Brad takes on a bunch of lies this week that just won't die this week -- from e-cigs to Ann Coulter's voter fraud to 'global cooling' to the death penalty to marriage equality in Mississippi and more...
It's just the cost of doing business for the world's most profitable corporation. And that "cost" is barely a blip (that may be an overstatement) on their daily profit sheet.
As Rachel Maddow noted on Friday in the short report below, ExxonMobil is the nation's largest and most profitable corporation. It is larger than Walmart, Google, McDonald's, American Express and Goldman Sachs...combined.
And yet, the penalties they pay for violating federal safety laws leading to oil spills is almost nothing at all. For example, when Exxon was caught failing to inspect a portion of the Pegasus Pipeline --- the one fill with sticky, gooey, tar sands crude that we don't know how to clean up...the pipeline that ruptured last week in a suburban neighborhood in Mayflower, AR --- they were fined a grand total of $26,000.
That's a $26,000 fine out of the $122 million dollars in profit that Exxon makes in per day.
"There is nothing that Exxon fears from the federal government," Maddow notes. "They have so captured the parts of the government that are supposed to punish them when this sort of thing happens, that the pain that that sort of punishment could cause them, redounds to them, essentially, not at all."
Yes, it pays for companies like Exxon to violate the law with impunity, so it will be left to the people of Arkansas, as Maddow explains, to make the company pay any kind of real price for their crime...if they can...
More photos of the Pegasus tar sands pipeline rupture in Mayflower, AR, taken by the EPA, are now posted here. Give 'em a look. If President Obama approves the Keystone XL pipeline, this is the type of spill that could be coming to a neighborhood near you very soon.
In January of 2012, just as the GOP Primary election cycle for President was getting under way, The BRAD BLOG reported exclusively that the office of the Virginia Attorney General had opened a criminal election fraud investigation into the failed effort by the campaign of Newt Gingrich to appear on the primary ballot in the Commonwealth.
31-year old Jennifer Derrebery reportedly worked for Gingrich's election contractor Stillwater LLC and, according to prosecutors, turned in campaign petitions with some 400 signatures in the failed attempt to collect the 10,000 needed for Gingrich's name to appear on the primary ballot last year. According to WVIR, nearly all of the signatures submitted by Derrebery were fake.
Prosecutors say she turned over stacks of signed and notarized forms to the Virginia Board of Elections containing roughly 400 signatures - nearly all of them fraudulent.
"We don't know what was going on, and we are pursuing charges for the people who did something wrong here in Augusta, on Mr. Gingrich's primary election," said Rupen Shah, assistant commonwealth's attorney.
Shah says there were similar problems in other parts of Virginia, where GOP candidates needed 10,000 valid petitioners to get on the ballot. Gingrich submitted more than that, but a quarter of the names could not be verified.
The report also notes that the "investigation is still active, and may result in additional arrests" and that Derrebery is cooperating with prosecutors and state police. WVIR says the "judge suspended all of her prison time". That is likely in exchange for her cooperation on the case. Her co-defendant, Adam Dustin Ward, faces a total of 42 criminal counts and will face a judge in June.
In late December of 2011, after Gingrich had failed to turn in enough valid signatures to qualify for the Virginia primary ballot, he was caught on video tape telling a supporter in Iowa that the reason for the failure was due to a campaign worker who created 1,500 fraudulent signatures.
"We turned in 11,100 --- we needed 10,000 --- 1,500 of them were by one guy who, frankly, committed fraud," Gingrich is seen and heard saying in video originally aired by CNN.
Clearly, the effort was by more than just "one guy," as Gingrich asserted at the time.
The former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives downplayed the incident, by explaining to the woman that the entire affair was "just a mistake," after they had "hired somebody who turned in false signatures."
In late January, an official at the Virginia State Board of Elections (SBE) described to described to The BRAD BLOG what had happened as "definitely an illegal act." He told us that the matter had been referred by the SBE to the office of VA's Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R). The Director of Communications for the office, Brian J. Gottstein, then confirmed to us that an investigation was "underway," though he could not disclose the details at that time...
What happens if we start with known public corruption cases and work backwards to the intersection with elections?
What you will find is kickbacks and bid-rigging schemes; at least two of these, in New Orleans and in Pennsylvania, connect back to Ciber, the Independent Testing Authority (ITA) that supposedly tested and then signed off on most of the U.S. voting machines currently in use in all fifty states, on behalf of the federal government.
And when you look into money-laundering, the mechanism providing the juice for corruption, you'll find out about a strikingly odious situation: a New York City Democrat who bribed New York City Republicans to help him run for Mayor (as a Republican). The case has recently made news as at least 5 high-ranking elected and party officials were rounded up this week as part of a sweeping FBI sting in the Empire State.
"Trust" will never suffice when it comes to conducting elections. There can never be a place where counting votes in secret, or governmental snooping on how we voted, or hidden money behind campaigns, or hiding records on elections, can be accepted by the public, yet that is happening right now. In all fifty states.
Vendors who do business with the government do participate in bid-rigging and kickback schemes, and both politicians and government employees sometimes deprive the public of honest services, as we find in the New Orleans case involving Ciber, the company which signed off on almost every electronic voting system in use across the country today.
Political corruption spreads like cancer. It creates a neural system of one politician beholden to another. The public always needs to retain its right to know, to examine documents, and to see what's going on. Otherwise, who's gonna notice? Who's gonna tell?
Bev Harris is the founder of BlackBoxVoting.org, a non-partisan elections watchdog organization. Her work and investigations at BBV have been featured by dozens of national media outlets, and she is featured prominently in HBO's 2006 Emmy-nominated documentary Hacking Democracy. Follow her on Twitter: @BlackBoxVoting
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Disturbing updates on the Exxon tar sands oil pipeline spill in AR; Majority of Republicans believe global warming a 'hoax'; 'Tsunami of rain' in Argentina; China cheating on fish catches?; Golf in the Arctic? PLUS: 'Monsanto Protection Act' - Sneaky legislation exempts GMOs from the law... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Climate science denier calls for "alarmists" to face death penalty courts; Amazon tribe threatens to declare war amid row over Brazilian dam; NV Energy to decommission coal plants; Ogalalla Sioux: Resounding NO to Keystone XL Pipeline; Bill Gates, investors, back sodium battery startup; Canada may abandon expensive mine cleanup; Green pols get billionaire ally, money; climate researchers discover 1,800-year-old 'Rosetta stone' ice cores; PLUS: Obama on climate change: ‘The politics of this are tough’ ... and much, MUCH more!...
It's a beautiful and maddening film, featuring many voices --- such as Julian Assange, John Nichols, Dan Rather, Amy Goodman, Robert Parry, Robert McChesney, Dan Ellsberg, Sibel Edmonds and many more, including even yours truly --- who will be familiar to readers of The BRAD BLOG. While aspects of a number of the stories told in the film may be familiar, there were elements that even I hadn't heard about it, in just about every one of them.
I had planned to ask Tremblay about his struggles finding commercial theatrical distribution for the film in the U.S. I'd presumed that, at least, would be next to impossible, given the subject matter of the film (the corporate takeover/merger of the near-entirety of our mainstream media in collusion with the highest levels of the U.S. government.) What I hadn't counted on --- what caught me completely off-guard --- was that Tremblay said that, while the film has been featured at prestigious film festivals around the world, the bulk of the major festivals in the U.S. had turned the film down. Yes, those supposedly "independent" film festivals are, apparently, not quite as independent as they used to be, it seems.
Our conversation, today, was the first, as I understand it, that Tremblay has been able to have in the U.S. media about this important film which has been several years in the making. (I was interviewed for the film about three years ago as I recall.)
The good news: We were able to talk about all of that today, unencumbered by any corporate filter and over our public airwaves on Pacifica Radio in L.A. (and over 110,000 blazing FM watts across much of Southern and Central California!)
The even better news: You can watch the film, in its entirety, streaming on the Internet as of tomorrow, Thursday, April 4 at Shadows.KCETlink.org. (You can watch a number of clips from the film there already.)
And, the even better news still: Shadows of Liberty will air on actual television, beginning Friday, April 5th at 8pm ET and PT on independent KCET in Los Angeles and nationwide on Link TV (DISH Channel 9410, DIRECTTV Channel 375).
Until then, you can listen to my conversation with Tremblay from today's BradCast, which includes a number of clips from the film --- along with a few more items of note in the news week (such as concerns about the 100% unverifiable voting systems set for use in the race of Stephen Colbert's sister, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, in her run for the U.S. House in S. Carolina against former Gov. Mark Sanford; the Virginia GOP voter registration worker who was caught tossing registration forms into a dumpster just before the Presidential Election last year, but who seems to now be getting off the hook, and, of course, a visit from our own Desi Doyen, as usual, with the latest Green News Report) --- all right now here.
P.S. Please be the media and spread the word. Thanks. P.P.S. If I haven't "sold" you enough on the film here and in the radio show above, see the official trailer embedded below. Those of you who know my voice will recognize it a few times...
Given the professed concerns about election fraud among Virginia Republicans, it seems somewhat astonishing that the man at the center of the Commonwealth's most notorious fraud scandal last year seems to be getting off the hook after initially being charged with 13 criminal counts including eight felony charges.
Colin Small, a Republican Party Voter Registration Supervisor who secretly tossed filled-out voter registration forms into a dumpster last year, had all of his felony charges dropped by the local Republican Commonwealth Attorney prosecuting the case yesterday.
Small was arrested and charged with 13 counts --- including destruction and disclosure of voter registrations, as well as obstruction of justice --- in Harrisonburg, VA in the run-up to the Presidential election last year, after he was seen by a local shopkeeper throwing away a bag of registration forms behind his store. Small's felony charges were all dropped on Tuesday, according to local Fox-affiliate WHSV.
The case had garnered a great deal of national attention last fall --- almost everywhere but on Fox "News" --- as it emerged at the pinnacle of an embarrassing nationwide GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal which plagued the Republican Party in the weeks just prior to the November general election.
The prosecutor on the Small case is Republican Marsha Garst. Unlike other Commonwealth Attorneys, observed a local Democratic-leaning political muckraker yesterday, Garst failed to recuse herself from the prosecution despite what would appear to be very clear conflicts of interests in the case.
The newly dropped charges appear in stark contrast to Garst's declarations last year, when told the Washington Post on the Friday before the Tuesday Presidential election that the matter was "a very important investigation to the state, and we intend to prosecute Mr. Small to the fullest extent"...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Will major tar sands pipeline spill in AR doom Keystone XL?; How about the spills in WI, MN, UT?; NASA's Dr. James Hansen steps down to step up activism; SCOTUS smacks down Big Oil lawsuit; PLUS: Score one for breathers: EPA's new rules cut deadly air pollution - but Republicans are against it ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): How U.S. could blow the energy boom; Air pollution kills 1.2m Chinese, 3.2m worldwide; China's losing battle against state-backed polluters; Japan: Nuclear plant operator cites 'poor preparation'; Lake Erie doomed to future of massive toxic algae blooms?; US drought season off to a bad start; Dominion Energy: $14m fine for air pollution violations; Invention of the day: A bladeless wind turbine; Booming oil supplies haven't lowered price at the pump; Sugar industry adopts tobacco industry tactics; What is the 'Monsanto Protection Bill'? ... PLUS: Germany's solar-power success: Too much of a good thing? ... and much, MUCH more! ...
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...
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...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Scotland has a message for Donald Trump's hot air on wind farms; The IMF has a message for the oil industry (and they're not gonna like it); PLUS: A whole lotta frackin' going on --- from PA to CA, new revelations --- and earthquakes --- crack the fracking industry's facade ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Iceland baffled by Chinese tycoon's Arctic golf resort; How US can shift from oil & gas; Iraqi oil now mostly China’s; Solar energy brings voters to the polls in Kenya; Republican mayor leads CA city to nation's first solar energy mandate; Water wars: NM farmers vs. fossil fuel industry; Another bleak drought season for U.S.; Red states use more energy than blue states; UK's record weather extremes linked to Arctic sea ice loss; White House supports relaxing nuke rules; Rat poison manufacturer fights EPA ban ... PLUS: "You Can Have More Fossil Fuel. Or You Can Have Water. Your Choice." ... and much, MUCH more! ...
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...
A week or two ago, after seeing Attorney General Eric Holder, in Senate testimony, pretend that he was "concerned" about a lack of prosecution of big banks due to their being too large, I described his claims, in a bit of a rant here as "complete bullshit".
We desperately could use a toon or two around here of late. Sorry this is not a happier or funnier one though...
As to the extra punchline at bottom right, it's a reference to the quote misattributed to Churchill: "Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing…after they have exhausted all other possibilities."
And, by the way, a better name for "Carbon Tax" is "Pollution Tax".
Yes, companies who dump huge amounts of pollution --- tons and tons of it --- into our atmosphere every single day ought not be able to do it for free, as they do now, since we all have to pay the price of cleaning it up, as we are now doing in spades.
One of the segments from last night's episode, while disturbing, is worth flagging at least briefly here, as its an issue we've touched on throughout the years, going back to the earliest years of the Iraq War. It's also one that has been under-covered and under-investigated by the mainstream corporate media.
The use of depleted uranium, a byproduct of the nuclear power industry, in U.S. weaponry is believed by many to be tied to an alarming increase in birth-defects in Iraqi children, as well as cancer rates in members of the U.S. military. While some studies report no significant health risks due to the use of such weaponry, a lack of long-term studies leaves the issue, for now, an open question --- at the very least. Truthout's Mike Ludwig reported this week that "The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has estimated that 1,000 to 2,000 metric tons of depleted uranium was fired during the 2003 war in Iraq," and that clean-up costs for some 300 to 365 sites where "depleted uranium contamination was identified by Iraqi authorities" is estimated to cost tens of millions of dollars.
While the U.S. and British governments "disputed allegations that their weapons have poisoned soldiers and civilians and caused increased rates of cancer and birth defects," as discussed in the segment below from last night's TYT show, the reported rate of birth defects in Fallujah, for example, is now said to be 14 times higher than it was in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs there.
The use of depleted uranium in U.S. weapons is believed by some to be one of the reasons for that alarming statistic, as Desi discussed along with TYT regulars Ana Kasparian and Steve Oh last night. [WARNING: Some of the photos shown in the segment are graphic and disturbing]...
A couple of the other (less graphic) segments from TYT in which the lovely Desi helps with righteous rants and the raking of various muck include...
• Amazing backlog of Veteran Benefits begs question as to who actually "supports the troops"? (A particularly sharp, and personal, Desi rant in this one!) Watch it here...
• "Catfight" breaks out between current and former GOP chairs Reince Priebus and Michael Steele. Watch it here...
We included a link to our own interview with Tomas in 2005 when he first came down from Kansas City to "Camp Casey" in Crawford, TX, on his honeymoon, in support of Cindy Sheehan whose son Casey was killed on the same day, in the same city --- 4/4/04 in Sadr City --- where Tomas was shot twice and gravely injured in the unarmored truck his platoon had been sent out in.
Tomas has been a tremendously heroic and outspoken anti-war voice over the years, as we were reminded once again today during this morning's heart-wrenching episode of Democracy Now! devoted to his story. Phil Donahue, co-director of the 2007 documentary film about Tomas, Body of War, (in which our '05 interview with Tomas is briefly seen) is on hand as well for the discussion. The hour included a live satellite interview with Tomas, who now struggles to speak. His thoughts seem very coherent, but what is left of his body and its functions are clearly breaking down. He is joined by his wife Claudia.
It is all worth watching, if you can spare the time. The clips from Body of War, especially the one in which Tomas speaks with the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-VA) as they read off the names together of the "Immortal 23" who voted against the Iraq War in the U.S. Senate, are particularly moving.
This is the story of the Iraq War ten years later --- and how it broke this nation just as surely as it broke Tomas Young's body and eventually his spirit and will to live...
After the lengthy segment above, Donahue is asked about his plight at MSNBC where he was fired just before the war began, as we would later find out from an internal executive memo, because his show included too many anti-war voices.
He says the episode reveals "how corporate media shapes our opinions and our coverage."
"They were terrified of the anti-war voice. And that is not an overstatement," Donahue says. "If you're General Electric, you certainly don't want an anti-war voice on a cable channel that you own. Donald Rumsfeld's your biggest customer!"
He explains again how he was required to have two pro-war voices for every anti-war voice he had on his show. "I could have [Bush Admin Iraq war hawk and architect] Richard Perle on alone, but I couldn't have Dennis Kucinich," he explains. "I was considered 'two liberals'." That segment can be watched here.
Finally, in the last moments of the show, Tomas reads his "Last Letter" to Bush and Cheney aloud and answers Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman's question as to whether there is anything that might lead him to change his mind about his decision to soon stop using his feeding tube in order to allow his life to end.
That video segment, including Tomas' answer to Goodman's question, follows below...