Sunday, March 26, 2006

Who's (not) serving their country?

I'm on alot of emailing lists as I suspect most people are. Much of it, you open, scan and delete in quick order. I received an email recently about the Bush family members who are age-eligible to join the military, but are sitting on the sidelines in the safety zone while our kids are putting their patriotic lives on the line.

Many people make the case that Jenna & Barbara Bush should be sent to Iraq and while it is a nice argument, it just doesn't make logistical sense. The Secret Service protection alone would preclude their unit from accomplishing anything. Jenna and Barbara should make some kind of commitment to serve our country if indeed daddy's war plan in Iraq is a noble cause. You know, making a good example for the rest of us.

The Bush family is a great example of the current administration and so many of our elected officials not being touched by the war.

I only know of one elected official who shares the pain that 2322 families are suffering due to the loss of a loved one in the War in Iraq. Becky Lourey, a state Senator from Minnestoa has a unique platform in speaking out against the war. Becky Lourey lost her son, Matt in Iraq May 26, 2005. On Democracy Now, Amy Goodman described her this way:

Lourey was a leading opponent in her state of the invasion of Iraq. In March 2003, she authored an antiwar resolution signed by eighteen other state senators. She said she spoke out against the Iraq war because “this war is alienating us from the rest of the world, and I believe that this occupation in Iraq is making Americans less safe."

I do know that if the younger members of the Bush family think this is such a noble cause they should all be doing more to serve the country. We don't know if they have been encouraged to do so, but with the matriarch of the family, Barbara Bush making statements like this

"Why should we hear about body bags and deaths? It's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?"

I just don't think that joining up is anywhere on the radar of anyone in the Bush family. Here's a list and here's a pretty picture of all of them, too. Big smiles, because they aren't going to war.

Military Service Eligible Children of George W. Bush
Jenna Bush
Barbara Bush

Military Service Eligible Children of Jeb Bush
George P. Bush
Noelle Bush
John Ellis Bush Jr.

Military Service Eligible Children of Neil Bush
Lauren Bush
Pierce Bush

Military Service Eligible Children of Marvin Bush
Marshall Bush

Military Service Eligible Children of Dorothy Bush Koch
Samuel LeBlond
Ellie LeBlond

My son, Lt Ken Ballard will always have been a better man than any of them will ever be.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The President and the Press Conference

I don't think that the president thinks too much of press conferences. He winces alot. He laughs inappropriately. But mostly, he squirms. He isn't able have a backdrop of upstanding members of the military; the press room has to work just fine at the White House . His press conference this morning started at 7 a.m., here on the west coast, much too early for me. But I like to hear him lie, oh, alright, I'll go with twisting the truth. I like to watch the president speak, as I have said before. When he doesn't have a quick answer, he squirms, and I find that enjoyable. It also gets my blood pumping, and what's not fun about that?

He said he still believes that victory in Iraq is still possible. If I didn't believe we could succeed, I wouldn't be there. I wouldn't put those kids there. I meet with too many families who's lost a loved one to not be able to look them in the eye and say, we're doing the right thing. Be very sure that he only meets with families who are handpicked to make sure that they agree with the Bush policies. He hasn't met with me and while I know he could not or would not ever tell me anything that would make me accept the fact that my only child, Lt Ken Ballard was killed in his war, I have plenty of questions for him.

When asked if there will be a day when there are no more US Armed Forces in Iraq, The President responded "That, of course, is an objective, and that will be decided by future Presidents and future governments of Iraq." Future Presidents? Not the next one, but future? What kind of mess has this man left us with? He struts out of office with a tiara and a sash that says "war president", as he wanted to be known as and we carry the burden.

How many more will die under his watch? At some point in the history of the Viet Nam war, there were 2321 American casualties as there are in Iraq today. We cannot allow 57,0000+ names to be written on a monument that honors the soldiers who died in Iraq. Where is the outrage? Why are people so complacent?

The President also made the connection between 9/11 and Al Qaeda again, and even though Helen Thomas called him on it, he kept repeating it and repeating in hopes we will believe it.

They (Iraq) didn't do anything to you, or to our country

His rebuke was Look -- excuse me for a second, please. Excuse me for a second. They did. The Taliban provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That's where al Qaeda trained ,

and then That's where -- Afghanistan provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That's where they trained. That's where they plotted. That's where they planned the attacks that killed thousands of innocent Americans. I also saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically. That's why I went to the Security Council; that's why it was important to pass 1441, which was unanimously passed. And the world said, disarm, disclose, or face serious consequences.

We've read the minutes of the Downing Street memos, the President himself admitted his administration spies on American citizens without warrant, I could go on, but why would I when Bush Jr's Skeleton closet has done the homework. (it seems they had an awful lot of time on their hands, but it *is* interesting reading).

My head hurts!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Mathematics AOL Style

I've got a Gold Star Mom friend who is a math teacher. Vickie is the proud mom of Cpl Jonathan Castro who was killed in the Mosul mess tent bombing on 12.21.04. Vickie and her husband couldn't know that day that they would not make this journey alone. I was driving when I heard about the bombing and I cried and cried. I knew how their life was going to change and it was so close before Christmas. Jonathan was killed the day before my birthday and I was hurting for the Castro's and for me since this was my first birthday without Ken, who had been killed 6 months before.

As a math teacher, I know that using and abusing statistics must make Vickie crazy. She posted this on our message board tonite. You do the math!

I hate it when they try to play the numbers on me. Don't know if it's because I'm a math teacher or not, but I hate it when they try to compare apples and tennis shoes. I'd say apples and oranges but least those two things are both fruits and therefore have something in common. What I have seen and heard in a number of reports recently is that our casualty numbers are going down. First off, they can't 'go down'. We are never going to have fewer than 2309
fatalities. What they are trying to say is that the casualty numbers are going up at a slower pace. Check out how they show it on the graph at the bottom of this site

Okayyyyy, yes there are fewer casualties in 2006 than in 2005 and 2004, but then we are only 72 days into 2006. If you really want to compare equally.

Time frame (# of casualties)
Jan 1 - March 13

2003 (0 we hadn't invaded yet!!!))

2004 (76)
2005 (75)
2006 (72)

If that's what they are pushing as one of the "positives" that the press is ignoring they should run it by a math teacher first.

And I know a match teacher who would gladly set the numbers straight for you.

Pounding my head on the wall

Pardon the noise- it's just me pounding my head against the wall again and again and again... It is shameful how the good people of the Gulf States have been ignored, avoided, overlooked, disregarded, shunned, evaded- well you get the picture, it's just wrong. It has been more than 6 months since Katrina had her way with Louisiana, Mississippi and other states in the region. It has been 6 months since President Bush visited those good people and made promises about housing, rebuilding, the levee's....

On September 15, 2005, Bush made a speech in Jackson Square in New Orleans. About housing,
he promised to empty shelters quickly, meet the immediate needs of the displaced, register victims, and provide housing aid in the form of rental assistance and trailers. Fast forward to January 2006,
trailers in Louisiana have been provided for about 37 percent of the estimated 90,000 displaced families in need of housing. Officials acknowledge production bottlenecks and in-state battles over sites. Trailer costs have swelled from $19,000 to $75,000 apiece.
And this week, Senate minority leader, Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) visited the Hope Arkansas airport to view the 11, 000 FEMA trailers that are sitting and rotting, waiting for FEMA to distribute them to hurricane victims in the Gulf Coast. Rep Reid says he is "ashamed for our country" We should all be ashamed for our country, but sadly, this kind of treatment is nothing new for this administration.

Here is FEMA's response to why these trailers are sitting in Hope, AR rather than in Mississippi or Louisiana.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has said that it was unable to put the trailers to use because federal regulations prohibit placing them in flood plains, and many of those needing shelter after the hurricanes are in areas classified as flood-prone.
I don't know how anyone can say this with a straight face? How can anyone say this without checking up their chain of command and asking and pleading that this could not be true and HOW CAN WE FIX THIS? I don't know if the answer is to rebuild New Orleans, that is for brighter minds than mine. But I do know that while everyone is pointing fingers at each other, these families lives are nowhere near getting better.

I don't know what a fair cost would be to rebuild a house in the Gulf States, but I imagine $75,000 would go a long way towards a downpayment and certainly would minimize the costs that are being paid for housing vouchers. I suspect the good people who have been misplaced by the hurricane just want their old lives back. I suspect they don't understand why Barbara Bush said about victims in Houston And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them."

I don't care if she says she didn't mean it *that* way, I don't care if *they* say her comments were taken out of context. It was insensitive at best and cruel at worst. It demonstrates how the Bush family thinks about people who aren't *them*.

There is something wrong with the system that says you spend several hundred thousand dollars to buy trailers for hurricane victims to help them rebuild their lives and then you can't move those trailers where they need them because these families live in a flood plain. Of course they do, that's why they need new housing!

Bush blames the Congress for "shortchanging the process" of getting funds to all of the damaged states instead of the levee projects in Lousisiana
"I was kind of upset. He's blaming all this on Congress, and then he has the audacity to say what limited money he's helped us get, put it all on Louisiana. That's not fair," Reid said Saturday. "I'm very, very disappointed."
I'll bet that was an understatement. This country can do better, but does this administration want to?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Just Trying to Matter

Okay, I'll admit it, I watch the Oscars. Maybe it's a chick thing. I like to see the fancy dresses and jewelry. I don't care who's with who, I just like to see the princess dresses and of course, who didn't look in the mirror before they left the house. I said it's a chick thing!!

One of my friends sent me an email after watching the Oscars. Karen said "I thought of you when I heard Reese Witherspoon's Oscar acceptance speech, quoting June Carter as saying, "I'm just trying to matter." Karen also told me that I matter and "Thanks for keeping our priorities straight and our eyes on the prize".

I heard Reese quote June Carter and I thought "me too!". I didn't choose this path I am on, but I am trying to matter. I am trying to make a difference. When my only child,
Lt Ken Ballard was killed in Iraq on 5.30.04, it became really important to matter. Ken's voice might have been silenced that day, but mine wasn't. If I don't speak out and tell the the President - to remain silent is to let you think I approve or support your actions- I do not.

Even though I share a sentiment that the majority of Americans share- that the troops should come home from Iraq, I know I set myself up for criticism when I speak out. I can take the hits and while mostly there is support, I have met my fair share of mean people. Mean, mean, mean. I was speaking in Illinois late last summer. I had just said that I don't get to plan a wedding, I get no grandbabies because my only child was killed in Iraq. I don't think that required a response, but I got one- a woman shouted "Everyone dies!" Everyone dies at age 26 in a war that should never happened? I hope she never has to know what that feels like.

I tell Ken's and my story in front of groups and I tell our story when I am standing in line, or on an airplane, or in the airport or the grocery store. No one is safe from hearing our story, really. I don't feel fully dressed unless I wear a button with Ken's smiling face on it and I wear a pin with an American Flag and a Gold Star Flag. I make it easy for people to ask who is that man? What's on your button? I suspect some people regret asking me, but I don't. Some people cry when I answer. And always, when they hear our story, they can never again say they haven't been touched by the war. If they don't listen (and that rarely happens) I'll go to the next person and the next and the next. If I have to talk to every single person in this country, one by one, then I will do it. People will know that there is a war going on and our son's and daughters are dying every single day. If I miss talking to someone, surely one of my Gold Star mom or dad friends will find them and tell their story. I belong to a group called
Gold Star Families Speak Out and we do speak out. Bring the troops home now, take care of them when they get here and never let another war like this happen. All of our stories are sad and need to be heard. Please never say you have not been touched by the war, at least try to understand our new normal.

When I find out that people listen to what I say, then it is somewhat of a validation and I appreciate it. Earlier this week, I received official notification that my State Assemblywoman, Sally Lieber (D-San Jose), Assistant Speaker Pro Tem of the California State Assembly,
announced the selection of Karen Meredith, Gold Star Mother and peace activist, as 'Woman of the Year' for the 22nd Assembly District. Ms Lieber kindly said

"Karen Meredith has turned her pain and grief into action," said Assemblywoman Lieber. "She is a powerful moral presence and important voice for peace and understanding. I am humbled to have the opportunity to recognize her personal sacrifice and dedication."

Thank you, Sally. I am always grateful to my family and friends who support and encourage me.

I'm just trying to matter.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

And another thing...

Yesterday I wrote that the coalition of the willing was wilting. I just didn't know how much. A story from the UK goes further with Rupert Cornwell from the Independent Online saying At last, the warmongers are prepared to face the facts and admit they were wrong.

Back in 1997, Francis Fukuyama was the most prominent intellectual of the original signatories of the PNAC (Project for a New Amercian Century) document. The author is extremely critical and in his new book, America at the Crossroads, the subtitle is "Democracy, Power and the Neo-Conservative Legacy", now says that the neo-conservative legacy is fatally poisoned.

It was also Mr Fukuyama who wrote in an earlier book, The End of History and the Last Man, that the whole world was "locked on a glide-path to liberal, free-market democracy" thus supporting the PNAC agenda. His proviso was that the process was gradual, and must unfold at its own pace.

But not only were the neo-cons too impatient. A second error was to believe that an all-powerful America would be trusted to exercise a "benevolent hegemony". A third was the gross overstatement of the post 9/11 threat posed by radical Islam, in order to justify the dubious doctrine of preventive war.

Finally, there was the blatant contradiction between the neo-cons' aversion to government meddling at home and their childlike faith in their ability to impose massive social engineering in foreign and utterly unfamiliar countries like Iraq. Thence sprang the mistakes of the occupation period.

The good news is that those future Bush policymakers who signed the PNAC nine years ago have gone onto other things, not of course without leaving a permanent damaging footprint forever on this countries landscape to say nothing of the more than 2300 American casulaties.
  • Paul Wolfowitz, the war's most relentless and starry-eyed promoter, has moved on to the World Bank, silent about the mess he did so much to create.
  • Richard Perle, leader of the resident hawks department at the American Enterprise Institute think-tank here, has vanished from the scene.
  • Lewis Libby meanwhile has stepped down as Vice-President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, to focus his energy on staying out of jail.
  • Zalmay Khalilzad, now the US ambassador to Iraq. This week even he - Afghan born and the one original neo-con who had the region in his blood - admitted that the invasion had opened "a Pandora's box" that could see the Iraq conflict spread across the entire Middle East.

Not to worry for all you conservative readers (are there any here?) Diehard PNAC supporters steadfastly remain. Bill Kristol, of the Weekly Standard "accuses Mr Fukuyama of losing his nerve - of wanting to "retrench, hunker down and let large parts of the world go to hell in a handbasket, hoping the hand-basket won't blow up in our faces."
It is on George Bush's lips that neo-conservatism most obviously survives - in the commitment to spreading freedom and democracy that he proclaims almost daily, and most hubristically in his second inaugural in 2005 that promised to banish tyranny from the earth.
But even the extravagant oratory of that icy January day cannot obscure the irony of
America's Iraq adventure. The application of a doctrine built upon the supposed
boundlessness of US power has succeeded only in exposing its limits.

We progressives are, if nothing else, patient, maybe to a fault. There is hope, but my patience is wearing thin.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Coalition of the Willing is Wilting

There is news that one of the original members of Project for a New American Century is now saying that plan (PNAC) is a mess. That's great news to me and others who hope that sanity isn't another of the precious traits this country is willing to hand off. If even one member of PNAC is backpedaling then there is hope that others will do the same.

Why is it that we have to get information like this first from the foreign press? The reports,
Neoconservatism has failed the United States and needs to be replaced by a more realistic foreign policy agenda, according to Francis Fukuyama, one of its prime architects. in 1997, Fukuyama was a a signatory to the statement of Principles of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC).

Francis Fukuyama, who wrote the best-selling book The End of History and was a member of PNAC, the neoconservative project, now says that, both as a political symbol and a body of thought, it has "evolved into something I can no longer support". He says it should be discarded on to history's pile of discredited ideologies.

In his new book "America at the Crossroads", Mr Fukuyama says that PNAC "is now in shambles" and that its failure has demonstrated "the danger of good intentions carried to extremes".

Mr Fukuyama once supported regime change in Iraq. However, Mr Fukuyama now thinks the war in Iraq is the wrong sort of war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. "The most basic misjudgment was an overestimation of the threat facing the United States from radical Islamism," he argues.
"Although the new and ominous possibility of undeterrable terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction did indeed present itself, advocates of the war wrongly conflated this with the threat presented by Iraq and with the rogue state/proliferation problem more generally."

"By definition, outsiders can't 'impose' democracy on a country that doesn't want it; demand for democracy and reform must be domestic. Democracy promotion is therefore a long-term and opportunistic process that has to await the gradual ripening of political and economic conditions to be effective."

The gradual ripening of democracy in the US has taken more than 200 years, and although we don't have it all the way right, we fight for it every day. Why would we expect it to happen any sooner in Iraq, expecially when it wasn't homegrown reform?

Time magazine's Andrew Sullivan confesses his own regrets when he writes:
"Several conservatives and neoconservatives have begun to renounce the decision to topple Saddam Hussein three years ago. William F. Buckley Jr., as close to a conservative icon as America has, recently wrote that "one can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed." George F. Will has been a moderate skeptic throughout. The specter of Iraq teetering closer to civil war and disintegration has forced a reckoning."
The coalition of the willing is wilting.