Inane AsylumÔ - A Trip Through Congress



Folks, if Congress was a farm, it wouldn’t be difficult to identify the Congressional farm animals.  You can readily observe the bulls rambling through the halls and running down the corridors.  Yes, there are pigs, in fact many pigs, wallowing in their self-righteous indignational muck and mire.  The animals most numerous are the ostriches.  You know, ostrich, those birds of a nonflying feather that often flock together.  Yes, these strangely gawky types have a reputation for “burying their heads in the sand.”  Although it appears they do that, this ostrich posture is one of defense used to disguise themselves as a bush by lowering their heads to expose a bush-like body.


This Congress is particularly good at its continuing and artful ostrich-like posture, apparently right up to summer break.  It’s really not a summer break; it’s merely the time in which they  actively campaign for reelection purposes.  Congress’ preoccupation with legislating societal behavior (that it doesn’t know one wit about) reared its head again when Senator Sam Brownback, R-Kan., introduced legislation that would bar doctors from prescribing federally-controlled drugs for use in assisted suicides.  It’s apparent that Congresspersons like Senator Brownback are not only attempting to appeal to their religious, conservative supporters, they are cloaking themselves in a righteous mantle that shouldn’t have a place in the U.S. Senate.  Thank goodness Senator Brownback never has had the dubious opportunity to experience his own painful, terminal illness requiring extensive, pain-killing medication and the necessity to plan for pending death.  The State of Oregon, in its infinite wisdom, has legislated, with two-time voter approval, assisted-suicide legislation.  The overwhelming statistics on Oregon’s law tell all – very few assisted suicides have been performed; it is not a program in which hundreds or thousands of people are requesting medical assistance to die every year.  But, Senator Brownback, in his infinite nonwisdom, introduced his bill, The Assisted Suicide Prevention Act, the first Congressional assault on assisted suicide since the Supreme Court upheld Oregon’s law in January, 2006.


Senator Brownback would have us believe that Oregon is fostering an opportunity to kill innocent people, not unlike Hitler’s Nazi Germany.  Nothing could be further from the truth, but Senator Brownback is not interested in the truth; he’s interested in reelection and, hopefully, running as a presidential candidate in 2008.


All of this brings us back to what is important to our country at this time, which, might I add, is of little or no importance to Congress.  Most people are aware that the civil violence in Iraq and Afghanistan is increasing daily.  According to President Bush, Afghanistan was his first “experiment” in establishing democracy in a predominantly Islamic nation.  Well, horror of horrors, it’s in dire jeopardy of complete failure.  The opium trade is on the rise; Taliban insurgency has become a serious threat to the fledgling democracy; and the country is factually failing to support President Bush’s claims.  It would be a shame for the Afghanistan experiment to fail, but apparently Congress doesn’t seem to give a darn about its failure, the increasing loss of US military lives and the continuing great cost to the American taxpayer. 


Has Congress provided effective oversight on our military and financial involvement in Afghanistan?  No, which brings us to Iraq. 


We were told in prior Congressional oversight hearings by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and the military that everything was going according to plan and was, in fact, almost “peaches and creamy.”  Recently, we’ve been told that everything is not progressing well, and one of the last hearings evidenced a significant split between the opinions of Rumsfeld and our chief military leaders and advisors.


Congress was also told by President Bush, and collectively naively believed, that the U.S. military was not going to get involved in an Iraq’s civil war; if it occurred, we would not maintain our military presence in that country.  It’s occurring, and President Bush continues to emphatically argue for “staying the course.”  Where in tarnation has Congress been during this period?  Hopefully, Congresspersons can read reports and newspapers—which reportedly are geared to 9th grade-level readers.


I once had significant respect for Senator Joe Lieberman, D-Conn; not any more.  Unfortunately, it’s clear that he is just another political hack in the large Congressional contingency practicing political hackery.  Now running as an independent, he has actively called for Secretary Rumsfeld’s resignation.  You must read Senator Lieberman’s words to fully understand his message.  He said that Rumsfeld has worked long and hard, but it is time for him to leave.  Working long and hard is good and probably implies a strong Judaic-Christian work ethic, but working smart and intelligent has been needed for a long time.


And, where is Congress regarding the presently-occurring civil war in Iraq?  Congress is AWOL, absent without official leave.  And, do you know a major reason why?  The FCP does.  Although many G.O.P. elected officials are attempting to distance themselves from President Bush and his policies, they are caught between a Congressional rock and an electorate hard spot.  That is, they emphatically and strongly voted for our involvement in the Iraqi war.  And, for them (Democrats, too) to say now that we should immediately reduce/eliminate our military manpower and resources would be a major indictment of their past actions.  Even if they run from President Bush’s programs, they can’t hide. They’re caught, and they know it!  And, so, what do they do?  You got it:  they assume an ostrich-like stance and try to hide themselves from the non-Serengeti-like environment of Congress.  However, Congress guys and gals, be aware that once you leave those hallowed halls, it’s a ‘jungle’ out there; you’re going to have to face your constituents, and it ain’t gonna be easy.


We still don’t have a comprehensive energy plan; one is not even seriously in the works.  Yes, we’ve got to conserve oil and fuel, and there are many municipalities and states that are attempting to do so.  Yes, there’s been more activity in the wind and sun alternative energy sources.  Yes, the American public is turning its attention from SUVs to more efficient fuel-burning and other energy-sourced vehicles.  However, there isn’t a comprehensive, understandable legislative program that will enable corporations, as well as ordinary Janes and Joes, to understand and prepare for the future.


Finally, a breath of fresh air!  Again, I’m talking about the State of Oregon and its Congressional representatives.  Republican Walden and Democrat Blumenauer successfully introduced House legislation that provided for a 77,500-acre plan for one of Oregon’s favorite wilderness areas, Mt. Hood.  It appeared to be a fine, nonpartisan action by a Democrat and a Republican doing something important to preserve our withering wilderness areas.  But, then came along Senators Wyden, Democrat, and Smith, Republican, to propose a greater protected area, 125,000 acres.  It appears that Blumenauer and Walden recognized the reality of a Republican-controlled House and attempted to pacify Republican Richard Pombo, Chairman of the House Resources Committee.


What’s it all about, Alfie?  Reality, practicality and successful legislation.  It’s quite possible that the differences between the two proposals are big enough to sink any Mt. Hood wilderness preservation legislation in this Congress.  Did Senators Wyden and Smith propose greater wilderness acreage to sink the House version?  I don’t think so.  I applaud their efforts.  I think they took an independent, fresh and important look at what needed to be preserved.


Yes, it’s all about politics and, unfortunately, the key is Representative Pombo who faces a tough reelection and is no fan of wilderness preservation.


The positive message from this is that Republicans and Democrats have successfully worked together to achieve an important goal.  Thousands from many states visit Mt. Hood and its surrounding wilderness areas each year.  Maybe the Pombos of the world will eventually recognize that even the G.O.P.-controlled Congress is a “steward” of this great land and the greater earth; true, people get all caught up in their own self-importance and often “get drunk on the smell of their own corks.”  However, it’s time for the great divisiveness—polarity, if you will—currently exhibited in both the legislative and executive branches, to end.  Polarity is good and necessary in the production of electricity and distinguishing between our global poles, but political polarity, whether it’s religious or secular-driven, has no place in this great land of opportunity we call America.


We haven’t even touched upon the important issue of immigration impacting many of our states. 


Once again, we leave the Inane AsylumÔ, Congress, the safe haven for the “absurd, pointless and silly.”