Thursday, June 29, 2006


David Pilling has a king-sized Comment & Analysis article in today's Financial Times (sorry, no link yet).

A journey together: how Koizumi has won US trust for a revitalised Japan
Financial Times

Junichiro Koizumi is a prime minister rather than a head of state so he is not entitled to a 21-gun salute in Washington. He will have to make do with 19.

But in every other respect, the Japanese leader, who arrives tonight for a farewell US trip before stepping down in September, will be treated like a king.

So much so that President George W. Bush has found time to escort Mr. Koizumi to the former home of America's own King, Elvis Presley. Taking Mr. Koizumi, a lifelong Presley fan, to Graceland symbolises the warmth of the bond between the two. Together, they have built what officials on both sides proclaim to be the brightest U.S.-Japan relations in decades.
O.K., so it is an off-kilter locution -- "the brightest U.S.-Japan relations in decades" -- making me think too much of R.E.M.'s "Shiny Happy People". Still, not a bad article--worth checking out in full.

And yet...something is missing. Something ineffable, something on the tip of my tongue...yet strangely inexpressible.

Let us see...quoted in the article are:

Thomas Schieffer
Michael Green
Kurt Campbell
"one admiring U.S. official"
Gerald Curtis

and wait, two paragraphs from the end...Hama Noriko! Oh, darn, not really a quote:
Noriko Hama, professor at Doshisha University in Kyoto, is far from alone in arguing that engaging properly with China will necessarily mean reshaping Japan's relations with the US. She wonders how successful any overtures to Beijing can be when Japan is busily acquiring US missile technology apparently aimed at containing China's ability to project power.
Did Professor Hama actually say such a thing? Without quotation marks, we will never know.

Oh wait, there is also a reference to Shinzo Abe "hinting" at something:
Potential successors to Mr. Koizumi appear receptive. Even Shinzo Abe, frontrunner and an enthusiastic pilgrim to Yasukuni, hinted in a recent interview with the Financial Times that he might suspend visits to the memorial.
I know it is hard to be a journalist in Tokyo--everyone is so careful about what he/she is willing to say on the record.

Nevertheless, publishing a 3/4 page broadsheet article on Japan-U.S. relations without even a single direct quote from a Japanese source seems to assume the FT readership either cares only what Americans think of the world or will not notice that America's "dialogues with its friends" are no more than soliquies before an audience of mutes.
Somebody in Boston knows something...

I was reading an editorial published in the Boston Globe this morning.
Japan's jujitsu leader

TEXTBOOKS TELL us that the Japanese manage but cannot lead. Their leaders avoid conflict, favoring consensus and cooperation. They conspire, but do not inspire. And, while there have been many powerful shoguns, it has been ages since Japan produced the equivalent of a Churchill or a de Gaulle.

But Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who is visiting Washington this week in a valedictory tour, breaks the mold.

Koizumi was hardly a major force in Japanese politics when he became prime minister in 2001. Once in office, moreover, he never received lavish praise from the media, which commonly referred to him as selfish, single-minded, and bull-headed. Even former prime minister Yoshiro Mori muttered that his protégé was ``a weirdo."

But these characteristics endeared him to the public, and Koizumi achieved something none of his predecessors had: broad popular support. He appealed to the good sense of voters, convincing them to reject the profligacy of his own liberal Democratic Party. He purged the party of the machine politicians who had been feeding at the public trough and won an unprecedented victory last September.

But he also did much more. After 9/11, Koizumi defied constitutional restraints that many of his predecessors had used as an excuse to avoid entanglement in international security affairs; he sent Japanese naval tankers to the Indian Ocean to support US and British forces operating in Afghanistan. Soon thereafter he went even further, putting Japanese boots on Iraqi soil during wartime. In so doing, Koizumi transformed the US-Japan alliance into one with global reach -- without generating any of the opposition that earlier would have paralyzed Japanese political life.
As I read this, I found myself ever more surprised that someone on the editorial board at the Boston Globe really cared about the Japan-U.S. relationship and had kept up on Japanese politics and newsworthy events.

"Boy," I though to myself, "somebody in Boston really knows his stuff."

I then glanced to the tail end of the op-ed, sighed, and shrugged my shoulders.

What had I been thinking?  Of course the op-ed was not composed by somebody on the payroll of the Boston Globe.  What member of the Boston Globe's editorial board would know diddly about Japan?

Of course the informed and level-headed piece was the handiwork of this miscreant.

P.S. I am sure that Mori Yoshiro has called Koizumi many, many things-- but "weirdo"? The characterization of Koizumi as a "weirdo" that sticks in the mind is Tanaka Makiko's summation of the choices available in the 1998 LDP elections when Kajiyama Seiroku and the eventual winner Obuchi Keizo faced off against Koizumi:

"Gunjin, Bonjin, Henjin"

"Militarist, Simpleton and Weirdo"

A trio of remarkably young ultrarightists entertain the crowds on a Sunday morning
Shinjuku, Tokyo. June 25, 2006

P. P. S. Lest anyone misunderstand, MTC's current relationship with Professor Samuels is classified as "Decidedly Non-Hostile".

Friday, June 23, 2006

The ROK is getting along well with the DPRK. Discuss.

I have forgotten all my Korean, so I have to accept the English version of this speech as definitive.

Definitively nuts, that is.

Korea Must Be Strong Enough to Repel Japan: Roh
Chosun Ilbo English News

President Roh Moo-hyun on Thursday invited 200 maritime police guarding waters around the Dokdo islets on the East Sea to luncheon at Choeng Wa Dae. Dokdo is the subject of persistent territorial claims from Japan. “Although Japan has stronger fighting power than Korea, Korea's national defense is strong enough to deter Japan from invading,” Roh was quoted as saying. “It is important that our defensive capability becomes strong enough to give impression that an invasion would do more harm than good.”
Oh, I don't think there is any question of that, is there?

Is there?

The president stressed the need to improve military information technology at least to the level of Japan's. “I know you had a difficult time coping with Japan's attempt to trespass into our exclusive economic zone in the East Sea due to a shortage of IT equipment and personnel compared to Japan,” he said.

But Roh urged the officers chiefly to strengthen their fighting power so they can effectively respond to unexpected incidents in the East Sea. “Beyond that, leave it to the politicians,” he added.
Oh, oh, oh, I don't think they should do that...especially if you, Mr. Roh, are one of those politicians.

The president summed up the Dokdo conflict by saying the government maintained a principle of “silent diplomacy” -- read ignoring Japanese claims --“to deal with the issue in the belief that we are unlikely to lose the islets to Japan, but we have come to the limit...and reached a point where we have to confront Japan directly. We have to make our position clear and should not step back even if it requires a lot of efforts and time.” Roh concluded Japan cannot hope to become a global leader commensurate with its economic and democratic strength unless it stops attempts to seize Korea's territory.
O.K., so this last paragraph is sensible. Japan should give up its claim to the islands ...if and only if the South Korean government pledges to support Japan's claims in Japan's territorial disputes with China and Russia.

Having South Korean backing for Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council (does "a global leader commensurate with its economic and democratic strength" have any other meaning?) would also be nice.

Now what are the chances of either of those minimum conditions being met?

Hmmmm...let me whip out my electron microscope here...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Just in passing...

...only P. S. Suryanarayana of The Hindu makes reference to the Prime Minister's use of the term tesshū.

Japan to withdraw all soldiers from Iraq
The Hindu

SINGAPORE: Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Tuesday announced the withdrawal of his country's troops from Iraq. No timeline was formally set, but officials in Tokyo later hinted that the pull-out would be completed in about two months.


Mr. Koizumi described the decision as a "redeployment" of Japan's military personnel who were sent to the Samawah region of southern Iraq on an explicit "non-combat mission of reconstruction."

Somewhat offsetting the pull-out move, though, Mr. Koizumi said a unit of Japan's "Air Self Defence Force" would now operate flights to the Iraqi zones of Baghdad and Erbil from neighbouring Kuwait.
P. S. Suryanarayana...a name to remember...and an author who "loves" quotation marks.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

You say tettai, I say you've got an agenda

Yes, for those of us keeping score, the results from the headlines in the evening papers are in:

Nikkei Shimbun = tesshū
Yomiuri Shimbun = tesshū

Mainichi Shimbun = tettai
Asahi Shimbun = tettai
Bad Mainichi!! Bad Asahi!! You did not get with the program! You do not advance to the round of 16! Go Home! Do not pass "Go"! Do not collect $200!

Of course, the headline writers of both newspapers, adamant opponents of the Iraq dispatch, knew exactly what they were doing. Using tettai in their headlines was their version of the "Brave Sir Robin" song:

Brave Sir Robin ran away
Bravely, ran away...away...
When danger reared its ugly head
He bravely turned his tail and fled

Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about
And gallantly he chickened out
Bravely taking to his feet
He beat a very brave retreat
Bravest of the brave, Sir Robin!
My rightist co-worker expressed the opinion that the Mainichi and the Asahi should do the anatomically impossible to themselves.
Pullback Announcement

Well, that was very dignified.

Solemn was the prime minister (why the puffy eyes on a Tuesday?) as he made the announcement--without prepared text or notes. The press was peculiarly well-behaved...either that or the five years of Koizumi's premiership have led to the atrophying of their ability to ask impertinent questions.

Interesting was the use of the word tesshū (撤収)rather than tettai (撤退) to describe the withdrawal.  The newspapers had all been assuring us the Self Defense Forces would tettai from Muthannah. According to the Prime Minister they will tesshū .

Does it make a difference? 

Kojien and Kodansha's Nihongo Daijiten do not seem to think so, offering one as the synonym for the other. Gakken's Kanwa Daijiten does not even list tesshū among its offerings.

The Kojien and the Kanwa Daijiten do seem to hint, however, that tettai is more severe than tesshū -- that in the case of tettai, the army does not just pull back, it erases the traces of its stay.

If tesshū means merely to withdraw [or as the Nihongo Daijiten puts it: 2) guntai nado o hikiageru koto], leaving the question of what the Jieitai has left behind open, then the Prime Minister has to be given credit for pulling yet another rabbit out of a hat.

Admit it, you're going to miss him when he's gone.

Later - A reader (intials withheld) provides a specialist's view of the PM's word choice...

...(撤収) tesshū means to withdraw, but in an administrative sense, as in move outta one place to another unspecified. So, troops on an admin or training mission would tesshū . An instructive example; you also tesshū suru tents, as in English 'strike tents', you pull down the tent, pack it up, and it may go back in the box for another season. But it's not shooting at you.

(撤退) tettai means to withdraw in the tactical sense, under duress, while engaged in active combat and contact with an enemy. As in 'Runaway to fight another day' or 'Hell, no, we're just attacking in another direction!' or regrouping, or whatever. But it is a combat term, not administrative. So no Japanese military man would use tettai for this sort of administrative movement (nor would the Pentagon, I bet, the troops will be 'moved' or 'redeployed'.)

So, this usage is perfectly correct in this sense. They're not engaged in tactical combat, there's no enemy pressing, the usage makes perfect sense.

So that's that--the Jieitai is going to tesshū.

Now we shall see whether or not the yūkan headline writers managed to input the vocabulary change in time.

Friday, June 16, 2006

I really shouldn't

Be worried about Op-Eds. The authors are just trying to sell a point of view.

See if you share my concerns, however, about the following passages from an op-ed recently published in a major newspaper:

Japan's military, the Self-Defense Forces, exists in the constitution only for the protection of Japan - a clause that has been liberally interpreted in recent years to allow limited deployments of troops.
In the Japanese constitution? Really? Which Article?

After the first Gulf war, Tokyo belatedly passed a law to permit troops to join United Nations operations to avoid a repetition of the ridicule that it was the "ATM" of security - paying for others' troops, but not sending its own. Under the law, Japan began to roam in places as diverse as Cambodia and El Salvador.
Honduras...but who can keep those Central American republics straight anyway, right?

To be sure, Japan's spending on defense remains below China's. And Japan's high figure masks the fact that Japan hews to a policy of not exporting arms and thereby limiting its defense industry.
Japan's defense spending is less than China's--according to whom? Oh, wait, whom did the author last work for? Oh, that's right--silly question, my bad.

I am fairly certain I know what the author meant to say in the passage coming after "And Japan's high figure...". But he doesn't say it, does he?

Japan is thus ready to usher in a new era with a full Defense Ministry. It is ready because its armed forces are well-armed and professional; because it operates within a defensive alliance with the United States, and because it has demonstrated a constructive contribution to international peace operations. It is ready politically, because it is prepared to accept a greater role for Japan in the world.
Wow, who would have thought that changing the stationery could mean so much!

It is ready in all respects save one: political relations with a re-emerging China.
And the author's solution to that thorny problem is?

China can be expected to step up a campaign against Japan's return to normal power status. Some of the barbs will be saved for the United States, for sowing potential discord.

The real crunch will fall to Koizumi's successor, who will be chosen in September. That will be over the new constitution, and whether and how far it should to go in jettisoning the pacifist clause and establishing a legal basis to play a major role in international security.
Hmmm...ameliorate the current tense relationship by ignoring China's concerns, accusing the Chinese government of bad faith and jettisoning Article 9.

(Awkward instants...and the first animal is jettisoned!!!)

I'm afraid my only response is:

De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Do you want to be rich? Or acceptable to Asahi Shimbun editorialists?

Somehow successful investing is wrong.

Fukui Toshihiko, while the chairman of the Fujitsu Research Institute, put a goodly sum of money into an investment pool he established with his colleagues.

When he was named governor of the Bank of Japan, he did not extricate himself from the fund--creating the appearance of a conflict-of-interest, if not a either a de facto or de jure one.

But is the conflict-of-interest charge what really has the fundoshi of the Asahi Shimbun all up in knots?

No, it is that Governor of the Bank of Japan is a more intelligent manager of his savings that most of the members of the general public!

BOJ chief's blunder
Asahi Shimbun

After leaving the world of bureaucracy to play the stock market, Murakami set about launching his own fund as "a gadfly investor." At that time, Murakami preached the unfamiliar gospel of shareholder activism, pledging to change the corporate mind-set at Japanese companies. He criticized them for paying too little attention to shareholder interests.

Speaking at a session of the Upper House fiscal and financial affairs committee, Fukui said he and colleagues at the research institute contributed money to the Murakami fund so as to "encourage" the maverick investor's challenge. Naturally, private citizens have the freedom to make investments in support of any cause they see fit. After all, there is no guarantee that investing in a fund will generate a profit. Such investments help revitalize the economy by supplying capital to people who take risks. Investment in a fund cannot be viewed as insider trading because investors have no say over the way the fund invests the money on their behalf. Even so, Fukui should have withdrawn his money when he became BOJ governor in 2003.

The Murakami fund earned a mixed reputation. It was lauded by some pundits for making top executives think about their shareholders. But there was also criticism that the fund sought only to make quick profits by buying companies' shares and then selling them at higher prices. Fukui could not have foreseen Murakami's arrest in a securities scandal, but he must have heard negative as well as positive views about the fund's investment policy.

At the same time, anybody in Japan with savings must have become increasingly disgruntled at the miserably low rate of interest they received as a result of the BOJ's zero interest rate policy. It is quite possible that Fukui ended up earning annual interest of more than 20 percent, which would not go down well with the general public.

As the top official of the central bank with huge power to influence the flows of funds within the Japanese economy, Fukui should have been more than cautious about his personal investments. During Diet questioning about his investment in the Murakami fund, Fukui said he had intended to donate any profit that might be generated. There again, the BOJ would face a credibility problem if Fukui had profited at a rate far beyond what ordinary investors could hope for.

Funny, I had always been taught that the stupidity of others was not my fault.

Furthermore, I always thought it a good idea to appoint bank managers who have some idea of how to use the financial system to make money--legally, of course.

* * *

The main editorial is just the hors d'oeuvres for festival of wackydom from the spitting mad Senior Staff Writer Nishii Yasuyuki, printed in this morning's IHT/Asahi Shimbun (unfortunately, diatribe not yet available on-line).
Fukui's acknowledgement on Tuesday that he personally invested in a fund formerly led by Yoshiaki Murakami poses a grave question.

Is it becoming for someone who leads the nation's central bank to make investments for profit?
Gosh, I don't know. Is there another reason for making investments?
The BOJ said its quantitative easing policy was expected to shift money from its interest free current-acccount deposits to equities and other financial assets.
The only customers the BOJ has are banks. They are in the business of moving money from out of the BOJ's accounts into assets.

Quantitative easing had nothing to do with it.
But then the stock markets, particularly those for start-ups, came close to becoming gambling houses.
Uhhhh, no. They are gambling houses. By definition.

The funds used to play the role of funneling money into venture businesses, but many degenerated into vehicles for speculative investments.
Venture businesses are speculative. By definition.
...where did he draw the line between accelerating reforms and entrusting his own money in an investment fund?

The market-oriented reforms closely involved corporate executives, such as the chairman of the Keidanren (Japan Business Federation).

In the process, top policymakers, including Fukui, could have lost their self-discipline, overstepping their boundaries in their relationships with businesses
I do not know where to start with this passage. It is so nuts it is practically North Korean.

Yes, Nishii-san, they could have lost their self-discipline---but did they?

"Market-oriented reforms closely involved corporate executives."

Gosh...that is suspicious. Businessmen with ideas about market reforms. If I had been in charge of market reforms, I would have sought out the opinions of inkan carvers, surfers and Elvis impersonators.

"....where did he draw the linebetween accelerating reforms and entrusting his own money in an investment fund?"

I think that Time did the drawing for him...since Fukui made the investment before he returned to public service.

Oh, what's the point...

I have tried to find the Japanese original of this rant but have so far been unsuccessful. If anyone sees it, drop me a line.

I am sure it's even crazier than the English version.


Gosh, it turns out that there are other reasons to make investments other than profits.

According to the Yomiuri Shimbun and others, BOJ Governor Fukui invested in the Murakami fund in order to "encourage" (gekirei) Murakami's efforts.

Now I always am in need of encouragement...and I once gave a presentation to Fukui during his Fujitsu Kenkyujo years.

Had I only known to ask...

Friday, June 09, 2006

Tenditiously hectoring Japan about China----part 1

What is the hell is Japanese right wing yelling--or alternately, muttering ominously--about?

In terms of economics, the Communist Party of China is on a treadmill. It has abandoned its legacy of socialist egalitarianism in pursuit of national development.

In China's most advanced coastal provinces, life for the middle classes is approaching the levels of the poorer middle-income countries. In the rural areas, however, the levels of development have scarcely changed since the beginnings of the 20th century.

In an attempt to create tens of millions of new jobs a year, the government has turned a blind eye on excessive investment in productive capacity.

In order to keep its exports competitive and its factories humming, the People’s Bank of China buys $200 billion of U.S. securities a year, in essence lending Americans $200 billion every year to buy China’s products—a bill that will come due someday when the government has to repay its citizens the renminbi it borrowed to buy dollars.

The only hope for China is to grow rich enough fast enough that the breaking waves of corporate and government red ink do not drown the economy.

Growth at such a breakneck pace carries its own costs in terms of the destruction of the environment, both within China and around the globe, and demand shocks to the energy and minerals sectors of the global economy.

In terms of politics, China is locked in ice.

Its first and greatest problem is the Party's uneasy relationship with the People's Liberation Army. "Power flows out of the barrel of a gun," Mao Zedong warned, "Our Principle is that the Party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the Party."

However, the PLA is very much an independent actor, with its goals potentially superceding those of the civilian leadership.

Chief among these is a hysterical sensitivity about Taiwanese independence. The PLA's first listed goal--before even resistance to aggression or defense of national sovereignty--is the halting of separation and the promotion of reunification (Defense White Paper, Chapter II: National Defense Policy). The PLA even violates China’s official atheism in declaring the halting of separation its "sacred duty" ( 神聖職責 ).

It swears:
"We will never allow anyone to split Taiwan from China through whatever means. Should the Taiwan authorities go so far as to make a reckless attempt that constitutes a major incident of 'Taiwan independence,' the Chinese people and armed forces will resolutely and thoroughly crush it at any cost." (DWP, Chapter II)
The second political problem is the integration of democracy into the Chinese system.

Direct elections of village headships were announced to great fanfare in 1993. However, elections only succeeded in exposing a previously hidden rural reality: the local party secretaries, working hand in had with local toughs, kept order through intimidation and force.

A problem Chinese writers have been complaining about since...the fall of the Han Dynasty.

Now as for the "we'll just have to be patient and await the democratization of China" trope--that's another kettle of fish.

Color me skeptical. A greenish skeptical.

Political scientists of a certain stripe map out an inevitable course for China: as China's economy evolves, an educated middle class reaches a critical mass. At this point the combined demands of civic groups and individuals for autonomy presses on the dictatorship--a structure that only appears omnipotent, but is indeed riven with factionalism and self doubt. Pressure from the mass of society instigates the dictatorship's collapse and its replacement with liberal democracy.

The rise and collapse of dictatorial regimes in South Korea, Taiwan and Southeast Asia --and their replacement with elective democracies--point the way for China.

On the surface.

It takes a special soul to forget the roles the United States Navy and U.S. influence played in smoothing the East Asian democratic transitions.

For countries wrapped up in the broad security blanket of the United States, democracy is an evolutionary process--the answers for questions of national survival and economic destiny are provided. For countries outside the U.S. embrace, lacking U.S. tutelage and U.S. protection, democracy is a revolutionary process--often ending in chaos, corruption and in the final stage, militant, radical populism.

Wishing democracy on China is a bad idea. A democratic China is as likely to devolve into uncontrolled, planet-shaking horror as transform into a stable, responsible global stakeholder.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Stupid is as stupid does

Well, that did not take very long.

Murakami Yoshiaki has signed an affadavit admitting he bought shares of Nippon Hoso knowing Livedoor would be making a sureptitious attempt to take over the company.

That's all she wrote folks.

How much of a genius must one be to not comprehend that buying or selling on private information constitute insider trading? (Perhaps he had hoped to get off the hook using the the Muraoka Kanezo ""I was there...but I cannot remember any details about the crime and neither can anyone else" defense?)

Some unanswered question remain:

1) Since Murakami spirited his wealth out of the country and has taken personal responsibility for the crime, are the prosecutors still going to go after Murakami's colleagues?

2) Will the Tokyo District Prosecutor's office conduct an internal investigation to determine how Murakami may have been tipped off to the investigation?

3) How many years will Murakami get in jail?

4) Will the list of charges against Horie Takafumi now be lengthened?
I know why the caged bird sings (with apologies to Maya Angelou)

Well, they are at it again.

The Special Investigations Division of the Tokyo Prosecutors office is gearing up to paw through a company's files, searching for crimes. The domestic press has been prepped with leaks and exclusive briefings. The Financial Services Agency and the Securities Exchange Surveillance Commission are out to lunch. An archetypal member of the Roppongi Hills Tribe of hard-charging, profit-oriented businessmen is about to be held for questioning, along with a handful of his top associates. The head of the Keidanren has offered his two yen's worth, tut-tutting about the relentless pursuit of money rather than value.

Why are we being treated to this spectacle again? And how much of it are we going to buy this time?

According to this morning's Tokyo Shimbun, the crime occured in September 2004 at a meeting between investor Murakami Yoshiaki, Livedoor president Horie Takafumi and (dum-da-dum-dum) Livedoor CFO Miyauchi Ryoji. Supposedly at this meeting Murakami told Horie that if Livedoor bought 35% of Nippon Hoso(the radio affiliate and mochikabu aite of Fuji Television), then Livedoor and MAC Investments--Murakami's fund--would together hold over 50% of outstanding shares. This holding would allow them to takeover Nippon Hoso.

At the time of this purported conversation, MAC owned 12% of Nippon Hoso. However, by January 5, 2005, MAC's share of Nippon Hoso had risen to 18.75%.

On February 8, 2005, Horie announced the acquisition of 29.63% of Nippon Hoso in afterhours trading, bringing Livedoor's total holdings to 35% and launching a furious takeover battle. However, rather than supporting Livedoor's takeover as he earlier promised, Murakami double-crossed Livedoor by rapidly selling four fifths of his stake in Nippon Hoso, earning a huge profit on the inflated shares. By March 28, 2005, MAC held only 3.44% of Nippon Hoso.

O.K., let's do a check of the rubble-strewn landscape.

1) The source of accusation against Murakami is a) Horie, or b) Miyauchi.

Oh, geez, which could it be?

For those who are not keeping score, Miyauchi Ryoji is an admitted liar and fraud.

2) Since when is the Special Investigations Division of the Tokyo District Police Agency in charge of finance industry fraud? (The New York Attorney General's Office has special rights under the New York State constitution allowing it to investigate securities and banking fraud. Otherwise, financial industry crimes would be outside its purview). One would need a fairly sophisticated understanding of securities law to prosecute these cases--so how many people are working on securities crime full time at the Hibiya Koen office?

3) Murakami has former members of the National Police Agency on his staff (bright boy, he). Is it possible Murakami Fund staff were tipped off about the investigation, and this information played a part in Murakami's sudden decision in May to fold up MAC and move all its operations to Singapore?

Now THAT would be insider trading!

4) If Murakami staffers were alerted as to the investigation, do you think the leakers were motivated by a) money, b) loyalty to their former colleagues, or c) qualms about the propriety of the actions taken by the Special Investigations Division?

5) Do you think Miyauchi would bear any kind of animus toward Murakami, especially if Murakami nods and winks had led Miyauchi to approve the plan to try to take over Nippon Hoso, only for Murakami to turn around and sell his stake?

6) Who provided the original material on Livedoor that set this whole mess in motion?

So many many questions...

Friday, June 02, 2006

Malapropisms - Tanigaki Sadakazu version

Here is what Reuters says he said:

Tanigaki: Currencies alone can't solve imbalances
Thu Jun 1, 2006 8:48pm ET

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said on Friday countries should not rely just on currencies to address global imbalances.

"To rely only on currencies is not the right path to take," Tanigaki told a news conference. "Each country should focus on structural reforms, and (the G7 countries) have agreed on that."

Here is what Bloomberg says he said:

Currencies Alone Won't Fix Imbalances, Tanigaki Says (Update2)

June 2 (Bloomberg) -- Global trade imbalances shouldn't be addressed only by the adjustment of foreign-exchange rates, Japan's Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said.

"We would deviate from the right track if we depended on the adjustment of currencies alone" to correct lopsided flows of trade and investment, Tanigaki told reporters today in Tokyo. The Group of Eight nations "generally agrees it's important that each nation tackles the problems of its own economy."

But are not Reuters and Bloomberg cheating their readers out of Tanigaki's truly weirdly creative way of describing the world?

Here is what says are his actual words:


「王道を見誤ることになる」 --what in Tenjin's name does that mean?

"It would become a case of misjudging the royal road...if we were to simply rely on adjustments through exchange rates."

"Misjudging the royal road"?

Is it a quotation from the Chinese?


MTC sometimes has to pause in mid-sentence in order to forestall disaster:


Though, as a slogan:

"Wen Jiabaos of the World Unite for China's Getting Warmer!"

is not half bad.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Great Game Unrevisited

Last week the Nikkei Shimbun hosted its annual meeting of Asian worthies talking shop about the future of Asia. The featured speakers of the conference's first day were Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi of Malaysia and Nakasone Yasuhiro (88 years old and still on the top of his game--damn!).

Now I was not at the conference but the evening Nikkei of May 25 featured the following graphic as an illustration former prime minister Nakasone's vision for an economic cooperation framework for Asia.

Courtesy: Nikkei Shimbun

According to the view Nakasone presented (I will have to trust the Nikkei on this one) the core of East Asian cooperation is ASEAN. From out of this core, like ever-enlarging rings in the water, are ASEAN+3, ASEAN+6 (the Asian Summit) and a Latin Americapectomied APEC.

The logic of such a framework is compelling. It relies on existing structures, rather than proposing new ones (yes, I am making veiled references to this and this). It relocates the region's great economic powers---Japan, China and India--to the relative periphery, dampening the impact of the budding rivalries between them. It elevates the region's one functioning multi-lateral trade and political union to the apex position in the regional frameworks, pulling the focus of the region southward along the way. It also cuts across the traditional politico-economic structures (the Middle Kingdom tributary system, the U.S.-led alliance of island and peninsular democracies) .

While the Nikkei has assigned Nakasone the authorship of this vision, Shiraishi Takashi presented it in convincing detail in an article in Chuo Koron in January of this year. A translation of the article, Aiming to Build an East Asian Community is printed in February's Japan Echo.

ASEAN has become the hub of the various networks of regional cooperation in East Asia. Neither China nor Japan can replace it. Japan should promote the further growth of these networks and find ways to involve the United States in regional affairs beyond security; in this way it can both engage and deter China. (Chûô Kôron, January 2006)

Unfortunately, Japan Echo has not chosen to make this particular article available on-line. One has to go out and track down the dead tree version.