Cancer Moonshot or Drunken Birds?

President Obama has said he would like to see a “moonshot” effort to cure cancer.  Remember that he’s also said “put America first” and “if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor”.

So, if we need serious medical research on cancer, why is the government squandering our tax dollars on research grants that have no apparent value to relieving human suffering or protecting the environment?  The NIH gave 5 million dollars to study if birds slurred their songs when drunk; the NSF awarded 3.9 million to study sexy goldfish; and, the worst, the NIH gave 3.5 million dollars to China to study why people see the face of Jesus in toast!  Why are we giving millions of dollars to Communist China?  If we’re going to squander money at least keep it in our economy.  As I’ve said before, China is NOT our friend.

While on the subject of cancer, lung cancer is the number 1 cancer killer, yet lung cancer research is vastly under funded compared with other common cancers.  There are no high profile fund raising events, free screenings, or commercials advocating for lung cancer victims.  While survival rates for breast, colon, and skin cancers have improved significantly in the past 40 years the survival rate for lung cancer has barely moved.  There’s an unholy reason for that.  Lung cancer is associated with smoking (although its also caused by radon gas and pollution), so years ago the nation decided that smokers were morally weak and therefore “deserved” what they got.  That attitude is similar to the one which we saw during the early years of the AIDS epidemic when gays were considered morally weak and deserved what they got.  Political activism changed that situation but there’s no activism for lung cancer victims.  Now that addiction is considered a medical problem rather than a moral weakness there’s no excuse to keep lung cancer research at a low priority.  Many consider nicotine to be more addictive than heroin.  The fact that we squander millions of dollars on goofy grants shows just how dysfunctional our government has become.  Agencies that can’t assign sensible priorities to research are assuming that tax dollars are unlimited.  They need a lesson, starting with a few firings.

Hats off to medical research though.  They may not be able to help lung cancer victims but they can grow longer eyelashes (wink, wink).

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No Accountability, No Consequences, No Problem.

Here’s a mission statement for all public employees:

The mission of public employees is to serve the people professionally and ethically at all times.

That’s right. Public employees work for the government, but since the government represents We the People , they work for us, and we have a right to expect integrity. It’s time to revisit the subject of responsibility with respect to recent events. There’s a lot going wrong and no one is being held accountable. All government employees receive procedural training, security training, and some form of ethics training. Technical employees are supposed to know their profession. Those who break the rules are subject to disciplinary actions ranging from pay cuts or days off up to removal and filing of criminal charges, yet this isn’t happening. Let’s look at a few cases where the objective seems to be protecting a corrupt administration rather than serving the public.
Let’s start with the problems at the VA. The President acknowledged there were problems at the VA in 2008, but didn’t take ownership of the issue until public outrage forced him to. The long delays in providing treatment to our veterans are medically and morally unacceptable. Whistleblower retaliation is legally unacceptable. Equally unacceptable are cover-up efforts, including falsified records and destruction of records. Any employee, regardless of level, who falsifies official records is subject to disciplinary action, yet there has been none. The issue of overpaid administrators and excessive non-medical purchases must be addressed too so that the money can be used to hire medical providers.
Now turn to the IRS and its “lost” emails. Anyone who buys the hard drive crash story is computer illiterate. When a email is sent it goes to an agency server where addresses can read it at any time. Servers have three levels of protection against data loss: fault tolerance, backup power, and periodic backup copies. While a copy of the email may reside on the sender’s computer it is hardly the sole backup. Suspicion is also raised by an email that said to be careful what was sent in email because Congress might want to see them. As liberals love to say when defending surveillance of honest citizens “why should you care if you’re not doing anything wrong?”. The supervisor in charge could have been fired (at least) but instead was allowed to take retirement with an unblemished record.
The State Department had serious problems under Hillary Clinton. Where are the missing 6 billion dollars? Was it poor accounting practices or is the money really missing? What about the lies surrounding the Benghazi attack? No one believed the movie protest story from the start, so why did our officials keep repeating it and threaten to jail a film maker in violation of the First Amendment? Who authorized the lie? What about using personal email accounts to avoid Federal record keeping and security requirements? The average Federal employee would at least lose their job and probably face charges. Again no one has been held accountable.
The Department of Justice isn’t immune to criticism either. The “Fast and Furious” operation allowed 2000 “assault weapons” to be transferred to Mexican drug cartels. One was used to kill a US border agent. How many Mexicans have died is unknown. Who’s accountable? No one. Incidentally those are the same guns Democrats say honest citizens shouldn’t be allowed to own.
Now look at the last “crisis” on our southern border involving “unaccompanied minors”. Why the secrecy? Why were doctors told not to discuss possible public health threats? Why was a US Congressman denied entry into a US base housing “undocumented immigrants”? Why aren’t “immigrants” with violent gang tattoos being turned away? Again, where’s the accountability at Immigration and the CDC for failing to protect our nation and it’s citizens?
Finally let’s look at the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA wants to control “ephemeral” water, i.e., every puddle in the country. Those same scientists and engineers managed to poison an entire river system with three million gallons of toxic mine waste. Has anyone been fired?
Ethical and procedural lapses are pervasive, and ethical behavior cannot be restored at this point without a purge. Managers who directed or were aware of illegal activities must be fired. Any employee who falsified or destroyed records must be disciplined. Incompetent employees must be dismissed. Any contractor that participated in records “loss” must lose the contract and be barred from Federal contracts for 10 years. Employees must then be retrained, making it clear that illegal or unethical actions will not be tolerated. Without an example of real consequences they won’t believe it.

The Sun Also Sets.

Once started, government programs take on a life of their own.  They set up their offices, hire or transfer employees, and go about their mission.  Sometimes they get reviewed.  If they’re succeeding in their mission they get more money to expand.  If they don’t appear to be accomplishing their purpose they get more money to try harder.  If they become politically popular they get even more money regardless of their success rate.  A prime example is Head Start, a politically popular program that has had no demonstrable positive effect on a child’s success later in school.  It’s popular because it gives the appearance that the government is doing something, and it provides free babysitting for welfare moms.

Every program should have mandatory reviews and a sunset clause If they’re not performing up to expectations.  Review each program at two to five years, depending upon the program’s time frame for expected results.  If it isn’t performing give it only one budget increase to try to save it.  Review each program again at another two to five years.  If there’s no measurable accomplishment, the sun sets, the office closes up, and no more tax dollars are wasted.

If a program has a specific purpose, such as to boost the economy during a recession, it should automatically be canceled when the condition that motivated it ends.  Political popularity is not a good reason to spend tax dollars.

War on Whom?

Critics who decry “police militarization” over AR-15’s are missing the point.  The real issue isn’t the gear, it’s the military attitude.  When “to serve and protect” becomes “this is war” we have a problem.  Police need gear like body armor and night vision goggles.  They need modern semiautomatic rifles because the bad guys have them.  Armored vehicles can shield officers and civilians and even block dangerous criminals from escaping, and  their use is valid as long as the vehicles aren’t used solely for intimidating the public.  Police don’t need machine guns, hand grenades, or missiles because they’re not law enforcement tools, they’re weapons of war used to rapidly and indiscriminately kill large numbers of people.  Even their “flash-bang” grenades, which are incendiary devices, require caution.  They may be appropriate for ending a hostage crisis but they shouldn’t be the first resort in a nonviolent case.  SWAT teams were created to deal with violent situations but they’re increasingly being used for routine police operations that may actually increase the risk to the public.  As many as 80,000 SWAT deployments are estimated every year.  Does it make sense to send a SWAT team over a traffic violation?  Sadly these SWAT teams are sometimes sent to incorrect addresses with tragic consequences.  How much “collateral damage” is acceptable in this “war”?

Much of this war mentality comes from the “war on drugs”, a subject intentionally previously discussed.  No incident demonstrates the war mentality more than when police threw a flash-bang into a home from which there was no obvious threat.  They were after a low-level drug dealer (not a serial killer) and they relied on the word of a “snitch” instead of conducting the basic surveillance that would have told them that the dealer wasn’t there but a child was.  But no, they threw the grenade first, severely burning a child who must now suffer ongoing surgeries and disfiguration while the family suffers a 7-figure medical bill.  That wasn’t executing an arrest warrant, it was using a battlefield tactic where everyone in the house was “the enemy”.  The state must approve of battlefield tactics as it denies any responsibility for the child’s injuries.  Don’t blame the flash-bang, blame the war attitude that ordered it to be thrown, and don’t blame the child if he never trusts the police.

We’ve also seen unarmed drivers shot during routine traffic stops.  It’s a tense moment for the officer when the driver reaches in the glove box for the registration, so why not stop asking for the paper registration?  It’s obsolete!  When the officer “runs the plates” the computer shows (or should) the make and model of vehicle, registered owner, registration date, and whether the vehicle has warrants outstanding or has been reported stolen.  If the computer check is clean it’s probably just a traffic stop and if it isn’t the officer knows to be careful.  The tense moment is eliminated.

Let’s turn to Federal government militarization.  Unless the USDA is expecting an uprising of zombie chickens it needs to explain why it’s buying submachine guns.  Again, fully automatic weapons aren’t for routine law enforcement.  For that matter, why are so many government agencies suddenly  being armed and given law enforcement power?  The FDA and NASA have armed teams.  Even the “gun-free zone” Department of Education has armed agents.  The Federal government has law enforcement agencies including the FBI and US Marshals who, along with local police, could support these other agencies when needed.   What’s the purpose of this “civilian army”?  Since civilians can’t be deployed to fight overseas, who is this army going to fight, and why?

Why are so many unarmed suspects being shot multiple times? Don’t all lives matter?

The long term future of the USA depends on security.

There are three levels of security that determine the future of a nation, physical security, economic security, and emotional security.  Without physical security the others aren’t possible, so I’ll begin there.

Physical security starts with secure borders.  It’s easier to keep the bad guys out than to recover from the damage they can do.  Any immigration reform must include improved border security.

It includes a strong military so that any hostile actions can be overwhelmingly crushed.  It doesn’t mean using the military to be “world police” or to try to impose our political system on countries where it simply wouldn’t work.

It includes law enforcement at Federal, state, and local levels to fight crime and maintain order.  They must communicate with each other.  It doesn’t mean having a “secret police” that can be used to suppress honest citizens.

It includes emergency response agencies that can quickly deliver aid in the event of natural or man-made disasters.  Health responders must have a supply of drugs critical to epidemic control.

It requires a strong, modern, and secure infrastructure that supports reliable  communication and the movement of resources within the country.

It includes a strong manufacturing base and a strategic materials stockpile.  Any total loss of a capability, such as the recent closure of the last lead smelter by the EPA, could become a weakness during a global conflict.  Don’t count on other countries to look out for us.

It requires cities to be prepared for the types of problems they might experience in their area such as flooding along a river and to take actions to mitigate risk before a disaster occurs.

Even a prepared population contributes to physical security.  That doesn’t mean everyone should be a “prepper” but everyone should have the basic emergency preparations we hear about all the time as well as any specific to their region.

“Unless you can point your finger at the man who is responsible when something goes wrong, then you have never had anyone really responsible.”

That quote by the late Admiral H. G. Rickover, the “Father of the Nuclear Navy”, points to Department heads and upper management.  There seems to be an epidemic of “Not me!”, “They did it”, “I didn’t know” and so on in Washington these days.  Where does the buck stop?

Department heads and managers must be knowledgeable of and responsible for the actions of their departments.  If someone buys a thousand bucks worth of unneeded office supplies it’s low level stuff, but if someone mismanages millions of taxpayer dollars, violates the legal rights of people or organizations, or gets people killed then that someone and possibly his or her immediate boss should lose their jobs.  Why was no one fired when the State Dept. failed to protect the embassy in Benghazi, or the Justice Dept.’s “Fast and Furious” operation sold weapons to drug cartels, or the IRS targeted conservative political groups?

To paraphrase John Donne, “ask not at whom the finger points, it points at you”.

2016 Update:  Why were no EPA officials or EPA contractors fired after polluting the Animas River with millions of gallons of toxic mine waste?  Heavy metals that settle out on the bottom will be there for a long time.