Mainers are Ready for a Challenge to “Hawkish” Collins

           As a recent article in “The Nation” suggests, Mainers are ready for a real challenge against Susan Collins as she faces her third reelection (“Senator Collins is the Barrier to Transparency, Accountability on Drones” http://www.thenation.com/blog/177342/senator-susan-collins-barrier-transparency-accountability-drones#).

           Two women are vying for a Maine seat in the U.S. Congress, and both have very different opinions about drone warfare. Women in politics are often accused of being “too soft”, and like Susan Collins and Hilary Clinton, decide to take a “hawkish” attitude toward all military actions.  Collins has continually voted to keep troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.  While Americans are struggling in the “Great Recession”, half of our FY budget is approved for the Pentagon every year.

          Holding the seat in Congress since 1997, incumbent Susan Collins has supported several ongoing wars, surveillance of Americans, and drone strikes upon our own people. Collins has continually supported the “Patriot Act”, which goes down as one of the most embarrassing and undemocratic acts passed in US history. More recently, she has come under pressure after she voted against legislation that would require the government to report on the number of civilians killed by drone strikes.  For years now, the US has been launching drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and other countries around the world.

          While with the ACLU, Shenna Bellows worked to support legislation in Maine that would have banned law enforcement agencies from using drones for surveillance unless they had a search warrant. If Bellows wishes to win the seat from Collins in 2014, her campaign must rail against Collins’ strong support of the Military Industrial Complex. Bellows’ history in the ACLU is in perfect contrast to Collins’ support of never-ending wars and the deaths of innocent children to US drone strikes.  Challenging a long-time incumbent can be difficult.  To defeat Collins, the Bellows campaign needs look no further than to expose Collins’ unbridled support of all things war. 

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Concerned Woman Questions the Legality of Free Speech “Buffer Zones” at Planned Parenthood

          On Monday, the Portland City council voted to create a 39-foot Free Speech “buffer zone” around Planned Parenthood to prevent protestors from standing outside the door. As a patient, I have entered Planned Parenthood with my heart was stuck in my throat as I passed by protestors with bloody signs. However, I have two questions about creating “buffer zones” in our city. Can this ordinance prevent me from exercising my first amendment right to hold up a sign saying, “I support Planned Parenthood” next to the door, or is this ordinance only for “offensive speech?

          My second question: Can other non-profits, organizations, or corporations in Portland now seek protestor boundaries or “free speech zones”? During the height of the Occupy movement, protestors in Portland stood outside Merrill Lynch and Bank of America to call attention to the billions syphoned out of the world’s economies during the 2008 recession. Buffer zones could be used by banks to keep protestors 39-feet away from their doors. This year, the Supreme Court will hear a challenge on the constitutionality of buffer zones around abortion clinics when it takes up McCullen v. Coakley

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My letter in the Portland Press Herald

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Our City Council is selling Portland’s peninsula for cheap

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picture by Laura Tasheiko

          Everywhere you look on the peninsula, our City Council is selling the city of Portland for cheap. Residents are bombarded with the construction of four new hotels, several events centers, and luxury condos at the expense of affordable housing.  Affordable housing means an opportunity for families, artists, and the working class to create Portland’s creative culture. I am writing to encourage residents, families, artists, and lovers of Portland’s culture to fight against gentrification of the peninsula by developers and local government.

          Our current City Council approves tens of millions of dollars in tax cuts through “TIF”s every year for out-of-state developers, all while our schools are literally falling apart.  As a member of the school board, I am extremely disturbed by the fact that Portland classrooms have caught on fire, as with the case of the Hall School last year, and children in our district are in classrooms without running water. While Portland Schools are in desperate need of safe and affordable classroom space, City Councilors Ed Suslovic and Nick Mavadones proposed the sale of the Nathan Clifford School to a private developer for $1 and the Council voted 9-0 in support of the sale. It’s hard to even buy a cup of coffee in town for that price!

          The council has gone so far as to sell public parks and public spaces to developers in order to clear more space for hotels. It appears as though the ultimate goal of the Council and developers is to turn Portland’s peninsula into an amusement park where no one can afford to live, the schools are neglected, and the economy is completely tied to frivolous and seasonal spending. Several members of the Council have strong ties to the real estate industry, and perhaps not since Portland’s last great fire or “Urban Renewal” has there been such a push for development anda squeeze to get working Mainers, families, and artists out of the city.

           Thankfully, there is a renewed interest by residents of Portland to save our peninsula. Several residents are suing the city over the sale of Congress Square Park, and a new initiative called “Keep Portland Livable” has been launched to counteract a 14-story condo complex and a parking garage “TIF” in the Bayside Neighborhood. I am encouraging Portlanders to speak out at the next City Council meeting, or better yet vote out members of the Council who have spent a decade or more making sweetheart deals with out-of-state developers.

 

 

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Whistleblowers and the Queerest Insurrection

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           Ever since the U.S. “War on Terror” began after September 11, 2001, the world has been under the increasing control of America’s global military-industrial-imperial complex. From foreign wars and covert attacks, to drone warfare against civilians and Americans, increasingly this behemoth of bureaucratic military power has added worldwide surveillance and control of all electronic data under the guise of using algorithms to track “terrorist activities”. Today, much of our military power is in front of a computer screen. While institutions like the National Security Agency, the U.S. military, and contractors are busy spying on their fellow Americans, there is a new and Queer insurrection of whistleblowers paving the way for radical truth telling.                  

          While the act of “whistleblowing”, or releasing of classified documents usually showing illegal activity is not a new trend, the emergence of the “Queer insurrection” in this movement should not be ignored. This week, the Army Private formally known as Bradley Manning came out during her 35-year sentencing that she wanted to be identified as Chelsea Manning, stating, “All women and men are created equal”. Before being jailed for her release of evidence of U.S. war crimes, she compared the post-9-11 era in American history to the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott Case, and U.S. Japanese internment during WWII. Whistleblower Edward Snowden released classified documents detailing U.S. surveillance from his employer Booz Allen Hamilton to journalist Glenn Greenwald, whose integrity has been ridiculed by the mainstream media for his ties to the gay porn industry.

           I am describing the recent growth of whistleblowers as part of a Queer insurrection because “Queer is a territory of tension, defined against the dominant narrative of white-hetero-monogamous-patriarchy, but also by an affinity with all who are marginalized, otherized, and oppressed” (Mary Nardini Gang). While women are increasingly let into higher positions and rankings in the U.S. military, the Department of Defense admits that rape and sexual assault of women and men within the military is on the rise and an anonymous survey of members revealed there may have been as many as 26,000 assaults last year—up from and estimated 19,000 assaults in 2011.

           Since 2008, the Obama administration has charged six government officials accused of providing information to the media with violating the Espionage Act, a World War I-era law designed to punish those aiding the enemy. This means that Obama has prosecuted twice as many war crime leakers under his administration than all other presidents combined. That’s more uses of the Espionage Act for silencing whistleblowers than under all previous presidential administrations combined.

          According to the article “Toward the Queerest Insurrection” by the Mary Nardini Gang, “Queer is not a stable area to inhabit. Queer is not merely another identity that can be tacked onto a list of neat social categories, nor the quantitative sum of our identities. Rather, it is the qualitative position of opposition to presentations of stability- an identity that problemizes the manageable limits of identity”. Who else would dare stand up to the biggest bureaucratic force of war and domination in the world?

          Queers “…have always been the other, the alien, the criminal. The story of Queers in this civilization has always been the narrative of the sexual deviant, the constitutional psychopathic inferior, the traitor, the freak, and the moral imbecile. We’ve been excluded at the border, from labor, from familial ties. We’ve been forced into concentration camps, into sex slavery, into prisons”. I would also add that queers have been linked with the term “terrorist”, as in the case of Manning’s “aiding the enemy” charge by the U.S. military, or the recent nine hour airport detention of Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda under British anti-terrorism laws.

           The Queer insurrection is about truth telling and exposing the fear of the “other” to the violence and oppression of American Military Patriarchy. The radical nature of the Queer insurrection is an instrument of truth through shattering our most basic societal barriers, and Queers as whistleblowers are paving the way for a new era of transparency.

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On the Death of Conventions and the Start of Portland’s Green Future at Congress Square Park

On the Death of Conventions and the Start of Portland’s Green Future at Congress Square Park.

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On the Death of Conventions and the Start of Portland’s Green Future at Congress Square Park

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          This week, the Portland City Council will be voting whether or not to sell a public park to a private developer for the purpose of building an additional hotel convention center. Last year, the council voted to spend over $31 million in tax dollars to create the new Thompson’s Point Complex with an additional convention center.

         According to the Brooking’s Institute, convention spaces across the U.S. have increased by fifty percent in the past twenty years.  Over the past ten years, spending on U.S. convention spaces has doubled to $2.4 billion annually, most of which comes from public coffers.  The problem is that the actual number of businesses hosting conventions has steadily fallen over the past fifteen years. Attendance at the largest 200 conventions peaked back in the mid-1990s. At the same time, developers have talked local and city governments into financing more spaces, effectively over-saturating the market.

          Due to the popularity of Skype and online conferences, businesses no longer need to hold physical conferences and spend money on travel and lodging at physical conventions and meetings. If urban developers and City Council were to look at the economic failures of large investments in convention spaces, they would find examples in almost every major city that has jumped on the convention bandwagon. Major commercial centers such as New York City, Chicago, New Orleans and Atlanta have all had significant loss in convention activity, despite expansion. Even recent centers in Orlando and Las Vegas have received fewer visitors despite massive investments from taxpayers. If major cities can’t compete for remaining conferences, what chance does Portland, Maine have?

          By contrast, urban developers in the U.S. are finally catching up to the reemerging trend that city planners have known for centuries- public parks create happiness, commerce, leisure, and health in congested and often polluted urban areas.  Food gardens, green spaces, and fresh air are all the rage in popular parks.

         During the era of “urban renewal”, Portland sold off chunks of its public parks, including Lincoln Park and Deering Oaks, in order to make room for more cars and more business on the peninsula. Unfortunately, a comparable space has never been restored and the sale of Congress Square park would be the first time that a town in Maine has sold a majority of an in town park to private developers.  With the certain death of conventions, Portland developers and the City Council must stop looking to the past and start looking to our greener future. 

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