Anatomy of a Scam Investigation, Chapter 14: The Indictment

This series is about my investigation of a mail fraud ring that attempted to scam my firm, the history of its bad actors, and the methodology that I used to look into it. You can see the whole chapter index here.

The wheels grind slowly, but they grind.

About four and a half years ago I was irritated when my firm received a fake invoice, and was moved to write a series about how people like you or me could investigate and expose scammers. David Bell — a career con man — was the ringleader of the scam and a central figure of the series. Bell sustained a relatively minor state conviction for a related scam in 2014. But one of the most constant themes of the series — and one of the most constant observations of readers — has been that the system allowed Bell to get away with such overt fraud for so many years without apparent consequence. Patience, I said.

That patience has now been rewarded. In August 2015, the United States Attorney's Office for the Central District of California (the region covering Los Angeles and its surrounding counties) indicted David Bell for mail fraud.

The Indictment: Two Familiar Schemes

The indictment is here. Bear in mind what an indictment is: it's just an accusation drafted by federal prosecutors and presented to a grand jury for what usually amounts to little more than a rubber stamp. It's not proof of anything. This indictment, though, has some very familiar themes for anyone who has been reading the series.

The indictment charges Bell — and only Bell — with four counts of wire fraud and attempted wire fraud, nine counts of mail fraud, and a forfeiture allegation seeking to take everything Bell earned through his enterprise. The federal mail fraud and wire fraud statutes are extremely broad and flexible. They require that the government prove that Mr. Bell devised or participated in a scheme to defraud others and that that scheme somehow involved the use of the U.S. mail or interstate wire communications.

The indictment is broken down into two schemes: the wire fraud scheme and the mail fraud scheme. The wire fraud scheme, corresponding to counts one through four, alleges that Bell defrauded payroll companies from 2008 through 2010.1 Specifically, it claims that Bell would sign up his company for payroll services, write bad checks to cover the payroll, and then reap the paychecks before the payroll company realized his check was no good.

If that sounds vaguely familiar, it's because I wrote about similar allegations way back in Chapter Five. In Chapter Five I dug up lawsuits against Bell and his company UST Development filed by two payroll companies — Blue Ocean and Epay — alleging the same scam. Notably, the indictment lists four different payroll companies, which means at least six companies have accused Bell of this. That's going to make it pretty easy for the government to prove fraudulent intent. You might bounce a check once or twice trying to get your company set up, but once you've bounced checks to six different payroll companies in the same few months, it starts to look like enemy action.

The mail fraud scheme is even more familiar to readers of the series. It alleges that Bell sent out mailers deceptively styled as "invoices" for "Telecom Maintenance/Service Call" for $175 or $350 to many companies that had never done business with him. Sometimes the mailers even said that the amounts were past due. Some recipients paid. This is the same scheme that prompted me to write this series and continued for years. This one's all about the fraudulent intent. Bell will claim that he didn't intend the mailers to be misleading. That's a tough sell when he tweaked them and ignored complaints for so long.

What happens from here?

Bell and the government recently stipulated to move the trial date from May to September, a delay that's routine in this sort of case. It could easily get continued again, even multiple times. Bell is represented by experienced and competent counsel.

The government is represented by two formidable and experienced Assistant United States Attorneys. [Fair disclosure: one of them beat me in a trial a few years ago. He knows what he's doing.] The government has likely amassed a vast number of witnesses and a huge array of documentary evidence, as the Postal Inspectors have been investigating this for years. Remember that federal prosecutors' competitive advantage is taking their time and building a grand jury case over years. Taking off my observer hat and putting on my federal criminal defense attorney hat, this looks very grim for Bell.

So what kind of time does Bell face if he's convicted? I'm not going to calculate it because it's so flexible. Though the federal judge has the ultimate discretion about the sentence to impose, that judge will consider the sentence recommended by application of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Because this is a fraud case, the driving force behind the length of the sentence will be the "amount of loss" attributable to Bell's actions. When it comes to the wire fraud scheme, that's fairly straightforward — it's likely the amount of money actually paid by the payroll companies. That's not necessarily limited to the transactions charged in the indictment. Under the principle of "relevant conduct," it could include uncharged transactions in the same scheme — for instance, the uncharged money described in the lawsuits detailed in Chapter Five.

But the potentially huge number is the amount of loss attributable to the mail fraud scheme, which targeted thousands of victims. The amount of loss isn't limited to the nine particular mailings listed in the indictment — the potential universe is all of the mailings over the course of the scheme. Just counting the companies that were successfully defrauded, that's likely hundreds of thousands of dollars. But that's not all. If the government wanted to be aggressive — and if the court were receptive (plausible in the case of a career con-man) — Bell could be sentenced based on a theory of intended loss. Under that theory the amount of loss for guideline purposes would be the amount he would have reaped if every single fraudulent mailer yielded money. That's a vast amount.

That provides insight into why federal prosecutors have so much power. In a case like this, they can say "plead guilty and we'll stipulate that the amount of loss is $100,000 — only the actual loss. Go to trial and we'll argue that the amount of loss is the intended loss — $1,000,000." Suddenly the delta between pleading guilty and going to trial is the difference between five months in custody and four years in custody.

So how much time will Bell do if he's convicted? Dunno. Too early to say, and not enough information. But the man has a criminal record, including a recent conviction and jail term, which is going to drive his sentence up significantly. He's not walking off with probation.

This isn't the end. I'll update the series as Bell's case continues. For now, remember: you have to wait for the feds, sometimes years.

Violence and Political Speech

I don't write the headlines

I don't write the headlines

My most recent CNN Column discusses violence in political settings. See Defend Donald Trump's right to free speech

I don't get to write my own headlines, ok?

Some good people think that sometimes being violent is ok. What they don't understand is that when we use violence in politics, no matter what, the bad people always win. They get to escalate the violence, feeding off of it, up to a point where the good people lose the stomach for it — or at least a critical mass of them lose the stomach for it.


And the bad people will always have more of a stomach for it, so in the war of attrition, they will win. They'll always be willing to bash you over the head with a truncheon for less of a reason, with more willingness to keep going long after your head looks like cherry pudding. They'll always go further on a macro level too, they're the bad guys because they're sociopaths.

No matter how right you are… if violence ensues and you win? You're probably one of the bad people. I don't care if you're protesting against the KKK or NAMBLA or the Black Panthers or ISIS or Nickleback fans.

That's kinda the point of my column:

Donald Trump finally learning about the meaning of free speech?

Other candidates might be bad for free speech once elected. But Trump is the only candidate to actually campaign to reduce our First Amendment rights. This is the guy who said, "There used to be consequences to protesting. There are none anymore. These people are so bad for our country, you have no idea, folks."

On Friday, he canceled a rally in Chicago, citing security concerns. Eyewitnesses reported that there were thousands of protesters outside, and hundreds demonstrating "in unison inside."

Even after it was canceled, there were reports of several outbreaks of violence in the streets after the speech and protesters celebrating by chanting, "We stopped Trump!"

And now, while everyone is trying to play the blame game, Trump ironically asks, "What happened to freedom of speech?"

Read the rest here.

A fabulous Roman candle exploding like a spider across the stars


On this day in 1922, the universe lit the fuse on the roman candle of the existence of one Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac. Somewhere along the line after that there were girls, visions, everything; somewhere along the line the pearl was handed to him, but like so many that stand at the center when the blue light pops, the pearl drops into the grate on a street where you can still smell the last exhale of the cigarette that the guy put out as he got into the taxi.

The taxi that drove down the wet street, where most of the streetlights were still working, but that one keeps flickering, and no more taxis come and you knew none would. So you walk, and walk, until you get to that corner where there's the place down a few stairs, and you wonder if you'd rather get out of the wet and the rain and have a drink, but then you would have to be with all the other people that wanted to get out of the rain or have a drink or just be with each other.

But, maybe it would just be better to smoke a joint there, in the rain by yourself, whether any cabs came or not, because how you get there is better than wondering why, or is it the other way 'round? And as you exhale the smoke and walk past the door, you remember that the pearl dropped into the grate. And now all the grates look the same, so even if you could reach your hand down there to try and get it, you can't ever remember which one it fell into. So you just keep walking. Let someone else have the pearl or nobody else or maybe there just wasn't ever one at all.

The USPTO Would Prefer Not to Follow the First Amendment

The USPTO is, apparently, a big Melville crowd.

In December, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decided In re Tam, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 22593 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 22, 2015). In it, the Federal Circuit made a sweeping pronouncement that the First Amendment applies to trademark registrations, and that a long-criticized prohibition on “disparaging” trademarks could no longer stand. The portion of the trademark act that fell was Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C.S. § 1052(a).

Then, the Department of Justice conceded that § 2(a) was no longer enforceable in light of In re Tam.

We do not believe that given the breadth of the Court’s Tam decision and in view of the totality of the Court’s reasoning there, that there is any longer a reasonable basis in this Court's law for treating them differently… The reasoning of Tam requires the invalidation of § 2(a)'s prohibition against registering scandalous and immoral Trademarks as well."

One might think then, for a moment, that the USPTO would stop relying on an unconstitutional provision, no? Well, time for a literature lesson:

In Herman Melville’s classic, Bartleby the Scrivener, an attorney finds frustration with his scrivener, Bartleby. Any time Bartleby is directed to perform a task, he replies with the classic refrain: “I would prefer not to.”

The first of many such exchanges continued thus:

“Prefer not to,” echoed I, rising in high excitement, and crossing the room with a stride. “What do you mean? Are you moon-struck? I want you to help me compare this sheet here – take it,” and I thrust it towards him.
“I would prefer not to,” said he. Herman Melville, Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street 10 (Dover 1990) (1853).

Initially infuriated, but beguiled by Bartleby’s charmingly passive insolence, the narrator tolerates Bartleby’s masterfully eccentric defiance, but eventually fires him. Once fired, Bartleby’s behavior becomes stranger, and he refuses to leave the premises of his employer, who finds Bartleby’s stubbornness to be an immoveable object. Bartleby’s defiance, as effective as it is, eventually leads to his undoing. Bartleby’s preference leads to his imprisonment and starvation, as he finally encounters both men and forces of nature who are unmoved by his antics.

We have, at least for the moment, a government agency that fancies itself in the role of Bartleby. The USPTO has already been instructed by the Federal Circuit that Section 2(a) (at least as far as the "disparaging" portion of it) is unconstitutional, and the case law that the USPTO has relied upon to justify its bullshit standard under the "scandalous" portion is specifically overruled.

Rumored to be the new USPTO policy director

Rumored to be the new USPTO policy director

Nevertheless, the USPTO has essentially decided "we would prefer not to" follow the Constitution.

The USPTO continues to examine applications for compliance with the scandalousness and disparagement provisions in Section 2(a) according to the existing guidance in the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure § 1203. While the constitutionality of these provisions remains in question and subject to potential Supreme Court review, for any new applications the USPTO will issue only advisory refusals on the grounds that a mark consists of or comprises scandalous, immoral, or disparaging matter under Section 2(a). If a mark’s registrability under these provisions in Section 2(a) is the only issue, the examining attorney will identify the reasons for the advisory refusal and suspend action on the application in the first Office action. For all applications, including those initially examined before the Federal Circuit’s decision in Tam, if the examining attorney made other requirements or refusals in the first Office action, action on the application will be suspended when the application is in condition for final action on those other requirements or refusals. Any suspension of an application based on the scandalousness provision of Section 2(a) will remain in place until the Federal Circuit issues a decision in Brunetti, after which the USPTO will re-evaluate the need for further suspension. Any suspension of an application based on the disparagement provision of Section 2(a) will remain in place until at least the last of the following occurs: (1) the period to petition for a writ of certiorari (including any extensions) in Tam expires without a petition being filed; (2) a petition for certiorari is denied; or (3) certiorari is granted and the U.S. Supreme Court issues a decision. (source)

Please note, I received this document from an intellectual property lawyers' list serve, and I have not confirmed its authenticity. Nevertheless, the document properties say that the author is Christina J. Hieber, who does check out as an attorney with the USPTO's office of the solicitor. (source)

So, remember folks – the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit told the USPTO that it was violating the Constitution. Their position? "We don't care, we might appeal, and then again, we might not. But, until we are told that the courts really really mean it, the Constitution doesn't matter." And they think that the word "fuck" is "immoral" and "scandalous."

You know what is "immoral" and "scandalous?" A petty little bureaucrat, or group thereof, deciding that they are above the Constitution, because… well, dirty words and all.


If you find the issue of morality and intellectual property rights of interest, I'd be delighted if you downloaded and read my law review article on the subject. See Marc J. Randazza Freedom of Expression and Morality Based Impediments to the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights

Something Doesn't Click Here

freedom from freedom A Missouri professor has gotten more than her share of negative pixels this year. I actually decided after my last column on her that I was done writing about her.

Even when she claimed that her now-infamous plea for "some muscle over here" was not the real her. I resisted.

“I try to remember that’s only one moment of a full day, and only one moment in a 12-year career,” she said. (source)

And after she hired a public relations team to give her a makeover, she now claims that the real reason she got fired is because she was the scapegoat for a racist patriarchy or something. (source)

Ok, fuck it, I'll write about this idiot again.

From her recent statement:

In their decision to terminate my employment, the Curators bowed to conservative voices that seek to tarnish my stellar 12-year record at MU. Instead of disciplining me for conduct that does not “meet expectations for a University faculty member,” the Curators are punishing me for standing with students who have drawn attention to the issue of overt racism at the University of Missouri. While I have apologized on numerous occasions to numerous parties for my actions on October 10, 2015 and November 9, 2015, I will not apologize for my support of Black students who experience racism at the University of Missouri.

Yes, she expects you to believe that she got fired from a University for being too liberal.

The fact is, her actions on that one day are a great summary of her 12 year career, which is not "stellar." It is utterly useless.

But, perhaps she is right. Perhaps terminating her isn't fair. After all, she is merely a symptom of a problem, not a problem herself. The real disease is one that has infected higher education for at least a generation — political correctness, where identity politics and victim studies trump intelligence and qualifications. When that happens, again and again, what do you expect? How can you not wind up with "professors" like her?

The bats have come home to rest in the empty mental belfry of academia. In the short term, for the professor — as she was charged with assault for her misdeeds – something I disagreed with. Why? Because she was criminally charged for a mere legal trifle, even if it was an academic sin of the highest order. Firing her was the right thing to do, but what we need to realize is that she should not have been hired in the first place.

I majored in victim studies!


Her CV indicates someone with a very shallow view of the marketplace of ideas, and someone who figured out how to game the system, but not someone who has much to offer when it comes to expanding knowledge, or just teaching students how to do anything useful.

Don't get me wrong, hers was a brilliant path for anyone who wants to get hired in social science academia. Prove your "victim studies" cred and your CV goes to the top of the pile. And therein lies the problem.

Critiques of her CV fill pages of search engine results, but this one sums it up nicely.

So who is Melissa Click? She is an Assistant Professor at Missouri and has a PhD in communication from the University of Massachusetts. What was the subject of her dissertation? “It’s ‘a good thing’: The commodification of femininity, affluence and whiteness in the Martha Stewart phenomenon.” Obviously a work of serious scholarship. Prof. Click has a “Graduate Certificate in Advanced Feminist Studies,” too. So she is well qualified to teach your children. Something. (source)

Her "scholarship" includes Making monsters: Lady Gaga, fan identification, and social media, The romanticization of abstinence: Fan response to sexual restraint in the Twilight series and “Let’s Hug It Out, Bitch”: Audience response to hegemonic masculinity in Entourage.

She's not quite finished with The trouble with Thomas: A closer look at the popular children’s Series. I presume that Thomas the Train is an agent of the Patriarchy, and railroads are a metaphor for rape culture, or something like that.*

What do you expect? She went to UMass/Amherst. I did too. Don't get me wrong, I adore the place, donate to it, and will sing its praises until my vocal cords bleed. But, to say that it is a bit of a left-wing outlier is like saying that Donald Trump can be slightly abrasive at times. Just like I know when a dear friend also has a tendency to be an asshole, I am not blind to UMass' flaws. One of them is that it often chooses political correctness over the promotion of knowledge.

While I graduated with a UMass journalism degree (which was one of the best moves ever), I spent a few semesters in a specialized major called "Social Thought and Political Economy," (STPEC) which exists only at UMass. While there, I learned just how silly this brand of left-wing thought can be. I wish I had realized, at the time, that I was seeing the early stages of terminal academic stupidity.

To me, majoring in STPEC sounded great. In some ways it was. I fancied myself a little revolutionary. I wore Che Guevara t-shirts. I smoked weed and dropped acid and went on marches and building takeovers. It might have been 1987, but the way I saw it, it was the sixties, even though it was the eighties. And, I was the first brilliant 17 year old to discover Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. That's a lot of college students, but this was particularly fashionable at UMass. And boy did I think I was cool.

UMass considered this to be "anti-semitic"

UMass considered this to be "anti-semitic"

Part of that juvenile thinking-I-am-cool was that I loved The Dead Kennedys (still do, but I admit that I play it at a much lower volume now). I put up a poster from them, depicted here — "Nazi Punks Fuck Off." I quickly found myself up on "civility" charges. Not because the content of my door decoration had profanity in it, that was just fine. No, it was considered to be "Anti-Semitic." When I mockingly explained the significance of the poster, the residence director explained to me that the intent of the message was irrelevant — it was how it made the anonymous complaining party feel. If they felt harassed by it, I was responsible for those emotions. I was let off with a "warning."

I took it down, since the last thing I wanted to do was make someone feel like I didn't like them because they were Jewish — even if they were an abject fucking idiot.

But that was when I realized that there was a real problem at my University. The way I saw it, I should have had every right to put up a "Hitler Rules, Fuck Yeah!" poster, if I wanted to. But, if I could not put up the opposite of that, without having committed thoughtcrime then how could we have any debate? Was the subject just off limits? More troublingly, I could express one opinion, but be held responsible for the precise opposite opinion because some fucking idiot didn't get the message?

Later, I took a writing class — "Writing for Critical Consciousness." It sounded like a great idea at the time, even if I would mock the shit out of my 19 year old self for taking it. We had a paper due, and we were allowed to work in teams. Fortunately, I had a cool partner in this project, and as we were trying to write this piece of shit, I took a toke off a bong and suggested that we just do a "word salad" of politically correct terms. We laughed our asses off as we tossed in words like "heteronormative" and "hegemonist." For about an hour, we both just typed nonsense. Complete and utter bullshit. When we were finished, we cut and pasted it into a single document, and handed it in. We just didn't give a shit.

Imagine how hard we laughed when we got an A on the paper.

This is the UMass that produced Ms. Click. That is the left-wing academia that offends even me… and I think I'm pretty far left. I believe in a 99% income tax bracket at some level. I'm all for socialized medicine. I support affirmative action (but only for descendants of slaves). I'm in favor of a huge estate tax. Hell, its a good thing I'm not in charge, because I'd probably declare martial law and drag the 400 richest Americans, parade them through the streets Chinese Cultural Revolution style, and then publicly execute them, seize everything they have, and redistribute it to the poor. Fine, I'm a lunatic. Don't let me be dictator, and everything will be fine.

But just as I learned at UMass, "political correctness" can become a parody of itself. Sometimes, like when you just word-vomit the right vocabulary, you get an A in "writing for victim studies." Other times, though, it can be scary — like when you're 18 years old and facing a panel of stern looking people telling you that your record may have something in it that brands you an anti-semitic racist, when your intent was 180 degrees the other way.

But, if you want a job in academia, that is the path. Find a way that you're a victim, wear it like VIP pass. Write about utter garbage, as long as it promotes the feminist-critical-race-theory-agenda. One by one, the "old white men" left academia, and it started getting infiltrated by these fucking morons. When they reached a critical mass, even those who completely disagree know that they need to stay quiet.

A few brave voices spoke up. For example, Professor Kenneth Lasson, penned two academic warnings – Political Correctness Askew: Excesses in the Pursuit of Minds and Manners, and Feminism Awry: Excesses in the Pursuit of Rights and Trifles. He warned that campuses were becoming places of political and social orthodoxy, and that in the end, we would all suffer. How right he was.

But, unfortunately, no one was ready to listen then. And now, it might be too late. After Click’s incident, more than a hundred of her colleagues decided that her non-apology, where she blamed everyone but herself was “good enough.”.

So now we have Melissa Click, the new and improved one, claiming essentially that she got fired because she's black… or because she "stood with" black students. I don't think anyone takes her story seriously. Well, let me correct that, her fellow victim-studies idiots will. And, unfortunately, they're now running the asylum.

But, if academia actually meant anything, she would never have been hired in the first place. She should be sent back to weep over heteronormative cis-gendered oppression in Teletubbies, and leave teaching to adults. Are there any available? Can they get past the search committee?

I hope the fuck so.


*Of course, my own law review articles have, on average, something like 10 downloads, so who the fuck am I to judge? MR. JUDGY PANTS, THAT'S WHO!

Is the First Amendment safe from Donald Trump?

cnn trumpI write this as someone who was willing to vote for Trump. This gives me great pause….

Donald Trump has said a lot of strange things — some funny, some creepy, but none scarier than what he said on Friday: that if he is elected president, he will "open up our libel laws" to make it easier to sue the media and "win lots of money." No matter what you may think about his other policy ideas, if he keeps this promise, we won't be able to effectively express dissent against anything else he might want to do. We can fight any bad policy if we have a robust First Amendment.

Read the rest on CNN.

From the Trenches at the Nevada Caucuses – Part 3 – Amongst Republicans

This is Part 3 of a 3-part series on the Nevada Caucuses. Here is the Previous episode, Part 2

3.0 – I enter the nest of the Republicans

I approached the high school where the Republican Caucus was going to take place as if I were scrambling over rocks to approach Mordor. I hadn't even told that many people where I was going. I calculated the odds in my head… 50-1, I would die here today. Not bad odds, but still. 75-1, sold into slavery. 14-1, gang raped with a plunger like Amadou DialloAbner Louima. Fistfight? Even money.

I got out of my car and started following a woman who seemed to know where she was going. No yoga pants, but it was not unpleasant using her ass as a lighthouse, guiding me to the hive of crazy. I could hear them all chanting some mysterious incantation. Would there be a cross burning? It was goddamned freezing, so if there was, would I just run away? Or would I go warm up by the fire for a bit?

It was like wasp's nest (heh, see what I did there?). There were a lot of them gathered around the entrance, and then a mysterious series of passageways… I took a deep breath… I went in.

People streamed in as if it were a sporting event or a concert. While the Democrats looked like a homogenous group of rummage-sale clothed drones, resigned to lives in the salt mines of life, the Republicans were actually a lot more diverse. There were guys non-ironically wearing cowboy hats, a guy with that helmet where you put beer cans, just with soda cans in it. Mexicans. There was even a black guy — although he was blind. Lots of fat guys in MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN hats. Clearly, the Trump crowd was the dominant gang.

All of the "precincts" were tables in a high school cafeteria, but it felt like each table was supposed to be a place where someone would try and sell you Amway products or give you a 1 minute speed networking session. I sat down at my precinct, and still no Yoga pants moms, but there were a few of those Republican women who don't blink. The conversation was scintillating — it was as if someone had put on an episode of "stereotype theater" for me. The woman next to me was SO EXCITED to meet a neighbor, and she immediately asked me "what in the hell is going on with all the break ins around here?" I just looked at her blankly. "Probably because of the new mall," she said. I wondered if that was her code word for "Mexicans." I don't think it was. But, I was inside the Trump hive mind. Anything could happen.

Knowing that this scene could break out into violence, torture, horror at any moment, I chose my words carefully. I tried not to make too much eye contact.

I then explained that the homes on the perimeter of the neighborhood, where the wall to the "outside world" was, well they were getting broken into. But, those of us on the interior, we were all relatively safe. Everyone nodded. She said, "Yup, just too much temptation with that wall there and they see the nice homes, hop over, steal something, someone is going to get hurt."

I decided to conduct an experiment…

I said "yeah, we gotta do something about that… you know what I think? We need to all go to the next Homeowners Association Meeting and demand that they increase our HOA dues to pay for a higher wall around the neighborhood." Everyone nodded with approval. "It isn't our homes being broken into, but if our neighbors' homes get broken into, that's not ok, we gotta stick together!" Everyone was loving the idea. I was making friends.

"They could raise our HOA dues by $100 a month and get us some real security! We can afford it!"

I was very popular at the table by now — what calling for "law and order" and a nice big wall.

I had just called for raising our "taxes" to pay to help other people out… surrounded by MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN hats and Cruz buttons.

I laughed inside. I am in you, Republican devils. Ha! Live Republican trolling!

"Don't get cocky," I said to myself. That was really fucking stupid. If they figured out that I had just suggested a tax increase for the common good, they would have torn me apart like salt water taffy, except with bile and the sound of snapping bones and ligaments. I wondered how long the tendons would hold my joints together as they ripped me to shreds.

I realized that unless I actually told them, they wouldn't be able to figure out that I had voted for Obama in 2008, and that I was really rooting for Bernie Sanders.

Then, the unthinkable happened… Out of nowhere comes a friend of mine, Chris. He is a hard core Republican Mormon guy, and he KNOWS that I'm a pro-gay-marriage, Bernie Sanders loving, porn guy.

"MARC, HOW THE HECK ARE YA?" He gives me that "Mormon smile." If you don't know, Mormons can actually make much larger smiles than other humans. That magic seer stone smile filled face of his, and all of a sudden I freeze… "Chris! How the… hi… hey, fancy seeing you here!" As if he would be anywhere else…

He introduces me to his wife, who hugs me like I'm her long lost brother. I hold on just a little longer than I ought to when hugging a friend's wife that I never met before. Not anything creepy, I just knew that I was going to be killed within 10 minutes, and I just wanted one last embrace from a woman. I took a deep whiff of her hair. Not in like a sexy way… I just wanted the smell of a clean Mormon woman's shampooed hair in my lungs as they filled with blood as the Trump supporters took one of many steps toward "Making America Great Again," by stomping on my face screaming "TAKE THAT YOU LASAGNA EATING PIECE OF SHIT!"

Any second now, and Chris was going to out me. Not on purpose. I imagined he would just say "so, what he HECK are YOU doing here! Hey, everyone, my buddy here, he's a Socialist porn lawyer!"

And that would be how I would die.

The crowd was so dense they could just form a circle around me and kick me to death. The sheer number of concealed hand guns in the place was enough to start a genuine revolution, not that hippie Sanders crap. The encounter took all of 25 seconds… but it felt like being on the run for three years behind enemy lines. Everything slowed down. I breathed.

I remembered how MacDonald gets caught by replying in English to a Gestapo agent who wishes him "Good luck". Don't be McDonald. Don't be McDonald… Don't say anything… stupid…

And then he just swirled past, waving over his shoulder. His Marco Rubio pin shining in the light almost as bright as his white white white Mormon teeth. "Mormons are great at dental hygiene," I thought.

Someone tapped me on the shoulder. "Can I borrow a pen?"


Everything froze for me…, as I say about 5 or 6 times a day, I wondered "did I just say that out loud?" I really wasn't sure… FUCK.

I half expected the entire room to go quiet. Maybe the sound of a record scratching. Then, some big black guys to come up and say "mind if we dance wit' yo' dates?" But who was I kidding? This was the Republican caucus… there was only one black guy here, and he was blind.

The woman just looked at me and smiled… not even a "this guy is crazy" smile, but just a "hi, have you found our lord and savior Jesus Christ" smile. I handed her a pen. "I like him too," she said. "He's honest. But, I just think that Donald Trump has the best chance of making us safe from all that this Muslim traitor has tried to do to destroy our country."

She didn't even skip a beat.

"Did you hear? Today he said he wants to give Guantanamo Bay back to the Castro brothers!"

I said, "well, that was one of his campaign promises, and one of the reasons I voted for him was that I didn't want to have this 'constitution-free zone' in Cuba."

Everyone at the table was interested in what I had to say. I explained why I thought Guantanamo Bay was an awful thing. And they asked questions. And nodded. And… jesus christ… I was now proselytizing total Leftist shit in the middle of a crowd of Trump supporters. I looked around for my Mormon friend. At least he was wearing a Rubio button… and I had given $50 to the Rubio campaign. Maybe he could save me before the Trump-ites held me down and did the Louima thing to me.

"That makes sense," one of them said. "I guess it just feels like surrender. And you have to admit, if you voted for him cuz he said he was gonna do that, and he's just getting around to it, he's sort of a shit, wouldn't you say?"

"yeah…" I shrugged. "You got a point."

We talked for a while. Them all explaining why they liked Trump. Yeah, about half of them had overdosed on Fox News and believed that Obama was a Muslim, and terrorists were hiding under every rock, and Obama had ruined the country. I couldn't quite get what "ruined" meant. But, they were so damned civil. Here I was talking about how I really wanted Bernie Sanders to win, and how we should close Guantanamo Bay, and raise our HOA dues to pay for better security patrols… and the most negative thing anyone said was "oh, that's nice" in a non sarcastic way.

Nobody was arguing with anybody.

I noticed that Jeb Bush and Carly Florina were still listed on the ballots. People started handing their ballots in. The caucus went on until 9:00 PM, giving people four hours in which to come in, shoot the shit about how much they hated Obama, hug each other, talk about getting together some time. Drop off their ballots and be home in time to catch whatever they catch on Fox News.

I won't say these were the smartest people I had ever met, but they sure as hell weren't the sub-humans the press seems to find to represent the "average Trump voter." In fact, as misguided as some might think they are, they weren't any less brilliant than the morons at the Democratic caucuses. The average intelligence level seemed about the same. But, the Republicans were all smiling. They were a group of genuinely happy people. It was totally weird. Their views were angry, but they were not.

That was one big difference. The Democrats were all scared. They were all pissed off. Pissed off at the banks. Pissed off at (and scared of) Trump. The Democrats were fuming about Obamacare being taken away by Sanders (yes really). The Sanders people were pissed off at Hillary for selling us out to the Banks. Everyone was just miserable.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party felt… well… like a party. I all but expected someone to spark up a joint, or at least hand me a flask.

There was no coercion. No union reps walking around watching who was where. The ballots were secret, and you could just vote without sitting in a segregated pen. People discussed the issues, but nobody got bussed in, and nobody seemed to have been told who to vote for by any bow-tied preachers.

There were a few MILFs in yoga pants.

It was weird. I've never voted Republican before, and I don't think I agreed with my neighbors about anything except the need for a wall — around our neighborhood — not on the border. They knew I was a Socialist in their midst, and that I didn't agree with them about anything, except that I didn't want Hillary Clinton to be president.

I think they were nice to me in part because they thought I might be mentally disabled myself, especially given how nervous I was… and what with the outburst about Bernie Sanders. I think they may have actually thought I yelled out FRANKS AND BEANS!

But, all in all, I have to say that while I want the guy on the Left to win, I will be looking up the Trump supporters to have cocktails with.

by Marc Randazza

From the Trenches at the Nevada Caucuses – Part 2 – Wallowing in the Democrats' Ennui

This is Part 2 of a 3-part series on the Nevada Caucuses. The previous part is here.

2.0 The Democratic Caucus – sorta dirty, but not in a fun way.

My wife dressed my 7 year old daughter in a tutu that looked like an American flag and my son in a shirt that had a print of the Constitution on it. We figured if it was going to be their first exposure to democracy, we should have some fun. We explained what was going to happen, and they gave no shits at all. I'm sure they will just remember it as some goddamned place they had to go before their friends' birthday party.

As we approached the Democratic Caucus, it was clear that this was no place for fun, lightheartedness, or child like wonder. There was a green haze made of metamucil-induced farts bonded to industrial-grade ennui. The voting had not yet begun, in fact the doors were not even open. There were only two candidates to vote for, but everyone in line was already defeated.

You got the impression that everyone felt like they had really missed out on something. They were neighborly enough, but just so downtrodden. None of them had been happy, or even smiled, in 20 years. The only person smiling was the guy running up and down the line from the Atheist Alliance. You could tell that he had changed his bong water and set his alarm early for a wake and bake. He hugged me after I gave him a fist bump. There were a few other people that smiled weakly at him. Like the gothapottamus about 10 yards back who had obviously taken the day off from listening to The Cure and cutting herself. Everyone else was relatively colorless. It looked like a morass of humanity that had been washed on "warm" by a college kid for an entire semester. Even the black people in line seemed pale — and bizarrely enough, every one of them had one eye that looked like it was not quite human, but more like something you would find on a giant grouper. It was like they found all the broken black people and made new ones out of the busted up parts.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the suburban Democratic electorate.

It really shouldn't have been that way. My neighborhood is actually a vibrant and happy place full of bicycles and delightfully spoiled children. There aren't that many very young adults, but there are a lot of youngish MILFs. The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf down the street is known for two things — kosher pastries and hot MILFs in yoga pants. Honestly, if you can go to a strip club or hang out at the Coffee Bean, you might as well go to the Coffee Bean. Imagine if the crop of strippers at your favorite pole-dancing establishment decided that they were going to quit while they were ahead, so they hung up the lucite heels and traded them in for Lululemon, and then just decided to hang around and drink matcha tea while trying to give me a hard on. I feel like a 15 year old at the chalk board when I go into this place.

So where the fuck did they put all those MILFs? Where did they find the "walking dead" to replace them? Fucked if I knew. I was confused though. An entire crowd of voters, and not a single hot mom in yoga pants…

They scheduled the caucus on a Saturday morning. That struck me as a bit sketchy right off the bat. My precinct is pretty heavily Jewish. MILFy and Jewish. Not just Jews from back East either. Los Angeles Jews who came to escape California's income tax, and Israelis who came to escape Palestinian home made rockets. Beautiful MILF Israelis.

Needless to say, there are quite a few observant Jews who do not roll on Shabbos. Would they have come even if it was on a weekday? Would they have voted one way or the other? Hard to say. But, if I were the DNC, and I had already anointed Hillary as the heir apparent, I'd probably want to discourage Jews from coming to the polls. Lets face it, if you jog on over in your Yoga pants and you're not sure who you want to vote for, you might as well throw in with the fellow Tribe member, right?

Since you can't just throw bacon at people in line, having the caucus on Shabbat seems like the best way to keep as many Jews away as possible. I dunno… maybe Hillary could develop a sonic weapon that drives Jews away next time one challenges her authoritah.

Caucuses generally favor the party favorite, since it takes a lot more effort to caucus than to just come in, mark a ballot, and then go home. For a caucus, you go there and get locked in for a while. The Democratic Party held its caucus with a one hour window of opportunity — the line started at 11 AM, and if you were not in line at 12:00 PM, you were out. I showed up at 11:15, and there was already a line snaking around the corner, with cars dropping off carloads of dead-looking people wearing Hillary shirts or buttons.

It was awfully early in the day for anyone who was up late the night before though. In other words, not a lot of millennials in line. A few. Not a lot. The gothapottamus was clearly a millennial. A few kids here and there who weren't sure if they were registered to vote. They generally didn't seem to grasp the concept of soap either, so voter registration was clearly a huge bummer. Of course, I never saw these kids at the Coffee Bean either, so maybe they just inhabited a corner of my precinct where the walking dead lived. I personally try and practice good hygiene, not for myself, but so that the yoga pants MILFs will talk to me.

My precinct took quite a while after 12:00 for everyone to get inside. At another, an eyewitness told me that he dashed in at 11:59 and some change, and that a group of 5 kids wearing Bernie shirts got the stiff arm about 10 seconds later. "Nope, you need to be in at noon. You're late. Buh buye". I did not ask him about yoga panted MILFs at his precinct.

Once inside, the stench was unbearable. It was in an elementary school cafeteria/gym and it smelled of bug spray and the impending death of at least 10% of the people inside. In my precinct, there were just a few Sanders supporters, and they herded us into a small penned off area. It felt like we were in one of those "free speech zones" that the kids are all into these days. Hillary supporters were there, in shirts announcing which union had sent them, and they slowly circled the Socialist Petting Zoo we were in. On a table was a fresh, unopened deck of cards.

I figured the cards were there so that we wouldn't get bored. So I cracked them open and started playing Scopa with my kids. I found out later that this was the deck of cards they would have used to break a tie, had there been one. A woman near me asked what we were playing, and when I tried to explain the rules to the game to her, she got flustered and said "that doesn't make any sense, you're just making the rules up! I don't understand! Its too complicated!" My five year old whispered to me that she was "a dumbass," and my seven year old asked me if she had Alzheimer's like her grandmother. I told her I didn't think so.

The benefits of a caucus for the "party candidate" were clear. You could tell that there were some people there who genuinely adored their chosen candidate. Others were there picking her as the lesser of two evils. But, the Hillary squad also had some very clear "enforcers" there to make sure that nobody thought better of where they were sitting. When my wife checked in, the woman before her said she was there to caucus for Sanders. The woman checking her in said "Are you sure about that? You sure you wouldn't rather be undecided?" She changed her mind and went with undecided. At that, she went to sit down, with a guy in a "carpenter's union" shirt going over to talk to her. This idiot could have been convinced to vote for the giant grouper that gave its eye to one of the broken spare-parts bin black people.

The racial divide was pretty clear — with absolutely zero black people on the Bernie side. I only talked to two of them directly. Both of them had been told by their preacher how much better the Clintons are for "us black folks." When I addressed them about that, the words "my African American friends…" got out of my mouth, when someone who had been silently listening jumped in with a "don't you dare go there!" I'm not sure who they were, or why, or if they were talking to me or my new friends… since that grouper eye always looks somewhere in the distance. I guess that in ennui fart land, you are not allowed to fraternize with the negroes.

And the union reps were always circling. When the speeches got too much in favor of the Bernie camp, they started interfering. One guy told me to sit down and shut up. I yelled at him to wander on over and try and make me. Another guy in a union shirt joined in, and I yelled to him "give it a shot, you fucking punk…" Yes, we were in the middle of a caucus, and it was about to turn into a fist fight. Someone who claimed to be in charge told me that she was going to have me removed if I wasn't "nice." Pointed to her Union buddies and said, "who's going to remove me, those fucking cunts? Fuck you. You're not getting me out of here without physically removing me, and the first motherfucker who puts their hands on me isn't leaving here with all their teeth."

Yeah, there was almost a brawl. Go figure, I was in the middle of it.

Then we voted.

All in all, I wouldn't call it "very dirty" though. Scheduling it to make sure only old people came? Well, if Madison and Tyler can't get the fuck out of bed in the morning, that is hardly what I would call "voter suppression." Saturday to keep the Jews away? I would imagine it wasn't by design, but then again, how the hell do you schedule an election on a day that so clearly means that an entire segment of the electorate is religiously prohibited from showing up? I'd chalk it up to the DNC wanting less Hebrews at the election, given that the disfavored upstart is ostensibly one of them. But, it was on a Saturday in 2008 too. I'll call this one just a hell of a faux pas.

The preachers, union reps, and poll workers who were actually pushing people to change their vote, or making damn sure "their" people stayed exactly where the hell they wanted them? Classic politics, but still dirty shit. All in all, on a scale of 1 to 10 with a 1 being a town meeting in rural Massachusetts, and a 5 being what a first world country should expect, and a 10 being Florida or Chicago, I'd call the Democratic caucus at a 6. Still dirtier than a first world country should be, but I wouldn't chalk Hillary's win up to dirty games. What really won her the election is that she was organized, even if it meant payoffs to ministers and unions. When your base is people who mainline geritol, you're always going to beat an enthusiastic band of voters who have to ask "aw, Mason, is that today, dude?"

I stole the deck of cards. Good thing there wasn't a tie.

NEXT: Part 3 – Amongst the Republicans

by Marc Randazza

From the Trenches at the Nevada Caucuses – Part 1.0

This is Part 1 of a 3-part series on the Nevada Caucuses.

1.0 I know Dirty… and I know Elections

The big news of the day is Donald Trump's runaway victory in the Nevada Republican caucuses. Along with it, "reports" that the process was tainted, crooked, a Trump flimflam. The "sources" for these reports are almost all people griping on social media.

The Republican caucuses that I observed were either clean or they hired Penn & Teller to handle the shenanigans – because I didn't see a damn thing happen. Maybe it was a little disorganized, but certainly nothing that suggested a dirty election.

I know a dirty election when I see one. In 2004, I was an election observer in Florida, and I saw things that you probably wouldn't believe happened, even if I had video.

Crowds of black voters came in to vote, noting that "volunteers" had come to their neighborhoods to “help” them register to vote. After taking their registration information, these “volunteers” seemed to "forget" to send in the forms. Oopsie!

Ok, perhaps it was just an honest mistake that dozens of people came in with the same story, that a "nice volunteer" came to their house to "help them register," and then their registration forms magically didn't ever get submitted. The black voters, believing they were registered, would not discover the truth until election day – when it was too late to rectify the injustice. “Y’all come back in four years now,” the poll workers said with cheshire smiles and voices as sugary as sweet tea. Some might come back….but, the damage was done for that election.

And in other situations, I recall more than a few voters being told that they weren't registered to vote, even though they personally turned in their voter registration forms on time. When I showed up by his side, all of a sudden, his name would appear.

After I apparently helped too many of them get ballots, a Republican election observer made a call, and ten minutes after the call, a white van screeched to a halt in front of the polling center, and five stocky, buzz-cut white men (one shaved bald) in red shirts barged into the polling station and demanded that I be removed from the polling place. Finally, the gang of five thugs found a corrupt deputy who ejected me from the place under threat of arrest. I was more than happy to go to jail for the cause. But, when I called the HQ, they gave me strict instructions to stand down — their concern was that if voters saw a civil rights attorney getting hauled off in cuffs, it would most scare the shit out of them, and thus likely be the best vote-suppression strategy the Republicans could hope for.

Outside the polling station, I walked over to a chair, and fell into it. I thought that battle ended before I was born. The emotion that sat on my shoulders and collapsed my whole body was shame – shame at being part of a society that still considered equal rights to be a nuisance, shame that I didn’t do more, shame that I was so naive that until Nov. 2, 2004, I truly disbelieved everyone who told me a story like this. But this time I was there. I couldn’t deny that it happened, and I couldn’t deny that what I saw was an organized effort to deny people the right to vote.

That was a dirty election.

So here in Nevada… were the caucuses really dirty? What were they like?

NEXT: Part 2.0 – Wallowing in the Democrats

They're Just as Porn-Idiotic Across the Pond

If you're ever worried about the United States being the only western democracy with a stick up its ass about porn, fret not, we still have our friends in The Mother Country trying to keep up with us.

The Government is to force users of pornographic sites to identify themselves, in an attempt to keep children from using them.

Companies that run the websites will have to put checks in place to ensure that only adults are viewing them, or face having their sites shut down. Those that don’t comply could have advertising banned or be forced to have their pages unavailable in the country. (source)

Why, you ask?

The Government said that the new effort was part of its plans to keep children safe online.

“Just as we do offline, we want to make sure children are prevented from accessing pornographic content online which should only be viewed by adults,” said internet safety and security minister Baroness Shields.(source)

Ah yes, to keep us safe. You know, from WEB PAGES OF DEATH!!!!

I reject any premise that considers porn to be “unsafe” – that is an idiotic presumption. What is going to happen to a child who sees porn? Do their eyes burst into flames? Do they get leukemia? Do they get hit by a bus? Do magic goblin zombies suck their brains out through their ears?

The correct response to someone who plays the “safety” card when it comes to porn is to push them into some train tracks and say “that’s unsafe, not pictures, you blithering idiot”.

That said, I am a parent, and I understand that parents don’t want their kids to watch porn. You know why I don't want my kids to watch porn? Because I am uptight about talking to them about sex right now. It isn’t their problem, and it isn’t the porn company’s problem. It is my problem. Just because I have a stick up my ass about talking about sex with my kids doesn’t give me the right to jam that stick up the ass of my fellow citizens who might be a little better at parenting than me, does it?

The measure itself is stupid. This Baroness seems to think that by requiring a credit card to access porn sites, it will keep the precious youngsters from watching fuck films. Good luck with that.

When I was a young teenager, I wanted to look at skin mags. I couldn’t buy them because I was under 18. I still got them — quite easily. Do you think there is a 16 year old out there who doesn’t know about prepaid credit cards? Or who can’t find another way to circumvent this? At the very least, even if the UK lost its mind and completely banned porn, there is this place called “the rest of the world,” and they’ll be able to access it. Is the UK really prepared to build an unassailable firewall around its rain-soaked islands in order to ensure that no children get absorbed by the sexual gelatinous cubes of porn movies? (Is there Gelatinous Cube Porn? If it does not exist yet, fix that before we have a Rule 34 violation!)

Every time you hear someone come up with one of these measures, you need to realize that the real mission is to try and ban porn altogether. That comes either from stick-up-their-butt religious zealots or stick-up-their-butt feminists. Nobody else cares enough to try and push through laws about it.

The religious zealots should realize that they’re losing.

When I was a kid, I spanked it to porn. Then, they told me it was time for my Confirmation (I used to be Catholic). Then I thought “if I’m not old enough to legally make a decision about buying magazines with boobs in them, then maybe I’m not old enough to make a decision about my eternal soul.” So I waited until I was 18 to make that decision — figuring that the maturity to look at pictures of boobs was at least equal to the maturity required to made decisions about where my immortal hard drive would be uploaded for all eternity. By the time I was 18, I figured out they were lying about masturbation making me insane and sending me to hell. So, I started questioning everything they told me, and I figured out that their whole religion didn't make any freakin sense.

So, I suppose, thank goodness for the laws “protecting me” from pornography at that age, because they also protected me from throwing in with a bunch of child raping charlatans. (If only Pope Francis were the Bishop of Rome at that time, I might have stuck around for the Liberation Theology).

As far as the regressive-sex-negative-feminist angle goes (as opposed to sex-positive feminists… who can very much live alongside porn), it is equally absurd and relies upon just as pernicious fiction as anything from the religious zealots. This group's objection to porn is based in a few foolish theories. They think that if a guy looks at pictures of boobs, he’s going to think that porn is reality and/or be possessed by the testosterone demon and will go out and rape someone.

That is a gross over-simplification of the theory behind the anti-pornography "civil rights" ordinance in Indianapolis that was struck down in American Booksellers v. Hudnut, 771 F.2d 323 (7th Cir. 1985). MacKinnon and Dworkin decided that their perpetual victim machine required a porn ban. But, you can't ban porn outright with the First Amendment hanging around, so they said that porn made us have bad thoughts, thus anyone who made porn was responsible for those bad thoughts. Constitutional? Not so much.

If they paid attention to annoying sexist things like “facts,” they would realize that anyone mature enough to tell that The Terminator is not real is also mature enough to know acting when he sees it in porn. The fact is, porn-tolerance has a positive correlation to a drop in sexual violence. You know when a guy is LEAST likely to rape anyone? Five seconds after he blows a load from whacking it to teletubbies porn or whatever he's into.

Now yes, I will agree that if you watch porn all the time as a kid, it might give you some madcap up ideas about sex. Back in my day, vaginas had this stuff on them we called "pubic hair." I had seen girls' vaginas my whole life, but it was usually while playing my favorite game (then and now) "show me yours, and I'll show you mine." Having only seen the real thing on girls my age (at the time) which was pre-pubescent, I was under the impression that the vaginas I was seeing were "larval stage" vaginas, and once they went through the pupal stage, the vagina healed over and just became this flat thing. It did not occur to me that it was just public pubic hair.

So, if you imagine my poor little mind with that misunderstanding of female anatomy, you can imagine how many other confused ideas were in my head by the time I actually got into my teenage years and got to the real live thing… my head was a mental petri dish of confusion and bizarre ideas.

You know how long my messed up and confused ideas lasted?

For about 5 minutes after I actually got a test drive with a real live girl.

You see, girls will tell you "no, I don't like that" or "yeah, that feels good." If you pay attention, even a little bit, you get to do it again. Just like the monkey getting the grape in the cage.

Now its not all fun and games — you need some ground work to get there. So, here's how you keep porn from being "dangerous."

If you have a boy, you need to make sure that he gets along with and loves his mother. You know why? Because she's a human being, just like that girl he is eventually going to be finger banging in the car. So, if he has developed any kind of healthy relationship with his mother, he will realize that when he finally gets to play with a vagina, he will understand that it is not a disembodied toy … but a rather important part of an actual human being. Thus, he will want that human being to express her preferences, and he'll be a decent guy. If you're a parent, and your son disrespects little girls, you straighten his ass out the first chance you get.

My son tried to kiss a little girl one time, and she didn't want him to. He tried again and she slugged him. He started wailing. Both mothers ran over. Hers ran over to yell at her, and his ran over to comfort him. I said "stay the hell out of it, the sooner he learns this lesson, the better off he and everyone else will be." Lesson learned. Yeah, you gotta teach your son to respect women. If he also (hopefully much later) wants to jerk off to pictures of them, so what? Build that respect in him, as part of making him a "real man," and he can jerk off to anything and watch anything and he's not crossing that line. Fail to teach him that, and he can read nothing but "the selected works of Gloria Steinem," and he'll still likely grow up to be a rapist, abuser, or something less horrifying, but still something you don't want him to be.

There… easy. All the dangers of porn washed away in two paragraphs of instruction. Don't screw it up, Dads.