As a gullible teenager, I was once given a "sure thing" on a horse by a local goniff who billed himself as a honorable "sports wagerer," but who, as I later found out via a police blotter, was in reality a twice-convicted bookmaker.In any event, the chestnut mare, which was entered in the fifth race at sprawling Belmont Park, allegedly had a bloodline that was comprised of champion equine genetics.

As you may have guessed by this juncture, the horse not only didn't win, but finished so far out of the money, it needed a trailer to return to the paddock. And, as a testimonial to my gullibility, I had placed a week's worth of lawn-mowing wages on this future glue-factory resident.

I tried to place the blame for this fiasco anywhere except where it belonged. I argued that someone should have warned me. My father gently told me - between several stiff cuffs to the back of my empty head - that my money was history and all I would get would be a sore index finger trying to place the blame where it didn't belong.

I imagine there are some aching fingers both in Washington and around the country these days from all the finger-pointing on who exactly should shoulder the blame in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the lack of an effective response thereto.

Many are of the opinion that the blame should lie squarely at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and, by proxy, the impotent appointees heading vital federal agencies, who reacted with the swiftness of third-graders with stage fright. Others feel that local government should shoulder the majority of the accountability, with the mayor of New Orleans and the governor of Louisiana appearing so overmatched by the situation it would border on comical if it wasn't so dire.

There are probably enough points to support both arguments, but unfortunately, spotlighting one or two convenient scapegoats won't do much to assuage the suffering of affected Gulf Coast residents, particularly those in New Orleans. I doubt those who have lost everything care who should face a figurative firing squad; they only wanted to know where their next meal was coming from, or whether they would be able to sleep on clean and dry sheets.

Much like they did after September 11, the accounting profession and the Internal Revenue Service have stepped up with relief efforts beyond the primary food and water essentials - but they're essential nonetheless.

As an example, the IRS and the American Institute of CPAs have teamed in a partnership to provide taxpayer assistance at local disaster recovery centers established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The IRS and the AICPA are using volunteer CPAs at FEMA's disaster recovery centers to provide service to those seeking taxpayer aid. The IRS would then summon the profession if any more help was required.

The Katrina relief effort includes several CPA firms, many of whom pledged up to $50,000 to the relief efforts, with a promise to match employee contributions, while vendors and software publishers allowed users in the areas free access to their products, coupled with promises to replace any damaged or lost publications and materials at no charge. And after this issue went to press, the list undoubtedly grew larger.

While my expensive lesson on thoroughbred wagering taught me there's no such thing as a sure thing, the profession's quick response to a disaster is usually a safe bet.

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