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Fact Checking Republican Lies About Crime

Scare stories about crime have been a staple of Republican campaign ads for decades. This year is the worst I’ve ever seen. That’s a big part of the reason that fear of crime is rising, even when crime is not. 

In Minnesota, lying Republican ads attack Governor Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison. Even Fox News, never a Democratic partisan, calls one of the Republican ads a “five-alarm falsehood.” 

Finding facts about crime rates is complicated. The most reliable numbers come from FBI and Bureau of Justice Statistics reports. Even these two sources are incomplete, though they are the best we have. FBI statistics rely on voluntary reporting by local police departments. Complicating matters further, the FBI just changed some of the ways it compiles reports. 

With that caveat, the official numbers and reports are still 100 percent more reliable than political attack ads or “gut feelings” about crime. I’ve been reading and collecting news reports, and this post is a brief summary, with links to articles that I found most informative. 

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Countdown to November 8

Georgia celebrated a record first-day early voting turnout of more than 131,000 on October 17. In contrast, armed and masked vigilantes intimidated voters at ballot drop boxes in Arizona. 

Georgia’s turnout represents the best of U.S. democracy. Arizona represents the dark future if election deniers and proponents of the Big Lie win. 

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Attacking voting rights

Red, white, and blue logo, with ballot box and words "Elections Under Attack"

Attacks on voting rights began long before the 2020 election, with moves by Congress and the Supreme Court to gut the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The attacks continue in this electoral cycle, with intimidation of voters, restrictions on absentee voting, and laws designed to make in-person voting more difficult, especially for voters of color and low-income voters. 

The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1870, says: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

For nearly a century, states in the South flouted the law, denying Black people the right to vote through poll taxes, literacy tests, intimidation and assassination. After church bombings, lynchings, assassinations, and other bloody repressions of civil rights activists, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to protect against racial discrimination in voting. 

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Threats to election officials

Red, white, and blue logo, with ballot box and words "Elections Under Attack"

Elections depend on loyal election officials, many of them volunteers, all committed to free and fair elections. Some are paid, full-time government employees, working year-round to make sure that elections run smoothly. Some are your neighbors, volunteering from 6 am to 9 pm in polling places on election days. 

Now more than one in five U.S. election officials say they may quit because of threats and political pressure. In August, a U.S. Justice Department task force reported investigating more than 1,000 threatsagainst election workers, and said more than 11 percent could warrant criminal prosecutions because of threats of violence. Threats reported to the Justice Department are the tip of the iceberg: most go to local police or are not reported at all.  

Originally published in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. “This is the third of MSR’s “Elections Under Attack” series that looks at four threats to our elections growing out of the Big Lie that the former president won the 2020 election. Articles in the series look at each of these threats to democratic elections in the United States, with an emphasis on Minnesota. Part I:Big Lie candidates running in November;  Part II: Sabotaging the election process. Part III: Threats to election officials; Part IV: Attacking voting rights.

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Sabotaging the election process

Red, white, and blue logo, with ballot box and words "Elections Under Attack"

Election sabotage is not just something that could happen in November 2022 or in 2024: It is an ongoing crime that began with the 2020 election. This sabotage prominently included attempts to coerce state officials to “find” more votes, designation of illegal slates of electors, Congressional Republican votes against certification of election results, and the January 6 armed attack on the Capitol.  

Electoral sabotage continues with the Big Lie that the former president won the election and that there was widespread election fraud. The Big Liar and other proponents of the Big Lie ignore all evidence and now prepare to attack and undermine the coming elections. They cannot overturn the 2020 election, but they can foment distrust and disgust with the electoral process that is vital to democracy. 

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Big Lie candidates running in November 

Red, white, and blue logo, with ballot box and words "Elections Under Attack"

In Minnesota, Republican Kim Crockett is running for Secretary of State on a Big Lie platform. She calls the 2020 election “lawless,” “illegitimate” and “rigged.” She wants to severely restrict absentee and mail voting, saying that postal workers cannot be trusted to deliver ballots. 

Her lies about elections put her squarely in the ranks of Republicans running on the Big Lie platform this year—and she’s running for the statewide office that has the most to do with election integrity.

Originally published in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. “This is the first of MSR’s “Elections Under Attack” series that looks at four threats to our elections growing out of the Big Lie that the former president won the 2020 election. Articles in the series look at each of these threats to democratic elections in the United States, with an emphasis on Minnesota. Next week: Part II: Sabotaging the election process. In coming weeks: Part III: Threats to election officials; Part IV: Attacking voting rights.

Across the country, right-wing proponents of the Big Lie have launched attacks against voting rights, election processes, and election officials. Besides these ongoing attacks, dozens of Big Lie candidates are running for key state offices that will give them control of election machinery. 

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More Funding for the IRS Will Help the Middle Class

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The Inflation Reduction Act gives the IRS $80 billion in new funding to upgrade and, among other things, to hire 87,000 new agents. The country desperately needs that investment to compensate for massive budget cuts to the IRS over the past decade, to update antiquated technology, and to enable the agency to go after über-wealthy billionaires and transnational corporations who have successfully evaded or outright refused to pay taxes for years.

Republicans in Congress falsely say that the new IRS agents will be armed and will go after low and middle-income taxpayers. These completely false claims have sparked a wave of rightwing threats of violence. A Republican candidate for the Florida legislature called for Floridians to “shoot FBI, IRS, ATF and all other feds on sight! Let freedom ring!

The scare stories are totally false. In actual fact, the new funding follows a decade of defunding. The IRS enforcement budget was cut by more than 25 percent from 2012 to 2020, and the agency lost almost 6,000 agents.[1] With less money and fewer agents, the IRS conducted fewer audits overall, and collected far less money, only $11 billion in 2019, compared to $28 billion in 2010. 

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Mar-a-Lago: Eight Questions and Answers

Scales of justice with question mark.
Scales of justice with question mark. Image by Esquivalience, used under Creative Commons license.

Question #1: Did the FBI “raid” Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence?

Answer: No. The FBI executed a search warrant. A search warrant is issued by a judge. In order to get a search warrant, the prosecutor must demonstrate probable cause to believe two things: that a crime has been committed and that evidence of the crime will be found on the premises to be searched. 

Trump said there was no difference between Watergate and the FBI actions. That is arrant nonsense. Watergate was a burglary committed by criminals who clandestinely broke into offices in the dead of night. At Mar-a-Lago, the FBI executed a search warrant openly and in the full light of day, pursuant to a legal court order. 

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Dear Mr. President: Don’t go to Saudi Arabia

I sent this email to the White House tonight:

Dear Mr. President:
Please do NOT go to Saudi Arabia. A presidential appearance there gives aId and comfort to Mohammed Bin Salman, who is implicated in the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. You have called Saudi Arabia a pariah state. It is. It should be.
Please–stand up for human rights and do not visit Saudi Arabia.
Respectfully,
Mary Turck

Jamal Khashoggi was a Saudi journalist living and working in the United States. He was a columnist for the Washington Post. On October 2, 2018, Khashoggi was ambushed, suffocated, and dismembered in the Saudi embassy in Turkey. His assassination by a 15-person Saudi hit squad was well-documented, his gruesome final moments on audio tape, and the connection to Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman is well-established.

Nor is that the only reason to steer clear of a visit to Saudi Arabia. Fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, and 9/11 families continue to call for accountability on the part of Saudi Arabia. Some families are suing Saudi Arabia for damages. Terry Strada, widow of Tom Strada, wrote to President Biden on behalf of the 9/11 Families United organization:

“Please stand where no other President since 9/11 has stood, with the September 11 community in our pursuit for justice, and prioritize a full and complete discussion of the Saudis’ continued denial of their complicity in the attacks.

“We strongly suspect that you recognize the wisdom and justice in this request, and that you understand and support our efforts, but we need to see the actions, not just the words …”

I invite you to copy my letter and send, or write in your own words. This is the link to contact the President: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/

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Racism and Anti-Semitism: Ignoring Evil Does Not Make It Go Away

Swastikas on columns in Union Station in Washington DC
Holocaust Remembrance Day was yesterday, January 27. Today, Bo Erickson of CBS News reports that there are swastikas drawn on almost every column in Union Station in Washington, DC. 

In Tennessee, a school board banned the teaching of the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel, Maus. That novel teaches about the Holocaust. It is based on the experience of the author’s parents. They survived Auschwitz concentration camp. His mother later killed herself. 

The McMinn County Board of Education thinks the novel is disturbing and too adult for high school students. 

The Holocaust is an obscenity. Learning about the Holocaust SHOULD be disturbing. 

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