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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.

McCain gets by with a little help from his friends

Laughing Liberally to Keep From Crying
By Mazhira Black

I know, I know, everyone loves to give John McCain a hard time, seeing as it is the twenty first century and the man is merely aware of the internet.

But really this isn't about making fun, this is about being supportive of our elderly and helping Mr. McCain just like you would your grandfather, take him by the hand and reassure him that the internet is not scary at all.

In celebration of tonight's John McCain Comedy Jaunt at The Tank in New York, featuring Cliff Schecter and Paul Waldman, the authors of The Real McCain and Free Ride, we at Laughing Liberally would like to Present Mr. McCain with a gift.

So here you are Mr. McCain:

The fearless guide for seniors, It's Never Too Late to Love a Computer is a reassuring, friendly, straightforward guide that will turn computerphobes into computerphiles. Written specifically for people who did not grow up with personal computers or even use them in the office, it presents everything that older newbies need to know: selecting, buying, and setting up hardware and software; using and adjusting the monitor; getting comfortable with the mouse and keyboard; adding and operating peripherals, such as a printer or scanner.

And then the fun begins, as the book not only shows how to use a computer, but also covers all the reasons why to. Staying in touch with families via e-mail. Looking after stocks. Booking travel plans. Shopping on-line. Researching health issues. Joining newsgroups. Meeting like-minded friends in chat rooms. Not to mention using the computer for other tasks and entertainment, like word processing (finally getting back to that novel) or playing games.

So, whether its looking for the friendly neighborhood medicare provider or just receiving pictures via electronic-mail from the grandkids, you too can be as interweb savvy as the young whippersnappers.

Have fun! (But not too much fun, hips are expensive to replace)

The O’Brien Retort: Are The Iowa Floods An Unnatural Disaster?

Most folks are assuming that the catastrophic floods in Iowa are a natural disaster, caused simply by too much rainfall. But, leaving aside the question of whether climate change is partly to blame for all that rain, a growing number of environmental experts suspects that the flooding may have been caused in part by agricultural practices that have severely impaired the landscape’s ability to absorb excess rainwater.

As the Washington Post reported last Thursday
, “Most of the wetlands are gone. Flood plains have been filled and developed,” and added that “Between 2007 and 2008, farmers took 106,000 acres of Iowa land out of the Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to keep farmland uncultivated…That land, if left untouched, probably would have been covered with perennial grasses with deep roots that help absorb water.”

So now that we’re looking at some four million acres of washed out crops, the New York Times reports that Senator Charles Grassley (R, Iowa) is calling on the USDA “to release tens of thousands of farmers from contracts under which they had promised to set aside huge tracts as natural habitat,” so that they can plant more corn.

This sounds like a really bad idea if the loss of water-absorbing habitat is what made the floods so severe in the first place. But what do I know? I’m not an Iowa farmer. Happily, though, I know someone who is—Denise O’Brien, the organic farmer who ran for Secretary of Agriculture in Iowa in 2006 and nearly won, with 49% of the vote. So I asked Denise for her thoughts on what role industrial agriculture might have played in this disaster.

As luck would have it, Denise just had a letter to the editor published in Sunday’s Des Moines Register addressing this very subject, so she forwarded it to me and I’m reprinting it here, in the hopes that more people will consider the possibility that these floods were as much an act of man as an act of God:

In all of my reading about the floods and rebuilding Iowa, there is no mention of the role of agriculture on these recent events. Out of this catastrophe needs to come some understanding that industrial agriculture has caused many of the issues that happen down river from the cultivated land. A deterioration of good conservation and resource management practices over the last fifty years has helped make these "rain events" even more catastrophic.

There was some discussion about this after the floods of '93 but agriculture policy continued to ignore the environment and implemented more policies that allowed Iowa to become the sacrifice area for agribusiness corporations--putting profit before stewardship. Senator Harkin worked hard to get the Conservation Security Program in place but has had to continually fight for appropriations for this project.

A good many Iowans understand the importance of agriculture in this state, but few understand that while Mother Nature may reckon us with gully washers, human beings have added to the devastation by draining wetlands, plowing up waterways and planting only two crops - corn and soybeans.

There are many things that can be done to have an agriculture that is good for the economy, the environment and the people - it is called sustainable agriculture. Many innovative farmers in the state have been working diligently to retain their soil while making a profit. Many, many more farmers need to embrace conservation and stewardship in order to help prevent future catastrophes such as the floods of '08.

We need strong ag policy that promotes conservation and natural resource management in order to curtail the effects of the ravaging and raping of the land. No, actually we need to curtail the corporations control over the natural resource that we all need to provide life and sustenance - the soil.

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.

Drink Responsibly, No Matter What the McCains Say at Drinking Liberally constantly remember the dangers of drunk driving. As it says above, "as you drink liberally, always drink responsibly."

But there are some special interests, that oppose groups trying to stem the issue of drunk driving. And it just so happens, that one of those special interests happens to be run by Cindy McCain.

The company [Hensley, chaired by Cindy McCain] has opposed such groups as Mothers Against Drunk Driving in fighting proposed federal rules requiring alcohol content information on every package of beer, wine and liquor.

Hensley has run afoul of health advocacy groups that have tried to rein in appeals to young drinkers. For example, the company distributes caffeinated alcoholic drinks that public health groups say put young and underage consumers at risk by disguising the effects of intoxication.

It's a problem when the special interests take over the white house, let alone the lincoln bedroom, especially when those special interests are advocating against organizations like MADD, who valiantly fight against a the terrible problem of drunk driving.

Unlike Cindy McCain's company, Drinking Liberally wholeheartedly supports efforts to prevent drunk driving. But then again, the McCains haven't really been our side in the past, have they?