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.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Something is changing

On Friday, July 2, JiJi Press reported that Japan's Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada had five diplomatic policy advisers dismissed from their posts.

The five are Shotaro Yachi, Sadayuki Hayashi, Shunji Yanai and Yoshiji Nogami, who have served as vice foreign ministers, and Ryozo Kato, former ambassador to the United States.

The five took the unpaid posts under former administrations led by the Liberal Democratic Party.

Interestingly, the brief article says nothing of the fate of MOFA’s most famous LDP foreign policy adviser, Yukio Okamoto.

On Thursday, July 8th, the Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Ichiro Fujisaki is scheduled to give a speech at the Brookings Institution, A Changing Japan in A Changing World.

LATER: Amb Fujisaki requested the forum to give a talk. And to everyone's dismay there will be no refreshments at the program. Not a single cookie. Both Brookings and the Embassy have cheaped-out. I am disappointed as I was so looking forward to Brookings' excellent  double chocolate cookies.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Wearing the Ghillie suit

I want a Ghillie suit. Nothing says I am not here as when you wear one.

Being a woman is a natural Ghillie suit in the Washington Asia policy Bush.

A Ghillie suit, for those of you who are not hunters or snipers, is a head-to-toe camouflage outfit made so that its wearer blends as completely as possible into its environment. They can be made specifically for bushy terrain, forested areas, and even urban environments. The name is Scottish for servant.

The point is that women who work on Asia are essentially invisible.

If we are in the room, we might as well not be there. If our questions are not ignored, some “well meaning” male rephrases them or tells the speaker not to answer. It is not unusual for us to not be invited to an invitation-only program because we "can be disruptive."

On the rare occasion we are invited to participate in a program we are usually asked only to moderate. One or two moderator or commentator slots are sometimes reserved for women to show diversity. And these slots are almost always given to only a handful of unmemorable women like Ellen Frost or Kristen Lord.

A case in point was the all-Sasakawa Foundations'-funded June program on the US-Japan Alliance that had only one pesky woman speaker. Of the 37 public presenters at the two-day conference, there was only one woman: Ms. Takako Hikotani. She was not on the original agenda (and is still not on  the web-posted agenda). Of course, unlike the male speakers she came prepared, organized, and spoke excellent English. It was embarrassing.

Ms. Yuriko Koike the vice secretary of the LDP was the only female among the keynote speakers for the pricey, invitation-only conference meals. Two other men joined her that evening to speak. Amb Ichiro Fujisaki and foreign policy gadfly Robert Kaplan. I assume they did not want her to speak alone.

Her job was to spew gender-appropriate venom upon the opposition DPJ. Her talk was a less coherent version of her January Project Syndicate essay on "it's the security, stupid." Aside from a string of bitchy catty remarks, she left the audience with the impression that the LDP got “nuttin, just plain nuttin.”

Kristen Lord was allowed to sit at the square table of luminaries, but not given an opportunity to speak. After all, the organization that employs her, CNAS, did organize the program.

So, I think that it would be appropriate, in the future, for women to wear real Ghillie suits to these programs. If you are going to be unnoticed you might as well go all the way.

And if the women of Washington had the imagination and courage of the Guerrilla Girls of the New York art community they would go en masse in their Ghillie suits to a Brookings or CSIS event and just sit in the back row…

Friday, July 2, 2010

The men's room

More kudos for Steven Clemons and his blog The Washington Note. According to one of Steve's blast emails, Time Magazine cited his blog as one of their ten favorite.

They admired his inside reporting on the Washington foreign policy scene. It is true, his access sometimes seems incomparable. And he is always somewhere, especially places women dare not go. He also seems to spend as much time in airports as Tyler Brûlé and he isn't even Canadian.

The blog is very amusing, especially on the rare times he actually writes for it. Most of the serious posts are from guest bloggers. Otherwise, Steve aggregates or appropriates others' ideas and accomplishments. He organizes, moderates, and comments on policy issue programs. He is at the table.

Mostly, he talks about himself on his blog. There are lots of pictures of him and his dogs; and loads of description of the latest important sounding conference or person he is attending [sic].

He has big dogs.
My favorite post was during the 2008 Republican National Convention that he was purportedly blogging on, though the resulting posts were few and short on substance. He reports:

I've been having chats with quite a few hard core Republicans about this and that, including the Sarah Palin choice. In fact, I stood at a urinal next to Tom DeLay today at the St. Paul Hotel as we, well, you know. . .into a bunch of ice. He lamented how ice had sort of disappeared from most urinals and had become old-fashioned. We didn't get to Palin.

Yeah, like most women, she was not all that interesting anyway.

Steve is very popular in Washington. He got his start in Washington by helping Chalmers Johnson and a very brief stint at the Nixon Center. He is one of the "acceptable" Japan experts. The men of The Alliance Managers haul him out when they want someone to appear to disagree.

But Steve is the master of all and none. His foreign policy interests are only as deep and long as the topic is in the news. The don of this sort of self promotion is Richard Holbrooke who used to be a China hand. He is now the Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan who General Stanley McChrystal described to be "like a wounded animal." Holbrooke's immediate retort to this observation has everyone in DC pulling up their lawn chairs to watch the drama and probable demise.

 Steve has been observed also following Holbrooke into the men's room.