Wednesday, November 16, 2011 11:15 AM
After more than thirty years as a media critic, Utne Reader contributor Norman Solomon is running for Congress. Dennis Bernstein at The Progressive spoke to Solomon about this career change. “For more than forty years, I’ve been writing to change the system; now I’m running to change the system,” Solomon told Bernstein.
For decades, we’ve seen one disaster after another as progressives have routinely left the electoral field to corporate Democrats and their Republican colleagues. We desperately need to go beyond the false choice between staying true to ideals and winning public office. Progressives can—and must—do both.
The article quotes Sean Penn, one of Solomon’s campaign supporters, at a recent fundraising event, recalling a trip he and the candidate took to Iran just before the Iraq war began.
“As hundreds, then thousands, gathered around the circle of singing women, suddenly it was the appearance of the special police,” Penn said. “And then out came the batons. As things got chaotic, I briefly lost Norman in the crowd. I was about twenty-five yards from getting to that inner circle of women who were taking bludgeons to the heads. And then I saw Norman, not flinching, standing directly beside them, and he stayed through it all.”
Read the rest of Bernstein’s article about Solomon and read his piece “Democrats Must Push Back” at utne.com.
, The Real News
Monday, October 17, 2011 10:21 AM
Tim DeChristopher is the only person to have been named an Utne Reader visionary while in prison: He’s serving a two-year sentence for disrupting a federal oil and gas lease auction in Utah in an act of environmental protest.
One reason I nominated DeChristopher as a visionary is because he became a hugely inspirational figure to other environmentalists as he wrote and spoke about his principled act of civil disobedience right up until he was led to his cell. But make no mistake: He is in prison mainly because he dared to continue speaking out.
Utah environmentalist and author Terry Tempest Williams writes in The Progressive about the farcical nature of DeChristopher’s four-day trial, which she attended along with a legion of other supporters:
It was a shattering display of politics on the bench, beginning with jury selection. The judge [Dee V. Benson] delivered a lengthy lecture on the importance of impartiality, after which he said to the entire jury pool, “And there should be no discussion between you and the ‘kumbaya’ crowd in the courtroom.” …
But the most egregious remarks were made by Judge Benson himself during the sentencing hearing.
He reprimanded DeChristopher for speaking out after his conviction in March. He stated that DeChristopher might not have faced prosecution, let alone prison, if it were not for that “continuing trail of statements.”
This “continuing trail of statements” is called freedom of speech, your honor, not “anarchy.” The criminal is not DeChristopher but our justice system.
Judge Benson actually stated during the sentencing hearing, “The offense itself, with all apologies to people actually in the auction itself, wasn’t that bad.”
DeChristopher himself, in an August letter from prison published by Grist, showed that he understood all too clearly the connection between his ongoing outspokenness and his sentence:
Judge Benson said that had it not been for the political statements I made in public, I would have avoided prosecution entirely. As is generally the case with civil disobedience, it was extremely important to the government that I come before the majesty of the court with my head bowed and express regret. So important, in fact, that an apology with proper genuflection is currently fair trade for a couple years in prison. Perhaps that’s why most activist cases end in a plea bargain.
Source: The Progressive, Grist
Thursday, September 22, 2011 11:12 AM
Irascible, hard-digging journalist Chris Hedges tells The Progressive in an interview that both Aldous Huxley and George Orwell were on to something, and their dystopic visions are neither far fetched nor incompatible:
“I used to wonder: Is Huxley right or is Orwell right? It turns out they’re both right. First you get the new world state [Brave New World] and endless diversions as you are disempowered. And then, as we are watching, credit dries up, and the cheap manufactured goods of the consumer society are no longer cheap. Then you get the iron fist of Oceania, of Orwell’s 1984.
“That’s precisely the process that’s happened. We have been very effectively pacified by the pernicious ideology of a consumer society that is centered on the cult of the self—an undiluted hedonism and narcissism. That has become a very effective way to divert our attention while the country is reconfigured into a kind of neofeudalism, with a rapacious oligarchic elite and an anemic government that no longer is able to intercede on behalf of citizens but cravenly serves the interests of the oligarchy itself.”
Whew. Hedges also critiques President Barack Obama as “seduced by power and prestige,” describes being booed off the stage at a college commencement for speaking out against the Iraq War, and explains that Americans have some growing up to do. It’s hard stuff, but in the end he tips his hand—he’s doing it all for his new baby girl:
“What kind of a world are we going to leave the next generation? I, at least, want my children to look back and say, ‘My daddy was being arrested at the White House fence and booed off commencement stages. He was trying.’”
Source: The Progressive
(full article available to subscribers only)
, licensed under
Panel image by Shepard Fairey.
Tuesday, May 03, 2011 1:52 PM
Our library contains 1,300 publications—a feast of magazines, journals, alt-weeklies, newsletters, and zines—and every year, we honor the stars in our Utne Independent Press Awards. We’ll announce this year’s winners on Wednesday, May 18, at the
MPA’s Independent Magazine Group conference
in San Francisco. From now until then, we’ll post the nominees in all of the categories on our blogs. Below you’ll find the nominees for the best political coverage, with a short introduction to each. These magazines are literally what Utne Reader is made of. Though we celebrate the alternative press every day and with each issue, once a year we praise those who have done an exceptional job.
The American Conservative
was founded in 2002 as a counterweight to the neocon fervor of the George W. Bush presidency, espousing what it calls “traditional conservatism.” Opening it is like a trip to a parallel universe where right-leaning thinkers can be against war, imperialism, and civil liberties abuses, even while espousing many tenets of social and fiscal conservatism.
The American Prospect
reports on the day’s most essential issues, from immigration to workers’ rights, privacy to prison reform. By combining thorough reportage with deep analysis, it provides progressives with the intellectual and inspirational tools to engage in transformative politics and policy.
A dark horse among its peers, Dissentsubverts politics-as-usual with a cogent blend of rigorous intellectualism and snarky radicalism. Eschewing partisan ideologies, this insightful quarterly never fails to “dissent from the bleak atmosphere of conformism that pervades the political and intellectual life in the United States.”
Bureaucratic crooks and market-wrangling fat cats, beware. You’re under surveillance by the unblinking (and unsympathetic) eye of In These Times. A tireless champion of the oppressed, forgotten, and ignored, the progressive magazine combines meticulous reporting, fierce cultural criticism, rock star writers, and staunch independence.
Since 1976, the folks behind the investigative nonprofit Mother Jones have relentlessly and reliably delivered “smart, fearless journalism,” transcending political spin to unearth stories on everything from global climate change to torturous foreign policy decisions on both sides of the aisle.
A vital progressive voice for nearly 150 years, The Nationweighs in weekly on politics, arts, and culture via vivid features, incisive reviews, and convention-busting commentary. By bucking the trend toward the slick and the glossy, The Nation helps to keep politics real.
The influential, debate-fueling biweekly The New Republic chooses tough critical thinking over easy dogma, encouraging its writers (and readers) to be critical not just of their right-wing foes but also of their fellow liberals. In a political landscape full of bluster, TNR’s cool rigor holds sway.
is more than 100 years old, but this bastion of the liberal press is full of fresh energy and up-to-the-minute currency. Publishing analysis and reporting from leading thinkers, it never loses sight of the people behind the issues it covers.
our complete list of 2011 nominees
Wednesday, December 22, 2010 1:03 PM
This article is printed here courtesy of
, where it originally appeared as a letter to the editor in response to the article “Less Work, More Life.”
The Progressive, in the September issue, both in Matthew Rothschild’s “Editor’s Note” and in the article by John de Graaf (“Less Work, More Life”), offers “less work” and a 30-hour workweek as needs that are as indisputable as the need to eat.
Though I would support the idea of a 30-hour workweek in some circumstances, I see nothing absolute or indisputable about it. It can be proposed as a universal need only after abandonment of any respect for vocation and the replacement of discourse by slogans.
It is true that the industrialization of virtually all forms of production and service has filled the world with “jobs” that are meaningless, demeaning, and boring—as well as inherently destructive. I don’t think there is a good argument for the existence of such work, and I wish for its elimination, but even its reduction calls for economic changes not yet defined, let alone advocated, by the “left” or the “right.” Neither side, so far as I know, has produced a reliable distinction between good work and bad work. To shorten the “official workweek” while consenting to the continuation of bad work is not much of a solution.
The old and honorable idea of “vocation” is simply that we each are called, by God, or by our gifts, or by our preference, to a kind of good work for which we are particularly fitted. Implicit in this idea is the evidently startling possibility that we might work willingly, and that there is no necessary contradiction between work and happiness or satisfaction.
Only in the absence of any viable idea of vocation or good work can one make the distinction implied in such phrases as “less work, more life” or “work-life balance,” as if one commutes daily from life here to work there.
But aren’t we living even when we are most miserably and harmfully at work?
And isn’t that exactly why we object (when we do object) to bad work?
And if you are called to music or farming or carpentry or healing, if you make your living by your calling, if you use your skills well and to a good purpose and therefore are happy or satisfied in your work, why should you necessarily do less of it?
More important, why should you think of your life as distinct from it?
And why should you not be affronted by some official decree that you should do less of it?
A useful discourse on the subject of work would raise a number of questions that Mr. de Graaf has neglected to ask:
What work are we talking about?
Did you choose your work, or are you doing it under compulsion as the way to earn money?
How much of your intelligence, your affection, your skill, and your pride is employed in your work?
Do you respect the product or the service that is the result of your work?
For whom do you work: a manager, a boss, or yourself?
What are the ecological and social costs of your work?
If such questions are not asked, then we have no way of seeing or proceeding beyond the assumptions of Mr. de Graaf and his work-life experts: that all work is bad work; that all workers are unhappily and even helplessly dependent on employers; that work and life are irreconcilable; and that the only solution to bad work is to shorten the workweek and thus divide the badness among more people.
I don’t think anybody can honorably object to the proposition, in theory, that it is better “to reduce hours rather than lay off workers.” But this raises the likelihood of reduced income and therefore of less “life.” As a remedy for this, Mr. de Graaf can offer only “unemployment benefits,” one of the industrial economy’s more fragile “safety nets.”
And what are people going to do with the “more life” that is understood to be the result of “less work”? Mr. de Graaf says that they “will exercise more, sleep more, garden more, spend more time with friends and family, and drive less.” This happy vision descends from the proposition, popular not so long ago, that in the spare time gained by the purchase of “labor-saving devices,” people would patronize libraries, museums, and symphony orchestras.
But what if the liberated workers drive more?
What if they recreate themselves with off-road vehicles, fast motorboats, fast food, computer games, television, electronic “communication,” and the various genres of pornography?
Well, that’ll be “life,” supposedly, and anything beats work.
Mr. de Graaf makes the further doubtful assumption that work is a static quantity, dependably available, and divisible into dependably sufficient portions. This supposes that one of the purposes of the industrial economy is to provide employment to workers. On the contrary, one of the purposes of this economy has always been to transform independent farmers, shopkeepers, and tradespeople into employees, and then to use the employees as cheaply as possible, and then to replace them as soon as possible with technological substitutes.
So there could be fewer working hours to divide, more workers among whom to divide them, and fewer unemployment benefits to take up the slack.
On the other hand, there is a lot of work needing to be done—ecosystem and watershed restoration, improved transportation networks, healthier and safer food production, soil conservation, etc.—that nobody yet is willing to pay for. Sooner or later, such work will have to be done.
We may end up working longer workdays in order not to “live,” but to survive.
Port Royal, Kentucky
Mr. Berry’s letter originally appeared in The Progressive (November 2010) in response to the article “Less Work, More Life.”
Source: The Progressive
Image by jimbowen0306, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010 12:45 PM
This article is printed here courtesy of
. To read a response to it by Wendell Berry, go here.
A few years ago, after finding my way through an incredible jumble of bicycles outside her building, I met with a University of Amsterdam professor who studies work-life balance. She recounted a conversation she’d just had with the manager of the Dutch division of an American company who had come to Holland from the United States two years earlier:
Professor: Do you notice a difference between the approach to work time and free time here compared to the United States?
Manager: Yes, it dawned on me my second week on the job. It was a Friday evening, eight o’clock, and we had an important shipment to get out on Monday. I called my assistant at home, and told her to call some of the workers to get some things done on the weekend in preparation.
Professor: What did she say?
Manager: She said she didn’t work on the weekends, and didn’t expect to be called at home when she wasn’t working.
Professor: And what did you say?
Manager: I said, “Well, excuse me, but I’m the new manager here, and we’re a company that competes in the global economy, and we have an important shipment to get out, and we appreciate employees who are team players.” She said, “OK, I can do what you ask of me, but under Dutch law, you have to pay me double time for unscheduled, overtime, weekend work. And if I call these people, they’ll just get mad at me for interrupting their family time. Don’t worry, we’ll come in Monday, work hard, and get the job done.”
Professor: What did you say then?
Manager: I said, “Oh, forget it!” I hung up the phone in frustration and stewed all weekend.
Professor: And then what happened?
Manager: They came in Monday and got the job done. They work very hard when they’re working so everything was fine. And that’s how it’s been ever since. I’ve gotten to like it that way because now even I have a life.
Less work, more life. It’s a tradeoff that a lot of American workers might appreciate.
Pollsters find time stress a constant complaint among Americans. Until the current recession, Americans were working some of the longest hours in the industrial world.
Conservatives say this is all voluntary: American just like to work a lot. But Gallup’s daily survey finds them 20 percent happier on weekends than on workdays—what a surprise! And when Americans rank the pleasure their daily activities bring, working ends up second from the bottom (socializing after work is second from the top!), more pleasurable only than that mother of all downers, the morning commute.
By contrast, the Netherlands boasts the world’s shortest working hours. Dutch workers put in 400 fewer annual hours on the job than American workers do. And yet, the Dutch economy has been very productive. Unemployment (at 5.8 percent) is much lower than in the United States, while the Netherlands boasts a positive trade balance and strong personal savings. A Gallup survey ranks the Dutch third in the world in life satisfaction, behind only the Danes and Finns, and well ahead of Americans.
The Dutch have been reducing time on the job through work-sharing policies since the 1982 Wassenaar Agreement, when labor unions agreed to modify wage demands in return for more time. Their Working Hours Adjustment Act (2000) require that employers allow workers to cut their hours to part-time while keeping their jobs, hourly pay, health care, and pro-rated benefits.
Anmarie Widener, a health researcher and part-time instructor at Georgetown University, was impressed by the Dutch devotion to time for family and recreation she witnessed while getting her Ph.D. in the Netherlands. Her dissertation compares life satisfaction among Dutch and American parents. Not surprisingly, she says, “My polling showed that in almost every area of life, Dutch parents are substantially more satisfied than their American counterparts.” And so are their children. A 2007 UNICEF study ranked children’s welfare in the Netherlands as the highest in the world. By contrast, the United States was twenty of twenty-one wealthy countries studied, barely edging out the United Kingdom.
Work sharing may be all the more important in times like the present. Economist Dean Baker argues that any further economic stimuli should include Kurzarbeit, or “short work,” a German policy that encourages employers to reduce hours rather than lay workers off when times are tight. Instead of cutting 20 percent of the workforce, a German company might reduce each worker’s load by a day. Unemployment benefits kick in for the reduced work time, so workers earn roughly 90 percent of their former incomes for 80 percent of the work.
Other countries have followed suit—the French believe in “working less so all can work.”
Here in the United States, a bill sponsored by Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, and Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, would allow federal unemployment benefits to be used to top up salaries of reduced-hour workers in the United States. When the bill was discussed in Barney Frank’s House Financial Services Committee, not only did Dean Baker testify in favor but so did Kevin Hassett, an economist with the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
Hassett pointed out that even though the Germans’ economy tanked like ours did in 2008, their unemployment rate hasn’t risen—thanks to Kurzarbeit. The law allows companies to retain workers instead of having to rehire later, he said. It’s good for them, good for the workers, and doesn’t really cost any more than traditional unemployment payments. It’s a win, win, win. Nonetheless, not a single Republican has supported the bill and not all Democrats do either, so it remains in limbo.
Shorter working hours—the roses of “Bread and Roses” fame—are part of a long and progressive American tradition. A famous Dorothea Lange photo from 1937 shows a National Association of Manufacturers billboard on a hardware store. It reads: “World’s Shortest Working Hours—There’s No Way Like the American Way!” A bill passed the U.S. Senate in 1933 that would have made the official workweek only thirty hours long. Presidents from FDR to Richard Nixon called for reducing working hours.
In our time, feminist and women’s groups, including MomsRising.org and the National Partnership for Women and Families, have led the way in promoting work-life balance policies, demanding paid family leave, paid sick days, and flexible hours. Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida has introduced a bill calling for mandatory paid vacations, guaranteed by law in almost every country. The United States joins Burma and a handful of others that don’t offer this basic benefit.
As Juliet Schor makes clear in her new book, Plenitude: the New Economics of True Wealth, shorter work time also makes environmental sense. Planetary restraints and climate change require us to reduce our consumption of resources. Demands for quick extraction of resources lead to catastrophes like the oil volcano beneath the Gulf of Mexico.
As productivity increases, we seem faced with a choice between environmental disaster or massive unemployment. Unless, of course, we slow down by reducing working hours and sharing the work. Half a century of economic growth has not increased our happiness. More free time might well do so. It will certainly improve our health.
Americans will exercise more, sleep more, garden more, volunteer more, spend more time with friends and family, and drive less. We need full employment, but not by returning to the unhealthy overwork of recent decades As Derek Bok puts it in his new book, The Politics of Happiness:
“If it turns out to be true that rising incomes have failed to make Americans happier, as much of the recent research suggests, what is the point of working such long hours and risking environmental disaster in order to keep on doubling and redoubling our gross domestic product?”
Progressives would do well to advocate reduced working hours instead of demanding unsustainable growth. Suzy Ross, who teaches at San Jose State University, told me that when her co-workers found that they would have to take furlough days and commensurate pay cuts in response to California’s budget crisis, they all responded in anger. Now, she says, they appreciate the extra two days off each month, and few want to give them up, though they could use the money.
Reducing work hours and sharing available work is essential for our families, health, economic security, and the environment.
It’s time to get on with it.
This article originally appeared in The Progressive, September 2010. To read a response to it by Wendell Berry, go here.
John de Graaf is a documentary filmmaker, director of Take Back Your Time (www.timeday.org), and co-author of “Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic.” His new book, “What’s the Economy For, Anyway?” will be published by Bloomsbury Press in 2011.
Image by dizid, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, April 19, 2010 2:54 PM
Our library contains 1,300 publications—a feast of magazines, journals, alt-weeklies, newsletters, and zines—and every year, we honor the stars in our Utne Independent Press Awards. We’ll announce this year’s winners on Sunday, April 25, at the MPA’s Independent Magazine Group conference in Washington, D.C., and post them online the following Monday. We’re crazy about these publications, and we’d love it for all of our readers to get to know them better, too. So, every weekday until the conference, we’ll be posting mini-introductions to our complete list of 2010 nominees.
The following eight magazines are our 2010 nominees in the category of political coverage.
The American Prospect reports on the day’s most essential issues, from immigration to workers’ rights, privacy to prison reform. By combining thorough reportage with deep analysis, it provides progressives with the intellectual and inspirational tools to engage in transformative politics and policy. www.prospect.org
Since 1976, the folks behind the investigative nonprofit Mother Jones have relentlessly and reliably delivered “smart, fearless journalism,” transcending the day’s political spin to unearth stories on everything from global climate change to torturous foreign policy decisions on both sides of the aisle. www.motherjones.com
Ms. has been at the forefront of feminist politics since 1972. In 2009 the editors shone light on a host of pressing issues, including the Obama administration’s abortion policies and the need for domestic workers’ rights. Featuring journalism that provokes action, this quarterly loves a righteous fight. www.msmagazine.com
The Nation has been a vital progressive voice for nearly 150 years, weighing in weekly on politics, arts, and culture via vivid features, incisive reviews, and convention-busting commentary. By bucking the trend against the slick and the glossy, The Nation helps to keep politics real. www.thenation.com
The influential, debate-fueling biweekly The New Republic chooses tough critical thinking over easy dogma, encouraging its writers (and readers) to be critical not just of their right-wing foes but also their fellow liberals. In a political landscape full of bluster, TNR’s cool rigor holds sway. www.tnr.com
The Progressive turned 100 last year, but this bastion of the liberal press is full of fresh energy and up-to-the-minute currency. Publishing analysis and reporting from leading thinkers, it never loses sight of the people behind the issues it covers. www.progressive.org
With hard-hitting reports on immigration, life on the border, education, prisons, and social justice issues, The Texas Observer has carved out a niche worth celebrating. Its unmatched reportage and analysis kneecaps those who traffic in malfeasance, corruption, and injustice. www.texasobserver.org
Washington Monthly forged ahead of the mainstream on many issues this year, from textbook revisionism in Texas to the subprime student loan racket, making it a must-read beyond the Beltway. Its reporting is unimpeachable, its analysis sound, and its reputation for sagacity well earned. www.washingtonmonthly.com
Want more? Meet our international, health and wellness, spirituality, and science and technology nominees.
Monday, August 24, 2009 2:42 PM
Madison-based magazine The Progressive, an energetic voice of dissent and activism for 100 years, has issued an urgent appeal for funds. Longtime editor Matthew Rothschild is very straightforward about the magazine’s plight, explaining how they got there, what cuts they’ve made, and how they will manage long-term survival after this big fundraising push.
“Let me put it to you straight,” he writes on the magazine’s website. “We desperately need to raise $90,000 in the next two weeks to keep going. We’ve got no money in the bank, and we have payroll to meet on August 31, and our printer to pay, and other creditors hounding us.”
Since he posted the appeal last week, they’ve already collected about $60,000—two-thirds of what they need—and you can add to the count by donating here.
Even in a lean economy, such an outpouring of financial support isn’t too surprising (though it is, of course, extremely heartening): The Progressive, which celebrated its centennial earlier this year, has a long, strong relationship with its radical readers. It’s a relationship that matters come fundraising time, as feminist magazine Bitch found out last September, when its readers forked over tens of thousands of dollars in a matter of days to keep the magazine going. Meanwhile, music-enthusiast readers of Paste have donated more than $250,000 this year as part of a longer-term fundraising drive.
Madison’s alt-weekly, Isthmus, has more on The Progressive’s crunch.
Sources: The Progressive, Isthmus
Thursday, June 11, 2009 10:37 AM
In his latest column for The Progressive, sportswriter Dave Zirin jabs his populist pen at the "Houses of Steinbrenner and Wilpon" and their new stadiums (for the Yankees and Mets, respectively) that cost nearly two billion dollars in taxpayer money. Being careful to laud the work of the architects, construction workers, and designers, he gets right to the work of shaming the forces of greed behind America's beloved pastime (which is becoming something of a pastime in its own right):
The stadiums are cathedrals. But these are churches that desperately entice the money changers, and want to toss the rest of us out of the temple. After underwriting these ballpark Vaticans, the people have been positively priced out...This is merely the latest example that shows that while the relationship between fans and the great sport of baseball may be sacred, it is also abusive.
Many teams have relinquished the myth that baseball is somehow "recession proof" and have tried to adjust...but the Yankees and Mets didn't get the memo, spiking prices to unconscionable heights. This led to a recent story on ESPN of a boss who had to decide whether to keep his newly priced season tickets or lay off two workers. He chose to keep the workers and lose the tickets. The boss was lauded like a hero. But it does make you wonder how many folks in the park have taken the other option.
Source: The Progressive
. Licensed under
Wednesday, March 04, 2009 2:40 PM
Utne Reader librarian Danielle Maestretti shares the highlights (and occasional lowlights) of what's landing in our library each week. Utne's library is abuzz with a steady flow of 1,300 magazines, journals,weeklies, zines, and other dispatches from the independent press.
Featured in this week’s episode:
- "Why we make art," from Greater Good
- The Progressive on toxic computer-recycling programs at federal prisons (not yet available online)
- Dambisa Moyo, outspoken critic of aid to Africa, in the conservative British magazine Standpoint
- Pretty birds in Botswana, courtesy of Living Bird (not yet available online)
Sources: Greater Good, The Progressive, Standpoint, Living Bird
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