January 1, 2013
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 160,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
December 17, 2012
[CJ Hinke of FACT comments: We have all been wildly conditioned to live in fear of criminals and subversives and radicals. That fear prevents us from seeing the bigger picture. The gaoling of one man or woman rips apart marriages, families and communities and no good at all for the wider society. On the eve of Somyot’s verdict, we ask you to put yourself in wiofe Sukunya’s or son Panitan’s shoes.]
Political Prisoners in Thailand: October 29, 2012
Sukunya Prueksakasemsuk, wife of lese majeste political prisoner Somyos, has released a letter she has written to her husband. There are versions available in English and in ไทย. Despite Sukunya’s tireless efforts on behalf of her husband, Somyos remains imprisoned. Her letter is released to coincide with the 18-month anniversary of her husband’s imprisonment.
Somyos has been imprisoned for this very lengthy period but has still not had a verdict delivered. As PPT recently noted, the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has issued an Opinion, stating that:
The deprivation of liberty of Mr Prueksakasemsuk, being in contravention of Articles 19 of the UDHR [Universal Declaration of Human Rights] and 19 (2) of the ICCPR [International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights], is arbitrary, and falls in categories II of the categories applicable to the cases submitted to the Working Group.
As a result of the Opinion rendered, the Working Group requests the Government to take the necessary steps to remedy the situation of Mr Prueksaksemsuk and bring it into conformity with the standards and principles set forth in the ICCPR.
The Working Group believes that, taking into account all circumstances of the case, the adequate remedy would be to release Mr Prueksakasemsuk and accord him and enforceable right to compensation pursuant to Article 9(5) of the ICCPR.
December 17, 2012
Political Prisoners in Thailand: November 4, 2012
In an earlier post, PPT drew attention to the first letter from Sukunya Prueksakasemsuk to her husband, the imprisoned lese majeste political prisoner Somyos. Somyos has been jailed for more than 18 months as he awaits a verdict on this political charge.
The second letter has been released (in ไทย) and begins with comments about visiting “hours” – actually just a few minutes – at the Bangkok Remand Prison and ends with the delight at Surapak Puchaisaeng‘s acquittal on lese majeste and computer crimes charges. The English version follows:
3 Nov 2012
Week 73 of the prolonged detention.
There are many things happened in this week after I visited you at the prison last Tuesday. Fist of all, I must say that no one visited the 112 prisoners except Jane and me on that day. So I had a good chance to talk to you, Pee Surachai and Noom all together in one. It seemed that the 20 minutes flied so fast and we talked over time limit until the officer warned us to separate and asked you to go back inside. A period of 20 minutes is very short and always not enough to be with the one that I love and wait for the whole week.
The prison allows us to meet once a day from 11.10 to 11.30 at weekdays only. As I am busy and don’t have lot of free time, I could only meet you once a week. I have to spend that little time that they allow as good and most valuable as I can. One thing that I have seen and am happy is that you still maintain your courage and strength. You don’t lose heart and have a good spirit even it has been a very long time since you have been detained. Your faith remains unchanged. So I hope someday your dream will come true.
From my conversation with Pee Surachai which was the first time that I talked to him in an official manner. Before that I only had some greetings and small talks with him. He told me that the Thai people must have a clear picture of democracy. Supporting a political party must be based on a clear understanding of the rights to have the different opinions and the roles and responsibilities of ourselves. When the party became the government and ruler, they might not do things that they promised but we as the citizen must not lose the sight & sense of equality and democracy. We will have to push them to complete actions as promised.
For Noom, we have talked and lent mental support to each other. Noom said that if he is released, he will dedicate to our 112 Family Network which I am very glad to hear that he has realised the importance of our Network and intended to share his painful experience and opinion on the impact of the article 112. Many people still think that this law is not relevant to them at all which is not correct. Anyone can be sued from the article 112. I hope to hear a good news about Noom from his recent seeking for royal pardon.
Finally the great news for this week is the acquit of Surapak (Tum)’s trial on Wednesday this week. I am very happy for Tum, Pa Tam and his family to have him back home. I wish that when it come to your verdict, we will receive a fair trial and end the long process with full of justice.
Love you as always,
December 17, 2012
Prachatai: December 12, 2012
Sukanya Prueksakasemsuk’s letter to her husband Somyot in prison, and the 112 Family Network’s invitation to Somyot’s court appearance on 19 Dec.
Week 78 of prolonged detention
9 December 2012
I was happier this week but still very busy from the year-end appraisal of my direct reports and other urgent matters which were unplanned and deadlines set this week. Anyway I managed to take a break with Tian to see the lights on Uttayan Road while I drove her to the dormitory. This road has another name of Axis (pronounced Ax-xa in Thai) located on Bhuddamonthon 4 and it was the most expensive road. It was constructed at the time of Field Marshal Por in 2498 (Buddhist Era) and was put on hold for a long time after the coup by Field Marshal Sarit. It was just finished in 2542. This road is 4 kilometers long and is decorated with lamp all the way down the road. When the lamps are turned on at night, it is so beautiful, perhaps the most beautiful road in Thailand! When I thought about it, if we didn’t have so many coups, this road would have been finished earlier. When someone said coups would help stop corruption and ensure national development, I wouldn’t agree. If so, how come we took 44 years to construct this road? And this road was the most expensive ever; just 4 kilometers cost almost THB 1,100 million. Roughly divided by 4, it cost THB 500 million per kilometer.
Yesterday I attended the launch of a new book “Rak Auy” (Love) written by Pa Ueh (Ah Kong’s wife) which was organized by the Read Publishing House. The event began in the morning but I just joined them in the afternoon when Ajarn Somsak spoke about the root cause of tragedy of Ah Kong. I was invited to talk about this book but hadn’t yet read it before this event. So I had to prepare myself and read it. Before that I was afraid of crying and depression; you know it’s hard to control myself when I have to face other’s people sad stories. Anyway, when I read it, it didn’t shake my heart as I expected. Pa Ueh described her romantic married life with Ah Kong. There was a beautiful moment when I read that Ah Kong found a pleated skirt which he thought suited Pa Ueh perfectly. He bought it immediately without hesitation but then thought that a green skirt might not go well with Pa Ueh’s skin tone. These small things that expressed the love of Ah Kong and Pa Ueh were the natural expression of an older generation like our parents. It is regrettable that Pa Ueh has no opportunity to live together with her loved one, and did not even have a chance to say good bye before his last breath. Oh! The unlawful article 112 put our lives in danger and in trouble.
It is late and time to go to bed now. I wish you courage to continue fighting against the unlawful law. Sooner or later we will see the light of fairness. We believe in a universal fairness i.e. the right to bail, freedom of speech, freedom of writing and publishing as well as democracy where everyone, whether rich or poor, will have equality. That day will come soon.
Love you as always.
November 8, 2012
[CJ Hinke of FACT comments: Popular vote referenda in specific jurisdictions for exact purposes are today the only honest form of voting. Politicians are all the same so why bother? A great example of the power of referenda is the fact that the US states of Washington and Colorado became the first jurisdictions in the world to legalise marijuana for wholly recreational use, in direct confrontation with the US Federal govt. America going down the tubes? Pass that bong over here...]
Eric W. Dolan
Raw Story: November 7, 2012
Washington voters overwhelmingly approved Initiative 502, a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana.
As of 10:00 p.m. PST, the ballot initiative was up 55.45 percent to 44.55 percent.
Initiative 502 legalized the production and sale of marijuana in Washington state through state-licensed stores. Under the law, the Washington State Liquor Control Board will regulate marijuana-shops, and possessing up to an ounce of marijuana will be legal.
The Washington State Democratic Central Committee, the state-wide umbrella organization for the Democratic Party, had endorsed Initiative 502. In a resolution passed last year, the Democrats stated that “marijuana is Washington’s second biggest cash crop and could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenues” and that outlawing the drug was “wasting millions of dollars.” The initiative was also supported by the NAACP, ACLU and a number of other organizations.
Initiative 502 also amends Washington’s DUI laws by making driving under the influence of 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood of THC, the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana, illegal. The 5 nanogram limit would not apply to the non-psychoactive marijuana metabolite carboxy-THC, which can appear in blood or urine tests for weeks.
Colorado voters also approved a ballot initiative legalizing recreational marijuana use Tuesday night.
November 8, 2012
The Borowitz Report: October 9, 2012
OTTAWA: Canada announced today that it was tightening security along its border with the United States amid concerns that there could be a mass migration of illegal Americans after Tuesday, November 6th.
According to Randolph McTavish, Deputy Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, border patrols are on alert due to an “increase in chatter” indicating that a threat to Canada’s border might be imminent.
“We’ve been intercepting troubling comments from some very freaked-out people,” he said. “Most of it has been on NPR call-in shows.”
Stating that the R.C.M.P. is patrolling every kilometre of the Canadian border, he issued this warning to Americans who might try to cross into Canada illegally: “If you drive a Prius, you will be stopped.”
He also warned Americans against trying to slip across the border in the hopes of passing as Canadians: “It is very difficult, if not impossible, to pretend to like hockey.”
Mr. McTavish said that he was sympathetic with those who might flee across the border in search of a new life and socialized medicine, but added, “At the end of the day, forty-seven per cent of Americans is more than Canada can handle.”
November 8, 2012
[FACT comments: Yes, stupid, I’m talking to you… Let's spend our money on something righteous foer a change!]
Scientific American: October 8, 2012
In 1969, a great shadow was cast over the United States. That shadow, however, was not one of gloom. Instead of evoking the absence of light, this shadow caused us to look up in wonder at the brightness that created it. When the Saturn V Rocket propelling Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins dashed across the blue, cloud-splotched sky, we did not see a dark present. We glimpsed a bright future.
Elsewhere, however, truly ominous shadows were cast by rockets which never saw the sun. Nestled in silos and buried beneath barren landscapes, “Minuteman” missiles meant not to uplift man, but to deliver the end of man, shrouded much of our world in trepidation.
These two rockets, with two very distinct purposes, bring into focus a problem that has long plagued our nation. We spend far too much money on war, and not enough on science.
Considering that we are nearing the ominously titled “fiscal cliff” — a series of government spending cuts and tax increases that will automatically take effect if Congress and the President do not act to stop it — we have a unique opportunity to review Federal spending and ensure that we are investing our time and wealth to their most productive ends.
I argue that such a review – if guided by reason – would reveal that defense spending should be reduced in order to make way for a world-changing commitment to science and technology, a bold move that will put both the United States and the world on a path to a bright future.
As it stands today, the United States is clearly over militarized. Defense spending in 2011 was estimated at $711 Billion. That’s equal to the combined budgets of the next fourteen top-spending countries, over half of whom are strong U.S. allies. Moreover, a 2011 Government Accountability Office audit of defense spending found that a combined $70 billion was wasted in 2010 and 2009.
This over-the-top spending is indicative of a military-industrial-complex run amok, precisely the scenario that President Dwight D. Eisenhower, perhaps the most revered military commander of the 20th century, warned against in his farewell address. “Together, we must learn how to compose differences not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose,” he avowed.
I can think of no better way to fulfill Eisenhower’s vision than through the pursuit of science.
By intelligently, purposefully, and gradually drawing down the defense budget from 4.7% to 3.0% of GDP (from $709 to $453 billion), and diverting some of those funds to meaningful science projects of both national and global significance, the United States can accomplish the essential goal of protecting its citizens, while simultaneously making the world a safer, healthier place and reinvigorating our economy.
We can begin the funding transition at home by re-committing ourselves to NASA. If we double the space agency’s budget (currently at $17.8 billion), our space accomplishments in ten years will dwarf even the monumental success of this summer, when the Curiosity rover landed on Mars.
We can complete the James Webb Space Telescope, allowing us to peer farther into the Universe than ever before. We can go to Mars by the end of the decade, a mission which astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson insists “would reboot America’s capacity to innovate as no other force in society can.” And with the recent news that warp drive may be more feasible than originally thought, we can focus on researching and eventually engineering interstellar starships that could one day take humans to Gliese 581 g — a potentially habitable Earth-like planet — in a mere two years. Along the way we could solve a myriad of other problems, writes Space.com’s Clara Moskowitz:
“…if human beings can solve the challenges of interstellar spaceflight, in the process they will have solved many of the problems plaguing Earth today, experts said. For example, building a starship will require figuring out how to conserve and recycle resources, how to structure societies for the common well-being, and how to harness and use energy sustainably.”
In addition to funding NASA, we can make fusion energy research a top national priority. Fusion power – an unparalleled energy source that generates electricity by effectively creating a miniature star – has eluded scientists for decades, but researchers now believe that successful fusion is within mankind’s grasp. Before the year is out, scientists at the National Ignition Facility in California hope to fire the world’s most powerful laser into a small test chamber with pea-sized fuel pellets of deuterium and tritium inside. The two isotopes of hydrogen will fuse together and potentially create up to one hundred times more energy than was used to ignite the fuel.
This breakthrough could serve as our “Sputnik Moment” for energy production. If we can put a man on the Moon a mere eight years after deciding to do so, then surely we can master “star power” if we pledge ourselves to the task. Fusion produces no carbon emissions, could provide power for thousands of years, is estimated to be cost-competitive with coal, and is unquestionably the energy source of the future. Yet despite the impressive resumé, fusion energy research is only allotted a relatively paltry $474.6 million. Why wait for the future to happen later? With additional spending freedom by making cuts in defense, we can fund fusion and make that future happen now.
Abroad, armed with science, the United States could make an even bigger difference. Instead of paying $1 billion for a new B-2 bomber or $2 billion for a Virgina Class Submarine – tools designed to forcefully combat the symptoms of the world’s problems — we could pay less and actually work to solve those problems. We live in a new age where people can collaborate as never before, working cooperatively across previously insurmountable barriers of distance and language. In this modern age, we don’t need an army of soldiers; we need an army of scientists.
The United States should spearhead a global public-private coalition with the aim of using science and technology to solve the pressing problems of the present and the surfacing challenges of the future. Partner countries will join and lend funding as well. Such a program could recruit scientists from around the world and form them into separate divisions, each tasked with an individual goal, such as curing disease, solving the emerging water crisis, or spreading modern agriculture practices.
Effective communication and outreach on an unprecedented scale will be paramount to the project’s success. This must involve on-the-ground collaboration with local governments, scientists, and stakeholders, especially in the Global South and the Third World. Solving global problems will need to be reconciled with local priorities.
Such an initiative would be a boon, both foreign and domestic. It would create jobs, spur innovation, foster global goodwill, and boost the world economy. It may also result in revolutionary discoveries that would eliminate many of the primary causes of conflict and war. In a world fortified by scientific discovery, there would simply be no need for exorbitant defense spending.
After reading this proposal, it’s natural to be somewhat incredulous. The undertaking that I have outlined is bold and would require the type of political consensus that we haven’t seen in well over a decade. But it is not wistful, nor is it too costly or overly naive. It can be done.
Setting our defense spending at 3.0% of GDP is far from unprecedented; it’s the same level we had during President Clinton’s second term. And the notion of aiding the developing world through a massive, coordinated scientific endeavor was also previously conceived. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy entertained a proposal to undertake a large-scale irrigation project to benefit the Third World. Instead, he chose an equally worthwhile enterprise: going to the Moon.
That courageous expedition – conducted in the midst of a Cold War with the Soviet Union and a hot war in Vietnam — proved that Science can be mightier than the Sword. In the decades that followed, we have forgotten this. It is time to remember it.
About the Author: Steven Ross Pomeroy is the assistant editor for Real Clear Science, a science news aggregator. He regularly contributes to RCS’ Newton Blog. As a writer, Steven believes that his greatest assets are his insatiable curiosity and his ceaseless love for learning. Follow on Twitter @SteRoPo.