Foreign Minister Taro Aso’s Foot-in-Mouth Disease Takes a Turn for the Worse

Remember this guy? Well he is still perhaps the scariest Japanese politician in recent memory:

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Emperor Should Visit Yasukuni: Aso

TOKYO (Kyodo)–Foreign Minister Taro Aso said Saturday it is desirable for the emperor to visit Yasukuni Shrine and told China to stop complaining about Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visits to the Shinto shrine in Tokyo.

‘From the viewpoint of the spirits of the war dead, they hailed ‘Banzai’ for the emperor — none of them said ‘prime minister Banzai!’ A visit by the emperor would be the best,” Aso said in a speech in Nagoya.

The remarks by the hawkish foreign minister risk further damaging chilled relations with China and South Korea, victims of Japanese militarism before and during World War II who have strongly protested Japanese leaders’ visits to the shrine that honors 14 Class-A war criminals along with the war dead.

The last visit by an emperor to Yasukuni was in November 1975 by Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa.

The Class-A war criminals, including executed Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo, were enshrined Oct. 17, 1978.

On criticism against Koizumi’s visits, Aso said, ”The more China voices (opposition), the more one feels like going there. It’s just like when you’re told ‘Don’t smoke cigarettes,’ it actually makes you want to smoke. It’s best (for China) to keep quiet.”

(Slightly modified from Nikkei Net, photo plucked randomly from Google images)

Alternative Memorial for War Dead Left Out of 2006 Budget

The “Group to Consider a National [War] Memorial” is a rare ruling-opposition (LDP, Komeito, and DPJ) caucus of lawmakers that is campaigning for the Japanese government to establish an alternative to Yasukuni shrine. The idea, proposed by a 2002 advisory panel and supported by South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, is popular among those in the Japan Policy Community (including influential types in Washington) who would prefer to see a speedy, concrete solution to the Yasukuni issue rather than all of Koizumi’s useless (and possibly dangerous) saber-rattling.

Well, don’t count on it this year, based on this year’s budget requests. This was covered in slightly less detail in the Japan Times, but you can enjoy my abstract of the Yomiuri:

Memorial Facility Survey Funds Left Out, PM Firms Stance: “Public opinion not ripe”

PM Koizumi has firmed his stance not to include funds to survey the possibility of a national war memorial in the national budget draft, a move seen to be caused by a lack of public interest.

Government sources explained that the “environment has not been prepared to include survey funds in next year’s budget,” which will be formally decided on Dec. 22. The funds were not included in the MOF’s budget recommendations, released the same day.

Another part of the decision, say government officials, was that including the funds would not likely have contributed to repairing relations with China and South Korea.

The govt plans to continue deliberating on the merits of including the funds while “carefully watching public opinion.” There is momentum within the “Group to Consider a National [War] Memorial,” which crosses party lines to include members from the ruling LDP and New Komeito as well as the main opposition DPJ, to demand the inclusion of such funding in next fiscal year’s revised budget or reserve funds. However, it is unlikely to be included in a budget during Koizumi’s tenure.

When SK President Roh Moo-hyun asked that Koizumi consider the establishment of a national war memorial during the Korea-Japan summit on June 20, the Japanese leader accepted, saying he would “consider it taking into consideration circumstances including public opinion.” However, the PM’s October 17 visit to Yasukuni Shrine is quickly becoming a diplomatic problem due to China and SK’s strong protests. It seems as if the PM thought that it would look like he would be giving in to their pressure if he included such funds in this year’s budget.

According to a November poll conducted by Nikkei, 49% of Japanese people would approve, while 31% would disapprove of a national war memorial. I guess in the Land of Consensus even clear numbers in favor of such a memorial smack of “divided public opinion.” Of course, Koizumi didn’t let a little thing like internal division stop him from pushing through postal privatization, did he?
Continue reading Alternative Memorial for War Dead Left Out of 2006 Budget

Xmas should be more commercial — Some Perspective from the Founder of the Ayn Rand Institute

There is little that I can add to the “War on Christmas” debate other than to say that I place myself among the segment of the population that (aptly put by “Ross” from “thought we were past all that Christianity stuff.” Wasn’t the whole idea behind changing “Merry Xmas” to “Happy Holidays” to make it the first step in the eventual phasing out of the holiday altogether?

Anyway, I am just posting to wish you all a very merry Ayn Rand Christmas:

“It is time to take the Christ out of Christmas, and turn the holiday into a guiltlessly egoistic, pro-reason, this-worldly, commercial celebration.”


Lady Goes Crazy on Trading Spouses

Awesome! DARK SIDED!!!

Reminds me of when I went to Baptist services with my friends when I was a kid.

As shocked as I am to see such a misguided and hateful person, I have to admit that it’s a dream of mine to one day appear on television shrieking so violently that I need subtitles to be understood.

Taken from

After some thought, I have decided that you can keep reading this blog even if you don’t believe in Jesus.

Abe the tight-lipped?

The Yomiuri Online has posted an portions of a transcript of an interview with newly appointed Chief Cabinet Secretary Abe Shinzo under the headline “Abe tight-lipped about political ambitions.”


Here’s an excerpt:

The Yomiuri Shimbun: Opinion polls have shown you to be the front-runner in the race for the post-Koizumi era. Are you willing to take power?

Shinzo Abe: I’m in a position in which I must fulfill my duties as Prime Minister Koizumi’s right-hand man. I therefore must refrain from speaking out about my own political agenda.

How would you make good use of your current position as you seek to take power?

I’m still immature as a politician, really. As chief cabinet secretary, I must play a leading role in coordinating policy making processes in which all ministries and agencies are involved. I’m sure I’ll face a number of ordeals. My position will give me a chance to continue working hard as a politician.

Tight-lipped you say?

I’d say he’s made it rather clear in these comments that he fully intends to make a run for the LDP presidency next fall (not that anyone who is paying attention really needed another confirmation of this).

One of the most common criticisms of Abe as a candidate for Prime Minister is his lack of political experience. And one frequent commentary on Koizumi’s appointment of Abe as Chief Cabinet Secretary was that it was a move calculated to make up for Abe’s lack of experience. Now, here we have Abe first recognizing this weakness, and then hinting that his new role will provide ample opportunity for him to lessen it.

Don’t be surprised if next Semptember we hear it pointed out that, “when Abe first took this position, he was still rather immature as a politician. However, he’s faced a number of ordeals and come out of them more mature and experienced.”

p.s. He also wasn’t very tight-lipped about policy towards North Korea, including the use of sanctions to force the return of all abductees, even those merely “belived to be abducted.” Given the grass-roots popularity for the abductee issue, if that’s not openly campaigning for office, I don’t know what is.

ROC Armed Forces English Manual

Earlier today I bought two neat old booklets from an old man on the sidewalk just outside Taiwan National History Museum.

Both books are from the same series, published by the Republic of China Military Foreign Language school in 1965.

As you can see from the table of contents, the range of material is a little different from the typical English textbook.

As you may expect from a language textbook published by the military of a fascist government, there is a certain amount of propaganda. For example, a sample sentence for the phrase”come from” is:

The refugees all come from the mainland.

Most the “humorous stories” are also demonstrations of the evils of Communism.

Budapest schoolteacher “What is the cause of the increase of population here in our capital city?”
Pupil: “The population increases because the people from the country flock to town.” Teacher: “Now think carefully, children. What could be done to prevent the influx of the country population?”

Pupil: We could set up collective farms here, too”

And a history lesson:

The arrival of Soviet “technicians” in Cuba brought forth this story from that Communist-dominated island:

A Cuban pupil in a local school was asked by his teacher: “Pepito, who was Napoleon?” “That’s easy,” the boy replied. “He was a technician who left Francee to help Italy, Egypt and lots of countries.”

What you might not expect is that the quality of the English is often very poor. Bold marks the phrase they are trying to explain.

At the same time he will do it if you pay him some money.

The very day at his marriage.

We have lived together for that time on. [The other example correctly says “from that time on.”)

It is better
for a woman to marry a man who loves her not a man she loves.

When you’re very lucky, you can even find propaganda and poor English in the same text sample.

Why is the statement that the Principle of Nationality is equivalent to the doctrine of the state is applicable in China but not in the West?

Answer: The statement that the Principle of Nationality is equivalent to the doctrine of the state is applicable in China but not in the West? For the reason that China, since the Ch’in and Han dynasties, has been developing a single state out of a single race, while foreign countries have developed many states from one race and have included many nationalities within one state.

The latest from Pat Robertson

The school board in Dover, Pennsylvania decided to adopt intelligent design as an alternative to evolution. Earlier this week, all eight of its members were voted out of office. Pat Robertson responded that God might not save them from disaster as a result. Draw your own conclusion.

Fun fact: Robertson has a law degree from Yale. More fun fact, courtesy of

In a March 1986 speech to Yale University Law School, Robertson admitted one possible reason why he failed the New York Bar Exam (and thus, never practiced law): “When I was at law school, I studied constitutional law for a whole year. I read a thick book of cases on constitutional law. I did all kinds of research. But I confess to you, I never read the Constitution. I graduated without anybody asking me about that.”

Again, draw your own conclusion. I’d say this goes further to support the notion that the American religious right is powered by evangelicals, but thought through by Catholics.

Random awesomeness – video sites, Japanese quiz

First up is Net Cinema, a project sort of similar to the English-language ifilm. Features original shows starring B-grade actors such as former porn star Ai Iijima (NSFW), my favorite nutty rightwinger with googly eyes Terry Itoh (pictured above, left), and second-tier okama (gay) comedian KABA-chan. I haven’t got into any of the shows yet, but given some free time I’m willing to give it a chance out of pure longing for some semblance of Japanese TV. (Hmm, after watching a bit of Iijima-chan bitch about her stocks I am getting skeptical…)

Then there is Japanese Govt Internet TV. This site brings you various government propaganda featuring Koizumi, Abe, and all your other favorites in “high” definition streaming video! It worked great after I downloaded Windows Media Player 10. Koizumi had a swank Ramadan party with all his Muslim ambassador friends.

I’ve mentioned KOKKAI TV (Diet TV — great taste, less filling than regular TV! Watch here: Lower House, Upper House) before, but now it’s new and improved, allowing you to see higher definition video and archived footage. Want to see that magical moment when the postal privatization bills were passed? Just click on October 14, 2005!

Finally we have a fun little Japanese quiz at ALC. I got the first one wrong, and so should you! Updated daily.

That’s what’s wasting my time these days. Enjoy!

Please, people, get the Alito debate right

The SEPTA strike finally ended early this morning. In a way, losing mass transit was beneficial: with a 90-minute commute on foot, I had some forced spare time to listen to podcasts on my way to and from campus, including Face The Nation and Meet The Press. The episodes two weekends ago, coming in the wake of the Scooter Libby indictment, were most amusing.

But this weekend, it was all about Alito. And I had to hear Democrats on both shows go on about how “he wanted to strip-search a 10-year-old.” The case was Doe v. Groody, 361 F.3d 232 (3d Cir. 2004), text available here. Now, I know these senators must know better—they went to law school, for feck’s sake. So let’s get this straight.

  • The searches took place as part of a drug bust. The suspected dealer is referred to as “John Doe.”
  • When the police applied for a search warrant, they asked several times to be able to “search all occupants of the residence and their belongings to prevent the removal, concealment, or destruction of any evidence requested in this warrant.” In fact, it says “all occupants” several times, as if to scream “DON’T LET ANYONE GET AWAY!”
  • When they got the warrant, the box marked “premises and/or persons to be searched” said “John Doe” and gave some of his personal information. This information filled up the entire box on the form.
  • The police conducting the raid knew there were going to be women in the house, and didn’t want the suspected dealer to hide the goods on the women, so they got a female meter maid to go in with them.
  • The meter maid took the wife and daughter of the suspect into the bathroom and had them strip down to show they didn’t have anything hidden in their clothes.
  • After this happened, the victims sued the police officers individually under Section 1983. The police officers argued that they should get qualified immunity because they didn’t violate “clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”
  • The district court rejected this argument and decided the officers should be liable. They appealed. Alito was one of the three-judge panel who got the appeal.
  • Two of the judges voted to affirm the district court’s decision, since the warrant only said “John Doe.” Alito dissented on the grounds that the officers clearly intended to get a warrant to search everyone, and had a decent reason to believe they were given the right to do so.

Now, criticizing Alito on this last issue is one thing, but he certainly isn’t in favor of strip-searching children left and right. All he wanted was to keep police officers from being sued when they were doing something they thought they were authorized to do. If you want to go after perverts in the government, go after Scooter.

Shinzo Abe, barbarian-defeating shogun?

Now that we’ve completely trashed Foreign Minister Taro Aso’s political qualifications, it’s time to look at Shinzo Abe, the new Chief Cabinet Secretary and Minister of State for Taking Over After Koizumi, shown here in all-out “I’m gonna be a world leader someday!” mode.

Like Koizumi, Abe is a popular guy. Also like Koizumi, he enjoys ruffling feathers, whether it’s advocating a tougher defense policy or visiting Yasukuni Shrine. He is often described as “hawkish,” although I think that word is a bit loaded. He’s certainly confrontational, though: his fame comes from negotiations with North Korea over the abductee issue, in which he refused to take much crap.

Like Aso, he has a political pedigree, although it doesn’t go too far back. Abe’s father Shintaro Abe was Secretary-General of the LDP and served in the Nakasone cabinet back in the mid-80’s. His maternal grandfather Nobusuke Kishi was Prime Minister in the late 1950’s and younger brother of Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, who won the Nobel Peace Prize. Kishi and Sato were both rags-to-riches stories, so Abe’s political lineage ends there.

He started out at Kobe Steel after college, then worked his way into the bureaucracy and became his father’s secretary during the elder Abe’s tenure as Secretary-General. After his father died in 1991, he ran for the empty seat representing Yamaguchi Prefecture, won it, and slipped from the administration into the government.

The Chief Cabinet Secretary position, a combination of press secretary and chief of staff, gives Abe an excellent platform to become even more well-known to the people (many CCSes have gone on to become prime ministers, most recently the late Keizo Obuchi). But he shouldn’t need too much help: he’s already way ahead of the field in opinion polls. Abe has been getting some blogger support too: Lord Curzon is a longtime fan, for one.

Koizumi is using his great political capital to give the country a choice between a hard-ass and a wack-ass. This Yomiuri writer says it Japanese-style:

Koizumi, by including possible successors in the Cabinet, intends to let them compete with each other to come up with ideas and efforts for reform, a decision that suggests the prime minister is grooming an heir to inherit a shogunate named “reform.” … Koizumi, in his reshuffle, made it quite clear he wants this shogunate of reform to be inherited by Abe.

The choice is pretty obvious; hopefully the obvious choice will be made, so Japan doesn’t end up with a prime minister who’s obsessed with “floppies.”

CAVEAT: It could be one of those dark horses, too, like finance minister Sadakazu Tanigaki. But Abe is who just about everyone seems to want.