Thursday, November 25, 2010

Unpredictable, irrational DPRK

A very short history of the DPRK and some possible rational why the unpredictable country that seems strangely predictable is behaving so irrationally is online at PBS. Some parts may be quibble worthy* (was Kim Il-sung really an anti-Japanese guerrilla or could that be part or all myth?), but it might give some insight:

North Koreans have long felt threatened by American nuclear weapons, and sought protection under the Soviet nuclear umbrella by signing a mutual defense treaty with the USSR in 1961. But North Korea does not have a lot of trust in Russia or China either... is surrounded by enemies or, at best, untrustworthy "friends"...

...This modern state of insecurity is built upon an older history of colonialism and traditional isolation to create an attitude of profound suspicion of the outside world...PBS

*Others may argue that Japanese colonialism of Korea was not really colonialism among other things.

PM Kan's TV

Although it is tough to pull away from the antics of the unpredictable DPRK which for some reason seems to be generally predictable, one can entertain oneself with some good TV. Failing that, one can find PM Kan's TV online. This will help folks try to figure out just what the government is doing since it isn't exactly obvious otherwise. It is available in English and in Japanese. (Unfortunately, it cannot be embedded.)

From the reactions of the people I talked to about the recent shelling of South Korea by the North, a little publicity/spin about Kan's achievements* is both long overdue and too late. Somehow, the shelling of the ROK just emphasized the apparent weakness and incompetence of the Kan government. Although none of these folks knew what any of the other parties could have done better, no one said they would do worse.

Now gotta go back online and read opinions of what to do about Korea from folks--- many or most of---whom you just know have less information about what is going than an observant and minimally informed E-1 who is stationed 100 miles south of the DMZ.

*Don't know if this "TV" would ever work in spite of it being spellbindingly exciting and tremendously informative.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

DPRK bids for attention or ?

A bit of a buzz on Twitter as the DPRK has shelled Yeonpyeong island off northwest South Korea. According to a report on MSN Japan (in Japanese), ROK's president believes the shelling may be in response to an exercise the ROK military was holding. The ROK has reportedly returned fire. One South Korean soldier was killed, but I would be surprised if there were not more fatalities after seeing videos on TV (a photo here/a video here). Well, the short 10 or so minute report I saw on NHK before they returned to sumo. I suppose it is understandable that there is more TV coverage of a DPRK test missile that drops into the sea near Japan than an actual artillery attack on the ROK.

No one really knows what the North will do---at least no one in a position to be writing a blog post about it---but we have to remember what the North has done in the post Korean War period. Dozens of attacks around the DMZ, particularly heavy from 1968-69 in which 75 US military were killed/111 wounded while the ROK suffered 299 killed/550 wounded*, the Tree Incident in the DMZ, the seizure of the USS Pueblo, the attack on the Blue House and attempted assassination of President Park Chung-hi, the numerous killings of South Koreans by DPRK agents (gotta be a little careful here, as some of the killings which occurred under Park and his early successors may have only been blamed on the DPRK), the 1983 bombing in Burma in an attempt to assassinate the ROK president, killing 21 and injuring 46, the kidnappings of Japanese citizens from Japan, the recent sinking of a South Korea warship by a DPRK torpedo, the nuclear provocations, now an artillery barrage on what appears to be a civilian area, and....maybe the list can go on forever.

I have heard it said that the DPRK leaders are not crazy and know that they would lose any war with the ROK/US, but the fact that there has been no 2nd war (yet) is due to the restraint of South Korea and the US, not to anything the North has done.

It will be interesting to see China's reaction...

Remain calm. Now, back to sumo. Zzzzzzzzzzzz.....

*Not sure about the time period the figures covers, but I believe they are the 1968-69 period as I understand the linked article.

1815 edited to add: Interestingly---or not---in 1989 or 90, I had a TA from China who argued that the US and ROK had started the Korea War from that vicinity of Korea. As I recall, she believed that we started it from the area on the peninsula just above Yeonpyeong Island.

7pm: edited yet again.

Monday, November 22, 2010

More Chalmers Johnson

The Washington Note has a good article on Johnson:

....Johnson for his seminal work on Japanese political economy, MITI and the Japanese Miracle was dubbed by Newsweek's Robert Neff as "godfather of the revisionists" on Japan. Neff also tagged Clyde Prestowitz, James Fallows, Karel van Wolferen and others like R. Taggart Murphy and Pat Choate as the leaders of a new movement that argued that Japan was organizing its political economy in different ways than the U.S. This was a huge deal in its day -- and these writers and thinkers led by the implacable Johnson were attacked from all corners of American academia and among the crowd of American Japan-hands who wanted to deflect rather than focus a spotlight on the fact that Japan's economic mandarins were really the national security elite of the Pacific powerhouse nation....

The author, Steve Clemons, also writes of Johnson's efforts outside the Japan/China field.

23 Nov: I wonder how Johnson would have felt about called a "Japan hand" as he is in many obituaries.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Chalmers Johnson

author of MITI and the Japanese Miracle, Japan scholar, and so-called Japan revisionist has died at 79 years of age. James Fallows has a short obituary at The Atlantic.

22 Nov: Article on Johnson at Washington Note.

Friday, November 19, 2010

All the Devils are Here; ratings agencies and the financial crisis

Not Japan related directly, unless you consider the damage done to the Japanese (and world's) economy a direct result of the 2008 financial crisis*, but PBS has a short segment on the role of US ratings agencies---Moody's etc---in the crisis. They also discuss the responsibility of the US government, both political parties, and Wall Street. Lesson learned until the next bubble.

*Probably a good thing to consider.

Sorry for the delayed responses

to a few comments on my post below, but I have finally made poorly written replies full of grammatical and spelling errors. Blogger does not allow long comments, nor does it allow any editing or correcting after posting, so they are a bit of a mess. Hopefully they are understandable.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ahhhh. Finally something like autumn has arrived. No frost on the pumpkin, but except for Sunday night when I was hunting mosquitoes in the mansion, it has cooled enough and enough leaves have turned to make it seem like October back home.

Luckily for me, autumn brings learning opportunities and I needn't go to school to experience them. Why just yesterday a fellow as telling me about how Japanese enjoyed walking under under the canopy of ginkgo trees. Then he moved on to maples and how Japanese like the red leaves of those trees. I was both happy and confused as since I enjoy those things too, I am apparently turning Japanese. Except that I also enjoyed them before I came to Japan----as do most folks I've ever known. Except my for wife who often responds with something like, "It's just trees." I was worried that I might have confused my friend too, for when he mentioned Japanese liking maple leaves, I thought of the Canadian flag and said, "Oh, Japanese are like Canadians."

Then this morning I read some learned (?) discussion concerning the internationalization (or lack of) of Japan. I discovered that in addition to the many famous entertainers and athletes of non-Japanese background, there are also a lot of restaurants serving foreign cuisine in Japan. Now if that does not show internationalization, I don't know what does.

I was also educated that the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism who wrote the UN report about discrimination in Japan was apparently some sort of lackey for minority interest groups in Japan. These sneaky devils led him around for 9 days or so showing him only what they wanted him to see, and they, unlike some fellow from the government or perhaps even academia, had political interests at heart. Even worse, the Special Rapporteur could not speak Japanese and had to rely on his deceitful escorts. I am not sure if that is unusual, for I doubt that the fellow could speak Swahili if he went there on an investigation, but then again, this is Japan and we must apply different rules and standards here. Always.

I can not be sure what I should think of this until I consult an unbiased, unfettered by personal day-to-day experience person of letters who can explain everything to me in an abstract moonbeam sort of way that seems to have no connection to reality. I certainly cannot trust my own lying eyes as I am a member of a minority group with a vested interest in not being discriminated against.

But best of all, Diane Sawyer took ABC and Hot Stud Reporter David Muir to China investigate just how China is poised to overcome the US in every possible way pretty darn soon if we don't take hints from ABC news. ABC promised to have several of these reports on what China does differently than the US and what we should learn from it to keep from being surpassed in the next few weeks. Wonder if Diane and babe-magnet Dave took a listen to Joseph Nye below (or did any relevant research) before they flew over to China to give us the latest version of the 1980s Japan threat. Doesn't the ABC interview with Thomas Friedman sound almost word-for-word like what was being said about Japan 20-25 years ago?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Joseph Nye: Return of Asia

During and after the G-20 this week, much of the media has attributed the US inability to get its way on every issue as a sign of the decline of the US. Naturally, one has to view this sort of quickie analysis with a skeptical eye.

Last July, Joseph Nye made a presentation at TED discussing global power shifts in two aspects: the shifting power of states from west to east (i.e. US-China), and what he calls the diffusion of power---the shift of power from states to non-state actors. Rather than calling the shift of power "the Rise of Asia," he calls it the "Return of Asia."

"...this metaphor of [US] decline is often very misleading ..." ..."cycles of belief in American decline come and go every 10-15 years or so..."

"Why does it matter? Who cares?... ...It matters quite a lot, because if you believe in decline and you get the answers wrong on this, the facts, not the myths, you may have policies which are very dangerous... Joseph Nye

Remember the late 80s/early 90s when Japan was going to surpass the US and the fear, fear-mongering, and overreaction? Oops. Slight miscalculation. (apx 18 minutes):

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Coast Guard crew member caught leaking

After being hunted for the better part of a week, the culprit who leaked the videos of the Chinese fishing vessel/Japanese Coast Guard collision to YouTube has confessed. The government is now able to breathe a sigh of relief that the person who made it look like the country was being run by the Three Stooges will possibly suffer the consequences of violating relevant laws and regulations.

There is still the worrying feeling that the apparent public support for this scoundrel may in some way resemble that of the 5/15 Incident* and that this is an attempt by the bureaucracy/military (Coast Guard) to undermine the elected government by, well, making people wonder why the tapes were being kept secret to begin with. (Not definitive enough? Didn't want problems with China?) The government will now have to explain itself in a way that does not cause people to laugh and throw rocks at the spokesperson. That may take awhile. Or forever.

"The fact that the video was leaked is a big mistake for the government," Hiroshi Kawauchi, a legislator of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, said last week. "It is totally different from presenting it to the public in an official manner, and it leads the people's further erosion of faith in Japan's government." CNN World
You just know that someone, somewhere in the government, at some point has had the following conversation since the beginning of the Senkaku mess:

CIA Boss: So what did we learn, Palmer?
CIA Agent Palmer: I don't know, sir.
CIA Boss: I don't fucking know either. I guess we learned not to do it again.
CIA Agent Palmer:
Yes, sir.
CIA Boss:
I'm fucked if I know what we did.
CIA Agent Palmer:
Yes sir, it's, uh, hard to say.
CIA Boss:
Jesus fucking Christ.
*OK, I only read of one person who admitted to sensing such a resemblance.

Edited 1010pm and again at 1155pm.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Another Youtube Senkaku collision video source (six part) in addition to previous post:
5/6 (Collision here)

Senkaku collision video

From Japanese patrol point of view. Collision at about 1:20:

More distant view from second ship:

Hmmm...who is fibbing? Not hard to tell from those videos.

More at Japan Probe

A word of warning: It has been reported that the government did not want these videos released as they might cast doubt on China's version of the incident, thereby making China look bad and causing a pissy fit. Thus it is possible that these videos could be removed from Youtube in order to prevent them to falling into civilian hands. Foreign policy is for bureaucrats, politicians, and experts, not for armchair amateurs. What would happen if a bunch of non-professionals had been handling the Senkaku dispute in the beginning? You might have had some local yokel (supposedly) deciding on his own to release the arrested ship captain or something.

Therefore, under no circumstances should anyone download these videos using readily available free software such as Download Helper for Firefox or similar and save it to their computer. It would be undemocratic.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Japan as Number One again

Since the sub-prime crisis began in 2008, we've seen story after story on the supposed lessons Japan holds for the US.

Most of these seem to be of use to those who want to push their own political/economic agenda at home using Japan as evidence to support their opinions. On his NYT blog recently, Paul Krugman used Japan as an example of why Friedman's monetarism does not work. However he has not, to my knowledge, used Japan's experience with Keynesian stimulus to claim that Keynesian economics do not work except to say that not enough was done and what was done was not soon enough---just as he says is the problem in the US.*

R.Taggert Murphy has posted a short piece on Japan Focus, Japan as Number One in the Global Economic Crisis: Lessons for the World?, which looks at Japan from another perspective. My short, overly simplistic summary of his piece is that Japan may have been the first country to experience the "New Normal."

*Krugman's blog, his NYT column, and perhaps his ABC This Week appearances are where he pushes partisan political opinion and probably should not be regarded in the same light as his economic work.

Good service

I dropped by the Denenchofu Maison Kayser bread shop at noon to pick up some expensive pizza for lunch. Until recently, most shops in Denenchofu have not seemed to be very enthusiastic about actually attracting customers---I have heard unproven rumors that some may have been set up for tax purposes---but MK has always seemed to be interested in doing business. Perhaps they let their prices select for them.

Like almost every shop in Tokyo, they offer point cards where after you buy a few zillion dollars worth of products, you get something "free." At MK, you get ¥500 off your purchase after 20 purchases at a certain minimum price.

I don't go for these things much as the payoff is minimal, and I don't want to carry dozens of point cards around. However, I do like to use one for this shop, not because the ¥500 yen discount is anything special, but because they seem so reluctant to offer one to me.

Today I forgot mine and went ahead and made my purchase without it. The clerk said nothing but the usual thank you. The Japanese guy in the line next to me was asked if he had brought his point card as soon as he stepped up to the register. I suppose I could consider it an oversight on the part of the lady who served me except that I have been going to that shop for 4 years and have only once been asked about a point card. When I got my first one, I had to ask. If I want a new one, I usually have to ask. If I lose mine, I have to ask for a new one.

Perhaps the staff and management is worried about my comfort and do not want to embarrass me by asking me a question in Japanese as they figure that I could not understand. But then again, I always speak Japanese there, and they speak Japanese to me. Perhaps they assume the point card system too complex for me to understand, so they are reluctant to offer one. Perhaps they consider me rich and don't want to offend me by offering a discount.

Not really sure why I get this extra special customer service, but it must be a good thing.

1.000 Thing(s)...

OK. I sorta stole the title from another Japan blogger, but I figured that she would miss posting about this because, well, because she is a she.

Ever bought men's underwear at Uniqlo? Why not, right? It's cheap and of decent quality. Why go to Ito Yokado and pay more for something not as good and only available in the color and style which are guaranteed to make birth control and/or Viagra irrelevant?

The only down side is that some of Uniqlo's shorts haven't the opening in front. I suppose this helps keep costs down. Anyway, why would a man need the opening? I understand that in Japan (I swear, I read a poll somewhere) that a number of men sit to...ummm...tinkle? For fellows who consider themselves too manly for that, it is pretty simple to just pull the elastic waistband down while doing the business.

The problem is, that should a fellow let the elastic band slip from his grasp during that time, the results will be more or less unpleasant in a number of ways.

I won't miss men's underwear without an opening in front when I leave.