Sunday, March 30, 2008

Will, the right-wing magazine, seems quite concerned about global warming. More so about China, though. The world waits for the right-wingers in Japan to take the lead in solving global problems since they have done so well at home. Look for all the answers in the May issue.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Let's quit since our leadership has no new ideas

Japan faces a raft of problems related to its place in a changing world that are all likely to get remorselessly more difficult and exacerbated by the triple whammy of an aging and declining population and high government debts. There are measures that could be taken, including greater participation in the economy by women, careful restructuring to encourage consumption, and greater immigration....

.... Japanese media regularly forgets that a free press doing its job properly should be constantly questioning the government and bureaucracy, raising the issues that officialdom would rather see buried, promoting debate and exploring all the options....Kevin Rafferty, Japan Times.

or the old fogies running the country should give up and take Japan back to a mythical past. After all, they have already got theirs. Screw the next generations.

...Nowadays, Ms. Bando [the ex- government bureaucrat author of "The Dignity of a Woman"] believes that a “society in which everyone can lead modest little lives isn’t bad, though it’s not an attractive way of thinking”...

...Japan, in the past, was more open to challenges, she said. “But,” she added, “once you reach a certain level, challenges and competition aren’t necessarily a plus anymore.” Norimitsu Onishi NYTimes.

Isn't that level called death?

Hillary to stay the course

No, not necessarily in the war in Iraq that she voted for, but in the war against Obama. It is vital to the U.S.A. and the world that she win the nomination. Then she can carry the fight against John McCain citing, her 500 years of "experience", including short-selling cattle futures, being a lawyer, and leading a ground assault through withering sniper and artillery fire in Bosnia to counter John's silly little claims of leadership experience.

Perhaps Bush should send her ass to Iraq to fight. She'll stay the course until the last, win or lose, no matter who it harms as long as she comes out on top. It's all about her, after all. Her and hubby Bubba.

She did have a good comeback against Obama when he said that he could no more reject his pastor than he could his grandmother. Hillary, sharp as a razor despite suffering severe PTSD from combat in Bosnia, said that we are stuck with our relatives, but we can choose our pastor. Wonder if she chose her husband?

I have to admit, I did not expect the Democrats to be able to blow any change of winning the presidency this time after 8 years of little Bush. I think I was wrong. I think that they will blow it.

Hillary's threat here.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tokyo Gov't blinks for Blinky

The news is a bit old, but "Binky" Ishihara's masterpiece of incompetence, Shinginko Tokyo Bank, has been sinking into a cesspool of non-performing loans. It sort of seems like the loan officers were approving loans without much concern for the creditworthiness of the applicants. This is what used to happen back in the bubble days.

Blinky has denied any personal responsibility, but so far he has not blamed it on the Chinese, or the US, or other non-Japanese. He blamed it on the folks he picked to run the bank. How could it be his fault if they were idiots?

Anyway, in the face of public opposition---So?---the Tokyo Metropolitan ASSembly has approved a ¥40 billion bailout of the bank. Strangely, even small businesses which Blinky claimed the bank was to help say that it is "not useful." But WTF cares what the public thinks? Not Blinky. Not the Tokyo Metro ASS.

Interestingly, or not, Blinky has claimed to be a buddy of Dick Cheney. That could explain a lot, including the blinking. "Don't shoot Dicky. We are hunting peasants. Shoot them, not me." (Sorry, the birds are actually "pheasants." My error.)

Article here.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

More security and better services for bakagaijin

And it includes non-gaijin foreigners too. (meaning not Caucasian)

Report urges closer watch on foreigners (Japan Time headlines)

Foreigners living in Japan should be allowed five-year visas but kept under the eye of a new unified Justice Ministry-run nationwide identification system, a government panel on immigration control said in its report released Wednesday.

...a new foreigner registration system and revision of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law should aim at creating "a symbiotic community" by providing a "pleasant environment for foreign residents in Japan...

Of course. This has to be a good idea since it will place non-Japanese under the benevolent care of Hatoyama's ministry.

...critics view the new registry system as increased state control.

Cynical fools. If they don't like it, why don't they just shut up and leave? This is a democracy, after all.

This thoughtful measure could also prevent me (and other untrustworthy bakagaijin/criminal/terrorist types) from overstaying visas, working illegally, going into a bar in Tokyo to complain about noise and getting killed, being murdered by sexual predators, and other such things. Plus, we could get better access to all the educational opportunities here. And, it's for security. We need to trust Hatoyama-sama, a man with personal knowledge about the danger of terrorists.

I can't wait to read about it in a Japanese article, even if I get a headache doing so. Full article here

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Coming to Japan

Under the stern gaze of passport officials and the even sterner gaze of television cameras, the two British citizens, fresh off a morning flight from London on Tuesday, passed through customs at Kennedy International Airport separately and came to separate conclusions.

Under a new Homeland Security system at Kennedy Airport, most foreign visitors must submit to a biometric scan of all 10 fingerprints.

Both pressed one thumb, then the other fingers on the glowing screen of a small white box. Then the process was repeated for the other hand...

For security. One guy didn't just meekly swallow that line for some reason:

“Pretty soon it’ll be a full naked body scan, with my irises and my DNA profile. It makes the honest visitor to America, of which 99.9999 percent coming through here are, feel unwelcome so you guys can catch the 0.0001 percent of people who are a problem.”

What's he mean by "feel" unwelcome?

The new system, whose image-capture units each cost as much as $3,000, will eventually cost more than $280 million, paid for by the federal government, rather than the airlines.

Huh? Where does the federal government get money? Oh, that's right. It borrows from foreigners. I almost said from taxpayers, but that's on down the line. Article is free here at the New York Times for now.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Lindsay Hawker's family has returned to Japan to try to nudge the investigation into their daughter's murder by Tatsuya Ichihashi.

Although the murderer has not been caught, things have changed since Lucy (Lucie?) Blackman was murdered. In that case, it took a personal plea from Tony Blair to former Prime Minister Koizumi to force the police to get serious about solving the case. Unfortunately, the man accused of killing her avoided conviction in court. Not enough proper evidence said the court. I assume that the police are serious this time especially since Ms. Hawker's form of employment was more...acceptable?

Meanwhile, in a case which has been barely mentioned in the media, Scott Tucker's killer is expected to receive leniency for that homicide in Tokyo.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Another member of the US military is under some suspicion of a major crime in Japan. This time, a cab driver was murdered and a credit card belonging to an AWOL sailer was discovered in the cab.

When I first heard this Friday night, I thought not again. As of yet, he has not been charged with the crime. (The US has found him and took him into custody.)

I, like many non-Japanese (and some Japanese) who have lived here for a while, tend to be sensitive to these types of things as we know that the media and politicians will sensationalize it and imply that foreigners have some kind of criminal tendencies. In this case, I thought that it was very convenient to find a credit card belonging to someone in the U.S. military. It proves nothing at all by itself. It may no more than show that this guy forgot or lost his card in the cab. In cases like this, I can appreciate SOFA.

We don't know if the guy is connected or not. I hope not, though to the murdered cab driver it won't make much difference. The best we can hope for him and his family and society (Japanese and non-Japanese in Japan) is that the real killer is caught and punished.

But there are a lot of questions. MTC of the political blog Shisaku ponders some of them here and here.

Friday, March 21, 2008

No problem---it's for security

Americans and Japanese apparently aren't alone in shivering in their undies at the fear of terrorism. The official explanation of "security" reduces the trembling and with luck will prevent us from becoming so frightened as to soil our dainty underwear.

While this may be an example of incompetent law enforcement officers, taking photographs (and similar threatening behavior) can be a risky business nowadays.
Are Japan's leaders merely readers on climate change? Japan Times headline.

A very simple answer: Yes, if that is not giving them too much credit. Since the Kyoto Accord was signed in Japan, there seems to be some belief that Japan is a world leader in fighting global warming. The nihonronists and members of the Department of an Imaginary Japans like to spout this as it goes right along with the "special" relationship with nature that Japan mythically has. Some of the right-wing nutjobs even count their own brand of environmentalism as part of their ideals, so no doubt they would love to believe that Japan is or should be the natural leader in this.

Strangely though, Japan did not ratify the Accords until Boy George pulled the U.S. out of the agreement. (OK, most countries curiously declined to act until Bush said the U.S. would not participate.) In addition, one often reads/hears about how difficult if will be for Japan to become even more energy efficient than it already, anyone who lives in Tokyo ought to be able to think of numerous was that Japan could easily reduce energy usage and emissions further. The use of proper insulation in homes and less wrapping/packaging, for example.

..."Fukuda's speech at Davos was compiled by officials of the Environment Ministry and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry...those bureaucrats are actually controlling policies on global warming to ensure they are ineffective and insufficient...

Tetsunari Iida, [from the Tokyo-based Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies] explained the government, greatly influenced by big energy industries, hammered out the targets — targets which have actually been preventing the promotion of renewable energy. Read the full article at The Japan Times here.

The good thing for the US is that Boy George will soon be a former president like Bubba Clinton and we won't hear much from him unless his wife---god forbid---runs for president. For Japan, it is likely that the same bunch of hair-dyeing, barcode-headed old geezers mainly from the LDP (and the bureaucracy) will still be running the country for the foreseeable future. So leadership from Japan on the issue is about as realistic as the uniquely special relationship that Japan has with nature.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

You don't wanna be arrested in Japan

as the chance of time in the slammer is very, very high. Arrested=guilty in most cases. Unless, perhaps, you are a rapist:

Crimes by women and crimes against women in Japan receive uneven coverage in the press. Female suspects, particularly those charged with serious offenses, are so thoroughly skewered in the media that defense attorneys often complain that a fair trial is near impossible. Crimes against women receive little attention unless, for example, the woman is a well known figure, Caucasian, or the perpetrator is a U.S. serviceman charged with a sexual crime.

Nobody knows this better than Masako Hirano. Her world changed abruptly in the wee hours of June 13, 1995...

and in another sexual assault:

...Since the perpetrator had shown "remorse," the incident was recorded as "a minor molestation." The assailant was released and no indictment was filed. ..Japan Times article by Michael H. Fox here.

I am sure that someone can explain this sort of thing away by saying similar things happen in every country. Even if so, it does not excuse the Japanese criminal justice system.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bizzaro World

As I see the real interest rate in the US drop to zero and hear Bush talk about establishing "order" in the financial markets, I feel like I am in some sort of alternate galaxy.

Isn't that Japan? Interest rates at zero and worries of "confusion" in the market? Another nail in the coffin of Japan's unique uniqueness myth.

Thank you Boy George and Hillary

...that whoever succeeds President Bush might restore something of the United States' battered image and standing overseas but that 'the magic is over.' . . .Washington Post.

Not that the U.S. was ever as loved overseas as Americans have been led to believe, but the change is palpable now---or at least people are more open about the dislike of many things American.

Not only should we thank Bush and Clinton (Hillary, without having bothered to read all pertinent reports available to her at the time, voted for a war that she now opposes), but all Americans who didn't take Colin Powell seriously when he said about Iraq, "If we break it, we own it."

Saturday, March 15, 2008

It was a nice day until

I went to There I found an entry on a story that I had read in the Japan Times last week.

It seems that a wealthy U.S. citizen lost his life to homicide in a bar in Tokyo. His killer is reportedly expected to get a light sentence because after a thorough, professional investigation by the Tokyo police, it was discovered that the foreigner was being troublesome.

Now I don't know the true details of the homicide, so I can't really say whether or not the killer deserves a harsh or lenient sentence. Friends of the deceased---both American and Japanese---seemed to be shocked by the whole thing.

But the thing I do wonder about is: Why has this not been all over the TV and in newspapers since it happened? Why was there not endless, sensational, emotional coverage? A cynic might claim that there are double standards here. Perhaps even pure hypocrisy. Perhaps open discrimination. Or it could be because so many non-Japanese are killed by Japanese that it isn't news while a Japanese citizen being killed by a non-Japanese is rare and therefore is news.

Me, I don't know. I am confused. I know non-Japanese are generally the ones at fault in any confrontation. Just watch TV programs or even ads. Or ask someone here. But still....

Oh, the article is here with the Japan Times reports as well as the victim's (Scott Tucker) hometown newspaper report. Ask around. See how many people are aware of this and then ask why they think that coverage has been so sparse compared to what one could expect had a wealthy Japanese been killed by a non-Japanese. Or by a member of the U.S. military.

More nature than any other country

So I have recently been informed. I like to go out in the woods as often as I can. This ain't often in Tokyo.

About 2 hours from Tokyo is Nikko which is fairly convenient for a one day trip. I last went there in February. As I was hiking up a trail to the top of a 3,000 foot plus hill, enjoying the sugi trees (planted as a crop by the bureaucrats years ago) and hinoki trees and the silence (rarely did I even hear a bird), I suddenly heard a loud, disturbing noise. No, not a sneeze from one of the many who have developed an allergy to the unnaturally over-abundant sugi trees, but a fellow hiker with his transistor radio at full blast. (That's him in the photo.) Apparently, this is a traditional way for a lot of old guys to enjoy nature. Fill the silence with AM radio. Scare away any living thing within hundreds of yards.

I stopped and let grandpa pass and stayed back taking photos and just enjoying the walk for a while. Unfortunately, I could not walk slowly enough and once the trail started up hill, grandpa slowed to a crawl. I wanted to pass him as I sure didn't want to spend the next two hours listening to his radio. He wouldn't move off the trail even slightly to let me pass either---as I had done for him. So I went through the woods and around him an nearly ran up the next two slopes to get away from him and his noise. Later as I had stopped on the other side of the top of the hill to take photos, I heard Rajio-ojiisama again. I put away my camera and took off down the hill. Rajio-ojii actually tried to speed up after me for some reason (wanted to get in front to block the trail again or entertain me with the radio?) Unfortunately for him, he fell flat on his a**, and I kept going.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A fine East Asian tradition

that I wouldn't want to disappear.

This morning as I got on the 6:30am train to Kamiyacho, I was pleased to discover that it was only somewhat crowded. The crush was 25-30 minutes away. This meant that I would have enough room to be able to breathe. I was especially aware of this ability to breathe as I was standing next to a slim, attractive, young woman who had obviously indulged in the increasingly popular garlic fest the night before. How pleasant, I thought as I watched the guy with either an allergy or a bad cold sneeze repeatedly. As for the runny nose and his creative use of his hands---well, perhaps he forgot his handkerchief.

About an hour later after a breakfast which I could only hope was prepared by a cook without an allergy or bad cold, I was chatting with a young lady who was telling me about how she was so happy to live in Japan, because (as she had recently read in a "mini-column") Japan has more "nature" than any other country on earth. I damn near barfed in my hands.

At this time of year with the cedar tree pollen allergy so common (due to Japan's "nature" in which bureaucrats decided to cut down huge parts of the natural forest and replace the trees with cedars) as well as during the cold and flu seasons, I truly appreciate the custom of bowing that is traditional in many parts of Asia. Perhaps, as one fine fellow explained to me, it spread because of kind, generous Japan which during its occupation of Korea taught the Koreans how to bow.

I admire this. (The tradition, not the claim that it was taught to other peoples by Japan.) After all, you don't really want to go around fondling the mucous-covered hands of someone. You don't want to shake the hand of someone who just puked into them after hearing the latest nihonjinron.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Annual Cycling Editorial

Oh. Rant, I mean.

I believe I missed it last year, so I will start early this year. The media usually starts in about June expressing shock and dismay that most cyclists in Japan ignore the law and wobble about negligently, recklessly, idiotically, and as one put it "with no sense of anticipation."

Last year, the police---who often are prime examples of the negligent, reckless, and idiotic cyclist---proposed forcing all cyclists onto the sidewalk. One of the English language newspapers, either the Japan Times or the Asahi Shimbun, worried that if that happened, cyclists would think they owned the sidewalks. Don't they already think that?

This year, they are thinking of getting cyclists off the sidewalk; stopping them from holding umbrellas in one hand (often directly in front of their face so that they cannot see a thing beyond their front tire); prohibiting the extremely common use of cell phones while riding and other dangerous riding behavior.

I ride my road bike a lot. I have averaged 4,500 to 5,000 miles per year over the last 5-6 years. Most of this is along the Tamagawa, but some of it on roads. Frankly, the problem is that most mama-chari riders (and many road bike riders) don't appear to have any awareness of their surroundings, no sense of anticipation, no sense of danger, and often a total disregard of anyone or anything else. Most would seem to prefer to run into someone else and seriously injure or kill themselves and the other person rather than to take any action which would be "troublesome." You know, applying the brakes, staying in the correct lane, taking evasive action to avoid a collision, or even watching where they are going. Lest one think that only Japanese do this, I have seen plenty on non-Japanese adopt this sort of head-up-the-ass riding behavior. What non-Japanese often don't know is that many cycling violations are not traffic violations, but violations of criminal law (according to an article from a few years ago by the head of, if memory serves, the Japan Cycling Association). And you DON'T want to be arrested for a crime in Japan.

I have mixed feelings about this newest idea. I won't ride on the sidewalk unless I have no other choice, and then only for as short of a distance as possible. Too dangerous. I hate walking down the sidewalk with some wobbling fool reading his/her e-mail and clanging that damned bell ordering everyone out of the way. My wife refuses to budge for them. She has more balls that I do. They'll run you down and kill you---as some woman did to an elderly lady a few weeks ago. That woman is likely to spend some time in the pokey.

One the other had, if these mama-chari riders are forced onto the road and they don't change their behavior, natural selection will deal with many. That's the way the cookie crumbles, but then I will have to deal with them too when I am riding on the road. They are extremely dangerous to approach or pass no matter where they are. EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. One cannot trust them or take his/her eyes off them for a split second. Did I say that these wobbling, reckless, negligent riders are EXTREMELY DANGEROUS? I am perhaps understating it a bit. They will kill you and themselves in a heartbeat. BEWARE!

Last year a politician wrote an editorial in one of the newspapers suggesting that an education and licensing system for cyclists was an answer. He thought that the reason that cyclists were so lacking in safe riding practices is because most Japanese don't learn to drive and therefore have no real sense of the rules or dangers of the road.

Whatever the reason, a license isn't going to help anytime soon. Despite some suggestions, most places aren't going to have cycling paths either and even if they did, they'd become an extra sidewalk for absent-minded pedestrians and another parking space for cars. (One of the most dangerous places to ride along the Tamagawa is a short section in which the cycling path is separated from the pedestrian path by a line. There you have cyclists on the pedestrian path and pedestrians on the cycling path. As soon as they approach one another, they each try to get into the correct path, resulting in "confusion.")

I have no idea on how to reduce the dangers here. It would require a whole new approach to more than just cycling. People are riding a bike in the same way that people walk---without watching where they are going, without awareness of where they are, without awareness of what they are doing, without any rules of where to walk (the right or left side) and without concern about running into someone else. Plus, the rule is go as slow as a dead 3-legged turtle in molasses in mid-January unless you see someone else heading toward the same spot as you. Then run like a bat out of hell just to get in front, and then slow down and block the way. Just like folks ride bikes.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Solomons Prime Minister Derek Sikua is a big fibber

according to Hideki Moronuki, of the Japan's Fisheries Association. PM Sikua had been reported as saying that Japan had offered to pay to send the Solomon Island's delegates to the International Whaling Commission meeting in London last week, but that he declined the payment and thus did not send representatives.

Moronuki (no, Moronuki is not long for "moron." Pardon, childish.) said, "There is no truth to it." "Japan has never made any offer at all to pay costs." Story at AFP.

This could be another case like that of the former sex slaves of the Japanese Imperial Army during WW2, who have been claiming that the military systematically set up the sex slave abductions and the whole business. Those women were either lying, got too old to remember what really happened, misunderstood what was really going on, or were just professional whores anyway who were well-paid to happily provide their services. Maybe it's the same thing with Prime Minister Sikua except for the latter since he said that he refused payment.

I am glad to see the Japan "with a spine" and Aso is not even PM yet. Japan as professional victim may be ending, although you have to admit that Japan is a victim of an untruth here.

Chalmers Johnson has it right again

One of the so-called revisionists of the standard Reischauer myth of Japan during the 1980s and early nighties, has written a short article on Japan Focus:

.....the Japanese government speaks with a forked tongue. For the sake of the Okinawans forced to live cheek-by-jowl with 37 US military bases on their small island, Tokyo condemns the behavior of the Americans. Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo called the recent assault "unforgivable" and demanded tighter military discipline. But that is as far as it goes.

The Japanese government has never even discussed why a large standing army of Americans is garrisoned on Japanese territory, some 63 years after the end of World War II. There is never any analysis in the Japanese press or by the government of whether the Japanese-American Security Treaty actually requires such American troops.
See Japan Focus 2886.

The article lightly addresses the questionable need for the U.S. military in Japan. It seems to be just a standard throw-away line used by politicians in both countries as well as policy wonks. The reason for the need for us to be here changes with the wind, but it never changes in importance for the continued existence of the planet. Should the U.S. pull out, Japan will build its military and probably go nuclear. Then of course China will respond. As will both Koreas. Within seconds of the departure of the last U.S. troop, World War 3 will begin as the nukes start flying all over East Asia, ultimately bring the U.S. into the conflict followed by Europe, all of South America, Quebec, and numerous bands of nomadic goat herders. The world will end shortly thereafter.

One nitpic I have with the article is that he refers to military personnel as "heavily armed young Americans." Off duty personnel are not heavily armed. In fact, unless they are training or on alert, very few on duty personnel are armed, let alone heavily armed. One might also get the impression from this short article that rapes and crimes by the military are widespread. They are not.

But once again, that is not the point. The point is that many people, at least in the media, think that military crime is widespread. Plus, SOFA is not viewed as fair. As long as there is any crime by a U.S. military member in Okinawa, it will be too much crime for the media and much of the public. The answer is a quick goodbye and good luck from Uncle Sam to Japan. Never happen though.

The price of xenophobia

Again, no surprises here. Japan to wants to return to the past which it never really left; to go to the fantasy world of Fujiwara. There are a few penalties to pay, but I am sure it can all be blamed on sneaky, Japan-bashing foreigners who don't understand The Beautiful Country:

By raising barriers to foreign investment and impeding the flow of foreign nationals, Japan, as a nation, is at risk of becoming a "subprime state."

[The Japanese Supreme Court labeling of Steel Partners as an "abusive acquirer"]
...the overwhelming lesson to be learned from this case was that external capital is no longer welcome in Japan.

...there are also steps that affect the people who move through them
[speaking of Japan's attempt restrict foreign investment in airports], in particular, foreign nationals.

It is hard to imagine another world-leading nation engaging in such regressive and exclusionary behavior.
From an article in the JT online by Jochen Legewie, President of CNC Japan.

Japan has been playing a rather insincere game of being an international, open, market-based economy for decades. It has never really been true. Japan won't usually open anything unless outside pressure is applied---how often has the government taken the position that opening some sector of the market or even society to foreign companies or people is good because it is good for Japan and the Japanese?

I know it is childish and spiteful, but I wish other countries would take a simpler policy towards Japan. "OK, we can't enter or freely work in your markets/society. No problem. It's your country and your 'tradition.' We won't argue. However, your companies and your people will not have free access to our markets/society. That's all. Should you ever decide to open up, come and see us after you have do so. We don't want to hear sweet talk and "we are unique" excuses. It's action or nothing. Until then, goodbye."

If Japan wants to return to a Third World status let it. If it wants to give up let it.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

It's too good. I didn't think of this, but I wish that I had:

....Senator Clinton’s assertion that she was qualified to be commander in chief, and that John McCain had also “certainly” crossed that “threshold,” but that the jury was still out on Mr. Obama.

In other words, if a choice on national security had to be made today between Senators Obama and McCain, voters — according to Mrs. Clinton’s logic — should choose Senator McCain. From Bob Herbert in the Washington Post.

Hillary Clinton? The one who now opposes the war that she voted for after declining to read the report on Iraq available to all U.S. Senators? The report that (as I recall) only six senators read, and all six of them voted against the war. Hillary is qualified? Obama is not? A bit confusing here, but wrestling with a pig probably isn't so straightforward.

Later Herbert writes:

We have seen election after election in which candidates have won by fanning the anxieties of voters. Elect me, or something terrible will happen to you!

How true. And if Hillary gets her way it will continue that way for the next 8 years.

Buying friends

Is this a surprise?

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Derek Sikua confirmed what had long been suspected: Japan bought support for its so-called "scientific whaling" program in the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

Buying influence is about the only way that Japan can have any influence anywhere. Hardly a shock. Article here.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Never wrestle with a pig

You'll both get dirty and the pig will like it. That's the choice Obama faces against Billary. Regardless of what Billary says about the vast conspiracy of the week against her and hubby Bubba, the Clintons are experts at pulling everyone down into the mud with them then acting as if they are victims.

That's what she is trying to do to Obama now. She has been baiting Obama for quite a while and he has not really sleazed down to her level yet. However, since she won the primaries in Ohio and Texas, Obama has been urged to get his shovel out to dig a hole down to Clinton country.

Yesterday one of his staff members bit, saying, "She is a monster, too — that is off the record — she is stooping to anything"

This has been all over the news. To some Democrats, being called a monster is not nearly as bad as being likened to Ken Starr---the special prosecutor and lead evil player in the vast right-wing conspiracy against the saintly Clintons. One of the Clinton clan likened Obama to Starr last week so one might just assume that being called a monster is not as harsh as being likened to Starr among the party elite.

The question is, just how clean and civil can a candidate really be and have any chance in a presidential race? Perhaps it is impossible. As has been noted by many over the last few days, Obama may be caught in a trap. If he jumps into the hog slop and starts throwing mud with the permanent inhabitants of the pigpen, then his opponent can claim, "See, he is nothing special, he is just as filthy as I am."

At least the race is interesting in contrast to the last 3 or 4. However, if Obama loses then it will only be interesting to me because of the threat of Billary returning to the White House. Imagine, Bubba showed his beet red pumpkin head and opened his mouth during Super Tuesday and immediately angered/disgusted/sickened people--even those in his own party. Just imagine 4-8 more years of Bill and Hillary as we return to the mid-1990s.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Time for Japan to grow up and take care of itself?

Observing Japan, on which a few weeks ago the author (Tobias Harris, who is a good source of well-written/thought-out articles about Japanese politics) expressed shame, "...that members of the US Armed Forces have so abused the hospitality of the nation hosting them as to undermine US national interests."

Well, I doubt he means that like I read it to mean, but I am not ashamed of members of the US Armed Forces for abusing Japan's self-interested hospitality, and I also question just how well it serves our national interests to have a lop-sided security treaty with Japan.* These crimes happened because an extraordinarily small percentage of the people stationed on Okinawa are criminals. One doesn't have to live in Japan long to understand how crimes committed by non-Japanese are so often sensationalized and blown out of proportion by the media, the police, and politicians. I don't then feel ashamed that non-Japanese have abused Japan's hospitality, I feel anger and disgust at the criminals who commit the crime, not the group they do or don't belong to.

I do have just a bit of personal experience regarding law enforcement and crimes in the military. I was in the Air Force, as a military policeman (called Security Police at that time) and a drug dog handler . It is a bit dated perhaps and it goes back to well before Bush's (and our) war so damaged the military and recruitment efforts that some branches have had to start accepting those with criminal---or even felony criminal records---but compared to similarly populated civilian towns/cities the crime rate was much, much, lower. In fact, most of the very serious crimes that I saw involved civilian perpetrators. These were Air Force bases, but we did occasionally work with Army/Marine MPs. These were not places overflowing with criminal thugs either.

So no, the U.S. military is not full of rapists and thugs as the Japanese media/politicians like to imply. The idea of restricting everyone to base is frankly idiotic and will achieve nothing except as a show. (Maybe every time there is a crime by a non-Japanese in Tokyo, non-Japanese should be restricted to their homes.) And the claim by the Japanese government that it is going to put more pressure on the US to reduce the (extremely small) number of crimes by military personnel is a joke. They know it too. What could be done? Lock everyone in chains?

What this does show is that it is time to get the US out. All the way out. We can't argue with Japan that it is only a small percentage of people committing crimes. That isn't really the point---the point is that it is 63 years after the end of the war and there is a big question as to whether the US should still be here. This is not our country. I think we ought to withdraw our forces and re-negotiate the Security Treaty so that there will either be an equal obligation on the part of each country to risk blood to assist the other in a war in which both are involved, or that the US will no longer be expected to send Americans to be killed for Japan. Let Japan take full responsibility for its defense and its actions. The U.S.-written constitution is not our problem. If Japan wants to be the "peace nation" let it do so without U.S. military backing. If it wants to admit that the SDF are a military and start making decisions and polices to reflect that , let it. Let it rescind Article 9. It is a Japanese problem; not a U.S problem.

This will never happen as the U.S. will rarely voluntarily remove bases from a country. Think Philippines or John McCain's idea of keeping U.S. forces in Iraq for decades and decades.

Anyway, Observing Japan also has a post today in which it is argued that some reduction in U.S. military forces in Japan is a good idea and the plan to relocate 8,000 Marines and dependents to Guam by 2014 should be advanced. This won't happen either as the U.S. wants/needs Japan's money. (What? Increase US taxes to pay for its military? Are you joking? We won't even do that to support them in a war.) And removing only 8,000 Marines ain't enough either.

*This reminds me of that old load of bullsh*t by Mike Mansfield: ''The U.S.-Japan relationship is the most important bilateral relationship in the world, bar none." Someone forgot to ask Mike, "Why?" Same applies for the US national interest in having such a treaty with Japan, or the fact we have to have forces here and everywhere else on the planet.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Rightist exits taxi, shoots himself dead in front of Diet

No comment needed. Article at The Japan Times.

MangaMan is tanned, rested, and ready

Now that it once again seems possible that the U.S. election will revert to folks advocating doing the same old thing over and over and expecting different results, Japanese politics may become interesting. Fukuda is a bit boring and although there are rumors that he is actually doing something, what that something is isn't noticeable unless all the new paint in your world has dried and you've nothing else to do except pay attention to him and his crew.

There is a post on Observing Japan about the comic book man and noted right-winger Taro Aso prepping himself for the prime minister spot after Fukuda fades away. (Well, old LDP leaders never die and also seem to never really fade away. Nakasone is still around in some role.) Taro has come to the conclusion that Japan needs a spine. Well, no doubt it could use one (and Uncle Sam could assist by withdrawing the supposedly evil, crime-prone U.S. military that the Japanese media so loves to hate, and by tearing up the Security Treaty) but the question is: What would getting a spine mean for Japan? Pretending it was a victim in WW2 and denying any wrong-doing? Insist that the women used as sex slaves during the war by the Japanese military apologize to Japan? Asking Korea to repay Japan for all the infrastructure it built during Japan's 35 year occupation of the country? Being more aggressive in its territorial disputes with China? Acting on "Blinky" Ishihara's idea from a few years ago to attack North Korea? Taking Abe's Beautiful Country ideas to the extreme?

Oh, MangaMan would be quite entertaining, infuriating, and everything else one would expect from a man who thinks that Japan could gain international understanding for its foreign policy through comic books. It has a foreign policy other than selling Japanese products or angering its neighbors?)

Yen too high

What do you wanna bet that Japan is not ready to intervene to prevent competition---sorry confusion---in the market sometime soon? That would be so unlike China that Japan (and others) criticize for manipulating the currency. I could be wrong though since Japan has never done such a thing before....

Japan's finance and economy ministers expressed displeasure at the yen's rapid rise against the U.S. dollar, in a sign they are getting more worried about the blow it may deal to Japan's slowing economy. WSJ

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Back to Reality.

Billary has won the Texas and Ohio primaries in the US which probably means that the Democrats will once again nominate some arrogant insufferable bore to run for president. Perhaps they will even lose again, even after Bush and most of the rest of the Republicans have done their best to destroy the party over the last 8 years. If Billary wins, is she gonna claim her 35 years of odd-jobs mostly unrelated to being the president or even holding an executive position trumps McCain's experience? OK, she was the president's wife which is the same thing, I am sure. Is she gonna claim to be the candidate of change back to the 90s? Should she become president, will we have to lock up the young women, goats, and chickens so pumpkin-head Bill won't be able to get to them? Another 4-8 years of trailer-trash in the White House. (Trailer-trash is probably not the right term as just because someone lives in a trailer or trailer park, does not make them trash. However, were I to imagine the unfair stereotype of trailer-trash, the Clintons fit it perfectly.)

My fantasy of a real general election conducted maturely and on the issues, as well as some possibility of real change---vague though that may be---if Obama were to be elected is quickly evaporating. How depressing.

Should Billary be nominated, at least it answers any question of who I will vote for this time. Or, more accurately, who I will not vote for.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

McDonalds Japan faces lawsuit

McDonalds Japan which seems to understaff their restaurants to the extent that employees cannot take the time to practice proper hygiene, has been sued once again. No, not for selling out-of-date salads as fresh as they have been caught doing, no, not for someone getting sick after eating food prepared under unhygienic conditions, but for forcing their managers (who haven't real management authority) to work unpaid overtime.

According to a McDonald's labor union, the two men worked about 70 to 90 hours overtime a month on many occasions from December 2005, and sometimes worked more than 140 overtime hours a month. Story here.

Meanwhile, I await a reply to my complaint about the filthy McDonalds in Denenchofu Tokyo.
I can't help but get more and more interested in this year's U.S. presidential race---for the first time in over 15 years. Last week there was an interesting exchange between Obama and McCain over Iraq in which both raised some very good points. It seems that there could even be a real policy debate instead in endless trivial personal attacks and game playing if these two are candidates.

One thing that bothers me about McCain is that it seems that he will mostly stick to the same policies of the last 20 years or more on nearly every issue. He may be right. I think he may now be right about Iraq, although in my opinion, he was wrong about voting to support it to begin with.

I haven't seen McCain say that he would do anything to correct any of the excesses of that guy who is in the White House now as far as civil liberties. Civil liberties in the US are not some sort of optional gift to the people like they seem to be in Japan. They are not "priviledges." They are rights that the government has no business in. Some folks, such as the New York Times, *@%# Bush, and both liberals and conservatives have a hard time accepting that civil liberties means more than only those liberties they find politically agreeable.

The New York Times has published a rant (damn, did it again. Meant editorial.) about Obama's support of some selected civil liberties. In fact, the NYT claimed that Obama would be the first civil libertarian in the White House. We know that the NYT has a narrow view of what civil liberties are, but it is an interesting article as Senator Obama seems to be the ONLY candidate who might reverse some of the jack-booted thug-type laws of Bush. Think Bush's laws concerning searches, wiretaps, and such are reasonable? Imagine what conservatives would have said had Bill Clinton tried to pass any of them during his term.

He co-sponsored a bipartisan reform bill that would have cured the worst excesses of the Patriot Act by meaningfully tightening the standards for warrantless surveillance. Once again, he helped encourage a coalition of civil-libertarian liberals and libertarian conservatives. The effort failed when Hillary Clinton joined 13 other Democrats in supporting a Republican motion to cut off debate on amendments to the Patriot Act. New York Times online.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Today's Un-Japanese Japan?

One of the things I have always respected and admired about Japan was its ability to adapt to new challenges. It never threw in the towel and gave up---"Oh, things have changed. Grampa's world was better. We gotta give up and go back to that."

But if you listen to populist demagogues like Fujiwara Masahiko and many of today's politicians/writers/commentators who want to retreat to the mythical paradise of an isolationist past, you would have to conclude that Japan is about to give up. It can no longer be part of the modern world because it is aging, because Japan is uniquely unique, because it is a victim of the world or whatever, it has to resort to protectionism and---in Fujiwara's fantasy---become some sort of 18th century imaginary Japan with elite dictators telling the peasant how to live.

Imagine, the country which went from semi-feudal to industrial in less than 50 years; the country which recovered from near destruction as a result of WW2 to become the second largest economy in the world in 30 years or less is considering giving up.

To me, that is un-Japanese. Although there is a sort of fatalism here, I don't think that it has ever taken hold of the whole country at least as far as keeping up with other countries goes. But the more I read newspaper rants---sorry, editorials---by the country's supposed intellectuals, or listen to them on TV, or read trash like Fujiwara's, it is becoming apparent that some Japanese have thrown in the towel and want the rest to join them in hiding under their blanket.

Global Warming and the land of the Kyoto Accords

Most people generally accept the evidence that global warming is occurring and is at least in some part connected with human activity. Japan, of course, would like become a leader (or give the impression of being a leader) in fighting global warming.

Unfortunately, there seems to be little real action on the part of the government in this area. Recently, Japan proposed allowing more time for countries to meet the emissions requirements of the Treaty. Japan claimed that this was because countries such as India and China needed more time. This was quite thoughtful of Japan and coincidentally would have the effect of also allowing Japan more time to meet its goals (which it is well behind.) We do have to remember, that even though the Accords are attributed to Japan, the Japanese government never approved the treaty until about 2001---fours years after it was created and only after Bush decided to withdraw from it.

Recently, news reports about Kyoto Accords and Japan seems to include the idea that "Japan has already reduced emissions so much that any further reductions will be very difficult." Sort of becoming like the old nonsense that appears in news report about crime in Japan that strict gun laws are the reason. With the mass shooting earlier this year, we learned that the strict gun laws weren't really so strict and were arguably less so than those in Washington D. C. or New York City. I suspect it is the same for emissions in Japan.

It is fairly easy for anyone to see the opportunities for further energy conservation and emission reductions here. Right now most apartments/mansions are very poorly insulated. Even hot water pipes are left bare. Go shopping or to a supermarket and you get huge amounts of unnecessary wrapping and bags. We easily fill a 70 liter garbage can every week with this stuff and we have tried cut down on the use of plastic bags as much as possible. We all know that Japan continues to pave and cover the country in concrete for the benefit of politicians, thus destroying trees and forests and heating everything up.

I personally doubt that Kyoto has a chance as it is already out-dated and few countries will take it seriously. They won't because most people like to debate about it, but I wonder if we are really going to be willing to make the changes needed to affect global warming if it requires much personal discomfort.

Anyway, I do understand that some are skeptical about the Kyoto Accords. After all, how could you trust scientists from a country where most people are educated to believe that Japan is the only country in the world with four seasons to have even the most basic understanding of the climate? You have to hope that the scientists are a little bit smarter than citizenry.

Of course it's not just Japan. Nobody has the answers, we just think we do and in the meantime do little.