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ISSUE 118 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/15/2005

Congress unfocused

By Jeremy Schowalter
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 15, 2005

The legislative branch of the United States federal government is transforming from a forum of political issues, representation of citizens and the preservation of democracy into an increasingly partisan political interest engine through which individuals and their parties are attempting to impress the media, lobbyists and their constituents.

On March 17, a congressional panel headed by congressman Tom Davis (R-VA) held an inquiry into the use of steroids by Major League Baseball players. Celebrity athletes Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Jose Canseco were a few of the suspected steroid-users brought before the panel

While steroids are clearly dangerous, and their societal proliferation probably won’t boost Americans’ general health, how many high school students have actually ended up in the ER due to (steroid) Anabol 25 complications? The total is less than the number of students per year who die in drunk driving accidents or overdose on their designer drugs of choice.

Congress is most certainly making the interests of our national pastime their top priority – a move that hasn’t hurt its approval ratings with their suburban constituents, many of whom attend Little League games during the summer.

It would be interesting to know whether or not Davis truly considers the use of supplements by our country’s youth a problem more deserving of attention than the enormous crime and drug problems facing America’s urban areas.

Terri Schiavo’s heart stopped beating March 31, 10 days after a feeding tube that had maintained the functionality of her vital organs for more than 15 years was removed. The act of removing this tube sparked an enormous ethical and moral debate among Mrs. Schiavo’s parents, her husband and the doctors who observed her since she “awoke” from a heart attack induced by a coma in 1990.

When it became clear that this ethical dilemma could not easily be resolved by the select group, the case was brought before the Florida judicial system.

A series of court cases, during which neurologists sought to determine Mrs. Schiavo's condition, produced the same conclusion: Schiavo was in a “persistent vegetative state.”

Jurors also concluded from accounts of people who knew Mrs. Schiavo that she would most likely be averse to the idea of being kept alive by automation in the absence of higher brain functionality. U.S. citizens had repeatedly spoken through methods approved by the Constitution despite numerous appeals by Mrs. Schiavo’s parents. On March 18, her feeding tube was removed.

Luckily, Schiavo’s parents found a loophole in Tom Delay (R-Texas) and his party’s dominant Congressional majority when they voted to force the Florida Supreme Court to hear the case for reconnecting Schiavo’s feeding tube.

Congress passed a bill that was tailored specifically to the needs of Schiavo’s parents. These two individuals were given direct support by a body that represents over 250 million citizens.

By writing such specific legislation, Congress bypassed Florida’s judicial laws, annulled the rulings of several judges and negated the deliberations of dozens of jurors, only to have the case thrown out again.

Is this yet another example of the media dictating where people and politicians should focus their attention?

It is, but it also represents a much more frightening change: a fundamental shift in the separation of powers explicitly included in the U.S. Constitution to prevent tyranny and preserve the fundamental principles of our republic. The next time Delay sees an opportunity to potentially reverse a judicial decision by forcing a different court to reconsider it, will he?

While the U.S. Congress spent the month of March meddling in the affairs of its citizens and their organizations, 122 Iraqis were killed, Afghani elections were delayed, Italy promised the withdrawal of its troops from Iraq and finally, the tragedy at Red Lake occurred.

But pay no attention to these issues, Congress, because clearly what’s most important is keeping retired baseball sluggers off the juice.

Contributing writer Jeremy Schowalter is a junior from Racine, Wisc. He majors in political science.

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