Eric Foner: The Power of Outrage

Roundup: Historians' Take

This time the Bush Administration could not hide the dead bodies--or the walking wounded, whose abandonment by American society began not in the hurricane's wake but many years earlier.

The only bright spot in this man-made disaster has been the wave of public outrage at the Bush Administration's abject failure to provide aid to the most vulnerable. Indeed, it is hard to think of a time, other than at the height of the civil rights movement, when the plight of poor black Southerners so deeply stirred the conscience of the nation. Perhaps Hurricane Katrina will go down in history alongside Bull Connor's fire hoses in Birmingham and the Alabama State Troopers' nightsticks at Selma as a catalyst for a new national self-awareness regarding the unfinished struggle for racial justice.

But a better historical analogy, although not one that immediately springs to mind, may be the Lawrence strike of 1912, best-known for giving the labor movement the slogan "bread and roses." Thousands of poor immigrant workers walked off their jobs in the city's giant woollen mills to protest a wage reduction. Bill Haywood, leader of the Industrial Workers of the World, who had been invited in to help direct the strike, devised a plan to send the workers' children to live with sympathetic families in other cities for the duration.

By 1912 the Progressive Era was well under way, but the sight of the pale, emaciated children marching up Fifth Avenue transformed public opinion regarding the strike (leading the governor of Massachusetts to pressure the mill owners to accede to the workers' demands). More important, it broadened public support for efforts to uplift the poor and placed the question of poverty, and the federal government's obligation to combat it, front and center in the presidential campaign of 1912.

"I have worked in the slums of New York," wrote Margaret Sanger, "but I have never found children who were so uniformly ill-nourished, ill-fed and ill-clothed." Today, as in 1912, the shameful (and growing) presence of poverty has been thrust from invisibility onto the center stage of national discussion.

Let's hope the country finally awakens to the consequences of years of trickle-down economics, tax cuts for the rich, privatization of public responsibilities and the demonization of both government and the poor.

Reprinted with permission from the Nation. For subscription information call 1-800-333-8536. Portions of each week's Nation magazine can be accessed at http://www.thenation.com.

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Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Mr. Heuisler,

Mr. Foner did not make the statement about race your prior comment attributed to him.

Raising SOME ASPECT of race is not the same as raising it in a particular formulation which would fit YOUR "template".

Accuracy is the first requirement of honest history. That, bluntly put, is one major reason why Foner and you do not appear on the same page of this website.

The problem with Foner's piece is not what it said but what it skirted around, INCOMPETENCE, Massive, unacceptable, outrageous, internationally disgraceful, non-partisan and so far utterly unpunished incompetence, from the policemen to the mayor to the White House. And, I hope we can all recall enough history to realize which direction the buck passes and where it has to stop.

If there is a case to made against the author's article -and in this instance, I certainly think there is- it does not require either poetics or misattribution in order to be made.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Foner makes it very clear that his main agenda in this piece is "awakening" the country to the "consequences of years of trickle-down economics, tax cuts for the rich, privatization of public responsibilities and the demonization of both government and the poor." Nothing there about race at all. Foner's analogy to Selma is not the best, he says, and his use of a no doubt deliberately vague reference to "racial justice" is as a throw away intro only, not, as you pretend, as his sole message, and certainly not with the distortive spin you have tried to thrust upon it: that race was the "reason" for the "slow response". What he quite obviously says is something distinctly different: that the slow response WHATEVER its causes, revealed racial inequality, an obvious truth, albeit irrelevant to the main truth of incompetent government. Ignoring causes is also a curiously unhistorical thing to do, and Foner has less excuse there than you do.

The common ground between you and Foner is your head-in-sand denial of taxpayer-looting, corrupt government incompetents running amok. Read this week's lead story at www.economist.com, "When government fails", and if you think that The Economist is a "Marxist" organ, then it is time for you to look for an opening at your local white-painted building with the straitjackets inside, before it is downsized and all future would-be newcomers given computers linked to HNN instead instead of admittance.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Here is the Economist article referred to (by the wrong title) in my prior comment above:

Sep 8th 2005

Hurricane Katrina has exposed both personal and structural weaknesses in America's government

EVEN America's many enemies around the world tend to accord it respect. It might be arrogant, overbearing and insensitive—but, by God, it can get things done.

Since Hurricane Katrina, the world's view of America has changed. The disaster has exposed some shocking truths about the place: the bitterness of its sharp racial divide, the abandonment of the dispossessed, the weakness of critical infrastructure. But the most astonishing and most shaming revelation has been of its government's failure to bring succour to its people at their time of greatest need.

The finger-pointing is already under way, with the federal government blaming local government and local government blaming the feds. But if America is to avoid future catastrophes it needs to do more than bicker. It needs to learn the right lessons from this fortnight's debacle.

Blame for the shame

Natural disasters on this scale inevitably bring chaos and suffering. Katrina wreaked havoc over an area the size of Britain. And even the best-laid hurricane plans cannot deal with the quirks of human nature. People who live in areas prone to hurricanes tend to become blasé about storm warnings. This insouciance is native to New Orleans, where a lethal local cocktail is called The Hurricane. But none of that excuses government's failure.

Local government must shoulder some of the blame. The authorities in Louisiana have a reputation for confusion, inefficiency and worse. Different authorities are responsible for different levees, for example, and several close associates of the former mayor were recently indicted for corruption. Local incompetence exacerbated the disaster: in Orleans Parish, for instance, where 60,000 households do not own a car, hundreds of city buses which might have shipped out stranded people were left to be swamped by the rising waters.

Still, Washington is mostly at fault. The responsibility for mobilising the response to a disaster lies squarely with the federal government. And the responsibility for galvanising the federal government lies squarely with the president.

The administration's initial response recalled Donald Rumsfeld's reaction to the anarchy in Iraq: stuff happens. George Bush was listless and confused. Dick Cheney, the vice-president, remained on holiday in Wyoming. Condoleezza Rice, the highest ranking black in the country, saw a Broadway show, “Spamalot”, while New Orleans's poor looked out at the floodwaters. Mr Bush then added disingenuity to leaden-footedness, declaring that nobody had anticipated the breaching of the levees—even though people have been worrying about the possibility for years and an official report published in 2001 warned of impending disaster.

Mr Bush's personal weakness is shaming; but the structural failures in government that Katrina has revealed are perhaps more worrying. After September 11th Mr Bush poured billions into creating the Department of Homeland Security, but the department has flunked its first big test. It is a bureaucratic monstrosity that includes organisations as different as the Coast Guard and the immigration authorities and spends most of its energies in perpetual reorganisation. The department's focus on fighting terrorism has also distracted attention from coping with natural disasters, reducing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from a cabinet-level agency into a neglected stepchild. The best illustration of this is its boss: Michael Brown spent nine years at the Arabian Horse Association, before finally being eased out and joining FEMA as general counsel, brought in by its previous head, his college room-mate.

The second structural problem is Washington's addiction to pork-barrel spending. The anti-war left is keen to blame the Iraq war for depleting government's resources. The real problem, however, is not a lack of resources—Mr Bush has increased discretionary spending faster than any president since Lyndon Johnson—but the way they are allocated. The funding for New Orleans's levees, which has fallen by nearly half over the past four years, started dropping in 2001—before the Iraq war, but after Bob Livingston, a Louisiana congressman and erstwhile chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, left politics under a cloud. The recent transport bill contains some $24 billion-worth of pure pork—including $231m for a “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska. Although this sort of thing is endemic in Washington, it has got far worse since the Republicans took over both the White House and Congress.

Out of the depths

The polls suggest that the majority of people don't hold Mr Bush personally responsible for the bungling. Things are slowly improving on the ground. The federal government is pouring resources into the region, and ordinary Americans are opening their wallets to charities and their homes to refugees. But if Mr Bush is to rise to this occasion he needs to do more than take charge. He needs to make sure that America is better prepared for future calamities. This means rejigging his second-term agenda: downplaying favourite issues like Social Security reform and fixing the flaws in America's government that Katrina has exposed.

The most urgent task is to address the mess that is the Department of Homeland Security. He should upgrade FEMA and re-examine the wisdom of bundling disaster relief with terrorism prevention. He needs to confront the corrupt legislative culture in Washington: the job of the president is to look to the national interest rather than to reward his friends. If he managed to persuade Congress to regurgitate the pork in the transport bill, that would go a long way towards paying for rebuilding the levees. And he needs to start wielding his red pencil and exercising his right to veto bad legislation.

If Mr Bush addresses America's failings with the same vigour that he addressed Islamic terrorism in the wake of September 11th, he has a chance of reinvigorating his presidency and restoring respect in his country; if he doesn't, he will go the way of his father, limping wounded into retirement.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Nothing against NYT basically, but it is not in the same league as Economist. In the mutual opinion of both Monarchists and Marxists whom I happen to know. Your post reveals your ignorance. Economist has easily triple the international correspondents and reporting network of any U.S. press organ and are certainly not just a bunch of stuffed-shirt limeys. They are not up on every subtelty of the American federal system, but they know 10X more about how this place ticks than something like the NYT knows about Europe.

FEMA is not a state agency. The Army Corps of Engineers is not a state agency. Neither is the Republican-run U.S. Congress, the Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard or the Weather Bureau. Mayor Guiliani was not the one asking Congress for permission to invade Afghanistan after 9-11. Of course the state and local guys screwed up royally, or "commonerly", on Katrina, but if you're not heading to that local loony bin, quit your asinine pretense that the Feds, including the Incompetent-in-Chief, didn't commit blunders of the decade as well. You and your Republican Denialists are making utter fools of yourselves, and the whole world from Havana to London to Tel Aviv to Mogadishu is watching in disgust and dismay.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

When will you learn to read, Mr. Heuisler ?

FROM Havana TO London and FROM THERE TO Tel Aviv TO Timbuktu AND A THOUSAND PLACES IN BETWEEN, populated by more intelligent, civilized, and democratic people than us lately-not-having-much-to-brag-about Americans, along with your favorite foreign scoundrels who I never said anything about giving a hoot about.

A fool is a fool even if surrounded by other fools.

"From" does not mean "only in".

Good Grief. Buy an atlas. Figure out which end is up, open it and read. Just because G.W. Bush couldn't find Crawford in it does not mean you have stoop to that level of arrogant ignorance.

Since when is stupidity part of the American dream ?

There is no excuse for the FEDERAL government (which takes (and wastes) more of American's income than even than those terrorists and potentates who put gas in our beloved and uselessly idiotic Hummers) not having a plan or a clue about how to get people out of a below sea level swamp that has been predicted to flood by every sane scientist who studied it for the past 50 years.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

"Irony? Chutzpah? Stupidity?"

No, Mr. H, something simpler: Shoddiness, sloppiness, and an over-eagerness to spin reality into fossilized polemics.

If you were not such a kneejerk propagandist yourself, you might bother to recognize the obvious similarities between Foner and Bush. But, instead you clutch at any pitiful straw that might distract attention from the monumental cock-up of a miserable joke of a non-president twiddling his thumbs for days while people drown.

The difference between the sloppiness of Foner and the sloppiness of Bush is a few trillion dollars of debt owed by our grandchildren to China, thousands of dead Americans, a trashed civil service, and reduced national security for decades to come.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

You "thinks" too little, Mr Harris", and there is nothing about "being" American that requires one to post irrelevant regurgitated propoganda instead of using what limited brain cells one may have. Somewhere on the internet there must be a discussion about "Liberal Democrats". On this page, however, there is a discussion about the New Orleans disaster and whether "trickle-down economics, tax cuts for the rich, privatization of public responsibilities and the demonization of both government and the poor" are something more than very remotely tangential to a bi-partisan cock-up of historic proportions.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Although Foner basically identifies some of the key underlying historical issues here (I do not see where he "names race as reason for the slow response"), he goes both overboard and onto a tangent (if that is not mixing too many metaphors).

Anyone who was "shocked" to discover, last week or this, that America has and always has had "shameful poverty", has not been living in the real world. The genuine source of bewilderment and dismay around the globe re New Orleans is in reality only secondarily related to reminders of age-old problems. The scandal here is not one of unknown racism, economic inequality, or inadequate public transport suddenly becoming "visible." It is rather one in which undeniable evidence of unprecedented incompetence is finally starting to penetrate the thick skulls of those (from across the so-called political spectrum) who would like to reduce every issue of the day into a straightjacket question of the size and role of governments in society.

Bush is in fact pouring out taxpayer money in a wasteful frenzy that would make the most "bleeding heart liberal" of yore blush with embarassment at the collosal waste. Fortunately those, like Foner, who fall into his trap, by ignoring incompetence to trumpet for the umpteeth time in ossified and obsolete left vs right debates, will not be able to stop the march of facts. The country was unacceptably and outrageously unprepared for an obvious and inevitable calamity, and the man at top has to acknowledge and accept chief responsibility for this dismal failure that is orthogonal to antiquated deliberations about the appropriate quantity of social welfare spending by governments.

Bill Heuisler - 9/16/2005

Still no facts. Lots of words. But,
your abject surrender is accepted. At last you admit you had no cause to call the Feds "criminally negligent" because at long last you still cannot offer one fact to back up your silly statement. Not one fact.

Next time we meet, I'll just ask for facts. If you have none, I'll assume you are full of hot air as usual.
Bill Heuisler

Arnold Shcherban - 9/15/2005

Bill, this is my last response to you, 'cause God is my witness that you committed all "deadly sins" that
ascribed to me in your several latest
But the gravest of them all is your
inability (I strongly suspect unwillingness) to stick to the logic and content of our discussion.
Let me remind you what the point of main contention came to.
You pointed out that I was legally incompetent when called the inaction
of FEMA 'criminal negligence', since
to be criminal, you said, negligence
has to have INTENT, or in other words,
one have to show INTENT in order to characterize negligence, as criminal.
I replied nay, this specific crime
, i.e. criminal negligence, DOES NOT require presence of INTENT (which is
absolutely clear from the very meaning of the term 'negligence', which denies any INTENT.
I accompanied that reply with falling
roof example, to demonstrate the absense of INTENT. You, however, replied in the sense that the very fact of negligence, i.e. knowledge of
some problem that could have been eliminated by the prompt response, but wasn't, constitutes the INTENT.
Taking aside the fact that every logical man (not mentioning a lawyer) would easily pointed out purely
logical, and consequently, legal fallacy in the latter statement of yours (you essentially
substituted the INTENT, which is a STATE OF MIND before and during commitment of crime with the CRIME act itself?), I more than specifically asked you (since you continued to insist on the neccessity of the presence of criminal INTENT for determination of criminal negligence) to find for me any official legal document or interpretation of criminal negligence violation of law that would mention such neccessity.
What you presented in the latest message was supposed to be such a document or interpretaion, but unfortunately (for you, since I knew in advance that you could not produce what asked for, since it doesn't exist either in nature or in any legal system; that was the main reason I bet money on it) has not have a single notion of INTENT or its synonym.

And you dare to tell me that YOU don't want my money? Oh my, my.

At this point Bill, I'm done with you. Pray your God that I want to remain as correspondent on these boards, 'cause otherwise I would use all the right American words to characterize your moral and logical dwarfiness.

Bill Heuisler - 9/15/2005

There are many cases, but it's easier to show in Federal Court - citations are more accessible and jurisdictions more easily identified.

Here's proof (in the exception) taken by the Ninth Circuit. Note reference to the "higher standard" of Criminal Negligence in part A) of the decision

You may look up the decision, but you will find that a careless plow-driver who ruptured a pipeline would not have been found criminally negligent prior to the Ninth decision because there was neither intent nor reckless indifference to known conditions.


In United States v. Hanousek, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit extended the public welfare offense doctrine to include not only knowing violations but also negligent violations of section 309(c) of the CWA.59 The import of this decision is that ordinary negligence is enough to establish criminal liability under the CWA, at least in the Ninth Circuit.60 This broadening of the already controversial PWO doctrine to include negligent as well as knowing violations of the CWA has drawn criticism in the Senate, and is the major reason behind the proposed amendment.61

A. The Hanousek Decision

In United States v. Hanousek, the court held that negligent violations of section 309(c) are PWOs, and therefore, in order to establish a violation under section 309(c)(1)-the "negligence" provision of section 309(c)-the government must prove only that the defendant acted with ordinary negligence, as opposed to the higher standard of criminal negligence.

Remember neither Louisiana nor Washington DC are in the Ninth Circuit and therefore operate before the exception in Hanousek.

I don't want your money, but now (at last) show some evidence President Bush was criminally negligent. Failing that, admit you were wrong. Maybe a nice note to the White House would be appropriate also,
Bill Heuisler

Arnold Shcherban - 9/14/2005

You such a hard-core ideological hack, Bill that, as I predicted, you will never accept the defeat, even if it will be pronounced by the US Supreme Court or God himself (I'm sure you believe, at least, in the latter), not mentioning such an unimportant, and incoherent source, as American (not Russian, or French, whom, as we all know, you, moderately speaking, don't like much) law dictionary, which I quote: criminal negligence - "recklessly acting without reasonable caution and putting another person at risk of injury or death (or failing to do something with the same consequences)".
Where is intent, or criminal intent, here, Bill? But may be it is implied?
Alas, in no interpretation of the criminal megligence and the conditions the negligence has to satisfy to amount to criminal one the intent (mens rea) mentioned, even tangentially so!

To resolve this particular argument
of ours, let's do this: if you found
for me one single modern official interpretation of the criminal negligence (I believe it should be in the US tort law) that has 'intent' as neccessary condition for being qualified, as criminal negligence, I pay you through PayPal $20 and publicly on the pages of this network declare your intellect superior over mine, otherwise you will do the same for me.
Isn't it much more jentlemen-like way to resolve this unfriendly debate, than exchanging with insults?
That's where and how we can ultimately determine who is who, both - in intellect and in character, right?
After we resolve this issue, I solemnly promise to specify what exact FACTS I meant when talking about FEMA's inaction as criminal negligence, and will match those facts to the legal definition of criminal negligence, provided above with outmost precision. (For your partial satisfaction I qualify the inaction of Louisiana state authorities same exact way).

Good luck in your "investigation"...

Bill Heuisler - 9/14/2005

No intent needed?
Perhaps not in Stalin's court, but quite necessary in more civilized jurisdictions. You've obviously never heard of mens rea (guilty mind) or the legal definition thereof.

Mens rea in criminal law focuses on the mental state of an accused, requiring proof of a state of mind - such as intent, recklessness, or willful blindness for a criminal act.
Note the terms: intent, and willful, and also note that reckless assumes a knowing disregard. Knowing.

In due-process jurisdictions, (even Russia) some level of mens rea is a required element of a crime and must be proven by prosecutors.

Your prior post included seeds of its failure: You wrote, "...despite the knowledge of the technical problems with it, prior to the accident...". Arnold, if you can show knowledge of a life-threatening problem and show there was willful or knowing failure to act on knowledge, you have shown intent - you have shown mens rea.

But you have shown no such thing. You have cast accusations without any foundation at all and hoped that the sheer weight of words would suffice.

Nor have any rational news outlets with full knowledge of circumstances inferred or implied any willful, reckless or intentional act.

So, rather than bluster about your superior intellect, show some brains and supply evidence...if you can.

Jim B. Harris - 9/14/2005

More liberal whining about a "non-President", one that just happened to collect more votes than any other Presidential candidate in the history of our nation.

Liberal Dem's ability to point fingers, find blame, and tell us how much our nation stinks is not in doubt. Yet me thinks it will probably continue to get them their rear ends handed to them in election after election unless they can fine tune their message to include some type of optimism that does more than play the blame game. While the bodies are still floating, they go on the attack. Forget the fact folks had days notice a level 4 or 5 Hurricane was coming and the gov. and mayor are Dem's. Nope, blame the President. Liberal's need to get over their loser mentality, go back and read some books about how this nation got together from 41-45 to meet challenges 100 times greater than we are dealing with today, and start rooting for the home team.

Go to the polls, pull the levers, and regardless of who wins, be Americans.

It really is not that hard if you try.

Arnold Shcherban - 9/13/2005

I just presumed that the multiplicity of pertaining facts in
a dozen or so articles printed by the most prominent newspapers of this country and abroad and dozens of TV and radio reports is enough for any half-brained to recognize as
quite sufficient public, though not strictly legal, evidence in favor of
my brief comment about FEMA, in general, and its leaders, in particular, as well, as about local
and state authorities, whose guilt
I have no doubts about in view, again, of the publicly known information.
That's on the alleged absense of facts in my comments.

Now, let me enlighten you Mr. Know-it-All by showing to you that you are not.
'Criminal negligence' does not automatically imply criminal intent, (which is coincidentally the reason it is called 'negligence'); it is 'criminal' nonetheless, if the perpetrator of this kind of negligence could, but because of sloppiness or something like that,
did not take actions to prevent grave consequences, such as death(s), eg. or large-scale destruction of public or/and private property.
Take the case of the roof of the building falling on people, killing some of them. If the fall occured as the result of the lack of maintenance, despite the knowledge of the technical problems with it, prior to the accident, the maintenance authorities are giulty of
'criminal negligence', despite they had absolutely no 'intent' to cause the death of the victims.

Thus, Billy Boy educate yourself, before educating others and never ever kid yourself.
I tutor the guys like you are in analytical thinking , and therefore sooner kill myself, than let the folks like you teach me scientific approach and, especially, logic.

From Russia and America with love,
yours truly.

Bill Heuisler - 9/13/2005

Incoherent, confused and illogical. And you say the US is illiterate?

You call FEMA "criminally negligent" without one piece of evidence, testimony, citation or foundation, and then call your accusation fact. Just in case you've no experience in law, logic or common sense, your baseless assertions are more than specious, they illustrate ignorance of law and of the meanings of words.
In English or Russian, "criminal" implies intent. Your uninformed opinion of another's intent is worse than useless, it is presumptious.

By the way there was a State FEMA office in Baton Rouge that tried to get the Governor to Federalize the National Guard in order to help evacuate New Orleans. This attempt was on September 1st. Look it up.

Some advice: gather facts to back-up your opinions; try to collect your thoughts before you project them. Otherwise, Arnold, you come across as a babbling, incoherent simpleton.
Bill Heuisler

Arnold Shcherban - 9/13/2005

You didn't (as it become traditional for you and been pointed out by me on multiple occasions) respond to the Fact about FEMA, instead proceeding
to beat the same Nagins' drum, which clearly shows your great "respect" towards facts along with the habit of arguing against self-created arguments, instead of the arguments forwarded by your opponents.
The same refers to my class-related
point, and, in general, to the very essense of my posting. Thus, the legitimate question at this point should be: whom are you debating against, yourself? I'm sure it makes your task much easier...

I "can't express a coherant thought", but I did express 'coherent' thought, backed by the published results of recent survey produced by the foreign
and US educators that placed this country at 24th position among 27 most
industrialized countries in school students reading and math knowledge and skills (not mentioning already the undeniably established and acknowledged by the practically all US educators, but not by some "historians", fact of the big gap between skills and knowledge level of US HS and college students and their counterparts in many other (even in some Third World
But I'm 100% confident that won't serve as objective or sufficient 'evidence' to the ultra-patriots like you, since no evidence, including well-established Facts (and there is more than plenty of the former and the latter) in the world is the evidence to them, as soon as it reveals this country's
serious flaws in any domain.

As far as it concerns me living here,
I lived in the Soviet Union too, and much longer than here. There is nothing to figure here, Mr. Heuisler.

Bill Heuisler - 9/12/2005

Facts are a bitch. Nagin's primarily at fault - think buses; think rogue police. Blanco turned down Fed aid two days before the levee broke and stopped the Red Cross from delivering food and water to the Superdome. Look all this stuff up, Arnold, before you make foolish assertions.

You say the US is largely illiterate, but can't express a coherant thought backed by evidence. You dislike this country, but you're here. Go figure.

Bill Heuisler - 9/12/2005

Mr. Weber,
Explain why it took five days for food and water? you ask.

"September 7, 2005 7:01 p.m. EST
Douglas Maher - All Headline News Staff Reporter
Washington, D.C. (AHN) - A report on Fox News from correspondent Major Garrett Wednesday night reveals a major break into what exactly went wrong at the Louisiana Superdome in the days after Hurricane Katrina struck the city."
"An American Red Cross representative tells Fox News that the Louisiana State Homeland Security Department refused the relief organization permission to take food and water to the Superdome because they did not want to "encourage people to go there."
They State office of Homeland Security wanted to get people out and were afraid that providing support would be a "magnet" attracting more displaced citizens of New Orleans.

Note the term "State office". Also you are probably aware - or should be - that President Bush asked Gov. Blanco if she wanted Federal help less than 48 hours before the storm hit. The Gov. said no.

What the hell do you mean "assuming" my charges are true? Do you think I created pictures of flooded buses? Look up the disaster plan yourself. Google Mayor Magin + evacuation + buses instead of trying desperately to recreate Foner's intent using Bull Conner and nightsticks in his second paragraph. Who's kidding who here?
Bill Heuisler

Arnold Shcherban - 9/12/2005

I would add... increasing poverty rate.

Arnold Shcherban - 9/12/2005


heuslers of this country consider the latter is untouchable by any criticism; that's the essential story of their socio-political existence and mechanism of preservation.

Arnold Shcherban - 9/12/2005

Mr. Heusler,

Though your rejection of omni-known facts and die-hard support of current Washington administration, in particular, and US-can-do-nothing wrong ultra-patriotic, ahistoric stance, in general, are not news to me and other participants of this board (it's quite enough to recall continuing up to these days stubborn assertion about the "proven" existence of the Iraq's WMD and other similar "deadly sins" of yours), your violent treatment of the facts never fails to amaze and puzzle "us".
Even a dead one is aware now of the criminal negligence of FEMA, whose
grossly incompetent chief, Bushes' crony (of course and again, coincidentally so) was forced to step down today (I guess just to shut
me, the US hater, up), not mentioning the other pointed out by the public opinion and mass -media "perpetrators", but your main
and only target continue to be Mayor Nagin on the obvious reason that he's black.
As if I was saying that Mayor Nagin is not one of the many guilty parties, and, as if the socio-political category of blacks he belongs to is not the essential part of the system of oligarchical, anti-democratic power structure.

My point, and you know it, was much less race-specific, than class-specific.
The rich blacks were as safe, as the rich whites.

I won't advise you to look at the mirror, since the individuals like you, know exactly what they are doing
and why they are doing that and therefore such quality as self-criticism is complete stranger to them. They, together with the owners, and ignorant masses(it's not coincidental that the Americans are
one of the most illiterate nation among the industrialized ones) fooled by them comprise the basis of
the oligarchical system, mentioned above.
Don't you worry about my intellect and self-respect, Mr. Heuisler; they are there where they are supposed to be and in sufficient quantity for, at the least, two of such as you are, too. However, they, along with the white color of my skin, don't make me blind and deaf, and they don't shut up my social conscience, as they apparently do to you.

Jed Weber - 9/11/2005

Mr Heuisler

Prof. Foner did not explicitly cite race as the reason for the slow response. He wrote that Bush failed the "poor" and the "vulnerable." In New Orleans at least, poverty correlates strongly with race. With television coverage focused on the city, viewers did in fact mostly see the "plight" of poor black Southerners. On the other hand, news reports tell us that the majority-white parishes surrounding New Orleans did not receive aid any earlier than the city, and in some cases quite a bit later. This would suggest that FEMA neglected and ignored victims of all colors equally.

Assuming that your charges against Mayor Nagin are true, should the citizens of New Orleans be abandoned and left to die for his negligence? With the city and its resources underwater, and Nagin begging for help, isn't that where FEMA comes in?
Can you explain why it took five days to get water and food to the city?

I have no doubt that Mayor Nagin will be found responsible for some degree of negligence. I think most reasonable people expect blame to fall upon all levels of government. It's mainly the Bush apologists who want to cut off debate as they desperately seek to avoid any responsibility or accountability for the dismal federal performance.

Bill Heuisler - 9/10/2005

Mr. Clarke,
Do you really think intelligent Americans care about Monarchist or Marxist opinions? About the opinions of Castro? We don't. Even third-rate hacks like me scorn the soiled, bloody catastrophes of despots, Kings and Commissars.

Those who can't understand our unique Federal system certainly have the right to their misapprehensions, but when you add Warlords and Communist dictators to the critics you destroy your argument and cast your own credibility into serious doubt.
Bill Heuisler

Bill Heuisler - 9/10/2005

Mr. Safranski,
Note Foner quoted Margaret Sanger.

Sanger's "Negro Project" was supposed
to "restrict" the black population. for the purpose of better health and family planning. Sanger said birth control would elevate the black race and gain the respect of whites.

Sanger aligned with eugenicists who pimped racial supremacy and racial purity - admired the Aryan race - and wanted to purify bloodlines. They encouraged accepted races to reproduce, but not "unfit" races. They promoted restricting "inferior races" by forced sterilization and by encouraging abortion.

Foner, the great Lefty historian, quotes one of America's premier Leftist racists in order to critique the US, "regarding the unfinished struggle for racial justice."

Irony? Chutzpah? Stupidity?
Bill Heuisler

Bill Heuisler - 9/10/2005

Mr. Clarke,
Obviously, London editors know very little about the US. We're a Federal Republic. A Governor is an essential connection. She refused Federal help two days before the levee failed and joined with the Mayor in refusal to allow the Red Cross to supply the Superdome because they didn't want to encourage more people to go there.

Years ago, I worked for a Governor and was present in the room when the President of the US tried to order the AZ National Guard to deploy in Central America. The Governor refused.
The President backed down.

Brit Bush bashers apparently don't understand we're not a Monarchy.

BTW, that particular levee (first failure) was replaced - earth to concrete - a year or so ago by the Army Corps of Engineers. It did not fail in the surge, but later, when the concrete became undercut by saturation.

The point the Brits missed: Without the Gov, the Feds couldn't act. She didn't even order the Louisiana NG to deploy in time to keep order. Next time you cite a newspaper, refer to one we all revere for knowledge and balance...like the NY Times?
Bill Heuisler

Robert F. Koehler - 9/9/2005

"However, I would rather write for Pravda than the NY Times. As least "Pravda" has truth in its name!"

You would be much advised Mr. Thomas to have some knowledge whereof the thing you speak. A famous saying among Russians during the later heyday of the USSR: "There is no truth (pravda) in the news (ivestia), and no news (ivestia) in the truth (pravda)." Your flippancy, arrogant demeanor & obsession with race leads me to believe you would fit in seamlessly with old guard propagandists and misinformation artists at the Pravda in former times.

Bill Heuisler - 9/9/2005

Mr. Clarke,
Specious reasoning won't cut it here. Foner brought up Bull and nightsticks because he likes German Shepherds and wood, right? Right.

Foner accused racial and economic abandonment in his first few words. Squirm all you like, Foner can't write anything else: his life's work is accusing racism and poverty-mongering. He's become wealthy by condemning his own readers for their racism and Capitalism. Ironic.

Your blindness isn't ironic, however, but something less, maybe innocence.
Bill Heuisler

Bill Heuisler - 9/9/2005

Mr. Shcherban,
Since I know you aren't stupid, and I know you can read English, I wonder how you can ask such a racialist and ignorant question. One more time:

Mayor Nagin had bus fleets. Mayor Nagin had a disaster plan in writing that detailed methods for forced evacuation of poor people by bus. Mayor Nagin did not carry out that plan, even though he had a five-day period when the Force-4 hurricane was supposed to hit New Orleans direct.

Mayor Nagin also prohibited Red Cross distributing food and water to crowds in the Superdome immediately after the disaster because he said he did not want to encourage any more people to come to the crowded facility.

So, the poor were there because of Mayor Nagin. The poor were going thirsty and hungry because of Mayor Nagin. Mayor Nagin is black, Arnold.

Racist accusations make your motives quite clear, but you should also be aware that your baseless, ugly hatred of the US makes us wonder about your missing intellect and self-respect. Buy a mirror, Arnold.
Bill Heuisler

Arnold Shcherban - 9/9/2005

If that's totally the fault of the local and state authorities, Mr. Heuisler, and no racist and
economic segregation can be seen there, how come that all middle class folks who was willing to leave did
leave the city before Katrina arrived (not already mentioning the more affluent ones), but only poor and mostly black ones were unable to do so?
You want to tell us that their economic and racial make up played no role in truly criminal negligence of FEMA and the federal goverment would hold the legal regulations (waiting for the formal invitation from the governor) above the lives of thousands of people, provided those
people were rich white ones?
What US historical event of recent decades serves as a precedent for
answering 'yes' to the last part of the latter question?
You won't find any, I guarantee it, because there was none.
On the other hand the desperate and
shameful for this richest in the world country status quo of the New Orlean's poor in almost all aspects of life long before the hurricane is
uncontrovercially confirmed by the
miriads of statistical data.
But apologists of the US oligarchical socio-political and ideological structure are making desperate (and hopefully doomed to failure) attempts to make the ignorant of this country beleive that those poor folks had neither cars nor buses to leave, just because the local goverment did not help them enough.
Whom are trying to fool, Bill, yourself?
And you dare to mentor others about
remaining "historian" first...?!

The hurricane has torn into small pieces the thin veneer of the
so-called and mostly self-praised American "democracy and equal opportunities", showing once more to the whole world the grim realities of
the sharp social and racial segregation existing in this country.

These are the hard facts, and no ideological bashing will change that.

Richard Fell - 9/9/2005

For someone who "runs" a company (a shoeshine stand?) and writes articles, you come across as a petty and small person who becomes suddenly interested in a poster’s typo. Where are your articles? Do you have a link to them? Usually someone who makes that claim backs it up right away. Even if what you say is true, you expose your psychological issues (your anal reference in the title). Nice. You’ve fallen into one of your oldest traps, Frederick.

William J. Stepp - 9/8/2005

My understanding of the flood of 1927 is that it was caused by unusually heavy rainfall that flooded even the backwaters and broke through the levees.

Re: the second point, you're saying that Katrina veered slightly east and there were no marshlands or other barriers there?
Do you have a cite for this information, which I'd like to follow up? Thanks.

mark safranski - 9/8/2005

Eric Foner, preeminent historian, appears to be cracking up. He wrote:

"The only bright spot in this man-made disaster has been the wave of public outrage at the Bush Administration's abject failure to provide aid to the most vulnerable."

No, the bright spot was the selfless efforts of the first-responders who stayed on the job night and day without sleep. Then next were those hurricane victims who reached out to help others despite being in dire straits themsevelves.

"Perhaps Hurricane Katrina will go down in history alongside Bull Connor's fire hoses in Birmingham and the Alabama State Troopers' nightsticks at Selma as a catalyst for a new national self-awareness regarding the unfinished struggle for racial justice."

Is Dr. Foner really equating inadequate and incompetent disaster aid actions by FEMA with active and intentional physical brutality used by government agents to suppress Constitutional rights ?

If the above standard of behavior equates with racism what does Foner say about the Mayor's " Every man for himself" DVD issued to poor people in New Orleans ? If the Mayor was white and Republican would that kind of callous disregard of people's lives be more worthy of moral condemnation ? Yes ? No ?

By all means, blast FEMA and DHS and the Bush administration for failing to carry out Federal responsibilities. It was a national disgrace but not one solely or even primarily created by the Feds or motivated out of racism.

John H. Lederer - 9/8/2005

It is a little more complicated than that:

1. Flood control and subsidence are in a catch-22. If you control floods, the delta will subside. Delta soil is silt and silt compacts,erodes, and subsides unless renewed by floods. Elimionating flood control would cause huge losses like the flood of 1928.

2. The loss of barrier land is serious and a major problem, but in this particular instance the surge by passed the marshlands (existing and lost) and came directly up the bay from the gulf into the Lake Pontchartrain area. A different path and the lost marshlands would have mattered, but not in this storm.

William J. Stepp - 9/8/2005

It seems likely that one of the big stories that will come out of Katrina is the gross imcompetence of state and local officials in Louisiana. The fact that the mayor of New Orleans is black might insulate him from criticism of left-wing historians, as you imply. People on the left also tend to give the state a free pass, at least when it's controlled by liberal Democrats or people who they look kindly on politically. Of course, they would be critical of Bush, even blaming him for things he had no power over.
The NBC news this evening is reviewing some of the massive government screw ups at all levels from the locals to the Feds.

Bill Heuisler - 9/8/2005

Mr. Clarke,
Poetic. But Foner blames racism in his second paragraph:

"Indeed, it is hard to think of a time, other than at the height of the civil rights movement, when the plight of poor black Southerners so deeply stirred the conscience of the nation. Perhaps Hurricane Katrina will go down in history alongside Bull Connor's fire hoses in Birmingham and the Alabama State Troopers' nightsticks at Selma as a catalyst for a new national self-awareness regarding the unfinished struggle for racial justice..."

His answer for everything is race and class-struggle. He is wrong as usual.

Reality? Red Cross was forbidden to deliver food to the Superdome by the Mayor. The huge bus fleet didn't evacuate the poor because the Mayor didn't bother. Could Mayor Nagin be immune to criticism by Foner because a black Mayor's incompetance doesn't fit his own racist template?
Bill Heuisler

John R. Maass - 9/8/2005

The snotty responses by Frederick Thomas are all too typical of this site in general. I have come to call this genre of response as "e-cowardice," in that one like Frederick Thomas presumably would never have the balls to speak to someone like that in person, assuming he was raised with any manners at all. Snide comments, the use of the word "duh", etc., are all characteristics of the "e-coward" and too commonly seen....JM

John R. Maass - 9/8/2005

Mr. Foner writes:
"Let's hope the country finally awakens to the consequences of years of trickle-down economics, tax cuts for the rich, privatization of public responsibilities and the demonization of both government and the poor."
Huzzah!! I can't wait to see Mr. Foner on the front lines at Columbia, fighting to support that university's poor, downtrodden class--grad student TA's. Actions speak louder than words!

Frederick Thomas - 9/8/2005

When you lead with grammar errors, such as "if your (sic) so smart", if hurts the strength of your argument. You have done that twice. Word to the wise.

Jesse Jackson is a racist. He lives racism every day, using race baiting to shake down companies, governments, individuals, and other whole races for money, which is his bottom line.

So is anyone who maliciously calls another group racist to try to get a political advantage, or whose line of argument and political belief is dependent upon attacking a race or group-Europeans, Africans, Mexicatl, Aleuts, Han, etc.- any identifiable group.

If you believe with me that all racism is poison, then screeds which even imply ominous racial guilt on groups, as does Mr. Foner's, would be denounced by you, not supported.

As far as writing an article, that is something I do frequently, usually reporting on human interest, history, techology, or social issues, in addition to running my company.

However, I would rather write for Pravda than the NY Times. As least "Pravda" has truth in its name!

Jim B. Harris - 9/8/2005

I know I have learned one valuable lesson from watching the effects of Hurricane Katrina.

If I ever decide to live in a city that sits below sea level, one that sits underneath the Mississippi on one side, underneath Lake P on another, and behind me sits the Gulf of Mexico, and I get 3 days notice that a Level 5 Hurricane is headed to my home, I have learned that I should get out of town.

And if I don't get out of town, despite all the media coverage, and plea's from the mayor, I have learned that I should not blame anyone else for my death or misery, especially the President of the United States.

Unless of course, and this is just talking out loud here, I despised the President of the United States prior to the disaster, and again, just thinking, I might figure it would help my political party score some points, then yes, I would blame the President.

That is what I have learned. What has the Foner learned? Would he disagree with what I have learned?

Grant W Jones - 9/8/2005

Remember Bill, since the fall of the Berlin Wall and Foner's "Noble Experiment," the dialectic materialists have no other recourse but to modify the liturgy from class enemies as the reason for all human suffering to race enemies.

Foner still must believe in utopia. If his brand of socialist were running things there would be no hurricanes, and state constructed levees would not collaspe and gumdrops would ran from the sky instead of too much water.


William J. Stepp - 9/8/2005

In thinking about the plight of the poor and displaced Gulf-area residents, Mr. Foner mulls the power of outrage; and there is surely plenty of blame to go around, if not actual legal liability. But before assigning blame, why not assess the human causes of the catastrophe first? Isn't this how prosecuters establish a case?

Mr. Foner does assign blame to "trickle-down economics, tax cuts for the rich, privitization of public responsibilities and the demonization of both government and the poor."
The poor existed before trickle-down economics entered the lexicon. Tax cuts didn't cause poverty.

In citing "privitization of public responsibilities," he comes closer to the causes of Katrina and therefore to the source of their
displacement. Unfortunately, the mand-made problems that led to their discomfort were made mostly in Washington D.C. and Louisiana.

Let's summarize the causes of these man-made problems left in Katrina's wake.
Since 1930, the Army Corps of Engineers, a government outfit, removed 1,900 square miles of marshes ("wetlands," to be politically correct), which is over a million acres, from the delta of the Mississippi. It also leveled barrier islands and removed tupelo stands. These parts of the ecosystem would have absorbed energy from the storm, thus mitigating its effects, and no doubt saving lives and property.
According to several studies, every square mile of lost marshes causes the storm surge to be at least a foot higher than it would have been. The force of the surges was far worse than that of the rainfall.

The levees themselves (more state projects) contributed to the problem because they were not designed to hold up against a category 4 storm. They also prevented the Mississippi from replenishing marshes and the delta with silt deposits. The rechanneling of shipping routes exacerbated this problem.

One result of this reengineering by the State was the New Orleans fell below sea level, in some places by as much as ten feet. The city has been slowly sinking for years by about an inch annually.
Ted Steinberg, author of "Acts of God," mentioned in the Wall Street Journal that the Gulf of Mexico has moved a lot closer since Hurricane Betsy went through in 1965. Now it's in the city.

FEMA and federal flood insurance subsidized buidling and rebuilding in hurricane zones. Holman W. Jenkins Jr. pointed out yesterday in his WSJ column, "Gambling with Your Money, Their Lives," that federal money to flood victims has been increasing and subsidizing more risk taking. Many homeowners have collected subsidies worth more than their homes, which induce them to build bigger and fancier places. Local governments have also hopped on the federal gravy train because they like being paid by Washington to subsidize local builders, who get more projects. Jenkins asks if they'll ever zone against developing in floodplains. He quotes one official saying hurricanes are urban renewal programs. More welfare for the construction industry would be a disaster than could lead to bigger disasters, which might displace even more poor people.

FEMAs bureaucratic snafus and communications breakdowns haven't become the butt of late night comedy only because of the unfolding tragedy. But at least it's off the hook for the bungling caused by state officials in Louisiana, such as turning away the Red Cross and three Wal-Mart trucks loaded with supplies.
Meanwhile, Wal-Mart, that bete noire of the left, was prepared to send a small army of trucks and supplies to the area the day *before* Katrina hit. Contrast its response with Washington's and Baton Rouge's. But at least Gov. Blanco thought to throw a subsidy at James Lee Witt, to get him on her side.

As for the poor, let's remember that Louisiana is the third poorest state, behind Mississippi and New Mexico. It has one of the highest ratios of welfare to earned income in the nation. If people on the left want to change this, I suggest they drop their socialism and statism, and opposition to companies such as Wal-Mart, that help the poor with "everyday low prices" of their own, and by making their supply chain more efficient, which forces other companies to lower their prices.

If Louisina had more privitization (i.e., a bigger private economy) and less government, maybe Katrina would have been less of a disaster.
The unintended consequences of nature's fury are always worse when combined with government's planning.

Richard Fell - 9/8/2005

The general statement about racism, which does exist, unless you live in another world, wasn´t directed at you or anyone else on this site. Yet you decided to get ugly yourself because I expressed my compliments toward Foner which violently contrasted with yours. It´s my right to comment and it´s your right to express yourself. However, you decided to set the tone by calling me a racist right off. If you want to have a discussion of that sort it would be better for you to move to on the blogs found at FrontpageMagazine or Rush Limbaugh. There your mindset, which seems to be the ugliest truth of all, would make sense among all your fellow ideolgues like Michael Lopez Caldron.

It is also amazing how you have all the details about what went down in New Orleans. If your so smart, I challenge you to write a piece for HNN or for the New York Times, if you have the wit or anything original to say. Write an article and tell the truth about New Orleans and the storm. Stick your neck out with what you believe is the truth and see what happens. But I doubt if you have the capacity to even write a simple journalist article. It would be too pompous and devoid of real thought.

Frederick Thomas - 9/8/2005

Nuanced, objective, intelligent, farsighted. Mmmm..

This is an excellent post.

Frederick Thomas - 9/8/2005

Thank you for your comments, but I feel the racism is more on your side and Mr. Foner's. If you continue on this track you may find people giving as little credence to what you say as they do to Jesse Jackson.

The "sharp class distinctions" you allege for the South are never more sharp than in Northern cities, such as Detroit, which are mainly run by black democrats who swear they are not racist. Please explain.

In this case the black indigents of New Orleans who were killed were killed by the utterly corrupt black democratic mayor and vapid democratic governor who refused to forcibly evacuate citizens (on the 500+ available buses).

Instead the buses were ruined by the storm, and police simply took off. They were AWOL. How do you spell "criminal incompetence?" How about the race rapping black democrat mayor of New Orleans, the airhead democrat governor, and the clown chief democrat Dean, who will lift every rock in a desperate and futile desire for electoral success?

This problem is getting worse, not better. In 1969 a real hurricane, Camille, leveled the entire Gulf coast. I provided detail about this elsewhere, but the winds were 100 mph faster, the storm surge was twice as high, and you get the idea.

But almost no one was killed. Duh. The police moved in as they should have here and forcibly removed those who would not go. By this means they saved their lives.

Now, both mayor and governor were democrats in 1969, but they were Dixie democrats and were sometimes called racists by leftie race baiters. Tell me, please: who cared more about the lives of the black indigents, the 1969 team who saved them or the 2005 team who let them die? Which team was more racist? Which team was more humane?

Why were the more exposed cities such as Biloxi spared the loss of life of Nawlins? Duh. The folks there were evacuated by a competent local government, enforced by competent police. This fact is important, and at times you should acknowledge it. Racism did not kill those people. Leftist governmental incompetence did.

By the way, the reason why many blacks were affected is that Nawlins is a black city. Duh. I also note that rich, white oil city Houston, Texas is the city that took in most of the survivors. This kind of confounds the racism hypothesis, does it not?

Thank you again for your comments, which I wish you would reconsider.

Richard Fell - 9/8/2005

Good comments Mr. Foner.

Not only did Katrina destroyed buildings and lives across the Gulf Coast but it also uncovered the South's sharp class distinctions. Black and white. This is a fact that many white Americans fail to admit. In a way, this makes these particular people racist by proxy or BSérs. Because unless they are suddenly slipped out of their familiar life and placed into these war zone streets with no help in sight and facing a possible street death sentence, whites have no idea how sharp the distinctions between white and black has continued to grow in this country. The storm blew away some of the facade.

Not all, but many of the people who could not leave before the storm struck were black. Most were the poor. The extensive television, as well as first/hand reports, from many sources US and international bears this out. There were, however, clusters of professional class whites and their families who stayed behind to help. Working in hospitals or other medical teams. One account tells about a white family that had to be evacuated from the Convention Center because some of the discontented blacks would have killed them had they spent the night. This is a place where black mobs threw rocks at rescue helicopters and wheeled dead bodies around like trophies on shopping carts while they swilled stolen liquor and checked the rounds in their stolen weapons. Most of these were youths or other blacks not easily classifiable, and not representative of the majority of the blacks waiting at the convention center to be bussed off somewhere. The movers and the shakers of the city were long gone. No coincidence.

Buses were available for the poor before the storm with ordinary bus drivers to drive them but the people tried to fight their way on and the bus drivers just drove right off again. I can't say I blame them, they had no police protection, nothing. They were just regular drivers. They were not trained to deal with this, a lawless environment where even police were defending themselves at their Fort Apache when the darkness fell.

Bill Heuisler - 9/7/2005

Mr. Foner,
Naming race as reason for the slow response to Katrina is contemptible. Implying racism without facts is typical of a Marxist with an agenda, but beneath a historian. Are you aware Mayor Nagin is responsible for the lack of evacuation? Probably not.

The Governor of Louisiana turned down the offer of early federal help prior to the hurricane and National Guard troops were not sent to New Orleans by the Governor until the disaster was two days old. The Mayor of New Orleans had a disaster plan in hand that was to utilize over 500 busses (school and transit) for the expected evacuation of the city. Those busses are parked in rows in city and school district lots in five feet of water.
Is Mayor Nagin a racist?

A competent historian shouldn't shoot off his mouth without having all the facts. You're supposed to be competent. Could your racially tinged opinions be wishful thinking?
Bill Heuisler