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March 08, 2007


With the exception of the GI Bill of World War II, America has generally done a terrible job for veterans, including their health care. Bonus marchers, atomic veterans, Agent Orange and PTSD veterans, Gulf War Syndrome veterans - in every case some practitioner of deep bureaucracy has stood at the gate to spit in their eye.

We (on the left) ought to be running full tilt with this proof - once again - that it isn't us disrespecting the troops but the ones who drag them up the bunting-covered dais on "parade day" to demonstrate their patriotism. The disconnect has always been there. But this gives us the opportunity to spur those who have that megaphone.

Thank you for this post, Sara.

Have you heard anything about the resurrection of Conyer's Select Committee to investigate impeachment bill he introduced last session? I remember printing it off after the habeas corpus travesty and thinking it was a logical next step.


By all means, we should be doing this, but not as bloggers. As regular visitors to these facilities. Helping one-on-one.

That's the honest way to create change, letting the political impact be the secondary concern. Imagine a Deaniac turnout, befriending the wounded and their families.

That creates lasting change. Doing it for politics alone would be too Rovian for me.

But I agree, it's one of the best directions to go in.

Hi Sara & Meteor Blades,

Thanks for a great post, Sara. I am trying to understand why the Democratic Congress and its leadership seem to be stuck in quick sand. There appears to be a paralyzing inertia among Democrats in Congress and especially the leadership in their failure to proactively and quickly respond to current events as they unfold. Do they not yet have a roadmap for how to deal with the myriad issues confronting them? They're always behind the curve. Meanwhile, Bushco expresses shock and outrage at the next current atrocity, appoints yet another blue-ribbon, bi-partisan panel to study the issue and Middle America once again falls back into line with the old "it's not Bush's fault, it's the government bureaucrats who are to blame."

The mess that is the Veterans Administration and in particular, healthcare, is the perfect opportunity to explain to the American public how the current crop of Republican politicians and their supporters use the troops as props and shields and then send them off to war without adequate equipment or training and when they get maimed they send them home to a healthcare system that barely provides the most substandard of care. It's a national disgrace. Sadly, only one of many national disgraces. But yet, there sits the Democratic Congress, debating how to debate and talking, talking, talking to each other in caucus meetings and other group meetings about how to talk about the issues. Will anything ever get done in this Congress?

And on a related note. The spinmasters on the Libby guilty verdict are already making great headway after the fact. The meme began by the jurors themselves and parroted by the news media all day long that Mr. Libby was simply a scapegoat is making headway in Middle America. Now with jurors calling for Mr. Libby to be pardoned, the talk isn't about the outing of a covert agent in a time of war and the besmirching of Administration critics who had the temerity to point out how the Adminstration lied us into a War in Iraq to prove an academic theory (the infamous falling dominoes theory of inhospitable Middle Eastern regimes), it is about how poor Scooter took the fall for the big bad Cheney. Few people in the national media (Keith Olbermann, the exception) point out how Scooter Libby was a central player in the outing of a covert agent and in so doing the dastardly deed he knowingly and willingly, during a time of war, exposed a whole network of undercover agents and informants throught the Middle East. Poor Scooter Libby, the jurors say, he's such a nice man who should NOT have to go to jail. This same Scooter Libby, who in outing Valerie Plame for malicious political purposes, burned a covert agent that the CIA had spent years in developing, put her life in danger and the lives of all her informants and fellow agents who had contact with her and ruined her career and changed her life forever. Poor Scooter Libby. How about some tears for Valerie Plame, her family, her fellow agents and her informants who risked their lives to help protect the United States from attack. How about some outrage for how Scooter Libby, in his deliberate lying and obstructing of the investigation, kept the U.S. voter from the opportunity to use the information to inform his/her vote for President in 2004? Didn't Scooter Libby and the Bush Administration in their cover-up deny the U.S. voter knowledge they needed to make an informed decision for President in 2004? Where is the outrage for this subversion of democracy?

As always, the Democratic Leaders are asleep at the wheel while the inevitable trainwreck speeds toward its denouement. I guess they're too busy debating what, when, where and how to debate.

Besides privatization, the determination of benefits is one of the places where Republicans have worked their evil ways for years. They insist on complex cost control rules and procedures to prevent "freeloaders" from getting too many benefits. To them, a freeloader is apparently anyone who needs help. I've seen it many times. Health professionals talk about removing barriers to accessing services and benefits; Repubs want more barriers. Then after jamming the system with their rules they can claim that the problem is big government or just government
(privatization enters from stage right).
Well, we do need to control costs so we can have the tax cuts for Republicans and their friends. What a crock.

Thanks for your post. I have to agree with much of what Jon said. Sadly, we still need a new generation of leaders in Congress. Is there some way that we can find good candidates for the primaries who will build on your ideas about health care?

McClellan covers pres. ass already...on Larry King
"That is what I believed at the time. And what the president believed"
Makes me think of fifth grade, to whit - I didn't break the window, and neither did George.

This won't get better folks. There is no future mold breaker in the pipeline.

I believe impeachment should be the next "Plamegate." Until the purveyors of lies are removed there will be less opportunity to right the wrongs that have been inflicted upon the returning wounded men and women and upon the Americal people as a whole. That doesn't mean dis-regarding Walter Reed or the VA. Already there are investigative panels being formed. With each, to this point, absent those that have dealt with or are dealing with the problems first hand. The grunts are the REAL ELITE. Why are these panels always described as "elite?" Elite investigating elite and cocktail party drinking buddies will and always ends in a whitewash. Maybe they can make a difference in international affairs but something dealing with grunts should be done with grunts. At least be a part of an "elite" panel.


For moral and political reasons, it makes sense to look after the veterans.

But the awful truth is that we betray the veterans at the beginning when we are not honest about war, and when we do not send journalists and photographers to bring home the news raw.

Because we do not admit where we send these people, we cannot admit (to ourselves) what we have done to them. The public wants to look away.

Anyway, you are nonetheless correct that we should focus upon helping the returning vets. But I doubt even our best efforts can heal those scars.

The medical side we should be able to shore up. The disability rating process is a mess, and I have no real hopes for progress there.

The Congress keeps inventing legal presumptions and notice requirements, etc., with the idea of helping veterans process disability claims, and the sad result is a legal process so byzantine and time consuming that veterans are swallowed by it. More help from Congress will probably make it worse. We need to start over, but I am not sure how.

There will be no justice for the veterans. No justice comes from war. Why cannot people appreciate how irrevocable the decision to start a war is? Where was the simple maturity to refuse to be rushed into a war in 2002?

Our President lied. Our bureaucracy stayed silent. Our Congress failed to ask questions. Our media was cheerleader for the President. Our public imagined glory and victory and righteous indignation.

And so we sacrifice our soldiers and the Iraqi people. Irrevocably.

Great post, Sara. I think that focus is what you suggest, and the investigatory committees/subcommittees have their hands full of enough to do over the next 2 to 4 years to send many politicians away for 2 to 4 years. The question is timing, of course, and the reason impeachment was always off the table was because extremes invite reaction, and that is not something Dems want to invite - at least, not yet. Now it's time for Senate Republicans to get on a short bus to the Naval Observatory and discuss matters with Cheney. I'm not suggesting that the Senate Dems scratch around and kick dirt, but they ought to be gracious, and not lord it over the Repubs heads - even though that is exactly what the Little Hitler in me would like to do.

OkOkOkOk---Sara, here's your answer:: Go here::


You won't believe this story!!!!

Sadly, for the last few days my computer has had a disease -- would not post comments on TNH. I could read, but nothing posted. Anyhow

I am not at all discouraged with this Congress. Please understand, we have a very narrow majority. In the house we won some seats that could flip back next election, depending on the weather, and the senate is just by one vote, and as you know, to do anything you need 60. What we can do we have to do in committee -- and ultimately by forcing Bush to veto stuff that has broad popular support. If we can break Republicans away from their conference on some stuff, fine, we can pass something by a veto-proof majority. In the meantime, just take delight in chairmanships, Subpoena Powers, and above all the right to do the Budget and Appropriations. We can do lots of policy change by ditching some line items in the old budget, and reprograming money for things we support. But watching that is like watching Sausage being made -- and as you can see, some who are watching drove David Obey to distraction last week. And he is one of the very good guys.

So today we got our third head -- General Kiley will retire instantly at a lower grade of General than before. This is still damage control, but hopefully he will be available for an appearance before the proper committee in a few weeks to spill a few more beans on Walter Reed. Minnesota Public Radio did an hour's call in about this generally this morning, and the locals are hoppin' mad about a variety of local conditions. They love our local VA, if only they could get an appointment. It seems it takes a returnee about six months to get in after leaving the military. They were mad as hell at Bob Dole saying that the problem was caused because the vet service groups had not made complaints clear. I wonder how many active cases his Senator Wife has active in her caseworker's files? It is not the responsibility of the Service Groups to Inspect and manage the systems. Apparently people really understand this, given this morning's callers. Pissed as hell that any elected official says they didn't know. They all visit VA hospitals in their districts and states, and all they have to do is figure how to ask the right questions.

One of my posts that got swallowed whole was a response to MB on the GI Bill as it was written in 1944. Again, a little history lesson. The real back story on the GI Bill is the Condon Report of early 1942, which FDR Commissioned in 1940. Already in 1940 the US was finding it difficult to find the right kind of skilled workforce that could take British Designs for things like Radar, and manufacture the components in the US, away from the Blitz and all that. Condon was the President of Harvard (Important in the decision to authorize the Manhattan Project eventually), and FDR asked Condon to do a wide reaching study of this matter -- given that we still had about 9-10% unemployment. What Condon found was we simply were not properly educating American Students to do skilled work at any level -- and FDR became convinced it was one (of many) causes of the Great Depression -- too many unskilled workers chasing after too few unskilled jobs. As of 1940, only about 50% of Americans finished High School (1940 was the crossover year), and only about 5% of Americans went on to College or post High School technical training. Condon advocated policy that would raise High School Graduation to 80%, raise College Admission to 30%, and add non-college technical training schools. Otherwise he suggested the US would repeat the Great Depression after the war.

This is actually what FDR's support for the GI Bill with Educational Benefits was based on -- Condon's workforce profile analysis. It was not at all an original idea from FDR, but once it was clear to him in 1944 that the politics were in line, and he could get support for giving anyone in the 16 million who had served in Uniform access to college or technical training -- he adopted the Bill as his own. It was much more a Depression Avoidance measure than it was some sort of gift to returning vets.

And yea, by the mid 50's we were sending 35% of our High School Grads to either College or Technical Schools, and we were getting nearly 80% through High School. It was a profound cultural change.

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