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Racism, what racism? It’s all the Devil’s fault. Send in the bees! These and other morsels of madness in “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. Fox & Friends

Making their triumphant return to this page (for the second week in a row), the team at Fox & Friends, and co-host Steve Doocy in particular, have demonstrated once again that they don’t have the slightest modicum of intellectual honesty when engaging with the uglier side of America, which was brought back to national attention after the tragic events in Charleston. Namely: racism.

Doocy got the ball rolling on the anything-but-racism narrative last week when he insisted that a white supremacist shooting up a historically black church might have been motivated by anti-Christian sentiment — as if there were no other churches in Charleston except for “Mother Emanuel.”

On Thursday’s edition of Fox & Friends, Doocy doubled down on his cretinism by submitting that racism did not exist in America anymore because Obama was elected.

“If we were a racist nation, Barack Obama would not have been elected president of the United States — twice. It’s a math thing,” Doocy insisted, proving two things: that he can count to two, and that some people never learn.

As Megyn Kelly once so memorably said: “Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better or is this real?”

Via Media Matters

Next: Todd Starnes

4. Todd Starnes

Tom StarnesFox News pundit Todd Starnes asked God-fearing ‘Mericans to send Obama a plague of bugs — for the very simple reason that their narrow interpretation of their holy texts doesn’t get to dictate policy anymore.

Addressing the Faith and Freedom Conference, Starnes wheeled out the old canard about the “war on religious liberty” waged against “people of the Christian faith.” (Conservative members of the religion that accounts for 73 percent of the U.S. population and 92 percent of elected officials in Congress love to wring their hands and complain about how they’re under attack.)

Starnes cited prayer in schools, crosses on public grounds, and a host of other non-issues, but the main locus of his ire was the forthcoming SCOTUS ruling on same-sex marriage, and whether, in Starnes’ view, the government can put “limitations on conscience”  — a point of view shared by certain GOP presidential candidates.

Citing the Book of Exodus, and comparing American Christians to Israelites in bondage, Starnes asked that every “patriot saint” pray for God to “send the hornets, Lord — clear the field!”

When the Supreme Court says they know better than God, When the Supreme Court says they know better than God: Send the hornets, Lord! Clear the field! And, when the president says that America is no longer just a Christian nation: Don’t send the hornets, Lord. Send the mosquitoes and the gnats, and the bumblebees and the lightning bugs and the cicadas! Send every critter you got, Lord! Clear the field!

He concluded, “I had some Red Bull in my Froot Loops this morning, ya’ll!” Froot, indeed.

Via Right Wing Watch

Next: Pat Boone 

3. Pat Boone

210px-Pat_Boone_by_Gage_SkidmoreAs we’ve seen (over and over again), some people are having a hard time admitting racism exists, especially when it’s so much easier to blame something real — like, you know, The Devil.

Pat Boone excoriated the president for blaming the Charleston shooting on racism, when the real culprit was, of course, “demonic evil” inspired and empowered by a Godless America.

In a WND column unsubtly titled “Is The Problem ‘Racism’ — Or Demonic Evil?”, Boone begged the president to “quit so often calling crimes that involve a black person ‘racist’!”

The fact is, according to Boone, a more relevant, salient point to be made here is not that Dylann Storm Roof, the confessed killer in the Mother Emanuel massacre, was racist. It’s that he was “inspired by Satan” and “evil.”

Boone clarified:

[Y]es, I said, “inspired by Satan”! Though this had a racist element, to be sure, it was more than that and of far greater significance to America than that. This boy wasn’t just a sadist, or even criminally insane – he was carefully prepared and led by the Devil himself to kill as many Christians as he could. The fact that they were black was an excuse more than a reason.

Let me prove it to you. And let me persuade you to substitute another, more valid word for “racist.”

The word evil.

Like many conservatives who insist that “stupid ‘racism’ is not our problem,” Boone prefers to identify as the wellspring of all America’s woes the notion that “we are no longer a nation ‘under God,'” a catastrophic umbrella under which Boone and his ilk can place any number of progressive social issues that rub them the wrong way.

Via Right Wing Watch

Next: Bill O’Reilly

2. Bill O’Reilly

Bill O'Reilly 427x321Oh dear, another one: Bill O’Reilly, eponym for the famed Factor, has shown some serious tone deafness on the whole issue of race and the Confederate flag this week.

On Monday, he affirmed that the Confederate flag represented “bravery in the Civil War because the Confederates fought hard” and ignored his guest’s point that the flag wasn’t raised on the Charleston state Capitol lawn until the 1960s, when “they were trying to mass resist the civil rights movement.”

Then on Tuesday, he insisted that there was no such thing as institutional racism in America, and that he was “ashamed” of anyone who believed that such a thing existed.

After the weight of the entire (Godless, secular, left-wing, elitist, socialist, main- and lamestream, book-reading) media came down on his head, O’Reilly told them they have a war if they want one.

Via Media Matters

Next: Erik Rush

1. Erik Rush

Erik RushErik Rush comes in at #1 on a week with no small competition for right-wing insanity.

The unhinged Rush, who previously warned liberals and “homofascists” (his word) that “otherwise rational, law-abiding Americans” were getting ready “to ship [them] off in cattle cars to death camps,” has amped his inanity up to 11 this week in a new WorldNetDaily column forthrightly titled, “Why There Can Be No Coexistence With The Left.”

The gist of which, in Rush’s own psychotic words (and saber-rattling italics), is: We must utterly vanquish the political opponents we currently face.

Unpacking his own derangement, Rush goes on:

([A]s contrary to our model of government and collective conscience as this may sound, utterly neutralizing the left (completely disenfranchising those who ascribe [sic] to leftist doctrine and dismantling all of their established political, cultural and legal constructs) is an imperative because they never had any intention of coexisting with those of differing ideologies.

In other words, if you can’t beat ’em (through the courts, the rule of the law, the mechanics of democracy, and so forth)… obliterate ’em.

You can read the complete transcript of the voices in Rush’s disturbed head here.

Photo above: Chris Turner via Flickr


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The Arizona 2020 election "audit" under way

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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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