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Concerned about the outcome of the presidential elections this year, I spent a lot of time investigating the prospects of living somewhere else. Canada was my first choice because they televise hockey pretty much round-the-clock and have no natural predators in the international community. Also, I know the words to their national anthem, and I can spell Saskatchewan. I figured this would give me a leg up on cultural assimilation. Besides, I already speak the language, eh? But then they stopped televising hockey. This wasn’t entirely their fault. Seems the union that represents all the millionaire hockey players couldn’t agree with the fraternity of millionaires that owns the National Hockey League on how to split up their swag, so they all picked up their marbles and went home. Last I looked, both sides were trying to revive the old labor law concept of Boulwareism. For the benefit of those of you who slept through Labor Law[ 1], Boulwareism was the term applied to General Electric’s approach to labor negotiations in NLRB v. General Electric Co., 418 F. 2d 736 (2d Cir. 1969). Lemuel Boulware (1895-1990) was a vice president of General Electric after World War II, whose greatest contribution to American society was that he hired Ronald Reagan to be the company’s spokesman and took him on a tour of one of the company’s factories, proving to him, as Reagan later recalled it, that “we didn’t chain the workers to their machines.” This was likely one of the first steps in Reagan’s political sea change from liberal to conservative. And it was the beginning of the career as a spokesman that made him so familiar to most Americans. Who knows what this country’s history would have been without Reagan’s weekly “Twenty Mule Team” exposure on behalf of Boraxo.[ 2] But I digress. Boulware’s other great idea was the concept of the “firm, fair offer,” under which an employer made its best offer to labor and then refused to bargain any further on the basis that it already had — it made an offer. This didn’t work out as well as the Reagan thing[ 3], and it isn’t working out too well for either side in the NHL dispute so far. The last time they actually sat down at the table for talks, both sides were represented by the grandparents of the present negotiators. As interpreted by the parties to the NHL standoff, Boulwareism consists of making an offer and then retiring to a bunker behind the guns and ammo you’ve been stockpiling since the beginning of the last collective bargaining agreement. It’s not likely to result in resolution of the labor dispute, but it should save Canada a bloody fortune in electric power costs. They won’t be lighting the arenas, they won’t be watching TV, and, based on the fabled Canadian nightlife, my bet is they’ll be turning off the lights and going to bed early. This means you and I can run the air conditioner, the dishwasher, the garbage disposal, the crockpot, all four televisions and all six hairdryers 24/7 if we want to. Because electrical usage north of the border will, for the foreseeable future, be confined to whatever’s necessary to power bathroom nightlights, George Foreman grills and neon Molson’s signs. If we declare war on Canada, somebody’s gonna have to ride through Ottawa like Paul Revere announcing it, because all the TVs are off. I don’t know how many kilowatts a year Canada goes through without televised hockey — probably six or seven — but the rest are gonna be available to the American market for the foreseeable future. Jeez, we Californians will finally have enough electricity to fully recharge our cell phones. Take that, Enron! At least so I thought. Then I read too far. This is a bad habit of mine. Just when I think I’ve figured an issue out, I read the other side’s brief. This has complicated my life immensely, and I’m seriously considering cutting back on it. I’ll let you know how it works out.[ 4] Anyway, my research disclosed another use for Canadian electricity I had not previously discovered. Prison tattoos. That’s right. Prison tattoos. Turns out the Canadian government is light years ahead of ours.[ 5] This is not at all surprising when you consider they don’t have to waste all the cerebration we do on deficit spending. This conservation of mental energy not only makes them unbeatable in hockey fantasy leagues, but also enables them to come up with some dynamite social programs. And they have instituted a program whereby tattoo artists will be hired to staff prisons and provide tattoos to inmates. Free of cost![ 6] What a terrific idea! It will, of course, mean less Canadian electricity available for California pedicurists, but I think most of us will agree that even that great a sacrifice is worthwhile if the societal good accomplished is great enough. And providing inexpensive body art to Canadian inmates previously trapped behind bars with nothing to do but watch state-provided cable TV[ 7] and eat the pizza they’re allowed to have delivered to the prison, seems to me to qualify. This is, as you might imagine, not an idea which has inspired unanimity of opinion. There are a few perennial naysayers who think there are already enough people walking around with ersatz Polynesian sleeves and naked women on their biceps. Go figure. Personally, I just can’t get enough of it. With hockey hibernating, I’ve taken to watching NBA and college basketball games just so I can ogle the tats. I mean, you combine Elvis-on-velvet caliber artwork with referees trained to ignore traveling and carrying-it-over violations, and man � that’s entertainment. Forget the prisons; I think we should be offering free tattooing IN THE SCHOOLS. Which would eliminate another of the quibbles about the Canadian prison tattooing program. Apparently there are some civil libertarian-types who feel it’s unfair that law-abiding Canucks[ 8]should have to pay hundreds of dollars for tattoos that barn-arsonists and caribou-rapers are getting at government expense. This complaint would, of course, be neutralized if we were providing arcane Asian calligraphy and shoulder blade madonnas to Mrs. Egnatuk’s eighth-grade class. But even if we limit it to prisons (and maybe hospitals; that would be cool), it’s still a stunning idea. I know I was stunned by it. And the longer I spend contemplating it, the more stupefied and astounded[ 9]I am by it. Of course, the nattering nabobs of negativism have completely overlooked the fact that we’re not just providing flaming death’s heads and 37 different fonts of “Mother” here. We’re providing jobs and role models. While the initial tattoo artists for the prison positions will be hired by the government,[ 10] the idea is that they will train inmates to take their place. Talk about learning a useful trade. Men who went into prison with no prospect for gainful employment beyond, “Gimme your goddam money or I’ll mess you up,” will now be able to approach tourists in dark alleys and say, “Gimme your goddam money or I’ll tattoo Gordon Lightfoot on your belly.” Eventually, Canada’s chronic shortage of license plate stampers and body artists will be a thing of the past. We’re talking brave new world, here, people. What I can’t understand is how they beat us to the idea. Canada has 105 senators and 308 members of the House of Commons. We have 100 senators and 435 congressmen. That’s a tremendous numerical advantage. Furthermore, we draw our representatives from a bigger base. If I pick the 30 best football players at Nebraska (undergraduate student body: 17,137) and you get the 30 best football players at the Colma School of Mortuary Sciences (undergraduate student body: 36, give or take Charley Sims, whose kinda teetering on the edge of academic oblivion), who’s gonna have the better team?[ 11] So why do we Americans, with a bigger team drawn from a bigger student body, lag behind on issues like prison tattooing? Coaching, folks. It’s that simple. Better coaching. They got Paul Edgar Phillippe (“Pep”) Martin for their prime minister and we got . . . . Omigod, I’m back to the election again, aren’t I? I wonder if they televise hockey in the Czech Republic.
[ 1]Thus proving, once again, how much smarter than me you are. [ 2] After all, Pat Brown, whom Reagan defeated for the California governorship, insisted that the Death Valley Days Boraxo commercials gave Reagan unfair television time and successfully lobbied to have them taken off the air during the campaign. [ 3] In the General Electric case, supra, the court actually had to explain that it did not consider the term “Boulwareism” to be “invective.” When a court feels it has to distinguish your theory from invective, it is usually a pretty good indication it does not find your theory persuasive. [ 4] Or, if you prefer, you can let me know. [ 5] Light years, by the way, turn out not to require electricity. The things you can learn from the internet . . . . [ 6] Or at least free of any cost other than ink and needles, which I suspect is a charge most inmates can fit into their “drugs and cigarettes” budget. [ 7] Including soft porn; these will not be among the TV sets turned off during the hockey lock-out. [ 8] I’m assuming this is no longer a term of derision, since one of Canada’s more prominent hockey teams has adopted the name. If I’m wrong about this, someone please let me know before I move north. [ 9] I used the adjective “stunning” advisedly. [ 10]Wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall for the interview between the Canadian government’s human resources rep and the person who wants a job as a prison tattoo artist. Talk about people from different planets. [ 11] Insert your own Nebraska football joke here; to me it seemed like kicking somebody who was already down. Read more columns like this in “A Criminal Waste of Time,” a book from The Recorder featuring more than 30 of the best columns from award-winning con-tributor William W. Bedsworth. Order by calling (800) 587-9288 or visiting www.therecorder.com/bedsworth.

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