In case you hadn't heard: President Obama won. As did Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Tammy Baldwin, and a host of other progressive politicians. But as the election obsession wanes (and we remove Nate Silver from our home page), we turn our attention to the rest of the world: to hunger strikes in Turkey, the upcoming leadership transition in China, and the continued struggle of Sandy survivors.
Nader Atassi focuses on Middle Eastern politics and society.
“Kurdish hunger-strikers fight for rights,” by Berza Simsek. Al Jazeera, November 5, 2012.
An old tactic has resurged in the struggle for basic rights in the Middle East: the hunger strike. Famously employed by Gandhi and Irish freedom fighters like Bobby Sands, more and more people in the Middle East have been going on hunger-strikes to protest what they see as violations of their basic rights. In Palestine, a huge campaign against Israel's policy of administrative detention was conducted by many Palestinian political prisoners, most famously, Khader Adnan. Similar efforts were made all over the Arab world. It has now spread to Turkey, where almost 1000 Kurdish political prisoners are hunger-striking to demand their basic rights from the Turkish government—improved prison conditions for prisoners, and cultural rights such as use of the Kurdish language in schools and courts.
Jeff Ernsthausen focuses on domestic politics and the influence of money on public institutions.
“Living Apart: How the Government Betrayed a Landmark Civil Rights Law,” by Nikole Hannah-Jones. ProPublica, October 29, 2012.
As Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Mitt Romney's father, George Romney, led a clandestine effort to integrate America's segregated neighborhoods by withholding funding to communities that maintained restrictive housing policies. Dubbed the "Open Communities" initiative, it quickly came to attention of President Nixon, who ordered the program be shut down because of the potential political impact on his 1972 reelection prospects. Nonetheless, Romney pressed on, writing to the president that "it is becoming increasingly clear that the lower, middle income and the poor, white, black and brown family, cannot continue to be isolated in the deteriorating core cities without broad scale revolution." Following his resignation in 1972, no administration has attempted to systematically withhold HUD funding to combat widespread segregation in America.
Stefan Fergus focuses on US media, the Presidency, and China.
“China's Leadership Transition: What to Look For,” by Damien Ma. The Atlantic, November 7, 2012.
With President Obama re-elected, there's another important election still to come: the Chinese Communist Party's 18th Congress. "Seventeen congresses have gone by and hardly anyone has paid much attention, including most Chinese themselves. This time is a little different." This is a pretty good, short article that details what to expect in the upcoming pageantry of the week-long CCP 18th Congress. With the next generation of Chinese leaders about to be unveiled, it's an important time to be paying attention to China and what's happening in Beijing. The article could have done with some more meat, but as a mini-primer, it's a good place to start before moving on to weightier pieces on the Chinese leadership transition (many of which can be found on ForeignPolicy.com).
Steven Hsieh focuses on US politics, the media, and East Asian affairs.
“‘No’ tops the agenda ahead of China's 18th party congress,” by Barbara Demick. The Los Angeles Times, October 28, 2012.
Beijing enforced a harsh crackdown on public life in preparation for the Communist Party's leadership transition. Since September, authorities started imposing ridiculous regulations, such as banning the sale of fruit knives and shutting down many outdoor food carts. More seriously, arrests of over 100 activists and increased Internet censorship serve to highlight the authoritarian backdrop of the celebrations ahead.
Adam Hudson focuses on war and peace-related issues.
“Respect the architect: Malcolm X, the elections and the politics of empire,” by Sohail Daulatzai. Al Jazeera, November 4, 2012.
While this piece was written before Obama's reelection, the message remains relevant. Obama is frequently accused of being a secret Muslim but Professor Sohail Daulatzai argues that Malcolm X defined the "relationships and histories between blackness, Islam and the Muslim third world" before Obama. However, while Obama's symbolism as a black president has been used to "universalize" and legitimize American empire, Malcolm X went to countries like Egypt to link the struggle of oppressed black Americans with the plight of third world peoples suffering under Western colonialism. Unfortunately, the election of Barack Obama, along with a collective distortion of history, erased this long legacy of black internationalism that is still needed today. Daulatzai rightly points out that issues like mass incarceration of black men, neoliberal economic policies and American militarism are components of global systemic racism—hence the relevance of the black internationalism that Malcolm X embodied.
Ricky Kreitner focuses on corruption, influence, and regulatory capture.
“What's Next for Tim Geithner?” by Deborah Solomon. Bloomberg, November 5, 2012.
After he won the presidential election of 2008, the first sign that Barack Obama was not going to aggressively challenge the moneyed interests that caused the financial collapse was the way he began stacking his first administration with representatives and beneficiaries of those interests. In the next few months, those crucial personnel decisions will again be the earliest barometer of the president’s dedication to pursuing a truly progressive economic agenda in his second term. This article in Bloomberg suggests that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Laurence Fink, chairman of the BlackRock private equity group, might just switch places with one another. That possibility—as much as other less symmetrical, though equally dispiriting ones—would make an ugly mockery of the “revolving door” concept and of all those lulled by promises that a re-elected Obama is finally “free to be who he is.” The next few months should be unambiguously revealing, at the very least.
Annum Masroor focuses on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“Imran Khan Thinks Like the Taliban,” Zarrar Khuhro. The Express Tribune, November 7, 2012.
While headlines such as these are commonplace in discussions about Imran Khan and his political party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (or PTI), their outlandish and often over-the-top talking points are absent in the discourse surrounding PTI opponents. Zarrar Khuhro points out that Imran Khan, the former cricketer turned conservative politician, is an easy political target. As an outsider of the establishment, he lacks the power and threats that the Pakistani political elite fearlessly wield on their critics. Little is known about the economic, social and foreign policy of his opponents and therefore little is available to discuss and debate. Imran Khan, on the other hand, has the "misfortune" of lacking any authority to silence his critics with the threat of death. But perhaps this lends the average Pakistani a sort of subconscious hope in Imran Khan; that he may just grow as a politician along with the electorate that bashes, scrutinizes and changes him. And maybe then, some day, Pakistan will get to enjoy a political representative who wields his power through accountability instead of intimidation.
Nick Myers focuses on the military, environment and politics in pop culture.
“7 Technologies That Will Make It Easier for the Next President to Hunt and Kill You,” by the staff of Danger Room. Wired, November 6, 2012.
Just because some on the right like to pretend that Barack Obama is some sort of leftist softie doesn’t make it so. Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog takes a look at the new technological wonders that make it possible for the American president, military and intelligence community to violate your privacy and civil rights. But don’t worry. It’ll be in the name of national security.
Anna Robinson focuses on gender, sexuality and social justice.
“California's Prop 35: A Misguided Ballot Initiative Targeting the Wrong People for the Wrong Reasons,” by Melissa Gira Grant. RH Reality Check, November 1, 2012.
As with all elections, yesterday we saw the good, the bad and the ugly. Falling into one of the latter categories, according to the work of journalist and sex worker advocate Melissa Gira Grant, is the passing of California's Proposition 35 with 81.1 percent support and mainstream support. Designed by a community organizer without legal or policy background and bankrolled by Facebook's Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelly, the proposition is supposed to help fight human trafficking. However, as Gira Grant notes, this poorly-written proposition commits the dangerous and oh-so-common mistake of conflating sex work with trafficking and has the potential to require anyone with a prostitution conviction to register as a sex offender. Furthermore, it fails to adequately assist those who are survivors of trafficking. She points to legislation such as the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, recently vetoed by Governor Brown, as the type of action that would be successful in addressing trafficking. The ACLU of Northern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have already launched a challenge against the bill's unconstitutional elements.
Christie Thompson focuses on structural poverty.
“Climate change lifts the lid off inequality in New York City,” by Peter Rugh. Waging Nonviolence, November 7, 2012.
Amid election insanity, a poignant moment came late Tuesday night: In his acceptance speech, Barack Obama broke a long-standing silence with small references to both climate change and inequality. Meanwhile, thousands in low-income communities across the East Coast slept in shelters, after their homes had been ravaged by a "superstorm" fueled by rising temperatures. Rugh speaks with activists and community members as they pick up the pieces of their neighborhood in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Their stories are a stark reminder that "those who will bear the brunt of extreme weather in the future will be those who are already struggling to survive."
Elisa Wouk Almino focuses on South America, particularly Brazil.
“Corruption trial makes black Brazilian judge a hero,” by Anthony Boadle and Ana Flor. Reuters, November 1, 2012.
Justice Joaquim Barbosa, the only black judge in Brazil's Supreme Court (appointed by Lula), has become a national heroic figure. He has been leading the mensalão, the case evaluating politicians suspect of having taken government money to bribe government support during Lula's presidency in 2003. Barbosa is the first to have sentenced corrupt government politicians, who have never faced serious consequences before. Moreover, Barbosa has raised a discussion around race and discrimination in Brazil, a topic generally avoided in the media and at large.
Eric Wuestewald focuses on international conflict and human rights.
“Turkey’s Love Affair with Somalia,” by John Campbell. The Council on Foreign Relations, November 7, 2012.
A quick summary of Turkey's close relationship with Somalia, this post from the Council for Foreign Relations details the unique ability of Turkey and its Muslim majority to help rebuild Mogadishu and the rest of the country away from the "jihadi rhetoric" of Al Shabaab. By providing education and infrastructure, Turkey is offering a regional, sustainable approach to Somalia's economic and political re-development that few other countries could offer. While Al Shabaab has previously criticized Turkey as a proxy of western power, its relationship with Somalia and the rest of Africa firmly show the country's continual growth into a major regional and global player.