Monday 29 February 2016

Alcohol & Caffeine (Overcoming Cultural Assumptions)

My (controversial) views on alcohol & caffeine (on Youtube). A question of challenging our cultural assumptions.

The Indigenous Question on Soviet Sakhalin

(Eisel Mazard, 2016, all rights reserved, etc.)
 In reading the history of Sakhalin in the Soviet period, there is nothing more striking than how closely every stage is tied to the same themes and incidents as the "central" Russian political narrative: despite the geographical remoteness of the island, it is stunning to see how politically centralized it was from about 1925 forward.  Almost every twist and turn closely resembles what we read in a standard textbook (such as Kenez, 2006) focused on the "core" Slavic areas: the N.E.P., the first 5 year plan, collectivization, anti-kulak campaigns, endless purges of local party leadership, and so on --with the periphery following the same patterns as the core to an astonishing extent (down to the details of denunciations, interrogations, etc.).  On the outermost edge of the empire, we seem to be examining a more intense and detailed portrait of the same society, rather than a distinctive, different and separate one, despite the unique geographic-and-cultural position of the island (on the brink of Russian, Chinese and Japanese empires, i.e., a place, historically, claimed by all three at different times).  Nevertheless, we know that we can search out the unique historical experience of the indigenous peoples of Sakhalin somewhere in this political history, and that we must be able to trace out some kind of logic behind the local manifestation of Moscow's policies.  Terry Martin's 2001 book, The Affirmative Action Empire sets out a new paradigm for the analysis of ethnic-minority policy, and he applied it to many examples within the U.S.S.R.'s sphere-of-influence (especially the Ukrainians); however, he did not apply it to Sakhalin Island.  Could this new set of ideas make sense out of the violent (and somewhat self-contradictory) history of Soviet Sakhalin?

Monday 22 February 2016

Any Idiot Can Go Vegan (That's Good News)

On Youtube:

Permanent Miracle: Japanese Unemployment Statistics and their Implications.

Does Japan have lower rates of unemployment than western (industrialized) societies?  If so, do we understand why?  Many sources (as shown in the pages that follow) claim that Japan does not have a fundamental advantage in this area, but should instead be regarded as having misleading statistics; some sources dismiss the whole question by vaguely suggesting that cultural factors account for the difference, and others simply avoid mentioning it at all.  This paper addresses the epistemological problem of recognizing Japan's advantage in sustaining low unemployment, even during times of economic crisis: my proposition is that it has become politically inconvenient to admit that Japan does, indeed, have a profound advantage over western economies in this area, and the difficulty in admitting it has resulted in a difficulty in researching it.

The following quotation from Itoh Makoto is the point-of-departure for our inquiry:
Although Japanese unemployment also increased from 1.3 per cent (0.7 million) in 1973 to 1.9 per cent (1.0 million) in 1975, it was still quite low in comparison with other advanced countries.  There are at least three reasons for this.  First, Japanese firms maintained their lifetime employment policy […]. Second, the official definition of unemployment is very narrow in Japan, and for the figure to be comparable with other advanced capitalist countries it should be at least doubled. (Itoh, 2000, p. 11)
We should pay attention to the way in which Japan's low unemployment is introduced here, and what motivates the author's statistical claim: it appears as a sort of concession (an inconvenient fact), as Itoh is in the process of describing the economic situation in the 1970s as a terrible crisis.  The numbers contradict this characterization: unemployment barely rose to 2% in the 1970s, (Blumenthal, 1987, p. 70) but Itoh is proceeding to dismiss the significance of this statistic, rather than re-evaluate his claim.  In the latter half of the quotation, the suggestion that the Japanese statistic is phony allows it to be disregarded, both in construing a particular period of time to be a crisis, and in evaluating the Japanese "economic miracle" as a whole.  The statistical claim that Japan's unemployment figures are wildly inaccurate (and could at least be doubled, etc.) will be directly refuted in §2, below; however, the ideological function of the claim is more important than the claim itself.