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.

Advertisements

Just when the world went and got itself a dose of healthy optimism with a royal wedding (despite what you think about it, at least it was a positive news story), it had to turn back to darkness with the death of Osama Bin Laden. There was a Martin Luther King misquote that got started on Twitter and made its way to Facebook very quickly. Although I agreed with the sentiment expressed in the (mis)quote, it’s worth reading through this article on science hoaxes to put it into context.

Of course the conspiracy theories began swirling around, almost before Bin Laden’s body met the inky depths of the ocean. One word that has been used a fair bit by the US Government, as well as bandied about on the internet is ‘justice’. This old-world, wild west notion of justice concerns me, as it does a number of people. Despite Bin Laden’s alleged links to 9/11, extrajudicial killings are illegal under international law. The US government is shimming and shamming its way out of it by saying he tried to defend himself but reports are coming out (from sources such as Bin Laden’s daughter who was present during the raid) that Bin Laden was unarmed, taken alive, then executed by the special forces. They’re also claiming that he was an enemy combatant, so it was justified, but he was an international criminal, not a soldier. The legal linguistic gymnastics look set to continue for while to come. The sea of information and disinformation also looks set to widen and deepen, so what truth there is to the situation looks set to be lost anyway. I am not confident we will ever really know the truth about this.

One thing is certain, Bin Laden is going to be very much a prescence in US foreign policy for a long time to come. His assassination certainly played into his hands, and his legacy is certain to continue into the future. Geoffrey Robertson hit it right on the head, as usual, and Tom Engelhardt is always good to read for an insight into the bigger picture.

Oh, and it’s worth repeating, but you you’re really interested to know what the US government thinks about truth and free speech, then look at what happened to Ray McGovern. He was arrested and beaten up by security thugs for staging a silent protest at a Hillary Clinton speech – the one where she defended the right to free speech in Egypt, but obviously not to Americans – especially in a plutocracy. Oh, and Mr. McGovern used to work for the CIA.

That whole Libya thing is looking dodgier and dodgier by the day. Not so much about bringing peace and democracy and about getting their hands on (surprise!) oil, Libya’s sovereign funds as well as those funds to rebuild the pulverized country.

How’s that Guantanamo place going? Still a bastion of degradation and ongoing torture? Good… nothing to see here. Oh, and how’s Bradley Manning, by the way? Being treated as a citizen of the US..? No? Oh, how about as a human bei…. No? How about as an animal? No? Worse than that? Oh – nothing’s changed then. Congrats Obama, you’re a monster in my book. If they can’t schedule a war crimes trial for George W., maybe they will for you.

And since the next US election isn’t until next November, it’s time for the pundits to start lining up. One thing for sure is that the Republicans are going to make American Decline their theme, somehow trying to avoid bringing up that it happened on the watch of the last Republican president. How are they going to do that? Well, for a start, by bringing up as many crazy early candidates as they can, so by the time they get around to choosing someone seriously, they’ll look quite sane in comparison. Johann Hari’s excellent article in The Independent sums up the situation most elegantly. I love the opening paragraph, so I’ll quote it in full for you:

Since the election of Barack Obama, the Republican Party has proved that one of its central intellectual arguments was right all along. It has long claimed that evolution is a myth believed in only by whiny liberals – and it turns out it was on to something. Every six months, the party venerates a new hero, and each time it is somebody further back on the evolutionary scale.

Fatsen your seatbelts, it’s going to be a looong ride – maybe not so bumpy, but hopefully entertaining.

The last combat veteran of World War One has passed away. Claude Choules served with the Royal Navy in WW1 then for Australia in WW2. He passed away aged 110. There is one more veteran of the war left, a British woman, Florence Green, who served in a non-combat capacity. She is also 110. We shall remember them.

Of course the idea of ANZAC Day is remember the fallen and to hope for no more wars. It is not to continue Australia’s role as a supplicant to the USA. Australia’s current prime minister, who is starting to look more and more like John Howard as the days pass, may well have been installed to continue US interests. Just who are we serving?

Not each other, according to this article. It made me sad to think of returning to Australia…

Australia’s not the only country joining the ranks of the Bush copycats. I see Canada has now joined the ranks.

As the situation in Fukushima continues, it’s worthwhile remembering the world’s worst nuclear reactor disaster in Chernobyl. Here’s a piece about one of the photographers who went in to document the disaster in the midst of deadly radiation.

Skynet is with us, but don’t worry, those HD cameras are great for taking footage of surfing….

China’s economy is still growing strong, and it looks set to overtake the US in as soon as 2016 according to the IMF.

But, we’re running out of stuff. Not only are we running out of manual typewriters, we’re also running out of oil; not only the black stuff, but the oil we need to eat. We’re also running short of food, fresh water, helium, chocolate, medical isotopes, tequila and phosphorus. Stuff like tequila and chocolate we could probably reluctantly get used to, but no medical istopes means no cancer treatments, no phosphorus means no food, and no water, well, that’s pretty obvious.

With the buzzword being ‘cloud computing’ these days, it’s worthwhile thinking about the possibility of hackers having a field day, or perhaps they already are, right Sony?

An English teacher working in Australia won a case against unfair dismissal recently. That’s a good thing, especially when you consider his ‘crime’ was to teach a class of adults on the correct use of the ‘F’ word. In my opinion, if you’re going to participate fully in Australian society, a comprehensive knowledge of when to use – and not use – that word should be mandatory! 

Yahoo calls out the ten most overrated tourist destinations and, more importantly, gives alternatives. Some of  these I had absolutely no intention at all of going to, but it’s good to learn about other places that are equally awesome. You might also want to check out the site at Angkor Wat before it disappears under the heels of a million tourists. I went there a couple of years ago and aside from the central complex and Angkor, I’d recommend you take a few days and see the other temples around the area; there are far fewer tourists, fewer pedlars, often better preserved architecture, and a chance to help the locals more by shopping where they shop.

So when is a kilo not a kilo?

Einstein’s theories have been proved, yet again.

A list of names for things you knew had a name but didn’t know what they were.

One of the interesting things about living in an information age is that one simply doesn’t have to die. It is the stuff of science fiction to transpose one’s personality into a computer and to continue ‘living’ as a machine, but in the past, in order to achieve immortality one had to be a Hemingway or a Shakespeare, a Monroe or a Dean, a Warhol or a Picasso. Now, thanks to the available technology, our writings, videos, music and musings can live as long as the server permits. I came across this blog post, of one Derek Miller, who recently died from cancer. It is a marvellous, poignant and inspiring piece of prose. Even though the man is dead, his work can live forever, and thereby so can he. What an age we live in!

Enjoy it while you can.

I’ve been listening to Gil Scott Heron again recently. ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ still rings as true today as when it was released, even though the pop culture references won’t make much sense to anyone born after 1980 or read any history…

Reading history does help give one a sense of perspective. I remember buying a copy of The Penguin History of the World as a high school student, simply because I though it was ridiculous that a small, brick-shaped book simply couldn’t hold the required information to adequately describe the entire history of the world thus far. So it sat on my shelf, gathering dust for a few years, until one day I thought, “You know, I should actually read this and see what it has to say”. And read it I did, from cover to cover, from the first emergence of humanoid like creatures in our pre-historic past to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, where the writers of the book chose to conclude their essay.

I learned a few interesting things from ploughing through chapter after chapter. To a late-teenager who had never read history they were revelations, which strike my late-thirties self as self evident truths. Nonetheless I keep coming back to them. The first was that history moves in cycles; boom and bust, rise and fall, come and go, nothing is forever, like Ozymandias in that poem by Shelley. The second is that power will always be sought and held onto by the rich and powerful. There will always be the rich and powerful who lord over the poor and weak. The third one is that no person is greater than history. People can try to create their own legacy, but once history has got a hold of you, then you are just along for the ride.

It’s nearly the 47th anniversary of the assassination of JFK, so the Hostory Channel here in Japan are running a series of documentaries about the events of that day in history. Tonight’s doco looked at the transfer of power that had to occur after the president was killed. History has taken a fairly dim view of Lyndon Johnson and the way he seemed to pressure the Kennedys into taking over the reins of power. However the documentary showed (as documentaries often can, thanks to the power of the medium – my reservations are being aired) that it was the Kennedy cap in their grief and devastated state (not to mention the alcohol consumed on the plane back from Dallas to Washington) as well as having bought into the cult of personality that JFK had brought to the presidency, that perhaps played a bigger stake in what came to define Johnson’s presidency, as well as history’s view of him.

History is written by the winners, and the tendency to mythologise is not confined to the ancients.

I chose LBJ quite deliberately to open this post, because the way that he dealt with his own feelings and shock and grief on the day simply had to take a back seat to the continuation of power, to maintian stable and effective leadership in a time when the world had recently teetered on the brink of nuclear catastrophe. LBJ was a thoughtful, concerned and sensitive man. He was also a liberal in the true sense of the word and also a Texan. He stands in proud defieance of the stereotype that has come to be dominated by his more recent Texan political archetypes, the Bush family, in particular, one George W. Bush.

George is in the process of defining his legacy. He is attempting to do this by releasing a biography. I say ‘biography’ since there is doubt that he actually wrote it himself. He has joked about this, but as we know, dear reader, humour often masks a more uncomfortable truth. The timing is also important, coming at a time when his successor is staring down the barrel of becoming a lame duck and Bush’s Republican cronies are circling the mortally wounded carcass of another Democratic presidency, waiting for it to fall for the last time.

The critics are rightly taking a hatchet to the more spurious elements of the book. The revelations within it reveal the arrogance of the man, as well as his callousness and disregard for humanity that we saw glimpses of before and during his presidency. The former president has admitted, through the account in his biography, to authorising the use of waterboarding on an American citizen – that is, ordered one of his own countrymen to be tortured. He has also lied about being “shocked”, “angry” and having a “sickening feeling every time I thought about it” over the fact that weapons of mass destruction were never found in Iraq. You won’t find it in his biography, but during a media dinner in 2004 (well recounted here), Bush made light of the search for weapons in Iraq, playing it for laughs. As it has been noted before, Bush displays some classic psychopathic tendencies, including not being able to realise that he lies to himself, as well as everyone around him. The recent Wikileaks release of thousands of diplomatic cables go a long way to refute the claims and narratives claimed in Bush’s biography. That Bush is seeking to invent his own legacy is par for the course. I wonder if he will take his book tour abroad?

The increasing tension between the two Koreas, the USA and China is continuing. Japan is sitting awfully close to the sidelines and hoping the taunting doesn’t boil over into full-on conflict. The situation is threatening to unwind US / China relations. It’s also highlighting the bias against North Korea, given that everyone assumed the North fired first, when reports are now stating the South has admitted using its artillery in a war games exercise before the North responded, thinking it was under attack. It is well known that the North barely has the resources to feed its own army, let alone its people, which have been largely abandoned by the state. If the war fires up again, the North has a vast amount of weaponry it can call upon, and could wreak havoc on the South, as well as cause econimc chaos throughout the region, but in the end it would be a suicidal move, one China and the South – and Japan – would not want to have to deal with.

The global economic woes continue to be reported daily. The European theatre is seeing Ireland, Spain, Portugal added to Greece as hotspots for a torrent of activity to shore up the euro and keep the economies there alive and ticking. There are alternatives, but since they would involve actually helping people and not protecting the rich and powerful, they won’t be done.

In the USA, the situation is not getting any better. The housing situation continues to worsen under corrupt and illegal exploitation of the system. Hunger and poverty are becoming commonplace. Despite calls by some of the mega-rich to end Bush’s tax cuts, the degree of inequality of income between the rich and the poor continues its relentless march. Any serious steps to revitalise the economy, such as engaging in a massive public works and infrastructure project, or set reasonable levels of taxation to fund welfare, are not happening, lest the cry of “Socialism!” from the right-wing lunatic faction becomes too loud. (How giving unlimited funds to the rich and powerful became socialist is a masterpiece of linguistic trickery)

The US has passed the record for the amount of time spent in Afghanistan by the Soviet Union, with no effective timeline on the horizon for ever leaving – unless it loses. (Australia’s Prime Minister, Gillian Gillard, told Karzai to halt corruption. The peals of laughter must have chased her out of the room.)

Human Rights abuses continue to undermine everything Obama ever promised to do, such as close Guantanamo for a start. The Obama administration recently granted waivers from the Child Soldiers Preventaion Act to Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Yemen – effectively legalising the use of child soldiers to fight ‘terrorism. 

The surveillance state continues to unfold, with law enforcement looking to use 1984-esque technologies, along with taking iris scans to create a database of potential enemies of the state. The US continues to appease Israel, while Israel continues to exploit the situation in America to its own advantage.

The Sarah Palin juggernaut continues unchecked. At least if she becomes president, the end will come swiftly and perhaps the pain will not be so long-lived.

In other countries, the response to this continued screwing of the middle and working classes is open hostility. In American it seems to be a collective ho-hum. It’s a very dangerous ho-hum, as it’s providing a space for the extreme right to make inroads, as we have seen in the recent elections. As the universities become enslaved to money, at the expense of being sanctuaries of knowledge, the intellectual response to this situation has become a meek acceptance to the status quo. There will be no sixties uprising led by the professors (such as the great Howard Zinn) as they’ll all be afraid of losing their jobs.

Quietly, why is the FBI supplying bombs to Muslim teenagers and grooming them to become terrorists, just so they can arrest them and say they’re keeping America safe? The timing – just before the busiest travelling time of the year – is also impeccible.

Opt Out Day was a fizzer, mainly due to the fact that most Americans are quite happy to buy into the myth that these invasive searches are making them safer somehow. Many security experts agree that the patdowns cannot and will not work. There are viable alternatives. Anything has to be better than pulling someone off a flight because of his tattoos. Boycott non-essential travel in and around the USA until they give up.

Seriously, read The Shock Doctrine.

…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.