Brian Sonenstein's blog

Howard Dean's Healthcare Town Hall

I'm at the Healthcare Town Hall with Howard Dean at Netroots Nation... Planning on collecting some juicy quotes on the healthcare debate to share with you all.

"If you look closely at these town halls, the people who are screaming are not of the generation that voted for Obama."

"The public option IS the compromise, and without it there is no healthcare reform."

"Insurance reform is important, but if you do the public option the insurance companies will have to reform themselves."

"This bill isn't going to put [insurance companies] out of business, they'll put themselves out of business if we give the American public a decent option."

"We need to move from an illness model of medicine to a wellness model of medicine in this country."

"We need to allow people under 65 to have what people over 65 have."

"This tactic of allowing Republicans to show their true colors to the American people will require a lot of patience, but is a smart move."

"Let the American people try something different."

We know you're watching. What other quotes stuck with you? What did you like and what didn't you like? Let's keep the conversation going!

Drinking Liberally Chapter Spotlight: Los Angeles

This week, Drinking Liberally caught up with our Los Angeles chapter to share some exciting news with the rest of our progressive brothers and sisters...

Kerry Trueman Nominated for Moore Award!

Eating Liberally co-founder Kerry Trueman was just nominated for the Moore Award over at Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish! Congratulations, Kerry! You can check out the post here.

The Moore Award, named after filmmaker Michael Moore, is awarded to a writer known for "divisive, bitter and intemperate left-wing rhetoric." Let's just say we're glad to have Kerry on our side.

Check out Kerry's 'left-wing rhetoric' at or on the Huffington Post.

Field Correspondent Michael Hayne on the Obama/Corzine Rally

Laughing Liberally comedian Michael Hayne was at Governor Corzine's rally at the PNC Arts Center in NJ this past Thursday when none other than BARACK OBAMA came forward to stump on his behalf. We are so grateful that Mike was there to liveblog this most glorious event. Click through to get a taste of the action!

Daily News Round Up!

  • Our very own Josh Bolotsky was a member of the most successful Wonder Woman for DC Mayor campaign EVER last week, during the NOI's BootCamp 2009! And did you know that Josh is also that guy that does the sweet movie preview voice?!
  • In slightly less serious news, you can watch streaming video of Day 4 of Sotomayor's confirmation hearings at CongressMatters, where Senators are sure to ask Sotomayor a bunch of "hard-line questions" in hopes of later reminding their voters how tough they had been on her.
  • The famous Watergate Hotel may be auctioned off this week after defaulting on its loans and posting an outstanding $40 million balance.
  • India and Pakistan have reached an agreement to share intelligence in their fight against terrorism in the region, perhaps signaling an step toward greater cooperation between the nations. However, both sides have reservations about the sincerity of the other's efforts.
  • And finally, for your enjoyment, Glenn Beck losing his mind over healthcare reform on his radio show.

Katie Halper's Top 10 Reasons the US Isn't Getting its Panties in a Bunch Over Honduras

Let's face it. The news media isn't covering it. The US Government has barely mumbled a coherent word about it. But why is the US so unsure of how to react to the ousting of democratically-elected Honduran President Zelaya, his unplanned pajama trip to Costa Rica and the Honduran military's subsequent, violent clashes with protestors?

Laughing Liberally comedian Katie Halper posted a Top 10 to explain why the US has kept the Honduran coup and our shameful history of instigation in the region in the political freezer, as American concern for Latin American politics wrongfully continues to teeter on the edge of oblivion.

Daily News Round-up - Foreign Policy Edition

  • Mark Weisbrot of the Huffington Post wrote an article last night about Washington's reluctance to stand up for democracy in the wake of the Honduran military coup--while the US Government could and should be using this opportunity to overhaul its shameful reputation in the region, it instead seems to be succumbing to the same, dangerous elite-pandering it was infamous for during the last 40 years.
  • The High Court in India overturned a ban on gay sex, stating that the existing law violated fundamental human rights. The historic court decision will likely fortify movements toward dissolving a 148-year-old colonial law which describes homosexual relationships as "unnatural offenses"
  • A Gallup poll released today indicates that Iranians have doubted the US commitment to democracy in the region, and muses that the Obama Administration's endorsement of opposition candidates may in fact be a kiss-of-death to their movement for free, transparent governance.
  • Russian President Dmitry Medvedev hopes that Obama's visit to Moscow next week will catalyze a new relationship between the former Cold War enemies, which remains on pins and needles 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall due to tensions surrounding stalled nonproliferation efforts, the construction of US anti-missle systems in Europe and a general history of distrust that needs to be reconciled before the two nations can convene and tackle important global economic and political issues.

Fighting for TRUE Sustainability

Last Tuesday, a few of the legendary Living Liberally interns (myself included) made their way to Demos to attend Part I of their "Green Prosperity: Economic Recovery and Sustainability" talk. This week’s panel featured Andrew Ross (pro-labor advocate and author of Nice Work If You Can Get It) and Adam Werbach (former president of the Sierra Club and environmentalist who recently published Strategy for Sustainability).

The discussion covered a broad range of issues pertaining to the sustainability movement, but attendants were mostly concerned with pushing current sustainability movements from theory into practice, capitalizing on the energy and interest surrounding them in the name of real, pragmatic change.

What made the panel truly substantive was that Mr. Werbach and Mr. Ross were sharing the stage. They represented two aspects of the fight for a sustainable society that, while advocating for essentially the same ends, have employed very different means. Mr. Werbach has worked to reorient industry models around social sustainability and long-term profitability, thus championing efforts for "top-down," corporate reform. By contrast, Mr. Ross, who has a history of involvement in a range of pro-labor and anti-sweatshop campaigns, has focused more on the labor or "bottom-up" side of the issue, advocating greater investment in improving working conditions that would make Green Collar jobs attractive and allow the industry to really grow.

It was Mr. Ross’ voice that particularly struck me as being in need of a louder megaphone. Above all, his hermeneutic inference that simply producing, marketing and consuming ‘green / sustainable’ goods would not lead to a ‘green / sustainable’ system without a paralleled improvement in labor standards, was particularly refreshing.

The current narrow-mindedness typically found in the popular understanding and advocacy of the sustainable systems movement has the potential to be deadly. It is wonderful that our generation is largely in stride with initiatives such as the locavore movement and other efforts towards ‘going organic.’ But while we spend so much time focusing on what we’re consuming and the ways in which the production of these goods impacts our environment and communities, how often do we concern ourselves with the laborers at the lowest rung of the production ladder? Good Jobs First, an organization that promotes corporate and government accountability and ‘smart growth’ for working families in the creation of our sustainable system, has found that even though the green movement has the potential to create an abundance of jobs, they are not necessarily good jobs. A February 2009 report cited Green Collar jobs as plagued with wages that fall below the national average, dangerous work conditions and instances union-blocking at many ‘green / sustainable businesses’ across the country. Mr. Ross makes the point that we need labor sustainability if we hope to create a sustainable market structure.

This should make sense. Now that we've convinced businesses that we want products that are less harmful to our environment as well as to ourselves, we need to focus on the plights of the very people charged with their production. It's an unfortunate reality that the average consumer will loudly fulminate when a product is discovered to be unsafe for consumption, but rarely do we as consumers take the next step and say, "We are demanding the SAME standard of safety for those involved in manufacturing these dangerous products as well."

But low labor standards for the new Green economy will amount to more than a complaint about the conditions of workers; they indicate serious inefficiencies in the system’s structure. Firms promoting Green Collar employment as symbolic of our future should also see these jobs as important investments to their own growth—not simply as barriers to profit. Business has a new opportunity to redress labor conditions that hinder their productivity. Reforming this attitude may foment another change that our new industry would do well to accept: green business must collaborate with communities to forge healthy, reciprocal relationships that benefit them both. Industry would do well to keep expanding upon the idea that they have the resources to make a difference across a wide range of subjects.

In terms of choice, we need to realize what comes of our well-intentioned decisions to modify our consumer behavior, especially as progressive activists and advocates. Here progressives may find themselves falling prey to anti-consumerist actions that, while they send powerful messages and adequately express discontent, tend to miss the larger picture. Say you've decided to boycott a good because of the way it's produced, or you believe that you should consume less of a good because of its social or environmental consequences. While the decision to alter behavior may bring about the desired change in a firm's production practices, it rarely affects the labor conditions that exist underneath the surface. It is the worker who is thus punished for what the firm has done, through pay cuts, reduced or cut benefits packages or even layoffs. The laborer, who Mr. Ross identifies as a valuable ally in the fight for a sustainable economy, instead becomes the hapless victim.

In the midst of our financial meltdown, union and non-union workers find themselves more powerless to direct their own fates than ever before. Anyone striving for the new, sustainable way should remember that improving labor practices and refining consumption behaviors are just as imperative to meaningful growth as demanding responsible production standards from our industries. Now that we have change we can believe in, we need change we can invest in, and it’s about time we force businesses to meet community standards.

Start by telling your representatives that you’re serious about labor rights, and that the Employee Free Choice Act would be invaluable to the ‘greenstainable’ movement. Educate yourself on why we need to change our toothless labor laws by reading up on their deficiencies.

Then pressure companies like WalMart, who are branding themselves as being on the greenstainable bandwagon, to put their money where their mouth is and support labor practices that satisfy this definition as well.

And, finally, think before you act. Proper progressive praxis is critical to the substantiation of this movement. If you don’t like the way a company is treating its workers, or if you don’t like the way a product is impacting the environment or your community, there are grassroots means to turn up the heat without punishing the workers—like brainstorming with your local Drinking Liberally chapter and devising a plan for collective action that demands business transparency, better practices and community involvement.

If we don’t tackle these problems now they will remain hidden beneath our broader agenda towards overall systemic reform, and we will inevitably slip into the same hazardous habits we’ve been fighting all along.

Living Liberally & the NYC Pride Parade!

Don't miss Living Liberally at Sunday's 2009 LGBT Pride events, including the debut of Picnicking Liberally! See details below:

Picnicking & Parading Liberally at the Pride Parade!

Show your Liberal Pride at the Pride Parade
Join Living Liberally as we walk with Congressman Nadler.
Gathering between 11 and 11:15am at 56th & 6th,
marching with the Congressman from 11:30 - 2:30,
then a bring-your-own picnic* 3pm in Washington Square Park.

RSVP to: [email protected]
to march or to picnic -- you'll get confirmation,
and you'll be contacted with a phone number for Sunday
in case you just want to find us in the Park.
*We'll provide some snacks & drinks; you provide the picnic
(bring some extra to make new friends)

Whether you're marching this weekend or just hanging out and showing your support, we thought we'd highlight some of the pressing issues facing the LGBT community, and give you some outlets for constructive, progressive action!

Some informative articles:

Obama Supports:

Where Obama's Fallen Short:

  • the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA): In a shocking turn of events, Obama came out in stark opposition to the hopes of the LGBT community, upholding the 'sanctity of hetero marriage,' and even claiming that the status quo was constitutional.
  • Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT): Obama has not been strong enough on repealing this act, which forces members of the LGBT community underground, in fear of reprisals for identifying themselves and causing them to incur even more discrimination than they would if they were allowed to be outright and honest about who they are.

Don't let Obama's popularity go to his head. Remind him that we still expect real change, and won't settle for less.

So get out there, collaborate, talk to people at the parade and have a good time, but remember that support isn't just flag waving and high-fives, it's a commitment to action and the sustained defense of values that we take very seriously.

Got any ideas? What else can we do to support the LGBT agenda for equal rights in our country? What other issues need to be discussed? Let us know in the comments below!

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