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The big news this weekend was the apology by the sub's skipper. He met the families of the victims and personally apologized for the accident that happened some weeks ago. This will play very well in Japan, but I suspect the real motivations were political and rather sordid. However, I better back up and provide some context.
Only a few week's after King George II ascended the throne, some of his cronies were being wined and dined by the U.S. Navy. Really hard to imagine why these civilians were on a submarine and even harder to understand why they were playing with the controls, but the bottom line is that there was an accident. As it surfaced, the sub crashed into a Japanese training boat and sank it, and nine Japanese died, including a couple of teenagers. This created a lot of negative publicity, especially in Japan.
The incident is still being investigated, but it is already very clear that an important contributing factor was that the Navy wanted to show the civilians a good time. I still can't understand why. They were just rich friends of George, old buddies from Texas, not powerful politicians or anything like that. They didn't donate all that money to the GOP for a submarine ride, but I guess it was a 'significant token', rather like the skipper's apology.
The skipper said he apologized against the advice of his attorneys. But he didn't say anything about against orders, and he certainly could have been ordered not to. Though he's been relieved of command, he's still in the Navy. I think what actually happened was that Bush's royal council had finally had enough time to realize the political importance and convenience of the apology, and he was explicitly told that he was NOT under orders NOT to apologize. Catch the double negation? That's to say I think he was indirectly ordered to apologize. I'm not saying that his apology was insincere--in fact, I'm certain that for many reasons he's sincerely sorry it happened.
However, the problem here is that the investigation of the incident is under American military law, not Japanese civilian law, and I haven't heard anyone suggest a change of venue--that would NOT be politically convenient and would create a very awkward precedent for American military personnel who frequently work outside the States. I do not know if any deal has already been struck, but I do know he's in a very weak bargaining position. He is probably going to be cashiered, and no matter how it comes out it seems he is rather unlikely to command a sub again. Very awkward for the entertainment plans for the rest of Bush's buddies, I suppose. But at least the apology got a few soothing words from the Japanese press.
Hard to figure out if it's significant negative evidence, but in the previous eight years I do no recall hearing of a single similar incident involving political friends of Clinton and the U.S. military. And Bush has only been the Resident for a couple of weeks...
I should have started this chronology earlier, but I'll try to fill in a bit of the gap with what I can remember most clearly. Actually, one of the most significant items again involves the military. Bush had promised to strengthen the military, and had frequently criticized Clinton for not spending enough on defense, but one of Bush's first actions was to submit the budget without changing Clinton's recommended figures for military spending. Can't tell if this was more hypocrisy or maybe a booby-trap left behind. Clinton could have pumped up the number, and President Gore would have been able to revise the figure had it seemed inappropriate. In the actual fact, Bush made some noise about increasing military salaries, but the numbers speak for themselves. One interesting wrinkle is that the announcement was released while the Secretary of Defense was out of the country. Apparently he had not been consulted and was rather surprised when informed.
More recent but not exactly new news is that Cheney is sick--heart catheterization this time. Not sure how I feel about him personally, but it seems very unlikely that he will last four years--he is not a well man. He's already had several heart attacks, including one during the slightly stressful legal battle to steal the Presidency. Of course the situation is rather odd. Traditionally, the V-P does nothing much, and it seems to be a very low-stress position, but in the current situation, he may actually be making a lot of the actual decisions and feeling some of the associated stress, even though he isn't the official point man. However, he's supposed to be ready to take over--as king in this case--, and I really doubt he would last long in that eventuality, especially considering that it might involve a tense or difficult situation. For example, there's already been one apparently sincere, though apparently demented, attempt to kill George. [I kind of wonder if that short time until the first assassination attempt was a new record?]
Not sure how much Cheney's health matters, however. Obviously Cheney is politically aligned very closely with George, and that would [or more probably will] be true of whoever Bush appoints to replace him. Bush wasn't elected, either, so that won't be any change. And actually, I think the unelected President Ford was the best national leader the GOP has offered in my lifetime, even though he was appointed by one of their worst. However, I keep having the nagging feeling that there may be a Republican out there who is even worse than Quayle... I know it's kind of hard to imagine, but consider it in light of Quayle's real and very well known (by 1992, when he was REnominated) lack of qualifications.
Not sure how often I'll update this, but my plan is to keep it as current as time allows. I may still include some backward references, but will try to resist editing earlier sections [except for stuff like grammar mistakes and possibly clarifications if something seem unclear on a later reading]. However, I certainly have a nagging feeling that there were several other recent news items that I should have included with this entry...
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Oh, oh. I see it's going to be hard to keep up with the Resident Bush as he bumbles along. Already noticed a couple of notable items, but hard to find time in my busy schedule... Main ones for today are the CO2 debacle and Bush's reaction to the latest OPEC news. A few more words on the election, too. And almost forgot to mention the main Japanese item, the Mori bit.
Putting the last topic first, Bush met with Mori yesterday. But why? Mori is an extremely unpopular prime minister, and he's already agreed to resign. Basically seems like a meaningless gesture unlikely to do anything for anyone--even Mori, though at least he gets to add it to his resume. Some prime ministers do retain some of their influence even after stepping down, but Mori hasn't got much influence to hope for retaining. I'm surprised he lasted so long--about a year. Then again, he is something of a 'soul mate' to Bush: Both of them are conservative 'leaders' of limited intelligence who frequently say embarrassing things in public. I've even heard some Japanese disavow Mori as not representing Japanese opinion.
The CO2 thing was just Bush breaking another campaign promise. Not wasting any time, is he? One side is the 'What is right?' aspect, and on that side the answers seem very clear. We certainly should be very worried about global warming, and it's certainly more than a 4-year problem and bigger than the next presidential popularity poll. Especially touchy in a little island nation like Japan--lots of Japanese live close to sea level, and if it rises, they won't be happy.
But given that it is a long-term problem, probably the more significant aspect in relation to Bush is the confirmation of what an out-of-touch non-leader he is. The first spin-doctoring emphasized that CO2 was not an official dangerous gas, so the campaign promise should be dismissed on the technicality. Next tack [Or should I call it a tacky spin?] was to say that trying to regulate it could be economically harmful. I guess that's supposed to show what a realist Bush is, but if President Clinton had done exactly the same thing Bush and his buddies would be screaming about what a morally bankrupt liar he was. Good for the goose, but not the gander?
Dealing with the problem is certainly likely to be incur some short-term costs, but basically one would hope the ostensible leader of America would have a bigger view than that. And even there, shifts from one energy strategy to another would create new economic opportunities. The obvious 'victims' would be some of Bush's friends who are so deeply committed to the old energy technologies that produce so much CO2, which leads naturally to the next topic...
OPEC just announced an output reduction intended to raise prices a bit. Most people, most Americans, and even most of Bush's OWN people, see that as not an especially good thing. So Bush turns around and makes a public statement focusing on the light side? Mostly shows that he doesn't think very well, but I suppose we could thank him for his honesty--lots of his closest buddies are rich oilmen who like oil price increases on any excuse. His statements show where his real sympathies lie. Seems to be just as 'populist' as Hoover. Maybe it was a coincidence that the stock market just had its worst week in about 12 years... Another week like that, and maybe we'll see what Bush looks like when he panics. But probably not. More probable that he'd just go back to his ranch and hide for a while.
The election news continues to trickle in, but nothing to be amused about. The more they examine the Florida ballots, the more clear it is that Bush lost. Can't exactly expect Bush to apologize and maybe even resign, can we? I still remember how Bush's buddies were screaming for Clinton to resign because he got a little side nookie, but let's compare 'crimes', shall we? What would they have said if it was known he had actually lost the election? You'd think there ought to be some REAL grounds for impeachment somewhere in there. Anyway, the only item I'm interested in on this front is a report based on the Florida Supreme Court's final ruling. So far, no one has clearly said whether the specific recounting procedure of that court ruling would have changed the outcome of the election.
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Major Bushy item is expelling the Russian diplomats, though I can't really say why it's getting so much play in the Japanese press. Maybe from fears of the revival of Cold War mentality? Bush trying to prove himself again--just as I predicted. "Am I good, or what?" (Actually the punchline of a recent Tumbleweeds joke.) The official explanation is that it's retaliation for spying, with the proximate problem being the discovery that a high honcho at the FBI has been spying for the Russians since the Reagan days. And I'm sure we are morally pure and have no paid spies who are citizens of other countries. Being such bastion of moral integrity, I'm sure the Bushes would never permit the CIA to act in such a questionable fashion.
From young Bush there have also been various unkind words for the mainland Chinese, though this week there was a meeting between Secretary of State Powell and the Chinese. However, the main criticism of China was some weeks ago in conjunction with Bush's first air attack on Iraq, which of course continues to be an outstanding target of unkind rhetoric.
The item that most troubles me was hearing that Bush is pushing the school vouchers again. Basically guaranteed to destroy what little is left of America's public school system, even though Bush himself is the Money-Can't-Always-Buy-a-Good-Education poster child. I think it would be quite amusing to read some of his papers from his Harvard days--but he probably conditioned his donations on their being destroyed. However, the fundamental problem is the school vouchers, a long-term goal for the various groups that want tighter control over their children's education, but at public expense. Not a critical factor for the rich people, since they can afford private schools in any case, but very attractive to various other groups, most especially the religious crazies. For marketing purposes, it's worded in positive terms as allowing parents to select the best schools available, and that's actually somewhat true--except that such responsible parents already make the efforts. (And actually I think the related magnet schools have become part of the problem.) Yes, with vouchers parents will be able to chose schools for good reasons, but also for bad reasons, like making sure their children are appropriately and narrowly indoctrinated. And the public schools will only sink farther, or perhaps die out altogether. The public schools used to be one of the unifying forces of America, but ideologically-selected private schools are not likely to work that way...
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April Fools! I wish. I suppose today's joke is the local weather--warm and sunny. But yesterday it was cold and snowing vigorously for most of the day. I'd like to cite it as more evidence of climate changes, but it isn't that simple. Lots of variation in the weather that serves as noise, which makes it hard to see any clear signal of long-term changes. Such late snowstorms are rare, but have happened before, and it's hard to know if they are increasing and if such an increase is part of an overall pattern of climate change induced by global warming. I do think the preponderance of evidence shows we should be concerned--but my opinion doesn't count for any more than my vote.
Actually, yesterday's front page story in the local paper was again the CO2 thing. Bush met with the leader of Germany, and they argued about the issue, though in the spin doctored version in one paper, "They agreed to disagree." The Japanese do have a vested interest, since the Kyoto Accord was signed here, and also because there was a good deal of controversy at that time about the economic costs for Japan. But perhaps the amazing thing is that one apparent fool apparently has so much power so quickly. Hundreds of people from scores of countries worked for years to reach that agreement, and it appears that Bush can and will quite easily negate all their work.
So from such news it looks like Bush can't even get along with our ostensible friends these days. Heaven help our enemies, eh? But that reminds me of recent newspaper articles about criticism of North Korea and skepticism over current agreements. Actually sounded like Bush is opposed to moving towards peaceful unification of Korea, though his reasoning was typically unclear. However, Korea is an area of major concern to Japan, because of its proximity and for historical reasons. [There was later a lot of spin doctoring on this topic, since it turned out the U.S. only has one actual agreement with Korea and they are honoring it. Last version I heard was that Bush was speculating about agreements that might possibly exist sometime after he opened his mouth and inserted foot.]
On other fronts, I forgot to mention Bush's support of Jerusalem as the recognized capital of Israel--but without any commensurate support for any part of the city as a capital of a Palestinian state. The Bushies are even planning to move the official American Embassy to Jerusalem, though no date was set. Maybe because there's too much chaos in the area just now, and no signs of things getting better? My own prediction is that in the absence of competent help and guidance (pronounced 'pressure')--and which Bush seems unlikely to provide--, the current situation is going to continue deteriorating. Eventually the Palestinians will unilaterally declare independence, and there will almost surely be a war over the issue, which will create yet another generation of very bad feelings, regardless of the outcome.
A bit more on the submarine incident, though it's already old news. The skipper basically confessed in court. Sort of. Kind of hard to figure out, but he testified without any conditions, apparently again acting against the advice of his attorneys, and it seems very likely that the form of his testimony will allow it to be used against him. I think a clandestine deal has been struck, and my prediction is that he'll probably avoid the brig, but leave the Navy and somehow wind up with a cushy job 'working' for some of Bush's friends. We'll see after the dust settles. There was also some strange spin about wanting to continue civilian visits to strengthen ties between the military and the civilians, but the strangeness of that spin doctoring basically exceeded my comprehension threshold.
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China to the fore again. So much military bad news can't be coincidental, but in this case I think it's the Chinese who have decided to stir things up and find out what Bush is made of. So far, it doesn't look like Bush is made of much worth noticing. But back to the beginning...
A few days ago one of our reconnaissance planes was flying around the Pacific fairly close to China. A couple of Chinese fighters came up, which is apparently fairly routine. The collision that happened next was not routine, and our plane headed for the nearest land--in China. Right now the crew is being held and Bush is demanding their release. He also demanded that the Chinese not examine the plane, but that demand was vigorously ignored. One hopes that the crew destroyed the most sensitive stuff before the landing.
Of course the Chinese are saying it was our fault, and we're claiming it was their fault. I think this is going to be one of those cases where possession is nine points of the law--rather like the way Bush got into White House, based on his apparent possession of 'victory'. Our initial 'clever defense', that the Chinese fighters are much faster, is not going to hold a lot of water, since fast planes can fly slowly, too. But maybe the Chinese will decide to be nice guys and return the plane. However, I'd expect it to come back in small boxes, the way we returned that Russian MIG some years ago.
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The news about press conferences is actually from Yahoo. And the news is 'no more' news from that channel. Or maybe 'no mas' would be better in light of Bush's Spanish pretensions and the famous tradition of 'no mas' as an admission of unwillingness to fight, though I can't even remember the boxer's name. Anyway, Bush has admitted he can't deal with real questions, and like his father with regards to broccoli, he's going to exercise his royal prerogative and banish them, both questions and questioners. The spin-doctored version was that he's going to replace press conferences with something less formal. Guessing, but what I think that means is that he'll try to manage the 'news' (pronounced 'spin') by occasionally deigning to meet with a few selected members of the press, presumably sympathetic ones who agree not to publicize his gaffes--and anyone who 'violates the rules' will not be invited to any more meetings. Too soon to say if this strategy of news management will work or backfire, but I'd sure be annoyed if I were a political reporter.
The judge item has been floating around, and I'm pretty sure I saw some recent mention in a Japanese newspaper. The Bushies are rushing to appoint as many judges as possible, picking first for political correctness as they define it, and probably for youth, too. Reminds me of the 'joke' about the evil men do outlasting them. The ABA has been removed from the streamlined process--too concerned with trivialities like legal competence.
Kind of a reverse flow of news item, but I recently heard about a situation comedy on American television based on Bush. Apparently based on something similar about Clinton, but I'd never heard of either program before. Nothing like that when I lived in the States, and I can't regard it as healthy humor or constructive criticism. Rather it sounds like the government is sadly lacking in credibility or semblance of dignity if such shows can find sponsors. The article mentioned something similar on Saturday Night Live, but going back many years, though I'd never been a fan of the program and didn't even know it still existed.
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No question about the big news of the week. Bush is all excited and thumping his chest about freeing the 'hostages' in China. No question but that Bush is a political winner on this one, though maybe we should be concerned where the possible loss came from in the first place--sure have been a lot of military incidents and accidents lately. Also, from a historical perspective there are lots of questions left over. The Chinese obviously could have continued jerking Bush's chain, but there didn't seem to be much reason to do so. They already have the plane, which is the only big thing they can get from the incident. Or was it an accident? Can't even figure that out. More importantly, can't guess if it will happen again.
Our latest version is that our plane was flying on autopilot when it happened, but even that wouldn't prove our plane wasn't the cause of the accident--the autopilot may have decided on a course correction or other twitch that caused the crash. And actually, I find it hard to believe that the captain would have put the plane on autopilot in such a situation. Even acknowledging I was a poor pilot, I'd have wanted the controls in my hands while an unfriendly plane was playing dangerous games. But probably even worse if the SOP is to switch to autopilot in those cases--that would basically give the Chinese complete and potentially dangerous control over the situation, since they'd be almost sure exactly what our plane would do.
Of course the big danger from Bush's perspective was that he could have wound up looking like Carter vis à vis Iran. All he had to do was say he was sorry, and he probably would have done much more to avoid a prolonged hostage crisis. And maybe he did, under the table. Who can say? (But I admit that I sure don't trust him on his looks or track record.)
What can be said for sure is that the Chinese lost a trivial plane and gained a national hero--who might have survived with a bit more luck. In one sense you can say he was amazingly lucky to damage our plane to just that degree, and apparently live to jump for it. In exchange, the Chinese gained one of our most advanced intelligence gathering systems, albeit damaged by the crew en route to China. The rest of it gets really fuzzy, really fast. Big unanswered questions:
Number 5 is actually a ringer with an obvious answer: Obviously not. Provocative rhetoric helped lead to the incident, and now that our crew is home, the rhetoric has gotten much louder and much more negative and provocative. Basically I think Bush lacks much capability to see things from the other side's perspective. We'd be plenty annoyed if the Chinese were spying on us that way, but they don't or can't, but somehow we expect them to be happy about the situation? Not hypothetical, if you remember the Russian spy stuff. That entry was only a week before this Chinese incident began.
The last question is especially troublesome. Pilots in general are pretty crazy, but fighter pilots are the craziest, and I'm sure they can get plenty of volunteers to try to become the next national hero, especially if it is a less than accidental scenario. This time the Chinese didn't have any ships in the right place to save the pilot, but next time? How's this for a worst case scenario? A bunch of Chinese ships gather, and when we come to look, their fighter has an 'accident' deliberately intended to put our plane in the water among those ships, and too quickly for the surveillance equipment to be damaged the way it was this time.
Anyway, my initial assessment is that the Bushies didn't mess it up--but basically it was a pretty straightforward and uncomplicated situation that would have taken some effort to mess up. A bit embarrassing for Bush to have made a personal issue of the plane, but the politically important thing was to avoid a prolonged hostage crisis, and they did avoid that. However, if the Chinese were expecting any gratitude, they'll know better next time.
Minor news I heard this week, but probably via the Internet, not the Japanese press, was about Bush's salmonella gaffe. Not a direct gaffe this time, but by one of his carefully selected and ideologically-qualified appointees. They decided to cancel a salmonella testing program for school lunch programs. Big public outcry and the decision was immediately reversed. Spin was that this was a low-level mistake. I kept waiting for a rehash of the ketchup incident from the Reagan years, but maybe everyone else has forgotten? Just to remind you, there was a public outcry when one of Reagan's people tried to save money on school lunches by defining ketchup as a main course vegetable (rather than a condiment), since the law required offering two vegetables, and ketchup is much cheaper than broccoli.
However, though I don't recall it in the Japanese press, it is related to Japan, where school lunches are a big political issue. I'm studying Japanese at an old friend's school in Setagaya Ward, and recently we studied a political flyer. Basically a lot of the local mothers are very upset about changes in the school lunch program, and they sure seemed to be out after some politicians' heads. My fuzzy recollection is that they mentioned a petition with 100,000 signatures, which is plenty to affect the local election--and there's one coming up, too.
Interesting history is that this is linked back to the education reforms we Americans imposed after the war. The school lunch was often the most nourishing meal children were getting in those days, and it was deemed socially important to make sure it was as good as possible, and available to all the students without regard to which families were better off. It was considered crucial for the health of the next generation, and probably contributed a good bit to the increase in the average physical size of the Japanese.
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Didn't seem like there was too much news this week. The three items that come to mind are quick closure on the submarine incident, negotiations with the Chinese, and sudden waffling on environmental issues.
On the submarine accident, the skipper was given Article 15 and an honorable discharge. Basically a slap on the wrist and he retires with his pension intact and his record almost unblemished. Can't prove it, but one has to suspect a deal, which actually is the way the law normally works these days. But is it a just solution? Consider a few minor changes in the circumstances, and I think the answer may be no. What if the civilians had not been inside the sub, but had been aboard the ship that was struck and sunk? If some wealthy and influential American civilians had been killed, I rather doubt that they could have closed the books so quickly and conveniently. Or what if the ship had been bigger and stronger and it had been the submarine that was sunk? Hard to dismiss it so easily if the captain had lost his ship. But the just outcome ought not to depend on such accidental details as who was killed and which ship sank. In the actual situation, the victims were unimportant average citizens of a reliably friendly country. The Japanese government isn't going to pursue the issue, and our side knows that the Japanese family tradition is to accept an apology and a financial settlement. As the scale of these things go, I'm pretty sure they can make very generous offers by Japanese standards that would be regarded as extremely cheap by American liability standards. And Bush's friends quietly go on their way, which is the best they can get out of the deal.
The Japanese newspapers had several articles about apparently rocky negotiations with the Chinese. I suppose it's good that we have something to talk about with 'sincerity', even though it's such an awkward topic. I read a figure of $80 million for the plane, which is rather more than I expected, but I don't think that's a significant factor, though maybe a bit embarrassing. The Chinese have probably gotten most of the useful counterintelligence information out of it by now, but we still insist we want it back and also assurances there won't be any more accidents, and the Chinese say they just want some respect, which in this case they interpret as an end to intrusive surveillance (pronounced "spy") flights. I still can't imagine what incredibly valuable information we think we are getting from the flights, but it would be a major loss of face for Bush to agree to stop them, so it will be interesting to see if they can manage to agree to anything. Any meaningful agreement would actually be a foreign policy success of a kind, but I just can't see how the Bushies will get there from here. Since they can't yield on the flights issue, they would have to give the Chinese something else for the plane. Under the table? That would seem to be too risky for Bush, because it might be revealed before an election.
Now for the environmental topic. The Bushies noticed that their obviously pro-industry stance was already hurting in the polls, so they suddenly decided they wanted to reconsider how they deal with these left-wing legacies of the Clinton days. So far they had killed the new ergonomic standards and various other leftist intrusions into private profits, but NOW they are supporting the new lead emissions standards, announced they want to reconsider the arsenic standards, and most importantly, said they don't REALLY want to kill the Kyoto Accord on CO2 reduction. That may have been because the Australian leader announced he considered the accord dead without American participation. Of course, if Clinton had done something like this, it would have been 'proof of moral turpitude', but for Bush, I guess it's just another 'learning experience'--and principles apparently have nothing to do with any of this, assuming Bush actually has any. Next scheduled dustup may be amusing, however. Bush's little brother in Florida is pushing hard for some wastewater legislation, and his big brother may not be in a position to provide the support of the big guns...
Don't recall much other Japanese-related news this week. The Middle East seems to be going downhill, but certainly can't blame that one on the Bushies, though I'm skeptical they can do anything to improve the deteriorating situation. Also some news about economic measures to revive the American stock market, but I'm not sure if that will have any repercussions here.
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Various minor items this week, but the big embarrassment was Jenna Bush getting a ticket for illegal alcohol possession. Must be a bad family upbringing, eh? Too bad Dubya is the daddy. Or maybe it's just following in the alcoholic family tradition? Hate to think it's bad genes.
On a more serious note, it certainly makes Bush look like a hypocrite no matter how he handles it. He advocates strict punishments even for such 'young and irresponsible' offenders, so the 'principled' thing is to make sure she gets the strictest punishment. Of course, that becomes hypocrisy because he's just using his own family for political advantage. On the other hand, if he does anything to mitigate the penalties, that's hypocritical, too. And in any case it's hard to take it as favorable supporting evidence for his 'strong families' philosophy.
The Japanese connection was that it was broadcast on FEN to an English class that I'd agreed to pinch hit for. The school manager is an old friend, and the class went very well, but I still hope she doesn't make many such demands on our friendship... This was the second item, and lasted for about half an hour. Another example of how 'what goes around comes around', since it links to the education topic. No, as an old hand I can't claim 'new teacher effect' now, but it was definitely a fresh group and I tried one of my experiments--swinging for the fence again, but that's what pinch hitters are normally supposed to do. I tried to avoid speaking, though I would answer any question that was asked in correct English. They seemed to think it was a great technique, and I will probably suggest it to the other FEN study group I've been helping with at work. (That's one I inherited from my predecessor in the editing job. It got pretty tedious during the period after the election--it was just the same story week after week.)
Not Japan-related, but Doonesbury is carried in at least one of the local papers, and Trudeau has started riding Bush for the tax cuts. One tack has been pointing at the problems they've created in Texas and Florida--again with the beneficiaries being a few rich people. But the funnier and stronger approach is to point at the logical inconsistency. When Dubya was campaigning, he claimed the tax cuts were okay because the economy was strong, but now he's suddenly saying the economy is weak--but STILL needs the same tax cuts. And at the same time he's suddenly started renegotiating the amount and timing of the cuts. No, not Machiavelli's prince--just a pragmatic hypocrite.
Actually, the big Japanese news is the new prime minister. The fellow Bush met is already gone. So much for Dubya's foreign policy based on cultivating personal relationships. The new prime minister actually seems fairly promising, though one friend described him as a politically ineffective but principled conservative. Not sure what that means given how strongly conservative the entire ruling party is.
Almost forgot to add a comment about the recent Peru incident, though it didn't get much play in Japan. Not surprised that the CIA is continuing their usual tricks, or maybe they're even ramping up, since the Bushes love that kind of cloak and dagger stuff. However, it also looks like they are establishing new precedents for military irresponsibility, as long as it's done for Dubya's good causes. They let the submarine captain off the hook, and now they apparently aren't even going to say anything to the Peruvians, even though they accidentally killed a couple of Americans with the CIA's 'guidance'.
Meanwhile, the situation in the Middle East seems to be continuing to deteriorate. No visible progress in the Chinese negotiations. Rest of the world seems quiet, but the American economic indicators continue to twitch nervously, so maybe they're just watching to see what happens.