Justin Krebs's blog

Stopping War In A Sleepy Little Town in Idaho

Drinking Liberally Shot of Truth
by Dan Henry, Drinking Liberally Idaho Falls

stopwar.jpg
We've gotten a bit of national press recently here in the sleepy little town of Idaho Falls.

First, a little background: four boys were arrested last October for vandalizing stop signs. The photo above shows some of their handiwork. Two were minors, and the details of their cases are not public. Alex and Craig, the 18-year-olds, pled guilty and were sentenced harshly – two days in jail, thousands of dollars in fines, and restitution based on the number of stop signs each admitted to stenciling.

This story has been covered a couple of times in the Post Register, our local paper (all its articles are behind a firewall, but some have been posted here.)

After paying restitution, the boys were able to take possession of the stop signs. I know that Alex got 20 signs, but I don't know about Craig. At least one of the minors got a lesser number of signs.

Last week, a local reporter picked up the story of the boys selling their stop signs. Two were sold to the Bonneville County Democrats to auction at their annual Truman Banquet fundraising dinner in May. (I bought one of the signs – we're going to use it on our Drinking Liberally Fourth of July float.)

A local discussion board posted about it. The original poster was outraged that the boys were allowed to sell their signs. I've been posting there as 'idahogie.'

But the big news is that AP picked up the local story, and Fox News ran it! So now I can say that I've been quoted by Fox News. But I still won't go on The Factor.

From the start, the case has spurred some real anti-war activism in our town. Many of us felt ashamed and embarrassed that we weren't doing enough to bring about an end to Bush's War. And it took the civil disobedience of these four boys to wake us up. My friend Debbie Troester-Solbrig said it best in our local editorial page:

"I wish I had painted 'war' on the stop signs. I wish I could say I moved people to think the way those stop signs moved me. How can these young people be criminals when they caused anyone who saw a 'stop war' sign to think about our brave soldiers, our dead, their dead and the world's loss? Every time I came upon a stop sign marked with the word 'war' in my everyday life, that one word brought the war closer to home – where it should be. Those three letters (w-a-r) caused me to stop, realize, think and contemplate: Our country is at war. Yet we go on living our normal daily lives, not thinking of the sacrifices being made each minute, each second, thousands of miles away."

The boys' action caused us to form a new group, the Snake River Freedom Coalition. We've held several peace rallies in downtown Idaho Falls. The first one drew about 140 people for two hours on a balmy 5-degree day in January. We spent Mother's Day on our local greenbelt, chalking names of casualties in Bush's War (this is a great activity to do any time, with no publicity or explanation – just start writing and be open to interaction with pedestrians). We've had lectures and movie events. We've also helped some local students to form a peace group in the local high school. And with the sale of t-shirts, we've raised over $2000 to help the boys pay their legal bills.

Our DL chapter recently sponsored the First Annual Loving Day Celebration and Progressive Awards Banquet here in Idaho Falls. It was my great honor to award Alex, Craig, and the other two boys with framed certificates that commemorate the gift they gave to us.

Sometimes a Liberal Just Needs to Laugh - When Drinking Isn't Enough

Drinking Liberally Shot of Truth
by John E, Square State/DL Denver

Daily Show creator Lizz Winstead recently paid a visit to our Denver Drinking Liberally chapter, and our long-standing host/blogger John E. provided us not only a full account, but his thoughts on humor as a progressive organizing tool - enjoy.

When the opportunity presented itself to see The Liberal Comic, Lizz Winstead, co-founder of The Daily Show and Air America Radio, perform in our little cow-town, how could we say no? When we were asked if we'd be interested in doing any other sort of Drinking Liberally event with Ms. Winstead, the answer wasn't yes, it was can I cook her dinner too?

Back in the real world, those of us liberal activists, bloggers, volunteers, etc, contend with slanted dead tree media political coverage, television political coverage where orders of magnitude more people would rather watch Rock of Love, and political mud slinging all while our sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, friends, and neighbors are dying for what President Bush once had the temerity to call, "a noble cause". While lobbyist scandal after bribery scandal unfolds new connections are made to this corruption here in Colorado by the name of Bob Schaffer. During all of this we'd like to see solutions to heathcare, a responsible plan for Iraq implemented, a solution to global warming, and an economy cleaned up after just being dunked one more time in the toilet.

After all of that, drinking isn't enough. We need the kind of emotional release that only liberal comedy can give. Comedy that brings one to conclusions about reality one wasn't otherwise able to approach. You're brought to the same truth, just by a different path. Sometimes you'll get the same conclusion anyway, but with comedy you get there quicker and with a great belly laugh to boot. The other way comedy works is to put all these things going on in our lives, in our government, our country and the corrosive feelings they create are exhaled away from our body, away from the mind with a great big hearty laugh. There's a reason scientists tell you to laugh. It's good for us.

Last Friday Winstead was on fire joking about such things as the spectacle of comedy in our state legislature, the "recovering" but not forgotten evangelical preacher, meth thrower awayer, and massage getter from male prostitute Ted Haggard. Haggard jokes pretty much write themselves, don't they? I won't go through all her jokes, but a woman who can joke about one's first sexual experience and compare it to the Kennedy assassination is someone who makes me feel just a little better about life though comedy.

We didn't get to cook Winstead dinner, but we did share drinks until 2 in the morning:
lizz.jpg
A version of this post originally appeared on Square State.

McCain/Cheney '08 - The One VP Who Could Make Him Look Spry

As McCain tries to hide from Bush,
he expresses his admiration for Cheney,
& on whether Cheney'd have a role
in his Administration: "Hell, Yeah."

McCain shares Cheney's war,
shares his recessive view of economics
& shares his love of lobbyists.

They share creepy smiles, cranky tempers,
the air of an embarrassing Great Uncle,
& out-of-touch worldviews forged last century.

They share so much, that maybe it's time
they share a ticket: "McCain/Cheney '08"...
the one VP who can make McCain look spry.

He's embraced everything else about Bush,
why not the man who put the Vice back into VP?

Speculate on VPs with a vice of your own,
virtuously sharing pitchers & punditry
at your local progressive social club.

DRINKING LIBERALLY
Find - or start - a chapter near you.

John McCain Will Veto Every...whaaaaa?

Drinking Liberally Shot of Truth

Evidently, John McCain is not courting the Drinking Liberally vote:

Who knew that beer would be another entry in the list of things that John McCain wants to bomb? When our friends in Denver said that they wanted to hold an event to "save the ales", we thought they were just joking - who knew that they were on top of this urgent issue before anyone else saw it coming.

If you're in Denver, pay them a visit. If you're anywhere else, start hoarding your beer now.

Bush in Six Words

Drinking Liberally Shot of Truth by Justin Krebs

"Married librarian, never read a book."

Doesn't that just about sum up the story of George W. Bush? If you think so, then you might award Felix Gill of Salt Lake City first place in the "Bush in Six Words" competition.

The contest is inspired by the story of Hemingway once being challenged to tell an entire story in six words. His response: "For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never worn."

So, how would you sum up a life of so few accomplishments with so few words? A few other Salt Lake Citizens, challenged by their chapter or Drinking Liberally (a surprisingly large group for a state not known for drinks or liberals), have already submitted their suggestions in advance of tomorrow night's special event in Utah:

"Thanks for all the new Democrats" - Joe Spencer

"Heckuva job, Bushie. Door, meet ass." - Jeremiah Roth (SLC-DL co-host)

A quick Google search reveals that this same challenge has been tackled by others, with such bi-partisan results as: "criminal appeaser hypocrite user...that's enough," "Does what needs to be done," and "I only need half that: 'Worst President Ever'"

So can you sum it up? Post your version below, or email the SLC chapter at saltlakecity (at) drinkingliberally (dot) org -- and if you're in SLC tomorrow, join them for their special event and recite your six words in person.

It Was Just a Drink With Friends


I didn't see it coming. When a group of friends got together to have a drink in May, 2003, we were frustrated with our country's politics, we were convinced there was something more we could do, and we were hopeful that together we'd figure out some way to support the creative, progressive efforts we knew were out there somewhere.

But at the time, it was just a drink with friends.

Five years, 50 states and 250 chapters later, what we've learned is that gathering socially around liberal ideas wasn't only going to help generate new contributions to the political moment...it was the new contribution to the political moment. Drinking Liberally has given lonely peace activists in conservative towns the means to find each other; has offered independent publishers and authors a natural network for their books; has welcomed insurgent candidates to a receptive crowd; and has invited a new generation of would-be activists to take their first step into political engagement.

And it's still just a drink with friends.

It was a new drinking buddy named Owen Roth who came up with the name Drinking Liberally 4 months after we started meeting. It was our new partners David Alpert (just yesterday praised as "Blogger of the Month" in the Washington Post) and Katrina Baker, whose friendships we found at our weekly happy hours, who propelled the organization nationally. It was over drinks in that same backyard each Thursday night, that we got to know Phillip Anderson of The Albany Project, Jessica Valenti of Feministing and the guys at Advomatic who will soon be launching the new Living Liberally website.

There's something to be said for good drinking buddies.

We've shared a pint with Atrios, who, after the '04 RNC in New York, helped make DL a national brand in the blogosphere; Markos, who has visited more chapters (during his Crashing the Gate book tour with Jerome Armstrong) than I have; the folks at Netroots Nation who have welcomed our comedians and happy hours as part of their conference's social engine; our compatriots at Young People For, who helped us hire our first fulltime staff; and Matt, Chris and Mike at OpenLeft who have offered a platform that has elevated our writers and comedians as contributors to liberal culture.

So thank you all for sharing a pint -- or a pitcher -- with us over the past 5 years...and for sharing your time, you ideas, your energy. Around the country you've proven the importance of sharing a drink with a few friends.

And here's a special message for our 5th birthday from a champion for progressive causes, an advocate for justice and compassion:

See more congratulations videos and learn more about 5th Anniversary events at Happy Birthday, Living Liberally.

The Final Living Liberally State: North Dakota

Drinking Liberally Shot of Truth

A progressive organization doesn't get to 50 states without a lot of friends along the way - and we want to take a minute to thank Open Left for being one of our most crucial friends when we were aiming for what seemed to be impossible.


As of today, North Dakota is the only state without a Living Liberally chapter. Loyal readers will know that we've spent the last month trying to spread our network of progressive groups into all 50 states, with only four standing in the way: the aforementioned North Dakota, and Hawaii, Oklahoma and West Virginia. We reached out to the Open Left community for help in plugging the holes, and largely thanks to your help, we now have chapters in 49 states - in Martinsburg and Charleston, West Virginia, in Norman, Oklahoma, and in Kahului, Hawaii.

But as much as we appreciate the OL readership's role in helping Living Liberally expand, we'd like to make a special shout-out to Chris, Matt and Mike. In the past year, we've had some amazing experiences and incredible milestones alongside this terrific trio - producing film and book reviews tailored for leftie readers, tracking the growth of the social side of the progressive movement, and, of course, completing our 50-bar strategy.

That's why we're asking two things of you this Tuesday afternoon:

1. If you know anyone in North Dakota, yourself included, who would like the honor of spreading Living Liberally to our 50th state, then contact us at info (at) livingliberally (dot) org.

2. If you haven't yet had the chance to participate in OL's fundraising drive, we humbly ask you to help out some of the progressive movement's best friends:

Donate to Open Left

One Down, Three To Go, or, Do You Have Any Friends in Hawaii, North Dakota or Oklahoma?

Drinking Liberally Shot of Truth

A few weeks ago, we asked some of our favorite activist friends if they had any friends in West Virginia, and man, did they deliver. Now we just need one more favor from you - to let us know if you have any leftie buddies in Hawaii, North Dakota or Oklahoma who'd like to help liberals organize over a few drinks.

In late April, as we moved closer to Drinking Liberally's 5th anniversary this Thursday, May 29th, we noticed just how close we were to hitting all 50 states, with, until recently, only 4 states left: the Aloha State (HI), the Peace Garden State (ND), the Sooner State (OK) and the Mountain State (WV). With that in mind, we made it our May goal to create Living Liberally chapters in all 50 states by May 29th, and simultaneously celebrate our 5th anniversary and a truly 50-bar strategy. We started by asking you to help us out with West Virginia.

Today, we have not just one, but two new West Virginia chapters soon to officially enter into the network, that will both hold their first meetings in the next few weeks - one in the state capital of Charleston, and one in Martinsburg.

That only leaves three states left - and we're going to have to ask again - know any liberals in Hawaii, North Dakota or Oklahoma?

Please don't make Howard Dean take back his words:

John McCain, You Are No Indiana Jones

Screening Liberally Big Picture by Justin Krebs

indiana-jones-crystal-skull.jpg An aging man-of-action shows show he can still throw punches with the young guys. A rough-and-tumble cowboy as American as apple pie wins our hearts again. A media favorite has returned.

You'd think that the release of the fourth Indiana Jones Adventure, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, would be music to John McCain's ears. After all, if America can fall in love with one gray-haired hero, why not another?

And sure enough, in the opening scenes, Harrison Ford's rugged archaeologist adventurer, when confronted with a dozen guns trained his way, doesn't blink -- instead he faces down the Communist bad guys with a simple message: "I like Ike."

You can imagine the McCain spin room starting to whir, reaching out for Indiana's coattails.

But I'm sorry to say, Mr. Senator...America knows Henry Jones, Jr. And you, sir, are no Indiana.

This much-anticipated release offers 2 hours of icing for anyone who feasted on the trilogy of the 80s. It's not a film to win over a new generation, or even a stand-alone film in its own right, but a rambunctious romp that makes you laugh and cheer and roll your eyes a little bit.

The team is back together: Spielberg, Lucas & Ford -- and just as Professor Jones has one last adventure in him, so does this triumvirate. They pull out all the old jokes and references you could hope for, replacing Nazis with Communists, as Indy stumbles through a new decade (in an early moment, he even faces down an atomic threat...a far cry from the first films.)

You're in the company of old friends. It's even more implausible (is that possible?) than the original films, as Ford's aging body has become only more indestructible. But they are willing to laugh at themselves -- and their age...and their self-aware cheesiness -- and you love laughing with them. Or at least I did. I was just happy to see them again.

In a way the film is an Indiana Jones-approved spoof of Indiana Jones: louder, goofier, more tongue-in-cheek, and, yes, less sincere. At no point are characters really in danger; even in the context of the film, the characters don't really fear for one another's safety. At no point are we really surprised by their emotional turns because they aren't really emotionally-driven. And we kind of stop worrying about the plot, because really we're there for the ride.

That said, it's a heckuva fun ride. And part of what makes it work is an ingredient that also made the original Star Wars films works, but was absent from the second round of those films: quite simply, Harrison Ford.

He's great. He can still win over men and women alike with the twinkle in his eye. We're happy to have him back (back from his Indy hiatus, as well as from flicks like Firewall).

And that's one reason why John McCain can't see himself in this film: he's no Harrison Ford. McCain, looking tired, making missteps and fouled up by constant gaffes, just looks his age. Indiana Jones is a grayer figure, but just as hale and hearty, as flirtatious and reckless and wisecracking as ever.

Sorry, Senator, but you don't live in the movies.

There's also the political differences. Professor Jones is an archeologist studying and respecting past cultures. John McCain helms a party that has trouble with evolution. Indiana has as much reverence in this film for the stories of Mayan gods as he did in the last film for the mythos of the Grail; McCain can't tell Sunni and Shiite apart. Jones may be reckless at times, but he also makes allies -- from a young greaser, to an old flame -- while McCain follows the Bush tradition of going it alone.

There are few overt political nods in this film but one resonates: when Indiana Jones, under suspicion by the FBI for his friendship with an outed Communist agent, is forced from his professorial post by a timid university Board of Trustees. As much as Indiana punches Communists in the nose, he also is the victim of political persecution and fear-mongering.

Spielberg's politics come out here: a culture of suspicion -- suppression of academia -- authoritarian intervention by government. These are comments on the 1950s in which the film is set, but stand out as warnings today. It's a gentle touch, but it works. (Spielberg is no Commie sympathizer, mind you...an early chase scene has Communist thugs being smacked in the face by "Better Dead Than Red" signs at a student rally. Although, while anti-Communist sentiment is laid on thick, it never has the vigor or reaches the passionate extent of Spielberg's anti-Nazi hatred.)

But the biggest difference between the Professor and the Senator: Indiana Jones is joyous, hopeful. (Some in the audience were even a little disappointed by just how cheerful the film felt.) McCain is a dour, gloom-and-doom, fear-monger.

It's not Indy's age that makes us love him. It's that he elevates our spirits. And if John McCain wants to outrace his years the way Indiana Jones has, he doesn't just need to get more physically fit and verbally savvy...he needs to live in a more optimistic world as well.

Maybe that's what McCain's presumptive rival has picked up on...now if only Senator Obama had a hat and whip.

20-Year-Old Memo Found Apologizing for Bill O'Reilly's Inside Edition Meltdown

Laughing Liberally To Keep From Crying

Our contributor Lee Camp is sometimes pigeon-holed as a comedian, but there's more to him than that - for instance, this week he unearthed a 20-year old memo by the producer of Inside Edition, apologizing for Bill O'Reilly's on-set meltdown:

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