Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

250 + Companies to Leave UK for Holland Due to Brexit

January 25, 2019

According to yesterday’s I for Thursday, 24th January 2019, the Dutch are claiming that more than 250 firms currently based in the UK are planning to move across the North Sea to them due to Brexit. The article on page 10, entitled ‘More than 250 firms plan to relocate from UK to the Netherlands’ by Nigel Morris and Benjamin Butterworth began

More than 250 companies are looking to follow Sony by moving from the UK to the Netherlands because of Brexit, it emerged yesterday.

The Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA) said that scores of companies with UK headquarters had expressed interest in relocating, and the number was expected to rise.

Many business chiefs have been dismayed by Theresa May’s refusal to rule out leaving the European Union without an agreement, leaving Britain immediately operating on World Trade Organisation rules.

The article then goes on to list some of the companies moving. They were Sony, Panasonic, which moved last year, P&O, while the car maker Bentley was stockpiling parts.

It quote Michiel Bakhuizen of the NFIA as saying

“The number of businesses we are in contact with for a possible arrival is growing. At the start of 2017 it was 80. At the start of 2018 it was 150, and now it’s more than 250.

“This increase will continue and it is not strange, because there is great uncertainty at the moment in Britain. And if there’s one thing that’s bad for business, it’s uncertainty.”

One of Tweezer’s little minions said in reply that it was clear that companies around the world would continue to invest in Britain and its people. Against this was the Labour MP Rupa Huq, who backs a second referendum. She said

“This shows the shrinking appeal of Britain as a decision-making base for top companies as a result of Brexit.

“The Japanese were supposed to be a top ally for Brexit, but time and again they have been shocked at the scale of self-destruction.” The below the article was another which also listed other firms leaving the UK. These included the Japanese financial houses Nomura Holdings and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group; HSBC, which is moving its HQ from London to Paris; Barclays and Bank of America, which are moving to Dublin, MoneyGram, which is going to Brussels; the European Medicines Agency, which is going to Amsterdam; the European Banking Authority is going to move to Paris, while the German engineering company Schaefler is going to close two of its plants, in Plymouth and Llanelli.

Brexit is going to be a disaster for Britain. but it’s going to be great for rich financiers like Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nigel Farage, because they can move their investments around the world without worrying about losing profits. It’s the rest of us, who depend on manufacturing and trade in goods for our jobs and businesses, who will take the real hit.

We were lied to by the leaders of the ‘Leave’ Campaign, who were chiefly members of the Tory right. Well, it’s high time to kick the Tories out of office and put in someone who really can clear up this mess: Jeremy Corbyn.

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John Quiggin on the Absolute Failure of Austerity

January 9, 2019

One of the other massively failing right-wing economic policies the Australian economist John Quibbin tackles in his book Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us (Princeton: Princeton University Press 2010) is expansionary austerity. This is the full name for the theory of economic austerity foisted upon Europeans and Americans since the collapse of the banks in 2008. It’s also the term used to describe the policy generally of cutting government expenditure in order to reduce inflation. Quiggin shows how, whenever this policy was adopted by governments like the American, British, European and Japanese from the 1920s onwards, the result has always been recession, massive unemployment and poverty.

He notes that after the big bank bail-out of 2008, most economists returned to Keynesianism. However, the present system of austerity was introduced in Europe due to need to bail out the big European banks following the economic collapse of Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain, and the consequent fall in government tax revenue. Quiggin then goes on to comment on how austerity was then presented to the public as being ultimately beneficial to the public, despite its obvious social injustice, before going on to describe how it was implemented, and its failure. He writes

The injustice of making hospital workers, police, and old age pensioners pay for the crisis, while the bankers who caused it are receiving even bigger bonuses than before, is glaringly obvious. So, just as with trickle-down economics, it was necessary to claim that everyone would be better off in the long run.

It was here that the Zombie idea of expansionary austerity emerged from the grave. Alesina and Ardagna, citing their dubious work from the 1990s, argued that the path to recovery lay in reducing public spending. They attracted the support of central bankers, ratings agencies, and financial markets, all of whom wanted to disclaim responsibility for the crisis they had created and get back to a system where they ruled the roost and profited handsomely as a result.

The shift to austerity was politically convenient for market liberals. Despite the fact that it was their own policies of financial deregulation that had produced the crisis, they used the pretext of austerity to push these policies even further. The Conservative government of David Cameron in Britain has been particularly active in this respect. Cameron has advanced the idea of a “Big Society”, meaning that voluntary groups are expected to take over core functions of the social welfare system. The Big Society has been a failure and has been largely laughed off the stage, but it has not stopped the government from pursuing a radical market liberal agenda, symbolized by measures such as the imposition of minimum income requirements on people seeking immigrant visas for their spouses.

Although the term expansionary austerity has not been much used in the United States, the swing to austerity policies began even earlier than elsewhere. After introducing a substantial, but still inadequate fiscal stimulus early in 2009, the Obama administration withdrew from the economic policy debate, preferring to focus on health policy and wait for the economy to recover.

Meanwhile the Republican Party, and particularly the Tea Party faction that emerged in 2009, embraced the idea, though not the terminology, of expansionary austerity and in particular the claim that reducing government spending is the way to prosperity. In the absence of any effective pushback from the Obama administration, the Tea Party was successful in discrediting Keynesian economic ideas.

Following Republican victories in the 2010 congressional elections, the administration accepted the case for austerity and sought a “grand bargain” with the Republicans. It was only after the Republicans brought the government to the brink of default on its debt in mid-2011 that Obama returned to the economic debate with his proposed American Jobs Act. While rhetorically effective, Obama’s proposals were, predictably, rejected by the Republicans in Congress.

At the state and local government level, austerity policies were in force from the beginning of the crisis. Because they are subject to balanced-budged requirements, state and local governments were forced to respond to declining tax revenues with cuts in expenditure. Initially, they received some support from the stimulus package, but as this source of funding ran out, they were forced to make cuts across the board, including scaling back vital services such as police, schools, and social welfare.

The theory of expansionary austerity has faced the test of experience and has failed. Wherever austerity policies have been applied, recovery from the crisis has been halted. At the end of 2011, the unemployment rate was above 8 percent in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the eurozone. In Britain, where the switch from stimulus to austerity began with the election of the Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition government in 2010, unemployment rose rapidly to its highest rate in seventeen years. In Europe, the risk of a new recession, or worse, remains severe at the time of writing.

Although the U.S. economy currently shows some superficial signs of recovery, the underlying reality is arguably even worse than it now is in Europe. Unemployment rates have fallen somewhat, but this mainly reflects the fact that millions of workers have given up the search for work altogether. The most important measure of labour market performance, the unemployment-population ration (that is, the proportion of the adult population who have jobs) fell sharply at the beginning of the cris and has never recovered. On the other hand, the forecast for Europe in the future looks even bleaker as the consequences of austerity begins to bite.

The reanimation of expansionary austerity represents zombie economics at its worst. Having failed utterly to deliver the promised benefits, the financial and political elite raised to power by market liberalism has pushed ahead with even greater intensity. In the wake of a crisis caused entirely by financial markets and the central banks and regulators that were supposed to control them, the burden of fixing the problem has been placed on ordinary workers, public services, the old, and the sick.

With their main theoretical claims, such as the Efficient Markets Hypothesis and Real Business Cycle in ruins, the advocates of market liberalism have fallen back on long-exploded claims, backed by shoddy research. Yet, in the absence of a coherent alternative, the policy program of expansionary austerity is being implemented, with disastrous results. (pp. 229-32, emphasis mine).

As for Alesina and Ardagna, the two economists responsible for contemporary expansionary austerity, Quiggin shows how their research was seriously flawed, giving some of their biggest factual mistakes and accuracies on pages 225 and 226.

Earlier in the chapter he discusses the reasons why Keynes was ignored in the decades before the Second World War. The British treasury was terrified that adoption of government intervention in some areas would lead to further interventions in others. He also quotes the Polish economist, Michal Kalecki, who stated that market liberals were afraid of Keynsianism because it allowed governments to ignore the financial sector and empowered working people. He writes

Underlying the Treasury’s opposition to fiscal stimulus, however, was a fear, entirely justified in terms of the consequences for market liberal ideology, that a successful interventionist macroeconomic policy would pave the way for intervening in other areas and for the end of the liberal economic order based on the gold standard, unregulated financial markets, and a minimal state.

As the great Polish economist Michal Kalecki observed in 1943, market liberal fear the success of stimulatory fiscal policy more than its failure. If governments can maintain full employment through appropriate macroeconomic policies, they no longer need to worry about “business confidence” and can undertake policies without regard to the fluctuations of the financial markets. Moreover, workers cannot be kept in line if they are confident they can always find a new job. As far as the advocates of austerity are concerned, chronic, or at least periodic, high unemployment is a necessary part of a liberal economic order.

The fears of the Treasury were to be realized in the decades after 1945, when the combination of full employment and Keynsian macro-economic management provided support for the expansion of the welfare state, right control of the financial sector, and extensive government intervention in the economy, which produced the most broadly distributed prosperity of any period in economic history. (p. 14).

So the welfare state is being dismantled, the health service privatized and a high unemployment and mass poverty created simply to maintain the importance and power of the financial sector and private industry, and create a cowed workforce for industry. As an economic theory, austerity is thoroughly discredited, but is maintained as it was not by a right-wing media and political establishment. Robin Ramsay, the editor of Lobster, said in one of his columns that when he studied economics in the 1970s, monetarism was so discredited that it was regarded as a joke by his lecturers. He then suggested that the reason it was supported and implemented by Thatcher and her successors was simply because it offered a pretext for their real aims: to attack state intervention and the welfare state. It looks like he was right.

Brady’s Warning of the Rise of Fascism in Britain and America

December 4, 2018

I’ve put up a number of quotations from the book The Spirit and Structure of Germany Fascism by the American economist Robert A. Brady, published over here by Victor Gollancz in 1937. Brady was concerned to show how the Nazis in Germany had allowed the German business classes to seize power and crush and exploit the workers, as well as creating and exploiting a murderous hatred of Jews, Gypsies and other people they consider ‘subhuman’ and an enemy of the German, Aryan race.

In the last chapter of the book, ‘The Looming Shadow of Fascism’, Brady shows that many of the attitudes of German business were identical to those businessmen elsewhere in Europe. The chapter includes passages from other publications, including those by explicitly pro-Nazi American writers, whose ideas are similar or even identical to those of the Third Reich. And he warns that a Fascist seizure of power from organized, monopoly capitalism was a real threat in America. A threat that would result in the persecution of ethnic minorities like the Japanese, Jews, Mexicans and Blacks. He writes

In all the complicated, confused, and myth-charged experiences of the human race, there can be no more curious spectacle than that which is taking place along this line before our very eyes in every capitalistic land to-day. Here we have the business enterprise, perhaps the most completely amoral and materialistic single-purpose institution the human mind has yet devised, governed by a class of men who may be ever so sentimental with their children and ever so “kind and gentle with their wives,” but who, in order to maintain their position unimpaired as the prime material beneficiaries of economic activity, are compelled to resort to the wholesale promotion of one of the most incredibly jejune, intellectually and emotionally shallow, and crudely primitive “faiths” known in the iridescent annals of myth and fable.

The doctrinal position of business evangelism has two faces, an inner and an outer. The first is that which business men believe concerning themselves and their human kind. The second is that which they wish the remainder of the population to believe about the business-military hierarchy-the “leaders’-on the one hand, and about the proper role each , and every member of the rank and file should expect to play in this “best of all possible worlds: on the other.

Both these propaganda faces are the same in all nations ordered on a capitalist basis. There is a veritable mountain of literature obtainable in every one of these countries which could be used to illustrate the close parallels in the programme, the doctrine, and the mood of their respective business communities. The variations which one will find are in the form of adaptations of the same doctrinal positions to local or national circumstances; they do not indicate differences in doctrine. As was shown in many different places in the preceding chapters, almost the entirety of the German Nazi programme and line of argumentation is identical in content and point of view with that of the American business community. Such elements as the persecution of the Jews is different, not in intent, but only in the fact that such persecution could serve Nazi ends in Germany in the particular circumstances of the years 1933-6. When the American situation has ripened to that of Germany in 1933, there will be race terror in the United States as well, and it will be anti-negro, anti-Jew, anti-Mexican, and anti-Japanese. (pp. 337-8, my emphasis).

Brady was clearly afraid of Fascism seizing power in America within a few years of his writing the book. Mercifully, he was wrong. But only just. A group of businessmen did meet various generals in the 1930s with the intention of organizing a coup to overthrow F.D. Roosevelt after he launched his New Deal. And those businessmen were the literal parents and ideological founders of modern Libertarianism.

Big business has been gaining increasing power in America and Britain since the days of Thatcher and Reagan. Trade unions have been smashed, welfare programmes destroyed, the state provision of healthcare also cut back. Wages have been frozen under the guise of curbing inflation. The result is growing poverty, job insecurity, homelessness and starvation. 330,000 Brits are homeless. A quarter of a million are keeping body and soul together through food banks. And over a thousand disabled people have died because they’ve been thrown off benefits in what Mike over at Vox Political has described as cheque book genocide.

And with poverty has come increasing racism, stoked by fears over mass migration and affirmative action/positive discrimination programmes. In Britain Tweezer and the Tories set up posters and sent vans round to Black areas telling illegal immigrants to hand themselves in. Windrush migrants, who have every right to live in this country, were illegally deported. Islamophobia is on the rise, partly caused by the suicide bombings that have occurred as blow-back from the Islamist groups aided and abetted by the West as allies in our wars in the Middle East, and by migrants forced out of the region and elsewhere by the very same wars. So we’ve had UKIP, Brexit and the lies of the ‘Leave’ campaign in Britain. While in America there’s Trump and his friends and supporters in the Alt-Right. He wants to build a wall with Mexico to protect American from further immigration. Armed troops have been sent down to the border to shoot unarmed illegal immigrants, and the Republicans are stoking up fears about the migrant caravan from Honduras. Quite apart from the increase in White Supremacist domestic terrorism, including the massacre of the worshippers at a synagogue because they were closely linked to a Jewish charity aiding asylum seekers come to the US, and therefore, to the perpetrator, enemies of the White race.

We’re not at the level of an imminent Fascist takeover yet. But the signs are there, and Brady’s warning remains chillingly relevant.

Al-Jazeera on the First Test Flight of India’s Space Shuttle

September 19, 2018

In this short clip, just over two minutes long, from Al-Jazeera, posted two years ago in 2016, Tariq Bezley reports on the first test flight by the Indian Space Agency of their space shuttle. The shuttle was launched into space on top of a rocket fired from India’s launch facility north of Chenai. The craft separated from the rocket at an altitude of 70 km and re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere, which heated it up to 2,000 degrees.

A female scientist speaking for the Observer Research Foundation, Rajeswari P Rajagopalan talks on the video about how it was necessary to test the shuttle’s heat shield.

Besley states that so far only the US, USSR, Japan and Europe have launched reusable shuttles. He states that NASA’s Space Shuttle flew 135 missions in 30 years before it was finally decommissioned. It has been replaced by the US air forces X-37B test vehicle. This unmanned vehicle was on its third mission, and had been up there for a year. However, the secrecy surrounding its missions have provoked speculation that it is a spy satellite, or is being tested to deliver weapons from space.

He then goes on to discuss the Dreamchaser, the spaceplane being developed by the private Sierra Nevada firm to service the International Space Station. Its first flight is planned for 2019. India’s space shuttle is in a much earlier stage of development, and it’s estimated that it’ll be 10 or 15 years before it is ready to fly.

Besley also discusses how India successfully put a spacecraft in orbit around Mars in 2014, becoming the first Asian nation to do so.

Rajagopan states that China has flourishing military space programme, which is a direct challenge to India, and India has to respond if it is not to be left lagging behind.

Further tests will be carried out on the Indian spacecraft, including on the supersonic scramjet engine which the Indians hope will one day power the spaceplane. The Indians say that their Mars mission cost a tenth of that of other missions to the Red Planet. Besley concludes that if their space shuttle can achieve the same savings, space travel will become much more affordable for all.

A number of countries have developed plans for different spaceplanes. The Russians had their own version of the Space Shuttle, Buran, which looked exactly like the American. It has been mothballed since the Fall of the USSR and has never flown. The French designed a small spaceplane, Hermes, which was to go on top of their Ariane rocket in the 1990s. This was very much like the American Dynosoar spaceplane proposed in the 1950s, but never actually built. The Germans also designed a spaceplane, Sanger, named after one of their leading rocket scientists. This would consist of two craft, a larger plane acting as a first stage, which would piggy-back a second plane into orbit.
And then there was the British HOTOL project of the 1980s which also used airbreathing ramjet engines to take the plane into space. This was never completed because of problems with those same engines. The technology has since been perfected, and a new British spaceplane, Skylon, has been developed. It has been forecast that it will come into service sometime in the next few years, possibly flying from spaceport launch sites in Cornwall or Scotland.

The video shows how sophisticated India’s space programme is, and I’ve no doubt that their entry into space will lower launch costs significantly. While the American shuttle was an amazing piece of engineering, it was massively expensive. It only became competitive as a launch vehicle against Ariane and the other rockets because it was heavily subsidized by the American government.

I look forward to the development of India’s spaceplane and that country joining the US and Russia in launching manned space missions. Perhaps if more countries develop reusable spacecraft, humanity will at last enter a real age of crewed space exploration and colonization.

Israel, the Nazis and Racial Nationalism as the Basis for Citizenship.

February 24, 2018

Israel is a racial nationalist state. Racial nationalism is the official policy of the Fascist right, such as the NF and BNP in Britain. It states that only White Britons should be allowed to hold citizenship. It is the ‘volksburgenschaft’, or folk citizenship, that the Nazi Alternative Fuer Deutschland wish to return to. And it was the state policy of the Nazi party, as expressed in their 25 point programme of 1922. And ethnic identity, in this case, Jewish, and preferably of White, European or American heritage, is the official basis for Israeli citizenship.

Other states also have made racial identity a condition of citizenship. Under Japanese law, only ethnic Japanese may be Japanese citizens. This had led to the denial of their civil rights to resident aliens, such as the Koreans, many of whom have been in Japan for generations. I am not impressed by the Japanese state’s racism either, though people I know, who have lived in Japan, have told me that the Japanese are personally a very kind people. This comes from a former Vietnamese boat person I worked with, who spent years living and working in the Land of the Rising Sun.

The racist nature of the Israeli state is laid out in their constitution.

This demands

1. The union of all Israelis in a Greater Israel.

3. The demand for additional territories for food production and to settle the excess Jewish population.

4. Citizenship to be determined by race; no Palestinian to be an Israeli.

5. Non-Jews in Israel to be only guests and subject to appropriate laws.

Okay, so this isn’t really the Israeli constitution. It’s actually from the Nazis’ 25 point plan. I’ve just swopped the wording around, replacing ‘German’ with ‘Jew’, and ‘Jew’ with ‘Palestinian’ where appropriate.

But it accurately reflects the racist nature of the Israeli. While other nations move towards ethnic diversity and multiculturalism, Israeli law still follows the racial nationalism of its founders.

And this also describes Israel’s continuing policy of annexing Palestinian territory and driving out the indigenous Arab population.

It is these policies and the racism at the very heart of modern Israel that the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and Jewish Labour Movement have been establish to defend, by smearing anyone who mentions them or criticises them as an ‘Anti-Semite’. In these instances smearing very many decent, anti-racist people, including proud, self-respecting Jews.

The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Labour Movement are Fascist organisations that should have no place in the political mainstream, let along influence and be part of the Labour Party. Get them out. Expell the JLM from the Labour Party, and remove the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism’s charitable status.

For more information on the Nazis’ 25 point programme, see James Taylor and Warren Shaw’s A Dictionary of the Third Reich (London: Grafton 1987) 252-3.

Eugenics in Japan: Records of Forced Sterilisation Programme Discovered

February 21, 2018

This is another excellent piece of reporting from RT, which shows once again why it’s miles better than the Beeb and other establishment news services. This is a report from their Ann Vuger on the recent discovery of documents pertaining to the programme of forced sterilisation of the congenitally mentally handicapped in Japan. This was pure eugenics, as was made very clear in the title of this vile piece of legislation. It declared that it was ‘to protect the purity of the Japanese race’. It did not occur during the wartime Fascist regime, but ran from 1948 to 1996.

I think the operation was supposed to be consensual, but 16,500 people were sterilised without their consent.

The video contains testimony from one of the victims of the programme. This is a woman, who was falling behind at school. So her teacher and a government official forced her father to sign the papers for her sterilisation. The only thing the woman herself knew about it was when she woke up after the operation.

The sister of another victim also describes what happened to her. She states that her sister was forcibly sterilised as a congenital mental defective. In fact, the girl had been left brain-damaged by another medical procedure when she was aged two. And this was just one, of many false diagnoses.

Both these people had their identities changed and faces obscured for the cameras to protect them.

The programme also features Katsumi Yamamoto, Chief Executive and psychologist of the Tokyo Board of Public Health, who strongly condemns the programme and speculates about the existence of further files.

After the end of the programme, the records on it were destroyed, but as this shows, some have survived. It is hoped that the discover of these papers will help the victims in their campaign to sue the government for compensation.

This should delight the Tories’ Ben Bradley. After all, it was he, who wanted the unemployed to be forcibly given vasectomies to stop them breeding, along with a number of other highly offensive views. And Toby Young, a Tory journo who also delights in writing offensive articles, also attended a eugenics convention.

The eugenicists aren’t just in Japan. They’re right here in Theresa May’s Tory party. And they want to kill the poor and disabled.

Paintings of British Spaceplane MUSTARD

December 28, 2017

This is awesome. It’s another couple of piccies from the SF art page, 70sscifiart, and it’s one of the entries for the 18th June 2017. They’re illustrations from a book on space about the MUSTARD spaceplane, a reusable space vehicle designed in 1964 by the British Aerospace Corporation. The scientists and engineers, who designed it realised that it was wasteful and expensive to build rockets that would last only for a single mission, before being mostly discarded.

Their solution, MUSTARD, effectively consists of three spaceplanes linked together. There’s the main craft, which flies into space, and two supporting planes, which serve to provide fuel to the main craft, helping it reach orbital velocity. When their fuel was used up, they broke away from the main plane, and flew back to Earth.

I first came across the MUSTARD project in an issue of the space/ science fiction magazine New Voyager back in the early 80s. This described the project, and interviewed some of the scientists and engineers involved. I think the problem with it is that it was probably far too far ahead of its time. I can remember reading that they estimated that the vehicle would start breaking even after 50 journeys. Now, looking at the economics of the space shuttle, that’s probably acceptable today. The only way the Space Shuttle remained competitive compared to the other launch vehicles developed by the Russians, the Europeans, India, China and Japan is because its subsidized by the American government. If you left it to market forces, it’d be uncompetitive. It’s another example of the way market forces are absolutely wonderful, but only so long as they don’t hurt big business and the ‘national interest’.

There were also probably political reasons for its cancellation as well. Britain at the time was also developing its own space rocket, Black Arrow, which successfully launched a satellite into space in 1975, to date the only British satellite that’s been launched by a British rocket. At the time Britain was involved in a European project to build a space rocket, with various stages built by the French, British and Germans. All of the other stages were failures with the exception of the British, and the project eventually fell apart. The civil servants in charge of British space research did not feel that there was a sufficient market to support an independent British rocket launcher, and instead decided that we’d piggy-back on the Americans.

The French, on the other hand, persevered, and developed their massive successful Ariane rocket, which is actually much more economical and performs better than the US space shuttle did. Which shows how farsighted the French can be when it comes to developing new technologies. Unlike our politicos, who seem to want to get everything cheap from someone else.

Tragically, the space shuttle was beset with problems, which resulted in a series of horrific catastrophes. The best known of these is probably the Challenger disaster, which led to the programme being suspended for years while the Shuttle was being examined and redesigned. Then there was that terrible incident a few years ago where the Shuttle exploded just when it was re-entering the atmosphere, breaking up over the US. This has led to the Shuttle being cancelled, and America reliant for manned spaceflight on the Russians.

I don’t doubt that the design for MUSTARD was sound, and it would have been way ahead of the other competing spacecraft if it had been built. Unfortunately, economics, politics and the will to do it weren’t there.

The Western Myth of Buddhist Tolerance Blinding the World to Its Persecution of Muslims

December 17, 2017

The clip below is a grim report from The Young Turks about the methodical rape of Rohingya women in Myanmar by the Buddhist armed forces. This comes from a report from the Associated Press with 29 women and girls, who had fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh. Some of these testimonies are very disturbing. In one instance, a woman was nine months pregnant, when she was caught by the soldiers and raped. She couldn’t get away because of her condition. Nevertheless, her husband, who sounds like a scumbag himself, is blaming her. She didn’t run fast enough. He, however, had already scarpered. In another interview, one woman told of how she and her husband were both caught, and her other half was tied to a tree while the Myanmar storm troopers gang raped her in front of him. When he began to scream and cry at what was being done to his wife, they stabbed and killed him.

Savagery, brutality and violence are part of the human condition, and are found in people of every race, creed and political ideology. Buddhism is no different from any other religion or ideology in this regard. But M. Reza Pirbhai published an article in Counterpunch in September this year, 2017, arguing that the world’s failure to respond adequately to the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar was partly due to the western, liberal myth that Buddhism is uniquely tolerant. He begins his article by arguing that the silence and reluctance to condemn the atrocities is partly due to western imperialist perceptions of Islam as uniquely evil. He then goes on to argue that the positive image Buddhism has as a uniquely tolerant religion was created in the 19th century by disaffected western intellectuals. Alienated by the sectarianism and bigotry of their own Christian culture, they turned to the Buddhist east, and so created an entirely false image of the religion as uniquely peaceful and tolerant. He writes

Academia is in fact rife with examples of scholarship that touts the tolerance and inclusiveness of Buddhists and the general argument is nothing new. According to Thomas A. Tweed, Professor of History at Notre Dame University, increasing awareness of religious diversity due to colonial expansion and Christian missionizing led Euro-American Enlightenment intellectuals repelled by Christian sectarianism to consider Buddhism to fit the bill of the “natural religion” (or “perennial philosophy”) they sought, one that exuded “tolerance” toward people of different faiths and was amenable to scientific progress. So convinced were they that some, such as the nineteenth century German-American scholar Paul Carus, even chastised Asian Buddhists when they launched polemical assaults on Christian missionaries, accusing the Asians of using language the “Buddha certainly would not…” So was born the pervasive myth, characteristically articulated by the early twentieth century Swedish-American Theosophist Herman Vetterling, that Buddhism is “a religion of noble tolerance, of universal brotherhood, of righteousness and justice,” and that in its growth as the religion of a global community it had not “caused the spilling of a drop of blood.”

Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Michael Jerryson, picks up where Tweed signs off to show that the tendency to associate Buddhism with tolerance did not die in the early twentieth century or remain bound in an ivory tower. In the wake of World War II, it found its way into the writings of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, marching further forward in time with such works as Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and by the 1980s assumed political dimensions in the form of the Free Tibet Movement. And finally, who can forget (even if you want to) Keanu Reeves in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Little Buddha.

Social history, however, tells a different tale than Orientalists and popular culture. For every instance of forbearance, history also provides examples of violent intolerance legitimated by Buddhist doctrines and conducted by practitioners. As many ancient Jain and Brahmanical texts speak of persecution at the hands of Indian Buddhists, as Buddhists accuse their South Asian competitors of the same. And consider Jerryson’s examples of the sixth century Chinese Buddhist monk Faqing, who promised his 50,000 followers that every opponent they killed would take them to a higher stage in the bodhisattva’s path. Or recall that with the advent of nationalism, Buddhist monks rallied to the cause as with Japanese Rinzai support for the military campaign against the Russians in 1904-5, or Zen and Pureland Buddhist justifications of the Japanese invasions of China, Korea and Singapore during World War II. Buddhism has been corrupted in these places, they argued, and violence is necessary to insure that ‘true’ Buddhism is restored and preserved. The same rhetoric – of some fundamental Buddhism under threat – also underwrites the more recently nationalized bigotry and violence that Buddhist monks and laypersons have unleashed on non-Buddhists in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and, last but not least, Myanmar.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/09/13/rohingya-and-the-myth-of-buddhist-tolerance/

It isn’t just Muslims, who are in a perilous position in Myanmar. So too are the country’s Roman Catholics, who are also under the threat of Buddhist persecution. This explains why the Pope was very careful not to describe the Rohingya as indigenous Burmese when he decried the violence against them the other week. He was afraid of upsetting the authorities too much, and calling down persecution on the country’s Christian population. At least according to another article in Counterpunch.

Pirbhai’s article notes that Buddhist priests, laymen and armed forces have also carried out atrocities against those of rival or different religions elsewhere, including Sri Lanka. In May 2013 Tariq Ali also published a piece about rising Sri Lankan Buddhist fundamentalism. This was during the conflict between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamils, who wanted a separate state and union with India. The Sinhalese are Buddhists, while the Tamils are Hindu, although the Tamil Tigers, the revolutionary force fighting for independence, were Marxists and therefore atheists. The civil war resulted in horrific atrocities, for which the Sri Lankan army was condemned, but little action taken by the West. And Muslims there were also the victims of Buddhist intolerance. Ali wrote:

Four years after the brutal assault on the Tamil population and the killing of between 8—10,000 Tamils by the Sri Lankan army, there is trouble again. The saffron-robed fanatics, led by the BBS—Bodu Bala Sena: the most active and pernicious of Buddhist fundamentalist groups that have sprouted in Sinhala strongholds throughout the island— are on the rampage again. This time the target is the relatively small Muslim minority. Muslim abattoirs have been raided, butchers shops attacked, homes targeted. Terrified kids and adults in Muslim areas are living in fear. The police stand by watching passively while the Sri Lankan TV crews film the scenes as if it were a school picnic.

A few weeks ago, Buddhist monks led some hoodlums and attacked the car sales room of a Muslim-owned company (Emerald Trading) in Pepliyana. Reason? An employee was stepping out with a young Sinhala woman and her father had complained to a local monk. A journalist on The Sunday Leader (a courageous broadsheet whose editor Lasantha Wickramatunga had, four months ago, denounced President Rajapaksa for corruption, predicted in print that he would be killed as a result and was) reported on 2 April that, ‘Following the complaint, an eye-witness saw a monk leaving one of the temples in Pepiliyana followed by a group of youths, mostly under 25 years of age. The group carried stones and, people were later to discover, kerosene…’

As if the anti-Tamil pogroms were not enough to satisfy the blood-lust, a BBS blogger explained the ‘reasoning’ behind the targeting of Muslims in the Colombo Telegraph (6 March 2013):

“Muslims have been living in this country since 7th century and now only they want to have Halal food in Sri Lanka. Population wise they are only 5%. If we allow Halal, next time they will try to introduce circumcision on us. We have to nip these in the bud before it becomes a custom. We should never allow the Muslims and Christians to control anything in Sri Lanka. What is Halal to Muslims is Harem to Sinhala Buddhists. Slaughtering cow and eating beef should also be banned in Sri Lanka. Instead, we should promote pork. We are glad that the parliament has re-introduced pork in their menu. Hijab, burqa, niqab and purdah should be banned in Sri Lanka. The law and the legislature should always be under the control of the Sinhala-Buddhists and our Nationalist Patriotic president. After all, Sri Lanka is a gift from Buddha to the Sinhalese.”

Difficult to imagine how circumcision could be ‘nipped in the bud’ even by a buddhist, or how the percentage of the Muslim population could have decreased from 9.7 percent in 2011 to 5 percent today. It has undoubtedly gone down but demographers doubt it could have done so by more than one or two percent at the most. The decline is obviously a direct result of unchecked harassment and persecution. It has gone down over the last few decades. The Tamils did their bit. Muslims in Tamil-majority areas were harassed and effectively driven out by ethnic purists from both the communities. They regret what they did now because it has been done to them on a much larger scale.

If it were only the BBS mouthing this nonsense, it would be one thing. But many within Sinhala political-military mainstream pander to rhetoric of this sort. In Pottuvil in the Ampara district, for instance, where the Muslims are a majority, the uniformed soldiers have been collaborating with the local monks and monasteries to erect Buddhist statues and inflaming the region in noise pollution via loudspeakers which start early with Buddhist hymns and a nightly replay. Local women who own land are being driven off it: the monasteries steal as the army provides protection.

The 1911 consensus revealed, as has always been the case, that the Buddhists compose a huge majority (70.2 percent), followed by the Tamil Hindus (12.6), Muslims (9.7) and Christians (7.4). Nobody threatens the Buddha or his followers except fanatics from within.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2013/05/03/on-buddhist-fundamentalism/

Ali ends his article with a report of Buddhist sectarian attacks on Muslim fishermen in Myanmar.

And will talk of Burma joining the Commonwealth be nipped in the bud? Buddhists have clashed with a tiny Muslim minority and driven them out of their villages, though the cause in this case appears to be material rather than ethno-religious Puritanism. The Buddhists wanted the land for themselves. A macabre confrontation resulted in, of all places, an Indonesian refugee camp where the Burmese Muslims had been provided with shelter. Eight Burmese Buddhist fisherman whose vessel had foundered in nearby waters were also rescued by the Indonesians and taken to the same camp. That night the two sides battled and all the fishermen apart from one were killed. Muslim casualties were two dead, and seven wounded.

It was an ominous precursor of the mass violence against the Rohingya that broke out a few years later.

Pirbhai ends his article by noting no religion has the monopoly on violence. But the myth of Buddhism as uniquely peaceful and tolerant is blinding Americans to the savagery that Buddhists, as humans, are capable of committing.

“No religion has a monopoly on ‘violent people’,” Jerryson astutely concludes, “nor does any one religion have a greater propensity for violence.” All religions are vast complexes of thought and institutions and devotees of each can always find legitimacy for hostility or hospitality toward the other depending on mundane needs or wants. It is for this very reason that the apparent disconnect between historical Buddhism and the sustained Euro-American myth of its tolerance is as malignant as the perpetual dehumanization of Islam and Muslims is cancerous. These Buddhists have long been the good guys and those Muslims the bad in this lore. Each is a necessary fiber in the liberal fabric of Euro-American imagination that veils the gaze of international law when it comes to the murder and displacement of the Rohingya.

Japanese History: Twelfth Century Guild Power against Feudalism

December 17, 2017

This is the type of history you don’t hear much about from the Land of the Rising Sun. Much of our images of Japanese history and culture are based on Japanese feudalism and the samurai, who held power until the modernisation of the country in the later 19th century during the Meiji Restoration. But there was a period during the 12th century during a period of intense civil wars when the power of the daimyos began to break down. This meant that a number of towns began to shake off their yoke, and asserted their own independence. The ruling powers in them were the guilds, who organised local armies.

This is a period I’d love to know more about. The guilds weren’t trade unions – not in Japan, Europe or wherever. But they represented the ‘middling sort’ and the craftspeople, regulated trade and provided some welfare services. They were also a powerful inspiration to the British Guild Socialists – hence the name – who formulated a British version of continental syndicalism.

During the radical ferment of the 1960s there was a revival of interest in ideas of municipal anarchism following the publication of Goro Hani’s The Logic of the Cities. This can partly be explained by the alienation many Japanese felt through the Fascism of Imperial Japan during the Second World War, and the humiliation they felt at their nation’s defeat. it doesn’t look like Japan’s current economic decline, marked by rising homelessness and poverty, will lead to renewed interest in radical ideas over there. But this is period of the 12th century seems to me to be a fascinating period that should be a bit better known.

Robot Takes Part in the Torch Relay for the 2019 Winter Olympics in South Korea

December 14, 2017

This short clip shows a robot participating in the torch relay for the winter Olympics in South Korea in two years’ time, 2019. Countries around the world are investing heavily in AI and robotics, and the South Koreans are clearly very proud of their robot. Unfortunately, from the clip shown here, its performance is less than impressive. When it starts moving, it does so in a kneeling position, propelled by wheels on its lower legs, rather than walking. When it does walk, it moves in the bent legged crouch, similar to that of the Asimo robot developed back in the 1990s by the Japanese. It holds the Olympic torch very stiffly out in front of it. By leaning through a weird, orange gateway structure it just about manages to light the next torch, which is held by a human.

I dare say that it’s probably great at other tasks in the laboratory, but it seems to me that it also shows that it will be a very long time before we can expect machines with the motor skills of a C-3PO, let alone that fictional robot’s genuine intelligence.