Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Immigration Candidate: Mitt Romney?

by Ryan Fleming

Photo courtesy of

It’s no small irony that elections, the hallmark of a free and democratic society, tend to bring out the worst in our political system. In a cycle where resurgent birthers and dogs strapped to car roofs garner the lion’s share of media attention, a more cyclical scandal goes undetected: the promise of immigration reform.

Presidential politics are all about chopping up the electorate in the race to 270 electoral votes. In general, an aspiring president or sitting president seeking another term must separate out “key demographics” and fine-tune messages that woo each according to its own priorities. A few weeks ago, Rush Limbaugh’s mouth settled the focus on women: which candidate was more pro-woman? Who was conspiring to trample women’s rights? Likewise, prodded (or preempted, as it were) by Vice President Joe Biden, Obama recently came out in support of another demographic that may shore up his left flank, making presidential history by endorsing same-sex marriage on national television. Republicans certainly saw an opening with the AARP crowd, and the culture war was on.

New census data revealing that less than half of all children born today are white has highlighted another demographic: Hispanics. The importance of the Hispanic vote is held as commonsense wisdom, and so talk of reforming the country’s immigration rules becomes a rite of passage for any presidential candidate worth his salt.

The conventional wisdom suggests that Obama has the Hispanic vote all but locked up, since the last Republican who knew how to successfully court Latinos was George W. Bush (an odd accolade for a man whose legacy is peppered with failure). After all, Obama fought for passage of the DREAM Act that would have granted legal status to children of illegal immigrants who went to college or served in the military. Take another look though, and the picture grows more complicated. First, there’s the fact that the Obama administration has deported more illegal immigrants than any administration in history. Furthermore, as Linda Chavez, chairwoman of the Center for Equal Opportunity, points out, President Obama “has done almost nothing to advance immigration reform, never making it a top legislative priority or using any political capital even when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress.”1

Chavez’s suggestion that Romney endorse the DREAM Act is nothing short of a pipe dream, given Romney’s obsession with turning off magnets and securing the border. Moreover, though Newt Gingrich has long ago dropped out of the race and offered his tepid support, Romney likely doesn’t want to breathe new life into his “Massachusetts Moderate” label or reinforce the perception that he’s a pandering flip-flopper. Still, Chavez inadvertently illustrates the precise problem: at some point, immigration reform went from being a legitimate cause to a mere talking point to be plucked out of the scrap heap every four years and deployed in an attempt to slice off some of the Hispanic electorate.

To make things more confusing, Romney has framed elements of immigration reform in an economic light and taken some ownership of the issue from Obama (or at least attempted to). Romney’s campaign website has an entire section dedicated to immigration; after some modest poking around on Obama’s page, the only reference I could find to immigration was in a lone link at the bottom of his Education issues page. That page? A 32-word blurb voicing support for DREAM Act proposals and “other common-sense immigration reforms.”2 Is this the full-throated support we should expect from the de facto “immigration candidate?”

The seasoned cynic would, at this juncture, infer that immigration’s prominence on Romney’s website is simply red meat for the xenophobic element of the GOP, replete with talk of barbed-wire fences and “self-deportation.” I’m not so sure, though there are the requisite national security passages and mention of “terrorists” sneaking across the border. Still, Romney’s page points out that “immigrants start 16 percent of our top-performing, high-technology companies, hold the position of CEO or lead engineer in 25 percent of high-tech firms, and produce over 25 percent of all patent applications filed from the United States.”3 He identifies the very issue I personally witness every day, stating, “The system requires us to send away the great majority of the over 300,000 foreign students who are earning advanced degrees at U.S. universities” before concluding, “President Obama has done nothing to improve our visa system.” If we can forgive a little election-year hyperbole, it’s obvious that he’s right. Moreover, just as Obama has linked education and immigration, Romney has woven it into a broader discussion on the economy, and is doing a better job of it than the President.

It’s difficult to say what all this means. Perhaps Romney, not Obama, is the candidate whom voters can count on to finally deliver immigration reform. Perhaps Obama, confident of his support in the Hispanic community, has simply set his priorities elsewhere, but is still the movement's true(r) friend. The final possibility is the bleakest: immigration reform is nothing more than a cheap trick, luring citizens who prioritize this issue into a labyrinth of empty promises and election-year smoke and mirrors. The demographic sea change long promised is now officially underway, but our short-sighted electoral cycle still can't see past November.

Friday, May 25, 2012

What is Africa Really Mad about?

By Shingi Mavima
 Today, we celebrate the 49th Africa Day. The holiday commemorates the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on May 25 1963 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia after Emperor Halie Selassie 1 had brought together the Casablanca Bloc (Ghana, AlgeriaGuinea,MoroccoEgyptMali and Libya) led by Kwame Nkrumah and the Monrovian Bloc of Ethiopia, Nigeria, Liberia and most of the former French colonies. The two groups had somewhat different purposes, but were united as  a means to promote

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Diaspora Generation

The Diaspora Generation

By Ruvimbo Gwatirisa 

Whenever I’ve mentioned the state of my nation, Zimbabwe, in the past, I have had an overwhelming feeling of joyful nostalgia, mingled with bitterness and sadness. There is a range of reasons why:  it is a country whose leaders are negatively viewed by the world; a country whose lack of currency has thrown a myriad of people in pits of poverty; a nation that’s tapered down my belief in politics or democracies…I could surely go on

Monday, May 21, 2012

Social Insecurity

          By Daniel Pereira

 Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The news is teeming with reports on the next generation of U.S. Latinos, but little is said about the looming future of their parents.

Approximately half of Americans are not saving for retirement. A sobering number, and even more so when we account for the staggering number of Latinos that comprise that group. According to an ING report, Latinos reported the lowest average balances in their retirement plans, an overwhelming 54 percent said they felt “not very” or “not at all” prepared for retirement, and a whopping 70 percent do not have a formal investment plan to reach their retirement goals.

Although Latinos represent the most numerous minority group in the U.S., They often trail their counterparts when it comes to finances. A joint U.S. Census and Department of Labor finding shows 46.5 percent of Latinos are in the bottom 25 percent income group and poverty rates for the elderly are twice as high for Blacks and Latinos compared to the U.S. as a whole. This leaves most Latinos age 60 and up to rely on support systems like Social Security and family aid. These numbers are alarming and undoubtedly raise the question: are tomorrow’s Latinos, with their struggle to close the attainment gap, poised to simultaneously care for their aging parents?

Future Latinos will be occupied with not only with tepid economy, but also with a retirement crisis that impacts their communities. Although more Latinos are bilingual and attending college than ever before, these achievements typically do not include older Hispanics. The educational schism between generations prolongs the issue. By the time next-gens are thinking about their 401(k) plans, many of their parents will be too old to effectively enroll in those programs, and will instead be reliant on their children to provide for them. This creates a financial burden on the younger generation who may also be forced to eschew or delay their retirement plans.

Latin culture often places greater emphasis on familial over personal wellbeing. Parents are more willing to spend their savings on college tuition and aid for their own ailing parents rather than on retirement plans. Many working immigrants also support family members back home. It’s a catch-22, one that can only be exacerbated by the current economic landscape. Out of all minority groups, the Great Recession has hit Latinos the hardest, a group that has historically suffered from unemployment and underemployment. From 2005 to 2009, median household wealth (all assets minus all debt) among Latinos fell by 66 percent.

With lower earnings and fewer Latinos in the workforce, it’s easy to place the numbers in perspective. The retirement crisis affects everyone since older Latinos will also create and impact on the healthcare system. However, the trend does not need to continue. Community advocates, employers, and Spanish-language media need to educate Latinos on the importance of retirement savings. Even with low wages, it is possible to save money for the future, regardless of age or experience. In essence, it’s time for Latinos to stay away from the Telenovelas, and learn some basic financial skills instead.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

And to our viewers and bloggers in Abbottabad...

By Michelle Sarver

Snapshot from a video of Osama bin Laden watching himself on screen.
Source: Fast Company

In a 1999 Foreign Affairs article, terrorist expert Bryan Jenkins stated “Garden-variety terrorists want a lot of people watching, not a lot of people dead.” In the years following its publication and the 9/11 attacks, we've largely dismissed this major factor at the foundation of terrorist activity. As noted in Inspire, an online publication by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), their jihadi media efforts were in full swing as U.S. military remained distracted on the streets of Iraq. Strategically produced in English, the magazine reached as far as London and California, and their publications and large internet presence are evidence of the new possibilities for international actors use the Internet. in fact, al-Qaeda is noted as being the "first guerrilla movement in history to migrate from physical space to cyberspace."

Seventeen documents captured from bin Laden's compound in Pakistan were released early this month around the anniversary of his death. While the major message was one of disjointedness between bin Laden and al-Qaeda affiliates, it also revealed bin Laden’s media interests. While their own radio shows promoted jihad to inspire religious activism and their magazines commemorated the 10th anniversary of 9/11 in a congratulatory spirit, key media strategists ranked U.S. network news and journalists as well. Upon ranking major American news organizations, CBS received some of the best scores for its interest in al-Qaeda issues and noted terrorism-focused journalists as important to al-Qaeda strategy. In other words, al-Qaeda had not only been using their own forms of media, but ours too.

AQAP's Inspire Magazine:
An Internet publication in English
Source: Middle East Media Research Institute
However, media initiatives changed since its start with print newpapers like Nashrat al Akhbar, the Newscast, new media efforts moved online for both effectiveness and anonymity. Bin Laden’s focus, as evidenced by documents spanning 2006-2011 note, was often on American media. Largely focused on the 10th Anniversary of the WTC attacks, al-Qaeda’s American spokesperson and media guru Adam Gadahn identifies al-Qaeda's strategies behind offering exclusive interviews with bin Laden or providing exclusive materials to CBS considering the network's popularity, quality, and reputation as a source of American news. Wide distribution was favored for “healthy competition between channels” which all ties in to al-Qaeda’s master media strategyToday's media production centers for al-Qaeda, such as As-Sahab Foundation for Islamic Media Publication, or As-Sahab, and Al Jihad Network, a jihadi forum, shifted away from bin Laden’s original message. At the same time, numbers of terrorist websites jumped from 15 in 1998 to thousands in 2010.

On average, a new video was posted
every three to four days in 2007,
compared to every two months in 2002.
Source: IntelCenter
Graphic: Washington Post
The problem lies in the very nature of terrorism which is designed to advance a "political, social, or bureaucratic agenda” as well as provoke retaliation or conflict.While terrorist groups traditionally used media for movement, propaganda, and intimidation, terrorist groups like al-Qaeda today can use it for legitimacy as well. In many cases, it successfully legitimized itself as standing up to America for Islamic values (often a theme on al-Qaeda owned websites). It relies on perceptions and acceptance of its constituencies in a battle over winning hearts and minds, making the media and particularly the internet, a key component in "radicalizing new agents." 

The “adventurism and drama of faraway battlefields,” attract recruits, and the media’s attention to terrorism supports the “grandiose beliefs that they are making history.” Yet on the anniversary of the long-awaited act of retribution performed last year against the organizer of the 9/11 attacks, it seems we have learned little from this. FBI alerts, advisories, and increased national and local security measures were taken based on a potential threat that was developed without receiving any credible leads, as was evident on every major U.S. news source on May 3. While overall, coverage of terrorism in American news sources [cite] has declined over the years, our "anniversaries" continue to fit quite nicely into al-Qaeda's strategies for legitimacy and recruitment through acknowledgement. 
The head honchos of media publication in the al-Qaeda network, AQAP, developed Inspire magazine in an effort to strengthen a prime tool for recruiting and funding: the Al-Qaeda brandHowever, the new documents reveal how splintered and weak the brand was becoming, with its central leaders of al-Qaeda's media strategy dissatisfied with other branches or killed in recent years, given the death of the symbolic figures bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki.
The internet is "an ideal vehicle for propaganda, providing access to large audiences free of government censorship or media filters, while carefully preserving their anonymity. Its ability to connect disparate jihadi groups creates a sense of a global Islamic movement fighting to defend the global ummah, or community, from a common enemy." -- The Economist
New media provides insurgents with greater access to media outlets for the creation of the jihad-centric narrative, and U.S. military’s ability to confront and defeat them is hindered. The new insurgent network organization is a challenge unheard of before the information age and the rise of global access. Ethan Frisch argues that “post-9/11 global context of weak borders, wide-reaching media, centralized counter-terror networks and easy transportation and communication, a decentralized, international network is the most effective structure for an insurgent organization.”

IntelCenter's anaylsis of the network of terrorist video productions from 2010-2011

These organizations can now reach internationally and spread ideologies to those with similar goals. For example, al-Qaeda’s ideology and membership spread over a number of countries through their international network. It developed strong followings in Iraq (AQI), the Arabian Penninsula (AQAP), and the Maghrib (AQIM). They even developed links to groups like “Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia, Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines, and other organizations in other countries with shared ideological goals but different immediate, operational goals."

In 2007, as web presence continued to increase, Irhabi007
and other central cyber-jihadists contributed to the online efforts
to recruit and train for extremist organizations(The Economist)
Propaganda distribution networks like the al-Fajr MediaCenter
linked such webmasters of different sub-organizations
from around the world together in one network.
Despite new media's opportunities, reports from al-Qeada often feigned success. Its popularity has fallen although terrorist concerns have grown.These new forms of media may not be the best thing for terrorist groups. Many called al-Qaeda's media strategy "failed" long before, in the mid-2000's, claiming that media strategists misunderstood its America audience and lost American's lack of acknowledgement. However, it also failed to truly latch on to or have been hindered from the changing form of the media despite continued calls for action and publication by al-Sahab and other online initiativesWhile it creates the opportunity for public engagement in the form of no-name sympathizers uploading videos, it also opens doors for criticism and mockery, no longer fitting the assumption that Arab media parrots the line of the day which, according to Marc Lynch, an Arab media expert, is a challenge for existing Arab regimes and organizations. 

The internet poses ever-challenging dilemmas for national security and the U.S. reacted with attempts to control it. Success stories exist, like the April announcement to continue with the extradition of  Babar Ahmad  in U.S. courts. Ahmad operated English-language al-Qaeda websites like However, like many other once-al-Qaeda sites displaying "Hacked, Tracked, and Now Owned by the USA" logo's like, the information itself cannot be owned. Much of the content simply shifted to other sites under different names. In addition, video dissemination has moved to smartphones and tablets, and virtual training camps take place over "e-mail, chat rooms, e-groups, forums, and virtual messages" with websites catering to the audience in various languages. While these new media efforts create opportunities for these organizations, government attempts at countering them through internet filtering appears fruitless given the decentralized nature of the internet.

Suggested Resources:
As-Sahab Publications
Analysis of the Released Documents
SITE Monitoring Service
Forest, James J. "Influence Warfare: How Terrorists and Governments Fight to Shape Perceptions in a War of Ideas" via Praeger Security International.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The March of the Penguins and the Class of 2012

World Cup Rally 2010
Santiago, Chile

“No man who worships education has got the best out of education... Without a gentle contempt for education no man's education is complete.”
G. K. Chesterton

            Their voices echoed in the city streets as dozens of followers demanded in unison reforms to the system.  They carried signs, were perceived as radicals, and had no intention of stopping until their demands were met.  They weren’t fighting to protect the environment, nor were they protesting against the president, they were fighting to learn.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Why Japan Tells Us That President Obama Might Lose On November 6th, 2012

By Shervin Stoney

Romney is not Reagan. He does not command an audience the way Reagan did, and he certainly will not be able to unite the Republican Party under a banner of moderate conservative values thanks to the Tea Party. Obama is not Carter. He is articulate and his foreign policy agenda is superb, with Hillary Clinton at the helm. Shouldn't this indicate a win for President Obama? No. It’s the

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Myth of Moroccan Democracy

By: Jill Ricotta

The Myth of Moroccan Democracy

Marrakech, Morocco, August 2011

Last September I was sitting in a classroom in Ifrane, Morocco listening to a debate amongst students at Al Akhwayan University.  I had only been in Morocco for a few weeks and although I knew a decent amount about the protests there during the Arab Spring

Monday, May 7, 2012

Orange Blossom Summers: How a Summer Can Change You

By Sally Mouakkad

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." - St. Augustine
I remember a sense of freedom despite the uncertainty, that followed everyone around, tucked just beneath the surface. Walking around, I felt empowered by the feeling of

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Everything is Political; Politics is Everything

By William Richardson

As one of the newest writers for the Rouge Scholar Society, I feel that my first article should be on my philosophy on politics and activism since my writing focus will be on politics, applied academics, and activism, and I think you guys should know what makes me tick. Politics, for most people, is some game that politicians play far away from the real world where we “regular” people live