Click a program icon to find a chapter
Click here for other Liberally programs

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?

Country Club Karl

Drinking Liberally Shot of Truth
by Seth Pearce, Karl Rove has some grand ideas about how most Americans spend their time.

Even if you never met him [Barack Obama], you know this guy, he's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.

Well, Mr. Rove, having never been to a country club, I have no idea what you're talking about, and I'm guessing neither do most Americans.

But while you're hanging out at your resort, admiring Michele Obama, and making paranoid judgements about those you are cavorting with, Americans in all 50 states are getting together to talk progressive politics and share a pitcher or two at one of our over 250 Drinking Liberally chapters.

It's really easy to find or start a chapter in your neighborhood. And we promise that the folks at the local DL won't be as spiteful as ol' Turd Blossom here.

Republicans Prove Their Commitment to White People

Republicans are shocked and appalled that a racist pin which reads "If Obama is President...Will we still call it the White House?" was sold at the Texas Republican Party convention. To show their commitment to combating racism, the GOP is donating the money raised by the vendor to help flood victims in the Midwest. They also stipulated that under no circumstances could any of the money go to Katrina victims who are still without homes, neighbors, trailers or security. The difference, of course, as Rush Limbaugh explains, is that the people of Iowa and Illinois are "the heartland...and the backbone of America," while people of the gulf coast, are the infected appendix of the U.S., and "a bunch of people running around waving guns at helicopters...shooting cops....raping people on the street...whining and moaning--where's FEMA, where's BUSH."

The Routine That Got George Carlin Arrested

Laughing Liberally To Keep From Crying

We'll have more on the passing of George Carlin later in the week, but we didn't want the day to pass without a small tribute to one of the most important anti-authoritarian comedians of the last 50 years. We present the routine that got Carlin arrested, and which found itself at the Supreme Court:

Why Do You Need a "Progressive" Book Club?

Reading Liberally Page Turner
by Justin Krebs, Living Liberally

Hooray! The Progressive Book Club is here! And in the next few days, I will receive three books -- including Cliff Schecter's "The Real McCain" -- for $1 each!

What might sound like a scheme on par with the treasure of deposed African dictators or a "Buy Now!" infomercial is actually a welcome and much-anticipated new cog in the growing progressive infrastructure: an organization that supports liberal authors and publishers, serves left-leaning literates, and rivals one of the right-wing's important tools.

And no, Cliff Schecter's not upset his book is being sent to me for a buck. Because if PBC takes off, there will be thousands of members exerting buying power together, giving authors dedicated audiences, and turning back the corrupting influence of right-wing groups that have helped push wingnuts into national notoriety.

But, when the reporter for this New York Times piece on PBC spoke to me (Living Liberally is a partner helping launch face-to-face Reading Liberally book clubs), she was skeptical.

"Why do you need a 'progressive' book club?" she asked. "Isn't it fair to say that like Hollywood, publishing already has a liberal bias?"

And that all-too-prevalent assumption is exactly why we need PBC. I suggested that the success of folks like Ann Coulter shows the power of collective book-buying to create successes, and thus give someone of thin resume and thinner morals a stepping stone to punditry prominence.

"So Coulter sells books -- when Al Gore writes a book that sells too. Are liberals really having a hard time being heard?"

Yes...she equated Ann Coulter and Al Gore.

For every Gore -- you know, your run-of-the-mill author with VP experience and a Nobel price -- there are dozens of talented progressive voices that never get heard. Some notable bloggers like Jeffrey Feldman and Michael Connery can thank independent publishers like Ig for having faith in them; but then those companies need help expanding their audience.

And that's where PBC fits in.

My father doesn't read blogs. He probably won't read this post. But he reads books -- and he reads the Times. The Times told him about PBC, and he just ordered books written by netroots notables for the first time.

I always remember as we started Drinking Liberally how people asked, "You live in New York...why do you need a liberal drinking club? Isn't everyone liberal?" The fact was those liberals needed an organizing structure which gathered and empowered them. And that's the same answer I'd give to PBC skeptics: yes, there are liberal voices, books, authors, publishers,, let's actually introduce them to one another.

And get 3 books for a dollar each in the process.