Ode to Col Cathcart

I maintain that Catch-22 a novel written by Joseph Heller about a WWII American Bomber group is the greatest management text ever written. The lessons imparted from back then hold true today.

There was a movie in the 70’s and lately a mini series. Neither does the book justice. For those unfamiliar with the book, movie, mini series, or the common usage of the term Catch-22 here is the definition from the Cambridge English Dictionary:

catch-22noun[ S or U ]US  /ˌkætʃ.twen.tiˈtuː/ UK  /ˌkætʃ.twen.tiˈtuː/an impossiblesituation where you are prevented from doing one thing until you have done another thing that you cannot do until you have done the first thing:

situation in which there are only two possibilities, and you cannot do either because each depends on having done the other first

difficult situation in which the solution to a problem is impossible because it is also the cause of the problem:

Here is the definition of Catch-22 from within the context of the novel.


In the novel there is a character, Colonel Cathcart who is the group commander. He makes the rules and determines how they will be interpreted.

Prior to the war his skills as a manager were in demand. Every business he was involved with failed. Pretty soon business owners who wanted to hasten the demise of a failing business were clamoring to hire Cathcart. He took this as a measure of his success.

I am not sure there is a better example of a modern day politician than Joseph Heller’s Colonel Cathcart.

In the book, Colonel Cathcart is a full colonel, he is a group commander at a U.S. Army Air Forces base. He repeatedly raises the number of missions the men have to fly to complete a tour of duty, beyond that normally ordered by other outfits. 

The men in the unit can go home when they complete a specified number of missions. The number of missions required to go home is constantly being raised by the Colonel so they have to continue flying missions.

Yeah, but what does that have to do with today? When the Chinese Virus hit the United States we had to flatten the curve. Hospitals were going to be overwhelmed. The hospital ship Mercy came and went, never saw a patient. A hospital created specifically created to treat nothing but Chinese virus patients just closed in New York. It never treated a single patient.

The story of the Chinese Virus is one of mutually exclusive advice, conflicting orders and moving goal posts. See Catch-22.

Everybody six to sixty blind crippled or crazy was required to practice social distancing and wear masks. Except:

Social distancing politician style

Doctors quickly identified a segment of the population susceptible to the Chinese Virus. Those who were over sixty-five or otherwise medically compromised.

Governor Cuomo isolated elders who tested positive for the virus with elderly that weren’t sick. Thousands died. It wasn’t his fault.

Then there was the measure of progress tied to testing. There were not enough tests to go around. Somebody forgot to mention that what testing that has been done indicates that the Chinese virus is more prevalent than first supposed. The entire crew of the USS Roosevelt was tested. One crew member died of the Chinese virus. Ninety percent of the crew were asymptomatic. Pretty poor numbers for a killer pandemic.

New Mexico Governor orders non-essential businesses to shut down for the public good.

The same New Mexico Governor makes an exception so she can buy some jewelry.


The protagonist in Catch-22 is a Captain named Yossarian. He rejects the official line and charts his own path. Call me Yossarian.