Living Liberally Blog

Living Liberally Blog

Waiting for a Train: Progressives and Country Music

Rocking Liberally Sound of Change
by Glenn W. Smith

If I said that country music holds a key to progressive political success, would it sound so out of tune that you'd stand up and walk out on me?

Hit the door then, or lend me your ears, because I believe that's the case. I prefer Americana or alternative country over mainstream, country pop. But I embrace the latter, too. There are important values and a profound combination of hope, community spirit, and wariness of authority in much of the music.

Despite the conservative, lily-white image of contemporary country, it's multicultural to the core. The steel guitar, a staple of the music, was imported from Hawaii. The banjo is from Africa. The guitar is of multi-ethnic origins. Barack Obama and country music are cut from the same tree.

"One of the lessons of the last several presidential elections is that he who has the most country music on his side has the electorate on his side," writes Chet Flippo. Lineage alone ought give Obama a leg up.

Progressives recognize the need to better communicate their values, especially values born of empathy and shared responsibility. But it's not enough to just describe them. They have to be performed, in two senses: demonstrated in thought and action and embodied in art and culture. American folk and country artists have been doing so for many moons. It's time to listen, and time to sing and dance the values, too.

Blogging Liberally: Thorough News Roundup


1. Post world-tour Obama's polling lead ticks up to 9%.

2. Suicide bombings in Iraq killed dozens of Shiite and Kurdish Iraqis. At least 300 were wounded.

3. Thomas B. Edsall reviews the current pollster election predictions that show Obama winning the election without any of the tossup states. Another interesting part of this: Pollster lists Arizona as a tossup up state.

4. A news study shows that the media is indeed biased... against Obama.

5. John McCain is old. Really old.

6. Ahmadinejad responds positively to the Bush administration's new Obama-inspired Iran policy. He also say that "Nuclear weapons are so 20th century."

7. Ron Paul sells more than 6000 tickets in 6 hours for his alternative convention in minneapolis. Revolution!

8. 100 days until the election. Here we go!

Blogging Liberally: Hey you!


Obama is a giant monster! Run!

1. Turns out the Pentagon made Obama cancel his troop visit.

2. Apparently, the RNC hasn't been watching the news lately.

DAYS SINCE BARACK OBAMA VISITED IRAQ
925 Days, 01 Hours, 07 Min, 00 Sec.

Funny, I seem to remember him being there earlier this week.

3. All the President's Scandals, in colorful chart form!

4. Sounds like Nick Sarkozy has a mancrush on his pal Obama.

5. Net Neutrality gets the backing of every major senate democratic challenger.

6. Vote and Die. Does it still count?

7. Home sales drop, foreclosures rise, Bush sucks.

8. The media is still in love with McCain.

College Should Be Free

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that college must be free. Being myself enrolled in a college where I watch my tuition rocket ever skyward each year, I to was taken aback by this idea. College should be free? What is this, some sort of wing-nut radical utopian pipe dream? Please people, this is not Scandinavia.

Then I realized that this idea is no more radical than the assertion in the 1850s that elementary school should be free to everyone, or half a century later when reformers said that high school should not only be a luxury for the rich. America has a long history of fighting for publicly funded schooling against many who wanted to keep it private.

With each new age of American society it became clear that publicly funded education was an absolute necessity. First elementary, then high school, and now a college education are an absolute must to function in the American economy. For young people entering the market today, wages have fallen in every category since 1970, for people who have schooling less than a BA. Even for most people with a BA wages have only slightly risen or remained the same as their 1970 levels. We young people will be the first generation to end up less well off then our parents’ generation. Today a college education is as much a necessity as is clean drinking water.

In every discussion of falling wages, outsourcing, and immigrant labor the conclusion always seems to be that America has to build a modern workforce prepared to take on the task of a modern economy. The only way for this to truly happen is for college to be free. Moving from a system of dept based financial aid back to providing federal academic grant is a good short-term solution, and decent first step. It is also true that our K-12 schooling systems are riddled with problems, that some might say need to be addressed first. But we cannot get bogged down in fighting for small change; we must set our sights higher than simply tackling imbecilic legislation like No Child Left Behind.

What this nation needs to succeed is a publicly funded Higher Education, anything short of that will not cut it in the long term. In the face of a faltering economy one might nervously ask where this sort of money will come from, but there is no better time. When there are not jobs to be had people go back to school, retrain, and restart. This is not to say that where should not be private universities, but if College is a necessity, it should not be something that you have to afford. We do not need to make college affordable, we need to make it available.

The Daily Digest: Drunk on Politics

1) Does John McCain know anything about Iraq? Trying to recover, he digs himself deeper.

2)Video games that kill real people.

3)Guess who is using up all our oil? The Pentagon.

4)Even truckers don't want more oil. When labor and Environment meet.

5)Multi-platinum rapper NAS gives Fox News a talking to. And Colbert too.

6)American Foriegn Service workers banned from Obama Rally.

7)Soldiers keep shooting democracies children. an Iraqi Governer's son is killed.

8)Better Democrats?

The Barack-Man vs. The Joker

The Joker, out-of-touch & irrational,
brings further fear to a suffering society.

Dealing dread, finding power through force,
his ploy plays on the worst in people.

He is known for his aggressive temper,
...& for telling truly terrible jokes.

But a Dark Knight, imperfect-yet-inspiring,
swoops into a scene of greed & corruption
appealing to citizens' hope & better angels,
declining to kill, familiar with computers...
& raising record revenue from an energized public.

I mean, who would you rather have:
Joker McCain...or The Barack-Man?

Now...who will play Robin this time around?

Raise a glass to the citizens of our Gotham,
the fight ahead & the light in the distance
as you share a beer, cheer & idea
at your local progressive social club.

DRINKING LIBERALLY
Find - or start - a chapter near you.

The Answer is Up

As I zoomed across I-80 this weekend in a single shot from New York to Chicago and back, my mind drifted back and forth across the countless miles of corn and my gas meter, as all that 4 dollar gas dripped away. The big question in my mind was how the heck we were going keep shipping all this corn all the way to New York and California, not to mention shipping banana in refrigerated cars all the way from South America. The answer is not bringing the food to Manhattan but bringing the farms.

Vertical Farms are the way of the future, or so says Dr. Dickson Despommier who has been working on vertical farming technology for 10 years now. Take 35 acres of farmland, stack then into a precisely regulated farming skyscraper, and you have yourself a Vertical Farm. In fact an acre of vertical farmland is predicted to have 4-6 times greater output than a boring old acre of flat land. This is a big deal with a population slated to increase 3 billion, 80% of whom will be living in urbanized areas, by 2050. With ever increasing transport and fuel costs for farming our farming practices must evolve vertically if we are going to stop millions from starving and full nations worth of natural ecosystems laid waste by flat and fat farms.

Many designs have been published for these towering greenhouses, which can protect plants from irregular weather, pests and pesticides, recycle water, transform methane to energy, and provide a source for urban food and jobs, while leaving our battered world to recuperate a little. Still the notion as a few ominous sci-fi elements with the website describing them as a prerequisite for moon colonization and asking, “Don't our harvestable plants deserve the same level of comfort and protection that [people] now enjoy?” This may be the great green hope for agriculture but it is also implies a huge condensing of our food source and the complete stewardship of people creating a new ecosystem. Futuristic and yet surprisingly obvious, this is the thinking that will reshape both urban and rural landscapes, and could make some real change, leaving carbon offsets and the inefficiency of ethanol in the dust.

Working Together in the Progressive Movement

As part of our efforts to facilitate greater communication between progressive organizations, here is a guest post from Kathryn Fitzgerald of Young People For about their recent brown bag lunch panel on interconnectivity in the progressive movement. Enjoy!


These past few days have been full of firsts for me; my first metro north ride, my first blogpost, and most importantly hosting my first Brown Bag Lunch! On Friday, after weeks of preparation, Renia, another YP4 intern, and I hosted YP4’s first Brown Bag lunch of the summer.

We had speakers from Earth Day NY, The Harlem Children’s Zone, Young Democratic Socialists, and The National Campaign to Restore Civil Rights. It was a fabulous opportunity to hear what work is being done in areas of the progressive movement outside your own and to find out how to get involved in the work of other sectors of the movement. We started with everyone slowly trickling in, eating some pizza and mingling, building those bridges...

At 1:00 when we kicked off the event, Marianne Engelman Lado from The National Campaign to Restore Civil Rights started our panel portion of the lunch by highlighting for us the importance of the courts in the battle for equal rights; she was followed by Paul Kendrick from the Harlem Children Zone who talked about the important work being done in Harlem for disenfranchised children. He explained how HCZ works to create an educational community to ensure children are supported through every step of their education, from pre-K to college and beyond. Next we had David Duhalde from Young Democratic Socialists speak about the economic justice work being done around the country. Betta Broad from Earth Day NY closed the panel addressing what can be done in your own back yard to help the environment.

After the panel was over we opened up the discussion to the whole group to explore the different ways our issues intersect and the different ways we can work together so we all accomplish our goals. We had a great conversation and came up with several ways for progressives to come together and even more reasons why they should!


More after the jump!

Reading Liberally: Tips for Alleviating Those First-Time Nerves

Going in to host my first (and in fact, THE first in NYC) Reading Liberally last night, I was somewhat unaccountably nervous. Granted, I wasn't really thrown into hosting alone, as I was surrounded by my loyal posse of Living Liberally friends and coworkers. However, in the hopes of making Reading Liberally more of an established and regular event, I would like to bestow upon you my top tips for running a successful chapter meeting, garnered from our slightly attended yet ultimately satisfying meeting last night.

1.) Go for an intimate space where everyone can hear one another and feel connected, but make sure that wherever you go doesn't turn into an awkwardly quiet study spot at night-- this appeared to be the initial situation when I arrived at Earthmatters Cafe last night, but luckily all the nice people who were already surrounded by heaps of books and papers just shot me a few nasty glances before picking up and moving to the upper floor (so in this case, lots of extra space was a valuable asset!)

2.) Back to my previous comment about my nerves: make sure that you have at least a couple of cohorts to accompany you on your first time!

3.) Make sure that at least ONE person has read each book very well-- chances are, very few people that attend will have read any/all of the books, so the key to successful discussion in this situation is to make sure that you can summarize the book and easily move into whatever universally relevant political topic your book deals with. (On this note, it's best to have a few questions prepared for when conversation gets sparse!)

4.) Have a sign to mark your turf-- useful both in alerting the previously noted studious sorts, and in directing people to the table. I personally made a very bootleg sign by taking screen shots of the reading liberally logo and arranging them in a word document.

Finally, the most important thing is just to make sure that people come. In terms of starting a book group, the key to success (more than flyer-ing, or advertising, or random outreach) seems to be meeting people that genuinely want to experience progressive politics through literature. Here's to starting just such a Reading Liberally chapter!

Oh, and by the way, we read Free Rideby Dan Brock and Paul Waldman, both of which are worth considering for your first foray into group-friendly political lit.

The Daily Digest

1. Christian Bale arrested. Police were nice enough to wait until after London premiere of Dark Knight.

2. President Bush:
"Wall Street got drunk...and now its got a hangover"

more at ThinkProgress

3. Former advisor to George H.W. Bush schools the Bush Administration on diplomacy: 'Don’t talk about 'do we bomb [Iran] now or later?'…' By using such language 'we legitimize the use of force…and may tempt the Israelis'

Former advisor to President Jimmy Carter said 'I don’t want the public to believe a preemptive attack can be justified'

4. Barack Obama: "A nuclear Iran would pose a grave threat and the world must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon"

5. Bush Administration thinks power plants do not emit CO2, therefore they should be further deregulated.

6. McCain Campaign Ad: Obama is the reason gas prices are rising, says McCain

7. David Brook's OpEd, The Culture of Debt

8. And one from the backfiles, Naomi Klein's fantastic article on Obama's economic ideology. Liberals be alarmed.