Saturday, October 30, 2010

Further Into The Abyss: America's Alternate Reality Election

When even policy wonks like Jeffrey Sachs start sounding alarmed you know there's reason to be scared this Halloween in America. It's quite likely that a contrived group of pissed off idiots organized by oligarchs will make serious in roads into the U.S. political establishment. The American system of government is incapable of meeting the needs of the majority of its citizens and is irretrievably broken and corrupt, the coup de gras being administered by a foul ruling of the Supreme Court which now condemns the the American populace to never-ending corporate serfdom.Driftglass shows the disturbed American demographic:

Inspite of this horrible shit it is more important than ever to vote. Voting in these circumstances is an act of resistance and defiance. Do it.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Groundhogs - Thank Christ For The Bomb 1970

Great UK band with a song with a certain moral ambiguity.

UK nuclear sub runs aground

As if my last post needed further emphasis. Truth be told "accidents" with nuclear weapon systems or their components are not that unusual. A threat to friend and foe alike.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Reports Cite British Nuclear Weapons Safety Issues

After a week I've finally adjusted to the Tokyo Madison time change and have stumbled across further evidence of the on going threat of nuke possession, this time in the U.K.:

"Years-old reports made public last week cite "poor" safety processes at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston, which manufactures and maintains British nuclear warheads; potentially hazardous "crew fatigue" by personnel involved in the ground transport of nuclear weapons; and failure by commanders of the nation's nuclear-armed submarines to follow safety rules.

An August blaze at Aldermaston's high-explosives facility highlighted safety worries, according to the newspaper. It took firefighters nearly nine hours to quell the fire, records indicate (see GSN, Aug. 4).

A 2005 report identified eight "issues and regulatory risks." Defense Ministry nuclear arsenal regulator Andy Moore noted "slow progress in implementing the regulation framework for the nuclear weapons program."

He also addressed "inconsistent arrangements for managing transport activities," meaning that safety procedures for the transit of plutonium or other sensitive substances might "not meet departmental standards."

A mishap in a transport operation could result in radioactive tritium escaping from warheads, Moore stated. That could create a "potential impact on work force and public protection" (Rob Edwards, London Observer, Oct. 17).

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Japan Trip Winds Down

Sadly the time in Shinjuku is coming to an end. I must bid farewell to an amazing country as illustrated by the crack anti-smoking police seen above. More thoughts later.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bombspotting Strikes Again

This is a fairly amazing video from the intrepid folks at Bombspotting. As American power winds down we now find ourselves in a spot not unlike the post-Soviet Russians with insecure nuclear facilities that not even the military wants.If nothing else Bombspotting is doing a service demonstrating the amazing lack of security at these facilities.

Not Exactly Japanese but from NHK, Blaine Reninger and Tuxedomoon

Blaine Reninger exemplifies a musical aesthetic which even 30 years ago was to some degree Japanese in its sensibilities.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Okinawa: Imperialism By Any Other Name

I had the opportunity to meet with a group of Japanese protesting the continued U.S. occupation of Okinawa in front of Shinjuku Station in Tokyo the other day. This has been a huge issue of national sovereignty for the Japanese in general and the long suffering Okinawans in particular who have had to put up with a huge U.S. military presence there since the end of WW 2. Chalmers Johnson describes the dimensions of the American presence:

"Okinawa, Japan's most southerly prefecture and its poorest, has been the scene since 2001 of a particularly fierce confrontation between Washington, Tokyo, and Naha over the Japanese-American SOFA and its use by American authorities to shield military felons from the application of Japanese law. To many Japanese and virtually all Okinawans, the SOFA represents a rebirth of the "unequal treaties" that Western imperialists imposed on Japan after Commodore Perry's armed incursion in 1853. On November 15, 2003, in talks with Japanese officials in Tokyo, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that he planned "to press anew for the Japanese government to relent on a long-standing U.S. demand for fuller legal protections for members of its military force accused of crimes while serving in Japan."4 Most American press accounts avoided details about what this enigmatic comment might mean, including whether the American defense secretary was equally concerned about legal protections for Japanese citizens forced to live in close proximity to American soldiers and their weapons and warplanes.

As of November 2003, the United States had stationed in Japan some 47,000 uniformed military personnel, not counting 14,000 sailors attached to the Seventh Fleet at its bases at Yokosuka (Kanagawa prefecture) and Sasebo (Nagasaki prefecture), some of whom are intermittently at sea. In addition there were 52,000 American dependents, 5,500 civilian employees of the Department of Defense, and 23,500 Japanese working for the U.S. forces in jobs ranging from maintaining golf-courses and waiting on tables in the numerous officers' clubs to translating Japanese newspapers for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).5 This large contingent was deployed at ninety-one bases on Japanese soil, of which thirty-eight are located in Okinawa, where they occupy some 23,700 hectares or 19 percent of the choicest territory of the main island. Okinawa is host to some 28,000 American troops plus an equal number of camp followers and Defense Department civilians. The largest contingent of U.S. forces in Okinawa consists of 17,600 Marines, followed by Air Force pilots and maintenance crews at the huge Kadena Air Force Base, the largest U.S. military base in East Asia. Even without these unwelcome guests, Okinawa is an overcrowded island with an indigenous population of 1.3 million in a land area smaller than Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands.

The Marines are spread out in huge forbidding enclaves from the headquarters of the 3rd Marine Division at Camp Foster (the 3rd Division is the only one of America's three Marine divisions located outside the continental United States) to Camp Hansen in Kin village, Camp Courtney in Gushikawa, Camp Schwab in Nago, and the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma located in the dead center of Okinawa's second largest city, Ginowan, where it takes up fully a quarter of the city's land area. All have been there since the battle of Okinawa in the spring and summer of 1945 or the height of the Cold War in the 1950s.

There is nothing particularly unusual about this manifestation of American military imperialism in Okinawa except for its concentration."

I informed the protesters that while many Americans were sympathetic the majority are so poorly informed as to the extent and nature of our "Empire of Bases" that just educating people is a huge challenge. The fact that the country is essentially broke and heading for international irrelevance may speed up the process. These guys can be contacted at the following:

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Hikikomori, Japan's Lost Generation

An estimated 1 million young Japanese men have closed the door to their room and have decided to stay there in the wake of a bubble collapse which began 20 years ago.Ryu Murakami delves into a social phenomenon which probably has implications for the United States as well:

"Hikikomori has become a major issue in Japan. Loosely translated as "social withdrawal, "hikikomori refers to the state of anomie into which an increasing number of young Japanese seem to fall these days. Socially withdrawn kids typically lock themselves in their bedrooms and refuse to have any contact with the outside world. They live in reverse: they sleep all day, wake up in the evening and stay up all night watching television or playing video games. Some own computers or mobile phones, but most have few or no friends. Their funk can last for months, even years in extreme cases. No official statistics are available, but it is estimated that more than 1 million young Japanese suffer from the affliction. One such young man was the protagonist of my latest novel, Symbiosis Worm."

Murakami goes onto attribute this to affluence however the loss of security in the Japanese middle class particularly as it relates to employment is an important component. Now in the U.S. it's quite likely there are several generations that will either return home or never leave. A real question may be can they ever be mobilized in a social or political way that can change the country for the better.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Peppermint Creeps - Turning Japanese

While I'd like to post the original Vapors version it seems to be unavailable. Meanwhile Ian and I will be turning Japanese in Shinjuku for the next week.Look for posts from the benign corporate feudal state.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

American Brain Drain

Russia Today presents an interesting report on a phenomenon not commented about in American media, namely the potential for out migration from this country. While the economic implosion is an obvious contributor other factors such as an anti-science bias on the part of the American lunatic right. Examples of this can be found in the area of stem-cell research for one. Another area is the refusal to invest in infrastructure such as high speed rail and education by taxaphobic elites and the befuddled American masses. The country is on the fast track to international irrelevance.