Stop the Steal

America, we need to talk.

Do you really believe that a forty-three-year-old man could outplay a twenty-five-year-old man who is so good that his team won the Super Bowl just last year?

Do you really believe that a team that was 7-9 last year could somehow improve so much by adding a couple of players they’d never worked with before that said 7-9 team could beat an opponent that had spent several years building a winner with a stable coaching staff and roster? Does that make sense to you?

Do you know how close Florida is to Communist Cuba? Or that Kansas City is smack dab in the heartland of America?

Isn’t it strange that no one really knows how the officiating crew was selected, or who operated the scoreboard? Reliable sources tell me that the stadium electronics, including the scoreboard, were routed through overseas servers that could have originated in Venezuela.

Do not let the NFL certify the results of this game. Just because one team accumulated more points than the other, that doesn’t mean the team with more points won. The Chiefs won this game, probably in a landslide. Stop the steal!

Every one of us has to fight for our right to have our team win, even if the “elites” think they “lost.” We have to fight hard, and dirty, and to the death, although I deplore violence and did not encourage you to storm the 7-11 for Doritos and beer. This is America. The team you think should have won had a right to win. If the rules of the game get in the way of that outcome, those rules have to go.

Let the Criminal Prosecutions Begin

What happened in Washington, D.C. yesterday does not “border on” sedition. It is sedition. Here is the language of the applicable statute, 28 United States Code section 2834, entitled “Seditious Conspiracy”:

If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.

Every insurrectionist who forced their way into the Capitol is guilty of a crime. Many of them are easily identifiable, either through video of the event or through social media. Whether their leaders, including Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, and Louie Gohmert, can be proved to have incited this violence is an open question. Gohmert is probably the most easily prosecutable of these three. Hawley’s raised fist in solidarity with the insurrectionists may not be enough to convict him, but it is grotesque and should end his political career.

It is less difficult than one might think to prosecute Donald Trump under this statute. He has repeatedly endorsed violence. He promised yesterday’s rally would be “wild.” There are reports that White House staff were “freaked out” yesterday when he showed enthusiasm for the storming of the Capitol because it meant certification of the election results would be derailed. He did nothing to try to restore order. In fact, he refused to activate the National Guard despite repeated requests; ultimately the Vice-President had to give the order. There is little doubt that Trump wanted this riot.

If there are no prosecutions—if we decide to “move on” because we can’t take any more of this—then we normalize political violence. If it is okay this time, it is okay next time. The rule of law means nothing if the law is not enforced. It means very little if only the lowest-ranking foot soldiers in this conspiracy are prosecuted. There must be a good-faith effort to identify the most powerful individuals against whom cases can be proven and bring them to the bar of justice. Their status as elected officials gives them no quarter. They are not above the law.

Unless we fail to act. Then they are above the law, and they will know it. Just as Trump learned from the result of his impeachment that he can get away with subverting the interest of the nation to his own political interest, the people who fomented this insurrection will be emboldened to try again. It won’t happen tomorrow, but it will happen. It may happen in 2022, when they refuse to accept their defeat at the polls. It will happen in 2024, when they again try to overturn the results of a free and fair election because they know there are no consequences for sedition.

Criminal prosecutions are not an option. They are a necessity. The preservation of the Republic depends on it.

Straight Talk About Section 230

Donald Trump and some of his conservative allies want to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. They say they want to do this because they are concerned that social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter censor conservative voices. Their actions would achieve the opposite of their stated aims. They know this. Let’s take a closer look:

Under traditional defamation law, someone who publishes or repeats defamatory material is just as liable for defamation as the one with whom the defamation originated. So if I decide to get back at X by telling the New York Times that X is a pedophile, and the Times prints that story, the Times is just as liable to X as I am for defamation.

In the early days of social media, plaintiffs who felt they had been defamed tried to use this legal theory against Facebook and Twitter. By allowing people to post defamatory material, plaintiffs claimed, Facebook and Twitter had published the material to the world, and thus were just as liable as the individual who posted it.

In response, social media companies appealed to Congress. “We can’t operate if everyone can sue us for anything anyone publishes on our platforms,” they said. “We’ll go out of business.” Congress passed Section 230, which says, in effect, that social media companies are not publishers of other people’s posts for purposes of defamation law. Problem solved.

Now ask yourself what would happen if Facebook and Twitter could be sued for everything people post. Assuming they could stay in business at all, would those companies censor people less, or more? Duh. They would censor everything in sight in order to avoid liability. Any content that might be remotely controversial would be banned.

Why, then, would Trump think repeal of section 230 would lead to less censorship of conservative voices? Answer: he doesn’t. He doesn’t care about that. He’s lying when he says he does.

Donald Trump has always used litigation, and the threat of litigation, to bludgeon his critics and business adversaries. He wants to repeal Section 230 not to protect conservative voices, but to silence liberal voices. He wants to sue Facebook and Twitter (especially Twitter) for every post and tweet critical of him. He is counting, as he always does, on his superior capacity for obstreperous conduct to give him an advantage over normal human beings who do not feed on revenge and destruction, as he does.

If Section 230 is repealed, Trump will spend the rest of his life suing Facebook and Twitter for every perceived slight and imagined grievance he can attribute to any user anywhere. He’ll lose a lot more than he’ll win, but that won’t matter. His self-pity is infinite. His persecution complex is boundless. It will never end.

And Now, The Rest of the Story

Something happened in last night’s Presidential debate that most people probably missed, but that is crucial to understanding what happens after November 3.

Pennsylvania is moving away from Trump and toward Biden.’s models now show that Biden wins the state 79 times out of 100. If you look at the electoral map, Pennsylvania is the ballgame. Here’s why:

The states of the upper Midwest—Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania—all have similar demographics and similar economics. This was the “blue wall” that Hillary Clinton famously and erroneously counted on in 2016. Biden leads in every one of those states, but it’s closest in Pennsylvania. That means that if Biden wins Pennsylvania, he probably wins the others as well. If that happens, Biden does not need to win a single swing state to win the election. He doesn’t need Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, Georgia, or even Arizona (where he currently leads).

Trump needs to win every swing state and take one or more of the upper Midwest states. Pennsylvania is his best shot, and it’s slipping away from him.

Early voting has already started in Pennsylvania. Last night Trump claimed that his poll watchers were excluded from polling places in Philadelphia because “bad things happen in Philadelphia.” That’s false. In fact, there are no polling places open. Trump’s poll watchers were refused entry to the offices of election staff because they are not registered as poll watchers. Nothing inappropriate happened.

Not that that matters. Trump is laying the groundwork for disputing the election results in Pennsylvania. He is teeing up the argument that he lost the state because shady things happened in Philadelphia, and the “proof” of that is the fact that his non-registered poll watchers were denied access to election staff. The fact that it’s all hooey doesn’t matter. What matters is that he has just given us a preview of the justification he will assert for refusing to accept the results of the election.

Step Right Up

In the wake of revelations that Donald Trump told Bob Woodward that he, Trump, had deliberately misled the American people about the dangers of Covid-19, White House officials reportedly are scrambling to assign blame. Aides are pointing fingers at each other, asking whose stupid idea it was to have Trump talk to Woodward in the first place.

The truth is, they couldn’t have stopped him.

Once upon a time I was a criminal prosecutor. It occasionally happened that I would find myself in trial on a case that looked far better on paper than it did when testimony was given in open court. Many was the time when I said, “Your Honor, the People rest,” and thought to myself, This case is a piece of crap. I’m gonna lose. Then the defendant would take the stand and lose the case right back to me. He’d say things that proved his guilt, or were so terrible that they made the jurors want to convict him as fast as they could. I’d win. Afterward, I’d think, Why did the defense put on a case at all? Why didn’t the attorney just rest right after I rested, and then argue to the jury that I hadn’t proved much of anything—certainly not enough to send a person to prison?

It took me a while to figure it out. The answer was that the defendant wanted to testify. Crooks tend to be people who have spent their lives pulling a fast one on family, friends, and acquaintances. They peddle bullshit, and over the course of time they hone their craft to the point that they think they will always be able to bullshit their way out of trouble. Then they get to court and it doesn’t work on strangers, and off to prison they go.

Their attorneys let them do this because it’s less hassle. If the attorney keeps the defendant off the stand and the jury convicts, the defendant is mad at his lawyer. If the defendant testifies and convinces the jury to convict him, he has no one to blame but himself. The attorney got paid up front, so who cares? Let the clown testify and convict himself.

Now think about how many decades Donald Trump has been peddling bullshit.

Trump is P.T. Barnum. He doesn’t worry about whether what he says is true. He is only concerned with whether what he says is useful. Life is all about—and only about—making a buck. If saying a thing makes him a buck, it’s right to say that thing. He thinks all the handwringing over the falsity of his statements is funny. He thinks you’re a loser and a sucker for thinking truth matters.

Trump thinks (wrongly) that his utilitarian view of language serves him well because he thinks (wrongly) that he is a successful businessman, and that lying has been one of the engines of his (illusory) success. So why wouldn’t he talk to Woodward? Trump didn’t talk to him for his last book, Fear: Trump in the White House, and the result was an unflattering portrait. Not this time. No sirree. This time, Trump the con artist was going to bullshit Woodward into writing a paean to the greatest President ever to appear under the Big Top.

No one in Trump’s orbit was ever going to stop him. It would be an affront to Trump’s ego to suggest that he couldn’t put one over on Woodward. Affronts to this President’s ego are not well-received. Why put your head on that chopping block? Let the clown testify and convict himself.

It is mildly interesting, I suppose, to wonder whether Trump understands the mistake he made. Does he know how badly he screwed up, or is he confused about all the fuss? If it’s the latter, he has come to believe his own bullshit. If it’s the former, he will never admit it. Either way, we can expect him to lash out soon at some unrelated target in an attempt to change the subject. The key to sleight of hand, after all, is to distract the mark while the con takes place just out of view. Come one, come all: the circus is in town.

Go Ahead, Build the Wall

Donald Trump had a public spat with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi the other day about funding for his border wall. Trump threatened to shut down the government if Congress doesn’t fund construction of the wall.

I confess I do not understand.

In 2015, Donald Trump kicked off his campaign for President with a speech characterizing Mexicans as criminals and rapists. He promised to build a border wall to deter immigrants and—crucially—to make Mexico pay for it. It was an insane promise: why would Mexico pay for the wall? Why would that nation even entertain the notion of quarantining itself behind a wall as if it were diseased? What possible inducement could Trump offer that would convince Mexico to debase itself in such a manner? What persuasive power could he have left after disparaging Mexicans in openly racist terms?

Whatever. He made the promise. And he kept making it, again and again. According to the Washington Post, from the time he announced his candidacy to today Trump publicly repeated his promise that Mexico would pay for the wall approximately 190 times. That promise was the centerpiece of his campaign, the raisin d’etre for his candidacy. Supporters chanted, “Build the wall” at campaign rallies. (They also chanted, “Lock her up,” another lunatic commitment that Trump could not keep and has not pursued, but that’s a subject for another day.)

I do not understand why Congress needs to provide money for a border wall when the money is supposed to come from Mexico. Not being a political consultant type, I also do not understand why Democrats do not talk about this every damned day. It seems so, so easy to me. Democrats should stop talking about the virtues of immigration, although such virtues are real. They should stop talking about why the wall isn’t necessary, or wouldn’t be effective even if it were built, although both of those things are true. They should even stop talking about the racism at the heart of Trump’s views on immigration, although that racism is real, and evil. Instead, they should have one message, and that message should be hammered home every time the subject of immigration is raised: “A promise made should be a promise kept. We welcome the President’s commitment to build a wall on our southern border with money from Mexico. As soon as funding from Mexico is secured, Congress will act to remove any legal obstacles to construction of the wall that may exist.”

Of course, there is no chance that Congress would ever have to remove any such obstacles, because there is no chance that Mexico will ever write the check. Thus, the message underscores the absurdity of Trump’s promise. It forces him to defend himself on ground that is indefensible. It highlights, again and again, the unkept promise. Democrats can claim they are in complete agreement with the President on the evils of illegal immigration, the necessity of a southern border wall, and the need for Mexico to fund it. And then they can sit back and watch as Trump falls on his face, either by trying to engage with Mexico over funding, or by trying to explain why he didn’t mean what he said.

Trump already has given ample evidence that he intends to make a fool of himself on this issue. His latest claim is that Mexico is going to pay for the wall by giving the U.S. more favorable terms in the re-negotiation of NAFTA. That means, of course, that any money gained by virtue of those more favorable terms would be diverted from the American economy to build the wall. Which means Americans would pay for it. His argument is as silly as if he had said he would get the richest one percent of Americans to fund the wall, but that they could do it by docking your paycheck. That kind of pretzel logic doesn’t pass the smell test.

When your adversary promises to do the impossible, you don’t try to talk him out of it. You encourage him to give it a go, because his certain failure is the quickest way to discredit him and his ideas. And it doesn’t require you to do anything but watch.