Monday, March 21, 2005

Do-Nothing Congress

I was speaking to a good friend of mine today about some of the recent goings-on in Congress. He's a big baseball fan and had spent a good part of Thursday observing the congressional spectacle surrounding the steroid controversy. His reaction?
"It was kind of like picking up a rock and seeing two bugs fucking. You know that it’s part of what makes the world go ‘round, but it ain't pretty to watch."
I couldn't have said it better myself. The only thing that I would add is that there is a hell of a lot more beauty, grace, and purpose in entomological coitus than was on display in the halls of our federal legislature this week. A lot more.


I don't follow baseball the way I once did, but the sport will always have a special meaning to me. It was the sport that I grew up on. I admired professional ballplayers and aspired to join their ranks one day (a fantasy that persisted far longer than it should have, if you must know). And so when Mark Maguire and Sammy Sosa raced to break Roger Maris’s homerun record in 1998, the spectacle overwhelmed me. When Barry Bonds broke the record again only four years later, in what was arguably the greatest offensive display in the history of the sport, I was transfixed, unable to believe that what I witnessed was the accomplishment of a mere mortal.

Needless to say, recent revelations have tarnished these memories. It is disappointing, to say the least, to learn that these achievements were almost certainly aided by performance enhancing drugs. While my indignation fails to reach the hysterical heights expressed by many, I can honestly say that I am crestfallen in learning the truth. My heroes are not dead, but they are far more mortal than I ever thought they would be.

Enter Congress.

Wait. What the fuck?! Why is this happening? I mean, logistically I understand. Due to baseball's antitrust exemption, Congress does have far more regulatory jurisdiction over the game than it otherwise would have. So, I understand that it can intervene. But really, should it? Is this truly a problem of such great national importance that it requires that Congress table a large portion of its pressing agenda to address it? Or is this simply an opportunity to grandstand, to unnecessarily inflame passions, and to interject confusion and chaos into the issue?

Make no mistake -- I desperately want this issue to be resolved. But, I want it to be resolved appropriately by people who are actually interested in understanding the systemic issues that have created it, not by those wishing to use it to establish their relevance to the common man. Especially when those people have other, far more serious issues to address. If baseball somehow fails to get its act together, life will go on. That fact alone should remand it to the very bottom of any rational list of priorities.


But as outraged as I am by those misdirected energies, it pales beside the disgust I have experienced watching the Terri Schiavo spectacle evolve.

Where do I even begin? How about right here: Terri Schiavo is already dead. Pulling her feeding tube is a formality. There are few certainties in life, but this is one of them. If this assertion seems questionable to you, step over here for a moment. Every conceivable rationale for keeping her alive has been debunked (excellent summaries here and here). The situation is from start to finish a tragedy, exacerbated by a familial dispute that has been laboriously adjudicated over several agonizing years. Now, at long last, it's over.

Or, rather, it should be.

Instead, realizing the political opportunity before them, congressional Republicans have seized the issue and are attempting to push through legislation that would allow the entire process to begin from scratch in the federal courts. And as they nod to their supporters in the Christian right, they set a dangerous precedent that threatens to undermine the authority of every state court in the nation. It is a shortsighted strategy designed to consolidate power at the expense of a desperate family who cannot accept the hand fate has dealt them.

Tom Delay has seen fit to question the character of Terri's husband. Well, take a look in the mirror, prick!


Given the way Congress has been spending its time of late, you'd think that no other issues required their attention. But, of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The deficit is exploding with no plan for eliminating it in sight. The economy is still sluggish. A major debate over the future of Social Security is simmering. Health care expenses are soaring, resulting in an imminent Medicare crisis. Nuclear weapons technology is proliferating across the globe. Energy expenses are skyrocketing. Environmental degradation is progressing unabated. And that's just the list off the top of my head. I could go on.

But no. This week it's steroids and corpses. Rather than beginning the work on the tough issues in the day, issues which cannot be reasonably addressed by anyone else, they've chosen to stick their nose where it does not belong and where it can only make the problems worse. And lest you think of this is a partisan rant, let me be clear that this indicts every member of Congress. True, Republicans are driving the Schiavo fiasco. But no one of either party has stood up to question their involvement in either issue. No one has questioned the body's priorities. Well, someone should.

There is, to my mind, no excuse for this situation. There is no counter argument, no explanation that provides justification. This is, plain and simple, a meaningless circus, accomplishing nothing. If we're lucky, that is. Nothing is the best that could come out of these recent endeavors. But as we aim for the lofty goal of maintaining the status quo, the walls crumble around us. If only there were somebody whose job it was to address these other, more pressing issues.

Oh, that's right. There is. It's called Congress.

There's work to do, people. Get on it.
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