Japan: Selling War in the Land of the Peace Constitution
Japan is mired in an economic crisis after a decade dominated by the governments of free-trade loving, Iraq War-supporting Junichiro Koizumi and his like-minded successors. But unlike in the U.S., the leader the Japanese elected this fall—prime minister Taro Aso—is an unabashed conservative and nationalist. To sell a militarist program in a country with a "peace" constitution, the military has enlisted cuddly pop culture mascot Prince Pickles, plus flirtatious posters and music festivals. Tonight longtime foreign policy analyst John Feffer explains what the PR campaign tells us about attitudes toward the military in Japan.
John Feffer is co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, and a former associate editor of World Policy Journal. He is the author of several books and numerous articles, He has worked as an international affairs representative in Eastern Europe and East Asia for the American Friends Service Committee on such issues as the global economy, gun control, women and workplace, and domestic politics.
Thailand: New Government, New Era?
Later in the hour we turn our attention to Thailand, where a new government was elected in December, after months of raucous mass demonstrations that virtually paralyzed the country. The new government is the first in a decade not to be dominated by Thaksin Shinawatra. Even after his ouster as prime minister in 2006, Shinawatra had continued—except for a year of military rule--to be the kingmaker of Thailand. Now that the kingmaker is dead, what's next for Thailand? Southeast Asia scholar Kevin Hewison will join us.
Kevin Hewison is director of the Carolina Asia Center and professor of Asian Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is the author of more than 150 publications on Southeast Asia, democratization and globalization, and social change in Thailand. He has also worked as social scientist and adviser in Southeast Asia, South Asia and Southern Africa.
Gran Torino: Eastwood's Film About Hmong Immigrants
Finally, stay with us tonight for a discussion of Clint Eastwood's critically acclaimed film Gran Torino, a drama of race relations and gang violence set among the Hmong immigrant community in working class Detroit. The film is being hailed as "one of the top ten films of 2008" (American Film Institute); Eastwood received nominations from the Critics' Choice Awards and Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association for Best Actor. But its real significance may be as a gesture toward what organizer and scholar Scott Kurashige calls "truth and reconciliation," through the critical questioning and atonement of an American icon of white supremacy and imperial power. Tonight Scott Kurashige and Eric Tang help us unpack the film.
Scott Kurashige is a professor of history and American culture at the University of Michigan. He is the author of The Shifting Grounds of Race: Black and Japanese Americans in the Making of Multiethnic Los Angeles; and a long-time community organizer with Detroit's Hmong community.
Eric Tang teaches Asian American and African American Studies at the University of Illinois. His current work as both activist and researcher focuses on the Cambodian and Vietnamese refugee communities. His forthcoming book is titled Unsettled: America's Refugees and the Struggle for a Just Resettlement.
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