McCaslin's Beltway Beat: Lamb Drops

John McCaslin
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Posted: Feb 20, 2002 12:00 AM
Since the United States is encountering numerous obstacles moving food to starving Afghans - from inadequate roads to a lack of trucks and refrigeration, to name a few - then why not let the food move itself? "Most families in Afghanistan don't receive their meat on a Styrofoam platter in Saran Wrap from the grocery store," says Sen. Michael B. Enzi, who instead is calling on the Wyoming National Guard - which has the training in transporting livestock - to drop live lambs into Afghanistan. "The idea is very simple," the Wyoming Republican says. "We should ship live lambs to Afghanistan, not only to assist the numerous tribes in building their flocks of sheep, but to provide immediate protein to their diets." The senator's proposal to study lamb drops passed on a voice vote last week. OF MICE AND MEN As far as Sen. Jesse Helms is concerned, a rodent could do a heck of a lot worse than live out its life span in a medical-research facility. Like suffocating in the chute of a pet snake, for instance, or succumbing to a painful death administered by a friendly neighborhood exterminator. (Where are People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals when a mouse really needs them?) So the North Carolina senator has offered an amendment that would exclude rats, mice and birds from the definition of "animal" under the Animal Welfare Act. This way, life-saving medical research is not delayed, made more expensive, or otherwise compromised by what Helms calls new regulatory "shenanigans" of the Agriculture Department. "The medical-research community was astonished the U.S. Department of Agriculture - weary and browbeat into submission by numerous lawsuits and petitions by the so-called 'animal rights' crowd - gave notice of its intent to add rats, mice and birds under the regulatory umbrella," Helms says. Which means, among other burdens, additional reporting requirements and paperwork that could cost medical researchers up to $280 million annually. Instead of searching for cures for breast cancer, cystic fibrosis, heart disease and diabetes, the USDA would force researchers out of the laboratory to fill out myriad forms, even though researchers already treat animals in a professional and humane manner. "I was surprised to learn," Helms says, "that 10 times as many rodents are raised and sold as food for reptiles as are used by the medical-research community. But nobody raises a point about that. I wonder if anyone in the chamber has seen a hungry python eat a mouse? If you have, then you know it is not a pretty picture for the mouse. "Isn't it far better for the mouse," he reasons, "to be fed and watered in a clean laboratory than to end up as a tiny bulge being digested inside an enormous snake?" And what about the millions of mice that take up residence - many pregnant, hoping to start families - in basements, bedrooms and boardrooms across America, only to be labeled "pests" worthy only of eviction by critter control? "Alas," says Helms, "extermination remains the fate every year of hundreds of thousands of rodents that have not found the relative safety of a research facility." ARKAN-SAW It's not that the Libertarian Party is against laws. It just feels too many are imposed on us. To demonstrate how many, the nation's third largest political party has compiled a list of "senseless statutes and outrageous ordinances" passed by politicians that remain in the books. In Fairbanks, Alaska, for example, lawmakers wanted to reduce the urge of loose moose to reproduce. So they made it illegal for moose to mate on city sidewalks. (Similar legislation passed in Los Angeles, where it is a crime for dogs to mate within 500 feet of a church.) Other goofy, but real laws: -- In Merryville, Mo., it's a crime for a woman to wear a corset. (In Norfolk, it's a crime for a woman to appear in public without a corset). -- In Cleveland, women are banned from wearing patent-leather shoes. -- In California, it's a crime for a woman to drive a car while wearing a housecoat. -- In Blythe, Calif., it's a crime for a man to wear cowboy boots unless he owns at least two head of cattle. -- In Nogales, Ariz., men are banned from wearing suspenders. -- In Arkansas, it's a crime not to pronounce the state's name Arkan-SAW. (You may be flirting with a noose if you pronounce in Ar-KANSAS.) -- In Joliet, Ill., one faces a $5 fine by pronouncing it Jolly-ETTE instead of the correct Joe-lee-ETTE. -- Finally, in Iowa, it's a crime for any kiss to last more than five minutes. 'AMBLING INTO HISTORY' Everything we've come to know about George W. Bush, and then some, is found in the pages of "Ambling into History: The Unlikely Odyssey of George W. Bush" (HarperCollins, March 5, $23.95), by New York Times reporter and Washington resident Frank Bruni. Bruni covered Bush's tortuous 2000 presidential campaign from start to finish as well as much of his first historic year in the White House. And while the scribe kept careful notes of the colloquial twists and verbal bloopers as Bush was getting his feet wet (some of these we've never read before), he also detected in the colorful Texan an impromptu cleverness, genuine empathy, deep spirituality and profound respect for the office of the president. "Listening to him," Bruni says of Bush in the days after Sept. 11, "I was struck anew by the oddity of his journey, by how unlikely it was that Bush had ended up where he was. "Only two years earlier," the author recalls, "he had still been receiving foreign policy tutorials from the various experts that his advisers had assembled to bring him up to speed. So many times during his campaign, he had tripped over or blanked on the names of foreign countries and the names of foreign leaders. He had often seemed least sure-footed when it came to global issues ... "And now he was putting himself forward as the one who would teach the rest of us about the world at a time when it was maddeningly difficult to understand it and urgent that we did. Bush had taken an unusual trip to what seemed, for him, the unlikeliest of destinations." HIGHEST AUTHORITY What is it about President Bush that most impresses Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va.? His knees. "When it is all said and done, I have to remember that here is a man who preaches and practices, as far as I have seen, his faith," says Byrd. "It is unfortunate, but these are times when few men and women, relatively speaking it seems to me, recognize God in their lives and in the life of the nation. "So I respect President Bush for his humility, for his willingness to call upon God, to express a faith, to express a strength that can only come from calling upon the Creator of us all. It just touches my heart and makes me feel good that the chief magistrate of our country talks about getting on his knees." SELECT BLESSINGS Speaking of the Creator, at the close of one congressional hearing late last week Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat, is said to have offered God's blessings to those who believe - in steel tariffs, that is. Paul Nathanson, senior vice president and managing director of the PBN Company in Washington, who works on the free-trade side of the steel issue, reminds us that Rockefeller has been a passionate advocate of the domestic steel industry and is currently pressing President Bush to slap 40 percent tariffs on steel imports. Last Thursday (Feb. 14), as Nathanson tells the story, Rockefeller was presiding over a Senate Finance Committee hearing on steel and lumber issues. "He has so much disdain for steel consumers who are opposed to these tariffs," Nathanson said, "that after berating them throughout their testimony, he closed the hearing by stating, 'God bless most of you.'"