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Sunday, November 4

Why didn't NYC Mayor Bloomberg think to ask visiting marathoners to pitch in and help the New Yorkers hit hard by Superstorm Sandy? Why government as we know it today has run its course in the USA

OVERTURE

Manhattan

Her group was planning to take the thousands of dollars raised this weekend and stuff a bunch of $20 bills into envelopes for families who need to pay that next cellphone bill. Or stock the refrigerator. 

"People have to throw out everything in their fridges," she noted. "This is restock-the-fridge money."

"I understand the need for FEMA and the Red Cross and all the rest," she added. "But we're talking about no lines, no red tape. Just immediate help. These people have suffered enough."

Staten Island

Photo Caption
Volunteers walk toward homes to help residents clean up, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, in Staten Island, N.Y. A Superstorm Sandy relief fund is being created just for residents of the hard-hit New York City borough. Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Borough President James Molinaro say the fund will help residents displaced from their homes. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

INTRODUCTION
Two exhibits; emphasis throughout mine:

EXHIBIT 1
CBS News, New York Local, November 2, 2012 12:02 AM:
Staten Islanders On Sandy Response: We’ve Been Left FAR Behind

Borough Is In Shambles, But Little Help Has Arrived; They Ask: Where Is FEMA?

“Red Cross is here with hot chocolate and cookies. We need blankets, we need pillows, we need clothing. We can get hot chocolate and cookies, we need help!” resident Jodi Hannula said.

It was almost too much for Hannula to bear. She said she had 30 years of memories washed away by flood waters.

And with no flood insurance, she said she’s been pleading for help, but finding little.

“You hope that the government does the right thing and steps in and helps us out. We have been looking for FEMA, [but] FEMA has not been here,” Hannula said.

People on Staten Island argued that they’ve been neglected while other parts of New York City, and the Jersey Shore, have been showered with attention.

“We are far from fine, and the fact that the mayor wants to have a marathon this weekend, when we’ve had people who have lost their lives or house, everything they’ve worked for their whole lives … I mean, its unbelievable to me,” Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis said.
[...]
“It’s total devastation. It’s not just New Dorp Beach. It’s the whole shore from Tottenville to South Beach,” resident Kyle Haberstroh said.

Donna Solli confronted Sen. Charles Schumer on Thursday afternoon, demanding food and more assistance.

Later that night she got a meal — and a promise for more Friday morning.

“Yes, I have food. I haven’t had food in two days and I have food, finally,” Solli said.

Residents were organizing a huge cleanup day on Saturday. They said if no one else is going to help them restore their community — Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano was to visit Staten Island Friday in response to the community’s complaints — they’re going to do it on their own.
EXHIBIT 2
Reuters, 6:16 a.m. CDT, November 2, 2012:
Scope of Sandy's devastation widens
By Edith Honan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - From New York City's Staten Island to the popular beach towns of the Jersey Shore, rescuers and officials on Friday faced growing evidence of widespread destruction wrought by superstorm Sandy, mounting anger over delayed relief and a rising death toll.

The total killed in one of the biggest storms to hit the United States jumped by a third on Thursday alone, to 98. In New York City, 40 people have been found dead, half of them in Staten Island, which was overrun by a wall of water on Monday.

Among the dead in Staten Island were two brothers, aged 2 and 4, who were swept from their mother's arms after her car stalled in rising flood waters. Their bodies were found near each other in a marshy area on Thursday.

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Federal Emergency Management Agency Deputy Administrator Richard Serino planned to visit Staten Island on Friday amid angry claims by some survivors that the borough had been ignored.

Scenes of angry storm victims could complicate matters for politicians, from President Barack Obama just four days before the general election, to governors and mayors in the most heavily populated region in the United States. Obama visited New Jersey on Wednesday and has received praise for his handling of Sandy.

"They forgot about us," said Theresa Connor, 42, describing her Staten Island neighborhood as having been "annihilated." "And (Mayor Michael) Bloomberg said New York is fine. The marathon is on!"

Fury has been escalating throughout New York at Bloomberg's decision to proceed with the world's largest marathon on Sunday, vowing the event - which attracts more than 40,000 runners - would not divert any resources storm victims.

"If they take one first responder from Staten Island to cover this marathon, I will scream," New York City Councilman James Oddo said on his Twitter account. "We have people with no homes and no hope right now."

Staten Island, which lies across New York Harbor from lower Manhattan, is home to about 500,000 residents, many blue-collar workers whose families have lived there for generations.

CRIME FEARS

In New Jersey, entire neighborhoods in oceanside towns were swallowed by seawater and the Atlantic City boardwalk was destroyed. At least 13 people were killed in New Jersey and the toll was not only financial, but heavily emotional as well.

"There's nothing more precious to people than their homes. Those are where their families are, their memories and possessions of their lives, and there's also a sense of safety to home," New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said late on Thursday.

"That sense of safety was violated with water rushing into people's homes at an enormous rate of speed and people having to literally swim, climb, jump for their lives," he said.
[...]
In blacked-out New York City neighborhoods, some residents complained about a lack of police and expressed fears about an increase in crime. Some were also concerned about traffic safety. New York police officials were not immediately available to comment.

"People feel safe during the day but as soon as the sun sets, people are extremely scared. The fact that Guardian Angels are on the streets trying to restore law just shows how out of control the situation is in lower Manhattan," said Wolfgang Ban, a restaurant owner in Manhattan's Alphabet City neighborhood.

The Guardian Angels are a group of anti-crime volunteers.

Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro directed his anger over relief efforts at the American Red Cross. "I have not seen the American Red Cross at a shelter, I have not seen them down on the south shore where people are buried in their homes, they have nothing to drink and nothing to eat," he said.

The American Red Cross said it was doing everything it could to aid those affected by the storm as quickly as possible and that help was on the way to Staten Island, usually reached by a 25-minute ferry ride from Lower Manhattan.
[...]
******************0***********
The uproar about New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg's refusal to call off this Sunday's marathon, the biggest in the world, finally decided Hizzoner late Friday afternoon to bow to the public will -- a first for him -- and to cancel the marathon.

But by that time thousands of marathoners from all over the USA and the world had descended on New York, taking up hotel space that was badly needed by Sandy survivors who'd been rendered homeless by the storm, and taxing the beleaguered NYPD, which had to divert some of its police force to security the city in the wake of the storm (yes, the looters have been at work) to preparing security for the marathon.

As the two reports I featured above indicate, everyone was furious with the mayor's initial decision to continue with the marathon; this included the city's sanitation workers, who were volunteering time without pay to help fellow New Yorkers in need of assistance with trash and debris removal after the storm.

The irony is that several marathoners expressed support for Mayor's decision to call off the marathon. They said that after seeing conditions in the storm-hit areas, they'd planned not to run in the marathon and instead volunteer their time to helping New Yorkers who were hit hard by the storm.

Well, sure.

So why didn't Hizzoner think to ask marathoners to pitch and help instead of running the marathon? Because it would never have occurred to him to make that kind of request.  Anyone who says that lack of brainpower or compassion is the reason it wouldn't have occurred to him doesn't know about Michael Bloomberg.

This is a very smart person, and although he often goes overboard with paternalism in the execution of his mayoral duties, no one can say he doesn't have a heart. And this was a very rich man before he went into politics, a man with a very successful business career who never needed a government paycheck.

The reason it didn't occur to him to ask marathoners to become volunteers is that Michael Bloomberg is a man of his times, which looked to better government as the solution to America's problems. Yet his times were blown away by a series of disasters -- security-related, weather-related, economics-related -- that hit the United States of America starting around the turn of this century.

The upshot is that it would take every American adult working for government to be able to deal effectively with all the present challenges, if you want to rely on the government approach.

The way to deal effectively with the challenges of our times has been pointed to by the American Paul Glover and the Englishman Phillip Blond, and by hosts of Americans who joined and started 'localism' movements during the past decade. (See my February 2009 post, Localism, Faux Localism, and "Rise of the red Tories" ... and the website for Paul Glover's nonprofit organization.)

All these people are implementing on their own nongovernmental solutions to problems that affect their communities.

Yet, oddly, American pundits who protest the loudest against 'big government' studiously ignore this approach. Instead they keep calling for 'smaller' government -- and by gum they're determined to back political candidates who will make government smaller.

Okay, but then who's going to make up the shortfall when government gets smaller? Many government agencies fulfill needs in this country.

When pushed, the anti-big government pundits say of course there has to be some government, and they also call for more volunteerism. But volunteerism is only one part of the approach that's needed.

So the approach is working itself out in ad-hoc fashion; like Topsy, it's just growing. One example: Several Americans who've been unable to procure business or mortgage loans since the banking crisis have banded together to start loan cooperatives. Simple, saves a lot of red tape -- and redirects the energy needed to fight out political solutions to where it really needs to go:  to actually solving the problem faced by individuals who desperately need a loan.

That's one of the big drawbacks with trying to turn the solution to big government into a political one: it diverts a lot of energy from creativity and from the actions needed to actually solve a problem. And of course it diverts a lot of money.

Another irony is that the hyper-focus on political solutions -- which no matter how hopeful always translate into Business as Usual in Washington -- has created a subculture in the USA of ardent survivalists.

Americans aren't idiots; we know that when a real disaster strikes we can't immediately depend on the government for help. So, many Americans have been stocking up on food, guns and ammo, and gold; this ahead of what they fear is the bottom falling out of the U.S. economy.

These actions have understandably worried the Department of Homeland Security. This has in turn created a bunker mentality among many survivalists: the government is out to get us so let's buy even more guns and ammo. This in turn worries Homeland even more, and it goes on and on like that.

Hello, just stop thinking so much about the government. Wherever you find a need, think up a way you and those in your community can fill it. Then implement your experiment and refine it as you go along.

Look at Paul Glover's HOURS currency idea; he didn't know at first exactly how to implement it. He was in new territory.  He even worried that he might be arrested for counterfeiting the money he was printing up. Well, as long as you're not printing up Federal Reserve-issued currency, you're not breaking the law.

But Glover's idea is simply a tide-over during an economic crisis for small towns that don't want to see the majority of their stores shut. Everyone agrees to price a currency at what they can afford to pay for it. In the case of HOURS, an average of an hour's pay -- a little over minimum wage, if I recall correctly,  If store-owners agree to accept the HOURS currency, this means people can still purchase goods, goods they couldn't afford to buy if the currency was dollars.

How neat is that?

Of course the cheaper currency cuts into the store owner's profits but it's better than going out of business. And the Federal Reserve money (often incorrectly described as 'government-issued' money) you save with using HOURS currency, you can then use toward paying bills that have to be paid for with dollars.

And you don't have to purchase and hoard very expensive gold if your community has HOURS. Once the HOURS currency system is established, your town can immediately switch to using it when a real economic crisis or national emergency strikes. When the crisis is over and the salad days return, then you can go back to using dollars.

So, really, the solution isn't big government or small government; it's impermanent and fungible government. There are times a big government agency is needed, times it's not. It depends on the situation. This situation-driven approach to government is where we're headed -- by a long way around, and in
haphazard fashion, but we'll get there.

Another irony is that many Americans want to get more involved in running things themselves and have the capacity to do so. Look at this report from the Associated Press:
'What Can I Do?': New Yorkers Seek Ways to Help
By JOCELYN NOVECK, AP National Writer
NEW YORK November 3, 2012
Associated Press via ABC News

Normally on a Saturday morning, Erica Siegel, a 33-year-old real estate agent, would be working or taking a run. But this weekend found her packing rolls of toilet paper, boxes of garbage bags, and canned vegetables and soups to bring to a Queens park, where they would be sorted for delivery to storm victims.

Siegel's also been asking fellow real estate agents to join her in an effort, advertised on Facebook pages and blogs, to find vacant homes — for sale or rent — to help house storm evacuees.

"I have to tell you, it feels like a virus going around, this need to help," she said, speaking a mile a minute as she raced to get out of her house. "So many people are feeling it."

In ways big and small, ordinary people from storm-affected areas are seeking out opportunities to help. In terms of drama, these efforts don't rise to the level of the heroic rescues that have made TV newscasts — like the man who ventured into chest-deep waters to rescue a stranded cab driver. But they are a way, these people say, of giving something, if just a little, to those who, by mere chance and geography, suffered more than they did.

"It turns out, people really, really want to do something," said Lyn Pentecost of the Lower Eastside Girls Club, which serves some 150 low-income families and was thrilled to find supporters donating more than $15,000 in less than four hours Saturday, following a 7 a.m. email. "They just want to know how to do it."

A world away on the Upper East Side, where power was never lost, Kim Hartman, a mother of three, was one of those who found herself searching for ways to help.
"I looked at the kids and they were sitting around, doing nothing," she said. "I wanted to stop the inertia."

So she took two of her kids and a friend to a local food pantry, where they spent three hours preparing packages for the needy. It turned out there were too many volunteers on subsequent days, so this weekend, the family is making hundreds of packaged lunches at home and bringing them over.

"This makes it very real to my kids," said Hartman, who's also hosting four guests from areas without power. "You can look at the pictures, but I think you need to walk out the front door, to really feel the change that has happened in the city."

The efforts are being organized in a myriad of ways: On Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, community blogs, school email lists, or by word of mouth. They are supplementing the much larger-scale efforts by relief agencies like the American Red Cross and religious-affiliated organizations like the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, the Catholic Charities of New York or the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

The smaller, community-based efforts tend to focus on more specific needs. And so, while the Red Cross encourages financial donations, rather than material goods, as the most effective way to help, Staten Islander Sean Sweeney's Facebook page is full of requests for work gloves, boys' shoes, a generator for a family in distress, or an immediate need for manpower on a certain street corner.

"Anyone looking to get dirty can meet me at 326 Seaver Avenue this morning," Sweeney, a former community board chairman in the hard-hit borough and also an amateur photographer, posted on Saturday. "Bring gloves and your resolve and I don't mean carpet cleaner." [Pundita note: There's a U.S. brand of carpet cleaner called Resolve]

"I am looking for boys' clothes 'n toys for 8 and 10 year old boys!!!" one woman wrote earlier. "Work gloves are needed," wrote another. "New - Used - Mismatched. It doesn't matter."

A few days ago on his page, Sweeney says, he asked if anyone could spare a generator for a man who was a quadriplegic and had no power. Within hours, he had not only a generator but someone to help him bring it over.

"People have opened their hearts," Sweeney said. "With Staten Islanders, there's zero degrees of separation. This is the kind of thing Staten Islanders do."

In Queens, where Siegel, the real estate agent, was packing food and supplies on Saturday, she was joined by fellow teammates who had all planned to run Sunday's marathon together. Mayor Michael Bloomberg had canceled the race the night before. So the team decided to meet anyway and keep an earlier plan to work on hurricane relief, followed by a brainstorming session for their next marathon, in Pennsylvania next week.

On the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where residents were relatively unaffected by Sandy, volunteer coordinator Shelly Fine found a similar spirit of resolve.

Fine, a former assistant schools superintendent who is trained in rescue efforts, put out an appeal for volunteers and found himself fielding hundreds of calls and emails.

"People were very forthcoming, offering their time and their skills," he said. "They're saying, 'What can I do?'"

Fine found that the best use of his own time was sitting in front of the computer and matching offers to needs — for example, two shelters closed and he had to redirect people to another. One shelter found it needed hygienic wipes to clean cots. Another needed trained medical personnel.

Elliot Zweig, 32, works at a nonprofit think tank, and found himself wanting to help out on Wednesday. He contacted Fine through a blog called the West Side Rag. Soon, he and his wife, a nurse practitioner, were staffing the medical room of a shelter on 84th Street. It was the first time Zweig had volunteered in a similar way since 9/11.

"I watched the TV news, saw all the tragedy and devastation, and I felt very spared — I was safe and comfortable," Zweig said. "We were the lucky ones, who could help."

This week, it's been hard to log onto a website of any organization — a school, a gym, even a store — and not see a reference to Sandy and efforts to help. The 92nd Street Y, in Manhattan, offered families free arts classes and gym time. PTA groups at schools discussed bake sales to raise money.

On a larger scale, NBC held a benefit concert Friday night, featuring Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen and other stars, with donations going to the Red Cross. Barneys New York, the luxury store, was giving 10 percent of its proceeds from Sunday sales to the Red Cross.

Some recovery efforts involved not a group, but merely an individual seeking to help a neighbor. Julia Strom spent three nights — from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. — caring for a woman in her 90s by candlelight. Doing so "was a privilege; it heightens and beautifies life," the 53-year-old Strom said.

Sometimes, agreed Pentecost, of the Lower Eastside Girls Club, it's the littlest things that count the most — what she called "small acts of great love."

Her group was planning to take the thousands of dollars raised this weekend and stuff a bunch of $20 bills into envelopes for families who need to pay that next cellphone bill. Or stock the refrigerator.

"People have to throw out everything in their fridges," she noted. "This is restock-the-fridge money."

"I understand the need for FEMA and the Red Cross and all the rest," she added. "But we're talking about no lines, no red tape. Just immediate help. These people have suffered enough."

———
Associated Press Writer Verena Dobnik contributed to this report.
So the enthusiasm and capacity are here now. It's just a matter of harnessing it beyond crisis periods.


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