Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Progressive

Online at The Progressive, you have Ruth Conniff's latest from her Monday blog, "Chickenhawk Hubris:"

Like Michael Moore's segment on military recruitment in Farenheit 9/11, the Times story showed how the military uses dishonest salesmanship to lure teenagers with few prospects. It's like Russian roulette. You win, you get to go to college. You lose, you die.
The military was not such a bad deal for a lot of young people in the 1980s and 1990s. But now it's a different story. Thanks to the incredible hubris of this Administration, run by chickenhawks who dodged service in Vietnam, but don't hesitate to waste the lives of a generation of kids less fortunate than themselves.

Military recruting is down 56 percent across the nation, and even the National Guard is a hard sell these days. Hence all the talk about the prospect of a new draft. A lawyer I know is starting up a "peace school" to help lay the groundwork for children her son's age to claim conscientious objector status. www.topix.net/city/barneveld-wi

Online each Tuesday, you'll find Amitabh Pal's Blog. (Pal blogs every Tuesday.) Will Durst provides The Daily Does of Durst (Monday through Friday). Editor Matthew Rothschild provides "This Just In" and "McCarthyism Watch." In addition, you can listen to his Progressive Point of View radio spots as well as his half-hour weekly show Progressive Radio.

Online, you'll find some articles from each issue available. This month, that includes the Seymour Hersh interview we noted earlier. Also available is Anne-Marice Cusak's "The Trouble with Tasers." From that article:

A study of available medical literature commissioned by Taser International and available on the company's website says that older people may have particular vulnerabilities. "Elderly subjects and those with preexisting heart disease are perhaps at an increased risk of cardiac complications and death following exposure to large quantities of electrical energy," wrote Anthony Bleetman of the University of Birmingham. "Since the elderly and heart patients don't often require to be subdued or controlled with a high level of force, then this is unlikely to pose a common problem."
Scientists and medical doctors have several theories, some of them conflicting, about how tasers affect bodies. Electricity near the heart can be dangerous, explains John Webster, professor emeritus in biomedical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, "because it might cause ventricular fibrillation." Webster and a team of University of Wisconsin researchers are investigating the taser's effect on the heart for the U.S. Department of Justice. While suggesting that the taser may be relatively safe for the heart, they speculate that an excess of potassium, produced when muscles contract violently but also produced by cocaine use, may be a key ingredient in the deaths associated with the device.
Many police departments say that use of tasers has reduced injuries and fatalities. The city of Phoenix saw a 54 percent drop in police shootings the year it began to use tasers. In 2003, Seattle, which also uses tasers, for the first time in fifteen years had no shootings that involved officers. That correlation has made tasers popular.
[. . .]

But Amnesty International says the tasers are making it too easy for the police to use excessive force. "Claims that tasers have led to a fall in police shootings need to be put into perspective, given that shootings constitute only a small percentage of all police use of force," says the November report. "In contrast, taser usage has increased dramatically, becoming the most prevalent force option in some departments. While police shootings in Phoenix fell from twenty-eight to thirteen in 2003, tasers were used that year in 354 use-of-force incidents, far more than would be needed to avoid a resort to lethal force."

Also available in Rothschild's commentary this month entitled "A Woman's Right Is in Peril:"

Four days after his second inauguration, George Bush addressed an anti-abortion rally in Washington, D.C., by phone. "The America of our dreams, where every child is welcomed in law, in life, and protected in law, may be some ways away, but even from the far side of the river . . . we can see its glimmerings," he told the crowd. "I ask that God bless you for your dedication."
Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, went even further. "The end of abortion on demand has started," he said to the tens of thousands of people who attended the rally. Interviewed by an anti-abortion group at the event, he also said, "This is a pro-life country."
If Bush and Brownback and the anti-abortion movement have their way, it will be, even though the majority of Americans support choice.
But the views of the public are not dominating the debate in Washington and in statehouses around the country. The views of the anti-abortion zealots are.

The print issue features Molly Ivins each month. Howard Zinn and Barbara Ehrenreich are among the contributors to the magazine. (Kate Clinton and Will Durst alternate a column taking a humorous look at the state of the union and world.)

Started in 1909, The Progressive is one of our country's oldest publication. It is also one of the few surviving magazines that can boast of being sued (up to the Supreme Court) by the government (search United States v. The Progressive).

In the posts on The Nation, five people e-mailed in asking for some sort of personal comments and not a general overview. So I'll note that I first bought The Progressive when they did an interview with Susan Faludi in the nineties. And that was it really it for me. Until the haze in the last quarter of 2001 that refused to allow any questioning of the Bully Boy. At that point, I started picking up The Progressive each month to penetrate the haze. At one point, Matthew Rothschild did a book review of a much lauded book. The book had some problems with scholarship and layout (I'm being kind) and yet it was being greeted as though it were this amazing opus, stuffed with new findings and thoughts that had never once been uttered. Rothschild pricked the hot air balloon of that book with a thoughtful and thought provoking review. It was shortly after that review that I began subscribing.

The Progressive has many strengths but one that stands out to me is the grasp of the political nature of the arts. While other magazines (such as The Nation and In These Times) cover arts, The Progressive doesn't relegate that field to the back pages. The political nature of the arts can be (and is) addressed in the main section. One of the standouts that spring to my mind is the interview that they did with Maxine Hong-Kingston. (Clamor is another example of a magazine that makes a point to recognize the porous borders between art and politics.)

All magazines have a unique quality (unless the publisher's switching editors and attempting to chase down whatever the latest fad is -- thereby creating an identity crisis for the magazine) and for The Progressive, I'd identify their unique quality (and I could be wrong, this is my opinion) as the porous nature. A story isn't an "environmental" story and another story a "political" story. Like Michael Walzer's Spheres of Justice*, the magazine recognizes and demonstrates the influences that different spheres have on one another.

As to whether The Progressive is a magazine that would speak to you (a question Dorothy wished I'd addressed when discussing The Nation), only you can make that call. Online, you'll find archives going back to 1998 that will give you a sample of each issue. You'll also find a new archive that they are adding to which is entitled "The Best of The Progressive" and presents some of the noteable articles from the past (some in pdf format). So utitilize those features to determine whether or not The Progressive speaks to you.

[Note: Minor point but it's bugging me so let me clarify. I had problems with Spheres of Justice -- and as someone who falls into the Judith N. Shklar camp, I'm feeling I need to note that. In addition to her criticisms of the book, I'd add that at it's very basic, the book appears to have been influenced by Jewish mysticism but it leaves out the sphere which interacts with all spheres -- I believe that was din, but check me on that, it's been over a decade since I've read the book. However, the basic concept I'm referring to in my faulty comparison above is the interaction that all spheres -- regardless of their assigned area -- have on one another. It is a minor point, but anyone who knows me and knows I'm C.I. will hit me up with, "I can't believe you praised Spheres of Justice with no qualifiers!" So consider it a personal note added here for my own peace of mind.]