Patterico's Pontifications


Wonderful News: Bob Sipchen to Return to L.A. Times

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:21 pm

Regular readers know that the L.A. Times, former regular target of this blog, started to bore me a few years ago. Sure, I still whack Michael Hiltzik and other assorted clowns there, but the thrill of regularly busting them is gone.

But I have to say that I report this news with unadorned pleasure: a truly decent man is coming back to the paper. Via L.A. Observed comes the internal memo:

I’m thrilled to announce that Bob Sipchen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and editor, is returning to the Los Angeles Times as a senior editor in the relaunched California section.

Many of you know Bob from his days as a Times reporter, columnist and editor and one of our first bloggers. He left in 2007 to edit the Sierra Club’s magazine, Sierra, and serve as communications director for the nonprofit in San Francisco.

In his second tour at The Times, Bob will oversee the daily centerpieces that are a signature of the California section. He will also plan the Sunday section, direct a group of enterprise reporters and serve as a coach and mentor. He will start Jan. 1.

I don’t think I realized that Bob had won the Pulitzer. (Wow, someone who actually deserved it! As opposed to those undeserving and dishonest cretins Michael Hiltzik and Chuck Philips!)

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 9.28.12 PM

Long-time readers — and I mean long-time — will remember that Bob helped spearhead a regular feature at the paper called “Outside the Tent” — an op-ed space devoted to critics of the newspaper. I contributed a couple of columns to that space. If you have not read them, please take a moment and read them now:

OK, I didn’t like the headline of that second piece, which was about the paper’s whitewashing of the nastier aspects of Cindy Sheehan. Bob wrote the headline, and he thought it was funny, and didn’t understand why I thought it dismissive. That’s OK. It was an honest disagreement I had with an honest man. And hey! Rush Limbaugh ended up reading parts of my piece on his show, and marveled at the fact that this newspaper was willing to publish such harsh criticism of itself on its own pages.

Other “Outside the Tent” contributors included a former contributor to this blog named Jack Dunphy, as well as Mickey Kaus, Hugh Hewitt, the beloved late Cathy Seipp, and others. (How I fit in with this illustrious group, I’ll never know.)

Bob was an excellent editor; he took my half-formed thoughts and turned them into something readable. He also allowed me to interview him for this blog — back in 2005. (Almost 10 years ago! Oh my gosh, we’re all so old!) The interview was in three parts and (I submit) makes for good reading even today — and gives you an idea why I love this man:

Not everyone is supportive of the feature. After a few installments, one senior editor at the paper expressed the opinion that the feature was, as Sipchen put it, a “truly dreadful idea.” As best as Sipchen can recall, this opinion was probably expressed just after my installment was published. (Hmmm. It doesn’t sound like my suggestions are going to be implemented any time soon . . .) On the other hand, another editor who had initially expressed misgivings about the feature has become a convert.

I asked Sipchen about the school of thought that journalism should be more transparent — that reporters and editors should be more forthright about disclosing their biases. I mentioned that some variant of this view has been advocated by many blogger-journalists, such as Jay Rosen, Jeff Jarvis, and (to some extent) Dan Gillmor. I noted that Marc Cooper’s recent “Outside the Tent” piece made the same argument about the paper’s reporting from Iraq.

Sipchen expressed strong disagreement: “When I’m reading a newspaper story out of Baghdad, I don’t give a rat’s ass about what some 28-year-old reporter thinks.” Sipchen said that he wants the reporter to tell him the facts on the ground, not what the reporter’s conclusion is about those facts. “Why on earth should I care about what the reporter thinks?” Sipchen asked rhetorically. “Maybe he’ll become an expert and I’ll care then.”


I’m impressed. You got it right and I don’t seem to have said anything terribly stupid (although I’m sure your readers will disabuse me of that notion).


Ah, the good old days.

Bob is truly one of the few people I ever respected at that place, and I respect him deeply. I am thrilled that he is coming back to Los Angeles and to the L.A. Times.

I’m just telling you: the good guys (and gals) in this town are rejoicing tonight. Just rejoicing.

Welcome back, Bob!

Lefties Deceive As They Try to Distract from Gruber’s Praise of . . . Deceit

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:15 pm

Gruber video three!

It’s [the Cadillac tax] a very clever, you know, basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter.

Gruber video four!

Barack Obama’s not a stupid man, okay? He knew when he was running for president that quite frankly the American public doesn’t actually care that much about the uninsured.

Gruber video five!

The dirty secret in Massachusetts is the feds pay for our bill. In Massachusetts, we had a powerful senator you may know named Ted Kennedy. Ted Kennedy and smart people in Massachusetts basically have figured out a way to rip off the feds for about $400 million a year.

Cue Gruber minimizer Nancy Pelosi!

“I don’t know who he is,” Pelosi said of Jonathan Gruber. “He didn’t help write our bill.”

Cue Gruber minimizer Scott Lemieux!

The greatest mystery of the media coverage of this litigation is why anyone should care what Jon Gruber might have said two years after the ACA was adopted while completely ignoring what the members of Congress who wrote the legislation have said they meant. Jon Gruber did not write the bill; he did not vote on it.

Um. The New York Times begs to differ:

After Mr. Gruber helped the administration put together the basic principles of the proposal, the White House lent him to Capitol Hill to help Congressional staff members draft the specifics of the legislation.

If someone helped write it, and you try to make them sound like their view is just that of any private citizen, then you’re just being deceptive.

And Pelosi? She can’t even claim technical accuracy.

This is who they are and this is what they do. Here’s Sarah Kliff, then and now:

Then: Gruber “pretty much wrote ObamaCare.”

Now: Gruber was just a numbers cruncher.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 7.34.56 PM

Guys, guys. Hey, I get it. Y’all needed deception to pass the bill, and you need deception to save it.

Embrace your inner Gruber.


I F*cked Up, I Trusted Scott Lemieux

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:01 pm

Recently, when I waded into the comments at Scott Lemieux’s place, he confronted me with proof* that the four conservative dissenters in the original ObamaCare case actually stated that subsidies were available on the federally-established exchanges. What did I think of that, he wanted to know? I responded that, obviously, they had not focused on the issue — but now, they will, and I am confident they will reach the right answer.

Lemieux seized on my comment and made it into an entire post. This is the state of conservative jurisprudence!!!! he declared, that Patterico concedes that a) the conservative justices already got it wrong, b) they are now hoist by their own petard, c) they are going to reverse themselves anyway, and d) Patterico and his ilk don’t even care!

Pretty damning, huh? Except . . .

Astute readers may have noticed the asterisk next to the word “proof” above. You see where this is going, right?

*Proof may not be actual proof.

That’s right. I f*cked up, I trusted Scott Lemieux.

Let me explain how I got snookered, and how I learned the actual truth — because the lefties love this argument, and you are going to hear it again and again.

Here is how Lemieux characterized the dissent:

Do you know who else disputes Petterico’s risible theory? [Who’s Petterico? — P] Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito: “By contrast, because Congress thought that some States might decline federal funding for the operation of a ‘health benefit exchange,’ Congress provided a backup scheme; if a State declines to participate in the operation of an exchange, the Federal Government will step in and operate an exchange in that State.” As even the Sebelius dissenters understood, “[d]ifficulty in attracting individuals outside of the exchange would in turn motivate insurers to enter exchanges, despite the exchanges’ onerous regulations. That system of incentives collapses if the federal subsidies are invalidated. Without the federal subsidies, individuals would lose the main incentive to purchase insurance inside the exchanges, and some insurers may be unwilling to offer insurance inside of exchanges. With fewer buyers and even fewer sellers, the exchanges would not operate as Congress intended and may not operate at all.”

Wow. It sure looks like the dissenters have already said that subsidies are available on the federal exchanges.

I saw that language, and I had even read through his link to his source: a POLITICO piece by Abbe Gluck (cached link here; no links for bullies!). And I had seen a recent Jon Adler piece that seemed to respond to Gluck, and did not seem to take issue with her claim.

Here’s what I did not do, to my shame: I did not question Lemieux’s premise. I did not go back and read the joint dissent.

Today, I did. Twice. And it turns out that the juxtaposition of the quotes above seems to prove a point that it actually does not.

Read the quote again. The juxtaposition is actually quite cleverly done. First, Lemieux (taking his cue from Prof. Gluck) quotes the dissenters talking about the existence of a federal backstop: the provision for the establishment of federal exchanges if states do not set up a state exchange:

[I]f a State declines to participate in the operation of an exchange, the Federal Government will step in and operate an exchange in that State.

Then, having just read about Congress’s provision for a federal exchange, we dive straight into this quote:

Difficulty in attracting individuals outside of the exchange would in turn motivate insurers to enter exchanges, despite the exchanges’ onerous regulations.

Obviously, “the exchange” is a reference to “the federal exchange” — or that’s what Lemieux wants you to think, since he puts this quote right after one about federal exchanges. This impression seems to be confirmed by the next sentence, which is about federal subsidies: “Without the federal subsidies, individuals would lose the main incentive to purchase insurance inside the exchanges…”

The implication is clear: there exist federal subsidies for plans bought on those federal exchanges.

I admit, it seemed troubling that the conservatives had said this.

So today, I finally sat down to read the dissent to see how all this fit together. And it turns out that those quotes Lemieux smooshes together are actually quite separated — they are in different sections and have nothing whatever to do with each other.

First I saw the language about the existence of a federal backstop. Although Lemieux had argued that this was all an integral part of their “severability” discussion, the language about the federal backstop appears in a section about the Medicaid expansion, in section IV.E.2. The second part of Lemieux’s quote above appears in the section on severability, in part V.C.1.c. In between the two quotes are parts IV.F, as well as parts V.A, V.B, and parts V.C.1.a and V.C.1.b. I count at least 36 paragraphs in between the two quotes.

OK, so they’re separate, and indeed part of different discussions. So what?

Well, here’s the thing. When, in the second part of the quote, the dissenters talk about “federal subsidies” — they aren’t necessarily talking about subsidies on federal exchanges. This is so even though Lemieux’s juxtaposition makes it sound that way.

Think about it: all ObamaCare subsidies, including those offered on state-established exchanges, are “federal subsidies.” They are subsidies offered by the federal government, using the mechanism of the federal tax credit, against federal taxes. Calling them “federal” does not mean that they are subsidies available on federal exchanges. They are just federal subsidies, because, they are.

Now, I will grant Lemieux and his brethren this: the dissent does argue that subsidies are integral to the scheme. Perhaps Lemieux & Co. will be surprised by this concession — but they shouldn’t be, and their surprise indicates why they don’t really understand our position. Lemieux & Co. argue, and the dissenters agree, that the law essentially set up a “three-legged stool” of (1) “guaranteed issue” (where insurance companies must issue coverage to those with pre-existing conditions); (2) the mandate; and (3) subsidies. The government maintains that the basic idea of the law called for all three legs of the stool. Now, the Halbig court noted that Congress did not always mandate that all three legs of the stool be present; for example, in the territories, they omitted the mandate! But the joint dissent does accept the premise that, in general, Congress intends for all three legs of the stool to be present.

So why doesn’t that answer the question? Because there are two alternate explanations that are perfectly consistent with this:

(1) There is plenty of evidence (which Lemieux hackishly dismisses with unconvincing arguments) that the President and Congress and everyone else assumed that all the states would set up their own exchanges, and that the federal backstop would not be used. If the states all did this, every citizen eligible for a subsidy would get one. The problem is, the lawmakers made a bad assumption about what the states would do. That’s possibility number one.

Then we have:

(2) Even though many and perhaps even most of the people who voted for the law may have assumed that they wrote in language providing for subsidies for plans bought on federally established exchanges, they . . . just never put it in there.

I think either of these explanations is both perfectly plausible, and consistent with a ruling that the subsidies are not available.

Lemieux & Co. seem to think the second argument means the plaintiffs lose. They think this is the “Moops” argument: like the famous Seinfeld episode in which the bubble boy tells George that he loses the trivia game because the card says the “Moops” invaded Spain in the 8th century, this is a clear “typo” and OBAMA WINS NO TAKEBACKS!!!!!1!!

Not so fast, Sparky! The analogy does not hold. Because “Moors” vs. “Moops” is a factual question, and there is only one right answer. But in a question of statutory interpretation, we are talking about the “intent” of a group of very different people, many of whom may have been thinking different things.

And if even one of the Senators didn’t mean exactly what Lemieux & Co. think they have to have meant, then there weren’t 60 votes for this interpretation of the law.

Again, as I have explained here many times, it is a fool’s errand to try to discern an “intent” from a text that is the collective product of a legislative body. If you go through the collective beliefs of the Senators who voted for the law on this issue, at the moment they voted, it might look something like this:

* People who believed subsidies were available on federally established exchanges: 17

* People who believed subsidies were not available on federally established exchanges, like it says in the law: 3

* People who don’t even know what a federal exchange even is, but who sure hope this vote doesn’t hurt their chances of re-election: 35

* People wondering what they are going to have for lunch: 5

There’s really just no way to know. And that’s why you go with the text. Because that’s the only fair way to reach a ruling as to what the law means: what would a reasonable observer take it to mean?

So, Scott Lemieux, I withdraw my response to your question, because I now realize that your premise was misleading. Given the incredible sophistry you were displaying in that thread, I am frankly shocked that I wasn’t more suspicious of your presentation. But I was.

I hope this post keeps others from being even temporarily fooled the way I was.

A Sensible Short-Term Immigration Strategy for the GOP

Filed under: General — JVW @ 3:34 pm

[guest post by JVW]

Given that President Obama is apparently bound and determined to enact “immigration reform” via executive order imminently, the GOP finds itself at disadvantage. With Democrats controlling the Senate for the rest of the year, the GOP will only be able to lodge complaints and hope to rally public opinion against Obama’s irresponsible and unconstitutional acts. Impeachment, as a practical matter, is off the table and intervention from the courts seems to be highly unlikely.

So given that, what are Republicans and other opponents of immigration to do? A very intriguing idea has been proposed by Mark Kirkorian at National Review Online, with some additional thoughts from Paul Mirengoff at Powerline. First of all, Mirengoff argues, the GOP has to let go of the idea of a full government shutdown as a negotiation tactic, and be willing to pass a continuing budget resolution that lasts into the spring:

The Republican leadership’s desire for a long-term deal is not surprising. No sensible Republican wants another government shutdown. Moreover, other things being equal, it’s arguably in the Party’s interest (though also arguably not) to clear the decks of budget squabbles in order to enact substantive legislation.

But Obama’s aggressive immigration posture means that unless Republicans are willing to accept amnesty by executive fiat, they should not pass a long-term budget deal.

Once the GOP has been given breathing room, they can focus on fighting Obama’s immigration moves during the spring. Yes, we have to accept that his unlawful executive order will already be in motion, but within the framework of a spring 2015 budget, the GOP can take the following steps as Kirkorian explains:

While [Congress] cannot stop Obama’s passive abuse of discretion. . . it can use that power to prevent active abuses, like the provision of work permits, Social Security cards, and driver’s licenses to illegal aliens, which would be politically irreversible.

. . . [I]n the next Congress, the House could pull out the Homeland Security budget (rather than fold it into an omnibus funding bill for the whole government) and attach the rider [preventing the issuing of work permits, drivers licenses, and Social Security cards to illegal immigrants] just to that, so when Obama vetoes it, only DHS will be subject to a “shutdown.” The reason for the quotation marks is that it won’t be much of a shutdown since law-enforcement components continue to function as “essential personnel,” including the Border Patrol, the Secret Service, the Coast Guard, ICE, and the TSA. In fact, the chief component of DHS that actually would be idled by a budget battle would be US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the very bureau that would have to implement Obama’s lawless amnesty.

Purists might scoff that this is a timid way of fighting Obama’s lawlessness, but I think for the next two years we ought to be focusing on results more than striking a noble pose for Constitutional government. The key is to build upon the momentum of last week’s election, and present a workable conservative plan to undo the folly of the last six years that the GOP can run on in 2016.


Hospital That Treated First U.S. Ebola Patient Settles with His Family

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:36 am

What a country:

The family of Thomas Eric Duncan, the only Ebola patient to have died in the U.S., has reached a settlement with the Dallas hospital that treated him, according to the family’s attorney.

Attorney Les Weisbrod said Wednesday that Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas will pay an undisclosed sum to his relatives and create a charitable foundation in Duncan’s name. The hospital has also apologized to family members and says it will foot the cost of Duncan’s treatment.

Wait, what?

Didn’t he lie to get into the country? And then infect two nurses who tried to help save his life?

Why, yes. Yes, he did.

Linda Greenhouse: I Am Horrified That the Supreme Court Took Up the Halbig Issue

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:30 am

Linda Greenhouse writes a partisan op-ed slamming the Supreme Court for taking the King v. Burwell case, implying that the Court does not take cases absent a circuit split:

Further, the case the court agreed to decide, King v. Burwell, doesn’t fit the normal criterion for Supreme Court review. There is no conflict among the federal appellate circuits. (Remember that just a month ago, the absence of a circuit conflict led the justices to decline to hear seven same-sex marriage cases?) In the King case, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., unanimously upheld the government’s position that the tax subsidy is available to those who buy insurance on the federally run exchanges that are now in operation in 36 states.

A panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-to-1 the other way, accepting the plaintiffs’ argument that the language of the statute limits the tax subsidies to those who buy insurance through the state exchanges, which only 14 states have chosen to set up. The full appeals court quickly vacated the panel’s judgment and agreed to rehear the case. The new argument was set for next month, and the briefs were already filed. The absence of a circuit conflict and an imminent rehearing by the country’s most important court of appeals would, in the past, have led the Supreme Court to refrain from getting involved.

So no, this isn’t Bush v. Gore. This is a naked power grab by conservative justices who two years ago just missed killing the Affordable Care Act in its cradle, before it fully took effect. When the court agreed to hear the first case, there actually was a conflict in the circuits on the constitutionality of the individual insurance mandate. So the Supreme Court’s grant of review was not only unexceptional but necessary: a neutral act. The popular belief then that the court’s intervention indicated hostility to the law was, at the least, premature.

Not so this time. There is simply no way to describe what the court did last Friday as a neutral act. Now that the justices have blown their own cover . . .

And she goes on like that.

But the Supreme Court’s rules for granting certiorari don’t require a circuit split. Rule 10 of the court’s (non-binding and non-exclusive) rules says that the court may take a case when “a state court or a United States court of appeals has decided an important question of federal law that has not been, but should be, settled by this Court.”

I can think of few cases that are more clearly “an important question of federal law.” And the fact is, if the lefties had a majority on the Supreme Court, and if the only case out there ruled against subsidies for federally established exchanges, Greenhouse would scream bloody murder if they denied certiorari.

This is an important case. It affects millions of Americans. That’s why you didn’t see me complaining when the D.C. Circuit granted an en banc hearing (which, by the way, has been put on hold now that the Supremes have taken the case). The federal courts are there precisely to rule on cases with important implications like this — and to do so as expeditiously as possible.

It’s cute to watch Greenhouse pretend to be horrified by the supposedly partisan nature of this action. It reveals (as all her writing always has) her own partisan nature.

This is just further evidence that conservatives are going to win. She does her best to suck up to John Roberts in the piece, as if she believes he deeply cares about her opinion, but deep down she knows a reversal is likely.

When Linda Greenhouse is unhappy about a legal issue, it’s good news, friends.

Obamacare Supporter Reacts To Gruber

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:11 am

[guest post by Dana]

Responding to the Gruber-those-Americans-are-so-stupid news, Obamacare supporter Ron Fournier’s view of big government has taken a big hit:

He [Gruber] called you stupid. He admitted that the White House lied to you. Its officials lied to all of us—Republicans, Democrats, and independents; rich and poor; white and brown; men and women.

Liberals should be the angriest. Not only were they personally deceived, but the administration’s dishonest approach to health care reform has helped make Obamacare unpopular while undermining the public’s faith in an activist government. A double blow to progressives.

It took him a while to get there. Back in February, he was getting tired of defending Obamacare:

Advocates for a strong executive branch, including me, have given the White House a pass on its rule-making authority, because implementing such a complicated law requires flexibility. But the law may be getting stretched to the point of breaking. Think of the ACA as a game of Jenga: Adjust one piece and the rest are affected; adjust too many and it falls.

If not illegal, the changes are fueling suspicion among Obama-loathing conservatives, and confusion among the rest of us. Even the law’s most fervent supporters are frustrated.

So, now it’s out in the open: the lies, the manipulations, the sleight of hand and parlor tricks. Maybe not all of it, but enough to know that you know that you know. Of course, some will continue to deny that the Gruber revelations mean anything, and the White House has already started distancing itself from Gruber. Be that as it may, if more Americans have an opportunity to really see what the “activism” of big government looks like when the curtain is pulled away, maybe more Americans will want less of it.


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