Just Above Sunset
September 4, 2005 - When it rains, it pours...

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This site, and the daily web log, As Seen from Just Above Sunset, seldom deal in breaking news. They have evolved from whatever they were when the weekly started in May of 2003, and the daily a month later, into places for commentary and analysis, with photography, and comment on music and books and sometimes science, not to mention weekly columns from "Our Man In Paris," and now "Our Man in London," and sporadically, "Our Man in Tel-Aviv" - not to mention the weekly columns from The World's Laziest Journalist and The Book Wrangler (both Bob Patterson), and photo-essays from Phillip Raines and fiction from our MD friend in the Boston area.

We don't do news, as such.

Thus, even as the news broke, there had not been much of anything on either site about this worst-of-all hurricane that slid across the bottom of Florida, grew strong in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, then slammed into the Gulf Coast, pretty much destroying Biloxi and leaving four-fifths New Orleans underwater, in some places twenty feet deep, and now under marshal law to stop the looting.  What's to say?  You can go elsewhere for the folks on the left spinning this as a told-you-so about global warming and the right saying baloney, or go to the business-minded folks fretting about what it means to have a quarter of our domestic oil supply offline and multiple refineries flooded and not operable (and what that means to the economy and interest rates and a possible recession and all that).  You can find many commenting that a lot of the manpower that would help with recovery - and heavy equipment for the recovery - is now in Iraq.  We sent the National Guard there, didn't we?  There's also a lot out there on how FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has been sort of disassembled since it was subsumed under the Department of Homeland Security and its funding cut left and right.  Stopping terrorists was more important.  Now?

All this may be important, but it seems ghoulish.  And early in the week it seemed, well, just a little wrong to hitch one's political views to all this misery and death.  Let the others do it, if they must.  But you could send some money to the Red Cross instead.  People need help, not polemics.


The polemics came later in the week, of course, and are noted in the other items in the week's issue.

"When it rains, it pours" actually refers to some odd things in the news on Tuesday, August 30 – other political things.

New polling showed a clear majority now supports that woman in Texas, Cindy Sheehan - a clear majority supports protest in that they believe she deserves to ask Bush directly about "the noble cause for which her son died."  In contrast, a clear majority disapproves of the way Bush is handling his presidency and objects to the way he's dealt with the war.  It breaks down to fifty-three percent supporting Sheehan's efforts to question the war, while fifty-eight percent disapprove of George Bush's efforts to manage the war.  All this is discussed in Bush v Sheehan - only one has majority support, which provides links to all the polling data.

Something was changing – before the btached hurricane relief efforts.  The message has been, from the right side (in the political, not logical sense), that she represents a small minority of disturbed people who perhaps ought to be pitied for their personal loss, but certainly ought to be silenced before they give any more "aid and comfort to our enemies," as the statute on treason reads.  But the details of the polling?  Fifty-two percent of the public says Bush should talk to Sheehan while forty-six percent said he should not.  So much for the "small minority."  Of course, this is not saying these folks are arguing Bush should agree with her and do what she says, which seems to be to stop the war cold.  It reads more like more that half the folks are saying he should just have the common decency to meet with her.

But common decency isn't the man's strong suit.

Of course, to a get a sense of his strong suit it probably would have been a good idea to hop in the car last Tuesday and drive out to the San Bernardino area where the president was giving a major address on the sixtieth anniversary of V-J Day.  (We actually won that one.)

But it was in the nineties here in Hollywood and out there well over one hundred, and the Just Above Sunset staff car was built in England (Oxford) from a German design and those folks just don't understand what kind of air-conditioning cars need out here.  That ninety-minute drive seemed like a really bad idea - and the audiences are screened anyway.  A fellow from Hollywood with his artsy, left-leaning web sites wouldn't get in the door.

What the heck, Fox News carried the whole thing, every word.  Saw a bit of it.  It was more of the same.

But maybe there is a bit of common decency in the fact the White House announced Tuesday afternoon that the president will cut short his vacation so that he can oversee the government's response to this worst-of-all hurricane and what it's done to the lower right quadrant of the country.  As the Washington Post explains it, his advisors are "sensitive to the image of a president vacationing amid the hurricane crisis."

Yeah, that looks kind of bad.  End the long vacation.  Wrong image.  The in-your-face now-watch-this-drive sneering isn't polling well.  Folks really used to like that - a strong a decisive leader telling the rest of the world to go pound sand.  That's now getting old.

But Tim Greive over at Salon has some other questions


... isn't it also fair to ask, what about Iraq? By our count, 71 Americans have been killed in Iraq since Bush arrived in Crawford on Aug. 2. The president didn't return to Washington on Aug. 3, when 14 Marines were killed near Haditha. He didn't return on Aug. 9, when five National Guardsmen and a soldier were killed in separate incidents. He didn't return when Iraqi negotiators failed to meet a deadline, then failed to meet a deadline, then failed to meet a deadline, then failed to meet a deadline and then failed to reach agreement on a draft constitution.

Instead, the president stayed in Crawford, bicycling with Lance Armstrong and avoiding Cindy Sheehan while making the occasional side trip to Utah, to Idaho, to an RV park in Arizona and finally to an Air Force Base in California. That's where the president was this morning, commemorating the 60th anniversary of V-J Day and talking about the "sacrifice" - he used the word seven times - that Americans have always been willing to make in times of war.

And now the president will make his own sacrifice, albeit for Katrina, not Iraq. The president will squeeze in one more night at Crawford tonight, then he'll fly back to Washington Wednesday.

He'll have spent 28 full days away from the White House, two short of the 30 he had planned.


Well, maybe it's not just the hurricane.  Something is changing.  He may not know it.  His aides seem to.

Even the acerbic and extremely conservative Jack Cafferty over at CNN got into this exchange with Wolf Blitzer on the mid-afternoon news show "Situation Room." –


Cafferty: Where's President Bush? Is he still on vacation?

Blitzer: He's cut short his vacation he's coming back to Washington tomorrow.

Cafferty: Oh, that would be a good idea. He was out in San Diego I think at a Naval air station giving a speech on Japan and the war in Iraq today. Based on his approval rating, based on the latest polls, my guess is getting back to work might not be a terrible idea.


Geez, when you've lost Jack Cafferty...

Well, getting back to work might not be a terrible idea with stuff like this popping up in the Washington Post


The nation's poverty rate rose to 12.7 percent of the population last year, the fourth consecutive annual increase, the Census Bureau said Tuesday.

The percentage of people without health insurance did not change... Charles Nelson, an assistant division chief at the Census Bureau, said the percentage of uninsured remained steady because of an "increase in government coverage, notably Medicaid and the state children's health insurance program, that offset a decline in employment-based coverage."

... The median household income, meanwhile, stood at $44,389, unchanged from 2003.


Let that sink in.



Question 1: what's the point of a strong economy if it produces higher poverty rates, declining private sector healthcare coverage, and stagnant incomes?

Question 2: Whenever there are any nuggets of good employment news, the explanation from various quarters is either (a) tax cuts or (b) welfare reform. Do these two things also get the credit when there's bad news?


Ah, when it rains it pours.  One more thing for the administration to explain.  Back to work.  (Explanation to expect: Tax cuts for the wealthy WILL cause the economy to boom one day, and that will trickle down somehow if you damned peasants will just be patient and accept stagnant wages and higher prices and cuts to welfare and services - and besides, corporate profits are soaring, CEO's are earning more than ever, and THAT is economic health - so quit bellyaching!)

Other issues?  Tuesday, August 30, down on Sunset, the price of gasoline for the staff car - 3.20 per gallon and rising fast.  With the oil platforms off the Louisiana coast out for a bit and the refineries there underwater, that's just going to get higher - much higher.

That'll need some spin.  And spinning that one will be hard work.

Here's an idea:

Why high oil prices are a force for good
Eberhard Rhein, The International Herald Tribune, Wednesday, August 31, 2005

That ends with this:


Politicians should be preparing citizens worldwide for a future in which energy prices will remain high, and policy makers should be ready to keep the oil price near the present level by raising the level of excise taxation when necessary. Unfortunately, most politicians are still too myopic or timid to deliver such a message. This needs to change.

The high oil price is a bonanza for advocates of the Kyoto Protocol, who will probably claim for the protocol what the market has achieved: the decline of carbon dioxide emissions.

If oil prices can be maintained at or above today's high levels, there is less urgency for the extension of the protocol beyond 2012. The market is doing the job - and it embraces all types of energy consumption, which the Kyoto Protocol does not. It becomes therefore almost immaterial whether or not China and the United States will one day join.


Yep, high oil prices may save the planet, but one cannot imagine the president spinning it just that way.

Well, the president's vacation is so over.  And it was so very French - five or six weeks off, bicycling with Lance through the fields of poppies.  But as in France, it's time for the September rentrée - that time the French "reenter" the real world after their long summer vacations - as Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, puts it, "when the last French holiday-er is supposed to have returned and applied his or herself to the garlic grindstone."

As there, so here.  The real world needs some attention.




Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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This issue updated and published on...

Paris readers add nine hours....