Roid rage

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform fiddles while Washington burns.

I’m not interested in sports, and I don’t care whether professional baseball players take steroids. Congress attends to all sorts of matters that I don’t particularly care about, but (not being a solipsist) recognize as important and as their legitimate business. Steroids in baseball is, so far as I can tell, legitimately within the purview of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. As are thousands of other issues that they don’t hold hearings on, and hundreds which are addressed but not heavily covered in the press (and which don’t merit a report from George Mitchell—Northern Ireland, overamped pitchers, whatever). Throwing a dart at the Committee’s webpage would yield a more important story.

Maybe Helen Lovejoy is Henry Waxman’s constituent.

Update: A reader points out that Waxman regrets having held the hearing. Good for him.

Literary history extended

A common parable about leadership goes as follows:

Halfway through the construction of the cathedral, the architect died. The bishop, not knowing what to do, went out to walk through the stoneyard, and found a man hammering on a chisel. “Bless you, my son. What are you making?”

“About twelve centimes a day, your excellency.”

The bishop moved on, and found another mason doing the same thing. “Bless you, my son, what are you making?”

“Your excellency, I’m making the third voussoir for the second arch on the right up there,” pointing up toward the vaulting.

“Bless you, my son, ” said the bishop, feeling a little better, and walked on to another mason hammering on his chisel. “And what are you making?”

“As any fool can see, your excellency, meaning no disrespect, a cathedral.”

“Bless you, my son. Put down your chisel and come with me, I have a job for you.”

New archaeological research in the middle east has unearthed a probable antecedent of this classic. Gene Bardach helped me translate some of the archaic text.

During the building of the Second Temple, the architect suddenly died. With no idea how to proceed, the High Priest went for a walk through the work area, and found Moishe, chiseling a stone. “Sholem aleichem,” said the priest, “what are you making?”

The mason said, “About time someone asked! I’m making a stone to go up on the second arcade there, but the whole concept of that arch is wrong, it doesn’t go with the rest of the facade and it’s not structurally sound. I explained this to the foreman, but he’s such a potzer, deaf and blind. It’s about time this project got some competent leadership, that’s all I can say. “

“You should live till a hundred and twenty,” said the High Priest aloud, muttered something inaudible, and went on his way.

He asked another mason, “What are you making?”

The mason said, “So, what should I be making? I get a couple of hours to get some work done in between trying to teach that idiot Moishe how to chisel, and now I’m on a quiz show? Better I should ask you: if I don’t get a decent hammer, how do you think we’re going to get any kind of temple before the Messiah comes?”

The high priest came to a third mason, sitting on an untouched stone with his hammer and chisel on the ground, nose buried in a scroll, and just stared at him. The mason eventually looked up. “What?” he said, and after a pause, “Do you not preach to us that study of The Law is preeminent among all things?”

Further along, and near despair, he came upon Itzik’s mother Rachel, bringing him his lunch. “How many children do you have?”

“Eight, including of course my son the lawyer and my other son the doctor and my daughter the rebbetzin. Do you know her husband Isaac? Such a wise man….” At this point they arrived at Itzik’s work area. “Here, bubbele, your lunch,” she said lovingly.

Itzik put down his tools, opened the sandwich, and said “Oy, Mom, you forgot the pickle again! And it has mayonnaise and you know I hate mayonnaise! I told you last week…” At this point Rachel fixed him with the look that distinctively empowers Jewish mothers, and Itzik fell instantly silent and began to eat his sandwich.

“Come with me, woman. I have a job for you,” said the High Priest, smiling broadly.

Corzine and the seat belt

After a respectful moment of sympathy for Gov. Corzine’s pain, and his family’s:

and another to wish him a full recovery:

what the hell is the matter with him? How could the chief executive of a state routinely put the chief executive of his state, elected by and responsible to the voters to discharge his duties for a full term, at risk of death or injury for something so self-indulgent as not wearing a seatbelt? Not to mention that a governor has some duty to model responsible and rational behavior. If the motor pool were found to have neglected maintenance of the brakes or tires of a governor’s vehicle, heads would roll, and rightly so. Apparently he routinely doesn’t wear a belt: Corzine is not just being stupid, he’s acted recklessly and put the welfare of his state at pointless risk, just as surely as if he decided to take up bungee jumping or Russian roulette while in office. This is really, really, bad behavior.

[UPDATE: Andy Sabl points out that bungee jumping is not as dangerous as it looks. The facts matter here (and per-hour-of-participation sports risks are actually not that easy to find). Plug in your own genuinely dangerous behavior – BASE jumping? free rock climbing? ]

Argillaceous pedal extremities

John Shalikashvili seems unashamed to report that his version of leadership is to follow his troops wherever they want to go, pandering to bigotry and ignorance along the way. Back in 1993, he didn’t want gays in the military because he thought the other soldiers wouldn’t like them, but now that polling indicates it’s not a problem, he’s on board; wow! Give the man a white horse and a sword to wave around!

It’s wrong to whale on someone who has thought about an issue and changed his mind; it’s called learning and it’s admirable. When [what you now recognize as] an earlier error has made others pay a lot of dues, it’s nice to apologize. But learning isn’t what the general is displaying; he says he was right then and he’s right now, nor is there any apology, not to the gays denied careers for which they were well qualified, not to the soldiers who died for want of backup from the best possible team of buddies, not to the taxpayers who paid extra for the comfort of higher management.

Harry Truman, in contrast, ordered the integration of the armed forces when the white soldiers weren’t at all in favor of it, because he was the chief and it was the right thing to do. The military learned to fight as a racially mixed institution pretty quickly and any residual racism didn’t ruin our combat capacity. Shalikashvili should be ashamed of himself both as a general and as a person.