Idle Hands in Washington

It seems that despite the war in Iraq, the sensitive nuclear situations with North Korea and Iran, the ballooning deficit, the falling dollar, the rising cost of health care, and the limp employment market, Congress is having trouble filling the hours of the day.

Exhibit A: The Federal Urine test. It seems that the most serious drug problem facing the U.S. today is not the rising cost of prescriptions, nor rural painkiller and meth abuse, nor the ongoing brujaha over medical marijuana. Democrat Henry A. Waxman, whose nose is evolutionarily adapted for sniffing out media opportunities, convened Congressional hearings into this clearly vital issue, all the while failing to make clear why this was a Federal issue instead of one that should be addressed with a section in the MLB Employee Handbook. Baseball’s steroid policy clearly hasn’t work, for the simple reason that the league has little reason to try and make a policy that works. While the odor of corruption that has set in due to repeated steroid innuendos and scandals has turned off some fans, most of the public would rather see more homeruns, faster runners, and harder pitches, even if it means a little Better Living Through Chemistry. When MLB gets significant fan pressure to clean up their act- in the form of reduced sales- they will.

The effects on player’s bodies is unfortunate, but with players in every major league- and many non-professional leagues- already ruining their health by playing hurt, substituting painkillers for time healing, and surgery for sensible training regimines and play schedules, fixating on this single form of damage seems hypocritical. Rather than waxing maudlin about the damage that steroids are doing to our sports, why not open a wider conversation about the dangerous attitudes present in sports culture- attitudes that have trickled down to kids high-school age and younger.

So kudos to Jose Canseco (who was my favorite player for the brief childhood period between 1988 and 1990 when I followed baseball) for cutting through some of the sanctimonious treacle that emerges from the Big Leagues. And I hear that Congressman Waxman will be holding hearings next week about the use of marijuana by off-duty grocery store baggers.

Exhibit B: The Family Affair. Where to even begin with the Terry Schiavo case? With the fact that it is a senseless intervention, first by the state government and then by the federal, into what is essentially a family squabble? How about with the unintentionally hilarious spectacle of a Congress that is unable or unwilling to protect the rights of ill or impoverished Americans in general putting everything on hold to attend to the needs of one woman in Florida? The irony of the fact that Congress just passed a bill that would make it more difficult for families like the Schiavos to seek bankruptcy protection if their medical bills leave them with debts that they can’t repay? That President Bush cut short a vacation to a sign a law that might preserve the body of one woman for a few more years, when he decided that the deaths of over 100,000 people didn’t warrant so much as taking a break to make a public statement?

Really, I don’t think any of those things suffice. How about this then:

[House Majority Leader Tom] DeLay was criticized for some of his strong comments Friday, and toned them down a day later but still took an opportunity to slam Michael Schiavo.

“I don’t have a lot of respect for a man who has treated a woman in this way,” he said. “What kind of man is he?”

Lets see. . . On the one hand we have a man desperately trying to carry out, to the best of his ability, the wishes of his wife. A man who has stood up to being called a murderer, who has battled his own family and fought through the courts to do what he obviously feels is the right thing.

On the other hand we have a political opportunist, currently under investigation for ethics violations, hitching his fortunes to the suffering of a family. A man who, despite not knowing this woman and not knowing her husband, feels free to level accusations against her husband’s character.

Great question, Mr. DeLay. What kind of man is that?


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