Democrat dissolution case court verdict

A lot have been said about the recent decision to drop the case against Democrats in 29 mil fund case. The details are confusing, I don’t see any hope in trying to reconstruct the whole case as it happened, and it won’t matter anyway as people have already made their minds regardless of the “truth”. Many have made their minds long before the verdict.

What is missing in the ongoing public debate, however, is a look at the big picture.

First of all, the court is made of people, and people are social entities, they cannot be absolutely impartial and they cannot totally ignore attempts at pressuring them.

Ten years ago, in Thaksin hidden funds case, hardly anyone was surprised at the court decision. Many were disappointed that the court didn’t show as much heroism as they expected but anyone who has ever lived here knows very well that everyone has his limits, and I don’t know anyone who is ready to be a hero to the end, despite threats and/or enticements. Everyone bends to pressure. Fact of life.

What happened in Democrat case was a backlash against an attempt to bend the court again. After a barrage of video clips implicating court members in some nefarious activities, the court just snapped. People who tried to manipulate the court this way, or cheered the release of each new video, shouldn’t be surprised that judges didn’t interpret technicalities in their favor and they’ve lost the moral right to complain of prejudice, double standards etc.

The case itself was ridiculous from the start, nothing but a fertile ground for propaganda warriors. Ask anyone – what exactly have Democrats done wrong? All you get is vague references to “corruption”.

A couple of days before the verdict The Nation printed a graphic with details of prosecution charges. The ones that made most sense were “Dems printed their posters one inch shorter than specified”, “Dems used posters for local candidates campaign instead of advertising their party policies” and “Dems spent money in 2004 for 2005 elections”. Yeah, right, “2005” elections means third week in January and the campaign officially started months before that – prosecution was just being anal. And that’s basically all Democrats were accused of.

This ugly case had met its ugly end and that’s all there is to it.

It wasn’t the courts most memorable moment, true, and months have been wasted on questioning the witnesses, but, perhaps, the decision to end it fast was made only recently, when youtube clips started leaking out and when the prosecution hand was fully revealed – they were never out seeking justice, it was a dirty political war.

Technically it was the EC that filed the charge but everyone knows PTP was the one on the attack there.

As for the EC itself – they’ve made quite a mess out of it, but why waste time picking on the details without taking into consideration red mob that broke into EC premises and threatened the lives of the commissioners? That “little detail” is hardly ever mentioned nowadays.

Did the EC try to dupe the reds to get off their backs, in full knowledge that the case won’t go anywhere? Did they, or Apichart, know about 15 day deadline that had long passed?

Doesn’t matter anymore. Reds tried to get their way by force and it didn’t work. Now let EC sort it out itself – no one else was in their meetings, we are in no position to guess the internal dynamics of their decision making processes at that time.

In the end both the Constitution Court and the EC have “compromised” themselves, as one side put it, or proved themselves human, as I, personally, believe.

I also believe that the popular “destroying institutions” crusade is juvenile at best. Grow up, will you? People need to trust something or someone. You destroy one thing and it will be replaced with another in no time. Such is the nature of human society.

And for the rest of us the lesson is – be careful with pressuring courts, the EC, the military etc. Public institutions do not perform well under pressure, and it won’t even matter if you succeed and for the righteous cause or not, there will always be a bitter taste of manipulation left in someone’s mouth, and if you destroy them you get nothing at all, just ruins.

Paradigm Wars

Last time I wrote about rectification of names, the importance of using correct terminology and not fooling ourselves with self-proclaimed labels. However important that concept is, on its own it doesn’t move the discussion along – who has never heard of reds being called a misguided and manipulated mob? What good has ever came out of it?

Today I want to present some reasons why it is so, why, despite all the efforts on all sides to communicate with each other, nothing substantial has been ever achieved.

Let’s consider one of the most cliche expressions out there – “paradigm shift”. Ever since MBA and marketing people adopted it, it has turned into one of those meaningless proclamations no one pays attention to. Forget those guys, go back to the original, intended meaning.

About fifty years ago Thomas Kuhn wrote a book, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, and he used “paradigm shift” to describe development of science. We all know that scientific theories evolve, that they eventually replace each other, but Kuhn presented some very interesting observations of how it actually happens.

For one thing, paradigm shifts have very little to do with accumulating scientific data and knowledge per se, or with validity of new theories, there’s a lot of human element involved, too, and paradigms describe not just prevailing theories but entire world views that come with them.

When one theory achieves dominance and a paradigm evolves around it, it gives scientists the direction to develop it further, it gives them new problems to solve, it gives them new knowledge to solve these new problems, provides them with tools to solve them, it gives them determination and tenacity and recognition, but, on the other hand, it also restricts the development to certain areas only. It identifies new goals, but also sets limits to what goals can be pursued, it sets boundaries, it sets areas where scientists simply cannot go or even contemplate. It sets rules how to deal with those areas – either dismiss them altogether, discount as simple errors, or postpone for the future consideration. That’s the period of “normal” science.

Eventually some unresolvable problems accumulate and become too obvious and annoying enough to push some “revolutionary” scientists to look for other, unorthodox tools, methodology and theories to try and explain them. They might try something totally new, they might pick up some ideas discarded earlier and turn them around, try whatever works.

Finally, they come up with a completely new theory that explains previously unresolved phenomena, and also explains how previous theory achieved its results without contradicting this new theory. They prove that their new theory is overall better, and so the new paradigm is born. Then they flesh it out with new methods, new tools, new rules, new areas of research, and new areas you are not supposed to even think about.

And then it starts all over again.

The transition from one paradigm to another is not a peaceful time, however, and it doesn’t happen overnight.

Take Copernicus, for example. He came up with the idea that Earth rotates around Sun but his calculations were not correct enough to challenge the prevailing Ptolemaic system which still predicted planetary positions better, and no one had taken Copernicus seriously. Then Galileo came up with his telescopes and Jupiter moons, and paid dearly for that, then Kepler, who introduced ecliptic orbits, a whole bunch of other guys helped, too, in the end it was only Newton’s work, some hundred and fifty years later, that enabled Copernicus theory to finally become dominant.

Here we have a combination of religious dogma and a lack of precision in the theory itself that delayed the adoption.

Then there’s example of Darwin who killed the idea of the Creator altogether. Chemists didn’t accept the idea of atoms right away, either, Einstein’s relativity took quite some time to kill off electro-magnetism, Big Bang theory took decades to prove itself and so on.

The interesting observation that Kuhn made was that, as a general rule, proponents of one paradigm do not convert to a new one, they just die out, of natural causes. They are so heavily invested in their own paradigm, as human beings, that conversion becomes practically impossible – remember that paradigm defines them completely. It defines their core beliefs, their values, their methods, ways of thinking, approaches to problems, and the problems themselves, and generally, they have enough material to go on until the end of their natural lives.

New scientists adopt new paradigms, old dogs don’t do new tricks.

It’s not that there’s no communication between adherents of the new and old paradigms, but, Kuhn observed – they just can’t agree on anything. One of the reasons is that their language becomes different. The arguments that old school insists on are irrelevant to the new way, and the arguments that new school uses to prove itself makes no sense to the old guys, as they simply do not share the new methods to prove things and do not even have the vocabulary for that – they were not provided by the old paradigm they grew up with.

Two existing theories become incommensurable – that is you can’t use one paradigm to prove or disprove another, each is good only on its own terms. Each one is practically self-contained, without any overlapping areas, they simply talk past each other.

That was all ages ago, we all naturally assume that now the society and science are far more mature to fall into those old pitfalls. So, let’s take look at some currently ongoing case study and see how it works in the modern age, and there’s nothing better for that than good old fashioned Darwinism.

Darwin traveled the world, observed great many animals, checked their hooves and claws and wings, looked at the colors of various butterflies, checked behind the ears, and came up with the idea of evolution through natural selection. That was greatly offensive to many at that time – descending from monkeys? No, thank you – natural human response, but one of the most important points it scored was that it ruled out God the Creator. God had already been banished from the universe, now Darwin killed off his last remaining role as the one who could have created it. That was the final victory and the strongest point for the new, Darwinian paradigm.

It has defined development of biology ever since, the way all new data and new fossil finds are interpreted.

All well, but look what happened a hundred years later, with advent of genetics, biochemistry and molecular biology. Darwin had no idea those little things even existed, he never observed them, yet biologists within Darwin’s paradigm already knew that these completely new areas of science must comply with “evolution through natural selection”. It was not “observe and form a theory” process, it was “make sure your observations fit”.

In the beginning no one made a lot of fuss anyway – people were just too busy trying to find out what those genes and proteins are and how they work. Even today the question of how exactly they could have been developed is simply beyond the scope of current research.

Any disagreement immediately marked one as being a hidden creationist. That is the strongest point of Darwinism, rejection of God, and it’s fully at work. The world is exactly black and white – if you doubt Darwin, you support religion. It’s hard to find a third position, and the fact that many creationists deliberately obscure their position by claiming to be something else, like “intelligent designers”, is not helping. Dissenters are immediately get lumped with those loonies somewhere in Kansas who try to sneak Bible back into schools and go to courts over it.

Nevertheless, just as any paradigm before and after it, evolution through natural selection has collected plenty of problems that it can’t explain adequately. Gaps and missing links between species, lack of fossil evidence, mismatching timings and the like, but I want to give an example from molecular biology that Darwin was completely unaware of.

What you see is a diagram of a flagellum, a sort of a tail sticking out of some bacteria. The bacterium has a motor inside that rotates this “tail” and so it acts as a propelling mechanism. It can change the direction of rotation so that the bacterium can move forward and backwards and so on.

This is one of the most common examples of the so called “Irreducible Complexity”, which means that you can’t make this motor, consisting of some forty parts, in gradual, working steps. You have to get all the components, in exact shape and size, together at once and assemble them in only one particular fashion, otherwise it wouldn’t work.

That flies in the face of natural selection that postulates that evolutionary steps must be gradual and each one must improve the system or it would simply die out.

In bacteria terms it means that adding each component one by one and going through various possible shapes and sizes must improve the system overall at each step otherwise it would be a waste of time, resources and energy and the wasteful specimens would die out in competition instead of evolving.

If an engineer were to design such a motor he would spend a considerable amount of time and go through a considerable amount of failures to eventually produce a working motor that would recoup the investments in the end, but natural selection does not allow for investments and sacrifices. If you add one screw somewhere and the machine doesn’t immediately become better – you’ve wasted a screw, DIE!

It is theoretically possible to describe how to build a motor like this in gradual steps – means you can’t prove that it is impossible, but so far, some fifteen years after it was first publicized, no one still has a slightest idea how to go about that, and there’s absolutely no evidence of any half built motors in bacteria either.

There’s a kind of sting that looks roughly the same and is used to inject poison into other organisms but still no sign of motor, still some thirty parts missing, and some have argued that the need to inject poison, evolutionary speaking, came a lot later than the need to propel yourself in water, and was clearly added later in bacteria that have both functions.

There’s absolutely no chance it could have come out by chance either. There are calculations that give out numbers in range of ten to the hundred power, which, translated into years, (bacteria has a life span of about half an hour) gives us untold trillions and gazillions, and our whole universe is only 14 billion years old. And that is just a small part of one of the simplest life forms, and the stuff it does on molecular level, for example the “machines” used for handling and replicating DNAs folded hundreds of thousands of times in order to fit inside the cell, makes it far more complex that anything our technological progress has ever achieved.

No one would look at models and diagrams of those things and claim to show how they came out through natural selection of trial and error, with each step being better than the previous. It just not the most obvious observation to make, to be generous to the idea, but, being prisoners of Darwinian paradigm, all scientists are obliged to dance around the issue, and those who dare to speak are drawn into taking sides and throwing mean punches at each other, which was probably not their intention in the beginning, but we are all humans…

Consider this opening paragraph of one paradigm prisoner refuting flagella argument.

Almost from the moment The Origin of Species was published in 1859, the opponents of evolution have fought a long, losing battle against their Darwinian foes. Today, like a prizefighter in the late rounds losing badly on points, they’ve placed their hopes in one big punch – a single claim that might smash through the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence to bring Darwin to the canvas once and for all.

You can immediately see that’s it’s not going to be about science, the war is about God and religion first and foremost, the truth will be sacrificed, if necessary, for the other side cannot be allowed to win.

You can also see that this guy is never going to give up on his paradigm, no matter what hard and irrefutable evidence you put before him.

So that’s an example of how far the scientific community progressed since modern ages. We don’t burn people at stakes, but sure as hell we won’t provide funding to those religious fanatics hiding under various innocent looking labels who want to destroy our faith in Darwinism.

Faith, make no mistake, as we are asked to believe that despite all the shortcomings in evidence and proof department, eventually all will become clear and properly explained. The world is too complex for us to see right now, but, in the end, Darwin, who had a “revelation” of sorts, will prevail, you just have to believe, work very hard, and don’t get distracted.

Every new paradigm starts with a faith, btw. In the beginning no one can possibly see that the new theory would produce enough positive results to justify itself, they work on faith, and the old school science persevere on faith, too, even when evidence against it keeps multiplying.

The ever present human element.

Isn’t it ironic how God has again become the dividing issue in science. I’m sure Copernicus or Galileo or Bruno were NOT against existence of God per se, but once their theory even suggested that God doesn’t exist in a way the prevailing paradigm had prescribed, all their ideas were summarily rejected.

Nowadays even a remote hint at the existence of God, even by non-religious people, gets a complete and total ban from mainstream science. If someone pleads “I’m for Intelligent Design, not religion” it won’t matter – the damning label has been stuck already, all forms of dissent against Darwinism is pro-God by definition. By definition of Darwinian paradigm, that is.

I’m not speaking in absolute terms, mind you, new paradigms do find ways to prove themselves, they managed even in sixteenth century, so nothing is lost forever, there’s a way forward, though it might not be pleasant for all.

Well, that should round it up nicely for today. Applying this paradigm model to current Thai politics definitely needs another sitting.

Rectification of names

Rectification of names is an ancient Confucian doctrine that, in essence, is calling a spade a spade, only applied to societies. Confucius believed that people masquerading as something else would eventually lead to social disharmony, and, in order for society to succeed, people declaring themselves as such and such should behave accordingly. No bullshitting, so to speak.

It’s what keeps red shirts together here – they know who Thaksin is, for example, who are his favourites, who represents him or anyone else and so on. Politicians can call themselves this and that but, ultimately, people know where their power comes from, what family they belong and whether they have their clan support or not. Samak declaring himself Thaksin’s proxy was a bold move on the surface but in reality he was just practicing “rectification of names”, and everybody knew what the deal was anyway.

Lately there has been a parade of Thaksin proxy wannabes and PTP found itself in turmoil because no one knew who the real proxy was. Finally Thaksin himself had to step in and tell everyone to wait for his decision and so PTP members shouldn’t believe anyone pretending to have any special powers. Rectification of names again.

Well, the world has progressed since Confucius times, he was talking about father and son, the rules and servants. Life wasn’t so complicated in those days. Now we have a whole bunch of new phenomena that requires careful consideration.

So, I have given it a long thought and finally I gave up on things like “benefit of doubt” and possibilities that there is something more than meets the eye. Let’s call a spade a spade.

The problem is that I still don’t know what a proper name should be, for example, for a popular movement that genuinely believes that the cream of the society is rotten and it needs change, that the elites have abused their positions for too long and they must answer to the public, that power and wealth should be returned to people.

What label to put on this movement, which is at the same time bankrolled by the richest segment of the population and led by exactly the same people the movement is rallying against. Nuts?

Nothing else, even remotely respectful, comes to mind. Idiots make mistakes but they are hardly dangerous, the worst kind are the idiots who think they are actually educated and who feel entitled, and are willing to impose their mistakes on you, oblivious to any sense or reason.

This week they will come out and make themselves heard, at midterm American elections.

I was talking about the Tea Party, of course.

If the supposedly better educated Americans can be so hopelessly deceived, I completely gave up on our local red shirts.

It all makes sense, though, if you treat them as Astrorurf – a brand name for artificial grass carpets, artificial grassroots.

Both movements have members really buying into their causes, that’s a fact. Over in the States they are angry at the big and inefficient government, over here they blame the elites instead. They are angry at the elites in the US, too:”The elite’s fear and loathing of the tea party movement is rooted in the recognition that the real change is only now coming,” – Tony Blankley. I’m sure you can find a lot more quotes in the same vein.

This kind of rhetoric is all too familiar.

The Astroturf creators played out on a whole sleigh of these largely dormant sentiments to stir up a real revolution against their current enemies. They saw the opportunity to use the useful idiots to their own ends and they seized it.

In both cases the movements still work for the ultimate benefit of the richest class and corporations. Over in the US they already control the country and, most importantly, the general population, and the government is the only entity that dares to stand in their way, so it must go. Here in Thailand the situation is very similar, the government and the elites stand in the way of Thaksin’s return.

What is truly remarkable, though, is the ability of those rich cats to control population minds, to impose their ideas and to convince the ordinary folks to even act against their self-interest. They have proved beyond any doubt that propaganda pays. For people who made fortunes by advertising their products, shift to political propaganda was seamless and it is pretty much an established fact of life in the West – politicians are nothing but products who live by the rules of marketing, on all sides.

The traditional concept of “democracy” has become meaningless – all we see is farming voters, developing and nurturing them and weeding out any troublemakers. And then out comes the ultimate product of genetic engineering – Tea Party like grass roots movements that completely identify themselves with corporate agendas.

About a month ago one of their millionaire leaders conceived a donation campaign, asking people to come online and give $10 to American Chamber of Commerce. That was a cruel joke – the board of that organization probably has a lot more money than all these misguided donors combined – Pfizer, Conaco, Lokheed Martin, JP Morgan, Rolls Royce… Poor souls still came out in force and crashed Chamber’s servers. Idiots.

Over here we have red shirts collecting money for the red cause, too. Let’s all help Thaksin come back and establish democracy. Duh.

For those who insist that reds have moved beyond Thaksin – just a couple of weeks ago he personally told PTP meeting that he would direct their election strategy, set up the platform and select the PM candidate. PTP resolved that bringing back Thaksin would be their major issue. As for reds – they will be given the opportunity to run in elections if PTP doesn’t have strong candidates themselves. Just like republicans in the US where they sport quite a few Tea Party candidates on the ballots.

Anyway, debating the merits of either Tea Party of Reds is a waste of time. There’s nothing left to prove there.

So let’s move on.

Of a particular interest in this regard are the PR people who manage the movement. Over in the US it’s all republican machinery through and through. Over here the masterminds stay in shade, with the exception of Amsterdam who represents red shirts internationally. Oh, hold on, officially he is paid by Thaksin, but, of course, there’s no practical difference.

He claims he is not in for the money (duh!), that he is in for the cause. Well, I, for one, believe him, to a degree. I believe he fully supports the cause – corporations and rich people should rule the world. He also supports the modern day methods of slavery – dragging people into electoral process that falls under full control of big money.

A few months ago Amsterdam wrote about “state capture” where a few privileged individuals make all the important decisions while the general public is left with the image of democracy and a notion that they really matter. Amsterdam learned all about it while working in Russia, for one of those privileged few who fell from grace, so he had access to the inside knowledge of how it works. Fine, don’t want to argue about that, but, look at the free world and tell me there’s no “state capture” there.

Take some most important decisions of the past decade and tell me people were consulted. Financial bailouts – no. People were just told that it was necessary, there was no debate. Iraq war – no, people were not asked, they were brainwashed to believe that it was for the right cause. Just these two decisions benefited the corporations to the tune of trillions of dollars. People were left to fight for crumbs like medicare instead, something they should be entitled to anyway, and they were reduced to fighting amongst themselves.

So yeah, I believe Amsterdam fully buys into this kind of democracy – protecting corporate grip on the world and “liberal democracy” as an instrument. He made a career out of that already. Thanks to his alphabetical advantage he is at the top of major donors of Chatham House, one of the most influential European think tanks supported by a long list of biggest corporations. Who is stupid enough to believe their research supports transfer of wealth and power to the poor?

Another famous freedom fighter like that is George Soros. Here in Thailand he was blamed for the 1997 crisis. Eventually people realized that they brought it upon themselves and left the sheep unprotected and Soros just did what the wolves should naturally do – slaughter as much as possible. What I can’t understand is how this wolf, who brought so much destruction and suffering to millions of families, claims to be world biggest human rights campaigner, bankrolling Human Rights Watch.

Last article about him I read was directed at South America’s human rights abusers. Coincidentally it was directed strictly at the governments that fell out of favor with Wester world order – Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil etc. I’m sure they deserved some of the blame but I can’t help myself to think that the underlying reason for his attacks is to put them back in line and pay their dues.

When in comes to Thailand the concern is not so pronounced but it’s still there. Remember when Thais decided to produce generic drugs themselves? In no time a big name PR company came out with full page adverts condemning the move. Then there was talk about proxy ownership – another stick to stir up the hornet’s nest. Thais managed to escape major wrath but the apprehension of possible consequences was palpable.

Another interesting aspect is New Mandala’s campaign on the internet. Mandala is not just a fancy asian word, it’s distribution of power, the power pyramid, and the relationships between various players and parts. Traditionally in Thailand it culminates at the King at the top who answers to Gods but in the old days Thailand was answerable to China, too.

The problem with this arrangement is that modern corporations don’t have a major say, they are granted permissions but not ultimate control, and “liberal democracy” has no place in it either, hence the need for New Mandala. New power center should be the West and its values and practices, its freedoms and elections.

Unfortunately, people over at New Mandala are not sophisticated enough to slip these ideas without challenging the traditional structure. Americans were far more skillful at that for the last part of the 20th century. New Mandala people instead went into a full attack mode, centering on Thai monarchy and going after elites in general.

For a while I thought I should give them a shot and see if there’s anything more behind their project – after all they all claim to support freedom of speech and look so nice and friendly.

Well, that didn’t last long. Those who read this blog surely remember “What you don’t see on New Mandala” entry a year ago. That had quite an effect on them as they had to admit to some sort of moderation. At first they said they censored my posts because I was talking too much. I thought I’d comply and they’d let me comment there. Nah, didn’t work.

They simply won’t allow anything that undermines their agenda of imposing democracy on uncivilized Thai natives. They allow dissent about as much as Christian preachers talk about atheism – it’s fine to talk about it as long as it stays defeated. They need it there to ridicule it, not to consider it with an open mind.

When they eventually stopped accepting any of my posts on New Mandala this time (it was back in August) there was public campaign to weed out anyone suspected of being me. “Are you StanGin disguise?” was the popular question there for a while.

There was this one comment, about Amsterdam’s White Paper, where, after reasoning that it’s not worth reading as it would contain to many lies and half truths by definition, I gave it a shot and right there, in the very first paragraph, Amsterdam stated that at the time of the coup Thaksin was properly and democratically elected, apparently as the winner of 2006 elections.

As soon as I pointed out that gross inaccuracy the hell broke loose and no one else but Andrew Walker himself stepped in and said that he won’t allow anymore “pointless” debates with Stan G.

In a way he was right – all debates on New Mandala are pointless, as someone noticed in another thread that was labeled as a great discussion – where’s the discussion, you all agree with each other?

I was thinking about writing “What you don’t see on New Mandala part 2” and include some of the banned posts but I don’t see the point – they were banned for advocating a different point of view. Interestingly, the original premise of New Mandala was to facilitate new looks at Thailand and South East Asia, or something alone those lines. Do they believe in it? I think they do, they just don’t realize they don’t live by it anymore.

I don’t believe they notice how incredibly condescending and insensitive they are to Asians. There was this strange post of some photoshopped work of some south asian woman carrying a huge can of Coke on her head and a huge hamburger in her hand. All the comments were about asking permission to use the image in some classes, but who they were asking permission from? The dude who photoshopped this poor woman? Not a single soul paused and thought that the woman in the picture has a name and a family and pride in her way of life. She was just an object that doesn’t matter to them, South East Asia scholars.

Speaking of their scholars – about a year ago they had a series of video interviews on Thai political situation. The last episode was particularly telling. Three of their students started the talk by saying they don’t know what was going on with red protests because of the censorship.

Well, the red protests were probably the best covered violent protest in human history. There were hundreds of journalists covering everything from every possible angle. Hundreds of people with mobile phones snapping pictures and videos. There were hours and hours of video footage on Youtube. As soon as something had become the point of interest, some one would come up with video evidence for it. There were literally hundreds of thousands of people online discussing every possible turn.

And there they were, three ANU students, claiming ignorance due to censorship. No, it’s not censorship, it’s lobotomy they’ve undergone while studying there. They just have to repeat this familiar NM party line. Funny thing, I believe they were also taught that they were independent and critical thinkers.

I believe Nick and Andrew are also fully convinced that they are fair and open minded and independent and what not – they themselves had been conditioned this way. They can’t step out of this box – they don’t even notice the box exists, and that’s their ultimate failure as intellectuals.

Recently Walker has got captivated by various graphs. God knows how many of them were completely meaningless, only exposing his ignorance on the matter. Not that there were wrong, but there was simply too much information that was missing that no intelligent person would dare to come up with any definite conclusions. Many people pointed various gaps, sometimes he just lashed at them, sometimes he would simply move on and produce another useless graph.

With that kind of “academic” work I’m not surprised that he pushes the brand of democracy that doesn’t stand a chance in any proper university. On the other hand, if universities are so progressive and anti big money, why doesn’t it translate into real leadership? I guess once people outgrow their idealism they decide to partake rather than fight.

Amsterdam started out with Marxism himself. Now he makes a living off the biggest capitalists. Our local revolutionaries from 70s haven’t fared much better, as they make living off Thaksin’s movement.

At least be honest and declare what you stand for. I don’t think Thailand would reject their model outright, Thais always find ways to incorporate whatever new ideas they find. As I said, Americans knew how to do that fifty years ago. Maybe they just had people a lot smarter than Walker and Farelly advising them on how to take over Thailand.

Now that Americans are on the way out, Australians would never stand a chance, not with this sorry bunch leading the effort.

Preah Vihear Phra Viharn

If I was the temple I would probably hang my head in shame and wish I was undiscovered rather than witness current squabbles over a few tourist dollars.

Back in 2000, when MOU on border demarcation was signed, things looked very promising. Temple was firmly on a tourist map, there was an agreement between two countries that no visa was required to visit it, business was booming, albeit on the Thai side where most of the tourists were coming from.

World Heritage listing should have made the future even brighter but no, Cambodians got too greedy, they wanted the temple all to themselves so they developed a new theory according to which the only correct way to pay homage to the ancient site is to climb up the cliff and people coming the easy way, via nice, paved roads on the Thai side are infidels. Even the grand staircase was declared as a perversion of the original design.

However ridiculous, Cambodians got French academic help on the issue and, armed with this new code of worshiping the ancestors, they decided to cut off any “heritage” left on the Thai side of the border.

The listing process got stalled, Thais loudly protested and walked off the meetings, then Noppadon came to the rescue, fired Thai chief negotiator and made a deal with Cambodians where they got all they wanted in exchange for his support. PAD got the wind of the secret deal and the rest is history, as they say.

Untangling this knot now is an impossible task.

On one hand it’s great that the government opened public discussions so that all sides know what is going on, on the other hand if there was any chance of quiet diplomacy and making deals acceptable to both Cambodia and Thailand, it is virtually nil now.

On one hand it’s nice that the public is involved, on the other hand it also means that there are a lot of unnecessary flames flying around and intelligence and knowledge are replaced by screaming and posturing.

It’s somewhat easier on the Cambodian side since Thailand need to deal only with Hun Sen but on Thai side there are several political groups that can exploit the issue and national interest be damned.

So far we have only PAD. Ok, two PADs – one, hardline group of protesters, lead by Veera Somkwamkid, a well known nationalist, the other, moderate group is representing PAD in general.

Abhisit was quick to frame the debate so that the conclusion would be “our view of the national interest is the same, we just have disagreements on how to achieve it”. He sidelined Veera’s group and set a new standard of public, televised debates over contentious issues.

Whether it was to neutralize PAD opposition or genuinely advance the issue remains to be seen, looks like two birds with one stone so far.

Still, there are too many angles to the problem to address them on TV.

Two years ago it looked like a business disagreement over tourist revenue. Now it’s much much more than that and the potential gains or losses are not worth fighting over anymore.

I don’t know what Cambodians were thinking. It’s no Angkor Wat, relatively few tourists would consider it worth taking a two day trip over jungle roads. Access on Thai side is a lot easier but then again, it’s a day trip only, if you want to stay overnight you can take pictures of the sunrise or sunset but that’s basically it.

It’s not a gateway to Cambodia the way Poipet is. It could have been but not if Cambodians decided to go alone. Thailand even build them the road from Poipet to Angkor Wat but they behave like ingrates and they can forget any help in developing Cambodian side of Phra Viharn if they don’t change their stance, and if they say they don’t need it – they still need tourists coming in from Thailand, they will never have enough of their own.

My point is the tourism potential of the site is rather limited and Thailand could have just let it go but now the bigger border issues stole the light and they are unresolvable.

Cambodians assert that World Heritage listing doesn’t affect border demarcation but the situation is different on the ground where they have been moving settlers into the disputed territory ever since MOU signing, they have even built an access road there. PAD claims that their site management map takes some 50 rai of Thai territory. I don’t know if it’s true but Cambodians really treat the adjacent land as its own already.

Right now Thai nationalists demand removal of the settlers, by force, if necessary, temple itself doesn’t concern them very much.

And it doesn’t stop there – Cambodians have sights on several other temple ruins on the disputed territories, and so do Thais. Going hardline over this and not conceding an inch of Thai soil is implausible, deals need to be made here and there to keep overall peace but Thai government’s hands are constrained by public reactions at home.

Then there’s maritime borders and oil exploration zones, that’s where the real money is, and they can’t move along either unless two countries cooperate.

Too many things depend on Phra Viharn now – border in the temple vicinity, border issues elsewhere, and shared oil drilling in the Gulf.

There’s no way it can be resolved if it comes in this bundle.

The best outcome would be if Abhisit manages to separate the temple listing from all those other demands and gets Cambodian support for joint management, with revenue sharing acceptable to both sides.

Maybe it should be designated as a special no visa, no national tax zone, managed by an entity with representatives of both countries collecting it’s own taxes and splitting the profits 50/50. I mean if a tourist spends 3,000 baht in a hotel on the Thai side, part of this money goes to Cambodia, too. There could be plans for casinos and may even an airport and appeals to international investors to make worthwhile.

When I think how it could be set up it looks like a huge headache but I believe it’s the only fair way to develop Pra Viharn.

Alternatively Thailand can just sit it out – it’s not losing much from not developing it, Cambodians need it a lot more. They will come around, eventually, when they realize that Thais can stall their plans indefinitely.

And that’s where Thai nationalists come in handy – the government can always site their demands as a reason to keep military presence that scares away the tourists. Border skirmishes at regular intervals is all Thailand needs to make its point.

It’s not kosher but it’s politics – agree on joint management and all problems will go away.

Catching up

It is somehow extremely difficult to resume blogging after a long break, and everybody needed a break after the intensity of April-May rallies.

Nothing seems worth writing about in comparison and certainly not worth spending several hundreds words on.

Still, life is going on, so let me sum up what has happened in the past couple of months.

Bangkok by-election

PTP has chosen a jailed candidate, then, as expected, its fan club started whining about how Korkaew was at a disadvantage. It doesn’t make any sense, of course, but being red is not about sense, it’s about making noise.

During the campaign itself PTP was a lot more visible on the road, they had more trucks, more people, more posters, louder music and so on.

I’ve heard of a woman who is registered in one of the new moobans in that constituency but lives mostly downtown, she was dragged to vote by her family but was not very interested herself. She drove to the polling station, got in a booth, and realized she doesn’t know what number to vote for. Once you are in there, there are no names and parties, only numbers, so she tried to remember and the first number that came to her was “4”, the biggest, most visible, red on white number that she saw most often, so she ticked it. Then, still in the booth, she asked her sister if she made the right choice (Dem). She changed her choice but I think it resulted in a spoiled ballot in the end.

This is a perfect example of how factors other than political ideology can influence voters’ decisions, easily.

The result itself presents quite a few explanations. On one hand it looks like both Reds and Dem supporters remain politicized active and they came out in masses – the drop in vote count for both parties was less than 10% comparing to 2007, that means that people who voted for other parties in 2007 couldn’t be bothered this time around, letting Dems and PTP to slug it out and causing a very low turnout overall.

Another explanation could be that voters across the spectrum were equally apathetic and it’s a mere coincidence that both PTP and Dem tallies were close to 2007 numbers, in this case both parties picked up a lot of third choice voters. From Dems’ perspective it’s the worst case scenario – PTP were not expected to draw any new blood into its ranks.

Third explanation is that PTP rallied its troops and nobody else while Dems were trying to appeal to everyone who is non-red, including tens of thousands of people who didn’t vote for them last time, people who had a long weekend and less interest in supporting the government no matter what. Dems won, but not by a huge margin.

Bottom line – no party can say that it lost and both have good reasons to be hopeful when the general elections finally come.

Personally, I think PTP squeezed as much as it could and no red supporter skipped the voting, means they command only about 30% of the vote and would need not only to beat the Dems but also woo coalition partners away from them. Personally I think it won’t work, not on the red agenda.

Election preparations

It looks like Abhisit will call the elections in the first half of next year, parties are switching to election mood already. Bangkok is peppered with advertising for city council elections, I believe, and, for the first time, there’s a lot of New Politics posters everywhere. Bangkok is not Thailand but it’s the first testing ground for every party involved.

Elsewhere PTP is expelling a few rebel MPs with a few more said to be leaving for BJT. Come election time there could be a lot more defections if PTP can’t stop the bleeding. For months their North Eeastern MPs were complaining about how the party is run, particularly about Shinawatra clan members who are in charge. In the capital the rift between Chalerm and Sudarat has been reported many times over, and now they think about Mingkwan as the PM candidate. That won’t go well with Chalerm, too.

Mingkwan has zero appeal outside the party, he has been around for a long time now but has never achieved anything substantial. I remember his promise in 2007 to increase Thailand’s income from tourism four times. Can’t figure out how – four times more tourists, or making them spend four times more? Doesn’t matter, he is first class bullshitter, he doesn’t claim to have any connection to reality anyway.

“Third choice” parties are also preparing themselves. They realize they are too small to make any impact and need to join hands to get noticed by the electorate. Ideally they want to be the deal breakers, position now enjoyed by BJT and Chart Thai. BJT will probably be more successful, though, at the expense of Isan MPs from PTP and possibly some factions from Chart Thai itself.

Democrats will go with Abhisit, easily the best and most acceptable candidate in non-red eyes. They can’t go wrong with him, despite all the accusations.

Democrat Party Dissolution

Dissolution threat is like a swing. One day it looks like Dems are done, the next day it looks like they are off the hook. There are two cases here, one is about misusing official EC funds, another about illegal donation by Prachai of TPP fame.

Back in 2004 Prachai was hunted by Thaksin and it’s very likely that he turned to Democrats for political support. It is also very likely that he contributed to their campaign, too. Legally, however, the case is very shaky, for the lack of proof. DSI has dropped the case against TPP itself, ie no money has gone missing, so it would be more difficult to argue that Dems have “stolen” it.

The witnesses have changed their minds, too, or have been made to change their minds, doesn’t really matter. I find the whole idea of prosecuting the party for offenses three elections and five years ago and under different management an abuse of the system. The only plausible reason is that when Abhisit became the party leader he had signed off the financial statements for the previous year, too, that makes him legally responsible and prosecutable even though he had nothing to do with it. No one cares about the rest of the Democrat team at that time.

There’s one very important point – the laws have been changed since 2004, it will be very tricky to prosecute Dems and impose penalties based on laws that didn’t exist at the time of the offense, and I don’t know how they are going to apply old lawbooks either. At this time finding one party executive guilty means disqualifying the whole board and dissolution, no leeway. That was not the case back then and I have no idea how the courts are going to solve this dilemma. The case could be just thrown out of the court.

The misuse of EC funds is even more ridiculous – Democrats are accused of printing posters that were one inch SHORTER than regulation. Now idiots like Chaturon insist the whole party must be dissolved. He, of course, doesn’t say the Democrat party must be dissolved for printing smaller posters, he just wants them dissolved, period. His main reason is that if TRT were caught cheating every other party must suffer, too. And he is referred to as the intelligent one in the opposition camp.

I can’t imagine how his brand of “rule of law” will develop should this poster boy for “progressives” ever lay his hands on power.

Thaksin, his shyster and red future

I mean, of course, Robert Amserdam. The man keeps plugging his stuff anywhere he can. He finally produced the “white paper” that has become quite a matter of contention when Somtow was asked to respond to it.

Lots of people, me included, dismiss all his efforts outright and think that his works are just mountains of garbage and are not worth wasting any time on. His point, however, is to try and engage the public in a debate at any cost. Get a foot in the door, then you can start extracting concessions.

Somtow saw it right through, The Nation got caught for a second and posted both of them on the same front page, giving Amsterdam the publicity he so badly needs. That was one off, though, they are not going to engage Amsterdam any more, I think.

I haven’t read the white paper itself but I’ve read enough of Amsterdam’s to see that the man has absolutely no consciousness and no moral or ethical constraints when it comes to manipulating the facts.

Once he accused Abhisit of personal and groundless attacks on him when, in fact, Abhisit hasn’t said a word at all. The accusation could have been, if stretched to the limit, applied to Abhisit spokesman but Amsterdam put it into Huffington Post anyway, with “supporting evidence” being an untranslated page from a Thai newspaper. No shame in misleading unsuspected readers whatsoever.

In the “white paper” itself the first paragraph states that the coup overthrew an elected Prime Minister and that TRT had won 2006 elections. I can see where he is coming from but this is just plain untrue. Thaksin wasn’t elected, he lost the status when he dismissed the parliament, he was merely an interim PM, and no one won 2006 elections, there were annulled before they were even completed.

It’s just garbage.

There’s no benefit in dissecting the whole paper, as long as he remains on Thaksin’s payroll no one would pay any attention to what he says, no matter how many times he issues his trademark “Let me be clear on this” denial. As a total newbie to Thailand Amsterdam doesn’t realize what declaring yourself as someone’s proxy does to one’s strength and arguments. Samak could pull it off, Amsterdam has no chance. No one in Thailand would ever listen to him, which makes me question the wisdom of hiring him in the first place.

He has never had a shot at influencing domestic opinions and internationally no one pays attention to Thailand anymore, one paper or one article or even one editorial here and there won’t persuade anyone, international opinion makers on this country are spread too far and between and are not going to be swayed by his paid presentations, and it’s them who’ll set the tone next time Thailand gets in the spotlight.

There’s simply no market for his crap.

Meanwhile, Jakrapob is hinting that Thaksin himself is reconsidering his strategy of trying to defeat the whole country. Thaksin’s a bit of a slow learner in that respect.

While Somtow claims Thaksin can be easily forgiven if he shows enough remorse I somehow doubt that now, not after all that has happened, and paying Amsterdam’s is not helping here at all.

Avatar change

I’ve watched Uncle Boonmee a couple of weeks ago. Absolutely delightful.

The only spoilers were a few “movie experts” who were clapping hands and laughing at “jokes” in the most inappropriate moments. I see how lots of people would try to “understand” the movie and express their “success” with emotional outbursts, but, come on, it’s not your traditional Hollywood/Channel 7 storyline, things do not follow each other in a simple, logical progression there.

Yet they are all inexplicably connected, affecting and complementing each other in a myriad different ways. It would take days to try and explain what exactly the connections are, what the background for each scene and dialogue is, which part are new and original by local standards and which parts are totally conventional.

So, when the “experts” clapped hands at calling Bangkok a “City from Hell” I hope it’s not out of joke appreciation, I hope they at least understood Thai word play here – “maha nakorn” vs “maha narok”. That is an example of a totally conventional, stale joke and a widely held view. Everyone here has heard this kind of joke at least ten times in their lives., nothing to get excited about. The Bangkok woman in the movie hardly reacted at all, and that’s how most Thai would react, too. It “works” only on the uninitiated.

In the end I walked out convinced that foreigners who claim that there’s nothing special about Thailand and dismiss any “you don’t understand this country” arguments out of hand have no idea how really complex and intricate Thai society is.

Is he movie red or yellow? What a daft question! That’s a totally alien, artificial juxtaposition. Not only in the movie, but in the society in general.

In the end I thought that monkey ghost from the movie was pretty cool so I changed my avatar here. In case you haven’t seen the movie, it’s a mysterious ghost that quietly flows through the whole story, at one point luring an enthusiastic photographer to abandon civilization, marry a monkey woman, and go live in the jungle.

Don’t know what we have in common but the image is visually stunning.

Engerland Engerland Engerland

So I made it to The Londoner yesterday, managed to drink six beers until 11 PM and still wake up fresh this morning, no small feat in my age.

The game was very promising, the replay of the old situation. The US got in in the last minute and the English were left to face the Germans.

Without Russians to do the heavy lifting, however, it all ended up badly. The US were sent packing by pesky Ghanians. Payback for the slavery, I guess, and the English were severely beaten by Germans, in style, I might add.

Londoner was fully packed, as expected, but not very cheerful, reminded me of the Engerland chant from “How to lose friends..” movie:

Brilliant.

Of course there was this disallowed goal:

Lampard's disallowed goal

The ball bounced out and into the bar, though, I can understand why the ref thought it didn’t cross the line.

Personally I’m against introducing any technology to help referees with decisions like this. I like football as a human game with human mistakes, but, as the game has progressed, there’s a lot of money at stake and I won’t be surprised if they eventually start suing referees for the lost income.

Perhaps tennis approach is better, where each Grand Slam tournament has its own rules on how many challenges, if any, a player can make.

Anyway, Germans added two more and that was the end of it.

Before leaving, the English squad visited a South African orphanage: “Nice to give ’em smiles, faith & bit of hope,” said Stephen, aged 6.

Courtesy of Tuslathit

Korn was there, at the same table, as far as I can tell. He was nice and friendly and posed for a few photographs. I wasn’t in the mood of stalking him and I’m NOT taking a picture next to him, he is too tall – the reason I called British Ambassador a shorty earlier.

Only when Korn was finally leaving I thought I should take a shot just for the memory. He was out of flash range, nothing to see, really.

He was literally head and shoulders above the crowd, and no mean looking guards either, he walked in with a friend, I think, not a bodyguard.

Altogether the English let me down – I put so much effort and preparation in making this late drinking session work and they just blew it.

Missing Korn

Korn, the Finance Minister, watched England game at the Londoner yesterday – MY pub, though now that I live in the suburbs I rarely go there.

Korn at the Londoner

That pic’s gone missing. Here’s another one, from Londoner’s FB:

Korn at The Londoner

I was really planning to go yesterday, too, and I was very determined but after test run on Saturday (Holland – Japan) I decided I’m too old for the minimum of six pints of beer and getting up for work next day.

On big days like this they sell only coupons – six beers or two margaritas or some other sets like that. You have to be there before 7PM, hang around until 9 and leave at 11, get to bed after midnight.

Knowing me, I’d have finished the first six before the game even started and the next morning wouldn’t even have the energy to call in sick.

So I missed Korn.

Glad we choose the same places to watch football.

I don’t know how Korn feels about watching illegal Astro broadcast, though. They’ve got English commentary but no HD so it doesn’t look as good as at home.

Note to myself – send an e-mail to the Nation with suggestion for True to hire its own commentators next time. In the off season there should plenty of capable people in England who could come to Thailand to watch the Euro or World Cup and get paid for it.

That’s what Astro does, I think.

True’s excuse is that FIFA doesn’t sell English commentary in this region for fear of privacy, as is aptly demonstrated by Londoner. They probably pay for their Astro card but it can’t be legally sold here.

Abhisit is reportedly rooting for Argentina, Korn, on the other hand, had his quote of the month: “I’ve always been a fan of England and long suffered for it”.

I knew the English would pull through this time, they bounce back from their disastrous spells very fast, a lot faster than French, it’s all in the mind anyway.

Now the next game is Germany – England on Sunday night.

Tempting, very tempting.

Essential info – Londoner is on the corner of Sukhumwit Soi 33, BTS Promphong, they brew their own beer (German brewmaster, Peter, a nice, very likable fellow) and sell all kinds of local and imported stuff, too. Food never gets rave reviews, as a vegetarian I can’t say anything about it except they offer every traditional fare as there’s a lot of competition for farang patrons – there’s Bull’s Head around the corner, Robin Hood, and an Irish pub across the street. No bar girls of any kind.

House beer is of two kinds – Pilzner, which is brewed by German rather than Czech recipe, and Bitter, which is a dark beer, English, rather than German “dunkel” style that is usually brewed or imported here.

Both are very tasty, Pilzner is stronger and Bitter gives bigger headache.

Perhaps something harmless like Heineken is a better choice for late night drinking but that would be a sacrilege.

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