Monday, December 27, 2010


Blowback is a political term for untended consequences for policies that seemed clever at the time. Often, “clever” meant devious and malevolent methods, if not goals. Someone who is “too clever by half” is an American English idiom describing a person although appearing smart finds that his actions are consequently foolish. This aptly describes Japan’s policy of repatriating their colonial era Korean residents back to North Korea.

Over 90,000 people, most of them ethnic Koreans, were sent from Japan to North Korea from 1959 onward. The tragedy of this seemingly humanitarian venture is outlined in Tessa Morris-Suzuki’s Exodus to North Korea: Shadows from Japan’s Cold War. ANU Professor Morris-Suzuki draws on recently declassified documents to reveal the covert pressures used to hasten the departure of this unwelcome ethnic minority. Facing uncertain residence status after the American Occupation of Japan, lack of access to welfare, limited educational and job opportunities and ethnic discrimination in Japan, tens of thousands of Zainichi Koreans [Korean residents in Japan] were persuaded that a better future awaited them in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

A special "Repatriation Cooperation Society," involving politicians from across Japan's political spectrum, was set up to distribute information encouraging Koreans to "return" to North Korea. Leading members included former Prime Minister Hatoyama Ichiro and prominent ruling-party politician Koizumi Junya (Koizumi's son became PM in 2001 and Hatoyama's grandson became PM in 2009). There was little humanity and much contempt in their enthusiasm to send Koreans and over 6,000 Japanese family members to North Korea.

For most Zainichi, their new home proved a place of poverty and hardship; for thousands, it was a place of persecution and death. One exception was Ko T'ae-mun, who had been a professional wrestler in Osaka. Repatriating to North Korean in 1961 with his family, he became the "father of North Korean judo" and lived a life of luxury and prominence. His dancer daughter born in Osaka, Yo'ng-hu'I, became the wife of North Korea’s current leader Kim Jung-Il and the mother of Kim Jung-Un, his father’s probable successor.

The younger Kim soon will rule over a nuclear North Korea and its power to intimidate Japan. Blowback for sure.

A background on Kim Young-Un’s mother can be found in an article by Kiyohito Kokita: "Kim Cho'ng-u'n's Mother Born in Tsuruhashi -- 'Sacred Spot' in Osaka Will Never Appear in Cho'ng-u'n's Legend" AERA in Japanese, December 6, 2010, pp 27-29.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

It's Science

Just in case you thought that the dearth of female speakers was limited to the foreign policy field, you should check out this upcoming conference hosted by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation on Energy Innovation.

Now, ITIF is a great organization, doing some significant research and outreach on the crisis in American R&D and competitiveness. There is a need for their work that explores American declining manufacturing and S&T education as well as the effect of foreign industrial policy policies on the US economy. But it appears, that they are also contributing to the problem.

They seem a bit oblivous to the fact that a whole segment of the S&T workforce is underdeveloped. Worse, it seems to encourage this model in its own offices. None of ITIF's staff are women, except that pretty redhead who is the executive assistant. Nor are there any people of color, but that is a whole other problem.

Of the 33 speakers at this day-long December 15th event, only three are women. One had to be invited as she holds a governmental position in a relevant agency, the Department of Energy. The other two hold the traditional female slots for conferences. They are moderators. Being a moderator is a form of "spokesmodel" in Washington. You get to be there, introduce the product, but never say any more.

And always keep in mind, that Washington is Hollywood for ugly people. Thus, there is a good likelihood that these gals are homely. Note that none of them sent in pictures. Maybe this is a way for men to feel good about themselves--they are not such a mess after all, and they might have a shot at these ladies.

There is no mention on ITIF's site about women in math and science as a specific topic of interest or concern, although it seems an implicit assumption to their campaign to encourage better training and education in those fields. There is a link to a 2008 blog posting about a study in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society titled “Cross-Cultural Analysis of Students with Exceptional Talent in Mathematical Problem Solving” is aimed at rebutting the hypothesis of some scholars that men and women have separate “intrinsic aptitudes” for mathematics.

The report goes a step further and argues that one important reason for the lower numbers of women in graduate level mathematics programs is that “it is deemed uncool within the social context of USA middle and high schools to do mathematics for fun; doing so can lead to social ostracism.”

And unsaid, it never stops. You just become invisible later in life.

This issue was raised in passing at a 2008 Innovation Economics conference co-sponsored by ITIF. A member of the audience asked a panel what the United States should do to boost home grown talent in STEM fields. In response to the question, a male panelist argued that one key factor to improving the supply of domestic talent in STEM fields is to increase the number of women and minorities who pursue these degrees.

But, as you can see little is being done to lead by example. Yes, it is not easy finding willing, women speakers in any field. But, I think meeting organizers should try a lot harder. Indeed, equality is when women are accepted for the same level of mediocrity as their male counterparts.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Rumors are rampant about that coming demise of the Kan Administration. Critics bemoan that the Prime Minister is not tough enough for the job. He does not have the the temperament, the verve for the job.

Recently, there has been much criticism of his Cabinet picks. The November resignation of his inexperienced Justice minister some say presage the departure soon of many others. Needed, they say, are more tough guys like Seiji Maehara.

One of the striking features about Kan’s cabinets, thus far, has been the decreasing influence of ultra conservatives. In the past, 50% or more of the Cabinet Ministers were of members of the ultra-rightist Nippon Kaigi and various parliamentary leagues supporting a range of nationalist and retrogressive causes, such as Emperor worship and the rewriting of history textbooks. Whereas Hatoyama has three Nippon Kaigi members in his Cabinet, Kan has only one--Seiji Maehara, who some believe will be the next Prime Minister.

Nippon Kaigi or Japan Conference is Japan’s largest nationalist organization. It was established on May 30, 1997, through the merger of the “National Congress to Defend Japan (Nippon wo Mamoru Kokumin-Kaigi)” founded in 1981 and the “Society to Defend Japan (Nippon wo Mamoru Kai)” founded in 1974. The new organization was a product of their effort to unite rightist pro-constitutional revision forces that had promoted at the grassroots level since the 1970s movements demanding constitutional revision, legalization of the imperial era name, and opposition to the separate surname system for married couples.

It has also been active in keeping the North Korea abduction issue alive, wants Japan to possess nuclear weapons and has been critical of the United States for bringing pacifism to Japan and “tricking” Japan into the War. Both Prime Ministers Aso and Abe held leadership positions within the organization as have heads of major Japanese corporations such as Fujitsu and Bridgestone.

One way to think about the organization is to see it as the John Birch Society at the height of its influence in the 1960s. Its members were virulently segregationist, anti-communist, anti-semitic and anti-Catholic, pro-apartheid, and advocates of the traditional family. They advocated a return to traditional American Christian values and pulling the US out of the UN. The Koch family, which now funds many Tea-party organizations and conservative groups like FreedomWorks, was a major funder of the John Birch Society.

Although, Maehara is the only "minister" who is a member of Nippon Kaigi, there are a number  members in other positions within the Cabinet. As of September 17, 2010 they were:

Seiji Maehara, Foreign Minister (R) [前原 誠司, 外務]

Kan Suzuki, Secretary of Nippon Kaigi; Senior Vice Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (R) [鈴木 寛, 文部科学]

Toshiaki Koizumi, Parliamentary Secretary of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (R) [小泉 利明, 国土交通] 

Shuu Watanabe, Japan Election Measures Committee Chair (Party Member)[渡辺 周, 選挙対策委員長]

**Ryuu Hirofumi, Parliamentary Secretary of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (R) [浩史 笠, 文部科学] 

Signatories of Washington Post Advocacy Ad June 14, 2007 Condemning H.Res. 121 Asking Japan for an Official Apology for the Comfort Women

Izumi Yoshida, Parliamentary Secretary of Finance (R) [吉田 泉, 財務]

Kenko Matsuki, Nippon Kaigi Vice President; Parliamentary Secretary of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (R) [松木 謙公, 農林水産省]

** Ryuu Hirofumi, Parliamentary Secretary of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (R) [浩史 笠, 文部科学] 

*"R" indicates that he/she is a member of the House of Representatives/Lower House.
** Ryuu Hirofumi is BOTH a Nippon Kaigi Member and a Washington Post Signatory.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Never too late

Photo borrowed from
 very gifted Australian photographer  
Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, the Kan Cabinet’s only member of the arch conservative Nippon Kaigi, on November 23 made an unusual side-trip* while he was in Canberra to ensure his country’s access to Australia’s resources.

He visited the Australia War Museum and Memorial to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Solider and to stand silently before the statue of Sir Edward "Weary" Dunlop. Dr Dunlop (1907-93) was the best known of a number of doctors who ministered to Australian prisoners held by Japan. A doctor on the infamous Thai-Burma Death Railroad where nearly 3,000 Australians died, he is immortalized in a large bronze statue in the War Memorial grounds (as pictured above).

In the midst of critical trade and security talks, Maehara felt it necessary to present a gesture of contrition for Japan's mistreatment of Australian prisoners of war. I believe that this is the first time a Japanese Foreign Minister has done so.

A total of 22,376 Australians became prisoners of Japan, most at the fall of Singapore in 1942. Of them 8,031 (36 percent) died in captivity through starvation, overwork, brutality and mistreatment. From the Changi Prison to the Thai-Burma Death Railway the Australians died. Most infamous were the Sandakan death marches where only six Australians of 2,400 Allied POWs survived and the Baka Island machine-gunning in which 21 Australian nurses were shot in the back, leaving Sister Vivian Bullwinkel the sole survivor.

At a press conference in Canberra with Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, Maehara said:
There were some 22,000 people who were prisoners of war during the Second World War. I wanted to take the opportunity to express or to demonstrate my feeling of apology towards those people by visiting the statue of Dr Dunlop. In particular, next year, a number of former POWs will be visiting Japan, and I look forward to giving them the warmest welcome that we possibly can.
Yes, the apology was merely a rewording of the 1995 Murayama Statement. Yet, it was the most liberal paraphrase yet of Japan’s solitary official apology. And yes, Australian POWs were included in the 1995 Japanese government-funded series of Peace, Friendship, and Exchange Initiatives for POWs from WWII Allied nations (with the United States as the sole exception).

At the same time, there were a number of significant firsts. The Japanese program for Australian POWs, now ended, were never preceded by an apology or sponsored directly by the Japanese government. Visiting POWs never met with high-level Japanese government officials, as Maehara now said they would. Most significant, after years of Japanese statements that it could not apologize to specific groups, the Australian POWs were specifically mentioned in Maehara’s apology.

All these extraordinary developments mirror what the American POWs received in September during their first ever invitation program to Japan. Six former POWs traveled to Japan courtesy of Japan’s Foreign Ministry. They were received with a deep bow and apology from then-Foreign Minister Okada.

But as the head of the American delegation told Okada, and anyone who would listen, the apology most sought is from the Japanese private companies that purchased and worked them to death. Over 60 Japanese corporations used POWs throughout the Empire. A number, such as Mitsubishi and Kawasaki, also profited from transporting them to POW camps in Japan, China, Korea, and Taiwan. All the companies still exist in some form. Although the corporate names have sometimes changed, their antecedents are included in the 100-years or more of their company histories. Contemporary companies such as Ube Industries, Toshiba, Mitsui, Sumitomo, Mitsubishi, Kawasaki, and Nippon Sharyo were all kept operating by POW labor during the war.

Curiously, it appears that Japan’s Foreign Ministry remains unwilling to allow Japan’s corporations to go the requested next step. In 2009, one Australian POW, Joe Combs, traveled to Japan to ask then-Prime Minister Aso for an apology for being brutalized and forced to work in one of the Aso family coal mines. Aso Mining used 300 allied POWs and thousands of Koreans as slave labor in the Kyushu mines. He never received the apology, but said, "With an apology the pain will go."

POWs and the U.S. State Department have repeatedly requested that the companies publicly apologize for their complicity in the enslavement and mistreatment of POWs. Japanese diplomats respond that they cannot tell their country’s companies what to do. However, as a Showa Denko representative told an American reporter after a visit by an American POW in September, his company was advised by the Foreign Ministry not to apologize.

There are many things that Japan now desperately wants. From the Australians they need security cooperation and access to its mineral riches and rare earths. From the U.S., the Japanese want the U.S. nuclear umbrella and access to the new multi-billion dollar high-speed rail contracts. But in both Australia and America, there lingers the bitter memory of the mistreatment of the soldiers and sailors that Japan now asks for protection.

Most Australian and American POWs slaved for private Japanese mining companies. And nearly every Japanese company trying to bid on the American high-speed rail contracts used POW slave labor. Even the Japanese rail companies, JR East and Jr Central that have formed all-Japanese consortia to bid on contracts, can trace their history back to Japan’s national railways (Ministry of Railways) and the transport of POWs.

This is a similar situation to the role of France’s state-owned national railway, SNCF, which has been condemned for transporting Jews and others to transit camps during World War II for deportation and certain death. In Congress and state legislatures, SNCF has been called on to account for its wartime activities before they bid on America’s high-speed rail contracts.

On November 4, the SNCF Chairman did just that. He admitted his company’s complicity with Nazi war crimes and expressed his “sorrow and regret.” He pledged that SNCF would “continue to work in partnership with those most deeply affected – to ensure such unspeakable horrors never occur again.” He said that SNCF “has made a long‐term commitment to transparency, education of younger generations, and acts of Remembrance.” The firm also established a website to document its progress toward contrition.

As the Chairman of LaFarge pointed out:
In 1995, the President of France, Jacques Chirac recognized the responsibility of France by stating, “Those dark hours tarnish forever our history, and are an insult to our past and our traditions. Yes, the criminal madness of the occupier was seconded by French people, by the French State.” As an arm of the French State, SNCF fully embraces these words and the sorrow they reflect for the victims, survivors, and their families who suffered as a result of our role during the war. 
It took 15 years from France’s blanket State apology for its war crimes and the threat of the loss of billions of dollars of business to bring SNCF this far. Fifteen years have also passed since Japan’s national apology for the war. For Japan, with restive Chinese neighbors and a sluggish economy, threats exist to both its national and economic security.

There were cold commercial reasons for the France’s SNCF to offer its overdue apology to its wartime victims. These are the very same facing Japan’s great corporations. Corporate responsibility resonates through the generations and to the nation.

*As far as I can tell, this brief side-trip was not reported in the Japanese press.

Friday, November 5, 2010

An Anniversary

October 31st was the 10th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325. It was the first UN resolution to acknowledge how women were affected by conflict and the critical role they must play toward making the peace. The resolution initiated a decade of recognition of and remedies for the violence inflicted upon women during warfare. No more is rape an acceptable consequence of war.

No one was more outspoken in its support than US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who traveled to the UN to present American support for the resolution. Under her watch, Congress reintrouced the International Violence Against Women Act on February 4th, 2010. It makes combating gender-based violence a "strategic foreign policy imperative" of the United States. The act begins to establish inter-agency mechanisms for assisting victims of international violence and bringing their perpetrators to justice. It may be voted on during the upcoming Lame Duck session.

Bosnia and the Congo are the recent graphic examples of how women suffer when conflict break out. Their modern, documented antecedent was Imperial Japan’s Comfort Women system during the Pacific War in the middle of the 20th century. Women of all ethnicities were forced into sexual slavery and trafficked to serve the needs of Japan’s military, as well as colonial government and industry representatives.

Often, as is common in today’s conflicts, the Japanese military used rape was used as an instrument of warfare and subjugation. Whether the rape was one of opportunity or provision, it was always one of power. Japan’s soldiers and sailors raped because they could.

UNSC Res 1325 is about returning power to the women abused. The violence inflicted upon women and children in warfare is now recognized as unacceptable and its perpetrators no longer can operate with impunity. Although the Comfort Women had no remedies and no voice, their tragedy helped make the world aware of how unjustly sexual violence affects women and societies.

Sexual abuse and violence by the Japanese military was prevalent throughout Asia during the Pacific War. Women and girls were not the only victims. The Comfort women remain one the great unresolved history issues of the WWII. And Asian governments, especially Korea and China, use it legacy to remind Japan of its moral obligations.

Thus, it was a surprise that so few Asian countries gave their vocal support to the anniversary of UNSC Res 1325. Missing were South Korea, North Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, and Mongolia. Only Australia had its Foreign Minister deliver special remarks and these were not at the UN. Otherwise, just the country representatives to the UN or lower presented their national statements of support. 

Malaysia and South Korea did what Japan did in 2008 at the adoption of UNSC Resolution 1820, which noted that “rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity or a constitutive act with respect to genocide.” Its national representative showed support through his capability as head of a UN organization and not his country.

In this case of 1325, Malaysia’s UN delegate also headed the UN Economic and Social Commission. South Korea probably hoped that the strong support given by Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, 1325 was sufficient.

It was not. It was especially not sufficient for a country that says it champions the Comfort Women cause.

For perspective, on June 19, 2008, the UN Security Council adopted unanimously the landmark resolution 1820 (2008) after a day-long ministerial on “Women, Peace and Security.” Then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice noted that there had long been dispute about whether sexual violence against women in conflict was an issue the Council was authorized to address.

“I am proud that, today, we respond to that lingering question with a resounding ‘yes!’” she said, adding that the world body was acknowledging that such violence was indeed a security concern. “We affirm that sexual violence profoundly affects not only the health and safety of women, but the economic and social stability of their nations,” she said.

Japan, interestingly, did not as other G-7 countries offer a statement in support of the resolution. Instead, its UN Representative Ambassador Yukio Takasu as Chairperson of the UN Peacebuilding Commission gave a statement commending the leadership of the UN for the debate at the meeting.

The Government of Japan, then led by Yasuo Fukuda, certainly noted this resolution’s implications for its long-festering Comfort Women problem. However, even in the face of this dramatic, international perceptual change that women are not just merely part of war’s collateral damage and that violence against women is among the most pervasive and insidious human rights violations, Japan remained equivocal.

In 2010, the Japanese government supported 1325 with a statement from the Makiko Kikuta, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs who affirmed the essence of Council resolution. She said peace could not be achieved without the participation of women, yet women and children remained the principal victims of every conflict. The international community must comprehensively address prevention, participation, protection and recovery, she said, adding that doing so would, among other things, enable identification of what was needed to make the objectives of the resolution a reality. She urged the formulation of a country-specific strategy with a gender perspective when implementing peacebuilding activities.

This DPJ government's show of support, which was not merely a MOFA bureaucratic statement, is a long way from the LDP’s distancing itself from the issue in 2008. The DPJ showed an unusual sensitivity to American policy priorities. Whereas the US has long championed women’s human rights, Japan as demonstrated in 2008 was not always an enthusiastic supporter.

If the US Congress fails to pass the International Violence Against Women Act during the upcoming Lame Duck session, Asian motivation to support 1325, 1820, and further measures will be lessened and American moral leadership seriously undermined. There is more at stake than funding a foreign aid budget.


November 25th - International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Open for business

Peace Partners
I have long said that the solution to Futenma is two words:
The Philippines.

Actually, two locations are whispered in Washington: Subic Bay, The Philippines and Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam.

The effort to relocate the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to somewhere on Okinawa is sliding into 15 years.  Most of the delay has been under a LDP-led government. The DPJ came to power in 2009 hoping to end the stalemate by moving the base off the island. American patience soon wore thin, especially as the time drew closer to deploy the accident-prone Osprey to Futenma.

Futenma, smack in the middle of a city, is an accident waiting to happen. With the Ospreys, it is an accident pretty near guaranteed. It is a mystery to me as why common sense does not take over from so-called force structure and contingency planning. Does the Marine Corps want a disaster to happen?

Anyway, what both the LDP and the DPJ have in common is their understanding that moving Futenma within Okinawa is not politically viable. The DPJ was inadvertently more honest in suggesting that the Marines simply leave. For both the LDP and now the DPJ, the strategy is to delay until the U.S. realized on its own that it had to reduce its presence in the prefecture.

And Japan's political leaders must have thought that they were winning this war of wills, when the U.S. announced its plan to move many of the Marines on Okinawa to Guam. But as USG analysts have pointed out, Guam does not have the infrastructure to support such a massive population increase. Or as the U.S. Congress' only Soka Gakkai member, Hank Johnson (D-GA) worried, Guam might "tip over and capsize" due to overpopulation.

Hatoyama's questioning of the Futenma relocation agreement finally impressed upon American policymakers, long enamored (blinded by love) with the seemingly pro-defense LDP, that the current situation was untenable. Forcing the Japanese to build another base on Okinawa had political consequences not just for the Japanese, but the U.S. as well. Thus, quietly, both Japan and the U.S. have looked for other locations in the Asia-Pacific to host U.S. military facilities.

It appears that Vietnam has been Japan's favorite. This summer Japan participated for the first time in the U.S. Navy's Pacific Partnership --the annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian assistance and disaster relief endeavors, aimed at strengthening regional partnerships in Southeast Asia--by sending a medical ship to Vietnam. Over the weekend, Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan signed with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung a Strategic Partnership between Japan and Viet Nam for Peace and Prosperity in Asia to develop rare earth elements, build nuclear power plants, and improve Viet Nam's infrastructure.

Viet Nam's Cam Ranh Bay is strategically located near key shipping lanes in the South China Sea and is close to the potentially oil-rich Spratlys and Paracel islands. The Spratlys are claimed by Vietnam, China, Malaysia, the Philipines, Brunei and Taiwan. The Paracels are claimed by Vietnam and China.

This weekend the Vietnamese Prime Minister announced that his country was willing to service foreign navies at Cam Ranh Bay. The Russians would furbish part of the naval facility and open it for business.

Now, let's see how The Philippines reacts.

But enough from me, let the news speak for itself:

Vietnam to reopen Cam Ranh Bay to foreign fleets: PM
AFP 10/31/10

Vietnam plans to reopen to foreign navies the Cam Ranh Bay port facility formerly used by both the US and Russia, the prime minister said Saturday after a summit dominated by China's territorial disputes.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung addresses the closing ceremony of the 17th summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Hanoi. Vietnam plans to reopen to foreign navies the Cam Ranh Bay port facility formerly used by both the US and Russia, the prime minister said Saturday after a summit dominated by China's territorial disputes.

"In the centre of the Cam Ranh port complex Vietnam will stand ready to provide services to the naval ships from all countries including submarines when they need our services," Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said in response to a reporter's question, at the close of the East Asia Summit.

Countries will pay for services at the facility which will be developed with Russian assistance, Dung said.

The base in southern Vietnam was used by the United States navy during the Vietnam War, which ended in 1975. The Soviet Union and then Russia later used the facility, until Russia withdrew several years ago.

Vietnam and the US, which restored diplomatic ties 15 years ago, are both concerned about China's growing military might and assertiveness in the South China Sea.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Vietnam Saturday that Hanoi and Washington are "broadening our security exchanges".

On Saturday the US and Russia were formally invited as members of the East Asia Summit in what analysts say is a blow to Chinese attempts to diminish US influence in the region.

With its core the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), EAS also includes Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Please get in touch with the anger inside you again

No one gasped. Maybe it was shock enough having the disgraced Scooter Libby give the introduction where he suggested that the former, failed prime minister of Japan Shinzo Abe shared enough of a conservative agenda with Americans that he should run for elected office in the U.S.

After all, Paul Wolfowitz and General Michael Hayden were in the audience. Doug Feith was seated next to the Boeing representative, Stanley Roth, who as a former Assistant Secretary of State for Asian and Pacific Affairs once knew something about Asia.

But, I should not have been surprised. All this was taking place at an invitation-only luncheon for Abe on October 15th held by the conservative Hudson Institute. The night before, Abe shared the stage at Hudson’s annual dinner with former Vice President Dan Quayle.

It was a room full of Washington's conservative elite, who simply understood that Abe-san (they like to use “san”) believed in a strong military, fiscal responsibility, and standing up to Communist China. Libby had noted that Abe championed “warmer but realistic relations with China.”

It was unlikely that Libby knew that just a month before Abe shared a podium with disgraced General Toshio Tamogami. The General, became an admired figure among Japan's right-wingers after a 2008 essay—in which he denied Japanese aggression in China during World War II and said that the U.S. tricked Japan into World War II—caused him to lose his job as head of Japan's Air Self Defense Force. Tamogami is also the organizer of the anti-Chinese rallies that have been held in Tokyo over the past month. Both Abe and Ms. Yuriko Koike, a former defense minister and top opposition lawmaker, are active Tamogami supporters.

But I digress. It was Abe’s luncheon speech that was shocking, not the introduction.

Abe opened by noting his “deep admiration for Dr. Herman Kahn, the founder of the Hudson Institute.” He said
The phrase that he coined, ‘thinking the unthinkable,’ has provided me much food for thought throughout my career as a member of the Diet. My own interpretation of the phrase 'thinking the unthinkable' is as follows: 'to provide hope for the future, based on a clear understanding of the past and an accurate perception of the present.'

Is the thought of surviving a thermalnuclear war providing Abe with “hope”? At this point I appreciated that Hudson had wisely hosted an open bar and served an excellent red at lunch.

Did Abe’s speechwriter know anything about Herman Kahn and his famous book On Thermonuclear War? Or did he just Google Herman Kahn quotes?

When Herman Kahn published On Thermonuclear War in 1960, he shocked readers by “thinking the unthinkable.” In the book, he speculated on how the various levels of American preparedness and civil defense would affect rates of survival in the event of a devastating thermonuclear attack on the United States. The Soviets, he believed, would be most likely to launch a first strike if they thought they could completely destroy the US and avoid retribution.

This led Kahn to suggest a robust Civil Defense response to ensure that as many Americans as possible would survive so that the U.S. could launch a nuclear Armageddon back upon the USSR. His thesis was a strange mix of mathematical calculation and gallows humor. Thus, the concept of “Mutually Assured Destruction” was borne.

Dr. Kahn was one of the models for Stanley Kubrick’s dark comedy Dr. Strangelove. And “thinking the unthinkable” will forever be associated with a doomsday scenario of worldwide nuclear war. For more see HERE.

From there it was tough to take the rest of what Abe said seriously. If he had such a distorted notion of thermonuclear war, what kind of thought was he capable of on other issues?

His speech did make some news when he called the Chinese fishing trawler’s ramming of two Japanese Coast Guard ships a “barbaric act [that] cannot be overlooked.” He said the release the captain, “was a very foolish move” which showed that “the Prime Minister’s office was frighteningly naive.”

Abe did not, however, suggest what he would have done differently. After all, the U.S., Japan’s ally, strongly recommended to Japan to quickly release the Chinese captain. So, we did not learn what “unthinkable” thing the former prime minister was thinking.

The Hudson Institute feels it has common cause with Mr. Abe. They choose to ignore his more extreme views. Further, it is tough to gage how much attraction the rightist, nationalist agenda of Tamogami and Abe has for average Japanese. As in the U.S. the social uncertainty brought on by a weak economy feeds all sorts of anger.

At a recent anti-Chinese demonstration in Tokyo, a protester told a passersby to "Please get in touch with the anger inside you again." No Tea Party member could have said it better.

$h*! My Vice President Says

The Japanese think the dust up in the Senkaku/Daioyus is all about them. After arresting a drunken Chinese trawler captain fishing in disputed territorial waters of the East China Sea, delaying his release, and mumbling something about legal procedures, Tokyo caught the wrath of Beijing. An alcohol fueled mishap quickly escalated into a test of international diplomacy.

Meetings were canceled, words exchanged, and critical trade curtailed. The U.S. restated its commitment to defend Japan’s administered territories and the Secretary of State called the South China Sea a “national interest.” Southeast Asians recoiled at China’s aggressive territorial expansion through historical “fact” in face of Japan’s de facto possession.

Most interesting was the September 21st “unannounced” embargo of rare earth elements (REE) not just to Japan, but also to Europe and the U.S. Withholding REEs to Japan would have been effective enough as the Japanese process and refine most of REEs used worldwide in hi-tech products. The U.S. military is said to be 100% dependent on Chinese REEs, and by implication Japan. Widening the “non” embargo on October 18th to the other major industrialized powers was simply punctuation.

In a word, China’s actions did not just affect Japan. And the target of Beijing’s ire also may not have been simply Tokyo. The Chinese fisherman’s encounter with the Japanese Coast Guard created a pretext for probing the boundaries of American commitment to Asia. Whether the lesson was one to be learned among the factions in Beijing or Washington remains unclear.

Thus, it is not surprising that the “non” embargo ended just prior to U.S. Secretary of State Clinton’s ministerial with Japan's Foreign Minister Maehara in Honolulu, and in advance of her "surprise" meeting with China's State Councilor Dai Bingguo on Hainan Island.

More to the point, Japan may not be solely responsible for ’triggering China’s shrill reaction. On September 19th, 12 days after trawler captain was jailed, Vice President Joe Biden said the most unusual of things. He locked U.S. China policy to Japan’s. Although, what he said should not have been taken as a statement of policy, its context and the rhetoric leading up to his statement could suggest that it was.

The Vice President, as a favor to his longtime friend Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) was the keynote speaker at the U.S.-Japan Council’s inaugural conference, Shaping the Future of US-Japan Relations. Inouye’s wife heads the organization and the Senator is on the board of councilors. The Council is to cultivate and activate Japanese Americans to be supportive of Japan and Japanese policies. Formed during the Aso Administration, it is unclear if the Council is closer to the conservative LDP or the more moderate DPJ.

It is the result of thinking in Tokyo that Japan had no natural constituency in the U.S. as did other ethnic groups like the Jews, Indians, Koreans, or Armenians. The effective rallying of the Korean community to support the 2007 Comfort Women Resolution in the House of Representatives had alarmed conservative Tokyo and the Foreign Ministry.

In July 2008, the Japanese Embassy held a meeting with think tank, academic, and arts experts on Japan to discuss how to widen understanding (read support) of Japan. The meeting was to discuss how to inject money into cultivating the grassroots of the American public. CSIS’ Mike Green, UVa’s Len Schoppa, USJF’s George Packard, CFR’s Shelia Smith, Japanese-American Museum head Irene Hirano (Inouye’s new wife), and approximately 16 others attended this invitation-only planning meeting.

In 2007, the Senator had taken the very unusual step of writing members of the House advising them not to support the Comfort Women resolution, H Res 121. Many congressmen were taken aback by the Senator’s heavy hand and that his letter was nearly word-for-word from Japanese Embassy lobbying documents.

The U.S.-Japan Council was to expand among Japanese Americans the Senator’s efforts to explain Japan. Thus, to many who follow things Japanese, especially the Chinese, the Vice President's appearance at the Council inaugural conference, also attended by U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos, was an endorsement. Further, it was a venue for a pro-Japan policy pronouncement after months of haranguing the new Japanese government.

The connection to Japanese-American activism was probably lost on the Vice President, but he did pick up on the fact that the meeting was a cheering section for Japan, and the alliance. He was clearly bored, yet a bit swept up with the moment. The crowd was sparse and conversation seemed pretty routine. And like many in Washington, Biden often tries to adapt to his audience to please them and say what they want to hear.

Thus, Mr Biden leaped off message, ignored his prepared text, and rambled on about the wonderfulness of the alliance.

He gushed on that Japan is the “lynchpin” of an effective US strategy in Asia. "There is an emerging relationship that we have to get right between the United States and China... frankly, I don't know how that relationship can be made right other than going through Tokyo," Biden said. "I don't know how it works without our partner in that part of the world," he added.

U.S. China policy goes through Tokyo!? Really?

Eyebrows likely arched to the ceiling in Beijing.

In Washington, the White House gritted its teeth, never issued the actual text of the speech (a video is available, see above), and on background a senior administration official tried damage control:
In his remarks to an annual meeting of the U.S.-Japan Council, the Vice President reaffirmed a long-held tenet of American foreign policy: that the U.S.-Japan alliance is a linchpin of the security, stability and prosperity in Asia. This alliance has fostered a regional environment in which the United States can effectively build a positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship with China. 
But back in Beijing, the itch to test the premise that U.S. China policy runs through Tokyo must have been strong. More to the point, they reasoned; if Japan is to deliver messages to China for the U.S. then Japan can deliver messages to the U.S. for China. Pinch Tokyo and Washington will feel the pain.

With pending American military exercises in the Yellow Sea, U.S. statements that the South China Sea is a “strategic interest,” and American reaffirmation that the Security Treaty covered the Senkakus, Beijing was ready to believe the Vice President’s happy talk at face value. The day before the Vice President’s speech, Tokyo had unexpectedly (even to the White House) extended the detention of the trawler captain.

Beijing responded by threatening Japan with "strong counter-measures."

The strongest has been the embargo on REEs. It got everyone’s attention.

As Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell as oft said the U.S. has “a strategic interest in how these issues are dealt.”

Indeed, we do.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Limo Tales

I can’t quite figure out if the study of contemporary Japan is either a good model for understanding other political systems or simply losing relevancy in Washington. AEI’s resident Japan expert, Michael Auslin, shares this confusion. In a series of recent articles he is all over the map, literally.

This year he has brought his knowledge of Japan to US air power, China, Latin America, Turkey, and democracy.

Most recently, he appears to have traveled to Guatemala. Although unclear why he was in Central America, but he did examine the country in the same way as most US public intellectuals do Japan, from the backseat of a limo: “While in Guatemala City, I was driven around in a bulletproof SUV, and chauffeured to a dinner just half a block from my hotel.” Taxi and limo drivers always have keen insights.

In Fearing the Chavez Model, Auslin takes this experience and warns that the populist Marxist state of Hugo Chavez is “the greatest threat to economic and political liberalism since the armed insurrections of the 1980s.” Then he pulls up the narco-chaos of Mexico as another threat. Both persist, he concludes, because of US neglect. Then again, maybe corrupt, weak democracies can produce some crappy results. 

The wealthy businessmen who hosted the AEI Japan scholar say they “feel caught between Mexico and Venezuela, between anarchy and Marxism” and abandoned by the US. I wonder if there is some Japan analogy in there.

In Turkey and Japan at the Crossroads, Auslin awkwardly draws some tenuous relationships between the two. He says both countries face critical elections this month. (I am a bit of a loss as to what elections these are in Japan.) He tries to make some point about democracy and the critical decisions that need to be made in these two Asian countries. Other than that he even admits they have little in common. More than that, I am at a loss. 

“It is troubling, and perhaps even unfair, that the global reputation of liberalism should be tied to events in just a few nations,” he says. I should say! Liberalism not something one usually associates with Turkey or Japan. The problem he misses as he lambasts these democracies for their retrogressive policies—of which there is no similarity between the two countries--is that liberalism has yet to take hold in either of these “bookends of Asia.” This failure inevitably causes problems in managing the momentous social changes that are taking place.

Somehow he ends up with “Their choices will also matter a great deal to America, which will have great problems maintaining its influence in the Middle and Far East without a close working relationship with both countries, while democrats around the world will watch closely to see which way the winds blow across the Bosphorus and the Sea of Japan.”

I have no idea what he means by all his references to democrats in both articles. Expanding democracy, he inadvertently observes, has made relationships with our best allies more difficult. Something Washington rarely complains about with the French or Germans. Voters in any country are less interested in global politics than in what happens at home.

Maybe Auslin is simply trying to prove his conservative credentials by grasping for a vehicle to criticize the Obama Administration. It is simply too difficult for him and many in Washington to understand the changes taking place in Japan. There is little daylight between his views on Japan and that of the Obama Alliance Managers; thus there is little to criticize.

And none have the imagination or experience to work creatively with Japan’s new government. It is just easier to dismiss today’s Japan as either a Latin American banana republic or a ideologically polarized tinderbox with access to nuclear weapons.

Personally, I was disappointed in the Turkey piece.  I was hoping he would note, like Stratfor’s George Friedman, that by 2050 Japan would ally with Turkey in a world war against the US and Poland. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Forgetting Missouri

What happened to V-J day? Although this August 15th was 65th anniverisary of the end of World War II, specifically the end of the Pacific War, neither the White House nor the US Congress acknowledged this historic moment.

Every other national government involved in the Pacific War issued a memorial statement. In the UK, the Prince of Wales and the Prime Minister participated in ceremonies. The United States stood out by its silence.

Rhode Island did hold its annual parade. It is the last to celebrate V-J Day as a state hoiiday.

On August 15th, the US State Department did issue (as that is the day, a Sunday, the press release appeared in my inbox) a congratulations to the Republic of Indonesia on its 65th Independence Day, which is August 17th.

Indonesia's Proclamation of Independence (Proklamasi Kemerdekaan Indonesia or simply Proklamasi) was issued August 17, 1945, two days after the end of the Pacific War. The declaration marked the start of the diplomatic and armed-resistance of the Indonesian National Revolution, fighting against the forces of the Netherlands until the latter officially acknowledged Indonesia's independence in 1949.

Many of Washington’s Asian allies consider August 15th a day of national liberation. I suspect, however, none of them expected the United States to buy into the notion that the Japanese occupation and its war helped liberatate them from colonalization. Nor did they think Washington would ignore the great Allied victory that did allow their liberation.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Women's Where

Just in time for the opening of Washington’s political season, Cabela’s sale catalog came. Now don’t get me wrong. I do not plan to track, stalk, shoot, kill, gut, skin, stuff, and display any the multitude of Asia policy talking heads who will promote themselves over the next few months. Even if it is open season…

Not only are there the mid-term elections, but the presidential campaign for 2012 is also beginning. The policy wonks need to get on the radar fast and the more sound bites and platitudes they offer the better. Expect a rush of turgid op-eds, fatuous interviews, and redundant programs this fall that will all showcase the, er, talents of Washington’s Asia policy professionals. There will be a raft of vanity reports written primarily by interns (these used be girls but now they tend to be male South Asians) masquerading as policy proscriptions.

Sadly, the press follows along. For example, Washington’s Japan press corps pursued Michael Green “a Japan expert and former senior director for Asian affairs on the National Security Council (NSC) at the White House,” after his August 31st presentation at the Heritage Foundation for a quote. Green told an eager press gaggle (in both English and Japanese) that Ichiro Ozawa, former secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan, who is now running in the DPJ presidential election is “anti-American” and that Ozawa’s “remarks made since last year have caused severe damage to the Japan-US relationship."

Although the White House does not suggest Green as a source on Obama Asia policy, he was quoted as saying: "The U.S. administration reached out to him (Ozawa, believing he was an influential political figure), but that only made matters worse. [The US Administration] does not think he will win, but it is nervous about what impact the result of the election will have on [US-Japan relations]."

Enough about the men who will benefit from all this and let’s get back to Cabela. What caught my eye was the leafy-wear camouflage jacket and pants suit on sale for half price--$39.99! That is definitely a must-have and good price point (as few are hired full time) for many of the women in Washington who work on Asia issues.

It is the perfect moderator’s suit. You can actually look like the potted plant, the ornament, the after-thought that you have been selected to be. Introduce the men, be gracious, and help assure the program organizers that women were included. Then you can blend back into the fake foliage on stage.

One problem I observe the upcoming meeting on Asia this fall is no women have invited to participate, even as moderators. For example, NBR’s release of its annual Strategic Asia report not only does again not have any women authors but no women speakers. Senator Daniel Inouye’s US-Japan Council conference, Shaping the Future of U.S.-Japan Relations, to encourage interest in the Japan-American community in helping the Japanese government lobby in the U.S. only has women speaking on a panel ghetto about Women in the Workplace & Leadership.

There are many more examples, but why bother to list them. You will get the emails. My advice is if they don’t serve lunch for free, don’t go.

Anyway, Cabela’s leafy-wear suit with “outline shattering Silent Leaf construction” deal does not come with head camouflage. Here is an area where the female moderator can personalize, accessorize. I think a nice floral headpiece would be a nice touch.

I almost took advantage of the sale, however, it occurred to me that after 20 years of working Japan policy issues complete with having authored and advised on all sorts of legislation, I have never once been invited to participate in a program or even moderate. I don’t need a gillie suit; I am invisible all by myself.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


August 20th was the 70th anniversary of one of Winston Churchill’s most famous speeches, The Few. His words inspired his countrymen to fight on at a critical point during the Battle of Britain.

This the paragraph that is most remembered:
.... The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few....
I think he is too generous. It is always a few who propel change, who inspire others, who see things as they can be, and who work to make it happen--and pay a terrible price. Most like to do nothing and find excuses to justify their nothing.

Churchill understood that doing nothing, of letting things stand as they are, has a profound affect on the future and the history we leave behind. Nothing is an act in itself. Too many waiting for the few can allow the intolerable.

So his speech was not really about the “few.” It was about the "many" who need to see that the few could not, should not, must not proceed alone. He emphasized this by announcing, for the first time, that the Americans would begrudgingly establish a strategic alliance with the United Kingdom and position bases on the island. They would not join the fight, but at least they will begin to present themselves as allies.

So, for me, I find inspiration later in his speech. He exhorts his listeners:
....The right to guide the course of world history is the noblest prize of victory. We are still toiling up the hill; we have not yet reached the crest-line of it; we cannot survey the landscape or even imagine what its condition will be when that longed-for morning comes. The task which lies before us immediately is at once more practical, more simple and more stern. I hope - indeed I pray - that we shall not be found unworthy of our victory if after toil and tribulation it is granted to us. For the rest, we have to gain the victory. That is our task.
There is, however, one direction in which we can see a little more clearly ahead. We have to think not only for ourselves but for the lasting security of the cause and principles for which we are fighting....  
To make a history that guards justice and higher principle is not a selfish endeavor. It is a desperately lonely one in search of friends and allies. Unfortunately, too many friends and allies have narrow perspectives and limited objectives.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Necessary Losses

I kept the Italian Wassily Kadinsky book as well as a translation of Hubert Juin’s study of Pierre Soulages. I simply liked them. Of course, I kept a copy of Janson’s History of Art and my childhood favorite, William Tell drawn by Warja Honegger Lavater. And I had the good sense to keep the first edition of Kiesler’s Inside the Endless House.

But the rest, I let go.

For 30 years after mother’s death I kept her massive collection of art and design books. A few years after she died I did donate several hundred books to the library of the National Museum of Women in the Arts. They were the ones that mentioned women. Most of the books and gallery announcements she kept did not.

So this past week I called a book dealer and let him look at the collection and make me an offer. Time had created many rare and unusual art books in the collection. Resigned, I took it. I had no fight in me.

It was harder sorting through the books than selling them. I could not look at many books before becoming tearful. They brought back memories of flipping through them as child. I learned art history without ever taking a formal class. I developed a critical eye before I ever reached college.

This month has been one of many losses. I lost a piece of my body, friendships, and causes. Nothing I could control; none I could change.

But with the books, I could say, enough is enough. Someone will appreciate them more. Someone will take them out of their boxes and off the shelves. Someone needs them more. Finally, I had something wanted and valued.

This almost never happens.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Justice makes it to Japan

My good friend from Japan called me this evening to wish me well on my operation tomorrow, but our conversation meandered over many things. She knew I did not really want to think about the morning. So she carefully guided the conversation over to change, change for the better.

We talked about the upcoming 100th anniversary of Japan's annexation of Korea and what might the prime minister say. She expected a cabinet approved speech of measured apology. Another Murayama Statement it would become. Not enough for her, but significant to me. If true, then the Foreign Ministry would have two formulas to use to offer careful apologies.

The Japanese government repeats and adjusts the 1995 Murayama war apology for various situations. Last year’s apology to the American POWs was of this style. One twist, however, has been that the Japanese Ambassador to the US Fujisaki who delivered the apology has refused to put his words in writing. He even went so far as to write one former POW that the apology would remain oral and he would NOT provide a written statement. No wonder the Ambassador did not mention it as one of his accomplishments of 2009.

Is this insincerity or a fear of intimidation by Rightists and other Nationalists? Neither speaks well of Japan's democracy or support of humanitarian values.

My friend rationalized that Japan simply does not have enough practice with justice. She cited what she said was a very popular NHK rebroadcast of a PBS show on the theory and practice of justice with Harvard professor Michael Sandel. This phenomenon was mentioned in JapanRealTime (the must read blog on Japan).

She said his book Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? is the number one bestseller in Japan and that he will be touring there in late August (23-27). The fascination with this program, she believed, was the sign of a new, changing Japan. 

Everyone liked Sandal's question and answer style, which sounded to me similar to the traditional Socratic method used at all the American Ivies. That Japanese were receptive to this fairly confrontation method upturned many traditional Western assumptions about "the Japanese."

To my friend, the wide acceptance of this show and book indicated a Japan with kinder less authoritarian men and citizens willing to weigh different points of view. This was the new democracy of the new Japan. She found this all extremely exciting and hopeful.

I will think about this in a few weeks as I recover. Maybe the fad will be over by then.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Ismene begs King Creon to spare her sister Antigone in the Forum of Paestum.

Antigone is a tragedy by Sophocles written before or in 442 BC. Family ties, social mores, and the king's law all clash. Antigone wants to bury her brother Eteocles, while King Creaon has decreed that his corpse be left to the vultures. Antigone disobeys him and gives her bother an honorable burial.

Doing the right thing sometimes means disobeying the king and those who fear him. And it does not always end well. He orders her to be buried alive. She instead opts for suicide with her beloved, the King's son Haemon.

It takes uncommon courage to stick to humanity's higher values.  

Face time

Summertime brings interns. Young, bright and energetic.

This year my two interns both showed up on the first day of work in long-sleeved shirts and hip-hugging jeans. They looked liked the coeds they are. The buttoned up shirts were their idea of office clothes.

That will not do.

Washington has its own costumery. It is traditional, conservative, and not too flashy. More important, one’s dress quickly identifies you as a successful, serious person or something else like an intern, research assistant, or a leftist. All of the latter are considered a waste of one’s time to talk with or sit next to.

You need to either sit with your peers or those you need to impress or pump for information. Casual talk is not appreciated in Washington.

I quickly gave the lecture on female dressing for Washington’s many foreign policy programs and how to be taken seriously at first glance. Pant suits are for old ladies. Dressing like a man looks awkward. The costume is fashionable skirts and dresses, yet not too trendy or imaginative. Like all good girls, you need to be understated.

This does keep you obscure and invisible. But to dress like someone in New York or LA invites nasty comments and distracts from all efforts to be taken seriously--someone with access and information.

Thus, it helps if you are naturally beautiful. My interns are.

I am not even pretty; and I have certainly never been beautiful.

So it was with fascination I read the July 15th New York Times piece, Aging Gracefully, The French Way. It is all true and I tore it out for my interns to read. The French women make understated into a statement. They wear much less make up and spend more time thinking how to present themselves than their American friends. And thus they seem much more poised and beautiful.

Interestingly, like their Japanese counterparts appear to spend an enormous amount of time on face and skin treatments. The Times reports:
According to a 2008 Mintel report, Frenchwomen spend about $2.2 billion a year on facial skin care — as much as Spanish, German and British women put together. If you happen to use the bathroom in a French home — something that is not considered polite, by the way — you might see a line of skin care products rivaling a shelf at Duane Reade.
Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported a nearly similar phenomena in Japan:
The average Japanese woman spends 60% of her cosmetics budget on skin care, compared with 30% for American women.
A Shiseido survey found nearly 69% of Japanese women used cleanser, toner and moisturizer religiously at night, compared with only 17% of American women.
Indeed, Shiseido has documented that the average Japanese woman employs a much larger array of products each evening—as many as six products. First, she removes her make-up with an oil-based product. Then comes cleansing the face. This is followed by a lotion—a toner-like skin softener—and then possibly an "essence," or serum. Finally, she pats on an emulsion, which is less viscous than a cream, and then a traditional cream. All of this is achieved while performing an elaborate facial massage meant to help prevent sagging and wrinkling.
Wow, to average overworked, overstressed American woman falling asleep with either a bag of Doritos or pint of Ben & Jerry’s on her face is what passes for a nighttime facial “treatment.” When was the last time any of you even had the energy to brush your teeth let alone remember the order of a nighttime regime just for your face?

Well, as we all know, Japanese women don’t get wrinkles, and we do.

However, I think the Frenchwomen enjoy their life more. Here is a summary of

10 Ways to Age Like a Frenchwoman

1 Look out for No. 1

2 Keep it natural

3 No soap

4 The wonder of water

5 Diet

6 Exercise: Why? Go to a spa instead.

7 The doctor is in: Frenchwomen love their dermatologists and some women are resourceful enough — or have legitimate medical reasons, like arthritis — to get doctors’ prescriptions for weeks at their favorite spa. That means government health insurance covers much of the bill.

8 The surgeon is in but he keeps it natural not trendy

9 The look: Paris, like New York, is becoming very informal, but Frenchwomen never try to dress like their daughters. Accessories count: good jewelry, fantastic shoes or boots, and a scarf casually wrapped to conceal those neck wattles. And since Frenchwomen tend to have great legs (with help from varicose vein treatments), they wear more skirts and dresses than their American counterparts.

10 Think sexy: As the French writer Françoise Sagan wrote: “A dress makes no sense unless it inspires men to take it off you.” Buy some fun, new underwear.

Yes, ladies these are rules to live by, if we could have only been born French.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Sometimes apologies come too late. And it is not necessarily the wounded party that is made to suffer.

The State of California may soon demonstrate this to many of Japan’s greatest corporations. After 65 years of turning their backs on the people they forced to slave in their factories, on their docks, in their mines, and in their brothels, these companies will be asked by Sacramento to account for what did they did during the war and how they made amends.

The July 9th Economist reported on legislation being considered in California to require companies that want to bid on the state’s multi-billion dollar high-speed rail contracts to disclose their involvement in WWII atrocities and detail how they have taken responsibility for these crimes.

The young, first term Assemblyman who sponsors this legislation, Bob Blumenfield, is focused on the French train company SNCF. This international corporation has never apologized for transporting French  Jews and others to Auschwitz and other extermination camps. The underlying objective is to extract compensation from SNCF for the few remaining survivors.

As you will see from the passages from the bill I note below, the legislation is vague enough to include among the victims of WWII: POWs of Japan, forced laborers from China and Korea, Comfort Women from all over the Pacific. You can find the bill text HERE.

Many private Japanese companies brutalized and transported these people. In regard to the “use” of Comfort Women, the Japanese military allowed corporate executives their own access times and prices. 

Not one of these companies has acknowledged, taken responsibility, or made amends for their wartime conduct. Every Japanese company bidding in California used and abused people from the groups mentioned above. You probably recognize these companies: Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Sumitomo, Toshiba, Kawasaki, Hitachi, and Nippon Sharyo.

In regard to transport, part of the focus of the bill many of these companies had transportation arms. According to Unjust Enrichment, at least 17 of the 69 hellships used were built, owned, and operated by Mitsubishi, and other primary owners were Mitsui, Kawasaki, and Yamashita Kisen. I am sure there is some scholar somewhere who has also tracked the ships that carried forced laborers and Comfort Women (who were referred to in the ship manifests as only “logs”).

I suspect if Mr. Blumenfield had known about the POW experience and of the long fight for justice of these Americans: Veterans, Korean Americans, Chinese Americans, Filipino Americans, and Pacific Island American he would have better highlighted the indignities they confronted.

And among these groups, only the American POWs of Japan are not asking for compensation. They are asking “only” for respect and to be remembered. They are asking for an apology from the companies that enslaved them and a decently funded program of memory preservation that will extend to their descendants and to those who will both teach in the US and Japan the lessons of the horrors they endured.

Assemblyman Blumenfield somehow did not know about these American veterans. Maybe there is an opportunity to teach him. The legislation is still in committee; it has not passed the Assembly, and has not yet gone to the Senate.

Blumenfield’s bill notes that it is
… relevant to the state's legitimate concern with the present character of applicants, as well as to the quality of their corporate governance, corporate accountability, corporate responsibility, and trustworthiness.  
This bill is not intended to remedy historical wrongs. It is intended to ensure that public moneys provided by the taxpayers and bondholders of the State of California are used in a manner consistent with our shared values of respect for human rights
The bill specifies what involvement in war crimes entails. Did the company bidding on any part of the high-speed rail project have: "any direct involvement in the deportation of any individuals to extermination camps, work camps, concentration camps, prisoner of war camps, or any similar camps during the period from January 1, 1942, through December 31, 1944." 

The great value of this legislation is that each company has to show accountability.
If an entity responds that it has had a direct involvement in the deportation of any individuals, as described in paragraph (1), the entity shall certify all of the following: 
(A) Whether the entity has any records (whenever created) in its possession, custody, or control related to those deportations. 
(B) Whether the entity has taken any remedial action concerning those deportations, and whether the entity has provided restitution to all identifiable victims of those deportations.
As the Economist article notes; the Japanese companies are concerned about this legislation. And they should be. The bill says: 
Accordingly, should the Legislature become aware of any potential contractor competing for public funds that has engaged in conduct of similarly problematic moral or ethical character, and should there be a similar nexus between this conduct and the present quality of the applicant's character, corporate governance, responsibility, and accountability, full disclosure of the conduct is essential to the contracting and bidding process and it is the opinion of the Legislature that similar legislation should be adopted in similar circumstances. 
Moral responsibility is what this legislation requests. Maybe Japan’s companies with world scrutiny upon them will find that now is the time to apologize. There are billions of dollars at stake. The Japanese ambassador to the United States has repeatedly said that the high-speed train contract is a priority for the Embassy—it is an issue of national pride and profit.

Japan’s elites have even enlisted the help of all the Alliance Managers to win the contracts. They frame their technology as one contributing to the strength of the US-Japan Alliance. The train contract will be, they say, an example of our “shared values.”

Maybe they are right. If these Japanese companies take responsibility for their wartime actions, as this California legislation requests, then they will be viewed as operating in “a manner consistent with our shared values of respect for human rights.”

For now, they do not.

N.B.: The above is a painting of the Tokushima Maru, the sister ship of the Tottori Maru, a Hellship that transported American POWs from the Philippines, both of which were operated by Nippon Yusen a shipping subsidiary of Mitsubishi. Painting lifted from HERE where you can find photos, paintings, histories, and  descriptions of other Hellships.

Friday, July 9, 2010


A Reader asked my opinion. He wondered what I thought of an article by Christian Caryl that appeared on June 28th on Foreign Policy Online entitled, “Unfinished Business: For 65 years, Japanese corporations have escaped responsibility for abusing American POWs during World War II.” 

The Reader must not be from Washington or Tokyo, as those folks never ask for my opinion or thoughts. My daughter sometimes asks, but only to make sure that she should do the opposite of whatever I advise.

Caryl* writes of a lingering historic injustice by Japan. It was not one Japan inflicted upon its Asian neighbors. It was not even one perpetrated by Imperial Japan’s military. It is a war crime against American prisoners of war, military and civilian.

Before I comment further, I suggest that the Reader pair the Caryl article with one by Lisa Belkin in July 4th The New York Times Magazine, "Why Is It So Hard to Apologize Well?".

As Caryl noted, many of Japan’s well-known companies, such as Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Kawasaki, Hitachi, Sumitomo, Toshiba, and Nippon Sharyo, ruthlessly used thousands of American POWs as replacements for the Japanese workers in their mines, on their docks and in their factories, in order to keep their business profitable during WWII.

Their profitability was more pronounced due to their failure to pay wages for the labor performed and to provide humane living conditions for its unwilling workers. The result was that more than 40 percent of the Americans captured by the Japanese perished due to abuse, malnutrition, disease, execution, forced labor in dangerous situations, and transport to Japan in unmarked freighters known to survivors as “Hell Ships.”

Surviving veterans of the three and a half years of slave labor have been waiting decades for an apology from those companies that used and abused them. Both American and Japanese courts long ago ruled that these Japanese companies have no financial or legal responsibility toward the POWs.

With the excuses of legal claims and compensation removed, the POWs thought that the Japanese companies would naturally move to apologize. These giant, global corporations all do extensive business in the United States benefiting from many government contracts. They all have statements of corporate responsibility claiming that they respect human rights.

Yet these same companies continue to ignore the former POWs, who are saying in essence, "you have a moral obligation to offer us a sincere apology, do so, and we will accept it, then we can both move on." As Belkin writes, an apology when done well “can heal humiliation — by lifting anger and guilt and allowing splintered bonds to mend.” Further, apologizing can “be good for our collective soul, allowing those who are wrong a chance to repent and those who have been wronged a change to forgive, right.”

A successful apology is “an expression of regret, an assumption of full responsibility. It also helps to put forward a plan for preventing similar mistakes in the future.” This is the case for France and Germany, which have both established foundations to memorialize their victims of the Holocaust and slave labor.

Germany’s Remembrance, Responsibility, and Future Foundation is funded equally by German companies and government. It’s focus is on the victims of National Socialism’s forced and slave labor. Japan’s total lack of acknowledgement of its use of slave and forced labor is an embarrassing contrast.

Belkin finds that “When an apology fails, two things are lost--the victims are not asked for forgiveness, nor are they given a chance to grant it. Being asked to forgive restores dignity to the injured. Granting forgiveness is a step toward moving on.” This is true for Japan’s equivocal or non-existent war crimes apologies.

Everyday Nippon Sharyo railcars roil past the edge of the Maywood, Illinois Veterans Memorial Cemetery. Eighty-nine Maywood soldiers were part of the infamous Bataan Death March. Only 43 returned home alive. One even slaved for Nippon Sharyo.

Soon Nippon Sharyo, now owned by JR Central in Japan, will bid on multi-billion dollar government contracts to build high-speed trains in the United States. So far, they have not said a word about respecting the dignity and memory of the American veterans they once enslaved. Also soon, the last of the American POWs of Japan will pass on.

Saying nothing, ignoring complaints, and “looking forward,” is a very Japanese tactic to avoid responsibility and confrontation. It makes Americans uneasy and undermines trust. More, the non-response is viewed as bad as a botched apology. Belkin says these not only taint “the act of apology but the ability to accept an apology as well. And that is unforgivable.”


*I must confess that I do know Mr. Caryl. We had an appointment, which he forgot and missed. He did not know I was used to that sort of thing, so he sent flowers. They remain the most beautiful and unexpected flowers I have ever received.