LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
YouTube controversy could lead to calls for greater sensitivity on the Internet
Re: "Imus firing suggests profit, not free speech, was the main factor in YouTube scandal", Letters, April 18.
I don't believe Google's motive in refusing to ban the offensive video of His Majesty the King was either financially or territorially based. Don Imus' racist and sexist remark that sparked so much anger among the African-American community occurred on a broadcast media outlet, not a web platform for video sharing. How does he think Google derives profit from a YouTube post?
The Guardian recently published an editorial headlined "Comedy of Manners" in which it pointed out that print journalists have an uneasy relationship with the blogosphere. The writer asked, "is it our fault we represent some sort of oppressive, obsolete paradigm?"
Online discourse, it went on to say, is characterised by personal insult, childish mudslinging, meaningless feuds, self-serving digression, pranksterish vandalism and empty threats. It is indeed the medium of the mean and vacuous.
Although met with venomous derision, two pioneers, Tim O'Reilly (who coined the phrase "Web 2.0") and Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia), have proposed a code of conduct for bloggers. Maybe this is the first step in the call by The Nation's journalists and letter-writers that the Web invoke a "freedom with responsibility" paradigm that Google will come to respect. I hope it is.
Applauding His Majesty's pardon of Swiss vandal
Re: "Swiss man slips back home", News, April 14.
I was thrilled to read of His Majesty the King's pardon for Oliver Jufer, the Swiss man found guilty of spray-painting over images of His Majesty.
The pardoning of Jufer's childishly obnoxious prank demonstrates His Majesty's great sense of compassion and justice. Some people I know argued that Jufer deserved whatever punishment was meted out to him, as one must respect the laws of the country one is in. Some said that the punishment was too harsh, but His Majesty would probably offer a pardon on his birthday, so one shouldn't make a fuss about it. Thankfully, His Majesty didn't agree with such callous thinking; he must have felt that the eight months to his birthday was far too long a time for Jufer to serve. His Majesty's actions support the just notion that the punishment must fit the crime.
Finally, in letting Jufer out after a couple of weeks His Majesty is in alignment with all great thinkers, religious leaders, and moral philosophers in history who have asserted that the laws of a country are not always equivalent to true justice and morality. Sometimes one must rise above or go around the law to reach true justice. If only more of our world leaders would demonstrate such wisdom and compassion.
Thailand can't turn the clock back on industrialisation
Re: "Thailand best served by a Japanese approach to West", Letters, April 18.
John Arnone cites Japan's lack of a tourist industry as a reason for its industrialisation. Japan is rated 25 in the World Economic Forum's Travel index - with Thailand trailing at 43, behind such tourist "hot spots" as Croatia (38). Japan's industrialisation was driven by belligerence before World War II and reconstruction afterwards.
Japan is a rather poor comparison to Thailand, primarily because it has had a very sophisticated management and administrative class for hundreds of years. China is a better comparison, not because of its geography or population or even the form of incoming foreign investment, but because in the early 1980s it suffered from a lack of managers as a result of its years under the communist system. Thailand has suffered in a similar manner because it simply has not needed this class in the past.
Thailand already has more than "a measure of industrialisation and Western consumerism"; placing poorly considered restrictions on investment has done absolutely nothing to counter that. I would argue that it's unlikely that the majority of new foreign investment would be industrial, anyway. Thai labour is too expensive for its productivity level, and the quality of infrastructure is far behind the rest of Asia when compared to the costs of manufacturing here. It's the value-added sectors (retail, tourism, finance, agriculture, law, etc) that could provide the country with the greatest return.
It's too late to put the cat back in the bag regarding industrialisation, but it's not too late to consider world-class ways to reap the benefits of foreign investment. Imposing restrictions to create "protected sectors" has been a formula for preserving mediocrity. When I learned to play tennis, I sought out players better than me, even though I got beaten; eventually I learned to play better. Sure, it would have made me feel better to win by playing only those worse than me, but I would have never learned to improve my game.
Aussie koala could give Chinese panda a few tips
Re: "Koala has baby in pouch: Chiang Mai Zoo", News, April 18.
Despite Bt15 million worth of encouragement, the Chinese panda has yet to get pregnant, yet the Aussie koala, with just a few gum leaves to woo her is already expecting! Does this mean that Aussies just love to party or what?! It's enough to make me homesick!
'War on terror' a divisive, inflammatory term
The British government has decided to stop using the term "war on terror".
In a speech in New York, a British cabinet minister said in an excellent analysis that the phrase strengthens the loose and disparate groups trying to force their narrow values on others by making them feel part of a larger struggle.
It is not a war against "one organised enemy with a clear identity and a coherent set of objectives" that can be won by military means alone.
These conclusions are so obviously right but why, oh why, has it taken so distressingly long for this to be realised in London?
Terrorism is a struggle for ideas and inflating it into a "war" obscures that important truth.
Ideas cannot be defeated by invasions and bombings alone.
To the contrary, terrorists seek to terrorise, so the dangers should not be exaggerated.
Giving massive publicity to heroic bogeymen and telling your own people it's so bad that they're on a war footing is obviously counterproductive.
There is no "war" but a massive security operation to resist violence and criminality. It is primarily an ideological struggle, the main focus of which should be the support of moderate Islam which is threatened every bit as much the West.
Also important is that this newspaper now no longer uses the inflammatory language of war, especially in view of Thailand's own internal tensions.
Pros and cons of fuel-cell technology need attention
Re: "Fuel cells offer hope", Business, April 10.
This article, outlining some of the research being done by the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) on fuel-cell technology came almost exactly a year after a similar one on a different aspect of fuel-cell research, by the same journalist ("Hydrogen offers hope as fossil fuels diminish", Business, April 26, 2006).
Fuel-cell technology is potentially a useful technology provided its true role in the energy cycle is recognised. Both articles were misleading on this.
To quote: "As this technology is environmentally friendly, offering zero emissions and using hydrogen - which is easily found in Thailand - as a raw material."
Hydrogen is a component of all plants and animals and their derivatives such as fuel oil and the water we drink, wash with and which causes so many problems in this country at both extremes of too much and of not enough.
However, the hydrogen does not come in neat little packets or reservoirs waiting for us to pick it up and use it. It comes combined with other elements. In order for us to use it in fuel cells we must remove it from those other elements first. Guess what - removing it uses energy.
Generally it will take more energy to extract the hydrogen from, say, water than would be available from the fuel cell when the hydrogen is recombined with oxygen to form water.
Also, when considering the environmental friendliness of fuel cells one must take into account how environmentally friendly this extraction process is. This rather reduces the attractiveness of fuel cells. They are net energy consumers, not suppliers, when the complete energy cycle is considered. If a source of energy for the extraction of hydrogen from compounds is available which we could not harness for other things, then it becomes attractive, but only then.
It might be, for example, that solar-powered extraction of hydrogen from water could be done in tropical countries such as Thailand with its abundance of both sunlight and water and used in fuel cells in cold temperate climates where there is very little sunlight.
This is a part of the fuel-cell energy cycle, which never gets a mention in articles on the technology. Another possible use for fuel cells could be in transport vehicles where they might be lighter than the internal combustion engines currently in use, thus reducing the energy required to accelerate the vehicles to cruising speed. This would make the vehicles more efficient.
An article in the Byteline and Innovation section of The Nation on these other parts of the energy cycle of the fuel cell would be interesting and would help to put the technology in context.
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