Thursday, July 31, 2008
It seems that some folks are always concerned that certain US actions will damage the relationship.
Let's imagine that this tempest-in-a-teapot---or something that was actually serious---did damage relations. Severely. Japan then refuses to cooperate with the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. Japan reduces all military/security cooperation with the US. Would that irreparably harm either country?
Would it be bad for the US to no longer be seen by other countries in the region as moving toward a Japan-centered Northeast Asia policy? Would the US once again be viewed as a positive that acts as a stabilizing force between potential military rivals such as Japan and China instead of being on team Japan? Would the US actually have to rethink its 60 year-old policy that US bases (and the mostly one-sided Security Treaty) must be maintained in/with Japan until hell freezes over no matter how the world changes?
Would it be bad for Japan if it no longer supported policies just because Boy George---or whoever follows---insists that if it doesn't Uncle Sam will get mad? Would the right-wingers really be able to realize their fantasy of a re-armed Japan? Would Japan even be able to afford rearming with all of the other problems it is facing now? Would the nationalists (who don't really have much influence, or perhaps don't even exist) be as willing to use that force as some of them irresponsibly claim? If they were, would the Japanese public rise up and vote them out of office as it has throughout history?
Just a few poorly thought-out questions. Of course, I didn't even consider the possibility of damaged relations spilling over into trade. Anyway, I am sure that as the now long dead Senator Mike Mansfield said, (paraphrasing) "The US-Japan relationship is the most important in the world, bar none."
*We can in part judge the presence of nationalism (narrowly defined) in Japan by how much it spends on defense---around 1% of its budget. This is much less than other countries in the region. Japan is in a very unstable part of the world with potential war zones (Korea and Taiwan) nearby, and yet Japan still only spends such a minuscule amount on defense. This, among other things, shows a lack of nationalism. It just isn't an issue!
Oops!!! Wonder if the fact that the US is providing security for Japan influences that lack of defense spending and lack of concern by the public with defense/foreign policy issues? Naaaah...
Edited at 2300. I should have read MTC's Shisaku post on the relisting of the Takeshima Islands before I posted the above. Maybe so, but I really wanted to rant about nationalists who don't really exist to any extent in Japan, a country with little or no (narrowly defined) nationalism.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The BBC reported on its website that it possesses documents which "reveal a series of substantial payments to the UCI, which began just two months after the keirin was accepted into the Olympics in December 1996.”
The report, which was denied by a top Japanese official, claims that $3 million was "paid by organizers of a Japanese cycling event to the UCI - the world cycling body.” From VeloNews.
It involves UCI too? Oh, I'm shocked! Even if it's not true, it seems so likely that it should be.
1203PM The UCI strongly denies all of this.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Philip Brasor has written about this in more detail at The Japan Times:
I could accept the shocked tone if the practices uncovered in Oita were unique or seemed to be limited to that particular school district, but the more I learn about the way public-school administration works, the more I am convinced that the problem is systematic; not just built into the educational system but hot-wired into the bureaucratic mentality.
...And after the current anger and disgust blows over, it will likely return to the same old thing.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Having BS, the overpriced satellite service from NHK, with which we can watch old movies that we would not spend the ￥300 to rent or enjoy the Shopping Channel which often uses translated commercials from the US, also allows us to watch news from other countries---England, France, Germany among them. Of course, we have to listen to the French and German news in Japanese.
You can see some of the differences in style. On one, a Sunday Morning BBC political issue broadcast which I occasionally watch, the woman running it seems to be a bit more open with her opinions---or biases---than used to be acceptable in the US media. She does, however, manage to do so without appearing to be some sort of idiotic clown. Unlike those on CNN.
I remember when CNN used to be somewhat reliable and serious, but it is shocking to see how it has deteriorated into something like The National Enquirer on TV. I just watched another edition of CNN Prime which usually focuses on celebrities, weirdos, or some sort of sexual scandal or crime. Anything that they can sensationalize is fair game.
Today, their lead story was on a minor league baseball brawl in which a pitcher got angry and threw a ball at another player, but missed and hit a fan in the face. CNN replayed that at least 10 times or more. While playing the clip over and over and over and over and over, the newsclown, James Galano (?), with a mug so heavily made up that he looked like a plastic Sony robot, made faces to show his disgust and disapproval while giving his personal opinion about the brawl. He always does this on every sensational story he "reports." If he is off, there are a couple of plastic-faced females with unbelievably huge mouths who do the same. No story is too serious or too complex for them to make into a sort of simplistic cartoon. This must be why fewer and fewer Americans get "news" from the TV. Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is much better, more believable, and is not nearly so insulting to viewers---and you can get it via the Internet. (Of course, FOX may be even worse than CNN.)
It makes me think that NHK's self-censored news is of much higher quality and reliability even if Abe and his band of rightwing-revisionists lean on it to report only the LDP-approved version of the world. And none of the reporter are so made up as to appear plastic.
1335: Edited because I cannot spell. Ask Fujiwacko why...
Thursday, July 24, 2008
This was not a serious effort to do anything as it is very easy to predict that if a murderer is going to commit murder, that thing could substitute a kitchen knife for a dagger. That apparently is what happened yesterday in Hachioji as another sleazer (Oh, am I being insensitive to the creature? After all he had job problems and his parents may have been less perfect in his mind than he had hoped.) killed one woman and injured another with a newly purchased knife with a 15cm blade.
Well, if you can't do anything, it is at least good to put on a show of doing something. Could the problems of these types of people be deeper and more complex---and ultimately unsolvable---than the type of knife (or truck) they use?
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
We have used it for years mainly because it was the cheapest way to get basic Internet access back when NTT still had government support for monopolizing everything and charging monopoly prices (i.e. ripping people off for no reason except greed). When the government ended that, I suspect the savings aspect shrank or disappeared to a large degree.
It was especially enjoyable when we moved 2 years ago, as it took Yahoo (Softbank) more than 5 days to simply switch our service to our new apartment. They did not have to install anything, just throw a switch. NTT users have told me that NTT can do that in a day or so.
Recently, we switched to Yahoo's optical fiber network with a speed of around 54MBs instead of the 11 (at best) of the ADSL or whatever we were using. We have so far only been able to get the necessary software on one computer. When we have tried to install it on the other, we get an "Alert" that reads "Not supported by English OS." That would be disappointing if the computer actually had an English OS instead of the original Japanese OS. Never had any other than the Japanese.
Yahoo customer service is of nearly no help as they appear to be reading off a computer screen without a real clue of what they are talking about. (They once told my wife that we needed a separate Yahoo router for each computer.)
It's all part of the great fun involved everytime we do something with Yahoo BB. In the past I have always been able to figure out how to get their stuff to work mainly by ignoring their customer service advice and working through the problem. Doing that kind of stuff in Japanese is even more fun. (I have also learned to ignore my wife's translations of difficult to understand prompts, error messages, instructions etc. "I think it means you should or shouldn't do something with some kind of thing, maybe." Right. Thanks for the help.)
Now all I gotta do is figure out how to get the installation CD-ROM to recognize a Japanese OS as Japanese. Could it have been tainted because a non-Japanese used it, therefore losing a part of its Japaneseness?
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Yesterday, the police raided some offices of municipal and prefectural boards of education in Oita because they suspect some principals paid bribes to get their positions.
I remember talking to a newly hired teacher in Toyama in the early 1990s who had just passed the teachers test on her 3rd try. How did she do it? By studying harder? Maybe, but according to her, she was able to get someone in a position to influence such things to pull strings for her. She was quite open about it, at least to me and my wife and friends.
I suppose the latest scandal may be a surprise for some, but more than one person has told me that sort of thing is an old custom. Nothing new, so I wonder why all the coverage of it now.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
IN the narrative that has governed American commercial life for the last quarter-century, saving companies from their own mistakes was not supposed to be part of the government’s job description....
...The central banks of China and Japan are on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars worth of Fannie’s and Freddie’s bonds — debts they took on assuming that the two companies enjoyed the backing of the American government...
The United States has been financing itself by leaning heavily on foreigners, particularly China, Japan and the oil-rich nations of the Persian Gulf...
...as American debts swell and foreigners hold more of it, nervousness grows that, some day, this arrangement will end badly...The New York Times.
Although neither free trade nor free markets actually exist on any large scale---they are all managed---it has become about impossible to question either in the US. Even the press, which was never enamored of free trade/markets when Reagan was pushing for them (markets and trade managed in a new way and called "free"), now defends them as nearly an unquestionable good. Even though they don't really exist.
Maybe after this crisis, we can rethink the way we manage markets, but still pretend it is free trade.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Colin P.A. Jones writing for the Japan Times was apparently somewhat intrigued by the Court's wording too:
For those who thought that the sole criterion for enjoying basic human rights was, well, being human, Japan's Supreme Court apparently has a different view. Both because this type of phrase is repeated several times and because the opinion cites several human rights conventions (including the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child) in arriving at its conclusion, it is hard to believe that it is just a judicial "oops." Do human rights mean something different in Japan?
I think they do, at least for some of the elite running the government. They often seem to view human rights as something selfish that the peons whom they lord over should not press for too much.
Jones goes into detail here as to what human rights may actually mean in Japan.
According to the article Buddhism is losing its place even at funerals:
a religion that, by appearing to cater more to the needs of the dead than to those of the living, is losing its standing in Japanese society.
The real "religion" of the Japanese is nihonjinron.
2:05pm: *Except for the occasional ceremony such as for funerals as discussed in the article.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
The right-wing in Japan has been playing up the kidnapping of its citizens which the government (including the LDP) ignored until Koizumi went to North Korea and the right saw it as a way to convince the public to rewrite Article 9. I can't have any sympathy for the rightists, but that does not mean that N. Korea is not guilty of horrendous crimes.
For decades they have committed international terrorism (blowing up aircraft, blowing up a number of ROK government officials, infiltrating agents into South Korea, murdering and kidnapping South Koreans, attacking/killing US troops, and more). It was, and still is, amazing that after all that, many South Koreans consider Japan a bigger threat than North Korea ever could be. Tells you something about what Japan must have done to create such hostility. It isn't all a result of ROK propaganda, as I had heard that sentiment from folks who had lived under the Japanese occupation and it was very much their own genuine fear and opinion.
Anyway, North Korean troops have recently killed a 52 year old woman tourist who had gotten up before dawn to watch the sunrise and was shot twice as she supposedly wandered into a restricted area. Tells you that North Korea does not trust it own citizens either---if you did not already know that.
North Korea has demanded an apology from South Korea for the incident. The South has done the same from the nutty North. Bush may have been wrong on many things, but he was not at all wrong when he called the North part of the "Axis of Evil."*
Full article from the New York Times is here.
Related NYT article here. The North has rejected talks with South Korea.
*4:30pm: I do wonder if the US really should have removed the North from the terrorist list. Perhaps only as a gesture to hopefully nudge NK to move on the nuclear issue---few would assume that Kim Jong Il and his military and government have any intention of dropping terrorism as a tool to be used when they think it is needed.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Being a very bright person, after a year of kinda, maybe not always buying made-in-China products and then writing her masterpiece, she shrewdly observed:
...that the affordability of Chinese products makes shopping amusing and goods disposable...
"It's too late to turn away because we cannot live without (We'll die?) Chinese goods," she said.
The Japan Times put this online with a straight face here.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
The Japan Times lists just a few more areas in which, as posted below, Japan is not as splendidly "green" as believed:
"Yet in a recent poll of consumers from 14 countries by National Geographic and the international polling firm GlobeScan, Japanese houses were found to be the second-least sustainable, only outranking ones in the United States.
I think they mean "only outranked by the ones in the US." Follow the link for more.
Added at 1227pm: And another JT article by Takamitsu Sawa on PM Fukuda's low-carbon society:
Since the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, the Japanese government has done little or nothing. As I recall, the only actions taken were enacting the 1998 Energy Conservation Law and encouraging people to dress lightly in summer to save energy. As a result, the volume of greenhouse gases emitted in Japan in fiscal 2006 was 6.2 percent above 1990 levels....
Again, follow the link for a relatively detailed and thorough examination of the internal opposition Japan faces in regards to Kyoto.
Monday, July 07, 2008
Andrew DeWit has published a piece on Japan Focus: The G8 Mirage: Toyako, Japan's Potemkin Village, and the Environment which I wish that I could have written. He starts out by listing some of the often overly enthusiastic foreign and domestic media reports on Japan's environmental record especially as far as energy conservation and CO2 reduction is concerned. He then goes over some of the statements of Japanese politicians and bureaucrats who naturally want to add to the idea of Japan's special---dare we say unique?---role in this fight. Then he notes:
The Japanese elite enjoy the brand-name benefits conferred by “Kyoto,” but have made little attempt to meet its explicit targets or achieve its proposed trajectory towards more stringent and comprehensive mechanisms.
(I recall that Japan did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol until after Bush had walked away from the agreement. This was in 2000 or 2001, 3-4 years after Kyoto. Yea, very enthusiastic.)
He then shows that although Japan is "at best on par with" the EU, it is not the global leader in the energy efficiency and environmental fields. He uses data from the German Watch’s Climate Change Performance Index (compares emissions trends and climate protection) which showed that Japan is dropped from 39th place in 2007 to 42nd in 2008 while China (of all places) improved from 44th to 40th in the same period.
One of his more interesting points is that while Germany's (and others) economy was growing faster than Japan's from 1997-2007, its energy consumption was falling while Japan's was increasing. During this period Germany's population was growing while Japan's was---and still is---falling.
Dewit then explores other areas of energy use in Japan, and ends with a look at what two Japanese environmental experts Iida Tetsunari of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies, and Kameyama Yoshiko of the University of Tokyo-based National Institute for Environmental Studies have to say about the myths and distortions of the Japanese leadership. Their research shows that Japan actually slipping behind and will not even be able to meet the Kyoto target of a 6% energy cut this year.
There is much, much more information in that article. It is the kind of research and writing that is needed concerning Japan, but is rarely ever found in the mainstream media. They are too busy reporting on fantasy Japan.
Sunday, July 06, 2008
I was somewhat disappointed when movie stars began to buy up Montana land as I figured that they would bring Hollywood lifestyles with them and insist that Montana become citified. However, it seemed to survive even that well.
Now, thanks to the Boy George administration, the US Forest Service has completed a closed door deal to release 1.2 millions acres in western Montana for possible development into residential subdivisions.
"We have 40 years of Forest Service history that has been reversed in the last three months," said Pat O'Herren, an official in Missoula County, which is threatening to sue the Forest Service for forgoing environmental assessments and other procedures that would have given the public a voice in the matter. (The full and interesting NYT article here.)
Montana will survive, but it may lose a little more of what made it such a special place. As one person said in the article, a clearcut can grow back, but a subdivision of houses is there forever.
Thank you Bush. Please do not let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.
The A.P. took an unusually strict position against quotation of its work, sending a letter to the Drudge Retort asking it to remove seven items that contained quotations from A.P. articles ranging from 39 to 79 words.
On Saturday, The A.P. retreated. Jim Kennedy, vice president and strategy director of The A.P., said in an interview that the news organization had decided that its letter to the Drudge Retort was “heavy-handed” and that The A.P. was going to rethink its policies toward bloggers. (The full article from The New York Times here.)
Perhaps it is time to reduce/eliminate all direct quotes and links and instead just mention the date and time of the publication after a short summary. That may be the way of the future for all bloggers. It should be taken to apply to the AP now. It is no great loss, their basic reports are rarely worth quoting/linking to anyway.
Saturday, July 05, 2008
On this red-white-and-blue national holiday, we bring you a simple news story to assure you that our borders are safe from immigrants coming over to work on construction projects and build things in 'murca. Even when it's a couple of mud huts. Even when it's for a museum. Even when an actual U.S. senator gets involved...
...And so our little story ends this way: Real mud, real thatch, real goats, no real rural workmen...
...sums up the state of modern America this way: "We were naive in assuming there wouldn't be any problems."(Read more at the Washington Post article.)
"Among the Group of Eight nations, Japan and Russia have no legislation to prohibit possession of child porn."
Friday, July 04, 2008
...[Fukuda objected to any expansion]saying the G8 should remain a forum for a small number of states bearing a large responsibility for the international community. ...adding China would make it impossible to discuss human rights issues and world currency issues related to the yuan, the official said. (Why? China would stubbornly refuse to address issues related to itself? They might have an opposing opinion and cause confusion? It's more effective to discuss China if China is not there?)
Yes, Japan's diminishing clout on the world stage is primarily due to things other than the decisions Japan makes.
Isn't this exclusion of China similar to the 1950s-1970s US when it did not recognize China as China, but Taiwan as China?
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Somehow I missed this, but I just read about it on the Japan Economy News and Blog. It will be called the Tokyo Sky Tree. How imaginative. And beautiful. This is how Japan will retake the economic momentum in Asia from China.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Reuters reports: Japan is not closed to foreign investors, including funds that press for increased shareholder rights, the head of financial regulation in the world's second-largest economy said on Tuesday...
... Sato declined to comment specifically on TCI and Steel Partners, he did say that Japan is not closed to foreign investors, including those who rally for change...
..."The FSA treats financial firms and investors equally, regardless if they are domestic or foreign," he said....
(The pendant will note that the accuracy of Sato's statement depends on the meaning of "closed." Or perhaps what the meaning of is is.)
It's like the 1980s again. Japan never had a closed market, it's just a difference in culture and misunderstanding on the part of (dumb) foreigners.
This could be good news for Fukuda and the LDP as since Japan is not closed to foreign investment, then there is no need to risk "confusion" by cutting corporate taxes to attract said foreign investment (while increasing the consumption tax).
Black is white, left is right, up is down.
Along with the DVD, his film "Patriotism" in which he played a soldier who killed himself will be released. I read that article and remembered a very short film of his which one of my professors had suggested that I watch when I was in college. He did not suggest it for the artistic value, but so that I could get some idea of the fanaticism that existed in some parts of the Japanese military in, and prior to, WW2.
I did a search and found "Yukoku." Below are 4 clips from YouTube. They aren't matched exactly, but I believe most of the film is included. Be warned, it is bloody.
3 July: Edited to add a link to the NYT article concerning the DVD release.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Even if said non-Japanese were to ultimately convince the courts that it was not his/her dope, the unfortunate person would probably still be held in the clink as by the time the trial was over his visa would be expired and immigrations would lock her up for overstaying. Except for that, a Japanese person would not likely get off a heck of a lot better.
"It's not my dope, customs planted it in my bag." Imagine the response.
When we did it, we never put actually put it in a passengers luggage, but would hide it in an area in the vicinity of the luggage/search. It was used to keep dogs motivated during long searches---sorry, the term was "inspection"---as well as for reinforcement training. A dog cannot work for hours and hours without a reward*. In fact, about 2-3 hours of total search time per day was about average, if concentrated searches were going to be a daily duty (although at times and with some dogs this limit was exceeded). And we never let the drugs out of sight for a second. The risk was too high. Lost dope=big, big trouble with the DEA and others.
I assume that the reports are accurate when the term "resin" is used. Large amounts extracted from leaves can be used to make hashish. We referred to the substance left over on pipes, roach clips etc as resin....How did I get on this subject?
*However, English teachers in Japan can tolerate hour after hour, day-after-day, week-after-week, month-after.... of mind-numbing work without reward. Perhaps a similar system could be devised for detector dogs.
They don't even get free detention or meals at the Immigration facility; they gotta pay.
Some unpatriotic folks are complaining that this sort of action threatens free thought and expression in Japan as well as violates human rights. It's ok though, for the US has been doing somewhat similar things (or worse) in the name of security so that gives a free pass to others.
Related story here.
In May, Japanese customs drug-detector dog handlers and a trainer---I refuse to use the ridiculous term "sniffer dog"---made news because the trainer had placed a marijuana training aid in a person's luggage at Narita and apparently allowed the bag and the marijuana to get out of their view and control and it disappeared. Those three were punished yesterday for their mistake with a suspension and salary cuts.
I used to do that for a living before I decided that I needed to finish my university degree so that I could ultimately end up as an adverb salesman in Japan. (This is a form of natural selection.) I can imagine---as could every drug or explosives dog handler/trainer---how these guys felt when they realized that the dope was gone. We occasionally did similar things, but we never let it get out of our sight or control. Just a loss of a very few grams of a substance was enough to trigger a major investigation and nobody ever wanted that. One of the things I remember with great fondness is waking up in the middle of the night trying to remember if I had forgotten a training aid somewhere.
The article refers to the marijuana aid as "resin" which would be a bit strange as resin---at least as we used the term---is not "smoke-able" marijuana itself. The reporter or editor did the usual trick of casting some extra suspicion on the whole affair by noting that the customs official did not say where the trainer got the marijuana from. We got our drugs from the US Drug Enforcement Agency. I'd pretty much bet that the K-9 teams get their from a government agency too. It's not as if using drugs to train a drug dog is an option.