Patterico's Pontifications

12/30/2023

Year-end Open Thread

Filed under: General — JVW @ 11:13 am



[guest post by JVW]

Might as well do it this way.

Item One: Keep It in Your Pants, Pal
I, as many of you know, have been assigned by the newsdesk at Patterico’s Pontifications to provide unstinting coverage of women’s soccer, the fiendishly stupid bullet train, My Little Aloha Sweetie, and, of course, sex deviants. So I found this story to be right up my alley (wait, not the idiom I ought to be using):

University of Wisconsin-La Crosse chancellor Joe Gow, who was axed over the adult videos he created with his wife, said he was shocked that board members weren’t a “little more understanding” — but maintained that he had no regrets about filming the content.

Gow, 63 — who was fired from his long-term position by the Board of Regents on Wednesday — has argued that he shouldn’t have been given the pink slip because his videos should be protected by the First Amendment.

“I did not expect that we’d end up where we are now,” Gow told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in the aftermath.

“I thought the board, given their staunch support of free speech, would be a little more understanding. But clearly, that’s not the case.”

When I reported on the candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates who made sex videos with her husband for a paid audience, some of the comments were along the lines of “Hey, consenting adults, and all that.” I get that attitude, and I want my inner libertarian to be cool with what a couple chooses to do behind closed doors. But when they then open up those doors and invite us to peek in, my inner conservative reserves the right to call them perverts. Joe Gow had previously been criticized by the UW board for having invited porn actress Nina Hartley to lecture on campus and paying her an honorarium, so rather than being some sort of First Amendment crusader I’m sort of thinking that Mr. Gow is simply a pornography addict.

Item Two: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
This probably won’t end well:

The national governing body for amateur/Olympic-style boxing recently codified a rule permitting male participation in the women’s division in its 2024 rulebook.

USA Boxing added a ‘Transgender Policy,” written in August 2022, into its 2024 rulebook, declaring that male boxers who transition to female are eligible to compete in the female category under certain conditions. To qualify for the female division, a man must declare his gender identity as female, have undergone gender reassignment surgery, have done hormone testing for a minimum of four years after such procedures, and have met testosterone limits set by USA Boxing.

“The athlete’s total testosterone level in serum must remain below 5 nmol/L throughout the period of desired eligibility to compete in the female category,” the 2022 rule said. Male boxers must demonstrate a total testosterone level in serum that is below 5 nmol/L for at least 48 months before first competition.

Minor boxers under the age of 18 must compete in the category aligned with their biological sex, but adult boxers can switch to the category of their preferred gender if they meet the requirements.

Raise your hand if you expected boxing to be a woke sport. I appreciate that they are now requiring four-years of hormone testing after gender reassignment (previous athletic policies required as brief a duration as one year). But according to this conversion app, a level of 5 nmol/L is equivalent to 144 ng/dL, which is roughly six times the testosterone level of the average woman under age 50 even if it is also apparently the same limit that the International Association of Athletics Federation adopted five years ago.

Parents, would you want your daughter in the ring with a competitor who just barely met these requirements?

Item Three: How Can Claudine Gay Possibly Survive?
It simply has to be that the walls are closing in on Claudine Gay. It is inarguable that she has, on several occasions, failed to properly cite sources in academic articles and papers that she has written. It is inarguable that Harvard has bent over backwards trying to find flimsy rationale why this is not a dismissible offense, and has run a slipshod investigation into her acts of plagiarism. It is furthermore inarguable that Harvard students are held to a far more rigorous definition of academic misconduct than their president is, and this is an ongoing problem in West Cambridge. We are reminded that Claudine Gay failed to support fellow black colleagues when the baying woke mobs came for them, so she should not expect her race and gender to bail her out of this predicament.

It’s actually quite sad that Ms. Gay lacks the dignity to simply step down and spare Harvard this ordeal, but the higher education establishment has spent the last half-century choosing political posturing over maintaining principles and standards, so I guess the reckoning is long overdue. Veritas my ass, Harvard.

I’m going to wrap it up here, gang. Happy New Year. I may try to sneak in one more post tomorrow that is already a few weeks overdue.

– JVW

12/29/2023

The Biden Administration Ruins My New Year’s Weekend

Filed under: General — JVW @ 12:12 pm



[guest post by JVW]

It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t exit 2023 bitching about one of my hobby-horses. From NRO:

Under the cover of night (i.e., the dark corridors of federal bureaucracies), the Biden administration handed California $6 billion for two high-speed-rail projects. The Golden State’s high-speed-rail hubris has been a big, black, cash sinkhole since the Obama administration.

Earlier this month, the office of California governor Gavin Newsom gleefully announced that California High-Speed Rail Authority “will receive nearly $3.1 billion for construction in the Central Valley, supporting the overall end goal of connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles,” while the rail project, Brightline, “will receive $3 billion to connect Los Angeles to Las Vegas with 80% of the project’s construction in California benefiting the state’s economy and labor market.”

Governor Newsom declared, “California is delivering on the first 220-mph, electric high-speed rail project in the nation. This show of support from the Biden-Harris Administration is a vote of confidence in today’s vision and comes at a critical turning point, providing the project new momentum.” The $3.1 billion grant from President Biden’s historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is the single largest grant received by California’s High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA).

It’s such beautiful weaselly language that the governor’s office uses: “supporting the overall end goal of connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles.” I’ve said this countless times: there will never in my lifetime, or likely anybody else’s lifetime, be a high-speed rail between San Francisco and Los Angeles. As we have discussed year after year, the California High-Speed Rail Authority has a close to zero chance of ever acquiring the land rights to build that line, let alone figuring out a compromise with environmentalists to tunnel through the Diablo Mountain Range or have a bullet train hurtling up the densely-packed San Francisco Peninsula.

So we are where we have always been with the initial project: a desperate scramble to finish up the Bakersfield to Merced line and then call it a day, lest the Republicans come back into power in Washington DC and start demanding accountability for (and a potential repayment of) the over $10 billion of federal funds which have already been wasted by this ridiculous white elephant. And now of course they are dangling out that perennially-promised Los Angeles to Las Vegas line which will almost certainly end up being scaled back to a Victorville to Primm line, and will end up costing an order of magnitude more than the $3 billion gifted by the Biden Administration by the time all of the pigs leave the trough. If this line were financially feasible, the multi-billion dollar gaming industry would almost certainly be ponying up money to ensure that it is built. The fact that they haven’t done so after all of these years speaks volumes as to what the sharpies think about its potential.

The HSRA is set to release their annual report sometime towards the end of next month, so I’ll provide a fuller update on this epic cathedral of failure.

Happy New Year.

– JVW

12/22/2023

Weekend Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:25 am



[guest post by Dana]

This is going to be a brief open thread because what should have been a trip involving 5 hours of flying and layovers ended up being 18 hours instead! Don’t ask why because I really don’t know. Something about a flooded airplane bathroom floor, technical issues, and i guess the need to give passengers an hour long tour of the tarmac. . .

Let’s go (*yawn*). . .

First news item

He did what?! Eh, I can’t even pretend to be surprised that Trump “personally pressured two Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers not to sign the certification of the 2020 presidential election. . .”

Second news item

Jake Tapper asks *the* double-standard question that Harvard very carefully avoids answering:

“Is Harvard University really holding its president, Dr. Claudine Gay to the same standards when it comes to plagiarism that they would assail for students committing the same offense?”

Charles C.W. Cooke explains plainly why Congress has a responsibility to be involved in this brouhaha:

Why are members of Congress “probing Harvard”? Because Harvard receives hundreds of millions of dollars from Congress, that’s why. Per Harvard’s own financial reports, the college was given $625 million by the federal government in 2021 — a number that “accounted for approximately 67 percent of total sponsored revenue.” Between 2018 and 2022, records show, Harvard was handed more than three billion federal dollars. If Harvard wishes to be completely “independent” of Congress — as, say, Hillsdale is — then it must also become completely independent of Congress’s wallet. It cannot pick and choose. With subsidy comes oversight. That isn’t a threat to “our democracy”; that is our democracy.

Third news item

Not good news for DeSantis:

Never Back Down, the pro-Ron DeSantis Super PAC that’s become embroiled in infighting and big-name resignations, pulled all of its 2024 advertisement reservations in New Hampshire and Iowa on Friday, the ad tracking company AdImpact reported. It’s the latest sign of turmoil at the PAC, which has crumbled from being a so-called political “death star” with $100 million in the bank to being what a political insider told The Daily Beast this week is the “maybe the worst-orchestrated effort in modern presidential history”—a clear distraction on top of the Florida governor’s faltering campaign.

Fourth news item

This needs to happen:

G7 officials have intensified talks in recent weeks on spending some of the roughly $300bn in immobilised Russian sovereign assets, a radical step that would open a new chapter in the west’s financial warfare against Moscow

The push comes as two crucial financial aid packages for Ukraine worth more than $100bn faltered this week, as Republicans in the US Congress and Viktor Orbán of EU member Hungary took a stand against funding Kyiv.

Seizing Russian assets could provide an alternative stream of funding for Kyiv, especially given the expected huge costs of postwar reconstruction.

Have a great weekend!

—Dana

12/20/2023

Colorado Republican Party Threatens To Withdraw From Republican Presidential Primary

Filed under: General — Dana @ 7:44 pm



[guest post by Dana]

Following the ruling of the Colorado Supreme Court concerning Donald Trump, the state Republican Party, unsurprisingly, wants to cancel the Republican presidential primary:

The Colorado GOP is threatening to try to withdraw from Colorado’s Republican presidential primary in March — or ignore the results — if Donald Trump isn’t on the ballot, heaping uncertainty onto the fast-approaching contest and setting up a possible legal showdown with state elections officials.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Trump can’t appear on the ballot because he engaged in an insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol and therefore is disqualified from holding office again. The decision will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but there’s little time for a resolution before the Jan. 5 state deadline to set the ballot. Ballots start being mailed to military and overseas voters on Jan. 20. Election Day is March 5.

Colorado GOP Chairman Dave Williams told The Colorado Sun…that if Trump isn’t on the ballot, the party would ask the state to cancel the Republican presidential primary. Instead, Republican voters would caucus to select delegates to the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee next year.

The report explains that “Colorado law does not allow a presidential primary election to be canceled at the request of a political party. If the Colorado Republican Party attempts to withdraw from the presidential primary or ignore the results of the election, this would likely be a matter for the courts.”

Additionally: State law says “each political party shall use the results of the (presidential primary) election to allocate national delegate votes in accordance with the party’s state and national rules.”

According to Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, she intends to “follow the court decision that is in place at the time of ballot certification.”

You can read the opinion here.

—Dana

Joe Biden Amazed that Red Tape Is Holding Up Infrastructure Projects

Filed under: General — JVW @ 3:00 pm



[guest post by JVW]

National Review Online points us to a CNN Story:

President Joe Biden has privately flashed impatience to his senior advisers as his White House struggles to change public opinion on his economic record ahead of the 2024 election, expressing deep frustration that he can’t show off physical construction of many projects that his signature legislative accomplishments will fund.

The president is said to have griped that even as he travels the country to tout historic pieces of legislation like the bipartisan infrastructure law, it could be years before the residents of some of the communities receiving federal funds see construction begin, according to three sources familiar with Biden’s comments to his top aides.

“There’s immense frustration in that, and he has vocalized that very clearly,” said one administration official.

It’s almost funny, isn’t it? We know that Joe Biden is a man of middling intelligence to begin with, and we of course are acutely aware that he appears to be in ongoing cognitive decline. But for a man who has spent a half-century mucking around in the federal outhouse to only now discover that big government tends to move rather slowly pretty much defies belief. A cynic (like me) might even suggest that Democrats, including the President, knew damn well that these projects wouldn’t be completed on any sort of reasonable schedule, and certainly not as quickly as proponents were promising they would in order to sell this orgy of spending as a stimulus measure to a gullible public. It was never going to be the case that environmentalists, OSHA, and various regulatory busybodies would stand down in the name of expediting these projects. And it was certainly never going to be the case that thousands and thousands of literature, marketing, or social justice majors would suddenly learn how to put up drywall or operate a cement-mixing truck; we were always going to be constrained by the limited number of skilled constructions workers who would be able to take on these projects. California makes this sort of mistake all of the damn time: promise all of this building and public renewal only to run up against the reality that we don’t have the workforce to complete it, and we can’t bring workers in from out of state because it’s too damn expensive to house them here, even temporarily.

Jim Geraghty, who reported on President Biden’s frustration, reminds us that this over-promising and under-delivering is nothing new for progressive big-spenders:

Back in March 2021, a White House “Fact Sheet” — more like an “Assertion Sheet” — claimed, “the president’s plan will accelerate transformative investments, from pre-development through construction, turning “shovel worthy” ideas into “shovel ready” projects.”

Those of us with long memories are having flashbacks, as yet another Democratic president remembers that construction and infrastructure projects, touted as being “shovel ready” and prepared to quickly create lots of jobs, turn out to be more tied up in red tape than expected.

It’s true, I’ll readily admit, that a number of Republicans in Congress were happy with the idea of using federal playmoney to sponsor blue-collar jobs, enough so that their blundering ensured that Democrats were able to talk Joe Manchin into wasting a couple more trillion than otherwise would have been spent. The leading contender for the GOP’s 2024 Presidential nomination has in the past been a strong proponent of this sort of cooperation between government and the private sector, even at the expense of continually blowing up our national debt. So it’s not as if either party has completely clean hands in this matter, though clearly it is Democrats who are the most wasteful, while also being the most joyfully cynical about it.

Just another day in Washington, DC, where nobody seems to be willing to own up to the serious problems we face.

– JVW

12/19/2023

Dan McLaughlin Is Wrong: There Is a Nonpolitical Case for Trying Trump Before Election Day

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:00 pm



Dan McLaughlin writes at NRO: There Is No Nonpolitical Case for Trying Trump before Election Day.

Well, bollocks! Of course there is. It’s a very obvious case. Anyone credibly charged with serious crimes, who can be brought to trial, should be brought to trial — unless an appropriate disposition can be worked out. Here, if Trump is elected president, he can put a stop to the trial. So there is a nonpolitical case for trying him before he can do that. Period, end of story. You’re welcome!

It takes Dan 1,500 words to get to this argument in a piece that is only 1,800 words long. And when he does, as we shall see, his arguments are, as the waiter said about the mint in the Meaning of Life, wafer-thin.

If there is a reason a defendant might not be triable after a certain date, for any reason, it is good (and non-political) for the justice system to try that defendant before that certain date. It’s just like when a statute of limitations is coming up. It’s good to file the charge before the statute of limitations runs. And no matter how many partisans line up to tell you that there is no rule of law justification for doing so, there is. So you can ignore the partisan yammering as so much background noise.

As I said, it takes Dan over 1,500 words to address this argument, and he devotes only two paragraphs (the final two) of his piece to this, the only argument that matters. Here is the entirety of what he has to say that is relevant to the challenge posed in his article’s title:

To the extent that there is any rule-of-law value, rather than political value, to be served by ensuring that Trump is tried before the election, it would be the argument that it may be impossible to try Trump after the election if he wins the election. After all, the federal cases could be shut down by Trump once he controls the machinery of the Justice Department, and Trump’s role as president-elect and sitting president would be a formidable barrier to trying him in state court. But even then, none of that matters if Trump loses the election; the argument is instead that we can’t allow the voters to place this man beyond the reach of these charges. Which is a hard case to make in public without disclosing your mistrust of those voters and your preference for having the decisions of a national electorate subordinated to the decisions of local juries in deep-blue cities. It is also a more dubious case to make when you’re discussing charges that are so enmeshed in long-standing political disputes and/or involve highly creative stretches of the law.

In either event, don’t pretend that we’re just discussing how to impartially apply the same law to Donald Trump that applies to any other defendant. We’re on uncharted ground, and these are uncharted arguments, all of which flow from the unique political circumstances. There’s no decision to try Trump before Election Day that isn’t a political decision.

Did you find that convincing? Me neither. Let me explain why. Let’s address what he says point by point:

“But even then, none of that matters if Trump loses the election; the argument is instead that we can’t allow the voters to place this man beyond the reach of these charges. Which is a hard case to make in public without disclosing your mistrust of those voters . . .”

OK. How about I openly disclose my mistrust of those voters? Does that make it easier for me to make the argument? OK, then.

” . . . and your preference for having the decisions of a national electorate subordinated to the decisions of local juries in deep-blue cities.”

Nope. BZZZZZT! I call foul. That’s not the question we were addressing, Dan. And what’s more, that’s stealing a base.

The issue is not whether the decisions of a national electorate should be “subordinated” to the decisions of juries. That framing suggests that one or the other must be subordinated to the other, and that’s not the question you said you were addressing, Dan. The question you said you were addressing is whether there is any argument based on the concept of the rule of law that the system should attempt to make sure Trump is tried at all, before the voters possibly put him in a position to make sure the trial never happens. And the answer is: yes, of course. If it can be done without violating the defendant’s constitutional rights, the trial should take place before the election, meaning both the jury and the national electorate can each have their say. That means that if the trial takes place before the election, neither the electorate’s decisions nor the jury’s decisions need be “subordinated” to the other. It’s a false choice.

Put another way: to suggest that calling for a trial, if possible, before the election “subordinates” the electorate’s decisions to those of a jury (a jury that Dan insists on insinuating is illegitimate because it is located in a city) is, as I say, to steal a base . . . because no such “subordination” need take place at all, as long as the trial happens before the election. The election can still go forward, and many people with a poor grasp of civics can and will still vote for this candidate. (Bringing everlasting shame to the country in the process.)

Yes, holding the trial before the election may interfere with the candidate’s campaigning, but that’s not an electorate problem. That’s a candidate problem and a GOP problem. If you don’t like having a candidate facing criminal charges during election season and you nevertheless nominate a candidate who is facing criminal charges during election season, well, it sucks to be you. I don’t feel sorry for you a bit. Nor should any rational person. You screwed up. You picked the wrong guy. Oops!

“It is also a more dubious case to make when you’re discussing charges that are so enmeshed in long-standing political disputes and/or involve highly creative stretches of the law.”

Well, the January 6 federal prosecution, which I think is the most weighty and important (if perhaps not the first to go to trial; that distinction might end up belonging to New York), is based on longstanding case law. I wrote a giant Substack about it and this was my conclusion:

Not only is the above section 371 case law firmly on DOJ’s side, but as we will see, so is the case law on section 241. Very firmly. And while there has been some debate about some of the concepts that appear in section 1512, as we will see, the result of that debate is not terribly likely to make a difference for Donald Trump.

It is section 1512 that you have heard so much about recently. That is likely headed to the Supreme Court on the definition of “corruptly”–but as I explained in my Substack, that matters little to Trump, because in the end, even if doubts are resolved in favor of the defendants, “all Jack Smith needs to show is that Donald Trump acted with the intent to procure the presidency unlawfully.” That does not seem like a terribly heavy lift.

The idea that DoJ is stretching the law in the Trump January 6 prosecution is, in my view, not a serious argument. As for New York, I have argued in The Dispatch that even that prosecution is not as far-fetched as it is portrayed by the conventional wisdom.

“In either event, don’t pretend that we’re just discussing how to impartially apply the same law to Donald Trump that applies to any other defendant.”

It’s not a pretense at all. Don’t pretend, Dan, that Trump is just any other defendant when no other defendant on Earth can order an end to his own trial if elected. Given that sickening reality, and the very real possibility that our crap electorate might vote for such a scoundrel, it treats him like any other defendant to take every legal step possible to ensure that he is brought to justice while the justice system still has the ability to do so.

Gazan Hospital Administrator Admits to Hamas War Crimes in Deliberately Putting Civilians at Harm

Filed under: General — JVW @ 12:34 pm



[guest post by JVW]

Not that it matters to those of us who knew this from the very beginning, or for those who will find no end of silly justifications to keep up with the fiction that Israel’s targeting of Gazan hospitals was illegitimate, but at least one key member of that evil death cult is now on record admitting the truth:

Ahmed al-Kahlout, the manager of the Kamal Adnan Hospital in northern Gaza, admitted during an interrogation with Israeli security forces that Hamas used the medical facilities to advance its military operations.

“I know 16 employees in the hospital — doctors, nurses, paramedics and clerks — who also have different positions in the Qassam Brigades,” Kahlout told Israel’s Shin Bet in a video clip released on Tuesday afternoon, referring to the military of Hamas. “They hide in hospitals because, for them, a hospital is a safe place.”

Kahlout, whose hospital is located in the Jabaliya neighborhood of northern Gaza, explained to Israeli security officials, “They [Hamas] won’t be targeted when they are inside a hospital.”

“That they will not be harmed when they are inside a hospital. Hamas has offices inside the hospitals. There are places for senior officials, they also brought a kidnapped soldier there. There is a designated place for interrogations, internal security, and special forces. Everyone has private phone lines inside the hospital,” Kahlout added.

Naturally the worldwide anti-Israel brigades will ignore this news or else deny the truth of the acknowledgement from Mr. Kahlout, who also copped to being a member of Hamas for over a decade and who has risen to a senior position within the terror organization. And even the more mainstream left as embodied by journalists from the New York Times and Washington Post, various academics and university administrators, and state department flunkies who reflexively take the side of Hamas over Israel are going to try to change the subject when this comes up with some dishonest formulation such as “Yes, we’ve always acknowledged that Hamas embeds itself among civilians, including the most vulnerable, but they are only forced to do this because of the efficient brutality of the IDF. And that is why we need an immediate ceasefire.” But the truth can’t be elided, and it’s absolutely indisputable now that it is Hamas who is the perpetrator of the worst sort of war crimes through their cowardly cynicism. May Israel at long last sever this snake at its head.

– JVW

12/18/2023

The Power of the Jump™: New York Times Edition

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:44 pm



So when I wrote my post about that deceptive New York Times story about the Dobbs decision, I predicted that they would put the first four paragraphs on the front page and make sure the jump was before the sixth paragraph. That’s because the information that undercut the B.S. in the first four paragraphs began appearing in the sixth paragraph. Here was my prediction:

Moreover, this technique of starting out with a wildly misleading claim and then gradually backfilling the story with facts that totally undercut the initial claim has been around at least as long as I have had this blog (over 20 years) and almost certainly longer than that. I had a regular feature called The Power of the Jump that showed how the L.A. Times routinely fed you one version of events on the front page and tell you the inconvenient facts on the back pages, after the “jump”–where nobody reads.

My guess is, this Kantor/Liptak story will likely appear on the front page of the New York Times tomorrow, with the first four paragraphs prominently featured. I bet the jump comes before the sixth paragraph and certainly before the ninth.

But I guess we’ll see.

We did.

Here’s a closer image of the story. Count the number of paragraphs. (And notice the other stories, which have plenty more than four paragraphs on the front page, showing that they are capable of putting eight paragraphs on the front page when they want to.)

Again: “My guess is, this Kantor/Liptak story will likely appear on the front page of the New York Times tomorrow, with the first four paragraphs prominently featured. I bet the jump comes before the sixth paragraph and certainly before the ninth.”

Every bit of this was deliberate and planned.

Always trust content from Patterico.

12/17/2023

Constitutional Vanguard: The Hypocrisy of the University Presidents on Calls for Genocide

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:19 pm



In my occasional lengthy newsletter, I have weighed in on the topic of the university presidents who were interrogated by Chief Trump Apologist Elise Stefanik. Excerpt from the free portion:

Reader, I’d like to ask you a hypothetical question.

A student at a private university is standing on the main quadrangle of the campus. It’s a high-traffic area through which many, if not most, students must pass as they make their way to class. The student has a bullhorn, and he is shouting: KILL ALL THE BLACKS! A large mob, consisting entirely of other students, echoes his rhythmic chant. Each time he calls for the killing of all black people, the mob echoes his chant: KILL ALL THE BLACKS!*

Should this kind of conduct be grounds for discipline of the chanting students?

Does the answer depend on the context?

And the most salient question of all:

Does any sentient being reading this believe that any private university would allow such conduct to go undisciplined?

And from the paid portion:

This gets us back to the example I started the post with: a student at a private university standing in the center of the main quad with a bullhorn, leading a chant that says “KILL ALL THE BLACKS!” Whatever you think about context, that is going to be considered harassment by a college administrator.

This is how we all know that the college professors being interrogated by Stefanik were playing such a disingenuous game at that congressional hearing. They were posing as Staunch Advocates of Free Speech, who supposedly allow all kinds of uncomfortable speech due to their Great Respect for the Important Value of Free Expression. [Capitalized words can convey a sense of mordant irony as effectively as exclamation points. — Ed.] And that pose is simply a pile of horse droppings.

Discussing this issue on the Dispatch Podcast, Steve Hayes made reference to two salient facts about Harvard University, an institution which serial plagiarist and Harvard President Claudine Gay portrayed in the hearings as a bastion of free speech. First: FIRE has published its 2024 rankings of 248 colleges and universities in terms of their tolerance of free speech. Of all 248 schools, guess which one ranked dead last?

If you guessed “Harvard University,” you win the kewpie doll.

I always feel defensive about the sporadic nature of these missives, and so I feel compelled to point out that today’s piece contains some 4300+ words for free, and some 3100+ words for the paid subscribers. If a standard newspaper op-ed is 800 words, this is the equivalent of over nine op-eds, including nearly four for the paid subscribers. I think I have realized over time that, perhaps unlike many writers, I tend to deliver more value when I can really crawl inside a topic and take it apart in detail, and that takes time and space. If you’re the type who can only read 800 words at a time, feel free to read these missives in chunks. I try to split them up into sections to make that possible. In any event, thanks to those of you who are patient both with the intervals of time between missives and with the length of the pieces.

Read it here. Subscribe here.

12/15/2023

The New York Times Reminds James Bennett (and the Rest of Us) That Its Dishonesty Is No Recent Development; It Has Always Been Garbage

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:10 pm



In the Weekend Open Thread, Dana noted an article by James Bennett about how things have gone wrong at the New York Times. Speaking of the Good Old Days Before There Was a Hyper-Partisan Media, Bennett tells us:

But there was a compensating moral and psychological privilege that came with aspiring to journalistic neutrality and open-mindedness, despised as they might understandably be by partisans. Unlike the duelling politicians and advocates of all kinds, unlike the corporate chieftains and their critics, unlike even the sainted non-profit workers, you did not have to pretend things were simpler than they actually were. You did not have to go along with everything that any tribe said. You did not have to pretend that the good guys, much as you might have respected them, were right about everything, or that the bad guys, much as you might have disdained them, never had a point. You did not, in other words, ever have to lie.

There is something to Bennett’s complaints about the increased partisanship in Big Media, and the consequent economic incentives to feed the dopes on your side only such “truths” (which are often lies) as they can handle. But to my way of thinking, part of the problem is that there never really was a time when these publications were without partisan hackery. I’ll take a particularly outrageous example from today, but my point is that the kind of deception I am about to describe should sound very familiar to you, and it’s not just a recent development.

A blockbuster (or least what is intended as a blockbuster) article from the New York Times begins with the following passage, which is a perfect example of how to tell a flat-out deceptive lie–using facts that, while cleverly worded in a Clintonian fashion, are mostly technically true:

On Feb. 10 last year, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. showed his eight colleagues how he intended to uproot the constitutional right to abortion.

At 11:16 a.m., his clerk circulated a 98-page draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. After a justice shares an opinion inside the court, other members scrutinize it. Those in the majority can request revisions, sometimes as the price of their votes, sweating sentences or even words.

But this time, despite the document’s length, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch wrote back just 10 minutes later to say that he would sign on to the opinion and had no changes, according to two people who reviewed the messages. The next morning, Justice Clarence Thomas added his name, then Justice Amy Coney Barrett, and days later, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. None requested a single alteration. The responses looked like a display of conservative force and discipline.

In the months since, that draft turned into a leak, then law, then the rare Supreme Court decision that affects the entire country, reshaping elections, the practice of medicine and a fundamental aspect of being female.

The facts recounted here are, I assume, mostly true. The date and time Alito circulated the opinion, its length, and the amount of time the other justices in the majority took to respond are, I presume, mostly accurate.

But the picture painted here is a dirty lie, and everyone involved in this story knows it. I am talking about reporters Jodi Kantor and Adam Liptak, and every editor involved in the review and publication of this story. They are all liars. They want you to think things that are not true. That is their goal. It’s not a by-product of a sloppy process. Deceiving you is their ultimate aim.

Because the picture painted is that the justices immediately agreed to an opinion they could not possibly have read in such a short time. Therefore, these sleazy “journalists” would have you believe, all that mattered to them was the result.

The truth dribbles out slowly over the next several paragraphs–and there is enough there, if you read between the lines, to determine that the picture they paint is utter nonsense. But you have to keep reading, and you have to read attentively, and these “journalists” know that most people do neither.

A couple of paragraphs later, after a description of how Justice Barrett initially voted against hearing the case, we are told in paragraph six:

Those dynamics help explain why the responses stacked up so speedily to the draft opinion in February 2022: Justice Alito appeared to have pregamed it among some of the conservative justices, out of view from other colleagues, to safeguard a coalition more fragile than it looked.

Ah! Well, that’s a new fact, isn’t it? The wording there is sly–Alito “pregamed” the opinion to “some of” the conservative justices–but I’d bet my house that by “some of the conservative justices” they mean (but do not want to clearly say) “all of the justices that had voted in the majority.” As for the claim that Justice Alito had “pregamed” the opinion to those justices, that is apparently Kantor and Liptak’s way of trying to put a sinister spin on the fact that Justice Alito . . . showed the opinion to the other justices in the majority before officially releasing the draft.

That would sort of explain how they were able to respond so quickly, wouldn’t it?

But this “pregaming” thing . . . I mean, that sounds bad, right? Where does Alito get off “pregaming” the opinion? How dare he? That has to be wrong, doesn’t it? And certainly, it has to be something that was only done this one time–because of the slobberingly overeager desire of the mostly male justices to take women’s sacred rights from them! Right?

Well, again, let’s read further. At paragraph nine, after a discussion of the supposedly broad ideological swath of insiders who had spoken to Kantor and Liptak, and a further discussion of the difficulty in overturning this sacred right, we read this:

To dismantle that decision, Justice Alito and others had to push hard, the records and interviews show. Some steps, like his apparent selective preview of the draft opinion, were time-honored ones. But in overturning Roe, the court set aside more than precedent: It tested the boundaries of how cases are decided.

Wait . . . Justice Alito’s “selective” preview of the draft opinion was a “time-honored” step? Maybe I have forgotten what that term “time-honored” means. Let’s look it up in the trusty dictionary to be sure. Where is that? Ah, here we go:

time-honored
adjective
time-hon·​ored ˈtīm-ˌä-nərd

honored because of age or long usage
time-honored traditions

So showing a preview of the draft opinion to the justices in the majority is a tradition that has been in usage at the Supreme Court for a long time? And that’s what Alito did? And then once he had completed the draft, with feedback, those justices quickly signed on, because they had already read it and (perhaps) commented on it and had their feedback responded to?

Now go back and re-read the first four paragraphs of the article. I quoted them above. Go on; really do it. Read it. I’ll wait right here. I promise.

You back? Good. So you see all those “true” facts there? And the way that they were assembled in such a way as to convey to you a deliberate lie?

I owe it to Ed Whelan to have brought this to my attention, and he says it better than I possibly could:

The article could easily have presented this clearly from the outset. E.g.: “Alito, consistent with a time-honored practice at the Court, meticulously worked out the draft opinion with his conservative colleagues before circulating it to the full Court. That enabled them to sign on promptly, without requesting any changes.” But as written it instead invites clickbait attacks on the justices in the majority.

If you follow the link to the clickbait attacks, you see a headline: “Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch reportedly responded to Justice Samuel Alito’s 98-page draft opinion on Dobbs in just 10 minutes, offering no edits.”

This is exactly what Kantor and Liptak and their editors want everyone in the country to think. It’s fundamentally a false picture of what happened. But they know most people will read those first four paragraphs and will be fooled. This will help delegimitize a court that the left has been trying its damnedest to delegitimize for years now.

And if you attack the reporters over their blatant dishonesty here, they will stare at you with innocent, wide-open eyes, blink politely a couple of times, and say: “The facts are all the piece.”

And they are. Kind of. It’s just the presentation of them that is deliberately deceptive.

Ed Whelan has other excellent criticisms of the story, and you should read his post for those. My point here is: these people have done this kind of thing for as long as I can remember. Contra James Bennett, there is nothing new about this kind of chicanery. I used to expose it all the time on this very blog, mostly at the L.A. Times. But I have also written many times about chicanery at the New York Times by the likes of Linda Greenhouse and, yes, Adam Liptak. I wrote posts about him in 2007, 2008, 2015, and 2016, and my posts about his journalism reveal him to be a man who is ignorant and dishonest. He has been the New York Times‘s main Supreme Court reporter since 2008, and before him was Linda Greenhouse, who was at the New York Times for 40 years and covered the Supreme Court for 27 of those years . . . and has never been anything but a relentless partisan hack.

Mr. Bennett, partisan hackery at the New York Times and other Big Media outlets like it is simply nothing new.

Moreover, this technique of starting out with a wildly misleading claim and then gradually backfilling the story with facts that totally undercut the initial claim has been around at least as long as I have had this blog (over 20 years) and almost certainly longer than that. I had a regular feature called The Power of the Jump that showed how the L.A. Times routinely fed you one version of events on the front page and tell you the inconvenient facts on the back pages, after the “jump”–where nobody reads.

My guess is, this Kantor/Liptak story will likely appear on the front page of the New York Times tomorrow, with the first four paragraphs prominently featured. I bet the jump comes before the sixth paragraph and certainly before the ninth.

But I guess we’ll see.

Anyway, I appreciate Mr. Bennett’s piece, I do. But it just isn’t honest about how bad all these papers have been for so many years. I think people who work inside these institutions are just blind to these kinds of things.

But the rest of us aren’t.

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