Saturday, August 27, 2005

Pensions and all that boring stuff

Lively discussion over the koseinenkin issue this morning on TBS (channel 6). The colorful and knowledgeable cast of characters:

LDP - Former State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Takemi Keizo (Q: Why was a foreign policy guy recruited to be the LDP's point man for social insurance policies? A: Dad was sort of the president of the Japan Medical Association from 1957 to 1982).

Komeito - Former Health & Welfare minister Sakaguchi Chikara, M.D., formerly known as "the Komeito guy in the Cabinet."

Democrats - Former Health and Welfare minister Kan Naoto, looking eerily refreshed. It has been ages since I last saw the "Kan grin." Is he up to something?

Communists: Koike Akira, M.D., a spike-haired Rottweiler of a man--and I say that out of respect...and fear.

Socialists - Fukushima Mizuho - I am the only one to notice that ever since the dissolution of the Diet, all her freckles, crow's feet and liver spots have gone missing?

People's New Party - Kobayashi Koki, who blessed the proceedings by maintaining nearly complete silence. Keep it going Koki-kun and people just might forget that you are completely off your zabuton!

The group had a series of boisterous but substantive arguments over the various proposals put forth by the parties to reform and realign the country's tottering pension system. While yelling over each other's speeches, the participants remained courteous and decorous, with none of the spiteful rancor that made last week's Sunday morning shows so hard to watch.The only problem, of course, was that this informative and important discussion of crucial issues by intelligent and likable legislators was taking place at 6:45 a.m. on a Saturday.

I love you, I love only you...but please do not ask me for my vote again

If the LDP-Komeito alliance prevails and Koizumi is reelected prime minister, can he resubmit the postal reform bill to the Diet unaltered? The rule, if I am not mistaken, is that no bill can be resubmitted during a single Diet term. While this regulation would not be violated in the House of Representatives, does it not prohibit a reconsideration of the bill in the House of Councilors? The H of C has already rejected the bill during its current term--how can it revote on exactly the same bill?

The reason why I ask is because Karel Wolferen (in this morning's Financial Times) makes a salient point: a large number of the members of the House of Representatives who voted for the postal reform legislation did so in order to "save their political skins".

One possible interpretation of this remark is that they voted for the legislation in order to avoid having to face an election. Since after September 11 these representatives would have survived the election they were so desperately trying to avoid, is it not possible they might try to seek whatever pretext possible in order to get out of voting for postal reform? If the LDP leadership has to alter the legislation in order to comply with the "no resubmission during a single term" rule, could duplicitous representatives not declaim, "Wait a minute! This is not the text I voted for! I can no longer in good conscience support the legislation as drafted" and then vote against the new postal reform bill?

Mmmm..Atlantic salmon

Had a discussion about the House of Councilors dilemma over a lovely dinner last night. One of the questions that did not receive an immediate answer was:

"If the postal legislation, altered or not, is resubmitted to the Diet and gets past the House of Representatives, will not the House of Councilors just reject the legislation all over again? "

My answer to the question was "No."

I admit that the LDP members of House of Councilors who voted against the bill the first time around will be accused of inconsistency if they support the bill the second time around. Some will capitulate out of fear of expulsion from the LDP. Some will stand on precedent and vote against the legislation a second time, come what may.

A not insignificant fraction, enough to push the legislation into the win column, might follow the lead of the chicken hearts in the House of Representatives and simply not show up. Abstaining from the vote will leave these LDP councilors with a record of having stood up for the postal service at least once while preserving an avenue for them to be taken back lovingly into the bosom of the party.

The eyes...the hair...the ex!

Somebody please satisfy my prurient interest: was designated Shizuoka #7 assassin Katayama Satsuki really once married to House of Councilors member Matsuzoe Yoichi?

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