Tuesday, April 29, 2008
The Human Rights Campaign
– one of the most influential national organizations working to advance/protect
the rights of GLBT people – announced its “Year
to Win” election-mobilization campaign yesterday. Part of the initiative
includes endorsing candidates in 14 “targeted Senate races,” and assisting
those candidates with get-out-the-vote efforts and fundraising.
Republican senator, Susan Collins,
is the only Republican that got an
HRC nod. The endorsement sticks out like a sore thumb, and induces no small
measure of head-scratching. Why did the HRC choose to endorse Collins over her
Democratic opponent, Tom Allen,
when Allen’s voting record in the House has been more consistently aligned with
HRC interests? And while Collins’ record isn’t shabby in this regard, her votes
have been in line
with the HRC only 78-88 percent of the time over the past few years (as opposed
to Allen’s 100 percent).
to the HRC snub, Carol Andrews, communications director for the Allen campaign,
said this: “Tom Allen is proud of his record of
fighting discrimination on all levels and for standing up for equality. When he
was on the Portland City Council, it led the state in nondiscrimination
practices by banning bias based on sexual orientation for housing, credit and
employment. As a Member of Congress, he has consistently supported fairness and
equality measures while opposing discrimination. As a member of the Senate, he
will continue to do what is right for all people. Specifically, he will not
support judicial nominees like Sam Alito who don’t understand fairness and
equal rights.” (Collins did vote for Alito.)
not the only ones who think this endorsement is kinda fishy. But the HRC
might just be playing realistic hardball politics – putting more value in a
swing Republican senate vote than in the fall-in-line support of a solid Dem.
As Phoenix writer Tony Giampetruzzi wrote last August, with regard to Collins’ mixed messages on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell:
“Perhaps she is playing politics, but those champing at
the bit to repeal DADT may just consider the ranking Republican a better ally
in the war against the policy than a senator-wannabe who has opposed the law
from the very beginning.”
Seems like Giampetruzzi presaged the HRC’s strategy to a T.
[When we hear from the HRC and the
Collins campaign, we’ll update this post.]
UPDATE: From Senator Collins: "I am grateful to have the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign and will continue to work in the Senate to protect the rights of all Americans, regardless of gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation."
UPDATE #2: From Brad Luna, HRC Spokesman: "Successfully getting pro-equality
legislation to the President’s desk for signature or veto requires partnerships
with pro-equality lawmakers of both parties. Sen. Susan Collins is a strong
ally for the GLBT community, supporting a fully inclusive employment protection
bill, a fully inclusive hate crimes bill, and funding for critical HIV/AIDS
We could do this in Portland too.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Without endorsing a precise timeline, retired US Army
Johns appeared with Maine Congressional District 1 candidate Chellie Pingree this afternoon to support the Responsible Plan to End the War in
Iraq. The plan mirrors many of the (largely ignored) recommendations issued
by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group in 2006.
Johns summed up the plan’s main goals thusly:
initiate increased diplomatic negotiations in the Middle East and worldwide;
start withdrawing troops immediately.
You can read the complete
Pingree was one of six US House candidates to originally sign
onto and present the plan; there are now 51 Congressional candidates who pledge
to uphold its tenets if they are elected in November.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
In honor of Earth Day, I’d like to assess my eco-progress
over the past year – things I’ve successfully implemented/changed, and areas
for improvement – using criteria from about a year of Going Green columns.
My first official column dealt with trash – and I vowed to
produce less of it. Certainly, I’ve become a diligent recycler, I remember
my reusable mug much more often, and I pay more attention to excess packaging
on new purchases (so as not to create more garbage). However, I’m far from
reaching my lofty goal of producing just one plastic grocery bag’s worth of
trash per week (and one blue bag per month). On average, I fill up one small
blue bag per week.
If I don’t say so myself, I think I’ve developed
a bit of finesse when it comes to non-intrusive persuasion.
And I still don’t use paper towels, even if my guests think of them as
I use many more organic / PABA-free
toiletries and cosmetics than I did before. I use Dr. Bronner’s for hair and body, and I’m
partial to Aubrey Organics for
facial products. I must admit that I haven’t found the perfect natural
deodorant yet – I switch back and forth between Tom’s of Maine (for when I know I
won’t be doing anything strenuous) and Arm & Hammer (for when I risk
offending the people around me).
On July 11, I wrote about my rather disastrous composting
attempts. I said I’d give it another go, but my second attempt never really
got off the ground. However, I shelled out $38
last month for an 80-gallon Earth Machine (discounted by the City of Portland)
that I’ll pick up on May 11. I’m looking forward to starting afresh.
Overall, my CFLs and electricity-saving
measures have worked great.
have proved slightly dicier (is that a word?). My Portland
Water District-issued low-flow showerhead and faucet aerators are doing
their jobs (though I still haven’t worked up the willpower to take “Navy
showers”). But laundry remains my least-favorite and most environmentally
complicated chore: I do it at the non-eco-friendly Laundromat, with
eco-friendly detergent, and haven’t been hanging my clothes out to dry – but
may start that again now that the weather’s nice.
In October, I reported that if you’ve gotta drive, there
are ways to do it that could save gas and carbon emissions. While I still
try to walk as often as I can, I do find myself driving more than I should –
hopefully the sunny temps will change that pattern too. When I do drive, I try
to remember the tenets of fuel-smart driving
(but slowpoke drivers still get on my nerves).
My cats continue to
get super-green treatment. In fact, I’ve gotten greener (and, fear, meaner
– but it’s for their own good!): I keep them indoors now.
I got a live Christmas tree
which has lived on my porch since the holiday season. Honestly, I fear for its
health. I did try to handmake most gifts – which resulted in fewer people
getting presents. I’ll have to start earlier next year.
Eating less meat is
relatively easy (except when I’m drunk or hungover, when animal products seem
most appealing). I continue to try to get most of my protein from beans and
nuts, but I enjoy the occasional soy product. And the
Local strong-arm (and co-worker) Chris Gray and
I are joining a CSA!
We’re hoping to split the veggie-herb riches from Pleasant Valley Acres Farm in
Cumberland, since neither of us thinks we could consume an entire share.
I’m looking forward to the joys and challenges of cooking in-season.
I give myself a B-. I’m doing okay, but I justify lazy
choices a bit too often. However, I’ve definitely laid the groundwork for an
Earth-friendly summer, and beyond.
For many local activists, Common Ground Collective
familiar cause, and one that is close to their hearts. Formed in the aftermath
of Hurricane Katrina, the organization is a community volunteer effort that
provides long-term sustainable assistance to residents and neighborhoods of the
area. Over the past two-and-a-half years, a number of Mainers have volunteered
with Common Ground; Maine-native Meg Perry
was working with
the CGC before her untimely
in 2005. If they weren’t already, that tragedy inextricably linked Maine
Indeed, the fight for peace and justice knows no regional
boundaries, and thus two prominent and powerful New Orleaners, Malik
Rahim and Robert
King, traveled to Maine last week – to “link the struggles here with the
struggle in New Orleans,” to remind us that the work in the Gulf Coast region is
far from over, and to show how Common Ground’s mission has evolved from
hurricane relief to broader social-justice concerns.
“I don’t believe there can be any progress until we analyze
what happened,” Rahim said in a wide-ranging interview at the Phoenix office on Friday. Rahim, a Common
Ground founder, worries that people
have yet to learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina – whether they be
economic, social, or logistical. He described an “adversarial
relationship between the government and the activist community,” and said
there is still a dearth of educators and social safety nets within
“traditionally disenfranchised” communities – that is, the poorer parishes of Louisiana.
He also detailed the connection between Common Ground and
the Angola 3, of which Robert King is
one. The story of the Angola
3 is symbolic of the prejudice and disenfranchisement that existed in Louisiana long before
Hurricane Katrina brought these problems to the surface. Long story very short:
When three young black activists (all in prison for armed robbery) tried to
expose prisoner maltreatment at the Louisiana State Penitentiary – a/k/a Angola
Prison – in the late 1960s, they ‘mysteriously’ were accused of having murdered
a young prison guard. All
three of them spent more than 25 years in solitary confinement for a crime they
did not commit. Robert King Wilkerson is the only prisoner to have been
released thus far.
“There wouldn’t be the Angola 3 without Malik,” King said
of his friend on Friday, describing Malik’s
efforts to free these prisoners of conscience. Negotiations to free the
remaining Angola 2 are ongoing,
as is King’s quest to overhaul not just Angola,
(Several aspects of King’s story – including prison
officials using increased security as a punishment, insufficient money spent on
rehabilitation, and less-than-adequate treatment of mentally ill prisoners – sound
Rahim and King spoke at the Meg
Perry Center on Saturday evening, at what was apparently a well-attended,
moving discussion. Rahim is
scheduled to speak at Bowdoin on April 29.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Maine and Massachusetts share a history, having once been two parts of the same colony
. Which is why both states celebrate Patriots' Day - that's why banks, government offices, and schools are closed today.
It commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord, and in honor of the holiday (on which we're working, natch), we've collected a few interesting tidbits about the holiday in honor of the start of the American colonists' struggle to throw off tyranny.
First off, a piece I did a couple years back, comparing King George III of England with King George III of Washington DC
But now let's step away from politics and into history. We can move past the relatively brief Wikipedia entry on the holiday
and go straight on to the orders of British General Thomas Gage to Lieutenant Colonel Smith, 10th Regiment Foot
, commanding him to proceed from Boston to Concord to seize ammunition being prepared for use in a revolt.
And then there's the account by Paul Revere of his ride
to warn the colonists that the British were coming.
Let's bring things back closer to home with a poem about the occasion by one of Portland's favorite sons
, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. This one is called "Paul Revere's Ride."
(with thanks to commenter Brendan for correcting me on the title)
Happy Patriots' Day!
Paul Revere's Ride
April 19, 1860; first published in 1863 as part of "Tales of a Wayside
Listen my children
and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend,
"If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."
Then he said
"Good-night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.
Meanwhile, his friend
through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.
Then he climbed the tower
of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,--
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.
Beneath, in the
churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"