Wednesday, February 08, 2006

At long last ...?

Are we finally reaching that 'have you no decency' moment?

IN the poorly-covered Senate juducial oversight meetings, Arlen Specter crticized Atty Gen Gonzales.

Now, key House Republicans are calling for an inquiry into the wiretapping.

Lowery and Carter rip into Bush King's funeral.

Bush smiled nervously as the SCLC founder and ex-president criticize war, Katrina aid

Finally, some good news

Deal protects Canada rainforest

Indigenous tribes will have an unprecedented say in land use
Canada's province of British Columbia has announced plans to protect a huge swathe of Pacific Coast rainforest, known as the Amazon of the North.
The forest is home to a rare white bear, and is the ancestral land of several indigenous Canadian tribes.

The deal will save a vast area of forest for wildlife, while allowing sustainable logging in other parts.

The settlement between tribes, loggers and environmentalists is being hailed as an example for other countries.

The land covered by the Great Bear Rainforest is huge. At 64,000 sq-km (25,000 sq-mile), it is about twice the size of Belgium.

It stretches 400km (250 miles) up the Pacific Coast from Vancouver Island all the way north to Alaska.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Amid US tax cuts, France may step in to help NOLA

By Michael Depp

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Shortcomings in aid from the U.S. government are making New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin look to other nations for help in rebuilding his hurricane-damaged city.

Nagin, who has hosted a steady stream of foreign dignitaries since Hurricane Katrina hit in late August, says he may seek international assistance because U.S. aid has not been sufficient to get the city back on its feet.

"I know we had a little disappointment earlier with some signals we're getting from Washington but the international community may be able to fill the gap," Nagin said when a delegation of French government and business officials passed through on Friday to explore potential business partnerships.

Jordan's King Abdullah also visited New Orleans on Friday and Nagin said he would encourage foreign interests to help redevelop some of the areas hardest hit by the storm.

"France can take Treme. The king of Jordan can take the Lower Ninth Ward," he said, referring to two of the city's neighborhoods.

Katrina flooded 80 percent of the city and killed more than 1,300 people in Louisiana and Mississippi.

The Bush administration has pledged billions of dollars to Katrina victims but five months after the storm, New Orleans remains largely in ruins.

Nagin said his message to President George W. Bush would be that the federal government needs to refocus on the devastated area.

"We need your undivided attention over the next six months," he said. "We need backup. We need for you to make the words that you spoke in Jackson Square a reality."

Nagin was referring to the president's September 15 address to the nation from New Orleans, in which he pledged "we will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes" to rebuild.

French Transport Minister Dominique Perben, leading the French delegation to a city that was founded by France in 1718, said, "This catastrophe has deeply upset the French people and the French government."

France, Perben said through a translator, "wants to be a long-term partner for Louisiana and New Orleans."

Guardian: 70,000 died from backstreet abortions

Britain Defies US with Funding to Boost Safe Abortion Services
Attempt to replace lost dollars after 'global gag'
70,000 died last year in backstreet operations

by Sarah Boseley

The British government will today publicly defy the United States by giving money for safe abortion services in developing countries to organisations that have been cut off from American funding.

Nearly 70,000 women and girls died last year because they went to back-street abortionists. Hundreds of thousands of others suffered serious injuries.

Specter: Gonzales is smoking 'Dutch Cleanser'

"The whole history of America is a history of balance," Specter said, referring to security and civil liberties. "I think there's a chance the administration might take up the idea of putting this whole issue before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. . . . I think they are seeing concerns in a lot of directions from all segments: Democrats and Republicans in all shades of the political spectrum."

When Gonzales argues that the Constitution gives the president undisputable powers to conduct warrantless surveillance despite a statute aimed at requiring him to seek court approval, such an interpretation "is not sound," Specter said in the interview. ". . . He's smoking Dutch Cleanser."

(from Washington Post)

Monday, February 06, 2006

Would you vote for a woman president?

The results are high, with men edging out women to say yes!

CBS News/New York Times Poll. Jan. 20-25, 2006. N=1,229 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3 (for all adults).

"If your party nominated a woman for president, would you vote for her if she were qualified for the job?"

Yes No Unsure
% % %
ALL adults 92 5 3
Republicans 88 9 3
Democrats 95 3 2
Independents 93 4 3
Men 93 5 2
Women 92 6 2

Friday, February 03, 2006

New Orleans: Breaking My Heart

A City Fears for Its Soul
New Orleans Worries That Its Unique Culture May Be Lost

By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 3, 2006; A01

NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans, the theme park?

Frightening as it sounds, the prospect of this sultry, eclectic city rising from the muck of Hurricane Katrina as a sterile imitation of itself is becoming an abiding preoccupation. Even as the city's riverfront high ground -- now dubbed the "Isle of Denial" by one scholar -- gamely revives, miles of culturally vibrant neighborhoods that once smelled of simmering red beans and hosted funky second-line parades lie dark and empty, their futures in doubt.

A quiet but increasingly urgent conversation about that culture's survival consumes this city, both on its street corners and in its institutions. In the Lower Ninth Ward, a woman who stables horses on the Mississippi River levee frets about "a land grab" that could bulldoze her home to make a "playground for the rich." In the Bywater neighborhood, an acclaimed photographer longs for the sound of teenagers blowing horns from porches. At Loyola University, authors and academics convene a panel to ponder whether New Orleans culture can be saved.

Their worry is that the curious and crazy that developed naturally here over time will be replaced by an artificial version of what once was, that a desperate attempt to resurrect New Orleans will turn it into a sanitized, charmless, soulless city.

"Will this quirky and endlessly fascinating place become an X-rated theme park, a Disneyland for adults?" Tulane University professor Lawrence N. Powell asked in a speech that has been copied and circulated, gaining a cultlike following. "Is it fated to be the place where Orlando embraces Las Vegas? That's the American Pompeii I apprehend rising from the toxic sludge deposited by Lake Ponchartrain: an ersatz city, a veritable site of schlock and awe."

Countless plasterers, folk artists, brass-band high-steppers, corner barbers, Mardi Gras Indians, dive-bar guitarists and neighborhood kooks are among more than 300,000 former residents flung across the country. Their epic diaspora has shrunk this now-fractional city's population to 140,000. Gone with them is one of the world's most intriguing street-life scenes, a culture blended of Catholicism and voodoo, Haitians and Italians, Spaniards and French, slaves and free men.

Much of the official chatter about the revival of New Orleans culture is trained on grand projects with limited prospects because of a lack of money, such as trumpeter Wynton Marsalis's proposal for a jazz district and a musicians village. But the greatest worries here are about the loss of the earthy characters and eccentrics who populated the city's now silent neighborhoods.

After all, as historian Alecia P. Long put it, "New Orleans is the place where the weird turn pro." It is a city that not only tolerated, but celebrated, a woman nicknamed Ruthie the Duck Girl, who not long ago was routinely wearing a wedding dress to walk her leashed ducks in the French Quarter.

Preservationists warily point to a bleak street downtown, a zone of drab modern buildings and parking lots, as their nightmare vision of the future. A giant clarinet painted on the side of a hotel looms over the area, once home to a rich cluster of jazz clubs. The clubs are gone, but the clarinet with its frozen painted shadow remains, a silent still-life to replace the musical potions once created there.

New Orleans politicians and power brokers have helped along the sense of unease, saying and unsaying all sorts of things that trouble the purists. Members of Mayor C. Ray Nagin's rebuilding commission first said all neighborhoods of the city would be rebuilt. Then they reversed themselves, recommending a building moratorium in much of the city and suggesting that some neighborhoods -- many of them centers of African American culture -- be forced to prove their viability or be bulldozed. Amid the ensuing uproar, the mayor came out against the moratorium, reverting to the position first articulated by his committee members.

The mayor at one point announced that he wanted to create a casino district to stimulate growth, then quickly dumped the idea. Later, he declared that New Orleans would again be a black-majority "chocolate city" -- then he apologized, saying chocolate is made by blending dark chocolate and "white milk."

Down in the bowl that is the Lower Ninth Ward, all the back-and-forth has left Shelby Wilson, a graphic artist who stables her two Arabian horses on the Mississippi River levee, feeling suspicious of "a screw job, a power play," despite assurances to the contrary. Her home, a sturdy bulwark with three-foot-thick walls made from old barges, could be bulldozed if her neighborhood, which is predominantly black, is not rebuilt.

"They're trying to mold this city into a psuedo-Disneyland, gambling center, party center, a facade," Wilson said. "But that is not what New Orleans is about . . . the allure of this city is that mix of people, those ingredients."

Drive up out of the Ninth Ward and the images are disheartening. The century-old St. Roch Market, a weather-beaten, peaked-roof jewel where generations of African Americans lined up for chocolate-colored gumbo and crawfish, stands in silence. "Oh, they had the best po' boys," Pam Dashiell, a neighborhood activist, said while driving by one recent afternoon.

Up the street, a hulking pink grocery store is empty, no longer dishing out roast beef sandwiches. The Saturn Bar, a spot filled with kitschy garage-sale paintings and baseball caps that drew whites and blacks, is shuttered. The owner, an irreplaceable local legend named O'Neil Broyard who would tell you about naked boxing matches if you were lucky, died cleaning up after the storm.

Gone, too, is Joseph Casamento, who died while evacuating; he shucked oysters for half a century amid the floor-to-ceiling tile of his family's eponymous restaurant across town on Magazine Street. And gone, too, is Mary Hansen, the 95-year-old institution who before the storm served rich, syrupy delights called nectar ices at her landmark stand, Sno-Bliz.

"This damn storm and its aftermath killed a lot of keepers of the flame," said Camille Strachan, a lawyer active in neighborhood-renewal projects. "There are all of these hard-to-quantify little losses."

Strachan said she finds herself driving through neighborhoods whose existences are imperiled, and every time she sees something else that has disappeared. "Look over there -- Slim's Barbershop," she said one afternoon, pointing at the boarded windows of a tiny shop in the Dryades neighborhood near downtown. "If he were open, we could go in there to get the pulse of the neighborhood. How are you going to know anything, if you don't have barbershops?"

Race permeates every conversation here. Even though some predominantly white neighborhoods such as Lakeview were decimated by the flooding, it is the poor black neighborhoods that seem most endangered. It was those neighborhoods that birthed jazz funerals and the spontaneous second-line parades, black New Orleans's response to the white-dominated carnival season parades. A Brown University study concluded that 80 percent of New Orleans's black population may not return if flooded neighborhoods are not rebuilt.

"It can certainly be a whitewashed city," said Michael E. Crutcher, a University of Kentucky professor who is an expert on New Orleans marching clubs. " 'Whitewashed' means both things -- sanitized and whiter. The people who aren't here seem to have been forgotten."

Crutcher predicts that black sections such as Faubourg Treme, where he once delighted in the scent of yak-a-mein, a concoction of turkey necks and noodles, will be given over to expensive condominiums, pricing out poor blacks.

Even the most optimistic city boosters -- people such as Marsalis, who has said that New Orleans "will sustain its culture" -- are worried. "We never did a good job with our culture when it came to anything that had to do with black people," Marsalis said in an interview. "It's very difficult to try to sustain it in a culture of racism. In the U.S. of A., we're good at building malls, putting up parking lots and putting more black people out of their homes."

Many of the city's Mardi Gras "Indian tribes," which once gathered in tiny "home bars" -- seductively dark places, some illuminated only by dangling light bulbs -- don't have home bars anymore. Now the chiefs get together in the more controlled environment of Tipitina's club, calling out to their spy boys and their flag boys -- immortalized when the Dixie Cups recorded "Iko Iko" and sang, "My flag boy told your flag boy: I'm gonna set your flag on fire."

One recent Sunday at Tipitina's, the crowd surged forward, mesmerized by Big Chief Monk Boudreaux's call-and-response rhythm and the spy boys taunting each other with exaggerated grimaces and herky-jerk dance moves. But a thick, sad-eyed man walked toward the door.

"Where you going?" another man called out above the drums.

"Back to Georgia," the thick man said.

The gyrations were the same, the beat was as intoxicating as ever, but many in the room had been reduced to visitors, mere tourists from Houston or Atlanta or Dallas, here to a spend a few days or a few hours in a city that was once theirs.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Armed Thugs

Otherwise known as politicians...

THis reminds me of when that octogenarian was roughly ejected from the Labour conference for 'heckling' Jack Straw.

"""I was never told that I couldn't wear that shirt into the Congress. I was never asked to take it off or zip my jacket back up. If I had been asked to do any of those things...I would have, and written about the suppression of my freedom of speech later. I was immediately, and roughly (I have the bruises and muscle spasms to prove it) hauled off and arrested for "unlawful conduct."

- Cindy Sheehan

Bush's solution to our 'oil addiction'

Feed it, baby.

Bush Says Don't Expect Oil Price Breaks

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - President Bush defended the huge profits of Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) Wednesday, saying they are simply the result of the marketplace and that consumers socked with soaring energy costs should not expect price breaks.

Starting to see a pattern here?

Shell posts biggest profit in UK corporate history
Thursday February 2, 07:33 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell posted a 3 percent rise in fourth-quarter current cost of supply (CCS) net profit to $5.395 billion (3 billion pounds), in line with forecasts, helped by high oil prices and strong refining margins.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Sign of the times

Thirty & Broke

The real price of a college education today

By Susan Berfield
BusinessWeek Online

Paige Nichols has a certain stoicism about her, which has helped her overcome disappointments big and small. She was born in Oklahoma City in 1975, a time of plenty for her family. Her father was prospering as a commodities trader, and he liked to spend his money. Paige would turn out to be the same way. But by the time she entered college in 1993, their financial situation had become, she says, considerably more "volatile." Her parents had been able to pay for the education of her two sisters, 11 and 13 years older than she, but told Paige they couldn't do the same for her.

She finished up at the University of Tulsa in 1997 with a business degree and $20,000 in student loans, which makes her, by official reckoning anyway, a typical graduate. She is now paying off her loans, $300 a month; at that rate it will take her until she's about 50. "Twenty thousand isn't even that much, but it feels hefty," she says. "I'm not making any headway."

Like many who emerged from adolescence amid the promise of the late 1990s, Paige never imagined that money would be the issue upon which crucial decisions in her life would turn. But it is. She has been fascinated with forensic psychology ever since reading a book in college about a woman who studied serial killers, and she was accepted into a master's degree program at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology in 2004. Before long she reconsidered. "I dream big," she says, "then reality seeps in." Paige would have had to borrow at least $32,000, which seemed like "way too much to think about," especially since afterward she might earn less than she would in the corporate world. "I could not justify putting myself in that financial jeopardy," she says. "But it could have been my life's passion."

New Poll asks the questions others won't

Recently, certain pundits in the blogosphere have started to take to task certain mainstream polling firms for refusing to ask questions of the public that are relevant to the public debate. They claim that, by framing questions in certain ways, these mainstream firms are enabling the Republican-based narrative which tends to show the ship of state righting itself in stormy waters. Many bloggers, and others besides, feel that the state of American democracy has reached crisis point and worry about the role of executive power in a world where the president claims powers based on an amorphous 'war' with no clear enemy, which even they claim may go on for 50 years. How do we find our way back to checks and balances after a generation of quasi-monarchical rule?

The results of the first Start CHange/ MyDD poll are illuminating:

This is what they claim as regards methodology:
Our poll was conducted from January 16 to 26 through a random telephone sample of 1004 registered voters nationwide. For the entire sample, the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1% with a 95% level of confidence.

THe people they asked were evenly divided between Dems, Repubs, and Indies.

Here are some of the things they found:

Only 26% of Americans have confidence that the federal government’s response to a terror attack would be “timely and effective. Almost twice that number -- 46% -- have little or no confidence in the federal government’s ability to respond to a disaster or a terror attack.

By a 49-43% margin, Americans believe that Congress should investigate whether or not President Bush broke the law with his secret wiretapping program.

If it is determined that President Bush broke the law, by a 50-39% margin, Americans believe he should be impeached and removed from office.

WE need to start realizing that when the President is trying to sell his obviously illegal program of domestic spying as 'terrorist surveillance', even though it is already well known that it has brought in thousands of innocent Americans, with no results to speak of (the best they can come up with is a phony Brooklyn Bridge story), and tramples on the legislative and judicial branches, the people have to quit giving equal time to their propaganda, and stand up for truth.

The only way that can happen is to gain a Democratic majority in Congress and press them to take Bush and his regime to task through the impeachment process, before the damage he does becomes permanent.