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Reading Liberally Page Turner

The New Gulf War Syndrome

Reading Liberally Page Turner
by Nora Eisenberg

(We're honored that Nora Eisenberg, longtime friend of Living Liberally, award-winning novelist, and author of the soon to be published When You Come Home (Curbstone Press), the first American novel about the 1991 Gulf War and Gulf War illness, has allowed us to publish this special Veteran's Day post.)

What does a war injury look like? In the case of Iraq, we tend to picture veterans bravely getting on with their lives with the help of steel legs or computerised limbs. Trauma injuries are certainly the most visible of health problems – the ones that grab our attention. A campaign ad for congressman Tom Udall featured an Iraq war veteran who had survived a shot to his head. Speaking through the computer that now substitutes for his voice, Sergeant Erik Schei extols the top-notch care that saved his life.

As politicians argue about healthcare for veterans, it is generally people like Sgt Schei that they have in mind, men and women torn apart by a bullet or bomb. And of course, these Iraq war veterans must receive the best care available for such complex and catastrophic injuries.

Taking OUT The System

My parents kind of get what I do. They have a sense of what blogs are and how they interact with the larger world of politics, though they don't read blogs (and definitely don't have user accounts). They have a sense, gleaned from the occasional New York Times article or conversation with one of my peers, that technology is tearing down barriers. But they probably haven't heard or used the term "gatekeeper" very often.

So Markos, thank you for writing a book for them.

Markos's new work, Taking On the System, is an exploration of how all of us have just been handed power...if we decide to grab hold. We can change media narrative by becoming our own media through blogging. We can become our own campaigns with simple cameras and free video hosting sites.

And it's not just in politics. Markos quite consciously weaves stories of other industries, most notably the music business, among his anecdotes from Senate campaigns, the anti-war movement, immigration rallies and other political efforts. In doing so, he creates an argument that doesn't just appeal to the political junkie but to anyone who wants to understand entrepreneurship, idea-generation and anti-authoritarianism in the digital era. He also does it in a well-written, fun, and at-times inspirational style that is full of examples and lessons, which are helpfully broken down into "rules."

My parents will understand the progressive movement -- and these times -- much better when they read it.

But it's not only aimed at the newcomer to these discussions. Marching through experiences from '06 -- including the Webb, Tester and Lamont campaigns -- and through other achievements of the Left -- changing the perception of Fox News -- Markos provides activists with a compelling narrative that suggests we are accomplishing things.

Sometimes in this line of work, that affirmation is important.

He also doesn't shy away from challenging us. Markos describes why Cindy Sheehan's heart-felt, authentic (and media-friendly) protest in Crawford was more effective than a half-million protestors in the streets in affecting the coverage of the anti-war effort (he criticizes the large-scale marches for being unoriginal, off-message and somewhat disorganized -- compared with the very effective, surprising and disciplined immigration marches).

He then turns on Sheehan, arguing that she lessened her impact as she veered onto other topics, changed her demeanor in the company of flashier activist groups and -- Markos argues -- allowed herself to be players ranging from Hugo Chavez to Code Pink.

I instinctively stand to Sheehan's defense and thus found this section provocative. Markos wasn't out to tell me what I already believed -- he was willing to spark an argument. In the context of his "rules for radical change," he lays our a very compelling case that Sheehan did squander her capital. That's not to say that she didn't have the right to speak out on other issues as an individual; but as a symbol -- and so much of how we affect the world is through symbols -- she lost her way.

She has reason to be disappointed in Democrats, I believe...but I also came away agreeing with Markos that she's not as effectively focusing that frustration as she did her grief and anger in the summer of '05.

But this book -- and this review -- is not about Cindy Sheehan. Rather, I want to point out that Markos is at his best when he's unapologetically willing to stir up disagreement, but staking out an argument and sticking with it -- whether it's his arguments against the right-wing, his debates with other Lefties, or his battle against the "gatekeepers" throughout this book.

One of his teachings (not to make him sound too Jedi Master-esque) is to "target your enemy." If the title of his book doesn't tell you that the "System" is that enemy, then his frequent references to bypassing, influencing and "crushing" the gatekeepers make it clear who he stands against: those who would use their authority to limit participation, squelch dialogue, defund creativity and stand in the way of progress.

With the success of DailyKos, he has bypassed some gatekeepers. With the Penguin Press publication of Taking On the System, he has influenced others.

Now...let's get back to the crushing.

Markos will be speaking at the Living Liberally Convention Watch Party on Thursday, September 4th, the evening of John McCain's address -- at The Tank @ DCTV, 87 Lafayette Street, in Manhattan.

His book will also be available in September through the Progressive Book Club -- get your first 3 books for $1 each when you become a member.

Reading Liberally Read of the Day

The one article every liberal must read today:

by Jack Cafferty, CNN

Yes. He is. But please Jack Cafferty, tell me why that sucks.

Reading Liberally Read of the Day

The one article every liberal must read today:

by Raphael G. Satter, Huffington Post

Just because it's Friday, we bring you the story of Sir Nils Olav, the penguin who was recently knighted in Norway, after serving three years as honorary colonel-in-chief of the elite Norwegian King's Guard. I guess this is also the read of the day just because it's true.

Reading Liberally Read of the Day

The one editorial every liberal must read today:

by Jason Furman and Austan Goolsbee, Wall Street Journal

Learn what Obama's tax plan will mean for you and for the Country. Get the facts that you'll need to tell people about this issue that conservatives have dominated for so long.

Reading Liberally Read of the Day

The one article every liberal must read today:

by Drew Westen, AlterNet

Drew Westen wonders why the traditional media has made former Presidential candidate John Edwards's affair big news, but has yet to report anything about current Presidential candidate John McCain's adultery.

Reading Liberally Read of the Day

The one article every liberal must read today:

by Mark Nickolas, Huffington Post

Mark Nickolas gives liberals one less reason to worry about this year's Presidential Election: Traditional Media analyses are severely under-counting Obama's support and giving McCain the benefit of the doubt in many close states.

Reading Liberally Read of the Day

The one platform every liberal must read today:

Renewing America's Promise
by The Democratic National Committee

Here's the draft of the 2008 Democratic National Committee platform that was released this afternoon. The focus seems to be on a national renewal. Things to note: this draft puts an increased amount of emphasis on strengthening America's families, strongly supports second amendment rights, takes an aggressively diplomatic stance against Iran, and does not include any kind of "Abortion Reduction" platform. What do you think?

New Reading Liberally Resources- And Continually Impressive RL Leaders

Never underestimate the help and guidance that can be gained from the obscure corners of your virtual netroots universe! Take, for example, an email that I recently received from John Karls, a Reading Liberally chapter leader from Salt Lake City.

As a Reading Liberally summer intern, I was contacting our existing chapter leaders in search of tips and advice to pass on to future RL enthusiasts. Among the few replies, one stood out so much in terms of the passion it exuded as well as the effort it must have commanded that it effectively restored my faith in the power of the email outreach.

The email was epic: a 4-browser-screen-long chronicle of John Karls' various triumphs and frustrations in his attempt to wrangle new readers for the Salt Lake City chapter. Snippets of wisdom to be extracted from the whole: That nearby universities, political organizations and community groups were surprisingly poor sources for progressive readers, that the majority of the current active members were recruited directly in person, and that to create any successful organization requires "a long, hard slog by someone... willing to spend a lot of time in a 'labor of love'!!!"

Leaders such as Mr. Karls who are willing to put such attention into any political organization should certainly be commended. And in case you don't happen to have a similarly effort-loving progressive at the ready, hopefully you will be inspired to become one! If you need help, never forget to contact others in your network! In the meantime, consult Living Liberally's newly completed resources for running a Reading Liberally Chapter-- made possible only with the combined input and time of our chapter heads.

Blogging Liberally: A Terrorist Fist-Jab To Your Brain.

1. Wal-Mart's attempts to sway the political attitudes of its employees go horribly awry.

2. n+1's Dark Knight review paints the film as Bush administration propaganda. Tell us, n+1...why so serious?

3. Proof that John McCain doesn't know what bad press looks like.

4. File this one under horrible-but-not-actually-that-surprising: Ron Suskind's revelation that the Bush administration forged a letter linking Iraq and Al-Quaeda.

5. Also, Grandpa got totally drunk at the Buffalo Chip competition and embarrassed New Grandma.