Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Fake News, Confirmation Bias, and George Carlin

The big story last week among my liberal friends was the announcement that the Trump administration had banned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from using “7 words” in sending its budget requests to Congress. They gleefully linked to a single report in the Washington Post:

It states that “Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing.” Note that no one person is named as the source of that advice. Yet my friends immediately denounced the Trump administration as being responsible. Since that report came out many have commented on it, assuming it to be further proof that the Trump administration lives down to Hillary’s “basket of deplorables” label.

The problem, of course, is that the adults in charge of the CDC have denounced the report and denied having created the list. None of the articles since have established “guilt” amongst the Trump administrators. So, this “breaking news” has lasted less than a week as a real news report but continues to provide fodder for those wanting to assign evil motives to Trump.

So, is this an example of “fake news?” For those who care about truth over politics, yes! The report was factual as far as it went, but it didn’t really establish who had created the list or how they had gone about the task. For those who are motivated by politics above all else, it fits their confirmation bias perfectly, confirming that Trump’s people are anti-science and crazed religious zealots.

My Theory

I suspect the ghost of George Carlin had more to do with the list than anyone in the Trump administration. The late comedian and social critic was known for many brilliant and funny routines, but especially for his “The Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.”

First, note that both lists consist of seven words or phrases. Then consider the ages of the mid-level administrators at the CDC and their educational backgrounds. Finally, what are their political leanings most likely to be?

In most bureaucracies today mid-level managers tend to range from about 30 to 60 years in age. Most of them would have been in college during Carlin’s most active years on television (1970s to early 2000s) and certainly would have seen his Seven Words. Being of college age, which coincides with the ages during which young people are most certain they know everything worth knowing (and that their parents are obviously clueless about), they would certainly have picked up on Carlin’s nihilistic attitudes. And I do believe that at the core of their current belief system is the absolute certainty that Trump supporters are knuckle-dragging, anti-science deplorables.

Given that background, how likely is it that one or more administrators at the CDC would have started, as a joke, their own lists of The Seven Words You Can Never Say to a Trump Supporter? And that the List evolved into The Seven Words You Can Never Say to Congress?

I believe that’s the reason that the story hasn’t had “legs” and evolved into a witch hunt for a guilty party in the Trump administration. There is no “there” there. But… we haven’t yet heard from Robert Mueller.

Monday, November 27, 2017

I Give Up!

Even though I have never been politically correct, I have tried to be polite. I'm losing patience now with the PC crowd because they've clearly lost their minds!


Reading the article led me to claims that "Diversity Is Our Strength!" Rational thinking clearly is no longer required to be accepted as an adult in the PC quarters; reciting the mantra of the day has taken its place.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Ultimate Source of Stress Today

There are more sources of stress today than one can count. Seriously! Many have existed throughout the human experience, such as drought, famine, disease, war, etc. Some are relatively newer than those, like traffic jams, utility bills, and dropped cellular connections. Today I want to talk about one that has only recently been recognized for the pernicious, ever-present stresser that it is:


I'm not just talking about the ones we find in governments at every level because they also exist in other organizations. Every business, both profit and non-profit, develops a bureaucracy of its own once it reaches the size where it must divide itself into departments with specialized purposes and forms for everyone to fill out.

The noted philosopher Hannah Arendt ( was an expert on totalitarianism, having escaped Germany during the Holocaust. Here in America she became the first female lecturer at Princeton and wrote extensively on the power and psychology of violence.

She predicted there would soon be a great increase of domestic violence and social unrest in modern societies for a particular reason: bureaucracies.

How could that be? Don't they exist to help businesses and governments to function smoothly and efficiently? How could anyone blame everything from road rage to mass shootings on the very organizations that make modern life possible?

Well, let's start off with what the word means: government by bureaus. That's pretty obvious, right? But what does the word "bureau" mean? It turns out that the original French word means "writing desk." Yep, it's government run by people at writing desks. What do they do? They make you fill out forms which they process, file away, or send on to other desk jockeys. They enforce the policies and rules that their bureau creates. If you can't document that your situation qualifies for their aid, you're out of luck.

As Hannah Arendt wrote, "The greater the bureaucratization of public life, the greater will be the attraction of violence. In a fully developed bureaucracy there is nobody left with whom one could argue, to whom one could present grievances, on whom the pressures of power could be exerted. Bureaucracy is the form of government in which everybody is deprived of political freedom, of the power to act; for the rule by Nobody is not no-rule, and where all are equally powerless we have a tyranny without a tyrant."

That lack of accountability on the part of our rulers, for that's what bureaucrats have become, leaves us without reasonable recourse when their decisions deprive us of our freedom, our income, perhaps our homes. And what makes it doubly frustrating is that they are insulated from the results of their actions. As bad as it was for the victims of Nazism, where the guilty were "only following orders" and had to wait for the war to end for any justice, today it's worse in that guilty bureaucrats are almost never held accountable.

Most of the time the guilty are blissfully unaware of how their decisions are inconveniencing, disturbing, or even killing people. Consider the career officers in the Food and Drug Administration... If they approve a drug that harms perhaps a few hundred people (and the press finds out!), their careers will be over... but if they withhold approval no one is likely to note the thousands that will continue to die for lack of that medicine.

Of course, the largest bureaucracy we have to deal with in the US is that which Congress has created and funded with our tax dollars. While a certain amount of bureaucracy is necessary to enforce and uphold the laws Congress creates, the real danger is that Congress has abdicated much of its power to those bureaucracies! One of the most egregious example is "Obamacare" which has at least 200 points at which the Secretary of Health (a bureaucrat with a huge bureaucracy to lead) gets to create the rules and regulations that we must live under.

The only solution is to elect legislators who will rein in the organizations that Congress has created and abdicated their powers to. If the candidates we put into office fails to act, we need to replace those people, and each and every successor, until we get ones who will uphold their oath of office and quit spending their time fundraising and planning their next campaign.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Who Do College Speakers Need Protection From?

During the past few months several prominent authors and columnists have been invited to speak on college campuses... then dis-invited them, citing security concerns. So, why can't the schools provide adequate security? Just who is threatening violence? What is their justification?

From my perspective in the mountains of Utah, it looks like the schools are kowtowing to radicals among their students and faculty. On various occasions the administrators have told area law enforcement to stay away, to let the barbarians break windows and burn things.

What most of us don't know is how many times this has happened at colleges and universities throughout history. It didn't begin with the election of Donald J Trump. It didn't start with the Vietnam War. One of the earliest occurrences in the US happened at Thomas Jefferson's pride and joy, the University of Virginia.

According to an article by Carlos Santos in the Virginia Magazine, in 1825 "Jefferson, a scant seven months after the school had opened, had called the students to the Rotunda to chastise them for their egregious behavior, which he termed 'vicious irregularities,' after the hooliganism had escalated into the school's first riot. The students were hostile. His professors were threatening to quit. Jefferson's enemies, and they were legion, were ready to pounce and shutter the school they considered a godless playground of the rich."

See for more details and accounts both of this event and of riots at Yale and Harvard. Then there was the time a University of Virginia professor was murdered...

So, my points are these:

  • Colleges and universities have a long history of failing to demand and get civilized behavior from their students.
  • This has resulted in students taking over buildings and assaulting people with no consequences. 
  • Many of their faculty members, once radical students themselves, side with the young hooligans "on principle."
  • These attitudes have led to many dysfunctional approaches to problems in academia, including pampered students who face no punishment or notoriety for their criminal behavior.
None of this will end until and unless those who reflexively contribute to their various alma maters decide to quit feeding the beast. Money talks, and the lack of money talks even louder!

Correction Time

Mea Culpa!

I am guilty of sloppiness concerning two senators with the same last name. They were:

Joseph McCarthy 
According to Wikipedia, he was born in 1908 in Grand Chute, Wisconsin. He is the infamous one, whose name has become attached to "reckless, and unsubstantiated accusations, as well as public attacks on the character or patriotism of political opponents." He started his political career as a Democrat, but switched to the Republican Party in 1944. He died young, at age 48, in 1957 of acute hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver, possibly caused by alcohol abuse.

Eugene McCarthy
According to Wikipedia, he was born in 1916 in Watkins, Minnesota. He is the more admired one, having supported many liberal Democratic causes. He was a member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, which was affiliated nationally with the Democratic Party. He lived much longer, dying of complications from Parkinson's disease at the age of 89 on December 10, 2005.

They both served as US Senators from their respective states. Neither was a saint or a devil,  but history has been far kinder to the latter since the press has been far kinder to liberal Democrats for several decades now. For details as to their successes and failings, I suggest you look them up yourself.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Swinging Pendulum of Russophobia

When I was born in the 1950s, our nation was in its second "Red Scare" with such people as Senator Eugene McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) looking for subversives, especially communists in government and elsewhere in our society. This second "Red Scare" had originated with a Democrat, President Harry S Truman, whose Executive Order 9835 of March 21, 1947, required that all federal civil service employees be screened for "loyalty." Of course McCarthy was a Democrat, as were the leading members of the HUAC. 

So was most of Congress during that time. In fact, except for brief lapses in 1947-49 and 1953-55, both houses were controlled by Democrats until 1981. Yet today if you question people about the eras of the Red Scares, they'll tell you it was probably conservative Republicans who were engaged in the "witch hunts" which compelled private citizens (screen writers, actors, etc.) to bear witness against everyone around them.

By the time I became an adult in the 1970s the debate over the Viet Nam War had changed the narrative of things dramatically. By that time it was Democrats who conveniently overlooked the fact that Presidents Kennedy and Johnson had started the mess; Nixon and his party were the "hawks" that were guilty of warmongering and enriching the evil "military-industrial complex" which President Eisenhower had warned us about. 

It was also about that time that people began "remembering" the history of the Civil Rights Act as being a Democratic Party cause, forgetting that it was southern Democrats who had filibustered against it and Republicans who had rallied to pass it.

When President Reagan came into office with his goals of destroying "the Evil Empire" of the Soviet Union, suddenly Republicans were being castigated as warmongers and Democrats were proclaiming that communism wasn't really that bad. Warren Beatty wrote, directed, and starred in "Reds," a movie in which an American journalist journeys to Russia to document the Bolshevik Revolution and returns a revolutionary, seeking to change America.  In 1989, many liberal Democrats seemed sickened by the demise of the Soviet Union.

In short, history was being rewritten before our eyes, and no one really noticed.

Fast forward to today: Russia, in the past few years, has gone from a country to build alliances with (anyone remember the heroics of Boris Yeltsin?) to one to "reset" relations with (Putin was too scary?), to one that's now suspected of hacking into everything and controlling our presidential election (Putin is too scary!). 

Attorney General Sessions has been forced to recuse himself because he had contact with a Russian ambassador during the campaign. General Flynn was forced to withdraw himself from consideration as the National Security Advisor because he talked to the Russian ambassador after Trump's election.

Have Democrats met with that ambassador? YES! 

Until last month only one group has stayed absolutely convinced that Communism is a good thing, that we need to all become Socialists, and that capitalism is the scourge of mankind: college professors! Yet today even they are chiming in that Russia stole the election from Hillary. 😕

Oh well, that pendulum does swing!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Am I Who?

This is not glurge, a syrupy bit of fiction designed to make the reader feel good. It happened, tonight, to me.

Tonight when leaving a restaurant with my wife, I noticed a homeless man sitting just inside the door with all his belongings in a black garbage bag. The temperature outside was 9° and it's supposed to go below zero tonight. The manager approached him and asked if he wanted anything. He said, "I just want a cup of coffee and to get warm." She said "Yes, it is a cold night."

On an impulse I then did something I have never done before. I pulled a $10 bill from my wallet and gave it to the manager and said, "See to it that he gets a full meal."

As I turned to leave, the man asked me, "Are you Jesus Christ?"

All I could say was "I try to follow him."

If anyone ever reads this, I'd like to know how you would answer that question.