Patterico's Pontifications

1/23/2017

ICYMI: New Blog Comment Section

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:00 am

In case you missed it, over the weekend I announced a new (and more civil) blog comments section. Details here.

Reader Poll: Which Would You Rather Drain: the Media Swamp, or the Government Swamp?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:30 am

Before you read any further, do me a favor and answer this question. I don’t want to prejudice your answers through any analysis that follows.

Patterico.com Poll: Which would you rather see drained: the media swamp or the government swamp?
The media swamp
The government swamp

It’s a question a reader raised recently, and I think it’s an interesting one.

There are competing theories at play here.

The argument I see for the primacy of draining the government swamp goes something like this: the media can’t put you in jail. They can’t confiscate your hard-earned money through taxation, or take your property through eminent domain. Unless you move out of the country, you don’t get a choice as to which government rules you. (Sure, there is a theoretical collective choice, but that is not the same thing as a real personal choice. Your single vote will never decide a national election. But your singular decision to switch the channel or navigate to a new Web page can decide which media outlet you follow at any given moment.) Draining the government swamp is more important because it changes something over which you have no choice, which directly affects your life.

The argument I see for the primacy of draining the media swamp goes something like this: Despite the low approval numbers of all different types of media, the message put out by the media still has an outsized influence on what most Americans think and on how they vote. If you can change the media’s message, and undo the cozy backroom relationships they have with their favored politicians (who are always from the left), you can change who is elected. The election of Donald Trump does not prove the media is now weak; indeed, with the billions in free earned media they showered on him, you could say the media made Trump president. Moreover, more fundamentally, politics is downstream of culture. Change the media and you change the culture, which changes the politics — since our political choices inevitably reflect our collective personal opinions in the end. Draining the media swamp is more important because if you drain the media swamp, the government swamp will follow.

It’s an interesting debate. I’ll be interested to see what people say, even though this is obviously not a scientific poll.

I have cross-posted this at RedState, with the same question phrased the same way but in a different poll, so I can track the differences between the answers of the readerships of both blogs.

I have also cross-posted it at The Jury Talks Back, where we are running an experiment (described here) of ensuring that commentary follows the rules you might follow if you were a guest in my living room. Since many people will be entering The Jury from this post, and will have already taken the poll before going there, I did not think much would be revealed by having a separate poll there. To comment at the Jury version, go here.

1/22/2017

Announcing A Blog Comment Section That Is Like Being in My Living Room

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:11 pm

Big news.

I have decided to create an alternative comment section, for the purpose of creating an environment where people can discuss matters in the way that they might discuss them in my living room.

Over the years, there has always been an undercurrent of discontent among some commenters with the tone of the comments section. The bottom line is: some people like a more rough and tumble and environment, and others prefer a more polite and respectful tone. I have always leaned towards allowing a certain amount of aggression, while trying to encourage a respectful atmosphere.

But for a while I have contemplated the idea of setting aside a separate comments section for those who want to discuss and debate with an absolute minimum of personal rancor and a maximum of respect. The problem was: I was stymied by the logistics of how to create such an area, how to police it, and so forth.

Recently someone reminded me that I have this other moribund blog called The Jury Talks Back. There have been no posts there since 2011. It was originally designed as a place where many commenters could write their own posts. But it fell into disuse, and nobody has posted there since 2011.

So yesterday I thought: why not run a parallel blog there, with the same posts I have here, but an explicitly different ethic? One that emphasizes civility and honest debate?

I ran a little experiment yesterday with a few commenters who I thought might enjoy such an experience. The posts from yesterday were cross-posted there, and a handful of people discussed them. DRJ was there. Machinist was there! I liked the way it worked. The main problem was that there were not enough people. I want more.

I have trashed the posts there from yesterday so we can have a fresh start today, with the involvement of anyone who wants to be involved and can follow the rules. This is something I am going to continue it for a while. I hope for a long time.

Here’s how it’s going to work. Every post I write will be cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back. I’m going to try to get the guest bloggers to do the same, although there may be some logistics involved with that. I will include a link to the Jury version of the post at the end of the post.

It’s a public blog. For right now, everyone is invited, but the guidelines for posting are different.

The basic rule is this: imagine that you have been invited to my house as a guest. You and the other guests are sitting around a living room engaged in a lively and spirited political discussion in which everyone might not agree, but everyone treats everyone else with complete respect.

Before you post, make sure your comment has the same sort of tone it would have if you were saying it in my living room.

That’s pretty much the basic idea. Here are some further thoughts I have that may help illustrate what I am going for:

  • In my living room, people would not mischaracterize other people’s positions. If A characterized B’s position, it would be with great trepidation. A would be very concerned to make sure B agreed with A’s characterization. Strawman arguments would almost never occur. “So you’re telling me your view is” followed by something that sounds ridiculous is not something anyone would ever say.
  • In my living room, people might disagree, but they would always do so in a manner that showed respect for the other person.
  • In my living room, if two people disagreed, they would actually address the points made by the other person. There would be no filibustering while ignoring the points made by another person.
  • In my living room, there would be an adult level of discourse. Words like “slut” or “piggy” or “retard” or “stinkypig” would not be uttered. It would never occur to anyone to even try.

These are not exhaustive requirements, just illustrations.

I realize that there will inevitably be two related criticisms: that I am creating a “safe space” or that I am trying to exclude pro-Trump commentary there.

Let me address the latter criticism first. I speak for myself and I know I speak for other when I say that I want this to be a place where people can actually discuss different views. A polite echo chamber is boring.

But it takes real effort to disagree without being disagreeable, especially on the Internet, where there is no way to hear tone of voice and where misunderstandings cannot necessarily be corrected instantly. So bring your pro-Trump arguments, but bring an extra measure of civility with them, and I expect anti-Trump arguments to be made in the same spirit.

As for the “safe space” argument, I understand that concern. But here’s the thing. Once again, this is not a place to avoid debate. It’s a place to avoid rancor. To me, “safe spaces” are bad because they imply escape from points of view that are too uncomfortable. That is not the purpose of The Jury Talks Back. The purpose is to have discussions about uncomfortable topics in a very respectful and honest manner.

At one point I would have been very nervous about starting something like this, because I would be worried that all the civil commenters would abandon the main platform, with bad consequences for the main platform. It’s not impossible, but yesterday I noticed civil commentary on both boards, with many commenters participating in both parallel threads. And I think this experiment will bring some people back to commenting that may be put off by the tone of the main comment threads.

The point is, you have a choice. You think this is a stupid idea? You don’t want to participate? Then don’t participate. It’s the simplest solution in the world. The bottom line is: this is my blog, and this is something I want to do, so I’m going to do it. If you don’t like comment boards with a “living room” ethic, don’t go to the Jury comment threads. If you can’t abide a blog that even contains such an option, then leave. America still has freedom of choice! Ain’t it great?

As for the physical layout of the Jury blog: it’s not an ideal space. The comments look a little different, as the template has not been updated in years. Recent comments don’t work, although I am trying to contact Admin Guy to see if it is possible to make it work.

Anyone can participate, but I am going to be brutal about enforcing the norms. Brutal. I’m starting this on a Sunday so I can be active in monitoring it on the first day. If I think your comment is not in the spirit of The Jury Talks Back, I’ll just delete it outright. If there is whining about it, I’ll recommend that you simply return to the main comments section.

Another word of warning: I don’t know of a way of moderating people on one blog but not another. So if you venture to the Jury, and you can’t behave there, and it becomes a repeated problem, I may have no choice but to ban or moderate you from both blogs — even if your commentary is the sort of thing that would normally be accepted here.

I hope this is something that people try, even if just for the novelty of a comment board on the Internet with smart and interesting people who are bound and determined to discuss things in a civil manner.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

Trump Advisor: Spicer’s Falsehoods Were Just “Alternative Facts”

Filed under: Alternative Facts,General — Patterico @ 12:26 pm

Chuck Todd asked Trump spokespiehole Kellyanne Conway about Sean Spicer’s pack of falsehoods in yesterday’s press conference on the trivial (but important to Trump’s ego) issue of crowd size at the inauguration. Conway did her usual shtick of aggressive deflection combined with aggressive horseshit, but one moment stood out: Conway’s statement that Spicer was simply offering “alternative facts”:

CONWAY: I did answer your question.

TODD: No, you did not.

CONWAY: Yes I did.

TODD: You did not answer the question of why the President asked the White House Press Secretary to come out in front of the podium for the first time and utter a falsehood. Why did he do that? It undermines the credibility of the entire White House press office on Day One.

CONWAY: No, it doesn’t. Don’t be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. What it — you’re saying it’s a falsehood, and they’re giving — Sean Spicer, our Press Secretary — gave alternative facts to that. But the point, really —

TODD: Wait a minute. Alternative facts? Alternative facts? Four of the five facts he uttered . . . the one thing he got right was Zeke Miller [about the MLK bust]. Four of the five facts he uttered were just not true. Look: alternative facts are not facts. They’re falsehoods.

Here is what Conway looked like immediately after making the “alternative facts” declaration.

Conway Realizes She Screwed Up 1
Haha, isn’t it funny when I say things like that?

Followed quickly by this:

Conway Realizes She Screwed Up 2
Hmmm. That one might actually stick. Crap.

I looked at these issues yesterday in a detailed and restrained post and laid out the facts. Spicer was flatly wrong, time and time again. I think this one is indeed going to stick, Kellyanne.

I’m going ahead and creating a new category called “Alternative Facts” to use if and when the Trump administration decides to baldly lie to the American people again.

Chuck Todd overall did a poor job in the interview, by the way . . . feeding into Conway’s narrative by mocking Spicer’s performance as “ridiculous” rather than calmly citing the facts that Spicer got wrong. Nevertheless, while it may not have been apparent to his viewers, Todd is exactly right that Spicer’s performance was indeed ridiculous and does indeed call the White House’s credibility into question.

By the way, Donald Trump offered some “alternative facts” of his own yesterday, as he told the intelligence community yesterday that the notion of a feud between him and the intelligence community was made up by the media.

So I can only say that I am with you 1000%. And the reason you’re my first stop is that as you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on our Earth. Right?

And they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the Intelligence Community. And I just want to let you know, the reason you’re the number one stop is exactly the opposite. Exactly. And they understand that too.

There was laughter and applause after his statement that the media is dishonest. There was no applause following his dishonest claim that the media made up his feud with the IC. This is the same man who compared the IC to Nazis less than two weeks ago:

When you’re comparing the Intelligence Community to Nazis, it’s not the media making up a feud between you and the Intelligence Community.

Peter Wehner has an excellent op-ed in today’s New York Times. Here is a sample:

Because Republicans control Congress, they have the unique ability and the institutional responsibility to confront President Trump.

What this means is that Republican leaders in Congress need to be ready to call Mr. Trump on his abuses and excesses, now that he is actually in office. It is a variation of the Golden Rule, in this case treating others, including a Republican president, as they deserve to be treated. They need to ask themselves a simple, searching question: “If Barack Obama did this very thing, what would I be saying and doing now?” — and then say and do it.

In anticipating a Trump presidency, I wish my hopes exceeded my fears. But Donald Trump has given us many reasons to worry. A man with illiberal tendencies, a volatile personality and no internal checks is now president. This isn’t going to end well.

The quoted language applies to conservatives outside of government as well. But the reverse side of the coin applies to Big Media. They should be asking themselves: “If Barack Obama did this very thing, why didn’t I speak out then the way I am speaking out now?”

After the last eight years, with “if you like your plan you can keep it” and the rest, it is quite interesting to watch the media all of a sudden concerned with falsehoods emanating from the White House. When they fly into a frenzy over lies told by the Trump administration, as they inevitably will continue to do, we should all bear in mind how so many of them circled the wagons around Obama for eight solid years.

I was right here that entire time, vociferously calling out both the lies from the White House, and the press’s failure to report them. I will continue to call out the lies from the White House for the next four years, if and when they occur (and I confidently predict they will). It is nice to know that I will, all of a sudden, have a companion in that effort in the form of Big Media.

But I will remember the ones who failed to aid me in that effort over the last eight years — just as I remember the ones who fail to aid me in that effort in the years to come.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

Shocking Development: Throwing Money at Troubled Schools Doesn’t Seem to Accomplish Much

Filed under: General — JVW @ 6:39 am

[guest post by JVW]

On the last full day in office for the 44th President, the Washington Post took a brief respite from its mostly fawning coverage of his eight-year reign to actually acknowledge an area in which the vaunted brilliance of the team of experts serving the Obama Administration was found to be a bit lacking. In an article titled “Obama administration spent billions to fix failing schools, and it didn’t work” [why do modern headlines no longer follow traditional rules of capitalization?] staff writer Emma Brown, who covers the education beat, paints a pretty disheartening picture of expensive government meddling failing to achieve its lofty goals (bolded emphasis is in all cases added by me):

Test scores, graduation rates and college enrollment were no different in schools that received money through the School Improvement Grants program — the largest federal investment ever targeted to failing schools — than in schools that did not.

The Education Department published the findings on the website of its research division on Wednesday, hours before President Obama’s political appointees walked out the door.

Pretty much the entire premise of the Obama Presidency is that credentialed “experts” chosen by progressive politicians and given largely unaccountable regulatory authorization can enact policies that benefit whatever area it is in which they are called upon to meddle. It goes without saying, of course, that the new and enlightened policies always involve significant increases in spending:

The School Improvement Grants program has been around since the administration of President George W. Bush, but it received an enormous boost under Obama. The administration funneled $7 billion into the program between 2010 and 2015 — far exceeding the $4 billion it spent on Race to the Top grants.

The money went to states to distribute to their poorest-performing schools — those with exceedingly low graduation rates, or poor math and reading test scores, or both. Individual schools could receive up to $2 million per year for three years, on the condition that they adopt one of the Obama administration’s four preferred measures: replacing the principal and at least half the teachers, converting into a charter school, closing altogether, or undergoing a “transformation,” including hiring a new principal and adopting new instructional strategies, new teacher evaluations and a longer school day.

The Education Department did not track how the money was spent, other than to note which of the four strategies schools chose.

And there you have it: money thrown at a problem without any understanding of how it is being used other than at a categorical big-picture level. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you progressive governance in the Obama Era. Of the four categories, which do you think were the most popular? Closing the school and starting over? Ending the tyranny of a union-dominated public school by replacing it with a more lean and lively charter school? Don’t kid yourselves, folks:

Just a tiny fraction of schools chose the most dramatic measures, according to the new study. Three percent became charter schools, and 1 percent closed. Half the schools chose transformation, arguably the least intrusive option available to them.

In other words, at least 95 percent of the schools — 19 out of every 20 of them — took the money, brought in new administration, made a few curriculum changes, purchased some tablet computers, and perhaps extended the school day by 30 minutes, yet failed to move the needle at all in terms of graduation rates and test scores.

If you think the outgoing Obama Administration education officials are embarrassed by these results, or even slightly chagrined by them for that matter, you haven’t been paying much attention to the Obama Administration over the past eight years. The reactions range from the standard claim that the results are incomplete:

[Education Department spokeswoman Dorie] Nolt emphasized that the study focused on schools that received School Improvement Grants money between 2010 and 2013. The administration awarded a total of $3.5 billion to those schools, most of it stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. “Since then,” she said, “the program has evolved toward greater flexibility in the selection of school improvement models and the use of evidence-based interventions.”

Never fear, friends: spokeswoman Nolt suggests that we’ll see gangbuster improvements when we analyze results for post-2013 recipients. Would any of you bet your house on that proposition? And here’s the Big Cheese, former Education Secretary Arne Duncan, wishing away the failures by insisting that his rotting tree will eventually bear delicious fruit, as it allegedly has at a Boston high school which underwent a program transformation that served as a model for the Obama education program:

“Here in Massachusetts, it actually took several years to see real improvement in some areas,” Duncan said [in 2015]. “Scores were flat or even down in some subjects and grades for a while. Many people questioned whether the state should hit the brakes on change. But you had the courage to stick with it, and the results are clear to all.”

But, to her credit, the reporter Ms. Brown appears to be skeptical. She actually allows Andy Smarick, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, to have the last word as she closes her piece with these three paragraphs:

Smarick said he had never seen such a huge investment produce zero results.

That could end up being a gift, he said, from Duncan to Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary and a prominent proponent of taxpayer-supported vouchers for private and religious schools.

Results from the School Improvement Grants have shored up previous research showing that pouring money into dysfunctional schools and systems does not work, Smarick said: “I can imagine Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump saying this is exactly why kids need school choice.”

I am one of those grumpy right-wingers who thinks the entire Department of Education ought to be closed and that money should be sent back to the states. After a quarter-century of the attitude that more government involvement in education would yield better results, I hope most rational Americans are waking up to the idea that it just doesn’t work that way.

– JVW

1/21/2017

Sean Spicer’s Rant About Inauguration Crowds Is Packed With Falsehoods

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:00 pm

I’ll grant you: it feels kind of silly to be writing a post about the size of an inaugural crowd. (Remember: I think inaugurations are stupid to begin with.) But it’s even sillier to hold a whole press conference about the size of an inaugural crowd. And the silliest thing of all is to tell easily provable falsehoods about the size of an inaugural crowd from the White House podium.

And writing a post about White House falsehoods . . . why, that doesn’t feel silly at all.

So. As noted by Susan Wright earlier, Sean Spicer came marching out today and loudly and angrily made several claims about the size of the crowds yesterday. He made accurate complaints about tweets such as one about the bust of MLK being gone from the Oval Office.

Then he started complaining about the media’s coverage of the crowd size.

Now, I’m going to stay away from the side-by-side comparison photos of Obama 2013 and Trump 2017 I have seen floating around. They appear to show a lot more people at Obama’s inauguration. But the media could have compared different times of day. So let’s just stick with facts.

Spicer said this was the first time floor coverings were ever used on the Mall:

This was the first time in our nation’s history that floor coverings had been used to protect the grass on the Mall. That had the effect of highlighting any areas where people were not standing, while in years past, the grass eliminated this visual.

This was false.

Spicer also said magnetometers prevented access to the Mall:

This was also the first time that fencing and magnetometers went as far back on the wall, preventing hundreds of thousands of people from being able to access the Mall as quickly as they had in inaugurations past.

This may be false. A Secret Service person denied it to CNN’s Jim Acosta.

I’d like to see more conclusive proof before I declare this one to be a clear falsehood. But I’m leaning that way, since this assertion is sandwiched in between other clearly false ones.

Spicer said Metro numbers showed higher ridership for Trump’s inaugural than Obama’s last inaugural:

We know that 420,000 people used the D.C. Metro public transit yesterday, which actually compares to 317,000 that used it for president Obama’s last inaugural.

That is flatly false. I can’t find any direct numbers for the entire day from the Metro Web site, but the Washington Post reports:

Metro said 570,557 people took trips in the system between its early 4 a .m. Friday opening through midnight closing.

The figures are significantly lower than those from the 2009 and 2013 Inaugurations of President Barack Obama; 1.1 million trips in 2009 and 782,000 in 2013, according to Metro.

CNN reports:

Spicer’s number for ridership on Friday was actually low — the correct number, according to Metro itself, was 570,557. But there were actually 782,000 trips taken for Obama’s second inaugural in 2013.

And tweets from Metro itself from 11 a.m. on Inauguration Day 2013 vs. 2017:

These numbers are consistent with the final figures reported by CNN and the Washington Post, showing higher numbers in 2013 than 2017.

Spicer sure told some whoppers there. I understand the right’s desire for pushback against the media, believe me. But to me, “pushback” that is dishonest is not praiseworthy. At all. I agree with Charles C.W. Cooke:

But whether it’s good politics is, of course, a different matter. Who am I to say that repeating falsehoods in an angry tone doesn’t work?

After all: Donald Trump won the Republican nomination and the presidency doing exactly that.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

Trump’s Order On ObamaCare: Is It Executive Overreach?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 4:00 pm

Yesterday Donald Trump signed an Executive Order on ObamaCare titled MINIMIZING THE ECONOMIC BURDEN OF THE PATIENT PROTECTION AND AFFORDABLE CARE ACT PENDING REPEAL. There has been some talk about whether the order guts ObamaCare, and/or amounts to the repeal of the mandate.

Does it? And does Trump’s order amount to executive overreach? The text of the order is here, and these appear to be the most potentially relevant provisions:

Sec. 2. To the maximum extent permitted by law, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary) and the heads of all other executive departments and agencies (agencies) with authorities and responsibilities under the Act shall exercise all authority and discretion available to them to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the Act that would impose a fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.

Is that executive overreach? I don’t think we can know yet. I think we have to see what Trump’s administration does with it.

The order states that it is intended to operate “[t]o the maximum extent permitted by law,” which Trump supporters will argue (perhaps with justification) shows that Trump does not intend to overstep his authority and infringe upon Congress’s sphere of power. Charles C.W. Cooke argued on Twitter last night that Obama always claimed that what he was doing was within the law.

Is that true? I spent some time last night trying to track down the actual text of Obama’s orders on various topics. They tended to be contained in things like letters from a bureaucrat, or announcements on a particular department’s Web site. I wasn’t able to verify or disprove Cooke’s assertion, but it stands to reason that Obama always claimed that what he was doing was legal, even if it wasn’t. Presidents always do.

Here is what is beyond dispute: Obama did engage in overreach. The Affordable Care Act gives the President wide discretion in certain areas, but in other areas it sets specific deadlines, such as with the employer mandate. When Obama claimed the authority to change that deadline for political reasons, he was engaged in clear overreach. We all said so at the time. And if Trump tries the same thing, he will be too.

But shouldn’t Trump get to do whatever Obama did? Over at Hot Air, my favorite blogger Allahpundit articulates what is likely to be a common reaction from the right:

Remember when King Barack decreed in 2013 that he would delay enforcement of the employer mandate even though the law itself required the mandate to take effect on a specific date? Conservatives like me howled that the president has no constitutional power to delay implementation when a federal statute requires it, but O got away with it. And now turnabout is fair play. If King Barack enjoyed a particular type of authority, King Donald enjoys it too. Good work, liberals.

I rarely disagree with Allahpundit, but I will here. I may be a lonely voice here, but if the President doesn’t have authority to do something, he doesn’t have it whether he is a Democrat or a Republican. He doesn’t have unconstitutional authority even if a previous President claimed that authority. If one President declares war without obtaining a declaration from Congress, that is unconstitutional no matter how many previous presidents did the same. Responding to other conservatives’ “turnabout is fair play” arguments in November 2014, Charles C.W. Cooke wrote:

Sean Trende, who is among the most interesting and level-headed writers within the firmament, today proposed on Twitter that the Republican party’s “smart play on executive immigration is to shrug, then have a field day when they next get the presidency.” When I asked him for clarification, Trende told me that the system runs on “norms” and that, once broken, those norms are difficult to reinstate, and he therefore contended that Republicans should acknowledge the power grab and wait patiently until they can utilize it. “I think it is a horrifying precedent being set here,” Trende conceded, “but the die seems to be cast.” Ace of Spades’s Gabriel Malor, another man I hold in high regard, holds a similar view, often expressing excitement at the possibility that Republicans will eventually be able to take advantage of what he terms, cheerfully, “The Obama Rule.”

I am afraid that I consider this approach to be little short of suicidal, and I can under no circumstances look forward to a system in which the executive may pick and choose which laws he is prepared to enforce. On the contrary: I consider the idea to be a grave and a disastrous one, and I would propose that any such change is likely to usher in chaos at first and then to incite a slow, tragic descent into the monarchy and caprice that our ancestors spent so long trying to escape. During the last 500 years or so, the primary question that has faced the Anglo-American polities has been whether the executive or the legislature is to be the key proprietor of domestic power. In one form or another, this query informed both the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution that followed it, and it was at the root of the Revolution in America. Cast your eyes across the Declaration of Independence and you will notice that the majority of the “long train of abuses and usurpations” have to do with the violation of the rights of assemblies by individuals who believe themselves to be the dominant arbiter of the state’s affairs.

Once, Barack Obama sided with the abused and the usurped. Reaffirming his “appropriate role as president” in 2011, Obama pushed back against those who wished him to “bypass Congress” and “change the laws” on his own, reminding his audience that “that’s not how our system works; that’s not how our democracy functions; that’s not how our Constitution is written.” Last year, he insisted vehemently that the United States was a “nation of laws” and that his critics should refuse to “pretend like [he] can do something by violating our laws.” Today, he takes the opposite view, putting his preferences above the “appropriate role” of the president — above the “system,” “democracy,” and the “Constitution” — and indeed promising to “bypass Congress and change the laws” on his own. In the meantime, suffice it to say, we have not added a “gridlock clause” to our charter. If conservatives sit idly by as the executive branch abdicates its responsibility to faithfully execute the laws, they will be complicit in the devastation of our political system.

Will Donald Trump’s executive order be used to engage in the type of overreach Barack Obama routinely employed? I’m not sure yet. But if it is, conservatives need to lay down a marker now: this will not be acceptable.

Even if Barack Obama did it.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

Ken White on Punching Nazis

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:59 am

So Richard Spencer, a white nationalist, was giving someone an interview yesterday when someone came up and sucker-punched him. Here is the video:

I was in an online discussion yesterday with people who were debating whether this is awesome or bad. The general consensus seemed to be that it was awesome. I said it was bad.

Ken White has written a post about it which you should read in its entirety. He makes several sensible points. Ten in all. Let me quote the first five as a springboard for discussion.

1. Nazis are scum.

2. Principles are in a constant struggle with viscera. I want punching Nazis to be acceptable, and find the spectacle of Nazis getting punched to be viscerally satisfying. Jesus Christ and John Donne aside, Nazi suffering does not move me.

3. We have social and legal norms, including “don’t punch people because their speech is evil, and don’t punish them legally.” Applying those norms is not a judgment that the speech in question is valuable, or decent, or morally acceptable. We apply the norms out of a recognition of human frailty — because the humanity that will be deciding whom to punch and whom to prosecute is the same humanity that produced the Nazis in the first place, and has a well-established record of making really terrible decisions. You — the bien-pensant reader, confident that sensible punchers and prosecutors can sort out Nazis from the not-Nazis — will likely not be doing the punching or prosecuting. The punching and prosecuting will be done by a rogue’s gallery of vicious idiots, including people who think that Black Lives Matter should be indicted under RICO and that it’s funny to send women death threats if they write a column you don’t like.

4. In embracing a norm that sucker-punching Nazis is acceptable, remember that you live in a nation of imbeciles that loves calling people Nazis. Also bear in mind that certain aspects of our culture — modern academic culture, for instance — encourages people to think that you’re a Nazi if you eat veal or disagree with them about the minimum wage.

5. By the way, right now there are tons of people right now who would welcome an emerging social norm that it’s acceptable to punch, say, Black Lives Matter protesters. I know Nazis aren’t remotely comparable. You do too. They disagree. And you’ve handed them the rhetorical tools to defend themselves, and handed the broader populace an excuse to look away. Well done.

Now. I recognize that the comment thread is likely to devolve into a discussion about whether Richard Spencer is a Nazi. Ken White sets forth his points with the assumption that Spencer is one. I don’t really disagree — but if it makes you happier, everywhere he says “Nazi” you can substitute “white nationalist and racial separatist who claims he is not a Nazi but favorably quotes Nazi propaganda and wants to have an all-white state in North America.”

I don’t believe in sucker-punching those guys. What about you?

Media Shows Renewed Promise To Be On Top Of Their Game Next Four Years…

Filed under: General — Dana @ 8:34 am

[guest post by Dana]

Grasping for metaphor, indeed:

And as any event involving the combination of garbage, fire, and a large crowd—coupled with its convenient location right outside the office of a major news organization—does, the small blaze caught the attention of seemingly every reporter within sprinting distance.

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Heh.

–Dana

1/20/2017

Things You Can Count On: Children of Republican Politicians Will Always Be Targeted By Disgusting Human Beings

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:45 pm

[guest post by Dana]

What the hell is wrong with people?? Leave. Children. Alone. How hard is that??

Less than 24 hours into Donald Trump’s presidency and the Left is already confirming that 10-year old Barron Trump will be fair game for them to viciously attack for the next four years. After all, this is the child of a Republican president. What’s noteworthy (for lack of a better term) about these attacks is that one individual writes for NBC’s Saturday Night Live, and the other writes for Fox Sports.

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We are again witnessing the vulnerability of children simply because they are the offspring of Republican politicians . It’ unfortunate that Mrs. Trump and Barron cannot remain safely ensconced in the familiar confines of New York City for the next four years as a way to avoid putting Barron Trump into the spotlight even more than he already is. Of course, that less public life ended today. At best, his parents can only hope to shield him from most of it.

Anyway, given that NBC suspended one of its anchors for having suggested that Chelsea Clinton, who was 27-years old at the time, was being “pimped out” by her mother’s presidential campaign, I’m sure we can count on them to, at the very least, suspend SNL writer Katie Rich.

Oh. And this:

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Yep. I do too.

–Dana

[Update by JVW]
Sorry, I generally don’t intrude into Patterico or Dana’s posts, but this is so laughable that I had to add it. Apparently the geniuses writing headlines at MSN have no idea who “Barron Trump” is and assumed that it was Ms. Rich’s pet name for the new President. They got it right in the main article, so I guess the headline writers don’t even bother to read the dreck that the MSN staff writers produce. Jeeze, it’s going to be a long four years with these clowns presuming to tell us what to think.

MSN

– JVW

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