Graves' omen?

Posted: Sep 08, 2005 12:00 AM

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."

That's his opinion, of course. Yet not all overseas newspapers are rushing to judgment. Take Wednesday's edition of The Times of London.

"So there it is, the underbelly of America - exposed," writes Alice Miles. "For Americaphobes, the events of the past 10 days have proved something of a feast. The subtext, and often the main text, of much of the reportage from New Orleans has been what a nasty, divided, unjust place the U.S. has been revealed to be. Nature has overturned its smug certainties and left it reeling.

"And it strikes me that there is more than a little smugness in the reporting as well. British journalism reveling in racial division (on) the other side of the Atlantic rarely seems to trouble itself to look at the ethnic splits this side of the pond."


Louisiana native James Carville and his wife, former Bush White House appointee Mary Matalin, along with Pacers, a running-shoe retailer, are sponsoring the "Gulf Coast Relief 5K Run/Walk" in Old Town Alexandria on Sept. 17 to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina.

All fees for the race (starting time 9 a.m.) will be donated to the Red Cross Hurricane Relief Fund. Family members of Carville suffered serious losses in the storm.


Americans are obviously split when it comes to rating the on-the-job performance of George W. Bush. The president, himself, acknowledges as much.

But if there ever came a time when one stooped too low, it is now.

"Demgurl" is the online pseudonym of a popular veteran contributor to the partisan Web site Last week, the Democrat disclosed that she was on her way home and encountered a minivan beside a freeway offramp.

"There was a lady standing next to the van, and in her arms she held her child. I can only assume her minivan had broken down," she said. "I slowed down and started to pull over to offer her a ride. At the very last second, I noticed a 'W' sticker on the back of her vehicle, and I sped up and drove off.

"I feel really bad as a human being," she confessed. "That child is not responsible for their parent's belief system. . . . I wondered how a person could see what was going on in (New Orleans) and still have one of those awful stickers on their car? How could they support an awful excuse for a human being that has let our country down and is letting Americans die after they have made it through the storm?"

So whatever became of the stranded mother and child?

"I thought that if she loves (Bush) so much, maybe he would come along and help her," she said. "Let's see what her hero can do for her."


Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat and member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, got right to the point when grilling oil-industry executives about the nation's rapidly rising gasoline prices:

Why, he wondered, are Americans paying so much for gasoline when major oil companies are "awash in money"?

Bob Slaughter, president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, assured Wyden that, when it comes to record profits of late, oil companies often "lose that money overnight."

Owing to scant oil production here in America, he explained, oil companies have to explore for resources in distant, often hostile lands, where unforeseen risks - not the least being "terrorism" - can drain millions of dollars of today's profits in seconds.

He took the opportunity to recommend that Congress consider increasing oil production here at home.

Robert Darbelnet, meanwhile, the president and chief executive officer of AAA, urged Congress to crack down on car and sport utility vehicle manufacturers that post phony "miles-per-gallon" efficiency standards on the windows of new vehicles - sometimes 50 percent off the mark.

He charged that auto manufacturers base fuel-efficiency figures on the belief that Americans never drive above 55 mph, never travel uphill and don't turn on vehicle air conditioners.


Turning to this week's other big story, the National Clergy Council - representing Catholic, evangelical, Orthodox and Protestant church leaders - placed flowers in front of the Supreme Court yesterday before walking up the marble steps and into the Great Hall to pay final respects to the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

Leading the clergy, it so happens, was the Rev. Rob Schenck, who was a defendant in the case Schenck v. Pro-choice. It was Chief Justice Rehnquist who wrote the majority opinion in the case, upholding the rights of pro-life activists to distribute literature in front of abortion businesses.

As Schenck puts it: "Chief Justice Rehnquist left a wonderful pro-life, pro-family and pro-religious liberty legacy at the high court."


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice smiled broadly when President Bush, at Tuesday's Cabinet meeting, was asked about choosing a woman for the remaining Supreme Court vacancy.

Then realizing that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales was sitting directly across, Bush was quick to add that his name remained worthy of consideration.


Given that his surname leads the alphabet, Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, often gets top billing among long lists of politicians, including those attending the BAMPAC (Black America's Political Action Committee) 2005 Biennial Dinner, featuring as keynote speaker National Football League Hall of Famer Lynn Swann.

Alphabet aside, Allen, son of legendary NFL coach George Allen, remains on top of two major polls as his party's likely presidential nominee in 2008.

The board chairman of BAMPAC, whose purpose is to elect "tomorrow's leaders," is former presidential candidate Alan Keyes. The dinner will take place at the J.W. Marriott Hotel on Sept. 21.


Charity Folks, a leading online charity auction venue, is helping raise money for the National Press Club by placing several intriguing items on the auction block, not the least valuable being an autographed picture of political activist Jane Fonda. Current bid: $280.

"Golden Confusion," meanwhile, described as a stunning painting of bold colors and texture, is a creation of part-time artist Dan Berger, former chief of staff and political adviser to Rep. Katherine Harris, Florida Republican.

A financial service lobbyist, Berger's works are owned by members of Congress and White House staff. Current bid: $555.