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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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Entries since March 2012

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The Lineup: Week of March 12-18, 2012

March 12, 2012 ·

In this week's OtherWords editorial package, Martha Burk weighs in on Rush Limbaugh's ill-timed attack on Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke and its aftermath and William A. Collins discusses the death-with-dignity movement. Get all this and more in your inbox by subscribing to our weekly newsletter. If you haven't signed up yet, please do.

  1. Rush Limbaugh and the Live Volcano / Martha Burk
    American women are fed up.
  2. Hate Groups Spread Lies and Kill Cops / Mark Potok
    Law enforcement officials say the number of violent encounters with anti-government "sovereign citizens" is rising.
  3. Inching Toward Progress on the North Korean Nuke Problem / Duyeon Kim
    The road to a negotiated settlement will be long and bumpy.
  4. Job-Killing Tax Breaks / Rachael Solem
    If the government is going to give anyone tax breaks, they should give them to people like me before I became an entrepreneur.
  5. Pumping Gas Prices for All They're Worth / Donald Kaul
    Can our nation survive $5-a-gallon gas?
  6. Attack of the Billionaires / Jim Hightower
    Some 300 uber-rich corporate plutocrats and their political hirelings have pledged at least $100 million to bombard the Obama campaign with viciously negative ads.
  7. The Freedom to Die with Dignity / William A. Collins
    Catholic hospitals follow an edict that requires them to override do-not-resuscitate orders.
  8. Five Bucks a Gallon / Khalil Bendib

Five Bucks a Gallon, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib.

Malice Versus Nobility: Scooter Libby and Bradley Manning

March 11, 2012 ·

Scooter Libby and Bradley Manning.After 9/11, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a Yale graduate with a law degree from Columbia, and fellow neo cons plotted to twist and invent "intelligence" data to convince the public that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, so as to build a case for invading Iraq.

From 2001 to 2005, Libby served as Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs, Chief of Staff to the Vice President of the United States and Assistant to President George W. Bush.

Libby and fellow neo cons stressed Bush’s dubious 2003 State of the Union Address claim that "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Cheney repeated that Saddam Hussein was "trying once again to produce nuclear weapons" in March of that year.

The CIA was asked to investigate. Joe Wilson, a former U.S. Ambassador and expert on Africa, got chosen for the mission. His wife, Valery Plame, worked as a covert CIA operator.

Wilson dismissed the “yellow-cake tale”. His July 2003 New York Times op-ed, What I Didn't Find In Africa, suggested the Bushies had invented pretexts for the Iraq war.

Libby and fellow war plotters Karl Rove and Richard Armitage, not satisfied by their success in making war, wanted to punish their Washington enemies. They leaked Plame’s name to the mischievous columnist Robert Novak — to punish her husband, Wilson. Novak’s story ended her CIA career, and exposed her agents and contacts.

A jury later convicted Libby of obstruction of justice and perjury around the case. A judge sentenced him to 30 months in prison, and fined him $250,000. Bush, months later, commuted his term.  But no one got charged with plotting to distribute false information to lure the public to war. The New York Times had even helped the campaign by publishing the lies as news stories on its front page.

Count the Bush cabal’s accomplishments: thousands of dead US military personnel and contractors, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis; hundreds of thousands wounded, physically and mentally – here and there. Iraq remains broken. 13,000 Iraqis died violently last year. Bush destroyed Iraq’s integrity. His profligate war spending vastly increased the national debt. His definitive biography might be called: “Lying The Nation Into War.”

Libby served some months in prison. But the neo con gang should be called simply "cons" – as in convicts. Most of them got great jobs instead.

In November 2005, a Marine Corps unit killed 24 unarmed Iraqi men, women and children in Haditha, Iraq. Investigators determined all died from multiple gun shot wounds at close range  — apparently as payback for an Iraqi rebel attack on a US convoy in which a Marine Corporal died – the mini My Lai of Iraq.

This past January 24, a U.S. military judge handed down harsh sentences. Squad leader, Staff Sgt. Frank G. Wuterich, pleaded guilty of war crimes and received a maximum of 90 days in prison and a reduction in pay and rank. He served no time in the brig. One Marine was acquitted; six others had their cases dropped

No U.S. official has been charged for the massive number of civilian deaths in Iraq, or for lying as a pretext for war. Who remembers the Nuremberg laws?

Now look at Private Bradley Manning’s ordeal. He had access to and allegedly released — to Julian Assange of Wikileaks — hundreds of thousands of secret documents. These documents did not expose secrets vital to our enemy, but lies, corruption and crimes by U.S. officials and those of other countries. Manning’s defense team stresses that what Wikileaks published wasn’t or shouldn’t have been secret.

Manning did however embarrass U.S. officials by exposing their illegal, stupid, selfish and downright inane activities. If he illegally distributed those documents, why doesn't the Justice Department charge the New York Times and other newspapers that gleefully distributed this supposedly classified (mortifying) material? One video Manning allegedly released spread virally. U.S. helicopter gunship members get orders to fire on Iraqis because one (a Reuters cameraman) might have a weapon (a video camera). We witness from the camera mounted on the gun the massacre of a group of men near the cameraman, and then of others who subsequently arrive to help the wounded, including a child in a van. Humanitarian behavior in Iraq? Who invited us there?

Was this classified because Iraqis didn’t know our troops did such things – or because it disgraces our military?

With vindictiveness aforethought the military held Manning for months in solitary confinement – often naked with the light on all night — in the Quantico Virginia Marine Base. Solitary confinement “crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment,” as John McCain described his two years of solitary confinement in Vietnam.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The Center for Constitutional Rights, the ACLU and the New York Times concluded that solitary confinement constitutes torture, designed to break a person. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture tried to investigate Manning’s prison conditions. The military refused his request for an unmonitored visit.

The 24 year-old Manning faces 22 charges, including "aiding the enemy." If convicted, the government will call for life imprisonment, unless Manning implicates Julian Assange in the "conspiracy" to expose the "secret" sins of U.S. national security. Members of the Icelandic Parliament have nominated Manning for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Let's help him win it – as a free man.

The Spirit Level: Inequality Coming to a Theater Near You

March 6, 2012 ·

The Spirit Level book coverThe best book on inequality since the Great Recession began may soon become a major motion picture playing at a theater near you — if a new independent film fundraising campaign succeeds.

Three documentary film artists are now working to give The Spirit Level, the landmark 2010 book by British epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, a fresh new visual dimension. The effort has the blessing of the Equality Trust, the UK organizing initiative The Spirit Level inspired.

The Spirit Level mixes text and graphs and makes an incredibly powerful case for the importance of achieving a significantly more equal world. The online “crowd-funding” campaign for the new Spirit Level documentary features a delightful short video that sums up the book’s central findings. Take a look and smile:

In this week’s Too Much, we’re offering up still another smile-inducer: the story of the major mainstream global pol who last week busted the consensus that has — for over 30 years — kept a lid on the taxes rich people pay. The details on this week's edition of Too Much.

The Lineup: Week of March 5-11, 2012

March 5, 2012 ·

In this week's OtherWords editorial package, Donald Kaul reflects on the Iraq War debacle, Chris Toensing explains that NATO's warplanes didn't necessarily "save lives" in Libya, and Jim Cason says that Washington's new reliance on drone warfare is too dangerous. Get all this and more in your inbox by subscribing to our weekly newsletter. If you haven't signed up yet, please do.

  1. No Nuclear Nirvana on the Horizon / Robert Alvarez
    Nearly a year after the Fukushima disaster and more than three decades after the Three Mile Island accident, nuclear power remains expensive, dangerous, and too radioactive for Wall Street.
  2. Washington's Dangerous New Military Strategy / Jim Cason
    Drones may seem like a way to wage war on the cheap, but the moral cost of this kind of warfare is too high.
  3. Libya's Lessons / Chris Toensing
    Body counts would be embarrassing.
  4. Congress Must Pass a Farm Bill in 2012 / Ben Burkett
    Our farm and food system is broken.
  5. Iraq Takes It Personally / Donald Kaul
    "Don't let the door hit you on the way out" is terrifying in Arabic.
  6. Treating Sick Rich Folks / Jim Hightower
    The plutocratic elite is perverting health care into a luxury commodity.
  7. Raw Trade Deals / William A. Collins
    With cheap imports woven tightly into U.S. manufacturing and retail, corporations have a lot at stake.
  8. Dr. Strangedrone / Khalil Bendib

Dr. Strangedrone, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib.

The Right's Great Hope: Rick Santorum

March 4, 2012 ·

The media’s ability to confuse celebrity "news" with war and economic disaster grows stronger. From the Borowitz Report:

As North Korea ramped up its threats to attack South Korea, CNN reassured its viewers that a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula would have "no effect whatsoever" on its Whitney Houston coverage.

Whitney even in death outranks fighting in Syria, wherever that is. Right wing preachers distract their electorate (congregations) by linking God to political issues.

Bible man for President? Illustration by DonkeyHotey.TV appeals by Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell sucked millions of dollars from their flocks. God spoke to them, they said. "God may have allowed what the nation deserved because of moral decay," Falwell warned. "God wants you to succeed in business," he preached. Frank Diamond and I documented it in our 1982 film, Quest for Power: The Origins of the New American Right.

Robertson and Falwell blamed 9/11 on the ACLU, abortionists, feminists, gays, and the People For the American Way. Occasionally, the right’s moral authority pose gets undermined. Leading moral protagonists get caught in dalliances. Swaggart was caught twice with hookers, Colorado New Life Church preacher Ted Haggard had his male masseuse shoot speed up his rectum before entering him; and Jim Baker was with a woman and boys, plus he stole money. The moral, rightwing stalwart former U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond impregnated a 15-year old black girl.

Loyal Republican churchgoers, many of them poor, don’t seem to care about such routine scandals. Bible thumping presidential aspirant Rick Santorum  — hallelujah! — claims he has closer links to two of the holy trio than his rivals.

Santorum’s campaign staff must have pasted that quote to their computer screens when they write his speeches. On February 16 he told the Detroit Economic Club:

“I’m not about equality of result when it comes to income inequality. There is income inequality in America. There always has been and, hopefully, and I do say that, there always will be.”

Does such rhetoric turn poor voters against him? According to Gallup, in 2010 those living in the 10 "most conservative" states  received 21.2 percent of their income in government transfers, while the number for the 10 "most liberal states" was only 17.1 percent. Since the conservative states are also poor their people have fewer income sources and rely on government programs.

Amazingly, many of these recipients don’t concede that the government manages Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; instead, they "don’t want government in our lives." According to Cornell University's Suzanne Mettler "44 percent of Social Security recipients, 43 percent of those receiving unemployment benefits, and percent of Medicare recipients say they have not used a government program."

Santorum accuses Obama of dramatically expanding the government safety net (putting more people in prison?) without mentioning the Bush era recession that produced huge jumps in unemployment and foreclosures. "The safety net is the same, but more people are falling into it," Krugman concluded.

Like the celibate Catholic hierarchy, Santorum alerted us to "the dangers of contraception in this country… It’s not OK. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be." Did Swaggart and Baker use protection? Strom Thurmond didn’t.

The Supreme Court decided we can do any kind of sex in our homes, Santorum whined. "Then you have the right to bigamy, the right to polygamy … incest…adultery…the right to anything."

The Bible is replete with the above, so Santorum appealed to a higher source. "This right to privacy doesn’t exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution."

Fanatic? Listen to his Obamacare complaint:

One of the things that you don’t know about ObamaCare in one of the mandates is they require free prenatal testing …because free prenatal testing ends up in more abortions and, therefore, less care that has to be done, because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society… another hidden message as to what president Obama thinks of those who are less able than the elites who want to govern our country.

Santorum’s disabled daughter has had health complications. Doctors understand pre-natal testing can detect problems and prepare parents and doctors to get appropriate care for the newborn.

For Santorum even rape and ensuing pregnancy don’t warrant abortion.

“The right approach is to accept this horribly created, in the sense of rape…gift of life and accept what God is giving you. You just "make the best out of a bad situation."

On climate change: “No such thing,” says Santorum. Obama had “radical environmentalist” ideas. He doesn’t want us to use more of our country’s natural resources because Obama believes “man is here to serve the Earth.” Coincidentally, in 2010, Consol Energy paid “consultant” Santorum $142,500 to try to stop the Obama administration from tightening limits on greenhouse gas emissions. Henry Decker

“Satan has his sights set on the United States of America,” Santorum told a crowd at Ave Maria University in 2008. A Sanctum victory will restore “God-given rights,” and erase a government that “will tell you who you are, what you’ll do and when you’ll do it.”

Imagine endless media stories on Sanctimonious’ sympathetic family and disadvantaged child! Imagine many democratic voters staying home because Obama has disappointed them! Sanctimonious just lost Michigan to Insincerity.

So, think twice before not voting. H.L. Mencken reminds us “The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.”

Saul Landau is an Institute for Policy Studies Fellow. His film "Will The Real Terrorist Stand Up" screens at Berkeley’s Unitarian Church on March 15, 7 PM and his film "Fidel" screens at IPS on March 28.

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