My PUMA is flummoxed by Palin.



“Did you hear??”

“What? McCain?”

“YES! Aw, Man! It’s only 8 or so in California…I thought I’d get to tell you.”

“No. I am listening to the NPR. Family Radio has become annoying. That man thinks the world will end in three years.”


“So what?”

“What do YOU think? You were so curious about whom he’d pick…”

“I was really disappointed when I heard it…my heart just went down to the floor. What’s wrong with this old man, has he lost his brain or something? She is a young girl. No experience. She is Governor of state with 8000 population for only two years. What’s she know?”

“I think…Alaska has more people than—“

“Who cares! Don’t interrupt! Point is, I can manage things better than she can. This is guaranteed losing ticket.”

“You wanted Joe Lieberman, didn’t you?”

“I did!”

“And why is that, Mummy?”

“Because he is a Democrat. Was. I mean, he is independent. Also, he was so nice to you, when you met with him and his wife.”

“Awesome reasoning, Ma. Anyway, if not Sarah, then whom?”

“I would rather he gone for that…kid…the Indian…the governor…” Continue reading

DNC Day 4: The Promise

Give this to the Democrats – even if message control is sometimes a challenge, they sure know how to make a convention eventful. The day at Invesco Field was already like no other event I had ever attended before Obama spoke – standing in line from 10 A.M., I saw enthusiasm and excitement about democracy from such an enormous group of people (80,000), and the most special part about the night was that these 80,000 really were a diverse cross-section of the United States. Unlike just about every other event of the week, one did not need to be wealthy and/or powerful to get in and see the speech. And it was reflected well in the speeches immediately preceding Barack Obama’s, by working-class Americans who have fallen on hard times in the last eight years. Other notable early speeches included that of Al Gore (decent, but he spoke very quickly), Bill Richardson (great reception from the crowd), and a performance from Will.I.Am (awesome).

The main event, and the speech everyone was waiting for, however, was Obama’s, and for good reason. With the “open convention” and the anniversary of Dr. King’s speech, the event was billed as a historic and landmark event. Obama could have given a purely soaring and intellectual speech similar to his discussions of race and national politics in previous instances, but he wisely realized that different times call for different approaches. Many voters are questioning where the “meat” behind his economic plans is, and thus, today he told voters “exactly what change would mean if I am president.” He then delved into specifics of reforming the tax code, eliminating capital gains for small businesses, tax cuts for the poor and middle class, tax hikes for the top 5%, and eliminating dependence on foreign oil. His hope, which seemed to be achieved, was that any voter watching would have a fairly clear understanding of how he would approach economic issues by the end of the speech.


He also delved into specifics on energy policy, foreign policy, and made sure to highlight the McCain-Bush connections for all they were worth. He came out tough and hardened, challenging that “If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next Commander-in-Chief, that’s a debate I’m ready to have.” Many have worried about Obama being a soft president, or relenting on his principles – after a week of Illinois delegation meetings, followed by this speech, I’m definitely convinced that a spine of steel is pretty much a necessary trait for anyone to succeed in Illinois politics.

Obama touched on a theme that is also one of Ashwin Madia’s favored lines of speaking, and that he had not discussed in a while. Madia is at his best when he speaks about “redefining patriotism,” and how patriotism is not merely “bumping your hands on your chest and waving a flag.” Madia is one of what I think of as the “Obama generation” of politicians who is inspired by a candidate who has the guts to say, “I’ve got news for you John McCain: We all put our country first.”

But when it came time to finish the speech, Obama returned to what he does best, and that was to inspire and motivate the listeners to work together for a better purpose. He discussed America’s promise, a subject that holds a special appeal to anyone who has immigrated, or whose parents have immigrated, to this country.

This country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that’s not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that’s not what makes us strong. Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that’s not what keeps the world coming to our shores.
Instead, it is that American spirit – that American promise – that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.
That promise is our greatest inheritance. It’s a promise I make to my daughters when I tuck them in at night, and a promise that you make to yours – a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west; a promise that led workers to picket lines, and women to reach for the ballot.

When Obama spoke to the crowd about America’s promise, he was certainly speaking to people such as my parents, who, young in India, saw and knew that only in America was there “that better place around the bend,” and who knew that their kids could do things in this country that they could do nowhere else. He was talking about the American Dream that has allowed our community to come here, flourish, and create a unique home. And he knows that this “American promise,” which has been the foundation for our flourishing and strong community, is eroding and must be restored and rebuilt.

Whether you agree with him or not, one of the most unique elements of Obama’s candidacy is that he knows our story, that of the American Dream, in a way few candidates for higher office ever have. As his biographical video played, he accepted the nomination, and then invoked King’s speech and dream at the conclusion, many of the young and old in the crowd who had never thought a man with his name, appearance, and background could be in this position had tears in their eyes. Continue reading

DNC Day 4: Strangers in a Strange Land

Our whole time here, while we’ve been blogging, nobody has really asked Ravi or I what we do. I know what I am suggesting is silly. Why should they? We are Sepia Mutiny. We blog. A lot of them read the blog. What else is there other than that we are bloggers here to report? But that is not what we are and there is an important point here so bear with me. Blogging is just a hobby. It was created out of nothing four years ago and my personal objective was to gain access to this convention. Access to “power,” so that we could tell the story from the inside. We are still outsiders here though, both at the fundraising luncheons and in the press room where people keep bitching about how the celebrity press (Couric and Cooper) gets treated better. We are here because we claimed this spot. We wanted it bad enough because we see the potential our community has if they get more involved…and not by simply raising money. A life in politics where money is important isn’t the only way in.

Ravi is about to enter college at Harvard next week and major in applied math. I have degrees in aerospace engineering and geology. We are not bundlers, politicians, or journalists. We aren’t getting paid a dime for any of this and we aren’t asking for a dime for our posts. We are doing what we do because we have something to say and something we believe in. For those of you sitting at home watching the coverage and thinking you have to be rich or an important politician to participate in this process I’d like to point you to an article about the headline speaker tonight. Sometimes you just show up and think on your feet because you believe in yourself and what you want to do:

The Democratic National Convention is akin to a longstanding family reunion. And eight years ago, Barack Obama was not on the guest list… He was drained of money and confidence, fresh from a punishing defeat in a Congressional primary race here. Even the Illinois delegation did not have room at the party’s gathering in Los Angeles for Mr. Obama, then a 39-year-old lawyer, who had annoyed some state Democrats for not waiting his turn to seek a higher office.

Never mind all that. Mr. Obama bought a plane ticket and headed west anyway.

He persuaded a clerk at the car rental agency to overlook the unpaid balance on his credit card, and he made his way to the festivities. He was not a delegate — not even close to being a superdelegate — and without a floor credential he had all the sway of the junior state senator that he was.

“I have no memory of him there,” Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, recalled in an interview the other day. “It was a disastrous trip for him…”

When party activists gathered in Chicago to nominate Bill Clinton to a second term in 1996, Mr. Obama was making his first run for political office, but he did not have enough clout to get full access to the convention. Instead, he concluded that high-dollar breakfasts and dinners seemed to lock voters out of the system, grousing to a reporter, “The convention’s for sale, right?”… [Link]

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DNC Day 4: What are you For/Against?

I have to admit that I’m a little disappointed that three days in to this I haven’t seen any Molotov cocktails, police beatings, tear gas, or plastic handcuffs being used(particularly where desis were involved). I think Ravi and I would have loved to have interviewed a desi protester if we had found one. The only thing I have seen thus far have been some extreme “anti-sinners” and a few anti-abortion trucks with shock-value images on their sides driving around town. As expected, there were several pro-immigrant groups carrying signs around, but this was a friendly crowd. As for me, I picked up a button from the CNN booth that I proudly started wearing around town to announce the issue I support.


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Say it loud, say it proud.

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DNC Day 4: How’s business going?

Located on the 16th St. mall

I decided to take it easy today and stay away from the luncheons and the schmoozing. Instead, I paid a visit to Mt. Everest Imports on the 16th Street Mall area of downtown Denver (the extremely crowded area where all the hotels and businesses catering to conventioneers is located). Mt. Everest Imports is owned by a Nepali immigrant named Shyam Shrestha. I asked him how business was going since Mt. Everest did not seem to be selling any Obama gear (unlike every other store of any kind in the whole area). He told me it was going “very well.” The shop was totally empty. I told him my sister-in-law was Nepali and he opened up a little more and said he’d been there for about 10 years and gave me his business card. Still, with all the cheesy Obama memorabilia I’ve seen here I think Shyam would have done well for himself if he’d sell Buddhas with Obama’s head and the Buddha’s body. I’m just saying. Try and visit Shyam store when you are in Denver.

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DNC Day 3: The Superdelegate and Money Man

After the Asian American caucus meeting on Wednesday morning I had the chance to speak with Democratic superdelegate-at-large Kamil Hasan (appointed by Howard Dean). Hasan is an entrepreneur from the Bay Area and a partner at HiTek Ventures. He is also a member of the IndoAmerican Council whose mission is as follows:

iForum is a non-partisan organization with a mission to:

1. Empower the Indo-American community to be more active in public service so that it can influence the future strategic direction of our country and major policies of our government.

2. Inspire and mentor aspiring young Indo-Americans to get involved in public service and run for office, and to provide them material and strategic support to ensure their success.

3. Identify and prioritize issues of major importance to the Indo-American community, develop white papers on these issues, and develop a mechanism to address them.

4. Create a forum for exchange of ideas between the community, elected officials and influential leaders on issues important to the community. [Link]

Hasan warmed to me when I told him that I grew up in the Bay Area. Ravi and I (and several journalists here reporting for Indian newspapers) have found that the South Asian American finance folks (the top fundraisers) are pretty tightly controlled and so the press (when acting in an official capacity) is kept at arms length from them. Mr. Hasan however, was kind enough to speak with me.

Hasan raised a lot of cash for Kerry back in 2004 as a top bundler. His wife also hosted fundraisers for Hillary Clinton in their Bay Area home (with Bill in tow). Then, on June 1st of this year with Clinton’s fate sealed, Barack Obama called him up for his delegate vote. Mr. Hasan told me that he spoke to Obama for a few moments to make sure he supported the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal and a few other issues of importance, especially to Indian Americans of his generation. Since then Hasan has been a top bundler for Obama, in fact, he was the one that organized and hosted the “I’m a desi” event in San Francisco a few weeks ago. We both found a lot of humor in Obama’s comments about making dal. My last question to Hasan was if he had any children and if they were as in to politics as him. Hasan has two daughters. One is an attorney in the bay area and the other is still in school as a poli-sci major. The younger one was already raising funds for California state level candidates when she was just 19. Seems like we have a dynasty in the making here.

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DNC Day 3: Nader Rally

Well, the laws of probability had to eventually come to fruition, and for one night of the convention, I decided to have an “alternate night.” I headed to the Ralph Nader “Open the Debates” rally at U of D, which was quite the spectacle. It was at times entertaining, frustrating, bizarre, and exciting. It cost 12 dollars to enter, which was somewhere between a few thousand dollars and a few hundred thousand less than it takes to get in the DNC. I was on the prowl for South Asians, though it seemed that by the time I had arrived most people had already settled in their seats (Nader rallies are not for those with short attention spans, and they are more like performances as opposed to the ‘meeting’ feeling of a convention).naderden.jpg

I was able to catch a glimpse of Ralph at the start of the convention, which was a good thing seeing as though some uncontrollable circumstances prevented me from seeing his final speech. Unlike the DNC or RNC, time management was not in high demand at the rally. I did, however, see Cindy Sheehan, the MC, and the former lead singer of the Dead Kennedys give speeches generally trashing both parties for their many “similarities.” On a slightly more substantive note, Bob Barr and Cynthia McKinney sent taped videos offering their critiques of the establishment and their arguments for opening the Presidential Debates to 3rd party candidates, which was the stated purpose of the rally.

I met one South Asian vendor, Nick Bygon, who was selling black Ralph Nader “rebel” t-shirts in the mold of Obama’s white “hope” t-shirts. Bygon, a student at community college, told me he supports Nader because he believes in a cause “greater than himself,” and that there’s little difference between the two major parties. He cited the example of Afghanistan, saying that Obama’s pledge to increase troop levels showed that he really was no different than McCain when it came to “warmongering.” When asked about the accusation that Nader stole voters from Obama, he replied that Nader supporters would never have voted for Obama or McCain. (He might be interested in this article). He said he first supported Nader in 2000 and has been a major fan ever since.

Cindy Sheehan spoke about the war, Jello Biafra spoke about torture, and Sean Penn gave a highly convoluted and confused speech about terrorism. There were some really weird musicians and some generally bizarre protesters. The impression and general feeling of the audience was: don’t tell Ralph not to run! The two major parties are the exact same! Anyone who truly believes the two parties are the same, has obviously not looked at recent Supreme Court appointees, the candidates’ plans for Iraq, their tax plans, and their healthcare plans. And while I was on the prowl for South Asians, and maybe I was just looking in the wrong sections of the crowd, I have a theory about why there might not be a large amount of South Asian Nader supporters. The extremely diverse group of people attending Nader rallies gushes at the prospect of socialism, single-payer healthcare, high taxes, and increased government. They are shining idealists, fighting for a socialist ideal they have never experienced in the very free and capitalist state of the United States. Many South Asian immigrants, on the other hand, have experienced the full brunt of government socialism, spending, and ambitious programs (see India up to ’91) in their countries of origin, and are thus wary of unbridled government expansion. They have found that good old balanced and centrist economic pragmatism works, whether here or there, and hey – this guy says his whole theory of economics is “pragmatism.” Continue reading

DNC Day 3: Madia’s first TV commercial

Earlier today Ashwin Madia and his communications director Dan Pollock showed Ravi and I their new commercial on Dan’s laptop. It is titled “Running” (obviously a pun on the fact that he is running in the video and running for Congress). SM readers are among the first to see it:

Ravi and I also interviewed Madia and we will do a post about that later. You can see a picture of all three of us on our Tumblr site.

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DNC Day 3: On the shoulders of those who came before us [updated]

Less than an hour ago I finished listening to Bill “Bubba” Clinton give his speech. Old boy can still bring the house down can’t he? Right before his speech I went on to the floor because I spotted a brilliant orange turban in the California delegation and knew I had my next post for our readers. The distinguished gentleman from California was Harpreet Sandhu, council member of the City of Richmond and a delegate:

Harpreet S. Sandhu is the first Asian, Sikh, and South Asian city councilperson of Richmond, California and a major city with over 100,000 people in Northern California’s San Francisco Bay Area. He was sworn in on January 16, 2007… He is the only currently serving sikh politician in the entire state of California and one out of only a few in the United States. He served on the human relations and human rights commission. Sandhu has been working to help out taxi drivers since recent crime has targeted them, both for opportunity and alleged hate. [Link]

This is Sandhu’s first convention, although his daughter attended the previous one. I asked him why he got in to politics and he said it was Jimmy Carter that inspired him in 1977 when he was only 18 years old. And here is the best part, the part that I find very refreshing after the last few days in which I’ve been a little turned off by certain aspects of politics (I will explain in a later post): Sandhu comes from a humble professional background. He worked for the post office, like my grandfather:

While raising a family and working full time for the U. S. Postal Service, Sandhu has compiled an impressive public service résumé during the past 20 years…

Sandhu is probably best known as a strong advocate for creating safer working conditions for West County taxi drivers. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, taxi drivers in West County — 90 percent of whom are Sikh — increasingly became victims of attacks. One driver was killed in 2003, and one was shot in the face in what appeared to be hate crimes, Sandhu said. [Link]

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DNC Day 2: My Mom’s a PUMA. Will she come around?

Tuesday night at at the convention was all about Hillary Clinton. Would she come around and give the speech she needed to in order to unify the base, or would she subliminally lay the groundwork for 2012? Well honestly, I didn’t catch most of her speech. I had a floor pass but the fire marshall shut the floor down and blocked off every exit. The Democrats seem to have given everyone floor passes. There are guests, special guests, celebrities, and a large contingent of foreign nationals (including Indians and Pakistanis) who I guess are here to “observe democracy” (cough cough…hanging chads). All of this is just going to reinforce the image of the Democrats and Obama as the party of vanity. But I wasn’t too bummed about missing parts of her speech because there was lots of interesting stuff happening in the halls of the Pepsi Center. People were clustered around television sets waiting to see if she would stick a knife in him or lift him up. I’m astounded by how politically intelligent EVERY delegate here seems to be.

So did Hillary succeed in getting her devotees to vote for Obama? The best poll out there this morning will be my mom. She is one of the PUMAs (Party Unity My Ass) . She was a Hillary supporter who refused to vote for Obama. Ravi and I have been stalking the forrests of Denver looking for desi PUMAs but with to avail. I explained to my mom that abstaining would be the same as a vote for McCain but she just said “*grumble grumble* Hillary was very qualified *grumble grumble.*” I think she will come around and stick to voting as a Democrat, but I will call her this morning to ask her (She’s currently at Bally’s so I am unable to reach her). In the meantime I am a little worried. All she asked me for was to get Bill or Hillary’s autograph while I was here. Only two days left!

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