Politics and World Affairs


I just got back from seeing the photography exhibit by Ahn Sehong of Korean women who were used as sex slaves by the Japanese military, and were dumped on some barren field in China to fend off for themselves. Now in their 80’s and 90’s, Ahn Sehdong has captured their poverty and their sorrows in black-and-white images.

The exhibit is controversial in that right-wing Japanese are in denial about their shameful past. At the exhibit, they made a nuisance of themselves, speaking in loud voices and calling it “Korean propaganda.” One of them targeted a guard of Korean descent, and made faces at him showing hatred and anger. I admire the guard for keeping his dignity and not falling prey to the heckler’s aggression and provocations.

We had expected these right-wing hecklers to be the typical Japanese right-wingers: elderly, sometimes in military uniform, wearing a white band on the forehead or arm, and/or wearing some sort of military-looking cap on the head. But these were young people, so atypical right-winger, and we concluded that they were most probably paid to do an hour’s worth of heckling. We did notice one genuine protester, a man in his 60’s with a white band tied around each arm with an imprint of a red dot and some japanese characters. He spoke in a low voice to no one in particular. People around largely ignored him, but he was discretely and conspicuously protesting.

It is characteristic of the Japanese to shy away from controversy and anything that brings discomfort, and Nikon has reacted in typical Japanese form. Although Nikon had chosen to exhibit the works of Ahn Sehong, they have gone to court to have the exhibit terminated, bowing down to the heckling of right-wing illiterates.

We met with Ahn Sehdong before we left, congratulating him on his photo exhibit and encouraging him with our support in his endeavour to bring to the world’s attention, the plight of the Korean comfort women in China.

Ahn Sehong

Global Voices: Korean comfort woman photo exhibit sabotaged

Taiwan president Ma urges Japan to apologize for using sex slaves during WWII (10 December 2012)

Sixty-seven thousand five hundred tons — that is the amount of radioactive water at the Fukushima nuclear plant that somehow needs to be gotten rid of. As I understand it, this huge amount of radioactive water is located in the basements, hindering the engineers from getting to the generators (also located in the basements), that they would need to re-start in order to cool down the reactors. The TEPCO engineers have not been able to access the cooling systems since March 11, the day of the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami.

Yesterday evening the 19th of April, the Chief Executive Officer of Areva, Anne Lauvergeon, came to Japan to especially announce at a press conference in Tokyo that they have come up with a solution to the crisis. They will build a machine, capable of decontaminating 50 tons of water an hour, enabling the recycling and reusing of this water to cool the reactors, and finally allowing access to the basement generators.

What seemed to me to be the light at the end of the tunnel, the break of dawn from the nightmare of hell… the hale-to-the-king moment … there was not one single word of the news conference mentioned in the major Japanese news sites (Kyodo and Japan Times). I found two posts that evening of this fantastic news, both of which were investment sites (the english-language Nikkei and the French Boursier).

So far, Japan’s solution had been to drop water into the reactors by helicopter. But what do they think this is? A forest fire? They also have had to dump radioactive water into the ocean to make way for more highly contaminated water. Now what sort of rocket science is that?

Japan should be rejoicing that a viable, practical, wonderful solution has been found. But perhaps Japan does not want to appear inadequate: 1. that it has had to have their major crisis solved by a foreigner, and 2. that that foreigner is a woman.

In a country known to relegate women to walk behind men, and in a country where the majority of the people are discreetly but intensely xenophobic, it is quite possible that the silence is a culturally induced face-saving measure.

Radioactive Water Treatment To Start As Early As May: Areva

Among all the Westerners in Japan, none were so unusually alarmed by the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear reactor crisis than the French community in Tokyo. The first communique from the French Embassy reassured the people, telling them that the Japanese authorities have the situation in hand.

But then the media in France went into a frenzy, alarming the public about a meltdown and radioactive winds and more calamities. Frantic calls were made to relatives in Japan, and the French Embassy issued a second communique, stating that if it is unnecessary for you to be in Tokyo, they advise that you travel south of the archipelago or return to France.

Akin to a mass migration of lemmings, French people left the capital. Meanwhile, other Embassies, notably the English and the American, continued to reassure its nationals to go normally about their lives in Tokyo, and that they would be informed if there were other necessary steps to take.

We ask, who or what has set off the alarmist nature of Japan’s crisis, panicking the French people? Who would most benefit from this situation? Aside from the usual two-penny journalists who sensationalise the news in order to sell newspapers, I would put the blame on the Ecology or Green party and supporters thereof. They have the most to gain with fear-mongering in the news.

In their campaign to have nuclear energy eliminated from France, the Ecology Party and/or its supporters amplify the Fukushima crisis, without considering that this crisis was brought on by the unusual combination of earthquake and tsunami, two unforeseen natural calamities, and not by some human error or technological mishap, which would warrant an assessment.

One French journalist in Japan had posted on his Facebook wall that he had been directed to write this and that, and denies responsibility for the information. So based on this, can we say that the journalists write “news” to manipulate the opinions of the public to serve someone’s political agenda? He had also previously stated that “Westerners know more information than the Japanese,” a claim that is arrogant and unlikely to be true. It is his “feeders,” people with an agenda, supplying him with information and disinformation, true or baseless, with which public opinion will be manipulated with. If disinformation means “knowing more information than the Japanese,” he and similar journalists are mere ignorant pawns in the greater scheme of things, a boule de suif.

And so with exaggerated news alarming the electorate, Sarkozy wisely sent government planes to “evacuate” French nationals, further reinforcing the feeling of panic. But the majority of the French who were repatriated were not from the calamity-stricken area, but from a city 400km from the epicentre, infrastructure-wise unaffected by the earthquake nor the tsunami, and 250km far from Fukushima’s nuclear reactors, Tokyo.

While the ideals of the Ecology party may be commendable, their under-handed alarming of the public by sensationalising the news is contemptible. They may have captured the vote of the unsophisticated electorate, but with actions that are dishonourable.

Political agendas can serve both good and bad purposes, but there are also serious consequences wrought by the alarmist nature of the news of the events in Japan. For business enterprises that rely on good news and political-economical stability, the news-scares have literally scared off business in and with Japan. It is a collateral damage that is unfortunate but one where I would personally raise a fist to, at half-wit journalists and the media who do not intelligently assess information fed to them to print and disseminate to an unwary public.

smoke-towers There is no way an agreement can be reached between parties involved (the environmentally-minded public versus industry and governments), that would satisfy the concerns of both during Climate talks. The public will never be satisfied with low quotas, neither will industries agree to limiting factory outputs, nor governments allow national economies to struggle.

And how effective are the Climate talks when industrial nations can negotiate the “purchase” or trade of CO2 quotas from developing or non-industrial countries in order to circumvent the quota rule? How effective are the Climate talks when industrial nations (like Japan) set their targets way below of anything that impacts change in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions?

A more long-term solution is necessary, and one that could satisfy both. How about finding a scientific solution to neutralising greenhouse gas and CO2 emissions? I’m sure governments and industries will finance the research on that. Of course, it will still be necessary to set quotas, but a Plan B should also be considered, since Plan A falls short of reducing the pollution.

COP15: United Nations Climate Change Conference, Copenhagen 2009
Adopt a Negotiator: Help track negotiations as they head towards the UN Climate Conference in December 2009
Home by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

When we shall look back at history, we will all be able to say with conviction that Bush has effectively destroyed America’s goodwill with the rest of the world. Now America will choose a new leader, and between Obama and McCain, Obama would be the better President. He is far more intelligent, and far more likely to make wise decisions than his rival. McCain is a walking warmonger and fearmonger, itching for confrontation.

Will America’s enemies take advantage of Obama’s so-called inexperience? Will McCain make things better or worse with America’s enemies? Having your plane shot down in Vietnam does not automatically qualify one to lead a nation, nor is that experience enough for it. Taking advantage of the emotional empathy this circumstance generates in order to get into politics is contemptible.

But will a new President change what its enemies think of America? Whatever you want to think, please choose peace. Please give Obama the chance to prove that there is still goodwill left in America.

Biography: Barack Obama: Barack Obama graduated from Columbia University, where he majored in political science and specialized in international relations. He then attended Harvard Law School, graduated magna cum laude, and served as the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. After law school, he worked as a community organizer and a civil rights lawyer in Chicago. He also taught at the University of Chicago Law School as a senior lecturer specializing in constitutional law.

MarketWatch: Why McCain would be a mediocre president: Like the current occupant of the White House, McCain got his first career breaks from the connections and money of his family, not from hard work…. With the help of his new wife’s wealth, his new father-in-law’s business connections and some powerful friends he had made as a lobbyist for the Navy, he was elected in 1982 to Congress in a district that he didn’t reside in until the day the seat opened up.

… McCain says he doesn’t understand the economy. He’s demonstrated that he doesn’t understand the workings of Social Security, or the political history of the Middle East. He doesn’t know who our enemies are. He says he wants to reduce global warming, but then proposes ideas that would stimulate — not reduce — demand for fossil fuels.

… His major accomplishment, in Vietnam and in the Senate, has been merely to survive.
Just surviving doesn’t make you a hero, or a decent president. America needs to do more than survive the next four years.

The New York Times: Rivals Split on U.S. Power, but Ideas Defy Easy Labels
The Nation Institute: McCain and the POW Cover-up

update:
BBC: Al-Qaeda’s ‘mild’ message to Obama
alJazeera: Mideast echoes Obama’s ‘change’ message

I once had a discussion with a fellow British blogger who is studying Economics in London. He argued that for a state economy to be productive, free enterprise is the way to go. I argued that it is the duty of the State to look after its people and to regulate the economy to ensure prosperity for all.

Capitalism is well and good for individuals who have capital to begin with, and when the majority of the populace are of equal socio-economic status. But what about the little guy, the salary-man who survives day-to-day, whose livelihood, take-home pay and means of survival are at the whim of enterprise? When there is a gap between the rich and poor, the inequality raises serious social, political and economic issues.

Let’s say that these same salary-men place their savings in stocks and bonds, touted as good investments. Let’s say they also invest in a home, tied to a bank mortgage. They hope that by joining the bandwagon, they would make a profit off the volatile caprices of the market, traders gambling on a bet that the market would go this way or that.

Then the whole arrangement collapses. Who is now asked to step in, but told to keep out when the wolves were at the slaughter? Who is now asked to do something to save the traders who most profited by paying themselves appallingly huge salaries? Disgustingly huge salaries for a job that supposedly they had the know-how of, to wisely invest hard-earned money for a profit. It now appears that the Government will use taxpayers’ money to bail out banks and investment houses. All that hard-earned money gone to pay enormous bonuses and salaries, and empty pockets for the investors.

Now Capitalism is asked to step aside and Socialism to come in to salvage what little there is left to salvage in a financial crisis that capitalism has no means to solve.

Lehman Bros head took home $300m in pay and bonuses
How the financial turmoil affects you

• Capitalism: an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.
• Socialism: a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole

Betraying the Spirit of Capitalism, by Nicolas Sarkozy: An unprecedented crisis of confidence is rocking the global economy. Major financial institutions are threatened, millions of small savers in the world who have invested their savings on the stock market are seeing them melt away, day after day, millions of pensioners who contributed to pension funds fear for their retirement, millions of modest households are being put in a difficult position by the rise in prices.

Basically, a certain idea of globalization is biting the dust with the end of a financial capitalism which had imposed its rationale on the whole economy and contributed to corrupting it. The idea of the all-powerful market which wasn’t to be impeded by any rules or political intervention was a mad one. The idea that the markets are always right was mad.

For several decades we created conditions in which industry operated with the aim of achieving short-term profitability. The growing risks people were forced to take to obtain increasingly exorbitant profits were concealed.

Remuneration systems were put in place which drove dealers to take more and more absolutely reckless risks. Banks were allowed to speculate on the markets instead of doing their job which is mobilize savings for economic development and analyzing the credit risk.

The speculator rather than the entrepreneur was financed.

… The current crisis must prompt us to build capitalism on a new sounder foundation, base it on an effort and work ethic; it must prompt us to restore a balance between the necessary freedom and regulation, between collective and individual responsibility. We must find a new balance between the State and the market when public authorities the world over are being compelled to intervene to save the banking system from collapse. A new relationship must be established between the economy and politics through the development of new regulations.

Self-regulation as a way of resolving all problems is finished. Laissez-faire is finished. The all-powerful market which is always right is finished. We must learn the lessons from the crisis so that it doesn’t reoccur. We have just been a fingertip away from disaster and we can’t take the risk of it happening again.

If we want to rebuild a viable financial system, raising the moral standards of financial capitalism is a priority. I have no hesitation in saying that from now on there must be a limit on the remuneration of executives and dealers. There have been too many excesses; there have been too many scandals. So either the financial industry agrees on acceptable practices or the government of the Republic will settle the problem through legislation before the year is out.

The remuneration of executives must be indexed to the business’s actual economic performance. They must not be able to claim a golden parachute when they have committed errors or caused their businesses huge problems. And if the executives have a stake in the company’s performance, which is a good thing, its other employees, particularly the lowest-paid, must too. If the executives have stock options, the other employees must also have them or, failing that, benefit from a profit-sharing system.

We have to find out where the blame lies and those responsible for this collapse must at least pay some financial penalty. …

— Betraying the Spirit of Capitalism, by Nicolas Sarkozy (excerpts from his speech on 25 September 2008), published on ABS-CBN News on 10/9/2008 by Dennis Gaviola

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Sign the petition: Buy In — Not Bail Out: To world leaders: As citizens, we call for a global public “buy-in” to tackle the financial meltdown, instead of a “bail-out” of reckless bankers. We urge you to agree on a bold public rescue package without further delay – taking stakes in the banks, fixing failings, and mobilising public investment to benefit the many not the few.

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Staff at six banks set for huge bonuses: Financial workers at Wall Street’s top banks are to receive pay deals worth more than $70bn (£40bn), a substantial proportion of which is expected to be paid in discretionary bonuses, for their work so far this year – despite plunging the global financial system into its worst crisis since the 1929 stock market crash….

napoleon.jpg France has many serious problems. I believe that foremost among these are their government’s socialist policies and the long-term effects of their colonial exploits in French-Algeria.

During the Socialist era, a number of policies were implemented, one of which was the heavy social security tax (about 42% paid for by employers on each employee salary). This tax was used to “reward” the unemployed and the middle class with generous social benefits. True, a government has to look after its people, but unfortunately, these benefits are not only too generous that the government and people’s taxes are hard-put to sustain them, but also these benefits have been exploited by the champagne socialists (the gauche caviar).

So you find the French are better paid to do nothing, because starting salaries are less than what the government gives to the unemployed. You will find the French going on strikes and demonstrating against any adverse reforms on these benefits. Ultimately, the working class are the losers because jobs are few and ill-paid, employers being constrained with financial and government limitations. There is an uncommonly high unemployment in France.

The other issue is the immigrant problem. Algeria was a French colony, and like most colonialists, the French took advantage of the natural resources of the country and treated its citizens as inferiors. The French government improved Algeria’s infrastructure and implemented modernising changes, but what the French government did and what the French as people did in Algeria were two different matters.

The French people exploited the Algerians, alienating them. Algerians rebelled, began to clamour for independence and set up the FLN, the National Liberation Front. When de Gaulle proposed a referendum, asking Algeria if they wanted independence, the colonialists French who were against independence, set up the OAS, a terrorist organisation whose objectives not only included a hostile stance towards Algerians, but also to bring down the French government. The brutality of this organisation which involved the slaughter of Algeria’s civil population, is unprecedented.

Many Algerians fled across the Mediterranean sea to France. They constitute the largest immigrant class in the country. Many of them were granted French citizenship, but they are stigmatised all the same. And like the French lower social class, they also take advantage of the benefits of socialist policies. They are resented for this even more.

It would take a very complex solution to solve these two issues. The French have a penchant for paralysing infrastructure by going on strikes. If labour syndicates were limited in certain capacities from doing this, then socialist policies can finally be reworked on. This will require a firm hand, and absolutely necessary to unspoil a spoiled class of people. But we do not wish for a government dominated by the rich, but neither do we wish a government shackled by the poor.

There is a law against racism in France, but however overt this is, racism is widely practised. Education could be the key for both sides. Algerians must be taught to adapt to French culture. The French must learn to be more understanding of their plight.

Oh, if it were only as effortless as it sounds…

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To extraordinary circumstances we must apply extraordinary remedies.
— Napoleon Bonaparte

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