Monday, December 31, 2007

What will you do in 2008?

Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most, that has made it possible for evil to triumph.
Haile Selassi

I'm not sure there are many, including members of the 110th Congress themselves, who are particularly happy with what was accomplished in Washington DC in 2007. There was much hope after the November 2006 election that we would see real changes in the direction our country was headed; there was hope, finally, for a beginning to the end of the occupation in Iraq. Sadly, we are no closer to getting our military out of Iraq now than in November 2006 or even March 2003. We hear that the presidential candidates are either planning to leave troops in Iraq for decades, as we have in Korea, or increase the number of troops there to restore order. Of the three Democratic candidates, Clinton, Obama and Edwards, none was willing to pledge that all combat forces in Iraq would be gone by the end of the next president's term in 2013.

What did you do in 2007 to end the war? Did you act? Did you contact your legislator? Did you write a letter to the editor? Did you pick up the phone? Did you participate in a rally or a protest? Or were your days filled with inaction?

Were you indifferent when you heard of our young men and women's souls were leaving this earth from the sands of Iraq? Were you affected by the death and displacement of so many Iraqi's who never asked that this fight be brought to their land? What did you do to stop the war/occupation? Did you think it isn't your problem? Did you think nothing you did would matter or did you just not care?

Were you silent about the injustice of this pointless and endless war? Were you silent when your voice could have been heard and counted? Were you silent because it was easier that way or did you just not care?

Did you do anything to have your voice heard protesting about the erosion of our privacy rights or did you go shopping? Did the millions of displaced, wounded or dead Iraqi's not bother you or did you think it would all go away if you put a magnetic yellow ribbon on your vehicle? You know better.

What have you done to honor the lives of our military, like my son, Lt Ken Ballard who was killed in Najaf, Iraq on 5.30.2004? 902 US military were killed and 5900 were wounded in 2007- what did you do to stop the casualties? What have you done to prevent one more flag covered casket from coming home?

The media will make a lot of noise about the presidential campaign in 2008. There may be so much noise that we hear no other news. But with a little effort, you can find many websites and news programs that dig deep, as well as skim the surface to make sure you have the news you need to be an informed citizen and voter.

You needn't get your news only from the so-called mainstream media. Try,,,,,, and Project Censored to start (there are dozens of other good sites that are easy enough to find). MSNBC's nightly show, Countdown with Keith Olbermann is another good source for authentic news. Mr Olbermann provides me with a sense of grounding; when I watch the show, I know it's not me who has lost my grasp of reality; the Bush administration has.

I'm not saying this is going to be easy, but your voice is important, and if you don't speak out, Washington can't hear you.

What will you do in 2008?

Mother of the Year- Hall of Shame

A girls club called Club Libby Lu, A special secret club for super fabulous girls (who) can get makeovers parties, play games, get advice, and find really cool princess paraphernalia (I couldn't make that up, it's right from their website) announces a contest to win tickets to a Hannah Montana concert, including a makeover and airfare to the concert in Albany, NY.

In order to win, you had to write an essay that would describe why you & your friends were unique. The winner, a 6 year old girl from Texas was announced. The opening line in her essay was: "My daddy died this year in Iraq." The problem is, that was a lie.

I'm not sure where this child's daddy really is as he is not mentioned in the news reports, but imagine lying about a father's death. Imagine being so casual about the death of a daddy. The mother & daughter live in the Dallas area, shouting distance from Ft Hood, where thousands of children have seen their daddies and other family members go off to war. These children live in fear every moment their parents are deployed. The death of their daddy is something they think every day and nothing they take casually.

More than 1400 children have experienced a parent's death in Iraq or Afghanistan. You can double that number if you count children under the age of 18 who have lost a sibling.

I'm not sure who's idea it was to make this false claim, the mother's or the child's. The whole incident is disturbing on so many levels.

The girl's mother had told Club Libby Lu officials that the girl's father died April 17 in a roadside bombing in Iraq, company spokeswoman Robyn Caulfield said. But the mother, Priscilla Ceballos, admitted later Friday that the essay and the military information she provided about her daughter's father were untrue.

"We did the essay and that's what we did to win. We did whatever we could do to win," Ceballos.
We did whatever we could do to win? How special is Priscilla Ceballos to teach her child to lie in order to win a silly contest? To lie, in itself is bad, but to lie about a daddy's death in war in a time of war is disrespectful to children who have to figure out what it means how to live without their daddy, and to live with that truth for the rest of their lives. It is also disrespectful of and offensive to all Gold Star families, who have lost a loved one in this war and who number more than 3900 at this time. It is heard enough to lose a son in this war, as I have, but I cannot imagine losing a parent.

At least Club Libby Lu had the good sense to post a statement on their website regarding the "untrue" essay that was submitted by the 6 year old girl.

Club Libby Lu has learned the essay submitted under the name Alexis M. in the Club Libby Lu "Hannah Montana Rock Your Holidays Essay Contest" is untrue. We are reviewing the facts in the matter so that we may determine an appropriate resolution to the situation.

Club Libby Lu had no knowledge of the inaccuracies in the essay until 2:45 this afternoon - Friday, December 28. We regret that the original intent of the contest, which was to make a little girl's holiday extra special, has not been realized in the way we anticipated.

The appropriate resolution was to name another winner, who remained nameless.

For all this, I award Priscilla Ceballos of Texas the 2007 Mother of the Year Hall of Shame.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Name them and Shame them- Veterans Organizations

On Christmas Day, the New York Times wrote an opinion called "Giving Until it Hurts"

The public has rightly shown its empathy with wounded and troubled war veterans, contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to private charities that claim to have the veterans’ best interests at heart. A new study details rampant abuses of the money flow.

The 12 veterans’ charities rated as the worst failures collected more than $260 million last year while keeping at least double the recommended 35 percent for overhead — that as the flood of needy veterans continues to grow. This is a disgrace that threatens to make the notion of charity a casualty of war

Of 29 military charities vetted by the American Institute of Philanthropy, a nonprofit watchdog group, only nine received passing grades in managing resources.

On December 13, The Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing to examine whether all the charitable groups raising money for the purpose of helping our nation’s veterans are genuinely serving that need. According to an ABC television report by Brian Ross, of the 27 organizations reviewed by the American Institute of Philanthropy, 13 were rated F. Among those shameless F-rated organizations-AMVETS Service Organization, Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Freedom Alliance, American Ex-Prisoners of War Service Foundation, American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial Fund, Help Hospitalized Veterans /Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, NCOA National Defense Foundation, Vietnow National Headquarters. One of the more egregious organizations is the National Veteran's Services Fund, who gave 2% of the funds to veterans, the rest went to administration & overhead. In all, $475 million dollars have been donated to these F rated organizations in the last 2 years.

Two organizations, Army Emergency Relief Fund & Air Force Aid Society earned an A+ rating on all other factors, but were downgraded to F due to large asset reserves. The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society initially received an A+ but was downgraded to a C due to large asset reserves. According to the AIP December 2007 report explains:

AIP strongly believes that your dollars are most urgently needed by charities that do not have large reserves of available assets. AIP therefore reduces the grade of any group that has available assets equal to three to five years of operating expenses, and assigns an F to groups with over five years of reserves. In AIP’s view, a reserve of less than three years is reasonable and does not affect a group’s grade.
These reductions in grades are based solely on the charities’ asset reserves as compared to budget. If you agree with these charities that reserves greater than three years budget are necessary to enhance their long-term stability, you may wish to disregard the lower grades that AIP assigns on the basis of high assets. AIP’s definition of "years of available assets" includes funds currently available for the charity’s use, including investments that the charity has set aside as a reserve but could choose to spend if it wanted to do so.

3 military/veterans organizations received high ratings from AIP. I know from personal experience that the Fisher House Foundation and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund are amazing organizations; so it is no surprise to me that both receive an A+. National Military Family Association received an A.

Your charitable donations intended to support veteran's issues are such a precious gift. Please do some research (AIP, The Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance, and Charity Navigator) to make sure that your hard earned dollars go to the veterans as you intend them to and not to costly direct-mail appeals, patriotism-tinged trinkets and bloated salaries. These so called veteran's organizations should be ashamed of themselves, but if their policies allow abuse of charitable donations as described, they do not know the meaning of shame.

Our government has never done enough for returning vets and they are not doing so now. Your private donations are critical to the survival of our returning vets and their families. With this information, we can do better by them, and with this information, we know who supports the troops and who supports themselves.

3900 Dead US Soldiers

On January 1st, 2007 we marked the 3000th dead US soldier in Iraq. Nearly one year later, we mark the death of the 3900th dead US soldiers. 900 young men and women never coming home, 900 families torn apart, turned upside down in 2007.

Did you hear this sad statistic on your local news? Unlikely. The AP published a very short story, Forbes picked it up. Not one of the network news affiliates in the San Francisco Bay area covered the story on their websites, not, not Nothing, nada, zip and zero.

We did hear about the first families holiday celebration at Camp David; the president gave his wife a silver tray and purse and she gave him a new coat and warming soles for cold weather mountain biking. Sweet, huh? We surely heard about the presidential campaign and we heard that Bush signed the $555 billion spending bill, but we didn't hear about the dead soldiers.

Unfortunately, since it was recently announced that the troop surge in Iraq was working, I fear some people decided that meant the occupation in Iraq was a success and meant that victory was upon us! Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition! Juan Cole over at Informed Comment wrote about the success of the surge as being one of the Top 10 Myths about Iraq 2007 . He explains it is a myth to believe-

The reduction in violence in Iraq is mostly because of the escalation in the number of US troops, or "surge." Fact: Although violence has been reduced in Iraq, much of the reduction did not take place because of US troop activity. Guerrilla attacks in al-Anbar Province were reduced from 400 a week to 100 a week between July, 2006 and July, 2007. But there was no significant US troop escalation in al-Anbar. Likewise, attacks on British troops in Basra have declined precipitously since they were moved out to the airport away from population centers. But this change had nothing to do with US troops. About 600 civilians are being killed in direct political violence per month, but that number excludes deaths of soldiers and police. Across the board, Iraqis believe that their conflicts are mainly caused by the US military presence and they are eager for it to end.

While I am happy that there seems to be less violence in Iraq, 2007 was the deadliest year of this nearly 5 year war. Our troops are still dying. The occupation of Iraq is not over. Whoever gets elected to be our 44th President will become the Decider on when we bring our troops home. Listen to the candidates and listen very carefully while the choice is in your hands.

My condolences to the newest Gold Star families who join a group who needs nor wants new members. Gold Star families, those who have lost a loved one in war, don't care if the number is one or 3900. We know the hole in our hearts that will never heal and we know that any number more than zero is too many for the illegal invasion of Iraq. Special condolences to my fellow members of Gold Star Families Speak Out, who suffer as each additional flag covered coffin returns home for the last time. Whether it has been a day, a month or 4 years, we remember the exact moment we heard the knock on the door; the day our lives changed forever.

Members of GSFSO have been on this journey of bereavement for all too long, and they are the ones I turn to to get me through the days of living without my only child, Lt Ken Ballard. Ken was casualty #818 and was KIA on 5.30.2004. My Gold Star family friends know exactly what losing a loved one in this war means and we are doing what we can to end this endless war and to bring the troops home now!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Romney's tears

There are a lot of things you can say to a Gold Star family and there are also a lot of things you shouldn't say to or about a Gold Star family. While most people are kind and empathetic when speaking to a family who has lost a loved one in war, some people can really be insensitive and insulting.

Mitt Romney, a Republican running for President was the latter this week. The AP reports that Mitt Romney's eyes filled with tears Monday as the Republican presidential contender recalled watching the casket of a soldier killed in Iraq return to the United States and imagined if it were one of his five sons.

How disingenuous. If there was a possibility that any of his 5 sons might serve their country in the military and die as a result, I might give him credit for his imagination. But Romney told us his sons are serving this country by campaigning for their father. What's the worst that could happen to them on the campaign trail? A paper cut? To suggest that serving your country campaigning for one's father is the same as serving your country in the military and underfire is just wrong. If it wasn't so serious, it would be laughable.

While I appreciate that he thinks he could imagine losing a child to war, Romney would have to have a hell of an imagination to get even anywhere near what my life is like since losing my only child, Lt Ken Ballard, to George Bush's war 3 1/2 years ago. There are not enough painful words in our language to describe the anguish that I and nearly 4000 other families feel as we wake up every morning knowing that our loved one is never coming home and that they will never again join us for the holidays. There are no words to describe the gaping hole in our hearts that will never, ever heal.

Perhaps Romney might try to imagine opening the door to the military casualty team to be told that your loved one is dead. He might try to imagine meeting his child's flag covered casket inside the belly of an airplane at the airport as he comes home for the last time. Or maybe he might imagine standing over his son's grave at Arlington National Cemetery with the sound of Taps is being played in the distance. But, mercifully, he will never know, because no one should ever know the reality of a Gold Star family.

If Mitt Romney finds imagining this war so painful, he could take steps to end this endless occupation. As a presidential candidate, Mitt Romney could make ending the war part of his platform. But, a quick search of his website lists issues such as Defeating the Jihadists, Competing with Asia, Taxes, Immigration, America's Culture and Values and others but has no specific statement on Iraq. I'm pretty sure that means it's okay with Mitt for other people's kids to keep getting blown up, as long as it is not one of his own.

Mitt Romney should stick to talking about things he knows. He will never know the pain of losing a child in a war he never supported.

Remember the Troops at Christmas -- and Damn the Politicians

Today I'm turning my little soapbox over to Joseph Galloway over at Editors & Publisher. Joseph L. Galloway is one of the most renowned military reporters of our era and co-author of "We Were Soldiers Once...and Young." Mr Galloway has street cred, or at least military cred.

Remember the Troops at Christmas -- and Damn the Politicians

There are some new statistics that give us reason to be ashamed for the way that our country has treated those who've served and sacrificed for us.

As you do your holiday shopping this year and think about a big turkey dinner and piles of gifts and the good life that most Americans enjoy, please spare a thought for those who made it all possible: Those who serve in our military and the veterans who've worn the uniform.

There are some new statistics that give us reason to be ashamed for the way that our country has treated those who've served and sacrificed for us.

Those statistics damn the politicians who start every speech by thanking the troops and veterans and blessing them. They indict our national leaders who turn up at military bases and the annual conventions of veteran's organizations and use troops and veterans as a backdrop for their photo-ops.

Consider this:

-- Our veterans are killing themselves at twice the rate of other Americans.

--One quarter of the homeless people in America are military veterans. That's one in every four. Is that ragged man huddled on the steam grate in a brutal winter wind a Vietnam vet? Did that younger man panhandling for pocket change on the street corner fight in Kandahar or Fallujah?

For the past four years, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been insisting that it's doing everything it needs to for the nation's veterans. That's simply not true, particularly when it comes to the VA's treatment of mental health issues.

As my McClatchy colleague Chris Adams has reported in a series of groundbreaking stories this year, the VA mental health system- even by its own measures -- wasn't prepared to give returning veterans the mental health care they need.

The experts say that between 20 and 30 percent of all troops returning from combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But many of VA hospitals didn't have the special PTSD programs that experts say are vital. Soldiers returning from Iraq are allowed to slip unnoticed into their old lives, and neither the Department of Defense nor the VA does anything to monitor their mental health.

The VA keeps telling Congress that all is well. That's not true, either. As Adams reported, the VA has been using fudged or inflated numbers to do so. And after years of promising that it's getting a growing backlog of disability compensation applications under control, things actually got worse this year.

No matter whether they've been wounded and need follow-up care and support, or whether they're coming apart at the seams and feeling suicidal, they face backlogs as long as six months for an appointment to be evaluated and helped at VA medical centers.

The same people who don't blink at spending $3 billion a week on their war of choice in Iraq were the ones who cut the VA budget and privatized maintenance at Walter Reed Army Hospital and opposed every attempt to expand benefits for veterans old and young.

They're the same people who turned a blind eye as their corporate sponsors and private donors looted billions of dollars from the Treasury with no-compete contracts and bloated bills for everything from food for the troops to fuel for their tanks and trucks.

As a wave of wounded troops suffering brain injuries from the blasts of roadside bombs and landmines poured into military hospitals, these people, posing as fiscally responsible budget makers, were cutting in half the money spent on research into brain injuries.

These frauds who love to pose as wartime leaders sat back and did nothing as a cruel bureaucracy sent bill collectors out to harass double amputee veterans for thousands of dollars because they neglected to turn their armored vests and other gear in to the supply sergeant after they were blown apart on the battlefield.

They did nothing as the Army became ever more conservative, even stingy, in the number of injured and wounded soldiers it judged worthy of full disability pensions. Soldiers who suffered brain injuries and PTSD so severe that they couldn't function were put on the street with a 30 percent disability pension-- $700 a month-- to support a wife and three children.

Neglecting our war veterans and the widows and orphans that result from our wars is as American as apple pie. It's nothing new. But in the past we always waited until after the war's end to forget those who'd fought the war.

This may be the first time in our history that we began to neglect and forget our troops during a war.

All of this is shameful -- shameful for a people whose freedom and prosperity rests on the backs of those soldiers but who've forgotten them so completely that they haven't held their Congress and their president responsible for this stain on our honor.

The next smarmy politician who shouts, "God bless our troops" ought to be tarred and feathered and ridden out of Washington on a rail for sheer hypocrisy.
Amen, I say!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

400 days

....but who's counting?

In 400 days, barring an impeachment miracle, the reign of King George W Bush will be over. Let the countdown continue. January 20, 2009 cannot come soon enough. I cannot see that our country will ever recover from the damage caused by this presidency; maybe some day it will, but not in my lifetime. George will go back to Texas to clear brush and occasionally clean hisself up and go on the speaking circuit to give some speeches, just to replenish the ol’ coffers expecting to make more than $50 to $75 thou like daddy's making. (hey, those are his words, not mine). And George will have not a clue the devastation left in his path, nor the cleanup required; he doesn't have a clue now.

I would like to think that we can get Habeas Corpus back, we can end the lying & spying, end they dying in Iraq & Afghanistan, end torture, fund veteran's issues, fund children's health insurance, restore some of our reputation in this world and a myriad of other things that have gone so desperately wrong since this administration took office. I'd like to think so, but I'm not sure that our Congress really, truly gets it.

With a president whose poll numbers are in the 20's, where's the spine? Congress should just say NO to this lame duck president and his pathetic supporters; JUST SAY NO! There need not be status quo for the next 400 days; that's not why we sent Congress to DC in 2006. We sent Congress to Washington to end this endless occupation and to stand up to the president.

Oh, wait, it's midnite, there are now 399 days till Bush administration is over. Time flies and all.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Don't Blink

Message to Congress-Don't Blink. Do Not Blink! Do not back down!

CNN reports The Democratic-controlled U.S. House approved a war-funding bill with a timeline for troop withdrawal from Iraq and substantially less funds to conduct the war than President Bush has requested. Sen. Harry Reid says restrictions must be part of the bill or "the president won't get his $50 billion." The bill states that the primary purpose of the money "should be to transition the mission of United States Armed Forces in Iraq and undertake their redeployment." It demands that Bush begin withdrawing troops from Iraq within 30 days of passage, with a goal of having American combat troops out of Iraq by December 15, 2008. It's about time.

Congress should not listen to the threats that they are not supporting the troops or their families; they should not believe the statements that they are soft on terror. We know it's not true. With opposition to the war at an all time high of 68%, it's time for the Democrats to stand up to George Bush and stop funding the never ending war/occupation in Iraq. Stop the funding, bring 'em home.

House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said "we can no longer militarily sustain the deployment in Iraq; staying there in the manner we are there is no longer an option." and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said "We're going to continue to do the right thing for the American people by having limited accountability for the president and not a blank check"

Secretary Gates says that without the money now, drastic steps would have to be taken in anticipation of the shutdown, including plans to freeze contracts and to furlough about 100,000 government employees . So what? The American people are saying we do not want to spend money on combat any longer (if we ever did) After countless deaths, nearly 5 years in Iraq and having spent nearly $5 billion dollars; it's time to put an end to this endless war.

Speaking at the Pentagon, Bush told his audience. The men and women of this department, the Department of Defense, are helping to carry out the government's most important duty: protecting the American people. Every day they confront America's enemies. Every day they work to stop the spread of dangerous weapons. And every day they guard against those seeking to bring another day of destruction to our shores. The missions of this department are essential to saving American lives. And they are too important to be disrupted, or delayed, or put at risk.

The American people expect us to work together to support our troops. That's what they want. They do not want the government to create needless uncertainty for those defending our country, and uncertainty for their families. They do not want disputes in Washington to undermine our troops in Iraq just as they're seeing clear signs of success.

Here in Washington, leaders have a responsibility to send the right message to the rest of the world. Let us tell our enemies that America will do what it takes to defeat them. Let us tell Afghans and Iraqis that we will stand with them as they take the fight to our common enemies. Let us tell our men and women in uniform that we will give them what they need to succeed in their missions -- without strings and without delay.

Except there are a few problems with his comments.

If only the military in Iraq was protecting the American people. In the third Terrorism Index, more than 100 of America’s most respected foreign-policy experts see a world that is growing more dangerous, a national security strategy in disrepair, and a war in Iraq that is alarmingly off course.

Georg Bush has done well enough on his own to create needless uncertainty to those defending our country and their families. How much more uncertainty can we give members of the military with multiple deployments of uncertain lengths? The only certainty that this administration has given our troops is that they are certain to be heading to a war zone.

The American people do expect those in Washington to work together to support our troops and Bush has yet to make any concessions in Iraq. With this president and this administration, it's their way or the highway. The president has discovered the veto and the democrats and some republicans have discovered a spine. Bush is criticizing Democrats for their priorities and blasting the Senate for using a procedural maneuver to prevent him from making recess appointments.

“In a political maneuver designed to block my ability to make recess appointments, congressional leaders arranged for a senator to come in every three days or so, bang a gavel, wait for about 30 seconds, bang a gavel again, and then leave.” waah!

Pro-forma sessions appointments. is a tool given to the Senate usually to satisfy the constitutional obligation that neither chamber can adjourn for more than three days without the consent of the other. Bush has had no problem abusing his privilege and making recess appointments with disastrous affects to our country; John Bolton as UN Ambassador comes to mind as one of the worst recess appointments , although he is only one example of the 167 recess in the Bush presidency.

So the message to Congress, is Don't blink, don't back down to this bully-president or to threats from the Pentagon. We know you support the troops, we know the president doesn't. Our message has been clear. End the war, NO MORE FUNDING!

Can it be easier than that?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Contractor Fraud

The Asociated Press reports today about major cases involving alleged contractor fraud in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. I'm afraid we haven't heard anything yet; I'm sure this is the tip of the iceberg. It's pretty pathetic that military people are involved, although I am not so naive as to believe that wouldn't happen. A jury of their peers, all members of the military, should serve on the jury and let them come to an authentic judgment.

Major Gloria Davis killed herself in Baghdad, Iraq the day after she admitted to an army investigator that she had accepted bribes. She rests in Arlington National Cemetery along side others she swore to protect. Nothing can or will wash the blood off the hands of someone who profits from war regardless of how much forgiveness they plead for or how much religion they find. If any war profiteers ever have a breath of freedom on this earth, it will be too soon.

-- LEE-DAVIS: Maj. Gloria Davis allegedly told Army investigators before her death in December 2006 that she received $225,000 in bribes from Kuwait-based businessman George H. Lee and his son. Army investigator also said she knew of other payments by the Lees to U.S. contracting officers. No charges filed, but military seized Davis' bank accounts and suspended Lee and his company from doing business with government.

-- MAJ. JOHN COCKERHAM: Federal grand jury in Texas last August indicted Cockerham, his wife Melissa and sister Carolyn Blake on bribery, conspiracy and money-laundering charges, accusing them of taking at least $9.6 million in bribes in 2004-05 while Cockerham was contract officer in Kuwait. Largest bribery case to emerge so far in investigation into contractor fraud.

-- LT. COL. BRUCE HOPFENGARDNER: Hopfengardner pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy to commit money laundering and wire fraud. Sentenced to 21 months in prison and fined $144,500 for accepting cash and gifts while serving in Iraq.

-- MOHAMMAD SHABBIR KHAN: Khan, U.S. citizen and former director of Kuwait and Iraq operations for Saudi Arabian subcontractor Tamimi Global Co., sentenced last December to 51 months in prison and fined $10,000 after admitting paying kickbacks to former employee of Kellogg, Brown & Root Services Inc. to win $14.4 million food services contract at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, and $7.4 million subcontract at palace in Baghdad. Stephen Lowell Seamans, former KBR manager in Kuwait, sentenced to a year and a day after admitting taking kickbacks from Khan.

-- PHILIP BLOOM: Bloom, American living in Romania, sentenced last February to 46 months in prison after pleading guilty to bribery, conspiracy and money laundering. Admitted bribing military personnel with jewelry, computers, cigars and sexual favors to win contracts. Three Army officers awaiting trial for allegedly steering contracts to Bloom.

5 years into the planning of this war, there is still little oversight into war profiteering. The people to lose the most in this high stakes game of avarice and greed on the backs of our military are the military. President Truman is well known for his crusade against war profiteering dating back to his time as a US Senator in 1941.

Back in the spring of 2006, CorpWatch compared the Congressional response from the 40's to these current wars. Truman drove thousands of miles around the country going from one defense plant to another documenting waste and fraud. He then headed the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program -- the Truman committee, for short. The process saved American taxpayers $15 billion (in 1940s dollars). And by uncovering faulty military equipment, he prevented the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of U.S. soldiers.

Contemporary military auditors have discovered corruption no less shocking than that which Truman observed on his muck-raking roadtrip, but the Bush administration has remained virtually silent on the subject. In 2005 alone, defense contracts totaled more than $270 billion, and the White House recently requested an additional $72 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Given these vast sums, greater oversight is needed.

In Congress, bipartisan bills in both the Senate and House to create a Truman-style oversight committee sit in limbo. Since the Iraq War began, there have been only a handful of hearings on military contracts. Between 1941 and 1948, the Truman committee called 1,798 witnesses for 432 hearings and issued 51 reports.

Truman's investigatory team played a critical role in overseeing the military's overseers. In 1943, for example, it began looking into the aerospace firm Curtiss-Wright after getting tips that the company was delivering defective motors to what was then called the Army Air Corps. The military officials responsible for inspecting the plant insisted that all was rosy, but the committee pressed on, conducting a three-city investigation and taking more than 1,000 pages of sworn testimony.

The dirt it uncovered proved that the company had sold leaky motors to the government and covered it up with forged inspection reports. The military had protected the company by removing inspectors who attempted to block the flawed parts from being installed in airplanes. As a result of the investigation, heads rolled at Curtiss-Wright, and one general wound up in prison.

Similar investigative zeal is needed today. A modern-day Truman committee could start by looking into the Army's recent decision to reimburse Halliburton $253 million for delivering fuel and repairing oil equipment in Iraq, even though the Pentagon's own auditors had contested the bills. In a statement that did little to reassure taxpayers, an Army spokesperson explained that "the contractor is not required to perform perfectly to be entitled to reimbursement."

Rumsfeld has not always been silent on war profiteering or Halliburton . As a Republican congressman from Illinois in 1966, Rumsfeld raised questions about the 30-year association between Halliburton 's chairman and then-president Lyndon Johnson. "Why this huge contract has not been and is not now being adequately audited is beyond me," Rumsfeld said. "The potential for waste and profiteering under such a contract is substantial."

At that time, of course, Rumsfeld was lobbing his criticism at a president of the opposing party. But oversight of war-time contracts need not be -- should not be -- a partisan issue. After all, Truman's crusade came with a member of his own party in the White House. In fact, although President Franklin D. Roosevelt expressed some initial anxieties about Truman's efforts, he eventually was so impressed that he chose Truman to be his vice-presidential running mate.

Who in this generation is man or woman enough to stand up for the military and for the taxpayers?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I'll give thanks

Friday, November 16, 2007

Bush's hypocritical earmarks

Thanks to Satyam over at Think Progress for a great post with details about the earmarks that are included in HR3043, Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008 . Seems like Bush failed to find anything wrong with several millions in earmarks aimed at Bush family projects, as if we wouldn't notice. The credibility and effectiveness of this president is lower than his approval rating at 31%, within 2 points of his all time low from the summer of 2007. Do we really have to put up with him for another 430 days? 1/20/09 cannot come too soon.

Bush Stuffs Spending Bills With Earmarks For Dad’s Foundation, Wife’s Librarian Program


On Monday, President Bush explained his veto of the recent Labor-HHS bill, claiming the “majority” in Congress had abandoned his “clear goals for the Congress to reform the earmarking process” and was “acting like a teenager with a new credit card.”

In reality, Bush “stuffs his budget with billions for pet projects.” According to Senate Democrats, Bush placed 580 earmarks worth $15.6 billion in a recent military and veterans appropriations request, along with “billions” in the energy and water spending bill:

Some presidential earmarks have obvious roots, such as $24 million for the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program. The president earmarked a billion dollars for the Reading First program, which was criticized by government auditors for steering contracts to favored companies. He also sought $8.9 million for the Points of Light foundation, a pet project started by his father, former President George H.W. Bush.

Congress slashed $676 million from Bush’s request for Reading First and eliminated the Points of Light funding. Bush retaliated by vetoing the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education bill.

The Democratic-led Congress has made major advances in earmark reform in contrast to the profligate spenders of recent conservative-led Congresses. An analysis by Citizens Against Government Waste estimates that earmarks in FY08 appropriations bills are “down about 33 percent from the $29 billion in earmarks in FY06 spending bills”:

The report showed a significant reduction in one of the largest magnets for earmarks, the Defense appropriations bill. The FY08 measure, by the group’s reckoning, included 2,074 projects worth $6.6 billion. This compared to 2,822 projects worth $14.9 billion in the FY06 bill.

The group also said Democrats have made strides against earmarks in the Labor-HHS spending bill, which Bush vetoed Tuesday.

Last week, Bush also hypocritically lambasted “the majority” in Congress, ignoring the fact that the largest earmarks in the legislation that he vetoed were from Republican Sens. Mitch McConnnell (KY) and Richard Shelby (AL).

“Republicans’ newfound fascination with spending stems from a simple reality: They suffered badly over the issue in 2006,” notes the Wall Street Journal. Ironically, President Bush should be the target in his “war over earmarks.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

2 Blog years

As I start the 3rd year of my blog, Gold Star Mom Speaks Out, I look back and think about where this journey started and where it has taken me.

Two years ago, 2072 US military had been killed in Iraq. Today the number is 3865. Not quite doubled, but close enough. We are no closer to ending this war now than we were back in 2005. The war tally in dollars is currently near $500 billion with no end in sight to the spending. Bush wants more money, $196 billion more, with no restrictions. Democrats were sent to Washington last November to end this war and here we still are. As of November, 2007 was the deadliest year in terms of US deaths for both Afghanistan & Iraq.

Initial voting in the primaries starts in little more than 7 weeks. I wonder what, if anything, will change with a new president. Barring an impeachment miracle, we have 432 hellish days left in the Bush presidency. January 20, 2009 cannot come soon enough; how much more damage can he do to our country in those remaining days?. Healing may begin on that day, but I fear people are so weary of the beating our Constitution and our population has taken at the hands of the Bush cabal. Do we recognize what our country has become? I do not want Old Glory to represent a country of torture and fear and lies.

Ken's friends continue to be deployed to Iraq; 1 Lt Florence Nightingale is currently sitting in Kuwait, waiting for that plane trip home to civilization, after spending 15 months in hell at the Green Zone in Baghdad. Captain Steve arrived in January 07 as the tip of the spear of the surge or escalation, whatever you want to call it; he's looking at April 08 for his return home to his family & loved ones. Captain Seth left for Iraq last Monday for 15 long months for his second deployment. How can you go back when you know you are marching straight into hell again? And for what reason? How do families bear the burden of sending their loved ones time and time again?

3 years ago, at my son's funeral at Arlington, I vowed to Ken that people would know what it felt like to be a Gold Star mother. People would know what it feels like to lose your only child in a war you didn't support. And mostly I vowed that I would not allow the memories and the lives of this generation of war dead or the returning veterans to be forgotten. For surely with only 1% of our population being affected by the war, forgetting would be easy to do. We owe them more. I hope for the short time you stop here, that you stand in my shoes and know that you never, never want to walk in them.

The most difficult thing a parent can ever do is to bury their child. That is not in the right order of things and it shouldn't have been part of the deal. Regardless of how your child died, it is something you never quite recover from. Your life is now before and after the death and it takes a very long time to figure out what your new normal is. I still haven't figured it out, but one thing I know for sure is I miss Ken more than I can say; I miss him every second, every minute and every hour of every day. He is my last thought at night and my first in the morning. My broken heart aches and I know that there is a part of me that will never know happiness again. I don't wish this life on anyone.

Thanks for joining me along the way; I'm always glad for the company and the comments.

Outrage fatigue? Get over it

I'm turning my little soapbox here over to Mark Morford of SF Gate. Many of us are suffering from Iraq fatigue, war fatigue and even presidential campaign fatigue. Mark writes about outrage fatigue, and as he usually is, he's spot on about this.

Outrage fatigue? Get over it

Are you sick of being sick? Suffering way too much Bush-induced nausea? Well, tough.

I know how it is. You've had it up to here. There are only so many stories about blood and death and pain you can take, only so many times you can hear about random shootings and corporate malfeasance and how BushCo's squad of scabrous flying monkeys have, say, supported torture or endorsed wiretapping or gouged the nation for another $200 billion to pay for a failed war. Your nerves are raw and your heart is tired and the media will just not shut the hell up already about the sadness and the war and the mayhem and the Cheney and the doom doom doom.

It is outrage fatigue, and it is epidemic. It's that feeling that we are being hammered unlike any time in recent history with so many appalling and disgusting and violently un-American incidents and scandals and manipulations that our b.s.-detectors are smoking like an old V-8 engine on a hot summer's day and it's all we can do to get up every day without screaming.

What's more, it's not the mere quantity of moral insults, either. It's the bizarre absurdity of the subject matter, the things we are being forced to consider, or reconsider, that seem to make it all so horrific.

Torture? Are you kidding? Allegedly the most civilized, the most morally aware nation on the planet and we are still debating, in the highest courts and government offices in the land, about whether the United States should strap human beings to gnarled metal benches in rancid foreign bunkers and inflict such inexplicable terror and fear upon them that they confess to things they didn't even do just to get us to stop? Is this the Middle Ages? Are we regressing back to the goddamn cave?

Oh my, yes, plethoric are the reasons you should be outraged indeed, and torture just might be one of the most incendiary reasons in the past few years. If nothing else, its disgusting return to U.S. political dialogue certainly means it's no time to be laying down arms in exhaustion, no matter how tempting it might be.

Take this fine example: Keith Olbermann, as is his wont, executed another pitch-perfect bout of outrage recently on his excellent MSNBC show, taking BushCo to task on the issue of waterboarding like you never hear in major on-air media anymore.

Olbermann only barely held on to his trademark fierce hyper-articulation against the sheer disgust he/we have to endure at the idea that a sitting American president obviously thinks medieval torture is a gul-dang swell idea, no matter what psychologists, military experts, ethicists, the United Nations, the Geneva Convention and Jesus himself all say.

It was wonderful, powerful stuff, a razor-sharp, highly informed media pundit who dares to presume an unusually high level of intelligence among his viewers, speaking truth to power in a way most liberal media-haters complain never really happens anymore. And of course, his subject was one of the most deserving of our moral outrage in recent history.

But then I read some of the reaction to Olbermann's diatribe on various political blogs and on some news-aggregate sites, with many saying, gosh Keith, lighten up already, who cares, enough with all the outrage and the spittle, wow I'm so sick of all this ranting and raving and gosh I'm tired of these smarty media people telling me how to think and hey maybe torture is good let's kill us some more, haw haw haw snort.

On the one hand, it is, you can argue, generally the way of the meaner-than-thou blogosphere, with all but the most professional and intelligent and positive-minded of outposts seeming to suffer an undue percentage of reactionary chyme in their comment areas, hordes of Net-drunk twentysomethings and extremists and shut-ins who have way too much free time and merely chime in to see their sneers "published" and to prove how much more jaded and apathetic they are than the next person, while adding zero to the conversation.

But maybe it's worse than that. Because this is where it can happen, where you can get sucked into the vortex of whining and bitterness and where you might feel part of yourself wanting to wallow too, desiring to avoid doing the actual moral and spiritual work of dissecting and researching and analysing something as politically messy and morally ugly as torture for yourself, opting instead for the easy path, for closing your eyes and sticking your fingers in your ears and going, nyah nyah nyah shut up shut up SHUT UP! Hey, it sure beats thinking.

Or maybe we can flip it around. Maybe, with the right intent, the exact reverse can happen, and you see this ocean of nasty ennui, this pile of oft-misspelled, poorly punctuated reactionary effluvia as, in and of itself, something to be a bit livid about.

Maybe, in other words, you can enjoy, as one blogger put it, a big dose of "fatigue outrage," the feeling of disgust you get when faced with all those people who think mental lethargy and laziness is, like, way funny, dude.

In other words, enough with the childish, frat-boy-grade complaints about media overload and too many rants and outrage fatigue. You have to earn that sort of thing. If you never give a crap about engaging the world, if you never want to think deeply about complex issues and care about ramifications and see what truly resonates with your own informed spirit and then stand up for what you believe, this pretty much eliminates your right to sneer at others who do.

It is, for me, all about modulation. It is about remembering that outrage does not necessarily equal misery. Outrage does not mean you must wallow in fear and fatalism and yank out your hair and wake up every morning hating the world and hating yourself and hating humanity for being so stupid/numb/blind and wondering how the hell you can escape it all.

Outrage is rich with humanistic understanding. It is not some evangelical Christian parent "outraged" that her kid saw a woman's nipple on TV. It is not some right-wing Family Council "outraged" that someone put S&M outfits on Barbie, or that some art gallery is displaying Jesus as a woman, or that scientists dared to say that stem cell research does not equal abortion, or that the mayor isn't taking care of all the potholes and stray kitties. That's not outrage, that's reactionary whining.

True outrage, like Olbermann's, like (occasionally, hopefully) this column's, like what you should ideally be experiencing on a daily basis while Bush is in office, is honed and sharp and poignant. It contains a powerful sense of deeply informed decency, and therefore has a true feel for when that sense has been violated. Outrage has meat and substance and intellectual nourishment. It is actually healthy.

Smart, informed outrage engages you and fires your heart, your mind. It is fuel. It is the reason you claim you enjoy being an American, to question malevolent government actions and take a stand and demand accountability where there has, for the past seven years, been none. Bottom line: We simply cannot let them convince us, by way of an all-out assault on science, sex, love, et al, that the good fight just ain't worth fighting.

After all, the flying monkeys are far from done raiding the closet and stealing your babies and making a mockery of everything wise and calm and open-hearted people hold dear. And baby, if you ain't outraged about that, something is very wrong indeed.

Mark Morford

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans Day 2007

In 1961, President John F Kennedy marked Veteran's Day at Arlington National Cemetery with these words:
Today we are here to celebrate and to honor and to commemorate the dead and the living, the young men who in every war since this country began have given testimony to their loyalty to their country and their own great courage.
And it is so this Veteran's Day 2007.

But the truth is that we have been performing a disgraceful disservice to the men and women who serve our country. Our current president and his administration sent a new generation to fight their war. The premise for the invasion of Iraq was based on lies and fear. Our military was sent, not to defend our country, but to insure the bank accounts of George Bush and his military contractor cronies would grow into obscene piles of gold and to insure that our country got a piece of the pie; oil, that is. Our military was sent to Iraq without proper equipment, proper training and proper planning, but they went, because that is what our military does when their Commander-in-Chief gives them orders. This president, this administration knows nothing of loyalty to our country and our troops. Courage is not a word in their vocabulary or in their soul.

What a sad coincidence in these days before Veteran's Day, that a report, Vital Mission: Ending Homelessness Among Veterans was released this week telling us that Veterans make up one in four homeless people in the United States, though they are only 11 percent of the general adult population, according to a report to be released Thursday. This is true despite the fact that veterans are better educated, more likely to be employed, and have a lower poverty rate than the general population. And that is a national disgrace. Is this how we honor the men and women who stood for this country when we asked them to?

There are many excellent and compassionate programs to support returning veterans, but sadly, they are generally paid for and instituted by caring private organizations who understand that we made a commitment to our veterans. They understand it is time to "pay back", they understand what it means to authentically support the troops. Too bad this administration doesn't.

When a new recruit raises his or her hand to take the oath of recruitment, we, who benefit from this symbiotic relationship, must commit to providing for them while in service to our country and when that job has been completed. We owe them that. Where is the government when it comes time to honor that commitment? How is it so easy for much of this country turn their back on the commitment we made to veterans?

What are you doing to support veterans? I know we can do better. But will we?

To Veterans from any era- thank you for your service.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Support funding for Vets, our troops & their families

As one of the Board of Directors of Military Family Speaks Out, we are diligent in our efforts to make sure the voices of military families are heard. Although this letter was sent to members of MFSO, there is no reason you can't or shouldn't take a few minutes to contact your legislators to make sure they hear your voice and that you support H.R. 3043 and veterans and their families.
The Board of Directors of MFSO has just voted to endorse H.R. 3043, an appropriation bill currently before Congress, which includes funding for critical services for our veterans, our soldiers and their families.

We have joined with IVAW, Gold Star Families Speak Out, the National Coalition for the Homeless and other organizations, representing thousands of veterans and soldiers, in signing a letter which was sent on Tuesday, November 6, to every member of Congress, urging passage of this bill. Today, we are asking MFSO members to individually contact their Congressional representatives and Senators. Ask them to not only support this bill but also to pledge to override a threatened presidential veto.

In asking you to take this action, we do not intend in any way to let Congress off the hook for their continued funding of the Iraq war. This bill is a totally separate issue from war funding votes and our support for it shows commitment to our mission to "take care of them when they get home". While most veteran-related programs are funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services also provide vital services to help our veterans, especially for the two-thirds of recently returning veterans who have not enrolled in the federal veterans' health care program.

Specifically, H.R. 3043 would provide:

  • $231 million for Veterans' Employment and Training programs to assist returning veterans to find and train for good paying jobs.
  • $23.6 million for the Homeless Veterans' Program. Currently 23% ofAmerica's homeless are military veterans.
  • $10 million for those veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries (TBI), for their rehabilitation, hospital care and long-term support. Thousands of returning National Guard soldiers rely on community-based systems of care that are not funded by the VA.
  • $3.4 billion for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. With Army suicides recently reaching a 26 year high, our returning veterans suffering from PTSD and depression have an urgent need to rely on this funding. This bill is currently being debated on the House floor.

Bush has said he will veto the bill because it does not conform to his request for $3.6 billion in cuts below last year's total funding levels. As military family members, we are outraged that this administration and Congress can continue to spend $5 billion dollars a week in Iraq and yet not care if our soldiers and veterans are denied these critical funds for practical help in finding jobs, providing shelter for homeless vets, and for medical and mental health care.

Please take a simple action today. Call, send a postcard to or write a letter to your representative and senator and ask them to approve H.R. 3043. Ask them not to back down from overriding a Bush veto. Tell them, as a military family member, what this bill's provisions will mean to your child, spouse, or loved one returning from Iraq. And tell them that passing the provisions in this bill demonstrate the kind of authentic support for our troops that every soldier and every American understands.

In peace and solidarity,

The Board of Directors of MFSO



The Senate passed the bill 75-19. Here is the the list of members of the Senate Hall of Shame for voting NO on this bill. If you are in the district for any of this Senators; please ask them why they do not support the troops and their families. And don't ever let them tell you they do. If they say that this country cannot afford to spend more money, tell them they are wrong; we cannot afford to NOT support veterans and their families. And remind them of the $2 billion dollars a week we are spending on the occupation in Iraq.

And here is the Hall of Shame for the members of the House who voted NO. 274 Representatives saw fit to vote yes and pass this bill 274-141

Notice all the "R"'s? Where are the "D"'s? Oh yeah, the Democrats do support the troops.

Out of Iraq, bring 'em back!

So says Montana in successful election referendums passed this week. Helena & Missoula in Big Sky Country, never the bastion of liberalism has had it with this ill conceived morass in Iraq and is searching for a peaceful future.

The Missoula News reports:
Here in Montana we often read the results from national polling and wonder if they represent our views. But in both Missoula and Helena, referendums to bring the disastrous war in Iraq to an immediate end passed with overwhelming margins that almost exactly reflect what the national polls have been saying. Simply put, about two-thirds of our citizens agree with the campaign slogan of the Iraq referendum organizers: "Out of Iraq, bring 'em back."

Critics of the ballot measures complain that the referendums are meaningless and that municipal governments have no business involving themselves in foreign policy, much less opposing President Bush, the self-described "war president," while troops engage in active combat around the world.

In Helena, those opposing the peace referendum went so far as to put their own ballot measure in front of voters that called on Congress to "fund our military forces totally and without conditions in the global war on terror." Obviously having the opposing measures in front of voters presented a clear choice and, perhaps not surprisingly, when the ballots were counted the votes reflected public sentiment in an equally clear manner.

Helena's peace referendum drew about 62 percent approval with the opposing measure losing by almost exactly the same numbers. Missoula voters approved their own peace referendum by an even larger margin, drawing 64 percent of the vote. Considering the clear language of the measure, which calls for Congress "to authorize and fund an immediate and orderly withdrawal of the United States military from Iraq," it's hard to see how anyone can misinterpret the results.

That these votes were cast on the same day as the announcement that 2007 has become the deadliest year in Iraq for American soldiers only adds to the urgency to pull us out of the expensive and un-winnable war immediately.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Bush's post White House plans

Richard Roeper, a columnist from the Chicago Sun-Times writes

In a recent column I speculated on President Bush's post-White House plans.
What should he do with himself?

Alice Collins of Oak Lawn has an idea.

"Three hundred and sixty-five days a year, in the wind and snow of winter and the heat and humidity of summer, let him tend to the graves of the almost 4,000 men and women who have given their lives in the debacle of Iraq. They honored their oaths, obeyed their commander-in-chief and sacrificed their lives of promise to a lying, unprincipled warmonger.

"He can begin at the grave of my grandson, Lcpl Jonathan W. Collins, killed in action on 8/8/2004."


Marine Lance Cpl. Jonathan Collins of Crystal Lake was killed by enemy fire in the Al Anbar province of Iraq in the summer of 2004. He was 19.

Nineteen. You're supposed to be attending college and going to football games and meeting girls and dreaming about your future when you're 19.

Access tributes to Jonathan and other soldiers at It's impossible to read the comments from friends and relatives and loved ones without feeling your heart get so heavy you can barely breathe.

Amen, indeed!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Dialing for Dollars

I got an unsolicited phone call this afternoon from a woman who explained it was a political call. It didn't take long to figure out she was dialing for dollars for the Democratic party. She explained how George Bush had taken this country down the wrong road. Money was being spent on the war instead of domestic issues was another example.

I said I agreed with everything she said. I'm sure she was hopeful when she asked if she could count on me to support the Democratic party.

My response was this: "I agree with everything you said, but my son was killed in Iraq 3 1/2 years ago and until the Democrats stand up to the President, stop funding the war and continue to apologize when there is no reason, I will not send money to any Democrats.....and you can quote me on that"

Enough said!

#1 War Profiteer

To say David Brooks puts profits before people is an understatement. To do this when it involves military men & women who are fighting in his name is unconscionable. While we have heard of many cases of shameless war profiteering and the extravagant lifestyles enjoyed as a result, this one is the most egregious (that we are aware of).

David Brooks, spent a scandalous $1o Million of profits from his company was spent on a bat mitvah for daughter, Elizabeth in November 2005. Then CEO of DHB, a defense contractor that provides protective armor to the US military, the bat mitzvah and was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to extravagant living. $120,000 worth of electronic toys, including ipods and digital cameras was in the goody bags for guests; more than a million dollars for entertainment frames this party for a 13 year old. What will she get for her Sweet Sixteen? I was raised Catholic so I don't know, but I can't see how all of this frivolity relates to a religious ceremony.

Don Henley, Stevie Nicks, Kenny G, Aerosmith and, 50 Cent performed at the event. I wonder how they feel knowing it was blood money that paid for this event. Stevie Nicks journal on her official website talks about how Stevie Nicks, Steve Tyler & Joe Perry have supported the troops in the past. They visited Walter Reed Army hospital and passed out ipods to some of the soldier/patients there. Aerosmith's website shows only low key and little support for the troops. Kenny G's website indicates nothing. Don Henley's site, nope, nothing there, either. Hollywood has been far too absent during these wars when it comes to showing support for the troops.

This story gets worse as more details and photos are revealed. One particularly offensive photo from the Mitzvahpalooza is of David Brooks and shows him wearing a bright pink suede suit adorned with a dog tag. I wonder what that meant to him. Was there a name on it, or was it some gold, diamond encrusted obscene, "I'm making boatloads on your backs, while you die" F-you message to the troops who wear the real deal around their necks as they fight in this man's name? Everything I have read about this defense contractor's arrogance suggest that wearing the dog tag would be his way of saying "He supports the troops". The military dog tags I wear everyday belong to my son, Lt Ken Ballard; they were given to me at the same time as I received his flag covered casket from Iraq.

One Down: Obscenely Decadent War Profiteer Hauled Off in Handcuffs reports Paul Rieckhoff, an Iraq war veteran and founder of Operation Truth (and my frequent radio partner), told me, “It is already disturbing that anyone can live the high-life as a result of the booming war business, but it is particularly disheartening to hear about someone having their own private Lollapalooza, in part from the sale of defective equipment that put our troops in harm’s way. America must take a long, hard look at the idea of profit on the battlefield.”

A comment from Capn Solar on the Alternet article seemed appropriate to me. A good quality control system should guarantee a good product.

To ensure this never happens again:
Simply put the CEOs of defense contracting firms in their own body armor....
and shoot them....
if the CEO walks away --use it....
if not -- look elsewhere.

Fortunately, David Brooks and the Sandra Hatfeld, former COO of DHB industries were indicted Thursday on charges of insider trading, fraud and tax evasion as reported by the New York Times. They were charged 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, 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.

War profiteering is ugly and it should be illegal. There is a special place in hell for these people. If we can make their time on earth feel like hell, so much the better. Brooks could spend up to 70 years in prison if convicted of all charges. I've got a few ideas of my own for Brook's punishment. The jury, while certainly not of his peers, should be made up of family members whose loved ones were killed as a result of his shoddy equipment.

Maybe they would decide that Brooks should be sent straight to Iraq, with the same defective, overpriced protective gear his company provided to the military. Or maybe a big red tattoo with the letters WP right on the front of his forehead. He should go to a real jail, with real hardened criminals where his new "friend" is waiting to show him around. If he gets released from jail, he should have to perform community service to a veterans organization for the rest of his life. He should never, ever see be allowed to participate in a for-profit business again. How about all of the above?

An interesting side note to this story. On October 1, 2007, DHB Industries, Inc changed their name to Point Blank Solutions, Inc.

Larry Ellis, President and CEO stated, "In changing the name of the Company to Point Blank Solutions, Inc, we are aligning our corporate name with our vision to become the global leader in safety apparel and protective solutions.... By doing so, we seek to give the Company a name and brand that will afford great opportunities in the future and become an excellent moniker for our planned product line expansion."

I think that is PR speak for "We are taking the DHB out of our name and moving as fast and far away from anything that has to do with our former CEO". Probably a good business strategy, but there is still blood dripping off the hands of this corporation, and we will continue to watch them.

Point Blank Systems is, by far, not the only corporation on this war profiteering bandwagon. CorpWatch who investigates and exposes corporate violations has this to say about Reconstruction as related to war profiteering and disaster planning, they have this to say:

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.
Read up, folks, and see how your taxpayer dollars are being spent!