Haiti Ten Years Later—Isn’t Anything Fixed?

Ten years to the day after Haiti suffered a magnitude 7 earthquake that killed 250,000, CBS News sent Jeff Glor to Port au Prince to report on progress. There wasn’t any—or at least, it didn’t seem that way.

“Mass protests, gang violence, rampant political corruption...jobs are scarce,” was his glum assessment. 80 million dollars had immediately after the quake been allocated to rebuild the hospital, and CBS showed the unfinished building standing empty. As to the condition of the old hospital still in use—the only hospital in town? It “reeks of raw sewage, piles of trash are everywhere.”

“Sorry, Buddy, I’m sorry,” a shaken Jeff Glor murmurs, stroking the head of a writhing infant unable to relieve himself. “I can’t imagine the pain he’s in right now,” he says to his parent.

Read the report of how the beacon of relief looked to by humanists ten years ago raised half a billion dollars in the wake of the earthquake—and squandered almost all of it: here

Yes, but surely ten years later, mighty progress has been made. Nope. Doesn’t seem so. In contrast, disaster relief teams organized by the Coordinator’s Committee of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’s Governing Body, quickly attended to physical needs of members back then. Not only physical needs, but the more important spiritual needs, for it is widely recognized that hope is what people need to get through such a time at least as much as physical relief.

An excerpt from Tom Irregardless and Me:

In contrast, the Red Cross, America’s ‘charity of choice,’ succeeded in raising half a billion dollars after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010. Five years later, ProPublica and NPR jointly reported that they had astonishingly little to show for it; “It’s difficult to know where it all went,” they wrote. Search through their June 3, 2015 report and read the devastating consequences of not having Bible education.

Read how the ones in charge couldn’t speak the native languages and often skipped community meetings on that account. Read how some disrespected the local workers. Read how Washington headquarters micromanaged everything, how shifting senior management slowed progress to a crawl, how leaders with “absolutely no expertise” wielded authority. Read about hand-washing campaigns launched with huge fanfare to people who had no access to soap or water. Read about the 130,000 claimed to have been housed, but who actually just attended a seminar on how to fix their own homes, received temporary rental assistance or provisional shelters that started to disintegrate after three to five years. And be fair to the Red Cross: Read their response. Read it all. Were it not so tragic, it would be laughable. It was all so preventable. All that was needed was Bible education. Jehovah’s Witnesses have it. They value it. They didn’t suffer from the Red Cross’s problems.

You should be fair to the Red Cross - don’t pile on just because the herd does. Haiti is a spectacular train wreck for them, but probably they do better elsewhere. Doubtless they have fine people doing their best. No one alleges theft. They offer an explanation for their performance. Read it. Essentially, they had problems because they didn’t know what they were doing: they didn’t mesh with the locals, they didn’t understand the local laws. Cut them slack on these things, if you like, but also note that such problems would never occur in Jehovah’s organization, where local people are highly valued, if not placed in charge.

Author Bill Underwood in the now defunct examinier.com compared the disaster relief efforts of several religious organizations. Most issued urgent appeals for money. Most provided only sketchy details as to what they would do with those monies. But when it came to the Watchtower:

Well, that was refreshing. I went to watchtower.org and searched it for references to money, donations, charity. All I found were Watchtower articles such as ‘Is money you master or your servant?’ Try as I might, there was no way to donate any money to the organization, nor any request for donations. The only mention of money I found, in connection with Haiti, was in a public news release at jw-media.org entitled “Witnesses’ relief efforts well under way for victims of earthquake in Haiti.” A single line at the bottom read, ‘The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses is caring for these expenses by utilizing funds donated to the Witnesses’ worldwide work.’

....At the home of Victor Vomidog, an alarm panel light pulsed red. Victor read the incoming feed. It was serious. Someone was saying nice things about Jehovah’s Witnesses. Instantly, he swung into action. There was not a moment to lose. He opened his door and whistled. The media came running. “Witnesses are selfish!” he cried. “They only think of themselves! Why don’t they help everyone? Why do they just do their own people?” That evening, media ran the headline: “WHY DON’T THEY HELP EVERYONE?”

But they had asked the wrong question. The headline they should have run, but didn’t, because they didn’t want to deal with the answer, was: “WHY AREN’T OTHERS DOING THE SAME?” The answer to the first question is obvious: Witness efforts consist of volunteers using their vacation time. Just how much time is the boss going to grant?

So do it yourself, Victor! Organize your own new chums! Or send your money to some mega-agency where they think Bible education is for fools. Be content to see monies frittered away on salaries, hotels, travel, retirement, health care benefits, and God knows what else! Be content to see much of what remains squandered! It’s the best you can do - embrace it! Or at least shut up about the one organization that has its act together.

The obvious solution, when it comes to disaster relief, is for others to do as we do. Why have they not? There are hundreds of religions. There are atheists…aren’t you tight with Sam now, Victor? Organize them, why don’t you? They all claim to be unGod’s gift to humankind. Surely they can see human suffering. Why don’t they step up to the plate themselves?

They can’t. They are vested in a selfish model that runs a selfish world. Let them become Jehovah’s Witnesses and benefit from the Bible education overseen by the Governing Body, Plato’s and Sider’s dream brought to life. But if they stay where they are, they must look to their own organization or lack thereof. There’s no excuse that they should not be able to copy us. They have far more resources to draw upon. We’re not big enough to do everyone for free, and we don’t know how to run a for-pay model; we’ve no experience in that. Instead, other groups must learn how to put love into action, as we did long ago.

C’mon, Victor! If all the world needs is to ‘come together,’ then see to it! We don’t know how to do that. People without Bible education tend not to get along. You make them do it! You don’t want to, or can’t, do large-scale relief, yet you want to shoot down those who do! What a liar!

...

CBS News and Jeff Glor is determined to find a silver lining in this total failure uncovered during his 2020 visit. He does find one—but it is not in Port au Prince, which is still apparently a lost cause, despite humanists throwing everything they have at it.

“But take a trip outside the capitol and you find a remarkable place that many people doubted could ever exist in this country.” Jeff reports of St Boniface hospital, a remarkable (for Haiti) institution run by Health Equity International, caring for needs that cannot be cared for anywhere else in the country, says it’s director. People travel hundreds of miles to get there. It was started in 1983 and thus has nothing to do with human efforts in response to the 2010 devastation, but it clearly has found a place since then.

No bad things will be said about Health Equity International. Only good things. It represents dedication at its best. Still, in the context of the greater picture....well—you must “take a trip outside the capitol” to find it—something, unless I am very wrong, that the majority of residents will not be able to do. Inside the capitol—where everyone is—there appears scant improvement in 2010, in fact, worse than scant improvement, for there were not “mass protests” prior to the quake, and probably “gang violence” was not as bad. “Rampant political corruption” probably was, but that is business as usual in large portions of the world.

Fix it, you humanists. Fix it, you anti-cultists. Fix it, you “evidence-based” atheists. Or at least lay off on deriding JWs, since your people certainly aren’t rising to the occasion.

 

 

 

 

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Are We Looking at Insurance Fraud? Part 1.

There was a series of tweets from former Jehovah’s Witnesses hoping to stir up discontent with present ones. The politics involved are likely not of interest to the general reader so I pass over it here. Suffice it to say that it is that way.

It turns out that when the Watchtower organization oversees disaster relief they afterwards suggest to ones that happen to have insurance that they might donate whatever insurance might pay out to the Worldwide Work relief fund itself. Why this should infuriate the ex-Witnesses I’ll never know but infuriate them it does. To me, it seems only just that those who do the disaster rebuild should receive the insurance monies if there are any. I could be wrong but I suspect insurance companies will love it that way; the work gets down promptly and without haggling over amount. However, the more important question to be raised is, if the Watchtower doesn’t get the insurance money, who does? The more I looked at these tweets the more I came to feel that I was looking at encouragement to commit insurance fraud.

With that backdrop, here are some of the tweets. I have excluded irrelevant ones as well as those from opposers calling me an a*****e. Apparently, a recent shipment of relief supplies was destroyed and that is how the topic is introduced. I will reproduce a few tweets which may or may not interest the reader, all in italics, and then return to the main point. I am TTH. Others I will refer to by their initials. Everything is captured in screenshots.

EDL: The donations from local Jehovah's Witnesses caught fire - but the article fails to mention that JW donations and disaster relief is ONLY ever for other JWs.  JWs only support their local community by preaching to them, never with practical help.

TTH: Yes. They cannot do everyone because they are near exclusively volunteers using vacation time. The best they can do is set an example for others to imitate so that they will not be beholden to astronomically wasteful agencies.

CF: Interestingly enough, WT usually pressure any JW’s they help to “dontate” the insurance payout they get back to WT to “thank” them.

TTH: ‘Pressure is a subjective term. However, if they do the work voluntarily at no cost that certainly would not be an inappropriate way to acknowledge it. Many people have no insurance at all, especially in the case of flooding. It is something immaterial to JWs. They do not check beforehand.

SL: Agreed, the WT does not do the work on the understanding the insurance cash will come their way…

 For a brief moment, I thought I had found an ally, but it was not so:

SL: I've given up my time in my JW past to do this work and it's lovely to feel you are helping someone in need.  In my experience few, if any, feel the need to solicit thanks from a victim of disaster let alone "suggest" the insurance money comes one's way.

CF: To clarify - it’s not the individual JW’s helping who do this. It’s something that happens afterward, organized via the branch and handled by the elders. Most JW volunteers never even know this has happened. JR is putting together an article that exposes multiple instances of WT leaning on JW’s after a relief effort to hand over the insurance money.

I was getting a little fed up at this point. In three tweets combined, I said:

TTH: Tell him to not ignore the end result: distressed persons quickly having life & property restored, vs waiting weeks or months for relief that will only come if they are adequately insured, insurers sometimes being known to weasel out of full coverage when they can. Tell him also to spotlight the atheist and opposer agencies that do the same for their people so that they do not find themselves sh*t out of luck when insurance or build execution proves inadequate. And make sure he tells of the premier agency in the Haiti earthquake, squandering practically to the penny the half billion dollars donated. (I linked to a Propublica article detailing breathtaking incompetence in America’s chief relief agency and (alas) even exaggerated some, for they didn’t waste all of it, just most of it.) I am looking forward to this article, confident John will not forget these things.

Someone made a snotty comment about Watchtower making a lot of money off their volunteers and the insurance companies. I replied that it was in return for doing exactly what the insurance company wanted done

The former Witnesses turned bitter opponents work tirelessly to stir up discontent in those loyal. They do a great deal of talking amongst themselves, but present Witnesses are their target audience. While the Watchtower organization may well afterwards make the suggestion, I doubt very much that they ‘pressure’ anyone because the idea of simply pocketing both work AND insurance payment would never occur to most Witnesses. And even if they were to ‘pressure’ anyone, it would clearly be for their own good; otherwise they would be committing insurance fraud, and the insurance companies are very good at sniffing such things out.

Say they succeed in finding some Witnesses who are outraged that the Watchtower Society should mention money after they have restored a person’s life. What are they recommending these ones do? Are they recommending that they say to their Christian brothers, who are generally on the scene long before relief comes by any other way, “Brothers, no. Don’t bother. I am afraid that the organization may afterwards mention money. I will wait instead for the insurance company to pay and hope that the amount is enough to restore what I have lost and that when the harried contractors at last get around to it they will not in their haste do a half-assed job.” I don’t think so.

I have never heard that advice from these characters or anything even approaching that. What the opposers appear to be doing is encouraging disgruntled ones, if they can find any, to accept the Watchtower’s help and then refuse any suggestion that they sign over an insurance check. What, then, will they do with the insurance money? Give it back to the insurance company? Again, I don’t think so. Why have they been paying premiums for all these years? No, they are encouraging them to keep the money, perhaps to thereafter spend on a new car, overseas vacation, or college tuition.

Look, this may be an overgeneralization, but this illustrates exactly why people who are Jehovah’s Witnesses should think twice before they leave the faith. I see these former Witnesses on Twitter. Some excoriate Trump and some excoriate Obama. They once had unity. Moreover, they cavalierly float an idea that would shock most Witnesses: take the money and run. What is wrong with these characters? I mean, who would propose repaying the work of volunteer rebuilders with closed fists, and who would propose chiseling the insurance company out of their money at the same time? There is such a thing as hating so much as to lose all decency. My bet is that when insurance companies do sign over checks to the Watchtower, they find it a pure joy, knowing well how difficult customers can be when under extreme pressure. Jerod Kushner said with Jehovah’s Witnesses a handshake deal means something when he bought some of their Brooklyn property. Even arch-enemy Barbara Anderson says that, overall, they’re very nice people.

Look, possibly what they are advocating is not illegal. Perhaps it is just astonishing mean and ungrateful. Either way they look very small as they focus their unreasoning hatred to cripple the most effective disaster relief program the world has known. Parts 2 and 3, which follow, are not specifically on matters of insurance and can be skipped by those interested in those matters alone.

See Part 2 and Part 3

 

Spy

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There Was Not a Moment to Lose

"At the home of Victor Vomidog, an alarm panel light pulsed red. Victor read the incoming feed. It was serious. Someone was saying nice things about Jehovah’s Witnesses. Instantly, he swung into action. There was not a moment to lose. He opened his door and whistled. The media came running. “Witnesses are selfish!” he cried. “They only think of themselves! Why don’t they help everyone? Why do they just do their own people?” That evening, media ran the headline: “WHY DON’T THEY HELP EVERYONE?”

"But they had asked the wrong question. The headline they should have run, but didn’t, because they didn’t want to deal with the answer, was: “WHY AREN’T OTHERS DOING THE SAME?” The answer to the first question is obvious: Witness efforts consist of volunteers using their vacation time. Just how much time is the boss going to grant?"

(from Tom Irregardless and Me)

Of course, it is about opposers' efforts to denigrate the disaster recovery work Witnesses are known for.

Heavy_rain_disaster_in_Hiroshima-20140823_181654

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Belief over Bureaucracy

The race is on to see who can rebuild flattened Lebanon after the 5 week war. (assuming that war is really over) The international community hopes it will be the Lebanese government. The smart money, though, is on Hezbollah, the grass roots guerilla group that provoked the war in the first place.

Onlookers wish it were otherwise, but Hezbollah represents people with convictions, while the government represents……well…..coalitions and bureaucrats and politicians and (sometimes) scoundrels.

So far, it’s no contest. Changing hats, and flush with cash from neighboring Islamic nations, the recent guerillas now run backhoes and bulldozers. Was your home destroyed in the war? They rebuild it free of charge. This builds good will. Even those fed up with the group for its militancy are nonetheless happy to receive their aid….why would they not be? As for the international funds channeling through the Lebanese government, they are in transit, being appropriated,  just around the corner, perhaps being siphoned, what have you.

Haven’t we heard this same story lately, closer to home?

One year after hurricane Katrina, although $17 billion has been approved by Congress to rebuild homes, not one house has been rebuilt! (from that source - some rebuilding has taken place from private sources, flood insurance, and charitable organizations)

Typical are reports such as this one:

“In a state where 60,000 homes suffered severe damage, only around 30,000 households were eligible for the initial program, and now less than three dozen checks have gone out,” said Oxfam America’s Minor Sinclair, director of its US regional programs. “Very few families will have made any progress by Katrina’s first anniversary. People are stranded in gutted-out houses, overcrowded trailers, and slipping deeper into debt, with no real help in sight.” Oxfam blames lack of political will, bureaucratic bungling, and poor policy decisions.

If it didn’t involve real people, it would be laughable. But it does involve real people. “I think people have lost hope,” says one Biloxi resident highlighted here. “When people don’t have any hopes, they don’t have anything to drive them to work, to do something good. Hope is long gone.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses are to Hezbollah as Tony the Tiger is to the Tamil Tigers, but there are two similarities. Both groups have conviction, and they can both rebuild.

3200 homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses were damaged by Katrina. They’re all rebuilt now. (I am extrapolating, based on previous reports.)

Jehovah’s Witnesses are organized to build. Regional Building Committees, comprised of volunteer JWs, exist worldwide to construct Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls. When disaster strikes, these teams converge and form the core of relief efforts. Other Witnesses swell their ranks, putting their own businesses on hold or using vacation time. Materials are supplied either from donations made to the parent organization’s worldwide work, or made expressly for any particular disaster.

Really, then, as long as we have time favorable for it, let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those who are related to [us] in the faith.....Gal 6:10

Belief will trump bureaucracy every time.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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Who to Blame for Human Suffering...Katrina

Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans last year. People lost everything and they asked, some of them: where was God?

Fundamentalist preacher Pat Robertson had the answer right away. God destroyed New Orleans, he declared, because of abortion and homosexuality. But the mayor, Ray Nagin, disagreed. Sharply. And at his own news conference, he set the record straight. God did not destroy his town because of abortion and homosexuality.

He destroyed it because of war in Iraq and disunity among black residents. That’s what steamed God, Nagin said, not abortion and gays.

Either way, God is the heavy. But is he really the one to blame?

After Katrina, for a few days in the ministry you could focus on the theme of humans ruining the earth. You could use Rev 11:18.…..God will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.” You could ask: “do you think human activity is causing the destructive weather?” Even those who thought not would listen, out of respect for Katrina.

I used this scripture in the 1970s when only means of ruining the earth anyone could imagine was nuclear holocaust. That was then. Today, there are so many ways humans might be fouling the nest. Global warming, global dimming (a new one), pesticides, air pollution, water pollution, ozone depletion, contamination of food supply, species extinction, deforestation. All debatable to different degrees, but all plausible.

It’s as if a man runs his automobile without concern for maintenance. He doesn‘t care about oil changes. He doesn‘t care about brake shoes. He doesn‘t care about tune-ups. Little does he know the consequence of his ignorance, but if it comes, he can hardly blame the manufacturer.

And it’s the same way with earth’s manufacturer. God knows the right maintenance for the planet. Plus, the Bible account tells of His Son walking on water and silencing a violent storm….in other words, showing mastery of the elements. Adam gave up a lot when he rejected God’s rule. For God’s rule would implement knowledge and ability that humans don’t have.

And we won’t even mention the smarts of building a city next to the sea yet below sea level. Hardly God’s wisdom, it barely passes for human wisdom.

So you can’t blame God when human shortsightedness brings suffering. Moreover, the real answer, his kingdom rule, is approaching. Best thing to do in the meantime is clean up the mess, and alleviate human suffering.

In our own organization, volunteers have arrived from across the country and even outside. They report, strangely, that not too much is happening with rebuilding. Being volunteers who travel at their own expense, they focus on our own family first. The June 2006 Awake! tells of 3200 homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses destroyed by the flood. Half were renovated by February. It would be about two thirds by now.

They don’t blame God for their inconvenience.

Prov 1:31,31, Mark 4:37-41, Matt 6:9,10

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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