John McCaslin

Every month, the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans displays an artifact of the month. It so happens the "Artifact of the Month - August 2005," strapped around a museum mannequin in the weeks before Hurricane Katrina poured its floodwaters into New Orleans, is a merchant marine life jacket.

"A friend of mine wondered about damage to the D-Day Museum in New Orleans, so she checked their Web site - - to see if they had any information on hurricane damage. There was none, but she found their selection of the 'artifact of the month' for August somewhat disconcerting," writes Beltway Beat reader Stan Welli of Aurora, Ill.

The vest had saved the life of Troy Norris Graves on May 18, 1942, when his merchant vessel, SS William J. Salman, sailing from New Orleans to Antigua, was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine.

The life jacket was Graves' only possession when he and others who survived were plucked from the water. It hung unceremoniously in his family's barn for more than 60 years until it was donated to the National D-Day Museum in December upon his death.


In one man's opinion, it is no coincidence that a hurricane named Katrina slammed into New Orleans.

Michael Brown, creator of the widely read Web site - often dubbed the Catholic Drudge Report - tells that Katrina, a name that means "pure," is a purification of New Orleans. Brown penned an article in 2001 that warned of certain disaster for New Orleans.

"There are few cities with so many good as New Orleans and also few cities where there is such a stark coexistence with the bad. It is this city, the Big Easy, that is home to kind and generous and Christian people . . . and yet also this city that has allowed evil to flourish in a way that has become truly dangerous," Brown wrote.

He then warned: "When you invoke dark spirits, you get a storm. The very word hurricane comes from the Indian hurukan for evil spirit."

Hearing talk of Sodom and Gomorrah, New Orleans City Council President Oliver Thomas conceded in recent days, "Maybe God's going to cleanse us."


European reporters flocking to France were all ears when former "James Bond" actor Pierce Brosnan, attending the Deauville Festival of American Cinema, blasted the Bush administration's "shameful" response to Hurricane Katrina.

"This man called President Bush has a lot to answer for," declared the former 007 actor. "I don't know if this man is really taking care of America."

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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