mikeylikesit comments

Posted in: Japan's efforts to raise wages wane as firms embrace merit-based pay See in context

Lemme get this straight...

Wages have grown by 2 percent on average for the past six years. The labor market is extremely tight, and so companies are competing to attract employees, which means that wages are expected to continue to rise. However, the fact that companies want to compete more heavily for the most productive employees is a bad thing because....inflation...communism?

That's about all I can figure as explanations. Economically, across-the-board wage hikes make no sense unless you are seeking to inflate currency or are stubbornly wedded to an ideology. Companies risk locking themselves into expensive wage deals that eventually result in steeper layoffs and pension cuts when the economy hits trouble.

I can understand why the government desperately wants inflation--Japan's government debt is huge, and a shrinking population is not going to be able to sustain that debt. But wage inflation combined with currency inflation is not ever going to benefit workers. In the end, the government is robbing today's workers to pay for yesterday's debts.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Posted in: A step ahead? Nike's Vaporfly shoe changing marathon game See in context

Calling it "technology doping" is like calling energy bars "food doping." We know better how the mechanics of the foot work, and we have access to better materials, so shoemakers have made better shoes. Compare the shoes from ten or twenty years ago, as well as track surfaces, to what athletes had in the first modern Olympics over a hundred years ago. Is that also "technology doping"? People are running on smoother, springier surfaces instead of on dirt. Sprinters use starting blocks instead of digging holes in the ground to fit their feet into. Shoes can be made of plastic and foam instead of leather and metal. High-speed cameras and other devices can measure strides and impact forces to refine runners' gates into the most efficient uses of power and energy possible.

Running someone using today's technology against someone using the technology from a hundred years ago would be utterly unfair. Many of the advances in sports have been advances in technology. Technology improves performances, but, unlike doping, it doesn't change the underlying human physiology. Declaring Usain Bolt greater than Carl Lewis, Jesse Owens, or Frank Jarvis is a futile historical game. They ran in different eras of technology and training. We can compare world records, but not athletic greatness. Technology inevitably changes sport, and as long as everyone in the current era competes on the same playing field, it's fair. The shoes are commercially available to all competitors. If using them is "doping," then running in any manner except barefoot and naked over rough, ungroomed surfaces is doping. Don't invent controversy where there should be none.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Posted in: In blessing Israel's annexation, Trump erodes an international norm See in context

Whining over annexation is like complaining that water is wet. Can anyone name one people anywhere in the world who didn't win the land they currently occupy by force? Much of Japan was populated by Ainu people...until other people took over the land and pushed them out. America was populated by various native peoples, who themselves fought over land and resources, until various European colonies and eventually countries like the United States took the land. Britain was populated by Celts...and then Romans took the land...and then Angles, Jutes, and Saxons...and then Vikings...and then Normans. Is the last nearly 2000 years of British history just a series of "illegitimate occupations"?

No inch of ground where people live hasn't been occupied, annexed, occupied again and again a dozen times over. It's the story of human history. Don't like it? Fine, but that doesn't change reality. Don't want Israel to be the land of the Jews? Fine. Form an army and push them out. Had the Arabs in 1967 been successful in the war they launched, that's exactly what they would have done, and it would be the Palestinians "occupying" Jewish land. Instead, the Arabs lost badly, and Israel grabbed land. That's how wars work. Jews have every right to the land they won in war. Palestinians have every right to try to win back that land. Other nations are welcome to declare Israel's control of the West Bank illegitimate, just as nations did with Hussein's occupation of Kuwait, but until someone rolls tanks into Jerusalem, it's meaningless posturing. It's nonsense to complain that one country has exercised the right of conquest when each of us is living on land that has also been won again and again by conquest. I certainly don't hear Tamer Fakahany volunteering to give up his homeland to the people it was once seized from because that also would be meaningless.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Posted in: In an increasingly partisan media environment, do you believe journalists have lower ethical standards than in the days before social media? See in context

With social media and the rush of a 24-hour news cycle, the bias and lack of integrity is much more obvious. But the idea that journalists have, on the whole, ever had integrity is laughable. In the middle decades of the 20th century, after the yellow journalism earlier in the 1900s, journalists worked hard to earn public trust because they recognized the power that public trust gained them, but were they actually ethical? No. Journalists were still pushing agendas, but they cloaked themselves in professional ethics. Once people were able to independently verify what the news reports, it didn't take long for the ethical veneer to wear off. The internet and social media have allowed people to share firsthand knowledge and video directly, so media narratives can be questioned. At the same time, greater competition, the collapse of newspaper advertising revenue, and other pressures have driven journalists farther down the path of screaming opinion in order to gain attention instead of reporting facts.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Posted in: Do you think gold is a safe investment in times of geopolitical trouble, threats of war or other international crises? See in context

The price of gold is as highly manipulated as currency prices are. Electronic trading of gold means that more "gold" is traded every day than banks and governments actually have in their vaults. It can be as good a hedge as anything else, but, as with anything else in the markets, you're betting on a rigged system. Gold is only valuable in times of real trouble if another party will accept it. If times are bad, and I've got ten chickens that feed my hungry family, a hundred ounces of gold isn't going to convince me to sell. Gold isn't edible.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Posted in: In 2018, according to Oxfam, 26 billionaires had as much money as the poorest half of the world. If that's true, what do you think will be the future consequences? See in context

Here's another statistic: I'm one person, and I have more money than 52% of Americans combined. How is this possible? Because 52% of Americans have more debt than they have savings. I could have $1000 saved and no debt, and I'm wealthier on paper than more than half of America combined.

Oxfam frequently measures poverty in skewed ways that make people who are far from destitute appear poor. In America, as one example, over half of people have less than $1000 in their savings accounts. Many of those people have decent jobs, homes, cars, cell phones, big-screen TVs, gaming systems, etc. They simply don't have a lot saved. If we have 100 million people with less than $1000 dollars saved, their combined net savings of $100 billion is still going to be far less than the combined net wealth of the 26 top billionaires. But are those 57% of Americans with less than $1000 in the bank destitute? No. They are mostly living comfortable, even opulent, lives by most historical and international standards.

The reality is that extreme poverty globally has recently fallen below 10 percent of the world's population for the first time. Over 60 percent of the world's population was in that category six or seven decades ago. Oxfam obsesses about what a few very rich people have, but they ignore the real and substantial gains that the poor have made around the world.

Broadcasting that the free market system has pulled billions of people out of poverty in recent decades is a lot less alarmist and would not get Oxfam nearly as many donations so that Oxfam execs can live their jet-set lives. (Do a quick web search on the perverted ways that wealthy Oxfam execs have used Oxfam money in Haiti and elsewhere in recent years. Hint: Jeffery Epstein didn't kill himself.) Oxfam has zero credibility.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Posted in: Asbestos found at Tokyo Olympic water polo venue See in context

Stupid overreaction.

Asbestos is only dangerous when it is disturbed...such as when construction workers try to remove it. Asbestos in a building is not normally going to cause mesothelioma if it is not exposed. Asbestos enters the lungs because it is churned up into the air. Yes, it's dangerous for construction and demolition workers. It's extremely rare that anyone is exposed to asbestos in the normal use of a building. No fans or athletes would even be in the venue long enough to face serious exposure. The only people who could potentially be at risk are long-term workers in the venue, but they are fine so long as the asbestos is stable.

Construction workers pulling out otherwise stable asbestos, on the other hand? They're creating a health hazard where none existed.

But, hey, there's a lot of money in asbestos removal.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Posted in: The guidelines, to be implemented in June, will require employers to set rules on reprimanding workers who commit power harassment, or work-related bullying, as well as offer consultation services for harassed workers. See in context

Already dealing too frequently with a co-worker who starts screeching "power-hara" in situations that are nothing more than a disagreement about office policy. Forcing companies to adopt power harassment policies may help a small handful of workers who are genuinely abused. It's also going to enable a legion of workplace ankle-biters who are bitter that their more competent colleagues get listened to more often. I would not be at all surprised if many companies run into more workplace trouble, not less, because of these policies.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Posted in: Ghosn, in Lebanon, says he left Japan to avoid 'injustice and political persecution' See in context

The most high-profile prosecution in Japan in decades, and authorities can't keep him in the country? Right....

Japanese authorities are probably breathing a sigh of relief. Who knows? Maybe they were even complicit in creating the opening for Ghosn's escape. They look a little bad now for allowing Ghosn to slip out of the country, but that bit of egg on the face now is no comparison to how badly the authorities would have looked had this gone to trial.

Prosecutors went after Ghosn with the help of Nissan insiders. Ghosn was certainly dirty, but no more so than the Nissan insiders who wanted to oust him. Ghosn's arrest and prosecution was a corporate power play, aided by public authorities.

Of course, now there is the distinct possibility that Ghosn walks all over Japanese prosecutors with reams of evidence showing that Nissan as a company (along with many of the people working with authorities) is more guilty than Ghosn as an individual. Still, if prosecutors were facing up to a real likelihood of losing the case in a highly publicized trial, any dirt that Ghosn leaks is still less embarrassing than the government losing in court would be. Ghosn's exit at least leaves a question mark hanging over the matter, not a complete repudiation of prosecutors' actions.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

Posted in: Man fined ¥300,000 for online hate speech See in context

Terrible law, and terrible legal outcome.

The man's comments do not appear to have been directed against the woman who filed the complaint. He was making no direct threats. Saying "I don't trust Koreans" or "I don't think foreigners should have the same rights as citizens" now counts as hate speech, even though these are perfectly common views to hold for people in any country. It was a handful of generic Twitter comments, not a pattern of targeted harassment.

The outcome of laws like this will not ultimately be more tolerance in society, but more intolerance. Now, with this case, people will be afraid to speak their minds. Normal people will start feeling like victims because their freedom to think and express themselves is being limited. The eventual backlash against laws like this will almost certainly be worse for foreigners in Japan than any three or four Twitter comments were.

12 ( +16 / -4 )

Posted in: Gov't compiles ¥26 tril stimulus package to prop up economy See in context

Inflate!!!

Japan is now rapidly pursuing the only option its massive government debt allows: inflation over time will reduce the value of the debt so that Japan can manage debt over time. Japan will never pay its debt off, only keep it at levels so that economic growth (or, in the absence of economic growth, monetary inflation) allows Japan to keep servicing and expanding the debt. It will never be a winning game for Japan. Countries that try to inflate their ways out of debt only end up in more debt.

Japan raises spending in order to stimulate the economy, except that Japan's government spending is grossly inefficient. A hundred yen of government spending does not add a hundred yen or more to the value of the economy. So then Japan has to raise taxes to combat the rising debt, which is increasingly going to drag down the economy as Japan's workforce shrinks and ages. But the tax increase also is a drag on the economy, and so the government has to spend more to stimulate the economy. The stimulus spending is always ultimately bigger than the tax hike. Japan already spent that tax hike money on free kindergarten, which is supposed to stimulate the birth rate and economy (except that it won't). Now it's trying to spend that same money a second time on an economic stimulus, which will have a fleeting effect at best. In the end, Japan is only digging the debt hole deeper.

Japan has two measures that would be effective: 1) Slash spending so that Japan no longer runs deficits; 2) Erase current debt. To get out of the current hole it is in, Japan likely needs to do both in tandem. International bankers would be furious, and Japan's pension system would end up in meltdown. But Japan's pension system will end up wrecked regardless. It's really a question of how badly Japan wants to get out from under the thumb of international bankers and how much Japan cares about keeping a "good" opinion with those crooks.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Posted in: Japan considers withholding tax system on casino winnings by foreigners See in context

Tax tax tax. governments around the world just want to take as much as they can. Why should the government take a portion of gambling winnings? What is the intellectual basis for doing so?

The government licenses the gambling establishment so that it can exist, and it prints the money that people use to gamble. What other intellectual basis does the government need other than "because it can"?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Posted in: IMF urges Japan to double consumption tax to 20% by 2050 See in context

The IMF...bankrupting and destroying national economies one-by-one since 1945.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Posted in: Japan is changing and trying to increase communication-based learning, but it will take decades to catch up with China See in context

Communication-based learning, presumably meaning online courses, has only really been around for a decade or two.

That's not what communication-based learning means, and it's been around for a lot longer than a decade or two. (Thousands of years, if we're being honest, although that specific label is maybe only in the last 50 years or so.) Communication-based language learning is typically a four-skills approach that emphasizes understanding and being understood in specific contexts where we use language.

Japan's problem in catching up has a lot of layers. Part of it is cultural--parents and grandparents have certain images of English, and so they push their children in many of the wrong ways for learning language because that's how English was treated when they were young.

Part of it has to do with teacher training. Language education courses at universities sometimes do well explaining to future teachers what communicative language learning means, but university courses are fairly impotent compared to the very strong force of senior teachers over new teachers. Every new teacher is assigned a senior teacher who advises and evaluates performance. New teachers are extremely hesitant to change and take risks that would upset older teachers who are stuck in their ways.

Part of it is systemic. Japan doesn't teach English for the purpose of developing people who can communicate in English. Japan teaches English to rank students by intelligence level and ability level. It's a useful subject for determining who gets to go to which high school or university. English is taught for the purpose of taking an exam.

Some factors could be changed very quickly, but most of the changes would face a lot of resistance. Some will only change as older generations die off, and thus it will take decades to "catch up," by which time other countries will have advanced even farther.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Posted in: Japan, S Korea reject report of WWII forced labor economic plan See in context

Korean politics in the last two or three decades has come to revolve around playing the victim card. Korean politicians, whenever they need to distract Koreans from something or build popularity, rush to attack Japan and demand more payments. From an international perspective, it's a pathetic ploy. Some Koreans see through it, but enough buy into the Korean nationalist rhetoric that Korean politicians are often successful in shoring up support for themselves.

Really, though, it's all lies on the part of Korean politicians. Even in a few cases when they might have one or two historical facts on their side, the Korean politicians aren't actually interested in helping Korean victims. They aren't actually trying or expecting to get further compensation. It's all political grandstanding. Eventually, Korean people may get sick of the lies and start punishing the politicians. Until then, expect more of the same--Korean politician: "Blah, blah, Japan, blah, blah, money, blah, blah!" Japan: "Huh?"

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Posted in: Olympic golf must be moved because of heat, politician tells IOC See in context

On the day of the marathon and golf competition the temperature will probably end up being 22C in Tokyo.

and what if its 36C if marathon runners collapse or die from heat exhaustion is Tokyo going to take responsibility for this are they going to compensate those runners for forcing them to run in this heat!?

And what if it's mid-20s in Tokyo and mid-30s in Sapporo? Upper-30s in Tokyo and mid-20s in Sapporo? Upper-30s in both Tokyo and Sapporo? It happens. Nobody can predict weather months in advance. The best anyone can do is make estimations based on averages. Sapporo probably offers a better chance of slightly cooler, less humid weather, but there is not a lot to be gained by speculating about weather what-ifs. Organizers and athletes have to prepare for any possible conditions in any race. Freak weather is always happening somewhere at any given time.

Even in good conditions, runners sometimes die in marathons. It's an extreme event. Runners have to adjust to conditions. Race organizers should try to ensure the best conditions possible, and they should make as many accommodations for shade, refreshments, and medical support as they can. It would be a tragedy if someone died, but it's not necessarily the fault of race organizers if it happens. Runners make poor decisions sometimes, too. (See Francisco Lázaro, whose death was first attributed to heat, until it was realized that he'd waxed his body, which prevented him from sweating.)

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Posted in: Olympic golf must be moved because of heat, politician tells IOC See in context

Golf...one of the grueling endurance sports!

Before making any decisions on this, can someone check this politician's ties to certain other golf clubs that might benefit from the venue being moved?

The decision to move the marathon came from the IOC, and it is about the health and safety of athletes. The decision-making process was poor, but the reasoning was ultimately sound. With golf, the demand is coming from a Japanese politician. Money and influence between politicians and golf courses is a much more likely explanation than any concern about health. PGA Tour events every summer see similar temperatures, and there aren't hundreds of players, caddies, and fans collapsing due to heat.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Posted in: Japan considers bringing part-timers into employee pension system See in context

Sadly, this is not about improving benefits or the financial situations of part-time workers. It's about the government and pension system getting more money. This change is essentially a hidden tax increase on low-wage earners. The government isn't officially raising any tax rates, but it is forcing more people to pay at the higher employee system rate instead of at the cheaper national system rate.

Currently, the vast majority of part-time workers in Japan are people who want to avoid the employee pension system because it is so expensive. Many are housewives who want to stay under their husbands' pensions. Paying one full-time salary into the pension system and keeping one part-time salary under the income threshold is cheaper than paying both salaries into the pension system. Some others are single workers who realize that receiving a higher salary and paying into the national pension system is cheaper than receiving a lower salary and paying the employee pension system. Little by little, the government is forcing more and more part-time workers to pay into the employee pension system. Many people may lose ten or twenty thousand yen a month in disposable income because of this change.

The national system costs people less, and the employee system costs people more. The coverage and benefits are virtually the same for most people. With a shrinking population, the pension system is unsustainable over the next few decades in Japan. The government is trying to squeeze every yen out of Japanese workers to shore up the system's finances by forcing people into the more expensive employee scheme. Eventually, there will be no more part--time workers to push off the national system and onto the employee system, and the government will finally be forced to raise the tax rate and/or cut benefits. That will be unpopular politically, but it is eventually unavoidable.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Posted in: Japan to tighten gasoline sale rules after Kyoto arson attack See in context

Stupid overreaction. One crazy person knifes people in public, and Japan passes a law that nobody can possess a knife past their front door without special approval. One crazy person lights a building on fire, and now everyone buying gasoline has to show ID and state a reason for the purchase?

Let's ban all the things!

"Because I'm going to light a building on fire and kill dozens of people" is not a response that anyone ever will give.

This is a nuisance law that will stop no crimes. It certainly would not have prevented the Kyoto Animation fire. If it serves any purpose, it's only to keep normal people afraid and subservient. More likely, laws like this will add up over time until people are so annoyed that they lose all respect for government.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Posted in: International sign language draws attention as Tokyo Olympics approach See in context

This is a nice gesture (no pun intended), but, as with many "internationalization" efforts in Japan, it's pretty meaningless. The number of people globally who can communicate in International Sign is extremely low. It's the sign language equivalent of Esperanto.

Reality is that sign languages, as with spoken languages, are deeply cultural. What's used in Japan is unintelligible to people in America. What's used in America is mostly unintelligible to people in Britain. Every country (and often region in a country) has its own sign language. Deaf people are often very good at making guesses and communicating in the absence of a direct language link because they have to communicate with hearing people on a daily basis, but International Sign is not going to make the Olympics more accessible. Deaf people are going to get information from the captions provided in their native languages on television. If something is signed (and if the camera is always on the sign translator), it will probably amount to little more than a curiosity. And, honestly, most deaf people I know are more curious in seeing actual Japanese sign than they are in seeing an artificial language that nobody actually uses on a native basis.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Posted in: Johnson sends unsigned letter to EU asking for Brexit delay See in context

After all if your so sure youd win an election you must be sure youd win a legally binding Brexit vote.

Are you suggesting that the original referendum to leave the EU was not legally binding? If so, there is very little else you can say that has any credibility. Advocating vote after vote after vote until you get the result you like is an utterly destructive way to run a democracy.

Remainers are currently defying the British people, whom they view with contempt. The British people legally obligated Parliament to leave the EU by a specific date. Remainers in Parliament have not yet found a way to nullify that vote, but they have used every possible means to delay Brexit, hoping to find a way to undo it. If these elitists force vote after vote until they get their preferred result, then declare the matter settled, the British people should be merciless toward them.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

Posted in: Johnson sends unsigned letter to EU asking for Brexit delay See in context

This headline misses the most important point, and the article buries the lead in the fourth paragraph.

Johnson sent three letters, two of which undermined the letter asking for a delay. Johnson is playing to win by following the letter of the law. Britain should already be out of the EU. It's only capitulations to Remainer shenanigans that still have this drama playing out. The Benn Act said that the prime minister must send a letter, not that he must sign it or support it. Johnson met the requirement of the law and additionally made absolutely clear his prerogative as prime minister.

Remainers are utterly dishonest with their calls for delays. They've scuttled the deal that Johnson worked out after they forced him to work out a deal. It was as good of a deal as one could reasonably expect. Johnson didn't put any poison pills in the deal so that he could justify a Hard Brexit. From the Remainers, there is no interest in a deal of any kind. Remainers will vote down any deal, in defiance of the British people.

There are now two choices: Let the clock expire, and Britain is out of the EU, or obtain a delay long enough to hold a general election, handing the British people an opportunity to deal with the Remainers. Remainers will shriek at either option, but what can they ultimately do? Nullify the popular vote?

0 ( +6 / -6 )

Posted in: IOC apologizes for abrupt plan to move Tokyo Olympic races; Sapporo mayor not notified See in context

It will be hot, but these are Olympic athletes, not grandma and grandpa trying to stay fit. Let them run.

I often hike during hot months of summer. I'm put to shame on more occasions than I care to recount by grandpas blazing straight up steep mountainsides at paces that would put even young athletes to the test. Don't disparage the grandpas.

It's precisely because these are Olympic athletes, trying to push their bodies to the extremes (faster, higher, stronger), that the heat is so dangerous. In normal conditions, top endurance athletes pace themselves just short of collapsing. When they try to keep to the paces at which they've trained in abnormally hot conditions, their bodies predictably collapse. Doha finally painted a vivid enough picture of what happens that the IOC decided to act. The choices were to move the date to October (impossible because of TV conflicts and conflicts with pro sports), move some events to Hokkaido, or press ahead with dangerous Tokyo heat. When Doha ruled out Tokyo in August as an option, moving endurance events to Hokkaido was the only option left.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Posted in: IOC wants to move Tokyo Olympic marathons, walking races to Sapporo See in context

It is hard to factor in climate change when choosing cities, and the dates are tradition.

This is nonsense on both counts. It is impossible to predict the weather precisely months ahead of time, but the overall climate is very predictable. Climate change is not the issue. Tokyo has always been uncomfortably hot in July and August. Olympic planners in 1964 understood that, which is why the Olympics were in October. Between the time the 2020 Olympics were awarded to Tokyo and the start of the Olympics, how much has climate actually changed? Eight or ten years is hardly a blink of an eye for climate. Even the most dire climate change measurements would put the change in Tokyo temperature at less than a tenth of a degree during this span.

As for the dates being traditional, the "traditional" date to hold Summer Olympics in Tokyo is October. The most recent four Summer Olympics have all been scheduled in late July and August because of the preferences of American TV broadcasters and to facilitate participation of pro athletes in a few sports, but July-August not a firm, long-standing tradition. As recently as Seoul (1988) and Sydney (2000), the Olympics were held in late September and early October. Why is Tokyo different from Seoul or Sydney?

Money talks. U.S. TV networks pay vastly more for broadcast rights than any other nation does. The American football season, which starts in September, is highly lucrative for American TV networks. Baseball playoffs and the World Series happen in late September and October. The NBA also tips off its season around that time. TV networks don't want to overlap with other lucrative sports broadcasts. Since the inclusion of pro athletes, too, the IOC has felt the need to pin the dates to a narrow window. They aren't going to schedule the Olympics on top of a Grand Slam tennis event. They aren't going to hold the Olympics during the NBA season. The IOC sold itself out to the star power and money of pro athletes, along with billion-dollar American TV contracts, and so late July and August are now the only option.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Posted in: IOC wants to move Tokyo Olympic marathons, walking races to Sapporo See in context

This is a sensible move. Holding the Olympics in October would have been more sensible, but since the IOC wants the participation of NBA athletes, they probably won't allow that option. It's midsummer or bust, so moving outdoor endurance events to a cooler part of Japan seems best for safety and the general credibility of the event. Nobody wants the narrative of the Tokyo Olympics to be that marathoners were collapsing by the dozens in extreme heat and humidity.

Of course, it's impossible to predict weather months in advance. Sapporo can be very hot that time of year, too, although usually not as humid. But the Olympic planners have to make a choice between venues that are typically at least 5 degrees different from each other.

The complaints of people who have already booked accommodations are minor. They would have to fly to Tokyo first anyway. Flights to Sapporo are relatively inexpensive. Hotel bookings this far from the date can easily be changed. If necessary, get the IOC involved with airlines to ensure people affected by the change can continue on to Sapporo instead of stopping at Narita, if they so choose. For those who want to see the marathon as well as other events, the change would be the biggest problem. Let those handful of people change event tickets if necessary. Fans are important, but the safety of the athletes needs to be the priority.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Posted in: Ireland's Aki gets three-match ban; World Cup over See in context

Sports like rugby and American football are in an impossible position. The sports are inherently violent. Large men running at full speed and hitting each other will do damage to their bodies. Heads are particularly vulnerable, and recent research is exposing how dangerous and debilitating head hits are over the long-term. The sports can make rules against hits to the head, but they are often outlawing unavoidable parts of the game. Players can try to be careful, and the rules can encourage them to be more cautious, but players still end up being penalized for accidents and routine plays. Tackles and hits are split-second events. The person with the ball shifts slightly at the last second, and suddenly a safe hit becomes dangerous. The tackler should be penalized for this?

The rules that leagues are setting in order to protect players are largely arbitrary. American football bans helmet-to-helmet hits, but a shoulder smashing into a head is still O.K., even though it could cause just as much damage. Rugby bans high hits, which presumably rules out most instances where a shoulder might hit a head, but head-to-head contact is still often O.K. Meanwhile, the committees reviewing these hits have the luxury of watching them in slow motion, which distorts the event. When half a second is stretched into two or three seconds, it makes random actions and accidents look a lot more avoidable.

The non-call in the hit on Horie in the Japan-Scotland match seemed like the right call to me, even though Horie took a nasty hit and probably should have been taken from the game and checked for a concussion before being allowed to return. Should the tackler have been penalized for leading with his head? He would have been in American football. It was poor tackling technique and dangerous, but it wasn't a high tackle by rugby standards.

Aki, meanwhile, made arguably a safer tackle--his body was squared up and aiming low like it ought to be--but the other player was crouching to gather up the ball. A shoulder caught a chin. A dangerous situation? Yes. But a three-match ban for Aki? What would any player have done differently in that situation? The ball was bouncing loose. Any player would run toward it. When an opposing player scoops it up a yard away, any player would continue forward and tackle. Had Seuteni been fully standing, and had Aki lunged upward so that his shoulder caught the other player's head, I could understand the red card and ban better. But Seuteni was crouched and leaning forward. He'd made it impossible to hit anything but his head. It would be hard to find many rugby players who would blame Aki here because they all know that they would have made the same play.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Posted in: The program will have a positive impact because it provides timely support to child-rearing households considering having more children. See in context

This will hardly move the needle at all with respect to the birthrate. Japanese politicians who say otherwise are deluding themselves and the public.

Yes, young families will end up with a little extra disposable income during those three years, but most people are already decided on how many children they want. Very few will have a third after having a second. Almost none will have a fourth after having a third.

This subsidy won't have any substantial effect because it completely misidentifies the problem. People aren't getting married until their 30s, if at all. Most women are passing through their prime childbearing years unmarried, and only start trying to have kids after fertility begins to drop off dramatically. Get people married at 25 instead of 35, and the birth rate might change. Leave be the trend of marriage and families starting later and later, and the number of kids will continue to fall.

If money were the deciding factor in people having children, then the poorest people would be having the fewest kids. In most of the industrialized world, however, we now see the opposite. Poorer people have more kids, while wealthier people tend to have fewer. It's not about government subsidies. Throwing every yen raised by the consumption tax hike at the problem will change very little. There are much deeper social trends at work.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Posted in: Registers, rates and points: Tax hike woes for Japanese retailers See in context

Copying the American way might be good. Not tax on any unprepared food as in supermarkets, but tax on any prepared food. Simple & works fine.

The American way? The American way would be having no national consumption tax. Each prefecture would be completely free to set its own sales tax, and 100% of that money would stay at the prefectural level. Some prefectures would opt to tax certain items at different rates, while others might set a consistent rate for everything. One prefecture, for example, might tax all food items at the same rate. A neighboring prefecture might set a different rate for groceries. Yet another prefecture might collect no tax for groceries at all. Yet another prefecture might collect no sales tax whatsoever, instead relying on higher property or income taxes to balance the books.

Can you imagine if Tokyo and Chiba set different consumption tax rates? The flow of people from one to the other for shopping would be massive. With the exceptions of Hokkaido and Okinawa, Japan's prefectures are mostly small and closely situated, and it would be certain that prefectures would start to compete to attract shoppers and residents with various tax schemes. That competition could be beneficial in some respects, but it wouldn't address the massive hole in the nation's finances.

And the regulations in certain American states defining clearly what counts as a "grocery" item vs. prepared food, junk food, etc., are hardly simple. Supermarkets can't function without computer systems to track and calculate proper tax rates. People have to be hired full-time just to keep the massive product database updated and in compliance with the tax law. Supermarkets operating in more than one state have to maintain separate systems for each state. Lower or no taxes on groceries are intended as a benefit to poor consumers, but the different rates create an expensive burden for businesses to comply. Supermarkets recoup costs by adding more self-checkout lanes and hiring fewer workers, and then the poor who were supposed to benefit are frequently out of work entirely.

That's the American way.

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Posted in: Registers, rates and points: Tax hike woes for Japanese retailers See in context

That Japan has negative rates, moderate inflation and the world's most popular safe-haven currency is solid, real-world evidence that Japan's fiscal state (as well as as its current account) are quite healthy indeed.

This is the simplistic view of things, one that I'm sure various Argentines said at one time, too. Japan is on firmer ground globally because almost all of its debt is serviced by the savings of Japanese people. Countries run into deep trouble when they finance big debts with outside money. In the short-term, yes, Japan continues to function as if healthy.

Long-term? Domestic savings are shrinking. The population is aging. As old people increase and use up their savings, what happens to Japan's debt? Fewer workers will be paying into the tax system. Less private money will be saved, so the pool of money to finance the debt will be smaller. At the same time, there will be more people than ever living off of pension system. Japan will be spending more, bringing in less, with less savings to finance it all. The long-term future isn't healthy.

A best-case scenario for Japan may be continuing a long, slow fade with a near zero-growth economy for decades to come. Worse scenarios could see Japan relying increasingly on international markets to finance debt, which only lasts as long as the illusion of safety is maintained. One conflict with China, or even with North Korea, or some other shock to the system, and the house of cards could crumble.

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Posted in: 1-year-old girl killed in 3-car crash in Shiga See in context

Eventually, Japan will learn that child seats matter. Sadly, it's probably going to take hundreds more dead young children like this little girl before parents (and grandparents) start to change their behavior.

The police could do their part by consistently enforcing child seat laws. Police cars drive past cars with kids loose and standing on seats all the time, and the police do nothing.

Japan has flashy campaigns for so many things, but I've seen relatively little effort to encourage car seat use. There's sometimes a fear about shaming people, but that may be exactly what's needed to force change.

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