I’ll return to my regular programming when I think that I have a better handle on things here, beyond the facts. In the meantime, here are a couple of memos on things that have interested me of late:
The Atago-Fishing Boat Collision and the Defense Minister
Over here, the collision between the Aegis destroyer Atago and the fishing vessel that left the latter’s two-man crew unaccounted for in the winter waters off Tokyo Bay has almost complete obscured the Okinawa rape story (alleged: I now think that there is a reasonable chance that the US Marine will be facing lesser charges; and yes, stories, but you know what sells ads?). Most importantly, it forced Prime Minister Fukuda’s hand, and, in a twist of irony, actually reinforced the position of Shigeru Ishiba, the Defense Minster*. Not nearly as good for Mr. Fukuda himself though. The accident has further undermined public confidence in his administration. And there isn’t a quick fix in sight.
The 1,000,000,000,000 Yen Giveaway － for Starters?
The ruling coalition is begging the DPJ to come to terms on a settlement for the gasoline taxes. Yesterday, on Sunday Project, Kaoru Yosano, LDP Mr. Fix-It and go-between with regard to the enigmatic DPJ chief Ichirō Ozawa, matter-of-factly lopped 10,000,000,000,000 yen off the 10-Year, 59,000,000,000,000 yen road building program by reminding viewers that public works are being reduced 3% annually in the first place so it adds up to only 49,000,000,000,000 yen. When the incredulous Sōichiro Tawara, the 2,000 year-old host, asked why then they were claiming 59,000,000,000,000, Mr. Yosano answered, “They’re probably saying that to make people feel happy for the time being.” At least that’s what I remember him saying**. In Japanese. I may be off a 1,000,000,000,000 or two.
Now fiscal conservative Mr. Yosano, strictly speaking, is speaking only for himself. But it’s important to remember that the LDP itself is committed to putting the gasoline tax revenue into the general budget under the Koizumi reform. It was always a work in progress, and the process had threatened to crawl to a near-halt under an all-out assault from the road tribe and its supporters. But as Mr. Yosano’s remarkable comment shows, the LDP itself is divided on this issue. Meanwhile, the DPJ has wisely shifted the emphasis away from cheaper gasoline to waste in government.
I’m still still convinced that a compromise will be reached by March 31. But I now believe that it will contain more substance than a simple timeout.
And, yes, it’s a lot of trouble typing twelve zeroes over and over. But it’s fun.
* I hope to have more time later to elaborate on this point.
**Shisaku-san (that’ll have to do until I find out what the non-honorific form of address is in *********ian) should have the video.