The gun that won the West

ToastR’s comment on my post about Japan’s arms trade reminded me about this article I saw in the New York Times a bit over a week ago.

It’s in the subscriber only archive, so I’ll just past the text below.

A Hard Kick From the Gun Of John Wayne
By STACEY STOWE (NYT) 974 words
Published: January 21, 2006

Come spring, the Winchester rifle, immortalized as the gun that won the West and rode into the sunset with John Wayne, will be made in Portugal and Japan.
Continue reading The gun that won the West

Who is in line to be the next Dalai Lama?

That’s the question that Michael of Caldwell, New Jersey posed in the Ask Yahoo column a couple of days ago.

Well Michael, if you lived just one town over and had been in my ninth grade World History class in Montclair, New Jersey, then you would have been there when Mrs. Whatshername showed us the film Little Buddha, which taught me both the story of how Sakyamuni founded Buddhism, and how Lama, the priests of Tibetan Buddhism, seek out tulku, or reincarnations of past Lamas or other holy figures.

This is how Ask Yahoo (sorry, Ask Yahoo!) explains it.

In Tibetan tradition, the Dalai Lama is not only the spiritual and secular leader of Tibet, he’s the reincarnation of the Tibetan patron deity, Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion. Today’s Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the 14th reincarnation.

Like the rest of the Dalai Lamas, Tenzin Gyatso was put through a series of tests as a small child before he was officially declared the reincarnation, or tulku, of his immediate predecessor. His Holiness was enthroned as the Dalai Lama in 1950, but has been leading his followers in exile since 1959, when the Tibetan resistance to Chinese occupation collapsed.

In recent years, the Dalai Lama has discussed the possibility of the Tibetan people ending the tulku tradition, and the belief that his own reincarnation will not happen in Tibet while it remains under Chinese control. That leaves some uncertainty as to where and how the next Dalai Lama will arise, and who it will be. If you think it could be you, it might pay to have faith. It worked for Steven Seagal.

Of course, you could always say that the next Dalai Lama will be the current one. After all, it’s the same spirit, right?

I presume this means something

Seen in a contract between two large-ish companies which shall remain nameless:

“If [list of conditions omitted], then Company shall have a presumptive right to extend the contract.”

Discussion questions:

  1. What’s a “presumptive right?” Is that different from a regular right?
  2. Is “shall have” different from “will have?” Or, for that matter, “has?”
  3. All in all, how is “shall have a presumptive right to” different from “may?”

My name is cursed with violence!

Three killers sentenced to life in prison

THREE vengeful thugs responsible for the “senseless and savage” killing of an innocent party-goer in a South Yorkshire street have been jailed for life.

Richard Wray, aged 38, and Adam Richards, 24, were yesterday handed life sentences after being found guilty of murdering Shaun McDermott following a trial at Sheffield Crown Court last year.

Wray’s son Lewis, aged 17, also convicted of murder, was remanded into Her Majesty’s pleasure – which the judge said was the youth equivalent of a life term. They were among an “armed to the teeth” gang who leapt out of a van and attacked the Bentley joiner in Welfare Road, Woodlands, on June 25, last year – after they mistook him for somebody else.
Mr McDermott was knocked out and beaten as he lay on the ground.

He was then stabbed in the heart and died later that night in Doncaster Royal Infirmary. The defendants were sentenced to a total of at least 37 years behind bars.

Richard Wray, of The Crescent, Woodlands – said to have wielded the knife – was jailed for a minimum of 15 years.

Adam Richards, of Tudor Road, Woodlands, who prosecutors said knocked Mr McDermott out at the beginning of the attack, was ordered to serve at least 13 years.

Lewis Wray, of South Street, Highfields, who had no previous convictions, was handed a minimum sentence of nine years in custody.

01 February 2006

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

[Note: This was intended to go up yesterday morning, but I was unable to post due to small, now resolved, technical difficulties. So, before anyone tells me that the Nikkei closed slightly down today, I know, I know.]

Even though this post has nothing to do with toads or amusement parks, I chose the title in keeping with the anurian theme of this blog. But boy, wouldn’t this month’s Nikkei 255 make one hell of an exciting coaster ride?

January 225

I smoothed the line just for a more pleasing visual effect, but the bounce back from the “Livedoor Shock” is clearly official. In fact, for the past two days the Nikkei 225 average has closed at highs not seen since September 2000.

Lacking the sophistication to explain the reasons behind this (and having had it correctly pointed out to me over the weekend that I am wont to jump to unsupported conclusions about Japan) I’m going to defer to the opinion of the “professionals” on interpreting this one.

Analysts are citing several factors for the latest rally.

First, a number of positive economic indicators appear to have improved the confidence of investors. Starting with the labor market, employment data for December showed a marked improvement, with the ratio of job offers to job seekers balancing out at one to one, the highest it’s been since September 1992. The unemployment rate fell an additional 0.2 percent, to 4.4. percent, the lowest level in seven years.

Housing figures also look promising. Starts in 2005 rose for the third strait year, up 4% to 1,236,122.

Industrial production also rose by 1.4% (seasonally adjusted) in December.

Finally, gains by individual companies also seem to have played a roll. A fall in the yen-dollar exchange rate has been a boon to profits of exporters such as Toyota, Honda and Advantest, all of whom closed higher on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, rising oil prices equal increased profits for companies like Nippon Oil and AOC Holdings, Inc.

Looked at as a whole, all of these figures (except perhaps for the higher oil prices) appear to suggest movement towards a stronger economy – higher corporate profits, more hiring, and increased private consumption and spending.

But, while those factors are fine for institutional investors who have the resources to pay anti-social quant jocks to stare at computer monitors all day while mentally multi-tasking the application of Einstein’s general theory of relativity to global securities markets, what about individual investors? I’m talking about the average Tanaka on the street, punching trades into his cell phone?

Well, in my humble, albeit relatively uninformed opinion, these guys might be basing their investment decisions on this:

Nikkei 225

Now, aren’t you sorry you didn’t buy in last May?

Police take on pirates in fake alien frog showdown

Sorry, but it’s all downhill from the headline. It’s not that it’s a bad article exactly. Something about how the new Japanese cartoon Sergeant Keroro (ケロロ軍曹-main character pictured at left) has gotten so popular that toys modeled after the character are being bootlegged, and the anime downloaded illegally all over Taiwan and China. Ok, fine, interesting to know I guess-although seriously, by now wouldn’t you expect the same thing to happen with any even halfway popular cartoon show? I mean, after that headline I was really hoping for something with a little more juice than a story about toy pirates.

Ah well. If you’re curious, you can download bootlegs of the show from this anime fansubs bittorrent site. I’ve seen a few minutes here and there on Taiwanese TV, and while I couldn’t really tell what was going on, what with it being in Chinese and all, it did look pretty funny.

Japan’s hidden arms trade

With all the debate over a possible constitutional revision in Japan aiming towards formal remilitarization (of course their informal military is already among the world’s best equipped), there have been quite a few mentions of how Japan’s current constitution is so limiting that it actually blocks Japan from collaborating with the US in constructing a missile defense shield in Japan. This is supposedly due to Japan’s ban on the export of arms, so you might be forgiven for actually believing that Japan doesn’t sell weapons to other countries. This article at Asia Times (originally from Japan Focus) explains the technicalities and blurry definitions that the Japanese government exploits to enable a continuation of their claim that they do not trade in weapons, while still being able to profit by selling small arms all around the world.

Japan actually conducts a thriving small arms export trade. The international annual publication, the Small Arms Survey, for example, reported that in 2002 Japan exported $65 million worth of small arms which, in monetary terms, ranks Japan among the top eight exporters of small arms worldwide for that year. [8]

The Japanese government evades this issue by contending that “hunting guns and sport guns are not regarded as ‘arms’,” [9] and therefore the self-imposed ban on arms exports only applies to guns of a military specification. This raises the question of what differentiates a military specification gun from a sporting or hunting weapon. However, the Japanese Ministry for Export, Trade and Industry (METI) provides no comprehensive definition. Instead it decides on a case-by-case basis whether a weapon should be defined as being of military specification.

This is another example of saying one thing and doing another, much in the same vein as the policy of promoting commercial whaling in the guise of “science” while still being party to a treaty outlawing commercial whaling, as I discussed a few days ago. Unlike the whaling hypocrisy, the open secret of Japan’s international weapons trade seems to have remained completely beneath the radar. While I have in the past been slightly confused by references I’ve seen to Japan-manufactured guns, until I saw this article I just shook off the momentary bafflement without realizing the actual situation. A highly recommended read.