Friday, November 26, 2021

AZ audit results cannot be replicated - AZ Senate president caved to Trump - hired inexperienced 'auditors'

Tim Steller’s opinion: New reports show AZ audit fatally flawed from start to finish.

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The Steve Pierce Precedent — that is a clever way of explaining the most important Arizona political event of the year.

Pierce was a Republican state senator representing Legislative District 1, the Prescott district, from 2009 to 2017. He was Senate president for one full legislative session in 2012.

But in November that year, then-Sen. Andy Biggs challenged Pierce and outflanked him from the political right, narrowly sneaking away with a majority of Republican senators to win the powerful Senate presidency.

Sen. Karen Fann succeeded Pierce in office in 2017, and she also convinced her fellow Republicans to elect her Senate president. When Trump and his supporters pressured her hard to conduct a review of Maricopa County’s election, she went along, even though her equivalent in the other chamber, House Speaker Rusty Bowers, declined.

Fann, it appears, did not want to end up outflanked on the right like Steve Pierce.

That’s one of the key insights I drew from The Arizona Republic’s recent five-part series, measuring a whopping 27,000 words, that analyzed how the Cyber Ninjas’ so-called audit of Maricopa County’s 2020 election came to be and played out. Their reporting was derived in part from public records that the newspaper wrenched out of the Senate through a lawsuit.

Meanwhile, from a different source, the latest report on the Cyber Ninjas’ performance by Tucsonan Benny White and others, we find the upshot of that “audit”: The Ninjas’ crucial count of the votes simply cannot be reconciled.

White and his colleagues Larry Moore and Tim Halvorsen, who have dubbed themselves The Audit Guys, analyzed a Nov. 1 release of data from the Cyber Ninjas’ recount. They found that the Ninjas’ hand count of ballots, which took place over months at a Phoenix coliseum, quite literally does not add up.

“We have used the official results and the Ninja database in numerous attempts to determine how they arrived at the vote totals they announced at their Sept. 24, 2021, press conference in the Arizona Senate chambers,” their report says.

“We have tried dozens of ways to include and exclude various boxes and batches to arrive at those precise figures and have been unable to replicate their announced results.”

As The Republic series shows, it was pressure from then-President Donald Trump himself, along with associates such as Rudy Giuliani, and thousands of Trump’s followers that convinced Fann to pursue a “forensic audit” of Maricopa County’s election.

In the weeks after the election, Trump called Fann and Bowers more than once each, and Giuliani called and showed up, imploring them to overturn the election results or, barring that, to conduct an audit, because of all the evidence of fraud.

Bowers demanded to see the evidence, but Fann went along, even as Giuliani’s promised evidence never appeared.

History has already shown Bowers made the right choice. In an August 2021 deposition for a civil suit in which Giuliani is a defendant, he admitted that he did not have evidence for the claims he made. He just got information from social media or from what other people told him.

“It’s not my job, in a fast-moving case, to go out and investigate every piece of evidence that was given to me. Otherwise, you’re never going to write a story. You’ll never come to a conclusion,” Giuliani said in the deposition.

While Bowers and Fann originally discussed bringing in a qualified election auditor to review Maricopa County’s election, Fann eventually followed Giuliani and others into the world of Trump supporters who wanted to overturn the election and claimed to have a way to do it, in the name of “election integrity.”

She hired the firm Cyber Ninjas, led by a man, Doug Logan, who was inexperienced in elections, had publicly stated he believed in the “Stop the Steal” movement and had stayed with the deranged election conspiracist Lin Wood while working to overturn the election.

White, who was the Republican candidate for Pima County recorder in 2020, joined with Halvorsen and Moore, who were formerly leaders of the Clear Ballot Group, a Boston-based election technology company, to try to check the work of the Cyber Ninjas. They have found the Ninjas’ work wanting, from its faulty inception.

"Normally in an audit, what you would do is take a known group of ballots, then check them against the official results,” White said this week. “The objective there is to find out if the official count is correct. But the Ninjas never attempted to do that.”

Instead, they invented a system to conduct their own hand count, and it’s this that White and company think reveals the fatal flaws of the review Fann ordered. In October, they issued a report arguing that the hand count numbers appeared to be a hoax, invented to nearly match a machine count the Senate had ordered.

The new report goes further, alleging that the Cyber Ninjas’ team miscounted original ballots that needed duplication to be correctly counted, and the duplicates made for that purpose. This problem alone led to 1,142 more ballots being counted than should have been, they say.

But the problems, again, were in the conception of the audit, they report: “The point of an audit is to determine whether there are errors in the official results and discover the reasons for the errors. The objective of the Senate ‘forensic audit’ was to create a new result for the election; this is obvious since there was no attempt to directly compare even a minimal number of batches or boxes to the official result.”

No wonder Fann never attempted to hire an experienced, unbiased auditor. That was never the point, as The Republic’s reporting shows. The point was to satisfy Trump and the election-fraud true believers, and to avoid the Steve Pierce Precedent.

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Monday, November 22, 2021

Avoiding the maw of outrage

Jonathan V. Last (aka JVL) has some good advice conveyed via _The Bulwark_: Don’t get sucked into the maw of outrage.

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It’s easy to get sucked into the maw of outrage. After the verdict came down last week there were a lot of bad people acting badly. But here is my ask of you:

Don’t react to the reactions. Because they are—at most—of tertiary importance.

What is important about the Rittenhouse trial?

First and foremost: America. Everything about this case was designed to pour gasoline on the culture war and put us at each others’ throats even more than we already were.

The absolute worst-case result would be that people aggrieved by the verdict launch into retaliatory violence and people who cheered Rittenhouse feel empowered to do more shooting, thinking that self-defense is now a shield that will protect them from hurting others when they go looking for trouble.

It is possible that the Waukesha car killings from Sunday are downstream from the Rittenhouse case in one way or the other. It’s also possible they’re unrelated.

The point is this: The single most important thing for America is bringing the temperature down on all of this.

Yes, there are bad people acting badly. But this isn’t about them. It’s about the country. It’s about putting a lid on violence before it gets even more out of control and costs even more people their lives.

Second, this trial was about real people: Joseph Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber, and Kyle Rittenhouse. None of these three woke up on August 25, 2020 and thought that their lives were going to change irrevocably. Rosenbaum and Huber didn’t think it was the last time they’d see the sun rise. Rittenhouse didn’t think that everything about his life was about to be swept away, for good.

These three individuals—and their families—suffered terribly because they each made a series of stupid decisions that led them into tragedy. There are no good guys. Just three men with bad judgment. Two of them didn’t get to walk away; the other will carry the burden of that night for the rest of his days. If you think Kyle Rittenhouse “won,” then you’re crazy. I would not trade places with that boy for all the whiskey in Ireland.

Everything else is just noise. The bad people behaving badly, the circus—none of that actually matters.

And yet the way our society functions today, the circus is what gets elevated above everything else.

Some bad actor acts badly in a bid for your attention. What he says is so vile that you react, thinking that it’s important to push back against it. And then you’re pulled into the hurricane.

Don’t do it.

You have a finite amount of energy. Don’t give any of it—not one damn joule—to the circus. Instead, give your energy to people you love. Give it to people who need help this week. Chances are that someone you know lost a loved one this year. Instead of hitting retweet or reply on something awful, text them to see how they’re doing. Or give them a call. Or pop over and knock on their door to check on them.

It may not look like it right now, but we are all in this together.

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Thursday, November 11, 2021

Trumpiraptors are coming back to Washington

If true, we should be very, very worried.

Here are a couple of items from Charlie Sykes (Nov 11, 2021).

Why Trump II is more scary than Trump I.

Exit take: It seems dangerously naïve to think that the demagogues can continue to stoke the flames without mortal consequences.

“I’m really worried about a return of Donald Trump this time, because this time, the Velociraptors have figured out how to work the doorknobs.” - @DavidFrum on why Trump’s second term would be even worse.

Axios reports that Chris Christie Taunts Trump for losing

“I’m not gonna get into a back-and-forth with Donald Trump. But what I will say is this: When I ran for reelection in 2013, I got 60% of the vote. When he ran for reelection, he lost to Joe Biden.”

This is the first hand-to-hand combat of the 2024 Republican presidential race.

Many Republican candidates fear crossing Trump. But Christie — who said he still considers Trump a friend, despite their falling-out over the president’s behavior during the Jan. 6 riot — relishes political combat.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Smackdown! Federal judge rules - Presidents are not kings and Trump is neither

From Charlie Sykes Quotes of the day: in the Bulwark.

Judge Tanya S. Chutkan

Mr. Trump “does not acknowledge the deference owed to the incumbent president’s judgment. His position that he may override the express will of the executive branch appears to be premised on the notion that his executive power ‘exists in perpetuity,’” Judge Chutkan wrote.

“But presidents are not kings, and plaintiff is not president.”

(You can read Kim Wehle’s analysis of the judge’s ruling here.)

Why are so many people cruel to their dogs

There is a terrible power that comes with being human. But there is a potentially beautiful power in that, too. In this brutally unequal world, isn’t that part of the covenant with our pets? Don’t we owe them that much dignity?

Sadly, all too often the answer is that we humans violate an evolutionary compact, an implicit agreement forged over centuries of mutual respect and reciprocities. Read on.

But before you do … this essay from the Washington Post describes field work by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and their work rescuing dogs who have been subjected to the most horrific cruelties. But I will gladly eat my pork chop this evening. And to make the moralities yet more complex, know that we Scribers have two live-in canines we adopted from the Animal League in Green Valley AZ. The two lovable dogs have trained us well. Each night I surrender part of my bed so that they might enjoy such comfort.

Anthropologists believe they understand the origins of the bond between humans and dogs. It is an ancient alliance, forged from mutual need in Paleolithic times. There is debate over the specifics, but, simplifying ruthlessly:

Prehistoric human couples had each other’s backs, meaning you would sleep back to back, so you had eyes in the back of your head and a few extra seconds of warning from invading predators. But it proved mighty helpful to also have a wolf near the entrance of your yurt, one with fangs that was motivated to like and protect you.

Primitive people fed the wolves; the wolves stuck around. In time, a bond developed. You can call it taming, which sounds a little cold and manipulative, but you can also call it love. Modern science has shown that when people and their dogs look into each other’s eyes, oxytocin levels spike in both species. Oxytocin is a hormone linked to positive emotional states.

This bond came naturally: Humans and wolves are both pack animals. We are both built to team up with others to survive.

How has this relationship gotten so corrupted, then, and so profoundly, and so often? …

Here from [the Oct 8 edition of the] Washington Post Magazine is a glimpse of A Dog’s Life. Why are so many people so cruel to their dogs? My search to understand a hidden scourge. Gene Weingarten, a writer for The Washington Post Magazine, examines, the possible - and heart-breaking - answers those questions.

Scriber previews: I’ll follow on here with just a few excerpts from the Post article.

Nicholas Dodman, a veterinary behaviorist who co-founded the Center for Canine Behavior Studies at Tufts University, doesn’t buy the Darwinian argument, or all the ancillary explanations, which he sees as excuses for the inexcusable. This sort of cruelty, he says, is, at its dark core, a heartless character flaw: Some people suck.

“There are people,” Dodman says, “who sell their home and move out and deliberately leave a dog behind. Days later someone comes in and finds the dog starved.” It’s happened enough, he told me, that Maryland has legislation outlawing it. “The fact is,” Dodman says, “there are people who have empathy and people who don’t.”

"People who mistreat animals,” Dodman concludes, “are the same ones who mistreat people.”

Flies

Diamond suffers from fly strike dermatitis that has resulted in the edges of her ears being eaten away by flies. She was treated with anti-fly strike medicine by PETA staff and given water and food.

Now read the rest of the Washington Post Magazine article. But first, …

Why Donald Trump does not have a dog

The Scribers are about to take their dogs on a walk. Actually, I’ve got that wrong. The two canine members of our family are taking us for a stroll with lots of sniff breaks.

I bring up this up as a life-long dogster to make a point. Our past presidents, both Republican and Democrats, have been dog owners. Check out this video.

Dogs make us better people. So: Where’s Trump’s dog?

Doggone.

Posted by Sky Island Scriber, Oct 11, 2020.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Biden's trouble selling a good thing - the economy.

In the Washington Post, columnist Catherine Rampell speculates on why The economy is actually pretty good. Here’s why Biden has had difficulty selling that. Following is a lightly edited version.

The economy is doing pretty well. So why doesn’t it feel that way? And why isn’t the Biden administration selling it that way?

Let’s start with the good news, coming from the jobs report released Friday.

U.S. employers added 531,000 jobs on net in October, significantly higher than each of the previous two months. Those months’ (initially very disappointing) figures have just been revised upward, too. Job gains in October were widespread, with growth across leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, manufacturing, and transportation and warehousing. The impact of the covid–19 delta variant seems to be fading.

We still have a jobs deficit relative to the level of employment when the pandemic recession began, but we’re digging out of it.

The unemployment rate, … has ticked down again, to 4.6 percent. That’s higher than when the recession began (3.5 percent in February 2020) but still relatively low by historical standards. During the mid–2000s boom years, right before the housing bust, the lowest the unemployment rate hit was 4.4 percent.

… Americans’ perceptions of the job market are stellar. Gallup recently found that 74 percent of Americans say now is a good time to find a quality job. That’s the highest share since it began asking the question 20 years ago.

Other economic indicators also look quite good. Nominal wage growth (not adjusted for inflation) is high, up 4.9 percent from a year ago. Overall economic output (gross domestic product) is above its pre-pandemic level. Various measures of the stock market are around all-time highs.

Stock market news live updates: Wall Street sets new records after strong Oct jobs report. E.g., the Dow (DJIA) tops at 36,327.95.

Former president Donald Trump would have trumpeted numbers such as these — regardless of whether he was actually responsible for them. (As I’ve written many times, sitting presidents always get too much credit or blame for economic conditions, relative to the limited economic influence they have.)

So why did that same Gallup poll (among other surveys) find that overall economic confidence is sliding? Maybe it has something to do with the current president’s positive-but-not-quite-gushing approach.

“I would humbly suggest this is a significant improvement from when I took office, and a sign that we’re on the right track,” President Biden said Friday about the strong jobs report.

Why isn’t the Biden administration shouting these numbers from the rooftops, as Trump surely would?

Well, first there’s that little elephant in the room called inflation.

Price pressures have persisted for much longer than most economists had predicted. That’s a consequence of persistent labor shortages here and abroad, and other delta-related supply-chain disruptions. It’s also due to unusually strong demand for consumer goods, driven by big transfers from the federal government to U.S. households; stockpiled savings; and the relative risk of buying services such as travel or restaurant dining right now.

People are trying to buy even more stuff than they did pre-pandemic, but the pipeline that stuff must travel through is unusually fragile. That leads to price hikes and shortages.

Inflation is, obviously, painful for businesses, consumers and workers. Especially when it outruns workers’ (nominal) gains in compensation, as has been the case recently. As of September, workers’ compensation was below its pre-pandemic level once adjusted for inflation.

Many Biden staffers and allies are also somewhat scarred from past experience. Both President Barack Obama and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton were sometimes accused of being too upbeat about economic conditions, of emphasizing how far the economy had come rather than how much further it had to go. Given that many working-class Americans were struggling — and feeling left behind by the economic recovery — messages of optimism and progress sometimes came off as tone-deaf or disconnected.

Similarly, telling Americans who face higher grocery and gas bills today that inflation is merely “transitory” can unintentionally register as dismissive. There’s been a fair amount of infighting on the left about how to talk about inflation — whether to de-emphasize it in favor of other talking points, to say it’s worth the trade-off of having a hotter job market, or to bat away voters’ concerns as ill-informed or in bad faith. This quandary was on display Thursday when the Twitterverse and other media commentary erupted over a CNN segment featuring a large family talking about milk price increases.

My own view is that inflation is real, it’s painful, and it’s unhelpful — both economically and politically — to pretend otherwise. A better strategy than snarking or denying the economic pain (as Trump might have done) is to present a plausible plan for addressing it.

That seems to be what Biden is attempting. While highlighting some encouraging hiring trends, he acknowledged Friday that “there’s a lot more to be done” and cited the need to “tackle the costs that American families are facing.” He took credit for economic progress (which his pro-vaccination agenda, above all else, has helped with). But he also said that more work, including on inflation, remains.

The Biden agenda will generate that progress, he argued. As long as pricing pressures largely outside his control continue, though, the public still may not buy what he’s selling.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

If the Dems stole the VA election, why didn't they win. Here are some answers

At The Bulwark Mona Charen considers what it means to be Virtually Normal. The morning after the election, the Democratic candidate concedes and wishes his opponent well. The Republicans keep pushing conspiracy theories.

Isn’t it interesting that Democrats appear to have forgotten how to manipulate voting machines, stuff ballot boxes, engage in the wee-hour ballot dumps, collect ballots from dead people, and coordinate with Chinese/Venezuelan governments to change the outcome of elections? Two-thirds of Republicans believe that’s what happened in 2020. And yet, only one year later, Democrats have lost the knack?

Democrats lost in Virginia, and everybody behaved … normally. The losing candidate, Terry McAuliffe acknowledged that “last night we came up short” and offered congratulations to the victor, Glenn Youngkin, adding “I hope all Virginians will join me in wishing the best to him and his family.”

There was even a correction regarding one Virginia district, HD 85, that had originally been reported as a Democrat hold, but now seems to be a Republican pick-up (though the race is so close it might require a recount). No conspiracy theories have surfaced regarding why this correction was made in the dead of night. Democrats digested the news as the normal ebb and flow of information, even if meant losing control of the Virginia House of Delegates.

McAuliffe is not filing spurious lawsuits. There are no stop-the-steal demonstrations in Democratic strongholds. The state capitol in Richmond is presumably secure.

Now, it’s true that McAuliffe isn’t completely innocent of embracing stolen election narratives. Campaigning with Stacey Abrams last month, McAuliffe said Abrams would be governor of Georgia today if Brian Kemp (then secretary of State) hadn’t “disenfranchised 1.4 million voters.” There is no evidence for that and both McAuliffe and Abrams, if they want the Democratic party to be taken seriously as the party that respects democracy, should stop saying so.

But there is no both-sides here because the differences in scale are such that they become differences in kind. One party has a small number of people who have been intermittently intransigent on the outcome of a single, state-level race.

The other party was openly concocting “stolen election” narratives even before Tuesday’s vote.

The other party has loons who have already devised an explanation for how Youngkin could have won when Democrats rig all of our elections (save for the down ballot Republican victories in 2020). It’s a fiendishly clever ploy, Gateway Pundit explains, to make McAuliffe the “sacrificial lamb,” so that in future Democrats can resume stealing.

And the other party has a former president claiming—on the same morning that McAuliffe conceded—that he actually won the state of Virginia in the 2020 presidential election.

This morning, Trump took credit for the win in VA, pushed back on the idea that Youngkin is more popular than him, and claimed that he won the state in 2020.

Someone will eventually ask Governor-elect Youngkin about this claim. And if the past is any guide, he will evade it. He cannot answer truthfully and maintain his position in today’s GOP. And that, alas, is why this is not a post-Trump moment.

Mona Charen is Policy Editor of The Bulwark, a nationally syndicated columnist, and host of The Bulwark’s Beg to Differ podcast. She can be reached at monacharen@thebulwark.com.