As we wait with bated breath for tonight's State of the Union address, either my food poisoning is still making me loopy, or I remember this SOTU as if it was yesterday...
...or, probably both.
w/ Brad & Desi
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...
GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal 2012...
The Secret Koch Brothers Tapes...
|MORE BRAD BLOG 'SPECIAL COVERAGE' PAGES...|
As we wait with bated breath for tonight's State of the Union address, either my food poisoning is still making me loopy, or I remember this SOTU as if it was yesterday...
...or, probably both.
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Surprise! Second toxic chemical also contaminating WV's water supply; Texas homeowners don't care for fracking earthquakes; Southern leg of Keystone XL pipeline now open for business; Score one for the Arctic - court setback for Shell's Arctic Adventure; PLUS: Full speed ahead for L.A.'s first-ever outdoor pro hockey game --- in a record heat wave... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Obama: Fossil fuels are here to stay; Targets of climate hate mail rally to support one another; Coal terminals and climate chaos: is this the future we want?; WA State moves on its own to stop ocean acidification; How Oil Drilling Is Like the "Civil Rights Revolution"; Extreme El Nino events to double ... PLUS: Big Green to Obama: "All of the above" a compromise we can't afford ... and much, MUCH more! ...
[A version of this article has now been cross-published by Salon...]
A number of unhappy "good government" groups will file a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission next month, in hopes that the courts will force the FEC to enforce the federal campaign finance laws that the FEC is, supposedly, there to enforce.
The organizations are particularly unhappy about Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS "behemoth" outfit, which has raised hundreds of millions over the last several years to elect Republican candidates to office, recently receiving a pass from the FEC, even after the agency's Office of General Counsel found reason to believe Rove's group clearly violated campaign finance laws.
The news about the groups' intention to file suit was offered on the KPFK/Pacifica Radio BradCast this week by my guest, Craig Holman, the Government Affairs Lobbyist for Public Citizen's Congress Watch. Public Citizen, along with the Campaign Legal Center, Center for Media and Democracy, and Protect Our Elections filed the initial complaint over campaign spending in 2010 by Rove's then new non-profit 501(c)(4) organization. They now plan to sue the FEC for failing to do their job, Holman explained on the show on Wednesday. [Disclosure: Protect Our Elections is a campaign created by VelvetRevolution.us, an organization co-founded by The BRAD BLOG, though we weren't personally involved with either the complaint or the upcoming suit.]
"What's happened with the Federal Election Commission is," Holman explained during my interview [posted in full at the end of this article], Senator "Mitch McConnell [R-KY], back in about 2008, realized that even though he can't get Congress to rescind campaign finance laws --- and he certainly can't sell the public on rescinding campaign finance laws --- he realized that if he were to appoint three Republican Commissioners to the FEC, he could ensure that the campaign finance laws don't get enforced. And that's exactly what has happened." Holman detailed how three-to-three deadlock votes on whether to pursue further action in most of the campaign finance rulings by the three Democratic and three Republican Commissioners on the FEC has increased "nine-fold" since 2008. A deadlock vote effectively ends the matter, even if wrong-doing had been found by the investigative staff, as is the case here.
In the original complaint against Rove's Crossroads GPS, the FEC's Office of General Counsel (OGC) found that the group had spent a majority of its funding on campaigning in 2010. If so, that's a violation of the law, since Rove's group should have filed with the FEC as a political committee, rather than as a 501(c)(4) which is supposed to be a non-electioneering "social welfare" organization. As a political committee, funders would have to be immediately disclosed, but as a (c)(4), the identity of those funding Rove's organization can remain a secret....
Proving once again that he is neither the radical reformer the Right pretends that he is, and that the non-Right had hoped he would be, President Obama attempted to conservatively thread an impossible needle in his speech today [full transcript] calling for a number of reforms to the government's current, sweeping collection of the private telephone data of Americans who are in no way related to terrorism investigations.
Once again, while ignoring many of the recommendations offered by his own special commission convened to make such recommendations for reform of NSA surveillance and other intelligence gather techniques, Obama is trying to split the baby and, in doing so, appears to be gaining the great admiration of...largely no one.
During a speech at the Dept. of Justice on Friday, he announced what he described as "a series of concrete and substantial reforms that my administration intends to adopt administratively or will seek to codify with Congress." Those reforms are, in fact, a series of limited changes that, almost all honest brokers agree, would never have happened were it not for the historically-important leaks by former NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden. The President side-stepped what should have been "thanks" offered to the now federally-charged fugitive forced into political asylum in Russia.
"Given the fact of an open investigation, I'm not going to dwell on Mr. Snowden's actions or his motivations," the President said, before taking a shot at him by referencing the importance of "the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation's secrets" and "the sensational way in which these disclosures have come out." Those disclosures, of course, led to this moment and these reforms, however meager and/or cosmetic they may turn out to be. "Regardless of how we got here though," Obama continued quickly, in hopes of marginalizing the facts of Snowden's contributions to the reality of the moment.
Since he was not given his proper due this afternoon by the President himself, it fell to the Huffington Post's front page splash today to offer exactly that...
Over the years, whenever I chat with one of my neighbors (who happens to be gay) about various issues of marriage equality in the news, the state of Utah inevitably seems to come up as the conversational worst-case-scenario stand-in for the dying status quo.
"It'll be interesting to see what effect the new Supreme Court ruling in the Windsor case will have across the country," I might say. "Will a gay couple who were married in California, for example, suddenly stop receiving their federal recognition and marriage benefits if their job requires that they must move to, say, Utah, for their work? Will the courts stand for a couple receiving full federal recognition in one state, but allow that recognition to be removed simply because they moved to another? That doesn't seem either legally or Constitutionally sustainable...Even in a state like Utah."
Welp, guess we now have our answer to that speculation at least, and much more specifically than any of us might have thought over the past year or three, now that a federal judge yesterday found Utah's state constitutional ban against gay marriage to be in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Some 30 other states currently have similar laws or state constitutional bans on equality for all.
"The court holds that Utah's prohibition on same-sex marriage conflicts with the United States Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law," Judge Robert J. Shelby (an Obama appointee) wrote in his 53-page ruling at the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, Central Division. "These rights would be meaningless if the Constitution did not also prevent the government from interfering with the intensely personal choices an individual makes when that person decides to make a solemn commitment to another human being."
I guess I'll have to find another "Utah" for purposes of neighborly speculative conversation about equal marriage rights legal issues. The Deep South states like Mississippi or Alabama might have seemed like good candidates. But between the fairly clear, conservative --- and surprisingly early --- holiday message sent by Judge Shelby in the Utah case yesterday (which is, of course, being appealed by the state, but that will fail soon too), and the awesome message from this Daily Show video from last month, I suspect we'll be running completely out of status quo states all together pretty soon. Or, at least, we'll have 50 status quo states...
"True the Vote" (TTV), the Orwellian-named Republican "voter fraud" front group with a long and sordid history of deception and fraud won't take 'no' for an answer. Release the hounds.
The group has filed a formal notice of appeal [PDF] of U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos' recent refusal to permit TTV to intervene as a party defendant in the U.S. Justice Department's (DoJ) federal legal challenge to SB-14, the Texas polling place Photo ID statute.
Judge Ramos found that the interests of the organization --- which masquerades as an "election integrity" group in order to actually advocate for voter suppression --- were already adequately represented in the lawsuit by the state of Texas itself.
As they were filing their notice of appeal, the disgraced GOP "voter fraud" front man, Hans von Spakovsky --- who also just happens to serve on the "advisory board" for TTV --- challenged the court's rejection of the groups Motion to Intervene in an article published at the right-wing National Review. His work there, as usual, represents a masterful example of deception, dishonesty and well-remunerated cherry-picking. That is, apparently, what Hans von Spakovsky does for a living.
He is amongst good friends in the Republican Fraud community this time out...
A federal judge has found the bulk collection of metadata of U.S. phone calls to be "indiscriminate" and "arbitrary" and, therefore, in violation of the Constitution's 4th Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure. His opinion was hailed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden who has been asserting that point as the central basis for his having leaked thousands of classified documents in regard to programs run by the federal agency.
Politico's Josh Gerstein, who appears to have been the first to break the news today, reports it this way...
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon found that the program appears to violate the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. He also said the Justice Department had failed to demonstrate that collecting the information had helped to head off terrorist attacks.
Acting on a lawsuit brought by conservative legal activist Larry Klayman, Leon issued a preliminary injunction barring the NSA from collecting so-called metadata pertaining to the Verizon accounts of Klayman and one of his clients. However, the judge stayed the order to allow for an appeal.
Now, Klayman is, in fact, a Rightwing loon who is separately in the process of, literally, attempting to overthrow the U.S. government. But, as journalist Glenn Greenwald --- the man who has been most intensely reporting on Snowden's leaks --- notes today: "the ACLU has a virtually identical lawsuit against the NSA as the one where the judge today ruled against NSA".
Judge Leon went on to write in his scathing opinion...
Yesterday, nearly five years after President Barack Obama first assumed office, the U.S. Senate removed what has been described by some progressives as the "single largest obstacle to meaningful economic recovery" when it was finally allowed to vote for the confirmation of Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) as the new Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).
In a vote allowed by a recent change to filibuster rules in the U.S. Senate, Watt will now replace Bush appointee Edward J. DeMarco, who was first appointed in 2008 and became the acting Director of the federal agency in 2009.
The FHFA oversees the government-sponsored mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which collectively own 60% of all mortgages in the United States. The agency also oversees 12 Federal Home Loan Banks, which, according to the Washington Post, "serve as major sources of funding for hundreds of banks."
In a statement issued late yesterday, praising Watt's confirmation and chiding Senate Republicans for their obstructionism in holding up this and many other uncontroversial Presidential nominations, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, highlighted the importance of the FHFA's intended role in safe-guarding homeowners.
"Republicans in the U.S. Senate callously blocked the confirmation of the supremely qualified Congressman Mel Watt to be our nation's Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency," Becerra said. "Today, by a bipartisan vote of 57 to 41, Rep. Watt is on his way to lead the FHFA as America's watchdog over the American Dream. What a difference a day makes when the Senate is free of the mischief of exploitive filibusters"...
[This article now cross-published by The Progressive...]
It took awhile. A few years even. But, on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) finally decided he'd had enough.
By a majority vote of 52 to 48, the U.S. Senate changed their rules to partially end the filibuster, invoking what some refer to as the so-called "nuclear option". The rule change, which will permit an up-or-down majority vote on all Presidential nominations for executive and judicial office (with the exception of Supreme Court nominations), is better described as the "democracy option".
The rule change, for now, would have no effect on the use of the filibuster by the minority to block legislation. Three Democrats, Carl Levin (D-MI), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Mark Pryor (D-AR), voted with Republicans to sustain the previous filibuster rules, last changed in 1975 when the Senate amended their Standing Rules to reduce the number of Senators required for cloture --- to end debate --- from two-thirds to three-fifths.
Although there had been noise, and urging from many quarters, for a dramatic change of the filibuster rules for some time, especially after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) drew the dubious distinction of becoming the first U.S. Senator in history to filibuster his own bill, the impetus became particularly strong over the past several weeks with the outrageous block put on the nominations of every one of President Obama's nominations to the important D.C. Circuit Court of Appeal, the court which oversees federal regulations.
The result of yesterday's rule change in the U.S. Senate could well be a return, at least in part, to the Constitutionally designed functions of three different branches of government, as envisioned by our founding documents. It may also mark an end to a thirty-year scheme by Republicans to pack the courts with radical, right wing jurists...
Last week, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a former Harvard Law Professor, argued that Senators not only have the right, but a constitutional duty to change the Senate filibuster rules. She argued, in no small part to her fellow Democrats, that the rules were being abused by Republicans as part of a "naked attempt to nullify the results of the last Presidential election [in order] to force us to govern as if President Obama hadn't won the 2012 election."
Her remarks (see video and text transcript below) were made in the wake of the third occasion in which Senate Republicans blocked the nomination of an extraordinarily well-qualified female nominee to the important federal D.C. Circuit Court of Appeal.
"Republicans now hold the dubious distinction of having filibustered all three women that President Obama nominated to the DC Circuit," she said. "Between them, they have argued an amazing 45 cases before the Supreme Court and have participated in many more. All three have the support of a majority of Senators. So why have they been filibustered?"
"Well, the reason is simple," she explained, answering her own question. "They are caught in a fight over the future of our courts. A fight over whether the courts will be a neutral forum that decides every dispute fairly, or whether the courts will be stacked in favor of the wealthy and the powerful."
Yes. The minority party in the U.S. Senate is blocking these nominations, not because of the qualifications of these very well-qualified women, but because they are continuing a thirty-year Republican effort to "rig the courts", as Warren explains, by packing the U.S. federal bench, particularly the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals...
[UPDATED - Video added at bottom. CBS' Logan admits they blew the story. ALSO NOW: Simon & Schuster Rightwing imprint pulls book off shelves.]
A full week after serious doubts were raised concerning 60 Minutes' report on a supposed eye-witness to the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, CBS has finally issued a terse two paragraph statement tonight to announce they are "currently looking into" whether they were "misled" by their star witness.
Here's the full statement:
We are currently looking into this serious matter to determine if he misled us, and if so, we will make a correction.
The statement coincides with new information this evening that appears to further undercut the 60 Minutes report...
In what Washington Post's Karen DeYoung describes as an "explosive report" on CBS' 60 Minutes on Sunday, the venerable TV news magazine offered "a harrowing account of the extremist attack that killed four Americans" at the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya last year.
Naturally, Fox "News" and others on the Right --- such as Sen. Lindsey Graham who promised on Wednesday to block all of President Obama's nominees following the report --- have been trumpeting it all week.
In the report, CBS' Lara Logan interviews a man pseudonymously identified as "Morgan Jones", a British supervisor of security guards protecting the mission. He tells Logan that, as the attack that night went on and four U.S. officials were ultimately killed, he scaled the compound's 12-foot wall, took out an al-Qaeda terrorist "with the butt end of a rifle" and eventually was at the hospital to witness the lifeless corpse of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
But, as reported by DeYoung at WaPo today, that story by "Jones", as offered on 60 Minutes, appears to be completely untrue. That "harrowing account" by "Jones," whose real name is reportedly Dylan Davies, is completely at odds, according to the Post, with the written account that he "provided to his employer three days after the attack" when he said he was nowhere near the diplomatic compound on the night of the deadly tragedy...
On Thursday, despite a deal said to have been struck with Democrats in August, Senate Republicans successfully used the filibuster to block meaningful economic reform again.
With just 42 Republican votes, the GOP was able to block the majority and continue to prevent the President's nominee --- his second --- from taking taking the helm at a crucial federal agency, ensuring the man appointed by George W. Bush would remain in that key role.
In late summer, in "GOP Filibuster Still 'Single Largest Obstacle to Meaningful Economic Recovery'", we explained how the Senate’s Republican minority had successfully used the filibuster to prevent the Obama Administration from replacing Bush Administration holdover Edward DeMarco as head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency(FHFA) . The FHFA is the federal agency which oversees government-sponsored mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which own 60% of all mortgages in the United States.
Last year, in a petition to President Barack Obama, the advocacy group Change.Org described DeMarco as "the single largest obstacle to meaningful economic recovery". That assessment was shared by The New York Times' Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, who called for President Obama to "Fire Ed DeMarco," after DeMarco, in defiance of the Obama Administration, rejected a U.S. Treasury Department request "that he offer debt relief to troubled homeowners --- a request backed by an offer that the U.S. Treasury would pay up to 63 cents to the FHFA for every dollar of debt forgiven."
Although Krugman explained at the time that "a reduction in debt burdens would strengthen the economy," creating "greater revenues" that could "offset any losses from the debt forgiveness itself," DeMarco has consistently sought to protect the Wall Street casino (aka the mortgage backed securities market) against any relief to homeowners who were victimized by those fraudulent schemes.
All of these years later, Republicans in the U.S. Senate, defying the majority will of the American people, continue to help him...
The reasoning employed by Chief Justice John Roberts in Shelby County—that Section 5 of the act was such a spectacular success that it is no longer necessary—was the equivalent of taking down speed cameras and traffic lights and removing speed limits from a dangerous intersection because they had combined to reduce accidents and traffic deaths.
I won't be surprised if history finds the Shelby County ruling, along with Citizens United, to be right up there in the Dred Scott pantheon of terrible rulings by a U.S. Supreme Court. That both occurred within years of each others on the John Roberts Court speaks volumes --- and does not bode well for whatever may still be to come.
How's that for a scary Halloween night posting?...
[This article now cross-published by Salon...]
One of the world's largest ATM manufacturers and, formerly, one of the largest manufacturers of electronic voting systems, has been indicted by federal prosecutors for bribery and falsification of documents.
The charges represent only the latest in a long series of criminal and/or unethical misconduct by Diebold, Inc. and their executives over the past decade.
According to Cleveland's Plain Dealer, a U.S. Attorney says the latest charges are in response to "a worldwide pattern of criminal conduct" by the company....
The two-count criminal information and deferred prosecution agreement calls for Diebold to pay nearly $50 million in penalties: $23 million to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and $25 million to the Department of Justice.
The agreement with federal prosecutors also calls for the implementation of rigorous internal controls that includes a compliance monitor for at least 18 months. The government agreed to defer criminal prosecution for three years, and drop the charges if Diebold abides by the terms of the agreement.
Despite at least $1.75 million in bribes said to have been paid the company around the globe, nobody will go to jail for what U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach describes as their "worldwide pattern of criminal conduct," because they are a corporation --- and you are not.
The $50 million the company has agreed to pay is a mere fraction of the firm's $3 billion in annual revenues. That, even though Diebold is a repeat offender --- which may be describing it mildly...
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