The failure of the U.S. Senate to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities marks a new low.

The treaty, which was written by disability activists from around the world, is a far-reaching and thoughtful document. But it is purely symbolic.

Its chief value is that it provides a legal and moral framework for activists to push for disability rights legislation and policies in their own countries. If it had been ratified it would have made little or no immediate difference for people with disabilities in the United States.

Ratification would have basically just stated the moral concurrence of the government and citizens of the United States with the principles of the treaty. The vote should have been routine.

But Rick Santorum, the social conservative who lost his bid for the Republican presidential nomination this year, complained about an "offensive" provision in the treaty. It reads: "In all actions concerning children with disabilities, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration." This, Santorum wrote, threatens parental rights because it puts "the government, acting under U.N. authority, in the position to determine for all children with disabilities what is best for them."


Does Santorum really believe the hidden agenda of the treaty is to empower the United Nations to swoop in and seize custody of his disabled daughter or anyone else's?

Bradley Mattes, president of the International Right to Life Federation, was freaked out by another provision that declared that disabled people have the right to "free or affordable health care, including the area of sexual and reproductive health and population-based health programs." He said it "intentionally sacrifices the most vulnerable -- the disabled and the unborn -- all in the name of population control."

So Santorum, Mattes and others on the far right told their base to hound their senators into opposing the treaty.

Eight Republican senators voted for ratification. Republican statesmen like George H.W. Bush and Robert Dole passionately supported the treaty.

This was not a case of Republicans versus Democrats. This was the right-wing fringe versus everybody else.

During the election campaign, the far right demonstrated its contempt for the rights of women, gay people and Latinos. It holds the rights of people with disabilities in equal contempt, and now that is on display, too.

The Senate vote was a slap in the face for the 54 million Americans with disabilities -- and for all Americans who expect our country to stand up for basic rights.

Mike Ervin is a Chicago-based writer and a disability-rights activist with ADAPT ( He can be reached at

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It's finally setting in: Trump is Trump and he’s not going to change because of winning the nomination.

The new head of the Environmental Protection has a history of suing the agency for trying to do its job.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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