The Return of Huma?

While I do hope that Sonal Shah becomes a permanent part of Obama’s administration, I am much more excited to see where my Huma Abedin ends up. Reggie Love ended up besting her for the role of “body man/woman” but you can’t keep this woman down for long. Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic has the latest gossip for us Huma watchers. You guessed it, she will probably follow Clinton to State, showing the world a whole new face of America:

I’ve been a Clinton Kremlinologist for years, and although there are many armor-plated guardians of Clinton’s inner circle, Huma Abedin has been the toughest to crack. No exaggeration: with Clinton heading to State, Abedin is going to be a major force in American diplomacy for the next several years.

Abedin was one of the First Lady’s travelling personal assistants during the second term, but hasn’t been only that for years Formally, she is a Senior Advisor to Senator Clinton, and was her Travelling Chief of Staff during the campaign. In that latter role, she was in charge of the roadshow, one of the few parts of the campaign that met with near universal praise, both internally and externally.

She is part of the crucial connective tissue between HRC and her far flung world of supporters, friends, staff, former staff, advisors, donors, on and on. Not a gatekeeper, because she is famous for her openess and sharing even the smallest details with HRC to keep her fully briefed, and manages some of the biggest egos around with diplomatic aplomb (I can only imagine.. “Hi Huma, it’s Dick Holbrooke and I REALLY need to talk to Hillary about this Jim Steinberg thing”)

The totality of Huma is much more in line with the mythical “Aide de Camp” of old (people like David Petraeus were at one point someone else’s Aide de Camp, and we have no doubt that Huma will one day have her very own)

People who know her say she is a full and crucial member of HRC’s state department and she will be playing a big role at Foggy Bottom – and anyone there or elsewhere that short changes her as a “personal assistant” does so at their own risk.

She is also a Muslim who speaks fluent Arabic –her mother runs a university in Saudi Arabia — and brings that perspective on a complex part of the world to HRC’s sphere. it’s not uncommon to see Huma on Bill Clinton’s important trips to the region, because he too values her in that way. [Link]

Look, for some time now we’ve had a problem between Israel and the Palestinians. Can we get Huma on that? U.S. missiles in Poland? Mr. Putin, we have a Ms. Abedin on Line 1 for you. I am just saying folks, for those of you who didn’t think it was a good idea for Obama to form a team of rivals by including HRC, this little bonus should allay your fears.

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Sonal Shah under pressure

At the same time that one report mentions Sonal as a possible cabinet choice, Sonal seems to be under pressure as a member of the transition team as a couple of mainstream media outlets started to write about her.

I last posted about Sonal when she issued her statement, almost a month ago. In case, you’ve forgotten, here are the key things she said:

  1. “my personal politics have nothing in common with the views espoused by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), or any such organization”
  2. “I’ve always condemned any politics of division, of ethnic or religious hatred, of violence and intimidation as a political tool”
  3. “factually inaccurate internet rumors have attempted to link me to Hindu Nationalist groups through a variety of tenuous connections: Relief work I’m proud to have helped coordinate following the Gujarati earthquake of 2001 … “
  4. “I do not subscribe to the views of such Hindu nationalist groups, and never have”

Since then, however, there have been four new developments (listed chronologically) in the continuing saga of Sonal Shah:

1 The general secretary of VHP-America said Sonal was a member of the governing council of the VHPA for three years. Her critics followed up with a link to the “VHP Governing Council & Chapter Presidents/Coordinators List” in 1998, hosted on, which showed Sonal as a member of that group, and listed her US Treasury department email as a contact.

Sonal’s earlier statement stated that she was not a member of any Sangh organization in India and had implied that she had never been a member of the VHP-A, but had simply coordinated relief efforts after the earthquake. There was no response by her supporters, some of whom had argued outright that she was not a member of the VHPA, to this news.

2 The transition team announced that Sonal’s work is on the Technology, Innovation and Government Reform panel.

When I found out that Sonal would be working on tech issues, not foreign policy or personnel issues, I thought this would quiet criticism since it made her past affiliations less relevant. However, as with point #1, there was little acknowledgement of this from the other side.

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Sonal Shah on the Cabinet? listed Shah as a contender for Secretary of Energy in the new administration:

Here’s a look at the five best jobs left to be doled out by Obama…. Secretary of Energy

The list: Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm; Dan Reicher, ex-Clinton renewable energy chief, now at Google; Sonal Shah, who heads’s global development efforts; Obama advisor Jason Grumet; John Bryson, retired chair at Edison International and hybrid car advocate; former Indiana Rep. Philip Sharp, Resources for the Future think tank.

It is not clear to me where this list comes from – whether these are a list of candidates that they know are under consideration or whether they are people that Politico thinks would be good for the job.

Sonal has a solid background in energy. She was a VP at Goldman Sachs, focusing on Green issues before she went over to

Sonal worked on green initiatives, including advising clients and bankers on alternative energy opportunities and how to implement environmental, social and governance criteria for all investments. [wiki]

Sonal’s job was to make sure that green was … well, green, i.e. profitable. In this period, Goldman came up with a plan to reduce its emissions by 12% by 2007 and invest $1 billion in alternative energy. This dovetails nicely with Obama’s emphasis on alternative energy as one of his top priorities:

Obama has made the greening of America in all forms – reducing dependence on foreign oil, boosting solar and wind power, increasing auto fuel efficiency, and using green technology to drive the economic recovery – a central part of his pitch for the White House, and the person in this job could ride herd on those activities. [Politico]

The question is, could Sonal pass confirmation for such a high profile post? This is a post which would involve diplomacy with India, so her ties to the VHPA and other Sangh organizations would definitely become an issue.

UPDATE: As Homer Singhson points out, the NYT has Nobel Prizewinner Steven Chu as the front runner for the Energy Secretary position. Even so, this is the first time, to the best of my knowledge, that a desi-American has even been mentioned for a cabinet position. Continue reading

Sums up my feelings quite well

I haven’t had time to blog, and what I’ve wanted most to blog about were the tragic events in Bombay that cast a pall over Thanksgiving. I have family there, as do many of you, and so I was glued to the internet, watching as events unfolded.

I’ve since stepped back and have been mulling things over. I’ve got a lot to say, but what I want to say first, before I get nuanced, is pretty much this [via Manish]:

This is the reason why Stewart is brilliant – that was both hillarious and very good political commentary. I know that’s neither the beginning nor the end of the topic, but it’s something I have to get out of my system before I can go further.

That said, again I’m not going to open comments on this post. I have a great deal of anger about what the terrorists did, and about how those responsible for training them may have brought us one step closer to a nasty war, but that doesn’t mean that I want this site to become a cesspool of ugly comments about Pakistanis.

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Trickle Down Recessionomics

The NYT has an interesting story on how the US’s recession will affect the folks in the Desh most directly linked to our economy –

The DJ ain’t gettin’ as much play

BANGALORE, India — After years of being blamed for job losses in America and elsewhere, India’s high-tech companies and outsourcing firms are going through a downturn of their own. The global slowdown is forcing them to reduce hiring, freeze salaries, postpone new investments and lay off thousands of software programmers and call center operators.

Of course, as with many things in life, an economic “crisis” is often a relative thing. In the 70s & 80s, for example, the Natural and NAIRU rates (essentially the lowest possible unemployment rate w/o screwing other things up) were widely thought to be around 6%. Our recent 6.5% uptick in unemployment, by those standards, would have been seen as a blessing. And in a global context, the most recent US unemployment rate would literally be a godsend. For ex., France’s official unemployment rate - even in boom times – is way above this and the unofficial rate is probably closer to 10%.

So with that economic relativism in mind, what does a crisis look like through the eyes of Infosys? A mere 13-15% growth –

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Sri Lanka Chica, Soon to be Mom, Gets Grammy Nom.

m.i.a. round cheeks.jpg

It seems a little anti-climactic to say it, but given how long we’ve been arguing talking about M.I.A. here, it probably needs to be addressed: M.I.A’s “Paper Planes” has been nominated for “Best Record of the Year.”

She’s up against Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, on a groundbreaking country music collaboration, and Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida.” So she has no chance of winning (the Grammy’s usually favor established artists and veteran rock stars over rappers, even innovative rappers). Still, chica has come a very long way since she started out a few years ago.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to wish her and her fiancé the best for the child they’re expecting. There’s something profoundly humanizing and clarifying about becoming a parent, though it also changes how most people approach their work and career. (Whatever happens, I do hope that M.I.A. will show up on Noggin and do a song for Yo Gabba Gabba! like The Ting Tings recently did. Perhaps a child-friendly version of “Galang Galang”?)

Speaking of raising children, and on a somewhat more serious note, it seems worth saying that the story that moved me most this (terrible) past week was the story of the Indian ayah, Sandra Samuel, who risked getting shot by cocaine-snorting, steroids-injecting, Islamofascist psychos, to rescue little Moshe Holtzberg at Chabad House in Mumbai:

sandra samuel moshe holtzberg.jpg

I was pleased to see that the Israeli government has given her a high honor for what she did. She deserves it. Continue reading

Elizabeth Hassel-blech: Idiot or Racist? You decide!

Reader “Cola” emailed our tip line about a Cele|bitchy blog post regarding The View’s most annoying co-host and the incomprehensible insults she hurls. Watch and enjoy, Mutineers:

But is she being racist? Or just a sputtering, inarticulate twit? I vote for the latter, but Defamer disagrees:

Though Elisabeth Hasselbeck has offended many during her tenure on The View, she’s never quite had what could be called, in the show parlance, a “Ching Chong” moment. So named for Rosie O’Donnell’s Asian language impression in which she shrieked, “Ching Chong Ching Chong!” and stopped just shy of declaring, “That was me, Rosie, playing an Oriental!” the gaffe is the type that incurs the wrath of an entire race, and Hasselbeck may have had her own in this morning’s episode.
While attempting to reference Deepak Chopra’s recent remarks on the Mumbai massacre (he implied the terrorists had an eye on America), a frustrated Hasselbeck first called him “Glitter Glasses Whatshisface,” and then, dismissing his comments as beneath her recognition, muttered, “Go light a bowl of incense.” Why stop there, Elisabeth? Tell those minorities how you really feel using the most stereotype-laden kiss-offs you can muster! If your stylist tries to dress you in another pirate shirt? “Oh, go take your AIDS pills!” Joy Behar got you down? Just say, “Whatsa matta, you-a? Something land in your spaghetti? Oh, what-a spicy meatball!” It’s fun, easy, and guaranteed to get the letters pouring in! [whats-his-link]

These are the remarks which got her knickers in a twist. In my opinion, she’s referring to Chopra’s new-age/self-helpy connections, zimbly because I think she’s too stupid to realize that agarbathi is Desi. I don’t know about all those letters pouring in there, Defamer. Thanks for the love, though!

Finally, “Glitter Glasses Whatshisface”? But…but…why? It doesn’t even make sense, not that Hasselbeck is known for doing so. Thoughts? :) Continue reading

Reminder: SF Meetup is tomorrow, at Udupi

We are 29 hours away from Sepia Mutiny’s next meetup! Let’s meet at 6:30pm, tomorrow, at Udipi in the Mission. If we’re excessively fortunate, they’ll seat us and we’ll be nomming idli, vada and dosa shortly thereafter.

If some of your past experiences indicate anything, we won’t be so lucky, and we’ll have to put our names down for a table and then stare at each other awkwardly, while we wait. KIDDING. We’ll just stare; it won’t be awkward, because that’s what brown people do (oh, the “staring” thing…it could be a whole other post, it could).

Udupi Palace
1007 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 970-8000‎

ACHTUNG, BABY: a gentle reminder that Udupi is CASH-ONLY. Stop by your preferred ATM in advance so that you don’t get charged usurious fees by whatever is nearby. You’ve been warned. :)

If you’re running late, email me so I know to include you when I request a table. anna at sepiamutiny dotty com. See you soon! :) Continue reading

The Mob’s Revenge (updated)

There are a lot of news clips out there about last week’s Mumbai atrocities but this particular Sky News segment manages to hit a couple of angles particularly well -

  • A new-to-me video clip where the train station mob unleashes some old skool justice on the lone surviving terrorist
  • Photographer Sebastian D’souza provides the frame-by-frame narrative for how he captured his now famous pictures of the terrorists & repeats his assertion that terminal cops didn’t intervene
  • The correspondant recreates the sea-borne attack route used by the terrorists to gain frontdoor access to the hotels

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While Rome was Burning…

Andrew Brietbart has a fascinating OpEd about a film opening the precise moment India’s 9/11 was being unleashed –

On the evening of Nov. 26, the biggest names in Bollywood walked the red carpet at the Bombay premiere of “The President Is Coming,” a comedy about six 20-somethings vying to win the right to shake hands with President Bush.

Among those in attendance at the star-studded premiere Wednesday evening was Bollywood’s “new heartthrob” Imran Khan, who proudly posed for paparazzi donning a T-shirt with Mr. Bush’s face sandwiched between the words “International Terrorist.”

…At the precise moment Mr. Khan and hundreds of others making their fortunes in the multibillion-dollar Indian movie business were watching “The President Is Coming,” only a few blocks away, 10 20-something Muslim extremists began a horrific three-day terror spree.

In the ironic, postmodern world, you earn accolades by tarring a disagreeable politician with the epithet “terrorist.” By contrast, had Mr. Khan worn a t-shirt critical of Bin Laden & his supporters, and stepped out of his comfy limo at the wrong time just a few blocks away, the word “terrorist” would have taken on a considerably more literal meaning.

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