I watched a great documentary about Motown the other night, so please excuse the Marvin Gay reference. There is a lot going on at the moment. Let’s go through some things. Bear with me.

I recently read James Kunstler’s The Long Emergency“, and I’d thoroughly recommend you do too. It’s affecting my long-term goals and aspirations in a big way. To summarize, it’s about the passing of Peak Oil and what is likely to unfold. It makes for some scary reading, but it’s also serving to be inspirational. I might have to expand on this at some point… but not at the moment. More thinking and reading to do.

The USA’s Special Forces killed Osama Bin Laden – in Pakistan. That’s a sovereign nation where the US military is not supposed to be operating. According to a spokesman, the US Special Forces currently operate in 75 countries, and that number is set to increase over the next year – to 120. It’s one thing to have a diplomatic presence in a country, but it’s something else to have an active military one – especially when you don’t notify the host government about what you’re up to. Will there be more operations? You betcha. Will that only serve to increase anti-American sentiment, when they should be considering pulling out of these sorts of situations? You can definitely count on that. For example, the USA recently signed a secret pact to stay in Afghanistan until 2024.

The US really should do something about its own record on human rights before tramping around the world telling everyone else they should enact their own human rights laws. But hey, when in the past 60 years hasn’t the US been tramping the world, telling people how they should live?

The unnofficial case against the Western protagonists of the Iraq War continues to build, with MI5 coming out saying they told Tony Blair Iraq was no threat to the West. Also Dick Cheney’s memoirs are out in which he continues to unapologetically defend his actions and policies. Can someone arrest these scumbags ASAP, please? There are more and more officials who would be willing to testify against them. Let’s do it! Oh, wait. Americans are now too distracted, too conditioned and too afraid to do anything. Also, the conservatives are busy setting up a gerrymander to keep as many potential Democrat voters out of the voting booth as they can. Looks like the real terrorists have won…

Alternet is becoming a go-to place for effective analysis of the American Republican Party’s policies and personalities as the 2012 election starts to gear up. Essentially, they’re all lying scumbags, but at least one can have a solid intellectual foundation for explaining why. Obama isn’t any better by the way. Ron Paul isn’t a viable option out of the crazies. If ever there was a time for a solid ‘third-way’ candidate to make a difference, this would be the time. I don’t expect it to happen though.

The new economic reality of America is changing the way people live and work. For example, here is a piece about Workampers. Nothing new, you might say, but it’s happening more and more as the US economy stalls big time. Here’s something else about how car washes are turning into sweatshops, along with chocolate factories, or how students in trouble are turning to that old standby, sex work.

The Eurozone is slowly moving towards a major existential crisis…

The Australian government tried to pass a law enabling them to send refugees arriving by boat to Malaysia for processing. That was shot down by the High Court. This article goes through the situation and some of the implications very nicely. Personally I’m very disappointed that the supposed left-wing Labour Party have ended up following the policies of the deposed conservative Liberal Party, in particular its 90s poster-boy, John Howard. Very disappointed indeed. Looks like the current PM could be headed to the chopping block since her criticisms of the decision have made her looking bitter, or in the words of the High Court, “‘irresponsible … extraordinary, unfair and curious”.

Woolworths and Coles are essentially the Walmart of Australia, with the recent price wars highlighting their dirty campaign to remove other brands from their shelves and replace them with their own ‘home brands’.

They’re talking the high-speed rail link between Sydney and Melbourne again, again.

Oh, and quietly, Australia’s internet is now censored.

Moving back home is going to be quite interesting. It’s been ten yen years since I lived in Australia. Australia has always been a culture of haves and have nots – and the haves seem to become a bunch of over-indulged, whiny douchebags. It’ll be entertaining, at least…

But they are doing one thing right though. The Australian Government may soon pass laws that will, in effect, bankrupt the Scientologists. By legally defining the meaning of ‘charity’, they may be able to force the ‘church’ to back pay its workers millions of dollars, as well as the taxes owed on those wages.

An interesting look at the benefits of ‘lazy parenting’. I know it’s ironic that I’m a part of the industry responsible for the over-scheduling of children, depriving them of creative free time and the chance to enjoy their childhoods. However, I do believe that learning English is going to be become indispensable as global communication becomes a key for survival and prosperity in this current world. You can take your abacus-learning, flower-arranging and calligraphy clubs, along with your cram-schools and drown them in the sea for all I care about what good they’ll bring. (They reinforce a lot of negative attitudes that the Japanese have; namely Japanese exceptionalism, the culture of overwork, as well as teaching useless skills.)

With all the media’s attention focussed recently on the riots in London, someone or some group of people have been engaged in a campaign of torching luxury cars across Germany for some time now. Are there still areas of Paris that are set alight every summer, where the police fear to tread? The cities are becoming war zones…

Some more climate changey type things going on. The ice sheet on Greenland is starting to break up, with massive ice islands being calved and glaciers shrinking.

People in Japan always seem surprised when I tell them I hate Disney and everything about the Disney company. This article (and subsequent book) go a along way to explaining why. Essentially, Disney’s business model is based on targetting children – as young as six months old – in order to condition them to a certain world view, based on conformity to stereotypical roles and bland consumerism. If I ever have children, I will actively ban them from exposure to the Disney company, and if any friends give me anything for them from the Disney company, it will be burnt. Joyfully. Sorry.

The James Randi Educational Foundation has had a $1 million challenge for a number of years now. It’s getting pushed again since they’ve challenged some prominent media ‘psychics’ to prove their ‘ powers’ are real. One has made overtures, but we’ll see if any actually take on the skeptics. In her words, she’s the ‘real thing’ so she doesn’t have to worry about taking scientific tests to prove her abilities are real. Huh? I guess we just have to take her words for it. PLEASE don’t give these sorts of scumbags any money!!

As the military are always looking to get their mitts on the latest technology, you can be sure that invisibility cloaks will soon be coming to an army near you.

Lebowski.

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I watched John Pilger’s most recent documentary, “The War You Don’t See” today.

As always, John Pilger takes the viewer through a topic of important relevance to the life and freedom of all of us who live in Western Democracies. In this case it is the role of information, journalism and war in shaping our values and attitudes. The active collusion between the military and the news corporations is explored by Pilger. However a large proportion of the film also focusses on the victims of such policies: the citizens of the countries who are attacked, as well as the journalists who have been killed, sometimes by the same military they’ve been sent to cover. It is certainly harrowing viewing at times. The footage and dexcriptions of horrors by those who were there remain a lingering memory.

It is certainly the war you don’t see, and Pilger prefaces such footage and episodes by repeating the title screen in order to drive home his point.

I would say this documentary should be necessary viewing by all citizens who want to make truly balanced and well-informed decisions about what they decide to believe, as well as by journalists who should know better than to simply tow the line when it comes to reporting what governments tell them to.

Buy the DVD or watch for free any way you can.

 

Pilger was supposed to be presenting his film in the United States at an event sponsored by the Lannan Foundation, a very prominent liberal organisation, on June 15th. However, his appearance and the screening of the film was cancelled unexpectedly at the order of Patrick Lannan. Lannan has not offered any reason for the cancellation.

So, I have two weeks off and a massive backlog of articles I’ve been reading through over the past few weeks to share. The World Cup dominated my free time during June and July, so I apologise for the delay in posting stuff.

I’ll deal with the serious stuff first then do another post with a distinctively lighter tone. Two-tone posts? The 70s aren’t dead!

It’s been hot here in Japan, but in Russia they’ve been dealing with the hottest temperatures on record, forest fies and many deaths from the application of sun, water and alcohol.

Oil spill first. Apparently since the cap finally started working the oil has disappeared – or just found a way to hide. If most of it has sunk then it’s going to foul up the sea floor wonderfully for the next goodness-knows-how-long.

It’s election season in Australia and it’s going to be an interesting one. In one corner you have another victim of the Obama Factor (promising much, delivering little, and actually smells a lot like the previous head(s?) of state), Julia Gillard. Australians are quickly growing tired of novelty (first female PM, first redhead PM) and want substance. The problem with Gillard is that in trying to please everyone, she’s going to please no one. In the second corner, you have Tony Abbot, a religious nut who speaks before he thinks. Australia under him could become a quasi-theocracy – something that many sensible Aussies gag at the thought of. In the third corner, you have the Greens. Prone to a bit of in-fighting, yet they have something that the ‘main two’ parties are sorely lacking in at this point: sensible policies. They are poised to seize the balance of power, and affect real change.

Oh yeah, blink if you missed it, but the Autralian government censored 90% of a document about their internet strategy to stop “premature” debate. That means they don’t want anyone to know what they want to do until after the election, when they have three years to impose censorship on the internet with no one to stop them. Disgusting.

And a full one third of Australians now believe that human and the dinosaurs existed at the same time, highlighting the plight of science education in a country that used to be able to pride itself on having a collective IQ greater than that of the USA….

The US occupation of the Middle East continues to draw unwanted attention from serious journalists who refuse to tow the line of the military and the White House. Good for them – long may it continue! (The tradition of good journalism – not the occupation) For example, there’s the story of the Pentagon losing over $87 billion. That’s more than the entire GDP of Tunisia. But that’s small potatoes compared to the ludicrous amounts being funnelled into doomed projects. You have to wonder at the logic that sees the US buying Russian helicopters for the fledgling Afghan air force to fly – since that’s the era of aircraft the only trained pilots know how to fly. There’s also the story of how US soldiers are being brainwashed with ‘positive thinking’, the persistent disturbing links to Israel and Zionism, John McCain thinks that the USA has alreaady won the ‘war’ in Iraq,

The wikileaks story has shined a very bright spotlight on what has become a very dark stain on human history, the US occupation of Afghanistan. For example, when they aren’t being killed by outsiders, the Afghans are often turning on each other, meaning the whole notion of the US withdrawing forces is another Obama pipe dream.

Some economic stuff. The situation in Japan is still in a process of slow disintegration. Unemployment (and under-employment) are still high. This in-depth article from Time describes the situation very well.

The situation in the USA continues to spiral out of control. There’s so much out there that is interesting to read, so I’ll just link here, here, here, here and here, and hope your clicking will do the rest.

The housing situation in the US and Australia also makes for some interesting, and scary reading.

That’ll do for today. And since the puter crashed I lost all the fun links. Boo! But trust me there is funny stuff in the world too. Enjoy.

…nearly the end of 2009. Going by some of my previous ‘doom and gloom’ posts it must be a wonder we’re still around. It’s been a tough year for a lot of people in the world, with natural disasters duking it out with economic crises for creating havoc in civilization.

I must say I am pleasantly surprised to still be able to do this and not be scrounging the Japanese countryside for scraps of food. Maybe that will happen next year…?

When you really think about it, 2009 has been a year of great disappointment. At the end we’re still locked in a cycle of deep recession (depression) with no end in sight. Obama must have been a consistent let-down for those who truly believed he could make a difference. Heck, even Tiger Woods, the Golden Boy of golf has shown he is only, completely and thoroughly, nay, spectacularly, human.

The summit at Copenhagen is nearly done and with leaders from around the world jetting in for the final hob-nobbing (and with various media outlets savaging them for the emissions generated) it’s becoming clear that despite the rhetoric no one is clearly serious enough about doing what needs to be done to save human civilization from climate change. It may turn out for the best if they fail anyway.

I say ‘human civilization’ because, like George Carlin, I think the planet is going to be fine. ‘Saving The Planet’ really is just a euphemism for trying to save ourselves. As Carlin pointed out, the planet has had to endure much worse than us. Google ‘Permian Extinction’ if you want the event that came closest to wiping out all life on Earth – and yet life survived to multiply and diversify to become everything we see around us today.

The climate change ‘scandal’ didn’t help things along very much. It was immediately seized upon by skeptics on the Left and Right it’s been a rallying flag for all those who think we should somehow keep the status quo. Anyone who thinks that’s it’s still OK to pump pollution into our environment, regardless of its impact on the globe, is a criminal in my book.

I wonder if there’s anyone apart from the media who believes that Obama is going to be the Saviour of us all?
You should read this, and this, and this, this, this, and maybe this.

Really, if you think that anyone, ANYONE, on the real Left likes or trusts Obama then you should just read this and learn just how he is doing everything they predicted before he was elected.

Then there’s Tony Blair’s stunning admission that even if the claim that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction was shown to be false before the invasion of Iraq, that he would have found any excuse to go in anyway. It begs the question just who was leading who between him and Bush. When will Blair be indicted to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity? Continuing the myth that ousting Saddam has improved the situation in Iraq should be submitted as evidence that Blair doesn’t have a soul or a conscience. (You know who else didn’t have a soul or conscience??)

Don’t mention the continuing tragedy in Afghanistan – oh wait, I did. And again. And don’t think it’s going to end anytime soon.
Quietly, the North Koreans are getting restless.

Australia continues its quiet evolution into a police state with the previously mentioned Great Firewall Of Australia now approved for rollout and the police continuing to get the power to make life generally unpleasant for the general populace. Add to that the cost of a home is continuing to become more and more unaffordable and rents are going to continue to rise, putting a home out of reach of a younger generation (and myself).

This has become another rant of misery and woe. But at this time of year which is often given over to self-celebration and self-indulgence, it is important to remember that we are (maybe) all part of the same soul and the things we do DO affect others. If there’s one resolution we should be making for next year is for us to do (and to keep doing) something that makes life better for other people.

There are maybe some glimmers of hope… I like to think that hope exists and is not a completely futile quality to possess.

Take these parents for example. They won the right for their children not to have to do homework. They were able to show the court that endless study at home does nothing for their kids’ performance at school. If only Japan could get the idea, but it seems that we are dooming these kids to a never-ending cycle of exhaustion. (I am fully aware of the irony of me saying this, being in the educational field and responsible for some of this)

Anyway, whatever you do, have a great Christmas and enjoy it the best you can. I know I will.

No, I don’t want to live, work or study in the USA… (no air traffic controllers, for a start)

Hey ho, back for the first rant for 2009. It’s taken a while to settle back into Japan and get back into the swing of things. That and it’s been so amazingly cold… we had a couple of flurries yesterday.

Which brings up an interesting point. The last two winters have now been the coldest for years, and an increasing amount of scientists are taking up the position that this could be the start of the next Ice Age. We’re due for one, as periods of global warmth usually last for 20,000 years or so, which fits this current period we’re in now. The scary fact is that Ice Ages tend to last for 100,000 years. That’s without the glaciers, woolly mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers in your backyard – or nipple rings causing frostbite…

Hey, if that doesn’t depress you, then how about this? The Milky Way is heavier and moving faster than previously thought, so we’re going to crash into the next galaxy even sooner!

Even in retirement, former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, is still a bonehead.

George W. Bush… How many of us are counting the days? The worst president in American history is busy trying to create his own version of history right up to the moment he leaves. It’s certainly leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of those he has victimised, whether they be from New Orleans or Baghdad. The thing about the term “legacy”, is that it’s not just what you try to leave behind after you’ve gone, but what people remember about you. Bush’s 20% approval rating and litany of disasters (84% more people are unemployed are at the end of 2008 than in 2001, or that One in every two Iraqis is dead, wounded, a refugee, or starving.”) that will prevail long after he has gone will prove to be his legacy, no matter how he and his followers try to spin it. It looks like Obama won’t be pursuing his crimes either – so that’s a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card right there.

Worth more than a cursory glance: a look at the state of Latin America in 2008.

Japan has come up with a errrmmm… novel way to end the rise in unemployment amongst a general sagging in the economy, as well as provide a solution to the aging of the rural towns: send young unemployed people to work in the countryside. Sounds great except for a) most Japanese young people are so urbanised they’d rather starve than go into the countryside, except from the confines of a tour bus, b) this program is for only 800 people to go on trip of 10 days a piece, c) only 50 positions are being provided for full-time workers, and d) (related to point ‘a’ ) agricultural work is highly labour intensive with low financial reward – hardly appetising. The Japanese government thinks it could work two ways though. Apart from the oldies teaching the youngies a thing or two about farming and fishing, the youngies could open the oldies to the wide world of teh internets and blogging. Yes, elderly people blogging will save Japan… but if society does collapse, then these younger people will stand a chance of being able to provide food for themselves.

The Japanese government is also calling for high school English lessons to be taught in English in order to raise students’ ability with the language. Interesting idea, but the teachers may not be so willing…

An interesting story about a couple of Americans who saved a Japanese man who fell onto some train tracks. The final paragraph says a lot about people who never travel or read much about the world, and those who see a lot of it.

NASA has blamed Australia for “destruction of much of the life on the planet”. What are you going to do about that, Mr. Rudd? (Ridiculous assertion, I know…)

Even good old Listerine is now on the list of things that could give you cancer… Joe Jackson got it right – and it sounds much better when he sings it.

The privatisation of utilities is fundamentally wrong. Case in point: Australia has drought (bad), government urges people to use less water (good), people use less water (great!), water company cries over falling profits and raises prices (asinine). Once again this illustrates my point, utilities such as water, electricity, sewage, public transportation, roads, and so on are basic services that a society needs to exist. They are the foundation that companies and businesses are built on. They are not for-profit businesses. The government is not in the business of making profits – it’s in the business (if you have to call it that) of keeping society running smoothly. Taxes pay for that. Get over it. Don’t sell these important services off, pay your taxes and reap the benefits.

In February, it looks like we’ll be up for a spot of comet watching. Sweet!

Looks like the Apollo Landing conspiracy theorists are going to have to come up with some new ideas. The Indian lunar satellite has mapped the sites of the lunar landings.

Note to anyone who wants to go country driving in Australia: if the sign says “Road Closed Due To Flooding”, don’t ignore it and continue driving like these twits did.

There’s no way James Bond would be caught dead wearing this.

Best name for a soft drink. Ever.

That’s enough for now. More later.

One thing that strikes you about Japanese TV is that there are seemingly hundreds of ‘idols’ – campaign girls, bikini girls, promotion girls – whatever you want to call them. One show famously has one hundred girls dressed in red outfits sitting in the background while the hosts talk about the news of the day or other recent hot topics. They don’t do anything, just sit and react to what the hosts say – kind of a living wallpaper if you wish. I have sometimes wondered how the TV industry can support such a lot of people who just sit around and do nothing (save my tirade for the celebrities (or ‘talento’, as they are known in Japan) for another time) since they must be getting paid a decent rate for their ‘services’. Turns out they are often paid less than office workers and have to resort to offering other ‘services’ to get by – or even to get work. One of these idols has blown the whistle on the culture of prostitution and corruption that plagues the TV industry in Japan.

Japan’s whaling fleet are heading back south for their ‘research’ to commence. In Tokyo, two Greenpeace activists are being held in prison for making off with a box of whale meat that was headed for the black market. They wanted to expose the corruption and truth about the scientific research – that it really was all about the meat. Instead they’ve been the target of sustained and organised harrassment by the authorities.

George W. Bush’s legacy continues to reveal itself. Something that has been around since 2000 but I didn’t find out until recently was that at a young age, the younger George exhibited a strong sociopathic streak, shooting frogs and blowing them up with fireworks. You can extend that to his callous attitude to life, whether it be convicts in Texas, prisoners in Abu Gharib or Guantanamo.

Meanwhile the US financial system continues to unravel. The Fed has refused to release any details of where $2 trillion is going. A prominent hedge fund has collapsed, leaving a $50 billion hole behind. One of the world’s most prominent investors has labeled the banks as essentially “bankrupt, totally bankrupt”. Another commentator has placed the blame squarely at the feet of the big universities where most of Wall Street got their education. It’s also the reason why these people can’t and won’t be able to take the steps necessary to fix the crisis – and why it will in all likelihood get much worse over the next year – and why Obama really won’t be able to do much about it. It’s going to be very hard for anyone to undo 30 years of mistakes.

The Governor of Illinois was arrested for allegedly putting Obama’s vacant senate seat up for auction, or was arrested in order to cover up dealings with the Bank of America. You choose.

Very quietly, the Iraq War ended on November 27, 2008, when the Iraqi government signed the new Status Of Forces Agreement with the USA. It is legal and binding. It calls for all American forces to be out of Iraq completely by December 31, 2011. The news was buried amongst the reports from Mumbai, but it does mean that the USA has lost that war. Sssssh!

In Somalia, some progress has appeared to have been made on the diplomatic front, although the Bush administrataion has reserved the right to declare the whole country a ‘free fire zone’ in the name of combating piracy, but you can bet that it’ll be the civilians of the country who will feel the wrath of the bombs that fall.

The riots in Greece continue anabated. It’s important to note that country-wide chaos doesn’t unfold in a vacuum. The crisis has been brewing for years.

Tensions are still high in Thailand, Russian forces are still in Georgia, and the Caucauses are still primed to explode at any time.

It can all seem rather hopeless

I’ve been revisiting the Qatsi trilogy. The films (along with Ron Fricke’s Baraka)resonate with my feelings about life, the Earth and what we’re doing to it. If it all seems hopeless then I am somewhat comforted that after civilisation has ended and we are all dust, life will go on. We are all made of stars, so to the stars we will all return one day. I’ll finish with three quotes, one from the film Koyaanisqatsi, one from its director Godfrey Reggio – and one from Agent Smith:

koy.aa.nis.qat.si (Hopi) [n] 1. crazy life 2. life out of balance 3. life disintegrating 4. life in turmoil 5. a way of life that calls for another way of living.

“What I’m trying to show is that the main event today is not seen by those of us that are living it, who see the surface of the newspapers, the obviousness of conflict, the social injustice of the market, […] but to me the greatest event or the most important event perhaps in our entire history, nothing comparable in the past with this event, is fundamentally unnoticed, and the event is the following: the transcending from all nature or the natural environment as a host of life for human habitation, into a technological milieu, into mass technology as the environment of life. So these films have never been about the effect of the technology, of industry, on people, it’s been that everything, politics, education, the finance structure […] the culture, religion, all of that exists within the host of technology. So it’s not the effect of, it is that everything exists with-in. It’s not that we use technology, we live technology.” – Godfrey Reggio

“I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species. I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area, and you multiply, and multiply, until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet, you are a plague…” – Agent Smith (The Matrix)