Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tibet, IPL and "Earth Days"

It's been a long time since the last post - a hiatus attributed to work and Cable TV (whose days in our apartment are numbered, so the wife tells me). The hiatus (at a personal level) was punctuated by a trip to the Grand Canyon (a travelogue to follow eventually) and the pilferage of our cycles. (Both mine and the wife's). Suffice it to say that the individual responsible for the abstraction of the bicycles is none too popular with both of us right now. We are not sure what we would like happen to the robber in question - we are still choosing between water-boarding (which is not a form of torture) him (or her) at Guantanamo Bay - or getting him (or her) bitten by rabid weasels.

Of course our personal issues fade into insignificance in comparison with what other people are going through on this planet. Take, for instance the recent protests by those "peace-loving" Tibetans against the Chinese government - and half hearted efforts around the world to lend them a supporting hand. The utter-impotence of these protests just implies the following: China is indeed a world super-power. This is not a unipolar world anymore.

The protests about Tibet are a tad bid odd - and naive. Tibet's per capita income has gone up and order of magnitude since the Chinese took over- and more tellingly, the life expectancy has risen from 35 to 67 years. China's autocratic rule, from a fundamental point of view, is terrible - but isn't this mind-boggling economic progress (thanks to Tibet being a part of the Chinese Juggernaut) a form of human-rights enhancement? N. Ram (an editor of the Hindu) seems to agree.

Of course, the pseudo Apartheid in Tibet makes one sympathize with the Tibetans - but in my opinion we have bigger fish to fry on this planet. The exploited Sudanese, the Iraqis, the Palestinians, those Israelis living under the shadow of Hamas/Hezbollah fire - and the millions of Indians and Africans living under the poverty line - to mention a few.

This blog endorses the Indian government's apparently pusillanimous stand on this issue.

And then let's talk about Cricket, more specifically, the Indian Premier League.

This blog has always held that the cricket market in India is massively under-tapped. Therefore, the current (albeit "shamelessly capitalistic" as some inconsequential communist put it) venture gets a thumbs up. Finally, the number of cricket tickets sold every year in India will exceed those sold by the Texas Aggies every year.

Turns out, almost all the IPL matches are running house-full (save, for some reason, Hyderabad and Chandigarh Matches). And more than 10 million Indians are watching each match on TV, making this a goldmine of sorts for the franchisees and BCCI. But you can't please everyone - and it comes as no surprise that some conservatives still fiercely contend that the "essence of the game is lost" - and that the "bowlers have lost relevance" (This claim is downright stupid. What has happened is that the terms "a good over" and "a bad over" have been redifined - and good bowlers can win matches for you in this format!). Money talks better than any loud-mouth can. The people love 20-20; that cipher, Mukul Kesavan's (who the hell is he anyway?) article notwithstanding.

I say that the people love the game with such vehemance for the following reasons : almost all games are running full-capacity; people are addicted to it on TV; I can't even get sopcast to open a single live streaming match (indicating that the traffic is tremendously high); I feel the adrenalin rushing when I see the ball-by-ball update on and a search for "IPL cricket" on google news brings up a gazillion matches (as opposed to "Ranji Trophy").

And let me weigh in on the venom directed toward the scantily clad women (the so called "cheer-leaders"). And I am opposed to the idea of cheer-leaders not because of any "ethical reason" or a "cultural reason". I oppose the idea because the Indian public has no maturity when it comes to scantily clad women - or sex, for that matter. (The recent "refusal" by Maharashtra to allow sex education - in my opinion an unintentional approval for the sexual abuse of minors - is a case in point.). If you allow children to get raped in India (by refusing to teach them about "taboos" like sex) - then how much safety and decency can a scantily clad woman expect in a stadium filled over-overwhelmingly with lecherous young men? And don't give me that nonsense about it being "against our culture". Because, if you do, I will be more than willing to take you on a trip into Ajanta, Ellora and Kajuraho. Hinduism is one of the most liberal religions when it comes to sex. (And clearly we Indians have a lot of it - just look at how many there are of us - 336 per square kilometer - more than any other large country in the world).

I think we're a few years away from safe ("American style") cheer-leading. I expect Bollywood will take us there. And arguments about the "dangers of American-style materialism in sports" miss the point entirely. Can any other nation produce a basket-ball team like the Americans could (if they wanted to?). Q.E.D.

And now, the "Earth Week".

This blog has been severely critical of the free-market when it comes to saving the environment. These "green measures" are just P.R. and little else. Because buying a Lexus Hybrid that gives 22 miles to the gallon is still worse for the environment than buying a Tata Nano (which gives a slightly higher mileage than the Prius). As a matter of fact, the only thing that puts me off more than a Lexus Hybrid that gives 22 miles to the gallon is an identical non-hybrid Lexus which gives 12 miles to the gallon.

Needless to say, the preceding earth-week was a mindless farce, organized by corporate America in an attempt to put a price on that warm-fuzzy feeling one gets when one does something one deems "good for the environment". Corn ethanol is a case in point: once touted as America's answer to rising petrol ("gas") prices (an argument few would go for looking at the pump right now) - it is now proven to be an artifice of a flawed subsidy policy. It takes almost as much fossil fuel energy to make the damn ethanol from corn; it results in third world hunger - and the carbon dioxide emissions prevented by the hypothetical forest the the extra corn crop replaced all further weaken (if not destroy) the environmental case for corn ethanol. This Time magazine article will make the environmentalist in you weep, I swear.

And with China slated to buy 20% more cars next year (and Ford still running a world-wide profit, disaster in the American Market not-withstanding), it would seem that even if we repaced all the weeks from now until infinity with earth-weeks, we will not be able to stop global warming.

This is because the stability of the current "free"-market system is phenomenal. Environmentalism is an ideal; a principle; much like "morality" and "loyalty". Look at what jokes the market has made of them. Environmentalism does not have a chance - because the people who pay the price for neglect either do not belong to this generation or do not belong to the set of the decision makers. They are the poor in coastal Bangladesh and Coastal India; the victims of genocide in Darfur (yes, Darfur has a climate change connotation - google it!) and so on.

However, unlikely as it may sound, I will end this on an optimistic note. The time is ripe right now for some innovation. With fuel prices rising sky high ($120 a barrel right now), clearly more funding must have gone into more efficient modes of transport. More effective public transport perhaps? (EESTOR comes to mind, as does the new X prize, Google Energy - and more encouragingly, the TATA NANO and Tara Tiny.).