Patterico's Pontifications


You and Your Device

Filed under: General — JVW @ 1:26 pm

[guest post by JVW]

A break from all the inveighing against the weirdness of the Supreme Court.

Do a Google search on “mobile device addiction” and you will note that the has garnered a lot of attention over the past year. Allow me to relate a couple of incidents I have had a couple of interesting experiences the past few months that I can relate:

The Setting: Public transportation in the San Francisco Bay Area.
I was riding BART (the local subway) during the afternoon rush hour. The train I was on was crowded so I had to stand and hold on to the passenger handrail. I took a look around the train where I probably had about 35-40 people in my line of vision. Literally every single person had their heads down and were gazing intently upon a mobile device, either a tablet or phone. Literally every single person. People in their 50s and 60s who were sitting down: reading a Nook or an iPad or a phone. Younger people standing: one hand on the handrail or the rail strap, the other hand holding a mobile phone. All races, all 900 sexual orientations that Facebook recognizes, all apparent levels of income were busy with a device. Granted this was the Bay Area and it was rush hour, but how amazing was it that everyone in my line of sight was doing the exact same thing? I then transferred over to CalTrain to head down the peninsula, and encountered pretty much the same thing, with the exception of a couple of old fashioned folks who actually had laptop computers open and were typing on an actual clackety-clack keyboard.

The Setting: A beach bar on a weekend afternoon.
I am meeting up with a friend to watch a game and drink some beers, and I am there a bit early of our arranged time. I’m sitting at a table next to a young couple who are pretty apparently on a first date. I’m guessing that they met online or through some dating service because I can overhear themselves going over the usual litany of first day discussion items (where are you from? what do you do for a living?). They were two nice-looking young people and they seemed to have a lot in common so by all appearances the date was off to a good start. Suddenly, though, there is the inevitable lull in the conversation and inexplicably the young guy excuses himself and pulls out his smart phone to check on his messages. Naturally the young lady does the same, and for the next few minutes there is this uncomfortable silence (or at least I thought it was uncomfortable) while the two of them stare down at their devices. Amazing.

And just today, at 10:00 mass at my parish, I am making my way up in the communion line to the front of the church and there sitting in a the sixth row of pews having already received communion is a guy playing a game on his smart phone. Seriously. While everyone around him is kneeling in silent contemplation of the Mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ, this grown man — probably at least 40 years old — was playing a game on his phone.

So let’s make this an open thread centered around some questions. Do you own a mobile device? If so, what self-imposed limits to you observe? Do your children have mobile devices? If so, what rules are they expected to follow?



King v. Burwell: Intentionalism Trumps Textualism, and the Rule of Law Dies

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:32 pm

I’ve not had a chance, due to work constraints, to say much about the King v. Burwell travesty. I’ll just note (if I may toot my own horn for a moment) my warnings five years ago about the dangers of looking to an impossible-to-determine “intent” of a collection of legislators.

In one of those posts, I posited a hypothetical that I think most of you will recognize as eerily prescient: a hypothetical that the legislators who passed ObamaCare intended to legislate a form of coverage that they in fact failed to put in the law:

ObamaCare does not prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to children based on their pre-existing conditions. But (here is the hypothetical) what if every legislator who voted to pass ObamaCare actually intended to prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to children based on pre-existing conditions? (Again, it is a core assumption of the hypothetical that this was indeed the legislators’ intent. It is not a post hoc argument they are making; your working assumption is that they actually did intend to include this concept in the law.)

I noted that if one were foolish enough to apply an “intentionalist” reading of laws, rather than a “textualist” reading, one could simply have judges write protections for children into the law, in accordance with legislative intent. After all, who really thinks Congress wanted to leave children suffering from pre-existing conditions at the mercy of the insurance companies? But this takes the rule of law and throws it right out the window — because it is not fair to require the citizenry to obey secret, unexpressed intentions that they were never told about. Thus, only the text, and the text alone, is the law. That is the only way the rule of law works. As I said in 2010: “How can it be workable to make citizens hostage to legislative intent that cannot be divined from the text of the law by a reasonable audience?”

That hypothetical, decried by some as unrealistic, turned out to be a pretty close parallel to the King v. Burwell case.

I know some readers are convinced that Congress intended to include the words “established by the state” as an expression of federalism. The idea here is that the states were encouraged to establish their own exchanges by a carrot/stick approach. The argument goes that Congress was telling state officials: establish an exchange, and you get the subsidies (the carrot). Refuse to establish an exchange, and your citizenry gets nothing — and you face the wrath of the voters (the stick).

There is much disagreement about this on both sides. The conservatives point to Jonathan Gruber, a central ObamaCare drafter. The lefties note that Gruber was elected by nobody, and they point to a complete absence of any reliable evidence by an actual legislator saying that they wanted to use subsidies to coerce the states. (The famous Baucus statement is pretty ambiguous, even according to Michael Cannon, not to mention the fact that Baucus admitted he didn’t even read the bill.) Frankly, I don’t think the winning position in this murky debate is very clear. Whatever the origin of the “established by the state” language, I think the best explanation of its retention in the final bill is that the legislators foolishly assumed every state would set up an exchange. They guessed . . . poorly.

My own personal opinion is that allowing one’s self to be dragged into the muck of a messy debate about intent misses the point. My view is that arguing about legislative intent is a fool’s errand, because as I said way back in 2010, there really is no such thing as legislative intent:

[L]egislation cannot be interpreted according to legislative intent because, even in theory, it is often impossible to ascribe a single intent to a set of words that is the product of numerous different intentions. If 60 people vote for a provision, and 30 intend it to mean one thing, and the other 30 intend for it to mean the precise opposite, there is no coherent way to determine a single “intent” behind the text.

To those who argue that Congress really intended to include the words “established by the state” to enforce federalism, my question is: what if it were clear that was not Congress’s intent? What if every CongressCreature, upon voting for SCOTUSCare — whoops, I mean ObamaCare — signed an affidavit saying: “Our intent is for subsidies to be available to any citizen regardless of whether they obtained their plan on an exchange established by a state or by the HHS Secretary”? (Understand that the Constitution gives no legal authority to such affidavits; they would just be a road map to learning the legislators’ intent.) Assume further that the legislation that they actually passed said, just like it does today, that subsidies are available for those who obtain their insurance on exchanges “established by the state.”

Would you really feel any different? Really?

This reminds me of a hypothetical I offered in 2010:

Assume you make $50,000 a year. The legislature passes a law imposing a hefty tax on “people making over $100,000 per year.” Since the law does not apply to you, by its plain terms, you do not pay the tax. However, you are convicted after a judge finds irrefutable contemporaneous evidence showing that all legislators who voted for the tax intended to impose it on people making over $10,000 a year. The judge, an “intentionalist,” finds that the intent of the legislature controls, regardless of the plain meaning of the law.

Under the plain language of the law, the tax does not apply to you. Applying the intent of the legislators, it does. Which is the better interpretation?

My view was that the law would not apply to you, because “$100,000″ means “$100,000.” Legislators can say all day long that they meant to say $10,000 — but if they didn’t include that extra zero in the law that was duly passed and signed, the text simply means what it means.

To me, $100,000 means $100,000 — not $10,000. To me, this is as simple as saying “established by the state” means “established by the state” and not “established by the state or the Secretary of Health and Human Services.” You don’t need to get into the legislators’ heads — and it is foolish and indeed dangerous to even try to do so.

But then, I am not an elite lawyer who went to Harvard or Yale and then went on to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. And I am certainly not an “intentionalist.” I do not ascribe to statutory language mysterious secret meanings that signify the opposite of the common understanding of the public.

I am a simple man. To me, the law means what it says. Nothing more and nothing less.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I did. Again and again.

UPDATE: Thanks to Ed Driscoll at Instapundit for the link! I hope new readers (or old occasional readers) will bookmark the main page and remember to come back.


Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:34 pm


Filed under: General — Patterico @ 4:48 pm

UPDATE: As a reminder: he’s phony here too.

Disgusting Hypocrisy

Filed under: General — JD @ 1:05 pm

[guest post by JD]

After hundreds of Court cases, and 1 Supreme Court decision, Hillary Clinton is calling on opponents of SSM to give up, and move on. This despite the fact that until after she left her failed job as Sec State, she had been adamantly against SSM, saying on the Senate floor that marriage is solely for a man and a woman. 

Just like with ObamaCare decisions, once the Left gets their desired outcome, the debate is over, the science is settled, and no further debate and dissent will be tolerated. 

This same metric does not play out with SC decisions they don’t like, only the ones that advance their agenda. You don’t see them backing away from unconstitutional gun control efforts despite Heller. After Citizens United, they want to gut 1st Amendment protections. 

Their hypocrisy knows no bounds. 



News Outlet Will Now Very Strictly Limit Op-Eds And Letters In Opposition To Same-Sex Marriage (ADDED: Ironic That Same News Outlet Publishes Op-Ed Scolding People For Needing Safe Spaces) UPDATE: Editor Apologizes

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:49 pm

[guest post by Dana]

The writing is on the wall, or rather in an editorial, “The Supremes got it right – It’s no longer ‘gay marriage.’ It’s ‘marriage.’ And we’re better for it“:

On Friday, the United States crossed a similar threshold, continuing a long road to acceptance of same-sex unions.

And this news organization now crosses another threshold.

As a result of Friday’s ruling, PennLive/The Patriot-News will very strictly limit op-Eds and letters to the editor in opposition to same-sex marriage.

These unions are now the law of the land. And we will not publish such letters and op-Eds any more than we would publish those that are racist, sexist or anti-Semitic.

We will, however, for a limited time, accept letters and op-Eds on the high court’s decision and its legal merits.

The march of progress is often slow, but it is always steady.

On Friday, the United States took another step toward the ideal of equality envisioned by its founders. And we are all more free as a result.

PennLive reaches 3.3 million readers weekly.


ADDED: Op-ed from PennLive wherein the writer identifies those needing safe spaces from dissenting views:

For myself, when I think of a university, and reflect on my personal experiences, I think of a place to interact and share ideas to become a more educated and cognizant person.

Students can enter these “safe places” to take their minds off of whatever they just saw or heard. These rooms contain items often found in daycare centers, including coloring books, bubbles, play-doh, and videos of puppies.

I may sound inconsiderate, but if you really need to blow bubbles or play with play-doh to handle a different opinion, then my suggestion would be to not attend the event, and furthermore, maybe college isn’t the place for you either.

An educational setting should be a place where people are free to express their viewpoints without fear that someone might need to relapse back to childhood in order to deal with an opinion.

These safe spaces prevent growth. If you are attending a university, then you should expect to encounter different opinions and viewpoints. If not, then in reality it is you who is small-minded.

Even if you do not go to college, there are an estimated 7 billion people in this world, 300 million in the United States alone, it’s safe to say not everyone is going to agree with you, and it’s OK.

In fact, different viewpoints and life experiences is what makes life so interesting. It’s when people try to discount one’s experience and become intolerant to different held beliefs and values that we have trouble.

UPDATE: Editor John Micek, feeling a bit of push back for his decision to censor letters and op-eds in opposition to gay marriage, apologized this morning. After citing his exultation at the decision, and then noting the reaction to his tweets and op-ed regarding the new policy of censorship, Micek tells readers:

What almost immediately followed was an object lesson in the law of unintended consequences. And, sadly, the strongly worded message included in our editorial was lost.

By day’s end, I’d received dozens of emails and several phone calls — not to mention the hundreds of comments appended to the editorial — accusing me (and this news organization) of being “fascists” opposed to both the First Amendment and the right to freedom of expression.

And those were just the polite ones.

And as I rolled it over in my head yesterday, after hearing from professional colleagues and good friends on the right and left who questioned our policy, I reached a number of conclusions:

First: No one at PennLive and The Patriot-News is an opponent of the First Amendment. It’s a right that’s foundational to us as a people. And it’s a right for which many brave and noble men and women have given their lives. And I would never trample on that legacy or dishonor their sacrifice by limiting our readers’ right to express themselves in a civil way.

Second: And I cannot stress this one enough — that’s in a civil way. More than once yesterday I was referred to as “f****t-lover,” among other slurs. And that’s the point that I was trying to make with our statement: We will not publish such slurs any more than we would publish racist, sexist or anti-Semitic speech. There are ways to intelligently discuss an issue. The use of playground insults is not among them. And they are not welcome at PennLive/The Patriot-News.

Third: I fully recognize that there are people of good conscience and of goodwill who will disagree with Friday’s high court ruling. They include philosophers and men and women of the cloth whose objections come from deeply held religious and moral convictions that are protected by the very same First Amendment that allowed me to stick my foot in my mouth on Friday. They are, and always will be, welcome in these pages, along with all others of goodwill, who seek to have an intelligent and reasoned debate on the issues of the day.

These pages, I remind myself finally, belong to the people of Central Pennsylvania. I’m a conduit, I recognize, for them to share their views and to have the arguments that make us better as a people. And all views are — and always will be — welcome.

My mom — and probably yours too — once told me what the road to hell was paved with. Yesterday, I was reminded of the truth of that lesson.

I stand with my gay and lesbian friends who, on Friday, were extended the same protections under the law that the rest of us take for granted.

But for those of you who were offended by what was intended as a very genuine attempt at fostering a civil discussion, I apologize

Which is all fine and well, but PennLive already had an established policy for commenting on its pages, so why the need to go beyond that and actually censor commentators? Unless, of course, Micek’s original reaction was entirely about Something Else other than civil speech in the comments section. In which case, that would make the apology less than noble. And would reveal a dishonest heart.

UPDATE BY PATTERICO: From Alito’s dissent:

Today’s decision usurps the constitutional right of the people to decide whether to keep or alter the traditional understanding of marriage. The decision will also have other important consequences.

It will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy. In the course of its opinion, the majority compares traditional marriage laws to laws that denied equal treatment for African-Americans and women. E.g., ante, at 11–13. The implications of this analogy will be exploited by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.

Perhaps recognizing how its reasoning may be used, the majority attempts, toward the end of its opinion, to reassure those who oppose same-sex marriage that their rights of conscience will be protected. Ante, at 26–27. We will soon see whether this proves to be true. I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.

And newspapers.

That didn’t take long.

Terror Attacks In France And Tunisia

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:01 am

[guest post by Dana]

A gruesome terror attack at a factory in France:

The severed head had Arabic writing scrawled across it and was found on a fence next to two jihadi banners.

Two other people were hurt in the explosion at the factory near Grenoble , said French President Francois Hollande.

The explosion in France was triggered when two attackers deliberately crashed a car into gas canisters, according to police.

One Islamist had been killed at the premises in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, southeastern France. The main suspect, named as Yassin Salhi, 35, has been arrested.

Salhi was known to intelligence officials, and may have been radicalized.

President Hollande referred to it as “terrorism”, not “workplace violence”:

“The attack was of a terrorist nature since a body was discovered, decapitated and with inscriptions,”

Further, Interior Minister Cazeneuve, speaking from the scene, described the attack as “barbarous” and a “terrible terrorist crime”.

According to a reporter for the the Daily Telegraph:

“The person arrested was allegedly carrying a flag of the Islamic State and he said he was a member of the IS.”

This attack came shortly before “militants, feared to be from ISIS”, opened fire on sunbathers at a resort in Tunisia popular with Europeans, killing 28 people and injuring 36 others:

Witnesses said the terrorists used a jet ski and a boat to access the beach and hid their machine guns in parasols while dressed in Western clothing.

About the sole surviving gunman:

A Tunisian student, previously unknown to the security services, is the prime suspect in the massacre, Tunisia’s Secretary of State for Security, Rafik Chelly revealed.

Mr Chelly told Tunisia’s Mosaique FM radio station: ‘He is Tunisian, from the Kairouan region [in the centre of Tunisia]. He is a student. He was not known [to the security services].

‘He went to the beach, dressed like someone who is going for a swim and he had a parasol [sun umbrella] inside which he had his weapon. After he arrived at the beach, he used his weapon.’


Gay Marriage Now Legal in 50 States

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:43 am

5-4, Kennedy in majority, as expected.

The evisceration of originalism and textualism continues apace. Five justices can rewrite literally anything.


When The Solid Strength Of A Candidate Just Isn’t Enough

Filed under: General — Dana @ 1:09 pm

[guest post by Dana]


We should never underestimate the Democrat/American/human capacity for manufactured enthusiasm, and people persuading themselves that their preferred candidate isn’t merely the best choice among the options, but is the living, breathing embodiment of all good qualities. Hero worship, cult of personality, a refusal to acknowledge any flaws in the Great Leader . . . this habit won’t go away anytime soon, it seems.

Ain’t that the truth.

“From sea to shining sea, she’ll fight for liberty, she’s sexy and she’s strong, we’re gonna vote for Chelsea’s mom . . . ”


Laws Now Mean Whatever We Wish They Mean, Not What They Actually Say

Filed under: General — JD @ 7:20 am

[guest post by JD]

The Supreme Court is where you go to amend or pass legislation that you can’t get through the Legislature. 



UPDATE BY PATTERICO: Intentionalism has beaten textualism, and we will now pay the price.

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