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Trump’s depressed Iowa fans, Michele Bachmann’s wild-eyed prophecies, and the revenge of Cliven Bundy! Welcome to “This Week In Crazy,” The National Memo’s weekly update on the loony, bigoted, and hateful behavior of the increasingly unhinged right wing. Starting with number five:

5. Cliven Bundy

The three-week siege of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge ended with the arrest of Ammon Bundy and some of members of his self-proclaimed “militia,” as well as the death of one of his accomplices. And while federal agents are all but begging Bundy’s remaining co-occupiers to peaceably remove themselves from the premises, Ammon’s daddy Cliven, who knows a little something about facing down federal authorities and getting his way, has decided to inflame the situation with an insane letter.

Bundy has put officials on notice in a certified letter to the Harney County Sheriff (he also copied Oregon governor Kate Brown and President Barack Obama, as well as “Internet to the World”) that his son’s merry band “WILL RETAIN POSSESSION OF THE HARLAN COUNTY RESOURCE CENTER” [emphasis, all of it, in the original]. In the letter he claims to speak on behalf of all people of Harney County (never mind that the elder Bundy is a resident of Bunkerville, Nevada), and demands that all federal and state authorities clear out of that region.

Bundy letter

Click to enlarge

Bundy posted to his Facebook page the letter, which is as sure to actually accomplish his goals as it is to help his son’s case:

Notice to Harney Co. Sheriff.Share share share…..

Posted by Bundy Ranch on Monday, February 1, 2016

Hat tip Daily Kos

Next: Sore Loser Trump Fans

4. Sore Loser Trump Fans

Before he leapt into his fit of hysterics about do-overs and fraud, Donald Trump was uncharacteristically gracious about becoming a total loser in Iowa. But his followers were not.

Trump’s biggest fangirl, Ann Coulter, took to Twitter in the moments following The Donald’s loss in the Iowa caucuses to proclaim that her anointed one was actually the “leading GOP vote-getter tonight, among natural-born-American candidates.”

She also blasted Fox News for providing an explainer on how caucuses work, a gambit she said was an attempt to keep Trump supporters (presumably first-time caucus-goers) from coming out:

That was just part of the many-tentacled conspiracy unfurled by the media-political establishment to keep Trump from winning the Hawkeye State, apparently. His fanatics also began promoting a rumor — started by Breitbart — that the Microsoft app used to tally votes had given a huge boost to Marco Rubio.

Assembling online under the banner of the hashtag #MicrosoftRubioFraud, the Trump Twitterati connected the dots between Microsoft’s financial support of Rubio, their vote tallying site’s partial failure in some districts (due to overuse), and the triumphant showings of Ted Cruz and Rubio (who still came in third after Trump, but never mind).

Also, Reuters gathered up the tears of Trump supporters and put them online for all to see:

Next: Michele Bachmann

3. Michele Bachmann

Improbable onetime Republican candidate for president Michele Bachmann sounded her trumpet for the End Times (again).

In a radio interview last Saturday, Bachmann laid out her case for why turmoil in the Middle East, coupled with our evil president’s satanic ambition, would envelop the Earth in Obama’s dark dominion during its final fiery days.

Per Right Wing Watch:

“I believe that [Russia and Iran] are positioning themselves so that someday they could invade Israel to be able to take over the vast stores of oil and natural gas that Israel is controlling,” she said, adding that “this very unique new partnership between Iran and Russia in Syria” with the support of China “lines up with scripture.” All of these powers, she said, are seeking “a global world order to keep their game going into the future and to support them if they would invade against Israel.”

And who will lead this global world order? Why, none other than Obama.

This is a recurring theme with Bachmann, who espies portents of the Armageddon in every news clipping. Last November, in another radio interview, Bachmann enjoined Christians to make their merry way down their end-of-the-world bucket list and begin converting as many Jews as possible. “We’re seeing the fulfillment of scripture right in front of our eyes,” she said.

Hat tip and audio courtesy Right Wing Watch

Next: Linda Harvey

2. Linda Harvey

Meet Linda Harvey, president of the Ohio-based Mission: America, an anti-gay, anti-trans advocacy group, whose tenets hold that “homosexuality is not normal and natural” and that America is a “gravely ill” nation that can only be saved by “the blood of Jesus Christ.” It may surprise nobody that the Southern Poverty Law Center considers them a hate group.

In a column titled “Is Your Pastor Apologizing to LGBT Anarchists?” published on WND Wednesday, the homophobic activist attacked not gay rights activists — that would be too easy — but Christian pastors who don’t share her particularly virulent strain of intolerance. In some respects, this is even more vile.

Harvey has previously blasted LGBT activists as the “Gaystapo,” and decried their “fascist” bid for equality. Now she has set her ire on pastors who, she says, are too accommodating in their views — namely, any religious leaders who are the slightest bit tolerant and still have the temerity to call themselves Christian. It isn’t enough for the former ad exec to tear down gay men and women. She needs to redefine Christianity as a whole.

If you happen to know a man or woman of the cloth guilty of any of the following, send them Harvey’s way. She knows how to sniff out a bad Christian.

Do they, for instance, ever — gasp— apologize to gay people for the centuries of intolerance and violence they have suffered at the hands of Christian institutions? They shouldn’t, Harvey says — such “apologies are unnecessary because broad claims of victimhood are exaggerated to put Christians on defense.”

Or do they ever try to wheel out the fallacious “‘Christ includes everyone’ heresy.” Malarkey! In the Gospel of Linda, Christ does not welcome gay people with open arms because “We cannot treat these depravities like neutral traits or disabilities requiring sympathy.”

Perhaps you know a pastor who has been hoodwinked by “the civil rights ploy.” Marriage equality is not something we need to strive for anymore, because, she writes, it “was achieved at creation, because males marry females and vice versa. Have you ever heard your pastor teach the congregation this one simple talking point, grounded in Scripture? Stating this doctrinally essential fact overcomes the main ‘gay’ claim.” What a wonderful privilege to be Linda Harvey, for whom all the admissible facts and data in the world were revealed millennia ago.

It is one thing to stake your personal bigotry on a narrow interpretation of your faith; it is another thing to say yours is the only true version of that faith.

Next: The Cruz Crew

1. The Ted Cruz Christian Right Coalition

The Religious Right helped secure Ted Cruz’s victory in Iowa, so perhaps it’s worth taking another look at who these people are and what they stand for.

Luckily, both Media Matters and Right Wing Watch have been keeping their fastidious eyes on the long list of far-right conservative activists and lobbyists, as well as the extremists media personalities, who have been lining up behind Cruz.

Media Matters’ Daniel Angster described the lineup at Cruz’s last rally in Iowa:

Cruz’s rally featured seven speakers including anti-gay activists like CEO of The Family Leader Bob Vander Plaats and Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson as well as Iowa’s Rep. Steve King (R). However, it was the presence of radio hosts Glenn Beck, Michael Berry, and Steve Deace which best illustrated the divisive nature of Cruz’s platform.

Robertson, stumping for Cruz Monday, railed against the “depravity” and “perversion” of gay marriage. (The prurient 69-year-old has a nagging preoccupation with sexual practices, warning CPAC-goers last year that STDs are the “revenge of the hippies.”)

And it’s not as if the Texas senator just shrugs these people off. Each endorsement is broadcast with an enthusiastic release, touting the endorser’s true “spiritual commitment.” At times, Cruz even borrows some of their most extreme rhetoric — such as his appropriation of the idea of a “rainbow jihad,” an image coined by radio talker Deace to describe the LGBT rights lobby.

It makes sense that Cruz would attract luminaries of the extreme religious right since, as Right Wing Watch’s Bryan Tashman writes, “he has vowed to implement their agenda with promises to defy the Supreme Court on gay marriage, consider engaging in anti-gay civil disobedience, sign sweeping anti-abortion legislation, go after Planned Parenthoodappoint ultraconservative justices to the bench and block threats to religious liberty of Christians, which he says are rampant in America.”

An incomplete list of radical pastors and far-right extremists who have thrown in with Cruz includes doomsday cultist Mike Bickle, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, American Family Association mouthpiece Bryan Fischer, and Family Leader founder Vander Plaats (among many others).

If anyone is heartened by the results in Iowa, and wishes to see in Cruz a quieter, more palatable alternative to the bombastic Trump… don’t deceive yourself.

Image: DonkeyHotey (via Flickr)

Check out previous editions of This Week In Crazy here. Think we missed something? Let us know in the comments! Get This Week In Crazy delivered to your inbox every Friday, by signing up for our daily email newsletter.

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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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