It makes many of us sick to learn from very good reporting this week just how much our government leaders knew about the vulnerability of New Orleans, and the nation, was to a hurricane, yet did so little. How much political energy, money and capital has been expended on Terry Schiavo, protecting oil companies from being sued for contaminating drinking water and opening up an Arctic wildlife refuge for oil drilling? Now, how much has been devoted to securing a critical port and waterway for everything from gasoline to breakfast cereal, not to mention protecting the lives of 1.2 million people in a beloved and historic city? There's a lot of failure to go around. Will any of the Feds facing re-election admit any of it? Don't bet on it.

Now that's off my chest for the moment. Advertising agencies are generally viewed as nothing more than organized, high priced hucksters. But here is what one agency did, quickly, to dispel that stereotype. Austin, Texas shop GSD&M called the Ad Council on Wednesday morning, when the rest of us got the full picture of how awful the situation is, to volunteer to put together radio and television advertisements for the Red Cross.

By Thursday morning, the ads, which featured celebrities such as New Orleans native Aaron Neville, were done. Next, the agency is sending people to Louisiana over the holiday weekend with clothes and supplies for shelters.

As reported by the Austin American Statesman: "The ads show hurricane footage with a series of red minus signs, followed by the words "home," "electricity," "food" and "water." The next frame shows two people hugging, with the sign of the Red Cross and the word "hope," and a voice-over that says: "Hope is more powerful than a hurricane."

After 9-11, the Administration and many corporate leaders encouraged us to keep shopping as a response to terrorism. I'm still trying to figure that one out. In response to this calamity, I'd like to suggest that we all stop shopping so much and see if we can overwhelm the legitimate relief agencies like the Red Cross with aid.

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