Thursday, 29 July 2010

Hypocrisy....sadly, it's everywhere.

I am not a supporter of capital punishment. My basis for this is that no matter how removed you are from the process it is still a form of murder: deliberate, state-sanctioned murder.

Law enforcement and armed conflict pose similar philosophical questions as they are state-sanctioned but the circumstances are vastly and clearly different. Capital punishment is usually a drawn-out argument seeking permission to methodically end someone's life.

Now, coming to the reason why I am writing about the always controversial topic of capital punishment.... it is reported today that the Justice Minister of Japan signed off on two hangings (yes, Japan still hangs people). Until yesterday she was seen as another Justice Minister that would hold off on signing for the executions of convicted felons as had been done in the early 1990's. It is therefore very difficult to understand why the current minister, who is publicly oppossed to the death penalty, would authorise not one, but two executions in the closing days of her ministerial career. The actions of Keiko Chiba make no logical sense to me.

Lastly, a few more links on the above topic:
1. "Five myths about the death penalty" by David Garland...quite an eye-opener to find out France used the guillotine until 1977 (although thankfully not in the middle of a square a la Reign of Terror).
2. "More than reasonable doubt about death penalty"by former New York State Police investigator Terrence P. Dwyer. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, 26 July 2010

Which is the bigger worry...?

Living in Japan I live with the ever-present threats of earthquakes, overcrowded trains, Gozilla...and perennial favourite: North Korea

Looking at the Australian election campaign, you'd think immigrants were the new undesirables. Considering both Gillard and Abbott were born overseas, it makes you wonder what really goes on inside their heads at times...

The above crikey blog pretty much hits the spot, except that I disagree with the insinuation that international students rorted the system in obtaining permanent residency. That option was not illegal and the fact that so many shoddy "educational institutions" popped up actually points the finger of blame at the bureaucracy that allowed those institutions to be registered. It makes me wonder if our political leaders actually take note of what goes on around the world, Indian students are already looking past Australia as an option and the US looks like it is gearing up to increase international student numbers. Can Australia compete against an America in full marketing mode?

I would think it is common sense that when workers are in short supply as stated by bodies such as the Business Council of Australia and WA's Chamber of Commerce, that the prospect of allowing international students take up permanent residency to live and work in Australia would be ideal. These students have shown an interest in Australia, committed themselves financially to pay for their education, and spent considerable time in the community. If they want to stay it most likely means they like the damn place!

Image credit: Arvind Balaraman / Sphere: Related Content

Heat wave in Japan

If you are in Japan right about now you will know how excruciatingly hot it has been for the last week or more (depending on the region of Japan that you find yourself in, it may be longer). What is truly shocking is the number of people that have succumbed to heat exhaustion and heatstroke in the last few days.

Listing all the news reports can be a little time-consuming, but to get the picture: this report from Thursday 22 July and this one from Monday 26 July give a rough idea of how each day has developed.

Slightly related to the above...there are a few individuals who I know here in Japan that sleep with their windows closed and their aircons switched off. I understand switching the aircon off as I am not a big fan of leaving it on overnight; though there are some instances when it is essential. But closing all windows in what are usually tiny Japanese apartments/houses is asking for a not so pleasant and restless night, at least in my opinion.

MedlinePlus tends to have a thorough database on many topics and while it is written for American audiences (degrees Fahrenheit and 911 Emergency Numbers...), it has concise yet detailed information about heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Here's wishing everyone stays cool during the Northern Summer (and warm during the Southern Winter).

Image credit: dan / Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Sadly, not unexpected...or unprecedented

We all remember that fiery politician in 1996 who railed against immigration and for better or worse captured the nation's attention....has she gone to the UK yet? Anyway, she started off as a Liberal candidate....and then was disendorsed before the election but elected because the paperwork was filed after the ballots had been printed. Ah, technicalities.

Now we have another Liberal candidate saying silly things....makes me wonder what kind of people make up the rank and file of that party. Disappointing, yes. Unexpected, no...and I wonder how many more Liberal (or non-Liberal, just to be fair) candidates think the same way.

I know most of our politicians prefer to play politics, but they should start getting on with their job. Infrastructure problems are not limited to western Sydney but the state government there has apparently done its best to outperform in the playing politics stakes. Maybe we should borrow from our American friends and vote the incumbents out. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, 23 July 2010

Crying wolf...

Crying wolf...we all know the story. It's rather disappointing to see that asylum seekers continue to be used as a political bonfire by both major parties in Australia. Tony Abbott wants to be seen taking a strong stance while Julia Gillard is not really doing anything productive, in my opinion.

Border control is important for all the obvious reasons, but why do our politicians forget that refugees and asylum seekers are risking their lives because they find themselves in countries that have not signed the Refugees Convention.

In 2009, Australia has a very small number of refugees within its borders, compared to other countries with a similar population: Total Refugee population by country of asylum, 1960-2009.

Syria..............1 054 466 (that's right, over 1 million!)
Venezuela........201 313
Nepal...............108 461
Cameroon.........99 957
Netherlands......76 008
Malaysia............66 137
Australia............22 548

Taking a look at GDP per capita (PPP), we have the following:

#22 Netherlands..US$ 39,200
#23 Australia.........US$ 38,800
#86 Venezuela......US$ 13,100
#77 Malaysia.........US$ 14,800
#146 Syria..............US$ 4,600
#180 Cameroon....US$ 2,300
#207 Nepal.............US$ 1,200

Clearly we are much better placed than other countries to care for people who are genuinely seeking refuge.

The lack of infrastructure to handle population increases should be blamed on the people that are actually responsible for creating that mess: our politicians.

Let's bring an extinguisher to this political bonfire.

Image credit: renjith krishnan / Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, 22 July 2010

How is this surprising?

So, seeing how the 2010 Australian Federal Election campaign is in full swing...I guess for my first post on this blog, this is appropriate.

A "surprising" preference deal between Labor and the Greens (really?)....the less we rely on those silly how-to-vote cards, the less power that faceless party powerbrokers have over elections. I remember one time when I refused to accept a how-to-vote card from a Liberal supporter and he scoffed at me....umm, nice way to get me to vote for you. Just because I don't take the card doesn't mean I don't support the party, it just means I will make my own choice - which I did.

Been a little busy recently but looking forward to the circus that will be the next few weeks.

Image credit: Suat Eman / Sphere: Related Content