Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fox jokester Greg Gutfeld and friends smear the Canadian military

There are some things that make my blood boil. I can usually understand how people might think something is funny, even if it isn't my brand of humor, but Fox has gone over the line again.

Today, my vote for my "Worst Person in the World" is Greg Gutfeld with his juvenile, insensitive, and offensive show Red Eye, not surprisingly on Fox . This "Daily Show" wannabe was not funny, is not funny and will never be funny, and this episode goes over the top. Gutfeld and his Red Eye sidekicks Doug Benson, Jonathan Hoenig, Monica Crowley and Bill Schulz need a real long time out for their comments about the Canadian Army. Newshounds describes the controversial segment like this:
FOX News' Greg Gutfeld has never put his own fanny on the line for his country but that didn't stop him and a similarly non-serving Red Eye panel from mocking the Canadian military as a bunch of slackers while overlooking the extremely heavy casualties it has received assisting the United States in the war in Afghanistan. As part of the “joke,” Gutfeld also suggested the Canadian military is making us more vulnerable to attack.

The recent YouTube video below, called “How to lose friends and alienate countries,” posted by “taffyincanada,” shows an episode of Red Eye, FOX News' answer to The Daily Show, in which Gutfeld repeatedly smeared and jeered the Canadian military. Gutfeld either was ignorant of or deliberately withheld from the audience the fact that the Canadian military is fighting in one of the most dangerous pockets in Afghanistan and has suffered a disproportionately high number of casualties (In 2007, it was 2.6 - 4 times higher than British or American soldiers in Afghanistan and 2.6 times higher than the death toll of U.S. Soldiers in Iraq). Not long ago, Canada's Lieutenant General Andrew Leslie announced that, the Afghanistan mission is taking a dramatic toll on the military and, due to personnel and equipment shortages, it may need a “year-long break from operations when its current mission in Afghanistan ends in 2011."

If you want to watch and hear the whole 4 minutes of this stupid conversation, here ya go.

It's too bad people like this have a platform for their so-called humor. It's too bad people like this don't understand what service to your country means. It's too bad that people like this don't understand that when you disrespect the brothers in arms of our soldiers, you are disrespecting our soldiers, too.

Gutfeld did offer his version of an apology, that wasn't an apology at all. The Canadian Press reports that Gutfeld said he never intended to make light of Canadian military efforts in Afghanistan. "However, I realize that my words may have been misunderstood," Gutfeld said in a statement released by Fox News. "It was not my intent to disrespect the brave men, women and families of the Canadian military, and for that I apologize. Misunderstood, indeed! Gutfeld's words just showed how ignorant and insensitive he is. He doesn't know the meaning of service and he will never be the man that my son, 1Lt Ken Ballard and all of the 4931 US members of the military killed in Iraq & Afghanistan or the 116 Canadian soldiers who have been killed in Afghanistan were. He owes an apology to every military member who has served and to every family of the fallen. That would take awhile, but if he is any kind of a man, he will start with those individual apologies today. Unlike the Canadian Defence Minister who accepted Gutfeld's apology, I'm not so sure I would. We Gold Star families don't have much of a sense of humor about these kinds of things.

I believe in the Freedom of Speech and I believe that there are consequences to that, too. I don't really like giving people like this the attention they so obviously and desperately crave, but they deserve to be called out on this ignorant and despicable behavior. The internet makes sure that they will not be able to deny their ugly and sophomoric words, because here it is, in their own words. Greg, Jonathan, Monica, Doug and Bill? Bet you're feeling pretty proud of yourselves now.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

6 years in Iraq

As we mark the 6 year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, few people notice that the war continues. The lack of coverage in the media demonstrates that our citizens are weary of the war and suffer from Iraq fatigue.

Today our country is obsessed and outraged with bailouts and bonuses in the financial sector, but where is the outrage about the $10 billion per month that we spend every month for operations in Iraq? Where is the anger at the $3 trillion dollars that this war will cost, a debt that we will hand to our children and their children for many generations? Where is the outrage for 4259 dead and at least 30,000 wounded US members of the military? Why is there no interest in the dead, wounded and displaced Iraqis?

President Obama's campaign plan for a 16 month withdrawal has turned into 19 months and even then there will be 50,000 US troops occupying Iraq. How many families will suffer along with their loved one's as they recover from the sometimes forever mental or physical wounds of war? How many more young men and women will leave this earth from the sands of Iraq in these next 16 or 19 months? How many families will answer that knock on the door only to be greeted by a messenger who will change their life forever?

We mourn the losses that this war has brought to our country and we are disappointed in President Obama who called this a “dumb war”, but continues the failed policies of the Bush administration. After 6 years of death and devastation in Iraq, it is time to bring the troops home and take care of them when they get here.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Beyond Tribute

This morning I heard about an organization called Beyond Tribute, They explain their organization this way:

Memorial Day is the solemn time when we honor those who gave their lives for our freedom, the families they left behind, and those who still serve.

And, over the years, it has also become an American business tradition to pay tribute on Memorial Day with holiday sales; "Memorial Day Sale - Save 25%!"

But today, hundreds of thousands of wounded veterans and military families suffer from a lack of essential support. So now we must go Beyond Tribute and actually help our wounded veterans.

The Beyond Tribute campaign is changing how we celebrate Memorial Day by making it possible for businesses to donate a portion of their holiday period sales to actually help our heroes in need. It is that simple

Most people who have stopped by this blog know that my son, 1Lt Ken Ballard was killed in Iraq on 5.30.2004. We got the knock on the door on Memorial Day. While most people were on a shopping spree, Ken's friends and family were struggling to figure out what life without Ken would mean to us. As a 4th generation Army officer, Ken and we knew the importance of Memorial Day and Veteran's Day, but Ken's death made it personal. I have frequently bemoaned the fact that people and businesses look to those days as a day for sales with no regard to the sacrifices our military and their families are making every single day.

Most Americans have not been affected by these wars in Iraq & Afghanistan. After 7 years in Afghanistan and 6 in Iraq, it always surprises me when I am the first Gold Star Mom that people have met. I know that most people do not know the struggles of military families and veterans as they attempt to get their old lives back when they return from the battlefront. I also know that most people would support the troops and veterans if they knew how. It's time for businesses to step up and show their support for our wounded veterans and their families. This is one way they can do that.

The mission statement from Beyond Tribute seems well thought out:

Our mission is to redefine our Memorial Day and Veterans Day holidays by engaging the American business community and its customers in a national campaign that will raise charitable dollars to benefit those who are struggling with the wounds of war, including the invisible wounds: PTSD, traumatic brain injury and combat-induced anxiety and depression. Funds raised go directly to top rated charities that help veterans in need throughout the USA.

I really like the part about funds raised go directly to "top rated charities". I'm not sure which charities are on their radar, but please check Charity Navigator before you make any donations. While there are many good charities that support veterans, there are also many more whose funding is deplorable. Charity Navigator does a good job of breaking down the information.

The Beyond Tribute website has been recently updated but it still has a long way to go to get businesses signed up and to get the word out. I'm doing what I can do, I hope you'll do the same.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Soldiers still waiting for tour bonuses

Dammit, dammit, dammit!

I don't care who is holding up payments to soldiers who were promised monthly bonuses of up to $500 and were forced to remain on active duty beyond their enlistment period and have not been paid - that can wait for a minute. "Senior officials are disappointed that the recent trend has been going in the wrong direction with respect to the numbers (of soldiers currently stop-lossed)," If Senior Pentagon officials are "disappointed", what do you think the military members who are on stop loss and their families are? I don't think disappointed is how they would or should describe it. Outraged? Angry? Perhaps, they are just beaten down from the neglect. They sign a contract and expect the military to honor their side of it, but it just doesn't happen that way without a fight.

Congress approves funding for a program, civilians think it's done and they go on their merry way. A commission on the state of military hospitals is called, civilians think the hospitals are fixed and they go on their merry way. And when it comes to the followup, I assure you that burden falls in the laps of those members of the military and their families.

According to Gregg Zaroya at USA Today in an article on February 22, 2009,

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman acknowledged the five-month delay in paying the bonuses and said the Defense Department is working on a plan to start paying the almost 13,000 soldiers currently under the Army's stop-loss orders. Although Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants to end the policy, the number of soldiers affected has risen since the middle of 2007.

Congress added $72 million to pay for the bonuses in its plan for the budget year that started Oct. 1. The money was to be paid after the Pentagon submitted a plan outlining how the payments would be made.

But no plan has been submitted.

Many people familiar with the term "stop loss", to keep a troop beyond their enlistment contract or retirement date think "stop-loss" is a back door draft. Remember, these troops have fulfilled their military contract and now the Department of Defense just institutes a "stop-loss", voila! no contract end date, no going home soldier, until the DOD tells you to!

Since 2002, the military has relied on stop loss to keep its most skilled and experienced troops in the service. The Army is the only service that has used it in the past five years, according to a Congressional Research Service report released last month. The number of soldiers affected by stop loss peaked in 2005 at 15,758.

Gates first directed the Army to minimize the use of stop loss in January 2007. However, after falling to 8,540 in May 2007, the number of soldiers on stop loss has risen to almost 13,000 in December 2008, Army records show.

If Senior Pentagon officials are disappointed, they need to get un-disappointed. These troops were made a promise by Congress and the DOD and they expected that to be honored. The money is in the budget and it needs to be distributed as promised. I know the DOD can do better for our troops- it's time they show us how. If they can't figure it out, perhaps Congress needs to help them.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Haters are back

The people who I call the Haters are those who keep a blog, or troll the internet making comments on blogs about whatever subject they want with little regard for the truth. They generally have poor writing & spelling skills. They frequently post their hate-filled lies under the name "Anonymous". They are more patriotic than anyone in the world, ever (sarcasm intended). Of course, there is no need for them to validate any facts, because their bully-pulpit gives them enough power to feel that the facts will only mess up their argument and the truth isn't one of their values anyway.

Back in September 2005, when the Army told me the truth about how my son 1Lt Ken Ballard was really killed in Iraq, 15 months after the fact, the Haters came after me in force. They associated me with people I had never met. They accused me of lying about specific conversations and wanting to know why I wanted to know the truth, even though it was the Army who lied to me and not me to them. Never having walked in my shoes, the verbal attacks continued. Mostly, they accused me of disrespecting my son, hating the military and not supporting the troops. Sadly, when their noise becomes loud enough, some people do start to listen. I didn't feel the need to defend myself then, although I did take the time at least once. 4 years ago I chose to take the high road, as I will this time. I know my truth and I am comfortable with it.

The Haters have crawled out from under their rocks and have plenty to say about me and my suppor of the recent lifting of the ban of media coverage of flag covered caskets returning to military installations,particularly, Dover AFB. I’ll not point you to the particular blogs; they are easy enough to find, if you wish to put on your waders and sink into the muck with them. The Hater's world is black and white, with miles in between them and an intelligent conversation or disagreement. For them it’s "their way or the high way”! These Haters, who spew venom and lies wouldn’t know the truth if it smacked them upside their Neanderthal heads. I would try to set them straight, but they don’t want to know my truth or any truth at all. I know many people who understand the argument for lifting the ban. They may not agree with me, but they understand, not so much with the Haters.

It might be nice to live in a world of black and white, where everything is thus or so. But that isn’t the real world; shades of grey and black & white color the real world. Not ALL military families feel the same about anything, just as not ALL republicans think the same about everything (although I do think you could make a case that ALL haters think the same way about everything, it must be in their genetic make-up and as they march lock-step alongside hateful, obstructionist politicians and others). ALL military families did not want the media ban lifted and not ALL wanted it to remain in place and the same is true even within Gold Star Family population. We all came to this journey from different places in our hearts, in our cities and in our states. We all have reasons for wanting or not wanting a photo, and those reasons should be respected even if they are not understood.

Haters live in a cookie cutter world where one size fits all, black is black, as long as the haters are making the rules and as long as they say so. There is no room for any other opinion regardless of empirical evidence; no need for facts, thank you kindly, just move along, your opinion is not welcome in their world. They tell hateful jokes, admitting they are "bad", while slapping each on their good old boy back and falling on the floor laughing at whoever took the brunt of their not-so-funny joke.

The anonymity of the internet allows them to spread their hate-filled venom and hide behind the name "Anonymous". I'm not sure who is more of a bully, though. The haters who do sign their names are puffing their chests and are looking for a fight and as long as they can hit the "enter" button from far off in cyberspace, they remain physically safe.

It's not about truth, it's about how loud and ugly they can type and I've given them enough of my time. How about we just leave them to play by themselves?

Sunday, March 01, 2009

No More

If you haven't seen the movie, Body of War, I suggest you do. It may be difficult to watch, but watching the effects of war would be.

This is a video from Eddie Vetter, who wrote this song, "No More" for the film, Body of War.

"No More" Music Video / Eddie Vedder