Jenny McCartney's blog

TV Tuesdays: Mrs. Somebody Somebody Else

The latest season of Weeds has moved even further from the gated community where it began. Where the series once focused on the day-to-day deals of a neighborhood pot provider, Nancy Botwin, it now explores her pregnancy and relationship with Tijuana mayor and drug king Esteban Reyes.

In Monday night’s episode, Esteban proposed to Nancy. The show’s treatment of the proposal and Nancy’s reaction to it said some interesting things about marriage, identity, and gender (if not also about the importance of birth control to avoid getting knocked up by slimy drug peddling politicians).

Throughout the episode, Nancy struggles with what everyone tells her will be her new name: Mrs. Esteban Reyes.

After he proposes, Esteban calls her this name for the first time. She asks him, “Does that make you Mr. Nancy Botwin?”

“No,” he abruptly answers without so much as a laugh.

Better Know a Chapter: Claremont, CA

In the quiet, Southern California town of Claremont, a Drinking Liberally chapter rages on every Wednesday night at 7:30 at the Casablanca Bar and Grill.

David Withers started the chapter after moving from Pasadena, where his son had first introduced him to Drinking Liberally. While he claims he’s not “an activist,” Withers has always been involved in politics in one way or another. He admits that it all began in the 1960s when he “wore out his shoes protesting.” The Claremont chapter began last October with three or four members, and has now grown to an average size of 15 to 20 members. Withers has helped the chapter expand and introduce its own exciting events.

The Claremont DL chapter has quite a bit of spunk. Their party for Obama’s inauguration was attended by over 80 people and featured decorations, music, a screening of the ceremony, a food drive for the local Inland Valley Hope Partners, and plenty of tears of joy. In preparation for the May city council election, all three candidates came and chatted at DL. When notable speakers like Obama’s campaign manager David Plouffe and activist Bill Ayers came to speak at the Claremont colleges, the chapter went to see them together, and then reconvened to discuss it afterwards at the bar. The group is also working on starting an ongoing political book and DVD exchange.

The chapter certainly doesn’t lack a sense of humor. When they met on April Fool’s Day, Withers sent out an email saying that they were going to stop gathering at bars and instead hold their meetings over Twitter. He quite convincingly explained that the chapter had grown too large for in-person conversation, but that they would meet for one last time that night to discuss the new arrangements. Several people showed up at the meeting just to yell at him and others sent him delayed emails saying it took them too long to realize it was an April Fool’s Day prank.

A few weeks ago, when the Los Angeles Lakers played the Houston Rockets in the NBA playoffs, Withers made a bet with Houston DL chapter leader David Robertson. The losing chapter leader had to write an embarrassing message on their face for the duration of their weekly meeting. After the Lakers victory, Robertson wrote “Lakers Rock” on his face, and documented it for the Claremont folks.

The group has also garnered a fair amount of media attention. Both the Claremont Courier and the Daily Bulletin have done extensive pieces on the chapter, and word about the group has spread throughout the community. While they got a few, as Withers described them, “damn hippies” comments, the community has been largely receptive to the chapter’s activities.

Soon, the group will visit the local Dale Brothers Brewery and hear from the Dale brothers themselves about their beer. They’re also planning a movie outing to see “Food, Inc.” In the future, the branch hopes to do more charity work and reach out to the Claremont colleges.

As they continue to expand, the Claremont chapter is certainly a branch to watch. They have been pursuing new and interesting ways of creating discussion and awareness around important issues.

Daily News Round-Up

  • A real life WALL-E robot is taking to the streets of Italy to recycle. Let's just hope it finds its Eva and can also manage to save the planet.
  • AIG wants to give out big bonuses again, and asked the government's approval for their plan. It seems they haven't learned the concept of massive government bailout. We'll see how the white house responds.
  • The NYT Magazine has an interesting interview with Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader GInsberg on her views of women on the court and the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor. She talks pretty compellingly about how slow the court has allowed women to enter it.
  • Five Thirty-Eight has an intriguing poll looking at whether views of America are changing now that President Obama has been elected. They show that while the world views Obama positively, most countries still have a negative perception of America as a whole.

A Liberal Toke on The History of America's Drug Industry

Last November America elected its first president to openly admit smoking pot (saying: “I inhaled—that was the point”), Massachusetts decriminalized marijuana for those carrying under one ounce, and Weeds, the Showtime series centered around a Suburban mom dealing drugs, remained popular show. Delaware and New Hampshire recently passed medical marijuana laws, and Rhode Island just became the first state to expand medical marijuana laws to license marijuana distribution at compassionate care centers. In a March online town hall with President Obama, more than 100,000 questions centered on drug legalization.

Clearly, it is an important time for drug policy in America.

Yet Obama disappointed many in the town hall by joking about the drug issue instead of seriously addressing it. “I don’t know what this says about the online audience,” Obama chided with a chuckle. “The answer is no, I don’t think that’s a good strategy to grow our economy.” With little explanation, Obama simply dismissed any hope of this presidency taking a different stance on drugs.

Despite a lack of change from the white house, the tides still seem to be turning as more people are considering legalization. While the legalization of marijuana is incredibly risky for politicians, societal thought seems to be shifting. Yes, many admit, drugs would be safer if legal. Sure, our foreign policy might be simpler if we weren’t supporting the drug trade in unstable countries. And of course the number of people in jail for drugs is completely ridiculous.

There couldn’t be a better time to reflect on the history of drugs in America. Ryan Grim’s new book, This is Your Country on Drugs, examines the trends in drug use over time, what drives drug use, and the background of the war on drugs. The Philadelphia City Paper describes Grim’s book as "a wide-ranging, fascinating romp through the history of America's insatiable appetite for all manner of drugs, from opium to crystal meth, all the way up to the possibly soon-to-be-illegal hallucinogen Salvia divinorum."

You can read an excerpt from the book here.

To discuss this pressing issue more, join us tomorrow night (July 8) at 6pm for a Joint Event on Drugs in America, featuring a talk with author Ryan Grim and performances from two Laughing Liberally regulars, Harry Terjanian and Costaki Economopoulos. Not in New York? Comment with your questions for Grim and we'll ask him tomorrow night.

This Week in Blackness

Elon James White just posted the second episode of season two of "This Week in Blackness."

I loved this video. He hits on the very issues that I always find with television channels aimed at specific minority groups. They pretend to represent that group in its entirety, yet fall prey to many harmful stereotypes. And beyond its potent and important political message, the video is just downright funny.

Laughing Liberally Recap

Last week, we had a Laughing Liberally intern show. We invited interns from progressive organizations around the city, and had seven laughing liberally comedians perform. It was great to spread the liberal comedy love!

Check out this video from the show:

Join us for our upcoming shows:

July 8: A Joint Event on Drugs in America
Author Ryan Grim discusses his book This is Your Country on Drugs. Grim will be joined by two comedians, Harry Terjanian and Costaki Economopoulos.

July 15: A Supreme Night of Comedy
In honor of the Sotomayor Confirmation Hearings, Laughing Liberally goes to the mat to take on the courts in a night that does justice to political comedy.

Daily News Round-Up

  • Al Franken finally won! After months of debate and thumb-twittling, the Minnesota Supreme Court announced that Al Franken is the winner of the Minnesota senate seat. Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post explains how he did it.
  • Here's a scary headline: Multiple States on Verge of Collapse. You can read all about how California and others are pretty screwed. It's really uplifting.
  • A climate change bill passed yesterday with lots of ornaments on the Christmas tree. While there was creation of green jobs and clean energy industry and set a ceiling on emissions, there were also many concessions to utilities, automakers, and others.

Will Bunch on Reagan's Legacy

Will Bunch describes the Ronald Reagan myth and its impact on Republican politics. In this clip, he gives an anecdote of the Republican debates and how modern day Republican party leaders have misinterpreted Reagan's presidency.

His book, Tear Down This Myth, is on sale now:

Check out more upcoming Reading Liberally events:

7/1 Author of Blue Dixie Bob Moser discusses the progressive roots of the "Republican" South with comedy, live music, and free beer.

7/8 Author of This is Your Country on Drugs Ryan Grim in a joint comedy and author event on drugs in America.

The U.S. Killing Protestors in Iran?

A Message From the Average Black Person

By Elon James White

To Whom It May Concern:

Greetings. My name is Elon James White. I'm Black.

I write this letter on behalf of a lot of people that fall into the category of Average Black People. (Yes, I capitalize it, as if it were a title.) I do not claim to represent them because that would be absurd. I really, truly don't. I don't even represent my circle of friends. At any point in time one of my Black buddies will, in fact, tell me to go to hell when speaking on concepts of race, politics, or religion.

I do, however, qualify as an Average Black Person. I am neither a part of the Black intelligentsia, nor do I fall into the category of your garden-variety street Negro. A lot of folks see Black people in one of these two categories. Normally, let's be honest, it's the latter.

I don't qualify.

I do come from "the Hood." That's right. I am a born and bred Brooklynite raised in the middle of Bed-Stuy. If you aren't familiar with Bed-Stuy, perhaps you have never listened to gangster rap. You're probably also unfamiliar with Jay-Z, Biggie Smalls, or the thousands of songs that yell out "Brooklyn!" and then give a shout-out to Bed-Stuy. It's fine. Just understand that Bed-Stuy has a primarily negative connotation and for many years was used in boasts to gain respect or fear because it's an incredibly violent environment.

In other words, you could get shot, son.

Speaking of which, I am the son of a single mother. My father is in prison. My grandfather was a pastor and I grew up in the church. I, without shame, also enjoy fried chicken, watermelon, ribs, and orange soda. I can have an incredibly in-depth debate on the best five MCs ever. My credit isn't great and I've been shot.

With facts like this I qualify as a stereotypical Black person right?

But I am also a computer programmer. I've been known to quote Nietzsche. I, on occasion, host dinner parties where I serve five-course meals, including a specialty of mine, White Truffle Tilapia (it's delightful). I have the entire John Williams discography and wear a backpack that is emblazoned with the Thundercats insignia.

Those with one half of that story shake their head at the sheer mass of stereotypes I carry. Then those with the other half question if I even understand the Black experience at all. Some refer to me as someone who "made it out." I currently live in Crown Heights. Some say "You're not like the others." Most people I interact with are very similar to me.

I am an Average Black Person.

So, as an ABP, I have a few requests:

Please stop referring to blacks as a monolith. I can't possibly express to you the different types of Black people that exist. We neither move as an entity, nor do we move as three or four entities. For every Sharpton, there's a Steele. And for every Sharpton and Steele there are a hundred folks in the middle. What we share is a past, which on occasion helps shape our view on things. Also? Obama is not a unicorn. Please stop acting like Obama and his family are magical in the Black community. Just because some of you may not have seen a Negro like this doesn't mean they don't exist. Lots of smart black folk living with their smart mates and their cute smart kids. So please remember. Obama? Not a unicorn. Black people? Not one voice: I don't care what the supposed Black leaders try to claim.

Supposed Black Leaders.
Please stop speaking for us as if we were a monolith. This is not the 1960s. We don't need a Martin Luther King, Jr. or a Malcom X. You speak for yourselves and your view on what's happening. You also can't police black people. There isn't an us. Are there issues within the Black community? Absolutely, but it's not everybody as much as it is certain groups, most time classes that are in need of help and focus. Hence you can't speak for "Blacks." There are people who need your help and don't want you speaking for them. Oh, and for the love of all that is holy, could you please stop critiquing Obama simply to show you aren't drinking the kool-aid? I get it. You're sugar-free. Got it.

Critics Of Obama.
Hey, um...guess what Black people are not? A monolith. We are not holding Obama on a pedestal. Some critique him harshly (and personally I feel unjustly) and others love him. This is the case with every president. Obama is not the spokesperson for Black people. He is a symbol of hope. He is a symbol of opportunity in a land where opportunity for us seemed nonexistent. He's a symbol of a fight where people cried and died and sacrificed in order for the opportunity for him to exist. But his actions are his actions and have to be judged. Just not four months after he walked in the door with one of the worst clean up jobs in the countries history. You may critique him without critiquing Blacks' ability to critique him.

The hypocrisy of saying we are not One, and yet speaking for the exact group for which I just emphatically denied exists, is not lost on me. Perhaps there are Black people who absolutely want to be spoken for and referred to as if we were one big team. I acknowledge the possibility, but if this was the majority people like Dyson and Smiley would be way more important, and let's be honest: they aren't. I hope that my message is clear. After reading this, the next time you talk to a Black person you can feel comfortable in now knowing with every fiber of your being that you have no clue what they think or feel based on their skin color.

But if they're wearing a Soulja Boy shirt you may disregard this essay and judge them immediately.

Follow Elon James White on Twitter:

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