Friday, January 31, 2003

Blatant Racism

If this Reuters report is true, it stinks of blatant racism in American policy. According to the story, the U.S. will now require Canadians who have immigrated to Canada from certain commonwealth countries, but not others, to have a visa before entering the United States. "As part of a post-Sept. 11 tightening of immigration procedures, a State Department official said that starting March 17 immigrants to Canada from Commonwealth countries other than Australia, Britain, Brunei, New Zealand and Singapore must obtain visas in order to enter the United States."

This is so odd because now, if somone from India or Pakistan, who is now an actual Canadian will have to obtain a visa to come to the United States, while a white Canadian, or a Canadian who immigrated from Australia or New Zealand will not. Canada complained in November when it first heard about the proposed change in the rule.
"There is, right now, a perception among Canadians that something is going (wrong) there," said Canadian Immigration Minister Denis Coderre, who earlier complained that what he called Washington's "racial profiling" in immigration rules was creating two classes of Canadian citizen.

If Egypt would allow all Muslim Americans to enter the country without a visa, but make all the Americans who are Christians apply for one, the outcry by American politicians and the public would be outrageous, as it should be. This action is totally discrimanatory b/c it is like saying even though someone has been granted citizenship (and pledged their allegiance to that country) they are not recognized as full citizens. I cannot even think of a proper way to describe my outrage. This is post 9/11 jim crow.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

South Asian Action Alert

SAALT (South Asian-AMERICAN Leaders of Tomorrow) have issued an action alert on this very discriminatory Special Registrations policy. I am pasting their background info, but for complete details go to the SAALT website. I am also placing a link to a story from the Satya Circle on the registrations as well as a story from the Washington Post discussing the INS taking away Pakistani Scholar and well known columnist Ejaz Haider from Brookings yesterday. Haider is a thought provoking columnist for the Pakistani English weekly, The Friday Times.


Recent events in Congress provide a window of opportunity to end the “Special Registration” program by cutting off its funding. Last week, the U.S.
Senate approved a large budget bill (H. J. Res. 2) which includes an amendment that would cut off funding for “Special Registration.” The amendment also
requires that Attorney General John Ashcroft provide Congress with documents and other information on the creation and operation of Special Registration, and
provide an assessment of the program’s effectiveness. The House version of the budget bill does not contain this important amendment. So, in the coming weeks, certain designated members of the House and Senate [called a “conference committee”] will meet to agree on a final version of the bill that will then become law if it passes Congress and is signed by President Bush.
Please note that this amendment also allocates funding to provide information on the identity of all visitors to the United States and track when they
enter and leave the country. However, the amendment specifies that none of the funds may be used for INS’ Special Registration policy. Although SAALT is
concerned that the overall purpose of the amendment - to provide funds to monitor individuals as they enter and exit the country – is not wise in of
itself, we are supporting the elimination of funds for “Special Registration,” which targets individuals already in the United States.

To find out what you can do, check out SAALT's website.

If You're Happy And You Know It

This is the grown up, George W. Bush version of the classic tune. My roommate Shane just forwarded this to me and I thought I would share.

If You're Happy And You Know It Bomb Iraq by John Robbins

If you cannot find Osama, bomb Iraq.
If the markets are a drama, bomb Iraq.
If the terrorists are frisky,
Pakistan is looking shifty,
North Korea is too risky,
Bomb Iraq.

If we have no allies with us, bomb Iraq.
If we think that someone's dissed us, bomb Iraq.
So to hell with the inspections,
Let's look tough for the elections,
Close your mind and take directions,
Bomb Iraq.

It's pre-emptive non-aggression, bomb Iraq.
To prevent this mass destruction, bomb Iraq.
They've got weapons we can't see,
And that's all the proof we need,
If they're not there, they must be there,
Bomb Iraq.

If you never were elected, bomb Iraq.
If your mood is quite dejected, bomb Iraq.
If you think Saddam's gone mad,
With the weapons that he had,
And he tried to kill your dad,
Bomb Iraq.

If corporate fraud is growin', bomb Iraq.
If your ties to it are showin', bomb Iraq.
If your politics are sleazy,
And hiding that ain't easy,
And your manhood's getting queasy,
Bomb Iraq.

Fall in line and follow orders, bomb Iraq.
For our might knows not our borders, bomb Iraq.
Disagree? We'll call it treason,
Let's make war not love this season,
Even if we have no reason,
Bomb Iraq.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Satya Circle Celebrates Two Years
and over 20,000 visitors.

Wednesday, January 29 marks the two year anniversary for The Satya Circle. I am pasting the press release below, but check out the site, there are quite a few new articles. My newest article entitled "The New America: Red, White, Blue, and Gray?" which discusses everything from INS detentions to domestic issues and the war with Iraq can be found here.

Press Release

PRESS RELEASE: for immediate distribution; please forward to all interested parties.

Please contact for more information and for republication.


WASHINGTON, DC - January 29, 2003 - The Satya Circle ( is celebrating the second anniversary of its launch today, with new columnists, a new board member, and many notable mentions in the press.

The Satya Circle, which officially launched on January 29, 2001, is an online forum intended to allow South Asians around the world to express themselves and discuss issues that affect their lives. Its primary goal is to enrich the level of discourse in the South Asian diasporic community through the medium of the Internet.

A brainstorm of Co-Founder and Co-Director of Development Dawinder S. Sidhu, The Satya Circle is entirely volunteer effort. Graduate students conduct the day-to-day maintenance of the site, and contributors voluntarily provide their submissions.

In the past year alone, The Satya Circle has enlisted a diverse new group of columnists. Suman Palit, a Chicago-based engineer, and Kaushik Banerjee, a business analyst, have both worked with The Satya Circle for several months. Most recently, Monica Duggal joined as a columnist in January 2003, with her first article on water sanitation projects in India.

Duggal explained, "I decided to write for The Satya Circle because I thought it was a unique way of reaching out to South Asians across the globe. I like the idea of having a centralized place for members of the Diaspora to convene and discuss issues that we feel are important."

Additionally, the site continues to receive article from its more seasoned columnists such as Jayesh Rathod, Sajit Gandhi, Kuntal Shah Warwick, and Paresh Shah.

"I have really enjoyed, and appreciated, the opportunity to express my opinions on different issues in an open and interactive forum," stated Mr. Shah. "Writing for The Satya Circle has helped me not only become more aware of current issues and events, but also develop my own ideas about them."

Mr. Gandhi has also joined The Satya Circle Executive Board as Co-Director of Development. A graduate student at Georgetown University and a Research Associate at the National Security Archive, he has been instrumental in the development of the site.

"[Sajit] has been a fabulous addition to our Board. His critical editorial eye and vision for progress has rejuvenated our operations," stated Co-Founder and Director of Operations Ami V. Shah.

Gandhi, along with Mr. Rathod, has also been mentioned in regards to The Satya Circle in major publications such as WashBizForward, Washington Post, and The World and I. To date, The Satya Circle has attracted over 20,000 visitors from a variety of countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, India, Nepal, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Greece, and the Netherlands.

The Satya Circle took off with a substantial number of submissions regarding the earthquake that occurred in Gujarat, India, on January 26, 2001, and has continued to present thoughts on current and timely issues such as the effects of September 11 on the South Asian-American community, diasporic culture movements, political and cultural issues close to the South Asian community, and the nature of religious fundamentalism in South Asia.

For more information on The Satya Circle, including how to submit articles or become a partner or benefactor, please visit

The Satya Circle, 29 January 2003, All Rights Reserved (best viewed with Microsoft Internet Explorer)

The State of the Union

Ah where to begin. It is so frustrating for me to watch the President speak, especially with such backward rhetoric. But I am going to keep it short. Here is what I liked:
I liked the fact that he emphasized making AIDS in Africa among American foreign policy concerns. I like the fact that he has an idea that the environment needs to be fixed, but I don't understand why he has to make it a 15 year plan. What is good for the environment in 15 years, is good for the environment now!

Here is what I am not so happy about:
I don't like that George Bush has singlehandedly changed American secularism. I think complete separation of church and state is a really good thing for secular democracies and Bush's idea for a faith based initiative goeas completely against that--allowing religious organizations, who get federal money, to discriminate on who they hire is crap and goes against the constitution. And I think it is wrong to bring God up in the address in such a blatant manner, and not just in the typical "God Bless America" fashion. Specifically I think this was offensive and does not serve as an inclusive mechanism for all Americans, especially those Americans who don't beleive in Judeo-Christian traditions.
"We Americans have faith in ourselves - but not in ourselves alone. We do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history. May He guide us now, and may God continue to bless the United States of America. "

I also don't like th cowboy attitude in which he portrayed American justice and I really, really don't like war mongering, especially without a coalition. The whole thing with Iraq, yes Saddam Hussein is a bad guy, yes he does bad things to his own people, and yes, he may have weapons of mass destruction. However, the resolution requiring him to disarm is a UN resolution that needs to be followed up by the UN. It should not be defended with unilateral American military action. This war with Iraq is an unjust war and America has had its hand in supporting a lot dirtier leaders. Anyway, that is my brief, brief recap. The text of Bush's speech can be found here, and the Democratic response can be found here.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Maxim: Taking a Jab at Gandhi?

It must have been a slow week journalistically, if you can call Maxim a journalistic endeavor, but it seems that Maxim in its latest edition, I think in efforts to be humorous, depict a strapping man in a muscle T-shirt beating up an image of Mohandas Gandhi. Headlined "Maxim's Kick-Ass Workout," is right on that line, or maybe has crossed the fine line from humor to a little offensive. The Maxim article, attempting to show how fighting can bring fitness, calls for "a healthy regimen of violent assaults" and urges readers to "teach those pacifists a lesson about aggression." The three-page article includes 21 different scenes of the man hitting, kicking, choking and throwing Gandhi, who is named in the text, where the reader is urged to "ask Gandhi if he can see a change in your physique."

I know, I know, perhaps this was truly meant to not be offensive, and we desi's shouldn't be overly sensitive. But, I think this was done in really poor judgment, and is actually quite low class. For the longest time, Asians have allowed mainstream society to poke fun at them, the 7-11 stereotype and that really bad fake accent. The Chinese themed shirts at Abercrombie and Fitch, and just last week, controversy erupted over Shaquille O'Neal' mocking of Chinese basketball star Yao Ming, and there is never any public outcry. America tells the Asians to laugh it up, it was just jokes. But these jokes are quite insensitive, whether it be mocking a Chinese accent or portraying the beating up of one of the most amazing men of all time. I think there needs to be a change in this perception that stereotyping Asians in a certain mold is ok. For those of you who are into the Maxim-esque magazines, maybe it is time to switch from Maxim to Stuff . Here is a reproduction of the offensive image:

Additionally, the Maxim Web site does include a "Stupid Fun" article in its archives headlined, "Oh, Calcutta: Three Reasons to Hate ... Gandhi." That article, which claims Gandhi was a "lousy husband," a "rotten father" and a "poor role model," was published in November 2000.

Ironically, just two months ago, Maxim launched its first Asian edition, in Korea – just in time, Michelle Naef,administrator of the M.K. Gandhi Institute, said for the magazine to make fun of "one of the most revered men on the Asian continent."

A Bafta for Devdas?

The British version of the Oscars, or shall I say, the British precursor to the American Oscars, the Orange British Film Academy Awards, otherwise known as the BAFTAs have nominated a few Desi-connected films this year for awards. Asif Kapadia's The Warrior has been nominated for both Best Foreign-Language Film and Best British best British Film category. Joining the Warrior in the Best British film is Gurinder Chadha's ode to futbol and British Asians Bend it Like Beckham. And last, and certainly not least is the lavish Sanjay Leela Bhansali directed Devdas. India's nominee for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars was nominated for a BAFTA in the Best Foreign Language film category. Who knows, maybe this will be indicative of how it will fare at the Oscars.

Friday, January 24, 2003


Here is an interesting thought about tax reduction/tax breaks etc. that are being considered now to help improve the economy. I am all for activist economic policies, and I see the benefit re economic theory and how tax breaks can improve the economy by reintroducing more dollars into the cycle. But, wasn't the original point of taxation to fund government programs that are for the public good, like the police or the army. Then why, at a time when the U.S. is going into budget deficits to fund homeland security and other defenses against terrorism is the Bush administration trying to cut taxes. It makes no sense other than perhaps to appease his many wealthy supporters.

You want to make the economy improve and improve American confidence in the economy (and in government in general), put Kenneth Lay in jail with the rest of the Enron crew. I find it so ironic that these big firms are being blamed for the downfall of the economy, yet their punishments seem to be lackluster.

Preity Zinta: True Bollywood Heroine

Great story, and actually well written story in the Washington Post yesterday discussing the actress Preity Zinta's offering of legitimate testimony about the pervasive influence of organized crime in the Bollywood film industry. There was none of that, "Preity Zinta, the Reese Witherspoon of the Indian Film Industry" crap that is usually in those articles discussing Bollywood. It was a straightforward piece and well written article. Here is an excerpt

Asked whether she felt her testimony had put her safety at risk, she replied, "for sure," lashing out angrily at law enforcement officials who she believes leaked the details of the supposedly secret court proceeding. "It was a huge risk I was taking in there, and I expected to be protected," she said, sitting in her office in a Bombay suburb near several of the major studios. "I felt extremely betrayed." Zinta said she had no wish to launch a personal crusade against underworld influence in Bollywood -- "I wouldn't want it to be made into a big deal, because it's just going to create lots of problems for me in the future" -- and defended fellow stars who have been accused of cultivating chummy relationships with mob bosses based in Karachi, Pakistan, and Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.

Crime bosses have also regarded Bollywood personalities as ripe targets for extortion, and those who don't cooperate can play a heavy price. A top music executive was killed by mob hit men in 1997. And in 2000, armed assailants shot and wounded Rakesh Roshan, a director and the father of heartthrob actor Hrithik Roshan. The director was allegedly targeted for refusing a gangster's demand to line up Hrithik's services for a movie he was backing. Such episodes have contributed to an atmosphere of fear among Bollywood's glitterati, some of whom are under full-time police protection. (Zinta said she was offered protection after her testimony but declined for the sake of her privacy.) For law enforcement officials, nothing so captures the corrosive influence of organized crime in Bollywood as the case against Shah, the diamond merchant-turned-movie mogul who owns a fleet of BMWs and reportedly paid 300,000 rupees, about $6,250, for an autographed pillowcase used by Michael Jackson during a stay at Bombay's Oberoi Hotel. The court case turns on allegations that Shah helped an associate of Shakeel's -- another Karachi-based crime boss named Dawood Ibrahim -- in an extortion scheme. Shah, who is currently free on bail, has denied any wrongdoing. The case has also brought to light allegations of mob involvement in the making of "Chori Chori, Chupke Chupke," in which Zinta played a leading role. During the shooting of the film, Zinta received a phone call from a man who claimed to be an associate of Shakeel's, ordering her to pay 5 million rupees, about $104,000, or "face consequences," according to details of her testimony that were leaked.

Her testimony was supposed to be sealed as it was supposed to be a closed trial. As if there is such a thing in India.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Some Recognition for Arundhati Roy

The Santa Fe based Lannan Foundation has awarded its fourth annual Prize for Cultural Freedom to the writer/activist Arundhati Roy. According to foundation president J. Patrick Lannan, Jr., “As both an artist and global citizen, Arundhati Roy writes about civil societies that are adversely affected by the world's most powerful governments and corporations. We are honored to celebrate her life and her ongoing work in the struggle for freedom, justice and cultural diversity.” Roy will be sharing the 350,000 dollar prize money with 50 people's movements, publications, educational institutions, theater groups, and individuals in India. Among the groups sharing the prize money are organizations fighting for greater transparency within India as well as groups trying to work on issues of communalism and groups trying to fix some of the social carnage created by last year's Gujarat violence.


At times like these, it is always nice to have places like the Taj Exotica Maldives of the India based Taj Hotel group to remind you of paradise. I (not kidding here) have a picture of the resort from the Taj Magazine posted on my wall in my office. I look at the picture, of the hut on stilts in the crystal clear emerald blue water of the Indian Ocean, and just realize how much I really, really want to be there right now, instead of the freezing streets of Washington D.C. Incidentally, this hotel was named "The Best Resort in the World" in the first ever Harpers and Queen Travel Awards. This is what I am talking about...

INS Registrations

I am getting more and more concerned over the lack of any South Asian outcry over the overtly racist and discrimanatory practices with the new INS regulations requiring, so far, only males from certain Arab countries and North Korea to register. Bangladesh was most recently added to the list and who knows what countries will be next, Sri Lanka, India? Is this really to help with keeping terrorists at bay, or is this a ploy to rid the states of illegal aliens? (I wonder how many actual terrorists will go and get registered) If so, why is it just the Arabs and North Koreans who are being forced to leave, why not aliens from other countries? It just seems to me that the U.S. is trying to compose its own dynamic of who gets to stay and who gets to leave based on what country they came from. Some may agree with this practice, but I see it as inherently racist to say that people who come from Ireland are more agreeable to America than those from Bangladesh (this is a total hypothetical).

The government is now suggesting that they will begin to register all visitors from all countries, but this is not what has always been reported. The Washington Post, on 1/17 indicated that the "government says the registrations are a way to track tens of thousands of visitors from countries that the United States has designated sponsors of terrorism or that are believed to harbor large numbers of members of al Qaeda."

Well, what about residents of Colombia, Northern Ireland, Spain--all countries with large terrorism issues.

Cheb i Sabbah

There is a new interview posted on the ethnotechno website with Asian Massive DJ, Cheb i Sabbah. For those of you able to make the Asian Massive show this past September in Washington, he gives a little shot out to the peeps who were at the 9:30 club with fondly remembering the way the crowd went wild when he started to spin some Bhangra tracks. So if you have a half hour check it out. You can listen to it in real audio.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Panjabi MC Update
Big Ups to Panjabi MC. It appears that the Mundian To Bach Ke single has made the top five on the British charts this past week.

Rice's Turnaround
It appears that our National Security Adviser, Ms. Condoleezza Rice has stepped away from the Washington Post's Friday story on her backing of Bush's policy against race-conscious admissions. I was a bit surprised, and glad to be quite honest, to see the following headline in yesterdays Post Rice: Race Can Be Factor In College Admissions.
"Rice issued a statement saying that she supports the president's decision to challenge race-conscious admissions as administered by the University of Michigan and that race-neutral means are preferable. But she said there are occasions when "it is appropriate to use race as one factor among others in achieving a diverse student body."
Rice's statement came after an article in The Washington Post yesterday in which several White House aides said she had played a crucial role in Bush's deliberations and helped persuade him to publicly oppose Michigan's program. Officials who described her role to The Post noted that it was unusual for her to become such a major factor in an issue that did not involve foreign policy. Their comments had the effect of associating a respected African American adviser to Bush with a decision that has been criticized by many black leaders. Rice reportedly was angry about the article in part because she believed it had been written only because she is black.

Page Design
I have been meaning for some time to update the look of the page, and so here it is. I imagine the look will evolve a little further in the months to come.

Friday, January 17, 2003

The White House and UMICH

I love this headline from the Washington Post, Rice Helped Shape Bush Decision on AdmissionsThe implication that the headline gives to me is that the story will show how Bush's decision to go against race-conscious admissions policies at the University of Michigan as a result of Condoleezza Rice's (A Black Person). "Officials described Rice as one of the prime movers behind Bush's announcement on Wednesday that he would urge the Supreme Court to strike down Michigan's affirmative action program." And since Condoleezza Rice is Black, well then, we cannot be accused of being racist by following this line of policy.

However, the Post goes on to report that Rice, while Provost at Stanford (the first nonwhite provost) oversaw a large increase in black faculty members at Stanford. "Rice, the first female national security adviser, told Bush that she worked to increase the number of African American faculty members at Stanford but that she was "absolutely opposed to quotas," a senior administration official said. A Stanford official said that under Rice, who served from 1993 to 1999 and was the university's first nonwhite provost, the number of black faculty members increased from 36 to 44."

Also, race conscious decisionmaking is not the same thing as quotas! I don't understand why everyone wants to insinuate that there is a quota system

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Checks and Balances

We were always taught in social studies/government/civics classes that the founding fathers of the United States wanted a system of checks and balances so that no one area of government was able to protrude too higly upon another area. The U.S. had three branches, the legislative, the executive, and the judicial, the legislative, was of course to make laws, the executive to enforce them, and the judicial to intrepret the laws. With that stated, I have a problem for two reasons with the Bush administration's filing of a legal brief with the Supreme Court over affirmitive action practices at the University of Michigan. I know that Bush is not the first President to try and influence the court with his view in this manner (although I think his view should count no more than mine in this instance), but why is it appropriate for the executive to influence the Judicial branch's decision on this matter? The law is the law, and and I say, let the judicial branch do their job.

My second issue is that I think the Bush administration is wrong in not promoting diversity through affirmitive action programs in higher education. Bush, as the Washington Post reported, state that the two affirmative action methods used to make it easier for minority students to enter one UMICH are "divisive, unfair and impossible to square with the Constitution." (so was slavery and jim crow but that was around for a long time) Bush offered his most explicit articulation of his views on affirmative action, a major social policy tool that he had largely skirted since his presidential campaign. Reiterating his oft-stated assertion that he supports "diversity of all kinds," he went on to say, "the method used by the University of Michigan to achieve this important goal is fundamentally flawed."

The New York Times has Bush saying "I strongly support diversity of all kinds, including racial diversity in higher education. But the method used by the University of Michigan to achieve this important goal is fundamentally flawed. At their core, the Michigan policies amount to a quota system that unfairly rewards or penalizes prospective students based solely on their race."

Now I think a quota system is different than giving a leg up to disadvantaged races who are not represented on college campuses as they should be. Additionally, without affirmitive action practices, it will make it even harder to fix the lagging student populations of those groups who have historically been discriminated against in higher education. If giving a handout to these marginalzied groups does not happen at the university level, then there will be no way to change the cyclical problems that many minorities face with regards to poverty and social class. If education is the key, then why not use education to level the playing field. It is obvious that this levelling is not happening at a fast enough pace on the primary and secondary education levels, so then it must happen in the university level. You never hear anyone (at least in the government) talking about the problems of legacies and how familial connections or monetary donations often help bring people to certain universities. I wonder if George W. would have complained had he not been admitted to Yale or to Harvard Business School. He admittedly got C's at Yale. Was he qualified then to be at a top Business school? Was he given favor because of his class/familial status?

But I digress, the point is, as a result of the institutional racism in America there is a huge racial divide amongst the haves and the have nots. Simply put, to make it better, or to improve and lessen the gap, there has to be something in existence, like higher education, that will help level the playing field, and if giving some points when scaling certain underepresented minorites does the trick, well then by all means, I am for it.

Incidentally, I don't think South Asians, at most universities, are part of the underrepresented groups. In fact, and I think Dinesh D'Souza even cites this in his controversial book, it is harder for South Asians than most Caucasians many times, to be admitted to certain universities under some affirmitive action programs.

Kraft is Getting Krafty

Found this link on the Friends of the Earth Webpage. If you want to see how Kraft is using us as lab rats check it out.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Panjabi MC and Mundian To Bach Ke
I have to admit it, it is a surprise, but thankfully, finally he is getting some propers. Four (or more even) years after its original release, Panjabi MC has re-released the desi hit (knight rider remix) Mundian to Bach Ke on Instant Karma records. Rumor has it, that the track will be the first bhangra track to be in the British top ten ever, so big-ups (I think coming in at number 8). I remember the GW Bhangra Blowout team in 1999 (I was on it) used MTBK in it championship winning dance and it was hot then, and the song remains hot now. Congratualtions again, and everyone out there, even if you have the song, own it on a bootleg, have downloaded it, buy the album. Represent for the desi's who are bringing the sound out.

From the Sunday Times January 12, 2003
Bhangra is about to have its first Top 10 hit, and it's all thanks to a track made once upon a time in the Midlands.

With the crucial backing of a Radio 1 play-listing behind it, Mundian To Bach Ke looks set to be the first bhangra track to blast its way into the Top 10 a week from today. A modish hybrid of eclectic sampling (the bass from the theme to the tele-vision series Knight Rider) and ethnic instrumentation, Panjabi MC's club hit has, a mere 4 years after its first release, been picked up by the tastemakers.

And nobody is more pleasantly surprised than the Coventry-based DJ/producer responsible for the track.

Fresh from a promotional tour in Germany, where MTBK has sold more than 150,000 copies, Rajinder Rai, 25, struggles to the phone after another late night in British clubland. "Bhangra is massive in the UK," he wheezes. "It's bigger than hip-hop. We've got a party every night of the week."

Rai is an acknowledged envelope-pusher in a musical tradition that is, depending on your viewpoint, either as old as the hills and therefore not to be tampered with, or the wellspring for some of the most lawless and energising music being made in Britain today. His 1998 album Legalised (to be rereleased this spring) is regarded as a classic of its kind.

Years before the playlist panjandrums at One FM deemed MTBK worthy to be aired on their station, the track was a staple in clubs - always a more accommodating testing ground for new ideas than hidebound national radio. Its deli-rious blend of traditional dhol drums, finger-picked tumbi and a stomping bassline paved the way for singles as huge as Missy Elliott's Timbaland-produced 2000 smash Get Ur Freak On. Other copyists include last year's Truth Hurts hit Addictive and Busta Rhymes's Fire It Up, which also sampled Knight Rider.

Yet, says Rai, that's where the similarities end. "Bhangra started out in 1979, at the same time as hip-hop. Hip-hop is now a multimillion-pound industry, and bhangra is ... a £25,000 industry."

In fact, year in, year out, millions of bhangra records are sold in this country, making it one of the biggest growth areas in the music business. But a combination of self-interest, suspicion and blinkeredness has kept it in the specialist racks. Does Rai believe that MTBK could change that, and allow bhangra to join Get Ur Freak On in the mainstream? "I'm quite cynical, actually," he says. "The thing with the Missy song doesn't make me angry, it's quite flattering. But now there are too many people narrowing it down to thinking, 'This is what the successful formula is,' and trying to copy it."

Perhaps we should be grateful for Radio 1 for picking up on MTBK at all, however late in the day. But it seems odd that it took at least four years for us to cotton on to, let alone playlist, one of our most distinctive club tunes. While Rai uses other criteria by which to judge a career that began as long ago as 1993, he will admit to "measuring myself by chart success now as well". But within his field, he's so well respected that the musical establishment's belated and clammy embrace must seem as baffling as it is unlikely.

In any case, if there's a trumpet to be blown, Rai is happy to oblige. Asked about rivalry on the new-bhangra scene (it is, after all, part of dance culture, which is famously disputatious), he replies: "There is rivalry between a lot of people, but not with me. I don't get DJs coming up to me going, 'Yo, I'm going to do a track that's better than yours,' because they know they're not going to, simple as that." And suddenly the telephone receiver explodes with an ear-piercing shout of laughter, as Rai delights in the unbridled bombast of what he has just said.

MTBK translates as "Beware of the Boys", and seems, at first, to tell the story of a father cautioning his adolescent daughter. Rai says it's more complicated than that: "Punjabi songs always have two meanings, an innocent one and its total opposite." So it's not only the father: a covetous boy is also warning his beloved to keep away from potential rivals.

This song was No 2 in Germany at Christmas. It could, and by rights should, chart as high here. Yet an awful lot of people who buy it won't have a clue what the lyrics mean, or care less about the subtlety of Punjabi songwriting. The selling point for them is the sound, an amalgam that offers a hint of what future music-making in multicultural Britain may come to grapple with. It's thrilling, passionate, unruly and cocksure. And made in Coventry.

If you want to know more about cool desi beats click here for a three part bbc radio series on the movement.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

Unilateral Action for Good rather than Evil

The widely reported story of outgoing Illinois Republican Gov. George Ryan commuting the death sentences of 167 people to life in prison "after concluding that the capital punishment system was haunted by the demon of error," is music to my ears. Finally, a strong stance has been taken on the evils of capital punishment that has been used as a deterrence against crime. Finally, the flawed justice system will no longer kill innocents. Finally, man (at least in Illinois) will not kill a killer for the sake of revenge. While I am not sure Gov. Ryan reached this outcome through the most fair methods, I am glad that someone in the establishment is using his position to put an end to a practice that had outgrown its origins.

From the Washington Post
The action was the culmination of an exhaustive review of Illinois's death row cases, which began three years ago when Ryan ordered a moratorium on executions after disclosures that 13 death row inmates had been wrongly convicted. The result was a complete change of heart for Ryan, who became convinced that the entire system was simply too error prone.

"Because our three-year study has found only more questions about the fairness of sentencing, because of the spectacular failure to reform the system, because we have seen justice delayed for countless death row inmates with potentially meritorious claims, because the Illinois death penalty system is arbitrary and capricious -- and therefore immoral -- I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death, Ryan said in a prepared text."

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem as if Maryland's incoming Governor will be taking any cues from Ryan.

"But Maryland's incoming Republican governor, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., said today that the action of Ryan will have no effect on his decision to end the state's moratorium on executions after he takes office Wednesday. A recent analysis of 6,000 homicide cases in Maryland over two decades found that the race of the victim plays a major role in whether the death penalty is sought, with prosecutors far more likely to bring capital charges against blacks suspected of killing white victims."

Here is a link to an article I wrote for The Satya Circle about the death penalty some time ago. I am pasting the text below as well:

"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind," are the immortal words of the great Mohandas K. Gandhi. And as those words rung true in 1947 during the Indian independence struggle, they too are relevant today in a World where we are struggling to find our own humanity. The execution of Timothy McVeigh has once again brought to the forefront the debate on the legality of the death penalty and the ability of society to punish other human beings by death.

The Oklahoma City bombing not only was the cause of death of hundreds of Americans, but also an illustration of how vulnerable Americans are to terrorism from both home and abroad. McVeigh’s gruesome act was indeed horrible, and he should have been punished to the full extent of the law, but how are we, as a collective society that is not above the law, able to decide who should live and who should die? If killing another person is a morally wrong offense punishable by death, how can the human-administered punishment of death be justified? Do two wrongs make a right?

Many suggest that McVeigh’s execution and the public viewing of it through closed circuited TV was a means of closure to the families of the victims. I contend however, that the viewing may not only drudge up painful memories, but would also be more of an act of vengeance rather than an act of healing. My emotional feelings would indeed differ had I lost a loved one in the disaster; however, rational thought provides that revenge can facilitate nothing but greater anger. The point of prison and jail time is not to placate the victims or their families, but rather to reform criminals. Not only is there a fear that using the death penalty as a healing tool for the victims is wrong, but also fear that it punishes the innocent exists as well.

For every 7 executions there have been 486 since 1976 one other prisoner on death row has been found innocent. These numbers are mind-blowing, and the risk of vengeance causing the death of one innocent person is too great to risk on the killing of one guilty. The state must find punishment that is not only fair but also just, and the penalty of death must be excluded.

The death penalty appears to be another way for the state to sanction murder and dehumanize the populace. When executions occur, it is as if the government has not only sanctioned but actually committed a homicide. Our leaders decide who dies and who lives, and that is not what they are elected to do. Death is supposed to be a natural occurrence, and when we allow elected officials, or any human being to decide who dies, human error and prejudices will get in the way. God decides who lives and who dies and the United States is supposed to be one nation under god, not one nation that is god. The death penalty is indeed flawed and must be outlawed.


Friday, January 10, 2003

Immigration and Discrimination

I remember a couple of years back, the Taliban had suggested that all Hindus residing in Afghanistan were to wear yellow tags so that everyone would know they were not with the majority. The outcry in America, especially in Congress and in the NGO community, was tremendous and many were saying how eerily similar this was to Nazi Germany and the forcing of Jews to wear Stars of David.

Interestingly enough, the State of Pennsylvania will now denote someones immigrant status on their drivers licenses. This is slightly different than what the Taliban wanted to do and what Hitler actually did, but is it necessary? Obviously, it is not only immigrants that conduct terrorism. Americans are already suspicious of immigrants, and I think it is cruel and unusual to add to this suspicion by adding unnecessary information to their drivers licenses--it just makes discrimination easier.

More cruel and unusual is this new idea of having immigrants, of only certain Arab countries register with the INS. To make this less discrimanatory, shouldn't all immigrants be forced to register with the INS? I don't think any terrorist, or any smart terrorist would actually show up to register with the government. And if this is to control illegal immigration, or persons who overstay their visa's then shouldn't all non-citiznes be forced to register, rather than just those being forced to right now?

According to a report from the Washington Post

Registration began last month for temporary male visitors from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria. Men from 12 other heavily Muslim countries and North Korea must register by today, and will be followed by an estimated 14,000 Saudis and Pakistanis, who must appear at INS offices by Feb. 21. Once inside, the men -- all 16 and older -- have been fingerprinted, photographed and questioned about their activities and associations in interviews that have lasted as long as two hours. If their visas are expired or if they have otherwise violated U.S. immigration law, they may be detained and deported, officials said.

But since a clumsy start last month -- when at least 200 Iranian visitors were arrested in Los Angeles alone -- the program has turned into a mounting public relations problem for the Bush administration. And it is only the latest government immigration initiative since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to generate controversy. The FBI previously interviewed thousands of Middle Eastern nationals, and various law enforcement agencies collectively detained more than 1,200 immigrants after the terrorist strikes. "The pure accumulation of just massive amounts of data is not necessarily helpful, especially for an agency like the INS that already has problems keeping track of things," said Juliette Kayyem, a terrorism expert at Harvard University. "Basically, what this has become is an immigration sweep. The idea that this has anything to do with security, or is something the government can do to stop terrorism, is absurd."

Thursday, January 09, 2003

South Asians in Hip-Hop

If anyone was interested in the growing number of hindi lyrics in American hip-hop and R and B, it seems Raje Shwari (i guess she had kal penn syndrom and made her first name into her first and last name) is responsible. Appearing on Jay-Z's song, 'The Bounce" and with Ms. Jade on the Slum Village remix for "Disco", Raje is the one adding some original (or not original) Hindi Lyrics to hip hop. Apparently the famed producer Timbaland heard her demo and took her under his wing. Big-Ups to Raje for bringing the South Asian Sound to the mainstream.

Race and America

While it remains unclear whether the average American grasped the magnamity of the Trent Lott incident of last December, it seems obvious that our government does not. It wasn't just that Senator Lott drudged up bad memories of American action in the past, it was representative of the state of race in this country. I don't think the average american understands the gravity of race relations in America. Moreover it seems the Republicans saw Trent Lott as an isolated incident, in that, once he was gone as leader of the senate, the issue of race and the republican party would disappear. The fact that this administration would reintroduce the nomination of the controversial Mississippian, Charles Pickering, the same Charles Pickering who is a protégé of Trent Lott who was rejected earlier largely because of his insensitive handling of civil rights cases. The New York Times, in this editorial, makes it clear that this administration does not recognize the systemic problem of race in America.

Incidentally, it seems as if the Senate, despite all the financial difficulty plaguing the Average American, is going to vote to support the continuatuon of a car and driver privelege for Trent Lott. Ladies and Gentlemen, I hope you call your senator and tell them to vote against this crazy notion.

"Sources also told Fox News that Senate Democratic leaders do not object to allowing Lott to keep his car and driver, and will not oppose it on the floor.
There is no known precedent for a Senate leader of either party who resigned his post in a similar manner retaining his taxpayer-subsidized car and driver."

Monday, January 06, 2003

South Asia at a crossroads

South Asia, I feel is in a pivotal position right now. India and Pakistan have the opportunity to do a lot of great things, but it seems that domestic constituencies/constraints are really holding both states back. Pakistan really is taking the lead in assisting the United States root out al-Qaeda inside Pakistan. The whole concept of hot pursuit is a funny one though b/c if India conducted hos pursuit inside Pakistan, that could lead to nuclear war. When the United States does this, it is ok? While this is really besides the point it is interesting.

My main point is that domestically Pakistanis, from the media at least, it seems that they are for the most part anti-American, specifically with regards to this war on terror. I think it would be advantageous for Pakistan (the people of Pakistan) to wholeheartedly back this war to root out al-Qaeda from its soil. Think of the future domestic benefits that a strong and undoubted relationship with America could bring to Pakistan. The way I see it, if Musharraf is going to come out strongly in favor of America's war, then the people of Pakistan should as well. Otherwise Musharraf, as President, is not really representing the people, that he is supposed to represent. I guess that is what happens when you have a dictator. But wait, didn't he overwhelmingly win the support of his people in the last election?

India on the otherhand is going all out on the Hindutva front. I have been silent for the most part on the gujarat elections and what not b/c I cannot really come to terms with the downfall of gujarat. I was giving an interview with an Indian-American paper, and one of the things I had said something similar to how ironic that in Gujarat, a state that prohibits alcohol in respect of Mahatma Gandhi, the government would allow such a purge and separation of religious groups. Gandhi was for an India for Indians, whether they be Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Sikh, etc. Modi, and these hindu fascists want to make India a Hindu state. Vajpayee, whom I had regarded as pretty secular seems to be falling in line with this sort of thought it seems, with his promoting the rewriting of Indian text histroy books to show how Hindu India was. It is always poor to rewrite history, unless it was previously factually incorrect. In India's case it wasn't, the RSS and the rest of the Sangh Parivar want to change the history so that it inaccurately portrays it with a Hindutva flare.

Who would have thought a post discussing India and Pakistan without one mention of Kashmir. Is there more to these two states then Kashmir and nuclear weapons?
There is a lot more to this topic, and once my computer is returned hopefully I can return to this discussion.


A colleague of mine was saying was quoting someone (I cannot remember who) with regards to America's knowledge of Saddams' WMD capability. It was something similar to "George Bush oughtta know that Saddam Hussein has weapons capabilities, he has the receipts."

Thursday, January 02, 2003

Happy New Year

It has been sometime since my last post. I have been on vacation for the past couple of weeks, and now am back in the office. I will be posting regularly again shortly, but for now, my laptop is being returned to Dell for Service, so I am hoping that by next week I will be able to return to blogdom.
Happy New Year.