Friday, September 25, 2020

Dirty trick

Never forget that the Republican party is the party of Roger Stone, Jacob Wohl and James O'Keefe. It's also the party of Karl Rove, the guy who once bugged his own office in order to frame an opponent. 

It's the Fake-Out Party. The Conspiracy Party, if you will.

Earlier today, this link went to a DOJ announcement that nine absentee military ballots were found discarded in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. The link no longer works because the story had to be revised. A bad sign, that. At first, U.S. Attorney David Freed said that all nine ballots were cast for Donald Trump; a later statement said that only seven ballots were Trump ballots. The revised story is here.

Obviously, this "discovery" is bogus. I am convinced that those discarded ballots were planted. 

The purpose of this conspiracy is to buttress Trump's narrative that mailed ballots cannot be trusted. Even though absentee ballots have been used for far longer than I've been alive, and even though Trump himself votes absentee, the Republicans want the nation to mistrust the very concept of voting by mail. 

As I've noted previously, mailed votes leave a paper trail, which means that a mailed vote is more trustworthy than a computerized vote. But there's another reason why Trump wants to discredit voting by mail: He does not want mailed votes counted on election night

Polls clearly indicate that many more Democrats than Republicans intend to vote by mail, due to Covid fears. Absentee votes are generally counted last. Trump has made no secret of the fact that he wants to stop the vote count before the mailed ballots are tallied.

Hence the current exercise in political theater. From TPM:

Gerry Hebert, a former DOJ official who for several years worked in its voting section, said in an email that Thursday’s press release was “inconsistent with DOJ handbook for prosecuting election cases, which generally discourage public statements by DOJ re: ongoing investigations.”

The FBI does not talk about investigations in public. It is unheard-of to reveal such a thing prematurely.  As I said: This is theater.

Revealing who the ballots were cast for was pure propaganda. From a legal perspective, the recipient of those votes is immaterial to the investigation. 

Do Trump's ratfuckers always have to be this obvious? I miss Rove. He had more finesse.

Naturally, the entire right-wing propaganda machine pounced upon this story with an immediacy that suggests forewarning. Right-wing trolls instantly -- and I mean instantly -- flooded the internet with comments blasting liberal perfidy. 

It was quite impressive to watch so many players coordinate their movements so precisely. Busby Berkley came to mind.  

This story has a number of obvious absurdities. Here's a big one: Due to a longrunning dispute involving the Green Party's place on the ballot, there was a holdup in the issuance of ballots in Luzerne County. Ballots won't go out until October

The exception: Ballots were sent out to military personnel on August 25. It's fair to posit that most of those ballots have not been cast yet. Perhaps none have been cast. Any ballots that were completed and sent in should have remained in their security envelopes. (The system uses two envelopes per ballot.) 

The law clearly states that ballots are not to be opened until election day. Anyone opening those envelopes risked jail.

Who would have had access? Ballots coming in from overseas would have ended up in the possession of the Luzerne County Election Bureau...

...which is controlled by Republicans.

Let us posit that a hypothetical Dem malefactor lurks within that Republican-controlled office. Let us visualize said malefactor tearing open envelope after envelope in search of Trump votes. In doing so, our hypothetical Dem malefactor would have ruined potential Democratic ballots.  

Consider this headline from earlier this month: Trump Losing The Military Vote, A Traditional Republican Bloc.

A stunt like this might well have reduced the Biden vote. So why would our hypothetical Dem malefactor do such a thing? Doesn't make sense.

Speaking of things that don't make sense: Why on earth would our hypothetical Dem malefactor dump the evidence where it could easily be found? Why not burn it? 

We are told that the material was found in a dumpster. Who rummaged through this dumpster, and why? Usually, only very poor people scrounge through garbage, and the desperate don't care about politics. 

If I were discarding evidence of a crime -- and if I possessed neither a match nor a shredder -- I'd place the material in a dark plastic bag filled with dog doo or some other icky gunk. Then I'd toss that bag into some random suburbanite's garbage can. Problem solved.

Was that dumpster adjacent to the Luzerne County Elections Bureau? News stories do not so state, but a close reading of the available material suggests that such was indeed the case. I strongly suspect that the ballots were meant to be found. 

Perhaps they were "found" by the person who placed them in that dumpster to begin with. Again: Republicans control that office.

From the revised DOJ press release:

Investigators have recovered nine ballots at this time. Some of those ballots can be attributed to specific voters and some cannot. Of the nine ballots that were discarded and then recovered, 7 were cast for presidential candidate Donald Trump. Two of the discarded ballots had been resealed inside their appropriate envelopes by Luzerne elections staff prior to recovery by the FBI and the contents of those 2 ballots are unknown

Strangeness abounds here. "Some" can be attributed to specific voters? "Some" indicates more than two.

Each ballot was in two separate envelopes, and only the outermost envelope would display the voter's name. One would have to open both envelopes to determine that a vote was cast for Trump.

Are we supposed to believe that the malefactor tore open the envelopes then placed the ballots back inside opened envelopes? 

Are we also supposed to believe that two of the nine envelopes were opened in such a way that they could be resealed? A CIA flaps-and-seals expert could do the trick, but I doubt that someone at the Luzerne County Elections Board would have the necessary skill set. Anyone who did have the skills would have used those skills in all instances, and would have been much more professional in disposing of the evidence.

Finally: Why? What's the motive?

Nine ballots are extremely unlikely to affect an election. But concocting a bogus incident of this sort definitely benefits Trump's propaganda campaign. Those nine ballots could give Trump all the "evidence" he needs to call a premature end to the vote count on election night.

The Democrats lack motive. Only the Republicans had any motive to stage this bit of theater.   

As I keep saying: Real conspiracies do exist. The conspiracy theorists are the conspirators.

Don't be surprised to see a rash of similar incidents in the near future. Just now, I fleetingly saw a reference to a similar case in Wisconsin -- another battleground state where Trump would love to halt the tallying before the absentee ballots are counted. Frankly, I've not yet read the relevant news stories coming out of Wisconsin. 

The important point is this: Such "dumpings" were previously unknown in the long history of absentee voting. So why now?


Ivory Bill Woodpecker said...

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Anonymous said...

"Real conspiracies do exist. The conspiracy theorists are the conspirators."

A clever play on words, Joe, but much too facile and Langley inspired for a greybearded, well-read student and chronicler of non-mainstream history such as yourself. You certainly can't have missed the discovery, many years ago, that the very term "conspiracy theorist" was Mockingbird-ed into contemporary parlance as a pejorative term by the very perps (or accessories after the fact) of the JFK hit -- to ridicule any and all skeptics of the Warren Report.

And you're one of those pesky skeptics, aren't you?

Or have you now, in the pitiful scramble against the gathering darkness of your twilight years, resolved to swallow whole the Warren Report (like you did the 9/11 Commission Report) so you can present yourself to Saint Peter as a dutiful adherent of Romans 13, verses 1-7?

Joseph Cannon said...

Anon, I don't think you are welcome here anymore. I don't discuss 9/11, so you have no idea what I think about that report, nor will you ever. Being a typical conspiracy-crazed asshole, you have allowed presumption to substitute for facts (or, in this case, the lack thereof). Don't think that you can coax me into a dialogue I disdain. You ain't worth the aggro.

In the '90s, I met nearly all of the major JFK assassination writers. Although I am still sympathetic to their side of that argument, I learned a hard lesson from keeping that sort of company: Conspiracy theory is junk. As in heroin. It's an addiction. Even when a theory turns out to have a factual basis, addiction is addiction is addiction.

The addiction has now overtaken the entire nation. The public must get the needle out of its collective arm.

For me, everything clicked into place when I finally understood that the assassination was masterminded by James Jesus Angleton. When I say "conspiracy theorists are the conspirators," I'm thinking primarily about him. Angleton was THE classic example. (Well, him and Hitler.)

When I learned about JJA's pre-war (and post-war) closeness to Ezra Pound -- who filled Angleton's poetry journal with weird ramblings about Jewish bankers -- I realized that Angleton was a conspiracy theorist well before he became a spy.

Unsurprisingly, Angleton was a substance abuser. I'm starting to believe that this country's current addiction to paranoia must have some relationship to our concurrent addiction to drugs. It's no coincidence that Trump and QAnon are most popular in those parts of the country where opiates and meth are massive problems. (I would also note that Bill Cooper -- a hideous racist -- has become weirdly popular with urban blacks who abuse drugs.)

I spent enough time with conspiracy buffs to learn their dirty little secrets. One of the reasons I never completely fit in with them is that I never smoked pot and rarely drank to excess. (Although I certainly plan to do so on election night!)

The JFK assassination researchers meant well and did well, but they inadvertently created a subculture which aided the rise of fascism in America. Those who searched for the mastermind BECAME the mastermind. Fear-addicts, like other addicts, keep seeking harder shit. I still admire Jim Garrison, but I know damned well that people who read his book soon ended up mainlining Nesta Webster and Bill Cooper.

That descent is a real thing. I saw it happen to acquaintances of mine during the '90s. The conspiracy books they read became ever more absurd. "Rush to Judgment" led to "The Committee of 300." Evidence, footnotes, rational argumentation -- none of those things mattered any longer. The conspiracy addicts I knew just wanted the dopamine hit offered only by purified paranoia. They also loved the self-satisfied feeling one gets from being "in the know," even though they were actually the most gullible people imaginable -- born suckers, perfect prey for any con artist who callously fed their addiction.

With that ever-present monkey firmly affixed to their backs, my acquaintances stopped caring about family and career and art and sports and hiking and road trips and dinner parties and all of the normal pleasures of life. I've seen it happen. To an appalling degree, it happened to ME. I finally made my escape in the late '90s, after meeting the right woman. As I've said before, I suddenly realized that all I REALLY wanted was a girl and a dog.

Back in the '90s, the "paranoia junkies" were consigned to a subculture. Now, that subculture is THE culture. The addiction that hit "my circle" twenty-five years ago has turned millions of Q junkies into an army of monsters.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Joseph, and I mean that sincerely. Now I understand you better and I can sympathize, if not empathize, with your present perspective and the life experiences that put you there.

From my perspective, which is in strong congruence with the recent Hannah Arendt quote in your comments section, twenty years ago you peered into the abyss and the sight was so numbingly, terrifyingly abominable that you had to turn away and never look back -- or you might have gone mad. And to effectively bolster that permanent aversion, you also recognized that way too many of your then-peers, who were shining shaky and often poorly focused beams of light into that abyss, were themselves turning into junior versions of the very Gorgon they had exposed.

In place of the solace of religion you then found comfort and hope by putting your severely shaken trust in traditional-liberal, New Deal-based Democratic Party politics and candidates.

So be it; may the spirit of FDR bless you and guide you. I think you are a good soul, and I will continue to learn from your blog, as I have for well over a decade.

But I also don't think the Gorgon has gone away... and in this post-9/11, Trumpism-cum-fascist, virus-bedeviled world, its evil plans for us proceed at an ever-quickening pace.

Gus said...

Late on this comment, but I found it interesting that here in central PA, I received a mail in ballot application from the Trump campaign. Trump's face is on the front, and inside I'm asked to fill out the application included and send it in and to please use it to vote for Trump. I laughed when I saw this. Obviously, he's either not up on what his campaign is doing, or he doesn't really have any issue with mail in voting (certainly it looks like he and his dirty tricksters are trying to create issues with it). Of course, I rarely vote for Republicans and it's possible his campaign sent these to probable Dem voters to trick them into voting by mail. I didn't look closely at the application or compare it to the one on PA's government web site that is the official one, but anything is possible with Trump I suppose.