Ithaca Blog

Friday, November 30, 2007

Weekend Music, Nov. 30 - Dec. 2

Friday 11/30: Vienna Boys Choir sing holiday music at the State Theater, 7:30 pm.

Jennie Stearns and Mike Stark at the ABC Cafe, 9:30 pm.

Saturday 12/1: Will Fudeman and Friends play folk music for WVBR's "Crossing Borders" series at Pancho Villa Upstairs, 602 W. State St, 8 pm.

The Settlers at the Chapter House, 10 pm.

Sunday 12/2: Kevin Kinsella, who just stopped in here at Small World Music to pick up his special order CD (Brenton Woods), hung a poster for his 7 pm Sunday night gig with Hank Roberts at Felicia's Lounge, and we complimented each other on our Christopher Walken haircuts.

Mary Lorson with Steve Gollnick at Korova's on the Commons, 7 pm.

Folk music luminary Cliff Eberhardt closes the season for Bound For Glory at Anabel Taylor Hall at Cornell. First set is 8:30. Get there early for a seat.

Have fun -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Breslin on Impeachment of Bush

Yesterday we wrote a quick piece about impeding illegal wars in Darfur and other places by prosecuting our own, by impeaching Dick Cheney and George Bush.

Today we quote a recent column on the topic by Jimmy Breslin, who wrote "How the Good Guys Finally Won," a 1976 book about how impeachment inquiries exposed crimes by the Nixon administration, and led to the president's resignation.

People, particularly these politicians, these frightened beggars in suits, seem petrified about impeachment. It could wreck the country. Ridiculous. I've been around this business twice and we're all still here and no politician was even injured. Richard Nixon lied during a war and helped get some 58,500 Americans killed and many escaped by hanging onto helicopter skids. Nixon left peacefully. Mike Mansfield of Montana, the Democratic Senate majority leader, said on television that the Senate impeachment trial of Nixon would be televised and there would be no immunity. That meant Nixon would have to face the country under oath and if he lied he would go to prison. He knew he was finished as he heard this.

It opens with the appointing of an investigator to report to the House on evidence that calls for impeachment. He could bring witnesses forward. That would be all you'd need.

Say impeachment and you'll get your troops home.

As we wrote yesterday, no crime on the scale of Darfur, or Iraq, is possible without lies. End the lying and you end the crime.

The Democratic leadership now is against impeachment (it is "off the table," in Speaker Pelosi's famous phrase), as Cheney and Bush will be gone soon anyway. That's not the point. Political expediency has no place in the discussion. We're talking about stopping illegal wars around the world.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Aid Darfur: Impeach Cheney and Bush

An Ithaca Blog reader wrote about Darfur, as we described the situation yesterday, as familiar: a country rich with oil, a government killing and displacing people to control it.

The point is well taken.

We have an opportunity - and a responsibility - in the U.S. to show that political leaders who kill and displace innocent people for money are punished. That means impeachment proceedings against Richard Cheney and George Bush, Jr., who lied this nation into such an incursion in Iraq.

Lying is the thing that makes crime possible, and perpetuates it. The U.S. wouldn't be in Iraq without the willful and knowing lies of the current administration.

Lying is also generally the thing that gets criminals caught. It's hard to catch someone in the act of a crime. It's not as difficult to show a lie. The old saying in Washington is that it's not the crime that undoes you, it's the cover-up: that is, the necessary subsequent lying to prop up the initial deceit.

Another old saying among criminals is that it's not illegal if you don't get caught. Our own criminal politicians, who have created a situation in Iraq parallel to the one in Sudan, need to get caught, for this kind of violence to be illegal, hopefully, everywhere.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Aid for Darfur from Ithaca, on November 30

200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million violently displaced in Darfur, in western Sudan in Africa, in a governmental campaign for control over oil.

China is a major trading partner of Sudan, buying 60 percent of Sudan's oil, and has actively interfered with peace efforts.

The United States has offically declared the situation genocidal, and has initiated economic sanctions.

In California, a U.C.L.A. student named Adam Sterling started a campaign for a bill requiring California to divest from companies that benefit Sudan. The bill was passed into law.

In Ithaca, recent efforts are not yet overtly political or legal, but for relief and awareness. The Northern Light Learning Center, an educational and home-schooling organization, is sponsoring an Ithaca Benefit for Darfur Refugees on Friday, 30 November at the Women's Community Building from 6 to 8 pm.

The event will feature a speaker from the Genocide Intervention Network, music by cellist Hank Roberts, and food donated by local stores and restaurants.

Tickets are $15 and are available at the Women's Community Building and at Juna's Cafe on the Commons.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Monday, November 26, 2007

Ben Nichols' Legacy

Ben Nichols, mayor of Ithaca for three two-year terms from 1989 - 1995, died Saturday at the age of 87.

Ben's earlier career was as a professor of engineering at Cornell.

Beneath the avuncular look of a rumpled academic, Ben was a renegade politician who attracted national attention as Ithaca's Socialist mayor: a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.

Ben took on many causes and all opponents, including Cornell University. When, after long negotiation during Nichol's tenure, Cornell refused the city's proposal for funding commensurate to what other Ivy League schools pay their cities in lieu of taxes (as tax-exempt entities), Ben responded by slowing down city services to Cornell for building inspections and permits. No choice, he said.

He didn't blink. Cornell did. They soon announced, at a lavish press conference, their new and much enhanced contribution to the city.

Ben lost his campaign for a fourth term to Alan Cohen in 1995, when the term of office for mayor went from two to four years. Ben was twice Cohen's age and Cohen showed a good deal of surface vitality. Still, the margin of victory was just 58 votes. Think about that the next time you think people's votes (matched with activity) don't count, and Ben would probably consider it sufficient legacy.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Weekend Music

Friday 11/23: There are two exceptional get-togethers of local bands tonight at two welcoming venues downtown.

At the Chanti-Loft, above the Chanticleer tavern on W. State & S. Cayuga Streets, Richie Stearns, the TalkToMes, and Fisher Meehan perform (in that scheduled order) from 8 pm until past last call.

At Castaways, the Tuff Soul clothing shop presents a benefit for Ithaca Community Radio, working to bring Ithaca its own community radio station. The Crow GreenSpun Band, the Settlers, and DJ Bob are on the bill. 9 pm.

Sat. 11/24: Mr. Gratitude himself, Johnny Dowd, performs at the Chapter House. 10 pm.

Have fun -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Two Thanksgiving Tips

1. If you are leaving town tomorrow, and will need coffee, all branches of Ithaca Bakery/Collegetown Bagels are closed, but Gimme Coffee is open. IB/CTB used to open for a.m. traffic on Thanksgiving, and close in early afternoon. They've quit that, but that's what Gimme now does. Gimme will be open from 7 am til 2 pm.

2. It's recycling week, but there's no recycling (nor garbage) collect tonight. They do it early in the morning, you know. And tomorow is Thanksgiving. BUT if you are leaving town and not returning for a few days, you might want to set your stuff out tonight so it can be picked up Thursday, as service will move back a day.

Capish? Those are the important things, besides driving safely. Have fun.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

On-line Slime in the Journal

Earlier this month, we wrote a piece on the malice in the Ithaca Journal's on-line "Storychat" feature, its effect on the Journal's reputation and value, and its toll on individuals and the community.

Today, Lynne Jackier wrote a letter on the subject to the Journal. We reprint it here.

When the Ithaca Journal launched the forum attached to the online version of the paper called "Storychat" I wrote a letter urging the Journal to require posters to use their real names. I was concerned that anonymous posting would create a culture of name-calling and ugly ranting that would debase the cultural climate of our community. Now that this experiment has been up and running for a while, it is clear that my concerns were not unfounded.

A number of posters log on almost every day to make anonymous personal attacks on people in news stories and ridicule by name community members who are brave enough to submit a signed letter to the editor. Although it is possible to report egregious comments and have the post removed, there is no cure for the overall sense of being dipped in slime that the majority of the posts elicit.

There was a recent Journal editorial pondering why there were so many uncontested elections recently. I predict that even fewer people will be willing to take leadership roles or express themselves publicly if the current "Storychat" paradigm continues. It infects the public discourse.

The Journal is not serving our community well by allowing these posters the protection of anonymity while they attack other community members by name. If people who want to express strong or controversial opinions know that they will be identified with those opinions, they might be more thoughtful about how they express those opinions. It is time for the Journal to require all "Storychat" posters to use their real names online.

We wrote a brief, related on-line posting to the Journal:

The Journal has excellent standards, professionally applied, for its letters, where "needless invective" and personal attacks are deemed unfit to print. Why not the same requirements for all readers' comments - namely, those in Storychat?

The editor's note to Ms. Jackier's letter says "there is no practical way" to enforce such standards on-line, which is obviously untrue. The Journal staffers who check the letters could check the comments in a fraction of the time.

Thank you to Ms. Jackier for a letter that is forthright without being disrepectful.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, November 16, 2007

Weekend Music, Nov. 16 - 18

Fri., 11/16: Burke, Burke and Bone play country blues and rags at happy hour at Felicia's Atomic Lounge. 5:30 pm.

Sat., 11/17: Miriam Aziz, from Brussels, plays a mix of gypsy, jazz, folk, and rock music, and sings with a clear voice reminiscent of Annie Lennox. She performs at 8 pm at the Crossing Borders series upstairs at Pancho Villa Restaurant, 602 W. State St. Guest performers are Ithaca's Rich Depaulo, and Patti Witten.

There's a twin bill, of sorts, on the two sides of Osmun Place at Stewart Avenue: Dutch rocker Jairo Van Lunteren, of the Splendors, at ABC Cafe, and old-timey players The Butane Variations at the Chapter House. Both at 10 pm.

Sun., 11/18: GrassRoots Festival favorites The Avett Brothers bring their foot-stomping sound - part punk, part pop, part old-time - to the State Theater. With Will Hoge, the excellent singer-songwriter ("brilliant hooks and lusty joy," says All Music Guide). Tickets only $16.50 in advance ($21.50 day of show).

Have fun-
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Brief and Less Consequential Appreciation of Norman Mailer

We suspect that Norman Mailer was read much more by men than women, with his purported enmity to (or at least genuine unappreciation for) feminism, his frequent incivility to women (which escalated at least once into criminal violence), and the general beastliness of his public persona.

We further suspect that in fact he was not really read all that much, by anyone. The majority of his books were hugely idiosyncratic both in subject and style.

But he wrote a couple of historically great ones: "The Naked and the Dead," in fiction, and "The Armies of the Night," a non-fiction account of American politics during the Vietnam War.

We read both in adolescence, which is probably the best age for appreciating Mailer, or at least for first contact.

No one else has mentioned it - why would they - but Mailer created the word "fug" (and its grammatical derivatives) in "The Naked and the Dead" to replace a word he could not get past that era's censors, that he felt was crucial to the veracity of the dialogue of the soldier characters in his book.

We were adolescents. It was the 1970's. We loved it. We loved it more when we found out it was the source of the name of one of our favorite bands, from the Lower East Side. Apparently the Fugs loved it too and found it too funny to not steal.

Audacity to the point of absurdity, frequently, was part of Mailer's style. But so were passion and intellect. He was both a patriot and an anarchist, and we will miss him for that.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Borders Installing TV Screens For Ads In Stores

Bookstores used to be places of refuge for people interested less in television than, say, books.

That is changing at the Borders chain, which is installing two 37-inch flat screen televisions in each of its stores to show original programming and advertisements.

The chain's partner in the program is a company called Ripple, which has similar arrangements with Jack-In-The-Box restaurants and Jiffy Lube.

George L. Jones, chief executive of Borders, described the move as "part of a master plan" to deliver access to its "highly educated, more affluent" customers to advertisers such as Ford, which will advertise its hybrid vehicles in the store.

Claiming that the average Borders customer spends an hour in the store, Jones said, "It's becoming more and more difficult to reach people. Newspapers are not as effective as they used to be. Television is not as reachable as it used to be. This becomes an attractive option."

The televisions are currently in 60 Borders stores and will be in 250 more by the end of February.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Monday, November 12, 2007

Arlo Guthrie in Ithaca, Tuesday 13 November, State Theater

Christmas is the holiday for songs - most other holidays don't have many, if any. Thanksgiving has one indirect but distinct one, for folk music fans: "Alice's Restaurant," by Arlo Guthrie.

On his website,, Guthrie says of Thanksgiving, "We get sales for one day a year," and after touring in the weeks before the holiday, "I get to go home to the farm."

It's a small tour, with only seven dates, culminating in an annual show at Carnegie Hall.

This year, Ithaca is one of the dates, with a show at the State Theater on Tuesday, 13 November.

Guthrie is known as much for his politics and humor as his songs, and even when his subjects are serious, he conveys a sense of ease that could almost give whimsy a good name. He is as funny in performance as most comics, almost without trying; definitely without trying too hard.

Guthrie has spoken about the large-scale counterculture events of the 1960's as almost beside the point, the point being that people should be at home, active in their communities and country, every day. The message is well understood in Ithaca, and Tuesday night will be a good celebration of it.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, November 09, 2007

Tinariwen and Others, Weekend of Nov. 9 - 11

Friday, 11/9: An indy rock multi-bill at the Haunt, with Middle Distance Runner, from Washington DC; local band Upstate Escape; and headliners Mobius Band. Tickets $7. Doors open at 8 pm.

Saturday, 11/10: In the friendly confines of the State Theater, a double-bill of African headliners from the GrassRoots Festival, Tinariwen and Viuex Farka Toure. 8 pm.

Tinariwen met in a Saharan refugee camp in the 1980's. They sing songs of non-violence and ethnic pride that are rooted in traditional desert music, as well as the blues sounds of Mali, with modern rock and roll influences. The Financial Times of London says, "They are not only the best world music, but the best rock and roll band in the world, full stop." They have recently toured with the Rolling Stones. This weekend Tinariwen was featured on NPR's Weekend Edition, which is available for streaming.

Viuex Farka Toure is the son of one of Tinariwen's strongest influences, the late Malian guitar great Ali Farka Toure. Like his father, Viuex Toure demonstrates the ancient African rootes of blues music with hypnotic mastery.

Sunday, 11/11: The Glenn Miller Orchestra at the State Theater. You might think it is ancient and irrelevant, but swing music does just that when presented by a stellar orchestra like this, in a good venue like the State. 8 pm.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, November 08, 2007

$10 U.S. Gets You 40 Ithacan, Wed. 14 Nov., at Ithaca Hours Meeting

Ithaca Hours, the local currency system, holds its annual membership meeting on Wednesday, November 14, with a special offer.

Come to the meeting to start or renew a membership and receive double the annual membership benefit.

Ithaca Hours issues a local money for Ithacans to earn, and to spend with other people and at participating businesses.

Annual membership costs $10, or one Ithaca Hour. Members normally receive an annual benefit of two Ithaca Hours, worth twenty dollars. But sign up at the annual meeting and receive four Hours, worth forty dollars.

The Hours organization offers the premium to encourage people to come and meet one another, and to learn about the system. (The organization itself benefits from enrolling a lot of people in one shot, and from disbursing benefits in person, rather than by mail.)

Free desserts are provided by member businesses such as ABC Cafe, Ithaca Bakery, Maxie's, Juna's Cafe, GreenStar Coop, Eve's Cidery, Macro Mama's, and others.

Ithaca Hours started in 1991 and has about 600 members. There are over 10,000 Hours in circualtion in Tompkins County, worth over $100,000 U.S.

The currency is known around the world. Most recently it was mentioned in an article in the New York Times as one of Ithaca's most positive community features.

The Hours organization was visited this week by community organizers from New Orleans hoping to aid post-Katrina restoration by building a community currency system modeled on Hours.

Hours' annual meeting is 6 - 7:30 pm, Wed. 14 Nov., in the Borg Warner Room of the public library on E. Green St.

For more information, see the Hours website at

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What Makes Ithacans Not Run? The Journal's "Storychat", For One Thing

Today is Election Day, but just another day in Ithaca, where there are no contested races. Common Council members, the mayor, and the town supervisor are all Democrats running unopposed.

The Ithaca Journal examines the issue today. One obvious factor is the strength of the Democratic party in the city. The Republican party is practically non-existent here. In the presidential election of 2000, Ralph Nader outdrew George Bush in Ithaca.

The Journal seems to think that low pay for public officials is debatable as a factor, although to us it seems clear. The mayor makes around $50,000 a year. There are guys at Sears who make that. Common Council members make around $10,000 a year, which a diligent panhandler could do.

The Journal also mentions the idea of "fear." Elected officials anywhere need thick skin, but particularly in a small town.

One thing a politician hopes for is a fair press, and for the most part they get that here, with the notable exception of the "Storychat" feature in the on-line Journal, which provides a daily forum for invective and ridicule from anonymous lamebrains.

Check the very story in question to see. Commenting on today's Journal story are scholars such as "cowinmyunderpants," "LoyalOpposition," et al., who comment on what "sux" about Common Council, and make disparaging remarks about council members by name, although managing to misidentify their subjects.

We think the Journal has a professional and civic duty to verify and publish the identities of its on-line contributors, as it does with letters to the editor. It would go a long way to cleaning up the level of its on-line discourse, which is generally abominable, and to improving the political climate in town, which might in turn lead to more candidacies.

The Journal says it's a serious issue. Is it serious enough for them to change something rank that they control?

We would like to suggest that all interested parties write to the Journal about this issue.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, November 02, 2007

Weekend Music, Nov. 2 - 4

It's a big weekend for the creme de la creme of local bands, including a trifecta by the Chicken Chokers.

Fri. 11/2: The Chicken Chokers at Felicia's Atomic Lounge, 5:30. Happy hour drink & hot dog specials.

Sat. . 11/3: "The Chicken Chokers Unplugged" at the Pourhouse in T-burg, 7 pm.

The Horseflies at Castaways, 9 pm.

Mary Lorson and Saint Low at the Chapter House, 10 pm.

Kim and Reggie Harris are a folk duo focusing on the music and history of African-Americans. In a Cornell Folk Song Club show, 165 McGraw Hall at Cornell, 8 pm. Tickets $17 at eh door, $15 in advance at Small World Music.

Sun. 11/4: You say you haven't had enough? You say you want more? Chicken Chokerpalooza continues its weekend-long assault, at Bound For Glory in Anabel Taylor Hall at Cornell. First set, 8:30 pm.

Have fun -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Ithacan Plans to Put Blackwater on Trial

Peter Demott of Ithaca is part of a group that was arrested last month for a non-violent protest at the headquarters of Blackwater USA, the military contractors, against killings by Blackwater in Iraq.

The protestors plan to use their trial to subpoena Erik Prince, Blackwater's owner, for testimony about Blackwater killings and subsequent cover-ups using U.S. taxpayer money.

A news article in the New York Times reports, "Employees of Blackwater USA have engaged in nearly 200 shootings in Iraq since 2005, in a vast majority of cases firing their weapons from moving vehicles without stopping to count the dead or assist the wounded."

Last Christmas Eve, a drunken Blackwater employee shot and killed a bodyguard of one of Iraq's two vice presidents. He was clandestinely removed from Iraq by Blackwater within 36 hours. A State Department official suggested paying the slain bodyguard's family $250,000, but another said that such a high payment "could cause incidents of people trying to get killed by our guys to financially guarantee their family's future." Blackwater paid $15,000 to the dead man's family.

The State Department has paid Blackwater over a billion dollars for its activities.

On September 16, Blackwater employees in a moving convoy fired on a public square, killing 8 civilians. Outraged Iraqi officials called the shootings "cold-blooded murder" and called for the expulsion of Blackwater from the country.

Demott's group hopes to engage Blackwater in the company's first legal proceeding.

In the face of increasing public scrutiny, Blackwater has hired a bi-partisan collection of highly-placed Washington lawyers, lobbyists, and public relations specialists.

In the past, Blackwater has retained Fred Fielding, the present White House counsel, to help handle lawsuits filed by families of slain Blackwater employees.

Demott's trial is scheduled to begin on December 5.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Earth Sweet Earth: Environmental Action This Weekend

Ithaca is often awash with earth-cleansing ideas and actions, but especially this weekend, with a local effort for the national "Step It Up" campaign, and a celebration of the tenth "America Recycles Day," both on Saturday 3 November.

Step It Up is a national campaign for federal action on global warming issues. This Saturday the organization is co-ordinating 1,400 events across the country. In Ithaca, local activists and politicians will speak at a rally at Tutelo Park, on Route 13A at Bostwick Road, from noon until 3 pm.

America Recycles Day is from 10 - 4 pm at the Shops at Ithaca Mall (the mall formerly known as Pyramid). There are representatives of many environmental groups, music and entertainment, and a wide range of activities for children and adults , including Halloween pumpkin smashing for composting, worm composting, confidential document shredding, t-shirt re-fashioning, and more.

For more details, see, and

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog