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Welcome to “This Week In Crazy,” The National Memo’s weekly update on the wildest attacks, conspiracy theories, and other loony behavior from the increasingly unhinged right wing. Starting with number five:

David Schweikert

Never ones to miss a good excuse to attack the president, right-wing Breitbart News published an article this week accusing the federal government of trying to close the ocean.

The article — which compares President Obama to King Canute and actually contains the sentence “Today, however, our President actually believes he has the power to control the oceans” — is a fairly transparent attempt to replicate the factually challenged trolling that made the site’s namesake famous. As Mother Jones points out, however, this didn’t stop legions of right-wingers from sharing the myth. And while the denizens of #TCOT nation can be excused for believing that President Obama was shutting down the Atlantic, Congressman David Schweikert (R-AZ) should really know better:

 

The embarrassing swarm of attention eventually led PolitiFact to debunk the rumor, presumably while an exasperated fact-checker second-guessed his career choice.

Steve Lonegan

Steve Lonegan

 

Steve Lonegan, the self-described “right-wing radical” Republican running against Newark mayor Cory Booker (D) in New Jersey’s special election for U.S. Senate, has a solution to the shutdown that has paralyzed the federal government over the past 10 days: Wait for him to win his election.

Lonegan gave the advice in a statement released by his campaign on Thursday.

“Republican U.S. Senate candidate Steve Lonegan today urged House Republicans ‘not to capitulate to the president’s unreasonable demands. When I win, Obama will fold,'” the statement reads.

That scenario seems ridiculously unlikely; although Lonegan has made some gains over the past few weeks, every public poll finds Booker up double digits. That doesn’t bother Lonegan, however, who seems to think that the polls are either skewed or irrelevant. “Lonegan says his internal polling shows a neck-and-neck race in the U.S. Senate contest and that all the momentum is in his favor,” the statement notes.

And nothing says “momentum” like a debate full of thinly veiled racism and cracks about murder victims!

But of all of the crazy things that Lonegan has said and done throughout his campaign, the most absurd may have been on Thursday, when Lonegan held a rally with a woman he describes as a “great conservative leader who should have been the Vice President.” That’s right: According to Lonegan, the government shutdown will only end with the help of Sarah Palin.

Furloughed workers should probably prepare to stay home for a little while longer.

Photo: Nick Step via Flickr

Rick Wiles

rick wiles

 

Right-wing radio host Rick Wiles, who was last seen on this list accusing Glenn Beck of practicing a Mormon/Muslim/Buddhist/pagan cult religion called “Chrislam,” makes his triumphant return to the list this week for another odd sociological musing.

“Is the racist Obama administration specifically targeting conservative white people for shutdowns and evictions?” Wiles asked on the Monday edition of TruNews. “I really think so. I think he is deliberately trying to provoke an outbreak of anger.”

“Have you noticed that the only people being shut down or evicted are white Americans? Please tell me how all those welfare people living in federally owned housing complexes are still there during the shutdown?”

Of course, white people are not the only ones affected by the shutdown (African-Americans make up about 18 percent of the federal workforce, in just one of countless examples of why Wiles is wrong). But the “welfare people” example was probably not designed to be factual, but merely to set up this zinger:

“And what about Barry Soetoro and his little wifey Michelle? They’re living rent-free in a federally owned house at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.,” Wiles added. “Somebody ought to remove them, send some National Park Service police officers over there to remove the Obamas, shut that place down too.”

And someone should tell Rick Wiles that the White House isn’t a national park.

Screenshot via YouTube

Ellis Washington

After seeing the GOP’s approval rating plunge to historic lows, some right-wingers are finally giving up on their quest to destroy the Affordable Care Act.

Unfortunately, the unhinged folks at WorldNetDaily are not among them.

In an op-ed for This Week In Crazy’s favorite source of lunatic fringe news, religious radio host Ellis Washington writes that although you may not have noticed it in the three years since the Affordable Care Act became law, it is actually leading us to “health care rationing, death panels, millions of uninsured and, eventually, the systematic genocide of the weak, minorities, enfeebled, the elderly and political enemies of the God-state.”

You have Sarah Palin (and Steve Lonegan’s) attention. Go on…

“Obama is using his Gestapo and SS Stormtroopers or so-called “navigators” (e.g., the youth, the unions, Planned Parenthood, NAACP, ACORN, La Raza, etc.) to propagandize the poor, the miseducated and minorities who are being exploited to lead this final blitzkrieg toward forcing universal health care,” Washington continues.

Although Washington contends that “Hitler would be pleased” with the Affordable Care Act, he is careful to note that “Of course, I do not contend that Obama is Hitler.” That message is somewhat undercut, however, by the image that WorldNetDaily chose to illustrate the column:

Obama = Hitler

Although in fairness to Washington, that image would fit seamlessly into about 90 percent of WND’s other columns as well.

Michele Bachmann

Michele Bachmann 427x321

 

This week’s “winner” is yet again Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who seems to be getting crazier with every day of the government shutdown.

On Saturday, as the Obama administration was busy overseeing the raid that captured alleged al Qaeda operative Abu Anas al-Libi in Libya, Bachmann was on Jan Markell’s right-wing radio show accusing the president of actively supporting the terrorist organization.

“Your listeners, U.S. taxpayers, are now paying to give arms to terrorists including al Qaeda,” Bachmann warned. Setting aside the fact that Bachmann is completely wrong, the congresswoman pressed forward with her warning.

“Now what this says to me, I’m a believer in Jesus Christ, as I look at the End Times scripture, this says to me that the leaf is on the fig tree and we are to understand the signs of the times, which is your ministry, we are to understand where we are in God’s End Times history,” Bachmann said. “Rather than seeing this as a negative, we need to rejoice, Maranatha Come Lord Jesus, His day is at hand.”

In an odd way, Bachmann’s apparently fervent believe that the apocalypse draws near may actually be one of her savviest political moves. After all, it’s hard to convince a woman who believes that we are in the End Times that we actually need to reopen the government, or raise the debt ceiling.

In any case, one thing is certain: This Week In Crazy will miss Rep. Bachmann once she’s gone.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Check out previous editions of This Week In Crazy here. Think we missed something? Let us know in the comments!

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The Arizona 2020 election "audit" under way

Screenshot from azaudit.org

As ongoing threats by Trump loyalists to subvert elections have dominated the political news, other Republicans in two key states—Florida and Arizona—are taking what could be important steps to provide voters with unprecedented evidence of who won their most close and controversial elections.

In both battleground states, in differing contexts, Republicans are lifting the curtain on the data sets and procedures that accompany key stages of vetting voters, certifying their ballots, and counting votes. Whether 2020’s election-denying partisans will pay attention to the factual baselines is another matter. But the election records and explanations of their use offer a forward-looking road map for confronting the falsehoods that undermine election results, administrators, and technologies.

In Republican-run Florida, the state is finalizing rules to recount votes by incorporating digital images of every paper ballot. The images, together with the paper ballots, create a searchable library to quickly tally votes and identify sloppily marked ballots. Questionable ballots could then be retrieved and examined in public by counting boards to resolve the voter’s intent.

“The technology is so promising that it would provide the hard evidence to individuals who want to find the truth,” said Ion Sancho, former supervisor of elections in Leon County, where Tallahassee is located, who was among those on a January 4 conference call workshop led by the Division of Elections seeking comments on the draft rule and procedures manual revisions.

Under the new recount process, a voter’s paper ballot would be immediately rescanned by an independent second counting system—separate from what each county uses to tally votes. The first digital file produced in that tabulation process, an image of every side of every ballot card, would then be analyzed by software that identifies sloppy ink marks as it counts votes. Several Florida counties pioneered this image-based analysis, a version of which is used by the state of Maryland to double-check its results before certifying its election winners.

“The fact that it has overcome opposition from the supervisors of elections is telling because the number one problem with the [elected county] supervisors is [acquiring and learning to use] new technology; it’s more work to do,” Sancho said. “The new technology doesn’t cost much in this case. Everyone has scanners in their offices already because every voter registration form by law must be scanned and sent to the Division of Elections.”

The appeal of using ballot images, apart from the administrative efficiencies of a searchable library of ballots and votes, is that the images allow non-technical people to “see” voters’ intent, which builds trust in the process and results, said Larry Moore, the founder and former CEO of the Clear Ballot Group, whose federally certified technology would be used in Florida recounts.

But Florida’s likely incorporation of ballot images into its recount procedures, while a step forward for transparency, is unfolding in a fraught context. In 2021, its GOP-majority state legislature passed election laws that are seen as winnowing voters and rolling back voting options. In other words, it may be offering more transparency at the finish line but is also limiting participation upstream.

The new recount rule is expected to be in place by this spring, months before Florida’s 2022 primaries and midterm elections. Among the issues to be worked out are when campaign and political party officials and the public would observe the new process, because the election administrators do not want partisans to intentionally disrupt the rescanning process. These concerns were raised by participants and observers on the teleconference.

The Arizona Template


In Arizona, Maricopa County issued a report on January 5, “Correcting the Record: Maricopa County’s In-Depth Analysis of the Senate Inquiry.” The report is its most substantive refutation of virtually all of the stolen election accusations put forth by Trump loyalists who spent months investigating the state's presidential election.

Beyond the references to the dozens of stolen election accusations put forth by pro-Trump contractors hired by the Arizona Senate’s Republicans, the report offered an unprecedented road map to understanding how elections are run by explaining the procedures and data sets involved at key stages.

The report explained how Maricopa County, the nation’s second biggest election jurisdiction (after Los Angeles County) with 2.6 million registered voters, verified that its voters and ballots were legal. It also explained key cybersecurity features, such as the correct—and incorrect—way to read computer logs that prove that its central vote-counting system was never compromised online, as Trump supporters had claimed in Arizona (and Michigan).

“I’ve never seen a single report putting all of this in one place,” said John Brakey, an Arizona-based election transparency activist, who has sued Maricopa County in the past and routinely files public records requests of election data. “Usually, it takes years to understand all this.”

Taken together, Florida’s expansion of recounts to include using digital ballot images, and Maricopa County’s compilation of the data and procedures to vet voters, ballots, and vote counts, reveal that there is more evidence than ever available to confirm and legitimize election participants and results.

For example, Maricopa County’s investigation found that of the 2,089,563 ballots cast in its 2020 general election, one batch of 50 ballots was counted twice, and that there were “37 instances where a voter may have unlawfully cast multiple ballots”—most likely a spouse’s ballot after the voter had died. Neither lapse affected any election result.

“We found fewer than 100 potentially questionable ballots cast out of 2.1 million,” the report said. “This is the very definition of exceptionally rare.”

When Maricopa County explained how it had accounted for all but 37 out of 2.1 million voters, it noted that the same data sets used to account for virtually every voter were also used by the political parties to get out the vote. Thus, the report’s discussion of these data sets—voter rolls and the list of people who voted—offered a template to debunk voter fraud allegations. This accusation has been a pillar of Trump’s false claims and is a longtime cliché among the far right.

It is significant that this methodology, indeed the full report, was produced under Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a conservative Republican who has repeatedly said that he had voted for Trump, and was fully endorsed by Maricopa County’s Board of Supervisors, which has a GOP majority and held a special hearing on January 5 to review the findings.

In other words, the report is not just a rebuttal for the Arizona Senate Republican conspiracy-laced post-2020 review. It is a road map for anyone who wants to know how modern elections are run and how to debunk disinformation, including conspiracy theories involving alleged hacking in cyberspace.

“There is not a single accurate claim contained in [Arizona Senate cybersecurity subcontractor] CyFIR’s analysis of Maricopa County’s tabulation equipment and EMS [election management system],” the reportsaid, referring to accusations that counts were altered. “This includes the allegation that county staff intentionally deleted election files and logs, which is not true.”

When you add to Maricopa County’s template the introduction of a second independent scan of every paper ballot in future Florida recounts, what emerges are concrete steps for verifying results coming from Republicans who understand how elections work and can be held accountable.

Of course, these evidence trails only matter if voters or political parties want to know the truth, as opposed to following an ex-president whose political revival is based on lying about elections. However, more moderate Republicans seem to be recognizing that Trump’s stolen election rhetoric is likely to erode their base’s turnout in 2022, as Trump keeps saying that their votes don’t matter.

“You’ve got Republican buy-in,” said Florida’s Sancho, speaking of his GOP-ruled state’s embrace of more transparent and detailed recounts. “And Republicans, more than anyone else, should be concerned about whether their votes were counted as cast and as the voter intended.”

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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Michael Carvajal

Photo by Tom Williams via Reuters

The search is on for a new director of the federal Bureau of Prisons after Michael Carvajal announced on January 5 that he’s retiring from his appointed post and will leave when the Department of Justice finds his replacement.

The Biden Administration needs to replace Carvajal with a person who knows prisons inside and out: someone who’s been incarcerated before.

When President Joe Biden announced his first round of cabinet picks just weeks after being elected in 2020, then Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said: “When Joe asked me to be his running mate, he told me about his commitment to making sure we selected a cabinet that looks like America – that reflects the very best of our nation.

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