Sunday, April 20, 2014

Oxygen Media, Exelon Corporation, and the First National Capitalist Church of Idolatry

Oxygen Media, founded by Nickelodeon executive Geraldine Laybourne, Oprah Winfrey, and a few others, targets modern, young women.  Oxygen / Bravo doyenne Frances Berwick breathlessly declared: "The combination of Oxygen's current momentum and upcoming rebrand will fully cement the network's position with young female viewers.  This new slate of originals will deliver on the freshness, authenticity, high emotional stakes, and optimism that this demographic is looking for."

Berwick's target demographic must include a large proportion of women who, metaphorically speaking, have had more forks stuck in them than a Swiss fondue pot.  Take Oxygen's reality show, The Preachers of LA, which features six men practicing faith-based chicanery.  In any civilized country, such a show would result in fraud investigations against the grifters using religion to separate people from their money, but in the capitalist USA, it results in a contract extension and spinoffs currently being developed for New York, Atlanta, Dallas, and Detroit, an expected outcome from NBC, the parent of CNBC, MSNBC, and E's Kardashians.

A good number of African-American ministers and Mormons have admitted that The Preachers of LA does a disservice to Christianity.

"The downside is that people often paint all pastors with a broad brush and, after watching this show, they may well begin to associate all pastors with those behaviors.  There are many pastors who are out here serving the people and not just serving themselves," said Rev. James C. Perkins, the pastor of Greater Christ Baptist Church in Detroit and vice president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention.

"P. Diddy.  Jay-Z.  They're not the only ones who should be driving Ferraris and living in large houses," said Bishop Ron Gibson in one of the show’s episodes.

Obviously Gibson skipped over Matthew 19:24 where Jesus said, "And again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."  Not to mention Exodus 32 with respect to the golden calf.

* * * * *

Exelon Corporation mailed a ballot (read it here) for its annual shareholder meeting containing the following shareholder proposal: "A shareholder proposal to limit individual total compensation for each of the Named Executive Officers to 100 times the annual median compensation paid to all employees."

As one would expect, Exelon management advises against voting for the proposal.

Let's do the math.  A fair guess would place Exelon's annual median compensation at 40,000, so the proposal sets a cap at $4 million.  Then compare that cap against the amount Exelon CEO Christopher Crane was awarded last year: $17.2 million in cash, stock, and benefits, up from $10.2 million in 2012.  Finally, look at the performance of the company during that time period: Exelon's stock price sank nearly 8%.

In a touch of irony probably unappreciated by Crane, Exelon said his 70% raise was justified because it was making his salary equal to the median paid to peer CEOs.

Hope the shareholder proposal succeeds and is copied by other shareholder activists, but a ratio of 50:1 would be a more equitable arrangement for all but the grossly overpaid corporate executives.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Happy Kim Il-sung's birthday!

The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) report of today, Illicit: North Korea's Evolving Operations to Earn Hard Currency, updated North Korea's efforts to earn hard currency while still remaining the world's premier outcast.

Counterfeited U.S. currency from North Korea, mainly $100 and $50 bills, was first detected in 1989 in the Philippines.  The Secret Service has removed approximately $50 million of it from circulation since then, but estimates range as high as $250 million for the total amount released.  One U.S. government researcher said bluntly, "We have no idea how much they're counterfeiting, because it's so good."

They are called Supernotes because they are virtually identical to the bills printed by the U.S. Treasury.  They are printed on the same model of printing press used by the U.S., a Swiss-made Intagliocolor 8.  North Korea even sent its technicians to Lausanne to be trained on the equipment.  They are printed on paper with the same composition as official U.S. bills use, a precise blend of three-quarters cotton and one-quarter linen fiber.  The ink is almost the same, color-shifting, optically-variable ink (OVI) very similar to the green-to-black OVI the Swiss company SICPA provides for the U.S.

Other major cash cows are arms exports (tanks, air-defense systems, artillery systems, rocket-propelled grenades, shells, and ammunition), endangered species products (rhino horn and ivory), methamphetamine, heroin, and other illicit drugs, counterfeit cigarettes, and fake pharmaceuticals.

The last category above is especially troubling because of the close relationship between China and North Korea.  China has used North Korea as a buffer zone between it and the West (read here and here).  China does not care that its policy of deporting North Korean refugees back to the DPRK instead of allowing South Korea to claim them often results in their death  Given that 80% of U.S. drug components originate from overseas, mainly from India and China, it is conceivable that North Korean drug components will soon find their way into our supply chain.  Then again, given how many people and pets have been sickened or killed by Chinese heparin containing impurities, melamine-tainted baby formula, illicit drugs, fake drugs, and melamine-tainted pet treats, and given Indian Ranbaxy's long-term criminal fraud, perhaps we would not even notice.

The Dennis Rodman factor also plays a role in North Korean financing.  One would assume that rational people would eschew North Korea as a tourism destination after hearing of the kidnappings of Merrill Newman and other foreigners, but exactly the opposite takes place.  One tour director commented: "For every one person that cancels we probably pick up five.  When things like this happen, we see a surge in interest."

There are no sanctions preventing Western visitors from traveling to North Korea or spending money there, unlike the U.S. restrictions on citizens regarding Cuba, because of ignorance and bias on the part of government officials such as Marco Rubio, even though North Korea keeps approximately two hundred thousand people in labor camps where prisoners often die due to torture, lack of medical care, sexual abuse, and starvation.

North Korea and China have had similar family governance arrangements since the end of WWII.  The former has had a dictator from one family, first Kim Il-sung, then Kim Jong-il, and now Kim Jong-un.  China has been run by 26 hereditary family groups which have replaced the leadership whenever they feel threatened, with Zhao Ziyang being the best example for the way he was ousted as General Secretary of the Central Committee after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.  Bao Tong, political aide to the late Zhao, has been under house arrest since 1989 as was his former boss for the last 15 years of his life, so the family memories run deep.

But things could always be worse.  We could be ordered to wear Kim Jong-un haircuts as male college students in North Korea recently were.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

U.S. has best government banks can buy; U.S. Bank protects its banking cabal abettors

A holding company is a company which does not actually perform banking or any other function, but owns banks and other businesses in a legal fiction used to shield owners from liability.

Of the fifty largest holding companies, the top ten are:
  1. JPMorgan Chase & Company
  2. Bank of America Corporation
  3. Citigroup Inc.
  4. Wells Fargo & Company
  5. The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.
  6. Morgan Stanley
  7. American International Group, Inc.
  8. General Electric Capital Corporation
  9. The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation
  10. U.S. Bancorp
The assets for the above total to $11,476,011,465,000, with JPMorgan Chase leading the pack with $2,415,689,000,000.  Compare the total to the latest GDP figure (link will open a BEA Excel file) of $16,799,700,000,000.  The ratio of assets to GDP is 0.683108, i.e. the top ten holding companies have assets slightly in excess of 2/3 of the entire country's GDP, an unbalanced situation, to be sure.  Assets at the six largest U.S. banks are up 37% from five years ago.

U.S. Bancorp has assets of $364,021,000,000 and is the legal fiction covering U.S. Bank National Association, often abbreviated as U.S. Bank.

As a point of reference, Microsoft has a market capitalization of $234,830,000,000.

U.S. Bank received TARP money, as did the vast majority of banks, to the tune of $6,599,000,000.  Its share of Bush and Obama's doled-out largesse pales in comparison to the $45,000,000,000 that both Bank of America and Citigroup received, not to mention Fannie Mae with its $116,149,000,000.  The 937 recipients of TARP collectively received $609,000,000,000.  Banks absconded with $13 billion of pure profit, with this swag being undisclosed to Congress.

And largely due to the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, a/k/a the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, banks now own oil tankers, refineries, and pipelines, run airports, control national electricity providers, and dominate the supply of uranium and aluminum, along with their regular casino businesses.

In contrast to bankers who are receiving enormous bonuses -- their booty rose by nearly a third in 2013 -- regular Americans are struggling to get by, with many eventually declaring bankruptcy after losing their livelihoods.

People who received a bankruptcy discharge in the last six to eight years won't be able to receive a bankruptcy discharge again, with the number of years depending upon whether they declared Chapter 7 or 13.  Therefore, creditors and banks know that any debts newly bankrupt customers incur will remain with them for some time and this is why auto dealerships inundate people who have just declared bankruptcy with new car offers.

Credit agencies have elephantine memories with respect to bankruptcies and the event will remain on credit scores for ten years.

Secured credit cards are advertised by banks as a means of clawing your way back to a good credit score.  They operate like credit cards, but their limit is tied to a deposit a customer has made with the bank.  It is impossible to charge more than the amount previously deposited, so customers cannot cheat the bank out of any money

So it is curious that U.S. Bank has imposed additional restrictions on its secured credit cards.  After single-clicking on "View Terms and Conditions" on its application page, the following text is seen: "We may be unable to approve your application if your credit bureau reflects a bankruptcy, you are less than 18 years of age, or if your Security Deposit is less than $300."

The last condition makes sense if U.S. Bank wants to avoid customers who won't charge much.  The middle condition makes sense due to legal limitations, i.e. minors would need a co-signer.  But the first condition makes no sense.  What difference does a former bankruptcy declaration make with a secured credit card?

For that matter, what difference does someone's credit score make with a secured credit card?  It would make a difference if U.S. Bank was considering converting someone's secured credit card to a regular one, but that is not the case here.

The most likely explanation is that U.S. Bank is protecting its collaborators in the banking cabal: scratch my pampered back and I'll scratch yours.  Someone who declared bankruptcy almost certainly discharged some credit card debt.  U.S. Bank and the other disciples of avarice are acting as an oligarchy, punishing those who dared to withhold loot destined for the pockets of corporate bank officers.

We really need to intervene all Too Big To Fail banks.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The U.S. must quickly wean itself off Russian rockets and engines from Tzar Vladimir Putin

I visited St. Petersburg and Moscow just before the worst of the 1998 Russian financial crisis, just over six years since the implosion of the Soviet Union on Christmas Day, 1991, when millions of ethnic Russians found themselves living outside Russia.

On my second day in a large tourist hotel in St. Petersburg, when I was finally alert after suffering through jet lag from my Delta/Finnair DEN-JFK, JFK-HEL, and HEL-LED flights, I was ready to explore the city.  As I approached the hotel elevator, I saw that a hotel manager had already pressed the up-button.  When I pressed the down-button, the manager chuckled and said, "Not possible."  It took me a second to realize that she was implying that the Russian elevator system could only hold one command, even though there were multiple elevators.  I would have to wait until her elevator had departed to press the down-button.

My ATM card was problematic in Russia, as I had forgotten to inform my bank of my travels.  At first this presented no problem, as I had brought U.S. dollars with me and exchanged them for rubles at currency exchanges.  I decided to take a $150 cash advance on my credit card, even though I knew the fees would be exorbitant.  I decided to do this at one of the larger banks.  My Russian is passable and I was able to explain what I wanted, but it still took them about 30 minutes to process the transaction.  This worried me a little, not knowing what they would actually charge, but given the legal protections of U.S. credit cards, I thought I could resolve any over-charges.  I was given my $150, minus a reasonable service fee, and I was on my way.

One night around midnight I awoke to light pounding on the wall accompanied by moaning.  One of the plethora of hookers who regularly worked the hotel had found a customer and since the beds were attached to the walls, the noise traveled into the next room.  Luckily he did not last long.  I was almost asleep again when I heard insistent knocking on my door from the hooker who was looking for more business.  The next morning I complained to the hotel manager that if I wanted a hooker, I would choose one myself.  He replied that she had violated the usual arrangement by knocking on the doors of unwilling participants -- mine was not the only door she knocked on -- and would be suitably chastised.

When I traveled around the city via the metro, I would see people selling all manner of wares: puppies, rabbits, used books, produce, baked goods, alcohol, and household items, including individual utensils.  I got the feeling that the people were simply trying to survive.  Sometimes I would see one or two maimed veterans, to whom people would usually give money in contrast to the cold shoulder they gave to ordinary poverty-stricken souls.

I traveled to Moscow via train.  The group of taxi-vultures waiting for tourists at the station was very experienced at separating tourists from their money.  I knew how to negotiate in Russian, so I struck a deal better than the average tourist would receive, though worse than what a Russian would accept.

When I checked into my hotel, I handed the clerk my credit card and she chuckled in the same manner as the St. Petersburg hotel manager.  I realized that the hotel's terms were cash-only, regardless of what its website stated.  Luckily, I had enough rubles to pay the charge.

I met Olga, a Russian interpreter, in Moscow and spent some time with her.  She was able to show me a few places that I would have had trouble reaching on my own.  After you spend time in Russia you realize that out of every ten woman, two are named Olga and Natalia, with nicknames of Olya and Natasha, respectively.

We took a day-trip outside Moscow.  As we walked by an apartment building, Olga suggested that I take a look inside the lobby.  As soon as I walked through the door, I saw that every single mailbox had been opened with a crowbar by a thief looking for valuables in mail.  She explained that the people in the building would have their mail held at the post office to prevent any further loss.

As we continued our walk, we came upon a park bench which looked suspiciously shiny.  I touched my finger to it and discovered that it had been painted in the last hour or two.  No "Wet Paint" sign had been left to warn visitors.  Olga just looked at me and said Это нормально (it's normal).

I noticed that Olga never stepped onto a manhole cover, always walking around them.  I asked her about it and she replied that the openings and covers were not always fitted properly.  It was not unheard of for people to step onto a cover and have it pivot and open, allowing their legs to fall into the sewer hole.  Some people's legs were broken that way.

As we were walking along a downtown Moscow street, a van drove up and parked about fifty feet in front of us.  A small group of heavily armed men dressed in military-style uniforms without insignia exited the vehicle and walked purposefully toward one of the buildings.  Olga gave me a look which suggested that we quicken our pace and leave the area pronto, so we did.

Just as in St. Petersburg, the tourist hotel had a good-sized restaurant and a few bars on the main floor, but every third floor or so had a small restaurant where one could order the equivalent of lunch.  Starting around six in the evening, hookers started to haunt these restaurants and bars -- or maybe some were there at all hours.  They didn't stay too long in the ones above the ground floor and only peeked in to see if any potential customers had arrived.  All of them spoke perfect English, better than most Americans.  Some told me that they spoke a few languages and had trained as interpreters.

I had an early flight out of Moscow, so I decided to eat dinner in the hotel bar.  Bacon and eggs, washed down with Baltika beer, would make for a fitting end to my time in Russia.  I was not even able to give my order to the waitress before a hooker came over and asked me if she could assist me.  I politely told her that all I wanted to do was eat.  She gave me a look as if I were from Mars.  After the waitress took my order, another hooker came over.  And then another.  And another.  There must have been at least ten of them in the bar and all of them wanted to do business with me.

When I returned home, I drove to the post office to pick-up my mail, anxious to see what the actual amount of the charge was for my cash advance.  At first I thought I was having an attack of dyslexia because I could not believe the amount: $1.50.  The Russian bank had somehow lost two decimal places on my transaction -- and it never did correct its error.

* * * * *

Russian President Vladimir Putin's rise to power indirectly started with the loans-for-shares fraud.

Vladimir Potanin created the scheme which then-President Boris Yeltsin heartily approved.  It involved the selling of Russia's infrastructure -- its crown jewels -- e.g. MMC Norilsk Nickel, one of the largest nickel reserves and smelting plants in the world, for an amount far below market value.  The plan was supposed to be a transparent auction, but only bidders especially chosen by Yeltin's younger daughter (now named Tatyana Yumasheva) were invited to participate, in exchange for a considerable kick-back.

The corruption and incompetence soon led to the crash of the rouble in August 1998, when it lost 70% of its value and suffered a "controlled devaluation."  Most Russians lost money in the government-made disaster and they never forgot it.  As usually happens, the poor and orphans suffered while the wealthy rode out the crisis in style.

One of the oligarchs who got his start via this scheme was Mikhail Khodorkovsky.  He is a darling of Western politicians, but he was always just another smooth-talking oligarch.  He transferred oil holdings from the Russian state to create Yukos Oil Company, making him a billionaire.

Yeltsin chose Putin to succeed him because Yeltsin wanted immunity from prosecution and the only way he could guarantee that was to resign and appoint someone who had agreed to the pardon in a quid pro quo.  Putin did not agree to look the other way with respect to Yeltin's family because he fired Yeltsin's daughter from her position as a Kremlin image adviser in one of his first official acts.  Putin wisely separated himself from the corrupt Yeltin family in doing so.

Putin cracked down on the hated oligarchs, especially Khodorkovsky and Boris Berezovksy who popularized the term "oligarch."  The former was imprisoned and the latter left the country before Putin could do the same to him.  Putin promised to destroy the oligarchs "as a class," which went down very well with people infuriated by Yeltsin's profiteering, nepotism, and venality.

One final footnote to Yeltin's time in office involves Yuri Meshkov, the first and only president of Crimea.  Meshkov's election platform's most important issue had been the reunification of Crimea and Russia.  But in 1994, Yeltin had other things on his mind and dismissed Meshkov's overtures.

* * * * *

When you stop to think about it, the U.S. and Russia have a lot in common.

Both have flags composed of red, white, and blue.

Both have grossly incompetent leaders, albeit in very different ways.  Barack Obama's Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner might as well have been Wall Street's poodle for the way he avoided prosecuting any of the Wall Street criminals. Putin, for all his military bluster, cannot seem to understand that allowing brutal and often fatal hazing of troops is counter-productive and pointlessly cruel.

The previous leaders of both countries -- for the U.S., George W. Bush and for Russia, Boris Yeltsin (never mind Dmitry Medvedev, as he was Putin's puppet) -- who created programs, TARP and loans-for-shares, respectively, which transferred much of the two countries' assets to oligarchs.

In the U.S., there are Fox News, MSNBC, and other stations which spoon-feed their viewers biased and often ignorant opinions.  In Russia, RT and the other Kremlin-controlled stations spoon-feed their viewers biased and often ignorant opinions.

In the U.S., there are many people who believe some truly bizarre things, e.g. that 9/11 was a red flag operation, that the Moon landings were staged, that Obama was not born in Hawaii, that lizard-people control politics, that anyone who disagrees with liberals is automatically a racist, Islamophobe, or homophobe, etc.  In Russia, there are many people who believe that Russia "saved" Eastern Europe, when in fact the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact divided it between Soviets and Nazis; Putin's new culture minister, Vladimir Medinsky, declared that the Soviet Union never occupied the Baltic states, it just "incorporated" them, and an infamous picture of a Nazi-Soviet military parade in Poland in 1939 was "photoshopped."

In the U.S., there are homoerotic people such as Robert Mapplethorpe who take a photograph of a man pissing into another man's mouth and call it art, with their groupies breathlessly declaring that the work is "marvelous."  In Russia, there is Pussy Riot which staged a live sex show to protest against Putin's call for women to have more children.

In the U.S., there are Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz who believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast.  Paul admitted that his beliefs echo those of his father, Ron Paul, in an interview with Alex Jones -- "I'd say we'd be very very similar." -- and therefore has a clinically schizophrenic personality, e.g. for years the elder Paul has advocated for a return to the gold standard, but has also advocated for the sale of our gold.  In Russia, there is Vladimir Zhirinovsky who was once described as "The Lord God's monkey."

Both countries have oligarchs.  In the U.S., there are Jeff Bezos, Walmart's Walton family, Tom Perkins, and other hyenas who have made a killing on the backs of middle class Americans.  In Russia, Putin allows his friends to become obscenely wealthy to the detriment of the Russian people, but any oligarch who tries to interfere in politics is severely chastised.

Yeltin resigned and appointed Putin to follow him, with Putin agreeing not to prosecute him.  The U.S. had Jerry Ford pardon Nixon who resigned to avoid being impeached.

* * * * *

The U.S. is waking up to the fact that its outsourcing of its space program to Russia has now proven to be rather awkward.

The space shuttle has long since retired, so we are solely dependent on Russia to transport our astronauts to the International Space Station and we pay almost $70 million per astronaut trip for the privilege.  And we buy rocket engines from Russia to launch satellites, even spy satellites, via the United Launch Alliance's Atlas V launch vehicle.

An Air Force review revealed that we have enough Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines for two more years of classified launches.  At least eight of the National Reconnaissance Office's spy satellites launched since 2007 have been put into orbit via Russian engines.

Someone who worked with NASA satellites once told me that a KH-11, our imaging spy satellite, is essentially a Hubble Space Telescope turned to face the Earth.  Since the Hubble weighs around 11 tons (roughly 10,000 kg), it is likely KH-11s are close to that weight.  KH-11s are put into a sun-synchronous orbit.

Republicans looking to please their base of people who think a country can survive on the money it spent in the 1700s were largely responsible for the outsourcing.

"The president has been requesting approximately $800 million every year since his FY12 budget submission to fund the development of American vehicles to provide access to the ISS, only to have Congress, led primarily by the GOP but not exclusively, dramatically undercut that funding," said Dale Ketcham, chief of strategic alliances for Space Florida, the state’s spaceport authority and aerospace development organization.

However, the president shares the blame given his drastic change of direction for NASA by eliminating a shuttle replacement, instructing NASA to plan for missions to Mars, and expecting the private sector to supply rockets capable of bringing astronauts to the ISS.

"In light of Russia's de facto annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region, and the formal severing of military ties, the Atlas V cannot possibly be described as providing assured access to space for our nation when supply of the main engine depends on President (Vladimir) Putin's permission," said SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

Of course, Musk is hoping that any new business comes his way, but it is a fact that SpaceX's unmanned Dragon capsule has already delivered cargo to the ISS and safely returned to Earth.

Instead of dreaming of missions to Mars, which will require astronauts to sit in a cramped capsule for 1-2 years each direction, we should devise an alternative to the Russian rocket engine.  The capability of the Atlas V for launching payloads into low Earth orbit is 29,400 kg, while the Delta IV can lift 22,560 kg, so we either need to design a replacement engine for the former or design a new, more powerful version of the latter.  SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket will be available in a few years, so its capability to launch 53,000 kg into low Earth orbit -- second only to the Saturn V's 118,000 kg -- will allow us to launch any current satellite and even return to the Moon.

And given that the Soyuz rocket used to transport astronauts to the ISS only has a payload capability of 7,800 kg for low Earth orbit, we have a choice of ready-to-go American-made rockets.  We only need to design a replacement capsule to dock with the space station or just use SpaceX's DragonRider when it is approved for manned use.

Of course, we must remember that a particular rocket can put almost four times as much weight into a low Earth orbit compared to a geosynchronous or heliocentric one.  And a rocket could put around one-quarter more weight into a low earth orbit compared to a polar or sun-synchronous one.  Orbits are not created equally.

We are in the better situation because Russia relies on U.S. power and communications systems to run its segment of the space station.  "They'd be far worse off with only their part of the ISS than we would be without Soyuz, in terms of how quickly we could replace the function," said James Oberg, a former shuttle mission controller.

We beat the Russians to the Moon using American-made hardware and software, so we can certainly become rocket-independent of them now, with a number of well-paid jobs being created here as a bonus.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Japan's revisionism of its comfort women guilt is a retreat into ignorance and isolation

If a latter-day Nazi like Erika Steinbach became German chancellor and declared that Jews had volunteered to die in the Zyklon-B showers and/or that it was necessary for them to have been killed, the outrage would be heard all over the world.  The situation would worsen if that chancellor then ordered that Germany's history books reflect her party's opinion that Germany was the victim in WWII.  The EU would unite, for once, and denounce the statement as tantamount to an endorsement of genocide.  The U.S. government might make comments regarding how Germany will never join the Five Eyes club.  There might even be economic sanctions imposed upon such an ignorant government.

Yet the equivalent announcement by the Japanese government to revise history is causing no ripples in North America and Europe.  The Japanese government, headed by Abe Shinzo, announced that it will "re-examine and understand the background" behind the official Japanese apology for the treatment of the so-called comfort women, the 200,000 women forced to serve as prostitutes for the Japanese army during WWII, not to mention the many other atrocities for which it was responsible.  These women were mainly taken from Korea and China, but many Filipino, Indonesian, Dutch, and other women were taken as well.

A previous prime minister, Murayama Tomiichi, apologized in the mid-1990s for Japan's forcing the women into prostitution as well as many other atrocities.  Murayama was a member of the Social Democratic Party, while Abe is a member of the Liberal Democratic Party.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye, who has not yet made a state visit to Japan because of its revisionism, called on Japan to embrace "truth and reconciliation" and advised that "historical truth is in testimony from the survivors."

"Japan would only bring isolation on itself if it turns a deaf ear to their testimony and sweeps it under the rug for political benefits," she said.  "I hope Japan extricates itself from denial of history and starts making a new history of truth and reconciliation."

Abe, whose grandfather was Kishi Nobusuke, possibly the most corrupt Japanese politician in the modern era, has been pushing for this revisionist view of history for many years.

The mayor of Osaka, Hashimoto Toru, declared last May that the brothels "were necessary at the time to maintain discipline in the army."  Hashimoto is one of Abe's close supporters.

Momii Katsuto, a businessman with no previous broadcast experience appointed by Abe to head Japan's national broadcaster NHK, chimed in, saying last January that "such women could be found in any nation that was at war, including France and Germany."  Hashimoto defended him, saying that the logic behind Momii’s argument is "sound."

This issue has been simmering in Japan since the end of WWII.  Much of the blame must be placed on General Douglas MacArthur who allowed Japan to retain its emperor, permitted war criminals to go free, and encouraged criminals like Kishi to join the government, all in a misguided attempt at fighting communism.

The belief that the comfort women volunteered for duty runs deep in Japanese society.

Two statues of remembrance were erected by Korean-Americans, in Palisades Park, New Jersey and Glendale, California.  In both cases, Japanese businessmen asked that they be removed.

In  Palisades Park, Japanese businessmen tried to coerce Barack Obama into becoming involved via an online petition.  Japanese government officials asked the city to remove the monument.  After that effort failed, unknown Japanese defaced the monument.

In Glendale, many Japanese sent emails describing the women as "liars" and willing "prostitutes."  Yamamoto Yumiko, the Tokyo woman spearheading the email campaign, said she's one of "many Japanese mothers" trying to fight the spread of "fabricated Japanese history."

Long before this, in 2001, one of Japan's most popular manga artists, Kobayashi Yoshinori, created a comic book titled Taiwan Discourse.  The comic book portrayed women smiling as they volunteered to become comfort women, saying that it was a "big move up in the world" for them.

Japanese people refuse to use the word "guilt" when discussing the comfort women.  "There were many regrettable incidents," said one man in a non-apology one expected to be followed by, "But Japan suffered just as much as the other countries!  Japan is a victim too!"

But given the Japanese educational system, which minimizes its actions in WWII, the ignorance is understandable.  In one eighth-grade history textbook, "only 19 of the book's 357 pages dealt with events between 1931 and 1945" with only a footnote on the Nanjing massacre where anywhere from 140,000 to 340,000 Chinese civilians were butchered, often in grisly ways.  And Japan is revising its school manuals again to reflect the current conflict with China over the Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.

Not surprisingly, China is ramping up its own propaganda.  It has created a new national holiday to remember the rape of Nanjing.  It wants the world to understand that Japan's treatment of it was comparable to the Holocaust.

There is a war brewing between Japan and China, the two bullies of Asia.  The former's fascist, unapologetic, ignorant attitude mixed with the latter's new-found imperialism in the East China Sea and South China Sea will soon erupt into violence over the Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands.  We must not allow Japan to drag us into another war, especially given that our illustrious leaders have announced that any battle over the islands will automatically trigger U.S. involvement under an American defense pact with Japan.

We must modify the defense pact to exclude incidents involving the Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands.  And move even more U.S. forces out of Japan and into Guam and other locations away from the impending conflict.

We must re-examine and understand the background behind the Pacific free trade agreement.  Abe is desperate to clinch a deal to improve Japan's dismal economy which has remained flat for nearly two decades.  Abenomics has resulted in a debt to GDP ratio of 2.3, more than twice that of the U.S.  This free trade agreement must be used as leverage against Japan's fascism.  Japan must decide: it cannot have both its revisionist view of history and a free trade agreement.

The U.S. would be wise to remember the lessons of WWI.  Franz Joseph might very well have sat on his pampered hands after his nephew's assassination in 1914, satisfied to use his Austria-Hungary Empire to track down and eliminate the Serbian anarchists.  Wilhelm II of Germany triggered the general war by issuing a blank check, promising Franz Joseph that he could count on the "full support" of Germany in the Austria-Hungary Empire's attack on Serbia.

The aftermath resulted in a redrawing of the map of Europe.  Germany, probably the world's great military power at the time, was forced to sign a humiliating surrender, leading to the second act of the European war just twenty years later.  Russia, a giant with feet of clay, changed from a monarchy into the first communist state, with millions of people dying due to famine and/or being caught between the Whites and Reds.  The Austria-Hungary Empire essentially ceased to exist.  And the U.S. for the first time became a major player on the world stage.

Remember what your mother said about reckless friends.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Fiction reference points

During my tenure as a blogger I wrote three categories of fiction with all of them being sparked by current events.  If you obtain all of your news from Facebook, Twitter, and/or your friends, you will not understand very much of these stories.  Every concept in them came from articles I read on Der Spiegel, BBC News, Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Deutsche Welle, The Telegraph, euronews, Reuters, and a few other sources, taking them to a logical conclusion.  I naively hoped that this fiction would lead to a job, whether in technical writing, foreign affairs, journalism, or even Hollywood, but, alas, no.

The War of Immiscible Ideas was my attempt to write something along the lines of Tom Clancy's fiction.  It all started with a BBC News article of women joining the South Korean military as officers and an unrealistic daydream of being asked to assist in the collapse of North Korea.  One big lesson I learned is that it is not possible to write in a serial fashion without already having written all of the chapters as it is very easy to write yourself into a corner.  I wrote the first four chapters while Kim Jong-il was still alive.  I then took a break for one year and he had the good sense to die during this period, forcing me to rush his death into my story.  I then realized that the Korean sub-plot was the most important story, so I concentrated on it pretty much exclusively.  Chapter 7 is easily the best thing I have ever written and has been one of my most popular posts, but the fun really starts in chapter 5; chapter 7 deals with the immediate aftermath of an implosion of North Korea.  The sections involving the newsreader Lolita Tidings are completely independent from the other stories and serve as both comic outlet and editorializing on my part.  The base story is the pairing of Christian Talvela and Song Han-na.  The names of characters are often tongue-in-cheek, e.g. the name for the current dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, is Kim Young-un, a pun on his juvenile nature.  The chapters are:
The second category consists of two independent stories.  Some knowledge of chess history will allow the reader to fully appreciate the first story; all character names were taken from somewhat famous chess players and the "accelerated dragon" from the title is a playing strategy.  The second story is much longer than the first and meanders through many current events and potential outcomes thereof; the names of the prime minister and other politicians were satirically designed and the names of the two journalists were borrowed from British and American literature.  The stories are:
The third category contains my oldest fiction, an eclectic mix of bawdy jokes, affronts to odious, self-important VIPs, sarcasm regarding current events, and a little preaching.  If I were to write them again I would not use the names of actual people.  I placed all of them in the future, with Katie Couric's departure from CBS News being a surprise.  Clueless, horny males searching for "does Martha MacCallum smoke" and "Martha MacCallum lingerie" is the explanation as to why Fox News America's Newsroom with Martha MacCallum for July 27, 2012 remains one of my most popular posts from a statistics point of view.  The posts are:

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Believe it or not: Barack Obama's SOTU speech

I still remember the woman on the metro in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

She was in her twenties or early thirties, attractive, and well-dressed in a business fashion.  I did not plan it, but I was sitting directly across from her because I had taken one of the only available seats that evening.

There was a drunken Russian man sitting next to her.  Actually, drunken does not quite do him justice.  He reeked of alcohol and bad hygiene.  My knowledge of the Russian language is only useful for restaurants and basic tourism, but I could tell he was making lewd suggestions by the physical revulsion the woman exhibited.

I did not dare to intervene because it was likely other Russian men would have joined the fight against me, the ugly American.  And alcohol abuse by Russian men is common.

She sat there and took the abuse because Russia is a man's world.  It is common to see a middle-aged Russian thug in a nightclub with a late-teens or early-20s girlfriend.  Boris Berezovsky, the Russian oligarch who may or may not have committed suicide after he ran out of money, was 67 but had a 23-year-old Russian girlfriend, Katerina Sabirova.

I felt just like that poor woman on the metro while listening to Barack Obama's State of the Union speech.

Helaine Olen's Reuters article, Obama’s small steps won’t fix inequality, noted that the speech was "a nice start.  But nowhere near enough."

She discussed the growing problem of inequality.  She mentioned Tom Perkins, the eight-times billionaire who whined to the Wall Street Journal that the 1%, of which he is a member, is being treated like the Jews in Nazi Germany.

His reasoning is 100% backwards.  Just as the Nazis collected the assets of the Jews -- real estate, art, money, even their gold teeth -- the members of the 1% are collecting the assets of the rest of the world, especially in the U.S.

The 85 richest people in the world are now worth as much as the bottom 3.5 billion, with the population of the world being seven billion.  And in the U.S. "the wealthiest 1 percent have captured 95 percent of all economic growth since the financial crisis of 2009."

Perhaps Italy could be persuaded that instead of extradition, we arrange to have Amanda Knox be Perkins' care-giver.

Since Obama's first inauguration I have developed two impressions of him.  The first is that of a politician who makes great speeches, but whose priorities, e.g. allowing foreigners with HIV/AIDS to enter the country combined with the federal funding of expensive HIV/AIDS treatment for hundreds of thousands of under-insured, low-income Americans, demonstrate a clear inability to grasp the larger picture (the latter creates a loophole to make the former a budget-buster).  The second is that of a deer in the headlights, peeking out from the forest of incompetence, hubris, and graft that is Washington DC.

Obama started off by patting himself on the back for the "lowest unemployment rate in over five years."  He never mentions that the labor force participation rate is the lowest since 1978.  The government does not even bother to count people who have been unemployed for more than six months because they are no longer collecting unemployment compensation, an inconvenient truth, to be sure.  The official unemployment rate is a farce and has been since Reagan when it was first decoupled from reality and then again in 1994.

Did you know that Obama's first state dinner was for the prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh, where he declared that India was "indispensable"?  Strange choice, don't you think?  If I were president, my first two state dinners would be for our neighbors, Canada and Mexico.  Or if you are into that "special relationship" thing, the UK.  Or perhaps Germany, our most important ally not currently party to the Five Eyes agreement.  Or even South Korea, to show North Korea that we will stand by South Korea, not to mention that Park Geun-hye is the first female president of her country (she was elected long after Obama, but you get my point).

And then consider what Obama said in his SOTU speech: "Over more than three decades, even before the Great Recession hit, massive shifts in technology and global competition had eliminated a lot of good, middle-class jobs, and weakened the economic foundations that families depend on."

That's only partly true.  Yes, technology eliminated many jobs.  But it also created the ability to outsource call center, software, IT, and other jobs to other countries, especially India.  Target might be regretting that move now, though.

And "global competition" carries more baggage than Paris Hilton returning from a European shopping expedition.  Walmart is responsible for 10% of all imports from China, yet it was the Walton family, not a foreign business, which reveled in the largesse.  Walmart employees are forced to seek public assistance to survive, but Perkins probably thinks they are just Nazis trying to take some of his loot.

Obama continued with, "Let's work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs here at home."

These are good ideas, but they need to be fleshed-out.  Why not declare that tax rates for corporation should be inversely proportionally to the number of American employed, both direct (e.g. office and assembly workers) and indirect (referring to the retail goods sold in stores and parts used in assembly, with Walmart's wares being the best example)?

Obama continued with, "So let's get immigration reform done this year."

People rarely mention that the Senate's immigration "reform" bill includes a drastic increase in the number of H-1B visas to be offered.  Today companies like Infosys, Wipro, Cognizant, and Tata Consulting are responsible for hundreds of thousands of Indian H-1B visa holders.  Infosys was fined for immigration fraud for bringing in long-term workers under B-1 / B-2 visas which are only supposed to be used for events lasting a few days to a few weeks, but, as usual, no human was prosecuted even though at least one human made a conscious decision to break the law.  Bill Gates, the patron saint of H-1B visas, has appeared before Congress many times begging for an increase.  Many people use the code-phrase of "high-skill" or "highly-skilled" when justifying a higher cap on the number of H-1B visas, even though the vast majority are used to replace American workers with Indians possessing only a B.S. degree.

And in an example of Obama's dominant left hand not knowing what his right hand is doing, he is traveling to industrial centers making a pitch to improve training for technical workers.  He is deluding himself into thinking he is just following up on his SOTU pledge: "We're working to redesign high schools and partner them with colleges and employers that offer the real-world education and hands-on training that can lead directly to a job and career."

Gee, Mr. President, what is the point of training Americans if you are going to allow hundreds of thousands of Indian H-1B visa holders into the country to replace them?  That will only make their unemployment that much harder to bear.

Olen noted that Obama's plan was "modest so that it does not need the congressional approval he’s unlikely to receive."  She concluded by stating: "Obama needs to take [the challenge] on.  If he can't get Congress to take action, he needs to explain to the American public the consequences of inaction."

Obama had the opportunity to spend trillions of dollars, not on pampered bankers, but on our decaying infrastructure and people hurt by the bankers' gross incompetence.  Instead he listened to the advice of his three stooges -- Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers, and Robert Rubin -- just as Bill Clinton did, though Rubin was not a formal member of the Obama administration.  And so we continued the welfare for bankers scheme created by Bush the Younger and allowed the world's largest casinos to continue to operate freely.

We could have used existing trust-busting precedent to reduce the TBTF banks down to a manageable size and form.  We could have passed laws which were seriously intended to help homeowners, e.g. the Making Home Affordable Act, forcing the banks to follow the law (read here and here).  But, alas, we did not.

Summers wrote that "there must be a clear and unambiguous commitment that whatever else happens, the failure of major financial institutions in any country will not be permitted."

The ship of state is sinking, but never mind the women and children; save the banks.

And so we did.  The statute of limitations on their crimes is running out after which our government won't even have to pretend to care.

Believe it.  Or not.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Douglas MacArthur, Xi Jinping, Abe Shinzo, and the looming war between China and Japan

Both China and Japan are major trading partners of the U.S.

China sends us much more than Japan: for 2013, the ratio of imports/exports for China and Japan are, respectively, 440,433.5 / 122,016.3 and 138,533.5 / 65,144.8, or 3.61 and 2.13.

Graphs of the trade data from 1985 to 2013 are educational, with all data taken from the U.S. Census Bureau (see raw data for China here and for Japan here).

* * * * *

In many respects General Douglas "dugout Doug" MacArthur set the stage for the impending conflict.

MacArthur, perhaps the most arrogant U.S. military officer ever to wear a uniform, ignored the lessons of WWI, a war in which he took part initially as a colonel and then as a brigadier general.  The Versailles Treaty punished Germany for its role in the war, but since it had not actually been invaded, let alone occupied, people like Hitler could use the resentment of Germans for their own purposes, as everyone saw that German cities had not been touched by the war.  Many historians consider the European portion of WWI and WWII to be one continuous war with a twenty-year break in the middle.

MacArthur married wealthy heiress Louise Cromwell Brooks in 1922.  They separated in 1927 and divorced in 1929.  The official grounds were "failure to provide," but that is ridiculous given her wealth.  She had probably simply tired of his world-class ego.

In 1930 he was Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army with the rank of general.  When at his desk, he wore a Japanese ceremonial kimono and cooled himself with an oriental fan.  Clearly he thought of himself as a Japanese warrior and greatly admired Japan and its culture.

In late July 1932, a group of desperate Army veterans were encamped in Washington DC.  They were there in an attempt to convince the government to give them early bonuses, given that this was during the depths of the Great Depression.  They called themselves the Bonus Expeditionary Forces but they became known as the Bonus Marchers.  The House passed a bill to issue the veterans their bonuses, but the Senate rejected it.  Hoover, curiously unsympathetic given his earlier humanitarian work in Belgium and Russia, vowed to veto any legislation.

Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur accepted Hoover's order to clear the city of the demonstrating veterans, but in a move he would repeat later in Korea, he disobeyed orders to not pursue the veterans into their main encampment on the other side of the Anacostia River.  Future generals George Patton and Dwight Eisenhower were present, with the latter later quoting MacArthur as having "said he was too busy" and did not want to be "bothered by people coming down and pretending to bring orders," referring to the civilian leadership, especially Secretary of War Patrick Hurley.  MacArthur burned the camp to the ground.

A similar situation to that in Germany existed in Japan after its surrender in 1945.  It had been severely bombed, but it had not been invaded, allowing ignorant fascists to believe that Japan had somehow been robbed by its unconditional surrender.  Just before the surrender, the emperor recorded on a record his message announcing his decision to the Japanese people.  He did this because he had never made a public speech before and it needed to be proper.  A group of military officers heard about the record and stormed the emperor's residence in an attempt to steal it and thereby prevent the surrender.  One official's wise decision to hide the record in a piece of furniture allowed the surrender to take place as planned.

The fanatical Japanese military had been preparing the general population for an all-out defense of the home islands against a U.S. military invasion called Operation Downfall.  Women and children were given sharpened sticks to attack U.S. Marines as they landed on the beach.  The entire population was to attack the invaders in waves of kamikaze attacks which would have resulted in the virtual annihilation of the Japanese race.  Since their woman and children had survived the war largely intact, the fascists continued to believe their fairy tale that Japan had not yet been beaten.

Estimates for American casualties -- 25% of casualties are deaths -- range from 125,000 to 1,000,000.  The higher estimates were meant for the people who were making the decision to use nuclear weapons.  But there is no escaping the fact that the invasion would have been a blood-bath, with most of the blood being Japanese.  In the many island battles against Japan, five Japanese soldiers died for each American soldier.  We will never know what the ratio would have been for an invasion of Japan's home islands, but we can be assured that every variation of kamikaze attack would have been executed.

MacArthur fanned these nationalistic flames after the war by allowing some of the worst war criminals the world has ever seen, the leadership and scientists of Unit 731, the group which performed experiments on live humans even worse than what the Nazis did, to go scot-free.  He did this to allow the U.S. to gain the knowledge learned by the Japanese savages with their vivisections on conscious patients and other crimes against humanity.  And instead of eliminating the office of Emperor, MacArthur allowed the royal deception to continue, ignoring the stark evidence that the Emperor personally issued orders regarding Unit 731, further cementing the view of Japanese fascists that they did not really lose the war.

Given his bias, MacArthur was the last person the U.S. should have entrusted with the occupational command of Japan.

* * * * *

Reuters announced back in November that China was abolishing its labor camps, supposedly a great victory for Chinese President Xi Jinping who Reuters reported just over a week earlier had been stymied in his quest to eliminate them.

Reuters appears to have swallowed China's announcement that Xi will head a working group which will spearhead reforms, including a softening of China's one-child policy.  Reuters believes that the Communist Party has pledged to let the market play a "decisive" role in the economy.  But if the party truly wishes to allow the market to control China's economy, it should dissolve itself.  Communism and capitalism are generally mutually exclusive.

But there was no further news covering the closure of the labor camps.  Was it merely wishful thinking?

Radio Free Asia gave a more nuanced report on the working group announcement, realizing that the "reforms" are still the instrument of an authoritarian regime that plans and controls every aspect of people's lives.

"They are just using the name 'reform' to set up another executive body containing a core of the central leadership, over and above the existing framework.  This will help Xi Jinping to consolidate his individual political power, and has nothing to do with reform," said Sweden-based current affairs commentator Li Yuanyue.

"I think what Xi's assumption of [this role] tells us is that the past 30 years of economic reform has been entirely a product of the party.  All of it has been an exercise organized by Chinese Communist Party leaders, and nothing to do with reform in the direction of freedom and democracy.  It doesn't matter whether they are economic or other kinds of reform; they are all in line with party interests," said Beijing-based rights lawyer Chen Yongmiao

Bao Tong, former Director of the Office of Political Reform of the CPC Central Committee and the Policy Secretary of Zhao Ziyang, gave us a clear view of matters in The Myth of Mao Zedong Still Haunts China.

The myth of Mao is still very strong in China.  Even though he presided over a 14-year period of killing -- the ten-year Cultural Revolution plus four more years for good measure -- with tens of millions of innocent people dying, Mao is still revered by the party, especially now on the 120th anniversary of his birth.

"We must not abandon Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong thought; otherwise, we will lose our foundation," Xi said during a speech in November 2012.  Xi has resurrected core Mao principles, including revolutionary-era tactics such as cadre self-criticisms.

Bao noted that the sole theme of Mao's 14-year massacre, which he planned and orchestrated, was "whoever opposes Chairman Mao will be brought down."

You just can't keep a good communist down.

* * * * *

Abe Shinzo is the current Japanese prime minister, but this is not the first time he was elected to that post.  He first gained that position in September 2006, but resigned less than a year later.  He had three agricultural ministers jump ship on him: Matsuoka Toshikatsu committed suicide, Akagi Norihiko resigned after a political funding scandal, and Takehiko Endo resigned after a finance scandal.

He is only one of many prime ministers -- others include Nakasone Yasuhiro, Hashimoto Ryutaro and Koizumi Junichiro -- to have visited the Yasukuni Shrine, a memorial to all Japanese war dead.  Soldiers in WWII often declared they would meet again at Yasukuni following their death in action.  The problem is that many war criminals have been added to this shrine over the years, with the fourteen most prominent Class A war criminals -- defined as those who committed crimes against peace -- being added in a secret ceremony in 1978.

A sign under the title "The Results of World War II" communicates a great deal regarding Japan's attitude towards the war:
Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War [1904-05] gave the hope of independence to various Asian peoples who were bowed under the yoke of the Western Powers [. . .] Asian countries were able to gain their independence after colonial authorities were toppled by the Japanese military in the early part of the Greater East Asia War.  The flames of independence ignited under the control of the Japanese army were not extinguished even after Japan lost, and one by one these peoples waged wars for independence and regained control over their own lands.
This point of view might make sense if it were not for the Rape of Nanking, the enslavement of perhaps 200,000 Korean, Chinese, Filipino, Dutch, and other women as prostitutes (the "comfort women"), and Unit 731.  However, the truth is that Japan used civilians for bayonet practice, raped an unimaginable number of women, and treated humans as valid subjects in the most hideous "medical" experiments this side of Dachau.

Yasukuni also includes memorials to kamikaze attackers, whether human torpedoes, one-way aircraft flights, or soldiers carrying explosives committing pre-Muslim suicide bombings.  These people, along with the Class A war criminals, constitute the many "Gods of Yasukuni."

Abe ignored the sensitivities of China, Korea, and other countries in the region and visited Yasukuni in December.  The U.S. was not pleased, with Koichi Nakano, a professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo, saying that Abe’s visit was "offensive to the Americans, as they sent him a clear message in October not to visit Yasukuni.  He clearly ignored this advice."

Abe's grandfather, Kishi Nobusuke, served in the Cabinet of Hideki Tojo, the prime minister from 1941 to 1944, serving as Minister of Commerce and Industry from 1941 to the end of the war.  After the war he was classified as a Class A war crimes suspect and held in detention until 1948 when the "Showa Era Monster" was released because the U.S. wanted to use him in the new Cold War.  He was prime minister from 1957 to 1960 and was in the vanguard of Japanese revisionism.  He ordered a shrine to be built to honor seven of the war criminals, especially Tojo, at Mount Sangane in Aichi, honoring them as "seven patriots who died for their country."

Kishi was probably the most corrupt Japanese politician of the 20th Century and this was reflected in his creation of the 1955 System.  Even during WWII Kishi was famous for his "consummate skill in laundering money," but he took this to a new level with the 1955 System.

One of Kishi's allies was the Japanese wannabe, MacArthur.  Kishi brilliantly convinced the vain and foolish MacArthur that somehow the bushido fascism which had infected Japan for centuries was magically gone, with the new danger being communism.  Kishi and his brother Sato Eisaku, another future prime minister, would "play the anti-communist card in the hope of securing financial support" from then-Ambassador MacArthur.

And the money flowed like water.  Tanaka Kakuei, a prime minister in the 1970s, "once bragged that he got his first cabinet post by giving Kishi a backpack stuffed with three million yen in cash."

Another of Kishi's allies was Kodama Yoshio, essentially a gangster whose modus operandi "was blackmail, intimidation, and violence."  Kodama's activities of "drug trafficking, smuggling, and black marketeering" provided the funds for Kishi's political rebirth.

Sasakawa Ryoichi was the other major Kishi partner in the Japanese underworld.  He established the National Essence Mass Party (Kokusui Taishuto) in 1931.  Its 15,000 members, one of whom was Kodama, "wore black shirts and modeled themselves on the Italian fascists."  Well after the war, he established the Sasakawa Foundation which financially supported once and future prime ministers Nakasone Yasuhiro and Hashimoto Ryutaro.  In 1978, the emperor awarded Sasakawa the nation's highest honor, the First Class Order of the Sacred Treasure.

Both Kodama and Sasakawa "plundered millions of dollars worth of Chinese gold, diamonds, and other rare minerals" during their time in China, with these assets ending up in Japan just before the end of the war.  The assets were never seized by the American occupation government.

Abe is merely following in the footsteps of his ancestors -- with the approval of most Japanese, given that they learned absolutely nothing regarding Japan's wartime atrocities in Japanese schools.

* * * * *

Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese ambassador to Britain, wrote a scathing op-ed in the Telegraph regarding the actions of Abe.

Liu mentioned Abe's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, but more importantly he noted that Abe was photographed posing in a military jet marked with the number 731, obviously representing Unit 731.

Abe's jet-pose was the politician's equivalent of a killer who is being prosecuted for raping and killing a young girl, but instead of being contrite during his trial, he grabs a doll from a friend sitting behind him, rubs the doll against his crotch, rips the doll's head off, and laughs, mocking the family of his victim for the sole purpose of being cruel and vindictive.

And for those who believe that the number 731 was merely an unfortunate coincidence, that number was topped by, in English, "Leader S. Abe."  No German leader would ever accidentally be photographed next to a reference to Zyklon-B, the poison gas used in Nazi death camps because they know their history.

"We know from history that a country that starts a war and ends up in defeat has two options. One is to face up squarely to its past, make sincere apologies, and renounce militarism, as Germany did.  The German approach has contributed to regional stability and world peace.  It has earned respect and acclaim from the whole world.  The other option is to deny past aggression, allow militarism to rise, and raise the threat of war," wrote Liu.

Germany has been very successful since WWII, largely because, as Liu wrote, it admitted its fault and moved on.  Today almost no one accuses Germans of being Nazis.  Japan not only appears to be condemned to repeat the past, it is reveling in it.

Abe is not remotely the only Japanese person who is confidently and vigorously ignorant of the truth.  The mayor of Osaka, Hashimoto Toru, recently declared regarding Japan's forcing at least 200,000 Korean Chinese, and other women to serve as prostitutes for the Japanese army:
To maintain discipline in the military, [the comfort women] must have been necessary at that time.  For soldiers who risked their lives in circumstances where bullets are flying around like rain and wind, if you want them to get some rest, a comfort women system was necessary.  That’s clear to anyone.
This type of statement shows just how Japanese politicians think.  Somehow it never occurs to him that the American military, which killed Japanese soldiers at a ratio of 5:1, did not need a similar system in its conquest of the Japanese imperialist state.  Hashimoto is not only a racist killer, he's also a arrogant, raving moron.

Abe believes he will suffer no consequences for his actions.  "The Americans are dissatisfied?  Too bad.  Will they still be our ally?  Yes," said one Japanese diplomatic source familiar with Abe.

Japanese arrogance knows no bounds.  Now we know another reason MacArthur loved Japan so much: arrogance loves company.

There is going to be a war between Japan and China in the near future.  Abe's strategy is to use the U.S. as an unwilling partner in the resurrection of his country's belligerence of the late 1800s through 1945 -- and we cannot allow that.  Abe's naked aggression is drawing the U.S. closer to a confrontation with China, one which the U.S. would win but at a cost neither country, let alone the world, can afford to pay.

China has had enough of Abe's antics.  The Chinese military's People's Liberation Army Daily opined, "Today, the Chinese people have the ability to defend peace and they have a greater ability to stop all provocative militarism."  Given that China possesses nuclear weapons, while Japan does not, this is not an idle boast.

"They are the people who masterminded, launched and carried out the war of aggression against China.  Their hands are covered with the blood of the victimized peoples.  They are fascists.  They are the Nazis of Asia," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang, strictly referring to the Class A war criminals enshrined at Yasukuni, but one suspects the comment fits many ordinary Japanese as well.  Qin also declared that Abe revealed his "cloven hoof."

Since Japan believes it was somehow cheated after its unconditional surrender, it does not want the U.S. military on its islands.  So be it.  The nonsense of partnering with Japan started with MacArthur and it is time to put an end to it.

The U.S. military is consolidating its forces on Okinawa and moving some to Guam.  Let's not stop there.  Move all U.S. forces out of Japanese territory as soon as possible, but first we need to sign an agreement which eliminates our obligation to intervene on Japan's behalf if it starts a war over the Senkaku (Japanese) / Diaoyu (Chinese) Islands.  Move all U.S. forces to South Korea, Guam, the Marshall Islands, the Philippines, and Australia.  Then after we have completely moved out, modify our defense treaty with Japan to state that we will only assist if Japan's home islands are attacked -- and only if Japan did not precipitate the action.

At the same time, China must be told in no uncertain terms that the South China Sea does not belong to it and that the U.S. Navy will ensure that it remains free for all to transit.  Another attack on a U.S. warship will be regarded as a direct act of war.  China is playing its own game of using its conflict with Japan to draw attention away from its imperialist notions in the South China Sea.

We might also want to stop using Chinese or Japanese parts in our weapons systems.

The U.S. government response to this approaching conflict is positively schizophrenic.  We trade much more with China, yet it is more of a villain because of our long-standing relationship with Japan.  We have outsourced so much of our economy to China -- at the cost of millions of American jobs -- that it will collapse when this war starts.

We never had this problem with the Soviet Union.  They were the enemy and therefore not our trading partner.  Anyone who proposed to trade with the USSR would have been properly branded as a traitor.

This is what happens when capitalists make government policy decisions.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Barack Obama favors gays and black athletes over human rights of redheads and North Koreans

Any natural redhead can tell you how mean people can be.  Redheads are often called "carrot-top" as an insult.  The juvenile instigators might be miffed if redheads reacted by calling them "manure-head" for brown hair or "cockroach-head" for black hair.  And bullying often goes much farther.

The percentage of the population which has natural red or orange hair lies between one and two, coincidentally the same figure for the percentage of homosexuals in the general population.  In the UK, people with red or orange hair are described as having ginger-colored hair.  The UK, Ireland, and the Baltic States are countries where the percentage of people with ginger-colored hair is much higher than the average.

Helena Farrell, a 15-year-old redheaded Irish girl, killed herself because of harassment.

"People need to realize that when they say the things they do, it can have deeply traumatizing effects and can lead to self-harm and suicide," said her father, Enda Farrell.  He believes that the harassment his daughter and other redheads suffered should be outlawed via hate-crime legislation.

Simon Walters, a 14-year-old redheaded British boy, killed himself for the same reason.  He had dyed his hair brown to avoid the hate.

Britain only officially recognizes five categories of hate crimes: race / ethnicity, disability, religion / belief, sexual orientation, and transgender identity.  The fact that two of the five categories protect the LGBT community speaks volumes about how politically-correct Britain is.  Alternative sub-cultures (e.g. goths), redheads, and albinos (read here, here, here, and here) are on their own.

Harassment against redheads dramatically increased after the two fruitcakes who created South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, released a "Ginger Kids" episode of their hate-filled show containing an exhortation to kick kids with ginger-colored hair, which was at least partially responsible for additional attacks on redheads in Canada, the U.S., and Britain.

There was no condemnation of the show by any government or celebrity on the basis of hate speech.  Some people claim that the "Ginger Kids" episode was actually poking fun at people who discriminate against redheads, but that would imply that Parker and Stone were brilliant masters of satire, something difficult to believe of two people who often fart in the faces of other people, both in-person and vicariously through their on-screen children.

Of course, when Parker and Stone were faced with a violent threat from Muslims after releasing an episode making fun of the second-ranked god of Islam, Muhammad, they canceled a follow-up episode with more anti-Islam content.  They can dish it out but cannot take it.

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In November 1996, two teenagers, Antonio Scott Farrell and Kevin Blankenship, kidnapped Barbara Castor, a 76-year-old grandmother, from a Brighton parking lot, and drove her to a ranch northeast of Strasburg where they tied her to the remnants of an old dam.  She died there of exposure during the night.  Then in October 1998, Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay Wyoming student, was lured from a Laramie bar by two men, tied to a split-rail fence, beaten, and left to die, which he did in a Fort Collins hospital shortly thereafter.  Yet Barbara Castor's case attracted only local attention while Matthew Shepard was made a cause célèbre by President Bill Clinton, sending two members of his administration to the funeral.  At the time I wondered how liberals could possibly believe that the life of a gay man was worth much more than that of an older woman.

More than a few years ago I was working in downtown Denver.  I needed to visit a retail establishment around a mile from my office, so I took a bus to the store during my lunch break.  The bus ran down Broadway, one of the two busiest and longest surface streets of Denver with the other being Colfax, which at that point is nothing but retail establishments.  As I left the bus, a young man left behind me.  I walk fast so I put a few feet between me and the other guy.  As I was walking I heard him loudly ask, almost in a demanding tone of voice, "Will you suck my dick for $20?"  I kept right on walking.

The same experience, only with slightly different words, happened to me inside Denver's main library, also on Broadway, and in the tourist areas of San Francisco and London.  In my experience, there is just as much harassment committed by gays as there is against them.

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Jimmy Carter heavily politicized the 1980 Moscow Olympics by refusing to allow the American team to compete because of the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.  64 Western countries joined the boycott, but not the UK; so much for that much-vaunted special relationship.  Margaret Thatcher was British prime minister at the time and always claimed to be anti-communist; so much for her convictions.

But she did manage to indirectly kill just under 1000 people with her violent reaction to the invasion of the Malvinas / Falkland Islands in late Spring, 1982.  She also did not understand that Poland's Solidarity movement in the 1980s was a genuine fight for freedom and she was opposed to German reunification, saying in 1989, "I am firmly against a unified Germany."  So much for her competence and vision.

Behind the scenes, Carter ordered the CIA to arm the Afghan Mujaheddin in order to fight the Soviets, with many of those weapons being used against Westerners in the years following.  Carter is remembered for few things, but the Olympic boycott which hurt mainly Western athletes and his creation of the Taliban stand out.

The Soviet Union returned the favor at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics by boycotting the games along with their minions in the Warsaw Pact.

Barack Obama does not lose much sleep worrying over the many Christians being killed by Muslims in a global war or the rights of redheads.  He has, however, made the protection of gays around the world one of his very top priorities.  In December 2011 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that "gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights."  Obama instructed the State Department to consider how a country treats its LGBT community before it assigns foreign aid.

"No practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us, and this holds true for inflicting violence on LGBT people.  It is a violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural norms about how men and women should look or behave," Clinton said before the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Too bad someone did not ask her why we should concentrate on LGBT people.  Is it not an equal violation of human rights when redheads, goths, or albinos are killed?

Now Obama is continuing his quest for homosexual rights by including three prominent ones -- Billie Jean King, Brian Boitano, and Caitlin Cahow -- in the group sent to the Sochi Olympics.

* * * * *

Years ago I read some comments on a long-forgotten Internet forum based in Denver.  One person's comments were a window into his soul.  He commented on some other subject, but he always included something regarding his personal life.  He was born a man, decided that he was actually a woman, and started living as a woman.  He had made the decision to have sex reassignment surgery.  After his operation, he commented that he now realized that he actually preferred women to men, saying something like: "Now I 'R' a lesbian."  He thought it was amusing, but the truth is that if he cannot decide which sex he is, how are the rest of us supposed to react?

Coy Mathis, a Colorado elementary school boy, has self-identified as a girl from birth.  He was allowed to use the girl's restroom until late 2012 when the principal informed his parents that he must use either the boys' restroom or a gender-neutral staff lavatory.  As is typical of these cases, the parent sued over his civil rights, filing a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division.  They want him to be able to use the girls' restroom.

But what about the rights of the other girls to use a restroom restricted to girls?  Why do the rights of one individual trump the rights of the many?  Why can't he simply use the staff lavatory?

Idaho had a similar situation involving 25-year-old Ally Robledo, a man who self-identifies as a woman.  He used the women's restroom in Rosauers supermarket in Lewiston until he was banned from the store.  Many of the women using the restroom found the situation "very uncomfortable."  The situation was accentuated because he stood to pee like a man and might have been able to look over into the next stall.

If he self-identifies as a woman, why doesn't he sit down to pee?

An Oregon high school solved the problem fairly by converting existing restrooms into individual unisex restrooms which any student can use.

California, the land of fruits, nuts, and flakes, dreamed up a nonsensical policy.  It passed a law allowing public school students to choose which school lavatories and locker rooms to use based on their self-identified gender.  The law also allows students to choose which sport teams to join.

The problem with locker rooms is only one way for the most part.  Boys generally wouldn't mind if a girl takes showers with them, but girls might not find the reverse situation comfortable at all.

We also have the situation where a boy will be allowed to play girl's basketball and volleyball where his superior strength and height will give him an unfair advantage.

"Just because they're confused doesn't mean they have to confuse everybody else," said Maria Garcia, who one assumes is a concerned parent.

"Society has yet to define exactly what makes a transgender.  Far be it from a police department in Idaho to try to define that," said Lewiston Police Captain Roger Lanier.

My Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary from 1985 does not even include an entry for "transgender"; there is nothing in between "transfusion" and "transgress."

* * * * *

The website of the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea contains more depressing statistics, photos, and maps than a sane person can tolerate, especially on the subject of its labor camps where approximately 200,000 people are being held and where "human lives were worth less than those of flies."  The vast majority are political prisoners.  The founder of the DPRK, Kim Il-sung, devised the camps as a way to prevent dissent.  People are imprisoned for mere curiosity, e.g. for watching South Korean soap operas, listening to South Korean music, watching or listening to South Korean news programs, possessing leaflets carried by balloons over the DMZ, gossiping about the Kim family, or trying to escape the country to seek a better life.

Kim Il-sung's evil genius manifested itself in two philosophies.

The first was the categorization of all people into three groups according to his songbun system -- core (25%), wavering (55%), and hostile (20%) -- with core people residing in the capital and other choice locations.  This explains why we see mass gatherings of Pyongyang residents -- Stepford citizens -- paying homage to Kim Il-sung, his son Kim Jong-il, and the current dictator, Kim Jong-un.

The second was the policy of imprisoning not just the offender, but also the generation above and below that person.  That way, everyone knows that actions opposed to the state will result in their loved ones suffering the same fate, a motivational technique unique in the world.

Shin Dong-hyuk is the only person known to have been born in and escaped from one of the camps.  He witnessed his mother and brother being executed there, along with many other people executed for trivial offenses.  He knows about torture on a personal level, having had one of his fingers cut off as punishment for dropping something.  No doubt he knows that women in the camps are often raped by the guards and then killed to prevent them from telling anyone of their experience.

He wrote an open letter to Dennis Rodman, "the famous, retired American basketball player with many tattoos" who is a soul mate of Kim Jong-un, the brutal dictator of North Korea.  He asked Rodman simply to share the horrors of the camps with Kim Jong-un -- to be "a friend to the North Korean people."  Shin wrote:
At this very moment, people are starving in these camps.  Others are being beaten, and someone soon will be publicly executed as a lesson to other prisoners to work hard and obey the rules.  I grew up watching these executions, including the hanging of my mother.

On orders of the guards in [the camps], inmates are forced to marry and create children to be raised by guards to be disposable slaves.  Until I escaped in 2005, I was one of those slaves. My body is covered with scars from torture I endured in the camp.

I happen to be about the same age as your friend Kim Jong-un.  But if you ask him about me, he is likely to refer to me as "human scum."  That is how his state-controlled press refers to me and all other North Koreans who have risked death by fleeing the country.  Your friend probably also will deny that [the camps exist], which is the official position of his government.  If he does, you can show him pictures of it on your phone.

I cannot presume to tell you to cancel your trip to North Korea.  It is your right as an American to travel wherever you wish and to say whatever you want.  It is your right to drink fancy wines and enjoy yourself in luxurious parties, as you reportedly did in your previous trips to Pyongyang.  But as you have a fun time with the dictator, please try to think about what he and his family have done and continue to do.

Severe malnutrition has stunted and cognitively impaired hundreds of thousands of children. Young North Korean women fleeing the country in search of food are often sold into human-trafficking rings in China and beyond.

More than anything else, I want Kim Jong Un to hear the cries of his people.  Maybe you could use your friendship and your time together to help him understand that he has the power to close the camps and rebuild the country’s economy so everyone can afford to eat.
Shin is wasting his eloquence.  Rodman only cares about himself, just like almost everyone on the American celebrity circuit, a virtual Kardashian with enough facial metal to construct a child's bicycle.  The media no longer fawns over him after basketball games, so he now plays to that crowd before and after his jaunts to North Korea.

Rodman is already on record as having called Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton assholes in response to reporters' queries on Kenneth Bae, an American being held in a North Korea camp for taking photos of starving Korean children.  Rodman is an recognized expert on what constitutes being an asshole, with him being a world-class example of one.

Rodman has returned to North Korea to help train its national basketball team and to schedule games between the DPRK team and former NBA players.  He naively said that Kim Jong-un "really actually wants to change things."

Rodman clearly does not know or care that Kim Jong-un recently executed both his former girlfriend and his uncle, is expanding the labor camps, has increased the propaganda campaigns to further indoctrinate North Koreans, allows medicine donated by aid groups to be seized and sold in local markets by DPRK elite, allows military officers to resell donated milk powder, forces North Koreans of all ages to help build more monuments to the Kim family in a country already overrun with them, and does not lift a finger when orphans are forced to live in caves and beg for food.

Rodman is not the first American to visit a totalitarian government and fawn over its leader.  From 2005 to 2010, Mariah Carey, Beyonce, Usher, Lionel Richie, Nelly Furtado, 50 Cent, and others gave private performances for Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi's family on the Caribbean island of St. Barts and other locations for large paychecks.  We only found out about their illicit performances via Wikileaks.  Some of them promised to donate their ill-gotten gains to charity, but that was never confirmed.

And we must not forget Jane Fonda's excellent adventure in Vietnam in 1972.  Today she attempts to deny the ferocity of her attack on the U.S., but the evidence is clear.  She made a statement that all U.S. Prisoners of War were being well treated and were not being tortured, which was not true as we later found out.

North Koreans who have been able to flee their country and go to China live in constant fear of being caught and sent back.  They are always arrested, imprisoned, and often executed upon their return.  China sends them back because it wants to retain its buffer zone on its eastern border.

Kim Jong-un's father, Kim Jong-il, prided himself on being a gourmet, with live lobsters and fine wines / liqueurs being air-lifted to him wherever he was, eating with silver chopsticks.  Kim Jong-il also ordered the destruction in 1987 of an airliner, Korean Air 858, with the loss of 115 lives, merely to disrupt the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

And we can look forward to the same types of speeches from North Korean Sochi Olympic athletes as we saw at the London Olympics praising the current Kim-family dictator, with language such as, "Thanks to our Dear Leader’s love and support, I was able to win the gold medal."

Nazi Germany would never have fallen if not for the Soviets invading from the east and the American, British, Canadian, Australian, Polish, French, and other forces invading from the west.  The Soviet Union would never have fallen if Gorbachev had not announced that the USSR would no longer employ machine guns against its people.  North Korea will never fall until the Kim family is removed from power; if the West is not willing to use force to remove Kim Jong-un, we should at least limit the fun he has by preventing Western celebrities from visiting the country.

Obama could easily have denied Rodman and the other basketball players the right to travel to North Korea similar to how we restrict Americans from traveling to Cuba, a country which is orders of magnitude less hostile, contrary to what American right-wing demagogues would have us believe.  This would have infuriated Kim Jong-un and slapped the basketball-playing human scum.

If North Koreans were all homosexuals, Obama would send in the U.S. Marines to free them.  But since they aren't, they will continue to be imprisoned, tortured, and executed in the saddest place on Earth.