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Latest Featured Reports | Wednesday, July 30, 2014
'Green News Report' 7/29/14
  w/ Brad & Desi
Obama Admin approves sonic cannons for offshore oil exploration; Bizarre weather across U.S.; CO judge nixes fracking ban; PLUS: Neil Young wants your help in the rainforest...
Previous GNRs: 7/24/14 - 7/22/14 - Archives...
'A Kind of Propaganda War'
After U.N. denial, NBC's David Gregory apologized for use of unverified Israeli video claiming to show rockets fired from U.N. refugee shelter in Gaza where at least 15 were killed by Israel last week...
Bi-Partisan House to Obama: Get Out of Iraq
Overwhelming, if largely symbolic vote in the U.S. House, directs the President to pull U.S. troops back out of Iraq. Directive seen as stinging rebuke to GOP war haws in Senate..
'Green News Report' 7/24/14
  w/ Brad & Desi
Breaking: Storm ravages VA campground; New rules for explosive oil trains; Big win against Big Oil in small Maine town; PLUS: U.S. and Rush Limbaugh lead world in denial...
Previous GNRs: 7/22/14 - 7/17/14 - Archives...
Israeli Attack on UN Shelter Kills At Least 15 in Gaza
The strategy of bombing children, but warning them first, will almost certainly result in years of peace and prosperity for the region...
The Good Fight Continues: KPFK 'BradCast'
Brad speaks with John Wellington Ennis, documentarian and activist, on his newest film and his decade-long fight for election integrity...
What We Do Now
"It took one hour and 57 minutes for the execution to be completed, and Wood was gasping for more than an hour and a half of that time"..."Wood, 55, gasped more than 600 times before he died"...
'Green News Report' 7/22/14
Record wildfires in Pacific NW; June 2014 was hottest globally on record; EPA blocks Pebble Mine; CA blocks water pollution; PLUS: To cut emmissions, cut the beef...
Aborted Statewide 'Recount' Reveals It's a Great Time to Steal an Election in California
In the closest election in state history, even a well-funded candidate couldn't afford to find out if he actually lost...
'I Never Realized Voter ID Fraud Had Not Been Proven'
A RW caller's admission to Brad on NC radio underscores unparalleled propaganda power of Fox 'News'...
John Oliver On America's Prison Problems...With Singing Muppets!
HBO's Last Week Tonight offered smarter (and certainly funnier) coverage than you're likely to see anywhere else...
No, JFK Didn't Steal 1960 From Nixon
Another Zombie Myth that just won't die gets knocked down again...for now...even as its persistence continues to fuel false Republican claims of 'voter fraud' even today...
CA Ballot Prop to Overturn 'Citizens United'
Measure calls for Amendment 'to make clear that rights protected by the U.S. Constitution are the rights of natural persons only'...
UK Deputy PM Condemns Israel's 'Deliberate Use of Disproportionate Response'
Nick Clegg calls attacks on Gaza 'collective punishment' that 'incubates next generation of extremists' and 'needs to come to an end'...
'Green News Report' 7/17/14
Australia's RW govt repeals landmark carbon tax; Obama action on global warming impacts; Record wildfire season in West; PLUS: CA gets tough on water wasters...
Kochs Radical 'Libertarianism' Broke KA
More than 100 top GOPers endorse Republican Gov. Brownback's Dem opponent after tax cuts for wealthy have busted the extremist Koch Brothers' home state...
NATIONWIDE STUDY FINDS ALMOST NO VOTER FRAUD
Just 10 cases of in-person impersonation in all 50 states since 2000...
VIDEO: 'Rise of the Tea Bags'
Brad interviews American patriots...
'Democracy's Gold Standard'
Hand-marked, hand-counted ballots...
Brad's Upcoming Appearances
(All times listed as PACIFIC TIME unless noted)
Media Appearance Archives...
'Special Coverage' Archives
GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal 2012...
VA GOP VOTER REG FRAUDSTER OFF HOOK
Felony charges dropped against VA Republican caught trashing voter registrations before last year's election. Did GOP AG, Prosecutor conflicts of interest play role?...

Criminal GOP Voter Registration Fraud Probe Expanding in VA
State investigators widening criminal probe of man arrested destroying registration forms, said now looking at violations of law by Nathan Sproul's RNC-hired firm...

DOJ PROBE SOUGHT AFTER VA ARREST
Arrest of RNC/Sproul man caught destroying registration forms brings official calls for wider criminal probe from compromised VA AG Cuccinelli and U.S. AG Holder...

Arrest in VA: GOP Voter Reg Scandal Widens
'RNC official' charged on 13 counts, for allegely trashing voter registration forms in a dumpster, worked for Romney consultant, 'fired' GOP operative Nathan Sproul...

ALL TOGETHER: ROVE, SPROUL, KOCHS, RNC
His Super-PAC, his voter registration (fraud) firm & their 'Americans for Prosperity' are all based out of same top RNC legal office in Virginia...

LATimes: RNC's 'Fired' Sproul Working for Repubs in 'as Many as 30 States'
So much for the RNC's 'zero tolerance' policy, as discredited Republican registration fraud operative still hiring for dozens of GOP 'Get Out The Vote' campaigns...

'Fired' Sproul Group 'Cloned', Still Working for Republicans in At Least 10 States
The other companies of Romney's GOP operative Nathan Sproul, at center of Voter Registration Fraud Scandal, still at it; Congressional Dems seek answers...

FINALLY: FOX ON GOP REG FRAUD SCANDAL
The belated and begrudging coverage by Fox' Eric Shawn includes two different video reports featuring an interview with The BRAD BLOG's Brad Friedman...

COLORADO FOLLOWS FLORIDA WITH GOP CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION
Repub Sec. of State Gessler ignores expanding GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal, rants about evidence-free 'Dem Voter Fraud' at Tea Party event...

CRIMINAL PROBE LAUNCHED INTO GOP VOTER REGISTRATION FRAUD SCANDAL IN FL
FL Dept. of Law Enforcement confirms 'enough evidence to warrant full-blown investigation'; Election officials told fraudulent forms 'may become evidence in court'...

Brad Breaks PA Photo ID & GOP Registration Fraud Scandal News on Hartmann TV
Another visit on Thom Hartmann's Big Picture with new news on several developing Election Integrity stories...

CAUGHT ON TAPE: COORDINATED NATIONWIDE GOP VOTER REG SCAM
The GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal reveals insidious nationwide registration scheme to keep Obama supporters from even registering to vote...

CRIMINAL ELECTION FRAUD COMPLAINT FILED AGAINST GOP 'FRAUD' FIRM
Scandal spreads to 11 FL counties, other states; RNC, Romney try to contain damage, split from GOP operative...

RICK SCOTT GETS ROLLED IN GOP REGISTRATION FRAUD SCANDAL
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) sends blistering letter to Gov. Rick Scott (R) demanding bi-partisan reg fraud probe in FL; Slams 'shocking and hypocritical' silence, lack of action...

VIDEO: Brad Breaks GOP Reg Fraud Scandal on Hartmann TV
Breaking coverage as the RNC fires their Romney-tied voter registration firm, Strategic Allied Consulting...

RNC FIRES NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION FIRM FOR FRAUD
After FL & NC GOP fire Romney-tied group, RNC does same; Dead people found reg'd as new voters; RNC paid firm over $3m over 2 months in 5 battleground states...

EXCLUSIVE: Intvw w/ FL Official Who First Discovered GOP Reg Fraud
After fraudulent registration forms from Romney-tied GOP firm found in Palm Beach, Election Supe says state's 'fraud'-obsessed top election official failed to return call...

GOP REGISTRATION FRAUD FOUND IN FL
State GOP fires Romney-tied registration firm after fraudulent forms found in Palm Beach; Firm hired 'at request of RNC' in FL, NC, VA, NV & CO...
The Secret Koch Brothers Tapes...


By Brad Friedman on 5/25/2013 3:15pm PT  

After he was interrupted, several times, by CODEPINK founder Medea Benjamin during his foreign policy speech on Thursday, President Obama said: "The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to."

I agree with that part of his response, which was met with applause in the room. I rather liked the questions that Benjamin shouted out before and as she was eventually led out of the room. She offered a pretty well constructed set of thoughts and questions, particularly under the circumstances. And I'd love to hear the President's answers to a few of her questions.

Here's what she said, as well as I was able to capture her remarks from the video...

It's not Congress. It's you, sir. There are 102 people on a hunger strike [in the Guantanamo Bay prison]. These are desperate people. 86 have been cleared for release. You are Commander-in-Chief. You can close Guantanamo today. You can release those 86 prisoners today.
...
How about Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a 16-year-old American killed by drones. Is that the way we treat a 16-year-old American? Why was he killed? Can you tell us why Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was killed?

Can you tell the Muslim people their lives are as precious as our lives? Can you take the drones out of the hands of the CIA? Can you stop the signature strikes that are killing people on the basis of suspicious activities? Will you apologize to the thousands of Muslims that you have killed? Will you compensate the innocent family victims? That will make us safer here at home.

I love my country! I love the rule of law! The drones are making us less safe. And keeping people in indefinite detention in Guantanamo is making us less safe. Abide by the rule of law. You're a Constitutional lawyer!

For the record, the President absolutely can release the 86 prisoners who have been cleared for release immediately, as Benjamin noted. He does not have to, as he likes to suggest, get approval from Congress to do that. He can release them immediately. He only needs Congressional approval to move prisoners (such as the ones who may actually face some sort of trial or military tribunal) to another prison on the U.S. mainland.

Despite his assertions to the contrary, as seen in the video below, Obama did not address the concerns of Benjamin. He did not explain why 16-year-old U.S. citizen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was killed. He did not answer whether drone strikes would be taken out of the hands of the unaccountable CIA and given to the slightly-more-accountable military. He did not respond to the question about compensation to the families of innocent victims killed in drone strikes. He did not speak to whether "signature strikes" with drones (attacks based on profiles of those believed to be gathered at a particular location, rather than a specific person believed to be in the group) would be ended. He should address all of those issues.

* * *

Video of the section of his speech during which the President was interrupted several times by Benjamin --- remarkably, she was not removed the first several times --- and his responses to her, follows below...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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By Brad Friedman on 5/23/2013 3:40pm PT  

Yesterday, we ran a very short piece arguing that "Fox 'News' and Republicans Were For Prosecuting Journalists Before They Were Against It".

In it, we briefly documented the Obama DoJ's attack on journalists and journalism, as most recently highlighted by the sweeping subpoena of AP reporters' phone records and the naming of Fox "News" reporter James Rosen as an unindicted co-conspirator in order to subpoena his email and much more in the course of a national security leak investigation. We highlighted how these sorts of outrageous attacks on the media were something that the Right had very much approved of under Bush, and even under Obama, at least until it struck a bit too close to home for them, particularly with the latest news about Rosen. Now, of course, Fox and friends claim to be outraged! about it all.

In our report, we cited an excellent recent piece by Constitutional attorney turned UK Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald. In that column, he smartly decried the aggressive actions of the Obama Administration. At the end of his piece, in an update, he dinged the Right for their hypocrisy in this matter. (It was the latter which we generally focused on in our own piece, though we also pointed out how Greenwald has been extraordinarily consistent over the years in his no-holds-barred critique of First Amendment erosions, whether they were carried out by the Bush Administration or the Obama Administration. For his championing of First Amendment rights he has received much partisan criticism over the years, first from Bush loyalists during the Bush Administration, and now from partisan Obama loyalists during the current administration.)

In response to our piece, BRAD BLOG commenter "Billy" went off on a tear against Greenwald, charging that "he has been lying incessantly about the James Rosen story"; that he "has pretty much given up on objectivity and fact-based reporting"; that he is "an opponent of Barack Obama [who] won't let the truth get in the way of that opposition"; and, perhaps most sharply, that he "is now in the same business as [Republican Congressman and U.S. House Oversight Committee Chairman] Darrell Issa."

Setting the invective aside, the main of Billy's critique of Greenwald seems to be that Rosen's original 2009 article at Fox --- the one which resulted in the DoJ naming him as an unindicted co-conspirator and the indictment of Rosen's alleged State Department leak source Steven Jin-Woo Kim --- led to the dangerous exposure of U.S. intelligence gathering operations and assets in North Korea.

Rosen's report on North Korea "presumably made it very easy for them to eliminate the operation," Billy argued, in apparent support of the Obama DoJ's actions. "At worst, this publication may have cost American intelligence sources their lives."

"But Glenn Greenwald, who has pretty much given up on objectivity and fact-based reporting, described Kim's leak to Rosen as a case of communicating 'innocuous information to a journalist - something done every day in Washington.' Clearly it was not," fumed Billy.

[Read "Billy's" initial comment here and scroll down for my own responses to him thereafter.]

We asked Greenwald whether he had yet to reply to the charge that he had "lied" about the Rosen case when describing the reported leaks as "innocuous" and, if not, if he'd like to. He sent us a response to that allegation, which he asked that we publish in full. Happy to. The complete response from Greenwald follows below...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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...And before one of their own got caught in Obama's buzz-saw...
By Brad Friedman on 5/22/2013 4:26pm PT  

If you haven't already, you should read Glenn Greenwald's full take, published earlier this week, on the Obama DoJ's astonishing invasion of Fox "News" reporter James Rosen's work as a journalist by naming him as an unindicted co-conspirator in order to access his email, phone records and more in the course of the Obama Administration's criminal investigation into an alleged leak of classified material by State Department official Steven Jin-Woo Kim.

(For a somewhat different take on the matter, Jack Shafer's column at Reuters "What was James Rosen thinking?" is smart and worth reading, even as I find it uncomfortably close to flat out blaming the victim.)

To his credit, Greenwald's consistent stance over the years on this issue --- from his documentation of outrageous attacks on journalists and journalism during the Bush Administration, to outrageous attacks on journalists and journalism during the Obama Administration (much of which he references in his report linked above) --- earn him a lot of cred here. It has also earned him scorn from both the Right and supporters of the Obama Administration.

What has made all of this additionally amusing/maddening over the past week, however, has been the hypocritical turn by the Right and Fox "News" --- now that one of its own has been caught in the buzz-saw. Suddenly, they are outraged --- outraged! --- over the chill on journalism and journalistic freedom and the assault on the First Amendment now that it's the Obama Administration that is doing it and, I should add, now that it's being done to them. Recall, they didn't much care --- supported it, in fact --- when there were similar attacks on journalists at New York Times and Washington Post by the Bush Administration. Or, more recently, under Obama, against journalists like Julian Assange at WikiLeaks just a year or two ago. As discussed during my 2010 interview with legendary "Pentagon Papers" whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, then Fox "News" contributor Sarah Palin, for example, called for Assange to be hunted down like a terrorist "with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders".

True, the Obama Administration has taken the Bush War on Journalism to a whole new and disturbing level, but essentially he's simply continuing --- arguably, fulfilling --- the long-stated, long-supported-by-the-Right positions of the previous Administration. And they are the exact same positions they supported even just a year or two ago when calling for the prosecution of Assange!

It's a pretty clever win-win scam by the Right, in truth. Slam Obama as being "soft on national security!", and then yell and scream about it (justifiably so, in this case) when he takes action to prevent leaks "in the name of national security".

In an update to his full story, Greenwald added the following thoughts along with a short Meet the Press video from 2006 that you need to see. While watching it, please note how favorite Rightwing/Bush Administration son Bill Bennett was pushing for everything that the Right and Fox "News" now claim to be outraged about today. (They really should be outraged about it today, by the way. But they should have been equally outraged about it back when they and Bennett were actually arguing in support of heading straight down the slippery slope we are now gliding down at breakneck speed)...

Meanwhile, to convey just how warped this all is: it really is true that this very behavior of trying to criminalize national security reporting was a driving force of the worst elements on the Right during the Bush years; back then, I wrote constantly about the dangers to press freedoms such threats, by themselves, posed. Please just watch this 4-minute segment from a 2006 Meet the Press episode where the Washington Post's Dana Priest explains to Bill Bennett, who had called for her imprisonment, exactly what press freedoms and the law actually provide; Bill Bennett is who - and what - the Obama DOJ and its defenders are channeling today:

* * *

UPDATE 5/24/2013: BRAD BLOG commenter "Billy" has made a serious charge that Greenwald was "lying" in his column cited above. I've asked Greenwald for a response to that charge and have now posted it here.

Moreover, this additionally disturbing information about the Rosen case has just been reported today...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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By Brad Friedman on 5/2/2013 4:55pm PT  

As we noted last week was likely to be the case, when the entire Republican state Senate GOP caucus came on board in support, today marriage equality became the law of the land in Rhode Island.

We'll let Fox "News" tell you about it, since it surely pains them to do so.

RI becomes the 10th state in the union to allow gay couples to enjoy the same constitutionally-protected equal rights to marriage as everyone else.

Our condolences to all of the straight couples in those states who have had their marriages destroyed because of it.

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Likely-unconstitutional bills follow similar (failed) efforts in ME, IN...
By Ernest A. Canning on 4/19/2013 2:56pm PT  

Nearly a quarter century has passed since the U.S. Supreme Court, in Symm vs. United States, ruled that college students had a right to treat their dorms as their residence for voting purposes. It's a fact which Republicans seem to find very inconvenient --- especially given the fact that, in 2008, the youth vote, heaviest in precincts where college campuses are located, favored Barack Obama over John McCain by a two-to-one ratio. The numbers were similar against Mitt Romney in 2012.

Thus, in 2011, despite the fact that his investigation failed to establish a single instance of voter fraud by any student, Maine's Republican Secretary of State Charlie E. Summers sent an intimidating letter to lawfully registered student voters seeking to convince them to "cancel" their voter registration where they go to school.

"Back in February," of this year, writes Laura Conaway at Maddow Blog, "an Indiana Republican proposed revoking the right for students to register at their colleges. After college Democrats and Republicans in Indiana joined in pushing back, the sponsor promised to amend her bill so that it would be constitutional, by which she meant dropping the idea."

Not to be outdone, this month three North Carolina Republican State Senators have introduced the appropriately numbered S666, which would strip the right of the parents of students from claiming a personal state tax exemption, which ranges from $2,000 - $2,500, if the student lawfully uses their dorm as their residence for voting purposes.

A related bill, S667, deceptively titled the "Equalize Voter Rights" act, would also strip tax exemptions for parents whose student children fail to register their car at the same place they register to vote. According to WRAL, "That also could cut down on college student registration, since many students maintain their vehicle registration in their home counties."

As the state's Democratic House Minority leader notes, both bills "would raise taxes on middle-class families who are trying to put their children through college." But, apparently Republicans are now in favor of tax increases, at least in NC, as long at it might help curb the increase in the youth vote seen over the last several elections.

But what may be most troubling of all, is that it seems the esteemed GOP state Senators in NC must be entirely unaware of the provisions of the 24th Amendment which, long ago, outlawed all poll taxes.

* * *
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Like 'ObamaCare', marriage equality may prevail at SCOTUS despite, rather than because of, Obama Administration's arguments...
By Ernest A. Canning on 3/30/2013 8:35am PT  

On paper, Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., who was appointed by President Barack Obama to replace now Supreme Court Justice Elana Kagan as the U.S. Solicitor General, appears to be an experienced litigator with a distinguished background.

It is a background that includes having served as a law clerk for former U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, Jr. and having participated in over 100 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. However, Verrilli's participation in Supreme Court oral arguments --- earlier with respect to the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or "ObamaCare") and, recently, in the challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, as well as U.S. v. Windsor, with respect to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and in Hollingsworth v. Perry pertaining to California's Proposition 8 --- raises some disturbing questions.

Either Verrilli lacks the professional competence to assume primary responsibility for supervising and conducting litigation on behalf of the U.S. Government before the Supreme Court, or Verrilli, and the Obama administration, are so politically fearful of staking out principled positions that they have opted for a muddled middle ground. Perhaps it's a little of both.

Regardless, if the Windsor and Hollingsworth cases should establish a constitutional right of same-sex couples to marry, as urged by attorneys Ted Olson (R) and David Boies (D) in their Prop 8 Supreme Court brief [PDF], it will be despite the half-baked arguments presented by the Solicitor General, not because of them...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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By Brad Friedman on 3/29/2013 9:50pm PT  

In 2004, in one of our earliest posts on this site (our 15th, in fact) we declared "gay marriage" to be a "done deal".

Six years later, in late 2010, after a number of good court decisions in the week or two prior, largely in regard the military's now-defunct discriminatory "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (DADT) policy, we wrote:

The good news is: the haters have lost. The question which played such an enormous --- if entirely trumped up --- role in our Presidential elections just 6 years ago has been all but finally settled.

Well before the end of this decade (and likely far sooner than that, perhaps even before the end of Obama's first term in office), marriage equality for gays and lesbians will be recognized in every state in the union, and homosexuals will be as welcome in our nation's military as African-Americans.

It's over. The good guys have won. In these quiet victories of rights over wrongs, we can all take some quiet comfort, even in these maddening, ugly days.

The bad guys may not have come to terms with it yet, they may not have even noticed yet, but they have lost.

Well, as of this week, it looks like "the bad guys" finally have noticed and are in the process of coming to terms with it...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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By Brad Friedman on 3/27/2013 7:54pm PT  

It's been a big gay week at the U.S. Supreme Court! So it seemed time to call on my friend Mike Rogers of RawStory.com to join me on the KPFK BradCast to talk about it all.

Rogers has joined me over the years for various 'Big Gay Hours' on the radio --- going all the way back to the darkest anti-gay years of 2004 and 2005 when the campaign against marriage equality had first been weaponized by the Republican Party. So it is with some joy that we were able to mark the extraordinary victories, and speed with which they have happened, for the gay community, as well as for those of us in the constitutional conservative community who believe in things like Equal Protection under the Law, etc.

We discussed both the CA Prop 8 and DOMA hearings this week at SCOTUS, how we all got here, and what has become of some of those closeted gay politicians who fought against gay rights and inspired Rogers to become an investigative blogger, open his old BlogActive.com site and begin reporting (and outing) the hypocrites standing in the way of equality for all. His work, outing folks such as Sen. Larry Craig and others, eventually helped to inspire Kirby Dick's 2009 documentary Outrage (in which he is featured).

We played and discussed some of the clips from this week's hearings, including some of the shameful performances from Justice Antonin "Just Makin' Shit Up Again" Scalia, Prop 8 proponent attorney Charles Cooper and the Obama Administration's horrible Solicitor General Donald Verrilli.

I also covered a bit of the mysterious Florida Election cyberhack story out of Miami-Dade (and a new clue to the mystery), and Desi Doyen joined me to have a laugh at the Tennessee "conservatives" who've suddenly found an amusing reason to finally give a damn about mountaintop removal mining, and for the latest Green News Report...

Download MP3 or listen online below...

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By Brad Friedman on 3/18/2013 11:33am PT  

Before things turn too ugly this week, let's take a moment to flag four great progressive things --- arguably, four great conservative progressive things --- which all happened on Friday.

The first two items got a fair amount of notice, the second two, not so much. But since they all happened on the same day, and that day was Friday, when such stories tend to disappear all together, they are all worth briefly flagging here to make sure you're aware of them...

  • Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), a co-sponsor of the unconstitutional "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA) in 1996, became the first sitting Republican Senator to come out in favor of marriage equality for all. It took him learning that he had a gay son two years ago before he was finally able to do the right thing, but we'll take what we can get. It's another in a string of victories and very encouraging signs for conservative progressivism, specifically the right of equal protection under the law for all.
  • The Maryland legislature voted to ban the inhumane, abhorrent, expensive, ineffective and unequally applied Death Penalty. They become the 6th state in as many years to do so, and the 18th state overall. As Governor Martin O'Malley (D) notes in an op-ed today: "Across our ever-more-closely connected world, the majority of public executions now take place in just seven countries: Iran. Iraq. The People’s Republic of China. North Korea. Saudi Arabia. Yemen. And the United States of America." This is another clear victory for those who believe in the Constitutional value of equal justice for all under the law and who hate Big Government --- the biggest --- allowing itself to kill its own citizens.
  • A federal court ruled that the use of so-called "National Security Letters" --- essentially, a warrantless statement from the FBI handed over to banks, libraries, phone companies, etc., demanding unlimited private information about a specific person for supposed "national security purposes" --- is unconstitutional. Specifically, the gag order on those banks, libraries, phone companies, etc., disallowing them from notifying the target about the intrusion on their privacy, is what the judge found in violation of the First Amendment. The case brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation(EFF). The use of these letters have been one of the most insidious and abused elements of the PATRIOT Act for a very long time, ever since its passage following 9/11. The court ruling is likely to be appealed by the DoJ, but the finding is, for now, a positive step in the right direction --- at least for those of us conservative progressives who give a damn about unwarranted search and seizure, freedom of speech, etc. AP notes that "the FBI made 16,511 national-security-letter requests for information regarding 7,201 people in 2011" alone.
  • A federal appeals court has re-instated a case filed by the ACLU arguing that the CIA must, at the very least, respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests concerning the use of the drone strikes. The FOIA requests in question had sought information on "the legal basis for carrying out targeted drone killings; any restrictions on those who may be targeted; any civilian casualties; any geographic limits on the program; the number of targeted killings that the agency has carried out; and the training, supervision, oversight, or discipline of drone operators." Even if the ACLU is ultimately victorious in this case, the CIA would not necessarily have to provide the information sought in those requests, but they would at least have to respond to them and state which responsive documents they may have and why they are not responding. The ACLU notes that the drone program "has already been responsible for the deaths of more than 4,000 people in an unknown number of countries."

After the two court rulings above on Friday, former Constitutional attorney and civil liberties champion Glenn Greenwald tweeted wryly: "Wow ... it's like we have a 3rd branch or something."

Much of this nation's government, all three branches, are largely stuck and broken in the muck and mire of partisan, corporate-sponsored quagmire or worse. So the fact that we had four important, not-horrible, arguably excellent things happen within that quagmire all on the same day on Friday are worth, at least, noting here for the record.

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By Brad Friedman on 3/1/2013 6:05am PT  

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's obnoxious remark Wednesday about the Voting Rights Act as a "perpetuation of racial entitlement" wasn't the half of it.

Scalia is often held up by self-described "conservatives" as a model jurist, setting the standard for the type of "strict constructionism" or "originalist" interpretation of the Constitution that Republicans would like to see more of on the bench.

Jurists like Scalia, the pretend argument goes, are the antidote to those "liberal activist judges" who don't appreciate the limited authority of the judicial branch and who abuse their position in order to usurp the power of the executive and/or legislative branches by --- gasp! --- "legislating from the bench!"

Wednesday's shameful display by Scalia, however, during the Shelby v. Holder hearing at the U.S. Supreme Court, on whether or not Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) ought to be discontinued, should serve to put the bald hypocrisy of that entire Republican myth to bed for good. The Supreme Court Justice beloved by the hard right demonstrated exactly why that hard right loves him --- and it has nothing to do with "conservatism" or "judicial restraint" or "strict constructionism" or any of those other absurd partisan talking points bandied about in regard to Scalia...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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UPDATED with one, very small, ray of light...
[Now also UPDATED to include full transcript of hearing]
By Brad Friedman on 2/27/2013 10:58am PT  

Early word on what happened today during the U.S. Supreme Court's hearing on the crucial Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County, AL v. Eric Holder is not encouraging. This could come to be seen as a very dark day for voting rights in this country, as a landmark provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act may be on the verge of being dismantled and, arguably, a half a decade of civil rights advancements along with it.

Late last night we detailed what's at stake and how the activist Supremes are likely to intercede in what is clearly a Congressional duty, as specifically ascribed to them in the 15th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That, despite a stunning 98 to 0 vote in the U.S. Senate to re-authorize the VRA for another 25 years as is, after 21 hearings and some 15,000 pages of documentation on the continuing blight of racial discrimination, as recently as 2006.

While it's always a perilous exercise to try and read the tea leaves from a SCOTUS hearing, The Nation's Ari Berman, who was present in the court room this morning, Tweets, disturbingly today: "In oral argument, Scalia likened Congressional support for Voting Rights Act to a 'perpetuation of racial entitlement'". He went on to indicate his "quick reaction" to the hearing was that, that while the five Republican Justices are "skeptical of Sec 5," there is a "small chance Kennedy can still be persuaded." He notes, that, incredibly, "Voter suppression attempts in [the] last election didn't even come up during SCOTUS arguments about Voting Rights Act".

Because the Supreme Court still operates in the 1800s, there was no live audio or video of today's hearing. The transcript, however, should be made available later today [Update: transcript is now linked at the bottom of this article] and audio will be made available on Friday.

For now, NBC reports today's hearings this way:

Central parts of an election law dating back to the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, the Voting Rights Act, appeared to be in jeopardy Wednesday after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a challenge to them.

NBC’s Pete Williams reported after the oral argument, "I think it’s a safe prediction to say that the Voting Rights Act, as it now stands, is not going to survive. The question is: how far will the Supreme Court go in striking parts of it down?"

Williams said what seemed to concern a majority of the justices was "the fact that the law is too backward looking."
...
Williams reported that during the one hour-and-15 minute oral argument, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that the post-World War II Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe "was a good thing at one time, but times change."

New York Times' Adam Liptak described today's hearing in more, if similarly disturbing detail this way...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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'Shelby v. Holder', to be heard on Wednesday, could turn back decades of civil rights advancements...
[UPDATED at bottom with disturbing word out of today's hearing]
By Brad Friedman on 2/26/2013 8:51pm PT  

The first section of the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1870 after the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, reads simply: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

The second, and final section of the 15th Amendment, is even shorter: "The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

Congress is charged with determining the "appropriate legislation" to assure that voters are not discriminated against on the basis of race. And, though it took almost another 100 years after the ratification of the 15th Amendment to do so, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 was passed to help ensure exactly that.

In 2006, in continuing its duty to uphold the Constitution, after 21 Congressional hearings, including testimony that amounted to some 15,000 pages of evidence, the VRA was re-authorized for another 25 years by an astounding 98 to 0 margin in the U.S. Senate and a nearly-as-impressive 390 to 33 in the U.S. House.

"There was a lot of invidious discrimination shown," says Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who chaired the U.S. House Judiciary Committee at the time. He characterized the hearings, which closely examined the extent to which racial discrimination still affects minority voters, as "one of the most extensive considerations of any piece of legislation that the United States Congress has dealt with in the twenty-seven and a half years that I have [served]."

That year's VRA re-authorization was signed into law by Republican George W. Bush. The law's three other federal re-authorizations (in 1970, 1975 and 1982) were also signed into law by Republican Presidents.

One of the most successful, and universally respected pieces of bi-partisan legislation in our nation's history, however, is now coming under serious attack from Republicans and a group of billionaire funders in the years following its last re-authorization. Since that year, an unprecedented number of challenges against the VRA --- specifically its Section 5, which applies to some 16 different jurisdictions with a long history of racial discrimination --- have been filed in the court system, at the same time that a tidal wave of voter suppression laws have been passed by GOP legislatures across the country, most notably, in many of the jurisdictions covered by Section 5.

A challenge to that section of the VRA, which served to block a number of new restrictions on voting and voter registration during the run-up to the 2012 election, will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, and the outlook for the crucial protections that Section 5 has offered for decades are now potentially in very grave danger of being struck down entirely...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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By Brad Friedman on 2/13/2013 9:56pm PT  

On today's KPFK/Pacifica Radio BradCast we covered the State of the Union Address last night, with extended focus on the President's call for election form and his new "Presidential Commission on Election Administration" [PDF], to be questionably co-chaired by Swift Boat GOP attorney Ben Ginsberg. As we noted yesterday, color us dubious about all of that.

My guest in the first half-hour was Marcia Johnson-Blanco, Co-Director of the Voting Rights Project at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and we also discussed their recent report on "Our Broken Voting Systems And How to Repair It", as well as the upcoming February 27th U.S. Supreme Court hearing in Shelby County v. Holder, challenging the Constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act's Section 5 protection of jurisdictions with a history of discrimination at the voting booth.

Suffice to say, she was more optimistic about all of the above than I was.

In most of the second half of the show, we focused on the many environmental issues raised in Obama's State of the Union with the Green News Report's Desi Doyen. I'm not sure who was more (or less) optimistic in that half of the show.

Download MP3 or listen online below [appx 58 mins]...

* * *
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By Brad Friedman on 2/11/2013 12:45pm PT  

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Contrived deficits part of broader Rightwing plan to eliminate government as source of public service...
UPDATED to include Credo Action on-line petition
By Ernest A. Canning on 2/8/2013 11:47am PT  

The massive operating deficits that have driven the U.S. Post Office to announce an end to delivery of First Class mail on Saturdays, beginning in August, are not the product of postal service ineptitude. Those deficits are not the product of increased public access to emails or from competition by private delivery services like UPS or FedEx.

The U.S. Postal Service has been victimized by the Orwellian-labeled Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA), which embodies a scheme designed to destroy the constitutionally established U.S. Postal Service in order to privatize mail and parcel delivery. In a lame duck session, at the peak of the USPS' profitability and productivity, a then Republican-controlled Congress forced the U.S. Postal Service "to pre-fund 75 years worth of pensions" in the span of ten years, "a requirement not made of any other public or private institution." If not for the onerous and unprecedented requirements of the PAEA, the U.S. Postal Service, which is not funded by any taxes, would now be experiencing a $1.5 billion surplus.

The contrived demise of the postal service must be understood within the broader subversive goals of libertarian and right wing philosophy --- a philosophy which, despite the express provisions of both the Preamble and Article I of the U.S. Constitution, rejects the right of government to "promote the general welfare"...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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