Saturday, September 29, 2007

Columbia University's international awareness?

One's own country looks a lot different when you live overseas, or at least have lived overseas. You get to see how other people view it and that view generally has nothing to do with the myths you are fed in school or by the media.

Apparently, the president of Columbia university has never lived anywhere else except for the US, or if he did, he lived in some sort of "gaijin ghetto"(apologies for the use of this bigoted term, but as I mentioned, I gave up on trying to discourage it) where he was given the special treatment that real people don't get.

After inviting the president of Iran to visit---knowing fully well what he believed and what he stood for---Lee Bollinger (Columbia president) decided to use the occasion to insult him to his face. What exactly did the fool hope to gain? No matter how dangerous one believes Ahmadinejad to be, Bollinger's remarks and ad hominim attacks came across as extremely rude. Perhaps Bollinger is extremely rude anyway, but in this case, he makes the US look bad while doing nothing to damage Ahmadinejad's reputation. In fact, he likely made him look good by comparison.

But frankly, one can't expect much from a university president as they all seem to live in a fantasy world. I remember ours, something "Smith" at WSU in Washington, seemed to be in orbit around Mars, but who really gives a flying f**k what a university president says in normal situations?

Anyway, has an article commenting on space cadet Bollinger's public rant: Bollinger's denunciation was icing on the cake, because the constituency the Iranian leader cares about is scattered across an Islamic world that values hospitality and its courtesies as core social virtues. To that audience, Bollinger looked stunningly ill-mannered; Ahmadinejad dignified and restrained.

Bollinger however, showing his razor sharp awareness of how his actions look outside of the US, thinks it was a wonderful idea and apparently remains very proud of himself as he continues to circle around Mars. From an AP article:

Bollinger doesn't see these disputes as anything unusual for an intellectually robust college campus....."All we can do is say, 'We are committed to a principle of wide open discussion about issues," he said. (As long as he can personally insult folks to their face first as a way of encouraging wide open discussion.)

A fact of life in Japan

This sounds so familiar:

But I had had no difficulties whatsoever in numerous tries. Which meant the post office was due.

I knew this the second I greeted the clerk in Japanese and he answered me in English. A bad sign. We were not going to communicate.
(Japan Times Online)

This not only happens in Japan. When I was in Manhattan before coming to Japan, I went to get my visa. I had had a spousal visa before, so I thought I knew the procedure. The guy who waited on me was Caucasian---perhaps a Japanese citizen, perhaps not. He was working for the Japanese government though as a bureaucrat. He rejected one of my forms and told me I had to take another form home and fill it out. When I got home, I discovered that my only mistake had been to write the wrong heading or something on the first form---a simple mistake that I could have corrected on the spot. However, as an officious dork, he couldn't have simply said so, although it was obvious that he knew. Not that US bureaucrats are one bit better. It appears to be a mental illness common in the profession. Oh, wait---there is nothing professional about a bureaucrat is there?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Stop China!

As in many countries, the media have focused on recent safety issues with some Chinese-made products and food. Some have gone into hypocritical hysterics over it. It's about normal for the media I guess since it is primarily interested in scandal and entertainment (unless the scandal is from within the media.)

A week or so ago I noticed a new magazine in the cooking magazine area of the book store near Denenchofu station. The title is Prohibit China (中国禁止). On the cover it warns "don't eat", "don't buy," and "dangerous China." Inside it covers about every kind of real or imagined danger in China. Filthy, dangerous food, dangerous products, fake brand name products, bird flu, AIDS, etc.

It is published by Oak Mook (#169) which appears to publish a lot of similar stuff and looks to be part of the revisionist right wing nutjob fringe. (There is no evidence that the suddenly-resigned PM Abe is on the staff. ) More of their mags here.

Meanwhile, the repeated food safety scandals in Japan have faded from view. Nobody seems concerned about how the government addresses the Meat Hope scandal. (Meat Hope is yet another Japanese company caught using old food and relabeling it as new, labeling pork as beef, and much more. More recently, a famous candy maker in Hokkaido was caught using out-of-date ingredients.)

This happens enough that I am very concerned about buying frozen foods or foods such as milk which seem to be close to the printed use by date. Whereas the press and most consumers seem to have forgotten about Japan's own food safety issues to go nuts over China's, I cannot. I can avoid imported Chinese food (provided that I can trust the Japanese importer to properly label it---which may or may not happen), but I cannot avoid Japanese food. What do the nutjobs do, I wonder?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Aso popular among young because he likes comic books

Pretty slick. In Japan Focus a few months ago, there was an article about Aso (or one which at least discussed him) in which they mentioned how he tried to play down his elitist background with a sort of rough-edged common man act. (Remember his opposition to allowing a female to become empress because she might marry a "blue-eyed foreigner" and therefore, send the whole country to hell I suppose.) One could not deny that he seems very common, but you could question his sincerity. He, like Abe comes from a family deeply involved in WW2's extreme misadventures. Abe is the son of a former prime minister who was charged with war crimes---the charges later dropped. (I will have to check and see exactly why they were dropped---the US reversal after the Chinese communists took power?) Aso's family owned mines which used POWs for forced labor. The family and company has continued to pretend that everything was wonderful there: Upon release, the POWs even thanked them for such lovely treatment during the forced labor.

Aso, who as foreign minister started an international cartoon award, talked at length about comic books. (He also suggested that Japan could help non-Japanese accept Japan's foreign policy through comic books.)

He may be the underdog in the race to become prime minister, but with his love of comic books and streetwise talk of pop culture, Taro Aso has plenty of support among Japan's disillusioned youth.

He was on TV this morning talking about how Japan should prevent too much competition because not all companies can be successful---some suffer. In other words, the limited reforms that Japan started under Koizumi should be rolled back. It has already started. This should be a warning to folks who think Japan is going to be an open, meritocratic country. Meritocracy was never much of a part of Japan's history---a class system and old-boys' club has been. (As I recall, Chinese Confucianism promoted meritocracy via civil service exams and with the idea that the emperor could lose the "Mandate of Heaven": that he/she was fallible. Japan's version of Confucianism was used by Tokugawa to officially stratify the classes and relationship with the government. And there was never, ever, any hint that the emperor was in any way fallible.)

Italicized quotes above are from AFP's Aso story here.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Shift the future

Japan is following the old Nissan ad---moving boldly forward into the future. Koizumi trashed a lot of the old-boy factions, the protectionism, the closed club of politics and business in Japan to some degree. Abe moved forward by ignoring the economy and allowing the old gummers to move back in: thus the return to cross-share holding of equity in Japanese companies and so on. He also decided that Japan did nothing really wrong in WW2 so he moved boldly into the future with hallucinations of a "beautiful country" based on revisionist/denial nonsense.

Will the next PM be the old school elitist (this alone would give Fujiwara Masahiko a boner) bigot Aso or the youthful 71-year old Yasuo Fukuda. As Japan's economy appears to be slowing and returning to the past, this old guy is sure to put things back on track. With either as PM, the old-boy club is sure to be gone as Japan rushes forward into the 1980s. Warning: sarcasm. (At least Fukuda appears not to be a member of the Yasukuni worshiper nutjob crowd.)

A Reuters article is at the NYT temporarily here.

Also see: The battle to become the next Prime Minister of Japan has narrowed into a confrontation between an unpredictable right-winger with a penchant for comic books and a colourless and austere moderate who admits the contest has left him “flustered”. From Times Online.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Abe resigns

A bit of a surprise this afternoon. Wonder if that means Aso will be the next PM?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Idiot parents?

No surprise at all:

"She looked, I'd say, in her mid-20s," recalls a cabin attendant of a certain passenger on a Guam-bound flight. "She had her baby with her, and from the moment the plane took off she was totally absorbed in doing her makeup." Her privilege, of course — but "suddenly," the attendant continues, "she got up and began stowing the infant into the overhead luggage bin. 'He's in the way,' she said."

...8-month-old and his parents just back from Bali. An airport health inspection found the baby to have a 39-degree temperature.

"Yes," the mother reportedly said, "he was ill when we left, but we went anyway because otherwise we'd have had to pay a cancellation fee." (This last one may have been a Berlitz IS whom I once knew.)
From The Japan Times Online.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Law Enforcement pros tricked again

A policeman was wounded yesterday in another botched raid on a suspected gunrunning yakuza hideout (apartment). Yokohama's finest went to the apartment without a warrant and knocked on the door asking to enter. The thugs declined by sending a guy outside who locked the door in front of the officers' faces. Being unprepared for such stubbornness, the cops with no warrant did not get out the battering ram to take the door down. Like the warrant, they did not have one, so they tried to pry the door open (with what? A plastic spoon?)

Being sharper than when they let Ms. Hawker's killer escape, the specialists then---and only then---decided to send someone to the rear of the apartment to cut off escape. Sometime during this one of the thugs shockingly fired a shot wounding an inspector in the arm. After a discussion and a 30-minute investigation, they decided that the apartment occupants might possibly be criminals despite the fact that they did not appear to be foreigners. (OK, I made the sentence last up, hoping it was not true.)

The guy outside with the cops cleverly escaped (possibly during the confusion over criminals who were not foreigners). After waiting for backup to arrive which then fully surrounded the apartment on the wild theory that perhaps the crooks might try to escape or something, they stormed the apartment----to find nobody there!!

I wish this were a joke, but alas: Japan Times Online HERE.

Guess I can understand why the police prefer to go after British garbage rule violators. It is much safer for the hapless fellows, and garbage thugs generally don't confuse the poor cops by resisting or escaping.