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Justin Krebs Likes to Dance Liberally

Justin talks some Dance Dance Revolution over at Future Majority:

New York City has outlawed dancing-without-a-license since 1926. Seriously. Bars and restaurants require cabaret licenses -- originally a measure to crack-down on interracial couples -- if people want to shake a leg. And, in some cases, proprietors have been fined for failure to stop dancers.

All that may soon change, as Mayor Bloomberg is said to be planning a repeal of these arcane laws.

As ridiculous as it was that these laws have existed -- putting NYC in the lonely anti-dance camp only otherwise occupied by religious extremists -- it's more ridiculous that it took so long to tackle them. Despite efforts from advocates like Scott Jeffrey of Legalize, there has never been a really strong, public, dynamic, effective movement to make this change...despite being in a strong, dynamic entertainment-fueled city of conscious, creative-class warriors.

It's a reminder that battles are everywhere. But progress is everywhere too. As small as "right-to-dance" victories may seem in light of larger challenges, it does represent a step forward for creative expression, a step away from senseless authoritarianism, and a recognition that culture, celebration and joy should not be restricted.

It shouldn't be restricted by law...and it shouldn't be left out of activism. Joy is one of our strongest forces to motivate and unite, and ultimately to make change.

Dispatch from Charlotte

Here's a bit from the Charlotte DL Blog, really telling what it's all about:

We'll raise a glass to one of our all-time favorite Senators, good ol' chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy, of Vermont, who, at 68, appears in the new Batman movie. Kudos, Senator!

Then there's the rest. Shout "Cheers!" and thump on the table for Obama, who prepares to venture abroad. For McCain, who stays Stateside. For Bush, who vetoes solidly bipartisan Medicare legislation. For Stewart and Colbert, who return from their break. For Jesse Ventura, who threatens a return of his own. (To Minnesota for a Senate run. Probably not, but maybe. Probably not, though.) For Jesse Helms, who has moved on--never to return. (Kudos, Senator!) For China, which gears up for the Olympics. For Zimbabwe, which holds its breath. For Afghanistan, which falters. For Iraq, which simmers. For The New Yorker, which offends. For the economy, which wobbles. And so on.

There's lots to talk about, so join us!

As always, you'll be warmly received and, before you know it, half-a-drink deep in a hair-raising, spine-tingling session of the usual slew of provocative political banter, current-events brouhaha, occasionally eyebrow-raising debate, and, of course, a healthy dose of life-affirming liberal carousing.

Reading Liberally: Read of the Day

The one post every liberal must read today:

by Michael Connery, Future Majority

Michael Connery discusses how the notion of "The Troops" has played into our political rhetoric over the last four years, and how the right wing has exploited these troops by using them to win votes while systematically destroying programs that support them. A thorough run down of their misdeeds and a strategy for how to shift the conversation.

The Phil Gramm Show

We at Living Liberally are all about the intersection of film and politics. That's what Screening Liberally is all about. We especially love it when we find out that politicians are into movies too and today, HuffPo taught us that our latest political film buff is none other that McCain's former top economic adviser Phil Gramm!

Gramm's journey into porn began in 1973, when his brother-in-law, George Caton, rushed to tell him about an exciting low-budget soft-core production called Truck Stop Women. A promo poster for the film boasted of its buxom stars: "No Rig Was Too Big For Them To Handle." Caton, who was in charge of fundraising for the production, asked Gramm to become an investor. To entice his brother-in-law, Caton showed him scenes of Playboy Playmate of the year Claudia Jennings displaying her bare essentials (she is naked throughout much of the film).

These scenes "really got Phil titillated," Caton told journalist John Judis in 1995. Gramm enthusiastically cut Caton a check for $15,000. Because the film was oversold, however, Caton returned his brother-in-law's money, offering him an investment opportunity in an upcoming feature.

The following year, Gramm sent Caton a check for $15,000, this time to finance the production of Beauty Queens, a soft-core flick about pageant judges having sex with contestants. But at the last moment, the director of Beauty Queens, Mark Lester, decided to shelve his production to make the sequel to his Tricia's Wedding, a comedy starring the drag queen troupe, The Cockettes.

Because there's nothing conservatives likes more than comedic drag queen troupes.

What Do We Believe Anyway?

The question of what exactly it means to be a liberal is something we often deal with as members of Living Liberally chapters and communities. It's become a stigmatized label that carries with it images of weakness and radicalism, lethargic apathy and elitism.

Part of what Living Liberally has sought to do since its creation has been to remove that stigma. To make it so that people can proudly say that they're a liberal, whether its at a New York City bar where talking politics is no-no or Goody's in super-red Pocatello, Idaho. Living Liberally enables people to build progressive community and show the world what their liberal values are.

But the question still remains: what do liberals believe? Is it the values of human rights, equality and justice? Is it absolute liberty and the search for personal empowerment? These are questions I deal with pretty often.

And as it turns out, I might have found the answer. William Martin's new book What Liberals Believe is filled with THOUSANDS of liberal on many issues from rights to religion. The sayers of these quotes include (and I'm just flipping to a random page and reading off some names here) Thom Hartman, Herman Hesse, Vaclac Havel, MLK, Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Bishop Desmond Tutu and Lao Tzu.

It's a great reference book and might help us liberals to truly define our core beliefs.
But one of the most interesting parts of WLB, to me at least, is the number of quotes that contradict each other. For a book that seems to be about putting together a coherent liberal philosophy, contradictory messaging seems like it would bad thing, right?

I don't know. Maybe our lack of one comprehensive way of thought, our commitment to individual values and interpretation and our desire to constantly strengthen and grow the marketplace of ideas is an important part of what we liberals believe: "Democracy doesn't live on bread along; it lives on ideas too." (Bill Moyers quoted on page 619.)

Daily Round-Up: Get Along, Little Lemmings!

1. Salon and Slate both weigh in on why they don't think the New Yorker cover is a big deal ; meanwhile, the New York Times reports on why no one wants to joke about Obama.

2. Huffington Post blogger (and Brandeis University sophomore) Nathan Robinson agreed to watch FOX News for 24 hours straight.

3.Free Ride author Paul Waldman linked to this complete list of McCain flip-flops in his article about McCain and the media.

4. Alternet ranked the top ten worst things McCain has done...this week.

5. Elsewhere, the feud between comedian and VH1 "fundit" Michael Ian Black and Tucker Max (the I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell guy) stretches on.

Fear of a Wack Planet

Jonathan Levine's new film The Wackness is great. It really is. It's depressing. No doubt. But it's a good movie.

Josh Peck, as recently graduated- prep school- drug dealer- hip hop enthusiast- virgin- depressive- bored Luke Shapiro and Sir Ben Kingsley as lost- frustrated- depressive- addicted- bored- tired Dr. Squires are excellent together. Their relationship gives the movie an uncompromising reality that infiltrates every moment of the New York City Hip-Hopped bildungsroman. All the actors have a great understanding for their characters and the director really gets you into the protagonists head. So much so, that your emotions twist and squeeze along with Luke's as he suffers through heartbreak, insecurity and a drugged out emptiness that pervades each frame.

As to the movie's authenticity: A+. Heck, I know kids from my New York City high school of whom this movie could very well be a biography. The film stays true to its location, its music and the complexity of each of its characters and the real life teens whose lives this story replicates. So, what about the drugs?

How come, people ask, Luke was never arrested for dealing drugs, even though in the movie he was often doing so in public, out in the open, using a converted Italian Ice cart? Why was there never the slightest fear of repercussions of his actions. Even though 1994 was right when Rudy Giuliani stepped up his anti-drug enforcement? Simple answer: HE'S WHITE.

The Drug Policy Alliance Network, an organization dedicated to promoting drug policies "grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights," lists many reasons why the war on drugs as currently executed in the United States is completely unjust. One of the key reasons they list is the outrageous racial disparity in drug arrests and convictions.

While African Americans represent "only 13% of drug users," a stat that anyone who watches the Wackness will easily recognize, "they make up 38 percent of those arrested for drug offenses and 59 percent of those convicted of drug offenses." Huh? How could this be? According to DPAN, these higher rates reflect the war's enforcement of laws in inner city areas "where drug use and sales are more likely to take place in open-air drug markets where treatment resources are scarce."

Thus, even though Luke deals in open air areas such as Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, the law enforcement resources aren't directed at such a well-to-do, white, neighborhood.

Other examples of this institutionalized racism include the disparity in sentencing among those convicted of using or selling crack cocaine and powder cocaine, two drugs made from the same active ingredient but the first used more often by lower income minorities and the second by more wealthy whites. Guess who gets the stricter sentence?

The Drug War also ends giving lower level dealers and runners more time than mid-level dealers because the mid-level dealers can usually give the police more information, and in doing so get around the mandatory minimums faced by almost all of the lower lever dealers.

As DPAN says:

Everyone has a stake in ending the war on drugs. Whether you’re a parent concerned about protecting children from drug-related harm, a social justice advocate worried about racially disproportionate incarceration rates, an environmentalist seeking to protect the Amazon rainforest or a fiscally conservative taxpayer you have a stake in ending the drug war. U.S. federal, state and local governments have spent hundreds of billions of dollars trying to make America “drug-free.” Yet heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and other illicit drugs are cheaper, purer and easier to get than ever before... The war on drugs has become a war on families, a war on public health and a war on our constitutional rights.

Reading Liberally: Read of the Day

The one thing every liberal must read today:

by Barack Obama, The New York Times

Barack Obama lays out a clear and comprehensive plan for withdrawing from Iraq. He highlights the need to strengthen the US commitment to Afghanistan and furthering our national security interests. Many liberals support Obama's plan for Iraq but don't know the specifics. Time to find out.