Thursday, September 18, 2003
Bangkok, Bunkum, Bangkok... BUNKUM
I never thought I'd live to see this day; the Bangkok
published my letter! (Ed.-- So now it's "Bangkok
Post", not "Bunkum Post", huh? Tom-- Yes, but chances are
it'll revert to the latter very soon.)
The printed text is not, however, without some minor
editing, which is definitely for the better in two places
but quite suspect in the other two. That's still not
counting the removals of my italics and quotation marks
(over "protectionist" and "distortion and inefficiency" and
"free trade"). What does the Bunkum Post (Ed.--There
you go!) have against that, anyway? The quotes,
especially, are direct and the marks are there purposefully
and rightfully there to caution the reader. Also, that
humdrum title is certainly not mine, which was "Is the
All in all, though, this made my day. Many thanks to the
Now, if you haven't already, please go read the letter, which debunks this
communist propaganda perfidiously disguised as, of all
things, an appeal for "free trade".
Update The more I think about it,
the more pissed I am that they took out the scare quote on
"free trade". I need it there to show that I reject
Weisbrot's brazen abuse of that beloved term of mine. My day
is unmade and another letter is in order.
What? You mean it's not legal yet?
Khun Surin writes:
One last question, do you like the legal 2
and 3 numbers lotteries running by the government ? I think
they are going to have it sold in the police station in the
near future. Since we cannot fight them we legalize them. May
be more to come such as legalized prostitute.
I haven't been following the lottery issue
at all, so I'll refrain from comment on it as of now. I'll
say this, though, about legalizing prostitution: Yes, yes, yes
Philosophical Consensual sex between adults is really
nobody else's business, least of all the state's. What one
party gives to the other afterwards, whether it is money,
wedding ring or crabs, doesn't change that in anyway.
But I exaggerated. It is the state's business when
you're providing service to the mass, which is why you need a
license to run a restaurant but not to cook for yourself. That
brings up my second reason.
Practical Underground prostitution, as is now the case
in Thailand, breeds all sorts of intractable problems, from
AIDS to forced and/or child labor to corruption in the law
enforcement. Might as well bring it above ground and wrest
back the control over thousands of lives from the gangsters.
Done right, licensed prostitutes will get regular medical
checkups, education about safe sex (and perhaps even career
counseling) and the same protection that all other workers
enjoy (meaning they can do away with those hideous pimps).
And, of course, once this whole business is legit, the state
can TAX it (and feed some to the ever hungry police, who'll be
even hungrier off the gangs' payroll).
So happier workers, more assured clients, cleaner police, less
revenue to the mobsters and more to the treasury, why not? It
can't be any worse than it is now, can it?
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
Not our martyr
Asia Times Online has more than a fair share of
US-bashers in its ranks, yet gems like this keep me coming
Agence France Presse reported that Lee "took his life to
protest what he and other militants contend is the damage
being done to peasant farmers the world over by the WTO's
That may be true, but it obscures a key fact: Lee and his
fellow South Korean farmers are on the opposite side of the
debate from the poor countries advocating an end to
agricultural subsidies in the developed world. Lee and
company may be peasants, but South Korea is a developed
country and a heavy subsidizer of its uncompetitive farmers.
South Korea is self-sufficient in rice production, thanks to
heavy subsidies that it has repeatedly promised to cut
without following through. Current subsidies to farmers like
Lee total 480 billion won (US$411 million), $75 per ton.
That helps explain why South Korean consumers pay about five
times the world price for their rice.
Notice how AFP turns the conflict between poor-country farmers
and their rich-country counterparts (in France, for example)
into a class war between peasants and corporations. There's
a double benefit in that for the Frenchies: deflect the
blame they partly share and direct it exclusively toward
you-know-who (which country are "corporations" synonymous
with today?). Sly folks, but, hey, we know that already.
The piece has a killer conclusion. Go
Those are the
David Adesnik. I'm not the only frustrated soul in the
universe after all.
Monday, September 15, 2003
It must be great to have Prof. Fouad Ajami's piercing
insights. Great, and gloomy as well: [from Foreign Policy]
Envy of U.S. power, and of the United States' universalism,
is the ruling passion of French intellectual life. It is not
"mostly Bush" that turned France against the United States.
The former Socialist foreign minister, Hubert Védrine, was
given to the same anti-Americanism that moves his successor,
the bombastic and vain Dominique de Villepin. It was Védrine,
it should be recalled, who in the late 1990s had dubbed the
United States a "hyperpower." He had done so before the war
on terrorism, before the war on Iraq. He had done it against
the background of an international order more concerned with
economics and markets than with military power. In contrast
to his successor, Védrine at least had the honesty to
acknowledge that there was nothing unusual about the way the
United States wielded its power abroad, or about France's
response to that primacy. France, too, he observed, might
have been equally overbearing if it possessed the United
States' weight and assets.
His successor gave France's resentment highly moral claims.
Villepin appeared evasive, at one point, on whether he
wished to see a U.S. or an Iraqi victory in the standoff
between Saddam Hussein's regime and the United States.
Anti-Americanism indulges France's fantasy of past greatness
and splendor and gives France's unwanted Muslim children a
claim on the political life of a country that knows not what
to do with them.
THE BURDEN OF MODERNITY
To come bearing modernism to those who want it but who rail
against it at the same time, to represent and embody so much
of what the world yearns for and fears -- that is the
American burden. The United States lends itself to
contradictory interpretations. To the Europeans, and to the
French in particular, who are enamored of their laïcisme
(secularism), the United States is unduly religious, almost
embarrassingly so, its culture suffused with sacred
symbolism. In the Islamic world, the burden is precisely the
opposite: There, the United States scandalizes the devout,
its message represents nothing short of an affront to the
pious and a temptation to the gullible and the
impressionable young. According to the June BBC survey, 78
percent of French polled identified the United States as a
"religious" country, while only 10 percent of Jordanians
endowed it with that label. Religious to the secularists,
faithless to the devout— such is the way the United States
is seen in foreign lands.
It's a long piece, as there are many strands of
anti-Americanism to cover. But I implore you to read
P.S. Prof. Ajami leaves out, however, one kind of
anti-Americanism. For good reason, as it really isn't worthy
of a place in his erudite essay. I'll put it here, though,
just for the record. This strand infects first-time, me-too
activists around the world -- from Hollywood celebs to
Australian schoolchildren to Thai socialites. These are
people who would normally be dazzled, not repulsed, by
America's preeminence and yet all of them now hate the
Because US-bashing is IN! It's en vogue! The
latest wave started in Fall 2002, peaked in Spring 2003 and
has only slightly let up since.
What can you say? All the top-tier fashion designers are
Sunday, September 14, 2003
นายชัยอนันต์ สมุทวณิช กรรมการ ก.พ.ร.
คือเกิดขึ้นครั้งแรกในสมัยรัชกาลที่ 5... [emphasis
Mr. Chaianand Smutvanich, member of Kor Por Ror, [countered] Mr. Thirayuth's criticism that the use of the CEO
system is following the West's butt [footsteps], that [the
system] is not about following anyone's butt and is not a
farang's idea, because [it] is actually Thai wisdom,
dating back to the time when America had not been founded
as a nation. That is, taking place for the first time in
King Rama V's era... [my translation from Thai,
Don't look at me if you don't know what "Kor Por Ror", "the CEO
system" and "Thai wisdom" are; I haven't got a clue, either.
But I can tell you this:
King Rama V ruled from 1868 to 1910.
Yes, that means that at the start of his reign,
Andrew Johnson was America's 17th president, the
American Civil War had ended for three years and the
Declaration of Independence had been signed for 92
years (or four score and twelve years, as Lincoln
would've put it). Indeed, it was likely that the Thai king
took the American experience into consideration when he
chose to abolish slavery gradually. By the time he made the
first of his famous two European visits in 1897, the United
States had already celebrated its
centennial and received the
Statue of Liberty from France. When the king died in
William Taft was America's 27th president and World War
I was looming.
So what kind of idiot is this Chaianand not to know any of
google search reveals that he:
1. Is the professor who in 1995-1996 chaired the
special parliamentary committee entrusted with considering
the draft constitution (which later became the
constitution of Thailand
No. 16 -- or is it 17?);
2. Is the "respected Thai academic" drafted to help an
ailing state-owned oil company;
3. Held a position of power at an airline company
(presumably THAI, the national carrier), which allowed him
to change its internal rules;
4. Has a Ph.D.
So if you've been wondering why Thailand is still a poor,
underdeveloped third-world country despite its proverbial
"potential", that's four reasons for you. Want a fifth?
Matichon, the self-styled "quality newspaper", not only
published Chaianand's flawed comment unchallenged, but also
put it in the front-page lead headline (and giddily, too, I might
P.S. Perhaps I am being a bit harsh on Old Dr. Chaianand.
After all, the constitution he helped deliver is supposed to
be the best of the sixteen we've had, and at THAI, he axed
the outrageous perk that allowed former board members to fly
free for life. As for this "CEO" episode, I do
appreciate his coming out against Thirayuth Boonmi, who is
the real odious anti-American babble-rouser and is way, way
below Chaianand's league.
, please see the