moment and these reforms, however meager and/or cosmetic they may turn out to be. "Regardless of how we got here though," Obama continued quickly, in hopes of marginalizing the facts of Snowden's contributions to the reality of the moment.

    Since he was not given his proper due this afternoon by the President himself, it fell to the Huffington Post's front page splash today to offer exactly that...

    As to the substance of the speech, the one aspect of Obama's announced reforms that is receiving the most attention concerns the bulk collection of American phone records. While he said the government will no longer keep those records, he said the collection itself will continue, though the information will be held by a yet-to-be-determined third party and only queried by government officials on an as-needed basis after receiving approval from a court authority.

    We'll reserve judgement on the particulars, at least until this non-governmental third-party is revealed, but it sounds a lot like that would be a corporate third-party. While that might (justifiably) outrage some, we're talking about this (theoretically corporate) third-party holding on to data that is already collected by corporate third-parties in the first place (phone companies) before being passed on to the government, as per (theoretical) approval of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).

    So, we won't "collect" or "keep" the data anymore, says Obama, but we'll retain access to it, as needed, while some unknown body hangs on to it. Baby split. Few happy.

    "Having the telephone companies or other non-governmental entities responsible for holding this information might well make it far less private and secure than it is currently," said Maine's moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins in a statement emailed to The BRAD BLOG late today. "Proposed #NSA reforms don't go far enough," tweeted California Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus as well as of the Armed Services and Homeland Security committees. "Need hard limits on data collection type & storage time, & a privacy advocate throughout process," she added.

    War and Surveillance State hawks like NY's Republican Rep. Pete King, however, was happy. "Pres Obama NSA speech better than expected. Most programs left intact," he tweeted. While, curiously, two of the loudest opponents of the bulk collection of data under the Patriot and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Acts, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and and Mark Udall (D-CO), were encouraged, if moderately so, by the President's announced reforms.

    "After years of work, it's good to see 1st steps to reform taken today," Wyden tweeted, "But make no mistake, many more need to come." Udall echoed the measured optimism: "After my years of #bipartisan work & ongoing efforts, Pres. Obama took big steps forward today on #NSA reform."

    Republican Senator Rand Paul, a likely 2016 Presidential candidate who claims to be a civil libertarian, was more pointed in his critique. "If you like your privacy you can keep it," he tweeted in a shot against Obama's now-infamous promises about the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"), adding a graphic in a follow-up tweet which he described as "the cliff notes version" of Obama's speech:

    As to civil liberties organizations who have long been calling for reform to our massive surveillance state, the response was mixed there as well.

    "We are encouraged by the reforms announced by President Obama today," Elizabeth Goitein, the co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice said in an emailed statement. "He has opened the door to ratcheting back NSA surveillance of innocent Americans and non-citizens alike. But for every answer he gave, there are several new questions about how he plans to implement these changes. Ultimately, the full effect of these reforms remains to be seen."

    "The president's speech outlined several developments which we welcome," said the ACLU's Executive Director Anthony Romero. "However, the president's decision not to end bulk collection and retention of all Americans' data remains highly troubling. ... But the president should end - not mend - the government's collection and retention of all law-abiding Americans' data." Romero went on to describe that collection and retention of data as "a textbook example of an 'unreasonable search' that violates the Constitution."

    In all, Spencer Ackerman and Dan Roberts of the UK's Guardian summed up the President's most noteworthy proposed reforms this way:

    • The government will no longer store the phone call information of millions of Americans. But he did not say who should maintain the information, instead giving the intelligence community 60 days to come up with options.

    • Intelligence agencies must, with immediate effect, apply to the secret Fisa court for judicial approval to access Americans' phone records.

    • The secret Fisa court should be reformed to include a panel of independent advocates to provide a voice in "significant cases".

    • The NSA will not spy on the heads of state and governments of allies, and said some further protections would be given to foreign citizens whose communications were caught up in the agency's dragnet.

    • The US government had to be held to a "higher standard" than private corporations that store user data or foreign governments that undertake their own surveillance.

    Obama said a balance had to be struck between competing demands. "We have to make some important decisions about how to protect ourselves and sustain our leadership in the world, while upholding the civil liberties and privacy protections that our ideals and our constitution require," he said.

    Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has broken many of the news items related to the leaked documents from Snowden, which brought us to this moment, was, not surprisingly, largely skeptical about the announced reforms.

    "To be sure, there were several proposals from Obama that are positive steps," Glennwald wrote this afternoon after the President's speech. "A public advocate in the Fisa court, a loosening of 'gag orders' for national security letters, removing metadata control from the NSA, stricter standards for accessing metadata, and narrower authorizations for spying on friendly foreign leaders (but not, of course, their populations) can all have some marginal benefits."

    "But even there," he added, "Obama's speech was so bereft of specifics --- what will the new standards be? who will now control Americans' metadata? --- that they are more like slogans than serious proposals."

    Greenwald's main critique, however, was aimed at what he described as "plainly cosmetic 'reforms'". He described Obama and the government's overall response to the Snowden revelations as the predictable way in which the U.S. government has historically responded to similar disclosures of damaging revelations and crises...

    The crux of this tactic is that US political leaders pretend to validate and even channel public anger by acknowledging that there are "serious questions that have been raised". They vow changes to fix the system and ensure these problems never happen again. And they then set out, with their actions, to do exactly the opposite: to make the system prettier and more politically palatable with empty, cosmetic "reforms" so as to placate public anger while leaving the system fundamentally unchanged, even more immune than before to serious challenge.

    He writes that similar "reforms" were enacted after the revelations by the 1970s Church Committee following Watergate; again after the 2005 revelations of the Bush Administration's warrantless eavesdropping program when, in 2008, Congress merely passed legislation to make the illegal program a "legal" one (which has no effect on its Constitutionality, of course); and after the 2008 financial crisis, when, as Greenwald writes, Congress "enacted legislation that left the bankers almost entirely unscathed, and which made the 'too-big-to-fail' problem that spawned the crises worse than ever."

    Obama's "proposals will do little more than maintain rigidly in place the very bulk surveillance systems that have sparked such controversy and anger," Greenwald argues, charging that such actions have been "Obama's primary role in our political system."

    "He prettifies the ugly; he drapes the banner of change over systematic status quo perpetuation; he makes Americans feel better about policies they find repellent without the need to change any of them in meaningful ways. He's not an agent of change but the soothing branding packaging for it."

    Lest you get the impression we're quoting Greenwald uncritically here, we are not yet quite as cynical as he his. While the case he offers is very difficult to argue with, and he will likely be proven absolutely correct as he usually is, we'll remain, as ever, both open to and skeptical of today's announced reforms. On the other hand, if they turn out to be less "cosmetic" than Greenwald and others suggest, we will be pleasantly surprised. When it comes to the Obama Administration, however, we haven't been pleasantly surprised for years.


    Categories: Brad Blog

    'Green News Report' - January 16, 2014

    Brad Blog - Thu, 01/16/2014 - 19:00


     

    IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Unprecedented drought & wildfires in California; Unprecedented heat shuts down Australian Open; EPA smacks down Alaska's proposed Pebble Mine; Putting all the sh*t in Washington DC to good use!; PLUS: The impacts of the toxic chemical spill in West Virginia still flowing ... 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!
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    Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

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    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): World may have to suck gases from air to meet climate goals; TPP: WikiLeaks exposes what Obama's secret trade deal would do to the environment; Italy's government agrees to send in Army against mafia dumps; Floods and landslides in Southeast Asia; Keystone XL: TX high court gives hope to landowners in eminent domain fight; Massive Antarctic glacier has entered 'irreversible' melt ... PLUS: D. R. Tucker: Resentment Rules the Right -
    'there are plenty of permanently ignorant people who actually want to be misinformed and lied to' ... 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

    Following the 'BridgeGate' Money in NJ; Drinking in WV's Toxic 'Freedom' Disaster: KPFK 'BradCast'

    Brad Blog - Thu, 01/16/2014 - 00:42

    NJ Gov. Chris Christie's premiere on the national stage is not going so well.

    I was joined on this week's BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica Radio by Bryan Murphy, the former employee of David Wildstein, Christie's Port Authority appointee and old high school chum who gave the order to shut down the George Washington Bridge access lanes from Fort Lee, NJ in the still-expanding "BridgeGate" scandal.

    Murphy worked as the Managing Editor of Wildstein's PoliticsNJ.com website some years ago and is now an Asst. Professor at Baruch College. Along with another former Wildstein employee, MSNBC's Steve Kornacki, Murphy posited over the weekend that a "billion dollar development" adjacent to the GWB access lanes in Fort Lee --- a development that has been fought over for at least four decades, but is being finalized now --- could very well be at the heart of this scandal.

    We discussed that, the scandal's effects on Christie's 2016 hopes, and what lies ahead as the investigations and subpoenas continue to peel back the rotten onion.

    Then I was joined live from West Virginia by my friend Bob Kincaid of Head-On Radio for the latest on the ground in Freedom Industries' toxic chemical spill which has poisoned the drinking water for hundreds of thousands there --- and is now heading down river towards Ohio. Bob has been fighting the coal industry for years in WV and offers key insights that only an on-the-ground WV native can...and in the way that only Bob can!

    Plus, the 9 completely unverifiable touch-screen votes that will determine which party controls the Virginia state Senate, Desi Doyen with the latest Green News Report and much more...

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


    Categories: Brad Blog

    What 'Global Cooling'?: Record Heat, Drought, Wildfires, Continue in Western U.S., Australia

    Brad Blog - Wed, 01/15/2014 - 17:19

    Very quickly, as I'm scrambling to prep for this week's BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica (where, by the way, my guests this week will be Bryan Murphy, a former employee of David Wildstein, the man at the center of Chris Christie's BridgeGate scandal, and our friend Bob Kincaid of Head-On Radio in West Virginia on the latest in the chemical "Freedom" spill that has poisoned drinking water for hundreds of thousands. | UPDATE: You can now listen to that show right here.)...

    I realize folks just thawing out from last week's polar vortex in the Midwest and Eastern U.S. likely hate me for pointing this out, but we've had a week of 80+ degree temperatures here in L.A. While that seems lovely (and, largely, is) it's also very unusual for January to be this warm for this long and, coming on the heels of our driest year in recorded state history, it's also bringing wildfires along with it, even though wildfire season is supposed to be long over by now [emphasis added]...

    A dangerous combination of record dry conditions, rare January red flag warnings and the Santa Ana winds could be a recipe for disaster in the fight against California wildfires.

    Red flag warnings are in effect for the Sierra Nevada and a huge portion of central and southern California as small fires broke out throughout the state. The National Weather Service office in Hanford says it's the first time they've ever issued red flag warnings in the month of January.

    "Following the driest year on record, 2014 is kicking off as what may be the driest January on record in many locations in California," said weather.com Senior Meteorologist Jon Erdman.
    ...
    "San Francisco typically picks up just over 11 inches of rain through early June," said Erdman. "However, December, January and February are the three wettest months, so this complete lack of rain during the core of the wet season is worrisome."
    ...
    The dryness isn't isolated to California. Las Vegas is in the midst of its third longest dry streak on record for the months of December and January.

    Meanwhile, in Australia, the unyielding 100+ degree weather continues and a rash of wildfires as well. That comes on the heels of that nation's hottest year on record.

    So, if a couple of very cold days last week (arguably caused by, yes, Global Warming) in parts of the U.S. meant that "Global Cooling" is now upon us, as the conned fossil fuel industry-propagandized dingbats and dupes wrongly shouted all last week, what do these record warm and dry weeks and months of temperatures mean?

    Expect to NOT see any of that on Fox "News", of course.


    Categories: Brad Blog

    Springsteen and Fallon Skewer Christie: 'Down in Jersey Land' [MUST-WATCH VIDEO]

    Brad Blog - Wed, 01/15/2014 - 14:02

    Wow...Pretty brilliant. Kudos to both Bruce and the immensely talented Jimmy Fallon here...

    When you become a national joke, that's not a good sign for a Presidential run. When you're made a joke by your own idol (Christie is a huge Springsteen fanboy), that's even less gooder.

    [Hat-tip Alyssa Rosenberg...]


    Categories: Brad Blog

    BREAKING: Oklahoma Ban on Marriage Equality Found Unconstitutional by Federal Judge

    Brad Blog - Tue, 01/14/2014 - 17:49

    Move over, Utah! True conservative Constitutional equality for all comes sweeping down the plains...

    U.S. Senior District Judge Terence Kern ruled Tuesday that Oklahoma's ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional.

    The ruling is stayed pending appeal, meaning marriages will not occur immediately in Oklahoma.

    "Equality is not just for the coasts anymore, and today’s news from Oklahoma shows that time has come for fairness and dignity to reach every American in all 50 states," said Chad Griffin, the President of the Human Rights Campaign, in a statement issued this afternoon following the federal judge's ruling.


    Categories: Brad Blog

    'Green News Report' - January 14, 2014

    Brad Blog - Tue, 01/14/2014 - 17:37


     

    IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Tap water ban lifted in West Virginia after chemical spill, but serious questions remain; Dim bulbs in U.S. Congress; Solar beats natural gas in Minnesota; Google is moving into your house; PLUS: New Jersey's last wilderness saved from fossil fuels (and maybe even from Chris Christie!) ... 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!
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    Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

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    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': Vinod Khosla's Open Letter to 60 Minutes and CBS; Breakthrough: Cheap Liquid Battery; Black tide of coal overwhelms climate goals; Industry proposal to block GMO labels; BP's oil spill settlement court battles may backfire; Canada's War on Science ... PLUS: The 'seven deadly sinners' driving global warming ... 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

    'Mistakes Were Clearly Made': Christie's State of the State Speech

    Brad Blog - Tue, 01/14/2014 - 15:53

    Borrowing a long-time favorite phrase of politicians who wish to take responsibility without actually taking responsibility --- one used infamously and repeatedly by Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal --- NJ Gov. Chris Christie (R) admitted that "mistakes were clearly made" in his State of the State addressed delivered Tuesday in Trenton.

    The beleaguered Governor, however, did not identify who exactly made those "mistakes" in his ongoing "BridgeGate" scandal...

    Lt. Governor, Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Legislators, friends, fellow New Jerseyans:

    The last week has certainly tested this Administration. Mistakes were clearly made. And as a result, we let down the people we are entrusted to serve. I know our citizens deserve better. Much better.

    I am the governor and I am ultimately responsible for all that happens on my watch - both good and bad.

    Without a doubt we will cooperate with all appropriate inquiries to ensure this breach of trust does not happen again.

    But I also want to assure the people of New Jersey today that what has occurred does not define us or our state. This Administration and this Legislature will not allow the work that needs to be done to improve the people's lives in New Jersey to be delayed. I am the leader of this state and its people and I stand here today proud to be both. And always determined to do better.

    Now I come before you once again to report on the state of our state.

    The rest of Christie's address, according to the text released by his office just prior to the speech, did not address the still expanding, still unexplained, political retribution scandal carried out by a number of the Governor's top aides and appointees last year when several access lanes to the George Washington Bridge from Fort Lee were shut down for five days in early September. The order for "traffic problems in Fort Lee" that led to the closures, was issued by Christie's Deputy Chief of Staff in mid-August.

    Subpoenas to a number of those staffers and appointees, as well as state, federal and even criminal investigations, are still in process at this time. Christie's personal role in both the lane closures and the documented attempts by his Administration to hide the actions from the public, is also still unclear.


    Categories: Brad Blog

    '16 Acres and a Billion Dollar Deal': A Second Alternate Theory for Christie's 'BridgeGate'

    Brad Blog - Mon, 01/13/2014 - 10:05

    Last week, we highlighted the alternate "BridgeGate" scandal theory offered by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. She reported, with circumstantial but seemingly plausible evidence, that the four-day closure of several Fort Lee, NJ access lanes to the George Washington Bridge last September might have had to do with something other than political payback for a lack of endorsement for Christie's re-election bid by the Democratic Mayor of Fort Lee.

    Maddow posited that the timing of the now-infamous "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" email of August 13, 7:34am, as sent by Christie Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Ann Kelly, may have been a direct response to something other than Fort Lee Mayor Mike Sokolich's refusal to endorse Christie. Instead, Maddow said, the still-unexplained closures might have been meant as retaliation to the state Senate's Democratic Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, who has been a particular thorn in the Republican Governor's side for many years. (By way of just one example, see her attempt to pass a bill to limit travel of the NJ Governor following our exclusive release of audio tapes revealing Christie's super-secret appearance at a secret Koch Brothers gathering in Colorado in 2011.)

    In support of the theory, Maddow highlighted a late afternoon press conference given by a very angry Christie on August 12th, the night before Kelly's early morning email, concerning a NJ Supreme Court nominee being stalled by Senate Democrats led by Weinberg, who happens to represent part of Fort Lee.

    For what it's worth, the Democratic NJ Senate President Assembly leader, as well as several others, have found reason to doubt Maddow's theory.

    But, on Sunday, in another smart example of good investigative broadcast journalism on MSNBC's UP with Steve Kornacki, the host, a former New Jersey political reporter and, incidentally, former employee of David Wildstein (the Christie appointee at the NY/NJ Port Authority who ordered the actual shutdown at the agency, according to subpoenaed email and text messages) offered yet another plausible alternate explanation for the shutdown.

    This one also sounds like yet another plot straight out of HBO's The Soprano's, as it relates to, in Kornacki's words, "something of enormous economic and political significance"...

    "What could have motivated a Governor to care so much about the mayor of a medium size New Jersey town --- a town that's one of 566 municipalities in the state --- to single that mayor out for this kind of treatment?," Kornacki teased. "What exactly was at stake with these closures?"

    Until now, the presumption has been that the actions of Christie's office (we don't yet know for certain whether he, himself, knew about the closures) was political payback for the rejected endorsement. But, as we also noted last week, many other Democratic mayors similarly refused to endorse Christie last year, and both Sokolich and Christie have credibly downplayed any particularly hardball effort to obtain that particular endorsement before the September closures.

    So, if not the endorsement, and if not an act of retribution against state Sen. Weinberg, could there be something else?

    Yes, as Kornacki details, a billion dollar commercial development on 16 acres of currently-vacant --- but incredibly valuable --- land, precisely adjacent to Fort Lee's now-storied GWB access lanes. The development project has been the source of various political machinations for at least four decades, including, as Kornacki explains, as part of an infamously-attempted bribe by members of the mafia back in the 1970s, of the then Mayor of Fort Lee.

    With a new deal for development of that land now finally struck, and final approval of financing for it hanging in the balance on the very week the lanes were shut down by Christie's office last September, Kornacki's reporting could also make a lot of sense.

    As the MSNBC host and former New Jersey political journalist notes, this "billion dollar development" (as it was described by Mayor Sokolich in letters to the Port Authority during his frantic attempts to have the lanes re-opened during the September shutdown) has also been alluded to during this scandal both by Christie himself, when he was making light of the shutdown late last year, and by Wildstein, who included messages about a meeting Christie had with another one of his Port Authority appointees, Bill Sampson, just one week before Kelly called for "traffic problems in Fort Lee", in documents submitted by Wildstein in response to a subpoena for all documents related to the bridge closure.

    Why did Wildstein view discussion about a meeting between Christie and Samson a week before the lanes were ordered closed by Christie's Deputy Chief of Staff, to be related to the bridge closure? That point remains unexplained at this time, as does the content of the Christie/Sampson meeting.

    During his attempts to downplay the shutdown last year at a December 2nd, 2013 press conference, Christie also alluded to conversations with Samson:

    The fact is, I didn't even know Fort Lee got three dedicated lanes until all this stuff happened. And I think we should review that entire policy, cause I don't know why Fort Lee needs three dedicates lanes, to tell you the truth. ... And I've told Chairman Samson this, that we should look at this. Cause I don't know why one town gets three lanes. One lane, maybe. Three lanes? For one town? I don't quite get it.

    "I've told Chairman Samson this." Is that what he discussed with Samson, a former NJ Attorney General, when, as Wildstein's texts highlight, the Governor met with the Port Authority board member just one week before the lane closures were ordered?

    Samson is still at the Port Authority where, as Christie explained in his marathon 2-hour presser last Thursday, he still enjoys the Governor's confidence. "I'm confident that he had no knowledge of this," Christie said that day about Samson, "based upon our conversations and his review of this information." (Christie had also been confident of supposed assurances from other top members of his Administration, like Kelly, that they knew nothing about this affair, until the subpoenaed email and text messages came to light and proved otherwise.)

    Here's Kornacki's theory about how the 16-acre development near the river's edge and adjacent to Fort Lee's GWB access lanes may be at the center of this still mysterious scandal...

    After laying the theory out, Kornacki was then joined by New Jersey reporter Brian Murphy --- who is also a former employee of one-time Garden State political blogger David Wildstein --- to examine the viability of the "billion dollar development" in Fort Lee as having played a central role, somehow, in the bridge lane shutdown.

    "If you wanted to try to muscle in, in some way, to get a piece of that, boy, this is one way to do that," says Murphy. "These are smart gentlemen. It's just hard for me to believe that people put themselves on the line for something like an endorsement."

    Watch:


    Categories: Brad Blog

    In My Own Words: The Ignorance of Ideology

    Brad Blog - Sun, 01/12/2014 - 17:48

    Ever wish you had the chance to give your younger self a nice, hard slap across the face?

    There are times when I wonder just what the hell I was thinking when I became a Republican --- or whether I was even thinking at all. Next month will mark one of those times, as it will be the twentieth anniversary of a happy event that I turned into a miserable one --- by making a shortsighted decision with severe personal and political consequences...

    In October 1993, a Boston Globe Magazine editor named John Koch visited my Advanced Placement English class at Boston Latin School to discuss an upcoming special edition of the magazine featuring essays from students in the Boston area, and to encourage my class to submit articles for the magazine's consideration. I was a bit nervous about submitting an article, but ultimately decided to write a piece about my experiences being teased and harassed for prioritizing education --- the so-called "acting white" phenomenon.

    I was thrilled to learn later that the piece had been accepted for publication --- surprisingly, without any changes or edits. I never would have imagined seeing my name in the Globe, and now it was going to happen.

    I remember being irked by the title on the cover of the February 6, 1994 Boston Globe Magazine: "In Our Own Words: A Special Issue By and About Urban Youth." The use of the term "urban youth" made it sound to me as though the articles had been written by gangbangers. Yet I couldn't complain too much: whatever grievances I had with that subtitle were offset by the honor of finally seeing my words in a commercial publication for the first time.

    My article, "White Man's Knowledge," appeared on page 29. In the piece [posted in full below this article], I described my frustration with the "acting white" phenomenon I had experienced over the years:

    From personal experience, I have found that if one black brother strives to enlighten himself in order to leave the poverty and hopelessness of the streets, other so-called brothers will try to prevent him from reaching the goal. They won't do it with fists or guns; they'll do it with code words. 'Oreo,' 'acting white,' and 'learning the white man's lesson' seem to be the three weapons of choice among these 'brothers' (and sometimes sisters, too)...

    What is the cause of such a disdainful attitude toward those African-American youths who are striving to get ahead? I confess my ignorance as to the exact reason. It could be a matter of poverty, apathy, jealousy or laziness. The black youths who express scorn for their studious counterparts may not have had a father or a mother to read a book to them when they were 5 or 6 years of age. So when filmmaker John Singleton expresses his desire for teachers to be considered 'bastions of society,' most black youths are unreachable. Why? Because the statements of Singleton and Spike Lee are printed in newspapers, magazines, and books, something that these youths may have had limited exposure to. How can you respect something that you are not familiar with?

    It is pitiful to think that blacks who strive to improve themselves through education must resign themselves to passively accepting backbiting comments in their youth by others of the same color who decide to remain in ignorance. It is pitiful to think that instead of being praised for seeking to empower their race, they are rejected for 'learning the white man's knowledge' (as if Caucasians were the only ones who contributed to literature, science, and mathematics). It is pitiful to think that the black youths who respect themselves by striving for academic excellence are treated with so much disrespect.

    I was honored by the positive feedback I received from Latin School students and teachers --- and a little embarrassed, since the magazine featured pieces from fellow Latin School students who were far ahead of me in terms of writing ability. Nevertheless, I felt compelled to build upon whatever momentum I had generated with the piece, and followed up with several articles in the Latin School newspaper, the Argo.

    Of course, by the time the Globe Magazine article had been published, I had become a huge fan of libertarian Boston talk-radio star David Brudnoy, as well as right-wing syndicated columnists Ken Hamblin, Thomas Sowell, Armstrong Williams and Walter E. Williams, all of whom appeared in the Boston Herald. Later that month, another right-wing pundit, former Herald editorial writer Jeff Jacoby, started writing for the Globe op-ed page, and I became a fan of his as well. One reason why I embraced these individuals was that they were all, to varying degrees, harshly critical of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who I regarded as an extremist of the highest order and the number-one threat to civility among the races. Jacoby in particular mirrored my contempt for Farrakhan, most notably in this March 15, 1994 column.

    I recognized in Jacoby, Brudnoy and the black Republican syndicated columnists a passion, a vision, a direction for the world that I did not recognize in the Boston Globe editor Koch. I also recognized that if I wanted to become a black Republican pundit myself one day, it probably wouldn't be a good idea to note that my writing career began in such a "liberal" paper (Jacoby was seen as the paper's token right-wing columnist). So in 1995, I abruptly cut off all communication with Koch, and began downplaying any connection to the paper, telling virtually anyone who asked that the only thing good about the paper was Jacoby. In fact, this article represents the first time I've told most people that I once had an article published in the Globe.

    Even after I decided to leave the Republican Party in 2011, having become disgusted by the party's "epistemic closure" on such issues as climate change, I still felt embarrassed about mentioning my past with the paper --- largely because I would have to explain why I chose to sever ties in such an abrupt and ungrateful fashion.

    * * *

    I've often thought about writing to Koch (who left the Globe several years ago and is now an accomplished artist) and apologizing to him for my actions in 1995, but I've never done so, simply because if I were in his shoes, I would never, under any circumstances, accept such an apology. How can someone who holds grudges ask someone else not to hold a grudge?

    This is one wound --- a wound I inflicted --- that will never, and can never, heal.

    I can't ask myself for forgiveness, either. I wish I had not been so stupid as to fall for the media hype about Farrakhan twenty years ago. Had I understood that Farrakhan was not nearly as important or powerful as mainstream media entities were making him out to be (and I actually thought he was going to start a race war against white people), I never would have been so spooked as to embrace right-wing pundits who downplayed the declarations of demagogues with actual political power while denouncing Farrakhan.

    (As I write this, I'm reminded of a conversation I had with a Democratic friend several years ago, in which I asked why more Jewish people don't publicly condemn Farrakhan. My friend smiled and observed that if I actually knew a critical mass of Jewish people, I would have long ago realized that most Jewish people regarded right-wing Republican Christian fundamentalists as the greatest threat to their liberty, not Farrakhan.)

    Had I not fallen for the media hype about Farrakhan, and thus not aligned myself with the anti-Farrakhan right, I would have never felt motivated to sever ties with Koch. I would have never tuned into right-wing talk radio and bought into the notions promoted in that medium, such as the notion of human-caused climate change being a "hoax." I would have never defended the views of such figures as Jacoby, Brudnoy, Hamblin and Sowell as representing the views of "real" or "rational" America. I would have never made the catastrophic mistake of voting for the likes of George W. Bush. I would have never wasted nearly two decades of my life on wingnuttery.

    As the singer Charlotte Church once observed, even God can't change the past. Yet I still wish I could --- or at the very least, I wish I had enough common sense twenty years ago to understand that mainstream media entities were simply attempting to get ratings and sales by focusing on Farrakhan, and that his message was never particularly popular even among most African-Americans.

    * * *

    In numerous conversations over the past three years, I've been told that I shouldn't beat myself up too much over my past association with the Republican Party and the conservative movement, that millions of well-meaning people (mistakenly) thought that the GOP was a legitimate and rational political option, that people make mistakes. However, I can't accept this line of argument. Other people I knew recognized immediately that the right was wrong twenty years ago. Why didn't I?

    I keep trying to look for answers beyond the Farrakhan issue. I've noted previously that I was a fan of President George H. W. Bush, and I remember having a negative reaction in 1991 to those who suggested that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas was a self-hating black man. Yet I didn't hate Bill Clinton when he ran for and won the presidency, and prior to following right-wing media I considered myself pro-choice and pro-equal rights for gay people. Absent the "fear of Farrakhan," I think I would have remained a generally socially liberal person, instead of leaping over the right-wing cliff. In fact, had I avoided right-wing media influences, I'd like to think that I would have developed an awareness about the hazards of human-caused climate change years ago.

    What made me get so worked up by the Farrakhan stuff? Why didn't I realize that it was just media hype, sound and fury signifying virtually nothing? Why couldn't I recognize (what should have been) obvious media trickery --- the same obvious media trickery that manifests itself every so often, from the hype about weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the war in Iraq to the hype about the allegedly grassroots Tea Party movement to the hype about the "knockout game"? The only answer I can come up with is that I simply wasn't as smart as I thought I was.

    I can certainly recognize obvious media trickery today --- the hype about Benghazi, the fake scandals promoted by the late Andrew Breitbart, the fear-mongering about obscure academics such as Frances Fox Piven --- but that doesn't make up for not being able to recognize obvious media trickery when it counted.

    * * *

    I can't exactly celebrate the twentieth anniversary of my first published piece. It's a self-ruined memory. I spent too many years not acknowledging the piece and denigrating the venue in which it was published to "celebrate" it now.

    Frankly, it wasn't as good as the pieces written by my Boston Latin classmates. At the time it was published, I had developed what would turn out to be an emotionally expensive, psychologically punishing addiction --- and it has to be referred to as such, because that's what it was --- to right-wing media. I betrayed the man who gave me the opportunity to write the piece, for no other reason than to score political points. And it wasn't worth it at all.

    You know the old saying, "Time heals all wounds"? That's absolute BS. It doesn't apply when you've wounded yourself, and others.

    * * *

    D.R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer and a former contributor to the conservative website Human Events Online. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Boston Herald, the Boston Globe, ClimateCrocks.com, FrumForum.com, the Ripon Forum, Truth-Out.org, TheNextRight.com, and BookerRising.com. In addition, he hosted a Blog Talk Radio program, The Notes, from August 2009 to June, 2010. You can follow him on Twitter here: @DRTucker.

    * * *

    The full text of 16-year old Tucker's essay, "White Man's Knowledge", as published in the February 6, 1994 special issue of The Boston Globe Magazine, follows below...






    Categories: Brad Blog

    Another VA 'Recount' Coming: 9-Vote Margin in Special Election for Control of State Senate

    Brad Blog - Fri, 01/10/2014 - 21:27

    Meanwhile, back in Virginia...here we go again...

    Yes. As reported by the State Board of Elections website tonight, that's a 9-vote margin in the state Senate special election held on Tuesday to replace Democratic state Sen. Ralph Northam who is vacating his seat after being elected last November as VA's next Lt. Governor.

    To put that another way, control of the entire VA state Senate now rests on 9 unverifiable touch-screen votes out of more than 20,000 cast.

    The VA state Senate is currently evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, twenty seats each. The tie-breaking vote in the state Senate goes to the Lt. Governor. Until Northam is sworn in to his new job on Saturday, when he takes over from the current Republican Lt. Governor, the GOP controls both chambers of the state legislature. A Democratic Lt. Governor will, theoretically, for the first time since 1998, mean that control of the upper chamber goes back to Democrats. But that is only if both Northam's Senate seat and the one being vacated by Attorney General-elect Mark Herring both go to Democrats in the special elections...

    The Tuesday, January 7th special election in Senate District 6 was the first of those two special elections. The one set to replace Herring in SD33 will be held on January 21st. So, while the executive branch in VA --- Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General --- are all going Democratic next week for the first time since 1969, control of the state Senate will have no small part in the way things move forward in the Old Dominion.

    The SD33 election is a few weeks later than the SD6 election, as regular readers of The BRAD BLOG may have likely surmised by now, thanks to the amount of time it took to resolve the November 5th state AG race between Herring and his Republican opponent Mark Obenshain, who only conceded the razor-thin election in mid-December, after what sufficed for a "recount" in Virginia, of what had been, prior to that "recount", the closest statewide race in the history of the commonwealth. Herring was eventually announced the winner by just 907 votes out of more than 2.2 million votes cast. The Democrat's final margin of victory was just .041%.

    In the SD6 race, the Democratic candidate Lynwood Lewis currently holds a .044% margin over Republican Wayne Coleman, after 20,401 votes were canvassed from the Tuesday election.

    Understandably, a "recount" in the race is all but certain, according to Coleman's campaign, but there will be even less to "count" in the SD6 race than there was in the AG race, given that, according to VerifiedVoting.org's "Verifier" database, all six of the localities which comprise the 6th Senate District use 100% unverifiable Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) voting systems on election day.

    As followers of the Herring/Obenshain race will recall, the recount statute in Virginia [PDF] describes how a "recount" of votes cast on DREs is to be carried out:

    For direct recording electronic machines (DREs), the recount officials shall open the envelopes with the printouts and read the results from the printouts. If the printout is not clear, or on the request of the court, the recount officials shall rerun the print out from the machine or examine the counters as appropriate.

    So, that's it. Whatever was already been printed out by the machines as the "results" on the poll tapes at the end of the night will likely suffice for the final results of the race. There is no way, of course, to know that any of those votes, or any vote ever cast on any DRE system for any candidate (or initiative) on the ballot has ever been recorded by one of them as per any voter's intent. Casting a vote on a DRE consists of 100% faith-based voting.

    Even if there are any absentee or provisional paper ballots to be included in a "recount" in Virginia, barring a court order, they are largely just run back through the same optical-scan computer systems that tallied them (either correctly or incorrectly --- who knows?), in the first place.

    So, while little is likely to change in the SD6 "recount", it wouldn't take all that much to flip the results from the current apparent "win" for the Democrats, to a "win" for the Republicans. 5 votes re-tallied for Coleman and taken away from Lewis would reverse the results, and hand control of the state Senate back to the Republicans.

    The localities that comprise SD6 are Accomack County (which votes on DREs made by WinVote, according to Verified Voting database), Mathews County (which votes on DREs made by Sequoia), Northampton County (Sequoia DREs), and the cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach (which both use DREs manufactured by Diebold.) All of those systems have also been found, in the past, to be easily manipulated.

    For whatever you may find them to be worth, the current results of the SD6 special election, as canvassed and officially certified by each locality as of this afternoon, are posted here at the State Board of Elections website.

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


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