Monday, September 24, 2007

What Will Next Prime Minister Do?

Yasuo Fukuda will be the next prime minister in Japan. I was supporting Mr. Aso, who had similar political view with Mr. Abe, but he failed the race.

Mr. Fukuda, the NY Times says, "often comes across as dour in public"(By NORIMITSU ONISHI, Published: September 23, 2007). His comments are often unclear to understand, which isn't a good thing as a responsible lawmaker who talks to the public.

I don't know well what he wants to do as a Prime Minister. And many people in Japan won't support him. As the NY Times tells, Mr. Fukuda will serve as a caretaker leader until the party can regroup. He will do with the political issues in a very Japanesque way: He will play a role to be a very balanced caretaker in his party and to adjust the differences of views in his LDP.

Certainly it is sometimes very important and necessary for a lawmaker to adjust the differences of views in his or her party like adding up and dividing them by two. However, sometimes this means that doing nothing is the best policy to make. This may be not different from the politics in the US where I am living now. This is, I think, the old-fashioned conservative political way with which many Japanese are disgusted. And I am afraid either that Mr. Fukuda is such a role model and is going back to the old LDP (how do I say..., so to speak, the LDP as a pork-sprinkler.) or that he slams the brakes on reform.''

My ideal for a lawmaker is that he or she would show us what he or she is going to do for Japan, and would make a strong commitment to do so as a new leader.

Did you do so before? You were reluctant to become a leader of Japan, weren't you? What country have you been thought is desirable? Or what country have you wanted to build? What is your political agenda? What are you thinking the most important to solve the political problems lying ahead of us? Please let us know first, our new Prime Minister, Fukuda!!

In this point, Mr. Abe was much more sincere; He wrote his original book on his political views and he talked to us about what he was going to do as a youngest leader. He tried very well to save a dozen abductees from North Korea. Mr. Fukuda should succeed to Mr. Abe's effort to save the Japanese abductees.

Anyway I want to watch what he is going to do from now on.

Here's the excerpts that estimate his political way:

TOKYO (Reuters) -
"Safety, security and stability -- these are the things that many in the LDP are hoping for from Fukuda," said Takehiko Yamamoto, political science professor at Waseda University.

Financial markets had already factored in a Fukuda victory, but critics worry he'll be beholden to the LDP's old guard, slow down economic reforms, and be timid on foreign policy.

"Fukuda was chosen by party factions and I worry that things will go back to the old Japan," said an Aso supporter, 37-year-old Katsuya Nishima, who works in the financial sector.

Fukuda has pledged to pay more heed to depressed rural regions but has acknowledged there are limits to spending, given public debt is already about one-and-a-half times Japan's gross domestic product.

.....His political genda to create a "Beautiful Country" by reviving traditional values and boosting Tokyo's global security role, will likely take a back seat to pocket-book issues now. Fukuda has also sounded a softer note toward talks on normalizing ties with North Korea, long stalled by an emotive feud over Japanese citizens kidnapped decades ago.

Published: September 23, 2007
NY Times

Mr. Fukuda — sometimes described as a foreign policy “dove” who has long emphasized the importance of building strong ties with China and the rest of Asia — represents a break from the nationalist Mr. Abe and his predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi. At home, experts say, Mr. Fukuda will be pressured to slow down the political and economic changes undertaken by Mr. Koizumi so that his party can try to shore up its traditional rural voting base.

.....“The factions have staged a comeback — it’s old-style politics again,” said Ikuo Kabashima, a professor of politics at the University of Tokyo. “Mr. Fukuda, above all, symbolizes that. He is the exact opposite of Mr. Koizumi. We’ll probably see more public works from now on, plenty of pork.”

....“The faction leaders made their selection on the basis of who’s easy to control,” said Muneo Suzuki, a former Liberal Democratic lawmaker who now heads a small opposition party. “As a result, if the question is whether Mr. Fukuda can take the initiative and govern, he can’t.”

Mr. Fukuda said he would pursue the economic and political program that was started under Mr. Koizumi, but lagged under Mr. Abe. A further backpedaling would jeopardize the changes that experts say are needed to bolster Japan’s productivity and reduce its fiscal deficit. But many inside Mr. Fukuda’s party want to increase spending to recapture their traditional rural voters, who deserted them in July’s election.

.....But Mr. Fukuda lacks the charisma and personal popularity that empowered Mr. Koizumi to carry out policies often opposed by his own party. He is also a generation older than Mr. Abe, whose initial popularity rested partly on the fact that he was Japan’s first leader born after the end of World War II.

The photo is from NY Times.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

What's Wrong With "A Beautiful Country"?

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe resigned as a Prime Minister. I was supporting him from the US: Mr. Abe was the first prime minister who was born after the World War II. This is one of the most important things to work as the Prime Minister for our county, I believe. A Prime Minister needs to be so young and so healthy that he or she could work well on a hard schedule. But this time he suffered from serious health problem. It's a pity!

In Japan most of the members of the Diet are so old that they cannot catch up with the trend of time and cannot look at the current political issues that we are facing, for example, the issues on the revision of the pension system in Japan, and on the security of the Asia-Pacific areas, especially on the threat of the increasing military in China and North Korea.

What he aimed to do could be summarized as "a beautiful country". This was his main political phrase. Mr. Abe tried to tackle some serious political problems related to the internal and international security that Japan now has; He tried to save the lives of a dozen Japanese abducted by North Korea in the 1970s (but he at last didn't aim to relieve the abductees but to develop the negotiation with North Korea for relieving the abductees rapidly). And he tried to revise the education system in Japan; He was thinking of the history textbooks at school as a masochistic version of Japan’s wartime history. I agree!!

To be precise, when I was a junior high school, I disliked Japan; Around 60 years ago Japan invaded many Asian countries, especially China and the Korea Peninsula. It has been said that the Japanese soldiers continued to plunder the Chinese and Korean citizens of their treasures and continued to rape the women there. (See the case 1 and case 2) At school I was taught these cruel histories on the act of the then Japanese army during the World War Ⅱ. Our grandfathers whom I must have respected for seemed excessively criminal. I was wondering if I should have a sense of guilt and should continue to apologize for such a huge crime to the citizens in many Asian countries as long as I was born in Japan and I am a Japanese. Then I couldn't have a pride in my nationality!!

However, I knew that some of these events had been doubtful and hadn't been verified scientifically. (I do not mean that I deny the invasion over China and the Korea Peninsula by the then Japanese army. I think that I should recognize it as a historical fact and the Japanese government should apologize for it to the Chinese and Korean citizens.)

Mr. Abe said that there was no evidence that the Japanese military had forced women into sex slavery during the World War II. It became a political problem in the US and in Japan. However the history of the women comfort hasn't been investigated very well scientifically. There is a lack of the information on this fact. This year the comment by the United States House of Representatives called on Japan to acknowledge and apologize for this sex slavery. But I think that there's no reason that Japan should acknowledge and apologize for the sex slavery because there's no clear evidence that the Japanese military had forced women into sex slavery.

I think that the comment should have called on Japan rather to investigate and verify, than to acknowledge and apologize for this historical fact. At that time there were many prostitutes in China and Korea. When the Japanese army invaded there, it must have been very natural that they approached the Japanese soldiers because they were all men and, so to speak, a large demand for sex!! And there must have been many problems of the payment between the prostitutes and the Japanese soldiers: At that time they paid for the prostitutes by the military currency issued in Japan. After the war, this currency became a slip of paper because Japan lost the war. It is natural that it made many women working as a prostitute angry. And the Japanese government seems to have apologized for it officially. However it doesn't seem to be related to whether the Japanese army forced women to work as a sex slaver. Note that this is my conjecture! Needless to say, it also needs to be verified.)

Even though the historical facts of the invasion by the Japanese military were all real, we should try to investigate the causes and reasons, not just to describe what has been conveyed among the people. However many schools in Japan are now teaching the historical facts on war that need to be verified and certified more clearly. I think that this is a wrong education. It should be revised right now. The history teachers at school should teach the well-verified historical facts to our next generation. And the textbook should be one that makes our children have a pride and a hope as a Japanese. And it should be one that makes them build the better relationship with China, Korea and many other Asian countries.

Certainly he seemed to incline to focus rather on the morality and precepts that the Japanese should have in origin, than on technical procedure on the policy issues that Japan should solve. It seemed somewhat abstract to many Japanese people and it was one of the causes for him to lose his popularity in Japan.

Anyway I'm looking forward to seeing the next Prime Minister. I hope that he will have the similar political ideas with Mr. Abe and that Mr. Abe will recover from his health difficulty as soon as possible. I believe that he did well as the Prime Minister of Japan. I still have a great respect for him.


NY Times
Published: September 13, 2007

David Guttenfelder/Associated Press
.....Shinzo Abe after announcing his resignation as prime minister. He was criticized for not bowing or apologizing during his speech. Mr. Abe, deeply unpopular, had already been written off by Japan’s political establishment and media, his political future measured in months. The start of a new parliamentary session on Monday was supposed to usher in fierce debate with the newly powerful opposition Democratic Party, followed by probable deadlock over the military’s participation in the war in Afghanistan and then by Mr. Abe’s exit.

....Mr. Abe, who had described himself as a “politician who fights,” apparently had no stomach for it. As early as Monday he shared his wish to quit with his closest political confidant, Taro Aso, the party’s secretary general, who shares Mr. Abe’s ideological views and is now widely considered the front-runner to succeed him.

“In the current situation, it will be quite difficult to forcefully pursue policies based on the people’s support and trust,” Mr. Abe said, seeming at one point on the verge of tears and failing — television commentators and ordinary people alike said critically — to bow or apologize during his news conference.

.....Possibly to deflect criticism of the sudden resignation, party officials said that Mr. Abe, 52, the first prime minister born after World War II, was suffering from poor health, though they provided no details. [On Thursday morning, Mr. Abe went to see a doctor at a hospital here, Japanese media reported.]

.....Mr. Abe, who became prime minister last September, gained popularity by championing the cause of a dozen Japanese abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and fanning, critics said, nationalist anger. As a lawmaker, he had long led efforts to revise school textbooks and present what critics said was a whitewashed version of Japan’s wartime history. Last spring, Mr. Abe said there was no evidence that the Japanese military had forced women into sex slavery during World War II, causing a furor in the United States, as well as in Asian and European countries. The comments built support for the eventual passage by the United States House of Representatives of a nonbinding resolution calling on Japan to acknowledge and apologize for the sex slavery.

Mr. Abe’s cabinet was weakened by a series of money-related scandals and gaffes that forced four of his ministers to resign; a fifth committed suicide after being caught greatly inflating his office expenses. But it was Mr. Abe’s mishandling of a bookkeeping problem surrounding the national pension system that contributed the most to his party’s devastating loss in the upper house election. While the problem had existed for many years, Mr. Abe kept quiet after learning about it early this year. After opposition politicians exposed it in the spring, Mr. Abe first played down the issue, angering voters in a rapidly aging nation with a declining birthrate.

Friday, September 07, 2007

A Free Lunch Is Really A Free Lunch!?

Today I had a free lunch. In the afternoon a student government provided us with free hot dogs and Diet Pepsis in an open space in front of the library. I had a hot dog and a Pepsi at the bench. A hot dog is a bread with a big sausage and ketchup and mustard sauce. It's a simple hot dog; It's a nice volunteer work and a surprise to me! In Japan we have no free lunch. (It was a hot dog that I learned for the first time when I began to study English. It's a good old memory.)

In America I hear that there's a free lunch especially for the homeless and the poor as a part of public policy. If he or she had a card called "food stamp"(Now most food stamp benefits are distributed using Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards but not used paper vouchers of some kind.), he or she could have food and drink. In contrast there's no food stamp in Japan but some welfare policies that attempt to help homeless, poor and sick people with food and drink. This problem, which I think very important, is going to be talked in my blog at no distant date.)

Regarding free lunch, if you were an econ student or an economist, you would hear the following statement: There's no free lunch in the world. This is certainly what Dr. Friedman, a prominent and a Nobel-prize winner economist in America, said. And this is one of the proverbs regarding the principles of economics I like best. And I was thinking of the meaning, while having a hot dog and a Pepsi at the bench.

Are the hot dog and Pepsi that I had really free? Yes, they are certainly free to me because I didn't pay for them at all. But they are surely charged to the student government that offered free hot dog and Pepsi to students. That's an easy question, isn't it? In this way we can say that there's some free lunch in the world.

But is this right? To be honest, they are also certainly charged to me! I didn't certainly pay for hot dog and Pepsi. What did I pay for then? That's the question. In fact I did pay the cost; It was what I gave up to get free hot dog and Pepsi. (We say it "opportunity cost") What was it? In fact I didn't know that there were free hot dog and Pepsi at school. So I brought the sandwiches that I made in the morning to school. But when I saw free hot dog and Pepsi at school, I felt like trying them. So I couldn't have the sandwiches in the afternoon. I had free hot dog and Pepsi at the expense of the sandwiches and the sandwiches are really what I gave up to get free hot dog and Pepsi. And so I am going to have the sandwiches in the next morning. My lunch has become a breakfast! This is the cost I've paid for free lunch at school.

All I can say is that Dr. Friedman is really right; There's no free lunch in the world.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

My life in Milwaukee

My lunch box(Ham sandwich, macaroni salad, and boiled egg)

Let's go to study!!
My study desk by the library
My notebooks and textbooks

After studying, let's go for a walk!!

Oh, here's a Japanese restaurant!! "ICHIBAN" means "Number 1!" This restaurant is near my apartment.

My supper
I like making macaroni salad.
The river near my university

To my surprise, there is a cicada in Milwaukee in summer.

At the front door of a house near my school
In the park near my school(they call it "Lake Park"), there is a golf course. We can play golf at $ 6.00(for standard). It is about 720 yen. ($1=120 yen.) For junior and senior, its cost is $3.50. This is, what is called, a discriminating price.
Small lecture on economics; In economics, discriminating prices is a kind of monopolistic pricing. This pricing is not from their warmth but their profit motive; They could make more money(or in other words they could maximize their own surplus) if they priced separately than if they priced equally. Monopolists face a downward-sloping demand curve and negligible marginal cost: They have a power to control their price in the market and it costs very litte for them to make another unit of their products.
Homework1; Find another examples of price discrimination in your life.

Americans seem to like playing golf as well as the Japanese. And it is much cheaper to play golf here than in Japan. I am jealous of Americans for playing cheaper golf!!
Economics view; The reason for cheaper golf is, I think, due to the difference of valuation on golf between the people here and the Japanese. In Japan we have fewer amusements for adults than Americans have; The Japanese have fewer choices to play for adult amusement. In contrast they have more choices. Except for golf they can enjoy fishing, yacht, driving, jogging and walking in a rich natural environment here. Therefore playing golf is valued relatively lower here than in Japan. In sum, due to richer nature and more amusements in a natural environment, playing golf is much cheaper here than in Japan.

Homework2; Find another explanation for cheaper golf here.

At the lakeside
A nice date spot!!
The Lake Michigan looks like sea.

A really nice date spot!!

The lake really looks like sea.
A big tree
Many trees in the park. I like to take a nap here. A church near the lake.

Starbucks. It's an originally American, but now a global company.
On the way to shopping
My breakfast
Oh, nice!!! Soy saurce!