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.

And so it’s very likely that this will be my final post for this year as I’ll be exploring the temples around Angkor Wat in Cambodia followed by tramping around Hong Kong until after the New Year has dawned. It promises to be an excellent holiday.

Time for a few parting shots and links to tide you, dear reader, through the next few weeks until I get my butt into gear again.

This article neatly summarizes all the bad things that George Bush has done throughout his presidency – saves you buying any books if were interested at all. I wish that Odin existed instead of his elderly and less wrathful cousin, Santa Claus / Father Christmas. In short, Odin whisks off bad children in his sack while riding an eight-legged flying horse. Where they go – who knows? If only Bush could be whisked off by a vengeful god… too late now anyway. The guy just doesn’t know when to stop.

That leads to a quote of the day. It’s been a while since I had one, and it comes from the lips of George Bush – and superbly sums up his attitude to anything he’s done that’s turned out badly: “So what?” Here’s the transcript of the interview which also demonstrates how he really does believe his own bullshit:

BUSH: One of the major theaters against al Qaeda turns out to have been Iraq. This is where al Qaeda said they were going to take their stand. This is where al Qaeda was hoping to take–

RADDATZ: But not until after the U.S. invaded.

BUSH: Yeah, that’s right. So what? The point is that al Qaeda said they’re going to take a stand. Well, first of all in the post-9/11 environment Saddam Hussein posed a threat. And then upon removal, al Qaeda decides to take a stand.

My response? As the Austrians say: “Du kannst mir gern den buckel runterrutschen und mit der zunge bremsen.” (final phrase – scroll down)

The knives continue to come out for Barack Obama a month from his inauguration.

Afghanistan is going the way that it did under Russian rule in the 80s. The smart thing would be to get out – but Australia’s PM is going the middle road – neither pulling out or putting in extra numbers to ‘get the job done’. (Although the elephant in the room is the reason we’re there in the first place….) I think we can call Rudd “Sit On The Fence Kev” as that’s what he seems to do on most issues; take the environment for example. I guess that’s what you get when you have a career public servant who wants to please everyone running the country: insipid, dull and risk-free ‘management’. And by the way Kev, we DON’T want Howard’s policies back – like detention centres, for example.

Like Greece, like America, like Europe.

The kanji for this year in Japan is ‘nise’, meaning ‘fake’, in the wake of a number of scandals that hit the country this year. Scandals are a weekly phenomenon in Japan. If it doesn’t involve the government, then it’ll be companies doing something hideous – or both – or just something weird and cruel.

In slightly related news, I’m never having sex with Japanese girls again, unless they’re fully tested – twice.

This financial crisis isn’t the same at all as the one in the 1930s and we’ve learned from our mistakes. OK, so I was being sarcastic. The politicians are leading the way of course, by voting themselves a pay rise. Buy stock in Spam though.

According to this, I should live forever.

Goodbye oceansgoodbye life as we know it. Maybe I’ll move to Sweden where energy policy really is of and for the people.

In the USA there are currently 73 children between 13 and 14 years old who have been sentenced to prison for ‘life without possibility of parole’. Regardless of what crimes they’ve been convicted of – these are children who will never see life outside of a prison for the rest of their lives. The USA is the ONLY country in the world that is known to do this.

Of course we’re all so distracted to notice what’s going on around us.

Naqoyqatsi indeed. See it, and above all, THINK dammit!

The 2008 P.U.-litzer Prizes are out.

When you’re bemoaning the lack of decent movies to rent these holidays, thank your lucky stars that none of these have been made – yet. Quentin Tarantino’s in currently in production.

Another case of life imitating art. Scientists have developed technology that can map people’s dreams. It’s one step from the technology explored by Wim Wenders in ‘Until The End Of The World’ in 1991.

Here’s a guide to the latest in Japanese slang. My 13 year old students often use “KY” when they’re talking about me. I’ve got them fooled that I can’t understand Japanese at all. 🙂

I don’t usually post links to The Smoking Gun’s mugshot galleries, but this one is particularly festive. Merry Christmas – don’t end up like this lot –  good luck with the holiday romance, and have a safe 2009.