Bloggers respond to Thailand's first election since the military coup last year; they also scrutinize reports that Mike Huckabee accepted money from an embryonic stem-cell research company, and discuss anti-Christian elements in the Golden Compass movie.
Democracy in Thailand?: Thanks to an overwhelming show of support from peasants, preliminary results indicate that Thailand's People's Power Party, which is aligned with Premier Thaksin Shinawatra, has come just shy of winning a parliamentary majority in the country's first election since Thaksin was deposed and his party was disbanded in a September 2006 military coup. According to this excellent Asia Sentinel piece, Thaksin is popular in the countryside, but disfavored by many urban elites who see him as corrupt and authoritarian; the Thai Constitutional Tribunal has banned him from participating in politics for five years.
Most hail the election as a victory for representative democracy. On New Mandala, two Canberra-based Thailand watchers agree: "[T]he electorate has given a clear signal that Thai voters want to choose their own government regardless of the ideological and constitutional manipulations of those who seek to disenfranchise them." Pronouncing Thai voters the real winners, Thai Folitics' Colonel Jeru, in Bangkok, writes, "This time Thaksin has no more excuses to chicken, he should return immediately to the applause of his hardcore supporters (and courtiers). And Thaksin should return to face all the criminal allegations against him to put closure to all questions of his innocence or guilt once and for all." And expat Jotman contrasts the Thai king's vision for rural Thailand with the PPP's vision.
But what lies ahead? "A further military intervention cannot be ruled out, but if it takes place it may well generate far less public sympathy than the 2006 coup, particularly since the interim government put in place by the armed forces after the coup has proved to be inept, and Thailand's economic growth is now the slowest in the region," opines Manuel Alvarez-Rivera on Global Economy Matters, a blog run by macro-economists.
Does Huckabee heart stem cells?: Some conservative bloggers have noticed that presidential candidate Mike Huckabee accepted money from Novo Nordisk, a pharmaceutical company that conducts stem-cell research. * The company made available 35,000 free copies of a Spanish translation of Huckabee's weight-loss book about coping with diabetes. The Arkansas Times' Max Brantley, blogged about the story in October, but it has been picking up steam in recent days. According to the Caucus Cooler, Huckabee accepted $35,000 from Novo Nordisk.
"The double standard is one thing but these may be existing stem cell lines which even the President supports funding," allows Moonshadow, commenting on Reformed Chicks Blabbing, a Christian blog. But others are licking their lips. "I'd like to hear [Huckabee's] Clintonian answer on this one," writesARRA News Service's Bill Smith, who blogs for the Arkansas Republican Assembly. Noting that Mitt Romney has been criticized by pro-lifers for owning stock in Novo Nordisk, right-leaning Riehl World View points out, "The word on Huckabee is that he likes his money. I'm not sure people realize just how much, given the poor preacher image and all. He appears to have made several times his salary as Governor from outside business interests." On Newsbusters, a conservative-media watchdog blog, John Stephenson wonders why the story isn't getting more attention and writes, "With as many critiques that I've given Huckabee, I've never questioned him on social issues. I've always thought that was his strong point. But now comes news that those principles may not be so bonafide, at least when money gets involved." InstaPundit's libertarian Glenn Reynolds finds the story's low profile unsurprising: "[I]t's the slowest news weekend of the year and lots of media folks are on vacation. Oh, and also, they want Huckabee to get the nomination so the GOP will lose in the fall."
Read more about Huckabee and Novo Nordisk.
Demonizing the Golden Compass: Chris Weitz's The Golden Compass, based on a beloved children's book by Phillip Pullman, has been denounced by the Vatican and boycotted by the Catholic League. Bloggers discuss their reactions to the movie's approach to religion.
Gina Conroy, a Christian mom, writes, "I have no plans to let my children see this film, though I may steal away to a movie theatre just to see what it's all about. I'm not afraid to expose my children to things that are anti-God or different, religion wise. I think from these things children can learn and grow, especially if you discuss things afterwards with them." Blogcritics' Mel Odom has a different take: "I didn't see any anti-Christian themes in the movie. Sure, the Church was kind of represented as the bad guy, but only if you think that was your church." And Halfway There's Zeno, a math teacher, notes that the movie rewards careful attention; after pointing to some dilutions of the book's anticlericalism, the blogger loyally concludes, "These things don't really matter. If Philip Pullman can endure them, so can I. The Golden Compass is a treat and worthy of one's attention, but only one's attention can make it the experience it should be."
Read more about The Golden Compass.