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Just Say No To War With Iran

J Street, the awesome new pro-Israel, pro-peace PAC, has been a key voice in challenging the recent saber-rattling on Iran. Amidst the clamor of the election, there has been quite a bit of talk about a possible "October Surprise" from President Bush or another attack on Iran from America or Israel in the coming months.

That's why J Street, a partner of the progressive movement, is asking Members of Congress and candidates to come out strongly against a pre-emptive attack on Iran and in support tougher, more involved diplomacy from the US.

You can sign their open letter here.

Blogging Liberally: News to Ruin Your Day

1. Naomi Woolf on how Gitmo and Abu Ghraib became institutionalized sex crime rings.

2. Check out Open Left's piece about why Obama shouldn't be afraid of being called a flip-flopper. No, wait! Actually, don't!

3. Slate wonders if Al Franken's history of "racy" jokes will harm his Senate campaign; meanwhile, Sasha Baron Cohen inspires hope for the future, dread of his inevitable new catchphrase (Niiice!)

4. It seems that some Iraq vets have been drinking a little too...liberally? Sorry, we know that's kind of offensive but we just can't stop punning off of our own name...liberally!

5. Former President Bush is the best high school civics teacher ever! Except he's not functionally literate and is always trying to waterboard you during detention.

6. We Made This linked to this Flickr set of the new series of Penguin Great Ideas book covers.

What the Progressive Movement Can Learn from John Hancock

Screening Liberally Big Picture
by Seth Pearce

Will Smith's new summer blockbuster Hancock is pretty good. Smith is awesome as usual, but that was to be expected. (Remember, this is the guy who made Hitch into a profoundly watchable film.) What I want to focus on today, however, is what the progressive movement can learn from this run-of-the-mill homeless, alcoholic, anti-social superhero movie.

Jason Bateman's character, Ray, is an idealistic PR man hoping to use branding (the "All-Heart" symbol) to convince big corporations to good for the world. The good he seeks is not your average "Cough up a couple thousand bucks and I'll put my stamp on your product. In his first scene, Ray tries to convicne ht board of a pharmaceutical company to give away their new tuberculosis vaccine for free, to families that couldn't afford it.

Unfortunately, the Pharm doesn't bite. At his next meeting, after the rise of his client Hancock as a popular superhero, all the company wants to talk about is...guess what... Hancock!

We all know this experience: wanting to talk about the issues when all people get hung up on is the controversy (See: Jeremiah Wright, Swift Boat Veterans, Willie Horton etc.). Now, we can respond to this by saying screw these jerks who don't care about the issues, or we can acknowledge their lack of interest and take from it a natural human condition: we love a good story!

It's often difficult and confusing to just talk about our issues in an abstract, theoretical way, even though for some us that are deeply involved it can feel like the most elegant method of discussing it. Instead, we need to highlight the progressive superheroes, the real people that power the progressive movement and the real people that government policies and actions affect. We need to tell their stories in order to reach out to a wider audience and truly engage people. We need to give them Hancock and use Hancock to effectively illustrate our points. Otherwise, our message gets lost in the echo chambers of the elite.

It turns out that this lack of story is also Hancock's key flaw. There are many interesting concepts woven into the movie such as power, sacrifice, angelology and mythology, and celibacy as well as several unique motifs such as the PR training of a superhero, i.e. smooth takeoffs and landings, always saying "good job" to fellow do-gooders even though what they have done might be inadequate, going to group therapy sessions etc. But these concepts are not effectively woven into the story and are sometimes put in seemingly at the expense of deeper background information about the characters.

Overall, Hancock is worth seeing. It's lots of fun. Will Smith is the bomb. Jason Bateman has a part that fits him perfectly and the plot ain't half bad. Check it out.

Reading Liberally: Read of the Day

The one post that every liberal must read today:

by Ian Welsh, firedoglake

Ian Welsh gives us an in-depth analysis of John McCain's brand new economic plan and why, like many of McCain's plans, it won't work for the average American. The MSM might not subject this plan to the scrutiny it deserves, but as liberals, it's our job to make sure that the facts get out there.

Praying Liberally: Let's Get Together

Street Prophets is an awesome blog. It's great to see so many religious progressives getting together to talk about issues of religion and politics, organize around them and most importantly, build community.

This community building is at the heart of what Living Liberally does. We believe that our political identity should be part of our regular lives. Too often politics is restricted to one day every four years, or to long, uninviting meetings in fluorescent-lit, linoleum-floored rooms.

Through our social networks and events, we promote this kind of social/political engagement.. These networks include over 260 Drinking Liberally, Laughing Liberally, Screening Liberally, Reading Liberally, and Eating Liberally chapters in all 50 states.

Through these happy hours, comedy shows, film screenings, book clubs and meals, we fulfill our key mission of bringing politics into places where we gather, socialize, learn, love and live. One of these places to which we have yet to reach out is the liberal religious community, one that, unfortunately, has found few spaces to gather and organize in person, in public, loud and proud.

For this reason we are developing a brand new Living Liberally network: Praying Liberally!

Like our other chapters, Praying Liberally chapters will have weekly, semi-monthly or monthly meetings of local liberals from a wide range of faiths including, as pastordan so excellently phrases it, "those whose deepest faith is in the conviction that there is no God." At these meetings, faithfully-minded liberals could talk politics, say a collective prayer for "the least of these" in our community, our country and our world, and build community to organize around our common causes.

Also like our other chapters, Praying Liberally chapters will receive a web site, chapter blog, listserv and other online organizing tools and support features from the Living Liberally national network.

Hosting a chapter is fun and EASY! All you have to do is decide on a time and location, anywhere from a local religious space to the neighborhood cafe, and send out a quick e-mail reminder before you meet - that's it. Overall, it's no more difficult than meeting with your spiritually progressive friends to hang out and talk politics.

If you're interested in being one of the first to start a Praying Liberally chapter or know someone who might be interested, email

It's time to find out what it means to Pray Liberally!

Saving People Liberally Part II

As we said in our last Saving People Liberally post, our two Lincoln, NE DL chapter leaders, Paul and Troy, just left the chapter for a month to help fight the California wild fires as volunteer Helicopter Flight Engineers. Paul sent me an update a couple days ago:

We made it here to CA fine. And are readying the aircraft to start dropping water today on the Northern Area fires.

Just so you know there are National Guard Aircrews from many other states here helping also, ND , NV, OR, WA, UT.

We are currently in Sacramento and working from here, but go where ever they need us, so our location may change as the fires are fought in different areas.

To say that this is the worst set of fires ever in CA would be a big understatement, the fire fighters here (CALFIRE) here readily say they have never seen this many fires or this many big fires ever.

This is why crews from all over are here helping, (including us), in addition to all the CA National Guard aircraft, and Navy, Marine and Air Force Helicopters helping out as well.

I don't know if we will get a chance to, but we will try and hook up with the local chapter of DL / LL where ever we are later these coming weeks.

Great to hear from you guys. We wish you the best of luck. Keep living liberally!

Blogging Liberally: How to recover from your patriotic hangover

1. Matt Yglesias shows what John McCain's economic proposals can do for you... if you are a big oil company. He also liked Hancock. We did too, more on that later.

2. Salon covers Sebelius's VP prospects. A female Mike Bloomberg?

3. The bible belt really eats liberally.

4. Conservatives "Ready to Battle" McCain thus proving that the enemy of your enemy is not always your friend.

5. Obama will accept the nomination in a 75,000 seat football stadium on the 45th anniversary of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream Speech". Chills. 'Twill be awesome.

6. Need another reason not to attack Iran?

7. Amy Goodman tackles Obama's centrism.

8. It seems that the Iraqi government may set a timetable for withdrawal.

9. Ever wondered why my.barackobama is so much like Facebook?

10. California and New York (in 2010) are requiring new cars to display a "Global Warming Score", showing how "green" the vehicle really is. Apparently this is so people can throw things at cars with low scores.

A Dirty Picture For Patriots Of All Ages

Forget about science fiction; WALL-E is séance fiction—it channels the soul of our land-loving founding father, Thomas Jefferson. Now that a handful of loose wingnuts is denouncing WALL-E as a piece of pro-planet propaganda, I’d like to note, for the record, that Jefferson would have absolutely loved WALL-E.

Normally, I wouldn’t presume to speak for the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, but given Jefferson’s reverence for our most precious resource, i.e., the soil, he surely would have appreciated the underlying message of Pixar’s latest animated opus—that it’s our civic duty to be good stewards of the land.

Yeah, yeah, I know that WALL-E’s creator, Andrew Stanton, is insisting that WALL-E is first and foremost a love story, but the whole plot hinges on another relationship: the one between us and the dirt beneath our feet. Jefferson was an early advocate of maintaining soil fertility through such practices as crop rotation, and would doubtless be horrified by the pollution and depletion of our topsoil that’s become standard operating procedure since the advent of industrial agriculture.

(Of course, he’d also be appalled that the Fourth of July has turned into a giant meat-fest; Jefferson was an unabashed lover of fruits and veggies who maintained that produce should dominate our diet and meat should be used sparingly, as a “seasoning” or “condiment.”)

Set in the year 2815, 700 years after the Earth’s been trashed by mindless consumers and a monolithic corporation named Buy n Large, WALL-E depicts a nation whose excesses have launched it into perpetual astro-exile on a fleet of super-duper Buy n Large-sponsored spaceships. Its morbidly obese, infantalized citizens, too fat to stand upright, zip around aimlessly on their hovercraft-style loungers sipping sodas, playing video games, and awaiting the day the Earth will have detoxed enough to be “recolonized.”

Some folks are eager to dismiss this cautionary tale of a corpulent corporatocracy as a far-fetched scenario aimed at advancing some eco-extremist agenda, but it’s an eerie echo of the warnings from Jared Diamond, the Pulitzer-Prize winning UCLA professor of geography and author of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. In a precursor to Collapse that Diamond wrote for Harper’s back in 2003, he challenged the conventional wisdom that we have to weigh environmental concerns against economic considerations, citing the popular misconception that:

…we must balance the environment against human needs. That reasoning is exactly upside-down. Human needs and a healthy environment are not opposing claims that must be balanced; instead, they are inexorably linked by chains of cause and effect. We need a healthy environment because we need clean water, clean air, wood, and food from the ocean, plus soil and sunlight to grow crops. We need functioning natural ecosystems, with their native species of earthworms, bees, plants, and microbes, to generate and aerate our soils, pollinate our crops, decompose our wastes, and produce our oxygen. We need to prevent toxic substances from accumulating in our water and air and soil…Our strongest arguments for a healthy environment are selfish: we want it for ourselves, not for threatened species like snail darters, spotted owls, and Furbish louseworts.

In WALL-E’s world, mankind has failed to recognize this inexorable link, forcing a mass exodus into outer space and leaving behind a barren landscape littered with post-consumer crap and unable to support any vegetation.

Watching WALL-E trundle through this lifeless landscape on his daily rounds, compacting garbage and salvaging such manmade marvels as a spork and a Rubik’s cube, you realize that it’s not about saving the earth. The planet will, in all likelihood, be able to withstand whatever drastic alterations to its ecosystem we’ve unwittingly unleashed. It’s ourselves we have to save.

Will we figure this out in time to avert the kind of catastrophic future portrayed in WALL-E? As Diamond notes in Collapse:

:Perhaps the crux of success or failure of a society is to know which core values to hold onto, and which ones to discard and replace with new values."

If only we had a clue about what to discard and what to replace. After leaving a matinee of WALL-E last weekend, I stopped into the Chelsea Home Depot, which, in a rare concession to place, is housed in an elegant turn-of-the-century cast-iron building. On my way to the garden department to buy mulch for my windowboxes, I passed a display of cheap kitchen faucets with a sign reading, “Why Fix It When You Can Replace It?”

No wonder we’re the trashiest people on the planet. If the Great Pacific Garbage Patch grows any bigger, we’ll have to colonize it and declare it the 51st state. The signs that our habitat’s under siege are everywhere, but our “Drive All You Want, We’ll Drill More” culture motors on, oblivious. With the cost of a barrel of oil setting new records each day, more and more Americans reportedly support the idea of offshore drilling, despite the fact that it can’t possibly solve the underlying problem that demand is increasingly going to outstrip supply as China and India follow in our tire tracks.

Sadly, WALL-E’s anti-consumer, anti-corporate message is undermined by the regrettable array of cheap, mass-produced WALL-E tchotchkes destined for the garbage heap. It’s a shame that Pixar couldn’t pass on the obligatory merchandise tie-ins, but that doesn’t diminish the importance of the film’s S.O.S: Save Our Soil. It’s a message that this nation of babies, big and small, needs to heed. Colony collapse disorder—it’s not just for bees!