Wednesday, October 31, 2007










Nepal on the brink

Nepal is a tinderbox once again. The so called Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and the Maoists (CPNM) has run into a bitter dispute over two pivotal issues. There is no resolution in sight. At issue are the monarchy and the make-up of the elected Constituent Assembly (CA). The elections were to be held in April of this year but they have been postponed and postponed again. The Maoists want the monarchy abolished and Nepal declared a republic by the current, unelected, parliament. They also want the membership of the new elected Constituent Assembly to include all the so called marginalized ethnic groups in direct proportion to their population in Nepal. The Nepali Congress (NC), the primary component of the SPA is vehemently opposed to these motions and they have accused the Maoists of using these motions to delay the elections which they feel will diminish the wedge of power now wielded by the Maoists in the CPA. The Maoists in turn have declared that these motions are fundamental pillars of what they stand for and no compromise is possible. If this situation blows up just about anything is possible from failed state to military coup and perhaps even to an invasion by India in the name of maintaining peace and order. As a taste of things to come consider that the Young Communist League (YCL), an unofficial arm of the Maoists, are running amuck and terrorizing the people with abductions and extortions at will with no one able or willing to check their bravado. Simultaneously, the so called marginalized groups who constitute almost half of the population and therefore expect by virtue of the Maoist position to constitute almost half of the elected CA, are taking to the streets. It is high noon in Nepal.

Cha-am Jamal
Thailand

Tuesday, October 30, 2007








Reference: Last call, Bangkok Post, October 30, 2007

There are too many people on this planet and their numbers are growing too fast. They are consuming the world's resources and generating toxic wastes at an alarming rate. We are hurtling toward certain doom. In 30 years time human beings will outstrip all available resources and collapse in an inevitable mess unless Draconian measures are taken to limit growth. If allowed to grow at the current rate "in a few thousand years everything in the visible universe would be converted into people, and the ball of people would be expanding at the speed of light". (Paul Ehrlich, The Population Bomb, 1968)

The impact of humanity on the planet includes a growth rate of its ecological footprint that is out of control. This planet can no longer sustain us because we have overshot its limits. In 30 years time, the biosphere that sustains us will collapse because we have overshot sustainability unless Draconian measures are taken to reduce our ecological footprint. (Meadows et al, The Limits of Growth, 1972)

The earth's population of human beings is now so large that "the amount of resources needed to sustain it exceeds what is available". If Draconian measures to limit growth are not taken we will face catastrophe in 40 years and eventual extinction brought on by exhausted resources and climate change. (UNEP Global Environment Outlook, 2007)

Cha-am Jamal
Thailand









Reference: PAO squabbles linked to murder, Bangkok Post, October 30, 2007

It is reported that the murder of a Provincial Administration Organization (PAO) official allegedly by hired gunmen was likely masterminded by friends and relatives of a fellow PAO official who allegedly held a grudge after having been dismissed from his job. As usual, the gunmen have been arrested and they have confessed and even agreed to re-enact the crime in public but the real murderers remain untouchable and at large. The aggrieved PAO official was actually arrested and charged with possession of bullets without a permit but he is out on bail after having authorized his own bail in his official capacity in the PAO from which he had been fired. There are goings on in Thailand that are not easily rendered in terms of Western logic. The East is East and the West is West and the twain shall never meet.

Cha-am Jamal
Thailand

Monday, October 29, 2007










Reference: Small things with a big impact, Bangkok Post, October 29, 2007

The Kingdom's advances in nanotechnology and its abundance in incident solar radiation provide Thailand with an opportunity to take the lead in solar energy in the region, the new gigantic REC (Renewable Energy Corp) plant in Singapore notwithstanding. Emerging nanotechnology products offer greater efficiency and lower cost than photovoltaic cells. The nano product is a flexible plastic sheet that mimics nature's photosynthesis process to generate electricity from infrared radiation. The technology offers a window of opportunity in a niche industry that is a good fit for Thailand.

Cha-am Jamal
Thailand

Thursday, October 18, 2007








Pakistan's leadership crisis

There appears to be a feeling in Pakistan that the country's political crisis can be resolved with a change in leadership. Yet, the new leaders will face the same dilemma that Musharaf now faces once they are in power. The dilemma involves billions in bribery to do America's bidding. Their choices in this regard are not likely to be any different whatever their initial ideals and agenda might have been. Also of note is the country's willingness to embrace Benazir Bhutto. No sensible country would want as a leader a person who needs immunity from corruption charges in order to return from "self imposed exile". If the Bangladeshis had been in charge over there she would have been welcomed into jail rather than to euphoria.

Cha-am Jamal
Thailand

Tuesday, October 16, 2007








Reference: How the Republicans hate Gore, Bangkok Post, October 16, 2007
Reference: After Nobel Gore should go for the next big prize, Bangkok Post, October 16, 2007

These articles on Gore's Nobel achievement are based on the assumption that the Nobel Prize legitimizes his science and proves that he is right. It does not.

Shortly after the inventor of DDT was awarded a Nobel Prize, DDT was banned worldwide because if its harmful effects on the environment. Robert Merton and Myron Scholes thought they were certified masters of Finance because they had won the Nobel Prize until their hedge fund called Long Term Capital Management did a nose dive and almost brought down the American financial system. More recently the Nobel Prize was awarded to scientists who had warned us that that human activity was causing ozone depletion and making the ozone hole bigger. They were allowed to keep their prizes even after it became apparent that the observed changes in the ozone layer were part of a natural cycle having to do with shifting winds in the upper atmosphere and NOT due to human activity.

In its latest goof, the Nobel Committee has awarded a prize for service to humanity to a guy who sees humanity as the enemy of the earth and whose stated goal could be achieved by simply eliminating humanity from the face of the earth. Besides, his movie about global warming has been widely discredited as being biased and containing not only exaggerations but outright lies.

His Nobel Prize does not prove that the Kyoto Protocol hypothesis is correct. The fact that he was awarded a prize by a committee of five Norwegians appointed by the Norwegian legislature does not vindicate Gore. If anything it discredits the committee. If the Nobel Prize is to be made into a global prize then it should be removed from its Norwegian limitations and opened up to humanity at large perhaps through the Internet.

Cha-am Jamal
Thailand

Saturday, October 13, 2007










Reference: Christian fundamentalists threaten priceless pagan artefacts, Bangkok Post, October 11, 2007

One way to prove that the Bible is right is to get rid of all the evidence that it isn't. So for hundreds of years Christian zealots have been destroying evidence of human history that contradicts the Bible. Consider Mexico's Franciscan Bishop Fray Diego De Landa for example. During the 1550s, Father Landa destroyed the entire collection of Mayan writings because they were inconsistent with the Biblical version of reality. This collection consisted of thousands of volumes. It took the good Bishop and his workers many years to complete the job, but they did complete the job. The history told in those writings will now never be known. Incidentally, the Mayans had also left a mountain of hieroglyphic sculptures that were also deemed to be pagan and so they too were destroyed and mined for gravel. Much of history is known to us but most of it is not known and will never be known. Our version of history is biased by the availability of data. Much of that bias has been imposed on us by religious zealots. Talibanism has been around a lot longer than the Taliban.

Cha-am Jamal
Thailand

Thursday, October 11, 2007









Reference: Singapore's Lee scolds dumb junta, Bangkok Post, October 11, 2007

A small clique of cronies runs Singapore with an iron hand behind a veil of democracy. They justify their politics with economics and the importance of image. So it is not surprising that their advice for the brutal military regime in Burma is that they may consolidate their dictatorship with better economic policies as a way of keeping the citizens pliant and by shedding their military uniforms as a way of image building. It is a lecture on Autocracy 101. The lecturer laments that his students are too dumb to understand and implement his lecture. As for the evil that the junta has done, the only thing that your "visionary" could think of was the bad image created by Thandar Shwe's lavish wedding. It is a shocking take on a tragic situation particularly in light of recent events. This visionary's vision is a scary one.

Cha-am Jamal
Thailand

Wednesday, October 10, 2007









Reference: Prasong attacks PM's land grab, Bangkok Post, October 11, 2007

Marion Jones is a not a "little woman". This condescending reference to a world class athlete and the attempt to shame a man for his inability to do what even a woman could do, exposes the depth of gender discrimination in Thailand. It's pathological, and pathetic as well.

Cha-am Jamal
Thailand

Tuesday, October 09, 2007






Reference: Busy storm season likely, Bangkok Post, April 5, 2007

The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was unusually intense and it included Hurricane Katrina's tragic effects on an aging system of levees and the flooding of New Orleans. During the media hype that followed, global warming scientists announced that these events had been caused by greenhouse gases from fossil fuels and that Katrina was the Americans' just reward for driving SUVs and emitting carbon dioxide.

They said that they had scientific evidence to prove this causal linkage and even to forecast with a great deal of certainty that there was more to come in 2006. This prediction did not come true. The 2006 hurricane season turned out to be milder than normal. The IPCC scientists were quiet on this issue. There was no further word from these scientists on the linkage between carbon dioxide emissions and hurricanes until April of 2007 when they issued a new warning that 2007 will bring a killer hurricane season, even worse than the 2005 season (Busy storm season likely, Bangkok Post, April 5, 2007). They said that it will have 17 or more hurricanes and much death and destruction as a consequence of rising greenhouse gas emissions.

The 2007 hurricane season is almost over. Even if this year's hurricane season turns deadly at this late stage, it will not be possible to reach the predicted level of hurricane activity. Once again the global warming scientists appear to have missed the mark. It is not likely that we will hear more from them about hurricanes very soon. There will be no analysis of the relationship between the 2006 and 2007 hurricane seasons and greenhouse gas emissions. They will simply wait until we have a bad hurricane season and then issue their usual alarming press releases. The IPCC is not in the business of providing analysis of all climate data. They are in the business of providing analysis of only those climate data that support their hypothesis.

Cha-am Jamal

Thailand


Monday, October 08, 2007









A fictional account of corruption in the highway department

In an exotic kingdom far, far away, they have many good roads built and maintained by very industrious and dedicated people in the highway department. The actual work of building and maintenance is carried out by world class construction contractors who employ highly skilled people and the latest in road building equipment. When a contractor bids for road work, he must show good faith by paying a fee equal to 2% of the bid amount. The successful contractor is required to pay a further fee equal to 12% of the bid amount. No accounting record or audit trail exists to show that these payments were made or that they were received or how these funds were disbursed. It is widely assumed by conspiracy theorists that these payments end up financing luxury homes and cars and a comfortable life-style for certain public servants who hold key positions in the highway department. The same conspiracy theorists also allege that the contractor, having already parted with the net income that he could have made from the project, is thus forced to find more innovative ways to make a living and they involve using sub-standard materials and skimping on specifications while fat and happy recipients of their payment to the highway department turn a blind eye. The product of this genius is that the sub-standard road soon goes to potholes and ruts that require new contracts for resurfacing and maintenance, more work, and more money for the contractors, and more fees for the highway department officials. The ever grateful contractors may even celebrate the early demise of their work by throwing a party for the highway officials and they may invite the highway police as well. Were it not for the kind cooperation of the highway police who are known to allow 30-ton trucks on to highways designed for 10-ton trucks, the road may have taken longer to go to pot and the poor contractors would have had to wait longer for the re-surfacing contract. Not only that, the highway police can actually collect a fee from the truckers for providing this valuable service. It's a win-win situation because all three parties involved in this ingenious enterprise get rich from their participation in it. Of course, if you are some kind of bleeding heart liberal who wants to count the taxpayer and the citizens who drive on these roads as stakeholders in this enterprise, you may come to more devious conclusions in collusion with the conspiracy theorists, but the reality is that the contractors are hard working people as they are always seen building roads and then re-surfacing them. This account is entirely fictional and this state of affairs does not actually exist in any country known to me or to the whistle-blower who first made these allegations about the fictional country in an article in the Bangkok Post on February 23, 2007.

Cha-am Jamal
Thailand







Reference: Maid on witch charges, Bangkok Post, October 8, 2007

It is a contradiction for an Islamic religious police to charge the maid in question with witchcraft because witchcraft does not exist in Islam. The accusation that she cast a spell on her employer has no basis in the religion that the religious police are expected to enforce. It appears that the religious police have lost their way and are unable to see the forest for the trees.

Cha-am Jamal
Thailand

Sunday, October 07, 2007











Reference: An Arctic Summer, Bangkok Post, October 6, 2007

The maximum Arctic melt in the summer of 2007 was the most extensive in recent years but not the most extensive ever as the entire Arctic has been ice free in previous geologic epochs; and yet the phenomenon is being described as man-made, part of global warming allegedly caused by greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. This agenda is being pushed by the IPCC and Al Gore even though natural cyclical phenomena such as shifting wind patterns described as the Arctic Oscillator can explain not only the 2007 data but previous Arctic melts as well, something that the greenhouse gas theory cannot. One should also note that the melting of sea ice this summer was not "global". While the summer ice mass was lower than average in the Arctic, it was higher than average in the Antarctic, a contrast that might have attracted the attention of serious and unbiased scientists. As expected, however, those pushing the greenhouse gas agenda laid siege with hyperbole only to the Arctic data. Selective presentation of climate data to support their position is normal at the IPCC although these people describe themselves as scientists.

Cha-am Jamal
Thailand










The pass or fail decision in Thai schools

Many intelligent teachers from foreign countries teaching in Thai schools have articulated their frustration with a system in which they are not allowed to fail the students and an educational culture in which the pass or fail criterion does not play the kind of overarching role it does in their home country. They face the difficult task of teaching in a context in which certain elements of the educational culture of their own youth is absent. It's a cross-cultural thing and these foreign teachers must make an effort to adapt to their foreign students even as the students and the school system try to adapt to their foreign teacher. The demand by teachers that Thai education conform exactly to their particular experience in another country is self-serving. Besides, the pass or fail decision is an administrative one and not a teaching function. The teacher's job is to motivate the students to learn, to channel their curiosity and catalyze their imagination, to actively participate in their learning, and also to provide the necessary feedback to students, parents, and administrators as to the extent to which the learning objectives have been achieved. The fear of failure and the lure of passing or of passing with distinction do offer a carrot-and-stick mechanism that makes classroom management easier for the teacher but they are not essential to the art of learning or teaching.

Cha-am Jamal
Thailand

Saturday, October 06, 2007








Reference: Haircuts shined shoes matter most in business, Bangkok Post, October 6, 2007

The article says that statistical analysis of the "Time use survey" data of a sample of 13000 individuals in the USA shows a statistically significant correlation between time spent on grooming and salary. It concludes that one can increase one's salary by simply increasing the time one spends on grooming. The analysis and the conclusions drawn from it are nonsensical. Survey data do not contain causality information. Also, on very large samples of this nature even small and materially insignificant correlations can be deemed to be statistically significant by virtue of sample size. Even if the correlation observed in the sample is a true reflection of the population it may mean that personality traits that cause higher salaries are also those that cause excessive grooming or even that those who earn more have more means and social motivation for grooming. The article's conclusion, that losers can simply groom themselves to success is itself a loser.

Cha-am Jamal
Thailand

Thursday, October 04, 2007









Reference: About politics, Bangkok Post, October 4, 2007

Since the adoption of the new 2007 constitution in Thailand, it is widely assumed that it is now the supreme law of the land and that all of its terms may be enforced in accordance with the letter of that law although many of the key institutions required by the constitution do not yet exist. For example, it is not clear that the unicameral and unelected NLA (National Legislative Assembly) is the same institution as the elected and bicameral Parliament to which the constitution refers. Similarly, the current unelected Prime Minister who is not a member of Parliament is clearly not the Prime Minister described by the constitution. Although many of the words and phrases used in the constitution are also used to describe elements of the military-installed government, they may not be used interchangeably because it is not possible for them to refer to the same institutions. The expectation by the NLA that the resignation of the Prime Minister prior to the elections would require the next prime minister to be a member of the NLA in accordance with the new constitution is logically flawed because the NLA does not conform to the parliament described in the constitution. The new constitution has been adopted but it has not been fully implemented and it cannot be fully implemented until the new and constitutional parliament is elected. The NLA is part of an interim government whose primary function is to hold free and fair elections and cease to exist thereafter.

Cha-am Jamal
Thailand

Wednesday, October 03, 2007







Reference: Burmese major and son flee into Thailand, Bangkok Post, October 4, 2007

It is reported that on October 3, Major Htay Win of the Burmese army crossed the river into Thailand to seek asylum because he was unwilling to participate in the massacre of Buddhist monks. The significance of this event is that it likely represents the crack in the armor of the junta that the international community may use to bring down the brutal military regime in that country. ASEAN's use of the word "revulsion" in describing events in Burma while at the same time carrying on business as usual with the military regime (ASEAN talks unaffected by Burma unrest, Bangkok Post, October 3, 2007), is a charade. If we really mean to help the people of Burma in this hour of need we must make it clear to them that we support them and we must call on the soldiers to not to kill their fellow citizens and their monks but to join with them in the liberation of their country. I know that ASEAN has investments there as well as energy supplies that must be protected for our own self interest but in the long run those interests would be best served by aligning ourselves with the people and not with a despotic regime that is on its way out.

Cha-am Jamal
Thailand






The mad man from Iran

During his visit to the United Nations in September 2007, President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad of Iran hosted a dinner at the New York Intercontinental Hotel for American scholars and journalists. They came with the apparent intent of proving that Mr Nejad was deranged because he had questioned the holocaust, denied that there were gays in Iran, and called for the destruction of Israel. However, the dinner conversation failed to show that he was deranged and so they concluded that he was wily as a fox. It was a multiple choice question. Rational or normal was not among the available choices.

Cha-am Jamal
Thailand
Reference: Politics behind Army HQ blast, Bangkok Post, October 3, 2007

Every once in a while a small bomb in a package goes off somewhere in Bangkok. In every instance the authorities immediately announce the motivation for the blast and the general identification of the parties responsible. And then, even though they profess to know everything about the event, they go ahead and order an investigation but we never learn what the results of the the investigation were. Months and then years go by and eventually the incident fades from the media and the collective memory of the nation. One would expect that a rational government would order the investigation first, make the results of the investigation public, and only then draw conclusions. One would also expect that the government would bring the perpetrators to justice and take corrective and preventive actions.

Cha-am Jamal
Thailand



Reference: Low tech high aims, Bangkok Post, October 3, 2007

The article describes the IDDS (International Development Design Summit) workshop in which participating engineers design things like water-carrying backpacks to help the world’s poor. The engineering solutions being offered do not appear to have much to do with development nor with getting people out of poverty but rather to keep them poor by making them more functional in poverty. It appears that these gadgets will be useful but their impact would have been greater if there were also a development component. For example, the Grameen Bank micro-credit program in Bangladesh offers credit that the poor can use to leverage themselves out of poverty so that they can afford a well or running water and no longer have to carry water on their backs or otherwise. The IDDS objective of keeping the poor more content with poverty seems strangely incongruent with mainstream anti-poverty programs.

Cha-am Jamal

Thailand


Tuesday, October 02, 2007















Cruise missile diplomacy

By isolating themselves in Naypyidaw, the SPDC generals of Burma have unwittingly set themselves up as a made-to-order target for cruise missiles. There is a good density of high value targets in a well defined area and a minimal possibility of collateral damage. Also, there is no uncertainty about where the generals are. It would take no more than two or three well-placed missiles and this thing could be over. If ever there were a reason to invent the idea of regime-change by cruise missile, this is it.

Cha-am Jamal
Thailand









Reference: Enormous challenges await new govt, Bangkok Post, October 2, 2007

The article states that the 9/19 coup of 2006 has forever changed Thailand by creating uncertainty and a "confusion trap" because "from now on no one can guarantee there will be no more coups". As a result Thailand's future economic development will be retarded until the country resembles the Philippines more than itself. These observations are not consistent with the political or economic history of either of these countries. Thailand has a history of coups and new constitutions and the "political uncertainty of the last two years" cited by the article could not have been caused by a coup that occurred one year ago. Thailand's propensity for military coups does harm its image but the article takes that idea a bit too far.

Cha-am Jamal
Thailand