Recently in First Person Perspective Category

The Power of First Person War

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There is nothing like the power of writing by someone who experienced war first-hand. There's a female Iraq war vet who lives in MN and is dealing with a horrendous case of PTSD, hallucinations, the whole bit, as well as physical injuries. Ginmar's writing is powerful, from-the-gut truth that breaks away a bit of the shell of the ordinary that surrounds our daily lives and puts her readers in a different place.

I first read her writing in the diary: But aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

It introduces a bit of her story as a female vet with severe PTSD and how the VA, at least her particular VA center, hasn't yet figured out how to deal with the concept that there are no front-lines / behind-the-lines roles in modern warfare. That any deployed soldier, whether part of a supply unit or a combat unit, is in combat and female soldiers should not be lumped in with soldiers' wives for group therapy sessions.

Yesterday ginmar posted a diary about how people use the phrase, Thank you for your service. Makes you rethink what and how you respond to soldiers whose service you want to acknowledge.

In a comment in that one, she mentioned that she was going to post about how the hallucinations were becoming so severe that she was having difficulty writing and she did so today. It's called Riding the Nightmare and it's extraordinary.

There's an excerpt in the middle written by her CO in response to some comments by some supposed vets and conservative military types about her unit and what they did in Iraq. Per the CO, they did routes in Iraq that the Marines wouldn't do with 3-4 unarmored vehicles and no armored escort.

I'm not excerpting because it wouldn't do her writing justice. Start with any of the posts though the last one may make more sense if you read them in chronological order.

Go learn about what our female soldiers did and still do and how we, as a country, and the VA, specifically, fail to acknowledge what they did and to support them fully from someone who's in the midst of dealing with it.

About what happened at Bagram

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You probably didn't hear about this story which happened at Bagram military base in Afghanistan. One of Andrew Sullivan's readers wrote a letter that all should read:

I really have to chime in on this topic. I spent the better part of last year deployed to Afghanistan, where I was stationed at Bagram. Part of my job, actually the most important part, was to coordinate the transfer of my unit's fallen back home. This was something that I never, ever looked forward to, but it was a duty I took very seriously. Part of this duty was a departure ceremony as our fallen left Afghanistan for Dover. I don't think you can ever realize how powerful these ceremonies are until you've taken part in one.

At Bagram, all personnel not performing an essential task would line up on the main drive through Bagram. As the open backed HUMMV carrying the flagged draped transfer case slowly proceeded from the mortuary down the main drive to the airfield, everyone would come to attention and render a salute. There would be thousands of people, soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, lined up as for this. The fallen hero would be taken on to the tarmac and driven to an empty C-17 that had its ramp lowered, waiting to receive the transfer case. An honor guard and a cordon, as well as hundreds of servicemen and women, would be silently standing at attention as an honor guard carried the remains to the center of the aircraft. Whenever possible I would arrange for the honor guard and cordon to come from the fallen's team or platoon. Always, always, always, they wanted to be the ones to perform this service.

The last fallen hero ramp ceremony I put together still stings in my memory.

Ramadan had just ended, it was the first few weeks of autumn. A few kilometers from our base one of our police mentoring teams (PMT) was almost attacked by a vehicle bourne improvised explosive device (VBIED). I say almost as the attack was thwarted by one of our HUMMV drivers who took evasive action. Unfortunately, this resulted in the rollover of the HUMMV which caused the death of the driver. I was at the mortuary when the MEDEVAC helicopter brought this young man's broken body in to be prepared for the journey home.

The rest of his team were brought to Bagram as well. They were very adamant that they be the ones to escort the fallen brother to the C17. Although dirty and disheveled from their encounter, I agreed as I am certain their brother would have had it no other way. To a man, they wanted me to know one essential fact about him: he was Muslim. They insisted that he be sent home with a Muslim cleric presiding. We had one at Bagram, a major who was an Islamic chaplain - in fact I had dinner with this man just a few nights prior. We were able to grant the PMT's request.

I do not have the words to adequately describe the emotion in the night air on the tarmac. Under a crescent moon the fallen hero was carried onto the C17 by his team brothers, followed by the honor guard, the Commanding General and Command Sergeant Major of the 101st Airborne, and of course the Muslim chaplain.

Not a lot more needs to be said.

Paging the VA

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It's not too often that I find myself wiping away tears as I read but that happened this morning when I read a post from ginmar, an American female vet. I'm not going to excerpt it. It's powerfully written and I'm willing to bet that it makes you pause in your day.

Go read But aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

Then think about what you can do to help the female vets in our midst, the ones who are being ignored. Ilona Meagher has some ideas for you.

As for the management of the VA, helloooooo. This is a MAJOR fail in your mission to take care of our soldiers.

Pete Souza's Photos

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Via Huffington Post, new photos of the Obamas.

At the end of April, White House photographer Pete Souza released a huge slideshow featuring 300 of the best behind-the-scenes photos of Obama's young presidency. Now Souza has added over a hundred new pictures. Included in the set are shots of the president doing everything from meeting with Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich to playing with his dog.

Mouse over the top of the slideshow to see more options, and click on a photo to view its caption. The newest photos appear at the end.

NYT: After the Great Recession - An Interview With President Obama

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David Leonhardt, an economic reporter with the NY Times, did a lengthy interview with President Obama. It provides a lot of insight into how Obama is approaching his presidency and where he anticipates things will go after we get over the economic hump.

Andrew Sullivan comments on it and rounds up other comments as well:

Leonhardt scores an interview with the President. It's interesting throughout. A snippet:

I knew even before the election that this was going to be a very difficult journey and that the economy had gone through a sufficient shock and that it wasn't going to recover right away.

In some ways it's liberating, though, in the sense that whether I'm a one-termer or a two-termer, the problems are big enough and fundamental enough that I can't sort of game it out. It's not one of these things where I can say, Oh, you know what, if I time it just right, then the market is going to be going up and unemployment will be going down right before re-election. These are much bigger, much more systemic problems. And so in some ways you just kind of set aside the politics.

The article is already bouncing around the internets. Matthew Continetti thinks Obama is setting the stage for healthcare rationing; Jonathan Cohn also focuses on the healthcare angle; Tim Fernholz wants Obama to make a better case against bank nationalization; And Reihan calls the interview "really remarkable." Reihan:

At the very least, the Leonhardt interview suggests that Obama understands the thorny landscape, and that's saying a lot. My basic fear remains the same: I think we expect too much from government in general and from the president in particular. Still, it's hard to argue that Obama doesn't wear the mantle of "bearer of responsibility" fairly well.

"words spiny or smooth"

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Elizabeth Alexander's poem for the inauguration whipped by too fast. It was overwhelmed by the events that surrounded it.

Our local NPR station sent a reporter to Yale to watch the Inauguration with some of Alexander's fellow professors. The resulting story with their commentary on her poem brought out new highlights. It was also not without its humorous elements.

I tried to figure out how to embed what is obviously an mp3 file but couldn't so you'll have to go to their site to listen.

Here's the text of the poem, courtesy of the New York Times.

Praise song for the day.

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

This was the line that stood out for me:

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

Words have power. And consequences.

The Obamas in 1996

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An interesting inside look at the relationship between the Obamas in 1996 from the New Yorker.

Karmic justice: Gen. Eric Shinseki

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News arrived over the weekend that President-Elect Obama had selected Gen. Shinseki as the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The official announcement is to be made on Monday, December 7th, the 63rd anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Obama referenced it in his talk with Tom Brokaw on Meet The Press Sunday.

"He was right."

That was his clipped response to Brokaw's query on Shinseki and his dismissal by Rumsfeld. It was brief and powerful. James Fallows has a piece on the karmic justice of it all and a follow-up commenting on the elegance of the timing.

Fallows' recitation of Shinseki's history and approach to his position and responsibilities is corroborated by this first person narrative from kossak Homer J which offers another angle from which to see how Gen. Shinseki respected and cared for the veterans and soldiers under his command.


Spencer Ackerman and Hilzoy have posted about Obama's selection of Shinseki. Spencer unequivocally approves. Hilzoy looks thoughtfully at some of the implications and possible outcomes of his appointment.

Tales of a Family Doctor

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A family doctor sat down at his computer and wrote about what he does when he goes to his clinic. The end result is an extraordinary look inside a clinic focused on family practice and the stresses that the current health insurance system places on the people in such an establishment.

I arrived this morning in the office at 8:50 a.m. to find Glenda, my office manager, buried in charts. She had been there since 6:30, simultaneously arranging referrals that had been requested the day before, making sure that we had properly completed the detailed forms required by the Child Health and Disability Prevention Program that helps pay for the preventive care provided to some of our poorer patients, and listening to the voice mail from pharmacies to get the medication refill requests in order for me before the day begins in earnest.

Glenda is a great asset to the practice. An extraordinarily hardworking mother of two, four days a week she commutes with her husband from an outlying suburb to the office, arriving early to avoid the rush hour gridlock and get some of her work done before the phones start ringing. Having been with me for about ten years, she knows the ins and outs of dealing with all the health plans-- which ones require paper referrals, which use the Internet, which force her to hang on the phone waiting for an okay. Only Medicare is easy; all we have to do is provide a patient with the name and phone number of the consultant. MediCal, the California Medicaid program for certain categories of poor people, works the same way in our county but it is a bit more complicated. Not all the consultants we regularly use accept MediCal referrals so the list of available consultants is limited. Glenda is playing what I think of as a game of "keep away" we play in our office. The providers, knowing medicine but not the details of each health plan, send administrative work to the staff; Glenda and the rest put their stamp on the process and return the charts back to the doctors. Eventually the game pauses, but right now Glenda is "losing" with over fifty charts on her desk.

My office, a small practice which I own and staff, has grown over the nearly 20 years I've been practicing family medicine in the San Francisco suburb of Burlingame. At first I worked alone, delivering babies, assisting at surgery, rounding on my hospitalized patients, but always spending most of my time seeing patients in my office across the street from the hospitalOver time, in order to make sure that I could take vacation and to spread the overhead, the practice has grown and now we are a group of five part time physicians and two nurse practitioners supported by seven full and part time staff. [...]

Shortly after I arrive and begin to call back patients who've left messages overnight Glenda comes by with a small stack of charts that have been giving her trouble. A couple require a short letter from me changing the "diagnosis code" I used when completing a lab order form. Some insurance companies, it turns out, do not pay for preventive screening tests, so when I ordered a cholesterol or a prostate cancer screening test at the time of a physical, the test would not be covered under a patient's insurance policy. Fortunately, the lab often catches these slips and notifies us so I can correct the "error". For better or worse, the two patients' whose charts she brings today have elevated cholesterol levels, so I feel honest indicating that fact in the letter, knowing that the insurance company will not balk at payment. [...]

The private health care insurance system which we deal with every day is an insidious bureaucratic monster. The morass of more than 1300 insurance carriers in this country introduces an administrative mess beyond belief. In our small office of essentially two full time equivalent providers, seven full time support staff are needed to cope with the complexities introduced by this system. I am quite certain that the wasted effort this system creates is so great that if we had a unified system of health care I could see 10-20% more patients - with two fewer staff. Looked at from another direction, at least 10-20% of my current income is wasted on insurance bureaucracy which benefits no one. [...]

Three medical assistants spend hours daily communicating with patients about medication refills and calling or faxing pharmacies. Most insurance companies allow patients to collect only a one month supply of medication at their local pharmacies (three months if patients can figure out how to manage a mail order program). The rule makes financial sense for insurance companies. Why should one company pay for a year's supply of medication if a patient may well switch insurance companies or lose their coverage after one month? Unfortunately, the rule doesn't make sense for patients. Studies show that compliance with chronic medications is abysmally low, in part because of rules like this.

The churn in insurance coverage as people move, change jobs, or suffer economic hardships which lead them to cut back on expenses introduces a huge set of problems for our little office, and wasteful costs for the medical system. Easily half of the new patients we see explain their search for a new doctor (no small task in a community where primary care providers are retiring in far greater numbers than they are starting out) as the result of an insurance change. So we often "reinvent the wheel", setting up a new chart, getting to know a patient, revising medications, reviewing old medical records, helping those with complex medical issues reestablish with new consultants. The economic implications for the system are obvious.

There's so much more in his post that I encourage you to go read the original. He concludes with some thoughts about the future of health care in America and he makes a lot of sense. Let's hope people who need to hear his input are listening.

The doctor's name is Aaron Roland and his bio notes that he "is a family physician who years ago left Yale Law School and a career in politics for the front lines of primary care. He now returns to fight for national health insurance for all." His opening comment mentions the organization, "Physicians for a National Health Plan" or PNHP, specifically pointing out a blog at the PNHP website which may be of interest.

Happy Thanksgiving

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We baked the pumpkins on Tuesday and scooped them out. And then we made the pies from scratch yesterday: two pumpkin and one cherry. We toasted the pumpkin seeds too and made the cranberry sauce. Got up this morning and made the stuffing for the turkey and heaved it into the oven a little while ago. Later we'll make the mashed potatoes and the acorn squash and the corn and the brussel sprouts and of course, the gravy about which we'll have the family debate on whether it's better with mushrooms or without. We've discussed the paucity of "good" football games to watch. So while we wait for Thanksgiving dinner to appear, some of us are going for a hike in the park after my husband has cleared the last of the leaves that dared trespass on his arduously cleared lawn (last weekend's chore). We'll miss the family members that aren't here today but we're thankful that everyone is healthy and happy and safe where they are.

There's much to be thankful for this year. And chief among them, is the election of a president who is approaching this time of crisis with the intelligence, forethought and vision that's been missing for so long.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, wherever you are, with whatever friends, family and strangers who become friends with whom you share this special day.


Margaret and Helen

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I have a new favorite blog that I'm going to be checking in on, thanks to Sully. It's called "Margaret and Helen" by two women who met in college and have been friends for almost 60 years. Helen, who does most of the writing, puts it this way.

My name is Helen Philpot. I am 82 years old. My grandson taught me how to do this so that I could "blog" with my best friend Margaret Schmechtman who I met in college almost 60 years ago. I have three children with my husband Harold. Margaret has three dogs with her husband Howard. I live in Texas and Margaret lives in Maine.

This Thanksgiving Letter to the Family will give you an idea of Helen's writing style. I think thanksgiving dinner at Helen's house would be a lot of fun.

But Helen's fame has come about as a result of the 2008 campaign, specifically by McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate. Helen has some pretty concise opinions about Gov. Palin and she doesn't mince any words.

She is a weak, pathetic woman who thinks big hair, winking, baby talk and self deprecation is somehow becoming of a woman who wants to lead the free world. My god, where is Margaret Thatcher when you need her!

That's just a snippet from her first post on Palin and I'd add that Golda Meir and Indira Gandhi would have brushed Palin off their shoulders like the fluff she is.

If you've got the time I suggest that you go here and scroll to the bottom and read her posts in the order they were written starting with "Sarah Palin is a Bitch... there I said it." And do take the time to appreciate her choice of titles for specific posts. And I must add that Harold is a saint -- it's that or he has a great sense of humor. Maybe both.

I found myself laughing so hard I was afraid I'd wake other family members up. More bits of Helen's wisdom:

You just can't teach an old dog a new trick... even if you put lipstick on it. Change is needed. I know because I am a fat, old dog. For too many years I've been eating more pie than I should. Jenny Craig had me doing pretty good for a few years but eventually I started eating pie again. John McCain has been part of the Republican party in Washington for 26 years. It doesn't matter what he has been saying the last few months, eventually he's going to eat the party pie again. He's old. I'm old. That's what we do. We don't suddenly switch to salad.

On the final debate:

Well, I thought it was a good debate. My hats off to Bob Shieffer... and my blouse too if he plays his cards right. (Just don't tell my husband.) But who the hell is Joe the Plumber? Seriously. What the hell was that all about? Joe the Plumber? Joe Six Pack? The new McCain strategy seems to be banking on a lot of guys named Joe with a beer in one hand and a pipe wrench in the other. Is this a political campaign or a dating service for the Palin women?

Anderson Cooper has a fan:

I was just watching CNN and I couldn't believe what I heard. Even if McCain loses this election, many in the Republican party will see Governor Moose Meat as the candidate who almost saved McCain. In other words, it wasn't her fault - he would have been nothing without her. The reporter then took that to a horrifying conclusion - Palin in 2012.

Has everybody gone mad? Dear Lord she is like a cockroach. We'll never be rid of her! I tell you after the scare of that report my hair went from a lovely silver, just like that sweet Anderson Cooper's, to stark white... completely devoid of color (my hair not Anderson Cooper).

About those clothes:

What really gets my goat is that I could have put that same wardrobe together at JC Penny for about $300 with enough money left over for a piece of pie and coffee. Are you telling me THAT is the best they could do with $150,000?

Beverage alert -- swallow before reading. This one is in response to a letter she received asking advice on how to talk to the letter-writer's grandparents who are refusing to vote for an African-American.

But remember we grew up in a different time. We grew up during a time when this country didn't understand the depths of its hatred. Don't blame them. They don't know any better. It is a part of who they are. But if they ignore you, you have my permission to do what I do when Harold doesn't listen to me. Put laxatives in their pudding.

There's more. Do look for her "New Rules" and hang onto your panties. She said it first. And do be careful about drinking and eating while you're reading. You're likely to to burst out laughing unexpectedly. Don't say you weren't warned.

Helen, you're my new hero.

What if he is?

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Colin Powell in the course of his endorsement of Obama this morning made this point:

And it is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, "He's a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists." This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

And then he mentioned a picture that struck him.

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards--Purple Heart, Bronze Star--showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way.

This picture.


Elsheba Khan at the grave of her son, Specialist Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan
New Yorker magazine/photographer Platon

His life story demonstrates like he was just as much a part of real America as anyone who lives in southern Virginia.

Campbell Brown made the same point last week. What would this election season have been like if more leading public figures and eminent journalists had stepped up and clearly made the same point in 2007 or early 2008? We can only imagine. But it didn't happen. And now we have been subjected to a campaign of slurs and hate-mongering.

I cannot say it better than NavyBlueWife did.

The highly charged rhetoric used by McCain and Palin to tie Obama to terrorism and Islam is once again an affront to all Muslim Americans. We saw this type of fear and backlash just after 9/11. We see it also in the McCarthy-like invocations of Michele Bachmann. I challenge Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin to tell this grieving mother that her son is anti-American because of his faith.

The answer to who is evil is NEVER as neat, clean, and easy as a label. Thank you, Colin Powell, for reminding America that those who serve in our military represent the awesome diversity of faithful and patriotic Americans.

Thank you, Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, for your service and your ultimate sacrifice. I am humbled to honor you and your fallen comrades.

And so am I. So are we all.


RR's Personal Story

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[This diary, Why My Republican Father Is Voting For Obama by Relevant Rhino, tells a personal story that is succinct and powerful and representative of so many other personal stories being told in the dkos community and elsewhere. ]

My folks live in Indiana. I've said in numerous comments, and one diary that my ma is now not only supporting Obama, but volunteering for his campaign in Madison County. I can't tell you how amazing that is, considering she works for a private, religious university and has voted Republican since 1976. It reaffirms my belief that anyone can change if given the proper motivation and tools.

My old man has been another subject altogether. He's one of those old school conservatives that vote straight-ticket just because. He only watches Fox News, and listens to Rush on a daily basis. When I told him I was posting diaries here on DKos, he asked me if I was a communist. I replied, no more or less than your President, and that ended that conversation.

So what changed my pops' mind?

I was inspired by a diary which I can no longer find a few weeks ago where the diarist listed some reasons as to why he was voting Obama. I decided to sit down and do the same, and send it to my folks. This is what I came up with:

I'm voting for Barack Obama because his message resonates with me. This is 2008, and we need a President who is capable of dealing with modern day problems. I feel very strongly about the direction this country has gone in eight short years, and would like to elect someone who feels like we're on the wrong track, and need to take massive leaps to gain our global credibility back. I believe in evolution(in all senses, but most importantly in the social sense). I believe in progress. And I believe that is a shared ideal with Barack Obama.

I'm voting for Barack Obama because I oppose the war in Iraq. Surge be damned, we're there for the wrong reasons. I agree with General Petraus when he says that victory is impossible in an occupation. Were it not for the Anbar Awakening, excessive bribery, and brilliantly executed covert operations by US Special Forces, the surge would have failed, and more of our soldiers would have lost their lives. I agree with Barack Obama when he says that Afghanistan is the central front in the war on terror, and that action should be taken in that theater, be it in Waziristan, Afghanistan, or Pakistan. Support the troops is more than a bumper sticker.

I'm voting for Barack Obama because I'm a parent. I want what every parent wants for their child: a better life than the one I had. And I had a pretty damn fine life. I was able to go to college due to scholarships and loans, which I am still paying for today. Barack Obama has a plan to make college more affordable to all families. You can read the bullet points here . Without proper education, and a chance for anyone to go to an institution of higher learning, we will not be able to compete in the global market.

I'm voting for Barack Obama because I believe in Women's Rights. I believe that women should receive equal pay for equal work. I believe that women should be given reproductive rights. While I feel that it should ultimately be a state by state issue, I would rather it be Federally protected than not. I believe that if assaulted, women should be given every consideration for their privacy, and every opportunity to prosecute their assailants. This is a fundamental disagreement I have with John McCain, who has voted against equal pay, and advocated making abortion a Federal crime.

I'm voting for Barack Obama because I want to pay less in taxes. In case you don't feel like wading through report after report, here's a simple chart of the Obama tax plan.

I'm voting for Barack Obama because I'm self-employed. Under John McCain's healthcare plan , families would get a $5,000 tax credit, individuals would get a $2,500 tax credit, and employer based health care would be eliminated. Why am I against McCain's plan if I'm self-employed, you ask? Because health care would be placed on the open market. The average cost of a health care plan is around $12,000 a year, leaving $7,000 by McCain's standards for those with care. If you don't have healtcare, you're screwed. Barack Obama's healthcare plan can be found here.

My dad called me up in tears. And this guy doesn't cry. The only time I've ever seen him shed a tear in my 30 years of life was when he buried his own father when I was eight. He told me that my ma had been working on him for a while to get him to vote for Obama, and that McCain's stunt with the bailout made him less confident in him, but it wasn't until he actually had to sit down and read why his own son felt this way that he started looking into exactly what Barack Obama offered America as a president. He admitted that he had the negative crap on FOX, and had a pretty skewed vision of who Barack Obama was. He said that Sarah Palin didn't represent his brand of conservatism. He said that Joe Biden reminded him of our old neighbor from Kendalville, IN, who he's still very close to. He apologized profusely for being manipulated by someone else's opinion and allowing it to become his own. I don't cry much either, but by the end of it we were both weeping like little girls with skinned knees.

This is why I love our campaign. It's personal, it's real, and it's effective, even if it's one voter at a time.

That's about as real and personal and succinct as one can get about the impact of Barack Obama's campaign. Well-said Relevant Rhino.

Republicans step way over the line

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The RNC has a problem. First they used fake soldiers in a video supposedly honoring them. But last night they leaped right over that line of disrespect and right into callous insult to anyone impacted by the events of 9/11.

You may have missed it. If you did, you can watch it now.

If you did see it, you already know why people are so angry about the RNC's video last night. A fear and hate-mongering mashup of epic proportions which callously used extended video of 9/11 to create the proper atmosphere of fear and hate at the Republican Convention.

Keith Olbermann was certainly angry about it. So is eshfemme at DU.

But here's the message I'd like to share with you.

plf515 at dkos was in the Twin Towers when they were hit on 9/11. He has a message that he asked us to share far and wide. It's a message for all those who would so callously use other people's loss and grief for their own personal advantage. Get angry with him.

OK, I've not been watching the RNC. But they have apparently pulled something about a 'tribute' to 9/11. And they are going to have McCain start his speech at 9:11 Central time

UPDATE McCain started at 9:11

I am outraged. ...

I'm a victim of 9/11. I was in the building when the plane hit.

Obama: Quiet Storms

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Time's Jay Newton-Small has covered Obama for 19 months and was there during his appearance last night with a rally of union workers. Jay writes "I have heard him deliver more speeches than I can count. I know when he's tired he goes long - like 90 minutes long - rambling through oft-repeated points and stories. ... And after a while you become immune to his prose and tune in only to new wrinkles."

Evidently last night was different. Whether it was the impact of hurricane Gustav in light of the impact of Katrina or the shortened speech or both, Obama hit home. Jay noted "...tonight, in front of a Milwaukee audience of 14,000, invoking both the Bible and Thoreau, he was as good as I've ever heard him. He spoke for just over 14 minutes but he left the audience roaring."

And why were they roaring?

VFP: "To the Captain I Saw at Cracker Barrel"

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(This morning's essay on re-entry comes to us courtesy of

To the Captain I Saw at Cracker Barrel

by Richard R. DiPirro, VFP member

Welcome home. Welcome back, sir, and welcome home.

Welcome back to the world you once knew, which looks entirely different to you now, which resembles the world you lived in before but seems drawn like a cartoon now and scored with music you've never heard. Welcome back to a civilization you couldn't wait to get back to, but isn't what you remember at all.

There are people smiling and shaking your hand and slapping your back -- actors in a bad play about the life of someone who looks a lot like you. There are signs and banners and parades and picnics and they whirl around you. You are an observer at the center of everyone's attention.

"Support the Troops!" They yell until they're hoarse -- waving flags and driving cars with yellow magnets, never trying to explain why they weren't with you there, suffering 130 degree heat, shaking scorpions from their boots and feeling the weight of sand settle in their lungs. Welcome home, sir.

I saw you at Cracker Barrel the other morning, sir. I sat and ate my Old Timer's Breakfast and laughed with my wife and forgot about my brothers and sisters living every moment of thirteen months in their own hot hell. I would have missed you if I hadn't looked up when I did from my hash browns and turkey sausage, would have missed that moment I'll never forget.

I saw your boots first, sir and the brown and tan of your desert camouflage and then your face -- a face I knew like my mothers, like my own. You scanned everyone as you walked through the restaurant toward your table, scanned their faces, evaluated their threat potential and moved on to the next.

In Flyover Country, Two Funerals and a Waiting

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As the New York Times pointed out today in a top-page article titled Deadly U.S. Milestone in Afghan War, on July 22 of this year the 500th U.S. troop fatality was recorded in Afghanistan, the home of the Forgotten -- some would say the Abandoned -- War against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Given the time zone/date line difference, that means the 500th fatality described in that article took place exactly a year after I posted the following OP over at Democratic Underground.

The timing matters, because we're heading into this most crucial election season trying to figure out just how and why the Bush administration managed to get our country so deeply quagmired in places like Afghanistan while still squandering trillions of dollars and many thousands of lives in Iraq.

Why? Because we need to know what happened in order to undo as much of the accumulated damage as possible -- which may not be much by now, in terms of relative scale compared to the sheer scope of the insanity, but making the effort with every effort we can muster is absolutely essential in terms of getting our nation back on track again.

With that in mind, it seemed like this would be particularly appropriate timing for me to repost my OP from last summer again -- in part, to remind us all that the less things change, the more they stay insane.

buchan_goerie_sm.jpgErie, Pennsylvania is a small city on the edge of a great lake. It is a quintessentially American community -- so much so, in fact, that it was designated an All-American City by Richard Nixon in 1972. Like many such cities, it has gone through some painful changes over the last few decades as its old industrial economy gradually gave way to a 21st-century technology/service/tourism economy instead. But Erie still typifies what most Americans look for in their home towns: wide streets, good schools, low crime rates, affordable housing, and a generally pleasant quality of life for its citizens.

And like the residents of most American home towns outside the Beltway and between the polarized left and right coast megalopolises, people in Erie are basically centrist by nature. They may differ widely on specific individual issues, but for the most part they share common values and common beliefs with each other and with the hundreds of millions of other Americans who live in what is sometimes referred to as "flyover country."

Politics is something that people do care about in Erie, at least when it impacts their daily lives in some particular way, but they don't obsess about it. They may lean left or right, but they do so with their feet planted firmly in the middle of the road. During the 2004 race, George Bush's single largest campaign-rally audience was in Erie. But in 2004, Erie voters chose John Kerry over George Bush by a solid margin. Professional pundits and politicians and prognosticators do well to pay attention to what happens in Erie, because it is and always has been a bellwether burg for how the American electorate looks at the world.

That's why today, while Pentagon officials pander to politicians and pundits pontificate about how important it is to give the imperialist warmongers in the White House more time to prove their ill-conceived surge is working in Iraq, it's appropriate for us to look at the human costs of making war as seen through the eyes of quintessentially average Americans, as told in the words of four reporters for the award-winning Erie Times-News newspaper and website.

Two funerals in two weeks. Two flag-draped coffins. Two men who gave the last full measure of devotion for the country they chose to serve. And one mother of two sons in harm's way, waiting and hoping and praying that they come home alive this time.

- - - - - - - - -

As Times-News reporter Erica Erwin wrote on July 4,

Alan Sargent stood on the tarmac at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and placed his hand over his heart.

Fifteen yards away, Northwest Airlines Flight 1740 had rolled to a stop outside gate C6.

Sargent watched, waiting, while members of the ground crew crawled through the plane's belly into the cargo hold.

Minutes passed before he saw the flag-draped coffin pass from the hold onto a conveyor belt.

"There he is," Sargent said to himself. "There he is."

[ ... ]

Travelers walking through the C terminal at Cleveland Hopkins paused, pressing their faces against the window panes as a military honor guard marched in lock step to the plane and carried the coffin to a waiting hearse.

Passengers, asked to stay onboard, watched from their seats above.

A baggage handler dressed in shorts and a fluorescent green vest joined police, fire and airport officials in saluting as the coffin passed by.

First Person: the complete story of what happened after the Postville raid

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Nightprowlkitty alerted us to this post by Duke at The Sanctuary:

Today's New York Times features an article based upon an exclusive interview with Erik Camayd-Freixas, Ph.D. of  Florida International University. Dr Camayd-Freixas was one of  26 federally certified interpreters called into service during the Postville Iowa meat packing raid this past May.  As a court appointed interpreter, Dr Camayd-Freixas witnessed first hand the abuses and systematic disregard for civil and human-rights that marked that raid.

In 23 years as a certified Spanish interpreter for federal courts, Erik Camayd-Freixas has spoken up in criminal trials many times, but the words he uttered were rarely his own.

Then he was summoned here by court officials to translate in the hearings for nearly 400 illegal immigrant workers arrested in a raid on May 12 at a meatpacking plant. Since then, Mr. Camayd-Freixas, a professor of Spanish at Florida International University, has taken the unusual step of breaking the code of confidentiality among legal interpreters about their work.

In a 14-page essay he circulated among two dozen other interpreters who worked here, Professor Camayd-Freixas wrote that the immigrant defendants whose words he translated, most of them villagers from Guatemala, did not fully understand the criminal charges they were facing or the rights most of them had waived.

In the essay and an interview, Professor Camayd-Freixas said he was taken aback by the rapid pace of the proceedings and the pressure prosecutors brought to bear on the defendants and their lawyers by pressing criminal charges instead of deporting the workers immediately for immigration violations.

He said defense lawyers had little time or privacy to meet with their court-assigned clients in the first hectic days after the raid. Most of the Guatemalans could not read or write, he said. Most did not understand that they were in criminal court.

"The questions they asked showed they did not understand what was going on," Professor Camayd-Freixas said in the interview. "The great majority were under the impression they were there because of being illegal in the country, not because of Social Security fraud."

(Article also contains a video interview with Dr Camayd-Freixas's a must view)  

Last month I received a copy of the essay Dr Camayd-Freixas wrote detailing the raid.

It is published here in its entirety to document what went on behind closed doors at the National Cattle Congress in Waterloo Iowa where 390 migrants were subjected to kangaroo court proceedings that resulted in guilty pleas and mandatory jail sentences.  

Dr Camayd-Freixas will be testifying before Congress later this month at the Immigration Sub-Committee of the House of Representatives in regards to the raid.

He has asked that anyone moved by his account help the relief effort in any way possible;

"Finally, my new friends from Postville involved in the relief effort inform me that they are still dealing with a very tough humanitarian crisis. So, please, if you have any opportunity for fundraising, this is the address where donations can be sent:

St. Bridget's Hispanic Ministry Fund
c/o Sister Mary McCauley
PO Box 369
Postville, Iowa 52162"

What follows is the complete story of what happened after the Postville raid:

Go read Dr Camayd-Freixas's complete essay.

Exposing KBR's crimes against our troops and our taxpayers

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Ben Carter is a former KBR employee hired for his expertise in water treatment systems. He was interviewed via email by Progressive Future's Kate Drazner. Here's his story and here's a clip from his appearance in BraveNewFilm's Iraq For Sale movie.

The blog post gives the background on how he got involved, where he was stationed and what happened when he tried to correct and report the contaminated water problem. If you haven't seen Iraq for Sale or heard about this problem before, do take the time to check it out.

The Daily Show vs. Network News

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The state of our media in the US is perilous for our democracy and this story, "Reporters Say Networks Put Wars on Back Burner", kvcostofwar.png from the New York Times illustrates it most clearly. Via KerryVision at noon on 6-23-2008, the counters reflected the US's commitment to Iraq. But you'd never know it by the coverage in our television media.

According to data compiled by Andrew Tyndall, a television consultant who monitors the three network evening newscasts, coverage of Iraq has been "massively scaled back this year." Almost halfway into 2008, the three newscasts have shown 181 weekday minutes of Iraq coverage, compared with 1,157 minutes for all of 2007. The "CBS Evening News" has devoted the fewest minutes to Iraq, 51, versus 55 minutes on ABC's "World News" and 74 minutes on "NBC Nightly News." (The average evening newscast is 22 minutes long.)

CBS News no longer stations a single full-time correspondent in Iraq, where some 150,000 United States troops are deployed.

The Times reporter opens his article with a quote from Lara Logan's appearance on The Daily Show. You can tell that her appearance was probably the inspiration for the article. She did not hold back.

Almost halfway done with 2008 and they've only shown 181 weekday minutes of Iraq coverage. As Lara points out,
More soldiers died in Afghanistan last month than in Iraq. Who's paying attention to that? 33,000 - highest troop level since the war began - seven years after we defeated the Taliban.

Her whole appearance is riveting -- do watch it.