Thursday, February 26, 2009

Obama's Props
Lenin's Tomb weblog

The rave reviews from Amreekan liberals of Obama's speech to Congress compelled me to watch it, or as much of it as I could without sinking into a grinning stupor. Was it really "electrifying"? Well, of course it was. It was supposed to be. But was it Obama who was electrifying? Wasn't it just the atmosphere whipped up by lapdogs in Congress who insisted upon raising up on their hind legs and slapping their paws together at the blandest incitement to do so?

Obama did what he was expected to do: he conversed as if he might be the father you never had, was courteous to his opponents, smiled charmingly, spoke in coy yet apparently effusive language, and denounced the past (the past is very unpopular among American politicians, especially concerning "the stale ideas of", "the failed solutions of", "the broken promises of" etc). And he had very carefully phrased, and timed, moments in his speech that clearly instructed his supporters to holler and rave. And that was what was electrifying.

Trying to extract content from the speech, on the other hand, was like trying to suck blood from a stone (where, in all likelihood, the only blood you taste will be your own). And even Obama's performance, though obviously well-rehearsed, contained a few slips. Not that Obama lacks a sense of dramatic irony. Promising to have his stimulus/bailout package sternly overseen by the vainglorious waffler Joe Biden, he flourished: "because nobody messes with Joe". Joe, the banking industry's favourite gopher, giggled with delight, as red in cheek as he was white in mane and fangs. If Congress got the joke, that didn't stop them from giving it up once more.

In a parallel fashion, when he promised that the banks would really be very roughly scrutinised indeed, he remarked: "this time, they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer. This time, CEOs won't be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet." Another ungovernable ovation. This cassandra was driving the chorus to delirium. But was Obama ever a cassandra? Did he not, in fact, put his popularity at the service of Wall Street and Hanky Panky Paulson in helping push through the last bail-out? You know, the one that enabled CEOs everywhere to replace their dreary old drapes with lush new ones made of crushed velvet or, worse, velour? Where were his forebodings about the fucking executive curtains?

And again, when it came to reforming healthcare, he subtly juxtaposed it with a coded reference to social security privatization. The administration has just had to back down from plans to create a task force looking at ways to address the supposed solvency problems of the fund. In fact, Obama is lying when he complains of the 'growing costs' of social security. The number of over-65s in 2000 was slightly less than what it was projected it would be by the Roosevelt administration in 1934. Notwithstanding that, Alan Greenspan's ominous warnings about baby-boomers flooding the social security rolls come the new millenium did result in a series of reforms in the 1970s that increased the payroll tax. The system has a surplus, and will continue to have a surplus for decades. There is no solvency crisis. Obama is, to repeat for emphasis, lying. It is unfortunate for him that these fibs were trashed by liberals in 2005 when Bush first tried to push through privatization. On the other hand, if his progressive supporters continue to gush and drool as they are now doing, he could probably hand over the Treasury to Wall Street and no one would hold it against him.

Perhaps Obama's biggest challenge in this speech was to determine the correct quantum of patriotic blood-letting. Most Americans oppose both the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. The vast majority of Democratic voters are in opposition. Obama, for his part, indicated that he was working on a plan to get US troops out and leave Iraqis to their own devices, which would be encouraging except that reports intimate his intention to leave tens of thousands of troops in there. And as for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the war counsel is evidently that the US must escalate to "defeat Al Qaeda and combat extremism". Unfortunately for him, Pakistan isn't playing ball, having cut a deal with the Taliban. And, as we know, Karzai and most of the population of Afghanistan would like to pursue a similar policy. Hardly perfect, I'm sure, but then you don't necessarily "combat extremism" by practising it from 20,000 feet, even if you sell it as "carnage you can believe in".

Still, Obama had more than one audience to please, and on this question he has consistently chosen to place his presidential charisma at the service of the war party. And, though he has thankfully ordered the closure of that Guantanamo hellhole, the fact that he insists it is a humane institution should cast some doubt on his statement that "the United States of America does not torture". This is being treated as a promise, but it sounds like denial. In fact, it is the exact wording Bush used in his denials, while the US was in fact torturing prodigiously. And given that renditions will continue, and that most of the secret prisons are being maintained, there is no reason to believe that the global gulag will stop mutilating genitals, much less waterboarding.

Oh, by all means, have the Obama jerk-along. He's a sweet enough guy and if you had to do it with a US president, he'd be the pick of the litter. Better, at any rate, than fishing around under Bill Clinton's flabby mid-riff for a mouth organ. But when it comes to politics? When it comes to your interests, I would suggest and urge a more dispassionate approach.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Keep People in Their Homes, the Banks Will Get Their Money as Well
Congressman Kucinich Press Release on 2/11/09

An Excellent Discussion with Dennis Kucinich on why Congress has Trouble Carrying out the People’s Wishes and What the People can do to Change Things.

US Senate Passes Rescue Plan, Tough Battle Ahead

Who Will Be There for Obusha When the Floor Drops Out?
David Michael Green

Stimulate Peace, Not War
Anne Miller

Who’s Keeping Burger King Workers Below the Poverty Line?
Robert Greenwald, Brave New Films
Goldman Sachs has been having it their way with Burger King workers for too long.

War Criminals, Including Their Lawyers, Must Be Prosecuted
Marjorie Cohn

Demagogy and Empty Promises as Obama Signs Stimulus Bill
Patrick Martin, World Socialist website

Investigating Bush's Crimes
Scott Horton

U.S. Intel Chief’s Shocking Warning: Wall Street’s Disaster has Spawned our Greatest Terrorist Threat
Chris Hedges, Truthdig

Obama's Tar Sand Trap
James Hansen

Our Health Care System is Organized for the Wealthy – We Can Change That
Maggie Mahar, AlterNet
We are accustomed to living in a sharply tiered society, but it doesn’t have to be that way with health care.

Obama Throws Down The Gauntlet On Afghanistan Troop Escalation- The Anti-War Movement Is Now On Notice
“American Left History” Weblog Commentary
Okay, the Obama “honeymoon” with the anti-imperialist section of the anti-war movement is officially over, or it should be. Any regular reader of this space knows that this writer had not, in any case, granted the new Commander-In-Chief any such “honeymoon” as a matter of course due the extreme distance in our respective political perspectives, but today he speaks to those who took Obama’s anti-war positions as good coin during last years run up to the presidential elections. Those who still want to give “Brother” Obama some additional 'quality' honeymoon time can wait until future events unfold on the slippery slope for those who venture in that god-forsaken part of the world.

And to those serious anti-war militants I will be short ands sweet as we have been down this road before. The news that Obama has given authorization for an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan is really old news. That Obama intended to make Afghanistan his war has been an ‘open’ secret for a while. What is interesting about this recent announcement is that the actual forces (mainly Marine and Army units) to be deployed later this year were originally scheduled to take a rotation in Iraq. Thus, by a rather nice sleigh-of- hand on his part Obama is able to draw down troops in Iraq and escalate their number in Afghanistan. Nice work. But again, if you had been paying even casual attention, this deployment was already laid out in last year’ campaign rhetoric. Here is one time at least that a bourgeois politician dose what he says he wants to do.

But that is neither here nor there for our purposes. Only a raw political neophyte would be shocked by such maneuvering. What is necessary to understand, even for those just mentioned political neophytes, is that this should be a wake up call for those who thought that Obama was going to dismantle the imperial war machine, turn swords in ploughshares or some such. You now have your notice. I will finish up by reposting a recent entry (Vote NO (With Both Hands) On The Obama Afghan War Budget):

“….. President Obama has already authorized an ‘intermediate’ troop escalation with more planned. He, moreover, has very publicly declared that Afghanistan, come hell or high water, is his signature war and has made Afghan policy a high priority. I have argued previously my belief that Obama intends to stake his administration, if not his place in history, on Afghanistan. In short, although he has proven he can raise fantastic sums of money for himself, since he is not going to pay for it personally he is coming to you looking for the loot. As the beginning of anti-war political wisdom therefore-“just say NO”. No money. Nada. I would urge every anti-war militant to sent e-mails, letters (does anyone do that anymore?) or call your representative and tell them the same thing. But here is the real anti-war ‘skinny’. Let’s get ready to, once again, go back into the streets and shout (and shout at least as loudly as we did at the unlamented Bush), Obama- Immediate Unconditional Withdrawal Of All American/Allied Troops From Afghanistan!”

Corporate America, Ground Your Jets
Barbara Ehrenreich & Chuck Collins, AlterNet
The American taxpayer, reeling from the economic meltdown, doesn’t feel like subsidizing lavish jets and bonuses any more.

Plans to Publish Early Tolkien Adventure
Dave Itzkoff, NY Times
February 19, 2009

There will be much celebrating around the Party Tree in Hobbiton: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt said in an e-mail message that it planned to release a previously unpublished book by J. R. R. Tolkien that predates his novel “The Hobbit” and his fantasy epic “The Lord of the Rings.” The book, “The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun,” was written during the 1920s and ’30s, while Tolkien held the Rawlinson and Bosworth professorship of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University. It is his English-language narrative of the Norse hero Sigurd the Volsung, whose medieval adventures were — of course — populated by magic horses, dwarfs, dragons and gods with mischievous motives. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt said that it would publish the book, with commentary from Tolkien’s son Christopher Tolkien, on May 5.

Visit The Northeast Tolkien Society at:

(Duchess Note: Many thanks to Carol [NYC] and Linda [TX] in contributing some of the above articles, as well as sharing insightful commentary of their own. All is greatly appreciated. The real reason for continuing the war in Afghanistan hasn't much to do with terrorism, but alot to do with oil pipelines. Again, corporate elite and oil companies are pushing the agenda on this and all for oil/land control. Civilian and soldier lives are being lost and maimed, so that the "elite" can bath in greenbacks, while the rest of us sink further into a deep recession. Let's call it what it really is ... a depression.)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

New Yorkers for a Dept of Peace present the first "Speaker Event" of 2009 - Tuesay Feb, 17th, at 6:30 pm

Join NYDoP on Tuesday, Feb 17th at 6:30 pm for our first Speaker event featuring Liz Graydon.

Liz will be speaking on the topic, "What Better Looks Like: A Department of Peace." The "What Better Looks Like Campaign", through films, Public Service Announcements, Education Programs, and other creative projects offers scenarios that open a dialougue into the question "What would better look like?"

We invite people, through us and with each other, to dialogue about the question, and seek positive answers. After leading participants through a "What Better Looks Like" exercise, Liz will show how the Department of Peace Campaign has helped her find the answer to "What Better Looks Like" in her own life. She will explain the main components of the bill to create a Cabinet-level Department of Peace, in the areas of domestic, international, and educational policy. Then, through stories and examples, Liz will make the bill come alive as a series of practical, possible, exciting and necessary steps on the way to creating, "What Better Looks Like".

Liz Gannon-Graydon is a New York State coordinator for the Campaign for a Department of Peace, a national campaign to establish a federal, cabinet level Department of Peace.

Space is limited, please RSVP to

Please arrive by 6:25pm to be sure to ensure a seat. This event is by donation (please give what you can to help support our efforts)

Location: Healthy Body
NYC1133 Broadway (at 26th Street)
Room 1023

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


[Duchess Note – Sincere apologies for the long delay with “personal news” and that it’ll be in a condensed version. Enjoy!]

Monday, December 22nd, I enjoyed a tasty holiday lunch with EY co-workers Keith and Lily at Jacks, which is off of 7th Avenue.

Tuesday, December 23rd, Dee and I did volunteering at the St Luke’s Lutheran church “soup kitchen”.

December 24th through 27th – I visited my parents, brother and sister-in-law for the Christmas holiday in upstate NY.

Friday evening, January 2nd, I enjoyed a nice, leisurely dinner with Jackie at Fiddlesticks pub in Greenwich Village.

Saturday, January 3rd, after my chiropractor visit I headed into Manhattan for a NYDoP working meeting at Carol’s place with Marianne and Priscilla. Afterwards I headed home to do laundry and change into nicer clothes for dinner/drinks with members of the Northeast Tolkien Society at the Pig ‘n Whistle pub. We were celebrating the birthday of Professor Tolkien with a toast and then afterwards strolled over to Rockefeller Center to observe the holiday décor.

Sunday, January 4th, I went to the Unitarian Community Church on East 35th Street to see the documentary “Invisible War”, which was regarding Depleted Uranium in warfare. Afterwards I headed back up to Carol’s place [Marianne joined us] for a follow-up working meeting.

Tuesday evening, January 6th, I joined other members from NYDoP CCR committee on a conference call to discuss upcoming Community Board meeting presentations. Very productive conference call and feeling inspired.

On Thursday, January 8th, I learned that I would no longer be supporting FSO Insurance Tax at E&Y. Plus the upcoming move would also incorporate a “new” group, not only here in NYC, but with all E&Y offices around the US. That group is known as the “Business Services Center”, or what I and other EAs refer to as the new “secretarial pool”. So I’m being moved into the BSC, along with 10 others at our NYC office. Amidst all this there were more E&Y layoffs here in NYC and throughout the other US offices. Unsettling is one way to describe one’s feelings at this time, as well as jittery.

Friday evening, January 9th, I joined other ladies at “Friday Nite Knits” in Fort Hamilton section of Brooklyn.

Monday evening, January 12th, I joined Kevin and Howard at the Community Board Manhattan #6 “public safety” meeting on the eastside. Kevin gave a brief presentation, and then this was followed by a 40 minute Q&A segment.

Following evening, January 13th, was the NYDoP board “business” meeting held at Healthy Body. The meeting was very productive and successful, plus it’s always a pleasure seeing other NYDoP members.

Thursday, January 15th, was a busy day at work with meetings, being moved to a new floor and then attending Community Board Manhattan #9 meeting with Kevin on upper Westside. Kevin gave a presentation on DoP and this was followed by a brief Q&A segment. We also ran into Matt from Councilmember Dickens office and had a brief, informative discussion.

Saturday afternoon, January 17th, I headed up to Yonkers ferret shelter to help Joanne with volunteer duties. Hadn’t been to the shelter since April 2008 and it felt good to be with the wee furkids again, plus catch up on news with Joanne.

Wednesday, January 21st, watched the 2-hour season premiere of LOST. WooHoo!

Thursday evening, January 22nd, I joined other “Park Slope knit” ladies at Sweet Melissa’s. It was an enjoyable evening and interesting conversations.

Friday evening, January 23rd, my living room window was cracked by an icy snowball thrown by a group of 10 kids. Apparently these youthful “gangs” do this sort of thing randomly. I’ve lived at this location for 23 years and this is the first vandalism to my abode. I hope it’s the last! Called my landlady and she came over with clear plastic, duck tape and cardboard to cover up the window. I also phoned the local police and they came by to view the scene, plus write up a report. All this is abit unsettling, to say the least.

Sunday, January 25th, I attended a “transitional meditation” [ie: Share International] meeting on the upper Westside. I was invited by fellow goddess Cielito.

Monday, January 26th, I took a personal day from work, so I could be at home to supervise the living room window is properly repaired, and that no one broke in to my abode. Feels good not having chilly drafts whipping into my home. Amen!

Tuesday evening, January 27th, I joined other members from NYDoP CCR committee on a conference call to discuss upcoming Community Board meeting presentations. Very productive conference call and feeling inspired.

Saturday, January 31st, I joined about 8 to 10 other members of TGTSNBN for brunch at TOAST on the upper Westside. Due to the freezing temps, brisk winds and icy conditions on the Quidditch pitch, the game has been postponed until February.

Feb 3rd through 5th … Worked at a client site with another BSC member for three days on a project.

Saturday, February 7th, evening was “movie night” at my friend Linda’s home. We had a tasty meal of tuna casserole, mango juice and chocolate chip cookies. We watched “Lady Hawke” and “Yes”, both of which were really good films.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


The Pseudo Stimulus
James S. Henry, The Nation

Kucinich on Lou Dobbs Show about Citigroup Sponsorship of NY Mets Field – On CNN’s Lou Dobbs Show, Dennis Kucinich says Citygroup [a recipient of federal bailout funds] should drop its $400 million sponsorship deal of the NY Mets field.

Kucinich Reintroduces Dept of Peace Bill with 62 Co-Sponsors

Barack Obama’s Not-So Non-Ideological Inaugural Address
Paul Street, Black Agenda Report

Obama Preserves Renditions as Counter-Terrorism Tool
Greg Miller, LA Times,0,4661244.story

Pearl Jam Pumped up to Hit the Studio
Jonathan Cohen, Billboard

[Duchess Note: Many thanks to Linda (TX), Carol (NYC) and Andrea (NJ) in sharing many of the above articles. I am also so excited to learn that Pearl Jam is working on a new album and even more jazzed that Kucinich re-introduced HR808 into Congress. To learn more about the latter and attend the upcoming 5th Annual Peace Conference in DC, go to ]