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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:

5: Anna Pierre

North Miami mayoral candidate Anna Pierre turned some heads earlier this week by claiming that she had Jesus Christ’s official endorsement in Tuesday’s primary. While a candidate claiming divine inspiration is not especially unusual, usually they don’t claim that Jesus is actually making political endorsements, like some kind of holy Kennedy relative.

On Election Day, Pierre took things a step further by printing campaign fliers featuring the endorsement, complete with a picture:
Jesus endorsement

Image: NBC Miami

Somewhere in Washington, Michele Bachmann is presumably wondering why she didn’t think of that first.

Ultimately, like most other “chosen” candidates, Pierre suffered a resounding defeat, finishing in last place in the primary with just 0.83 percent of the vote. To Pierre, the explanation is simple: “North Miami chose ‘Luciefer’ [sic] over Jesus,” she wrote on her campaign’s Facebook page.

Again, Michele Bachmann must be wondering why she didn’t use that excuse after the Iowa Caucus.
4: Alan Keyes

Professional crazy person Alan Keyes unleashed one of the most unhinged in a long series of paranoid rants Tuesday, when he told right-wing commentator Stan Solomon that President Barack Obama’s proposed gun reforms are “intended to make sure that people will be slaughtered by the thousands and the hundreds of thousands,” and that the president is particularly interested in purging the African-American community.

According to Keyes, Obama — whom Keyes says African-Americans have “come close to worshiping instead of God” — encourages the “targeted slaughter” of African-Americans, and “represents the open maw of a charnel house into which the future hopes of the Black-American community are to be fed.”

Apparently, Keyes has still not gotten over that 2004 Senate election.
3: Larry Pratt

Although most of the right is fixated on impeaching President Obama over the Benghazi “cover-up” or the IRS profiling Tea Party groups, Gun Owners of America director Larry Pratt is still feeling hopeful that an older pseudo-scandal will bring Obama down: Fast and Furious.

During an appearance on Stan Solomon’s This Week In Crazy-repository of a show, Pratt said “I don’t know who that might be to take his place yet” — apparently Joe Biden is not vice president in his fantasy world — but he is certain that Obama will be removed from office. And, just like Richard Nixon, he will be whisked away on a helicopter (from which Solomon helpfully suggests Obama will be dangling). For some reason, Pratt insists that the chopper will be called “Gangrene One.”

The truly bizzare exchange is below, via Right Wing Watch.

2: Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck makes his weekly appearance on this list for yet another outrageously incorrect history lesson, this time on the civil rights movement.

In the midst of a fairly typical rant about how the NAACP is “an affront” to the memories of Dr. Martin Luther King, Frederick Douglass, and other civil rights heroes, Beck for some reason pivoted to an assertion that “20 percent of the lynchings in the South, by the KKK, were of white people.”

“You know what?” Beck continued. “I contend that the white people that were lynched were exactly the kind of people that would be in the Tea Party today.”

Of course, back on planet Earth, it’s rather difficult to imagine people who gave their lives fighting for civil rights rallying to support a candidate who opposes the Civil Rights Act. It’s safe to add the civil rights movement to national security, public education, and the rest of the long list of topics on which Beck should not be trusted.

1: Michele Bachmann

Michele Bachmann 427x321

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.com

Michele Bachmann registers another first-place finish this week, for the impressive feat of linking Benghazi, the IRS, and Obamacare into one huge conspiracy about the government killing Republicans.

Bachmann shared her ridiculous theory during an interview with the ever-loony WorldNetDaily. According to Bachmann, the GOP’s latest round of Benghazi hearings caused the Obama administration to publicly confront the IRS story, as a way of distracting Americans from the horrible cover-up. But Bachmann won’t be fooled. She asserts that since “the president was willing to use the most feared agency in the U.S. for his own political purposes,” clearly it’s now “a reasonable question to ask” whether or not the IRS — which has a major role in Obamacare’s implementation — “will deny or delay access to health care” for conservatives.

Here’s what’s truly impressive about Bachmann’s latest rant: it may not even be the craziest thing she said this week. At this pace, we may need a This Week In Bachmann feature to keep up with the Tea Party’s favorite congresswoman.

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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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