September 16, 2004

Note for Teresa...


When you are a public figure in the limelight, 'tis better to say all the polite things, and not delve too deeply into specifics, especially if you don't know much about the subject. An object lesson from Sam Dolnick of the AP:

NEW YORK - Teresa Heinz Kerry, encouraging volunteers as they busily packed supplies Wednesday for hurricane relief efforts in the Caribbean, said she was concerned the effort was too focused on sending clothes instead of essentials like water and electric generators.

"Clothing is wonderful, but let them go naked for a while, at least the kids," said Heinz Kerry, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (news - web sites). "Water is necessary, and then generators, and then food, and then clothes."

Heinz Kerry stopped by a market in the heart of Brooklyn's Caribbean community, where she spoke French with Haitian vendors and shook hands with volunteers busy packing food, clothes and other relief supplies to be shipped to several Carribean (sic) islands hit by Hurricane Ivan. Her husband's campaign donated water, blankets and first aid kits.

"I think it's important we help all the kids we can," Heinz Kerry said.

As someone who has worked MSCA (Military Support to the Civil Authority, milspeak for disaster relief) before, I'd like to assure her that the people she was visiting were doing exactly what the Red Cross and relief agencies want done. They are really really really good at it. FEMA is really really good at it - having gone to school on the response to Hurricane Andrew and made some real, substantive changes. In fact - the one thing Clinton did that I wholly approve of is Clinton's choice to run FEMA, James Witt.

There are stocks of generation equipment, companies poised to provide more on contingency contracts, and water and food stocks ready to go and on call.

Clothes is one of those things that we average citizens (and money, donated to the relief organizations - WHO KNOW WHAT THEY NEED AND HOW TO GET IT) can contribute that works well - easy to store, easy to ship, easy to distribute. The basics are taken care of. I don't think you've priced generation equipment lately. Cheap ones are in the hundreds of dollars, and they aren't something you just hook up to household power mains. The house has to be wired for them, else you are putting juice back into the mains - which will really annoy the utility worker the next block over trying to fix a downed line. Yes, you can use them standalone - but trust me, if you want to spend $500 on disaster relief, give it to the Red Cross of similar agency. They will make the $500 go one heck of a lot farther.

I sit on the board of a local charity, one of the things we do is school supplies. We take in-kind donations, happily. We get people giving us $70 backpacks. Very very nice backpacks. And we give 'em out - but you should see some of the jostling that occurs among the clients as they try to position themselves to score that Cadillac backpack as opposed to the just as serviceable, more pedestrian type that we buy. However, for your very kind and well intentioned $70 backpack, we could have gotten 8 very nice, all-year serviceable backpacks through our sources. For the package of pencils you bought at $1.50, we could have gotten 6 from our sources. It's the nature of the beast.

Same thing is true of in-kind versus cash donations for disaster relief. We turn nothing down - because we also understand our donors are very comfortable that if they give us a backpack, a backpack goes to a kid. If they give us money, well, who knows how much we might divert to other things (we don't, but hey, United Way's William Aramony screwed it for everybody, so we understand how that works). The other odd thing about charity - people are willing to spend large amounts of money on stuff, but won't give the same amount as a cash donation - and we understand why.

And Teresa, except for really little kids, most people don't like going naked in public. Especially when the press is around. Clothes are psychologically important, and if you don't think keeping people as even-keeled emotionally as possible in refugee situation isn't a top priority - you don't understand disasters.

So, bit of advice - since you are a big public figure and the press is going to report every word... if you don't know what you are talking about, don't. Same advice would apply to Laura Bush, too - except she already knows that. The same thing applies to all celebrities.

For the rest of you - send some money to the Red Cross or disaster relief agency of your choice. $5 from 500 people is $2500 - and that's not chump change.

Whole story is here.

Update (via Baldilocks) Interaction has a list of hurricane relief agencies.

John | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (1) | General Commentary
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Comments on Note for Teresa...
OBS briefed on September 16, 2004 08:54 AM

This points out what I have been saying: The choice for president is simple, if one looks at Teresa or's Laura in a landslide. Simply no contest.

Boudicca briefed on September 16, 2004 08:56 AM

Only children under age 2 don't mind being naked in public. Even three year olds aren't big on it. By age 4, you're doing some serious damage. She has kids. She should know better.

There are bad people out there, bad people who like to prey on children. And just because a disaster has struck doesn't mean they still don't think about the icky stuff or that they won't act on it.

What an idiot. I am sick to think someone like that could be 1st lady. I am officially torn as to what is making me the most sick: that jerkface Moron Kerry as President or his 'uppity not in touch with anyone' wife as 1st Lady. I truly loathe her.

Tammi briefed on September 16, 2004 09:00 AM

That is EXACTLY right John. ohhhhh she just grates on my last nerve.

And people that want to help should send money to those organizations that are "in the know". It's the easiest, quickest and most effective way to help. And you can specify which disaster you are donating for (in case that matters to you).

There are going to be so many long term effects here, and people will need so very much. I hope that everyone will donate what ever they can.

Damian briefed on September 17, 2004 05:28 PM

This just confirms my belief in the Tom Clancy adage: "A closed mouth gathers no foot."

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