After an amazingly encouraging week or two, we head into the July 4th weekend with a whole bunch of stuff we've been trying to clear off our desk. Plus: Lots of breaking news and an encouraging ending for the weekend...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: It's official: US drought is now declared a natural disaster; Massive anti-nuke protests in Japan; Kalamazoo River tar sands pipeline spill was entirely preventable; PLUS: Shell Oil's excellent adventure in the Arctic gets off to a rocky start ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): BLM gives away US coal, subsidizes China; GOP obstruction threatens coal miners; Koreas in worst drought in 100 years; Romney supports end of wind tax credit that would kill thousands of jobs; Greenland calves another massive iceberg; EPA drops CAFO reporting rule; FDA spied on scientists; Food safety inspection cuts; PG&E 'downgraded' pipeline safety probs to save money ... PLUS: Apple rejoins green registry, admitting its exit was a mistake ... and much, MUCH more! ...
As a disillusioned conservative, what I wouldn't give to have someone who could make logical, fact-based arguments from the right. How interesting would it be to have someone just as intellectually skilled as MSNBC's Chris Hayes, just as sharp as him, just as devoted to sound logic as him-but coming from the opposite perspective?
Where the hell are the public intellectuals on the right, anyway? It used to bug me that Fox "News" Channel would promote Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity as the main faces of their network. I never had the sense that O'Reilly was actually a conservative, merely someone who knew that repeating conservative memes over and over again would be lucrative. As for Hannity, he lost me back in 2001 when I tuned into his radio show and heard him declare that he would condemn his kid if he decided to get an earring. What is this, I thought to myself, 1978?
One can debate when the right stopped investing in its intellectual infrastructure, but one cannot debate the reality of this phenomenon. Oh, wait --- the right debates the reality of certain phenomena all the time. Look at global warming, for just a start...
Ah, what more can you say about those "small government conservatives" as they once again attempt to place the big government they claim to despise between citizens and their doctors by taking away more rights and freedoms?
In Mississippi, the Jackson's Women's Health Organization --- which operates the only remaining clinic to offer abortion services in the entire Magnolia State --- filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block enforcement of a state law meant solely to shut them down and nullify the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade.
The new law requires any physician who performs an abortion to be both a board-certified OB-GYN and have admitting privileges at a local hospital. According to MSNBC's James Eng, this would almost certainly force the clinic to shut down because most of their physicians "live out-of-state or because local hospitals are reluctant to grant such privileges to physicians who perform abortions." That closure would "lead some to consider unsafe and illegal alternatives that pose grave risks to [women's] health, lives, and reproductive future," according to Nancy Northrup of the Center for Reproductive Rights.
On July 2, Reuters reported that "U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Jordan issued a temporary restraining order," stating that "plaintiffs have offered evidence --- including quotes from significant legislative and executive officers --- that the act's purpose is to eliminate abortions in Mississippi." On Wednesday, in a hearing on the Jackson Women's Health Organization's motion for a preliminary injunction, Judge Jordan, who was nominated to the federal bench by George W. Bush, extended his TRO pending his ruling. So the clinic stays open for the moment.
Meanwhile, Republicans in the Michigan legislature silenced a female colleague, Rep. Lisa Brown (D), when she responded to their anti-women's reproductive rights measure last month by stating: "And, finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but 'no' means 'no'."
At least in that instance, the GOP "War on Women" produced an hilarious segment on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart entitled "The Vagina Ideologues". If you missed it a few weeks ago, have a look...
The MN Constitution mandates that a ballot question must truthfully inform voters of what it is they are voting on. The ACLU, following the same format it applied when it successfully prevented a similar photo ID initiative from being placed on the November 2012 ballot in MO, sets forth specific examples of how the ballot question, as enacted by MN's GOP-controlled state legislature, falls well short of that standard.
The ACLU argument may well succeed before the MN Supreme Court. However, as reflected by polls suggesting nearly 80% of Minnesotans support the adoption of photo ID restrictions, there is a very real prospect that the ACLU's legal objections will neither be heard nor understood in the utterly deceived court of public opinion...
Props to CNN's Soledad O'Brien for her dogged attempt to get an actual answer from Romney's Senior Advisor (and former Commerce Secretary) Carlos Gutierrez as to whether the presumptive GOP nominee supports Arizona's controversial "papers please" law, in light of yesterday's SCOTUS ruling striking down most of the law, but allowing the most controversial part of it to stand (for now.)
If the rest of the media insisted on actual answers from politicians and their surrogates before moving on (talking to you David Gregory), we might actually move the ball forward occasionally.
For the record, Romney has previously called AZ's SB1070, the law that was largely struck down yesterday, a "model" for the nation. But I guess we all get to pretend he didn't for a while, as he tries to Etch-a-Sketch his way out of the extremist positions he staked out in hopes of winning the GOP primaries.
Perhaps we should call it the David Gregory Technique, since the dreadful Meet the Press host seems to use it, and little more, week in and week out during his usually useless interviews with public officials.
Here's how the David Gregory Technique works: Ask a public official for "your response to that charge?" Get that response. And then move on to the next question. No follow-up. No challenge. It's that simple. Just get their "response" on record --- like an in-person performance of the public official's already-published press release responding, either accurately or not, to the same issue.
Afterword, news consumers are no more informed or enlightened than before going in, other than to become familiar with the political talking points in play, whether they are based in fact or reality or not. Who knows?
Such was the treatment that Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) enjoyed last week from Michele Martin on the apparently ironically named TELL ME MORE program on National Public Radio concerning his spate of allegedly unlawful, attempted voter suppression programs in the Sunshine State. NBC's David Gregory couldn't have done it better himself...
Reports by the Miami Herald and by Democracy Now report that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has "ordered Florida...to end a controversial voter purge that's primarily targeted Latino, Democratic and independent-minded voters" (see video below) may not be technically accurate.
Both refer to the two-page letter submitted by T. Christian Herren, the chief lawyer of the DOJ's Voting Rights Division, to FL officials which suggested that the purge, ordered by Republican Gov. Rick Scott under the unsubstantiated pretense that the state had thousands of non-citizens registered to vote, violated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act because FL had not sought preclearance for the new voter roll purge either from the DOJ or a federal court. Herren, as the Miami Herald article observed, demanded that FL officials "advise whether the State intends to cease the practice," but stopped short of issuing an actual "order" that FL immediately cease and desist.
Election officials across the state have confirmed that the Governor's purge list includes hundreds, if not thousands, of legally registered U.S. citizens who are improperly identified as "non-citizens" to be removed from the rolls.
Only five of Florida's 67 counties are "covered jurisdictions" under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. That means that while Supervisors of Elections in some counties had vowed not to carry out Scott's purge, others, like Seminal County's Republican Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel, signified their intent to carry out what amounts to a new form of GOP "caging lists" in which those voters who do not respond to official letters in a designated fashion are automatically purged from the eligible voter rolls. On Friday, an attorney from the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, representing all 67 counties, sent a memo to officials recommending they do not carry out the scrub as called for by the state.
The DOJ letter to FL also noted that the voter roll purge across the entire state appears to be in violation of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which bans the removal of voters from the rolls in the 90 days prior to a federal election. Florida is set to hold its federal primary election on August 14th, making May 16th the last legal day for the type of voter roll maintenance the state now claims to be carrying out.
Even assuming that Herren's letter to the state amounts to a DOJ "order," it may not be enough to stop what The Advancement Project estimated in its May 17 letter to Herren [PDF] could ultimately produce an illegal purge of as many as 180,000 otherwise eligible voters based on a flawed, eleventh hour pre-election effort to match voter rolls against the FL driver's license data base.
After receiving the letter from the DOJ, Florida Dept. of State Spokesperson Chris Cates said they intended to continue with their purge anyway. "Bottom line is," Cates told Think Progress, "we are firmly committed to doing the right thing and preventing ineligible voters from being able to cast a ballot."
The purge has already ensnared U.S. citizens like Bill Internicola, the 91-year old, Brooklyn-born, World War II veteran and Bronze Star recipient who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and Archibald Bowyer, another 91-year old WWII vet who has been citizen since the age of 2, and who received his letter from the state warning he would be purged just as his wife had died.
To halt the purge, groups like the ACLU and the DOJ may need to initiate a federal lawsuit in which they seek yet another preliminary injunction, like the one issued late Thursday by U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Hinkle in League of Women Voters v. Browning [PDF]. That ruling, as we reported on Thursday, spoke to a different aspect of this year's GOP voter suppression effort in FL. Hinkle's ruling ordered an official federal injunction on the draconian restrictions imposed on voter registration workers by the FL GOP, which had earlier led to groups like the League of Women Voters of Florida being forced to cancel their voter registration drives for the first time in some 70 years.
Florida has until June 6th to official respond to the U.S. Dept. of Justice.
* * *
Video of Democracy Now segment on the DOJ's response to the FL purge follows...
As I'm on the road and largely off the grid this week, I was about to post the following video from last night's Rachel Maddow Show, thanking her for covering so much of what we've been covering here at The BRAD BLOG, for so long, in one nice long top-of-show segment.
I'm still going to do that, but below that, I'm happy to post a press release just sent out by the non-partisan Brennan Center for Justice at NYU, breaking the news that a federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction blocking the "key provisions of a restrictive voting law in Florida today." The Brennan Center describes the ruling as "a breakthrough victory for Florida voters and voting rights advocates nationwide."
The new law, H.B. 1355, had included onerous criminal restrictions on third-party voter registration workers. The new rules were so onerous, in fact, that the League of Women Voters of Florida was forced to call off their registration drive in the state for the first time in 70 years. In the wake of the FL GOP's new law, high school teachers had been charged with crimes for registering their own students to vote, and a registration worker had received a threatening letter from the Sec. of State for turning in voter registrations one hour late after a holiday weekend.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Hinkle blocked most of the FL law's new registration requirements today, finding they accomplished little more than suppressing the registration of new voters without serving any legitimate state interest. "If the goal is to discourage voter-registration drives and thus also to make it harder for new voters to register, this may work," wrote Hinkle in his frequently scathing decision [PDF].
The Brennan Center quotes from Hinkle's ruling this way: "Together speech and voting are constitutional rights of special significance; they are the rights most protective of all others, joined in this respect by the ability to vindicate one's rights in a federal court. … [W]hen a plaintiff loses an opportunity to register a voter, the opportunity is gone forever ... And allowing responsible organizations to conduct voter-registration drives --- thus making it easier for citizens to register and vote --- promotes democracy."
See the Brennan Center's full release today posted below. It's very good news, as once again another law passed by the GOP with the intention of nothing more than suppressing the vote of largely Democratic-leaning voters is found to be in violation of the Constitution and/or federal law, as has been the case with almost every single one of these GOP-passed laws over the past year --- at least when someone (too often not the U.S. Dept. of Justice, unfortunately) bothers to go to court to challenge them.
Yesterday, at Rolling Stone, Ari Berman had calculated that some 35,000 Florida voters stand to be purged this year if the Republicans' new voter suppression efforts there are carried out in full.
As to Rachel Maddow last night, here's some of the very important coverage she offered at the top of the show, including details on the state of Florida's current effort to purge thousands of legal voters from the rolls by claiming, inaccurately, that they are non-citizens. (NOTE: That effort is a separate voter suppression measure by Republicans in the state of Florida, and is not related to today's federal court ruling blocking the earlier voter suppression measure by Republicans in the state of Florida)...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: The deepest well ever dug; Cyber-attacks on the US natgas pipeline industry; Romney makes big promises to Big Oil; RFK Jr. fights Big Coal in Portland; Schizo Fox 'News' now says lower gas prices are a bad thing; PLUS: It's official: the last 12 months were the hottest on record in the US .... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Oil spill in Antarctica; VT poised to be first state to outlaw fracking; CBO: Boosting Oil Production Won’t Protect From Gasoline Price Shocks; Clean-Energy Requirements Targeted by ALEC, Norquist; Innovation: Inertial Seawave Energy Generator; Asian carp electric barrier loses power; Makers of flame retardants manipulate research findings; Anti-Wind Group Colludes on Fake Grassroots 'Subversion' Campaign ... PLUS: Flipping the Switch: First Solar Plant on Public Lands Now Delivering Power... and much, MUCH more! ...
Last week, The BRAD BLOG's legal analyst Ernest Canning reported on the lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters, the NAACP and the ACLU in Pennsylvania, together with the Homeless Advocacy Project and the Advancement Project, against the state Republicans' new polling place Photo ID restriction passed into law in March.
The law, unless it's blocked, is set to make it much harder, if not impossible for many previously-legal student, elderly, minority and urban dwelling voters to cast their vote this November.
Canning predicts, however, that, like a similar GOP law in Wisconsin this year, and one in Missouri back in 2006, the new attempt to remove voting rights will be found in violation of the fundamental right to vote guaranteed under Pennsylvania's state Constitution. We'll see if he's correct.
In the meantime, the lawsuit, Applewhite vs Commonwealth of Pennsylvania [PDF] names 11 plaintiffs, the majority of whom have tried to get a birth certificate in order to then obtain their so-called "free" ID to vote from the state under the new law --- only to be told there is no record of their births. Several of those plaintiffs, not surprisingly, were born in the Jim Crow south and are now facing the forces of disenfranchisement again under the GOP law this year even up in the Keystone State in 2012.
Last week, MSNBC's Al Sharpton interviewed the lead plaintiff in the complaint, 92-year old Viviette Applewhite who marched for civil rights alongside Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Georgia, and who has been voting in Presidential elections without a problem for more than 50 years. She has never had a driver's license and, though she says she paid a fee for a birth certificate from the state, she has never received it.
Despite the fact that state officials have been unable to produce evidence of in-person, polling place impersonation --- the only type of voter fraud that could possibly be deterred by polling place Photo ID laws --- Republicans seem more than happy to disenfranchise long-time voters like Applewhite and potentially tens of thousands of others this year.
Applewhite says she believes it's all little more than an effort to stop President Obama from being re-elected, and she fears there are far more people than many realize who will be disenfranchised this year unless the law is overturned.
"Looks like most of the people in my building, they're senior citizens, but they don't have the proper thing to vote with," she says near the end of the interview, "and it's going to be a whole lotta people that's not going to be able to vote"...
Judith Browne Dianis, civil rights litigator at the Advancement Project also appears in the interview above and correctly notes: "This is not about preventing fraud, it's about preventing voting."
She is supported in that contention, ironically enough, by PA's Republican Governor Tom Corbett, seen in a clip above exhorting his supporters to help him keep turnout below 50% during his recent election. Moreever, just after Corbett signed the GOP's voter suppression bill in March, he lied to the media by claiming that it was needed since Pennsylvanians had seen 112% voter turnout in some precincts. Longtime election watchdog Marybeth Kuznick of VotePA, however, told us the Governor's claim was "ludicrous."
For more on the plaintiffs in the PA complaint who are facing disenfranchisement for the first time in their lives --- folks like 59-year old Wilola Shinholster Lee, 72-year old Grover Freeland, 86-year old Dorothy Barksdale and 93-year old Bea Booker --- and why Ernie Canning predicts the new legal challenge will be successful in the Keystone State, see his report from last week right here.
Another story in Maddow's otherwise excellent report, however, is the one about the 86-year old WWII Vet in Ohio who was unable to vote on a normal ballot Tuesday, because his Veteran's ID didn't have his address on it. According to the The Plain Dealer's coverage:
“My beef is that I had to pay a driver to take me up there because I don’t walk so well and have to use this cane and now I can’t even vote,” said Paul Carroll, 86, who has lived in Aurora nearly 40 years, running his own business, Carroll Tire, until 1975.
“I had to stop driving, but I got the photo ID from the Veterans Affairs instead, just a month or so ago. You would think that would count for something. I went to war for this country, but now I can’t vote in this country.”
It's a horrible story, but on this one, Maddow appears to have been in slight error in her coverage...
"When you let university administrators or other employers rather than women and their doctors dictate whose medical needs are legitimate and whose are not, a woman’s health takes a back seat to a bureaucracy focused on policing her body." - Georgetown Univ. Law Student, Sandra Fluke
One unfortunate aspect of the firestorm surrounding Rush Limbaugh's profoundly uninformed, deceptive and misogynistic vitriol and calls for accountability for the Rightwing radio blowhard, is that it has completely overshadowed the substance of Fluke's testimony on the importance of access to prescription contraceptives to women's health.
The Limbaugh firestorm has also overshadowed the fact that the American Taliban (aka the elected Tea Party House Republicans) prevented Fluke from testifying at a House Oversight Committee hearing, framed by the Republican majority as a hearing on "religious freedom", because, as the Washington Post described, "she was not a member of the clergy."
Indeed, while much is made of the fact that the first panel at the 2/16/12 House Oversight Committee examining an issue vital to women's health was all-male, few have taken note that it was also all-clergy. In opening the hearing, Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) announced: "Today, the committee will hear testimony from leaders of different faiths."
Not only did the right-wing GOP House leaders fail to so much as recognize Fluke's right to be heard, but, according to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (see video embedded in above-linked Washington Post article), they also refused to permit House Democrats to use the House Recording Studio as part of an effort to try and prevent the public from seeing and hearing Fluke's testimony at all. Instead, Pelosi and the Democrats of the Democratic Steering Committee were forced to hold a separate, unofficial "forum", in order to hear Fluke's testimony.
The video of Fluke's opening statement, the testimony that Republicans sought to prevent from being heard at all, is now posted below.
But it is the larger, arguably more disturbing constitutional ramifications of the actions of House Republicans that we'd like to take a moment to highlight on, as they have been almost entirely overlooked in this unnecessary brouhaha...
A recall from his position as Wisconsin's governor could ultimately be the least of Gov. Scott Walker's worry, if a criminal complaint quietly moving forward in the Badger State court system continues on its current trajectory. At the moment, Walker seems to be at the bottom of a mountain where an avalanche is just beginning to roll.
A 51-page criminal complaint [PDF] (the "Rindfleisch complaint"), which formally charges Kelly M. Rindfleisch with four felony counts of misconduct in public office, contains factual allegations which implicate a number of individuals, listed as "interested parties," including WI's controversial Republican Governor, in a wide-reaching criminal conspiracy to misuse public employees and resources for partisan political gain.
The Rindfleish complaint was filed in the Milwaukee County Circuit Court on Jan. 26, 2012 by Milwaukee County District Attorney John T. Chisholm. It's the product of an ongoing criminal investigation (the "John Doe" investigation) of the Milwaukee County Executive Office during Walker's tenure as County Executive there. The complaint specifically involves the period during which Tim Russell and then Rindfleish served as Walker's Deputy Chiefs of Staff.
The recent news in the Milwaukee County case coincides with a separate set of court rulings in the battle over the attempt by opponents of Walker to see him recalled via the ballot box. In that matter, an appellate court recently reversed Republican Waukesha Circuit Judge J. Mac Davis' decision to deny the Recall proponent's motion to intervene in a case brought by "Friends of Scott Walker" designed to obstruct the scheduling of Walker's Recall. The appellate ruling directed Davis to vacate his controversial decision which had shifted the statutory burden for challenging the validity of the Walker Recall petition signatures from Walker himself --- as had been the process for years --- to the state's Government Accountability Board.
While that appellate ruling may serve to help expedite Walker's potential removal from office via the ballot box, a recall could ultimate prove to be less of a concern to the embattled, right-wing governor than the criminal case steadily moving forward in Milwaukee.
The factual body of the Rindfleisch complaint suggests that prosecutors are painstakingly examining evidence that may well place Walker at the center of a criminal conspiracy to illegally utilize employees within the Milwaukee County Executive Office to engage in fundraising and campaign activities on behalf of the Friends of Scott Walker and others during office hours at the expense of Milwaukee taxpayers.
Each violation of the relevant WI criminal statutes at issue in the matter carries with it a potential imprisonment of up to 3.5 years. As that case moves forward apace, Walker could lose a great deal more than simply his hold on the governor's office. His very freedom may prove to be at stake as well...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: 6 more weeks of winter? The Winter That Wasn't across the US; Extreme weather disasters leading to higher insurance rates; Wall St. Journal climate denier smackdown; Even Saudi Arabia believes in global warming(!); PLUS: House arrest for fracking filmmaker - House of Representatives, that is ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): House GOP throws kids under the bus; What liberal bias?: Heavy pro-Keystone XL pipeline coverage in corporate media; Glut of nat gas roils energy markets; Great Lakes Asian carp invasion: new canal for Chicago?; U.S. not prepared for oil spill off Cuba; TX: Fracking disclosure rule takes effect; Green Building sector to deliver trillions in savings by 2030 ... PLUS: Barrage of death threats intended to 'intimidate', says Texas climatologist ... and much, MUCH more! ...
Before we move on to the nightmare of democracy and secret, concealed "trust-me" vote-counting which will comprise the bulk of the "First-in-the-Nation" primary in New Hampshire, I'd like to offer a few final thoughts, for now, and for the record, on last Tuesday's "First-in-the-Nation" GOP Caucuses of Iowa. What happened there ought to remain firmly in all of our memories as we move into what is likely to be a nightmare of democracy and secret, concealed "trust-me" vote-counting across almost the entirety of the nation in this important Presidential Election year.
I had planned to post this article (or one like it) on Friday, when I was suddenly side-tracked by the report from Ron Paul supporter Edward True that he had noticed a mis-reported tally on the Iowa GOP's caucus results website. It was a small mis-report to be sure, but in a race that had previously been "called" for Mitt Romney by just 8 votes out of some 122,000 cast at 1,774 different caucus sites, the 20 vote error noticed by True and called to the attention of the media (and since confirmed by the Appanoose County GOP Chair) could prove to be decisive in the final certified total promised a week or so from now.
The discovery of the error --- a reporting error, apparently, as opposed to a counting error --- and the ability to quickly and independently verify the real tally of that particular precinct through a number of different, independent sources, is a tribute to the way the Republicans allowed their own voters to vote and those votes to be publicly counted.
That is largely the essence of Democracy's Gold Standard for elections and it is because of that process that there are so few questions about the overall results today.
It's important to make this point, loudly and clearly, before we get lost in what is to come. It's one that even MSNBC's Rachel Maddow --- whose political analysis, whether you agree with her personal perspective or not, is usually spot-on --- missed by a country mile on Friday night while reporting on this issue. She was broadcasting from New Hampshire on the True incident back in Iowa, and on one other quickly-cleared-up question that came up about the results late night on Tuesday, when she offered an assertion that seemed more cheap-shot at Republicans than supportable assertion. It was far beneath her usually excellent standards of fact-based analysis...