Japan Times: J Govt’s pandemic border policy highlights their taking advantage of insecure legal status of foreign residents

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Hi Blog. In more remarkable reporting, Magdalena Osumi brings out the background thought processes behind Japan’s Covid measures that have constantly targeted foreigners in particular as vectors of infection. I will be talking more about this in my next SNA column out tomorrow, but before that, let’s get some insights into the mindsets of our government, which takes full advantage of the fact that foreigners in Japan have no guaranteed legal, civil, or even human rights under the Constitution in Japan because they don’t have citizenship. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Tokyo’s pandemic border policy highlights insecure status of foreign residents
By Magdalena Osumi, The Japan Times, Dec 30, 2020
Courtesy https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/12/30/national/japan-pandemic-foreign-residents/

Excerpt:
[…] Inequity between the treatment of Japanese and non-Japanese residents, including those with established residency status and decadeslong careers here, brought back to the surface long-standing frustrations over apparent struggles with multiculturalism in the nation, stirring debate on the status of foreign residents here and the extent of Japan’s preparedness for an influx of foreign workers that had been anticipated before the pandemic struck.

As questions linger over the government’s intentions behind the controversial rules, records and reports from behind the scenes of Japan’s fight against the pandemic have begun to emerge.

They highlight the limits of the nation’s immigration strategy, with decisions apparently made ad hoc amid chaos, and reveal the insecure status of foreign nationals in Japan and underlying discriminatory attitudes within society toward immigrants and expatriates.[…]

Japan’s handling of border control in the first months of the year was more chaotic.

That changed on April 3 when Japan introduced a draconian border control policy, banning entry by nearly all foreign residents from 73 countries and regions affected by the spread of the virus.

What prompted some of the most intense criticism of the policy was its failure to distinguish between short-term visitors and long-term residents — a decision that made it the only member of the Group of Seven that refused to allow residents with foreign passports to return to their homes in Japan from overseas.

What turned out to be the decisive factor in Japan’s implementation of the strict entry ban — and its reluctance to ease the restrictions — was a lack of preparedness to control entry procedures, together with poor testing capacity at airports. […]

Reports from government meetings do not show any sign of vigorous debate on the consequences of imposing strict restrictions on non-Japanese residents with legal residency status in the nation, despite concerns about international ties and a long-term impact on Japan’s economic interest. […]

On top of that, the government faced a challenge in implementing further restrictions on Japanese citizens, who are protected by a constitutional right to enter Japan. Foreign nationals, meanwhile, do not have such protection under the Constitution. […]

Throughout the year, health care experts on the government’s coronavirus task force expressed concern that they were unable to gain a comprehensive view of the attitudes held by foreign nationals toward the pandemic.

Officials were worried that language barriers, for example, may hamper access to information on basic anti-infection measures, such as avoiding the so-called Three C’s of closed spaces, crowds and close-contact settings.

But that their remarks suggesting inability among foreign nationals to adhere to health protocols were made alongside words of encouragement regarding the promotion of domestic tourism instilled a false perception that the pandemic in Japan was under control, in contrast to the situation abroad, while contributing to a narrative that foreign nationals may have posed a threat…

Full article at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/12/30/national/japan-pandemic-foreign-residents/
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“Educating the Non-Japanese Underclass”, my Shingetsu News Agency “Visible Minorities” Col 2, Sept 17, 2019, link to full text

mytest

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Hi Blog.  It’s been nearly two years since I wrote my first feature piece for the Shingetsu News Agency (the only independent English-language media left in Japan not toeing a Japanese government line; please subscribe) after the rightward editorial swing over at The Japan Times.  All of my columns are behind a paywall, unfortunately, but now with the acknowledgment of SNA, I am now reprinting my columns in full on Debito.org after one year has passed since publication.  Here’s an excerpt to my second “Visible Minorities” column, followed by a link to the full article in the Debito.org original timeline.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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Visible Minorities Column 2: Educating the Non-Japanese Underclass
Shingetsu News Agency, SEP 17, 2019 by DEBITO ARUDOU
http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2019/09/17/visible-minorities-educating-the-non-japanese-underclass/

SNA (Tokyo) — In a shocking series of exposés at the beginning of this month, the Mainichi Shinbun reported that minority children of workers in Japanese schools were being segregated from their Japanese peers, put in classes for the mentally disabled, and systematically denied an education.

For years now, according to Ministry of Education surveys, schools have subjected their non-native foreign minority students to IQ tests. The results were striking: Non-Japanese children were found to have “developmental disorders” at more than double the rate of the general Japanese student population.

Striking, but not all that surprising—since these tests assessed IQ via culturally-grounded questions, on things like Japanese shogunates and tanabata festivals. They also considered a lack of Japanese language skills an “intellectual” disability.

Let that sink in. Try claiming that your Japanese students are dim because they aren’t proficient in English, and then watch how long you remain an educator.

But here’s where the bad science turns evil…

Read the full text at http://www.debito.org/?p=15744

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“Tired Panda” on how rural tax authorities specialize in targeting foreign taxpayers for audit. And Japan aims to be Asia’s #1 financial hub? Hah.

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (click on icon):
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Hi Blog. In the wake of treating Non-Japanese Residents like they’re riddled with extra Covid contagion, here’s yet another example of how Non-Japanese taxpayers are treated with extra suspicion — with bored tax auditors even in the most rural areas of Japan dedicated to ferreting out rank-and-file sneaky foreigners’ assets and earnings socked away overseas. Courtesy of Debito.org Reader “Tired Panda”, edited and reproduced here with permission.

According to numerous sources, “Japan has explicitly stated its goal is to make Tokyo the number one financial city in Asia… Japanese officials see an opportunity to lure the Asian headquarters of global financial firms to Tokyo as Hong Kong struggles under new scrutiny from Beijing.” In a business climate like the one being described by “Tired Panda” below, who wound up giving up Permanent Residency status after being zapped by local tax authorities, this seems unlikely to happen in Japan.

Any Readers out there who can help this person out? Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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From: “Tired Panda”
Subject: Foreign taxation accountants in Japan
Date: January 2, 2021
To: debito@debito.org

Hi Debito,

Firstly, thank you for the tireless work you have done over the years to uncover the systemic racism in Japan and demystify many of the baffling issues ever present for a non-Japanese living in Japan.

I arrived on these shores in 199X, and after leaving the JET program, I went on to do various gigs and also teach in some of the Universities around the [Katainaka Prefecture] area.

In 201X, I joined a Japanese company, under the umbrella of a global company, and still work there to this day, now as a contracted employee. My salary has never increased and I have never received a bonus.

However, my beef is not with the contract (that’s a separate issue), it is with the ever increasing harassment by the [Katainaka Prefecture] Tax department.

I have scoured your columns to look for information on the “exit tax” which came into effect in July 2020, and also for any links to taxation experts.

Of course, there are the giants like KPMG and Price-Waterhouse Coopers, but they are geared more to the highly paid CEOs and other foreign workers whose taxation is more of a corporate nature.

It started with my tax accountant in [Katainaka Prefecture], who I have used for several years, suddenly asking me to declare my worldly assets, including how many mountains I owned. Being unaware of any such requirement, I was stunned by this and resisted but my accountant said just roughly write it down and as long as it’s under 5,000,000 you’ll be OK. Just sign it.

The tax department audited me a couple of years ago covering a period of 5 years. They have two young recruits whose full-time job is to concentrate on foreigners. They speak no English. They produced figures suggesting I had been evading taxes over this time and the amount of tax payable. They would not say what shares or investments were the source of the income and I had no way of disputing any figures. I’m aware that tax losses can be carried over to offset gains but they would not recognize this for my foreign investments, saying something about a “blue paper”. I made a start on trying to track everything over the years, but gave up when it became evident that unless something was in the format they required, such as a statement from Monex Japan, they would not accept it. They also slapped a penalty on each of the year’s taxes, compounding over the five year period. It became obvious that it was futile and I paid a substantial amount.

I thought this was the end of that horrifically stressful saga and I would make sure to try and do everything required and account for everything down to the last cent. I decided to revoke my permanent residency as I can’t see myself living indefinitely in this country which is forever tightening the tax noose in an effort to pay for the aging population. With the sponsorship of my company and using the new points system I changed to “Highly Skilled Professional (i) (b)” status.

I recently received an email from my accountant saying that the [Katainaka Prefecture] tax department is asking if I actually had more than 5,000,000 yen when I signed the statement over 5 years ago. I have ignored this.

I remember seeing that with the visa status I have, I do not need to declare foreign income. I don’t remember where I saw that, but I have no doubt that my current tax accountant is blissfully unaware of the implications of my current visa. I advised him for his information but received no response. The last communication was a relaying of the question from the [Katainaka Prefecture] Tax Office.

So, after that long-winded explanation, my question is; are you able to direct me to an English speaking tax accountant… who would be able to correctly lodge a tax return for me and offer advice? As I mentioned, the international tax specialists mentioned above are quite exorbitant, so I’m looking for a smaller scale accountant firm.

Thanks again and kind regards, “Tired Panda”
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ENDS
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BLOG BIZ: Debito slow to blog due to illness

mytest

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Hi Blog, and Happy New Year 2021!  A lot is going on around the world, but personally I’m under the weather.  That’s why I haven’t been blogging too much at the moment.  When I’m out of the woods healthwise, I’ll be writing again.  I’ll still be reading and approving blog comments, regardless.  Thanks for reading.  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

======================
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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 1, 2021

mytest

Books, eBooks, and more from Debito Arudou, Ph.D. (click on icon):
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DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 1, 2021

Table of Contents:
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MEDIA PULLS US FORWARD AND BACK

1) NIKE JAPAN ads featuring Japan’s Minorities and Visible Minorities taking solace and courage from doing sports
2) Unknown news chyron of Govt panel that apparently blames foreigners for spreading Covid. However, FNN News tells a different story: one of assisting foreigners. Let’s be careful to avoid disinformation (UPDATED).
3) United Nations human rights experts say Japan was wrong to detain former Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn; owes him compensation

FULL TEXT SNA ARTICLES ARCHIVED
4) Full text of my first SNA column is now archived on Debito.org: “The Japan Times Becomes Servant to the Elite” (Feb 2, 2019)
5) Full text of my first “Visible Minorities” column now archived on Debito.org: “Debito’s New Column for Shingetsu News Agency” (Aug 19, 2019)

… and finally…
6) My latest SNA VM column 16: “US Elections Repudiate Trump’s Japan-Style Ethnostate”, suggesting that the US might be taking real steps towards a post-racial society

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By Debito Arudou, Ph.D (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, Twitter @arudoudebito)
Debito.org Newsletters as always are freely forwardable.

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1) NIKE JAPAN ads featuring Japan’s Minorities and Visible Minorities taking solace and courage from doing sports

Reader JK sent me this link to the following NIKE JAPAN advertisement for discussion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G02u6sN_sRc
Entitled “動かしつづける。自分を。未来を。” (Lit: We will continue moving. Myself. And the Future.”, which is a bit different from the official title of “The Future Isn’t Waiting”), the subject is of Japan’s school-age Minorities and Visible Minorities facing social othering in Japan, and finding solace and courage in themselves by becoming good at sports.

It’s dated November 27, 2020, and been viewed nearly 10 million times as of this writing. According to the Japan Times, it’s inspired a “fiery online response”: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/12/02/national/social-issues/japan-nike-ad/

The BBC adds, a bit disingenuously: “Many Japanese do not like to be told by outside voices to change their ways,” said Morley Robertson, a Japanese-American journalist. “But if a foreigner demonstrates a deep understanding of Japanese culture or Japanese rules, then those same Japanese who would otherwise take offence will gush forth with praise.”

Steve McGinnes, the author of Surfing the Asian wave: How to survive and thrive in the new world order, believes the advert is an “own goal”. “Endemic racism is going to be a sensitive topic in any culture. But Nike should not think, as a foreign brand, that it is appropriate for them to point it out to their hosts. “They are crudely putting a spotlight onto a subject that many feel should be off-limits to guests. It’s a huge own goal for Nike.”… “In 2020, should America or an American brand be taking the high ground on racism and telling the rest of the world what they are doing wrong?” adds Mr McGinnes. “Clearly, a lot of Japanese people think they shouldn’t.” https://www.bbc.com/news/business-55140846

I’ll reserve my comment for later. But I don’t believe this is an “own goal” for Nike. And how self-assured can these pundits be that these are “outside voices”?

http://www.debito.org/?p=16328

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2) Unknown news chyron of Govt panel that apparently blames foreigners for spreading Covid. However, FNN News tells a different story: one of assisting foreigners. Let’s be careful to avoid disinformation (UPDATED)

A screenshot of an unknown news has a chyron indicating that some government panel states, “Foreigners have different languages and customs, so we can’t thoroughly enforce policies against the spread of [Covid] infections.” By implication, this means that foreigners are being seen as an obstacle to the safety of Japanese society because of their differences. The screenshot is starting to multiply around the mediasphere, which is why it’s been sent to me multiple times.

However, a Debito.org Reader sends me a FNN news videos which, at minute 1:30, says, “Bunkakai de wa, kurasutaa e no taiou ya, kotoba no chigai de soudan ya jushin ga okureru gaikokujin no tame ni ichigenteki na soudan madoguchi o setchi suru koto ni tsuite giron shiteimasu.”
Or (my translation):
“At this panel, they are debating about whether to set up a unified consultation center to deal with clusters and with foreigners and who face delayed medical consultations and treatments due to language differences.”

That’s quite a different take! According to FNN, this panel seems to be trying to assist, not exclude or blame. I welcome others who find more clarifying media about this event. Meanwhile, my point is to be careful. Foreigners have been so perpetually offset and treated as exceptions from the regular population that this could reflexively feel like a repeat performance. But let’s be careful that this reflex does not lead to disinformation.

UPDATE NOV 14:
Ph.D. Candidate Anoma van der Veere has kindly tweeted out his research indicating some media sensationalism is going on here. Access the thread beginning at https://twitter.com/anomav/status/1327117586249568256?s=21&fbclid=IwAR0gIPlDs9K6X8tH87UWEuafZDYEM9XrgLobf7LI2luRRJgnStztEdka9n4
Screen captures follow, for the record.

http://www.debito.org/?p=16293

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3) United Nations human rights experts say Japan was wrong to detain former Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn; owes him compensation

AP: A panel of human rights experts working with the United Nations said Monday that former Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn was wrongly detained in Japan and has urged “compensation” for him from the Japanese government. The Japanese government denounced the report as a “totally unacceptable” viewpoint that will change nothing in the country’s legal process.

In its opinion published Monday, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Ghosn’s arrest in Japan in late 2018 and early 2019 was “arbitrary” and called on Japan’s government to “take the necessary steps to remedy the situation of Mr Ghosn without delay.” A determination of whether detention is arbitrary is based on various criteria, including international norms of justice…

Japan’s system has been repeatedly criticized by human rights advocates. The panel cited previous concerns about Japan’s so-called daiyo kangoku system of detention and interrogation that relies heavily on confessions and could expose detainees to torture, ill-treatment and coercion.

COMMENT: I wrote back in January in that Carlos Ghosn’s escape from Japan’s gaijin gulag was the right move — not least because Japan’s heavy-handed prosecutorial powers and treatment of criminal suspects is in itself a violation of human rights. Now it turns out the United Nations would agree. Given that Japan has been shamed for decades over its human rights record, and still has not passed a criminal law against racial discrimination as promised under international treaty it signed a quarter century ago (yes, way back in 1995!), I doubt this will mean much. But at least it’s a delicious vindication for our advocacy camp.

http://www.debito.org/?p=16319

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FULL TEXT SNA ARTICLES ARCHIVED

4) Full text of my first SNA column is now archived on Debito.org: “The Japan Times Becomes Servant to the Elite” (Feb 2, 2019)

It’s been nearly two years since I wrote my first feature piece for the Shingetsu News Agency (the only independent English-language media left in Japan not toeing a Japanese government line; please subscribe at http://shingetsunewsagency.com) about the editorial swing over at The Japan Times. That text has been behind a paywall ever since. With the acknowledgment of SNA, I am now reprinting my columns in full on Debito.org after one year has passed since publication. Here’s an excerpt, followed by a link to the full article in the Debito.org original timeline.

Excerpt: On January 28, the Japan Times published an opinion piece titled, “How Japanese is Naomi Osaka?” Author Kunihiko Miyake “felt something odd” about how the multiethnic tennis champ could ever “represent Japan.” Miyake’s article is indicative of how the quality of analysis has slipped under the Japan Times’ new ownership, and suggests how the purposes of the organization have changed…

[Miyake’s] half-baked column is indicative of something much larger—a decline in analytical prowess due to the editorial changes at the Japan Times in recent years.

The Japan Times came under new ownership in June 2017 by the media group News2u Holdings, a PR company. In an unexpected editorial shift, last November the Japan Times announced that it would henceforth be rewording the “potentially misleading” (and internationally-recognized) terms “Comfort Women”—which is already a direct translation of the official euphemism of ianfu—as “women who worked in wartime brothels, including those who did so against their will, to provide sex to Japanese soldiers.” Likewise, the term “forced laborers” would now be rendered merely as “wartime laborers,” following the new government policy.

Aside from journalistic concerns about cramming a wordy term into concise articles, it wasn’t hard for media observers to understand this as a response to government pressure, already manifest in Japanese media and world history textbooks, to portray Japan’s past in a more exculpatory light…

Full article text now archived at http://www.debito.org/?p=15541

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5) Full text of my first “Visible Minorities” column now archived on Debito.org: “Debito’s New Column for Shingetsu News Agency” (Aug 19, 2019)

SNA: My name is Debito Arudou (or Arudou Debito, if you prefer), that guy from Sapporo who started writing about Japan from the early 1990s on a long-dead mailing list called the Dead Fukuzawa Society. I wrote so much there that I decided to archive my writings on a webpage. Debito.org soon blossomed into an award-winning reference site on life and human rights in Japan, and later a platform for newspaper articles and fieldwork research on racial discrimination. After moonlighting at places like the now-defunct Asahi Evening News and Japan Today, I began writing in 2002 a column for Japan Times, first under Zeit Gist and then Just Be Cause. Decades later, here we are with a new monthly column at the Shingetsu News Agency, under the title Visible Minorities. I chose this title for two reasons…

Full article text now archived at http://www.debito.org/?p=15720

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… and finally…

6) My latest SNA VM column 16: “US Elections Repudiate Trump’s Japan-Style Ethnostate”, suggesting that the US might be taking real steps towards a post-racial society

SNA: The US elections captured the world’s attention. No wonder. Given America’s hegemony as an economic, political, cultural, and military power, the results underpin the future of geopolitics and world order.

But here’s another angle: This election offers the world some insights into how countries painfully evolve into multiethnic, post-racial societies. It even demonstrated how enfranchised people would rather destroy their governing system than relinquish power.

Fortunately, they didn’t win. Let’s recount some important facts.

The contest between incumbent Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden was indeed, as depicted in campaign slogans, a battle for the “soul of America.”

At stake was whether Trump’s nepotistic, corrupt administration—one that shamelessly used whatever means they could to perpetuate their power, punish political enemies, and undermine democracy both domestic and worldwide—would get four more years; or whether America’s place as a world leader, for better or worse, would be restored to less capricious leadership, with policymaking sane enough to keep its own citizens alive in a self-inflicted pandemic.

Clearly American voters chose the latter course; Biden won. He got five million more votes in an election where more people voted for a president than ever before, with voting rates on track to be among the highest in modern US history. […]

[There are of course some caveats, and] given the current status of Trump refusing to concede the election, and his lackeys interfering with a transition to the presumptive winner, it’s clear that no matter who wins, Republicans feel they are the only ones entitled to run the country. They view cheating, sabotage, soliciting foreign interference, and spreading unscientific conspiracy theories as fair play. The United States’ 233-year experiment in democracy be damned; 73 million voters in this election agreed with Trump’s authoritarianism. The intractable polarization of American politics is complete.

Still, the fact remains that this election was a repudiation of Trump, and, in retrospect, it’s a textbook example of democracy in action. […]

Ultimately, the history books will remember this about the past four years: Trump was the worst president in American history—the only one who was impeached, served only one term, and lost the popular vote. Twice.

Well, good for the United States. But there are also lessons here for Japan, particularly its minorities: how countries make slow and painful transitions to a post-racial society…

Read the rest on SNA at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2020/11/16/visible-minorities-us-elections-repudiate-trumps-japan-style-ethnostate/

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That’s all for the New Year! May 2021 be healthy, happy, stable, and sustainable for everyone out there! Debito

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 1, 2021 ENDS

======================
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