The Inane AsylumÔ - Congress and its Inmates


By Bernard Levy


Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, definitions:




Congress reconvenes this week with full politics in play.  Hardball is the name of the game, and all softball equipment has been removed from its chambers to make room for the Louisville Sluggers.  By all accounts, the GOP leaders in both the Senate and House will concentrate on those issues that can save their seats, namely the area in which polls give President Bush the highest ratings (still substantially under 50 percent approval rating), antiterrorism and security issues. 


But, wait, what about the American public?  What does Congress have in store to accomplish for us this abbreviated session, which most government watchers believe will have approximately 15 legislative days before anticipated adjournment on September 29th?  Not much.  Low on both Houses’ agendas are domestic matters, including promised simplification of senior medication drug plans, comprehensive immigration legislation and meaningful limitations on lobbying activities.


While our incomprehensible legislators are toiling with defense spending and policy bills and support for President Bush’s National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program, the citizens are getting restless and taking immigration matters into their own hands.  It’s even happening in my state of Oregon.  The Oregonian has given major coverage to the activities of the Oregon chapter of the national Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a movement underway in other states including California.  The minutemen are dedicated to reporting “illegal employment, housing and other practices that draw undocumented immigrants.”  Frustrated by the lack of governmental leadership and direction, citizens are now organizing to directly confront employers who (may) hire illegal immigrants and convince them to stop such employment practices.  These groups are going to the street corners where day laborers wait for work.  Coverage of this new phenomena was given by The New York Times News Service in an August 31st comprehensive article written by Charlie LeDuff.  Mr. LeDuff covered the story of a Minuteman’s vigilance in the Mexico-California border area around Campo, California.  The article was clear to point out that “While some, including President Bush, call people like (Britt) Craig vigilantes, more consider him a concerned citizen.”


Perhaps a distinction can be made between patrolling our borders and going directly to employers in America’s heartland.  Maybe not, because they both grow out of our citizens’ frustrations with the institution in Washington the FCP has labeled “The Inane AsylumÔ.”


This filling of a legislative (and executive branch) – really societal – void was given clear meaning in a mainstream media wire report published September 3rd from a source outside our great country.  It quoted “Iraq’s most influence Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, warning Iraq’s Prime Minister to quell violence or risk other powers filling the void to contain the violence.”  To quote in part, “ ‘If the government does not do its duty in imposing security and order to the people and protecting them, it will give a chance to other powers to do this duty and this in a very dangerous matter.’ ”  Wow!  He said what somebody in our democracy should be saying about immigration policies and practices.


When will Congress realize that it has to do something in order to satisfy the needs, wants and requirements of America? 


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Two other items require coverage.  The first was partial covered in our last issue’s “Hidden Stories” when we touched upon the record opium crop and trade in Afghanistan and its contribution to the increase in the current Taliban insurgency.  Well, other mainstream media have now picked it up, including a recent article by Carlotta Gall of The New York Times News Service.  It quotes “the head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa” as follows, “this year’s (Afghanistan’s) harvest will be around 6,100 metric tons of opium – a staggering 92 percent of total world supply.  It exceeds global consumption by 30 percent.”  What has this got to do with Congress?  Congress is considering a defense bill which also provides for funds to be spent in our Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  As the article noted, “The Bush administration has made poppy eradication a major facet of its aid to Afghanistan, and it has criticized Karzai for not doing more to challenge warlords in opium production.” 


Although it’s “sweet” to apply Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” program to Afghanistan’s opium crop and trade, opium is the major Afghanistan crop export.  It’s been going on for hundreds – thousands – of years and many depend upon it for their livelihood.  It is important to the GOP (and many Democrats) and the Bush administration to establish a democracy in Afghanistan, but that goal is in real jeopardy.  What will Congress do in addressing this issue, particularly when we may be throwing good money after bad?  Well, it’s clear that our legislators get paid whether or not they do a good job; it is the taxpayers who bear the burden of providing for folly funds.  Need we say more?


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Finally, just a little bit of fun to end this week’s coverage.  It appears that Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist, the well-publicized Senator medical doctor –a heart-lung surgeon – is in jeopardy of losing his active medical license.  You remember Dr. Bill – he threw himself into the debate over Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged woman whose feeding tube was finally removed, and was consulted by Hillary Clinton when husband Bill had a heart attack.  Well, It appears that Senator Frist stated that he had fulfilled his continuing medical education requirement on his application for license renewal.  He didn’t fulfill those requirements, and now it appears that the “spin doctors” – they don’t need any medical licenses – are attempting to control the damage of his application’s misstatements by publicizing that “he may not have been aware of the change in the law in 2002.”  It’s been stated that the change was clearly noted on the application form renewal.  So, what’s the big deal about this?  Oh, I guess it’s the issue of truth, veracity, as lawyers like to call it, particularly the truthfulness of our Senate Majority Leader.  But heck, it ain’t no big thing when you’re discussing our legislators’ misinterpretation of the word “honesty.”


I wish we had the concession rights to sell hardball equipment for this short Congressional session – we probably could make a bundle!