Sunday, April 30, 2006

Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans

No city has ever haunted me like New Orleans, &, I suspect, on some level I probably do not fully understand, I haunt New Orleans.

I've been back many times for visits since I left, & each time, it's like I've never been gone--that other life was a weird dream, a minor bump--I have the delicious sensation that I'm back where I have always belonged, to it.

And every time I leave, the same things occur--such as vivid flashes of things I probably didn't even realize I was absorbing at the time. The way late afternoon sunlight plays in the branches of the oaks, for instance. I hadn't realized, until I travelled to Italy, that New Orleans shares that fabled mellow golden sunlight. New Orleans is about atmosphere. It has its own day, and its own singular brand of night.

I would go on about it, but I truly cannot. I'm very weird that way. When it really, really pains me to separate from a place like New Orleans, I don't even try to express it.

For one, it always comes out sounding cliche. The Crescent City is just one of those places--another world, in fact--that you have to experience for yourself to understand. It's a total, all-enveloping experience. New Orleans, despite its reputation, is most emphatically not a theme park. It's real, that can either be very, very good, or very, very bad.

People just get it or don't, & it's another one of those places that you can always spot a tourist if you're a local. It's like they've landed from another planet--some catch the vibe & groove with it, but most, even those who love it & return year after year, really don't. Which always reminds me of Jazz Fest.

So, my point: much as I really want to be able to talk about New Orleans, I can't, as above, because it defies description & has to be experienced instead, but all the more so now that Hurricane Katrina has devastated it.

I can't describe what it was like for an expatriate to have to stand by & watch helplessly. Not nearly as harrowing as being there, of course(!), but it was its own brand of bizzardo to glue yourself to CNN for three sleepless nights in a row, to have to wait & wait for word about the fate of friends who live there.

But as celebrations of the spirit of the place, I'm very proud of New Orleanians for pulling themselves together & in the true feisty spirit in which the city was founded, insisted on showing themselves & the world that they haven't been defeated even in the aftermath of a devastating natural disaster.

The Mardi Gras parades rolled, and my friends invited me to the quintesentially quirky parties the locals throw for themselves ("If we're on St. Charles watching the parade when you drop by, help yourself to the Hurricanes [a potent cocktail] in the cooler we're leaving at the curb in front of our house").

And now again at Jazz Fest, the first since the Hurricane Katrina. Jazz Fest was always my personal favorite of a local event: more, and more better, music over the course of two weekends than most of us outside of New Orleans will hear in our lives. And that's not counting the acts in countless bars & clubs all over New Orleans, from the Maple Leaf (my favorite) uptown to the legendary Tip's, to the House of Blues in the Quarter. Bob Dylan headlined the Fest Friday night, Bruce Springsteen played, too, and the Edge, from U2 jammed with several headliners.

But the biggest attractions to me, when I lived there, were always the equally, astoundingly good local acts. New Orleans is soul home for every kind of "American" music that you can think of, & no one does it better. The famous gospel choirs, especially, are not to be missed. I read that most of their members had to come in from where they've relocated out of town (many lived in the 9th Ward, which is still not habitable. Hello, George?) The Fest promoter, Quint Davis, put them up at the City Park Fairgrounds where Jazz Fest is held.

The first of the two weekends just wound up this evening, & now the parties are on in the clubs.

I miss New Orleans every day of my life, but none more than now, during the first Jazz Fest since the hurricane.

I can't be there this year. But leave a light on for me. Y'all know I'm comin' home sooner or later.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Handy Dick Cheney Print-Out Target

He's the personification of evil, some say puppetmaster to Bush's finger puppet.

Here's your big opportunity, provided free for all the world's enjoyment, courtesy of ANIMAL, an all-about-art organization in New York. ANIMAL publishes a magazine which interviewed my fave painter, Mark Bryan, about his rendition of Dick Cheney, "Dick." (Featured in "Revolution in the Air: Another Spook Talks" blog entry below.)

Mark told me about it today, and I've requested permission to share the interview with y'all, forthcoming as soon as I get it.

But while we're all waiting & to fend off boredom in the meantime, print out this cool poster of the Dick & use it as target practice for the weapons of your choice: darts, bows-&-arrows, revolvers, submachine guns...

Just click on the title bar to download your very own. No, I haven't yet figured out how to post a link in this blog any other way. It's something of a minor miracle that I got THAT far.


Friday, April 28, 2006

Mr. Potato Head Assigned Special Duties

I have made an executive decision, here at Demon Princess Productions, to promote Mr. W. Potato Head (illustration by MoPaul).

Hereafter, Mr. Potato Head will serve as a valuable icon to tip y'all off whenever I catch a politician (any politician) saying or doing something s/he just shouldn't be wasting air or any other precious resource, like our time, pretending that we're stupid enough to take seriously.

Mr. Potato Head's inaugural "event" had to do with former oilmen pretending to have such high principles & complete disinterest in an industry that has, BTW, contributed multi-millions to their political campaigns, that they believe they can credibly lay claim to having ordinary peoples' best interests at heart when formulating energy policy.

And for Bush's great intellectual acuity in pointing out that we can't switch to agriculture-based fuels "because we have to eat some too."

Today's "Mr. Potato Head" goes to George Bush (again) for wanting to waste our time railing against a version of the National Anthem being sung in Spanish.

"I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English," Bush said."

Bzzzt! Non-who-the-hell-cares-issue, unless you're a racist asshole yourself, or just playing to the less savory "humanitarian" instincts of your more bone-headed base (as we saw, over & over again in your Presidential campaigns).

"Bush made his comments at a Rose Garden news conference [Friday] as a Spanish-language version of 'The Star-Spangled Banner,' hit the airways featuring artists such as Wyclef Jean, hip-hop star Pitbull and Puerto Rican singers Carlos Ponce and Olga Tanon.

"Called 'Nuestro Himno' — 'Our Anthem' — the Spanish version rewrites some of the English version. For instance, the second stanza says, 'My people keep fighting. It's time to break the chains.'

"Monday's planned boycott and the emergence of a Spanish-language anthem are ingredients in a national debate over how to deal with an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States. It is an issue that has sent hundreds of thousands of protesters into the streets of major U.S. cities to demand the lowering of citizenship barriers. Congress is struggling to deal with the issue, and the House and Senate are moving on opposite tracks."

Record Profits: Record Temptation

"The temptation in Washington is to tax everything," the president said Friday in a news conference.

"Taxing enormous oil industry profits is not the way to calm Americans' anxieties about pain at the gas pump, and [Bush's] 'inclination and instincts' are that major oil companies are not intentionally overcharging drivers."

Of course, Demon Princess thinks that's just another variation on "trust me, would I stomp on Americans' civil liberties by spying without authorization?" That's what it seems to mean when Bush exhorts us to trust his "inclination & instincts.'

"Some Democrats have viewed this week's announcement by major oil companies of huge first-quarter profits as a chance to renew their push for a windfall profits tax. But though a few Republicans, including Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, have said the idea ought to be examined, Bush and most GOP lawmakers strongly oppose it.

"Bush's remarks suggested the former Texas oilman is unlikely to take harsh action against oil companies despite public anger about the rising cost of fuel. Gasoline is averaging $2.92 a gallon across the country, up 69 cents from a year ago, according to AAA's daily fuel gauge report."

"With politicians concerned the issue could tilt what are expected to be close midterm elections this fall, the president and many in Congress have been rushing to offer solutions, most of which would offer little immediate relief. "Instead, Bush called on Congress to ease regulations that make it difficult to expand the nation's refining capacity. He also urged oil companies to plow their profits into finding and producing more energy, such as by building natural gas pipelines or pursuing renewable energy sources — all ventures that could further boost the companies' bottom lines.

"Three days ago, the president announced a series of steps, including calling on his administration to investigate possible price gouging. But he admitted Friday that he thinks it's probably not happening.
The president has supported the rolling back of some oil industry tax breaks that were enacted with his support just eight months ago. That tax break recission is part of a broader gas price-relief plan offered by the Senate GOP leadership, but House Republicans signaled this week they won't go along.

Big Brother Watches, Congress Dithers

Well, there goes my evening.

Political blogging, once undertaken, is a harsh mistress, especially if an issue Demon Princess really, really cares about comes up. And this is one.

The Associated Press reported 2 hours & 33 minutes ago that the number of U.S. citizens & legal residents the "FBI secretly sought information last year on was 3,501." Those unfortunates had their their bank, credit card, telephone and Internet records examined "without a court's approval, the Justice Department said Friday."

We daresay they don't know about it yet, with the exception, perhaps of that nice couple who were brought in to answer questions about the fact that they paid a bunch of credit cards off early.

"It was the first time the Bush administration has publicly disclosed how often it uses the administrative subpoena known as a National Security Letter, which allows the executive branch of government to obtain records about people in terrorism and espionage investigations without a judge's approval or a grand jury subpoena.

"Friday's disclosure was mandated as part of the renewal of the Patriot Act, the administration's sweeping anti-terror law.

"The FBI delivered a total of 9,254 NSLs relating to 3,501 people in 2005, according to a report submitted late Friday to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate. In some cases, the bureau demanded information about one person from several companies."

Ominously, "the numbers from previous years remain classified, officials said."

"The department also reported it received a secret court's approval for 155 warrants to examine business records last year under a Patriot Act provision that includes library records. However, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has said the department has never used the provision to ask for library records.

BIG FAT LIE! It's just that the librarians were required to say nothing about it, which resulted in many libraries refusing to keep patron records very long.

"The number was a significant jump over past use of the warrant for business records. A year ago, Gonzales told Congress there had been 35 warrants approved between November 2003 and April 2005.

Believe those numbers at your own risk.

"The spike is expected to be temporary, however, because the Patriot Act renewal that President Bush signed in March made it easier for authorities to obtain subscriber information on telephone numbers captured through certain wiretaps.

"The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the same panel that signs off on applications for business records warrants, also approved 2,072 special warrants last year for secret wiretaps and searches of suspected terrorists and spies. The record number is more than twice as many as were issued in 2000, the last full year before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"The FBI security letters have been the subject of legal battles in two federal courts because, until the Patriot Act changes, recipients were barred from telling anyone about them.

"Ann Beeson, the associate legal counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the report to Congress 'confirms our fear all along that National Security Letters are being used to get the records of thousands of innocent Americans without court approval.'

"The number disclosed Friday excludes requests for subscriber information, an exception written into the law. It was unclear how many FBI letters were not counted for that reason."

How does it feel to know you elected the people who did this to you, Amerika?

Even Republican Senator Arlen Specter, who ordinarily does as Bush tells him, asks, "Where is the outrage?" in today's Washington Post. And--shocker--he threatens to try to block the program's funding.

"New expressions of frustration over how little information the administration has shared about the National Security Agency's warrantless eavesdropping on Americans flared yesterday in the Senate, one day after House Republicans barred amendments that would have expanded oversight of the controversial program.

"Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said yesterday that he will file an amendment to block the NSA program's funding -- but said he will not seek a vote on it at this time -- in hope of stirring greater debate on the warrantless surveillance, part of the agency's monitoring of alleged terrorists.

"Where is the outrage?" asked Specter, who has chaired hearings that questioned the NSA program's constitutionality.

"Questions about the legality of the NSA program and the Bush administration's refusal to brief the full intelligence panel on it led Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, for the first time on Wednesday to vote against the annual intelligence authorization bill, which passed the House.

"Harman, one of the few House members to receive briefings on the NSA program, said she believes in the program's approach but argued unsuccessfully on the floor Wednesday for a measure requiring greater congressional review.
"The version of the fiscal 2007 Intelligence Authorization bill that passed the House contained no language on the NSA program. But lawmakers added provisions that could have an impact on the estimated $44 billion to be spent next year by the 16 agencies that make up the intelligence community, as well as the operations of Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte and his growing, one-year-old organization. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Congress created Negroponte's office to oversee and improve coordination of the intelligence agencies.

"Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, said Wednesday that his panel will be monitoring Negroponte's progress in restructuring the intelligence community and that 'we would all like it to go faster because of the significant threats that we face as a nation.' Although Hoekstra has been critical of the DNI in the past, he said the office 'is beginning to bear fruit' and 'incremental but real improvements have been made since the standup.'

"Harman expressed a gloomier view. She said Negroponte 'has not taken command yet' of the intelligence community, 'giving away authority to the Pentagon, which is happy to receive it, as it expands its own role in intelligence gathering abroad and here at home.'

"She added that 'the CIA is in free fall,' and that '300 years of experience have either been pushed out or left in frustration, and morale is dangerously low.'

The committee took a step toward reining in Pentagon domestic intelligence activities. The Defense Department inspector general was directed to audit the activities of the Pentagon's newest and fastest-growing intelligence agency, the Counterintelligence Field Activity. Created four years ago, CIFA has been increasing authority to coordinate and direct intelligence collection involved in protection of Defense Department facilities at home and abroad.
"Specter's concerns about the NSA program were also reflected in much of the House debate on the intelligence bill.

"Harman and other Democrats were angry that Republicans on the House Rules Committee prevented a bipartisan amendment that would have required classified briefings on the NSA surveillance program, which includes listening to U.S. citizens, to all members of the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees. That proposal is similar to the one that Specter said he may soon introduce, although he would also include the parallel Senate panels.At present, lawmakers on a limited number of House and Senate intelligence committees are briefed on the NSA program along with top leaders of the House and Senate.

"At the White House yesterday, spokeswoman Dana Perino said: 'The appropriate members of Congress have been and continue to be informed with respect to the terrorist surveillance program.'

Well, dear, they apparently disagree.

It remains to be seen whether Specter will actually walk his talk. Sounds like it may very well turn out to be more kabuki theatre.

The Morans

They're coming after us all...

I'm The Decider: Koo-Koo-Ka-Choo

Paul Hipp, well-advisedly photographed such as the "morans" will have a hard time identifying him.

The very best part about having one's own blog, besides the personal gratification to be had from countering in a very small way bigger, more organized bully pulpits, is the joy of finding like-minded souls & new friends.

I sent this BRILLIANT parody song out to my private e-mail list when it first appeared last week, but I've been waiting to get permission to use it on before posting it to the world at large.

It is funny, dead on, very, very funny. Click on the title heading to hear it.

The man behind it, Paul Hipp, reports that the response has been astounding, even if some of it has encouraged him to leave America for countries like Iran or Nepal.

I'm just waiting for the same sort of commentators to find, certain it's just a matter of time.

In the service of the guarantee of free speech, a bedrock principle which Demon Princess is honored to take in the direction this country desperately needs, I, unlike President Bush, will tolerate dissent. My critics should be prepared to defend themselves with weapons more intelligent than the moronic blandishments they've tossed at Paul, however.

No less a personage than Thomas Jefferson said: “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.”

More about the song, & Paul:

"Thank you for your kind words about the song "I'm The
Decider." I wrote the lyrics and recorded this one during some
down[time] as I put finishing touches on my first album of original music."

"Parody is new to me. I am a songwriter, writing and performing my own stuff, but the response has been so overwhelming and people like you have been so supportive and there is SO MUCH TO SAY that I will definitely be recording some more parodies as events unfold out there in the world and putting them straight out on the Huffington Post."

By all indications, you have a stellar career in the making. Paul. You go!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Weird News

Go, grannies, go! Photo: New York Times

Hey folks, just testing your knowledge of legal trivia.

Would you think it would be illegal for a bunch of grandmothers to volunteer to join the service? On what grounds, if so?

Seems that's what they got arrested for in New York. Their trial was today.

Eighteen women who term themselves "grannies," (although, the New York Times dutifully notes, not ALL of them really are--"a few do not have grandchildren"--but do concede that all are old enough).

"They are on trial for, as Judge Ross put it in a casual aside, 'protesting,' and more specifically, protesting the war in Iraq, by sitting outside the Times Square military recruiting center last October."

Seems they were blocking the door with their silly selves, & that warranted arrest for disorderly conduct.

The judge, who clearly has some sense, aquitted them.

See, I tolja this Administration has NO sense of humor (no sense of shame, either), & I fully expect they'll be coming for me next.

I'm not a grandmother, but I could be, if they'd leave me alone.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

So. Gas Prices. Oil Addictions. Hmm.

Seattle weather report: crappy. But in lieu of buying a ticket to a warmer undisclosed location much, much further south, I'm resolved to stay indoors & write about a topic that seems to have brought Americans out of their lethargy & general disinterest in politics: their god-given right to drive their big freakin' trucks, Hummers, & SUV's, & GAS PRICES interfering with that right.

Or that's what the GOP thinks, anyway, & they're forcing George to appear to do something to address it (plus it has the added benefit of distracting the populace from the things going on in other countries. If we have too much time on our hands we all might start exerting ourselves & catch on.)

Of course, George is as inept at this chore as any other, but (I sense) even more so, because George & his family & Cheney, of course, are all OIL MEN. Surely they don't think Americans could have forgotten that important fact.

So. Ho-hum. I apologize, but I can't get excited, y'all. I think it's just an attempt by the GOP to show they care about us ordinary people's problems when they really just don't give a shit. Now they want us to believe we matter to them.

Proposals on the table currently: $100 tax rebate checks (haha!). Congressional investigations into oil companies' record profits (helped some by tax breaks, and we aren't talking piddly $100 checks THERE), so Bush has made noise about rescinding them, which has gotten great play in the U.S. press, but check out the more thorough reporting by the BBC, & you'll realize it's all a shell game.

Everything Bush proposes to "do" about the problem that will adversely affect the oil industry in any meaningful way is only temporary. They'll go back to business as usual the instant the notoriously short-attention-spanned voters look away.

(BTW, to prove this is all kabuki theatre for the unitiated, investigations into price-gouging are state-law based functions, not a federal matter. It's all for show!)

However, you can bet the farm & your bippy that the condition that oil companies be allowed to drill in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge attached to the proposal addressing the $100 tax break will NOT be temporary. I really can't believe they haven't gotten the message there. No, I personally would not consider it a fair trade--my piddly little tax break for the Alaska Wildlife Refuge.

In the meantime, did y'all know that Brazil, with a huge number of autos, is ENTIRELY oil-independent. That's right. They grow their fuel. They've broken their addiction to oil, & have been that way some time.

Bush has thought of that, of course. I saw him say on TV last night we are looking into that, too, but, he remarked, we can't turn all of it into fuel--we have to eat some, too. Seriously. Lessee, now: oil, corn. Oil, corn. Think about that conundrum a bit, George, which is easier to grow more of & get back to me when you've had sufficient time to cogitate.

The oil industry has got to see the handwriting on the wall, but they're bound & determined to manipulate & milk every last dollar before they go.

In the meantime, somebody sent me this handy web-gizmo for scoping out the cheapest gas prices in your zip code. Search for MSN Auto gas prices zip code. Use it.

And please, rethink whether you really need or use that big honkin' SUV. Now would be the time to dump it if your only use for it is urban. Get my drift?

European Union Set To Kick Our Asses

Image of Original Painting, "Rummy's Fiesta," Used with Permission of the Artist, Mark Byan

Or, more appropiately, the asses of evil who decided to outsource torture operations.

Seems the United States is on its way to earning a reputation, even among our several oldest, best allies in the Western world, for being a "state known to practice torture," prohibited by European human rights treaties, according to an Associated Press report today.

In that event, we'd be on a deep-shit-list. I'd like to know what other countries are on that list, just for shock & reference value, but I suspect most Americans would be deeply ashamed & humiliated to find themselves amongst them.

The European Union's legislators' preliminary investigation into the matter found that the "CIA has conducted more than 1,000 clandestine flights in Europe since 2001, and some of them secretly took away terror suspects to countries where they could face torture, European Union lawmakers said Wednesday.

"Legislators elected to look into allegations of questionable CIA activities in Europe said flight data showed a pattern of hidden operations by American agents, and they accused some European governments of knowing about it but remaining silent.

"Cases of terror suspects being secretly handed over to U.S. agents did not appear to be isolated, the lawmakers said in a preliminary report on their inquiry. European human rights treaties prohibit sending suspects to states known to torture prisoners.

"'The committee deplores the fact that, as established during the committee's investigation, the CIA has used aircraft registered under fictitious company names or with private companies to secretly transfer terror suspects to other countries including Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Afghanistan,' according to a copy of the report obtained by The Associated Press.

"The CIA declined to comment, as did European Union officials, who have said previously that there was no irrefutable proof of such hand-overs, which are known as 'extraordinary renditions.'

"The investigation began in January after news reports that U.S. agents had interrogated al-Qaida suspects at secret prisons in eastern Europe. But the focus shifted after people gave detailed accounts of being abducted by U.S. agents in Europe and whisked away to jails in the Middle East, Asia and North Africa.

Those Americans, or their leaders, who'd be inclined to blame Mary McCarthy for spilling the beans & exposing us to the disapproval & opproprobrium of the world (she denies now having been the source of the leaks, BTW), like children who don't resent getting caught red-handed so much but fly into a rage at whoever told on them, cannot.

"Few of those who testified at the committee hearings touched on the alleged secret prisons in eastern Europe first reported by The Washington Post in November. Italian lawmaker Giovanni Fava, who wrote the report, said the committee would look into those allegations later.

"The lawmakers based their initial report on data provided by Eurocontrol, the EU's air safety agency, and more than 50 hours of testimony by EU officials, rights groups and individuals who said they were kidnapped and tortured by U.S. agents.

"Eurocontrol said the number of clandestine CIA flights over Europe was likely to be higher than 1,000 because the agency checked only flight plans for fewer than 50 aircraft used by the CIA.
"The report said that on a number of occasions the CIA was clearly responsible for detaining terror suspects on European territory and transferring them to countries where they could face torture.

"Fava told the AP it was unclear how many people were transferred by the CIA on undeclared flights. He also said there was no evidence proving complicity by European officials, but called it unlikely that some governments, such as in Italy, Bosnia and Sweden, knew nothing about the CIA operations.
"U.S. officials previously said that as of late December, some 100 to 150 people had been seized in 'rendition' operations involving detaining terror suspects in one country and flying them to their home country or another where they were wanted for a crime or questioning.

"The officials, who agreed to discuss the operations only if not quoted by name, said the action was reserved for people considered by the CIA to be the most serious terror suspects. But they conceded mistakes had been made and were being investigated by the CIA's inspector general."

It's simple & evil, & a tactic also used on Americans who dissent: find some dirt & smear them with it, only in these cases, return them to countries where they will be imprisoned & tortured, or, if their home countries can't or won't do the job, off to the CIA's own secret torture chambers (which this investigation hasn't yet addressed).

Makes ya proud to be an American, no?
"The European Union also declined to address the committee's preliminary report.

"'We have no comment. We will wait for the investigation to finish,' said Friso Roscam Abbing, spokesman for EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini."

Demon Princess opines that the EU doesn't really want to have to do this; they'd rather we cleaned up our act.

If you want to be a force for good in the world & make your sentiments known, go to the ACLU's website & look for the petition deploring torture, & sign it. It's addressed to one of Demon Princess's favorite characters in the White House, Condoleeza Rice.

Demon Princess hastens to add that if we could both share the DP nom-de-plume, this Demon Princess would be the good fairy compared to Condi. Plus not nearly as rich.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Another General Complains About Rummy

On Fox "news network," no less, the very same that Dick Cheney always insists be tuned in before he takes occupancy of any hotel room booked for him.

It's news in itself when Fox airs news critical of anyone in this Administration.


I really can't help but gloat. Last time I checked, the number was only six, now it's eight.

Retired Marine General Paul Van Riper said he "constantly talks with many active duty and retired senior officers who share his feelings that Secretary Rumsfeld has not fought the Iraq war competently. He told Fox that Rumsfeld has run the Pentagon through intimidation and that a change in leadership is needed."

Excerpt from the Fox broadcast: "If this leader is not capable of doing it, now going in excess of five years, has not demonstrated he is, then perhaps it is time to find a new one. If I was the president, I would have relieved him three years ago."

Roll call of anti-Rummy voices so far: Generals Swannack, Newbold, Eaton, Zinni, Batiste, Riggs, Clark, & now Van Riper.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Revolution In The Air: Another Spook Talks

Image of Original Painting, "Dick," Used with Permission of the Artist, Mark Bryan

Check that finger puppet detail!

Yesterday, on 60 Minutes, another highly-placed ex-CIA official (already retired), perhaps emboldened by Mary McCarthy's example in displaying a conscience (see CIA Official Fired blog entry below), and in his case, some ire, because the Bush Administration continues to assign blame for the debacle in Iraq to the intelligence community. He wants y'all to know it's just not so.

Rather, Tyler Drumheller, a 26-year veteran of the agency who was intimately familiar with investigations into the claims of WMD in Iraq himself, says, "It just sticks in my craw every time I hear them say it’s an intelligence failure. It’s not an intelligence failure. This was a policy failure."

"Drumheller was the CIA's top man in Europe, the head of covert operations there, until he retired a year ago. He says he saw firsthand how the White House promoted intelligence it liked and ignored intelligence it didn’t: 'the idea of going after Iraq was U.S. policy. It was going to happen one way or the other.'

"The road to war in Iraq took some strange turns — none stranger than a detour to the West African country of Niger. In late 2001, a month after 9/11, the United States got a report from the Italian intelligence service that Saddam Hussein had bought 500 tons of so-called yellowcake uranium in order to build a nuclear bomb...but Drumheller says many CIA analysts were skeptical. 'Most people came to the opinion that there was something questionable about it'" he says, [and]'that was our reaction from the very beginning. The report didn't hold together.'"

"However, Vice President Dick Cheney thought the story was worth investigating, and asked the CIA not to discount the story without first taking a closer look. So, in February 2002, the agency sent former ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger to investigate.

"Wilson spent eight days in Niger looking for signs of a secret deal to send yellowcake to Iraq. He spoke to government officials who would have known about such a transaction. No one did. There had been a meeting between Iraqis and Nigerians in 1999, but Wilson was told uranium had never been discussed. He also found no evidence that Iraq had even been interested in buying uranium.

"When he returned, Wilson told the CIA what he had learned. Despite that, some intelligence analysts stood by the Italian report that Saddam Hussein had purchased uranium from Niger. But the director of the CIA and the deputy director didn’t buy it. In October, when the president’s speechwriters tried to put the Niger uranium story in a speech that President Bush was scheduled to deliver in Cincinnati, they intervened.

"In a phone call and two faxes to the White House, they warned 'the Africa story is overblown' and 'the evidence is weak.' The speechwriters took the uranium reference out of the speech.

"Meanwhile, the CIA had made a major intelligence breakthrough on Iraq’s nuclear program. Naji Sabri, Iraq’s foreign minister, had made a deal to reveal Iraq’s military secrets to the CIA. Drumheller was in charge of the operation.

"'This was a very high inner circle of Saddam Hussein. Someone who would know what he was talking about,' Drumheller says.
"According to Drumheller, CIA Director George Tenet delivered the news about the Iraqi foreign minister at a high-level meeting at the White House, including the president, the vice president and Secretary of State Rice.

"At that meeting, Drumheller says, 'They were enthusiastic because they said, they were excited that we had a high-level penetration of Iraqis.'

...[The high-level source]...'told us that they had no active weapons of mass destruction program,' says Drumheller.

"'So in the fall of 2002, before going to war, [emphasis mine] we had it on good authority from a source within Saddam's inner circle that he didn't have an active program for weapons of mass destruction?' [interviewer] Bradley asked.

"'Yes," Drumheller replied. He says there was no doubt in his mind at all.

"'It directly contradicts, though, what the president and his staff were telling us,' Bradley remarked.

"'The policy was set,' Drumheller says. 'The war in Iraq was coming. And they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy, to justify the policy.'

"Drumheller expected the White House to ask for more information from the Iraqi foreign minister...but 'the group that was dealing with preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they're no longer interested,' Drumheller recalls. And we said, 'Well, what about the intel?' And they said, 'Well, this isn't about intel anymore. This is about regime change.'"

"The White House declined to respond to Drumheller's account of Naji Sabri’s role, but Secretary of State Rice has said that Sabri, the Iraqi foreign minister turned U.S. spy, was just one source, and therefore his information wasn’t reliable.
"'So you’re saying that if there was a single source and that information from that source backed up the case they were trying to build, then that single source was ok, but if it didn’t, then the single source was not ok, because he couldn’t be corroborated,'" Bradley asked.

"'Unfortunately, that’s what it looks like, Drumheller replied.

"'One panel after another found that agencies were giving conflicting information to the president,' Bradley remarked.

"Drumheller admits they were. 'And that's the problem. No. There was no one voice in coming out of the intelligence community and that allowed those people to pick and choose those bits of information that fit what they wanted to know.'

"A few weeks after Sabri told the CIA that Iraq had no active nuclear program, the Niger uranium story seemed to get a new life: documents that supposedly could prove that Saddam had purchased uranium from Africa suddenly surfaced in Rome. The documents came from Rocco Martino, a former spy for Italian military intelligence.

"For years, Martino operated in a shady intelligence underworld, buying government secrets and then selling them to the highest bidder. Martino told CBS News that a colonel in Italian military intelligence arranged for him to buy classified documents from a woman who worked in the embassy of Niger. One set of documents showed Iraq had purchased uranium from Niger.

"In October 2002, Martino tried to sell the documents to Elisabeta Burba, a reporter for an Italian news magazine. She had purchased information from him in the past. [She told Bradley that she found them 'puzzling'] because, if those documents were authentic, they would have been the 'smoking gun' that everybody was looking for in that moment,' she replied. But Burba quickly suspected the documents had been forged. "The more I looked at them and then the more I found strange things or inconsistencies," she says...bad forgeries.'

..."She gave copies of the papers to the U.S. Embassy in Rome. It was the first time the U.S. government had gotten its hands on the documents at the heart of the Niger story.

"Drumheller says the CIA station chief in Rome, who worked for him, told him he didn't believe it. "He said, 'It's not true. It's not; this isn't real,'" Drumheller recalls.

"When the documents arrived in Washington, State Department analysts quickly concluded they were suspect. One analyst wrote in an e-mail: 'you’ll note that it bears a funky Emb. of Niger stamp (to make it look official, I guess).'

"The Washington Post recently reported that in early January 2003, the National Intelligence Council, which oversees all U.S. intelligence agencies, did a final assessment of the uranium rumor and submitted a report to the White House. Their conclusion: The story was baseless. That might have been the end of the Niger uranium story.

"But it wasn’t. Just weeks later, the president laid out his reasons for going to war in the State of the Union Address — and there it was again.

"'The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,' the president said.

"'I didn’t even remember all the details of it because it was such a low-level, unimportant thing. But once it was in that State of the Union address, it became huge,' says Drumheller.

"'So, let me see if I have it correctly. The United States gets a report that Saddam is trying to buy uranium from Africa. But you and many others in our intelligence community quickly knock it down. And then the uranium story is removed from the speech that the President is to give in Cincinnati. Because the head of the CIA, George Tenet, doesn't believe in it?' Bradley asked. 'Right,' Drumheller replied.

"It then appeared in the State of the Union address as a British report. Drumheller, who oversaw intelligence operations for the CIA in Europe doubts the British had something the U.S. didn't. 'No. I don’t think they did,' he says.

"The British maintain they have intelligence to support the story—-but to this day, they have never shared it.

"The White House declined 60 Minutes' request for an interview for this story, but Dan Bartlett, Counselor to the President, wrote us:

"'The President’s convictions about Saddam Hussein's possession of WMD were based on the collective judgment of the intelligence community at that time. Bipartisan investigations found no evidence of political pressure to influence the pre-war intelligence assessments of Iraq’s weapons programs.' And he added: 'Saddam Hussein never abandoned his plan to acquire WMD, and he posed a serious threat to the American people and to the region.'

We can just see Dick, his finger puppet & Condi linking hands & vowing, "That's our story, & we're stickin' to it."

P.S. "On March 7, 2003, the head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency announced that the Niger uranium documents were forgeries. The Bush administration went to war in Iraq 12 days later, without acknowledging that one of its main arguments for going to war was false.

"Four months later, Wilson, who had gone to Niger and found nothing to substantiate the uranium rumor, went public and wrote a piece for The New York Times claiming that the Bush Administration had 'twisted' the intelligence on Iraq: 'This was really an attempt to get the government to acknowledge that the 16 words should never have been in the State of the Union Address. It was as simple as that. If you are going to mislead the American people and you're caught at it, you ought to fess up to it,' says Wilson.

"One day after Wilson's piece appeared, the White House acknowledged the president should not have used the uranium claim. But according to newly released court records, the vice president’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, leaked classified intelligence to reporters a day later in an effort to bolster the uranium story. What Scooter Libby didn’t tell reporters is that the White House had been warned before the State of the Union speech not to use the Niger uranium claim.

"'At the same time they were admitting the words should not have been in the State of the Union address, they were, we now know, sending Libby out to selectively leak only those pieces that continued to support this allegation that was baseless. In other words, they were furthering the disinformation campaign,' says Wilson.

"'The American people want to believe the president. I have relatives who I've tried to talk to about this who say, 'Well, no, you can’t tell me the president had this information and just ignored it,'" says Drumheller. 'But I think over time, people will look back on this and see this is going to be one of the great, I think, policy mistakes of all time.'

Demon Princess & many of her friends empathize. We seem to have the same sort of relatives that Drumheller has.

And the big American firestorm of a debate rages on: is it patriotic to criticize your government while a war on terror ensues? Just kidding, rhetorical question to see whether you're still awake.

I think y'all know how I would respond to THAT question!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Thought Police: Coming To A Workplace Near You


I think "Thought Police" is an Orwellian term of art, at least, & I'm just sure Karl Rove is on it.

There outta be a law.

A woman in San Diego, California, lost her job over a bumpersticker advertising a progressive talk radio station, Air America, on her car.

That's all it said. But her vigilant (or vigilante) boss said, upon seeing it, said, "The country is on high alert. For all I know you may be Al-Queda." And fired her.

A North County (California) newspaper reported, "In a civil suit filed at the county courthouse in Vista, Linda Laroca is targeting both her former manager, Beverly Fath, and the company she briefly worked for last year, Advantage Sales and Marketing, Inc.

"Laroca, who was hired by the company as a sales representative, is seeking lost wages and damages for wrongful termination for violations of both public policy and the state labor code. She is also claiming state constitutional violations and emotional distress.

WHAT, you say? The California Labor Code prohibits employers from controlling or directing the political activities of employees? How subversive is that?

"In her Feb. 21 claim, Laroca asserts that on Oct. 8, three weeks after she started working for the marketing company, Fath called her on a Saturday and requested they meet at a nearby grocery store parking lot so Laroca could pass on some documents Fath needed.

"During the brief encounter, Laroca charges, the manager pointed to the bumper sticker--the only one on Laroca's car-- and remarked that it was a new sticker and called it 'that Al Franken left-wing radical radio station.'"

Laroca alleges in her suit that Fath then told her, "The country is on a high state of alert. For all I know, you could be al-Qaida."

"A stunned Laroca laughed nervously at the statement, the suit alleges, and then was dealt 'the final blow' when Fath fired her on the spot.'"

Demon Princess thinks it really is not offensive enough that someone (the Secret Service?) prowls the parking lots checking when Bush speaks, checking for evidence of anti-Christ/anti-Bush bumperstickers, since the President of America refuses to tolerate dissent of any nature from the people who elected him, after all, & accordingly "vets" attendees to his ostensibly public functions. Not trusting to chance, he also plants right-wing (the new "politically correct" crowd) sympathizers everywhere: public speeches, press conferences, etc.

However, we really must do more in the private world. It's appreciated that shopping malls boot teens wearing subversive slogans on their T-shirts, but we should definitely bump the action up a notch.

I say we reward employers like Beverly: extra-credit tax breaks, for instance, work them into the Patriot Act provisions, which will be the lasting legacy of the Bush Administration. A proud hallmark, if you will.

It's downright wrong to punish well-meaning employers with horrendous laws protecting the so-called "rights" (more accurately, wrongs), & crimes against the State of Oceania, with laws like the California Labor Code.

Karl, get on that. And start thinking about how we can get Citizens to snitch on their neighbors, and children on their parents. Think tax cuts for the adults, & lifetime supplies of, well, whatever ordinary kids these days like.

Dubya says, the Decider decides what's right.

CIA Senior Officer Fired Over Leaks

Poster: Micah Wright Propaganda Remix Project

Why would the government do such a thing to a woman just on the verge of retirement? Well, we're really not supposed to know her identity (the CIA wishes to respect her privacy), but according to the New York Times, she's probably Mary O. McCarthy, "a veteran intelligence analyst who until 2001 was senior director for intelligence programs at the National Security Council, where she served under President Bill Clinton and into the Bush administration."

We suspect that it's because she has demonstrated her possession of a conscience, despite a long record of service to the spooks. Ms. McCarthy had previously served at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, an organization in Washington that examines global security issues, which suggests in my estimation, the probability that her motivating concern was the destabilizing existence of the Bush Disinformation Campaign's overseas "secret torture chambers" as well as the public's right to know how their fearless leader is conducting business in their names. She can't be a stupid woman, but was willing nonetheless to risk her life's work to get the information out there.

Demon Princess just has to believe that when someone who's signed on & served so long in that honorable institution has second thoughts about its nefarious doings (look the other way, good Americans), you just know the reason they're doing it is that something so really, awfully, dastardly & heinous is going on that even they can't bear it. Which tells ya something, doesn't it?

The Thoughtcrime (essentially) against the State of Oceania with which she has been charged? Leaking classified info about the United States' policy of secretly outsourcing its torture operations to reporters. The point of those operations, being, of course, to do dastardly things to secret prisoners in secret locations in secret countries where there is no namby-pamby regard for human rights. And did I mention that this is all supposed to be secret?

Well, this news gives Demon Princess cause to pause in light of the fact that when George & the dastardly Veep surprise everyone by selectively & autocratically declassifying classified info in the service of outing undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame (potentially endangering her life & certainly wrecking her career), just to serve their petty vindictive aims & discredit her husband's investigation into their manipulation of intelligence in order to make the case for a really stupid stunt of a war...well, THAT's different.

Says the New York Times, "The dismissal of Ms. McCarthy provided fresh evidence of the Bush administration's determined efforts to stanch leaks of classified information. The Justice Department has separately opened preliminary investigations into the disclosure of information to The Post, for its articles about secret prisons, as well as to The New York Times, for articles last fall that disclosed the existence of a program of domestic eavesdropping without warrants supervised by the National Security Agency. Those articles were also recognized this week with a Pulitzer Prize."
"[Someone at the CIA with "extensive overseas experience", speaking on condition of anonymity, said:] 'It's a terrible situation when the president approves the leak of a highly classified N.I.E., and people at the agency see management as so disastrous that they feel compelled to talk to the press'."

Demon Princess's thoughts are in accord. It's pretty damned tragic when the professionals who are paid to know have so little faith left in our government, and the administration's determination to silence them, and put reporters in jail for disseminating information to we, the people who put them in office, and have the power to take them out...well, this is a long run-on sentence of a diatribe, even by Demon Princess's standards, so she'll just leave it here with a simple thought:

Pretty damned Orwellian. These "leakers" & the reporters who report the leaks are sure to be recognized by future generations as Freedom Fighters one day...if we ever get our rapidly diminishing freedoms back, that is. I add, it tells ya something when reporters have to go to efforts so extreme to get the truth about what's going on from our "free country" that they win Pulitzer Prizes for the trouble.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

White House Shake-Up

Photos: Bush & McClellan, Winn McGee/Getty Images; Karl Rove, Time Magazine

Lest y'all think Demon Princess has fallen off her hobbyhorse & can't get up, seeing's that she has made no mention of recent events concerning Karl Rove & Scott McClellan, I'm here to tell ya's it just ain't so.

My reaction, rather, to these purported momentous events is HO-HUM.

A New York Times editorial puts it nicely:

"Things Change, and Stay the Same"

"President Bush wants to show the nation he's shaking things up in his administration, but it is clear that the people who messed everything up will remain in place. The press secretary goes; the political-and-domestic-policy adviser is losing half his portfolio. There's a new White House chief of staff. But the folks at the Defense Department are still on the job, doing ... what they've been doing.

"Metaphors about deck chairs abound.

"It's too soon to say how history will judge this administration, but it does look as if the first thing this president will be remembered for is the disastrous way the war in Iraq was conducted under Donald Rumsfeld, who, of course, isn't going anywhere. If there's a second thing we think history will shake its head over, it's the administration's cavalier disregard for the civil liberties of American citizens and the human rights of American prisoners. Needless to say, nobody's being replaced at the Justice Department.

"The third great disaster of the Bush administration is a fiscal policy that has turned a federal surplus into a series of enormous budget gaps and an economy that depends on loans from China to pay its bills...Mr. Portman, a longtime Bush loyalist, used his nomination acceptance speech to champion all the policies that wrecked things in the first place. More tax cuts will be forthcoming, he vowed, and budget cuts will make things balance out in the end.
"The sudden exit of Scott McClellan, the press secretary, would be meaningless under normal circumstances. But in the current context, it really does send an important message. The president is like one of those people who pretend to apologize by saying they're sorry if they were misunderstood. He doesn't believe he's done anything wrong. It's our fault for not appreciating him."

Demon Princess heartily agrees with all the above, of course.

The only question still unresolved in my mind is, why does Bush always surround himself with bulbous-headed guys? Does that look require daily maintenance with an air pump or something?

My loyal readers (smart-assed friends) are hereby invited to jump in & provide plausible answers. Here's your chance to pontificate amusingly.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Illustration (c) The Worried Shrimp

"I'm The Decider": Bushism of the Day

Doctored Photo, Illustration (c) The Worried Shrimp

"I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense," about the calls for Rumsfeld's resignation from people who should know for real (REAL military professionals, that is).

People are talking, for instance this post on a Salon forum today:

"The Westmoreland Factor"

"My husband is retired military, a distinguished veteran of both the first Gulf War and Somalia, who served 16 years. And his comment upon hearing about all the generals coming forward was 'None of them wants to be General Westmoreland' -- meaning that history by and large blames much of the disaster that was Vietnam on Westmoreland's failure to modify the plan when things weren't going well. Each of these generals that has come forward knows that history will hold them responsible for their association with this fiasco in Iraq.

"As for Rummy, he, Bush, Rove and Cheney are all part of that group that bragged to Ron Susskind that they were above the 'reality based community' -- that they were so powerful and effective that they could create whatever reality they wanted, irrespective of the existing facts and truths on the ground. It is this arrogance that has driven Rummy's disasterous reimagining of the military, the misguided invasion of Iraq and its horribly bungled aftermath. It has killed thousands of American soldiers and left our country and our civil rights a shambles.

"Of course they are ignoring the pleas of the generals for Rummy's resignation. They ignored the generals when they tried to tell them the truth about the weaknesses in the invasion plan in the first place. This is not a group that beleives much in objective analysis -- they believe only what suits them. It is a convenience that comes from having been shelterd from reality by wealth and privilege. None of these guys has known a day of want in the last 50 years, and they don't care who dies or suffers so long as their wealth, privilege and power is sustained.

"I'm not sure if they really even beleive their own lies anymore, but they'll keep on pressing the issue anyway, because to give in would mean having to surrender power, and they aren't going to do that. "I'm the decider" Bush declares, and we're all supposed to be content with that, even when his decisions are patently wrong. It's the kind of tautalogical statement a spoiled brat makes when he doesn't want to be questioned. What he decides must be right because he's the decider, after all. They don't believe in or want accountability because they think they are above accountability.

"For those who wonder what to do -- there is only one thing to do -- get involved in your local Democratic Party. Get involved in local canvassing efforts and phone banking. WOrk to turn out Democrat voters on election day this November. With the GOP in control of all 3 branches of the US Government, there is no hope to bring a breath of reality back into our government. Get a Democratic majority in the House and Senate, and maybe we can do something about it."

"-- Bagheera25"

Bagheera, may I interest you in forming a ladies' social club?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Bush Bombadier: Get Your War On

Actual Ad by Velvet Revolution, currently on billboards & in publications on the Right Coast

The problem with Bush, or one of many, is that we haven't yet decided which of his wars are most problematic, the ones he wages abroad in America's name, or the one he's waging on Americans here at home. We dare to suspect they may be waged in concert.

Do you guys remember Carl Bernstein, yes he, of the famed Watergate reporting duo of Woodward & Bernstein? Carl draws on his expertise with the Nixon ("I am not a crook") administration to draw lucid & insightful comparisons in a really lengthy article published in recently.

I'd just like to share some excerpts of that article, Senate Hearings on Bush Now, today.

"Worse than Watergate? High crimes and misdemeanors justifying the impeachment of George W. Bush, as increasing numbers of Democrats in Washington hope, and, sotto voce, increasing numbers of Republicans—including some of the president's top lieutenants—now fear? Leaders of both parties are acutely aware of the vehemence of anti-Bush sentiment in the country, expressed especially in the increasing number of Americans—nearing fifty percent in some polls—who say they would favor impeachment if the president were proved to have deliberately lied to justify going to war in Iraq.

"Raising the worse-than-Watergate question and demanding unequivocally that Congress seek to answer it is, in fact, overdue and more than justified by ample evidence stacked up from Baghdad back to New Orleans and, of increasing relevance, inside a special prosecutor's office in downtown Washington.

"In terms of imminent, meaningful action by the Congress, however, the question of whether the president should be impeached (or, less severely, censured) remains premature. More important, it is essential that the Senate vote—hopefully before the November elections, and with overwhelming support from both parties—to undertake a full investigation of the conduct of the presidency of George W. Bush, along the lines of the Senate Watergate Committee's investigation during the presidency of Richard M. Nixon.

"How much evidence is there to justify such action?

"Certainly enough to form a consensus around a national imperative: to learn what this president and his vice president knew and when they knew it; to determine what the Bush administration has done under the guise of national security; and to find out who did what, whether legal or illegal, unconstitutional or merely under the wire, in ignorance or incompetence or with good reason, while the administration barricaded itself behind the most Draconian secrecy and disingenuous information policies of the modern presidential era.

"'We ought to get to the bottom of it so it can be evaluated, again, by the American people,' said Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on April 9. '[T]he President of the United States owes a specific explanation to the American people … about exactly what he did.' Specter was speaking specifically about a special prosecutor's assertion that Bush selectively declassified information (of dubious accuracy) and instructed the vice president to leak it to reporters to undermine criticism of the decision to go to war in Iraq. But the senator's comments would be even more appropriately directed at far more pervasive and darker questions that must be answered if the American political system is to acquit itself in the Bush era, as it did in Nixon's.

"Perhaps there are facts or mitigating circumstances, given the extraordinary nature of conceiving and fighting a war on terror, that justify some of the more questionable policies and conduct of this presidency, even those that turned a natural disaster in New Orleans into a catastrophe of incompetence and neglect. But the truth is we have no trustworthy official record of what has occurred in almost any aspect of this administration, how decisions were reached, and even what the actual policies promulgated and approved by the president are. Nor will we, until the subpoena powers of the Congress are used (as in Watergate) to find out the facts—not just about the war in Iraq, almost every aspect of it, beginning with the road to war, but other essential elements of Bush's presidency, particularly the routine disregard for truthfulness in the dissemination of information to the American people and Congress.

"The first fundamental question that needs to be answered by and about the president, the vice president, and their political and national-security aides, from Donald Rumsfeld to Condoleezza Rice, to Karl Rove, to Michael Chertoff, to Colin Powell, to George Tenet, to Paul Wolfowitz, to Andrew Card (and a dozen others), is whether lying, disinformation, misinformation, and manipulation of information have been a basic matter of policy—used to overwhelm dissent; to hide troublesome truths and inconvenient data from the press, public, and Congress; and to defend the president and his actions when he and they have gone awry or utterly failed.
Most of what we have learned about the reality of this administration—and the disconcerting mind-set and decision-making process of President Bush himself—has come not from the White House or the Pentagon or the Department of Homeland Security or the Treasury Department, but from insider accounts by disaffected members of the administration after their departure, and from distinguished journalists, and, in the case of a skeletal but hugely significant body of information, from a special prosecutor. And also, of late, from an aide-de-camp to the British prime minister. Almost invariably, their accounts have revealed what the president and those serving him have deliberately concealed—torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, and its apparent authorization by presidential fiat; wholesale N.S.A. domestic wiretapping in contravention of specific prohibitive law; brutal interrogations of prisoners shipped secretly by the C.I.A. and U.S. military to Third World gulags; the nonexistence of W.M.D. in Iraq; the role of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney's chief of staff in divulging the name of an undercover C.I.A. employee; the non-role of Saddam Hussein and Iraq in the events of 9/11; the death by friendly fire of Pat Tillman (whose mother, Mary Tillman, told journalist Robert Scheer, 'The administration tried to attach themselves to his virtue and then they wiped their feet with him'); the lack of a coherent post-invasion strategy for Iraq, with all its consequent tragedy and loss and destabilizing global implications; the failure to coordinate economic policies for America's long-term financial health (including the misguided tax cuts) with funding a war that will drive the national debt above a trillion dollars; the assurance of Wolfowitz (since rewarded by Bush with the presidency of the World Bank) that Iraq's oil reserves would pay for the war within two to three years after the invasion; and Bush's like-minded confidence, expressed to Blair, that serious internecine strife in Iraq would be unlikely after the invasion.

"But most grievous and momentous is the willingness—even enthusiasm, confirmed by the so-called Downing Street Memo and the contemporaneous notes of the chief foreign-policy adviser to British prime minister Tony Blair—to invent almost any justification for going to war in Iraq (including sending up an American U-2 plane painted with U.N. markings to be deliberately shot down by Saddam Hussein's air force, a plan hatched while the president, the vice president, and Blair insisted to the world that war would be initiated "only as a last resort"). Attending the meeting between Bush and Blair where such duplicity was discussed unabashedly ("intelligence and facts" would be jiggered as necessary and "fixed around the policy," wrote the dutiful aide to the prime minister) were Ms. Rice, then national-security adviser to the president, and Andrew Card, the recently departed White House chief of staff.

"As with Watergate, the investigation of George W. Bush and his presidency needs to start from a shared premise and set of principles that can be embraced by Democrats and Republicans, by liberals and centrists and conservatives, and by opponents of the war and its advocates: that the president of the United States and members of his administration must defend the requirements of the Constitution, obey the law, demonstrate common sense, and tell the truth. Obviously there will be disagreements, even fierce ones, along the way. Here again the Nixon example is useful: Republicans on the Senate Watergate Committee, including its vice chairman, Howard Baker of Tennessee ('What did the president know and when did he know it?'), began the investigation as defenders of Nixon. By its end, only one was willing to make any defense of Nixon's actions."

I say it's time for Americans to wage war back.

Self-righteously yours,
Demon Princess

Whacko Watch

The Rev. Fred Phelps, the church's leader, testifying in February at a State Senate hearing in Kansas about a bill that would limit protesters. "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," read one of their placards. "Thank God for I.E.D.'s," read another, a reference to the bombs used to kill service members in the war. To drive home their point — that God is killing soldiers to punish America for condoning homosexuality — members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., a tiny fundamentalist splinter group, kicked around an American flag and shouted, if someone approached, that the dead soldiers were rotting in hell.

Just when Demon Princess thought matters religious could NOT possibly get any worse (well, aside from her persistent kinda-there, kinda-not cold & the dreary weather that's not making it any better, all of which is her punishment for ridiculing right-wing radical Christian fruitcakes like Pat Robertson, & by golly, she now knows that if she runs this bit it will never ever go away):

WELL. Check this out, from the New York Times,

"NASHVILLE, April 11 — As dozens of mourners streamed solemnly into church to bury Cpl. David A. Bass, a fresh-faced 20-year-old marine who was killed in Iraq on April 2, a small clutch of protesters stood across the street on Tuesday, celebrating his violent death.
"Embracing a literal translation of the Bible, the church members believe that God strikes down the wicked, chief among them gay men and lesbians and people who fail to strongly condemn homosexuality. God is killing soldiers, they say, because of America's unwillingness to condemn gay people and their lifestyles.

"Standing on the roadside outside Corporal Bass's funeral here under a strikingly blue sky, the six protesters, who had flown from Topeka, shook their placards as cars drove past or pulled into the funeral. The 80-year-old wife of Mr. Phelps, slightly stooped but spry and wearing her running shoes, carried a sign that read "Tennessee Taliban." She is often given the task of driving the pickup trucks that ferry church members, a stack of pillows propping her view over the dashboard.

"Next to her stood a cluster of Mr. Phelps's great-grandnephews and great-grandnieces, smiling teenagers with sunglasses, digital cameras and cellphones dangling from their pockets and wrists. They carried their own signs, among them, "You're Going to Hell."

And you have a nice day, too.

China Sucks Up to Bush

China. Now there's a villain's villain. They have us by the short hairs. Monstrous trade deficit (including Hilo Hattie's dashboard hula dolls, Curious George being only one variation). They've bought all of our nation's debt, they want nuclear power, & they have domestic problems that even George can empathize with, if only he knew what such a long & useless word meant.

And don't forget that they're one of the worst in terms of human rights abuses, though they very cleverly know that the capitalist running dogs of America will fall all over themselves to be the first to exploit the ginormous Chinese consumer market, & will indeed turn over online dissidents' personal info so the State can carry them off, never to be seen heard of or from again.

(George can only watch with envy. Try as he might to concoct elaborate wire-tapping & electronics communication schemes, he still has to deal with a few of us who are outraged by it, and there are still very public embarrassments associated with putting away U.S. citizens without affording them the opportunity to learn the charges against them. What's a dictator in training to do?)

We hope they can bridge their differences & find common ground.

A Chinese delegation is also visiting Washington state tomorrow (Tuesday) to close a deal on Boeing airplanes that's very, very good news for Boeing indeed. In fact, that may have had something to do with a group of Chinese businessmen in a restaurant I was in last week. Maybe they were the advance guard. THEN they go onto the OTHER Washington.

Which reminds me that I saw our Governor on the boob tube the other day, so unabashedly giddy as she gushed for the cameras that the Chinese knew Washington (and they weren't talking about D.C., she crowed)!

Oh hold your horses, people. The Chinese government knows damned well that all you have to do is throw cash at Americans to have them willingly line up to be your slaves. Nothing about this is accidental. The Chinese have always had a very shrewd take on the practical advantages of cold hard cash. There are very good reasons to stop swooning & start paying very close attention, as one always should with so populous & ancient a civilization. Tread VERY cautiously.

And now, back to the news (will I never learn not to editoralize first?) It was this in The New York Times that tickled my funny bone:

"With an aura of candor described as unusual for Chinese leaders, President Hu Jintao told President Bush that fighting political corruption, rural unrest, a widening wealth gap and severe pollution consumes nearly all his time. He said domestic problems left China with neither the will nor the means to challenge America's dominance in world affairs, according to two Bush administration officials who were told about the session.

"The overture — described as having improved Mr. Hu's ties with Mr. Bush despite the Chinese leader's generally aloof style — is part of a Chinese effort to reduce, or at least to deflect, American anxiety about the country's growing economic, political and military power.

"When Mr. Hu travels to Washington this week for his first White House visit as China's top leader, the question will be whether the improved chemistry between the heads of the world's richest nation and its fastest rising rival can enhance a relationship that seems to be stuck somewhere between tentative stability and stormy."

Monday, April 17, 2006

Rummy: Out of the Loop?

Image of Original Painting,"Rummy's Fiesta," Used with Permission of the Artist, Mark Bryan

We vote for Evil. Dastardly. Villanous.

News value: not really, since we always suspected it, despite all those vociferous denials (it was just a bunch of stressed-out kids & their loyal pets having fun, we all believed THAT!) But as part of my mission to keep the issues alive & in the headlines (at least mine), very important, and I certainly hope all five of my readers out there appreciate it.

Salon, one of my favorite online magazines, reported on April 14 that Rumsfeld "was personally involved in the late 2002 interrogation of a high-value al-Quaida detainee...and also communicated directly with Maj. General Geoffrey Miller, the controversial commander of the Guantamamo Bay Detention Center."

The following is excerpted from that article, which was the result of a Freedom of Information Act filing by the magazine. That FOIA request resulted in disclosure of a 391-page 2005 Army Inspector General's report, with even more heinous admissions very probably blacked out.

"During the same period, detainee Mohammed el-Kahtani suffered what Army investigators have called 'degrading & abusive' treatment by soldiers who were following the interrogation plan Rumsfeld had approved [emphasis mine]. Kahtani was forced to stand naked in front of a female interrogator, was accused of being a homosexual, was forced to wear women's underwear, & to perform dog tricks on a leash. He received 18 to 20 hour interrogations during 48 of 54 days.

"Little more than two years later, during an investigation into mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, Rumsfeld expressed puzzlement at the notion that his policies had caused the abuse. 'My God, you know, did I authorize putting a bra & underwear on the guy's head?'"

"The report, which contained lengthy transcripts of interviews with the personnel involved, contained statements by Lt. General Randall Schmidt, an air force fighter pilot who "described Rumsfeld as 'personally involved' as well as 'talking weekly with Miller.' Schmidt...concluded that Rumsfeld did not personally prescribe the more 'creative' interrogation methods...

"But he added, that the open-ended policies Rumsfeld had approved, and the apparent lack of day-to-day supervision...permitted the abusive conduct to take place.

"...Schmidt also saw close parallels [of tactics used at Guantanamo] & the photographic evidence of the abuse at Abu Grhaib..."

Mind you, folks, this has all been known to the internal investigators since December 20, 2005.

They counted on our press, and the citizenry in general, having very short attention spans.

Curious George Commemoration Doll & Other Stuff

Owing to the crappy Seattle climate, probably, Demon Princess's thoughts turn to the times she spent in more hospitable zones, & the fact that she now regrets that she didn't buy souvenirs like these when she had the opportunity.

She was also thinking about acquiring some Tiki mugs & other stuff that she only thought were amusing when she came across them in thrift shops long after she'd moved away.

If you want to improve Demon Princess's mood, buy her some of these items from Hilo Hattie's (a shop strictly for tourists) in Hawaii.

Now that that's out of her system, she can return to villifying assorted villians on the national & global stage. Soon, I promise.

Hilo Hattie's webite:

Quote of the Day: Mark Bryan

"Binky's Bad Karma," Image of Original Painting Used by Kind Permission of the Artist, Mark Bryan

This today from fantastic artist & painter Mark Bryan, not only because he likes & gave me permission to use all his work on it (so visit his site, address below), but because he nails it here, especially this part:

"[L]ike most disasters, it's compelling to watch for a while."

Sums up the Bush Administration very nicely, wouldn't you say?

The play begins with great promise, the sets are fantastic and the actors are very convincing. I'm ready for a great show but right away something goes wrong. The story takes an unexpected turn and becomes a dark comedy. It's not what I had in mind, but like most disasters, it's compelling to watch for a while. Unfortunately, the writer seems to have used the same material in each act. The play starts to get even scarier when the actors begin to recruit the audience members. I'm ready to leave now, I'm not sure I want to be a part of this. but the exits are locked and the only way out is guarded by this guy in a dark robe with really bony fingers. I guess I'll stay here and paint for now.

Visit Mark's site at, view the short movie entitled "March of the Cowboy Thugs," & buy some paintings or prints. His work is really marvelous.

With great gratitude,
Demon Princess

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Easter Edition

Brilliantly doctored Bush v. Jesus photo credit:

Demon Princess wants to start out here with some whining, certain that Spring is NEVER going to arrive here, in the-more-than-usually-dreary-drippy-rainy Northwest this season. The entire population, by all rights, should be on suicide watch, but they're not, interestingly. Leaving your intrepid girl reporter to conclude that anybody in the Puget Sound Region not already on the popular antidepressant-meds-washed-down-with Starbucks diet regime is sure to be signing up this year.

What a great franchise idea. I'm certain that people in other regions could benefit, too, even those not afflicted with the passive-agressive "have-a-nice-day-now-fuck-off" bug the way our friendly locals are. I prefer my hostility out in the open so I can address it, & have it addressed, but how fun would that be?

However, despite the personal travails I endure here, I wanted to leave my small circle of readers a positive message of hope in a nod to the fact that it IS Easter. Besides, having lived elsewhere for a long, long time, I know that this is not the normal state of things. Just one of Seattle's less-charming aspects. The scenery is magnificent, when you can actually see it.

Heretic chick that she is, Demon Princess liked this article a great deal, & so shares these excerpts with y'all.

From yesterday's Christian Science Monitor an article entitled, "Christian Mavericks Find Affirmation in Ancient Heresies."

"When the Rev. John Buehrens gives his Easter sermon this Sunday, he'll borrow a page from an unlikely source: the Gospel of Judas. The gnostic text, unveiled by scholars with fanfare last week, portrays Jesus Christ as an enigmatic guru who venerates Judas, teaching him secret accounts of creation and approving his imminent betrayal.

"Many Christians might find that offensive, or, like Mr. Buehrens of Unitarian First Parish in Needham, Mass., silly. But as an emblem of Christianity's long tradition of dissenting voices, the text is for him an inspiration nonetheless.

"'An awful lot of what passes for orthodoxy today is something Jesus would have despised," Buehrens says, noting Christian support for "imperialism and militarism." As a challenge to orthodoxy in its time, he says, the Judas story is "a reminder that no single interpretation of the Christ event can exhaust the spiritual implications.'

"Across the country, observers say, the Gospel of Judas is striking a chord with progressive Christians. Not so much for its heretical theology, but as an ancient symbol of their modern mission to update what defines faithfulness. It's an approach that's winning approval from scholars, who say Christianity has always attracted diverse beliefs. But others worry that this revisionism misrepresents time-tested truths.

"Modern theologians attracted to the Judas gospel are reminding today's dissenters that they follow a long, legitimate tradition. At last week's press conference, four academics used either "diverse" or "diversity" to describe what the text reveals about the beliefs and attitudes of the early church. If the church was so varied in its early days, they suggest, then contemporary Christians can perhaps accept the growing diversity of beliefs and lifestyles in their religious communities as well.

"The Christianity of the ancient world was even more diverse than it is today," says Bart Ehrman, a religious studies professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a former fundamentalist Christian turned self-described "happy agnostic" - someone who claims it cannot be known if God exists. "My hope is that when people see how diverse Christianity was in its origins, [they] will be a little bit more tolerant of diversity in Christianity today."

"That may be easier said than done. One reason: many of early Christianity's most steadfast figures rejected gnostic teachings as heresy - that is, false representations of Jesus' life and of God's nature. (Gnostic doctrines assert rival divine beings and emphasize salvation through secret knowledge.) Although heresy is seldom a matter of public debate in the 21st century, the problem of embracing all beliefs that purport to be "Christian" persists.

"To think that noncanonical texts legitimizes diversity today 'is to ignore the fact that that diversity was not accepted [in the early church],' says Ronald Simkins, director of the Kripke Center for the Study of Religion & Society at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. 'It's a naive use of history.'"
"'Whoever is in power decides what's heresy," [Minister] Carson says. "We don't tell people what to believe. We only encourage them to have closer contact with God.'"

Who defines what's Christian?

"Yet the same standards hold from age to age, regardless of who's in charge, according to Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

"'You can have disagreements about doctrinal interpretations of particular issues - that's why we have Catholics, and we have Presbyterians, and we have Baptists, and we have Methodists.... But if you deny the resurrection [or other core teachings], well, according to historic Christianity, you are beyond the pale.'"

"For some the debate isn't about theology; it's about freedom of conscience.

"The Rev. Jayne Oasin, a social justice officer for the Episcopal Church, USA., says that 'to consider there to be only one truth is to me a form of oppression.'"

Yay, Rev. Jayne!

And for the rest of y'all I have a (non-doctored) photo of a really big bunny rabbit, coming up next. Happy Easter, all!

And it's WEAL!

Tom DeLay's Non-Profit Orphans

Well, I've exhaustively researched the matter, & I really can't figure out whether Tom is putting his orphans & retarded children to good & productive use, er--teaching them employable skills--such as washing golf balls & assembling those weird barrette-hair ornaments with the little beads & feathers dangling from them, as a dear friend in Massachusetts suspects.

Photo: The Daily Kos

(Where else could the things come from--outer space?)

But it does seem plausible, & is a great excuse to run this photo again.

See also the link to some self-described cranky old fart's site for what I think is a great explication of the entire mystery, plus a really entertaining photo of Republican preschoolers. If Tom dresses them in such expensive & handsome "I am the Man" suits, well, all contributions to his cause are being put to laudable use.

I've f***ed with the link function for hours now, even trying to insert the link manually, but as ya's know, the people who translate owner's manuals & assembly instructions from the Chinese are the same geeks who inevitably leave out some important step in translating HTML codes for the rest of us who only speak English. I've lost patience, & most of my evening.

However, I PROMISE that it's worth your while to copy this link into your browser & access this blog yourself:

Friday, April 14, 2006

Hurricanes, Inc.: George Can, Actually, Take Full Credit For This Surge In The Economy

Hey, George, FEMA's performance was so abysmally dismal, & your attempts to stage "compassionate" PR campaigns in front of St. Louis Cathedral (where the only lights on were from your camera crews, certainly not within the Cathedral itself) so patently phony, an entire for (handsome) profit industry has popped up in the federal government's "wake."

According to an AP report, the annual National Hurricane Conference in Orlando this past week was expecting an enormous surge in interest this year, especially in light of weather forecasters' expectations of another off-the-charts hurricane season.

"About 15 years ago, there were 30 exhibitors, according to coordinator Teri Besse. This year 170 companies and groups ponied up $1,500 for 10-foot booths for 2 1/2 days.

"Sixteen companies have larger equipment towers, RVs and portable bathrooms sprawling across half the hotel parking lot. Forty more are on an exhibit wait list for lack of space.

"Booths offer a soup-to-nuts menu: portable showers, cots, individual weather stations, hurricane shutters, chain saws, generators, and satellite phones. There's software to help emergency managers decide what to do about an oncoming storm, expensive emergency communication systems for police and fire departments, and booths promoting engineering firms, debris hauling and trucking companies.

"Perhaps the oddest sight was in front of the Redi-Alert sign company's booth. It was embattled former Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown, who was in charge during Katrina, shaking hands and talking about the need for warning signs.

"Giant established firms AshBritt Environmental and Phillips and Jordan Inc., which each got half-billion-dollar debris hauling contracts after Katrina, sponsored hotel keys, coffee and free Internet service for emergency managers."

We're relieved to see that "Brownie," good boy scout that he is, has found somewhere to go, in that you wrecked his career by failing to tell him that you knew the levees in New Orleans weren't likely to hold.

Don't forget, also, to take credit for the huge gains in employment generated by for-profit security agencies on the ground in Lake Catherine & other outlying areas, where suspicious characters from out of town have been pulling up & carting off newly laid utility cables, since the public law enforcement agencies have been forced to lay off due to a now-non-existent tax base. Which leads me to wonder, how are these same areas going to afford the pricey private help? FEMA is supposed to cover it.

Seems some Louisiana communities can't. Some of them are forming ad-hoc vigilante committees instead. But the GOP is all about self-help, so you should take credit for that, too.