I made no attempt to contact any of the people who had been so important to me in the past. I had already let important connections unravel through inattention, and that carelessness has been a bane to me all my life

August 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

 

Debate is heating up in Tokyo about the advisability of hiking Japan’s consumption tax. Which should come first- economic growth or fiscal reconstruction? The prime minister must decide in a matter of weeks.

It’s after midnight and I’m sitting in a Roppongi bar discussing the subject with a knowledgeable Japanese bureaucrat.

“It’s essential to raise taxes,” he says, cradling a well-aged Islay malt. “If we don’t, investors will lose confidence and our bond market will collapse.”

“Aren’t you risking a serious recession?”

“A temporary blip, maybe. But the strengthening of public finances will be good for future growth.”

The year was 1997.  read more

FILM: Longplayer

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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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