The Politics of Giving to Japan

Friday, March 18, 2011

On today's Brian Lehrer Show at 11:40am, Reuters finance blogger Felix Salmon discusses the way in which individual donations to Japan to help with earthquake relief can be a tricky proposition. He points out that the Japanese Red Cross has explicitly said it does not want or need outside donations. Salmon writes that earmarking individual donations exclusively for the relief efforts following specific disasters can hobble relief organizations and potentially leave a lot of unused money on the table. Salmon does suggest giving un-restricted donations to relief organizations instead of designating your money in the name of Japanese victims of disaster.

We'll post highlights from Brian and Felix's conversation later, but for now, here are some links to relief organizations if you choose to consider a donation of any kind.

»» Red Cross | Medical Corps | Global Giving | Save the Children | Drs Without Borders


Felix Salmon


More in:

Comments [7]

Edward from NJ

I came across Felix Salmon's blog on this topic last night. I was most struck by the utter lack of reading comprehension skills demonstrated by most of the commenters.

Mar. 18 2011 11:20 AM
Edward from NJ

I think restricted donations are terrible. If I give money to a non-profit aid group, I trust them to use it when and where it will do the most good. While particular disaster may inspire the giving, we shouldn't tie aid groups hands in regards to directing funds. It's all very short sighted and childish. I still remember the flurry of "outrage" a few months after September 11, 2001 when the Red Cross tried to spend money on non-9/11-related emergencies because, I suppose, flood victims, for instance, are so much less deserving than victims of terrorism.

Mar. 18 2011 11:15 AM
burtnor from Manhattan

Clarification of my previous post: I was not surprised that the young man at the Japanese Embassy was polite, professional, and distressed, but that he answered the phone at 11:30 pm.

Mar. 18 2011 10:46 AM
Jun Ishida from Brooklyn

I have been reading the Japanese media in Japanese. I have found that the English media including English translation of the Japanese media has a 6 hour delay.

The thing English media does not talk about much, while they are focusing too much on the nuclear issue, is the difficulty of aid supplies not reaching the affected area. Hospitals at the affected area have started running out of medicine and are operating with no electricity, water, gas, and understaffed situation. The disruption of transportation of goods include gasoline is huge problem right now.

If you want to pay the respect to deceased, the NYC consulate has a special condolence note book until the 23 of March. You can go 9AM to 4pm (Check with them for lunch hour)

Mar. 18 2011 10:32 AM
burtnor from Manhattan

If you want to send a message of sympathy and hope to the people of Japan, I called the embassy in DC to leave a voicemail and to my surprise a polite and professional but distressed young man answered the phone and gave this email address to use:

He was very appreciative of the call, saying that it means a lot to hear from people.

If you prefer to call:
Tel: 202-238-6700
Fax: 202-328-2187

Of course, there are many organizations to which you can donate money, but here are some other resources from the embassy site:

See also Interaction, an alliance of U.S.-based international nongovernment organizations doing relief and humanitarian work:

Mar. 18 2011 10:22 AM
Hugh Sansom

Brian Lehrer nailed the statistical issue when he mentioned that "if you're the 1 in a million who gets sick" then however low the probability, it matters.

There is really a stunning level of deceptiveness on the part of scientists and politicians on this.

I highly recommend Jon Wargo's "Green Intelligence." (Wargo was interviewed by Leonard Lopate some months ago.)

Many years after the above-ground nuclear tests of the 40s, 50s, and 60s, the government _finally_ released information proving that their claims about safety had been utterly false. They lied.

In fact, radioactive fallout from tests in the southern Pacific made its way _all the way_ around the world -- everywhere. This is why 'alarmists' about nuclear power are so concerned.

Why is Michael Bloomberg fighting to make it _illegal_ for a New Yorker to have a Geiger counter? Because there are private and public facilities carelessly handling radioactive material in the five boroughs. Residents of Williamsburg are among those well aware of this.

My own view is that nuclear power can be safe -- _can_ be, not is. It the US takes the lackadaisical, "market solves all problems without regulation" idiot-line it has taken since the Reagan crimes, then we have no hope at all of avoiding a catastrophe as bad or worse than what is happening now in Japan -- or even what happened at Chernobyl. When level to its own devices, the US nuclear industry has repeated demonstrated wanton disregard for the safety of the general population -- as has so much of American industry.

Mar. 18 2011 10:21 AM

NYC - Candlelight Vigil for the People of Japan

Dag Hammarskjold Plaza
(47th St. between 1st and 2nd Ave.)
7:00 pm

The people of New York wish to pay respect to the victims of this disaster, show our solidarity with the people of Japan and send them our love and hope.

Mar. 18 2011 09:59 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


About It's A Free Country ®

Archive of It's A Free Country articles and posts. Visit the It's A Free Country Home Page for lots more.

Supported by

WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public.  Learn more at


Supported by