Friday, October 31, 2008

Bush- Then & Now



Illustration by Jean-Pierre Kunke

Couldn't happen to a better crew.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Buh bye, George W Bush

See ya, wouldn't want to be ya. Don't let the door hit you on your way out. Catch ya later. B4N or BFN. Auf Wiedersehen. Caio. Farewell. Get the hell out! Sayonara. Au Revoir. Hooroo. Dosvedanya. Adios.

I know I'm a bit premature in all this good-byeing to George W Bush, the 43rd president of these United States, but we are so close after waiting for so long for this national nightmare to end. We are at 82 days on the Bush countdown clock until the inauguration of a new president in January 2009, but even better is that it is 5 days until November 4, election day (listen- can you hear the harps play and the angels sing?). There is no secret that I am voting for Barack Obama and my hopes are still high that he will be our next president, but I won't breathe that deep sigh of relief until all the votes are counted (hopefully the good old-fashioned way).

A friend and co-worker of mine just returned from a vist to Australia. He told me there were Obama posters all over the place. Another friend told me he worries about TWA (traveling while American). Things have changed in the last 8 years- for the worse. We both talked about how the world view about the US will change if Barack Obama wins the election. Perhaps the support that the US had immediately after 9/11 would return. Perhaps the rest of the world will realize that it isn't about us versus them or evil versus the US. There are bad people out there who are willing to get in the way of anything and anyplace that doesn't agree with their world view, but there are way more good people in the world, too, facing them same dangers as we do.

As Barack Obama says its about hope over fear; unity over division. That's the change I believe in.

Peace out!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sarah Palin- Ill Wind from the North

Right after the Republican National convention, just about 8 weeks ago, people were referring to Sarah Palin as a breath of fresh air as they welcomed her to the national political scene. People were enamored by this historical first female Republican VP candidate on the Straight Talk Express, spouting off about family values, her typical family, small town honesty & dignity, governing with integrity, good will, clear convictions. Her joke about lipstick on a pit bull was pretty much a promise that this election would get nasty and ugly and it did, so we shouldn't be surprised at the condition of the campaign.

It didn't take long for the bloom to come off that Alaskan rose and people started getting worried about John McCain's choice as his VP. Republicans are abandoning their party in droves running as fast and as far away as they can get from this ticket. Jed Lewis over at The Jed Report has a list of 62 Republican "shipjumpers", and counting.

This breath of fresh air from August has turned into an ill wind from the north and we wish it would turn right around and go back. Sorry to you Alaskans, you will have to take your governor back and now that she has shown her true colors on the national stage, you can welcome her and her family back and decide just how to handle this Caribou Barbie who has not represented your fine state well at all. She might want to go into further detail about why exactly the her ethical lapses aren't really that at all as she steps back behind the Governor's desk.

Within 8 weeks the vetting that should have happened prior to the convention has taken place and we may know who the real Sarah Palin is after all. We now know her views on aerial hunting, ethical decisions, moose hunting, banning books, energy, climate change, foreign policy, gun control, health care, abortion and other issues. Her views do not match mine now and they never will.

Sarah and her new BFF, Elizabeth Hasselback from the talk show, The View, will travel together on a campaign trip to Florida this weekend. omg! Can you imagine the excitement? 2 of the most right wing, religious fundamental women on the same stage frothing up their conservative base with accusations and lies. Let's just say I wouldn't want to be at their slumber party any more than they would want me there.

Sarah Palin says she is just a hockey mom, a regular gal. The Republican National party wrote that script hoping people would buy it, and they did, for a while. If Sarah Palin is a regular gal, then I'm a rock star; but neither is true. I know Sarah Palin didn't shop at Nieman Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue as hockey mom extraordinaire and Governor of Alaska; she says her favorite women's clothing place in Alaska is a consignment boutique in Anchorage called Out of the Closet and I believe that. I know it was the RNC who paid for the $150,000 clothing and beauty services for the Palin family. Palin said they would either return the clothing or donate it to charity. Return clothing that you have already worn? I think some people might call that fraud.

While the clothing was provided by the RNC and not the campaign, they walked a fine line of converting campaign money for personal use. As legal as these purchases may have been, I wonder how the "regular" people who donated the money feel about buying this caliber of clothing for their VP candidate. Designergate is just another symbol of conspicuous consumption on the part of the Republican party. This 8 year shameless sleazy spending spree must end on November 4.

Sarah Palin is a bad combination of the worst of George Bush and Dick Cheney rolled into one ugly example of leadership of the last 8 years in Washington. We are within whispering distance of the election on November 4. I suspect most people have voted already, or certainly have made up their minds. I hope so. We can't afford another 4 years of the same.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Section 60, the Saddest Acre in America

For those of us whose loved one died in Iraq or Afghanistan, Section 60 needs no other description. Section 60 is the final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery for our young military men & women

Ken was the 89th soldier from the Global War on Terror to be buried in Section 60. He lies in the second row, with at least 7 more rows in front of him. More than 500 families have buried their loved ones in our National Cemetery.

It wasn't hard to decide that Ken would be buried here, although it took a few months to complete the process. He was killed in May 2004 and buried in October 2004. Ken loved being a soldier and he belonged with his brothers and sisters in arms, where they will lie together in eternity.

We Section 60 families have a bond and while I do not get there as often as I would like, I have forged forever friendships with some of the families that I have met there. It takes me longer to visit Ken these days because I also visit the son's of friends who are buried there, Andy, Neil Jr, Alex, David, Russ. Their families do the same and leave mementos of love when they visit Ken's grave.

HBO is premiering a new documentary, SECTION 60: ARLINGTON MEMORIAL CEMETERY on Monday, October 13, 2008. The third in a trilogy of Iraq-related HBO documentaries (following the Emmy®-winning "Baghdad ER" and the Emmy®-nominated "Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq") from Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill, the moving verité special SECTION 60: ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY commemorates the lives of the deceased and the mourning of their survivors.

Back in May 2006, when HBO premiered Baghdad ER, I wrote here that that film should be mandatory viewing for everyone in the country. I expect the same of this one. We are reluctant voyeurs when we watch this kind of film, but we must witness this human cost of war, what is left behind as families try to find their new normal after this devastating loss. It would be easier to change the channel, but this is one way to honor those families who have left a piece of their heart in Section 60.

There will be tears when you watch this film, but they will be different kinds of tears than were shed while watching Baghdad ER. There will be a palpable feeling of loss and a desire to reach through the lens and offer comfort, but you know that isn't possible and that will be the hardest part in watching this film.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Blue Star Vice Presidential Candidates

Dear Governor Palin & Senator Biden-

I know you are busy getting ready for the first and only vice-presidential debate of the 2008 presidential campaign. I'm sure you've both been practicing your debate skills, figuring out what temperament to show, running through the issues in your mind hoping to remember that factoid that will be the perfect comeback, the line that will go viral. I'm sure Gwen Ifil will ask questions about the economy, foreign policy, health care, maybe climate change, maybe energy, maybe choice, maybe event lipsticks or pigs. All those subjects, except pigs & lipstick, are important to let people get to know how you feel about those subjects, and as Vice President, how you would deal with them once in office. I'm guessing January is looming pretty large; the challenges, the opportunities to put your special mark on the fabric of our country. Vice President Palin? Vice President Biden? Just the sound of it is HUGE! Only 46 men in this country have been given that title.

What I really want you to talk about is foreign policy as it relates to the military. When I say military, I mean the troops; you know like Beau and Track and my son Ken, the men (and women) who make up the military. Beau, Track and Ken are our oldest sons, and in my case my only son, my only child.

Sarah, my son Ken, was 18 when he joined the military, just a year younger than Track, so I can relate to what you are going through. Your firstborn, leaving the nest to join the Army. Those are tough days; you worry about how they are doing during boot camp, how they will adapt. Back in 1995, Ken got orders for Bosnia shortly out of boot camp, and now your Track is heading to Iraq, so I really have walked in your shoes. Ken was 24 when he headed for Iraq and I was terrified every single one of those 384 days he was deployed. You cannot imagine how the war will take over your life when your child is on the front lines. That child that grew for 9 months in your womb now belongs to someone else and he's halfway around the world in harms way.

And Joe, your son Captain Beau Biden is being deployed later this week as far as I can tell. I know about operational security, so the date isn't really important, but he will miss sharing the excitement of the final days of this important presidential campaign. I suspect he's been pretty involved in your campaign and all of that will change with this deployment. I'm sure that you have a close relationship with your son as I did; it's just that way with single parent children.At the age of 39, Beau's a bit older than Ken was when he deployed, and as officers, life in Iraq is a little different. Beau leaves a lovely wife and 2 children at home, Natalie, age 4, and Hunter, age 2. They will miss their daddy terribly. 1 year separated from their daddy is a very long time to little ones like your grandchildren, Joe.

Now that I've shown you how this troop thing is personal, and an experience that we all share, you might see how the occupation in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan loom large in the lives of military families. Some may think our children are "deployable assets" and that they belong to the military, and while that is true, they will always be our little boys. Our sons grew up to serve their country, to stand up when called and we are so proud of the men they grew up to be.

Sarah & Joe, today you are Blue Star Families, those with a loved one serving in the military. On May 30, 2004, my son, Lt Ken Ballard was killed in Iraq and I became a Gold Star Mother. It is not a journey that I wish on anyone.

I don't want either of you to wear a black metal bracelet engraved with your child's name, rank, unit, date & place of death and the words OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM. I also don't want you to replace that blue star on your service flag with one of gold; I don't want another parent to receive a Gold Star Banner. I don't want you to know the reality of receiving that one knock on the door that will change your life forever. I really don't want you to know what it feels like to be escorted to the airport by your local police department and when you see that jet pull up to the gate and the doors of the cargo department open up to reveal a coffin that contains the remains of your oldest child, covered with a red, white and blue American flag, you know your child has made his last journey home. I don't want you to listen to the mournful notes as TAPS is played by an Army bugler in honor of your son's life. I don't want you to receive a folded flag from a general with the words "on behalf of a grateful nation...", I don't want you to know the emptiness in your heart knowing you will never feel your child's hug, never hear his laugh and never know what heights he might have attained. I don't wish any of this on anyone. Never. Ever.

Sarah & Joe, you both have a unique position as a military parent that very few people in this country understand; please use that experience and make a commitment to all the troops and their families that your administration will stop the shameless treatment of vets. Vow that war will only be used as a solution of last resort. I urge you both, as military parents, during this vice-presidential debate, to commit to ending the war in Iraq, bring the troops home and take care of them when they get here.