Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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- Wedding photography (4): Preparations
- Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
- Reflections on a strange coincidence involving an Android app and a malfunctioning bus stop sign
- Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
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- And another posting from my smartphone
- Posted from my new smartphone
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- A Fleet Street lunch
- So painters also used to “take” pictures
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Category archive: Japan
I will start with Would-be Lib Dem MP jailed for battering family cat to death with walking stick after it scratched his grandchild, which explains itself fairly clearly. That headline sounds rather long, in the manner of Hello Magazine. But I seldom read newspapers, so what do I know about that?
Better news is that Nottingham scientists identify cell component involved in triggering cat allergy.
Charlotte Gore contrasts Magic and Kittens Socialism with the bad sort, the actually existing sort of Socialism that actually happens, which always gets blamed on capitalism, because it’s bad so it must be capitalism. I am a bit confused by the Internet Explorer references, but the phrase itself is a good one, I think.
Here is a reminder that in another world, cat means Competition Appeal Tribunal.
So, has the Japan disaster affected the cat bond market? Probably. Although, apparently reduced demand from Japanese refineries for crude oil has cause the price of oil to go down. Odd. But, presumably this means that the price of the kind of oil you actually buy, to heat your house or power your car, will go up.
I don’t know to how many people Paul Marks sends his emails. To lots, I hope. I hope this because as the years have gone by, my admiration for Paul has gone up and up. Here is the latest. Rather than put it all as if mere quoted paragraphs, I have put this bit, by me, in italics, and the rest as a regular posting, as if I were recycling a bit from a book. Me publishing this doesn’t mean I agree with it all, although if I knew enough to do so, I probably would. The two embedded links near the end flag up two of my moments of particular ignorance. I thought: What is that? And I further thought that others might share my ignorance and appreciate a quick way to learn more.
Paul refers, in the text below, to him, Paul Marks, being a “semi-illiterate”. By this I take him to mean that there is a slight touch of the suicide note style about his way of writing, in that there are quite frequent spelling errors, as well as occasional grammatical infelicities, often in the form of sentences lumped together with dashes, brackets or commas, that I think ought to be separated by full stops. I have taken the liberty of correcting all the mistakes, as I consider them, of this kind that I have spotted. More editing, and I would probably have cut out even more of the brackets.
Paul mentions a distant cousin of mine, with the same surname as me, John Micklethwait, now the editor of the Economist. Paul does not admire this member of my clan. In another recent email, also critical of John Micklethwait, Paul expressed the hope that I am not hurt by this criticism of my “kinsman”. I am not. Especially since he went out of his way then to say kind things about me, just to prove that his was not a general anti-Micklethwait bias.
Anyway, here it the latest of Paul’s emails. If it turns up in a few hours on Samizdata, well, sorry and all that. If Paul Marks approves of me doing this, I will probably (although I promise nothing) continue, and post more of his emails. If he disapproves, I will note this, and refrain in the future. At present, I think it is a great shame to waste these thoughts as mere emails, although, as I say, I have no idea how many people get them, as mere emails.
When I praise someone or stick up for them in any way, it should not be taken as meaning that I would support them politically.
For example, saying that the words of a candidate for Governor in Alabama were not “racist” should not be taken to mean that I would have voted for him in the Primary (far too moderate for me). And what I am about to say should not be taken to mean that I support the recently resigned Prime Minister of Japan.
I think the Prime Minister of Japan who has just resigned was a well meaning and honest man. The last point will get some laughs (given the level of corruption in the government that was elected only nice months ago), but looking at his rabbit-caught-in-the-headlights face I cannot believe that he knew anything about the corruption (and it is the corruption, not the failure to move the American military base from Okinawa, that is the real reason for the decline in support for the Prime Minister that has led to his fall).
As for him being well meaning - his plan for office was to take money from waste and corruption (especially corrupt government building projects - the Japanese equivalent of Crossrail in London, or the 2012 Games) and use the money to improve education and social services.
Of course, being the evil reactionary that I am, I would point out that the Japanese Welfare State has been growing out of control since at least 1972 (not 73 - it was not the Oil Shock that caused the Welfare State to expand and expand as a percentage of the economy), so yet more and expanded schemes were not exactly a good idea - however much “openness” and “public input” went into their design.
However, what the Prime Minister of Japan tried to do is entirely in line with the international ideology of the elite (with their love of ever expanding “public services") which is why they supported him and his Democratic Party against the Liberal Democratic Party government of Japan nine months ago. The Economist magazine was very strong in its support - and they are usually a good guide to who the international establishment favour. For example John Howard former Prime Minister of Australia was hated by the Economist magazine - so, in spite of his many faults, it is hard for me to believe he was all bad. The Economist magazine never supports open Marxists. Chavez, the Castro brothers, the Dear Leader in North Korea – these all are too much for establishment folk. But as long as someone keeps the corporate welfare cheques coming (in accordance with the ideology of bailouts and “stimulus") it does not look too deeply into their background or objectives.
It is hard to see reform coming to Japan - not with the powerful Civil Service against any real change (a Civil Service the now former Prime Minister tried to get under control) and an education system dominated by the left. (Should anyone doubt that statement check the political allegiance of the teachers union.)
The very effectiveness of Japanese education (so admired by semi-illiterates like me) is actually a problem when they are teaching political attitudes, rather than reading or mathematics.
Still why do I say that this man was unlike Barack Obama?
Firstly when the now former Prime Minister said “I take responsibility” he meant it. He meant he was resigning. Barack Obama would only use those words (and he does) because a focus group told him to. He has no intention of leaving office voluntarily. So the moral character of the two men is quite different - that is clear just by looking at them or hearing them talk. It was clear to me nine months ago that the new Japanese Prime Minister was a well meaning, gentle soul - and it was clear to me in 2008 that Barack Obama only cared about ideology and himself, not about other human beings, although some might say that I spotted that in Obama because I see a man like that every morning in the mirror. “It takes one to know one, Paul.”
Also, their policies were rather different. True, both men wanted an ever bigger Welfare State. But please remember what I mentioned above, that the Japanese Prime Minister went to great lengths to find savings by cutting corrupt spending.
Barack Obama, on the other hand, has not only pushed Bills vastly increasing Welfare State spending (such as the health care Bill which will see ever increasing numbers of people dropped by their employers and forced into government care), but has also increased corrupt pork project spending by something close to a TRILLION Dollars. (Of course the Economist magazine supported all this. The corrupt, Apollo Alliance designed spending was a “stimulus” according to the editor, Mr John Micklethwait.) This is quite different from what the Japanese Prime Minister was trying to do.
Unless one is utterly corrupt it is impossible for someone who knows the facts to claim that Barack Obama is “well meaning”. On the contrary, it is quite clear that he has a deliberate aim of spending the United States into economic breakdown - along the lines suggested long ago by the Marxist husband and wife team Cloward and Piven. But this was not the aim of the now former Prime Minister of Japan. He was a nice man, well meaning and (I believe) honest, but educated into mistaken ideas.
Although this photo contains no digital photographers it is otherwise perfect. There is a Big Thing. There is reflection. There is foreground clutter, in the form of cluttery old buildings and in the form of scaffolding. The Big Thing, like the scaffolding (and one of the reasons why I like that also) is in a temporary state, which means that the photo records of a moment that will soon pass, unlike a photo of the final version.
The “Tokyo Sky Tree” is already the tallest Thing in Japan, even though it still has another thousand feet to go. Final look guessed here, and here. It will be the second tallest building in the world, after the Burj Dubai.
Eat your heart out Shard.
Yes, this guy can definitely prevent that meltdown:
More seriously, he might be a good way for those of us who don’t like the green movement to describe the green movment. Big read stripe, smaller green stripe on top, and a distinctly bossy manner.
Time for another shallow bridge picture. It’s the Seto Ohashi Bridge, linking Shikoku and Honshu. I was puzzled by my early Flickrings. It seemed to be at least two different bridges.
It is, but laid end to end.
Stretching across a total distance of 9.4 kilometers (5.8 miles) there are six bridge sections that span the gaps between islands that lie between the two cities, as well as four viaducts on the islands themselves. The whole route is a double-decker construction, with an expressway running above a railway. In terms of scale, it is the largest combined road and rail bridge system in the world.
Started 1978. Finished 1988.
Here‘s the bigger original from which the above has been sliced out.
This link dream posting did the trick. It remembered a whole clutch of stuff for me, thus enabling me to forget it all and get on with my life, i.e. with piling up more links on my screen. So here’s another expulsion onto the blog of the things I seem to be finding interesting just now.
Japanese mobile phone novels, continously updated, like a Dickens novel first published in a popular fiction magazine. What’s happening is that suburban angsty girls are writing stream-of-consiousness alter ego stories, which are then being hoovered up by publishers and are now selling, really selling, as books. Which has got all the publishers excited and that has got the old school book writers excited. Is that how art forms start? People start them, for their people reasons, and in their downmarket people languages. Then, after the concept has been commercially proved, the artists climb aboard, or maybe some of the original creators acquire artistic ambitions.
We now living in the age when telly soap operas are going from something liked by mere people to something done with artistic as well as commercial considerations in mind. Time was when the artists despised soaps. Only people like those! Now, artists take soaps seriously, and are doing serious soaps. Not necessarily any better, mind you.
NHS accident and emergency grief.
The Best Book on the Market, the blog.
Hit & Run on Two kinds of libertarians. Most libertarians already have this distinction in their heads, expressed one way or another. I have long thought of me and my fellow libertarians being Next Steppers and/or End Staters, with the Libertarian Alliance tending strongly towards the End State end of things. What would improve things a bit, now? Where should it all be heading? In this Hit & Run piece, it’s Policy Libertarians and Structural Libertarians. The second is an unsatisfactory expression, I think, because it does not explain itself. It has to be explained.
However you label such categories, they do tend to overlap quite a lot. One of the most valuable Next Steps is to talk, whenever you get the chance, about desirable End States. End States may not be practical politics, yet, but talking about them is, and that can even apply to regular politicians. David Cameron, for instance, is not doing as well as he might right now because all he is doing is second-guessing the government with his preferred Next Steps, and trashing the government’s Next Steps. All very well as far as it goes, but how are we all going to be rescued from this mess? Will it just be ever more depressing Next Steps for ever? Answer (see and hear here): talk also about the desired End State that these Next Steps ought all to be enabling us to reach, as soon as we can.
There is a particular benefit attached to the link dump technique of blogging as per this posting, for all bloggers suffering from blogger’s block - which is me, often. It gets you started. All you are saying is a little something about each link, and maybe not even that. But a little something can quickly then mutate into a bigger something. A couple of the blurblets above could easily have been separate out as individual blog postings. The posting immediately below this one - about Michael Flatley, God, etc. - did begin life as part of this posting and was then copied and pasted out onto its own.
Having last week got a very good description of what the problem is from Tom Burroughes, this afternoon I got some good answers from Antoine Clarke and Michael Jennings to the what-should-be-done? question. Doing nothing would be better than what they are doing now. Better still would be to cut public spending in all countries (notably the USA) where the budget deficit is big. Yes that will all be horrible, but the horror will be sorted relatively soon. What they are actually doing will prolong the misery, which is what they have done in Japan, as Michael J explained. Trying to ensure a soft landing, as they are now, will merely leave the wreckage on the runway indefinitely. The runway wreckage metaphor did not occur in the conversation but lots of other regular get-the-grief-over-with-quickly metaphors did, notably surgery. If you have to have an operation, you want it all done at once.
Michael made the point that a lot of what has passed for “prudence” during recent years was: not. He spoke with feeling about how he had been mocked for not buying a house. But he looked at the cost of houses, and compared it with the rents you could charge for them, i.e. the income that houses yielded, and said: no deal, I will rent. We did not also mention, but might have, that choosing a bank to put your money in entirely on the basis of the interest it is offering, with no thought of its chances of failing, is likewise imprudent. These are not things that our politicians will be stepping forward to say in the next few weeks, but they are surely true, are they not?
But, recent incoming from Michael:
By the way, I think I was far too sanguine about employees sympathetic to management being able to help a company adapt its way through a liquidity crisis. In truth I think any company is pretty much dead the moment it misses payroll.
In other words, Michael reckons he tried to make the short term misery sound not quite as miserable as it will really be. A temptation that all our politicians will understand only too well.
What a mess.
By the way, this conversation was recorded straight into a laptop computer, not with the lapel mikes usually use, and quality has suffered a little. But we can all be heard, I think. Saying quality things is what matters with this kind of exercise.
Tama the feline stationmaster saves the Wakayama Electric Railway Co.
“Japan is fantastic …”
Dasubee toilet scrubbing robot
Flat viaduct and spiral bridge
Further pictorial shallowness
Patrick Crozier talks with me about Japan