Living Liberally Blog

Living Liberally Blog

Bush Will Be Remembered for His Rule of Law, Sense of Justice, and Clemency (for Turkeys)

Laughing Liberally To Keep From Crying
by Katie Halper

On Thanksgiving, The Dallas Cowboys beat the Seattle Seahawks 34 to 9. And the day before, when Bush spared two innocent lives, he achieved his own victory of 16 to 1. When Bush pardoned Pumpkin AND Pecan, who were about to meet the same fate as the turkeys televised behind Sarah Palin, he could boast of having 16 presidential poultry pardons under his belt. But Bush has also compassionately conserved human life, once. During his six-year governorship and eight-year presidency, Bush has pardoned one death row inmate, denied clemency over 50 times, and signed death warrants for 155 people, many of whom were innocent, mentally retarded, juveniles, recipients of unfair trials, and/or represented by incompetent and often narcoleptic lawyers.

Milk, The Biopic and The Lesson

Screening Liberally Big Picture
by Josh Bolotsky

We know what's going to happen almost from the very beginning, because the film tells us: Dianne Feinstein, long before she becomes a Senator, back when she was President of the Board of Supervisors for San Francisco, will speak at a press conference on November 27th, 1978, and announce that City Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man in the United States elected to a major public office, has been shot and killed by former City Supervisor Dan White, along with the Mayor, George Moscone. The crowd moans in shock, disbelief, anger. Cameras flash. This use of archival footage occurs maybe 90 seconds into Gus Van Sant's "Milk," and it's followed by a shot of Milk himself (Sean Penn), maybe a week before the shootings, sitting at his kitchen table alone, recording a tape to be played in the event of his assassination. Cue title card.

"Milk" somehow manages to balance the needs of two very different films for its running time. It is, first of all, an absolutely superb biopic which allows us to feel like we knew Harvey on a first-name basis, helps us to understand what others found so important about him and his work beyond the permanently-earned title of First Openly Gay Office Holder; and a very different film, a meditation on the responsibility activists have to the people who elevated them to position of influence, whether it be via the ballot box, the work of a concerned group of citizens or just the readers of a blog community.

Bush May Pardon Some Turkeys, But We Have A Lot To Be Thankful For

What we're thankful for:

A strategy to boost the economy with jobs,
a bold plan to invest in green infrastructure,
a commitment to healthcare & stem cell science,
& the promise to close Guantanamo.

That the voters said no to fear & smears,
that John McCain is more natural on Leno again,
& that the video of Palin and the turkey exists.

That with the end of this era, we'll say goodbye
to Bush, Cheney, Rice, Mukasey, Paulson, Chao,
the imperial executive & signing statements.

And that the progressive movement keeps fighting
& Drinking Liberally is part of that.

So while we know Bush will pardon some turkeys,
we can enjoy our non-butterball free-range poultry
knowing that whether you're happy with the election,
or energized to keep pushing on new terrain,
there's a lot for liberals to be thankful for.

Start your festivities with friendly faces
of your family of left-leaning libation-lifters
at your local progressive social club.

Find - or start - a chapter near you.

How to Mark Inauguration Day

Central Park's been home to a lot of celebrations -- so why not an Inauguration Watch Party? Council Member Eric Gioia -- one of the more dynamic, progressive members of the NY City Council -- suggested setting up giant screens in the Park for the public to enjoy on January 20th.

As he quipped: "If it’s good enough for Bon Jovi, it should be good enough for the inauguration.”

Gioia is by no means alone in believing we should find ways to create shared, public experiences, even when there isn't a tradition in place or a day off from work. Living Liberally has already begun planning an Inaugural Ball in New York (because DC shouldn't have all the fun) for Sunday the 18th, and Netroots Nation is working with an array of progressive blogs and communities to throw an even on Monday the 19th in DC. We hear that DC is planning for millions of Americans to descend on the Mall...but how should the rest of the country mark January 20th?

Political events have become national moments: we watch the State of the Union in groups around the country, now playing the now-traditional SOTU Drinking Game. The primaries took on a feel of a sports tournament, and Super Tuesday felt like like the championship (turned out the competition had a few rounds left). More recently, it was obvious that Election Night events around the country would bring people together to watch and share the experience. And even after November 4th, CREDO has been turning Bush's lame duck period into a cause to celebrate by funding local parties.

But one main difference: Inauguration takes place during the day -- when kids are at school and most people at work. So if you're not pulling your child out and driving down to DC (as my parents did in 1993), and if you're not freelance enough to wander off midday, how do you find the way to share this historic day?

We're open to suggestions -- toss some in the comments and let's see what sticks.

Has Palin Been Pallin' Around With PETA?

Looks like plucky Sarah Palin is expanding her fan club from evangelicals to vegangelicals. Seriously, how could any animal rights activist not love the sight of Palin blathering to the press while a worker in blood-spattered overalls blithely slaughters turkeys a few feet away?

The media deemed it necessary to blur this bloody backdrop, in deference to the "unspoken covenant of ignorance" between consumers and the food industry that historian Ann Vileisis documents in Kitchen Literacy: How We Lost Knowledge of Where Food Comes From and Why We Need To Get It Back:

...we have ended up in the absurd situation today that most of us, as consumers, know very little about what we eat; and, sensing a "dark side" to our food production, many of us don't even want to know.

So now the blogosphere's a-Twitter with talk about "turkey carnage" and the "surreal... gruesomeness going on over her shoulder".

But you could argue that Palin performed a public service, however inadvertently. Americans are totally in denial about the way our livestock live--and die. Can you imagine the Food Network ever allowing Rachel Ray to slaughter a chicken in front of a live audience and millions of viewers, the way Jamie Oliver did back in January? After electrocuting the chicken, he told the visibly shocked audience:

"As far as killing anything's concerned, it's never nice. I was trained to do it, I don't feel particularly good about this. But, I eat chickens, and I'm a chef."

As the New York Times noted:

Mr. Oliver said that he wanted people to confront the reality that eating any kind of meat involves killing an animal, even if it is done with a minimum of pain.

Michael Pollan took it upon himself to learn how to slaughter chickens because, as he wrote in The Omnivore's Dilemma:

It seemed to me not too much to ask of a meat eater, which I was then and still am, that at least once in his life he take some direct responsibility for the killing on which his meat-eating depends...

...In the end I personally killed a dozen or so chickens before moving on to try another station...I wasn't at it long enough for slaughtering chickens to become routine, but the work did begin to feel mechanical, and that feeling, perhaps more than any other, was disconcerting: how quickly you can get used to anything, especially when the people around you think nothing of it.

Sarah Palin clearly thought nothing of the fowl play taking place behind her, and why should she? She may be disconnected from the "fake" America, but as someone who's comfortable gutting a fish or field dressing a moose, she's more connected to the food chain than most. The fuss over this clucked-up photo op says as much about our own willful ignorance as it does about Palin's blasé embrace of topless turkeys.

Inaugural Plans

Four years ago, Drinking Liberally threw an "Unaugural Ball" -- this year, we have happier plans. In New York City, we're hosting the Living Liberally Inaugural Ball on Sunday, Jan 18th...and check back to learn about other schemes developing around the country (or toss your own ideas in the comments thread).

Surviving a National Car Crash

In a car accident, you hope your seat belts are on.
In our current economy, we need to ensure
government support keeps Americans strapped in.

Just as airbags cushion riders in trouble,
we need unemployment insurance, healthcare,
& mortgage support to cushion our fellow travelers.

To avoid a pile-up, you may need to accelerate,
just as we now need to accelerate our economy
with jobs, infrastructure & green investment.

And no matter how bad the car's condition,
nobody's left stranded at the side of the road.

Detroit's difficulties are trouble for us all:
if America's auto industry crashes, we'll need
smart safety steps to survive a national car crash.

Join the discussion & share a drink
(and have a designated driver, if you do)
with like-minded lefties & liberal libations
at your local progressive social club.

Find - or start - a chapter near you.

Keeping the Good Times Going

Thirteen days ago, an invigorating Tuesday night warmed our liberal hearts. Election Night brought the country to cheers and to tears, and as people applauded in the streets and shouted out windows and chanted in the subway in New York, I felt real hope and enthusiasm for our prospects.

Now, how long will that energy last?

Sure, the next day people were still sharing smiles during their morning commute...but in our over-saturated culture, will the emotions of our society really be swayed?

My experience on Saturday at the post office suggests the emotional impact wasn't just a one-day wonder.

I had to mail 75 boxes on Saturday. In NY, that means there's one post office I can go to: the main branch. And it's never fun carrying 75 boxes around a bustling city. So I wasn't in a great mood even before waiting for 40 minutes to get to the front of the line. And the guy at the counter wasn't thrilled by the 75 boxes either.

He opened a new window (so we wouldn't hold up the rest of the line) and got to work. He was fast (I actually always find the post office really efficient). And as we got to the final box, he asked me what all these packages were.

"It's for a political club I'm part of," I replied. I instinctively avoided details of my politics as this guy was at his job.

"Must've been a really busy time for you," he said. Then, he added, less tentatively than I'd been: "And a good time."

It wasn't that he was hunting for my political leanings; he just assumed them -- assumed that an American would have to have been excited by what had transpired.

I took the bait. "Well, these are celebratory gifts," I explained. And he smiled. I fished a button out of my pocket and handed it to him.

"Drinking Liberally!" he read out loud. "Now that's the change Barack Obama was talking about!"

He put the button on, becoming a newly-minted Drinking Liberally member right there at the post office. We chatted about where we'd been on Election Night, and saw each other off -- maybe not like good friends, but definitely like friendly neighbors.

A stranger and I made each other happy through our shared politics. More, he clearly just felt it a shared experience -- an American experience. He was proud of his country and there was no question in his mind that others would be to.

If that positive energy makes it back to Thanksgiving tables around the country next week, people will toast our President with their like-minded family members and will at least talk politics with their less agreeable family. That's a good thing for our country, it's a good ingredient to keeping the momentum going.

As we saw with marriage equality rallies last Saturday, politics is remaining central to many people's daily lives, not being shelved for 4 more years, or filed under "completed" on November 4th.

While it's the challenge of our Community-Organizer-in-Chief to turn this hope into a governing constituency, it's also all our jobs to keep talking politics...and maybe be a little less hesitant than I was at first.

Even 40 minutes at a post office isn't something that a little political joy can't cure.

We Didn't Completely Break Our Democracy Yet

The lamest duck invites the coolest kid over to his house,
& though they've disagreed & even dissed one another,
the two play nice in the Oval Office.

In a time of two wars, a veteran loses an election,
to a man who promises change in military direction,
& nobody's worried we'll see tanks circling the Capitol.

From the economy to healthcare to global climate change,
America's making new choices, possibly a leftward swing,
& right-wingers snipe on TV...but no sniping in the streets.

Despite flawed elections, curtailed liberties, timid press,
corporate interference, corruption, incompetence & fear..
we didn't manage to completely break democracy yet.

Our democracy's a little stronger than that after all...

Raise a glass both to the results of the election
& that we had an, that's worth toasting.

Find - or start - a chapter near you.

The New New York Times

This morning, a bunch of people got punked, receiving forwarded articles pronouncing: "Ex-Secretary Apologized for WMD Scare."

Following a day in which Bush expressed regret over "Mission Accomplished" and "Dead or Alive," it seemed plausible that Condi Rice was trying to protect her legacy too.

But when, on my way into the subway, I get handed a paper copy of the New York Times declaring "Iraq War Ends," I knew it was a prank.

A prank...except that wasn't really tricking anybody (we generally knew the war wasn't over, universal healthcare hadn't yet happened and Bush wasn't standing trial for war crimes).

A satire...except it wasn't really funny. The reactions on the subway weren't laughter.

It was a parody...that elicited hope.

This project, which seemed to be dropped on the unsuspecting public by the Yes Men, got us know, the war could be over in and troops could start coming home in 6 months...CEO wages could be capped (especially as part of the bailout)...NYC bike lanes could be widened...and The Times editorial page could properly apologize for their complicity in the great Iraq deception.

Unlike the Onion which pokes at the truth with absurd headlines, this parody wasn't so far-fetched. The articles suggest a world that hasn't come yet, and maybe isn't immediately within reach, but is a few steps away...if we keep progressive pressure on this administration.

I saw people reading this fake paper -- not because they were tricked, nor entertained...but because it invited them to dream of the world they would wanted to see.

And who doesn't like to imagine?