News & Opinion » Metro ink

News briefs 4.2.03

Staying human

Despite mounting tensions between peaceniks and police officials concerned about the cost of containing anti-war protests, the March 28 peace rally at the Liberty Pole downtown (and subsequent march to the former Genesee Hospital) was a largely non-confrontational affair. A few passing motorists gave protesters the one-fingered salute; the protesters responded with two-fingered gestures of peace. A bagpiper puffing out "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" didn't even wear the traditional ankle-knife. "Bom-bom, rock the nation / Take over television and radio station" boomed the recorded voice of Spearhead's Michael Franti at the Liberty Pole. Meanwhile, a pro-war rally sponsored in part by WROC-TV (Channel 8) news and mullet-rock station WCMF took place at Frontier Field. Most telling moment: doves at the Pole shouting "USA! USA!" elicit a response from two hawks across Main Street, "USA! USA!" Who says we all can't get along?

Happy returns

Crooner Tony Bennett, guitarist George Benson, vocalist Al Jarreau, and the Dave Brubeck Quartet will be the main attractions at this summer's Rochester International Jazz Festival, scheduled for June 5 through 14. Also slated to appear are Medeski Martin & Wood (in a reprise performance), the California Guitar Trio, Spyro Gyra, the Kurt Rosenwinkle Band, and the storied saxophone-drum duo of Sonny Fortune and Rashied Ali.

            The festival's popular Club Pass ($60 advance, $75 festival week), which provides first come, first served access to any of 40 club performances, will be available for sale, along with single-performance tickets, starting at 10 a.m. on Friday, April 4.

            Festival producer John Nugent has said that the future of this festival depends on the level of corporate sponsorship he's able to procure. Well, it seems this year's RIJF has managed to snag funding from a wide range of corporate sources, including Wegmans, Time Warner Cable, HSBC, Constellation Brands, and T Mobile.

            Many more artists, from Rochester and abroad, are also scheduled to perform in a variety of local venues for the festival, which will include a jazz film series, kids concerts, and nightly jam sessions at the Crowne Plaza.

            Club Passes and tickets for Water Street Music Hall and High Falls shows are available at and all Wegmans "That's T.H.E. Ticket!" outlets. Tickets for Eastman Theatre shows are only available at Ticket Express, 100 East Avenue, at, or

            Complete information on the RIJF can be found at, or by calling 234-2002. Brochures will be available at Wegmans starting April 7. And City Newspaper will publish a complete guide in the days leading up to the festival.

War of words

The Democrats in the County Lej, all but three of the 10, have run a pro-troops message up the flagpole and saluted.

            Their March 21 memorializing resolution, on Assistant Democratic Leader Chris Wilmot's letterhead, is conventional in juggling two political objectives: expressing support for US troops in Iraq, but avoiding outright bloodthirstiness.

            Yet Wilmot's resolution is implicitly pro-war. In four fulsome paragraphs, it says our military men and women are "brave," "courageous," "resolute," "steadfast in their mission," possessed of "awe-inspiring strength of will," and worthy of being "forever honored as heroic defenders of our nation's security and freedom." The American people, it says, need to give the troops "full support" and "our faith and trust." There's also the expectation that the troops will observe international law and "take all measures to protect non-combatants" --- but here the dulled rhetoric turns crucial legal and moral issues to footnotes.

            County Legislator Bill Benet was one Democrat who didn't sign the Wilmot text. "I certainly support our troops," he says, "but I do not feel [Wilmot's] was a good resolution. It went too far in supporting the war, and I don't support the war." Benet also believes that pro-war statements could actually hurt the troops.

            "I support every word in there," says Wilmot. He adds his "views on international issues have changed since September 11." In the past, he says, he was "rather dovish." And he says he's been studying World War II lately.

            Wilmot's resolution seems to contradict an anti-war resolution Benet submitted in early January. Benet's text called on George W. Bush "to reject a military attack on Iraq at this time," and it urged the US government to focus on al Qaeda while pursuing "a peaceful resolution" with Saddam Hussein.

            Like all such resolutions, Benet's was posted so legislators could add their signatures. But according to the Lej's Democratic office, only one legislator besides Benet --- Democrat Stephanie Polowe Aldersley --- signed on.

            Wilmot explains why he didn't sign on with Benet: "because I'm more in favor than not in favor" of the war.

            Speaking of Aldersley, there was something of a crossover here. After signing Benet's anti-war resolution, she signed on with Wilmot, as well. (She did not return a call for comment.)

            In a related matter, Benet recently submitted a memorializing resolution calling for the repeal of the federal USA PATRIOT Act and other measures that "pose significant threats to due process, civil liberties, and human rights." The act has come under fire from civil libertarians --- on the right as well as the left --- for harming 1st and 4th amendment protections by enlarging the government's investigative and surveillance powers.

            Right now, Benet's is the only signature on this resolution.

Michael and he

Our MetroInker went to the University of Rochester hoping to bag an answer from famed documentarian-agitator Michael Moore, who spoke at Strong Auditorium March 26.

            There he found the author of Stupid White Men and auteur of Bowling for Columbine before the mics and under the lights at a pre-talk news conference.

            Soon enough our guy got his chance. What do you think, he asked Moore, about the recent German press report naming Eastman Kodak among the US corporations that supplied weapons-related stuff to Saddam Hussein's Iraq, a report about which Kodak now expresses ignorance? "I don't know about Kodak," Moore deadpanned. Next question... Not even an improv on collective corporate crapola, as Moore performed so boisterously with GM.

            In fairness to Moore, our guy's question wasn't exactly a study in elegance and verbal economy. He might better have ditched the details and asked, Damn it, Mike, what should Rochesterians do to stop this bloody war?

            But all this faded into memory later when Moore addressed a packed house --- and packed basement and Quad, too --- and got everybody on a roll.

            He challenged listeners with an objective reality that gets buried in mainstream and rightwing noise. "We live in a very liberal country," he said. Look at the polls, he said, and you'll find strong majorities who are pro-choice, pro-environment, and in favor of universal health coverage.

            He turned his wrath on "embedded journalists" and their in-bed-with-power bosses. "I would like to call for an immediate withdrawal of US troops from CBS, NBC, ABC," he said.

            There were too many zingers to recount. But Moore reached a moral high point, and a kind of summation of his political beliefs, when he told what he was taught at Catholic school: "You are not allowed to kill another human being unless your life is in danger." Sounds like something the Pope said recently; but of course, he went to Catholic school, too.

            Moore is at his best when he tackles things that other media types --- even nominal liberals and lefties --- routinely fudge. Near the end of the talk, in response to a student's question, he declared: "Capitalism as we know it is the antithesis of democracy." Well, there goes his chance for a seat on a blue-ribbon commission.

            Just as a long post-talk question period was ending, a rather svelte presence was detected at a floor mic. Turns out it was syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington, who just arrived from a talk she gave in Brockport that same night.

            Where Moore had exhorted, inspired, and just plain charged everyone up, Huffington was specific. She told people to support federal legislation that would prevent businesses from incorporating offshore to evade US taxes.

            Then the evening was over. Our guy, standing in the back of the auditorium, realized too late he could have called out: Arianna, have you heard the one about Kodak? No joke.

Pick out your poison

The Sierra Club's Frank Regan wrote to us about a sure sign of spring: toxic pesticide applications on lawns, trees, and gardens, and public concern about the practice.

            Specifically, Regan tracked the progress of the Neighborhood Notification Law, by which counties in New York State can opt to require pesticide applicators to give advance notice to people living near areas being sprayed. A few counties, mostly downstate, have enacted their own notification laws. Monroe County, though, is behind the curve.

            Four county legislators --- Democrats Lynda Garner Goldstein, Jose Cruz, Carla Palumbo, and Jay Ricci --- have submitted a referral to get the ball rolling. Now in the county administration's hands for further study, the measure could theoretically come before the entire legislature this spring. However, legislator Goldstein says it's "unlikely" there'll be action soon enough to get a notification regime up and running this year.

            Are the Lej majority and administration just using a delaying tactic? "Absolutely," says Goldstein. (At press time, a county spokesperson hadn't returned our call for comment.)

EC is here

The University of Rochester's Reproductive Health Program has launched its effort to educate local women about emergency contraception and provide them with the medication on demand. The initiative includes a website,, and a toll-free phone number, 866-2-ASK-4-EC (866-227-5432), that women can use to get prescriptions for the pills, which are highly effective in preventing pregnancy if taken shortly after unprotected sex. The campaign, financed by an anonymous donor, also includes TV and radio ads.

While you were out

This week, in the "We're mad as hell and we're not gonna take it anymore" department, the Fairport school board and its superintendent, Bill Cala, are openly rebelling against the powers-that-be in Albany. Frustrated over having their school budgets screwed up year after year by state legislators' inability to pass the state budget on time, the board and the super announced they will not put the district's budget out for a vote on May 20 --- as the law requires --- until the state gets its act together and passes its budget. Governor George Pataki's proposed budget would cut state aid to Fairport's district by $2.1 million, or about eight percent, and the district is loathe to guess how much state aid, if any, it will lose when legislators finally get around to passing the state's spending plan. Lawmakers missed this year's deadline, April 1, for the 19th year in a row, and are now arguing whether it'll be done in mid or late April. State Education Commissioner Richard Mills' office responded to Fairport district officials' impertinence with a threat to remove Cala and the board from office if they do not follow orders. In a related story, Saddam Hussein is still in power.

Speaking of state crackdowns on personal freedoms, state lawmakers found the time to pass a law banning smoking in almost all restaurants and bars. The bill is headed to Pataki's desk, where the gov will probably sign the measure into law, then fire up a big stogie in celebration. Establishments exempted from the ban include some cigar bars, American Legion posts, and other places most people avoid. Casinos run by Indian tribes would also be exempt. A possible rationale: If you're gonna gamble your life savings away playing card games and rolling dice, you may as well smoke yourself to death, too.

OK, we're pretty sure it's official now, so we may as well print it: Mayor Bill Johnson is running for County Executive. And though we hate to jump the gun by predicting who Johnson's Republican opponent will be, inside sources close to the county Republican Party are hinting that County Clerk Maggie Brooks may be considering the possibility of potentially running for the office.

--- Compiled by Chris Busby from news reports and off-the-record interviews conducted in city parking garages with shadowy county Republican operatives.

Correcting ourselves

Annual Manual 2003, published with last week's edition of City Newspaper, contains the wrong phone number for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra's box office. The correct number is 454-2100. Also, the Annual Manual's feature on the local pop music scene should have included a listing for the Montage Grille (50 Chestnut Plaza, 232-8380). The listing would have read: "The Montage is a supper club that wants to be a rock club and succeeds. The venue books everything from jazz innovators like Dave Rivello's Big Band to rock legends like Link Wray and Commander Cody. Offering bar food for the beer swillers and gourmet fare for the sophisticates."