I'm going to be really honest with you: after all the fights at the mall to get just the right present for everybody and the giant hassle of going to the post office so I can get the perfect stamps for my cards - and then worrying that I left someone off the list - I am just not in the mood to do a 9/11 story.
And it's been getting worse every year. I mean, just like the "It's Christmas Every Day Store," I know there's one of the "9/11 Every Day" stores open, in the all-too-human form of Rudy Giuliani, and I've learned to live with that, but it seems like they got started with the 9/11 earlier than ever this year - and by the time the TV memorials and analysis and retrospectives are all over, to paraphrase Lewis Black: I'm going to hate freedom.
In an effort to stave off this fate, we'll be headed in a different direction today: I have three stories to pass along; each is important enough that you really should know about them, and yet they're each very much bite-sized and easily digestible.
It's all good stuff, so let's get right to it.
ASHES TO ASHES
FOREST TO DUST
KEEP WISCONSIN GREEN
ALL GO BUST
--Burma Shave sign, 1949, as quoted in the book "Verse By The Side Of The Road", by Frank Rowsome, Jr.
So let's start with AIDS. If you have it, you need drugs - but you might not be able to afford 'em. So what do you do?
Well, one obvious choice is to die, slowly - but another is to seek help from the state. In most states, that is done in a fairly routine matter, but in some states it is not; for some of the folks in these states, instead of drugs, they get a waiting list.
And since AIDS doesn't really recognize waiting lists, this is bad.
(Fun Fact: See if you can guess where the 12 states who have waiting lists are located; if you guessed more or less the Old Confederacy, you get a cookie. Of the 9200 Americans on waiting lists, only about 225 live above the Mason-Dixon Line; almost 6000 are in Florida and Georgia alone.)
But it can be fixed, for about $105 million, if we lean on the right people, and as our friend D. Gregory Smith told us right here just a couple of days ago, Congressman Denny Rehberg (MT-01) is one person to be leaning on.
A petition is circulating that you can sign to help move this along, or you can call Rehberg's DC office Monday at (202) 225-3211 - and whichever one you do - or both - you're going to be doing a whole lot of folks you never met a whole lot of good.
So now that you've done your part to help out those who need it, how about a bit of a thought experiment?
You are no doubt aware that you've been subsidizing, with your hard-earned tax dollars, the use of fossil fuels - and in fact, if you're a typical American, you spent just about $500 over the past five years to do just that.
Of course, over the same time period you've been subsidizing solar power as well, and here's where the thought experiment comes into play:
Try to imagine how much you've spent on that subsidy.
$250, $150, $900? $825, $3350, $847.63?
How about none of the above.
How about - wait for it - $7.24.
That's right: at the same time you've been handing over an extra $100 a year to oil companies - for no particular reason as the price of oil keeps going up - you've been providing about a $1.40 a year to encourage the rollout of a technology that can potentially pay for itself, might just help get us off oil as a transportation fuel, and could even provide a few million jobs along the way - and as we all know, if we build "solar stuff" in the USA and throw it right up on our roofs, then it's gonna make it pretty tough for OPEC or China or whomever to raise the price of the Sun as we back away from oil and build out electric cars.
Pretty much all of this argument is presented in one handy graphic by the folks at 1 Block Off The Grid, an organization that seeks to put solar electricity generation on your roof, and I became aware of this because it was tweeted to me (and to be honest, I get enough tweets a day that I'm not going to go back and figure out who it was - mea culpa - although I can tell you that Roger Ebert posted the handy graphic at his blog on the "Chicago Sun-Times" site; he's also tweeted on the subject.).
That's two out of today's three stories down, and the last one is a good one:
If you don't know The Yes Men by now, you should; they're a modern version of the "Merry Pranksters" who blow minds by helping corporations stumble over their own deep embarrassments - very publicly.
Here's the most recent example: Peabody Energy mines coal that is associated with air pollution that is threatening the lives of the kids who live near, well, air, anyway, and The Yes Men did a little collaboration with a group called Coal is Killing Kids that involved creating a fake "health campaign" supposedly orchestrated by Peabody (the "Coal Cares" Project).
The fake announcement said that Peabody would begin giving free inhalers to kids living near coal-fired power plants - and to make asthma more fun for the kids, "fake Peabody" announced their new line of kiddie inhalers: "the Bieber", "My Little Pony", "Baby's First Inhaler", and, of course, the "Harry Potter".
There's also a webpage with fun activities for the kids (try the wordsearch or perhaps you'd rather color in "Puff" and "Ash"); just swing on by CoalCares.org to join the fun.
Naturally, the real Peabody had to deny everything, and they're not at all happy about it - and that is what equals victory in these "assaults of embarrassment". (There was an additional, coincidental, victory: Scholastic Books decided to sever their ties with the coal industry, and CoalCares helped; as a result coal industry-funded curricular materials will no longer be distributed to schools.)
Now the reason all this happened is because The Yes Men have decided they couldn't fix the world all by themselves, and they're sort of "growing the brand" by launching the YesLab (it's another collaboration, this time with New York University). Are you in New York on the 14th? Attend the launch event. It's free, and it will be fun.
But amidst all the fun and frivolity, there's a serious side here: this thing is not going to be cheap, and while I almost never ask you to donate to anything - even me - I am going to ask you, if you have a few extra bucks, to help out the YesLab, which you can do by hitting that "Donate" button on the left side of the YesLab.org page.
So that's it for today: you can help fix the world, you can help spread the word about energy subsidies for fossil fuels, and maybe you can help someone get off a waiting list that, at the moment, is leaving them waiting for death.
Or, I suppose, you could go pop on the TV and watch the rest of that 72-hour 9/11 marathon that's been on every single channel in the world - but with my 9/11 cards now sent out and the presents all delivered, I know which one I'd prefer.