It Was Such a Pretty Name

Katrina. I'm on the one available computer in the La Quinta Inn in Prattville, Alabama, just north of Montgomery. Most of the guests are, like me, refugees. I don't know at what point you get to apply that word to yourself without being guilty of hyperbole, but that point is fast approaching.

We arrived last night after a nasty couple of days. Coming from Laurel—NE of Hattiesburg, SE of Jackson and about 100 miles from the coast—we were elated when half an hour past the Alabama line we found a working gas station with little traffic. Until that point, we'd seen few gas stations open and the lines were 20-30 cars long. From Laurel past Meridian, one, sometimes two lanes were clear, with one lane often covered with felled pine trees.

Which pretty much describes Laurel itself. Yesterday, before we decided to run for it, we'd driven around north Laurel (a city of ~15,000) and seen few buildings down. Lots of roof damage, a few crushed cars, but mostly felled trees—on roofs, in yards, in roads. It's that latter category that made much of Laurel impassable. Old Bay Springs Road, which runs in front of the family home, was littered with pines, two of them from our property, both of which helped bring down innumerable power and telephone lines. Down the side street, transformers threatened incautious passersby, and catty-corner to our house a big old sycamore reclined against our neighbor's porch, dead.

Our yard (2.5 acres) was a game of pick-up sticks. Approx. 20 large pines were down, one of them blocking an entrance to the house, one providing an unwanted entrance to a shed, two blocking either end of the semicircular driveway, a few napping against the garage (the car "safely" on the other side) and the rest providing a surfeit of firewood for a passing Union army.

But trees are nothing compared to power, and power to water, and water to life. Our two-story house is big and old and sturdy, so we weren't too worried about dying. I say "too" because the eye wall passed near or over us (we missed the eye, unfortunately), spawning a fair share of short-lived tornadoes, which I suspect are responsible for the shredded homes you see on TV news.

But we were worried about power, and not enough about water. By the time we got up Monday morning, the power was already out. The water followed at noon, when the storm was throwing a tantrum in town. I'd meant to clean out one or more of the bathtubs and fill it with water, but they were so filthy (no one lives there now) and littered with dead bugs that I put it off till morning (we'd arrived anxious and tired that evening after a six-hour drive). While we were dithering about heading north (was it more dangerous to drive or to stay? the wind was getting harsh then), I filled up as many pitchers and bowls as I could find. Good thing, too, because the water stopped flowing around noon. I'd stayed in that house during hurricane Frederick, which was a strong storm, and we'd gone without power for all of a day and hadn't had a water shortage, so I didn't think the aftermath would be unbearable.

I was wrong. As the next day made clear, we were facing 1-6 weeks without power (more likely a month), in 90-degree late summer heat, with no running water for an indeterminate length of time and dwindling supplies of water and ice. (But thanks to my deceased grandmother, we had a month's worth of canned food.) I did find a working water tap in the pasture, which eased my concerns, but it had taken a bit of driving around and standing in line for ages just to get a couple of gallons of drinking water and three bags of ice (only six remained).

Communications were another concern. Luckily, we'd made it to Laurel just in time to ransack the local Kroger grocery store before they closed, and luckily I'd had enough sense to buy batteries. So we had working flashlights and a radio, which from Monday on was all we had. The problem was that, try as they might, the steadfast people on the radio just didn't know that much. We heard about outtages, closings, estimated damage and where the eye was from time to time, but during and after we heard little about Laurel, and after the storm passed, information was just as scarce. Like everyone else in central and south Mississippi, those reporting on the radio were having trouble with power and telecommunications, so few knew much of anything about what was going on.

We still don't know much, and we're waiting to find out if our apartment in New Orleans is dry. Even though we live in the high part of Uptown, it's looking increasingly likely that it's very, very wet.

UPDATE: Maybe not. Thank you, satellite imagery.


The Big One?

Katrina can't wait to booze it up on Bourbon Street, so me, A. and our four cats and one dog are headed for Laurel, MS., mañana, to my deceased grandmother's house. Since we'll be right in the hurricane's path there, too, we might subsequently flee to a hotel in Arkansas. We'll see. If anybody needs a place to stay, let me know quick, fast and in a hurry. Meanwhile, I'm finally turning that chicken I bought last weekend into a chicken parmegiana. Because when trouble's comin', you might as well cook a good meal.


The Washington Press Corpse, Part Umpteen

Finally, an explanation for the fundamental problem. There's access--that's a biggie--and fear of killing your career. And let's not forget increasing consolidation, obeisance to maximum profit, and its corollary, the desire not to offend the consumer. But then there's the bigger, more nebulous problem of culture, of cozy good-ole-boy-network elitism, of what Josh Marshall termed "the right-leaning dinner-party centrism of establishment Washington," which informs every coquettish line of ABC's The Note and which lights the fires of Bohemian Grove.

Time for another revolution.


Finally, an Able Danger Confirmation

Following the questionable allegations of Rep. Curt Weldon, a "veteran Army intelligence officer," Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, has come forward to confirm that Able Danger did uncover an Al Qaeda cell with Mohammed Atta's name associated with it before 9/11. Money quote:
Colonel Shaffer said he had provided information about Able Danger and its identification of Mr. Atta in a private meeting in October 2003 with members of the Sept. 11 commission staff when they visited Afghanistan, where he was then serving. Commission members have disputed that, saying that they do not recall hearing Mr. Atta's name during the briefing and that the name did not appear in documents about Able Danger that were later turned over by the Pentagon.

"I would implore the 9/11 commission to support a follow-on investigation to ascertain what the real truth is," Colonel Shaffer said in the interview this week. "I do believe the 9/11 commission should have done that job: figuring out what went wrong with Able Danger."
Shaffer claims that Pentagon lawyers blocked Able Danger from sharing the information with the FBI, basically to cover their asses if something went wrong. Well, something did, and if this is true, I'm sure they've had a few sleepless nights since then.


What Is “Conservatism”?

Please, somebody, tell me. Because I don't know.

The Best Cottage Cheese Ever

I'm a big fan of cottage cheese. Until recently, I carried the flag for New Orleans' own Zara's Supermarket's cottage cheese. But I have seen the light: Horizon Organic's cottage cheese trumps every cottage cheese I've ever had. It's light, creamy and smooth. And I will stop there before I start sounding even more insane.


I'm gabberflasted:
...Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi expressed "deep reflections and a heartfelt apology" for the Tokyo's wartime colonization and pledged that his country would never forget the "terrible lessons" of the war, which ended Aug. 15, 1945.

"Our country has caused great damages and pain to people in many countries, especially our Asian neighbors, through colonization and invasion," Koizumi said in a statement.
Wholesale slaughter can hurt, as can bubonic plague, which the Japanese used against Chinese peasants--you know, out of scientific curiosity.

So, uh, Mistah Bush... Oh, never mind, he never, ever, ever admits mistakes. But can't he apologize for ones he didn't make?

(Read the whole story; it gives great context.)


Plame Rogue's Gallery

Think Progress has an extensive guide to Bush™ officials tied to the Plame affair (with pictures!).

Abramoff Indicted


(If cornered, can Abramoff trade the goods he's got on Tom DeLay for a reduced sentence or even freedom?)

UPDATE: Josh Marshall says maybe not.


Daily Howler

(With apologies to Bob Somerby.) Remarking on the Federal Reserve's imminent interest-rate hike, Bush said that he trusts Alan Greenspan, that "he makes decisions based on fact, not on politics."

NOTE: Transcribed from the radio. I don't know where Bush was speaking.

Nagasaki: See Below

Why drop one bomb when you paid for two? Sixty years ago today, we dropped Fat Man on Nagasaki.


The Worst Thing We Ever Did

Tough call, that, what with genocide and slavery under our belts, but dropping two atomic bombs on mostly unarmed civilian women and children, after fire-bombing to death many hundreds of thousands of civilian Japanese is arguably the greatest blight on our record.



Novak's Email Address

Can't say if he actually reads messages sent to novakevans@aol.com, but it's worth a try. (Via Media Matters via Eschaton.) Visit Media Matters and watch the video of Novak walking off the set of Inside Politics. If you get bored, ask Novak why he relied on a report by Jeff Gannon for his false assertion that Kerry dumped Joseph Wilson from his campaign. Ask him if that affects the non-existent journalistic integrity he lately tried to defend.

UPDATE: Crooks and Liars has a longer version of the Novak CNN walk-off and a round-up of what umpteen bloggers have to say about it.

JEBUS GAWD UPDATE: CNN's suspended Novak "indefinitely."

MORE UPDATEY GOODNESS: Novak may have been reacting to the big Who's Who book that may have been sitting on the table (me likey)....


I use the word "fascinating" almost as frequently as Spock did, but this really is a fascinating taxonomy of Sources Close to the White House. Information is like water to journalists, and since January, 2001, in Washington there's been a severe drought. If you're not registered for The New Republic, go to bugmenot.com for a little love. (Via TPM.)

T_h_e  P_e_n_i_t_e_n_t

Someone who may or may not have used the name "K*ll*r McP*nts" and who dropped her blog when she got caught, you know, blogging, has a new blog in which she'll try really hard not to write about her b*yfriend or boss' d*ughter. (Apologies for the googlenoia.)


I'd Like to Thank the Academy...

I've never been comfortable with self-promotion, from business to blogging to novel-writing, but in this case, not saying something would be odd. So anyway, I'm happy to say that I won the Raw Story redesign contest. Take a gander, if you're so inclined. Many thanks to John Byrne and Larisa Alexandrovna; I look forward to working with them. Thanks also to my girlfriend, A., whose computer I used when mine took ill late last week (I finally fixed it last night). And to my dialogue coach, Tessa, whose hard work paid off as I mastered the rarified County Clare brogue that so many of you have complimented me on. Look out, Meryl Streep!


Bush Thinks Intelligent Design Should Be Taught

In a roundtable interview with reporters from Texas newspapers on Monday, Bush said local school boards should decide whether to teach evolution or "intelligent design."
"I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," Bush said. "You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes."
It's an extreme example, but would he then be in favor of exposing students to the "school of thought" that the Holocaust didn't happen? that we didn't land on the moon? (Following Bush's logic, why was he against the 9/11 commission? Why did his lackey Pat Roberts stall Phase Two of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's investigation into the administration's use of intelligence on Iraq during the march to war?)

All that aside, why not teach "intelligent design"? Why not use it to show what a theory is not? to show how the scientific method works? Present the strongest argument for life being "irreducibly complex" and then tear it to pieces. At the very least, show how our lacking an explanation for a phenomenon—a "gap" in our understanding—does not justify positing a "god" to fill it.

Central America: ¿Dónde Está?

The President signed CAFTA today. After introducing various Central American representatives as "los Embajadores" (he speaks Spanish!), Bush got his speech rolling. "All of us in this room understand that to keep our economy growing and creating jobs," Bush said, "we need to open markets for American products overseas." Maybe so, but someone might want to tell the president that the United States connects to Central America by land.


Time Out

Something funny's going on in Mudville. In case you haven't heard, an article in this week's Time claims that:
The previously undisclosed fact gathering [on Joseph Wilson] began in the first week of June 2003 at the CIA, when its public-affairs office received an inquiry about Wilson's trip to Africa from veteran Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus. That office then contacted Plame's unit, which had sent Wilson to Niger, but stopped short of drafting an internal report. The same week, Under Secretary of State Marc Grossman asked for and received a memo on the Wilson trip from Carl Ford, head of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Sources familiar with the memo [we assume this memo], which disclosed Plame's relationship to Wilson, say Secretary of State Colin Powell read it in mid-June. Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage may have received a copy then too.

When Pincus' article ran on June 12, the circle of senior officials who knew about the identity of Wilson's wife expanded. "After Pincus," a former intelligence officer says, "there was general discussion with the National Security Council and the White House and State Department and others" about Wilson's trip and its origins. A source familiar with the memo says neither Powell nor Armitage spoke to the White House about it until after July 6. John McLaughlin, then deputy head of the CIA, confirms that the White House asked about the Wilson trip, but can't remember exactly when. One thing he's sure of, says McLaughlin, who has been interviewed by prosecutors, is that "we looked into it and found the facts of it, and passed it on."
Well and good (or evil) except that Time magazine or the White House or the CIA sorta forgot that Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times wrote a month earlier about "a former ambassador" traveling to Niger:
I'm told by a person involved in the Niger caper that more than a year ago the vice president's office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger. In February 2002, according to someone present at the meetings, that envoy reported to the C.I.A. and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged.
What's going on here? Did Time not do its job? Does no one in the CIA or the White House communications office read the nation's "paper of record"? Note to Time: questions don't get answered if they're never asked.

UPDATE: Barbara O'Brien, writing for The American Street, noticed the Kristof discrepancy too. She quotes the WaPo article from a couple of weeks ago that was probably where I first read about the Kristof column. According to the WaPo (which apparently Time reporters don't read):
Kristof aired [Wilson's Niger findings] publicly for the first time in his May 6, 2003, column but did not name Wilson. This caught the attention of officials inside Cheney's office, as well as others involved in war planning, according to people who had talked with them.
So the White House version that Time reports is (surprise) complete crap.

Wilfred Brimley John Bolton Goes to the UN

(With apologies to Wilfred Brimley.) If you need a reminder of just how incompetent and megalomaniacal (i.e. downright dangerous) John "I Sabotaged Talks With Nuclear North Korea" Bolton is, read Stygius' post at The Washington Note. (And we all owe Steve Clemons a debt of gratitude for his excellent, ballsy work in blocking the Bolton nomination.)