Living Liberally Blog

Living Liberally Blog

Praying Liberally: Obama Update

It seems that a key part of Obama's Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships plan has been left out of most of the coverage.

Obama would allow charities to impose faith requirements hiring for those programs that did not receive federal funding. Federally-funded programs would have to be discrimination-free but since discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is not prohibited, Obama wants to find a way to bring the state of the law back to where it was before President Bush's executive orders on religious hiring rights.

Sounds good to me!

Praying Liberally: Looking at the Obama Plan

Obama's new plan to create a Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, that would increase funding to grassroots religious groups to solve problems ranging from closing the achievement gap in education to fighting global warming has turned into quite the news story. Although some say that this is Obama's expansion of Bush's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, Obama attacked Bush's "Office" as a flimsy "photo-op", saying that the office has failed to provide support for meaningful faith-based initiatives.

This new proposal has reasonably drawn quite a bit of criticism from the left. Some say that this is just another example of Obama moving to the right for the general, a Sistah Souljah moment if you will.

I disagree. For starters, grassroots faith-based activism is at the core Obama's experience. As many of you know, Obama started his public service career as a community organizer, working with Chicago churches to fight for worker's rights and provide job training to those who had been laid off. Obama knows firsthand the possibilities of how faith-based programs can initiate social change.

Obama also rightly criticizes Bush and the Republicans for treating these religious groups as props instead of partners in the fight for a better world, and frames the need for faith-based efforts in an inclusive and liberal manner. While Bush created his OFBCI because he felt that people of shared faith could better communicate with each other, a divisive rationale, Obama argues that it is important to engage faith communities because they are the rootsy-est of the grassroots. The sense of local community they foster exemplifies Obama's bottom-up strategy.

To add to that, I agree with Obama (and this is one place where many readers might disagree, get your blockquotes ready) that "The challenges we face today ... are simply too big for government to solve alone." Part of a progressive strategy must be empowering those who are able to effectively make specific types change. There are certain issues that a Church is more equipped to deal with than the government. Some people might be more motivated to "Go Green" if doing so were part of a moral responsibility. A Church-based program might also be a good introduction into the environmental movement, for people not already familiar. Also, religious programs like soup kitchens and homeless shelters are already some of the most effective.

Finally, if you really look at it, Obama's plan doesn't break the barriers between church and state. The funding only goes towards secular programs, and the money can't be used "to proselytize to the people you help and you can't discriminate against them - or against the people you hire - on the basis of their religion."

I am really glad that Obama has continued his emphasis on bottom-up change. This is a program that might win Obama some votes in November, but more importantly, I believe, could help him make real, substantive change, once he's elected.

Man, I Wish I Had One of These

Admit it. You’ve always wanted to say, "Yeah, I’m a card-carrying liberal. You got a problem with that?" Lucky for you, Living Liberally has a way for you to do just that.

Our newest project, The Liberal Card, proves you’re a liberal and helps you save liberally, too. For just $25, you’ll get a personalized card that proudly proclaims your liberal status. And while we’re sure that being able to wave around your Liberal Card is enough to make you buy one, there’s more. A whole lot more.

The Liberal Card also gets you discounts to places that allow you to shop, dine and drink with a clear conscience. From a free beer at Rudy’s the original home of Drinking Liberally to phone service from CREDO, we’re hooking you up big time.

Plus, by supporting our partner businesses, you’re helping support the larger liberal community, too.

So check out www.theliberalcard.org to order your card, and find places where you can use The Liberal Card liberally.

From Pro-Bama to "No, Bama!"

Progressives are excited what a President Obama
could do with a Democratic majority in Congress...
while the Dem Senate pushes phone company immunity
& Obama joins in the capitulation.

The Left argues McCain's bad for the Courts,
but when the Justices limit the death penalty,
Obama's among the first to criticize the ruling.

And while we're excited that Obama's candidacy
could energize down-ticket victories,
Obama endorses a pro-war Dem in a primary.

There's an incredible mood that's Pro-Bama...
but moves like this make us groan "No, 'Bama!"
Maybe he's just starting off Slow-Bama
-- here's to hoping he'll Grow-Bama.

In many ways, he's so right.
Now we have to make sure he's so Left as well.

Share frustrations, ideas & a pitcher to two
with like-minded liberals over a libation
at your local progressive social club.

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

What the Media Isn't Saying About George Carlin

Laughing Liberally to Keep From Crying
By Lee Camp

I think George Carlin would be amused that even following his death the mainstream media can't bring itself to cover the truth about what he had to say. In the majority of the coverage about Carlin I've seen, the talking heads simply speak about his "seven words you can't say on television" or his desire to "push the limits." They don't want to discuss the dirty details of the truth and social commentary Carlin brilliantly vocalized. That's what made Carlin a legend, not merely his desire to say "Fuck" on the radio.

Carlin said the media was a joke, and in remembering him, they've proven him right. How many networks have shown some of his most groundbreaking social commentary such as the following:

     
  • Religion is the biggest load of bullshit ever sold.
  •  

  • The U.S. loves to bomb countries filled with little brown people.
  •  

  • Both political parties are owned and operated by corporations.
  •  

  • Instead of putting drug dealers in jail, we should execute the bankers who launder the drug money.
  •  

  • Golf is an elitist, pretentious sport and homeless people should be given the golf courses to live on.

These thoughts are a pathetically small portion of the hundreds of hours of exceptional commentary Carlin created and performed. Yet have you seen mention of these on your nightly news? Very little, if any. 

Carlin dared us to get the joke. He pushed us. That's what made him a legend and an inspiration to those of us drawn to the art of comedy. I, myself, was offended by a lot of his stuff when I was a teenager and didn't get the deeper meaning (and didn't yet know that he was usually right). But as I grew and began to understand the world around me, I came to truly admire his courage and his talent. It's his ability to pinpoint the hypocrisies and flaws of our society that should be talked about most when remembering him. But I guess there still aren't things we as a society and those in the media are able or allowed to discuss...at least not until we grow up.

One more thing about George Carlin, completely unrelated to the media. The other thing I admired most about him was his desire to keep performing stand-up comedy. In a time when every performer seems to eventually run off to do movies or write God awful TV shows, Carlin kept walking out onto the stage. Night after night. Year after year. He truly, absolutely loved the craft of comedy because he had something meaningful to say. Listening to an interview in which he talks about crafting a joke is like listening to a sculptor speak about chiseling into stone. He lived, ate, and drank comedy. I hope I too have the motivation and desire to never stop performing and never stop speaking my mind. For me and millions of others, George Carlin truly is the definition of a comedian.

Eat Whatever You Want! (and solve our energy crisis while doing it)


Another reason to Eat Liberally, via Alternet:

I say to my fellow humans: It's time to stop feeding off the dead and grow up! I don't know about food, but I have a plan for achieving fuel self-suffiency in less time than it takes to say "Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." The idea came to me from reports of the growing crime of French fry oil theft: Certain desperate individuals are stealing restaurants' discarded cooking oil, which can then be used to fuel cars. So the idea is: why not could skip the French fry phase and harvest high-energy hydrocarbons right from ourselves?

I'm talking about liposuction, of course, and it's a mystery to me why it hasn't occurred to any of those geniuses who are constantly opining about fuel prices on MSNBC. The average liposuction removes about half a gallon of liquid fat, which may not seem like much. But think of the vast reserves our nation is literally sitting on! Thirty percent of Americans are obese, or about 90 million individuals or 45 million gallons of easily available fat -- not from dead diatoms but from our very own bellies and butts.

This is the humane alternative to biofuels derived directly from erstwhile foodstuffs like corn. Biofuels, as you might have noticed, are exacerbating the global food crisis by turning edible plants into gasoline. But we could put humans back in the loop by first turning the corn into Doritos and hence into liposuctionable body fat. There would be a reason to live again, even a patriotic rationale for packing on the pounds.

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

Sacrificial Limbs

freedom2.jpg
By Kerry Trueman, Eating Liberally

Take a moment, today, while you’re grilling up those ribs or thighs, to consider some other charred body parts — the arms, legs, and other limbs our soldiers have left behind in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our troops have come home maimed, or in a flag-wrapped box, so that we could go on grillin,’ chillin’, and fillin’ our tanks and tummies with cheap fuel and food.

Good luck with that; according to a report in today’s New York Times, most Americans are too busy struggling to feed their families, fuel their cars, and cling to the roof over their heads to spend much time thinking about the sacrifices our soldiers are making on our behalf.

Apparently, we’d rather tune out the war, and our news media is happy to oblige, as David Carr reports:

“…coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has slipped to 3 percent of all American print and broadcast news as of last week, falling from 25 percent as recently as last September.”

Carr asked Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, how the media could largely ignore a war that has cost us thousands of lives and over $1 trillion. Keller e-mailed back:

There is a cold and sad calculation that readers/viewers aren’t that interested in the war, whether because they are preoccupied with paying $4 for a gallon of gas and avoiding foreclosure, or because they have Iraq fatigue.

Over on the Time’s op-ed page, today, though, in that reality-free zone occupied by hack-to-the-hawks Bill Kristol, the analysis is that we do care — in fact, we care a lot. Sure, Kristol notes, most Americans won’t be taking part in any Memorial Day services or commemorations, but:

This doesn’t mean Americans are indifferent to the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. In fact, I suspect that many of us feel so much in debt to our servicemen and women, and so much in awe of the ultimate sacrifice some of them have made and all of them are willing to make, that we worry any effort to honor them wouldn’t be commensurate with their deeds.

See? We care so much that we can’t even show how much we care, because we’re paralyzed by the fear that those “Support the Troops” bumper stickers don’t adequately convey our appreciation.

We are, in fact, eternally indebted to all the men and women who choose to voluntarily serve our country because they: (a) believe it is their patriotic duty; (b) have limited economic opportunities; (c) cannot afford to attend college (see b); or, (d) all of the above.

The fact is that financial necessity compels many of our soldiers to enlist as much as patriotism. As Robert Frank noted in his review in Sunday’s Times of Steven Greenhouse’s new book, The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker:

… no economic system can prosper in the long run if people who work hard and play by the rules cannot meet their basic needs. The workers profiled in “The Big Squeeze” cannot afford to pay for health care or to send their children to decent schools. And precisely because of their precarious economic position, their sons and daughters are far more likely than others to go into the military.

If, on the other hand, you’re fortunate enough to land yourself a spot in an Ivy League school, you’ve got a great shot at never having to worry about getting shot at. Better still, that coveted diploma might get you a seat on the military-industrial gravy train, where, contrary to the wisdom of Sir Winston Churchill, it’s always better to war-war than to jaw-jaw. The war may be costing a few thousand lives, and costing our nation a fortune, but it’s making a handful of folks a handsome profit, too.

The rest of us, evidently, are content to gnaw on a bar-b-qued bone this Memorial Day. Just don’t forget, as Bill Kristol helpfully reminds us, to “remember to remember” our troops today. Message: you care.

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.