The Morning News

April 05, 2007 by susan

In which we encounter recess appointments and crippled veterans

by susan
It was one of those blood-boiling news mornings. (Yes, I'm of an age where I still get the bulk of my news via the inky page, with a syrupy cup of joe to match. And the motor-mouth to follow.)

For starters, the arrogance of King George continues unabated with his latest recess appointments, most notably, the aptly named Sam Fox to be ambassador to Belgium. Nothing new that heavy financial lifters get ambassadorships, but most get approval from Congress before they pack their luggage. This jackal, a $50,000 donor to the swift-boat slime attacks on John Kerry, was clearly not going to have the Senate votes necessary, so our sullen boy-king waited for the week-long congressional recess to slide his buddy into place. Well, the race is to the swift -- boat slimers.

As grating as it is, it doesn't really have many consequences. Fox will throw parties to support the empire and grow fat on dark chocolate, and serve King George in the same way Princess Margaret serves Queen Elizabeth. In other words, as an irrelevant side kick to an irrelevant monarch. (Or, sadly for us, not so irrelevant.)

Two of the other recess appointments are more disturbing.
Andrew Biggs, who the NYTimes calls "a champion of privatization", has been appointed to be the depurty commissioneer of the Social Security Administration. Biggs is a proponent of privatizing Social Security, the concept that sold maggot-filled meat back when Bush took it on the road in happier rating times. And it's been working so well in places like New Orleans and Iraq.

Then there's Susan Dudley, appointed to be administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Management and Budget. According to the NYTimes, "a powerful position that involves review of regulations from major federal agencies." (Are there any left?) But Ms. Dudley has written that government regulation is not warranted "in the absence of significant market failure." Talk about the fox in charge of the hen house.

The Bushian appointment policy goes something like this: Appoint someone to head an agency that they -- and you -- don't believe in. Like John Bolton to the UN, another recess appointment. It's called take over from the inside. Let the department flounder until it looks as bad as you say it is, thus proving your point. It's like the rubber band method of castrating a pig, slowly cutting off the circulation, vs. a clean chop. The pig may suffer more with the rubber band, but he doesn't make as much noise, so no one notices. And in the end, they're both impotent.

There's more to boil the blood if you can take it.

Read the sad story of returning Iraqi veteran Sam Ross. I once wrote in an op-ed about the Sago mine tragedy that the kids growing up in coal country have options about as wide as the hollers they're born in: the mines or the military.
My editor struck it out, saying it could offend those in the military who have plenty of other options but choose to serve their country. (Yeah, go find them now.)
Well, Sam Ross illustrates my point with heart-breaking clarity. A kid from coal country, with a good record despite dismal schooling and all forms of parental abuse, signs up for the army. With structure and discipline, he flourishes. For once he sees a future, plans on going to college and getting out of the poverty and deprivation he's always known. Until he is blinded and loses a leg on his 54th day in Iraq.
After early attention is showered on him, including a welcome home parade, a Purple Heart, the after-effects of war set in with dire consequences. And, this will come as a shock, despite being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, he does not get the psychiatric care he needs. He self-medicates, first with drugs, then with the old family stand-by, booze, and gets himself in a heap o' trouble by burning down his family's trailer, attacks the firemen and later the sheriff, and is put in isolation, where he attempts to hang himself. It's his 17th suicide attempt since coming home. Some, he admits, were mere calls for help. Help he is finally getting in a psychiatric hospital.

We are under-schooling our kids, leaving them few options for a future, shipping them to the killing fields because we are junkies for oil, and abandoning them to their demons when, or if, they come home. Calls for help should be made by telephone, not suicide attempts, but as we've seen, the VA's phone is off the hook.

Well, that's the day brightener from here. Heckuva job, Bushie.

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Poet (not verified) | April 5, 2007 - 7:49pm

Your editors problem is the same one the whole nation is having because the military has become a victim of the double-speak of neo-con-men. Used to be that anybody who joined the military did it either to show patriotism, (especially in time of war) to perform public service as the "rent" we willingly pay for the privilige of living in this land, (which was what helped keep the draft going long after WWII was over),or as a family tradition (the profedssional or "career" solider--formerly a very distinct minority of the armed forces).

When wars were declared by a majority of the people's congress and the entire nation was mobilized for the effort, military men and women were extended gratitude as the people's servants doing their bidding. Today that is no longer the case and the youngsters who enlist do so willingly (somewhat coerced by the general lack of any kind of decent job options for someone just out of high school who cannot afford to go to college).

Since wars are no longer an expression of the popular mass will of the people and the entire nation is no longer mobilized for such efforts most people have a hard time working up much sympathy for those unfortunate souls stuck in the kill zone that has become Iraq and Afghanistan. They are not defending our interests, they just made an unfortunate career choice for which they are now paying a dear price. I know this sounds cruel but I think it to be true and the chief architects of this dilemma are the "professional military" crowd.


perhansa (not verified) | April 5, 2007 - 11:10pm

You gotta give the guy (W) credit, he doesn't do anything that could get him impeached--like having sex with an intern or male prostitute.

It's been more than 140 years since Ambrose Bierce observed that war is how Americans learn geography. Not sure the military stuff's all that new... BTW poet thanks for the recommendation on Chris Hedges book, I 'm reading it now.