Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Practicing for his day job

I was amused to read this piece about NY Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno.

Bruno and Governor Eliot Spitzer have been engaged in a war throughout much of the summer that has been nasty even by Albany's standards.

The Albany Times-Union claimed that documents showed that Bruno had been flying on state aircraft for trips that had a negligible amount of state business. Bruno charged back that the information in said documents were obtained because Spitzer had used the state police to spy on him. The independent state attorney general concluded that neither side did anything illegal but that both acted dubiously.

Anyway, Spitzer called Bruno to apologize for his part of the scandal. Bruno says he accepted the governor's apology about the improper use of the state police, but the Senator left some doubt about whether he trusted Spitzer's sincerity. The Senator said that when the Governor called him, Bruno was on his tractor on his horse farm outside Troy.

"I'd hate to tell you what I was doing with that tractor," Bruno said. "Trying to hook it up to a manure spreader."

I guess he's really does bring his work home with him.

Full disclosure: apparently Bruno is distantly related to me and, as I'm sure readers of this blog will agree, I also share his talent for manure spreading.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Honoring dignity and class

I went down to Cooperstown yesterday with my dad and brother to see Cal Ripken Jr and Tony Gwynn inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame. It was an absolute madhouse. Last year's induction ceremony drew around 11,000 people. Yesterday's reportedly drew over 75,000. The village's regular population is around 4,000.

It was insane. It was just one giant mass of humanity. I've never seen so much black and orange in one place. I'm not much of a crowd person but it was fun to do once. I bet there were more Baltimorians in Cooperstown yesterday than in Baltimore.

Although it was hot and we were on our feet for four hours straight, the atmosphere was fantastic. It was like a giant rock festival. Despite the mass of people, (nearly) everyone was friendly and engaging. Several different random people initiated conversations with us like they'd known us for years. It was all about the love of baseball.

On the way back to the parking place, we were walking with this guy from San Diego who said he grew up in the same neighborhood as Gwynn. He talked about how Cooperstown was in the middle of nowhere. I laughed and said to my dad that this guy had obviously never been in the Adirondacks!

The madhouse also brought out the entrepreneurs. Residents were renting out their parking lots for $30 (further away from the induction site) or $40 (closer). People were selling bottled water and canned soda for $2. Sadly, none of these people were at the induction site, when we most needed liquids. One clever person even put a garbage can out with a sign that said 'recycle cans and bottles' on one side and 'Emma's college fund' on the other.

Cooperstown is a fantastic place to go. The whole area is just so beautiful. Not like the Adirondacks. Nothing is. But beautiful in a more understated way. Its expansiveness is a sight to see. The village, when there's not 75,000 people there, is a great little place to be.

Ripken's and Gwynn's speeches were very different but both good. Gwynn basically told stories about different stops in his career and different people that helped him along the way. Ripken talked a lot about how athletes are role models whether they like it or not. Both talked about the importance of how you conduct yourself in public.

Given all the publicity given in recent weeks to athletes who are crooks, scumbags and cheats, it's nice to see the limelight go to two men who've always tried to act in a way that benefited something bigger than themselves, two men who always conducted themselves with dignity and class.

Iraq wins the Asian Cup

Congratulations to Iraq's national soccer team. The side won their first ever Asian Cup with a 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia. The Saudis were playing in their record-setting sixth final, while the Iraqis had never finished better than fourth.

Iraq's victory was a huge upset. They'd never finished better than fourth in previous 13 editions. Saudi Arabia had been Asian Cup finalists six times, winning three. Iraq also beat 2006 World Cup participants South Korea and Australia in earlier rounds. The situation in Iraq is such that the team couldn't even train in their own country.

The win was certainly a welcome joy for people who've been subjected to unimaginable chaos, violence and carnage of the last four years (not that the previous 25 were any paradise). Ordinary Iraqis deserve any shred of joy they can find. No one should begrudge them that.

Not surprisingly, this sporting victory was quickly spun by ideologues in this country for PR purposes. It should not obscure the misery currently crippling the occupied land.

Earlier today, Oxfam and other humanitarian organizations concluded that one-third of the country's population, 8 million 'liberated' Iraqis, needed urgent emergency aid because of the humanitarian crisis.

That doesn't count the 2 million who've fled Iraq altogether.

And while the American press played up the Asian Cup victory, few media outlets reported on the comments of the Iraq soccer team's captain.

Younis Mahmoud scored the Cup winning goal but was still able to a sobering view of the reality in his country. Mahmoud indicated that he wouldn't be returning to his homeland because he feared for his life.

"I want America to go out," he said. "Today, tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, but out. I wish the American people didn't invade Iraq and hopefully it will be over soon."

Like most Americans, I share his sentiments. Sadly, the guy in the White House with degrees from Yale and Harvard will probably never figure out what a soccer player without a high school diploma already knows.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Evil Doers undermining America in Whitehall!

Apparently there's not much going on in Whitehall, NY... at least when Trey Anastasio isn't passing through.

What sorts of problems are there in Whitehall? Drugs? Vandalism? Teenage drinking? Pollution? Poverty?

According to one resident, the town's most pressing problem is that some Evil Doer is conspiring to undermine America by... fly a Mexican flag.

Call in the National Guard!!

The letter writer, who apparently has no sense of perspective, took time out of his day to write: Why then is a flag from Mexico allowed to fly on U.S. soil at a home on Route 4 just outside of Whitehall? There is no American flag there, just a Mexican flag. This is our country and we have only one flag! This whole thing upsets me greatly because of the lack of respect for our country and our vets. It ’s just plain wrong!

Despite hundreds of billions of dollars spent on 'national defense,' many soldiers in Iraq aren't being properly equipped for the job they are being ordered by the president to do. Many veterans return from their service only to receive substandard medical care, lazily tolerated by officials so eager to invoke them to advance theri ideological agenda.

And this letter writer is most 'upset' about someone flying a Mexican tricolore?

Perhaps the reason a flag from Mexico is ALLOWED to fly on U.S. soil is because we live in a FREE country.

According to the national myth, isn't what our troops in Iraq are fighting for?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

'Sicko' to play in Glens Falls

Matt Funiciello reports that Michael Moore's new film Sicko will be run at Aimie's Dinner and Movie in downtown Glens Falls starting tomorrow, Friday July 20. (Matt's review of the film can be found here).

He reports that it will play as long as it's being watched. Aside from Matt's own Rock Hill Bakehouse Cafe, Aimie's is the only place in the Glens Falls area that even occasionally plays progressive-themed films. Call (518) 792-8181 to make reservations.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Courageous Saudi Greens

While net surfing, I was amazed and impressed to find out that there existed a Green Party of Saudi Arabia. Even more amazing since all its activities are clandestine as political parties are banned in the kingdom.

The Green Party here in the US certainly faces its share of hurdles. Such as ballot access and other issues related to rigged electoral law, derisory coverage in the corporate media, alleged Democratic infiltration in the party apparatus, etc. But it's nothing like what the Saudi Greens faced with in arguably the world's most repressive society.

KSA Greens also endorse many causes that would surely get them in deep trouble with the hyperconservative Saudi authorities such as opposition to honor killings, female genital mutilation and homophobia.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Climate change in Cape Verde

This essay is part of a (more or less) weekly feature on this blog that presents interesting stories from elsewhere in the world, particularly Africa, that are little reported in the American media. It's part of my campaign to get people to realize there is a lot going on in the world outside the US, Israel, Iraq, North Korea and Iran.

National Public Radio has a pair of stories on a place little reported on in both the western and African medias: the West African island nation of Cape Verde.

All Things Considered had a piece on a community of refugees from Cape Verde in the USA, who'd fled the archipelago because of drought.

Morning Edition had a story on its own story on how climate change is affecting Cape Verde and how residents are coping.

For something that supposedly is a figment of Al Gore's imagination, climate change is already having a big impact... most severely in countries whose greenhouse gas production is negligible.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Truth tellers: the latest endangered species

The news has been a mixed bag lately.

The Bush administration has long said that US troops will only remain in Iraq so long as they are needed.

Over the weekend, Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki said US troops were no longer needed.

Despite this, President Bush is opposing Congressional efforts that would withdraw all US troops by April of next year.

So the question is does Bush not believe the prime minister's words or his own?

The Washington Post reported that last November, CIA director Michael Hayden told the Iraq Study Group that instability in Iraq was 'irreversible.' Former defense secretary William J. Perry, one of the five Democrats on the Iraq Study Group, confirmed that Hayden told them the Iraqi government seemed beyond repair. Another senior intelligence official added that the assessment was fundamentally the same today.

Later that November day, Bush spoke of the situation of Iraq in glowing, 'Churchillian' terms.

So does Bush believe his CIA director's words or his own?

And if Iraq is as utopian as he describes it, why is the further presence of US troops needed?

At home, Scooter Libby might not be the only high-ranking administration official who'll need impunity for tell under oath. Reuters recounted a Washington Post story that reported that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had assured Congress in 2005 that the FBI had not abused powers granted under an anti-terrorism law despite having received reports of potential violations.

No wonder Bush doesn't want Harriet Miers or Sara Taylor to testify under oath to Congress. With this administration's record on truth telling, I'd be afraid to. It makes you wonder why Evangelical Christians are so eagerly behind these guys who seem incapable of putting their hand on the Holy Bible and swearing 'to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help [them] God'... and actually doing it.

Justice Department officials did not know if Gonzales had actually read the report in question. So essentially it seems that the nation's top law enforcement official is guilty of either lying under oath or gross negligence? You know things are bad when astronomical incompetence is considered the lesser or two sins.

At least there's a shred of good news. The Senate is debating whether to reinstate the most basic tenet of western civilization, despite fierce White House opposition.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

In praise of a Republican

It's not very often that I praise a Republican politician in this blog but I have to give a tip of the cap to New York Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward.

A few weeks ago, the New York state Assembly debated and eventually passed a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage. It almost certainly won't be considered by the state Senate, whose Republican leader is more worried about keeping his job and his freedom. The fact that the bill is being supported by the Senate majority leader's archenemy, the governor, isn't likely to help its cause. But the debate on the issue was interesting.

A moderate conservative Republican and devout Catholic, Sayward represents an extremely conservative rural area of upstate New York. Yet she rose to the floor of the Assembly and kept members in rapt with her speech in FAVOR of legalizing same-sex marriage.

Her appeal was intensely personal.

Retiring AP reporter Marc Humbert writes:

For five minutes, Teresa Sayward spoke to the hushed chamber about her son. About his coming home from elementary school and asking what "fag" and "queer" meant.

"My son didn't want to be different. Lord knows, he wanted to change," she recalled.

"So I consulted the church. I read everything I could. I read the Bible. I read white papers on this issue. Surely, I could make him normal," said Sayward.

He also tried. He got a girlfriend in high school. It helped for a while, she said. His classmates were more accepting.


"When he would come home on the weekend, we would spend long nights crying together and talking," she said. "One night, I said to him, `You have to be who you are. You can't be what people think you should be.'

"And he said to me, `But Mom, I want to be normal. I want to have a house and a fence and a dog and children and I want to be successful,"' Sayward said.

"He did decide with us _ with his family, with his father and I _ that he would be who he was. And, he became much happier in life," she said. "I'm happy to report that my son has the house and the fence and the dog. And, he's raised two wonderful young men."

"Let's search our hearts tonight and do the right thing and vote for the civil rights and the human rights of all of the people that we represent and give them the right to marry the people they love just like I had the right, 43 years ago, to marry my husband," Sayward pleaded.

The applause went on for a full 20 seconds.

Her story was touching. It was also telling.

It's easy to hate people in theory based on an innate personal characteristic like sexual orientation (or skin color, ethnicity, etc.). It's a lot harder to hate someone who is your relative, your friend or your neighbor. Especially after you've already come to respect them for their character or other consciously chosen personal traits.

Not surprisingly, Sayward's vote has caused a bit of a stir in her hyper-conservative district. Some people have blasted her for not representing the wishes of her constituents. Others have suggested they won't vote for her in the next election based on this single issue.

I think this is a great example of why we don't have more principled elected officials in this country. If you stick your finger in the wind and do whatever the polls tell you is popular, you will be accused of believing in nothing. If you vote your conscience, you are accused of snubbing your nose at your constituents.

If you lead, you are 'out of touch.' If you follow, you 'lack courage.'

Jefferson said that people tend to get the kind of government they deserve. He was right.

I sent Assemblywoman Sayward (my legislator) a note of support and gratitude. To me, this is a simple matter of affording gay citizens the same rights as straight citizens. There's nothing revolutionary about that. Or at least there shouldn't be.

The Assembly's vote come only a few weeks after the 40th anniversary of the US Supreme Court's Loving decision. In it, the high court ruled that the state could not arbitrarily and capriciously deny two law-abiding, consenting adults from getting married simply because of unchosen, inate traits. As such, the Court voided a Virginia law banning a black person from marrying a white person.

The Court did not stick its finger in the wind and figure out what the majority of Virginians or Americans might have wanted at that particular moment in time. It ruled on what was right and what was constitutional. Hopefully more legislators like Mrs. Sayward will do the same.

Jesse Jackson: please retire

Can Jesse Jackson just please retire? He's become such a pale shadow of his former self that he's almost become a cartoon character, such that it threatens to tarnish his well-earned legacy as a civil rights' leader.

While he once stood with sanitation workers in 1968 who were fighting for a living wage, he now is standing up for an 'oppressed' baseball player who is paid more in than 45 minutes (salary alone) than a someone on minimum wage earns in a month.

And what exactly is this baseball player's great burden that so enrages the reverend?

I mean, besides his poverty wages.

Barry Bonds is about the break the Major League Baseball home run record and the commissioner hasn't yet promised to be in attendance.

When is Bonds going to break the record? No one knows. It's different than when Cal Ripken Jr broke Lou Gehrig's record and pretty much everyone could point to a date on the calendar when it was going to happen. Why should Selig put his life on hold for something which might happen tomorrow or might happen in three weeks?

Bear in mind, Selig hasn't even actually snubbed Bonds yet because the event hasn't occured.

But of course Bonds is black so it must be made into a fake issue by Jackson. Selig's non-committal status has been condemned by Jackson. But the reverend has not, to my knowledge, attacked Hank Aaron (whose record Bonds will break) for also not committing to attend the record-breaking night whenever that might be.

Does this dichotomy in Jackson's behavior have even a tiny bit to do with the fact that Selig is white and Aaron is black?

When Aaron broke the home run record in 1974, then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn was not in attendance. Strangely enough, I don't know of any histories of the civil rights' movement that mentions Kuhn's 'snub.' Maybe because within the context of desegregation, voting rights and the fight against lynching and poverty, Kuhn's failure to attend a baseball game was insignificant.

Increasingly, Rev. Jackson, who I once held in great esteem, is a man in search of fake causes to keep himself in the public limelight. Some argue that he was always like that. Maybe I used to be willing to overlook that because he used the publicity to bring publicity to real causes. Not any more.

While racism is certainly less pernicious than it was 40 years ago, there remain many issues facing black communities. Drugs, poverty, family decay, crime, imprisonment, voting access issues, the limited availability of good health care, etc. Any of these are worthy of a public media campaign. But the reverend has trivialized these grave situation with non-issues like this one. How can blacks who want to be real leaders and address real issues get any traction when all the publicity is being hogged by Jackson and his tantrums on behalf of spoiled brat multimillionaires?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

US troops can leave now: Iraqi PM

Remember how President Bush and his allies have always contended that US troops will stay in Iraq only as long as they are needed.

The country's prime minister has come out and said that they are no longer needed.

Nouri al-Maliki said that his security forces could handle any challenge and that American troops can leave immediately.

"We say in full confidence that we are able, God willing, to take the responsibility completely in running the security file if the international forces withdraw at any time they want," he told journalists.

One aide to Maliki sharply criticized the U.S. military, saying it was committing human rights violations and embarrassing the Iraqi government through such tactics as building a wall around Baghdad's Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah....

The aide complained that the US occupation was turning one of the oldest civilizations in the world into a giant petri dish.

Hassan al-Suneid opined, "the situation looks as if it is an experiment in an American laboratory (judging) whether we succeed or fail."

The unhealthy politicization of the public interest

The Bush administration politicized the intelligence community in the run up to the aggression against Iraq. It politicized the Justice Department by firing (completely legal and completely unethical) of US attorneys who followed investigations where they led rather than following the administration's political objectives. It has launched a broader war on science.

So I guess it's little surprise that the administration politicized public health as well. Though this accusation was made not by Democrats but by the man appointed by President Bush himself.

Former surgeon general Dr. Richard Carmona told Congress that top Bush administration officials repeatedly tried to weaken or suppress important public health reports because of political considerations.
The administration, Dr. Carmona said, would not allow him to speak or issue reports about stem cells, emergency contraception, sex education, or prison, mental and global health issues. Top officials delayed for years and tried to “water down” a landmark report on secondhand smoke
, reported The New York Times.

In what is supposed to be a job advocating for the public's health interest, administration officials tried to turn him into a North Korean-style appartchick. Dr. Carmona said he was ordered to mention President Bush three times on every page of his speeches. He also said he was asked to make speeches to support Republican political candidates and to attend political briefings.

These people are so small minded that according to Carmona, the president's cabal even discouraged him from working with the widely-respected Special Olympics, because it was closely linked the Kennedys.

I've often said that this administration's fundamental flaw is not ideology (odious as it is) but rather a process that discourages intellectual rigor and serious debate. It's been long clear that the administration figures out its game plan and then contrives the facts to fit their ideas rather than the sane method of letting the facts drive the decision. The former surgeon general echoed this.

On issue after issue, Dr. Carmona said, the administration made decisions about important public health issues based solely on political considerations, not scientific ones.

“I was told to stay away from those because we’ve already decided which way we want to go,” Dr. Carmona said.

The difference between rational people and fanatics is that rational people are open to changing their minds if they are confronted with a compelling argument or reality to the contrary. Fanatics make up their mind and 'stay the course' even if it means ramming their head into a brick wall over and over again.

Except it's not just they who become dizzy, but the entire nation.

Update: Maybe they wanted to get rid of Dr. Carmona so they can install a new, more bigoted person for the job. Since Carmona couldn't be the pseudo-scientist they wanted, they found someone whose 'science' more closely reflected the administration's ideology

Friday, July 13, 2007

Sore losers of the month

The sore losers of the month award goes to Asociacion uruguaya de futbol. For a tiny country, Uruguay produces some pretty good soccer players, but class seems to be in short supply.

Following their penalty shootout loss in the Copa America semifinals, players from Uruguay's senior team tried to start a brawl with the Brazilians, who were naturally celebrating an important win.

One night later, Uruguay lost a second round match in extra time to the United States in the Under-20 World Cup. Again, the Uruguay players tried to start a brawl with the celebrating Americans... who play Austria in the quarterfinal.

I'm starting to see a trend.

Additionally, time wasting may not have been invented in the South American country, but Uruguayans seem to have perfected this form of cheating. After Uruguay took the lead with about 15 minutes left, any time a fan in the upper deck sneezed, a Uruguayan player collapsed to the ground in agony. Apparently no one sneezed when Uruguay fell behind in extra time.

Amazingly enough, Mexico did NOT try to start a brawl after being spanked by Argentina in the other Copa America semifinal. When Mexico loses to the USA (which is pretty much any match not in Mexico City), Mexican players pout off the field without the traditional handshake and jersey exchange. Mexican coach Hugo Sanchez praised Argentina as 'the superior team.' Though when the US has won 9 and drawn once in their last 12 vs El Tri (Spanish for 'whinea**'), it's been down to 'luck' every single time, according to the Mexicans. So kudos to Mexico for losing a match with a microgram of grace for the first time in recent memory.

'So help me God' doesn't mean what it used to

Soft-on-crime apologists for convicted felon Scooter Libby and for the president's amnesty for him have argued that Libby's lying under oath should've been excused. According to them, it was okay for Libby to lie under oath because the investigation into who leaked Valerie Plame's name was bogus and should never have taken place at all. This is a different position than what most of them held 10 years ago regarding a certain Democratic president.

I always thought that when you put your hand on the Bible and promised to 'tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help [you] God,' it was serious. But I guess the God-fearing types believe that telling the truth when you swear to God should be optional, depending on what party you belong to.

The thing I'm wondering though, how come I didn't hear any of them demanding clemency for New York Times' reporter Judith Miller? Libby lies under oath and he doesn't spend a day behind bars. Miller refuses to say a word and she's thrown in jail for months.

I guess for some folks, 'so help me God' doesn't mean what it used to.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Favorite quotes

"It is always easier to fight for one’s principles than to live up to them." -Alfred Adler

"Anyone can handle adversity. If you really want to test someone's character, give him power." -Abraham Lincoln

"Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living." - Gen. Omar Bradley, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and a cross." -Sinclair Lewis

"You know what's worse than a soldier dying in vain? More soldiers dying in vain. -Former Sen. Mike Gravel
"If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." -Malcolm X

"At times it feels as if American politics consists largely of candidates without ideas hiring consultants without convictions to stage campaigns without content. Increasingly the result is elections without voters." –Gerald Ford

"What is it to serve God and to do His will? Nothing else than to show mercy to our neighbor. For it is our neighbor who needs our service; God in heaven needs it not." -Martin Luther

"Nothing good ever comes of violence." -Martin Luther

"Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism." - George Washington

"Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official..." -Theodore Roosevelt

"The worst crimes were dared by a few, willed by more and tolerated by all." -Tacitus

"Peace is constructed, not fought for." -Brent Davis

"Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded." -James Madison

"The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them." -George Orwell (the American equivalent of a nationalist is called a patriot).

"What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?" -Gandhi

“Of course the people don’t want war. But after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.” -Hermann Goering, Hitler's second-in-command.

"Those who weep for the happy periods which they encounter in history acknowledge what they want; not the alleviation but the silencing of misery. " -Albert Camus

"Sports may build character, but more often, it reveals it." -Ken Dryden

"Power tends to confuse itself with virtue and a great nation is peculiarly susceptible to the idea that its power is a sign of God's favor, conferring upon it a special responsibility for other nations -- to make them richer and happier and wiser, to remake them, that is, in its own shining image. Power confuses itself with virtue and tends also to take itself for omnipotence." -Sen. J. William Fulbright, from The Arrogance of Power.

"There are a lot of people out there who'd rather fight fire with fire than fight fire with water. Doesn't make sense to me." --Simon St. Laurent

"The only people I fear are those who never have doubts." --Billy Joel

"A spirit of moderation in a state of overbearing power is a phenomenon which has not yet appeared, and which no wise man will expect ever to see." --Alexander Hamilton.

"When you give food to the poor, they call you a saint. When you ask why the poor have no food, they call you a communist." --Brazilian Archbishop Helder Camara.

"I can train a monkey to wave an American flag. That does not make the monkey patriotic." --Scott Ritter.

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." Aristotle

"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

"It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets." -Voltaire

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." -Voltaire

"Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable." -John F. Kennedy

"The worst barbarity of war is that it forces men collectively to commit acts against which individually they would revolt with their whole being." -Ellen Key

On non-violence

Normally, I post in these blogs my own thoughts. But today, I felt like publishing some of my favorite quotes. After how long this intro ended up, I decided to post the quotes separately.

Given the wars which the my government has chosen to fight at this moment in my name, it's not surprising that most of these quotes have to do with the folly of violence. I do not object to our military being used for the purpose of national self-defense. I just recognize that this is almost never it is deployed.

I've written before about those who initiate violence almost inevitably do so because they let ego get in the way of good judgement.

I'm repeatedly told that my generalized belief in non-violence as the best way to solve problems is naive. I believe the opposite is true.

As I wrote then: Look at all the damage and destruction and trauma that violence has caused over the millenia. And remember, I'm not just talking about militaristic violence, but physical and verbal violence as well. Societies and families torn apart. Progress stopped in its tracks. Millions of lives lost. Many times more lives ruined.

For anyone to believe that violence is a long-term solution to any problem given its miserable failure of a history, that's about the most naive thing anyone can possibly believe in.

When I was younger, I was a bit more casual about war. This is not to say I thought it was great. But I was a bit casual about the whole thing. The generally accepted framework in this country is to be casual about advocating military force against another country.

My 'Eureka' moment was really a period: the two years I spent in Guinea, West Africa. Guinea bordered two countries that were at war at the time: Liberia and Sierra Leone. There were over half a million refugees from those two countries living in Guinea. I became acquainted with several of them.

The wars in those countries were originally started for the purpose of overthrowing the corrupt military dictatorship in Sierra Leone and the fanatical Samuel Doe dictatorship in Liberia. But every single refugee I knew would gladly have returned to the days of the order of the strong man rather than the continuing nightmare that plagued their countries. I knew that Samuel Doe was a lunatic so to hear people saying they preferred him to the present of 1996 was an eye opening experience. But I suppose that even the corrupt military dictatorship in Sierra Leone didn't chop people's arms and hands off like the 'liberation' movement did.

Few Americans have experienced war and even fewer have experienced it as a civilian. But the simple human reality is this. The tyranny of chaos is worse that tyranny of authoritarianism. This is the law of unintended consequences that always applies to war, as the planners of the Iraq debacle are finding out.

My visit to a refugee camp was one of the most profound experiences of my life. The misery found at camps like that, not a shining democratic city on a hill or two bits of paper with a meaningless constitution on it, is the true face of war. The true face of war is hunger, suffering and despair. And the worst victims are not men with guns but unarmed women and children.

And this is where I truly learned that violence should only ever be used as an absolute last resort. Many people say this but few mean it. Violence should never be used because we get a little impatient or because someone said our president's mama wears combat boots or because we get our national nose out of joint or because the military-industrial complex needs a new enemy of the week or because the UN secretary-general won't carry our water or because weapons inspectors tell the truth instead of what we want to hear.

And most importantly, we should never, EVER impose the tyranny of chaos on innocent people who don't ask for it. We DON'T HAVE THAT RIGHT!

Violence doesn't end problems. It just creates new ones.

How to help:
If people want to support the troops, they can do so by getting them out of unnecessary harm's way. I think we should focus our efforts on helping those who we put in harm's way without the benefit of guns, flack jackets, tanks and backup. The casualties of war who don't have the American military-industrial complex behind them. The victims of war who never chose to be a part of it.

-The UN refugee agency
-The International Rescue Committee
-The American Refugee Committee
-The Red Cross
-Doctors Without Borders (MSF)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Do YOU feel safer with this guy in charge?

In an interview with The Chicago Tribune, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said that he felt the country was increasingly unsafe.

And what, pray tell, was behind this sentiment. Good intelligence? No way. That's soooo 20th century. Nowadays, cabinet secretaries make comments like this based on that most modern of techniques: gut feeling.

Specifically, Chertoff said: We've struck at them and degraded them, but they rebuild. All these things have given me kind of a gut feeling that we are in a period of increased vulnerability.

Despite the probably illegal domestic spying program, shredding of habeas corpus, interrogation of kidnapees at Guantanamo Bay and an unprecedented consolidation of power in the hands of the administration, the man at the top of the so-called national security state can offer us no better than his 'gut feeling.'

But we live in a society where gut feelings and emotions now trump reason and fact. So why should Homeland Insecurity be any different?

Tip of the cap to Scoop over at The Observer blog for noting this.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Pardon me?

A few days ago, Post-Star managing editor Ken Tingley published a screed berating people for not being more upset about President Bush's commutation for his chum Scooter Libby. I don't know what things are like in Tingley's ivory tower, but most people I know were pretty well angered by Bush's amnesty for a convicted felon.

Granted, the outrage might not be as vocal as one might expect. I think it's muted because there is so much corruption in this administration, that Libby's clemency seems par for the course. But it doesn't mean that people don't care.

Tingley is right when he says: We shrug our shoulders -- yet again -- and say that's how the system works. Everyone is cheating and lying and that's the way it always will be. Republicans are no better than Democrats and Democrats are no better than Republicans.

It begs the question: when will the media elite decide to give fair coverage to Greens, Libertarians and other smaller parties who might offer an antidote to this business as usual?

If Republicans are no better than Democrats and vice versa, when will news outlets start giving serious coverage to other parties' candidates? When will Tingley's news outlet do so?

One of the reasons why the outrage is muted is because many people feel hopeless. They don't believe there are any other choices. In fact, there are alternatives. The media is just ignoring them. But I guess it's easier for Tingley to rant about everyone else rather than looking in the mirror.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Public service announcement

I read in the paper earlier today that a guy I went to high school with was found dead in the woods.

I didn't know him well in high school, but he was friendly to me. My parents know his. It still feels weird. I'm too young (33) to be used to the sight of people I went to high school with making the obituaries.

If you feel depressed or suicidal, please get help!

Watch out ZZ Top!

Ok, so who put Tipper Gore in charge of British airport security?

James Hetfield, frontman of the heavy metal group Metallica, was detained at a London airport a few days ago.

Friends blame Hetfield's 'Taliban-like beard' for the incident.

Metallica has sucked for over a decade, so I suppose you can't blame British officials for putting their limited resources to protect their citizens from this menace.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The mean streets of Glens Falls

I think it's about time for New York's Republican Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno to bow out with whatever grace he has left.

I wrote earlier about his refusal to talk to The Times-Union on a story that revealed some dubious travel practices of his, only later to whine that the Albany paper didn't tell his side of the story. He also acted like he was in more danger than a GI in Baghdad. Late last year, it was revealed that Bruno was the subject of an FBI investigation into his outside earnings.

In the latest twist, Bruno claims that his archrival, Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer is spying on him. The state's top Republican compared Spitzer to a "Third World dictator."

It's been such a rough eight months that even having his very own taxpayer-financed ballpark named after him probably doesn't lift his spirits very much.

But despite the travails, the majority leader hasn't lost his pugnacity.

“I grew up in the toughest part of Glens Falls, next to the boxcars, where kids would come up to you when you weighed 90 pounds and they weighed 120 and just punch you right in the mouth just because you were Italian, O.K., or just because you lived next to the boxcars, or just because they felt like it,” he said. "That’s how I grew up, O.K.? So swing away.”

As a current resident of Glens Falls, I nearly wet myself laughing at this description. I know Glens Falls is less hardscrabble than it was in the '30s and '40s when the majority leader grew up. But give me a break? Did he grow up on South Street's bar alley?

Bruno is not the first politician to exaggerate the dangers of this relatively placid area for political reasons.

Businessman Bill Brown waged a campaign a few years ago trying to get the city to 'clean up' Ridge Street, which tried to convince people was more dangerous than East L.A. He is running for political office for the third time this year. And while I appreciate the work he does for the Boxcar Derby, he has never gotten my vote. And unless his opponent is named George W. Bush, he never will.

In 1996, the late-Congressman Jerry Solomon, berated Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy during a debate on a gun control bill in one of his more (but not by any stretch his only) infamous comments.

Our local loudmouth dared the nephew of the assassinated John and Robert Kennedy to "step outside," adding, "My wife lives alone five days a week in a rural area in upstate New York. She has a right to defend herself when I'm not there, son. And don't you ever forget it."

I used to bike by their house all the time. They lived in a swanky residential suburb, about a mile away from one of the busiest intersections between New York City and Montreal.

I must've missed the boxcars.

Full disclosure: apparently Bruno is distantly related to me, though I must declare unambiguously: I am not nor have I ever been a passenger on a state aircraft. I also have never been shot at by Mrs. Solomon.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Independents increasingly turning on Bush

I was interested to see some poll results conducted by the American Research Group. (Kudos to my friend Mark for pointing them out)

The discovered that respondents were almost even split (45% yes, 46% no) on whether the House should begin impeachment proceedings against President Bush and that a majority (54%) believed they should do so against Vice-President Cheney.

64% of all respondents disapproved of President Bush's commutation of Scooter Libby's prison time and 84% would oppose an eventual pardon for the vice-president's former chief of staff.

Apparently, most Americans don't buy the administration's mind-numbing Snow Job that the commutations 'strengthen the rule of law and increase public faith in government.'

Not surprisingly Democrats tended to support impeachment and oppose the clemency for Libby with vice versa being true for Republicans.

Bush obtained a massive 27% overall approval rating (67% disapproval).

But what interests me is the tendency among independents (by which I presume the pollsters include BOTH members of smaller parties and members of no party).

A majority of independents support impeachment for both Bush (50% for, 30% against) and Cheney (51% for, 29% against).

Independents are actually MORE opposed to Libby's commutation than Democrats (80% to 76%).

Independents are significantly MORE opposed to a potential pardon for the convicted felon than Democrats (97% to 82%).

Some have criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for taking impeachment 'off the table.' It was a political decision, not a justice-related one. Can you blame her? The cardinal rule of politics is that when your opponent is commiting suicide, stay out of the way.

The fact that such a huge portion of independents have turned against Bush and Cheney has to be a serious worry for the 2008 GOP presidential contenders.

It also demonstrates that dissatisfaction with everything about the administration can hardly be blamed on partisan Democrats.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Mixed messages on youth soccer

One of my favorite topics to read and think about is youth soccer coaching. I don't write about it much here because it's not a sociopolitical topic but here's one time I did.

Anyways, one of the common themes I read about in the soccer magazines and coaching journals is how overstructured American youth soccer. Kids don't play enough pickup soccer, which is where they learn how to be creative.

I always encourage my kids to go to the park as often as they can with their friends and just kick around or even find a wall somewhere. Some coaches don't see much value in this. If they aren't pontificating from their deep well of brilliant wisdom or drilling or running the kids into the ground, it must be a waste of time. Somehow the old maxim 'The game is the best teacher' gets lost in the shuffle.

Countries like Brazil and Argentina repeatedly produce some of the most exciting players in the world. Though 'produce' isn't really the right verb. Creative players aren't manufactured. They are fostered. Argentina and Brazil don't fabricate such players by drilling them into the ground or making them run four miles a practice. The environment in those countries allows such players to evolve. One of the reasons is that such players are playing street soccer or pickup as often as they can when they are young. There is no overcoaching to crush the creative spirit and burn them out from the game.

The other most common theme I hear from the experts is how youth soccer in the US is too obsessed with results on the field and not enough concerned with player development. This is because if I really work with a player to improve his skills or foster his creativity, the improvement might not be immediately evident until the following season... when he might be playing for another coach. The whole concept that we are all part of the development of US Soccer is something many coaches don't truly buy into.

Some coaches are mainly in it for the trophies. On the more elite clubs, coaches are paid (I'm not) so trophies are an easy way to justify their paycheck and a thing to point to when demanding parents ask why they are spending bucketloads of money. Big bucks want tangible results.

Some parents push their kids into elite soccer so they can be viewed by college scouts. Both of these factors make it so elite teams are constantly playing tournaments all over the region or even the country. Tournaments where they might be playing 3-6 games in a weekend.

The recent Soccer America magazine did a piece (not available online apparently) on the new Development Academy created by US Soccer. It includes a quote from the coach of the Under-15 (U-15) boys' national team coach. who said, "It was never more clear to me that things in our youth soccer structure needed change than at our first U-15 camp last summer when about half of the players, on the very first day of national team camp, told the coaches that they were tired of soccer."

I know many hardcore soccer nuts and when they tell you they are "tired of soccer," you know there's a serious problem. Even more so when it's at something as prestigious as a national team camp.

Soccer America actually does a lot of articles on good ways to improve youth soccer in this country, both its structure and its atmosphere. Usually it involves encouraging everyone to worry more about having fun (so as not to burn out!) and improving skills than about short-term results. But even then, the magazine itself sends mixed messages.

A friend of mine gave me sold old issues of the magazine. The cover story of the October 2006 issue: Winning at what cost? US players pay the price for the emphasis on results at the youth club level.

Then I looked at the next magazine, the September 2006 issue, which had the following headline: National youth soccer champions are crowned.

Like many in the youth soccer community, Soccer America seems to be talking out of both sides of its mouth.

I won't lie and say winning is completely irrelevant to me. I go into every game trying to win. But I am not obsessed by it. I will not refuse to play or give only derisory playing time to certain players just because it would give us a better chance to win. Not only does everyone play a lot but everyone gets a chance to play quality minutes in parts of the game that matter. I've found that some players you least expect will rise to the challenge if only given the opportunity.

I see my role as helping all players develop, not just the starters. Contrary to all the pathetic rationalizations some coaches offer, a player does not develop when he sits on the bench all the time. A player can learn something when he sits on the bench for a little bit of time, but at some point, he has to be given the chance to implement what he learns. Otherwise, the player doesn't develop. Unlike some coaches, I make a point of doing as much as I can to help the weaker players on my team. Perhaps this is related to the fact that I was/am crap as a player. And since everyone on my team plays a lot, I don't want there to be any conspicuously weak links.

I try to win but I don't obsess about results. I don't berate my players when they lose (or for any reason other than bad sportsmanship). I am more concerned about my team and kids playing the right kind of soccer. I try to instill the belief in them that if they play good skill soccer for 90 minutes, the results will take care of themselves. If nothing else, this hopefully fosters good habits and the right attitude.

I don't need trophies to justify my position. Fortunately, I've been consistently blessed with a great group of parents (and kids). If I ever get a group of either who are only worried about trophies, then they can find somebody else. I'm not getting paid. The kids aren't getting paid. I know too many people, coaches and players, who've gotten burned out on the sport because that sort of mentality. And I do everything possible to prevent that from happening to me or my kids.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

"No comment... now stop refusing to tell my side!"

Glens Falls' Post-Star managing editor Ken Tingley had a good column blasting NY Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno.

A few days ago, the Albany Times-Union ran a piece detailing how Bruno allegedly used taxpayer-funded aircraft to attend political fundraisers. Additionally, the Albany paper obtained documents where Bruno had asserted the aircraft were used for official state business.

Essentially, Bruno was committing the same offense that forced the resignation of then-state comptroller Alan Hevesi. Bruno had demanded Hevesi quit.

Bruno refused to comment for the Times-Union article but later held a press conference to answer the allegations.

"Since I have been leader I was told by the State Police that there were so many threats on my life that they could not cover them," said Bruno.

I know Albany's a morass but to listen to his rant, you'd think the politico was in more danger than a GI in Baghdad.

Anyway, Tingley rightly lambastes Bruno. During his temper tantrum, the crybaby senator insisted he was going to cancel his subscription to the T-U and encouraged everyone else to do the same.

I'm sure Hearst Newspapers is quaking in its boots!

Tingley also called Bruno on what is a huge pet peeve of mine. Bruno consciously refused to provide a comment for the T-U article only later to snivel that... the paper only provided one side of the story.

I think anyone who does this should be publicly tarred and feathered. How is a media outlet supposed to provide your side of the story if you refuse to give it to them?

[Full disclosure: apparently Bruno is distantly related to me, though I've never received a ride in state aircraft nor have I received any of the other perks that have gotten him into trouble.]

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Kidnaped BBC reporter released

After four months as a hostage and huge international outrage, the BBC's Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston has finally been released by his captors.

The journalist was handed over to the Hamas government, regarded as a terrorist group by the US.

I believe Johnston was the only western journalist based in the Occupied Territories. As such, he was generally well-regarded by Palestinians for telling their story, in contrast to most British and North American media which tends not to portray Palestinians as human beings.

Sadly, his ordeal will only make it less likely that international journalists will dare to venture to the Palestinian territories to tell more stories. But his release is certainly welcome news for his family and for all those part of the world's most respected news outlet.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Bush's amnesty proclamation

There's been a hullabaloo in the last day or so even since President Bush commuted the sentence of Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff Scooter Libby, who had been found guilty of perjury (lying under oath) and obstruction of justice. The commutation spares Libby any prison time. Bush has not ruled out a full pardon for the convicted felon. Personally, I'd be shocked if Bush DOESN'T pardon Libby at some point, most likely sometime between Election Day 2008 and Inauguration Day 2009.

Presidential pardons and commutations for their cronies aren't exactly new. It seems every president issues a rash of these orders in the waning days of his presidency. But Bush's clemency is odd behavior from someone whose party claims to represent law and order. Then again, those who scream loudest about law and order are usually those with the least respect for either. Just ask anyone who ever wore a 'Nixon-Agnew' button.

In a way, Libby is lucky. Not just because of who he knew but because of his job. Does anyone think he would've been granted amnesty for his multiple crimes if he'd been, say, an illegal immigrant who threatened America by picking strawberries?

The ironic part, assuming irony is not dead with the current administration, is this.

Scooter Libby spent less time in jail than Paris Hilton. I have no idea what Hilton did but I doubt it was more grave than lying under oath and obstructing justice?

A few weeks ago, one far right commentator opined: Hilton is an example of what happens when you don't obey the law and don't obey a judge's orders. Hilton apparently thinks the rules don't apply to her, she has another thing coming and she'll find that out in the slam very quickly. A lot of folks think that celebrities get special treatment when they run afoul of the law and while that may on some level be true it isn't always the case. It's important for the public to know that the law applies to everyone.

Yet the very same commentator said of Libby: This case was such nonsense in the first place... Bush should have pardoned Libby from the beginning.

The law 'applies to everyone' but not to the vice-president's chief of staff. Does that mean Libby is no one? Does that mean the vice-presidency is some sort of legal vacuum? Ok, maybe it is.

The same far right commentator added that: Even if Libby lied, he didn't lie under oath in a formal proceeding.

The person who said this is also a lawyer and thus should know that perjury is indeed the crime of lying under oath.

Then again, he's not the only right-winger who's changed his tune.

While many conservatives now pooh-pooh the severity of the crimes of perjury and obstruction of justice, they seemed to think they were a pretty big deal nine years ago!

Update: Joan Walsh over at Salon.com also takes to task Rudy Giuliani. 'America's Prosecutor' has apparently jettisoned (temporarily I presume) the populist law and order demagoguery that has been the pillar of his presidential campaign and decided to give the thumbs up to Bush's amnesty for a convicted felon. Walsh sneers: Way to stand with a beleaguered U.S. attorney, Rudy! What a wuss.

Monday, July 02, 2007

"The values of the news media are the same as those of the elite, and they badly want to be viewed by the elites as acceptable"

Former Los Angeles Times staff writer Ken Silverstein has a great guest column in his old paper. He concludes that the Washington press corps is too busy cozying up to the people it covers to get at the truth.

One of my regular criticisms of the political press corps (Albany as well as Washington) is that they are so obsessed with access that they are too timid to ask truly tough questions. Sure, they ask acceptably tough questions but they all too rarely challenge the boundaries of establishment, transcription journalism.

A great example in New York state politics is WAMC Northeast Public Radio supremo Dr. Alan Chartock. He rightly excoriates the New York state legislature for secrecy and for gerrymandering. He refers to the body's redistricting efforts as the 'incumbent protection program' and he is spot on.

He's done countless interviews with Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. The interviews are inevitably chummy and cordial. Chartock sounds almost embarrassed when he asks something vaguely resembling a tough question.

Bear in mind that Silver and Bruno run their chambers with an iron fist, giving rank and file members (even of their own parties) little power. They could ram through true electoral reform and institute a fair electoral system in the snap of a finger, if they really wanted to. Of course they are more than content with re-election rates that are higher than the Communist Chinese National Assembly.

But to listen to Chartock, apparently this gerrymandering takes place in a vacuum. As far as I know, not once has Chartock held Silver's or Bruno's feet to the fire regarding the 'incumbent protection program.' If he did, he might lose his chummy monthly interviews with big shots.

After all, what's the point of having the vaunted access if you don't use it? Maybe being invited to fancy dinner parties is more important.

And on those rare occasions when journalists do push the boundaries, they are often the object of scorn more so than the corrupt folks they are reporting on.

In an investigation for Harper's magazine, Silverstein passed himself off to some as the representative of a London-based energy company with business interests in Turkmenistan. He contacted some of Washington's elite lobbying firms and told them he wanted to burnish the image of Turkmenistan, not mentioning that the country is run by a neo-Stalinist, cult of personality regime. He was sure they already knew and didn't care.

Silverstein writes: the lobbyists I met at Cassidy & Associates and APCO were more than eager to help out. In exchange for fees of up to $1.5 million a year, they offered to send congressional delegations to Turkmenistan and write and plant opinion pieces in newspapers under the names of academics and think-tank experts they would recruit. They even offered to set up supposedly "independent" media events in Washington that would promote Turkmenistan (the agenda and speakers would actually be determined by the lobbyists).

Yet Silverstein's work was attacked by Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz.

Even though Silverstein's work exposed an extremely serious corruption of journalism.

Silverstein notes how things have changed in the corporate media landscape. Media docility has made serious investigative journalism much rarer.

He writes: there's a long tradition of sting operations in American journalism, dating back at least to the 1880s, when Nellie Bly pretended to be insane in order to reveal the atrocious treatment of inmates at the Women's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's Island in New York City.

In the late 1970s, the Chicago Sun-Times bought its own tavern and exposed, in a 25-part series, gross corruption on the part of city inspectors (such as the fire inspector who agreed to ignore exposed electrical wiring for a mere $10 payoff). During that same decade, the Chicago Tribune won several Pulitzer Prizes with undercover reporting and "60 Minutes" gained fame for its use of sting stories.

Silverstein believes that this timidity is due in large part to the 1997 verdict against ABC News in the Food Lion case. The TV network accused Food Lion of selling cheese that had been gnawed on by rats as well as spoiled meat and fish that had been doused in bleach to cover up its rancid smell. But even though the grocery chain never denied the allegations in court, it successfully sued ABC for fraud — arguing that the reporters only made those discoveries after getting jobs at Food Lion by lying on their resumes. In other words, the fact that their reporting was accurate was no longer a defense.

No doubt increasing media ownership by large media companies demanding ever-increasing profits above less profitable quality journalism has played a crippling role. This is evidenced by the now virtually indistinguishable line that once separated news and entertainment.

Perhaps the most telling comment came from former 60 Minutes' producer Chick Lewis. Lewis told Silverstein, "The values of the news media are the same as those of the elite, and they badly want to be viewed by the elites as acceptable."

And I think this encapsulates how journalism has changed in the last half century. Journalists were once considered blue collar and identified with working class folks. They took their obligation to public service seriously. They believe it important to stand up for the little guy.

Now, journalism is considered white collar. A college degree is now generally considered an entry requirement. Political journalists now tend to identify more with the politicians they cover, who tend also to be educated and white collar, than with their more diverse readership.

In theory, higher education should lead to higher quality journalism. But in practice, it leads to far more caution. Journalists are taught the boundaries of establishment corporate journalism and more important, to never question them. Journalists learn from textbooks and professors instead of honing their instincts through experience.

Their preconceptions are formed before they ever publish their first piece as a paid reporter. A preconception being that they are transcribers rather than investigators. A preconception being that objectivity and neutrality are the same thing, when they're not.

Will mainstream corporate journalism ever return to being something more than mere transcription? Something more than CSPAN in print? If Silverstein's experience is anything to go by, probably not.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Indy booksellers mad at NPR

Publishers Weekly had an interesting report on how some booksellers are upset at an unexpected target: National Public Radio.

When the NPR website highlights certain books, the 'Buy this book' link directs users to Amazon.com. Presumably, tbe network gets a commission if a user buys something on Amazon via the link on NPR's website. A non-profit on which I am on the board of directors has a similar agreement with Amazon.

However, independent book sellers naturally aren't thrilled about this.

Collectively, independent booksellers support NPR to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. On top of that, a number of booksellers provide book selections to their local affiliates and occasionally nationally on NPR.

The main NPR affiliate in this area, WAMC Northeast Public Radio, isn't much different.

WAMC regularly provides an on-air forum to independent booksellers. And they do have links to the many independent bookstores that underwrite their programming. But links to books featured on their The Book Show program also take users to Amazon.

They do so while encouraging users to 'Support WAMC with your Amazon.com purchase,' though if I were a bookstore underwriter, I might wonder why I'm supporting WAMC with my dollars.