Energy issue heats up as Europe faces terrible cold

Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 30, 2022. (Photo by Mikhail Klimentyev / SPUTNIK / AFP)

July 31, 2022: One of the most famous Game of Thrones phrases _ Winter is coming _ is being used by various news websites as Europe braces itself for potentially a very cold period due largely to the war in Ukraine.

Gas and electricity bills for many vulnerable households in Britain are predicted to soar to an average of £500 a month in January, whereas the German city of Hanover is turning off the heating and switched to cold showers in all public buildings. These examples of bad news are set to proliferate as the European Union is preparing for a worst-case scenario in the winter and accusing Russia of possibly weaponizing energy.

Russia will say you weaponized trade first. Europe will then say you invaded Ukraine first. Russia will then say NATO was expanding eastward first. On and on it can go.

With 12 EU countries subjected to partial or complete interruptions of Russian gas, EU leaders have very recently agreed to cut natural gas consumption by 15%. Some member states could reportedly be exempted, as reliance on Russian supplies differs from one place to another. A consensus, though, appears to be that the worst is yet to come.

Such fears are based on the fact that Europe was facing an energy crisis even before problems emerged about the Nord Stream 1 pipeline from Russia to Germany. This means that confrontation with Russia will almost certainly make Europe struggle to keep homes warm and industry humming in the next winter.

Russia has already slashed Europe’s amounts of natural gas used to power factories, generate electricity and heat homes in the winter, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned they could keep dwindling. In a report focusing on the United Kingdom, an “almighty hit” is expected regarding shortages, prices and power bills.

July 30, 2022: A little child’s written comment on her mother’s Jackson Wang craze has gone viral, and apparently rightly so.

The cute yet hard-hitting remark, written in the seven-year-old girl’s diary, followed a TV programme in which the popular Chinese singer appeared as a secret, unannounced guest, to sing “over the wall” with a celebrity Thai fan.

“I don’t know what happened to my mommy,” the girl wrote. “She kept shrieking while watching the TV. She didn’t care about daddy’s feeling at all. She likes another man who isn’t daddy. She will surely go to hell. Jackson Wang has not done anything wrong. Mommy has.”

To be fair to her mother, it was her who shared the little girl’s comment online, with a statement of her own. “It’s my fault, honey. But you’ve got to understand. I really like him,” Wanmai’s mother wrote.

The post was shared tens of thousands of times.

July 29, 2022: China has warned America not to “play with fire”, as the future of the world’s order may hinge on three persons, and we haven’t even talked about Vladimir Putin yet.

Nancy Pelosi, as of now, is hell-bent on visiting Taiwan, a plan that is reportedly making Xi Jinping fume to the point of telling his American counterpart Joe Biden that the latter wouldn’t want to act like a home-alone little boy with a matchbox in his hand. This leaves the US president, facing taunts domestically and abroad, with a big dilemma. Should he heed the warning and endure further boos and jeers, or allow Pelosi to go ahead and risk a potentially disastrous spark?

Amid tensions over Taiwan, the two superpower leaders held “candid” over the phone on Thursday. According to Chinese state media, Xi warned Biden not to “play with fire”. The Chinese President also told Biden that Beijing firmly opposes Taiwan’s independence and, importantly, external interference. However, reports coming out of America said Biden told Xi that US policy on Taiwan had not changed.

It remains to be seen how the policy of “acknowledging” the Taiwan sensitivity is implemented, particularly if House of Representative Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s planned trip to Taipei goes ahead in a few weeks’ time.

July 28, 2022: The sitting US president facing low approval ratings is no news, so why is a new CNN opinion poll so important?

Because it could be the most frightening thing he has read so far since defeating Donald Trump. What makes it worse is the fact that the all-time-low rating is happening in spite of the Ukraine “invasion”, the flexing of the Chinese muscles _ issues that should have triggered a patriotic surge that benefits the American presidency _ and the apparent easing off of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A staggering 75% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters want the ruling party to nominate someone else in the 2024 presidential election, a sharp increase from earlier this year (51%). About 24% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters said they did not want to see Joe Biden running again because they didn’t think he could win. About 32% (up from 16% just a few months ago) did not want to see him run simply because they did not want him to be re-elected. Only about 25% wanted his re-nomination, a decline from 45% in January/February.

More young Americans are probably turning against him as well. While about 31% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters 45 years and older would prefer Biden to be the 2024 nominee, only about 18% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters under 45 supported him.

But Biden’s age (He’s about 80) may render debate about his second term unnecessary. Before he took the White House, the oldest president at the end of his tenure was Ronald Reagan at 77. In other words, Biden was older when he took office than Reagan was when Reagan left office.

The CNN poll was conducted just a few days ago and some 1,000 Americans were interviewed.

July 27, 2022: The US-China simmering tension has been marked by male verbal aggression, but it could take a woman’s real action to make it boil over.

US House speaker Nancy Pelosi is having all the men in the US administration scramble to stop her planned visit to Taiwan, a trip that could madden China to the point of doing something really crazy.

Beijing has warned of serious consequences if she goes ahead with her plan to visit Taiwan in the coming weeks. The male politicians in Washington, for all their repeated taunts and criticism directed at China, are a lot less bold than her. They fear the “balancing act” regarding China and Taiwan, a long-standing, male-dominated US policy that is already confusing and awkward, will be completely undone.

According to the policy, America “acknowledges” that China considers the self-governing island to be part of “One China”, but Washington opposes any attempt to change Taiwan’s democratic status by force. Sales of American weapons to help Taipei defend itself is all right under the policy.

From reports, Pelosi is not a big fan of that policy. Will the American men be successful in lobbying her against the “bad idea”, or will one woman launch a thousand missiles? We should soon find out.

July 26, 2022: When NIDA pollsters stay away from politics, they take on something equally _ if not more _ divisive.

According to the latest NIDA survey, said to be one of the most carefully-designed when it comes to football rivalry in Thailand, Liverpool were neck and neck with Manchester United and just won by a nose in terms of popularity among Thai fans.

NIDA surveyed 2,500 Thais and 779 of them said they followed the English Premier League. Of the 779, 31.32% are Liverpool fans, as compared to 30.42% who support Manchester United. Coming a distant third are Chelsea (9.37%), followed by Arsenal (3.85%).

Quite interesting was NIDA’s finding that only 2.95% of the 779 Thai followers of English football are fans of Manchester City, who have dominated English and European football for nearly a decade. Thai-owned Leicester City came sixth and breathed on the neck of Manchester City, having 2.82% support.

The rivalry between Thai fans of Liverpool and Manchester United is world-renowned, and it was monetised with big controversies very recently when a friendly game between the two clubs was arranged in Bangkok. This NIDA survey was conducted hot on the heels of that match.

July 25, 2022: Money is one of the few things that many “ideologists” or “activists” should refrain from discussing, but most find it impossible to resist the urge.

When the son of Thaksin Shinawatra, whose family is one of Thailand’s richest, said coups have made the country get stuck in a nasty income disparity, it somehow puzzles skeptics.

Speaking on his Facebook and through a video clip on the eve of his father’s birthday anniversary, Panthongtae Shinawatra said it was a pity that Thaksin became prime minister at the age of 51 but could serve on the top post for only five years because a coup cut his political career short.

“Ever since that coup, Thailand has been a backwater, trailing her neighbours. The income gap has widened so much that it has been the world’s largest,” Panthongtae said.

Thaksin’s wealth, his alleged attempts to expand it in a series of government scandals, massive amounts of stocks that changed hands among servants and family members, failures to pay taxes after his business empire was sold to Singaporeans, were listed as the coup’s “pretexts”.

But confusion about democracy and money is somewhat understandable. Capitalism is associated with democracy and democracy is also associated with equality. So, it can’t be totally wrong that a sharp contrast in wealth distribution can take place in the system.

July 24, 2022: Irresistible human drives of revenge, betrayal, deceitful scheming and pleasing the new boss can be found at the end of the no-confidence session.

Results looked like a formality on the surface, but the devil is in the details.

For example, two Democrat MPs cast no-confidence votes against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, four “cobra” Move Forward MPs voted for him and 7 Pheu Thai MPs who were about to leave abstained. For Thammanat Prompao’s Thai Economic Party, four MPs broke ranks to vote for Prayut.

As for Democrat leader and commerce minister Jurin Laksanavisit, he has allies to worry about in addition to his own party’s power struggle. A number of abstentions and no-confidence votes came from the government bloc.

All 15 votes of Thammanat’s party went to Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, the top confidence-vote winner among the censured targets. The seven imminent Pheu Thai defectors abstained, contributing to Prawit’s boasting rights. As those Pheu Thai “cobras” are reportedly about to move to Bhumjaithai, they abstained during the vote on Bhumjaithai leader and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul as well.

Personal grudge, or so it seems, led six Palang Pracharath MPs to vote against Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda. “Budget dissatisfaction” and Anupong being named interior minister instead of Prawit are reported to be the causes.

On the grand scheme of things, these rebellious or resentful votes are not causing major changes, at least for now. But they can embarrass affected parties.

July 23, 2022: As usual, the numerical outcome of the no-confidence session is being put under the microscope, but even naked eyes can see that all continues not to be well with Thailand’s oldest political party.

Democrat leader Jurin Laksanavisit, who once did extremely well in a popularity poll in Bangkok, became the least supported censure target. The commerce minister scraped through with 241 votes of confidence against 207 whereas 23 abstained. The number of abstentions was the biggest among all censured Cabinet members, coinciding with reports this week about a power struggle within the party.

Another Democrat, Social Development and Human Security Minister Juti Krairiksh also drew a large number of abstentions, 17. He survived with 244 votes of confidence.

The biggest confidence-vote getter is Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan (268). This flies in the face of the fact that he used to be a major target of opposition criticism, many times on par with Prayut Chan-o-cha and sometimes even surpassed the prime minister in drawing fire. Whether or not this has anything to do with signs of another coalition about-face on the party-list calculation method is debatable, but Prawit also got the least no-confidence votes (193)

Prawit can look at Prayut and say “See?”  The prime minister received 256 votes of confidence, against 206.

July 22, 2022: Web surfers have a harder time finding stories on CNN and BBC about US President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 infection than when his predecessor, Donald Trump, got the disease. If ones need “assurance” that the coronavirus is on the back foot, check out both websites’ home pages.

The major international news outlets gave absolute prominence to the Capitol “riot” hearing, meaning that the former president’s behavior during the political chaos more than one and a half years ago is more important than the sitting president having contracted the disease that shut down the world for a long period.

When Trump was infected, key American news organizations were in unison in playing it up and constantly accusing the government of concealing severe symptoms of the then chief executive. Those accusations continued weeks after Trump emerged from isolation and returned to public views.

Now, the same organisations are saying there was nothing to worry about because Biden, despite his advanced age, is in good hands, receiving the best care and getting the best treatment and medicine. Symptoms were “mild” and he was “doing great.” Unlike Trump, Biden’s oxygen level and breathing behavior are not big deals.

July 21, 2022: According to reports, the Palang Pracharath and Bhumjaithai parties can “make a U-turn on top of their previous U-turn” regarding the party-list calculation system.

A statement by Palang Pracharath’s Somsak Thepsuthin that the “Divided by 500” formula could be “troublesome” has been all but endorsed by Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul, who strongly suggested his party was ready to go wherever the wind blows.

“We have always said anything is fine by us,” Anutin said.

Whether the new sudden turn of events has anything to do with the ongoing censure is anyone’s guess. It’s no secret that how party-list numbers are calculated, an issue yet to be finalized by Parliament, is the biggest deal of the opposition Pheu Thai Party, which is still crying foul over Parliament’s recent decision to favour the “Divided by 500” formula.

July 20, 2022: If Sri Lanka was playing golf, the ball must have flown out of the bunker sand and gone straight into the woods.

Lawmakers of the country in economic and political turmoil have elected former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as president, in a move likely to anger protesters who must have thought they had just managed to effect a major political change and bring about lights at the end of the tunnel through aggressive and largely disorderly gatherings.

The protesters had stormed the presidential palace and forced former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign and flee. However, the man has been replaced with someone whom the protesters had also lambasted for weeks.

Wickremesinghe _ a six-time former prime minister and key ally of Rajapaksa _ won a parliamentary ballot after his predecessor fled the country amid escalating protests over an economic crisis marked by dire shortages of essential imports such as fuel, medicine and food. The new leader received 134 votes from a possible 223. (He roundly defeated his main rival for the job, Dullus Alahapperuma, with 134 votes to 82 in the parliamentary vote.)

News agencies have listed Wickremesinghe’s heavy economic tasks, but his most glaring and immediate problem must be the big number of Sri Lankans who see him as a new problem.

July 19, 2022: In an otherwise copy-and-paste introduction to the no-confidence debate, the opposition leader said one of the biggest pieces of evidence of the “utter failure of the parliamentary system under Prayut Chan-o-cha” was the “flip-flop” on which party-list mathematics should be applied.

“One day it was divided by 100 and the next day it was divided by 500, which was said to be the prime minister’s wish,” Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew told Parliament, kicking off the four-day censure in his capacity as the opposition leader. “He just wants to destroy a rival party, which he assumes is controlled by one man only.”

He described Prayut’s activities as “burning a house just to capture a rat.” The rest of his opening statement was familiar censure accusations _ massive corruption, bad economy and devastating nepotism.

Prayut taking digs at Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra, “brilliant chief executives whose whereabouts I don’t know”, added to the public déjà vu. He didn’t name both former prime ministers, but all listeners knew whom he was talking about.

Can somebody fast-forward to the voting already?

July 18, 2022: The new Philippine president’s election victory presented the world with one of the biggest political paradoxes which has been fuelled still by a rush to buy books about his father, Ferdinand Marcos.

Book buyers reportedly feared Ferdinand Marcos Jr, or Bongbong, could rewrite history, so they would rather keep what was written about the late Marcos decades ago after he was overthrown in a popular uprising. In other words, the buyers believed they had better read the narrative written before the new president was installed weeks ago.

CNN has reported that book orders came like a floodgate was broken as people at least wanted to weigh the version about widespread corruption, political persecution, massive imprisonment and torture against the one favoured by Bongbong who calls those things “lies fed to our children.” This book phenomenon has happened pretty much outside the Philippines, but it has added to the confusion all the same.

The original question was this: If the “People Power” put Ferdinand Marcos out of power in 1986, what should the power that gave Bongbong a landslide election victory be called? And since the Marcos senior had risen to power through elections, a foundation of “democracy”, was the People Power Revolution “undemocratic” or was it one democracy annihilating another democracy?

The book scramble amplified the puzzles. Bongbong has several times suggested he wished to revise history, insisting that his father reigned over one of the country’s “golden eras”. Is he a democratic force attempting to put things right? But what does that say about book buyers? Are they an undemocratic force trying to keep blatant lies on the record, or are they a backpedaling democratic force in futile resistance against an undemocratic yet very powerful one?

It’s highly interesting how this particular moment of Philippine history will be written in the future.

July 17, 2022: Sometimes, what happens in politics has little to do with day-to-day concern of the people. That has been somewhat underlined by the latest NIDA survey which shows that most Thais still don’t understand one of the biggest deals among Thailand’s political parties _ the party-list calculation system.

Should it be divided by 100 or 500? That’s the main question in Parliament, obsessing every MP and senator, because if the legislature goes one way, it could increase a party’s chance of a “landslide” whereas if it goes the other way, that party would negatively be affected. The parliamentary debate is cut-throat, and it sounds like the Constitutional Court will have to be the arbitrator. (That is another issue entirely, because how come politicians who have little trust in the judges are now saying you are my last hope?)

The NIDA poll interviewed 1,312 Thais and 62.35 % said they had absolutely no idea what difference the division methods would make while 21.11% said they “don’t quite get it.” Almost 12% said they thought they understood, whereas 4.80% said they understood it clearly.

The parliamentary debate on calculation methods has a long history, and nobody can say the final outcome would not affect the country’s political course. However, if it means so much, the people on the street will understand or they should understand. The NIDA poll numbers suggest it’s not happening.

July 16, 2022: When a political crisis is combined with an economic one, with severe energy problems like frequent blackouts thrown in, what was once perceived as the most secured place in a country can be stormed.

Sri Lanka has declared its bankruptcy, defaulting or about to default on foreign debts for the first time in its history, and now is begging for the International Monetary Fund’s help. Power cuts became virtually daily. Fuel prices kept rising and severe shortages of basic necessities like food and medicines plagued the country. The looming humanitarian crisis has shown few signs of abating, even after angry protestors stormed and occupied the official residence of Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and burned down the private residence of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe demanding that the government leave.

An Asean newspaper calls Sri Lanka a failed state. CNN describes it as a broken nation. Many analysts are reluctant to deem the protesters “victors”, for the obvious reason that things could get a lot worse before they could improve. The path toward recovery would be long and winding, a mountain to climb for the new leaders who will face many landmines along the way

July 15, 2022: The man won a historic Bangkok gubernatorial election landslide because people wanted to pay cheaper skytrain fees, not see him in the uniform of garbage collector.

Since that remarkable victory, Chadchart Sittipunt has been probably “too much” in old-fashioned politics, albeit using new-age tools like Twitter and selfie ops. Promotion should be over, as the election now has been.

Granted, he is apparently hyperactive, but doing things that are good for the camera has only one genuinely good effect. It can spur Bangkok Metropolitan Administration officials on. But that’s it.

It’s time to really roll up your sleeves and concentrate on your job like garbage workers are doing theirs. Getting dressed like them like you have just done is not it. Going toe to toe with vested interests like those in mass transit and city planning affairs is the job description.

July 14, 2022: Everyone says the coronavirus shall never be underestimated, but everyone is apparently doing the exact opposite. This is in the face of the arrival of what is described as the “worst variant yet.”

BA.5 may not kill as many as quickly as its predecessors, but scientists have begun to view it as the most infectious and transmissible and the strongest proof that the pandemic is far from over.

Face masks have disappeared from various western soccer stadiums. In Thailand, drinking parties are multiplying, apparently to compensate for lost time, and the visits of Liverpool and Manchester United drew jammed crowds wherever the players went. Social distancing rules are being eased or ignored at various places on earth. Tourists are redoubling activities around the world, helped by governments fearful of political impact of economic hardships and struggling businesses seeking a lifeline.

Along with BA.4, BA.5 is an offshoot of the slick Omicron. Despite the fast and furious manner of its spread, Omicron was often viewed as the coronavirus’ sign of willingness to co-exist with humans, due to reduced severity of symptoms. This flew in the face of the virus’ frequent demonstration of its ability to ease off, regroup, strike again, go from one place to another before returning, and mock vaccines of the hour in the process.

According to the World Health Organisation, COVID-19 remains on its highest alert level, a status unchanged since January 2020. Recently, the WHO has voiced concern about a drop-off in extremely-cautious attitudes around the world, including those in the scientific communities themselves.

The world does not need scientists to warn how infectious the Omicron sub-variants are, though. Human beings just have to look around them and check out neighbours, relatives and co-workers. Chances are some of those must have been infected. The infected will be asked not to be scared, but that could be the scariest part.

July 13, 2022: A love triangle is not good. Worse is a hate triangle. The worst of all is if a hate triangle takes place in politics.

Thammanat Prompao blamed an election loss in Lampang on the “ambiguity” of where his Thai Economic Party was standing. He was perceived as a “defector” yet his party continued to be seen as being with the government. Therefore, he has decided to make it clear-cut by withdrawing officially from the ruling coalition earlier this week.

Problem is, if he was a big part of why, in the opposition’s own words, the government stank to high heaven, there was no guarantee the same would not happen when he switches side. If the opposition now welcomes him with open arms, it could take hypocrisy to a whole new level.

As for the government, is it good to see him go? Voting numbers will be affected, of course, but questions about his backgrounds and parliamentary status are no longer the coalition’s problem. On the surface, it’s bitter-sweet for everyone. In reality, the “bitter” bit is overwhelming and the “sweet” part is microscopic.

July 12, 2022: The Palang Pracharath Party leader’s perceived testiness in front of reporters inquiring about what looked like a government coalition about-face regarding constitutional changes could mean anything.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan also dismissed all questions concerning the issue. His key message: Why do you want me to talk about things that have already been settled?

On Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who allegedly lobbied for a parliamentary change of heart on how party-list numbers should be calculated, Prawit said: Why do I need to talk to him? We talk to each other all the time. On whether coalition parties were being “forced” on the issue, he said: “Oh yeah? I don’t know.”

On whether Prayut initiated and led the lobbying, he said: “I don’t know anything about that.” On why he (Prawit) had seemed to favour another calculation formula, he said: “Who told you that?”

There are several reasons for politicians to get “moody”. They may just want to keep reporters away. Or they may want to appear dissatisfied with something to show people who are really dissatisfied that “See? I’m angry, too.” Or they are really unhappy. Or they are upset about something else entirely.

July 11, 2022: If the circumstances had been a family gathering or wedding, Joe Biden would have drawn overwhelming sympathy. Yet despite his age, he was not speaking over the weekend as a grandpa whose younger relatives were willing to ignore any fumble.

He was speaking as the president of the United States, so reading out loud what he was not supposed to be reading on the screen of a teleprompter has become a huge political deal. It was a gaffe common among people who are not great speakers and have to rely on teleprompters, his supporters say. What if it was something more than just a gaffe, ask the others.

He’s about 80 years old, an age that puts him under constant scrutiny, especially since he has to go toe to toe with Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping (both of whom around 10 years younger). The critics also note that the “End of quote _ Repeat the line” at the end of the fateful teleprompter followed texts about a simple issue of abortion, not nuclear disarmament or eastward expansion of NATO.

His local political opponents are having a big laugh. But jokes aside, how “focused on the job” he can be has become a serious issue. The word “cognition” has been a buzzword among the Republicans, who, rather ironically, had insisted recently that he absolutely needed a teleprompter after the president said publicly, with the whole world wired in, that Putin couldn’t remain in power.

July 10, 2022: They have arrived. Some have experienced the Thai fans’ craze before, while many others will be virgins touched for the very first time. For the next few days, nothing else matters, except if a big asteroid is about to collide with the earth.

Mind you, the friendly game between Liverpool and Manchester United in Bangkok on Tuesday may be 70 per cent a showdown between academy boys or substitute players, but that, again, does not matter. The fan rivalry between the two clubs here in Thailand can be found at the remotest rural schools to the most swaggering workplaces in the cities.

It’s no joke that some workers deliberately took the day off to avoid taunts if either Liverpool or Manchester United had lost the day prior. Political activists wore team shirts when they walked to jail after a sentence. Election candidates did the same while waiting for voters’ verdicts. News broadcasters or talk-show hosts putting on club jerseys, especially after match-day weekends is a common scene. Even Liverpool Football Club acknowledges Thailand as its international “capital.”

Ticket prices for Tuesday’s game are obscenely expensive, sparking quite a few controversies, and the last hope for it to become a sold-out event hinges on increasing fever caused by the arrivals.

Airport chaos that took place after the players had landed was understandable, as many officials charged with ensuring order and smooth procedures are fans themselves. When they saw the beloved players and the coaches in the flesh, they barely remembered their initial tasks.

Thai sports fans need a quick mentality reset, though, as the amazing Thai women volleyball team will take on its Turkish counterpart on July 14 in Ankara. It’s a very rare occasion to root for a Thai sports team in such a prestigious international tournament. Thai athletes are best known for “individual” sports like boxing, tennis, golf or snooker. The Thai girls have enjoyed a global craze of their own due to their giant-killing records despite physical disadvantages and cute, giggling and carefree characteristics on and off the field.

July 9, 2022: Pro-Twitter argument has it that Elon Musk is getting a buyer’s cold feet, so he wants to get out of the $44 billion deal to buy the social media platform. The pre-signed “deal” can’t be abandoned without him paying a $1 billion breakup (or compensation) fee. A prospective buyer’s “remorse” won’t hold in court, because the price had been already agreed, it is said.

Pro-Musk argument has it that Twitter had hidden from him _ and was still trying to hide from him _ essential information on how prevalent “bot” or “spam” accounts have been. Apparently, such information was key to how Musk viewed monetization potentials of Twitter, so he shall never be lied to or get a blurry picture about it.

The whole thing is like you agreed to buy a house at an obscenely-expensive price and now you want to pull out of that agreement, citing roof leaks which you weren’t told about or which the owner played down. And you also don’t want to pay the saleslady or owner any compensation money. Either that, or you want your reservation money back.

Now, the saleslady or the owner says forget the reservation money. We will ask the court to force you to go ahead and buy the house at the previously-agreed price.

It will be up to the court to decide whether the roof leaks will cause you a problem as big as you claim. So, the verdict can be that the floor will be wet once in a while but that’s nothing some minor mopping couldn’t cope, and that you have been told as much as you needed to know. Or it can be that you need to redo the entire roof and you didn’t know about the immense problem, so your U-turn decision not to buy the house is justified after all.

Either the court, or you and the seller agree on a reduced price before it all goes to the judge. To be fair to you, the initially-agreed price was so high that if the table was turned, you would want to bite the buyer’s hand off. To be fair to the house owner, no matter how expensive the price was set, if the contract was signed, it must be honoured.

July 8, 2022: When gunmen went on rampages in America, killing dozens or so, it was deeply sad but it was hardly surprising. What has happened in Japan today truly shocked everyone, including the Japanese themselves.

Japan has one of the lowest rates of gun crimes in the world, according to western reports. CNN said that Japan only reported nine deaths from firearms in 2018, compared with 39,740 in the United States in the same year.

“It’s not only rare, but it’s really culturally unfathomable,” Nancy Snow, Japan director of the International Security Industrial Council, told CNN. “The Japanese people can’t imagine having a gun culture like we have in the United States. This is a speechless moment. I really feel at a loss for words. I pray for the best for the former prime minister.

“What this will do to the national psyche of a people who move about freely and have a social contract with each other, that they will not resort to this type of violence … I am devastated thinking about that.”

Under Japan’s firearms laws, CNN said, the only guns permitted for sale are shotguns and air rifles — handguns are outlawed. Anyway, unlike America, getting a gun is a long and complicated process that requires strenuous effort — and lots of patience. This probably explained why the suspect in the Shinzo Abe shooting reportedly used handmade gun.

July 7, 2022: Many have been shocked after Parliament made a decision on the party-list calculation method. Opinions have been divided, but everyone is using the term “Tyranny of majority” to suit their own agendas.

Pheu Thai has decried the decision that could likely make its expected election victory less impressive, because the party would stand to have fewer party-list seats. In a statement, it said the parliamentary decision was nothing short of abuse of majority command in Parliament. In other words, there has been a tyranny of majority at play “in a bid to hold onto power”.

Small parties, which stand to benefit from the parliamentary decision, meanwhile, said what has happened in the national assembly was in fact an attempt to hinder tyranny of majority in the future.

A Constitutional Court battle will ensue. Both sides are accusing each other of favouring a calculation system that is unconstitutional.

July 6, 2022: Media coverage of the US parade shooting can be easy. Interview the mournful relatives, take some candle-light-vigil photos and keep it on the front pages or home pages for a few days using dramatic eyewitnesses’ accounts.

The rest is cut and paste. Pro-gun comments have never changed, and they ultimately will prevail. Anti-gun people just add the Highland Park massacre to their forever-increasing list of tragedies, warn for the umpteenth time that they will happen again, and finally lose out in Congress again when tears dry away and political rhetoric turns to climate, democracy or lack of it elsewhere, Russia and China.

The suspect killed seven, wounded dozens and had reportedly obtained his firearms legally, by the way. He went on a rampage when compatriots were celebrating their “independence day”, although nobody is quite certain if easy gun ownership is freedom of self protection or violation of other people’s freedom to live.

July 5, 2022: Car users complaining about high petrol prices may seem like an easy problem if the energy crisis deteriorates beyond that and to the point of frequent power blackouts.

According to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Thailand must be prepared for two possible scenarios: 1. The war in Ukraine and consequences end in next three to six months, 2. It lasts longer than six months.

“From October to December we have to see what can be continued and what cannot be,” he said after chairing a high-ranking meeting at the National Security Council headquarters. Topmost Thai energy, finance, national security and interior officials attended the meeting.

“It’s not just a military or national security affair,” Prayut told reporters. “Everything is very related, although sufficient energy supplies are our top priority.”

He admitted that the government cannot throw the money on the problem forever because there’s the issue of public debt to worry about ultimately. “Today is about looking at what we have and checking what more we can find and agreeing on what we have to be extremely careful about,” he said.

“It’s our responsibility to ensure that lights shall not go out and there shall always be adequate energy supplies,” he said.

Ask if a return to work from home is on the cards, he replied: “It’s a good measure if people really stay at home.”

The prime minister did not sound too alarming, but he mentioned energy saving a few times during the 20-minute interview.

July 4, 2022: Nobody is spared these days by social media’s carpet bombing of harsh and sometimes-rude criticism directed at online accounts of individual targets _ a practice famously compared to when a big number of tourists are suddenly in town _ and even one of the best-known “proponents of liberty” has complained about it.

Piyabutr Saengkanokkul lamented in a Facebook post that his constructive criticism of newly-elected Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt’s attitude toward skytrain operations and related matters “brought tourists” to his online account.

In a comment that could make many of Piyabutr’s own critics frown or say “Welcome to the club!”, the secretary general of the Progressive Movement said the culture of “tour group is here” obstructs expression of minority or different opinions.

“This culture makes people refrain from speaking their minds, particularly if they fear that what they think will bring tourists to them,” Piyabutr wrote. This is how self-censorship happens, he added.

One of the sympathetic _ or else _ comments was from another activist. Nuttaa “Bow” Mahattana said such a culture was a “toxic environment” which she had fought against for years, only to be put down by “freedom of speech advocates.”

“I’m glad you have brought this up,” she posted in the comment thread. “I talked about it for years but nobody listened, as several (influential) people supported that kind of culture, citing freedom of speech. There was not a single warning and that’s why we are all in a toxic environment today.”

July 3, 2022: To prevent a Pheu Thai election victory from getting too big to resist, Parliament will have to do the unthinkable of reversing the party-list calculation method back to how it was in 2019.

That appears to be a consensus among most analysts and even some government MPs and supporters.

It is an absolutely-high mountain to climb, if not entirely impossible. The expected parliamentary sealing of pro-Pheu Thai changes, which are embedded in proposed electoral laws, is coming in a few days. The calculation method that deprived Pheu Thai of party-list MPs after the 2019 election would be no more, replaced by an old system that virtually rewarded big parties with big numbers of party-list seats.

The proposed upcoming change, understandably favoured by Pheu Thai, is expected to sail through Parliament, or ferocious street protests demanding constitutional amendment would erupt again. In addition, all big parties on both sides of the aisle are supportive (with different degrees of eagerness and sincerity) of the pro-Pheu Thai calculation method.

But with talks and speculation about a Pheu Thai “landslide” resounding lately, all eyes will still be on Parliament in the next few days. Simply put, parliamentary approval of the proposed electoral rules should be a formality, but those wanting to maintain the 2019 system will still see a last chance saloon, no matter how slim the chances are.

July 2, 2022: If some tabloid articles were accurate, while the father was fighting Vladimir Putin, the son decided that making love, not war, was a better idea.

The son’s alleged past involvement with Russian escorts would not help the Biden senior, though.

While Donald Trump has struggled to fight off charges concerning Russian computer hacking and alleged Russian influences at the highest level of American politics, Joe Biden could be facing his own Russian controversy and the US president, reportedly, has his son Hunter Biden to frown on.

In democracy, ones should be mature enough to distance family or ancestral deeds from active politicians, or destructive argument and/or prejudiced activities will never end. That, however, does not mean Hunter Biden’s alleged involvement with Russian escorts cannot hurt his father, who has practically told the world everything Russian is a no-no.

With Joe Biden’s job approval rating continuing to go down, the last thing he wants _ which unfortunately can happen _ is revival of Hunter Biden’s business and sexual issues. It’s threatening to grow from a political gossip in tabloid pages into a full-blown political scandal. A few American media outlets are stepping up the retelling and re-digging.

Joe Biden inadvertently financed his son Hunter’s dalliances with a Russia-linked escort ring, according to a report just a few days ago. The president wired his 52-year-old son $100,000 to help him pay bills from December 2018 through January 2019, the Washington Examiner reported, citing records from a laptop Hunter Biden left behind at a computer repair shop in Delaware.

Hunter Biden, meanwhile, had reportedly spent more than $30,000 on sex workers between November 2018 and March 2019, records apparently show — including many linked to Russia-based email addresses and connected to an “exclusive model agency” called UberGFE, the outlet reported.

Joe Biden wired Hunter $5,000 while his son was “actively engaged” with one escort and was also convinced to send another $20,000 to pay for his stay at a New York drug rehabilitation programme that never came to fruition, according to the report.

In a series of reports in October 2020, The New York Post detailed the alleged business dealings of the president’s son in Ukraine and China based on documents and data found in the laptop.

Hunter Biden is now under federal investigation for possible tax fraud stemming from his overseas business dealings and House Republicans are seeking documents they believe link the president to those relationships.

Those stories are not quite new, but big impacts probably are. It now depends on how active pro-Democrat media will be on the revival of the Hunter Biden issue, which was successfully “contained” during the election campaign and early days of Joe Biden’s presidency.

July 1, 2022: A vast majority of Americans across party lines are unhappy with their nation, the immediate bad news for the sitting president and prolonged problem that future governments need to address.

In an AP-NORC survey released two days ago, 85% of US adults say things in their country are heading in the wrong direction, with just 14% thinking otherwise. That was a substantial increase of general pessimism from May, when 78% of American adults thought their country was going the wrong way and 21% sounding optimistic.

With midterm elections months away, 92% of Republicans and 78% of Democrats are dissatisfied. That was the highest number of unhappy Democrats since Joe Biden took office.

On the economy, 79% (67% among Democrats) called it poor.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll, also released Wednesday, finds rising discontent, specifically among Democrats after the US Supreme Court’s anti-abortion ruling. Interestingly but not so surprisingly, Republicans’ discontent, while still substantial, has dropped a little.

In this Reuters/Ipsos poll, 62% of Democrats say that things in the country are off on the wrong track, up from 49% the prior week. By contrast, 86% of Republicans say the same, down slightly from 94% a week earlier.

Americans’ views of Biden, meanwhile, remain quite negative. A CNN Poll of Polls average of surveys taken in the second half of June finds that 38% of Americans approved of the job he’s doing, with 57% disapproving, similar to his ratings earlier in the month. This can’t be good for a president whose main enemy is Donald Trump, who has made even some Republicans shake their heads but who is very ferociously popular among bitter Americans.

In the AP-NORC poll, 28% of US adults approve of Biden’s economic performance _ his lowest rating on the economy to date in that survey _ 36% approve of his performance on gun policy and 53% approve of the way he’s handled the coronavirus pandemic. Again, it was impossible to fail on the pandemic which seems to be easing under his reign, and his poor rating on gun control was understandable as well considering the fact that memories of recent tragedies were still fresh.


Daily updates of local and international events by Tulsathit Taptim




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