IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Sec. John Kerry slams climate change deniers in government; More whistleblowers corroborate a Florida ban on 'climate change'; Solar energy is booming, in the good, non-explosive, jobs-creating kind of way; PLUS: Great news for the oil industry! Thanks to the oil industry, Arctic sea ice heads to a record low....All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): World record-breaking 8 ft of snow in 18 hours hits Italy; Scientists near breakthrough on artificial photosynthesis; Leaked emails reveal who' who list of climate denialists; India to hide pollution data from the public; Math and myth clash in Senate hearing on Clean Power Plan; The Hydraulic Hypothesis and the 'ends' of civilization; Plastic runs through everything; Farmers take up no-till agriculture ... PLUS: Unlike temperatures, climate change deniers falling fast... and much, MUCH more! ...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Another day, another two oil train explosions; In Florida, the first rule of global warming is don't talk about global warming; Fukushima Nuclear Disaster still a disaster, four years later; PLUS: The world's first solar-powered plane soars into aviation history....All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Rate of climate change predicted to soar in 2020s; 10 myths about fossil fuel divestment; EPA failed to warn residents about contaminated water; The promise of energy storage; Time to worry about exploding Siberian craters?; Houston Ship Channel closed after collision and MTBE spill; Millions of songbirds slaughtered in Cyprus ... PLUS: How the Merchants of Doubt push global warming denial on your television... and much, MUCH more! ...
On the stump this week for Republican candidates, NJ's Gov. Chris Christie said GOP governors need to win this year, so they can be in control of the "voting mechanisms" during what he believes might be his own run for President in 2016. He cited three races in particular, in three states that would be crucial to him as the GOP nominee, as reported by New Jersey's The Record...
Governor Christie pushed further into the contentious debate over voting rights than ever before, saying Tuesday that Republicans need to win gubernatorial races this year so that they're the ones controlling "voting mechanisms" going into the next presidential election.
Republican governors are facing intense fights in the courts over laws they pushed that require specific identification in order to vote and that reduce early voting opportunities. Critics say those laws sharply curtail the numbers of poor and minority voters, who would likely vote for Democrats. Christie - who vetoed a bill to extend early voting in New Jersey - is campaigning for many of those governors now as he considers a run for president in 2016.
Christie stressed the need to keep Republicans in charge of states - and overseeing state-level voting regulations - ahead of the next presidential election.
"Would you rather have Rick Scott in Florida overseeing the voting mechanism, or Charlie Crist? Would you rather have Scott Walker in Wisconsin overseeing the voting mechanism, or would you rather have Mary Burke? Who would you rather have in Ohio, John Kasich or Ed FitzGerald?" he asked.
Great questions, Governor Christie! Let's take a crack at offering some answers for ya...
We touched on this a bit in yesterday's Green News Report, but this new "I'm not a scientist" tactic now emerging from Republicans, as played most recently by Speaker John Boehner, is noteworthy enough --- and cowardly enough...and purposely deceptive enough --- to look at just a bit closer.
It's a fairly clever new ruse to avoid what folks like Boehner know to be absolutely true, but which, for a number of reasons, they're not allowed to say outloud anymore.
On a party-line vote, a Florida county's Republican majority Board of County Commissioners voted Tuesday to eliminate almost one-third of Manatee County's voting sites. The board accepted a proposal by Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett (R) by a 6-1 vote to trim the number of precincts, despite unanimous public testimony against the move - and complaints by the lone Democratic Commissioner that it would eliminate half of the polling places in his heavily minority District 2.
In the public comment section of the meeting, all ten speeches strongly opposed the move. Representatives of the local NAACP and Southern Christian Leadership Council warned that the cuts would decrease voter turnout because voters would have to travel further to a polling place, especially among the elderly and people without cars, and noted that the cuts disproportionately affected minority-heavy precincts.
Bennett assured the commission that if lines are longer in 2014 as a result of these changes, he would ask them to revisit the decision in 2015, before the 2016 elections.
Manatee's Supervisor of Elections Bennett, as Israel points out, is no stranger to voter suppression. In fact, he seems to rather love it. While serving as a State Senator in 2011, he endorsed a Republican bill to limit early voting during the 2012 Presidential election by explaining: "I wouldn't have any problem making it harder. I would want them to vote as badly as I want to vote. I want the people of the state of Florida to want to vote as bad as that person in Africa who's willing to walk 200 miles...This should not be easy."
Hmmm..."That person in Africa". Just a common turn of phrase, apparently.
That 2011 bill was eventually passed, signed by Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott and successfully created hours-long lines for (certain) voters in the Sunshine State in 2012.
Those days of pretending to give a damn about voting rights must be over for some Florida Republicans, however, particularly with Scott up for re-election this year and his polling numbers looking fairly bleak against his likely challenger, former Republican Governor turned Democratic candidate Charlie Crist.
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Gainesville, Florida, in an attempt to avoid the six-hour lines that characterized last Election Day, sought approval to use the University of Florida's student union as an early voting site. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner denied the request, sparking outrage.
Detzner justified the decision by claiming that the Reitz student union does not fit the list of eligible early voting sites, which was expanded last year to reduce lines. Now, municipalities can use fairgrounds, government-owned community centers, convention centers, stadiums, courthouses, civic centers, and county commission buildings. "The terms 'convention center' and 'government-owned community center' cannot be construed so broadly as to include the Reitz Union," the state's Division of Elections argued.
Local officials contend that the Reitz Union qualifies as a government-owned community center, as it is part of a public university.
"I'm very upset about this," Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards told the Tampa Bay Times. "I just can't understand why they feel the need to be so restrictive about where people are allowed to vote...This is strategic. They're worried about young people voting."
Instead, UF students will have to travel more than five miles off campus in order to cast their vote in the March special election --- a difficult trip for a mostly car-less population.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that the Reitz student union is "used as a regular voting precinct in county, state and national elections. About 50,000 students attend UF, and the city said the request to use the Reitz Union for early voting came from a group of students."
Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters, called the decision "jaw dropping".
The Times quotes Senate Ethics & Elections Chairman Jack Latvala (R), described as the sponsor of SB 600, "the 2013 law that expanded early voting sites", claiming that "we really did not specifically allow for [early voting sites] to be on campus."
However, HB 7013 (the companion bill in the FL House to SB 600, the one that was actually passed and signed into law) says nothing about disallowing early voting cites that are on campus. It reads specifically (see page 25 [PDF])...
At this point, the slogan for Republican Secretaries of State around the country seems to be: "If it ain't broke, break it!"
That's certainly the case in Florida, where Sec. of State Ken Detzner --- fresh off his and Governor Rick Scott's embarrassing and failed 2012 purge of supposed "non-citizen voters" from the rolls (with another more recent attempt underway since then) --- is at it again. And this time, Detzner seems to be facing a full-blown uprising from county Supervisors of Elections (SOE) refusing to carry out a new directive which would make it more difficult for absentee voters to cast their ballot.
The elected SOEs are claiming that the new directive by Detzner, an appointee of Gov. Rick Scott (R), was neither asked for nor necessary under state law. They Supervisors have also denied Detzner's initial claim that the directive was issued in response to requests by two SOEs.
Last week, Detzner issued a directive [PDF] to county SOEs instructing them that they may no longer allow voters to use secured remote absentee ballot drop-off stations created at locations like public libraries and tax-collectors offices. Suddenly, according to Detzner's new rules, all absentee ballots must either be mailed in, or dropped off at county election offices.
The directive was issued just prior to an upcoming special election to replace the late, long-serving Republican Congressman Bill Young in the 13th Congressional District, and it has led to both suspicion for its motives, and somewhat of a bi-partisan mutiny from election officials, leading one well-known Florida SOE to respond tersely to The BRAD BLOG's request for comment last week this way: "I do have a comment, legally it's not worth the paper it's printed on"...
The struggle to protect the fundamental right to vote for people with a felony conviction is nothing new in this country, but has now reached a crisis level.
Florida, unsurprisingly, has one of the worst records when it comes to felon re-enfranchisement. While other states revoke the right to vote of a person convicted of a felony most states restore voting rights once a person has completed his or her sentence, and provide a streamlined process for restoration of rights. Florida, in contrast, has erected a convoluted, antiquated and ineffective system which makes it virtually impossible for anyone to get his or her rights restored. The result is that tens of thousands of applications for rights restoration have remained in limbo for years. Election after election passes, with fewer and fewer Florida citizens able to participate.
Earlier this month, the ACLU and other civil rights organizations detailed the crisis of felon disfranchisement and the barriers to rights restoration in a Shadow Report submitted to the UN Committee on Human Rights, explaining U.S. non-compliance with its obligations as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The report highlights how, as of 2010, Florida has disfranchised more than 1.5 million citizens due to a felony conviction – amounting to 10.42 percent of the state's voting age population and 23.3 percent of Florida's African-American voting age population.
The arbitrary nature of Florida's rights restoration process is best illustrated by how the change in the state's administration – from Gov. Charlie Crist to Gov. Rick Scott – resulted in a shift from 115,000 grants of rights restoration in 2007 to a shutdown in the process in 2011, with the current governor denying or rendering ineligible the overwhelming majority of applications.
Good thing they don't have close elections in Florida.
In a ruling hailed by voting rights advocates today, Arizona's requirement that newly registered voters submit proof of citizenship with their registration has been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 7-2 decision. Justice Antonin Scalia authored the opinion for the majority, while Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented.
The court rejected provisions of Proposition 200, a ballot measure approved by AZ voters in 2004, which mandated that state election officials reject all applications to register to vote that did not include documentary proof of citizenship. Those documents, however, are not currently required by the Federal Form for voter registration, as approved by the Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) pursuant to provisions of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).
Today's ruling in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona [PDF], is grounded upon the plenary power given to Congress by the Elections Clause (Art. I §4 of the U.S. Constitution) empowering Congress to preempt state regulations governing the "Times, Places and Manner" of holding federal elections. The court found that the NVRA mandate that states "accept and use" the Federal Form for voter registration takes precedence, and that Prop 200 is invalid because it conflicts with the Congressional intent that the NVRA help ease the ability of citizens to register to vote.
Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia observed that if a state could "demand of Federal Form applicants every additional piece of information the State requires…the Federal Form ceases to perform any meaningful function, and would be a feeble means of 'increas[ing] the number of eligible citizens who register to vote in elections for Federal office.'"
This does not close the door on the issue altogether, however. Justice Scalia noted that, pursuant to the NVRA, any state can ask that "the EAC alter the Federal Form to include information the State deems necessary to determine eligibility." If the EAC then rejects such a request, the state "may challenge the EAC's rejection of that request [in court]"...
The statement calls for extending Early Voting (back to what it had been before he restricted) and included the straight-faced announcement that "Our ultimate goal must be to restore Floridians’ confidence in our election system."
Yes, the man who destroyed the tenuous confidence that had been restored in Florida's election system by former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, is now calling for reforms to hasten the restoration of "Floridian's confidence in our election system."
All of this, as luck would have it, comes just in time for both the mid-term elections in 2014 and the incredibly unpopular Governor's own re-election contest that same year.
Scott's full, embarrassing statement on his recommendations for improving the electoral system that he almost single-handedly screwed up, on purpose, follows below...
FL's former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist says the GOP's suggestion "that there's some massive fraud going on" by Florida voters is "laughable".
Rachel Maddow's entire intro and interview with Crist last night is very much worth watching, and so we'll post both at the bottom of this article. But one point in particular during the interview with the Republican-turned-independent needs to be highlighted here.
The contrast couldn't be more stark from his successor, the reprehensible current Governor Rick Scott, who spent much of this past election year rolling back Crist's improvement to the voting system, in an attempt to keep legal, Democratic-leaning voters from being able to cast their vote at all, as even other Republican officials in the state are now beginning to admit out loud.
In the following, powerful clip from Maddow's full interview last night, she asks Crist, as the former Republican Governor of Florida, about the ridiculously transparent claims by the GOP that restrictions on voter registration, the right to vote by former felons, and the shortening of early voting is "only about voter fraud" and "voting integrity."
"Is it clear to you that is just bunk?," she asks Crist who replies directly in turn: "It's crystal clear to me. You couldn't be more right, in my humble opinion. And, you know, we can say this about all these road bloacks that are put in the way of people exercising their right to vote, and we saw it in a dramatic fashion this last Election Day in Florida"...
Rachel Maddow's full intro to the interview with Charlie Christ, describing how and why he was purged by the party (likely had something to do with his progressive position on democracy!) and the full 11/27/12 interview with the former Republican FL Governor, both follow below...
Florida's Republican Governor Rick Scott's announcement yesterday would be somewhat akin to George W. Bush asking then FEMA Chief, Michael "Heckuva Job" Brown to head up a review of how FEMA and the Federal government performed in responding to Hurricane Katrina. Or, perhaps asking Karl Rove or Dick Cheney to get to the bottom of that whole Valerie Plame outing thing.
The only worse, less independent person who could possibly be chosen to head up a "review" of what went wrong in this year's disastrous election in Florida would be Scott himself.
Scott has already, repeatedly since Election Day, declared that he did "the right thing" by slashing Early Voting from 14 days to just 8 in Florida this year, and then refusing to expand those hours on the weekend before the election --- unlike both of his Republican predecessors Governors Charlie Crist and even Jeb Bush --- once it became clear that voters were standing in line for 6, 7 hours and longer simply trying to cast their vote...
This is just shameful. Embarrassing for the entire nation. Again. How FL Governor Rick Scott and Ken Detzner, both Republicans, sleep at night I cannot imagine. That, even after both of their Republican predecessors, Governors Charlie Crist and Jeb Bush had the decency to extend early voting hours when lines began snaking around the block in previous years (and we've never had much good to say about Jeb Bush's administration of elections!)
Scott cut Early Voting from 14 days in 2008 to just 8 days this year in the Sunshine State because, apparently, there was just too damned much voting and democracy and stuff going on in 2008.
As Scott refuses to budge, despite the hours-long lines to vote --- as much as 6 hours in many places --- Democrats have been forced to go to court to sue for expanded Early Voting hours at the last minute, as Lizette Alvarez details at New York Times. A judge has already granted four additional hours in one county, after Early Voting had to be temporarily stopped there for a number of hours due to a suspicious object, which had to be detonated by the bomb squad, was left at one of the polling place. But, ultimately, the suits will most likely be too little, too late at this point.
Last night, in a special Saturday broadcast, MNSBC's Rachel Maddow detailed this weekend's Florida disgrace...
Be sure to notice the scenes --- documented in photo after photo, at Early Voting polling place after polling place in the video above --- of lines around the block with people trying to do nothing more than simply cast their vote in the Presidential Election in Florida. Imagine how many voters saw those lines and simply decided not to bother, or were too elderly or infirm to be able to stand there for six hours.
Well, at least it's not like Florida is a state with a history of close elections, or one that's expected to be close at all this year. Most importantly, remember: "We are the world's greatest democracy", right?
After days of long lines and long waits for early voting, Florida Democrats asked Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, to extend early voting. It now ends on Saturday, because Republicans cut the number of days for early voting in half. Citing heavy turnout, Dems and League of Women Voters asked Governor Scott to restore voting this Sunday, the last day for "Souls to the Polls" drives before the election.
"Early voting will end Saturday night," Scott told reporters in response to the request. "But I want everybody to get out to vote."
Scott's Republican predecessor, Governor Charlie Christ, extended early voting in 2008 because voters were waiting in line for several hours. Then Barack Obama won the state, and Florida Republicans decided fewer days would be better somehow.
The attempt to hold down Democratic turnout is obvious. In prior years, more Democrats than Republicans have taken advantage of early voting. Many African-American church congregations organized trips to the polls after Sunday services.
So, this year Republicans allowed only one Sunday of early voting.
I tried to vote early on Saturday, but there were two-hour lines at the only open polling station in South Beach. So I gave up. I tried again Monday, but the wait was still an hour and a half. So I decided to come back Tuesday. It took 45 minutes in line, plus 15 minutes wading through 10 pages of intentionally incomprehensible ballot questions, but I voted. If I didn’t have such a flexible work schedule—and if I didn’t write about public policy for a living—maybe I wouldn’t have.
The fight to simply cast a vote this year in the United States is a disgrace. One which the world, once again, is watching.
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UPDATE 11/4/12: Disgraceful. Voters forced to wait 6 hours to Early Vote in Democratic-leaning county after Democratic-leaning county. Take a look at the pictures in Maddow's coverage Saturday night below...