Got a long email from Mentor, gave a shorter response. Lightly edited and excised of personal stuff, here it is:
- Yasuo Fukuda takes over from Shinzo Abe, and there's only one new face in the cabinet. Is there anything that better symbolizes the LDP? Shoichi Nakagawa could take over one year from now and, if he could stay away from the Yasukuni Shrine, I don't think we'd notice the difference.
- habatsu; or, faction: a Japanese sport, played mainly by LDP men. Most cognoscenti of the sport consider the heydays of the SanKakuDaiFuku League the Golden Age of competitive, full-contact habatsu, when the weakest teams usually had at least one superstar and a legitimate chance to win it all.
Contemporary habatsu is an intramural-recreation game. After the game is over, all the players on all the teams get together and throw a big karaoke party. What can I say, it serves a useful objective. If nothing else, it proves that man is a social animal.
The DPJ plays a more primitive, freestyle game, but the objectives seem to be converging. The DPJ players want a big fat karaoke party of their own, and are beginning to smell the fried chicken and beer.
The problem is, there's only one karaoke set, and the LDP and DPJ are now too big to fit into the one karaoke room at the same time. This, I think, is a variety of the two-party political system that allows small floaters to play both sides of the game. Let's call it, meta-habatsu.
Sorry, that's about all I can say now on habatsu. I'll see if I can come up with some meaningful thoughts on dissenters and discontents, and their effect on team cohesion.
- I've long believed that Ryutaro Hashimoto has been underrated. In terms of potential, I rank him up there with Yasuhiro Nakasone. And I'm not saying that because he came to love METI. But that's what happens when you lose. Twice. People think of Noboru Takeshita as a pol of pols. But he got the consumption tax done. Gave me hope for the entire LDP with that too.
A true reformer would have to overhaul the entire FILP from head to tail, and that means that he has to redo the Post Office thing. As for the highways – Junichiro Koizumi really botched that one; maybe he was no better than that – Mr. Fukuda has said stuff that suggests, hints, that he'll backtrack on that. Politically, it would make at least as much sense as throwing money at 90-year old small-plot farmers; as statecraft, it would leave something to be desired. But let's keep hoping.