Standing up to the NRA after Roanoke, horrifying U.S. gun death toll; PLUS: Denying global warming on Katrina's 10th anniversary; Trump's ugly nativism; Good news for Dems; Marriage dead-enders in KY...
The Nation's John Nichols on new revelations of Scott Walker lying about a criminal investigation and on the Black Lives Matter movement and Sanders a better candidate; Plus: Big news for Bernie & more!
Catching up on a lot that fell through the cracks during last week's busy news week. From Jon Stewart to new toxic spill in SW to sentencing verdict for Aurora shooter to GOP debate answers media aren't discussing & more...
I haven't gotten to go to the phones for weeks on the KPFK/Pacifica RadioBradCast, so that's what we did on this week's show. No guests. Just me, a few rants, lots of callers (and, of course, Desi Doyen and the latest Green News Report).
The rants included more on the mad media misinformation/neo-con war-baiting over Ukraine (which, thankfully, it appears Obama no longer seems to be falling for or taking the bait on); the Democrats woeful 2014 campaign plans and --- the one that got ALL the phone lines ringing off the hook --- the rapidly increasing media disinformation about e-cigs.
Lots of good calls, but my favorite on that last was from "David in Los Angeles". I think his opinion may be a nearly perfect distillation of the entire, insane backlash against the public health miracle that is vaping. David describes his concern: "We don't want to encourage the behavior of smoking, even if its not harmful." My question to him is, "Why?" He explains: "because it's the perceived behavior that is negative." You'll have to tune in to see how that call, and all the others, worked out.
It was a very lively show this week. Hope you'll enjoy it...
For all of the long-time smokers who are quitting or have now quit the deadly habit (myself included) thanks only to the miracle of e-cigs (which offer none of the thousands of known, harmful byproducts of smoking tobacco), it's remarkable to see anti-smoking zealots actually fighting against their use in myriad ways.
Several weeks ago on my KPFK/Pacifica Radio show, I interviewed Paul Koretz, one of the L.A. City Councilmembers who, beyond all reason --- and without a single shred of scientific data to back up his reasoning --- recently voted to ban vaping in all the same places where smoking is banned (on beaches, public parks, inside work places, restaurants, bars, etc.) Those who vape, if L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti decides to approve the City Council's ridiculous and dangerous ordinance (as other mayors have done in other cities) would be consigned to having to go outside to a smoking area to use their safe, odor-free vaporizer.
As one caller to the radio show pointed out, that ill-considered policy is akin to forcing recovering alcoholics to go sit in a bar. It's almost assured to keep more people smoking rather than quitting. That, even though, as Koretz admitted to me on air, there's a "99% possibility" that vaping is "much safer than smoking" and the former. (And he was low-balling that number, no doubt.) The former President of the American Lung Association describes the L.A. ban on vaping as "misguided" and "a public health disservice".
Which brings us to Monday's New York Times, where the Idiotic War on Quitting Smoking continues with a misguided hit piece on e-liquid --- the "juices" used in e-cig vaporizers --- headlined "Selling a Poison by the Barrel: Liquid Nicotine for E-Cigarettes"...
Last week we told you how Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker considers implementing a polling place Photo ID restriction in his state to be so "pressing" that he would call a special session of the state legislature to do it. He says it's the only such matter "pressing" enough to merit such extraordinary action this year, in advance of the November 2014 election --- when Walker himself, just coincidentally, faces a very tight re-election race.
That, despite the fact that two state courts have already found the Republicans' existing polling place Photo ID voter restriction law to be a violation of the state constitution and that expert testimony during one of the two trials detailed how there is only one single known case of voter impersonation fraud in WI over the past 10 years that might have possibly been deterred by such a law. At the same time, tens of thousands of perfectly legal voters will likely be barred from voting under such a law.The state Supreme Court is currently deciding on the state's appeal to the lower courts' rulings.
Republicans pretend that implementing such a law is not about voter suppression, but now at least one of them, to his great credit, strongly and loudly disagrees.
Schultz also decried the current WI GOP effort to suppress the vote --- one which would likely effect many elderly as well as minority and student voters --- as an insult to veterans, calling it "a slap in the face at the very least to some of the people who gave some of the most vital years of their life in the service of their country"...
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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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.
The entire right-wing mediasphere flexed its powerful muscles last week against its only regulator, the Federal Communications Commission.
It started when the new Republican FCC Commissioner, Ajit Pai, ignored traditional inter-agency channels and went straight to the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal to accuse his colleagues of "meddling with the news."
That was all it took.
Pai's beef? That the FCC would be conducting a "Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs" (CIN) to question radio and TV reporters and editors about how they determine which stories to run and which not to run. The study would also ask ask about "perceived station bias" and "perceived responsiveness to underserved populations."
As I reported at The BRAD BLOG way back in 2011, "The FCC is tasked with making sure the broadcast media --- via the limited broadcast spectrum which is owned by we, the people --- serves the public interest. Every four years, as required by the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the FCC must revisit the issue of public interest in media ownership." Despite the right wing hyperventilation over the nefariousness of the CIN study, it's simply part of the FCC's statutory mandate, as explained here.
What's most interesting, however, is that Pai enlisted the very same right wing Pied Pipers who have long taken control of and, indeed, dominate the very airwaves we ALL own, and which most of us agree need more diversity and public oversight --- in hopes of intimidating the new Democratic FCC Chair Tom Wheeler into providing less diversity and public oversight.
That bit of upside-down policy jujitsu was, ironically enough, enabled by the tremendous power of broadcasting over our publicly-owned airwaves.
Following the siren call of Pai's piping, both Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck dutifully took to those airwaves coast-to-coast to work their 30 million or so radio listeners into a frenzy to prevent the FCC from following the agency's decades-long mandate for determining whether local broadcast news organizations are serving the "public interest" or whether they are merely producing news stories mandated by their corporate owners.
A federal judge declared a same-sex marriage ban in deeply conservative Texas unconstitutional on Wednesday, but will allow the nation's second-most populous state to enforce the law pending an appeal that will likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Judge Orlando Garcia issued the preliminary injunction after two gay couples challenged a state constitutional amendment and a longstanding law. His ruling is the latest in a tangled web of lawsuits across the country expected to end up in the Supreme Court next year.
"There've been pro-equality decisions in UT, OK, OH, KY...IL and VA since Windsor. No decisions against equality," Millhiser tweeted, later adding, "Texas decision makes it more likely #SCOTUS will have to hear marriage equality. Will appeal to 5th Circuit, which is severely conservative."
"Before TX," he wrote, "it was possible circuit courts could be unanimous in siding w/ marriage equality. 5th Circuit will probably create circuit split."
I'm less certain about a "severely conservative" court creating a split. If the court really is as conservative as believed, versus simply "activist" Rightwinger Republicans, they are unlikely to find anything in the U.S. Constitution to support Texas, or anybody else, treating some people less equally under the law than others when it comes to marriage. As we've long argued, marriage equality for all is the true conservative position, as true conservatives both here and elsewhere, have also long affirmed.
In his federal ruling on the Texas ban today Judge Garcia seems to agree. "Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution," he wrote, according to AP. "These Texas laws deny plaintiffs access to the institution of marriage and its numerous rights, privileges, and responsibilities for the sole reason that Plaintiffs wish to be married to a person of the same sex."
Normally, I wouldn't waste your time by covering a story like this. It's a ridiculous wedge issue that extremist Rightwingers are trying to mainstream, and the bill that allows for their hoped for discrimination against gay people in Arizona (which is already allowable under existing law in AZ) isprobably going to be vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer (R) anyway, if reports today are reliable and if she has any interest in taking the advice of some of the most powerful and influential Republicans from the state. Even three of the Republican state Senators who voted for the bill are now asking Brewer to veto it. [Update 2/26/1: Brewer has now vetoed the bill, as expected.]
But given that three-term state Sen. Al Melvin (R) is also running for Governor of AZ in 2014, I suppose it's important to help folks understand how extreme and --- mostly --- stupid this clown really is.
I'd normally ignore this story even on that basis, on the premise that this guy is obviously too stupid to be elected to any office, much less governor of the state.
However, Arizona is also the state that, remarkably, managed to re-elect the similarly daft Jan Brewer as the state's chief executive. So, I suppose anyone who gives too much credit to the voters of AZ to save themselves (or to have the ability to oversee their own election results determined by computer tabulators instead of human beings) does so at their own peril.
With all of that in mind, please watch the video of his interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper (who deserves credit here) and take note of how unapologetically dumb state Sen. Al Melvin --- candidate for Governor of AZ --- actually is. The only defense I can manufacture in his favor: if he's not incredibly stupid, he's just indescribably dishonest. So, take your pick...
If you'd like to hear my 30 second version/re-enactment of pretty much everything you need to know from David Gregory's shameful Meet the Press climate change "debate" on Sunday's show, listen to yesterday's 5th Anniversary Green News Report.
From US District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen's ruling [PDF] yesterday, finding that Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional under federal law (just as both Utah's and Oklahoma's bans were recently found)...
Almost one hundred and fifty four years ago, as Abraham Lincoln approached the cataclysmic rending of our nation over a struggle for other freedoms, a rending that would take his life and the lives of hundreds of thousands of others, he wrote these words: "It can not have failed to strike you that these men ask for just. . . the same thing---fairness, and fairness only. This, so far as in my power, they, and all others, shall have. "
The men and women, and the children too, whose voices join in noble harmony with Plaintiffs today, also ask for fairness, and fairness only. This, so far as it is in this Court's power, they and all others shall have.
While undoubtedly Virginia's law would have been found unconstitutional and overturned eventually anyway --- just like similar laws in all fifty states will be very shortly --- it arguably will have happened much faster there and (take note, conservatives) with much less cost to the taxpayers, thanks to the results of last November's elections. Yes, as we've been detailing for more than ten years now, elections really do matter.
Oh, and happy Valentines Day, Virginia...and everyone else!
On a party-line vote, a Florida county's Republican majority Board of County Commissioners voted Tuesday to eliminate almost one-third of Manatee County's voting sites. The board accepted a proposal by Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett (R) by a 6-1 vote to trim the number of precincts, despite unanimous public testimony against the move - and complaints by the lone Democratic Commissioner that it would eliminate half of the polling places in his heavily minority District 2.
In the public comment section of the meeting, all ten speeches strongly opposed the move. Representatives of the local NAACP and Southern Christian Leadership Council warned that the cuts would decrease voter turnout because voters would have to travel further to a polling place, especially among the elderly and people without cars, and noted that the cuts disproportionately affected minority-heavy precincts.
Bennett assured the commission that if lines are longer in 2014 as a result of these changes, he would ask them to revisit the decision in 2015, before the 2016 elections.
Manatee's Supervisor of Elections Bennett, as Israel points out, is no stranger to voter suppression. In fact, he seems to rather love it. While serving as a State Senator in 2011, he endorsed a Republican bill to limit early voting during the 2012 Presidential election by explaining: "I wouldn't have any problem making it harder. I would want them to vote as badly as I want to vote. I want the people of the state of Florida to want to vote as bad as that person in Africa who's willing to walk 200 miles...This should not be easy."
Hmmm..."That person in Africa". Just a common turn of phrase, apparently.
That 2011 bill was eventually passed, signed by Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott and successfully created hours-long lines for (certain) voters in the Sunshine State in 2012.
Those days of pretending to give a damn about voting rights must be over for some Florida Republicans, however, particularly with Scott up for re-election this year and his polling numbers looking fairly bleak against his likely challenger, former Republican Governor turned Democratic candidate Charlie Crist.
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