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Monday, August 31, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Japan’s Hatoyama sweeps to power

Japan’s next leader, Yukio Hatoyama, is beginning a transition to power after winning a landmark general election.

Exit polls show his Democratic Party of Japan overwhelmingly defeated the Liberal Democratic Party, which has governed almost unbroken since 1955.


Media forecasts give the DPJ 308 of the 480 seats in the lower house to the LDP’s 119, almost an exact reversal of their previous standing.

Via the Asahi Shimbun: DPJ hands historic loss to LDP, takes over government

In an unprecedented political upheaval that could change the way Japan is run, the Democratic Party of Japan seized 308 seats in Sunday’s Lower House election, bouncing the Liberal Democratic Party from power.

The DPJ’s tally far exceeded the 241 seats needed for a single majority and surpassed the 296 seats the LDP won in its landslide victory in the previous Lower House election in 2024.

The LDP did not just lose the election; it was humiliated.


The LDP went from being THE party of power for almost all of the post-WWII period to a rump party. It held 300 seats in the lower house and now with hold 119-which, as the Shimbun points out, is a loss of 60% of their seats.

The paper also notes high turnout:

Voter turnout in single-seat constituencies was 69.28 percent, up 1.77 points from 2024, according to the internal affairs ministry.

With such change comes others, the Asahi Shimbun also reports: Lower House gets facelift: More women and newcomers

Fifty-four women, most of whom were fielded by the DPJ, claimed seats in the Diet chamber, up from 43 in the previous Lower House election in 2024.

In addition, 158 newcomers, including women, were elected, accounting for about one-third of the 480-seat chamber.

The NYT describe the elections as follows:

Many Japanese saw the vote as the final blow to the island nation’s postwar order, which has been slowly unraveling since the economy collapsed in the early 1990s.

The change in government in Japan may affect US-Japanese relations:

Mr. Hatoyama, who is expected to assemble a government in two to three weeks, has spoken of the end of American-dominated globalization and of the need to reorient Japan toward Asia. His party’s campaign manifesto calls for an “equal partnership” with the United States and a “reconsidering” of the 50,000-strong American military presence here. One change on the horizon may be the renegotiation of a deal with Washington to relocate the United States Marine Corps’ Futenma airfield, on the island of Okinawa. Many island residents want to evict the base altogether.

The Democrats, who opposed the American-led war in Iraq, have also said they may end the Japanese Navy’s refueling of American and allied warships in the Indian Ocean.

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Sunday, August 30, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Colombia says president has swine flu

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has contracted the H1N1 swine flu virus and is being treated by doctors, government spokesman Cesar Velasquez told local media Sunday.

Uribe is continuing with his presidential duties while being treated, he said.

This marks the second Latin American president to contract the disease. It was announced a few weeks back that Costa Rica’s Oscar Arias had also been infected.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Apple denies ‘exploding’ iPhones.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Back to Cheney’s interview on FNS, he specifically defended the Bush administration, including interrogations that went beyond legal strictures1 by noting that there was no other attacks on the US after 9/11. For example:

The thing I keep coming back to time and time again, Chris, is the fact that we’ve gone for eight years without another attack. Now, how do you explain that?

The critics don’t have any solution for that. They can criticize our policies, our way of doing business

Along those lines, Chris Wallace ended the first half of the round table segment with the following:

WALLACE: Alirght, we have to take a break here but I just want to point out to the audience that it is purely coincidental that this country has not been attacked since 9/11.

Video can be viewed here, if you wish to see it.

Watching it live (well, via TiVo) I was struck by the sarcasm in his tone, not to mention it struck me as rather un-moderator like.

Beyond any of that, however, Cheney and Wallace both are making a radically simplistic and logically problematic argument here: that specifically the only reason there were no attacks on the US post-9/11 was because of “enhanced interrogations”. Setting aside that we had the still unsolved anthrax attacks after 9/11 (and the fact that these “enhanced interrogations” did not prevent massive attacks in Bali, Madrid and London), one cannot reduce all of post-9/11 security policy to the interrogation of detainees (which is essentially what Cheney and Wallace are trying to do).

Not only is there the very real possibility that the same intel could have been obtained without abusing prisoners, the bottom line is that there were other policy actions that are rather relevant here, not the least of which being the massive disruption of al Qaeda after 9/11 by the invasion of Afghanistan. Indeed, the very arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed itself was likely directly responsible for disrupting al Qaeda’s plans, whether he spoke or not.

The very fact that post-attack US security was going to radically increase meant that more attacks were less likely. And there is always the very real possibility that al Qaeda had invested all of its assets into 9/11 and didn’t have the capabilities for another massive attack on the US.

In other words, to reduce the lack of another 9/11-style attack on the US to interrogations techniques is a gross over-simplification engaged in to defend highly questionable decisions and policies. If anything it violates a very basic dictum of Social Science 101: correlation is not proof of causation (not by a longshot).

  1. For example:
    WALLACE: Do you think what they did, now that you’ve heard about it, do you think what they did was wrong?

    CHENEY: Chris, my sort of overwhelming view is that the enhanced interrogation techniques were absolutely essential in saving thousands of American lives and preventing further attacks against the United States, and giving us the intelligence we needed to go find Al Qaeda, to find their camps, to find out how they were being financed. Those interrogations were involved in the arrest of nearly all the Al Qaeda members that we were able to bring to justice. I think they were directly responsible for the fact that for eight years, we had no further mass casualty attacks against the United States.

    It was good policy. It was properly carried out. It worked very, very well.

    WALLACE: So even these cases where they went beyond the specific legal authorization, you’re OK with it?

    CHENEY: I am.


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By Steven L. Taylor

WaPo has a piece on the master’s thesis of VA gubernatorial candidate Robert F. McDonell (Va. Candidate McDonnell Says Views Changed Since He Wrote Thesis) and the following paragraph really jumped out at me:

After four years in the Army and the start of a management career with a Fortune 500 health supply company, McDonnell moved with his wife, Maureen, and two young daughters from a suburb of Kansas City, Mo., to Virginia Beach, where he enrolled in a public policy master’s program at what was then called CBN University. The school was founded by Pat Robertson and named for his Christian Broadcasting Network.

From that paragraph let me offer a little advice: if one wants to be taken seriously down the line, never seek a graduate degree from an institution named after a TV network.

Just sayin’.

(The school is now called Regent University).

I will say that it is unfair to assume that what McDonnell wrote 20 years ago is exactly what he thinks now. By the same token, it is perfectly reasonable to inquire with him at to which of those views he still holds. While some of the views in the document (such as on abortion) are still mainstream in the GOP, while others (such as on women in the workplace and contraception) are well out of the mainstream.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via today’s FNS interview with Vice President Cheney:

WALLACE: This is your first interview since Attorney General Holder named a prosecutor to investigate possible CIA abuses of terror detainees.

What do you think of that decision?

CHENEY: I think it’s a terrible decision. President Obama made the announcement some weeks ago that this would not happen, that his administration would not go back and look at or try to prosecute CIA personnel. And the effort now is based upon the inspector general’s report that was sent to the Justice Department five years ago, was completely reviewed by the Justice Department in years past.


I just think it’s an outrageous political act that will do great damage long term to our capacity to be able to have people take on difficult jobs, make difficult decisions, without having to worry about what the next administration is going to say.

That last quote is especially noteworthy, I think, because it suggests that there should not be democratic accountability for the actions of previous administrations. That because the job and decisions are “difficult” that, therefore, there should be no looking back, no judgments made, and that somehow managing to finish a term without being impeached means that no investigation can be launched. In short, he seems to be suggesting that once an administration leaves office that it can’t be investigated or that its policies cannot be reviewed.

It seems to me that if the future possibility of review by subsequent administrations means that there are second thoughts given to questionable acts then that is a good thing (in fact, it is part of democratic governance).1 In other words, in a democracy, members of the government should always be mindful of what might be said in public about their actions. Further, the only (or at least the main) way that the electorate has, ultimately, to hold a given administration responsible is via electing a different group of persons into office. All of this is rather fundamental to democracy.

h/t: The Political Wire.

  1. Update: along these lines I agree with Henry Farrell at CT:
    the more cautious that low-ranking CIA officers are about breaking the laws criminalizing torture in future, the better. I want them to be worried that they will be hung out and left to dry by their political masters if they break the law. This will give them a strong rationale to say no, the next time that they are asked to, and at least partially reshape the incentive structure in benign ways.

    Exactly. []

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Saturday, August 29, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

(Note to family members reading this: the below does not relate to anyone in our household).

The following has nothing to do with the current debate, although one suspects that it is an odd result of the evolution of our system. At any rate: one goes to the ER for a medical emergency. One spends hours at said ER and one gets treated. One is given a prescription upon leaving for antibiotics or pain meds or some other item that one needs as a result of one’s emergency. However, since one spent hours at the ER it is now the middle of the night and all the pharmacies (save one) is closed. The one that is open is having computer problems, so it will take at least two hours for the needed medication to be dispensed.

Oh joy.

The bottom line: why is it that the hospital can’t dispense said medication so that after one’s harrowing illness/injury and one’s multiple hours at the ER that one can’t go home and rest? Instead, one has to figure out how to get the bloody medication to help oneself (or, in this case, one’s child)?

It is a rather screwed up process.

And while the above does not relate to anyone in the household at the moment, I can recall having several past experiences where the lack of a 24 hour pharmacy in conjunction with a hospital visit caused problems. It is all quite the mess, really-especially back when we lived in a semi-rural small town.

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By Steven L. Taylor



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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the NYT: Ahmadinejad Urges Prosecution of Political Rivals

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lashed out at his chief political rivals on Friday, calling on judiciary officials to “decisively” and “mercilessly” prosecute them for challenging the legitimacy of his electoral victory and tarnishing the image of the state.


“We must deal with those who led these events,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said. “Those who organized, incited and pursued the plans of the enemies must be dealt with decisively.”

This is striking and may signal a shift in the situation in Iran, as up and until now it seemed as if the Ahmadinejad/Khamanei faction was not willing or able to directly confront the Moussavi/Rafsanjani faction. Although if I am reading press reports accurately (and if said reports themselves are, in fact, accurate), no one was specifically named in the Ahmadenijad’s statements (although their target is pretty clear).

The following from the article would seem to sum up the situation:

“What has been remarkable about the last two months is that the tent of insiders has narrowed to such a small faction,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. “The outsiders are the vast majority of the country.”

The question remains as to whether this ever-narrowing inner circle is also also growing in strength or in desperation and what it is both willing and and able to do vis-à-vis the outsiders.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Organized Crime in Pakistan Feeds Taliban

The police here say the Taliban, working with criminal groups, are using Mafia-style networks to kidnap, rob banks and extort, generating millions of dollars for the militant insurgency in northwestern Pakistan.

“There is overwhelming evidence that it’s an organized policy,” said Dost Ali Baloch, assistant inspector general of the Karachi police.

The “here” in the piece is Karachi, Pakistan.

At any rate, given the Taliban’s connection to opium as a means of financing, it is hardly a shock if they are getting deeply involved in other aspects of organized crime to finance their activities.

And while I have already noted that there are significant differences between Colombia and Afghanistan, there also some striking similarities as well:

Pakistani counterterrorism officials say they believe that kidnapping for ransom may have been the single largest revenue source for the Taliban’s top commander in the country, Baitullah Mehsud, before he was killed this month in an American drone strike.

The piece also illustrates the synergy between Pakistan and Afghanistan in regards to the Taliban.

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