Saturday, August 30, 2008
...On the Middle East, Latin America, and policy toward India and China, the two men largely agree...CFR
Friday, August 29, 2008
I feel confident in the ability of the same government which brought Japan a 10 plus year recession to screw up again.
Sukiyaki Western Django,” the latest offering from the protean and prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike, is a feast for genre fetishists, a loving and lurid pastiche of the spaghetti westerns that were themselves lurid pastiches of classic Hollywood cowboy pictures.
Much better entertainment than worrying about the "Noh play" of Japanese politics and actually more relevant to planet earth.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
I had just gotten out of my seat because I knew that there would be a sardine-packing event at Shin-Yokohama station as 432,551 people would try to fit into each car. Since I needed to get off at the next station after Shin-Yokohama, I had to be somewhere near the exit and not sitting in my seat to be blocked in for the next 10 stations.
I got to the front of the train against the wall just as the insane rush started. I was somewhat fortunate this evening as I was able to become involved in a very intimate threesome between a guy and his girlfriend. Although this was not ideal, it was better than being caught between a couple of semi-sober, coughing, cigarette smoking, garlic breathing, perspiring, barcode-headed old geezers.
Then something very, very weird happened. A young guy whom I assumed to be Japanese--I mean he fit my vision of a stereotypical native Japanese, as unreliable as that has proven to be--began pushing his way on just like everyone else. Then he began to repeatedly say something so out of place and unusual that it immediately attracted my attention. There are signs on the train which ask us to report any suspicious or unclaimed people, but what could I do at the time? I was involved in a menage a trois.
It was not only that the weirdo was saying it, but that he was saying it in a very polite way: "Moshiwakegozaimasen" "Moshiwakegozaimasen." He must have said it 4 or 5 times. I can only assume that he is a new guy here. Cannot be from Tokyo. Maybe not even from Japan. These words are never uttered in this type of situation. Oh, occasionally I hear a "sumimasen" or "gomen nasai." but even that is rare. This is the first time that I have ever heard anyone excuse themselves in such polite language on a train. Even more unbelievable, he appeared to really mean it.
My god, what is this country coming to? Apologizing for pushing and shoving on a train! What's next? Using a handkerchief or tissue when one has a runny nose?
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
...While Toyota and Honda rank fourth and fifth in the table of efficiency, with 15 and 16 percent cuts to be made, Nissan, Mazda and Suzuki are three of the four worst-performing brands and face heavy cuts...
Just a few years ago, Toyota sullied its reputation as a "green" company somewhat by opposing tougher standards in the US at the time when they were about to bring out their huge pickup (Tacoma as I recall).
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
An interesting series of photos showing the Japanese police fighting crime by checking non-Japanese peoples' IDs and working at a Yasukuni demonstration as well as others. His other photos are well worth a look too.
I'm not so sure that I would have the brass to take photos of cops in some of the situations that he does. I can't assume that I have any enforceable rights.
...The government has long held that Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality under the law, makes any antidiscrimination legislation superfluous, a point reiterated in the report.
"Japan has taken every conceivable measure to fight against racial discrimination," the report's introduction says, later adding that apartheid is unknown in Japan...Japan Times
Are we talking about actual apartheid or legal, open discrimination often encouraged and supported by the government if not originating from it?
Just a few weeks ago, I was talking to a woman who had just recently married a guy from Europe. She was shocked* to discover that the landlord of an apartment they wanted to rent refused because he was a non-Japanese. She was able to get another apartment after finding an additional guarantor (2 in total) that the landlord required because her husband not Japanese. The first landlord refused to rent because he claimed to have rented to a non-Japanese before who did not pay the rent. Therefore, anyone who is not of the pure Japanese blood is untrustworthy.
Her husband is fluent in Japanese (JLPT 1 fluent---also in actual non-test usage) and intends to get Japanese citizenship as he believes that this will help him get a better career. She is skeptical, saying "He's still just a white boy."
What kind of idiots and liars are coming up with this nonsense to BS the UN? Does anyone on earth actually believe it? (Yes, many apologists do, or want to. Others excuse it because it is not as open as in country A, B, or C.)
12:25 *She was not shocked because non-Japanese are discriminated against in housing and other areas, but because she and her husband were being refused housing even though the rental agreement would have been in her name.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Well, gotta add fruit knives to the list of knives to ban. Could it be possible that there are other problems that the government of old, never-had-a-new-idea-and-never-will geezers should look in to? Could it be possible that neither making new rules for the type of knives that can be legally sold, nor attempting to return the the "Beautiful Country" imaginary past will solve them? Could it be possible that there will be no perfect solution? Could there be problems with social welfare that should be looked into? Would the country not be better served by the LDP/DJP actually doing something? Will Fukuda et al take action? BAHAHAHAHA! Is this really an increasingly common problem, or does it just seem so because of the juiciness of the stories for the media?
2025: I love blogger. I can change the font size in "compose" mode with the target highlighted and nothing happens. Then I can check in "edit html" and supposedly font size is "normal", but yet when published it is extra large. Blogger does not have not 12/14 point sizes. That's why it's free(?)
Saturday, August 23, 2008
trying to move back into the political limelight, even though his close associates think it's too early. Japan Times (yet again)
24 August. I apologize for the childish attempt at humor by calling Abe an ExLax PM instead of ex-PM. I have been properly reprimanded.
Friday, August 22, 2008
If we can get the other 70% to do too, it will have a big impact on stabbings and slashings in Japan. Let's say that you are a nut and that you want to die so you decide to kill others so that you will get the death penalty. Wouldn't having to show your ID when you purchase your dagger stop you? Of course it would! Especially if the plan to make certain size and style of daggers illegal becomes law. (Oh. What if you decide to use a regular, freely available at your local grocer kitchen knife as most murders have been doing? Let's not think about that as it would cause confusion.)
The survey [of the shops] included daggers, survival knives, Gurkha knives and other types of blades considered likely to be used as weapons. Everyday tools such as kitchen knives and box cutters, in addition to hatchets, axes and other industrial tools, were not included. Japan Times.
24 August: And they still have not taken any action to restrict the availability of rental trucks. The Akihabara murderer used one to kill several in his rampage through the area.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
I have been able to get completely away from humans only once in the last year when I went to the Nikko area and found an obscure trail leading to the top of one of the more popular mountains there. I never made it to the top as I did not have a real map, but a printed puzzle written by a clown with no sense of scale nor idea of how to make a map. (Real maps useful for doing any serious hiking or climbing are hard to find. I understand that they are or were available at Kinokuniya in Shinjuku, but I have not checked yet.)
Decent English books on aspects of nature concerning Japan are tough to find. Decent does not include books with the standard "mystery of the Orient" slant to them. There are magazines in Japanese concerning mountain climbing (actually hiking) that are somewhat useful in getting an idea of where to go. Otherwise, like most other magazines, their main focus is on selling readers stuff they don't need.
One book that I recently bought is The Green Archipelago by Conrad Totman. It concerns forestry in pre-industrial Japan and is one of the very few in English that I have been able to find. In fact, I have not been able to find much in Japanese beyond the simplistic either, at least in any bookstores. Even if I could, it would be a challenge for me to read it and get as much out of it as I could one written in English.
Oh well. Forget that. Manga-Man Aso is seen by some as angling to slither into the prime minister slot. There is the answer to Japan's problems. And don't worry, about some of his and his supporter's statements in the past. After all, nationalism is not an issue in Japan, yet.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
While not directly Japan-related, NPR's Science Friday has an interview with Dr. Paul Ehrlich in which he discusses the possibility that the planet may be on the verge of a 6th major mass extinction. About 14 minutes through the interview, he discusses why continued population growth is not a good thing and that wealthy countries should be attempting to cut population growth.
I don't live a fantasy of returning to a dreamworld nature and eating pine cones while living in a grass hut, but who knows, 50-100 years from now, Japan's now shrinking population could turn out to have been a blessing in some ways. It may be in better shape than the US with its predicted 440,000,000 people. (2050).
The interview is quite interesting. He asserts that the environment is in much worse shape than scientists are willing to say publicly. (The Boy George administration helps with the silence too.)
Saturday, August 16, 2008
This is nothing new and just goes to show that some of the nutjobs will never change. Fortunately, we have a young generation of non-Japanese (and Japanese) who will put things into the proper touchy-feely, lovey dovey perspective with deep and thoughtful observations:
"I can understand where both sides are coming from," he said of the dispute over visits by politicians to Yasukuni Shrine, but added that Japan's neighbors might be better off if they avoided overreacting and viewing the visits as diplomatic statements and instead "accept it for what it is."
All those mistaken foreigners (and the Japanese who marched in anti-Yasukuni protest Friday) should show more patience and tolerance for the rightwingers of Japan who are visiting Yauskuni in innocence and purity.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Anyway, I got on a relatively empty train home and stood near the door so that I could make a transfer a few stations later without being pushed, shoved, and trampled very much. I am fast enough that I can move through the doors and be out of the way before the main mob tries to rush out all at the same time.
I was again first in line at my transfer station and the train soon arrived with a number of empty seats. Even though I was first in line this time, I did not rush through the doors like a man with his ass on fire in order to get a seat while pretending that I didn't really want one. I leave that sort of thing to the children as it seems un-adult to do it. I have not yet fully adapted to the unique train riding culture.
A few minutes after the train departed, I smelled a rather sulfurous odor. At first I thought it was the breath of a guy who had moved closer to me to talk to his girlfriend, but his mouth was not pointed in my direction. Another thought entered my mind. I looked around to see if former Prime Minister Abe was on the train. I did not see him, so I had to assume that it was some other person with bowel trouble.
Then I started to worry as I often do when this happens. Was it me? After all, I am certain that one could find people---often foreigners---who would claim that Japanese don't fart and even if they did it wouldn't smell bad. You know, someone like the New York Times fashion section reporter who a few years ago wrote an article in which he claimed that the Japanese have "almost no body odor."
I felt somewhat relieved to see another Westerner on the train who could also serve as a suspect in the silent fart attack. Everyone on board was acting innocent and pretending that nothing was wrong, so the guilty person could not be determined.
While enjoying this fun-filled sardine can trip home, I got to thinking about gases and global warming and Japan's leadership in fighting it. Earlier that afternoon I had walked through Denenchofu and was able to keep cool on a very hot day just by standing in front of the open doors of Magi (26 August: oops! Actual name is Maggy.) as they had their AC blowing full blast. A few other shops were doing the same. It used to be even more popular in many areas of Tokyo and one could always enjoy a refreshing breeze standing in front of a shop with its doors wide open and the air conditioning blowing out into the street.
Now this is the way to cool down the earth and save the polar bear. Forget the closing of 24-hour 7-11s at night. More aggressive action is needed. And besides, it's a tradition. Stores in Tokyo have been cooling the sidewalk and planet for decades with their air conditioners. It's all part of the unique relationship with, and respect for, nature.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Oh. Back to G juice.
Last spring around the anniversary of the sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway by Aum Shinrikyou, I was sitting in a Starbucks near Akasaka Mitsuke/Tameikesanno in Tokyo at about 7AM. Suddenly I smelled a very strong, unpleasant odor which quickly began to burn my nose and eyes. Oh My God! thought I. Sarin! Oh no, we're all going to die!
After a minute or so of panic and burning eyes and nose I began to feel somewhat nauseous. I looked around for the source of the deadly fumes. Nothing. Then I noticed an old barcode head (G* with comb-over) sitting a few tables away. The nauseating stench had not been around until gramps sat down. He was the source. He was not, as far as I could tell a member of any cult. In fact, the foul chemical that he had apparently been drinking and bathing in for the last 5 years seemed somewhat familiar---I remembered a similar scent from when my grandfather applied the hair tonic (he called it hair oil) Vitalis. Since he had usually only applied a teaspoon or less, I was not really familiar with the scent of a full barrel's worth.
Now in this case it was a bit confusing as the old geezer in Starbucks had almost no hair on top of his head except for the few remaining strands making up his barcode, so why would he douse himself with hair tonic? Do the old ladies get turned on by the scent? Does it make the barcode easier to read at checkout? Does it keep flies away (likely) or the grim reaper?
I have recently noticed this odor a lot, and it is always emanating from men of more than 60. Often they have being going bald for about 25 years or more. What's amazing is that even though the stuff smells repulsive, they seem to be completely unaware of it. Not only are the old fudds who pour a tanker ship's worth of G juice per day on their skull unaware of the smell, but everyone around them pretends to be too. The people around him are faking. I wish that I were that good at acting, but that day I had to move as soon as I found the source of the stink and I still flee every time he comes in while I am there.
The old boy is still working too. Bet he's popular in his office. The babes must get goosebumps when the man with a comb-over walks in smelling like Chernobyl.
Now back to the important stuff: The shirt-pulling contest is on TV. What's it called? Judo?
*G. GG. jiji. Ojiisan. eg Masahiko Fujiwara.
Saturday, August 09, 2008
Seven years after anthrax was sent through the US mail and killed several people, Uncle Sam investigated and smeared the wrong guy before grudgingly sort of admitting that maybe it may have possibly been less that perfectly correct about him. They admitted this after another scientist whom they were sure was the killer committed suicide which means that the FBI will never have to prove its latest suspicions in court, so we'll just have to trust them. Gee this is even better than the military trials at Guantanamo.
The new suspect---now assumed guilty without trial---had indications of mental problems for years. He may have been a stalker, he admitted being paranoid, he bought a gun (while under FBI surveillance and investigation) and threatened mass murder. Then, again while under government surveillance, he killed himself.
No doubt that the way to greater security is to trade a little freedom for it. Some naysayer once said that folks who do that deserve neither and will ultimately lose both. However, he had some skeletons in his own closest which would negate the validity of anything he said, according to some.
Reuse was acknowledged at 65 percent of the hospitals that provided the blood-check service and 48 percent of the clinics, according to the ministry. Japan Times.
Years ago I read one of the many books about living in Japan in which advice was given on where to go and how to do the normal things for daily life. In a section about visiting a dentist, the author recommended checking the dentist's equipment to make sure that it was clean. I never understood how one was to do this. "Excuse me, may I inspect your tools for signs of bacteria or remnants from your last patient's teeth?" Even if you could check them, how would you know if they were properly sterilized or not?
Perhaps it might be a good idea to ask if the needle being inserted into your body by your medical professional is new or used.
Friday, August 08, 2008
She remained an excellent writer whose blog I regularly visited. Then last fall the frequency of her posts decreased and I stopped checking it regularly. I was saddened today to learn why when I finally visited her blog again. She has been diagnosed with MS which probably explains why she has not been posting so often.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Manga Man Aso, the guy who thinks that the secret to getting foreigners to "understand" Japan's foreign policy (it has one?) is to explain it via comic books; the guy who would like make Japan a country that rich Jewish people would want to move to, has compared the LDP's opposition to Nazis. (Also here and here.)
It's good that we have folks like Aso who speak what could be referred to as their mind. That way, folks can get a better idea of what these semi-fossilized relics really think. Then we have to ask ourselves how they get elected and reelected again and again. After all, this is a democracy and someone, in fact a large number of someones, must support them. Entertaining these ancient ones might be, but you have to wonder what they would do if they had the full power and free reign to move the country their way?
This is the same Aso whose family business used Korean slave labor during WW2 when Japan was Nazi Germany's ally. (Did Aso's family object to that alliance?) This is the same Aso who said those with blue eyes and blond hair weren't trusted in the Middle East but Japanese with yellow faces could be, thereby displaying among other things his beyond shallow knowledge of the region. This is the same Aso who could be in line to become prime minister should the Japanese public continue to allow the LDP to dominate the post-war government. At least we'll know him.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Japan is rated as having "Systematic failure to uphold safeguards." But that isn't so bad if you consider George Bush's USA, or Britain, Russia, or China and a few others. They are rated as "Endemic surveillance societies."
From the ranking:
- No explicit right to privacy in constitution though Supreme Court has interpreted a substantial right as falling under Article 13 on right to life an liberty
- No comprehensive privacy law, instead only guidelines for specific industries; and some legislation in some sectors
- Government created a privacy seal, but serious shortcomings have been identified
- Judicial warrants for interception, and warrants only last ten days initially, though application appears to be overly broad and abuses have emerged
- Surveillance cameras continue to spread despite constitutional issue, though at least one ward has enacted an ordinance to limit rapid increase of cameras
- Tagging and tracking of children continues
- Genetic test abuses across country, and only guidelines have been released to deal with the problem
- Developing DNA database though court order is required to take DNA samples
- Resident registration law; extensive legal activity at the moment with court cases outstanding
- Extensive data breach problems
- Only second country to implement vast biometric collection at borders
- Ratified convention on Cybercrime
- No right to privacy in constitution, though search and seizure protections exist in 4th Amendment; case law on government searches has considered new technology
- No comprehensive privacy law, many sectoral laws; though tort of privacy
- FTC continues to give inadequate attention to privacy issues, though issued self-regulating privacy guidelines on advertising in 2007
- State-level data breach legislation has proven to be useful in identifying faults in security
- REAL-ID and biometric identification programs continue to spread without adequate oversight, research, and funding structures
- Extensive data-sharing programs across federal government and with private sector
- Spreading use of CCTV
- Congress approved presidential program of spying on foreign communications over U.S. networks, e.g. Gmail, Hotmail, etc.; and now considering immunity for telephone companies, while government claims secrecy, thus barring any legal action*
- No data retention law as yet, but equally no data protection law
- World leading in border surveillance, mandating trans-border data flows
- Weak protections of financial and medical privacy; plans spread for 'rings of steel' around cities to monitor movements of individuals
- Democratic safeguards tend to be strong but new Congress and political dynamics show that immigration and terrorism continue to leave politicians scared and without principle
- Lack of action on data breach legislation on the federal level while REAL-ID is still compelled upon states has shown that states can make informed decisions
- Recent news regarding FBI biometric database raises particular concerns as this could lead to the largest database of biometrics around the world that is not protected by strong privacy law
*The US is no longer "considering" this change in law to give immunity to phone companies. It passed last month with the help of Senator "Change" Obama who originally opposed it.
Sunday, August 03, 2008
In the land of the rising sun, no one can seem to agree on when it does. Rise, that is. Or set, for that matter. "Everybody has different ideas about it," said Mitsuhito Araya, Araya likes daylight-saving time. He has no problem coming to work at 8 instead of 9 - it's a "fresh experience," he said. But he seldom leaves the office earlier...LA Times via Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.
Why are printed newspapers having such financial difficulties? I couldn't guess.
Naturally, this is at least partially due to Japanese culture. As the late, great Ruth Benedict* said, Japan is a shame-based culture. Therefore, Yasuoka says that "the majority of people support the idea of dying gracefully to pay for a crime" and that life without parole "is cruel, and does not fit with Japanese culture.**" (quotes from a Japan Times article.)
I for one am very thrilled that Fukuda has replaced his cabinet. Now we will see real change and forward movement as a bunch of new retro-grouches of advanced years replace the old bunch of retro-grouches of advanced years and we can confidently rush headlong into the 1960s.
*Ms. Benedict is the author of the well-known The Chrysanthemum and the Sword in which she implies that Japan is a shame-based society vs. the guilt-based society of the West (the US in particular). She based a large part of her research on interviews of Japanese prisoners of war which may have been a bit of an unusual segment of Japanese society. There is an ongoing debate (here and here, for example) about her work which is surprising only because it is ongoing.
**Yasuoka may have a bit of a point here---of course the point is a few hundred years old:
...[Edo Period] prisons as there were held suspects awaiting verdicts or criminals awaiting sentencing. The sentence might be death (by crucifixion, for example), or exile, or flogging. But it was almost never a specified period of incarceration. The concept was scarcely known, and facilities all but nonexistent. Severity generally won the day in the name of public order...(From The Japan Times Tokyo Confidential which is based on stories from the tabloids. Some people consider the tabloids a bit more reliable---or at least less under political control than MSM.)
Saturday, August 02, 2008
For an even more thorough discussion on nationalism and its various forms in Japan, see Nationalisms of Japan by Brian McVeigh.
Perhaps the editorial writer should take a look at both the Harris post and most especially McVeigh's book. Could be educational. And perhaps the nearly non-existent nationalism which isn't an issue actually does exist in many forms.
Friday, August 01, 2008
The Department of Homeland Security may now confiscate your laptop or any other electronic device which is capable of holding information in digital or analog form and do so without any suspicion of wrongdoing. This is necessary to preserve freedom in the freest country on earth. In fact, any move to restrict the ability of government employees to freely do whatever they want would, in the words of the freedom-loving Homeland Security Secretary, "have a dangerous, chilling effect as officers' often split-second assessments are second-guessed."*
I agree. Now if it weren't for that pesky US Bill of Rights, we could just allow unwarranted searches at the whim of any government official anywhere in the USA at anytime. Thank goodness that the Bill of Rights does NOT apply at border entry points to the US.
The USA does not discriminate against non-citizens with this policy. They will treat everyone equally---like common sh*t if they so desire.
Let's see. You get off of your 11 hour overseas flight to the US. You are a bit tired and touchy after being sardined in a tin tube at 40,000 feet eating the delicious airline food. (Do they still serve it, or are we getting 3 peanuts now?)
Your friendly, polite, customs officer comes up to you to ask you questions to determine if a sleazeball like you should be allowed into the US. Your US citizenship means nothing yet. Not a citizen? Look sorta Middle-Eastern? No problem. He or she asks you several idiotic questions scientifically designed to determine if you are a threat to all that is 'merican. "What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?" (Joking, Little Bush's "Justice" Department asks that only of potential employees.) You get a bit irritated and give a reply which does not show proper respect for your bureaucrat questioner, "I admire absolute morons who achieve high office and then attempt to dismantle the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights and are successful at doing so with the support of supposed political opposition."
Wrong move. Your friendly Customs Officer cannot do a lot just because you have not worshiped him/her or Georgy properly, but he or she can take that $5000 dSLR camera that you foolishly brought with you and send it off for an unlimited period to be analyzed for terrorist plans, child porn, photos of plants that may be drugs, or grandma in her undies. Don't worry, your cooperation will rid the world of evil.
Of course, that sort of abuse would never happen. Customs officers are professionals. They are specially selected and trained so that they would never let peevish human emotions cloud their fairness and adherence to the law. Except in this case---they are adhering to the law.
Think Obama or McCain will change this policy if it is still in effect after the election? Of course. You can tell by their vigorous and unrelenting protests concerning the excesses of the Boy George "for security" policies.
*What could possibly be "split-second" about deciding whether or not one has a suspicion of wrong-doing?
(Edited again as neither I nor Blogger spellcheck can spell and I always think of something else after posting the first time. I too, hope to achieve higher office.)
Related article at reason.com.
Read the article Japan: Recession-Bound as Exports Slow (which I found via a link at Japan Economy & News Blog in which Ken Worsley writes on the topic) then read the very interesting comment by tubki below it. We shall see, I suppose. I doubt that Japan will be able to switch much if any of its US exports to China's middle class anytime soon. Where are most of China's exports going? If exports to the US slow for China too, where will the middle class get the money to absorb all those extra imports from Japan?
(Note that in the comments on Japan Economy and News Blog that there is some debate over the most accurate definition of a recession. Perhaps it is difficult to explain precisely for economists, but the definition of a recession in the US is actually quite simple: Is there a major national election coming up? If so, the US is always in recession. When Clinton was running in 1992, we were suffering from the worst economy since the Great Depression.)