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...
It was a crazy weekend --- and that may be an understatement --- in St. Lucie County, Florida, as the fight continued over the questionable, completely unverified-by-humans, and extremely close computer-reported election results between Rep. Allen West (R) and Patrick Murphy (D) in the U.S. House race for Florida's 18th Congressional District.
Two things, if nothing else however, have become clear. 1) The Florida Democrats supporting the unverified computer-tallied results, which reportedly offer a slim margin in Murphy's favor, have become virtually indistinguishable from the Republicans who supported George W. Bush over Al Gore in the state during the 2000 Presidential Election debacle, and for the same, unjustifiable and partisan reasons. 2) Allen West has terrible and incompetent election attorneys.
Here's a recap of all that has happened --- and there has been quite a bit --- over the weekend, since we last covered the race on Friday, just after a St. Lucie Circuit Court judge denied West's motion demanding a retabulation of all eight days of Early Voting ballots in the county and just before the county's Canvassing Board took up the same issue shortly thereafter in what became a seven hour meeting of the board to determine how to proceed.
(And all of that in the wake of a previous partial retally of three out of eight days worth of early votes had resulted in the unexplained disappearance of some 800 votes when the same paper ballots were run through the same machines a second time due to unexplained "issues" with the electronic tabulation systems the first time around. That initial re-tally had resulted in a net gain of some 500 votes by West.)
The insane weekend events included a two-day machine "retabulation" of all Early Voting ballots in St. Lucie (one of three counties, along with Martin and Palm Beach, that make up FL-18); the discovery of more than 300 previously-untallied early ballots in the same county; new computer-reported tallies resulting in pick-ups by both candidates, for an overall gain of nearly 300 votes by the current leader Murphy; and a County Supervisor of Elections who ended up spending the weekend in the hospital...
Lisa Graves, of The Center for Media and Democracy [CMD], is "asking citizens to contact their Senator and demand hearings on the way 'dark money' has stealthily influenced the election." The CMD's proposal includes a specific demand that Charles and David Koch be subpoenaed to testify --- something which, Graves explains, the oil and chemical magnate brothers evaded some 15 years ago when U.S. Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) blocked efforts to force them to testify about their use of front groups to influence elections.
Unlike the GOP, whose calls for "Watergate-style" Benghazi hearings have been described as "political theater," the incoming 55-member Senate Democratic Caucus is in a position to conduct a broad and thorough set of hearings that could expose the ever-present threat to the very survival of democratic governance by what former Vice President Henry A. Wallace described as "the American fascist."
Coming within the context of near universal opposition to the flood of corporate money that drown out the voices of ordinary citizens, such hearings could also serve to catapult growing calls to not only overturn the infamous Citizens United decision but to end the concept of "corporate personhood" and establish that money is not "free speech."
A Circuit Court Judge in St. Lucie County today denied Florida's Republican Rep. Allen West's motion to order a re-tally of all Early Voting ballots in the county, after a partial re-tally of Early Votes last Sunday resulted in the disappearance of some 800 votes in the FL-18 U.S. House race between West and Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy.
It the second denial for West, a "Tea Party" favorite, in a Florida court room, where he had previously filed a motion to impound paper ballots and voting systems before all ballots had even yet been run through them.
"In denying West's motion," the paper said, "Vaughn noted the [St. Lucie County] canvassing board is considering the issue at a meeting this afternoon. The judge also said that West has other legal remedies - specifically mentioning a statute that allows a candidate to contest an election within 10 days of the final certification of results. That certification is scheduled for Tuesday."
Murphy's attorney argued in response that there was "no basis for a full recount of early votes and if the canvassing board orders a full recount of them, the Murphy campaign will go to court to try to block it."
"If the canvassing board were to decide that they want to do that without any evidentiary basis to do so, we'll be back before your honor with a motion for injunctive relief against them doing it because under the law the statute that we cited for your honor they have absolutely no right to do it," the Post quotes Murphy attorney Gerald Richman as arguing in court today.
No "evidentiary basis"? Really? A partial selection of ballots --- just the last three days of eight days of Early Voting --- are re-tallied by the same machines that tallied them originally, but give a completely different result the second time they are tallied and that isn't "evidentiary basis" for re-tallying all of the votes? If that isn't a basis for a full public hand-count of all ballots, I'm not sure what is. Unfortunately, without a court order, thanks to the state's Republican legislature following the 2000 Presidential Election debacle in that state, it's illegal to hand-count paper ballots once they've been tallied by an electronic machine.
[Update: See bottom of story for update on what happened at the canvassing board on Friday, and much more!]
I was on Thom Hartmann's TV show, The Big Picture, last night to discuss the FL-18 U.S. House mess where West currently trails Murphy by a very slim margin, according to oft-failed, easily-manipulated, paper ballot optical-scan computers made by three different private companies in the three different counties that make up Florida's newly redistricted 18th Congressional District.
As we've covered in detail here at The BRAD BLOG, a margin of some 2,400 votes out of some 330,000 votes tallied as of last Friday was dwindled down to just under 2,000 votes as of last Sunday when St. Lucie County --- one of the three, along with Martin and Palm Beach Counties, that make up FL-18 --- carried out a partial re-tally of Early Voting ballots due, they say, to an unexplained "issue" on the Diebold optical-scan systems used to tally those ballots in the county.
Nonetheless, at this time, West is still some 250 votes shy of a mandated state "recount" which is triggered when the margin is .5% or less. Currently, the margin is just eight one-hundredths of a percentage point shy of that mark, at .58%, with West having filed his court for an expanded re-tally of all Early Voting ballots in St. Lucie earlier this week. While his court motion had called for a full re-tally of all Early Votes in St. Lucie, the motion failed to request a re-tally of either Election Day votes, absentee ballots or any of the ballots in FL-18's other two counties, for unexplained reasons (the West campaign has not replied to our queries on that) as we also discussed on Hartmann's show...
West did file an amended complaint this morning before the hearing, seeking a re-tally of absentee ballots in St. Lucie as well, after the campaign claimed they had found "significant problems" with the records for some of those votes, charging that the number of absentee ballots in some precincts exceeds the number of voters listed as casting absentee ballots there...
And, by the way, for those GOP dupes who point to that infamous --- and extremely misleading --- Red/Blue map of states as evidence of...anything, really, here's a much more helpful map of what the U.S. actually looks like right now, such as where there are actually people and stuff, courtesy of TPM:
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT:Some justice in the Gulf: Record fines for BP in Gulf Oil Spill disaster; October 2012 the 2nd hottest on record; CA launches landmark cap-and-trade system; PLUS: The Superstorm Sandy Effect: Obama says it's time to tackle climate change --- sort of ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Refineries ran while 'offline,' yet gas prices rose; British government files charges against nuclear waste plant owners; Scientists show changing wind patterns are key driver of Antarctica's growing sea ice; EU climate head wants Obama to pull his weight in global warming talks... PLUS: Energy Independence: In Germany, everyone can be an energy producer ... and much, MUCH more! ...
A court hearing has been set for Friday in St. Lucie County, Florida, to hear arguments by Republican Rep. Allen West, who is now seeking a recount of all Early Voting ballots cast in the county.
Over the weekend, some 800 votes simply appear to have vanished from the tally in Florida's 18th District razor-thin U.S. House race between West and his Democratic opponent Patrick Murphy (D), after an unexplained partial re-tally of ballots cast during the last three days of Florida's eight days of Early Voting in the county, one of three that make up the new FL-18.
With very good reason, West is demanding that all Early Voting ballots be re-tallied in St. Lucie, on the heels of the unexplained "issues" with memory cards in the Diebold electronic optical-scan tabulators that county officials cited vaguely as the reason for Sunday's partial re-tally.
Where the extreme and extremely controversial West and his supporters have claimed the election is being "stolen" on behalf of Murphy --- a claim for which we are aware of no actual evidence --- The BRAD BLOG has now twice reported in great detail (first here and then here) on the oft-failed, easily-manipulated electronic systems, made by three different companies, in each of the three different counties (St. Lucie, Martin, and Palm Beach) that now constitute FL-18.
Why West has failed to demand a full hand-count of all ballots, in all three counties, as opposed to just the Early Voting ballots in St. Lucie, is a question that West's campaign has yet to resolve for us. Our queries to the campaign, to date, have gone unanswered.
Whether a hand-count, versus another machine count by the same faulty machines, is even allowable in Florida, remains to be seen, since the state's Republican-majority legislature, following the 2000 Presidential Election debacle in the state, insanely mandated that paper ballots, once tallied by a computer, could not be examined by hand.
A mandatory "recount" (a re-tally by the same machines) is required in Florida when the margin between the two top candidates is 0.5% or less. The margin in FL-18 is now just 249 votes shy of that threshold.
Given that 800 votes seem to have simply disappeared without explanation --- Murphy lost 667 and West lost 132 votes during Sunday's partial re-tally, decreasing Murphy's lead over West by 535 votes in a race where just 1,907 votes (out of some 330,000 votes cast), or 0.58%, now separate the two --- and given that the different tally occurred while re-scanning the very same ballots on the very same machines, it's almost beyond comprehension that both parties, at this point, aren't calling for a full, public hand-count of all paper ballots in all three counties in hopes of determining who really won and who really lost the race.
At this point, who knows if the machines were right the first time they tallied the same ballots, or the second time they tallied the same ballots, or, for that matter, either of the times they tallied the same ballots? Anybody else without a partisan dog in this hunt, other than us, beginning to see the problem here?...
On Friday, as the news was breaking, and even as the unannounced flip was occurring before it had otherwise been planned, I detailed the outrage of Bain Capital-owned Clear Channel killing KPOJ, the only commercial Progressive talk radio station in Portland, one of the nation's most progressive cities, while leaving their two "competing" Clear Channel-owned Rightwing stations in the same market intact.
They flipped the station, one of the first and most successful Progressive talk stations in the nation, over to the Fox Sports format, which, I have since learned, is also syndicated by Clear Channel-owned Premiere Radio, further underscoring the unenforced anti-trust issues that seem to be in violation of, among other things, the 1948 U.S. v. Paramount Supreme Court decision I also briefly discussed in my Friday night coverage.
In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court found that Paramount Pictures was in violation of anti-trust laws because it was unfairly leveraging its chain of movie theaters around the country to keep films made by competing movie studios from being exhibited. The vertical integration, controlling both the production and means of distribution, was the very definition of a monopoly. In this case, as I've argued, Clear Channel is using the very limited public airwaves broadcast licenses that it receives for free from the government --- in exchange, supposedly, for serving in the public interest --- in order to push its own Premiere syndicated programming, even when other, non-Clear Channel owned shows and formats both garner higher ratings and, arguable, are far more in the public's interest than a third sports talk station in the very same market.
More to the point, as I have noted many times in the past, the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which allowed companies like Clear Channel and a handful of other mega-corporations to buy up control of licensing rights to theoretically "competing" stations in the same market --- Clear Channel, for example, owns both the Rightwing and Progressive talk radio stations in many major markets --- assures that there is no real free-market competition in the Talk Radio business. While Rightwing talk radio is allowed to propagandize over our public airwaves in favor of supposed "free-market" competition, there is no such free-market competition in the talk radio business itself. The game is as rigged as it would be if Coca-Cola had the sole distribution rights to both Coke and Pepsi in the same major market.
Shortly after running my piece on Friday, I was informed by someone inside the business, in a very good position to know, that "the Seattle station is next." They were referring to Seattle, Washington's KPTK am1090 Progressive Talk station, owned by CBS-Viacom. On Monday morning, Stephanie Miller, whose very successful show is heard on that station, and many others, along with appearing on Current TV, told listeners the same thing, that the progressive Seattle talk station, in another very progressive market (in a state that just approved the recreational use of marijuana, for chrissakes) was expected to flip to the newly introduces CBS Sports format on January 1...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: We're back! Obama wins and talks climate change, but will he --- can he --- deliver?; Grover Norquist vs. the Koch Bros.; Will US become the Saudi Arabia of oil?; PLUS: Superstorm Sandy was very expensive ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): GA utility tries to muscle out solar startup; Forecast: drought and more drought; Chevron Refinery Fire: Chevron won't clean up; Bringing solar to military housing; Water Supply in a Warming World; Researchers Use Rust and Water to Store Solar Energy as Hydrogen; MRSA superbug found in US water treatment plants ... PLUS: CA's Cap-And-Trade System To Launch With First Pollution Permits Auction ... and much, MUCH more! ...
While we've been watching the situation, and talking about it on radio over the past week, here at The BRAD BLOG we've yet to have time to cover what's going on in Arizona --- most acutely in Maricopa County (Phoenix) --- where some half a million ballots remain untallied a week after the election when many Hispanic voters who thought they were registered to vote, were directed to cast a provisional ballot instead...for some reason.
Under Arizona law, those voters have until Wednesday to show up to the County Clerk's office with ID to prove they are who they said they were when they cast their ballots last week. The approximately 486,405 uncounted ballots across the state include 307,620 early ballots and 178,785 provisionals. That's 1 out of 4 ballots cast across the state still not included in the results, to date.
In the bargain, a whole bunch of Arizona races --- including their U.S. Senate race, a number of U.S. House races, and several state and local races --- remain officially "undecided" at the moment and/or could see their currently announced "winners" become losers.
The DoJ's Civil Rights Division, according to TPM, may, or may not, be keeping their eyes on the situation there.
The Hispanic community in the state, thankfully, is not taking this one sitting down...especially not after standing in line for hours just to cast their vote, or, in this case, provisional ballots that may or may not be counted. They have been surrounding the Maricopa County Clerk's office in a 24 hour vigil, and phone-banking to call those who were forced to vote provisionally, to let them know they need to get back to the Clerk's office ASAP to try and assure their vote actually gets counted.
This is among the darkest sides of the GOP's War on Democracy that we've been covering all year (for many years, actually) and the shameful battle continues at this hour. We may have more details in the days ahead (on this, and other uncounted ballots and undecided races in other states as well), but, for now, Rachel Maddow did a great overview on MSNBC last night, of the assault on democracy currently being played out in Arizona...
On Sunday, election officials in St. Lucie County, Florida re-tallied votes from the last three days of Early Voting, citing what county officials described cryptically as "an issue with the memory cards that record the ballots when they're fed through the machines originally."
Among the races which saw a partial re-tally of paper ballots, as they were sent through the same optical-scan systems which scanned them the first time, was the contentious and very close U.S. House race in Florida's new 18th Congressional district. As The BRAD BLOG reported in detail late last week, Democratic candidate Patrick Murphy was said to have been leading Republican Rep. Allen West in the race by a very slim margin --- just .78% at the time --- after initial Election Day tallies in all three counties which comprise the new district. The extreme and often extremely controversial, far Rightwing West currently represents Florida's 22nd District, but is now running in the new, redistricted 18th.
Following Sunday's re-tally, both candidates reportedly lost votes. West lost 132 votes while Murphy lost an extraordinary 667, for an overall pickup by West of some 535 votes.
On Friday, Murphy was said to have been leading West --- whose attorneys have already been in court, unsuccessfully demanding that voting systems and paper ballots be immediately impounded --- by just 2,456 votes out of approximately 318,000 tallied at the time.
After Sunday's partial re-tally, Murphy is still said to be leading West, according to the Florida Division of Elections website, but by just 1,907 votes. The current .58% margin of difference puts West just barely outside of the .5% margin that would trigger an automatic "recount" (albeit by the same faulty machines) in the state of Florida.
In our report on Friday, supporting West's demand for a hand-count of all paper ballots in the race, we detailed the three different electronic tabulation systems used in each of the counties --- St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach --- which now comprise FL-18, and how each of those systems have a long track record for failure during elections, mistallies and the ability to be easily manipulated by both hackers and election insiders alike.
Following the partial re-tally on Sunday, West's attorneys and supporters were predictably outraged and claiming, without presenting any actual evidence to support them, that "liberals" and/or St. Lucie's Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker, a Democrat, was attempting to "steal" the race...
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...
Hurricane Sandy demolished the policies of individual greed that found their most absurd application in Mitt Romney's prior proposal to privatize disaster relief. The super storm tested the inner resolve and character of a Republican governor, who was forced to choose between the doctrinaire insanity required by his dirty energy billionaire benefactors and responsible governance that, of necessity, includes coordination of critical disaster relief between federal, state and local agencies.
If there's a silver lining to be found in the death and devastation, it exists in how disaster can bring out the best in individuals operating together as a community and in the public function of government of, by and for the people...
According to Kathleen Conti, Town Clerk of Reheboth, MA --- a town of some 12,000 located about 50 miles south of Boston --- a spider's web "blocked a sensor" on an electronic op-scan tabulator (the town uses ES&S' Optech III-P Eagle) preventing the machine from reading paper ballots on Election Day.
The eight-legged election integrity advocate, who forced the town's election staff to hand count some 867 paper ballots, is reportedly still at large.
[UPDATE: As of 6:00pm PT, the KPOJ website has now flipped to "Fox Sports AM 620 Portland".]
This is horrible. Tonight, without warning, Clear Channel Communications-owned 620 AM KPOJ in Portland, Oregon, one of the most progressive cities in one of the nation's most progressive states, has flipped from its years-long progressive news and talk format over to Fox Sports as of 5:30pm local time.
KPOJ was the only commercial progressive talk radio station in Portland. The city will still have several other Rightwing talk radio stations, including one owned by Clear Channel, and they already have two sports stations, but the Bain Capital-owned media conglomerate is now killing yet another progressive voice from our publicly-owned airwaves.
The BRAD BLOG can now confirm that KPOJ has flipped its programming format and website to Fox Sports as of 6:00pm PT tonight.
When one company owns "competing" talk radio stations in the same town, and gets to decide which one enjoys a stronger signal and which one receives promotional dollars (and which one doesn't), "competition" in the market place is a mirage. It's the equivalent of a Coca-Cola distributor owning the sole rights to distribute both Coke and Pepsi in the same town. Which one do you think is going to sell better there? That's precisely what talk radio is like in almost every major market in the country now. One company, usually Clear Channel, generally owns both the "Right" and "Left" talk stations. (In Portland, Clear Channel owns Rightwing talk outlet KEX as well as KPOJ.) Promoting one station would likely decrease listeners and ratings --- and, thus, ad dollars --- for the other. Thus, there is no "free market" competition in talk radio.
This is hardly the first time that Clear Channel has done the same thing, in very progressive cities, underscoring yet again that there is no real, "free market" competition in talk radio over our publicly-owned airwaves. The market place is decidedly rigged...