The Jury Talks Back


My Op-Ed in the L.A. Times About the RedState Firings

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 7:59 am

I can’t find it on the L.A. Times site, but apparently it’s in the print newspaper, because someone left a comment about it here. I found a version of it here. Quotable:

If, among those who supposedly cherish freedom of expression, certain widespread viewpoints become taboo, where does that leave us? In a dishonest media atmosphere. More and more, conservative writers and pundits will claim to support Trump, whether they actually do or not. Meanwhile, those who refuse to engage in the charade will be increasingly sidelined.

This trajectory, left unchecked, leads to media that increasingly resembles that of totalitarian societies. That may sound like hyperbole — until you switch on Fox News, and realize how much of its programming already resembles state-run media.

Read it all here. And squawk about my alleged hyperbole below in the comments!


My Take on the “Comedy” Routine at the White House Correspondence Dinner Is Simple

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 5:48 pm

Here it is: it wasn’t funny. But I enjoyed watching Sarah Sanders called out for lying, on account of her being a paid liar. I didn’t enjoy watching her called out for her looks, because that kind of commentary is low class.

But you have no moral basis to complain about the cheap shots at her looks, unless you are on record complaining about all the similar cheap shots Trump has taken at people over the years.

That is all.

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 148

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 12:01 am

It is the fifth Sunday of Easter. The title of today’s cantata is “Bringet dem Herrn Ehre seines Namens” (Bring to the Lord the honor due His name).

Today’s Gospel reading is John 15:1-8:

The Vine and the Branches

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

The text of today’s cantata is available here. The fifth movement, a recitative, contains these words:

Stay also, my God, in me
and give me Your Spirit,
which shall govern me according to Your word,

Happy listening!


No, Criticizing Trump Is Not the Ticket to Fame and Fortune

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 12:17 pm

Yesterday, several writers were fired from RedState. All of them were fierce Trump critics. While some Trump critics remain at the site, no Trump supporters were fired.

A common reaction to this news goes like this: No problem! Trump haters can get a job anywhere they want! They can just go to ABC, NBC, CBS, NYT, WaPo, LAT, CNN, or any number of other places! The claim is made that opposing Trump is somehow a resume enhancer.

This is wrong, and I thought I’d set aside some time to quote Erick Erickson at length about just how wrong it is:

When I uninvited Donald Trump from the RedState Gathering in 2015, I got death threats, harassment, and also saw the more than 30,000 people unsubscribe from the daily email I was sending at the time. That 30,000 came in only a few weeks.

After saying that I could not support the man for President, I pretty much ensured my days filling in on national talk radio were over for the time being. But not only that, it also played a part in disrupting my career advancement in talk radio to some degree. My bosses were quite worried about my own show, which is significant given its time slot. A few things that seemed just on the horizon have disappeared for now. Thankfully, though, God was watching over me and I’m actually in a stronger position now than before. More on that in a minute.

Over the course of the campaign in 2016, we had people show up at our home to threaten us. We had armed guards at the house for a while. My kids were harassed in the store. More than once they came home in tears because other kids were telling them I was going to get killed or that their parents hated me. I got yelled at in the Atlanta airport while peeing by some angry Trump supporter.

We got harassed in church and stopped going for a while. A woman in a Bible study told my wife she wanted to slap me across the face My seminary got calls from people demanding I be expelled. And on and on it went. When I nearly died in 2016, I got notes from people upset I was still alive. When I announced my wife had an incurable form of lung cancer, some cheered. All were directed from supposedly evangelical Trump supporters convinced God was punishing me for not siding with his chosen one. For a while, given the nature of what we were getting in the mail, my kids had to stop checking it.

When my Fox contract came up, not only did I not want to stay, but Fox made clear they had no use for me. I had jumped from CNN to Fox with a number of promises made, none of which were kept and then wound up hardly ever getting on. After saying I could not support Trump, the purpose of my Fox contract became more about keeping me off anyone’s television screen than putting me on. When I did go on in 2016, I frequently found myself getting called a traitor by some Trump humping celebrity. After the election, that stopped, but most of my appearances did too except from a few kind producers with whom I had become friends.

I have no TV contract now and have literally been on more in the past three three months than in the past year at Fox, though all of it unpaid. Of course, much of the rest of the media prefers Republicans who will only blast the GOP and I don’t do that anymore than mindlessly praise Trump.

Compare that to the soul-searching that Ace of Spades did when he contemplated the future direction of his blog:

Some time ago I faced the choice of doing an anti-Trump-but-pro-conservative blog, or getting on board with Trump. (The latter turned out to be easier than I thought, as the idea of President Hillary Clinton got my partisan dander up.)

But when I was contemplating the idea of a blog that was allegedly pro-conservative while simultaneously being against the key player (flaws and all) of the actual on-the-ground real-world conservative movement, I realized: This makes no sense.

What’s the audience for that? How many readers would that attract?

. . . .

The old expression for this “a feathered fish” — a feathered fish can’t fly, and the feathers weight it down so that it also can’t swim. It’s a blend of two inconsistent things that results in a non-viable hybrid for which there is little audience.

Eh. I think (and long thought) this business model was non-viable but I don’t wish any ill on the fired people and I hope they can find jobs somewhere.

But I still think that, on strictly practical terms, they really have to decide if they’re birds or fish if they want to get anywhere.

I’ve bolded that last part, with the phrase “get anywhere,” because I think it’s central to Ace’s world view.

By “get anywhere” Ace means “get clicks” — which translate to money in the “business model” that he describes. Ace is refreshingly forthright here, which is what I like about Ace at his best: he’ll be brutally honest about some things that other people wouldn’t. He’s not talking about his message primarily in terms of what he believes; his primary focus is economic. And the message is: if you want a lot of readers, you gotta be on the Trump train. Of course, once you make that decision, you can easily rationalize the various ways in which you ignore or minimize the dumb stuff Trump does. After all, you’re just being hard-headed and realistic — much in the same way that settling with a convicted bomber and perjurer like Brett Kimberlin, which Ace also did, can be viewed as a hard-headed and realistic decision when the alternative looks costly or risky.

Like Ace, Erick Erickson also depends on audience for his income. He made a different choice, and it’s not working out well for him financially. But even though he struggles to make ends meet, he seems at peace with his decision — because for him, what it means to “get anywhere” is different from what Ace means.

What Erick is doing is far more admirable than what I’m doing. It’s relatively easy for me to just say what I believe. Sure, my comments section fills up with vitriol from people disappointed that I won’t jump on board. But, unlike Erick, I don’t depend on my political punditry to make my living. The money from RedState in particular was nice, and made things easier, but we’ll eat and pay our mortgage without it.

But don’t pretend that my saying what I think is financially positive, or a “resume enhancer.” Of course it’s not. Many readers have left, because they simply can’t deal with the fact that I regularly criticize Trump.

By the way, I often see people try to justify their abandoning me on grounds more principled than “I don’t like it when you criticize Trump.” That sounds silly, so they come up with various rationalizations. But those rationalizations are all provably false. For instance, people will say things like: You seem to insult everyone who supports Trump! So then I go and dig up posts where I said I respect people who voted for Trump:

I have always said — always — that I fully understood why someone would vote Trump in a general election against Hillary Clinton. (If you voted for him in the primaries, that’s a different discussion entirely.) I’ve never criticized a general election vote for Trump. I’ve never criticized the people who cast that vote. . . . I respect people who cast a vote for Donald Trump to avoid Hillary Clinton becoming President.

Then they say: OK, but you never ever praise Donald Trump for what he does right! So then I go dig up my posts where I praise him for what he did right, like nominating Gorsuch:

Tonight, I am proud of President Trump, without reservation.

Or other issues:

[S]o far, he’s been more conservative than I expected. Much of that is the flag-waving I-love-a-parade brand of conservatism that doesn’t excite me much, but a sizable chunk is real conservatism: almost (almost) uniformly excellent judges, reduction of regulation, etc. Notably, so far — as long as he doesn’t get us into a stupid war — his policies have been a clear improvement on what we would have gotten from a Hillary Clinton.


[T]here’s plenty to like. The executive order on immigration, while concededly poorly thought through and chaotically rolled out, is a fulfillment of an important campaign promise to keep our country safe. He has made an incredibly solid Supreme Court pick. Many of his cabinet picks have been encouraging. And he seems to be taking steps to rein in regulations, even if his manner in doing so has been ham-handed and ridiculous.

Much of the praise is mixed in with criticism. And that’s the part that the flouncers don’t like. They simply can’t handle reading criticism of Trump.

So why do I keep doing it when a lot of people don’t like it?

The answer is pretty simple. I say what I think. Sure, I criticize Trump far, far more often than I praise him. Why? Because I think he deserves criticism far, far more often than he deserves praise. I still think he is unfit to be president — morally, intellectually, and temperamentally. That’s what I actually think. So, I just say what I think.

Saying what I actually think hasn’t gotten me a “gig” at the New York Times or CNN. It is not a resume enhancer. In the end, it has gotten me fired from RedState. Make no mistake: that’s going to be a hit to my pocketbook, at a time when I am sending my first child to college. But it’s nothing like the financial difficulties that Erick Erickson is going through — or that people like Susan Wright and Caleb Howe, also fired for criticizing Trump, are going through. Those folks depended on that income, and now they have to find something else.

But the one thing I can say about Erick, and that I can also say about everyone else who was fired yesterday, is that their view of what it means to “get anywhere” is not about getting clicks or eyeballs or TV appearances. It’s about saying what they believe and letting the chips fall where they may. That is not a popular position, but it’s the position they chose.

And it’s not a position that makes them rich. So stop claiming that what they did is easy. It isn’t. It just isn’t.

Alfie Evans: Even A Little Life Is Worth Fighting For

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 10:55 am

[guest post by Dana]

(photo from CNN)

Little Alfie Evans has passed away. The sweet little two-year old had been the focus of a fierce battle between his parents, who wanted the right to make the life and death decisions concerning him, the British National Health Service (NHS) and the judiciary, who seemingly worked tirelessly to deny the parents these rights:

Pope Francis had been publicly praying and advocating for the 23-month-old boy, and the Italian government offered the child citizenship and created a plan to take the boy to a Vatican hospital. But Alfie’s doctors, who took him off life support against the parents’ wishes, said he couldn’t be healed and shouldn’t make the trip. A judge earlier this week sided with his doctors, who said Alfie suffered from a rare and incurable degenerative neurological condition. The court also ruled that the parents could not seek treatment for him elsewhere because further treatment would be against the child’s best interests.

When the decision was made that the little boy would be taken off the ventilator, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital released this statement:

“This evening the High Court again ruled that it is in Alfie’s best interests to continue with the end of life care plan developed by the clinical team who have cared for him throughout.

“Our top priority therefore remains in ensuring Alfie receives the care he deserves to ensure his comfort, dignity and privacy are maintained throughout. This includes working closely with Kate and Tom as they spend this precious time together with him.

“We would be grateful if respect and consideration is shown to all our staff, patients and families at the hospital at this difficult time.”

The assumption being that Alfie’s own parents, Tom Evans and Kate James, did not have their little boy’s best interest at heart, while the courts and the hospital did. Again, Alfie’s parents had already been told “no” to taking their son to Italy for care, told he would be taken off life support, against their wishes, and were told that he might be able to die at home if they had an attitude adjustment:

But a doctor treating Alfie, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said that for Alfie to be allowed home would require a “sea change” in attitude from the child’s family, and they feared that in the “worst case” they would try to take the boy abroad.

I tried to write about Alfie Evans a number of times as the storm swirled around him but continually found myself tearfully fraught with anger at the outrageous unfairness of it all. I read a number of stories about the battles over Alfie. About how conservatives in the U.S. were using his case as an example of the inevitable end of socialized medicine, how Alfie was just a little political football, and how U.S. conservatives have rallied around Alfie Evans. And while I prayed for the little guy and his parents, niggling in the back of my mind was the question of why one little boy’s life didn’t appear to be worth fighting for by everyone? Why wasn’t Alfie Evans viewed with having an inherent value that made him worth the fight? Why was their silence by too many when two loving parents were forced into an ugly and exhausting battle just to be allowed to say goodbye to their little one in the privacy of their own home? It was as if this parental love cost too much for too many in power, and for too many who believed the courts knew best. That two loving and conscientious parents had their rights taken away by the courts should outrage everyone. And in wondering why everyone didn’t feel the urge to fight for Alfie and his parents, I am certainly not the alone:

What the British government is doing to a baby and his family is almost unbelievable. The state has determined that Alfie Evans, afflicted as he is by a rare neurodegenerative disorder, has so poor a quality of life that no efforts should be made to keep him alive.

He was taken off ventilation, but continued, surprising the doctors, to breathe. He has also been deprived of water and food. His parents want to take him to Italy, where a hospital is willing to treat him. The British government says no, and has police stationed to keep the boy from being rescued. It is, after all, in his best interest to die. (Yes, the British courts have made that determination, interpreting an act of Parliament, and in Britain “government” often refers to the executive branch. The point here is that we are discussing a policy of the British state.)

There are end-of-life cases that raise genuinely complicated issues. The same course of medical treatment might be obligatory in one set of circumstances, permissible in another, and cruel in a third. There are gray areas and judgment calls.

This is not one of those cases. There is no allegation that providing the baby with nutrition and hydration, or treatment generally, will cause him suffering — or that extending his life will prolong his suffering, since there is no indication that he has been suffering.

The family is not asking the British government to pay for expensive treatments. They just want the freedom to take their boy to people who will try to keep him alive rather than cause his death.

The considerations that move the government are that the baby’s doctors consider it unlikely that he will ever attain a high level of cognitive functioning or be able to survive on his own, and likely that his condition will eventually kill him. The courts have decided that Alfie Evans therefore derives no benefit from continuing to live.

It really is this simple: The British state has decided that it is the baby’s best interest to die, and it is trying to ensure that he dies expeditiously. It is overriding parental rights in the process.

And while the article focuses on responding to the silent left in the U.S., I believe the concluding statement below can be asked of many, no matter their political stripe. I don’t think it matters that this took place overseas where the laws are different than here. That this could happen here as an accepted practice is a concern that bridges an ocean. We would be fools to not take heed.

The family and its supporters assert, with justified outrage, that it is barbaric to sentence anyone to death by starvation for the crime of being dependent on others, and that parents have a right to make medical decisions for their children. The courts are treating the parents as though they were in the grip of irrational, if understandable, emotions. They are merely loving their baby. It is the British state that appears to be reacting in an irrational and nearly incomprehensible, way.

The Guardian reports that the case has become a “rallying cry for social conservatives” in the United States. So it has. My question is: Why aren’t liberals horrified by the British government’s behavior, too? Shouldn’t everyone be?

Like little Charlie Gard before him, may Alfie Evans be welcomed home by the angels in a joyously giddy reception of loving kindness. And while he is now at peace, may his parents, who are surely walking through a hellish vale of anguish, find comfort in knowing their little love is now home-free.



Mass Firing of Trump Critics at RedState — Including Yours Truly

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 3:08 pm

Several writers at RedState were fired today, including me. All those fired were Trump critics.

Salem, the owner of RedState, is perfectly within its legal rights to do this. They can take their site in any direction they want. But the message sent by firing a group of writers en masse, all of whom have been vigorous critics of the President, will have a chilling effect — both on the remaining writers at the site, and the conservative movement as a whole.

More thoughts to come.

UPDATE: Rosie Gray has a piece at the Atlantic (ironically, the same publication that recently canned Kevin D. Williamson) which accurately quotes me:

“There’s a clear pattern that the people who were let go were all critics of Donald Trump,” said Patrick Frey, a lawyer who blogs as Patterico and whose contract was also terminated on Friday.

“It was a complete surprise,” Frey said. “There’d been rumors of contract changes but being fired was a complete surprise.”

. . . .

Frey says he’s grateful for his time at RedState and emphasized that the company has the right to fire people. But he worried that the remaining writers were being sent a clear message about what kind of views were now permissible. “It seems like the message of the firings is very clear,” he said. “We won’t tolerate strong criticism of this president.”

More at The Hill, which quotes a tweet of mine.

UPDATE x2: The Daily Beast:

Another fired staffer, who requested anonymity to speak freely, said the layoffs “definitely” had political motivations. “They canned someone who brought in 700k to 800k page views per month,” the writer told The Daily Beast. “Lately that would be around 10 percent of monthly traffic.”

Indeed, the website’s highest-trafficked writer, Susan Wright, has been openly critical of not just President Trump—routinely decrying his various scandals, “desperate” behavior, and self-contradictions—but of the unabashed pro-Trump sycophants in conservative media, such as Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

Wright makes “significantly less” than other, more pro-Trump writers who remain with the site and generate less traffic, a source noted to The Daily Beast.

. . . .

“It had become clear to me over the last couple of years that Jonathan [Garthwaite] was far more interested in making sure his golfing buddies were pleased with the level of GOP line-toeing more than anything,” Howe told The Daily Beast.

By writing anti-Trump opinions, he said, “you’re certainly making Jonathan’s tee time awkward.”

I have not been an anonymous source for any story. I did speak to someone at the Washington Post, but their story has not yet appeared.

Mediaite quotes my tweet. CNN’s Brian Stelter has this report. Vox has a story here. And the Washington Examiner has a report here.


Federal Judge: To Hell with Trump! Long Live Barack Obama’s DACA Program!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 8:30 am

A third federal judge has ruled that President Trump is not allowed to terminate Barack Obama’s illegal DACA program. This is not the first time a judge has done this, so I’ll quote myself from one of the previous times:

This decision is outrageous. Immigration is Congress’s business. Obama overstepped his authority in issuing a blanket amnesty to a group of people under the guise of prosecutorial discretion. Trump had every right to undo that decision and return the issue to Congress, where it belongs.

. . . .

I hope that this order is swiftly appealed and reversed. It’s a naked power grab by the courts and has no basis in law.

But this decision is worse than the previous ones. Until yesterday, judges had simply ordered that Homeland Security process renewal applications from who had already applied. But this ruling is different:

But the ruling by Bates, an appointee of President George W. Bush, is far more expansive: If the government does not come up with a better explanation within 90 days, he will rescind the government memo that terminated the program and require Homeland Security to enroll new applicants, as well. Thousands could be eligible to apply.

The judge has put his absurd decision on hold for that 90-day period.

Here’s the centerpiece of the “reasoning” offered by the court:

The Court further concludes that, under the APA, DACA’s rescission was arbitrary and capricious because the Department failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful. Neither the meager legal reasoning nor the assessment of litigation risk provided by DHS to support its rescission decision is sufficient to sustain termination of the DACA program.

This is nonsense. Obama’s proffered justification for undermining Congressional legislation in the area of immigration was that he was making a resource allocation decision in enforcement, which is an executive function. Decisions like this mean that one president’s decision about how to allocate resources binds the hands of all future presidents, who are not allowed to make different decisions unless they can explain to a judge’s satisfaction why the previous decisions were illegal.

Even if you accept the resource allocation justification (and I don’t), it makes no sense to say that all future presidents are bound by a previous president’s resource allocation. Obama’s not the President anymore. Donald Trump is, and he’s the one who gets to decide how to allocate the resources available in his administration.

I can’t wait for the Supreme Court to overrule this and decisions like it.

P.S. Today is the day that the Supreme Court hears arguments on Trump’s travel ban. I’ll do my best to offer analysis later today or tomorrow.

P.P.S. This has nothing to do with the subject matter of this post, but if you haven’t read Kira Davis’s post on the tragic and infuriating Alfie Evans case out of the U.K., read it now. I was going to write a post about that myself, but realized that I’d never be able to write anything as effective as her piece. So instead of writing my own piece, I’m promoting hers, and recommending that everyone read it. It’s that good.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]


New York Times Labels Real News About Palestinians as “Fake”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 9:00 am

The New York Times has an article by Nellie Bowles about Facebook’s Campbell Brown — who is, according to Bowles, seen by some as an “insidious figure — a telegenic personality with close ties to conservative figures who can offer Facebook’s outreach the veneer of journalistic credibility.” (Close ties to conservative figures?! Horrors!) As one example of the kind of alleged right-wing conspiracy mongering that supposedly occurs on Facebook, Bowles cites stories that Palestinians pay millions in pensions to the families of terrorists:

Facebook — with its reach of more than 2.2 billion users — already holds enormous power over the news that people consume. But now it is making its first venture into licensed news content. Facebook has set aside a $90 million budget to have partners develop original news programming, and Ms. Brown is pitching publishers on making Facebook-specific news shows featuring mainstream anchors, according to two people involved in or briefed on the matter, who asked not to be identified because the details were confidential.

Once those shows get started, Ms. Brown wants to use Facebook’s existing Watch product — a service introduced in 2017 as a premium product with more curation that has nonetheless been flooded with far-right conspiracy programming like “Palestinians Pay $400 million Pensions For Terrorist Families” — to be a breaking news destination. The result would be something akin to an online competitor to cable news.

Crazy conspiracy nonsense, right?

Not so much, as it happens. As the blog Why Evolution Is True notes, these payments are real. The annual budgets are often hundreds of millions of dollars. Anyone who follows the conflict has heard of this — anyone, that is, except for Nellie Bowles.

Now The Times has had to issue a correction:

An article on Sunday about Campbell Brown’s role as Facebook’s head of news partnerships erroneously included a reference to Palestinian actions as an example of the sort of far-right conspiracy stories that have plagued Facebook. In fact, Palestinian officials have acknowledged providing payments to the families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks on Israelis or convicted of terrorist acts and imprisoned in Israel; that is not a conspiracy theory.


This is what is dangerous about Facebook and Big Media deciding what’s “fake” and sweeping it from view. A lot of what they consider “fake” is actually true — and vice versa.

Who will watch the self-appointed watchdogs? How can we decide if any article is fake news if we never get to see it? These are valid questions of concern in a world where people who all share a left-leaning point of view are entrusted to decide what we should and should not see.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]


GOP Running Against Hillary in 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 9:00 am

As Trump fans and NeverTrumpers head into the midterms, what can bring them together? The GOP is banking on the power of the Other: Hillary Clinton. Fox News:

Hillary Clinton won’t go away.

So conservatives are giving her a seat at the table.

Clinton is starring in the Republican Party’s 2018 midterm strategy. With no Democrat to attack in the White House for the first time in nearly a decade, Republicans are betting big that the ghost of Clinton will serve them well in 2018.

Even if she avoids the spotlight moving forward, the Republican Party plans to evoke her early and often in key congressional races, particularly in regions Trump won, which feature most of the midterm season’s competitive races.

. . . .

“We’re going to make them own her,” Republican National Committee spokesman Rick Gorka said.

With control of Congress up for grabs this fall, the GOP’s most powerful players are preparing to spend big on plans to feature Clinton as a central villain in attack ads against vulnerable Democrats nationwide.

The power of the Other is one reliable way to make enemies work together. Think about it: what kind of event would it take to get Russia, China, and the U.S. to cooperate? One possibility comes to mind: an invasion of our planet by green, scaly, multi-tentacled Martians with oozing pustules and sixteen roach-like legs.

And if you wanted to elect one of those pus-filled Martian vermin to nationwide office? Simple: present it as a binary choice between the repulsive purulent alien and Hillary Clinton.

I don’t blame the GOP. If you have someone on the other side so bad she can make normal people vote for Donald Trump, why not exploit that forever? Especially when, as the Fox News article notes, she won’t go away. New York Times:

In her first public appearance since James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, began his book tour, Hillary Clinton made only a glancing reference to him in a speech on Sunday night and instead focused most of her attacks on President Trump, once again likening him to authoritarians.

Mrs. Clinton gave the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture at PEN America’s World Voices Festival in New York City. She spoke at length about threats to journalists around the world before turning her attention to domestic matters. She criticized Mr. Trump, not so subtly comparing him to authoritarian leaders who had suppressed journalism in their countries.

“Today, we have a president who seems to reject the role of a free press in our democracy,” she said. “Although obsessed with his own press coverage, he evaluates it based not on whether it provides knowledge or understanding, but solely on whether the daily coverage helps him and hurts his opponents.”

Even correct things sound stupid and wrong coming out of her mouth. If she’s going to keep putting herself in the spotlight, why wouldn’t the GOP take advantage of that, and make her the villain of their story?

It’s better than, say, running on the GOP record of policy successes. (You can picture me rolling my eyes as I type that.)

(They told me if I didn’t vote for Donald Trump, the next President would explode the budget and keep ObamaCare. And they were right!)

Will Trump voters realize that Hillary won’t be in office regardless of whether they vote for some milquetoast GOP backbencher? Sure, some will. But the propaganda will work on others. That’s why they’re using it.

We get the government we deserve. And man, are we undeserving.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]


The Conspiracy Theories About Comey’s Dossier Briefing Are Absurd

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 10:30 am

The latest conspiracy theories about Trump and the pee tape really are ridiculous. Jonathan Chait has an excellent piece in New York Magazine debunking those conspiracy theories with surgical precision. If you are the sort that cannot distinguish facts and logic from the person offering them, stop reading now. You’ve already heard all you need to know. If facts and logic matter to you, read on.

Hemingway’s conspiracy theory is that Comey’s informing Trump about the dossier was an operation intended to give CNN a news hook to report on it. Chait dismantles this nonsense in a few sentences, pointing out that plenty of news hooks already existed:

If you read the CNN report on the dossier that Hemingway describes, though, literally the first sentence describes the fact that President Obama was briefed on the dossier before Trump was told about it: “Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump, multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.” And then, if you go a few paragraphs down in the CNN story, you learn that the dossier’s allegations were also “mentioned in classified briefings for congressional leaders last year.”

So CNN knew Congress had been briefed on the dossier in 2017. And it also knew Obama had been briefed on the dossier. Hemingway’s theory is that CNN would not have reported either of these facts without the additional revelation that Trump had also been briefed on the dossier.

I have an extremely hard time believing CNN would refuse to run a story revealing for the first time that there was a dossier of explosive allegations against the president-elect that had been shared with both Congress and the president of the United States, because they needed the additional information that the president-elect had also been briefed in order to run it.

York’s conspiracy theory starts with Hemingway’s silly premise and makes it even sillier. He claims that when Trump demanded loyalty from Comey, he was really saying, in essence: “Please don’t blackmail me.” Chait is able to dismantle this nonsense in a couple of paragraphs:

This analysis obviously omits a massive amount of context: Trump asking Comey specifically to let off Michael Flynn (who, at the time, was the only official known to be under investigation for his Russian ties); Trump’s months and months of attempting to control multiple aspects of the Department of Justice, including demands that it investigate his opponents; and indeed Trump’s long-standing belief that the Department of Justice has always been and always should be a weapon to protect the president’s interests. To believe Trump’s demand for “loyalty” was anything other than an insistence that the FBI protect his interests requires ignoring everything Trump’s said and done about this subject for his entire career.

What’s more, if it’s true, as York says, that Trump’s demand for loyalty was merely merely an innocuous request that Comey not leak anything hostile to him, why didn’t Trump say this himself? Indeed, why has he spent a year denying he ever said this at all? As soon as Comey reported having been asked for loyalty in 2017, the White House insisted no such words were ever uttered. As recently as this week, Trump has been claiming, “I never asked Comey for Personal Loyalty.” York has produced an alibi on Trump’s behalf that Trump never thought to use himself over all these months.

Chait concludes by asking: what if Comey had hidden the existence of the pee tape from Trump, and he had been blindsided by it later. Would these people have praised Comey for that?

Of course not. He’s damned either way, according to the analysis of mindless partisans.

Hemingway’s premise is ridiculous. York’s is even worse. Chait destroys them both. Before the era of Trump, the previous three sentences, in that order, would not be something I would ever expect to write. But much has changed in the Bizarro world in which we live.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 85

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 12:01 am

It is the fourth Sunday of Easter. The title of today’s cantata is “Ich bin ein guter Hirt” (I am a Good Shepherd).

Today’s Gospel reading is John 10:11-18:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

The text of today’s cantata is available here and complements the Gospel reading well:

I am a Good Shepherd; a good shepherd gives up his life for his sheep.

Jesus is a good shepherd;
for He has already given His life
for His sheep,
so that no one will steal them from Him.
Jesus is a good shepherd.

Happy listening!

[Cross-posted at RedState.]


James Comey and the Iron Law of Bureaucracy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 5:00 pm

…in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people. First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. … Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. … The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

— Jerry Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy

James Comey’s new book doesn’t show him to be a political partisan. It shows him to be a shining example of Jerry Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy: a man who cared more about the reputation of the institution he headed than he cared about the principles of justice for which it stands.

Why read this review? After all, there have been many reviews of, and articles about, James Comey’s new book. You may be tired of the topic. Based on what I’ve read, I am too. Because all we hear is he said about Donald Trump, because Donald Trump means eyeballs and clicks. We hear nonsensical conspiracy theories from those out to smear him at all costs (“HE WAS BLACKMAILING DONALD TRUMP!!!1!”), or uncritical praise from those looking to hold him up as a hero of the “Resistance.” It’s partisan noise.

I have something different to say because I don’t fall into one of these two categories. I’m just a normal person with a demanding day job, who didn’t get an advance copy and took three days to read it. So if you’re interested in a non-partisan’s take, read on.

I’m someone who agrees with Comey that Donald Trump is morally unfit for office. I tend to like Comey and (for the most part) find the universal disdain for him and his book befuddling. But this post constitutes a harsh criticism of Comey, because it’s the thing that has most bothered me about him — and it’s the part of the book that I found most jarring. It’s his inexplicable decision to let Hillary Clinton off the hook. And to my way of thinking, Comey just keeps digging that hole deeper in his book. To me, nothing demonstrates his elevation of the FBI’s reputation over equal justice under the law like his mishandling of the Hillary investigation.

While I can’t take the time and space to revisit the entirety of the Hillary email investigation, I think it’s worth spending some time on the central issue — in particular because a lot of inaccurate things have been written about it.

Comey in his book makes it clear that the central issue, for him, was Hillary’s “intent” in setting up a private system for communication concerning job-related information, including classified information:

Our investigation required us to answer two questions. The first question was whether classified documents were moved outside of classified systems or whether classified topics were discussed outside of a classified system. If so, the second question was what the subject of the investigation was thinking when she mishandled that classified information.

. . . .

In Secretary Clinton’s case, the answer to the first question—was classified information mishandled?—was obviously “yes.” In all, there were thirty-six email chains that discussed topics that were classified as “Secret” at the time. Eight times in those thousands of email exchanges across four years, Clinton and her team talked about topics designated as “Top Secret,” sometimes cryptically, sometimes obviously. They didn’t send each other classified documents, but that didn’t matter. Even though the people involved in the emails all had appropriate clearances and a need to know, anyone who had ever been granted a security clearance should have known that talking about top-secret information on an unclassified system was a breach of rules governing classified materials. Although just a small slice of Clinton’s emails, those exchanges on top-secret topics were, by all appearances, improper. Put another way, there were thirty-six email chains about topics that could cause “serious” damage to national security and eight that could be expected to cause “exceptionally grave” damage to the security of the United States if released. The heart of the case, then, was the second question: What was she thinking when she did this? Was it sloppy or was there criminal intent? Could we prove that she knew she was doing something she shouldn’t be doing?

Here’s the thing: that’s not the way the statute reads. The relevant statute is 18 U.S.C. § 793(f):

(f) Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

Comey admits that the information was removed from its proper place of custody. So her state of mind was indeed the only issue. But Comey misdescribes the required state of mind under the law. The issue is not whether she was “sloppy” (meaning no filing) or whether she had “criminal intent” (meaning a filing). The issue is whether she acted “through gross negligence…or having knowledge” (meaning a filing) or not (meaning no filing).

And, damningly, we know that the FBI itself initially considered her actions to be grossly negligent, but FBI agent Peter Strzok changed the wording to “extremely careless” in an apparent attempt to obscure the similarity between their view of her actions and the statutory language. And Comey went along with it:

Her actions in regard to her emails seemed really sloppy to us, more than ordinary carelessness. At one point the draft used the term “grossly negligent,” and also explained that in this case those words should not be interpreted the way a hundred-year-old criminal statute used the term. One part of that 1917 law made it a felony if a person “through gross negligence permits [classified material] to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed.”

The history of that provision strongly indicated that Congress in 1917 meant the statute to apply only to conduct that was very close to willful—that is, driven by bad intent—and members of Congress who voted for it back then were very concerned that they not make merely careless behavior a felony. I was told that the Department of Justice had only charged one person under this statute since 1917—a corrupt FBI agent whose conduct was far worse than gross negligence—and no one had ever been convicted under it. This context strongly reinforced my sense that the statute simply did not apply in the Clinton email case and made use of the term “grossly negligent” inappropriate and potentially confusing, given the old statute. So I directed our team to consider other terms that more accurately captured her behavior. After looking at multiple drafts, I settled on “extremely careless” as the best way to describe the conduct.

If Comey had been trying to damage the reputation of the FBI, I can think of few ways better than to describe a presidential candidate’s actions in a manner that directly tracks with the language of a criminal statute, and then authorizing a change in that language for the express purpose of making it read differently from the language of the statute.

Comey makes matters worse by claiming that one of the few regrets he has about the handling of the investigation is using the phrase “extremely careless.” Why? Because it sounds so much like “grossly negligent” — meaning it made Hillary sound guilty.

Hindsight is always helpful, and if I had to do it over again, I would do some things differently. . . . More important, I would have tried to find a better way to describe Secretary Clinton’s conduct than “extremely careless.” Republicans jumped on the old statute making it a felony to handle classified information in a “grossly negligent” way — a statute that Justice would never use in this case. But my use of “extremely careless” naturally sounded to many ears like the statutory language -– ‘grossly negligent’ –- even though thoughtful lawyers could see why it wasn’t the same.

What other language could he have used that would have both accurately described Clinton’s conduct — but would not have made her conduct sound like it fit within the statute? Comey offers no alternative, and the plain truth is, there is none. Because, no matter how you word it, Clinton’s behavior was grossly negligent. Use any phrase you like. It doesn’t change the facts.

And some “thoughtful” lawyers think Comey rewrote the statute. Andrew C. McCarthy made the case very effectively in a piece titled FBI Rewrites Federal Law to Let Hillary Off the Hook. Quote:

In essence, in order to give Mrs. Clinton a pass, the FBI rewrote the statute, inserting an intent element that Congress did not require. The added intent element, moreover, makes no sense: The point of having a statute that criminalizes gross negligence is to underscore that government officials have a special obligation to safeguard national defense secrets; when they fail to carry out that obligation due to gross negligence, they are guilty of serious wrongdoing. The lack of intent to harm our country is irrelevant. People never intend the bad things that happen due to gross negligence.

By the way, Comey is just wrong that only one person had been charged with gross negligence in handling classified information since 1917. Andrew C. McCarthy has shown that the gross negligence standard has been used in military prosecutions. And in Fortune Magazine, Roger Parloff discusses two such cases of people being charged in the past on a gross negligence theory:

United States v. Rickie L. Roller: In 1989, a Marine Corps sergeant was working in a secured area where he habitually, and lawfully, placed classified material in his desk. After some nasty run-ins with his superior, he was transferred. On his last day, packing his office, he threw a bunch of personal effects from his desk into a gym bag including, as it happens, several classified documents, some of which were Top Secret. A few weeks later, he discovered the classified materials. Fearing reprimand, he hid them in his garage. He planned, he later testified, to destroy them when he got to his next duty station. When he did move to the new location, however, the professional movers helping him came across the classified documents. They notified the authorities. After a search, the remaining documents were found. Roller was sentenced to five years, which was commuted to 10 months confinement.

United States v. Arthur E. Gonzalez: In February 1979, an Air Force staff sergeant took a trip to visit an oil worker friend in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. When he arrived, he discovered that he’d inadvertently intermingled two Top Secret messages with some personal mail he’d taken. He put the documents in a desk drawer in his friend’s room, intending to pick them up when he returned to his squadron. When he departed on February 25, however, he forgot the documents, leaving them in the desk. Gonzalez’s friend shared the room with another oil worker, with each occupying it on alternate weeks. In early March, the other oil worker discovered the documents, gave it to his oil company supervisor, who gave it to the Air Force authorities. Gonzalez was sentenced to five months confinement, which was commuted to 43 days.

Parloff claims: “Neither case closely resembles Clinton’s situation. In each instance, the perpetrator at some point realized that classified materials had been removed from a secure location and taken to an insecure one, and then failed to act promptly to report or fix the problem. The FBI researchers seemed to believe that Clinton and her colleagues never came to such a realization, even if they should have.” This is laughable on several levels. How could Clinton possibly think that the material on a private server is a “secure” location? Not even Comey tries to make this argument. As we have seen, Comey acknowledges that classified information was mishandled, and that “anyone who had ever been granted a security clearance should have known that talking about top-secret information on an unclassified system was a breach of rules governing classified materials.”

Even if intent were the standard, there was evidence to support it. In previous accounts, Comey always tried to distinguish other cases by pointing to attempts by those defendants to cover up what they had done, such as lying to investigators or taking other actions showing a guilty conscience. But there was evidence that Hillary knew she wasn’t supposed to do what she was doing, and there was evidence that she wasn’t truthful — all evidence Comey doesn’t discuss in his book.

For example, the Washington Post has reported: “A note sent to all State Department employees on Clinton’s behalf warned them against the risks of using personal email addresses for official business.” Clinton claimed not to remember this, but when you’re warning people not to engage in a particular pattern of behavior while engaged in that pattern of behavior yourself, it tends to support a notion that you know that what you are doing is wrong.

And Clinton said some laughable things during her FBI interview. I’ll cite one howler as an example: As NBC News reported on September 3, 2016:

Clinton also told FBI investigators that she wasn’t sure what the “c” meant next to paragraphs in one email that was used to designate confidential information.

This is laughable. But don’t take my word for it. Here is an excerpt from a contemporaneous podcast called Rational Security. The people on the podcast are Brookings Institute types. They’re not really big Hillary Clinton fans, but they are absolutely disdainful of Donald Trump, one and all. So when you hear this opinion, you know you’re not hearing from Trump partisans. Start listening beginning at 28:51, where Shane Harris, a Washington Post reporter, discusses Hillary’s answer that the “c” was possibly just one in a series:

SHANE HARRIS: For instance, there was a moment in the 302 that revealed that she was asked, she was shown an email that had the C, the letter C, next to it, indicating a classified, you know, passage, and they said “Well what did,” essentially “What did you think that this meant?”

SUSAN HENNESSEY: Indicating a confidential passage —

SHANE HARRIS: Confidential, right, confidential goes under the heading of classified, yes, confidential in that case, and she said, “Well, I don’t know. It could have been like C as in a sequence. A, B, C.” That is absolutely ridiculous, and at a press conference she would have been — I mean there would have been cackles in the audience when she said that. You could have followed up on it. You could say: “How in the world could you think that? How could you stand here and think we would believe that you, as the Secretary of State, thought that stood for like the letter C as in Part 3?”

But if you read Comey’s book, it’s clear that he didn’t make these decisions for partisan reasons, as much as partisans would like to claim that. He had no love for Hillary Clinton. He had a love for the FBI as an institution, and he spends pages and pages praising the institution and talking about how he was trying to protect it. It’s clear that the paramount thing in his mind was the organization. And it got to the point where protecting the organization outweighed the simple task of justice: deciding whether one person’s conduct had violated a statute.

Here’s what I said about all this in July 2016:

One rule for the little guy, another for the Important People.

I’m still confused about how deliberately setting up a private system for communication, including routinely sending and receiving classified information up to and including top secret information, is not “intent” to move that information from its proper place of custody. I’m also baffled as to when gross negligence was written out of the statute, or how “extremely careless” is different from being grossly negligent.

Ultimately, Comey’s inaction is the criminal referral analogue to John Roberts’s decision upholding ObamaCare. Someone with a reputation as a good guy had a failure of nerve when it mattered most, and elevated their judgment about the practical consequences to their institution over the rule of law. Weak people act differently when their actions are the subject of intense public scrutiny. They cave, and find ways to rationalize actions that minimize criticism rather than vindicate principles.

I think a central question in any job interview should be: when have you ever taken a large risk or sacrificed something for a principle?

But then, people like that don’t tend to rise to the top.

I now think that assessment is little unfair when used to describe Comey’s entire career. I do think there are times he stuck his neck out for principle. He can be a bit santimonious about that. But he still did it — something I can’t imagine, say, Donald Trump doing.

But as to the Hillary email investigation, I still feel the same way as I did in July 2016. At the risk of patting myself on the back, I think I hit the nail on the head in particular with the phrase about how Roberts and Comey both “elevated their judgment about the practical consequences to their institution over the rule of law.”

And what is most maddening about Comey’s book is the way that he portrays himself as the guy who rises about politics — which he arguably did — while being completely blind to the way that he failed to rise above an excessive concern for the reputation of his institution. Comey, like Roberts before him, worried so much about what people would say about the institution he headed that he failed to set aside all outside concerns and judge the case on its own merits.

But these men are hardly unique in doing so. As much as they rationalize their actions with easily rebutted attempts at reasoning, they are ultimately putting the organization first, and the principles of the organization second.

And that’s so common that there’s a Law to describe it. An Iron Law.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

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