CSotD: The Attack of the One-Trick Ponies

On the Fastrack (KFS) wins the Best Coincidental Timing Award for what can’t have been but surely seems a commentary on the GOP gridlock. And Dethany is right: The problem seems to be with people more interested in putting on a performance than getting anything done.

Victoria Sparks (R-IN) has taken to voting “present,” indicating her dissatisfaction with her fellow Republicans for failing to caucus and come up with a coherent plan. It’s not a bad protest, as long as she realizes that it’s no different than failing to vote: Under House Rules, a vote only counts if it is for a particular person.

Her performative gesture, then, is no different than if she left the chamber without voting, because it lowers the number of votes needed to succeed. If 12 Republicans joined her in voting “present,” Hakeem Jeffries could win with only 212 votes.

I like the people who bellow their votes, and who add “The Honorable” to the name of their candidate, which raises the question of whether a vote for the Honorable Kevin McCarthy counts in favor of the guy we’re more familiar with.

This kind of drum-beating nonsense is fun stuff at a political convention but seems pretty childish in the halls of Congress.

Nick Anderson is only one of several commentators to compare Nancy Pelosi’s firm grip on her party to McCarthy’s inability to exert leadership on his own, and, specifically, on the Crazy Caucus whose bullying and posturing have started even before the next session has formally begun.

The whole world is watching, and if the members of the Crazy Caucus are fooling their voters, they haven’t fooled David Rowe, who not only gets the caricatures right but adds a nice touch with Boebert’s frilly apron and a pun on the title of Grant Wood’s classic painting.

And, in case you thought this was just some internal squabble that wasn’t making us look like nitwits in the eyes of the greater world, Rowe sees his Grant Wood homage and raises it to Jacques-Louis David, to make the point that, however much the Crazy Caucus may be to blame, Kevin McCarthy is no Napoleon nor is his mighty steed Marengo.

Clay Jones doesn’t doubt the crazy part, but he raises the question of what value there is in the Republican Party holding itself hostage? As he notes in his essay:

When this is finally decided and we have a Republican Speaker of the House, he or she will be
the weakest speaker in the history of that elective body. The GOP’s slim majority is
being held hostage by 20 members. When this is over, they’ll be able to hold
their own hostage again and again.

Ann Telnaes doesn’t give the GOP credit for being held hostage by a small group of performative looneys, pushing the blame instead on the party itself, not just for a lack of discipline but for a history of being willing to cannibalize itself.

After all, it’s not just that they are allowing the crazies to run wild in the Chamber well this week, but they’ve also been willing to sacrifice party credibility by casting out reasonable dissenters like Liz Cheney, by nominating empty suits like Herschel Walker and by refusing to participate in the Jan 6 Committee hearings.

Holding power matters. What you do with it becomes just another performance piece to impress the rubes.

Peter Schrank wonders aloud if the party has gone so far off the rails that it’s worth saving at all, and note that he drew this before the current kerfuffle in the House had launched.

There was already considerable speculation over whether McCarthy or anyone else would be able to gather the party into a functioning group, and the current dustup seems like a preview of the next two years.

“Tyranny of the Majority” is a major drawback to the Parliamentary form of government, but an advantage is the ability to call for a vote of no confidence without having to wait until a specific date.

Then again, one might reasonably ask if Telnaes’s elephant would ever put down the fork long enough to make that request.

Football Follow-Up

I use, and praise, Steve Brodner‘s work often enough that I don’t mind disagreeing with him on this one.

I won’t defend the way the NFL has handled injury issues across the board, but the Players Association seems on top of that issue, and I think Brodner overstates things, because, however much still needs to be done, there has been a significant improvement in how injuries are assessed and handled.

It’s hard to document, because not only did team doctors once inject players with pain killers and send them back out on the field, but the players themselves failed to report injuries, in part because of the existing culture of playing hurt and in part to protect their jobs.

However, there have been significant rule changes to help prevent injuries, and the erection of the “blue tent” on each sideline provides an improved ability to diagnose problems and make intelligent choices about whether a player will return to the game or sit it out.

Are there more injuries? Or are more injuries being reported? It’s likely a combination.

All sports contain some element of risk. I interviewed a researcher in helmet design after the death of Natasha Richardson from an unremarkable fall while skiing, and he said that, while his research was more focused on football and hockey, where brain injuries are more likely, there really is no way to make sports entirely safe: Even heading a soccer ball contains the potential for brain damage.

Richardson was not wearing a helmet, nor was Sonny Bono.

But their deaths are a reason to require helmets, not a reason to close all ski hills and ban the sport.

The most educated speculation on Hamlin’s injury is that it was caused by an ill-timed blow to the chest that essentially short-circuited his heart.

We’ve seen this in other sports, particularly when a player is struck in the chest by a ball, but, again, it doesn’t mean we should ban lacrosse or baseball, though it certainly means we should have first-class medical help on the scene.

Hamlin is alive because treatment was available: That’s the takeaway.

11 thoughts on “CSotD: The Attack of the One-Trick Ponies

  1. The self-destruction of Kevin McCarthy is Faustian, like an ironic punishment the Greek gods would have meted out to a haughty mortal. He gave up any principle he ever believed in (if any) and sold his soul to the Devil to get the one thing he wanted in life, and may still fall short millimeters from the goal. Could you imagine the humiliation of having to move his packing boxes out of the speaker’s office? And even if he gets the job, it’s going to be a terrible ordeal of appeasing and bowing to lunatics every damn day, his tormentors the very people that his cowardice helped elect. Seriously, his fall could be the subject of an opera.

    As the old Klingon proverb says, schadenfreude is a dish best served cold. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

    Your take on Hamlin’s injury is one I don’t hear much but is similar to mine. I am not a physician, but the tackle was routine and it looks like one of those freak blows to the heart that even happens on playgrounds from time to time. If that was the cause, I can’t imagine what new rules could eliminate that danger aside from “Players are not allowed to collide.” Football should be as safe as it can be made, but it’s essentially a game of one team trying to move a ball and the other team trying to stop them, same as soccer or rugby or basketball. Some risk is baked in.

    1. I enjoyed the schadenfreude a bit at first, but now we’ve got basically 20 people ensuring that no legislation happens and their demand is that they should be able to do it at will. Frankly, it’s a war on America, and if the Republicans have any adults left in the party, they need to elect Jeffries.

    1. If you’re referring to the Steve Brodner cartoon, that’s not quite what he said. What he said was “…incurring a level of abuse we would not tolerate if done to animals.”

      For background, see this article from the New England Journal of Medicine: Blunt impact to the chest leading to sudden death from cardiac arrest during sports activities.
      Free online: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7609749/

  2. Not gonna happen, but I would love it if the Democrats and a chunk of the GOP broke ranks and elected Liz Cheyney or Adam Kinzinger Speaker.

    Regarding football injuries, the case of Mr. Hamlin is shocking and we all hope for his recovery, but as Mike pointed out, it was probably a freak occurance that is unlikely to occur again. The real horror of football is long term damage rising from repeated blows to the body. Very few of these young men are properly compenstaed for the pain and suffereing they will encounter after their brief carreers.

  3. Spoke with an ER nurse yesterday who said he wished team physicals were more in depth, including cardiac monitoring, etc. It reminded me of Rick Upchurch, a wide receiver for the Broncos, who had a “stinger” — a blow to the head that made his hands tingle. He was diagnosed with a narrow spinal column that could restrict his nerves and warned to quit football, since another blow could leave him paraplegic. That could have been spotted earlier, and it makes me wish we could spot the factors that allow some players to be unaffected by head blows while others suffer irreversible, tragic brain damage. It wouldn’t surprise me if, a generation hence, we were being asked, “Why didn’t you know?”

    1. Mike, nice sentiment but unlikely to happen. The cost of monitoring millions of high school and small college atheltes would be untennble, especially for cash strapped schools. Additionally, the lure of making millions of dollars, although statistically improbable, is enough reason for young kids (often from lower economic backgrounds) to risk future heatlh for a chance for a better future.

      IMHO, practical rules solutions (like wieght limits or, coutner-intuitively, limiting prtoective armor) would provide more protection to the players but take away the galmorized violence that America seems to enjoy.

  4. Football has been largely “ghettoized”, as the players in the NFL are 71% black, and upper class families are rejecting their children playing the game. If not for it’s bizarre rituals (tailgaiting, fantasy leagues, gambling, weekend alcoholic binges) it would have been marginalized, like boxing, long ago.
    Football is the quintessential american game: it is violent, specialized and litigious. Increasingly, it stimulates emotional responses popular in our collective psyche: fans are willing to vicariously enjoy the punishment and pain inflicted on others without any investment of our own, other than watching. We are becoming a spectator society, the sport is gladiatory.

  5. Mr. Peterson ~ i’m somewhat unclear about your *disagreement* with Steven Brodner. exactly what part of his commentary on current conditions do you believe he overstated?

  6. Not sure how much more clear I could be: I’m not convinced there are more injuries rather than more reports of injuries and, while it’s not been perfect, the NFL has made many rule changes to prevent serious injuries. I didn’t get into the exploitation issue, but athletes, actors, ballerinas and fashion models all make physical sacrifices. My experience with collegiate athletes is that the stereotypical “dumb jock” won’t make it far at that level, much less among the pros, and the NFL Players Association is a fairly strong union. There can always be improvements, but I thought he overstated the issue.

    1. thank you for your response, Mr Peterson. i couldn’t see how NFL’s improvements of past problems was relevant to Mr. Brodner’s critique of present circumstances (which, as i read it, did NOT include calling for a ban). but now i get your “Brodner overstates” point, thanks to your comment in today (01/08) column : “Hamlin’s injury was a freak occurrence that had little to do with the game of football and would have been far more likely in other sports.”

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