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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Oh, I'm sorry. Those weren't more than 80,000 'Tea Partiers' marching in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, over the weekend. Those were people peacefully demonstrating against the radical Rightwing 'Tea Party' policies of the North Carolina Legislature and Governor.
Had they been 'Tea Partiers' protesting, of course, you would have already heard about the march, as it likely would have been featured by every news outlet in the nation, along with the repeated claim that such a massive gathering of angry voters portends disaster for Democrats this November.
Such as these were not angry Rightwingers marching, however, the event barely made the "news" beyond North Carolina's borders. But it happened, whether the national, so-called "liberal media" covered it or not and, as these photos demonstrate, it was pretty damned huge...
Gainesville, Florida, in an attempt to avoid the six-hour lines that characterized last Election Day, sought approval to use the University of Florida's student union as an early voting site. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner denied the request, sparking outrage.
Detzner justified the decision by claiming that the Reitz student union does not fit the list of eligible early voting sites, which was expanded last year to reduce lines. Now, municipalities can use fairgrounds, government-owned community centers, convention centers, stadiums, courthouses, civic centers, and county commission buildings. "The terms 'convention center' and 'government-owned community center' cannot be construed so broadly as to include the Reitz Union," the state's Division of Elections argued.
Local officials contend that the Reitz Union qualifies as a government-owned community center, as it is part of a public university.
"I'm very upset about this," Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards told the Tampa Bay Times. "I just can't understand why they feel the need to be so restrictive about where people are allowed to vote...This is strategic. They're worried about young people voting."
Instead, UF students will have to travel more than five miles off campus in order to cast their vote in the March special election --- a difficult trip for a mostly car-less population.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that the Reitz student union is "used as a regular voting precinct in county, state and national elections. About 50,000 students attend UF, and the city said the request to use the Reitz Union for early voting came from a group of students."
Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters, called the decision "jaw dropping".
The Times quotes Senate Ethics & Elections Chairman Jack Latvala (R), described as the sponsor of SB 600, "the 2013 law that expanded early voting sites", claiming that "we really did not specifically allow for [early voting sites] to be on campus."
However, HB 7013 (the companion bill in the FL House to SB 600, the one that was actually passed and signed into law) says nothing about disallowing early voting cites that are on campus. It reads specifically (see page 25 [PDF])...
Almost three weeks ago, all three of the major Sunday network news shows --- NBC's Meet the Press, CBS' Face the Nation and ABC's This Week --- allowed very powerful elected officials, such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), to come on the air and claim, without evidence, that they'd seen "clues" suggesting former NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden was, somehow, a Russian agent.
While that sort of wholly substance-free red-baiting is now perfectly appropriate, seemingly, on network "news" shows, it's similarly remarkable that it seems those very same networks, and most of the others, obsessed with unsubstantiated bullshit claims about Snowden, failed to even note a full-length, detailed, substantive videotaped interview with Snowden on Germany television's ARD almost two weeks ago on January 26th.
Interestingly, on the ARD website, where the exclusive interview was originally posted, a note on the page explains cryptically: "Due to legal reasons the video is only available in Germany." Huh. So it can't be watched there from here in the U.S. Okay. So, here's the full interview as posted at LiveLeak...
Please decide for yourself if he's a "Russian agent", as based on his comments here and the actual public evidence that exists (none) to support the defamatory claims of the very powerful elected members of Congress. The entire interview is interesting and as fascinating as he is.
I'm not sure if it offers a lot of new information, in regard to Snowden's leaks (as he notes several times during the conversation, he's leaving it to the journalists to decide what is newsworthy and what isn't from amongst the documents which he reportedly no longer even has), but there's one section I wanted to underscore, as it's something we've discussed here for many years. Namely, the dangers of privatizing our national security/surveillance state, which he speaks to very directly in the interview...
Completely unnecessary polling place Photo ID restrictions enacted by so-called "small government conservatives" are costing taxpayers more and more big government money every day.
In Dallas County, Texas, for example, where County Commissioners are wrestling with the Republican-enacted state law to restrict which legal voters will be allowed to vote, hundreds of thousands of dollars have already been allocated to try and help legally registered voters retain their right to vote in the upcoming March primary election, according to the Dallas Morning News. And it looks like they will have to spend still more.
The cost of "small government conservatism" to taxpayers continues to mount in the Lone Star State, on outreach to voters and administrative necessities, as well as the cost of defending the voting restrictions in state and federal court...
Sure, Pennsylvania's Republican Governor Tom Corbett may be the dumbest in the nation, but the competition for that title is certainly fierce and tough to quantify.
Who can forget his advice to women of the state back in 2012 that they should just lie back and "close your eyes" while being forced by his government to receive a vaginal ultrasound while the monitor must be pointed towards them before terminating a pregnancy? That was fun.
Then there was his claim that same year, described as "ludicrous" to The BRAD BLOG by a longtime Keystone State election integrity expert, that the GOP polling place Photo ID restriction bill he signed into law was needed, in no small part, because some precincts in the state "come in with a 112 percent" turnout. Of course, that was completely untrue, but, hey, it sounded like actual information! That voter restriction law, as we reported recently, was permanently enjoined by a state court earlier this month after it was found to be in violation of the commonwealth's constitutional right to vote. The law, according to the court, would also have disenfranchised "hundreds of thousands" of legal voters in the bargain.
But how could Corbett have known that? After all, when Corbett's own appointed Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele (another great mind and, coincidentally, the wife of Corbett's own Chief of Staff), was asked about it in court during the legal challenge to the law, she admitted, "I don't know what the law says." Hey, if the state's chief election official doesn't know how many thousands or millions of otherwise legal voters will be disenfranchised by a law, how should the Governor be expected to know any better?!
But the news is not all bad for Gov. Genius, as a new poll out this week in advance of his exciting re-election bid this year details!...
An announcement this week by the state's brand-new Attorney General offers a stark reminder, once again, of the importance of elections and of the work that The BRAD BLOG has done here for the past 10 years...
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...