About Abhi

Abhi lives in Los Angeles and works to put things into space.

Sepia Mutiny: 7/30/2004 to 4/1/2012

The Sepia Mutiny has ended but our archives are still available and you can follow us on Twitter @sepiamutiny for the time being

You can also follow us individually

Abhi: twitter.com/themadblogger

Amitava: twitter.com/amitavakumar

Anna: twitter.com/suitablegirl + https://www.facebook.com/suitablegirl

Chaitan: twitter.com/teawithtanya

Ennis: twitter.com/ennismutinywale

Kunjan http://Kunjan.net + twitter.com/kunjanshah

Lakshmi: twitter.com/LakshmiGandhi

Melvin:  www.MelvinDurai.com + www.Nshima.com

Pavani: twitter.com/_pavani + twitter.com/MustSeeDesis

Phillygrrl: twitter.com/phillygrrl

Taz: twitter.com/tazzystar

Vasugi: twitter.com/vasugi

Vivek: twitter.com/vivekster

All good things

Is our announcement that we are ending another elaborate April Fool’s joke?

Long time Sepia Mutiny readers know that SM has deceived its readers with devastating April Fool’s day pranks over the years. Go visit our site on previous April ones to see the results (exhibits A and B).

Alas, the truth is the greatest prank of all.  The wolf eventually does come…

But the good news is that our Twitter account will keep going for a while. Through it we can tell you where our writers can be found beyond this day:


Our archives will also be up and accessible for the foreseeable future.

I’d like to thank our readers and donors.  Readers/Commenters you have to understand that without some of comments you left on our posts (and often it was your comments and not even our posts that were quoted in mainstream media) there would have been no blog.  Donors, we had a site that was both ad and influence free for 8 years thanks to you!  Please don’t (any of you) think your money was wasted.  100% of it went for server costs.

I’d also like to thank all my co-bloggers.  Those there at the beginning (Manish, Anna, Ennis, Vinod) the fresh blood (Amardeep, Siddhartha), the younger generation (Taz, Phillygrrl, Pavani) and the dozens of others who are all far more talented than I and tried to keep this site engaging.  And let’s not forget Chaitan, Kunjan, or the other admins that pitched in over the years to keep things running smoothly.

As for me, I look back with much fondness at my time here.  One thousand three hundred and twenty plus posts over eight years.  I have no idea how many actual hours that consumed but when you add that to the comment engagement and moderation I feel like I could have maybe made something of myself if I wasn’t busy blogging.  And it is too bad that we are ending today because I really want to write about this article tomorrow.  So many memories…but these following posts were my favorite ones (that I can still remember):

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Free Dharun Ravi: Fairness vs. Justice

I was naive I suppose.  I really thought that the jury, upon hearing all the detail that the mass consuming public was not privy to, would acquit Dharun Ravi on all charges, regardless of the fact the prosecutor seemed to be cleverly boxing them in to a particular outcome, armed with ambiguous law.  At a minimum I thought the major charges, including the “hate crime,” would be hard to deliberate on, possibly resulting in a mistrial.   The comprehensive NewYorker article last month showed that the case, far from being what the media initially portrayed, was full of twists, conflicting behavior, and most importantly I believed, reasonable doubt.  A few years back I watched the absolutely brilliant 8-part documentary The Staircase (now apparently free online), about the murder trial of a bisexual man in North Carolina.  It forever changed my view of highly publicized trials in America.  They seldom have anything at all to do with justice.  Everyone involved is a victim.  More recently, we saw a miscarriage of justice in the case of the West Memphis three.  Ravi’s trial result should not have surprised me.

Ravi is an immature, upper middle class kid and a “casual homophobe” (more on  that term later) but he is not a perpetrator of a hate crime.  To consider him more than marginally complicit in the death of Tyler Clementi hurts two groups: victims of true hate crimes and the mental health community.

First off, I reject the mostly Right Wing assertion that we should banish the term “hate crime” from our legal system.  “Aren’t all crimes hate crimes” they argue?  Such arguments are specious an predicated on the belief that political correctedness is the only reason such a label exists.  Bullshit.  When a man has a chain put around his ankles and is dragged behind a car because he is black, that’s a hate crime.  When a Sikh man is shot for being a “Muslim terrorist“, that’s a hate crime.  When a gay man is tied to a fence and tortured, that’s a hate crime.  Being stupid while you are coming of age and meeting people with different backgrounds than you?  Not a hate crime.  Most crimes are committed because of anger, greed, jealousy, or mental illness.  A hate crime is different.  It is often very violent and there is rarely a personal gain.  The crime is committed as an act of domination or intimidation, often based on unjustified fear.  Nothing about Dharun Ravi’s behavior, as evinced by texts, emails, tweets, and witnesses shows even an inkling of such a motive.  One could argue he was more uncomfortable with Clementi’s socio-economic status than his sexuality!  He was also uncomfortable about an older man, a stranger, coming into his room and having sex.  Many of us may have reacted poorly in such an instance.  What opponents of the term “hate crime” get right however, is that the laws are sometimes so ambiguous that a clever prosecution can convince a jury that a wide variety of crimes meet the legal definition of a “hate crime” and that they have to convict based on the definition alone, regardless of common sense.  We have seen “terrorism” laws abused in this same way.  I would not be at all surprised if Ravi’s case someday reaches the Supreme Court for this very reason.

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Mutinous End Times

Dear Sepia Mutiny readers, commenters, and friends,

After much deliberation we are going to send Sepia Mutiny on to retirement and cease all new posts after April 1st, 2012, almost 8 years since we first started (August of 2004).

This decision will likely not come as a shock to some of you and may even be somewhat expected by others.  For our more recent readers I apologize that you discovered us only as this party was winding down.  Although we all still love our work on SM, the blogosphere has evolved quite a bit since we first started and for a variety of reasons SM has not been able to keep up in recent years so as to remain a cutting edge product both from a content and technological standpoint.  Most of the conversation that once took place daily on blogs now takes place on your Facebook and Twitter accounts.  To try and fight that trend is a losing proposition.  Almost all prominent blogs are now corporatized with actual budgets, so continuing to play in that shrinking sandbox doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  I don’t think any of us who have poured so much sweat and so many sleepless nights writing about issues we are passionate about or just fascinated by are happy with simply coasting by on past glory.

All of us have also gotten older since we started.  Some got married, some had kids, and all of us have super demanding day jobs (watch 60 Minutes this Sunday if you want to know why I haven’t been blogging much for the last two years).  I have loved reading emails from people who think all of us do this full time.  We wish!

I also truly feel that the mission of Sepia Mutiny is complete, especially for what I envisioned SM would be all about (other bloggers can share their view).  Back in 2004 there was very little brown representation in the media and very little “voice” representing us.  There was not a single loud speaker for the South Asian American community. Now there is quite a bit more and brown is everywhere.  There seems much less need for a “Mutiny” given our strides.  We were even invited to blog at the 2008 Democratic National Convention which was hard to imagine in 2004.  That is not to say we are anywhere near where we’d like to be, but a Mutiny should naturally give way to a more organized movement of some kind.  I believe SM did its job in sowing the seeds for that next chapter, whatever forms it now takes.

Over the next two weeks our writers will be continuing to post new content but will also be sharing some fond memories, some farewells, and letting you know where you can continue to follow their work after SM.  We’d also like you to share your memories of SM if you feel so inclined. Some of you even found your husband/wife or significant other through the comments section of our past posts!  Others found great friends that translated to the offline world.  We’d like to hear from anyone that wants to share.

Thanks, and see you in the real world…or in what comes next.   A mutiny gives way for others to continue the movement.

Anti-Hindu idolatry is not a good wedge issue in 2011

If this was 2004 (when this website was first created), the incident described below wouldn’t surprise me at all.  But in 2011?  Really?  Via TPM:

Gov. Steve Beshear (D-KY) is heavily favored to win re-election in a vote next Tuesday, with leads of roughly 2-1 in all the publicly released polls. Now his Republican opponent, state Senate President David Williams, is launching an attack against Beshear on a new front: Beshear participated in a Hindu religious ceremony!

This past Friday, Beshear attended a groundbreaking ceremony in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, for a new factory run by FlexFilm, a company based in India that makes materials for packaging, printing, insulation and other purposes. The plant represents a $180 million investment, and is expected to create 250 jobs in Kentucky.

As the local newspaper the News-Enterprise reports, the groundbreaking included a Hindu ceremony, the bhoomi poojan

What exactly did Williams utter?  It was pretty clearly bigoted:

“He’s there participating with Hindu priests, participating in a religious ceremony,” Williams said during a campaign stop in Shelbyville. “He’s sitting down there with his legs crossed, participating in Hindu prayers with a dot on his forehead with incense burning around him. I don’t know what the man was thinking.”

Beshear’s campaign spokesman called Williams’ remarks “pathetic and desperate.”

“Gov. Beshear is proud that 250 new jobs are coming to Elizabethtown,” campaign spokesman Matt Erwin said in a statement.


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California’s DREAM ACT too late for some?

Here in California, there has been a lot of news and commentary around the possible passage of the The California Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. It was featured on a recent NPR story:

Illegal immigrant students in that state’s colleges may soon be eligible for state-funded financial aid. A bill called the California Dream Act is working its way through the state legislature. It would allow students who attended at least three years at a California high school to apply for financial aid.

NPR’s Carrie Kahn has our report.

CARRIE KAHN: Sofia Campos came to California when she was six. Her parents brought her and her two younger siblings from Peru. Campos said she had no idea her family had overstayed their visas. She didn’t find out she was here illegally until she was ready to go to college.

Ms. SOFIA CAMPOS: When I was 17, I tried to apply for federal financial aid. So I asked my parents for the Social Security number, and that’s when they had to tell me that I didn’t have one. [link]

President Obama is on the record as supporting the DREAM act nationally and it was introduced (yet again) in the US Senate in May of this year.

This bill would provide conditional permanent residency to certain illegal and deportable alien students who graduate from US high schools, who are of good moral character, arrived in the U.S. legally or illegally as minors, and have been in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill’s enactment. If they were to complete two years in the military or two years at a four year institution of higher learning, the students would obtain temporary residency for a six year period. Within the six year period, a qualified student must have “acquired a degree from an institution of higher education in the United States or [have] completed at least 2 years, in good standing, in a program for a bachelor’s degree or higher degree in the United States,” or have “served in the armed services for at least 2 years and, if discharged, [have] received an honorable discharge.”[3] Military enlistment contracts require an eight year commitment, with active duty commitments typically between four and six years, but as low as two years.[4][5] “Any alien whose permanent resident status is terminated [according to the terms of the Act] shall return to the immigration status the alien had immediately prior to receiving conditional permanent resident status under this Act.”[6] [Wikipedia].

But this might all be too late for Mandeep Chahal. Deportation day could be Tuesday. You might want to write a letter against this if you have a minute today:

Mandeep, a DREAM Act eligible student, and her mother face imminent deportation on Tuesday, June 21, 2011. Mandeep grew up in Mountain View, California and attended Santa Rita Elementary School and Egan Junior High School. She graduated from Los Altos High School in 2009 and is now an honors pre-med student at UC Davis.

Mandeep came to the United States in 1997 when she was six years old, and only discovered she was undocumented when she was 15.

If Mandeep and her mother are forced to leave, their family will be torn apart and Mandeep’s two U.S. Citizen siblings will be left without their mother. [link]

Kids shouldn’t pay for the “sins” of their parents. Especially if they work hard and have the potential of making our society better. Enough with the out of control “enforcement only” way of dealing with immigration.

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Tiger Moms raising Paper Tigers?

This is going to be the most talked about article since Amy Chua’s. Every South Asian American man visiting this site should read the whole thing. Here are just some of the attention grabbing sections from Wesley Yang’s piece in New York Magazine, broken out for our readers (and these excerpts are from just the first half of the 11 page article). First, what a school with admissions based purely on test scores looks like:

Entrance to Stuyvesant, one of the most competitive public high schools in the country, is determined solely by performance on a test: The top 3.7 percent of all New York City students who take the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test hoping to go to Stuyvesant are accepted. There are no set-asides for the underprivileged or, conversely, for alumni or other privileged groups. There is no formula to encourage “diversity” or any nebulous concept of “well-­roundedness” or “character.” Here we have something like pure meritocracy. This is what it looks like: Asian-­Americans, who make up 12.6 percent of New York City, make up 72 percent of the high school.

This year, 569 Asian-Americans scored high enough to earn a slot at Stuyvesant, along with 179 whites, 13 Hispanics, and 12 blacks. Such dramatic overrepresentation, and what it may be read to imply about the intelligence of different groups of New Yorkers, has a way of making people uneasy. But intrinsic intelligence, of course, is precisely what Asians don’t believe in. They believe–and have ­proved–that the constant practice of test-taking will improve the scores of whoever commits to it. All throughout Flushing, as well as in Bayside, one can find “cram schools,” or storefront academies, that drill students in test preparation after school, on weekends, and during summer break. “Learning math is not about learning math,” an instructor at one called Ivy Prep was quoted in the New York Times as saying. “It’s about weightlifting. You are pumping the iron of math.” Mao puts it more specifically: “You learn quite simply to nail any standardized test you take.”

But it won’t last into college:

Colleges have a way of correcting for this imbalance: The Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade has calculated that an Asian applicant must, in practice, score 140 points higher on the SAT than a comparable white applicant to have the same chance of admission. This is obviously unfair to the many qualified Asian individuals who are punished for the success of others with similar faces. Upper-middle-class white kids, after all, have their own elite private schools, and their own private tutors, far more expensive than the cram schools, to help them game the education system…

And it isn’t like the movies anymore:

“The general gist of most high-school movies is that the pretty cheerleader gets with the big dumb jock, and the nerd is left to bide his time in loneliness. But at some point in the future,” he says, “the nerd is going to rule the world, and the dumb jock is going to work in a carwash.

“At Stuy, it’s completely different: If you looked at the pinnacle, the girls and the guys are not only good-looking and socially affable, they also get the best grades and star in the school plays and win election to student government. It all converges at the top. It’s like training for high society. It was jarring for us Chinese kids. You got the sense that you had to study hard, but it wasn’t enough.”

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Help keep Sepia Mutiny going strong

Dear Sepia Mutiny readers,

It has been nearly two years since we have held a pledge drive to keep Sepia Mutiny rolling along. Our server costs come to about $65 a month (yes, we have thoroughly researched cheaper options). For the last six months I have been paying out-of-pocket to keep things going. We have been ad-free for seven years strong now, and unlike the NY Times, aren’t considering putting up a paywall. Every one to two years we ask our readers to pitch in whatever they can if they appreciate the service our bloggers provide.

If you don’t want to use the Paypal link above but would rather mail in a check, then please write me at abhi [at] sepiamutiny dot com for a mailing address. In case you are curious, 100% of the money goes to paying the server costs and blog related upgrades. We don’t pocket any of the money. We will keep the Paypal link live until we have collected enough to keep the blog going through 2012.

Thanks in advance to anyone who appreciates this site or the conversations that occur here or are started here.

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Me too, me too. Jindal releases birth certificate

I have an idea. Let’s have national birth certificate coming out parties. Groups of people can get together with each other in homes or bars and reveal their certificates together and then ponder them while occasionally challenging their authenticity. Don’t like my idea? Why? You have something to hide?

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who was born in Baton Rouge to immigrant parents from India, has released his birth certificate.

Jindal is being considered by some observers as a potential candidate in the 2012 presidential race.

His office says they released the document to quell any speculation that his eligibility to run for office would be affected by a “birthright citizenship” bill introduced by fellow Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana. It would limit automatic U.S. citizenship to children whose parents were legal residents. [link]

Correction, Jindal is no longer even an afterthought in the 2012 race. Thus, this publicity stunt. Here is the backstory on Jindal’s birth:

As he wrote last year in his book, “Leadership and Crisis,” his mother had been offered a scholarship in 1970 to complete a graduate degree in nuclear physics at LSU.

When she informed the university that she couldn’t accept the scholarship because she was pregnant, “LSU wrote back and promised her a month off for childbirth if she changed her mind. LSU was so accommodating, and the opportunity to come to America so thrilling, that my parents accepted. [link]

Now, if I was a certain type of conservative I could argue that Jindal is kind of an “Anchor Baby.” He best not step in to Arizona:

Buoyed by recent public opinion polls suggesting they’re on the right track with illegal immigration, Arizona Republicans will likely introduce legislation this fall that would deny birth certificates to children born in Arizona — and thus American citizens according to the U.S. Constitution — to parents who are not legal U.S. citizens. The law largely is the brainchild of state senator Russell Pearce, a Republican whose suburban district, Mesa, is considered the conservative bastion of the Phoenix political scene. [link]

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We got him in Pakistan

It took 10 years but the chief terrorist got his due. Osama Bin Laden confirmed killed. And apparently by a special forces bullet and not a drone.

The President of the United States made the announcement tonight himself. He was found in “a compound” in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

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I am wondering if this article is related:

ABBOTTABAD: Three loud blasts were heard near the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) Kakul Road late Sunday night and a military helicopter also crashed. Sources told Geo News that heavy firing was heard in the area before the chopper crashed.

Windowpanes of the nearby buildings and houses were smashed due to the intensity of the blasts, the sources said. Eyewitnesses said first sound of heavy firing was heard and then there was a huge blast. Fire erupted at the scene of the occurrence and according to latest reports police and fire brigade teams were rushing towards the blast scene. Security forces cordoned off the entire area and military helicopters were also hovering over the area. [Link]

The helicopter cited above is rumored to have been a Pakistani one is now known to have been a Special Forces helicopter that had mechanical problems. I will update this post tonight with the latest.

Update 1: Here is an intriguing article from two weeks ago about a possible Indonesian terrorist found in Abbottabad earlier this year:

Abdul Hameed in Northwest Pakistan’s hill town of Abottabad would have never imagined that his act of kindness, of giving a foreign couple food and shelter for a few days would blow up in his face.

He had come across a foreign couple, cold and shivering in the street, and could he give them food and shelter for a few days?

Hameed had spare rooms on the second-floor that he occasionally let out since his older children had left home…

The run of good luck had ended for Umar Patek, an al-Qaida-linked Indonesian militant who for 10 years had been on the run from a 1 million US dollar bounty on his head, for allegedly helping build the bombs used in the 2002 bombings of nightclubs in Bali that killed 202 people. [Link]

Update 2: Wow! Check out this article I dug up from just a week ago:

Pakistan’s army chief said Saturday his forces had “broken the back” of Islamist militants after the United States criticised the country’s efforts to quell Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked rebels.

“The terrorists’ backbone has been broken and God willing we will soon prevail,” General Ashfaq Kayani said in a speech at a passing-out parade at the Pakistan Military Academy in northwestern garrison town of Abbottabad. The White House this month criticised Pakistan’s efforts to defeat the Taliban in its border regions, in a report immediately rejected by Islamabad. [Link]

If this article is correct then Bin Laden was staying within a couple of miles of Kayani’s speech!

Update 3 (12:31a.m. EST): The Atlantic suspects they know which compound. I’d take it with a grain of salt for now.

Update 4 (1:32a.m. EST): This is likely going to come down to two brothers that were couriers. The CIA were set up on them for a long time.

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