Shinzo Abe: Un Puissant Antidote Au Populisme

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 24/09/2018 - 6:00pm in

Interview on Atlantico 23/9/2018

Shinzo Abe has been re-confirmed as the head of the LDP, a position that could keep him in power until 2021, which would be a record in Japan. After the Japanese deflation of 1990-2012, Abe was elected with a kind of flavour of populism in 2012.  Should we see Japan as a poster boy of populism, or could we see Shinzo Abe a kind of antidote ? 

In my view, very much an antidote. Shinzo Abe is a consummate political insider. As a matter of fact, I met him briefly before he even became a politician, but he was already “in training,” attending a wedding in the place of his father who was Foreign Minister at the time.

Abe’s maternal grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, was a prime minister. Kishi’s brother, Eisaku Sato was also a prime minister who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974. Abe’s paternal grandfather was a parliamentarian of pacifist leanings. So he is a political “blue blood” in Japanese terms.

Shinzo Abe achieved prominence initially because he took up the cause of the abductees, Japanese citizens kidnapped from Japanese soil and in Europe by North Korean agents, in some cases with the involvement of North Korean sleepers in Japan and Japanese radical leftists based in Pyongyang. It was an issue that nobody wanted to touch, to the extent that it was treated as some far-fetched conspiracy theory.

Abe was the only mainstream politician willing to get involved. When Kim Jong Il admitted to the abductions, Abe’s political stock soared and he became the designated successor of then Prime Minister Koizumi.

His first stint in power, in 2006/7 ended in failure because he had nothing to say on economics. At that time, he was a standard, backward-looking conservative who talked a lot about traditional family values, patriotism and so on. Meanwhile Japan was stuck in the mire of deflationary stagnation.

The political success of Abe.2 derives from the failure of Abe.1 When he made his comeback in 2012, reflation was the key element in his platform. He also dialled down the conservatism, pushing “womenomics”, corporate governance reform and the market opening measures associated with the TPP – which were unpopular with key LDP supporters such as farmers. He also loosened entry requirements for Chinese tourists despite the sometimes rocky relations between the two countries.

Abe brought in his own economic policy team, which was absolutely unprecedented and perhaps the biggest change of all. Normally economic policy was made by the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Japan, which were controlled by lifetime career staff. They had repeatedly failed to handle the challenges of Japan’s so-called lost decades so it was definitely time for a change.

I wouldn’t call this populism – the most influential advisor was a Professor Emeritus at Yale University – but it was a move against the dominance (and group-think) of the bureaucracy. The willingness to try heterodox ideas was, in the circumstances, an expression of pragmatism.

How did he build his electoral success during these years? What was the trigger for this Japan’s revival? 

Abe has won five national elections by comfortable majorities and also has just been re-elected as leader of his party with twice the number of votes of his rival. His advisors are very smart. Abe himself is not particularly charismatic or eloquent, but those are qualities which are not held in high regard in Japan. He works extraordinarily hard – he has visited 80 different countries in the past six years – despite uncertain health.

Anti-Abe people say he is not that popular, but in fact his support rates are high compared with nearly all his predecessors, going back many decades. In my view, this is at least three quarters due to the much better economic conditions. Job growth has been extraordinary and deflation of asset prices has come to an end. Even the debt to GDP ratio has started to fall –  all because GDP is rising.

What are the lessons that western leaders could learn from Shinzo Abe? What are the lessons for Europe? 

Countries in the Eurozone have policy constraints that Japan does not. But the basic economic message is as follows –

A)   You have to grow your way out of a slump

B)   There is no sure-fire solution, but a pragmatic, trial-and-error approach using  all available policy levers, has the best chance of success.

C)   There will be no “debt crisis” for countries or areas that are net creditors / have current account surpluses.

D)  The more growth, the more tax revenues, the less public debt issuance.

On politics and populism, I would say – borrowing this formulation from Professor Cas Mudde of the University  of Georgia – that Japan is less liberal, but more democratic than the majority of Western countries and the EU itself. By more democratic, I mean that the elite is closer to the demos in values, interests and culture. That in itself is powerful inoculation against populism.

Historically, you only get populism when liberalism has failed. That primarily means failure in economic terms, but there are cultural and social fissures that matter too.


Does the U.S. Have the Ingredients to Win a Trade War?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 24/09/2018 - 8:00am in

In winning the trade battle with China, Trump may lose the war against inflation.

SEC Enforcement Wanes on Trump’s Watch

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 24/09/2018 - 3:55am in

SEC co-director of enforcement Stephanie Avakian delivered a speech in Dallas last week defending the agency’s enforcement record, as the number of cases brought and amount of fines collected both continue to drop.

The radical tax policies I’d be looking for if we had a general election now

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 24/09/2018 - 2:16am in

I am delighted Corbyn has backed the idea that he will follow his party conference on a second referendum today. Assuming that the conference is given a free vote there is no doubt that Labour party members will back the idea. That will enormously boost Labour, its membership and the belief that the members may actually be able to influence Labour Party policy, which will help many when it comes to voting.

But let's consider Labour's preferred option instead. This is a general election. Talk of it appears to be almost open now. When a minister has to deny it this morning the possibility that it is a real option was openly acknowledged.

I believe a general election is now the best way to settle the Brexit question. It would be best for the country, for democracy and for Europe and allay all the nonsense on there being no choice but see this through. So saying, I acknowledge that Brexit would be the absolute number one issue in any such election. But let me suppose for a moment that other issues might be considered. Let me just suggest some tax and related issues Labour might like to consider. The following is not a complete list. It's just a starter for 10 (or a bit more):

  1. Make income tax rates more progressive - including a 50% top rate theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/sep/07/should-the-50p-tax-rate-go
  2. Reduce tax rates on those with lower income
  3. Increase corporation tax rates for larger companies taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2014/01/30/george-osbornes-10-billion-a-year-tax-giveaway-to-big-companies/
  4. Create an alternative minimum corporation tax taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2016/09/30/time-for-an-alternative-minimum-corporation-tax/
  5. Create a proper general anti-avoidance principle to underpin the attack on tax avoidance taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2012/06/20/why-we-need-a-genuine-general-anti-avoidance-principle-to-beat-tax-abuse-2/
  6. Create a Ministry of Tax to ensure the effective management of the tax system as part of overall fiscal policy taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2017/09/05/a-ministry-of-tax/
  7. Improved measurement of the UK tax gap and increase the resources available to tackle it taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2017/10/26/i-would-love-the-uk-to-have-reliable-tax-gap-data-but-right-now-that-still-looks-like-an-aspiration-and-not-a-reality/
  8. Introduce public country-by-country reporting to hold large companies to account for the corporation tax they should pay concernedafricascholars.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/caploss07-murphy-14th.pdf
  9. Equalise capital gains tax and income tax rates taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2017/07/17/wealth-taxation-a-programme-to-tackle-the-crisis-of-inequality-that-we-face/
  10. Abolish capital gains tax Entrepreneur’s Relief which is a pure subsidy for those already wealthy taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2015/11/17/why-we-dont-need-capital-gains-tax-entrepreneurs-relief/
  11. Remove the cap on income tax so that it is paid at full rate on all earned income - however much it goes up to taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/WealthtaxUK816.pdf
  12. Remove pension tax relief at higher rate with the aim of reducing wealth inequality taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2018/03/01/in-the-last-ten-years-the-uk-has-subsidised-pension-saving-by-481-billion-wasnt-there-a-better-use-for-that-money/
  13. Remove higher rate charitable donation tax relief taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2018/01/31/time-to-reform-charity-tax-relief-2/
  14. Introduce an investment income surcharge on unearned income as the equivalent of national insurance on such earnings taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/WealthtaxUK816.pdf
  15. Add new council tax bands to make this tax more progressive, allowing reduction in rates at lower rates and its removal from those in receipt of benefits taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2016/12/13/there-is-only-one-acceptable-council-tax-solution-to-the-care-crisis-and-thats-to-create-more-higher-rate-bands/
  16. Abolish university tuition fees taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2010/10/11/tuition-fees-the-neoliberals-just-dont-understand-why-we-must-educate-our-undergraduates/
  17. Write off student debt taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2017/05/09/to-get-young-people-to-vote-offer-to-write-off-student-debt/
  18. Create a National Investment Bank to build the new housing this country needs at affordable prices greennewdealgroup.org/
  19. Bring the control of all economic policy back under the control of the Treasury since monetary policy is now effectively inoperative in the UK taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2018/06/27/the-role-of-the-bank-of-england-the-debate-continues/
  20. Remove the savings rate tax as ISAs already provide all the same benefits and this allowance complicates the tax system
  21. Restrict ISA investment to funds creating new employment and real investment in the UK taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2017/05/31/its-time-to-scrap-isas-and-other-tax-related-savings-schemes/
  22. Replace inheritance tax with a wealth tax taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2018/03/25/its-time-to-tax-wealth/
  23. Pilot a Carbon Usage Tax commonspace.scot/articles/11614/10-steps-could-create-fairer-better-tax-system-independent-scotland

I'm open to suggestions, and ones on ranking of priorities as well.

In the News – Sunday Morning

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 24/09/2018 - 1:28am in

Senator Grassley tweeting: “Five times now we hv granted extension for Dr Ford to decide if she wants to proceed w her desire stated one wk ago that she wants to tell senate her story Dr Ford if u changed ur mind say so so we can move on I want to hear ur testimony. […]

An anthem for Theresa May: Nobody’s fault but mine

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 23/09/2018 - 11:08pm in



Suggested by Howard Reed on Facebook in response to a post by me:

This Blessed Plot: Art Untangles Conspiracy at the Met Breuer

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 23/09/2018 - 11:00pm in

Mark Lombardi would have had a field day. If the American conceptual artist, who took his own life in 2000, had lived a little longer, he would have witnessed Bush versus Gore, with its lawyer armies and hanging chads; and of course the September 11 attacks and launch of the so-called war on terror, which would have fed even further his obsessional interest in the nefarious networks that structure our lives.

Scouring the newspapers to document the plots of his time — the savings and loan scandal, Whitewater, the Vatican bank — and filling thousands of index cards, Lombardi produced large, elegant drawings, all circles and arced lines, with precise notations in red and black pencil. It was data art for the late-analog age, literally connecting the dots: who transacted with whom, who was linked by hierarchy or common allegiance. In part, his geometries were clarifying. Yet in their scale and complexity, they also conceded a constellational mystery — the sense that we can never know it all.

Law enforcement, for one, thought the artist’s view might prove handy. After 9/11, an FBI agent visited the Whitney Museum to look at Lombardi’s work; something similar happened at a show of his works at the Drawing Center in 2003. Investigators must constantly toggle between the forest and the trees. Art offers something potentially useful that destabilizes that dialectic: an expressive path toward truth.

Lombardi, Mark

“BCCI-ICIC & FAB, 1972-91 (4th Version).” Mark Lombardi, 1996-2000.

Photo: Courtesy of The Met Breuer

That potential energizes “Everything Is Connected: Art and Conspiracy,” apparently the first major museum show to scrutinize this theme, which has opened at the Met Breuer in New York City. The exhibit gathers 83 works by 30 artists since the late 1960s — in painting, drawing, installation, video — to ask with regard to such topics as multinational corporations, Henry Kissinger, or the Afghan War, that nagging query: What’s really going on?

Greeting the visitor are two huge monochromes by Wayne Gonzales, “Peach Oswald” (2001) and “Dallas Police” (1999) — portraits of Lee Harvey Oswald, who shot John F. Kennedy, and Jack Ruby, who shot Oswald. In acrylic shades of pink and bright green, each leads the viewer to the eyes: Oswald’s sly and wary, Ruby’s frozen and blank. The implicit question: What are they not telling us? The JFK assassination is a primal unknown in American culture. It’s the conspiracy that we need to be a conspiracy, whether or not we really believe that the facts are in doubt.


“Peach Oswald.” Wayne Gonzales, 2001.

Photo: Courtesy of The Met Breuer

It also feels quaint at this point. Turn the corner and you find Lombardi’s “BCCI-ICIC & FAB, 1972-91 (4th Version).” It is a vast diagram of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International scandal of the late 1980s, which revealed a tentacular money-laundering machine that connected everyone from U.S. military brass to arms dealers, dictators, and international crooks of all stripes. You don’t need to know that one of the top prosecutors was a certain Robert Mueller to jump to the present, and wish Lombardi were here to offer his visual take on Trumpworld and the Russia investigation. His method might help us grasp the facts, but even more so, the cultural charge, the meaning of it all.

The exhibition draws a distinction between “conspiracy” and “conspiracy theory.” Its purview is the former — that is, opaque but ultimately documentable systems of power, which artists contribute to bring to light. It extends the scope to works that, as the wall text puts it, “plunge down the rabbit hole, where facts and fantasy freely intermingle.” But it does so with a bias toward the “fever dreams of the disaffected,” whose intuitions often prove correct. Thus the view, held by Black Panthers and the white counterculture in the late 1960s, that the government was flooding their communities with drugs: There was at least some truth to that. Or mind-control experiments by the CIA — again, things of that ilk did happen.

What is excluded is the wholly toxic: art that traffics, say, in anti-Semitism, or the contemporary madness of QAnon or Pizzagate. Disciples of the latter might see this choice as further evidence of establishment bias against them — more “fake news.” That seems a risk worth taking. We don’t need more bigotry in the public space, even for educational use.


“The Black Panther (back cover), September 21, 1974 (I Gerald Ford the 38th Puppet of the United States).” Emory Douglas, Sept. 21, 1974.

Photo: Courtesy of The Met Breuer

The exhibition’s curatorial politics are more liberal than radical, as is the slice of the art world it presents: Conceptualists and experimentalists of the late 20th century, mostly male, mostly white, heavy on New York and Los Angeles. There is a nod to Black liberation, though ensconced in the past, with a series of Black Panther prints by Emory Douglas and a film interview with Fred Hampton made shortly before the police killed him. Powerful in their own right, these artifacts weave awkwardly into the show, lacking context. More effective is the inclusion of Alfredo Jaar’s phenomenal, anti-imperialist “Searching for K” (1984), in which the Chilean artist, fixating on Henry Kissinger, assembles press photos and documents that convey Kissinger’s constant presence in the shadows of American foreign policy malfeasance.

A series by Sarah Charlesworth takes one news image — the Polaroid that the Red Brigades made of their hostage, Italy’s prime minister, Aldo Moro, in April 1978 — and reproduces the front pages of newspapers around the world with the text removed, so that only that photo, and any other photos that happened to run that day, remained. Moro holds up the day’s issue of La Repubblica, an Italian daily, which the kidnappers had him show to prove he was alive. (They would later kill him.) Charlesworth made the work that same year: It seems to address less conspiracy per se than the multiple roles that the media play as agent of historical events. But it adds to the exhibition’s strength: another instance of art as investigation, through the application of an oblique forensic strategy.

The American Conceptual artist Mike Kelley turned the forensics on himself and the environments that conditioned him. In “Abuse Report” (1995/2007), he took a bureaucratic form used to report the suspicion of child abuse and wrote himself as the abused child, casting the Abstract Expressionist painter Hans Hofmann, whom he viewed as an influence, as the abuser. The suspected harms are absurd: “Brainwashed into a cult,” “He dug up his own grave to retrieve those lost poems …” In the sculpture “Educational Complex” (1995), Kelley reacted to cases in which social workers were found to have egged children on to false accusations of day care sex abuse, by combining models, from his own imperfect memory, of all his homes and schools from childhood to CalArts.


“Untitled (Government and Business).” Mike Kelley, 1991.

Photo: Courtesy of The Met Breuer

Kelley was interested in other artists’ work on conspiracy. He put forward the theme for exhibitions as early as 1991; the Met Breuer curators, Douglas Eklund and Ian Alteveer, trace their show to a conversation with Kelley in 2010 — two years before he died, also by suicide. This long gestation strengthens the show as a reasoned take on a topic in art history. But, in the process, there are themes it leaves out — surveillance, for example—that are ultra-germane to the stated topic and major preoccupations in contemporary art. The pair of Trevor Paglen photographs of CIA black sites in Afghanistan that are included in the show underscore this absence more than they alleviate it.

The museum is itself an archive. It invites — requires — the same kind of oblique forensics that the most striking works in this show apply to archives of their own. In a catalog essay, Eklund and Alteveer note that “conspiracy is rarely a career through line for artists,” who delve into it to varying degrees. Object by object, “Everything Is Connected” makes a strong demonstration of the ways in which art can inform, even guide, the analysis of power. As an assemblage, however, it turns into a litany, causing us to jump around between times, places, and topics — wars and terrorism and corruption and collective and personal traumas — in a way that flattens the subject matter, diminishing the sense of anxiety and emergency that drove these artists, sometimes to obsessive lengths, in the first place. With the exhibition’s intellectual success, as a contribution to art history and method, comes the cost of dulled political and material stakes.


“Red Yellow Looming.” Jenny Holzer, 2004.

Photo: Courtesy of The Met Breuer

It takes an LED sculpture by Jenny Holzer, “Red Yellow Looming” (2004), to give the show the jolt it needs. Across 13 horizontal tickers runs text that Holzer excerpted from U.S. government documents on Iraq. Built into an alcove, the sculpture bathes the space in a red glow on one side, yellow on the other. Holzer described her move to LED tickers as “needing to be where people look.” Relentless, repetitive, anxious, her sculpture addresses us in the language of this moment, when the stakes are high and we must look — urgently.

Top photo: “Martian Portraits.” Jim Shaw, 1978.

The post This Blessed Plot: Art Untangles Conspiracy at the Met Breuer appeared first on The Intercept.

Kevin Logan: The Tories’ Support for Viktor Orban Shows They Don’t Care About Anti-Semitism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 23/09/2018 - 7:21pm in

In this short, four minute video, male feminist and scourge of the Far Right, Kevin Logan, talks about the anti-Semitism smears in the Labour party and the Tories’ support for Viktor Orban, the Far Right, and very anti-Semitic, president of Hungary in the EU parliament last week.

Logan says that the anti-Semitism accusations against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party are ‘mostly a load of old sh*te’, though this does not mean that there isn’t some anti-Semitism in the party. He thinks that some of the criticism of Israel has got out of hand and become anti-Semitic. He goes on to say that the Tories have tried to make hay out of this, with Sajid Javid’s Rosh Ha-Shana message being a particular low point. This is when he said, in Logan’s paraphrase of his words, that Labour was anti-Semitic and the Tories weren’t.

Logan then goes on to state that that week, Orban and his government were fined by the EU for being anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant garbage. The British Conservatives in the EU parliament were the only group within the EU Conservative grouping to vote not to impose that sanction on Viktor Orban. So you have the Tories using rhetoric to claim to support the Jews of Britain, and Jewish people more widely, but when it comes to tackling anti-Semitism, they will stick up for anti-Semites ‘because they’re f***ing garbage’.

He continues that when it comes to anti-Semitism, Jeremy Corbyn may not have handled it very well, and has made some unfortunate remarks in the past, which can be misinterpreted by a press that wishes to do so. But while the Tories are keen to use anti-Semitism as a stick to beat the opposition, they are the ones who actually support anti-Semites, because they won’t take any practical action to tackle anti-Semitism. Because they don’t actually care. Also with the Tories, it would be just dandy if they could deal with their massive islamophobia problem.

As Vince says, if you can’t beat ’em, spresm | David Mitchell

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 23/09/2018 - 7:00pm in

The Lib Dem leader’s fluffed zinger in his conference speech only demonstrates how irrelevant the party has become

Last Tuesday, on one of the thousands of occasions I glanced needlessly at my phone, it made me notice a news story. Vince Cable, it appeared, had described the hardcore Leavers’ delight in Brexit as an “erotic spasm”.

I liked that. It’s a nicely rude way of describing their irrational excitement at continental division and national isolation, and their inappropriately visceral feelings about the technical details of international trade deals. The whole country is going through a disaster, it is saying, just so a few extremists get to judder with sexual delight.

Cable just ploughs on as if 'exotic spresm' means something, or as if the right noise could be dubbed on to the speech

Related: Liberalism needs to be rebuilt – just not by the Lib Dems | Rafael Behr

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Jim Lobe on Who Funds AIPAC

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 23/09/2018 - 6:52pm in

This is a short, five minute clip from The Real News, based in Boston, put on YouTube ten years ago in 2008. It’s an extract from a longer interview with Jim Lobe, the bureau chief of the Inter press Service in Washington, about the Neocons, the Israel lobby and their power in the US. In this clip, they ask Lobe who’s funding AIPAC, one of the main organisations in the Israel lobby in America.

Lobe replies that one of them is Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate. Adelson owns the Las Vegas Sands in Las Vegas, has opened casinos in Macao, and is the third wealthiest America with a fortune worth between $12 and $30 billion. He offered to be the major donor for AIPAC’s new building. He’s very close to Benjamin Netanyahu and Natan Sharansky, who is part of the Shalem Centre, a Natanyahu/Likud front thinktank in Israel. Adelson founded his own institute, the Adelson institute in Israel, which is headed by Sharansky. He’s also the biggest contributor to the Republican Jewish Coalition, a very Neoconservative, pro-Likudist group, and was also a founder and by far the biggest contributor to another lobby group, Freedomswatch, which was aiming to influence the Congressional races in November 2009.

Lobe says that there are also other, very wealthy contributors, and recommends that the interviewer talks to Michael Massing, who has written quite a bit on the Israel lobby as a kind of corrective to the Walt Mearsheimer thesis first published in the London Review of Books. Asked about Mearsheimer’s views, Lobe replies that they’re putting the issue of the influence of the Israel lobby – that is the confluence of American presidents, AIPAC, the really big organisations, on US policy into the debate – is absolutely critical, particularly under this Bush administration. What we’ve seen is things go seriously, seriously bad in the Middle East, and that a lot of that is due to the policies that these large, very influential American Jewish organisations have first endorsed, then pushed.

Their ( Mearsheimer’s) idea of Israel is something along the two-state solution and getting it done. And they see Israel without such a solution still holding onto Arab lands and so on, as a serious drag on US foreign policy success, as a detriment in the region. They took a realist position, but not one Lobe feels compromises or would compromise Israel’s security so long as it defines its borders more modestly than it does at the present time. Lobe thinks that they were saying that support for Israel should not be unconditional, that there should be clear conditions put on that support, which Israel can either accept or reject. But their main point was that the influence of the Israel lobby, particularly organisations such as this, on Congress, was distorting American interests because the support for Israel in Congress is essentially unconditional, and that’s not getting the US anywhere. It’s also undermining Israel’s security in the long-term. Lobe says that there isn’t much to disagree with in that assessment, or at least Lobe himself says he doesn’t disagree with it much.

Of course, the Israel lobby isn’t confined to American Jews. It also includes Christians, like Ted Hagee’s Christians United For Israel, while many American Jews are becoming increasingly alienated and critical of Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians.