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March 23, 2011

Comments

A discussion on sending aid to Japan should really take into account the greater debate about aid in general, and the problems of aid/development, as highlighted by the aid/development community. I strongly, strongly encourage anyone who wants to donate aid, to read these sources first.

http://aidwatchers.com/2011/03/does-japan-need-your-donation/

https://lavidaidloca.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/the-asterisk-is-everything/

1. Aid in non-cash form is less useful, because it is less liquid. Japanese don't need t-shirts.

2. cash donations should be given without strings, so that aid organizations do not have to waste money where money is not needed. Japan isn't the only disaster in town.

If you're going to quote Salmon, it might also help to quote his later piece as well. There, he points out that the Japanese Red Cross has said repeatedly that it does not want or need outside assistance. I think that puts a different spin on his comments.

the aid that Japan receives is a way that we weave a network of countries and peoples. In Libya, we see when that network, and the ability to communicate on a national level, collapses. In Japan, we have an opportunity to reinforce that network.

I think this analysis is...bizarre, especially in relation to Salmon's comments. His point was that most of the organizations fundraising for Japan had zero presence there and at best could do nothing but eventually send money. They could not send people because they don't generally have people who are useful and/or fluent in Japanese. Note that many reputable charities like Doctors without Borders refused to use the disaster in Japan as a fundraising advertisement. The end result is that the average person giving money to a less reputable charity which is advertising with horrific images of destruction in Japan is very unlikely to be financing the trips of non-Japanese to help the afflicted and build cultural ties. They're not going to be "weaving a network" at all. Instead, they'll just send cash, cash which Japan can (and will) easily print for itself.

Of course, if legitimate aid organizations like the Japanese Red Cross were refusing donations, one wonders where exactly donated funds will go. Hopefully they will not end up in the hands of Japanese crime syndicates, but given how powerful such organizations are, who can say for certain? Especially given organized crime's traditional association with concrete and the construction industry. It would be ironic if American donations were used to support the vast network of criminal activity for years to come.

Foreign aid also brings foreign ideas and foreign outlooks.

Japan is not some isolated hermit kingdom like North Korea. It is already deeply embedded in the global economy. So I don't see how this can help. I knew white guys in Japan who made a good bit of money pretending to be ministers and marrying couples who were desperate to have a storybook Disney wedding which required a white American "minister". Japanese society has met global civilization and has taken what it liked and ignored what it didn't care for. Thus, white ministers and storybook weddings? Taken. The idea that Koreans are human beings rather than vermin? Eh, not so much.

I am positive that Japan will learn something from the foreigners who come with the aid and this third opening could not simply be to the benefit of the Japanese people, but to the wider world.

This prediction doesn't make sense to me. We know that when people are forced to consider their own mortality, they become more conservative. They become less open to new ideas, more hostile to foreigners, etc. I imagine that given the devastation, there are a lot of people in Japan who are considering their own death right now and who will be doing a lot more considering for many months.

D,
Thanks, that's an important point and one I hope will open up a discussion. In a sense, the questions about donating mirror the questions raised when Tea Party activists demonstrate to demand small government because they don't want money they see as their own being spent. While I understand the reasoning about donating cash without strings, there are two problems with that. First, is that people donate money because they want to see a particular outcome. While I understand that an organization like the American Red Cross might collect 47 million yet only send 10 million (though perhaps more will be sent), I also understand how someone might be upset that money they donated in response to the Japanese earthquake is used for reasons that might be perfectly logical to the Red Cross, but not to those who donate. That's why the Charity Navigator is such an interesting tool, but they have their own model, which is to be able to promulgate their ratings in order to reward charities which correspond to their metrics.

Turb, I think there are several points that you are trying to make, but they are all made as general points rather than as ones that relate to this particular disaster and this culture.

To try and unpack them, you point to Salmon's followup article, but reading it, I don't see anything where he is changing his mind or disavowing his position. In fact, he has a third followup that is essentially 'I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings'. While I think there is a place for those kinds of posts, I don't think Salmon has reflected on why his post is shallow and poorly thought out. Rather than suggest that the money that one wants to donate to help Japanese might be better spent on improving the infrastructure of charitable giving and consider the donation a way of replenishing the organizations that have responded, he makes the flat statement that Japan doesn't need your money. He bemoans the fact that his facebook link puts his point so baldly, but then goes on to argue that 'sugar-coating and euphemism are invidious: if you’ve got something you want to say, you should just come out and say it.' That is the 24 hour media creed and it tends to swamp nuance and thoughtful reflection.

I am also assuming that you agree with him. This is a bit surprising, because you are now taking the Japanese Red Cross as the arbiter of what Japan needs. The Japanese Red Cross and the international network of Red Cross and Red Crescent represent a model of aid and assistance that tries to be maximally compliant with the national government. This is one model of aid, but I hope you agree that it is not the only model and that sometimes, an aid organization might have to take positions that are opposed to the government's position.

But more than that, sometimes, a person, a town, a nation, doesn't know precisely what it needs. There are any number of texts and accounts that note that Japanese have problems thinking outside of the box. Foreign aid brings that kind of thinking. Sometimes, it can be totally unrealistic, and not responsive to the local culture. But other times, it can provide something that is vitally needed, but never recognized. As a teacher and a parent, I've been quite conscious of the challenges of the children who have survived. In a previous comment, I quoted this, and I will put it here again

My wife (a clinical psychologist) went to the local refugee centre yesterday to assess the need for care there, and has gone back today to set up a play therapy area for the children who survived the tsunami but have no home to go back to. A lot of these children are showing the early symptoms of PTSD. They are children who spent the night or two after the tsunami on a pedestrian bridge, the second floor of a high-rise or an apartment, saw corpses floating by, have lost family, or are in the centre but their parents have to go to work (who restores the life-lines and cleans up the mess, or serves customers trying to buy life essentials?), or their parents have lost both their homes and their place of work and are traumatised. It is now a week since the disaster (I think - I myself have lost all track of time), and the deadline for saving the children from prolonged PTSD is said to be 1 week. In other refugee centres, the children are probably left to their own resources, as only the most basic of emergency services is functioning in the more outlying areas, and people are more concerned about things like getting food, medicine, fuel etc rather than non-visible damage.

I mentioned Shelterbox, and I think that people should consider their donation not simply 'I want to help those Japanese', but 'I want to help these organizations be prepared for the next disaster'. I also linked to Doctors without Borders, precisely because they have a team on the ground there, so invoking them when I cite them in the post suggests that you didn't read this post very carefully.

I also think that people, in investigating the needs and the possibilities for donation, will gain knowledge in the things that are needed. I have mentioned how the tsunami warning system saved countless thousands, which I hope would make comments like Jindal's about the waste of volcano monitoring obvious in their stupidity.

Japan is a remarkably rich nation, and while it was often listed as the world's biggest donor nation, that aid was often tightly tied to foreign policy and there was very little that was devoted to the kind of aid that Japan is now in a position to receive. In fact, I suspect (though, given current events, it is hard to find it in Google) some of this aid was to countries like India to help them build nuclear reactors. But as a resident of Japan for whom Japanese citizenship is an increasingly large possibility, I would hope that foreign aid could help the Japanese to see how they may help other nations in the future.

As for your invocation of Japanese criminal gangs, this is a reason why looking at new channels of aid is important. If you feel that the possibility that any money you donate might help Japanese organized crime in some way, I'm not sure what I can tell you and at any rate, I'm not telling you or anyone else to donate, I am trying to outline options for those who donate. In fact, the Japanese NPO law, which came into effect about 10 years ago, took quite a bit of time to draft because they wanted to ensure that organized crime could not use NPOs as front organizations. If you are concerned about a particular NPO, please contact me off list and I would be happy to try and find information.

As far as your dismissal of network creation, I disagree. You seem to think that network creation is simply sending non-Japanese over to Japan. This is a remarkably narrow notion of what constitutes a network. For this blog, I've never met anyone who writes here, yet I think it constitutes an amazingly resilient network. Salmon's (and I assume your) assertion that Japan doesn't need aid seems to be based on a notion that they are rich enough and can print more money. If you want to make the argument that people shouldn't donate to help Japan in some way (or perhaps donate to replenish the capital of organizations that are working in Japan), perhaps you could provide your own metric for what people should or should not donate to.

You add to it the notion that Japanese problems with racial categories means that they should be ineligible for your (and by extension, anyone else's) largesse. While that doesn't surprise me, I will assume that others may not feel the same as you. As far as I can tell, no country is free of fantasies and dreams about what life in other countries is like. That Japanese couples, enchanted with the notion of a wedding based on romance (even now, a portion of marriages are 'arranged' marriages. In fact, it has been asserted that for many arranged marriages, the couple tends to downplay the arranged aspect as a formality, so that the portion may be higher than reported) but I tend to think that a couple wants a memorable event that illustrates their 'international-ness' is a good sign, but I suppose I am not as high-minded as you.

Finally, your argument about people considering their mortality become much more conservative links to a wikipedia page that begins it is a theory 'stating that all human behavior, of individuals and large groups, is motivated by the fear of mortality", a remarkably broad assertion. While reflecting about mortality may make one more conservative (though I find I have more regrets about what I didn't do rather than a worry about things that I realize were not so important in hindsight), it also puts into perspective what is important. That may support a conservative point of view or it may support a liberal point of view depending on what we are talking about, so I think you are confused about what you want to say when you say 'conservative'. But again, if you are resisting donating because you feel that it will just make the Japanese more conservative, that is certainly your call, but it suggests that you are interested more in making an argument than in exploring the question.

Don't overlook effective religious aid organizations, such as UMCOR and Samaritan's Purse. A convenient list of reputable charities who are helping Japan is on the watchdog site Charity Navigator. And my hat's off to Team Rubicon, for declining to deploy to Japan. They deliver rapid first-response disaster relief to dangerous, isolated areas, of which Japan is neither.

As for opening up to foreign influences, Japan's culture is a pastiche of foreign influences & has been for hundreds of years. Alert, watchful people that they are, they will no doubt take note of the qualities of those nations who were willing & able to help them in this crisis.

Salmon is not the only person saying this. See also http://blog.givewell.org/ and http://goodintents.org/blog who have a more nuanced take on the subject.

I don't see anything where he is changing his mind or disavowing his position.

That's because he's not. I never claimed that he was, so I don't see why you'd be looking for that.

I don't think Salmon has reflected on why his post is shallow and poorly thought out.

I haven't seen anyone, you included, make a good case that his post was shallow and poorly thought out. Given the absence of such arguments, one can hardly blame him. Can you make such a case? Or point to someone else who has?

Rather than suggest that the money that one wants to donate to help Japanese might be better spent on improving the infrastructure of charitable giving and consider the donation a way of replenishing the organizations that have responded, he makes the flat statement that Japan doesn't need your money.

Actually, he does both. Salmon has been writing about the importance of making unrestricted donations to charities for years.

I am also assuming that you agree with him.

I'm not sure if I agree with him completely. I do think that he raises some good points that I have not yet seen refuted.

This is a bit surprising, because you are now taking the Japanese Red Cross as the arbiter of what Japan needs. The Japanese Red Cross and the international network of Red Cross and Red Crescent represent a model of aid and assistance that tries to be maximally compliant with the national government. This is one model of aid, but I hope you agree that it is not the only model and that sometimes, an aid organization might have to take positions that are opposed to the government's position.

Whoah...are you saying this is one of those times? I mean, which issues do you think charitable organizations should be fighting the government over?

I am familiar with this critique of the Red Cross organizations, but usually in the context of states that are, say, engaging in war crimes or genocide. I don't think that the government of Japan is doing that. So while I understand your point in theory, I don't see how it applies in this case.


But more than that, sometimes, a person, a town, a nation, doesn't know precisely what it needs.

My experience has been that in such cases, having random ignorant outsiders give stuff is rarely useful. If you don't know what you need, the odds that other people who know nothing about you will know are quite low. Plus, when you give people stuff they don't think they need, they will often not use it.

I also think that people, in investigating the needs and the possibilities for donation, will gain knowledge in the things that are needed. I have mentioned how the tsunami warning system saved countless thousands, which I hope would make comments like Jindal's about the waste of volcano monitoring obvious in their stupidity.

This would be nice if it were true but I have yet to see any evidence that it is true.

As for your invocation of Japanese criminal gangs, this is a reason why looking at new channels of aid is important.

I don't understand your point here at all. New organizations by definition probably don't have feet on the ground, which means that they are more susceptible to illicit influences when they try to help.

As far as your dismissal of network creation, I disagree. You seem to think that network creation is simply sending non-Japanese over to Japan.

In the context of making donations to charitable organizations, I don't see what else could be involved. Perhaps you can explain?

You add to it the notion that Japanese problems with racial categories means that they should be ineligible for your (and by extension, anyone else's) largesse.

Um, no. That is just a complete lie. Please refrain from fabricating beliefs and attributing them to me.

I mentioned the Japanese issues with Koreans to make the point that despite incredible economic and cultural integration, Japanese culture has not really adopted some universal norms (i.e., that Koreans are people). That suggests to me that there are limits to cultural change caused by exposure to outside cultures. Which is a point that you don't seem to acknowledge.

I tend to think that a couple wants a memorable event that illustrates their 'international-ness' is a good sign, but I suppose I am not as high-minded as you.

Again, you are reading criticism where I neither wrote nor implied any. I don't really care about what sorts of weddings Japanese people want to have; it is not any of my business. My point though is that the high value placed on this particular imported cultural artifact indicates that Japan is already very open to foreign ideas and foreign influences and has no problem lapping them up in some cases. Which means that your point about foreign aid bringing foreign ideas and outlooks doesn't really go anywhere: a lack of foreign ideas and outlooks isn't a problem that Japan has right now.

But again, if you are resisting donating because you feel that it will just make the Japanese more conservative, that is certainly your call, but it suggests that you are interested more in making an argument than in exploring the question.

LJ, please reread my comment again. I am not resisting donation because I feel it will make the Japanese more conservative. I don't think my or any donation can do that. That portion of my comment was very clearly focused on your statement that this disaster will cause Japan to become more open. You can tell that because I quoted your comment where you wrote: I am positive that Japan will learn something from the foreigners who come with the aid and this third opening could not simply be to the benefit of the Japanese people, but to the wider world. As you can see, donations have nothing to do with it.

I see a problem with the arguments on the general line of "other people need help more, so you should donate there instead."

Here, it makes the assumption that, if someone doesn't donate to the Japanese relief efforts, they will donate that same money elsewhere. But is there any evidence that the total amount of donations for a given individual is fixed, and that if they do not donate to one cause they will therefore donate that same amount to another? Somehow, I doubt it. I suspect that donations in a case like this are in addition to whatever charitable donations an individual might otherwise make.

This is, if you think about it, similar to the arguments that "we should not be involved in Libya, because there are better ways to spend money, such as combating malaria." Not to take sides, at this point, on the virtues or lack thereof of our actions in Libya. And not to argue that more spending on addressing malaria would be a bad thing. But is there any reason to believe that, absent our actions in Libya, we would therefore start spending similar amounts of money on other things (like dealing with malaria)? I sure don't see it.

Does someone have actual data on whether spending, by nations or by individuals, is fixed and merely gets shifted around? Or is spending (for those above subsistence levels) on special cases more often a matter of reducing savings (or running up debt, if you prefer)?

Here, it makes the assumption that, if someone doesn't donate to the Japanese relief efforts, they will donate that same money elsewhere. But is there any evidence that the total amount of donations for a given individual is fixed, and that if they do not donate to one cause they will therefore donate that same amount to another?

This is Tyler Cowen's argument. I don't know how true it is. I know that I actually do have a charitable budget so in a very real sense, if I donate to Japan, I can't donate those dollars to anyone else. Conversely, if I don't donate to Japan, by the end of the year, I will definitely donate those dollars to some worthy charity. I can't tell you how common such behavior is; perhaps no one else behaves as I do. I do think the basis for this behavior is widely shared though: my income and expenses don't change a lot over the course of a year, and they in turn do fix how much money I can afford to give to charity every year. Going into debt to make charitable donations seems dumb for me: it reduces the amount that I can donate in the future and I suspect that most charities can borrow money on better terms than I can.

This is, if you think about it, similar to the arguments that "we should not be involved in Libya, because there are better ways to spend money, such as combating malaria."

First, I really don't think it is helpful to conflate two widely disparate issues like this. Doing so might help inflame tempers further but it doesn't seem to add any substance.

Secondly, I think you are misrepresenting a common argument or at least picking on the weakest possible form. I don't see people arguing "eh, we shouldn't invade Libya because the money could be better spent on bednets" very often. What I do see is a different claim: "the government is lying when it says that we are invading Libya for humanitarian reasons because if the government was really motivated by humanitarian concerns, it would have been spending a lot more on bednets over the past few decades." In my experience, the first form is often shorthand for the second.

In other words, the point of the "what about malaria?" argument is to demonstrate that the government is lying in describing its justification for starting a war. Now, I happen to think that we should not support wars for which we believe that the government is lying. One may agree or disagree with that general preposition or its application with regards to Libya, but I hope we can all agree that this argument is not only about crowding out dollars. Yglesias makes a related point here.

Turbulence,
Since you are familiar with Salmon, I hope you can point me to his other writings about unrestricted donations. I assume that the links I provided were from his blog, and he has control over how posts are titled and the title of the original post is 'Don't Donate to Japan'. Yet there are any number of organizations that are on the ground in Japan, such as Doctors without Borders, if they spend money, they are going to need money, so if you donate because you want to pay for what they are doing now, so they can do something later, I think you would be 'donating to Japan'.

I hope that I am wrong, but I feel that the Japanese Red Cross will be putting its money in traditional channels, and are not going to be thinking about things like the potential of PTDS among children for example, hence Save the Children and Plan International. I worry that temporary housing that will be constructed will be temporary in name only (there are still people living in temporary housing from the Kobe earthquake, and Katrina trailers can still be seen occasionally here on the Coast), so innovative approaches to rehousing people in places that aren't simply 'temporary' are important, so architecture for humanity was mentioned

You argue that 'random, ignorant outsiders' don't know what to give. That's why I wrote the post and why I will try and answer questions, but your comment seems to suggest a rejection of the impulse to help is preferable to trying to educate people on how they can help in a meaningful way.

You suggested that 'new organizations by definition don't have feet on the ground'. I hoped people would explore the links, but for example Plan international writes

The Plan team encountered harrowing scenes and accounts while visiting the education board of Tagajo city and an evacuation centre. Plan’s Disaster Response Policy Coordinator Unni Krishnan conducted an orientation session for teachers on dealing with emotional first aid of students and shared Plan’s experience in disasters like the Haiti earthquake.

It is hard to imagine an established organization can bring this kind of expertise to the people of Japan. Some people posting to lists that I am on are working with Plan and when they write
"The first phase will also involve setting up of a field operations hub to better coordinate Plan’s aid response. Plan will also closely network with other organisations delivering humanitarian assistance."
my understanding is that they are going to use Japan's networks of NPOs to help maximize their impact. I believe that any aid organization worth its salt will be doing something similar rather than simply shipping boxes to Japan.

In fact, since Japan is a developed country, it will challenge our conception of what aid is. In undeveloped places, we think of sending our cast-offs and unwanted items, thereby assuaging our conscience and hopefully providing some help. This disaster gives us a chance to try and understand what aid is. That reflection does not seem to be there in a blog post entitled 'Don't Donate to Japan'.

My apologies for taking this
Japanese society has met global civilization and has taken what it liked and ignored what it didn't care for. Thus, white ministers and storybook weddings? Taken. The idea that Koreans are human beings rather than vermin? Eh, not so much.

as evidence that you felt Japanese were undeserving of aid. The subtlety of that point was lost on me so you may wish to avoid emotive words like 'vermin' and place your arguments in a less emotive frame. Also, bear in mind that the problems related to Japanese notions of Koreans stems from a rather tortured period immediately after WWII. This page gives a good summary, such that invoking it to point out that Japanese somehow still don't conceive of Koreans as people (!?) and have been unable to adopt universal norms is really rather confused. In fact, Japan has been in the midst of a love affair with Korea, so I think you need to reexamine your premises.

As for the question of whether 'donating' will make Japan 'more open', a lot of that depends on how we define 'donating' and 'more open'. I think it is uncontrovertible that the two previous 'openings' of Japan, the Meiji restoration and the American occupation, did change Japan immensely, and I'd like to think it was for the better. I certainly can see any number of scenarios where Japan becomes more of a closed society and donations can not only not touch this, but they could also exacerbate it. But if we start with the initial notion of 'don't donate to japan', I'm not sure how it is anything but a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This comment is too long without getting into how helping Japan is or is not like pushing back against Gadaffi, I do see some connections, about how we intervene in societies and what goals we want and how we promote them and how we choose to distribute our resources. I can't speak for others, but if we find a way to house all the Japanese who were left homeless, but ignore the emotional and mental damage they have suffered, I don't think that's a good outcome. People who work with aid will learn a lot about how Japanese design earthquake resistant structures, how the tsunami warning system saved lives, and when they are in other situations where those issues arise, hopefully before, but probably after, they will be able to draw on what they have seen in Japan.

But all of this is not going to accomplished by arguing that Japan is going to have no problem with money, so donations in response to this are 'silly'. While Salmon argues that people should donate to organizations that do not earmark money for Japan, I feel sure that some people are not going to be happy with that. And given my own perspective, I believe that Japan is going to need more help than it will admit it needs.

I hope you can point me to his other writings about unrestricted donations.

You can start here.

I assume that the links I provided were from his blog, and he has control over how posts are titled and the title of the original post is 'Don't Donate to Japan'.

No, that's not the title of his post. The title is "Don't donate money to Japan" (emphasis mine).

Yet there are any number of organizations that are on the ground in Japan, such as Doctors without Borders, if they spend money, they are going to need money, so if you donate because you want to pay for what they are doing now, so they can do something later, I think you would be 'donating to Japan'.

LJ, instead of engaging in Kremlinology over post titles, we could just read Salmon's post where he writes:

That said, it’s entirely possible that organizations like the Red Cross or Save the Children will find themselves with important and useful roles to play in Japan. It’s also certain that they have important and useful roles to play elsewhere. So do give money to them — and give generously! And give money to other NGOs, too, like Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which don’t jump on natural disasters and use them as opportunistic marketing devices. Just make sure it’s unrestricted.

Given that Salmon clearly instructed his readers to donate to charitable organizations with the expectation that they may spend those dollars in Japan, I think your inferences about his beliefs based on post titles are just wrong. Don't you agree? Did you even read his post?

I hope that I am wrong, but I feel that the Japanese Red Cross will be putting its money in traditional channels, and are not going to be thinking about things like the potential of PTDS among children for example

Really? I know at least two Red Cross volunteers who have described their work as counseling disaster victims.

I still don't see how American donations can help this problem. I agree, there will be a huge need for counseling in Japan. That requires counselors who speak Japanese fluently and who have experience with Japanese culture. There are very very few such people in the US. The vast majority of people in the world who can do that already live in Japan. They're going to be working like crazy over the next few years. Perhaps you can explain to me how American donations will help?

I did read the posts and I'm writing a post in response to your request of a case against Salmon's thesis where I'll try and address your points.

Japan has been in the midst of a love affair with Korea, so I think you need to reexamine your premises.

Wow. I've visited Japan. I've had Japanese people tell me, in their own homes, that anti-Korean racism is incredibly pervasive in Japanese society. My spouse lived in Japan for a year and told me the same thing. Wikipedia says of Koreans living in Japan:

Even those who do not choose to become Japanese citizens often use Japanese names to avoid discrimination and live their lives as if they were Japanese. This is in contrast with the Chinese living in Japan, who generally use their Chinese names and openly form Chinatown communities.

What a curious love affair this is: the love is so intense that Koreans in Japan can't use Korean names lest native Japanese love them to death. Or something.

People who work with aid will learn a lot about how Japanese design earthquake resistant structures,

This is so wrong I don't know what to say. Most people who work with aid will learn absolutely nothing about the design of earthquake resistant structures. Which is good because the vast majority of those people will not be civil engineers who design structures. But that doesn't really matter because the design of earthquake resistant buildings is not exactly a black art that poor Americans are ignorant of. It is a well studied field.

To the extent that Japanese civil engineers have techniques that they want to share, the correct way to share that knowledge is to write books and publish papers at the big civil engineering conferences. That's how engineering works: people share their models, talk about experiments they've run, problems they've run into. This process cannot be helped by showing some random people who are not civil engineers a bunch of buildings that are still standing.

I cannot imagine a confusion so great that it would cause you to believe otherwise.

how the tsunami warning system saved lives, and when they are in other situations where those issues arise, hopefully before, but probably after, they will be able to draw on what they have seen in Japan.

I still don't see any way this could change American society. We are not going to build a network of giant loudspeakers throughout our cities. It is not going to happen, no matter how many Americans volunteer in Japan. And no one will become convinced that Jindal is an idiot -- those who knew that tsunamis exist thought he was an idiot before this disaster and those who didn't won't change their minds now.

While Salmon argues that people should donate to organizations that do not earmark money for Japan, I feel sure that some people are not going to be happy with that.

What does this even mean? For any notion, there are some people in the world who don't like it. So what? Who cares? Do you think Salmon is some sort of cult leader who commands millions?

And given my own perspective, I believe that Japan is going to need more help than it will admit it needs.

The fact that a problem exists does not mean we have the ability to solve it.

Turb, I yield to your information on how other people do budgeting. It's one of those things I have never really managed to grasp. (Fortunately, a combination of parents who taught frugality and a profession which pays well have allowed me to cope without a budget. Or at least a formal one. Obviously other people have other experiences.)

As for "going into debt" for charity, that is IMHO what the US government is doing for most of the past half century. Or, if you prefer, going further into debt. I had the government in mind when I wrote the debt comment, but I wasn't clear -- sorry.

Maybe it doesn't fit here, but I just came across this amazing story which I hope to hell is true. Scuba diving into a tsunami to rescue his wife and mother certainly merits "badass of the week" honors.

--TP

While I have just posted my take on Salmon's blog posts, I wanted to address Turb's comments about Japanese antipathy towards Korean as they aren't really part of that, but I feel they should be addressed.

Turb argues that his invocation of these issues is to demonstrate how resistant to change Japanese culture is, in that Koreans were not seen as full members of Japanese society and Turb wrote:

Japanese culture has not really adopted some universal norms (i.e., that Koreans are people).

I am sure that there are Japanese who feel that Koreans aren't really people, just as some Americans feel that African-Americans or Mexicans aren't really people or Egyptians may feel that Israelis aren't really people. In the face of that bald a statement, I pointed out that Japan is actually warming up to Korea in many ways and gave this example of hallyu or the Korean Wave, which says:

In Japan, the Korean wave started after the successful airing of Winter Sonata. Older Japanese women were the primary focus of the Hallyu at this time. Seceding [sic] Korean culture booms happened through Korean music singers BoA and TVXQ. In 2010, Korean girl groups Girls' Generation and Kara marked significant progress after being able to rank in the top five in the Oricon charts. The new girl groups in Japan focus on the young, independent, and teenage market. K-pop groups are seen as "cool and attractive", with emphasis on being "strong-minded".

I also provided this link that explains the historical reasons why Zainichi Koreans have difficulties.

In response, Turb links to this wikipedia page and quotes this

Even those who do not choose to become Japanese citizens often use Japanese names to avoid discrimination and live their lives as if they were Japanese. This is in contrast with the Chinese living in Japan, who generally use their Chinese names and openly form Chinatown communities.

and adds

What a curious love affair this is: the love is so intense that Koreans in Japan can't use Korean names lest native Japanese love them to death. Or something.

Unfortunately, if he had read the link I provided, he would have found this

The issue of name is a source of longstanding conflict between Zainichi Koreans and the Japanese government.[11] In fact, before 1985, a group of naturalized Japanese citizens of Korean origin—identifying themselves as “Koreans with Japanese nationality/citizenship,” not “Korean-Japanese”—had demanded the right to use their Korean-style family names as their official/family registration names. Previous lawsuits to recover their Korean family names had all failed. Soon after the amendment of the Family Registration Law, however, in 1987, one challenger won a lawsuit to recover his Korean-style name. Eventually, all who filed suit recovered their Korean-style names (Chung n.d.). In the late 1980s, the Japanese government removed another psychological hurdle to naturalization by abolishing the regulatory requirement to fingerprint all ten fingers of newly naturalized Japanese.[12] Overall, through the 1990s, the government simplified the administrative process and softened its high-handed attitude toward Korean residents who sought to naturalize, although the process remains cumbersome and uncomfortable for some (see also Asakawa 2003).[13]

He then notes that he has visited Japan and his hosts spoke of the problem of Japanese antipathy to Koreans. I don't think his hosts were lying to him, which is why I provided the link, but imagine if someone were to visit your home in the US and asked some questions about African-Americans in the US, and you noted the higher conviction rate, the selective application of the death penalty, the disparities in drug possession punishiments that skew to penalize them, the discrimination they face in the job market, the notion of 'driving while black', would your guest be justified in returning to Japan and saying "American culture has not really adopted some universal norms in that African Americans are not considered people"?

That you could distill your argument to that suggests that you really don't understand the dimensions of the problem. That you are using this to present an example of the resistance to change of Japanese culture is rather ironic, in that my post about how this disaster represents a potential third opening of Japan, your reply is to the effect that not even a disaster of this scale can change the Japanese. This is certainly possible, but even in my most cynical moments, I don't go that far.

I take the fact that Japanese young people (and middle aged women!) are intensely interested in Korean dramas and Korean singing groups as a sign that the traditional antipathy is changing. I'm certainly not claiming that everything is hunky dory but the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference, and Japanese are certainly not indifferent to Koreans. But trying to claim that the historically tangled and vexed problems of what names Koreans are allowed to use is a simple indication of how the Japanese don't feel Koreans are people is a totally misguided notion.

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