Tag Archives: Martha Gies

The vets came to town: An immersion into the anti-war movement at the Veterans for Peace National Conference

By Martha Gies, Contributing Writer

There was not much promise in the week beginning August 1. On Tuesday, following the Congressional battle over the debt ceiling, President Obama signed into law the Budget Control Act of 2011, and one day later national debt surpassed 100 percent of gross domestic product for the first time since World War II.

On that same day, Wednesday, August 3, Nick Turse posted to Tomdispatch.com an article about the clandestine reach of the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), now metastasized to 120 countries, where special op teams from all branches of the military carry out “assassinations, counterterrorist raids, long-range reconnaissance, intelligence analysis, foreign troop training, and weapons of mass destruction counter-proliferation operations.” And while Turse’s chilling exposé was probably seen only by lefties – it went to Huffington Post, Common Dreams and Counterpunch within a day – by Saturday the New York Times had published a long and thoughtful piece by Drew Westen about the demise of our hope in Obama (“…the arc of history does not bend toward justice through capitulation cast as compromise.”) that quickly became one of the most widely e-mailed of the year.

What a week! As some of us clicked frantically through websites looking for the elusive good news, others went outdoors into the novel Oregon sunshine, where news might never reach at all.

But then, on August 3, the vets came to town.

At Portland State University’s historic Lincoln Hall, 400 veterans convened for an annual national convention to talk about peace and to scheme, on several simultaneous fronts; to wage it even in the face of a war machine so lucrative that even Eisenhower might gasp.

Hope, in the form of resilience, resistance and nonviolent revolution, was brewing in our midst.

To abolish war, that’s the mission of Veterans for Peace (VFP), explains Daniel Shea, a Portland veteran of Vietnam who serves on the national board. “Some members are pacifists,” he adds, “but I don’t count myself as a pacifist because I do believe in self-defense. If somebody were occupying our country, I’d join in the fight. But that would be the only time.”

Shea, along with other members of local VFP Chapter 72, spent months planning the convention, which Portland hosted for the first time. Vets arrived from across the country for five days of film, music, tabling and book sales, speeches and a business meeting at which 16 resolutions, on issues from depleted uranium to Palestine to toxic chemical dumping in South Korea required their vote. Shea, an artist with a day job at the Oregon Symphony, personally curated an exhibit at the Littman Gallery called The Tenacity of Hope.

On Thursday, day two of the convention, the workshops begin and the corridors of Lincoln Hall are loud with talk and laughter as vets, WW II to Iraq, high five, hug and try to figure out where each of the nine offerings will be held in that first time slot. Back-to-back presentations include two on PTSD (encounters with the criminal justice system and transformational healing), drone payloads that target civilians, helping GIs who want out of the military, and a teach-in on the basics of organizing behind VFP’s new campaign: How is the War Economy Working for You?  Continue reading

Mark Hatfield’s 1989 speech resonates in Pioneer Courthouse Square

By Terris Harned
Contributing Writer

A crowd of approximately 40 people showed up at Pioneer Square today to listen to a recitation of a speech delivered by former Oregon senator, Mark Hatfield. The delivery of this speech comes 22 years after the original, to the day. Hatfield, a Republican, served as Secretary of State in Oregon, the 29th Governor, serving for 8 years, and finally moved on to the Senate, where he served for 30 years, from 1967 to 1997.

His speech was a plea to then president, George Herbert Walker Bush, to reconsider the nation’s trend in spending money on the defense budget. In particular, he commented on what was termed the ‘peace dividend’. The cost of maintaining peace in the United States. He stated, passionately and firmly, that each dollar spent on defense was a dollar stolen from those in the US who were undereducated, unfed, un-housed, and unclothed.

The speech, titled “Peace Through Strength is a Fallacy,” was brought forth during a federal budget consideration, declaring why Hatfield was voting against the budget proposal, and urging his fellow Senators to do the same.  It is amazing how impactful this speech is, given the current budget issues.

A pivotal portion of the speech follows;

“We seem to have lost sight of the fact that every dollar we spend on bombs and bullets means that we are underfunding programs to meet the Nation’s desperate human needs: health care, education, our war on drugs, low income housing, prison construction, AIDS research- all of these things are part of our national defense.

Sometimes, Mr. President, we even lose sight of the margins. Several days ago, the Senate considered an amendment earmarking money for the development of more lethal weapons for our ground troops. More lethal? Even the words have begun to loose their meaning- what is more lethal supposed to mean when some of our troops already carry tactical nuclear weapons on their backs? But nobody else even raised an eyebrow: the vote was 98-1.”

A full copy of the speech may be found here: http://www.nuclearfiles.org/menu/key-issues/ethics/issues/political/hatfield_congressional-record-statement.htm

Every time we say goodbye, or what I’ve learned about relocation

A lodger caught in the closure of the Royal Hotel

by Martha Gies, Contributing Writer

The Portland streets are not where you’d want to be living in December. Not with six inches of rainfall and the city wet two days out of every three.

According to Amanda Waldroupe’s report, “Time’s up at the West” (Street Roots, November 12), tenants at the West Hotel have been handed a 60-day eviction notice and a list of apartment buildings. When they say they fear ending up homeless, they have a pretty specific picture in mind. The hotel they are leaving at 127 NW 6th is a 100-year-old “walk-up” where 26 single-room occupancy (SRO) rooms share a community kitchen and baths in the hall. It may not be the Benson, but it’s warm and it’s dry.

To add to the misery, residents hear the term “relocation” bandied about by journalists, social workers and housing advocates. Whatever it is, they fear it may not apply to them.

For the past 14 years I’ve been up to my neck in relocation. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Continue reading

Extra! Extra!

Shake off that turkey stupor Friday morning with a brisk walk to your local neighborhood Street Roots vendor and pick up a copy of the city’s best independent newspaper. Here’s what’s on the press right now:

Case unclosed: Amanda Waldroupe reports on the quest by one Portland Police Bureau detective to track down the killer of a homeless man who was stabbed to death nearly three years ago.

In their shoes: A look inside the weekly service and ceremony of foot care at the Downtown Chapel. Cassandra Koslen reports.

Every time we say goodbye, or “What I learned about Relocation”: Low-income housing relocation expert Martha Gies writes about the complexities and complications that arise when housing projects undergo renovation or destruction, with a historical perspective on how much we have lost.

The quality of whose life?: The first in a four-part series on the country’s modern anti-poor movement, this edition covers the rise in so-called quality-of-life initiatives that often discriminate against the poor.

Street Blues: Robert Pickett writes about the limbo police and mental health workers have to operate within when working with people experiencing homelessness.

And much, much more! So grab a buck or two and pick up your copy first thing Friday. It may just be the most important thing you read this weekend. And from our vendors, staff and volunteers – thank you and happy holidays!


Times up at the West with less than a month left to find housing

West Hotel on NW 6th between Davis and Couch

By Amanda Waldroupe, Staff Writer

All is quiet in the West Hotel.

The two-dozen residents of the Old Town single resident occupancy (SRO) hotel are, for the first time in 27 years, no longer kept awake until one in the morning by the cacophonic punk rock sounds that would drift upwards from the iconic rock nightclub Satyricon two floors below.

The building is quiet to the point of eeriness. Entering the West through a black painted door on Northwest 6th Avenue, walking across the small lobby crowded by two recycling bins stored along one wall and up the steep stairs to a heavy wooden door opening to the first floor, a tenant hears nothing but the sounds of his own footsteps.

But there is something else now keeping the West’s residents awake at night: the possibility that they will become homeless if they don’t find new housing and move to it by Dec. 1.

The Macdonald Center, a Catholic-inspired assisted living facility and social-service agency, gave 60-day eviction-without-cause notices to the tenants on Oct. 1.
The MacDonald Center is nationally recognized for its innovative assisted-living facility, the Maybelle Clark Macdonald Residence, which provides assisted living and nursing care for 54 low-income or homeless people with chronic medical illnesses, physical impairments or disabilities.

The Macdonald Center has owned the West Hotel since October 2008. Executive director Pat Janik says the plan was originally to renovate the West. Built in 1905 and in need of extensive repairs, the West is, to use the words of Northwest Pilot Project’s housing consultant Bobby Weinstock, an “old, tired hotel that has outlived its usefulness.” Continue reading

Bugged out: Rags or riches, bedbugs don’t discriminate

by Martha Gies, Contributing Writer

Once, somewhere west of Havana, on a visit to a tobacco cooperative in the Piñar del Rio countryside, the friend sharing my rustic cabin flipped a scorpion onto my bed.

She had picked up her notebook, saw the scorpion at the last moment, and instinctively flung it across the room. In other words, an accident.

But still …

Many people I know avoid vacationing in these tropical backwaters, preferring (at least those who can afford it) to take their holiday in some First World capital with a choice of upscale hotels. Well, now the game has changed, and they need to understand that prestige-brand lodgings, be they in New York or Portland, are no longer a hedge against unwanted critters.

The Helmsley Park Lane Hotel, for instance, despite its Central Park address, multi-lingual staff, high thread-count sheets, and view of the Manhattan skyline, had a bedbug problem seven years ago; a lawsuit filed by a hotel guest in 2003 settled out of court for $150,000. Since then, many luxury hotels have struggled with them, leaving rooms un-rented for the several-week fumigation cycle, and waiting for a moonless night to switch mattresses out the service door.

The Return of the Bedbugs was first reported in the New York Times back in 2001, presumably brought to the United States in the suitcases of international travelers. Today they are in all 50 states. Think briefcases, backpacks and the cuffs of trousers. Continue reading

Extra! Extra!


Posted Jan. 22, 2009

So much news, so little time! But it only takes a minute to trade a buck for the finest collection of news and information assembled on 16 pages. Here’s what you’ll find in the new edition of Street Roots, available from our outstanding vendors Friday morning:

Bordering on insanity: Portland author and educator Martha Gies combines her own personal insight on Mexico with reflections on a new book by John Gibler on how immigration policies are denying migrants the dignified life they risk their lives to find. John Gibler will be speaking at Powell’s books on Feb. 6.

Legislature weighs individual, state needs for assistance: General Assistance, the state program that once tied people over while they navigated the bureaucracy of Social Security, was eliminated years ago, but there’s a new push to reinstate it, against some dismal economic odds. Mara Grunbaum reports.

Helen Thomas: The First Lady of the White House press corps talked with Joanne Zuhl about her return to cover her 10th administration. Ms. Thomas talks about the responsibility of the press, it’s failures, and her hopes for the Obama administration.

Street Roots 2008 Annual Report: A guide to our year, our supporters, our vendors and all things Street Roots.

Plus, columns by Alejandro Queral, John Thompson and a highlight of some memorable quotes from interviews with John Dean, Angela Davis, Brandon Roy and more! Chime in on our blog, or e-mail us your thoughts at joanne@streetroots.org.

Posted by Joanne Zuhl

Finally, Some Good News

Posted Nov. 3, 2008

By Martha Gies
Contributing Columnist

It’s easy to be bummed out by the media.
To begin with, the news is bad: the Orwellian war is endless, racial hatred poisons a presidential campaign, and runaway capitalism mows down ordinary folk.

But the messengers, too, are bad. With their allegiance tied to the advertising dollar, and their willingness to pimp the administration’s priorities, they are indifferent to the interests of the community, leaving us with an ever increasing sense of disconnection, if not despair.

In Portland, corporate media reached a new low on Sept. 28 when The Oregonian mailed out to thousands of subscribers the DVD of an anti-Muslim hate film, tucked into the folds of the Sunday paper.

Was this in the interests of the community?  Mayor Tom Potter didn’t think so. He phoned publisher Fred Stickel and urged him not to propagate fear and prejudice in our town. But advertising money was at stake. So, citing free speech, The Oregonian went ahead with their weekend plan, despite the fact that on Friday, Sept. 26, children were gassed in a mosque in Dayton, Ohio, following the film’s distribution there.
(The Clarion Fund, which paid to have the film sent to 28 million voters, supposedly to educate us about “security threats,” in fact looks like nothing so much as a pass-through for defense industry interests.)

To this dismal scenario comes a good-news book long overdue.
More after the jump

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