August 31st, 2005
Scroll down far enough in this Bloomberg article about the suffering in New Orleans and you will find this:
President George W. Bush viewed the damaged Gulf Coast region from New Orleans to Biloxi, Mississippi, from the windows of Air Force One, spokesman Scott McClellan said.
I don’t know what to say. This is the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, thousands of Americans are dead, thousands more are homeless, and a U.S. city has been flat out abandoned, and our president flew above it and looked out of the windows of his plane.
The article does say he will visit the area later this week, perhaps Friday or Saturday. That’s nice, I suppose, but he ought to be there right now. There is absolutely nothing going on in the United States right now that is more important than this, and our leader, our great commander in chief, can’t be bothered to do any more than reroute his flight home from vacation so that he can look out the windows of his plane.
We need leadership. We get a flyover.
August 31st, 2005
Many people have been commenting on how president Bush was off on vacation while the worst natural disaster in US history was occuring. I’m not so outraged by this (even though I think Bush vacations far too much).
What I am outraged by is the way the Bush administration has gutted our ability to respond to natural disasters systematically — if you haven’t seen it yet, read How Not to Prepare for a Hurricane from American Progress. It’s pathetic — in the face of ample evidence of increased hurricane activity over the past 5-10 years, the Bush administration has cut funding for crucial planning and preparation activities.
What utter crap.
August 30th, 2005
My little nightmare yesterday about the folks stuck in the Superdome is just the least of the horrors people are experiencing in the wake of Katrina. The Red Cross is starting its largest domestic relief effort ever — you can make donations here. I am not sanguine about this. I fear that the real suffering and horrors are still to come.
August 29th, 2005
In 2001, my husband and I considered going to New Orleans on our honeymoon. We decided not to because it would have been during Lent and we figured it might not be as interesting. In the past 4 years, we have semi-seriously talked about going there at least twice, but haven’t done it. I guess we should have talked more seriously, because it looks like after today, it won’t be there anymore.
I’m sick over hurricane Katrina, and extremely worried about all the people taking refuge in the Superdome. The power’s out, it’s probably flooding in there, and they can’t expect anyone to get them out for at least 2 days. I know that thousands more are at risk from the hurricane, but I can’t really comprehend the magnitude of all that. All I can focus on is the horror of being in the Superdome right now, and I’m praying for those people.
August 27th, 2005
The Danny Elfman haters among you can just move along. Go on. Scat. Go.
Ok, now for the rest of you. I watched Forbidden Zone last night. It came out in 1980, and was directed by Richard Elfman (Danny’s brother) — and it features Danny Elfman’s first movie score. The movie is really 12 musical numbers (most of which were written by Richard) strung together with something that has only the vaguest resemblance to a plot.
The real purpose of the movie (according to the DVD’s director’s commentary) was to capture on film the kind of thing the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo were doing — the Mystic Knights etc. was a musical theater group founded by Richard. At the end of the 1970s, the group fell apart and Danny E. formed Oingo Boingo out of its remains.
The movie is very odd, deeply racist and incredibly anti-woman. It’s not really worth watching as a movie. But as a peek into what the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo were like, it is interesting. The documentary that accompanies the movie is even better — it includes home movies of the group doing its thing, at its prime, and features interviews with “stars” of the movie, including Danny Elfman who talks a bit about scoring the movie. I enjoyed the documentary much more than the movie.
August 19th, 2005
The Dread Pirate Bin Laden is a fascinating look at how laws against pirates might be adapted to terror. This would lead to recognition of terrorism as an international crime, and would create an orderly way to try terrorists in international courts — in short, it would create a lawful, orderly way to deal with terror, and would end the need for a “war on terror.” It’s brilliant. It’s also unlikely to happen, at least while the Wackos are running the country. However, the article is worth a careful read. [found via Arts & Letters Daily].
August 15th, 2005
It was 70 years ago today (well, probably yesterday by the time I post this) that FDR signed the Social Security Act. It has been changed many times but the Social Security programs we have today are basically the same social insurance programs envisioned by Roosevelt and his Brain Trust — an individual safety net for elderly, retired people.
However, an often overlooked function is the safety net social security provides for the economy. By putting billions of dollars into circulation, social security (and other social insurance programs, like TANF), creates spending, thus fueling the economy. These programs create a kind of “spending floor” — no matter how bad the economy is, checks get sent out, providing some minimum amount of spending power. This stabilizes the economy, and is one of the many reasons we haven’t seen another a 1930s-style depression.
Or at least, that’s how it is supposed to work. Bush would eliminate this program and replace it with some sort of magical private accounts that would grow like crazy in our ever expanding economy. Only, our economy isn’t growing so fast, and it’s not clear what would happen to workers with little or no investing savvy. Not only would this harm people, it has the potential to do great damage to the economy by removing the stabilizing spending floor.
Social Security is a program that works, on multiple levels, and tinkering with it is a bad idea.
August 8th, 2005
I had lunch yesterday with P. at Tequila Grande, a Mexican Restaurant in Vienna, VA. I highly recommend this restaurant — and I’m picky about Mexican food, having lived close to the Mexican border for 8 years. I had Chicken Mole enchiladas — yes, you read that correctly, mole in Virginia. It wasn’t great mole, but it was good mole, with just the right amount of chocolate (however, it could have used a bit more heat). The salsa was chunky, hot and flavorful, and the guacamole looked like it had been made shortly before being served. P. had a chicken and ground beef buro that was monstrously huge which she said was quite good.
All in all, it was quite worth the drive, both for the food and the company. If you’re in the area, don’t miss it.
August 1st, 2005
Consistency matters. While people are, of course, allowed to change their minds, consistency in one’s broad, general approach to important topics is, well — important.
Which is why the Bolton appointment is infuriating me this morning. If advise and consent is so all-fired important to Senate Republicans that they considered doing great damage to the institution of the Senate to ensure that they had the chance to vote on judges, then they should be outraged by Bush’s recess appointment of Bolton, since the appointment effectively sidesteps their advise and consent role. And yet, I’m seeing almost no criticism from the right (it’s early yet, but I really don’t expect to see much from the Republicans on this issue — I long to be proven wrong).
The right of the President to make recess appointments is important — it keeps the government moving should a vacancy suddenly be created at an inopportune time. However, this vacancy is not a surprise, nor is Bush making the appointment simply because Congress is not in session. This appointment is a bald end-run around the system’s checks and balances.
Of course, the Senate will get to advise and perhaps consent, but not ’till January. Were a Senator, I would angry about this move, regardless of my political affiliations. But that’s probably one reason (among many, many others) that I’m not a Senator — I expect some broad philosophical consistency from people. I expect people to make sense.