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lyrical01 comments

Posted in: Kishida revamps cabinet; record-tying 5 women appointed ministers See in context

The most plausible explanation for why he has retained such unpopular and incompetent figures as Kono Taro and, to a less notorious extent, Suzuki Shun'ichi: he's planning a snap election. That sounds paradoxical, but the point is more that without the protection of being a minister these guys would surely lose. Having the ministerial prestige gives them their best chance. They may have cashed all their leverage chips in asking to stay in their posts through the next election. Suzuki is also Aso's brother-in-law and holds a ministry that Aso formerly held, so Aso may have made keeping him in MoF a condition of his continued support for the Kishida Administration, or else Suzuki may have appealed to Aso to use his influence to keep him in his post through the election.

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Posted in: Japanese fans react to new trailer of 'Bullet Train' starring Brad Pitt See in context

Looks seriously ridiculous, but Brad Pitt brings a lot of humor, so it might be fun. I live in Morioka, though, and am a little bummed they didn't keep the original destination. We have our own very picturesque volcano here that would have looked great on screen.

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Posted in: U.S. judge rejects bid for patent by AI 'inventor' See in context

AI don't need patents to incentivize them to create an invention. AI don't need the money from licensing patented inventions. And since a patent is only a right to sue someone else, not a right to practice the invention, granting a patent to an AI would be pointless, since an AI doesn't have standing to sue natural or legal persons in court.

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Posted in: Ancient temples of the Deep North: Some of Tohoku’s most historical temples See in context

It would have been nice if the article had mentioned the prefectures, or even more specific location information, for these temples. The article says only that Yamadera is in Yamagata.

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Posted in: Senior bureaucrats' lavish dining with Suga's son under probe See in context

@oyatoi: "... To the party heavies, his faithful service under Abe now counts for little ....": Why should it count for anything, if he's not competent to run the country? The problem with one-party rule is that the role of PM, or any other sort of minister, is awarded out of a notion of entitlement, not merit. (That is, when ministers aren't being selected in order to cripple their careers.) The cynicism of the party heavyweights isn't that they're now casting him adrift: it's that they selected him to begin with, since no one else wanted to be held responsible for the pandemic crisis.

A cynicism with a slightly different nuance was behind making Kono Taro minister in charge of vaccinations: since it was obvious he (or anyone else) would fail and thereafter bcome the object of resentment, the appointment was a way of preventing him from becoming PM anytime soon. Clever -- though it would have been nice if they'd chosen someone who could actually help us all to get vaccinated.

What the two cases have in common is that ministers were chosen for the most important roles in the government during a pandemic solely on the basis of intraparty concerns. Actually putting the government in the hands of people competent to help us who live in Japan never occurred to them.

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Posted in: AI chatbot introduced to tackle alarming rise in coronavirus-related suicides See in context

If they employed humans to run the hotline, that would not only help those contemplating suicide, but also some people who might need a job. What a missed opportunity, as well as illustrating a real compassion deficit.

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Posted in: Novelist Murakami urges politicians to speak sincerely about virus See in context

There is a tendency in the Japanese political imagination for all failures to be failures only of communication; that politicians need only to work harder to attain the public's understanding -- even when they lie, cheat, do favors for friends under the table, or utterly neglect their responsibilities.

What about failures of ACTION?

Japanese politicians don't only ned to "speak sincerely," they need to SHOW more concern for the people living here and DO more things to protect us.

In other countries, artists are at the front lines of mass political demonstrations; and even if that's off the table because of COVID, they create provocative works, and support more full-throated protest. If this sort of wishy-washy diagnosis by Murakami passes for activism and political engagement, that's a sorry statement about both politics and the arts in Japan.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Posted in: Ex-transport minister Hata, 53, dies from COVID-19 after falling ill on Dec 24 See in context

@noriahojanen: The Asahi report is incorrect (par for the course with Asahi). According to the CDP website, per Fukuyama Tetsuro, the general secretary of the party


Hata-sensei's secretary first called the clinic at the Upper House to get a test. They turned down the request for a test from one of their own members. 

None of the media report this, because it looks like the Government clinic had a role in his death. Which it very possibly did, even if only through negligence. So they tack on the story about how noble he was, or they simply skip this detail altogether.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Posted in: Japan's fractured opposition unites but face uphill battle to unseat LDP See in context

@ Aly Rustom: The issue of ideological tests is one that is sensitive to Edano, because of the Koike/Kibo no To experience. He is opposed to such tests in principle. Fortunately, some of the Nippon Kaigi supporters and other conservatives in DPP have self-sorted themselves out, such as Maehara and Tamaki. In any case, they aren't the only problematic folks.

Here in Iwate we have an MP who wrote Kibo's ideological test when he hopped over from DP. Then when Kibo folded he joined DPP, and then he became independent, and recently he has been maneuvering to join the renewed CDP -- but he's feuding with some DPP members who will join the local CDP kenren (prefectural organization), including power-broker Ozawa Ichiro. Although he is nominally progressive -- he was a brutal questioner of Abe, especially on constitutional issues -- he is quite divisive on personal, opportunistic grounds. Iwate's politics is certainly more fraught than most other prefectures'; but my point is that sometimes one's ideological comrades can still be jerks.

The name change issue for JCP is one where their stubbornness is a point of pride for them. Another, possibly bigger, problem seems to be that some unions allied with DPP really object to working with JCP. It's unclear whether a name change would be sufficient to smooth that over.

@1Glenn: Japanese politics is very easy to make sense of. It kind of boils down to two points. #1, Japan's election system, i.e. the legal apparatus for translating votes into seats in the Kokkai, is essentially the same as the one used in Putin's Russia. The technical name for the system is "mixed member majoritarian." It's one of the types of election system that is the least faithful at representing the propotions of votes cast; and before 1994, Japan's election system was even worse. As a result, this means that LDP/Komeito can win a majority -- or even ⅔ supermajority -- of seats, despite receiving around 35%-40% of votes cast in every election since 2012. I count votes by adding the votes a party receives in single-member districts + the ones they receive in the proportional vote. On that basis, the majority of votes cast are unambiguously against the ruling coalition time after time after time, but they stay in power anyway.

2, unlike any other country of comparable economic heft, Japan allows the PM to call an election whenever the heck he (always he) wants to. This means the ruling party can always choose sometime convenient for itself and/or inconvenient for the opposition. (And BTW, PM's do this even though they don't have constitutional authority to do so. They can do it because the Japan Supreme Court decided 50-something years ago that they would not adjudicate the constitutionality of this practice.) Given this advantage, it's kind of amazing that most votes are cast against the ruling pols nonetheless.

This is why the LDP has held onto power for about 60 of the past 65 years. See? Not so complicated.

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Posted in: Suga announces candidacy for PM; says he'll continue Abenomics reforms See in context

Every commentary on the Abe premiership has mentioned that at the end of the day he didn't accomplish much, depsite having been PM longer than anyone else. Note that this also means that Abenomics has had more time to prove itself than any other policy implemented by any other administration in postwar history -- and it still fell flat.

In that light, the argument that we need continuity of Abe's policies is fantastically ludicrous -- or it would be, if it weren't so troubling.

The real reason that the leadership election is being stacked in favor of Suga is the perceived urgent need to shield Abe from prosecution for the numerous unresolved scandals hanging over him. Ishiba certainly wouldn't protect Abe, but of all candidates, Suga is the most reliable to do so.

Unfortunately, Suga is also the most authoritarian candidate. And that will create even more tension than usual for the tatemae of "democracy" in Japan.

It's hard to see how the approval rate for a Suga Cabinet would be high -- I expect it will start out relatively low, and descend even furrther. And yet since it's unlikely that the opposition will re-take power in the next election (and it's not clear that winning is even their goal, since they don't want to have to clean up the COVID-related mess LDP created), it's possible that we could be stuck with Suga for a while. Japan's election law allows LDP and Komeito to get majorities and even supermajorities despite never getting a majority of the votes cast. The usual tally since 2012 is a bit less than 40% of all votes cast, even when the coalition gets a ⅔ majority. Being unpopular just might not matter much to the LDP.

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Posted in: Schools reopen in some parts of Japan after pandemic shutdown See in context

I live in a rural prefecture -- and one that claims to have ZERO cases. The idea that people in rural areas take extra precautions is ridiculous: there are lots of people walking around without masks here, especially men in the over-70 age group (same demographic as a lot of the farmers here).

The reason for the low numbers in some prefectures is simple: it's the principle of if you don't want to know the answer, don't ask the question. Up to now it's been nearly impossible to get tested, even if you're symptomatic: 1st, have a fever for 4 days (that's now been relaxed a little, as of today); 2nd get your doctor to apply for a test for you; 3rd, get it approved UNANIMOUSLY by a panel of SIX other doctors, experts in infectious disease (I'm a patient of one of them, in another context). We've also heard that whenever possible, cases that do turn up are sent elsewhere. E.g., someone with COVID-19 who worked here in Iwate was counted as a Miyagi case, since that's where he lives (just across the prefectural border).

The uncharitable way to think of this is what the id of Pres. Trump voiced the other day: if we tested more then we'd look bad for having lots of cases. A more charitable, though not exculpatory, way of looking at it is that local doctors are desperate to protect the meager healthcare resources they have at their disposal. E.g., certain hospitals are being kept free of virus patients so that they can keep serving cancer patients and others with serious illness. In that case, the question the authorities want to answer with testing is who needs a hospital bed. Even if they understand that they need to test asymptomatic people to understand the spread of the virus and the level of risk (I'm sure my doctor does, e.g.), in their minds they have to think with the triage mindset of a battlefield medic.

It would be better if they'd done both: conserved hospital resources while also giving the public a sense of the risk we're really facing. Sending kids back to school seems to be confusing tatemae with reality. As we used to say in Silicon Valley, when you start to believe your own BS, you're dead.

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Posted in: Jefferson Airplane co-founder Marty Balin dies at 76 See in context

Balin's best material, IMHO, was on the later JA albums, "Crown of Creation," "Volunteers," and the live album "Bless Its Pointed Little Head." Too bad that, thanks to ignorant journalists, even with his death he gets upstaged by songs where Grace Slick sang lead.

@juminRhee: "Nothing's gonna stop us now" was by an entirely different band, Starship, which included zero of the original Jefferson Airplane members. An unlike most material by Jefferson Airplane and even Jefferson Starship material, the song wasn't even written by the band. It might be a good song, but not relevant to Marty Balin or any band he was ever in.

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Posted in: Tokyo to shoulder all costs for temporary Olympic facilities See in context

Very confusing article. All the costs, or one-fourth of the costs? And has anything been agreed yet, or "just heading in [some] direction"? Impossible to tell from reading this whether anything is definitive.

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Posted in: Abe's stay at Trump resort a 'personal gift': U.S. official See in context

This illustrates an important difference between the US and Japanese constitutions. Under the US Constitution, if Abe were President then receiving this personal gift would be an "emolument" from a foreign government, and could lead to his being impeached. The purpose of the provision is to prevent exactly what mr_jgb points out -- that the President would be inappropriately influenced by the foreign government. The Kempou doesn't have any such provision for removal of a PM, or that says this behavior is wrong in any way. So he's free to sell us down the river for the personal gratification of believing that Trump is his friend.

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Posted in: Foreign lawyers fight for reform in Japan See in context

I'm a solo gaiben; I handle certain smaller or niche deals that result in my not competing with big firms for business. There are three levels of approval that are necessary -- the Justice Ministry, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (Nichibenren), and a local bar association (begoshikai). As far as I recall, the rules about years of practice are set by the Ministry. However, the Nichibenren and separate bengoshikai also have rules, and people do often get dinged by either of them despite passing muster with the Ministry.

From conversations I had with the Ministry way back when, they were certainly aware of unregistered young associates at big foreign firms, but not taking strong action, as they were trying to negotiate with the firms instead -- actually that in itself seems quite nice on their part. Moreover at least one of the big English firms and one of the big US firms did go to the trouble to register all their locally-based associates and partners, so this wasn't impossible. All the bellyaching is purely economics for the other big firms, and frankly it always struck me as quite arrogant.

The paradox about emailing to London, etc. isn't a paradox at all. When I was at firms in the US we'd often need local counsel in Delaware, say. Just because we phoned or emailed them from L.A. or San Francisco didn't mean they were practicing in California. But if they had opened up an office in one of those cities, they would be practicing in California, and would have needed to get qualified locally. Same thing here.

Another situation is when someone from the Wall Street office comes to the Silicon Valley office to help on a deal. The fiction is that everything he or she does is "supervised" by a California attorney. But that is very often an absolute fiction, especially when the NY partner is on the firm's executive committee and the CA attorney running the deal is a 1st-year partner, or even a senior associate. In the US, it's customary to tolerate this sort of fiction, and usually it is here too -- lawyers visit Japan from overseas jurisdictions all the time.

Thing is, what the bigger foreign firms are asking for is NOT same sort of thing, but for tolerating it for some relatively inexperienced attorney who is actually living in Japan. Moreover, speaking as a consumer of gaiben services when I was on the business side in California, I did interface with young inexperienced (unregistered) foreign lawyers -- and in my experience they gave inexperienced-lawyer advice, i.e. worthless. So the Ministry's experience requirement doesn't strike me as unreasonable. As I mentioned, I don't compete with big firms in Japan, so I don't care if they grow bigger. But I do care about their professionalism, because their reputation affects mine and those of other foreign lawyers, too. A few years ago we formed a gaiben association, but its obsession with benefiting the profit margins of a few firms who want to import inexperienced lawyers is a disservice both to smaller gaiben offices and to Japanese clients, IMHO.

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