Sunday, November 20, 2005

First saw this Times story on another site last night. Not much to add to what Steve M. had to say; he's certainly right to emphasize this paragraph: Sept. 7, at Mississippi's request, the disaster zone was expanded as far as 220 miles inland, reaching 32 counties, including several that never experienced sustained hurricane-force winds. The zone eventually reached 47 counties. The disaster area in Mississippi - which is led by Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican ally of President Bush's - extends 200 miles farther north than that in Louisiana, which is led by Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, a Democrat who at times criticized the federal storm response.

and to link to this about Barbour:

His firm has been named by Fortune magazine as the number one lobby firm in the Capital, and Barbour is also the man in charge of raising money for Republican Senate campaigns.....Some of Barbour's current and recent lobby clients include: BMI, CBS, Microsoft, RJR, Amgen and Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company and dozens more businesses. Now that's synergy

I would, however, call attention to this from The Times article:

Officials in Mississippi fault both the Red Cross and FEMA for not having clearer - and tougher - standards about what kind of damage merited a claim. In the end, it appeared that simply being a resident when the storm passed through was enough to collect a check.

"The Red Cross is thought of as the premier charity," said Representative Reeves of Jackson. "In my judgment, they dropped the ball."

It could be that the Katrina blame game is over. But, with the Katrina Committee still investigating, The Republicans on the defensive, and $Billions still to be allocated for reconstruction it would be naive to assume it. We should fully expect to hear a replay of (Red Cross President) Marsha "Marty" Evans' statements that Red Cross relief was blocked by state officials who wanted to concentrate on evacuation. It would be unseemly for state officials to be too critical of the Red Cross, but they should be able to point oit that it isn't always fully informed.

With luck, other sources than ,Media Matters will point out that The Red Cross isn't alway consistent either:

In a FAQ apparently posted on its website September 2, the Red Cross emphasized that its "presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city," and noted that "[w]e are an organization of civilian volunteers and cannot get relief aid into any location until the local authorities say it is safe and provide us with security and access." The FAQ concludes by describing the Red Cross' "appropriate role" under the circumstances:

As the remaining people are evacuated from New Orleans, the most appropriate role for the Red Cross is to provide a safe place for people to stay and to see that their emergency needs are met. We are fully staffed and equipped to handle these individuals once they are evacuated.

These sentiments were echoed by Red Cross spokeswoman Renita Hosler, according to a September 3 Pittsburgh Post Gazette article. "Though frustrated, Hosler understood the reasons. The goal is to move people out of an uninhabitable city, and relief operations might keep them there. Security is so bad that she fears feeding stations might get ransacked.

Nor does it seem that it's always unbiased either:

Indeed, when Garrett was asked in a September 7 interview with radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt why the Red Cross was eager to get the story out there, he responded, "Because they work hand-in-glove with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. When FEMA is tarred and feathered, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army are tarred and feathered, because they work on a cooperative basis. They feel they are being sullied by this reaction."

According to the federal charter of the American Red Cross, the organization has "the legal status of 'a federal instrumentality' " with "responsibilities delegated to it by the Federal government." Listed among these responsibilities is "to maintain a system of domestic and international disaster relief, including mandated responsibilities under the Federal Response Plan coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)."

The Red Cross has political ties to the Bush administration as well. Evans donated $500 to the Republican National Committee in September 2004, while Red Cross chairman Bonnie McElveen-Hunter has donated more than $100,000 to Republican candidates and political committees since 1999. Media Matters found no record of any donations to Democrats by either Evans or McElveen-Hunter. President Bush, in fact, appointed McElveen-Hunter ambassador to Finland in 2001, a position she held until 2003.

I'm not suggesting that The American Red Cross is an arm of the RNC, but I fully expect the Republicans to use it to shift as much blame as they possibly can to the state.

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