Freedom Rider: The Hurricane and the Failed State


by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

Hurricanes and other “acts of God” provide a dramatic stage for some of the ugliest - or most endearing - acts of man. “If there is any silver lining to this awful event it is showing the limits of politics and the need for grass roots organizing to meet public needs.”


Freedom Rider: The Hurricane and the Failed State

by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

Occupy Sandy had no money yet managed to provide food, clothing and medical care to the hardest hit neighborhoods.”

So-called advanced nations are never so advanced that they can stand up to the forces of nature. New York and New Jersey are just the latest examples of seemingly safe and “developed” places which were laid low by a change in the weather. Then again, things outside of human control can expose what was already present but kept hidden. Hurricane Sandy showed us that our society is in reality, not advanced at all.

After the hurricane struck the east coast, it was clear that the United States is nothing more than a failed state with a big military and a strong currency. There is nothing in place to help the masses of citizens in times of crisis. That is because the system isn’t meant to help them. It is meant to help certain individuals and corporations, and everyone else is on their own.

It is ironic that the storm struck just one week before election day. Presidential elections are occasions for Americans to take pride in their so-called democracy and their perceived superiority to the rest of the world. It should have been difficult to gloat this year, when the city of New York literally pulled the plug on housing authority residents, turning off electricity before the storm to force residents to evacuate.

Hurricane Sandy showed us that our society is in reality, not advanced at all.

Now one week later, many of them are still waiting for their power to be restored. The mayor said glibly that it will “take time” as another storm bears down and temperatures drop. Thousands of people are waiting on line to buy gasoline and evacuees have nowhere to go. While public officials struggled to restore infrastructure and take care of human beings, the parasites of the private sector had their hands out yet again.

The charitable organization most people were directed to was the Red Cross. That same Red Cross did nothing after receiving millions of dollars in donations during hurricane Katrina, yet is still forced down Americans’ throats as the only solution in every catastrophe. The borough president of Staten Island, righteously angry about Red Cross inaction, used the occasion of a press conference to tell the public to stop giving them money.

While the Red Cross collected more than $23 million dollars during a celebrity telethon but did nothing with the money, Occupy Sandy had no money yet managed to provide food, clothing and medical care to the hardest hit neighborhoods. The Occupy teams pumped water from damaged homes and even gave direction to the National Guard and FEMA teams. The least effective group got all the cash, but Occupy did the real work without help from the public or private sector.

The mayor and the governor held press conferences to thank each other and the now sainted “first responders,” while residents struggled to return to normalcy without gasoline for cars or access to public transportation. Mayor Bloomberg initially insisted on holding the annual marathon until he was forced to cancel because of public and political pressure. The corporate sponsored event, officially named the ING New York City Marathon, is his baby and he was dragged kicking and screaming to concede that it would have been at the very least impolitic to continue this frivolous tradition after more than 40 New Yorkers were killed.

Thousands of people are waiting on line to buy gasoline and evacuees have nowhere to go.”

New York was once a city that made room for everyone. Working people, migrants from the southern states and immigrants from all over the world used New York as their stepping stone to a better life. Now it is a city of, by and for the haves. It is the epicenter of inequality and displacement of the poor. Gentrification is taking place at a speedy pace, with an outflow of black residents being replaced on a one for one basis by white newcomers. While nearly all of the bragged about job growth in recent years has been in part-time, hourly work, those workers obviously didn’t get paid if they were unable to get to their jobs or if their employers weren’t operational.

The hurricane didn’t just reveal the under belly of inequality in New York, but also the corruption and dishonesty of American politics. New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg bestowed a last minute endorsement on Barack Obama’s re-election effort. In part, he said, because Obama acknowledges the existence of the global warming which has caused an increase in extreme weather events. He certainly knows how to give lip service, but he has approved offshore oil drilling, and fracking, and drilling in fragile regions of Alaska. During the debates with Mitt Romney he bragged about how much gas drilling he ordered in federal lands. Any fuel that comes from the earth is a fossil fuel and therefore contributes to climate change. Obama’s puny and meaningless acknowledgement, in comparison to right wing flat earth theory, is now considered to be something that it isn’t. Just like the rest of his policies.

Workers obviously didn’t get paid if they were unable to get to their jobs.”

Hurricane Sandy pointed out in very bold relief that our system just doesn’t work for very many people. Politicians are beholden to the haves for their positions, but the have nots are of no importance because they can’t write big checks or get anyone elected to office. But if the Occupy model were to in place, politicians would have to meet everyone’s needs because involvement in electoral politics is not the goal of activism. If there is any silver lining to this awful event it is showing the limits of politics and the need for grass roots organizing to meet public needs.

The few things that were done well since this tragedy began teach us the same lessons about activism. When politicians complained about the Red Cross, they finally showed up. When the public and politicians demanded a cancellation of the marathon, they succeeded. When Occupy didn’t listen to the city or to FEMA and decided on its own to help people in need, they did it successfully with hardly any money.

The new lessons are the same as the old. Activism without acquiescence to political power can succeed in bringing about tremendous change. There will always be catastrophes but we should not expect a failed system to save us from them.

Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)


Yes. I agree with Ms. Kimberly on this one. Like minds

I'd posted on the notice just above,that the radio show was not happening, before Ms. Kimberly's blog post went up.  Like minds on this one. 

And the media was "missing in action" on poor people after Hurricane or Superstorm Sandy.  A couple of examples:  There was no mention on the radio, of Coney Islanders stranded in public housing until the Monday after the storm and very late mention of those stuck in high rise housing, the disabled, the elderly, the poor (overlaps of all groups) in Chinatown, or anywheres else in Manhattan, in the dark without electric power. Staten Island was "off the radar" not only for the Red Cross (which sold coffee to people near the wreckage of the World Trade Center in those days...).  The old excuse used to be "poor people don't vote so...", which is nonsense as explanation for why pols let people suffer.  The police are geared to quell but not to help, often.  In Superstorm Sandy aftermath, the media only spoke of police in re exaggerations re looting, that police were directing traffic (needed) at gas stations, but nothing re helping people.  Callers to radio shows said the police wouldn't give any information to stranded people with no electricity, therefore no means of media/communication.  Pols are in denial, too, re disaster re storms in climate change era and don't want to spend any money on infrastructure fix.Or the unrich.

Update/"Breaking News" AP story on the just went online that the Cuban gov't is giving subsidies and loans for Cubans in 3 areas of the island to get buy building supplies at 50% off to rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy.  One of the areas mentioned is Guantanamo area (not the base, which was imperialistically wrestled from Cuba as condition of US ending the occupation of Cuba and a 99year lease was put into the Cuban constitution, I think.)

‘Post-Racial’ USA in Age of Obama's? Don’t Believe the HYPE!

I know Sis Kimberley & the VoxUnion story 'Why Is Sandy a Political Issue'- is looking at the big picture RE: the Obama & Bloomberg, Corey Booker Regimes & FEMA {mis}Handling & 'spinning' of the 'Sandy' Crisis. Obama, Bloomberg, etc want to look like they're really 'On It'- as opposed to Bush Jr & the mayor of New Orleans & Gov of LA during the Katrina fiasco [IMO if Katrina had hit in Aug 2004 instead of Aug 2005 Bush Jr would NOT have got his 2nd bite of the rotten apple- despite his & OH Repugs vote flipping shenanegans {52% to 48 Kerry vs Bush to 52% to 48% the other way round} in OH Nov 2004]. Obama also used Sandy as a way of taking a poly-trickal pot-shot at RawMoney for saying he would abolish FEMA. 

Never-the-Less the story about the tragic drowning of thoes 2 little boys after their mother was refused refuge & 'Shelter from the Storm' says something about the real state of racial affairs in so-called 'Post-Racial' USA [NOT!]. Also IMO seemed CNN tried to hide an important factor while presenting the story [this same CNN tried to hide the fact that one of its own Black woman CNN sound-techs was assaulted & racially insulted at 2012's RNC Confab]. Note the story of this Tragedy below: - Photo of Damien & Glenda Moore after the loss of their 2 small boys 

Young brothers, 'denied refuge,' swept to death by Sandy  

 By Tim Hume, CNN Nov 4, 2012

‘It's unfortunate. {but} She shouldn't have been outA Staten Island homeowner accused of failing to help a mother and her 2 small boys

(CNN) -- As Super-storm Sandy ravaged New York, Glenda Moore drove frantically across Staten Island in an attempt to get her 2 small sons to safety. Unfortunately buffeted by torrential rains and winds of up to 90 mph, her SUV plunged into a ditch.

Glenda Moore- 39, told police she clung to her 2 small sons for hours, before she managed to make her way to a nearby property, and pleaded to be let inside. But according to her police account, rather than sheltering the desperate strangers, the occupant refused to let them in.

In desperation, Mrs Moore told police she then went to the back of the house, and tried to break in using a flower pot, but was unable to do so. As the storm raged on, her sons were swept away by floodwaters. The bodies of the 2 brothers were found near each other Thursday, a quarter of a mile from where Mrs Moore last held them.

Relatives said Mrs Moore was too distraught to speak with CNN.

Meanwhile, public anger has been directed at the homeowner who allegedly failed to help Moore and her children. The man, who told CNN's Gary Tuchman that his name is Alan [He’s white] but did not want his full name used [last name Ferretti- 48, a dentist], disputed Mrs Moore's account, claiming he saw only a man outside.

"He didn't come to the door... he must have been standing at the bottom of the stairs," said the man. "He took a concrete flower pot... and threw it through the door."

The man at the door didn't ask to enter the house, he said, but instead asked him to come outside in order to help.

"What could I do to help him?" he asked. 

The man told CNN he sat up for the rest of the night, with his back against the kitchen door.

He said he did not know the fate of the children. Told that their bodies had been found, he said the deaths were a tragedy, but implied that the woman was at fault.

"It's unfortunate. [But] She shouldn't have been out..."he said.


Also @ - Thur, Nov 1, 2012 by Christina Stiehl:

The mom of 2 Staten Island boys begged neighbors for help after her boys were swept away by Hurricane Sandy — only to have the door slammed in her face. After searching for Brandon Moore- 2, and his brother Corey- 4, police found the bodies of the 2 boys just yards from where they went missing. Their mother Glenda Moore- 39, spent 12 hours screaming for help after they were ripped from her arms during the hurricane — and no one would help.

Just before 6 pm on Oct 29, Glenda’s car got stuck in the road right as the hurricane hit Staten Island. The floodwaters overpowered her vehicle, and even though Glenda tried to hold on to her boys, they got sucked away by the rushing water. When they disappeared, the frantic mom kicked on a neighbor’s door for help — but was turned away.

“I can’t believe the way she was treated by the people she went to for help,” Glenda’s cousin Nancy Jean told NBC. “The first person she knocked on, she begged them and said, ‘please call 911. They told her: ‘I don’t know you,’ and closed the door. She tried another door but they turned the lights off,” she said. ”I can’t imagine what she was thinking then. She sat down for 12 hours and was just screaming...” 

[ Mrs Moore confronted Alan Ferretti the day after the tragedy when she went to the scene and had to be restrained as she screamed: ‘I asked you to help me, you bastard!’ - Read more @  ] 


I first got wind of this tragic story on CNN. I saw the interview w ‘Alan’, which is why I know he’s a white guy. But I found it curious that CNN [nor any other lame-stream media] didn’t show any pics of the mother or her 2 boys- which made me suspect that she was probably Black, which indeed she is- though her husband & father of the boys is apparently white [FYI: I had to hunt around the internet till I found her photo]. Even the CNN folks seemed to doubt Alan’s ‘spin’ on what actually happened, because Mrs Moore’s account just sounds more credible. So the $million$ question is why did this Alan Ferretti guy refuse to give Mrs Moore & her 2 small sons ‘Shelter From the Storm’??? Could it be because she’s BLACK???

[PS: IMO Its noteworthy that the most extensive photo essay coverage of Corey & Brandon Moore's funeral- showing their devasted greif-stricken parents [Glenda & Damien] is in the UK's Nov 9th Daily Mail {see above link} as in all the way across the Atlantic- UK.]


Other Recent News dispelling the so-called Post-Racial USA Myth: 


Justice Department lawsuit says arrests in Meridian Miss schools violate students’ rights

 Associated Press & Washington Post, Oct 24, 2012: JACKSON, Miss.

Authorities in east Mississippi run a “school-to-prison pipeline” that locks up students for infractions like flatulence or wearing the wrong color socks, a policy that mainly affects Black and disabled children, the U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday in a federal lawsuit.

The Justice Department’s investigation began in December 2011. The school district has 6,000 students, with 86% being Black and 12% being white. From 2006 to the first semester of the 2009-2010 school year, all the students referred to law enforcement or expelled were Black and 96% of those suspended were Black, the lawsuit said.


Racial Views: Poll Shows Majority Harbor Prejudice Against Blacks


Racial attitudes have not improved in the 4 years since the US elected its first Black president, an Associated Press poll finds, as a slight majority of Americans now express prejudice toward Blacks whether they recognize those feelings or not.

51% of Americans now express explicit anti-Black attitudes, compared with 48% in a similar 2008 survey. When measured by an implicit racial attitudes test, the number of Americans with anti-Black sentiments jumped to 56%, up from 49% during the last presidential election. In both tests, the share of Americans expressing pro-black attitudes fell.

"As much as we'd hope the impact of race would decline over time ... it appears the impact of anti-Black sentiment on voting is about the same as it was four years ago," said Jon Krosnick, a Stanford University professor who worked with AP to develop the survey.

Most Americans expressed anti-Hispanic sentiments, too. In an AP survey done in 2011, 52% of non-Hispanic whites expressed anti-Hispanic attitudes. That figure rose to 57% in the implicit test.

The AP surveys were conducted with researchers from Stanford University, the Univ of Mich and NORC at the Univ of Chicago.

One local group in Detroit:the Boggs Center  Google Search James + Grace Lee Boggs Center, Detroit 

Grace Lee Boggs has said in many interviews that community organizing is the answer in communities where the government has failed the people.  It is one of several groups in Detroit doing activist organizing and making change.

M. Kimberly's idea is getting newspaper traction-

BAR is even more important now, post-election.  Another small check is in the mail (before my rent goes up, again) to BAR.  I'm ending comment with a smile, Gen. Petraeus (I finally learned how to spell it so I could make this joke) - Gen. Petraeus resigned from CIA today; he thought he was John Edwards (suggested by Daily Mail story). 

Added: Post Sandy grants to artists: I thought I was finished, but I just got an email from A.R.T.I.S.T., the street artists' organization in NYC, and there was the aticle from The Villager, (NYC small newspaper) "Arts orgs offer deluge of grants after storm" by Sam Spokony, Nov.9, 2012.  There are groups giving grants, not loans, to artists who had storm damage.  (I can't do a link.Google search, for article with list of orgs, organizations giving money.  I once worked as an artist-in-residence for one of the groups, long ago, one of the first 3 artists* in Studio in A School, which was then run by NY Foundation for the Arts, which is on the list giving grants, not loans. *pilot program of SIAS was 3 artists: me in Bensonhurst, a Black artist, who was also a producer of Emanations, WBAI radio later, in Bed-Sty and a Latino in East Harlem.  We continued for a couple of years in our schools as the program expanded; it's still going. The other 2 artists were men. My art teaching did work with all the classes; 900 kids, I think.  97% Italian, some newly arrived and some bused in from Coney Island, one stop beyond the school on elevated train, who were Black, and one Latino. 1977)  Note: I am not endorsing any organization or nonprofit.  I am ambivalent about nonprofits/foundations: pertinent criticism is that nonprofits blunt the activism of people who are revolutionaries, diluted/co-opting their fire for change.  Grant applications are time consuming (or were in the days they were "around", years ago). When in financial desperate, when I first became ill, I got lucky twice, in the mid80s. 

beverly:story in NYTimes Examiner by M. Stevenson

There's a story in the NY Times Examiner by Matthew Stevenson on Gen. Petraeus,"The Long Knives of November".  The fairly new website was started by Chris Spannos in order to scrutinize and "catch" the NY Times in b.s. and lies.