Tag Archives: Politics

What might the failure of Abenomics mean for Japan? Big, unpredictable changes, perhaps with a happy ending.

Summary:  Japan has remained in economic stagnation for so long we have come to consider that as normal. It’s not. Slow decay of a nation eventually ends in reform (as expected in Japan by experts for 2 decades) or regime change. Abenomics aroused excitement as the start of powerful reforms, as Japan’s last chance. The past few months’ data suggest that failure lies ahead. If so, after that will come exciting and unexpected events (but not necessarily beneficial or pleasant events). They will affect the world (especially if Japan walks a path on which America and Europe follow). Let’s review the evidence, and look ahead to the possible happy ending.

“GDP figures for July-September turned out not so encouraging.”
— Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, 17 November 2014 (source: Reuters)

”The war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage …”
— Emperor Hirohito of Japan in his first radio broadcast, 15 August 1945

Japan: setting sun

Contents

  1. Dark day for Abenomics
  2. Implications
  3. What’s the problem with Japan
  4. The bad news, and the possibility of a happy ending
  5. For More Information

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(1)  Dark day for Abenomics

In the dark days before Abenomics, as Japan neared the quarter-century milestone for stagnation despite massive economic stimulus (running the government’s debt up to incredible levels), experts wrote that “Something is wrong with Japanese politics“, and about the necessity of “Restoring Political Stability“.

Abe has been prime minster since 26 December 2012. His political strength came from the desperation of his people after almost a quarter-century of the hopes of recovery he aroused, and his bold measures to revitalized Japan (“Abenomics”). Now that Japan enters a triple-dip recession, let’s turn from Wall Street’s happy outlook to ask about the effects should Abenomics fail? And it is failing, despite strong corporate profits and massive stock market gains, as described in this report by Alhambra Investment Partners: “The Inevitable End“.

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Japan: real GDP, QoQ, SAAR

Real GDP, from Alhambra Investment Partners, 17 November 2014

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Perhaps even worse, Abenomics has lowered the value of the yen. While wonderful for corporate exporters and good for their workers, this has proven horrific for everybody else as the cost of imports rises faster than wages (and faster than fixed incomes, such as pensions) — without the promised economic acceleration. Another recession will further increase stress on people, as the yen drops even more — with even less offsetting job and wage growth. This trend cannot continue without ugly consequences.

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We awake from fears of an Ebola pandemic in America. Now let’s ask who’s responsible…

Summary: The initial infection in America has burned out. Nina Pham is in “fair” condition; Amber Vinson’s condition private at the family’s request. Many of those exposed, including the deceased man’s (Thomas Duncan) fiancée, have cleared quarantine. Some who contracted the disease in West Africa but received modern treatment have recovered (nurse William Pooley and an unnamed doctor treated at Emory U). The US health care system is rapidly learning and mobilizing. There is progress even in West Africa, with defeat of Ebola in Nigeria. The assurances of the experts appear, so far at least, to have been (again) proven correct.

It’s time to begin analysis of the hysteria that briefly gripped much of America. Who caused it? Why? Most importantly, what will we learn from this? Greater threats lie ahead for America.

I recently visited someone who has an African violet in their house. Should I stay home from work for three weeks?
— David Waldman of the Daily Kos (@KagroX) 20 October 2014

Educate Together

Contents

  1. Conservatives screaming “fire” at a tiny flame
  2. It’s a plan!
  3. Some on Fox News fight the narrative, speak the truth
  4. Guessing about the after game festivities
  5. Looking at the big picture
  6. Other posts about Ebola
  7. Examples of conservatives’ fear-mongering about Ebola

(1)  Conservatives screaming “fire” at a tiny flame

By now even journalists are emboldened to say the obvious: “Ebola hysteria: An epic, epidemic overreaction“, CNN, 20 October 2014. But they’re not so brave as to discuss how this happened. The public did not just panic. People incited panic for political gain. Mostly of them were conservatives. Some moderates and liberals have joined the chorus of fear-mongers, but relatively few. I have a long — and sadly only partial — list at the end of this post. A roll of dishonor, because they make an effective public policy response to Ebola more difficult.

(2)  It’s a plan!

Conservatives exploit our fear about Ebola (and terrorism, etc) for the same reason Liberals do so about climate (super-typhoon Vongfong “was the strongest storm on earth since Haiyan last year“): it works. When we grow stronger it will no longer work, and they’ll stop. Meanwhile …

  1. Campaign strategy: “Cry of G.O.P. in Campaign: All Is Dismal“, New York Times, 9 October 2014
  2. Mission accomplished: “Poll shows Alarm, anxiety as election looms“, POLITICO, 20 October 2014 — “An overwhelming majority of voters in the most competitive 2014 elections say it feels as if events in the U.S. are “out of control” and expressed mounting alarm about terrorism, anxiety about Ebola …”

(3)  Some on Fox News fight the narrative, speak the truth

Let’s congratulate Fox News for having a few people who debunk the conservative party line. That’s a rare thing in our increasingly partisan media, on either Right or Left.

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New political leaders offer hope & change. They show us what we need for victory.

Summary: New leaders emerge amidst the economic and social stress since the crash, charismatic leaders offering hope and promising change — winning elections. They have everything but the key element necessary for political change. Their experience shows what we’re missing, what we need to make reform possible.

“Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.”
— John Maynard Keynes, chapter 24 of the General Theory, pg. 383 (1936)

“Mark this well, you proud men of action: You are nothing but the unwitting agents of the men of thought who often, in quiet self-effacement, mark out most exactly all your doings in advance.”
— Heinrich Heine, History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany, Vol. III (1834)

Change: fish reform

We can change our world

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A new breed of politicians has come to the western nations. Charismatic, media-savvy, creating expectations of hope and change. Leaders such as Obama in America, Beppe Grillo of Italy’s Five Star Movement, and Jón Gnarr of Iceland’s Best Party. They achieve fame and fortune by bringing new excitement to Republics whose political systems have grown stale. Bold leaders with excited followers, marshaling vast resources (e.g., money, technology, publicity) in great causes.

Here we discuss why they have produced such small results. This article describes one story, typical of the rest: “The World According to Gnarr“, Aaron Bastani, London Review of Books, 1 September 2014 — Excerpt:

Lady Gaga once said that ‘more mayors in the world should be like Jón Gnarr.’ In June, Gnarr left office after serving a full four-year term as mayor of Reykjavík. His memoir, Gnarr! How I Became the Mayor of a Large City in Iceland and Changed the World, will be published in Britain this week.

Gnarr and his Best Party had promised to do politics ‘differently’. Such a pledge is the bread and butter of modern electioneering, but no one else, from Barack Obama to Matteo Renzi, has made it while gleefully describing their campaign as ‘anarcho-surrealist’.

… Four years later, and that initial success remains unique in Europe. The fallout from the 2008 financial crisis has led to the flourishing of populist, xenophobic parties on the right as well as reinvigorating a popular politics to the left of ‘third way’ social democracy; but Gnarr, even now, seems to be a genuinely new kind of political actor. While the likes of Nigel Farage or Beppe Grillo lay the blame for various problems on specific institutions and interests, Gnarr blames institutional politics itself.

In spite of that originality, however, Gnarr’s tenure as mayor didn’t deliver much more than an orderly, if at times colourful, managerialism. His disdain for ideas meant that most policies came from his partners in the Social Democratic Alliance, whose leader, Dagur Eggertsson, has now replaced him as mayor of Reykjavík.

We’ve seen the same from Obama in American and Grillo in Italy. Hope burns bright, then exhausts itself from lack of results (see Obama’s popularity polls). We have reformers with people and resources, but no ideas. We misunderstood the insight of the late John R. Boyd (Colonel, USAF):

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Proof pointing to the people guilty of weakening America

Summary: We, Americans, delight in creative explanations blaming others for our problems. “It’s not my fault” is our mantra. Here are two examples suggesting that we can find the guilty parties can be found in the mirror. We can do better.

Einstein about problems

He didn’t say it, but should have

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In these pages I’ve attempted to convey some of the astonishing aspects of 21st century America. None are more astonishing than our disinterest in learning from our experiences (both Left and Right), and the parallel behavior of Left and Right (about which they’re oblivious). I’ve written scores of posts documenting these phenomena.

The conclusion drawn about these posts by many readers: they accurately describe foolish behavior of the other side (the bad guys), but say I show bias and politicization by pointing out similar behavior by the good guys (which is so obviously different). How sad to see such willful blindness. It’s one of the reasons I wonder about our capacity for self-government. The blind need guides. Perhaps that’s how the 1% see their relationship with us.

Here is an example for each.

Bush = Hitler

The Day of Action protest, 18 March 2006

(1) Bush is Hitler. So is Obama

Many at the Left said that President Bush Jr was like Hitler. Zomblog and Ringo’s Pictures have collected examples. Lied us into wars, illegal government surveillance, indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay without charges or trials. The Right laughed.

Now the Left applauds Obama, with his illegal surveillance programs, most aggressive-ever use of the Espionage Act of 1917. continued use of Guantanamo Bay, expanded assassination programs (including US citizens). Most of the same things they condemned Bush Jr for doing, plus more that Bush Jr did not dare do.

And now the Right condemns Obama as — Hitler. David Neiwert at Orcinus has a few examples. Google Images points to hundreds more.

This suggests that both Left and Right love authoritarians, so long as they are on the correct side of the political aisle. Both are oblivious to the similarity of their behaviors to the behavior of those they despise. No wonder our politics have become so dysfunctional.

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How the 1% runs America. Runs us. The answer points to 2 futures for us.

Summary:  How does the 1% influence the daily running of America? Not the high level politics and business, but the broad influence on our social institutions which is almost as significant. The answer says much about America, the New America quickly rising around us, and how to save what we have before it’s lost.

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Darth Vader

As the distribution of power changes in America, the shape of our society must change as well. So after 40 years of income and wealth concentrating, CounterPunch asks “Is the American social contract breaking?” Listen; you can hear the answer in the wind.

“I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further.”
— Darth Vader, “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980)

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America is changing. On the 4th of July 2006 I wrote about the death of the Constitution. And in the following years I wrote about the rise of the New America on the ruins of the Second Republic. Scores of posts discuss ways to reform America. This political evolution results from the rise of the 1%, as they  gather into their hands more of America’s wealth and income.

Taking this from the abstract to the specific was the July 2013 post described how I have seen the New America in my experience working with local social service charities. The power of the 1% exerts an invisible but overwhelming power over people. They rearrange a community like a magnetic field reorients everything metal in a room.

But how does this happen? How does the 1% exercise control in their community (beyond their direct commercial and political power)?

This is America. They don’t send the police (or their legions of private security) to lean on those who argue with them in the boardrooms of the local United Way or Girl Scouts. Except in cases of great importance, they don’t threaten reprisals. For those with real power, they seldom need use force.

They can reward cooperation. But the rich are famously stingy. Peons should be subservient, without the bother of rewarding them. Besides, it’s better style. So they routinely rely on another lever.

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Pirate Bay points the way to a new political reform movement

Summary:  Today’s inspirational message comes to you courtesy of Pirate Bay, the many other similar websites, and the open-source software movement. They point the way to new political reform movements that might revitalize the Second Republic (built on the Constitution), or pave the way to a Third.

Through associating, the coming together of people for mutual purpose, both in public and private, Americans are able to overcome selfish desires, thus making both a self-conscious and active political society and a vibrant civil society functioning independently from the state.
“Political Theory: The Classic Texts and their Continuing Relevance”, lectures by Joshua Kaplan (2005)

Pirate Bay

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Americans as a people are strong only to the extent that we stand together to make our political and social machinery work. This is the true sense in which America is extraordinary, as de Tocquiville saw in 1835.

Collective action won our freedom from Great Britain, and a century later built our vibrant voluntary associations (e.g., Boy and Girl Scouts), unions, and broad-based political parties — all of which coalesced after WW2 to build a society with a large middle class and high social mobility.

Some of that lies in ruins today. Much of the rest decays, steadily, year by year. This rising individualism, better described as atomization and alienation, is the 1%’s most powerful ally. Political reform efforts during the past 30 years have foundered on several rocks, but their inability to assemble a broad coalition has been their largest obstacle. The Tea Party and Occupy movements tapped the extremes, but left the large middle untouched.

Movements built on narrow self-interest thrive (often doing valuable work), such as the fantastic (but still incomplete) successes of the gay rights organizations. But deep political reforms require working for the whole, not just self-interest. Are we capable of that today? Some despair. Unjustly. There are examples showing that we’re capable of more. That the people of the free world have grown, and have become capable of more.

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The Left stages a two minute hate on Nate Silver, Roger Pielke Jr (& me)

Summary: This week many on the Left served a banquet of snark on Nate Silver and his new 538 website for the sin of posting an article by Roger Pielke Jr (Prof Environmental Studies, U CO-Boulder). An article well-supported in the climate studies literature, and consistent with the work of the IPCC (they conceal these things from their followers; least they ruin the narrative). These posts demonstrate the ineffectual tactics that have drained away the Left’s support during the past 3 decades, and after 25 years of work produced no gains in their highest-profile public policy initiative. See other posts in this series, listed below.

“Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.”

— The basic text of Narcotics Anonymous). People who know all about personal dysfunctionality.

Two Minute Hate

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Contents

  1. The two minute hate
  2. The road not taken:  another response to Pielke
  3. A larger perspective
  4. For More Information

(1) The two minute hate

The Left runs a Two Minute Hate on Nate Silver, his 538 website, Roger Pielke Jr (Prof Environmental Studies, U CO-Boulder) resulting from their publication of  “Disasters Cost More Than Ever — But Not Because of Climate Change”. And me, based on Nate Silver goes from hero to goat, convicted by the Left of apostasy. Read the following, and feel the hatred flow.

  1. Thursday Idiocy: Fabius Micromus” posted at Loyal to the Group of Seventeen, 27 March 2014. I posted a brief analysis in the comments. Quite interesting, in a silly way. He posts the comment thread with DeLong. He considers it “idiocy”, but doesn’t say why.
  2. Brad DeLong (Prof Economics, Berkeley) applauds. Again, he doesn’t explain. True believers don’t ask questions during the Two Minute Hate.
  3. The Launch of fivethirtyeight.com and Climate Change Disaster Weblogging: (Trying to Be) The Honest Broker for the Week of March 29, 2014“. By “honest broker” he means misrepresenting what I said, and substituting his judgement for the peer-reviewed literature about this issue. Plus lots of smears.

These are mostly silly in style and content, but rich in insights about the Left. Here are a few thoughts; post your thoughts in the comments.

(a)  They show how the politics of climate change has become a cacophony, both poisonous and ineffectual.  Smears, more rhetoric than reason. Clickbait for believers, firing up opponents, ignored by those in between. Which is fine for the Right, who wants nothing done, but defeat for the Left.

(b)  The Left now often ignores the relevant peer-reviewed literature and work of the IPCC, substituting big talk from amateurs and quotes from activist climate scientists (usually from the same small pool). When confronted with it, as in my post, they respond with smears.

(c)  This is the opposite of grass-roots organizing. Two minutes hate sessions build internal cohesion, but tend to repel outsiders. And they make enemies. It’s the opposite of John Boyd’s first rule of strategy: gather and empower allies.

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