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As the country once again celebrates the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, it is useful for us to re-examine the civil rights leader's philosophy.

He was not just a dreamer. He was a scathing critic of America for failing to live up to its ideals. As he said in a seldom-quoted passage of his 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech, "America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked 'insufficient funds.'"

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Judge Samuel Alito's record is a mixed bag on gay and lesbian issues.

Alito is unabashedly conservative. Yet in 1971, as an undergraduate at Princeton University, Alito headed a student taskforce that wrote a report on "the boundaries of privacy in American society." In a foreword to the report, Alito wrote, "We sense a great threat to privacy in modern America. We all believe that action must be taken ... to preserve privacy."

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Blogressive January 5, 2005

Did Bush eavesdrop on a CNN reporter? (And her husband, a Kerry advisor?)

Now this is an interesting chain of events:

On Tuesday, MSNBC.com published a transcript of an Andrea Mitchell interview with James Risen, one the reporters who broke the NSA wiretapping story, with this tantalizing exchange:

Mitchell: Do you have any information about reporters being swept up in this net?

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Judge Samuel Alito's paper trail reveals some shockingly narrow views on the rights of people with disabilities. Senators conducting his upcoming confirmation hearing need to question him vigorously in this regard.

Based on his record, Alito, who is President Bush's nominee to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court, has the potential to be hostile to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Several leading disability rights organizations have come out in strong opposition to his nomination.

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Many members of the House of Representatives would have you believe that church workers and humanitarian organizations are criminals.

On Dec. 16, 2005, the House passed a border-security bill that could have dire consequences for church personnel and social service agencies that provide humanitarian aide to undocumented residents.

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Blogressive January 4, 2005

Good Type, and Bad Factchecking

In an article in the New York Times' first edition of the year, "Good Film, Shame About the Helvetica", Peter Edidin nitpicks the film "Good Night, and Good Luck" for using an anachronistic typeface.

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Like Betsy Ross, I sew American flags. But I do my work for 55 cents an hour in an assembly line inside the Central California Women's Facility, one of the largest women's prisons in the world.

I was sentenced to prison for 15 years after being convicted of selling $20 worth of heroin to an undercover cop. I sew flags to buy toiletries and food.

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It’s a core American value that if someone works hard, he or she deserves to live in dignity, and yet the $7.50 hourly wage that Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott pays thousands of his workers doesn’t meet that basic standard.

These workers often must choose between paying the rent or bringing their child to the doctor. To force workers to make such choices does not reflect good family values on Wal-Mart’s part.

Scott recently announced he will be capping wages and using more lower-paid part-timers. Easy for him. He made $10 million last year.

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The GOP assault on America's social safety net hit new lows with the Dec. 21 budget deal, which will gut public health insurance.

The process was tawdry. Negotiators emerged from a weekend conference meeting at 1 a.m. on Dec. 19 with a 774 page tome that the House leadership had moved to a vote by 6 a.m.

Representatives got just five bleary-eyed hours to review a bill that radically reshapes public health insurance, weakens child support and foster care, threatens disability insurance and further erodes public assistance.

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I'm returning to Baghdad. As a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams, I believe it is my call, despite the fact that four of my colleagues are still missing there.

Our organization has maintained a presence in Iraq since October 2002. We were there before and during the invasion, and we've been there since, standing with the Iraqi people throughout this time of threat, destruction and occupation.

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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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