WATCH: Caps Creep in GANNETT HEADLINES

Our local daily is the Ithaca Journal, Frank Gannett’s second newspaper; purchased by the grand old man of newspaper consolidation in 1912, the Journal just had its 200th birthday. That fact went unnoticed by the paper, given that the folks over there are down to three reporters.

Last weekend, while doing my usual round of online check-ins with Ithaca’s other media outlets, I noticed this doozy of a headline in the story carousel:

Teacher viewed SEX VIDEOS with students, polic…

It occurred to me that there had been lots of headlines popping up on the Journal‘s site recently with some variation of the RANDOMLY CAPITALIZED format. The New York tabloids freely use ALL CAPS in headlines, but they almost always use them before a colon, in a “HEAD: Here’s the subhead” format.

So, to indulge my idle and irresponsible speculation that perhaps Gannett is gearing up for another purchase — the Daily News, last I heard, is still on the block with a price of $1 attached – I took a swing around the internet to see if CAPS LOCK was taking over other Gannett properties.

The answer gleaned from this highly scientific anecdotal survey, in short, is that if Gannett’s NEWSROOM OF THE FUTURE will be featuring lots of random caps to INCREASE ENGAGEMENT, its Southern Tier papers are serving as the incubator for the program.

I skimmed pages as far down as clicking “more news” twice will let you. 27 stories are shown on most of the Gannett pages, before you can’t click anymore and run into the video and FEATURED CONTENT bars, because the “8 biggest moments in Apple history” and “Why this grocery store unisex bathroom sign went viral” is essential local reporting …

There weren’t any random caps at the Detroit Free Press, the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Asheville Citizen-Times. Nothing in Reno or the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader. Shreveport, Pensacola, Tallahassee, all have yet to start serving the capitalization lords. Nothing in Indy or Phoenix.

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader missed an opportunity to write THUNE: GAPS EXIST in Sioux Falls airport security. Burlington missed a chance to put CLEAN TOILET BOWL on their sidebar. A Green Bay columnist remarking on a Lysistrata-inspired movement to stop Trump got the relatively tame header “Trump or sex?” rather than

TRUMP OR SEX? 

Look at that – how can you resist?

There certainly are some Gannett sites using some caps.

Gannett’s lone Montana paper, the Great Falls Tribune, had several GALLERY and UPDATE headers. Delaware’s News Journal featured a RECAP and a TGIT! – which I presume to stand for Thank Goodness/God It’s Thursday, as it was a link to the entertainment section.

Bruce Springsteen’s hometown rag had some WATCH on its homepage, while centraljersey.com used STUDENT NEWS.  Morristown was using WATCH and LETTER and PHOTOS, though a video of “True Islam” program in Mountain Lakes got a lower-case “Watch.” “History:” and “Police:” got no caps treatment along with “WATCH” in Vineland, but “FISHING” did.

Gannett has six papers in New York. Poughkeepsie had a SPEAK UP to encourage commenters to speak up. Rochester and Westchester’s Journal News (lohud.com) seem to have avoided the bug, even while using identical headlines on Albany bureau generated items like “How they fared in the state budget.”

Ithaca, Binghamton’s Press & Sun Bulletin and the Elmira Star-Gazette, old Mr. Gannett’s very first newspaper, share a lot of editing and content. And here is where the CAPS seem to be given their greatest freedom. All of these headlines were up at the same time one early morning late last week. The CAPS are original; the colors are my innovation. If you’re reading Gannett executives, I’m available for consulting gigs.

From Binghamton:

SETTLE IN: Fourth Cal Harris trial

TAKES YOUR BREATH AWAY  (a N.Y. cigarette tax story)

TROUT OPENER: mixed results for anglers.

UPDATED: Who’s the best? 34 years of all-star hoops

ZERO FATALITIES: DEC says 2015 safest season in decades

MAKING A MURDER TRIAL: Harris case needs resolution

And then there was “SUMMER PLANNER: Send us your event listing” and “How much for THAT house? Look it up here,” “HOW MUCH? NY educator pay, pensions a click away … those are promoting a database site Gannett’s been building that might or might not be more navigable than plucking things like salaries and government contracts straight from state sites.

A couple favorites that were up on Ithaca:

NAME CHECK: See if you’re owed unclaimed money

ORANGE PRIMER: What you need to know about Syracuse

PARTICIPATE: Election 2016 coverage

And this, on Facebook.

SAD STORY: Suffocated while asleep. Mom rolls on child

Fortunately, DEATH NOTICES is not yet part of the style guide.

See the above image for Elmira’s current idea of how to get people “engaged.”

OH, %$@#*&. DID YOU MISS SOME NEWS?

While compiling this piece, I stumbled across an item printed in the May 11, 1977 Washington, Pa. Observer-Reporter regarding a recent purchase Gannett had made of a western chain.

Al Neuharth told the stockholders there has been some recent criticism of newspaper groups or chains, the story said, and then closed like so:

“The infusion of professionalism that Gannett and its subsidiaries bring to these newspapers will convince even the critics or cynics that it matters little whether newspapers are owned by individuals, or families, or partners, or chains,” he said. “What really matters to the readers is what those owners do with them.”

The Medical Treatment Options for Opiate Addicts

Here’s the original story I wrote on medically-assisted treatment recommendations in Ithaca’s much-written-about drug policy; it was cut down a bit on the end for print, since Vivitrol wasn’t mentioned in the mundanely-named “Ithaca Plan.”  I thought it worth fleshing out what exactly the issues with these treatments are right now, since no one else was doing it, and especially since in a lot of places recommending something like a methadone clinic would raise hell all on its own (hello, Williamsport!). This story ran as part of our March 2 cover package, a week after the plan’s official release. Photo is mine, of Nicole Pagano, who has an honest-to-goodness soda counter in her pharmacy. 

Beyond the potential “supervised injection facility” for heroin addicts not yet taking steps to recovery, there are many more recommendations in the new city drug policy for new and increased services to help those who want to get and stay off dope. A large part of building the comprehensive “recovery-oriented treatment continuum” the plan proposes is getting people access to what’s called “medically-assisted treatment” – that is, drug treatment that help dull cravings for the dangerous street stuff.

Mayor Svante Myrick said last week that one of the plan’s “low hanging fruit” could be convincing more physicians to prescribe Suboxone – the brand name for a combination of buprenorphine, an opioid, and naloxone, which deters use by injection. Under federal regulations, a doctor can only prescribe the drug to 100 patients at a time.

“If the mayor has a special relationship with the president and he would like to sign an executive order to lift the cap, that would help,” said Dr. John Bezirganian, one of four doctors in Tompkins County currently certified to prescribe Suboxone.

Bezirganian has a private psychiatry practice and is medical director for county mental health and the Alcohol and Drug Council (ADC). Since he started prescribing Suboxone about 15 years ago, he’s treated 520 people with the drug – about 20 of his initial patients are still with him today.

In earlier days, if someone came to him off the street and asked for Suboxone, he told them to go to the ADC, and then he could generally promise to get them onto the drug once they graduated from treatment. Because of the limit on prescriptions, now he has to make choices about his patients.

“To some extent I’m playing God a little bit, but I have to pick the best available people,” Bezirganian said. “If I have to make a choice of a single mother who’s sober and working against someone dabbling in other drugs. A young single guy might say that’s not fair. And it’s not fair. But that’s the way it goes.”

The original limit was 30 Suboxone patients per practice, “but they raised it to 100 because no one was signing up,” Bezirganian said.

A special Drug Enforcement Agency number must be issued for a Suboxone provider. There is a seven-hour course to get certified on the drug, some of which is mere “hoop-jumping training,” Bezirganian said. More so than the training itself, he thinks that more doctors don’t participate because of the effect they think prescribing Suboxone might have on their private practice.

“I think many primary care doctors would be fine if they have five people they like and can do it for them, but they don’t want 30, 50, 100 people coming in the door saying ‘Hi, I want Suboxone,’” Bezirganian said. He gets four or five calls a week, and keeps a few spots open in case someone in special circumstances, like pregnancy, needs the drug.

“If I had the spigot open it’d be limitless,” Bezirganian said. “If all doctors could prescribe it, I don’t know how big it would be.”

Nicole Pagano of the Green Street Pharmacy said she has developed a “good working relationship” with ADC and Cayuga Addiction Recovery Services (CARS) since she opened her shop in 2010.

“I can spend hours and hours and hours on the phone to figure out insurance,” Pagano said. “We try to work out insurance ahead of time. Sometimes we can use coupons for the medication to help someone cover the cost for the first few days … If we can’t treat someone today, they might be lost tomorrow.”

Pagano strives to foster a “judgment-free zone” at GSP; she said many people going on Suboxone are in a situation where they’re afraid of losing their children.

“With no other disease do you have the pharmacist look at you like, ‘Oh, another one of those,’” Pagano said. “Everyone who comes in here is dealing with something … One day of heroin use is more dangerous than a lifetime of Suboxone.”

People in recovery dealing with the aide of methadone right now have to leave Tompkins County to get their treatment. The Ithaca Plan recommends adding a methadone clinic here or even, as Myrick has floated, a mobile unit to distribute the drug.

Monika Taylor, director of chemical dependency at Crouse Hospital, Syracuse, said that there are currently seven patients commuting from Tompkins County on a daily basis to the Crouse methadone clinic. Her clinic can serve up to 650 people at any one time under state regulations, with a waitlist about nine to 12 months long and about 350 people deep right now. The program admitted 265 people in 2015, its most in a year since opening in 1975, and is serving about 550 people at the moment.

The only issues that can move someone up the wait list are either pregnancy or being HIV positive.

“It’s challenging for people to understand we can have a wait list with capacity,” Taylor said. “The problem is when you admit someone into treatment a lot goes into that – methadone is a controlled substance and it requires pretty close monitoring. For the first three weeks or so there’s daily assessment of somebody in that induction phase to get to that therapeutic dose where they’re neither sedated nor going through withdrawal.”

Most people in treatment of opioid addiction do receive some kind of medically-assisted treatment, according to Angela Sullivan, executive director, of ADC. About 33 percent of ADC’s approximately 500 patients last year were admitted for opiates as their primary drug – up from about 5 percent in her first year, 2011. Of that 33 percent, about 27 percent of their total patients received some form of medical assistance.

Heroin-assisted treatment is also mentioned in the plan as something to be explored – providing addicts who don’t respond to Suboxone or methadone with synthetic heroin is a “last resort,” though, according to Peter Schafer of the New York Academy of Health.

One medical treatment unmentioned in the plan is Vivitrol, the brand-name for naltrexone, an opiate blocker that also treats alcohol dependency, which can be prescribed by any doctor and requires a monthly injection.

Alkermes, Vivitrol’s parent company, is “going to every county and pushing it in jails,” Bezirganian said. Because of serious interactions with opiate use, “they tell you only to prescribe it to people who are highly motivated, like an anesthesiologist with a drug problem or people on state parole,” the doctor said.

In an ideal world, Bezirganian said that Suboxone would be widely available for people no matter what other recovery steps they’re taking.

“Some people aren’t that interested in the whole recovery thing, going to groups, which is part and parcel of coming to an agency,” Bezirganian said. “For people coming in using lots of heroin, you could start them on a good dose and lower it over time. You can let people detox themselves.”

Police Not So Pleased With Shooting Heroin, Legally

Here’s the law enforcement angle story about the “Ithaca Plan,” the drug policy rolled out by Mayor Svante Myrick in late February 2016. This story ran as part of our March 2 cover package, a week after the plan’s official release. Image is that week’s cover illustration, representing the “four-pillar” plan, by Marshall Hopkins. The sheriff’s quotes were contributed by my colleague Jaime Cone, who also did a fantastic interview for the issue with the fantastically named Herebeorht Howland-Bolton.  My portion, with IPD Chief Barber, was completed in-person at Island Fitness, a gleaming palace of ellipticals and weights on the Ithaca waterfront; the chief saw me walking outside along the Inlet while working out and he gave me a call. We’d been playing phone tag, and he was leaving for vacation the next day. Score one more in favor of aimless walks. 

The supervised injection facility for heroin users proposed as part of Ithaca’s new municipal drug policy garnered lots of media attention, but not much in the way of praise from local law enforcement leaders.

Tompkins County Sheriff Kenneth Lansing said his department was not consulted in the development of the drug plan.

“We all know that people that are doing things they shouldn’t be doing are paranoid, and I’m just not sure how safe they’re going to feel going to a facility that’s going to allow them to do this,” Lansing said about the injection facility. “There are hurdles with the legality to look at. Nothing against the mayor; I think he’s doing a hell of a job, no doubt about it, and the plan has some great ideas. I just can’t accept [the injection facility], and I can’t support it.”

Ithaca police Chief John Barber said that as “an officer of the law, I have to uphold the law.”

“I applaud Mayor Myrick for coming up with a plan that’s not business as usual,” Barber said. “I don’t agree with all aspects, but [the plan] could do a lot of good and ultimately save lives.”

Even if the injection facility comes to be at all, it’s certainly not happening immediately. The facility does have the backing of Gwen Wilkinson, the Tompkins County district attorney, but as Myrick said at the Feb. 24 press conference the city has “no interest putting time and resources into something that will be shut down a couple days later.” Getting the power to open such a facility will likely take a legal change or at least the governor’s support, the mayor said.

One major recommendation in the “Ithaca Plan” does not face any legal hurdles: starting a“law enforcement assisted diversion” (LEAD) program. The LEAD concept was pioneered in Seattle in 2011.

The “diversion” in LEAD means that police can use their discretion to “reroute people into the intake process, rather than court,” Barber said. One of the findings in the Ithaca Plan is that drug courts “are not a sufficient solution” because of the strict requirements like total abstinence from substances.

The gist of the LEAD idea is to get people struggling with addiction some help, rather than adding to their complications by further entangling them in the criminal justice system or taking them back to the emergency room for one more night that doesn’t solve any of their underlying problems.

“We can’t, and neither can the hospitals, take these frequent fliers—the people who are constantly taking up the professional facilities,” Lansing said. “The hospital doesn’t have the time or the staff to deal with that, and other than putting them in a cell by themselves there’s not much that we at the jail can do. It’s a very difficult thing, withdrawal.”

In July 2015 Albany became the first New York city to approve the concept, and it has since received at least one grant of $70,000 from a private foundation to hire a staffer.

The memorandum of understanding passed by Albany’s Common Council to start their LEAD program calls for a protocol-making committee made up of representatives from law enforcement and relevant county and city departments, like mental health. Non-profit service providers and the Drug Policy Alliance, a New York City nonprofit that played a large role in writing the Ithaca Plan, serve at will on the committee in an advisory role.

In July 2015 Barber attended meetings on the LEAD concept hosted by the White House. He said at the Feb. 24 press conference that he came back “renewed” after seeing how a plan could be “put together for a specific person, and then it’s working.”

Barber couldn’t provide numbers offhand, but said that people with drug problems are responsible for well over half of property crimes in Ithaca.

“People who are addicted are stealing to support their habit,” Barber said. “There are a small number of people in the community who are in and out on a regular basis, and the way we approach it now is not working.”

“Police officers are in the field every day building a rapport with people,” Barber continued. “[LEAD] is really another form of community policing.” •

Learning the Back-to-the-Landers

This interview originally ran in the Feb. 17 Ithaca Times. I thought the story near the end about Cornell brass submarining a grant proposal was pretty fascinating. My photo – these Q&A “speakeasy” interviews appear with the subject as a cutout, so we’ve been doing our best to avoid the person-standing-against-wall shot. Green and I foraged in the Agway on a zero degree day to find a prop that worked and we ended up with a wagon. My production guy didn’t like me, because there was no brick wall background. Alas.

The Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming is going through the first leadership change in its history this month, with the retirement of founding director Joanna Green. Elizabeth Gabriel, who operates Wellspring Forest Farm with her husband Steve in Mecklenburg and was the founding director of Common Good City Farm in Washington, D.C., will replace Green as executive director of Groundswell, which focuses on educating potential farmers in sustainable agriculture practices.

After Green took an early retirement from Cornell Cooperative Extension in 2008, where she worked with the farming alternatives program, she put in lots of unpaid time to help launch Groundswell. The center started offering classes in 2010 after receiving funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) beginner rancher and farmer development program. Groundswell, which is part of Cornell’s Center for Transformative Action, now offers numerous courses on everything from pasture management to marketing, and has an incubator farm where aspiring farmers without land can get a start.

The Ithaca Times sat down with Green to talk about her work with Groundswell.

Ithaca Times: How did Groundswell come about?

Joanna Green: It grew out of EcoVillage, where I used to live. We had always done a lot of sustainability education—West Haven is a beautiful farm, a really well run organic CSA, and they did a lot of great educational work. There was more demand than they could fulfill and still farm, so we started about making a non-profit institute for sustainable agriculture. The farmers weren’t going to build a non-profit, and EcoVillage had its own education agenda. In 2008, EcoVillage held a fundraising dinner and raised a few thousand dollars, and in 2010 we started programming.

IT: In your view, what’s been the overall mission of the Groundswell Center since it began?

JG: Increasing diversity in agriculture. And one of the challenges is we are a predominantly white region. There’s a matter of expectations on both sides: people in the agriculture world aren’t used to thinking about [diversity] or might not realize there’s interest from people of color in farming. In communities of color, in some cases, there’s a stigma attached, especially with African-Americans, where their historical role in agriculture is one of being exploited.

There is a growing movement to farming. It’s an honorable occupation that has a lot to do with sovereignty today. People don’t want to be dependent on a food system that’s poisoning them. If you’re not involved in producing food, you’re subject to a system that’s just feeding you junk and contributing to massive health problems.

IT: How do you go about increasing interest in farming from a diverse group of people, then?

JG: The challenge of those of us who are white and in institutions primarily led by white people is how do you actually do the work that engages and eventually turns power and resources over to people of color. The most basic thing is building relationships. In working for 20-some years in Cornell in agriculture, almost all of my colleagues and farmers—the whole world—was white. If we take on the mission of changing the face of agriculture and don’t have personal relationships, we can’t get very far. The organization has to build credibility and trust based on personal relationships. All the setbacks are learning opportunities for us. Coming to understand power we have as white individuals, the learning curve is painful sometimes.

IT: What places in life are those taking classes at Groundswell coming from?

JG: We’ve had anyone from their late teens and early 20s from any number of places, some really impoverished and some affluent college graduates. At the other end of the spectrum there are people in their 50s or 60s wanting to do something totally different in retirement or as a second career. We have a lot of midcareer people thinking, ‘I can’t keep doing what I’m doing.’ At least one couple with adult children who have started farming in T-burg moved to the Finger Lakes from Tennessee to do this. It’s people who want to farm but need to learn.

IT: And what do the prospective farmers who come through your doors learn?

JG: One of our most intensive courses is farm business planning, which we give every winter. There are 80 or 100 people who have taken it, and a substantial portion of them go into business. A lot of them come into this endeavor with little financial management skills, so we provide a much greater chance of succeeding by giving a realistic picture of what they’re up against.

For the same reason farming is super challenging, it’s super rewarding with those for which it’s a good fit. It’s a small segment of the population who’s really cut out to succeed in farming. It’s not a failure on anybody’s part or on Groundswell’s part to expose people to farming and our programs and they decide it’s not for them. And we have people who say what I really want to do is homestead, have a big garden, a little bit of livestock, but I’m not going to try and make a business of it.

IT: How have you seen support for sustainable agriculture education change over the years?

JG: The demand’s been increasing over the past 10 or 20 years. The USDA has supported development of all these different variations in farmer education nationwide. We have to reinvent a training system that fell apart over the last 60 or 70 years. It used to be farmers grew up on farms, and there was a natural organic learning process they went through. Then the [agricultural] colleges started taking on a lot of that—but all the practical how-to-farm stuff was gutted. It became all biotech, aimed at the large industrial model of farming.

The following questions are online exclusives! (There’s no limit to space on the Internet.) 

IT: Do you have any personal experience with institutions orienting themselves more toward that industrial farming model?

JG: At Cornell, we had a civic agriculture program under the direction of Thomas Lyson [a professor of sociology]. The Kellogg Foundation was pushing in the ’90s for sustainable agriculture to get a foothold in the land grant universities, and we had a grant written for three years and $750,000. Kellogg sent a team to meet with us to see if we had the support of the institution, if it was a wise investment. And a dean came into the meeting and said Kellogg shouldn’t bother putting their money here. They should invest the money into dairy manure management research. The Kellogg people were shocked. That was a low point in my career.

IT: What do you plan on doing with your increased free time in retirement?

JG: I’m going to play in my garden. Do more music. I’m going to step back from a lot of stuff and reinvent myself. I’m a good grant writer, but Elizabeth is someone who can put Groundswell on a footing where its not so dependent on the federal grants. I’m really confident in all the younger energy coming into the field and I’m going to embrace my role as an elder now. I’ve tried to model to staff and coworkers that being a human being is really important. There’s more to life than a job.

Raza Rumi on Pakistan, Terrorism, & Free Expression

This interview originally ran in the March 23, 2016, Ithaca TimesYou can read Rumi’s account of the March 2014 assassination attempt in an essay on aeon.co entitled “On the run,” and find more of his writings on his website: razarumi.com.  Photo by Diane Duthie. 

Raza Rumi left Pakistan for the United States nearly two years ago. An attempt on the journalist’s life made by armed militants on March 28, 2014 left his driver, Ghulam Mustafa, dead, and him feeling unsafe in his home country.

On the evening of the attack, Rumi was leaving the Express News television studios after an Urdu-language news and commentary broadcast. He had moved to Pakistan’s second-largest news network a few months before, the latest step in an increasingly visible media career that had earned him a spot on a Taliban-authored hit list of journalists and writers for expressing reformist views.

Last September Rumi began a two-year residency hosted by Ithaca City of Asylum at Ithaca College. This semester he is teaching an honors class on the history and culture of South Asia and a class in journalism research. He published Delhi by Heart: Impressions of a Pakistani Traveller in 2013.

The Ithaca Times sat down with Rumi to talk about his work—in past, present, and future—the state of Pakistan, and his impressions of the United States so far.

Ithaca Times:You took an unorthodox path into journalism. Tell us a little bit about your background and how that informs your work now.

Raza Rumi: I was a civil servant in Pakistan, and then got into international development. I was with the Asian Development Bank for nearly a decade, during which time I began to write for Pakistani papers. I was enjoying it so much, getting so much feedback, that I said, ‘Let’s give it a try and make it into a kind of career.’ In 2008 I took a leave from the Asian Development Bank and started editing the Friday Times, a liberal weekly newspaper in Lahore … My background gives me an immense edge in terms of commentaries and analysis. I write with that experience; I know which parts of government talk to each other, how transactions come into effect.

IT: What are the restrictions on freedom of expression in Pakistan?

RR: There are red lines which journalists must not cross. You can’t be critical of the military intelligence agencies of Pakistan. You need to be very careful what you say about religion and Islam, because of the power of the Islamic clerics and militant, violent groups like the Taliban and Pakistani Taliban affiliates. You can’t call for the repeal of the blasphemy law in public. You can call to change the procedures, amend it, review it. But the blasphemy law is said to uphold the sanctity of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, so even to challenge that you’re seen as a kind of heretic.

IT: What are the uses of religion for the power structure in Pakistan?

RR: A good way of maximizing political capital is to use Islam. They say, ‘I’m a good Muslim politician, for people who are faithful, practicing Muslims.’ The military has used it even more since the dictatorship [of General Zia-ul-Haq] in the ‘80s, which used Islam to strengthen their rule for a decade. He kept telling Pakistanis he was here to enforce real Islam, to turn Pakistan into a greater Islamic country, and he took it to another level. During that time Pakistan was using jihadist groups to seek influence in neighboring Afghanistan, with the U.S. and Saudis as part of that project. … The use of Islamic militant groups is part of state policy. That’s what I was trying to challenge every evening with my own show and other shows as well, every evening for hours.

IT: And you were talking about reforming the blasphemy law and the state at the time you were attacked?

RR: I was commenting a lot on that when, in 2012, I started engaging with broadcast media more. I had been writing about these issues since 2005 in English, but there’s a limited readership. On a TV channel there’s the mass media effect of millions watching and noting what was being said. Toward the end of 2013 I was getting a lot of feedback from a lot of people. I was engaging people with what I had to say, but also getting a lot of threats, particularly on social media, on views about Islamic extremism and criticizing the state. … My ideas were getting more traction. I tried to be cautious always, but I had given up all my careers for freedom of expression to get this sort of kick and engagement. I feel like journalism has to guard and stand for the public interest, and use the most powerful and important means to achieve that.

IT: How do you compare the media climates in Pakistan and the United States?

RR: TV is the same format, the same sensationalization. Generally journalists are safer in the U.S., and media has far [broader] limits to criticize religion, policy, and politicians. The one similarity I would say is on national security, in terms of policy and objectives, by and large the mainstream media follows what the Pentagon, White House, and CIA say. The Iraq war is a great example: there was hardly any criticism of that when the U.S. went to Iraq—even the New York Times supported the invasion. Almost a decade later we know it was a disastrous thing to have done. It destroyed Iraq, there were no weapons of mass destruction found, and it led to the growth of groups like the Islamic State. And now the U.S. wants to fight them again. In Pakistan also, being critical of national security is taken as an act of being unpatriotic.

IT: What projects are you working on during your time in Ithaca?

RR: I’m working on a memoir about the last few years, about my work, about almost being killed, and my ideas of what it means to be a public engager. I did one third of the writing the last freezing winter locked up in this house, and I didn’t go anywhere. Now I plan to, hopefully by summer—fingers crossed—to finish a first draft. Once that’s out of the way I want to work on other book projects, including one on international development.

/endprintversion. Internet extras below, in which the interviewer drops the pretense that he actually asked those exact questions to get those exact answers. 

On the feelings of the Pakistani public toward extremism and violence:

Rumi: The majority of Pakistanis don’t support violent extremists. Since 2004 they have been attacking Pakistanis and have killed more than 50,000 civilians and military personnel. When I was engaged in journalistic work, terrorism had gotten beyond control. That was why my voice was loud and heard, because I was saying this terrorism is our own doing. The Pakistani government created these proxies to control Afghanistan, to attack India. Our policy needs to change that we view national security as acting through these proxies. It’s not too much different from what the U.S. did in many parts of Latin America, setting up the Contras groups to do regime change …

So the story is the Pakistani public by a large number does not support these kinds of policies, but they are influenced and controlled through the public opinion, and the media majority echoes the line of the Pakistani military.

(The military) tells us ‘The West is going to take away our nukes. The U.S. bombarded Iraq and Afghanistan and they can come and bombard us as well. We need to be anti-American.’ Or India is our enemy. ‘They harmed us, they broke us into two parts.’

That was 1971. It’s 2016. These ideas are drummed into the heads of ordinary Pakistanis. It’s like manufactured consent, the Chomskyian construct. The majority of the media is like Fox News. The few of us talking about this are called liberals, liberal fascists, traitors, liberal extremists, unpatriotic, sellouts to the West. Now that I’ve come to the U.S. I think I’m certified as a sellout leftist in Pakistan.

On the recent history of Pakistani media:

Rumi: In Pakistan there’s a big history of censorship, media muzzling, but over time it has changed. In the early 2000s General Musharraf deregulated Pakistani media and there was the emergence of many private channels, newspapers, and magazines. Television was all state owned – newspapers were not state-owned, some were, but those that were privately owned were under tight controls. The results have been very mixed. Media played an important role against General Musharraf in 2007, ’08, when new elections were held and democracy returned, the dictatorship was over.

On how he’s continuing to work with the Friday Times using technology.

Rumi: I still commission new stories and edit them (for the Friday Times). Initially when I came here I said ‘How will I do it?’ But technology has really facilitated that. There’s all of this talk in journalism of changing frontiers and it is actually true. I use Whatsapp, Skype, Viber, Twitter, countless other platforms. All day long I can be connected with my team, sources, and colleagues in the industry, so as these conversations are going on I manage to do work with the paper. I did a story on HuffPost where I interviewed a Yazidi refugee from Iraq via Skype. He took the camera into this refugee camp and showed me the camp. I walked with him, technologically speaking.

Grandma Drone Activist On Her Time In Jail

Originally published in the March 16 Ithaca Times. Photo by Diane Duthie.

Grady Flores and I talked for about an hour and a half on the Friday morning before this story was published, going over everything from the minutiae of where the property lines are at the Air Force base to the peace movement’s arguments for enforcing international law. 

Ithaca peace activist Mary Anne Grady Flores was released from the Jamesville jail in Onondaga County on March 7. She had spent 49 days in lock-up for violating an order of protection against Col. Earl Evans, commander of Hancock Air Force Base.

Grady Flores’ imprisonment came about from her involvement with the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, which has staged protest actions at Hancock since 2010. The base hosts a command center for the remote pilots who control MQ 9 Reaper drones, which are used in missile strikes at alleged terrorists in numerous countries overseas.

At a demonstration on Oct. 25, 2012 outside the Hancock base gates, Grady Flores was arrested with numerous other protesters and taken to the DeWitt Town Court. There, a one-year order of protection to keep them away from Evans was issued to the arrested. On Feb. 13, 2013, Ash Wednesday, Grady Flores was taking photographs of other protesters outside the base gates.

“I wasn’t planning on getting arrested,” Grady Flores said in an interview with the Times. “I had a catering job the next day.”

As the police moved to arrest the protesters, Grady Flores started walking down the road to a diner to freshen up and get a cup of coffee when a police car swung around to pick her up. She said that photographs of that day show she never set foot on the base’s property—and moreover, where property lines are there are unclear.

“It’s important to explain this stuff, but it’s a huge distraction,” Grady Flores said, as she traced out the geography of the protest area with her hands. The base has eventually said that its property goes out to the double yellow line in the middle of Molloy Road, though many officers arresting protesters have admitted later in court they did not know where that line was.

In February 2014, Grady Flores was one of 12 protesters from the October 2012 action to be sentenced to 15 days in jail for disorderly conduct. In May of that year, her charge for violating the order of protection went to trial. That trial was frustrating because the moral and legal arguments that protesters have raised in the past were all off-limits, Grady Flores said. In the past, drone activists have had former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark testify to a Town of DeWitt justice about the connections between international war crimes law and local law in cases where they’re charged for disorderly conduct and/or trespassing.

The short of their argument, Grady Flores said, is the “justification rule.”

“If there’s a fire in a house you have a right to break a front door to save a life,” she said. “We can’t leave it only to those who are in power and we’ve known that throughout history. In the case of wars it’s been the veterans themselves who have had that quantum-leap moment where the secret is out and they want to know why they’re marching to wars and dying in the thousands. In the case of the drone pilots, they’re succumbing to [post-traumatic stress disorder].”

In July 2015, Grady Flores was sentenced to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, which her attorney Lance Salisbury notes is the maximum and “extremely unusual and severe.” When an appeal to the Onondaga County court was denied, Grady Flores had to surrender on Jan. 19 to begin her sentence, which had been reduced to six months by that time.

The experience of incarceration has its rules and routines that seem minor, but add up to a less than wholly human experience.

“No one is allowed to give hugs or touch one another in jail – you’re supposed to get seven hugs a day to be healthy and I’m in starvation mode,” Grady Flores said. Even something so simple as the guards making their rounds every 15 or 20 minutes, with keys jangling and their “bloody bleeping” scanners takes some time to block out.

Incarcerated in a pod with about 60 other women, Grady Flores said there were moments of joy. On one day, Grady Flores’ friend Carissa returned from the downtown Syracuse jail excited, because she had met four women who had been arrested at a Jan. 28 action at Hancock. Later, Grady Flores was called to the TV room to see her comrades on the 6 o’clock news. And while she’s a self-proclaimed radio news junkie with no television for 20 years, Grady Flores did discover she liked the Ellen DeGeneres show while “in the hole.”

Grady Flores is originally from the Bronx, which gave her “a lot of street cred.” One of the guards said hello with the greeting “What’s up, OG,” one day.

“What’s that mean? Old Grandma?” Grady Flores asked the guard. “No, he said, old gangster.”

Grady Flores might yet have to return to jail. She’s out on a “stay of judgment,” while the New York Court of Appeals, its highest court, decides whether to hear her appeal. That appeal relies on a misuse of the order of protection, typically applied in cases of domestic abuse.

At her trial for violating the order, Evans took the stand and admitted “he doesn’t know me or any of the others, he’s not afraid of me, and he never had a conversation with me,” Grady Flores said. “It was just a piece of paper to keep us away from the base.”

Grady Flores’ mother is in hospice care and she said she hopes to stay out of jail long enough to see her to the end. While Grady Flores is catching up on the news and continuing to pay attention to drone warfare, she also wants some family time.

“There’s a bombardment of messages from society all about numbing ourselves and not taking an honest look at this thing, which is pretty hard to look at,” Grady Flores said. “I’d rather not look at it myself. I’d rather hang out with my grandchildren at the playground and waterfalls, make cookies. And I will do that, that’s what feeds my soul.”

Charlie Bucket in Seneca Falls

This space has been long neglected, in favor of writing for my day-and-nights job that actually pays, a little. So perhaps we’ll make this space a bit of a reporter’s notebook, for those whimsical bits we can’t fit in our 28 to 32 pages a week.

Our emails at that alternative-to-Gannett-parsimony-weekly are inherited and very generic. “My email is reporter at ithacatimes.com” is often how I give people an idea of the size of the shop. Which is still, I believe, the largest full-time editorial staff in Tompkins County, with three reporters and two editors covering an area of 100,000 people.

So our long-used accounts get a lot of press releases, like lots of reporters do, and some of them are the boring kind – some recent grad in some PR shop out of NYC or San Francisco, asking us four times in a week whether we want to run some study showing Ithaca to be a place from which families are fleeing or something. Because it’s a study performed by some real estate site trying to get its name out there before the venture capital runs out.

And some of these releases are far more amusing, surprising, whimsical, what have you. Usually, the more mom-and-pop local operations supply those. I been meaning to share more of these, so let’s start now with this one from the Seneca Community Players.

It starts out telling us it’s the 45th anniversary of the Gene Wilder version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Important why? Because the …
“Seneca Community Players have issued a virtual Golden Ticket to residents of Seneca County and surrounding areas to come and meet Peter Ostrum, who portrayed Charlie Bucket in the film at a Willy Wonka themed, press release party at the Gould Hotel in Seneca Falls on Thursday, April 21, 2016.”

“Doors will open at 6pm, and attendees will be invited to enjoy a chocolate buffet donated by local businesses.  Peter Ostrum will give a presentation followed by a brief question and answer session, after which he will be available for autographs and photos with a suggested donation of $5 for Seneca Community Players.  There is no charge to attend the event.”

A very affordable fundraiser; the tie-in is a kick-off for a larger fundraiser – an “auction theater,” where each role in a three-night stand of Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka will be auctioned off to the highest bidding would-be player.

Ostrum (pictured above, in the release photo) only acted in Charlie, and no other film, according to his Wiki. At the wise age of 13, he turned down a three-film offer and instead ended up going to Cornell’s veterinary school. He now practices large animal medicine in the North Country of New York.

Outtakes From Songwriter Kevin Gordon

The most lovely thing about doing 20-inch previews of music shows for any given local paper are the turns a conversation might take when both parties aren’t in any rush to get off the phone. I previewed Kevin Gordon’s latest show at the Elk Creek Cafe in September and during the course of our conversation, other topics came up. You can read a lot more about Gordon in this cover story from the Nashville Scene.

We talked about his experiences attending the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the late ’80s for poetry.

“For me it was exactly what I needed,” Gordon said. “I needed to have my head blown open. I went to college at Monroe State for four of my five years in college, with the other year at Louisiana Tech … I was fortunate enough for three of the five years to have an incredible writing teacher who had gone to school in Virginia, Dev Hathaway.”
That was the first time Gordon had “ever seen a literary journal that was current, with poems written in the last year,” he said. Jorie Graham was a writer-in-residence and encouraged him to apply to graduate programs.
“I got in, and the slacker that I was said this is what I’m going to do for the next two years,” Gordon said. The other option? Move to Austin and become a singer-songwriter, like his friend Kevin Russell, who’s now playing with the Shiny Ribs.

“It was an ego circus as you can imagine,” Gordon said about Iowa. (And what follows, it should be noted, are scattered sentence quotes from a stream-of-consciousness conversation.)
“We were always the juvenile delinquents of the program. I’m still amazed I didn’t go to jail more than once. I was incredibly lucky. We were doing crazy shit. We were living the so-called intense life. The passionate life. Jorie was saying one time in class, urging us to live our lives full of experience. All we took it as was I should fuck as many people as possible; drink as much as I can; and hey, what are those pills you’re taking? At the same time it was also really serious I guess in that I never had as much time before or since to read.”

Frank Conroy would show up at the bars and play pool and talk after-hours. And the students had responsibilities for throwing visiting writers their shindigs. Meaning they had to buy the booze. Gordon drew Seamus Heaney.

“I thought he’d want some Irish whiskey, or single malt. I asked him at the bar, and all he said was ‘Jack Daniel’s, love.”

Though Gordon is slated by critics into the “singer-songwriter” genre, whatever that means, he says he grew up on punk rock in Monroe, Louisiana.

“For some reason our parents let us drive to New Orleans to see people like the Dead Kennedys at an absolute shithole like Jimmy’s. It’s now a college dance bar. Back then it was just a pit.”

“The punk thing came from my own interest in skateboarding,” Gordon recalled. “I was one of five people in Monroe who subscribed to Skateboarder magazine. I was exposed to what was going on in California from that magazine. It took a few years for people to be aware of what that even was.”

“The punk thing kind of made sense to me because it was tied to the early rock and roll stuff I liked … that my parents listened to. They were pretty much Beatles generation people. Their tastes were Jerry Lee Lewis and Ray Charles. I remember that a lot more than the Beatles.”

If a musician must have a day job, there are worse ones than dealing outsider art. That’s Gordon’s other gig, besides playing and songwriting.

“I really despise all the terminology,” Gordon said, “… but it became an aesthetic obsession.”

“I figured out pretty quickly, even as economical as folk art was, in some cases, I still couldn’t afford it. I couldn’t be a collector. Over the years it just became that kind of zen bargain that what comes in might have to go out someday. God knows there are easier things to sell. I get to live with the work, I get to learn about it. And write about it occasionally.”

“It’s primarily artists that are deceased. Most of them are already widely collected and exhibited,” Gordon continued. “It’s not like I had the time or capital to help build someone’s so-called career. The first time I heard the phrase “folk art career” — by a kind of nouveau folk artist who was about 25 – when my career started, Oh my God, it sure has changed.”

Southeastern art students of the ’80s and ’90s knew who Howard Finster was, Gordon continued. “The results sure are different. There’s a certain aesthetic integrity that I find in the real stuff that is totally missing in the folks who have cable TV and smartphones and such.”

Rewriting Dylan’s Lyrics In Millheim

Wrote up the 7th Harry Smith Festival in Millheim as an ‘audition’ piece of sorts for Relix, probably way too late to make publication, and anyway, I’m pretty sure one needs to present a lock of hair from Bob Weir to the editors there to get a byline in that rag. This event learned me about the folk music and it benefits a good cause.

Harry Smith Festival

Elk Creek Café

Millheim, PA
November 16, 2014

The final set of the seventh Harry Smith Festival opened with a how-do-you-do from Kai Schafft that no stadium pop princess is ever likely to utter: “Here’s a song about great tragedy – you all ready!?”

Festival organizer Schafft and his band Chicken Tractor Deluxe then kicked into an hour-long set of stories from Harry Smith’s influential Anthology of American Folk Music. Whether the subject was wishing to be a mole underground or requesting a grave kept clean, drummer Gary Gyekis and bassist Jimmy Baughman kept a hard-stomping beat behind banjo, guitar, pedal steel and joiners-in on the fiddle and harmonica.

Three sets full of Depression-era songs from Gnarled Knuckle String Band, NattyLou Race and Junior Tutwiler, and Jerry Zolten and Richard Sleigh didn’t have the crowd in this microbrew hall down and out when headliner Lenny Kaye took his stool on stage around 4 p.m.

Barstools were claimed and tables pushed tight: any curious local Amish trotting by on a Sunday drive would have needed to step inside to figure out the commotion, for the plate glass windows were opaque from body heat and hoppy exhalations.

Acoustic guitar underarm and accompanied by Christine Smith of Marah on the squeezebox, Kaye opened his set with “Banks of the Ohio.” He then promptly admitted to the crowd he’d never played any of the songs live before, and that he might be a tad hungover. His Saturday night solo show in Millheim, backed by Smith and her bandmate Dave Bielanko, went a bit long on the afterparty end.

“I was so negligent yesterday, partying out, drinking Oktoberfest here,” Kaye said. The Sunday comedown didn’t affect Kaye’s ability to play at a hootenanny pace while offering some of his erudition on musical history.

“I never knew any of the originals, which is a real example of folk communication,” Kaye said of the Anthology tunes before kicking into Big Joe Williams’ “Turn Your Lamp Down Low,” learned from the Amboy Dukes. Clarence Ashley’s “The Coo Coo Bird” came to him from Big Brother and the Holding Company.

Kaye ranged well outside the Anthology for his selections and educational asides. He told the crowd:

“There’s a lot of music in the late ’20s and early ’30s that’s not on the Harry Smith anthology. You have to remember what the times were. It was a time of depression. People didn’t get to eat burgers from cows 10 miles away, or drink craft beer.”

Before playing “Where the Blue of the Night,” Kaye reminded his listeners how “revolutionary” Bing Crosby’s voice sounded when the microphone was invented in 1931, that invention itself a “very odd topic” that obsessed him for 10 years or so. Before launching into a singalong version of “The Old Gospel Ship,” Kaye mused on how much religion is in folk music: “Music is just one step away from the spiritual enlightenment that is heaven. It’s kind of like the pathway.”

How folk songs evolve was demonstrated when Kaye played “Like a Rolling Stone.” The crowd was singing along until verse three began, when Kaye stopped, unable to remember the first line.

Kaye kept strumming, hoping for a prompt: “Can somebody look it up on Google?” he asked. “Bob Dylan is like turning over in his grave.”

After a minute or more pause as people pulled out their phones, Kaye started making up the next verse:

“Drinking Oktoberfest, and that’s probably why I have to confess, I can’t remember the words/
And you know this town of Millheim is so sweet. I’m going to come back here in the summer and have something to eat.”

A voice finally called out “Never turned down to see the crowns.” Kaye then sang Dylan’s lyrics to the end, after shooting another verse into the folk cosmos from the year 2014.

Josh Brokaw is a writer currently based in Ithaca, N.Y. Direct critiques, communiques, and cash to jaydbrokaw at gmail.com

Rally ‘Round The Gadsden: A Meeting Of Upstate New York Secessionists

Vice News expressed interest in coverage of an Upstate New York secession rally, held on Sunday, August 30 in Bainbridge – a lovely little village on the Susquehanna about halfway between Binghamton and Oneonta. So I went, and wrote the story pretty “straight” on Monday morning, as was requested, and it must’ve been too straight, or something, because it was killed. There were a couple TV reports from the rally, but this is the only “print” report so far as I can tell.

If, someday, the state of New York decides to get a legal divorce, whatever government or revolutionary committee is operating in Chenango County will have to spring for a historical marker in the village of Bainbridge.

The first “Secession Movement Rally” was held there on Sunday, Aug. 30, in General Clinton Park on the banks of the Susquehanna River. Southern Tier landowner groups who want to allow fracking have proposed joining Pennsylvania, a story that made news this past February. Another proposal pitched by the “Divide New York State Caucus” calls for a two-region “autonomous zone” that separates the city and Downstate from Upstate. Regional governments would do most of the legislating – the new one region is to be called “New Amsterdam” – with the state governor retaining “no more power than the Queen of England,” according to caucus chair John Bergener, Jr.

Bainbridge Rally Cuomo Must Go
The nitty-gritty business of how to secede was discussed some during the rally, but the majority of the 11 speakers throughout the nearly three-hour event focused on why they have problems with living in Upstate New York. Burdensome regulations – on guns, gas, and schools – figured prominently in the litany of woes, as did Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s existence. Safety-green T-shirts with “CUOMO MUST GO” on the back and a handful of red “Yes, I Can Say Windsor, Pennsylvania” were dotted throughout a crowd that peaked at about 150, though it dwindled to perhaps half that by the end. They mingled under a row of pop-up tents sheltering tables loaded with literature on too-high taxes, unconstitutional gun control, jury nullification, and how to frack safely.

Dan Devlin, of the New York Oath Keepers, began the proceedings by decrying New York’s SAFE Act, the state gun control law passed in 2013. The greatest injustice, Devlin said, is the state’s mistrust of those who served in the military or police.

“You have to go to the state or county and say, please, may I have a firearm,” Devlin said. He called for men to stand up and defend their rights and the rights of those scarred by war. “I can tell you of people who lost arms and legs and their sanity and sight because they believed you’d take care of the country they left you.”

Devlin made clear his position on whether he feels the Constitution is actually in effect when the next speaker asked him to lead the Pledge of Allegiance and he called for someone else to do that duty.
“Are there any veterans in the crowd who would like to lead this pledge?” Devlin asked. “It’s a pretty important thing to decline to do this … Until people know what they’re taking the pledge to, I’ll decline on occasion.”

Upstate Secession Bainbridge
Several horror stories of “American heroes” screwed over by stringent gun laws were told by Steve Aldstadt of SCOPE, including one about an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who “had a few rifles with the pistol grip on them, the scary kind,” that he needed to sell to make ends meet. After visiting a dealer with these guns, which Aldstadt said were legal in other states, the veteran was reported to “the feds.” They posed as a gun buyer and are now charging the veteran with felonies.

“They’re making good, honest people into criminals,” Aldstadt said, before closing his piece with a shout of “Andrew Cuomo, let my people go!”

The “New York 2nd Amendment Grassroots Coalition,” or NY2A for short, was handing out postcards with four emphases listed – education, voter registration, nullification, and non-compliance. REGISTER NOTHING the card said, in government-stamp font, alongside a picture of four men feeding papers into a lit kettle grill.

Jake Palmateer of NY2A told his story of New York’s Sullivan Act, a concealed weapons law passed in 1911. The sponsoring state senator, Tim Sullivan, was “suffering from syphilis, he was crazy,” Palmateer said. To boot, the law was “born out of ethnophobia” – the Irish didn’t want Italians to have handguns. This led into a mention of the National Rifle Association helping to arm Southern blacks against the KKK during Reconstruction.

Secede! Upstate Secession - Bainbridge

 

Freeing gas from the ground after New York’s statewide fracking ban was also a popular talking point.

Vic Furman said he was watching his grandchildren play in the yard the morning of the rally and was wondering how their lives would turn out.

“They’re going to have people like Yoko Ono telling them how to live their life, while flying around in jets,” Furman said, referring to Ono’s Pennsylvania tours with Gasland director Josh Fox. “We have to get these assholes in Albany out,” Furman concluded.

Sandra Davis, of the Deposit Gas Group, had her own big closing line after she talked about gas drilling benefiting everyone: “It’s all well and good to save the whales. Let’s save our young families, too.”

And Jane Stebela, of Americans for Restoring the Constitution, read a Jeffersonian declaration of secession, which started its litany of grievances with this: “Property Rights is the Cornerstone of our Freedom and our potential Wealth. This Right has been usurped by the Royal Governor and his Activist Minions by restricting the opportunity of extracting precious minerals provided by the Infallible Creator himself. Surely God had no plan to harm us with the bountiful Natural Resources provided for our consumption.”

Common Core requirements and testing came up for criticism. Cathy Sapeta, of New Yorkers United For Kids, told the crowd that the new education requirements are “not about education, it’s about control and money.”

“’It’s going to take about 10 years to see if this education stuff works,’” Sapeta said she had read in an interview with Bill Gates, “the biggest sponsor” of Common Core. “They tell you it’s about education, but it’s about sorting children.”

Gilda Ward, of a local Tea Party group, expressed the most wide-ranging frustration. She told of her son having to leave the state to find a job, and talked about Upstate towns that “look more like inner-city Detroit.” Cuomo is all about control, Ward said, citing the “Upstate New York Economic Revitalization Competition,” the governor’s initiative to fund three $500 million proposals from seven different regions from financial crisis settlement monies.

“Again, we have to have a contest,” Ward said, “for these public-private partnerships that don’t have much to do with the needs of the people. They call it the upstate Hunger Games. Isn’t that lovely?”

Bergener said in a phone interview that much of his motivation for working with the Divide New York caucus the past seven years is also frustration that his own children and friends’ kids have had to move out-of-state to find jobs. Bergener acknowledged that a new region without Downstate’s tax revenues would have less state income, but it “wouldn’t be a super-poor place.” One of the things the “token state government” would still take care of through some taxation power, Bergener said, is outstanding pension obligations – “one of the most expensive things.”

“The current regulations are destroying everything,” Bergener said. Since no Congressional approval is needed for the New Amsterdam plan, two separate regions is realistic, he believes.

“Once people accept that it’s a workable plan, it’s getting people to believe it could actually happen,” Bergener said. That will require voters saying yes to the every-20-years ballot question of “should New York have a constitutional convention?” in 2017 – and then sending delegates to that convention who will work for regional autonomy.

Palmateer told the ralliers that the idea for secession has come “from strange places before” – that is, New York City. He cited Norman Mailer and Anthony Weiner’s mayoral campaigns and said that the city’s support will definitely be needed if any sort of secession plan can happen.

“We won’t get anywhere without the support of New York City,” Palmateer said. “They get to keep their lifestyle, and we get to live free. Or freer.”

Josh Brokaw is a writer currently based in Ithaca, N.Y. Direct critiques, communiques, and cash to jaydbrokaw at gmail.com