I now know for sure that my days are numbered although I don't know exactly
when and how death visits my doorstep.
Dying is not changing jobs. I have no intention to hand over what I have finished and left unfinished to anybody in an organized way. For one thing, I don't
care too much about the fate of TokyoFreePress.
Yet at present, I'm preprogramming
my death, just like I preprogrammed my life in the past, so the
right person(s) can decode my programs when I'm gone.
To that end I am going to elaborate anew on the Mission Statement of this
political blog below here.
Unfortunately not too many people have understood what exactly I meant
by "taboo" when I used the word some 53 months ago. Although some knowingly grinned at me, they didn't look to have understood what I was talking about, because there's nothing to grin about in my combat against taboo.
For dissident bloggers facing the Great Firewalls in China, talking about
Tibet, freedom of speech and representative democracy is taboo. Likewise, their Japanese counterparts have a smaller number of taboos, such as discussing
the truth about the Imperial family and the Kisha Kurabu (Press Club) system. Americans have practically none. So, can we conclude
that China is the most taboo-ridden society, Japan comes next, and America
is the least taboo-ridden? Not really.
There is something I have named the Glass Firewalls in Japan, and in the
U.S. to a lesser degree. They are much more invincible and formidable than
the Great Firewalls because the Glass Firewalls are invisible from distance. Although
I cried out time and again in the face of these walls, very few people took me seriously
simply because it's not them, but me, that hit them. Over time, some in my audience may have started viewing me as a Chicken Little or the boy who habitually cries wolf. So it's a piece
of cake for the Japanese media to contain dissidence; they just ignore it.
A third and the worst barrier for a taboo-free journalist is the inner firewall which even the Paris-based RSF (Reporters without Borders) hasn't noticed.
Sigmund Freud based his theory primarily on his perception of this censorship
mechanism. The inner firewall is the thickest and most "transparent"
In short, censorship TokyoFreePress has been challenging is always threefold. · read more (1,199 words)
Saturday, January 03 2009 @ 02:38 AM CST
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
The November Mumbai incident has enlivened crisis-thirsty political pundits in America
and the rest of the world because the terrorist attacks on the luxury hotels in India's largest city reignited the six-decade-old hostility between India and Pakistan. Some panic-mongering analysts warn that we might see an unexpectedly serious fallout should the fourth war (some say it's the fifth) break out between the two Asian nuclear powers.
In late December American journalist Nathan Gardels interviewed Zbigniew Brzezinski
over how Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser had briefed Barack Obama on crucial geopolitical issues in Southwestern and Southern Asia during the presidential campaign.
In this interview, Gardels asked: India has said they have the right in
self-defense to strike militant sanctuaries in Pakistan if Pakistan can't,
or is unwilling to, do the job. This is what Bush has done; it is what
Obama has promised to do. Why should India not do the same?
Here's Brzezinski's answer: Theoretically, from a debater's point of view,
the argument you have laid out is correct. However, any sane person has
to ask "what has the U.S. gained by attacking these sanctuaries other
than inflaming Pakistani public opinion?" Have we destroyed the Islamist
networks? Why would India be able to do any better?
When the interviewer approvingly summarized his answer by saying, "In
other words, it wouldn't be wrong, but stupid," Brzezinski said, "Precisely." To be more precise, however, I would have paraphrased these arrogant remarks this way:
America is the only country that is allowed to make mistakes.
I have no idea about who has granted the U.S. the privilege to constantly err, but I'm sure he now feels like giving a second thought to his decision.
Aside from the question of why the two Americans think India should
be able to outdo their home country in dealing with Pakistan, both gentlemen should have asked
themselves these questions:
- Why did President Johnson sign the absurd (or hypocritical at best) treaty
meant for nuclear nonproliferation?
- Why did President Nixon ratify it?
- Why did President Nixon not do his best to stop India from pursuing its nuclear aspiration?
- Why did President Clinton not do his best to prevent Pakistan from acquiring WMD? · read more (531 words)
In his inaugural address, John F. Kennedy eloquently said, "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country." In 1961, I was too young to be moved by JFK's flowery language. Now that I've turned 73, I know I am too old to be impressed on this January 20 by the silver-tongued Obama any more than I was by Kennedy 48 years ago. Obama will be a president far less demanding, than Kennedy, of his people at home and allies and foes abroad. But that makes no difference to my apathy.
Like most of you, I have been living my life primarily for myself and my
loved ones - not for my country, or any other country for that matter. Equally important, the less I have to count on my country for our well-being, the more I feel comfortable. And as you would agree, in our everyday life, words do not matter as
much as deeds do. Democracy as against autocracy, civil liberty as against slavery and human rights as against indignity are all words.
As the economic, political and cultural crisis deepens, words that keep coming from professional
Monday morning quarterbacks, and prophets alike, increasingly ring hollow. But
my sympathy always goes to these pundits because it cannot really be helped
for them to keep churning out supposedly impressive, actually empty words.
They have to make their living as wordsmiths. · read more (384 words)
Friday, December 26 2008 @ 09:17 AM CST
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
Shiite tribal leaders and government officials attend Christmas Day mass at a Baghdad church
At dusk in this port city of Yokohama, day laborers from the harbor, whitecollar
workers of neighborhood shipping companies and many other classes of employees and employers pour into the streets to have their traditional bonenkai (forget-the-year parties.) Some of these sararimen (salarymen) wear red-and-white hats as if to cover their empty-headedness and
some others who are less intoxicated wear inane, weird smiles all the time. The worst part of this yearend festivity is that unless you are very careful, you sometimes step in a puddle of their vomit or urine, which I narrowly avoided a few days ago.
are no different from what they were before this stormy climate set in
here. Unlike Iraqi Christians (photo above) who seem to know what values they are living for, these folks brought up in a religious salad since their childhood remain caught up in the endless chain of the means, have no idea about what end to pursue and know nothing to do but to drown themselves in cheap booze. Now that a smaller number of employers are willing to sponsor these after-work activities, most parties end up in an unrestrained drinking binge or deafening as well as sickening karaoke frenzy.
However, Prime Minister Taro Aso, whose 3-month-young cabinet is already
crumbling, still sounds upbeat about the purposefulness of their lives. He keeps saying like a broken
record that the Japanese should pursue keiki kaifuku, or economic recovery, at any cost, with his senseless 23 trillion yen
($255 billion) stimulus package, and that his people should no longer be
concerned too much about the traditional pork-barreling that has already built innumerable
"bridges to nowhere" all over the nation. His delusion goes as
far as to say that this nation will be the first among industrialized countries
to find way out of the ongoing crisis because that's what he believes his people can do with the help of the same performance-enhancing agent they used in their postwar drive toward an economic powerhouse. · read more (341 words)
Saturday, December 20 2008 @ 10:06 AM CST
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. (Serenity Prayer of Alcoholics Anonymous)
The more the American people act like busybodies, the more the other peoples
act like crybabies. Busybodies often mix up the war on terror with something else. On the other hand terrorists and their supporters, emboldened by rightful "blowback" everywhere else, keep complaining as if they were the victims of terror.
Actually this vicious circle dates back as far as to the days of WWII when a Democrat
was sitting at the Oval Office of the White House. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that the next American President will
further ratchet up this busybody policy line, learning no lessons from the failures of his predecessors. This is more tragic than it seems at a glance especially because now is
not the right time for the U.S. to meddle in foreign affairs.
However, this is not
to say that in no event should America intervene in what is going on in the terrorism-sponsoring
countries. To the contrary, the U.S. should further intensify its diplomatic, economic and military pressure
on these rogue nations wherever the situation warrants. But at the same time, it should forget about the false mandate to overturn a dictatorship everywhere else only to rebuild that country from scratch on the one hand, and police the rest of the world on the other. Instead it should act more
unilaterally, more on a "country first" basis and in a more focused
Bilateral or multilateral strategic partnerships and military alliances are quite OK only where such an arrangement is believed to serve the U.S. interest. In fact, though, you can hardly find an ally whose interest does
not conflict with yours in this intricate world. To form yet another buddy-buddy club and name it G-X in a convoluted world like this one, you've got to believe in a fairy tale that a friend of your friend is always your friend. Actually the only thing you can count on is the fact that an enemy of your enemy can sometimes be your friend. By the way: for any country Japan is the worst choice to make friends with because the "pacifist" nation has no enemy at all. Everyone thinks Japan is in feud with China. But the notion is totally imaginary because the country cannot afford to break ties with its big brother and neither can China afford to break up with Japan, though to a lesser degree.
Unfortunately for the American people, they should be prepared for the next administration still acting like a person suffering from ADHD (attention deficit hyper-activity disorder.)
In the Election 2008, an astounding 69.5 million people voted for Obama presumably because of the guilty conscience they have inherited from their slave-owning ancestors
- at least subliminally. Leveraging this sense of guilt, the President-elect
will cerainly prioritize aid programs meant for the poor and the colored at home. He will
even extend his benevolence to big businesses, as he is already doing, where their employees are taken hostage. Overseas, he will also deal very nicely
with underdeveloped/developing countries and even the world's 2nd and 4th largest economies simply because they were victimized by the "American imperialism" in the past.
I sometimes liken him to an unskillful plate umpire at a ballgame. He
once called an obvious strike a ball. Then in the next inning, he intentionally
calls an obvious ball a strike to make up for the previous mistake. But
actually he has committed two errors in a game, which fatally damages his reputation. I think that's exactly what the next President and his 69.5 million followers are doing.
Let me add something here about the next President's favorite pastime. I bet that Obama will spend a considerable amount of time at the White
House toying with the Lists he will have inherited from Bush. It must be fun to add a nation to the list of terror-sponsoring
countries only to delist it at the first sign of softening on the part of the
subject nation, or to place a sex-slavery practicing country such as Japan
in the State Department's "Tier 2 Watch List" only to remove it from there when an ineffectual anti-slavery legislation is enacted in
that country as a token of respect for the Uncle Sam. It's regretful to know that the President-elect does not seem to have learned
that the Lists have done more harm than good to both sides.
All in all the Harvard-educated Santa Claus will lead his people to drift further
away from the Founding Principles, instead of extricating them from the curse of the
original sin. Perhaps he is too philanthropic to say, "Whatever you do is none of our business unless you stand in our way. After all it's you that suffers the consequence of what you are doing." By the same token the President-elect does not seem to have the guts to say that the people of any country deserve their leader no matter whether they have actually
selected him by suffrage. · read more (614 words)
Saturday, December 20 2008 @ 06:12 AM CST
Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto
At times I think China's communist government is admirable because it always puts nation's interest before anything else. For one thing, it has been firmly refusing to unpeg its currency from the U.S. dollar despite the mounting pressure
from the West. By contrast, it once again proved to be a piece of cake
for the American government and the Federal Reserve Board to coerce their
Japanese counterparts into playing along with this "swim together and sink
On December 16, the FRB headed by Ben S. Bernanke took a big step to lower its benchmark interest rates applicable to the interbank federal funds to near-zero
levels. Japan's monetary authorities instantly became paralyzed and chose not to react swiftly. Actually Japan
has implemented the zero-interest monetary policy since 1998. By now it has exhausted all the economic steroids it could avail itself of. So the only
workable countermeasure the Bank of Japan could have taken against Bernanke's
assault was to go for a negative interest strategy.
But all that Japan's
central bank could actually do was to lower its key interest rate a couple of notches
from 0.3% to 0.1% after 3-day-long hesitation and deliberation. The delayed action certainly indicated that the government and the BOJ had had difficulty pursuing the Japanese interest while currying favor with the American policymakers whose primary concern is the failing auto industry there. The Japanese will never ever understand that there's no such thing as a sustainable win-win situation in this world. As a result,
the value of the Japanese yen, which shot up to a 13-year-high of upper
87s against the green back, still stays in the range of 89-90 yen over
Japan's economy has been increasingly depending on exports for its recovery
from the post-bubble doldrums. Now its exports account for 16% of nominal
GDP, where the U.S. and China top the list of the importers of Japanese
goods and services. Given BOJ's indecisiveness and weak-kneed response to the drastic move on the part of the FRB, it is little consolation for major Japanese companies that China's economy is more export-driven. · read more (405 words)
Dr. Michael Hammer died in early September as if to remind us of his unfinished work amid the global crisis
December 6-12 issue of The Economist observes:
"Were it not for the tax relief they receive, contributors to personal
pension plans [for one] would have been better off keeping their money
under their mattresses. It will be little consolation to Westerners that
savers in Japan have known this empty feeling for far longer."
Although the empathy shown here is something that brings a big consolation to most Japanese, I cannot be very sure Westerners will learn bitter lessons from the "empty feeling" faster than the Japanese, if ever they are able to learn anything from it.
As a matter of fact my fellow countrymen have
learned no lessons from what they experienced when the bubble economy burst. That is evident from the way they are responding to the current crisis. Once again, in the face of deja vu of the bust of 1990, they are at a loss. They are very fond of parroting Alan Greenspan's exquisite qualifier "once-in-a-century." Yet they look unable to come up with a single countermeasure which is not too conventional to be workable with this momentous set of circumstances. It's as though they wish deep inside that the former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve had been just exaggerating the severity of the situation.
There's nothing new in the Japanese trait shown here. Yet I still wonder how
come the recent politico-economic discourse among policymakers, analysts and scholars
in America has hardly come any closer to really addressing the
once-in-a-century enormity of the problem. Maybe Obama's promise of creating
2.5 million jobs is unprecedented, but he should know that artificially bloated employment will only lead to a larger number of layoffs at a later point in time.
Let me go a little personal here. I started my career in 1959. After going
through the high-growth era of the 1960s and 1970s, the bubble years of
the 1980s and the post-bubble doldrums, I called it a career in 2005. · read more (1,148 words)
If you've lost your way between Wall Street and Main Street, why don't you leave your worries on the doorstep and hit the sunny side of either street? You may come up with a bright idea to get through the hardship that will last another four years.
According to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, Kremlin-favored political analyst Igor Panarin said, "We must break the strings tying us to the financial Titanic, which in my view will soon sink." He based the provocative remark on his own crystal-ball in which he sees an imminent breakup of the United States into six independent states.
Aboard the imaginary Titanic, Gordon G. Chang flatly dismissed Panarin's prediction as hogwash in his recent piece posted on the Contentions website. Mr. Chang is the author of The Coming Collapse of China, one of the most intriguing books published in the first decade of this
century. That makes his rebuttal to Panarin all the more convincing. If you still prefer to subscribe to Panarin's prediction just because you have been growing bearish over America's future since the breakout of the financial crisis, that would be turning the causal relationship upside down.
But this is not to say that it's a breeze for the Harvard-educated Santa
Claus to usher his country into the second American century. Actually,
if the President-elect does what he is saying he will as soon as he is
sworn in, nobody can rule out Panarin's malicious scenario no matter how
it looks counter-intuitive today.
At home, Obama's version of the New Deal is doomed to exacerbate, rather than turn around, the situation by chronicizing the disease because he is focusing on the wrong part of Franklin D. Roosevelt's package: the mechanisms FDR put in place just as temporary measures. For one thing, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation was founded based on the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. Roosevelt, the banker-turned President, is believed to have disliked the idea of building safety nets across the nation. But at the sight of some 4,000 banks going under, he thought the enormity of the problem would warrant a temporary deviation from his principle. That's why he reluctantly refrained from vetoing the bill as an emergency measure. Once the FDIC came into existence, however, it didn't take long until the organization, along with the mindset associated with it, became a going concern. · read more (747 words)
Sit down at your computer, write down on sheets of paper whatever crops
up in your mind and bind them together. And they call it a book. And if some
of the readers discover something distinctively new there, and yet, can empathically relate to your story, they call it an excellent book, no matter whether the prestigious
code called the International Standard Book Number is assigned to it. The
way of sharing thoughts and emotions through publication should be as simple as
In reality, however, this is not the way things work in today's publishing industry. Unlike savvy and audacious venture capitalists,
publishers and literary agents almost always recoil from a genuinely new
idea - so I hear. The agent is so timid that the moment he finds a totally
unfamiliar thought in the manuscript at hand, he gets extremely nitpicky
over trifles such as a typo or a wrong hyphenation. That is the only way
he can turn down the submission and still look like a reputable agent.
This is really inevitable because in the days of desktop publishing and
e-books, his survival is at stake in driving a wedge between the sender
of the message and its intended receiver, instead of bringing them together.
I am not sure if this is the case with John H. (Jack) Wiegman's Tales of Our Germans. But certainly this has something to do with the fact that the brilliant
author does not seem to have attempted to obtain a 13-digit ISBN.
Tales of Our Germans consists of 30 anecdotes which are loosely connected to each other, and some 50 faded monochrome pictures from family albums are scattered throughout the book. The central figure in most of these episodes is a German immigrant by the name of Dutch Henry Wiegman, author's paternal grandfather, who settled down in what is now called the state of Washington in the Civil War era. In those days the prairie was inhabited only by coyotes and buffaloes, which made the life of the new comer to the New World extremely difficult. Over time Wiegman learned how to deal with the wildlife, how to mix with different ethnic groups, how to make a family, how to educate kids and how to minimize the fatal damage from frequent thunderbolts and deadly epidemic · read more (461 words)
Throughout his second term in office, George W. Bush has been despised
as the second worst President of the United States only next to James Buchanan
who mishandled the secessionist demand for the independence of the Confederate
States of America. One and a half century after the Civil War and four
years after Bush's reelection, some 63.8 million learning-disabled Americans
picked the wrong person as their leader once again. Astoundingly, they claim that they
are making history.
On the morning of November 5 (JST) I was watching live the "historic
moment" on ABC's Vote 2008 program. The podium that President-elect
was going to take was fenced in with 2-inch-thick, 10-foot-tall bulletproof
glass walls as if it was a dictator who was about to
show up to declare the birth of a socialist regime. In his victory speech,
Barack Obama urged the huge congregation of blacks, whites, browns and
yellows to rally behind him for the cause of reconciliation between different
ethnic groups, classes, genders and generations, as if to echo Chinese
leader Hu Jintao who in recent years keeps preaching harmony among his
1.3 billion people.
A little before this took place in Chicago's Grant Park, John McCain gave
his concession speech in Phoenix, Arizona. His way of bowing out was a
little more graceful and sincere than Obama's way of wording his supposedly
touching address. But just the same, the Vietnam War hero failed to win
over people's hearts and minds in part because he is a Republican, but
more importantly because McCain's campaign could not afford to buy up the
seven TV channels for a 30-minute primetime "informercial"
at an estimated cost of $4 million. · read more (743 words)