Red Cross and other Catastrophic Curiosities

It’s enormously frustrating for a guy whose life has been dedicated to fighting for things to have no one to fight with. My family suffers and there is no argument to be had. It’s utter impotence, and it’s brutal.

You can’t argue with a storm. You can’t argue with a dark light. You can’t argue wth guys on power trucks about why they drive down the road past your home to work on someone else’s road. And you can’t argue with people whose power has returned and are trying to get their own lives back to relative normal. But that means you stand there, silently, incapable of changing anything and feeling helpless. This is a foreign feeling.

The crank radio reports that many have gotten their power back, using numbers that reflect “customers.” This is a bit of sleight of hand, as “customer” refers to the name on the bill.  The rest of the people living there don’t exist. So if they say there are still 1.7 million customers without power ten days after the storm, multiply that number by the average household, maybe 2.4, and that reflects the number of cold people. Multiply it by two to get the number of cold hands. The temperature this mornng was in the upper 30s.

The radio offers either nasty and absurdly ridiculous poltical commercials or commercials of insurance companies and service providings who can help those who have suffered damage. They tell us to call their toll free number, or go online. Except we have no electricity, telephone or internet. But they care about us very deeply.

Press conferences by public officials fill the dead time between commercials. Each begins with 20 minutes of thanking each of other for their great work, and their apprecation of people whose job it is to do whatever they are doing. So they are getting paid and getting appreciation. It must be great to be a public official in a crisis.

Donations to American Red Cross are, as with past disasters, plentiful. The problem is that the American Red Cross takes in the money and doesn’t use it for the purpose given. For all those ten dollar text donations, maybe a dollar or two is used for the crisis, with a few dollars going toward administrative fees, salary increases for their full time staff, new office furniture. The rest disappears. This happened after 9/11, Haiti, and every other major disaster. No one ever wonders where the money went after the noise dies down, but it never seems to find its way to its intended recipients.

On Imus this morning, he talked about how he went to Staten Island, and the Red Cross was nowhere to be found.  And yet, donations pour in.  Regardless, there will be nothing, whether Red Cross, FEMA or state aid, available for those whose suffering won’t make a photo op. There never is.  At least they may offer a cot and peanut butter and jelly sandwich to the homeless, like prison. For every $10,000 contributed to the Red Cross, another sandwich is offered. Kinda makes you feel all warm and good about yourelf, right?

The endless flow of guest-post requests, LinkedIn requests, Nigerian scams and legal marketing solicitations never seems to cease. Apparently, there is no loss of power in Bangalore.  The readers who send me 37 links for possible posts daily, especiallng the ones about these horrific conspiracies where our government plans to feed us to aliens from Mars, continue unabated. They too never seem to lose power, or the hope that  I will embrace their conspiracies in the few moments of internet access alotted to me.

No matter how well one prepares for problems, there are unanticipated needs that remain unmet. Clean clothing, for example.  The washing machine doesn’t work without power, no matter how hard you stare at it.  Some folks probably have enough clothing to last a few weeks without washing. I do not. Crisp, starched collars are a distant memory now.

And towels don’t dry in the cold. They stay damp, and get even colder. Cold, damp towels are remarkably unpleasant to use.  Take my word on this.  After a cold shower, or even a warm sponge bath, a dry towel would feel good.

We now see power company trucks fairly regularly, but they just keep driving past and out of view. They must be helping someone more important. 

In my spare moments, I try to keep abreast of the blawgosphere. There is no shortage of stories of interest and importance, and I’m glad others out there are keeping the information and commentary flowing, even if I can’t or won’t.  Maslow’s Hierarchy has kicked in on my end, so staying warm takes precedence over the latest puppycide. And somebody says there is a presidential election coming soon. 

Don’t give to the Red Cross. Be charitable, if that’s your way, but they don’t need new office furniture, and Haiti remains a shambles despite the billions Red Cross took in. Because they just keep the money.

14 comments on “Red Cross and other Catastrophic Curiosities

  1. Frank

    That three large you saved not putting a generator in your house is looking pretty in your bank account, right?

  2. John Neff

    Sorry to learn of your life without power. If you were camping in the wilderness it would be a vacation.

    If you see a MidAmerican Energy truck tell them to help you because they owe me a favor.

  3. Felicia Herman

    I try to make my donations to Jewish charities – they tend to be administered more judiciously.

    I hope that your power is restored soon.

  4. Isaios

    That seems like a claim that needs a bit of data to back it. It’s not that I doubt there are plenty of foundations with … odd … spending patterns, but demanding low administration cost from a humanitarian relief organisation merely ensures that what relief IS offered has not been tailored to the needs on the ground, often exacerbating a situation rather than helping. Also, several organisations try to spend money over a longer period than some donaters want, because (as in Haiti for instance) most of the donations come in while there is media coverage, but the need hardly ceases when the cameras go away.

    There’s a final problem I’ve seen repeatedly, where an organisation is given large sums (after large-scale disasters) earmarked for that event. And (in Norway at least) there are laws in place which makes it ILLEGAL for the organisation in question to use those monies for any other purpose. I’ve seen numbers for the Norwegian branch of the International Red Cross that indicates they still have money after the Haiti quakes that were donated with a caveat of use. They also has some millions from right after that large Argentinian (or Chilean?) quake from not long after the big Haiti quake. They won’t EVER get to use those monies, because outside aid was not required or requested (since whichever country it was is hardly impoverished and has had some experience with earthquakes in the past).

    Depressingly, these caveats are used because people don’t trust the organisation to use the donations properly. It SOUNDS logical, but all it does is locking down available funds and creating more mistrust.

    (This might certainly be unique to Norway, no idea how it’s done in the Union.)

  5. Paul Majors

    I’m sitting here in sunny So. Cal wondering how you folks are doing back East. We won’t give to the Red Cross for exactly the reasons you state. We have thought seriously about how we could help in some way but then it occurs to us that we can’t fly in and if we did how could we get to where the help is needed with no gas, no taxis and no hotels to stay in without taking much needed resources at the local’s expense. I’ve lived through my share of earthquakes, fires and Santa Ana winds but never a perfect storm like you. Our thoughts are with you. Hopefully, you’ll get proper aid and assistance soon. Good Luck and hang in there.

  6. MacK

    You are so right!
    I saw a news cast the other day and the first responders from police, red cross, medical, people running shelters were praised at least 15 times in 5 minutes.
    Not once was it said what they had actually done just that they were well…. responding.

  7. SHG

    I gave my generator to the Half Hollow School for Wayward Orphan Invalid Girls, so they could be warm. I hope you think you’re joke is still funny now.

  8. SHG

    If I was camping in the wilderness when it’s 34 degrees out, I would deserve whatever I get.  I already had imagined of Bear Grylls drinking his own urine, except I’m not sure whether it goes better with meat or fish.

  9. SHG

    For people familiar, the “backup data” is well known. For people unfamiliar, they can always do the  tiny bit of legwork needed to fnd out for themselves, if they’re interested enough. If not, then they can bask in ignorance. Makes no difference to me.

  10. SHG

    Thanks for the thoughts, but there’s nothing much to do. Now, it’s just a waiting game. The next year or two will be spent cleaning up the mess.

  11. SHG

    A huge circle jerk with no actual information. Try to find out when they will be doing anything, and you get a half hour song and dance about what a terrible storm it was. We already know that. And then they go back to praising their fabulosity.

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