Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Et tu Seiko-san, et tu?

What are we to make of Noda Seiko's tenko on the postal reform bills? Noda won her district outright, seeing off the then somewhat awkward, now increasingly fearsome shikaku Sato Yukari. The local LDP chapter chose to commit seppuku out of loyalty to her. Local officials ran away or showed no emotion whenever Sato, the official LDP candidate, came to town.

Is the looming shadow of Koizumi so frightening now that even Noda, an attractive, healthy sansei in a district with a strong pro-post office voting record, cannot vote exactly the same way she did before? After having been minister of Posts and Telecommunications? After having led all her friends and neighbors into ostracism and exile from the LDP? Now she wants to get back in the party's good graces?

I can understand why Noda Seiko as an individual would want to keep her seat on the political gravy train. I can even imagine her offering the rationalization that the economy of her district is so dependent on government handouts she feels she has to sacrifice her personal integrity for the economic well-being of her constituents.

Funny thing about being one of the people's representatives in an elective democracy--one really does have to keep one's campaign promises. In an ideal world, forever--but if push comes to shove, at least one election cycle. One will be considered flighty but at least not mendacious.

Changing sides after only a month tends to erode one's credibility (a euphemism, my dear Watson). To her credit, Noda held out longer than the real rebels, members of the LDP in the House of Councilors like Nakasone Hirofumi. They precipitated the political crisis by voting down the bills in August. They then raced each other to the microphones in the aftermath of September 11 in order to be the first to offer up songs of praise for Koizumi’s leadership.

Still, who among Noda's constituents will ever trust a single thing she ever says again?

No matter how one looks at it, this is a sad turnaround for one long picked to be "probably Japan's first woman prime minister."

Et tu Robert?

Heavens to Betsy and sakes alive--this must be a self-sustaining recovery. Either that or someone's undergone an exorcism.

After years of vocalizing the most intense desires of the Ministry of Finance for tighter budgets and harder money, Robert Alan Feldman of Morgan Stanley seems to have given up his querulous quest and joined the Collective. Last night on Channel 12's Nightly Business Report he asserted that deflation is bad and should be avoided.

OK, this may not sound like an earthshaking revelation. For Mr. Feldman, however, it is the scream of a liberated man. He has heretofore never missed a chance to offer dire warnings about the level of Japanese government indebtedness and the need for fiscal retrenchment. Indeed, the immanence of such retrenchment has been a theme in his public statements and analysis for gosh, I do not know how long.

Clearly, I have to go through the back issues of the Morgan Stanley Global Economic Forum to find out when this tenko occurred. The most recent Japan posts are here and here but they are by Sato Takehiro.

Perhaps Mr. Feldman woke up one morning recently, feeling sore and ill-used. Suddenly, with the swift thunderclap of self-awareness that otherwise only comes from sitting in an overstuffed chair in a hotel lobby and noticing one is wearing the toilet slippers, he must have understood that the bureaucrats and ex-bureaucrats who have been whispering sweet nothings in his ears have done so in support a private agenda, not the public good ("Oh ye feckless, ruthless bureaucrats, lacking either feck or ruth!"). Tossing aside the bedclothes, he probably threw open the curtains, looked out into the bright, gray Tokyo skyline, the yellow sun glinting on a hundred thousand panes of glass and declaimed:

“Economic growth--for the lack of a better phrase--is good. Growth is right. Growth works.”

Lest anyone be lulled into thinking that Mr. Feldman has not only joined the Collective but is now also a member of the Congregation of the Seriously Bemused, he launched, following the video segment on the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Economics, into a rather earnest and discombobulated explanation of how game theory could offer insights into some recent Japanese economic and political events. Like the last election.

It was a valiant try.


Anonymous said...

"After having been minister of Posts and Telecommunications?"

So was Koizumi, so it's not like you can't come out in favor for privatization if you've been a MOPT. Okay, okay, at least she can't plead ignorance, is what. And she hasn't. But more importantly:

"After having led all her friends and neighbors into ostracism and exile from the LDP?"

As far as I'm aware, she is still a member of the LDP, just not an LDP parliamentarian. Which would not make her the first unaffiliated Diet member with party affiliations. (Though that looks like an oxymoron.) I'm sure her followers are in an analogous situation, as far as their party affiliations are concerned. Mura-hachibu, maybe, but not banished. So her turnaround can be interpreted as an act of altruism, designed to prevent her friends and neigbors from being exiled... Nah, it's about her career. But still, it helps her followers too.

MTC said...

Before being named MoPT, she was the Parliamentary Vice Minister (aka, State Secretary) of the same ministry. She was chairman of the LDP Informations and Communications Committee. She is as tribal as they come.

The LDP is quite serious about retaliating against its branches that supported rebel candidacies.

Anonymous said...

The tribe will be understanding, since they'll need whatever leverage remains. And whatever happens, I don't see exile in the cards, as long as she votes for.