Controversy in Japan over Bernanke’s appointment as Federal Reserve chief

Saru found this great article in the Yomiuri Shinbun online. Since they only keep articles online for a short time and this is the entire thing, I won’t bother searching for the link. Important bits in bold.

7 teenagers held after homeless man beaten

Seven high school students have been arrested on suspicion of assaulting a homeless man near the Arakawa river in Tokyo in July, reportedly motivated by curiosity about interest rates, following talk earlier this week that the Bank of Japan may end its quantitative easing policy early next year, police said Tuesday.

According to the Metropolitan Police Department and Nishi-Arai Police Station, the youths, aged 15 and 16 and from four metropolitan high schools, said they assaulted homeless people on about four occasions. Police also are investigating those cases.

According to the police, the students are suspected of dragging the 43-year-old homeless man out of his plastic tarpaulin lodgings under a bridge in Adachi Ward, Tokyo, and beating him. They also allegedly set off fireworks aimed at the homeless man, bruising him.

The youths reportedly told the police they targeted the homeless man because they presumed he would not report the assault, and because he, “looked like that old dude with glasses who, like, sets interest rates in the U.S. and stuff.”

“His face looked funny when he became angry, not like that new Bernanke guy, and it was a way for us to let off some steam,” one youth allegedly told investigators.
(Oct. 27, 2005)

Upcoming trip

I just booked my flight for the Phillipines! I’ll be leaving Taiwan November 25 and returning December 7th. Exactly what I’ll be doing there is rather vague since I haven’t so much as looked at a guide book, but I’ll be visiting some Philipino friends that I met in Japan, so I’m sure they’ll know where to go.

Belgium Has The Smurf Bomb

While this story’s been making its way around the blogs for days now, I can’t help but propagate it a bit further. The opening says it all:

Unicef bombs the Smurfs in fund-raising campaign for ex-child soldiers

The people of Belgium have been left reeling by the first adult-only episode of the Smurfs, in which the blue-skinned cartoon characters’ village is annihilated by warplanes…

What could be crazier than this? As it turns out, the idea that was left on the cutting-room floor:

Julie Lamoureux, account director at Publicis for the campaign, said the agency’s original plans were toned down. “We wanted something that was real war—Smurfs losing arms, or a Smurf losing a head—but they said no.

Thankfully, the spot will only be shown late at night, when the kids are (hopefully) asleep, and when the only victims of this ad will be adults. Let’s see how much money it raises for the Smurf-killers at the UN…

Koizumi’s Fiscal Kabuki

Okay, okay. I was just kidding about the kabuki bit in the subject line.

But listen:

One of the news stories currently making the rounds is a proposal by the LDP Fiscal Reform Study Group to hike consumption taxes from the current 5 per cent level to somewhere between 10 to 15 per cent. Increased revenues would then be used to pay for governmental expenditures on welfare, specifically public pension and insurance programs.

Now, Koizumi has said on numerous occasions that he would not increase the consumption tax during his tenure (which ends next September), but following the announcement by the study group did acknowledge the necessity of doing so (after he leaves office, of course). So, here we have the Prime Minister and his party saying that a tax hike is unavoidable sometime in the near future, but they’re not gonna do it just yet.

Of course, we didn’t hear much talk about raising taxes from the LDP before September’s general election. In fact, if I recall correctly, about the only thing we did hear was Koizumi saying that he wouldn’t raise the consumption tax while he was in office. The DPJ, on the other hand, included in their Manifesto a proposal to raise the consumption tax to 8%. And what were they going to do with this windfall inflow? Why, pay for governmental expenditures on welfare, of course.

And what is the LDP reaction to this attempt to steal their thunder on even an unpopular issue such as tax hikes? Criticize them for not going far enough.

From the Japan Times:

“I am not sure that the DPJ plan is enough,” Koizumi said. “There will certainly be calls for tax revenues to cover not only pension programs but also medical and nursing programs.”

The man talks a great game: he speaks to the public about the necessity of making tough decisions, makes the DPJ look like the protectors of the status quo in the process, but refuses to take action himself. Meanwhile, the DPJ gets clock cleaned and its initiative stolen.

Good going CKS

A professor from Australia’s Monash University has a piece in the Sunday edition of Taipei Times that confirms what I’d always suspected about Taiwan’s ostracization from the international community. Namely, that it was all Chiang Kai Shek’s fault.

Chiang lost the ROC its UN seat

n mid-1971, the US and other countries began to push for a “dual representation” solution. The Australian ambassador to Taipei, Hugh Dunn, wrote on June 4, 1971, to then Minister of Foreign Affairs Chow Shu-kai (周書楷): “What we would see as a desirable finish is that the People’s Republic take over the Security Council seat, and that Taiwan remains on as a member, an ordinary member, of the UN … If the UN recognizes the PRC instead of the ROC as occupying the Chinese seat, and nothing else is done, Taiwan would be out in the cold. We wouldn’t favor that resolution.”

Chow showed some willingness to adjust to the new situation. When talking to the Japanese ambassador to Taipei, he said: “Although I have no way to approve of it and under the circumstances must express my opposition, we could tolerate its existence.” The English phrase, “We can live with it,” is added to the Chinese text.

In an “absolutely secret” secret document dated Aug. 3, 1971, the ministry laid out the options and Taiwan’s preferences. The first preference was that the “important question” motion be passed, which meant that the PRC would require a two-thirds vote to be admitted. The second preference was “dual recognition.” But even at this late moment, after more than 20 years of rejecting any alternative to “one China,” the Nationalist authorities would not openly embrace dual recognition.

So back in 1971 the USA, France, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and possibly other countries were all ready to support a motion granting the Republic of China (aka Taiwan) independent membership in the UN simultaneous with the recognition of the People’s Republic of China (aka Red China/Mainland China) as the holders of the Security Council seat. From today’s perspective, at a time in which the PRC’s economic, political, and military power is rising fast it we forget how powerless they really were back then – isolated internationally far more than Taiwan is today, their economy and social structure devastated by the Cultural Revolution. Had the ROC/Taiwan government actually put its support behind a two nation, dual representation structure at that time, China would have had absolutely no chance of opposing them, and the absurd fiction of the ‘one China policy’ would have never gotten off the ground.

What’s wrong with Climate-Controlled Biz?

As if Cool Biz weren’t aggravating enough, the Diet and administrative agencies are now getting ready for Stage 2: Warm Biz. Instead of turning down the air conditioning during the hottest months of summer, they want to turn down the heating during the coldest months of winter. So instead of seeing Diet speeches given in button-down shirts with the sleeves rolled up, Sankei indicates we might see Diet speeches given in overcoats and mufflers.

The culprit appears to be Environment Minister Yuriko Koike, mistressmind behind the Cool Biz program, who apparently believes that air conditioning is going to lead to the end of the world as we know it. Compare Joi Ito’s comment on Cool Biz: “For some reason this kind of suffering feels very Japanese and annoying. There is something very ceremonial and inefficient about it.”

Maybe Warm Biz won’t be as bad, though. Wintertime street clothes would work just fine in a Warm Biz building: if you have to go into a heated building, just take your coat off. Still, it seems like a rather inadequate benefit for such a cost in discomfort.

Asahi has an idea for letting the immigrants in

Bye guys! Don't come back now!

Page 11 of the Oct 21 Asahi Shimbun carried an editorial signed “H” in its “Keizai Kishodai” (Economic Observatory) Column..

The piece promotes a solution for the predicted work shortage in Japan: If putting women and the elderly to work isn’t enough, and Japan won’t accept foreign workers to take the good jobs, then they should push women into the work force and import CAREGIVERS and MAIDS to take care of the chores while they are away. Hong Kong and Singapore are already doing this apparently, so why not Japan?

Sounds like a plan! I don’t know why I haven’t seen this argument before. This seems like a very realistic proposition. I mean, caring for the elderly may be a pretty sensitive issue (it’s taboo even for a daughter-in-law to take care of her husband’s parents), but babysitters and housekeepers might be a different story.

The only coverage of this I could find on Literati (CORRECTION: TECHNOrati) was a Japanese-Chinese translation blog… Interesting if you’re studying both languages I suppose…

Koizumi takes a moment to ponder (taking magic mushrooms)

The shrooms have made Koizumi believe he can read the minds... of dead people

Last week’s Koizumi mail magazine started out like this:

[Lion Heart — Message from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi]
(Provisional Translation)

Autumn at the Prime Minister’s Office

Junichiro Koizumi here.

Yesterday morning, a clear and crisp autumn day, I was taking my usual walk from my official residence to my office when I spotted mushrooms amongst the shrubbery in front of my residence. Looking closer, I found an assortment of mushrooms scattered about, whose varieties ranged from large-capped mushrooms to small mushrooms that were nearly hidden by the shadows of the weeds. I am eager to look them up to learn whether they are edible.

A poignant moment of reflection for the PM right before his dream of postal privatization is about to be realized, right?

Well, thankfully for Koizumi he didn’t have to take time out of his busy schedule to look up what kind of mushrooms those were. According to Super News (anchored by the stunningly intense Yuko Ando — check out her awesome Fashion Calendar!), the mushrooms growing outside the Prime Minister’s official residence are actually hallucinogenic drugs that were legal in Japan until 2001 or so!

On a completely unrelated note, a friend of mine has pointed me in the direction of FNN (English explanations, Japanese videos [wtf??]), Fuji TV’s online video news site. This is the only site of its kind I have seen that offers high quality video that you can actually pause and let load so it doesn’t stop in the middle.