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A Detailed Analysis of Olympic Politics in Cartoon Form

Laughing Liberally To Keep From Crying
by Lee Camp

In a week that saw the Olympic torch extinguished not once, not twice, but thrice, our very own Lee Camp provides the hard-hitting analysis we at Laughing Liberally have learned to rely upon.

Apple A Day Helps Your Brain Cells To Play

Eating Liberally Food For Thought
by Kerry Trueman

Yes, there’s gloating galore in our Mac-happy household over the news that “even the briefest exposure to the Apple logo may make you behave more creatively,” according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research. No wonder we are just bursting with ideas that our cramped Manhattan apartment can barely contain; we’ve got more Macs per capita than you’ll find anywhere outside of an Apple store. (My Mac consultant husband) Matt would put one in the bathroom if I let him, which I won’t, because that’s my one tech-free haven in our hyper-wired world.

The study, conducted by researchers at Duke University and the University of Waterloo, Canada, found that even a split-second glimpse of the iconic Apple logo is enough to inspire folks to “think different”:

The team conducted an experiment in which 341 university students completed what they believed was a visual acuity task, during which either the Apple or IBM logo was flashed so quickly that they were unaware they had been exposed to the brand logo. The participants then completed a task designed to evaluate how creative they were, listing all of the uses for a brick that they could imagine beyond building a wall.

People who were exposed to the Apple logo generated significantly more unusual uses for the brick compared with those who were primed with the IBM logo, the researchers said. In addition, the unusual uses the Apple-primed participants generated were rated as more creative by independent judges.

As Duke professor Tanya Chartrand noted, “Apple has worked for many years to develop a brand character associated with nonconformity, innovation and creativity.” IBM’s logo, on the other hand, conveys an image to consumers that is “traditional, smart and responsible,” i.e., safe and dull.

Apples have a long tradition of tempting mankind to flout convention—just ask Adam and Eve. And don’t forget Johnny Appleseed, who was running around literally sowing the seeds of the conservation movement a couple hundred years ago, before voluntary simplicity and animal rights were even trendy.

The Beatles beat Steve Jobs by a few years, too, leading to a branding battle between Apple Corp. and Apple Inc., which rocked our collective world with their revolutionary music and machines, respectively.

That lawsuit was settled last year, but now Apple’s gone and picked another fight, this time with the Big Apple, which unveiled a new apple logo for its GreeNYC campaign to inspire New Yorkers “to walk, bike and unplug appliances when not in use,” as the New York Times reports.

Apple is reportedly concerned that the supposed similarity between the two logos could create “consumer confusion resulting in damage and injury.” But as the Times notes, the two apples are decidedly distinctive varieties. Yeah, they’re both apples, but New York City’s hasn’t had a bite taken out of it, and it’s green, whereas Apple’s trademark logo has evolved from its hippy-dippy rainbow phase into the more minimalist black/white spectrum.

Steve Jobs is reportedly worried that GreeNYC’s logo is going to lead to “dilution of the distinctiveness” of the Apple brand. Will people really confuse the two logos? I doubt it, but I’d be happy if they did; after all, if just flashing folks with an image of an apple is enough to encourage our brains to be more receptive to new ideas, it can only boost GreeNYC’s prospects for encouraging conservation. It seems only fair that the fruit that got us evicted from Eden in the first place should help us find our way back.

Walking, Literally, In Dr. King's Footsteps: A Photo Itinerary.

Traveling Liberally Passport To Change
by Josh Bolotsky, Living Liberally

A quick note - in the post below, I talk about my first time visiting Birmingham, Montgomery, Atlanta and other crucial locations in the civil rights struggles of the 1950's and 1960's - all of them places which resonate on today's anniversary. I know other Open Lefters have visited, worked and lived in these locations, and I would love your reflections below.

My family is not rich, but I'd be willing to wager that I received the greatest graduation present of any college graduate in the United States last year, hands down.

A months-long trek through Europe? A garage full of foreign cars? Long-stowed-away wine collections?

Nah, considerably less decadent, but way cooler. My immediate family (mom, pop, middle brother Jeremy, youngest sister Ilana) haven't been on vacation together in a very long time - schedules clashed, schoolyears interfered and it somehow just wasn't meant to be. We'd had blocked away the second half of December to do something - something that hadn't yet been determined. My graduation present? Determine that something within a certain set of time/budget parameters, parameters likely to make it a roadtrip of roughly a week in length, likely in the eastern two-thirds of the continental United States.

For me, the decision was simple - as a good liberal American history buff, I wanted to go on a civil rights history roadtrip, with a focus on the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I wanted to walk the steps of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, a block away from the city's Civil Rights Institute. I wanted to see the bus station in Montgomery where the freedom riders were surrounded. I wanted to walk the halls of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood of Atlanta. I wanted to find a supermarket that still sells Mr. Pibb, which is virtually nonexistent in my home base of NYC. On the 40th anniversary of Dr. King's assassination at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, I want to share a little bit about this trip, which brought us through Birmingham, New Orleans, Montgomery, and, finally, Atlanta.

I hate to have to include this disclaimer, but I feel it necessary: I'm aware of the pitfalls here. I'm aware of the stereotype red-alert: a privileged college graduate beset by white liberal guilt goes on a 'civil rights history vacation,' implying not only that 'civil rights history' is finished, that there are no civil rights battles left to be fought so we can just classify the whole topic under 'history,' but also that we can visit the streets of Birmingham where children were firehosed and attacked by dogs the same way we can visit the beaches of Cancun with a pina colada in hand - or, worse still, to approach it as something to mark off a checklist. Yes, I am well-aware of the the risk of dishonoring sacred places by the camera hanging around the neck of your Hawaiian t-shirt, the ease of forgetting that in the schools of Jena and neighborhoods of St. Bernard's Parish and in countless border towns and so many other places there are still daily injustices, etc. etc. etc. I am setting myself up as quite the easy target.

Two thoughts.

1. I did my best over the course of this trip to do good. To make it clear that the civil rights battles we were discussing are not closed cases, to volunteer in New Orleans and to see the poor neighborhoods of Montgomery not far from Ralph Abernathy's 1st Baptist Church. To provide educational materials beyond the standard "MLK talked about having a dream while visiting DC, and then did nothing much else for the five years before his death" spiel. To listen to Taylor Branch's America In The King Years series on audiotape in the car and watch "4 Little Girls" and "When The Levees Broke" in the various hotel rooms along the long trip from Central New Jersey to central Alabama.

2. There is a point at which the fear of looking bad while examining the past means that one never, in fact, looks at the past. "If I go on a trip to the Birmingham City Jail, I might look like a rich liberal white kid." So you don't go to Birmingham. And you never get the chance to visit that jail. And an experience that might have made you a better ally in the fight to take America forward never happens, all because you were afraid of looking like a bad ally. Of being tacky. I can't tear the CD player from my parent's minivan when we drive by poor neighborhoods. And if I had to, family members who might have an enlightening experience in these areas wouldn't have gone on the trip in the first place.

(Before I delve into the itinerary, huge credit is due to my sister, Ilana, who took most of the below photos, as well as to A Traveler's Guide to the Civil Rights Movement, which was an indispensable resource.)

Birmingham.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (which, tragically, does not allow pictures to be taken inside its exhibit hall) is literally across the street from Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth's Sixteenth Street Baptist Church of Birmingham, the site of the infamous September 1963 bombing which claimed the lives of four little girls.

This is the view from the steps of the church - the statue you see in the front of the BCRI is a sculpture of Shuttlesworth.

New Orleans/St. Bernard's Parish.

I wish I were sharp enough to initially realize, as I did later, that New Orleans was the intended destination of the Freedom Rides - however, no choice to visit New Orleans was quite that eloquent. Instead, I knew that if we went to some of the most famous locations in American civil rights history, without contributing something back in the area which most obviously indicates that those fights are still ongoing, that we'd be making an egregious mistake. As such, we made a two-day stop to volunteer in St. Bernard's Parish, next to New Orleans - one of the areas hit hardest by the negligence surrounding Katrina.

There are some great new organizations doing work in the gulf coast generally and New Orleans specifically, with Hands On New Orleans being a particular stand-out, but we decided to go ahead with Habitat For Humanity New Orleans, which assigned us to a storm-hit elementary school that was slowly, in a multi-year project, being repaired and brought back to a usable state.

A room assigned to a group of volunteers to paint.

It's impossible to communicate just how nauseating the state of the area was that late December, a full 26 months after Katrina first made landfall - I can only do my best.

The car windows were fogged by our pressed-up faces, part of us knowing that we looked like schoolkids passing by a horrendous pile-up by the side of the road, knowing just how voyeuristic we were being, and yet, being unable to help ourselves - the horror of the moment outweighing our more reserved instincts.

But there's a peril to emphasizing this horror, which is the fear that you'll discourage tourism to New Orleans - which is why I'll note that the tourism-friendly parts of New Orleans, e.g. the French Quarter, look much the same. (There's something really sad about this balancing act - that one must try to accurately report the horrors while also requiring a tacky mention of tourism potential - but in a world where the aid isn't coming from our federal government, there ain't much other choice.)

Montgomery.

The entrance to the Southern Poverty Law Center's Civil Rights Memorial Center, whose centerpiece sculpture is portrayed at the top of the post.

The ethereal view from below of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where King served as the chief pastor from 1954 to 1960.

I include this picture because it epitomizes a phenomenon I found myself silently remarking upon throughout the entire trip. On the left side of this picture, in the background, you see the Albama State Capitol, a site of so much history - the first capitol of the confederacy, the end-point of the march from Selma, the building from which George Wallace reigned as Governor - and, literally down the street, is the church whose basement served as the incubator for the Montgomery bus boycotts, the formation of the SCLC (though it started in the Montgomery Improvement Association), and so much more. All within a 1000-foot radius. One has a similar feeling in Birmingham (where the Baptist Church is just a few blocks away from crucial sites in the children's crusade) and in...

Atlanta.

...where the Ebenezer Baptist Church seems like a sort of nucleus around a map of vital history.

Across the street from the Baptist church were King's father pastored, until King took over those duties in 1960, is the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, which includes MLK Center for Nonviolent Social Change, King's childhood home, and his final resting place.

Postscript.
It didn't strike me until a few weeks after the trip's end that we had sort of looped around the intended path of the Freedom Riders - stopping in Birmingham, circling the entire path to New Orleans, coming closer again in Montgomery, and finishing out int Atlanta.

There is, of course, so much we didn't get to see, but perhaps the site I missed the most was one nowhere near the intended freedom ride path - Memphis, TN, which today, and for the rest of the weekend is hosting The Dream Reborn conference on a green economy; it's good enough to know that not everyone has forgotten that the dream didn't end in 1968.

We've Got Our April Fools...If Only They Were Joking

As Americans face a home mortgage crisis,
McCain suggested they fend for themselves,
while wanting to bail out the industry
that enabled the crisis in the first place.

As new violence erupted in Iraq,
revealing how little progress we've made,
McCain claimed the surge was working.

As the media enjoysed McCain on Letterman,
they laughed off as a simple "gaffe"
his continued false statements on Al-Qaeda.

For April Fools Day, McCain & his media fans
revealed themselves a group of April fools...
if only his stances were just a bad joke.

Forget the fools & find the friendly fun
of like-minded lefties lifting a libation
at your local progressive social club.

DRINKING LIBERALLY
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The Power of Fame To Change the World

Eating Liberally Food For Thought
by Kerry Trueman

America suffers from a collective case of do-gooder deafness: we have a hard time hearing a message when it's delivered by a dorky academic or an unattractive activist. We're all ears, though, when celebrities speak out about their pet causes, or their pets, or whatever. So, in acknowledgement of the fact that I, as a mere blogger, can only hope to influence so many people, I'd like to enlist the aid of some of our most ogled and Googled celebrities to help America combat climate change and overconsumption:1. Britney Spears: Britney's evidently on the road to recovery after some much needed r 'n' r. Here are three more "r's" I'd love to see Britney promote: reduce, reuse and recycle. Our landfills are overflowing with post-consumer crap and the oceans are clogged up with plastic; what better time for Britney to redefine white trash! Recommended reading/viewing: Garbage Land by Elizabeth Royte; The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard.

2. Paris Hilton: A rolling stone gathers no moss, but a globe-trotting Paris Hilton gathers dross. You're just fossil-fueling yourself, sweetie; stop running around the world making geographical gaffes and hyping your hybrid SUV. Take a page out of No Impact Man's playbook and see if you can stay a little closer to home for a year. Borrow a bike from Ed Begley Jr., and pedal your way to penitence. Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping will bless you.

3. Lindsay Lohan: Lindsay confided to Elle magazine last fall that she feels bad about the fact that media coverage of her shenanigans "is distracting from the other things that are important, like global warming and that kind of stuff." So, Lindsay, why not use that media glare to highlight the hazards of climate change? You'll get a glow, and it won't be from global warming. Go on David Gershon's Low Carbon Diet, school yourself with the hot eco-doc Everything's Cool, and you'll be cool, too.

4. David Beckham: The soccer superstar and style icon's receding hairline has the blogosphere all abuzz. Stressing about your thinning tresses, Becks? Imagine how folks in West Virginia feel about the bald spots the coal-mining industry's leaving on their beloved Appalachian mountains. The tragedy of male pattern baldness pales besides the heartbreak of mountaintop coal removal. Once you've covered your semi-nude noggin with pricey plugs, why not get out and stump on behalf of your adopted home's oldest mountain range before they blast the last tree to smithereens? Recommended reading/viewing: Coal River by Michael Shnayerson, Burning the Future: Coal In America.

5. Madonna: America's most famous ex-pat has set down roots as deep as her brown hair in Britain, so she's the perfect candidate to publicize the plight of Britain's endangered red squirrels, whose very future is imperiled by an invasion of deadly pox-carrying gray American squirrels. How about an animated PSA to the tune of "Who's That Squirrel?" in which she helps Squirrel Nutkin knock Rocky J. Squirrel's block right off the island? At the very least, the pop princess could follow Prince Charles' royal lead and become a patron of Save Our Squirrels.

6. Donald Trump: The Lowbrow Baron of the High-Rise isn't getting very far with his bullying and bulldozing these days. From his proposed golf course development in Scotland to his Long Island "Trump on the Ocean" project, The Donald's grandiose plans keep running aground in the face of stiff opposition from locals. Is his stature diminishing? Here's a new mantra for the author of Think BIG and Kick Ass in Business and Life: Think small and DO GOOD. Recommended reading/viewing: Deep Economy by Bill McKibben; Garbage Warrior, coming to a theater near you on April 2nd!

7. Rush Limbaugh: Yes, Limbaugh's a noxious gasbag, but scientists are making great strides these days converting methane gases from manure into energy. Limbaugh is the nadir of climate change naysayers, and it's a safe bet that he'll continue to pooh-pooh the notion that global warming's a threat to the planet, so why not harness the harmful nonsense he spews and turn it into a useful source of energy? Recommended viewing: Biogas, The Movie:

8. Amy Winehouse: Winehouse is, alas, goin' back to rehab, so she presumably won't be available to do any kind of pr for awhile. But once she's bounced back from her latest crack-up, I'd love to see Amy put her beehive'd head to work on raising awareness of colony collapse disorder, the mystery disease that's killing bees all over the U.S. and Europe. Come to think of it, she'd be a great spokesperson to raise awareness of white nose syndrome, too--that's the deadly illness that's decimating the northeast's bat population. Recommended viewing: Every Third Bite, coming soon!

9. Chuck Norris: Now that Mike Huckabee's presidential bid is over, Norris presumably has some free time, so I'd like to suggest that the legendary martial arts megastar turn his attention from black belts to green belts and use his status as America's number one action star to slay the developer dragons and strip-mall monsters. Who better than a diehard conservative to champion conservation? Recommended reading/viewing: The Long Emergency by James Howard Kuntler; The Unforeseen.
10. Richie Sambora: Sambora was arrested last Tuesday in Laguna Beach after his black Hummer was spotted weaving in and out of traffic. The Bon Jovi guitarist went to rehab twice last year; will a third time be the charm? Drinking and driving is never a good idea (especially when your 10 year-old daughter's in the backseat) but alcohol can be a tough demon to shake. Maybe Sambora would have more luck if he swore off driving instead? Ditch the Hummer, Ritchie, get off the Lost Highway, and become an advocate for Transportation Alternatives.

Originally posted on TakePart.com.

A Very, Very Exciting Announcement About Drinking Liberally

bottle.jpg

by Justin Krebs & Josh Bolotsky

These are very exciting times for Living Liberally: our upcoming 5th anniversary, the launch of brand new groups like Shooting Liberally and Knitting Liberally, our preparations for Netroots Nation and various other summer events. However, as exhilarating as these projects might be, they pale in comparison to our latest roll-out. Today, we'd like to announce the biggest undertaking in Living Liberally history. Something we like to think might change progressive politics for the better. Something which will transform Drinking Liberally forever.

So, let's get right to it:

Abstaining Liberally, our newest group.

Please learn more after the jump.This was the right decision, and a long time coming. After almost 5 years and 50 states of liquor-inspired liberal organizing, we're figured out how to really shift the game for our NEXT 5 years - and that's not do anything. Well, at least no drinking.

After all, as our detractors point out, what do we ever do besides get drunk and make fools of ourselves? (They know us so well!) It's not like we inspire people to blog or otherwise take part in citizen journalism. And we're certainly not getting new voters involved in primary campaigns or the larger election season, or consolidating a scattered liberal community.

So goodbye to tonics, spirits and pick-me-ups. Abstaining Liberally will meet in senior centers, not bars, and we'll serve water and juice, not gin and vodka. But this doesn't mean we'll no longer have fun. (Just you wait to see how badly I beat you in the water-drinking contest.) It'll just be teetotaling fun.

So, this April 1st, let's say goodbye to Drinking, and hello to Abstaining!

The Knitting Liberally Giving Project

knit.jpg
Knitting Liberally Progressive Thread
By Gina-Louise Sciarra and Tina McElmoyl

When we started the flagship Knitting Liberally chapter in Northampton, MA last October, we knew that we wanted it to be a fun, social group combining our two passions: knitting and liberal politics. We also wanted it to be an accessible way for people to get involved in the community.

We are thrilled to be completing our first Knitting Liberally Giving Project.

We knitted toys for the New England Learning Center for Women in Transition (NELCWIT), a wonderful organization nearby in Greenfield, MA that helps women and children who have survived domestic violence or sexual abuse. NELCWIT was excited by the prospect of being able to give the children they serve beautiful, hand-made toys to hug and love at such a vulnerable time for them. And we really couldn't imagine something more fun to knit than toys. Webs, the world-renowned yarn emporium that we are spoiled enough to have as our local yarn store, generously donated the yarn for the project, making this the perfect collaboration of three local groups.

Visit us at KnittingLiberally.com to read about the ways that yarn and politics collide for our members. You can also check on the progress of our next group project, which will be our contribution to a social justice knitting project that will have a big visual impact in support of LGBT equality in the Presbyterian Church. If you are interested in participating in the project or the website, join KnittingLiberally.com and start posting or drop us an e-mail. Knit. Vote. Blog.

OSI, YP4 and "The Progressive Version Of"

Drinking Liberally Shot of Truth
by Josh Bolotsky

As far as I can tell, this is the first time that the Open Society Institute is doing a direct fellowship program along these lines:

NEW YORK—The Open Society Institute today launched a fellowship program to enable outstanding individuals from around the world to pursue projects that will inspire meaningful debate and shape public policy.

The Open Society Fellowship will award $2 million in 2008 to scholars, journalists, activists and others working on national security; citizenship, membership and marginalization; authoritarianism; and new strategies and tools for advocacy.

I'll start with the facile, gut reaction: obviously, it's great to see another partner in the family of progressive-movement-builder fellowship programs, alongside great, under-heralded initiatives like the Drum Major Institute's DMI Scholars and the whole host of Young People For projects. In a lot of ways, I feel that these programs are both a huge extension of and a substantial improvement over what the Century Institute was aiming at a few years ago before it faltered unexpectedly.

However, there are two important differences here between the proposed OSI program and these other examples. For starters, the OSI project is somewhat unique in its focus on a global progressive perspective, as opposed to some variant of domestic policy - I say 'somewhat' because I don't want to overlook the great work being done by the participants in those aforementioned programs who've chosen to focus on issues of international concern - e.g. Alex Hill, a current YP4 fellow, and his astonishing work with S.C.O.U.T. B.A.N.A.N.A.:

But, secondly, a quick look at the guidelines reveals that this is not a strictly-for-students program - a real distinction, and an interesting choice on OSI's part.

Like so much of the frenzied progressive infrastructure-building of the last few years, much of the netroots support for these types of activist-in-training programs comes from the often correct perception that given the huge amount of ground left to cover in catching up to what the institutional right has done, we better get cracking on "the progressive version of" whatever given aspect of conservative advantage we seek to emulate - if we can just start with our own progressive version, in other words, we'll be on the right track. As someone who spent time as the Chair of a major College Democrats state federation, I can anecdotally attest to the kind of forced comparison points you often hear from frustrated students - that Campus Progress is or should be "the progressive version of" Young Americans for Freedom, or the Center for Progressive Leadership is or should be "the progressive version of" the Leadership Institute, and so on. In other words, we're so frustrated at how far behind we are in the race that we're looking for the reflexive response, which is a counterpart above all else - just as we might look at, say, Air America Radio to be "the progressive version of" right-wing talk radio.

All of which is not just well and good, but, I think, quite necessary - it's wonderful that we are moving towards having these counterparts. But as a first step - then you start moving towards innovations. All of which makes the choice of OSI to make eligibility open to all, student or no, all the more striking: along with projects like YP4's Young Elected Officials Network, it's a unique take on the format, one that isn't a reaction to any kind of adult-training-program that the Intercollegiate Studies Institute is cooking up.

It'd be less than honest not to admit that I have a personal take on this as well, and a personal bias - as someone transitioning into a full-time role in Living Liberally from a fellowship in YP4's Leadership Academy, another program I'd categorize as post-first-step in its innovative qualities, I can speak from deep experience about how these type of fellowship programs can be a hugely empowering experience. It is not an advertisement for myself or YP4 to note that while a lot of the problems within long-term progressive movement building might seem obvious and oh-so-lamented by now, it doesn't make them any less pressing, or the actions of those organizations that are taking them on any less commendable.

There is an enormous difference between learning skills piecemeal, between one election campaign here and one speaking class there, and having them integrated on your behalf in a planned program, and in all the aforementioned frenzy of the last several years, perhaps we don't take the time on occasion to note how amazing it is that we're getting there at all. I'm just glad that it won't just be fellow students taking the plunge.