…And How Would He Affect India?

As the world hopes / prays / waits for an impending Obama Presidency, OpEds like this one are surfacing asking “what would it mean for us over here?” Writing for the Times of India, the wonderfully multi-syllabically-named Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar takes a look at how Obamanomics might affect the Desh

What They Are Wishing For….

Barack Obama looks certain to beat John McCain and become the next US president. Most Indians will be delighted. An Obama victory will symbolise the vanquishing of racism and the dismal Bush legacy.

…Yet, a look at the voting record and campaign content of the two candidates suggests that McCain might in many ways be better for India than Obama, especially on economic issues.

One of Aiyar’s biggest fears is resurgent protectionism within the anchor tenant for world trade –

…pressures will mount for protectionist measures and beggar-thy-neighbour policies in the US, hurting countries like India. Apart from erecting import barriers and subsidising dumped exports, US politicians will seek to curb the outsourcing of services to India. Visa curbs will slow the movement of skilled workers and their dollar remittances back to India. McCain is one of the few American politicians in either party with the courage and conviction to stand up to protectionist populism. By contrast, Obama embodies protectionism.

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Darkening Madia (updated)

In my last post on the racial turn in the Minnesota 3rd District Congressional race, I left open the possibility that the rhetoric being used against Ashwin Madia might not turn into a pattern. Now there is no doubt.

On the left below are publicly available images of Madia. On the right, you see the images as presented in a recent Republican attack ad (“Running to Raise Taxes”; view it here):

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From KARE 11, an NBC affiliate in the Twin Cities, Minnesota:

A Republican attack ad invites viewers to “meet the real Ashwin Madia,” but the still photos featured in the spot present a noticeably darker version of the 3rd District DFL congressional candidate.

“At least three of the photos of Madia were obviously darkened, using one method or another,” public affairs and media consultant Dean Alger told KARE 11.

He said the viewing public has grown accustomed to hearing distorted claims, or statements and votes used out of context. However, Alger asserts the altered images of Madia, the son of Indian immigrants, crosses a line. (link)

Just in case readers need a Razib-ian reminder of why this is bad, here is a bit more:

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Webinar: The South Asian American Vote

SAALT.gif Are you interested in the Desi Vote? How will South Asians vote come Nov 4th? Do we have critical mass to form a voting bloc? Join SAALT for A Pre-Election Online Conversation for Community Members & Media on October 30th.

Why: South Asian political involvement has been on the rise over the past decade, and the run-up to the November 2008 elections shows that South Asians have been increasingly engaged in the presidential campaigns, voter mobilization efforts, and bids for state and national office.

Who: South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), with guests:

* Vijay Prashad, Professor of International Studies at Trinity College; author of The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World

* Karthick Ramakrishnan, Associate Professor of Political Science at UC Riverside; principal investigator on the first large-scale national survey of Asian American politics (2008)

* Ali Najmi, Desis Vote (New York)

* South Asian Progressive Action Collective (Chicago)

The call is open to everyone but you need to register online here to participate. You will be able to watch the webinar or listen in by phone. You will also be able to ask the speakers questions. The call is on Thursday, Oct 30th at 2pm EST/1pm CST/11am PST (the webinar should last an hour and 15 minutes), but you have to register by 10am Thursday morning to join!

SAALT has been mobilizing actively around this election cycle, and they have an Elections 2008 Online Resource Kit to make it easier for you to get involved (available in Hindi, Punjabi, Bangla, Urdu, and Tamil). They also have a pretty active blog, with entries on election activities going on across the country.

I’d be interested in hearing in the comment section how the online event goes for readers who are able to make it – I would even encourage commenters to live blog the webinar in the comment section for those of us unable to listen in on the webinar. Continue reading

Posh as Indian Bride Barbie? That’s Major!

posh for vogue india.jpg Well not Indian Bride Barbie so much as their November cover girl, but that’s totes what she reminds ME of (thanks, cookiemonsta):

Former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham graces the cover of Vogue India’s November issue, trading in her western outfits for a traditional Indian bridal sari.
“Posh” Beckham, the wife of British footballer David Beckham, chose several bridal outfits by Indian designers for the photo shoot, the magazine said in a statement. [linky]

She was also not overheard saying, “Can we hike these up a bit? I need people to see that I have replaced my seven-inch Loubys with swaggers. Aren’t they MAJOR?

“I have long been an avid admirer of the Indian fashion and lifestyle culture,” Beckham, 34, was quoted as saying. [linky]

She then stared dreamily off in to space for a second while fondly remembering that one time, with that proto-chav who made it rain with rupees at Glassy Junction. Ah, good times.

The magazine’s fashion director said Beckham was thrilled to experiment with Indian bridal wear.
“She absolutely loved everything about it — from the ‘maang tikka’ and ‘haath zeb’ (traditional Indian jewellery) to the gorgeous lehengas (traditional Indian skirt with embroidery),” said Anahita Shroff Adajania. [linky]

What fool wouldn’t? Indian brides get to wear the most gorgeous clothes in the world. I love Reem Acra but even her most show-stopping gowns fade away in the presence of Priya and Chintan’s most basic lehenga.

The cover is after the jump. Continue reading

The Brown in Boybama

Are you in a battleground state? Still undecided on how to vote? Do you really like boy bands, but were always turned off because none of the boy bands had a token brown man? … Then this video is for you.

Battleground for Your Heart was a Boybama brain child of the folks at Portal A Interactive. And the desi actor is Lavrenti Lopes (with the best headshot ever on his site). Why did the production team create this video?

When we saw Sarah Palin desperately trying to win over our hockey moms and Joanna Sixpacks, we knew that we couldn’t just stand idly by. So we decided to make this parody music video in support of the Obama campaign and to show women everywhere that we can shamelessly pander with the best of them.[Aportal]

It’s hump day so I thought a syrupy video to make your work day cheesier is just what you needed. We only have six days until Election Day. Don’t forget to drop off your absentee ballot in the mail by this Friday – ballots need to be received (not postmarked) by your Registrar of Voter by Nov 4th! Continue reading

Bobby Jindal as “Multicultural Prince” for 2012

Via Andrew Sullivan, a smart quote from Ross Douthat regarding Bobby Jindal’s prospects for 2012:

If anything, I think the way the McCain campaign has finished up — and the way the media has covered it — works to Jindal’s advantage in 2012: Conservatives are going to be extremely eager to prove that they only hate Obama because he’s a radical, not because they’re racist, and what better way to demonstrate that than to nominate a dark-skinned conservative with a funny-sounding name? Indeed, much of the current affection for Jindal among movement conservatives – and especially in talk-radio land – can be traced to precisely such a yearning for a conservative Obama: A multicultural prince who channels Ronald Reagan, and whose nomination would at least reduce the taint of racism that clings to the American Right.(Ross Douthat, link)

Yes, that’s why I thought, many months ago, that Jindal would have made a good VP choice for McCain. (I expect it will come out, in months to come, that McCain specifically asked Jindal to join the ticket this past summer and Jindal turned him down.).

The above argument is in response to a point from Christopher Orr at The New Republic that I think many on the left (including our own Ennis) have agreed with:

Though rarely explicit (and certainly not exclusive) a large portion of the GOP’s closing argument this cycle has been to stoke white, working class fear and suspicion of the Other. The dark-skinned man with the foreign-sounding name may be a Muslim, or a socialist, or a friend of terrorists, or a racial huckster, or a fake U.S. citizen, or some other vague kind of “radical.” You may never be sure which he is (maybe all of the above), but in your gut you simply don’t “know” him the way you know the other candidates. This is not, to put it mildly, a message likely to benefit Bobby Jindal. (Christopher Orr, link)

For Douthat, by contrast, the attempt to “otherize” Obama is a combination of things, involving not just his skin color and name, but also his academic background, history as an urban community organizer, and membership in a liberation theology church:

I think this vastly, vastly overestimates the extent to which the attempt to “Otherize” Obama has been about race qua race (and racism qua racism), and vastly underestimates the extent to which it’s been about the way Obama’s name, ancestry and skin color have dovetailed with other aspects of his background – from his liberation-theology church to the academic-lefty and urban-machine milieu in which he spent much of his early political career – that the GOP would have tried to play up against any Democratic candidate (and especially in a year when the party didn’t have much else going for it). (Ross Douthat, link)

All in all, an interesting exchange.

I think it is certainly true that the GOP has been stoking up xenophobia (have you seen this?) through its attempt to smear Obama as “palling around with terrorists” (Rashid Khalidi being the latest smear), and with the whole “Who is the real Barack Obama?” line of thought.

But Douthat’s point of view — that this is merely a cynical, tactical attack, not based on fundamental beliefs amongst the leadership — gives me some hope that this will not become a chronic line of attack should Obama win the election next week. Continue reading

Happy Deepavali. We Will Let You Go Free on Bail (Malaysian Redux)

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Picture by Preston Merchant.

Happy Deepavali! Today I am wearing a new shirt and eating truffles. (Delish.) What a pleasant time! Other people are having a lovely Deepavali too, I hope and assume. Probably including the ten Malaysian Hindraf activists sprung on bail just in time for hols.

Per The Economic Times:

“A police spokesman said all of them were freed to enable them to celebrate Deepavali. “Although the police, under the law, could extend their remand orders to facilitate investigations, yet on humanitarian ground they were released to enable them to celebrate the festive occasion,” the spokesman added.

Shut UP! Malaysian government dudes, you guys are SO nice! SO generous! Especially considering what they did, gathering outside the PM’s office to deliver a memo

To review, Hindraf (the Hindu Rights Action Force) is a group in Malaysia that protests what The Economic Times calls “perceived discrimination against the [country's] estimated 2.6 million ethnic Indians, a bulk of them Tamil Hindus.”*

And as of earlier this month, Hindraf is banned in Malaysia. Longer backgrounder here, via SAJAForum.

*(Don’t get me started on my rant about news organizations using the word “perceived” for something they can damn well report on. Aren’t you supposed to be government watchdogs? Is there discrimination? Or isn’t there? Hint: there is.) Continue reading

Happy Diwali! (Now, Explain This Photo)

I found the following photo on Flickr, using a search for the “Diwali” tag (most recent):

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The caption on Flickr is “Behold Srivathsan, the Magician of Fire.” If you click on the image and login to Flickr, you can see a larger version of the photo. Is it just your usual fireworks, or is something unuusal going on? What is up with the horizontal streak of light across the frame?

Whatever the case, I think it’s safe to say that this is the kind of thing that is pretty much “only in India.” Continue reading

Will India’s Red Tape Protect It From Global Recession?

This post is intended as a discussion post, inspired by a recent Tehelka article posted on our news tab, entitled, A Lifeline of Red Tape?. The thesis of the article is this: while India’s stock market may be in free fall (it’s already lost 50% of its value from a year ago), the economic fundamentals of the country remain somewhat solid. The crisis in the global economy may not be devastating across the board, because India’s domestic economy is sheltered from world markets:

For economies such as India, the domestic growth is real and reasonably steady. But the impact of the recession in the US and the global credit freeze has meant that stockmarkets are in turmoil as foreign institutional investors (FIIs) sell equity in domestic stocks to meet liquidity needs back home; companies which had raised funds abroad now see the money supply dry up; and lack of liquidity impinges on Indian banks’ ability to lend. Wharton business professor Mike Useem says this is the world’s worst financial crisis. “Unlike the US, the world will not see an immediate impact on the surface, but the pain will be felt slowly,” Useem told TEHELKA (link)

Unfortunately, after that, the Tehelka article doesn’t really add much more meat to the thesis (though it’s still worth reading). But I think it’s an interesting point to discuss, and it’s one that my friend Rajeev, a software guy who lives in Bangalore, also suggested to me recently when he was visiting: India’s slow path to liberalization/privatization and relatively conservative rules for foreign investors will protect it from the worst of the current global financial crisis.

(Note: that is NOT the same as saying we need a return to 1970s socialism. Rather, the thesis is simply that caution in reforming and “modernizing” the Indian economy seems much more attractive at times like these.)

Obviously, the foreign institutional investors who had been propping up the Indian stock market in particular will be pulling back (they already have, as I understand it). And the IT industry, which is so heavily oriented to the global economy, is going to be feeling pain.

But while those are parts of the Indian economic boom we have been hearing the most about here in the U.S., they actually remain relatively small parts of the broader Indian economy, which is still based, first and foremost, in agriculture. The fact that most Indians owe relatively little (many Indians still prefer to pay for their homes in cash, and do not heavily rely on credit cards) also helps them weather the storm. But is that enough to keep the Indian economy moving forward?

I am less clear on what is happening with the Indian real estate bubble; I have read some things that suggest the market is on the verge of collapse, but anecdotally, friends and family in Delhi and Bombay tell me prices are still quite high. Do readers have any data on this? Also, what impact is the devaluation of the Rupee likely to have? Continue reading

Dating While Desi in an Obama Nation

The latest Brown Girls comic made me cringe with unease when it popped up on my blogreader this week. Swiped from my latest blog addiction, Devis With Babies, this week’s Brown Girls episode made me wonder just how many similar conversations were had this election cycle.

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As a SDMF (Single Desi Muslim Female) in my twenties, I’ve had my fair share of Brown Girls-type talk, usually over brunch and usually about boys. Many boys. Over the years, I’ve dated a Desi Hindu and a Black Muslim and I’ve always wondered with whom my parents would cringe less with — would their racial prejudice or Muslim orthodoxy take precedence? I’ve always thought they would be more accepting of a Muslim man, no matter what race, but my friends always begged to differ that racism prevailed over all. Of course, I would like to think that my parents would accept anyone that I would love, but we all know the desi Bradley effect there.

Truth is no boy over the years has met the bar to be introduced to my parents so I have no way to test this effect yet. But I am curious, if Obama is elected President, and my parents vote for him, will it be more acceptable for me to bring home a black man? If elected, will Obama essentially increase the desi dating pool of what boys us SDMFs can bring home? Single brown girls, what are your experiences with the Desi Dating Bradley Effect?

Way to go, Devis, on hitting the nail on the head on this one. I am Brown Girls comic latest biggest fan. Other Brown Girls Comics: Episode 1, Episode 2, and Episode 3. Continue reading