September 7, 2005

Positivity: Katrina People Finder Is Up and Running

Filed under: Marvels,Positivity — Tom @ 11:22 pm

A double-dose of Positivity today (the earlier one is here): is operational. Go to RConversation for more, including links, about this marvelous accomplishment. It seems inevitable that many families will be reunited because of these efforts, and it’s impossible to be grateful enough to the people who have pulled it off.

Random Post-Katrina Observations (090705)

Poll Results Available But Not Reported

It has been about 24 hours since Drudge flashed the results of a “CNNUSATODAYGALLUP” poll about the storm:

Wed Sep 07 2005 10:42:26 ET

A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of 609 adults taken September 5-6 shows:

Blame Game — 13% said George W. Bush is “most responsible for the problems in New Orleans after the hurricane”; 18% said “federal agencies”; 25% said “state and local officials”; 38% said “no one is to blame”; 6% had no opinion. — 29% said that “top officials in the federal agencies responsible for handling emergencies should be fired”; 63% said they should not; 8% had no opinion.


Government Performance — 10% said George W. Bush has done a “great” job in “responding to the hurricane and subsequent flooding”; 25% said “good”; 21% said “neither good nor bad”; 18% said “bad”; 24% said “terrible”; 2% had no opinion. — 8% said federal government agencies responsible for handling emergencies have done a “great” job in “responding to the hurricane and subsequent flooding”; 27% said “good”; 20% said “neither good nor bad”; 20% said “bad”; 22% said “terrible”; 3% had no opinion. — 7% said state and local officials in Louisiana have done a “great” job in “responding to the hurricane and subsequent flooding”; 30% said “good”; 23% said “neither good nor bad”; 20% said “bad”; 15% said “terrible”; 5% had no opinion.


Gallup has released the results (HT NixGuy, whose post is from just before 2 PM), but after some searching, I see no indication that USAT or CNN is carrying them.

Hmm–That’s a lot of money to spend on something not reported on. Could it be that the results aren’t sufficiently critical of the president?

The Bleeping Blame Game

By now, it ought to be obvious that the New Orleans mayor and Louisiana’s Governor responded poorly before, during, and after the calamity. The Feds and FEMA didn’t cover themselves with glory, but anyone who has been through a decent high-school civics course should know where the primary responsibilities for public safety lie (hint: NOT in Washington DC).

Anyone who thinks the Feds (specifically the President) and FEMA were the major parties that blew it is going to have to substantively dispute the rigorously assembled timelines at DrumWaster and Right Wing Nuthouse. G’luck (Though they disagree a bit as to whether the Federal blame is zero or a little). Drumwaster link and related revisions were added early Thursday morning.

Porkopolis has infinitely more on:
- Refuting “The Feds Blew It (the most)” meme.
- The clear assignments of authority and responsibility marked off in various controlling documents.
- The pre-emptive “blame Bush” attempts by the Mainstream Media that began in the middle of last week.

Greedy Oil Companies Fail to Cash in on Obvious Opportunity to Gouge

Despite scattered reports indicating otherwise, gas prices at the pump and the barrel price of oil have not risen to the stratosphere in the wake of Katrina.

If you would have told me of the devastation that would be wrought by Katrina before it hit, I would have bet on a 20% gas price increase, and that it would stay at that level for a while. I would have lost that bet. It’s peaked at about $3 for regular here, up from about $2.70 or so before the storm hit, and it’s inching downard.

The barrel price of oil has also not jumped precipitously, closing below $65. Surely the release of Strategic Oil Reserve supplies has helped, but I would have bet against a decrease in the barrel price, and would have lost that bet too, which is why I am of no use at the race track.

With the remarkable job Gulf Coast refineries have done at getting back online, it looks like prices will continue to fall.

Foreign Aid in Reverse

You Big Mouth You has a listing of the impressive contributions from foreign countries and entities. My quick eyeball review shows that it amounts to about $364 million in cash plus a greater amount in oil and relief supplies.

I believe this level of outside help to the US is unprecedented. And I thought our relationship with “the rest of the world” was hopelessly frayed.

Power to the City

Last but not least: Some may consider it a wasteful exercise, but I suspect that Louisianans, especially the displaced, will be cheered by this picture.

Thoughts and Concerns on Katrina Charity

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 5:35 pm

I just heard from Sean Hannity during a brief errand that organized charitable donations to Katrina relief since the storm hit are exponentially higher than the donations during a similar time period after the September 11 terrorist attacks and the tsunami that struck Indonesia and elsewhere in late December. I’ll go looking for numbers shortly, but want to get my points out while they are fresh on my mind.

UPDATE: “$500 million and rising,” per this link–”more than twice the $239 million donated in the 10 days after Sept. 11, and more than three times the $163 million raised in the nine days after the tsunami that hit countries along the Indian Ocean last Dec. 26″

The swell of donations is outstanding news, of course, and proves once again, as if we needed further proof, that the people of this country are the most generous on earth.

Given the level of generosity, though, I think it’s important to remind people of the some of the controversies surrounding donations in the two major relief efforts that preceded Katrina, especially if donations exceed what is needed (which is not at all clear at this moment).

Here are descriptions of the past problems:

  1. The Red Cross most notably was heavily and justifiably criticized for attempting to divert funds intended for September 11 victims to general charity uses (the linked article points out that the organizations backtracked on that idea). Among other things, funds were used to buy computers for its headquarters. The US Director of the Red Cross stepped down in the wake of the controversy, and the organization’s reputation suffered. The Red Cross claims to have modified procedures and established controls to prevent recurrences. The Salvation Army, by contrast, engaged in no similar fund diversion and apparenlty never has. Perhaps more charities acted like the Red Cross initially did than we would care to admit.
  2. Many recipients of post-September 11 relief funds from private charities and the government were less than deserving of victim status and related funds, or at a minimum stretched the definition of deserving recipient to nearly the breaking point.
  3. Tsunami relief efforts have been and continue to be significantly hampered by corruption and incompetence in the affected countries that have gone relatively underreported and unreported in the Mainstream Media (exception here). Various officials required “payments” (read: “bribes,” or in this creative case, “new taxes”) for the necessary transportation equipment, supplies, and aid to get through. Charities appeared reluctant to complain too much for reasons I can only speculate about. Perhaps they felt that complaining would make it less likely that needed aid would go through, or they may have believed that if donors knew funds were going for payoffs they would be less likely to give in the future.

How does that relate to current Katrina recovery efforts? I donated, as probably most of the people reading this post have, but not without a little uneasiness. Here are some things I would liked to have seen in place as a result of lessons learned in the previous two major disasters (maybe some of these items are in place at some charitable organizations–if so, I’d like to hear about it):

  • A visible pledge by the charities to devote all donated funds, or a very high percentage of donated funds (95% or more) to the relief effort. Any funds diverted to administration would have to be justified by the extra costs involved in administering Katrina-specific relief efforts.
  • A visible pledge by the charities AND the government to limit the provision of relief only to those affected by the storm. For example, what do you do for an employed person who has been living high and dry in the French Quarter, doesn’t own a car, and as of today has to be evacuated? I believe existing unemployment compensation (perhaps tax-free, but definitely without a waiting period), food stamps if there are dependents (again without a waiting period), and a small supplemental allowance should suffice. Such a person certainly should not be a recipient of the $2,000 debit cards that are being distributed. I fail to see how limiting debit-card availability to those who really need it can be seen as lacking compassion.
  • Although I expect less of the third problem with Katrina, I would not rule it out. The charities should visibly pledge to make every effort to avoid making illegal, unethical, or exorbitant payments. Recognizing that sometimes these payments have to be made (or, for example, food may spoil, or the recipients might die waiting for it), the charities should nevertheless pledge to work with law enforcement high enough in the food chain to prosecute those who opportunistically took the payments and recover the money.
  • Finally, I expect the charities to pledge that any leftover funds will be placed into escrow accounts for future relief efforts and that they will be otherwise untouchable. If another disaster hits and the escrowed amounts are enough to cover the costs of that disaster’s relief efforts, I expect the charities to have the integrity to tell us they’re covered, and that we need not donate specifically for that effort.

In a future time that I hope is not that far off, I expect the charities to be able to estimate the costs of their relief efforts and to turn off the donation spigot when those funds have been received. Therefore, the need for a “rainy day fund” would not exist. The goodwill organizations following these procedures would earn would ensure that future donations would be readily forthcoming, and would far outweigh the “inconvenience” of not having a “rainy day” fund.

Marvin Olasky has pointed out that Americans have always expected charities to live frugally and hand to mouth, and that there is nothing uncompassionate, especially given the level of charity provided when it’s needed, about taking that stand. The outrage at the Red Cross’s attempt to get around that tradition proves that the expectation that Olasky commented on still holds.

NOTE: Outside the Beltway Jammer.

Positivity: FDNY and NYPD Remember, and Help

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:55 am

They feel they’re just returning a favor. Sure, but by remembering, they’re teaching us all a lesson about gratitude (bolds mine):

The city is sending more help to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, as 300 firefighters boarded planes at JFK Airport Monday morning and 105 police officers loaded up vans headed to New Orleans to help with the relief efforts.

Fire Commissioner Nicolas Scoppetta say the Federal Emergency Management Agency asked for the extra manpower. Besides fighting fires, they will also search for survivors.

Those heading out today say they are more than happy to go.

“We’ve trained to assist in a disaster. We’re going to go to New Orleans and pay back some of the help that we got from the south at the World Trade Center,” said FDNY Deputy Chief Bob Maynes.

“Many of them have special operations training. We expect that they will be down there for approximately two weeks, and we’re very glad for the opportunity to provide this assistance to the city of New Orleans and all of their beleaguered citizens,” said FDNY Chief of Department Peter Hayden.

Some 105 additional NYPD officers are also heading down to New Orleans to help. They mobilized at police headquarters this morning, where they received tetanus shots and instructions.

The officers are driving down in a convoy of 50 police vans. Once there they will help to restore order.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly says they will be there for at least eight days, and possibly longer.

“It seems chaotic, but our officers are trained and we’re going to be operating as an entity. We’re going to be together as an NYPD force,” said Kelly.

“I see these people calling for help, pleading for help, and it breaks your heart,” said Officer Miguel Seda. “We’re the largest police department in the world, so we have to send our troops down there to help them.”