Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"Snake legs"

At the beginning of the Golden Week holidays, an article on the near irrelevance of the Japanese court system. This is pretty well known, courts have often found that the present government or past governments of WW2 era are in violation of the present constitution, or were guilty of war-related wrong-doings. The government then ignores the rulings.

Japanese courts have extremely limited powers to directly bring about change in the real world. Nobody in Japan seems to get thrown in jail for violating a court order, and when Japan's Supreme Court has repeatedly hinted that something may be unconstitutional — the geographical imbalance in Diet representation, for example — nothing much happens.

And those who criticize the system take big risks:

Judge Kaoru Inoue wrote about cases such as these in his book "Shiho no Shaberisugi" ("Blabbermouth Judiciary"), criticizing Japanese courts' practice of issuing rulings that he says have "dasoku" ("snake legs," or something that's useless). He was subsequently driven out of the judiciary — ostensibly for the reason that his judicial rulings were too short, causing complaints from litigants!

But none of this is really news. Perfect for a holiday. Article here.

(About 20 years ago when Japan still mattered internationally, there was some debate over whether it was or was not a real democracy. Don't know if that was ever settled, but we will have to admit that it passes for one.)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Why do the Japanese Police go after non-Japanese?

'Cause if they mess with Japanese school girls, they will get a can of whup ass opened on them:

A pair of patrolmen were attacked that day — by three teenage girls. It started when one of the officers admonished two of the girls for riding double on a bicycle.

But the females were in no mood for complying. One shoved the cop, prodding him in the chest, screaming, "There's nothing you can do about it!" Then her friend kicked him in the leg. As the other cop collared the girls, a third girl arrived at the scene and spat in his face.

A few months ago a young teenage boy and girl were riding double on their bicycle in front of the police box near my apartment. A law enforcement professional who had been inside sitting on his already chair-shaped buttocks sprang into action! Leaping out of his box he yelled, "Don't ride double!"

The young couple replied "OK" and slowed for a few yards, then returned to normal speed and completely ignoring Dirty Harry continued to wobble down the street riding double. Tokyo's Finest slunk back into his box without a whimper.

I thought this was the usual dereliction of duty until I read this article. Now I understand that he feared for his safety and perhaps had a sudden attack of Abe-itis---bowel trouble.

(Need I say it? Nobody was speaking English---it's my translation into what likely be said in English in this situation. It is not a literal translation.)

10:49pm: I had to correct the title as I forgot to write "police" in it.

A high risk business

in which employees have few rights and nearly no guarantees. The eikaiwa chains are bad, but frankly the corporate-focused companies aren't a heck of a lot better. It all depends on the integrity, trustworthiness, and the loyalty of management. That can all go out the window when the economy and profits head south. Non-Japanese, in particular those who do not understand the few rights that employees have, are especially vulnerable. We have seen that even public/private schools and universities are little better. In my opinion and experience, there are less that half a dozen English language "teaching"/ "corporate training" related companies in the Tokyo area that are trustworthy at all. The rest are half-crooked or filled with the most incompetent management that one can imagine. I cannot think of a single eikaiwa chain that anyone with a choice should consider employment with. Not one, including the big B---unless they have recently changed.

Foreign and Japanese employees hired by Nova Corp.'s successor complained of unreasonable dismissals and pay cuts Saturday as they marked the half-year anniversary of the giant language school's collapse. Japan Times.

The lesson? DO NOT come to Japan to "teach" English as a foreign language unless you consider it a one year out-of-college lark. If you do, and want to remain in Japan, look for a decent job---preferably out of the field entirely or at least with one of the half-dozen or fewer decent companies and generally they require some sort of professional qualifications/experience. That is unless you are satisfied with lifelong under-achievement, glass ceilings, and career suicide.

Problems for Blinky Ishihara?

What could it be? The Chinese? Koreans? All non-Japanese? Women? The African-American men in Guam? Which of Blinky's nemisis are causing trouble?

In 2005, our courageous bigot started a bank because the other Japanese banks were in a mess and reluctant to hand out money to just about any fool who asked as had been the practice during the Bubble. In 2008, our bigoted genius' bank was mired in its own mess due to bad loans. Blinky denied any responsibility saying that it was the fault of the incompetents whom he appointed. He was even able to get the Tokyo Metropolitan ASSembly to approve a taxpayer bailout of his idiocy.

Now Blinky will likely escape any serious personal liability for this as he seems to be as slippery as Slick Willie was, but with only about half the sense.

Japan's Financial Services Agency said it will investigate ShinGinko Tokyo Ltd., the unprofitable lender founded by Tokyo's government in 2005.

The FSA, which announced the probe yesterday on its Web site, didn't provide any details. Bloomberg.

We wish him good luck

Taiwan said Saturday it would provide legal assistance to a Tibetan man with Taiwan citizenship who was arrested while trying to disrupt the Olympic torch relay in Japan earlier Saturday.

"We have contacted Japanese police and will provide necessary legal assistance to Tashi Tsering. When his 48-hour detention incommunicado is lifted, our representative in Japan will visit him," Phoebe Yeh, acting spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, said. Bangkok Post.

Perhaps since this is a worldwide political issue and since Japan is not exactly pro-China, he will have a chance. Had he been protesting at Yasukuni and been beaten by rightist thugs, he might have less of a chance of getting out quickly.

He is being detained for "obstructing police" which seems to have a rather flexible meaning in Japan.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Sneaky Foreign investors being stubborn

..."The inevitable conclusion of the government's logic is that any foreigners, who do not say they won't sell their shares for 20 years, and who do not keep quiet, are not welcome to invest"...

...Under the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law, foreign investors seeking to acquire a 10 percent or more stake in Japanese firms deemed critical to national security, such as utilities and arms makers, must first gain government approval....

....The government declined to clarify the meaning of "national security" and "maintenance of public order," it said, adding that the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry also did not hold enough two-way dialogue. [sic]...

From the Japan Times article: TCI defies Japan's request to drop attempt to expand J-Power stake.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Another mystery (of the Orient) solved

Back in February, David Pilling, who works at the Financial Times in Tokyo doing god knows what, wrote a piece on how mysterious and inscrutable Japan is to him. This is from a man who has lived in Tokyo for 6 years. Perhaps he lives in a bubble for most folks who have lived here that length of time lose the Disneyland view of Japan.

One of the things which confused David to no end was the fact that the Japanese call "green" traffic lights "blue." He did not think it strange that native English speakers call "blue" traffic lights "green," but he is a journalist, a seeker of truth.

Well it turns out that few languages other than English make a clear distinction between green and blue:

The traditional subject of the tug of war over language and perception is color. Because languages divide the spectrum differently, researchers have asked whether language affected how people see color. English, for example, distinguishes blue from green. Most other languages do not make that distinction. (When Language Holds the Answer, by Christine Kenneally. New York Times. Here while it lasts.)

Oh darn. Them thar mysterious and uniquely unique Japanese folks seem a little less mysterious and unique. What does Mr. Pilling seem?

Oh, and have you noticed? Some traffic lights in Japan ARE blue, even by an English speaker's definition. Or perhaps I am turning Japanese.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

They tell me of an uncloudy day

Oh, finally, an April day without rain. Won't last though. Although Japan is the only country in the whole universe with four clearly distinct seasons, this year April reminds me of home. Rain, rain, and more rain....

Speaking of cloudy, I recently watched a US news program about healthcare outside of the US. Japan was included. The Japan segment opened with the immediately identifiable Japanese music (shamisen?) which one almost never hears in modern Tokyo and a shot of the talking head reporter in front of Shibuya station which looks nothing like most of Japan. A shallow sugar-coated examination of Japan's healthcare system followed. (Japan's system isn't bad, but it is likely to face huge problems as society ages.)

Perhaps there will be more details about this "report" later as sugar-coating myth-makers are a bit irritating. Especially irritating is that this report was supposed to give Americans an idea of how other countries handle healthcare and thus provide some useful information in the struggle to improve the U.S.' healthcare mess. More shallow half-truths are not what is needed. A hint of the possible future of Japan's healthcare system is here.

...it isn't universal at all. Only those who pay get in.

US taxpayers helped fund that report (public TV). Where is the nutty rightwing when you need it?

But it is Sunday and I am trying not to think of such things...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Nutjob Watch: Mixed reactions for Yasukuni

A special preview of the film Yasukuni was provided yesterday for groups of rightwingers in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Some of the fine fellows were miffed and wanted the film banned:

... the movie should not be shown in Japan because it would give the impression that the war Japan waged was an act of aggression.

My god no! Everyone knows that it was a war of compassion
. Even the recent beating of young Japanese protesters by rightwingers at Yasukuni as shown in the film was an act of kindness.

Others were less enthusiastic about censoring free speech:

"Let many people see this film. . . . We need to let people know such an anti-Japanese film was produced with their tax money said an executive of a rightwing group.

We do not know (yet) if any LDP politicians were there to stir things up.

Article by Takahiro Fukuda at at The Japan Times Online.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Nutjob Watch

The esteemed (and dignified) Ms. Yoshiko Sakurai's recent newspaper ad and one of her blog posts is discussed on Shisaku in the post: Saved by the Bowel.

Others on the nutty right seem to have a different view of the US-China relationship than Ms. Sakurai. See Observing Japan: Komori on US China policy.


The government will expand the number of official Japanese-language education facilities overseas to about 100 from 10 in the next three years to cope with rising demand for courses and to counter the spread of Chinese language and culture abroad. (Emphasis mine.) Japan Times Online.

The government is also planning to institute language proficiency requirements for long-term residents in Japan via a test of readin' , grammar, and listenin' skills. No assessment of actual communicative skills is as of yet being considered as far as I know.

Is this demand being created by the proposed new test? Who are the people demanding these courses? Are they really people interested in manga? Are there big lines of people waiting to get into Japan for jobs as it declines? Where were these schools in the 80s when demand was huge? How could this counter the spread the language and culture of a country (China) rising in power and influence in favor of a country in which many of the leaders and elites have proposed giving up?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pure Hypocrisy?

Nooooooooo......of course not.

Japan is rejecting a proposal from Britain's The Children's Investment Fund to raise its stake in a major electricity company, citing risks to public order, government officials said Wednesday.

Nothing new or unexpected here, and I am sure that it can be explained away as being rejected because it is a critical industry. Just like Bulldog sauces.

Never get arrested in Japan

You ARE going to jail if you do. You will probably be convicted regardless of guilt or innocence. You were already arrested and that means that you are "guilty."

Debito.org has a post: Rough Guide on what to do if and when arrested in Japan.

Probably good advice to keep in mind from someone who went through it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Hillary comes out in support of the 2nd Amendment, and Japan

comes out in opposition of protectionism. I expect Hillary to start telling us of her NRA life membership dating from her combat tour in Bosnia, and Japan to start claiming that free trade is something uniquely Japanese and that only the Japanese can understand it.

Japan expressed hope Saturday that the International Monetary Fund will play a more active role in monitoring the movements of sovereign wealth funds because such an involvement of the international body would help minimize "protectionism" in countries receiving their investment.

....SWFs becoming large shareholders in financial institutions in major economic powers could raise concern about the control of the financial industry by those funds and lead to protectionist moves, such as restricting their investment, in those countries. Japan Times.

Fukuda's party, the LDP, is considering starting a sovereign fund in Japan and is concerned . Some people are likely to be laughing and giggling at the idea of Japan complaining about restrictions on foreign investment, but this is serious. It means that it is bad if other countries restrict Japanese investment, but not if Japan restricts foreign investment in Japan. Japan, you see is special and unique. There is nothing hypocritical about it.

Nor is there anything hypocritical about Hillary calling Obama patronizing.

Japan's sudden concerns about protectionism is nicely addressed on Japan Economy & News Blog.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Hatoyama shows his love for human life

We all remember a few months ago when he said that Japan executes people, because it values human life much more than Europe does. He had also complained that signing death warrants was a bit troublesome for him and that there should be some sort of automatic process---I imagine a conveyor belt from the courtroom to the gallows....

Hatoyama apparently took time out from conversations with his al Qaeda connections and signed the death warrants even though doing so was a bit of a bother. Four inmates, whom if truly guilty, are hard to feel any sympathy for were hanged yesterday in Tokyo.

Hatoyama made the "solemn" announcement at a news conference. He has changed the old policy of the government killing inmates without bothering to give their names. Those are now being released to the media.

Japan Times Story here.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Bataan Death March

which I am sure the nutty right and their apologists will claim never occurred or is exaggerated:

And they immediately started beating guys if they didn’t stand right or if they were sitting down. We didn’t know where we were going... And all our possessions were taken away from us. Some of them had rings that they just cut the fingers off, and take the rings. They poured the water out of my canteen to be sure that I didn’t have any, any water. I saw them buried alive. When a guy was bayoneted or shot, laying in the road and the convoys were coming along, I saw trucks that would just go out of their way to run over the guy in the middle of the road. And when by the time you have fifteen or twenty trucks run over you, look like a smashed tomato or something. And I saw people that had their throats cut because they would take their bayonets and stick it out through the corner of the truck at night and it would just be high enough to cut their throats. And beating with a rifle butt until there just was no more life in them.

...when a Japanese officer came up, looked us over, and selected a rather tall, good-looking soldier, who was just in front of me, out of the line. The officer, for no apparent reason, turned over this man to a group of soldiers who took him across the road, tied to a tree and used him for bayonet practice. From my place in line, I saw the whole thing. After he was dead they took his body and threw it into a large bamboo clump. Then, just as I got to the hydrant, the Japanese soldiers pushed me aside and washed the blood off of their bayonets.
Japan Focus.


Perhaps these guys are liars or old and confused like the nutjobs (Abe et. al.) claim the former sex slaves are.

Should one's memory need refreshed on just a small portion of the Imperial Japanese Army's atrocities in WW2, the Japan Focus article is a good start. Just in case one is beginning to be swayed by the revisionist fantasies of the LDP loonies and their buddies...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The extreme right and its LDP enablers

Japan Focus has an article expanding on the Japan Times version's coverage of right-wing atrocity deniers in the LDP and their connection with the most extreme right groups and thugs in Japan. Most recently, they have tried to shut down the screening of the film Yasukuni while at the same time denying that they want to shut it down:

In a now familiar pattern, ultra-nationalists who follow in the shadow of establishment politicians, threatened retribution against anyone who handled the movie. Anonymous bloggers posted contact details for the distribution company, the Japan Arts Council and every theatre showing it. Anonymous death threats have been issued against Dragon Films, the company that produced "Yasukuni."

The burying of Li’s film follows a string of similar incidents. In February, Tokyo’s Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa cancelled a conference by the Japan Teacher’s Union – a popular ultra-right target -- after learning that 100 right-wing sound trucks turned up to last year’s conference venue. The hotel’s decision has been bitterly attacked by union officials. Fear of intimidation ensures that there are still no Japan screenings planned for any of the dozen or so foreign movies made to commemorate the anniversary of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre by the Imperial Japanese Army. (And remember former PM Abe's role in quashing a NHK program concerning "comfort women.")

“My sense is that we have entered a very dangerous period for freedom of expression and press freedom in this country,” says Tajima Yasuhiko, a professor of journalism in Tokyo’s Sophia University. “That is the background to these cases. The idea that people are entitled to express different opinions and views is withering."

...we felt we had no choice after considering the safety of our customers,” explains...a spokesman for Q-AX Cinema in Shibuya. But Director Li rejects these claims and says only political pressure explains the sudden decision by all four Tokyo cinemas to pull the plug. Full article here.

Noooooooooooo. This can't be. It's alarmist. Everyone knows that Japan is a different country than it was before WW2. OK, that is obviously true, but how different? How deep does that go? Have these nutjobs of the right-wing changed? How committed to democracy is a country in which the democratic form of government was imposed on it? Yes, there was a short period of the beginnings of democracy before the war--the Taisho Democracy---but it did only lasted a short 5 years.

If the far right and its LDP allies continue to gain influence, what kind of government will Japan have? We keep hearing that the days of the LDP are numbered. Of course we have heard that for 20 years. Let's hope this time that the beginning of a real two party system in Japan is not just another fantasy like it has been in the past.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The LDP and the thugs of the right

A woman takes the stage and says: "We are committed to rebuilding a proud Japan, where the prime minister can openly worship at Yasukuni. We will devote ourselves to speeding the day when the Emperor too can worship here."

As she rejoins the spectators and the familiar chords of "Kimigayo" groan from the speakers, two young protesters shout anti-Yasukuni slogans. The protesters are hauled away from the stage, beaten by ultra-rightists and chased from the shrine as an enraged old man repeatedly screams at them to "Go back to China." The two men, who are Japanese, are then arrested by the police.

That woman politician was of course Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Tomomi Inada, today widely seen as the main critical force against the movie [Yasukuni] and a leading historical revisionist....

"Politicians know that when they, say, make pronouncements about these issues that we will take action," says Yoshisada Takahashi, who heads a Tokyo-based ultra-nationalist group.

It goes on and on. Abe was a stooge of the right who became Prime Minister. Aso awaits his chance after the more moderate Fukuda. Of course not all of the return-to-the-past rightists are LDP members. Former LDP member and now Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara is another of the rightwing crowd and not only because he dislikes immigrants, women, and about everything else. (See the article to learn just a little more of Ishihara.)

David McNeill has a piece in the Japan Times about the "politicians who flirt with fascists" to attempt to stop the showing of the Li Ying documentary, Yasukuni. That attempt may be failing as at least 20 theaters have decided to show it in spite of the risks. Article here.

Li discusses the film and his reasons for making it here.

...It was a shock. It left me shaking. I couldn't believe it. I felt like I was standing on a battlefield. It was a shock to experience such a scene, here in Japan so many years after the war. That people still feel a sense of honor and pride toward such a scene, it's unthinkable...

Both articles provide a strong refutation of the 2002 Eugene A. Matthews article in the CFR below.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

And I thought Edwin Reischauer was long gone

until I read this from 2002 CFR article:
...China and Korea in particular have taken great exception to the textbooks’ handling of Japan’s atrocities in Nanking and the treatment of the issue of “comfort women” from Korea, China, Indonesia, and the Philippines. It is important, however, to keep this issue in perspective: historical accounts are subjective, and every country teaches revisionist history to some extent...
...Sounds like words right out of the mouths of some of the extreme rightwing here---many push this very view. Everyone does it, so if Japan pretends it did no wrongs in the war it's all just fine, just a different interpretation of history.
Prime Minister Koizumi’s visits to the Yasukuni Shrine have also raised concerns that Japan is becoming too nationalistic. It is important to bear in mind that while Yasukuni Shrine houses class-A war criminals; it also holds the remains of Japanese citizens who have died in the service of their country since the 19th century, much like Arlington National Cemetery...
Yea, it's just another Arlington. The Japanese rightwing argument again.
Shintaro Ishihara, Governor of Tokyo, has been regarded as a staunch nationalist because of his strong, offensive remarks concerning immigrants. However, Ishihara does favor a U.S. alliance because he recognizes that Japan cannot defend itself alone right now...
That ain't all Blinky has said, but our author couldn't be bothered with anything too controversial. And Ishihara is considered a nationalist "because of his...remarks concerning immigrants"? Was that a joke?
...The nationalist movement in Japan does not have to gain widespread popularity for it to gain widespread influence. If some of the views put forth by this movement become popular enough, they could garner enough backing to influence the Japanese government...
Has it not had widespread influence for years? Does it not hold the LDP by the gonads? It did in 2002 when this article was written and it does now.
Japan currently does not have any fascist leaders poised to come to power, but there are some politicians with nationalist tendencies who are popular enough to warrant U.S. attention. A study of political history suggests that the United States should be concerned and should definitely keep this movement on its radar screen.
Ahh, a strong, decisive conclusion. Who would have thunk of that if the author, Eugene A. Matthews, hadn't told us. Perhaps this was a briefing for Little Bush.

This reminds me of Reischauer's 1977 (?) "classic": The Japanese. You read it and couldn't always say that this or that was entirely wrong or untrue, but you knew it was pure sugar-coating---anything less than attractive being sweetened up and explained/excused away.

The full Council of Foreign Relations 2002 article is here.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

When I was in college, one of the things that especially interested me about Japan was the trade issues. At the time, I suffered from what seems to be a frequent affliction of folks studying Japan (or any other country/area) in that I gave more of a benefit of a doubt to the Japanese side than I did to the US position. I remember one thesis I wrote on the US/Japanese trade dispute which would have made Reischauer with its sugar-coating of Japan's trade policies.

A very quick refresher from the Council of Foreign Relations online debates:

We have been down this road before, and know how to deal with such situations. Two decades ago, Japan built an export powerhouse behind an artificially cheap currency and protected home markets. This continued until 1985, when it began to threaten the stability of the world financial system. The problem then, as now, was the U.S. trade deficit.

The Reagan administration, much like the current White House, doggedly ignored the over-valued dollar through its first term while millions of jobs disappeared and thousands of factories closed. Finally, Congress acted and passed a measure (HR 3035) which hit countries like Japan, Brazil, and Korea, that maintained large U.S. trade surpluses, with a 25 percent tariff.

In a complete about-face, Treasury Secretary James Baker then negotiated the Plaza Accord with the G-5 (Japan, Germany, France and the U.K.), on September 22, 1985. The next day, the Federal Reserve and Central banks in Japan and Europe executed coordinated currency interventions that began to drive the dollar down. The dollar continued to fall until the Louvre Accord 16 months later, which stabilized its level again. The dollar fell 29 percent to 46 percent against the G-5 currencies in this period.

The U.S. never imposed a tariff in the Plaza era—HR 3035 never even became law. The mere threat, combined with concerns about a potential financial crisis, were enough to get the deal done. Interesting debate on free trade for the next US administration at CFR here.

Of course, this did not resolve or even slow the escalating trade disputes/trade deficit with Japan at the time. Japan simply changed strategies. Uncle Sam didn't as we practice "free trade" as a religion. Security to us means military security. Japan is not so simple-minded and does not need to be as Uncle Sam provides Japan's military security at discount.

I grew up religious before becoming agnostic (thanks to Professor Blackwell and a course on Buddhism). I was also a member of the Church of Free Trade, until I finally realized that there is no truly free trade between countries on this planet. It is all managed. Some just do it more thoroughly than others.

Free trade for our products, not yours

Free trade agreements are usually anything but free trade, but the one that Australia is trying to negotiate with Japan is an example of how the Japanese government views free trade: We get to send you our products freely and put your less efficient companies and employees out of work, but in any area in which your country has a competitive edge, we will fight to the death for the right to restrict it as much as possible.

Agriculture is a sensitive areas with most countries and I wonder if there will ever truly be what passes for free trade there. The USA certainly does not have free trade of agricultural products. (Can you buy low-priced imported sugar in the US? If so, it must be a recent change.)

[Australian] Agicultural Minister Tony Burke has warned the Japanese they cannot have a free trade agreement under the conditions being sought by their negotiators.

"We absolutely cannot agree to the exclusions (of food commodities) Japan is putting forward," Mr Burke said yesterday, responding to the Japanese refusal to make liberalisation offers on wheat, beef, dairy products, sugar and rice - Australia's main agricultural exports.

...insist any agreement Australia signs must be fully consistent with World Trade Organisation principals, including comprehensive farm trade reform....(Gonna fail here.)

The last round of FTA talks in late February broke up badly after Japan laid out its demands for widespread agricultural exclusions.

Australia has not yet embarked on a free trade negotiation that has failed to produce and agreement and Mr Burke yesterday declined to rule out the possibility the Australia-Japan process would break down irreparably. By Peter Alford at theaustraliannews.com

Will the Australians, like the US, ultimately bow to the Japanese position and claim victory? (Remember Bill Clinton's humorous auto and auto parts deal in the mid-nineties?)

My fantasy of a simple trade agreement with Japan:

Of course we understand that you have your own uniquely unique culture and tradition and therefore you should be exempt from the rules. Naturally, this prevents you from allowing your citizens to make the choice of whether or not to buy our products. That's fine. It's your country. However, you will not be able to sell one single made-in-Japan component, product or service in our country. None. Period. Neither will you be sending your government bureaucrats to our universities to learn our technologies, laws, sciences, or anything else either.

Should you ever decide that you want to be both in and of the world and are willing to allow the same type of access to your markets as you get in ours, please come back and see us with serious, concrete proposals. Otherwise, don't waste our time again. And take your Toyotas back home with you.

That is a fantasy, of course. It'll never happen. Especially the university part, for if a US university gets a whiff of Japanese money, they seem to lose control pursuing it. (I have been personally involved it this and it was an eye-opening experience.)

Thursday, April 03, 2008

More "discipline" is the answer

to crimes by a very few in the military:

...Mr. Schieffer expressed his “deep regret and sorrow for the murder that occurred here.” Describing the killing as a “terrible event” and “terrible stain,” Mr. Schieffer promised to take measures to prevent future incidents.

The mayor said it was “extremely regrettable” that a United States serviceman had committed a crime despite Yokosuka’s past requests that the American military strengthen discipline.

On Wednesday night, the Navy said it would restrict the nighttime movement of its personnel at Yokosuka and the sale of alcohol until Monday... NYTonline

Everyone, including Ambassador Schieffer, the mayor, and the Navy knows that this sort of action is just meaningless diplobabble. Pure nonsense. They apparently think someone on this planet is stupid enough to believe that such a thing is possible or (or if so, that it would be fair to the rest of the people in the military.) OK, there are some who are that dumb.

The real answer: Pull the US out of Japan and rewrite the security treaty to require a more equal relationship (for example, Japan will spill blood to assist the US in some situations like the US is bound to do for Japan now.) This will not happen. We will hear more horsepooky like the above. Nothing effective will be done.

I wanna say give him the rope

But I am not such a big proponent of the death penalty anymore.

In addition to killing a man, this murderer has done damage to the image of the military and the US among many (and not only Japanese) in Japan. He was already AWOL before he stabbed a man to death. Obviously, he was less than representative of anything other than a crook even before he killed. Oh please, let's not hear about some childhood issue that makes this all understandable.

The sailor suspected of murdering a cab driver has confessed to U.S. military investigators. Now a confession does not mean someone is actually guilty unless evidence supports the confession and the investigators followed the law during the investigation. (5 April: under US law, not necessarily Japanese law) He has not been convicted yet. So I am taking a leap in saying that he is a murdering sleazeball. I will have to add the word "alleged."

Article here.

Rightwing nutter victory. Part II

Unfortunately, the April 1 story was not an April Fool's joke:

A campaign of harassment by nationalists has led several cinemas to cancel screenings of an award-winning movie about Yasukuni Shrine, the controversial memorial that venerates Japan's war dead and war criminals alike.

..."We had to give up [on showing the film] because we could not guarantee the safety of our staff."

... many here say officials contributed to the backlash against the film. In March, a group of lawmakers demanded an advance screening of "Yasukuni," ostensibly to determine whether its production was an appropriate use of public finds.
LA Times.

The thugs win again. Former PM Abe's "Beautiful Country" fellow travelers are still hard at work. Yes, the crowd that Abe courted with his absurd claims of Japanese military innocence in recruiting and forcing women into sexual slavery during WW2. These groups seem to have an awful lot of power for people who supposedly represent a minority view. Of course the right-wing has been in bed with the LDP since the party's creation. Without the extreme right-wing, would there even be an LDP? By extreme right, I mean the emperor worshiping, war crime deniers.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Can't be true, everyone in Japan is too polite for this

Secret film will show slaughter to the world
Covert operation finally exposes Taiji's annual dolphin horror
By Boyd Harnell
From the Japan Times

For the first time ever, graphic feature-length footage of the annual slaughter of some 2,500 dolphins in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, has been captured during a unique yearlong covert operation.

...local police warned the whalers and their supporters off any repeat of violence or threats of violence such as had happened before. In fact, Nigel Barker, a former Australian resident in Taiji, says he was threatened with bodily harm for providing The Japan Times with details of the whalers' brutal methods. In another incident, [photographer] Psihoyos said he, too, was threatened by whalers, who said, "We will kill you."

This can't possibly be true in Japan. Now were it a non-Japanese threatening to kill someone, I could believe it. As far as the supposed depiction of the slaughter of dolphins goes, how could that be true with the uniquely unique relationship with nature? And if this is true, why haven't we seen stories and film of the dolphin kill on Japanese TV? (At least I haven't seen it.)

3 April: It is not that killing an animal for food is wrong. I heard one guy criticize the Japanese because many think the dolphin or whale is just another animal. Aren't they? I think the question is whether or not the species is threatened or endangered; whether or not they are killed as humanely as possible and whether or not the meat is actually used for food. (It is, although heavily contaminated with mercury.) Arguing cuteness or intelligence is going to be a tougher sell.

Not only Hillary and Bill, but

the rest of the cast eagerly awaits return to the White House:

Disloyalty That Merits An Insult
By James Carville
Saturday, March 29, 2008; Page A15
Washington Post.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

"Anti-Japan" Yasukuni film canceled.

Apparently, right-wing nutjobs were threatening theaters which planned to show the film. The nutjobs have a lot of power in this way in Japan. Recently, they were able stop a hotel from hosting an event by the teacher's union. They have been known to get radio talk shows "censored" and likely much more.

[A spokesman] said Humax canceled showings at one theater after callers threatened the company. He refused to detail the threats.

"I personally think the decision is regrettable. I don't think the movie is anti-Japanese,"...

Where are the police? Perhaps they consider the nutjobs actions free speech. They obviously don't take it seriously enough to take effective counter measures.

(Interesting story concerning this at Global Voices here---the translated comments are especially enlightening---and from Yahoo here.)

One of the arguments against this film is the use of tax money. Many believe that Japanese tax money should not be used for anything critical of Japan, apparently. This is a great argument: Japanese money should only support official government views--or official rightist views. The head of NHK recently suggested that NHK overseas programs only provide the views of the government, AKA propaganda. (Are you one of the few paying NHK monthly fees?)
The sailor suspected of murdering a cab driver has reportedly (or is rumored to have) kinda confessed to the crime to friends. So far, there has been no confirmation that he has confessed to military investigators. The Japanese police are expected to question him soon.

If he did kill the cab driver, let's hope he enjoys the rest of his life in prison, which he would very much deserve.

I have no evidence but am just speculating: Some branches of the military have had to reduce recruiting standards because most Americans are unwilling to take a personal risk in the fight in Iraq or Afghanistan. Could this be having a negative effect? We can bet it ain't having an overall positive effect.

There will always be a certain number of criminals who get into the military, but there is a price to pay when standards are lowered in any field.

Story here.