Category Archives: Letters from the front

observations by correspondents in or near Iraq and Afghanistan

Letter from Kabul

Although I have arrived at Camp Phoenix in Kabul, my destination is Camp Dubs in Darulaman* 10 miles south of the city. Going from one base to another should be a simple arrangement – I could actually walk out the front gate a take a taxi – but that’s not the “Army Way.”

Instead, I have to wait for an armored convoy to be arranged to which I have been specifically assigned. This has been delayed three times over the past week, so I am still in transient housing spending my time pirating internet and studying until I can finally get settled.

To be fair, there are still reports of IEDs and VBIEDS (improvised explosive devices and vehicle bound IEDs) being deployed around the city, but we haven’t been struck by one in Kabul for some time. Also, kidnapping and sniper fire continue to be real threats. Today I went out into Kabul on a civil affairs mission. It is odd that the US Army is doing work that one would think would be done by the State Department and other civil agencies, but there you are. Despite the obvious drawbacks, it is a good thing, I think. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Letters from the front

A free pass for the billionaires

letter in Daily Local News, 10/1/09, page A6:

Governor Ed Rendell and the Senate Republicans led by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi should be ashamed of themselves. The proposed budget agreement does not include a severance tax on the Marcellus Shale extraction and it will terminate the Oil and Gas Lease Fund created by the General Assembly in 1955. Senate Republican opposition to the tax prevailed in the negotiations — if the agreement holds.

So the huge multinational drilling firms, which spent more than $1 million lobbying state government between January and June, get a free pass on a tax they pay in every other major gas-producing state. Not some other states — all of them.

So, to cobble together enough revenue to balance the budget absent a severance tax, budget negotiators decided to tax small nonprofit groups, fraternal and arts organizations. These groups didn’t spend a dime lobbying to avoid new taxes, nor should they have had to, because they had no idea that they looked to Sen. Pileggi like easy-to-pick-off prey.

From what I’ve heard either directly from them or from what I’ve read, virtually every other Chester County state senator or representative is against the budget, including at minimum Representatives Barb McIlvaine Smith and Curt Schroder and Sen. Andy Dinniman.

Sen. Pileggi, you can’t possibly be proud of taxing small local nonprofits instead of out-of-state billionaire oil corporations.

Jamie McVickar
Chester Springs

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Filed under Economy, Labor, Tax, Environment, Energy, Science, Letters from the front

Last night in Iraq, for some

(from our correspondent in Iraq)

July 1 Happy Days: Our Combat Team unit of the National Guard is finally going home. It has been on active duty for 24 months, having been extended 4 months 30 days before they were supposed to be sent home in March. These young men and women have been vital to the operation of the hospital, providing dozens of medics, doctors and staffers to help us run the show. Also, because they are from the mid-West and we are from the East coast, it provided entertainment as we constantly teased each other about our respective states. We’ll miss them.

Tonight is the last night for them. Much like the last day of college, everyone is hanging out in front of their trailers, talking nostalgically, and acting silly. Continue reading

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Praise the Constitution and Pass the Ammunition

(from our correspondent in Iraq)

One day as I was walking around the hospital I noticed all the boxes of little camouflage-covered pocket Bibles lying around. The same people who put Bibles in motels — the Gideons — send New Testaments to Army bases all over the world. It occurred to me that I didn’t swear to protect the Bible when I joined the Army (nobody does), I (we) swore to protect the Constitution of the United States.

So, troublemaker that I am, I conducted a little poll and found that virtually no one could name more than 2 amendments to the Constitution Continue reading

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