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"Dude," a lawyer who lives in Tribeca said last week, "I hope this story doesn't break before I get paid."
February 20, 2002 12:56 PM   Subscribe

"Dude," a lawyer who lives in Tribeca said last week, "I hope this story doesn't break before I get paid." The New Yorker on the (mis?)application of Red Cross funds.
posted by adrober (23 comments total)

 
Bin Laden's attacks have proven to be a ongoing disaster for the red cross.

I'm wondering who their VP of Pub Relations might be for they're doing one hell of a job.

From the way massive ad campaigns starting shilling for donations within hours of the attacks, to the bone-headed announcement that they would divert monies to other causes as they saw fit, and now this.

They couldn't screw up more if they tried, and it will take them years for the donating public to forget these blunders. If at all. (Does anyone know whatever became of the United Way? Does the money come in like it used to before they stepped in it a few years back?)
posted by BentPenguin at 1:17 PM on February 20, 2002


this piece is devastating. The Red Cross needs the slap, though. I don't believe in large organized charities. If you feel like giving, go buy a bunch of educational toys, head down to the worst part of town, and drop them off at a daycare center. Be creative.
posted by luser at 1:24 PM on February 20, 2002


Remind me again how many children died of malnutrition today (and yesterday, and they day before that, etc. for many years).

Criticism of the Red Cross is kindof pointless. They may be getting away with something but they aren't harming anyone. They haven't really strayed from their mission.
posted by Settle at 1:24 PM on February 20, 2002


My office had a real effort to put together some significant dough for the Red Cross after 9/11, and we did pretty well, people gave generously, in both blood and money. After the Red Cross started playing fast and loose with the cash, my boss said unequivically that this office would never, ever EVER do such a thing for the Red Cross again. Which is a shame, because they in general do a great deal of good work for a great many people.

This is what happens when the people who are supposed to be administering the organization's activities are fuckheads.
posted by UncleFes at 1:27 PM on February 20, 2002


luser, you suggest when there's a huge earthquake somewhere we go to the Learning Store and buy a copy of Mille Bourne for the displaced and homeless?
posted by Doug at 1:28 PM on February 20, 2002


EXACTEMENT Doug. After 9/11 the damage was DONE. Many homeless? Any starving masses? Much you could DO??? No??? Compared to many other places on god's green earth??
posted by Settle at 1:32 PM on February 20, 2002


I can think of one group is mostly to blame here:

All, those people, including many here at metafilter who went ballistic on the red cross when they said they might spend some of the money on other issues.

What were they supposed to do? They got an insane amount of money, far more than was needed for direct relief, and then were yelled at when they tried to spend it on anything other than victims of 9/11.

As far as I can tell, this money giveaway is precisely what everyone was screaming for when the Red Cross tried to use the money for other causes. Its totally hypocritical to yell at them now for doing exactly what people demanded they do.
posted by malphigian at 1:50 PM on February 20, 2002


I'm glad someone posted this. I read it in the magazine last night and it really pissed me off. I didn't think it would be online because the New Yorker does such a lousy job of putting stuff on their site (this will be gone before the end of this week, BTW, so read it now).

The people whose lives were genuinely disrupted by 9/11 are indeed entitled to some sort of assistance to get their lives back in order. Rich yuppie bastards in TriBeCa and SoHo do not deserve a free check just because they're in the general vicinity.

The Red Cross people deserve a thorough thumping for distributing the relief funds this way. The people who lined up for the free money ought to be loaded on a plane and taken to Afghanistan. Let 'em spend it there.
posted by briank at 1:50 PM on February 20, 2002


man. i don't know what i would do. i'd like to think that I would take the money and give it to charity... or at least half to charity... but i have a bit of debt. i really don't think i would.
posted by o2b at 1:57 PM on February 20, 2002


To some extent, I agree with Malphigian. The Red Cross was between a rock and a hard place. Did victims' families need to become multimillionaires? That's what it would have taken to give all the money to the people most directly affected.

That said, the Red Cross should have told people that and offered to give the money back. They should have said, "We've met the needs of the victims' families. Would you like us to put the money to another important use, or would you like it back?"
posted by anapestic at 2:00 PM on February 20, 2002


I think the issue here is a moral one. The tribeca yuppies who took the money knew that the relief funds weren't meant for them. They took the money anyway, and then tried to find ways to get more.

The donations, so generously given in a time of recession, shouldn't be going to pay for new italian slippers. It's obscene, it's immoral, and I hope karma catchs up with them in such a way that they finally recognize themselves as the greedy whores they are.
posted by dejah420 at 2:16 PM on February 20, 2002


I TOTALLY agree with malphigian. This is people were up in arms about (and drove me insane), and they got what they wanted. I don't think many really understood how much money there was, and aren't happy that the theoretical aspects of just giving out money to survivors isn't so theoretical anymore.
posted by dig_duggler at 2:26 PM on February 20, 2002


I am shocked at this reaction to the red cross.

What are they supposed to do? Hire investigators and vet each claimant? I wonder how many claim denied stories we would here in the news. The theives are not the red cross. It's the people fraudulently collecting funds when they don't deserve them and don't need them who should be on the receiving end of this heat.

Stealing money from charities is pretty low.
posted by srboisvert at 2:47 PM on February 20, 2002


As far as I can tell, this money giveaway is precisely what everyone was screaming for when the Red Cross tried to use the money for other causes. Its totally hypocritical to yell at them now for doing exactly what people demanded they do.

People were demanding that they give the money to people that were families of *victims* of the tragedy, which is *NOT* what they're doing. "Anyone that lives in lower Manhattan" does not constitute "victim" or "family of victim." Hell, *I* live in lower Manhattan, although not in Tribeca. If the Red Cross showed up in my lobby I'd politely inform them that they were in the wrong place. My friend's brother was a broker at Cantor and the family is still wading through paperwork. It's ludicrous that people that weren't directly affected can get a check that easily based solely on geography.

I understand that the Red Cross is under enormous pressure to distribute the money, but they have a pretty finite list of who the actual victims are, and determining whether or not people are related to them isn't that monumental a task. the only difficult part should be determining *how much* to each family member.
posted by lizs at 3:14 PM on February 20, 2002


Her particular September 11th experience had been hard, in its way. "I had to walk home from Seventy-second and Madison in brand-new Manolo Blahniks," she explained.


I can think of not one thing to say to that.
posted by bjgeiger at 3:53 PM on February 20, 2002


I can. "Let them eat cake!"
posted by SpecialK at 4:41 PM on February 20, 2002


I wouldn't take the money. I'd feel stupid, and every single time I had to scramble to make rent for the next year or two or three i'd regret it...but i wouldn't take it.

It's obscene, it's immoral, and I hope karma catchs up with them in such a way that they finally recognize themselves as the greedy whores they are.

karma = IRS mabye?
posted by th3ph17 at 5:32 PM on February 20, 2002


The rich people taking the money suck, and the Red Cross is throwing a temper tantrum. They're upset about the public uproar, so now they're walking around New York shouting, "You want us to give away all the money? Fine! Who wants some fucking money?"

Pathetic. Why don't they just fly over NYC in a helicopter and drop cash?
posted by David Dark at 5:55 PM on February 20, 2002


What lizs said.

The Red Cross did find itself between a rock and a hard place, no doubt, but to abdicate any responsibility for making sure the money went to actual victims and/or their survivors in favor of "well, we have to give it to somebody, it might as well be anybody we can find" is ludicrous.

Personally, I was not upset to learn that the donations were applied to the ARC's general funding back in September, indeed I fully had that expectation, but I also had the expectation that the funds would be used responsibly.

And, beyond doubt, it's the greedy scumbags who actually took the money who deserve the deepest condemnation.
posted by briank at 5:58 PM on February 20, 2002


BP: according to one study, giving to the United Way grew at 1/10 the pace of other charities during the boom of the 90s. You find many of the local or regional UW websites putting something about the scandal on a FAQ page, too.

I'm of several minds about this. First, the ARC made tremendous errors from the beginning. The immediate appeals for money have proven to be a cross to bear, especially now that the blood report shows that much of that giving was also not used as the donors perhaps expected (only 1% of the blood given nationwide went to the remarkably few actual injured victims, and short shelf life meant that up to 17% of it was eventually discarded). The ARC must have known from the beginning that there was a disconnect between their appeals and the realities of their services. (Local chapters have frequently been burned by the same kind of disconnect when donations pour in far beyond the necessity of a particular incident.) And after that became public, and the completely unrealistic decision was made to limit the Liberty Fund strictly to 9/11 victims, the ARC also should have made an effort to return funds it could not use.

But at the same time I'm aware of the organization limitations they labor under, and I don't think their decisions were as shocking as some people have thought. They've lost credibility, but that's largely because they operate in a way that didn't match peoples' expectations. They generally exist not to hand out cash to people but to provide services, from rent scrip to groceries to housing referrals to psychological counseling. The sad thing is that they have failed to communicate this to the public. The public's expectation is way off, even screwed up, by traditional charitable giving standards. There's never been an organization that acted as people seemed to expect the ARC and other groups to in the wake of 9/11; and the idea of such an organization is almost anathema to the charitable charter of most actual groups that act in disaster relief. Somehow, though, the public has glommed onto this colossally stupid idea that somebody, somewhere should act as a gatekeeper for direct cash donations, letting them give, but then never, ever actually exercising judgement on the behalf of the donors. Would the people who gave the money really want it handed out like candy to self-described yuppies? Of course not. But now the charities have more money than the people with needs can actually lay claim to. It's the worst kind of parody of checkbook charity I can imagine. "Hey, here's some money. You better give it away. You better not use it for anything that affects all your services instead of just one person. And if you don't give it away I'll kick your ass. But don't give it to the wrong people." What kind of organization would want that thankless job?

There's no simple or easy solution other than giving it back. I wonder what the ARC's internal thinking is on that question; do they have trepidation over how well it will go over? Ideally they would handle it with a little form mailed to everyone who gave by credit card:

We have more money than we can give away, but we need you to tell us how to handle it:
[ ] I want my money used only for Sept. 11 victims.
[ ] I want my money used for other victims of future terrorist attacks. Until then it will build a terror-relief endowment.
[ ] I want my money used for any worthy American Red Cross activities such as natural disaster relief.
[ ] I want my money back.

That's probably the only way they can really salvage their repu with some people.

But people have to stop thinking that this is the way to deal with stuff. It's dumb. And for their own sake, charities have to start explaining to people that this isn't the way they work.
posted by dhartung at 7:15 PM on February 20, 2002


All, those people, including many here at metafilter who went ballistic on the red cross when they said they might spend some of the money on other issues. What were they supposed to do? They got an insane amount of money, far more than was needed for direct relief, and then were yelled at when they tried to spend it on anything other than victims of 9/11.

i think realistically all most people ask of the red cross is for them to regenerate that last existing brain cell they've got to rub together and put the money to real pragmatic use. screw reactionary tactics, just put together a real game plan and let the public be able to see it. sure, everyone is going to be unhappy with one aspect or the other, but handing out checks in the affluent part of manhattan does not constitute level-headed thinking on any layer of bullshit. unemployment benefits still haven't been extended despite what the government has proclaimed, and it hasn't been just the island that was affected. there are tons of people in brooklyn and the bronx where the shockwaves have hit just as hard. i've still got friends who are living day to day off of tuna fish because of this whole thing. to my mind, i'm slightly angry about the whole proposal for this cash to just be absorbed back into the whole of the red cross, it's got a noble flag to fly, but somehow i don't think that everyone in that tree works for pure philanthropic motivations.

just my $.02
posted by eatdonuts at 8:05 PM on February 20, 2002


The New Yorker is really slipping -- the sentence quoted in the initial post gave me the impression that the lawyer is named "Dude."
posted by kindall at 8:44 PM on February 20, 2002


Doesn't it occur to anyone that the New Yorker might be retailing an urban legend here? Nothing about this tale rings true. I'd like to see some names and faces before I believe it. (And I, too, thought the lawyer's name was "Dude".)
posted by Faze at 9:42 AM on February 21, 2002


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