Gun Violence

This cartoon says it all, really:

Gun Violence by Mike Keefe, Denver Post, Buy this cartoon

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- January 9, 2011 2:35 PM // Politics

Kal Penn goes back to his roots (and buds)

Ref: Kal Penn upgrades from the White House to the White Castle

The election of Obama to the Presidency was for many people an experience akin to that of a first-time raver. A tsunami of dopamine floods your skull, lighting ablaze every last neuron. And in that cresting wave of impossibly good feelings you have ideas. Some wicked cool ideas. Like, you know, what the world really needs is a Ministry of Cuddling and maybe a Treasury of Stolen Kisses. And if only, somehow, you could just talk to Osama Bin Laden and give him a hug. He would renounce terrorism, move to the Bay Area, open up a hookah bar (called 'Arabian Nights', natch) and become a DJ of some repute, known for throwing down chill Islamo-Arabic beats.

But now it's morning. This isn't Reagan's "Morning in America". It's morning in an abandoned warehouse along the industrial edge of Oakland. You are slouched in one corner on the cold, hard concrete. And in the stark light of day you see that the cool Jamaican Rastafarian with whom you had a brilliant conversation last night is decidedly neither Jamaican nor a Rastafarian. He is Ben, a middle-aged Jewish guy with fake dreadlocks, who works in the back room of the local herbal therapy store and lives in Mrs. Chao's basement in Chinatown. The slinky rave goddess who lit up the dance floor with you and with whom you had this really, really amazing connection is a pink-haired, slightly chubby 19-year old named Amber from Contra Costa county who is slumped over your shoulder crying because her baby daddy Hector just texted, promising her an ass-whooping because he came home from a night of gang banging to find their infant son alone with her preteen brother.

From the corner of your eye you see the DJ packing up his gear, throwing you an occasional disinterested look. Your eyes are crusty. Your throat is dry. You really need to take a whizz. Ben's drooling on your legs. You gently kick him off. Amber's now sobbing uncontrollably. You twist away slowly and let her slide off. You feel for the car keys in your pocket. Still there. You breathe a sigh of relief. You get up, stretch, look at your watch. It's 11:45 am. And you think, "I best get out of here. Gotta make a living."

And that's what happened to Kal Penn.

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Amar Parikh - April 3, 2010 11:00 AM // Humour , Politics

He Jindaled It Up

Yikes! I didn't realize Bobby Jindal had made to the urban dictionary:

1. jindal - (verb) To get your 15 minutes of fame and royally fuck it up, especially on national television.

He jindaled that speech so badly that even Fox News trashed him.

2. Jindal - To really screw up a big opportunity.

Good luck on that job interview; I hope you don't jindal it!

These are references to Mr. Jindal's absolutely craptacular rejoinder to Obama's State of The Union address. Doubtless, they were put there by some wags from the Bobby Jindal Is Kenneth The Page Facebook fanclub (at 19485, roughly half the size of the 40648 members of Americans For Bobby Jindal).

Meanwhile, Mr. Jindal continues to be as hypocritical as ever, claiming credit for stimulus grants funded with money he once vehemently opposed. Born again Republican, that Bobby.

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- July 21, 2009 6:16 PM // Politics

The Road To 44

How did Obama do it? I bet you there will be books still being published that describe the ins and outs of this marathon election season long after the principals and voters have shuffled off this mortal coil. Chief credit, in my mind, must go to Bush, our Wrecker-In-Chief for the past eight years. You sir, deserve thanks for creating the perfect shitstorm that forced Americans to collectively look beyond the fog of media, reach deep into their wallets and find - nothing - thereby allowing our desire for economic security and general competence to overpower centuries of cultural and racial divisions, if only for a moment. That's right - Obama may well be Dubya's greatest legacy to the nation.

As The Onion put it:

Nation Finally Shitty Enough To Make Social Progress

WASHINGTON—After emerging victorious from one of the most pivotal elections in history, president-elect Barack Obama will assume the role of commander in chief on Jan. 20, shattering a racial barrier the United States is, at long last, shitty enough to overcome.

As for how Obama actually ran his campaign, there are several great articles making the rounds now:

  • Obama's Brain Trust: Rolling Stone talks about how Obama first put together his team.
  • Battle Plans: Ryan Lizza, from the New Yorker, details Obama's strategy for winning.
  • How He Did It: apparently, Newsweek had a dedicated team of reporters embedded in both campaigns during the entire election cycle. This team was not allowed to publish or share anything until the elections had passed. This is their coverage.

Finally, a joke from Al Giordano to round out this post:

One sunny day in late January, 2009 an old man approached the White House from Across Pennsylvania Avenue, where he'd been sitting on a park bench.

He spoke to the U.S. Marine standing guard and said, "I would like to go in and meet with President Bush."

The Marine looked at the man and said, "Sir, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here."

The old man said, "Okay", and walked away.'

The following day, the same man approached the White House and said to the same Marine, "I would like to go in and meet with President Bush."

The Marine again told the man, "Sir, as I said yesterday, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here."

The man thanked him and, again, just walked away.

The third day, the same man approached the White House and spoke to the very same U.S. Marine, saying "I would like to go in and meet with President Bush."

The Marine, understandably agitated at this point, looked at the man and said, "Sir, this is the third day in a row you have been here asking to speak to Mr. Bush. I've told you already that Mr. Bush is no longer the president and no longer resides here. Don't you understand?"

The old man looked at the Marine and said, "Oh, I understand. I just love hearing it."

The Marine snapped to attention, saluted, and said, "See you tomorrow, Sir."

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- November 16, 2008 4:00 PM // Politics

Our God Is Bigger Than Your God

From a pre-rally prayer at a McCain event in Davenport, Iowa:

Unhelpful for establishing the tone McCain sought in Davenport was the Rev. Arnold Conrad, past pastor of the Grace Evangelical Free Church. His prayer before McCain arrived at the convention center blocks from the Mississippi River appeared to dismiss faiths other than Christianity and cast the election as a referendum on God himself.

"I would also pray, Lord, that your reputation is involved in all that happens between now and November, because there are millions of people around this world praying to their god — whether it's Hindu, Buddha, Allah — that his opponent wins, for a variety of reasons," Conrad said.

"And Lord, I pray that you would guard your own reputation, because they're going to think that their god is bigger than you, if that happens. So I pray that you will step forward and honor your own name with all that happens between now and Election Day," he said.

Apparently, a spokesperson for the McCain campaign distanced themselves from these remarks later on. Funny how the McCain-Palin "Straight Talk Express" has been doing so much of that lately, particularly at all the shenanigans going on at their rallies. With their poll numbers tanking, you would almost think desperation had something to do with it.

PS - Hat tip.

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- October 12, 2008 10:46 AM // Politics

DNC 2008

From former Virginia Governor Mark Warner's keynote speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention:

We delivered broadband to the most remote areas of our state, because if you can send a job to Bangalore, India, you sure as heck can send one to Danville, VA and Flint, MI, and Scranton, PA, and Peoria, IL. In a global economy, you should have to leave your home town to find a world-class job.

I wonder if that's the first time India gets a mention at a DNC convention? Regardless, the mention is in keeping with the general themes in the speeches today: high tech and clean energy job generation and outsourcing prevention.

Update: here's another, earlier, reference from Governor Ed Rendell:

It will invest $150 billion over the next decade to grow our energy supply and put 5 million Americans to work building solar and wind farms, clean coal gasification and geothermal plants, the kind of jobs that can’t be outsourced to India or China.

Same themes.

Update II: Senator and Vice Presidential nominee Joe Biden weighs in as well:

The Bush-McCain foreign policy has dug us into a very deep hole with very few friends to help us climb out. For the last seven years, this administration has failed to face the biggest forces shaping this century: the emergence of Russia, China and India as great powers; the spread of lethal weapons; the shortage of secure supplies of energy, food and water; the challenge of climate change; and the resurgence of fundamentalism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the real central front against terrorism.

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- August 26, 2008 7:11 PM // Politics

Primary Season

Phew, could it be primary season is finally over?

Hillary Rodham Clinton will concede Tuesday night that Barack Obama has the delegates to secure the Democratic nomination, campaign officials said, effectively ending her bid to be the nation's first female president.

Not so fast!

The Clinton campaign denied a report that the New York senator would say on Tuesday night -- after final voting in a grueling primary season -- that Obama has the delegates to secure the Democratic nomination.

Clinton campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe told CNN the former first lady was "absolutely not" conceding the campaign and said The Associated Press report was completely incorrect.

Honestly, at this stage, the following Mike Luckovich cartoon really sums it up:

Hat tip.

Update: It's over. "Yes we can!" indeed.

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- June 3, 2008 12:04 PM // Politics

American Dream Irony

With all the recent news of instability in the US financial system (consider today's news of JP Morgan purchasing rival Bear Stearns for the laughable price of $2/share) contributing to the all round malaise felt by many, I found the following picture particularly telling:

Bread Line During the Louisville Flood, Kentucky, 1937

My intention is not to be apocalyptic. But it's good to remind ourselves.

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- March 16, 2008 8:12 PM // Politics

Hindu Prayer In Senate

A word of appreciation here for Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada), the current Senate Majority Leader, for inviting Pundit Rajan Zed to give the brief morning prayer for a senate session last week. True, it was briefly disrupted, but that shouldn't detract from the bigger picture: an acknowledgment of the many Hindus living and practicing in the USA.

More details from the Washington Post:

Zed, the first Hindu to offer the Senate prayer, began: "We meditate on the transcendental glory of the Deity Supreme, who is inside the heart of the Earth, inside the life of the sky and inside the soul of the heaven. May He stimulate and illuminate our minds."

As the Senate prepared for another day of debate over the Iraq war, Zed closed with, "Peace, peace, peace be unto all."

Zed, who was born in India, was invited by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Speaking in the chamber shortly after the prayer, Reid defended the choice and linked it to the war debate.

"If people have any misunderstanding about Indians and Hindus," Reid said, "all they have to do is think of Gandhi," a man "who gave his life for peace."

"I think it speaks well of our country that someone representing the faith of about a billion people comes here and can speak in communication with our heavenly Father regarding peace," said Reid, a Mormon and sharp critic of President Bush's Iraq policies.

YouTube vid here:

Good to see which party has a greater commitment to diversity. If you have to compare and contrast, all you need to do is to see how many of the GOP presidential hopefuls actually turned up to the recent NAACP GOP presidential forum:

Only one, Rep Tom Tancredo, showed up out of a field of nine.

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- July 15, 2007 4:31 PM // General , Politics

Macaca Fracas Revisited

What a difference a month makes! In mid July, polls showed Senator Allen leading his opponent, Jim Webb, by 11 points. After the Senator's macaca moment, Zogby finds Allen trailing. Admittedly, he's only behind one percentage point, well within the margin of error. But such a severe loss of momentum is liable to go down in history, as Zogby puts it, as one "colossal political crackup."

To gauge the national impact of this brouhaha, look no further than CafePress where the number of entrepreneurs hawking macaca themed products are up to about 235, nearly double from a week ago. Yes, you too can own a rectangle magnet, bumper sticker, t-shirts, mousepads, and, um, thongs with one or more of the following designs:

Update: For an absolutely great rejoinder, check out RamR's diary, Sen Allen, Welcome To America. Bravo!

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- August 28, 2006 8:43 PM // Diaspora , Fashion , Politics

US Military And Outsourcing

It's no secret the US Military is having trouble attracting new recruits. Amidst reports of rising recruiting violations, involuntary recalls of soldiers who have already served, there are the consequences of the maximum enlistment age being raised from 35 to 42:

Russell Dilling, 42, of San Antonio, and his 19-year-old son, Robert, had tears in their eyes as they hugged afterward. The younger Dilling graduated from basic training.

Russell Dilling is scheduled to finish Oct. 6 and is hoping his knees hold out. He wants to become a small arms repairman.

There is, however, one section of the population that's enrolling in record numbers:

...Emilio Gonzales, the director of the Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, writes in today's San Diego Union-Tribune that record numbers of Hispanics are enlisting in the armed forces to gain citizenship. More than 40,000 "immigrants" serve in the armed forces today, doing the "job" in which others Americans seem uninterested.

Given that hispanics constitute a huge percentage of the illegal population in the USA, it's not surprising many would jump at the chance to become citizens. But guess who accounts for the largest percentage increase in the last five years? Sepia Mutiny has the scoop:

Mexico was the leading source country for unauthorized immigration with nearly 6.0 million residents in the United States in 2005. El Salvador, Guatemala, India, and China were the next leading source countries, accounting for a combined total of nearly 1.4 million unauthorized immigrants. Among the 10 leading source countries, the annual average increase in the unauthorized population from 2000 to 2005 was greatest among Mexican immigrants (260,000). However, the greatest percentage increase in the unauthorized immigrant population from 2000 to 2005 occurred among immigrants from India (133 percent) and Brazil (70 percent).

Given that there is still overwhelming interest in India to come to the USA, why not take advantage? Kevin Ryan, a US Military Brigadier General, has already done the math, so we don't have to. His proposal:

If the US Army placed one recruiting station in the capital of India, an English-speaking democracy of more than a billion people, we would have available a pool of enlistment-age adults equivalent to the entire population of the United States - more than 300 million men and women. Or, if we don't want to pay for a recruiting station in New Delhi, we could mail recruiting brochures to some of the 1 million foreign students who actually make it to America's colleges and institutes on temporary visas each year. Perhaps they would like to have their school debts paid along with guaranteed work.

Incredible. Magorn over at Daily Kos speculates what this might mean for Army Call Centers:

"Lima Charlie! this is Delta FOxtrot! we are under Heavy fire and need immediate Assistance"

"Hello my name is ...Frank...and I can help you with that, now what exactly seems to be the problem?"

"we are taking heavy fire from hostiles. I count at least three firing positons, they have small arms and RPGS"

"Okay. Have you tried Killing the Enemy?"

"We're pinned down, we can't get a clear shot, we need fire support immediately"

"okay . Are you Sure your Weapon is loaded? I'm going to give you the steps to ensure their are bullets in your gun. Ready?

  1. Remove the magazine from the chamber
  2. Count how many bullets are in the magazine-they are the long cylindrical objects
  3. If the magazine is empty replace with a fully loaded one.

Can you do that for me and tell me what happens?"


"Sir there is no reason to use abusive language, I will terminate this call if it continues"

Imagine the shenanigans at boot camp:

"Speak up boy - are you a steer or a queer?"


"You heard me! Are you a steer or a queer?"

"I'm Perumselva Pandiyan, Saar, Voracle expert."

And so on. Anyway, this proposal could well be a trial balloon, given the author's background. If so, let's see if it gains any traction. I doubt the Indian government would be willing to lose potential jawans so easily. It might end up as an fast-track-to-immigration reform kind of a thing.

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- August 23, 2006 4:16 PM // Politics

The Macaca Fracas

On this, India's Independence Day, it's worthwhile to take a moment to reflect on our heritage and spare a minute for those folks who toiled so we could enjoy swaraj (freedom). This applies for the diaspora too. Where would we be in the USA without the Civil Rights movement, for example? However, as Thomas Jefferson said, "the price of freedom is eternal vigilance" and, as we keep getting told, there are those who envy us our freedom. In this particular case though, said enviers are right here in the USA and in positions of power. Case in point: Virginia Senator George Allen (R). The Washington Post has the details:

Democrat James Webb's Senate campaign accused Sen. George Allen (R) of making demeaning comments Friday to a 20-year-old Webb volunteer of Indian descent.

S.R. Sidarth, a senior at the University of Virginia, had been trailing Allen with a video camera to document his travels and speeches for the Webb campaign. During a campaign speech Friday in Breaks, Virginia, near the Kentucky border, Allen singled out Sidarth and called him a word that sounded like "Macaca."

"This fellow here over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca, or whatever his name is. He's with my opponent. He's following us around everywhere. And it's just great. We're going to places all over Virginia, and he's having it on film and its great to have you here and you show it to your opponent because he's never been there and probably will never come."

After telling the crowd that Webb was raising money in California with a "bunch of Hollywood movie moguls," Allen again referenced Sidarth, who was born and raised in Fairfax County.

"Lets give a welcome to Macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia," said Allen, who then began talking about the "war on terror."

Here's the video as captured by Sidarth:

Bear in mind, this is a standing Senator of the United States! Initially, the Allen campaign tried to pass off the remarks as a reference to Sidarth's hairstyle. Not so fast. It's an ethnic slur specifically aimed at North Africans. And Allen's mother is of European and Tunisian descent, so he certainly couldn't claim ignorance of its implications.

So, why did Allen do this? Jeffrey Feldman over at Daily Kos comes to this conclusion:

In a few words: George Allen used a white power word in his stump speech. And he did it on purpose.

Why he did it is a question I cannot answer. There cannot be more than a handful of people in Virginia who could have understood this term. Perhaps there were some in the audience? That is hard to say. Perhaps he has used the word 'macaca' before in similar situations that have not been caugh on tape? Also hard to say. Perhaps 'macaca' is a word that he uses normally in his private life, but that he typically does not incude in his stump speeches? Difficult to answer that question.

Whatever the case may be, journalists, voters and elected officialsin Virginia have ample reason to ask George Allen an extended series of questions about this incident.

It is fair to say that if a sitting U.S. Senator is identified as using a word identified as part of a broader white power vocabulary--that is cause for serious alarm.

Today, the Allen campaign issued a classic non-apology apology:

"In singling out the Webb campaign's cameraman, I was trying to make the point that Jim Webb had never been to that part of Virginia – and I encouraged him to bring the tape back to Jim and welcome him to the real world of Virginia and America, outside the Beltway, where he has rarely visited. I also made up a nickname for the cameraman, which was in no way intended to be racially derogatory. Any insinuations to the contrary are completely false.

"Yesterday, I apologized to anyone who may have offended by the misinterpretation of my remarks. That was certainly not my intent ...

"I never want to embarrass or demean anyone and I apologize if my comments offended this young man. Even though he has signed onto my opponent's campaign, I look forward to seeing him on the trail ahead.

Translation: If anyone in the media misunderstood why I made up a racist nickname for the cameraman, it's your fault. And if you were offended, it's your problem too.

Thanks a lot, Senator. I think you just stepped into a huge pile of caca there. I wonder what Republican stalwarts like Dinesh D'Souza, Ramesh Ponnuru or Bobby Jindal have to say about this one.

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- August 15, 2006 8:53 PM // Diaspora , Politics

Bush Baby

From The Telegraph UK comes this snapshot of US President George W Bush holding a baby in Trinwillershagen, Germany.

There's a saying in Bengali: "chere deye maa, kende bachi." This can roughly be translated to "please let me go, I'm in tears, I'll do anything to get out of here." Seems appropriate on so many levels, doesn't it?

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- July 16, 2006 8:47 PM // Bangla , Politics

The Office

Ron Suskind's latest expose on the Bush Administration, The One Percent Doctrine, is reviewed in Salon today and it's chock full of damning details. Of course, there's been a whole lotta books on this administration of this type and we've yet to reach any kind of tipping point.

A meticulous work of reporting, based on interviews with nearly 100 well-placed sources, many of them members of the U.S. intelligence community, Suskind's book paints perhaps the most intimate and damning portrait yet of the Bush team.

At this point, one could forgive readers for asking, "How many more damning portraits of the Bush administration do we need?" From yellowcake to Joe Wilson to Abu Ghraib, the list of Bush scandals and outrages is endless, but nothing ever seems to happen. As the journalist Mark Danner has pointed out, the problem is not lack of information: The problem is that Americans can't, or won't, acknowledge what that information means.

In particular, in addition to providing more detail on the usual shenanigans of this administration, the book sheds new light on Cheney's stealth bureaucratic machinations. A stunning summary from Salon:

Suskind's more momentous disclosure is the degree to which Cheney deliberately kept Bush in the dark, so as to be able to achieve his desired ends. For example, when Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto Saudi ruler, visited Bush in 2002, the advance packet sent by the Saudis to prepare Bush for the meeting was mysteriously diverted to Cheney's office. Bush never read it. As a result, he had no idea what the agenda of the meeting was and failed to respond to the Saudi's requests for American help with the exploding Israeli-Palestinian crisis, which severely weakened Abdullah's position as an ally in the "war on terror." Nor did he extract any concessions from them. For Cheney, it seems, the less Bush was prepared for Abdullah, the less chance he would make any concessions to the Arab leader. Or perhaps Cheney simply wanted to control the meeting for the sake of control.

This is amazing stuff, The Office meets Yes Prime Minister by way of Dr. Strangelove. The fate of the free world rests on these guys?

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- June 23, 2006 1:12 PM // Books , Politics

More Gore

Continuing our Gore kick, here's the trailer from Al Gore's upcoming film, An Inconvenient Truth, his warning to us on global warming. Calcutta makes a cameo appearance in the trailer - 60 million stand to be affected in the surrounding region if the sea level rises as a consequence.

On a lighter note, here's Will Ferrell's George Bush impersonation from Saturday Night Live. And yes, it's on global warming too:

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- May 18, 2006 9:20 PM // Politics

Al Gore On SNL

From the man who introduces himself as "I'm Al Gore - I used to be the next president of the United States" - well, he did the opening monologue for yesterday's episode of Saturday Night Live and it's a barnburner, but sadly poignant at the same time:

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- May 14, 2006 3:31 PM // Politics

Bush Worship

Yes, I know many folks in India have every reason to like Bush what with outsourcing and all but isn't this going a little too far? Praise him all you want but at least have the gumption to carry a real picture of the man (as opposed to a heartthrob from downunder). Have a look at the screenshot below to see what I'm getting at:


I doubt Russell Crowe will be too pleased either.

Update: If, on the other hand, you want a satire poster of Bush pretending to be Mr. Crowe, go here.

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- February 24, 2006 11:39 AM // India , Politics

Being Brown In America

The seizure (and subsequent release) of activist Cindy Sheehan and the ejection of a congressperson's wife during Bush's State of the Union address have made headlines recently. But the following item is just now starting to gather steam. Time reports:

But on the same evening that President Bush was lauding democracy and freedom, there was one other person in attendance whose rights were infringed upon. The man, who did not want his identity revealed after the disturbing incident, was a personal guest of Florida Democrat Alcee Hastings. He is a prominent businessman from Broward County, Florida who works with the Department of Defense-and has a security clearance. After sitting in the gallery for the entire speech, he was surrounded by about ten law enforcement officers as he exited the chamber and whisked away to a room in the Capitol.

For close to an hour the man, who was born in India but is an American citizen, was questioned by the Police, who thought he resembled someone on a Secret Service photo watch list, according to Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer. Eventually, the police realized it was a case of mistaken identity and let him go. Gainer has assured Hastings that the Capitol Police, Secret Service and FBI will investigate why the man was detained for so long, and try to "sharpen our procedures." But the man was "very, very scared" by the incident, says Fred Turner, a spokesperson for Hastings. On Tuesday night, he told the congressman that the experience was "maybe just the price of being brown in America," Turner says.

"He shouldn't have gone through the ringer as long as he did," Gainer says. "He did get caught up in the morass of Secret Service FBI, Capitol Police. Everybody was trying to figure out whether he was a threat. And he absolutely, unequivocally clearly was not." Gainer apologized to the man afterwards, only one of the many apologies he has had to make this week.

Great - the shoot first, apologize afterwards policy that worked so well in stopping that brown skinned UK bomber is starting to take hold here too. If you remember:

Electrician Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead on 22 July, 2005, by police who mistook him for one of four would-be suicide bombers who attacked London's transport system the previous day.


But when it emerged that the 27-year-old Brazilian was not the man they thought he was - and that his death had been a mistake - Sir Ian described it as a tragedy for which the police accepted full responsibility.

If nothing else, this should come as a rude reminder to the desis here who think they have nothing in common with Latinos or African Americans or Arab Americans. However, as this eloquent comment on dailykos by user Sanjay illustrates, more and more folks are waking up.:

I have lived in the United States for 21 years and have been a citizen for the last 8 years. I recently returned from one of my regular trips to India, my country of origin. As I was chatting with an old high school friend about nothing in particular, he suggested that may be I should think about purchasing some property in India. Out of curiosity I asked him why. And he said (paraphrasing) - well, even though the U.S. welcomes everyone and is an immmigrant-friendly country, I find some recent news disturbing and who knows when you might get kicked out or life made so difficult for you that you may have to leave. If that happens, you can always come back here.

I was aghast. Never before had I thought of this, never before had I imagined that political or social circumstances would force me out of the country. I just looked at him in shock for a few seconds and mumbled - ok, I'll think about it.

Are my friend's worst fears going to come true in the next decade? or two? Forget about me, what might happen to my young children, who happen to be like me, brown?

Gotta go - the black car with tinted windows that's parked outside is blocking my driveway.

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- February 5, 2006 11:35 AM // Politics

Christopher Doyle Interview

I came across this Fall 2005 Filmmaker interview with Christopher Doyle when he was in the NYC area, shooting M. Night Shyamalan's Lady In The Water. First, the introduction:

Save for Gregg Toland and perhaps Vittorio Storaro, no cinematographer in history has achieved the kind of iconic status as the kind currently enjoyed by Chris Doyle. An Australian by birth, Doyle has lived in Asia for nearly 30 years, and his work has largely defined the look of new Asian cinema. Best known for his collaborations with Wong Kar-wai on such films as Chungking Express, Happy Together and In the Mood for Love (which won him the Technical Grand Prize at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival), Doyle is equally comfortable with a handheld camera as he is with meticulously composed, static imagery. Yet despite the variation in technique, Doyle still manages to leave an indelible authorial stamp on every one of his films, even though it's nearly impossible to say why Zhang Yimou's archly formal Hero and Wong's hyperactive Fallen Angels both feel like a Chris Doyle shot movie except for the fact that his mastery is apparent in every shot. He's also directed one feature, 1999's Away With Words.

As befits the title of the article (The Wild Man), Christopher Doyle minces no words when it comes to his thoughts on Asian Cinema and the state of US independent films. An excerpt:

FILMMAKER: You are currently working on a U.S. film. Is there a fundamental difference in the process of filmmaking between the U.S. and Asia?

DOYLE: No. I think the real difference is the level of energy. In Asia now it's like the Australian new wave, the cinema novo in Brazil, the French new wave. Why? Because there was this confluence of intent and economics, and all those elements sort of matched up at that time. What is strange in the west is - well, not strange I guess - is that people are lost. Let's be honest. [laughs] People are lost, whether you blame 9/11 or whether you blame the lack of education in schools. Whatever you blame it on, it doesn't matter. Whereas in Asia, people are finding their voice. It's been a long journey, you know. Everyone in China is on a roll, [laughs] there's no question.

And, he was just getting started:

FILMMAKER: Do you feel like you're in hostile territory right now?

DOYLE: You know, I was in Kazakhstan two weeks ago, and that was nothing. This is hostile territory, this is bullshit. I dont know if it should be said so bluntly, but [laughs] every people gets the government they deserve. Sorry, that’s a reality. The present climate in most of the western world is of course anti-artist, because the function of an artist is to open people's eyes, and that's not the function of a Texas oil-based meritocracy. Hello! And every single person in the real world looks at this, and that's why we make our films the way we do. Because you don't have the freedom, you don't have the integrity, you have to remake everything we've done anyway. I go to see Martin Scorsese, and I say, Don't you think I should tell you about the lenses? And he says, What do you mean? And I said, Well, you're remaking my film, which is Infernal Affairs. Infernal Affairs was probably written in one week, we shot it in a month and you're going to remake it! Ha ha, good luck! What the fuck is this about? I mean, come on. In other words, if you read The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, then you'd actually have a very clear idea [laughs] about what's really happening in the U.S. right now. So what do we do? You tell me.

FILMMAKER: Don't you think these bloated Hollywood films are an easy target? Do you watch any American independent film?

DOYLE: Does anybody? Hello! Come on. Come on, you can't be so naive that you don't know that the only thing they do in the U.S. is look at the box office. It's not a film industry anymore, it's an accounting department. [laughs] There's only two departments in American cinema - the insurance department and the accounting department. There are no filmmakers anymore.

FILMMAKER: You don't think so?

DOYLE: No, absolutely not.

FILMMAKER: There are no more filmmakers in America?

DOYLE: Uh-uh. If Martin Scorsese can make a piece of shit called The Aviator and then go on to remake a Hong Kong film, don't you think he's lost the plot? Think it through. "I need my Oscar, I need my fucking Oscar!" Are you crazy? There's not a single person in the Oscar voting department who's under 65 years old. They don't even know how to get online. They have no idea what the real world is about. They have no visual experience anymore. They have preoccupations. So why the fuck would a great filmmaker need to suck the dick of the Academy with a piece of shit called The Aviator? And now he has to remake our film? I mean this is bullshit. This is total bullshit. I love Marty, I think he's a great person. And the other one is Tarantino. Oh yeah, let's appropriate everything. Are you lost? Yes, you are lost.

Some parting words of advice:

DOYLE: I mean, I go to NYU, and all the teachers are there, and then they're interpreting what I say. I say, "Just do it. "And the teachers say, "What he really means is if you really work hard within the system, then you'll get somewhere." [laughs] So what can we do? Well, there's a lot we can do that is not expensive. You could send a DVD to your friends, it could be online, and you could be in all these film festivals. And just with a digital camera. In other words, you could even make a film with your bloody phone now, you know what I mean? [laughs] Isn't that fantastic in a certain way? It's so strange that young people are actually hedging their bets instead of just going out there and starting to do stuff. The only way that any of us became so-called filmmakers is by not hedging the bets, and trying, and then seeing if something works. Don't worry. Yeah, people can steal your ideas, but they're not going to steal your heart. [laughs] What are you going to do? Are you going to wait?
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- December 23, 2005 9:59 AM // Film , Politics

Age Of Propaganda

In the 1991 edition of Age Of Propaganda, a treatise on manipulation via media, there's this eerily prescient passage:

Political pundits and consultants are increasingly learning that appeals to our self-image make good politics. Candidates for political office are given attractive personalities; images are created by making speeches about the American flag, by posing in an Army tank, and by being photographed with schoolchildren in prayer. All we need to do to be patriotic, to be strong and tough, to be holy is merely to cast a vote for the right candidate. It would be sad indeed if we lost our 200-year old tradition of democracy because ... we were never motivated to scrutinize the candidate's self-image and evaluate the substance of his or her message.


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- November 22, 2005 9:37 PM // Books , Politics

Sometimes a picture ..

expresses it better than words ever could. Try this for size:

The crawl pretty much says it all really. (Tip to Daily Kos).

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- September 12, 2005 9:43 PM // Politics