Saturday, November 29, 2008

After Terror Attack Rocks Mumbai, Questions Simmer

As of today, American and Indian news outlets are reporting that the total number of civilians dead, after the violent three day siege in India's bustling luxury hotel, cafe and landmarks district, at around 200, with five of those fatalities being Americans.

Also on Saturday, as bodies were still being pulled out of the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel, many questions have begun to be bandied about in the news - Why weren't the Indian authorities aware of such a deadly plot brewing, and why didn't they respond to the attacks quicker once notified? Pakistan involvement is questioned as well as what the Times calls "Perhaps the most troubling question to emerge Saturday for the Indian authorities" - how were just 10 gunmen (If Washington Post reports are true,) able to cause so much damage and terror, all the while holding off Indian soldiers and police for more than three days "in three different buildings?"

Also, new reports this evening are reporting that the tragedy could have been much worse. CNN quotes a source saying "We found bullets with them, hand grenades, bombs," R.R. Patil, deputy chief minister of Maharashtra state, said at a news conference. "Based on our investigation, we believe they had planned to kill 5,000 people."

After the initial shock of the carnage wears off, the media will be able to capture the whole story.
*Update* Arrest Made

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Professor Speaks, Enlightens Crowd of The Strife in Somalia

Link to Professor Abdi Samatar Video-

Located in the Horn of Africa on the eastern coast of the African Continent lies the country of Somalia. Somalia's terrain consists of plateaus, plains and highlands and it is a place where close to 10 million people of numerous and varied ethnic groups currently live, divided by European-imposed boundaries.

The country's history is one of much internecine bloodshed and strife, both political and ethnic which has been helped along by outside forces according to some scholars. In Amherst, Massachusetts there is a small population of Somalis who are working, living, receiving education and also attempting to bring attention to their country's violent history, in hopes that one day soon the people of Somalia can overcome the institutionalized violence and continuous mishandling of the country by its leaders and past occupiers.

On a recent cold and blustery Autumn evening Abdi Samatar, professor of geography and global studies at the University of Minnesota gave an expansive speech at the downtown "Food For Thought" bookstore touching on "two tendencies" in the politics of Somalian society which in turn he believes has created vast and violent struggles in the context of two recent wars - the Cold War and the more ambiguous War on Terror.

“Prior to 1960 there were what I would argue two tendencies in the politics of [Somalian] society. One that I would suggest was a civic tendency; a democratic one, sort of a public service one, and one that was sectarian in nature," said Professor Samatar. The professor believes this is where the many facets of conflicts between other countries has affected Somalian society.

"It’s the way in which these two played into the hands with outsiders that creates the crisis with the population we have right here,” the professor said as he pointed to a map of Somalia. Samatar also is hopeful that the current election results in America will lead to inspiration in the Somali Republic.

“I think something happened two weeks ago in our country which hopefully, I’m skeptical but I am always an optimistic person, hopefully will provide new spaces for civic minded people to bring our country together, allowing local people to determine their fate.” The bookstore was ghostly quiet as Samatar spoke and the 70 or so attendees sitting on metal folding chairs were listening closely and taking in his message of hope.

“The professor seems to feel that Somalia is a case where people power could actually overcome institutionalized violence," said Dean Cycon founder of Dean’s Beans organic coffee company. "And I hope he’s right, and I hope it happens in the next decade or so because it’s been such a sad situation for so long there,” he added.

The ethnic Somalian women's group "Walaaloo," was in attendance as well. Walaaloo is a group of Somalian "sisters," who have come together in Amherst to share each others stories of survival and mutual love for their war-torn country. "I am part of the Walaalo, Somali sisters collectivists, and we are proud of it, and we want to tell our story to the world, said founding member and translator Nasra Ali.

Yasmin Ahmed, also a founding member of Walaalo, translator and storyteller wasn't as optimistic as Cycon as she expressed her concern for the American media's portrayal of her birth place.

“When people hear now-a-days, Somalia, especially you watch the media, whether its CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, you know the main media all they hear about is the pirates in Somalia and the ships,” she said.

Although, with inspired people and dedicated groups such as Walaalo and Professor Samatar, bringing attention to the causes of the Somalian problem and the subsequent solutions will soon become more of a reality.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Post-Election Reactions and Questions on Race

Link to Video

The long, hard-fought battle to become President of the United States of America has finally come to a close, with the young Illinois Senator Barack Hussein Obama winning the polemic heavy contest and accomplishing the task previously believed impossible of becoming the first black man in the country’s 200 year- plus history.

With the close of this historic election, now come many different reactions from the general population (with some people overjoyed and proud and others utilizing the opportunity to spread their racist views,) and tough questions that cut to the heart of society and our beloved country’s storied history. What do the results of the election mean for racism in the country? Is this a turning point? What are people’s reactions?

In the W.E.B. Dubois library on the sprawling campus of the University of Massachusetts, students offered some answers to these decisive questions.

“People of color can feel like they can achieve a lot more now, unity and great things,” said U-Mass senior Sociology major Yocelin Cordones. Most students on the windy, leaf covered Massachusetts campus believed for the most part that the election of Obama does signal a turning point for racism in the country. “This is a real step forward for a majority of Americans, and a step forward in terms of race,” said U-Mass senior Political Science major James M. Greene.

“With [Obama] being a man of color it represents history and change, and we’re not going to have someone with the same policies as Bush” said Cordones. Although the justified feeling of hope was certainly prevalent and understandable, reality and the past is a cold reminder of the need to be cautious. “Just because we voted for Obama, a black man does not mean you can wave a wand and [racism] will be over,” said Greene.

Students feel Obama was able to capture people's votes because of a quality he possess that stacked up to more than just his race. “White people voted for him for his policies and his right decisions,” said Cordones.

The reactions of the students concerning the election were fairly similar and the state of the electorate map elicited amazement as well. “Just in terms of states like Virginia and North Carolina going for Obama after 50 years, moving towards civil rights instead of separate water fountains is a real step forward,” said Greene. “I was for Obama and I was so happy when he won,” said Cordones.

The world is watching and the students at U-Mass will have to wait with them to see what happens after Obama is inaugurated in January, but for now it seems that just being elected by the country is enough for most people.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Proposition #8 Passes in California with Help from the Religious

Thousands of protesters held rallies in California this week in defence of gay marriage. A little more than a week ago voters in the "Sunshine State" voted in approval of a ballot initiative that cancels an earlier court decision legalising gay marriage in the state. The initiative was narrowly approved and opponents of the same-sex nuptials are sad and upset. The media has given broad, well reported coverage to both sides of the controversial issue and the Mormon Church is plum right in the middle.

A November 14th piece by the Times titled "Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage,"
explains how less than two weeks before the election proponents and the chief strategist were worried about the initiative passing because of lack of money in their campaign. “We’re going to lose this campaign if we don’t get more money,” the strategist, Frank Schubert, said in the Times. So after an urgent appeal a man connected with the Mormon Church gave $1 million to the cause and volunteers, ultimately helping to drive a sharp advertising campaign and gain 52% of the vote. Protesters to the ban zeroed in on the church.

The LA Times ran an article in early November profiling the protests against the "Church of Latter Day Saints." "It was the latest in an escalating campaign directed against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its role in marshaling millions of dollars in contributions from its members for the successful campaign to take away same-sex marriage rights," the piece reads. Even Gov. Schwarzenegger got in on the action, quoted in another LA Times article telling CNN, "It's unfortunate, obviously, but it's not the end." Hopefully he's right.

Friday, November 14, 2008

State of Flux

A large part of the MSM coverage lately has been what the Republican party needs to do, now in the aftermath of a crushing election. Republican pundants, congressmen and political consultants have been making the rounds offering their various nuggets of wisdom as to such issues and concerns as 'the GOP needs to go back to their roots and become more conservative' and then the other side of the coin - that surprisingly has garnered some support (Like from Florida Gov. Charlie Crist-see link) and thru op/eds and TV appearances staunch Republicans are now saying they need to devise a new, more moderate coalition.

The crux of the new Republican coalition stems on more results and less ideology. A November 7th by story by James Rosen explains this well "Just as quickly, a split emerged between Republican loyalists advocating a purer form of conservative ideology and those urging a less-dogmatic flexibility."
A November 8th article in the Times by Danny Hakim centers on a small area of the desperate party - New York Republicans and their belief in redemption. "Get back to basics, embrace the party’s core values and recruit a generation of younger leaders and voters," he says are some ideas he's heard.

No matter what happens and whether the GOP can come back strong in 2012, this tumultuous time for the "Cut Taxes," party will certainly create an grand opportunity for the media.

*Update* -A good Politico piece related to this topic of Republican split.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Fellow Travelers

At the very end of this historically long, passionate and important election the Republicans pulled out the last of a long arsenal of wedge issues - (gay marriage, taxes, etc,) and crazy accusations -(Obama is a terrorist, & wants to teach sex education to five year old's etc.,) and wildly fired it off into the media and beyond, hoping it would scare people into voting for McCain - Senator Barack Hussein Obama is a Socialist. This kind of "Swift Boat," low blow tactics worked quite well in 2004 and got people talking this year but by in large the American people and media obviously disregarded it by their vote and writings.

By using this long ago and spider- webbed, dusty tactic, some in the media saw this as the final, sad end of the year- 2000 John McCain and by the people rejecting the opprobrium - a change in America. Hendrick Hertzburg's November 3rd piece for The New Yorker's "Comment," section succinctly writes on socialism and it's use by past Republican candidates such as Goldwater & Reagan accusing JFK & Johnson of Socialism. He writes "Sometimes, when a political campaign has run out of ideas and senses that the prize is slipping through its fingers, it rolls up a sleeve and plunges an arm, shoulder deep, right down to the bottom of the barrel."

Micheal Cooper writes for the Times about socialism that "But some political scientists and economists said the old labels and buzzwords might no longer pack the same punch." So, the election is finally over after two long years and the country waits to see what Obama will do to enact the "change," he's touted. But it's clear, the same old tactics and Karl Rove-ish way of campaigning is in need of a change itself.