Expanded from the 10-9-2005 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
With your reputation for being meaner than your boss, I don't know if your staff will have the courage to risk your wrath, so I'm going to be very upfront and tell you myself: Last Friday, I think I royally screwed up U.S.-Asia foreign policy.
I know that the U.S. Dept. of State has been a swimmingly well-oiled machine since your ascension to Foggy Bottom Heaven. I'm sorry to have blown the Bush administration's perfect record, but it wasn't all my fault.
You see, there was this prestigious law school dean on a U.S. tour. The good gentleman was naïve enough to believe he could learn something from America about worker and human rights. Somebody at the Northern Nevada International Center found me at NevadaLabor.com and the next thing I knew, I had an appointment.
Dr. Khettai Langkarpint and I met for almost two hours at UNR's Jot Travis Student Union. A slightly built man with hair as black as his suit, he serves as dean of the faculty of law at Payap University, an urban school of 9,000 students in northern Thailand. Payap is part of the Church of Christ in Thailand Foundation. As a founding father and former director of the Legal Aid Center at Chulalongkorn University, Dr. Langkarpint continues as advisor to a program which has provided free legal services to the underprivileged for more than a decade.
Most Americans may know roughly four things about the country formerly known as Siam: (1) Rogers and Hammerstein's "The King and I" and two non-musical films about Anna and the King; (2) Tiger Woods' mom is from there; (3) Queen Sirikit, the Princess Diana of 1960's fashion, still rules and remains a stylesetter well into her seventies; and (4) Bangkok's abominable reputation for child prostitution.
My wife hinted that I should make sure to ask Dr. Langkarpint about the latter. He regretted to note that most of the workers are Cambodian immigrants and thus not a high priority of the government. I reminded him that an editorial in a leading Thai newspaper advocated for the unionization of those sex workers, something which has already happened in San Francisco and for which a well-known stripper is leading the charge in Gomorrah South.
Condie, old friend, I think I then made a major foreign policy fox paw. Dr. Langkarpint noted that he teaches labor law and that Thailand's statutes are based on ours. I informed the good gentleman that U.S. labor law is a disaster for workers, that we have the most repressive legislation in the industrialized world, and that he should look to Canada and Scandinavia.
The good professor was taken aback.
I don't like to hit a man when he's down, but we didn't have much time. I followed the labor law body blow by telling him that we have no national health care program.
Condoleeza, old friend, your new international apple polisher Karen Hughes is falling down on the job if a law school dean holding a doctorate from the University of Warwick in England does not know how badly our government treats the sick and infirm. Didn't your guys read the distinguished gentleman's biography? He's been providing legal services to the poor for much of his career you know, just like the U.S. Legal Services Corporation which Dubya and his predecessors have been trying to destroy for decades because the lower classes shouldn't have lawyers to sue predatory corporations.
I told Dr. Langkarpint that U.S. workers in fact have few protections. Penalties are so small that fines are just a minor cost of doing business when somebody gets injured or killed; that prejudicial federal and state laws have almost destroyed the trade union movement.
I informed him that in Canada, when 55 percent of workers in a bargaining group sign cards confirming their decision to form a union, they automatically have one under the law. The American secret ballot process has been perverted by employers, hostile state and national labor boards, and more than 10,000 high-priced union-busting law firms and consultants who thrive by stepping on the employed. (Polls have long shown that an overwhelming majority of U.S. workers would like to have a union, but the system is rigged to make it almost impossible to form one.)
I told Dr. Langkarpint that globalization has produced horrible results. Mexico's standard of living has not improved since we moved much of U.S. auto production south of the border 25 years ago. Now, those plants are being shut down and moved to his part of the world.
I torpedoed American's self image as rugged individual cowboys. In fact, we roll over like sheep because we have been taught to unquestionably obey the man; that you owe the boss unflinching loyalty for signing your meager paycheck.
If the supreme court says Bush has been elected, then it must be so. I noted that this mindset goes back to the brutal Protestant ethic which preaches that conformity and hard work can make everyone successful. Those who don't get rich and famous, it's their own damned fault. As I wrote in this space last Sept. 11, I informed him that our weakness is further rooted in ancient Hebrew taboos that anyone with personal afflictions is manifestly being punished by God for some sin.
I dovetailed the above with information on the billions spent by corporations over the past century in funding think tanks and propaganda campaigns designed to weaken unions and government protections while painting big business as an uncrowned god. The results are broadcast every day on talk radio and Fox News.
Madame Secretary, I am profoundly sorry if Dr. Langkarpint goes home and gives the queen a less than rosy picture of the land of the free and home of the brave Wal-Mart shopper. It won't be all my fault. After I gave the professor and his escort some Laborers' Local 169 pins, he was off to meet with the Nevada ACLU and attend their anti-Patriot Act art show, which opened last Friday at Reno's McKinley Arts & Cultural Center.
I popped in for a moment, but had to rush to Reno City Hall where my colleagues on the Citizens Cable Compliance Committee voted unanimously to inform the city council that Charter Communications is in gross violation of its lucrative new franchise. I hope we didn't harm the industry's lobbying of Washington for complete deregulation.
Condie, I had a pretty good Friday. I know that your boss hasn't been doing so well lately. Sorry that I couldn't find any way to help.
Be well. Raise hell.
More about Thai labor: The 2003 U.S. State Department Report on Thai Human Rights Practices, Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
(Scroll down to Section 6, Worker Rights.)
The Orwell Diversion by Alex Carey
Excerpted from the book recommended to Dr. Langkarpint and available below
ORDER "Taking the Risk Out of Democracy"
Corporate Propaganda versus Freedom and Liberty
By Alex Carey
Edited by Andrew Lohrey
Foreword by Noam Chomsky
University of Illinois Press
SEE ALSO: Lapham, Lewis H.; Tentacles of Rage: The Republican Propaganda Mill, A Brief History; Harper's Magazine cover article; September, 2004, page 32.
By one conservative estimate, the corporate right has spent about $3 billion over the past three decades manufacturing public opinion to suit big business goals. Lapham's number covered the early 1970's to the present day. Alex Carey noted that by 1948, anti- New Deal corporate propaganda expenditures had already reached $100 million per year, not adjusted for inflation, for advertising alone. (Carey, ibid; page 79)
Adjusted for inflation, that 1948 $100 million becomes $801,659,751.04 in 2005 dollars.
BARBWIRE: Labor Day '94: People vs. corporate con job, 9-4-94
Chilling forecasts from Alex Carey
BARBWIRE: The Nevada Republican Party Becomes Communist, 3-30-97
A prescient Plato on the dangers of oligarchy
...and more ammo
BARBWIRE: We have met the enemy and he is us, 5-29-2005
BARBWIRE: Payback Time, 8-7-2005
BARBWIRE: Getting Focused, 8-14-2005
BARBWIRE: Deadly Spin in the oil slicks of New Orleans, 9-4-2005
BARBWIRE: Four more years? 9-11-2005
BARBWIRE: Amoral Moralists, 9-18-2005
Barbwire Oilogopoly Archive
I've been telling you so for 10 freakin' years
NevadaLabor.com | U-News | Bulletins
Casinos Out of Politics (COP) | Sen. Joe Neal
Guinn Watch | Deciding Factors | BallotBoxing.US
DoctorLawyerWatch.com | Barbwire Oilogopoly Archive
War Rooms: Cabbies, Cable TV, Cancer Kids, Energy, Resurge.TV, Starbucks, Wal-Mart
Search this site | In Search Of...
Copyright © 1994-2005, 2006 Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 36-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.
Site composed and maintained by Deciding Factors
Comments and suggestions appreciated. Sign up for news and bulletins