The BRAD BLOG Because it's not about Right or Left, it's about Right and Wrong! 2017-08-23T04:40:28Z Copyright 2017 WordPress Brad Friedman <![CDATA['It's Complicated': Bush's War Became Obama's War Becomes Trump's War in Afghanistan: 'BradCast' 8/22/2017]]> http://bradblog.com/?p=12267 2017-08-23T01:02:26Z 2017-08-23T01:02:26Z Iraq War 9/11 BRAD BLOG Media Appearance War On Terror National Security Afghanistan Accountability Environment Barack Obama Dept. of Defense Joe Biden Bush Legacy EPA KPFK Donald Trump Rand Paul Mitch McConnell Oil U.K. Monsanto BradCast Exxon Mobil Agriculture Jeff Flake On today's BradCast: Now that he's President, after years of decrying "our very stupid leaders" for "wasting" blood and treasure to stay in Afghanistan, Donald Trump announced on Monday night that the U.S. will be spending more blood and treasure to stay in Afghanistan --- for an indefinite period of time. [Audio link to show follows below.]

But, he claimed, justifying his flip-flop, he has a "new" strategy for "victory" in the war torn nation, more than 16 and a half years since the U.S. first invaded following the 9/11 attacks. What exactly is that "new" strategy? Based on his prime-time televised address from Fort Myer in Arlington, VA, it's not entirely clear. Then again, neither is whatever the hell is going on in Afghanistan. "It's complicated," my guest explains today.

Joining me to try and help us understand America's longest war and where it goes from here under the ownership of Donald Trump is blogger, historian and longtime Middle East/South Asia expert JUAN COLE, of the University of Michigan. Professor Cole, who has been writing about this "invisible war" at his "Informed Comment" blog since 2002, describes the difficulties faced by the last three U.S. Presidents in Afghanistan --- not to mention previous colonial powers from other nations --- and how Trump's plans appear to be both different and the same as his two predecessors'.

If President Obama was unable to succeed with his counter-insurgency strategy with 100,000 U.S. troops, it seems unlikely that Trump, with some 12,000 soon to be there, will do much better with his "not nation building --- killing terrorists" strategy.

"There's no real danger the Taliban are going to take over the [Afghan] government and kick us out," Cole tells me, in trying to explain why we are still there. "However, if the U.S. got out, I don't imagine that the government in Kabul would last more than a year."

So, is it possible to ever get out, at this point? What good has 16+ years of bombing, 1 trillion in tax-payer dollars and the lives of some 3,500 U.S. troops --- not to mention untold millions of Afghans --- actually accomplished? We discuss the roots and the reasons for the ongoing quagmire and much more with the good professor.

"Whatever resources and capacity Afghanistan had to be an independent country were destroyed from 1978 forward, once the [Soviet] Communists took over, and then Reagan conducted what I call the 'Reagan Jihad'," Cole explains. "He got all the Muslim fundamentalists all together --- including what became al-Qaeda --- to kill the Communists. Since that time, since 1978 forward, Afghanistan has been roiled and in turmoil. I figure a couple million people have been killed. The country has no real resources. It's one of the poorest countries in the world. So this is just not a place, especially given what was done to it in the last 30 years, that is very likely to stand up a government. This is one of the reasons the U.S. is stuck there."

"The thing that puzzles me --- I can't entirely understand it --- is that no one in the United States cares about Afghanistan. No one cares if we're there or we're not there. If troops are killed over there, it hurts me in my gut. I'm an Army brat. But they put it on page 17 of the Washington Post. And it never comes on cable news," says Cole, adding: "It's an invisible war."

After that conversation today, a quick look at Trump's domestic war with the leadership of his own party and others, before we finally turn to Desi Doyen with the latest Green News Report, on how corporate lobbyists from Monsanto, Exxon and other major corporations continue to game the system for their own profits, while playing the rest of us for suckers...

Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...
[See post to listen to audio]

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]]> Desi Doyen <![CDATA['Green News Report' - August 22, 2017]]> http://bradblog.com/?p=12266 2017-08-22T17:56:00Z 2017-08-22T17:56:00Z Arkansas Environment Green News EPA Oil Climate change Exxon Mobil Agriculture Dept. of Interior Public lands

IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Monsanto pesticide, approved by secret process, is decimating crops; Trump disbands federal climate advisory committee; Appeals court lets Exxon off the hook for Arkansas pipeline spill that destroyed a neighborhood; PLUS: Trump's National Park Service ends ban on plastic disposable water bottles... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

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Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at GreenNews@BradBlog.com or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at GreenNews.BradBlog.com.

IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Trump’s Interior Department cancels mountaintop removal study; CA defies Trump, proves environmental regulation boost economic growth; EPA to delay plan forcing Texas to address coal plant pollution; Murray Energy boss: Trump has broken a promise to coal; Oil refiner's secret campaign against biofuels; Solar advocates get surprising win in NV; VA governor urges Trump to drop VA from offshore drilling expansion; EPA coordinated with Monsanto to slow herbicide review... PLUS: Emails show Trump EPA promised 'new day' for chemical agriculture industry.... and much, MUCH more! ...

STORIES DISCUSSED ON TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...

  • Trump disbands federal climate advisory council:
    • The Trump administration just disbanded a federal advisory committee on climate change (Washington Post):
      “It doesn’t seem to be the best course of action,” said Moss, an adjunct professor in the University of Maryland’s Department of Geographical Sciences, and he warned of consequences for the decisions that state and local authorities must make on a range of issues from building road projects to maintaining adequate hydropower supplies. “We’re going to be running huge risks here and possibly end up hurting the next generation’s economic prospects.”
    • Trump dismisses climate policy advisers (Climate Progress):
      The special report is was supposed to be part of a larger report known as the National Climate Assessment...President Donald Trump seems to be taking care to ensure that its findings will not translate to action. Over the weekend, he disbanded the advisory council created to help policymakers and private officials translate the report’s findings into policy...Environmental groups also worried that disbanding the National Climate Assessment advisory committee would leave the federal government ill-prepared to enact policy aimed at preventing the worst economic and public health consequences associated with climate change.
    • Trump kills plan to protect projects from rising seas; FEMA officials "aghast" at Trump decision to nix flood prep standard (E&E News)

  • Monsanto pesticide dicamba implicated in widespread crop failure:
    • VIDEO: Scant oversight, corporate secrecy preceded U.S. weed killer crisis (Reuters) [emphasis added]:
      As the crisis intensifies, new details provided to Reuters by independent researchers and regulators, and previously unreported testimony by a company employee, demonstrate the unusual way Monsanto introduced its product. The approach, in which Monsanto prevented key independent testing of its product, went unchallenged by the Environmental Protection Agency and nearly every state regulator.

  • National Park Service ends ban on disposable plastic water bottles:
  • Court lets Exxon off the hook for fines in Mayflower, AR pipeline spill:
    • Court Lets Exxon Off Hook for Pipeline Spill in Arkansas Neighborhood (Inside Climate News) [emphasis added]:
      The court said that the "pipeline integrity regulations themselves did not provide ExxonMobil notice that the pipeline's leak history compelled it to label the LF-ERW pipe susceptible to longitudinal seam failure." But Exxon's own testing in the years before the Mayflower spill revealed more than 10 leaks or ruptures—a fact that critics say should speak for itself. "The fact that it had been leaking and that it was ERW pipe should have been enough to clue Exxon in that it was susceptible to a higher risk of seam failure," said Rebecca Craven, program director for the Pipeline Safety Trust.
    • Court overturns Exxon’s fines for major pipeline spill, calling it ‘regrettable’ (Climate Progress):
      Pipeline safety laws don't always keep communities safe...Separately, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) fined Exxon $2.6 million for nine probable violations of safety rules that lead to the spill, including failing to adequately account for risks posed by the pipeline. In reversing the PHMSA’s decision, the Fifth Circuit Court found that Exxon had not failed under the federal law to ensure, to the best of its ability, the safety of the pipeline.
    • Appeals panel voids Exxon pipe-risk order (Arkansas-Democrat Gazette):
      Oil giant followed U.S. integrity regulations at time of 2013 spill, decision says.

  • Polluter fines drop 60 per cent in Trump Administration:
    • Polluter fines drop 60 percent under Trump (Washington Post):
      The Environmental Integrity Project said that the figures showed that the Trump administration is “off to a very slow start” when it comes to enforcing environmental law. It said that the cases this year “are smaller, requiring much less spending on cleanup, and resulting in fewer measurable reductions in pollutants that end up in our air or water.” ...The Trump administration collected $12 million in civil penalties compared to Obama's $36 million...Lawsuits filed by the EPA against polluters also dipped by 24 percent.
    • EPA fines collected against polluters dropped 60% under Trump, report says (CNN)

'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...

For a comprehensive roundup of daily environmental news you can trust, see the Society of Environmental Journalists' Daily Headlines page


FOR MORE on Climate Science and Climate Change, go to our Green News Report: Essential Background Page

  • NASA Video: If we don't act, here's what to expect in the next 100 years:

  • ]]>
    Brad Friedman <![CDATA[Democrats. Remember Them?: 'BradCast' 8/21/2017]]> http://bradblog.com/?p=12265 2017-08-22T00:57:00Z 2017-08-22T00:57:00Z BRAD BLOG Media Appearance DNC Afghanistan War on Middle Class U.S. House U.S. Senate Democrats Republicans Economy KPFK Donald Trump Election 2016 China BradCast Steve Bannon Election 2018 CFPB For a few blessed moments on Monday, the peoples of the United States set politics aside, for the most part, to look skyward, toward the first continent-wide total solar eclipse in the U.S. since 1918. But the welcome distraction from politics in the madness of the Trump Era didn't last long, as reflected on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show follows below.]

    More and more top Republicans and Trump allies continue to publicly distance themselves from this President, following the past tumultuous month of his Presidency (breathlessly summarized today, courtesy of CNN's Brook Baldwin), as capped by his defiant defense last week of the white supremacist rally that turned deadly in Charlottesville.

    Democrats are now reportedly beginning to salivate at the idea that a wave election could be ahead for them in 2018, in which they re-gain control of the U.S. House. But is that hope a realistic one? And is their new "Better Deal" plan to capture the majority, focusing on populist economic issues, enough to get them there?

    We're joined today by financial author and journalist DAVID DAYEN of The Nation and The Intercept (among other places) to discuss the Democratic Party's plan for rebuilding with new populist regulatory agencies and oversight, which Dayen describes as "quietly radical".

    "I don't have high expectations for Democratic campaign plans," he tells me. "But what I will say is that all of the things they've put out thus far all really boil down to one phrase, and that's Fighting Corporate Power."

    He details how, based on the popularity of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), created during the Obama Administration with Elizabeth Warren to fight for consumers rights, Democrats have a host of new oversight organizations that they hope to put in place, in what Dayen describes as the most expansive addition of federal agencies since FDR's Depression-era "New Deal". But, he warns, "credibility is the issue for Democrats --- whether they're going to follow through on this 'people vs. the powerful' rhetoric that they sometimes try to bring up to win elections."

    We discuss that, as well as the debate on the Democratic/progressive side of the aisle between so-called "identity politics" and economic populism, and what he says he should know about all of the business leaders seemingly abandoning Trump and his Presidential economic councils, which have been publicly disbanded in the wake of Charlottesville. Dayen tells me he "can't believe that people are being duped by [it]...All you have to do is look beyond these 'advisory boards' --- which are really nothing more than direct lobbying efforts --- to know that the lobbying has just gone underground!"

    Also, Dayen explains the purported "trade war" with China that Trump's now-former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon was murmuring about on his way out the door last week...

    Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...
    [See post to listen to audio]

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    ]]> Sandy Morganstein <![CDATA[Why I Anonymously Wrote an Election Integrity Novel in 2008, and Why I'm 'Anonymous' No More]]> http://bradblog.com/?p=12262 2017-08-21T16:35:28Z 2017-08-21T16:35:28Z Election Reform Voting System Certification HAVA National Security Paper Ballots Legislation EAC Voting System Standards During the process of building support for turning my novel Cassandra, Chanting into a movie (working title Ballot Holes), several have asked me why I published Cassandra anonymously in 2008. In Cassandra, I imagined foreign powers infiltrating voting machine companies to steal a presidential election…not because they care who won, but because they know this is the clearest shot at undermining American democracy.

    In Greek mythology, as I detail in the book, Cassandra was the Trojan beauty with the gift of prophecy. She was eventually cursed by Apollo to make certain that her prophesies would fall only on deaf ears. (More about the novel, Cassandra, below. Read The BRAD BLOG's 2008 review by Ellen Theisen here.)

    The decision to publish near-future prophecy anonymously was not hard at the time. As an insider at a voting machine company and someone who is critical of the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC), I didn't want the challenges with respect to EAC certification to become more difficult. The EAC creates the rules by which electronic voting and tabulation systems must comply in order to be used in states which require federally certified machines. In some cases, the rules are onerous and do not result in better voting systems. At the time, I was an executive and major shareholder in the Populex Corporation. We had developed a voting system that allowed voters to use a computer to mark a paper ballot, to then be tabulated by an optical-scan system, or even by hand. (Similar so-called "Ballot Marking Devices" or BMDs are currently in development in places like Los Angeles County in California.)

    Complying with the EAC rules (and they change them from time to time) is a very expensive proposition. A book about the dangers posed by our then current (and, mostly still-in-use) electronic voting systems, many of which had previously received EAC approval, might have been seen as a slight to the EAC. Although our company had received EAC approval, it was best not to do anything that they might consider tweaking them...

    The EAC was established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) --- A misnomer if ever there was one. HAVA was passed in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election in which chads were hanging and many argued that votes could not be tallied accurately.

    So, America didn't need help voting…America needed help counting! And America still needs help making voting less vulnerable with tallies more overseeable by the public.

    HAVA created committees of knowledgeable experts to create Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (my emphasis). Trouble is, among these experts were those who had vested interests in extant voting system technology, including many officials who worked for the private vendors hoping to receive certification from the EAC. Over and over and over again the independent experts urged the EAC to require, at the very least, an auditable paper trail…what has come to be known in the lingo as a Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail or the tongue-twisting acronym VVPAT. Computer system experts said time and time again that a VVPAT would not solve all paths to hacking, but it might help to deter at least some of them. I'm still astounded that EAC did not insist that an auditable paper trail --- seemingly, the most minimal requirement --- did not get put into the federal standards. I cannot find a rational explanation.

    The plot in Cassandra imagines throwing an election via the computer code in both hand-marked paper ballot scanners and in touch-screen machines. Because the hacked computer code never uses a party or candidate name, the hack goes undetected by the fictionalized "Federal Bureau of Elections".

    In real life, after experts left the EAC's commissions in frustration and documentaries were made (see Dorothy Fadiman's Stealing America Vote by Vote or HBO's Hacking Democracy or David Earnhardt's Uncounted or Patty Sharaf's Murder, Spies and Voting Lies), papers written (among them, Stanford Professor David Dill and Johns Hopkins Professor Aviel Rubin write in Scientific American, and former ACM president Barbara Simons and others give speeches), I decided to write a fictionalized version of how elections could be hacked and what would happen as a result. I mean, if American wouldn't listen to the facts, maybe some fiction could get the blood boiling.

    The book idea caught on, but Cassandra is still chanting, and officials are still not listening. So, now we are trying to make a movie based on the book…to reach an even larger audience. You can help…please see our Kickstarter page for the Ballot Holes movie here...

    * * *

    Sandy Morganstein received a BS in Physics from MIT and an MS in Astrophysics from the University of Chicago. He holds more than 35 US patents, mostly in telecommunications. His most famous invention is the "Automated Attendant" ("If you know your party's extension, dial it anytime during this recording..."). Other patented inventions include methods and apparatus for voting systems with voter-verifiable paper trails. Follow him on Twitter here: @BallotHolesMovi


    ]]>
    PDiddie <![CDATA[Sunday Toons of the 'Many Sides' Moment]]> http://bradblog.com/?p=12264 2017-08-20T13:41:51Z 2017-08-20T13:41:51Z Toons

    * * *

    Perry Dorrell blogs as PDiddie at Brains and Eggs, usually on topics concerning the strange brew of Texas politics. He's also on Twitter @PDiddie.


    ]]> Brad Friedman <![CDATA[The 25th for 45?; Plus: Bannon Out and Over One Million Chicago Voter Records Exposed (Again): 'BradCast' 8/18/2017]]> http://bradblog.com/?p=12261 2017-08-19T01:03:32Z 2017-08-19T01:03:32Z ES&S BRAD BLOG Election Reform Illinois BRAD BLOG Media Appearance Virginia U.S. Constitution Impeachment Accountability U.S. House U.S. Senate Barack Obama Voter Registration Andrew Breitbart KPFK Donald Trump Climate change BradCast Chicago Mike Pence Steve Bannon Bob Corker Tim Scott On today's BradCast, another tumultuous week, another White House firing, another major election system breach and another look at how it all could end. [Audio link follows below.]

    White House Chief Strategist --- and once and future head of the far-right fake 'news' outlet Breitbart --- is fired after yet another tumultuous week of self-inflicted wounds by Donald Trump.

    Also today, 11 years after The BRAD BLOG first reported exclusively on a massive breach of personal voting records for some 1.5 million Chicago voters, the private company contracted to run the city's voter registration system did it again. ES&S, the largest electronic voting system vendor in the nation, was discovered to have been storing 1.8 million voter registration records on an unprotected web server this week, exposing citizens to data theft and the city's administrative voting system passwords. All underscoring, yet again, the continuing failures and dangers of having privatized our public electoral system, as we've been trying to highlight for nearly 15 years now.

    Then, with the President's approval rating at an historic low and support for his impeachment climbing, concerns about his fitness for office continue to mount in the wake of his equivalence between neo-Nazis and those who protest them, following the murder of a counter-protester in Charlottesville. New articles of impeachment are filed in the U.S. House, more Presidential advisory councils are disbanding, with CEOs and other business leaders (even James Murdoch of Fox "News"!) quickly distancing themselves from Trump, even some top Republicans who previously supported him are now finally suggesting he may be unfit for office.

    So, how might this all end? We're joined today by columnist, author and political scientist DAVID FARIS of Roosevelt University to discuss that, Bannon, and his new piece at The Week on the Constitutional ambiguities of the 25th Amendment. Can it and should it be invoked to remove Trump from office? And how the hell does it even work?

    Faris argues "we cannot take three-and-a-half more years of this nonstop hell without experiencing a collective nervous breakdown," describes the firing of Bannon as "a great victory for The Resistance", and offers his thoughts on whether the latest shake-up at the continuously chaotic White House is ultimately good for the nation. Then, he compares the difficulties of the impeachment process versus those in invoking the never-before-used Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to remove a President who is judged to be unfit for office. Faris also handicaps the odds --- and advantages to both the GOP Congress and Vice-President --- of either option actually being triggered.

    Finally, as if things aren't troubling enough, we're joined by Desi Doyen for the latest Green News Report, as National Monuments are on the Administration's chopping block, Trump revokes Obama's Executive Order protecting the nation's infrastructure, and the U.S. looks forward to its first total eclipse of the sun in nearly 100 years...

    Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...
    [See post to listen to audio]

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    ]]> Brad Friedman <![CDATA[Fighting for Free Speech For and Against Nazis, Trump, and Israel: 'BradCast' 8/17/2017]]> http://bradblog.com/?p=12260 2017-08-18T00:10:42Z 2017-08-18T00:10:42Z Fox 'News' BRAD BLOG Media Appearance War On Terror Virginia Rights And Freedoms North Korea United Nations Mainstream Media Failure Accountability Dept. of Justice U.S. Senate Democrats Republicans Chuck Schumer Israel KPFK Donald Trump Ted Cruz BradCast Religion Race Steve Bannon Spain On today's BradCast: Constitutional free political speech matters, especially speech we may disagree with. There's seems to be a lot of confusion about that of late. [Audio link to show follows below.]

    But first today, after breaking news on Thursday's deadly terror attack in Barcelona, new evidence, via Steve Bannon of all people, that at least some inside the White House appear to understand that "there's no military solution" for North Korea, despite President Trump's dangerous militaristic posturing over the past two weeks.

    Then, we move on to a number of free speech issues regarding last weekend's white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and those protesting against them, a wildly intrusive warrant from the Department of Justice demanding personal information on some 1.3 million Americans who visited an anti-Trump website, and a bill working its way through Congress that would seem to call for a wildly unconstitutional ban on the free speech of those wishing to peacefully protest the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

    We're joined by ANIQA RAIHAN of the Institute for Policy Studies to discuss her article, recently published by The Nation and Foreign Policy in Focus, detailing the proposed "Israel Anti-Boycott Act" which is currently being co-sponsored by nearly 50 Republican and Democratic U.S. Senators. "Leading Republicans and Democrats in both parties," Raihan stresses, including many on the Right who pretend to advocate for both free speech and free markets.

    The bill would make it a felony --- assessing harsh financial penalties and even jail time --- for Americans who boycott Israeli-owned business and companies which do business with them. "What's really scary about it is that it tells you --- no matter what your views are on Israel-Palestine, whether you support a two-state solution or a one-state solution --- as long as you don't do business with Israel, we're going to criminalize you," Raihan explains. "There are tons of people who go through their lives and, for whatever reason, don't happen to buy products made in Israel, and there's no problem with that. But the second that you say 'I'm doing this because I believe in XYZ, I believe in Palestinian human rights', that becomes a problem. Which is completely criminalizing people for their political action, and their commitment to living their values out in their lives."

    The legislation, on its face, appears to be in direct contrast with a unanimous 1982 U.S. Supreme Court opinion, finding that penalties assessed against Mississippi civil rights advocates in response to a 1960's civil rights era boycott of white-owned businesses, was an unconstitutional violation of political free speech rights. Last month, the ACLU blasted the bill in a letter to lawmakers, leading one Democrat, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, to remove her co-sponsorship. We discuss all of that, as well as the origins and controversies behind the new proposal.

    Finally today, yet another Fox "News" personality breaks down in tears on air in response to the controversies and related racial issues following Charlottesville and Trump's disturbing response to it. Is the original fake news channel finally being to crack under the stress of the wildly unfit and arguably racist President that they created?...

    Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...
    [See post to listen to audio]

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    ]]> Desi Doyen <![CDATA['Green News Report' - August 17, 2017]]> http://bradblog.com/?p=12259 2017-08-17T18:31:50Z 2017-08-17T18:31:50Z California Montana Environment Green News Donald Trump Coal Solar Climate change Extreme weather NASA Transportation Dept. of Interior Ryan Zinke

    IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Trump revokes Obama's executive order protecting the nation's infrastructure from floods; July 2017 was the hottest July on record, and the hottest month ever; Monday's total solar eclipse to have big impact on solar energy generation; PLUS: National monuments on the chopping block in unprecedented monument review... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

    Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

    Link:
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    Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at GreenNews@BradBlog.com or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at GreenNews.BradBlog.com.

    IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Court lets Exxon off the hook for Mayflower, AR pipeline damages; Trump EPA to rewrite coal plant wastewater rules; National Park Service ends ban on plastic water bottles; Thousands of dead sharks found on trawler illegally fishing in Galapagos marine sanctuary; Miami taxpayers foot the bill to protect city from climate change; Tough questions at solar panel trade dispute hearing; PA's shad return for first time in hundreds of years after dam removal; Environmental groups lose court challenge to stop LNG export terminal... PLUS: Yemen record 500,000 Cholera Cases, nearly 2,000 Deaths... and much, MUCH more! ...

    STORIES DISCUSSED ON TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...

    'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...

    For a comprehensive roundup of daily environmental news you can trust, see the Society of Environmental Journalists' Daily Headlines page


    FOR MORE on Climate Science and Climate Change, go to our Green News Report: Essential Background Page

  • NASA Video: If we don't act, here's what to expect in the next 100 years:

  • ]]>
    Brad Friedman <![CDATA[After Charlottesville, Trump's Presser: Something Happening Here?: 'BradCast' 8/16/2017]]> http://bradblog.com/?p=12258 2017-08-17T00:57:56Z 2017-08-17T00:57:56Z Fox 'News' Election Reform Indiana Texas BRAD BLOG Media Appearance Maryland Virginia Election 2008 Rights And Freedoms U.S. Constitution Impeachment Accountability Barack Obama Vote Caging Mitt Romney Republicans KPFK Donald Trump Voting Rights Act BradCast Religion India Race Mike Pence On today's BradCast: Is something happening here? Finally? [Audio link to show follows below.]

    Following Donald Trump's insane press conference at Trump Tower on Tuesday, during which he vociferously equated neo-Nazis and White Supremacists with those who oppose them --- just days after the murder of a counter-protester by an apparent White nationalist in Charlottesville --- even some Republicans are finally condemning him. Sort of. But not nearly enough.

    At the same time, Confederate monuments are being removed around the country and business leaders who claim to be furious have withdrawn from Trump's two different business councils, which he has now been forced to shut down. Nonetheless, despite their half-hearted protestations, Republicans continue to intentionally suppress minority voting in state after state. Another Federal Court determined as much this week in Texas, finding --- for the 11th time in recent years --- that state Republicans intentionally suppressed minority voters there.

    Another such state is Vice President Mike Pence's Indiana, where a new analysis from the Indy Star finds that early voting sites were shuttered in Democratic counties and expanded in Republican counties after Obama won the state in 2008, and as Pence served as Governor. The strategy worked. Republican turnout increased in counties where voting rights were expanded and Democratic votes decreased in the state's largest and most Democratic leaning counties, where voting sites were shuttered. Now Pence heads up Trump's so-called "Election Integrity" Commission.

    Long-time BRAD BLOG legal analyst ERNEST A. CANNING joins us to detail his new article on the two federal lawsuits, alleging violations of both the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution, that have now been filed in the Hoosier State.

    Then, along with a clip of a GOP strategist breaking down into tears on Fox "News" in the wake of Trump's response to Charlottesville, callers --- including my own father! --- ring in on all of the above. Is Trump "a Nazi" himself? Will this moment ultimately make any difference moving forward? And, can the GOP officials rebuking Trump be taken seriously, given that they are still suppressing the votes of African-Americans and Latinos all across the nation at the very same time?...

    Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...
    [See post to listen to audio]

    * * *
    While we post The BradCast here every day, and you can hear it across all of our great affiliate stations and websites, to automagically get new episodes as soon as they're available sent right to your computer or personal device, subscribe for free at iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn or our native RSS feed!
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    ]]> Ernest A. Canning <![CDATA[Federal Lawsuits Challenge Indiana's Wildly Disparate Precinct, Early Voting Site Laws]]> http://bradblog.com/?p=12252 2017-08-16T17:35:10Z 2017-08-16T17:35:10Z Election 2008 Rights And Freedoms U.S. Constitution Barack Obama John McCain Republicans Voting Rights Act Election 2018 In two separate federal lawsuits, Common Cause v Marion County Board of Elections (May 2, 2017) and Indiana NAACP v. Lawson (Aug. 9, 2017), both challenging restrictions on voting rights in Indiana, civil rights organizations have sought to block what they describe as unconstitutional Republican schemes that, with "surgical precision", seek to depress the vote in large minority, Democratic-leaning counties while contemporaneously enhancing voter turnout in white, Republican-leaning counties.

    The lawsuits entail two sets of laws. One of the lawsuits seeks to block a law that specifically targets Lake County --- and only Lake County --- for precinct consolidation and/or elimination. Lake County sports the state's second largest African-American population and its largest Hispanic population. The other lawsuit challenges a voter suppression scheme that significantly reduces early absentee voting sites for a significant number of African-American (Democratic) voters in Marion County, even while mostly white (Republican) voters in neighboring counties benefit from a significant expansion in the number of available early absentee voting sites.

    Both sets of laws, as observed by Slate's Mark Joseph Stern, are part of the still-ongoing Republican response to the 2008 Presidential Election in which Barack Obama narrowly defeated John McCain 49.85% to 48.82% in long-Republican Indiana. That narrow victory was secured, in part, because, in the two populous counties that are the subject of these lawsuits, Lake and Marion, Obama received 66.7% and 63.8% of the vote totals, respectively.

    That was a bridge too far for many Republican officials in the Hoosier State...

    Early voting sites

    Marion County, which includes the city of Indianapolis, has the highest percentage (28%) of African-Americans in Indiana. The Common Cause lawsuit seeks to enjoin the Indiana GOP's effort to significantly suppress the early absentee African-American Democratic vote in Marion County. Under a Marion County Board of Elections (MCEB) 2008 rule, registered voters in Marion County could cast early absentee ballots at one of three polling stations --- a central location and two satellite locations.

    Republicans on the MCEB eliminated the two satellite locations in 2010 and have repeatedly blocked their reinstatement. This meant that in 2016, there was but a single absentee early voting station for Marion County's nearly 700,000 registered voters. Just one early voting station per 699,709 registered voters in Marion County sharply contrasts with contiguous, and mostly White, Republican counties, who's election boards unanimously expanded the numbers of their early voting sites in 2016.

    For example, in solidly Republican Johnson County (107,546 registered voters), election officials approved five (5) early voting sites, in addition to a site inside the office of the Circuit Court Clerk. Thus, during the 2016 election, Johnson County had one early voting site for every 17,924 registered voters --- as compared to just one for 699,709 voters in Marion County.

    The result, as revealed by Fatima Hussein of IndyStar last week, was a 63% increase in White/Republican Hamilton County "in absentee voting from 2008 to 2016, while Marion County saw a 26% decline." Similar increases in early voting occurred in "Central Indiana Republican strongholds, including Boone, Johnson and Hendricks counties."

    Where the elimination of two of the three early voting sites served to suppress Democratic Marion County turnout in the 2012 and 2016 elections, "voter turnout in each county contiguous to Marion County where satellite sites have been approved has steadily increased," according to the Common Cause complaint.

    The issue stems also from a 2013 law that applied different rules to "counties with populations over 325,000", requiring that the adoption of additional early absentee voting sites receive unanimous approval by the county election board. That means that the single Republican on Marion's election commission has been able to block any expansion for its 700,000 voters. Only two of the state's 92 counties, Marion and Lake, had poulations larger than 325,000 when the state legislature adopted the bill in 2013.

    In arguing that this disparate availability of early absentee voting in different Indiana counties violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Common Cause complaint alleges that Indiana has maintained "an unequal system of early voting that unnecessarily and disproportionately burdens Marion County voters"...

    The only location authorized for early voting: the office of the Marion County Circuit Court Clerk, is located in the heart of downtown Indianapolis...with little to no free parking. For some voters in the outlying townships, a trip downtown can be more than a 20-mile round trip and takes well over an hour by private vehicle, and two or more hours by public transportation.

    Many Marion County voters, and especially those of color, also experience disadvantages in education, income, employment, and access to transportation, which when compounded by complications caused by childcare responsibilities and/or class schedules, makes it extremely difficult if not impossible for them to vote on Election Day. These disadvantages interact with other pre-existing election laws, including the earliest Election Day closing time in the nation (6:00 p.m.), the absence of an Indiana statute requiring employers to give employees time off to vote, and the absence of no-fault, mail-in absentee voting for able-bodied voters under the age of 65, to further exacerbate the burdens on Marion County voters by the arbitrary limitation of early in-person absentee voting to a single location.

    Common Cause additionally alleges that this disparate system violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment and the Indiana Constitution, which guarantees that all elections be "free and equal."

    The lawsuit seeks to establish at least two additional satellite early absentee voting locations for the 2018 election via an injunction that would prevent the MCEB from continuing to obstruct the creation of those satellite voting locations.

    Consolidation/reduction of precincts

    The NAACP lawsuit challenges a law, SB 220 (The Lake County Precinct Consolidation Law or LCPCL) , passed by the Republican super-majority in the state's General Assembly earlier this year. The law mandates the consolidation of "small precincts" (600 "active" voters or less). Curiously, this "consolidation" was purportedly passed as a cost savings measure, despite the fact that the "consolidation" had not been sought by Lake County. (The complaint alleges that the General Assembly usurped Lake County's right to determine what cost measures are appropriate.)

    There are a total of 92 Indiana counties, including 24 other counties with "small precincts", yet the General Assembly arbitrarily singled out Lake County --- and only Lake County --- for precinct consolidation or elimination, according to the NAACP complaint.

    Because of the definition of "small precinct," even within Lake County, the law has a disparate impact upon minority-majority cities --- Gary, East Chicago and Hammond --- which face consolidation or elimination of 83%, 70% and 81% of their existing precincts, respectively. This contrasts sharply with the 14 majority-White cities, towns, and unincorporated communities where only 41% of their existing precincts are at risk of consolidation or elimination of their existing precincts. "None of the approximately 1,345 precincts located in Indiana counties other than Lake County that contain under 600 active voters are at risk of consolidation or elimination," according to the NAACP complaint.

    The NAACP complaint alleges disparate burdens that are quite similar to those in the Common Cause case.

    Given that Lake County lacks a meaningful, reliable public transportation system, voters who live in poverty and do not have access to a car --- in many cases as a direct result of Indiana's history of discrimination --- will suffer particularly severe burdens in attempting to exercise their right to vote if their precinct is eliminated and their polling place is changed. Low-income voters who typically have little flexibility in their work day and must vote during a narrow window before or after work will similarly suffer severe burdens.

    The NAACP complaint goes on to allege that the LCPCL will increase costs, and that, by compressing large number of voters into fewer voting sites, the consolidation will enhance the prospect for long lines on Election Day.

    These allegations are consistent with the conclusions set forth in a recent University of Florida research paper, prepared by three political science professors, who studied the impact of precinct consolidation/elimination in Manatee County, Florida.

    Alterations of Election Day polling stations do not appear to be random --- falling disproportionately on racial and ethnic minorities as well as younger voters and those registered to vote with the Democratic Party...Not only can seemingly benign changes to precinct boundaries and polling place locations marginalize voters who habitually depend on traditional Election Day voting, it can affect their propensity to vote at all in a subsequent election. As with legislative gerrymandering, the redrawing of precincts can be done with the aim of advantaging or disadvantaging the turnout of certain populations.

    The NAACP complaint goes on to note that the Lake County law fails to include funds for educating voters about the changes: "It is highly likely that a significant number of voters will be unaware that their precincts or polling locations have changed until they attempt to vote in 2018." Voters could "be turned away, or be forced to cast a provisional ballot that will not be counted because Indiana law mandates the rejection of any ballot cast by a voter in a precinct other than the one he or she is assigned."

    The NAACP complaint alleges that the LCPCL violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, along with the 1st, 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution; that the law is arbitrary and fails to serve a valid governmental interest; that emergency and permanent injunctions should issue to prevent the State of Indiana from enforcing the law.

    The legal arguments presented in both cases appear sound, but the cases will have to move swiftly if minority voting rights are to be protected as we approach the 2018 midterm election.

    * * *

    Ernest A. Canning is a retired attorney, author, Vietnam Veteran (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968) and a Senior Advisor to Veterans For Bernie. He has been a member of the California state bar since 1977. In addition to a juris doctor, he has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science. Follow him on twitter: @cann4ing


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