Justin Krebs's blog

Why Do You Need a "Progressive" Book Club?

Reading Liberally Page Turner
by Justin Krebs, Living Liberally

Hooray! The Progressive Book Club is here! And in the next few days, I will receive three books -- including Cliff Schecter's "The Real McCain" -- for $1 each!

What might sound like a scheme on par with the treasure of deposed African dictators or a "Buy Now!" infomercial is actually a welcome and much-anticipated new cog in the growing progressive infrastructure: an organization that supports liberal authors and publishers, serves left-leaning literates, and rivals one of the right-wing's important tools.

And no, Cliff Schecter's not upset his book is being sent to me for a buck. Because if PBC takes off, there will be thousands of members exerting buying power together, giving authors dedicated audiences, and turning back the corrupting influence of right-wing groups that have helped push wingnuts into national notoriety.

But, when the reporter for this New York Times piece on PBC spoke to me (Living Liberally is a partner helping launch face-to-face Reading Liberally book clubs), she was skeptical.

"Why do you need a 'progressive' book club?" she asked. "Isn't it fair to say that like Hollywood, publishing already has a liberal bias?"

And that all-too-prevalent assumption is exactly why we need PBC. I suggested that the success of folks like Ann Coulter shows the power of collective book-buying to create successes, and thus give someone of thin resume and thinner morals a stepping stone to punditry prominence.

"So Coulter sells books -- when Al Gore writes a book that sells too. Are liberals really having a hard time being heard?"

Yes...she equated Ann Coulter and Al Gore.

For every Gore -- you know, your run-of-the-mill author with VP experience and a Nobel price -- there are dozens of talented progressive voices that never get heard. Some notable bloggers like Jeffrey Feldman and Michael Connery can thank independent publishers like Ig for having faith in them; but then those companies need help expanding their audience.

And that's where PBC fits in.

My father doesn't read blogs. He probably won't read this post. But he reads books -- and he reads the Times. The Times told him about PBC, and he just ordered books written by netroots notables for the first time.

I always remember as we started Drinking Liberally how people asked, "You live in New York...why do you need a liberal drinking club? Isn't everyone liberal?" The fact was those liberals needed an organizing structure which gathered and empowered them. And that's the same answer I'd give to PBC skeptics: yes, there are liberal voices, books, authors, publishers, readers...now, let's actually introduce them to one another.

And get 3 books for a dollar each in the process.

The GOP's 3 Deadly G's: Gays, Gas & Gore

As Americans feel pain at the pump,
they're open to new energy solutions,
but conservatives give the old answer: "Drill More!"

As couples in California express their love,
Americans increasingly recognize marriage equality,
but the right-wing still shouts: "Gays are Scary!"

And as the Republicans' old punching bag Al Gore,
endorses Obama, helping boost him in the polls,
the GOP just sputters: "But Gore's a loser!"
...as McCain tries to dodge the President himself.

It's been said in the past that the Dems
have problems with Gays, Guns & God...

But as Americans views have evolved with the times,
the Right has its own 3-g problem: Gays, Gas & Gore.

And 1 more "G" -- the "GOP" --
may be McCain's biggest problem of all

Raise a glass to same-sex marriage and Al Gore
as you raise your voice, ideas & questions
with like-minded left-leaning libation-lifters
at your local progressive social club.

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

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:

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