03 July 2007



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30 May 2007

grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory

Mark Twain's "The War Prayer" was apparently dictated around 1904-05; it was found after his death among his unpublished manuscripts.

Markos Productions has put together this haunting and intriguing animation based on the Twain work.

You will need approximately 14 minutes to see both parts of the video and I encourage you to do that; it's fascinating, mesmerizing to some extent and will absolutely inspire thought on the philosophy of a "just" war.

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29 May 2007

Latest Article From Special Guest Writer and Activist, Charles Anderson

For those of you who do not know or know of Charlie Anderson, allow me to introduce you to him.

Charlie was transferred to his division’s 2nd Tank Battalion in June 2002. The 2nd Tank Battalion was deployed to Kuwait in February 2003 and was one of the first units to “cross the line” into Iraq at the start of the war. Charlie experienced the archaic supply system that resulted in many American troops lacking basic supplies such as body armor, rations, water, and even ammunition. Charlie was shocked that such conditions were possible in a military that receives more than half of the nation’s tax revenue. Moreover, Charlie was appalled by the destruction and sanction induced poverty that he witnessed among the Iraqi people. Charlie’s experiences in Iraq helped him realize that war is not merely politics by other means and that the actions of governments in foreign lands have far reaching consequences. The vast majority of Iraqis affected by the war were not Ba’ath Party officials or soldiers. Rather they were civilians who were powerless to affect the conditions around them. These innocent civilians were often treated as though they were the enemy by the American military who did not largely understand the culture. This reality formed Charlie’s belief that violence and arrogance are poor foreign policy and that military solutions often compound, not solve problems.

Like 30% of Iraq War veterans he returned to the United States with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. After months of treatment with little improvement, he was medically retired in March 2005 after nearly nine years of active military service. Within days of his retirement, Charlie began advocating for an immediate end to the wholesale slaughter in Iraq. He has appeared on college campuses and at public forums all over the United States including: Virginia, Washington D.C., North Carolina, Maryland, Montana, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Ohio, Indiana and Washington State. He was interviewed by CNN in March of this year (see the video of that interview here). He has twice testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Out of Iraq Caucus regarding responsible foreign policy toward Iraq and the need for comprehensive care for America’s Veterans. (See the video here and here)

He is featured in the documentaries Army of None, Soldiers speak out, and the major motion picture The Ground Truth. His writing has been featured on the independent media websites Common Dreams, Truth Out, and The Huffington Post.

Charlie has been an outspoken member of Iraq Veterans Against the War since October 2004. He is co-founder of the Bake Sales for Body Armor, a campaign to purchase needed equipment for our troops. He shares that effort with associate and dear friend, Tammara Rosenleaf (The Homefront War Diaries); an extraordinary woman and activist.

Charlie shares his latest article with us...

The Army That Cried Wolf
By Charles E. Anderson

On May 20, 2007 NBC Nightly News aired a report on the ongoing controversy over the body armor American troops are currently issued. The report was the result of months of investigation and alleged that perhaps, America’s armed forces are not issued the best equipment available.

In response, the Army made a bold move: it released documents showing the results of ballistics tests. Next, the army held a series of briefings and press conferences.

“The Bottom line is, we feel that it’s important to clarify, give some context and certainly present facts about the body armor issue, primarily because of the two NBC news pieces,” Brigadier General Tony Cucolo recently told a Blogger’s Round Table conference Call (transcript here). “We are most concerned that it might have shaken the confidence in the current body armor being worn by soldiers in combat, shaken the confidence of spouses and parents of those soldiers,” he said.

It seems logical that the army should make public statements to clarify the record and release crucial facts so that military families and service members can be confident that the gear issued to our military is the best available.

Yet while this is the first time the Army has attempted a full disclosure policy, it is not the first time that concerns over body armor have been voiced. On January 16, 2006, Major General Stephen Speakes, then the Army’s Director of Force Development, pronounced on CNN that when he was in Iraq in the spring of 2003 it was his job “ensure that every soldier who went north had the right body armor to go up into Iraq.” The general made this statement after being told by a member of the National Guard that his unit had not had appropriate body armor.

In March 2006, the Army issued a “Safety of Use Directive” banning privately purchased body armor.

“Because there were reports that soldiers and their families were starting to collect money to buy other armor solutions other than Interceptor body armor,” said Brigadier General Mark Brown.

Far from clarifying the facts surrounding the Safety of Use Directive, the Public Affairs office began making ridiculing statements about the organizers of the Bake Sales for Body Armor campaign. According to one report Pentagon officials accused the organizers, an Army-Wife and an Iraq War veteran, of waging a “mis and dis-information campaign” perceivably against the U.S. Army. Another official callously quipped “I’m sure that the U.S. Postal Service will enjoy the profit that they make.”

Now, thanks to NBC News, the body armor issue is once again in the spotlight. Perhaps, General Brown and General Cucolo are being candidly honest with Military Families, Soldiers, and the American People. But their new candor is a hard sell. In light of the Army’s past deceptions, why should anyone believe them now?

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24 May 2007

GSA Administrator, Lorita Doan Found To Have Violated The Hatch Act

The Office of Special Counsel has announced its findings on the first leg of their investigation surrounding the US Attorney firings and the GSA involvement in asserting inappropriate and illegal political influence.

That aspect of the investigation was focused on a January 26, 2007 meeting at the GSA where GSA Administrator, Lorita Doan, along with some 30 of her employees met with Karl Rove aide Scott Jennings who made PowerPoint presentations on the elections titled "2008 House Targets: Top 20". At that meeting, Doan was found to have asked GSA political appointees how they could "help our candidates" win the next election.

The Hatch Act restricts executive branch employees from using their position for political purposes.

"Her actions, to be certain, constitute an obvious misuse of her official authority and were made for the purpose of affecting the result of an election," investigators said in a copy of the 19-page OSC report. "One can imagine no greater violation of the Hatch Act than to invoke the machinery of an agency, with all its contracts and buildings, in the service of a partisan campaign to retake Congress and the Governors' mansions."

In sworn testimony to the OSC investigators, Doan's defense consisted of the following:

1. She was not paying any attention to the presentation or comments because she dislikes PowerPoint presentations, she was uninterested in the topic, and she does not care about polls.

2. She was not paying any attention to the presentation or comments because she was busy during the entire meeting reviewing and sending e-mail on her Blackberry.

3. Doan also said that GSA political appointees who gave testimony to investigators were biased. "There is not a single one of those who did not have somewhere in between a poor to totally inferior performance," Doan said in her statement.

OSC investigators pulled the personal and GSA e-mail records for Ms. Doan and found her statements about being busy e-mailing on her Blackberry to be completely uncorroborated as there was no email activity seen during the time of the meeting; the nearest e-mail activity being anywhere from 5 - 23 hours before and/or after the meeting.

OSC investigators examined all the performance records for the appointees who gave testimony and were the subject of Ms. Doan's assertions on their performance. Those assertions were found to be "unsupported and contradicted by the documentary evidence," as all of those performance reviews showed a "meeting expectations" level or higher. One or more of those appointees had the highest review rating and one or more of them had received performance awards.

This is astounding. If you re-visit in your mind exactly what the Hatch Act is and protects you realize that Ms. Doan, in making these assertions, violates the Hatch Act---while testifying to the OSC for her alleged violations of the Hatch Act.

During her testimony with the OSC, Ms. Doan was asked specifically about comments she allegedly made in the meeting. This might offer an insight into the tenor of her testimony:

Question: Is your testimony that you never said, how do we help our candiates, or something to that effect? Or is it that you don't remember saying anything like that?

Ms. Doan: I don't understand the difference. I just do not understand the difference that you're trying to make because if you don't remember the comment, how can you ascertain that you made or didn't make the comment? How does this work? I don't understand this.

The OSC report goes on to say, "The veracity of Administrator Doan's testimony that she, an English major, did not understand the difference is suspect in light of her March 28, 2007 testimony before the House committee on Oversight and Government Reform where she had no problem understanding the distinction. Specifically, she was questioned and testified as follows:

Tom Davis: Now, we're told by some witnesses--there are some witnesses that say you said something, some that say you didn't, and it was a long time ago. did anybody at any point say these were inappropriate subjects, where somebody said, "We should move away from this?" Do you remember any of that?

Ms. Doan: I really do not remember anything about this meeting.

Tom Davis: OK. But you don't deny what people are saying. You're just saying...

Ms. Doan: No, no. I'm not denying what they're saying. I'm simply saying there were cookies on the table. I remember coming in late. I remember we had--it seemed like we had quite a few people who were actually missing.

I am honestly not prone to petty arguments but I am continually amazed at the level to which one can rise in our government with no discernable intellect. This is a woman who is the highest ranking official of a powerful federal agency who blatantly used her office, position and subordinates to further a political agenda, in violation of federal law; an act that may very well end her career, and of the meeting where this took place, her only notable recollection is that there were cookies on the table. I suppose we can hope there will come a day when government officials who practice abject stupidity do so in violation of federal law.

In their analysis and findings section of the report, the OSC makes the following statements:

"After conducting a thorough investigation into the complaint, the Special Counsel has concluded that Administrator Doan's actions were in violation of the Hatch Act."

"The GSA Administrator displayed no reservations in her willingness to commit GSA resources, including its human capital, to the Republican Party."

"Because Administrator Doan is a Presidential appointee confirmed by the Senate, the President, not the Merit Systems Protection Board, must make any decision regarding imposition of disciplinary action."

"Because Ms. Doan, as the head of GSA, engaged in conduct before her subordinate employees that violated a federal law that is intended to protect the federal workplace from political influence and ensure that government resources are being administered in a nonpartisan fashion, her disregard for such protections and safeguards is serious and warrants punishment."

"Moreover, during his campaign, the President promised to demand the highest standard of ethics from all members of his team and nothing less should be expected from the GSA Administrator."
(emphasis most definitely added)

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23 May 2007

"Did you break the law?" Monica Goodling: “I believe I crossed the line, but I didn’t mean to.”

Oh, she didn't mean to; thank you everyone, we can all go home now.

In all fairness, it will take much more than this on the part of everyone involved.

I was not able to blog the morning session of the Monica Goodling testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. Please see the impressive live blogging done at Firedoglake.

Please return to see our summary of today's testimony when the hearing wraps up.

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16 May 2007

UPDATE: DOJ Responds To Subpoena Late This Afternoon

Richard A. Hertling, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General responds via letter to the May 2nd subpoena issued by the Judiciary Committee.

The letter yielded very little. The claim in the letter is that a multi-field e-mail search of Rove, Karl, kr, gwb43.com, georgewbush.com and mchq.org produced one email over the course of 2 1/2 years. The email that came up in that search was on February 28, 2007 forwarding a copy of McClatchy's story on U.S. Attorney David Iglesias. That was sent from (and to) Rove Aide Scott Jennings; to Scott Jennings, Karl Rove, Fred Fielding, Kevin Sullivan, Dana Perino, Kyle Sampson, Jeanie Marno, Christopher Oprison, Courtney Elwood and cc'd to Sara Taylor.

Karl Rove sent the majority of his e-mail over the RNC server. The current claim is that those e-mails were deleted. The RNC has said it will turn over all relevant e-mails to the White House at which point they will determine which of those fall under executive privilege.

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BREAKING: Gonzalez / DOJ Ignores Subpoena - Leahy Draws Line In The Sand

On May 2, 2007 Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, wrote Attorney General Alberto Gonzales detailing Gonzales' lack of response to the demand for e-mails from Karl Rove regarding the US Attorney firings. During the Gonzales testimony and in a subsequent letter dated April 25, 2007 requests were made to have the "lost" e-mails turned over the Committee. Having received no response from Gonzales on this, a subpeona was issued and delivered to Gonzales demanding the Rove e-mails be handed over to Congress no later than May 15, 2007.

I contacted the Majority Office this morning and was told they could not make a statement then but should have additional information later in the day. In speaking to a representative in that office about a half hour ago, they did confirm that Gonzales has not complied with the subpeona. Senator Leahy has just added a statement on his website.

Gonzales / DOJ has ignored the subpoena and did not comply by the deadline of 5-15-07 midnight. Senator Leahy and Senator Specter have issued a bipartisan demand for the requested documents that include the un-redacted Karl Rove e-mails. The demand requires the Justice Department to turn over these documents no later than 10 a.m. Friday, May 18.

You ignored the subpoena, did not come forward today, did not produce the documents and did not even offer an explanation for your noncompliance,” the senators wrote. “Your action today is in defiance of the Committee’s subpoena without explanation of any legal basis for doing so.”

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15 May 2007

The Rev. Jerry Falwell Passes Away Today

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, who founded the Moral Majority, passed away 12:40 pm today, shortly after being found unconscious in his office at Liberty University. He was 73.

The Rev. Falwell was an enormous figure who drew the religious right together as a cohesive unit, ushering that group's momentum into the political arena.

Philosophically, I have considered Mr. Falwell was a formidable adversary but with death go personal battles and is a time to have and feel only respect for the life and respect for the passing.

May his family and friends love and lift each other to find peace and comfort.

Death is the road.
Life is the traveller.
The Soul is the Guide.
~ Sri Chinmoy ~

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13 May 2007

There Are None More Qualified To Speak--None Who Have Sacrificed More. We Should Listen

There are many BushSpeak mantras; few as frequently and robotically chanted as "We need to listen to our Generals on the ground". It makes perfect sense that this would be among his favorites. Our Generals possess the greatest authority with which to speak, and they are forced to say only what the President tells them to say. What a sweet and twisted little deal for this president; to make propaganda machines of some of the most honorable men in our nation.

General John Batiste served loyally for 30 years and was nearing his third star and the number 2 position in Baghdad when he made the painstakingly difficult decision to quit; unwilling to spend another day compromising his principles.

General Batiste is among many of those "we should listen to" who have escaped the confines of this administration and dedicate themselves to the truth.

The videos below demonstrate the effort underway by several retired senior military officers who detail a litany of lies, ill conceived war rationales, mismanagement, a marketing plan to go to war that was more important than validity, and a complete unwillingness to "listen" to those genuinely qualified.

Let's practice what the President only preaches.

In a targeted ad, financed by VoteVets.org, Retired General John Batiste openly challenges President Bush on his management of the war.

General John Batiste (Ret.) frankly discusses the realities of the Iraq war and the sacrifices he made to side with the truth.

In an interview with Amy Goodman on March 2, 2007, U.S. General Wesley Clark (Ret.), explains that the Bush Administration planned to take out 7 countries in 5 years.

The VoteVets.org ad done by General Wesley Clark (Ret.) with Iraq veterans - "Because Of Iraq"

General William Odom (Ret.) reviews some of the very real global consequences of this war.

General Tony Zinni discusses the WMD lies and a created war rationale with no strategic understanding of what they were getting us into.

Major General Paul Eaton was finally appointed to organize security in Iraq on May 9, 2003, almost 2 months AFTER the invasion began.

General David Petraeus, who by all accounts appears to be an exceptional and gifted military officer and strategist, is currently the President's "point to guy". What seems more likely? That when General Petraeus retires, he uses his regained freedom of speech in continued championship of this war -- or that we begin to hear the many truths he holds and has witnessed throughout this preposterous occupation of Iraq?

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03 May 2007

The C'est Moi Interview With The Office of Special Counsel

3 May, 2007
The following interview was conducted via phone and e-mail correspondence by Megan Donovan with Mr. Loren Smith, Director of Congressional and Public Affairs for the Office of Special Counsel.
The Office of Special Counsel has recently launched an investigation surrounding the U.S. Attorney firings and specific GSA activity with regard to possible executive violations of both USERRA and the Hatch Act.

M. DONOVAN: A lot of people are probably not familiar with the Office of the Special Counsel. Can you briefly explain what the role of the OSC is?

L. SMITH: The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is an independent watchdog agency established in the late 70’s as part of the post-Watergate reforms. We have four main areas of statutory responsibility involving federal employees and applicants.
1) safeguarding and facilitating
whistleblower disclosures,
2) investigating and prosecuting certain employment complaints known as
Prohibited Personnel Practices, with a special focus on whistleblower reprisal,
3) enforcing the civilian job rights of military service members under a law known as
USERRA, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, and
4) enforcing
the Hatch Act, the law that restricts certain political activity by government employees.

M. DONOVAN: Can you explain exactly what the Hatch Act is? Who is it primarily meant to protect?

L. SMITH: The Hatch Act is a law enacted in 1939 to prevent the machinery of government from being used for partisan political purposes. It is designed to protect taxpayers, including federal workers, from having their government resources used to advocate in partisan elections.

M. DONOVAN: The L.A. Times has claimed that the current investigation stems from two separate investigations your office launched within the last few weeks. The first one concerns former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias. The second concerns a series of Power Point presentations given by aide to Karl Rove, J. Scott Jennings, and made at the General Services Administration this year. Is this correct?

L. SMITH: Essentially, yes. Regarding the second investigation, it would be more precise to say that we’re investigating that event at GSA, including the comments made by GSA Administrator Lurita Doan. I must also add that we have other matters, not yet public, that dovetail with these two investigations and contributed to the determination to initiate the broader investigations.

M. DONOVAN: Can you elaborate on how the original complaints were initiated?

L. SMITH: Mr. Iglesias filed with our agency on April 3rd, alleging violations of both USERRA and the Hatch Act. In the GSA matter, we also received a complaint.

M. DONOVAN: What led you to expand the investigation into one with a broader scope? Is Karl Rove a focal point for your investigation?

L. SMITH: It became apparent that OSC would be shirking its responsibilities under the Hatch Act if we failed to examine the possibility that unlawful political activity was occurring elsewhere within the executive branch. As to the focal points, everyone within the executive branch is covered by the Hatch Act save the President and the Vice President, but mainly we are focused on Mr. Iglesias’ complaint and the events surrounding the briefings by the White House Office of Political Affairs. It would be premature for us to say we are targeting individuals at this point.

M. DONOVAN: The OSC is defined as an "independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency." Does the agency have complete autonomy? Can you make clear for us how the OSC handles the disposition of cases? - Be they civil remedies or criminal findings.

L. SMITH: OSC is autonomous, although we depend on Congress and the President for our annual appropriations. Under the Hatch Act, we have the authority to investigate any allegation of wrongdoing as defined by the statute. Then, if we believe we can substantiate a violation, we file for disciplinary action with the Merit Systems Protection Board. The presumptive penalty under the Hatch Act is removal, although that could be lessened to a suspension.

An exception is the category of individuals who have received Senate confirmation, known as PAS – Presidentially-Appointed, Senate-confirmed. This would include cabinet heads as well as many agency heads, including that of GSA. In these cases, OSC would still investigate, but rather than filing with MSPB, we would send a letter with our Report of Investigation to the President informing him of our findings and recommendations.

In either category (PAS or non-PAS), if we find coercion of federal employees with regard to political activity (see title 18, section 610 of the US Code), we could also refer the case to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution.

M. DONOVAN: What are your first steps in this investigation; we understand you have subpoena power, can you anticipate when that phase of the investigation might begin, and can you tell us today who will, at least initially, be subpoenaed?

L. SMITH: We do have subpoena power, although we hope to avoid issuing subpoenas by receiving positive and timely responses to our initial information requests. Regarding the timeline, I cannot comment – both due to the sensitive nature and the unpredictable nature of such investigations.

: How is testimony to the OSC handled? Is this deposition style sworn testimony?

L. SMITH: Generally, statements are taken under oath.

M. DONOVAN: The OSC has already come under some scrutiny regarding The Office of Personnel Management's investigation into the OSC. What would you say to your critics on the merits of that probe and on your ability to thoroughly and objectively investigate this matter unimpeded by it?

L. SMITH: OSC is the agency charged with enforcing the Hatch Act – as I mentioned before, we would be derelict if we failed to perform these investigations. The OPM Inspector General investigation is an unrelated matter; however, it is worth noting that the task force we have created to investigate this matter is led by a career employee, and is composed entirely of career employees.

M. DONOVAN: Can you tell us: If congressional testimony continues, would any witnesses appearing there be free to testify on matters that are a part of an ongoing investigation by your agency?

L. SMITH: Yes. Please note that our investigation is independent and not coordinated with any other investigation of these matters.

Mr. Smith allowed us to submit these brief follow-up questions:

To his previous response:

L. SMITH: Mr. Iglesias filed with our agency on April 3rd, alleging violations of both USERRA and the Hatch Act. In the GSA matter, we also received a complaint.

M. DONOVAN: (AS A FOLLOW UP): Are you able to tell us who filed the complaint regarding the GSA matter?

L. SMITH: No - OSC almost never comments on the identities of those who file with our agency. Mr. Iglesias is an exception because he released OSC from our obligations under the Privacy Act.

To his previous response:

L. SMITH: We do have subpoena power, although we hope to avoid issuing subpoenas by receiving positive and timely responses to our initial information requests. Regarding the timeline, I cannot comment – both due to the sensitive nature and the unpredictable nature of such investigations.

M. DONOVAN: (AS A FOLLOW UP): Are you able to tell us if any such requests for information have been made to date?

L. SMITH: In general, we won’t be issuing comment on specific details of the investigation, including the status of information requests.

We extend our appreciation to Mr. Loren Smith for his candor and for being so generous with his time.

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