Rie shook off the dust and the sayings

December 27, 2013 § 2 Comments

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The Yomiuri Shimbun has published an account of the events leading up Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine two days ago. If the timeline and the quotations in the story are accurate — and there is no reason to doubt that they are — a picture emerges of a ruthless Abe, unbound by courtesy or caution in his dealings with his most prominent political allies.

Here is the snippet on Abe’s call to Yamaguchi Natsuo, the leader of the party whose House of Councillors votes Abe relies upon to guarantee the passage of legislation:

“I’ll visit the shrine at my own discretion,” Abe told Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of New Komeito, the junior coalition partner of his Liberal Democratic Party, over the phone at about 11 a.m. on Thursday, about 30 minutes before he headed to the shrine.

“I cannot support that,” Yamaguchi told Abe.

“I didn’t think you’d agree with me,” Abe said before hanging up the phone.

Abe also informed LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba of his intention to visit the shrine in the same morning.

What the Yomiuri narrative fails to clarify is that Yamaguchi and Ishiba already knew Abe was on his way to Yasukuni before the PM made his courtesy calls. Major news outlets began publishing and airing alerts regarding the Abe visit 30 minutes prior to Abe’s 11 a.m. call to Yamaguchi. Ishiba found out about the visit from the reporters covering him, when they all started shouting at him, “What is your opinion of the prime minister visiting Yasukuni?” An exasperated Ishiba replied, “Why are you all asking me my opinion of a Yasukuni visit?” The reporters shouted back, “Because it has been announced!” Ishiba, trying to appear nonchalant, turned and walked away, repeating the news to himself, “Oh, it’s been announced. Hmmmm.”  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: [unattributed]

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It’s one which I think, actually, came in with Milton Friedman. I used to read about it, I used to look about – it’s not a doctrine, it’s a theory to which I’ve never subscribed

April 9, 2013 § Leave a comment

In a series of stunning decisions starting on 7 March 2013, Japanese High Courts have turned the tables on the Abe government. Out of 16 cases filed, the courts have ruled the expected way only twice. Fourteen cases ended with the justices determining the election to have been unconstitutional, without question or qualification. In a post-war first, two courts ruled the election districts unconstitutional and invalidated the results.

Even more surprising were the justices’ arguments. The key point was not a violation of the ‘2.0’ standard; indeed, the decisions invalidating election results came in areas where this was not a problem. The key consideration for the justices was the contempt shown by the legislative branch for the judicial branch. Justice Junko Ikadatsu, who handed down the first of the historic decisions to invalidate an election result, said that by taking more than 18 months to even consider redrawing electoral boundaries, the legislature could not be said to have fulfilled its constitutional role. Justices of the Tokyo and Sapporo High Courts condemned the +0/-5 solution as being not at all what the Supreme Court had demanded.

The Supreme Court, which will take all the cases on appeal, is not expected to hand down its decision before the upcoming House of Councillors election. This means that in strict legal terms the Abe government can claim legitimacy from its victory in the tainted 2012 election and its projected landslide in the 2013 election. However, a penumbra of illegitimacy will descend over the Abe government once the Supreme Court finds the 2012 election unconstitutional. While previously unthinkable, such an outcome seems almost guaranteed given the preponderance of High Court decisions finding the election results unconstitutional (14 out of 16) and the Supreme Court’s own warnings in 2011.  read more

FILM: Bea Fremderman

According to the most up-to-date investigations, the unconscious is a sort of cognitive ghetto – a home for homeless thoughts. Alas, many thoughts are now homesick

December 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

according-to-031212

If the current public opinion polls hold up, and the Democratic Party of Japan suffers losses commensurate with its betrayal of the high hopes the voters had had for the party when they voted it into power in 2009, leaving the Liberal Democratic Party and the Japan Restoration Association as the top vote winners, then we are all in big trouble.

How do we know this?

Calligraphy.

The leaders of the eleven parties held a joint press conference yesterday at the National Press Club. The hosts had the party leaders write down, with felt-tip pens on giant stiff paper flip cards, the main theme(s) of their campaigns.

For those not familiar with this business of writing down slogans or mottoes, the request would probably seem a tad odd. The practice is quite common, however. A major sports figure can hardly get out of a one-on-one, sit down interview without being handed a white square of stiff paper and a felt tip pen.

Given the place of this little ritual in public life, the variation in the performance of the eleven was stunning. The majority of the leaders proved incapable of writing down a few legible characters in a white rectangle.  read more

STILL: Harry Lachman

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