Obama vs. Romney: Seriously, What the Heck is Going On?

One face or two faces? That is the question.

Over the last few weeks, I asked some hard questions I thought we should all ask Romney, Ryan and the Republicans. I did the same with Obama and the Democrats.

Because the so-called mainstream media is not asking them, I thought the onus is on us.

Even though it’s an American election where U.S. citizens vote to elect their president this November, actually it’s an election that has serious impact for the entire world. In a way, it’s a global election. Therefore, politically enlightened people from all over the world need to understand the various aspects of the election as clearly as possible. For the entire world, the stake is too high.

I was happy to see the level of reaction to my posts. A surprisingly high number of readers of this blog — now from near and far corners of the world — read the questions I asked to the Democratic and Republican candidates. Some wrote their comments directly on the blog, and some others sent me their feedback personally. Some of these friends had a strong disagreement with my position on Obama; they were also unhappy to see how a super-excited 2008 me turned into a less than enthusiastic 2012 me. These friends challenged my political acumen when I asked some critical questions to the Obama campaign. When I said I was not feeling excited at all for Obama, they warned me not to pop their excitement balloon. They said my wet blanket to douse their party bonfire might hurt Obama’s chances.

I felt delighted — by the thought that my little, no-name blog had so much power!

Of course, this is almost an academic discussion. Neither Romney nor Obama is going to read my blog, let alone answer my questions. But this is all I can do. I have said it many times before: other than my writing that I use to make my readers, friends and sympathizers think, I have no power. I have no money, no pedigree, no political connection and no real hope for publishing my thoughts for a wide mainstream audience. Therefore, this is really the extent of my political activism. This is the best use of my experience, analysis and energy.

Ronald Reagan pushed french fries and ketchup for vegetable for school lunch programs. Did McDonald’s serve?

I try to make people think. I try to challenge their minds. This is my only non-violent weapon.

Now, for the sake of time, let’s select only a few issues that are critically important both for an U.S. and global audiences. Food, clothes and shelter: these three have always, historically, been the most primary for the ordinary people across the world. In today’s globally-connected society, some other issues have become critical: I could perhaps select war and violence, energy, environment, education and health for the list. Then, we could perhaps include the subject of labor, immigration and society. I’m sure you quickly see a few other issues that you would want to include in your first list. I am sure I myself would later reflect on it and include a few more that I might have missed this time around.

But at least for the time being, not to make this post unnecessarily long, let’s put together our first list of issues and compare the two big parties and their two big candidates on these issues. It might help us to understand the nature of the electioneering process as it is heating up here in the U.S., and determine objectively what exactly is going on. Often, these critical issues do not surface our way — the ordinary, powerless people’s way — in the 24/7 conversation on big media done by their big experts. I call it Journalism of Exclusion.

Therefore, again, the onus is on us to do it. We must do it. Questioning is democracy. Analyzing is too.

So far, we have identified the following issues to be critical to compare the positions of Obama and Romney and their two big parties.

(1) Food

(2) Clothes

(3) Shelter

(4) War and violence

(5) Energy

(6) Environment

(7) Education

(8) Health

(9) Labor

(10) Immigration

(11) Society

Of course, the all-encompassing, all-pervasive, overarching factor would be economics and money. Given its overlapping nature, I decided not to itemize economics as a separate point. The discussion of money would feature quite prominently when we take up these points — one point at a time. Foreign policy would be another such aspect: it’s going to be interwoven in the discussion of all the other points — one way or the other. And obviously, jobs, wages and unemployment would be another — if not the most important — all-pervasive subject. It brings us to the question of poverty, exploitation and injustice.

Millions of Americans seriously believe even in 2012 that global warming is a hoax and even if it’s true, God who created this earth in seven days will take care of all the problems. Can we include this topic in the presidential debate?

But in this intricately-connected world society of the new millennium, where political boundaries have become almost meaningless, especially when we consider how economics and money (and work) can move from one part of the globe to the opposite part — with a speed of light, and considering how the people in power are using the global connectedness to their advantage, I believe that perhaps we could add one more item on our list. And that item would be:

(12) Globalization.

There! I believe we have come up with a good list, at least for the time being. Now let’s see if we can briefly discuss and compare the positions of the two candidates and their parties on these issues. I’ll try to do it as simply as possible, without making it sound too academic. I’ll try to do it with a language most of us — including myself — would understand. You tell me, please, if this language works for you.

If we think carefully, there is practically no way we can discuss one of the above twelve topics exclusively: they are all overlapping. What role does food and water play in today’s politics? Food prices, food quality, water sources, water quality — and the politics of U.S. government and its two big parties — one that media hardly talks about? Coca Cola’s capturing of natural water displacing millions of poor people from their land (and putting a famous movie celebrity as their PR)? U.S. seed company Monsanto’s forced replacement of Indian farmers’ traditional seed banks with their one-crop, genetically engineered seeds forcing those farmers to go bankrupt and commit suicides in hundreds of thousands every year? McDonald’s food colonization with substandard, unhygienic food that caused obesity and serious harmful effects in the U.S. and throughout the world?

What about the foreign policy around the clothes we wear — where and how are they made? How many of us know how Wal-Mart manufactures its imported textiles from China and Bangladesh, Disney manufactures its fancy DisneyWorld costumes from Haiti or Dominican Republic, driving poor laborers like slaves and depriving child workers of their childhood and education? What about those cool i-Phones manufactured at China’s Foxconn where a large number of desperate, young Chinese workers have killed themselves — because of the horrendously oppressive work conditions and toxic environment?

Where is the discussion either at the huge, confetti-covered RNC or DNC? Is there going to be any discussion at the presidential debates? Will New York Times, NPR, PBS or CNN talk about them between now and November?

Anybody want to talk to Obama or Romney about Orwell and Newspeak?

Now, let’s see. war and violence are two subjects where the two parties’ positions are different, they say. Okay, it is true that Romney, Ryan and Rush Limbaugh’s Republican Party openly talk about a new, imminent war on Iran (or Syria, or Yemen…it doesn’t matter); on the other hand, Obama and Hillary Clinton talk about how they have finished the Iraq war and how they’re going to withdraw from Afghanistan in two years. And then of course comes Joe Biden and gives a war-drumbeat speech at DNC…as if John McCain or Joe Lieberman (remember him?) was speaking. And there is rousing chants all around at the convention…USA…USA…USA…

But let’s see: was there any reason for U.S. to be in Iraq in the first place after six or seven years of destroying an ancient civilization, killing hundreds of thousands of people, and looting their oil, gold and other treasures? It’s almost like the British colony withdrawing from India after total plundering, brutalizing and partitioning a once-prosperous civilization, putting their handpicked, subservient, “Gandhian” feudals in power. The aggressors were going to leave sooner or later anyways: there was no more reason either for the British to stay in India or for the U.S. to stay in Iraq. Where is that perspective?

Can we talk about it in a straightforward way? Oh yes, can we also include the politics Israel has always played and has been playing in this incredible mess? Isn’t Iran or Syria or Egypt or Libya or Saudi cards used in the same game?

And then come Obama’s hit list and the drones and the relentless bombing…the war is over?

And then comes Julian Assange and Wikileaks and Bradley Manning…didn’t they say whistle blowing was actually patriotic?

Would New York Times, NPR, PBS or CNN talk about them? Would anyone throw these questions — this straightforward way — in the presidential debate?

We’ll now talk about globalization, immigration, labor and the economy — and their interconnectedness. We need to know how these two parties and their candidates are different on these issues.

I hope you come back to participate in that discussion. I need you in that discussion.

(To be continued…)

Sincerely Writing,


Who will talk about the globally-imposed cultural conformity? Mr. Obama? Mr. Romney? Mr. Limbaugh?

Dr. Seuss, Dr. Seuss, Have You Any Wool?

Never had money. But ever had balloons.

Dr. Seuss, Dr. Seuss, have you any wool?
Yes Sir, yes Sir, three bags full.
One for my jelly, and one for my jam
And one for the Subway Sam who won’t eat no ham.

Do you know what I’m trying to say here? You don’t? Good. Because if you do, you would be as crazy as I am. This is my crazy day. I feel like writing crazy verse. Crazy song. Crazy verse turned into crazy song.

Crazy, crazy, crazy song.

Join me. Together, we can celebrate this crazy day.

In fact, Dr. Seuss inspired me this evening. I owe this entire post to him. And friends who love him and quote him. Dr. Seuss made my day. I’m sure, it made theirs too.

Where did that jam and jelly thing come from? A friend posted on Facebook:

Tan I Am — I ain’t no yam.
If you like Jelly, you’ll LOVE my Jam!
Tan is IN! It’s HIP to be
This Tan if you’ve got a Big Belt Buckle like ME!

Immediately, it inspired me to react with something (well-wishers insist that I do not react) — as if in an electrical chain bulb. The Facebook’er was talking about color and asking us what color were we feeling today? One person said, tan. I felt like I was, like, olive — you know, North Indians sorta wear an olive tinge on their skin? Never heard of it? Good…now you did.

Isn’t that cool?

So, I wrote back (with Dr. Seuss the crazy inspiration in mind):

Olive me — I chuckle
O’ leave me — I buckle
Crazy rhyme or reason
Red ‘n Blue — or treason
Sweet ‘n sour dough
E-motion high or low.

Not bad…eh? Tell me about it! Even my friend who started the what-color-do-you-feel-like today was impressed. And she was so impressed, she pulled out another piece of crazy verse from her third floor attic. Now, that’s super cool!

She wrote:

Olive me. – Why not take Olive me.
Can’t you see, – I’m just Drab without you
Take brown pants, – I want to lose them
Khaki too, – I’ll never use them.
Your good-bye – leaving with Swarthy sighs

How can I – get bronzed now without you?
You took the part- that once was my heart.
So why not – why not take Olive me!
One fish. two fisher. three fishest. so?
Very, very nice. That verse is nice and crazy. The rhyme is nice and crazy. The rhythm, the beat — that you can easily turn into a crazy song with some serious heat — is nice and crazy. Dr. Seuss is having a field day.
So many rhymes, so many hard-hitting words. So many songs could’ve been with those words. So many rhythms, so many beats. So many starlit nights would make so much treats. One, two, three…and go…two, three, and four. One, two, three, four…you go…two-three-four-five-six. Get it? Now try again.
1, 2, 3
2, 3 and 4
1, 2, 3, 4
2, 3, 4, 5, 6
5, 6, 7, 8, 9
ya know
simply super fine!
What color are you baby?
What color you in?
Olive, tan or green?
Red or blue — or treason
(Sure ya got a grin — right?
Sure ya got a grin.)
Life is but a dream
They said
But life’s like ice cream
You hold it on and lick it up
When fullest, sexy brim.
“The King’s aunt plays cricket, with a squash from the thicket.” Bengali poet of fun Sukumar Ray, father of Satyajit Ray, was perhaps our Dr. Seuss (if not Lewis Carroll).

E-motion high or low. Couldn’t make’em think. They refused to think. Friends punched a blow.

Face, book or slow
You could make it fun
You could wait or run
You could dabble ‘n draw
You could rabble ‘n raw
Idea sin or crazy
Super-clean or hazy
Pick it up and run
Like juicy Seuss had done.
“Look at me!
Look at me!
Look at me NOW!
It is fun to have fun
But you have
to know how.”
WOW. You just made my day, old man. Thank you.
Or, really, it’s Floccinaucinihilipilification. In fact, it’s more like Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
Try it.
Sincerely, Funnily Writing,
Brookyn, New York
Everybody doin’ the same doin’ the same fun. But at least they are trickin’ … at least they got no gun.

My Kid’s Name is Trayvon Martin — reposted

NOTE: I am re-blogging this post on this sad, one-month observance of Trayvon Martin’s death. A seventeen-year-old’s life was suddenly taken away from his parents, family and friends. I strongly feel he could be my kid, and I mourn his loss. I hope we all come together and fight back against this all-pervasive wrong. Let us save our kids from guns, violence and injustice.

Troy Davis and Life’s Fleeting Emotions

"The Message of Justice Weeps in Solitude." -- Tagore

Troy Davis is now dead. In my layman’s language, the mighty, glorified American justice system refused to revoke his death penalty, and last night around eleven, in an American prison, he was straddled on a chair and given a lethal injection. Troy died ten minutes later.

Just before his death, from his death bed, he gave a final statement proclaiming his innocence once again. He said he did not commit the crime. He implored us to “look deeper” into it.

Even though I did not know Troy, a black man in Georgia who was convicted of killing a police officer in 1989, only four years after I came to America as a foreign graduate student, over the years I’ve heard about him and the alleged flay of justice he went through for twenty years, and wondered about the mighty and glorified American justice system. I read about the civil rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King when I was in India. I remember I read in our Bangla newspaper about his assassination in Memphis when I was in elementary school. I heard about the assassination of John and Bobby Kennedy. I read about slavery in America, and how black men and women were subjected to racism, bigotry, exploitation and violent repression. Much later, I read about Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation.

I sort of always wanted to believe that America had changed for the better. I sort of wanted to believe the U.S. justice system was actually mighty and worth glorifying.


"They call in marcenaries, and scream, 'kill, kill, kill.'" - Tagore

Since yesterday, I put a status update on my Facebook page, and changed it three times. I did not know of any other way to show my fleeting emotions. First, when I came to know that he was likely to die in a matter of a few hours, I wrote:

“Abolish the Death Penalty Today! It’s barbaric and primitive. Want proof? U.S. India, China and Saudi Arabia still have it. The entire Europe, South America, Australia and Canada banned it.”

I posted a number of links to prove my point: (1) U.S. India, China and Saudi Arabia still have it. The entire Europe, South America, Australia and Canada banned it (why was it banned?); (2) how fanatics and fundamentalists across religions use similar logic to support the death penalty; (3) in a high number of cases, how DNA fingerprinting exonerated convicted, death-row inmates. I put link to a TV news story I did about ten years ago for ABC TV.

At 6 P.M., when it was all news that they were going to kill Troy at 7 P.M., I updated my status:

“At 7 P.M., America will execute Troy Davis. I’ll observe a moment of silence.”

I was feeling very tired just by imagining what Troy was going through at that time. I was internalizing the feeling of sadness, hoplessness, frustration about the mighty, glorified U.S. justice system, and a bone-chilling feeling of death — as if Lord Yama the god of death was knocking at his doorstep, to fetch him. I could not take it anymore. I went to sleep.

At 8 P.M., I woke up and realized that he was still alive; I read that they had delayed the execution because of an appeal to a superior court. But because I never believed in miracles…my life has been so mundanely lacking miracles…deep inside I knew the end of Troy Davis’ life was near. But I was hoping to believe in miracles, only for his sake and for the sake of his family.

But I was feeling very tired and exhausted again just to think about the roller coaster emotions they were all going through. I was imagining the pounding hearts of the hundreds of thousands of supporters and activists who were rallying in Georgia, in Washington, D.C., and in other parts of America; in fact, people against the primitive and barbaric death penalty were rallying and protesting all across the world. In the name of Troy Davis, a black Amercan man in Deep South, the world’s conscience was coming together.

It was too much for my emotional, impractical, old-fashioned heart to beat normally. I went to sleep again.

I woke up at 6 A.M. this morning. I knew it was all over.

I did a final update on my Facebook status:

“A primitive, barbaric system put Troy Davis to death. I hang my head in shame. This is a dark day for America.” 

Repeat statement: Troy Davis is now dead. In my layman’s language, an American court refused to revoke his death penalty, and last night around eleven, in an American prison, he was straddled on a chair and given a lethal injection. Troy died ten minutes later.

I just gave you a synopsis of my fleeting emotions surrounding Troy’s death. My fleeting emotions will not let me remember for too long this alleged flay of justice by the mighty, glorified American justice system.

But right now, as of this moment, this is my life’s status update. This is my life’s raw, real emotion. My life spoke for a poor victim of a primitive, barbaric system — in real, raw terms.

For you, Brother Troy.

Sincerely Writing,


Brooklyn, New York


They Yelled: “Sikh…Sheik…Sick…Whatever! Get’em.”

Rajinder Singh Khalsa, hate crime victim

Rajinder Singh Khalsa never thought men less than half his age, who could be his son’s friends and call him uncle, would beat him up bloody and swear dirty!

They were drunk. They shot out of a pub and yelled (something like it), “Sikh…Sheik…Sick…whatever. You SOB Osama Bin Laden…Get’em!” They pulled off his turban, threw it on the street, and kicked on it.

Then, they started punching in his eyes.

Singh never thought they’d call his religion terrorist. He never thought anybody could desecrate his faith here in America.

Of course, he didn’t know that even most New Yorkers probably didn’t know that maybe even Osama didn’t know what Sikh’ism was. (They still don’t know.) Anyway, that’s another story government officials, elite diversity advocates and social science teachers would deal with.

The first time when I went to see Mr. Singh at his Queens Richmond Hill home, he was badly injured, shook up, and weak. He couldn’t speak well. He was scared and could not drive his taxi because of his physical pain and mental anguish. His left eye was still badly swollen like a plump plum with blood oozed around broken bones and veins. He thought he was going to lose sight on that eye forever.

But he and his family took time to talk to me and a few of my 24/7 hate-crime vigil colleagues from NICE. He told us how he was even more depressed because of the outrageous, uncalled-for insult to him and his sacred religion. He told us how nightmarish the whole experience had been.

Rajinder Singh Khalsa was one of the dozens of Sikhs who fell victims of a hateful post-9/11 New York and New Jersey. In fact, we had large community vigils, press conferences and rallies to protest these crimes. I promise to find some of those precious reports and photos to post later.

By the way, even though I am writing this blog about crimes against Sikhs, Muslims, Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Arabs and all the others who according to the criminals, deserved the assault because they “looked liked terrorists, acted like terrorists, or talked like terrorists,” never would I claim sole credit for the grassroots anti-bias mobilization work during those turbulent, difficult days (in fact, I find this statement itself to be superfluous). Hundreds of small and big groups and individuals came together to save and protect lives and honor of the innocent. I want to take a special moment to acknowledge them all.

First, I acknowledge NICE’s founder-director Bryan Pu-Folkes; for years, we worked together, and became good friends.

Bryan and I in that NICE basement office

Then, to work with a number of Sikhs like Rajinder Singh who were unfortunate targets of bias attacks, frontline organizations were Sikh Coalition, United Sikhs, Sri Guru Ravidas Sabha of Woodside, Singh Sabha and Sikh Center of New York, and Sikh Cultural Society. In fact, although the circumstances were sad and depressing, it was a great opportunity to visit a whole bunch of gurdwaras on Sunday morning and get to know big, strong, powerful, kind and innocent Sikh men and women from various neighborhoods of New York. Amardeep Singh, the Sikh Coalition lawyer who needs no introduction, became a good friend (watch him testify before U.S. Congress). I came to know Santokh Singh at Ravidas and other individuals who came forward to rescue the honor and dignity of their insulted faith.

Brother Santokh was forced to cut off his hair and beard to look like an “American.” at the insistence of his then “American” employer. But that’s another story.

Rabbi Robert Kaplan and his organization Jewish Community Relations Council, as well as Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz and Queens borough president Helen Marshall also took significant steps to curb hate in the city. John Liu, then city council member and now comptroller, participated in our rallies, along with a few other elected leaders. In fact, I remember, David Weprin, New York City council member who’s now running for Anthony Weiner’s congressional seat, was with us too. I remember meeting Msgr. Marino at the Archdiocese of Brooklyn Catholic Church at a number of occasions around these issues.

I also want to thank big and small media organizations whose help was enormous. The New Yorker magazine, with special effort of its editor Pam McCarthy, put out an extensive photo essay portraying the faces of 9/11 victims: they featured Rajinder Singh. New York branches of CBS and NY-1 TV, radio shows such as DemocracyNow!, and Community newspapers such as Queens Tribune and Queens Chronicle printed cover-page stories on the grassroots resistance we were able to build against violence on innocent men and women. Ethnic papers such as India Abroad, News India-Times or Indian Express (New York) as well as Punjabi-language papers from New York and New Jersey all publicized our work; it created enormous impact among the average New Yorkers and most importantly, government officials, who then came forward and through jointly-held news conferences, denounced such crimes of hate.

For years, I wrote columns and news stories on our human rights work and justice for immigrants in Bengali newspapers such as Ekhon Samoy, Thikana, Sangbad, Bangali, etc. I believe these papers deserve a special note of thanks for their courage to print courageous stories and analyses.

New York Police Department also held a number of special task force meetings with us, and we worked together to publish anti-bias-crime materials for various communities.

I kept in touch with Rajinder Singh Khalsa for a few years even after I moved on to work as the executive director of New Jersey Immigration Policy Network. Then, I lost touch. I hear though that he’s doing better now.

I also hear that a number of these hate criminals, after the initial media hype was over, slipped out of the criminal dossier, and they’re now doing even better than Mr. Singh.

Now, that’s mighty American 9/11 justice!

Sincerely Writing,


Brooklyn, New York