Thursday, December 4, 2008

Republican Election Fraud in Georgia 2002: a second whistleblower speaks out

I still hear people dismissing accusations of Republican election fraud as crazy conspiracy theories. This dispite mounting evidence that Republicans and their corporate allies, like Diebold, HAVE systematically explored vote tampering. Right now the evidence is strongest for the 2002 Senate race in Georgia and now evidence links Karl Rove with election fraud in that race.

Anyone who first makes such accusations is almost bound to be accused of being crazy. One of the earliest whistle blowers was Clint Curtis in Florida, a former Republican and computer expert, who claims he was approached by his Congressman, Tom Feeney, and asked to design software that could alter vote totals on touch-screen voting machines. This was in 2000 BEFORE the Presidential election. Clint Curtis was horrified, left the Republican Party in protest and even made two runs against Feeney (whose corrupt ass was finally brought down this year by Kosmas). Many criticized Curtis for claiming that people were trying to subvert the touchscreen machines BEFORE the 2000 election when supposedly no one was thinking touch screen. Well, some actual investigativg journalism by Dan Rather eventually revealed that people WERE thinking touch screen before the 2000 election and, in fact, the problems that arose in 2000 in Florida may have been part of the push for touch screen machines. That makes two reports of Republican scheming to commit election fraud in Florida. Add to that evidence that Republicans deliberately tried to create an undercount in Florida's 2006 Congressional race in the FL-13 district (see here and here) and you have a pretty good case for Republican Fraud in Florida.

Now let's turn to Georgia where a second whistle blower is confirming that fraud was probably committed in the 2002 Senate election. Previously, I have written about Stephen Spoonamore, a REPUBLICAN cyber-security expert and former adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who claims there is clear evidence that Diebold deliberately tampered with their own machines in Democratic districts in Georgia in 2002. Essentially, a computer patch was installed in person by Diebold CEO Bob Urosevich, who flew in from Texas to apply this patch in DeKalb and Fulton counties, both Democratic strongholds. Georgia's election board was not aware of this change in the voting machines until after the election. The patch was claimed to be to fix a problem with the computer clock but did NOT fix it. Democrats raised the alarm over this at the time but were, as usual, dismissed as crazy. Then Spoonamore (again...a REPUBLICAN) came out supporting their accusations. I should add that Spoonamore aslo believes there is evidence of Republican election fraud in Ohio in 2004.

Now comes another whistle blower confirming this story:

...a former Diebold vote machine contractor who was in charge of preparing the 2002 election between Saxby Chambliss and Max Cleland has stated that the software patches placed on the voting machines in the weeks prior to the election could have rigged the election in favor of Republican Chambliss.

We get confirmation directly from a former Diebold contractor. So, a Republican cybersecurity expert AND a former Diebold contractor agree that the 2002 Senate election in Georgia was probably rigged by Republicans and Diebold. But the conspiracy (a real one, it seems) goes one step further. The same article claims that Karl Rove himself was part of the fraud.

Three pieces of clear evidence for fraud in Florida in 2000 and 2006. Two pieces of clear evidence for fraud in Georgia in 2002, with a clear connection to Diebold's president, and a possible connection to Karl Rove. And the same cybersecurity expert who blew the whistle on Georgia's election fraud considers Ohio 2004 also suspicious.

How much evidence will it take before the Republicans and Diebold are held accountable for their fraud?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Women, Rape and Poverty in Indian Country

Last year the progressive blogsphere did a wonderful thing. We saved a woman's shelter on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Amnesty International published a report that became the focus of a series of Daily Kos diaries. The jist of the Amnesty International report is that, one in three Native American women are victims of rape...and most of those rapes are committed by outsiders, not fellow Native Americans. This Daily Kos article covers some pretty nasty aspects of American law covering Native Americans that allow this kind of crime to thrive with almost no consequences. Many laws relating to American/Native relations were written in the 19th century during a period of extreme abuse by the dominant American culture against Native cultures...and many of those laws are still in force.

Related to this was the fate of a woman's shelter called Pretty Bird Woman House. This shelter, one of the few facilities set up to help those one out of three Native American women who are raped, mostly by outsiders, was about to close due to lack of funds. Daily Kos, for all its faults, can do wonders. In no time a site was set up to collect funds for the Pretty Bird Women shelter, and within days thousands of dollars were raised, saving it from immanent closing. But then vandalism nearly closed the house again due to a lack of security. Ultimately, Daily Kos and the rest of the progressive blogsphere raised enough money to help purchase a house and home security system for the shelter.

Even now the progressive blogshere is working to keep this shelter supplied and to buy them a new heating system. As long as rape remains a major problem, women's shelters will need out help. From Daily Kos:

Many of you know the story of Kossacks' involvement with saving the Pretty Bird Woman House, which is a women's shelter on the South Dakota side of the Standing Rock Reservation. Last fall we conducted a fundraiser thatraised enough money to buy the shelter an entire new house. Since this week is the beginning of the holiday giving season, I want to give you an update on the shelter and some ideas for donating if you are so inclined...

First, for everyone who donated to the furnace fund drive that we didin memory of Joe Biden's mother-in-law, Bonny Jean Jacobs...We had enough money for the new furnace by the third week in October.I had promised to send the letter before the end of the campaign, and I just squeaked in with it on November 3. Unfortunately, my own mother died of pancreatic cancer just as the fundraiser was ending, so that was the best I could do. The new furnace was installed on November 12th. YAY everybody. Now the women will be warm this winter. They were all SO psyched to get it. A few people have been wondering what they can do for the shelter around the holidays.

Here are a few ideas.

1. Contribute to the general fund The shelter always needs money for expenses that aren't covered by grants (everything is tax deductible).

2. Contribute to the gift card fund for the shelter staff. Women's shelters are always underfunded and the staff underpaid. There is no money for bonuses ever, so if you'd like to see the staff get a few extra prezzies this year, contribute here. I will go buy Visa gift cards from the local bank, so they can use them anywhere they please.

3. Buy some towels. Right now the shelter is having a towel and wash cloth shortage because it lets women coming and going take their towels with them. Anna's Linen online seems to have really good prices. Other general items that are always needed are:

Twin and queen size sheets and blankets, toothbrushes andtoothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, women's hygiene items, diapers of all sizes, baby wipes, first aid kit items, and analgesics such as ibuprofen and aspirin.

Address to send items and checks:

Pretty Bird Woman House
211 First Ave W.
McLaughlin, SD 57642

4. FREE things you can do. The economy sucks, I know,and I for one am one of the Kossacks out of work (don't feel sorry for me, I just handed in a dissertation, so I'm hopeful for the future).There are 2 things you can do that I would call passive giving.

Sign up for: iGive If you do this, whenever you shop at what seems to now be most online stores, the store will donate a percentage of your purchase to the shelter. Everybody has to shop for the holidays, so if you shop online, this is the way to go. Since last year we've raised over $300 in this kind of passive giving, just with 60 people on the list. Imagine of we had 300 people on it?

If you download this GoodSearch bar and use it when you do a search,they will donate 2 cents for each search. That adds up, especially if there are a lot of people doing the searches. Since last year, we've raised $118 on GoodSearch. Passive giving, I like it!

5. Buy Christmas presents for women and children who will be at the shelter. I've been talking to the shelter director about this, but one of the staff just quit so right now she's having a hard time keeping her head above water. Here are some good ideas from another shelter director.

Don't forget socks, underwear and sweats! As a shelter director, I can tell you this - the women & kids who arethere right now, will probably not be there by Christmas I always tell generous donors to send gifts that you and your family members would like to receive for a Christmas present. So, if you are an adult woman, you might want a nice robe or pajamas,slippers or perfume or a long distance calling card or a beautiful warm neck scarf with matching hat & gloves for the winter, a watch, or a clock radio or a nice new hair dryer or straightener or culring iron, diaries, journals, wallets, backpacks, picture frames, photo albums. The majority of children in shelter are between the ages of 2 and 12 with all ages sprinkled in, so legos and action figures are good for boys, coloring books, word puzzles books, games, decks of cards,dolls/barbies of all cultures, leapster learning toys, anything Disney, Bratz, Dora & Diego, Sponge Bob. Don't forget about the batteries if you purchase a gift that requires batteries, please send them with the gift! For the tweens & teens, hand held games, travel games, music by Jonas Brothers, Hannah Montana, Cheetah Girls, sleeping bags, blankets, backpacks, belts, hand bags, cosmetics, hair accessories, small suitcases on wheels, disposable cameras are so cheap these days! Gift cards are always great for all - food, clothing, gas cards, phonecards, shoes. Keep the candles for yourself - it is not usually safe to burn candlesin a shelter home but the temptation is so great if you have one! When thinking shelter, remember storage is at a premium so think smaller, more portable gifts.

The Pretty Bird Woman House operates at capacity nearly all the time. One of their staff just quit (too much stress), and they are quite over their heads right now with the work load. Thanks to YOU this shelter exists. Without you, the women on the Standing Rock Reservation wouldn't have any place to go if they are victims of domestic violence. You are amazing.

PS. We'll need to keep this diary going to raise holiday funds. Feel free to take any of this material as your own to keep it posted.

I still donate from time to time to Pretty Bird Woman House. But the need is far bigger than just one shelter and I do feel like the strong support for just one shelter is missing the big picture. I came across another program and shelter that I make it a point to support whenever I donate to Pretty Bird Woman Shelter, and I hope others will help out this program as well.

I would like to highlight another Women's shelter and health center in the Sioux Nation that could use help. The Native American Women's Health Education Resource Center was set up on the Yankton Sioux Reservation in 1988 and added a women's shelter in 1991. Here's a bit about what they do:

The Resource Center has expanded to include many programs benefitting people locally, nationally, and internationally. Some examples are the Domestic Violence Program, AIDS Prevention Program, Youth Services which include the Child Development Program and the Youth Wellness Program, Adult Learning Program, Environmental Awareness and Action Project, Cancer Prevention, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Awareness Program, Clearinghouse of Educational Materials, Food Pantry, Wicozanni Wowapi Newsletter, Diabetic Nutrition Program, Scholarships for Native American Women, Reproductive Health and Rights, "Green Thumb" Project, and Community Health Fairs.

This is another center that needs support in another part of the Sioux Nation. They support themselves by selling items to support the center. Purchases made through this site will support their efforts.

I also feel that poverty is one of the main reasons for many of the social problems on Indian Reservations. So I introduce ways for people to help Native Americans economically. Economically, too often Native Americans face rampant unemployment, or work catering to a tourist industry either through casinos or trinket stores. I have two suggestions to build Native Americans' economic strength. First there is Native American Bank. Obviously if you are looking for a neighborhood bank this probably won't help you. But for a Certificate of Deposit, online banking, or some loans, where you don't need a nearby branch, you can do your banking while helping build an economically strong Indian Country. Here is the Dream this bank is built on:

In 2001, twenty Tribal Nations and Alaskan Native Corporations set out with a dream “ to create a national bank to serve all Native people, communities, governments and enterprises across the country” and established Native American Bank, N.A. (NAB).

NAB recognizes that among the many issues facing Native Americans, the absence of access to financial capital and services has been a significant impediment towards the realization of self-sufficiency and financial freedom across Indian Country.

Here are their locations, and here are some of their services. If you are looking for a bank, particularly for online banking, please consider patronizing the Native American Bank.

My second economic suggestion goes along with my continuing focus on Global Warming solutions. Native Energy is a group that seeks to build alternative, green energy production on Native American land (and on American farms), providing jobs, energy and an economy for Native Americans WHILE also weaning America from its oil addiction. Here are their current and past projects. Al Gore and his family offset their entire carbon footprint through Native Energy. So do I (at least in part...I also use other carbon offset programs focused in Israel, Africa, and Central America). You can too. For an average of $12/month (those of us in NYC average only $4/month!) you can offset your personal carbon footprint by investing in alternative energy projects through Native Energy. This could be one of the most significant things you can do to mitigate global warming, and you will be creating a real, solid economy for Native Americans in the process.

I hope this helps to link Immigrant America with Native America and to help build a stronger Indian Country. Such a strengthening would help reduce the abuse that Amnesty International recently revealed.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

American Republicans and Japan's Ultra-Nationalists: Tangled Web of Corruption

I have always been a fan of Japan. I have been there four times, including on my honeymoon. I even had the pleasure of living for a year in Kyoto working at Kyoto University. It is, in many ways, a wonderful place and I do hope to go back when time and money permit. I even am teaching my son what little Japanese language I still remember.

But there are always strange undercurrents in Japan. Korean and Chinese friends of mine cannot understand why I ever would visit Japan. They have an anger towards Japan that Americans have a hard time understanding. The presence of the yakuza (Japanese mafia) in Japan is omnipresent, once you are aware of it, which seems strange for an otherwise so law abiding nation. When World War II comes up in conversation, many Japanese still think Japan was justified in its imperialism and that America should apologize for the nuclear bombings and for the occupation. It is a constant source of scandal that Japanese leaders frequently downplay and misrepresent Japanese imperialism in Asia. I was amazed at how unresolved WW II seems in Japan and in Asia.

I just finished a book called Yamato Dynasty, by Sterling and Peggy Seagrave, that clarifies these strange undercurrents and actually makes one wonder if, despite America's military victory, Japan actually won the war in the long term. A collaboration of Japanese ultra-nationalists, many of whom were actual war criminals, and America's right wing Republicans, led by Herbert Hoover and Douglas MacArthur, pretty much conspired to allow Japan to avoid the kind of defeat that Germany suffered where apologies, reparations and structural changes within the German society were required. Japan was let off the hook, allowing war criminals and war loot to dominate Japanese politics and economics from the end of the war to the present, in exchange for sweet business deals for American big business and banks.

In Yamato Dynasty the Seagraves outline a unique kind of society that developed from the earliest period of Japanese history wherein the Imperial throne was a powerless pawn while wealthy families, from the Soga and Fujiwara, through the Shogunates, to modern Japan run by ultra-nationalists, called all the shots and pretty much looted the country for their own benefit. Or perhaps this system is not so unique because I can find parallels in Chinese history, Roman history, Russian history, and, for that matter, in our current Bush-led America where the government became nothing but a thin veil for looting the American and Iraqi economy by companies like Exxon/Mobil,Halliburton, etc.

Japan's history is a sordid structure behind a beautiful and very deliberate facade. Yamato Dynasty traces this history from the so-called Meji Restoration (which the book shows to be little more than a change from one set of strongmen, the Tokugawa Shogunate, to a new set, the rival Choshu and Satsuma strongmen) through the period of Japanese imperialism, led by ultra-nationalists and corrupt underworld figures, to the present day. During the rise of Japanese imperialism, and even on the verge of Pearl Harbor, Japanese militarism was funded by American conservative businessmen, particularly the Morgan banking family. After the war, while victims of Japanese brutality got little or no compensation, Morgan bank and other American companies got their pre-war loans (which paid for Japanese aggression) back largely in full.

Morgan bank began their loans in collaboration with Herbert Hoover, when he was Secretary of Commerce. Hoover and Morgan bank saw Japan as free of corruption, yet this was a complete misunderstanding of Japanese society. In fact, the Japanese elite basically fooled them. It is put this way by a Dutch born expert on Japanese politics:

"Corruption in Japan," says Karel van Wolferen, "is legitimized by its systematic perpetuation. It is so highly organized and has become so much a part of the extra-lefal ways of the Japanese system that most citizens or foreign residents do not recognize it for what it is, but accept it as 'a part of the system.'"

Interestingly, much of the partnership between American conservatives and business interests and imperialist Japan's oligarchs and business interests occurred during a time when Japan was already preparing for war with the West, America and Britain included. Notes from aides to Hirohito reveal as early as 1931 a belief that their aggression would lead to war with the West and Japan was preparing for this future war...with funding from the Morgan bank and unwitting help from American conservatives. What is perhaps even more shocking, is that even as late as 1937, as Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan were in full swing, Herbert Hoover and conservaitve Republicans, planning a MacArthur/Lindbergh ticket for President, favored an alliance with Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan. Another member of this conservative, pro-fascist coalition, was British Conservative politician Neville Chamberlain. Meanwhile FDR was in favor of economic sanctions against the fascist regime of Japan after it started its China War, but he was blocked by the Morgan bank, the pro-Japan Wall Street lobby, and their allies in Congress. Remember, this was on the eve of the Rape of Nanking in December 1937. This world would be a lot different if the pro-fascist Republicans, in alliance with Neville Chamberlain, had brought Britain and America into the Japan/Germany Axis. Thankfully, the FDR Democrats prevailed and we joined more reasonable Brits in opposing Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

Networks of kinship, bribes and backroom deals linked (and still link) Japan's politicians, imperial family, bureaucracy, business elite, and yakuza. This sordid system continued after World War II with little genuine reform, merely some careful repainting of the facade. While Democrats in Truman's government sought genuine change in Japan after the war, Herbert Hoover, Douglas MacArthur, and other Republicans sought to shield war criminals, hide war loot and allow Japan to keep its sordid system with minimal structural changes. The result is that while Germany has moved on from World War II and is no longer hated by the neighbors it vicitimized, in Asia the ghosts of WW II are still very fresh and Japan remains despised by the nations it victimized. The Seagraves put it this way:

Liberal Washington policy makers, particularly New Deal Democrats, wanted to alter the post war power structure of Japan permanently to make it more democratic. MacArthur was a reactionary conservative...He and his inner circle of advisors, including Herbert Hoover, concluded that his success in occupied Japan would depend upon manipulating Hirohito...he would induce Hirohito to give them inside knowledge of Japan's financial cliques and other vital power relationships, so that key people could be put under pressure, deals could be made and Japan's postwar power structures could be rearranged to suit MacArthur's conservative political backers rather than American liberals.

...we will unfold new evidence of the massive fraud that ensued, who was involved, and how major witnesses including General Tojo himself were suborned by MacArthur's staff and forced to falsify their testimony and perjure themselves before the international war crimes tribunal. At least one general was hanged for a crime at which he was not even present, forced to take the fall to protect Hirohit's uncle Prince Asaka, the butcher of Nanking, who escaped punishment of any kind...

This led first to the exoneration of the whole imperial family, then to that of the entire financial and industrial elite of Japan (a group that had been the Allies' explicit target for purge and prosecution)...While Germany paid some [30 billion pounds] in compensation and reparations over the years, Japan paid only [2 billion pounds]. Even today, Germany continues this program of compensation and reparations, but Japan dug in its heels and said it was all settled in 1951.

Does this sound like the behavior of a defeated foe? MacArthur, out of some combination of incompetance, conservative ideology, and greed, pretty much let Japan dictate its own postwar fate while Germany was forced, rightly I'd say, to reform significantly, accept full responsibility for its actions, punish all those who participated in atrocities, and pay extensive reparations. Douglas MacArthur and the conservative Republicans allowed Japan to evade reform even to the present time, allowed many war criminals to escape punishment or even responsibility, and paid only token reparations while even keeping most of the war loot it stole from Asia. Beyond this, MacArthur actively abetted the cover up of the wealth of the Imperial family and ruling elite, allowing them to hide money while feigning poverty. This directly affected the decision to let Japan get away with paying almost no reparations. Japan escaped not only with limited reparations, but kept the loot they stole.

That loot amounted to many billions of dollars worth of gold and other precious materials looted from all over Asia and hidden in a project, codenamed "Golden Lily," which was actively supervised by the Imperial family itself. Golden Lily hid treasure in the Philipines as a stopping point on the way to Japan. Some of the loot made it to Japan, some remained in the Phillipines by the time Japan surrendered. Ships and hidden tunnels containing some of this loot have been discovered. One discovery was made by Phillipines Dictator Ferdinand Marcos, whose greed led him to almost kill an American mining engineer, Robert Curtis, to silence him. Curtis only escaped by hiding the maps to other war loot sites, thus making it necessary for Marcos to keep him alive. Remember that Marcos was another ally of American conservatives until the Phillipine people themselves rejected his brutal corruption.

The Seagraves consider the loot that did make it to Japan as the real reason for the amazing recovery of the Japanese economy after WW II. Simply put, their economy and infrastructure may have been in a shambles, but gold and money looted from all over Asia during the war paid for Japan's recovery afterwards. More bluntly put, the victims of Japan's aggression paid for Japan to recover full prosperity. This is in sharp contrast to how Germany was treated:

Although there have been many investigations of Nazi war loot, there has never been a formal investigation of the looting of Asia by the Japanese, nor has Japan ever been forced to account for the plunder. The amounts involved dwarf the Nazi looting many times over.

More recently, in the 1970's, the John Birch Society (part of the right wing extremist end of the Republican Party) lent nearly half a million dollars to an American treasure-hunter to recover and lauder Japanese war loot hidden in the Phillipines. As the Seagraves put it:

The [John Birch] society seemed to believe that it was perfectly correct to break Americans laws regarding the illegal laundering of money...

Greed, on the part of the Japanese army and politicians, of Ferdinand Marcos, and of the John Birch society, has surrounded this war loot. But in the end it must be remembered this was looted from real people, victims of Japanese aggression in nations all over Asia whose economies suffered because of this aggression and looting. America did nothing to try and restore this loot to its rightful owners. I suspect that the poverty and social disruption caused by Japanese aggression and looting are part of the reason that communism spread so widely in Asia. American conservatives unwittingly helped the very communists they claimed to oppose by basically sacrificing the economies of most of Asia for the benefit of Japanese recovery. Could the Korean and Vietnam wars been avoided if Asia as a whole had bene rebuilt with the loot Japan had stolen?

Beyond allowing Japan to keep its war loot, the American conservatives conspired to allow many Japanese war criminals off the hook. Perhaps most disgusting was the conspiracy to let Imperial Prince Asaka off the hook for the Rape of Nanking. Prince Asaka, with the words "We will teach our Chinese brothers a lesson they will never forget," and with the orders, "Kill all captives," was directly responsible for the atrocities in Nanking. Yet in the trials after Japan's military defeat, Prince Asaka was absolved of all responsibility. Instead, General Matsui, who had done all he could to restrain the Japanese forces before Prince Asaka took control, was coerceed into claiming responsibility and was hanged. Prince Asaka, who ordered the atrocities, got off with no consequences. General Matsui, who had tried to prevent the atrocities, was hanged. THIS was the kind of injustice that Douglas MacArthur perpetrated in order to preserve the Imperial family and the ultra-nationalist Japanese politicians. Similarly, atrocities committed by Japan's bioweapons unit, Unit 731, tied to Imperial Princes like Takeda and Higashikuni, were covered up by direct order from MacArthur and no one was ever prosecuted for this biological weapons program. MacArthur even went so far as to force many American POWs, who had witnessed many of Japan's atrocities, to sign documents that forbade them from speaking of these atrocities. General Bonner Fellers, a close ally of Hoover and MacArthur's and on MacArthur's staff, ordered Japanese Admiral Yonai to tamper with Tojo as a witness so as to absolve Hirohito from all responsibility for the war. Herbert Hoover himself lobbied defense attorneys to prevent their clients from implicating Hirohoto. Only seven Japanese war criminals were hanged. Sixteen were sentenced to life imprisonment, though were then paroled in 1955, only 10 years after the end of the war. The vast majority were let off. Imagine if we had let Nazi Germany off so lightly and allowed most of the the Nazi party big wigs to return to power after only brief imprisonment.

These accusations are not unique to the Seagraves, though they bring new information and a detailed historical context to the accusations. Other sources for this can be found here.

It should also be noted that not all Republicans were part of this. Eisenhower detested MacArthur and MacArthur found it necessary even to lie to Genearl Eisenhower in 1946 in order to carry out his aid to Japanese war criminals.

Even today the ultra-nationalists hold power through threats, bribes and intimidation. When I lived there, my Japanese friends told me about how Japanese journalists would always tread carefully when discussing the imperial family, the yakuza or WW II because right wing thugs would take revenge on any coverage they disliked. A particularly brutal example of the ultra-nationalist power by violence was the assassination of the Nagasaki mayor, Motoshima Hitoshi, in 1990 because he had the audacity to say (truthfully!) that Emperor Hirohito bore some responsibility for WW II. This atmosphere is a direct result of the failure of MacArthur and his conservative allies to reform Japan's system the way Germany's system was reformed:

The emphasis was not on reform but on continuity. During seven years of occupation, 1945-1952, the same Japanese ruling elite that had run the country since the Meiji Restoration was expected to purge itself, slap itself on the wrist and democratize itself...Before the ashes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were cold, men opposed to reform of any kind regained control in Tokyo and resumed their former monopoly if wealth and power.

This can be seen in who became the leaders and financial backers of Japan's notoriously corrupt and reactionary Liberal Democratic Party (the LDP, which, as is frequently commented upon, is not liberal, not democratic and not really a party) in post-occupation Japan. Among the leaders of the LDP was Hatoyama Ichiro, who was Education Minister in 1928, advocated beheading opposition, opposed trial by jury, and was one of the organizers of the official deification of the Emperor that helped the dictatorship take hold. Then there was Kodama Yoshio, one of the most infamous yakuza thugs, who worked during WW II with the Japanese army to transport war loot from all over Asia. And Kishi Nobusuke was a member of the Choshu elite that had led the imperialist era, and he led the corrupt alliance between oligarchs and the military and made huge profits from the Japanese occupation of Manchuria and the looting of Asia. He was also a close friend of Tojo, whose success he helped fund. Fascist Hatoyama teamed up with yakuza godfather Kodama and war looter and Tojo backer Kishi to found the LDP. And the LDP, despite frequent sacandals, still dominates Japanese politics. Another link in this chain is the Tsutsumi family and the Seibu Corporation they run. Also war profiteers during the war, they helped hide the wealth of the Imperial family after the war and went on to be among the richest people in the world. They are also among the biggest financial donors to the LDP. The Tsutsumi family was caught up in a financial scandal in 2005, but it is likely that they will weather this in the same way Japanese politicians and businessmen weather all such scandals. If you have ever watched Japanese television you see it all the time. The tearful confession before the media, the slap on the wrist in the form of small fines and brief, often suspended, prison terms, and either a return to power or a comfortable retirement.

The lack of reform in Japanese history has another side, though: economic instability. The Japanese economy is seen as one of the stronger ones, but its underlying corruption is a drain that has repeatedly caused the collapse of a bubble economy. The following description of a Japanese bubble economy in the 1920's could be describing the Japanese bubble economy of the 1980's...or now (and, by the way, has some resemblance to the Bush economy in America in my opinion):

Two years before the Wall Street Crash in 1929, panic hit Tokyo. The Japanese banking crisis of 1927, just like the Japanese banking crisis of the late 1990's, had everything to do with systematic corruption and sweetheart deals. Vast sums of money were lent by Japan's biggest banks to business concerns run by the same men or their relatives and friends. Other powerful families did the same thing, creating a false impression of prosperity. The banks did not secure these loans, because in sweetheart deals it would be embarrassing to insist on security. The banks then failed to audit their own conduct. With so much easy money and no supervision, businesses expanded recklessly. As years passed without any payment of interest on the loans, the banks suffered a liquidity crisis and began to hemorrhage. To stop the collapse of the banks in 1927, the government forked over 2 billion yen in emergency loans, but only to ease the pain of the privileged people who had caused the problem...(Seventy years later, Japan's banking fundamentals remain largely unchanged).

What strikes me about this corrupt system is that far from resembling healthy economies, Japan's traditionally corrupt system more resembles the economy of a third world nation. It manages to take this third world style system to occasional levels of great success. Yet that success is often unstable because the underlying system remains basically unsound, thus cycles of bubbles and collapse have plagued Japan since it began its rapid industrial and economic development in the early 1900's. I have invested in Japanese stocks in the past because of the apparent strength of their economy. But I have since stopped investing in Japan because I recognize that as long as they maintain this kind of underlying third world style corruption, they will not have a stable economy but rather one wherein prosperity will always be something of a bubble waiting to collapse. Investors should not view Japan's economy as equivalent to a developed economy despite the superficial resemblance. They are subject to the more wild swings of a developing economy rather than the usually more reliable steady growth of a developed economy. Investment in Japan is inherantly risky because of their sordid political system that invariably protects corrupt oligarchs.

I still love Japanese culture, at least at its best. I even feel some respect for institution (at least in theory) of the Japanese emperor. I feel that cultural identity in the era of globalization can bee considerably boosted by institutions like the British monarchy and the Japanese Emperor. I even feel that Nepal, despite their consderable need for reform, may have made a mistake in completely abolishing their monarchy. In doing so it risks losing something of its unique identity. Similarly I don't believe it is in the best interests of Japan to completely abolish their Emperor. He remains a powerful part of their identity. But as I finished Yamato Dynasty I was reminded of a very striking scene when I was traveling in Japan. I was in Hiroshima, reading a brief history of Japan while sitting right below the famous "A-bomb dome." I was reading about the rise of Japanese imperialism with brutal militarists running the government and victimizing conquered nations. While I was reading this beneath the symbol of the nuclear destruction that ended WW II, I noticed a bus with political slogans on it circling the area blaring a political speech. It was a right wing political party and their slogans and stands aren't really different from those militarists that brought Japan into WW II, victimized Asia, and bombed Pearl Harbor. I knew even then that in some ways nothing had changed in Japan despite defeat and nuclear attack. Reading Yamato Dynasty I understand why. Japan has a concept of "winning by losing." It seems in many ways they won WW II despite our military victory. I will end with one more quote from the book regarding what Japan got away with:

A Japanese scholar put it in the form of a zen parable, or koan: "If a robbe steals $100 billion and successfully hides the money before he is captured and jailed, and then is released after seven years for 'good behavior,' did he fail or did he succeed?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

John McCain Kisses the Jewish Vote Goodbye

This comes from the National Jewish Democratic Council:

"Kissing the Jewish vote goodbye," that was the headline in The Guardian this week about the McCain campaign that noted, "candidates like Palin are the Jews' worst nightmare."

The Politico noted in an article entitled, "Jewish voters may be wary of Palin," that, "John McCain may have helped Obama with his Jewish problem by choosing Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate."

In McCain’s first critical presidential decision, his judgment appears to be lacking with the selection of his Vice Presidential running mate. In Governor Sarah Palin, McCain selected a running mate with zero foreign policy experience and a brewing scandal which is being investigated by the Alaska state legislature.

The Palin selection seems bizarre, as the McCain campaign has spent the better part of the past year loudly exclaiming that it was reaching out to Jewish voters and made much to do about considering two Jewish legislators – Senator Joe Lieberman and Representative Eric Cantor – as vice presidential possibilities.

When asked what qualification he was looking for in selecting a Vice President, McCain, who turned 72 last week, has said , "The fundamental principle behind any selection of a running mate would be whether that person is fully prepared to take over." So why select Palin?

On domestic issues, Palin is totally out of step with public opinion in the Jewish community. Palin is against reproductive freedom - even in the cases of rape and incest; one of the first organizations to support her nomination was the Christian Coalition.

I hope all Jews by now realize the danger the right wing extremist Christians like Palin represent. From McCain's calling the anti-Semite Hagee his "spiritual guide" to the selection of the extremist Palin, McCain is telling Jewish voters what he really thinks of them.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Review of Republican Failure

From the moment I realized that the Supreme Court was going to decide the election for Bush in 2000 and that Florida's elections were fraudulent, to the moment I realized Bush was warned about 9/11 before it happened but ignored it, to the moment I realized Bush also ignored the approach of Hurricane Katrina, despite warnings, to the fact that Osama bin Laden is still free and Bush honestly doesn't care about capturing him, my main emotion regarding how our country is being run has been anger. I am mad as hell at how Republicans have deliberately mismanaged this country, more interested in their own greed and self-interest than in actually governing.

As the nightmare of the Bush years nears an end, it might be worth reviewing the magnitude of the disaster his administration has been on America. This is not an all-inclusive list. There are just too many Republican failures for one person to cover.

As a New Yorker I feel I should begin with 9/11. In many ways I considered myself a transplanted Californian, until that day when the planes hit. It may sound trite, but that day was such a personal as well as national turning point. For me the most vivid memory was from that evening as the ashes of the World Trade Center, and nearly 3000 New Yorkers, fell like a soft snow over my Brooklyn neighborhood. We can never forget that Bush was WARNED about 9/11. The Clinton Administration desperately tried to tell the Bush Administration that it was going to happen. America's intelligence agencies tried to tell Bush it was going to happen. He even had a memo on his desk SAYING "Osama bin Laden determined to attack America," and we even had the whole plan. But he ignored ALL of it. This is in contrast to Bill Clinton actually going after bin Laden before 9/11. This led the Republicans to whine about "wagging the dog" and accusing Clinton of being "obsessed with al-Qaeda." Well, I just wish Bush had been just as obsessed with al-Qaeda because maybe then he would have stopped them. As it is, America was attacked and yet Osama bin Laden is as free as ever and al-Qaeda stronger and larger than ever.

Then there were the deliberate, cynical Republican lies that got us into the Iraq Quagmire. Plus they bungled the invasion! Our troops were ill equipped, poorly treated by the Republican administration, and there was, and still isn't, any exit strategy. (You can read just a tiny sampling of examples of this bungling here). Let's face facts. The Democrats were weak and too easily collaborated with the invasion. But let's never forget that it was Bush, Cheney, Colin Powell (and, THEN Democrat Joe Lieberman, though we finally kicked him out of the party) who concocted and told the actual lies that got us into the quagmire. Democrats, just like the American people, may have been foold, but it was engineered by the Republicans. And in engineering this invasion based on lies, Bush and the Republicans made a conscious decision to virtually abandon the war against al-Qaeda, allowing bin Laden to continue to operate 7 years after the attacks. Seven years after Pearl Harbor we had won WW II, become the dominant force in the world and helped Europe and Asia rebuild.

But perhaps worse than the bungling of Iraq is the gross war profiteering that Republicans have indulged in, including deliberate neglect of problems that have led to soldiers needlessly dying. AND they lied to cover it up. A lot of this is only coming out because since the Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives, investigations by Democratic Congressmen have been initiated and allowed to go forward. A little late for some soldiers, but better than the cover ups, lies and war profiteering of the Republicans.

Then there was Hurricane Katrina, where Americans died because of Republican racism, callousness and incompetence. For many Americas, THIS was the turning point, the moment when the true incompetence of the Bush Administration was revealed in a very graphic way. But even worse was the fact that this, and many other incidents like the Minnesota bridge collapse, the failed levees in the Midwest, etc. really was a direct result of the Republican "Drown America in a Bathtub" policy which was enunciated by Grover Norquist. In fact, more often than not, the most incompetent Republicans have been REWARDED by the Bush Administration for their incompetence. Going along with this is my focus on the Katrina 11, the 11 Republicans who supported no-bid contracts for Halliburton but voted against aid to Katrina victims.

Then there is a level of corruption that this nation may never have seen least not since the Harding Administration. Yes, there is occasional Democratic corruption, but a simple breakdown of indictments, convictions and investigations shows clearly that Republican corruption is far, far, far greater, more damaging, and more widespread. And while many Democrats fight corruption within their own party, Republicans have consistently circled the wagons and stood by even their most corrupt members, leaving it to voters to oust them. In fact, John McCain actually CHOSE Sarah Palin for VP even though she is part of the extremely corrupt Alaska Republican Party and is herself actively under investigation. McCain embraces the Republican Culture of Corruption that most Americans find disgusting. I will give some credit, though. SOME prominent Republicans have switched parties because of Republican corruption. This includes people like Pete McCloskey and Clint Curtis.

Worse perhaps than the run of the mill Republican corruption is a highly disturbing trend where far right wing Republican extremists who always go on and on about other people's morality turn out to be pedophiles themselves. There also is even some blatent Republican treason out there.

I can go on. But I am finding this depressing and infuriating enough. If others want to add their own personal contributions to the long list of Republican failures and misdeeds, please add them in the comments.

And remember: McCain has across the board vowed to continue Bush policies. Are these failures really what America wants??? Ask yourself one question: Are you better off than you were 8 years ago? For the vast majority of us the answer is a definitive "NO!"