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June's Featured Chapter: Springfield, IL

With the start of the new Living Liberally Blog, we've decided that each month, we want to highlight one of our over 260 awesome chapters.

And so... for the month of June... we've decided to featured... drumroll please... well not really since the answer is in the title... time for you to look at the title... Yes, you guessed it: Springfield, Illinois!

Just this month, Springfield, home of our buddy Abraham Lincoln, celebrated their third anniversary, and it has been quite an exciting first three years. Will Reynolds started Springfield DL in June 2005 with high ambitions. In fact, Will made a try for a Sangamon County board seat.

Since its inception, Springfield DL has outgrown two venues and now meets every Thursday at Brewhaus, right down the block from the old State Capitol where Barack Obama announced his candidacy for President last year. In addition, they meet to Drink Coffee Liberally (Buzzing Liberally?), two Saturdays a month at the Trout Lily Cafe.

Springfield DL, and its current host Kathy Mehuys, epitomize the intersection of culture and politics that Living Liberally seeks to create. They've been visited by local and congressional candidates, including one who tried to unseat "Bush yes-man John Shimkus (Dimkus)" in 2006. They've also attracted local musicians, including a member of America's premiere psychedelic cowboy band New Riders of the Purple Sage.

Springfield DL, we want to thank you for exemplifying local liberal leadership and contributing to the national cause.

And now... some good ol' psychedelic cowboy rock'n'roll:

Contribute to the national network here!

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Food & Farming Event: New Amsterdam. Sunday. Be there.

KAT: NYC's real food fanatics are gearing up for a gala event this Sunday down at Lower Manhattan's legendary Seaport. Guest blogger Leslie Hatfield from the Eat Well Guide's Green Fork blog tells why:

“Old New York…was once New Amsterdam…”

Back then, a widely diverse population of city dwellers bought their food at the market, not at the Quizno’s.

If you are in New York on Sunday, come join thousands of other foodies, farmers and activists at the New Amsterdam Market. This is the third New Amsterdam gathering so far–the last event got hit by a snow storm but 5,000 people still showed up, so this weekend’s market is expected to be major. We’re excited about the implications of a market in the Seaport area, as is Robert LaValva, the Director of the New Amsterdam Market Association:

“The participants we have gathered for New Amsterdam Market on June 29th represent a shift in thinking. With its four century legacy as a market district, the Seaport and its empty public market halls offer New Yorkers an unprecedented opportunity to anchor the food system now emerging from this change.”

And the lineup of vendors looks amazing. I’m especially intrigued by Wild Foods (cattail hearts?!), and I hear there will even be sustainably-produced popsicles. Don’t forget your re-usable bags–you’re going to want to bring some food home.

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Proud of America

Drinking Liberally Shot of Truth
by Richard Rozzelle, Drinking Liberally: Greensboro

Remember that hubbub a couple months back surrounding Michelle Obama's statement, "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country."? Of course you do. Cindy McCain won't let you forget it.

Well, this week I am ready to say that for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of America ... the band. You remember America ... folk rock band from the '70s. They hit their stride with songs like "Tin Man" and "Sister Golden Hair," then really went down hill in the '80s with "You Can Do Magic."

I've never been a huge fan of America. They made some crucial mistakes here and there along the way. Questionable leadership at times. Periods of misguided facial hair. Forays into Western wear.

But then last week, as I was walking through the Death Valley desert, sweating, not really sure where I was heading physically or mentally, I got America's first and greatest hit stuck deep inside my head.

I've been through the desert on a horse with no name.
It felt good to be out of the rain.
In the desert you can remember your name.
'Cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain.

I latched onto that song. Repeated it over and over. Made up new lyrics for the parts I didn't know, and essentially let it set my outlook.

It was at that point when I realized that for all its flaws, America can be great. It can speak truth. And if you go back the early works, you'll find something remarkable.

Sounds Like a Plan!

Reading Liberally Page Turner
by Seth Pearce

To say that Matthew Yglesias's new book, Heads in the Sand will single-bookedly save the Democratic party is a slight overstatement. It does, however, provide what may be one the most important tools democrats can use to win in 2008 and govern in the years to come: a coherent, intelligent and aggressive liberal policy on National Security.

HITS is a book that, for starters, takes the issue of National Security seriously. Unlike many liberal thinkers and politicians of the past decade, Yglesias argues that National Security is an issue of prime importance to the Democratic Party and to America. It cannot be sidestepped in favor of domestic issues, that democrats are traditionally more comfortable with. The few democrats who do address National Security, Yglesias's "Liberal Hawks," only do so in a way that reinforces the failed Bush doctrine of militaristic nationalism, even if they disagree with his specific policies.

Yglesias asserts that since Bush took office, a National Security/ Foreign Policy ideal of using American military force to unilaterally rid the world of its evils had . Since 9/11, the face of this evil has been terrorism. Bush's War on Terror operates on the wrong assumption that you can combat a transnational villain, such as Al-Qaeda, by attacking national entities, like Iraq, and can do so through the pure might of American power. Bush's view was also faulty because it saw terrorism as an expression of "Freedom-Haters," who abhorred the American way of life, instead of as a specific reaction to specific actions taken by the United States and other countries, an idea espoused by many well-established intelligence and military organizations.

Democrats, Yglesias adds, have recently been holding more consistently anti-war positions, but have yet to attack the flawed ideological underpinnings of the Bush foreign policy nor have the provided an affirmative alternative policy. Matthew Yglesias to the rescue!

The key thesis of HITS is that instead of treating organizations like the UN as a shackle that confines and restricts American interests, the United States should focus on aggressively strengthening these kinds of organizations to create a "liberal world order", governed by laws, that could in part act as an international police force, more able to effectively confront transnational criminals than a single national army could. Thus, instead of America being the world's police department, America would become the Commissioner of a larger international police force, that would protect human lives and human rights.

McCain 4 Realz

Reading Liberally Page Turner
by Travis Craw

It was a beautiful summers day when I sat down in my backyard with my dear old grandfather, a die-hard Texan who is ready to drive George Bush out of town in tar and feathers for being the slimiest most no good varmint ever to disgrace the name of America. So you might have been as surprised as I was when he sat me down to instruct me in the virtues of John McCain.

It was explained to me that, despite his intension to make permanent the Bush Tax Cuts, indefinitely maintain the military presence of Bush’s war, and kiss the boots of the evangelical leaders who got Bush elected, John McCain is "His Own Man". I was confused, but I recalled faintly a time when John McCain called out the injustices of tax cuts for the rich, and denounced intolerant bigoted comments by Pat Robertson and John Hagee. I even felt a slight pang of nostalgia for a man who championed campaign finance reform, normalized diplomatic relations with Viet Nam, and held the promise of leading the Republican Party in a different direction than Reagan. There once was a time when people truly believed he was a reformer, but then again at that time people also though Milli Vanilli sang their own songs.

If only I had already read Cliff Schecter’s "The Real McCain" as I was sitting there with Gramps, I would have been fully armed to set him straight on McCain’s "Straight Shooting". Schecter simply and thoroughly takes on the real McCain issue by issue, illuminating a man, once known for progressive nonpartisan reform, who has turned his back on all of his beliefs in his ceaseless political pandering and scraping for power. To say McCain has any beliefs at all is a stretch, as when asked if contraception helps to stop the spread of HIV, McCain said, "I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception."

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.

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 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.