Living Liberally Blog

Living Liberally Blog

The McCain Tapes

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Eating Liberally Food For Thought
by Kerry Trueman

How much do I hate Valentine’s Day? Let me count the ways. Oppression is the hallmark of this Hallmark Card holiday: the cheap chocolates made from cocoa beans harvested by child slave labor on the Ivory Coast; the fungicide-filled flowers picked by exploited Ecuadoreans; the sleazy lingerie stitched together in a Jordan sweatshop. Only in the lexicon of the Great American Lemming could these global grotesqueries say “I Love You.”

Pity the poor man or woman who feels obligated to buy all these dubious consumer goods to demonstrate the depth of his or her affection. And let’s not forget all the folks who are forgotten on this high holy day for heterosexual couples, i.e., everybody else. Valentine’s Day sets off annual spasms of loneliness for the unattached and the bereaved, and reminds gay people how far they still have to go to achieve social acceptance in our culture.

If only we could strip away the tacky and toxic trappings, there’s a not-so-awful holiday waiting to be revived. Why couldn’t Valentine’s Day be a more universal celebration of love? I’m not the only one who feels this way. In Deborah Solomon’s Q & A with former Daily Show/Colbert Report producer Ben Karlin in Sunday’s NY Times, Karlin expressed a similar desire:

Do you observe Valentine’s Day? It’s not part of my faith, if that is what you are driving at. I loved the idea of Valentine’s Day when you were a kid and you made a card for everyone in your class and everyone in your class had to make a card for you. So you walk away that day with, like, 35 Valentine’s Day wishes.

Are you saying you wish Valentine’s Day could be more inclusive now? Yeah.

Me, too. Fair trade chocolates and pesticide-free flowers for everyone! No made-in-China teddies, though, whether polyester or plush. Some species deserve to be endangered.

My Phony Valentine

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Eating Liberally Food For Thought
by Kerry Trueman

How much do I hate Valentine’s Day? Let me count the ways. Oppression is the hallmark of this Hallmark Card holiday: the cheap chocolates made from cocoa beans harvested by child slave labor on the Ivory Coast; the fungicide-filled flowers picked by exploited Ecuadoreans; the sleazy lingerie stitched together in a Jordan sweatshop. Only in the lexicon of the Great American Lemming could these global grotesqueries say “I Love You.”

Pity the poor man or woman who feels obligated to buy all these dubious consumer goods to demonstrate the depth of his or her affection. And let’s not forget all the folks who are forgotten on this high holy day for heterosexual couples, i.e., everybody else. Valentine’s Day sets off annual spasms of loneliness for the unattached and the bereaved, and reminds gay people how far they still have to go to achieve social acceptance in our culture.

If only we could strip away the tacky and toxic trappings, there’s a not-so-awful holiday waiting to be revived. Why couldn’t Valentine’s Day be a more universal celebration of love? I’m not the only one who feels this way. In Deborah Solomon’s Q & A with former Daily Show/Colbert Report producer Ben Karlin in Sunday’s NY Times, Karlin expressed a similar desire:

Do you observe Valentine’s Day? It’s not part of my faith, if that is what you are driving at. I loved the idea of Valentine’s Day when you were a kid and you made a card for everyone in your class and everyone in your class had to make a card for you. So you walk away that day with, like, 35 Valentine’s Day wishes.

Are you saying you wish Valentine’s Day could be more inclusive now? Yeah.

Me, too. Fair trade chocolates and pesticide-free flowers for everyone! No made-in-China teddies, though, whether polyester or plush. Some species deserve to be endangered.

Mitt Romney Quits Race to Spend More Time With His Wives



And you think ONE wife is time-consuming. Just kidding. This is not an anti-Mormon post. Some of my best friends are Mormon. But if Mitt can dish it out, he should be able to take it. By it, I mean, of course, intolerance. In other words, I don't care what religion he is. But I do care that Mitt has said he wouldn't have Muslims in his cabinet. The Mormon's were, indeed persecuted. But if Mitt's sensitivity and acceptance in restricted to Mormonism, it's hard for me to feel sorry for him. Mitt's religious-tolerance preaching and JFK comparing is opportunistic, in light of his less than tolerant stance on Muslims and atheists. It's as hypocritical as, let's say, preaching immigration tolerance, while at the same time advancing immigrant-intolerant speech and policies. If that sounds familiar, it is. During the Republican debates-- sorry, during the Florida, Youtube, debates, Mitt slammed Giuliani for being the mayor of a sanctuary city, and bragged about his own 0 tolerance for "aliens" stance

If you're here illegally, you should not be here. We're not going to give you benefits, other than those required by the law, like healthcare and education, and that's the course we're going to have to pursue.

When Rudy shot back that New York's "sanctuary city" didn't hold a candle to Mitt's "sanctuary mansion," which was maintained by Mexican gardeners and lawnmowers, the Governor reverted to his Bostonian alter ego, delivering a multi-culti, celebrate-diversity, envision-world-peace diatribe vindicating his tired, his poor, his huddled landscapers.

Are you suggesting, Mr. Mayor--because I think it's really kind of offensive, actually, to suggest--to say, look, you know what, if you're a homeowner and you hire a company to come provide a service at your home--paint the home, put on the roof--if you hear someone that's working out there... if you hear someone with a funny accent, you, as a homeowner, are supposed to go out there and say, "I want to see your papers." Is that what you're suggesting? That you now are responsible for going out and checking the employees of that company, particularly those that might look different or don't have an accent like yours, and ask for their papers? I don't think that's American, number one. Number two--

But then, much to the releif of all God/ immigration-fearing people, Mitt, without skipping a beat (well, OK a few beats, during which Anderson Cooper reminded The Governor, in vain, "We got to move on"), Mitt continued his enumeration of good deeds against bad aliens.

Let me tell you what I did as governor. I said no to driver's licenses for illegals. I said, number two, we're going to make sure that those that come here don't get a tuition break in our schools, which I disagree with other folks on that one. Number three, I applied to have our state police enforce the immigration laws in May, seven months before I was out of office. It took the federal government a long time to get the approvals, and we enforced the law. And Massachusetts is not a sanctuary state, and the policies of the mayor of pursuing a sanctuary nation or pursuing a sanctuary city--

So I apologize for making fun of Mormonism, which no longer permits polygamy. And their whole racist things is so 1970s; in 1978, after a vision from God (and pressure from the IRS), the Church of Latter Day Saints lifted their ban against Black priests. I am going to miss watching Mitt preach religous tolerance (for Mormons only) and practice intolerance towards atheists, Muslims, gay people, and immigrants. But, as a great man, prophet and failed presidential candidate once said, "I felt like I had to say something because I simply cannot let my[self] be a part of aiding a surrender to [hypocritical and sanctimonious] terror."

No Country For Old Men - a Reagan-Era Parable

Screening Liberally Big Picture by Ben Weyl

(This is part of the 5-week series reviewing the nominess for Best Picture)

A sheer callousness toward human life pervades “No Country for Old Men,” an Academy Award nominee for Best Picture. That the film takes place in 1980 is perhaps no coincidence; the moral void of the Reagan Administration provides a perfect backdrop for this kind of inhumanity and begs an analysis of the film through the filter of the Reagan years.

Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), the film’s sort-of-hero, is a fine example of the rugged individual. Off hunting in the Texas desert, he stumbles onto a drug deal gone horribly wrong (where was Nancy?!). Half a dozen men and their dogs lie dead on the ground or in cars. But Moss is looking for the loot. He finds one man nearly dead, pleading for water, but ignores him, finds the money ($2 million) and makes his getaway.

Elsewhere, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is killing. That’s what he does in this movie. With an eerie calm, he aims his air-gun—normally used on cattle—and slaughters people like, well, cattle. Hotel clerks, businessmen, chicken farmers, bounty hunters, they all get the same treatment. He is after the money and will kill whoever gets in his way. At the risk of mixing my 1980s movie metaphors, it’s clear that for these characters, greed is good.

But the money is not Chigurh’s only motivating factor; he clearly enjoys toying with his prey. In a memorable scene at a gas station, Chigurh asks the lonely and unsuspecting owner what the most was that he had ever lost in a coin toss. Chigurh denigrates the man’s very worth as a human being to his face, and we await the demise of another innocent victim. But the coin toss comes up in the owner’s favor and Chigurh spares his life. Life under the Reagan Administration was similarly chancy for the most vulnerable Americans. In 1981, Reagan cut in half the budget dedicated to public housing and Section 8 housing vouchers for low-income people, sending hundreds of thousands into homelessness. During the Reagan years, the number of people living in poverty grew by 25 percent in comparison to the previous administration.

Early on, (spoiler alert) the filmmakers (Joel and Ethan Coen) hint that in the end, Moss won’t make it out alive. At home with his wife, Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald), and the bag of money, he can’t seem to forget that dying, thirsty man. His conscience gnaws at him. He tells his wife that he’s “fixin’ to do something dumber than hell,” takes a gun and a jug of water and goes back. Dumber than hell is right. Doesn’t he know about survival of the fittest, about how things work in the ‘80s?

Moss and Carla Jean are good representatives to tell this story because politically, they’re likely Reagan Democrats: working-class people who struggle to make ends meet but buy into the optimism and the cultural trappings that Reagan offered. They’re also the people who suffered most, bearing the brunt of declining wages and high levels of unemployment. Reagonomics was not kind to people like Moss and Carla Jean. Chigurh is worse.

When Moss returns to the massacred scene with the water, he finds the man has been shot in the head. Moss is soon spotted by two men who begin chase, and Moss barely escapes. The two men tell Chigurh and now Chigurh begins the hunt for Moss after, of course, killing his informants.

This hunt drives the film’s bloody story. Throughout the course of events, the aging sheriff, Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) remains a few steps behind. In this allegory, Bell unfortunately represents the liberal. Appalled by the increasing violence, Bell is unable to stop the carnage; he forlornly watches his worst fears unfold. So too liberals watched with horror as Reagan swung the country hard to the right while wreaking havoc on the lives of low- and middle-income Americans.

In the end, Bell retires, packs it in.

The lesson for liberals in 2008, however, is not to call it quits. Instead, it’s to fight back even harder for our values and to make our voices heard. As the Jewish scholar Hillel once remarked, “In a place where there are no humans, one must strive to be human.”

Ben Weyl lives in Washington, D.C. and blogs far too infrequently at http://benweyl.blogspot.com

Building a Deep Economy

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Reading Liberally Page Turner
by Dan Chibnall, Drinking Liberally Des Moines

Yesterday, I ate a tomato and I loved it. Tomatoes are one of the finest foods on the Earth, but they don't grow year-round. The problem is that it's January 30th here in Iowa. Snow covers most of the land at the moment, and if it's not snow, it's solid ice that resembles blown glass. We have some of the best farmland in the world, but right now, it's useless.

So where did my tomato come from? This is one of the big questions that Bill McKibben asks in his new book "Deep Economy." McKibben seeks the answer to the question, "Can we change the way we eat, work, travel, use energy, and socialize?" He believes the answer to that question is yes, we can. In order to do that, we have to get back to our roots in the local community.

Since the end of World War II, the United States has grown like no other nation in history. This growth created the society we know today with all of its wonderful technology and ease, but it has also made us ill, physically and socially. How has this happened? McKibben argues that we have focused so much on making every aspect of our lives more efficient that we no longer have quality in our society.

For example, massive, industrial farms provide us with most of our food now. Food is cheaper and easier to come by (like my tomato), but the food we eat lacks the nutrients it once had. McKibben shocks the reader with this statistic about farms: smaller farms produce more food per acre than industrial farms. It does not matter whether you
measure that production in weight, caloric energy, or money; the bottom line is that smaller farmers use their water, fuel, and manure (yes, not gallons of nitrogen) more efficiently than a megafarm does. In other words, buy your food locally.

McKibben's writing is clear and invites the reader to continue reading, not just because the subject matter is interesting, but because you feel as if you are part of a community just by reading the book. Using statistics he hammers home some of the dire consequences of our daily actions on the ecological framework of the planet, focusing especially on the rise of China on the world stage. He makes the reader feel at home on a farm when he contrasts China's massive infrastructure with that of his local economy, the green pastures of Vermont.

When you read about the success Vermont has had with local, community radio projects and local currency creation (yes, there are places without the dollar) you have difficulty believing it's true. And yet it is, in the tiny towns and cities of the Green Mountain State. Of course McKibben reminds the reader that your community does not have to be small like Vermont to make these ideas work. Any community can band together and demand to have more wind turbines for energy. Everyone has the power to shop at the local farmers' market. In fact, there are now more farmers' markets in the United States today than there were 15 years ago. Despite our massive globalized economy, people still like to eat local food.

So what does all of this mean? What can you do, according to this scholar from Middlebury College? I for one am going to try and stop eating tomatoes out of season. Why? Well, my tomato was from Mexico, so it took more energy to produce it and ship it than if I had waited a few months and bought one from down the road. Or I could have
started my own garden, canned the tomatoes, and opened them up on a cold night in January.

To put it simply, follow that age-old adage: think globally and act locally. One of the best things any individual can do is to invest in his local community. That will help to prevent global warming, foster growth in the neighborhood businesses, and make new friends, all at the same time.

Let Trent Lott Appreciation Day Reign

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Laughing Liberally To Keep From Crying
by Katie Halper

As if we don't already know, today is Trent Lott Appreciation Day. While this is a great step forward for mankind, Lott, featured above rocking his signature hip hop dance move, deserves so much more than one day of Appreciation. Because Lott is so much more than a mere mortal and senator. Did you know he was also...

  1. a misunderstood STD: Of course Lott is an STD (Strom Thurmond-defending) and outspoken segregationist. But Trent is no racist, and is as opposed to racism and Strom Thurmond was opposed to miscegenation. He is actually color blind. Lamenting the Sunni/Shiite hoopla, Lott said: "It's hard for Americans, all of us, including me, to understand what's wrong with these people. Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me." See! Like Steven Colbert, Lott doesn't even see color, or ethnicity!

  2. a salt of the earth working man One of the many exploited workers in Washington D.C., and part of the great Capitol Hill to K street migration, Lott recently left politics in search of a better life and a living wage as a lobbyist. Luckily, and purely coincidentally, by stepping down before the end of the year, Lott avoided a law, that was about to come into effect, requiring that senators wait two years after retiring before they start lobbying their former colleagues.
  3. a martyr: as if the abject poverty faced by senators weren't enough, Trent's economic woes were only worsened by Hurricane Katrina. Nobody felt Trent's pain more than the President himself, seen below either trying to hold back tears or looking at a pretty molding on the ceiling, who said:
    The good news is -- and it's hard for some to see it now -- that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch.


    Nothing represents the tragedy of Katrina, and nothing resonates with the victims of Katrina, more than when an STD (Strom Thurmond-defending), and segregationist senator loses his second home.

Which is way I anoint today, not only Trent Lott Appreciation Day, but Trent Lott Community Service Day. Because we must, and can help Trent. Which is why I'm starting the Trent Lott Porch Reconstruction Fund. Together, we will rebuild that porch, stone by stone, brick by brick. And we won't stop until that wrap around Victorian porch is standing once again. Because a man's second home's porch is his castle.

Most of all, I look forward to a day when we won't even need to have a "Trent Lott Appreciation Day." Because everyday, should, and will, be "Trent Lott Appreciation Day."

Welcome to the Bush League: McCain, Huckabee & Romney

McCain is a guy up for endless war,
who doesn't understand the economy
but the press likes him for his "straight talk."

Huckabee's radical religious rightwingery
makes him anti-choice, anti-gay & anti-progress
but the press finds him affable and folksy.

Romney's an empty suit created by consultants,
sympathetic to corporatocracy (and to torture),
but he's considered a "businessman"
...and hey, he looks presidential.

War? Religious right? Corporate cronies?
It takes three GOP candidates combined to compete
with Bush' credentials: lousy views & lousier allies.

Straight talk? Folksiness? An MBA?
It also takes all three to share the qualities
that tricked the press into liking W the first time.

Welcome to the Bush League :
3 would-be Bushes that just aren't as good at it yet.

It makes George W. Bush all the more impressive
...he's worth three lousy candidates on his own.

But give them time to grow...
one of them could become just as bad
& trick the media just as well by the end.

Toast to contentious conservative candidates
for their work discrediting right-wing politics
as you share primary predictions & a pint
at your local, progressive social club.

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

Welcome to the Bush League: McCain, Huckabee & Romney

McCain is a guy up for endless war,
who doesn't understand the economy
but the press likes him for his "straight talk."

Huckabee's radical religious rightwingery
makes him anti-choice, anti-gay & anti-progress
but the press finds him affable and folksy.

Romney's an empty suit created by consultants,
sympathetic to corporatocracy (and to torture),
but he's considered a "businessman"
...and hey, he looks presidential.

War? Religious right? Corporate cronies?
It takes three GOP candidates combined to compete
with Bush' credentials: lousy views & lousier allies.

Straight talk? Folksiness? An MBA?
It also takes all three to share the qualities
that tricked the press into liking W the first time.

Welcome to the Bush League :
3 would-be Bushes that just aren't as good at it yet.

It makes George W. Bush all the more impressive
...he's worth three lousy candidates on his own.

But give them time to grow...
one of them could become just as bad
& trick the media just as well by the end.

Toast to contentious conservative candidates
for their work discrediting right-wing politics
as you share primary predictions & a pint
at your local, progressive social club.

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

Happy Trent Lott Appreciation Day! But one day a year is not enough!

As if we don't already know, today is Trent Lott Appreciation Day. While this is a great step forward for mankind, Lott, featured above rocking his signature hip hop dance move, deserves so much more than one day of Appreciation. Because Lott is so much more than a mere mortal and senator. Did you know he was also

  1. a misunderstood STD: Of course Lott is an STD (Strom Thurman-defending); and outspoken segregationist. But Trent is no racist, and is as opposed to racism and Strom Thurman was opposed to miscegenation. He is actually color blind. Lamenting the Sunni/Shiite hoopla, Lott said: "It's hard for Americans, all of us, including me, to understand what's wrong with these people. Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me." See! Like Steven Colbert, Lott doesn't even see color, or ethnicity!
  2. a salt of the earth working man One of the many exploited workers in Washington D.C., and part of the great Capitol Hill to K street migration, Lott recently left politics in search of a better life and a living wage as a lobbyist. Luckily, and purely coincidentally, by stepping down before the end of the year, Lott avoided a law, that was about to come into effect, requiring that senators wait two years after retiring before they start lobbying their former colleagues.
  3. a martyr: as if the abject poverty faced by senators weren't enough, Trent's economic woes were only worsened by Hurricane Katrina. Nobody felt Trent's pain more than the President himself, seen here either trying to hold back tears or looking at a pretty molding on the ceiling, who said:
    The good news is -- and it's hard for some to see it now -- that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch

    Nothing represents the tragedy of Katrina, and nothing resonates with the victims of Katrina, more than when an STD (Strom Thurman-defending), and segregationist senator loses his second home.

Which is way I anoint today, not only Trent Lott Appreciation Day, but Trent Lott Community Service Day. Because we must, and can help Trent. Which is why I'm starting the Trent Lott Porch Reconstruction Fund. Together, we will rebuild that porch, stone by stone, brick by brick. And we won't stop until that wrap around Victorian porch is standing once again. Because a man's second home's porch is his castle.

Most of all, I look forward to a day when we won't even need to have a "Trent Lott Appreciation Day." Because everyday, should, and will, be "Trent Lott Appreciation Day."

Super Fat Tuesday: Polls Today, Parties Tonight

Liberal Drinkers, whomever you are for, go vote in the Primaries!

Then, tonight, revel as the results are revealed while downing a drink to democracy at a Super Fat Tuesday party.

Today is Election Day + Mardi Gras = SUPER FAT TUESDAY, a national night of gatherings.

From New York City to Colorado Springs, Nebraska to New Jersey, dozens of events will bring people together to treat election day as it should be treated -- as a holiday.

In New York, we'll be celebrating with comedians, special guests and Eating Liberally treats at The Tank. Each event is different -- though our Super Fat Tuesday site has offered bingo cards, drinking games and betting pools.

So get-out-the-vote, then celebrate the vote -- happy Super Fat Tuesday.