Monday, August 14, 2017

Tokyo on Fire? Or Just Smouldering

Tim Langley has   the only  regular  English language programs on Japanese politics broadcast from Japan -- Tokyo on Fire and Brand2020.

I don't always agree with some of the opinions expressed -- and I am sure you won't either -- but difference of opinion is the point of such programs - which makes them the place to go to for substantive discussion of things Japanese --and, at least, a look at how Japanese-based foreign residents see Japan.

As I suggested in my blog post on Koike Yuriko, Tim Langley has -- among other things -- a unique ability to ask all the right questions.

Of course, he doesn't have all  the answers.  Or at least if he thinks he does - he's not going to tell you.  He would rather you thought about  it and came to your own conclusions.

Most recently, Langley had Ichita Yamamoto of the ruling LDP on board to talk about "Cool Japan".

Right at the beginning of the interview, it went sideways with both Langley and Yamamoto seeming to talk about "Cool Japan" as "nation branding."  For Langley-- if it were national branding -- Cool Japan should be Amazing Japan,   meaning that the program should be advertising the many ways that Japan is interesting and unique.  Yamamoto seemed to agree -- even if he seemed oddly focused on common American (note: American only) stereotypes of the Japanese as "youthful" and having a national healthcare system 

(Please Mr. Yamamoto: many countries have NHS systems better than Japan's!  The US is the only OECD country without universal natioanal healthcare.)

 However ...

Cool Japan is most definitely not....
  •  "soft power"    
  • "nation branding"
  •  "public diplomacy"

Nation Branding?
As a professional in the branding and marketing business -- with no financial attachments of any kind to Cool Japan, I can tell you what it really is:
  • Government funded "J-marketing" of "Japanesey" niche products  
  • Corporate welfare for companies suffering from competition from the Koreans and Chinese
  • PR for the Tokyo Olympics
What is "J-marketing"?  It is selling things using the exotic ethos of Japanese culture.

 So "Cool Japan" focuses on  Japanese things that had become very trendy in the US, reaching a peak 15 years ago  -- notably, manga, Japanese animation, Hello Kitty, young Japanese girls ( or the fetishism associated with J Pop)  and so on.   It uses some Japanese words like "omotenashi" -- not in the traditional sense but in the modern sense as "welcome" or "hospitality",  stripping it of its cultural meaning, which goes back centuries.  
The Omotenashi Bra

The odd thing here is that manga and animation makers (with some notable exceptions) have been "internationalizing" their products for years, cutting away cultural content that might interfere with saleability.

So, no,  the manga you read abroad (translated, of course) is not the manga Japanese read!    "Lost in translation", indeed!

Ghost in the Shell: Original and Remake
With the Korean and the Japanese entertainment industries booming -- particularly in film --  Japan faces a lot of competition.   
This situation is similar to what the UK faced in the late 1990s when Tony Blair came to power.  At that time, popular culture had reached a peak in Britain.   "Cool Britannia" was the unofficial slogan of the youth counterculture -- but those young people who gave it meaning in its  glory days in the 1970s -- were now twenty years older and had kids and mortgages.  

Tony's "Cool" Britannia  was a a failure as the Iraq War soon showed. 

"Cool" Japan suffers from the same problem.  It is  government program intended to shore up a cultural phenomenon that began to die the moment every supermarket in the US -- and the convenience stores -- offered California Rolls and Koreans and Chinese started opening sushi shops.  Sorry, it aint 2005 any longer

"Cool" is all about "trendy" -- and trendy means temporary. A problem with Japan is that it usually five to ten years behind the trends elsewhere.

If only most of the money allocated for Cool Japan events went to stimulating innovation among young people and providing them with creative opportunities!  

Ironies abound. 

Blair's "Cool Britannia" reveled in the counterculture once that phenomenon was dying.   Perhaps that is the nature of such programs - they are run by old, rich men, without an ounce of art themselves.

Japan?  Did Japan ever have a counter culture?   Benjamin Boaz writes that the problem is a lack of input from the foreign world. While it simply commonsense that you cannot market when you don't know what the market wants, content markets like entertainment are drive by creativity.

So the real issue is a lack of input from creative people in Japan itself.  No, not Beat Takeshi or Takashi Miike,   who milk Japanese classic films adding violence porn.  But the real creative people.

So, to return to Langley and Yamamoto, both of them seem to recognize that "Cool" Japan is not -- and cannot be "nation branding".  

I wish they had come out and said that straight, although I recognize that it might be hard for them to do so.  I can do this -- but only because I am anonymous (the "Oracle").

Yamamoto, in particular, has to look more carefully at where the money goes.  He's a smart man, obviously educated and flexible, with real ideas.  He needs to stop focusing on what he thinks Americans think about Japan -- and think more about Japan's "amazing" culture and history -- and the spirit of innovation that has driven the country for 2000 years.

Yes, Innovation.    That's why Japan is different.

 If Cool Japan is set up to support the Japanese entertainment industry - that is what it should do -- grow it!  That means  stimulating  that spirit of innovation by opening up opportunities for young artists and filmmakers and story tellers.  

Japan needs a popular counter culture, rather than a hidden one. 

James Cameron.  Professor.  Beijing Film School

Next time:  successful examples of Japanese branding

Monday, August 7, 2017

Koike as Japanese PM?

Part One: Yuriko Koike

Brexit, Obama,Justin Trudeau,  Jeremy Corbyn, Hillary,  Trump...People ask me how I most get it right  in my predictions and analyses --when NYT and WaPo and the Guardian get it wrong. 

My secret?

As I have said before-- everything you need to know about politics, you learned in the High School cafeteria.  It's just basic human behavior -- not rocket science.  No, you don't need a PhD.

Of course, a lot depends on the High School!  And what if it's a Japanese school?

Different high schools mean different behaviors.

American commentators continue to get Japan and things Japanese wrong  --largely because they didn't go to Japanese high schools.  Or sometimes because they went to prep schools. 

Take the Foreign  Press's assessments of Yuriko Koike as a future Prime Minister.  No, the pundits say -- she will be shut out-- and they have, on the surface, some  prettygood reasons.

First, nothing is going to happen for at least five years.  Of course,  that could be a positive for Koike as a national leader.  However, in politics five years is forever.  Welcome to fantasyland.

Abe, of course,  is still strong -- and barring really serious scandals like his wife revealing he wears hair plugs and uses Viagra (more on this later) or other events...he will hold on to power  no matter what until the Olympics has come and gone -- and the economy takes the hit which it must after that event. 

Koike's term as Governor of Tokyo ends just before the Olympics and most people assume that she would run again as Governor rather than abandon her supporters and challenge a still strong Abe or a replacement from the LDP Old Boy system, most likely a younger Old Boy -- or one of the factions that are always popping up as "new parties".

The Guv' has indicated that she has no ambitions to work at the national level-- since quitting as defense minister to fix Tokyo.  Of course, her position as defense minister indicates an interest in national politics -- even though  she must have realized that she couldn't do  a lot and was there as a feminist, or rather female placeholder.

As Tokyo Governor, however, Koike is really beholden only to the citizens of Tokyo.

There is something else. to consider it.  As mentioned,   Koike is a WOMAN!  

Yes, she occasionally wears pant suits although Hillary seems to do it most of the time.   But Koike dresses for the occasion -- kimono, usually tasteful skirts and jackets.... She dresses for success -- as a woman. 
The one with the ball on the right

Koike does not proselytyze as a "feminist" -- unlike Hillary --who is what I call a "masculinist' -- a woman who mostly espouses hormonal male values -- war, for example --and predatory capitalism, war on the economic front.  

Hooya!  She is shrill.  She cackles about men getting raped by bayonets.     Kill, kill!

By contrast, the women of Japan look up to Koike because she's   smart and calm. She can manage.  And she knows her vegetables.  Oh, and she has never been married.  Doesn't need one. Besides, every housewife knows that men can't handle money.  

Where to go for opinion of Japanese politics?
Tim Langley went to the right high school.
Hillary's is  power is pretending to have balls -- Koike's is femininity.   No 'roid rage here.   Rather, the "All Mother" in the Japanese sense.  Himiko, who we will get to later. Hail estrogen.  

The "Old Boy" system is an anachronism.  A throwback to samurai days.  Please --just fall on your swords and get it over with. 

Given the rapid decay of the system, with its huge emphasis on male bonding -- who knows what will happen in in four or five years. This system ahs already proven inadequate in Tokyo which  had its Abe -- a guy named  Ishihara. Now you need a smart woman to clean up the mess.  Five years from now -- you may need here -- or someone like her -- nationally.

Of course, Koike will never say anything about this -- she is simply too here-and-now .   If she were a man, she would probably want to drop "hints" -- to flaunt and posture.   As a woman, she understands the value of modesty -- also also pragmatism.  One step a time.  

Part Two:  Japanese Feminism

Testosterone, as the ancient Chinese knew, makes for good soldiers but not for good governors.    That's why the top Chinese bureaucracy was largely made up of eunuchs.   Oh, if we could only do that to the State Department in the US!  Imagine too if all five star generals had to carry their balls in a box.

No, no --you say -- Japan is and always has been male-dominated.

Not quite.

From the Edo Period until 1945, women were officially non-people.  That's over 400 years -- a fairly long time.  In the West, women were in fact  almost-people for a rather longer time.

However, for much of Japan's 2000 year history -- say 1600 years --  women have played a prominent role.  

The Tokugawa Shogunate was regressive, and its aggressive feudal patriarchalism -- the cult of the warrior -- bushido --led directly to the militarism of the Meiji, Taisho and early Showa periods.  Historically, however,  bushido -- and Edo --was not the norm for Japan -- but an aberration.  

Japanese TV would have us believe otherwise -- with lots of female ninja. -- just as  American TV pretends that gunslingers didn't suffer from scabies and festering crotch rot and their women dream of escaping to the live with the Indians where they could have a life.

Foreigners love their memes  -- as long as they are not true.

 Japanese women should be submissive and obedient  cute, always polite.  Think of Japanese TV and all those "Yes Girls"-- nodding their heads in perpetual agreement.  And Japanese porn?   Yup.  Just try marrying a Japanese girl -- and see what happens to that cute OL!

As my friends over at Tim Langley's Brand2020 have noted, foreigners are surprised when they marry -- and get divorced in Japan.  They see their wives as "vengeful".   And they find they have no parental rights.

In this segment, Tim asks a pertinent question:  why do Japanese women seem so "vengeful".  The key to understanding a foreign culture is always being able to ask the right questions.

In this segement, however, Tim doesn't get an answer -- not a real one, in my opinion.

So here's one.....

In   the "salaryman" culture,  women, rule the "home", technically the "household", which is also the "marriage". To get married here you have to join a household.  

Traditionally -- since the 1950s anyway, Japanese women control the finances.  

If you get divorced, your wife will take the children because the marriage is the household; the children belong to it; and the divorced husbands don't .  It's not vengeance, actually -- it's just business. Marital capitalism.  In Japan, the husband has no household capital if divorced.

Of course, divorced men frequently don't pay support.  So women leverage their positions. And that "vengeful" attitude:    passive aggressive, yes.

 Japanese women have their own worlds, their own language, and their own social networks, which function differently from those of men which are dominated by "senpai-kohai" relationships, mimicking the samurai code. If you are a foreign man - -then you are very much "other.  Not a different gender -- a different species.

Empress Himiko.  Japanese Men Don't Always Call The Shots
Such things prompted the  anthropologist Volker to write of the "conspiracy of the wife and her children" against the father.     Many others have noted how little notions of sex and love have to do with marriage in Japan where in fact the rate of sexual congress is the lowest in the world.

Granted -- things are changing.  Men participate more with their families.  There is more sharing.   But when push comes to shove it is women who rule the home.   

Sometimes it gets confusing in Japan -- especially with regards to celebrities who have their own culture.  Take the Matsui Kazuyo scandal in which Matsui, an aging and wealthy celebrity found her husband cheating with her best friend in Hawaii and proceeded to make a video accusing him of not only infidelity but wearing hair plugs and using Viagra.  She then went on to try and get him fired from his job at NHK.

By Japanese standards,however, Matsui is not a feminist of any kind -- she is simply regarded as crazy. she is as the Japanese say "urasai".  Women in Japan have power --when they are calm and stable -- this is their role in the household.  Japanese women do not get mad -- they get even - -as I have indicated, usually passively aggressively.  They are social guerrillas. 

In a society that values ambiguity, ambivalence and indirection, women have few other options. 

Part 3 Koike and Himiko

Yuriko Koike looks like the kind of person who can hold it together.   A modern Himiko.  according to Chinese records, the first Empress of Japan.

 The country formerly had a man as ruler. For some seventy or eighty years after that there were disturbances and warfare. Thereupon the people agreed upon a woman for their ruler. Her name was Himiko [卑彌呼], her age at the time was only fourteen. She occupied herself with magic and sorcery, bewitching the people. Though mature in age, she remained unmarried. She had a younger brother who assisted her in ruling the country. After she became the ruler, there were few who saw her. She had one thousand women as attendants, but only one man. He served her food and drink and acted as a medium of communication. She resided in a palace surrounded by towers and stockades, with armed guards in a state of constant vigilance. (tr. Tsunoda 1951:13)

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Could Putin Make America Great Again?

Vladimir Putin is a remarkable man -- who has done a remarkable thing.  He made Russia great again.  


America also wants to be great again.  So much so desperation drove them first to try a Black man, who wasn't really black.  Then an Orange man, with an orange for brain.

What if Putin were President of the US of A?

Let us suppose that America had elected a Russian American named Vladimir Putin instead of the Kenyan American Barak Obama back in 2008. 

By comparison with Putin, Obama's record was not exactly stellar.

Now Russians have a bad rep'. Undeserved of course. But so do Black people, which is why we have  the police to shoot them and put them in prison (if they survive).  Black people are very visible which makes it easier to make them invisible.  Granted:  Barak was not an American black but a Kenyan Black with a white mother.

Still, we Americans like to show how diverse we are, how tolerant, how anyone can be President, as long as  they have money or wealthy backers.  And politics is not reality -- it's a reality show.  We want something different everytime.  Hillary lost because she was a re-run.   What could be more entertaining than a  Russian-American as President?

Russia-Gate was a blockbuster. The fact that there is no evidence, was immaterial.    Show biz'.

I digress.

What might disqualify Putin is simply competence -- and integrity.

Putin climbed to the top of the pile to become President of Russia as the country disintegrated.  He had worked for the KGB -- quit during the abortive coup of 1991 -- and later headed the FSB.   Later, Yeltsin offered him position of Prime Minister -- which he almost refused. 

Here's what he told Oliver Stone in those amazing interviews -- the most intimate, complete and honest interview of a world leader in this century or the last.

“When Yeltsin offered me the job for the first time, I refused. … He invited me into his office and told me he wanted to appoint me Prime Minister, and that he wanted me to run for President. I told him that was a great responsibility, and that meant I would have to change my life, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that. …
“It’s one thing when you are a bureaucrat, even a high-level one, you can almost live an ordinary life. You can see your friends, go to the cinema and the theater, and not assume personal responsibility for the fate of millions of people and for everything that is going on in the country. And to assume responsibility for Russia back then was a very difficult thing to do.”

 “Frankly speaking, I didn’t know what President Yeltsin’s final plans were with regard to me. And I didn’t know how long I would be there. Because at any moment the President could tell me, ‘You are fired.’ And there was only one thing I was thinking about, ‘Where to hide my children?’ …

“Just imagine, if I were dismissed, I didn’t have any bodyguards. Nothing. And what would I do? How would I live? How would I secure my family? And back then I decided if that was my fate, then I had to go to the end. And I didn’t know beforehand that I would become President. There were no guarantees of that.”

Can you imagine any Western leader talking so candidly, with such honesty?  Trump is pretty candid. But:
  1. he doesn't think, he emotes.
  2. he can't compose sentences longer than 14 words
  3. he quickly forgets what he just said

Obama at least used a teleprompter which allowed  him to speak  in complete sentences ....

Back to Putin....

He took the PM job and successfully put down the Chechen Rebellion (which had been fostered, it is rumoured,  by the CIA, as part of a program of reducing Russia to several easily exploitable statelets.) 

Putin's strategy in Chechyna was remarkable for its strategic pragmatism, offering the Chechen's a measure of autonomy, as long as they stayed part of Russia. 

This  Russian Putin is a pragmatist, a strategist -- above all-- a patriot.

We would hope for an American Putin like that.  He would also hope that he was into a working class family as his Russian counterpart was.   Maybe steel workers or something of that kind. His father would have been in the US military, possibly Korea.

Our American Putin would have gone to college and a law school -- and then joined our KGB -- the CIA but have quit working as a spook--  distressed at the direction the country was taking at the time of the failed coup of 1991. The Russian Putin has said that he understands Edward Snowden --but that Snowden should have just quit and made a difference in another way -- as, of course, Putin himself did. 

The American Putin would have entered politics.  As a Republican?  No.

The Russian Putin is usually seen as a Conservative .  He is conservative --but not right wing in the same sense that an American might be. There is a difference between conservative, which is a political sensibility and "right wing", which is a mental disorder.  Putin also leads a conservative country and accordingly  must represent the views of his people. 

 Putin is too clear-headed, too rational, too pragmatic --most of all too proletarian -- to be the kind of neoliberal or neoconservative politician you find in the West.  In fact, his policies are generally far more progressive than the mainstream DNC.

So, an American Putin  would have been a democrat --simply because the USA is a duopoly and there would not have been any other road to power.   As in Russia --he would have had to work his way up through the system -- pragmatically.  In this respect, the CIA would have been excellent training.

In the beginning, this Putin would have hewed to the Center  -- not just because he was a child of Middle America -- but because  he could have gotten nowhere without doing this.   

Entering politics, Putin would have campaigned ---offering  "Change", just as Barak did --while reassuring the power brokers in his party that business would continue as usual.  He would have learned to smile a lot more -- and keep his answers short and scripted -- at least, in the beginning.

Now,   this "what-if" assumes that Barak Obama did not run, and that Vlad would have had to face down the Hillary.

Hillary is a Faux Feminist, definitely ballsier than Rambo.      Vlad is  possibly more of a real feminist than Hillary.  Unlike Hillary, he seems to actually like women.  

Yeah, yeah, he is muscular and does judo.  He also likes kittens and puppies and animals and kids.  He likes pretty girls.  He keeps his family out of the media spotlight rather using them as props for his career.  As you can see from the  long quote above in his interview with Stone, he has a very human touch. 

Yet,  this  man of enormous integrity -- certainly compared with any American president -- or Secretary of State -- is demonized as a thug, dictator, monster, murderer.  

 When news broke of Gaddafi's demise, Hillary Clinton was caught on a hot mic prior to an interview with CBS News. Then-Secretary of State Clinton pumped her fists and exclaimed "We came. We saw. He died"
Putin's response was different.  Keep in mind that Putin has not been a Gaddafi supporter.

 Putin is remarkably human.  

Hillary?  Who makes a joke of someone anally raped and murdered with a knife?

Of course, he is extraordinarily sensitive  to the public mind, but that is part of his integrity -- he sees clearly that he is the most visible representative not just of a party-- or even a country --but of a culture and its values. 

Putin has a certain humility.   In the US, this is largely misunderstood.  

Russia is a new democracy.  And the society is evolving, with people creating social values.   Those values might seem retrogressive to Americans -- and they would be -- except that Russia is not going backwards -- to where America was 40 years ago, it is just moving cautiously forward.  

So Putin is not anti-gay.  Nor are Russians actually.  Just conservative.   Nor is Putin probably against the Simpsons or SouthPark -- but Russians worry about young children watching it.  In either case, these are not Putin's decisions to make.   Contrary to popular belief, he seeks to preserve and develop the democratic process -- albeit in an orderly fashion.

In any case, if Putin were American he would have supported the best aspects of American culture as they have evolved -- including   feminism, a woman's right to choose, black rights, transparency in government - -- all the things that Obama said he valued -- but didn't really care about.   

His problem would have been how to give the country pride in these things as distinctly American. 

2008 and the great crash would have been Putin's Big Opportunity.  Great leaders -- such as FDR --  use crisis to  to take control and really enact change that people would normally balk at it.

2008 would have allowed Putin to wave the flag as it had not been waved since WWII.

Of course, he would have to  face off the oligarchy, the military and the "Deep State"  -- and his own party-- which we lump together as the Establishment.   

My guess is that he would follow the same strategy that he used in Chechnya.  Measured.  Tactical.  Ruthless where necessary.  He would play divide and conquer.   He would take prisoners -- and hostages--  when they were useful. And he wave the flag with one hand and the Cross with the other.  He would demand reform and the rule of law at the highest levels, which might mean show trials for some.   But if you opposed such reform and the rule of law  -- then you would be unpatriotic -- and un-Christian.    

He would be accused of being a fascist, of course.   But he would have acted quickly to break up the big banks and other trusts and getting the economy back on line.  The money would have come from withdrawal from the Middle East, withdrawal of forces and bases worldwide and  rationalized defense spending --freeing up billions for infrastructure programs.  

Yes, Change you can believe in.  And "America Great Again"  - but not as an empire.  That can never be.

The American empire worked at the end of WWII, with most of the world in ruins.  But today in this  multipolar world, empires of this kind are obsolete. 

To restore American greatness, Putin would have to  simultaneously break both the Democratic and Republican parties.  Unlike Trump --who seems to have managed to discredit both more or less accidentally  -- and leaving chaos -- Putin would have to destroy the duopoly by design, aiming at  a multiparty democracy and greater dialog in the public domain.  

Such changes would require reforms in education and also reforms of the media.
Press freedom is routinely criticized in Russia.  Yet, there is more public discussion of issues -- from more points of view than in the US, where just a few companies own 90% of the media.
The regulars on these talk shows are a mix of Russians and foreigners, pro-Kremlin and anti-Kremlin voices. There inevitably is at least one American who can be counted on to purvey the Washington Narrative. A reliable regular in this category has been Michael Bohm, who was for a long-time op-ed manager at The Moscow Times and now is said to be teaching journalism in Moscow. On the 11th Michael’s place was kept warm by another upstanding Neocon, the bureau chief of The New York Post. Then there is an Israeli regular who delivers the Netanyahu perspective on events. And you can be sure to see a Pole or Ukrainian who will spice up any discussion of Maidan and the regime in Kiev.

    From among Russians, the talk show hosts bring in one or more representatives of opposition parties. On the 11th it happened to be a personality from the Yabloko Party (Liberals). But at other times there will be the leader of the Communist Party, Gennady Zyuganov, the founder of the right nationalist LDPR, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, or the leader of the social democratic party, Just Russia, Sergei Mironov. They all get their time on air in these shows.As  in Russia, the American Putin would go directly to the people with marathon digital town meetings, answering questions from anybody off the cuff.  

Direct Line With Vladmir Putin

Putin would talk directly to the people as FDR did in his "fireside chats".  In Russia he has four hour telecasts where anyhone can phone in to ask a question.

Of course, these sessions have been accused of being staged. Yet.....

...this year’s live telecast included a new feature — text messaged questions from the public, some quite critical, that popped up on screen during the program.

“Putin, do you really think that the people believe in this circus with fake questions?” 

“Three presidential terms is enough!”
“All Russia thinks that you sat too long on your throne,” read another.
What American politician would invite such criticism.? What American politician would dare to answer questions off the cuff for four hours? 

The Media might howl -- but the same anti-trust, anti-monopoly laws used to break up the banks could also be used to break up media conglomerates.  In some form or another, the Fairness Doctrine would be back..

In dealing with the economic crisis, Putin would seek to reform social economic policy.  In Russia:
His administration holds major strategic companies under government ownership. And if necessary, appoints government bureaucrats to privately owned big corporations' boards. Moreover, Russian industry/business follows the direction government outlines - government recently decided and advocated that Russia should turn its face towards east (New Silk Road) and everyone is following suit. Things like these are unimaginable in US. Its the corporations which make policy in US. Not government.

Putin administration does not scuttle social security, leave aside planning to eat it up on stock market like how GOP had been advocating. In latest Q/A, questions from public came regarding something like increasing social security payments to people with cancer (something like this exists), and he spoke in favor. Many GOP head honchos are declaring people who take welfare as leeches. Someone like Putin at the head of GOP would cause a heart attack epidemic among the head honchos.

Corporations in Russia pay their taxes. There are laws to encourage offshored wealth to come back and also laws to punish those who don't bring that wealth. US is yet 'discussing' whether corporations should pay their taxes. In this, Putin even stands to the left of Democrat Party.

Russian labor law is light years ahead of US. It strongly favors the employee/worker, whereas in US workers generally get the butt end of the stick. Russian labor law even incorporates recent Eu recommendation of Work Councils, which is not even adopted yet in Eu. Russian courts are obliged to decide in favor of employee in employee vs employer lawsuits. Even if the laws' enforcement may lack, mere existence of many items in Russian labor law trample what rights workers in US have.Russian Labor laws

While an employee’s guarantees and protections enshrined in the Code are limited, they are mandatory, strictly enforced, and favor the employee. The legislation prohibits discrimination on any basis, ensures unemployment benefits, provides the unemployed with assistance in finding work, specifies minimum work safety and, in contrast to the US, minimum vacation and leisure time requirements, ensures prompt and accurate payment of wages, and standardizes career advancement

Putin administration does not tolerate corporations and the rich engaging in politics. "Do your business properly, pay your taxes, and stay away from politics" was what Putin told the oligarchs who put him into power the day after his election, to their shock. In contrast to what is constantly drummed about oligarchs in Russia, major oligarchs seem to magically follow what Government says - instead of government following what they say. In US its the opposite. This can't fly with GOP's corporate backers.

Putin declared that he "liked Socialist and Communist ideals during USSR, and he liked them still", just ~2-3 days after he criticized Lenin in a speech in which he told Lenin's various policies put a bomb under USSR due to letting Republics secede from the union. The ensuing public reaction to this, due to being perceived as being against socialism/communism, immediately prompted Putin to declare his favorable attitude towards socialist and communist ideals. Merely this, would clog the veins in many GOP head honchos' and voters' brains, if not immediately paralyze them.

Putin's Russian approval rating has soared as high as 80%.  He has shown an ability to use crises to his advantage.  So, Western sanctions have provided him with the opportunity to take further control of the economy, diversifying industry and agriculture.  In fact, Russia is now -- internally -- one of the world's most diverse and self-sufficient economies, less and less dependent on fossil fuels as a source of revenue. 

That would have been the case in the US of A also.  

Putin is  a populist like Trump -- but ever so much smarter.  An actual patriot -- not a fake one.   A proud man with the humility conferred by intelligence and decency  

He would understand that America's future is not to rule the world. 

The country is big enough all by itself and its energies are best devoted to building itself.  

Above all, Putin understands that great leaders do not change the public mind so much as serve as focal points for its best values and greatest goals. 


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Friending Corbyn

Corbyn confounded his critics -- some of whom lost no time in becoming supporters.  Owen Jones, for example.

Jeremy Corbyn has caused a sensation – he would make a fine prime minister

Yet, just the other day, Jones had a different point of view.

Jeremy Corbyn says he’s staying. That’s not good enough


 The bottom line is this. If there is an early general election, Labour will suffer a terrible defeat, Corbyn will resign anyway, the left will have no political capital, the party will shift to the right, a right-wing Tory Party will have a huge majority, and British politics will shift even further to the right with xenophobia and authoritarianism rampant.

Yes, there was an early election.  And now Jones is a Corbyn fan.

There is nothing like a win to bring out the sycophants and toadies. 

But generally, the Guardian and the Independent don't have much to say about Corbyn.  How could they?  Having spent months saying what a Loser he is. And they really don't like his "extremist" policies -- a UK for the Many not the Few.

The Blairites in the PLP.?   Gnashing their teeth and dreaming of ways to poison Corbyn and a few million supporters.    On the other hand, they are in politics as LifeTime Employment.   They want to keep their jobs.  Can't cross the aisle now -- that's the Losing Side.

So here's the thing.....

If Labour really wants to govern - it must purge the Blairites and get in people who care. Corbyn cannot accomplish much if half of his MPs are a Fifth Column. 

But getting rid of the Blair detritus is going to be hard. 

 On the other hand....

The Tories have formed an alliance with some Looney Tunes Christian Rightists.   They will go from bad to worse.

And there will be another election soon enough..  By that time, hopefully,  deselection will have thinned the Blairite ranks.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Told ya so

As predicted, Corbyn and Labour did very, very well in the elections.  Not an outright win -- unless Labour could form a coalition with the SNP, Lib Dems and others.

From Labour's point of view, however, this is a strategic victory.  Corbyn and his supporters are validated.  The Media -- and most important of all -- the Blairite holdouts in parliament have been proven wrong.    It is time now to further reform Labour, with more direct democracy and to turf the Blairities.

The changes implied in the Labour Manifesto cannot be accomplished without a full majority -- which means national consensus.  

That must wait until the next election -- which will happen soon enough (yes, another prediction!). 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Corbyn Can Win

A post or two ago, I predicted Labour would "lose the election while winning the argument."

Now, Labour is neck and neck with the Tories. Personally, from the perspective of Labour,  I still think that it better for the Tories to eek out a win  because Labour needs a full majority to do anything.  Before that,  it must purge its parliamentary ranks of the Blairites, those eyeless, brainless parasites.

The "Establishment"  is arrogant and incompetent, an ugly hard turd of rich people and career politicians and civil servants lodged in  the colon of the body politic, seeking to control everything and suck up wealth.  But just getting past the blockage a little is enough. This is a time for a full enema, not straining at the stool.

Movement seems guaranteed by the  relentless media attacks on Corbyn -- so contrary to the man's performance in interviews on TV, in Parliament, so oblivious to fact and reason.  The efforts of ht media to destroy public trust in this honest man have boomeranged --undermining the credibility of the media itself -- and   especially of the Tories.  "Liar, Liar"....

People who get their ideas from the morning paper or the telly over tea really don't like to read or think -- they let the media decide their opinions for them-- which is ever so much more comforting and convenient.  

But what happens when you have a hangover and your  morning tea tastes like warmed over piss and the picture frames on the wall all look askew?  And the dog just vomited on the newspaper.  The kitchen sink is full of dirty dishes.  

The Media, as the spokespeople for the Few, live in their own world,  a world created by them, for them.

Their world has champagne and vistas.  Yours is just a crashing headache.  

The Media prefer their world, which is he same one they use to sell you hopes and dreams - that is, that one day it might be yours, too.  In the meantime, they seek to suppress facts and the truth.

A good example is just recently when  the BBC declined to air the UK's no. 1 hit song, "Liar, Liar" which is about Theresa May. The BBC  claimed that they had to be "impartial".  "Had to be"?  There is nothing in the broadcasting code or their own rules that applies to banning a hit song!   Big Radio followed suit.

That's thumbing your nose at an entire generation, challenging them to "Just come out  and vote".  After all, while 70% of young people support Labour --they usually don't turn out to vote. But while it's OK to blow kids and their mothers to bits in Yemen which no one really believes exists-- you should not ban your teenager's music -- that's real.    Some things Jesus will not be forgive

Of course, it's stupid, too because banning anything, makes everyone want to hear it or watch it  -- including people over 25. A billion dollars of free publicity. And the  people who can't hear the song on the Radio, will turn to the YouTube Video which comes to captions and persuasive images -- much better than the song alone.


So, the Right are on a roll -- downhill into a trash heap.

Theresa May has also refused to debate. She did not attend the Leader's Debate.  By contrast, Corbyn who wasn't going to attend if she didn't -- reversed himself -- and did just fine -- as he had done in his TV grilling by Jeremy Paxman.

You have a Tory Leader who doesn't show up, won't debate.  Establishment Media that clearly lies and tries to suppress the truth.

Add to this the Dementia Tax and other measures that discomfit the over 65s who are traditionally Tory supporters.

And Terrorist attacks -- which are the predictable outcome of Tory policies. 

Liar, Liar.  The Media lie.

Liar. Liar.  The Tories lie.

Jeremy Corbyn tells the truth --and has a 30 year record of it. 

He also has a program is just pragmatic.  Hardly revolutionary.  Really, a return to the basics.  Eerily similar to the demands of the Levellers in 1647.

Now Labour has a real chance at government.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Progress is an illusion

I write a lot about "memes" and social and political evolution.  The fact is that progressive change comes slowly, three steps forward, two back.  Sometimes four back.  In the UK, the Labour Party is accused of trying to resurrect the past rather than "moving forward".  In fact, the same issues have bedevilled English society for hundreds of years.And much of what Labour is asking for now is the same as what the Levellers asked for in 1647.
That as no Civill Government is more just in the constitution, then that of Parliaments, having its foundation in the free choice of the people; and as the end of all Government is the safetie and freedome of the governed, even so the people of this Nation in all times have manifested most heartie affections unto Parliaments as the most proper remedie of their grievances; yet such hath been the wicked policies of those who from time to time have endeavoured to bring this Nation into bondage; that they have in all times either by the disuse or abuse of Parliaments deprived the people of their hopes … And do most earnestly entreat, that ye will stir up your affections to a zealous love and tender regard of the people, who have chosen and trusted you, and that ye will seriously consider, that the end of their trust, was freedome and deliverance from all kind of temporall grievances and oppressions. Last time, I predicted that Labour would lose the UK election -- while, as it were, winning the argument.
         The Levellers’ Declaration of Independence (March 1647)
Even Women's Rights....

In 1647, the Levellers -- the Nine Percent of the time -- demanded change.  The result was the English Revolution and the overthrow of a monarch.  Then it was clear that nothing was really chaning and the Levellers were suppressed.

In one of the most important Leveller political tracts of the period, a group of Levellers (probably written by William Walwyn) petitioned Parliament with a list of their grievances which prefigure the American Declaration of Independence of July 1776 and its grievances against King George III. After 5 years of successful civil war against King Charles and his supporters the Levellers hoped that Parliament would have done more to protect the liberties the Levellers had been fighting for. They provocatively call Parliament the “supreame Authority of this Nation” thus challenging the King to his face and the very notion of divine right to rule. They then go on to list the good things Parliament had done to increase the liberties of Englishmen, and then to list the things that still remained to be done. This infuriated the Parliament which first refused to accept the Petition (the person who delivered it was arrested) and then had it publicly burned by the hangman, which was a severe warning to the Levellers and their supporters about what might happen to them if they persisted in their endeavours. The Petitioners list 13 specific demands among which were to ban self-incrimination in court cases, end the need for taking oaths, that there be a free press in religious matters, the abolition of the monopolist Company of Merchants, that the cost of going to court be lowered and that English (not Norman French) be the court’s language, that punishments should fit the crime and that trials be held speedily, the abolition of religious tythes, and that they put an end to prison for debtors. The “Petition of March” (also known as “The Large Petition”) was only the first of 6 petitions which appeared during 1647-48. Given the radicalism of the Levellers’ demands it is not surprising that they made little progress in having them adopted. That would take another 130 years.
In fact, the Leveller's went far beyond goals of the American Revolution.  They advocated universal suffrage for one thing and an end to monopolies.  The Founders of the Republic wanted to limit suffrage and preserve monopolies of power and privilege in the new nation they were creating.

 "Progress" is often an illusion. 

"Social democracy" is not about "socialism" - -any "ism" in fact.  It is about fairness

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I told you so

In the UK, the Nine Percent are making history.

But power is not the only factor instrumental in creating change. In fact it’s what one does in “opposition” that has historically paved the way for real change. Humanity’s progress has resulted primarily from the struggles of those who fought for change against entrenched power.

Salim Lone Letter to the Guardian May 2016

I told you so.

If you read my columns on the nine percent, you will notice that I am using the UK to explain what all this all about.

To recap:  all  progressive change comes from a committed minority on the left,.  When this minority reaches about 9 percent of the general population, the consensus of majority opinion will gradually shift leftwards to accept change.  For this happen, however, the majority must first lose confidence in their situation, with their comfort zone eroded by events.

The basic rule, "If it aint broke, don't fix it".  Their has to be a general feeling that something is "broke".

Clearly, predatory capitalism and inequality -- the "Wealthfare State" are destroying the social contract.  Neoliberalism and Neoconservativism have failed, with their associated definitions of "globalism".

For ordinary people that translates with unemployment, lower real wages, higher levels of personal debt, diminished social services and a generally "precarious" future.

In the UK, Brexit undermined the status quo. But even before that there was realization that things were wrong.  The defeat of Labour under Brown and then Miliband opened the way for what can only be regarded as a "accident".  The Labour Party needed money and it decided to open up its membership to get more people -- and therefore more money in  It was really a PR stunt -- but it backfired because people took Labour af face value and they elected as their leader Jeremy Corbyn, a modest, rather simple man who is not only honest but principled.

The Blairites in the PLP were shocked.  How un-British.!  Democracy.  I mean.  Ordinary people thinking they can call the shots.

The Media didn't like it either.  They are owned by a few very, very rich people, who made their money by exploiting everybody else and hire wannabe rich people.

So Corbyn was labeled / libeled as a "loser".  And all those people who joined Labour looking to change something and make England a better place were sneered at as "ultra-leftist extremists" and "Trotsky-ites".
Leftwing extremists / proto-terrorists

But the Blairites and the Media attacks merely showed the  bias of the Snob Class and undermined its non-existent credibility.  This is the arrogance of what Salim Lone calls "entrenched power".

The Labour Party is now just 6 points shy of the Tories, doing very better under Corbyn than under his two predecessors, Brown and Miliband.  

Corbyn will not win the election. -- that would be difficult given the UK's undemocratic electoral system. But it doesn't matter.  As Salim Lone says -- what matters is the Struggle.  And Labour has already won the argument, more or less by default. A big win later is preferable to a narrow now.