Sploid.com noted something odd earlier today on the FEMA page which lists reputable disaster relief organizations for Katrina-related giving.
After the American Red Cross, which is listed first and, I guess, by common consent the primary domestic disaster relief organization, comes Operation Blessing.
And if you don't know, Operation<$Ad$> Blessing is the relief organization run by professional wingnut Pat Robertson.
After that on the list came America's Second Harvest.
And then below that, everyone else, in alphabetical order.
The apparent rationale for the two-tiered set up is that the first three are places to "Donate Cash" and the rest are to "Donate Cash and/or Volunteer". I'm not sure whether arranging them in that way makes a great deal of sense. But judge that for yourself.
Yet, apparently, someone pointed out that giving Operation Blessing higher billing than the reality-based alphabetical system might not look so good. So as of today Operation Blessing has been bumped down to #3.
Now, call me suspicious. But the whole two-tiered set up itself struck me as quite likely a strained way of giving Robertson the big disaster relief shout-out. But I have no way of knowing or proving that. Again, you judge for yourself.
Now, how legit is Operation Blessing? CharityNavigator.com, which rates charities, gives them four stars (their highest rating) across the board. They report giving fully 99.4% of their income to program expenses and trivial amounts to administration and fundraising.
On the other hand, Robertson has repeatedly been criticized for commingling his overseas charitable operations -- specifically, Operation Blessing -- with his personal for-profit ventures into precious metals and diamond extraction, particularly with some of your better-known human rights pariahs and genocidal dictators. Zaire's Mobutu with blood diamonds, Liberia's Charles Taylor with gold mines. He's well diversified.
So, on balance, you might say the picture is mixed.
In any case, looking over the list, one other thing occured to me. Beneath the big three, there are eighteen other organizations listed -- with a number of extremely respected organizations including the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, B'nai B'rith and others. And the selection seems fairly ecumenical. But as nearly as I can tell, not one non-religious organization is listed. The one exception is another government agency, the Corporation for National & Community Service.
Now, I know as well as anyone the huge role that sectarian-affiliated charitable organizations play in disaster relief and other sorts of charitable work. I don't know the precise breakdown. But it wouldn't surprise me to learn that most or even the overwhelming amount of this kind of work is done by these groups. But surely there are some secular relief and aid organizations, right? Even a few that might have made the list?
Just by way of example, earlier today we were contacted by a group called MercyCorps. They asked if we would be willing to contribute ad space for Katrina-related disaster relief fundraising. And since I had wanted to do something like this, once we'd done some basic due diligence on their reputation in the field (which out to be very good), we were happy to oblige.
(Just to be clear, I don't think I knew anything about this group before today. They just got to us first, etc.)
Why isn't MercyCorps on the list? Surely, there are many other qualified groups that aren't tied to a religious denomination. Can this exclusion really be accidental?
(ed.note: The details noted above prompt me to mention a few more details about our ad policy. Our rates are the same for everyone. We do not give discounts to non-profits; nor do we give discounts or free ad space to advertisers, organizations or candidates we support or agree with. There is a firm division between the business and editorial sides of our operation. We also do not reject ads on the basis of political content (see details here). We made exceptions to the rule during last year's Asian Tsunami crisis, when we ran free ads for a few different groups, and now with Katrina because we believed both were extraordinary events where the need for giving was acute.)
In times of such stress and grief as these, it is reassuring to know we can rely on some immutables never to change.
Like Pat Robertson being a shameless nutcase, for instance.
I heard today (courtesy of this web site) that Robertson told 700 Club viewers last week that God would bring judgment on Israel for leaving Gaza.
Here's the ADL's condemnation.
Another September '04 article out of New Orleans. The lede ...
The Federal Emergency Management Agency shook up its way of distributing disaster preparedness money when it introduced its Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) grant program in 2002. Given the program's criteria, Louisiana appeared to have been a shoo-in for federal dollars for 2003, the first year the program began awarding money. Instead, Louisiana got nothing.
Ken Mehlman on the case! or GOP values on Parade!
Ohioans got an email from RNC Chair Ken Mehlman today asking for their help in an urgent effort -- calling Sen. Voinovich and demanding he repeal the estate tax.
Hastert: Don't rebuild New Orleans.
Moveon launches hurricanehousing.org.
Simple as it sounds: connecting people who have spare housing or even a spare bed or couch with people who desparately need it.
Wes Clark has just posted a piece at TPMCafe about Katrina, leadership and President Bush.
The accountablity free moment continues<$NoAd$>. From this morning's White House briefing ...
REPORTER: Thereâs a lot of discussion going on about the funding of projects prior to this, whether projects in New Orleans in particular were underfunded because of the Iraq war or for other reasons. Do you find any of this criticism legitimate? Do you think there is any second guessing to be done now about priorities given that [a disaster in] New Orleans was sort of obvious to a lot of the experts?
MCCLELLAN: As I have indicated, this is not a time for politics. This is a time for the nation to come together for those in the Gulf Coast region and thatâs where our focus is. This is not a time for finger-pointing or politics. And I think the last thing that the people who have been displaced or the people who have been affected need is people seeking partisan gain in Washington. So if thatâs what youâre talking about, thatâs one thing. Now, if youâre talking about specific areas, I would be glad to talk about some of those, if thatâs what you want.
We mentioned earlier the quote from Mike Parker, former Republican congressman from Mississippi who briefly served as head of the Army Corps of Engineers from late 2001 to early 2002 before being canned for criticizing administration budget cuts.
He's quoted in today's Chicago Tribune saying, "I'm not saying it wouldn't still be flooded, but I do feel that if it had been totally funded, there would be less flooding than you have."
Here's a piece from March 7, 2002 from the Clarion-Ledger on the circumstances of Parker's firing. Here are the first several grafs ...
The assistant secretary of the Army, Mississippi's former U.S. Rep. Mike Parker, was forced out Wednesday after he criticized the Bush administration's proposed spending cuts on Army Corps of Engineers' water projects, members of Congress said.
"Apparently he was asked to resign," said U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a member of the House Appropriations Committee's energy and water development subcommittee that oversees the corps' budget.
Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, also said Parker was dismissed.
Parker's nomination to head the corps drew heavy criticism last year from environmental groups pushing to downsize the agency, calling its flood control projects too costly and destructive.
Parker earned the ire of administration officials when he questioned Bush's planned budget cuts for the corps, including two controversial Mississippi projects.
"I think he was fired for being too honest and not loyal enough to the president," said lobbyist Colin Bell, who represents communities with corps-funded projects.
Bell said Parker resigned about noon after being given about 30 minutes to choose between resigning or being fired.