The BRAD BLOG https://bradblog.com Because it's not about Right or Left, it's about Right and Wrong! Fri, 16 Apr 2021 02:48:52 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.0.2 en Corporations Pretend to Stand Up for Democracy: 'BradCast' 4/15/2021 https://bradblog.com/?p=13826 https://bradblog.com/?p=13826#comments Fri, 16 Apr 2021 02:27:30 +0000 Brad Friedman Election Reform Georgia BRAD BLOG Media Appearance National Security Rights And Freedoms U.S. Senate France Vote Caging/Intimidation/Suppression Republicans Joe Biden Japan KPFK Donald Trump Mitch McConnell Nuclear power/weapons Russia Election 2016 BradCast Election 2020 Robert Mueller Paul Manafort Dept. of Treasury Konstantin Kilimnik Insurrection https://bradblog.com/?p=13826 On today's BradCast: It's nice to see hundreds of companies and corporate executives coming out in favor of democracy and voting rights. If only they actually meant it. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

First up today, however, the Biden Administration announced a spate of new sanctions against Russian organizations and individuals in response to both the massive Solar Winds hack of top U.S. agencies, including including the Treasury, Justice, Energy and Homeland Security departments, as well as for what is described as interference in the 2020 election on behalf of Donald Trump.  At the same time, the Administration seems to be going out of their way to downplay the sweeping sanctions by suggesting that they are open to top level discussions to avoid further exacerbating growing tensions between the two nations.

But one of the 32 individuals sanctioned is of note today because the announcement from the U.S. Treasury Department refers to the 2016 election, charging that the individual, Konstanin Kilimnik shared proprietary polling information given to him by Trump's first campaign manager, Paul Manafort, directly with Russian Intelligence Services.  If true, that would be significant new information. Previous reports on Russia's involvement in the 2016 election from both Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee cite the information Manafort is said to have given to his former business associate Kilimnik, a Russian and Ukrainian political operative linked to Russian intelligence. But neither of those voluminous report goes so far as to say that the data was subsequently given directly to Russian intelligence services.  Those reports acknowledge they were not able to learn what came of it after it was handed over to Kilimnik. Today's announcement of the sanctions by the Treasury, however, notes: "During the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, Kilimnik provided the Russian Intelligence Services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy."

As national security website Just Security observes: "The Treasury Department’s new statement raises questions about why this information is coming out now and why the Special Counsel’s office did not have access to it during its investigation. Was it not available then or did it exist but was not provided to the Mueller team?"   So, does this mean the Biden Administration has uncovered details on manipulation of the 2016 election that was previously hidden or withheld by the Trump Administration?  It looks like the "Clean up on Aisle 45" will be continuing for quite some time. There is a LOT to clean up.

In not entirely unrelated news, hundreds of companies and corporate CEOs issued a full-size, two-page ad in the New York Times, Washington Post and other papers this week, with a short statement purporting to declare "WE STAND FOR DEMOCRACY," and noting: "We all should feel a responsibility to defend the right to vote and to oppose any discriminatory legislation or measures that restrict or prevent any eligible voter from having an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot."

Though the statement doesn't mention any specific states, it was issued in response to Republicans' recently enacted voters suppression law in Georgia and dozens of other states where similar restrictions on the franchise, in bills sponsored by GOP state lawmakers, are moving forward.  All of which is said to be in response to false claims by Trump and Republicans of massive fraud in 2020.  Georgia's new law, for example, makes it more difficult to vote by mail, limits the use of drop boxes, bans the distribution of food or water on long voting lines (which are all too typical in certain parts of the Peach State) and allows the partisan GOP state legislature to replace bipartisan County Election Boards with a single partisan person who will be able to unilaterally undermine elections or even overturn results.

While statements like the one issued this week in the two-page ad --- and, before it, by Atlanta-based companies such as Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines --- have resulted in good publicity for those signed onto them, they have also brought blowback from the right, leading Republicans (who pretend to abhor so-called "cancel culture") to demand boycotts of any company which stands up for voting rights.

I have railed in recent weeks about the absurdity of Republicans finally paying attention to concerns about new voter suppression laws only now that a number of corporations have come out in apparent opposition to such laws. Corporate entities, it seems, have far more sway with the GOP lawmakers who ignored weeks of complaints and protests about the new laws from actual voters before the GA law was passed.

But our guest today is seemingly even more cynical about these recent corporate declarations of fealty to democracy. We're joined today by MICHAEL HILTZIK, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and business columnist at the Los Angeles Times. He argued in his column this week that many of the "vague" declarations recently by large corporations are no substitute for actual action. He cites a host of companies, for example, which, following the January 6th U.S. Capitol insurrection, vowed to suspend donations to lawmakers who had voted to overturn the Electoral College results that same day. Despite those public pronouncements, he details one company after another --- from Jet Blue to AT&T to Toyota --- which, despite their previous public claims, have since given plenty of money to dozens of Republicans who voted against the certification of Biden's Electoral College victory.

In his column, he notes that while many companies and executives have come out in opposition of suppressive voting laws, almost none have gone on record to demand the passage of measures which would counteract them, such as the John Lewis Voting Rights Act or H.R. 1, the For the People Act.

"It's not that unusual for businesses to affiliate themselves on the side of the angels when they feel a lot of popular pressure to do so.  But once again the question is, what are they going to do about it?," Hiltzik tells me today. "Let's face facts. Many of the companies --- if not all of them --- that signed on to these statements, these honeyed words, had been assiduous supporters of the politicians who are now out there introducing and passing laws that restrict the voting franchise."

Criticizing their failure to speak out before Georgia's law was adopted, for example, he says, "They didn't really put their reputations on the line when they didn't think they had to.  And, as a result, we have a law in Georgia that's going to be very hard to repeal because the more these companies come out and say this is wrong, the more the rightwing legislators who passed it are doubling down, saying 'We're not going to kowtow to these liberal leftwing corporations'.  So they lost their chance. They're trying to recover. But I don't think they really deserve a lot of credence just by signing a statement."

Moreover, he explains, many of these very same companies have been opponents of democracy within their own corporate organizations. "What's really hypocritical is that these same companies that have said 'We believe in democracy, we believe in everybody having a vote' --- they've actually gone to the Securities and Exchange Commission and asked for, and received, a tightening of the rules that makes it even harder for small shareholders to get resolutions on the annual meeting agenda, and to actually get votes on the resolutions that they submit."

There is plenty of cynicism on today's show to go around. And it extends to our discussion of the need for campaign finance reform, and several neat GOP tricks that have long been used to prevent such long-overdue efforts to keep corporations out of our elections altogether.

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us once again for our latest Green News Report, which, as always, is chocked full of important news, including Japan's announcement that they intend to dump more than a million tons of radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea. And we close with a follow up to that story from the Guardian today, regarding Japan's ill-fated attempt to marginalize concerns from their own citizens and neighboring countries, by using a cartoon character dubbed "Little Mr. Tritium" to make the massive release of radioactive wastewater slightly more adorable than it actually otherwise is...

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]]> https://bradblog.com/?feed=rss2&p=13826 'Green News Report' - April 15, 2021 https://bradblog.com/?p=13825 https://bradblog.com/?p=13825#comments Thu, 15 Apr 2021 18:12:47 +0000 Desi Doyen National Security Environment France Joe Biden Green News EPA Donald Trump Natural gas Nuclear power/weapons Climate change Extreme weather China Oceans Transportation Electric vehicles NOAA Infrastructure Pollution https://bradblog.com/?p=13825

IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: U.S. global threat assessment warns climate change is a clear and present danger; Japan to dump Fukushima's radioactive wastewater into the Pacific Ocean; Biden's budget seeks to undo Trump's damage; Atmospheric methane hits largest single-year increase on record; PLUS: To combat climate change, France moves to ban short airline flights... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

GNR's now celebrating 12 YEARS of independent green news, politics, analysis, snarky comment and connecting climate change dots over your public airwaves!
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IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): China ‘Must Shut 600 Coal-Fired Plants’ To Hit Climate Target; Big Companies Line Up to Crush Green Transparency Resolutions; Study Finds Lower Life Expectancy Around Superfund Sites; Tribal Lawsuit Halts Donlin Gold Mine; 'Seismic shift' at FERC could kill natural gas pipelines; Florida To Close Wastewater Reservoir With Leak History... PLUS: DDT’s Toxic Legacy Can Harm Granddaughters Of Women Exposed: Study... 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:

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    Biden's Infrastructure Plan Begins the End of Government Socialism for the Fossil Fuel Industry: 'BradCast' 4/14/2021 https://bradblog.com/?p=13824 https://bradblog.com/?p=13824#comments Thu, 15 Apr 2021 01:46:17 +0000 Brad Friedman West Virginia 9/11 BRAD BLOG Media Appearance National Security Afghanistan Accountability Minnesota FBI Dept. of Defense Vote Caging/Intimidation/Suppression Joe Biden KPFK Donald Trump Natural gas Coal DHS Oil Climate change IRS/Taxes BradCast Electric vehicles Joe Manchin Infrastructure Carbon Tax Policing Insurrection https://bradblog.com/?p=13824 On today's BradCast: Joe Biden is on a "go big" roll that has stunned even many long time progressives. Another one of them joins us on today's show to sing the praises (mostly) of his $2.25 trillion infrastructure, jobs and climate proposal known as the American Jobs Plan. It will be paid for --- at least in very small part --- by ending long time direct subsidies (yes, government socialism) to the Fossil Fuel Industry. But, even on that, the industry is getting a break that they shouldn't. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

    First up today, however, some noteworthy news headlines...

    • The white Brooklyn Center, Minnesota police officer who resigned yesterday after shooting black motorist Daunte Wright during a traffic stop on Sunday, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter after days of protest and unrest. The city's Police Chief, who also resigned on Tuesday, has said that the 26-year veteran officer, Kim Potter, meant to taze the 20-year old Wright, but shot him instead.
    • A scathing new Inspector General's report finds that U.S. Capitol Police were instructed by leadership not to use their best crowd-control weapons on January 6th, despite clear intelligence from the FBI and Dept. of Homeland Security warning that "Congress itself is the target" for protests by Donald Trump supporters who were scammed by his false claims that the Presidential election was stolen. In the days before the assault, pro-Trump social media sites included explicit details regarding plans by MAGA Mob extremists to target both the Capitol and members of Congress, including maps of underground tunnels at the Capitol building and threats calling for "violence" and "war". While DHS and the FBI were aware of these threats --- and, therefore, so was Trump --- for reasons that still remain unclear, the Capitol Police were left wildly unprepared for the deadly siege.
    • And, in perhaps the most critical news of the day, President Biden announced, in no uncertain terms, his plans to remove all U.S. troops (other than those needed to protect diplomats) from Afghanistan no later than September 11th of this year, the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. He explained his reasoning and responded to critics of the move in remarks at the White House today, declaring that "It's time to end the forever war." We share extended excerpts from his address.

    Then, we're joined by the great energy and climate journalist DAVID ROBERTS --- formerly of Vox, now publishing his own must-read newsletter called "Volts" --- for insight into Biden's plans to pay for what Roberts characterizes as a remarkably progressive infrastructure, jobs and climate proposal.

    Introduced two weeks ago, the American Jobs Plan is to be paid for largely by an increase on the corporate tax rate. But, as Roberts detailed in a recent Volts article, it will also include a repeal of some of the permanent subsidies to the Fossil Fuel industry which they have enjoyed for decades, as written into the tax code. While many progressives are pleased about that, including Roberts, the fact is that those direct subsidies to the industry, as he points out, amount to a very small fraction of the cost of Biden's ambitious plan. Indeed, at some $35 billion for the entire industry, spread out over ten years, it also amounts to a very small amount of the true cost of the "indirectsubsidies" or "externalities" which the public pays for to boost profits for the polluting industry.

    The direct subsidies, says Roberts, are "a drop in the bucket" compared to "the total amount of money that would be raised if you went after the indirect subsidies" with a carbon tax that accounts for the true cost of the industry's "products that produce a lot of social harm.  Harm in terms of air pollution that they generate, which then produces health costs, and people miss work. There's the climate damages that they do when they're burned. There's land pollution. There's abandoned oil and gas wells at the end of their life. Those cost a lot of money" to clean up, which the companies rarely, if ever, do.

    "The oil and gas industry itself doesn't pay any of those costs. So when your product imposes all these costs and you don't pay them, the public steps in and pays them. Like the kids with asthma who are paying, rather than the fossil fuel companies." Roberts suggests "those externalities, as they're called, have always been the premise for a carbon tax, why we would want to put a tax on carbon so that you can recoup all these damages that the oil and gas industry are not paying for."

    Still, setting aside how the package is to be paid for, Roberts concedes that he is "pleasantly surprised" about the "super-big and ambitious" package which includes, as he also details, a whole bunch of cool stuff that has received little coverage, since there is actually so much packed into the sweeping, long-overdue proposal.

    How to get it passed, however --- and, specifically approved by "our emperor and benefactor Joe Manchin, long may He reign" --- is another matter, which we discuss in detail today as well.

    "Where we are is so ludicrously far away from where we need to be, that it becomes difficult to judge anything in the middle," Roberts argues. "Is this a good big step or is it a grossly inadequate step? Yes. It's both. Everything we're going to do on climate change for the next decades will fit that description. It's going to be big and not big enough."

    We then close today with a quick thought or two on a new statement from hundreds of companies and corporate executives in opposition to the GOP attempts to restrict voting rights around the country. We hope to have more time to discuss the matter on tomorrow's BradCast...

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    ]]> https://bradblog.com/?feed=rss2&p=13824 'Both Sides'? Really, Liz?: 'BradCast' 4/13/2021 https://bradblog.com/?p=13823 https://bradblog.com/?p=13823#comments Wed, 14 Apr 2021 01:41:57 +0000 Brad Friedman California 9/11 BRAD BLOG Media Appearance Virginia National Security Afghanistan Accountability Environment Minnesota Barack Obama Republicans Joe Biden KPFK DHS Climate change Extreme weather BradCast Electric vehicles Race Liz Cheney Coronavirus/COVID-19 Policing Insurrection https://bradblog.com/?p=13823 Hopefully today's BradCast, if nothing else, serves as a friendly reminder that Liz Cheney --- whether or not she met the incredibly low Republican bar by voting to impeach Donald Trump after the January 6th MAGA Mob insurrection at the U.S. Capitol --- is still not your friend, much less some sort of hero. [Audio link to full show is posted at end of summary below.]

    Among the many news items and important insights and context covered on today's program...

    • The Biden Administration will finally withdraw the last of our 2,500 U.S. troops still deployed to Afghanistan by September 11th of this year, 20 years after the 9/11 attacks which resulted in our seemingly endless war there and elsewhere. For some reason we remain dubious about that exit date...even if we are hopeful.
    • The FDA and CDC are recommending a "pause" on the use of Johnson & Johnson's COVID vaccine after finding it led to rare blood clots in six women out of more than 3.8 doses administered in the U.S. For the record, the coronavirus, as of today, has killed more than 562,000 Americans to date, which is more deaths over the past year than 188 September 11th attacks.
    • After two nights of protests and unrest in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota --- a suburb outside of Minneapolis, where white, former cop Dereck Chauvin is currently on trial for the murder of George Floyd --- the city's Police Chief and 26-year officer Kim Potter resigned Tuesday following her Sunday killing of Daunte Wright. Potter says she accidentally shot the 20-year old black man while attempting to taze him after he was pulled over for expired tags on his vehicle. The incident was capture by Potter's body cam video released on Monday, the day after the shooting.
    • As disturbing as the video of Wright's killing was, another confrontation captured via body cam between cops and a black Hispanic man --- this one, a uniformed Army lieutenant named Caron Nazario --- is arguably even more disturbing for reasons we discuss on today's show. The incident, which included the berating and point-blank pepper-spraying at gun-point of an incredibly compliant and polite unarmed Nazario, occurred last December. The video tape, however, was only released publicly on Monday as part of Nazario's lawsuit against the abusive Windsor, Virginia police officers Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker who pulled him over on a dark highway for a missing permanent license plate on his new car. (Temporary tags were in the window and clearly visible in the video tape.) Gutierrez has now resigned and Virginia's Attorney General has opened a civil rights investigation into the incident, one of undoubtedly thousands of similar ones not caught on viral video tape each year in America.
    • Wyoming's Republican Rep. Liz Cheney has been attacked by many in her party and lauded by some on the non-right for living up to the absolutely lowest expectations for a Republican these days after having voted in favor of the second impeachment of Trump in January, for his incitement of the U.S. Capitol attack. But, as we've noted on several occasions since then, nobody should mistake her for anything other than her diabolically rightwing father's daughter. That was made clear on Monday during an appearance with Georgetown’s Institute of Politics and Public Service when she appeared to condemn the radical extremism rampant in her own party while simultaneously "both sidesing" the matter with references to extremist in "both parties". Sorry, Liz. This isn't even close to a "both sides" issue. But, if there are still any question about that...
    • ...Disturbing new data released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), reaching back 25 years and analyzed by the Washington Post on Monday, finds "Domestic terrorism incidents have soared to new highs in the United States, driven chiefly by white-supremacist, anti-Muslim and anti-government extremists on the far right." And the numbers of both incidents and fatalities in recent years aren't even close to those attributed to "far left" attacks. We comb through the Post's analysis of the troubling data, while noting its alarming similarity to the warnings included in a 2009 DHS report on far-right domestic extremism that was ultimately retracted by the Obama Administration after Republicans pretended to be outraged about it (after saying nothing about a similar report regarding left-wing extremism released just prior.) Coincidentally we notice that WaPo's original headline for their analysis on Monday was "Domestic terrorism data shows right-wing violence on the rise." That was apparently quickly changed online yesterday to the more GOP-friendly "The rise of domestic extremism in America." We're sure Liz Cheney is delighted about that.
    • Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, chocked full of troubling climate change news, as usual, but featuring at least one story that leaves us moderately more hopeful today...at least when it comes to the ability for warring battery makers to come together for the good of our not-a-moment-too-soon electric car future...

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    ]]> https://bradblog.com/?feed=rss2&p=13823 'Green News Report' - April 13, 2021 https://bradblog.com/?p=13822 https://bradblog.com/?p=13822#comments Tue, 13 Apr 2021 17:57:55 +0000 Desi Doyen California Colorado New Mexico Environment Democrats Joe Biden Green News Donald Trump Wind energy Solar energy Climate change Extreme weather Gavin Newsom Electric vehicles Dept. of Energy Infrastructure PG&E https://bradblog.com/?p=13822

    IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: U.S. West sinks deeper into drought, setting up dangerous fire season and water cutbacks on the Colorado River; California unveils sweeping wildfire prevention plan; Major battery company settlement allows Georgia EV factory to move ahead; PLUS: NOAA predicts above-average 2021 hurricane season, and redefines the new 'normal'... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

    GNR's now celebrating 12 YEARS of independent green news, politics, analysis, snarky comment and connecting climate change dots over your public airwaves!
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    IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Texas Wind Energy Set a Record—But Republicans Are Still Trying to Squash It; US to enter mega drought which will be the worst for 1200 years – here’s what to expect; Nervous North American farmers set to 'seed in faith' into parched soils; U.S. Won’t Shut Dakota Access Pipe Amid New Environmental Review; Japan Says It Plans To Release Contaminated Fukushima Water Into Sea; Leaked calls show ALEC’s secret plan to fight Biden on climate ... PLUS: Are Huge Tree Planting Projects More Hype than Solution?... 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:

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    The SCOTUS-Approved, FCC Ownership Rule Catch-22: 'BradCast' 4/12/2021 https://bradblog.com/?p=13821 https://bradblog.com/?p=13821#comments Tue, 13 Apr 2021 01:42:28 +0000 Brad Friedman California Mainstream Corporate Media Georgia BRAD BLOG Media Appearance Rights And Freedoms Vote Caging/Intimidation/Suppression Democrats Republicans Michigan U.S. Supreme Court Joe Biden FCC KPFK Mitch McConnell BradCast CDC Brett Kavanaugh Gretchen Whitmer Coronavirus/COVID-19 https://bradblog.com/?p=13821 On today's BradCast, our lonely fight to save what is left of our public airwaves continues, as mainstream media outlets continue to benefit from --- and therefore do not bother to report on --- the march toward full corporate ownership of what were once our prized and protected airwaves. [Audio link to full show is posted below summary.]

    But first up today, the breaking news on that nation's latest school shooting. Today it was in Knoxville, Tennessee.

    Next, the vaccination of the nation continues apace, with about 36% of adult Americans now having received at least one shot. This week, many more states will open eligibility to all adults 16 years of age and older in advance of Joe Biden's national date for doing so in all 50 states next Monday (April 19). Here in Los Angeles, all adult residents will be eligible as of Tuesday. We offer a few tips for how to get an appointment quickly. (Specifically, Kaiser-Permanente appears to have tons of available appointments, for members and non-members alike, via their website at KP.org.)

    While vaccinations are proceeding at an impressive pace, hitting another 24-hour record of 4.6 million shots on Saturday, the race to outpace the spread of variants continues. While much of the nation is plateauing in case numbers at high levels or even surging slightly upward, a number of states, particularly in the Northeast and upper Midwest are surging quite steeply. The most disturbing case at the moment, by far, is in Michigan, where its Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has been begging the Biden Administration for a vaccine surge in response to a spike that is as bad there as it was last Fall. For reasons that aren't entirely clear, the Administration has offered additional vaccinators and test kits, but not additional vaccine as of now. The CDC Director said on Monday that what is needed in MI's case is not more vaccine, but lockdowns. However, one of the reasons the state is in such bad shape now is because Trump-incited rightwingers last year not only rebelled against Whitmer's mandatory lockdowns, but even hatched a plot to kidnap her after Trump tweeted to "Liberate Michigan!"

    What happens in Michigan, unfortunately, won't stay in Michigan. Their surge will spread elsewhere unless someone figures out how to get it under control. Similarly, what happens in Georgia will absolutely not stay in Georgia, as Republican lawmakers across the country are continuing to push voter suppression measures akin to the suppressive law adopted by Republicans in the Peach State last month.

    The corporate pushback against Georgia's anti-voting law and those in other states continues to grow. Over the weekend, 100 corporate executives held a Zoom meeting to discuss how they planned to respond. On Monday, the first major Hollywood production --- Will Smith's "Emancipation" film --- previously set to film in Georgia, announced they were pulling production from the state due to the new law. Other productions could follow suit, given that Georgia has become a bit of a filmmakers Mecca by offering generous tax breaks to Hollywood production teams.

    In addition to the group of corporate execs planning their own actions against anti-democracy laws, a group of some 60 law firms is reportedly teaming up to take action as well. That said, it's pathetic that the citizenry has to rely on corporations to become angry enough that Republicans might pay attention to their concerns --- the same concerns that the GOP ignored when they came from the citizenry itself before Georgia adopted its new law. In today's America, the citizenry don't seem to matter. It's corporate dollars to (or withheld from) Republicans that appears to be our only chance of convincing desperate Republicans to block or rollback these onerous restrictions on access to the ballot box. We're happy to see companies jumping in, but its absurd that we need to rely on them to somehow save "democracy".

    Speaking of the need to save democracy, we're then joined by media reform activist SUE WILSON of the Media Action Center. Late last year, she and former Republican FCC official Art Belendiuk joined us on the program to discuss actions they were taking to expose the fact that rightwing media behemoth Sinclair Broadcasting appeared to be blatantly violating FCC ownership rules by taking secret ownership of more than one television station in a number of major markets, using sham front companies to skirt federal scrutiny.

    At the same time, as Wilson reports today at BradBlog.com, the FCC has been attempting to change its own media ownership rules to allow for more corporate consolidation by granting major broadcasters the right to own more than one TV station in any given market. The FCC's initial attempt to change the rule preventing companies from controlling all of the public airwaves in major markets was blocked by the 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which found that the FCC violated the Administrative Procedures Act in not carrying out proper studies to determine the effects of the rule change on broadcast outlets owned by women and minorities. SCOTUS heard the FCC's appeal in the case on January 19th (Trump's last full day in office). The Court handed down its decision in FCC v. Prometheus Radio Project on April 1, overturning the lower court to allow the FCC's new, relaxed ownership rule, even as Justice Kavanaugh, in his opinion for the unanimous Court, conceded that the record evidence relied on by the FCC was "sparse". But, he held on behalf of the Court, the rules in question, now changed by the FCC, "were no longer necessary to serve the agency's public interest goals."

    As Wilson found, however, the reason the record was so sparse was because the FCC had carried out no studies of its own to determine the adverse effect of consolidation on minority owned business before formalizing their new rules. They relied instead on private organizations to present evidence as to why the consolidation would harm minority broadcasters. But private organizations did not have access to much of the FCC's public information, because the federal agency hasn't collected the information from stations around the country.

    It all amounts to what Wilson describes as a Catch-22 that ill-serves the public, and further undermines our public airwaves, handing off even more control to corporate interests, rather than we, the people. "This is the worst decision that nobody knows about," Wilson tells me. And, of course, they don't know about it, because mainstream corporate broadcasters benefits from the rule change, so they haven't bothered to mention much about it to any of their listeners or viewers.

    Wilson argues that Congress needs to take action, and asks listeners to contact their members of Congress. "We're finding that Republicans and Democrats are very interested in this [because] this is bad for our whole country."

    Finally, we open up the phones for a few quick minutes today, to hear from listeners on both the FCC's latest boondoggle and with more thoughts on vaccination nation...

    CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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    ]]> https://bradblog.com/?feed=rss2&p=13821 SCOTUS Approves FCC Rule Allowing Further Consolidation of Local Media Outlets https://bradblog.com/?p=13820 https://bradblog.com/?p=13820#comments Mon, 12 Apr 2021 16:35:25 +0000 Sue Wilson Mainstream Corporate Media U.S. Supreme Court FCC Sinclair Broadcasting Brett Kavanaugh https://bradblog.com/?p=13820 While I was researching a piece last September about Sinclair Broadcasting's illegal TV ownership shell game, I stumbled into a Supreme Court case. Donald Trump's Federal Communications Commission Chair, Ajit Pai, had filed a case at SCOTUS, Federal Communications Commission v. Prometheus Radio Project [PDF], which would allow one media conglomerate to own the local newspaper, 2 network TV stations, 1-2 additional TV stations, and 8 radio stations --- all in the same community.

    The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals had previously found, in 2017, that the FCC failed to adequately study the matter before making the rules change that would adversely affect ownership of media outlets by women and minorities.

    But the danger of the scheme to all of us was immediately apparent. Imagine the potential for propaganda by allowing one company to control the local reporters in virtually every media outlet in a single town!

    I had already discovered that Sinclair Broadcasting was illegally controlling three TV stations in Columbus, Ohio, and doing little more than duplicating local news content across all three stations. So, on advice of my colleague and friend Brad Friedman, I began writing an Amicus ("Friend of the Court") brief in the case to inform the U.S. Supreme Court of this and other related information.

    My first step was to find the research papers the FCC had done on the topic before its Chair --- on behalf of we, the people --- filed its case with SCOTUS. To my surprise, however, I found there were none. Zip, nada, nothing. The FCC was literally taking a case to the Supreme Court in which it had done no independent research at all...

    So, with the aid of Media Action Center (MAC) volunteers, our Amicus brief [PDF] presented a database with photographic evidence showing that since the FCC began issuing waivers for station groups to own two network TV stations in the same town, industry leaders Nexstar, Sinclair Broadcasting, Gray TV, Scripps, and Tegna collectively now control two network TV stations in 70 different communities across the United States. Despite their promises that they would provide more and better local news by being allowed to own two network stations, MAC found in 53 towns, these broadcasters merely duplicate the same news stories on both of its local Network affiliate stations.

    The broadcasting industry told the Supreme Court that by consolidating two Network stations they can provide better local news coverage. But we found that the opposite is true. Powerful stuff, I thought.

    But it didn't matter. The Court was not interested in what damage has already occurred due to this rule change; they only wanted to know what data had been provided prior to the rule change for the FCC to have made its decision. This sets up the Catch-22.

    During oral arguments in FCC v Prometheus on January 19, the final full day of the Trump Administration, Justice Brett Kavanaugh asked Prometheus' counsel, Ruthanne M. Deutsch, what research she had to back up her assertions that allowing one station group to have multiple TV stations in the same market would harm opportunities for minorities and females to have any stations at all. Prometheus argued that the FCC was relying on flawed or non-existent data to make its assessment, and Deutsch cited a Free Press study to back up her case.

    But Kavanaugh went on to say that during the FCC's proposed rulemaking process, everybody and anybody could have submitted data...but they did not.

    On Thursday, April 1, SCOTUS reversed the lower court's 2017 finding that the Commission failed to take appropriate steps to study the effect of this change in rules for women and minority owners. The high court unanimously allowed these egregious consolidation rules to go into effect.

    In the opinion issued by Justice Kavanaugh [PDF], the court held that the "FCC considered the record evidence and reasonably concluded that the three ownership rules at issue were no longer necessary to serve the agency's public interest goals." Kavanaugh further wrote that "the FCC acknowledged the gaps in the data sets it relied on, and noted that, despite its repeated requests for additional data, it had received no countervailing evidence."

    "The Commission further explained that its best estimate, based on the sparse record evidence, was that repealing or modifying the three rules at issue here was not likely to harm minority and female ownership," Kavanaugh asserted on behalf of the Court. That, he wrote, was enough for the agency to meet the requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) in question. Siding with the FCC, he declared: "In light of the sparse record on minority and female ownership and the FCC’s findings with respect to competition, localism, and viewpoint diversity, we cannot say that the agency’s decision to repeal or modify the ownership rules fell outside the zone of reasonableness for purposes of the APA."

    Cheryl Leanza, the United Church of Christ's media justice policy advisor and co-counsel for Prometheus in the case, wrote, "The sparse record is the FCC's own fault. Any analysis of this question must rely on the FCC's data and yet the FCC has long permitted broadcast licensees to avoid filing their ownership data with impunity." That has left independent researchers blinded to key data needed to fully assess the practical effect of ownership rules enacted by the federal agency.

    The FCC used to commission its own studies on local broadcasting. In 2002, the FCC issued its own report called "Broadcast Television: Survivor in a Sea of Competition" [PDF] which showed local TV stations in large markets were making as much as 46% annual profits. Now --- or, at least under former President Donald Trump --- the FCC puts out obscure "Notice of Prospective Rulemaking" calls for consumers and largely underfunded non-profit groups to provide their own research to counter that which is provided to the FCC by well-heeled industry leaders, like the National Association of Broadcasters, which applauded the SCOTUS ruling (and, yes, Sinclair Broadcasting's stock shot up more than 3% that day.)

    So these rules, which will further decimate local reporting, will go into effect. Current FCC acting Chair, Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel can chip away at the edges, but as soon as Republicans retake the White House, the floodgates of misinformation will open up in Everytown, USA.

    Why is Congress allowing a politically driven agency to make democracy decisions in the first place? The FCC was originally formed to keep one radio station's signal from bumping into another; now it is colluding with major media conglomerates to rob free speech rights of the very people whose interest it is sworn to serve.

    Broadcasting is legally supposed to "serve the public interest." So contact your Senators and Representatives! Tell them Congress must supercede the administrative agency's rules and pass actual laws to protect We the People from unscrupulous broadcasters controlling all or most of what we hear and see on local radio and TV. And do it now, while they still can.

    * * *

    APTRA, RTNDA, PRNDI and Emmy-winning Sue Wilson is a broadcast activist journalist, the director of the documentary Broadcast Blues, and founder of the Media Action Center. Reach her at act@mediaactioncenter.net or via Twitter at @SueBluesWilson

    * * *

    UPDATE FROM BRAD 4/12/2021: Sue Wilson joined me to discuss this issue on today's The BradCast...


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    Sunday 'Avoid the Politicks' Toons https://bradblog.com/?p=13819 https://bradblog.com/?p=13819#comments Sun, 11 Apr 2021 13:08:15 +0000 PDiddie Toons https://bradblog.com/?p=13819

    Wayne LaPierre hid on luxury yacht after Sandy Hook shootings

    And now for something completely different ... Oglaf. "Who Knew?"

    Last: All the best to Matt Bors, who has drawn his final political toon...

    My last original cartoon was two weeks ago. Today’s comic is a re-run based on my Mr. Gotcha comic, which became a bit of a meme.

    I will continue to run The Nib in an almost full time capacity, publishing and editing our magazine and daily comics, while making some space in my life for other kinds of comics that I’m excited about but have never had the time to fully pursue.

    Support the efforts of the surviving political cartoonists here.

    * * *
    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.


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    GOP 'Legislative' Agenda Now Being Carried Out by Activist Supreme Court: 'BradCast' 4/9/2021 https://bradblog.com/?p=13818 https://bradblog.com/?p=13818#comments Sat, 10 Apr 2021 01:02:50 +0000 Brad Friedman BRAD BLOG Media Appearance Alabama Rights And Freedoms Accountability U.S. House U.S. Senate Republicans U.S. Supreme Court Joe Biden Lindsey Graham John Boehner KPFK Voting Rights Act Samuel Alito Ted Cruz BradCast John Merrill Amazon Amy Coney Barrett Labor Unions https://bradblog.com/?p=13818 On today's BradCast: Maybe we've been too quick to say that Republicans no longer have any governing philosophy or legislative agenda. They do. And it's being carried out. Just not be elected officials. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

    But first up today, following 'good' news for Alabamians on yesterday's BradCast, as the state's corrupt, lying, homophobic, vote suppressing Republican Sec. of State John Merrill was publicly revealed as the sleazy, cheating, liar that he is (joining a very long line of corrupt, lying, cheating top Republicans in the state, as we break down today), some less good news today for workers in the state.

    The unionization vote at Amazon's warehouse in Bessemer, near Birmingham, apparently lost by a nearly two to one margin, after millions were spent in a campaign by the company to scare and misinform its workers. The union is crying foul, charging that the nation's second largest private employer violated labor laws in its campaign to propagandize workers at the facility. They vow to challenge the company's "lies, deception and illegal activities" with the National Labor Relations Board.

    "We won’t rest until workers' voices are heard fairly under the law," the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) President railed in a statement on Friday after results were announced, claiming the company illegally interfered with the vote. "When they are, we believe they will be victorious in this historic and critical fight to unionize the first Amazon warehouse in the United States."

    For their part, Amazon disputes all of the union's charges, asserting that their "employees heard far more anti-Amazon messages from the union, policymakers, and media outlets than they heard from us." That, even after Amazon posted anti-union messages, literally, inside of bathroom stalls at their Bessemer fulfillment facility and forced workers to sit through hours of seminars on the evils of unionization.

    Meanwhile, at the White House today, Joe Biden announced his new Executive Order to form a bi-partisan Presidential Commission to examine potential reform of the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as the federal judiciary overall. The declaration makes good on a 2020 campaign promise in response to calls for expansion of the GOP's stolen and packed Court. A report is expected in six months, following a series of public hearings by the Commission. Of course, any actual reforms to SCOTUS would likely require ending or modifying the Senate filibuster, which Lord Joe Manchin has expressly prohibited at this time.

    As our guest notes today, that all works out great for the Republican Party who, at first glance, appear to no longer have any actual party principles, governing philosophy or legislative agenda, beyond suppressing voting rights in order to keep themselves in power.

    But that's not actually true, argues our guest, Supreme Court expert IAN MILLHISER, Senior correspondent at Vox.com and author of the new book, The Agenda: How a Republican Supreme Court Is Reshaping America. He details in both the book and his recent New York Times op-ed that the GOP does, in fact, have a legislative agenda. But it's not being carried out by either of the elected branches. "Its agenda lives in the judiciary," he explains, "and especially in the Supreme Court."

    Millhiser runs down the extraordinary agenda that activist jurists at SCOTUS have accomplished on behalf of Republicans from 2011 to 2020, and warns there is much more to come as "the Supreme Court is now the locus of policy-making" while GOP lawmakers in Congress have halted the passage of pretty much any actual legislation.

    "We are basically at the end of a lost decade in Congress," he tells me. "From 2011 when Republicans took over the House, until 2020 when the pandemic happened and doing nothing really wasn't an option, Congress did a lot of nothing.  They passed the Trump tax bill, but there was very little major legislation enacted." During that same period, however, the Republican-dominated activist SCOTUS was exceedingly busy.

    "They severely weakened the Voting Rights Act. They basically dismantled much of our campaign finance law. They permitted states to opt-out of the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court created this new religious liberty doctrine that allows people with religious objections to the law to diminish the rights of other people. They weakened sexual and racial harassment laws. They expanded something called forced arbitration, which allows your boss, or really any company you deal with, to force you to sign away your right to sue them. They undercut public sector unions. They effectively eliminated the President's recess appointments power. They halted Obama's Clean Power Plan," Millhiser summarizes.

    He goes on to preview more of what the Court has in store, particularly when it comes to voting rights, noting that this Court has been "attacking democracy in two ways --- by preventing the people in office from governing, and then also by harming the process that we use to pick who our leaders are."

    So, how can this mess be turned around? Millhiser warns it's unlikely to be correctly quickly. But, until it can be, Americans must continue to vote in large enough numbers to ensure there are lawmakers in office who actually want to protect democracy rather than destroy it and, ultimately, reform our broken judiciary.

    Finally, we leave on a slightly more upbeat note, with more from former Republican House Speaker John Boehner's new book in which describes his own party as "unrecognizable" now; says he was wrong to go along with the impeachment of Bill Clinton; calls out the rightwing media echo chamber for poisoning our politics; blames Donald Trump for sowing "chaos" and inciting the "bloody insurrection on January 6th" by "claim[ing] voter fraud without any evidence", while reserving his greatest contempt for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

    Why is that a "more upbeat note"? Because it gives us the chance to close today with a new song from national treasure Randy Rainbow about how much America loves to hate on both Senators Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham. Enjoy!...

    CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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    ]]> https://bradblog.com/?feed=rss2&p=13818 The Swift and Pathetic Downfall of AL's Sleazy Sec. of State John Merrill: 'BradCast' 4/8/2021 https://bradblog.com/?p=13817 https://bradblog.com/?p=13817#comments Fri, 09 Apr 2021 02:05:12 +0000 Brad Friedman BRAD BLOG Media Appearance Alabama Accountability U.S. Senate Democrats Republicans Joe Biden KPFK Donald Trump NRC NRA/Gun Violence BradCast Merrick Garland Joe Manchin Richard Shelby John Merrill Matt Gaetz Twitter Mo Brooks Joel Greenberg https://bradblog.com/?p=13817 We try like crazy to avoid sleazy, tabloid sensationalism on The BradCast. But, at this point at least, the Republican Party has made that pretty much all but impossible. Just covering any of the latest actual, legitimate news from the party which seems to be in free fall right now, necessarily requires a whole bunch of sleazy, cheap, tawdry stories that sound sensationalistic and tabloidy...but that's only because they are...whether we like it or not. [Audio link to today's full show is posted below this summary.]

    On the way to the central story in our A Block today, regarding the stunning crash and burn of Alabama's Sec. of State who, until late yesterday was likely to have been a front-runner for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated next year by Republican Senator Richard Shelby, we are forced to reference a number of the sleazy cheap stories that have now become central to the GOP itself...above and beyond their nationwide attempt to suppress Democratic-leaning voters in a democracy...

    • Over the weekend, the New York Times exposed how the Trump Campaign ripped of its own donors before and after last year's election, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars by pre-checking checkboxes that were difficult to notice. That would turn one-time donations into recurring monthly or even weekly donations, when many if not most donors did not even notice. Donor credit cards were unwittingly maxed out and bank accounts were drained by the Trump scheme. But, even after the Times' exposé, it appears that the Republican Party itself, via its U.S. House fundraising arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), is now using that same sleazy trick to rip off its donors as well! They're arguably making it even worse by telling donors (all-caps in the original): "If you UNCHECK this box, we will have to tell Trump you’re a DEFECTOR."
    • Then of course, there's the ongoing sleazy story about Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, one of Trump's top supporters in the U.S. House, who is reportedly being investigated for alleged sex trafficking of a minor. Today, several outlets are reporting that Gaetz' pal, Joel Greenberg, the former Tax Collector in FL's Seminole County, is now cooperating with prosecutors. Greenberg has already been charged with sex trafficking of a minor and more than 30 other federal charges, including stalking, identity theft, wire fraud, bribery, theft of government property, conspiracy to bribe a public official and creating fake IDs. Suffice to say, if it's true that he's cooperating, that is likely very bad news for Gaetz.
    • But today's sleaziest story concerns Alabama's Republican Sec. of State John Merrill. Long time readers and listeners may recall my bizarre run-in with Merrill back in 2017, when, after politely pointing out on Twitter that Merrill was wrong about the way Alabama's voting systems actually worked, the Secretary blocked him on the social media platform and left bizarre messages on Brad's cell phone. Later, when a federal court ruled in a lawsuit against Trump that public officials were violating First Amendment rights by blocking people on Twitter, I sought comment from Merrill's office to see if, like Trump had been ordered, Merrill planned to unblock the many constituents and election experts he had blocked on Twitter over the years. Not only did Merrill himself make it very clear to me that he had no intention of doing so, the entire matter devolved into a wildly bizarre email attack by Merrill. That all played out in 2017 and 2018.

      Move the clock forward to 2020, and Merrill, using his powers as Alabama's top election official, prevented Counties in his state from offering safe, curbside voting for those who feared exposure to the coronavirus inside polling places. Despite a state court order to allow it, Merrill refused and took the matter all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. He was ultimately victorious in his efforts to suppress Alabama voters who feared for their lives and were forced to choose between staying safe and casting a vote inside the polls during last year's Presidential election.

      And now, the clock turns forward to yesterday when, on Wednesday morning, Merrill --- who is married with two children and who had already begun his campaign for the GOP nomination to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated next year by Sen. Shelby --- denied an extra-marital affair with a 44-year old women that he described as a "stalker" who had been "harassing" him. Just hours later, however, by Wednesday afternoon, Merrill admitted to his years long involvement with the woman after AL.com played him a portion of a salacious phone call between him and her that she had provided to the media outlet. Yes, we share part of that call on today's show. Yes, we told you this was all sleazy. Yes, the story is actually much sleazier than we are sharing with you on air today. And, yes, there is something very wrong with Merrill, as we had repeatedly tried to explain over the years ever since my first bizarre encounter with him.

      Merrill, who is already well known for his anti-LGBTQ statements, has denied describing African-American judges and voters --- whose rights he's supposed to be protecting --- as "the coloreds," as the woman also alleges. We'll let you decide if you'd like to believe him or not. He says he is seeking help from "the Lord". He has yet to resign from his role as the state's chief election official or from his position as Chair of the Republican Secretaries of State Executive Committee.

    • In much less sleazy --- if still somewhat depressing news --- President Biden announced a number of new Executive Orders related to gun safety during a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden on Thursday. The President, accurately characterizing America's gun epidemic as an "international embarrassment" and "public health crisis", noted that between the mass killings at Atlanta massage parlors and the Boulder, Colorado grocery store shooting last month, there were more than 850 additional shootings that killed 250 and injured 500 in the U.S. In his own remarks at the ceremony, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland noted that "so far this year, guns have taken the lives of 11,000" in this country. While Biden's Executive Actions (which we detail during the show) are likely to have a marginal effect in curbing our nation's gun violence epidemic, they are no replacement for real legislation that might actually have a measurable effect on decreasing gun violence.
    • Of course, given that Republicans refuse to support any measures proposed by Democrats in the U.S. Senate --- much less regarding gun safety, God forbid, no matter how popular such measures are, even with Republican voters --- it will be impossible to pass any such legislation unless the filibuster in the Senate is either ended or reformed. Key to that, however, is the Democratic Senate's most conservative member, West Virginia's Joe Manchin. On Wednesday, pathetically enough, Manchin penned an op-ed at Washington Post declaring: "There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster." He went on to offer a few twisted, counterfactual reasons as to why, and even suggested he may block further legislation from passing via the Senate's Budget Reconciliation rules which allow for passage of certain budget related matters with a simple majority vote. Yes, today is that kind of a day. For what it's worth, the White House seems less bothered about Manchin's statements than we are.
    • Finally, with marginally brighter news scattered throughout, Desi Doyen's got our latest Green News Report, with details of the Biden Administration's pushback against silly GOP critiques of his $2.25 trillion infrastructure, jobs and climate proposal; a new warning about a wave of abandoned oil and gas mines; and General Motors' plans to go all in on electric vehicles, including with their first all-electric pickup truck!...

    CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD SHOW!...

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