Against War would like a word with its junior senator
a member of Women Against War about the group’s hope to meet
with Sen. Hillary Clinton, and you will be politely but firmly
framing it always that we would like her to meet with
us,” said member Maureen Aumand, a librarian from Colonie.
Aumand and her colleagues in Women Against War—a coalition
of antiwar women in the Capital Region—would like to present
Clinton with what they consider the growing body of evidence
about the harmful effects of the war on the Iraqi citizenry
and economy. They want to urge her to take a stance against
the U.S. occupation. They say they would just like her to
listen to their comments.
They could be waiting a while. They aren’t quite to the point
of producing the Capital Region’s version of Roger &
Me, in which filmmaker Michael Moore chronicles his constantly
thwarted efforts to connect with the one-time president of
General Motors. But the senator and her staff have so far
dodged any meetings with Women Against War, and Clinton’s
avoidance has, if anything, made the group all the more determined
to get Clinton’s notice.
know that it’s complex, but we want her to hear this perspective,”
In the latest almost-encounter, Tracey Brooks—Clinton’s regional
representative for Albany—agreed to attend a meeting of Women
Against War. “Tracey Brooks, plans to join us on June 2 to
gain a sense of what sets WAW apart as a group of possible
help to the Senator . . . Tracey will not speak. . .” read
the group’s meeting announcement to its members. Two days
before the June 2 meeting, however, Brooks sent an e-mail
to organizers telling them that a schedule change would prevent
her from attending.
The 19 women who showed up expecting to speak with Brooks
were not easily deterred. They had already procured a video
camera to record the meeting, so they decided to record individual
messages to Clinton about the war and send the tape to her.
One by one, 13 of the 19 women at the meeting sat in front
of the camera, introduced themselves, and talked. Most of
them directed their remarks to Clinton, expressing horror
at the daily violence in Iraq and appealing to her in simple,
unrehearsed statements to be more responsive to groups who
object to the U.S. occupation there. Several alluded to Clinton’s
status as a mother and a woman in asking her to be more responsive
to antiwar groups and in explaining their focus on her.
message to you is that we are only a few of the many, many
who feel this way,” said member Mabel Leon.
you truly think that it takes a village to raise a child,
what do you think that we’re teaching our children now?” Jeanne
Finley asked Clinton.
Clinton and Sen. Charles Schumer, as well as 20 of New York’s
31 members of the House of Representatives, supported the
resolution in October 2002 that authorized President Bush
to use military force in Iraq against former dictator Saddam
Hussein. Since then, Clinton has criticized both the way Bush
conducted the invasion and the administration’s lack of preparation
for the insurgency that followed, but she has stood by her
vote and since stated that the United States needs to send
more troops, and has never aligned herself with the antiwar
Nina Blackwell, Clinton’s spokeswoman in New York City, returned
an initial call from Metroland after the meeting to
obtain details about the videotape, with a promise that a
comment from Clinton’s office would be forthcoming. She did
not reply to repeated subsequent messages seeking the promised
The ongoing effort to get Clinton to meet with Women Against
War is just one of many projects the group has undertaken
since forming in December 2002. In the group’s inaugural event,
dozens of women dressed in black gathered in the well of the
Legislative Office Building to protest the imminent United
States invasion of Iraq. They then started a three-month protest
in the Women’s Building in Albany, in which volunteers from
the group rotated fasting for 24 hours at a time throughout
the three months.
Since then, Women Against War has organized talks about the
war, participated in larger antiwar protests, and held solidarity
events with Muslim women in the Capital Region. Last February,
several dozen members of Women Against War gathered outside
of the Desmond Hotel and Conference Center, where Clinton
was appearing at a function, and appealed to her to acknowledge
them. (She did not.)
Most recently, the group has organized a public forum on the
effects of the war on public health in Iraq, which will take
place today (June 9) at Albany Medical College. The program
is co-sponsored by a number of public-health organizations
and social-justice groups in the Capital Region, and will
feature talks by Richard Garfield, who helped write a widely
publicized report on the estimated number of civilian deaths
in Iraq during the war, and Cathy Breen, a nurse and activist
who has visited Iraq a number of times to gather information
on public health issues there during the occupation.
All this, even though Women Against War has never elected
officers or a governing board, has never registered for nonprofit
status and has operated on bare-bones funding, usually raising
just enough money for each event it sponsors through outside
donations and contributions from its own members. The original
group of about 20 women now stands at about 200 on an e-mail
list. Monthly meetings usually draw at least a couple dozen
actually is a wonderful organization, in its ability to keep
generating projects and a presence in the community, with
what we call a shared mothering of projects,” said founding
member Maud Easter.
For now, Women Against War plans to continue participating
in and organizing events in the Capital Region. Easter said
the members can’t imagine disbanding before the U.S. occupation
in Iraq is over, and they see a continued role if the U.S.
policy in Iraq expands to other parts of the world.
In the meantime, that videotape is heading to Clinton.
Said Aumand, “We’re really serious in our goal of wanting
to talk to her.”
Couldn’t Have Happened to a Wealthier Guy
Microsoft founder Bill Gates was denied a meeting
with Brazil’s president to discuss the country’s
recent switch from Microsoft products to open-source
Linux technology. In switching to the more inexpensive
and modification-friendly technology, the country
has been able to wire everything from its major
cities to outlying shantytowns, and Brazilian
diplomats have begun encouraging other developing
countries to make a similar change.
Are We Surprised?
New York state lawmakers should put graduation
plans on hold, at least according to the Interim
Report Card on Reform issued by a coalition
of good government groups. Of the 10 areas in
which lawmakers were graded, including lobbying,
ethics, and campaign-finance reform, the state
received an “incomplete” in eight, which will
be converted to F’s if lawmakers are unable to
reach an agreement before the legislative session’s
conclusion on June 23.
But I Want a Parking Spot Now, Daddy!
At Monday’s meeting of the Albany Common Council,
members voted unanimously to ask the state Legislature
to reserve around 3,000 of the 9,000 curbside
parking spots within a mile of the Empire State
Plaza for local residents. The two major state
employees’ unions, the Civil Service Employees
Association and the Public Employees Federation,
said that, as usual, they would oppose the proposed
two-year trial system. The unions wouldn’t specify
how many parking spots their members actually
need or what (if any) compromise they’d be willing
to consider, leading councilman James Scalzo to
say the unions don’t care about local residents.
Yellow Ribbons and Confused People
Schenectady City Council member Joseph Allen recently
said he doesn’t think Muslim clerics invited to
perform the opening prayer for the council’s meetings
should be allowed to address the council about
religion- or war-related issues during the public-comment
period. The councilman added that he believes
the United States is fighting a war against Islam,
not international terrorists, echoing the sentiment
of Karen Maioriello, a Scotia woman who criticized
the council two weeks ago for allowing Islamic
opening prayers. The city’s other council members
have offered little criticism of Allen’s remarks.
nature intended: Kate Maunz and her son Dorje in Hooters.
You Like to See the Kids’ Menu?
moms from the region gather for a chat about nursing—in an
of seven women, four with nursing babies, were cheerful, but
a just a tad uncomfortable. After all, most of them had never
been in a Hooters before. “I knew about the tops, but I hadn’t
heard about the bottoms . . .” one said, shaking her head
as a round of chicken caesar salads arrived.
last Wednesday (June 1) at dinnertime, was inspired by today’s
signing at the Book House by Barbara L. Behrmann, author of
The Breastfeeding Café. Behrmann compiled the book,
which is based on first-person stories of hundreds of mothers,
after her own difficult experience starting to breastfeed.
“Parenting books and magazines are quick to give advice and
information but sometimes what women need most is support,
understanding and a window into the day-to-day reality of
nursing and nurturing our children,” she writes, advocating
that nursing mothers seek out others to share their stories
most part the stories shared at the Crossgates Mall Hooters
were positive. Unlike previous generations when breastfeeding
was less common, these mothers had experienced little negative
reaction to breastfeeding in public, though one’s sister had
recently been told at a restaurant to go nurse in the bathroom.
(“Not until I see you eating your lunch in the bathroom,”
was her reply.)
Maunz, of Albany, said that it was sad that the most distressed
looks she gets when nursing in public tend to be from adolescent
girls. Megan Schmidt-Root, also of Albany, added that she
often has to explain what she’s doing to young kids who have
never seen breastfeeding. Many told of in-laws or grandparents
getting impatient for them to wean kids older than six months.
the country’s attitude toward breastfeeding has improved markedly,
there’s a ways to go in many circles. It was only 2002 when
a Peruvian couple in Texas were arrested for child pornography
because they had taken a picture of their child breastfeeding.
Though the charges were dropped, it took them five months
to get their children back.
a discussion like this in a Hooters was an idea that had been
rattling around Betsy Mercogliano’s head for a long time.
Mercogliano, an Albany midwife whose kids are grown, said
she “just wanted to know what it would feel like.”
show them what boobs are made for,” joked Mary Maley, of Glens
Falls, who sported a T-shirt that said “Would you like to
see the kid’s menu?” “We feel our breastfeeding rate is so
low partly because kids aren’t taught it’s natural,” she added,
saying that the oversexualization of breasts made them seem
to be only about sexuality.
group comes back, Maley said she might make a “Breastfeeding—the
real Hooters experience” shirt.
about ‘My kid doesn’t like bottles, he prefers jugs’?” chimed
in Andria Wagner of North Greenbush.
the rates of breastfeeding have been rising steadily in the
United States for decades, they still lag far behind most
other industrialized nations and target rates set by national
health organizations. Only roughly 20 percent of mothers are
still breastfeeding at six months. These rates concern health
officials because breastfeeding strengthens’ children’s immune
systems and substantially lowers their risks for many health
problems—from ear infections to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
the hostesses looked a little bemused as the group first settled
in, Hooters was basically welcoming. The servers brought high
chairs, cooed over the babies, and made no fuss when the nursing
did point out that when she visited with Maunz a few days
earlier to scope out whether the group could expect any problems,
their server kept asking if Maunz’s nursing son wanted any
juice or cereal, and had to be repeatedly told that he was
getting all the nutrition he needed. It was well-intentioned,
she said, but emblematic of some of the misunderstandings
that still abound.
the Peace and Justice
together: between workshops at the Northeast Peace and
Justice Action Conference.
Neighbors for Peace reaches out to fellow activists
weekend, the Sage Colleges of Albany campus center played
host to the first Northeast Peace and Justice Action Conference.
About 175 people in shirts plastered with slogans like “Give
Peace a Chance” and “Big campaign contributions are big bribes”
filled up the auditorium.
The conference, which was endorsed by 20 New York groups including
the Dutchess Greens, Women Against War and the Saratoga Peace
Alliance, was attended by members of more than 30 peace organizations.
Attendees separated into discussion workshops on topics from
clean elections to nonviolence training to opposing selective
The most striking feature of the event was that it was organized
by a member of a local peace organization that was itself
born in a town in which the government had been under Republican
control for the past 100 years. “It started as a few of us
meeting in the Perfect Blend coffee house on the four corners
in Delmar,” said Joe Lombardo, founding member of the Bethlehem
Neighbors for Peace and organizer of the conference. According
to Lombardo, the group officially took shape the January before
the start of the Iraq war. “We had 130 people turn out for
a vigil the very next week.”
just came out of the woodwork,” said Sandra Sprinkling, BNP
member. In the November 2003 elections, Bethlehem was swept
by what seems to be a new liberal majority, that put Democrats
in control of the town for the first time in 100 years. Since
its start, BNP has held weekly vigils, hosted speakers such
as Kathy Kelly of Voices in the Wilderness and former weapons
inspector Scott Ritter, started a high-school organization
for teenagers who oppose the war and petitioned the Bethlehem
town government to pass a resolution against the Patriot Act.
The group currently has a paper membership of over 500 people.
After what its membership certainly saw as a disappointing
outcome in November’s elections, some expected interest to
fall off, but that didn’t happen. “We actually had a spike
of interest in January. Some of the older people who are with
us and have been doing this for a long time have slowed down,
but we have seen a spike in new people who are just getting
active,” said Lombardo.
It helps, perhaps, that the group avoided the split a lot
of activist organizations faced after choosing a candidate
to support. “We have long-term focus. One of the reasons we
didn’t see the fracturing other groups have is that we established
there would be no endorsements to start with,” said Lombardo.
“We said if you want to back a candidate, go ahead. Get involved.”
University at Albany Professor Lawrence Wittner, who led a
workshop on abolishing nuclear arms, says upstate New York
is unique in the number of activist groups it is home to.
This can lead to overlap. According to the Northeast Peace
and Justice Action Coalition motivation statement, crafted
by Lombardo, the purpose of the conference was to link peace
and justice organizations in the area. Instead of having each
group invest individually in committees to deal with issues
such as depleted uranium or recruiters in schools, the idea
was to instead form larger coalitions and to pool resources.
Coalition building isn’t always easy work. The nine participants
in the workshop on clean elections, who sat around a long
rectanglar table with notes in front of them, used much of
their time clamoring to be heard, giving long diatribes on
their pet topics and speaking out of turn. Each member made
it clear that they thought no other issue could be dealt with
properly until there are clean elections, but it was also
clear none of them had enough time to deal with such a large
issue themselves. However, early on Monday morning members
of the group did begin e-mailing each other to continue their
Twenty-three-year-old Peter LaVenia, the chair of the Albany
County Green Party, led a workshop on how to run your own
campaign that was one of the few workshops attended by many
younger activists. His workshop featured some of the most
open dialogue of the day. Participants lounged in a study
area near windows as they listened to LaVenia’s advice. They
shot ideas back and forth in an open atmosphere. Some participants
discussed ways to run an efficient independent campaign; others
discussed which candidates to support.
Most workshops of the day ended with members asking what more
they could do, whose attention they could get, which congress
member they could write to. Some group leaders handed out
sign up sheets, and e-mail lists. Others suggested marches
to attend. Whether the interactions of the region’s various
peace groups will be lastingly changed remains to be seen.
the workshops did have some 20- to 30-somethings in attendance,
most of them were attended by middle-age white men and women.
The lack of a youth presence was one of the only disappointments
of the day for Lombardo, who had hoped his group’s offshoot
in Bethlehem High School would motivate more youth to attend
But according to Sprinkling, the lack of high-school age youth
was not that alarming, since, she reported, “the Bethlehem
junior and senior proms are this weekend.”
Patel has opened the doors of his new independent
pharmacy [“A Dose of Suburbia,” Sept. 23, 2004],
Crestwood Pharmacy, in the former Crestwood
Market on Picotte Drive in Albany. Patel, who
has been working at Lincoln Pharmacy on Morton
Avenue, says independent pharmacies have the flexibility
to provide a personal connection that the chains
can’t maintain. . . . Jeffrey Metcalfe,
the Albany police officer who was convicted of
overtime fraud last year [“Who’s Policing the
Police?” May 5], was sentenced to six months in
jail last week by County Judge Stephen W. Herrick.
Herrick chastised Metcalfe for calling the charges
“my mistake.” “This isn’t a mistake,” he said.
“Thirty incidents are alleged in this indictment.”
. . . Save the Ballet dissolved last Thursday,
donating $37,000 it had raised to the Saratoga
Performing Arts Center. The activist group formed
last year after SPAC said it would not continue
the New York City Ballet’s summer residencies
[“Don’t Stop the Dance,” Art Murmur, March 11,
2004]. After much controversy over financial practices,
the whole board and the executive director of
SPAC resigned. . . . Emergency services for Union
College cost Schenectady more than $500,000
last year, according to Mayor Brian Stratton.
Stratton recently renewed his call [“Find Me the
Money,” Newsfront, Aug. 26, 2004] for the tax-exempt
college—one of Schenectady’s largest property
owners—to kick in some money to defray city expenses,
in this case via a specific public-safety fee.
. . . The New York Jets will not get their new
stadium in Manhattan, as the state Public Authorities
Control Board rejected a plan that would earmark
$300 million in public funding for the $2 billion
West Side Stadium project. Controversy
has surrounded the project since it was first
proposed [“Fourth and Goal for $300 Million,”
What a Week, May 19], with wealthy investors promising
financial success but calling for significant
financial support from the state’s taxpayers.
With the project’s dismissal, New York City becomes
a less-likely host for the 2012 Olympics.