recruit: a “grandmother for peace” at the Colonie Center
Mall armed forces recruiting station.
grandmothers attempt to enlist in the military
led a full and reward- ing life; take me instead!” read a
line from Barbara Cooley’s personal statement. She and about
a dozen other grandmothers gathered in front of the military
recruitment offices inside Colonie Center Mall at 4:30 PM
on Tuesday, and tried to enlist in the armed forces.
young Americans who are returning home in coffins will never
have a chance to pursue their dreams, to experience life and
love,” said Trudy Quaif, another grandmother, in her statement.
Some grandmothers wore big red heart-shaped signs around their
necks, with pictures of their kids or grandkids, to emphasize
their point. About 25 non-grandmother supporters sang songs
like “My Country ’Tis of Thee.” A small number of people passing
through the crowd as they exited the mall paused and looked
amused, but did not stop to listen.
Valentine’s Day was the enlistment date of choice because
the day represents love, and because of its custom of giving
gifts to loved ones. Similar “Grannies for Peace” demonstrations
were held in at least a dozen cities around the country, partially
in support of the “Granny Jailbirds” from New York City who
were arrested while attempting to enlist last fall.
recruiters refused to speak with the grandmothers and remained
inside their office. Mall security and Colonie Police were
called, and the protest ended 20 minutes after it began. As
Pat Beetle, a member of Peace Action, attempted to negotiate
with the police, the group sang “We Shall Not Be Moved.”
However, the police were unwilling to compromise, and the
group had decided ahead of time not to risk arrest, so they
did move, to a Sears parking lot on the corner of Wolf Road
and Central Avenue where much of the media were waiting because
they had been prohibited from entering the mall.
There, the grandmothers read from their statements and explained
their “take me instead” rationale. “You know, we’re not too
threatening, we’re grandmothers,” said Maud Easter, 62, of
Delmar. In her statement, she explains, “A deployment of grandmothers
would bring wisdom and experience needed to negotiate immediately
to end the illegal U.S. military occupation and begin effective
United Nations-led diplomacy to redress the terrible destruction
and conflict generated by the Bush administration.”
After 10 minutes in their new location, mall security and
Colonie police told the grandmothers to leave the premises
if they did not have the permission of the mall’s general
Where You Should Have Started
After carmaker General Motors suffered a $4.8
billion loss in the final quarter of 2005, cut
more than 30,000 jobs, closed nine North American
factories, froze pension payments and capped contributions
to employee health-care plans, the company’s chief
executive recently announced that he and other
company executives would be making some “personal
sacrifices.” The sacrifices include halving the
chief executive’s $2.2 million salary (along with
the salaries of other top executives) and giving
up the bonuses the company’s executives had been
scheduled to receive despite the massive losses.
Friends and associates of disgraced lobbyist Jack
Abramoff told the Los Angeles Times that
when Malaysia wanted to mend ties with the United
States in 2002, it got in contact with Abramoff.
According to these sources, Abramoff bragged that
he called Karl Rove and set up a meeting at the
White House between then Malaysian Prime Minister
Mahathir Mohamad and President Bush. (They also
say Abramoff was fond of proclaiming “I’ll call
Karl on that.”) Abramoff was paid $1.2 million
for lobbying services rendered to Malaysia between
2001 and 2002. White House officials claim the
meeting was arranged through “normal channels.”
Umm, We Knew That
In an attempt to protect its cultural heritage
from patent attempts by multinational corporations,
India has launched an ambitious online encyclopedia
of everything from herbal remedies to yoga poses,
culled from traditional texts. The Traditional
Knowledge Digital Library is even employing software
to translate information from ancient and medieval
Indian languages. The TKDL was inspired by India’s
successful fight in 1997 against a U.S. patent
on turmeric’s wound-healing effect, which India’s
chief of the Council for Scientific and Industrial
Research told the Christian Science Monitor
“practically every Indian housewife knows and
Didn’t We Hear This About Rambo 3, Too?
Turkish theatergoers broke box-office records
last week for Valley of the Wolves—Iraq,
an action film featuring heroic Turkish soldiers
fighting against a bloodthirsty, oppressive American
occupation force (led by Billy Zane). The movie’s
creators say the film isn’t anti-American, but
rather a form of “group therapy” to deal with
Ain’t Over Till It’s Over
of last year’s lame-duck Holland Avenue rezoning aim for legislative
and legal relief
procedural moves and hours-long comment periods dominated
by angry residents marked last December’s rezoning of a parcel
on Holland Avenue in Albany [“A Little Highway in the City,”
Newsfront, Dec. 8, 2005]. Neighborhood activists decried the
rezoning from commercial office to highway commercial to accommodate
a proposed Walgreens as spot zoning and said the move privileged
one business owner at the expense of others.
One of the first official actions of incoming Councilwoman
Cathy Fahey (Ward 7) has been to introduce legislation to
reverse the zoning change.
Councilman James Scalzo (Ward 10), who championed the original
proposal, said reversing the previous decision would send
a bad message to the business community that they could face
“double jeopardy” on zoning issues. Fahey responded that December’s
decision was so “extraordinary” as to warrant an extraordinary
Louise McNeilly, president of the Delaware Area Neighborhood
Association and one of the central organizers against the
highway-commercial designation, added that she agreed that
zoning should not swing back and forth or be unpredictable.
But, she said, that is exactly why December’s change, which
was possibly illegal spot zoning for the benefit of one owner,
should be nullified. “It’s just bringing it back into compliance.”
Nonetheless, the newly formed group Citizens for Responsible
Zoning may well have to fall back on their threatened strategy
of a lawsuit. In a petition filed on Feb. 6, Picotte Companies,
the owners of the Holland Avenue parcel, invoked the state’s
General City Law Section 83(2)(a), which requires three-quarters
of a municipal body to approve any zoning change that is the
subject of a written protest by the owners of more than 20
percent of the land in question.
CRZ has hired lawyers Joshua Sabo and Lawrence Howard to file
an Article 78 proceeding against the city for illegal spot
zoning, and are busily fund-raising to cover the cost of the
lawsuit. McNeilly said that the negative effects of the zoning
change are already being felt, as other business owners have
come to the neighborhood association saying they think they
should get zoning changes as well, rather than the more appropriate
Meanwhile, speculation on the motives for the council’s actions
in December continues to spread through the neighborhoods.
Dan Van Riper of the Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association
noted that two letters have surfaced that indicate that the
mayor and his corporation counsel may have been working quite
closely with the developers of the Holland Avenue plot.
The first letter is from the developer’s lawyer, Peter Lynch,
to assistant corporation counsel Patrick Jordon on Dec. 2,
2005. It advises Jordon about the legality of changing the
order of business in order to get the zoning change through
in one meeting. The other is from Jordan to Scalzo on Dec.
5, and outlines the proper procedure for passing an ordinance
whose sponsor has not brought it for a vote, the method Scalzo
followed to the letter when then-Councilwoman Shawn Morris
tried to hold the ordinance until January.
the mic: Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!
to get WAMC to carry national progressive news program leaves
those on both sides feeling ill-used
Chartock, the president of local public-radio station WAMC,
isn’t in the habit of ripping up donations to his station’s
fund drives—and certainly not when the station is involved
in one of its most ambitious fund-raising efforts to date.
Nevertheless, that’s exactly what listeners heard him do during
the station’s recent fund-drive broadcast.
Why the rejection? Well, that depends on whom you ask.
made it clear that I didn’t want anyone calling in and saying
they would only give money if we did something for them,”
said Chartock during a recent interview. “Some people got
very angry about this,” he continued, “but we don’t let anybody
take over the radio station.”
this year’s fund drive set a variety of records, it wasn’t
all sunshine and dollar signs for the National Public Radio
affiliate, thanks to a small group of media activists who
made their presence known throughout the event.
wanted to try and have a more organized impact on the fund
drive this year,” said Andi Novick, founder of Northeast Citizens
for Responsible Media.
And that they did, peppering this year’s fund drive with letters
and phone calls aimed at achieving one of the young group’s
first goals: convincing the station to add the award-winning
news program Democracy Now! to its broadcast schedule.
if people heard real, independent journalism, it would wake
them up from the box they’ve been thinking in for so long,”
said Novick, explaining why her group is pushing for the New
York City-based show to become a part of the WAMC broadcast
Hosted by journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, Democracy
Now! is an independent, nationally-broadcast news program
that has become one of the top-rated shows among progressive
listeners, especially activists. The Web site for the program
includes advice on how to convince your local television or
radio media to begin broadcasting the program.
stations pick it up after being called by one person, while
other stations, for whatever reason, are a bit more resistant,”
said Denis Moynihan, outreach director for Democracy Now!
According to Moynihan, a growing lack of faith in both the
government and the mainstream media has led many people to
seek changes in the status quo—even, in some cases, with the
media they’ve trusted and relied upon for years.
may have been satisfied with the offerings of public broadcasting
in the past, but now they’re not,” he said. “With some public
broadcasters running like private corporations, it can feel
like there isn’t much of a way for the public to participate.”
But Chartock argued that by ripping up the contingent-on-programming
donations, he’s actually affirming his station’s status as
a voice of the public and avoiding the quid-pro-quo arrangement
most corporate media have with advertisers.
Chartock added that he doesn’t have a problem with Democracy
Now!, but is hesitant to put the program on because it’s
already broadcast by WRPI, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s
radio station, and on several local television channels. Anyone
in the WAMC listening area who can’t tune in to the show via
one of those media can always just listen via the Internet,
we were blocking people from hearing it, there would be reason
for an argument,” he said, “but since everyone can hear it
anyway, there’s no real reason for argument.”
And, he added, if WAMC decided to add Democracy Now!
to its broadcast schedule, it would come at the expense of
While Novick acknowledged that Democracy Now! could
indeed be tuned in via the Internet in areas where the WRPI
signal doesn’t reach (like her home in Rhinebeck), she disagreed
with the rationale in disqualifying the program on WAMC.
can stream the [National Security Administration] hearings
on the Internet, too,” she said, “but that didn’t stop WAMC
from broadcasting them.”
Yet, stripped of political and economic posturing, the controversy
might just come down to a matter of bruised egos and rock-meets-hard-place
interactions. Among WAMC’s fund-drive volunteers, stories
abound of aggressive, angry calls from frustrated supporters
of the Democracy Now! campaign. “I don’t like it when
people start calling names,” said Chartock. “One letter we
received said my mother must have raised me badly.”
While Novick admits that the experience has been frustrating
for members of her group, she said she’s never condoned taking
such an approach with the station.
Conversely, the people pushing for WAMC to add the news program—many
of them longtime financial contributors to WAMC—said they
were taken aback by the cold response (if any) they received
once they took an interest in what would be done with their
While Chartock agreed to meet with Novick and her fellow activists
at some point in the near future, he said the results of the
recent fund drive are proof enough that WAMC has the approval
of the public. And, with more than $700,000 in donations this
time around, the station can afford to reject a donation or
Something bad happened there.”
—CDTA Route 18 bus, in the midst of a discussion
of haunted houses.
Nader, at a press conference Tuesday supporting
Alice Green, in response to a question about how
Green could convince Mayor Jerry Jennings to participate
in a debate.
Union Street Bed & Breakfast in Schenectady,
which has come under fire by some neighbors because
its owner hosts swinger parties on the premises
[“Ack! Sex! With Strangers!,” Between the Lines,
Feb. 9], was the target of undercover operations
by Schenectady police last year, the Times Union
has reported. Bob Alexson, the B&B owner, told
the TU that people he believes were undercover
cops offered to pay for sex, but he always refused.
The city said the investigation is considered dormant.
Opponents of the B&B’s parties have also argued
that a classified ad Alexson ran for a few weeks
this winter in Metroland’’s adult ad section
shows that he was running an “escort service.” The
ad, titled “Adult Fantasies,” sought “male and female
models for domination and fetishes” and gave the
B&B’s phone number. It did not mention pay or
escorts, and Alexson says none of the respondents
were paid. He said he had been seeking people to
help party regulars fulfill particular fantasies,
and that the ad would no longer be running.