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All posts by Michael Penn

The Japan that Can’t Say No to War

At the 93rd anniversary event of the Japan Communist Party, Chairman Kazuo Shii offered his view on how the so-called “Legislation for Peace and Security” will make future Japanese governments even less able to resist US government demands that they participate in foreign wars.

House of Councillors Election Vote Disparity

With the passage into law on July 28 of the House of Councillors electoral district reform bill, there has been some amelioration of the wide disparity in the weight of individual votes. Nevertheless, many believe that the reforms of the new law as well are far too timid. It will still remain the case that one person’s vote in some prefectures will have the weight of almost three peoples’ votes in other prefectures.

The Phantom Menace

Once again today Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has declared it. As the House of Councillors begins its deliberations on the Legislation for Peace and Security, the people are told that the passage of these bills is necessary and must be done now—in this Diet session. There is no alternative. Japan’s national security is now under threat like no other time in the postwar period.

Governor Masuzoe’s Olympic Offensive

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are supposed to be a partnership between the national government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and Governor Yoichi Masuzoe is clearly determined that his voice will be heard. When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suddenly reversed course on July 17 and decided to take the national stadium construction plans “back to zero,” he clearly didn’t make much of an effort to communicate or coordinate with the Tokyo governor.

Burying the Lessons of the Iraq War

There is probably no better method of predicting what people and institutions might do in the future than to have an accurate understanding of their behavior in the past. So much of what is popularly taken as surprising and “unpredictable” might easily have been foreseen by a better knowledge of the contexts, experiences, and the previous actions of the players involved in the construction of an event. When powerholders attempt to suppress the records of official behavior, it is therefore not simply the concern of a handful of cloistered intellectuals, but a matter that can be expected to have real-world impact on future policymaking and the fate of ordinary citizens.

Abe’s Coup in Seven Simple Steps

In case anyone is wondering how Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pulled off his coup against the postwar Japanese Constitution in just two-and-a-half years in power—and thus fulfilling his lifelong dream of restoring Japan as a nation with pride—here’s the process in seven simple steps.

The World’s Thinnest Insulation

The Panasonic Corporation has unveiled a new product which their developers describe as the world’s thinnest insulation. They call it the NASBIS high-performance thermal insulation sheet. The key to this technology is a material called aerogel, which is a synthetic porous material derived from a gel, but in which the normal liquid component of the gel has been replaced with gas.

Abenomics is Dying

A policy begins when it is announced by its policymakers, but it can be a much trickier matter to judge when a policy ends. Still, we may now say with some degree of confidence that the era of Abenomics is coming to an end. This is not dependent on whether today’s market meltdown in China is just a blip on the screen or the signal for something much more significant.