Monthly Archives: September 2017

A Hurricane the Size of Florida

Thanks to the Washington Post, I have superimposed an image of Irma on the state of Florida.

I feel so much better now.

Posted in Weather With a Name | 1 Comment

Faster, Not Yet Better

In an effort to avoid thinking about hurricanes, I have cut the load time of this blog by more than 50%.

I could cut it a lot more if I jettisoned the reader map in the right margin, which seems to take a long time to load. But I like the map, even if it reminds me how much traffic is down from the many thousands per month when I was taking blogging more seriously. Second slowest item is probably the trump countdown clock, which I’ve been thinking of cutting anyway. It has two problems: First, it puts the word “Trump” at the top of every page. Second, it’s almost always slow due, I suspect, to the page cache. Besides, I’m not enjoying looking at it: the numbers are too big.

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Steele Dossier Evaluated (Updated)

Just Security, A Second Look at the Steele Dossier—Knowing What We Know Now, offers by far the best evaluation of the notorious Steele Dossier on Trump/Russian connections, possible blackmail, and more) that I have read to date.

The guest  post by a former member of the CIA’s Senior Intelligence Service, John Sipher, paints the Steele Dossier as mostly but not utterly reliable:

Although the reports were produced episodically, almost erratically, over a five-month period, they present a coherent narrative of collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. As a result, they offer an overarching framework for what might have happened based on individuals on the Russian side who claimed to have insight into Moscow’s goals and operational tactics. Until we have another more credible narrative, we should do all we can to examine closely and confirm or dispute the reports.

Key caveat:

I spent almost thirty years producing what CIA calls “raw reporting” from human agents.  At heart, this is what Orbis did.  They were not producing finished analysis, but were passing on to a client distilled reporting that they had obtained in response to specific questions.  The difference is crucial, for it is the one that American journalists routinely fail to understand.  When disseminating a raw intelligence report, an intelligence agency is not vouching for the accuracy of the information provided by the report’s sources and/or subsources.  Rather it is claiming that it has made strenuous efforts to validate that it is reporting accurately what the sources/subsources claim has happened.  The onus for sorting out the veracity and for putting the reporting in context against other reporting – which may confirm or deny the new report – rests with the intelligence community’s professional analytic cadre.  In the case of the dossier, Orbis was not saying that everything that it reported was accurate, but that it had made a good-faith effort to pass along faithfully what its identified insiders said was accurate.  This is routine in the intelligence business.

That said, however,

As outsiders without the investigative tools available to the FBI, we can only look at the information and determine if it makes sense given subsequent events and the revelation of additional information. Mr. Steele did not have the benefit of knowing Mr. Trump would win the election or how events might play out. In this regard, does any of the information we have learned since June 2016 assign greater or less credibility to the information? Were the people mentioned in the report real? Were their affiliations correct? Did any of the activities reported happen as predicted?

To a large extent, yes.

Read the whole thing.

Update: Uh-oh. Marcy Wheeler, who follows this stuff obsessively closely, does not agree: In The Post-Press Michael Cohen Details in the Steele Dossier she writes, “I’m doing a long response on this unfortunately terrible John Sipher post trying to calm questions about the Steele dossier.” Her comments center on the treatment of allegations relating to Trump associate Michael Cohen; she’s much more skeptical of them than is Sipher. Update3: And follows up with John Sipher’s Garbage Post Arguing the Steele Dossier Isn’t Garbage.

Update2: For yet another take on Michael Cohen’s role as an intermediary to the Russians, see Talking Points Memo, What Happened to the Michael Cohen Ukraine Dossier?.

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Hurricane Bleg

So, what do you do if your roof comes off during a hurricane?

Presumably you can’t go anywhere, because there’s a hurricane out there.  So do you hide under the table? Go sit in the car in the garage? Hide in a closet with louver doors?

Just asking for a friend.

(Couldn’t find a photo I liked of roof damage, so I went with this Wikimedia picture from the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900.)

Latest hurricane wind predictions:

Posted in Weather With a Name | 3 Comments


UM put out this announcement this morning:



Wednesday, September 6, 9:00 a.m.

The University of Miami is closely monitoring Hurricane Irma, a major category 5 storm with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph, which is currently located approximately 1,200 miles east-southeast of Miami-Dade County. The potential for impacts to South Florida are increasing and plans are being rapidly implemented to ensure the safety of our University community and facilities. The earliest time South Florida would experience impacts is still Friday evening. This storm is a rapidly evolving situation, and changes may need to be made quickly regarding University operations. If this were to occur, these changes will be communicated via an ENN alert.

The University is strongly encouraging all UM students to rapidly implement evacuation plans and leave South Florida no later than the end of Thursday. Any on-campus students who do not evacuate may be required to relocate to an off-site University or government evacuation center that only serves as a refuge of last resort and has the most basic of accommodations.

All classes and student-related events on all campuses are cancelled today through Friday, September 8, as well as all weekend classes. At a minimum, students will be given 48 hours notice to return before classes will resume, and an exact date for the resumption of classes on the Coral Gables and Marine campuses has not been set.

The Coral Gables (excluding the Lennar Foundation Medical Center) and Marine campuses will close at the end of Wednesday, and remain closed at least through Sunday, September 10, except for those select essential personnel, as identified in units’ UReady Continuity Plan, with a role in campus preparation of critical functions. Residential housing and dining halls will remain open, but other facilities on the campuses—including the libraries, wellness center, and Student Center Complex—will be closed at that time.

An additional communication will be issued later today by the University of Miami Health System and Miller School of Medicine with more detailed information on changes to clinical, non-essential, and essential operations.

President Frenk declared a State of Emergency to emphasize the importance of response to this critical threat to life-safety and ensure all necessary University resources are being allocated to prepare for this storm. The University’s Emergency Operations Center has been activated to ensure a coordinated University response over the coming days.

Students living on campus have had mandatory floor meetings and received information from staff in their residential colleges; all students should communicate with their parents about their plans. Faculty and staff should make sure that their unit and personal emergency plans are in place.

Employees: The time card approval deadline was moved to today, Wednesday, September 6 at 3 p.m. Because of early approval, you will need to estimate any missed punches for tomorrow before approving the timecard. If you have any questions, please email the Payroll Office at

The University community is urged to monitor UM Emergency Management social media accounts and for interim updates.

For additional information on how prepare for hurricanes, visit the UM Hurricane Preparedness website.

The UM Crisis Decision Team will meet again today, and another Storm Alert will be issued this afternoon.

You know they are serious when they move the time card approval deadline.  And here’s why:

Posted in Weather With a Name | Comments Off on Irma

Do I Have a Date With Irma?

Looks like Hurricane Irma might (but also might not) be coming to Miami next Friday or next weekend.

The thing about hurricanes is that, unlike most other natural disasters, you usually have a lot of warning before they hit–and of those warnings, a significant fraction turn out to be false alarms. (False alarms in the sense that the hurricane dies out, goes out to sea, or goes and hits someone else.) The National Hurricane Center does a great job of telling the public what we know, and don’t know, about strike probabilities. But even so, during most late summers and early Fall, we here in Miami usually have a number of hurricane alerts of varying degrees of alarm. Irma sounds like it would be a strong — maybe even very strong — hurricane by the time it makes landfall somewhere, but there are many variables, not least the possibility that it goes over Cuba. That would be very bad for Cuba, but could be good for Miami in that storms going over land tend to weaken while storms going over warm water tend to strengthen.

It used to be that storms (potentially) coming meant that I had to dig out the ugly, sharp-edged, metal hurricane shutters, and then decide when to put them up. Put them up too early and you can sit in the dark for days as happened once when a hurricane stalled just a little bit offshore and spent days deciding where to go. Wait too long and you end up putting them up in the rain as the advance bands of the storm start roiling the weather.

But that’s history: several years ago we did a big renovation, and as part of that we replaced all the windows with hurricane glass, which is terrific stuff. Allegedly you could throw a brick at one of the windows and it wouldn’t shatter, although I have not put it to the test. In any case, the glass changes the whole hurricane experience: instead of huddling in the dark wondering what is going on out there, you can see it. And when the power goes out, as it inevitably does since FP&L refuses to bury our power lines, you at least have natural light to live by during the day.

So now the question becomes whether/when to lay in some extra water and fill up some gas containers to be able to run the little generator (to keep stuff in the fridge from spoiling), and whether it makes any sense to buy any other hurricane supplies given we could surely live a few days off the cans of beans and soup and other canned stuff in our cupboards. There probably isn’t much reason to buy canned spam or other foods which we’d otherwise never eat, but it’s an effort to look at those photos and do nothing.

Posted in Global Warming, Miami | Comments Off on Do I Have a Date With Irma?