Sunday, November 1, 2009

Andy Vidal Mcnair and Angela Plassmann's campaigns are funded by NoPornNorthampton's Adam Cohen

And so, what does that say about them? NoPornNorthampton stands for sex negativity, intolerance, and flouting of free speech principles.

They claim that free speech should be balanced in the case of porn b/c of the heightened crime that porn vendors bring to an area, and to prove this, cite three cases of high crime areas in which porn stores are located, with no proof that there is a direct causal connection. As for the porn store that was set up in Northampton, even those who opposed it at the time, such as mayoral candidate Bardsley, now say they hardly notice it. In contrast to the apocalyptic predictions of Cohen and his cronies, crime has not risen in the area. NoPorn attempts to pin this fact on the restrictions the council placed on the porn store at the time--smaller area, and muted advertisement--but again, there is no causal proof for this assertion. There is no inherent danger the can be conclusively proven in porn vending that can preempt the principle of free speech. The moral and aesthetic objections of Cohen and his ilk are not enough to cancel out the First Amendment in this city.

Adam Cohen is one of those men that has the temerity to define feminism for us women. Despite third wave feminism's embrace of sex workers and its insistence that women have the right to do as they wish with their body and their sex, his NoPornNorthampton is based on an idea of sex workers--female sex workers are the only ones spoken of--as universally brainwashed, exploited beings with no agency, implying that all of them are trafficked and virtually incarcerated in the industry. Trafficking is certainly a problem, a true atrocity that should be dealt with, but research has shown that those who are trafficked make up a tiny minority compared to sex workers who voluntarily enter the industry (in fact, a recent Guardian article showed that not one person who had been forcibly trafficked into the industry could be found in one large scale investigation, and that incredibly inflated numbers had been used knowingly by sex industry opponents for quite some time.) To conflate the two groups does huge disservice to both--insulting the dignity and agency of the latter and taking the focus away from the crimes perpetrated against the former. Finally, the prurient focus on sex takes attention away from the much larger group of migrants that are forcibly trafficked into unpaid domestic labor or farm work.

And the legal porn industry, with all the regulation imposed upon it, is *certainly* not made up of cowering sex slaves.

The issue is more complicated than the old trope of women's bodies being comodified by men. Women now make up half the pay per view porn market, and a sizable proportion of other porn markets. Women are not just workers in the sex industry, but consumers of it. In fact, the other porn store in this area, Oh My!, is a feminist sex store, and the proliferation of similar businesses throughout the country exemplifies women's demannd for porn, erotica, and sex toys. Furthermore, workers in the porn industry are not just women, but also men and trans people. (In fact, porn is one of the few industries in which unskilled women make considerably more money than men in the same field do.)

Cohen claims his movement is pro-marriage, as if there was only one model of marriage, as if there wasn't a booming sector of erotica created for couples to enjoy together, as if a marriage in which a couple explore their sexuality together is not a valid one. He claims his movement is against STIs--as if the small market catering to the "bareback" fetish was the be all and end all of porn, as if the free discussion of sex did not create a space for the free discussion of safer sex, as if the entire gay porn industry did not show condom use as an industry standard, as if instruction in safer sex and erotica weren't combined in many products made by more progressive pornographers. He quotes the worst figures from Dr. Sharon Mitchell's Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation (AIM) without stopping to compare these figures of STIs with the general population or noting the fact that in contrast to the general population, adult industry workers are all tested regularly for HIV and other STIs. In the recent porn industry HIV scandal, which included a small handful of cases, it was determined that in fact, the infection came from OUTSIDE the adult industry. And in fact, since 2004, AIM has tested 1,200 actors, and only 15 tested positive for syphillis while only 22 tested positive for HIV.

Cohen also characterizes his movement as "pro kindnesss" and "pro equality", as if sexuality is somehow antithetical to these things.

Adam Cohen is championing and funding Andy Vidal Mcnair because the incumbent he is challenging, Maureen Carney, voted against the restrictions on the porn store. Given the considerable funding Cohen has put behind Plassmann and Mcnair's campaigns, what will he expect in return if they are voted into city council seats? Votes for censorship. Votes for a sanitized, sex-neutered Northampton, a city which was originally a haven for alternative sexuality but may become a place where those of us who are kinky, those of us who enjoy erotica, those of us who work in or support the adult industry in all its guises may become distinctly unwelcome.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

on Andy Vidal Mcnair's open letter, and more

From the listserv:

It is true that I owed an apology to everyone I wrote to for bringing the issue of Ms Plassman's daughter into the fray. Even if she did bring her daughter's story into public debate, commenting on her family troubles is going way below the belt.
I apologize again for this, and have taken any references to this off
the blog.

As for my commentary being unfortunately timed--I feel it's well
timed, b/c other than those people who pay a lot of attention to civic
politics, most people vote for city council seats as an afterthought,
or based on little knowledge. If I'd spoken up earlier, people may not
have remembered by the time the fourth came around. I also did not
know about all this until quite recently. Finally, the fact that my statements are "eleventh hour" is not a valid argument against their content.

I have to say that there do seem to be blocs in the sense that
councilor candidates have spoken up in support of one mayoral
candidate or another, and the mayoral candidates have formed public
alliances with certain city council candidates. This is not a smear on
such a practice, just a plea for people to look beyond such alliances
whoever they vote for for mayor.

I find Mcnair's open letter to be unconvincing for many reasons. How
many people can misinterpret him before we admit there might be
something there? As I've mentioned before, for the two people who
stood up to discuss Mcnair's racist and classist remarks about
subsidized housing residents, there are many, many more who've spoken to me and
others about private conversations with him in which he's expressed
such views who are afraid to come forward. In fact, Ms Carney herself
pleaded for their anonymity because she is afraid they will be slandered
when Mcnair attacks her. Also, the fact that he used the "some of my
best friends are minorities" trope is laughable at best and doesn't
prove much. Many racists are comfortable with those they feel are "deserving" minorities, but that doesn't change their attitude towards poor black and Latino people.

In contrast to Mcnair, I find Angela Plassmann to be a sincere and
well meaning candidate, but her goal--heightened prosecution of
nonviolent crimes in the city--would be disastrous for Northampton,
for the reasons I discussed in a previous blog entry:
It's true that Bob Reckman has not had a marvelous record as a
candidate, but again, I believe it's better to stick to the proverbial
devil we know in this case.

I have asked both Ms. Plassman and Ms. Silva for brief interviews to
clarify their positions--neither has responded to me as of yet. As it
does not seem Ms. Silva has much of a chance to be elected, I will
continue to focus on Ms Plassman and Mr Vidal Mcnair. In my next entry
some time today I'd like to discuss the source of their campaign funding, from
one of the major figures in No Porn Northampton, and thus their
complicity in sex negativity, intolerance, and anti-free speech

Friday, October 30, 2009

more on Mcnair

I have had many people confide in me about private conversations with Mr. Vidal Mcnair, the challenging candidate for the Ward One seat, where he has revealed racist and classist views about the residents of subsidized housing in his ward, especially those who hail from Holyoke. But many of them have demanded anonymity, as even now, Mcnair is claiming that they fabricated these conversations in conspiracy with his opponent, Ms. Maureen Carney. But now, finally, someone besides Bill Dwight has stood up to bear witness about this issue:

Hello Neighbors & Friends (in Ward One, or know people in Ward One, I hope)
I want to share something with you related to the upcoming election.
As you probably know, Andrew Vidal-McNair is running for Ward One City Council against Maureen Carney. I spoke with Vidal-McNair three times now, and Maureen one time. I was really disturbed the last time I talked with Vidal-McNair, which was during this long weekend. Here is my interpretation of part of our conversation:
I pointed out to Vidal-McNair that many lower-income people cannot afford to live in Northampton due to limited amounts of low-income housing. This led Vidal-McNair to state that the Black and Latino people in Section 8 housing in Northampton were lazy, did not work, were criminal, and were unconcerned about crime. I tried to see if he would accept "toned down" statements, rather than blanket statements, about people in Section 8 housing. He would not accept the toned down statements, sticking with his statements that painted the "broad brush" over everyone there.
I want to live in a city where efforts are made to topple class and race barriers, and where there is no room for stereotypes like the ones articulated by Vidal-McNair. So, Vidal-McNair does not get my vote, and hopefully will not get yours either.
Laurel R. Davis-Delano
P.S. Please feel free to share this email with other people in Ward One that might be concerned about this issue.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

warnings about the reactionary views of many candidates for councilors

Andy Vidal Mcnair, who is running for the Ward 1 seat, is playing part of his ward against the other in a most opportunistic and disturbing manner. His ward encompasses most of the subsidized housing in the area,in area 1A, and most of the residents of this low income housing do not vote, often being too wrapped in the struggle of simply living to pay attention to civic politics, so he is utilizing the worst classist and racist impulses of the other half of his ward--1a-- to win his seat. He has stated that the low income housing seeks out destructive residents from Holyoke when there are more "deserving poor" here in Northampton--now, since Holyoke has a predominantly Puerto Rican population, the racist undertones in this statement are clear. He has also stated that there are a disproportionate amount of police calls to the housing projects, which is simply a false statement. His more progressive views on education, the landfill, and other hot button topics obscure his hostile attitudes towards the most powerless among us. I fear for the residents of Meadow Brooks and other housing projects in Ward 1 should Mcnair be elected.

The omission of any discussion of the topic on his campaign website is telling. But when questioned about these issues, Mcnair's true colors shine brightly and garishly. The one thing on the site that does point to his beliefs about the residents of subsidized housing in his ward is his refusal to criticize the fire departments' response to the fire at the Meadowbrooks project. If the fire had occurred in a more affluent part of the ward, we'd be hearing a very different answer from Mr. Mcnair.

Not a lot of attention is paid to the candidates for councilor seats, and I'm afraid that many people vote for these seats based on the most superficial reasoning. Mcnair is an out, partnered gay man, and in a city which has a sizable queer community, that carries a lot of currency. Mcnair is a gay man, but so is Andrew Sullivan--sexual orientation is no guarantee of progressive beliefs, and Mcnair's marginalization as a gay man, in a tolerant environment like this one, does not lead to true understanding of the marginalization of the poor. Also, it is only a fool that votes for anyone except the incumbent because of a desire for change. Change does not always come for the better. Ms Maureen Carney, the incumbent, is a woman with a proven track record as a *true* progressive, a labor organizer who was one of the councilors staunchly on the side of the homeless from the beginning during the debate to de facto criminalize panhandling, who has also been on the side of the poor on many other issues. Just one look at her voting record can tell you who she is--a person who is the furthest thing from a classist or a racist. Sadly, her paying job as an organizer does not allow her to spend as much time on her campaign as she needs to--but don't forget who she is as Mr. Mcnair places himself firmly in the spotlight.

Two other supposedly progressive challengers for seats on the city council deserve a long, critical look. Angela Plassman, running for the Ward 3 seat, endorses more drug enforcement in Northampton at a time when the nation as a whole is reconsidering the war on drugs, looking at prison overcrowding, the abuse of human rights within the prison industrial complex, and the lack of deterrent these barbaric tactics have proven to be. But rather than endorsing more options for treatment or focusing solely on diverting resources to fight violent rather than nonviolent crime, Ms. Plassman prefers a "tough on crime" platform, whether it makes sense as a position or not. I don't want to stand still and wait for Ms. Plassman begin a large push to imprison nonviolent drug offenders when the city deserves less reactionary policies rather than a repetition of the same excesses in the War on Drugs that have proven to be ineffective and often abusive throughout the rest of the nation.

(At least Ms. Plassman is honest enough to state this campaign goal on her website.)

I acknowledge that Bob Reckman, the current incumbent, has had a mixed record, but he has not displayed the reactionary impulses of his challenger, and in this case, I feel it is for the good of the city to stick to the proverbial devil we know.

Ms. Plassman also objects to the development exit 19, which in private conversation with many of the challengers, has been connected to the impulse to keep Northampton something of a gated community, to fear of taint from the outside--the outside being those of a different race, those who are less rich, those who are not Northamptonites.

In the next entry, tomorrow, I will discuss Kathy Silva credentials as a faux progressive, and reveal more about the two candidates I've discussed above.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Arturo Castillion's court appearance today

(For background on Arturo Castillion's unjust arrest during a Poverty Is Not A Crime protest, see this blog entry.)

Today, Arturo Castillion's count two, disorderly conduct, was dropped. Which raises the question of why they arrested and wrestled him to the ground in the first place, in the process of which they claim he bumped into them (which is false), making their charge of assault and battery on a police officer weaker. (This according to Arturo's lawyer, progressive attorney Luke Ryan.) Also, Ryan is subpoenaing footage that Channel 22 took. What the footage shows will no doubt further support Castillion's case.

A large contingent of Arturo's friends and Poverty Is Not A Crime members, as well as progressive community members, came to his court appearance in a show of support. As long as no one behaves themselves disruptively, Arturo and his attorney ask for the same show of support at his trial on October 17th, where he will begin by presenting the motion to dismiss. Also, Attorney Luke Ryan is asking for any eyewitnesses to Arturo's arrest, or anyone who knows of any eyewitnesses to contact him at 413 253 3900 or .

Friday, June 5, 2009

Southerland case

Ira Mckinley and I took turns representing PINAC and witnessing Alfonso Southerland's court case this morning. As Southerland is still in a coma and could not appear, his case was continued for arraignment for July third.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

belated Bill Dwight show audio link on the Al Southerland case

Ex-city councilor, radio host, absurdly overqualified video store clerk, and all around nice man about town Bill Dwight comments on the Alfonso Southerland alleged beating controversy on his April 23d radio show(the commentary on the issue begins roughly at the 6 minute mark of the audio MP3.) He gives evenhanded coverage, giving credence to both sides, although he expresses skepticism because he believes the Northampton police culture, many of whose officers he interviewed for their positions and promotions, are above police brutality for the most part. But unlike the police and some Northampton citizens, he refuses to swallow the idea that it could never happen here, and calls for more investigation.

He notes some holes in our coverage, which are actually errors in his reporting: there were four eyewitnesses, not just two, but despite our best efforts, we haven't been able to locate the other two. People are scared.But we're definitely still trying. Also, we asserted in our press release that the alleged beating occurred during the arrest outside of Urban Outfitters, not at the Northampton PD. I'd also like to note that the Chief of Police came out with a preemptive denial the a day or so after the incident, with no attempt at an investigation and an "it-can't-happen-here"attitude. Finally, Southerland's jaw was not dislocated, but the flesh on it was razed to the point that you could see his jaw bone.

I asked Dwight to make these corrections on his show, and knowing him and his commitment to truth, I fully expect him to do so. I heard that the Chief of Police was incensed at Dwight for even mentioning the case, though he favored PINAC no more than he did the police. If the the police had their druthers,this case would fade from public attention. But given the lawsuit the family is planning, and the complaint we'll be helping them make to the Northampton Human Rights Commission, it doesn't look like they'll be getting their wish anytime soon.