The Charlotte News

Monday, August 21, 1939


Site Ed. Note: We put this here, not because of "Change of Tactics", not because of "Pioneer Stuff" of a few days earlier, nor "The Man's Man", a few days later.

The reason we put it here is because it happened shortly after we put these editorials here.

It wasn't a disaster precipitated by man this time, at least not directly.

It was Nature, Nature's force, and Nature's force only, at work upon the grand old Crescent City and the grand old coastline along the Gulf.

We were there but four years ago round about now, just passing through on a boiling hot summer afternoon and evening, having been there a few times before. We sat on the beach awhile at Biloxi; we walked around the battlefield where the Battle of New Orleans was fought with Old Hickory and his men at the end of the War of 1812 in 1815, then through the steambathed narrow passages of the French Quarter that evening-- stopped in an oyster bar to quench ourselves in cooling water. We thought of times old, Civil War times, older times under Spanish and French rule, reminded by the old French Market, the old French and Spanish buildings, the Cabildo, the Presbytere, St. Louis Cathedral, the Place d'Arms, that is Jackson Square, the Café du Monde, where we finished the evening with beignets and even the best muddy coffee in the world, despite the heat.

Excepting the latter spot which we hear has survived this angry gal named Katrina thanks to a strong levee wall, we don't know now how much of the rest of that still exists, or exists without incalculable damage, psychic and physical. Apparently little around Biloxi and the Gulf Coast has--except the natural fortitude and generosity of the people who normally inhabit there. And the lasting damage to the Crescent City won't be known for weeks probably, until the waters recede--the waters which for now continue to rise this night in latter August, 2005.

The portent for what's to come is not good--disease, absence of essential services, the things we take for granted, food, potable water, secure dwellings, yards, dry living spaces--all gone for a time unknown, but probably for at least weeks. Probably the worst disaster in the country's history it will turn out to be, death toll yet unknown. And it will impact the rest of the country over time, not just Louisiana and Mississippi.

Someone said, "The City has been here forever and it will continue to be." He said he was staying.

But that was before the storm, before in its wake the levee broke and the roiling waters of Lake Ponchartrain came hurling through it into the decrescent which was the Crescent City.

We've personally been through some natural disasters, a particularly bad earthquake sixteen years back, a couple of particularly bad hurricanes in the mid-fifties, one named Hazel, when we were too young to know much about their terror and power other than that the trees were all bending in ways they didn't normally and that it looked fairly foreboding, though we didn't know that word then.

But in those, things stayed put. The house held in the latter, the ground held firm where we were in the former. Though some of it gave way where we had been just minutes earlier--leading us then to contemplate our mortality, fragile as it is on each day we go around on this turbulent planet which holds us all as guests. And we haven't been quite the same since, just as the residents of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast will never again be quite the same, even after they rebuild their lives.

On those occasions, the ones we experienced, the disaster ended relatively quickly and clean-up began almost immediately. Even in New York in 2001, such was the case.

But this one is different. Clean-up cannot begin as yet. The disaster creeps and continues to creep, almost in stealth, as water will, seeking its level.

It is the Unsinkable Titanic hitting its iceberg? Maybe. Maybe not.

Poor urban and regional planning for decades past, maybe centuries, failure to recognize the need for replenishment of the alluvial plain around, unnaturally depleted for centuries by development in the Mississippi Delta and the consequent unnatural diversion of the river from its desired course written over millennia, fueled in turn by too many partially and fully corrupt paid-off pols and their payors, blinded by expediency, the desire to make a too quick buck off this or that development of land? Probably that and more.

Too much reliance on fossil fuels for the past century, especially since we became aware of the problem in the early 1970's, without abatement, without enough recognition in high places of the problem and its portent, accelerating global warming from its natural cycle by hundreds of years, maybe thousands, in turn accelerating the intensity and frequency of hurricanes by the process of churning the waters in the Atlantic basin more furiously each season as the tidal flow comes off the coast of Africa to the west in its natural current, as it has for time immemorial, since before this country was a glimmer in anyone's eye--forever, said the gentleman-- but not under these climatic conditions we have created for it? Probably, that, too, and more.

But of course, not really those things, though accelerate them we have and do. For 150 years since the industrial revolution began is not forever. Forever embraces time before this country, before the Middle Ages, before England, before Europe, before Rome and Hellenism and the gods of mythology, before Aelous and Zephyrus, before Jove and Cosijo, before hosannas were raised to Heaven by desert dwellers to invest prayers for rain, before Time itself began to be measured, before Wotan's Day and Thor's Day--before consciousness in any human sense.

That is forever.

We all eventually pass into it, maybe even from it. We can't say. But it is there. Nature. Forever.

The City will come and the City will go, whether Athens, Rome, Paris, New Orleans. Man is not going to control the inexorable forces from without, the ultimate forces, the forces of forever, against which the fortress is both shored most against and against which it is least defensible. It is the ultimate terroristic phalanx charging our phalanstery.

It is Nature, that is, with which we must learn to live in symbiosis. We are merely its guests, and therefore its stewards, while we are riding it for awhile, whirling round and round daily for threescore and ten, a little more or less.

It will not retreat or surrender to us, not for good anyway, days in the sunshine, habituated to the halcyon breeze, notwithstanding. We cannot sign a treaty with it or send armies or air forces, navies or space shuttles or even nuclear missiles stumped with mighty multi-warheads to harness it or hold it from our bays, to abate its force. Nor would we wish so to do. For its force gave us birth, nurtures us and grants us life and air fit to breathe.

Yes, it is a stubborn and fickle host. Sometimes, it rumbles and shakes for a few seconds and makes ostensible terra firma into a sea of mud, or, as now, shrieks and howls and raises itself from the sea amid the swirling maelstrom and takes us, harnessed to it involuntarily, for a horror ride, a ride through time, a ride away to somewhere unknown. It may set us down again, after only a bit of time passes, lightly or harshly--but always willy-nilly, regardless of class, race, sex, age, riches or not, club membership, homeless, princely adorned. Ultimately, there is no judgment here, when Nature makes itself known in these terrible ways. The bad aren't destroyed while the good survive. Nature is irreverent that way, indiscriminate, as the wind and the rain.

Churches, gambling dins, dins of all sorts, homes, good homes, bad homes, old homes, stately homes, mean homes, transient homes, homes fixed in the bricked founded ground through two centuries, homes surviving the Battle of New Orleans, the Civil War, homes laden with moss, homes laid to rot or almost seeming so, homes in cardboard boxes down the blind alley, homes with newspaper insulating from the cold when the short winter shall come--all made one in a whorling welter of wind and rain and the afterward encroachment of the source of life, the water, hurrying on with the fury of the Cane.

The French in the Caribbean called it ouragan. In that we hear "outrage". The Spanish pronounced it furacan or huraca : "These tempestes of the ayer (which the Grecians caule Tiphones...) they caule Furacanes... violent and furious Furacanes, that plucked vppe greate trees... Great tempestes which they caule Furacanas or Haurachanas.+ouerthrowe many howses and great trees," said Pietro Martire Vermigli in 1555. "Hurricane" came as a perversion of speech in England around 1650, while earlier Raleigh had called it hurlecano in his 2nd Voyage Guiana in 1617.

And Shakespeare had said in Troilus and Cressida, Act V, Scene II, published 1609:

Ulysses. Why stay we, then?

Troilus. To make a recordation to my soul
Of every syllable that here was spoke.
But if I tell how these two did co-act,
Shall I not lie in publishing a truth?
Sith yet there is a credence in my heart,
An esperance so obstinately strong,
That doth invert the attest of eyes and ears,
As if those organs had deceptious functions,
Created only to calumniate.
Was Cressid here?

Ulyss. I cannot conjure, Trojan.

Tro. She was not, sure.

Ulyss. Most sure she was.

Tro. Why, my negation hath no taste of madness.

Ulyss. Nor mine, my lord: Cressid was here but now.

Tro. Let it not be believ'd for womanhood!
Think we had mothers; do not give advantage
To stubborn critics, apt, without a theme,
For depravation, to square the general sex
By Cressid's rule: rather think this not Cressid.

Ulyss. What hath she done, prince, that can soil our mothers?

Tro. Nothing at all, unless that this were she.

Thersites. Will he swagger himself out on's own eyes?

Tro. This she? no, this is Diomed's Cressida.
If beauty have a soul, this is not she;
If souls guide vows, if vows be sanctimony,
If sanctimony be the gods' delight,
If there be rule in unity itself,
This is not she. O madness of discourse,
That cause sets up with and against itself;
Bi-fold authority! where reason can revolt
Without perdition, and loss assume all reason
Without revolt: this is, and is not, Cressid.
Within my soul there doth conduce a fight
Of this strange nature that a thing inseparate
Divides more wider than the sky and earth;
And yet the spacious breadth of this division
Admits no orifice for a point as subtle
As Ariachne's broken woof to enter.
Instance, O instance! strong as Pluto's gates;
Cressid is mine, tied with the bonds of heaven:
Instance, O instance! strong as heaven itself;
The bonds of heaven are slipp'd, dissolv'd, and loos'd;
And with another knot, five-finger-tied,
The fractions of her faith, orts of her love,
The fragments, scraps, the bits, and greasy reliques
Of her o'er-eaten faith, are bound to Diomed.

Ulyss. May worthy Troilus be half attach'd
With that which here his passion doth express?

Tro. Ay, Greek; and that shall be divulged well
In characters as red as Mars his heart
Inflam'd with Venus: never did young man fancy
With so eternal and so fix'd a soul.
Hark, Greek: as much as I do Cressid love,
So much by weight hate I her Diomed;
That sleeve is mine that he'll bear on his helm;
Were it a casque compos'd by Vulcan's skill,
My sword should bite it.
Not the dreadful spout
Which shipmen do the hurricano call,
Constring'd in mass by the almighty sun,
Shall dizzy with more clamour Neptune's ear
In his descent than shall my prompted sword
Falling on Diomed.

Sometimes, the only thing one can do, as the flood waters rise and rise, is to lift one's voice and simply sing to the olde mercurial, unfaithful gal, that one named Katrina this time, the while maintaining that hallmark of the Elpistic creed--that is to say, Hope. Hoping she will shed her despised warring suitor and calm again, take mercy on you, and recede her watery browze from your side, sooner than too late.

Kathleen, mavourneen, the grey dawn is breaking,
The horn of the hunter is heard on the hill.
The lark from her light wing the bright dew is shaking,
Kathleen, mavourneen, what!
Slumbering still?

Oh, hast thou forgotten how soon we must sever?
Oh, hast thou forgotten this day we must part?
It may be for years, and it may be forever,
Then why art thou silent, thou voice of my heart?
It may be for years and it may be forever,
Then why art thou silent, Kathleen, mavourneen?

Kathleen, mavourneen, awake from thy slumbers,
The blue mountains glow in the sun's golden light.
Ah! Where is the spell that once hung on thy numbers,
Arise in thy beauty, thou star of my night!

Mavourneen, mavourneen, my sad tears are falling,
To think that from Erin and thee I must part!
It may be for years, and it may be forever,
Then why art thou silent, thou voice of my heart?
It may be for years and it may be forever,
Then why art thou silent, Kathleen, mavourneen?

--Kathleen, Malvourneen by Frederick William Nicholls Crouch

Cities--American cities--have been destroyed before, San Francisco in 1906, Chicago in 1871, even Washington in 1814. They came back; so, too, will New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, but much hardship, and probably greater than even now, remains before that will happen.

We offer a few pictures in series, first near Biloxi on the Gulf Coast, then the plantation grounds where the Battle of New Orleans was fought, then the French Quarter--as it was August 25, 2001, when times were at peace.

As we might hope someday to see it again.


Do we not hear the spirits of the past calling, warning, practically, of what is coming and what we can still do to arrest it?

The war of man versus Nature, or, better put, Nature versus man.

It is not Doomsday, not yet. But it is not that far away, maybe, and not so far away as we are led to believe by too many of those charged with the responsibility of leading us. Perhaps, this war to rid our dependence on fossils fuels, a dependence which will end either by the force of Nature itself, its depletion, or by our efforts to find a replacement which will not deplete, which will not pollute, which will not increase the incidence of cancer, which will not contribute to accelerated destruction of habitable Nature as we know it, may start in earnest here.

From the windswept Gulf Coast, from the drowned Crescent City, the foundations remaining might supply the impetus on which a stronger fortress may be built, a better war begun. The war to get along in symbiosis, the war to rid man of the need to get along in our world by means of ele, that which is piped from the shale off the Gulf shoals, and refined in its environs.

Then, and only then, may we go back to our muddy coffee and beignets at Café du Monde and be easy, truly easy.


Free Speech And Assembly Mean Just What They Say

The San Antonio Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars is going to hold a meeting tomorrow to decide whether to take out member Maury Maverick or to let him remain on the rolls. The black mark against Maury, now mayor of San Antonio after a term in Congress, is his willingness to let Communists have the municipal auditorium for a rally next Friday night--rather, his unwillingness to refuse it to them.

One would think that by this time the constitutional rights of free speech and peaceable assembly would have been clearly understood to apply to persons and organizations lacking general approval. Such guarantees would be superfluous and pointless if limited only to the right people, who have no need for them. It's the wrong people they were meant to protect, as Mayor Hague out in Jersey City. And as Mayor Maverick is determined to demonstrate in San Antonio.

Homer Yorick

A Quotation And The Fate Of A Noted Labor Leader

The modern labor leader is nothing if not literary in the grand manner--and especially those of the CIO. The denunciation poured on the head of old Jack Garner by Boss John Lewis had the authentic ring of the Biblical prophets in it. And now comes Mr. Richard T. Frankensteen (shades of Mary Shelley!), Detroit regional director of the CIO division of the United Automobile Workers, to crow over the swamping of Homer Martin, now head of the AFL branch of the UAW, in an NLRB election at the Packard plant, with:

"Alas, poor Homer! we knew him well."

Richard has his Shakespeare a little off the track, but, as a matter of fact, there is a great deal of pointedness in that quotation from which he leaps--maybe a little more than he intended. Here it is, from Hamlet, Act V, Scene 1:

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your jibes now? your gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now, to mock your own grinning? quite chap-fallen?

Homer may not have been a fellow of exactly infinite jest, but he certainly has been one of practically infinite change since he started out in the world as a parson. And certainly he did bear the UAW, which was in good CIO standing then, on his back in the high days of the sit-down strikes back in 1937, and certainly the CIO did cuddle up to him lovingly then. And if he has any merriment or grinning left in him--if he is not "quite-chap-fallen"--then he is an iron man. For the vote by his old following in that Packard election was 6,090 against him and only 1,547 for him.

Customs Duty*

Massachusetts Assumes The Power Of Sovereignty

If you go into Massachusetts with a single cigarette in your possession, you can, under the ruling of Tax Commissioner Henry F. Long, be clapped into jail for 60 days and socked $25 and the costs. Only, they aren't going to be quite that tough. But if you go in there with an unbroken package of cigarettes bought elsewhere and don't hasten around to the tax office and take out a license as an importer of cigarettes, they mean to give you the works--so says Mr. Long.

Massachusetts, you observe, has become a fully sovereign power. If you go to France or England or Germany or Italy or almost any other foreign country save Canada, you have to declare cigarettes that way and pay duty on them. But there is a clause in the Constitution of the United States which says Massachusetts can't lay tariffs. But there she is laying 'em just the same. And in the company of at least twelve other states.

They don't call 'em "tariffs," certainly. They call 'em "use taxes," and maintain that they are necessary to keep people from avoiding sales taxes by buying goods in other states. But tariffs they are just the same, as certainly barriers against interstate trade as the tariffs between countries. And the thing does not stop with the "use taxes." All sorts of the "quarantine" regulations, "health" laws, motor truck and trailer regulations, etc. exist in nearly all the states--for the sole purpose of either favoring a state's tax collections or the local industries and merchants.

It is exceedingly dangerous immediately for the whole national economy, but ultimately for the powers of the states. One of the main reasons for the adoption of the Constitution was precisely the necessity of heading off this sort of thing. And if the states can stay within the bounds laid down by that document, the inevitable result will be that all regulation of commerce will pass into the hands of the Federal Government.

Misguided Suit*

If It Should Win, The People Would Be Heavy Losers

Lawyers for the taxpayers suing to restrain the payment of salary to Police Commissioner Grice have prepared their appeal to the Supreme Court (from the judgment of a lower court). Their client appears determined to go ahead, and of course that is his right although he has had his day in court, and it went against him.

We are frank to declare a hope that he loses again. That would establish the legality of the office, whereas the high necessity for the office, under present circumstances, is beyond question.

There isn't any doubt about it. Indeed, if the litigating taxpayer would only look ahead to the contingency of winning his suit and having the office of Police Commissioner declared non-existent, he might foresee consequences which he had not at all counted on. Chiefly the consequence, that is, of depriving the Police Department of the first strong guiding hand it has had in lo these many years.

And of returning it to divided authority and lack of direction, a prey to politics and other undesirable influences.

Change Of Tactics

Murphy Rushes In Where Cummings Feared to Tread

Back there in 1936 when the Department of Justice called off its fraud cases against the Long machine in Louisiana (and the Louisiana delegation went shouting the name of Roosevelt to the Democratic Convention), nine members of the Grand Jury which had brought indictments wrote a letter to Homer Cummings, then Attorney General.

It was pretty hot. The gist of it was that the United States Government had condoned the commission of crimes in exchange for political support, a transaction that later came to be spoken of as the Second Louisiana Purchase

Get the high significance of that, now: a Grand Jury impugning the action of the Department of Justice!

The explanation of Federal District Attorney Viosca in New Orleans was that the cases were "too weak" to bring to trial and that anyhow there was a "changed atmosphere" in Louisiana political circles since one member of the ring--an unfortunate fellow by the name of Fisher--had been convicted of income tax frauds and actually sent to prison.

And Homer Cummings, Attorney General--his reply was that the Grand Jury's indignation was "synthetic" and that--

".... the Justice Department has full confidence in Mr. Viosca and feels that there is no ground for criticizing his action."

And that, remember, took place back in 1936. And now look at what's happening with the latest disclosures of corruption in Louisiana.

Attorney General Murphy, Cummings' successor, has sent his crack criminal prosecutor, John Rogge, scooting to Louisiana for the obvious purpose of compelling the District Attorney, this same Viosca, to stand up to his duty.

Every case with any Federal angle to it has been taken over by the Federals and punished.

Most remarkably of all, G-Men have debouched upon Louisiana and begun even in advance of the trials to detect and prevent any efforts at jury tampering.

We tell you, mates, times change, and so do Attorney Generals


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