On Patriotism and FoE

America has wrestled with hypocrisy ever since it was birthed by slave-owning founders who wrote searing declarations of freedom. But never has the gulf between the hallowed position of the presidency and the hollowness of the person who inhabits it been as wide as it is today. And never has Mr. Trump faced a foe like Mr. Kaepernick, whose silent protests hit harder than any of the President’s tirades because they force Americans to contend not only with complicity, but complacency. If Mr. Kaepernick can live his values, destroying his popularity and football career in the process, why can’t we all? If we have freedom of speech, who will we speak up for?

There are many reasons to hate Donald Trump, all of them to do with what his hate-filled words and intemperate, ill-judged actions have done to the socio-political fabric of his country.

But there is one reason to be thankful to him for: through the unprecedented challenge he poses for journalists, he has given permission to so many fine journalists to find their sharpest voice. Sarah Kendzior, quoted above, is among the consistently finest.  Her book The View From Flyover Country is a superb collection of prescient essays.

Her latest essay, written against the backdrop of the Colin Kaepernick issue, the instinctive reactions from the likes of LeBron James to a tangentially related issue, and the nationwide Take A Knee protest Trump’s words, is worth reading in full.

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The Democracy Paradox

The incentives of a party fighting elections are straightforward: they want to win the elections. The spoils of power are tempting, and everyone works hard. But once they come to power, their incentives are not quite so straightforward.

Consider the two things they needed to come to power: money and votes. Let’s start with money. All democratic politics is about the interplay between power and money. You need humungous amounts of money to win elections. Special interest groups or wealthy individuals provide this money. They do it as an investment, not out of benevolence. And when their horse wins, they want an RoI. They used money to buy power; now they want the power to be used to make them money.

Amit Varma looks at the symbiotic relationship between money and political power in an exploration of why ‘democracy’ is of the special interests, by the special interests, for the special interests.

Bonus, Amit’s review of the Prashant Jha book How the BJP Wins Elections. (Which I read earlier this week, and will recommend as a primer on the Indian political process and how the BJP plays it to brilliant effect).

India v Australia Day 5

(This was written for FirstPost before start of play on the final day)

677 runs and 22 wickets in 360 overs over four days; eight of the first 20 wickets to those quick bowlers who were at peak levels of skill; control of the game shifting from one team to another at least once every day, often once per session — the first four days of this Test have been a template for what Test cricket at its best is supposed to be about.

If pitches could sue for libel, the JSCA would get millions without the jury leaving the box. “Rolled mud”? “Nothing like we have ever seen before”? Really?

The final day begins with one result — the draw — possible; another — an Indian win — probable. And odd as it may seem, Australia’s fate is entirely in its own hands — not in the pitch, not in the hands of the Indian bowlers and, while we are on the subject, not in the vagaries of DRS reviews that seem to be dominating conversations to an unwarranted degree.

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On Harsha Bhogle

“Even in regard to cricket commentary, games organized by the BCCI have a contractual condition that there can be no criticism of the BCCI or its selection process, thereby curtailing an exercise of free speech. Objective commentary ought to be permitted about everything connected to the match, allowing the commentators to express themselves freely and objectively. “

Brevity was the soul of the latest news item from the cricket world:  commentator Harsha Bhogle had been unceremoniously axed from the ongoing 9th edition of the Indian Premier League.

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Trump, Modi and the “preference cascade”

If this is true, then in both America and India, beneath the veneer of sophisticated political discourse, there lies a primal core that cares about more basic things, like race and identity and so on. In fact, maybe the exact same impulse explains both Trump and Modi: the instinctive attraction for a strong leader who will lead our tribe well and shit on all others.

That clip from a beautifully articulated Amit Varma piece on the “preference cascade” as it plays out in realpolitik.

Manu Joseph on Kanhaiya Kumar

Here, Manu Joseph is saying something. I haven’t quite figured out what — but it is something.

“That hope is beginning to die”

The quote above from Tavleen Singh, veteran journalist and author of Darbar.

With apologies to Indian Express for an overlong clip, here is Singh’s set-up:

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