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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.

Top Ten Hagee-isms: New and Improved


Readers may recall that in an effort to counteract the media's anti-McCain bias, I gathered the top 10 best quotes uttered by McCain's spiritual advisers. While the liberal press was giving its undivided attention to Reverend Jeremiah Wright, I decided I would highlight the invaluable but overlooked and ignored contributions McCain's own religious allies, most notable Pastor John Hagee, whose endorsement McCain went out of his way to seek and "ye shall" find. In light of recent revelations about Hagee's spiritual insights into the Holocaust, I am updating this list so it truly reflects the utterly amazing and unbelievable words of Hagee. (Pastor Rod Parsley, if you're reading this, I apologize to for cutting you from the updated top ten list. I do appreciate you commitment to destroying Islam and his attempt to raise awareness of the low lesbian life expectancy. But you and Hagee and are too special to have to share a top ten list. I will make you your own next week.)

So here are the "Updated Top Ten Hagee-isms," new and improved, with never-before-released hits from his "Thank God for Hitler" sermon.

1. NEW! "God says in Jeremiah 16 - 'Behold I will bring them the Jewish people again unto their land that I gave unto their fathers' - that would be Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - 'Behold I will send for many fishers and after will I send for many hunters. And they the hunters shall hunt them' - that will be the Jews - 'from every mountain and from every hill and from out of the holes of the rocks.' If that doesn't describe what Hitler did in the Holocaust... you can't see that. So think about this - I will send fishers and I will send hunters."
- Pastor John Hagee in a sermon

2. NEW! "Then god sent a hunter. A hunter is someone with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter. And the Bible says -- Jeremiah writing -- 'They shall hunt them from every mountain and from every hill and from the holes of the rocks,' meaning there's no place to hide. And that might be offensive to some people but don't let your heart be offended. I didn't write it, Jeremiah wrote it. It was the truth and it is the truth. How did it happen? Because God allowed it to happen. Why did it happen? Because God said my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel."
- Pastor John Hagee in a sermon

3. NEW! "Theodore Herzl is the father of Zionism. He was a Jew who at the turn of the 19th century said, this land is our land, God wants us to live there. So he went to the Jews of Europe and said 'I want you to come and join me in the land of Israel.' So few went that Herzl went into depression. Those who came founded Israel; those who did not went through the hell of the holocaust."
- Pastor John Hagee in a sermon

Here are some oldies but goodies...

4. "Do you know the difference between a woman with PMS and a snarling Doberman pinscher? The answer is lipstick. Do you know the difference between a terrorist and a woman with PMS? You can negotiate with a terrorist."
- Pastor John Hagee in his book What Every Man Wants in a Woman (Charisma House, 2005)

5. "The Quran teaches that [all Muslims have a mandate to kill Christians and Jews]. Yes, it teaches that very clearly."
-Pastor John Hagee

6. "I believe that the Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans...I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they are -- were recipients of the judgment of God for that...There was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came. And the promise of that parade was that it was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other Gay Pride parades...The Bible teaches that when you violate the law of God, that God brings punishment sometimes before the day of judgment."
-Pastor John Hagee

7. "The military will have difficultly recruiting healthy and strong heterosexuals for combat purposes. Why? Fighting in combat with a man in your fox hole that has AIDS or is HIV positive is double jeopardy."
- Pastor John Hagee on "Don't Ask Don't Tell"

8. "[Gay marriage] will open the door to incest, to polygamy, and every conceivable marriage arrangement demented minds can possibly conceive. If God does not then punish America, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah."
- Pastor John Hagee

9. "It is impossible to call yourself a Christian and defend homosexuality. There is no justification or acceptance of homosexuality.... Homosexuality means the death of society because homosexuals can recruit, but they cannot reproduce."
- Pastor John Hagee

10. "Only a Spirit-filled woman can submit to her husband's lead. It is the natural desire of a woman to lead through feminine manipulation of the man...Fallen women will try to dominate the marriage. The man has the God-given role to be the loving leader of the home."
- Pastor John Hagee in his book What Every Man Wants in a Woman (Charisma House, 2005)

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

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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.

20-Year-Old Memo Found Apologizing for Bill O'Reilly's Inside Edition Meltdown

Laughing Liberally To Keep From Crying

Our contributor Lee Camp is sometimes pigeon-holed as a comedian, but there's more to him than that - for instance, this week he unearthed a 20-year old memo by the producer of Inside Edition, apologizing for Bill O'Reilly's on-set meltdown:

When Insurance Doesn't Offer Assurance

insult_to_injury_bookHOME.jpg
Reading Liberally Page Turner
by Amanda Milstein, Living Liberally

(A quick word before you read on - the review below is the last in-house work by Amanda Milstein, our incredible winter intern and indispensable partner for the last several months. While we doubt this is the last you'll see of her work on Open Left, we want to wish her the best as she heads off to get a master's degree in public policy, including a stint at a think-tank this summer. Thanks, Amanda!)

Ray Bourhis, author of Insult to Injury, is an angry man. He has good reason to be—he is a lawyer that has spent much of his career attempting to get insurance companies to pay disabled people the money that they are owed, and has seen his efforts been thwarted again and again—and seen lives of many of his clients disintegrate as a result.

Bourhis describes the travails of people like Dr. Stuart Gluck, who had three disability insurance policies. He was diagnosed with HIV and also had a nervous system disorder ad triple coronary bypass surgery, sustained brain damage as a result of surgery—this was clearly a man who couldn't work anymore. UnumProvident, his insurance company, decided that despite all of this he should still be employed and they even threatened to demand some of the money they had already paid him back.

The book talks about the insurance industry focused through the case of Joan Hangarter, a chiropractor that needed to stop practicing when she developed extreme pain in her arm and neck. Her disability insurance was then cut off, forcing her and her children into destitution and onto foodstamps. Joan wins her trial, but UnumProvident is slow in paying her the money she was awarded—and does not change its behavior towards other policy-holders.

The book provides a passionate description of how the insurance industry is allowed to swindle clients out of money that they are entitled to. Through describing the personal stories of those whose lives have been destroyed by denied insurance claims and a painstaking description of Joan's trial, Bourhis paints a picture of a society that values the corporate bottom line more than the lives of disabled policy-holders.