Friday, December 03, 2010

Antrel Rolle is a Big, Dumb Animal

I don't know anything about Antrel Rolle, until tonight I had never heard his name.  There is one thing I know for sure is that Antrel Rolle is a big dumb animal who gets paid too much money to play a game.  A game that is not war.

I've kind of lost my interest in football since my son was killed in Iraq 6 1/2 years ago.  I do not, however, begrudge the time and money people spend following NFL games; it's just not that interesting to me anymore.

Some people seem to have lost their perspective on what is important in life and their comments show it.

From the NY Daily News
 In an attempt to defend ripping Giants fans Tuesday for booing the team, Rolle said: "They want to make it that guys paid this much money for a ticket. Yeah, I understand that, I understand completely. We risk ourselves out there on the field each and every day also. When soldiers come home from Iraq you don't boo them. I look at it the same way. I take my job seriously."

I'm glad Mr Rolle takes his job seriously; he should, for a salary of $37 million dollars for a 5 year contract for playing football for the NY Giants.  Unless you have sworn an oath, put on a uniform and walked in those boots, you cannot compare yourself with a soldier.  Ever.  Hearing Rolle's comments, I suspect Rolle does not personally know anyone who has served in the military.  I also suspect, despite his self-aggrandizing, that given the chance to actually serve in the military, Mr Rolle would not have the courage or fortitude to even complete basic training.  My son, 1Lt Ken Ballard who was KIA 5.30.2004 will always be a better man than Antrel Rolle will ever be

Although the apology offered by Rolle seemed sincere, he needs to filter what comes out of his mouth and then an apology would not be necessary.  Unfortunately, there are plenty of reasons to believe what comes out of ones mouth is true. Until Rolle puts on those boots, he needs to keep his mouth shut.

Although Rolle admits he is not a politically correct guy, he blames that on his mother, he needs to understand that the military is currently at war and a little respect for the job that our military does is required from others who are not willing to step up for their country.

Nearly 6000 members of the military have been killed in these wars, 5 times as many have been seriously the last 9 years since fighting began in Afghanistan and Iraq.  One final bit of wisdom to Antrel Rolle.  What he plays is a game, and war is not a game.  It's never a game.  He needs to remember that when he puts on his uniform this Sunday.

Monday, October 18, 2010

October Baseball- Go Giants!

I had forgotten everything I liked about baseball, or maybe I had just tucked it away for the last 6 1/2 years.  Everything changed the day my son was killed in Iraq on May 30, 2004 and baseball just wasn't that important after that day.

Ken was my baseball buddy as he grew up.  As a single mom, I was the scorekeeper or the team mom during his Little League days.  Ironically, Ken chose the Los Angeles Dodgers as his team even though I was a San Francisco Giants fan.  God knows how he made that decision, but maybe he came by it naturally. My brother, Tim and my sister, Shannon are Dodger's fans.  My grandfather was a Giants fan and I found it hard to believe that I was raising a Dodgers fan.  It caused some amount of friendly tension as we attended Giants games.

Ken and I attended lots of Giants games with our circle of baseball friends, mostly at Candlestick Park.  There were the Padres, Diamondbacks, Cubs, Reds and the Mets, but the most memories came from Dodger games. Gary, Mary, Mike and Celeste were the core group and they saw Ken grow up over the years at so many tailgate parties   Those were the days.  Ken and I had Giants season tickets for a couple of years and one year we flew to San Diego for a baseball weekend with tickets courtesy of one of the owners who was a high school friend of mine.  For that trip we sat in the owner's box and also in the owner's seats right behind home plate.  It was nice to see how the other half lived.

To say baseball was an important part of my son's and my life would be a fair statement.  When Ken joined the Army, I lost my baseball date, but I continued to attend games with friends and watched the Giants play on TV.  When Ken came home on leave from the military, we would attend games as his schedule allowed. If he wasn't physically in California, we would often watch games on TV while talking on the phone, life was good.

When Ken left for Iraq in May of 2003, I knew he would miss the whole baseball season that year, but that was the least of my worries.  I also knew that we would celebrate his return by attending a game or two when he came home from his deployment.  Of course, it didn't work out that way and since 2004 I was lucky if I attended one or two baseball games a year.  I enjoyed myself and the company of my friends, but it wasn't the same; that baseball magic was gone.

Fast forward to the Giants against the Braves in the playoffs last week.  The buzz around the Bay Area was loud enough to capture my attention.  I don't know that I would have watched the game/s on tv because I hadn't even attended one game this year and I hadn't a clue who the current players were or what the team dynamics were.  One of my friends at work, Carolyn, had an extra ticket and offered it to me, so I jumped at the chance to attend a playoff game.   I bought my sunflower seeds and my diet coke, and I was ready.  Carolyn filled me in on all the players, and I came up to speed pretty quickly.  In a stroke of luck, Mike & Celeste were within shouting distance in the next section over.  I can't tell you when that old baseball magic came back, but that night, under the lights at AT&T park in San Francisco, it did and I was happy. 

It was bittersweet, of course.  Ken should have been there, and he was - in my heart.  The Giants lost that night, but it didn't matter; baseball is different in October and I was happy to be there.  For the first time in 6 1/2 years, I watched baseball on tv this weekend.  We're 1-1 against the Phillies and the Giants are coming back to play on their home turf.  I'll be watching those games on tv, too. Go Giants!

War is not a Game- MOH, the battle continues

Clearly, gamers, especially those who play violent war games, get their panties in a knot when they feel a game is at risk of not being published.  There was much ado about the Taliban shooting US soldiers option available on Electronic Art's just released video game, Medal of Honor.  The Taliban shooting US soldiers option caused the game to be banned from AAFES outlets on 300 bases worldwide and in turn, Gamestop also said they would not stock the game on their outlets on military bases.  Less than a week before the game was released, the kerfuffle caused EA to pull the Taliban option of the multi-player game in honor of soldiers, but for $59.95 you, too, can now sit in the comfort of your living room and shoot and kill US soldiers for fun, you know, as in "it's just a game".

I have discovered a few things in these past several weeks about video games, gamers and the culture they live in, and it isn't pretty. Apparently the First Amendment applies to gamers, but not to me when I expressed my opinion that I wanted MOH to be pulled.  I still want Electronic Arts to pull the game because it is a tasteless, violent, disrespectful game that in no way honors the troops as they suggest it does, regardless of any proclamations to the contrary.  Greg Goodrich, the Executive Producer of Medal of Honor said in a statement, that after hearing from military families,
"because of this, and because the heartbeat of Medal of Honor has always resided in the reverence for American and Allied soldiers, we have decided to rename the opposing team in Medal of Honor multiplayer from Taliban to Opposing Force.

While this change should not directly affect gamers, as it does not fundamentally alter the gameplay, we are making this change for the men and women serving in the military and for the families of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice - this franchise will never willfully disrespect, intentionally or otherwise, your memory and service.
To all who serve - we appreciate you, we thank you, and we do not take you for granted. And to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines currently serving overseas, stay safe and come home soon."
Except, Greg Goodrich also missed the point.  It wasn't the Taliban option that was disturbing.  It was that MOH allows gamers to virtually shoot at US soldiers.  It doesn't matter that other games allow the same options.  That MOH takes place in a current Afghanistan setting while real US soldiers are really dying, does not make EA any better than the rest of companies who do the same. And it shows the wide divide in this country between those who serve their country and those who don't.

I have found that when you don't have a good marketing plan that you are sure of and one that considers all scenarios, because you can't or shouldn't make it up as you go along.  Jeff Brown knows what I'm talking about because he came off looking patronizing, arrogant, stupid and unprofessional, but so did many other spokespeople for EA. Note to Jeff, if you write a letter to a grieving mother, you really should acknowledge the loss or don't bother writing at all, because if you don't, you missed that point, too.

I learned that when someone sends you an email and you respond, that doesn't mean it's an interview, regardless of what they say.   Especially, when I noted "I definitely do not take your questions the wrong way, I am always happy have a discussion with someone who appears to be reasonable.  What you do with my response, may be another issue.  I hope you will respect me and will use my words as intended. "  They didn't do either and that will never give you an ounce of credibility; you  know who you are, Anthony, and you should be ashamed of yourself.  The video game website, Beefsteak will never be the professionals that they purport yourselves to be.

As for all of the responses that were sent to me via Facebook, through this blog and other ways; it doesn't matter how horrible or juvenile or hateful the comments were; they were only words.  I have already had the worst day of my life, so your words did nothing to hurt me or to sway me. I published every post on this blog, regardless of the level of intelligence or profanity, and yes, I acknowledge that there were some responses that were thoughtful. 

Hard core gamers should have figured out that I don't care what gamers (and I do mean that in a pejorative way) think about the game, Medal of Honor, or what they think about my opinion of the game, or about how other games are the same, or worse, and why I am picking on Electronic Arts?  I don't care how gamers think I am impeding Freedom of Speech, or how my soldier son was fighting for the gamers freedom to play violent, objectionable video games, or how I am depriving US soldiers their ability to purchase MOH.  I don't care if you are 17 years old or 50 and that you waste your time playing violent First Person Shooter video games and therefore that makes it, what?  Right?  Because for all of the talk about Freedom of Speech, people seem to have overlooked the fact that I agree that EA has the freedom to release this game, I just think they shouldn't have.

And finally, I wish that people would stop saying that Fox News exploited me when they invited me on their show to talk about  MOH the day after the "Taliban shooting US soldiers" option was revealed, or leaked.  I am perfectly aware of how this media game is played.  I wouldn't have appeared on the show if I didn't know what I was doing or why I was doing it.  Fox gave me the platform and I thank them for the opportunity.

If gamers think I am the only person who doesn't like the game, MOH or other first person shooter games, then they are sorely mistaken.  Nearly all the people I spoke to about this genre of games were shocked and disturbed about the options available on these so-called games. Sadly, we are not the demographic that the gaming industry cares about, but if this controversy caused people to have a conversation about this game and this industry, then everything was worth it.  But mostly I do not think the final chapter has been written about this controversial game.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hall of Shame- 3 New York Mets players

It's been a while since I named anyone and shamed 'em, but 3 baseball players from the NY Mets made the list due to a recent no show when the team went to Walter Reed Hospital to visit some wounded warriors.  Only 3 players of the 33 man squad couldn't find it in themselves to show up, Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez.

Luis Castillo said he was too squeamish."You see people with no legs and with no arms, being in a hospital like that, I don't like to see that".  Really?  How about donning some body armor and join these troops that are in harms way serving this country?  162 games in a season that starts in April and ends in September, or October, if you are lucky, doesn't compare in any way to multiple deployments, daily combat and time away from their loved ones.  Squeamish?  People like Castillo make me sick! Castillo also said.  "We didn't go because we didn't like to see that."  Castillo needs to grow up.

Perez declined to discuss the matter at all, only stating "I don't answer anything about outside the stadium."  

We are paying these jerks, who play a game for a living, a combined $36.5 million for next season and they don't have the common courtesy to pay respect to those men and women who have been injured while serving their country?  They are part of the 99% of this country that never have to think about the ongoing, endless wars.  1% of the people, the military and their families carry the heavy burden of these wars every day; they cannot walk away, they cannot put the war out of their mind.

Castillo, Perez and Beltran give baseball a bad name, and it's a good thing these 3 don't represent all of baseball or even all Met's players. Met's right-hander R.A. Dickey said when asked about the no-shows. "In our own way, it's a way we can pay personal tribute to people who we take so for granted every day.  "To have the empathy and to be in the moment enough to know that there are people in Afghanistan and Iraq fighting for the freedom that I'm able to enjoy ... To be able to look a guy in the eye who doesn't have arms or legs and say, 'Thank you,' that's a big deal. I take it personally."

Congratulations to this year's nominee's for the Baseball Hall of Shame-  Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo, and Oliver Perez

Welcome to Hell, David Brooks, war profiteer

It's nice when karma comes around and bites someone in the butt; someone who thought they were too good to get caught and too good to play by the rules.  This is true in the case of David Brooks, #1 War Profiteer, at least that is how I described him back in October 2007.  While it took 3 years for this dirty dog to be found guilty, at least this day has finally come.

According to TPM Muckraker, David H. Brooks, a former contractor who supplied the military with body armor, was found guilty today on 17 counts, including fraud and insider trading, after allegedly stealing millions of dollars from his company and bilking his shareholders. 

Might I remind you what got Mr Brooks in trouble in the first place:
 His indictment charged him with manipulating DHB’s financial records to increase earnings and profit margins, in that way inflating the price of DHB’s stock. Beyond the $10 million bat mitzvah for his daughter, a sampling of the charges authorities say Brooks concealed from shareholders and the IRS:

  • $7,900 for a facelift for Brooks' wife
  • more than $1 million for expenses related to his 100 trotting and breeding horses
  • $101,190 for a belt buckle studded with diamonds, rubies and sapphires
  • $101,500 for an armored vehicle for his family's use
  • more than $1 million for numerous family vacations, including frequent stays at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and various Caribbean and European villas
  • $31,802 to transport one of his daughters and her college friends to Halloween parties in Madison, Wisconsin, using a private jet
  • hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonus checks drawn on a DHB bank account handed out by Brooks at a company Christmas party to non-DHB personnel, including his horse trainer
  • and of course the predictable $10,000 here, $5,000 there for purchases at Luis Vuitton, Gucci, Gianni Versace, and Prada boutiques around the world
The 71-page indictment (PDF) tells the whole ugly story.

The good people at Corpwatch, who investigates and exposes corporate violations had this to say about war profiteering at the time of the indictments. 
Today the victors of modern wars no longer rape and pillage as their predecessors did, instead they make extraordinary profits by giving contracts to their favorite companies to rebuild what they have destroyed and then hand the bill to local taxpayers to pay.
There is a special place in hell for people and corporations who profit off of war.  Welcome to hell, Mr Brooks!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

War is Not a Game- Medal of Honor version

Electronics Arts will be releasing a new version of their video game Medal of Honor in October. By all accounts Medal of Honor is a pretty popular game.  According to Wikipedia, Medal of Honor was first developed by DreamWorks Interactive and published by Electronic Arts in 1999. The series, originally based on WWII, was created by filmmaker, Steven Spielberg.

The newest reboot of the game, set in current day Afghanistan, allows a player to take the role of the Taliban and shoot US soldiers in the multi-player part of the game.  No problem, says EA's Amanda Taggart "Medal of Honor is set in today's war, putting players in the boots of today's solder. We give gamers the opportunity to play both sides. Most of having been doing this since we were seven. If someone's the cop, someone gotta be the robber, someone's gotta be the pirate and someone's gotta be the alien. In Medal of Honor multiplayer, someone's gotta be the Taliban." The game is a problem to me; my only child, 1Lt Ken Ballard was killed in combat in Iraq in 2004..

Last week, when I heard about the details of this game and the ability to be the Taliban and shoot US soldiers, I was shocked at the insensitivity to releasing this game as our members of the military fight and die in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This game trivializes the training and the service of members of the military.  Not surprisingly, a quick review of the executives at EA reveals none have served in the military. Most important, the release of the newest version of Medal of Honor at this time shows how far removed EA and the other 99% of our country is from the 1%, the military and their families who carry the heavy burdens of these wars. We, who have been affected by the war think about the war every day versus those who never (have to) give the war a thought.

Although I am not advocating for a ban of this game, First Amendment and all, I would be satisfied if MOH is pulled.  This is not without precedence.  In 2004, Sony pulled a game called "Shock and Awe", apologizing and calling it "an exercise of regrettable bad judgment."  In 2009, Konami Games pulled their support of a game being developed by Atomic Games, called "Six Days in Fallujah", based on the one of the bloodiest battles in Iraq for both Americans and Iraqi civilians.  If my speaking out causes people to think about the war, I'm okay with that.  If my speaking out causes people to question the intentions of these type of games or to question their values in playing such games, I'm okay with that, too.

Gamers are a surly lot when they feel threatened about their choice of video games. They feel entitled to graphically and vocally express their opinion, although my opposing opinion has frequently been called ignorant, just talking crazy, stupid, and disgusting and worse; the testosterone is palpable.  I have also been instructed to "shoot myself in the head over and over", "Kill myself" and "If she doesn't like the game she should not play it".  To be fair there are a few enlightened and empathetic voices, but they are the minority. It makes you wonder who plays these first person shooter games.

The hate and nasty name calling that has been directed at me is interesting and disturbing at the same time.  I might remind the gamers that I have already had the worst day of my life, so these sticks and stones cannot and do not hurt me. It just validates the level of and lack of maturity.

Let's lay out some facts, so that if anyone feels inclined to dismiss my opinion, they won't need to use these as their argument.
  • My son, 1Lt Ken Ballard did volunteer to serve his country in the Army and did so with honor
  • I will never get over his death
  • My son was killed in Iraq, not Afghanistan
  • I do not play video games, especially those that involve killing- anyone.  
  • I will not be buying or playing Medal of Honor or any game that involves killing- anyone.
  • I believe in the First Amendment, the Freedom of Speech
  • I do not want Medal of Honor banned
  • I have watched the trailer for MOH
The gaming industry is trying to put their medium on the same level of books and movies and with the same respect. From the EA web site one day “software worthy of the minds who use it” would be more important than traditional media like films and television. They suggest that all mediums are for entertainment, but I would argue that books and movies can be informational, and not entertainment. Books and movies have a finite ending, the same characters die at the same time, the same happy or sad ending occurs, regardless of the number of times you view or read.  Video games offer different endings depending on how the game is played. A player can pause the game, they can start over and replay, replay and replay, all of which are not available in the harsh reality of war.

My message to the executives of Electronic Arts is not a request to ban the game.  It is a request to understand and acknowledge the controversy and hurt they have caused to the many families of the fallen.  The cavalier responses from their PR staff are patronizing and arrogant, not in line with their stated values of  "Think of Consumers First" and listening and responding.  The values page on Electronics Arts website also asks “What must we do to be our best?”  If Medal of Honor is EA’s best, then they have failed.  EPIC fail!

 I have respectfully requested a meeting with Electronic Arts.  Although I am not hopeful for a response, just in case, I'll let you know.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Welcome Home!

A young man by the name of Goobig Qp posted this video on his Facebook page. I don't know Goobig, but I know he's got a big heart.  His video is a 10 minute montage of military welcome home reunions. It is worth 10 minutes of your time to see the joy in the faces of the families, friends and even of the returning members of the military.  I wish everyone in the country and I do mean every one, would watch this video and see the faces of these children.  Because in that minute of recognition, in that second, every fear was gone, every bad dream had faded and the world that they had been living in had changed- Daddy/Mommy is home!.  

Of course many of us did not have that reunion that we dreamed of and that sustained us during the time our loved ones were deployed.  Instead, we welcomed home a flag covered casket.  But that is another story and I only mention it to remind you that there are other "Welcome Home" scenarios.

Enjoy these reunions, and while you watch, remember the military children.  They did not enlist but they endure and experience numerous deployments in their own way, just as their parents do.  I wonder what will become of these children?  What are we doing to these children and their future?  They, too are the cost of war.

Before you hit the start button, grab the tissue and settle in.

Thanks for sharing, Goobig! 

Friday, May 28, 2010

Arlington National Cemetery, Section 60, May 28, 2010

I wasn't sure I would be able to visit Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery before Memorial Day this year, but I just came from there.

I was taking a cab to my hotel in Crystal City from the American Gold Star Mother's headquarters over near some embassies. On a whim, I asked my cab driver to stop at ANC. I have a pass, so it's easy to drive onto the grounds; the guards pass you right through, because they know that people who have a pass earned it the hard way by having a loved one buried at our national cemetery. The cab driver seemed overwhelmed with Arlington, at the massive size and number of white stones so symmetrically arranged; he had never visited. I realized I had never been to Ken's grave alone, so this visit was special to me, too.

Section 60 was fairly empty, much different than it will be on Monday. The flag-in ceremonies had taken place on Thursday, in preparation of this oh so important American holiday, a small American flag waving proudly in front of each headstone. The humidity was stifling and memories of Ken overwhelmed me. Why was his name on a headstone? WHY? It's been 6 years and you would think that I would get used to it, but I haven't. I know for certain I never will, no matter how many years pass.

The irony of Ken's death on Memorial Day isn't lost on me; it could have happened any other day. 1Lt Ken Ballard loved being a soldier serving his country. I hope those who knew Ken or who learned about him since his death, will take a minute on Memorial Day, to remember Ken and honor his service, as well as those who fell before him.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Fairy Tales of Laura Bush, "Spoken from the Heart"

I'm not a fan of Laura Bush so I haven't been following her since she left the White House with George in tow and mercifully landed in Dallas and off the national stage. I wasn't too surprised to read that the lovely Miss Laura has written a book of her memoirs " Spoken from the Heart".  Nor was I surprised at the contents.  This memoir covers Laura's early years growing up in Midland, TX, her tragic automobile accident at age 17, caused by her, that resulted in the death of one of her classmates, life as the First Lady of Texas and then onto the White House.  I'm not so interested in the early years. although I empathize with the accident that clearly shaped her life.  No money of mine will go to support the Bush family, so I will make my comments from book reviewers who get paid to read fairy tales and lies for a living.  

Amazon doesn't present much in the way of  Laura Bush's biography, "Laura Bush was First Lady of the United States from 2001 to 2009. She founded both the National Book Festival and the Texas Book Festival." Those don't sound like bragging rights for anyone, let alone an 8 year First Lady. The reviewer for Amazon seems to be quite a fan of the former first Lady using words like "heart wrenching", "beautifully rendered" and "her uncommon willingness to bare her heart".

The Texas and White House years finds Laura Bush standing by her man, admonishing his critics and even  suggestions of a suspected case of poisoning on the way to the G8 conference in 2007. The book echoes the theme of the wonderful Bush years as other books from former members of the administration. Once again, if we were expecting any apologies or acknowledgment of mistakes from the Bush 43 administration, this is not the book to find them.

Lauren Frayer at writes that the book reveals details of the 1963 car accident that have been kept from the public.
The accident occurred when 17-year-old Laura Welch (Bush's maiden name) was behind the wheel of her father's Chevy Impala, driving with her girlfriend, Judy Dykes, to the movies. As the girls were chit-chatting, the future Mrs. Bush blew a stop sign at an intersection and hit Welch's car at 50 miles per hour.

"In those awful seconds, the car door must have been flung open by the impact and my body rose in the air until gravity took over and I was pulled, hard and fast, back to earth," she writes. "The whole time ... I was praying that the person in the other car was alive. In my mind, I was calling 'Please, God. Please, God. Please, God,' over and over and over again."

Bush writes that afterward, she lost her faith in God for "many, many years."

"It was the first time that I had prayed to God for something, begged him for something, not the simple childhood wishing on a star but humbly begging for another human life. And it was as if no one heard," she writes. "My begging, to my 17-year-old mind, had made no difference. The only answer was the sound of Mrs. Douglas' sobs on the other side of that thin emergency room curtain."
While Laura Bush writes of her visits with U.S. troops and their loved ones, and of her empathy for and immense gratitude to military families, it's too bad that with few exceptions, the visits didn't include families with differing political opinions. Laura Bush's insistence of standing by her man did not allow the embrace of families of the fallen who did not support her husband's policies. Apparently she never heard the sobs from our families; it's as if no one in Washington ever heard us at all. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tiger Woods Comes Back

Last Friday, all the news reports breathlessly reported Tiger Woods' performance on the golf course the day before as if his comeback was from tragic circumstances.  Tiger Woods is back! OMG!

As charismatic as he may be, I don't care about Tiger Woods' comeback performance and I didn't care about his dalliance's that have been well documented 24x7 since late November.  A lot of us learned more about sexual details that might never have occurred to us had we not been privy to Tiger's serial philandering via twitter, text or voicemail.

I don't care that he had an affair or many affairs, but I'm pretty sure his wife does. It's between them and it's none of our business.   I don't care how this behavior and the ensuing fallout affected his golf game, but I'm sure his sponsors do. His contracts are between them and it's really none of our business who drops him and who keeps him. 

I found the Nike ad uncomfortable on a few levels- I don't need or want to see a grown man being lectured by his dead father to sell overpriced shoes & clothing.  But I guess it's all about money in the end; money for the sponsors and money for the media coverage and of course, money for Tiger.

What I do care about is the hypocrisy of Tiger Woods' perfect son/husband/golfer persona that he presented to the world.  If he had been a "bad boy", the coverage of the sex scandal may have only lasted a news cycle or two.

I have little sympathy for the self inflicted predicament Tiger found himself in, when there are real people who have to overcome real physical and mental difficulties, whose victories we should be celebrating- think wounded soldiers, for instance.  Golf is a just a game, entertainment.

Tiger Woods has to get out of bed in the monring and look at himself in the mirror and ask if he is the man he wants to be.  If he is, that's okay with me, but I don't appreciate presenting someone who isn't really who he is.  The media needs to get over themselves and move onto something more important than Tiger Woods winning his next golf game....or not.

Vote NO on the $30 billion Supplemental War Appropriations

My letter to members of Congress requesting a NO vote on the $30 billion supplemental appropriations request.

I am writing to urge you, to beg you to vote NO to a $30 billion war supplemental requested by President Obama.

I KNOW that candidate Obama said that Afghanistan was the “right” war so I am not surprised, although I am terribly distressed with the increase in troop levels.  I KNOW that candidate Obama said he would end emergency supplemental appropriations for war. I gave President Obama a pass when he submitted his first supplemental appropriations in April 2009 because I KNOW that a president finds out more information once he takes office.

However, on April 9, 2009, in the early years of his presidency, President Obama wrote a letter to the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi requesting Congressional approval for a supplemental appropriations request totaling $83.4 billion.

As he made that request, he also wrote- As I noted when first I introduced my budget in February, this is the last planned war supplemental. Since September 2001, the Congress has passed 17 separate emergency funding bills totaling $822.1 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After 7 years of war, the American people deserve an honest accounting of the cost of our involvement in our ongoing military operations.

We must break that recent tradition and include future military costs in the regular budget so that we have an honest, more accurate, and fiscally responsible estimate of Federal spending. And we should not label military costs as emergency funds so as to avoid our responsibility to abide by the spending limitations set forth by the Congress.

When will the requests for supplemental appropriations for death and killing end?  When will Congress and our President be honest with the American people and the parents of those who send their son’s and daughter’s to war?

With all the uproar surrounding the passage of the Healthcare bill, and with thousands of hours spent discussing the costs of Healthcare, I am begging you to spend the same time considering the financial costs of these 2 quagmires, these “long wars” as the former administration described them.

But finally, I urge you from the bottom of my mother’s heart to please consider the human cost of these wars. My son, 1Lt Ken Ballard was the 818th US casualty in Iraq.  When Ken was killed in 2004 I could not imagine that we would still be fighting  these wars 6 years later.  I couldn’t imagine that our country would suffer 4000 more casualties and that Iraqis would suffer countless more.  If you vote yes, I cannot imagine how many more families will hear the words “On behalf of the President of the United States, I regret to inform you…”

PLEASE VOTE NO! Please fund the swift and safe withdrawal of all of our troops, and de-fund the continuation and escalation of these wars!

Karen Meredith
Gold Star Mother

Monday, March 15, 2010

I Am Angry

I'm going to lend my soapbox to John Cory today.  I wish I had written this.

If you agree with this essay, please sign the petition.  Please make sure people in Washington know how you feel- both Dems and Republicans.  If we don't speak out and speak up, they will think we are okay with all this, and I dare say folks who are reading this blog are not okay with any of this.  Thanks John Cory!

am angry.
I'm tired of pundits and know-nothing media gasbags. I'm tired of snarky "inside politics" programming. I am sick of the bigotry and hatred of "birthers" and faux patriotic cranks and their GOP puppet masters. And I'm really pissed at the Democratic Party that confuses having a plate of limp noodles with having a spine.
I'm going to vomit if I hear the word "bipartisanship" one more time.
It was "bipartisanship" that gave us this activist conservative Supreme Court. A Supreme Court that says money is free speech and corporations are persons except when real people try to hold them accountable for their greed and poisonous ways.
"Bipartisanship" gave us the Patriot Act and FISA and illegal wiretaps and two wars and "free speech zones" and "no fly" lists. God bless bipartisan America.
I get nauseated every time the Senate explains how it takes a super majority to do anything for the American people. Tell you what Senate Bozos, if it takes 60 votes to pass legislation then it should take 60% of the popular vote to get you elected.
When some Tea Party crank says, "I want my country back," I respond, "No madam, you want your country backward."
When a deficit-mongering politician says, "How do we pay for this?" Why not ask, "What did you Republicans do with the surplus we Democrats left you?"
When a compassionate conservative says, "Healthcare reform is socialism," why not answer, "No, sir it is the moral and American way to care for people."
Yes, I can hear it now: "You are naïve and simplistic. These are complicated matters and require sophisticated solutions. Democrats are a big tent and strive for balance. But Republicans block our path at every turn. We are thinking and considering new ways to work in harmony with everyone."
Bite me.
The only thing you get with "harmony" is a Barbershop Quartet.
Democrats stop being Republican Lite. Stop whining about that mean GOP and their nasty messaging. Grow a pair, get a message, get a bumper sticker and hang it out there. Get some strong vivid talking points.
G-O-P = Greed Over People.
Greed Kills - jobs, people and the economy.
Terrorism is Viagra for Republicans: The more fear - the more excited they get.
When a soldier dies for America, who dares ask if they were gay or straight?
Don't act so shocked, Democratic Party. Have you looked around lately?
You're losing the young vote that showed up to elect Obama. You're losing those old enough to remember real Democrats. Why? Because you don't talk to them any more than you talk to me. You talk at me. You talk around me. You talk down to me. You talk about me. You don't talk with me. And you don't inspire and you don't champion and without that you are nothing more than an arbitrator of compromise and abdication.
You are facing a bully. Deal with it!
Republicans want the country backwards. They champion superstition over science because it entrenches ignorance and bigotry and captures the easily frightened.
Republicans treat the Constitution the way they treat the Bible, with selective interpretation and selective application to others while exempting themselves from judgment and accountability.
Republicans preach the gospel of fear because fear is darkness and darkness covers their theft of civil liberties and Constitutional principles.
For thirty years the Republican Party has claimed the mantle of law and order but now quake in dread of the American judicial system when putting terrorists on trial. How criminal is that?
Torture is illegal. Period. John Wayne and Jack Bauer were not our Founding Fathers - only in the make-believe world of Republican drugstore-patriots.
DADT needs to be repealed. Now. It is unconscionable, immoral, and disgusting.
Empathy, compassion and equality are not pejoratives. They are American values proven again and again throughout our history.
Republicans believe that bake-sales and cookies for chemotherapy best determine the value of life and healthcare because life is a pre-existing condition and the "free market" should not have to take on such a high risk - after all, no one gets out alive, so why should the corporation be left holding the bag? Unless of course the price is right.
Republicans believe that government should keep its hands off healthcare but should put its hands inside a woman's body.
Republicans believe in small government - small enough to hold the "right" people and small enough to be owned and operated by the "right" people. And who are the "right" people? Them. Not you.
Democratic Party, DNC, DLCC, DSCC or whatever your acronym - I have only one question for you: Really?
You can't win against these guys? You can't get your message out against these guys? You can't give America leadership against these guys?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Shocking! Anti-gay Republican State Senator reveals he is gay!

Roy Ashburn is a California State Senator "proudly serving the 18th District of California", the largest in California, encompassing Kern, Tulare, Inyo, and San Bernardino counties. That is about the most conservative part of our great state, not that there is anything wrong with that.  That Ashburn is known as an anti-gay politician is not a surprise knowing the district he represents. Ashburn's record according to the Fresno Bee
Ashburn, who is in his last year representing a bedrock conservative region that includes most of Tulare County, organized a Traditional Values Coalition rally in Bakersfield in 2005 to support a proposed constitutional amendment that year to prohibit gay marriage.
At a 2004 rally in Fresno, Ashburn criticized Democrat Jim Costa for supporting domestic partnerships. The two were squaring off in a congressional race that Costa ended up winning.
Ashburn also touted his support for Proposition 22, a ballot initiative that defined marriage as between a man and a woman, calling himself a co-sponsor of the 2000 measure.
Equality California, a gay rights group, gave Ashburn a "zero percent" for his 2009 voting record.
Ashburn voted against bills that included expanding California's mental health services for gay youth and measures to protect gay prisoners from violence -- which won some GOP votes -- and creating a day to honor slain gay activist Harvey Milk.

Ashburn has said he didn't believe he had been a staunch anti-gay activist, insisting the way he had voted on social issues reflected his constituents' views.  Ah, and therein lies the rub.

Ashburn was arrested on drunk driving charges while driving his state-issued vehicle and while leaving a gay bar in Sacramento.  He immediately took a few days leave to reflect and upon his return, revealed that he was a homosexual.  The LA Times reported that Ashburn said "I am gay,"  "Those are the words that have been so difficult for me for so long. But I am gay. But it is something that is personal and . . . I felt with my heart that being gay didn't affect -- wouldn't affect -- how I did my job.

I emphatically agree with West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, an openly gay Democrat, when he said  "I don't think it's a scandal for an elected official to be gay,  I do think it is hypocritical to know that you are gay and pretend that you are straight. It has to be difficult, period.  But especially when you are a public servant, where is the trust when the truth is revealed?

I understand that the Senator is not running for re-election and that's probably just as well.  I imagine he has some very serious conversations in front of him with his family and friends.   Roy Ashburn says that he felt with his heart that being gay did not or would not affect how he did his job, but he was wrong.  Who you are, regardless of race, creed, gender, or culture will affect everything in your life. Every vote he made against human rights, every time he spoke out against gay rights had to have a visceral affect on him.  The bottom line, though, is would his district have elected him had they known his sexual preference?   I think we know the answer to that and I think Roy Ashburn did too.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Repealing the Anti-Trust Exemption for Health Insurance Companies

I'm tired of the hypocrisy of so many Republican members of Congress who have put party over people, in general, but specifically since President Obama's inauguration just more than a year ago.  The data is clear when you look at any votes on a House Resolution or Senate Bill and all No's have an "R" beside them. I call 'em as I see 'em.

Today, much to my surprise, the vote on  H.R.4626: To restore the application of the Federal antitrust laws to the business of health insurance to protect competition and consumers was overwhelmingly passed in the House with 406 voting aye, and 19 voting no. It didn't surprise me that all that the No's were from Republicans or the party of "NO", so let's "Name Them and Shame Them". 

Rep. Todd Akin [R, MO-2]
Rep. John Boehner [R, OH-8]  
Rep. Kevin Brady [R, TX-8]
Rep. Paul Broun [R, GA-10]
Rep. Stephen Buyer [R, IN-4]
Rep. Trent Franks [R, AZ-2]
Rep. Scott Garrett [R, NJ-5]
Rep. Lynn Jenkins [R, KS-2]
Rep. Jim Jordan [R, OH-4]
Rep. Steve King [R, IA-5]
Rep. Doug Lamborn [R, CO-5]
Rep. John Linder [R, GA-7]
Rep. Jerry Moran [R, KS-1]
Rep. Ronald Paul [R, TX-14]
Rep. Tom Price [R, GA-6]
Rep. Paul Ryan [R, WI-1]
Rep. James Sensenbrenner [R, WI-5]
Rep. Todd Tiahrt [R, KS-4]
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland [R, GA-3]

Conversely, if your representative is not on this list, thank them for supporting the Bill.  The Senate has not said when or if they will take up the bill, preferring to pass an overall Health Care bill.   It is no surprise that AHIP America's Health Insurance Plans was against the bill and so was the Chamber of Commerce

The Statement of Support from the administration is as follows:
H.R. 4626 — Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act
(Rep. Perriello, D-Virginia, and 65 cosponsors)
The Administration strongly supports House passage of H.R. 4626. The repeal of the antitrust exemption in the McCarran-Ferguson Act as it applies to the health insurance industry would give American families and businesses, big and small, more control over their own health care choices by promoting greater insurance competition. The repeal also will outlaw existing, anti-competitive health insurance practices like price fixing, bid rigging, and market allocation that drive up costs for all Americans. Health insurance reform should be built on a strong commitment to competition in all health care markets, including health insurance. This bill will benefit the American health care consumer by ensuring that competition has a prominent role in reforming health insurance markets throughout the Nation.

It is well past time that the cosumers get a win in  Healthcare reform.  The anti trust exemption has outlived it's benefits, if there ever were any to begin with. Congratulations to the House!

Monday, February 22, 2010

1000 US Casualties in Afghanistan

Numbers take on different significance to different people.  A number, afterall is relative.  To some, $100 could be their Starbucks budget for the month, to others, $100 could mean they feed their children everyday, or not.

Milestone numbers are also relative and are especially hard for those directly involved.  If you had a loved one deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan since October 2001, 1000 US deaths in Afghanistan is significant,  if not, this news will not likely land on your radar.   The deployments are minutes and days and weeks and months of worry.  Those whose loved ones came home, they may think "by the grace of God my loved one came home".  For those of us whose loved one did not come home, it doesn't matter if it is the 1000th death, or the 1st or the 818th.  Each announced casualty is painful as we relive the day we received our news. 

Some will point out that the 1000th US casualty didn't occur in Iraq until 18 months after the March 2003 invasion.  In comparison, it has taken 9 and 1/2 years in Afghanistan.  Some will say, "neither number is very big, look at how many died in WWII or Vietnam."  But ask any family member or friend of the nearly 5400 US casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I suspect, an answer often heard would be "any number more than zero was too many".  For that matter, ask any of the loved ones of the Coalition casualties or the Iraqi or Afghanistan civilian casualties.  If you've lost a loved one to war, especially a war that you didn't support, 1 is really the only number that matters; 1 is the significant number.

I am not far from 6 years when I got the knock on the door.  I am nearly 6 years away from the initial shock and numbness from receiving the news that my only child was never coming home.  I wouldn't wish this unimaginable life on anyone.  For those families who are getting the devastating news now, my thoughts are with them.  How their lives will turn upside down and inside out in one second.  The second before the knock on the door, life was normal.  They were baking, or working, or getting ready to go to bed or starting their day and that knock changes everything. Everything! Today, as posted the 1000th US casualty in Afghanistan, we are painfully aware that another family has received the news.

This traumatic event will result in some family members suffering from PTSD or secondary PTSD and we will suffer the sleeplessness and the nightmares and feelings of intense distress.   Our trauma is, of course, different than those in combat, but we will suffer, too.  Burying a child is not what nature intended, the concept so foreign that there is not a word for a parent whose child has died.  Children who lose their parents are orphans, husbands who lose their wives are widowers, and wives who lose their husbands are called widows.  And losing a child is too painful to even assign a word.

On the eve of this terrible milestone death, Bloomberg reported that General David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East and Central Asia, said U.S. losses in Afghanistan will be “tough” and the U.S. presence there is necessary to prevent terrorist attacks.  I wonder what "tough" means in numbers.

At this 1000 casualty milestone, take a minute to think of the parents and the siblings, the children, and the friends. Each one of these young men and women was loved, every life unfulfilled, every promise for the future is dashed.  But mostly, these young men and women stepped forward to serve their country at a time when so many others choose to stay behind.  Regardless of your feelings about these wars, we must never forget the sacrifice and we must never forget the human cost of war.

1000 was too many in Iraq and 1000 is too many in Afghanistan.  It's time to bring the troops home.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Military Family Suicides

When the military talks out loud about suicides in the military, it's a good thing. This week in Washington DC 1,000 people are attending a four-day Suicide Prevention Conference sponsored by the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration.  Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki were among many military leaders and medical experts in attendance.  The highest level of leadership and the array of experts should indicate that the military is looking for solutions to solve this terrible trending problem of suicides in the military.

I have attended numerous meetings discussing veterans issues where one of the topics is military suicides.  I have always been amazed that a military representative always acknowledges military suicides as an pressing issue but cannot figure out why.  I'm no expert, but let's try this short list. Repeated deployments, shortened dwell times, or time at home, stop loss, PTSD.  I could go on, but that's a whole other story.  So, I was glad to read that Admiral Mullen told the audience at the conference "I know at this point in time, there does not appear to be any scientific correlation between the number of deployments and those who are at risk, but I'm just hard-pressed to believe that's not the case," Admiral Mullen said. "I know we are and hope to continue to look (at deployments) first to peel back the causes to get to the root of this."

Deborah Mullen, Admiral Mullen's wife, accompanies him to many events that are military family related.  I met both the Admiral & Mrs Mullen at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day 2009 where I was makring the 5th anniversary of my son's death.  They were both walking through Section 60, where more than 800 members of the military who were killed in Iraq & Afghanistan are buried.  They were offering condolences to family members and friends, they offered hugs or a hand in friendship, so it was no surprise that Mrs Mullen attended the Suicide Prevention Conference.   SFGate reports her message to the attendees:

 Don't forget the spouses.
Deborah Mullen said Army leaders told her that they lack the ability to track suicide attempts by family members of Army personnel. "I was stunned when I was told there are too many to track," Mullen said, speaking on stage at a military suicide prevention conference next to her husband, Adm. Mike Mullen.
She urged the military to get a better handle on the problem and implement prevention measures with spouses in mind.

"There's another side to this and that's family members who commit suicide," Mrs. Mullen said. "It's our responsibility. These are our family members."
Military-wide, she said, it's not clear exactly how many military family members killed themselves last year. Some military spouses, Mrs. Mullen said, are reluctant to seek mental health help because it still carries an unfortunate stigma.
"Spouses tell me all the time that they want to get mental health assistance," she said. "As incorrect as this is, they really do believe if they seek help it will have a negative impact on their spouse's military career."
Mrs Mullen's message is spot on altough I would add one more thing.  Don't forget the parents.

I'm pretty sure that most parents who get that knock on the door consider suicide as one of their options, if only briefly, during those difficult days after they receive the terrible news of the death of their child.  I know of too many parents who want to crawl inside at the first view of the flag covered coffin. One more hug, one more embrace.  If only they could trade their life for their child's.

Please do not forget the Gold Star parents!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Name Them and Shame Them- Veteran's Charity (again)

There is not much that pisses me off more than a charity that sets themselves up as one who takes care of Veteran's but in reality only take care of themself.  If that doesn't piss you off too, then you just aren't paying attention. As a rule, I think many Americans want to donate some of their hard earned money to support the troops and Veteran's issues.  Since most people aren't touched by the war/s, it's one way that people can feel that they are involved and that they "Support the Troops".  The downside is, it seems that someone can form a non-profit, slap either "troops" or "Veteran's" in the name of the charity and they can be off and running with well intentioned donor's money. So, when people take advantage of the good nature and good intentions of others, it kind of pisses me off.

It's not that Roger Chapin is new to this scam; he's been at it for 4 decades and the mere fact that he has been at it for 4 decades puts him in the Hall of Shame for Charities.  Back in January 2008, I wrote in this blog about Chapin's reluctance to testify to Congress about his charities, Help Hospitalized Veterans (HHV) and the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes Foundation.  25% of the money donated went to the charities; the  balance went into the pocket of the administrator's.  At the time, The Army Times reported that lawmakers pushed Chapin and two executives of fundraising companies on the question of whether solicitations should disclose information about the percentage of donations that a group spends on fundraising. By far, the best exchange of the 3 hour hearing was this response to that question. "If we disclose, we'd be out of business," Chapin said. "Your words are wonderful, because if the public knew, they wouldn't donate," said Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn. Touche'! If you want to hear the testimony, go here.

Now, one year later, Chapin and his charity, the Coaliton to Salute America's Heroes Foundation is back in the spotlight again and I don't mean that in any good way.  Forbes is reporting  "on its Web site the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes Foundation, the veterans charity run by controversial, self-described "nonprofit entrepreneur" Roger Chapin, says flatly that 75% of contributions received "goes directly to programs that help service members."  But the Ossining, N.Y., nonprofit’s own data from its latest, just-filed financial statements--issued under penalty of perjury--tell a far different story. Thanks mainly to high fundraising costs from sending junk mail, the Coalition’s actual level of charitable commitment was just 51%. That’s one-third less than 75% and a percentage that leading charity watchdogs consider unacceptable. The average charitable commitment on the annual Forbes list of America’s 200 largest charities, which uses a slightly different methodology and includes different kinds of nonprofits, is 86%. 

Roger Chapin is one of the bad guys, no doubt. This is his story, this is his life and if you believe in karma, he will get his, but he's not the only one.  Do not be fooled by slick websites or shiny pamphlets. There are alot of good charities that do support the troops and veteran's issues and sadly, there are many bad ones, too.  In the meantime, before you donate to any charity, please check them out.  Charity Navigator is a good source to check out verifiable data on many charities, including those that "Support the Troops".

Friday, January 08, 2010

R.I.P. SSgt David Gutierrez

3 little boys buried their Daddy today.  Their mom buried her longtime love.  A military funeral is heartbreaking on so many levels. The ceremony is made up of military traditions, the folding of the American flag that had recently covered the casket, the reading of the medal citations, the three gun volley, the Final Roll Call, the bagpipes, the presentation of the flag and the medals- "On behalf of the President of the United States and a grateful nation....".

Notwithstanding the obvious, the problem with military funerals that are occurring these days is the young age of  the dead.  Today he was 35 years old, but since October 2001, our military cemeteries have been filled with young men and women 18, 22, 26.  No parent should bury a child and no one should die so young, but war brings that to a country and it's so sad.

Some days I wonder why I attend funerals of the fallen but one thing I know for sure is that one Gold Star family attended Ken's memorial and it was a tremendous help knowing that someone really, truly knew what my heart felt like that day.

Today, the city of Gilroy, California turned out to show their respect for Ssgt Gutierrez, who was killed in Afghanistan on Christmas Day.  The schoolchildren lined the sidewalk waving small American flags as the hearse carried SSgt Gutierrez to his final resting place. Citizens took a moment from their day to stand and watch the funeral procession go by, to honor this young man, who they probably hadn't known, but they did know the right thing to do was to share in this families grief, even for a moment.

We who attended the funeral mass and the burial did share their grief today.  The most heartwrenching moment of the day was hearing the sobs of the oldest son, Andrew as the flags were being presented to the family.  How do you explain to your children that their daddy is never coming home?

My thoughts are with the family and friends of David Gutierrez during this difficult time.  I am so sorry for your loss.