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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 May 2010

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From the Frontlines: May 28th, 2010

May 28, 2010 ·

Goldcorp's Marlin open-pit mine in Guatemala in May 2010. Photo: Tracy Glynn/NB Media Co-opPeople will be marching against hate in Arizona this weekend, joining the AFL-CIO, SEIU, PDA, and the National Day Laborers' Union.

Sudan inaugurated incumbent President Omar Al-Bashir with pomp and circumstance yesterday in Khartoum.  While well attended by neighboring Arab leaders and Sudanese representatives, western and sub-Saharan leaders notably boycotted the ceremony, hoping to delegitimize the controversial elections last month.

Obama affirms moratorium on deepwater drilling and defended his administration’s response to the Gulf oil leak. In conjunction with the president’s press conference, the head of the Minerals Management Service in charge of the Gulf’s drilling operations announced his resignation.

A liability cap is just another term for "bailout." And it looks like, thanks to Mitch McConnell and others in the Senate, BP (yes, that BP) is poised to get one heck of a bailout for polluting our Gulf.

And on the other side of the Capitol, the House rebuffs a veto threat on the fighter jet engine program.

A landslide election in Ethiopia Monday reinstated four-time incumbent Zenawi Meles and his EPRDF party, despite a trend towards more open, democratic elections in the previous 2005 election cycle. 

"If the mine would leave, it would leave us in peace and we would live as before, happily. No more women would be persecuted and criminalized." Women stand their ground against a Canadian gold mine in Guatemala.

Indonesia announces a two-year moratorium on logging in an unprecedented climate change effort, acknowledging scientists’ estimates that deforestation accounts for 20 percent of all CO2 emissions.

Obama at the BP Press Conference

May 28, 2010 ·

Obama at the 5/27 press conference. Credit: US White HouseCompetence. Obama oozes it. He always seems at ease during these press conferences, calmly slapping away questions like so many flies (yes, I’ll admit it, the only reason I'm employing this simile is so I can link to this really cool video of the President killing a fly just as it lands on his hand.  You've seen it before but watch it again! It's cool! He's cool!).

And there was much substance too; just about everyone knew going in that this press conference would be all about BP and the oil spill in the Gulf, and the president was prepared.  He defended his administration's response to the spill, he accepted the blame when necessary, and at the end, he even deployed what has become a trademark Obama tactic: He utilized a seemingly innocent question from one of his girls -- this one from Malia -- as an opportunity to reinforce how deeply he feels about a particular issue and to place everything into warm and fuzzy context.

Somehow, Malia's innocent Daddy, have you plugged the hole provided a segue way to a brief monologue about his love for the environment, his concern for the future, and his feelings about Simon Cowell's departure from American ldol (ok, everything except for the American Idol bit, but one can never be sure), which caused me to wonder, for a brief moment, if Malia had actually uttered those words.  No matter. It was great television.

There were a few awkward moments however, and all came towards the end.  The first came when Chip Reid of CBS News asked the president whether Elizabeth Birnbaum, former director of the U.S. Minerals Management Service -- the agency within the Interior Department responsible for regulating offshore drilling -- had been fired or if she had resigned. The president said he didn't know, and when Jackie Calmes of the New York Times followed up with the same question, the president eventually replied: "Come on Jackie, I don't know."  

To the untrained ear (my ear, I suppose), this response almost sounded like an admission from the president that he wasn't completely in control of the situation. After all, the employment status of the top official in his administration responsible for regulating offshore drilling seems to be precisely the type of personnel decision the president would 'know' something about unless, of course, he was attempting to signal that, yes, he didn't fire her because she had resigned, in which case why not just say it? And if he did fire her, why not just say that? So confusing.

The second awkward moment came when the inimitable Helen Thomas, doyenne of the White House corps, asked President Obama the following:

When are you going to get out of Afghanistan? Why are we continuing to kill and die there? What is the real excuse and don't give us this Bushism “if we don't go there they'll all come here.”

Her question was incredibly important for two reasons.  First for President Obama’s seemingly exasperated response. The President outlined the Bush administration’s reasoning for entering the war in the first place as if he was explaining the utility of Facebook to his dotty grandmother. Second, because his reasoning was accepted wholesale by the press.  Most of the press conference related news coverage on Thursday evening focused on President Obama’s oil spill responses.

This is especially troubling because it seems to be an indication that, for now, the press has moved on from Afghanistan. The BP spill is quite important, and could have long-lasting implications for the gulf and the rest of the country, but more members of the press should be asking about Afghanistan, if only because the 1,000th US soldier has just died there.  And, oh yes, the Senate has just approved a $58.8 billion war spending bill that is likely to be approved by the House.

So, Ms. Thomas, for your continuing courage:  Bravo!

Art & Culture Helps DC Get to Detroit

May 27, 2010 ·

There was a show last Saturday, May 22nd tailor made for progressives; a classic intermingling of art and social justice.  The DC Labor Chorus held its annual concert and this year the proceeds are going toward helping The Greater DC Social Forum Committee get area residents to the US Social Forum in Detroit. 

The approximately 100 people in attendance seemed very pleased with the evening, so we laced together some audio clips in a way that will give an entertaining sense of it, in case you missed it.  Hope you enjoy!

Split This Rock Poem of the Week: Remica L. Bingham

May 27, 2010 ·

Remica Bingham.A weekly featured poem of provocation and witness. You can find more poetry and arts news from Blog This Rock.

Final Exam Administration

I enter to find all the students in uniform
occupying a small room.

I hand out pencils and registration forms.
Some begin without orders.

I remind them to remain anonymous
no names, just ID numbers should appear

on the waiting pages, white and clean
as unwritten letters or discharges.

Just a number   the private
in BCGs and fatigues mumbles

from the back   that’s all
we are.  A number

and a gun.   His comrades laugh,
erasing what might have been.

Do your best   I say,
and they settle, salute.

-Remica L. Bingham
Used by permission.

Troops to the Mexico Border

May 26, 2010 ·

Nat'l Guard troops on border duty. Credit: US Military

Only a couple of days ago, I wrote that “U.S.-Mexican relations might look at little different in the age of Obama, but the Bush-era priorities remain the same.” Today, I think this statement was reinforced.

Only a few days after Mexico’s President Calderon went back to Mexico from the U.S. after being praised for his military efforts in combating the narco (notwithstanding the spiral of violence it has caused) Obama decided to step it up at home, sending 1,200 troops to the border states. Just as when Bush sent 6,000 National Guard troops to the border in 2006, the purpose is to appease Republicans in their calls to secure the border, and to try to gain support for the pending migration reform.

However, this decision is deeply contradictory. Although the stated goal is to secure the border from criminal drug gangs — and the illicit traffic of drugs, money and arms — the victims of this military escalation might well be the millions of undocumented immigrants to whom the reform is supposed to eventually benefit. The calls from Republicans and border state governors to seal the “porous” border are aimed at curbing “illegal immigration” as well. Hence, the differences between criminals and undocumented workers are becoming muddled, even when both issues — drug trafficking (and the violence it conveys) and migration — have quite distinct causes and consequences.

This generalization comes from the Bush-led Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America that Obama supposedly (but never officially) wrote off. One of the SPP’s stated goals was secure borders and combat "transnational threats to the United States, Canada, and Mexico, including terrorism, organized crime, illegal drugs, migrant and contraband smuggling and trafficking” and to promote the “legitimate flow of people and goods”. Implicitly, illegal migration became equated to a security threat.

Today, when states like Arizona are criminalizing “illegal migration,” Obama’s decision to send the National Guard to the border might end up reinforcing persecution of those that are in this country without papers. People that came to this country looking for work — mainly because of joblessness at home, due to failed economic policies like NAFTA and privatization — are ending up being as illegal as drugs, arms or dirty money.

That's a shame. Obama should rapidly distinguish the issues and act accordingly.  The "war on drugs" has already proven fatal for millions of innocent Mexicans. Will the same start happening here?

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