I am finally home again after a week on the road. Most of the time was spent playing with my grandson, who has just learned to crawl and so is always on the move, proudly showing off his new skill. He is also exploring all the different sounds that can be made by banging two objects together. Since the objects he has at his disposal are toys that have been carefully designed for safety and are mostly made of plastic, the range of sounds he can produce is limited but do have subtle variations that he is studying.
I also happened to spend time visiting relatives and old friends who were on the way and catching up on mutual friends. At this stage of one’s life, the results are a little bittersweet. It is always fun to catch up with people and with really good friends you tend to pickup the conversation where you left off with no awkwardness. But the news one gets is somewhat mixed. One hears of people who have passed on or who are going through difficult life changes due to illness or financial or family issues.
The worst moment was when I was shocked to hear of one young woman who had died of an opioid overdose. Although I am familiar with the extent of the crisis and have written before about its devastating impact, I had not personally known anyone who had succumbed to it. Learning that someone you have met and who was close to someone you are close to, brings the crisis home to you like a slap to the face.
I was glad to hear that congressman Tom Morino, Donald Trump’s nominee to be director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, had withdrawn his name from consideration after it was revealed that while in Congress, he had spearheaded legislation through Congress that hugely reduced the chances of action being taken against big drug companies for shipping large quantities of drugs to locations when they should have known that the region it was going to simply could not have a legitimate need for such amounts.
The law passed in 2016, after a handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to the more industry-friendly legislation, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills, according to the Post/“60 Minutes” investigation. The DEA had opposed the effort for years.
The law was the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market. The industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, pouring more than $1 million into their election campaigns.
The lawyer who wrote the wording for his legislation worked for the big drug companies and before that had worked for the DEA, another classic example of the revolving door cronyism that enables big corporations to draft legislation in their favor. The Obama administration shares responsibility for the resulting horror show because the law was passed during its term of office and none of its oversight agencies raised objections to it nor did Obama veto it. They are now refusing to comment on why that was the case.
Incidentally Morino, a Republican, represents the district where the young woman I knew died and where there is a serious opioid abuse epidemic. He is up for re-election in 2018. Let’s see if voters are willing to put back in office someone who is responsible for killing so many of his own constituents and devastating their families.