Ambassador Crocker on Iraq Today
Boxer Bringing Home The Bacon?

Convention Kickoff- UPDATE 7 (Along with Greyhawk and MOTHAX)

 Rep Boehner (R-OH) addressing the Legion 2010Cdr Hill, Sec'y Gates, Mr Stein UPDATE 7:  Coming up is Rep Boehner (R-Ohio) who will be addressing the Legion.  His remarks are highly anticipated, as he'll be addressing what the Prez is supposed to be talking about tonight.  We have advance comments (see Greyhawk/Mudville Gazette here) and I'll have reactions by the crowd and any 'deviations' from his prepared comments at that time.

I want him to name names, as he does on his personal website.  Decorum.  Bah.

1335 local time- He's up now- will be listening and capturing his comments after.  Oh, and before I forget- Sen Feingold (D-WI) was up just as we went to lunch.  'Tepid' would be a generous description of his reception.

So far, he's following the script verbatim...  so much so they put up a teleprompter just for his appearance.

Right down the script.  But I do hope they are carried across the nation....good applause, and frequently too.  Better than Feingold's for certain.

* Of particular note- including the Ft Hood attack in a string of 'terrorist attacks' on US soil.  Something the administration, as well as DoD, has not done. 

UPDATE 6:  Wow- what a day.  Now we have Sec'y Shinseki, Dept. of Veterans Affairs.  He was a keynote speaker at the convention last year as well.  Paraphrasing comments below:

-DVA relationship with AL has never been stronger, or more important

-Going to tell us what was accomplished, not so much where headed in next year [a farewell? -Mr]

-Congress and Mr. Obama has increased funding, appropriately.

-In 2009, we had enhanced budget of 98 billion.  Then started making a new framework for change to enhance access to benefits and services.

-The 2010 budget grew to 114 billion, one of the largest year-to-year increases in over 30 years.  2011 will give us 125 billion, an incredible increase even over the 2010 record increase. 

-To accomplish what we need, we the DVA MUST be the, THE advocate for veterans and transform and fix problems that have plagued the department for decades.  A sense of urgency to 'match the presidents commitment' is required to do this.  New processes, new procedures that transform the agency. 

-328,000 veterans are using the GI Bill and getting their education under the bill. 

**See Greyhawk's capture of the new PTSD rules- these are a key change in the DVA definition of them.  I think this will be one of the largest effects on the DVA than just about anything they face in the future.

-145m budget to break the backlog of cases via technology.  This is one of the larger efforts- break this backlog we will

-One in six of American homeless are a veteran.  One emphasis of the remaining time I have is to ELIMINATE [his emphasis] veteran homelessness in the next 5 years.

-40m granted to fund new state and national cemeteries across the nation.  Total budget for the increase is 89m dollars.

UPDATE 5:  Gates is up now.  He's a bit more soft-spoken in person than his predecessor, that's for sure. Greyhawk is posting up comments as well- check there for more.

''Built on a swamp, still a swamp'' as he describes D.C.

He's an Eagle Scout (like Marines, no 'former' or ex-Eagle Scouts; I'm also one), strong supporter of Scouting, and is describing how important the Legion is to both Scouting and the military.  

He's describing how the Legion helps those injured in time of duty- the example of a post in Florida who jumped in and helped re-vamp an injured soldiers home.  Also describing an Army Captain who, after only a year in rehab after losing his left leg and right foot in AFG, rejoined the fight and patrolling after passing pre-deployment physical fitness tests. 
He's going on to describe the challenges facing us today- and why we need to face them.  Effective tomorrow, he says, Iraqi Freedom becomes Operation New Dawn.  Surprisingly, he describes the 'gains achieved in the last 3 1/2 years'.  Read into that what you will.  Says al Queda in Iraq has been 'cut off from its masters abroad'.  It has been beaten but is not gone- reflect with pride what our troops and their Iraqi partners have done.  We'll continue to support the Iraqi forces as they transition and train. 

All of this has ''been purchased at a terrible cost'' in the blood, sweat, and tears of American servicemembers, and the terrible cost to the Iraqi people. 

He is stumbling on some words now, as if his emotions in describing what our servicemembers have done is very difficult. He appears to truly care about his words. 

He describes the total commitment in troops in AFG to include 150k plus 45k from our allies.  This is quite a few- remember, just a few short years ago we were at 18k in country.  Most of which were SOCOM.

We will be enforcing a hard line against corruption in the AFG gov't in order to build trust in their gov't again and build self-reliance.  He states the drawdown next year will be gradual, and not a 'turn off the lights' movement next summer.  States further that 'the Taliban will be surprised to find we are still very much in the fight'' in AFG. 

The Taliban are a 'cruel and ruthless adversary', mentioning what they do to civilians.  Over 150 Taliban commanders have been captured or killed in just the last 3 months.  A tough, hard campaign, with rising casualties indicative of what we faced in Iraq.  3 1/2 years ago, many doubted and did not believe in our course in Iraq (talk to your boss, Mr. Sec'y?).  But it is certainly worth the fight. 

''We made the mistake of abandoning AFG 20 yrs ago when we pulled out and left the AFG to the Soviets.''  This is a surprising quote.  Listing other countries around the world- ''we were dead wrong'' in those strategies of leaving them alone.  Another strong statement that is surprising. 

I am going to get the transcript of this for posting later- he's made some key statement, and I'm not able to type fast enough to keep up.  I'll be sure to key in on them...

UPDATE 4:  4Troops is back on- I mean it- go listen.  They are singing a medley of patriotic faves that will send chills up your spine.  This place is on its feet and crazy- and that's something for a bunch of older-types.  If you want live coverage views- go here. 

UPDATE 3:  Joining Mr Stein onstage is Sec'y Gates, who has just arrived.  They, along with National Commander Clarence Hill, are awarding the Spirit of Service Awards to representatives of each of the services.  More on the recipients and what the award is after they post it on the Legion site.  Suffice to say, it's a VERY prestigious award to receive, especially when it's handed by the SecDef.

UPDATE 2:   Ben Stein has just opened the convention.  He still looks the same as ever.  He was really nice to meet, VERY gracious, and most certainly a true patriot.  More from him when I get the opportunity.

UPDATE 1:  4Troops is singing- if you've not heard of these guys, you should take time to go listen.  They can be found HERE.  Some pipes on these folks, let me tell you.  

Sitting here in the convention hall in Milwaukee with Greyhawk and MOTHAX covering the National Convention.  This year, they've put us out on the 'floor' among the delegates; we're at a sort of 'press table' like we're some legitimate entity or something.  Is this the bloggers arrival among the Ben Stein opens the convention- ''Wheeler? Wheeler? Wheeler?"Backstage at Legion...MSM?

It's a good 8,000 chairs in the main hall, filling quickly, and MOTHAX is boogieing to the polka playing.  Feels like I'm stuck in an elevator... or a bad mall store. Be sure to check in over at BurnPit as well- I'll post updates there as well.  Greyhawk will have commentary, and I'm betting he gets a fantastic interview or three as well.  So check his.  Me?  I'm going for Ben Stein...