Tell-Tale Signs Of An Incompetent Government: Rationalization # 32, Star Trek and Chairman Who?

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One of the common rationalizations that leads to both unethical conduct and an unethical organizational culture is “The Management Shrug,” often verbalized as “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”  (It is #32 on the Ethics Alarms ever-lengthening Rationalizations List; it really should have been in the top ten.) This is a favorite excuse of self-anointed big thinkers of the arrogant and incompetent breed, and is an attitude at the core of a much more sinister ethical fallacy, “the ends justify the means.” The Obama administration has been habitually guilty of the Management Shrug, as has a national news media that largely refuses to hold it accountable, and the U.S. public, which pretty obviously doesn’t notice or doesn’t care.

Here’s a ridiculous example: some idiot paid  with your tax dollars thought it was appropriate to place a quote from Chairman Mao on the Kids’ Zone page at the National Center on Education Statistics website.

Now, in case you are tempted to use this instance to remind me that the wisdom of a statement is independent of the individual uttering it, I would like to say “Use your brain, please.” That principle may be true in the abstract, but cognitive dissonance is hard at work here.  We are talking about educating children, presumably,  and teaching them viable, legitimate values. The government (a presumed good and well-meaning entity) is promoting, to children, a quotation that, also presumably, is worthy of implanting in young, impressionable minds. If the supposed author of this presumably wise sentiment is attached to it, this is, also presumably, for the sake of increasing the authority behind the statement and the credibility of it. Conversely, if the child absorbing the supposedly wise and benevolent statement discerns its value, his or her regard for the figure who contrived the statement naturally will be elevated in that child’s estimation.

Mao Zedong, or as he was called in my youth, Mao Tse Tung, may be the worst mass murderer in world history. He was not a good guy or role model. He was not someone we want our children to quote or admire or look up to. Why is he being quoted with approval 1) in a section of a U.S. government and 2) one targeting children? Or perhaps it is more accurate to put it this way: Why the hell is he being quoted with approval 1) in a section of a U.S. government and 2) one targeting children?

Let’s consider the possibilities:

  • The low level employee who pulled the quote had a U.S. public school education and thus hasn’t a clue who Mao is.
  • The editor of the webpage doesn’t know who Mao is either, or isn’t doing his or her job.
  • The employee who pulled the quote does know who Mao is, and admires his work, as does the editor.
  • Both were hired by someone who also admires Mao’s work, who slipped into an Obama administration insufficiently wary of mass murderer fans and latent Communists.
  • The Obama administration really IS a hive of sinister Saul Alinsky radicals bent on converting the public to glassy-eyed leftist radicals, or
  • This is the tiny tip of an iceberg of incompetence that was predictable and inevitable once a bureaucracy becomes as much-tentacled and bloated as ours is.

I don’t think any of those alternatives are trivial (I vote for the last one), but as usual, all but the so-called “conservative media” have ignored the story completely, and the average American voter, I’m sure, if he was informed, would respond by saying, 1) “Who cares?” or 2) “Mao who?” There is something wrong when a government publication approvingly quotes Mao—to kids— and something wrong when nobody much cares.

Meanwhile, the quote was also botched so it didn’t even make any sense, as you can see above. Mao surely said that we should be be insatiable in learning and tireless in teaching, not satiable in learning. Eh, satiable, insatiable… mass murderer, wise leader…Chinese, Japanese, what’s the difference? More money for government programs please!

In a different vein, but symptomatic of the same management competence and philosophy, is the news that the IRS spent about $60,000 on a high-production value parody video for a 2010 staff training meeting. It portrays the IRS’s agents as the heroes from Star Trek, and…well, let’s just say that it wasn’t a wise expenditure of $60,000. I’ll go further: there is something seriously wrong with any government agency that thinks $60, 000 is such a trivial amount that it can be spent in such frivolous and irresponsible fashion. But hey, it’s only a lousy $60,000! Come on! It doesn’t matter—literally doesn’t matter! The budget is a trillion dollars in arrears. The President is gearing up to hire Adele and Rhianna to sing at Michelle’s birthday party!  The Vice President and his entourage apparently ran up a $585,000 hotel bill on a recent junket to London! Why would anyone in this government be expected not to shrug off a pitiful $60,000? It’s leadership shrugs off a lot more than that.

One could almost say that “Don’t sweat the small stuff” is this government’s motto.

I wonder if Chairman Mao has a quote about that?


Sources: CBS, Slate

23 thoughts on “Tell-Tale Signs Of An Incompetent Government: Rationalization # 32, Star Trek and Chairman Who?

    • That’s what they always do when they get caught. There’s no way that anyone with any sort of education (and one must presume that the purveyor of that quote had such) could be unaware that Mao murdered more of his own people than the current population of the British Isles. A few broken eggs, I guess! Children remain the target and, while the current regime holds the reins of the enormous federal publicity machine, they’re going to make the most of it. If the Soviet Union was still a going concern, does anyone think that Tass’s webpage would be any different from that of NCES? Here’s another federal agency that should be marked for deletion.

  1. The best non-awful explanation I can think of is that the person who pulled the quote is either young enough not to know who Mao was or old enough to spell it Mao Tse Tung and not recognize the modern pinyin spelling. Then it’s just Google “tireless teaching quotes” followed by a little carelessness…

    Another thought is that it’s trolling. “I wonder if anyone will catch this one…”

  2. A couple of thoughts.

    NCES (which is the National Center for Education STATISTICS, by the way, so why do they even have a website for kids? ) should really have used a “favorite” Stalin quote (most people DO remember him, I would hope). Re education, Stalin said, “Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.” This fits better with the current public education system in our country, and, I think, with the attitude of the Obama administration. (Parenthetically, on a dual topic, Stalin also said, “We don’t let them have ideas. Why would we let them have guns?” !!!!!)

    Second, the $60,000 IRS retreat is nothing. White House tours and the East Egg Roll on the lawn of the White House in danger of being lost because of the Congress-caused “sequester?” Pure bull. It’s okay to spend Executive Branch money hand over fist, just so long as (1) most people don’t know about it; and (2) for Obama’s purposes, the “awful” effects of the sequester are carefully chosen to get the most publicity. If we can’t have White House tours or Easter Egg Rolls — they are SO expensive! — then (1) Why do we pay for Secret Service agents to walk their dog, when they have two kids and can do it themselves (the dog is just a prop anyway; (2) Why doesn’t Obama begin to limit his vacation and “campaign/popularity” trips? The fuel alone for Air Force One is almost $300,000 PER HOUR of flight time, and the cost is increased by paying staff, agents, etc.; (3) What, exactly did our moronic vice president accomplish for almost $600,000 in London, except perhaps to embarrass himself?; (4) Why, from a previous post, did the brilliant staffer at the Department of Agriculture figure out a way to limit the temporary lay-offs, only to be told by an Administration hack NOT to do it? Who is doing the belt-tightening, who is it affecting, and isn’t it obvious that the choices made for creating negative “effects” of the sequester have been carefully, willfully, and deceitfully chosen? Sickening.

    • Jack, the kids can’t walk the dog, they are too busy going to the Bahamas (this year) or Mexico (2012) for Spring Break. I’m glad you brought up the vacations. Personally, I have no problem with the President taking a “vacation” from time to time. Any person with a semblance of an intellect or who isn’t deluded completely by ideology should recognize, the President is never off duty and is ALWAYS working, even when not in Washington or on official duties. (I used to get so irritated at the Bush-bashers who made it seem like he was loafing around whenever he went to Crawford,TX) However, in a time when the state of the economy is of such a concern and citizens (as well as governmental agencies) are having to make do with less, our President needs to demonstrate some tact in planning his “time off”. He doesn’t need to be going to Hawaii by himself while his wife and children go elsewhere. Hell, the President has a fully funded private resort JUST FOR HIM… its called CAMP DAVID. Obviously, it is expensive for the President to travel due to the necessary and proper security that he needs, but as a steward of our resources, he needs to think more about what message he is sending to our country.

  3. If “satiable” is the word that Mao actually used, then he must have a limited view on how eager we ought to seek knowledge.

    If “insatiable” is the word that Mao actually used, then the website fouled that up along with quoting a wretched communist.

        • I don’t know if they think he was an idiot.

          Common sense gate #1 was breached quoting a damned communist.

          Common sense gate #2 was breached not researching the quote adequately

          Common sense gate #3 was breached by letting a patently dumb quote fly by (if the translation is accurate)

          Any number of agendas or stupidity could have pushe the quote past those gates.

          Your list was pretty thorough.

          • I have no problem with quoting a communist. Marx and Lenin were quotable; so was Nikita. I have problems with quoting an epic mass murderer to kids with the implication that his perspective on life is valid or respectable, when he had no regard for it.

              • Sure he did, and I wouldn’t want to see Lenin quotes about life, puppies, love and the cosmos, either, especially to kids. He’s a political philosopher, and like Mao, in the right context his thoughts and words shouldn’t be censored.

                I’m willing to cut revolutionaries a break on the mass murder scale if they can keep the number in the low 5 figures—it’s quasi-warfare. Just a rule of thumb. Break into the millions, though, and there’s no excuses…

      • The translation on of “The Role of the Chinese Communist Party in the National War” gives “to be insatiable in learning”.

        I couldn’t find anything from Mao about not sweating the small stuff. He did say “What really counts in the world is conscientiousness…”, which is sort of the opposite.

  4. I vote for both 3 and 4. Mao was widely revered at my undergraduate institution. The Maoist Internationalist Movement was an official student organization (we also had a student chapter of the PLO called the Palistine Solidarity Committee) and MIM Notes were widely distributed on campus. Many of my classmates were much more familiar with the Communist Manifesto than the US Constitution. My alma mater has more living alumni than any other US University and many of those people are in the government.

  5. The NCES has kept up its tradition of excellence. At the moment, it has a student poll question on its website:

    “Have you ever succeeded when you thought you might fail?

    Not Sure”

    That is just too good to be true!


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