Tuesday, January 31, 2006

IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM "WORKING FAMILIES E-ACTIVIST NETWORK" REGARDING THE BUSH REGIMES "STATE OF THE UNION" ADDRESS -- LISTEN CLOSELY -- BECAUSE THE BUSH REGIME PROPOSALS HAVE HARMED MILLIONS OF AMERICAN WORKING FAMILIES AND MADE LIFE CUSHY FOR GREEDY WEALTHY BASTARDS [This November help get rid of the Bush Regime and vote Democrat, Progressive, Liberal or Independent all the way. We the People can and must save our country, because Dictator Bush & Cheney will not.]

Tuesday night, President Bush will lay out his 2006 agenda in his State of the Union speech, and working families will be listening closely. Time and again we have seen the president dress up anti-worker proposals with friendly sounding titles--but when his congressional allies adopt them, the results are disastrous for working families. So when you're listening to President Bush speak, think about what his previous proposals have really meant to working people like us:

1] When Bush talks about health insurance, remember the disastrous Medicare drug prescription scam his team in Congress pushed through. It has stranded tens of thousands of seniors without needed medications and forced some 20 states to declare public health emergencies because President Bush put the interest of drug companies ahead of the interests of seniors.

2] When the president talks about health care costs, remember that he and his allies in Congress refused to allow Medicare to negotiate with drug companies, costing taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars.

3] When Bush talks about taxes, remember the huge tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans he and congressional leaders already passed and the ever-growing debt they are leaving to our children and grandchildren.

4] When Bush talks about opportunity, remember how the income disparity is growing as wages fall and the cost of living rises for working families.

5] When Bush talks about education, remember that he and leaders in Congress have pushed higher education out of reach for many by cutting student loans.

6] When Bush talks about keeping America safe, remember his administration's utter failure to rescue desperate victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The State of the Union address always dominates headlines the next day and generates plenty of water cooler conversations. When you're talking to friends and family about President Bush's 2006 agenda and the congressional leadership that will carry it forward, remind them how the agendas of the past five years have turned out for working families.

QUOTE OF THE MOMENT ... If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable, he lived, thought, and acted, inspired by the vision of humanity evolving toward a world of peace and harmony. We may ignore him at our own risk. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday, January 30, 2006

On Sunday, December 11th, I had a good workout session at the gym with my personal trainer (Marie). Gave her a few pair of bead style earrings I designed as an early Xmas gift. She really liked them.

Tuesday, December 13th, was the monthly NYC DoP conference call hosted by Kevin. Hector and I joined him on the call. Some topics of discussion were on being a more active "chapter" like the Dept of Peace team up in MA. They totally rock! Hector mentioned what’s been happening in his district and working on getting a meeting with Congressman Nadler. Go in with a detailed agenda and not just to say "HIYA". I mentioned we should do a peace event around March 18th, related to the 3rd anniversary of US invasion of Iraq. Many of these topics will be discussed at the December and January "core team" meetings.

Thursday, December 15th, was the monthly NYC Dept of Peace core team meeting, which was held at Coco's [DoP member] home in Manhattan. Since it’s the holiday season we decided to do a Santa grab bag. The gifts were to be from something in ones home and shared with love/peace. I contributed a book of poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and a Norm Chomsky DVD. We did this "grab bag" when everyone was assembled and before meeting commenced. [Those in attendance that evening were Dawn, Joe, Kevin, Carol, Liz, Karen, Norma, Carly, Priscilla, & Hector.] It was lots of fun and I received a Japanese Sake drinking cup from Hector. I've never had Sake and one of these days I'll give it a try. The meeting itself was energized, productive, inspiring and very enjoyable. As always, I took the minutes. Afterwards we headed off to a charming Italian restaurant for a light repast [with wine] and stimulating conversation. [DoP member Ellen joined us at the restaurant.] I also brought some of my peace bead style earrings [photo below] I designed and sold 7 pairs. WooHoo!

Half of the proceeds go to NYC DoP account and the rest I kept purchasing more beads. Weather was horrible that evening, subways were messed up and I arrived home around 11:30pm.

On Saturday, December 17th, I invited Jackie and Becca over for dinner, drinks & watch LOTRs "Fellowship of the Ring". Since both were unable to attend my October birthday party ... I suggested buffet/movie/socialize at my place when suitable to their schedules. Jackie showed up first and then Becca showed up shortly after via car service. Unfortunately she forgot her wallet and I paid the car service. [Becca stopped by my office a few days later to pay me back.] Both ladies were dressed in Gothic style garb, which looks so cool on them. [Becca was heading to a Gothic club party later that night with her boyfriend.] Me, I was just wearing jeans and turtleneck. What I call my comfy weekend wear. We hung out for hours talking about LOTRs and other cool topics. While eating the buffet meal [ie: salad, spinach quiche, crab cakes & wine] we watched the film. Periodically we'd make "goofy comments" about the film and had many good laughs. I had homemade brownies for dessert and they both took some to munch on the subway ride to their destinations. Had such an enjoyable evening and we'll do it again in February. We'll watch LOTRs "The Two Towers" on that occasion [theatrical version].

December 20th thru 22nd was the Transit Strike in NYC. Three days of dealing with this darn strike can wear a person out. Mon dieu! My hip joints, feet and calves are so sore from alot of walking, plus standing in the cold. On top of all that I'm out $30 towards ferry fees. E&Y hasn't decided if they'll reimburse us for these "expenses". That really pisses me off. Tuesday was so cold and windy, where as Thursday it was abit more tolerable. Bundled up like some Eskimo, I'd be out the door by 7:30am for the 30 minute walk to Long Island City in Queens to catch a 5 minute ferry boat ride into Manhattan. Sometimes one had to wait over 15 minutes for a ferry boat. Then we're let off on East 35th Street in Manhattan, where it takes me another 30 minute brisk walk to the office. At 4:30pm I do a repeat performance, only in reverse. [The streets and sidewalks were congested the whole time. Definitely more so than usual. Many were utilizing different forms of transport; such as bikes, rollerblades, skateboards, etc. Cabs were packed with passengers, as were the many car services.] Tuesday evening I was so tired I was in bed by 9:30pm. Sigh! Other folk have it worse off than me, while still others have it abit easier. We heard on 22nd that the strikers would be forced to go back to work on 23rd. Though Roger Toussaint said they may resume striking on December 28th. Dear lord, I hope not. On Friday, December 23rd, I had to take car service into Manhattan to catch an early bus to Albany, as the "G" subway line wasn't quite up and running yet. [The last transit strike was 25 years ago and 3 years before I'd moved to Manhattan.]


Gore Vidal, Truthdig
Novelist Gore Vidal argues that America under Bush is evincing characteristics of the post-fall-of-Rome Dark Ages.

Robert Dreyfuss, TomPaine.com
Hamas' victory in the Palestinian elections is a disaster built on short-sighted policies by the PLO, Israel and the U.S.

Jennie Pasquarella, Shonali Shome, WireTap
Georgetown University Law School students explain why they staged a protest to oppose Alberto Gonzales' speech defending government's wiretapping.

John Nichols, The Nation
We elect Senators with the hope and expectation that they will fight for democracy, not rubber stamp the status quo.

Stan Cox, AlterNet
Is it possible to eat well without breaking the bank? Our correspondent goes shopping at Whole Foods and comes away hungry.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Truth About The State Of Our Union
Congressman Kucinich talks about the effects of the Bush Administration dismantling the government of the United States as we knew it, as evidenced by the disasters along The Gulf Coast and after the hurricanes, When the State of Oklahoma had wildfires burning in 25 counties from mid-Nov almost to now, when the state asked for help from FEMA, it took 12 days for the officials in Oklahoma to be able to get through to anyone from FEMA in Dallas.

On Tuesday night President Bush will stand before the Congress and the nation to deliver his annual State of the Union address. We are sure to hear a rosy tale of an economy on the rebound, a blossoming democracy in Iraq, a terror network on the run, and a Gulf Coast region rebuilding better and stronger than ever before. As is most often the case with this Administration, the rhetoric does not match reality.

The facts are clear. Our economy is struggling and leaving tens of millions of Americans behind. According to the non-partisan National Journal, since President Bush first stood before Congress and the nation in 2001, the median income in this country has decreased, the jobless rate has jumped from 3.9% to 4.9% and the number of families living in poverty has increased from 8.7% to 10.2%. Our trade deficit has doubled. Inflation has gone up. Personal bankruptcies have gone up. Consumer debt has gone up. College tuition has gone up. And, the price of gas has gone up. All the while, this Administration has turned a $128 billion federal budget surplus into a $319 billion deficit. Today, almost 6 million more Americans do not have any health insurance than when President Bush took office. In total, over 45.5 million Americans, or over 15% of our total population, have no health care coverage at all.

During his 2003 address, President Bush told the nation that Saddam Hussein “had biological weapons sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax”, “materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin”, “as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent” and “upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents”. Today, almost three years after the start of the President’s war of choice, we know Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, had no connection to al-Qaeda and posed no threat to our nation. Yet, our armed forces are bogged down in the middle of civil war that our own general’s say cannot be won by military force. Our presence in Iraq is counterproductive and has cost the lives of over 2,200 US troops and $250 billion.

President Bush has delivered four State of the Union addresses since the attacks on our nation on 9/11. In four speeches, the President has never once mentioned Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the terror attacks on this nation. The status of the FBI’s most wanted man apparently is not important to the state of our union. Yet, in the same four speeches, President Bush has mentioned Saddam Hussein 24 times, and Iraq 78 times.

President Bush used the opening of his 2003 State of the Union to praise the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. This year our nation, and the world, saw the result of the failure of this massive reorganization of our government. As Katrina rolled ashore, destroying large cities and small towns in four states, it was FEMA, once an independent cabinet level agency--but now rolled into Department of Homeland Security--that failed to react. The searing image of thousands of Americans stranded without food and water dying on American streets will be the lasting legacy of the Department of Homeland Security, not a reorganized government “mobilizing against the threats of a new era” as the President described in his speech.

In his 2004 and 2005 addresses, the President spent a considerable amount of time advocating policies that would roll back much of the social progress made since the New Deal. In 2004, the President touted a Medicare prescription drug bill that will fatten the pockets of the pharmaceutical industry, endangering the future finances of the entire Medicare program, while leaving seniors confused and empty handed as they try to fill their prescriptions under the new plan. In 2005, the President used his address to promote his plan strip seniors of the guaranteed promise of Social Security, and replace it with a risky scheme to gamble their future in the stock market.

What the President has in store for his message this year is not known yet. But, we do know the President Bush will speak in glowing terms about the state of our union. The truth is the state of our union is in great peril. This Administration is conducting a war with no end in Iraq, illegally spying on Americans at home, overseeing an economy that is increasingly leaving more and more Americans behind and abandoning Gulf in their hour of great need. If recent history is any precedent, then next week we should see more of the same old dance around reality that has been the hallmark of President Bush’s annual address.

MESSAGE FROM TRUEMAJORITY - A Vote on Alito Could Come Monday - Support a Filibuster Today
The news came out yesterday: Senator John Kerry will join Senator Ted Kennedy in attempting to filibuster the confirmation vote of Samuel Alito. A lifetime appointment as crucial as this one deserves a thorough debate by the full Senate, and that's the goal of this effort. For this to work, 41 senators must join the Democratic filibuster. Most Republicans and a few conservative Democrats have already pledged to vote for Alito, so getting to 41 won't be easy. Every single Democrat could end up casting the last crucial vote--and this is the moment for us to weigh in. Tell your senator(s) to join the effort:

You've been active in opposing Alito in the past, and as the final vote draws near we thought you'd want to know about this opportunity to make a difference. As Kerry said on the blog Daily Kos, if "you want to stop Judge Alito from becoming Justice Alito...we need even more of your advocacy." It may be a long shot, but an issue of this importance requires us to stay in the fight.

All over the country, Democracy for America members are stepping up and running for local office. It's what we're all about -- citizens taking action and making America better. Win or lose, these rising stars are doing what too many in Washington fear to do - fighting for what they believe.

Debra Shore is a DFA member running for Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District in Cook County, IL. She believes that we can be caring stewards of our natural resources, while building a better, healthier community. DFA members across Chicagoland support Debra because they know that the best way to elect new leadership is by working at the grassroots level. http://www.debrashore.org

Karen Felthauser is a long time DFA member, Williamson County Democratic Party member, and community activist. She recently decided to run for the Texas State House in District 52 - just northwest of Austin. Karen will make Texas more progressive by helping provide quality and affordable education for all Texans, protecting and conserving the state's public lands, and ensuring that everyone has access to quality, affordable health care. http://www.karenfelthauser.com/

Elesha Gayman, a member of Democracy for America-Quad Cities, is running for the Iowa House of Representatives in District 84. Elesha's dedication to her community inspired her to enter the non-profit sector as a grant writer, fundraiser and volunteer. Now, she is running to bring new energy to the Iowa State House. http://www.eleshagayman.com/

Andy Meisner is running for re-election as a State Representative in Michigan. He has been involved in the Royal Oak-DFA group since early 2004. In Lansing, he has fought to bring new jobs to Michigan and to ease legislative restrictions on stem cell research. With your help, he will continue to promote a strong Democratic message for the state and help take back the Michigan House. http://andymeisner.com/

Ronald Rice Jr. is a member of New Jersey for Democracy and co-organizes the Essex County, NJ DFA group. He is running for West Ward Councilman in the City of Newark. In 2002 he ran for councilman-at-large and received more votes than any previous first-time candidate in the history of Newark. His campaign is about changing the culture of city politics, empowering residents through education, and community control of all city development. http://www.ron-rice.com/

Ty Harrell is a DFA member in Raleigh, North Carolina who has spent years fighting for Democratic ideals. He has lectured at Duke University and is currently on the Arts and Sciences Development staff there. Ty is taking his experience and skills on the campaign trail in his bid for the State House in District 41. He believes North Carolina needs a better education system and a stronger health care program in order to improve the lives of its citizens. He will promote fiscal responsibility by rewarding small businesses and companies that create jobs in the state and close the tax loopholes on companies that move their business away from North Carolina. http://www.votetyharrell.com/

These DFA members are doing their part. They get an "A" from DFA. That's why we're adding them to the "DFA-List." But they need your help to win. Please visit their websites and help them in any way you can.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Remarks by Senator John Kerry on His Opposition to Judge Alito’s Nomination to the Supreme Court
“Mr. President. Today, we face perhaps one of the most important choices we will make as Senators. A choice that will affect the direction of our country for the next several decades. President Bush has nominated Judge Samuel Alito to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the United States Supreme Court.

He has nominated a man who consistently defers to the government action regardless of how egregious it may be; a man who erects rather than breaks down barriers in the area of civil rights, a man who, to this day, has never retreated from his declaration that the Constitution does not protect a woman’s right to privacy, a man who has demonstrated a persistent insensitivity to the history of racial discrimination in this country and, was even, at the government’s request, willing to ignore overwhelming evidence that African Americans were intentionally stricken from an all-white jury in a black defendant’s capital case.“

And who will this nominee replace? He has been nominated to fill the seat of the Court’s swing vote—a woman who has upheld affirmative action programs, a woman who upheld the right to choose, a woman who upheld state employees’ rights to the protections of the Family Medical Leave Act, a woman who recognizes that a declaration of war is not a ‘blank check’ for the President’s actions. A woman who decides each case narrowly on the facts presented, keenly aware of the greater impact her decisions have.

“We are being asked to confirm a nominee who will shift the ideological balance of the Court dramatically to the right. We are being asked to confirm a nominee whose views will undermine the balance of power that I believe keeps our country strong. For these and other compelling reasons, I oppose this nomination.

QUOTE OF THE DAY ... Peace does not appear so distant as it did. I hope it will come soon, and come to stay; and so come as to be worth the keeping in all future time. It will then have been proved that, among free men, there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; and that they who take such appeal are sure to lose their case, and pay the cost. President Abraham Lincoln

Monday, January 23, 2006

MID-JANUARY COMMENTARY FROM JESSICA FLAGG [A real Democrat for Congress - NYC] --- Why"No" on Alito?

Let me give you a few reasons why. He's a member of the Federalist Society! That's Why! We don't need another ideologue on our Court (no matter how pleasant his colleagues find him and how nicely he dresses up his findings). He's a member of a group that doesn't believe in a strong federal government. It doesn't believe it is the role of the federal government to protect our air, our water, our food, our voting rights, our rights to privacy, our right to education, our right to Social Security, but does believe in the supremacy of the President above all laws passed by mere people. (While he said no one is above the law including the President, he then waffled on just what the law said and on the role on Congress and whether we needed to be bound by our international treaties ’big waffles in today's climate’ excuse the pun). He couldn't say that the Constitution guarantees a woman sovereignty over her own body or a right to personal privacy. That's why.

And although he's supposed to be so terribly bright, he couldn't remember anything about CAP even though he included it on his resume for the Reagan administration job. Come on! If he put it on his resume he did it for a reason, especially since we've been told repeatedly that he's no dummy. So he lied. And his genius not withstanding, he also had a lapse when it came to recusing himself off the Vanguard case (and he found in favor of Vanguard of course). He lied again. Maybe he's bright like GW Bush’ just stupid when it comes to inconvenient facts. Or maybe he lies like GW Bush, either way, not good enough to be a Supreme.

And maybe he really thinks women should be stripped away rights because the Constitution clearly states that all MEN are created equal, AND we know that he will work hard to interpret the Constitution literally, all his colleagues have said so, and he has done so at every chance. And while an amendment was made to declare corporations be granted rights as individuals, women have not been identified specifically as such. Convenient for misogynists (that's why we need the Equal Rights Amendment). People who decide their mission in life is to interpret anything literally, come up short in my opinion. They tend toward fascism or fundamentalism; two qualities I don't think belong in our Supreme Court, no matter how pleasantly a person may justify their disregard for the intent and spirit of the word.

I spent this much of this past week listening to and watching the Senate Judiciary hearings on Judge Alito. I was frustrated by the lack of attention given to his membership in the Federalist Society. While mentioned and acknowledged, it was passed over lightly which was mind-boggling to me. If explored as deeply as the question of Judge Alito's CAP membership it would have yielded a lot about his judicial philosophy, and would have served to illuminate his duplicitous evasion on particular questions. It also would have served to highlight some of the major philosophical differences he has with Sandra Day O'Connor and could have been used to rightly ask if he believes in the goal of our founding fathers when they tried this experiment to see if nation of laws and not of men could be set up in such a way as to allow for government of the people, by the people and for the people.

A government of self determination. He should have been asked the question about whether we want a court dominated by Federalist Society doctrine, since Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Chief Justice Roberts are all also members. And the last thing we need on the Supreme Court is a liar. His recusal and CAP mental lapses give the wrong appearance. And we keep hearing that he's no dummy. Finished. Please write to your Senators on this. Word is they haven't heard from enough of us, so they don't think we care and the mainstream media are intent on hocking this bad merchandise as though it's the best ever. Baloney ... bad for the health of democracy! Don't buy it!

On Saturday, December 3rd, I joined Jackie, Lilit and Periantari at Café la Fortuna to play LOTRs Trivial Pursuit, nosh on food and engage in Tolkien conversation. We had such a fun time playing the game, which took us around 2 to 3 hours to complete. Jackie won and I came in second. Jackie and I knew each other already, but it was my first time meeting the other two ladies. They are more of what I term Tolkien purist. Whereas I tend to be more a fan of the films and I’ve read the trilogy about three times since mid-1980s. If we ever have another “game day” … I’ll need to speed read thru the books. Last time I read the books was before seeing “The Two Towers”, which came out in December 2002. After the game was completed, Jackie and I hung out to catch up on news, as the other two left due to other commitments.

On Sunday, December 4th, I was invited to a holiday luncheon party at Minado by Marie & Joe Allegro. [The restaurant/buffet is on East 32nd Street near Madison Avenue.] I know Joe via NYC Chapter Dept of Peace and his wife Marie is my personal trainer. A few Dept of Peace folk showed up for the party, but the majority of 50+ gathering were friends and family of Joe/Marie. Had a delightful time, but what I remember the most is the wonderful assorted buffet style of Asian food. OMG! It was absolutely delicious! I highly recommend this place to all.

Had appointments with my chiropractor and massage therapist on December 5th and 7th, due to nasty lower back troubles, which originated during Thanksgiving weekend.

On Thursday, December 8th, had an appointment with my gynecologist about some issues I’ve been having with pills I’d been taking since September. We realized they were much too strong for my sensitive system and switched to a different brand with lower dosage. Also, upon further examination, it appears the Cyst may be gone. I’m having a sonogram in February to determine if this is true or not. If it’s true … oh yeah … hurray!

We always kept in touch via phone during the last 9 to 10 years, as well as send b-day and holiday cards. And now, on December 10th, Sheila and I were going to meet up again. We’re both ex co-workers of WCP Inc and remained good friends. Sheila moved out to Seattle in mid-1996, then to Florida around 2000 and back to NJ the autumn of 2005. I do regret not visiting her out in Seattle, as I’ve heard wonderful things about that city AND its Pearl Jam mecca. Anyhow … we arranged to meet at Grand Central Station [lower level food court] for a quick bite to eat before checking out the holiday art & craft shows in Vanderbilt Hall and also Bryant Park. [We also stopped at Cosi on 42nd Street for warm liquid refreshment, as the weather was very cold and windy that day.] It was great seeing Sheila again, catching up on news/gossip and hanging out. Just like old times back in the early to mid-1990s. We parted at Port Authority were she caught a 4:30pm bus back to NJ.


Terrence McNally, AlterNet
Combat veterans Sean Huze, Paul Rieckhoff and Jimmy Massey discuss the truth -- and the lies -- about the war in Iraq.

The Editors, The Nation
It's not too late to stop the confirmation of Supreme Disaster Samuel Alito.

David Corn, TomPaine.com
Critical of President Bush's reasoning for sending our nation to war? According to his new rhetoric, you'reimperiling American soldiers.

Molly M. Ginty, Choice! Magazine
More than thirty years later, three people who helped provide abortions before Roe tell their stories.

Marc Cooper, Truthdig
The election of Socialist pediatrician Michelle Bachelet as president is good news for the people of Chile. Especially given the alternatives.

Arianna Huffington, HuffingtonPost.com
Why does Bush still refuse to properly rebuild the country he chose to destroy?

Stephen Pizzo, News for Real
The corrupt Republicans who took office on a mandate of fighting corruption have launched yet another dirty smear campaign.

Marsha Rosenbaum, AlterNet
When it comes to random student drug testing, educators and parents should proceed with extreme caution -- it may be doing more harm than good.

Eric Alterman, Center for American Progress
A new right wing-funded 'study' employs comically unsound criteria to rate the media.

Mark Schurmann, Pacific News Service
Though many educators bemoan the decline of literacy in America, you can still find plenty of readers in the smaller corners and cracks of society.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, AlterNet
Black students are under fire at America's schools.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Paul Craig Roberts, Lew Rockwell

[Duchess Note - Sincere and humble apologies to my readers for the long delay in posting any new material, personal news or info onto the Duchess Blog. This lady has been going through a nasty illness revolving around stomach virus, diarrhea, nausea and bronchitis since January 8th. Finally on the slow road to recovery with a few hiccups along the way. Peace, Joy, Truth & Justice!]

by Al Gore at Constitution Hall in Washington DC

Saturday, January 07, 2006


The nation watched with horror as we learned of the 12 deaths in the mine explosion in Tallmansville, W.Va. Our hearts sank with the grief of the miners' families, compounded by the tragically erroneous reports that most of their loved ones had survived. All of our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of these men and to the men and women who worked side by side with them every day. As we watched the tragedy unfold and learned more about the mine, our grief was coupled with anger. We learned the Sago Mine had more than 270 safety violations over the past two years. In the past year alone, the mine was cited nine times for failing to enact a proper mine ventilation plan, a key to preventing fires and explosions in the mine.

Despite a record of violations and injuries much higher than the average for coal mines of similar size, the mine's owner paid just $24,000 in fines in the past two years--with most of the serious violations carrying a penalty of just $247 each--far from enough to force the company to change its practices. Why so little enforcement? As the New York Times put it in an editorial this morning, "the Bush administration's cramming of important posts in the Department of the Interior with biased operatives from the coal, oil and gas industry is not reassuring about general safety in the mines." The administration followed a similar practice at the Mine Safetyand Health Administration (MSHA), the agency responsible for overseeing mine safety, appointing coal industry management officials to key positions, who promoted "cooperation" over enforcement.

What's more, the administration and the Republican-led Congress has cut inspectors and worker safety programs from MSHA at a time when the coal industry is growing and more resources are needed to keep our miners safe. The 2006 budget passed by Congress cuts $4.9 million, after adjusting for inflation, from MSHA's 2005 budget. And we cannot ignore the fact that workers in the Sago Mine did not have a union to back them up when they raised safety concerns. As John Bennett, whose father was killed in themine accident, said on NBC's Today show yesterday:

"We have no protection for our workers. We need to get the United Mine Workers back in these coal mines to protect [against] these safety violations, to protect the workers. Now they got to work in unsafe conditions. That's why we got 12 dead men laying in the morgue right now, along with my father."

When the workers who go down in the coal mines every day have no one to speak for them, when former coal company officials are responsible for enforcing worker safety laws, when companies face only a slap on the wrist for serious, repeated violations that put their workers in grave danger, tragedies like the Sago Mine explosion are inevitable. We must do everything in our power to see safety measures are strongly enforced and workers have a real right to form a union without employer harassment or interference. What happened to these 12 miners is an unspeakable tragedy. The grief of their families is unfathomable. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone touched by this disaster. As mine workers' advocate Mother Jones told us, we must "pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living" to see that this kind of tragedy does not happen again.

Friday, January 06, 2006


Joshua Holland, AlterNet
Why are folks so pessimistic about our boom-boom American economy? Because for most of us, it's painful to live in.

Cliff Schecter, AlterNet
Americans will vote Democrat to protect their privacy – by huge margins, even in red Republican states.

Commentary by Cindy Sheehan

Peter Dale Scott, Pacific News Service
Illegal eavesdropping may have grown from a secret program in the 1980s that planned to suspend the U.S. Constitution in the event of a national emergency.

In PEEK, Evan Derkacz notes a mysterious omission from an NBC transcript, about whether Bush was spying on CNN'S Christiane Amanpour.

[DUCHESS NOTE -- Check out the latest "commentary" over at FRIENDS OF FRIDAY FORUM -- Website listed under "favorite links" in leftside column -- Peace & Justice!]

Jonathan E. Kaplan, The Hill
What do you get when you combine John Ashcroft, Israel,
the South Korean military and Boeing? A troubling weapons deal.

Noam Chomsky, Khaleej Times

Katrina vanden Heuvel, TheNation.com
The corruption doesn't just stem from Abramoff and cronies, but from virtually every level of the Republican-dominated Congress.

Arianna Huffington, AlterNet
Politicians donating Abramoff's dirty money to charity are doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.

Dave Zirin, AlterNet
It's time for the National Football League to take the 'whites-only' sign off the clubhouse door and hire more African-American coaches.

Nonpartisan Congressional Research Group Finds Domestic Spying Illegal Congressional Research Service (CRS) Says Court Would Not Uphold Bush Spying Program
Washington -- On December 18, 2005, Congressman Kucinich requested the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) prepare a memo on the legal authority of the president to conduct electronic surveillance without a warrant. In the conclusion CRS states,

"...it appears unlikely that a court would hold that Congress hasexpressly or impliedly authorized the NSA electronic surveillanceoperations here under discussion, and it would likewise appear that, tothe extent that those surveillances fall within the definition of"electronic surveillance" within the meaning of FISA or any activityregulated under Title III, Congress intended to cover the entire fieldwith these statutes." -CRS Report p. 44

Kucinich issued the following statement on the CRS report:

"The President broke the law. That's the definitive finding of theCongressional Research Service (CRS), nonpartisan experts. Congress didnot authorize the warrantless wiretaps of Americans and the law doesn'tpermit the President to sidestep Congress."


Thursday, January 05, 2006


Thank you for being one of the thousands of imaginal cells working for nonviolent solutions to conflict in our world. [Duchess is proud to be part of the NYC Chapter DoP & the whole DoP campaign.] Thank you for helping to birth a more peaceful world.

Your dedication, your devotion and your determination have energized the Peace Alliance and the campaign for a US Department of Peace and Nonviolence! As 2006 begins, we celebrate our accomplishments in 2005 and look forward to ongoing and new possibilities with resolute hearts. In the past year your enthusiasm and support has made the following possible:

1] Introduction of the Department of Peace and Nonviolence Legislation in the U.S. Senate by Senator Mark Dayton S. 1756, and a reintroduction of the legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Dennis Kucinich HR 3760

2] An increase in congressional support for the legislation with 62 co-sponsors in the House and now 2 in the Senate

3] Over 5,800 emails/faxes written to members of congress through our new online congressional contact system along with many more phone calls, letters and postcards throughout the country

4] Activity in all fifty states plus the District of Columbia and Guam

5] Almost 300 congressional district team leaders [Duchess is DTL in NY's District 12]

6] 28 states with state coordinators

7] An increase in supporters throughout the country, as we continue to make it clear that this is a non-partisan, all-inclusive campaign

8] A city council endorsement campaign with 12 cities now supporting

9] An international presence through participation in the International People's Initiative for Departments of Peace

10] Affiliation with the United Nation's civil society

11] Active strategic partnering with Challenge Day, Center for Nonviolent Communication, United Religions Initiative, Pathways to Peace, Friends of Reconciliation, Peace Action, Chat the Planet, Global Youth Action Network, Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, Association for Global New Thought, World Peace Prayer Society, The Peace Company, Peacethroughart, Opening of the Heart, and other endorsements including Alliance for the New Humanity and other organizational attendees at their annual conference

12] A volunteer national press team comprised of two professionals and one graduate student
Marked increase around the country with press interviews (radio &TV), articles, op-eds and letters to the editor

13] More effective web-based tools for political activism

14] Large increase in traffic to our website, now averaging 1.1 million hits and over 67,000 visitors per month!

15] A successful DC Conference, including a statement of support from Walter Cronkite and others, and a peacepod dedicated to our campaign [Duchess attended this amazing event back in September]

16] A monthly donor campaign that continues to attract new contributors Visit: www.thepeacealliance.org/donate

17] A staff of six paid plus four volunteers and two interns, including a newly expanded intern program.

You have done so much already and there is so much more to do. We know we can count on you. Please continue to call and write your Representative and Senators and encourage them to support a Department of Peace and Nonviolence, HR 3760; S.1756, and if they are already a co-sponsor ask them to ask their colleagues to co-sponsor. Learn more at:

Please become a Peace Alliance Partner: a sustaining monthly donor to the campaign. Visit: www.thepeacealliance.org/donate

Please call three friends and offer them an opportunity to participate in this movement by asking them to contact their representatives and to engage in their community to support this historic campaign. Invite them to be a part of building an infrastructure for peace that will help to create a Culture of Peace for our children and generations to come!

Your participation and your ideas have supported a year of exciting and hopeful forward movement. Click here (or read below) to find information about The Peace Alliance Initiatives for 2006 and beyond. Please share it with your friends, contribute your ideas, and let us hear from you!

There are moments in life when we are presented with the opportunity to choose to participate in something that we know will make a difference regardless of the outcome. This historic campaign presents one of those moments - a moment when all of us can choose to give our energy to an initiative that will surely bend history.

Heartfelt gratitude for all you do. I look forward to our continued cooperation on behalf of the common good. May this New Year bring the realization of a focus on peace-building in all areas of our life together in this country and around the world.

Statement of September 11th Advocates Regarding NSA Surveillance
by The 9/11 "Jersey Girls"

As a group of women whose husbands were killed by terrorists on 9/11, we strongly believe that all available means should be utilized to stop terrorists in their tracks. It is for this reason that we lobbied and fought for the creation of a 9/11 Independent Commission. While fighting for this Commission, we learned that prior to September 11th our intelligence apparatus held all of the puzzle pieces (the proverbial dots) needed to prevent 9/11. The problem was not that we didn't have and use enough of the right tools, but rather that our intelligence community failed to connect the dots and puzzle pieces that it already had.

Therefore, the terrorists were able to achieve their goal by murdering 3,000 innocent people on 9/11. Recently, President Bush has stated that his NSA surveillance program is a tool that was lacking in our government's arsenal prior to 9/11. He repeatedly argues that such a program will prevent another 9/11. Moreover, President Bush justifies his breach of our constitutional laws by arguing that following the FISA law would cause our intelligence community to be too clumsy and slow while dealing with a nimble enemy. Respectfully, we call President Bush's attention to two points of fact that negate his position.

One: Our government intercepted two al Qaeda communications, during routine monitoring, on September 10, 2001 - "tomorrow is zero hour" and "the match begins tomorrow." Unfortunately, those crucial intercepts were reportedly not translated until September 12, 2001. It was certainly not any FISA court issue that delayed such translation. Rather, the delay was ostensibly due to NSA's overwhelming workload created by its voluminous influx of information that needed to be translated and analyzed on a daily basis. Nevertheless, our government was able to routinely and effortlessly gather such sensitive communications well before the 9/11 attacks.

Two: The "need for speed" with regard to eavesdropping on potential terrorists is already built into the FISA court system, as it currently exists. For example, the President can start eavesdropping immediately on anyone he deems it necessary to eavesdrop on and take 72 hours to subsequently ask for a FISA warrant. Moreover, in a time of war, the President is given a full fifteen days to retroactively ask for such a warrant. Thus, why is there any need for the President to circumvent the law?

Additionally, with no formalized FISA court approval, there is no paper trail as to what our government knows and when it knows it. In truth, the FISA court provides an excellent repository that not only provides the necessary "checks and balances" with regard to civil liberties, but it also yields accountability that can be borne out in the days after the next terrorist attack. Such circumvention of our nation's laws by our very own President raises grave concerns.

His action is unfounded, illegal and unnecessary. Moreover, it threatens the very principles of democracy that our military is so courageously defending overseas. Our nation must not, under the guise of national security and protecting citizens, allow any person holding the office of President of the United States to trample the sacred Constitution that this great country was founded on.

Retaining our civil liberties and our cherished democracy in the face of a looming terrorist threat is the only way we will win this "war on terror".

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Saturday, November 19th, I was invited to a friends [fellow Kucitizen] home in Brooklyn to see Robert Greenwalds documentary called "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price". Linda, like many others throughout the US, opened her home for folk to come together and view this important, eye-opening film. It was a good turnout [12+] at Linda's place and I helped out in the kitchen, plus serving pizza and wine. Halfway thru the film we stopped for a brief "refreshment" break and intense discussion on the film itself, plus other topics. Not everyone’s "views" were harmonious, but all had a chance to speak their minds, some more than others. I'm so glad I got to see this film and eventually share the info with a friend who works at one of those crap stores. Passing on or sharing this info is vital in waking up more Americans to what this abusive, greedy, corrupt company is all about. In a message from Don Hazen at AlterNet.

"Every new Wal-Mart store creates a ripple effect; family businesses close up shop, factories shut down, communities get squeezed, and fulfilling careers are turned into nightmare chores. Meanwhile, taxpayers are footing the bill for the healthcare of thousands of Wal-Mart's employees, while the company receives exorbitant tax breaks from the very same communities Wal-Mart will eventually discard. These are blatantly anti-family, anti-American practices. We must demand change from Wal-Mart. This film will be a powerful, emotional, entertaining and visual mechanism designed to jumpstart this effort. Demanding change in the way the company conducts business in the US and across the globe."

On Monday, November 21st, I joined fellow NYC/LOTR fans Jackie and Becca for drinks and dinner at Cosi. This particular Cosi is just south of Union Square. We hung out there once before, back in September, and had a really good time. This time it was busier and couldn't get the table we wanted. So we hung out at the bar until a suitable table was available for us. Jackie had a glass of wine, Becca had water and I had a Cosmopolitan. I hadn't seen them since September and they weren't able to attend my October party. So we had alot of news and gossip to catch up on. And yes, we even talked about LOTRs. [smiling] After sitting at the bar for 45 minutes, we got abit annoyed and reminded the "hostess" we were still waiting for a table. Finally got a table, not in the best "section" in Cosi, but at least it was a friggin table so we could order dinner. Don't recall what I had to eat, but overall the food is pretty decent and prices are average. Very much enjoyed the evening and got home around 11:15pm.

Visited the family for the long Thanksgiving holiday - November 23rd through November 27th. We even got some snow the morning of Turkey Day. Nothing like a fresh snowfall to make everything look so white and pretty. Overall it was a decent holiday weekend. Except for the lower back going out, the 4 hour anxiety attack "late" Saturday evening and having to deal with "certain" relatives. As to the latter ... my sincere and heartfelt apologies to my dear parents, but if I didn't have to deal with "certain" relatives at all things would be, for the most part, sooo sweet. Won't say no more and leave it at that. [Ladies do not air dirty laundry in public.] As to the lower back situation, well, finally found not one but two wonderful message therapists. Amen! The first was at the Wilton Mall in Saratoga Springs and the second [Gloria Collery @ The Right Touch] has a practice in Greenwich, NY. I highly recommend the latter if you live in that area or just passing through. Her office number is 518-692-9798. [When I got back to NYC I also visited my chiropractor.] Not sure what brought on the anxiety attack, but it was one of the worst I have ever had in years. Yeah folks, it was NOT a pleasant experience.

One of the holiday weekend highlights for me was visiting "Over the Moon" bead and gift shop [http://www.overthemoon3.com] in Cambridge, NY. The owners ... Heather & Sara ... are wonderful ladies and so helpful. [They also provide classes on beading.] I love going into their shop for beads and get earring making advice. This year I am creating bead earrings as gifts for friends. It’s an enjoyable, satisfying challenge. As well as being therapeutic. Also working on creating "peace" style earrings for sale at future DoP events. 50% of proceeds will go to NYC DoP. [I believe I mentioned this in a previous "personal news" update.] Also got to catch up on viewing cable TV, since I do not own cable TV in NYC. Love to watch the Food Network, Discovery & History channels, plus there was a James Bond movie marathon on Spike TV. Got to see most of "Goldeneye" with the handsome Sean Bean as bad boy 006/Alex Trevelyan. Sigh!

On Tuesday, January 10th, 2006 at 9:30 a.m. the 18 grannies of the Granny Peace Brigade will appear at Criminal Court [NYC] in connection with their October 17th action at the Times Square Recruiting Center. The Grannies, many of whom have maintained a "Bring the Troops Home" vigil for two years on Fifth Avenue, attempted to enlist but locked doors prevented them from entering the recruiting center, whereupon they sat down on the sidewalk. The police then arrested them and they were put into wagons, handcuffed (in back). Among the eighteen is Molly Klopot, longtime NION supporter and activist for peace and justice issues, who at 86 is not the oldest granny. Another woman is 90.

Come and join with others at their court appearance. Let's demonstrate our support for these courageous women, who already spent jail time when they were booked in October, not to mention their many hours vigilling on Wednesdays for the past two years. Norman Siegel is representing them and the courtroom will be large enough for you to attend. [The Duchess volunteered on the Siegel campaign during the 2005 NYC Public Advocate race. These grannies are being represented by a man who is compassionate and devoted to the people, not corporations nor the Bush Regime.] Mark your calendar:

TIME: 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, January 10th
PLACE: Criminal Court at 100 Centre Street (Leonard is the cross street.)
Plan to come early as security lines are invariably long.For more information: 1-800-95 No War ext.716

On Tuesday, November 29th, I attended my first Ferret Meetup in 2 years. [Didn't want to run into an ex-beau, so I avoided the meetups all together. Yeah, I know, rather silly of me. I was going through a rough patch at that time due to other situations.] The meetup was held at a terrific Avian & Exotic Veterinarian Center on the upper Westside of Manhattan. [Anthony Pilny, DVM at 568 Columbus Avenue in NYC or call 212-501-8750.] I arrived about 5 minutes late or so due to subway troubles and the rainy weather. Didn't know who'd be there or what to expect. So one can imagine my delighted surprise upon entering to see Sharon and Melissa. Hadn't seen Sharon since the October 2003 meetup, but we stayed in touch via email. Melissa I had met at my first ferret meetup back in August 2003, but also saw her two months before [early October 2005] at the Fort Tryon Park Renaissance Faire. Didn't know she’s acquainted with dear Eileen, whom I've known since high school. [Dear blog readers, you may remember me talking about Eileen in a past "Personal News" in connection with a June wedding I attended.] When everyone [8 of us which included the vet & his assistant] had arrived and settled in we partook of a light repast of assorted veggies, chips and wrap sandwiches. The nice couple from NJ brought along their two adorable, but hyper ferrets, plus the vet showed us the spotless facilities and gave a fascinating slide presentation.

On Wednesday, November 30th, our NYC DoP Steering Committee held its first conference call at 9:30pm. Carol hosted it with Marni and me contributing ideas and suggestions. A few essential ideas were we really need to incorporate and develop a media plan. Overall, it was a most productive call.

Friday, December 2nd, I hooked up with my friend Larry for dinner. Met up after work at his place in Chelsea, which is a rather cool, decent neighborhood. Nice penthouse style apartment with views looking south in Manhattan. We had a so-so dinner at a Japanese/Thai restaurant and discussed several topics. [Actually, the chicken with peanut sauce wasn't that bad.] Back at Larry's place he kindly took digital pix of my assorted bead earring creations. Plus put them on a disc for future use and viewing. I headed back to Brooklyn shortly after 10pm.


Traci Hukill, AlterNet
One of the world's leading investment banks concedes there are real financial costs to ignoring the environment -- and they don't intend to get stuck paying them.

Congressman asks marines to declassify report on August killings.
News Channel 5

Commentary by Robert Sheer

Jessica Pupovac, New Standard News
Rather than accept cheap diesel from Venezuela, the city chose to raise commuting costs for low-income residents.

Cesar Chelala, Seattle Times

Katha Pollitt, The Nation
Bush is on the defensive. The GOP is mired in corruption. The media are waking up. Here are 14 good things that happened in 2005.

Helen Thomas, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Jodie Janella Horn, PopMatters
A new book explores the societal and financial reasons that today's twenty and thirtysomethings are finding it nearly impossible to stay afloat.

Sunday, January 01, 2006


The year 2005 has been extraordinary for the Department of Peace Campaign. Locally, nationally and internationally we are making great strides. In NYC we started just 2 years ago with only 2 and 3 fully committed people and now we are holding regular monthly meetings with 12 to 17 dedicated members. [Photo below taken in October 2005 of NYC DoP Chair & Vice Chair at Brooklyn Peace Fair]

We marched in parades, spoke at events, handed out literature, provided programs and workshops throughout New York City and reached more than 5000 people. We provided training to 60 individuals and brought 20 citizens to the National Conference in DC where we lobbied our members of Congress.

We are growing stronger day by day. Nationally the number of Congressional co-sponsors grew from 44 to 64 with a Senate version introduced this past September. Internationally, the movement held its first international summit in the UK in October this past year. We have much to celebrate and so much to look forward to.

Gandhi said that his work with nonviolence was the equivalent to Edison's discovery of electricity, and that future generations would surely refine it. And so it has been and continues to be. The book, A FORCE MORE POWERFUL, reminds us that the great majority of men and women who gather to attend the United Nations General Assembly are........

"democratically elected presidents and prime ministers. Had such a meeting been held one hundred years before, all but a few would have been kings, emperors, generals or other rulers who reached power by violent force or dynastic inheritance. This was the most important political change that the twentieth century wrought and it would not have come to pass without the actions of ordinary people who defied oppressive rulers though nonviolent power rather than by force of arms."

Across the globe the use and success of nonviolence has been truly breathtaking; from Thoreau to Tolstoy to Gandhi, to the Suffrage movement, to the Indian revolution, to the US Civil Rights movement, to the end of Apartheid, to the Polish Solidarity Movement, to La Madres - the Argentinian Mothers who marched for "the Disappeared", to the overthrow of Marcos, and the overthrow of Milosovec; these are but some of nonviolent campaigns waged by ordinary citizens that succeeded in the past 100 years. When we look beyond daily headlines to this rich history, the truth is overwhelming. Nonviolence works and continues to spread.

We are privileged to be part of a growing legacy that is shaping a better world and establishing a culture of peace. Keep the faith, stay active and celebrate who you are and what we are creating together!


Commentary by Ralph Nader

The president is badly wounded but that might not be good for anyone in 2006.
Andrew Gumbel, Los Angeles CityBeat

Both claimed that a president may violate congress' laws to protect national security.
John Dean, FindLaw