Red Cross Demands Corrections to ‘Misleading’ Coverage

Flag of the Red Cross Suomi: Punaisen Ristin l...

Flag of the Red Cross Suomi: Punaisen Ristin lippu Français : Drapeau de la Croix-Rouge Italiano: Bandiera della Croce Rossa Македонски: Знаме на Црвениот Крст Rumantsch: Bandiera de la Crusch cotschna (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So it seems that Propublica struck a nerve with the Red Cross, especially with its response to Sandy and Isaac , and with misleading fundraising as well.

I’m not overly surprised, in recent times it seems to have become more of a fund-raising organization for the enhancement of the lifestyle of its executives than anything else. That’s sad but hardly unprecedented. I have heard stories going back to Vietnam regarding the uncooperativeness of the red Cross regarding provide authorization of emergency leave for soldiers. Personally I have for many years refused to donate to the Red Cross, preferring such organizations as the Salvation Army.

In any case, here’s the main heads of the controversy.

1. Emergency response vehicles diverted for PR purposes

Red Cross complaint (pg. 1):

The charity takes issue with our reporting that executives diverted vehicles for public relations purposes. In particular, the Red Cross asserts that NPR’s version of the story erroneously refers to multiple “incidents” where 40 percent of available emergency response vehicles were used for press conferences. The Red Cross also says our reporting relied on a “lone source.” It both denies that any emergency vehicles were diverted away from providing relief and says that the 40 percent figure is wrong.

Our response:

The Red Cross’ claim that we referred to multiple “incidents” where 40 percent of vehicles were diverted is based on its use of a misleading, truncated quotation.

NPR’s transcript makes clear the word “incidents” refers to a variety of episodes, not just the diversion of trucks:

Our reporting found incidents where the charity sent as many as 40 percent of its emergency vehicles to press conferences instead of into the field, where it failed to show up as promised to open shelters, allowed sex offenders to hang out in a shelter’s play area. […]

2. Hurricane Isaac volunteers sent where they weren’t needed

Red Cross complaint (pg. 3):

The charity disputes our reporting that the vast majority of Red Cross responders deployed in advance of Hurricane Isaac in 2012 were stationed in Tampa, Florida – site of the Republican National Convention — even after it became clear the storm would not hit there.

“Again, this is the opinion of one Red Cross worker, unsubstantiated by the facts,” the Red Cross writes.

Our response:

While the Red Cross insists Tampa was under threat, the National Hurricane Center disagrees. As of Friday, Aug. 24, 2012, which was five days before landfall, Tampa was not under a hurricane threat or warning.

Five days out “it was clear the center of the storm would pass well to the west of Tampa,” Dennis Feltgen of the National Hurricane Center told us.

During the period that the Red Cross was stationing around 500 people in Tampa, a hurricane watch was under way for Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. Multiple people, including Red Cross volunteers and staffers, told ProPublica and NPR that the organization had difficulty moving people out of Tampa. […]

3. Failures in Bergen County, New Jersey

Red Cross complaint (pg. 4):

The charity takes issue with our reporting that the Red Cross’ response to Sandy was particularly inadequate in Bergen County, New Jersey. The Red Cross says we ignored “positive comments about the Red Cross while pretending only negative comments exist.”

Our response:

The Red Cross is not disputing the fact at the center of our reference to Bergen County: That the charity did not show up at the county’s Emergency Operations Center. “They were the only major player not there,” police lieutenant and Bergen County Emergency Management Coordinator Matthew Tiedemann told us. […]

4. Questioning the standing of a key source

Red Cross complaint (pg. 5):

The charity says “much of the criticism” in our stories came from one source, whose role we inflated.

Our response:

Again, the central conclusions of our coverage were drawn from the American Red Cross’ own internal high-level assessments, including minutes of a meeting with Red Cross executives in Washington. […]

5. The Red Cross wasted large amounts of food

Red Cross complaint (pg. 6):

The charity says our reference to the Red Cross wasting food was based on a single Red Cross responder, specifically Richard Rieckenberg.

Our response:

Our story noted that Rieckenberg estimated that the Red Cross wasted 30 percent of its food in the early days after Sandy — and we also noted the Red Cross disputed the figure. [..]

Red Cross complaint (pg. 6):

The charity disputes our reporting that the Red Cross sent around empty trucks after Hurricane Isaac just to be seen. In particular, the Red Cross writes, “There is no evidence to support this other than the recollection, again, of Rick Rieckenberg.”

Our response:

The Red Cross is wrong. […]

8. Refusing to work with Occupy Sandy

Red Cross complaint (pg. 8):

The charity denies our reporting that after Sandy Red Cross executives told staffers not to work with the well-regarded group Occupy Sandy out of concern over the connections to the Occupy Wall Street protest movement.

Our response:

Our story about the Red Cross and Occupy Sandy is clear: In the early period after the storm multiple Red Cross workers were told by superiors not to work with Occupy Sandy. […]

9. Senator probes Red Cross finances

Red Cross complaint (pg. 9):

The charity objects to various characterizations of Sen. Charles Grassley’s inquiries into its finances. They call our headline “hyper-extended.”

Our response:

The Red Cross is not alleging a factual error. Following our story on CEO Gail McGovern misstating how donor dollars are spent on services and overhead, Grassley announced: “The public’s expectation for an important, well-known organization like the Red Cross is complete, accurate fundraising and spending information  […]

10. Difficulty of finding sources who praised the Red Cross

Red Cross complaint (pg. 10):

The charity disputes a comment by one of us on a Reddit chat that it was difficult to find sources who had positive things to say about the Red Cross’ response to Isaac and Sandy. The charity also complains that we did not include a survey it provided of those who received Red Cross help after Sandy.

Our response:

Our answer on our Reddit chat was: We “interviewed dozens of people, including many Red Cross officials and volunteers, storm victims, and government officials. It was very difficult to find sources with positive things to say about the Red Cross’ responses to Sandy and Isaac. More importantly, multiple sources confirmed and fleshed out the Red Cross’ own conclusions from its internal assessments.”[…]

There is quite a lot more detail at the sourcelink, here: Red Cross Demands Corrections to Our ‘Misleading’ Coverage. Here’s Our Response – ProPublica.

I’ll simply note that I have always found Pro Publica to be a reliable investigatory organization.

The Telegraph and Peter Oborne

OK, I heard that, “What’s this still another British story? I thought this was a Nebraska blog.”

Well, yeah it is but, this has meaning for us too. In his statement here from Guido Fawkes, Peter Oborne tells us why he quit The Telegraph

Five years ago I was invited to become the chief political commentator of the Telegraph. It was a job I was very proud to accept. The Telegraph has long been the most important conservative-leaning newspaper in Britain, admired as much for its integrity as for its superb news coverage. When I joined the Telegraph had just broken the MPs’ expenses scandal, the most important political scoop of the 21st century.

I was very conscious that I was joining a formidable tradition of political commentary. I spent my summer holiday before taking up my duties as columnist reading the essays of the great Peter Utley, edited by Charles Moore and Simon Heffer, two other masters of the art.

No one has ever expressed quite as well as Utley the quiet decency and pragmatism of British conservatism. The Mail is raucous and populist, while the Times is proud to swing with the wind as the voice of the official class. The Telegraph stood in a different tradition. It is read by the nation as a whole, not just by the City and Westminster. It is confident of its own values. It has long been famous for the accuracy of its news reporting. I imagine its readers to be country solicitors, struggling small businessmen, harassed second secretaries in foreign embassies, schoolteachers, military folk, farmers—decent people with a stake in the country.

My grandfather, Lt Col Tom Oborne DSO, had been a Telegraph reader. He was also a churchwarden and played a role in the Petersfield Conservative Association. He had a special rack on the breakfast table and would read the paper carefully over his bacon and eggs, devoting special attention to the leaders. I often thought about my grandfather when I wrote my Telegraph columns.

That is, I think, pretty close to ground truth. I also have found as I suspect many of you have that the Telegraph has (or maybe had) the best and most objective coverage available of US politics. I started reading it online when it became obvious that the US media had become the propaganda wing of the Obama campaign back in 2007. It was a good, decent, reasonably objective newspaper, although a bit too left-wing by American standards. I suspect it’s something I share with most of my British friends. I too have noticed that it has been changing.

For the last 12 months matters have got much, much worse. The foreign desk—magnificent under the leadership of David Munk and David Wastell—has been decimated. As all reporters are aware, no newspaper can operate without skilled sub-editors. Half of these have been sacked, and the chief sub, Richard Oliver, has left.

Solecisms, unthinkable until very recently, are now commonplace. Recently readers were introduced to someone called the Duke of Wessex. Prince Edward is the Earl of Wessex. There was a front page story about deer-hunting. It was actually about deer-stalking, a completely different activity. Obviously the management don’t care about nice distinctions like this. But the readers do, and the Telegraph took great care to get these things right until very recently.

The arrival of Mr Seiken coincided with the arrival of the click culture. Stories seemed no longer judged by their importance, accuracy or appeal to those who actually bought the paper. The more important measure appeared to be the number of online visits. On 22 September Telegraph online ran a story about a woman with three breasts. One despairing executive told me that it was known this was false even before the story was published. I have no doubt it was published in order to generate online traffic, at which it may have succeeded. I am not saying that online traffic is unimportant, but over the long term, however, such episodes inflict incalculable damage on the reputation of the paper.

And that is important, it is quite easy to lose the trust of people like me, and I suspect like the normal British Telegraph reader as well, because we are in essence, the same clientele. Conservative, yes, but owing a lot to our Whig ancestry. And almost all of us believe that” “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.’ It’s going to be difficult to regain our trust, I suspect.

A lot of electrons have been disturbed in relation to the HSBC mess in the UK, and Mr. Oborne speaks of it at some length, you’ll have to figure it out for yourself, I haven’t been paying much attention to it. But I will say this, the combination of international banking and government (either UK or US) is about as close as you can come to a legal (not moral) criminal conspiracy. if we don’t get some serious curbs put on these guys, and I’m not talking about regulations written with the ‘help’ of the banksters, I’m talking about serious criminal indictments, we may come to think of the 1930s as the good old days.

 

She has a point, although there are some mostly conservative libertarians, and acolytes of the Austrian school of economics. More, many more are needed.

This turned up in my twitter feed on Wednesday afternoon, while I have no corroboration, I have few doubts either.

Now do understand I have no more information than anyone else, it could be just a squabble between a columnist and his employer. But I don’t think so, and if I did I still would be very cautious about what I believe.

In a related matter, also having to do with press honesty, have you seen Sharyl Attkisson’s TEDx talk? Do watch, you need to know this stuff.

 

Wolf’s Hall: A Morality Play?

This showed up in my Twitter feed yesterday:

I can’t vouch for that 97% number but the destruction as widespread and severe.

For my American readers Wolf’s Hall is a historical costume drama set in the reign of Henry the VIII. I’ve seen the first two episodes, and it’s very good TV, although I doubt it’s overly accurate history. Here’s a bit of the article referenced in the Tweet.

The UK’s current primetime TV fantasy blockbuster du jour is Wolf Hall. Everyone loves a costume drama, but there is a world of difference between fictional history and historical fiction. One dramatizes real people and events. The other is an entirely made-up story set in the past. The current tendency is to blur the two, which Wolf Hall does spectacularly.

Thomas Cromwell, whose life it chronicles, comes across as a plucky, self-made Englishman, whose quiet reserve suggests inner strength and personal nobility. Back in the real world, Cromwell was a “ruffian” (in his own words) turned sectarian extremist, whose religious vandalism bears striking comparison with the iconoclasm of Islamic State or the Afghani Taliban.

Thanks to Wolf Hall, more people have now heard of Thomas Cromwell, and this is a good thing. But underneath its fictionalized portrayal of Henry VIII’s chief enforcer, there is a historical man, and he is one whose record for murder, looting, and destruction ought to have us apoplectic with rage, not reaching for the popcorn.

Historians rarely agree on details, so a lot about Cromwell’s inner life is still up for debate. But it is a truly tough job finding anything heroic in the man’s legacy of brutality and naked ambition.

Against a backdrop of Henry VIII’s marital strife, the pathologically ambitious Cromwell single-handedly masterminded the break with Rome in order to hand Henry the Church, with its all-important control of divorce and marriage. There were, to be sure, small pockets of Protestantism in England at the time, but any attempt to cast Cromwell’s despotic actions as sincere theological reform are hopeless. Cromwell himself had minimal truck with religious belief. He loved politics, money, and power, and the reformers could give them to him.

Continue reading Thomas Cromwell was the Islamic State of his day.

whitby_abbeyWell, OK. But I don’t think that is any more accurate than the program. So far the program does seem to be downplaying Cromwell’s [shall we say] ambition a bit but he hasn’t consolidated his position yet, so we’ll see

This in particular “[…]the pathologically ambitious Cromwell single-handedly masterminded the break with Rome in order to hand Henry the Church, with its all-important control of divorce and marriage.” Strikes me as a description of any number of bureaucrats and politicians in Westminster as well as Washington. And many in history as well.

Still the dissolution of the monasteries did happen, and if we believe that England’s (and America’s) ascent to world power is an overall good, we should thank God that it did. At the time nearly half of the land area of England was owned by the church, and thus tax exempt, and if you consider the amount of art in England older than this period, just how much wealth was tied up in the church?

In my article today at All along the Watchtower (linked in the sidebar), I speak in passing of the utter destruction of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, which was one of the foremost pilgrimage shrines in Europe, and included the carrying off of a famous (and historic) statue of Our Lady to London to be burned in the streets.

So yes, there was a perhaps frenzied overreaction involved in the suppression, there nearly always is. Kristallnacht was no picnic for the relics of the Jewish population of Germany either. That poorly disciplined soldiers, irregulars or just people get out of hand is just a fact of life.

That said, comparing Cromwell to ISIS is just silly, Cromwell’s goal wasn’t to kill the population of England, it was to get rich. Henry’s illegal use of Prerogative power was a bad thing, as was recognized, even at the time. But is today’s Parliament (or our own bureaucracy) any better?  Only if we force them to be, and we’re not doing a very effective job ourselves.

So perhaps, after all, Wolf’s Hall is a morality tale for our times.

Green Energy, Rent Seeking, Corporatism, and Unintended Consequences

English: Vogtle nuclear power station Cooling ...

English: Vogtle nuclear power station Cooling Towers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Georgia Power is building a nuclear power plant. That would be good if they foresaw making a legitimate profit from it. It doesn’t sound like it.

Georgia Power says the Vogtle project creates lots of jobs and buys lot of building materials.  The same could be said about the construction of a large pyramid. The question should be about the value of the costly project verses other things that might have used the labor and materials.

So how does a society choose between alternative uses of resources? Under market conditions with unhampered price signals, consumers decide with their spending what uses should be made of resources.

That’s not how the decision to build the Vogtle nuclear plant was made. Instead, the drivers were lobbying on the state and federal level for special government favors that would never be granted voluntarily by consumers. The academic term for this is rent-seeking; the more everyday term is cronyism.

Given all the special treatment from government for nuclear plants, it is doubtful they could be built under market conditions. Natural gas and coal, with far less up-front costs and competitive variable costs, are the capacity-of-choice for competitive markets.

Georgia Cronyism: DSM, Nuclear Plague Public Service Commission – Master Resource.

That’s pretty much what always seems to happen when things are built for political purposes.


history-image5In a somewhat different case, I note that there is a proposal for developing an entire straw pellet power plant and a surrounding roughly 50 acres site in Norwich, UK.

It has some good features, I think, such as the use of heated water from the plant for domestic heating, which works well in an urban area. I think they are going to have difficulty finding enough pelletized straw to burn, although the fact that the UK has prohibited burning straw in the field (last I knew that was the most efficacious way to release nitrogen back into the soil, not that the greenies ever cared about that) but pelletizing on that scale is not an inconsiderable process.

From the website it sounds reasonably OK to me but £325 million  without a detailed plan (they haven’t sited their generating station yet, or completed detailed environmental surveys). So there is still a lot of room for the price tag to grow, and unintended consequences to strike.

In addition, it looks to me like they are relying heavily on academics, and rent-seeking government contractors and politically connected people generally. I saw no mention anywhere on the website that they thought anybody, anywhere would make a profit, not even the wheat farmers (switchgrass, anyone?).

Here’s their website.

My best guess at the moment (I haven’t even close to enough information for an opinion) is that it’s not a bad idea but they’ll not get it done in 30 years and the budget will treble (at least).

Farmers and Senators

So I see that Luke Russert managed to play the fool (again) on twitter the other day with this tweet:

Joni Ernst’s meteoric rise continues. This time last year she was an unknown pig farmer, on Tues she will deliver GOP SOTU response.

Like so many of our elites who have never worked for anything, or learned anything including history, he simply sounded stupid.

Senator Ernst had this to say about her upbringing:

I was born and raised in Montgomery County. I grew up walking beans and feeding hogs. My mom made all of my clothes. We went to church every week, helped our neighbors when they needed it, and they did the same for us. These were the values I was raised with, and they’re the same values I have fought my entire life to promote and protect.

I remember thinking that I like this woman when her first ad came out (yeah, this one)

I’d add

Ernst served as a company commander during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 where her unit was sent to run convoys through Kuwait and southern Iraq. Ernst is still on active duty, currently serving as a Lt. Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard, commanding the largest battalion in Iowa.

In the linked article, Nina Bookout comments:

We know adversity because of weather, banks, taxes, and more. We are resilient and adaptable. We are practical, frugal, knowledgeable, and have a knack for looking at the big picture while taking care of the details. Our day starts at the crack of dawn and doesn’t end until the sun goes down. We check on the livestock and take care of them and the land in every type of weather you could imagine.  We help our neighbors out and don’t expect compensation in return.  In times of adversity we pull together and don’t take the time to wait on the government to “help” us.

Luke, Senator Ernst is all of the above and more.  She is a wife, a mother, a farmer, a solder, and a United States Senator.  You may not be, but this rancher’s daughter is more than pleased to have an “unknown pig farmer” serving her state and this country in the United States Senate.

Senator Joni Ernst: More Than An “Unknown Pig Farmer”.

I would be hard pressed to agree more, as the fourth generation involved in support of production agriculture. She’s one of us, and if she can remain so, she’s going to be a great asset.

And you know there are  precedents in history as well, for a farmer to be a great Senator. quite a while back Jessica reminded us of a very famous farmer/senator, by the name of  Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus (519 BC – 430 BC) , one of the greatest of the heroes of the Roman Republic.

And then there is the American president who epitomized those very same virtues, the one who when King George III of England was told by the American Ambassador that at the end of his term, he would retire to his farm said this, “Then he will be the greatest man in the world.” That man was George Washington.

Now to be honest, I doubt Senator Ernst will give either of them a race for their place in history but, she has surely picked an honorable path, and I find it rather scurrilous for her to be mocked by useless mouths like Russert.

Res Publica

A Lesson in the Common Law

4532829274_324ec3f1e1_z[I am pleased to tell you that All Along the Watchtower is again a public blog, and if you have not been reading there please do come on our journey with us. I have a post up there (either now or soon, depending on the schedule) today which touches on some of the same themes (The Common Law) as this post does, so enjoy it.]

One again in the last few weeks, America has given the world a lesson in why the English Common Law is the only fit system of governance for free men. And yes, I am referring to Ferguson, Missouri. And specifically the use made of the Grand Jury, by Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCullough, who has been elected by very wide margins (if he was opposed at all) in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014. He is a Democrat, and yet I have friends who are consider some Tea Party Republicans liberal, who say, he may be the best prosecutor in the country. Think about that for a while.

It struck me that like so much of The Common Law, the Grand Jury exists only in the United States anymore, not only in the Federal Courts, but in all 50 States. England itself abolished it in 1936. So maybe a primer is in order, it seems to be here as well.

I’m going to base much of this on Wikipedia, I, like you, am fully cognizant of all the veracity problems with the source, and yet this seems reasonably accurate, and is at least readable. And so, a bit of history:

The first instance of a grand jury can be traced back to the Assize of Clarendon, an 1166 act of Henry II of England. In fact, Henry’s chief effect on the development of the English monarchy was to increase the jurisdiction of the royal courts at the expense of the feudal courts. Itinerant justices on regular circuits were sent out once each year to enforce the “King’s Peace”. To make this system of royal criminal justice more effective, Henry employed the method of inquest used by William the Conqueror in the Domesday Book. In each shire, a body of important men was sworn (juré) to report to the sheriff all crimes committed since the last session of the circuit court. Thus originated the modern grand jury that presents information for an indictment. The grand jury was later recognized by King John in Magna Carta in 1215 on demand of the nobility.

I find it fascinating how many of the rights that I treasure in 2014 go back so far in our history, in this case to Henry II, in 1166, only a century after The Conquest, and that it was part of an effort to break the legal autonomy of the Barons, who my reading indicates were quite corrupt. I also note that King John was forced in Magna Charta to recognize the existing right, it was already, 800 years ago, customary. It is also the origin of the term circuit court. In a note that saddens me greatly, Dan Hannan, MEP has noted that when there was a search on for a term to apply to a local elected law enforcement official, Sheriff ( deriving from Shire-Reeve) was disallowed as too American. Perhaps we are not the only people who could stand to study our history a bit more.

There is quite a lot more at the linked article.

I doubt there has ever been a more politically conscious society than America from the beginning, likely it has also been one of the most literate societies. Yes, this led to trouble with the Stamp Act. But the two best-selling books in colonial America tell much about us, I think. The number one best seller was The Holy Bible (as it still is), likely the King James Version. That I expect you could have easily guessed, but I doubt you will the second. That was Black’s Law Commentary. To borrow a phrase from my Lutheran heritage that seems appropriate: The Two Kingdoms, incarnate.

For us, the Grand Jury comes into our jurisprudence through the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, to wit.

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

And thus here, like in Magna Charta, it is enshrined, not as a tool of the prosecutor, but as a fundamental right of an innocent man accused of a crime. Further it is officially, a secret proceeding, under the control of the foreman, elected by the members of the jury. It’s deliberations are recorded, usually by court reporters, and are sealed. The only other outsider allowed, is the prosecutor, who presents the evidence, and provides the jurors with the possible bills of indictment. [In this case they ran from premeditated murder to manslaughter.] This is as close as it can get to being by the people, no lawyers, no press, no pressure, testimony is subject to the laws of perjury, and so forth.

What results from this is the same level of proof required for an American police officer to legally search your car, it’s called probable cause, and if found, will result in an indictment. As you listen to the uproar, do remember that many of the commenters on American TV are lawyers, and they too have a corporate viewpoint.

George Will once wrote that:

The business of America is not business. Neither is it war. The business of America is justice and securing the blessings of liberty.

That is exactly correct, and in an American context that means for every downtrodden, broken, man or woman, of any race at all.

You see American justice, is not efficient. It is noisy, contentious, subject to influence, corruption and all the rest of the things you have heard and said. It is also the most just in the world. Why? Not least because it is not efficient, if you want efficient government, you’ll end up with a fascist country, they are far more efficient, they are also very hard on individual liberty, except for the elite (maybe). It is also conservative, actually that is not the word, the word is orthodox.

As always though, “Hard cases make bad law”

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