Stop blaming those who didn't turn out. Americans did vote. By not turning out, they voted against the two major parties and against the system as a whole. It may have been a dumb vote, but it was a landslide...
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!
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?...
I'm told I handled this morning's 6:30am earthquake very well. I remember it, if just barely. Half dream, half decisive action!...Or so I'm told. Then, back to dreaming until waking up later and confirming that it wasn't actually a dream.
Some of the local TV news anchors here, who were on air and on camera during the moment that the 4.4 magnitude temblor struck, handled it better than others.
Here's our local CBS affiliate in action as "disaster" struck...
Contrast the CBS-LA team's fairly calm response with that of the two anchors who were live on Tribune-owned CW affiliate KTLA at the time, particular the award-winningly hilarious reaction of Chris Schauble on the right, caught on tape for all of posterity...
We mocked it ourselves a bit, suggesting that Democrats might have carried out such a stunt during the day, instead of in the middle of the night when most people were asleep, if they really wanted folks to notice. In the meantime, our friend Kenny Pick of Turn Up the Night has been slogging through CSPAN's 17-hour video posting of the session and sends us a clip that caught his eye.
In it, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), co-sponsor along with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) of the Senate #Up4Climate event, focuses a laser light on the U.S. Supreme Court's infamous 2010 Citizens United decision as a turning point --- a very bad one --- for climate change denialism, specifically on the flip-flopping by Republicans on an issue they actually did once appear to care about...
Meanwhile...Back up in Wisconsin, where two different courts have already found the Republicans' polling place Photo ID restriction law to be in violation of the state constitution, a decision on an appeal waits at the state Supreme Court.
But, no worries, if that Court also agrees that it's unconstitutional to deny WI voters their right to vote, Gov. Scott Walker is ready to call the state legislature back into an emergency session to try to pass another such law, according to the Journal Sentinel...
Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday he would call a special legislative session if courts this spring do not uphold the state's voter ID law, which has been blocked since soon after it was enacted.
Shortly after taking over all of state government in 2011, Republicans passed a law requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls. In 2012, two Dane County judges blocked the measure.
Those cases are now before the state Supreme Court, which is expected to rule by June. Separately, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman is considering two other cases that argue the voter ID law violates the U.S. Constitution and federal Voting Rights Act.
Even if you did see what happened on Tuesday, you should tune in to this week's show, as I suspect you'll get details on the various plots, cover-ups and related schemes that you haven't yet heard. I was joined to discuss the mess with our old friend Marcy Wheeler, the encyclopedic national security expert from Emptywheel.net and now Senior Policy Adviser at The Intercept.
She's been tracking this since at least 2009, and we went through the remarkable timeline beginning with Bush's "Enhanced Interrogation" torture program just after 9/11, through the CIA's attempted cover-up, shredding of videotapes and removal of documents from the Senate staffer's computers, on up to yesterday's explosive comments from DiFi and the implausible denials from CIA Chief John Brennan (and the calls for criminal charges by both parties) which Wheeler and others are now describing as a bona fide "Constitutional Crisis".
This is an extraordinary story. It's Spy v. Overseer; CIA v. U.S. Senate; Executive Branch v. Legislative Branch; DiFi v. Brennan; Hypocrisy v. Reality; Torture & Cover-ups v. Rule of Law & Constitution. And it all could, as Mother Jones' David Corn argues, very well "undermine the basis for secret government" itself.
In the second part of the show, we covered several much more encouraging news items from the past several days, as well as the latest Green News Report. Buckle up and enjoy!
WASHINGTON (AP) --- With just three weeks left to sign up under President Barack Obama's health care law, a major survey tracking the rollout finds that the uninsured rate keeps going down.
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, released Monday, found that 15.9 percent of U.S. adults are uninsured thus far in 2014, down from 17.1 percent for the last three months --- or calendar quarter--- of 2013.
That translates roughly to 3 million to 4 million people [who previously did not have health insurance, now] getting coverage.
Gallup said the share of Americans who lack coverage is on track to drop to the lowest quarterly level it measured since 2008, before Obama took office.
The survey found that almost every major demographic group made progress getting health insurance, although Hispanics lagged.
The Gallup poll is considered authoritative because it combines the scope and depth found in government surveys with the timeliness of media sampling. Pollsters interview 500 people a day, 350 days a year. The latest health care results were based on more than 28,000 interviews, or about 28 times as many as in a standard national poll.
The survey can be an early indicator of broad shifts in society. Gallup saw a modest decline in the uninsured rate in January, and now two full months of data indicate a trend is taking shape.
Gallup said the drop coincides with the start of coverage under the health care law on Jan. 1.
While The BRAD BLOG has been no particular fan of ObamaCare, and has long advocated for a "Medicare for All" type single-payer system, (we've long been loud supporters of a much better and more moral system than that offered by "ObamaCare", and still are) the facts about ACA are the facts.
In addition to the continuing fall in the number of uninsured Americans, we also noted last November that the rise in the cost of health care has been the flattest in U.S. history during the three years since the passage of the law. And, on a personal note, last December I detailed the ObamaCare "nightmare" I suffered by spending less than an hour on the CA state exchange website to sign up for a new plan with the same health care provider I had previously, and saved $300/month ($3,600/year) in the process.
Yes, if I was a Republican I'd want to pretend "ObamaCare" was a disaster and do everything possible to repeal it as well.
Some encouraging news to begin your week, along with apologies to Ian Millhiser for running his short and sweet piece in full, but I'm off the grid for much of today and would like to flag his main point here...
The poll is the second blow in just one week to Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz (R), who campaigned in 2010 on his support for voter ID, a common voter suppression law. Last Wednesday, an Iowa judge permanently struck down Schultz's attempt to purge voters from the voter rolls on suspicion that they could be non-citizens.
Millhiser may be more bullish on the American people "getting it" than I am. The Rightwing "voter fraud" propaganda has run long and deep, and (unlike The BRAD BLOG) both Democrats and progressives in general took way too long to begin responding to the insidious and very well organized voter suppression strategy by Republicans. Still, I hope he's right and I'm wrong, and that, like so many other issues, the American people will get it right once they truly understand the facts of the long-running and effective GOP scam.
The data points Millhiser cites are encouraging, however, and are in line with a general anecdotal assessment I offered in January, as based on responses from Reddit commenters to the Pennsylvania court that nixed the Keystone State's disenfranchising and unconstitutional polling place Photo ID restriction law passed into law by Republicans there last year.
And, one more point, since the piece above discusses Iowa: A reminder that when the GOP in the Hawkeye State were able to run any type of election they wanted (without having to worry about running afoul of state or federal law or Constitutional issues) in their own 2012 GOP Iowa Caucuses, they chose to not require their own voters present Photo ID before participating, despite working very hard in the year prior to require such restrictions for all voters in the general election.
(In a related point, the Iowa GOP also chose to use hand-counted paper ballots, rather than optical-scan or touch-screen computers in their Presidential caucuses that year as well. Thanks only to that public oversight of the balloting the real winner of the 2012 Iowa GOP Caucus was eventually determined. Without those publicly-counted paper ballots, the man who didn't win, Mitt Romney, who was unofficially declared to be the "winner" on election night in Iowa, would have almost certainly have gone on to become the official "winner" as well, despite receiving fewer votes than Rick Santorum.)
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The pioneering blogger and indefatigable, uncompromising and unapologetic critic of all things Rightwing, Terry Coppage, better known to the world as "BartCop", has passed away.
He will be sorely missed --- at least by many of us. "BartCop" has been raising hell, taking names and using the Internet to call out the bad guys longer than the word "blog" even existed, much less became known to the world. He also helped established the concept of political "snark" --- of the most viciously biting kind --- before that word existed either.
Fellow pseudonymous blogger "Digby" of Hullabaloo emails today to say: "Many of us early bloggers 'met' at Bartcop, including Atrios, Avedon and me. He's one of the creators of the liberal blogosphere."
Occasionally --- almost as frequently, if not more so, than actual corporate mainstream news outlets --- The Daily Show produces real journalism.
One such example (among many) was Aasif Mandvi's stinging 2010 report on Nevada's United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union paying temporary non-union workers minimum wage and no benefits to protest Walmart's low wages, lack of benefits and blocking of unions.
Last night on The Daily Show, Mandvi did it again, this time offering a scathing, must-see report on "third-world" health care conditions in...Knoxville, Tennessee...and some stunning Rightwing hypocrisy about it...
On Tuesday, the L.A. City Council voted to join cities like New York and Chicago by banning e-cigarette use in the same public spaces where tobacco use is banned, such as "farmers' markets, parks, recreational areas, beaches, indoor workplaces such as bars and nightclubs, outdoor dining areas and other places where lighting up is banned."
On this week's BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica Radio I spoke with L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz (CD5) about why they voted to impose the ban, despite the dearth of evidence that e-cig 'vaping' is harmful to either the user or anyone else, and the evidence (include my own personal story) that vaping is, hands down, the most effective way for smokers to stop smoking. In fact, as I describe during the show, I view it as a "miracle" that will save countless lives and that banning it --- or making it harder to vape in any way, without good reason --- will, quite frankly, result in countless unnecessary deaths.
Even Koretz admitted during my interview that there's a "99% possibility" that vaping is "much safer than smoking".
But he was low-balling it, frankly. As you'll hearing during the show, this is a very personal issue for me. But you can decide for yourself if Koretz makes the case for the L.A. City Council's ban. Either way, the ban will only go into effect if Mayor Eric Garcetti approves it. Garcetti can be contacted here.
My great thanks to Koretz for joining us at the last minute, and for sticking around for tough questioning from both me and callers.
UPDATE 3/7/2014: PandoDaily's David Holmes pulls together a lot of the known (and unknown) information about e-cigs and describes the L.A. City Council's ordinance "to treat e-cigarettes like conventional cigarettes" as "irrational and bad policy."
[T]his proposal is misguided because it would do a public health disservice, discouraging smokers from switching to less-harmful electronic cigarettes that do not combust tobacco and therefore, do not create second-hand smoke.
As a former president of the American Lung Association, I have seen how e-cigarettes have become the subject of much confusion and misinformation, which has led to a classic case of guilt by association.
E-cigarettes may deliver nicotine and look like cigarettes. But there the similarities end.
Including e-cigarettes in the city's smoking ban would be a step in the wrong direction. It would send the unintended message to smokers that electronic cigarettes are as dangerous as traditional cigarettes, locking many smokers into traditional cigarette use. This is a public health outcome we do not want.
E-cigarettes are a fundamentally different product from combustible tobacco cigarettes and should not fall under the same rules and restrictions. Rather, we should encourage current smokers to move down the ladder of risk by implementing regulations that recognize these differences.
As a society, we should continue our laser focus on eliminating tobacco use. But a premature "regulate first, ask questions later" approach that equates e-cigarettes to combustible tobacco cigarettes only serves as an obstacle to that goal. The Los Angeles City Council should pause its campaign against electronic cigarettes until the FDA experts offer guidance on how the product should be regulated. To do otherwise is to ignore an opportunity to save millions of smokers from a lot of harm.
One of the nation's largest coal producers will pay a $27.5 million fine and is set to spend $200 million to reduce illegal toxic discharges into waterways across five Appalachian states.
The proposed settlement is the largest ever of its kind.
The Associated Press obtained details before the settlement involving Alpha Natural Resources Inc. was filed in court in West Virginia.
The government says the company and its subsidiaries violated water pollution limits in state-issued permits more than 6,000 times between 2006 and 2013.
The government says they discharged heavy metals harmful to fish and other wildlife directly into rivers and streams.
The companies agreed to take measures to reduce discharges from 79 active coal mines and 25 processing plants in Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
In January of 2011, Alpha Natural Resources, then the third largest coal producer in the U.S., purchased Massey Energy Co. for $7.1 billion to become what Bloomberg News described as "the world’s third-largest metallurgical coal producer" and "the second-largest U.S. coal company by sales, with almost 14,000 employees."
The acquisition happened just months after the horrific April 5th, 2010 explosion at Massey's Upper Big Branch mine near Montcoal, West Virginia. 29 people were killed in the explosion, described as "the worst U.S. coal mining disaster in 40 years."
As coal and oil families mourned in WV and elsewhere, and as the country watched the unprecedented and unstoppable toxic discharge in the Gulf, it seems that Alpha was quietly poisoning rivers and streams in at least five states and fighting, along with fellow supporters of Big Fossil Fuel, to block the nation's transition to clean, renewable energy.
Apple CEO Tim Cook is said to have been uncharacteristically angered recently by an organized movement of Rightwing shareholders demanding that the company stop its investments in green initiatives. Apple has announced its intention of obtaining 100% of its power for administrative operations from clean, renewable energy sources in the not-too-distant future.
"Since taking the helm at Apple in 2011," the UK Independent reports, "Cook has made notable improvements to the company’s use of renewable energy, increasing the use of solar, wind and geothermal resources used to power Apple’s offices from around a quarter of its total energy use to more than 75 per cent."
The company's sustainability initiative reportedly led the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), a self-proclaimed "conservative think tank" to demand that Apple "refrain from putting money in green energy projects that were not profitable," the paper reports.
Apple does "a lot of things for reasons besides profit motive," Cook reportedly told the shareholders. "We want to leave the world better than we found it."
"Not everything that Apple does is motivated by money," he said. "If you want me to do things only for ROI [Return on Investment] reasons, you should get out of this stock."
He is said to have added: "When we work on making our devices accessible to the blind, I don't consider bloody ROI."
Good for him. But the episode underscores an important issue and one that is not generally appreciated by well-meaning progressives who would like to see similar actions by more corporate heads. In fact, our particular system of capitalism in this country --- and even the law --- might very well favor the rightwingers from the NCPPR in this argument, rather than Cook and Apple...