Sunday, August 31, 2008

Gustav Sunday Afternoon


The early Sunday afternoon NHC advisory remains pretty much the same: Gustav is a Cat 3 but may re-intensify to a Cat-4 within the next 24 hours. The projected path bringing this major hurricane ashore just west of New Orleans remains roughly the same.

Pensacola and the rest of the Florida Panhandle to Tallahassee remain under a Tropical Storm Watch Warning -- not a hurricane watch Warning.

Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, Escambia County Emergency Management officials have not -- repeat, not -- ordered any evacuations as yet. However, swimming in the Gulf is now prohibited; and, alas, "the bathtub races scheduled for 2 pm today" have been postponed.

Local conditions: Overcast skies, warm, dry, muggy, with light winds and occasional gusts to 15 mph.

3 pm

Sudden pick-up in wind, now stiff and gusting to 35 mph. Bands of driving rain have arrived. Typically for a tropical storm, the rain is cold, almost horizontal, and comes in needle-like drops.

6:30 pm

No more rain bands, as of now, since mid-afternoon, but meteorologist Derek Ortt over at the PNJ's Storm Watch blog says:
The main rain shield is not too far from the coastline. This may move onshore during the evening hours. If this does move over the area, sustained tropical storm force winds with higher gusts will begin to affect the area.
Local conditions at 6:45 pm: Overcast, muggy, winds stiffer and a bit more blowy, but dry since 3 pm. Six feet waves seen off the beach.

7:00 pm

"You Can't Probably Shouldn't Go Home Again"

Mercenaries are being recruited by Blackwater Worldwide "to potentially deploy to provide security in the possible aftermath of Hurricane Gustav. This is the first time Blackwater has mobilized under its controversial Homeland Security contracts."

Gustav Landfall Expected Monday

NHC, 7 am CDT: Gustav lost a little muscle mass overnight and at this early hour is now back to Category Three status. It is expected to regain strength as the day progresses and "Gustav could regain Category Four strength later today or tonight."

The storm is moving across the central Gulf of Mexico in a northwesterly direction at about 16 mph. First landfall on the Gulf coast looks to be some time Monday.
* * *
For a live view of the bridge over Mobile Bay, CLICK HERE.

Rumor Debunked

We can state with authority that rumors John McCain intends to replace Sarah Palin as his vice presidential nominee with a ham sandwich are completely untrue. Instead, if elected in November he will appoint the ham sandwich Secretary of State.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pensacola Area Radar

Cuba TV Storm Coverage - Live

Video streaming by Ustream

Pensacola Official Gustav Storm Watch

NHC, 4 pm CDT:
The Alabama-Florida border is less than 20 miles east of downtown Pensacola.
The Ochlockonee River watch area encompasses all of North Florida to the Cedar Key-Big Bend area.

"Lawkat" -- a Mobile lawyer, as we recall -- over at Hurricane City's Message Board is asking locals to "check in" and share their anxieties, questions, and concerns.

Louisiana Evacuates

Mandatory evacuation has been ordered for St. Bernard, Plaquemines, St. Charles and lower Jefferson parishes. AFP global wire service has the latest details:
Desperate to avoid a repeat of the Katrina catastrophe in 2005, New Orleans began mandatory evacuations Saturday as another deadly hurricane, Gustav, bore down on the city.

Bumper-to-bumper traffic clogged roads leading north and east out of New Orleans and shops began running low on fuel and emergency supplies as the dangerous category three hurricane barrelled toward the Gulf of Mexico after leaving up to 85 people dead in Caribbean nations.
* * *
"Obviously people can stay. We are encouraging them to leave," said Craig Taffaro, president of St. Bernard Parish, one of the areas of greater New Orleans to call for mandatory evacuations three years after Hurricane Katrina breached levees protecting the low-lying city, killing some 1,500 people.

"We know this is a very difficult decision. Emotions are very high, but we have to take a practical approach to this," he said.

Coastal parishes in New Orleans began the first mandatory evacuations at noon (1700 GMT). Police were set to enforce a nightly curfew and cordon off areas under evacuation order, so that no one could enter.

Residents were warned that the city would not have emergency shelters, and that gathering areas such as the Superdome and bus terminal -- scenes of chaos and violence after Katrina -- would be closed.
* * *
The overall population of greater New Orleans is estimated at more than one million people, about 80 percent of the pre-Katrina population. Saturday's mandatory evacuation orders affected more than half of New Orleans' seven parishes.

The New Orleans airport said it would shut down Sunday evening, and area hotels advised customers to leave town.

Gustav a Category 4; Same Forecast Path

Gustav is now a Category Four Hurricane with "maximum winds near 145 mph."

NHC 1 pm CDT:
No changes to the forecast track have been made... but the intensity forecast has been adjusted upward through 96 hours. Gustav could intensify some more during the next few hours over water... and one cannot rule out Category Five intensity before crossing Cuba. The forecast now calls for a peak ... Category Five intensity... over the Southern Gulf where ocean heat content will still be high... followed by a very gradual weakening over the Northern Gulf where ocean heat content is less.

Quote of the Day

Ann Friedman:
"[M]ost of us understand that a woman candidate is not the same thing as a woman's candidate."

Squandering Our Attention

"What is the role of the press, particularly cable news, in this election? And at what point do we tip to a kind of minute picking apart and tea-leaf reading?"

-- Carl Bernstiein, CNN, Aug. 27, 2008
Jamison Foser gets it exactly right about convention coverage:
The media's obsessive focus on what the Democrats should be doing and how they should be doing it is, of course, a spectacular waste of time. But it's worse than that: It squanders the attention of the American people, during one of the weeks when they pay the most attention to the presidential campaign.
* * *
[R]eaders and viewers were treated to an endless parade of journalists substituting cocktail-party chatter for useful coverage.
* * *
Next week provides the media a second chance to give voters the substantive coverage they need. Let's hope they take it.
Don't hold your breath. Tee-Vee hair-dos can no more resist cocktail chatter political coverage than Tee-Vee golf producers can resist airing all of those sappy, purple-prose threnodies to the game's ancient champions before, during, and at the end of every televised tournament.

National Discourse Forecast

If you agree with Susan Eisenhower that "our national discourse has turned into a petty squabble," just wait a few days. The question of who to elect as President of the United States is about to center on why 17 year old Bristol Palin "may be holding a blanket over her abdomen in public when she's turned to the side towards the cameras."

This is what comes of nominating the ex-mayor of a dinky town the size of Pensacola Beach to be second-in-line with her finger on the nuclear button. The issues we debate become small-town dinky. Only the consequences remain gargantuan.

Gustav Satellite View

Is there any wonder the computer models agree on Gustav's future path?

Gustav Grows

Gustav grew larger and stronger overnight, today's early morning NHC discussion report says. It is, for now, a Category 3 storm with maximum winds about 115 mph, as measured by the latest Air Force hurricane hunter airplane.

So large and strong has the storm become that even if it encounters some sheer before landfall, as NHC now expects, "Gustav is expected to be a large and dangerous... major hurricane at landfall."

Forecast models, however, have persuaded the NHC to shift the 3-day predicted storm path (above) a little farther west. This would leave the Pensacola Beach area -- for the moment, anyway -- looking like it just might avoid being a central target. Depending on size of the storm and proximity to its center, however, we still might be on the east side of the storm, where water surges can be more marked.

The computer forecast models runs, seen below, are coming into strong agreement, for now. But things could change at any time, so it's no time to relax just yet.

Friday, August 29, 2008

New Blog: The Palin Drome

My that was fast! Our favorite so far: "Thinking Ahead"

Gustav Regains its Gusto

Gustav is again a hurricane. And, it is still confounding the experts at the National Hurricane Center. All they feel comfortable saying publicly is:
  • "Conditions over the Gulf appear to support a major hurricane;" and
  • "Final landfall remains possible throughout the Northern Gulf Coast."
If you drill down deep enough on the Hurricane City Message boards, you'll run across a plausible but unsourced assertion earlier today that NHC forecasters --
have shifted the course to the east, but not as far as they wanted to. The comment was made that they wanted to avoid the "Windshield Wiper" effect. Expect NHC to move the course further east at the next update.
Repeat: unsourced. We shall see just how far east, if at all, that cone shifts over the next 48 hours....

Palin vs. House Plant


Listening to the hair-dos on Tee-Vee praise John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin, one gets the impression they'd be saying the same things if he had chosen a house plant as his running mate.

House Plant for Vice President
The case is made for McCain to pick a house plant as his running mate.

A Heart Beat Away from the Nuclear Button

John McCain just tapped Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential pick. Palin is the neophyte governor of scandal-plagued Alaska with 18 months' experience whose longest public service has been to serve as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, when it had a population of 5,470.

What in heck is going on, here? Does John McCain really intend to put this abecedarian's finger on the nuclear button, second only to a 72-year old wannabe president who has had four melanomas and three plane crashes?

By her own admission just a month ago, Palin can't even answer "what is it exactly that the VP does every day?"

Little ol' Pensacola's John Fogg has far more experience, for goodness' sake. Heck, the mayor of Milton, Florida (pop. 7,045) carries heavier public responsibilities. And we wouldn't want either of them running the world's only superpower, would we?

This is a blunder of epic proportions. Epic. Worse than Quayle. Worse than Admiral James ("Who am I? What am I doing here?") Stockdale.

And, we hear there is a lot more negative stuff about to come out, from her extremist libertarian theology to her disagreement with McCain over arctic drilling, to her past medical records and her wacko creationist views. Palin is going to make the unfortunate Thomas Eagleton look like a sane choice, by comparison.

Meanwhile, the Tee-Vee hair-dos -- we kid you not -- are complimenting McCain on how deftly he maneuvered them into not reporting much this morning about Barack Obama's remarkable acceptance speech last night. "Stop us before we get snookered again," they seem to be saying.

Yeah, right.

McCain's Gustav Excuse

So compelling was Barack Obama's acceptance speech last night (and so terrible a public speaker is John McCain) that the Republicans actually are thinking of postponing their Twin Cities convention next week.

But, oh please! They're trying to blame it on Gustav.

Normally, postponing travel and hotel reservations for several thousand convention-goers in a city booked to the max with other events would be a non-starter. But this year a lot of prominent GOP politicians, from Dick Cheney to criminal defendant/Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, already have declared they don't want to be seen at their party's party.

Simply google "won't attend GOP convention" and you'll get 179,000+ hits. Republican politicians up for reelection have been running away from their own party, and the Twin Cities, for months. Weather has nothing to do with it.

Here's our guess: The G.O.P. convention will go forward as planned, but Gustav will be used as an excuse to keep Bush away so that McCain can't be depicted umm... ahhh... obscenely hugging him yet again.

Best Post-Speech Analysis

Click here to see the best -- and quickest to absorb -- analysis following Barack Obama's convention speech last night. (snark-snark)

Gustav Grows, Hanna Confounds

Today's early morning NHC discussion has worrisome news. Gustav is growing in size -- and the steering currents are growing even more complicated.
  • Gustav has grown in size.
  • Upper-level steering currents that have been edging it westward are expected to "weaken" today.
  • After passing Jamaica today, Gustav could strengthen "quickly" to a Category 3 hurricane.
  • Complicated interactions among various upper-level North American wind patterns -- the "mid-level ridge" over Florida, an expected "low"over the Southeast United States, a possible "weakness" in the Bermuda high," and another anticipated "high over the Ohio valley" -- leave the experts scratching their heads over just where along the Gulf Coast Gustav is likely to head after passing Cuba.
  • As a result, the latest computer-generated forecasts show "large changes" and increasing disagreement about the storm's projected path.
The one near certainty, blares the Hurricane Center in the usual capital letters:
As for T.S. Hanna, interactions among some of the same upper-level wind patterns leads the hurricane experts to conclude, for now, that Hanna will continue heading northwest for a time, then take a "rare, but not unique" southwesterly track while it fluctuates in strength for a couple of days.
Most of the global models are carving a large trough over the Central Atlantic and developing a large ridge over the eastern United states. This pattern should force Hanna on a slow Southwesterly track beyond three days... but at the same time the upper-level winds should weaken the cyclone.
Speaking of "rare but not unique," NHC forecaster Avila finds the picture so complicated he openly confesses, "I prefer to wait for more model runs" before making a forecast.

When even the savants at the National Hurricane Center decline to predict a storm path, you know things are truly up in the air.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Gustav Update

NHC, 5pm:
The chances of hurricane-force winds within the next five days are essentially the same at each individual location from the Florida Panhandle coast westward through the entire coastline of Louisiana.

Hannah Is A Sister

* * *

Making Iraq Safe for China

This is why we sacrificed our blood and treasure?

"China, Iraq Reach $ 3 Billion Oil Service Deal."
China and Iraq have signed a $3 billion deal revising an earlier agreement for China's biggest oil company to help develop the Ahdab oil field, an official at the Iraq's Oil Ministry said Thursday.

The deal, restoring a project canceled after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, was signed late Wednesday by Chinese officials and Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani.

Gulf Drilling: The 'Same Old Dance'

Denver convention goers yesterday were greeted with this op-ed editorial in the Rocky Mountain News by former Montana U.S. Congressman Pat Williams: "Big Oil, Congress Do the Same Old Dance."

A reminder, for those mainlanders who have forgotten, that what's driving proposals to drill for oil and gas off the near-shore of Pensacola Beach, Florida, isn't really energy independence. It's the same greedy opportunism that drove efforts thirty-five years ago to despoil the Rocky Mountain Front and the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

Here's an excerpt from Congressman Williams' history lesson:
The policies of both presidential candidates, President Bush, and the mostly Republican members of the U. S. Congress to begin oil drilling in the waters off our coasts comes at one of those rare political moments during which unfortunate events collide, roiling the waters and creating a clamor for immediate action – action which would not be taken in calmer seas.
* * *
We Rocky Mountain westerners have watched this scenario of moneyed, political opportunism play out many times. As Montana's Congressman during the 1970s, 80s and 90s, I was deeply involved in one of these mad scrambles for oil. The same set of criteria for opportunism had come together back then. War in the Middle East, inflation, high prices and long lines at the gas pumps offered big oil the perfect moment and they moved to open up drilling opportunities in some of America's most pristine and important places. The companies successfully enlisted the support of then President Ronald Reagan and his Secretary of the Interior, James Watt.

The exploration and drilling assault was to begin of all places, in Montana's Rocky Mountain Front and The Bob Marshall Wilderness.

Reagan and Watt, as it turned out, picked the wrong place. Despite the perceived energy shortages, long lines at the pump, and soaring gasoline prices, all due to the Arab Oil Embargo, Montanans and Americans refused to take the bait. The opposition to exploration and drilling in our last best place was widespread and the Congress accepted my resolution to prevent opening the Bob – and other wilderness areas – to the bit and bidding of the oil companies. Should our companies drill for oil? Of course . . . and they are. But reason demands that appropriate restraints be applied.

There's more and it's worth reading.

Racial Progress in America

Portrayal Of Obama As Elitist Hailed As Step Forward For African Americans

Humor to commemorate Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, August 28, 1963.


Because the Tee-Vee talking hair-dos were talking all the way through the best speech of John Kerry's life:

Gustav and Siblings

T.S. Gustav is strengthening once again, with winds nearing hurricane strength. Another named storm, which would be named Hannah, also could threaten Florida soon. To complete the grisly tropical picture, "another large tropical wave" has emerged from the east African coast. If anything happens there, it would become "Ike."

Reuters has a good run-down on the projected path, preparations underway to evacuate petroleum platforms in Gustav's projected path, and the potential problems developing elsewhere in the Atlantic.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Channeling Russert

"Nepotism among the Beltway whores is a time honored tradition which should not be confined to the likes of the cretinous Cokie Roberts."
This is too funny. The Sturdy Beggars, as Jerry and Joe Long are known, comment on media star Brian Williams commenting on what dead media star Tim Russert might comment about if he were suddenly to pop up from the grave and wing it to Denver.

Okay, we know there aren't enough news makers in Denver for Williams and his like-minded Tee-Vee media hair-dos at the other networks to interview. They'd much prefer talking to each other than actually televise, much less interview, convention speakers. But now they're reduced to channeling dead Tee-Vee media hair-dos?

Jerry and Joe play along, snarkily:
What would Tim think? Gee Brian that's a toughy... he'd probably think what you think and Stephanopoulos thinks and Gibson thinks and Brokaw thinks and Couric thinks and Blitzer thinks... you know... somewhere safely inside the parameters of debate. Maybe for divergent views there'd be a round-table with David Broder drooling fossilized idiocy and Jon Meacham spouting biblical idiocy and Matalin and Carville encapsulating idiocy at the genetic level.
Joe and Jerry's last line, about Hunter Thompson, is a killer. Please read it.

John McLiar

Steve Benen, the new blog host at Washington Monthly, outright calls John McCain a "liar" today for "approving" his newest political ad. Tough words. Is he right?

You be the judge. Here is what Barack Obama actually said last May:
Strong countries and strong Presidents talk to their adversaries. That’s what Kennedy did with Khrushchev. That’s what Reagan did with Gorbachev. That’s what Nixon did with Mao. I mean, think about it: Iran, Cuba, Venezuela — these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don’t pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us. And yet we were willing to talk to the Soviet Union at the time when they were saying, ‘We’re going to wipe you off the planet.’ And ultimately, that direct engagement led to a series of measures that helped prevent nuclear war and over time allowed the kind of opening that brought down the Berlin Wall.
Here is how the latest ad that McCain approves misquotes those remarks:
Obama says Iran is a 'tiny' country, 'doesn't pose a serious threat.' Terrorism, destroying Israel, those aren't 'serious threats'? Obama -- dangerously unprepared to be president.
As for us, we say "McCain -- shamefully, dangerously, dishonestly scraping the bottom of the latrine in an attempt to become president."

8-27 pm

ABC's "Fact Check Desk" agrees. Jake Tapper says, "This is a dishonest representation of Obama's words. * * * That is not even close to Obama saying Iran is a 'tiny' country that 'doesn't pose a serious threat.'"

Guessing About Gustav

After weakening to a tropical storm last night, Gustav's been hanging around Haiti a little longer than the National Hurricane Center anticipated. Otherwise, not much has changed: it's still expected to re-strengthen to hurricane force, head Westward, then steer past or over Cuba, and "turn northward" into the Gulf of Mexico, where most models have it becoming a major hurricane before landfall.

Note above, however, that this morning's computer forecast models have shifted the landfall point farther to the west. That's potentially good news for Pensacola Beach and bad news for New Orleans and Texas. But it is still far too early for anyone around here to relax.

Predicting the storm's path before it even enters the Gulf is little more than a guessing game.

Revenge of the Deer

Escambia County primary election voters yesterday tossed out of office two of our world famous deer slaughterers, county commissioner Mike Whitehead and incumbent sheriff Ron McNesby. You might say Whitehead was slaughtered, himself, at the ballot box by Wilson Robertson 4,744 to 1,126.

But the deer can't take all the credit, no matter how much they may have contributed to his opponent's campaign chest. Whitehead also is a known enemy of the Perdido Key mouse... Pensacola Beach's governing Island Authority ... a failed real estate mogul... a serial liar ... and BFF with the despised Buck Lee.

It remains to be seen if Robertson, who will be sitting on the commission for the second time around, is any better on beach issues than Whitehead was. But it's for sure he can't be worse.

Fellow deer killer Sheriff McNesby was defeated in the Republican primary by David Morgan. This November, Morgan will face Larry Scapecchi, a former lieutenant of the Escambia sheriff's office who is running as Democrat.

Gopher Shooter

Montana state governor Brian Schweitzer "fired up a partisan crowd Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention in Denver," the estimable Billings Gazette reports this morning. Schweitzer was the ninth of nine Democratic governors to precede Hillary Clinton's well-televised call for unity.

Characteristically, Schweitzer "downplayed the importance of his appearance," the Gazette comments. "If you look at the list, you can see that anyone who's ever shot a gopher's got a speaking engagement here," he said.

Below is an entertaining excerpt, pure Montana. The whole can be viewed on C-SPAN, the only Tee-Vee outlet to carry the full speech in all of its High Plains glory. What the others gave you was the usual line-up of chattering TV commentators.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Gustav Gets Its Gusto

The eye of Hurricane Gustav made landfall on the southwest peninsula of Haiti about 10 miles west of Jacmel shortly after 1:00 pm EDT.
* * *
Gustav is moving toward the Northwest near 10 mph ... A turn toward the West-Northwest with a decrease in forward speed forecast is expected later today... and a general West-Northwestward motion is expected Wednesday. On this track this hurricane should move across the Southwestern Peninsula of Haiti later today and near or just south of Eastern Cuba on Wednesday.
For Jacmel's past history with hurricanes, check out Hurricane City.

Gustav's central core right now is comparatively small. "Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 25 miles... from the center... and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 70 miles," the National Hurricane Center says. Moreover, Haiti and the mountains of Cuba can tear it apart.

Official hurricane forecasts and past history are important, of course. At least equally impressive to us, however, are the tell-tale signs one sees in the eyes of experienced locals as one moves around town. At the gas stations, in the grocery stores, inside coffee shops and at the gym, coastal Pensacola area residents already have grown very wary of this storm.

Not that this a scientific survey or anything, but about three out of every four residents we encountered today volunteered that they expect Gustav to come close to Northwest Florida if it doesn't hit us directly. Half of them are saying they expect it to be a bad one.

For what it's worth (not much after Fay) here is the latest 5-day forecast cone:

8-26 pm
NHC 5 pm update:
The track guidance models are in pretty good agreement on a gradual turn toward the west-northwest over the next day or so... and overall the model consensus has changed little from the previous advisory package. Therefore the track forecast for this advisory is essentially an extension of the previous one.

Feeding the TV Beast

We remember when political party conventions were hard work. There were delegates to be won over by the candidates, party principles to be articulated in writing, legislative proposals to be melded into a comprehensive party platform, and, yes, compromises to be struck, alliances to be forged or broken, disloyal or dishonest -- and sometimes just plain disgusting -- party members to be de-credentialed, and so on.

Those of you old enough to remember may recall one of the most exciting events in national political conventions occurred in 1956 when Adlai Stevenson threw the Democratic nomination for vice-president open to the floor and a nail-biting 3-ballot fight developed between Estes Kefauver and a young, upstart first-term senator by the name of John F. Kennedy. (Kefauver won the nomination but the ticket lost in November.)

Today, it's all just a stage show choreographed for TV. Choreographed none too well, we might add. Neither network nor commercial cable television really cares much, oddly enough, except for the fact it is free to produce. The only TV source covering the whole of the convention is C-SPAN.

Changing the rules for an event to accommodate the TV beast has consequences. Major league baseball learned that lesson when it invented the odious designated hitter rule to answer TV's demand for more hits and runs. Professional basketball learned it when it agreed to the "TV time-out" which more often than not kills team momentum on the floor just when it might make a difference in the outcome. Pro football learned it when it sold its soul to television and the game became interminable, losing much of its "pace and tempo."

As the Museum of Broadcast Communications candidly observes, the "soap opera" demands of television exact "concessions" from "the real world" like sporting events that can profoundly change the very nature of the "real world." So it is, too, with "real world" events like political conventions.

What changes in political conventions can we see? No one seems to ask anymore what principles does this candidate stand for? How smart is he or she? How effective is this candidate likely to be in public office? How consistent has he been in the past? How honestly is he depicting himself -- or his opponent?

Television thinks we want to know, instead, does his wife love him? Are his kids cute? Is he somebody I'd like to have a beer with? And, as always, the TV beast wants to showcase its own commentator stars, not the players themselves.

Little wonder that we're in the fix we are internationally, militarily, economically, and even constitutionally. Over three-fourths of the nation knows the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction. What to do about it? The TV beast says, Find out if Michelle Obama can "connect" with you.

We have nothing against Michelle Obama. We're happy for her that she "flourished" last night. For that matter, we have nothing against Carol and Cindy McCain, either. May they, or at least whichever one of them attends the Republican Convention, flourish just as much.

And it will be the same with the Republicans. Television, especially commercial television, homogenizes everything, even our national discourse, into an insipid soap opera to the point where it all looks like an Olympic competition, at best, and at worst like just another installment of As The World Turns.

The TV beast would respond, of course, that it's only giving us what We the People demand. Ratings are everything; judgment counts for nothing. In so far as that is true, as scholars have noted about the ancient games of the Roman Coliseum, television surely does serve a "purpose" but it's worth considering what that purpose might be:
While there is no doubt that the games were barbarous, sadistic, and, to say the least, reprehensible, it must also be admitted that they served their purpose. By the dawn of the Empire, the Romans had relinquished almost all their political rights to an autocratic government. This was the one place where they still had power--even if it was only over the life of one or a few miserable slaves. In a very real sense, then, the games served as a valuable outlet for pent-up frustrations.
History books also tell us that the more autocratic became the (former) Roman Republic -- the more political rights the people lost -- the more elaborate, bloody, and distracting the emperors made the games.

We're not arguing here that entertaining the plebes isn't a clever strategy. We're merely suggesting that the way television covers the conventions, and conventions mold themselves to meet television's demands, are not consistent with America's democratic values and the duty of every citizen to become informed about what really matters before Election Day.

Hurricane Gustav

Forecast Models - Tuesday 5 am

Gustav grew fast in the wee hours. The folks at the National Hurricane Center declared it a hurricane at 2 am this morning. Not just any hurricane, either. NHC:
Judging from the broad 5-day forecast map, after crossing Cuba Gustav is expected to threaten everybody from Cancun to Tampico to Brownsvills to New Orleans to Miami.

It can't make landfall every where, of course (T.S. Fay to the contrary notwithstanding) but Pensacola's in there somewhere.
5-Day Forecast Map

Monday, August 25, 2008

It's a Boy!

Just as we predicted... a bad, bad boy named Gustav.

Portofino: Killing the Golden Goose

Local media outlets today are trumpeting the news that Portofino Towers condo unit owners have lost their last chance for appealing the adverse decision on ad valorem taxes rendered earlier this year. As PNJ reporter Michael Stewart succinctly puts it, "Residents of the 753 upscale waterfront condominiums cannot appeal to a higher court."

The reason, of course, is that under the Florida state constitution, the state's Supreme Court has only limited jurisdiction over civil appeals. Lower court appellate opinions that do not explicitly conflict with other Florida district court appeals decisions, or which do not directly implicate constitutional issues, simply cannot be reviewed by the highest court in the land.

Therein lies the real advantage of one-word court decisions: judges that write them don't have to answer to anybody. And, they are free to ignore historical facts.

You can be sure Escambia County Tax Collector Janet Holley, even now, is licking the stamps to bill condo owners a grand total of $19 million in back taxes. Stewart explains:
Leaseholders were given the option of paying the taxes and having the money held in escrow until the lawsuits were settled or declining payment with back taxes and 12 percent interest due if the county prevailed.

Many chose not to pay and now owe in excess of $40,000 or more in back taxes.

That does not include taxes owed this year, which have yet been calculated.
We offer this gentle suggestion to Escambia County: Don't hold your breath waiting for the money. $40,000 in back taxes per unit and another assessment coming down on Towers owners, plus some of the highest monthly maintenance fees on the beach cannot be attractive selling points for the estimated one hundred and fifty units (or more) now languishing on the real estate market or in the pockets of starving brokers. We foresee quite a few Portofino owners who are pressed for cash will simply walk away.

Escambia County politicians haven't managed, quite yet, to kill the golden goose that is Pensacola Beach, but the bird sure is looking mighty sick.

Gustav Aborning?

Today we're catching T.S. Fay's backside. There's more wind and rain than we've seen all week in the Pensacola area. Still, as a rather crabby 'deep background' source of Pensacola radio personality/ self-proclaimed "Christian" Kenneth Lamb says of Fay when it was a tropical storm, what we're seeing today is not much more that what we -
see anytime in summer from a slow moving thunderstorm and a squall line passing through. It is not any kind of extraordinary occurrence.
The bad news is that it looks like another tropical event is about to be born: Tropical Depression 7. We'd guess it will soon be renamed "Gustav" -- an ominous, unyielding name if ever we've heard one.

Says the NHC's first discussion:
We are initiating advisories on Tropical Depression Seven. There is an unusually large spread to our track model guidance that seems to be the result of two primary scenarios for the future motion of the system. One would be a generally northward track into a weakness in the subtropical ridge over the western Atlantic... and this is depicted by the NOGAPS and ECMWF solutions. A second scenario is for the tropical cyclone to bend more westward in response to a mid-level anticyclone over Florida... and that is depicted by the BAM tracks... the HWRF... and the GFDL. Our first official track forecast somewhat splits the difference but leans toward the latter scenario. However it should be noted that the confidence in this track forecast is not high....
Below is a graphic showing what the NHC forecast models are projecting early this afternoon. Remember, things are at a very early stage. A lot can happen over the next week, some of it -- like the GFDL model -- likely bad for Pensacola Beach. Some of it okay for us.

Stay tuned -- and don't be lulled into complacency just because the NHC blew it last weekend. They get more right than wrong.

Homeland Insanity Dept.

Neighboring blogger Why Now? notes "there isn't a brain to be found anywhere in the world of 'Homeland Security.'" To be sure, anyone who's tried to fly out of Pensacola lately could tell you that.

But if you need more evidence, read Keith Richburg's article in yesterday's WaPo, titled "Homeland Security Comes to Vermont." Incredibly, what the Homeland Insanity Dept. is doing there is making enemies of our peaceful Canadian neighbors to north.
First was the white, painted lettering on the pavement on three little side streets -- "Canada" on one side, "U.S.A." on the other. Then came the white pylons denoting which side of the border was which. After that, signboards were erected on some streets, ordering drivers to turn back and use an officially designated entry point.

And along with the signposts came an influx of American Border Patrol agents, cruising through the town in their green-and-white sport-utility vehicles with sirens, chasing down cars and mopeds that ignored the posted warnings.

For longtime residents accustomed to a simpler life that flowed freely across a largely invisible border, the final shock -- and what made most people really take notice -- was a proposal by the border agents last year to erect fences on the small streets to officially barricade the United States from Canada, and neighbor from neighbor.

"They're stirring up a little hate and discontent with that deal," said Claire Currier, who grew up in this border area and works at Brown's Drug Store, which has operated on the same spot since 1884. "It's like putting up a barrier. We've all intermingled for years."
When you alienate a whole town of Canadians, you know you've done something stupid. Ossama bin Laden can go home, now. Homeland Security is doing his destructive work for him.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Biden on Near-Shore Drilling

Strictly from a Pensacola Beach perspective, the first thing to be said about Joe Biden as a potential vice-president is that he is firmly in the reality camp when it comes to Bush-McCain proposals to drill for oil and gas off our near-shoreline (and lay underwater pipelines to carry it all the way to the port of Mobile.)

Biden's position can be succinctly stated: "Congress should not lift the ban on offshore oil drilling." To do otherwise would be a "gift to the oil companies."

He made this clear in a short debate with fellow senator Lindsay Graham late this past June. Graham had just reversed his former opposition to near-shore oil drilling. Incredibly, Sen. Graham repeatedly gave these two reasons for why he and McCain have changed positions and now want to put our world famous sugar white sands at risk: "$4 gas" and there are "a lot of low income people in South Carolina who drive the most inefficient cars."

That's not only stupid, but it insults the intelligence of voters, as Joe Biden makes clear.

Where I Stand has the full video, from late June 2008. Here is a shorter edit:

T.S. Fay - Pensacola Recap

Pensacola residents awoke Sunday morning to iffy headlines in the News Journal, but semi-scary text. At least, that's what those few of us who still read the newspaper saw:
Rains lingering from Tropical Depression Fay are expected to continue today as the storm follows its lurching trek across the Panhandle and into southern Alabama and Mississippi. About 5 to 8 inches of rain are expected, with as much as 10 inches in isolated areas, said Gary Beeler, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mobile. That's a slight decrease from what was expected earlier in the day Saturday. Wind gusts are expected to be up to 40 mph throughout the day.
It wasn't to be. Today's weather was lightly breezy near the water but bright, sunny and dry, dry, dry. Altogether over the last twenty-four hours, weather monitors at Pensacola's airport, in Gulf Breeze, and on Pensacola Beach recorded less than a quarter of an inch of precipitation and winds not much stiffer than 20 mph, or what golfers routinely should expect on the links anywhere in the area within a half mile of water.

Below: Exhibit A -- Click the chart below to see a summary of the last twenty-four hours from the Pensacola airport's weather monitor.

Good-bye Games

The spectacular farewell in front of a packed house of more than 90,000 at the Bird's Nest stadium is set to last three hours and will include fireworks displays at 18 locations across Beijing.
The organisers have promised a more light-hearted show than the opening ceremony, which focused heavily on Chinese history.
* * *
The closing show will also feature a duet by Chinese folk singer Song Zuying and Spanish tenor Placido Domingo, along with a performance by a 350-strong kung-fu group.
Kung Fu? How much more light hearted can you get?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Fay Fades North

From the Miami Herald:
Proving that a slow-moving tropical storm can be as deadly and damaging as a hurricane, Fay killed at least 11 people in Florida and one in Georgia, emergency officials said.

Thousands of homes and businesses were inundated with flood waters this week as the storm worked its way north from its first landfall in the Florida Keys and zigzagged across the peninsula.

Fay's center made its fourth landfall around 1 a.m. EDT Saturday about 15 miles north-northeast of Apalachicola, according to the National Hurricane Center.
* * *
At 8 p.m. EDT, the storm's center was about 35 miles northeast of Pensacola and moving west-northwest about 7 mph. Forecasters said Fay was weakening over land with maximum sustained winds near 40 mph but was still dumping heavy rain. The storm was expected to move over southern Alabama and Mississippi on Sunday.
We now resume your regular blogging.

Waiting for Fay

Local conditions at 5:30 pm: Gray skies, light winds occasionally gusting to about 25 , less than .25 of an inch of rain accumulated for the day. There is a chance the center of Fay will head a bit inland to the north before reaching this western-most edge of the Florida panhandle.

While waiting (still!) for Fay, we are reminded of a little wisdom spoken by Humphrey Bogart in Key Largo:

"A torn shutter or two, some trash on the beach. In a few hours, there'll be little to remind you of what happened."

Final Fay Landfall Predicted

T.S. Fay made its fourth landfall today near Apalachicola. Now expected to cross over Pensacola late Saturday night, a local meteorologist at WEAR-TV has been predicting a fifth and final landfall of the tropical storm just a shell's throw away, near Orange Beach.

With luck and a little morning light, you may be able to see it early Sunday on the Gulf Shores webcam.

That's another webcam not brought to you by the Pensacola Beach chamber or SRIA.

Next Door Neighbor Cam

Navarre Beach, just eight miles east of Pensacola Beach, has two webcams that are working even now. Here and here. Must be run by someone other than the Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce or the SRIA.

Pensacola Beach Wet Webcams

Aloha Surf (Ariola Drive) - The oldest, the most reliable, and the ONLY web cam on Pensacola Beach that works when you need it.

SRIA Does It Again

Nine years ago, Pensacola Beach residents proposed to the governing board of the Island Authority that it should install weather-proof webcams on the new pier and at various other locations on the beach. Today, this is the best they've been able to do -- a link to someone else's webcam that doesn't work when you need it most.

Biden Time

For what it's worth, count us deflated but willing to be persuaded by Barack Obama's choice of Joe Biden for a running mate. As Gawker says, sometimes he can come off like a hilarious blowhard.

But don't take Gawker's word for it. Take ours. Some years ago, we had the opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with Joe Biden during one of the many Iowa caucus seasons when he was running for president and almost no one was noticing. Joe Biden is a very nice guy and a terrific father but that night, at least, he seemed burdened by a woolly brain and an untrained tongue.

Want a dad? He is your man, hands down. Want a vice president? Frankly, based on that one experience we think Hillary looks like George Washington in comparison.

On the other hand, everyone can have an off night. Besides, John McSame can be counted on to make a worse choice.

Quiere un Restaurante, Gente?

Cancun's goes on the virtual auction block in September, says the Gulf Breeze News.

Coming Soon: The Children of Fay?

Florida State University weather watchers are showing two to four more potential tropical storms, at least some which look like they're heading for Florida over the next week or two. Click the link, click "FWD" to animate the model, and watch those nasty red blobs. Their names could be Gustav, Hanna, Ike, and Josephine.

While we wait for The Deluge, check out Barrier Island Girl's sunset photo. And, darned if she hasn't gotten a letter from the North Pole!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Fay Route Revised

From WEAR-TV: Tropical Storm Fay has winds of 45 50 mph and is moving west at 8 mph. There is a tropical storm watch from Destin, FL to the Alabama/Mississippi state line. There is a tropical storm warning from Destin, Fl easterward. Fay will be a rainmaker for NW Florida and SW Alabama. Some areas may see as much as 8-15 inches of rain. A flash flood watch is in effect.

Fay on the Move

Fay From Satellite

Local conditions at 2:45 pm CDT: Cloudy but dry and warm.

Fay Panhandling - Live

Live web cam from Panama City, via U-Stream:
Live Videos by Ustream

Pensacola Proselytizing

This AP dispatch also ran today in the Pensacola News Journal under the headline "Missionery from Pensacola Defies Ban to Evangelize." (No use linking to the PNJ version because it will expire from the web too soon) :
Christian groups who flouted a Chinese ban on foreign missionaries are calling their underground evangelizing during the Olympic Games a success.

Drawn to a nation of 1.3 billion people under atheist rule, the groups prepared for years for what the Southern Baptists once called "a spiritual harvest unlike any other."

"We did see some conversions," said Christian missionary Mark Taylor of Pensacola, Fla.
Wonder how Mr. Taylor would feel if he found out that while he was lying to get in and sneaking around China, we were busy here at home "harvesting" his own parishioners to get real and become atheists?

Panhandle Radar

In Pensacola before sunrise, the skies are mostly clear but the wind is freshening and thin, whispy clouds in advance of Fay can be seen advancing toward us.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Following Fay

Northwest Florida - Pensacola

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Your Everclear Evening Fay Report

Fay has been meandering for the past several hours but it began to drift northward in the past hour or so. The mid-level ridge developing north of Fay is already blocking its northward progression and Fay should soon begin to move very slowly toward the northwest and the west-northwest. The most significant issue regarding the slow motion is that Fay will likely continue to dump torrential rains along its path...and will probably be remembered as a very wet storm. The turn to the Northwest and West-Northwest keeping Fay over land is consistent with most of the global models and tropical cyclone track guidance.
Bottom line: Tropical Storm Fay is slowly heading for the general Pensacola area, or maybe a bit north or south of that. It might, but probably won't, strengthen and blow us away. But it could give us a heavy drenching, or maybe not.

Isn't weather science fun?

Fay Feints, Fools Forecasters

Tropical Storm Fay, it seems, is making fools of forecasters. Over the warm waters surrounding the Florida Keys, it did not strengthen to hurricane status, as predicted. But over land in south Florida it didn't diminish to a mere tropical depression, either, as forecasters also expected.

Instead of leaving Florida by today, NHC now expects Fay to turn east into the Atlantic and then do a perfect Shawn Johnson 180-degree and head back west, possibly reaching Pensacola this weekend:

Most of the global models are now indicating a tighter turn to the Northwest and then a sharper westward jog across North Florida after 36 hours and into the Gulf of Mexico by 72 hours.
Forecasters now are saying that if Fay remains over land while traversing north Florida it will diminish in strength, but if it doesn't it won't. That's helpful.

Equally helpful, here's our own storm model:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fickle Fay in Florida

T.S. Fay made second landfall near Naples. Still hasn't reached hurricane status and likely won't, now, as it meanders north through the Florida peninsula, bringing rain along a parched path that could use it.

All but one of the forecast models have Fay missing Pensacola, most by a wide margin. Still, there is this one odd-looking model track, a worst case scenario from Jim Williams' Hurricane City that isn't all that bad, either:

Monday, August 18, 2008

Fay Watch

The best place to get the latest NHC info and guesses as well as computer storm models, analysis, and even the storm history of projected target communities is Hurricane City.

Among the best live camera views of Fay coming ashore in the Florida Keys this afternoon, as long as the power lasts, is at this web cam.