A World Star Dies

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Shinzo Abe, the longest serving Japanese prime minister, has died from a gunshot wound to the back.
He was giving a speech on behalf of his political party.
Abe had not been defeated at the polls but had resigned a few years ago for health reasons.
Still, he remained involved in politics.
A strong ally of the West, he had advocated for Japan having American nuclear weapons based on their soil as a deterrent to the menacing behaviors of China, Russia and North Korea.
It fills me with sadness to see a man of such stature die at the hands of a little man,
small in every respect, who didn’t even have the courage to face Mr Abe.
But guns let you do that.
They let men think they are bigger than they are, and so cover their flaws.
It happens everywhere.
Here in America, not a few days go by without another act of a man killing innocent people.
Shinzo Abe clearly understood the power of Japan as the world’s third largest economy,
and sought to use its prestige and influence wisely.
Today, the free world mourns his death.
His assassination will call for a review of Japanese security practices.
It makes no sense, for a man of such prestige and relevance, to go unprotected allowing the perpetrator to approach him calmly from the back.
The memory of Shinzo Abe will stand as a reminder of a politician’s pursuit of excellence,
a too often ignored objective.
He will inspire other courageous men and women, both in Japan and the rest of the world, to follow his example, to see the field of politics as a unique endeavor, one calling to those who wish to dedicate their lives to influencing the course of human events, which, when done well, necessitates enormous strength of character, to allow for the confronting of dissenting views and persevering in establishing a dialogue, forever in the hope, that it will helps us work together.
Shinzo Abe had such gifts and shared them freely.
Thank you Mr Abe.
And may Japan soon give the world more like you

Oscar Valdes, medium.com, anchor.fm, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts.

China. The Failed Project. Musk.

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In the early 1970’s, with the Nixon-Kissinger overture to China, we opened the doors for them to break out of their isolation and offer their markets.
Our interest was economical but political, too, for a friendlier China would help counter the then Soviet menace.
Money began to pour into China and, by virtue of their tenacity and industry, the nation now stands as an economic superpower.
We expected their political maturation to follow. It did not. And that has been the great disappointment for the West.
Whereas Japan, after fiercely fighting the West during WWII, turned around and rebuilt itself as both an economic superpower and a democracy, China instead avoided political growth and settled for remaining a dictatorship.
That has been their choice. The influence of Mao Ze Dong runs deep.
China’s economic rise has been fueled by enormous investment from the West. The Chinese have worked with and improved on it, so they deserve credit. But they also should acknowledge that they have stolen much intellectual property from the rest of the world.
Not only have they not acknowledged it, but to this day their efforts to steal more information are rampant, i.e., through cyberattacks.
When there is an imbalance between the political and economic development of a nation, or even of an individual, there is reason to worry.
And so it has come as no great surprise that China has chosen to side with Russia in their cruelty toward Ukrainians.
The Chinese have been doing the same thing with the Uyghurs in Xinjiang province. And they did it, too, with Hongkongers.
All that economic investment did not modify their political disposition to repress and brutalize.
The Chinese people have no freedom of speech and are constantly being monitored by the State, which is afraid of what freedom of thought can ignite.
I have no doubt, they want to spread their system to the rest of the world. If it’s working for us, why shouldn’t it work for others.
So what are western business interests in China to do about all this?
Do they ignore the political side of China and concentrate only on business?
They cannot. And they cannot because the profits from their businesses are helping support a repressive regime, a regime that is set on invading Taiwan and killing whoever stands in their way to accomplish their goal.
To the extent that western business interests in China continue to fuel their growth, to that extent they are accomplices in the rise of China’s military and their dreams of world conquest.

Enter Elon Musk, Tesla and Twitter.
Mr Musk has praised China. The Tesla factory in Shanghai is the company’s largest. China’s customers buy the greatest number of Tesla vehicles.
So far, China has been friendly to him. And why not? He’s a symbol of the businessman they want. Pliant. Someone who will applaud them, regardless of their political record. And, of course, the Chinese government will make some concessions. There has to be a bait.
The political record of a nation matters. If not today, then tomorrow. But it matters.
Mr Musk has now bought Twitter. From what I read, Twitter has gone to great lengths to stop access to their platforms by governments and extreme factions pushing their agenda. There is an Integrity Team at work in keeping the messaging clear of such meddling, including from bots.
Mr Musk talks of promoting free speech, anyone can say anything and if you have a better argument you will prevail in the end. But Twitter insiders, familiar with the subtlety of messaging, warn us of how crafty those pushing their agenda can be.
Judging by Musk’s record in China, I have no doubt that sooner or later, Chinese influencers will work their way into Twitter with whatever they wish to say.
‘No, there is no genocide in Xinjiang. We love Uyghurs. All those reports you have read are false.’ Alongside a photo of an Uyghur hugging and kissing an ethnic Chinese.
Little by little and before you know it, people will be saying, ‘well, if they committed genocide, maybe it was just a little. Not a lot’.
For all of Mr Musk’s talents, he will not control China’s influencers. Instead, they will control him. And he won’t even know it.
‘We want you to sell more Teslas in China. We love Tesla. Now here is something we need…”
And Mr Musk will say, ‘Only that?’
‘Only that,’ the Chinese official will reply, with a sly smile.
China’s record is clear. Standing in support of Russia in Ukraine makes it an accomplice.
To think that we can talk the Chinese government out of their style is madness.
It will be up to the Chinese people to revolt and affirm themselves. That is their developmental task as a nation.
As for us, we should start to pull out of China. We can do it. China isolated itself from the world for centuries. And the rest of the world still prospered.
Growing dependence on them is a bad idea.

Oscar Valdes oscarvaldes.net, medium.com, anchor.fm, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts

To Reopen or Not

We have to. And if we’re careful about it we can do it.

Careful will mean keeping that important distance at all times. And being mindful that a mask which does not have a good fit simply won’t be enough protection if you’re talking to someone infected, even if they’re asymptomatic.

It’s also good to keep in mind the notion of dose.

It is not the same thing to touch a surface that has been previously touched by someone with the virus – and then putting your hands in your mouth or nose or eye – than to have a conversation at close range with someone who has the symptoms or have someone infected breathe or sneeze on you. In the latter case you’re sure to catch the bug, in the former it’s less likely, and if you do, your body will have a better chance of fighting it.

Masks have a positive deterrent effect. Even when the fit around the face is loose and consequently allows a path for the bug to reach you.

Masks tell us that we’re mindful of the spread of the virus. I hadn’t been wearing them unless I had to speak to someone at less than 6 ft, but now I’ve started doing it.

It is also a courtesy to passersby.

Who knows, one might have an unexpected fit of cough or a sneeze just as one draws near another person, whether masked or not.

Will wearing a mask keep me from catching the bug from someone infected who doesn’t yet know it (because the illness is incubating), if I’m seated next to them during a 4 hour plane flight? I would rather not take the chance. And for that reason I’m unlikely to hop on a plane anytime soon if I can avoid it. Tough on the airlines, tourism, hotels.

Can we adhere to safety precautions and conduct business at the same time? Sure we can.

But it will require an arrangement that instituted the safety measures.

I can see stores doing it. And even restaurants, though capacity will have to be reduced. But it will be hard on cinemas. It will be a while for me to step back into one.

Bars? Never mind.

But I think the University of California system is overreacting when it called for online classes this Fall. Surely students can be trusted to follow safety guidelines.

And what about doctors’ offices? So many have been closed. People are not going to stop getting sick for other reasons. Why force that needless back log and burden emergency rooms?

Basic protective equipment is available.

People who are sick need to be provided with means to support themselves while staying at home unless they have to be hospitalized. Doing so keeps the rest of us safe.

China, now much maligned for not supposedly doing enough to warn us of the perils of corona, had created fever clinics, where anyone with a fever could go and get checked. No costs attached.

A good idea is a good idea, no matter where it comes from.

If people who became symptomatic knew they had a place to go to get checked and, if sick, would be cared for and their expenses covered while ill, then they would be more likely to step up and get tested.

Public transport? Wear a mask and hope for the best. It will definitely put you at greater risk.

Do we then wait for Corona to pass on? We can’t.

There’s too much at stake. The economy won’t handle it.

Jerome Powell, the Fed chair, spoke today about the road ahead. He was not optimistic. We are in an economic contraction and it will take time to recover, even with congress providing relief measures. Lots of jobs may not be coming back as the worksite adjusts to the new reality, i.e. working from home, for instance.

We can’t wait around for the vaccine, can we?

No. It will take too long.

But we can get back to work safely if we are careful and respectful of others.

And why not learn from the rest of the world?

As of today, there have been nearly 85 thousand deaths here in the US, whereas in Japan, with a population of 125 million, there have been 675. That’s right. Six hundred and seventy five. In South Korea, next door, there have been fewer than 300 deaths (population of nearly 52 million), so they’re comparable to Japan.

China, with a population of 1.4 billion, has had less than 4700 deaths, and their economy is already up and running.

Surely there’s no harm in asking what they’ve done right and learning from it, is there?

Eating a little humble pie is in order.

One spoonful at a time.

Savoring it. Mmmm, yes.

Good for longevity too.

And we’ll be making America Great Again.

So What Are They Doing in Japan?

As of today, they have had 6701 cases with only 101 deaths. Unbelievable.

They are next to South Korea which got hit big.

Is it their custom of not shaking hands but bowing instead when they greet? Or their washing of hands often?

A country with a population of 126 million is showing a stunningly small incidence of infections and deaths.

I hear little in the news about this remarkable difference.

They’re doing something the rest of us have not.

Or were they wise to implement safeguards as the infection spread from China?

We all could use more information from their experience, and if too late for this edition of the virus, certainly to prepare for the next one.

Japanese authorities, please don’t be shy and let the world know.