Nikki’s pagan past and pious present

[UPDATE: See a fuller copy of Knott's remarks where she alleges Haley is a secret Sikh who is being elected by a cabal of Indian interests [link]]

One of the interesting differences between Jindal and Haley, two politicians with so much in common down to their Punjabi parents, is that Jindal makes his conversion central to his political identity whereas Haley does not.

1 One reason for this is color. Bobby Jindal is very clearly brown, he is married to a brown woman with a “foreign” name. He couldn’t hide his ancestry if he tried, so instead he emphasizes his conversion from the alien Hindu faith to the more familiar Catholic one.

Haley doesn’t have that burden, she’s a light skinned woman married to a white man, with a familiar sounding name. Heck, I got a number of emails last week from friends (desi and non-desi) all saying “Nicky Haley’s desi?” For her, talking about her conversion is not just unecessary, it would remind people of what’s alien about her and so it would be counter-productive.

I think this is why the attacks on her religion have been fairly tame in the past (in 2004 anonymous fliers claimed she was a Hindu but she still went on to beat the most senior member of the State House [link]) and present [link], they just have a hard time sticking, even though this is a state where anti-Catholic and anti-Mormon attacks have worked in the past [link].

2 The other reason why she doesn’t stress her conversion as much is that it doesn’t seem to have been as abrupt. Her campaign strongly stresses her Christianity today, but this was not true in 2004 and reflects a strong increase in Christian language in her campaign materials [link].

In 2004, seven years after her conversion, she was quoted as saying she attended both Methodist and Sikh services [link] and even now her spokesman will admit that “She attends Sikh services once or twice a year in respect for her family… Like millions of others, she honors her mother and her father” [link].

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That’s the Raghead-in-Chief to you (updated)

[Update: See below the fold for much more extensive coverage of what Knotts actually said. It's far more offensive and inflamatory than the first reports revealed]

On a political talk show Thursday night, State Senator Jake Knotts said (about Nikki Haley):

We already got one rag-head in the White House, we don’t need a rag-head in the governor’s mansion,” [link]

I’d love to show you the video of this clip, but it was either pulled from the archive or “Republican political operative and show co-host Wesley Donehue …forgot to hit record” [link].

After being soundly reamed by Haley for his remarks and more mildly criticized by the SC GOP, Senator Knotts “apologized” saying

my “raghead” comments about Obama and Haley were intended in jest. Bear in mind that this is a freewheeling, anything-goes Internet radio show that is broadcast from a pub. It’s like local political version of Saturday Night Live, which is actually where the joke came from,” Knotts said. “Since my intended humorous context was lost in translation, I apologize. I still believe Ms. Haley is pretending to be someone she is not, much as Obama did, but I apologize to both for an unintended slur [link]

Get that?

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Why does he hate our freedoms?

Today, at noon, Joe Lieberman will introduce legislation designed to strip American citizenship from anybody who chooses to affiliate with a foreign terrorist organization.

The bill is a reaction to the fact that Shahzad was read his Miranda rights, something that Lieberman claims will make it harder to fight terrorism even though (a) anybody arrested in America is read their rights (citizen or not) and (b) Shahzad has been singing like a canary.

Why will Lieberman’s political grandstanding effect you? After all, you’re not planning on becoming a terrorist. One reason is that the Lieberman’s remarks suggest that this bill will be incredibly broad:

under federal law, the “choice” to affiliate or associate with terrorism may be an innocent, unknowing financial sale or purchase, or it may simply entail making a charitable donation for humanitarian purposes to a group that the executive branch suspects of terrorism. [cite]

Remember that under current law, even human rights advocates working with non-violent political groups to help them resolve their conflicts non-violently can be charged with giving material support to terrorists if they also have an armed wing which is classified as a terrorist organization.

Another reason why you should be worried is that he is suggesting doing this by administrative means, even though you would have the right to contest such a finding in court:

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[NSFW] MIA’s new happy upbeat video about a boy and a girl in love

I tweeted yesterday about the new MIA video, a short, happy upbeat bit of bubblegum pop about a boy and a girl in love. It’s uplifting and heart warming, yet light and subtle. She’s clearly leaving politics behind and trying to challenge Taylor / Miley / Gaga / Ke$ha in the hearts of tween kids everywhere. Based on this video, I figure her next move is to team up with Justin Bieber for a saccharine duet, something that will show up on Glee within a month. Or maybe she’ll decide to give Jay Sean a run for his money, with a song called “Up.”

CAUTION: The video really is NSFW because of both violence and nudity. Also, you really don’t want to watch a 9 minute long video with graphic imagery at the office, unless you work at the SEC..

M.I.A, Born Free from ROMAIN-GAVRAS on Vimeo.

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A marriage of East and West

Earlier this month, the NYT ran a wedding announcement for the marriage of Nicolette Bird and Ravi Mehta. At first this seemed like the usual thing: one person with family in Calcutta, went to college in Calcutta, marrying another person with family in New York who went to Harvard.

Except …

In this case it was Nicolette Bird who is from Calcutta and works in Bollywood, and it’s Ravi Mehta who was born in Colorado, with his parents and job in New York City.

The bride, 25, is an actress and model and has had roles in the Bollywood films “Rock On,” released in 2008, and “Striker,” released earlier this month. As a model, she has appeared in television commercials and magazine advertisements in India. She graduated from Bhowanipur Education Society College in Calcutta. She is a daughter of Edwina Bird and Nicholas Bird of Calcutta.

The bridegroom, 28, is the founder and managing director of Steadview Capital Management of New York, a hedge fund that focuses on companies in India. He graduated from Harvard. The bridegroom is a son of Geeta Mehta and Krishen Mehta of New York. [NYT]

And why not? We hate it when people ask us “Really, where are you from” do we think this only happens to brown folks in America? Heck, this week people sent me two links to Indian TV ads which had anxiety about hybridity as their main theme:

No word yet on what the Mehta-Bird’s will be eating at home, but given that he grew up in Japan I imagine their dinner table negotiations are quite intense. Or maybe they just get takeout.

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Foxy Brown

Do you hear that? That’s the sound of the glass ceiling shattering. Yes, that’s right, there’s a desi model in the Sports’ Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Oh, and she’s a sophomore at Harvard, pre-med studying econ. Move aside Padma Laxmi, make room TMBWITW, here comes Sonia Dara.

I know I know, I can hear the objections from the nattering nabobs of negativism. Why is this photo shoot in Rajasthan? Who wears a swimsuit in the middle of the desert? Look, I’m not going to defend SI. This photograph, for example, is completely absurd. I can’t look at it without cringing.

However, what bothers me is the exotification not the objectification. I’m totally down with the latter. I actually wish desi men would get objectified in the media, instead of being portrayed as they were in the superbowl ad for Metro TV below. I mean, don’t you get tired of being appreciated for your mind all the time? Right now, even the desi sex symbols in the media are geeks first and eye candy later. I’m doing my part to try to bring sexy back, but there’s only so much I can do alone.

One day, perhaps, desis can be depicted three dimensionally by the American media. Until then. I’d rather see more Sonia Dara and less of Ranjit and Chad.


(Update) You may also be interested in Sonia Dara’s spread in Vogue India, which shows her in a different context.

Lastly, let’s keep this polite whether you like Dara or do not. If the language in the comments go beyond the bounds of polite conversation, I’ll shut it down because I don’t have time to prune uncouth comments while at work. So please don’t feed any trolls who show up.

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May all your xmases be brown

Growing up I adored the holidays. We sang carols in school, followed by vacation and festive parties thrown by my parents’ European friends. The highlight of the season, and our key family tradition, was to walk down 5th Avenue and look at the various Christmas displays in the shop windows.

For me, my favorite parts were the rampant commercialism and the massive displays of conspicuous consumption. Christmas was never a family holiday, we never kept a tree in our Manhattan apartment and in my Jewish neighborhood nobody believed in Santa, a custom my neighbors explained was a bit of gentile foolishness for children who were too slow to notice that apartments had no chimneys.

For these reasons I never developed a deep abiding affection for the holidays. Many of my brown friends are thrilled that the season is upon us, talking about how they plan to make the holiday their own, putting a Khanda on top of a “Christmas Tree”, etc. And why not? The tree is an old pagan tradition that was only grudgingly accepted by the Catholic Church, all the best Christmas songs were written by Jews, and Santa Claus is Punjabi .

Personally, I’m more of a bah humbug kind of guy. Where I live in the Midwest, strangers answer your Happy Holidays with a Merry Christmas in such a way to make me want to declare war against it, or explain to them in a pedantic fashion that the early Christians didn’t celebrate Christmas because birthday celebrations were seen as pagan, and that most of the traditions associated with Christmas are either pagan (like the word Yule) or the result of fairly recent invention. With such stress, there’s a reason why cardiac mortality increases this time of year.

How about y’all? Are you grinchy like me, viewing Xmas as just a cheap travel day? Or do you have a sentimental attachment to the holidays and all their trimmings? (video after the fold)

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How about those of us who aren’t famous

Fame just isn’t what it used to be. On Friday, New Jersey Police stopped Bob Dhillon Dylan for suspicious activities, i.e. walking around in a minority neighborhood in the rain and looking at a house for sale, and refused to let him go until he produced identification.

Then today, as Phillygrrl reported, SRK was detained at Newark. But at least he got privileged treatment, they let him make a phone call after an hour, and the Indian government was able to step in. (This isn’t going to help suppress rumors that it was all a publicity stunt for his film)

But what happens to people who aren’t famous? Let’s say they’re Muslim, Brown, Pakistani and working for the US government? Then it seems you can be detained and not even the government agency you’re working for can get you out:

Rahman Bunairee is a Pakistani journalist who works as a contract reporter for VOA’s Deewa Radio and for a privately-owned Pakistani television station. The 33-year-old planned to join VOA [Voice of America] in Washington for one year, and arrived at Dulles Airport on Sunday with a visa issued by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. It is not clear why he was detained and why he is still being held in U.S. custody… The journalist, whose home was destroyed by the Taliban last month, was taken into custody on Sunday. [link]

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Mr. Policeman is your friend

When I was little, we were told that the policeman was our friend and that if we were ever lost or scared, we should go to a cop for help. And the NYPD makes an effort to look friendly by doing things like playing cricket to build bridges with desi muslim populations.

At the same time, I’d find their friendly face a bit more convincing if they didn’t throw arrest obviously wrong people, (allegedly) call them “sand nigger” and (allegedly) throw them in the clink without giving them the phone call they’re entitled to.

Recently, poet and professor Ravi Shankar was arrested and detained for 30 hours for a crime that had obviously been committed by somebody else:

I hadn’t been read my rights or granted a phone call. After an hour my arresting officer returned — but only to take me for a mug shot and digital fingerprinting. Eventually he showed me my arrest warrant. It was for a 5-foot-10, 140-pound white male. I happen to be a 6-foot-2, 200-pound, Indian man. I pointed out the discrepancy. “Tell it to the judge,” he said. [link]

The music world is lucky they didn’t pick up Norah Jones’ dad on that same warrant. I mean, we all look alike, even when some of us are white.

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Posted in Law

Sunday meetup reminder

This Sunday at 5PM, we’ll be hosting a joint meetup with Ultrabrown. In the past the joint meetups have drawn around 50-70 people (albeit on a Saturday) often spilling over into other events (like the Shilpa Ray show in Brooklyn).

If you’re worried about finding us in the lounge, clip the image at right. We all look alike, I just dress more fly. Or you could look for Manish.

Joint meetup, Sun Aug. 16, 5-8pm at Verlaine, 110 Rivington St. between Essex/Ludlow. Take F,J,M,Z to Essex/Delancey, walk north 1 block.

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