IPS Blog

Assessing the BP Oil Disaster

“This disaster is a wakeup call,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said during a visit to the Gulf Coast. “We need to stop the expansion of offshore drilling, immediately.” You can read the rest of his statement online, as well as his recent OtherWords op-ed, which underscored the need for Congress to reinvigorate the Clean Water Act. We are planning to run an op-ed by Daphne Wysham, a column by Donald Kaul, and a cartoon by Khalil Bendib about the BP oil disaster in our next editorial package on Monday May 10.

Terrorists’ Right to Bear Arms

The Huffington Post’s Dan Froomkin reports that Senators Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Susan Collins (R-ME) balked during a hearing at supporting new legislation that would prevent suspected terrorists from buying guns. Also, Froomkin noted, a “Government Accountability Office report out today disclosed that from February 2004 through February 2010, individuals on the terrorist watchlist were involved in firearm or explosives background checks 1,228 times. Of those, 1,119, or 91 percent, were allowed to proceed because there were no legally disqualifying factors.” But never mind that, “We’re talking about a constitutional right here,” Graham said. It’s a surprising position to take so soon after the failed Times Square bombing. And a good reason to read William A. Collins OtherWords column, Gotta Get Me a Gun.


Arizona’s controversial immigration law may damage a lot more than the state’s image, as Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva argued in his OtherWords op-ed. It could also break up families. As Michelle Chen reports on the Colorlines blog, a new study by child advocacy group First Focus finds that more than five million American children have at least one parent who is an undocumented immigrant. “Arizona’s new racial profiling legislation could open up countless opportunities for local law enforcement to break up families by putting undocumented parents on the fast-track to deportation,” Chen writes.

Priority Check

The War Resisters League produced a pie chart that shows how much of our tax revenue funds warfare. By the group’s calculations, the government channels 54 percent of the $2.65 trillion it spends each year on military activities. In his recent OtherWords op-ed, Joe Volk suggested taxpayers ask lawmakers this question: “Will Congress keep Pentagon and military contractors rolling in dough, or will it begin to invest in real security to protect the United States from the threats of the 21st century?”

But Would Restaurants Have to Serve Libertarians?

Dr. Rand Paul, son of Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul, is a leading candidate to replace Kentucky’s outgoing Republican Senator, Jim Bunning. He’s seizing on the same citizen anger that fuels the tea partiers (Sarah Palin has endorsed him), but as Kentucky’s largest daily newspaper, the Courier-Journal, reports, “despite his independent thinking, much of what he stands for is repulsive to people in the mainstream.” Were it up to Dr. Paul, for instance, it would be perfectly legal for a restaurant to display a “Whites Only” sign. The Courier-Journal reported of Dr. Paul, “he personally would not agree with any form of discrimination,” but believes it is our right as private citizens. In America, Dr. Paul maintains every business should be permitted to conclude help wanted ads with “No gays or Hispanics.” The wide support of Rand Paul loudly confirms OtherWords columnist William A. Collins’ suspicion that America needs to do a lot more than elect an African-American president to create intercultural harmony.

No More Torture

The Guardian, a British newspaper, reports that former “senior officers” in the MI6–the UK’s version of the CIA–are now criticizing U.S. policies and officials for using torture. “Hindsight is easy, but if Bush had placed more emphasis on bringing those responsible to justice rather than on declaring an unwinnable ‘war’ against an undefined enemy, things might have turned out very differently,” they said. William A. Collins called for President Obama to set us on a torture-free path, in his February 22 OtherWords column, in which he noted that American officials appear to be resisting investigations of United States torture policies.

Letters to the Editor: Kaul’s ‘Enduring Literature’

Peeved by an April 9 letter to the editor that attacked OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul, The Washington Post‘s Eugene Robinson, The New York Times’ Paul Krugman, and other liberal voices, Winston-Salem Journal reader Cyclone Covey weighed in on April 19 with his own two cents. “Kaul’s March 31 column ‘Obstructionist Antics‘ ranks as enduring literature,” Covey wrote. “If columnists tend toward liberalism, it is because their close contact with world tragedies teaches there is something better than illiberalism.” On April 16, the Journal published an earlier letter by reader Dallas D. Lassen, who also defended the liberal columnists that the North Carolina newspaper publishes.

The Bloomington, IL, Pantagraph also ran a letter by an irate reader who hated that column, which predicts the GOP’s demise. “Labeling this party as anti-immigrant or anti-civil rights is extremely offensive to me,” wrote Ben Funk of Normal.

And the Springfield, MO News-Leader published another letter triggered by Kaul’s provocative commentary. “In answer to Donald Kaul’s question on whether or not we need a Republican Party, I have to ask if we need either Democratic or Republican parties,” wrote reader Chris Dalton.

Cornering the Seed Market

It’s Economics 101, and the National Family Farm Coalition points out what happens with the consolidation of the seed industry: Less competition forces farmers to pay skyrocketing prices. Just like Timothy A. Wise asserted in his OtherWords op-ed, rising seed costs are threatening the viability of our farms and the jobs they sustain.

Senate Emissions

The much-debated new Senate climate bill is finally ready to be unveiled on April 26. Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) are set to announce the broad long-range goals going beyond “cap and trade” (a scheme Janet Redman debunked in her OtherWords op-ed), to reduce our national emissions by more than three-quarters each year by 2050. But will President Obama’s proposal of new drilling for oil stir up even more controversy? The Sierra Club discusses that question.

The Other 95 Percent

The next time you read about another tea party protest convened to decry the tax bogeyman, log on to “The Other 95%” website (http://theother95.com). There, you’ll learn that “unlike President Bush’s 2001 tax cuts, which went to the wealthiest 2.2%, President Obama’s tax cuts overwhelmingly benefit working and middle class families–95% of all Americans.” Most of us don’t know this. Or read Chuck Collins’ OtherWords op-ed explaining why the middle class gets the shaft when the wealthy dictate our tax code. Or check out the OtherWords op-ed the affluent Gene Mulligan wrote about how he hopes Congress “has the courage to let my tax cuts expire.”

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