Sunday, July 16, 2006


controversial new orleans landfill to close

or so it seems... first nagin says that he's going to close it... but then the state wants to keep it open. oh how i'm hoping for some good news out of nola for a change. (a background post on the landfill can be found here).

first the hopeful:
Setting the stage for the closure of a controversial landfill in eastern New Orleans, Mayor Ray Nagin has signed an affidavit saying he will not renew the executive order he signed in February that gave the facility a legally required zoning waiver.

Nagin signed the affidavit pledging not to renew his executive order in response to a lawsuit filed in Civil District Court by four eastern New Orleans residents who claimed he lacked the authority to exclude the City Council from any land-use decision, even under a state of emergency.

Joel Waltzer, lawyer for the Louisiana Environmental Action Network and Citizens for a Strong New Orleans East, which jointly filed an unsuccessful federal suit to block the landfill, was thrilled to learn of the mayor's position.

"I think it means if Waste Management wants to continue to operate the landfill, they're going to have to go through the ordinary zoning process," Waltzer said. "The groundswell of community opposition and science has been building for months, and we are elated that the mayor has finally reacted. This is a victory for the rebuilding of New Orleans and for the vitality of New Orleans East."

"I can't believe it," gushed Marylee Orr, LEAN's executive director. "God bless everybody!"

If the opponents are right, and the landfill is in its final throes, it will mark the end of a long and often heated debate between Village de l'Est residents and environmentalists on one hand, and city and state regulators on the other.

Critics have complained that the landfill is situated poorly in marshy territory next to Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge.

And they say they fear that, while construction debris is considered relatively benign compared with other types of waste, the landfill could leak toxins into the area because the state broadened the definition of construction debris post-Katrina. Those fears have been heightened by Waste Management's refusal to allow testing of the material in the landfill.
but then again, this is louisiana. the rules are different there.

here's a topic: the louisiana department of environmental quality most often doesn't actually care about the quality of the environment in louisiana. discuss:
A day after New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said he will let a controversial eastern New Orleans landfill close next month, the state's Department of Environmental Quality said the landfill is still needed and should remain open.

The agency issued a statement saying the landfill "poses no threat to public health" and "is needed to clean up New Orleans in an environmentally sound and timely manner."

"Closing this landfill would slow down the (post-Katrina) cleanup process significantly," said Chuck Carr Brown, assistant secretary of the environmental agency.
stay tuned, folks, for the outcome. in the meanwhile, brad pitt's in town to rebuild new orleans in all shades of green. never fear, louisiana, brangelina's on the case!


G.I. Yossi vs. the Israeli left

overall, just to preface, i quote bz in his post over at jewschool, that no matter who ultimately is at fault, and who started it, and who should stop bombing first:
I think we can all agree on one point: THIS SUCKS.
and while i'm trying to figure out where i stand on this big complicated mess, i guess i'm most angry about my powerlessness to do much of anything to affect the situation and quicken the end of the violence, outside of prayer. as well as curiousity about why the israeli left has been largely silent, and whether that means that as a progressive american jew i should be silent as well?

obviously, my first questions is whether i can separate this latest series of unfortunate events from the broader history of the arab-israeli-palestinian conflict? should i even bother to try?

the wall, the economic strangling of gaza via closures, the road blocks, the refugee camps, the terrorist bombings, the 1948 war, the 1967 war, the partition plan, the role of arab countries in fomenting the camps, etc... all directly or indirectly play a role in the current crisis. but it doesn't answer my question.

israel is a small country. in jewish-israeli society everyone is connected to everyone else (think 2 degrees of separation). everyone does a stint in the military after high school, before college. when a young israeli soldier is kidnapped, the average israeli instantly either imagines him/herself in the same circumstance or its happening to their son or daughter.

israeli "unilaterally" pulled out of southern lebanon in 2000 (and gaza in 2005). in the israeli mindset, the lebanese pullout was supposed to appease hezbollah and the other millitants who had been firing rockets into israel. so now, with hezbollah firing more rockets into israel, the thinking is "see, we tried to do the right thing and play nice, but obviously, you people only understand violence, so alright, you asked for it, no more mr. nice guy."

also, with the katyusha rockets having a longer range, areas that had seemed "safe" from low-level rocket attacks, are suddenly targets. haifa, which by being 20 miles south of the lebanese border, had been out of range, is now in the same category as kiryat shemona and other towns closer to the border. 10 miles had made the difference here. only 10 miles. israel is very small geographically. about the size of new jersey.
This conflict is not about lines on a map; it’s about intimacy. “Everyone is in everyone’s face here,” said one official. The analogies made for Americans are these: Israel is the size of New Jersey, Gaza is the size of Delaware, and the West Bank is a third of Rhode Island. This is about legitimacy and safety, and until both sides achieve some modicum of well being, or deterrence, there will be no peace.
this feeling of being under siege, fed by echoes of the holocaust (i.e., "we will not be lambs led to the slaughter, damn it!") creates what a friend of mine has dubbed the "g.i. yossi" phenomena. all american jews know it -- the mythic israeli macho soldier wearing sunglasses, cigarette hanging from his lips, black machine gun around his soldiers.

the perfect antithesis to the woody allen nebbish that we all know as the impotent jewish male. (16 year-old billy jacobson from secaucus, new jersey on his nfty trip to israel never had a chance... rachel millerberg always went for 18 year-old uri from the army instead).

white jews may not be able to jump, but if you mess with us, we'll sic the mossad on your ass. ever try messing with an el-al security officer as you're waiting in line to board your plane? bad idea....

i admit it, even as a crazy lefty, that persona has appeal. what jewish boy doesn't grow up idolizing sandy koufax and hank greenberg? or want to become adam goldberg in the "hebrew hammer"?

in any case, i read today in yedidot achranot's website that there was a rally of 1000+ people in Tel Aviv last night:
They keep telling us that there is a consensus in support of the war, and that's not true. They keep telling the citizens that this is the only way, and I think that there is another way," said Abeer Kopty of Mossawa, The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel.

The organizations Ta'ayush, Yesh Gvul, The Women's Coalition for Peace and other left-wing groups have joined forces "to voice a different opinion against the war and in favor of negotiations," she explained.

Eitan Lerner, who took part in the rally, said: "Israel is entering another cycle of fighting and continues the foolishness of exaggerated aggression. I came here to protest because there's a link between starving and oppressing the Palestinians and the bombings in Lebanon."

"It's true that what Hizbullah did was unacceptable, but Israel is overreacting. Since when is the entire population to blame for all this?" he asked.

Rela Mazali from the New Profile organization explained: "This is a stupid, unnecessary and evil war. Our leaders could have prevented it. eventually the hostages will be released through negotiations, but hundreds will be killed along the way in Lebanon, and I don't know how many will die here. I think that we must make our voice heard."

Manal Amuri from Jerusalem called on the Israeli government to hold talks with Hamas and Hizbullah. "The Israeli aggression leads to an overall war no one wants. I think that Israel should negotiate with Hizbullah and Hamas and release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the hostages. This way this story will come to an end."

"What Israel is doing now resulted in the death of civilians, innocent children, and it serves no purpose except for the government's vindictiveness. I think it's good we're showing that there are Arab and Jewish citizens in Israel who oppose the war."
i don't know what the answer is. i doubt that this rally will accomplish anything. i feel for the israelis, the palestinians and the lebanese. i'm eternally optimistic for nations to finally beat their rockets into ploughshares and their uzis into pruninghooks.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


we're now "this close" to raising the minimum wage ...

in pennsylvania, all we need now is renedell's signature. here's the scoop from the coalition that has worked tirelessly for this to happen:
Well, the long struggle is over and Pennsylvania will now join much of the rest of the nation with a long overdue raise in the minimum wage. So many organizations and public officials deserve a tremendous amount of credit for your efforts in keeping this issue before the public and the legislature.

The overwhelming numbers for final passage of SB 1090 (161-37 in the House and 38-12 in the Senate) make it clear how the opposition hid behind thier leader's refusals to allow a vote on a fair minimum wage. The Raise the Minimum Wage Coalition's strategy to target leaders in radio ads, direct organizing and political pressure to demand a vote made a real contribution to the final victory. The many organizations involved should feel proud. The combination of labor, religious, social service, community groups and political leaders that worked so hard on this issue made a difference in many ways. Our rotunda-packing rallies in Harrisburg kept the pressure on and everyone's work on individual members made a real contribution. In the end our opposition could no longer defend holding up a raise for Pennsylvania's poorest workers and families across the state will get a much needed pay raise.

Thanks again to all who stood tall for justice and fair wages.
here's some more details on the bill:
Rendell's signature would make Pennsylvania the 22nd state to approve an increase in its minimum wage since Congress last raised the federal minimum wage to $5.15 in 1997.

"We should not accept the fact that in our great commonwealth, and in our country, someone can work full time and still live well below the poverty level," Rendell said in a statement released Saturday.

The Senate passed the bill, 38-11, in an unusual Saturday morning session that was a prelude to a vote on a spending plan for the just-begun fiscal year. The House endorsed the bill Friday, after making minor changes to legislation the Senate passed June 22.

Democrats voted solidly for the increase, as did Republicans from southeastern Pennsylvania. Many Republicans from rural areas and those who are the Legislature's strongest business advocates opposed the increase.

Increasing the minimum wage is one of Rendell's top election-year priorities and is an issue that polls well with voters. For the past year, Democrats, labor unions and advocates for the poor have pressured the Legislature's Republican leaders to allow a vote on raising wages to $7.15. After many months of holding out, they relented, but won approval of an exemption that would spare the state's smallest businesses from paying the full increase until 2008.

The bill calls for Pennsylvania's minimum wage to rise to $6.25 an hour on Jan. 1, 2007, then to $7.15 an hour on July 1, 2007.

The increase would take effect more slowly for employers with the equivalent of 10 or fewer full-time employees, although franchises of larger chains would not qualify for that exemption. Those employers that do qualify would pay $5.65 an hour beginning Jan. 1, 2007; $6.65 beginning July 1, 2007; and $7.15 on July 1, 2008.

About 423,000 workers in Pennsylvania make between $5.15 and $7.14 an hour, but it is not clear how many of those work for businesses that qualify for the 10-employee exemption, according to the state Department of Labor and Industry.

The 2006 federal poverty level for an individual is $9,800; for a family of two it is $13,200; and for a family of three it is $16,600. Someone who is paid $5.15 an hour, 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year makes $10,700.
ok whose state is next?