Free Speech For Me But Not For Thee

A couple of weeks ago Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg gave several media interviews that then rightly brought her a torrent of criticism.  In the portion that drew the most attention, she rather un-judicially stated a preference for one candidate over the other in the midst of the current presidential campaign.  But in other parts of the interviews that you may not have noticed, she engaged in even more inappropriate conduct by indicating in advance how she would rule on various issues likely to come before the Court.  Basically, she said in so many words that she has already pre-judged pretty much all of the most important issues likely to come before the Court any time soon, and don't waste your breath trying to persuade her otherwise.  OK, we already knew that, but do you have to be quite so explicit?  In one of her most over-the-top statements, she is quoted by Adam Liptak of the New York Times on July 10 as having said "I’d love to see Citizens United overruled."

Most readers here probably have heard of Citizens United, but for those who don't know the specifics, here's the gist.  A corporate entity by that name made a movie called "Hillary: The Movie," critical of Hillary Clinton, and wanted to exhibit it, and promote it with advertising, in the windows immediately preceding various of the 2008 presidential primaries.  The so-called Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (often referred to as McCain-Feingold) had a provision that explicitly prohibited the spending of corporate funds for such "electioneering communications" by corporate entities in those time windows.  Citizens United brought suit seeking to enjoin the Federal Election Commission from enforcing that provision as a violation of the First Amendment.  The lower court denied the injunction under the terms of McCain-Feingold, but the Supreme Court reversed and invalidated the relevant provision as unconstitutional.  Justice Ginsberg joined a dissenting opinion.

There are probably very few issues on which Hillary Clinton and the Notorious RBG disagree, and the desirability of overruling Citizens United is definitely not one of them.  Indeed, as reported here by John Hinderaker of PowerLine, in a speech on July 16, Hillary promised to make the overruling of Citizens United one of her top priorities, and to introduce a constitutional amendment to accomplish that goal within 30 days of taking office (assuming she is elected).  Of course, another view is that overtly political "judges" like RBG have zero respect for precedent that gets in the way of their political objectives.  All Hillary would really need to do as President would be to appoint another couple of RBG's lockstep ideological comrades to the Court, and they would promptly take care of doing away with Citizens United and the rest of the First Amendment as soon as a new case could reach them.  (The Second Amendment would not be far behind.)  

So what's the big problem with Citizens United?  To listen to the narrative of Hillary and her supporters, it's just a question of "getting too much money out of politics."  Does that sound plausible?  Or is that just some spin to justify statutory provisions cynically designed to advantage one side of the political divide and disadvantage the other?  Let's consider some of the current status of "money in politics."

First, the status of the current money-raising race between the two main presidential contenders.  The New York Times has figures in a June 22 article covering candidate FEC reports through April 30.   Hillary had raised $334.9 million, including $238.2 million by her campaign and $96.7 million by super-PACs supporting her.  Trump had raised $67.1 million, including $64.6 by the campaign and $2.5 million by super-PACs supporting him.  And how about current spending level?  Here's a Los Angeles Times article from June 19, reporting that Hillary had launched a $23 million advertising campaign in eight "battleground" states (Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire).  Trump's comparable level of spending in the same states according to the article?  $0. 

Do you think that Hillary might have strong fundraising support from so-called "small donors"?  Don't kid yourself.  The best way of looking at Hillary's campaign fundraising operation is as "protection money" from those with a lot to lose from government predation.  The FEC defines "small donors" as those who give the campaign less than $200.  Below that level, you don't have to report a donor's name.  According to this report from Politifact on March 21 (covering donations through February), Bernie Sanders had raised some 70% of all his individual donations from that category.  Hillary?  19%.  Even Trump was at 22%, and many of the Republicans were well above that.  (Cruz was at 42%.)

But put aside all these officially-reported campaign funds, and consider what else the Clintons have out there -- namely, the "Foundation" and the speaking fees.  According to this CNN report from February, the two Clintons had been paid some $153 million for 729 speeches since 2001 -- an average of a little over $200,000 per speech.  And recognize that everybody knew that Hillary was planning during that time to run for President (let alone that she was a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State for much of the time).  So when they count up the "money in politics," does any of that count?  When Citizens United gets overruled and all the McCain-Feingold restrictions go back into effect, does any of that get restricted?  Of course not.  Even if the people who paid for the speeches were people with issues before the State Department or prospective issues before a future President?  (As just one example, CNN says that at least $7.7 million of the total was from speeches to "big banks," including Goldman Sachs and UBS.)  Doesn't count.  How about if someone pays Bill Clinton $250,000 to give a speech even after Hillary has become a candidate?  Daily Caller on May 17 claims to have identified $2.7 million of such.  Also doesn't count. 

And then there's the Foundation.  According to the Washington Post from February 2015 here, the Foundation raised close to $2 billion from 2001 to 2013.  (Funny, I haven't seen anything more on this from the Post more recently.)  That's paid for lots of the Clintons' travel and lifestyle, and kept their names in public, plus kept a whole proto-campaign organization together and ready to go.  Lots of the money has come from the likes of Middle Eastern oil interests and other foreign potentates who are specifically prohibited from contributing to American political campaigns.  Anyway, don't worry, none of this counts either.

Rest assured: whatever further "campaign finance" restrictions Hillary can manage to get through -- whether via a constitutional amendment, a reversal of Citizens United, or some new statute following a new Supreme Court ruling -- it is one hundred percent certain that those restrictions will be specifically designed to disadvantage Mrs. Clinton's adversaries and silence her critics, while somehow missing whatever are her own main sources of funding and support.

The Greatest Scientific Fraud Of All Time -- Part X

It's been a while (since December) since I last wrote a post in this series.  The reason is that nothing ever seems to change.  On the one hand, the proponents of the official government warming line, most notably the bureaucrats at NASA/GISS, continue to make regular announcements that global temperatures have set some kind of new record.  On the other hand, independent researchers continue to point out that government data, available online, contradict the contention of record-setting heat, at least if the data prior to recent "adjustments" is used; the entire apparent increase in temperatures existing in government so-called "final" (post-adjustment) data lies in the unexplained adjustments.  Demands for detailed explanation of the adjustments continue to be made, and the bureaucrats simply ignore those demands.  And of course the "mainstream" media go merrily on reporting whatever NASA/GISS says, without ever asking so much as a semi-intelligent question about such things as the adjustments or the discrepancies between the satellite and "surface" temperature records  Really, it's bizarre.

Anyway, we're just going through another round of same, so I might as well inform you about it.  On Tuesday, NASA/GISS made one of the regular announcements.  It was reported upon by all of the usual "mainstream" suspects, with the usual complete lack of skepticism or curiosity:  the New York Times here, livescience.com here, the Guardian here, USA Today here, Scientific American here ("First Half of 2016 Blows Away Temperature Records"), etc., etc., etc.  Try to find so much as a hint in any of them that they are even aware of the massive adjustments or that they think their readers are entitled to an explanation.  It's just parroting of whatever NASA's Gavin Schmidt says.  From the New York Times:

Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, said that while the first six months of 2015 made it the hottest half-year ever recorded, “2016 really has blown that out of the water.”  He said calculations showed there was a 99 percent probability that the full year would be hotter than 2015.

But, you ask, why the strange timing?  Why make an announcement in mid-July that 2016 has "a 99 percent probability" of being the warmest year, instead of waiting until later in the year (or after the end of the year) when you actually know?  Of course, to people who follow what's going on, it's obvious:  The most recent two months (May and June) have seen the largest two-month drop ever in satellite-measured tropical temperatures, and the second-largest two-month drop in satellite-measured global temperatures.  Go to Roy Spencer's web site for more detail on the latest satellite temperatures.  Spencer describes what is currently going on as "rapid cooling" following the break-up of the 2015-16 El Nino.  In other words, if Schmidt had waited another month or two for his announcement, he would have a big risk of missing his opportunity to influence the election with his apocalyptic statements.

Meanwhile, on July 9 the estimable Tony Heller gave an excellent presentation on the subject of all of NASA's alleged warming being a result of the unexplained adjustments.  You can watch him giving the presentation here; a copy of his slides and charts is here.  It's just data, data and more data.  He has actual temperature records from the 1930s and 1940s showing those years to be much warmer than today.  And he has pdf copies of newspaper articles from the time to back himself up.  And he has NASA charts and Hansen (then-head of NASA/GISS) articles from the 80s and 90s showing no warming to that time.  And then he has the current NASA "final" (adjusted) data.  In the "final" data, the 1930s and 40s temperature records have been made to disappear.  Would you think that somebody from some media outlet -- New York Times, USA Today, Scientific American, et al. -- would at least ask Schmidt a question about this?  It's beyond comprehension.

 

"Cultural Appropriation": Moral Outrage Or Moral Imperative?

Somehow, in progressive world, there are actions that, in one context, are moral imperatives -- so morally important that the authorities must compel them to occur -- while in another context essentially identical actions are moral outrages -- so outrageous that the authorities must step in to prevent them from occurring.  When you spot one of these contradictions, you can be forgiven for thinking that something is going on here that doesn't make much sense.

Last week I considered one instance of this phenomenon, the question of economic and racial integration of neighborhoods.   There, it seems that to the progressive mind economic and racial integration of currently wealthy neighborhoods is a moral imperative, and where it is not occurring naturally it must be forced by government coercion; but it equally seems that economic and racial integration of currently poor neighborhoods is a moral outrage, and where that is occurring naturally it must be stopped by government coercion.  Perhaps one might conclude that the "integration" mantra is just a pretext for some faction to demand and collect a few political spoils for its members.

An equally fascinating instance of the phenomenon is what goes by the term "cultural appropriation."  If you haven't been following what's going on on college campuses (and why would you?), you may not be aware that "cultural appropriation" is the moral outrage of the day.  Somewhere along the line, it became a moral outrage for a member of one "culture" to "appropriate" the trappings of some other "culture."  Or at least, some such "appropriations" became a moral outrage in certain contexts.  But wait a minute, you say -- American culture a mishmash of cultural trappings of people who came here from all over the place; so it can't possibly be that all "cultural appropriations" are out of line.  You are absolutely right.  And for that reason, you are going to need an official progressive "cultural appropriation outrage meter" to tell you which cultural appropriations are moral outrages and which are not.  The funny thing is, those "cultural appropriations" that are not moral outrages turn out to be not merely morally neutral.  Instead, they are moral imperatives.  Go figure.

The first application of our official cultural appropriation outrage meter will be to that most emotion-provoking of all types of outerwear, the Halloween costume.  You have probably heard that the campus of prestigious Yale University was thrown into turmoil last fall over the critical issue of culturally appropriative Halloween costumes.  It all started with a mass email to the entire community from Yale's Intercultural Affairs Committee, warning students to avoid wearing any costume that might be considered culturally insensitive.  The email does not seem to be available online any more, but is quoted in an article in Cosmopolitan here:

"Halloween is also unfortunately a time when the normal thoughtfulness and sensitivity of most Yale students can sometimes be forgotten and some poor decisions can be made including wearing feathered headdresses, turbans, wearing 'war paint' or modifying skin tone or wearing blackface or redface."

Previously you might have understood, for example, why wearing blackface might have been considered inappropriate -- not because of "cultural appropriation," but rather because it could be thought a form of ridicule.  But that wouldn't explain what's wrong, for example, with "headdresses" and "turbans."  Anyway, a co-head of one of Yale's residential colleges had the temerity to respond with an email suggesting that it might be OK to be a little bit offensive in a Halloween costume; and that comment caused the whole place fell apart.  It was a moral outrage!

But that moral outrage was then far exceeded a few months later at Bowdoin College in Maine.  Catherine Rampell had the story here in the Washington Post in March.   Some students, one of whom hailed from Colombia, threw a tequila-themed birthday party for one of their friends; and at the party several of the kids were photographed wearing mini-sombreros, a few inches in diameter.  When the photos showed up on social media, all hell broke loose:

When photos of attendees wearing those mini-sombreros showed up on social media, students and administrators went ballistic.  College administrators sent multiple schoolwide emails notifying the students about an “investigation” into a possible “act of ethnic stereotyping.”  Partygoers ultimately were reprimanded or placed on “social probation,” and the hosts have been kicked out of their dorm, according to friends. . . .   Within days, the Bowdoin Student Government unanimously adopted a “statement of solidarity” to “[stand] by all students who were injured and affected by the incident,” and recommend that administrators “create a space for those students who have been or feel specifically targeted. . . . "  The statement deemed the party an act of “cultural appropriation,” one that “creates an environment where students of color, particularly Latino, and especially Mexican, students feel unsafe.” The effort to purge . . . two [student government] representatives who attended the party, via impeachment, soon followed.

So we know that for a non-Hispanic to wear a mini-sombrero to a birthday party is a moral outrage.  Now apply that learning, if you will, to the context of food.  For example, is it OK for a dining hall at a small mid-western college to serve somewhat modified versions of Asian cuisine, such as sushi or banh mi (a kind of Vietnamese sandwich)?  It seems that that very thing is the cause of ongoing outrage at wacky Oberlin College in Ohio.  The controversy has been raging since the fall, but in just the past few days nutty actress Lena Dunham (a graduate of Oberlin) has weighed in.  People has the story on July 15:

“There are now big conversations at Oberlin, where I went to college, about cultural appropriation and whether the dining hall sushi and Banh Mi disrespect certain cuisines,” the actress told Food & Wine. “The press reported it as, ‘How crazy are Oberlin kids?’ But to me, it was actually, ‘Right on.'” . . .   The complaints arose last November, when the Ohio college’s newspaper The Oberlin Review  published a report citing multiple international students who felt the food service management company contracted by the liberal college had “[blurred] the line between culinary diversity and cultural appropriation by modifying the recipes without respect for certain Asian countries’ cuisines.”  The paper cited students complaining about the manipulation of traditional recipes like the Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwich — which is traditionally made up of grilled pork, pate, pickled vegetables and fresh herbs on a crispy baguette, but at Oberlin’s Stevenson Dining Hall was served as pulled pork and coleslaw on ciabatta bread.“  It was ridiculous,” Vietnamese freshman Diep Nguyen said. “How could they just throw out something completely different and label it as another country’s traditional food?”

I love that part of the Vietnamese guy complaining that Oberlin didn't make the banh mi in the "traditional Vietnamese" way with a "crispy baguette."  A baguette is "traditional Vietnamese"?  Could this guy not know that the baguette was "culturally appropriated" by the Vietnamese from their colonial overlords, the French?  Really!

Anyway, if we might look for just a moment at the big picture, I would ask, what is the quintessential institution that arose to create, preserve and transmit the white, and particularly the white male, culture?  Of course, it is the university.  And now all the other races, ethnicities, and genders want in; indeed, claim to be entitled to be let in.  They want to "appropriate" our culture!  Is it a moral outrage?  Of course not.  It's a moral imperative!  I for one am not offended in the least.  I'm proud of the culture of my ancestors.  Let everyone else share it!  (Why don't the other ethnicities feel the same way about their culture?  Probably most of them do.  It's just a few congenital whiners who have ginned up this "cultural appropriation" thing.)

Meanwhile, if you feel like dressing up as a preppie next Halloween (say, a cardigan sweater, a pair of green pants, and smoking a pipe), don't expect to generate a lot of moral outrage.  Preppies are absolutely fair game for ridicule.  

When Did It Become Morally Acceptable To Want The Poor To Be Poorer?

I seem to recall a time in my youth when the American federal government somehow thought that an important part of its mission was to help the poor to become less poor.  And since the single most important reason that the poor were poor was that they lacked access to inexpensive and reliable energy, a big part of the effort to help the poor become less poor consisted of bringing the benefits of fossil fuel-based energy to the poor.

And thus, starting in the New Deal period in the 1930s and continuing from then, we had things like the Rural Electrification Administration and the Tennessee Valley Authority out there working to bring the benefits of electricity, much of it generated from coal, to the rural poor of America.  The REA focused on financing distribution networks to distribute the mostly coal-generated power.  TVA actually built multiple coal power plants in its own name.   One could quibble over whether a socialist model of government-directed development exemplified by REA and TVA was the best way to bring the benefits of inexpensive electricity to the poor.  But at least the government recognized that its mission was to help make the poor less poor, rather than the reverse.

Then somewhere along the line things turned.  Suddenly it became fashionable to seek to use government power to make the poor poorer.  Of course, nobody would put it in exactly those terms.  But quite obviously the government's goal shifted from seeking to have as much energy and as cheap as possible available to the poor to enhance their living standards, to instead seeking to restrict and limit the amount of energy available to the poor and intentionally increase its price so that the poor would be forced to use less of it and would have their living standards lowered.  These efforts have gone under various names, all of which are euphemisms that seek to divert attention away from the intended effect of further impoverishing the poor; but the intended effect is nonetheless obvious to anyone who pays attention.  We have, for example, the proposal for a "cap and trade" program -- explicitly designed to force the price of fossil-fuel-derived energy up in order that lower income people can no longer afford it and will consume less.  We have proposed "carbon taxes" -- and even more direct way to force up the price of energy so that low income people will have no choice but to consume less.  And now we have EPA's Clean Power Program -- a coercive program to drive cheap coal power generation out of business and thereby force the people to purchase far more expensive and less reliable options, like wind and solar.  (The implementation of the Clean Power Program is currently stayed by an order of the Supreme Court issued shortly before the death of Justice Scalia.)

I can't pinpoint exactly when the U.S. government made its 180 degree turn.  But clearly the turn had been made by the time Barack Obama was elected President.  It was during his 2008 campaign that Obama famously acknowledged that the whole idea of his plan for a cap-and-trade system was to make electricity prices "skyrocket":

[U]nder my plan of a cap and trade system electricity rates would sky rocket.    

Obama then appointed as his chief science advisor a guy named John Holdren, who has made a career of advocating to de-industrialize the United States.  Holdren had a long collaboration with eco-doomsayer Paul Ehrlich.  One of the famous quotes from their work is this:

A massive campaign must be launched to restore a high-quality environment in North America and to de-develop the United States.   

From Paul R. Ehrlich, Anne H. Ehrlich, and John Holdren, Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions (W.H. Freeman, 1973), p. 279.  Holdren has never backed off from this statement, nor from many others like it; and he remains President Obama's science advisor to this day.  Holdren appears completely oblivious to the fact that industrialization and economic development have made the average American some 50 or so times better off than his pre-industrialization predecessor.

Remarkably, in his seven plus years in office President Obama has been thwarted in his efforts to deepen the energy poverty of the poor.  His cap-and-trade plan failed to pass Congress.  His Clean Power Plan has been stayed by the Supreme Court.  The fracking revolution -- entirely brought about by the private sector -- has recently caused the price of fossil-fuel-based energy to go down rather than up.  Nevertheless, Obama's would-be Democratic successors, Sanders and Clinton, have both advocated for policies that would restrict or ban fracking and thereby force energy prices back up to the detriment of the poor.  (Hillary has been somewhat circumspect about her intentions, but at a Democratic debate in March she admitted that "By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place." )

All of which brings me to an article titled "When Will Africa Get Healthy and Prosperous?" by a guy named Steven Lyazi that appeared on July 13 at the townhall website.  Lyazi is from Uganda, where he works as a "day laborer and student."  He describes some of the effects on his very poor country of Western efforts to restrict fossil fuel development and require his country to rely on so-called "sustainable" energy sources:

[E]nvironmental activists, western powers and UN agencies dictate what issues are important – and use them to keep us poor and deprived: manmade climate change, no GMO foods, no DDT to prevent malaria, using wind and solar power and never building coal, natural gas or nuclear power plants. This is a criminal trick that denies us our basic rights to affordable energy, jobs and modern living standards.

Then he describes some of the very practical effects of intermittent electricity:

In January 2015, I was in Kampala’s Mulago Hospital caring for my friend and mentor, Cyril Boynes, who was dying from a stroke and kidney failure. The doctors and nurses tried to save him, but they had old, broken equipment and constantly battled electricity failures. Many times, the power went out, the lights and equipment stopped working, and people died before the electricity came back on.

My question is, how does anyone think that this is morally acceptable?

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

The Most Offensive Part Of President Obama's Dallas Remarks

On Tuesday President Obama spoke in Dallas on the subject of the recent killings of five policemen.  Many have commented that his remarks began in an appropriate and respectful (if overly self-referential) manner, but somewhere around the middle turned inappropriately toward using the tragedy for nakedly political purposes like advocating for more gun control and more money for failed government bureaucracies.

I'll try not to rehash points already made by others, but I do want to focus particularly on this one paragraph:

As a society, we choose to underinvest in decent schools.  We allow poverty to fester so that entire neighborhoods offer no prospect for gainful employment.  (Applause.)  We refuse to fund drug treatment and mental health programs.  (Applause.)  We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book . . . .  

Put aside the question of the high inappropriateness of using this occasion for such advocacy.  You are still left asking yourself, doesn't the President of the United States know that he himself was given vast resources by the people and charged with responsibility for using those resources to address and solve these problems that he lists?  If there has been failure to solve (or even make progress as to) these problems, how does he come off taking no responsibility at all and instead blaming "society"?

Start with the statement where I know the underlying data in most detail:  "As a society, . . . [w]e allow poverty to fester so that entire neighborhoods offer no prospect for gainful employment."  Who's the "we" there, pal?  It sure isn't the American citizens and voters.  I would say that the American citizens and voters have shown great, even unbelievable, generosity in approving, through their elected representatives, some $1 trillion per year of funding for government programs supposed to combat poverty.  About two-thirds of the spending is done by the federal government, all of it under your direct control for the past seven and a half years.  That's about $5 trillion of federal "anti-poverty" spending in the last 7+ years on your watch by federal bureaucracies answering to you.  With any minimally competent allocation of these funds, that sum should have been far more than sufficient to eradicate poverty once and for all.  But in fact, on your watch, poverty as measured by your own Census Bureau hasn't even gone down at all, not even by a little.  And as the poverty rate has stayed about the same and the population has grown, the absolute number of people deemed "in poverty" has actually increased.  Don't try to blame this on us.  We put you in charge, and we gave you way more than enough money to do the job.  What is your excuse?

In your 7+ years of running $5+ trillion of anti-poverty spending, what exactly have you done to use that vast amount of money effectively so that poverty didn't continue to "fester"?  People who know anything about the federal "anti-poverty" programs know that they are intentionally structured so that so-called "poverty" will never go down.  The articles at this site addressing this issue are almost too numerous to count; examples are here and here.  As far as I can tell, you haven't spent one minute of your time, let alone one drop of your political capital, in your 7+ years seeking to restructure or re-allocate federal "anti-poverty" spending so that any of it would actually address the problem at hand.  The truth is that you are only too happy to see poverty "fester" so that you can cynically use it as a tool for yourself and the federal bureaucracies for obtaining ever more money to spend on accomplishing nothing. 

OK, all of that is bad enough.  But then you would use the occasion of the death of five policemen to try to blame the American public or "society" for what is in fact one hundred percent your own personal failure?  It's beyond disgusting.

Are any other of the statements in the quoted paragraph above any more hinged onto reality?  "We refuse to fund drug treatment and mental health programs."  Huh?  You sure wouldn't get that impression about "drug treatment programs" from reading the National Drug Control Budget from your Office of National Drug Control Policy.  The budget shows federal spending for drug treatment programs at over $12 billion per year and growing by almost $1 billion per year in recent years.  And the list of programs is endless: There's the Medicare & Medicaid-funded Substance Abuse and Treatment Services Program (over $6 billion right there!), the Substance Abuse Treatment for Veterans Program ($708 million!), the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant Program (another $1.5 billion!), the Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment Program, the Treatment Research Program (another $707 million!), the Substance Use Disorders Treatment for Military Service Members/Families Program, the Drug Free Communities Program, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program, the Primary Care and Addiction Services Integration Program, the Homeless Assistance Grants Program, the Drug Courts Program, the Offender Re-entry Program/Prisoner Re-entry Initiative, the Bureau of Prisons Drug Treatment Efforts, and the Judiciary Treatment Efforts; and that's before we get to drug prevention programs like the International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center, the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grants, the Education Prevention Efforts, the Prevention Research Program, the Drugged Driving Program; and I'm far from done, but isn't this enough?  Can anyone even think of some kind of drug treatment or prevention program that the federal government is not funding?  And then we can start in on the equally endless list of "mental health" programs that get annual funding from the feds: the Community Mental Health Services Block Grants, the Youth Violence Prevention Program, the Project Aware State Grants (new in 2014!), the Mental Health First Aid Program, the National Child Traumatic Stress Program, the Children & Family Program, the Consumer and Family Network Grants, Project LAUNCH, the Primary & Behavioral Healthcare Integration Program, the Suicide Prevention Program, the Homelessness Prevention Program, the Criminal & Juvenile Justice Programs, the Grants For Adult Trauma Screening & Brief Intervention Program, the Children's Mental Health Services Program, the PATH Homelessness Program, the Protection and Advocacy Program, the endless grants to the National Institutes of Health for research (over $2 billion per year right there!) -- and again, I am far from done.

Really, it could not be more insulting to the American people to suggest that somehow they have been less than exceedingly generous in funding "drug treatment and mental health programs."  If somehow all of these dozens of programs are not succeeding, if they are disorganized and unfocused, if they are trying to do way too many things at once and succeeding at none of them, there is exactly one person to blame, and that is you, President Obama.  That's what it means to have a unitary executive, as our Constitution provides.  There's one guy, and he is accountable.  If we elected you to do one thing, it was to spend our money effectively to accomplish the intended goals; and by your own admission you have completely failed in these areas.  By what kind of hubris do you turn around and blame "society" for what is your own personal failure?  "Society" was not in charge of running these programs.  You were!  

And then we have "As a society, we choose to underinvest in decent schools."  OK, the federal government does not have principal responsibility for schools, so at least this one does not represent Obama blaming others for his own personal failure.  Also, there could be some room to debate about the optimum level of school funding.  Still, I find this statement almost as obnoxious as the previous two.  

I say there might be some room to debate because at least some studies claim to show a positive relationship between school spending and educational results.  But when you scratch the surface, you tend to find that those studies have been funded by the teachers unions and are highly suspect.  For example, see this study from the Shanker Institute (Al Shanker was the long-time President of the United Federation of Teachers).  Other studies, for example this one from the Heritage Foundation, show no such positive relationship between increased school spending and student achievement.  Several things about school spending and student achievement are clearly true:  First, inflation-adjusted per student school spending has been increasing for decades, without any measurable increases in overall student achievement.  Second, many "blue model" jurisdictions that have dramatically increased their spending on K-12 education to levels far above national norms supposedly in order to improve student achievement have gotten no noticeable return on their investment in improved performance.  Notable examples are New York City (over $20,000 per student annual expense!), D.C., and Baltimore.  Third, many jurisdictions that rank toward the bottom in annual per student spending (e.g., Utah, Wisconsin) get some of the best results.  So, President Obama, what is the level of per student spending that you advocate as the appropriate amount to "invest" in "decent schools"?  Believe me, he will never say.  He will continue to blame "society" for failure to achieve perfect results no matter how much is spent.  It's just politics at its most cynical.  And at a memorial service for dead police officers!

I suppose Obama thought that if he said these things at a memorial service for slain police officers, nobody would be uncouth enough to push back.  So I guess I'm not in the running for the "couth" award.