Thursday, June 30, 2011

nuclear gypsies

Thursday, June 23, 2011

los indignados

Al Jazeera English, People & Power

And also see: The Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, The Rise of the Indignant: Spain, Greece, Europe

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Al Jazeera English on Fukushima

Al Jazeera English, June 18, 2011 "UN nuclear report shows Japan safety flaws" reports about the IAEA's assessment updated on June 2. "Japan safety flaws" refers to that those nuclear facilities were not prepared for tsunamis. Here's a catch: IAEA never examines whether the earthquake (not the tsunami) affected the plant. It is because if it is true that the earthquake affected the plant, all the nuclear facilities in Japan are essentially unsafe (actually conscientious academics and engineers subscribe to this view). This may sound ridiculous since there is no such a thing as an absolutely safe machine, but the authorities think that way.

But Al Jazeera's other article titled "Fukushima: It's much worse than you think," written by Dahl Jamail shows a grimmer (rightly so) picture.

Dr Shoji Sawada is a theoretical particle physicist and Professor Emeritus at Nagoya University in Japan.

He is concerned about the types of nuclear plants in his country, and the fact that most of them are of US design.

"Most of the reactors in Japan were designed by US companies who did not care for the effects of earthquakes," Dr Sawada told Al Jazeera. "I think this problem applies to all nuclear power stations across Japan."

Using nuclear power to produce electricity in Japan is a product of the nuclear policy of the US, something Dr Sawada feels is also a large component of the problem.

"Most of the Japanese scientists at that time, the mid-1950s, considered that the technology of nuclear energy was under development or not established enough, and that it was too early to be put to practical use," he explained. "The Japan Scientists Council recommended the Japanese government not use this technology yet, but the government accepted to use enriched uranium to fuel nuclear power stations, and was thus subjected to US government policy."

Actually this article focuses more on how the US is reacting to the Fukushima disaster. It introduces physician Janette Sherman MD and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano's essay "shedding light on a 35 per cent spike in infant mortality in northwest cities that occurred after the Fukushima meltdown, and may well be the result of fallout from the stricken nuclear plant." Jamail's article questions why the US government doesn't take the contamination caused by the Fukushima accident more seriously.

A supplement: not only those old reactors, but also the newest ones are not safe. A big aftershock in April crippled the emergency power generators at the Higashidori facility--the newest nuclear power plant in Japan, and it was not caused by a tsunami, but an earthquake.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Kenji Higuchi Lecture "The Truth of the Fukushima 50"

Kenji Higuchi, a photo journalist who has investigated nuclear power plant workers for 40 years, gave a lecture on May 3, 2011 at the All Freeter's Union office in Tokyo. The transcription is now available in English (translated by myself, revised by Adrienne Hurley).

Please note that the repressive hierarchy of the industry as well as social discrimination has long made nuclear power plants possible. This is what I have long investigated for decades. I have been researching the nuclear plant workers for 38 years, believing that we must oppose this cruel structure.

At the top of the hierarchy there are those electric power companies, and then those manufacturers, such as Mitsui, Mitsubishi, and Hitachi. Those are establishments, hiring excellent students from the University of Tokyo — that is why I strongly argue that this university must be demolished. And then, there are those subcontractors, subcontractors of subcontractors, and so on, and those private agencies that recruit temporary workers. The mass media call those subcontractors and private agencies “cooperative companies.” That is a euphemism. Those private agencies are akin to human traffickers. Even calling them middlemen is charitable.

Read more of this.

And also I'd like to thank the filmmakers Julia Leser and Clarissa Seidel for the providing the materials for this translation. I'd like to ask you readers to see the trailer of RADIOACTIVISTS - Protest in Japan since Fukushima and donate.

a graduation lecture

kinda like it.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Sunday, June 12, 2011

this is what happens...

...everywhere. The footage is from the UK.

Thanks to Infinite ThOught.

See Defend The Right To Protest.

Friday, June 10, 2011

it's been 3 months

What can I say?

Revisiting “The Universal Reach of Popular Uprisings,” an Alain Badiou’s short writing on revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, which originally appeared in Le Monde, February 18, 2011, I’m thinking what I should write about tomorrow’s anti- (or, de-) nuclear power protests -there will be many of them. I’m certainly excited and many people here appear to be so. Especially in Tokyo, tens of thousands will march.

Of course there are many differences between those Arab revolutions and the anti-nuclear movement in Japan. Holding demonstrations is to begin with illegal in those Arab countries and there the authorities even use snipers to oppress the protesters. There people railed against the law, and when too many of them violated the law, they lost fear. In Japan, those protesters are surprisingly law-abiding. Though the Japanese police does many nasty things to the protesters, so far there has been no teargassing or water cannoning (though the riot police’s water cannon vehicle was once unsuccessfully used to cool down the crippled reactors at Fukushima facility) since the Fukushima accident occurred. And so far the protesters have never tried to squat in one of those facilities, the government buildings, and the broadcasters. The students have never tried to occupy their institutes, demanding, for example, that those universities and institutes sack those professors who serve the authorities.

On the other hand, what I can discern in the protests in both places is a gulf between the states and the nations: the state serves multinational corporations and exploits the nation. That’s why those gathered in Tahrir Square(s) carried their national flags. And also I’ve found a few Japanese nationalists supporting tomorrow’s actions. - I’m not a political scientist, so I’m not so sure if I’m using those terms correctly - as long as the state apparatus is useful for plutocrats, the concept of nation keep being useful for people (or multitude keeps mimicking to form a nation).

The protesters’ political affiliation varies, and the outcome is unpredictable in both places. In Japan, intellectuals appear to be positive about the ongoing anti-nuke movement because it is not led by a certain “ideology.” I note that in Japan when they utter “ideology,” this term mostly refers to Marxism. And then I wonder how to translate this Japanese-English term “ideology” into English. In my view, those intellectuals are rather Fukuyamaists. Using “ideology” as a euphemism for Marxism is an ideology in historical sense. Having said that, at this moment I’m positive about the movement, not because it is free from Marxism, but because of its unpredictability.

Time flies. It has already passed 3 months since the earthquake. Now I remember what I felt when the accident occurred. Immediately after the first explosion, the government and TEPCO announced that they would implement rotation blackout. Many Japanese people criticize this, saying that the authorities tried to defend the nuclear policy and to make people accept the idea that the nuclear power plants were necessary in order to supply enough electricity. They are probably right. But I had another interpretation: I thought that the rotation blackout was a curfew in guise, and the government tried to be prepared for a situation that people ran away to western part of Japan en mass, or riot against the authorities. Cops were everywhere. I guessed that if such things really happened, the government would have suspended operations of all the public transportation and shut down the highways and communication lines, including the Internet -this was the worst case scenario I imagined (I also imagined “Bahrain option,” meaning a U.S. military intervention), and then I shut the windows of my room (it would reduce dose of radiation exposure) and kept zapping the Internet, hoping that the Internet would keep alive. I didn’t panic, but anyway I imagined things.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

not a bad way of aging

Brigitte Fontaine Prohibition

Saturday, June 4, 2011

o, be some other name!

I'm going to dwell on the way Japanese people-especially the media and the government- name things. I sometimes suspect that many Japanese unconsciously believe the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis that language determines thought and perception, or even that those who have faith in the hypothesis are called authentic Japanese. I'm joking. But, I'm a bit tired of that any debate here in the media only revolts around interpretation of an event, and appears not to reach the event itself.

Of course, in every country, the authorities try to let the people follow a certain version of interpretation, and also to limit what the people can see. And those who oppose to the authorities bring up another story. Especially in those countries including Japan, which claim to be a 'free country,' a battle revolving around interpretation of an event always takes place.

My complaint is that explaining what's going on in Japan to English speakers by translating what the Japanese media say often entails adding rather silly footnotes.

For example, I have to add that the term 'meltdown' became a kind of a Japanese word during the 1970s or 1980s and ordinary Japanese people, who are not scientists, associate this word with a catastrophic event. Last month the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) finally started to use this word. Until then, it had used roshin-yoyu (炉心溶融), which refers to that the core of the reactor has melted. What's the difference??? In March, when the government and TEPCO announced that the roshin-yoyu occurred, the world media already used 'meltdown,' or, some of them used 'partial meltdown,' or 'partially melted,' trying to be precise. The thing is, in March TEPCO estimated that the core partially melted, and then now it estimates that the core already entirely melted immediately after the coolant system was broken. (Note that no one can see inside the reactor anyway.) I certainly criticize that the government and TEPCO always downplay the accident and its consequences. But I also feel that it is rather silly that the Japanese media too much focus on the word.

When the units at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant exploded, TEPCO and the government did not call those explosions explosions. An explosion can be translated into Japanese as bakuhatsu (爆発), but they called those bakuhatsu-teki-jisho (爆発的事象), and I pondered how to translate this into English. A jisho(事象) can refer to an event or a phenomenon -in short, they said that "something like an explosion occurred." But, we saw this anyway.

By any other name would smell as an explosion. An explosion can be either serious or not. There are useful explosions as well as harmful ones. Watching the images of those explosions of the reactors and hearing 'something like an explosion' at the same time, I felt that it was rather surrealistic.

The 2008 financial crisis was called 'Lehman shock' by the Japanese media. And I disliked this name because that Lehman Brothers went belly up was just a part of the symptoms of the financial institutions. That time many ordinary Japanese people who had no idea what Lehman Brothers was suddenly started talking about this investment bank, and that was rather strange for me. Even calling it a financial crisis was not really right, because it focused only on the financial sector. It should have been called an economic crisis, regarding that many people lost jobs, pensions, and home. In fact the governments only tried to save the financial sector, but not the people. I once pointed out at a translation class that majority of the world media didn't call it 'Lehman shock,' but the instructor didn't try to discuss this. It was just a name.

Slavoj Žižek has recently talked about a World War II anecdote-Germans sent a message to Austrians: "The situation is serious, but not catastrophic." Austrians responded: "The situation is catastrophic, but not serious." Being in Japan, these days I hear a lot of "the situation is catastrophic, but not serious."

Well, just random notes...