Mazhira Black's blog

Liberal Lifecycle: Starting the School Year on the Left Foot

Are you concerned that your free-thinking tyke will forget his liberal roots this fall in the classroom? Why not equip her with all of the essential back to school items that a liberal pupil needs? When you're bombarded with ads telling you what type of parent you are if you don't shop at Walmart to buy your kid the newest Hannah Montana threads or what sugary fruit drink you should pack in their lunch it can be easy to get lost in the crowd.

Better World Shopper is a great resource for finding companies that are environmentally and socially responsible. They rank companies based on their involvement in human rights, the environment, animal protection, community involvement, and social justice. Their rankings are sure to help you find what you need for your kids' back to school needs and beyond.

For a new back to school wardrobe be sure to head to Patagonia, a leader in environmental responsibility and an outspoken ally for environmental policy. Patagonia also has backpacks which are designed for your student's busy schedule. Another clothing option that has more of a personal feel is Garden Kids Clothing, they offer organic options for kids.

For back to school kicks New Balance is committed to American assembled union made products free from child labor.

For you dorm dwellers out there you may want to consider bamboo sheets for your arrival on campus this fall, they not only come from a replenishable natural resource that doesn't require pesticides, they are hypoallergenic, antibacterial, wick away moisture, AND they're super soft! Bed Bath & Beyond offers a relatively cheap set of these sheets. Drawback: they don't come in that extra long twin size the dorms love to stick you with. There are some small online places to get the same sheets, these tend to cost a lot more and you can't feel the sheets before buying them.

If you're worried about what to pack for your child's lunch, it turns out that peanut butter and jelly, the classic mainstay, is pretty great for the environment, in addition to being delicious. Seth discusses the craze PB&J Campaign that is sweeping the nation in a previous post.

No matter whether your student is starting school for the first time or they're old hat, there are sustainable socially responsible companies out there that are providing quality products, to find out where just do your homework.

Consumerism aside, there are other ways you can help your little ones live liberally. If your school has a carpool set up try to take advantage of that if you don't already; if there isn't one set up, talk to some of the parents of your student's classmates and see if you can't start one. Try walking your child to school if it is in walking distance. See if a parent you trust already walks their kids to school and would be willing to take yours with them. Teach your children that sustainable living starts at the small tasks and that there is almost always a greener option if we rethink our day to day errands.

Even the youngest liberals can have a big impact on the environment and can spread their knowledge to the classroom and beyond.

Blogging Liberally: a break from McCain jokes

1. Michael Moore has come up with a blueprint on how we can screw things up for a third time.

2. For those of you who are members of your Homeowners Association, beware.

3. Lieberman turns the oldest anti-semitic trick in the world on the dirtiest A-rab of them all!

4. The Seattle Drinking Liberally chapter had a surprise guest at their last meeting.

5. Jared Polis, an openly gay nominee, has won in Colorado's 2nd primary.

6. Yglesias thinks the Golden Arches Theory has had its last McFlurry.

7. The Keynote Speaker has been named.

8. Kay Steiger over at pushback discusses the Democratic party's new platform on choice.

Blogging Liberally: John McCain and a lolcat walk into a bar...

1. Only ten??

2. Here is how Bush intends on ruining any chance your progeny had for a bright future.

3. You know that ridiculous lolcat craze that you pretend to not enjoy? Well now there's a versionwe can all get on board with!

4. Speculation is out on whether the common theme of Obama's VP day at the convention and Wes Clark's slogan has anything to do with Obama's imminent announcement of his running mate.

5. The reason we will never get rid of the courts as well as why bad boys have such an appeal, every once in awhile they finally come through for you.

6. After this its safe to say no one knows what they're talking about anymore, or ever did.

The valued niche of your guilty conscience

In the quest for tips to live a more environmentally friendly life I came across National Geographic's True Green 100 everyday ways you can contribute to a healthier planet.

For a mere $19.95 (not including tax and shipping and handling) you can buy yet another book about how to save the planet.

These books of tips pop up all over the place, lining shelves of Barnes and Nobles, Whole Foods, and apparently National Geographic.

It is oxymoronic to spend 20+ dollars on a product that you could just as easily access on the internet without the use of resources like paper.

When did saving the planet become a niche in the already densely populated consumeropolis? Rather than coming to the table to share knowledge about preserving our planet, we have bullied our way to the market, milking consumers' guilty consciences to the last drop.

Telling people they are irresponsible if they spend their hard earned income on gas or food and not "green" products is not a valid response to the catastrophe that is today's environmental woes.

It is unethical to charge for a product that will advise them on something that should be part of the universal collective. It would be nice to see more sites and organizations that care more about the planet than profits.

Unless I see a disclaimer that profits from the product will be given to an organization doing work in environmental issues and that the product in question is made from reused materials, I see no justification for charging people for information that should be shared willingly and freely.

These are a few site I have found that provide useful greening tips freely online:

  1. The Green Guide (National Geographic's very own website where you can find some of the same information as in their True Green)
  2. Green Living Tips
  3. Green Tips at About My Planet
  4. Eco Tips from Global Stewards

      Happy greening everyone!

Carpooling Liberally

A new Drinking Liberally How-To Guide by Mazhira Black and Seth Pearce

Your friends at Living Liberally recently set up an account with and want to tell you all about it. This great site allows you to post ride listings under the Drinking Liberally group page, so that you can organize your own local Drinking Liberally carpool.

This is a great way to show your liberal pride by

  • Sticking it to the greedy oil companies.
  • Cutting down on those evil carbon emissions, and thus saving our planet.
  • Keeping some gas money in your wallet.
  • And making sure we get our lovely liberals home safely after a rousing night of drinks and discussion.

Here's how:

  1. Go to
  2. Register on the site for free.
  3. Go to the Drinking Liberally group page. (The group password is drinkwithme)
  4. Create a listing!

And always remember to drink responsibly and drive safely.

Good luck Carpooling Liberally!

Blogging Liberally: a small step for bloggers, a giant foot in the mouth for a certain country singer

1. Toby Keith makes being liberal in Texas even more difficult, believe it or not.

2. If neither of the candidates' economic plans tickle your fancy there's always a third option...

3. Decrease in diversity = decrease in violence...ah of course, Hitler must have had it right all along...wait, what?

4. It's good to know that Bush is branching out in his decisions.

5. Amnesty International has it all wrong.

6. Educational and informative, not your average McCain post.

7. Happy Birthday NASA.

Sustainability for the rest of us

There are some books which you can open and read from cover to cover in one sitting. Climate Solutions by Peter Barnes is not one of those books.

Climate Solutions is a book about exactly what the title suggests, climate solutions, or rather the policy which determines the future of our "one sky" as Barnes lovingly calls it. Climate Solutions holds all of the simplicity as a "gerund for dummies" book but has none of the tedious length.

If you've ever tried to pick up the Bible and read it like the new Stephen King thriller then you will have no trouble absorbing a read like Climate Solutions.

For everything you ever wondered about carbon capping, carbon taxes, or bills such as the Clean Skies Act, Climate Solutions is a good place to start. It is not bogged down with the jargon of sustainability that can be intimidating to someone who is new to environmental issues but wants to learn more. Barnes explains the subject simply and honestly with the bias of a well-to-do citizen who's sincere concern for the Earth shines through in his words.

As a bonus there are even semi-humorous comics and quips intermittently placed among the statistics. Climate Solutions is an essential read that deals with contemporary problems that everyone can relate to.

International Law + Texas = Supreme Court Nightmare

Liberal Perspective
by Mazhira Black

Breaking away from his blundering diplomatic agenda, President Bush has urged the state of Texas to hold off on executing a Mexican national who is on death row and scheduled for lethal injection in August. The International Court of Justice, the highest court of the UN, has responded to an appeal made by the Mexican government for the United States review the cases of 51 Mexican nationals on death row.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the President does not have the constitutional power to issue a Memorandum demanding that the states review the files of the 48 remaining individuals eligible for review.

Although the Supreme Court recognizes the validity of the Judgment to the United States' standing in international law it has ruled that regardless of the Judgment and the President's Memorandum it is irrelevant to federal laws. Thus Texas is exempt from following the ruling.The Mexican government has requested that the United States step in to ensure that these nationals receive the review they are entitled to under the ICJ's ruling.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals chooses to treat the President's Memorandum as non binding and stands by the ruling that the President's actions are unconstitutional in trying to "pre-empt Texas state law, even in order to comply with an international law obligation".

Perhaps I'm missing something but shouldn't we be paying attention to real issues such as this loophole in the realm of federal law rather than Clinton's new part or McCain's humorless sense of humor? Is there a point to being a signatory state to the UN Charter if our judiciary branch allows individual states to override international court rulings? Thanks to this country's obsession with fleeting campaign season issues this Supreme Court ruling will fester long after the '08 buttons have left permanent holes in the garment of America.

Greening Liberally: Budding Ideas

At Living Liberally we are increasingly thinking of new ways to create a more sustainable environment here in New York as well as nationally.

America's obsession with cleaning supplies and air fresheners has become a full time job for advertising strategists who have been known in recent years to market products towards younger and younger consumers. There has been a large increase in commercial cleaning supplies since the 1950s which has caused a lack of information on the ingredients of the products that Americans are using in their homes and workplaces. These air fresheners normally include a combination of benzene, trichloroethylene (TCE), and formaldehyde. These chemicals have been shown to be hazardous to the environment as well as questionable in their safety for humans.

As we spend an increasing amount of time indoors, our breathing space suffers. Thanks to improvements in insulation in buildings there is very little room for these chemicals to escape. What results is a hazardous breathing environment for everyone.

Plants are a natural solution to this problem as well as an aesthetic one. They pull carbon out of the atmosphere bringing the best part of the outdoors home to those of us who a rely on the synthetic wood on our desks as the only part of nature that we touch. Some do a better job than others as these natural air purifiers. Some are also better for specific pollutants in the air depending on your workspace or home, it is best to look into certain plants specifically to see what suits your needs.

These are some of the many that are recommended for indoor spaces:

Aloe Vera
Aglaonema Modestum (Chinese Evergreen)
Chamaedorea Seifritzii (Bamboo Palm)
Chlorophytum Elatum (Green Spider Plant)
Chrysanthemum Morifolium (Pot Mum/Florists' Chrysanthemum)
Gerbera Jamesonii (African Daisy)
Hedera Helix (English Ivy)
Scindapsus Aureus (Golden Pothos)
Spathiphyllum Mauna Loa (Peace Lily)

At Living Liberally HQ we recently adopted a Peace Lily, not only because of its ability to release oxygen back into the atmosphere or the fact that its easy to take care of; it was also voted "desk plant of the year 2007" (not to mention the name had a certain appeal). We have dubbed our plant Leaf Wellington Haase, after a wonderful Health Care Fellow at the Century Foundation.

Calvin Williams is Living Liberally

Talking Liberally Progressive Parley
by Mazhira Black

Calvin Williams is a Fellowship Coordinator with Young People For, a People For the American Way Foundation initiative. He currently resides in Brooklyn, NY and spends his downtime performing spoken word, playing guitar, blogging, and occasionally brushing up on his b-boyin’ skills.

Mazhira Black: What does Young People For do and why is it important?
Calvin Williams: YP4 is a leadership development program for college students who want to create sustainable change in their communities now and identify their leadership role in the progressive movement in the future. We structure our program to support their leadership development no matter what work they want to do. It provides for our fellows the ability to identify what their leadership role will be and connects them to the networks, resources, and people who can help them take that next step.

MB: How did you get involved?
CW: I was in Montgomery Alabama teaching when I realized that my passions were pulling me deeper into social justice in a place where I could continue developing mentorships with students outside of the traditional classroom setting. I was looking for something that was grounded in the grassroots/popular education structure of allowing people to define what changes they want to see. A lot of issues connect on many levels personally and systematically; I wanted to be able to work with an organization that worked for the bigger picture without trying to create an ideology that everyone else needed to follow. I realized Young People For was what I was looking for as a student when I was trying to create organizations and build coalitions at LaGrange College. Had I known that there was a broad network of students experiencing the same situation and thriving, it would have been helpful to have that network. Looking back on it at that moment I knew it was the right fit the right time, filling the right need, two years down the road I still feel that way.

MB: How do you explain to family members what you do?
CW: First I have to give concrete examples through stories about the work I do with fellows. Then I can connect it back to how this would have helped me when I was in college. The last strategy is telling them about the inspiration I gain from the fellows. Nobody is surprised about the work I do, they expect it, that or law school.

MB: When was the last time you were in awe of something a Fellow did?
CW: Its almost as though I expect to be in awe; no matter what it is, every person brings something unique to the table. I could talk about Kevin Killer, winning his primary by five votes. Or about Kari Fulton who works with the EJCC and was instrumental in coordinating the Power Shift conference. The ones who are successful in this program are the ones who set up others for success. Its always amazing for me to see when fellows build each other up and connect back to the network. Every fellow has a story.

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