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Reading Liberally: Read of the Day

The one thing every liberal must read today is:

by Sen. Hillary Clinton, The Huffington Post

Senator Clinton discusses the Bush Administrations new plans to prevent women from gaining access to contraception, violating state laws and preventing the education of many of those who need it. This move, she says, is dangerous and unwarranted. She also lets us know what she and Senator Patty Murray are doing about it and how you can get involved.

Daily Round-Up: You Provide the Blog Entries, We Provide the War.

1. Chris Hedges bemoans the decline of traditional media, hates the internets.

2. Feud Watch! Michael Savage has some strong words for "homosexual mafia group" Media Matters.

3. Doctors in South Dakota who preform abortions must now stick to a script claiming the abortion will "will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique living human being." Like the other famous pro-life script, Juno, it also features original songs by Kimya Dawson.

4. Here's the latest report on the mass Starbucks' closings. Looks as though some of these franchises will be caffeinating a little less...liberally?

5. Salon on how not to read.

The Myth of the 2nd Amendment

The real mindtrip of Star Wars is that it’s set in the ethereal shrouds of "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away." By opening the lens to the crazy possibilities of the past, George Lucas offers an extraordinary thought experiment. What if the world was like that? What would that mean?? Like whoa, how did the present times become so drastically different from the past?

Hmm, yes, speculation is fun but it is still a part of the same fantasy donut that is Star Wars. The mythology of Star Wars
is light years away from practical reality.

The mythology of the 2nd amendment however hits closer to home. In Arming America, Michael Bellesiles posits that American gun culture is an invented tradition, developed in one generation after the civil war. He links the development of gun culture directly to the development of the gun industry.

This would mean the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on owning a hand gun is not a part of the American tradition. Bellesiles scoured cultural, political, and legal documents and lays out his argument for how the federal government betrayed the original intent of our American republic by arming America with the liberty of individual gun ownership. He shows that our supposed tradition of gun ownership is more myth than history.

Six Little Known Facts About the History of Guns in America
1. Many settlers didn’t own guns. Those who did were poor shots. Most times when people hit something they have hit it by accident.

2. Gun technology didn’t fully develop until the Civil War. There were only three gun manufacturers in the U.S. before 1820, and even then the artisans could only make parts of guns. Artisans had to import gun locks from Europe.

3. The final product was unreliable. Thus, before the Civil War, the military used guns mainly as defensive weapons. Soldiers would shoot once, cast the weapon aside as they took out their other arms (most commonly pikes or swords) and charged. In reaction to this practice, artisans created the bayonette (a rifle with a pike attached) so that soldiers would at least hold on to their guns for the duration of battle.

4. There was a gun shortage. Guns and ammunition were not to be wasted. Government and citizens worried who could get their hands on this new technology.

5. In preparation for the civil war, the government cut a deal with domestic gun manufacturers. Whatever guns these manufacturers made, the government purchased. After the war ended, manufacturers had to find other customers.

6. At first western magazines had no articles about guns, hunting, the militia or the military until three years after its first publication in 1834: "in its first three years, 1834 to 1836, this magazine published thirty six issues and 356 articles there was one article on hunting, one on a shooting match, and four on Indian wars – and not a single other article on any gun-related theme."

The story behind Bellesiles’s book rivals the drama and controversy inside its pages. Upon release, his book was given critical praise and even awarded the prestigious Bancroft Prize for his contribution to American history. A violent smear campaign ensued, and in the midst of the storm the Columbia board voted to rescind Bellesiles’s prize for “academic misconduct.” Controversy. The dispute centered on three paragraphs and a chart which Bellesiles’s critics claimed were misleading. In response, Bellesiles stood by his research and analysis: "I challenge anyone to show how the revised paragraphs addressing probate materials undermine in any way the thesis or logical structure of this book." History News Network issued a chronology of the Bellesiles controversy.

Independent publisher Soft Skull Press has issued a revised edition.

Our gun culture shapes the way we perceive violence. They twist our morals. Guns are for our protection. Samuel Colt named his gun The Peacemaker. They penetrate pop culture. Think westerns and The Myth of the Frontier. Do guns make men? Historian Richard Slotkin describes this ideology as "regeneration through violence."

So where is the regeneration of Sean Bell, Iraq, Threat Level Orange, or Grand Theft Auto IV? All I see is desensitization through violence.

Reading Liberally: McCain's Free Ride

Ever wonder how McCain got where he is? Why after all the flip-flops, the slip-ups, and the just flat-out-inappropriate jokes, McCain continues to credibly crawl toward the White House? If so, then Free Ride: John McCain and the Media proves to be indispensable reading (not to mention that it is one of the two books that will be discussed at next Tuesday’s first-ever meeting of Reading Liberally NYC!).

As authors David Brock and Paul Waldman convincingly assert, John McCain has a singular, privileged relationship with the media-- one that allows all of his numerous scandals and gaffes to be overlooked or, worse, miraculously incorporated into his constructed image as a "maverick" a "moderate" and a "straight-talker." As the authors put it in their online follow-up to the book: "When a candidate changes his position as a response to the politics of the moment and the press ignores it, he's lucky. When he changes his position and the press goes out of its way to say how principled he is for not changing his position, he's John McCain."

Incredibly, despite the alternative media’s constant coverage of McCain’s falsely positive press presence, the mainstream news continues to turn a blindly accepting eye. Take, for example, how the LA Times reported McCain’s spin on his previous comment on the “disgrace” that is social security, rather than his initial words. Add to that the Associated Press’s sustained failure to report on McCain’s changing immigration policy , and a clear pattern begins to emerge—one that Waldman and Brock delve into extensively (almost redundantly) in their work.

Essentially, Free Ride delivers a one-two punch: first illuminating the mythological public image of McCain, and then knocking it to the ground with facts about McCain’s actual policy decisions and personal flaws. What emerges from all the rubble is a John McCain that is a far cry from the glowingly imagined anti-politician: a McCain who is (hypocritically) opportunistic and scheming, who is prone to furious outbursts in which he calls his senate colleagues “shit head” and “fucking jerk.”

While the book is somewhat imperfect (it sometimes lacks clear organization, and occasionally throws in so many examples of media hypocrisy that the evidence for each individual case falls flat) it certainly achieves its ultimate point: readers will see a McCain stripped of his media halo, who seems to be an unfitting and even dangerous candidate for commander-in-chief.

Reading Liberally: Read of the Day

The one article that every liberal must read today:

by Eric Boehlert, Media Matters

Eric Boehlert reports on how "The Beltway press has become dysfunctional, failing to see news when it happens and hyping non-stories that require no real reporting." Check this out to get a better understanding of the MSM's unfortunate role in this campaign.

Reading Liberally: Read of the Day

The one post every liberal must read today:

by Jessica Valenti, Feministing

Just in case you thought it was a slow news day...

Reading Liberally: Read of the Day

The one post every liberal must read today:

by Michael Connery, Future Majority

Michael Connery discusses how the notion of "The Troops" has played into our political rhetoric over the last four years, and how the right wing has exploited these troops by using them to win votes while systematically destroying programs that support them. A thorough run down of their misdeeds and a strategy for how to shift the conversation.

What Do We Believe Anyway?

The question of what exactly it means to be a liberal is something we often deal with as members of Living Liberally chapters and communities. It's become a stigmatized label that carries with it images of weakness and radicalism, lethargic apathy and elitism.

Part of what Living Liberally has sought to do since its creation has been to remove that stigma. To make it so that people can proudly say that they're a liberal, whether its at a New York City bar where talking politics is no-no or Goody's in super-red Pocatello, Idaho. Living Liberally enables people to build progressive community and show the world what their liberal values are.

But the question still remains: what do liberals believe? Is it the values of human rights, equality and justice? Is it absolute liberty and the search for personal empowerment? These are questions I deal with pretty often.

And as it turns out, I might have found the answer. William Martin's new book What Liberals Believe is filled with THOUSANDS of liberal on many issues from rights to religion. The sayers of these quotes include (and I'm just flipping to a random page and reading off some names here) Thom Hartman, Herman Hesse, Vaclac Havel, MLK, Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Bishop Desmond Tutu and Lao Tzu.

It's a great reference book and might help us liberals to truly define our core beliefs.
But one of the most interesting parts of WLB, to me at least, is the number of quotes that contradict each other. For a book that seems to be about putting together a coherent liberal philosophy, contradictory messaging seems like it would bad thing, right?

I don't know. Maybe our lack of one comprehensive way of thought, our commitment to individual values and interpretation and our desire to constantly strengthen and grow the marketplace of ideas is an important part of what we liberals believe: "Democracy doesn't live on bread along; it lives on ideas too." (Bill Moyers quoted on page 619.)

Reading Liberally: Read of the Day

The one thing every liberal must read today:

by Barack Obama, The New York Times

Barack Obama lays out a clear and comprehensive plan for withdrawing from Iraq. He highlights the need to strengthen the US commitment to Afghanistan and furthering our national security interests. Many liberals support Obama's plan for Iraq but don't know the specifics. Time to find out.

Reading Liberally: Read of the Day

The one thing every liberal must read today:

by Bill Scher, Campaign for America's Future

Bill Scher exposes the real issue with Phil Gramm's comments about America's "Psychological Recession." These aren't the ideas of one radical right winger. These are ideas at the core of the conservative ideals that John McCain is running on.