Mission creep(y): bureaucrats’ delight.

Mission creep. No, that’s not the new Tom Cruise Mission Impossible 16 sequel. Webster Online defines it as the gradual broadening of the original objectives of a mission or organization. While that definition almost sounds benign, I like the Wikipedia clarification after their definition: Mission creep is usually considered undesirable due to how each success breeds more ambitious interventions until a final failure happens, stopping the intervention entirely. Mission creep is catnip to the power hungry bureaucratic mind. Every bureaucracy expands its reach. There are too many examples to list, but the worst kinds are those whose core mission is crucially important, and who fail it, and we are seeing that the CDC is the poster boy.

Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, just wrote, in Imprimis: “The CDC was created in 1942 as the Office of National Defense Malaria Control Activities, and in 1946 was renamed the Communicable Disease Center. For many decades it focused its full efforts on its original mission: viruses and communicable diseases. But by the 2000s, the CDC, like most executive agencies, had become largely independent of political control and lost its focus. It had widened its work to include chronic diseases and addictions, nutrition, school health, injuries, and—a telltale sign of ideological corruption and mission creep—racial and ethnic approaches to community health. It is a logical fact that if you favor some people you must disfavor others.

“In 2007, the late Senator Tom Coburn issued a well-documented report entitled, ‘CDC Off Center—A review of how an agency tasked with fighting and preventing disease has spent hundreds of millions of tax dollars for failed prevention efforts, international junkets, and lavish facilities, but cannot demonstrate it is controlling disease.’ In the years since, there have been reports documenting multi-million dollar CDC studies on topics like the prevention of gun violence, how parents should discipline children, and chronic health conditions among lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations.

“In 2017 alone, the CDC spent over $1.1 billion on chronic disease prevention and health promotion, $215 million on environmental health, and $285 million on injury prevention—all purposes that are addressed by other federal agencies. That money could have been used to prepare for communicable diseases, including replenishment of our stockpile of masks and ventilators. In other words, it could have been used to do the work the CDC was created to do.”

Yesterday I saw a great example of willful blindness. I was in Walgreens picking up a prescription, and the three customers ahead of me were dutifully wearing masks……. and paying in cash! They hand their money, which is already filthy, to the cashier, she takes it, gives them change, and with the same hands takes the next person’s cash and repeats. If any of those idiots were carriers of the virus, they might have infected the cashier, and lots of customers behind them. I got up to the register, used my credit card that I now use for every purchase and wipe down with hand sanitizer. I loudly proclaimed, for the customers behind me, how stupid and inconsiderate it is for anyone to be using cash these days!

That goes double for the “experts” who demand everyone wear a face mask, but who say nothing about the hand to hand transfers of potential pathogens from handling cash. You might say, “the Coronavirus is only transmitted by breathing it in.” Okay, then why is hand washing so important? My biggest peeve and disappointment is the prevalence of the bureaucratic mentality among so many federal and state officials, narrow-focused experts and the lamestream media. Their internal prime directives are “cover your ass”, “blame someone for their mistakes” and “control others”. So many pundits are complaining about the weaknesses in our country that have been revealed by this crisis, but they don’t mention the bureaucratic mentality. That’s the foundation that produces most of the other ills!

More reflections on my impending death.

So I still have options for treatment, including immunotherapy and lifestyle changes, like diet and what not. When I informed my apartment manager of my condition, she offered to hook me up with a friend who specializes in cancer treatment utilizing techniques of the latter. What the heck, roll the dice, right? Death is starting to exert a gravitational pull on me, but I owe it to my daughters, 30, 26 and 24 this year, to try to prolong my life. They still need me. If they were married and had families of their own, it might be different.

They have said they understand if I choose to forgo further treatment if I am too debilitated, a condition which I am close to, but for them I will exhaust every option. On May 15 we are getting together to discuss our feelings about my dying, and for me to explain all the arrangements (financial, funeral, clearing out my apartment) that will need to be made. I have organized everything along the pattern of The Five Wishes, which is a legal substitute for a living will/healthcare directive, P.O.L.S.T. (physicians orders for life sustaining treatment, essentially a Do Not Resuscitate order) and durable power of attorney for healthcare, all of which I have on file with my healthcare providers.

If you are reading this, and don’t have these affairs in order, and haven’t discussed these issues with your survivors, what the heck are you waiting for? You could get run over by a truck today, or contract Covid-19 any time, while waiting for your round too-it (I’ll get around to it). Okay, so maybe you don’t have the kinds of relationship with your kids that would allow this kind of discussion, then it’s even more urgent. Rekindle that kind of relationship.

Recently a visiting nurse was in my apartment, to do some wound care. She saw my POLST and healthcare directive on my fridge (for paramedics, just in case), and remarked, “I’ve been in many homes over the years, and no one has those documents prepared.” I asked, “why not, what do they say?” Consider her reply: “They think nothing bad will happen.” let’s see, they mostly need a visiting nurse because they are home bound, not able to get out for treatment, but they think nothing bad will happen??? Woe to their survivors.

“Death Walks Behind You” (well me anyway)

My title was an actual song by Atomic Rooster, a 1970’s British progressive rock group (whose drummer, Carl Palmer, helped form Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and who is still drumming up a storm). But it’s also a literal statement of my relationship with death. This is part two of my battles with Merkel Cell Carcinoma, which I wrote about a few days ago. I wrote at the time, that I would update once I knew more about my treatment options. At the time, I had prepared mentally for death, and you can read about why death holds no fear for me…..I have relegated the grim reaper to the rear.

Briefly, allow me to explain the previous sentence. I have gotten immense pleasure from the music of The Peterson family band in these days, yet the music in heaven will put even their music to shame. I see Instagram pictures of gorgeous places which I cannot any longer travel to, but the sights of heaven will render all those scenes as if they are barren wastes. I see videos of fantastic athletes performing feats that I can never aspire to, but heaven will clothe me in an immortal body that never tires or knows pain. Most of all, I will see my savior and the greatest object of my affection (even more than my three daughters) face to face.

Curmudgeons out in public.

Curmudgeon: a crusty, ill-tempered, and usually old man. Crusty: giving an effect of surly incivility in address or disposition. I call myself The Curmudgeon, like a title, and I often write like one, but in public, with other people, I am unusually tactful, affable and easygoing. That doesn’t mean that I enjoy crowds, parties, or groups. I don’t. “Small talk”, the glue of networking, is alien to me, usually banal, bland, boring and a waste of the kinetic energy of moving vocal cords.

Speaking of vocal cords, I am the polar opposite of President Trump in verbal pronouncements. I filter everything I say, weighing possible consequences with possible benefits, and often decide not to speak when I don’t like the equation. He seems not to filter anything. A big advantage of my habit is that I don’t have to pretend that I remember exactly what I said, or didn’t say, years ago. I was in love with a woman in 1973, but we were just friends because she was dating her future husband, but I don’t have to wonder if I was inappropriate with her. I wasn’t, and this isn’t bragging, it’s a decision I made a long time ago. There are simply some things that never pass from my mind through my mouth; mostly unsolicited advice and gratuitous criticism. Just because you think it, do you need to say it? Trump ain’t alone in saying yes, it’s a disease of post modern America.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my proverbial chest, I want to comment on the photo above. Is this a prejudice, or am I right? Someone who dresses and is “groomed” like that, even without the noodle crown, is probably a true curmudgeon. His expression and general presentation says to me, “keep away“. I imagine the crown is meant to illustrate social distancing in a metaphorical way, but it falls short, literally. Three feet isn’t six feet (the guideline). I would hope he’s trying, consciously, to provide comic relief, but the grooming and facial expression does not exactly project, “laugh at me”. Go ahead, try, it.

Is America’s future as a promised land, not a crusader state?

The “crusade” I am referring to is “bringing democracy or freedom to other countries”, or “relieving the suffering of a vulnerable populace “. Both are worthy goals…..if the pursuit of the goal doesn’t create a worse situation, or even more suffering, or the further squandering of our resources and reputation. But how do you know going in what conditions you will create going out? A commemorative stamp sums up the goal. My post-Covid-19 question is: “Can we afford this crusade anymore, and can we even accomplish it in our economically weakened state?”

In the 19th century, Henry Clay stated a more worthy goal: “Far better is it for ourselves … and for the cause of liberty … that we should keep our lamp burning brightly on this western shore, as a light to all nations, than to hazard its utter extinction amid the ruins of falling or fallen republics in Europe.” Clay was referring to a dispute between the In the 19th century, when the Hungarians had risen up against the Hapsburg Empire and sought U.S. intervention

In my lifetime, we have seen bloody, spectacular failures of this crusade: Middle East (Iraq, Afghanistan), Africa (Somalia), the Far east (Vietnam), our own hemisphere (Cuba, Nicaragua), and many that are less publicized. And questionable interventions into centuries old blood feuds (Serbia, Bosnia). Were these about “empire-building”, “raping other cultures”, “forcing the world to become an American strip-mall”, “oil”, “flexing our might” or other popular brain-dead leftist slogans? Or were they sympathy-driven, protective “Big Brother” actions, or “Domino-theory” driven mini-wars? I believe they were more the latter, and they remind me of the furniture disease”. What? Our heart was in the right place (mostly). It was in our chest, but as in the furniture disease, our chest had fallen into our drawers.

Campaigns like those require money, but after the pandemic fades, our national debt will have ballooned to the point where, in combination with the weakened economy, perhaps will be unpayable. Goodbye foreign interventions? One can hope.

When the eyes close on earth for good, they open in heaven.

“That through death he might destroy him that had the power of death.”
Hebrews 2:14.

Death loses!

Today I found out that the cancer I thought was vanquished, had instead infiltrated other parts of my body, including my liver. My oncologist presented my options for treatment, mainly chemotherapy and immunotherapy. If these options turn out to be: 1- great expense and discomfort from attempts to treat the cancer, with low probability of a cure; 2- a gradual death from the cancer, with palliative measures towards the end when the pain has become too great to bear; 3- by mental exercises and exertions, and trusting God for my ultimate disposition, perhaps curing the cancer by non-medical means. I was looking for a sign from God, what I should choose. This very morning, my daily reading of Charles Spurgeon meditations, fell on the following, which I accept as an expression of my faith. Therefore I choose #3, pending my discussion with the therapy experts on April 23.


O child of God, death hath lost its sting, because the devil’s power over it is destroyed. Then cease to fear dying. Ask grace from God the Holy Ghost, that by an intimate knowledge and a firm belief of thy Redeemer’s death, thou mayst be strengthened for that dread hour. Living near the cross of Calvary thou mayst think of death with pleasure, and welcome it when it comes with intense delight. It is sweet to die in the Lord: it is a covenant-blessing to sleep in Jesus. Death is no longer banishment, it is a return from exile, a going home to the many mansions where the loved ones already dwell. The distance between glorified spirits in heaven and militant saints on earth seems great; but it is not so. We are not far from home—a moment will bring us there. The sail is spread; the soul is launched upon the deep. How long will be its voyage? How many wearying winds must beat upon the sail ere it shall be reefed in the port of peace? How long shall that soul be tossed upon the waves before it comes to that sea which knows no storm? Listen to the answer, “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.” Yon ship has just departed, but it is already at its haven. It did but spread its sail and it was there. Like that ship of old, upon the Lake of Galilee, a storm had tossed it, but Jesus said, “Peace, be still,” and immediately it came to land. Think not that a long period intervenes between the instant of death and the eternity of glory. When the eyes close on earth they open in heaven. The horses of fire are not an instant on the road. Then, O child of God, what is there for thee to fear in death, seeing that through the death of thy Lord its curse and sting are destroyed? and now it is but a Jacob’s ladder whose foot is in the dark grave, but its top reaches to glory everlasting.

My daughters want me to get cured, but they understand that I am already so weakened by myasthenia gravis, a stroke and previous cancer treatments, that I may choose to end the therapy or not get started. Dear readers, you won’t have many opportunities to read the thoughts of one preparing for death. Sharing my perspective as a Christian is perhaps my final, and most worthy, mission on this earth. I will update in a few days.

It’s past time to start opening our country.

Professor Yitzhak Ben Israel of Tel Aviv University, who also serves on the research and development advisory board for Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, plotted the rates of new coronavirus infections of the U.S., U.K., Sweden, Italy, Israel, Switzerland, France, Germany, and Spain. The numbers told a shocking story: irrespective of whether the country quarantined like Israel, or went about business as usual like Sweden, coronavirus peaked and subsided in the exact same way. In the exact, same, way. His graphs show that all countries experienced seemingly identical coronavirus infection patterns, with the number of infected peaking in the sixth week and rapidly subsiding by the eighth week.

“The Wuhan Virus follows its own pattern”, he told Mako, an Israeli news agency. “It is a fixed pattern that is not dependent on freedom or quarantine. There is a decline in the number of infections even [in countries] without closures, and it is similar to the countries with closures,” he wrote in his paper. But what about Italy and their staggering 12% mortality rate? “The health system in Italy has its own problems. It has nothing to do with coronavirus. In 2017 it also collapsed because of the flu,” Professor Yitzhak Ben Israel told the news agency. Indeed, Italy’s exceptionally high coronavirus mortality rate is eerily reminiscent of their unusually high flu mortality rates. Supportive of this theory, Germany, has low flu infection and mortality rates and similarly low coronavirus rates.

It’s been one month since our country declared a national coronavirus emergency and life as we knew it had ceased. Americans have been growing agitated, unwilling to continue in this way, knowing something is wrong. Trump has sensed that his constituency is displeased with the authoritarian power grab by our Governors and has repeatedly stated that he wishes to reopen the country, but that he needs more information to make the right decision. Professor Yitzhak Ben Israel’s data analysis provides Trump with the assurance that he needs to reopen America. 

Several states have banded together to oppose President Trump’s framework for getting America back to work, while other states have shown a willingness to protect individual liberty and the livelihoods of Americans. No two states demonstrate this stark contrast better than Texas and Washington. On the same day, Gov. Inslee (D-Wash.) and Gov. Abbott (R-Texas) issued statements that display the fundamental question facing America. Shall the United States remain a nation founded on liberty, or shall we capriciously remove those rights as an exercise to increase the power of the state?

Abbott’s office issued this statement: Governor Greg Abbott today held a press conference where he issued three new Executive Orders to begin the process of reopening the state of Texas while revising hospital capacity and certain social distancing guidelines. Within the orders, select activities and services that pose minimal to no threat of spreading COVID-19 are allowed to reopen using a “Retail-To-Go” model, certain restrictions on surgeries have been loosened, and schools will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year.

Within these orders, the Governor has established the Strike Force to Open Texas—a team of nationally recognized medical experts and private and public leaders who will advise the Governor on safely and strategically reopening the state of Texas. “Texans are battling a colossal challenge—an invisible enemy that has tested our lives and our livelihoods—but overcoming challenges is part of who we are as Texans,” said Governor Abbott. “We have shown that Texas can continue our efforts to contain COVID-19 while also adopting safe standards that will allow us to begin the process of reopening Texas. The Strike Force to Open Texas brings together nationally recognized medical experts with public and private sector leaders to achieve this mission. By coming together, we can get Texans back to work, practice safe standards that will prevent the spread of COVID-19, and we can overcome this pandemic.

It appears Inslee doesn’t share Abbott’s belief in self-governance and would prefer that Washington remain shut down. Might he prefer more draconian measures to keep Washingtonians from their basic activities, even when those measures don’t make sense in fighting a pandemic? Inslee followed the example of New Jersey’s Democrat governor by banning private construction while declaring construction on government projects essential. He has also ordered a ban on fishing and hunting, closed parks to camping and hiking, and ordered boat launches closed, among many other restrictions that will have little effect on slowing the virus. He seems to think individuals can’t be trusted to practice social distancing while wandering in the wilderness. Inslee stated earlier this week, along with the governors of Oregon and California, that he is still months away from allowing citizens to resume their normal lives. Not weeks, months. One of the biggest conditions he placed on allowing folks to go back to work is widespread testing capability to be able to track sick people. He knows that testing is a long ways off, so that gives him all the moral authority he needs to continue to order people home. Meanwhile, more and more liberties are stripped away every day in Washington.

Is this the battle for freedom that Ronald Reagan warned us about when he said: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.