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Archive for April, 2008

History’s Lessons for Today

April 26, 2008 3 comments

Recently I’ve been thinking about this war in Iraq and what it is getting us. I’ve been seeing the reports from both sides saying we are making progress, and Hell is coming to the Earth. 4,000 plus dead soldiers line coffins, and many many more sit in hospital beds injured (and that’s just U.S. American soldiers). The war bill continues to grow. Still I hear progress has been made and anything short of victory is impossible to consider. I whisper the thought in my head, “Only if I knew what VICTORY was…” At these times I think of history’s lessons. I think of people who spelled-out the teachings for us to follow so we are not in situations like Iraq. I give you only two of the many who have WARNED us.

On January 17, 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave his farewell address to the people of the United States. In it he spoke of many things. Probably the most famous and relevant at this time was:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

If we ask ourselves, “Has the United States government lived up to this?” We must answer, NO!” Bush’s Iraq War shows us that might is not right, and diplomacy can never take a back seat. What would Eisenshower be thinking right now? How would he be governing this situation? So many questions to ask. Why did we not heed this warning?

I turn to an author who gives historical and literary perspective of war.

Dalton Trumbo, author of “Johnny Got His Gun.”

He wrote such a terrifyingly vivid account about the aftermath of war that it still haunts me to this day. Here are a couple of excerpts:

“He thought here you are Joe Bonham lying like a side of beef all the rest of your life and for what? Somebody tapped you on the shoulder and said come along son we’re going to war. So you went.”

“He was the future he was a perfect picture of the future and they were afraid to let anyone see what the future was like. Already they were looking ahead they were figuring the future and somewhere in the future they saw war. To fight that war they would need men and if men saw the future they wouldn’t fight. So they were masking the future they were keeping the future a soft quiet deadly secret. They knew that if all the little people all the little guys saw the future they would begin to ask questions. They would ask questions and they would find answers and they would say to the guys who wanted them to fight they would say you lying thieving sons-of-bitches we won’t fight we won’t be dead we will live we are the world we are the future and we will not let you butcher us no matter what you say no matter what speeches you make no matter what slogans you write. Remember it well we we we are the world we are what makes it go round we make bread and cloth and guns we are the hub of the wheel and the spokes and the wheel itself without us you would be hungry naked worms and we will not die. We are immortal we are the sources of life we are the lowly despicable ugly people we are the great wonderful beautiful people of the world and we are sick of it we are utterly weary we are done with it forever and ever because we are the living and we will not be destroyed.”

Check out this link for the book’s “Introduction/Addendum: 1970.” They are extraordinarily powerful.

As I said earlier, I could list politicians, writers, actors, scientists, etc. who WARN us against the trappings of war offering better solutions, and vivid depictions of what is the ultimate future after war. Where are we after years and years of war? How can George Bush sound the cry against Iran, North Korea, Syria, and other nations when he has ordered the very atrocities he apparently deplores? Is this not another WARNING of what is to come?

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I.R.S. After Blade For Avoiding Taxes Not Killing Vampires

April 25, 2008 1 comment

So instead of freezing the accounts of terrorists in the United States, trying to figure how to pay down a ridiculously skyrocketing national debt, figuring how to get money into the education and health systems, and a host of other problems the United States Government is prosecuting vampire killer, Blade. Yes, Wesley Snipes is going to jail for 3 years, and has to pay out US$5 million for apparently avoiding taxes. He didn’t kill anyone. He, according to the CNN story I read, took the advice of his tax people:

“a jury accepted his argument that he was innocently duped by errant tax advisers.”

I find this quite ridiculous. He didn’t pay taxes so he goes to jail for 3 years. How about making him pay the back taxes plus the interest. He probably owes like US$20 million or so. That’s good for about an hour or two, maybe three, in Iraq. Don’t we have more dangerous people to put in prison, like the hundreds of catholic priests who raped and sexually abused children throughout the years. That is a better use of the space than for tax evaders. If we want to spend the money on prosecuting liars and cheats how about spending the tax dollars prosecuting the current President of the United States.

Bush made a decision based on faulty intelligence thus waging war on a sovereign nation. He then captured, prosecuted and executed the leader of that nation via a ridiculous court hearing that was more for show than justice. He continues to wage an unjustified and oppressive war that is plunging the U.S. into despair. This guys needs to go to prison for the rest his life. I’ll give him the last grace of walking his daughter down the aisle to get married, then ship him off to Alcatraz.

Okay, back to Wesley and tax evasion. Some notable quotes from the 35-page prosecution argument:

“‘For nearly a decade, Snipes has engaged in a campaign of criminal tax conduct combining brazen defiance with insidious concealment,’ the prosecutors say.”

I really love this next one:

“‘In the defendant Wesley Snipes, the court is presented with a wealthy, famous and inveterate tax scofflaw. If ever a tax offender was deserving of being held accountable to the maximum extent for his criminal wrongdoing, Snipes is that defendant,'”

I wrote on CNN’s blog comment page (I’ll post that comment when and if it gets approved) that this sounded like an assignment by a high school or college creative writing student. The drama and emotion pour through in great depth. I love it. This is what these people have time to do. Thankfully I’m not paying for this nonsense any longer. Aren’t there more significant problems we could be solving? I think I mentioned just a few. There are so many more.

In full disclosure I should say I have been living in Japan for the past 5 years, and according to U.S. tax law do not have to pay taxes to the U.S. Government. I get paid in yen, and make far less than what is required to have to pay taxes. It would cost more to file and process my return so I don’t even file one. The I.R.S. can come to Japan and find me if they like. Hopefully they will pay for my airfare back to the United States for any court proceedings otherwise we’ll have to do the court proceedings in Japan. After hearing the situation I think the Japanese judges would be like, “Are you serious? We don’t have time for this gaijin nonsense. You Americans are so backwards.”

A Tragic Blow To My Billionaire Fantasy Pick

As I opened my mail today I saw the report flashing across my screen – “Gates No Longer World’s Richest Man.” I was heartbroken. I’ve been putting Billy G. at the top of my list for about a decade now, and I have never been wrong, until now. Matthew Miller of Forbes.com reported that Gates’ best buddy Warren Buffet is now holder of the title – World’s Richest Man.

The mastermind of Berkshire Hathaway Buffet is rolling himself up in blankets made of share price supported wealth. Yes, I said share price because that is how Forbes calculated the wealth of the individuals on the list (+ outside main company holdings). Combined with outside Berkshire Hathaway holdings Buffet is worth roughly $62 billion in U.S. greenbacks. The even more diminishing return of the new list is that Gates isn’t even numero dos. No, that honor goes to Senor Carlos Slim Helu of Mexico.

He’s the “telecom tycoon” of Mexico, according to Forbes.com. My boy Gates comes in at 3 with about US$58 billion in the virtual pocket.

Carlos took him out with US$60 billion.

Now the real kicker to this story (if you’ve been keeping up till now) is Buffet and Helu all posted huge gains over the past year, and are poised to make even more money in years to come. Microsoft share prices actually went down because of the bid to Yahoo (unsolicited), otherwise Gates would still be at the top. Billy Boy was actually up US$2 billion from last year’s count. Gates lost share price, and still gained in overall dollars. Gotta love virtual money.

I know what you must be thinking, “How can I buy some stock in Berkshire Hathaway? I gotta get in on that.” Well sorry to burst the middle-class bubble but unless you have about $170,000 U.S. greenies kicking around you can’t buy a share. According to this story, share prices in Berkshire were at an all-time high of US$165,000 per share in December of 2007 (now you’re looking at like US$137,100). Better off trying Microsoft at US$37 per share. That’s why I still love Billy G. You can actually buy some of the company and feel like you’re apart of the high life.

So, I think to myself, “Wow! Someone is making money in the U.S…I thought there was a recession…? I thought people were losing homes…? I thought banks, airplanes, and job rates were falling…S?@T!!!! I must be really out of touch – Isn’t the U.S. fighting like 2 wars right now?!? I guess things aren’t so bad. Also, didn’t people get back like US$600 in stimulus? What am I doing in slow-moving Japan teaching English?” Ooops, then I jumped back into reality and realized who is in charge of the U.S. right now – George “I can’t even describe my contempt for him” Bush. All I’ll say is, gotta love fascist politicking.

If you want to see the list of those richer than you check it out. 5 notable notes from the Top 25

1) The gap from Bill Gates at ‘3rd Place’ to ‘4th Place’ is US$13 billion (from ‘1st Place’ to ‘3rd Place’ is US$4 billion);

2) India has 4 people in the Top 10;

3) China cracks the Top 25 with ’11th Place’ with a brotha from Hong Kong;

4) 7 out of the Top 25 are from Russia (Putin doesn’t jail all the rich people…Only those who oppose him.); and

5) The lone representative from the Middle East – Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud of Saudi Arabia (With petroleum trading at about US$110 per barrel, according to Bloomberg, things are pretty cushy in The Kingdom.)

Peace

Shadows of Rwanda Creeping Back

Are we getting the narrative wrong again?

In 1994 Rwanda suffered atrocities that one would think could not happen in the modern day, at that time. Hundreds of thousands of human lives were lost during the Civil War that drowned Rwanda in blood. The outcry should have been heard by international powers but they fell on deaf ears. I remember, recently, hearing Bill Clinton (then President of the United States) say that not getting involved in Rwanda was a huge mistake on his part and one he regretted from the days of his presidency. Well, now we have Darfur.

Regan McTarnsey of The Associated Press via Yahoo News reports that actors, writers and lawmakers are stepping up and marking the 5th Anniversary of the Conflict in Darfur with a renewed calling out to the international community to end this atrocity. Actor Matt Damon was quoted as saying,

“After the genocide in Rwanda we all shook our heads and said ‘never again.’ Today, as killings mount in Darfur we need to make ‘never again’ a reality and demand protection for the most vulnerable.”

Author J.K. Rowling lent her signature not to another Harry Potter book, but to an open letter calling for more support to children affected by this dire situation. An excerpt from the letter reads,

“It is time to change the narrative. It is time to tell a different story. This April many children in Darfur will be reaching their fifth birthdays without ever having known peace. The world needs to wake up.”

For a press release as well as the full text of the letter check this link to the African Press Organization/Organisation de la Presse Africaine.

The sad thing is while the United States of America wages a war that never should have happened, and people get up in arms over China, this is happening right in front of our eyes, and we do nothing. This is a situation where diplomacy is trying to work, but cannot due to lack of real military efforts to calm the situation on the ground. The African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force is authorized to have 26,000 troops and police, but U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said only about 7,500 military personnel and 1,500 police officers were in Darfur on Jan. 31. The United Nations Security Council needs to step up and commit real forces to this effort otherwise nothing will come from the diplomatic efforts…Otherwise we will have another Rwanda, and the leaders of today can say on their speaking tours, “I regret not getting involved in Darfur…It was a huge mistake on my part…Never again!”

Letter to the Professor

This is a response letter I wrote to Associate Professor L. Ling-chi Wang of U.C. Berkeley. He teaches Asian American Studies. On April 9th, 2008 he wrote a commentary piece via CNN.com entitled, “Commentary: Bashing China is not the answer.” I wanted to comment directly to the website but the commentary was locked down for this particular article. That said, I really had something to say so I found the good professor and emailed him my commentary. You can see my letter to him below. Peace.

Dear Professor Wang,

I was reading your commentary piece, “Bashing China Is Not The Answer” that appeared on CNN.com April 9th, 2008, and had a few questions in response –

1) What do you say to the Chinese government about not engaging the Dalai Lama in peaceful talks when the Dalai Lama says he is willing and ready to have an open conversation with Chinese leadership?

2) How long do we wait before President Hu Jintao and his people learn how to run the nation of China with a more compassionate and fair rule of law?

3) Aren’t the Olympics the exact place to show a demonstration regarding disapproval of China’s actions? The history of the Olympics is entwined with politics and dissent. Why should these Olympics be shielded from that history?

Your comments are very insightful. I agree with you on many points. I don’t believe the U.S. Government should be condemning China when it has clearly broken international law by invading a sovereign nation, and continuing a war effort that is doing more harm than good. That said, who is supposed to call attention to what is happening in China? I read stories of jailed religious leaders, journalists, and other scholars who speak out against the Central Government. Doesn’t the Chinese Constitution protect these rights? Article 35 states – “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.” Also, immediately after that Article 36 states – “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief.” Correct me if I’m wrong on these points. Last time I checked the U.S. Government wasn’t throwing journalists and religious in jail for harshly criticizing the President and his administration.

You are right, we all have our problems. Every country has its ups and downs, but with an event like the Olympics so close to the stage don’t you think the Chinese Government should be living up to the motto of “One World One Dream” with a bit more benignness? What would happen if the Chinese Government actually spoke with a tone of love and appreciation for the diversity of its 1.3 billion person population? Even more, what would happen if they acted upon that speech? I gather it wouldn’t be having the problems its currently having. With 3,000 years of history does China still believe might is right? How much context and history do you need to understand that when 2 forces collide the results are not reassuring.

And lastly, I am always skeptical of the media. I try my best to get news from as many mediums as possible. That said, if the Chinese Government are restricting access to certain places in Tibet, what are journalists suppose to think? When the state controlled media of China preaches hatred towards the Dalai Lama, what are people suppose to believe? Doesn’t the government of China regulate the internet to some degree? Correct me if I’m wrong, as I had read and heard this from many-a-source. China isn’t doing itself any good by acting in such a fashion with regards to public and private media.

Once again, your comments are quite insightful. Thank you for the inspiration.

Sincerely,
Wayne Malcolm (An American in Japan)

Categories: Miscellaneous Debris

Where Are the NHL Playoffs?

With March Madness over and the NFL in limbo land America is in sports transition. We are transitioning to the most exciting time in U.S. sports – the beginning of the Major League Baseball season, the NBA Playoffs are almost here, and greatest of all the NHL Playoffs are here. All leagues play ridiculously long regular season schedules only to enter a second season when the playoffs start. Everything is a series, and in most cases the match-ups and battles are compelling. Check most major networks (ESPN, TNT, ABC, etc.) and you’ll find the MLB and NBA. Watch the Yankees spend more money on trying to win, and see the Spurs take the championship – again. But, the best post-season in U.S. sports goes unnoticed – the NHL Playoffs. Seeing a triple overtime game in the regular season is rare, but in the post-season it’s what you expect. Goalies show up for work everyday. The good regular-season goalies become great, and the great regular-season goalies become legendary. New stars appear out of nowhere, while the veterans show why they are still on the ice. This is easily my favorite sports post-season with March Madness, the NBA and the NFL tied for a close second.

That said, the only thing that gets me is the NHL hasn’t gotten a ‘real’ TV deal in quite some time. They flop around on the “Outdoor Whatever Network,” which is now called “Versus.” Highlights of this channel’s programming include “Bulls,” “World Extreme Cagefighting,” “Big Fish Madness,” “The Tour de France,” and of course the “NHL.” Interesting lineup. Versus has exclusive rights to show NHL games anytime from anywhere. Aside the few scattered games that appear on NBC, TSN, and CBC Versus is your channel for the best post-season competition in sports (in my humble opinion). You can see the entire NHL TV schedule right here.

A really cool sidenote to this is that Versus is showing all its games via streaming video. Not sure how the process of obtaining this access goes, but I know it is out there. One might have to mess around on the website. Versus knows how to reach me on the internet, but they can’t seem to get a game on ESPN/ABC…Go figure? Enjoy the hockey.

Peace

Categories: NHL, Sports Tags: , ,

If I Were President of China

This week’s rant is up and ready. Taking aim at China is always fun. While I support the common Chinese person, and his or her right to make a living, I take great issue with how the Chinese government handles disputes of any kind. With over 5,000 years of history and culture you’d think they would have figured out a better way to deal with sensitive matters both domestically and internationally. I’d love to have Hu Baby’s job. That said, here’s The Weekly Rant (click).