Tuesday, November 05, 2013

UnderArmour & Northwestern Promote "Gore Porn"

No one has ever been foolish enough to tell me to get over my son's death.  If they did, I would point to this story nearly 10 year later and say "combat death, the gift that keeps giving" The hard part about grieving is the unexpected reminders of your loved one's death and blood splattered anything is a reminder of mine.

Yesterday, Under Armour proudly announced on their Facebook page "More than 35,000 empowered Warriors inspired the Northwestern Uniforms. On November 16, 2013, Northwestern will take the field to pay special tribute to more than 35,000 empowered Warriors." 18  of these blood splattered unis, gloves, helmets were boastfully displayed. 

I'll not address the breach of flag etiquette here, others will handle that quite nicely.  For me this is personal. When my son, 1Lt Ken Ballard deployed to Iraq in May 2003, I imagined how terrible it would be for him to be wounded or killed while deployed. I didn't think about the graphic details of the possible blood splatter, I just prayed every day for his safety.  Then, as happened to 4485 other US families, I received that knock on the door and my son came home in a flag covered casket.

My comment on the Under Armour Facebook page "Please tell me what is honorable about these blood spattered uniforms? How does this honor the wounded warriors and the fallen of our country? As the mother of a fallen soldier, I am sick to my stomach. You tout your "product" to " make all athletes better through passion, design, and the relentless pursuit of innovation". This product is none of these! You should be ashamed!"  I guess this product  is okay, as long as the blood splatter is on our flag or some other reasonable facsimile. This show of faux patriotism, that wrapping ones self in a flag gives cover to any statement, got old real fast.  It is neither honorable or patriotic.

To cover their insensitive, crass commercialism, Northwestern states on their website that 10% of proceeds from the sales of replica jerseys will go to the Wounded Warrior Project-
"The Wildcats will be wearing this jersey against Michigan November 16. Under Armour designed this jersey honoring the men and women of our armed services. Now you can support the Wounded Warrior Project and your favorite team with this replica jersey designed to match those that the Wildcats will wear on the field. The uniform incorporates a custom stars & stripes design on the shoulders & sleeves and includes a core value embellishment, "Freedom," printed on the back."Believe in Heroes" lettering is embroidered at the bottom hem. WWP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that aims to honor and empower wounded soldiers. 10% of the proceeds from the sale of this jersey will be donated to the WWP."
I am sure there will be approval from the 99% of Americans who carried none of the burdens of these wars, but I wonder about the military families who now care for their wounded warriors, and the friends and families of the fallen. I also wonder if this will trigger any symptoms of PTS to those troops who had to see and clean up the actual blood of their wounded and fallen brothers and sisters.  

It will be interesting to see how Under Armour and Northwestern University handle the backlash that this campaign has caused.  Deadspin's headline was aptly titled Northwestern Honors Wounded Troops With Gore-Porn Football Uniforms stating "isn't "flag covered in blood" a little on-the-nose for something honoring a group that operates programs for injured veterans?" Porn, it is.war porn, gore porn, you decide.
If you feel inclined to share your feelings about this supposed tribute, please share them here or contact  Northwest Head of Athletics at NU j-phillips@northwestern.edu, or call the UnderArmour Company at 888.727.6687. Don't forget to contact them on Facebookand Twitter +Under Armour, too.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Death Gratuity- Victim of the Government Shutdown

The government shutdown has been going on for more than a week now. So called non-essential services were shut down and those who provide those service were also branded as non-essential and were sent home. In all of government, I suppose there are non-essential services, but I would hope that we wouldn't spend our federal budget on non-essential services.  

NBC News reported "In what veterans call an outrageous slight after the ultimate sacrifice, the shuttered federal government is witholding a $100,000 payment normally wired to relatives of fallen soldiers- including the families of five killed in Afghanistan over the weekend. 

The payment, know as the death gratuity, is typically sent to sent to families of the fallen within three days to help them cover funeral costs or travel costs to meet the flag-covered coffins of their loved ones."

Back in 2004 when my son, 1Lt Ken Ballard was killed, the death gratuity was $12,000.  This was a pitiful amount to compensate families of the fallen.  I'm not sure why, but sometime in 2005 the Department of Defense increased the amount to $100,000 and it was retroactive for those who had already died. That was the right thing to do.

If life was fair, of course our loved ones would have come home to their families and the bright future we always imagined and expected.  But that didn't happen.  
If life was fair in this circumstance, the family's Senator and member of Congress would personally go to the family to tell them why they will not receive the death gratuity that is promised to the troops and their families. Yes, they need to tell a grief stricken mother, father, husband or wife whose life has been turned upside down, why this payment is now considered "non-essential" until the government shutdown is resolved.  The family needs to be able to ask someone why their loved ones death is not considered essential or important. Now the burden of this conversation will fall to the casualty team, as if their scope of responsibility was not heavy enough.
I cannot imagine the cold heart of the person who made this decision and those who had the nerve to implement this action.  Although even one death is one too many, the number of troop deaths is minimal at this point and I hope the total of death gratuity during this time period would not exceed $1 million. 

 The decision to delay this payment is a harsh reminder to families of the fallen of their loss and the bureaucratic journey they have embarked upon. For those families who have suffered missteps during the casualty process, it is a reminder of the disrespect we experienced during those first awful days.

It is time to stop playing games with families of the fallen. It is time to stop using the military as a pawn in the government shutdown game.  Delaying the death gratuity is disrespectful and cruel to military families who already carry a heavy burden of war. I urge the Secretary of Defense to rescind this delay immediately.  The death gratuity paid to families of the fallen should be considered an essential and immediate payment during the government shutdown.  No discussion, no negotiation and no extortion. 

Monday, September 09, 2013

How Many More- 2013?

With the 12th anniversary of  the attacks on 9/11/2011 quickly approaching, I am getting grumpier by the day.  Beyond the national tragedy and devastating loss of the day, it took me awhile to figure out why I start this downhill journey every year as August turns into September. When I finally identified cause of this blue funk, this state of nervousness, fear, or depression, the darkness didn't lift and just like clockwork, it's back.

Our county's response to the attacks of 9/11 is what sealed the deal on my son's death sentence; we just didn't know it at the time. 1Lt. Ken Ballard was KIA on May 30, 2004 on the streets of Najaf, Iraq.  The Bush administration and it's supporters used the attacks of 9/11 as the excuse to invade Afghanistan in 2001and then 2 years later to the invasion of Iraq.

The blue funk of 2013 isn't much different except for the anger and rage that is deeper and darker as our country considers a military strike on Syria. The Department of Defense reports the total number of US deaths from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) is 4,423, from Operation New Dawn (OND) is 66 and total US deaths from Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF/Afghanistan) is 2,266.  The lives of 6755 US families and friends of these fallen troops, changed immeasurably, in an instant. I cannot bear the thought of another family whose life will change so much with a simple knock of the door. 

Of course the US casualty numbers are small compared to the deaths of innocent civilians, or collateral damage in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries affected by the US military actions since 2001 and that will occur as a result of this proposed military strike.  I have to wonder what number of any casualties will avenge the deaths of the 2,996  who died on 9/11. Surely, we have achieved that number by now.

We will not and cannot forget that horrible 11th day in September of 2001,  but we cannot and must not continue this permanent state of war that the United States has maintained for the past 12 years by initiating military action in Syria. That our current administration is beating the war drums is inconceivable to me.  Yes, the chemical poisoning of the people in Syria is bad and wrong on so many levels, but my question is how does that threaten the security or even the credibility of  the United States?  If the reasons for this proposed military strike were so obvious and in the best interest of our country, why do we need a media blitz to convince us? Where is the international support for military action?  Why is continued diplomacy not the primary method of dealing with the perpetrator's of theses egregious acts on the Syrian population?

President Obama, Secretaries Kerry and Hagel, Senators Boxer and Feinstein, Representative Pelosi and all other legislators who support this military strike- Americans are not convinced that this is the correct path for the United States.  You were sent to Washington to represent your districts, and now is the time to represent. As you cast your vote, please answer one more question.  Americans and others will die in this so-called limited military strike. How many more must die before we consider other options? HOW MANY MORE?


Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Here we are again

Here we are again.  Despite my lack of updating this blog, this Gold Star Mom continues to use my First Amendment rights on a regular basis.  Unfortunately, some/most politicians seem to think that military action in Syria is a good think for the U.S.  I don't.

It's time for you to speak up and speak out, too.

Stay tuned- I'll be back! Soon.

Monday, July 30, 2012

War is not a Game- still!

"They're not in Hollywood anymore."  That is the tagline for the new NBC series "Stars Earn Stripes" which premieres in August.  Hollywood thinks they have it different this time with the addition of celebrities and the charity aspect as each team competes for a cash prize on behalf of a military, veterans or first-responder charity. The bottom line is that "War is not a Game".  Not now, not ever.

This new NBC television show is getting unprecedented visibility with their advertising during the Olympics.  The NBC site says the show " is an action-packed competition show that pays homage to the men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and our first-responder services." They advertise "Live Ammo! Real explosives! Real danger!"

I wonder what the demographic that NBC aims to draw into watching this show?  With executive producers Mark Burnett and David A. Hurwitz, known for their popular reality game shows "Fear Factor", "The Voice," and  "Survivor", would it be a surprise that the target might be video game players?  First person shooter video war games have been very popular to gamers, so why not a television show that goes one step closer to this war game, game being the key word?

"Stars Earn Stripes" glorifies the image that most people have of war.  But less than 1% of the population of this country is affected by the war in any way and it is this disconnect that is bothersome. Those 1% are the members of the military and their families, the people who love them.

"Stars Earn Stripes"  minimizes the value and importance of military training actual participation in the military.  The participants in this show will work with military professionals and "will gather at a remote training facility, where they will be challenged to execute complicated missions inspired by real military exercises. From helicopter drops into water to long-range weapons fire, the contestants will be tested physically, mentally and emotionally", but that will only give these celebrities a glimpse of actual military training that takes months and years to produce a cohesive unit and troops that have been tested again and again by this training.

Regardless of the immersion that these celebrities partake, it can or will never, ever compare with the experiences of those who fight these battles in real life and who will live with the images of dead and wounded friends forever, and forever is a long time, not just until the next commercial.  War is not a game, not on video games and not in television.

My message to the executives of NBC and the producers of "Stars Earn Stripes" is this show does not pay homage to the military and first responders.  It is just another way for those who have sat out these wars to pretend that they, too, can withstand the rigors that real members of the military do every day.  1% of the US population has the satisfaction of knowing that they met the standards and values of military training.  It's too bad the other 99% think that "Stars Earn Stripes" does the same. 

War is not a Game!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Dead Soldiers of Arlington Cemetery & Congressman Trent Franks

Congressman Trent Franks  (R-AZ) comments about the economy pissed me off tonight.  He said:
“There are people lying out in Arlington National Cemetery tonight and I wonder what their perspective would be If they could come back among us for just  few moments.  I would suggest to you they didn’t die so that we could spend our country into bankruptcy so that we could weaken our nation on all fronts simply because we weren’t fiscally responsible.  And they didn’t die so we could put ourselves so deeply in debt so that we sent tens of thousands for each little child born today so that they would have to carry that (debt) the rest of their lives.”
Congressman Franks, what the hell?  What does my dead son and more than 6100 other dead members of the military have to do with the economy?  Unless you are talking about the $3 trillion cost of the wars that you voted for and refused to pay for and has been a major cause of the current state of our economy. 

And really, why wonder what my son would think about the economy, when you voted to send him there.  Do you feel responsible for his death?  You should.

Congressman Franks, do not ever use the death of my son to justify your selfish and self-centered politics.  Do not ever imagine what my son would say about the economics of the day- do not go there.

Former President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the rest of that administration lied to put the US into an illegal war.  Unfortunately, while you tout the sanctity of life on your website, “Trent has worked tirelessly in an effort to protect the innocent at every stage of life.” you forgot to protect the members of the military when you voted to send so many of them to their certain death.   Look to that administration for the reckless spending on the reckless wars and that is when “we sent tens of thousands for each little child born today so that they would have to carry that for the rest of their lives.”

So, Congressman Franks, leave my dead son to lie in peace at Arlington National Cemetery and I won’t wonder what your children, Joshua and Emily think about any given subject.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

"We got him" Osama bin Laden is dead.

The email I got from my son when Saddam Hussein was killed back in December 2003 said "We got him".  Ken had been in Iraq for 7 months by then.  I wish I could have received the same email this evening, referring to Osama bin Laden, but tonight I am missing my son who was killed in Iaq on May 30, 2004.

I am not joyful to hear of the death of Osama bin Laden, I am relieved.  Much as I was relieved when the administration of George W Bush ended in January 2009.  Okay, I guess I was a little joyful watching George & Laura boarded the helicopter at the White House that would take them back to Crawford, TX.

I can't help miss the contrast of announcements on May 1, 2003 when then President Bush announced "Mission Accomplished"  and eight years later on May 1, 2011 when President Barack Obama announced that "Osama bin Laden is Dead".  Was finding Osama bin Laden a priority of the Bush administration?

The attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11/2001 was not just a loss for New Yorkers, it was a loss for our country and eventually, a loss for our way of life. Laws changed, our freedoms were restricted and terror became the word of the early 21st century.  My son was a senior in college that day back in 2001.  He called me that September morning and we watched TV together, he in Tennessee, me in California, as the 2nd tower was attacked.  The next day, Ken wrote this in his journal:

Terror came to this nation on the 11th. The question of how runs through the mind of many and shock set in as we watch with horror the events unfolding before us. Anger fills many hearts and minds. Once that anger is focused, God help us then. The nation wants blood, but do they understand that in spilling their blood, ours will flow too? When this war does start, I should be back on the front lines. I really hope that I will make the right choices and keep those people under me alive.
Ken was 24 at the time. How did he know he truth when so many others refused to go down that path?
No one under Ken's command died during his 384 days in Iraq.

More than $1 trillion has been spent, more than 6000 US military died, countless were wounded and that is just Americans. How do we count the deaths of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan? I hope that our country will learn the lesson that war isn't the answer when something goes wrong in the world.  Diplomacy and good intelligence are essential parts of any country's foreign policy.

Terrorism has not ended, of course,  but we can turn this page on Osama bin Laden.  His reign of terror is now over. 

As one of my friends said tonite- "Raise your glasses to those you fought for this moment for the last 10 years. Pour some for those who passed too."  Remember also those who were left behind to learn how to live without their loved ones.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Joining Forces with General McChrystal- it's a BAD idea!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

It's None of Their Business

It's not as if the government doesn't already know a ridiculous amount of information about us anyway.  The information that they've got comes from our income taxes, our jobs, our credit cards.  I'm sure they have quite a dossier on all of us already.  Some people say they aren't worried about that because they don't have anything to hide, but that theory really only goes so far.

The State Department has announced a formal notification to allow 60 days for public comment about a proposed new form  DS-5513 , a Biographical Questionnaire that would be incorporated into the process for securing a US Passport. The applicant is asked for all addresses since birth; lifetime employment history including employers’ and supervisors names, addresses, and telephone numbers; personal details of all siblings; all schools attended both in the US and overseas; mother’s address one year prior to your birth; any “religious ceremony” around the time of birth; and other intrusive and personal information

According to the questionnaire, an estimated 74,000 applicants will complete the form.  In 2010, approximately 14 million US passports were issued, so that works out to 1 in 200 applicants who will be required to complete the form.  Neither the DS-5513 form or the announcement reveal where that number came from or who qualifies to be one of the special  74,000 applicants.

If you are one of those 74,000, please note that “failure to provide the information requested may result in … the denial of your U.S. passport application.”  and "Providing the information requested on this form, including your social security number, is voluntary, but failure to provide the information requested may result in processing delays or the denial of your U.S. passport application."  That doesn't give you many options if you want a US Passport.

It is rare that the average citizen is made aware of a public comment period relating to a government proposal, but this is your lucky day because there are about another 30 days to submit comments.  If you think that this is a ridiculous waste of time as well as a terrible intrusion of privacy, it's your turn to sound off to the State Department. I recommend you let the State Department know your feelings regardless if you would be directly affected.  You know that once the questionnaire is put in effect, we will ALL be affected.

You may submit comments by any of the following methods:
  • E-mail: GarciaAA@state.gov. Show citation box
  • Mail (paper, disk, or CD-ROM submissions): Alexys Garcia, U.S. Department of State, 2100 Pennsylvania Ave., NW., Room 3031, Washington, DC 20037.Show citation box
  • Fax: 202-736-9202.Show citation box
  • Hand Delivery or Courier: Alexys Garcia, U.S. Department of State, 2100 Pennsylvania Ave., NW., Room 3031, Washington, DC 20037.Show citation box
You must include the DS form number (if applicable), information collection title, and OMB control number in any correspondence.

I'd love to hear your comments.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Battle of the Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairs

Those of us who watch how members of Congress deal with Veterans issues and how they treat veterans themselves, would do well to keep an eye on the actions and actual voting record of newly appointed GOP chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Congressman Jeff Miller (R-FL),  who promised a thorough review of spending for veterans' programs.

I support a thorough review of any DC committee's budget, but I am concerned when it feels like there may be a hidden, or not so hidden agenda.  Congressman Miller said  he thinks veterans understand why fiscal responsibility is necessary. "I think it's fair to say the veterans in this country have sacrificed in their service to our nation, but they are willing to do what's necessary to help get this country's fiscal house in order".  Wait, let's back up a minute.  Vets are "willing to do what's necessary to help get this country's fiscal house in order"?  No, NO and NO WAY!   With 1% of our population carrying 100% of the burdens of these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, why don't  we make sure that our military members and our vets have their own fiscal houses in order?  THAT is what I want the 112th session of Congress to do.

GOP Speaker of the House, John Boehner said he "can’t think of anyone in the House more capable to serve as the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs than Jeff Miller"  as he announced Miller's election as Chairman of the House VA Committee, he went on to say 

““Jeff’s efforts for veterans are well documented and his credentials as a conservative leader are without question.  Jeff will continue to work to ensure that all of our nation’s heroes receive the proper respect and care that they earned.”
A quick review of Miller's  website brags about how much he supports Veterans issues with such statements from the Congressman as: 
“I am humbled by the opportunity to serve the more than 22 million veterans who have so proudly served this great nation,” “I will work to ensure that we meet our veterans’ needs.” 

I hope so, but not so fast, Congressman Miller.  In October 2010, IAVA, a well known and well regarded veterans advocacy organization published their Congressional Report Card on how members of Congress voted on Veterans issues.   Sadly, Congressman Miller came out with a D, so it doesn't matter how pretty his website is, or how many nice things he says, remember how he voted on the issues when it comes to voting for your Congressional Representative.

Fortunately, Miller's newly appointed counterpart in the Senate, Sen. Patty Murray, said she will be watching Republicans "like a hawk" to ensure veterans get their financial due.  Note: Senator Murray received a B from IAVA.

As the 112th session of Congress starts working on issues, let's see who really supports veterans and their issues and who doesn't.  We'll be watching!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Oprah & the Bravest Families in America

Oprah Winfrey had an "ah-ha moment" of her own on her show about military families today. She admitted  that she was one of the people in this country who did not know anyone serving in the military, or as Tom Brokaw calls them "one of the people who really doesn't care about the war or the men and women who are fighting it".  That didn't surprise me at all.  It also didn't surprise me that Oprah didn't know what a Blue Star family was until the First Lady, Michelle Obama explained to Oprah that it described a family who had a family member actively serving in the military. Mrs Obama had already explained that a Gold Star family was one who had lost a loved one who had been serving in the military.

It didn't surprise me that Oprah didn't know anyone serving, but it does surprise me when I meet someone and I am the first Gold Star mom that they have met. I guess that goes to point that less than 1% of the country is carrying 100% of the burden of these wars. As people have told me "there have been so few casualties". Don't say that to one of the 5892 families who have buried a loved one from these current wars; any number more than zero is too many casualties.

Tom Brokaw said  "the struggles ought not to be left to these families alone" and that our military families just want to know that the public is aware of what's going on as we live in our own war zone.

Gold Star mom, Terry Arciola was shown visiting her son at Arlington National Cemetery in Section 60 where many of our loved ones who were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq are buried. I have not met Terry, but I know her son's story from a mutual friend who helped both of us through the very early days of our grief. LTC Cathy Huley, who worked with Casualty Affairs picked me up when I was so broken and guided me through the bureaucracy to bury my only child at Arlington after he was killed in Iraq. Cathy was also assigned to the Arciola family for the same task a few months after Ken was buried. I'm sure that Casualty Affairs bond with some families more than others.  I consider Cathy to be a good friend of our family and I am glad I see her and her family every year on Memorial Day when we celebrate Ken's life at Arlington and mark another anniversary of his death.

When asked if Terry felt that people have forgotten about the wars and the sacrifice, she said said yes, she thought many people had.  She referred to her son Michael when she said, "If people will forget about his sacrifice.....they did it for us.  If people don't remember that, it's like they didn't exist"  I don't think you will find a Gold Star Mom that would  disagree.

Oprah promised that "we will not forget Michael (Arciola) sacrifice, nor any of the soldiers".  I hope not and we can hold her to it. As the head of her own network, and with her powerful voice, she owes it to us.

Regarding the wars, "our country is suffering from an  epidemic of disconnection"  Bob Woodward explained.  The conversation continued with him asking Oprah "What do we owe these people?  Everything.  What are we giving them?  Not enough.  We haven't figured out how to re-engage the country in these wars.   People have got to be informed- countries get in trouble when they don't pay attention."  Mr Woodward went on to say that military families "feel we have been isolated by the country".  He got that right, too, especially the part about disconnection and isolation.  Honestly, I would not wish this life on anyone; no one should ever have to bury a child, especially as a result of war.

If someone had only watched this Oprah show, and none other, they might believe that she had never done any shows regarding the military or that she had never interacted with members of the military.  Sadly, that is not true.  When Oprah was in DC for President Obama's inauguration in January 2009, she made a trip to Walter Reed Army Hospital to visit wounded troops. If a visit to Walter Reed did not have an impact on what these wars are doing to our young service members and to our country, what else would?   I wonder if it was the power of Tom Brokaw and Bob Woodward, who suggested the subject for this show to Oprah, that finally made her face our reality, our new normal.

In October 2010, Oprah did a show on Homeless Female Veterans.  How did that not become an "ah-ha" moment for her regarding military needs.

I'm glad Oprah got her wake-up call and has said she is now thinking about what she can do to help.  My question to Oprah is what took you so long?  These wars have been going on for nearly 10 years and it is disappointing that this is the first time that she did a show like this about military families. Why did these wars not become a part of Oprah's consciousness until now?

Thank you, Oprah for doing the show, we'll be waiting for your next step.  Thank you, Tom Brokaw and Bob Woodward for standing up for our military families and making sure our stories were told. 

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 wounded.in 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!