Friday, September 30, 2005

Possibly the best blog post I've ever read...

Like many bloggers, I spend time almost every day reading lots of other blogs. As a liberal, one of my very favorites is The Daily Kos. A poster there named Hunter responded to a disgusting, threatening diatribe on Blogs for Bush. What he wrote is eloquent, funny, insightful and inspiring. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Let the Restoration begin

With the neocons in freefall, it's time to begin mapping out the Restoration of America. The values that our country once held sacred have been trampled on, sold to the highest corporate bidders, and it's going to take a lot of hard work to put them back in place.

Writing in The Nation, Alfred Reed Jr., a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, states: "The only hope we have for turning back the tide of this thuggish Administration's commitment to destroy every bit of social protection that's been won in the past century lies in finding ways to build a broad movement of the vast majority of us who are not part of the investor class. We have to be clear that what happened in New Orleans is an extreme and criminally tragic coming home to roost of the con that cutting public spending makes for a better society. It is a shocking foretaste of a future that many more of us will experience less dramatically, often quietly as individuals, as we lose pensions, union protection, access to healthcare and public education, Social Security, bankruptcy and tort protection, and as we are called upon to feed an endless war machine."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Yet poised in the wings are gutless Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and Evan Bayh, neither of whom has taken a position against the war, or any of these other social travesties. I hope their candidacies can be nipped in the bud. We need fresh blood for this Restoration.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Library that lets you take out people left on the shelf

This very interesting story came to me this morning from a colleague in France. It's an example of the impact of creative thinking:

By David Rennie in Brussels (Filed: 25/08/2005)

A public library in Holland has been swamped with queries after unveiling plans to "lend out" living people, including homosexuals, drug addicts, asylum seekers, gipsies and the physically handicapped.

The volunteers will be borrowed by users of the library, in Almelo, who can take them to a cafeteria, and ask them any questions they like for up to an hour, in a scheme designed to break down barriers and combat prejudice. The library's director, Jan Krol, said yesterday he had been deluged with requests from prospective borrowers after his project was reported in the Dutch media.

Almelo, a prosperous town of 72,000 people in the Twente region of east Holland, is not known as a hotbed of Amsterdam-style liberalism. The people-lending scheme was conceived as a local project, designed to encourage the solid burghers of Almelo to make contact with members of ethnic minorities and other marginalised members of society but caught the imagination of the Dutch press.

"It has caused a lot of interest, a lot of people have already called with questions like: do I need a library card?" said Mr Krol. Borrowers of people will not need a card, he said, though one will remain necessary for more prosaic items, such as books. There will be no fines for returning people late, he added. "Most meetings will last 45 minutes, we imagine. You can ask anything you like, but racist or strong language is not allowed. To avoid unpleasantness, all meetings must take place in the library café."

Mr Krol, who said he was inspired by a similar scheme in Sweden, has already filled many of his volunteer slots, and hopes to launch the project next month. He said: "I've got several gay men, a couple of lesbian women, a couple of Islamic volunteers, I've got a physically handicapped woman, and a woman who has been living on social security benefits for many years in real poverty. " Mr Krol said he was especially keen to find members of Holland's small Roma gipsy community after a recent attack on two gipsy families in the city of Enschede.

Under the scheme, photographs and short biographies of the volunteers will appear in the library, and on its website. Library users who wish to take a person out can apply for an appointment. Mr Krol said he had not cleared the scheme with his municipal bosses. "Oh, I never ask the council before I do anything," he said. "And there are no costs at all, only two cups of coffee."

Monday, September 26, 2005

Milton Glaser for president

"Who's he?" you might say if you're not a graphic designer. He's the guy who designed the "I heart NY" logo in the 1970s, and then the "I heart NY More Than Ever" one after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. He's passionate and generous of spirit. He gave one of the keynote addresses at the AIGA Design Conference I attended last week in Boston. He was speaking to 3,000 designers, people who seriously believe their profession can change the world.

After hearing Milton talk, the notion that design can change the world was reaffirmed for me. AIGA's own Design for Democracy initiative, whereby voter education materials and ballots are redesigned carefully is just one small example. Milton's poignant posters, such as the one accompanying this post, are another way.

Here's an excerpt from Milton's talk:

"In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed a world war, the Holocaust, McCarthyism, Vietnam, Korea, the threat of nuclear annihilation, the Cold War—and in these times, AIDS, genocide in Africa and Bosnia, 9/11, global warming, the war on Iraq, the acceptance of torture, the Patriot Act, the tsunami, the devastation of New Orleans and the gulf coast and overshadowing everything else in our minds—the emergence of international terrorism.

The political exploitation of the fear of terrorism is as alarming as terrorism itself. It has caused me to examine my role as a citizen and to think about whether designers as a group have a dog in this fight, to use a pungent, down-home cliché. Our dog in this fight may be human survival."

You'll be inspired if you read Milton's entire presentation.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Is anyone minding the store?

There's been a strange silence since the New Orleans disaster. You don't hear much about or from our president. He's laying low. Strangely, nobody from the other party is beating up on him.

Things in the Republican party seem pretty much back to normal, what with Congress turning to making their tax cuts for the rich a permanent feature of our, um, "democracy." I guess they plan on giving the bill for all their follies to our children and their children.

Now that Michael Brown has taken the fall for the fuckup at FEMA, the media seems to have quieted down.

It feels like America's back on auto-pilot. That worries me because it means nobody's paying attention, nobody's minding the store.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

"This other America"

I'm proud to be posting from Illinois, Land of Lincoln. My legions of readers know that "mikalinphilly" really isn't in Philly any longer. I just haven't gotten around to changing the name of my blog, which would be a branding kind of challenge that I'm not up to when I haven't even changed my bank from the inimitable South Philly institution, St. Edmund's Savings & Loan—which is a whole other story...

Why am I proud to be a citizen of Illinois? Read what our state's' most prominent senator has to say in regards to the New Orleans situation:

""Whoever was in charge of planning was so detached from the realities of inner city life in New Orleans ... that they couldn't conceive of the notion that they couldn't load up their SUV's, put $100 worth of gas in there, put some sparkling water and drive off to a hotel and check in with a credit card,"

"There seemed to be a sense that this other America was somehow not on people's radar screen. And that, I think, does have to do with historic indifference on the part of government to the plight of those who are disproportionately African-American....Passive indifference is as bad as active malice."

This is the kind of frank assessment we need as we embark on rebuilding our nation's relationship with the federal government. Bu$hco, begone. A new day has dawned and your irrelevance could not be more poignant.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Shoes for Condi

I know it's kind of old news, the bit about Condi Rice shopping for Ferragamo shoes in New York while offers of aid for New Orleans victims were coming in from around the world (and being turned down or ignored by the neocon paranoids.) But it still galls me.

That's why I've decided to join the "Shoes for Condi" movement. It's simple, really. Locate your stinkiest, most despicable pair of old shoes (ones you wouldn't even donate to Goodwill), box 'em up and send them to:

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

We have to shame these bastards until we drive them out of our lives.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Surreal tranquility

Our family spent Labor Day weekend camped on a hillside overlooking Little Grassy Lake. We rented a pontoon boat and made barbequed chicken, sat in lawn chairs reading Yeats and Harry Potter. The sun was in early Indian Summer mode, bright and clear and warm without being oppressive. We floated lazily in the water and kept telling ourselves how lucky we are. Lucky we didn't live in New Orleans, that is. How Carbondale, Illinois is really a gem of a place, far from madding crowds, set in rolling countryside with peach orchards and wineries and art galleries. Real estate is a bargain here. Life could be good.

Except I keep having a nagging feeling that New Orleans may not be as far away as we think. We live squarely on the New Madrid fault, and the repeat of the quake that happened in the 1850s would wreak unprecedented havoc from Memphis to St. Louis. And I guess it's clear now how much we could count on the federal government for help were something like that to happen.

When I was in Indianapolis last week, many of the Bu$h supporters I ran into cautioned me about how we should not make New Orleans about politics, that blame should be parceled out later. Now it's clear that they mean "later" as in "after our spin-doctors have their way with the facts so that everyone's confused when the discussion of who's at fault begins." And the spin doctors are working overtime. Babs Bu$h chuckles when she tours the Astrodome and remarks how these people may be better off now. Dubya reminisces about his drinkin' days on Bourbon Street, and pines to once again view the Gulf from Trent Lott's front porch. Blank-o now calls the first five days after the disaster, "heroic." Meanwhile I can't erase the images of the starving children, the sweet old ladies dead in wheelchairs from my hurting head. I fear the rest of America will erase them so they can continue to believe in the leadership of their MIA president.

Come on America, time to wake up. I know you don't want to because then you'll have to face a reality of the day even worse than your suppressed nightmares let you imagine. There was no help for New Orleans because anyone who could help is in Iraq, along with most of the equipment. The levees failed when a mere $250 million to finish their rebuilding was diverted to Baghdad and giving tax cuts to gazillionaires. And worst of all, at a time when our president should have been reassuring us and marshalling a heroic effort, he was at a fund-raiser in San Diego diddling around with a guitar. That guitar reminds me of another famous stringed instrument from history. Our own Nero. Who'd a thought it?

When Clinton lied no one died.