Archive for April, 2006

Saturday April 29, 2006

April 29, 2006 - 1:21 am No Comments

Flyers-5
Buffalo-4

WHAT AN EXCITING GAME! Each team made a slew of mistakes, goals kept accumulating.

Forsburg’s goal (second goal scored by the Flyers) was truly ASTONISHING.

Friday April 28, 2006

April 28, 2006 - 1:37 am 1 Comment

So after some thinking about the problems, accounting didn’t go as well as I would have liked. I made one very careless error and then the answer that I changed at the last moment was wrong. I hate it when I have the right answer and then I change it in the last 30 seconds due to a lack of confidence!! I’m quite upset, actually. It seems that one less than stellar performance may have ruined my grade. Oh well. There’s no time to brood. I’m going to get going and move on. Yeah, it’s unbecoming.

Tests and Papers Left:
1. History Paper – Due MON
2. Marketing Test – TUE
3. Spanish paper – Due WED
4. Finance Test – THURS

What a pretty upcoming week!

But…before that…I GET TO SEE THE FLYERS PLAY TOMORROW IN THE STANLEY CUP PLAY-OFFS!

Thursday April 27, 2006

April 27, 2006 - 5:36 pm 2 Comments

Accounting: Finished. I finished all but one question in one hour, 15 minutes, and then proceded to spend the rest of my time on that ONE question! And still…I am unsure of the answer. If anyone has any insights on the amount of product A division alpha should sent to division beta, please let me know.

Tonight, I’m going to finish my Spanish paper. I swear, I will not leave this room until I am 100% complete.

Thesis is below. Any comments would be appreciated highly!

El objeto de la idealización, abstraído de la sociedad masculina, la representación positiva de la mujer indígena en Cumandá y Los ríos profundos refuerza el propósito social del autor de inculcar la aceptabilidad de la cultura indígena. En la tradición del romanticismo e indianismo, Juan León Mera caracteriza las mujeres de la selva como las salvajes nobles con tendencias cristianas – una tabla raza que refleja la pureza de la naturaleza humana. Por eso, a través la representación de la mujer indígena, Mera insinúa que los indígenas pueden asimilarse en la identidad emergente de Ecuador, centralizada por el cristianismo. Asimismo, las chicheras, las aficionadas de Ernesto, y la figura redentora de Doña Felipa en Los ríos profundos subrayan lo valeroso y admirable de la cultura mestiza. En contraste con la violencia y la intolerancia de la sociedad machista, el espacio femenino se asocia con la preocupación con la justicia social y la armonía protectora – el equilibrio mestizo. Efectivamente, a pesar de la perspectiva predominantemente masculina en ambas obras, el retrato de la mujer sirve para avanzar la concepción subjetiva de la sociedad ideal.

 Para analizar esta conexión entre la caracterización de la mujer y las teorías sociales del autor, este ensayo empieza con una exploración de la forma de la idealización de la mujer en cada obra. Segundo, el ensayo detalla la representación del espacio femenino en contraste con lo masculino, examinando el impacto de esta oposición binaria. Tercero, puesto que los personajes femeninos en ambas obras inspiran la transformación de los protagonistas masculinos, este ensayo profundiza la influencia de Cumandá a Carlos y Doña Felipa a Ernesto.  

Monday April 24, 2006

April 24, 2006 - 9:51 pm 1 Comment
Who can play the blame game best? Everyone knows he’s responsible for creating the very aggressive and risky corporate culture, willing to sacrifice as much as possible to maintain a set ROI and profit. Now, he’s trying to garner sympathy. Come on, it’s just ridiculous.

April 24, 2006
New York Times

Ex-Chairman of Enron Blames Chief Finance Officer

HOUSTON, April 24 — Kenneth L. Lay, the former chairman of Enron, took the stand at the federal courthouse here today in an impassioned effort to invoke sympathy among the jury and claim innocence in the swirl of events surrounding the sudden collapse of his company more than four years ago.

Mr. Lay, repeating a central element of his strategy that he and his lawyers have been elaborating for several months, laid the blame for Enron’s financial problems with the company’s former chief financial officer, Andrew S. Fastow. He also pointed to hedge funds whose aim was to exploit arcane weaknesses within Enron and a wider post-Sept 11 scenario of financial markets unhinged by fears of an economic slowdown.

“It all begins with the deceit of Andy Fastow and probably not more than one or two other people,” said Mr. Lay, 64, referring to former Enron officials who have already pleaded guilty in exchange for lenient sentences and cooperating with the federal investigation of Enron.

Citing the financial schemes of Mr. Fastow and the actions of hedge funds attempting to weaken Enron’s reputation before creditors, Mr. Lay said, “All that fed into a firestorm that we couldn’t stop.”

In essence, Mr. Lay and his lawyer, George McCall Secrest Jr., were attempting to recast Enron’s fall as a classic run-on-the-bank by anxious financial investors, in an effort to turn the attention of jurors away from the six counts of conspiracy and fraud that Mr. Lay is facing.Mr. Lay’s testimony builds on the ground laid by his co-defendant, Jeffrey K. Skilling, the former Enron chief executive, who ended two weeks on the stand last Thursday. Last week, Mr. Skilling, who is charged with conspiracy, fraud and insider trading, frequently and testily parried with a prosecutor about the health of Enron’s business, which he described as robust.

Today, Mr. Lay, speaking slowly and steadily with a mild Southern drawl, and occasionally stabbing at the air with his right hand in the direction of the jury, tried to portray himself as a pious family man with humble heartland origins.

“I am very, very anxious and trying to do all that I can to get the truth out about Enron,” Mr. Lay said, explaining how he was proud of the wealth he enjoyed after building Enron into one of the nation’s largest energy companies, financially assisting his five children, 12 grandchildren, even his 96-year-old father-in-law.

Further attempting to humanize himself, Mr. Lay, the son of a Baptist preacher from Missouri, also sought to put Enron’s troubles into a wider context. He explained how a weakening economy and volatility in energy prices in the months before Enron’s bankruptcy filing had exacerbated the company’s dilemma.

“The last thing I would do as a C.E.O. would step in and pick up leadership of a conspiracy,” said Mr. Lay, responding to questioning from one of his lawyers about his decision to reassume the job of Enron’s chief executive in 2001 after Mr. Skilling resigned. When asked about the impact of Enron’s bankruptcy, Mr. Lay said it was traumatic for both him and the company’s employees, describing the event as filled with “hurt and destruction and the pain.”

Taking a somewhat paternalistic approach in speaking before jurors, Mr. Lay discussed his entry into the energy business in 1964 as a junior economic planning employee at Humble Oil, one of Exxon Mobil’s corporate precursors.

“I don’t know if you got anyone on the jury old enough to remember that,” said Mr. Lay with a glance in the jury’s direction and a slight smile, his fingers intertwined like a university professor lecturing a classroom of undergraduates.

Mr. Lay, who has a doctorate in economics from the University of Houston, also explained his ascent into the most rarefied business and philanthropic circles of this freewheeling city. He contrasted that rise with humble origins in rural Missouri, where his father had to work part time as a salesman of farm machinery to make ends meet.

Long known as a consummate showman, whether before audiences of financial audiences or black-tie dinners, Mr. Lay, his right hand extended once more in an attempt to articulate his view, explained how he was somewhat detached from the details goings-on within Enron’s executive suite. Asked by his lawyer if he was a micro-manager, Mr. Lay responded, “Oh no, I’m very much a decentralization person.”

Signaling what might be a slight departure from a defense that has emphasized unity with Mr. Skilling, Mr. Lay contrasted their management styles. “Jeff’s not the best person sometimes in dealing with regulators, sometimes with politicians, sometimes with the C.E.O.’s of other companies,” Mr. Lay said.

“He’s perhaps from time to time a little bit more blunt than I am.”

That statement was a veiled reference to Mr. Skilling’s outburst on a conference call in April 2001 in which he referred to one participant on the call with a vulgar term. That event was considered pivotal in Mr. Skilling’s subsequent decision to resign from Enron, paving the way for Mr. Lay to return to the job of chief executive. In the months that followed, Mr. Lay oversaw the frenzied collapse of Enron into bankruptcy.

The charges against Mr. Lay are narrower than those against Mr. Skilling, who faces 28 counts of fraud, conspiracy and insider trading, and they cover just the five-month period after he reassumed the chief executive position. Legal expert say he has a far better chance at being acquitted than Mr. Skilling, because there is less evidence tying him directly to the financial and accounting improprieties at Enron.

A clutch of high-profile character witnesses are also expected to testify on behalf of Mr. Lay, once a leading figure in Enron business and civic circles and a close friend of the Bush family.

Mr. Lay’s lead defense lawyer, Michael W. Ramsey, who is recovering from two heart surgeries, was again absent from the courtroom today. Mr. Lay, whose direct testimony and cross-examination is expected to last at least a week, will face another trial on four criminal charges related to his personal bank loans after the current trial is over.

Vikas Bajaj contributed reporting to this article from New York.

Sunday April 23, 2006

April 23, 2006 - 8:18 pm 2 Comments

Study, study…
I’m enjoying it, actually. Though I admit, accounting is somewhat oring…but by the end of tonight, I’ll find a way to make it interesting.

Yesterday night, the fire alarm in our suite kept on going off every hour. At 9:30 AM, it went off and didn’t shut off! As a result, I am very tired in a way that a nap could not rectify!

Friday April 21, 2006

April 21, 2006 - 2:03 pm 2 Comments

Another triumph of a Maoist party? 10,000-15,000 fighters strong, the Maoist insurgents can easily take over this once peaceful country. With their inspiration derived from the violent Senderos Luminosos of Peru, these Maoist insurgents are ruthless in their application of force, willing to sacrifice the lives of peasants in their dirty war tactics. Just to put things in perspective, the conflict with the senderos in Peru killed over 20,000 people and damaged over 30 billion in infrastructure over the course of a decade.

May history never repeat itself…

Nepal’s King Vows Change in Political Power

KATMANDU, Nepal, April 21 — Nepal’s embattled King Gyanendra said this evening that he would turn the reins of government over to a prime minister chosen by the country’s main political parties, but the gesture hardly brought relief to a nation on the verge of political paralysis.

“Executive power of the Kingdom of Nepal, which was in our safekeeping, shall, from this day, be returned to the people,” the king announced, on a day when pro-democracy protests, in defiance of a rigid daylong curfew, swept tens of thousands of Nepalese onto the capital’s heavily fortified main road.

There was little official reaction to the speech from the country’s political leaders, who were huddled in meetings tonight, but the mood on the streets remained on edge. However, news agencies reported that the leading opposition party had termed the king’s offer inadequate and had called for street demonstrations to continue.

“There’s nothing for those who were killed in these protests,” Raj Narayan Thakhur, 26, said as bonfires burned in the western suburb of Chabahil, and protesters milled around in the pitch-dark streets.

“It doesn’t work,” said Bishwokiran Shakya, 46, with a brisk wave of his hand. “No good.”

The king’s long-awaited, surprisingly short address on state-owned television said nothing about the two principal demands of the politicians and those who have poured out onto the streets for the last two weeks, defying curfews and bans: first, whether he would restore the elected Parliament, suspended in May 2002, and second, whether he would agree to a referendum to review the constitution. Calls for an end to monarchy, enshrined in the constitution, have grown louder and more brazen.

Violent protests have swept the country for the last 16 days, and the largest in the capital came today, as tens of thousands punched through a ban on political demonstrations, shouted gleefully for the king’s head, burned effigies, and at one point, toppled a small tin-roofed police shack and set it alight.

If the politicians were to agree to the deal, it is unclear whether they would be able to sell it to their street cadres or to the Maoist rebels with whom they have lately linked arms in a joint bid to wrest power from the palace. It also remains unclear whether the king’s announcement, and more importantly, the politicians’ reaction to it, will help douse the rage on the streets. In the 16 days of demonstrations so far, 11 people have been killed by security forces.

In anticipation of discontent, the palace extended the curfew by another five hours, to midnight.

K.P. Sharma Oli, a standing committee member of one of the two main political factions leading the protests, the Communist Party of Nepal United Marxist Leninist, offered his personal appraisal of the speech. “Its not enough,” he said, adding that his party had yet to react officially. “The protest will continue and will further intensify.”

Just hours before the king’s address, the American ambassador to Nepal warned of the prospects of the end of his regime.

“His time is running out,” Ambassador James Moriarty told reporters, according to The Associated Press. “Ultimately, the king will have to leave if he doesn’t compromise. And by ‘ultimately’ I mean sooner rather than later.”

Thursday April 20, 2006

April 20, 2006 - 12:51 pm 1 Comment
Business Week Online


APRIL 20, 2006
News Analysis

By Steve Hamm

Lenovo’s Foreign Affairs

Lingering concerns over its sale of PCs to the State Department could hamper the Chinese company’s efforts to win other U.S. deals

When China’s Lenovo Group purchased IBM’s (IBM ) PC division a year ago, the deal looked like a pioneering step in a new era of cross-cultural business collaboration that might bring China and the U.S. closer. Now, even with Chinese leader Hu Jintao here visiting government and business leaders, the two countries seem as far apart as ever. There’s friction over Iran, Taiwan, software piracy, and trade. And Lenovo is in the no man’s land in between.

The political predicament is on the mind of Lenovo Chairman Yang Yuanqing. Yang, who moved to the U.S. last year to be near Lenovo’s new headquarters just north of New York City, vented his frustrations in a recent interview with BusinessWeek Online. He was responding to a hail of criticism that greeted news last month that the U.S. State Dept. had bought 16,000 Lenovo PCs for use in offices worldwide.

Critics, including CNBC’s Lou Dobbs, tarred Lenovo as a government-owned company that might help the Chinese government spy on the U.S. “We are not a government-controlled company,” says Yang. “This didn’t create a good image for us, and I want to clarify.”

SECURITY CONCERNS.  The remarks may be well-timed. Although the State Dept. transaction seems like a done deal, the political troubles may not be over. Lenovo has delivered the PCs, which were manufactured in the U.S. and Mexico. The State Dept. itself is loading software into the machines and distributing them to its offices.

Still, several members of the U.S.-China Economic & Security Review Commission, which was set up to monitor the commercial relationship between the two countries, remain concerned about the deal. That could put a damper on Lenovo’s future prospects of landing government contracts.

So what’s the problem? Larry Wortzel, the chairman of the commission, was a U.S. Army intelligence officer in a decades-long career that included five years at the U.S. Embassy in China. In those days, he says, the Chinese government routinely tampered with PCs brought into the country by embassy employees. Simply put, he remains untrusting.

“It’s a country with a highly active intelligence program,” says Wortzel. “Could they insert things into these PCs? Could damage be done? We’re asking those questions.” Darla Jordan, a State Dept. spokesman, says the PCs “will be subject to rigorous security testing and screening.”

MORE QUESTIONS.  The commission isn’t taking any chances. Already, commissioners have queried several U.S. intelligence agencies and learned that there’s potential for tampering, says Wortzel. Now he’s setting up meetings with the State Dept and the Homeland Security Dept.

Wortzel wants to find out from State how the computers will be used. Will they be loaded with sensitive information or connected to networks that house classified data? From Homeland Security, he wants to find out if Lenovo employees who are Chinese nationals have the proper security clearances. “We’re in the middle of methodically moving through this,” says Wortzel.

There has been little direct communication between the commission and Lenovo, however. Lenovo says it has offered to have its executives speak to the commission and is looking forward to having a meeting. Wortzel says Lenovo only offered to have its public-relations agency meet with him, and he wants to talk face to face with executives.

MARKET ECONOMY.  Yang says the commission’s concerns are unwarranted. While the company that’s now called Lenovo was launched in 1984 with $25,000 in funding from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the academic research organization now controls only 27% of the stock — with the rest owned by public shareholders, employees, IBM (IBM ), and three U.S. private-equity investment firms. None of the directors is from the Chinese government or the Academy of Sciences. “After we acquired the IBM PC company, we became an international company,” Yang says.

Yang’s second point is that Lenovo has always been run by its founders and executives. It’s a point of considerable pride for him. “We were the pioneer of the Chinese transformation from the planned economy to the market economy,” he says. In the early 1990s, the Chinese PC market was dominated by four government-backed organizations that got special treatment.

“We beat them,” Yang points out. The efforts made Lenovo the dominant PC maker in China. The original chief executive of the new Lenovo was Steve Ward, a former IBM executive. Now, it’s Bill Amelio, who formerly ran Asia-Pacific operations for Dell (DELL ) (see BW Online,12/21/05 , “Lenovo’s New Boss — from Dell”).

NO RESOLUTION.  What’s more, Yang says, Lenovo is a model of transparency and modern corporate governance. It was listed in 1994 on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, and was the first China-based company to diversify its shareholder base by listing on a public exchange and to award its founders and managers with shares and stock options.

Until the two sides align, there’s little chance that this matter will be resolved to Lenovo’s satisfaction. That’s a potentially serious drag on a company that’s trying to rapidly establish a global footprint and create a trustworthy global brand (see BW Online, 2/23/06, “Lenovo Makes a Name for Itself”).

Lenovo’s U.S. government business is relatively small. The company doesn’t disclose exact figures but makes no bones about wanting to expand that business. Meanwhile, it’s increasingly pushing the Lenovo brand in front of corporate buyers and small- and medium-sized businesses. Any questions about Lenovo’s independence muddy its image and harm its ability to compete against Dell, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ ), and other top PC makers.

Thursday April 20, 2006

April 20, 2006 - 1:23 am 2 Comments

FINISHED WITH MY HISTORY PAPER
(after who knows how many hours…) If anyone is interested in reading it, please let me know! I would love any feedback.

Tuesday April 18, 2006

April 18, 2006 - 8:06 pm 1 Comment

Back from debate nationals.

What an exhausting week! Missing four days of school (six days total when counting weekends) can be deadly. I hope it will not be too difficult catching up in all the classes that I missed. Unfortunately, however, as this is the last week of classes, each lecture has been exponentially important. Nevertheless, since I strongly believe there is no point in crying over spilt milk, I will just let all of it go, work on things one at a time, and not get worried that I have three major assignments due very soon in addition to the traditional demands of finals.

Yes, this is the last week of school. On Friday, I can officially call my sophomore year over. All the clubs I’m in are holding elections and unfortunately, I will not be running for any office because of my mandatory study abroad. [Oh, how I really wish I don't have to go!]

Debate will be absolutely amazing next year. After seeing how it’s supposed to be done at nationals, I’m confident that our team will be superb. We have all the ideas – the intelligence, the wit – now, we just need the evidence, technical skills, and structure. Nothing to be afraid of.

Too bad I won’t be doing debate at Penn next semester because of study abroad!

Sunday April 16, 2006

April 16, 2006 - 11:44 am 2 Comments
Is capitalism inherently associated with greater inequality? Is an increase in absolute living standards an appropriate compensation for a widening income gap? Why do people care so much about preserving egalitarianism in economics if there are so many qualms about true social and political integration and equality?

[Interesting how the Japanese just strive to be "average". I suppose only Western culture is focused on being different.]

Revival in Japan Brings Widening of Economic Gap

OSAKA, Japan — Japan’s economy, after more than a decade of fitful starts, is once again growing smartly. Instead of rejoicing, however, Japan is engaged in a nationwide bout of hand-wringing over increasing signs that the new economy is destroying one of the nation’s most cherished accomplishments: egalitarianism.

Today, in a country whose view of itself was once captured in the slogan, “100 million, all-middle class society,” catchphrases harshly sort people into “winners” and “losers,” and describe Japan as a “society of widening disparities.” Major daily newspapers are running series on the growing gap between rich and poor, with such titles as “Divided Japan” and “Light and Darkness.”

The moment of reckoning has come as the man given credit for the economic revival, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, prepares to retire in September after more than five years in office. Mr. Koizumi’s Reaganesque policies of deregulation, privatization, spending cuts and tax breaks for the rich helped lift the national economy, but at a social cost that Japan’s more 127 million residents are just beginning to grasp.

Thanks to a growing economy and rising corporate profits, companies hired several hundred thousand more young Japanese for the start of the fiscal year on April 1. The broad Topix stock index closed recently on a 14-year-high. Commercial land prices in the country’s three biggest metropolitan areas rose for the first time in 15 years, and high-rise luxury apartment buildings have kept sprouting across Tokyo.

At the same time, the number of Japanese without any savings has doubled in the last five years, and the number receiving welfare payments or educational assistance have spiked by more than a third.

Mayumi Terauchi, 38, began receiving education aid when her 7-year-old son, Yuuki, started school last year, to help bear the costs of the backpack, cafeteria lunches and other necessities not covered in public schools. She frets that his place and that of her 1-year-old daughter, Natsumi, are already fixed in the new Japan of winners and losers.

Ms. Terauchi sees a “huge gap” in quality between public and private schools here in Osaka. But she and her husband cannot afford the private schools, or even the cram schools — for-profit supplemental programs — that would raise their children’s chances of getting into good colleges and securing their future.

“I want to provide them with an education that will allow them to choose from, say, 10 different kinds of jobs,” Ms. Terauchi said. “But I can only provide them with an education that will offer them three kinds of jobs. I think it’s wrong that only kids who go to cram schools can choose from 10.”

Her husband works at a small company that makes time recording equipment, leaving the house at 8 a.m. and returning after midnight on the last train. He has not received a raise in the last decade, and most of the overtime he works goes unpaid. Ms. Terauchi, who used to work at the same company, is now a homemaker.

In Osaka, home to medium-size and small businesses that have yet to bounce back from the long economic downturn, nearly 28 percent of schoolchildren receive, based on household income, about $500 in annual aid provided by Osaka and the national government. It is the nation’s highest rate, followed by Tokyo, with 25 percent.

The focus on the widening economic gap has put Mr. Koizumi on the defensive.

“I don’t think it’s bad that there are social disparities,” he said in Parliament, explaining that he favored a “society that rewards talented people who make efforts.”

Mr. Koizumi later appeared to soften his position. “Winners and losers shouldn’t be trapped in those categories. If someone loses once, he should be given a second chance.”

From a highly stratified prewar society, postwar Japan was transformed into a nation where companies famously offered lifetime employment and promoted employees according to seniority, not performance.

“Until the mid-1990′s, the government used its power to contain the widening of social disparities,” said Masahiro Yamada, a sociologist at Tokyo Gakugei University, who has written a best seller called “Society of Disparities in Expectations.”

Even after the so-called bubble economy collapsed, the government kept spending liberally on public works that sustained companies, which, in turn, continued to take care of their employees. Eventually, Mr. Yamada said, Japan just did not have the means to practice this form of paternalistic capitalism.

Critics say that though some changes under Mr. Koizumi were necessary, others went too far in favoring the rich at the expense of the average Japanese.

Even as many companies abandoned lifetime employment, laid off employees and began tying promotions to performance, Mr. Koizumi lifted most restrictions against hiring temporary workers. Critics say these workers are a growing underclass of Japanese, with permanently lower wages, few benefits and little chance of becoming full-time employees.

Until a generation ago, in keeping with the belief that wealth must be redistributed, the highest personal income tax rate was 75 percent. It was gradually lowered, to its current rate of 37 percent in 1999, before Mr. Koizumi took power. Under his government, the capital gains tax on sales of stocks was lowered from 20 percent to 10 percent in 2003, and inheritance laws were changed to make it easier to transfer large assets. Meanwhile, the government decreased health and pension benefits.

“It’s trickle-down theory,” said Toshiaki Tachibanaki, an economist at Kyoto University, who argues that Mr. Koizumi’s policies have widened social disparities. “Rich people should be helped so they will contribute to the economy.”

The government says that the aging population, more than anything else, has caused income gaps. But critics say aging alone does not account for the sweeping changes since 2000, the year before Mr. Koizumi became prime minister.

In that period, in a country famous for its savers, the number of households reporting no savings doubled to 24 percent — the highest figure since the early 1960′s. And the number of households receiving welfare payments rose by more than 37 percent to more than a million households. From 2000 to 2004, the number of schoolchildren receiving aid rose by 36 percent to almost 13 percent of elementary and junior high school students.

Mr. Yamada, the sociologist, says the disparities are sharpest among Japanese in their 20′s and 30′s, among whom two groups have emerged: full-time employees and permanent temporary workers.

“The reason that there are no riots in Japan as in France is that most of these young people live with their parents,” Mr. Yamada said, pointing out that even 12 percent of Japanese between the ages of 35 and 44 lived with their parents in 2004. With free housing and food, those with temporary jobs can still afford to pursue personal interests.

Most troubling to many critics are the emerging inequalities in education. Private junior high schools, offering guaranteed access to a prestigious private high school and high chances of getting into a top university, have been attracting increasing numbers of students in the last five years.

To get into such a junior high school, a child usually attends cram school for three years through the sixth grade, at a total cost of about $20,000. A magazine called President Family profiles families with children who have entered high quality junior high schools. Typically, the father is a high-earning professional, while the mother is a homemaker who concentrates on the child’s schooling.

“We see polarization,” said Toshio Koido, who has taught for 30 years at Yata Elementary, a public school, in southern Osaka.

Nearly 60 percent of the school’s students receive educational assistance, even though Osaka has raised the income threshold to qualify for it. Mr. Koido said that many of the children’s fathers had been laid off or shifted to lower-paying jobs in recent years.

“Some children are spending evenings alone because their mothers work at night,” Mr. Koido said, explaining that students’ home environment had become a problem in recent years. “They can’t focus in the classroom. They’re late, not just by minutes but by hours.”

Elementary and junior high school are mandatory and free in Japan. But Kotaro Tatsumi, 29, an official at a private welfare organization, said that even with educational aid many families struggled to pay for supplies.

“One family asked us to look for a used school uniform because they couldn’t afford to buy one,” he said. “So we looked for one through our newsletter and found one.”

Miyuki Matsuda, an office worker at the same organization, receives school aid for her 10-year-old son. She and her husband, a cement truck driver, also have a 2-year-old daughter. Unlike the families in “President Family,” Ms. Matsuda, 34, said that among families in her neighborhood both parents work.

“I can tell that from the fact that very few parents show up for open school events,” Ms. Matsuda said. “People say they could be fired if they take the time off.”

“I wonder what kind of country Japan is becoming if you’re told you’re either a winner or loser,” she said. “I don’t want to be either. I just want to lead an average life.”