Friday, September 25, 2009

Tea Baggers, and the rising discontent

I haven't had much to say for a while, but this news really got my attention: Census Worker Found Hanged.

News reports described a school teacher working part time for the Census Bureau, preparing for next year's decennial census, was found hanged with the word "feds" inscribed across his chest.

It's harrowing to read this - nearly a decade ago, I was a part time census worker, going door to door in my own neighborhood, confirming empty residences, and asking people for their forms. The reactions I got varied greatly - for the most part, people were weary. I was, after all, "the government" knocking on their door.

In some parts of the country, the decennial census sweep is the only time the US Government knocks on your door. Most of us don't ever have federal warrants served, and the post man rarely actually bothers to knock, and on rural routes, the mail is probably left at a post office box. It is an intrusion for some people, and on a slippery slope just before the feds show up to confiscate guns, I suppose they believe.

It demonstrates to me that the vitriol that we saw this last summer - I saw one first hand in Kitanning, Pennnsylvania - is going out of control. Add in President Carter's recent remarks on race, healthcare, and the president - and you can see a nasty cocktail of emotions.

What is the way out? I don't know. I'm pessimistic. I think we're going to see more fear and discontent before civility returns to the land.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Japan gets a flat top

The Japanese Marine Self Defense Forces have commissioned the Hyuga, technically a destroyer, and the largest vessel the MSDF have built.

Well, it has a flat top, carries up to 11 helicopters, and is very much the same size as the Italian Navy's flag ship, and aircraft carrier, the Giuseppe Garibaldi.

This farce is strikingly similar to the GSDF's "special vehicle's" from years ago. Everyone else would just call it a tank.

So, close your eyes real tight, and imagine that it is just a destroyer.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Meeting with a foreign head of government. Check.

Well, Aso made news today. He allowed Mark Knoller of CBS news to add a check mark for Obama.
Meetings with a foreign leader in the Oval Office: 1
That's it. Not even a footnote really. It seemed clear that the only desire by the Japanese be that they are first. They were the first country visited by the newly sworn in Secretary of State Clinton. They were the first government to visit Obama in the Oval Office. The trip seems so quickly thrown together that their only achievement seems to be first in line. All substance seems to have been thrown out the window for the sake of style.

But one thing baffles me. Apparently, Aso met with some various experts on Japan this afternoon for lunch (since he didn't eat at the White House). The team included a variety of Japan hands, most of whom seem to have been former officials for president Bush 41 or 43. Did they not have enough time to schedule interviews with many of the Obama supporters who have not yet been appointed to jobs in the administration? Did they notice that we spent the last two years choosing a new president, and that parties changed hands?

Monday, February 23, 2009

What's Aso to do?

In his post-Presidency, with low approval ratings, President Bush was offered a job as a greeter at a hardware store in Dallas.

With approval ratings in the teens, and 4/5 Japanese disapproving, I wonder what Aso will do.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Thank you... pencil?

Well, the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film went to La Maison en Petits Cubes tonight.

Kunio Kato thanked his pencil...

His broken English speech amounted to "Thank you" plus various nouns.

Including his pencil...

Well, it fits the mold. Only North Korea seems capable of doing worse on average TOEFL scores than Japan does.

PS - The best foreign film went to Departures. The acceptance speech was given in complete sentences.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Critical US-Japan Summit

At Friday's White House Briefing, the only one of the week, numerous topics were covered: nationalization of Citi and Bank of America, the stimulus package, nuclear weapons in Iran, and even a question on whether the President's limo will carry Washington DCs "Taxation without representation" tags. The week ahead covered all the big events next week: the National Governor's Association Dinner, the fiscal responsibility summit, the president's speech before Congress, the new budget.

But when all was said and done, not a word was said about Prime Minister Aso's visit next Tuesday. More details are to come, later.

I can already see that this is going to be anything but a banner event. I wonder if the cameras will even bother to set up at the stake out location. It seems a lot like the last visit by a Japanese prime minister. Ho hum and forgetable.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Good for the goose....

Two headlines caught my attention this morning:

"Japan warns US on ‘Buy American’"

"Japan Considers Ending Four-Decade Policy to Cut Rice Planting"

Well, my first thought is - what is good for the goose is good for the gander. While on one hand Japan is warning the US not to implement protectionist measures regarding steel, while on the other they are changing their support for rice farmers at home.

As always, domestic agriculture is a different universe, exempt for all ideas of fairness.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Germany to post troops in France

The AP reports today that Germany is going to station troops in France for the first time since the Nazi occupation of France prior to 1945. The French-German joint military brigade, currently stationed on the German side of the border and comprised of troops from both countries, will send approximately 600 of the 2800 German troops in the Brigade to a location in France. (There are 2,300 French troops in the Brigade). They have served in the Balkans and Afghanistan together.

This could not be more starkly different than Sino-Japanese relations. Remember back to the May 2008 earthquake and flooding in China, when the Chinese requested Japanese assistance. Ultimately, the plan to use Japanese ASDF planes did not pan out - its simply too sensitive.

While German reconciliation with its neighbors is often held up as the gold standard for Japan (and has its own problems), it does illustrate the distance that these other two WWII adversaries need to make up in their long efforts at reconciliation.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Japan Passing?

I have been shocked in recent weeks about the utter fear of Japan passing in Tokyo.

Now, it is reported, Clinton will make her first international trip to East Asia, including Tokyo. Surely, the protocol officers are ensuring she goes to Tokyo before Beijing or Seoul, but we shall see. Perhaps this will assuage the fears.

This reminds me of similar consternation in Tokyo when Victor Cha left the NSC, and was succeeded by a very young staffer. Leaders in Tokyo were worried that they wouldn't be heard in Washington. Likewise, when Obama won the election, Tokyo seemed surprised, and was afraid to imagine a US-Japan alliance without a certain Dr. Green.

It is time for Tokyo to quit fretting, and worrying about individual relationships, and instead act like the power they aspire to be. If they want to be a medium or large power, then they should act like it.