The girl with the bowl Munalula Muhau. She lives in Zambia, she lost both her parents to AIDS, and on a good day she gets to tramp along with her cousins to fill that bowl with some bulger wheat that comes from a bag marked “Gift of the people of the United States of America.”
As the Times reported (old story here, photo gallery here), "gift" is a slippery word. There's this problem with lots of American food aid: We became the biggest donors in the world by paying our own agriculture/shipping industries to send food abroad. That allows us to deliver an incredible volume of food aid, but we're not nimble enough to respond to crises.
Nor do we care to be. Zambia is reeling from drought right now, and the required increase in US food aid won't likely arrive in time, if ever. American industry folks say that's too bad for them: If we rush food to Zambia, that job will be so expensive that it will undermine the system that floods the developing world with food.
Now, these American industry folks may be utterly full of crap. But you can maybe see their leverage in arguing that messing with the biggest aid system in the world is dangerous.
None of this was on my mind until I came home and found my wife watching the atrociousness that is 'Idol Gives Back.' As bizarre as the career of Seacrest may be, if he's going to solicit millions of dollars for these organizations, then huzzah for the whole awful show.
Which got me thinking: All these Bono-sanctioned organizations cater to either big donors or mass marketing campaigns. If the U.S. isn't up to responding to a breaking emergency like the one in Zambia, maybe someday Bono can handle that by calling in the deeply narcissistic pockets of people who just want the satisfaction of solving the crisis du jour.
Bono's plan is to cater to people who want to give away money and feel good about themselves. Doesn't that make his organizations tailor-made to respond to emergencies in ways our government won't touch?