Justin Krebs's blog

Creating a Good Villain

Every battle needs a good villain. Not sure if that's a line out of a comic book, or the advice Matt Stoller has often offered on these pages, but it's true.

There's some healthy debate about whether Rush is the right villain or the wrong target. Brave New Films has done a great job their War on Greed to make the likes of Henry Kravis into a known nemesis. And in New York, the proponents for Fair Share Tax Reform just realized: why create a villain, if the entertainment industry's already done it for them.

Enter Monty Burns from the Simpsons, a no-goodnik we love to hate, and the new face of the plutocrats looking to sink New York's working class.

In anticipation of a major rally on Thursday, the Working Families Party -- leaders of the Fair Share push -- have turned to satire. They've circulated a letter from Homer's boss to his fellow fatcats. Who wants to be on the side of Mr. Burns? Well, except for Smithers, of course.

The Fair Share advocates are targeting the Governor, but want to make an ally out of him, not an enemy. So they co-opted a more useful villain -- after all, would Paterson rather side with the owner of a nuclear power plant or with schools, hospitals and mass transit?

If you're in NYC, check out the rally -- and below, you can see the whole letter.

Comedian Rick Perlstein?

We're all big fans of Rick Perlstein, and know him best for Before the Storm and Nixonland.

So I was surprised to read in Time Out Chicago's coverage of this Saturday's "Nation Guide to the Nation" event:

Each Laughing Liberally show mixes stand-up with musical numbers and political discussion, plus other entertainments. This weekend, the free event includes appearances by comics Rick Perlstein, James Fritz and Carrie Callahan


Rick, is the march of right-wing institution-building that realigned our country really that funny?

The magazine's mistake is understandable because people don't think of history and comedy going hand-in-hand. But it's that kind of cultural blend that will be the recipe for this Saturday's event, dubbed "The Nation Guide to Living Liberally," a joint-venture promoting The Nation's handbook to liberal hotspots and hide-aways around the country, hosted by Chicago's Drinking Liberally chapter and Laughing Liberally affiliate, the Accountants of Homeland Security. Tracy Van Slyke of the Media Consortium will also be speaking, and there will be comedy, music and videos.

A bit of a jumble of elements, huh? Well, that's kind of the point. The Nation Guide spans from independent radio and bookstores to film festivals and historic trails to environmentally-friendly breweries. And Living Liberally reaches from scruptious suppers to meetups for religious progressives. Liberal culture isn't just one thing or another -- it's not just a peace group or just a independent weekly -- it's an entire lifestyle that offers something for everyone.

So check out the event. Check out the video of Dick Cheney promoting the book (created by the event's organizer Matt Filipowicz). Oh, and check out Perlstein's punchlines.

"So, a Southern Strategy walked into a bar..."

State of This Union, No Longer State of Disunion

Our last President had used a State of the Union
to offer lies about uranium that conned us into Iraq.
Our new President used his first address to Congress
to talk honestly about the cost of Iraq & about ending it.

Bush used his major annual address
for such pressing topics as human-animal hybrids.
Obama used it to discuss investing in our human capital.

George suggested we send men to Mars.
Barack suggested we send America back to work.

And Bobby Jindal suggested the disaster of Katrina
somehow would have been better with less Federal support.
So if you miss W, don't worry -- his spirit lives on...

Obama offered us a realistic state of this union...
after Bush's constant state of disunion, it's a change.

Discuss the State of the Union, and be part of a reunion,
as you share debate, dialogue & a delightful drink
with your local progressive social club.

Find - or start - a chapter near you

When Comedians Out-Class Commentators

We're regularly reminded by The Daily Show that comedians can make better journalists than newscasters.

This morning's clip on ABC, in which Laughing Liberally's Baratunde Thurston spent 5 minutes discussing the President's address, demonstrated that comedians can offer more serious commentary than most pundits as well.

Check it out.

Baratunde spoke about the satisfaction of having a President who focused on the economy, energy and healthcare rather than human-animal hybrids.

When the anchor asked him to tease Speaker Pelosi's outfit, he turned it around to how proud she seemed. When the anchor wanted to focus on the "bromance" between the President and VP, Baratunde instead talked about their working relationship to get the job done. And when she gave him an open shot to tease Governor Jindal, he took a serious moment about the amazement that the GOP would hold up Katrina as an example of too much government help.

Then he said Jindal sounded like he was speaking to 5-year-olds.

Baratunde hit a great blend of entertaining and relevant, something our news coverage sometimes misses (the latter, that is).

With all the talk about MSNBC's 10pm slot, maybe Baratunde's name should be entered into the mix.

The Stimulus Package and Republican Hypocrisy

by Michael Hayne, Laughing Liberally Morristown

Despite stiff opposition (or is it opposition from stiffs) from Senate and House Republicans, the $787bn stimulus package passed and was just signed by President Obama (love writing that) earlier today. Now, the entire GOP vehemently opposed this package on grounds that it was loaded with unnecessary spending on pet projects, resulting in many changes to accommodate them. I will readily admit that there were some expensive and unnecessary spending provisions in the original bill. But I would be criminally insane to believe republicans posturing when they ordered vast amounts of spending on pork back in 2005.

With a little research and a lot of red bull, I was able to find some unrelated details on then House majority leader Tom Delay and his fellow Republicans history of diverting federal monies to ridiculous special projects in order to ensure re-election.

$25,000 to study Mariachi music in Nevada (To be fair, Mariachi is known to improve a golf swing.)

$1.5 million for an Alaskan bus stop with heated sidewalks and electronic signs
(To pick up a guy and his caribou?)

$75,000 set aside for the Paper Industry International Hall of Fame in Appleton, Wisconsin( that's 75,000 dollars for something that ulitmtaely winds up in Dick Cheney's shredder.)

$100,000 for a film festival in Rochester, New York.(Since when does a Republican appropriate money for something of aesthetic value?)

$50 million for an indoor rainforest in Iowa.(I guess they figured "we already slashed the original one..." )

$18,000 for a smoking booth at a private New Jersey airport.(Okay, this one actually makes sense [insert smoker's cough].)

$200,000 for a peanut festival in Alabama.(for all those herds of elephants in Alabama, perhaps?)

$200 million to build a bridge from Ketchikan, Alaska to a nearby island with 50 inhabitants better known as "the bridge to nowhere".(Apparently, constructing a bridge that connects RNC Headquarters to the Cayman Islands proved to be too costly.)

Three Hundred Thursdays

Drinking Liberally is big on our anniversaries. Maybe it comes hand-in-hand with the culture of drinking -- you always want to toast to something.

Now, how about a Weekiversary? May seem silly, but the original chapter of Drinking Liberally measures its life in weeks, not in years...because every week for nearly 6 years we have been meeting at the same time and the same bar.

For three hundred Thursdays in a row.

From the start, we very consciously weren't organizing only around special events -- we were creating a weekly routine. You wouldn't have to be on our email list...you knew we'd be there. You could leave town for months -- or years -- and still find us. You never had to feel bad about missing one, because next week there'd be another.

We credit much of our growth to that regularity. We're like their laundromat, their grocery store, their coffee vendor...we're part of their everyday lives.

Or, at least their every-week lives.

So tonight marks the Tricent-weekial of the original chapter of Drinking Liberally -- our 300th week gathering, since May 29th, 2003, sharing an evening with old friends and new.

Come on out to Rudy's and make us part of your weekly ritual. In honor the occasion, there will be free Rudy's calendars and drink tickets. After all, we all something in hand for the toasts.

If Our Government Ran Like The Banks...

If our government ran like the banks,
our leaders would resist oversight & transparency
as they wasted and abused public funds & public trust.

If the Prez acted like a bank CEO,
he'd keep in place a team that had failed
& even give them bonuses for their "great work"
that brought us to the brink of disaster.

If we took after these financial giants,
we'd argue against government regulation
...except when it pays off for our pals.

If our government were run like the banks
...it would be the Bush Administration.

Let's hope our new President realizes that running
our country "like a business" may be a bad idea.

Join us at the bar for a night you can bank on:
good people, good ideas & a few good drinks
as we gather at our local progressive social club

Find - or start - a chapter near you.

Thinking Liberally: Jerry Nadler, Howard Dean and You

by Rep. Jerry Nadler
(Jerrold Nadler, author of this guest post, represents New York's eighth Congressional district)

On Wednesday night I will be sitting down with Howard Dean, Kelli Conlin (NARAL Pro-Choice New York), Baratunde Thurston (Co-founder of Jack & Jill Politics and a comedian with Laughing Liberally) and Joel Silberman (who works with Media Matters) for a frank conversation about where we go from here with progressive policy and activism.

Since President Obama took office, I've worked hard to pass two forward-thinking pieces of legislation through the House. The first was an amendment to the stimulus package, which added $3 billion for new public transportation projects. The second bill which I co-sponsored and helped to write was the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act which was the first bill that President Obama signed into law.

As Chair of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on the House Judiciary Committee, I will continue to hold hearings about abuses of executive privilege in the Bush administration. And, on that score, I recently introduced two important bills -- the Midnight Rule Act and the State Secret Protection Act -- in order to roll back some of the more odious elements of Bush's disastrous legacy. In the Judiciary Committee, we've again subpoenaed Karl Rove to testify and finally answer some questions on the flagrant politicization of the Justice Department under Bush. Hopefully Rove saw me on Countdown with Keith Olbermann recently making it clear that he will be held in contempt and arrested if he continues to ignore the law.

My questions to you now is: what else do YOU think I should be doing in the House for you? And what are progressive activists who gave Obama his historic victory doing to keep the administration accountable to progressives and making real change? How can our efforts intertwine to make a real impact? How do we convince the new administration to go forward with bold legislation as well as look back at the Bush years and hold those who disregarded our Constitution accountable?

We hope you can be there for this conversation on February 18th. But even if you can't, we want to hear what questions and issues you think should be covered in this dialogue about progressive activism both inside and outside government right now.

Please put your questions in the comments for me and my special guests in the comments.

Again, I hope you can join me on February 18th from 6pm-9pm at Tribeca Cinemas at 54 Varick St. in NYC. For more information/buy tickets for 2/18: http://www.jerrynadler.com/2.18.09.htm.

Abraham Lincoln & Charles Darwin Would Obviously Be Liberals

Two hundred years ago today, a person was born
who would lead the US through our greatest crisis
and in doing so, he would end slavery
& preserve a union of, by & for the people.

Another, also born 200 years ago today,
used science to challenge convention
and sparked an "Evolution" in how humans
understand our place in the world.

Now, in Congress, courtrooms & community groups,
two centuries later, conservatives still fight
against democracy & against science at every turn.

The Right-wing isn't just old-fashion --
they are 200 years behind the times.

And today, Abraham Lincoln & Charles Darwin
would, without a doubt, be called Liberals
(tho' maybe too extreme for the Democratic Party...)

Happy 200th Birthday, Abe & Chuck!

Raise a glass to these two great Liberals
& their revolutionary & evolutionary ideas
as your share a pitcher & share the night
at your local progressive social club

Find - or start - a chapter near you.

Get Your Bush Out

Bush still makes us laugh. A sad laugh. Especially as this video relates to the culture of grab-what-you-can greed he instilled in the corporate cronies who are still plaguing and bankrupting us.

But it's still funny:

God Luv Ya, G. Dub'ya..! ~ director's cut

It was also funny when this song was sung by gophers:

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