Monday, May 16, 2016

Double Drumpf

Self-Defense Forces personnel move to unload aid supplies from a U.S. military Osprey at Hakusui Sports Park in Minamiaso, Kumamoto Prefecture, on April 18. | REUTERS
Trump remarks prompt debate over cost of Japan-U.S. defense ties

The Japan Times  by Reiji Yoshida  May 16, 2016

Donald Trump, who is now expected to be the Republican candidate for U.S. president, has made a number of disturbing remarks.

Particularly troubling to Japanese officials is his threat to shake up the Japan-U.S. military alliance.
Trump has argued Japan should pay all the costs of stationing U.S. forces in the country, saying he would otherwise consider withdrawing the U.S. military and allowing Japan to arm itself with nuclear weapons.

But how much exactly is the U.S. spending on U.S. forces in Japan? And is Trump’s argument fair? Following are questions and answers on the issue:

How much of the cost of U.S. forces in Japan is borne by the U.S., and how much is spent by Japan?

According to the 2017 Operation and Maintenance Overview by the Office of the U.S. Under Secretary of Defense, the direct cost of stationing U.S. forces in Japan is estimated at $5.47 billion (¥595 billion) for fiscal 2016, which includes personnel, operations, maintenance, construction and family housing.

In addition, according to the Defense Ministry, Japan is set to pay ¥192 billion to support U.S. forces in fiscal 2016, including most of the utility charges at U.S. bases and facilities in Japan, as well as the wages of Japanese employees.

In addition, Japan pays various other costs related to the U.S. forces, which totaled ¥364.6 billion ($3.35 billion) for the same fiscal year. This includes ¥176.6 billion for realigning the U.S. military in Japan, including costs to transfer Okinawa-based U.S. Marines to Guam and relocate forces within Japan, ¥98.8 billion for facility rent and ¥57 billion to improve the living environment in areas surrounding U.S. bases.

If all those costs are included, the share of Japan’s financial burden is calculated at 48.3 percent.

Trump has argued the U.S. would be “better off” if Japan and South Korea protected themselves. Is it true?

Eliminating U.S. defense budgets for Japan and South Korea alone would probably not greatly help, given the massive size of the Pentagon’s total defense budget.

According to the Office of U.S. Under Secretary of Defense, the total overseas costs of U.S. military forces is $19.32 billion for fiscal 2016, 65.7 percent of which is spent on the U.S. military in Japan, Germany and South Korea.

Meanwhile, the total U.S. defense budget is $580.3 billion for the same fiscal year.

Is Japan shouldering much larger financial burdens than other U.S. allies?

Probably yes, although no updated data for comparison are available.

Until 2004, the U.S. Department of Defense published an annual report titled Allied Contributions to the Common Defense. According to the 2004 report, in 2002 Japan provided direct support of $3.2 billion and indirect support worth $1.18 billion for the U.S. military in Japan, offsetting as much as 74.5 percent of the total costs of U.S. forces in the country.

This ratio was the highest among major allied nations of the U.S. cited by the report.
The indirect costs included forgone rents and revenues, such as rents on government-owned land and facilities occupied or used by U.S. forces and tax concessions or customs duties waived by the host nation.

Why are U.S. forces in Japan in the first place?

The U.S. has stationed its forces in Japan for years, not just to defend the country but also for its own strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region.

After Japan’s surrender in World War II in 1945, the U.S. occupied Japan until April 1952.

During the Occupation, the U.S. demilitarized Japan and drafted the postwar war-renouncing Constitution, which prohibited Japan from possessing a military.

In 1951, the two countries concluded the Japan-U.S. security treaty, which allowed the U.S. to retain its bases and military in Japan beyond 1952, when Japan would regain full sovereignty to end the postwar Occupation.

In 1960, the treaty was revised to oblige the U.S. to defend Japan if the country is attacked. In return, the accord obliged Japan to allow the U.S. to use land, air space and military bases in Japan “for the purpose of contributing to the security of Japan and the maintenance of international peace and security in the Far East.”

During the Cold War years, the U.S. used its bases in Japan as key footholds to send out numerous military aircraft and ships during the Korean War and Vietnam War.

Even after the end of the Cold War, the U.S. bases in Japan have dispatched troops and aircraft for operations in the Middle East.

More recently, U.S. President Barack Obama has adopted a “rebalancing” policy to maintain a strong U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific region to protect U.S. interests in the area. Japanese bases are considered a key piece of this policy.

“The U.S.-Japan alliance is, and will continue to be, a cornerstone of our engagement in the Asia-Pacific region,” read a 2013 report of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.

Trump has argued the security treaty obliges the U.S. to defend Japan if the country is attacked, but Japan is not obliged to defend the U.S. Is this fair?

Many experts say the treaty is not purely one-sided because Japan is obliged to allow the U.S. forces to use vast land, airspace and military facilities in Japan that serve as key strategic interests for the U.S.
In addition, it is the U.S.-drafted postwar Constitution that legally prohibited Japan for years from using the right to collective self-defense, or the right to attack a third country assaulting an ally even if the country itself is not under attack.

Meanwhile, some right-leaning Japanese politicians, most notably Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, may agree with Trump to an extent. They have long been concerned that Japan-U.S. ties would be critically damaged if the Self-Defense Forces did not try to defend the U.S. in the case of war.

Last year Abe changed the long-standing government interpretation of the Constitution and thereby partially eased the long-held ban on collective self-defense.

According to Abe’s constitutional interpretation, Japan is now allowed to attack a country attacking the U.S. military if Japan’s own “survival” is at stake.

The Diet, controlled by Abe’s ruling coalition, has enacted a set of new laws to expand the SDF’s missions based on this interpretation.

Abe’s constitutional interpretation and the laws remain contentious among the Japanese public.


Teacher Forced to Resign after Showing Students 'Make Donald Drumpf Again' Segment from 'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver'

Parent Herald  By Snow McDiggon, Parent Herald | April 28, 2016

John Oliver attends Tribeca Talks Storytellers: Tom Hanks With John Oliver on April 22, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo : Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival) 

A New Jersey teacher's tenure ended for a brief moment when he resigned from his job. The only mistake he made was showing one segment from "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver."

The segment in question was "Make Donald Drumpf Again." This hilarious segment went viral back in February -- the New York Post reported that it has garnered over 24 million views since then -- which must have prompted teacher Joe Ventre to share it with his students.

If you haven't seen this, you're really missing out.

While students may have enjoyed the short John Oliver clip, not all parents were amused. One parent was quick to complain to the school, resulting to the momentary resignation of Ventre. However, one voice does not overturn the sentiments of many who loved Ventre.

Online Petition Started

Students started #SaveMrVentre-awwww, an online petition that sought the reinstatement of Ventre. Aside from the students, many parents also expressed their support to the teacher.

Some of them showed up at the school board meeting, conveying their disgust at the harsh and short-sighted decision the school had over Ventre. With overwhelming student-parent support, the school decided to take Ventre back. According to Esquire, Ventre also withdrew his resignation after seeing the support he got from the community.

Board Of Education Listened

One parent, Kathi Van Zandt, took the time to write a letter to the members of the Board of Education. She elaborated on the absurdity of the situation where a teacher was forced to resign just because one parent felt offended by the segment shown to the students.

"To lose him, to allow ONE PARENT to make that decision because she was offended at a TV SHOW, is absolutely ludicrous and you know it," said Van Zandt. With the way the school took back Ventre after showing the John Oliver clip, Van Zandt's letter must have made an impression.

With the stir that John Oliver's "Make Donald Drumpf Again" caused, will he react and redeem Ventre on his next show? It's something to possibly look forward to.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Success! Teacher Rehired After Sharing Political Views 
Joe Ventre  By: Judy M.  May 6, 2016

Who was your favorite high school teacher? For many students at Middletown South High School in Middletown, New Jersey, the answer is Mr. Ventre, a history instructor.

So they were devastated when Ventre was forced to resign, after he used a video clip from John Oliver’s show “Last Week Tonight,” satirizing presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s ancestral surname, and urging viewers to “Make Donald Drumpf Again.” (A clip, incidentally, that has been viewed more than 25 million times on YouTube.)

One of those students, Lexie Brizzie, was so upset that she decided to take action and create a Care2 petition, asking Middletown South High School and the Middletown Township Public School District Administration to rehire Ventre, after he was forced to resign.

Lexie Brizzie’s petition garnered more than 3,700 supporters, and on May 3, it was announced that Joe Ventre would be rehired.

As one person who signed the Care2 petition noted, “The punishment does not fit the crime.” While it’s true that by sharing his political opinions, Ventre was violating the terms of his contract (the same contract that binds all public school teachers), it is absolutely wrong that one incident like this should bring about his firing.

Plenty of students at Middletown South agreed with that.

Brizzie writes in her petition, “As a student in Mr. Ventre’s history class I have learned more about life and history than ever before. He has an extremely positive effect on the lives of students in and out of his classes.”

At a school board meeting on April 20, overflowing with outraged students and parents, other students stood up to voice their opinions.

A Passionate And Enthusiastic Teacher

Mr. Ventre is “one of the most challenging, innovative and interesting teachers in the entire school,” says one boy. “I haven’t met a single teacher in my time here that’s more passionate or more enthusiastic.”

Another student, a junior, makes a powerful speech, stating, “I cannot comprehend how the single complaint of a parent can have the authority to condemn a teacher who has left a lasting imprint on the students he has taught.”

The board meeting was packed with high school students fiercely determined to keep Joe Ventre as their history teacher, with the special enthusiasm that only teenagers can display.

“With past experiences, Mr. Ventre has been there to talk when needed,” Brizzie adds in her petition. “He knows how to understand kids’ feelings and is an honor to have as a teacher. He is one of my role models and losing him would negatively [a]ffect mine and many other students’ lives.”

So it was great to read in the Asbury Park Press on May 3 that “Joe Ventre will be one of the 864 certified staff members who is rehired at tonight’s Middletown Township Board of 
Education meeting.”

One Parent’s Complaint

It is also outrageous that a complaint by one parent could bring about a demand for this teacher’s resignation; in other words, that one parent could override the wishes of numerous other parents and students. 

Thanks to Lexie Brizzie’s petition, and the support of other students, the Middletown Township Board of Education was pressured to rehire Joe Ventre. The history teacher was much more gracious about the whole incident:  

“Unequivocally, this is not the fault of the administration, the Board of Education, parents or students,” he wrote in a letter posted online. “This matter has arisen entirely because of my lapses in judgment.”

Congratulations to Lexie Brizzie, who used her Care2 petition to make a huge difference for Joe Ventre and for her high school. 

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