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...
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...
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...
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...
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.
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) --- Iowa is moving to revise its voter registration application to help clear up widespread confusion over felons' voting rights, according to an administrative rule published Tuesday.
Still on the road (back full time as of next week), but thought this video from yesterday's The Lead with Jake Tapper on CNN was well worth popping here quickly, if you've yet to see it.
It's a fantastic and very lively debate about Edward Snowden and, perhaps most-interestingly, Obama's Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, between journalist Glenn Greenwald and Washington Post op-ed columnist Ruth Marcus. Greenwald describes Marcus here --- much to her apparent consternation --- as an Obama Administration "loyalist" for, among other things, what he sees as a double-standard for her calls for the prosecution of whistleblower Snowden, versus the seeming free pass she's willing to give to Administration officials such as Clapper who has admitted to misleading Congress with false testimony (aka Lying to Them). That would be a felony crime...if anybody bothered to prosecute it.
Greenwald is tenacious (as usual) in forcing Marcus to answer his question about whether Clapper should be prosecuted. For her part, she does a decent job of acquitting herself, sort of, even as the entire conversation --- and the two staked-out positions here --- really do help to illustrate, as Greenwald describes it, how "the D.C. media" and "people in Washington continuously make excuses for those in power when they break the law."
"That's what people in Washington do," he charges. "They would never call on someone like James Clapper, who got caught lying to Congress, which is a felony, to be prosecuted. They only pick on people who embarrass the government and the administration to which they are loyal, like Edward Snowden. It's not about the rule of law."
"People in Washington who are well-connected to the government like she is, do not believe that the law applies to them. They only believe that the law should be used to punish people and imprison people who don't have power in Washington or who expose the wrongdoing of American political officials," Greenwald argues. I'll let you watch to see how Marcus responds.
This one is very much worth watching in full. If you prefer, the complete text transcript is posted here...
Download it and curl on up to the radio hearth for some good old-fashioned, old-time radio fun (with a very BradCast twist!)
Breaking with tradition here, since we will be offering a rare pre-recorded BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica Radio this week and next week (both Christmas Day and New Year's Day are on Wednesdays, when my show usually airs live), and since you may want to listen to it before going completely off grid over the holidays, I thought I'd release our Very Special BradCast Holiday Special here prior to its first KPFK airing at 3p PT/6p ET on Christmas Day this week.
For this very special special, we went back to some of our very oldest BradCasts, as originally aired in the 1930s and 1940s, and chose three different episodes of The BradCast Radio Theatre Players in performance of "Henry Ford's Science Fiction Theatre OF THE AIR!" In many cases, they are as timely today as when they first ran.
Some of you who are old enough, may remember when The BradCast was originally sponsored by the Ford Motor Company. For those who aren't, these episodes will hopefully be a delightful surprise, as they feature both Henry Ford himself, as well as myself, Desi Doyen and our old friend Paul Byrne who wrote all of the "Mighty Adventures of Buzz Edsel" episodes which you'll hear in this Very Special BradCast Holiday Special!
As the graphic above notes, the show includes Action! Adventure! And fun for the whole family! (Except Communists!) So curl on up to the old-time radio hearth and enjoy!...And a happy holidays to all...
• Or, if you prefer to listen to just one segment at a time:
PART 1: Intro & "Buzz Edsel versus the Giant Jupiterians!" MP3 Download or listen online below (appx. 24 mins)...
PART 2: "Buzz Edsel versus the Sun-Stealers!" MP3 Download or listen online below (appx. 16 mins)...
PART 3: "Buzz Edsel and the Santa Surprise!" MP3 Download or listen online below (appx. 16 mins)...
* * *
Since we are no longer sponsored by the Ford Motor Company, thanks in no small part to radio like that featured above, please feel free to help us out, since it's only readers like you that allow us to even have a chance to keep doing all that we do here at The BRAD BLOG...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" also very welcome!)
Over the years, whenever I chat with one of my neighbors (who happens to be gay) about various issues of marriage equality in the news, the state of Utah inevitably seems to come up as the conversational worst-case-scenario stand-in for the dying status quo.
"It'll be interesting to see what effect the new Supreme Court ruling in the Windsor case will have across the country," I might say. "Will a gay couple who were married in California, for example, suddenly stop receiving their federal recognition and marriage benefits if their job requires that they must move to, say, Utah, for their work? Will the courts stand for a couple receiving full federal recognition in one state, but allow that recognition to be removed simply because they moved to another? That doesn't seem either legally or Constitutionally sustainable...Even in a state like Utah."
Welp, guess we now have our answer to that speculation at least, and much more specifically than any of us might have thought over the past year or three, now that a federal judge yesterday found Utah's state constitutional ban against gay marriage to be in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Some 30 other states currently have similar laws or state constitutional bans on equality for all.
"The court holds that Utah's prohibition on same-sex marriage conflicts with the United States Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law," Judge Robert J. Shelby (an Obama appointee) wrote in his 53-page ruling at the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, Central Division. "These rights would be meaningless if the Constitution did not also prevent the government from interfering with the intensely personal choices an individual makes when that person decides to make a solemn commitment to another human being."
I guess I'll have to find another "Utah" for purposes of neighborly speculative conversation about equal marriage rights legal issues. The Deep South states like Mississippi or Alabama might have seemed like good candidates. But between the fairly clear, conservative --- and surprisingly early --- holiday message sent by Judge Shelby in the Utah case yesterday (which is, of course, being appealed by the state, but that will fail soon too), and the awesome message from this Daily Show video from last month, I suspect we'll be running completely out of status quo states all together pretty soon. Or, at least, we'll have 50status quo states...
Judge Ramos found that the interests of the organization --- which masquerades as an "election integrity" group in order to actually advocate for voter suppression --- were already adequately represented in the lawsuit by the state of Texas itself.
As they were filing their notice of appeal, the disgraced GOP "voter fraud" front man, Hans von Spakovsky --- who also just happens to serve on the "advisory board" for TTV --- challenged the court's rejection of the groups Motion to Intervene in an article published at the right-wing National Review. His work there, as usual, represents a masterful example of deception, dishonesty and well-remunerated cherry-picking. That is, apparently, what Hans von Spakovsky does for a living.
He is amongst good friends in the Republican Fraud community this time out...
A federal judge has found the bulk collection of metadata of U.S. phone calls to be "indiscriminate" and "arbitrary" and, therefore, in violation of the Constitution's 4th Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure. His opinion was hailed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden who has been asserting that point as the central basis for his having leaked thousands of classified documents in regard to programs run by the federal agency.
A federal judge ruled Monday that the National Security Agency program which collects information on nearly all telephone calls made to, from or within the United States is likely unconstitutional.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon found that the program appears to violate the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. He also said the Justice Department had failed to demonstrate that collecting the information had helped to head off terrorist attacks.
Acting on a lawsuit brought by conservative legal activist Larry Klayman, Leon issued a preliminary injunction barring the NSA from collecting so-called metadata pertaining to the Verizon accounts of Klayman and one of his clients. However, the judge stayed the order to allow for an appeal.
Now, Klayman is, in fact, a Rightwing loon who is separately in the process of, literally, attempting to overthrow the U.S. government. But, as journalist Glenn Greenwald --- the man who has been most intensely reporting on Snowden's leaks --- notes today: "the ACLU has a virtually identical lawsuit against the NSA as the one where the judge today ruled against NSA".
Judge Leon went on to write in his scathing opinion...
The government's Supreme Court petition [PDF] in the upcoming cases concerning a supposed 'religious right' of for-profit corporations to ignore the contraceptive coverage mandate of the Afford Care Act (ACA) is a worthwhile read, simply because it slices through the fog of the GOP's relentless, anti-Obamacare propaganda war. That war includes a purported religious assault on the scientific, economic, egalitarian and humanitarian basis for contraceptive coverage.
Of course, the brief also contains compelling legal reasons why for-profit, corporate employers have no business dictating to their female employees whether or not they should opt for FDA-approved contraception in order to meet their own personal health care needs.
As we recently reported, where mainstream media articles that focus on every glitch in the federal Healthcare.gov website (and on provider cancellation of deficient policies), very few article mentioned that, since the passage of the ACA, health care price inflation has slowed to its lowest rate in the past 50 years. Fewer still have mentioned that the GOP's repeatedly proposed repeal of the ACA would return us to a "free market" status quo that not only left 47 million Americans without any health care coverage, but was so corrupt and dysfunctional that nearly 45,000 of our citizens died each year simply because they were too poor to afford coverage. The 45,000 is in addition to the number of Americans who died under that status quo because carriers used the excuse of "preexisting conditions" to deny coverage for vital procedures. Pre-ACA, medical bills contributed to half of the personal bankruptcies in the U.S.
In listing reasons why the contraceptive coverage provisions are based upon a "compelling" governmental interest, the government's SCOTUS petition both debunks GOP myths about the government's pre-ACA role in mandating minimum conditions in government-subsidized group health care plans and in explaining why the ACA already appears to have helped in blunting rising health care costs...
The Affordable Care Act (ACA, or "Obamacare") mandates that preventive care under group health insurance plans include a "full range" of FDA-approved "contraceptive methods". That requirement has resulted in two cases now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court which may result in "religious rights" being extended to so-called "corporate persons".
The cases are brought by two different for-profit corporations, each arguing that the mandate violates the corporate employer's rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Neither of the cases involve non-profit religious institutions, which are exempt from the ACA's contraceptive mandate.
The RFRA, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993, requires that an otherwise neutral government action "not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion" absent a compelling governmental interest.
The government, in its Supreme Court petition [PDF], argues that the "contraceptive coverage" mandate does not "substantially burden" an employer's free exercise of religion. (More on that particularly point in a subsequent article on this.) But while additionally urging that the contraceptive coverage mandate is based upon a compelling government interest, the government sets forth a number of significant ACA benefits that have been obscured by the fog of the unrelenting right wing, anti-Obamacare propaganda war. The critical threshold issue that must be met in these cases, before any of those additional issues need be reached, entails the validity and/or scope of the controversial concept of "corporate personhood".
Will the religious rights of actual persons now be extended to fictional corporate "persons"? That is one of the key issues that will now be decided by the same U.S. Supreme Court which handed down the now infamous Citizens United case...
It took awhile. A few years even. But, on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) finally decided he'd had enough.
By a majority vote of 52 to 48, the U.S. Senate changed their rules to partially end the filibuster, invoking what some refer to as the so-called "nuclear option". The rule change, which will permit an up-or-down majority vote on all Presidential nominations for executive and judicial office (with the exception of Supreme Court nominations), is better described as the "democracy option".
The rule change, for now, would have no effect on the use of the filibuster by the minority to block legislation. Three Democrats, Carl Levin (D-MI), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Mark Pryor (D-AR), voted with Republicans to sustain the previous filibuster rules, last changed in 1975 when the Senate amended their Standing Rules to reduce the number of Senators required for cloture --- to end debate --- from two-thirds to three-fifths.
Although there had been noise, and urging from many quarters, for a dramatic change of the filibuster rules for some time, especially after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) drew the dubious distinction of becoming the first U.S. Senator in history to filibuster his own bill, the impetus became particularly strong over the past several weeks with the outrageous block put on the nominations of every one of President Obama's nominations to the important D.C. Circuit Court of Appeal, the court which oversees federal regulations.
The result of yesterday's rule change in the U.S. Senate could well be a return, at least in part, to the Constitutionally designed functions of three different branches of government, as envisioned by our founding documents. It may also mark an end to a thirty-year scheme by Republicans to pack the courts with radical, right wing jurists...