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You know, now that the Cold War is over, it’s hard to believe that anyone ever thought communism was a big threat. And it’s even harder to imagine that the notion of Red aggression was used to justify the McCarthy hearings, the Vietnam War, and the massive growth of the military-industrial complex. It just goes to show that when paranoia sets in, all sorts of crazy shit starts to make perfect sense. Such is the case in the U.S. penal system today, according to Joseph Hallinan. In Going Up the River: Travels in a Prison Nation, the author claims that fear of criminal aggression has led people to accept morally questionable prison practices. Like letting corporations run prisons as for-profit businesses. Or making life in prison intolerable by taking away basic life necessities: adequate cell space, contact with other humans, a chance to exercise. Come hear Hallinan talk about these injusticesand related issues involving mandatory minimum sentencing and the handling of nonviolent drug offensesat 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 27, at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Stefan Grudza)