Roundup: Election Day Dust Settles…

Kamala harris.jpgToday is the last day for ballots to be counted from the November 2nd elections, which means it is official. Kamala Harris is the new Attorney General for the state of California.

San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris narrowly beat out Steve Cooley, the District Attorney for Los Angeles. The victory makes Harris, whose mother is Indian American and father is Jamaican, the first African American, Indian and woman to hold the office in California.

Harris was once labeled the “female Barack Obama”, and won the race with an uncharacteristically progressive platform. She’s openly opposed to the death penalty; in fact, she refused to pursue capital punishment during her eight year tenure as DA in San Francisco, but has vowed that as Attorney General she’ll do “what’s necessary.” [colorlines]

Harris won her seat by only 71,566 votes, according to the Secretary of State’s office. Harris will be making her “big announcement” today as well as having a victory party here in the Bay area.

hansen clarke 2.jpgAs the November 2nd dust settles, there are a couple of other major South Asian American victories also to be noted. One of them is fellow Bong Hansen Clark, who is now officially the third South Asian congressman to ever hold the seat (Dalip Singh Saund and Bobby Jindal being the first two).

Voters in the Midwestern state of Michigan have elected the first Bangladeshi-American ever to serve in the U.S. Congress. The congressman-elect was born to a Bangladeshi immigrant father and an African-American mother. Clarke’s father passed away when he was 8 years old, but he says his father greatly influenced him and that he strongly identifies with his father’s culture.

Clarke, who was raised a Muslim and converted to Catholicism, says he also plans to work with local officials to end religious and racial profiling in Michigan. The city of Dearborn and other areas across Michigan are home to large Muslim populations. [voa]

Nikki-haley.JPGOf course, how could we forget the first South Asian American woman to be elected Governor in the United States? Nikki Haley from the state of South Carolina.

South Carolina Gov.-elect Nikki Haley says former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin helped spread Haley’s message, but she’s not ready to endorse Palin for president. Haley says she’s proud to be a product of the tea party movement. She says that movement tries to fight what she called “arrogance” by Republicans and Democrats. [washingtonpost] Continue reading

Obama, The Destroyer of the World [updated]


Here we go again. And by that I’m referring to the Ms. 2009 cover depicting a multi-armed mom. This time, it’s an image of President Obama. Newsweek’s November 22nd, 2010 issue headlined “God of All Things” shows Obama on the cover balancing multiple policy issues and balancing on one leg. The image is of Hindu deity, Shiva, also know as “the destroyer of the world.”

Suhag Shukla of the Washington-based Hindu-American Foundation told FoxNews that her group doesn’t think Newsweek meant to be malicious, but believes ‘the cover was in line with the media’s comfort of utilizing Hindu symbols or deities to symbolize an issue.’

Zed said that Hindus understood that the purpose of Newsweek was not to denigrate Hinduism, but warned casual flirting like this sometimes resulted in pillaging serious spiritual doctrines and revered symbols and hurting the devotees.[dailymail]

In the rest of the world, Hindus are outraged. Continue reading

Passing down vanishing skills during Thanksgiving

I think I probably speak for many of us second generation South Asian Americans when I say that Thanksgiving, as much as it is a holiday for spending time with family, has also become a race-against-time once-a-year cooking clinic. There are a great many tasty dishes and culinary techniques that are disappearing in diaspora communities at the same rate as endangered species and languages. Packaged foods, restaurants, and fusion creations are replacing good old-world home cooking. There are a number of techniques I recommend to combat this trend. First, get a Google Voice account. Ask your mom or dad to call the Google Voice number and hit the digit “4” to record. That way, when they tell you that recipe for the 100th time, you won’t have to worry about forgetting it. If you are at home this Thanksgiving then you can also set up one of those simple, pocket-sized digital movie cameras and record what is going on in the kitchen (like your mom telling you that you are rolling the velan incorrectly). Finally, PRACTICE. You might mess it up 10 times but on that 11th try hit the sweet spot and trigger a flood of memories.

I took my own advice and set up a video camera in our kitchen yesterday. I learned to roll parathas and then flipped them to my brother to cook up.

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This Thanksgiving I Give Thanks For…

…a purple octopus in a turban swimming to the sounds of King Khan and the BBQ Show (and for bands that keep putting out music after alleged band break-ups).

Invisible Girl – The King Khan and BBQ show from David Leclerc on Vimeo.

… a sunshine-y hook by the controversial M.I.A. and contagiously happy Rye Rye.

… “baagi music”, even though I’m not quite sure what Humble the Poet means when he sings that hook. I’m still singing along anyways. And downloading his album “00.03”.

… an instructional video that teaches me how to wrap a sari for realz “wrapped” by Rasika. Also gonna download her album. Continue reading

Still Counting. Will It Be Kamala?

Kamala_Harris Oakland City Hall.jpgIt has been 15 days since Election Day and in California, we are still waiting to hear about who the next Attorney General for California is. Will it be Democratic (Desi) contender Kamala Harris or the Republican Steve Cooley?

Harris has 4,203,346 votes to Cooley’s 4,172,616, or 46 percent versus 45.6 percent, according to figures released by the Secretary of State’s Office.

Harris, a Democrat, held a 29,738-vote lead entering Wednesday’s count of vote-by-mail, provisional and damaged ballots.[nbcla]

It’s surprising to me that for a race of this size, it is literally coming down to 50%+1 votes. The difference is only 29,738 votes right now. It must be excruciating to be either one of them right now, just waiting in limbo for the votes to be recounted and recounted.

…[T]he number of uncounted ballots [is] 671,594 — 249,002 vote-by-mail ballots, 378,854 provisional ballots and 43,738 that are either damaged, could not be machine- read and need to be remade and ballots diverted by optical scanners for further review, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.[nbcla]

It looks like discrepancies in the counting of votes in LA County are leading up to tense moments between the two campaigns. Both parties are recruiting volunteers to monitor the counting process at Registrar of Voters offices all across the state. We should know by November 30th at the latest on who the winner is. Let this be a lesson to us all – every vote really does count. As well as vote-by-mail and provisional ballots. At least, in the state of California. Continue reading

Sikhs in the Yankee Army

As we tweeted earlier, here is an intriguing picture: A Sikh American Civil War veteran [via Sikhnet]

Here is the caption as to the origin of the picture:

I came across this photograph recently. It is a photo of British veterans of the American Civil War of 1861-65. The British veterans had gathered in London in 1917 to welcome the American troops on their way to Fight in France during World War One. Among them is (I believe ) a Sikh gentlemen sitting near the centre. I am curious to see if there were any Sikhs in the US army at this time.I am trying to discover this persons story as it is seems very interesting. Any insight in this matter would be most appreciated. -R.S. Kooner

Keep in mind that service in the U.S. military has always been one path to citizenship.

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Penn wraps up Kumar and heads back to White House

Smoke some weed, eat some White Castle, and then get back to work. Looks like Kal Penn is quietly heading back to the White House:

Kal Penn, former actor of television series “House,” is returning to the White House after fulfilling contract obligations for the third and latest “Harold and Kumar” installment.

The White House recently issued a statement that said Penn, the only successful Indian American actor in Hollywood, has been appointed as the go-to person “for those in the Arts, Youth, and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities.” [Link]

He will pretty much be doing the same job as before:

Penn is returning to the Office of Public Engagement to work as an associate director, White House spokesman Shin Inouye said in a statement to ABC News. He will “be the point person for those in the Arts, Youth, and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities,” Inouye said. [link]

I wonder if at some point in the future he will quietly return to his old role on House M.D.

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Team Coco in India

Outsourced should take a page out of this Conan O’Brien promo – this is how you do a gora guy in India and make it funny. And charming. But of course they won’t. Outsourced is an NBC show and NBC pathetically fired Conan off of The Tonight Show early this year after a meager 7 month run.

I think the promo is witty and gorgeous. I’ve been trying to find out who and where it was made, but came up empty. I did find the following.

Amex has been trying to lure Mr. O’Brien into appearing in a commercial since the company sponsored his comedy tour earlier this year. Several weeks ago, Mr. O’Brien said he was finally convinced by a funny script created by WPP PLC’s Ogilvy & Mather, as well as American Express’s past ads.

Playing on Mr. O’Brien’s obsession for detail, the new ad shows the comedian taking a trip to India to search for the finest materials to make curtains for his new show. Mr. O’Brien is seen using a loom to weave the fabric; stomping on flower petals to make the dye and having a gossip session with the local washing ladies as he dyes the material.

A person familiar with the matter said AmEx paid Mr. O’Brien more than $1 million to do the commercial. [wsj]

Conan is making his return to television, only this time it’s on TBS at the 11pm time slot. The show is called, “Conan” and his return begins tonight, November 8th. Continue reading

Obama to India: “Pull up a chair”

In case you haven’t heard about the major announcement in India this morning, President Obama has called for India to join the UK, US, France, Russia, and China as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. Practically speaking of course, there would need to be a complete overhaul of the UN structure if that were to happen, but this is still a significant announcement and one that will most definitely antagonize China:

Members of Parliament reacted with sustained applause. But neither the president nor his top advisers offered a timetable for how long it would take to reform the council, or specifics about what steps the United States would take to do so. Last month, India won a two-year non-permanent seat on the council, which currently has five permanent members: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

But expanding the body will be a complicated endeavor that will require the cooperation of other countries and could easily take years. “This is bound to be a very difficult process and it’s bound to take a significant amount of time,” William J. Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs, said here…

“In Asia and around the world, India is not simply emerging,” Mr. Obama said in his speech, echoing a line he used earlier in the day at a joint news conference with Mr. Singh. “India has emerged.”

Many Indian officials had worried that the Obama administration was less interested in India than China, and that the bilateral relationship was lacking a “big idea,” such as the landmark civilian nuclear agreement between the two countries under former President George W. Bush. [link]

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All I’m saying is that I’d like to have seen former first lady Barbara Bush get down to bhangra with village school girls. That is all I’m saying (h/t Sushil)!

The Obamas are in India doing some politico-shmolitico-ness this week, as we have been following here at Sepia Mutiny. Lesson of the day: never underestimate a good dance number to bond transnational alliances.

The whole country watched Michelle Obama shaking a leg to hit Bollywood number Rang De Basanti during her interaction with school kids in Mumbai on Saturday. Then again on Sunday, while celebrating Diwali with children from a school in south Mumbai, she broke into a jig to join kids performing a Konkani folk dance, even inspiring the US President to join her on the dance floor. [ndtv]

I wonder if this may at all change the script to the upcoming “Obama” Bollywood movie, “Phas Gaye Re Obama” (“Obama is in a Fix”). It’s about Obama-loving Indian gangsters struggling amid the economic recession. How can they not have a Michelle Obama inspired dance number now? Continue reading