A Man with a Flashlight


Japan flirts with trial by jury
July 21, 2007, 1:10 pm
Filed under: Crime and Punishment, The East

Beginning in 2009, trials in Japan will be decided by a jury – or one manner of jury anyway, consisting of three judges and six citizens. Some aren’t buying it:

Critics say the judges will lead the deliberations, deciding what issues to debate; the jurors will depend on the judges to hand out sentences because of their lack of knowledge of the penal code. What is more, the new system will not address more basic problems in the Japanese criminal justice system: the authorities’ overreliance on confessions, sometimes forced; the absence of discovery, which allows the prosecution to withhold information; and a general presumption of guilt that leads to a 99.8 percent conviction rate in criminal cases.

I was startled to learn that Japan hadn’t had a jury system before. But it figures. Even in the flower of East Asian democracy, the power of the state is somewhat steroidal by comparison with the ways of the West. Yes, we are all practicing “democracy.” But that’s a pretty broad concept. The genius of government in Europe and her children is not simply popular suffrage – it is the constant, laborious hacking which keeps the rude weed of state power in check. The nature of all government is to grow and hoard power. Really the heart of the American achievement is not governance, it is the successful check placed on governance by keeping power institutionally – not by mob or public passion, but by the patient, daily decisions which restate the individual’s rights – in the hands of each American.

That, of course, is an America that many in her government understand dimly at best. And the Cheneys of this world, not at all.

But returning to the Japanese move towards juries – many Japanese don’t really see the benefit of them at all. That’s what policeman and courts are for, aren’t they? To tell us who must be punished and how?

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Want more people to read your blog?
July 20, 2007, 7:39 am
Filed under: The East

Write it in Chinese. The internet is shifting.



The firewall is not great
July 19, 2007, 9:48 am
Filed under: The East

Wanted to send email into or out of China over the past four days? Too bad. The Communist Party shows off its tech muscles.



Super typhoon Man-yi
July 13, 2007, 9:57 am
Filed under: The East

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9:49am: The wind stops. Rain continues, but the continuous howling of the last eight hours goes completely silent. I think it’s the eye.

9:55am: Starting to gust again, but still not like before.

10:25am: Blows hard for a few minutes, then dies down again. Could be the feeder bands passing overhead.



Super typhoon Man-yi
July 13, 2007, 9:38 am
Filed under: The East

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When Ayako told me typoons were bigger in Okinawa than the ones I’d seen in Taipei, I thought maybe it was a case of hometown pride. Wrong!

Friday, 9:23am: winds gusting pretty hard all around our apartment – 155 miles an hour, gusting up to 190, according to the weather underground. What that looks like, from my desk looking at our balcony, is like the balcony railing is the side of a boat and we’re in rough seas. Buckets of water are being dumped on the balcony every minute. Luckly our place seems tightly sealed, and pretty well designed – a bit of water gets blown in around the edges of the windows, but it drains through the bottom of the window frame, leaving the sill dry.
At 2 am last night I drove Ayako home from an Izakaya. Walking from the car to the apartment, some scary sounding wind was going over us, but otherwise things were okay. Right now if I left the apartment, I wouldn’t expect to make it to my car – it’s at least a hundred yards away. Odds are the wind would either take me down before then, or I’d get taken down by flying branches, rocks, or signs blown off buildings. But my money would be on getting picked up and flown – this wind looks every inch capable of picking up a man. If Okinawa had cows we’d probably be seeing some right now.

This clears up the mystery of why concrete is such a popular building material here. We’re on the third floor of a concrete apartment building that’s new and solidly constructed, but when the large gusts come the building does vibrate.

I’m going to try to make the most of this one, as much as I can without leaving the apartment. Probably my last typhoon before heading back to California.



Yes, don’t worry… we fired him
July 11, 2007, 1:12 am
Filed under: Crime and Punishment, The East

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Zheng Xiaoyu, the late head of China’s Food and Drug Administration, executed yesterday “for taking bribes to approve medicines,” i.e. in order to demonstrate China’s serious response to recent food safety errors which killed a large number of pets in the U.S. Standard execution practice is for a court policeman to shoot the prisoner in the back of the head. The former practice of charging the executed prisoner’s family for the bullet has been discontinued. (Go ahead, read that sentence twice.)

In spite of its ambitious, hardworking, wonderfully resourceful people, and in spite of the many leaders working for reform within government (The Tiananmen Papers can’t be recommended highly enough), the Chinese administration is firmly in the hands of a cabal of vampires steeped so deeply in blood that they have to apply white powder to their skin before appearing in public (ok, not really, they didn’t touch the blood themselves… so far as we know).

If you support the death penalty you won’t mind seeing how it looks in China. (Not to be clicked lightly.) More at the Asia Death Penalty blog here. What a disgrace.

That reminds me, I’ve been meaning to write something about the wonderful, wonderful Ma Jian.



Susan Aldous interview, part 3
June 2, 2007, 2:32 pm
Filed under: Hell, Let's Call it Torture, The East, Undiscovered writers

The last round of questions with our favorite Thai prison activist. Read Part 1 and Part 2. And check out Susan’s new book. It’s an eye-opening look at prison life in Thailand and the redemptive power of helping others.

Dear Susan,

Very sorry to take so long with the last set of questions, it’s been a hectic week or two. I know you’re very busy right now with the launch and your work, so please answer at your leisure and I’ll throw it up on the website. Thanks so much for taking the time to have this conversation, I’ve quite enjoyed it, and I hope my five readers have as well. Here we go:

Hi there Jonathan,

Yes, I know the feeling—hectic past few weeks that is—anyway here we are again, you, me and the gang of five, how fun and I too have really enjoyed chatting! One of my favorite pastimes!

You were inspired to give your life to service when you converted to Christianity, and you write that at times you hear a voice that guides you. Is it God? An inner voice? Or what? And how much do you rely on that voice?

The inner voice is definitely a God thing. Sometimes the voice is angels or spirit helpers and at other times it’s Jesus and the big Guy Himself. Sometimes it’s a combination of all those along with the gift of women’s intuition and discernment that comes from tuning into God’s voice and life’s experiences. God broadcasts all the time, it’s just up to us to set our receiver to the right channel.

I rely on the direction-giving, life-changing and miracle-producing radio broadcasts as if they were my lifesaver in the sea of madness. Cannot do any of what I do without the transmissions …

The only credit I take for any other inner voices are the dark, let’s-not-go-there thoughts, which I do have to battle as most of us do daily. You know the self-defeating type of dialogues that we have with ourselves telling us that we should not attempt the impossible etc. I have to shut this kind of communication down by retuning to the Love Channel.

Human rights abuse is a problem all over the world. As an American I am angry that my own government is now practicing torture and worsening the problem. However, from a viewpoint of human rights, many Asian countries don’t compare well with the west. Burma, North Korea, and China are the famous examples, but even in Japan – a developed country with a large middle class – the police have broad powers, suspects do not have the right to an attorney, and the conviction rate per crime committed is over 90%, which makes one wonder if all those convictions are accurate.

Speaking from your experience in Thailand, does Asia have a particular problem in the area of human rights, and if so, why do you think that is?

Definitely a huge problem! In my opinion, the causes are many.

Life is cheap; a disregard for life can be a common mindset. For example, your Karma got you into it so you’re going to have to get yourself out by suffering through and hopefully you can change your destiny to something better. If you were crippled, mentally retarded, orphaned or a criminal you were in the same basket say 20 years ago in Thailand. You were suffering because you were in some sort of pay back mode for past bad actions. This is slowly changing thankfully and I see compassion starting to win out over indifference. Perhaps folk are being a bit more proactive in trying to create good Karma by showing mercy to those in need. Westernization is also responsible and Amnesty reports, books written by former inmates etc too. The changes in institutions have been huge and that is a credit to the Thais as well—I am always amazed when I see the differences in places I visited or worked at years ago compared to how they are at present.

Prisons have improved a great deal, but they are still closed affairs and there is a huge way to go. Additionally, there is much farther to go when it comes to the legal system, especially the court system and lack of concern for the individual. As with Japan, most likely, the big guy is ALWAYS right.

Corruption and greed is rife in Thailand and the west does not set a good example nor do they demand changes as usually our countries want only economic returns. So life may be cheap for us too…

If you are a lowly paid government officer, corruption is easy to succumb to even at the expense of someone else’s life. But, what is our excuse as so called “enlightened” western societies, the supposed bastions of democracy and equality? We are worse because we know better.

I find it interesting that religion played such a large role in your life, yet you write that going to church doesn’t interest you. Do you feel that organized religion falls short of the ideals of Christianity?

My faith is my foundation for my life and all I do, but that does not come from an organized form of religion…sort of a more Jesus, live-the-love-life-style of worship. Walk your talk, live it, do it, don’t preach it. It’s very intimate, passionate and it’s extremely motivating.

My kind of Jesus, if He were in human form on earth today, would take me for a whirl on His Harley and we’d go for long moon lit walks on the beach as we discussed how to better the lives of those that I am put in touch with, plus He’d take time to answer my deepest questions etc. Sort of how it is right now, minus the Harley actually…ha!

Believe me, I respect whatever form of worship folk chose to take, but for me the big money-making hypocritical form of go to church on Sunday to be ‘seen’ doesn’t light my fire. Sometimes I feel closer to God sitting on the floors of some filthy holding cell with open toilets, violent criminals and withdrawing addicts.

So much evil has been committed in the name of God, which I believe to be political power plays rather than true religion. Anne Lamont said in one of her books when referring to some horrid situation, ‘it’s enough to make Jesus want to drink straight gin out of a cat bowl!’ Sometimes when I see man’s inhumanity to man, I am tempted to ask Him to sit down and share the cat bowl with me, and make it a double…

If I did not have faith, could not pray and did not believe that there is a God of Love, I could not bare the things that I constantly see. One day it’ll all come out good in the wash though!

Where would you be today if you hadn’t come to Thailand?

Geesh, that’s a tough one!

Can’t really say, because what was meant to be fell into place as I was swept along in destinies current. However, if I was given a carte blanche, go wherever you want, do whatever you want, no holds barred, no expenses spared, I’d probably use Thailand as a base and hit the road and do the world big time. Perhaps when my daughter is older, settled and if I still feel the same way, I most likely will let my inner gypsy child take over.

Must say though, I feel with my work, constancy of purpose is what makes it effective, so would keep the base here, keep on with the work and then make short forays into other countries and do projects. Somewhat similar to the things I have done in the past in the surrounding countries, but further abroad and a bit more exotic and with greater impact.

If for some reason, I cannot remain in Thailand, I would love to move to Latin America. In many ways I feel more suited to the Latin way of life, but this is the plot I have been given to work with for now. One day at a time, this takes me to the next question…

What goals do you have that remain unfinished? What is ahead for you?

On the personal front: I want to see my daughter grow up and find her niche in life. She is incredibly talented and writes amazingly well, so maybe that’s her thing. Who knows, but we are on one amazing journey to find out.

Take a real holiday.

I love to study, so most likely will do some more of that when the right doors open.

Take a real holiday.

I would like to establish a more stable financial base.

Take a real holiday.

Dare I say it? Perhaps even fall in love again.

Take a real holiday…it’d be nice to even be able to conceptualize what a real holiday looks like at least.

Take a real holiday! Did I already say that?

Improve my Thai and perhaps even learn how to spell in English. The first, being a more achievable goal and then take a holiday.

Work wise: I want to continue working towards seeing the death penalty abolished and working standardized prisoner exchange treaties globally in place. Also, fair treatment for the incarcerated, mentally ill and whoever suffers due to lack of love and justice!

Yeah, yeah, I know I sound like Miss Congeniality’s Sandra Bullock’s antithesis. And with such goals in mind, there goes the holiday! Better to wear out than rust out at least.

Currently, I am having a part in creating two new books. One is giving a voice to Thailand’s Ladyboys and the second is the story of a male sex worker, which all play into some of my outreach programs. This has been extremely interesting and a real learning curve for me, more to come I am sure.

I just want to keep on doing what I am doing, and keep on loving it as much as I do and I am very open to whatever form it all may take as time moves along.

I am satisfied enough to be content and dissatisfied enough to keep on reaching out to accomplish more.

Something that I really love about my life is that no matter what horrid things, difficulties or obstacles happen, I can always eventually reframe them and use them to empathize with those who are in need of encouragement or answers.

I look forward to the future with great hope and expectancy.

Thanks and best wishes,

Jonathan

Thank you too Jonathan, all the best!

Shine bright!

Susan.

Hugs and kisses to you and the Famous FIVE…

“Dusty” Susan Dustin
P.O. Box 33 Suanyai Post Office
Nonthaburi Thailand 11003
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/onelifeatatime
http://onelifesusan.homestead.com/OneLife.html

Many thanks to Susan. I wish you luck both in love and in abolishing the death penalty. Keep up the lovely work. Cheers!