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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

Daily News Roundup, 11/8/07: The Day Before Yesterday Was Election Day

We have, in this space, discussed the shortcomings of the American government's efforts to take care of veterans when they return home from war. We have strongly advocated increased aid and reforms for veterans' medical care and benefits as well as safeguards for their jobs and financial futures that may be endangered by their time spent serving this country. It was disturbing enough to learn that 25% of homeless adults in the United States are veterans; the fact that some veterans of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are turning up in homeless shelters indicates the problems run very deep, indeed.

The raw statistics — and the accelerated period in which veterans return home, find trouble, and end up homeless — are discouraging:

Some advocates say the early presence of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan at shelters does not bode well for the future. It took roughly a decade for the lives of Vietnam veterans to unravel to the point that they started showing up among the homeless. Advocates worry that intense and repeated deployments leave newer veterans particularly vulnerable.

Is it the financial difficulties imposed upon veterans by repeated deployments, or are mental health issues more widespread and severe than is currently cataloged? Might be either; might be both. No matter what, a watchful eye and a careful agenda of meaningful reform for the VA will be required over the next decade.

One of my favorite federal government entities is the Government Accountability Office. Whether its revelations about $900 toilet seats or thousands of small arms going missing, the GAO is usually the watchdog what watches for such things. A newly released GAO audit of border security and processes in 2006 has revealed that the Customs and Border Patrol, due to staffing and training difficulties, failed to stop thousands and thousands of people coming into the country that shouldn't have been. And don't even get me started about the ports. The immigration debate is often hyper-charged and overzealous; the idea that border security is an integral part of national security often goes unmentioned. For all the Republican bluster about how much safer we are, its things like this that indicate the job the Bush administration has really done on national security.

Yesterday, the House passed a measure which attacks job discrimination based on sexual preference. In a redux of legislation originally proposed in part by Ed Koch, equal rights and workplace protection was the watchword. I'm surprised that Bush hasn't tried to figure out a way to veto this before it even gets to the Senate, but I'm even more surprised to read this, in the linked NYTimes article:

Some Senate Republicans said that, if worded carefully, it would have a good chance of passing, perhaps early next year.

I'm glad to hear it, but honestly, I couldn't be more surprised if I suddenly found myself on a space station.

If that is surprising, it is not surprising to learn that Bush has been lobbying Musharraf to cool it. Bush had a lot of eggs in the Pakistani basket, and Musharraf effectively threw them all back at the White House when he suspended the constitution and started locking up protesters. The US really wants Pakistan to have their elections in January. Pakistan is saying they will probably have them in February, maybe. I guess we will know how possible those elections are by how soon Musharraf puts down the sword and switches to civilian life.

I was interested to see a discussion of a new House Democratic strategy from Rahm Emanuel and Chris Van Hollen, who are looking to be really aggressive about picking up seats. The general message to House Democratic incumbents is this: if you aren't targeted by the NRCC, you aren't going to get any help from the DCCC. This makes sense — if you don't have a significant challenger, it is reasonable to assume that as long as you don't blow it big time, you won't lose your seat. So, since Emanuel and Van Hollen are leading the charge to try and take 40 more seats in the House, that's where the money will be spent: on races against vulnerable Republicans.

Lastly today: for those of you who think pop culture is an indicator of the pulse of the American people, good news! Saturday Night Live indicates that people are paying attention to the presidential election. Now if we could just get everyone to vote.

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