Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Democracy - Still the best answer?

The problem with democracy is that the people sometimes vote for a bunch of scoundrels. OK, so that's just my opinion;-) Even with this it's hard to see what would be a better system right now. With democracy we shouldn't have to qualify it with words like "Western" or "Capitalist". It just means that the citizens get to elect their government. Democracy shouldn't depend on an economic system or a location.

(In fact it would be pretty hard to find a pure capitalist economic system now. Even Maggie Thatcher and Ronnie Reagan couldn't put the clock back that far. We now have mainly mixed economies of state and privately owned operations and a timeline through the last 150 years would show the ratio has been moving in the direction of state control in one way or another.)

My thoughts were drawn to the above subject by three events, the elections in Thailand and Pakistan, and the retirement of Fidel Castro in Cuba. In the two elections patronage politics again came to fore. Maybe in Pakistan there was also an anti-military rule vote, but the politicians that have been elected are the same ones that have been involved with corruption in the past. In Thailand Taksin's, (that's the owner of Manchester City Football Club for UK readers), millions have bought about the election of a real rogues gallery. In Cuba an unelected leader hands over to his unelected brother. Any elections that have taken place in Cuba must be shams as no opposition is tolerated.

In Cuba, the lack of legitimacy that a vote would give and the imprisonment of dissenters has taken away from their argument on how the US has isolated them. So even with a good school and health system the people are poor in material possessions and in personal freedoms. Taking Thailand as the democratic example we find a government elected by giving gifts to the mainly peasant farming communities in the north and northeast on a very local level. Now at least when it goes wrong again the citizens have none to blame but themselves and they have the option of removing this government at the next election. (By the way it's hard to disprove the country people are better off after the previous Taksin governments.)

When we look closely it seems most democracies are built on patronage. The more local the government level, the more likely that a politician will get elected on what he promises the community, and this is probably how it should be. The danger in our UK style of parliamentary democracy is that only a minor part of the electorate actually control who forms the next government and these are those in the swing seats. This probably explains why all the political parties are trying to squeeze into the centre ground. The patronage is just for this minority. Ah well, I don't know the answer to this one; maybe it is to go with some form of proportional representation.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Some pictures from this weekend's walk

Although this large canal isn't as interesting as some of the smaller ones I've walked here are few bits that caught my eye. Click on any the pictures for a larger view.

About half-way along I found the biggest and most professional fish raising pens. They were made of lots of small pens tied together. Later when I walked back down KingKaow Road I saw pickups waiting for fish from these pens. It looked like they were breeding small fish for sale to the fish farms so the water must be good here.


Because this area off Kingkaow Road is industrial there are many apartment buildings for the workers, mainly young people from out of town, to rent. Some were painted in pleasant pastel colours and I suspect most people would prefer this than the plain cement buildings. I think some of the London suburbs could be improved by copying these colours.


At the Bangna-Trat Highway end of the canal is a large Chinese temple-like building. Below you can see the canal side of it with the fine ceramic detail on the roof and the view of the front from the road.




The New Bangkok Airport Klongs

Yesterday and today I have been walking the rest of the klong that runs north-south on the western edge of the new Bangkok airport, Suvarnabhumi. (No, I'm not going to say how it's pronounced.) This is a wide canal and once past the southern edge of the airport there are footpaths on both sides most of the way to the Bangna-Trat Highway. On the other side of this road there are no footpaths in sight. I might have to try further south sometime.

This canal isn't very interesting but it did give me a chance to get in some decent exercise. All up over three days walking, always returning to the car, I did about 26 kilometres with the longest day being 12 kilometres. At first I thought the canal might have been part of the airport development but it seems to be a bit older than that. The communities along the canal seem to be mainly buddhist unlike the canals a few kilometres to the north which have a large Moslem population.

Below is a picture from Google Earth which shows the paths with yellow dots. I'm not sure why Google has such a poor resolution view of the airport. Maybe it's a security problem.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Life on Mars

I have the same problem as I suspect many bloggers, or come to think of it, old men at the corner of any pub bar. This is that I can't see how people can have views different to mine. With politics it seems so obvious to me, so how come others don't see it?

Could it be that I am like one of those old testament prophets that are not listenned to? Could it just be my views are so out of kilter with everyone else? Why do I feel like the boy who could see that the Emperor was naked and not in his new set of clothes. I suspect I have at least part of the reason.

I left the UK in 1973 and led a Peter Pan like existence working around the world. I didn't have to grow up again until 1995 when I stopped travelling. I missed the Thatcher years. I missed the rise of Blair and New Labour. In fact it's "Life on Mars" in reverse. I went to sleep in 1973 and woke up in 1995.

A small side note - I saw "Life on Mars" for the first time at the end of last year. I was missing some of the humour as I didn't realize things weren't done that way anymore.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Doing the Right Thing

Credit where credit's due, Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling have at last made, in my view, the correct decision over Northern Rock. The word is it will be nationalised. So maybe Richard Branson will not call Darling darling anymore.

Branson could have started a bank at any time in the past. The only reason he wants one now is he could get one subsidised by the taxpayer. If he had to pay a fair price he wouldn't want it. The rest of the banking industry had their chance to save Northern Rock before news broke on the trouble it was in but didn't, so deserve no say in the matter.

My disagreement with the government is to say it's only a temporary measure. Why not think outside the box as they say. How about looking at the German model where Deutsche Post buys DHL? Let's roll Northern Rock into the Post Office and have a national savings bank again!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Charlton Athletic 2-2 Watford

Another game that doesn't tell us too much. Charlton had a 2 goal lead but ended up with just point from this game. I guess it's unlikely now that we will get one of the automatic promotion places.

Woody Guthrie

Had a long (6.4 km there and back) walk along the northern end of the klong that is between the airport and KingKaew Road. Still have another one or two walks to finish it. I've not been blogging the walks recently but I do intend to overlay the Google Earth map again soon.

When I got home I heard the last episode on BBC radio of Billy Bragg's Woody Guthrie documentary. I don't know what it is about people like Guthrie, far from perfect but such an inspiration. I guess I will be humming "This Land is Our Land" for the rest of the day.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Are Charlton good enough for promotion?

Our favourite Charlton blogger is no longer blogging. Frankie Valley was an important stop in my day to get a more light-hearted view of how the team was doing. So that just leaves us with a more serious look.

So to answer the question on whether they are good enough I can honestly say, "I don't know". The last three games have been a loss (Scunthorpe), a win (Palace) and a draw (Sheffield Wednesday). The best of the midfielders, Reid, went off to Sunderland last month. I guess a loss against fellow promotion candidates Watford on Saturday would tell us not to hope too much while a win would put us right back in the race.

Do we really want an Eton educated prime minister?

The Conservatives try and explain to us that we should grow up and not discriminate against a politician just because he went to Eton... Yet every time I hear Cameron at Prime Minister's question time the hairs on the back of my neck start to rise. It's that upper class yob way of speaking down to the commoners I hear in his voice. He even makes feel sorry for Gordon Brown, which takes some doing.

Maybe it's just my age or background that makes me feel that way. It will be interesting to see how Boris does in the London Mayor's election and whether he can overcome the same hurdle. With Maggie they bought in voice trainers to rid her of some of the plum. Major and Heath had a more middle class neutral sound but Cameron still has the schoolboy in him.